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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It looks like a pattern is emerging…………

EU 'sympathetic' over Scotland.

A Scottish government minister has said he received a "sympathetic hearing" from his European counterparts over Scotland's bid to remain in the EU. Farming Minister Fergus Ewing said he had informal talks with other agriculture ministers in Brussels. He said senior European officials told him that they would like to see Scotland as the EU's 28th member state. The prime minister has said that he wants the best deal for Scotland and the UK. Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson warned against "hijacking" the EU result to force an independence vote

German car makers warn on free movement.

German car makers have said that the UK will have to accept the free movement of EU citizens in return for access to the single market. Matthias Wissmann, from the German Automotive Industry Association, said the UK would have to accept the "bitter pill" of free movement. Restricting access to the UK was a key promise of the Leave campaign. Leave campaigners also argued that, to help car exports, Germany would push for a generous trade deal with the UK. However the Germany car makers appear to be taking a tough line. "We don't like to build new barriers... but any bid to secure full access to the single market would necessarily come with conditions. Everyone who negotiates on the British side will understand that," Mr Wissmann said. "If you want full access to the market, that comes necessarily with the free movement of people. That's the bitter pill the Brexiteers have to accept," he added.

George Osborne says tax rises and spending cuts needed.

Tax rises and spending cuts will be needed to deal with the "shock" to the UK economy caused by leaving the EU, Chancellor George Osborne has said. He said such decisions would be taken by the next prime minister, adding that his pre-referendum warnings "have started to be borne out by events". Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Osborne said he stood by his campaign warnings about the economic impact of a vote to leave the EU, saying life would not be "as economically rosy" outside. "It's very clear that the country is going to be poorer as a result of what's happening to the economy," he said. "We are absolutely going to have to provide fiscal security to people, in other words we are going to have to show the country and the world that the country can live within its means." Asked if that meant tax rises and spending cuts, he said: "Yes, absolutely. But that decision will come under a new prime minister - it's obviously not possible while the Conservative Party is having a leadership contest."

Market pressure eases after Brexit rout.

Pressure has eased on UK financial markets after two days of turmoil in the wake of the Brexit vote, with the FTSE 100 share index closing higher. The index ended up 2.64% at 6,140.39, while the FTSE 250 had gained 3.6%. The FTSE 100 lost 5.6% in the previous two trading sessions, while the more UK-focused FTSE 250 had slumped 13.7%. The pound also showed signs of recovery, rising 0.4% against the dollar to $1.3278 and adding 0.18% against the euro to €1.2018.

Jeremy Hunt suggests second EU referendum.

People should have their say on the terms of the UK's exit deal with the EU, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said. Mr Hunt, who said he was "seriously considering" a bid for the Conservative leadership, said this should be either through a general election or a second referendum. He called for a "sensible compromise" on free movement in exchange for single market access. In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hunt said the UK should negotiate a "Norway plus" option for the UK with Brussels, which would see "full access to the single market with a sensible compromise on free movement rules". Leave campaigners say the UK will get access to the single market without having to accept free movement of people - but other EU leaders have said this will not be possible.

Weak pound 'could raise supermarket prices'.

Supermarket prices could rise if the pound's fall continues, retail analysts have said. Some 40% of food consumed in the UK is imported meaning "any long term change in exchange rates may threaten the current period of cheaper groceries," according to Kantar Worldpanel. Online supermarket Ocado also said the weaker pound could lead to "inflationary pressure". The pound has fallen about 11% against the dollar since the Brexit vote. Tough competition from discount chains has helped to pushed the price of groceries lower over the past two years.

[Still much turbulence out there but it seems that the markets at least are getting over the first shock. Now reality sets in and some hard thinking and hard choices are no doubt being made. I’m sure that there’s still much to play for – just not for the England ‘football’ team.]

All details above from BBC News website.

Cartoon Time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

…the uncertainty continues.

Pound slump continues in Asian trading.

The pound has fallen in early trading in Asia on Monday, adding to Friday's record one-day decline. Sterling was trading at $1.3443, down more than 2% from Friday's close. Against the euro it was trading at €1.2165, down 1.3%. On Friday the pound had its biggest one-day fall against the dollar, at one stage sinking as low as $1.3236. Some traders are betting that the pound still has further to slide. Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First, said: "We are still looking for another 10% fall for the pound against the dollar in the coming months as data confirms the economic slowdown and monetary policy expectations increase."

EU spells out procedure for UK to leave.

