If you want a trade deal with China

If you are in doubt Britain’s membership of the European Union, have found the conflicting “facts” confusing or simply really believe that Britain has already lost its sovereignty.  Watch this.  It might be long but it covers that ground.

This is not the £350m a week lie from the Brexiters or the WW3 warning from some in Remain.  It is solid evidenced based considered information in context.


Is Turkey Joining the European Union?

The short answer is no.  The clue is in the name – European Union.

Anyway to join it would have to have the unanimous support of every current member state.  Just one veto and it will not happen.  At the moment there are several member states ready to use their veto.

It will also have to pass the fitness tests in democracy and governance etc and out of thirty such tests it has begun one.  At the current rate it will take more than decades to pass them all.

All those Turks with visas?  Well there are about 80,000,000 people living in Turkey and 4% have passports.  Still that is about 3,200,000 people with passports.  They could all travel to Europe without visas but they are only available for short stays for holidays and business and they do not apply to Britain because we are the only European member state (apart from reluctant Ireland which feels it has to follow us) which is opted out of the European of free movement (although we have not opted out of the Schengen agreement itself).

Our border police would stop them coming here – unless of course the British government had been given them a visa to visit Britain.

It is entirely possible that a Turk could settle in, say, Germany and get German citizenship and then freely move here.  It would take about twelve years and they we would have to able to speak German.

Coalition Formed

Following the recent elections in Elmbridge the Conservatives lost control.  The only borough in the country for that to happen – although the Conservative Party also lost Worcester City.

With 22 councillors and just short of the 25 required, it was entirely possible for the Conservative Party to run Elmbridge as a minority administration.  Similarly, with 19 councillors it was possible for the Residents’ Parties to run it too.  The Conservatives could govern as long as the Liberal Democrats abstained when votes came to the full council and the Residents could given as long as the Liberal Democrats on voted with them.  Whilst this could undoubtedly work – and a number of boroughs operate this way across the country – the Liberal Democrat Party considered that a coalition with a clear programme would be beneficial.

When a similar situation occurred at the national level in 2010 the Liberal Democrats had only the one option – join or not with the Conservatives but here in Elmbridge the Lib Dems could theoretically work with either party.

As the Conservatives had lost 11 councillors and the Liberal Democrats and Residents had held the same numbers we felt that the people were looking for a change so we decided to open discussions with the Residents’ Parties with a joint programme.

Coalition Numbers

Our aim is to achieve further improvements in services to residents of the borough; in particular, over the coming year, we will be looking to:

  • introduce free parking on Saturdays in the borough car parks, as appropriate.
  • review planning enforcement,
  • undertake a number of policy reviews in key areas to underpin future decision making.
  • review the working of the Grounds Maintenance Contract, and
  • ensure a smooth introduction of the new Joint Waste Management Contract, start date June 2017.

These key areas would fall under the responsibility of various cabinet members, notably: highways and transport (parking); planning services (enforcement); leisure and culture (grounds maintenance); and, environment (waste management).

The cabinet members are as follows:

Coalition Cabinet

Although the focus is on the four main concerns the reviews will be used to develop further action in due course.

Euro Debate

Philip HammondThe British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond who is, of course, our MP is speaking on the referendum at 7:30 on Wednesday, 15 June at Manby Lodge School, Princes Road.

It is an open, non-party political meeting so everyone is welcome.  It is anticipated that the the meeting will last 60-90 minutes.

Is Europe more democratic than Britain?
What’s a trade deal compared to the single market?
Who gets our taxes?

European Democracy

european-union-flag-1024x7681Brexiters have a constant refrain that we need our democracy back.  It is true that democracy means different things to different people but I would contend that there is a general consensus that for a place to be democratic its laws must be passed by a representative body and that those representatives must be replaceable at elections.

Is the European Union democratic?  No European law can be passed without the consent of the European parliament. The lower house of that parliament is elected directly by the people of Europe.  Indeed it is more representative of the European people than the British government is in representing the British.  Members of the upper house of Europe are appointed by their respective governments – not as democratic as it should be – but better than the British upper house of Lords which is simply appointed by our Prime Minister alongside people who got there simply by birth.  So Europe is democratic.

