Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Say no to the butchers in Brussels

Sigh. It seems we must have a debate about immigration. Vote Leave have made Ukip's points based system part of their final push. Readers won't be surprised to learn that I think this is a foolish move. Not only does it categorically rule out a single market exit strategy, such a policy won't work for Britain as shall become apparent over the next few days.

And the reason it will become apparent is because Ukip made it a central feature of their abysmal general election campaign and now seasoned campaigners know where to find all the countermeasures to it. Intellectually and tactically this is a blunder. If vote leave persists in turning this into a referendum on immigration then it will lose.

But still, Vote Leave being a drag factor on the efforts of leavers is nothing at all new and so we shall just do as we have always done and make our case to those still receptive to different ideas.

And so if we are going to have a conversation about immigration let's get one thing straight. Freedom of movement is not open borders. You can't even begin to discuss policy unless you're getting the terminology right. Eureferendum.com explains.

As it happens I am none too concerned about freedom of movement. I expect if we leave we will keep it because we will stay in the EEA for the foreseeable future. It can be no other way from a practical standpoint. Moreover, I would like to see similar arrangements with Canada and Australia. And that's actually why we should leave. I don't see us getting such a deal while members of the EU.

I think we can have the best of both worlds. We are repeatedly told we cannot have our cake and eat it. Why not? Says who? And if, as the narrative holds it, that freedom of movement is unequivocally good, where is the objection to expanding that successful policy?

But what is absolutely clear, is that we do need a revolution in how we handle the effects of migration and we need more intelligent internationalist policies. Last year we saw a summer of death in the Mediterranean. What was largely under-reported was the equal number of deaths of people traversing the Sahara along with people subject to beatings and rape by people smugglers. We will see the same this year. And then there's a good reason why migrants would risk a sea crossing. The EU has allowed the closure of land routes.

There is a good chance we will see less of it this year though. Not because the problem has gone away but because the EU is getting better at hiding it - which has been an obvious priority for them this year since we are having this referendum. Human Rights Watch reports that the EU is taking some pretty gruesome moral shortcuts to slow migration. Sudan under International Criminal Court suspect Bashir commits countless atrocities yet EU funds its forces to stop the flow of migrants.

And why are they migrating? Well we could start by examining EU foreign policy. Between he grubby fishing deals stitched up by the EU in West Africa - to our eternal shame - and the boneheaded tinkering in African economies, the EU has made a royal mess of Africa.

Meanwhile Greece has been turned into a prison camp for refugees, largely hanging Greece out to dry. This is also the same EU happy to stitch up a a swapsie deal with Turkey while they are flattening Kurdish towns with artillery. And we should probably point how how the EU wrecked Libya without a hint of a reconstruction programme. Libya is routinely described by foreign policy analysts as the EU's own Iraq.

This is only a surface analysis but if you go digging into what the media cannot be bothered to report or even investigate, it makes utter hypocrites of europhiles who style themselves as progressive internationalists. The EU's hands are dripping with blood - not least as consequence of its own neo-imperialist actions in Africa.

If europhiles were half the internationalists they pretend to be they would be well aware of this but like everything else they say, it's just empty rhetoric. They talk about human rights but are willing to turn a blind eye when politically convenient.

We must not allow the Remain camp to take the moral high ground on this. It is the EU's own resistance to reform that means obsolete legal instruments from the last century remain untouched - and that is the reason we will keep counting the dead. The only way we will reform it is by leaving and adding pressure on the EU at the global level. For as long as we remain in the EU we will watch the perpetuation of this murderous policy - and it will be done in our name. Let's call remainers out for what they are. Lying hypocrites.

There is no ideal form of exit. So what?

Janan Genesh of the Financial Times is a name that keeps popping up at the moment. Sam Hooper is not impressed and neither am I. Though it's in an "essay" from February last year we get to the heart of his incomprehension.
The UK does too much business with the European market to pretend its regulations do not matter, and there is no way of influencing those regulations outside the club. There is nothing to envy in the Swiss or Norwegian models of co-existing with the EU. The ideal form of exit, one which preserves the UK’s market access but exempts it from market rules, will never be permitted by the EU, which has made itself inescapable for any European country.
It's a bold assertion that "there is no way of influencing those regulations outside the club". Readers of this blog will be well aware that the EU is largely a recipient of technical rules and regulations from the global level from vehicle manufacture to banking and all points between.

Codex regulations alone form the basis of food regulations for over a hundred nations. Most cars are now produced to UNECE regulations and anything to do with shipping is government by the International Maritime Organisation. Regular readers will by now be bored of reading this because this actually isn't news - unless your name is Janan Ganesh.

Not only is Norway an independent member of Codex, it even hosts the all-important Fish and Fisheries Products Committee. Thus, it is the lead nation globally in an area of significant economic importance to itself. When it comes to trade in fish and fishery product, Norway is able to guide, if not control, the agenda on standards and other matters. The EU then reacts, turning the Codex standards into Community law, which then applies to EEA countries, including Norway. But it is Norway, not the EU, which calls the shots.

In most respects, Norway has greater say in Codex Alimentarius affairs than does a UK which is isolated in "little Europe". Yet Norway is supposed to be the country that is subjected to "fax democracy" and has "no influence" over EU law. It must simply adopt all the Single Market laws coming out of Brussels – or so we are told.

And when we look at where automotive rules come from, we find our old friend UNECE looming large. Its Transport Division, based in Geneva, provides secretariat services to the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29), and has been doing so for more than 50 years.

By its own account, the World Forum incorporates into its regulatory framework the technological innovations of vehicles relating safety and environment impact. WP 29 was established on June 1952 as "Working party of experts on technical requirement of vehicles". The current name was adopted in 2000. There are currently 57 signatories to the Agreements, including non-EU countries such as Norway and the major vehicle manufacturing countries of Japan and South Korea.

The UNECE instruments, produced under the Agreements, are classic "diqules". As quasi-legislation, they have no mandatory effect until converted into laws by the territorial bodies signatory to the agreements (contracting parties). However they are laws to those who have signed the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (as per illustration) which has it that "Where technical regulations are required and relevant international standards exist or their completion is imminent, members shall use them, or the relevant parts of them, as a basis for their technical regulations".

That is where UNECE, Codex, IMO, ITU and the likes come into play. The EU is no longer in control of the regulatory agenda. It is redundant and it no longer makes the rules. So to put it bluntly, when Ganesh says "there is no way of influencing those regulations outside the club" he is flat wrong.

Being free of the EU means having an independent vote, the right of free association, the ability to build coalitions, selective opt outs and in some circumstances a veto. And if we wanted this post to go on all night we could dig out plenty of examples where Norway and others have used such powers to their advantage. I would argue that leaving the EU is enhanced influence in that our preferences cannot be overruled as EU members are.

But Ganesh is right when he says "There is nothing to envy in the Swiss or Norwegian models of co-existing with the EU." The Norway option would be a singularly dismal destination for the UK. But we are not proposing it as a destination. The EEA is just the mechanism by which we leave which causes the least disruption. As it happens nobody is especially fond of the EEA agreement. Dig in and you will find plenty of Norwegian gripes about it - but on balance Norway still does not want to join the EU. And there's good reasons for that.

But Ganesh shows us is his two dimensional thinking. It's not a case of wrapping up Article 50 negotiations and moving on to the next political fad. Brexit opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for multilateral initiatives not even considered by the hacks at the FT. Moreover, with the UK joining Efta, it becomes part of the world's fourth largest bloc. Large enough to lean on the EU and would have enough clout to force reforms to the EEA agreement later down the line.

It is by no means an ideal form of exit but as a starting point for a new journey it's actually more than adequate. Not too radical in practical terms but seismic in terms of what it holds for the future - as discussed on this very blog.

