Have leading politicians and apparatchiks in the European Union such as Michel Barnier and Jean Claude Junker been trying to influence the result of the UK general election as Theresa May has suggested? I don't know but it was my first impression (before the PM made the suggestion) that they had. Frankly, there are only two possibilities: they either interfered with the intention of affecting the outcome of the election or they just happened to make a series of rather outrageous statements with obvious relevance to the election without realising their mistake. It looks like a co-ordinated attempt to me.
Either way, their behaviour shows them to be fools – no great surprise there. If they had the faintest Idea what they were doing, they would have realised that their comments would boost Theresa May's hand, both in the election and in the subsequent negotiations. Undecided voters will look at this behaviour and decide that we cannot trust the EU at all and they will be more likely to vote for the Conservatives because May has stated that 'no deal is better than a bad deal'. With a large majority May will be able to simply walk away from a bad deal. We have been told for months that the UK doesn't have the negotiation skills to deal with the EU. If these recent comments are representative of the EU's efforts to build a negotiating position, it would seem that it is the EU which lacks negotiating skills.
As someone who thinks that access to the single market would not be worth the price demanded from the EU (not just in financial terms but also the continuing influence of the European Court of Justice), I welcome Barnier and Juncker's remarks because they will probably ensure that we make a clean break. However, that is just my personal perspective. If, like many of my friends, I opposed Brexit and now favour as close a continuing association with the EU as possible, I would be absolutely furious at their behaviour.
All is quiet at Tiger Towers. The atrium is silent and deserted. Every floor of Tiger of the Stripe’s vast HQ is empty, except for me typing away at my computer. Is it Brexit, the price of part mechanical wood pulp, a slump in demand for books? No, I am just busy on other things for the next week. Soon, the massive corporate beast that is Tiger of the Stripe will reawaken, lick its fearful symmetry into shape and roar back to life, reinvigorated and more dashingly stripey than ever.
I thought Nicola Sturgeon was bad enough pressing for a new referendum on Scottish independence when Scotland is even less able to support itself than it has been for much of the last 300 years. Now Gordon Brown is proposing even greater devolution for Scotland. This would include setting VAT rates and the power to conclude international treaties. Fine, let Scotland set its own VAT rates, but why should England continue to subsidise Scottish extravagance? This is particularly obnoxious because every penny of subsidy helps the SNP look good to the Scottish electorate. As for the ability to conclude international treaties, this is pure nonsense. Only a sovereign state can do so.
Scottish independence would be extremely bad for the rest of the UK but it would be catastrophic for Scotland whose budget deficit is twice that of the rest of the UK. If Gordon Brown and the Labour Party in Scotland want to head off a vote for Scottish independence, they should come up with some sensible ideas not this game of Fantasy Politics.
My wife keeps bring back bedding plants from the garden centre. They are invariably in expanded polystyrene containers and I was getting very concerned about the environmental implications. There are articles on the internet that suggest that it is recyclable but I know that Richmond upon Thames council doesn't recycle it. I contacted my ever-helpful councillor, Pamela Fleming, who told me that there didn't seem to be any London boroughs which recycled it. On further investigation, she told me that the root problem was that there is no identified demand for the recycled product. WRAP, the Waste and Recycling Action Programme, advises 'Avoid the use of expanded polystyrene (EPS), oxo-degradable or bio-degradable polymers as they are not currently compatible within existing household plastic sorting or reprocessing systems.' In the meantime, councils are planning to move from landfill to incineration. Given that this has been shown to produce soot and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in varying quantities according to the method of combustion, and since PAHs are toxic and carcinogenic, this doesn't seem a very acceptable solution.
Expanded polystyrene is also widely used in packaging for electrical goods. It seems to me that there is absolutely no excuse for using it. Most of this can be replaced with cardboard. Some years ago there were even computer manufacturers using popcorn instead of expanded plastic. Its use in garden centres seems so at odds with the idea of nurturing a little bit of nature near your home that I am surprised that it has been so widely accepted. On obvious (if possibly more expensive) substitute would be containers made from coir or some other natural fibre.
If Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party are serious about another independence referendum (which I very much doubt), they must be delusional. While Scotland's exports to the rest of the UK were £49.8 bn in 2015, its exports to the rest of the EU were just 12.3bn. If Scotland left the UK, either before or after the UK leaves the EU, it would be outside both the UK and the EU. It would then take years for it to rejoin the EU. The worst of all possible worlds.
On 17 January, Liam Halligan and Gerard Lyons published Clean Brexit, an exceptionally clear-sighted analysis of what need to be done to get the best possible deal from Brexit. The main point, and one which the Government seem to agree with, is that we need to be outside both the Single Market and the the Customs Union. Download it her: https://policyexchange.org.uk/publication/clean-br...
Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, issued dire warnings about Brexit before the EU Referendum. Now he has repeated his doom-mongering. He is very much Osborne's creature and his analysis is tainted. To deliberately talk down the economy after the referendum is. at best, irresponsible and, in my opinion, he must go (as should Osborne whose two Treasury reports were completely demolished by David Blake of the Cass Business School). Savvas Savouri of Tosca Fund Asset Management was entirely dismissive of Carney's comments on the Today programme this morning, saying that he was completely ignorant of macro-economics.
Microsoft has bought aother dud, LinkedIn, for $26 billion cash. LinkedIn has a platform which doesn’t work and a business model which doesn’t work. Microsoft has written off its disastrous investment in Nokia and I suspect it’ll have to do the same with LinkedIn, but it can’t keep making such stupid mistakes. On the other hand, who cares?
I originally posted this on Facebook but I thought is was worth repeating here:
Can we please have an end to this pretence that the EU Referendum is a left/right issue? The only reason that Labour is campaigning to stay in is because it thought it could exploit the split in the Conservatives to its advantage. The remain campaign lied through its teeth, telling us that the European Community was just a common market. In the 1975 referendum, who wanted to leave? Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Peter Shore, Eric Varley and Barbara Castle. The Labour Party conference of 1975 voted nearly 2:1 to leave. Who wanted to remain?The right of the Labour Party, Margaret Thatcher and most of the rest of the Conservative Party. It was official Conservative policy to remain, partly because the Tories saw it as a good way to split Labour! Sound familiar? It worked and Labour lost the election, we had years of Thatcherism and we stayed in what is now the EU. There is a principled case to be made for either staying or leaving the EU but it has been drowned out by dishonest arguments on both sides.
It appears that a number of MPs who favour the UK remaining in the EU are planning to ensure that this happens even if there is a majority vote to leave in the forthcoming referendum. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendu...
So what is the point of having a referendum? It is worth remembering that the Scottish Nationalist Party would have a vote out of all proportion to its share of the vote at the last general election – they won more than 8.6% of the seats with about 4.7% of the vote at the last general election. Perhaps these MPs are so contemptuous of the public that they will decide that they can ignore general election results, too.