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The Government’s Fantasy Europe

                          The Government’s Fantasy Europe:                    The reality of the EU, explains Professor Robert Tombs, is 'an alarming state of uncertainty and flux.' 

Friday 22nd April: The seven-page leaflet sent to us all by Mr Cameron, and the 200 pages provided by Mr Osborne - both eminently political documents about Europe - have one remarkable thing in common: they contain nothing about politics and little about Europe. The ‘EU’ to which they repeatedly allude is a distant abstraction: a bloodless organization we trade with. Their argument is solely based on [what they say is] our individual material interest as consumers. It does not treat us as citizens of a nation who might be and should be concerned with our own and Europe’s democracy, accountability and long-term social welfare.

Buffeted by crises, beset by shocks. How different the real EU is from the picture given here of a faceless, unchanging economic machine, with a future ‘based on the EU as it is today’, with ‘an ambitious agenda of economic reform’ about to be realized in Brussels. No hint is given that the EU today is in fact in the grip of intractable economic and political crises. Its first signs of economic failings go back forty years - ironically, just the moment Britain joined and then voted in the first referendum to stay. At that moment, European economic growth was beginning its long slow-down after a post-war boom which had made it seem such an attractive partner to Harold Macmillan and Harold Wilson.

Crisis in Brazil

Crisis in Brazil
 
Wednesday 20th April: As a number of new economic powers emerge world wide, the success of the rule of law and the introduction of democratic institutions are essential for international economic stability.  In Brazil, the first of the ‘BRICS’ (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – the emergent success stories), a political and economic downturn shows how economic promise may be hampered by political instability.  
 
Last Sunday, Brazil’s House of Representatives voted by more than a two-thirds majority to proceed with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. She was found to have acted illegally by the official tribunal supervising budgetary controls for breaching laws that regulate the government’s budget. It found Rousseff guilty of hiding an expansion of government expenditure shortly before her re-election in 2014 by borrowing from state banks without the transactions showing on the official balance sheet. If the Senate approves the motion by a simple majority on 17th May, Rousseff will be temporarily suspended for 180 days to face formal proceedings.

Labour’s Policy Won’t Wash – Anti-Zionism is an open door to Anti-Semitism

Labour’s Policy Won’t Wash –
Anti-Zionism is an open door to Anti-Semitism
 
Last week the Labour Party descended even deeper into chaos. First, it suspended the MP, Naz Shah. She had commented on social media that the population of Israel should be transported to America. Then one of Labour’s most influential elder statesmen, Ken Livingstone, a member of its ruling NEC, came to her defence, with the bizarre claim that Hitler had been a Zionist. Here John Marenbonexplains why the anti-zionism endemic in the Labour party is objectionable: but for too many of its members, proscribing it would be a step too far. 
 
Professor Marenbon writes ...
Labour responded to the furore last week about anti-semitism in its ranks, by announcing that anti-semitism is racism and not to be tolerated. But hostility to Israel can be permitted, or even adopted as party policy, it suggests, in view of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Not Guilty! Secrecy is not a Crime

Friday 8th April: The Panama papers have been used to imply that offshore tax havens serve the main function of dubious tax dodging. Yet many who seek to preserve and enhance their wealth overseas do so perfectly legally. Modern states need individuals to create, preserve and enhance wealth. Drive them away and the nation will pay the price, writes Stanley Brodie QC.

The furore generated by the disclosure of the Panama Papers seems unreal, and in some respects farcical. It is assumed by commentators, such as Tom Bradby and Robert Peston (on television the 5th April), that the fact that a British citizen has deposited funds or assets with or through the law firm of Massock Fonseca itself suggests wrongdoing of some kind; in particular the innuendo is that the motivation for using its services is to conceal taxable assets or revenues from the tax authorities in the United Kingdom. The secrecy usually associated with such transactions is a factor pointing towards some kind of impropriety. Panama is labelled by commentators as a tax haven, as if that were sufficient to make the deposit of money or assets there by a British citizen immediately suspect. It is to be noted that thus far there is no suggestion that any of the clients of Massock Fonseca (including the Prime Minister’s late father) has engaged in any unlawful conduct or concealment.

Too Many Laws Spoil the State

Too Many Laws Spoil the State
 
This week as the Indian Steel firm Tata, decided to sell its British steel works and the focus switched to Port Talbot, the local Labour MP, Stephen Kinnock, ruled out nationalisation as a long term solution. Nor is EU protection against Chinese steel dumping the answer, as former Chancellor Ken Clarke MP made clear. Rather the industry must concentrate on those parts which can make a profit.
 
That's been the key to wider British success. Already Greybull Capital is in talks with Tata about the Scunthorpe plant and across the spectrum of British industry other commerce is going ahead, with investors determined to do business in Britain, not affected by the uncertainties of the Brexit debate. That's the judgement of the Mail's City Editor. 'The message [says Alex Brummer] is crystal clear. Even in the current overheated political atmosphere, commerce is not stopping, the prospects for the City look as bright as ever and all-comers are still arriving. So much for Brexit blight.' 
 
In this week’s blog, Thomas Griffin, a founder and former Chairman of a GT Management, explains what lies behind the City's success and why it is that Britain’s financial sector would be better off out.
 
This week 250 business leaders announced their support for Brexit in the run up to the June referendum. Reflecting the huge range of British Business talent, from pubs and hotels, to banking, with the HSBC’s former chief executive backing Brexit, the message was clear: John Longworth, head of the British Chambers of Commerce until forced out for supporting Brexit summed up the business assessment. With Britain removed from EU 'shackles … jobs will be safer, Britain will be able to spend our money on our priorities and we can look forward to faster growth and greater prosperity in the future.’ 
 
The damage caused by those shackles will strike a chord with many people who work in the UK’s financial sector. The problem is one of too much bad law.
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