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Friday 6 March 2020

The effect of Covid-19 on Boris's programme

Covid-19 has already had the effect of downgrading a few of the Prime Minister's early objectives. His list for stuff to do in his first 100 days since 12th December surely cannot have included "deal with deadly pandemic". So what's gone, what isn't and what's been watered down?

No change. The crunch date is still June - when France needs to have withdrawn her silly demands in return for more money from the other 26. The only issue is keeping both teams disease free. And M Barnier, at 69, is at the age at which he should be staying in more.

There are signs of softening on both sides. I reckon the TV tax will be decriminalised, in effect a £200m fine for past naked bias, but longer term funding will be thrown into the long grass. Many just want the BBC to be  smaller, more efficient, cheaper and rid of its unacceptable bias. However, there are signs they still don't get it. Tony Hall is picking up on the 'diversity of thought' challenge, but the real challenge is that the BBC is a big, statist, centralist broadcaster that endogenously supports a big centralist State. Unless this changes, not much else will.

The Priti Patel row isn't about the Home Secretary at all. It's the attempted picking-off of a reformist big beast by the establishment that has captured the state. They will lose this battle, but the war is likely to be put on hold as the government will have genuine need of the command-and-control structures that Whitehall has in place permanently (instead of just temporarily for wars, plagues and pestilence). They're safe until Covid-19 reaches its conclusion.

Frankly, the suggestion that Parliament should be suspended to preserve the lives of MPs and peers is ludicrous. Giving the government emergency powers that MPs return every 28 days to renew, dressed no doubt in full-body suits, masks and visors, is too risible to consider. If carrying on as usual with anticipated absence rates of 20%, as the population is expected to do, is good enough for health workers it's good enough for MPs. Sure, six or seven of them may die (and rather more peers, but they have the choice between their attendance allowance and a risk of infection) but MPs are expendable - they themselves are not valuable, just the party selection made by their constituents. They must face the same risks as the rest of us. So any closure will be an abject betrayal of the nation and should not be considered. The Commons sat through the Blitz - a bloody little Chinese bug is nothing.


EU/EEA and the UK Cases    Deaths  
Italy 3089 107
France 285 4
Germany 262 0
Spain 200 1
United Kingdom 85 0
Norway 56 0
Netherlands 38 0
Sweden 35 0
Austria 29 0
Iceland 26 0
Belgium 23 0
Greece 10 0
Denmark 10 0
Croatia 9 0
Czech Republic 8 0
Finland 7 0
Ireland 6 0
Portugal 5 0
Romania 4 0
Hungary 2 0
Estonia 2 0
Lithuania 1 0
Slovenia 1 0
Liechtenstein 1 0
Luxembourg 1 0
Poland 1 0
Latvia 1 0
Total 4197 112

Thursday 5 March 2020

ERT - Still there, still protectionist

Imagine the CBI writ large - a vocal, well-funded pro-remain lobby group for the global corporates, on a European rather on a national scale, and you have the ERT, the European Round Table. The ERT don't just have a lobby presence in Brussels, they're on the inside track. No directive is rubber stamped by the unelected officials unless it's had the nod from the ERT. And no, Brexit has made no difference to UK-HQ'd companies with rotating memberships. Right now, it's the turn of Centrica, Rolls-Royce, Rio Tinto, AstraZeneca, BP and Vodafone.

As I hinted at yesterday, there's a new EU Industrial Strategy due out on March 10th, and the ERT is like a Labrador that's just found a fresh cow pat. In December, the EU already agreed to put €3.2bn of taxpayers' money into an €8bn state-aided vehicle battery scheme, a 'Project of Common European Interest', and the eyes of the EU's defence companies are on stalks anticipating billions of state aid following budget agreement. The Industrial strategy promises not just oodles more state aid for the EU's 'champion' companies, which you bet have already been agreed behind closed doors, but a relaxation on regulation, particularly relating to mergers and acquisitions. No more silly fuss about Alstom and Siemens getting married, no more worry about Europe's consumers or the future of its SMEs.

