Let’s be sure what we want.

Despite my last blog asking our politicians to define the benefits and deficits from our Brexit decision, I find the more fundamental issue of democracy equally if not more important.

There is no question that the mechanisms by which the EU functions are undemocratic in every sense of the word. The EU commission elected by the heads of state, once in position are responsible to no one but themselves. There is of course a democratic sheen given to the whole process in the shape of the European Council and the European Parliament. The parliament is of course elected, but they approve, not propose, 85% of all the laws passed down from the Commission which is independent of the Governments of the independent member states. The Commission has the monopoly on initial legislation. Instructions are not given or taken by the Commission. Hence what we see is a bureaucratic directing body has the power to over rule member states. This even includes both fiscal and monetary control, hence the disaster that has befallen the southern PIGS. These countries have been driven to massive unemployment, huge and unsustainable austerity, and massive debt. The miracle or disaster, you decide, which took the form of the Euro.

If that is what the Brits want fair enough, but that will be a fundamental change for their democratic tradition based on common law and the rights of the individual.

The British courts preside over British law but if the UK supreme court becomes a subservient institution to the European Supreme court they will see European law suiting and supporting ideas and laws passed and processed through the unelected group called the European Commission (responsible to no one). An undemocratic non elected body.

The great European idea is to rule and direct, not listen and respond. Hence Herr Juncker described the British leavers as ‘deserters’, he clearly see the EU as a club you can join but not leave. How democratic is that?

Be careful what you wish for.


Brexit Smoke and Mirrors – who’s right?

As we await a Brexit party triumph in the European elections, we still hear completely opposing stories from each side of the Brexit debate. Isn’t it time we had some simple answers to simple questions?

Here are a few;

  1. We’ll be better off because we’ll be free to trade widely, even with the EU on our own terms, after a WTO rules start. True or false, and by how much will we be better off and what are the time horizons? These are difficult but not impossible to have a good stab at from the Brexiteer side.
  2. Apparently life will be a disaster if we leave with no deal. True or False? Why? So far alarm and doom seems not to have happened. Sure, there are problems, from the high street to China, but not all to do with Brexit.
  3. What are the implications for agriculture and fisheries, in and out?
  4. What will happen to the UK net contribution to Europe if we come out? Especially in relation to community support, in the poorer regions.

The average voter has absolutely no idea about any of this. There are other pivotal issues such as immigration but surely that boils down to border control which everyone supports as long as it is liberal and positive.

I am fed up with assertions that Brexit will be brilliant or a disaster depending on who the mouthpiece is. Please will someone somewhere answer the questions. We really don’t care who leads the conservatives, we just want to led by someone who tells the truth or at least his/her honest view of the future backed up in a framework like the above. Please forward this to your MP.

There’s none so deaf as will not hear!

The UK public are fed up with their politicians so deliciously set up by David Cameron, who has slid away and made a few extra pounds on the comedy speaking circuit. Well done him, a real entrepreneur.

What we are left with is a shambles made worse by Mrs May who for all her steadfastness is not inspirational in any way. She neither alarms the EU negotiators nor leads Parliament. The wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Full marks for guts and determination but zero for inspiration, tactics, and leadership.

So hear we are with our old pal Nigel Farage riding to our rescue. Do I believe that? Maybe, its a slim and doubtful premise. However he has a point, and it is a point that most people understand.

The others prevaricate, obfuscate and generally hide behand their cowardly view of the unknown consequences of leaving the EU. They should never have allowed David Cameron to conduct a binary referendum in the first place. The smug parliamentarians assumed we were all like them, well it is clear that the majority are not. Next week’s elections will firmly stamp this view again. Will they listen?

I doubt it.

Fear and the future.

The UK Government has been in limbo for three years. Lack of leadership, a failure to establish either goals or real idea of the consequences of Brexit, have mired the UK into a deep hole of indecision.

Many started this journey as voters who made a simple decision, leave or stay. The history is well known. Lies, maybe, on both sides about the promised nirvana or the fear of disaster. Neither side seems without fault. Yet three years on, the lies of both sides are repeated and repeated. Are they lies? Or are they just an expression of conjecture?

No one of course can tell the future, not even Philip Hammond on one side or Boris Johnson on the other. These guys believe what they say, but they are just hypothesising about what might happen in the future. So far all the doom and gloom merchants seems to have been badly wrong, of course the Brexiteers have not yet been tested.

What has been proved is that this mind numbing indecision is beginning to hurt the UK and the EU. ‘It you sit on the pot – do something or get off’, as an American chum of mine would have it.

I don’t particularly support leave or stay, but hey, we had a referendum. Its as good a stab at the future as any other. The result was leave, OK so lets leave and if necessary in an emphatic way. In the long term I have the view that it will not matter a jot!

Is that a lie or an idea?

Israel Folau – free speech?

