Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit: An opportunity that could be wrecked by politicians

So the UK votes to leave and the PM decides to leave, but not now.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer hides, and beyond the Bank of England printing a few billion, nothing else happens.

The EU has already decided to play tough and has its own position, which is essentially "fuck off, the walls are going up, deal with it".  Although Germany is being much more nuanced.

The Conservative Party has to find a new leader, and from that a new Cabinet and a policy on negotiations.  Labour meanwhile is going the same way.  It is likely a new Conservative leader/PM will call a General Election on a manifesto of leading the UK into a new open, free-trading world with a new free trading relationship with the EU.   Leaving the EU requires the UK to initiate it formally, which the EU is begging for, but the Government would rather delay because it changes its bargaining position.

Yet that could be problematic, not least because a key plank of those fighting to leave the EU is to end free movement of people with the EU, and all countries in the EU Single Market (including non-EU Norway and Iceland) all have signed up to free movement, and even non Single Market Switzerland has, although it does have extensive restrictions on new residents having access to any government provided services.

Meanwhile, leftwing nationalists have jumped on an opportunity.  Sinn Fein wants a referendum on Irish unification, but the Northern Ireland First Minister has said no.  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is flailing about wanting a second referendum on independence, but wont discuss:

1. The EU only lets non-members join, not current members split into joining and non-joining;
2. Joining the EU means joining the Euro;
3. 90% of Scottish trade is with the UK, Scotland in the EU would mean any EU trade barriers with the UK also apply to Scottish trade with the rest of the UK.

Spain, showing it really hasn't turned as far from Francoism as it would have liked, is demanding co-sovereignty over Gibraltar.

Meanwhile, the young leftwing social justice warrior types (Generation SnowFlake some have called them, for their "safe spaces", being "triggered" by hurt feelings and constantly protesting about what is offended) feel "betrayed" about the old "ruining their futures".  However, the truth is that the majority of the young didn't care enough to vote as revealed by Sky News below.
Whinging about democracy when it doesn't go your way, whilst embracing it otherwise, is beyond the pale, as are some of the hate filled attacks on older votes coming from those whose own identity politics is supposed to decry hate speech.  The truth being that the so-called liberal leftwing anti-hate, anti-violence activists are full of hate and quite happily embrace violence to get their "own way".  It's emotion laden petulance, of the kind you would have only seen from the fringes of the far-right and conspiracy theorists had the vote gone to Remain. 

So what should happen now? (notwithstanding who the PM and Government is)

1. The Government should announce the key planks of a new relationship with the EU around trade, investment, movement of people and co-operation, that it seeks to adopt.  It should clarify to the entire country that it is not going to be a UK of isolationism, but one of openness.

2. The Government should make it clear to all EU passport holders in the UK that no-one will be deported, except under existing arrangements for threats to national security or criminals.  No EU residents need fear this, nor will their property be affected or businesses, and if anyone threatens them they should go to the Police.

3. The PM should make it clear that there will be no referendum on Scottish independence this side of Brexit, but that the Government will consult with the Scottish government and parliament on the deal it seeks with the EU.  It is precipitous to talk about Scottish independence until Scotland sees the new deal negotiated with the EU.

4. The PM should make it clear that there will be no referendum on Northern Ireland joining Ireland unless the preconditions of the Good Friday Agreement are met, but that equally it cannot happen until the new deal with the EU is negotiated AND negotiations are concluded with the Republic of Ireland.

5. The PM should go to Dublin and discuss the future relationship and reassure that no border controls will be reinstated.

6. The PM should go to Germany and talk, extensively, about how to make this work, and then go to all other EU Member State capitals, and the EFTA Member States too. 

7.  The Government should go to the WTO to discussing reviving membership.

8. The PM should visit USA, China, Japan and other trading partners and say that it wants to have open, freer trading relationships and the UK will be open for business and people.

9. Finally, the PM should make it clear that there wont be a second referendum on membership and that those who want to claim it is unfair, that this is democracy and the task now is to bring the country together and work for a new relationship with the EU and the world that demonstrably proves the claims of the Remain activists wrong.