Though none of this can occur to the likes of Ganesh. In terms of regulation nothing exists outside the EU. The world is to him as it was in 1992. Globalisation somehow passed him by. Thus it forces him to conclude "We are a nation of 60 million in a union of over 500 million. We matter, but not enough to get exactly the kind of EU we want. Neither is there likely to be a knockout case for leaving any time soon. In these circumstances, prudence must prevail: the best reason to stay in the EU is the absence of a superior alternative. This is uninspiring, but common sense usually is."

And that's really the whole remain case. Because nothing permeates their tightly sealed bubble, and nothing that may disturb the settled narratives, they can't imagine any alternative at all. It's a dreary, soul-deadeningly unambitious resignation to the status quo under the pretence of being able to reform it - despite decades of evidence to the contrary. If that is the only reason to remain then I will vote to leave with glee.

Andrew Scott has Economists Entitlement Syndrome

Professor Andrew Scott shares his views on Brexit with us. Aren't we lucky? I urge you to read it in full just for the comedy value. The first paragraphs are given over to impressing upon us how clever he is so that we are by no means unsure of his status as a supreme being with all the answers.

He then tells us "I just really wasn’t looking forward to the debate because I knew that it would stifle what are the really important issues".

But who in a referendum gets to decide what the "really important issues" are? The is a decision for the people based on their priorities. For me democracy trumps all other concerns. Second to that is our standing internationally as an independent state and only then do I come to the economics.

Scott says "My first problem (and I stress this is all written from the perspective of a professional economist) is that the whole referendum strikes me as being like a bad exam question. Basically the overwhelming majority of economists answering the question will come up with the same answer – Remain is good for the economy and Leave is bad."

But the question on the ballot paper is not "is leaving the EU bad for the economy". It is whether we want to remain or leave. The actual question being asked is whether we want to be ruled by a supreme government for Europe. In that estimation the economics are only a part of the decision.

Scott tells us that "Broadly most economists believe (subject to a bunch of caveats around scale and limits) that trade in goods and services and the free flow of capital and labour are a good thing, that uncertainty is bad, transitions are painful and that as a small, open economy the UK is better placed to maximize its global trading activities through the EU rather than as a standalone."

But then any analyst worth their salt knows that there is no standalone option. Nothing is done in global forums without forging a consensus and building coalitions. Moreover, Efta is increasing looking like the weapon of choice for saner Brexiteers. That has distinct advantages in terms of agility and flexibility, being able to act as one or sign agreements independently. I have read little from economists that really speaks to that.

Norway enjoys that agility and has booming salmon exports because of it. Were they in the EU they would be competing with Scotland and other producers for the diplomatic runtime of the EU. Having ignored whole avenues of debate they each crunch over the same basic flawed assumptions and from their collective groupthink they arrive at the same answers.

But here we get a clue from Scott as to why. "It’s a bad and uninteresting exam question where nearly everyone comes up with the same answer". Uninteresting he says. That's their problem. A complete lack of curiosity of what the alternatives are and what the potential is. They have taken the bog standard Brexit strawmen scenarios and run their models on then without questioning if these proposals accurate reflect what would happen in the event of a leave vote.

I dispute the very idea that it's uninteresting. For my part I have had to develop a base level of expertise on regulations, looking at everything from ballast water discharge to car wing mirrors. I've had in depth debates about Norwegian salmon exports, defence cooperation, the finer interpretations of the word democracy. I've crunched over some wider philosophical and spiritual debates surrounding the various cultural concerns. Also globalisation of regulation and trade agreements has featured heavily. That is a wholly unexplored area among "professional" economists.

If the miscreants in the LSE have found it uninteresting that is more a reflection on them. They only want to deal with what they understand - which tends not to be the regulatory aspect that is now central to all trade activity. They are dinosaurs obsessed with bilateral trade deals, mainly concerned with tariffs.

Scott says that it's usually that case that when "everyone agrees on something it means they are right". But by the same token, if they are all working on the same base assumptions, and if the assumptions are wrong then all of them are wrong without exception. Scott seems entirely blind to that possibility. He also thinks economists are repressed.

"What is also depressing from a professional perspective is how the fact that the vast majority of economists support Remain doesn't seem to filter through into the public domain or debate."

Oh really? On what planet? All we've heard is persistent scares from offices of prestige. Does Scott live in a cave? We got the message loud and clear. We just don't believe you. We think that there are some elements in this equation that don't factor into an Excel spreadsheet. We do not suffer the same deformation professionnelle as bubble dwelling academics.

But then, asks Scott, "Why when there is such agreement is this not more apparent in the media? In some cases, and the BBC seems the best example, the desire to be impartial means equal air time given to both sides of the debate. If air time was based on the proportion of economists supporting Remain the balance of reporting would be very different."

They just don't get this referendum business do they? There are two sides to this argument in the most basic terms. Is Scott saying that economists should be privileged individuals entitled to more air time? If so he is saying opinion is fact - which is not true.

He whines "Why, in a debate that seems to have economics at its core, has more coverage been given to the consensus views of business people, historians and even actors than that of economists?" And that's what this is really all about. Special pleading from an academic class who genuinely believe only they are qualified to answer this forty year old political dispute and that the economics trumps all other concerns. If that were true, why even bother having a democracy at all?

"One possibility" Scott suggests "is because if study after economic study reports negative effects from Brexit the news value diminishes. It’s also likely that the public is beginning to expect or even tire of the usual approach of writing a letter with a long list of signatories in support".

Bingo. That ship has already sailed. We're bored rigid of it because that's all we have heard for months - which buries Scott's' claim that economists are a marginalised victim group. We have heard what they have to say. Some of them are wrong. Some of them are lying. Some of them want to remain at any cost and are not remotely interested in the alternatives. And that is why they are ignored. It is no less than they deserve - and if you want the short version of Andrew Scott's opinion in pictorial form, it looks rather a lot like this...

The head and the heart says democracy is best

As much as Brexit is a technical and economic affair it's as much about identity and emotion as anything else. And there are attempts to make this the fault line - the robotic versus the human, the head versus the hearts. The technocrats would have it that the human aspect should be disregarded. I've seen successive economists with a sense of entitlement absolutely outraged that voters would disregard their wisdom come what may.

In this they attempt to pathologise the phenomenon as though it were irrationality bordering on mental illness. It's either that or a middle class snobbery that the identity issues of the little people are quaint and irrelevant. But actually, such matters are far from irrelevant. As a prolific social media user I've noticed that one of the prevailing pursuits of people is to express themselves in order to define themselves. In that regard I am more a citizen of the internet than I am British or European.

Identity governs just about everything we do. From our choice of clothes to the cars we drive and to some extent the relationships we choose. And though I look like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards most of the time, it is to some extent a calculated look specifically to say to the world that your opinion of me could not matter less. I think that's an essential facet of being a blogger.

It is from how we define ourselves that we build the world around us from the local level upwards. It's why there is such diversity in our communities. As a Bristol citizen I notionally have plenty options. I don't because in reality because I can't stand hippies, but if I was that bothered I wouldn't have moved to Bristol. But it's clear that when like-minded people congregate they build their world in their own image with their own codes based on their own morality.

The limits of this tend to be physical barriers. There's a railway line travelling from the city centre all the way out to north Bristol. The two communities either side could not be more different. One is very white working class and the other, well, not so working class. The only real convergence points are where the road bridges are. The districts are largely self defining.

But because we are bound by a common language and a common interest in the city we can have city wide rules which engender their own attitudes. Bristol is renowned as a creative city and is famous the world over for street art. It has its political leaning, and was the only city in the 2012 referendums to vote for a directly elected mayor. Bristol is highly distinctive and it's why I don't see myself living anywhere else in the UK.

But that could all so very easily be broken by removing the right of the people to shape their environment. The council very well could declare war on street art and graffiti and fine people for decorating their wheelie bins (who the hell actually does that??) and we could totally rob St Werburghs of its identity. And it would suck.