Of course the more astute Brexiters might well say that okay Europe is democratic but we  British are out-voted all the time by the other Europeans because there are 64m of us and 444m of them.  This is true.  However, Britain votes on the winning side 87% of the time – not 100% – that is far greater than your chance of electing the government of your choice in Britain which currently is stands at 37% (or 24% depending on your point of view).  Britain has greater sway in Europe than you do in electing your British government.  In fact, over twice the sway – pretty good odds if you ask me.

Brexiters say – but we want 100% and 87% is not good enough.  Hang on – who is the we? Here in Elmbridge we recently voted for a new administration which is not Conservative. Yet we are still governed by a Conservative administration in Surrey.  Do the people of Elmbridge suddenly claim that we fear being swamped by the rest of Surrey?  Surrey has continually elected Conservative administrations for over century yet Britain has, on many occasion, been run by the Labour party.  Does Surrey aim for Sexit?  Leaving because you do not like the wider view is a possible decision.  But if we are intent to apply this idea in relation to Britain and Europe why not equally apply to England and Britain or Surrey and England or Elmbridge and Surrey?  Would we, the people of Elmbridge, leave Britain because we are often outvoted by the rest of the island? Of course not.  There is no consistency to it – the “we” argument does not cut it.

Getting rid of the Government
Except in the recent Elmbridge elections we can only vote for a third of the councillors each year.  It can take a number of years to change administrations. In some ways this is a good thing because the public mood at the time of a particular election would not overly affect the administration.  In any case there is a debate to be had.  Surrey has a general election every four years, Britain and Europe every five years.

Just as the people of Surrey can remove their government  – though choose not to – the people of Britain and the people of Europe can get rid of theirs.  In 2014 Europeans had the chance of removing the majority administration but did not do so.  In 2015 the British had a chance to change their government and chose to do so.  It’s up to the people.

In Europe the Conservative Party (74 MPs) and UKIP (46 MPs) are in opposition and the Labour party (190 MPs) and the Liberal Party (70 MPs) are in government.  Perhaps that’s why UKIP and so many British Conservative MPs want to leave.  Who knows?

Trade deals and the Single Market

With all of the talk of trade deals in and out of Europe in recent weeks I have not seen a article that clarifies the difference between a single market and a trade deal.  Comparing the two as if they were similar confuses the issue.  The difference is vast – not so much comparing apples and pears but apples and a combine harvester.

Trade Deal
A trade deal is an agreement between two countries where they lower their import and export duties and other tariff barriers to trade.  These negotiations can take many years to conclude and on occasion they can be agreed very swiftly.  They can cover one industry or a range of industries but they are rarely comprehensive.  There are gains to both parties to the trade deal but usually the bigger partner gains most as they can bargain harder.  Britain would be at a disadvantage because three quarters of the world’s trade is undertaken by countries that are bigger than Britain – and in some cases much bigger. Those deals would be worst for us than if the much larger Europe negotiated on our behalf.

Free Trade Area
This is where a number of countries reduce or (rarely) eliminate their customs and tariffs between themselves.  Their tariffs on trade with other countries is not aligned – each country trades with third parties as they like.  There are a number of these across the world some more successful than others.  Britain was once a member of EFTA – the European Free Trade Area.  The tariffs between the members were agreed but the tariffs to other countries was set by each member state.  A television imported into Britain from Japan could have a different tariff from that imported from Japan into Austria.

Customs Union
This an extension to a free trade area in that both the internal tariffs and external tariffs are aligned.  This was the basis of the of the European Common Market.  A television imported into Britain from Japan would have the same tariff as that imported from Japan into Austria.  A customs union was only considered a foundation position for Europe as it was always intended that we would have a single market eventually.  Although it was Margaret Thatcher that campaigned to push  it though.

Single Market
A single market is not only where the internal and external customs, controls and tariffs are the same across the area but also all the rules governing trade are the same.  Unlike the other arrangements, a single market provides dramatically greater benefits because the others only provide the reduction – usually only partial  – of tariff barriers.  So that exporters will still need to provide differently specified goods and services for each individual market. In the single market what can be sold at home can be sold throughout the single market without any change.  In our case, it give us access to the world’s biggest free market.