The ERT's agenda is published here and I won't quote it. Given Michael O'Leary's foul-mouthed whining to the press in recent days, bemoaning the €1.3bn state aid that's already gone to Alitalia, the German state aid that has favoured Lufthansa and the EU approach to competition. It's the sort of grouch one hears at the end of an unsuccessful pitch from the losers. I'm betting Ryan Air is just a tiddler not even worthy of the ERT and EU's consideration for state aid billions. You may note that the Irish company has current orders for 210 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The prospect of picking up some of FlyBe's slots may this morning have tempered the profanities, but with Covid-19 grounding passengers, perhaps not. Oh. And the Labrador-coating O'Leary was predicting for the outcome of the Brexit talks? That, I'm guessing, is aimed at nervous investors. My advice - book BA.


Country Cases    Deaths  
Italy 2502 80
France 212 4
Germany 196 0
Spain 151 0
United Kingdom 51 0
Switzerland 37 0
Norway 33 0
Netherlands 28 0
Sweden 24 0
Austria 24 0
Iceland 16 0
Belgium 13 0
San Marino 10 1
Croatia 9 0
Denmark 8 0
Greece 7 0
Finland 7 0
Czech Republic 5 0
Portugal 4 0
Romania 4 0
Ireland 2 0
Estonia 2 0
Latvia 1 0
Andorra 1 0
Poland 1 0
Luxembourg 1 0
Monaco 1 0
Lithuania 1 0
Total 3351 85

Wednesday 4 March 2020

EU shoots itself in the foot. Again.

Pushed off the front pages by Covid-19, the EU trade deal talks have ramped up the threat and bluster from across the Channel. The first exclusion to note is that the UK has removed any discussion of defence and security co-operation from a possible agreement. Police and justice matters are included, as is a commitment to co-operation in tackling terrorist threats, but what's missing are the plums the EU wanted.

Even more than an EU army, they want an EU defence industry to rival the big US arms firms. What they have been trying to do is to handicap the UK's ability to use state aid to boost our domestic arms industry by shackling us to EU rules whilst quietly agreeing to drive a bulldozer through state aid rules themselves by sponsoring EU 'champions' in fields including defence development. You can be sure they have already picked half a dozen big EU27 firms for 'boosting'. They wanted our money and expertise, but after their behaviour on Galileo the government have told them to go whistle.

Both military and diplomatic co-operation agreements are out. The UK's position is that we are members of NATO, that EU members should pay their 2% rather than buggering around playing toy soldiers, and that the UK will co-operate on an ad-hoc basis outside of NATO on military and diplomatic matters as and when it suits us. With no silly 'dynamic' agreement governed by the Berlaymont waved in our faces.

The EU's overly risk-averse approach to anything new means that the world's Artificial Intelligence, big data and Biotech investors aren't going to put their post-Covid money into the EU27. Without a single university in the world's top 20 (the UK has 4) there are few centres of research excellence anyway in the EU, and the bloc's restraints and development caution will throw a heavy blanket over innovation and drive the cleverest innovators out of Europe. Some hope of any world-beating defence development coming out of the EU27.

Well, they had their chance. They took advantage of the UK's political weakness under the abysmal Cameron and even more abysmal May and now they must face the consequences.

EU/EEA, the UK, San Marino, Monaco, Switzerland, Andorra 3/3/20

Cases    Deaths  
Italy 1835 52
France 178 3
Germany 157 0
Spain 114 0
United Kingdom 40 0
Switzerland 30 0
Norway 25 0
Netherlands 18 0
Austria 18 0
Sweden 15 0
San Marino 8 1
Belgium 8 0
Croatia 8 0
Greece 7 0
Iceland 6 0
Finland 6 0
Czech Republic 5 0
Denmark 5 0
Romania 3 0
Portugal 2 0
Andorra 1 0
Lithuania 1 0
Monaco 1 0
Latvia 1 0
Ireland 1 0
Estonia 1 0
Luxembourg 1 0
Total 2495 56

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Britain -v- France? Not really.