It would be cleaner and it the hippies would be miserable so I would love it. But because I hate all that stuff, and I don't want neighbours with dream-catchers and wind chimes I choose to live somewhere else. I live in Filton which could not be more mediocre in every respect. I don't want to partake in a community. I have one on the internet, I don't want to know my neighbours and the only thing that interests me about Filton is its proximity to the M4. Through diversity everybody gets a little of what they need and has a stake, or at least a choice in their surroundings.

And this is why we *should* have local democracy. This is why the people should have ultimate say over where they live. It just works better. But then there is a balance to be struck. In order for things to function well we do need some commonality and for efficiency we have to make some things regular. We regulate.

But what happens when the people don't have a say? Government becomes the master rather than the servant. The regulation is made not for our convenience but for theirs. And in so doing people are robbed of their ability to express themselves and define their surroundings. And when everything is done for efficiency it ignores the very human concerns and social needs. And we see this happening all the time. We see it happening because our "local" authorities aren't very local and have merged into regional corporates. They lose touch with who they serve, where the people are not neighbours and friends, rather they are numbers on a screen.

And when you find taxation drawn into the centre, the spending is often prioritised on fire-fighting - always addressing the most immediate needs. This is how nice areas gradually decay as the parks become deprioritised, the street furniture isn't renewed, the potholes go unfilled, and the road markings fade. And because councils only ever lust after more money, there is a charge for what we have already paid for.

This is the slide away from democracy to managerialism. And while we are seeing it con a community level we are seeing the same dynamic happening at every level of government up to and including the United Nations with similar consequences. Government governs with its own convenience in mind, toward its own technocratic goals and objectives - and to hell with the little people.

And whose goals and objectives are they? Not ours. They stem from ideas injected in at the top. Climate goals being one of them where we are told the sacrifice of lifestyle quality is in the greater good. We are told that ever more invasive regulation of our food is good for our health. Smokers are now robbed of any kind of freedom. Does anyone ever recall being asked?

And it's interesting how attitudes to this have changed. The hippies I so despise would have in 2006 would have been protesting globalisation - protesting the corporatisation and homogenisation of society where the will of the people is not respected. They were right. But after a decade of propagandising, buying off NGO and bringing the likes of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace into the fold, they have manufactured consent for it and we now accept the received wisdom that being managed like cattle is for the good of the planet.

This to a large extent explains why the once radical left are now united in defence of the status quo. The left no longer challenge the orthodoxy because they are the orthodoxy. Or at least part of it. They have given their consent for absolute rule, paving the way for the "neoliberalism" they do nothing but complain about. They have their own way in terms of the sustainability agenda but it's a Faustian pact where their consent is the licence the corporates need to raid our wallets at will. The renewable energy subsidy system is totemic of this.

And so now what we are seeing is the asset stripping our our communities and nations, creating divisions where none previously existed. We have handed over the functioning of the state to the corporates under the guise of privatisation but all it really is, is outsourcing to preferred bidders. Those who make the right party donations.

Except that now, the corporates have worked out that if you go to the top of the chain, into the IMO, UNECE and the likes that you don't even need the consent of the politicians. They can make the rules and have them rubber stamped. They won't let a little thing like public consent stand in the way. And this is why they don't want Britain to leave the EU.

And when you read the patronising analysis from the great and the good - the academics of LSE and the content producers (I refuse to call them journalists) in the Financial Times, they speak of us plebs as underdogs, alienated and threatened by change. And by belittling such concerns they see fit to ignore them and in so doing excuse themselves. To them, the big picture overrules the petty needs of democracy. The ends justify the means and to that end, any lie will do.

But we are not threatened by change. We change all the time. We adapt to it and respond to it and embrace it. Change is part of the human condition. The sentiment behind the leave movement  is not that we resist change. We are just acutely aware that our government no longer seeks our consent and is no longer acting on our instruction. We are living in a society where people passively accept diktats because they have grown used to the idea that we can't say no. We have been conditions through threats and fines not to resist.

But as I keep pointing out, passive behaviour is what out rulers want. They don't want your participation and anyone who wishes to participate is viewed as a troublemaker. They even have labels for us too. They have methods for silencing dissent. Stigmatise, isolate, ignore. It works so well. But this is how democracy dies. For sure we will keep our empty voting rituals and we will change the management from the red tribe to the blue tribe but that's not democracy. That's just gangs squabbling over the keys to the petty cash drawer to dole out goodies to their powerbase.

It's the ideal distraction - maintain the illusion of democracy, keep the decoys in place and allow the plebs to believe they have some kind of control. But we don't do we? All we have is protest. Protest they can control and ignore. We can send letters of complaint and send petitions but we all know how that ends - a corporate-speak ministerial apology telling us that lessons were learned by we will stay the course because it's in the greater good.

But this is why they fear Brexit. This is why every strata of the establishment has been pressed into scaring you to death. They are afraid. They are afraid of us and these democracy dodging whores and their useful idiots are doing everything they can to prevent it happening. Because Brexit is a threat. A threat to them. It upsets their agenda, it reverses the flow of power. It ruins their grand design. It puts the people back in charge of their own lives, their own nation and their own communities. And that, my friends, is the very last thing any of these people want. Imagine that. People being allowed a say in their own lives. To them, it's too horrifying to even contemplate.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Why you should care about Brexit

Freedom depends on an effective early warning system

Undecided individuals keep asking me why they should care whether we stay in the EU or not. I can give them no answers. I can't give anyone a reason to care because everybody has different motivations. All I can do is say why I care. If that resonates, then fine. 

And so why do I care? You have all heard the expression "politics is too important to be left to politicians"? Well if not, you have now. And our continued membership is exactly that - leaving politics to the politicians. 

As a largely well pampered society we cast off our responsibilities to indulge in whatever takes our fancy. We trot along to the polling booths whenever there's an election (or some of us do) to select the brand you find the least offensive and that's "job done" as far as most are concerned. It's a complete abandonment. You place your trust in those you select and you let them get on with it. 

But they have betrayed that trust. They have taken the power that is yours and handed it over to the EU. In turn our own politicians have cast off their responsibilities to indulge in whatever takes their fancy. And there are consequences for this. 

Personally I have a special loathing of the EU. I have written volumes about it over the years and this blog is a testament to that. And as bad as it is, I still do not seem able to convince some that leaving is a good idea. And that's fine. We all make moral compromises every single day and we shut out what we don't like in order to carry on behaving as we do. 

Occasionally I will see videos on Facebook demonstrating in graphic detail the horrors of factory farming. It's horrific. But by dinner time I will be tucking into something that has been treated abysmally without a second thought. Whether we change our actions depends entirely on our motivations and the compromises we are willing to make. I'm not going veggie for anyone. So we are all hypocrites. 

And I could set out in detail, beyond reasonable doubt, that the EU is in a large way responsible for the people you see dying in the Mediterranean. And you'll be horrified. But not horrified enough to risk your job or the luxuries you enjoy. Go on, say it... I don't care. And that's fine too. Nobody cares really about these people do they? They are inconvenient. 

We cannot shoulder all of the burdens of man or dwell on their plight when we have our own lives to lead. But then if I can't convince you on those grounds, what if I told you you would be £933 a year better off? You wouldn't believe me and I would think you a fool if you did. And so I cannot convince you of anything can I? The only way most of you will make a stand is when something immediately disturbs your reality.

But you only have that peace of mind because you trust that there is a functioning early warning system and checks and balances exist to ensure your safety and liberty. We have our politicians and our media. But ask yourselves if that is really working properly? 

Do you really know or understand what is being done in your name? Your MPs don't. They don't know where the rules and regulations come from. I can count on one hand the ones that do. And when was the last time you saw an authoritative report on what was happening in the European Parliament? 

Most of you have been told there is something called TTIP. You have been told that it is something to worry about. You probably don't know what it is or what it does. You might have grasped that it's a "trade deal" of sorts that may or may not do something to the NHS. Our media doesn't know. Our MPs and MEPs are largely none the wiser. And because you know so little about it and you trust me I could tell you anything I want and you would believe me. I won't because that's not how I roll. 

