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Jeremy Corbyn’s heart really is not in this Remain business, is it?

Jeremy Corbyn admits Britain cannot put a ceiling on immigration while in the EU

Asked on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show if there was any kind of upper limit to the numbers coming into Britain, he said: “I don’t think you can have one while you have a free movement of labour – and I think the free movement of labour means that you have to balance the economy so you have to improve living standards and conditions.

“And so that means the EU’s appalling treatment of Greece… that is a problem. If you deliberately lower living standards and increase poverty in certain countries in south-east or eastern Europe then you’re bound to have a flow of people looking for somewhere else to go.”

I do not know what “balance the economy” means and I doubt Mr Corbyn does either. But at least he is not a weasel like Cameron. In a TV appearance allegedly aimed at persuading us to vote to stay in the European Union he resignedly says that the main claim of the other side regarding the most hotly contested issue, immigration, is correct. Then he says that the EU’s treatment of one of its member states is “appalling” and deliberately aimed at lowering living standards. Why he wants to stay in a union that wants to impoverish people is a mystery… or it would be, if he did.

My sunken hopes rise a little, given added lift by the fact that the dear old Guardian had this story on the front page for about a minute and a half before someone realised. It now can only be found if you already know it is there. For its part the BBC has clipped the key words off the beginning of the relevant clip from its own programme. Mr Corbyn answered a straightforward question in a straightforward fashion. That media organizations in favour of Remain seek to hide this rather than boast of it speaks volumes.

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Quick arguments for voting Leave

Why do you want to leave the EU? Because I think it’s vital that you are able to vote out a government. The EU has a façade of democracy but do you ever remember it making a difference who you voted for in EU elections?

Are you hostile to foreigners? You can be friends with someone without wanting to live in the same house as them. Actually many people in Europe are hoping for Brexit so that their countries can be encouraged to become independent as well.

The EU has prevented war. No, that was NATO. The EU’s arrogance has increased tensions. A few years back the scars of WWII were almost healed. Now look at the hostility between Greece and Germany.

Farage / Boris / Gove will do awful things. Farage isn’t even an MP. The Tories will still be in government if we vote Leave. The difference is that they can be voted out at the next election, unlike the EU.

Economic experts say “Remain”. Many of the same ones said that we would be left isolated if we didn’t join the Euro. The EU’s own experts said the Euro was a great idea. Now look at Greece with 50% youth unemployment. The best economic experts in the European Union were spectacularly wrong. Stay in the EU, and we will be bailing out their next mistake.

We can reform the EU from within. There is a saying, “The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things and expect a different result.” How well did we do at reform for the last 40 years? How well did Cameron do when he negotiated with Angela Merkel even with the threat of Brexit? Once we vote Remain we will have demonstrated that when it comes down to it, we will back down.

The Leave campaign has no plan for what to do next. Since a vote for Leave will make it start mattering again who wins the next UK election, we can’t say exactly what the plan is because that depends on what the British people vote for. In contrast we can say what the plan is if we remain: “Ever closer union”.

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I have not mentioned immigration because this is a post about quick arguments and I cannot think how to edit my own rather complicated views down. I suppose I could remind people that opposing the EU does not have to be about immigrants.

What are your quick arguments for wanting to leave the EU? Or for staying?

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Drug legalization is becoming an acceptable view among the elite

Amid the blanket news coverage of the EU referendum and the murder of Jo Cox, it went almost unnoticed that a major report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) called for drug decriminalization in the UK.

The Times, still seen as the Voice of the Establishment, came out in support:

Breaking Good

Would it ever make sense to jail a chain-smoker for smoking or an alcoholic for touching drink? On the basis that the answer is no, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is urging the government to decriminalise the personal possession and use of all illegal drugs. This is radical advice, but also sound. Ministers should give it serious consideration.

Not that long ago Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, said it was time to legalize drugs. I hope this trend continues.

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Leaving the EU isn’t the end of the City as we know it

I have spent the last few days in Geneva – I travel to Switzerland regularly as part of my job – and needless to say, the prospect of the UK leaving the European Union comes up a lot in the Alpine state. For good reason. Switzerland is not in the European Union (that country has more sense), is unlikely ever to want to do so, and has a broadly amicable relationship with its neighbours, apart from when they aggressively seek to break down Swiss bank secrecy laws. (Such laws are, for cross-border purposes, no longer effective, although within Switzerland, the laws remain on the statute book and there are no plans as far as I know for lawmakers in Berne to repeal them.) By and large, Switzerland’s financial services industry is still in good health, although like many other centres, onshore as well as offshore, has had to contend with mass of regulation, some of it home-grown. (Swiss banks operate under unusually severe capital adequacy rules and the country now has negative interest rates, which hits banks’ margins.)

