“Tolerance” and “Diversity” – it’s time the liberal left looked in the mirror.

Introduction

For years now we have been witnessing a creeping intrusion into one of the most cherished features of Britain’s democratic heritage – free speech. That’s because there’s a group of influential people who are clearly trying to destroy it.

They never tire of preaching to us about “tolerance”, “diversity” and “human rights”. Yet when their own views of the world are challenged or repudiated, they react aggressively and show nothing but…er…intolerance towards divergent opinions. Who are “they”?

“They” are the new liberal establishment. A set of privileged, arrogant and increasingly neurotic people of left wing persuasion, who chiefly inhabit the worlds of politics, the media and the public sector, but whose pernicious influence has spread like a virus into areas such as the tech and entertainment sectors too.

Their disrespect, bordering on contempt, towards anyone who dares to take issue with their views has been shockingly exposed since the Brexit referendum. Those who voted against remaining in the EU are routinely dismissed as ignorant, xenophobic morons who didn’t know what they were voting for. And elsewhere in Europe where voters have returned Eurosceptic politicians who dare to reject EU policies, their electoral success is dismissed as mere “populism”.

The liberal establishment views the governments of Austria, Italy and Poland as a bunch of vulgar nationalists who have wickedly exploited public hysteria about immigration to pursue “authoritarian” and “islamophobic” policies.

Then there’s Hungary.

Hungary refuses to be bullied

Hungary, like the rest of Central Europe, suffered more than 40 wasted years imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain. As with Poland and other Warsaw Pact states, Hungary endured decades of the economic failure and political oppression that invariably go hand in hand with authoritarian socialism (Corbyn supporters please take note).

Hungarians have seen what has happened to Western European societies in the era of mass, uncontrolled immigration. They have seen “multi-culturalism” in action. They have also seen how political correctness stifles free debate and disengages people from expressing themselves freely and honestly. As a result, and much to the chagrin of the liberal establishment, Hungarians keep votng for politicians who have no truck with such nonsense.

For example, when Hungary’s borders were threatened by a mass influx of economic migrants, instead of allowing an army of human rights lawyers to descend on them, and instead of showering them with free housing, benefits and legal aid, Hungary promptly erected miles of razor wire fencing aimed at keeping them out.

In doing so, Victor Orbán and his government have become the bogeymen for “liberals” across Europe.

The Maitlis interview

So it was naturally with great interest that we tuned in to watch an interview between BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis and Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s straight-talking Foreign Minister.

And what mesmerising television it was. Here was something we don’t see very often in Britain – a politician who answers questions honestly and directly and who refuses to hide behind platitudes and politically correct soundbites.

The result was to completely show up Maitlis as a biased, fully paid-up member of the new liberal establishment. She duly berated her guest about Hungary’s alleged failure to embrace so-called “tolerance” and “diversity”. But in doing so, it was very clear that she had no tolerance for any views
that diverged from her own.

It was as though she was thrown off balance by Mr Szijjártó‘s frankness. Challenged as to whether he supported some of the more colourful comments made by Victor Orbán about immigration, a British politician would have side-stepped such a question. But not Mr Szijjártó. He agreed with his Prime Minister.

Nor did he flinch from explaining that Hungary did not believe that multi-culturalism was in itself a good thing. But he respected the right of others to disagree.

Maitlis, however, showed no respect for a diversity of opinion that differed from her own. Her whole “interview” comprised a series of leading questions, hostile statements and interruptions. Her distaste for Hungary’s policies were not disguised.

This was not journalism; it was largely crude invective. Maitlis will no doubt win plaudits from among like-minded friends at her next dinner party, but for TV audiences looking to Maitlis for some objective commentary, her distasteful treatment of Mr Szijjártó has left her a much diminished figure.

It has also highlighted again the utter hypocrisy of the liberal left. Isn’t it time they looked in the mirror?

The Great Brexit giveaway

Introduction

The last few weeks have been both depressing and frustrating for Brexiteers. This is not because Brexit itself has suddenly become the wrong decision to have made. Nor is it because Britain is really suffering as a result of our vote to leave – despite what the Guardian, the BBC, Faisal Islam and James O’Brien may say. Indeed, barely a week goes by without the Remainers’ negative narrative being further discredited by inconvenient things called facts.