As it happens I'm not going to say anything about it. I'm going to leave you in the dark. All I'll say is that when and if it passes, within a few years there will be effects and consequences. And since there is only a shallow debate about it, are you really going to take it on trust? 

In all likelihood you don't know who your MEP is. You can't name the EU presidents, you don't understand what the EU Commision does, you don't know the difference between the European Council and the Council of Europe. You have no idea how UNECE works. You don't know the difference between the EU buildings Brussels and Strasbourg. You don't know who is making the rules, you don't know how they are made and the people voting for them are only marginally more informed. 

But you do know who the PM is. You can probably name a few of his ministers. You probably hate their guts. You know there's a House of Lords, and have a vague idea of what they are for and you know they live at that big building by the river with the big clock. You also know you can kick government out now and then. You are culturally attuned to the power being in the Wesminster neighbourhood. It's where you believe the power is. 

That is why it matters. We are always going to be run by crooks and frauds but the idea is to keep them where you can see them. You may not watch them from day to day but plenty people do. Who is watching they grey men in suits negotiating seismic deals at the top tables? Nobody, that's who. 

And that is why we need to take the power back. As much as you are being ripped off by paying for two well pampered political classes, only one of them is doing the real business of government. The bozos in Wesminster are just doing as they are told. In this arrangement they are not accountable to us. 

Since you are never really going to fully engage in politics the way I do, and you're only partially tuned in, you are not getting the warning signals. When there is a flap in the media it is usually over some or other nonsense, but that's because the big stuff is decided elsewhere. For sure, our government is still in charge of when we commit our forces to conflicts, and you always know when they are about to drop bombs on people, but that is a largely so you don't wake up to the fact that there has been a silent coup. 

Little by little, the powers you have entrusted to your politicians have been surrendered to the unelected, the nameless and the unaccountable. You wouldn't even know where to look for them if you took issue with them. And though we have seen empty promises from David Cameron that he has put a stop to further transfers of power, we have heard that same riff from every prime minister since 1975. There is nothing at all to stop them handing over more powers and no reason to believe that they won't.

But we're back to that question again. Why should you care? Well, in the final analysis, you are free to do as you choose in blissful and wilful ignorance largely because you live in a liberal country that is governed well by way of our respect for the rule of law. You are used to politics not impeding on your life. But there's an old saying. If you don't take an interest in politics, politics will take an interest in you. Or more precisely, your wallet.

You are paying too much for everything. You are paying too much for your energy, too much for your rent, too much for your petrol, too much for you food, too much for your water and too much for your flights abroad. Either directly or indirectly you are subsidising corporates to build things we don't need and things that don't work. And you don't get a say in it because it's decided at the global level. 

They tell us it's to stop climate change but mainly it's about profit and vanity. And because governing officials are largely insulated from the consequences of their decisions, there is no real imperative for them to change tack. Especially when you can't get rid of them. 

Now this is the bit where I am supposed to offer you the moon on a stick and tell you that everything will be cheaper and we can clear out the corruption and that we're only a vote away from a return to glory. That's not going to happen. We are turning a supertanker here. Nothing much is going to change overnight. There will be no miraculous transformation. But what it will mean, eventually, is that when there's a flap coming from London, when your instincts tell you that you should be paying attention, there is every advantage in doing so. It means that if we say no, then no does actually mean no. 

And that is what this is all about. Having the right to say no to our government. Liberal democracies only stay liberal democracies with real particpation even if that particpation is just keeping an eye on them. For as long as government is shifting ever further away, the less attention you will pay to them and the less attention they will pay to you. Until one day, all those things you take for granted, those things you believe you can do without infringement of government will come to a very sudden end. 

And we have been here before. Many times. And if we have learned one thing it is this: When we have ceded absolute power to those we cannot remove then there are few ways to get it back, none of which are especially pleasant. And so whether you should vote for to leave the EU comes down to a couple of estimations. How long do you think things can go on the way they are, and do you trust these anonymous people to whom our politicians have given the power?

I see a number of threats and challenges on the horizon. They are all documented on this blog. I believe they are good reasons to leave. You probably don't care. You will eventually, but not now. But I am not going to ask you to simply trust me either. There is no reason why you should. But you should know this. This vote might well be the last vote you ever cast that can change course. 

Take a close look at the people who want you to stay. They are the people who hold the power or those people profiting from them. They do not want to leave the EU. They don't want you interfering with their grand design. They want you to go back to sleep. They want you not to care. They want you to quietly go about your business. They'd even rather you didn't vote at all. They even think this referendum is a nuisance which they would rather not have. To me, that is justification enough to leave. Because we habitually tune out politics we need to be mindful of that and put in a safeguard. 

We make a conscious decision to tune things out. We don't want to be bothered by this stuff. There aren't enough hours to in the day to keep on top of it all. We have our own lives to lead. But when you take your eye off the ball for long enough, they forget who they work for. Think of Brexit as a yank on the leash. 

If we don't do it now they will take it as a mandate to do as they please. They will learn that there is no consequence for betraying your trust. They will learn that they can tell you a lie and any lie will do - and that there is no price to pay. And from that day forward, nothing you ever say will ever matter to them again. Let that sink in. 

What Brexiteers actually want

The question is essentially whether we want Britain to be ruled by a supreme government for Europe. But at the heart of this referendum is one central question. Power. Who has it, how we get it back and what we will do when we have it.

We Brexiteers are divided on many issues. We are a broad church. We don't seem to be able to agree on anything. Except that the EU is not a democracy. And by that we mean that the British people do not have the power to make demands of the EU government. It is under no obligation to carry out our wishes. Thus, if the people do not hold the power over their government, they do not have democracy by definition. The government is the master, not the servant.

Those who support the EU say that we have pooled sovereignty, whereby we give up certain rights in exchange for the four freedoms that underpin the EU single market. They argue that it is a necessary compromise and a tolerable one. Brexiteers disagree.

That is the reason this debate continues to bubble under the surface of UK politics. There is no middle ground. Either you have sovereignty or you don't. Those who argue in favour of the EU make the case that we have benefitted from the arrangement. That is partially true.

But for the gains we have made we have made many sacrifices. Some argue far too many. That is the root of a lot of resentment, especially among those who remember the painful transition from one set of rules to another. It cost us a thriving fishing industry which had a seismic impact on our coastal towns. It has also had a profound effect on farming.

And then there are regulations. It makes sense to have them. It makes sense to have the same ones throughout. It makes sense to share our resources in order to make them. Good regulation is based on research and research does not come for free. We share the costs and cooperate. That's not intrinsically a bad thing.

Where it becomes a problem is when we cannot say no. And that is when bad regulations can wipe out jobs at the stroke of a pen or pile costs onto business which are then passed on to the customer. Though we accept that will happen because we work in the common good where the benefits outweigh the costs. The problem is, who gets to decide if the benefits outweigh the costs?

Many assume this is the European Parliament. Assuming that were true that still means the UK is structurally outnumbered and so a law has to be especially bad to defeat it by a majority in the Parliament. But it isn't up to the parliament. It's the Commission and the European Court of Justice. Entirely unelected and unaccountable people who act in the service of the EU's own ambitions to be that supreme government for Europe. That is where idealism overrides good sense and fairness.

The reason the Commission is calling the shots is because our parliament has handed over the right to say no in certain areas of policy, particularly with regard to trade. It decides which rules we adopt. The mistaken assumption that europhiles make is that the EU makes the rules. It doesn't. The EU has signed up to a WTO agreement which commits the EU to adopting regulations and standards made by international regulators on everything from banking to shipping, food and vehicle manufacture.

By the time the rules reach the European Parliament, most of the details are already agreed by global bodies and cannot be changed. In this our own government has very little influence. We have no free vote and no right to opt out. We are entirely at the mercy of the European Commission and we must do as we are instructed.