Size of Economy-01The chart shows the top ten economies in the world. They are ranked in purchasing power parity order: China, Europe, America, India, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Korea.  If Britain was not part of the single market then it would be the ninth largest market in the world (one hundred years ago we were top). Still impressive being ninth but it does not matter how many trade deals we agree or how many free trade areas we join we would still be in ninth position.

When Scotland joined England in 1707 it entered the largest single market in the world – only to be overtaken by America between the wars. If Britain leaves the single market Scotland might choose to leave Britain and remain in Europe along with Northern Ireland and Wales.  England would still be the ninth largest market in the world but the rest of Britain and Ireland would be in the largest single market.

Who gets our taxes?

We pay £45.50 everyday in taxes, on average, here in Elmbridge – that’s for every man, woman and child living in the borough.

We pay Elmbridge 34p a day, Surrey £2.48 a day, Britain £42.15 a day and Europe 55p a day.
Tax Pie Chart-01

Because, on average, we in Elmbridge are richer than the average person in Surrey we contribute more than other residents of Surrey – we are net contributors.

Again, because we are richer, on average, than most people living in Britain will pay more per person to Westminster than the rest of Britain – we are net contributors.  It is as if the average family in Elmbridge writes a cheque to an average family in Fermanagh for around £1,500 a year.

Finally, because, on average, we in Elmbridge are richer than than most people in Europe we pay more per person to Brussels than the rest of Europe – we are contributors.  It is as if the average family in Elmbridge writes a cheque to an average family in Estonia of £23 a year.

Via government transfers, families in Elmbridge have been paying families in Fermanagh £1,500 a year for decades and no-one raises an eyebrow.  Has anyone said “we want our money back” to the people of Northern Ireland?  We give, say, £23 a year to families in Estonia and Brexiters go ballistic.  The Estonians sang their way to independence from the Soviet Union and they are on the front line with Russia.  The Estonians are a hard work people and the speed with which Estonia is growing, with our help, out of their Soviet Union legacy is remarkable.  They’ll soon be supporting us.

The 55p a day that each of us in Elmbridge pays, on average, to Europe is a remarkably small insurance premium for our security and well-being.

Elmbridge Result

For Weybridge Riverside Result

Last Thursday, 118 people stood for election to Elmbridge’s council – representing twelve parties (there was also one independent).  A number were councillors already.  Only 48 could be elected.  The previous council was represented in the following way.

2015 EBC CouncillorsFollowing the elections last Thursday the result is as follows:2016 EBC CouncillorsAs the new council has 12 fewer councillors, one would expect a general of loss of seats for all parties.  Indeed whilst the Conservative party lost the most at 11 seats (10 percentage points loss), the Molesey party (1 percentage point loss) and  the Thames Ditton party lost one seat each.  Hinchley Wood (1 percentage point gain) and St George’s Hill party held steady.  The Esher and Hersham parties gained one seat each (2 percentage point gain).  Last there was one independent now there are none.  The Greens, Labour and UKIP did not gain a single seat and were not close to doing so anywhere in the borough. Labour Oddly enough despite holding their seven seats the Liberal Democrats made the biggest proportional gain – 3 percentage points.

As the Conservative party has lost overall control of Elmbridge the full council will have to come to a decision as to who should form the government of Elmbridge.

Weybridge Riverside Result

For Elmbridge Council Result

Last Thursday, ten people stood for election to Elmbridge’s council for Weybridge Riverside ward – representing three parties (there was also one independent).  I was the only incumbent.  Only three could be elected.  The ward did not exist before – replaced Weybridge North and a large part of Weybridge South.  The previous councillors for these two wards were was represented in the following way.

2015 WR Cllrs

The result this year were:

WR Figuresand as a bar chart are:

WR Bar

The result was very close.  Effectively, compared to last time the Conservative lost a councillor and were very close to losing another.  It is often tempting to say that if the independent candidate had not stood the Conservatives would have lost all three councillors but none of us have a window into a voter’s soul.

Our electoral system does not work when there are more than two parties.  If the Labour party nationally adopted preference voting – even just for local elections in England (the other parts of Britain already have it) we would probably have a few Labour councillors in Elmbridge and we would be better for it.  However, under the current winner takes all system voting Labour around here is a gift to the Conservatives – I that each voter could vote for people they want and not second guess what everyone else might do.