Thursday, June 23, 2016

EU truths and untruths

With the UK now voting as to whether it remains in the EU or stirs up what has been described as "the biggest change in European politics since the fall of the Berlin Wall" (although the war in Yugoslavia and the first genocide since the Nazis ought to come close), I thought I'd run through some of the claims of both sides that are intellectually dishonest.

Remain

3 million jobs are linked to trade with the EU: Well yes, but then nobody is saying trade with the EU will end and nobody campaigning to leave wants inferior trading conditions.  The European Free Trade Association provides free trade with the EU, with Switzerland, Norway and Iceland all members.  The idea that leaving the EU means 3 millions jobs are at risk is a gross exaggeration.   However, if the EU is bloody minded and puts up tariff barriers equivalent to what it does for the rest of the world. it is a 4% average tariff on UK trade to the EU, which is negative for jobs, but hardly a huge risk. 

If the UK leaves the EU, you might need a visa to visit the EU: Nonsense.  You don't need a visa to visit the EU from the US, Canada, Australia, NZ or any of the EFTA member states.  What would change is having the right to live there.  Given those wanting to leave mostly want to end the free movement of people, that could be a concern for some. 

Leaving the EU will create a recession: No it wont.  The worst estimates are a small reduction in economic growth, but the long run estimates are a 6% long term slowing of growth if the UK gets the most inferior trading conditions likely with the EU (and assuming the UK has no free trade agreements with any other countries, like the US, Japan and China).  It also assumes the UK does not cut any EU regulation out at all.  In short, the Treasury estimates used by the Government of a recession are based on leaving the EU, and not taking advantage of the new freedom to trade and freedom to relieve the economy of EU Directives that impose costs on growth.

The EU means food, petrol, flights, energy and mobile phone charges are lower: Unmitigated rubbish, quite the opposite.  The EU Common Agricultural Policy inflates the price of food in the EU by 17% over market prices.  The EU legally requires all Member States to tax petrol by at least around 32p/l (but the UK government taxes it at 80% more than that).  The Single Aviation Market goes beyond the EU, with many non-EU countries as participants.  Norwegian Airlines has grown rapidly in the past couple of years, expanding long haul flights between the UK and US.  Norway is not in the EU. The EU inflates energy prices, by requiring minimum levels of taxation on gas and electricity bills, and imposing renewable energy obligations on member states.  Yes mobile roaming in the EU is lower than it would have been had the EU not enforced it, but it's clear EU protectionism and "normalisation" of regulations imposes costs on consumers. 

The £10 billion paid into the EU is "returned' many times over: No it's not.  What is returned is free trade, which should never be at the cost of paying for farming subsidies or infrastructure investment in other countries.  Leaving the EU doesn't mean an end to trading with the EU. 

The EU has 50 trade agreements we lose access to:  Many of which are with micro-states/territories, like San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands, Guernsey.  The only significant economies with deals are Mexico, South Africa and South Korea.  The UK could readily negotiate during the transition deals easily as good or better, as the main forces for protectionism in trade are the likes of France.

Staying in means reform:  That's highly unlikely.  David Cameron couldn't even get all the reforms he asked for with a threat of Brexit (which clearly the EU saw through as being unlikely), why would it happen after a vote to Remain?  The UK holds 9% of the MEP seats in the European Parliament, and although it is a significant contributor, reform is sclerotic.  The EU hasn't significantly cut back any of its activities and always finds new ones.  It is a political project of integration, and shows little sign of ever caring what is thought of it.

David Cameron's deal means unemployed EU migrants can be deported:  No, they can't. EU citizens can't be deported from Member States unless they are a threat to national security or criminals.  

Leave

Leaving the EU will fix the immigration "problem":  Assuming the problem is too many immigrant, and the failure of the Government to cut annual immigration to less than 100,000 people, leaving the EU will enable the UK to ration EU immigration like it does for non-EU.  However, non- EU immigration is already over 150,000 per annum.  Nobody is saying Brexit means deporting immigrants (thankfully).  Most concerns over immigration are perceptions about access to taxpayer provided services, and more often than not reflect the bankruptcy of the world's biggest health bureaucracy, which is treated as a religion never to be reformed (NHS), the bizarre legal obligation of all local authorities to ensure anyone who lives in the UK has housing (including rooms in hotels paid for by taxpayers), the open access to compulsory education and the sclerotic way the UK restrains supply of housing and roads.   Leaving the EU wont solve any of that, but then those wanting to stay in the EU are also devoid of responses to what are more fundamental problems.  