Worse still, once rules are adopted and rubber stamped by the parliament, there is very little chance of reforming or repealing them because reaching agreement between 28 member states is next to impossible. If we get bad law we are stuck with it and we live with the consequences.

And this is why we should leave. There comes a point where we can no longer continue on the same path without making far reaching reforms and it is the EU preventing us from doing that. For decades now we have seen persistent complaints that it doesn't matter who you vote for because nothing really changes. And it's true. We can only act within parameters dictated from above and we are not free to innovate using new ideas and technology.

But some say if we do opt out of the rules then we will have to pay tariffs to sell our goods to the EU. In some circumstances that is true. But what if our changes to the rules improves things in ways that make savings? And what if the savings are greater than what we pay in tariffs? Being free of the EU means we get to decide if the trade off is worth it.

Meanwhile, it can't have escaped your attention that Brexiteers want something done about immigration. That much is true. Very few are hostile to immigration but think we should have a fairer system. That's no great sin is it? At present much of the law surrounding immigration is underpinned by decades old laws which are in need of reform. We cannot do that if we stay in the EU.

You may have seen the slogan "Vote Leave, take control". And that is what it's about in a nutshell. It puts the power back in our hands. It does not necessarily mean will will exercise that control and it is likely that we will remain an open country freely cooperating with Europe. What matters is that we have the option.

This is where there is strong disagreement. Those who believe in the EU believe that we can only have cooperation if the power resides with the EU. And that if we take control then we will turn inward, abolish various rights and turn our backs on our neighbours.

Brexiteers on the other hand believe that it is we the people who are best placed to safeguard our rights. We believe that Britain is a progressive country and we will, if given the choice, opt to continue cooperation with not just the EU but all the other nations as well. We believe that we don't need to be forced to take care of our environment and we will protest any government which attacks our rights and we will vote them out. We believe in people power and we trust that British people will do the right thing.

And that is key to the dispute. Trust. Europhiles do not trust voters. They believe we need a heavy handed government to enforce rights and rules and that we will only share our wealth and expertise if forced to. The entire Remain campaign is built on fear. Fear that we cannot govern ourselves, that we have little of value to offer the world and without the EU everything would fall apart. They believe we are selfish and that we will not work in the common good. They are deeply suspicious of democracy and they believe the only way to retain the liberties we have is to remove all choice. They do not trust us.

And what sort of life is that? Where the government fears what the people may do and where the government is the master and not the servant? A government that believes we will make the wrong choices if free to choose. A government that assumes it knows what is best for us.

But you know, as it happens, that is sometimes true. Policy makers and experts sometimes do have a better idea of what will and will not work. That is why we give them some power over us. But that's not every time. And when they are wrong, they are very seriously wrong. The Euro, the financial crisis and the Common Fisheries Policy. All of which have been disastrous. And so the people must have a asay. And they must be free to make those mistake ans correct them. That way they own the decision made in their name. That way we are treated as adults and not managed like cattle.

It is fundamentally a question of democracy and whether you trust the British people to do the right thing. If you assume that we won't then you are ignoring our proud history of fighting for equality, labour rights, human rights and fairness. We had such things long before the EU came along. And if you are saying we are no longer that country then ask yourself what has changed? EU membership! Whatever we have lost we will have to rediscover. It is still within us.

If Britain chooses to remain it will be a sad day. It will be a statement that we no longer believe in ourselves or our potential and that we no longer trust in eachother or democracy. It will be a statement to the world that we will cave into fear and paranoia. It will be an admission that we no longer wish to be participants in our own destiny - that we no longer want to partake in governing. More than that is says we are happy to be passengers in our own lives and will reluctantly accept whatever is imposed upon us without protest. It says that we are satisfied with the rights bestowed upon us rather than fighting for more and better. It will mark a retreat of democracy.

And though you may be thinking things aren't so bad that we have no need to rock the boat, I have only one observation. That power without checks and balances has only ever resulted in tyranny of one or other form. And so I leave you with a quote from Frédéric Bastiat:

"The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protected and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen. Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it."

Roberto Azevedo speaketh with forked tongue

Here we have Roberto Azevedo, director general of the WTO, in the Wall Street Journal exalting the virtues of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The agreement itself is not actually news and this is largely PR fluff already in the public domain, but Azevedo is doing his bit to raise awareness of it. What makes it news is that two major business organizations, the International Chamber of Commerce and the B-20 (the private-sector arm of the G-20) approached the WTO requesting a platform to discuss current trade issues and present their thoughts to WTO members.

That meeting, the first of its kind, will take place on Monday in Geneva. Business leaders from small and large enterprises, from developed and developing countries, along with other stakeholders, will brainstorm with WTO members. "We hope" says Azevedo, "that this interaction will help their governments as they shape the WTO’s future agenda".

And indeed it will. We are already seeing seismic shifts in the make up of global regulatory bodies. They will provide the forums for regulatory harmonisation and cooperation. It's no exaggeration to say that we are witnessing the birth of a global single market. When you look at the potential and the work already in progress it's hard not to find it compelling.

One significant development of this is the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade which has it that "Where technical regulations are required and relevant international standards exist or their completion is imminent, members shall use them, or the relevant parts of them, as a basis for their technical regulations". That is where UNECE, Codex, IMO, ITU and the likes come into play. The EU is no longer in control of the regulatory agenda. The Trade Facilitation Agreement is now the engine of global development. 

Mr Azevedo makes it sound like anything is possible and a brave new world awaits. But not when pressed into service to speak in defence of the status quo. There we find he has a different message, slavishly repeated by the Financial Times
Britain would face tortuous negotiations to fix the terms of its membership of the World Trade Organisation if it votes to leave the EU, its director-general has warned. Leading campaigners for Brexit have proposed that the UK should leave the EU’s single market and could rely on WTO rules to access European and other markets if it was unable to secure replacement trade deals.
But in an interview with the Financial Times, Roberto Azevêdo signalled this would not be straightforward. He said a British exit from the EU would lead to unprecedented negotiations between the UK and the Geneva-based institution’s 161 other members. Britain joined the WTO under the auspices of the EU and its terms of membership have been shaped by two decades of negotiations led by Brussels.
If Britain voted to leave the EU it would not be allowed to simply “cut and paste” those terms, Mr Azevêdo said. Britain would have to strike a deal on everything from the thousands of tariff lines covering its entire trade portfolio to quotas on agricultural exports, subsidies to British farmers and the access to other markets that banks and other UK services companies now enjoy.
“Pretty much all of the UK’s trade [with the world] would somehow have to be negotiated,” he said.

The WTO had never gone through such discussions with an existing member, he said, and even the procedures for doing so remained unclear. But the likely complexity of such talks, Mr Azevêdo said, made them akin to the tortuous “accession” negotiations countries go through to join the WTO. Even a small economy such as Liberia, which last year became the WTO’s 162nd member, took years to agree the terms of membership.
Here there is much to discuss. Firstly we must dispense with the notion that we will leave the single market. It's not going to happen. Consequently we can bin the grim prognostications on that score, even if Vote Leave persist in pressing home the idea that we will sever all ties. 

What's crucial is the complexity paradox. Negotiations will be fairly straightforward because they are otherwise complex. If it takes two years to bring Liberia into the fold then there's no chance that we can open up everything for discussion with a complex developed economy like the UK. So we won't. We will use the principle of presumption of continuity which could be applied on the basis of the Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties.

Since we are already members of the WTO, and act in the same way as all other members, only with our position dictated by the EU, there is no reason for expulsion. All it means is that we are no longer bound to abide by EU instructions. If however, Mr Azevedo is saying the UK necessarily will be expelled from the WTO for the seemingly criminal act of leaving the EU then we must question his motives and sincerity, not least when accession talks for Belarus are underway. For an organisation concerned with facilitating trade, he seems quick to create complications. 

But to quote a tweet from Mr Azevedo, "Clearly the WTO can do things - so the question at hand is to figure out the best approach to do them". Quite. And since the Vienna Convention is the weapon of choice for such eventualities, causing the least disruption, that is what we can reasonably expect and demand of the WTO. 