No, the reason for our rising concern has been the awful spectacle of Theresa May and her government making the most appalling hash of the Brexit talks with the EU. It seems that they have learned nothing from witnessing the EU’s tactics from the very start of the negotiations. Instead, like some desperate retailer on Black Friday, all we have seen them do is to give concession after concession to the bullies in Brussels. A kind of ghastly Brexit giveaway.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has became embroiled in a completely unnecessary Twitter spat with the US president over a few dumb retweets sent from his Titter account. At a time when playing our relationship with the US against the EU has never been more useful, it is an astonishingly inept way for a British government to behave.

Strong Negotiating position

Moreover, there is no need for the UK to give in to EU extortion and blackmail. Britain’s position is strong, not weak.

There are five factors which give Britain very powerful leverage in the negotiations with the EU.

1. Money

First, there is the money. It has long been obvious that the EU is terrified of the impact on its budget that a UK withdrawal will inevitably have. Part of the EU’s power over its Member States, is its ability to dispense financial largesse. Without the billions we have been contributing, Brussels’ power will be weakened and it will face having to make awkward requests for money from its remaining contributors such as Germany. We should not be making it easy for the EU by promising any money at this stage. That sword of damocles should be left hanging over them for the duration of any negotiation.

Further, there is no legal liability on the UK to pay anything after the end of March 2019 unless it wants to. It was a mistake to allow the EU to impose a two stage talks process demanding a deal on money first, before trade talks. But it is even more foolish to offer them money at the first stage as May has done – twice now. There must be no money on the table unless and until we see what (if anything) we will get for it. If they won’t talk to us without it then so be it. We walk.

2. Huge UK market

The second big negotiating card we have is that the UK is an immensely important marketplace for the EU’s goods worth over £300 billion a year. It is true (as Remoaners never cease to point out) that the UK represents a much smaller percentage of the EU’s trade than the other way around. But that is to overlook something more important. The UK is a hugely significant trading partner to a number of the EU’s most important countries (i.e. Germany, France, Holland and Italy). For example, we are Germany’s second most important market after the US and they make a massive surplus from selling to us. A failure to agree a trade deal will undoubtedly hurt Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy very hard. It doesn’t matter for these purposes that we may only do a tiny amount of trade with Romania or the Czech Republic. The impact would be severe where it counts – in the very heart of where the EU’s power resides.

3. Singapore model

Thirdly, Brexit provides a huge opportunity for Britain to adopt a lower tax, lower regulatory environment than the EU’s protectionist, high tax-high regulation alternative. Whilst talk of making the UK a new “Singapore” is simplistic, there is no doubt that we can make life very difficult for the EU after we’ve left by reducing, for example, our corporation tax rate. Stupidly and inexplicably, the UK government has failed to play on the EU’s fears in this regard. Instead, Downing Street has gone out of its way to stress that it won’t depart from the European model. No doubt the EU will be hoping to shackle us to the protectionist model after we’ve left. We must resist this.

4. EU’s troubles

The fourth piece of negotiating leverage is the inherent instability of the EU itself. For all the talk of unity, there is precious little of that in reality. The former Eastern European nations will not co-operate with the EU on muslim migrants. The ClubMed states still have serious systemic debt and competitiveness issues. France too is desperately in need of economic reform. Germany is now struggling to form a working government. The latest Greek bailout package comes up for renewal in 2018. Italian elections in 2018 may produce a Euro-sceptic government. ECB money printing cannot go on forever. The list of the EU’s problems is endless and mounting.

5. Project Fear myths exploded

Fifthly and finally there is the absence of the fear factor. Brexitblog has long believed that the Leave majority in the referendum would have been much higher had people like Jeremy Hunt not been scared into voting to remain by Project Fear. But more than a year on, we know that almost all of the Project Fear scare stories have proved false. There’s nothing to be afraid of. (Even the City has now admitted that the real threat to Britain comes not from Brexit but from a Corbyn government).

So we can negotiate strong in the knowledge that we are doing fine “despite Brexit”. We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

What is May doing?

But has May exploited our strong negotiating position? Sadly, there is no sign that she has. Instead, she keeps folding a winning hand and the EU keeps successfully calling her bluff. Every single time.

As we have previously pointed out, the EU has no interest in giving the UK a helping hand or a fair deal if we leave. It will never voluntarily do so. Showering it with endless concessions and appearing too scared to walk away from the talks will never work. It can only prove disastrous. Equally, a continuing failure by May to advance any kind of positive or coherent vision for post-Brexit Britain is failing to reassure waverers at home (or EU negotiators abroad), that the UK is confident it has a strong hand to play.