Turkey is joining soon: No it's not.  Notwithstanding David Cameron's hypocrisy over the issue, it is difficult to see Cyprus accepting Turkey until there is settlement over northern Cyprus, or Greece accepting Turkey until Turkey secures its southern borders with Syria and Iraq.  However, Serbia, Montenegro, FYR Macedonia and Albania will all likely be members within 10 years.

Money saved will be spent on the NHS:  Well the half that is a rebate and is current subsidies wont change, although there is a chance to make some serious saving there.  The rest?  Well it can go on many things, but there is a case for simply cutting the deficit by £10 billion a year.  After all, despite George Osborne's platitudes, the UK government is still overspending.  What happens with the money is up to the government.  The Leave campaign is not the government.  Yes leaving the EU wont save £350 million a week, more like half that, but the rebate is not set in a treaty, and the spending 

UK will be drawn into the Euro and ever closer union: The UK has a treaty opt-out of the Euro and has to agree to treaties for ever closer union, but it wont mean it doesn't face the costs of ever closer union.  That will depend on future negotiations.

The UK can get trade access as good as the Single Market without free movement of people:  This is unlikely, simply because it would mean the Single Market is undermined and would be a massive backtracking of the principles of the EU.  Signing up to EFTA or the EEA will mean some compromise on this.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Road pricing in Auckland

A simple guide:

1.  The proposal now on the cards is not "road tolls", tolls are when individual roads are subject to an additional fee on top of existing motoring taxes.  

2. The Auckland Mayor's "motorway tolls" proposal has been comprehensively rejected, as it has been before for sound reasons.  Quite simply, the motorways are not Auckland Council's to charge and just charging them diverts traffic onto the local road network which has traditionally been neglected in Auckland.

3. The proposal put forward by the government is to replace fuel tax with what is essentially an updated version of road user charges (which already is provided now by three private companies collected RUC), that varies by vehicle type, location and time of day.  It should be absolutely clear, as are vaguely similar proposals in Oregon and California, that fuel tax must go if roads are to be charged directly. 

4. The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) has made it abundantly clear that the current "build lots of rail based public transport" trend beloved of new-urbanist planning enthusiasts (and the Green Party) will have next to no impact on traffic congestion. It's hardly surprising, because the reason traffic congestion exists is because the provision of roads and the pricing of roads is not done under market conditions, but is subject to a political/administrative process that results in demand exceeding supply.  Nowhere in the new world (NZ/Australia/US/Canada) have any cities noticeably eased traffic congestion by building new bespoke passenger rail networks.  Which is why, when questioned, the enthusiasts for highly subsidised (by taxes from road users) urban rail don't talk about addressing the problems of urban transport, but sell how "wonderful" it is for people to have a choice that they pay a fraction of the cost for.

5. There is no need for road pricing to be accompanied by highly subsidised alternatives.  Full market based road pricing has four major effects:

-  Prices go up at peak times, encouraging users to make different choices, such as drive at a different time, use a different (less congested) route if available, use another mode (increasing revenue for that mode), or not take a trip at all (consolidating trips);
- Prices go down at off peak times, encouraging greater use and facilitating more trips at those times;
- Congestion is greatly reduced, providing capacity for more public transport on existing roads at peaks, and making such public transport commercially viable.
- Higher revenues at peak times on busy roads sends a signal to invest in more road capacity when revenue from additional users will pay for the cost of the new capital investment

The primary economic argument for subsidising peak time public transport in cities has always been that roads in cities at peak times are underpriced (and historically the technology did not exist to adequately address this).  Once roads are priced efficiently, the case for subsidising urban public transport is weak indeed.  Notice that intercity bus and airline services are not subsidised, neither are road freight services (in or between cities).  Why should urban public transport be special when roads are subject to market forces?