Moreover, since we will stay in the single market and our regulations in any eventuality will continue to be those created by UNECE, Codex etc, there is no obstacle to maintaining existing mutual recognition agreements or piggybacking EU deals. 

Admittedly the boneheaded approach of Vote Leave invites such pessimistic speculation, but no real world scenario sees us making drastic moves and certainly not all in one go. There are enough instruments available to us to ensure a seamless transition and there is every expectation that the WTO will seek to minimise disruption specifically because of the UK's considerable involvement at all levels. If not, then the WTO is clearly not the vehicle for trade facilitation he pretends it is.  

I strongly suspect that what we are seeing is yet another denizen of our global elites rushing to the defence of the status quo at the request of the EU, possibly with motivations of his own. Since the UK government is to be bound by Purdah rules in the final four weeks, the best way to get around it is to have senior officials from global bodies do their dirty work for them. Conspiracy? Not when you look at the government's track record so far in pressing every strata of civil society into service.

But since Mr Azevedo is free to indulge in wild speculation, I might offer some of my own - that there are perhaps influences who would really rather not see the UK flexing its muscles on the world stage. Given how coalitions and ad-hoc alliances can wield greater influence than even the EU or USA, there might well be vested interests in play seeking to exclude the United Kingdom. 

Or maybe it is something more straightforward - the usual corporate fear of change reinforced by ignorance. After all, Brexit is a field of study in its own right and there is no reason to expect expertise from the likes of Azevedo. Nothing of this nature has ever been done before - and nobody's interests are served by making it more complex than it needs to be. That is why the Vienna Convention will be talk of the global village should we vote to leave. What is certain is that Azevedo needs to make up his mind. Does the WTO want to facilitate trade or not?

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Why agility matters more than market size

Readers of this blog will have noticed me droning on about the need for partial scope agreements. In the main that relates to tariffs but there is no reason why the same methodology should not be applied to mutual recognition of standards and regulations. And helpfully today we get a demonstration why EU thinking is obsolete. 
The European Commission and the US International Trade Commission have run a series of consultations that highlighted a number of cross-sectoral factors that create disproportionate burdens for SMEs. These include the cost of adjusting to different regulatory systems in different jurisdictions, the cost related to the protection of Intellectual proper rights, and for customs procedures, rules of origin, and tax requirements, among others.

Taking as an example Gynius, a medical device company based in Stockholm, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told EurActiv.com that it took them a great deal of effort to get their gynaecological cervical cancer screening equipment to get approved in the US.

“TTIP would have made that easier for this life-saving product,” she said. The same happened to an Austrian company in Tirol, Montavit, which, faced with high annual fees for double inspections of its facility by EU and US authorities, found it too expensive to do business in the US.
You can see why a comprehensive deal like TTIP might be required in that we're not just talking about the elimination of tariffs. Something economists on both sides fail to grasp. But achieving this all in one go seems implausible.

A better way to go at it is how the rest of the world is presently managing trade. A step at a time. A working party looking at a particular class of goods could have examined this case and hammered out an agreement on medical devices using the sub classes of international standards.

It's entirely possible that within a far shorter timeframe you would have an agreement that would resolve some of the issues and be ready for implementation. More to the point, it would be completely uncontroversial and pass without too much fuss.

But that's not how the EU does things. No. Instead it has to be agreed under much broader, more ambitious packages which are far reaching, time consuming, very controversial and consequently prone to failure.

So years down the line from when TTIP talks began, as the EU is only just grasping that facilitating SME trade is where you make the serious dents, the individual agreements it reaches must be included in a "big win" package - to be ratified all at once - at a date as yet to be decided. In the interim it's too expensive to do business and everybody loses.

An independent state with it so own trade policy would not have to wait in line, and be able to set up a working party to get niche and emerging sectors booming. Deals on this scale don't have the rent-a-mob bunch out in force waving "save our NHS" placards. It's just part of the normal business of trade.

And this all may be fruitless anyway since TTIP has an undeserved reputation for being something malevolent. For that reason it will probably be blocked by the morons in the European Parliament for reasons completely unrelated to cancer screening equipment. Either that or it will be rejected by Congress, again for unrelated reasons, probably because America is not actually a country that believes in free trade outside of its borders.

In that regard, getting a comprehensive deal with the US is like a quest for the Holy Grail. Nobody has ever seen it, we don't know what it looks like and is of limited use when we finally get it.

Meanwhile, if we adopted the partial scope approach we could be finding far more cooperative partners. The EU is obsessed with the USA because it sees only the size of the market. It would be a big win in that it would answer criticisms that the EU is useless at trade. But Africa has a market size of over a billion people and there is more than enough scope there to open up new markets.

Moreover, from a regulatory perspective much of it already subscribes to the same standards as the EU and most of the world - or is a regulatory blank slate. Achieving regulatory parity is only a matter of investment. What we could be doing is using our aid policy to develop the rules based trading environment necessary to do business. We could be operating an effects based trade and aid policy rather than doling out cash via DFID to NGOs to no discernible effect.

The USA is tough nut to crack when it comes to trade. Getting rid of tariffs is one thing but when you are seeking to harmonise two intricate and established regimes each with their own cultural idiosyncrasies, you are looking at a long, drawn out process which may never be completed and may never really work. The USA will need a cultural change because our systems fully align.

Were Britain free of the EU we could leave the EU to keep barking up that tree and see what comes from it. Since we use the same regulators as the basis of our rules, we could join TTIP as a latecomer. Why confront the obstacle when you can go around it?

In the mean time we could focus all our efforts on African trade with a view to boosting exports but also as a means to slow the flow of migrants. That would be a better idea than paying murderous regimes to get soldiers to do it. Like the EU does.

Europhiles are on the wrong side of history

The Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly (WHA) closed this week after approving new resolutions on WHO's Framework for Engagement with Non-State Actors; the Sustainable Development Goals; the International Health Regulations; tobacco control; road traffic deaths and injuries; nutrition; HIV, hepatitis and STIs; mycetoma; research and development; access to medicines and integrated health services.

The World Health Assembly has adopted the WHO Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), after more than two years of intergovernmental negotiations. FENSA represents a major step in WHO's governance reform. It provides the Organization with comprehensive policies and procedures on engaging with nongovernmental organizations, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions.

The Framework aims to strengthen WHO engagement with all stakeholders while protecting its work from conflicts of interest and undue influence from external actors, and is based on a standardized process of due diligence and risk assessment. FENSA also facilitates an enhanced level of transparency and accountability in WHO's engagement with non-State actors, with information on these engagements publicly available online in the WHO Register of non-State actors.

Now I could be wrong but this is mega. It very much sounds to me like the WHO is reforming along the lines of the International Maritime Organisation as a consultative technical regulatory agency - the hellmouth of all regulation. This is the future of global governance. Multilateral forums increasingly evolving as ecosystems of their own where all manner of non state actors are included, where coalitions and alliances can have votes and influence equal to that of blocs and nation states. 

And we need to have a far reaching conversation about this. What we get from the Vote Leave camp is all the usual waffle about EU regulations which is a sin in its own right because there is so much more to it than that, but it's not just the leavers who are guilty. Anyone watching the Jeremy Paxman programme the other day would have seen the BBC entirely convinced that the EU was the origin of regulation with even MEPs blissfully unaware of where the rules actually come from. The whole debate would not be more parochial if it tried. 

The Brexit debate is as much to do with our position in the world as it is our membership of the EU. It's about who makes the rules, who gets a say and whether we can say no. But to look at rule-making entirely through an EU prism is to completely ignore the elephant in the room. And it's rather a large elephant. 

And looking at the agenda items for the WHA, we see massive crossovers with other global regulatory bodies. Road traffic deaths is very much a lead concern of UNECE and Global N-CAP and works in tandem with UN Sustainable Development Goals in lesser developed countries. It would appear that India is to focus at the moment, with India rapidly striding into modernity but with roads and driving standards belonging to the 1950's. 