Macron is fighting for his political life at the moment, and is setting-up his fellow EU26 colleagues for a sub. The Brexit talks in which France has set impossible targets for M Barnier are really not at all about Brexit, as is becoming clear. Barely £2.6bn of the EU's trade surplus of £66bn is France's, so unlike Germany and Spain she has little to lose. He knows he has no chance of the UK giving up our fishing rights, or of becoming a rule-taker, and even less chance of our subjecting ourselves to the ECJ. So why give M Barnier such unachievable objectives?

France has the biggest State in Europe, with tax at the EU's highest rate of 48.4% of GDP. Her farmers and fishers are heavily subsidised by Europe's taxpayers and by raiding UK waters. These advantages are set to be challenged post-Brexit, and you can be sure that the EU budget process for the next seven year cycle will not have decided anything by June, the crunch date for the Brexit talks. Macron will obstruct and clog up EU deliberations, using his veto as required, until it is clear Barnier is unable to achieve his brief.

Macron's plan is that at this point the remaining EU26 will agree to bung even more wodge in France's direction to enable Macron to pay-off his farmers and fishers and soften pension reform. Add to this even more money that he wants for France now being the EU's only credible military member, for the 26 to buy into his seat at the UN and his Force de frappe. Then he'll agree an EU-UK trade deal.

However, if this much is apparent to us, you can bet it's also crystal clear to the Frugal Five (Austria, Denmark Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) and particularly to Germany - whose taxpayers will have to pay for France's relaxed lifestyle. Will Macron win? Who knows. Now it's getting interesting.

EU/EEA, the UK, San Marino, Monaco and Switzerland 2/3/20

Cases    Deaths  
Italy 1689 35
France 130 2
Germany 129 0
Spain 83 0
United Kingdom 36 0
Switzerland 24 0
Norway 19 0
Austria 14 0
Sweden 14 0
Netherlands 13 0
San Marino 8 1
Croatia 7 0
Greece 7 0
Finland 6 0
Denmark 4 0
Romania 3 0
Czech Republic 3 0
Iceland 3 0
Belgium 2 0
Ireland 1 0
Luxembourg 1 0
Estonia 1 0
Lithuania 1 0
Monaco 1 0
Total 2199 38

Monday 2 March 2020

PM right to reject EU Trojan Horses

The EU are desperate to retain some measure of control over the UK. In this they are ably assisted by a fifth-column of public service officials in the UK who will lobby fervently for the continuance of democratic anomalies such as the European Arrest Warrant and of membership of such bodies as Europol.

The Telegraph reports today that the PM has rejected a move by Health officials to maintain membership of the EU Early Warning and Response System (EWRS). They were attempting to use Covid-19 as leverage to continue some measure of EU management and control of the UK's health response capacity. We are quite right to reject such Trojan Horse attempts.

Inevitably, such subserviences are unnecessary. We don't need Europol because we're members of Interpol. Interpol allows co-operation in criminal investigation and enforcement between sovereign nations; Europol is the federal police agency of the EU. Big difference.

As with the EWRS. We continue to be part of the health 'Interpol', the WHO, which co-ordinates information sharing, warning dissemination and international funding and assistance. WHO also publishes the international daily case tally for Covid-19. If you want a European perspective, you can look at the EU's ECDPC site. They're not so stupid to publish only the WHO's figures for EU nations or to exclude the UK from lists of emergency contacts and laboratory resources - a virus knows no borders, and European doctors and medical authorities are also quite capable of co-operating with each other without the controlling hand of the EU.

Here is the daily update for 1st March - excluding the 13 new cases yesterday for the UK

EU/EEA, the UK, San Marino, Monaco and Switzerland

Cases    Deaths  
Italy 1128 29
Germany 111 0
France 100 2
Spain 66 0
United Kingdom 23 0
Switzerland 18 0
Norway 15 0
Sweden 13 0
Austria 10 0
Netherlands 7 0
Greece 7 0
Croatia 5 0
Romania 3 0
Denmark 3 0
Finland 3 0
Estonia 1 0
Monaco 1 0
Iceland 1 0
Luxembourg 1 0
Ireland 1 0
Belgium 1 0
San Marino 1 0
Lithuania 1 0
Total 1520 31