Is this the day when it all starts to go wrong – again?

What a sad irony it would be, if yet another Conservative Party leader and only our second ever woman Prime Minster, suffered an ignominious departure, because she ignored the signs.

Copied from Daily Telegraph 7th July 2018

In a bid to appear pragmatic, Mrs May is losing the power battle with the EU

If Britain stood firm and said Brexit means Brexit, Brussels would be forced to deal with the situation

The Government has now found a policy on the Brexit negotiations. It unearthed it, apparently, in the cool, panelled rooms of Chequers last night. The instant wisdom is that it is a victory for the “pragmatists”.

In British – in particular, English – public culture, anyone claiming to be a pragmatist tends to win the advantage. A pragmatist is supposed to be an open-minded person who sees the facts as they are. The opposite of a pragmatist is an “ideologue” and/or a “fanatic”. Who, outside the wilder reaches of Isil or Momentum, wants to be one of them?

In recent weeks, Remainer activists have skilfully grabbed the pragmatic label. Leavers are presented as the raving ideologues. Trying to avoid cheap jibes about how poor, wild-eyed Tony Blair, noisy Anna Soubry and preposterous Lord Hailsham seem strikingly unpragmatic, I would like to investigate what this supposed pragmatism really is.

It goes wider than the Brexit issue. Essentially, it is the default position of those who have power in this country. In the 1970s, pragmatists coalesced round the idea that Britain must have a prices-and-incomes policy and a tripartite structure of government, business and unions to prevent inflation and economic collapse. This was espoused, with fanatical moderation, by the then Prime Minister, Ted Heath. People who opposed this view were dismissed as crazy “monetarists” on the one hand, or union “wreckers” on the other. The pragmatists prevailed. We duly had rampant inflation and came close to economic collapse.

At the end of the 1980s, having had a thin time under Margaret Thatcher, pragmatic forces at last got back together and insisted that Britain must join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) of the European Monetary System. By semi-fixing our exchange rate with that of other European currencies, they said, we could impose the financial and economic disciplines we seemed not to be able to manage for ourselves. We joined. The pragmatists’ policy forced extreme rigidity upon our economy. After less than two years of punitive interest rates, and consequent austerity and business closures, the pound came tumbling out of the ERM on September 16 1992, and stayed out. Britain’s economic recovery began the next day and lasted until Gordon Brown’s premiership 15 years later.

In 2016, the pragmatists were unprepared for the EU referendum. They resented the very idea that voters should decide an issue that they considered far too complicated for them. Since they assumed that voters must dislike the EU only out of ignorance, their sole tactic was to frighten them about what they might lose. Despite (because of?) their disproportionate power in politics, big business, central banks, Whitehall and academia, they failed.

Two years on, they are trying essentially the same thing. You cannot blame a company such as Airbus or Jaguar Land Rover for asking the Government what on earth it is doing. All of us want to know that.

But all such companies’ claims about what they might lose from a “disorderly” Brexit assume no possible gains. They do not factor in the exchange rate. They equate a short-term problem with long-term disaster. They concentrate on (and exaggerate) what we might lose in exports to the EU, which make up 12 per cent of our GDP, rather than the opportunities our greater freedom might gain for the other 88 per cent. They equate comfortable arrangements they have made for themselves in Brussels with the general good. They present their fears for their own comforts as things that should frighten the rest of us. This is not impartial calculation, but vested interest getting all hot and bothered under its vest.

A true pragmatist thinks hard about the reality behind appearances. The Remainer pragmatists do not. They like the status quo. They do not try to imagine why so many of the rest of us don’t. In this sense, although they are full of information, they are impervious to the facts, which is a most unpragmatic state of mind.

They are also, did they but know it, in thrall to a powerful ideology. It goes back to Plato. It holds that rightly guided, educated people – “people like us”, as our pragmatists might put it – must run things. Its modern form is bureaucracy in the literal meaning of that word – power held by the bureau, rather than the elected representatives of the people.

National solidarity and representative democracy are based on the idea that all citizens have an equal right to choose their rulers. If they live under a system, such as the EU, which frustrates that right, they become profoundly alienated. People trying to reverse the referendum result, or empty it of meaning, may think they are applying common sense, but they are enforcing this anti-democratic bureaucratic ideology and increasing that alienation. If you do not understand why that matters, you are as unpragmatic as the ancien régime before the French Revolution, and may suffer the same fate. In the meantime, as the constituencies are starting to tell MPs, you lose the next election.

As the scene moves back to talks with Brussels, we shall all be reminded that the least pragmatic players in this whole, long story are the people with whom our pragmatists keep telling us to make a deal – the EU Commission. Two years of arguing with her own colleagues have brought Mrs May no closer to grappling with this, the most dogmatic body in the Western world.