The Swiss trip got me thinking about London’s position in the EU referendum. One regular argument you might read about in the financial pages of pro-EU papers such as the Financial Times, for example, is of how if Britain quits, this will hurt London’s financial sector (aka “The City”), because we will no longer be able to “passport” financial services run from London across the whole of the EU. This seems to be a greatly exaggerated worry. For example, in many cases with the fund management industry, fund structures known as UCITS (the acronym is for a long set of French words), which can be bought and sold across the EU – and beyond – and issued in different currency share classes, are typically registered in Luxembourg and Dublin. There are now Chinese yuan share classes in UCITS funds, and China is not, bless its cotton socks, in the EU. Many of the portfolios held in these pan-European structures are managed by investment whizzes in London, and indeed, Zurich, and Geneva, or Hong Kong. So it seems unlikely, to pick this one example, that leaving the EU means disaster. If the UK leaves the EU, then some non-EU member state banks, wealth managers and insurers might have to set up onshore, representative offices in the EU, which is irksome, but hardly seismic. Similarly, the European Union directive affecting hedge funds and private equity, called AIFMD, applies to the European Union, but non-EU jurisdictions such as Jersey and Guernsey have acquired the ability to be treated as “equivalent” for the purpose of this directive.

And that leads to a broader point about rules, treaties and standards. To trade, transact and interact, one doesn’t need to have centralised, top-down legal rules and a single political entity, such as the EU, but to have – and the is the crucial bit – mutual recognition of another’s standards. If the the UK quits the EU, then German carmakers will need to recognise and honour UK motor manufacture rules (which would be sensible for Germany to do, given it is a net exporter to the UK) and the UK would have to return the favour. And so on and so on. Australia has to acknowledge our rules, and we theirs. We see this sort of mutual recognition in all fields of life. Over time, of course, a wider set of rules can be adopted, rather as languages and standards around computer software do.

To trade with people living and working in the EU, it is not necessary to be married to an undemocratic, clunky structure in Brussels. Ending that misconception will not just help win the case for UK exit, it might also encourage people to think more clearly about the very structures of power that we assume are necessary for economic activity to happen. So regardless of what happens next week, I hope it might galvanise thinking about proper authority, and the role of transnational organisations.

On some specific issues around trade, the City, and so forth, this article by Conservative MP and former Cabinet minister, Peter Lilley, is simply excellent. The Adam Smith Institute has a good piece on the classical liberal case for leave.

There may be some specific consequences that are adverse – but within certain limits. For example, take those strange creatures, “non-doms” – persons who live for a period in the UK and enjoy freedom from UK tax on their worldwide income but who have to pay a levy to enjoy this status. Some of these non-doms live in the UK because it also gives them the freedom to roam around the EU. And there are people buying “investment visas” (a sort of market for passports) who want to get a British visa not because of our marvellous weather, but to roam around the EU. They may choose to get a “golden visa” in Spain or Malta instead.

But in the broad scheme of things, losing money from rich overseas investors using the UK as an entrepot doesn’t seem such a massive blow, given the overall balance. If we leave the EU, the City will not have the impost of a pan-European transaction tax (aka “Tobin tax”) on financial transactions that hits London disproportionately hard and which was imposed by qualified majority rule in the EU. The UK financial services sector might be spared the horrors of a massive lump of “investor protection” (sarcasm alert!) regulation due to hit the market, called MiFID II, or at the very least we will be able to haggle around whether we need to respect all of it to sell financial services into the EU. Some of this regulatory crap will still be a part of our lives, but there will be a better chance of getting changes to how the UK is affected via the democratic process, however imperfect that is.

Given how many treaties and transnational pacts are decided at a global, rather than purely European, level, it also worth noting that in or out of the EU, a good deal of what goes on will not change all that much. But one big benefit for me is that however foolish UK politicians continue to be, and however onerous certain rules are, UK lawmakers will not be able to use EU membership as a handy excuse for something they want to do anyway, such as “Dear constituent, I agree this rule is mad but we cannot do anything because it is in EU law number xxxxxx.” Instead, our elected representatives will need to advocate new laws, or advocate repealing laws, by appealing to the merits of a case. It might also improve the calibre of people who choose to go into UK politics in the first place.