Israel Folau has been fired by the Australian RFC for making his thoughts known about homosexuality. Firstly this is very bad news for the Australian team preparing for the upcoming IRU World Cup. That aside, the issue here is not what Folau said but what Folau is allowed to say as a citizen of the free world.

I understand he made a comment that folk who conduct themselves in a way that is prescribed in his religion will go to hell, where ever that is? I am not knowingly a member or of a behaviour type to receive Mr Folau’s wrath, nor can I remember the full list of those condemned to hell. Nor am I concerned.

What does concern me is that this excellent athlete has stated his religious views and everyone is free to agree with or disagree with him. Personally I disagree, but I absolutely believe he has the right to express his religious views if they do not incite hatred or encourage malevolence.

Going to hell, seems not the most desirable place to end up, but hey, you believe what you believe. The statement does not imply any other imposition of punishment of any form on this earth – so what is the problem? The statement he made says much about Israel Folau, he is a religious man who lives by strictly defined values. He may be at at odds with some of us, but surely that is not only acceptable, it has to be his right to express himself.

I hope the Australian Rugby Football Union relent and practice what they preach which is an inclusive organisation, both for ideas, free speech as well and sexuality.

Brexit, failure or ambition.

David Cameron has tucked his £800,000 advance up his shirt and walked away from the biggest political upheaval the UK has ever seen. I sincerely hope that as few as possible buy his book which no doubt will point to his genius and integrity in creating this major cock up. Whilst not mentioning Libya (another huge mess) he will no doubt point to his achievements as he sees them. How anybody can be remotely interested in this failed ‘has been’ is beyond me.

Nevertheless, President Macron’s impassioned plea for the goodness intrinsic to the idea of the EU is a compelling one. He does not labour on the failures such as the PIGS bankruptcy and unemployment, but he does claim the Euro has been a success with which I heartily disagree.

What went wrong then? Now we have no end of dissent about both the purpose and the practice of the European idea. The Brits are clearly fed up, many for the wrong reasons. The Austrians, Hungarians and Poles have perniciously right wing governments and dissatisfaction with the EU is widely the rule.

There is a clear disconnect between the ‘man in the street’ and the European Union as a consciousness of belonging to something of worth. Brussels appears as a nightmarish bureaucracy populated by greedy politicians who are profligate in the extreme. Easily dis-likeable and easily pilloried.

Cameron recognised the dis-like and the dissent but he washed his hands of the whole affair and committed to a referendum nobody (except perhaps Nigel Farage. ) wanted. He presumed, I think, that remain would win and all would be well. That they did not, came, I’m sure, as a a complete surprise, and off marched DC the victim of his own innocence and naivety.

Is it too late to turn back the clock? Since the referendum no one has a solution to a problem nobody wanted. Impasse!,

Please will somebody – anybody – attempt to clarify what is good about the EU and what is bad about the EU, and what would be needed to improve the institution. The idea of the EU – unity, peace and concord, – good. Practice – graft, gravy train, issues with borders, law and order, defence, unification of standards – vary from very good to very bad.

Why is the reversion to so called sovereign status good, why is nationalism bad?

All I know is faffing about doing nothing is bad.

It all boils down to this.

In or out? That is the question. Should it be that simple? Probably not, but ordinary people persist in seeing the issues as a binary choice. The Politicians do not share this view, because (they think)they know better. Sadly David Cameron seemed not to know better when he posed the choice.

Like it or not, the binary choice storks the national psyche, despite all the infighting about backstops, common standards, customs unions and associate membership, they matter not a jot.

Come the European elections, people will vote in or out and it will be interesting to see if the Brexit Party sweep the board. They will surely win the most votes for an individual party, they may even win an absolute majority of votes cast! What then?

Firstly it will be their worst nightmare come true for the EU. Their parliament, if the UK does not find a parliamentary solution to exit the EU, will be invaded by a large number of Euro-phobes who will do all they can to wreck EU plans. The outcome of the European elections matters as much to the EU as it does to us, so there is an additional motive for the Euro-sceptics to turn out next week.

This would under ordinary circumstances gee up those in power to get a result, but with Mrs. May in charge it seems unlikely.

The consequence may well be that there will be a vote of no-confidence in Mrs. May which could well bring down the Government and hasten in a general election. Farage and co could well form a coalition with the Euro-sceptic side of the conservative party and -yes- daft as it sounds, form the next government.

This European Parliamentary election is much more important than it seems, if the Brexiteers turn out in force, then bye-bye Politics as we have known it. Hello, populism, perhaps a lurch to the right, all the things that reasonable Brexiteers hoped to avoid.

In the last resort, it’s the will of the people, at least of most of the people. It is imperative that we all use our vote. I will vote, I hope you will too.

Wales – 20 years on

20 years of Welsh devolution.