No British pragmatist has even tried to explain why the pre-emptive cringes advocated, incredibly, as our opening bid in the trade talks will induce Michel Barnier to make the deal with Britain that has so far eluded us. Why should he be impressed by the “common rule book for all goods” that Mrs May seeks? He already has one: it is called the customs union. If he thinks she is weak, he will beat her down yet further. She has admitted in advance that her latest plan makes it impossible for post-Brexit Britain to make a trade deal with the US: that’s a funny triumph for pragmatism.

The true pragmatist’s approach to these negotiations should be based on an estimate of power. If they are structured – as Mrs May seeks – to obtain special favours for Britain, they will fail, because the power of favour rests with the Commission. What have we done to make it help us? If, on the other hand, Britain says it is leaving anyway, in letter and spirit, because that is what the referendum decided, then it cannot be stopped. Faced with that reality, the EU and Commission are forced to consider how to make the best of this – for them – bad job.

Compare the high Commission rhetoric about the inviolable sanctity of the open border with Northern Ireland with the new war of words about closing borders between Germany, Austria and Italy – contrary to the EU’s own Schengen rules – because of the migration crisis. The former is a goody-goody game; the latter is serious. Theoretical talk is quickly crowded out when reality becomes unavoidable.

In all this time, Mrs May has never got serious in our power battle with the EU. She shrinks from it. So she is gradually, pragmatically, losing.

Follow Charles Moore on twitter @CharlesHMoore; read more at telegraph.co.uk/opinion

Recycling – are we it doing because it seems like a good idea, even though it’s rubbish?

A government sponsored charity called WRAP is a very valuable asset to councils, helping them wade through all the confusing legislation surrounding recycling.  It also adds a degree of weight to the argument that it is the commercial sector and industry that needs to stop generating the amount of materials it does, that aren’t recyable and limit the use of those that are to the minimum.

However, WRAP is advisory, has a limited budget and has no powers that would allow it to make any real changes.  It therefore doesn’t really help when they release a report stating the blindingly obvious – people are confused by recycling, by what can and can’t be recycled.  It tells us that the rules are too complicated and ‘suggests’ that it’s councils that need to do more.

Hardly surprising that they would turn the spotlight away from their paymasters, but nonethelsss disappointing.  It ignores the increasing funding deficit local government is experiencing and fails to offer any real solutions.

Suffice to say, councils are used to being dictated to by central government and told to fix problems created by them in the first place.

If householders want the convenience of throwing everything in the same recycling bin, they had better be prepared to pay dearly for the privilege of doing so.

Even then, paper, card and in particular newspapers and magazines, needs to kept completely clean and uncontamined throughout the process. We should at least be able to expect householders to cooperate on this. If not, we really are fighting a losing battle.

The only way we’ll get any improvement in recycling is to spend money. Believing you can do it by bullying councils by attempting to shift the blame on to them, is not only counter-productive, it’s pointless.

We’ve convinced a large element of the public that they have a duty to recycle, in order to save the planet, but the only way government has demonstrated their commitment, is by short term incentives, that then get withdrawn, or swallowed up in the inpeneratrable morass of the annual local government financial settlement.

The government also continues to behave in what can only be described as a cowardly and evasive way when it comes to showing any form of leadership on the major issues. Too much of the public believe that it is councils that somehow control and determine what does and doesn’t not go into their recycling bins.
Councils have a statutory duty, in law, to collect and dispose of household waste. These days, that household waste get collected in different streams, residual – the non- recyclable stuff and recycling.
In some areas, mainly rural areas, one council collects and another disposes. Large urban areas and cities tend to have unitary councils, that do both. However, the result is the same, once collected and ready for disposal, only the private sector has the infrastructure to process what needs to be disposed of.
Most non-recyclable waste goes into incinerating in the form of energy from waste plants, with less and less going into landfill sites.
Recycling is disposed of, by handing it over to the recycling industry, who have agreed a contract with the council based on what they can and cannot sell on. The volitilty of the recycled materials market, means that most of the contracts are short in length and, if the local authority insists on including materials the recyclers can’t sell, very expensive to the council and therefore their taxpayers.
Why include stuff the companies can’t sell? For exactly the reasons mentioned in the article. The public are already confused and annoyed by the recycling messages received from their councils. Imagine what the response would be if the list of recyclates changed every three or four years?
The Tetrapak issue is a perfect example of this issue. The only company in the country that was recycling these was based in Scotland and stopped operating over 5 years ago.  However, because my own council told our residents that they could recycle them when it was all the fashion, we put in place a contract that requires these to be accepted as part of the mix.
If a company takes on a contract and accepts an item as recyclable that then becomes unsellable, that’s their financial loss.
If a council puts in an unsellable item, its the taxpayer that pays for this to be taken out. If the householder puts it in, despite being asked not to, its contamination and can see a complete freighter load written off and sent for burning, or to landfill.