6.  Market based road pricing inevitably should mean the management of roads is taken away from politicians and bureaucracies and towards a more commercial model.  State highways could be shifted into a state-owned-enterprise that could be privatised by giving away shares to all registered vehicle owners.  Local authority roads could be transferred into similar enterprises, but with shares held by local property owners (as ratepayers currently pay for half of all local road costs).

The price of roads should then be set by these organisations.  They would be owned by those with the greatest interest in their networks being run efficiently and meeting their needs.  

7. The ATAP road pricing proposal can only work nationwide.  It isn't just for Auckland, it's a change in how roads are priced everywhere.

Auckland Council wont like this, because it knows that the only way to address congestion is through road pricing, but it doesn't want to lose control of its large rail vanity projects (now including trams - which are buses on dedicated rights of way for 3-5x the price to taxpayers).  It wants control of the revenue to spend on its politically/central planner driven projects, but it shouldn't get it.

Bearing in mind the government wont do what I say, this is what it could do:

- Move all of the state highways into a new SOE, empower that SOE to charge users but only if it gives them an equivalent refund in fuel tax or RUC

- Tell Auckland Council that if it shifts its roads into a new Council Controlled Organisation, it can be fully funded from fuel tax and RUC (and any road pricing that replaces them), but on condition it gives all Auckland ratepayers an equivalent permanent cut in rates and that it has no political direction at all on its activities.


More background on Auckland road pricing debate in recent years:
Auckland motorway tolls re-emerge as revenue raising option
Auckland transport funding report promotes urban road pricing and tolls
Auckland congestion charging, not happening yet

Monday, June 20, 2016

NZ Herald wrong about EU referendum

The NZ Herald has decided that it thinks the UK should stay in the EU, but its editorial on the issue is  woeful, it misses the point and is dotted with errors.  There is nothing in the editorial about the key problems with EU membership, around how EU laws are developed undemocratically (introduced by the European Council, MEPs can't introduce legislation), how the EU is inordinately wasteful including on policies that harm New Zealand's economy (including the Common Agricultural Policy) and harm developing countries.  Nothing about the protectionism of the EU slowing the ability of the UK to trade freely with growing economies in Asia and Latin America.  

New Zealand has full control over its trade policy, its domestic regulations and immigration policy, but the UK does not have the same at all.

It's not true that no country has ever left the EU, Greenland did.  Now that's not anything remotely on the scale of the UK.  Of course, neither did the NZ Herald point out that Switzerland, Norway and Iceland all have thrived outside the EU.  The EU is not Europe as much as it likes to think that it is.  

It's true that Brexit could encourage a break up of the EU, but is that necessarily a bad thing? An unwieldy arrogant technocratic organisation that failed miserably to deal with the refugee crisis, was paralysed by the breakup of Yugoslavia, unable to agree on acting until the US intervened to stop Serbia deporting Kosovan Albanians.  The spectre that European countries will wage war on each other when they have functioning liberal democracies with extensive trade and travel with each other. 

Yet the Herald editorial paints the picture that Brexit somehow increases the chance of Russia invading the EU? Why?  NATO provides the security guarantee for its members, it isn't weakened by the UK leaving the EU - at all.  Why would it matter?

The claim that Scotland will leave the UK after a Brexit vote is also rather fatuous.  Polls on Scottish independence still say 55% would vote to stay in the UK, and there is little reason why the UK Government would hold another referendum on Scottish independence.  It's highly presumptive to think Brexit means Scottish independence.

Finally, yes it is immigration that is motivating many voters to want to leave the EU, but not immigration from outside the EU, it is concern that free movement will overcrowd the country, keep down wages and overwhelm government provided services. 

However, for me, it is because the EU is a sclerotic unaccountable project that keeps the UK in chains, it also subsidises unfair competition to New Zealand producers in world markets and restricts sales of many NZ products into the EU.



The case to leave the EU is about openness, tolerance, kindness and freedom

The shocking murder of Labour MP Jo Cox may well prove decisive in the referendum on EU membership.   Tommy Mair appears to have repeatedly shot and stabbed the MP and for all we now know, when asked for his name he shouted out “Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain", but Mr Mair doesn't believe in freedom.