The European Union has clarified the way the UK can kickstart formal negotiations to exit the bloc following Thursday's referendum. It says Britain can trigger Article 50, which sets a two-year deadline for a deal, by making a formal declaration either in a letter or a speech. UK PM David Cameron has said he will step down by October to allow his successor to conduct the talks. But EU foreign ministers have urged Britain to start the process soon. Since Thursday's vote there has been intense speculation about when, and how, the UK might begin formal negotiations.

France and Germany 'in agreement' over UK's EU exit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have said they are in "full agreement" on how to handle the fallout from the UK's decision to leave the European Union. Mr Hollande warned that "separated, we run the risk of divisions, dissension and quarrels". The two will hold talks later in Berlin amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in the wake of so-called "Brexit".

Many companies plan to impose Brexit hiring freeze.

Many companies are likely to impose a hiring freeze following Britain's vote to leave the European Union, according to a leading business group. The Institute of Directors (IoD) surveyed 1,000 of its members and found that a quarter planned to freeze recruitment. The results suggested that almost a third would keep hiring at the same pace, with 5% planning to cut jobs. Almost two-thirds said the vote was negative for their business. "We can't sugar-coat this - many of our members are feeling anxious," said Simon Walker, director-general of the IoD. "A majority of business leaders think the vote for Brexit is bad for them, and as a result plans for investment and hiring are being put on hold or scaled back."

UK loses top credit rating from S&P.

The UK has lost its top AAA credit rating from ratings agency S&P following the country's Brexit vote. S&P said the the referendum result could lead to "a deterioration of the UK's economic performance, including its large financial services sector". Earlier the pound plunged to a 31-year low against the dollar, and UK markets closed lower for a second day. The move comes after chancellor George Osborne said the UK will face the future "from a position of strength". Speaking earlier, in an attempt to restore calm to the markets, the chancellor said the economy would need to "adjust" but was strong enough to cope. S&P had been the only major agency to maintain a AAA rating for the UK. On Friday, Moody's cut the UK's credit rating outlook to negative. A rating downgrade can affect how much it costs governments to borrow money in the international financial markets. In theory, a high credit rating means a lower interest rate (and vice versa). S&P said that the leave result would "weaken the predictability, stability, and effectiveness of policymaking in the UK".

PM condemns 'despicable' post-EU referendum hate crimes.

David Cameron has condemned "despicable" incidents of hate crime reported in the wake of the UK's referendum vote to leave the EU. There had been cases of "verbal abuse hurled" at ethnic minorities, and "despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre", he told the Commons. Such attacks must be stamped out, he said, urging people to remember "these people have come here and made a wonderful contribution to our county".

Gibraltar in talks with Scotland to stay in EU.

Gibraltar is in talks with Scotland about a plan to keep parts of the UK in the EU, BBC Newsnight has learned. Fabian Picardo, the territory's chief minister, told the BBC he was speaking to Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, about various options. One possibility under discussion is for Gibraltar and Scotland, which both voted to remain in the EU, to maintain the UK's membership of the bloc. Ms Sturgeon confirmed to the BBC that talks are under way with Gibraltar. Northern Ireland could also potentially be included in the discussions. "I can imagine a situation where some parts of what is today the member state United Kingdom are stripped out and others remain," Mr Picardo told Newsnight.

[Oh, what a very strange world we are now entering. Some day’s it feels like an endless episode of Lost where unseen scriptwriters are making things up on an hour by hour basis. Who knows where it might end. Needless to say that the Leave camp are waving their hands at this point repeating ‘Scaremongering’ until it all goes away.]

All details above from BBC News website.

Monday, June 27, 2016

…and we haven’t pushed the button yet.

China warns Brexit will 'cast shadow' over global economy.

China finance experts have warned that Britain's decision to leave the European Union will "cast a shadow over the global economy". Finance minister Lou Jiwei said the "repercussions and fallout" will emerge over the next five to 10 years. Huang Yiping, a member of China's central bank monetary policy committee, said the Brexit could mark a "reversal of globalisation". If so, he said, it would be "very bad" for both the world and China.

Brexit fallout 'cast doubts on Heathrow runway expansion'.

Brexit "must cast doubts" on whether Heathrow Airport will get a third runway, the chairman of the anti-expansion group Hacan has said. According to John Stewart, if Boris Johnson follows David Cameron as prime minister his opposition to Heathrow expansion leaves it "up in the air". But Heathrow's boss John Holland-Kaye said its expansion "is the right choice for a stronger Britain". The government was to decide on whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwick in July.

Theresa Villiers says parliament sovereign.