The government’s threat to pass on the EU £500,000 a day fine for missing the 50% recycling target, to councils, will probably be retained in some form even post Brexit.  The recycling target will be transposed into UK legislation and no doubt so will the threat of the fine.

if this does happen, I suspect we are going to see councils become far more bullish about recycling post Brexit and start pushing back on some of the highminded ideology that has been driving the whole agenda for far too long.

Some insight into why our competitive edge will always be blunt

A couple of weeks ago now, I was in the company of a number of senior people from one of of our major national developers.  We were all at attending a conference and  they were representing the sponsor of that evening’s conference dinner.

it was fast approaching midnight in the bar and the mood was jocular and relaxed with plentry of banter between politicians and developers present, as one might expect.  The conversation turned to the skills shortage and in particular the shortage of bricklayers in their industry.  In another life one of the politicians had been a builder, so was quick to agree with the developers’ complaints about the national apprenticeship scheme used to train brickies.

I won’t bore you with the details of their complaint, but suffice to say, that anything involving the principles of good bricklaying, was totally pointless when it came to training bricklayers, in their collective opinions.  As far as those in the know were concerned, it should only take a couple of months at the most to ‘knock out’ a capable bricky.

On the face of it, many people would sympathise with any employer who objected to paying for staff to be trained to a depth they believed would never be used ‘in anger’ so to speak, which of course is why these developers were complaining about apprenticeships for bricklayers.

However, if the belief that the absolute minimum will do when it comes to skills training, is common across all industries that make or build things in this country, we will always lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to increasing national productivity and therefore competitiveness.

The Germans have a far greater respect for non-academic skills than there has ever been in this country.  A qualified engineer in Germany is given the title Herr Doctor to acknowledge their skill and training for example.  Of course I’m not suggesting that all our young Waynes, Jacks, Jills and Johns should now be trained to the level of Herr Doctor Bricky.

However, if you give a young person a good grounding in their chosen career, then they are more likely to aspire to go further than where they started when they first started work.  There are plenty of 30+, or even 40+ tradesmen and women out there doing exactly what they were doing when they were 20, but could now be doing so much more, had they had the right training at the start of their careers.

Teaching somebody more than just how to lay one brick after another in a straight line, until somebody tells you to stop and go back to the beginning and start again, should be welcomed as an investment in our country’s future, not resented as an annoying delay in building your bottom line at the end of the financial year.

Short-termism infects every area of government and private industry in this country – at least government has the partial excuse of the election cycle for this.  This continues to put us on the back foot when it comes to competing with the competition globally.

Impeach Juncker and make Booker our chief negotiator

Once again, I’ve shamelessly borrowed from Christopher Booker’s writings in the Sunday Telegraph.  He seems to be one of the few, both inside and outside of the political arena, with any real grasp of the issues.

Juncker in breach of his own treaty

By nominating a chief negotiator for Brexit, Jean-Claude Juncker has acted in breach of treaties.
We may be getting used to the idea that senior Tory Eurosceptics seem to be woefully ignorant of all the legal complexities involved in extricating us from the EU. Rather more surprising, however, is the blatant disregard being shown for EU law by no less a figure than Jean‑Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.
On July 27 Juncker announced he had appointed Michel Barnier, a former commissioner for the internal market, to be “Chief Negotiator in charge of the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU)”. They do like their initial capital letters in Brussels.
What no one seems to have picked up on, however, is that under Article 50 of the TEU and Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, Juncker had neither the right nor the power to do anything of the kind.
First, reading these two articles in conjunction, it is clear that the EU’s chief negotiator can only be appointed after a state wishing to leave the EU has invoked Article 50, thus setting the negotiating process in train.
Secondly, Article 218 makes it clear that the Commission can only make a recommendation as to who “the head of the Union’s negotiating team” should be. The appointment itself must be made through a formal decision of the European Council, consisting of the heads of state and government of the other EU members.
Thus, in personally nominating Barnier as chief negotiator, Juncker was not just jumping the gun, he was acting wholly ultra vires, in flagrant breach of the treaties he is sworn to uphold.
It might seem extraordinary that the EU’s most senior official should break the law like this. Perhaps when Theresa May next meets her fellow members of the European Council in September, she should ask them as politely as possible whether they are happy for the president of the Commission to usurp their authority in this way.

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Of course, this is why Juncker acts in this high handed and arrogant manner.  He clearly believes that the democratic element of the European model, is an inconvenient and frustrating obstruction to his vision of a European superstate.

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