It appears he is a fascist, and so of course, the new narrative has been that “politics are too angry” and that the anti-EU campaign has “fuelled” this murder.  Of course, those claiming the hate tend to be on the left/Remain side, like legendary leftwing polemicist Polly Toynbee, who once claimed Conservative welfare cuts were like The Final Solution for the disabled.  You can’t do much more in hate than accuse your opponents of being Nazis can you?  Of course Labour is led by a man who used to go to the funerals of IRA terrorists and invite their leaders for meetings, all the time it was waging war against the UK public and UK government (and had killed several MPs).  Corbyn’s statements against hate and violence are as duplicitous as they are disgusting.  The late Jo Cox had a range of views across the spectrum, including a belief that the world shouldn't let Assad barrel bomb and drop chemical weapons on civilians, which saw her be damned by the mediocre "Madame Mao" Labour front bencher Diane Abbott as a "warmongering Tory".  She faced a campaign for de-selection, which Labour has carefully airbrushed away, as her tragic murder becomes politicised.  She did support remaining in the EU, quite vehemently, so it has become easy to claim that the other side were opposed to her.

Yet, the narrative that links the murder to leaving the EU may well stick among undecided voters, especially as polls have been close throughout the campaign, and most recently have put Leave ahead by a few points.  

It’s grossly simplistic and opportunistic to claim, as Remain advocates are, that their side is about kindness, tolerance and openness, when the EU is neither open, nor particularly tolerant and kind with its trade policies, or indeed with diversity of opinion about itself.

The EU isn't open when it maintains a fortress around it trading with the world, especially on services and agriculture.  It has been a force for openness in trade within with enormous resistance from one of its founding members, France, which sees the EU as a tool for "solidarity" - code for spending ever more taxpayers' money on its dirigiste vanity led economic nationalism and absurd profligacy for 19th century farming enterprises.

The EU isn't tolerant when it ignores referenda in France, Ireland, the Netherlands on EU Treaties and simply demands their governments ignore them.  It isn't tolerant when it says that it wont allow "extremists" to be in government in Member States even if democratically elected.

The EU isn't kind when it continues to flood world markets with subsidised agricultural produce, undermining exports and domestic production in developing countries, and so impoverishing poor country producers, whilst funding subsidies for Prince Charles's farming empire.  

Do I think leaving the EU will mean the UK will embark on some free market libertarian revolution of less government?  No, not really.  However, within the EU the only certainty is that there will be growth in EU spending programmes, growth in regulation and ever less accountability for the new laws and spending from Brussels/Strasbourg (don’t forget the EU has two locations for its Parliament, because France wanted an impoverished area to get a boost, so monthly the entire Parliament relocates between cities, at a cost of over €330 million annually).

For all of the relatively mild rhetoric about immigration, the Leave campaign is led by politicians who have mostly been sceptical about government power and all are advancing an agenda of more free trade, more openness to the world and greater engagement with the world.  Leaving the EU is not the fascist/socialist vision of a self-sufficient island that waves a flag and shuts out the world (although those who hold those views want to the leave the EU because its own internal market is an anathema).

I don’t doubt a vote to leave the EU will be a shock, initially to financial markets, more fundamentally to the EU and to the UK Government.  However, the shock need not last for the UK, when there are many years to negotiate leaving the EU and a new trade relationship.  It wont give succour to Putin, nor will it mean a loss of influence for the world’s fifth largest economy.



Given that the EU has proved that it is structurally incapable of reform, we now have a choice. Do we cave in, because we’re too scared to leave? Or do we vote to retrieve our sovereignty, walk away from the whole racket and engage with the world on our own terms? A vote to leave would represent an extraordinary vote of confidence in the project of the United Kingdom and the principle of national self-determination. It would also show reform-minded Europeans that theirs is not a lost cause. And that we stand willing to help forge a Europe based on freedom, co–operation and respect for sovereignty.