NI Secretary Theresa Villiers has dismissed the Scottish first minister's suggestion that the Scottish Parliament could effectively veto the UK's exit from the European Union. Nichola Sturgeon said she believed Holyrood would have to give legislative consent to remove the UK from the EU. She told the BBC she would "of course" ask MSPs to refuse such consent. However, Ms Villiers told BBC NI's Sunday Politics that the British parliament was sovereign. "In the weeks and months ahead we will be working with both the Scottish government and the Northern Ireland Executive on all these matters," Ms Villiers said. "But ultimately it is parliament's decision whether we repeal the 1972 European Communities Act or whether we don't."

Reassurance sought over EU students.

Universities have pledged to pressure ministers to ensure European staff and students can still work and study in the UK after the vote to leave the EU. Vice-chancellors from the Universities UK umbrella group say the decision to leave will create "significant challenges" for higher education. They are already in talks with EU commissioners, it is understood. The Russell Group of top research universities says it will work with ministers to safeguard research funds. These leading institutions get £500m a year in EU investment.

UK car industry needs 'swift EU deal to curb high tariffs'.

Britain must strike a trade deal with Europe as soon as possible to protect the country's multi-billion pound car industry and avoid high tariffs. David Bailey, professor of industry at Aston University, warned of a "big uncertainty" for the sector following the UK's vote to leave the EU. Without a deal, he fears a return to the days when the industry faced a 10% tariff on exports. The UK exports 77.3% of its car output, 57.5% of which goes to Europe. "What we don't want in two years' time is to go back to [World Trade Organisation] rules which involve 10% tariffs on car exports," he said.

Councils' cash from EU 'should be guaranteed' if withdrawn.

The government should guarantee English councils will still receive the £5.3bn they had been allocated from EU funds, the Local Government Association says. It said councils in England had been expecting to receive regeneration funding from the EU by 2020, before the UK voted to leave the union this week. Councils must also take part in talks to rewrite EU laws, the LGA said.

[I wonder if those who voted to leave are starting to think they made the wrong choice last Thursday. Or are they still pleased that Cameron is going, Corbyn is fighting for his leadership and that chaos is spreading. Is this worth it for the illusion of ‘getting our country back’?]

All details above from BBC News website.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

…and there’s more…. Always more.

HSBC 'to move jobs to Paris if UK leaves single market'.

HSBC would move up to 1,000 staff from London to Paris if the UK left the single market, following Britain's vote to leave the EU, the BBC understands. The staff who would be relocated would be those who already process payments made in euros for HSBC in Canary Wharf. Thursday's referendum result means the UK will need to renegotiate its trade relationship with the European Union - including whether it remains part of the single market.

Rise in enquiries for second passports.

People of Irish descent are getting advice from embassies on applying for a passport in preparation for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. Google searches for Irish passports surged in the hours after the referendum result was confirmed. The Polish embassy has also had enquiries on how to get a passport. The Irish Embassy in London said it was likely to take two years before British citizens' travel rights across the EU changed. Google Trends reported a spike in searches for terms such as "Irish passport" on Friday.

Sturgeon says pre-referendum UK 'no longer exists'.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the UK that Scottish voters chose to remain within 2014 no longer exists. Speaking on the Andrew Marr programme on BBC One, she said the Scottish government would take whatever steps are needed to protect Scotland. Her appearance followed a Scottish cabinet meeting on Saturday which agreed to make initial preparations for another independence referendum.

Javid plans 'no panic' business meeting.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid says he will hold a meeting this week with business leaders following the UK's vote to leave the European Union. Mr Javid told the BBC his message to businesses was "there's no need to panic". The UK's economic fundamentals are strong enough to weather any short-term market volatility, he said. He added that the UK should not rush into talks with the EU about its withdrawal from the bloc.

Nicola Sturgeon says MSPs at Holyrood could veto Brexit.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the BBC that Holyrood could try to block the UK's exit from the EU. She was speaking following a referendum on Thursday which saw Britain vote by 52% to 48% to leave Europe. However, in Scotland the picture was different with 62% backing Remain and 38% wanting to go. SNP leader Ms Sturgeon said that "of course" she would ask MSPs to refuse to give their "legislative consent".

Only Scots Labour MP Ian Murray quits shadow cabinet.

Labour's only MP in Scotland, Ian Murray, has resigned from his position as shadow Scottish Secretary. Speaking live on the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, he said he had just written to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Murray said matters had been brought to a head by the result of the EU referendum.

New PM 'should come from Leave camp'.

The new prime minister should only come from the Leave camp, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has said. He told the BBC's Andrew Marr show that it would be "very difficult" for a public who voted to leave the EU to have a leader who had opposed this.

Second EU referendum petition investigated for fraud.

The House of Commons petitions committee has said it is investigating allegations of fraud in connection with a petition calling for a second EU referendum. Any signatures found to be fraudulent would be removed, it said. More than 3.1 million people have signed the petition, although PM David Cameron has previously said there will be no second referendum.