Whether this development is good or bad is a whole other debate. Firstly we have to establish the fact that it exists. I've been accused of being a conspiracy theorist for saying that the EU does not make its own rules and it seems entirely news to most people that the EU has for a long time been in many respects a passive recipient of rules with MEPs not having the first idea what's going on.

And as much as the regulations are adopted from elsewhere, the regulations bring international standards bodies into play, with rules agreed at the global level without any kind of democratic scrutiny and absolutely not amenable to amendments by lowly MEP plebs - assuming they even bother to read them. I happen to know that most do not.   

Regular readers will be aware of how this all ties together. Or not as is the case. We have several branches of regulatory inputs with no clear line of accountability and easily exploited by savvy players. Tobacco control is a huge area of concern ranging from health issues, marketing and counterfeiting, all of which can only be addressed at the global level.

Because there is no real injection of democracy these bodies can produce some seriously questionable and intrusive regulation. Much of the nannying fussbucketry with regard to nutrition originates from the top level largely through the particpation of NGOs and other non-state actors. It is a realm where good sense does not often prevail.

In this, as much as there are tie-ins with standards bodies and agencies of similar stature we also see Codex Alimentarius heavily involved in implementing WHO agreements and rolling them out to signatories of Codex conventions. We are seeing ever closer integration of these bodies, and they are now forging agreements of their own. Not just inter-agency agreements but also contracts with corporate alliances and super-unions. 

These are more seismic events than TTIP in that TTIP is mainly just an agreement to recognise various bodies in regulations - but there is apparently little intervention from governments in what deals they make with each other. The WTO is the governor in those transactions and that's when you start climbing deep into matters of international treaty law. Only a brave soul goes fishing in those waters. 

And then there's the International Telecoms Union. ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a member of the United Nations Development Group. It has been an intergovernmental public-private partnership organization since its inception. Its membership includes 193 Member States and around 700 public and private sector companies as well as international and regional telecommunication entities, known as Sector Members and Associates, which undertake most of the work of each Sector.

The ITU is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies. It coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards.

It's active in areas including broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks.

We hear plenty of witless prattle from the EU about completing the single market by concentrating on digital services and intellectual property but the EU as a signatory of the WTO agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade has agreed to use the rules and standards set out by the ITU. So if we do want a say in the rules then this is where we need to be.

Despite EU attempts to block the natural evolution of the ITU in the same way as the IMO, the ITU is set to be the ruling power over the internet. We see repeated efforts by the EU to retain ownership of regulating and assert itself in unwelcome ways but now the WTO TBT agreement exists it has all but surrendered. The only powers it has to control the agenda is to control what member states do at the global bodies. Which serves no real purpose.

The short of it is, the EU is no longer in control of the global rules based trading system. It has been superseded and the Brussels Effect is not nearly as potent as has previously been assumed. So the question for us is whether we want to remain a supplicant of a lumbering behemoth like the EU or whether we want to have our own voice and a direct line to the top tables. Some would have it that this means going it alone, but we've put that notion to bed

Nations with intellectual assets like Britain can be leaders on global forums and wield a great deal of soft power, building coalitions which can hold the deciding vote in disputes between giants like the EU and China. Moreover, were we to join Efta, Efta then becomes the fourth largest trading bloc which can act as one but also allows member states to act independently on global bodies with a full right of opt out. 

Presently we find the EU ever keen to overrule the UK in key areas of regulation, often abusing its powers and being creative with the definitions of exclusivity. There are enough precedents to shoehorn itself in and take our vote if it wants to. In that regard it has all the power it wants and is accountable to nobody. The Commission is calling the shots. 

And while we have LSE academics bleating on about sovereignty being an outdated and stuffy concept that we primitive Brexiteers just don't understand, it is these same people who are completely oblivious to the global dimension regulation, and why it really matters that we have a voice and some control over the rules we adopt. The overpaid clueless button pushers in Strasbourg are not an effective means of scrutinising law and the chances of us blocking rules we don't want are slim indeed. Ultimately, sovereignty is retaining the power to say no. It is indivisible. You either have it or you don't. There is no pooling of sovereignty - there is only the surrender of it. 

Europhiles argue that it is a necessary sacrifice to build a European single market and nothing would function if nations did have opt outs but this is missing the point. What we are seeing as these global bodies evolve and gradually merge is the creation of a global single market.

The logic of going into the EEC was to have a real say in the rules that would govern the EU market. If that logic was correct in 1975, then it is correct now. If there is a global single market then we should join it, especially since it is one that works on the principle of multilateralism and genuine cooperation instead of supranational diktats. In fact, if the EU worked on that basis I wouldn't be proposing that we leave it. 

But the fact is the EU will never work like that. It is wedded to obsolete ideals from the last century still pursuing the goal of creating a supreme government for Europe in the assumption that the rest of the world wasn't going to catch up any time soon. Well it has, and the EU is no longer needed. The reasons we now go to war are entirely different to those of the last century. The dogmatism impedes on the pragmatism.

And that's really what this whole Brexit debate is. Competing dogmas with no reference to events in the real world. It's why I have the same contempt for the eurosceptic blob as I do ardent Europhiles. The blob insist that they want to go global, when the real business of trade is regulatory harmonisation and cooperation on standards. You can't make that case while at the same time promising sweeping deregulation - as fanciful as that is. But then the Europhiles are pretty crass too. 

Europhiles like to present themselves as enlightened internationalists bringing down borders when the the truth is far less wholesome. As much as we see the EU erecting trade barriers and physical barriers to the outside world it has an almost pathological refusal to acknowledge that anything exists over and above the EU.

Meanwhile, as Human Rights Watch reports this week, the EU is taking some pretty gruesome moral shortcuts to slow migration. Sudan under International Criminal Court suspect Bashir commits countless atrocities yet EU funds its forces to stop the flow of migrants.

The EU by nature is inward looking, isolationist, generally murderous and xenophobic in its immigration policy and routinely attempts to obstruct regulations that could benefit our exports or enhance our life quality (roaming charges for one). Yes, that's right - it's Ukipperism writ large. They are guilty of the same "going global" self-deception too. I believe the Europhile rhetoric when they say we need an internationalist approach to global problems but the EU is absolutely not the solution and represents none of the things it pretends to. 

Rounding this up, there are multiple areas where the debate could be expanded and we seriously do need to have a far reaching debate as to what shape these global bodies are going to take, but we cannot be a full participant while being a subordinate to the EU, especially if Mr Juncker gets his way. This whole referendum debate is beset by Euro-parochialism and is not getting anywhere close to the real issues. There is a whole other level of complexity to this with massively significant developments going unreported and not understood.

In this there are challenges and opportunities aplenty. There are major new avenues to explore and and wholly new techniques in international trade which have yet to be understood even by the EU. Hence why it is still locked into the mentality of big hitting bilateral deals. 

And when you mention this to economists you are met with a blank stare. They are barely aware of how standards and regulations impact trade agreements and why tariffs are not nearly as important as anybody assumes. If we can reduce transaction costs by greater sums than tariffs, then the tariffs are neither here nor there. This is why I can so casually dismiss the blather of prestigious academics offering up their myopic economic projections. They are not even close to comprehending what's going on. It is a subject matter where every answer creates ten new questions.

What we do know is that the EU is no longer the top table, it is of diminishing influence and as the EU loses influence so do well In the multilateral environment, the old narratives of having market size clout matter far less than having agility and the ability to rapidly respond to the needs of emerging industries. 

You cannot possibly do that when you have to secure the agreement of 28 states, some of which not even involved in the industries concerned. It creates scope for horse trading where bundled deals can be held up over minutia, giving way to bicycle shed syndrome. Meanwhile the rest of the world progresses incrementally, one product or sector at a time. If we do it the EU way then we are pegged to the speed of the slowest ship in the convoy and everybody loses out. 