But despite the calamitous start to the process, even now, it still isn’t too late to salvage the situation.

The way forward

In a letter to the Government today, Leave Means Leave has set out the demands we should be making of the EU as a price for continuing the talks. Brexitblog.info has argued in similar terms on these pages. We agree with them.

The bottom line is that we should be telling the EU that we expect significant forward progress in the negotiations and if none is forthcoming, we will walk. If that happens, they can kiss goodbye to any more money after we’ve gone and it will be open season on their exports to us which will will henceforth have to compete with tariff-free goods from other countries.

Theresa May cannot seriously think that doing a deal with the EU which is seen to be unfavourable to the UK will do anything for hers’ or the Tories’ chances of political survival. Yet evidently she and her cabinet continue to cling to the delusion that a rubbish deal is better than no deal. It isn’t.

She can still turn things round but only by focussing on the real enemy – the EU – and playing them at their own game. There is still a huge opportunity for her to harness anti-EU feeling in Britain to her political advantage. But she cannot keep missing that open goal at one end and scoring own goals (i.e. with Trump) at the other.

EU’s Brexit insanity

Introduction

As David Davis embarks upon another Brexit negotiating round with his opposite number in Brussels, let’s take a rain check.

The EU 27 export over £300 billion of goods to the UK each year.  They do so tariff free and make a healthy trade surplus in doing so.  Huge numbers of jobs within the EU and the livelihoods of millions of families depend on that trading relationship.  You might think, therefore, that the No.1 priority for the EU27 in their Brexit negotiations with the UK would be in securing that crucial economic relationship.  Wouldn’t you?

Well, you’d be wrong.

It is abundantly clear that the EU elite and their ridiculous “negotiator” Mr Barnier have no interest protecting those jobs and livelihoods.  Their sole priority is to protect the edifice they are building, namely the authoritarian,  centralised European superstate they call “the Union”.  They believe that in order to protect their cherished dream of an “ever closer union” of European states, they must be seen to punish anyone who steps out of line.  The Greeks briefly rebelled against “the Union” but inevitably were crushed.  Their gigantic economic mess left them too weak to resist.

But the UK, for all its problems, is a different beast.  A majority of its voters had the guts to resist an unprecedented campaign of fear during the UK’s 2016 referendum.  Despite large numbers of people no doubt being cowed and scared into voting Remain, astonishingly a majority still voted to leave the EU.

Despite various attempts since last June to derail the referendum decision, the UK remains on track to leave in March 2019.  Meantime, the biggest threat to a successful Brexit outcome continues to be from within.  Divisions within the government as to how to approach Brexit and the treacherous manoeuvrings of the opposition threaten to weaken our negotiating stance at the very moment when we need them to be strong.

It is time to put the remoaners in their place.

Upside down negotiations

The EU is terrified of the impact of losing the UK’s enormous budget contributions – believed to be net figure of around £10 billion a year.  It has continued to press – absurdly – for the UK to pay a golden goodbye in the form of a “Brexit bill”.  There is no legal liability for such a payment to be made and no justification for it.  But by trying to strong arm the UK and refusing to talk about trade, they are hoping to bully the British people (or rather the politicians representing them) into easing the EU’s budgetary headache after we’ve gone.  Their gambit is to refuse to talk about their own £300 billion trading relationship with the UK until we surrender on the “Brexit bill”.  They no doubt derive encouragement from the “useful idiots” (i.e. the remoaners) in the UK establishment tweeting their support.

Article 50(2) of the EU Treaty, very sensibly envisages that when a member state leaves the EU, the parties need to resolve not only exit terms but also at the same time how they will trade with each other going forward.

The EU is wilfully departing from that obligation.  It refuses to discuss both aspects of Brexit

Its conduct is reprehensible.  It is also irresponsible.

How much longer are elected politicians in EU countries going to sit back and allow Barnier and his cronies to behave in this fashion?  It is insanity.

Wake up call

If no deal is reached with the EU concerning future trade, then from the end of March 2019, the parties will fall back on WTO rules.  Tariffs will be imposed on the £300 billion of goods sold by the EU to the UK (and vice versa).  But with the pound having fallen so far in value and with a big deficit on trade with the EU, this can only hurt EU exporters harder than it will hit the UK.