[..and so it rolls on. We still haven’t pushed the button or fired the starting gun but the slow falling apart seems to be gathering pace. What exactly is going to happen over the next few weeks – especially when (or if) we begin the disentanglement from the EU – is anyone’s guess. This blogger is guessing that whatever does actually happen that it isn’t going to be good.]

All details above from BBC News website.

Cartoon Time.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

….and so it continues.

Moody's cut UK's credit outlook to 'negative'.

Moody's said the referendum result would have "negative implications for the country's medium-term growth outlook", and it lowered the UK's long term issuer and debt ratings to "negative" from "stable".

France's Calais seeks border deal changes.

The mayor of Calais wants changes to a deal which allows Britain to carry out immigration checks on the French side of the English Channel, after a UK vote to leave the EU. Natacha Bouchart said Paris must act after Thursday's referendum in which the UK voted to leave the EU. "The British must take the consequences of their choice," she said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Xavier Bertrand, the president of Hauts-de-France region where Calais is located, said: "The English wanted to take back their freedom: they must take back their border." The French authorities had warned before the referendum that a vote for leaving the EU could see a camp with thousands of migrants being moved from Calais to British soil.

EU must not fall into 'depression'.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says the EU must not fall into "depression and paralysis" after the UK voted to leave the bloc. He made the comments arriving for an urgent meeting of the six EU founder members to discuss the decision.

Scottish cabinet meets to discuss response to Leave vote.

Thursday's referendum saw Scotland, London and Northern Ireland vote in favour of Remain - while England and Wales backed Brexit. Ms Sturgeon said it was "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland faced being taken out of the EU against its will.

Ms Sturgeon said there was now a "significant divergence" between Scotland and the rest of Britain which she "deeply regretted". She said the meeting of the Scottish cabinet on Saturday morning would "discuss our next steps in more detail".

Drivers 'could face rising petrol prices'.

Motoring organisation the AA took a similar view. It said: "Assuming that current market conditions persist over the next 10 to 14 days, the price of petrol at some fuel stations might be expected to rise by 2.25p a litre, or £1.25 a tank."

UK interest rate 'likely to hit zero' following Brexit.

UK interest rates are likely to hit zero in the next six months as the Bank of England moves to shore up the economy after the vote to leave the EU. David Tinsley, UK economist at UBS, said Brexit meant "sharply lower growth, a large drop in the pound, and further easing from the Bank of England".

Million sign petition for new EU referendum.

A petition calling for a second referendum on UK's membership of the EU has gained more than one million signatures following the vote to leave. The petition will be considered by Parliament as it has passed the required 100,000 threshold.

In a separate petition more than 100,000 people have called on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to declare the English capital independent from the UK and apply to join the EU. The page, set up by James O'Malley, states: "London is an international city, and we want to remain at the heart of Europe. Let's face it - the rest of the country disagrees. So rather than passive aggressively vote against each other at every election, let's make the divorce official and move in with our friends on the continent."

UK's EU commissioner Lord Hill to resign.

The UK's European Commissioner Lord Hill is to stand down, saying "what is done cannot be undone" after the UK voted to leave the European Union. In a statement, he said he did not believe it was right for him to carry on with his work as the commissioner in charge of financial services.

Sturgeon pledges to 'protect' Scottish EU interests.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she will seek "immediate discussions" with Brussels to "protect Scotland's place in the EU" after UK's vote to leave.

City firms may lose 'prized' EU access, says French Bank chief.

London's financial institutions risk losing their prized access to the EU if the UK leaves the single market, said the head of France's central bank. Francois Villeroy de Galhau said London's banks would lose their "financial passport", which allows them to trade freely in the EU. Earlier, the head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said banks would move outside the UK.

[It’s all going well then from the Brexit perspective. None of the above is anything to be afraid of apparently as things will calm down once people get used to the idea that yesterday we voted to become a third (or possibly fourth) world country.]

All details above from BBC News website.

In that moment, 130 miles in space, he ceased to be an American citizen and became a citizen of the planet. Every astronaut he knew felt the same. From out there it was so painfully, horribly obvious that mankind, squabbling and falling out like a pack of ignorant loutish children, was in danger of fouling its own nest. They were mindlessly overpopulating the planet, squandering its resources, filling it with deadly pollution. And all the while demanding more, grabbing more, pushing one another out of the way in a stupid, selfish, greedy scramble.

Trevor Hoyle: The Last Gasp (1983)  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Meanwhile on the day after the Referendum….. 

David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU.