I am voting Leave.

 

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An un-convent-ional hiding place in Argentina for cash and a gun

Try as I might, I cannot but chuckle at news coming out of Argentina, of a lawmaker, Señor Lopez, from the Kirchnerite movement in Argentina being arrested in the alleged circumstances of hiding between 5-8 millions of dollars worth of cash and a gun in a convent.

An Argentine former secretary of Public Works with the Cristina Fernandez administration, Jose Lopez, and currently a member of the Mercosur parliament, was arrested on Tuesday in the Buenos Aires province locality of General Rodríguez while he was trying to hide bags full of money and an automatic gun in the garden of a convent.

The reason for the formal arrest was possession of a war weapon, a Sig Saguer rifle, loaded with 25 cartridges.

Lopez was arrested with six bags and a suitcase stashed with dollars, Euros, Yuan and Qatar currency as well as very expensive watches (Rolex, Omega). “We found 160 bundles of cash, 108 of dollars, and some of them still thermo-sealed with the stamps from China’s central bank”, revealed Cristian Ritondo, head of Buenos Aires province security. Ritondo said Lopez tried to bribe the police officers and went into shock when they did not accept, and later suffered a deep depression.

At first he told the officers he was planning to donate the funds to the nuns monastery. In effect one of the nuns interviewed said that Lopez had visited them the previous day and “he was quite crazy”, saying he had stolen the money which was to help the monastery, “but today when he turned up and started dumping the bags, police arrested him. I told the officers he was a good man, he came once a year to visit us and would help us with donations of coffee and tea”

Corruption in Argentina is, at least, like a certain beverage, reassuringly expensive. The comments are quite good, especially the one about the nuns needing a good Rolex to time their prayers.

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Jo Cox, RIP

This morning I was joking about how gloriously dotty yet reassuring yesterday’s “naval battle” between rival Leave and Remain flotillas on the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament was. This afternoon I learned that one of those on the Remain boat, Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, was murdered just outside her constituency surgery. She leaves behind a husband and two young children.

I am too depressed to make a post with links. There is no shortage of commentary and speculation on the internet. A man has been arrested and no other suspects are being sought.

May she rest in peace.

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British aid money goes as a reward to a killer of children

This is no flight of rhetoric. It is literally true. British aid money also goes to reward the killer of a British woman. These payments aren’t incidental: their purpose is to reward the killers for the killing.

Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North (undeclared on the Brexit issue, in case you’re interested) has written an article for Labour List about some of what Britain’s foreign aid is actually spent on.

British aid feeds 25 million under-fives. It supports midwives, nurses and doctors so 4.3 million babies can be born safely.
Our aid spending helped tackle Ebola in Africa. It feeds the starving, helps refugees and provides jobs.
It builds stronger economies around the world. It helps the poorest countries tackle the most desperate poverty.

It does all that and so much more. And we should be very proud of it.

But it also funds terrorists. And that obscures and undermines all the good work it does.

That’s why this week Parliament debated whether Britain should have an international aid budget at all. You might not be aware of it, since it was prompted by a petition in the Daily Mail, which is hardly the in-house reading of choice around these parts.

Like other Labour MPs, I’ll be speaking up in support of our aid budget, but I’ll also be calling for our money to be used to promote peace, not reward terrorism.

Last week four people were murdered when terrorists opened fire in a Tel Aviv cafe.

People in Britain will be horrified by the deliberate, indiscriminate murder of civilians. There can be no justification. But they will be appalled that the two murderers could now be eligible for government salaries – paid for by international aid money from Britain.

Mary Gardner, a Scottish visitor to Israel, died five years ago when terrorists bombed a bus stop. Hassin Qawasme, who led the attack, has been paid almost £14,000 since his arrest.

Amjad and Hakim Awad, killed Ehud and Ruth Fogel and their three children aged 11, four and just three months in 2011. Since then it’s estimated that Amjad alone has been paid up to £16,000 from PA funds.

Emphasis added. A Guardian article by Edwin Black from November 2013 has more about these payments:

When a Palestinian is convicted of an act of terror against the Israeli government or innocent civilians, such as a bombing or a murder, that convicted terrorist automatically receives a generous salary from the Palestinian Authority.