Wales decided 20 years ago to devolve its Government from Westminster by the tiniest of margins. In fact by only 6,300 votes on a 29% turn out.  This statistic is very interesting particularly when the Welsh Government chooses to support a Customs Union in the Brexit negotiations which ignores the majority (over a million votes on a huge % turnout) opinion as expressed in the Brexit referendum.  However as Welsh people come to terms with the Welsh Assembly it is time to take account of what has or has not been achieved.

Firstly, Wales is virtually a one-party state, the nation overwhelmingly supports the labour party which has been in power since devolution and is likely to remain as the leading political party for the foreseeable future. Plaid Cymru, is showing some ingress but still remains a substantial minority

The matters that have been devolved include education, health, and transport.  The record of achievement over the twenty years has not been covered in glory.  Health and transport are particularly poor and compare really badly with the rest of the UK.

About the only initiatives that can be discerned by the devolved administration so far have been the free prescriptions for the elderly and the charging for plastic bags as a gesture to environmental improvement.

Sadly, Wales’ health service is seen as the worst in the UK with two hospitals under special measures and the North East Wales/Chester elective surgery debacle that continues.  Rural Wales is in crisis both for the supply of GP’s, and hospital staff shortages are acute throughout the country.

On transport the Government has been dithering about the M4 relief road around Newport, seemingly for ever, which emphasises the Governments lack of enterprise and initiative.  Leadership has been and remains poor, indicative of a safe house for labour.

Instead the Assembly has been paralysed by risk aversion and inertia. Inward investment has been relatively poor and Government support for enterprise dire.  It is as if the Welsh Assembly is more concerned with the disbursement of aid, rather than the generation of income.  Some would argue that this typifies the Labour/ Tory divide.

The Assembly is bitterly opposed to Brexit because Wales is designated as one of the poorer parts of Europe and deserves support grants, understandable in the shorter term.  Clearly the Assembly believes that it is better to beg in Brussels than London, despite the UK’s enormous contribution to the EU coffers.

The belief in the idea of Welsh independence from London seems at odds with the desire to be subservient to the European Union.  Some find it odd that smaller nationalism for Wales sits comfortably with a tiny country inside the behemoth that is the EU.

The desire for independence is a minority view, but as in all these matters including the original referendum, apathy rules and the voluble independence lobby that won 20 years ago and will probably win again, it is certain that they are gaining ground.

So, what are the prospects for Wales over the next 20 years, Brexit or no Brexit?

Firstly, we want to be certain of our relationship as a nation of the United Kingdom. Being British, is this our primary persona? or is it being Welsh? Does independence mean the separation of the nation state from its UK status?

It is probable that the vast majority of those both born and living in Wales would wish to remain British.  Does this mean that being Welsh is somehow of lesser worth?  I don’t think so.  Being Welsh and British sits well with most, not only because of the common English language, customs and history, but because of the economic facts of life. That is not to say that the historical exploitation of Welsh minerals and labour do not matter, they do.

We are a small nation which currently relies on Westminster for much of our national purse, The Welsh Assembly has new powers of tax policy and we are yet to see how that is exercised.  However, the basic tenet remains true that Wales does not, as it presently stands, earn its corn.

Is the way forward then, towards financial independence, or are we to move towards an independent government dependent on another financially superior country or union?

It is really important to get the objective in proper focus and to be realistic about the prospects of success.  We need to establish realistic goals.

It seems to me that the financial health of the nation comes first whether in or out of the EU. Let us put aside for the time being the ‘Brexit’ issues and consequences.  If Wales is to move forward it must improve its wealth creation.  This does not mean an economic free for all, but it does mean that government of whatever hue, does develop strategies to improve the Welsh national income.  From that improvement will follow the quality of life for all the people of Wales.

Wales has certain advantages not shared by the rest of the UK, not least its natural beauty and its rich agricultural heritage, not to mention the richness of its national and international cultures..  The travel and leisure industries are improving but much remains to be done to put Wales nearer the top of the European tourist destinations.

In agriculture the picture is much more complex, and there are extensive areas where neither arable or livestock are suitable.  A strategy to marry these fringe areas into tourism would surely make sense.

To make Wales accessible through to the western and northern coasts is crucial to opening up the Welsh hinterland, via a good communication system.  The tardiness of the Assembly government to address these issues is lamentable.

The great festival of Eisteddfods International and National are unique and truly something to shout about.  The WNO, the orchestras and choirs and theatres of Wales all need to be encouraged to put Wales on the Culture map of the world.  The Millennium Centre in Cardiff is a beacon for cultural progress, we need more investment and international awareness as in the likes of ‘Cardiff Singer of the World’.

Wales must not allow Cardiff to be the centre of all things.  Sure, we want and have got a capital city to be proud of, but we also need thriving centres for west to centre to north, which will attract industry, skills and investment.

First among equals is most obviously roads and communication systems.  Wales has to grasp the nettle and open up its lovely face to welcome industry, technology, tourism and advanced agriculture.

To achieve these goals are the ones that count.  Yes, let us be proud to be Welsh, but better even to be proud and successful as a nation.