Nicola Sturgeon says second Scottish independence vote 'highly likely'.

The pound has fallen to levels not seen since 1985 following the UK's referendum vote to leave the EU.

The FTSE 100 index began the day by falling more than 8%, then regained some ground to stand 2.5% lower.

The more UK-focused FTSE 250 fared even worse, down 8% in early afternoon trading.

Banks were hard hit, with Barclays and RBS falling about 30%, although they later pared losses to below 20%.

The pound's dramatic fall started overnight as the outcome of the referendum became clear. At one stage, it hit $1.3236, a fall of more than 10%.

By early afternoon, it had partially recovered, but was still nearly 8% down on the day.

"This is simply unprecedented, the pound has fallen off a cliff and the FTSE is now following suit," said Dennis de Jong, managing director of UFX.com.

"Britain's EU referendum has been a cloud hanging over the global economy for the past few months and that cloud has got very dark this morning.

"The markets despise uncertainty, yet that is exactly what they're faced with this morning. The shockwaves are likely to reverberate for some time and the warning lights are flashing brighter now than ever."

The FTSE 100's initial slump was its biggest one-day fall since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in October 2008.

Spain calls for joint control of Gibraltar.

Google has said there was a dramatic spike in searches for Irish passport applications as news of the UK's decision to leave the EU broke.

[….and that just day one – and we haven’t even started the process of leaving yet!]

All details above from BBC News website.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Just Finished Reading: Them and Us – Fighting the Class War 1910-1939 by John Newsinger (FP: 2015)

The period covered by this intriguing short book (a mere 175 pages long) is one that I know little about on the domestic front. So it went a long way to addressing that deficiency. However, being the kind of book it was – and the kind of book I expected it to be – it wasn’t long before I began to wonder at the veracity of the authors many, many examples of social and political unrest.

I was aware, for instance, that WW1 was not exactly strike free by a long way but I had no idea, and indeed had trouble accepting, that so many strikes occurred even in the munitions industry. Likewise I am aware of the General Strike of 1926 but was largely unaware at just how desperate a struggle it was, just how much effort the Government put into crushing it (aided by elements in the upper and middle classes who took great delight in ‘showing up’ the workers who they had no great respect for in the first place). I was also aware, partially through my father, that a warship was stationed in the Mersey Harbour with its guns pointing at the city during the police strike of 1919 and how the recently demobbed Army was brought in the supress it. Apparently it was three warships rather than one and the government made sure that the military units where new rather than hardened veterans who they thought were politically unreliable! Finally I was aware, also in 1919, that the Glasgow town hall briefly flew the red flag of revolution but didn’t realise that the British authorities literally had tanks on the streets to prevent a rebellion becoming an actual revolution – which apparently was for a good few years the British establishments greatest fear especially after the events in Russia after 1917.

Part of my natural scepticism over the claims in this book is, I freely admit, because of my ignorance of the period in question. I’m aware of some of it but that might just be the old adage of history being written by the victors. I suspect that there might be something in that. Another reason, apart from the too frequent use of exclamation marks and snide remarks about the establishment, that my scepticism remained intact throughout the book was the assertion that in the 30 years in question Britain came close to revolution on several occasions and only manage to avoid this fate by the narrowest of margins. This may be true but the reasons we failed to follow the example of Russia or even Germany during their brief revolutionary period seemed weak at best. The will of the people was there (apparently) but the potential leaders of the revolution were (apparently) not. Without a Lenin or a Trotsky the working class in Britain simply didn’t have the political firepower to take over and rule in its own name.

They are, however, interesting claims and I’m going to keep digging for a bit to see what kind of substance lies beneath. This isn’t going to be particularly easy as, it seems, this period has hardly warranted much research in recent years. I have a few general histories that cover this period and they might give me some much needed context but I need something a bit more substantial. I have picked up a book on the General Strike, written 50 years after the events, which should prove useful but I’ll need to see what else I can come up with. It’ll be an interesting investigation I’m guessing. Knowing that there appears to be a real dearth of books on this subject and this period in British political history I see this as a valuable contribution to that. It has definitely piqued my interest of the period and you’ll hear more of it in future.

I Have Voted.

I voted in the European Referendum on my way into work this morning - Remain, rather than Leave (as I've mentioned before). The results are due tomorrow and we should have a clear idea of what the percentages are when I blog next. My guess is a 52-48% split with the 52% voting Out. I'm also guessing that the turn out will be high with my estimate at 83%. I mean, even my Mother is voting and she hasn't done that (I think) since the 1970's! I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised but I'm too cynical about people to hold onto a great deal of hope. But in 24 hours we'll know the truth.