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For the second time in history, a surgical operation with a 300% mortality rate

Robert Liston was a nineteenth century Scottish surgeon known as “the fastest knife in the West End … at a time when speed was essential to reduce pain and improve the odds of survival of a patient; he is said to have been able to perform the removal of a limb in an amputation in 28 seconds.” A man of strong character and ethics, who did not hesitate to help render his own rare skill obsolete by performing the first operation under anaesthesia in Europe, over his entire career he saved many lives. But sometimes things didn’t work out so well. As recorded by the deadpan Richard Gordon in Great Medical Disasters:

Amputated the leg in under 2 1⁄2 minutes (the patient died afterwards in the ward from hospital gangrene; they usually did in those pre-Listerian days). He amputated in addition the fingers of his young assistant (who died afterwards in the ward from hospital gangrene). He also slashed through the coat tails of a distinguished surgical spectator, who was so terrified that the knife had pierced his vitals he dropped dead from fright. That was the only operation in history with a 300 percent mortality.

Now to our own times. Whatever the result of the EU referendum, George Osborne has in one swift operation destroyed his own career, made the split in his own Conservative party irrevocable, and stuck a knife in the vitals of the Labour party and left it there for anyone to twist.

One down:

Osborne warns of Brexit budget cuts

George Osborne says he will have to slash public spending and increase taxes in an emergency Budget to tackle a £30bn “black hole” if the UK votes to leave the European Union.
The chancellor will say this could include raising income and inheritance taxes and cutting the NHS budget.

Two down:

Tory MPs threaten to block Osborne’s post-Brexit budget

George Osborne is facing an extraordinary challenge to his authority as chancellor from 57 Conservative MPs, who are threatening to block his emergency budget of tax rises and spending cuts if Britain votes to leave the EU.

Three down:

The Labour Party, officially for Remain, will be asked to state whether it will support or oppose George Osbourne’s proposed austerity-plus budget. How will it answer?

Over his entire career Liston did far more good than harm. Desperate people camped out in his waiting room because however great the danger of going under his knife it was safer than going under anyone else’s. I wonder what will be said of Osbourne.

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Update: According to Guido, Corbyn will oppose Osbourne’s proposed post-Brexit austerity budget. Labour has kept its anti-austerity credibility at the cost of effectively making a public statement that Brexit wouldn’t be so bad. With opposition from Labour plus the 57 Tory MPs plus those in other parties who would also oppose, Osborne’s budget is stillborn. As you were, folks. Which for both parties means bitterly divided. To have made a threat and have it shown to be empty within hours will not help the Remain campaign – or the Conservative Party.

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Samizdata quote of the day

Present reality is that science is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. That’s the not-so-tongue-in-cheek message in Science on the Verge, a new book by European scientist Andrea Saltelli and seven other contributors. Science on the Verge is a 200-page indictment of what to the lay reader appears to be a monumental deterioration across all fields, from climate science to health research to economics. The mere idea that “most published research results are false” should be cause for alarm. But it is worse than that.

Just about everything we take for granted in modern science, from the use of big data to computer models of major parts of our social, economic and natural environment and on to the often absurd uses of statistical methods to fish for predetermined conclusions.

Terence Corcoran

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How I feel about this morning’s polls

“It’s not the despair, Laura. I can stand the despair. It’s the hope.”

– said by John Cleese playing stressed headmaster Brian Stimpson trying to get to an important conference while the fates conspire against him in the film Clockwise.

This morning’s Guardian reports, “poll leads and Sun backing for Brexit prompt Remain ‘panic'”. However polls in referenda tend to overstate the vote for change and there often is a late surge for the status quo.

With nine days to go, which way do you think the referendum will go?

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Samizdata quote of the day

I am horrified but not exactly shocked. This is the Leitmotif of our lives. It is the continuous grinding pressure that makes our lives a slow misery. And all because of the deranged rantings of a goat-botherer nigh on a Millennium and a half ago.

Our culture has put Neil and Buzz on the moon. Our culture has created computers, our culture has made it affordable for me, as a student, to see the Applachians. Our culture enables boys to wear skirts to school. I am 42 and the largest social change I have seen in my time is the increasing acceptance of homosexuality. I’m straight but I’ll happily have a pint on Canal Street* in Manchester so this could of been me. It quite possibly could have been you.

I have a short message to jihadis. If you want to live in the Dark Ages many countries are available. We have gay marriage (a boon to florists – especially if Sir Elton John is involved). Shoddy Absurdia executes people for “crimes” such as “sorcery”. That is the difference.

Nick M

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Discussion point: would you miss it?

Donald Tusk: Brexit could destroy western political civilisation

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