It isn't a vote for UKIP politicians, for leaving the EU will put most of them out of a job.  Nigel Farage isn't even an MP, and the one UKIP MP, Douglas Cardwell, is very much a libertarian.

I urge all those in the UK eligible to vote, to Vote Leave.  It is time to break free, for a more open, a more tolerant and a kinder UK. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Libertarian position on the EU Referendum

On 23rd June, the UK will vote on whether to remain in or leave the EU.  I'm voting to leave the EU, and believe that, on balance, those who believe in individual liberty including free trade should strongly support leaving the EU.

Bizarrely, Prime Minister David Cameron, having campaigned for a referendum, is now claiming that a vote for the UK to leave would trigger recession, economic catastrophe and even risk future war.  He’s been asked why he bothered putting the UK through such a risk, particularly since only months ago he said the UK would “do ok”.    Now both the Tory Government, most of the Labour Party and virtually all Liberal Democrats, Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and the Greens are all campaigning to remain in the EU, whereas the campaign to leave is led by Boris Johnson,  Michael Gove, nearly half of Conservative MPs, a handful of Labour MPs and UKIP.

The two main planks of the Remain camp are first that leaving the EU Single Market would damage the economy, and they cite many economists, the IMF, World Bank and OECD who all support this, along with some major business leaders and companies.  The second claim is that leaving the EU “lessens Britain” and isolates it, and means the UK loses influence. 

The Leave campaign has a few key messages.  One is that it will save £350m a week from not contributing to the EU (although that excludes receipts from EU programmes to the UK and Thatcher’s rebate, which could be removed at any time).  Secondly, is that leaving the EU will return sovereignty to the British Government, rather than the EU, which passes laws, even if all British MEPs oppose them, imposing them on the UK.  Thirdly, is concern that immigration cannot be effectively controlled whilst there is free movement and full rights for all EU citizens to reside in the UK.

For a libertarian, the EU referendum does mean a trade off.   Indeed, the only two elements of the EU that are pro-freedom are the single market and free movement of people.

EU Membership does provide a single market of over 550 million people, for goods if not for services.  However, it is a customs union that is highly protectionist, and has for decades been one of the biggest objectors to global free trade in agriculture and in many services at the WTO, particularly because France is consistently resistant to trade liberalisation.   Much is made of the EU signing “trade deals” with other countries, but it rarely includes services and never includes agriculture.   Nick Clegg likes to describe the many years and reams of paper needed for the EU to reach trade agreements with the likes of Canada, as if this is the norm (and a burden the UK would have to bear with other countries if outside the EU).  Yet this is quite unnecessary.  New Zealand and Australia agreed on free trade (CER) in less than four years, with a relatively simple agreement.  The only reason free trade agreements become complex is when one of the parties wants exemptions – not actually wanting free trade. 

The second libertarian element of the EU is the free movement of people.  The ability to cross borders virtually unimpeded is of significant value, but it is unconditional.  No EU Member states have the ability to shut out other EU citizens if they have been convicted of any serious offences.   I am not from the camp that believes that free movement within the EU is inherently bad, but I do believe countries should be able to exclude foreign nationals who are proven violent criminals.  The UK's immigration problems are in part, its own fault.  Its health system is the world's biggest civilian bureaucracy that makes feeble attempts to restrict non-national usage and asks nothing of users in terms of financial contributions.  Anyone with legal residency in the UK has access to the welfare state (including generous tax credits for low income workers and child benefits), to taxpayer funded education for their children and access to publicly subsidised housing (indeed there is a "legal right" to housing in the UK, paid for by others).   

In short, the UK has a welfare state edifice that is attractive to migrants with low skills, especially coming from much poorer countries with inferior health, education and housing provision.   If it wants to reduce immigration, it ought to look in the mirror.

Furthermore, as journalist Rod Liddle said at a Spectator hosted event on June 13th, eastern Europeans don't pose an existential threat to western civilisation or to the values of individual freedom that give cause to be concerned about Islamism.  As much as some are concerned about Polish migration to Britain, they integrate, they embrace the values of a developed Western liberal democracy, they set up businesses, they are not demanding media not offend them with threats of violence. Notwithstanding the distortions caused by the UK's wider welfare state, I am not concerned about migration from eastern European, as long as prudent measures are made to exclude convicted violent criminals.

