Saturday, 28 May 2016

Cameron and Osborne should stick to known facts and rigorous analysis refers.

The biggest danger to occupational pensions comes from the idea that Saj Javid is floating, that trustees be given the power to change the nature of indexation. This will be a threat whether we are in or out of the EU, just as house prices depend almost wholly on UK government policy. As to state pensions, no government is going to upset the sector of the population which consistently votes in higher numbers than any other.

Rather than exaggerate possible scenarios, Cameron and Osborne should point to sober analysis by respected independent bodies like the IFS.

There is also real evidence of the difficulty of withdrawing from free labour movement agreements while continuing to trade with the EU. Switzerland's troubles, outlined in an April 2015 article, continue. Brexiteers claim that Great Britain is strong enough to survive outside the EU and without formal trade agreements other than adherence to World Trade Organisation rules. Switzerland, with her habitual current account surpluses and a debt to GDP ratio just over a third of the UK's clearly has a stronger economy, yet her government does not want to jeopardise her treaties with the EU and the EU in turn is adamant that they are dependent on free movement.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Independent experts' verdict on Brexit

The Institute for Fiscal Studies is a determinedly independent body and does not (as Nigel Farage alleges) bend its views to those of the people who pay for its reports. Those political parties which have commissioned the IFS to review their manifesto costings (and I believe the Liberal Democrats were first to do this) are only too well aware that they do not temper their criticism in this way. The IFS's judgment on the consequences of the UK leaving the EU should therefore be heeded.

It does not endorse the apocalyptic visions conjured up by David Cameron and George Osborne, ranging from takeover by Putin and/or Da'esh to a doubling of Fiona's school fees (or something like that). However, it shows logically that there will be bad effects on the UK economy whether we continue to trade tariff-free with the EU (and therefore continue to contribute to the Union's treasury) or not.

It is purely a view from the standpoint of economists and does not touch on the social impact of Brexit, which I believe is the more imminent danger.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Another day, another academic report on Brexit

This report from Sheffield University's Faculty of Social Sciences (no doubt already painted by Nigel Farage as stooges of local MP Nick Clegg) points up the differing effects on the nations and regions of the UK in the event of Brexit.

Analysis of EU structural funds, which support regional economic development in EU member states, shows they are unevenly distributed across the UK’s regions. The UK’s poorest regions, particularly the North of England, Wales and the South West, tend to receive a higher level of funding than more prosperous regions in the south and east of England.

In a separate report, analysis of manufacturing exports from the UK’s regions to the EU shows how different areas have significantly different ‘trade in goods’ relationships with the EU. It also suggests that poorer regions (Northern Ireland, the North East and the South West) are most dependent on the UK's current ability to export manufactured goods and trade with the EU with relatively few restrictions.

It is yet further evidence that it is in Wales's interest to vote "Remain" in the poll which is about to open.

The music of Remain

Jessica Duchen lists reasons for music-lovers, performers and students to vote Remain on 23rd June:

• At the moment, UK musicians have the right to work anywhere in Europe and can therefore with ease take up posts at orchestras ranging from Berlin to Gothenburg to La Scala Milan with freedom should they be fortunate enough to be appointed. Likewise, European musicians can come to Britain and many do indeed bring their expertise to our finest orchestras. Standards have gone up enormously as a result and the performers' own horizons have a chance to expand unimpeded. If we lose, this, quality levels will most likely drop and career prospects for our own musicians will be unnecessarily hobbled.

• UK orchestras and chamber groups travelling around Europe don't need working visas at the moment. If suddenly a working visa is required for the Schengen area, logistics will be vastly more complicated and the cost of it all will rise considerably.

• Workers' rights. Matters like maternity leave, holiday pay and more are protected by EU directives. Take those away and the pro-Brexiters left in charge will get rid of your rights faster than you can say Emmeline Pankhurst. If you want to be in the hands of those who will skew the already dangerous imbalance ever more towards the employers, cutting the pay, the rights and the dignity of everyone else, then vote Brexit...

• Music students, want to avoid crippling debt from college fees? Go and study in Germany. It's FREE. If we leave the EU, this will no longer be possible. (And remember, just because our schools don't bother to encourage it, that doesn't mean you can't learn another language. You can. Anyone can. Speaking different languages is a major advantage and you won't regret the time and effort you put into it.)

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Wales makes a net profit from EU membership

The Wales Governance Centre of Cardiff University has confirmed what Remainers here have been saying for a long time. Our back-of-the-envelope calculation that Wales gets more back from the EU than the nation contributes has now been backed by rigorous academic research.

Of course, the fact that part of that money coming back is from structural funds highlights that parts of Wales are among the poorest in Europe. So when Leave campaigners complains that the UK's contribution goes to backward nations in Europe, they imply that support for Welsh enterprises would diminish if they were successful in the 23rd June referendum. Indeed, how many of the projects listed in this Western Mail article do you imagine a UKIP government would support?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


Georges Enescu (then usually rendered as "Enesco" in Britain) was known in my youth almost entirely for his Rumanian (sic) Rhapsodies. You hardly hear them these days, but they were popular - too popular for the composer's liking, apparently - on a par with Khachaturian's Sabre Dance or Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee. Airings of his music in the UK dwindled after his death, but one imagines France, where he settled, has been more kind to his reputation.

Jessica Duchen has written this appreciation and last weekend Radio 3's Music Matters was largely given over to Enescu. The occasion is the overdue London production of Enescu's magnum opus, Oedipe (Oedipus). Maybe this will renew interest here in a man Yehudi Menuhin described as "the most extraordinary human being, the greatest musician, and the most powerful influence someone has ever had over me".

For those of us who cannot afford to travel to London, let alone the price of ROH tickets, Radio 3 is scheduled to broadcast a performance on 4th June. Since I intend to attend the Leading Not Leaving rally in Swansea on that day, I shall have to trust my Evoke 3 to record it for me.

Liberals protest Russian encroachment

NATO is quite rightly publicly demonstrating that it will fulfill its obligations to Baltic member states against external aggression. An uneasy stand-off persists in Ukraine. But further south in Europe, Georgia - neither a member of NATO nor of the EU - is still subject to land grabs by Russian puppet states. Jonathan Fryer reports that Georgian troops face encroaching Russians, who have taken over South Ossetia and occasionally push forward their barbed wire barrier, separating Georgian farmers from their land and cutting them off from friends and family on the other side. Only last Friday, a raiding party came over the barrier and killed one young Georgian man.

Liberal International demonstrated its support for Georgia by holding its first ever executive committee meeting in the republic last week. Jonathan Fryer said:

The Georgian Defence Minister, Tinatin Khidasheli, was a keynote speaker. Slovenia’s former Defence Minister, Roman Jakic — recently one of LI’s Treasurers — made the point that NATO cannot say it has an open door policy and then turn people away, which offers a potentially challenging situation with regard to both Georgia and Ukraine.