The grown ups in the EU, elected politicians there and business leaders need to wake up and fast.  If they do not, then they will find their dole queues lengthening and their export markets shrinking.    The UK may not emerge unscathed.  But – politicians permitting – we at least will have the freedom to take measures to protect ourselves.   We can lower taxes and cut regulation to make the UK even more attractive for overseas investment and job creation.  We can open up markets through free trade relationships with other countries.    By contrast, the EU is sluggish and cumbersome.  It cannot do anything quickly or flexibly.

If Brexit proves to be a success, it is the beginning of the end for the EU.

Torn apart by the migrant crisis and soon to be squabbling over who will make up the budget shortfall caused by the UK’s exit, it is unlikely that Britain will be the last country to leave.

Stay firm Mr Davis.  This is a defining moment for the country.

 

Remoaners are the EU’s “useful idiots”

Introduction

In politics, a “useful idiot” (or “useful fool”) is a person perceived as a propagandist for a cause, the goals of which they are not fully aware of, and who is used cynically by the leaders of that cause.  It’s a term coined during the Russian revolution in 1917 which is making a comeback in Brexit Britain.

In the run up to the UK’s referendum on EU membership, barely a day went by without a relentless barrage of increasingly hysterical “Project fear” propaganda from the pro-EU side,  warning us of instant economic disaster if we dared to vote Leave.

Since 23 June 2016, virtually none of those predictions have proved to be correct.  Apart from the fall in sterling (which has its upsides too), supporters of the Project Fear mantra have largely been discredited.  The instant doom they promised us has not happened.  So they’ve been forced to change tactics.

Now, we are told, Brexit is going to be a disaster.  This Project Fear Mark 2 has been in action for months now.  Every piece of pro-EU news is trumpeted as proof of how silly we’ve been to think of leaving.  Meanwhile, every possible effort is made to denigrate the UK government and the country and to convince us all that resistance to staying in the EU is futile.

Something has happened to those “Remainers” who supported staying in the EU before the referendum.  Many of them have morphed into what we now call “Remoaners”.

These Remoaners display common characteristics.

They pour vitriol on those who voted to leave and dismiss all of us as dimwits and racists who fell for a slogan on a bus.  Yes really.  They want to set aside the referendum result and would happily ignore the clear majority vote to leave.

They lost the biggest democratic vote the UK has ever had.  But they refuse to accept it.

“Useful idiots”

In the process, however,  they do nothing but divide and undermine the country.

To the EU’s Brexit negotiators they have become what Lenin used to describe as “useful idiots”.  By suggesting that we might yet change our minds on Brexit and reverse the decision, they simply encourage Brussels to believe that being aggressive and unhelpful to Britain will yield results.

The ridiculous demand made of the UK to pay a so-called “Brexit bill” for which there is no legal case whatsoeveris part and parcel of that, as are dire warnings of lories queuing for miles to the channel ports while customs paperwork is completed.  Given that most of the goods travelling across the channel are actually goods coming from the rest of the EU to Britain, such threats are insane.  Yet such is the detachment of the pampered bureaucrats who run the EU, that they simply don’t understand – nor appear to care -what damage they will do to the lives of ordinary people whose jobs and livelihoods depend on smooth trade with Britain.

But never mind –  the Remoaners are right behind them.

Cracking up?

After years of the UK economy outperforming most of the EU,  few months of data have been cited as proof by the Remoaners that it’s all going pear-shaped for Britain.  A bank that employs thousands in the UK opens a representative office in Germany for a handful of staff and suddenly the Remoaners scream that all our jobs are going abroad.  You know the drill:  British agriculture will die without foreign fruit pickers; the NHS will collapse without migrants.  And so on.

It’s nonsense.

Yet astonishingly, so determined are these new Project Fear merchants that the UK should suffer after Brexit that they would rather scupper any chance of a UK trade deal with our single most important trading partner – the US – rather than see us succeed.    Yes, so desperate have the Remoaners become, that even hapless chlorinated chickens have been drafted into the forefront of Project Fear’s arguments.  Never mind the millions of poisoned Dutch eggs brimming with illegal insecticides that the EU allowed to be imported into the UK.   They don’t matter.

Personally,  I think the Remoaners are cracking up.