However, the freedom of movement and freedom of trade within the single market do not, for me, outweigh what's wrong with the EU:

- It is a massive exercise in regulation and legal control on almost all areas of the economy.  The EU has over 10,000 Directives on anything from standards for fruit and vegetables, to blowtorches, to light bulbs, to employment.  It is a huge corporatist system that imposes major compliance costs on businesses, restricting new entry and restraining innovation.  Most explicitly, the EU has prohibited the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture, ensuring that research and development of GM technology outside laboratories is based in the US and Asia, not Europe.

- Its budget is dominated by the protectionist racket known as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).  The CAP inflates the price of food for Europeans by heavily restricting imports from more efficient producers from many countries, including New Zealand, and subsidises overproduction in Europe which is then exported undermining market prices in other countries including poor producers in developing countries.  The CAP impoverishes farmers in poor countries, whilst the EU engages in pious virtue signalling about how much it cares about inequality.  The CAP itself isn't even equal in Europe, as it would have gone bankrupt had eastern European producers been subsidised at the same rates as those in western Europe, so perversely farmers in the EU's poorest countries (e.g. Bulgaria) receive subsidies one-third lower than those in its richest countries (e.g. Luxembourg).

- The EU takes £10 billion a year of British taxpayers' money more than it returns (and most of what it returns is to prop up farmers, to fund research projects or pious regional development projects).  That is money currently borrowed from future taxpayers.  It should end to help balance the budget.  The ludicrous idea that this is the "price for accessing the single market" is absurd.  Free trade does not need to be accompanied by massive subsidy schemes for small parts of the EU economy or politically motivated infrastructure, research or vanity projects (such as Galileo - the EU's complete duplication of the US GPS system, under the nonsensical basis that the US might "shut it down one day").  Furthermore, the majority of EU Member States are not net contributors, and until the past three years neither was France (primarily because it takes so much back in subsidies to prop up its 19th century farming sector).

- The EU is fundamentally authoritarian in instinct, having contempt for the democratically expressed choices of EU Member State voters (the EU President recently said that certain political parties would "not be allowed" to have power if they won elections in EU Member States, such as the Freedom Party in Austria).  The EU's utter failure to provide any discipline on spending in some Euro-member states and contempt for popular revolt at the resulting economic collapse reflects its distance from the concerns of Europeans.  Notably, it has taken few steps to address Hungary's creeping authoritarianism as its government subverts much of its media to support its own propaganda.

- Members of the European Parliament have no powers at all to introduce new legislation including legislation to abolish existing Directives.  Only the European Council can introduce draft legislation into the European Parliament, and the Council is comprised of people appointed by Member State Governments.  The closest the EU gets to accountability is that MEPs can vote to oppose the passage of draft directives, but none can propose their own new legislation.

- The European Commission budget has been found to be materially in error every year for the past 18 years, most recently by 3.9%, or around €5 billion.  This is in part because of the complexities of its spending programs there is considerable scope for fraud and mistake.  Never mind, the EU just keeps asking for more money.

- The EU never cuts its budget, ever.  Every year it asks for more and more, it never ceases to undertake any functions, it never seeks to hand back powers to Member States.  It grows inexorably.  Ten years ago it didn't have a common Foreign Policy, it is now discussing haviuniong an EU Army.  Bear in mind this growth continues in spite of it telling the likes of Greece and Spain that they need to cut spending to balance their budgets.

- The EU falsely claims it is responsible for peace in Europe amongst its Member States, ignoring not only the role of NATO in deterring war with the Soviet Union, but also the more fundamental principle that liberal democracies don't go to war with each other.  The EU got in the way of addressing the war in the Balkans in the 1990s as it opposed letting the Bosnian Muslims arm themselves to respond to the Serbian ultra-nationalist genocide being led by Radovan Karadzic, it has been divided over Ukraine.

- The EU attracts mediocre political appointees to have considerable power over us all.  The UK supplied the second Foreign Minister, Catherine Ashton, a Labour Party member, unionist and former peer (i.e. never elected) who had no foreign policy background.  Failed UK Labour Leader Neil Kinnock built a long career for himself and his family in the EU.  