But now you have some idea as to why the Brexiteers have such a hard time making the case. To say that it is complex is something of an understatement. We have to set out a case in great detail and overcome some deeply entrenched misconceptions about what the EU is and what it does. We hear all the empty virtue signalling rhetoric and you can see why the EU appeals to those who imagine themselves as outward looking and progressive. But it's a bogus self-deception that only prevails through ignorance.

We on the other hand, are offering up something transformative that digs Britain out of a rut and jumpstarts global trade. That is no small undertaking. It's going to require a revolution in how we do things. It's going to require that we slaughter a few sacred cows and modernise our thinking. It will take time - and first we have to get europhiles to acknowledge something outside the EU even exists.

But as much as it will enhance our economy it will also transform and reignite our democracy. That is the winning case. Brexit absolutely is the answer staring us in the face. It solves problems that most don't even know we have.

Few seem to have noticed that we have become politically disengaged from the world, largely as a result of our EU membership. We are no longer attuned to acting globally. We have lost the knack. We need to regain it. Some say that is a reason to give up and go with the flow; to resign ourselves to the dismal abyss of second rate EU membership. I disagree.

Personally I don't think we can afford to stay in. The writing is on the wall for the EU and we are increasingly going to notice over the coming years that the EU is creating more problems than it solves - and we lack the tools to adequately deal with the consequences. We will notice that voting is increasingly useless and power increasingly flows away from the people. We will see politics trivialise and toxify at an unprecedented rate. And we will see consequences. 

Politics as we know it is already a pretty sordid affair and looks as though it is in a perpetual race to the bottom, without leaders becoming ever more risible and contemptible. That's no accident. Wesminster is increasingly political displacement activity where ministers are now apologists rather than custodians of the levers of power. They have neutered themselves and so make busywork to justify their existence. We see think tanks proposing ever more elaborate tinkering with the voting systems to re-engage voters. But none of it gets to the heart of the issue. That voting rituals alone do not constitute a democracy and people without power have only protest. 

In that we will see an increasingly bewildered and dispirited public, cynical of their leaders and the processes, and the manifestation of this will be further fragmentation, more fault lines opening up, political violence and discontent. As much as there are lost opportunities in remaining in the EU I think there will be a major cultural price to pay. Staying in won't fix anything and it won't lance the boil. It will continue to fester.

And this is why Brexit is a necessity. We need to adapt to the new global order. We need a political settlement fit for this century. We need serious and deep reforms to our domestic democracy. We need to move on from this interminable Euro-parochialism and settle the argument once and for all. Nothing is going to progress until we do. 

And that is why, if there is a price to pay, we should pay it. We are nearly all agreed that Brexit will cause economic disruption. We are all agreed that politically it will be a serious shake up. But that is not a reason not to do it. That is the price we pay for the hubris of our politicians and for our own negligence in allowing them to do it. We can either step up to the plate and pay it now or we can kick the can down the road and pay a bigger price later. We can either have a peaceful revolution now or something far worse down the line. We can have meaningful change if we leave. But if we remain, we are stuck with no change at all. I think the price for that will be unimaginable. 

We deserve some answers from the Remain camp

It's not easy for us Brexiteers. We have a totally inept leave campaign undermining all our best efforts and we probably have lost the game by now. The biggest asset we have on our side right now though appears to be Jean Claude Juncker. He's basically EU royalty and the EU's own version of Prince Philip - saying that which everybody is thinking but dare not say. He has been quite candid about the EU's ambitions for an EU army and is now on record saying the EU will need its own treasury by 2025.

In that regard he's actually one of the only honest players in this entire debate. We are constantly told that us Brexiteers are demented conspiracy theorists but Junker spells it out as clear as day. The EU has every ambition of becoming a superstate and it is not the trade bloc that remainers pretend it is. Why this isn't sufficient proof beats the hell out of me.

But this notion of the EU having its own treasury has been on the cards for some time. Leave Alliance bloggers initially suspected this would be on the cards in Cameron's reforms, offering us associate membership so that the EU can go ahead with consolidation. We were wrong on that score for two reasons. The EU is not quite ready politically to pursue such a radical change - and the leave groups competing for designation were so bad, Cameron really had nothing to lose by walking away with the thin gruel "reforms" he had.

But when the EU is ready - and that will be sooner than we think, we will see such moves which will very much require a ratification process. It will require a new EU treaty. Because that mainly concerns the Eurozone, I strongly suspect that with the support of the bogus Cameron reforms, the British government will seek to ratify it without a referendum thus ducking the referendum lock. They will claim that no transfer of powers is involved thus no need.

The thing here is that this is not entirely, in my view, untrue. It may not have implications for Britain in terms of sovereignty. It already has the powers it wants. But it is so radical in nature that it very much does change the nature of our status within the EU as it creates that two speed Europe we have heard so much about. We will then be excluded from major economic and monetary policy decisions.

The implication there is that Britain will be on the sidelines. It dispenses with the notion that we can be leading in Europe as the remainers like to bleat. Britain is very much parked as an ongoing concern but at the same time not endowed with the necessary tools at the global level to act independently. We are then effectively on a tight leash with diminished influence at every level. For remainers to then claim that we would lose influence by leaving defies all logic.

Remaining in the EU effectively means walking up a cul-de-sac where we are quietly forgotten and left waiting to be told what the rules are. Fax democracy one might even say. An EU treasury and single monetary policy has massive ramifications for the City, and yet we are not being told what that looks like. The treasury seems to think it can offer us a fifteen year projection of what Brexit looks like, but surely there are massive risks in Britain being a secondary power within the EU without a real say in seismic economic decisions?

In real terms, the merging of economic and monetary policy means bringing all Eurozone states into the same level of EU control as Greece is presently under. We might even say the future of the Euro even depends on it given that Spain, Italy and the minnows are seemingly incapable of balancing their books or cleaning up their act. It marks the completion of the EU as a supreme government for the whole of the Eurozone and only a few small steps away from being a fully blown state.

In so doing it will then have the clout it has always wanted to replace member states at most of the influential global regulators and there is no guarantee that will not apply to non Euro member states. We may find ourselves entirely without a voice and unable to influence the common EU position on global bodies. We then become passengers with even less control than we have now. At best we can register a complaint but that's it.

It's not just a twist of rhetoric to ask what does in look like? Will the EU secure the political mandate to take control over all economic policy? And what ramifications does that have for taxation. A nation not in control of its tax policy is simply not a nation at all. And the real risk here is that the UK government will allow it without giving us a say? Can we afford to take that risk? There is plenty of precedent to show that the government absolutely will hand over powers without seeking consent. That is how we ended up ratifying the Lisbon treaty.

As it happens I think if we don't have a referendum on that then we most certainly will have another referendum on EU membership. Another betrayal will not go unnoticed. But then supposing we do have a referendum on the new treaty and Britain says no? There is every reason to believe we would refuse it. What then? Britain has then stalled very necessary structural reforms which leaves the Euro hanging in the balance. Could we be forced to leave? I seriously don't know.

And there's the rub as it happens. We have no idea what direction the EU is going to take or where our destination is. All we know is that Britain will not join the Euro and consequently will be entirely subordinate and a passenger of events.

At the moment the leave camp are being pressed to answer the question of what Brexit looks like (not unreasonably) but there are at least options on the table being knocked around and discussed. There isn't even a debate as to what happens if we stay - and there is widespread ignorance of what the options are. The EU itself does not know.

On that basis, I think we should get out while we can. There is no possibility of leading the EU or reforming it in our image. All that seems certain is yet more political uncertainty and EU instability along with yet another existential question for British voters to answer. It seems like a remain vote settles nothing and does not answer the question of what our relationship with the EU is going to be. The only thing that puts it to bed is to leave once and for all and start building a relationship with the EU that doesn't require our complete and total surrender. To me it seems inevitable that we will leave so why put it off any longer?