- The EU has attacked free speech by requiring Google to remove content from searches that EU citizens specifically request as being the "right to be forgotten" .  More recently it has sought to have a common approach to "hate speech", including a call to restrict "disrespectful public discourse".  Fuck off you arseholes.

- The EU project's ultimate end game is a European superstate with power over taxation, national budgets and a massive programme to "harmonise" the regulation of all industries and sectors as one.  This superstate will not be interested in reducing what it does, granting more freedoms to its citizens and reducing its burden on taxpayers, rather the contrary.

Supporters of the Vote Leave campaign have produced this movie below, which is being freely distributed.




I have already cast my postal vote to leave and no, I don't take the views of President Obama, John Key, the IMF, World Bank,  UN Secretary General or others into account.  I don't expect any government or any international organisation to risk their own trade and relationships with the world's largest economy (the EU) by supporting the UK leaving.   Most bizarrely, it is odd that President Obama would ask the UK to stay in a political union that the US itself would never bind itself to even if it could, given the US itself refuses to sign up to many international treaties because it doesn't want its sovereignty restrained.

However, let's be very clear what leaving the UK does not mean:

The campaign to leave the EU is not led by those who want the UK to be isolated and protectionist: Unlike the opposition to the UK's original EEC Membership in 1975, those who lead the campaign to leave the EU now are not primarily socialists who feel threatened by foreign competition.  They are advocates of free and open trade with the rest of the world.   They are dominated by concerns that UK's national sovereignty is eroded by the EU and that the EU is wasteful, sclerotic, inefficient and dismissive of individual freedoms and people's concerns about it.

Leaving the EU is not "ending co-operation": Over 160 countries in the world co-operate on a vast number of matters.   Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are not in the EU, all trade freely with it and work with it and each other and other states, without being tied to the EU project.

Leaving the EU is not racist:  By illiberal-leftwing standards, the EU itself may be deemed racist with its trade policy that harnesses protectionism and European taxpayers' money to harm producers in developing countries.  Those advocating for Brexit want an immigration policy that does not favour EU citizens from non-EU citizens, which would appear to be anything but racist.

Leaving the EU is not "leaving" or "turning our back on Europe":  The EU is not Europe, it is a political-customs union project.  The UK has been at the heart of advocating values of freedom, civil liberties, liberal democracy, rule of law and separation of powers in Europe for much longer than any other countries in Europe.  It is understandable why some countries with recent totalitarian pasts would see the EU as a project that may enable them to move on from unspeakable horrors and oppression, but the UK does not have such a path.  UK outside the EU would trade, travel and work closely with European countries, with continued migration and investment, it simply wouldn't be shackled to how the EU wants Europeans to interact.

Leaving the EU is not seeking a return to a "golden age": Far from it, it is seeking to regain full sovereignty over UK laws to create a more dynamic, outward looking Britain that isn't dependent on the EU for freer trade with the rest of the world.  No one harks back to Empire, some say Brexit will enable trading relationship with the Commonwealth to be revitalised, but few see a future of self-sufficiency and exclusion.

So I have voted to Leave.  I know if it happens, the pound will drop, the FTSE100 will drop and there will be panic.  I also know that there are strong calls for Brexit to mean a significant toughening of immigration policy, which I largely oppose.  I also know there is chance the UK will be blocked from the single market for some time, as the EU and major EU Member States seek to punish the UK for leaving, rather than look at themselves as to why that might be.

However, I am also hopeful and optimistic that the world's 5th largest economy can be more outward looking, can liberalise its economy, can reprioritise its net contribution to the EU by cutting its budget deficit and replacing the subsidy programmes it receives now and phase them out.  I am hopeful that the UK can show the EU that it should be more dynamic, open and prosperous, stimulating the sort of reforms EU Member States desperately need.  I am also hopeful that the charlatan, the PR spin doctor Prime Minister, David Cameron, can finally retire, and the UK can have a government that doesn't look like the Labour Party stayed in power after 2010.