We knew the stakes


We won the argument, but the EU diehards will not accept it.  These people now claim that Leave did not have a majority of ALL registered voters, even though that was never the criterion.  In fact, by that criterion we would have been without a government for most of our history because a proportion never bother to vote (I have been one of those sometimes when I did not prefer any of the alternatives on offer), and the rest of the votes are split between a number of parties.  Further, we would never have stayed in the EU in 1975 because the yes vote failed to reach 50 per cent of the electorate …. Yes, it’s all nonsense, but this is the sort of extreme argument that is being proffered  to justify not leaving the EU.

I came across another weird argument while distributing some leaflets in a door to door campaign (my first ever).  One Remainer claimed the vote was lost by only 1 vote so it was a random outcome and if the vote were held again and just one person changed their mind (the Remainer way, of course) then the result would be different.  We should not therefore leave the EU!  Words fail me.

Another argument has been that there was no mention of the Single Market or the Customs Union on the voting paper so there was no vote in favour of leaving them.   Well, it is true there was no mention of these aspects of EU policies, but we were not voting on individual policies or individual institutions on a line by line basis.  We were voting to leave the EU and everything it entailed.  We expected, if we won, that there would be many areas of co-operation between ourselves and the EU states in our mutual interest, but that would be subject to a separate negotiation.  The first thing to do was LEAVE.

Unfortunately, although we won, we had a Remain majority Government and  a Remain majority opposition – a Parliament, in fact, that did not want to leave the EU or to implement the result of the Referendum. For nearly three years we have been deceived by the Conservative Government which has consistently lied about its intentions.  For this, Theresa May must take full responsibility.  Her “No Deal is better than a Bad Deal” has reversed 180 degrees into “A Bad Deal is better than No Deal”.  It reminds me of the pigs in Animal Farm. When the animals took over the farm, the slogan was “Four legs good, two legs bad” but the pig leadership decided to emulate the humans they had displaced, and set themselves above the other animals on the farm, and eventually walked (not very well) on two legs.  The slogan then morphed into “Four legs good, two legs better”. So yes, Mrs May, you are no better than those pigs who betrayed and exploited all the other animals on the farm.

It would be some compensation if we had a principled Opposition which could keep the Prime Minister honest. But we haven’t.  The Corbyn approach appears to be to exploit every division in the Conservative Party in the hope of forcing a General Election, while himself denying the validity of the Referendum result.  The Liberal Party has at least been consistent. It has consistently made it clear that it regards vassalage to Brussels as an honour, that it wants no liberty for this country, and that it would do everything possible to stop this country leaving the European Union.  Full marks for consistency, nul points (French pronunciation please) for patriotism.  Has this country ever in its history been so ill-served by its so-called leaders?

All these MPs and the parasites in the House of Lords should mark what the Prime Minister solemnly said about the historic Referendum, and then perhaps they might – just might, through their extremely thick skins – understand the depth of anger that exists in the country at their behaviour.




The over-hyped EU Customs Union

Representative or enemy of the People?
Representative or enemy of the People?

June the 24th 2016 was a memorable day.  It was a day we thought would never come in  our lifetimes, but it had happened.  The results of the previous day’s Referendum came through and the country had voted to leave the European Union.  Despite all the Government propaganda, financed whether we liked it or not by us taxpayers, and despite the threats, the economic “forecasts” of financial Armageddon, and almost the entire establishment, especially the BBC, putting its weight behind the Remain campaign, and spinning every story into disaster should we vote to leave, the majority of the population had chosen “Leave”.  After over 40 years of being ruled by the unelected Commission in Brussels and its technocrats, the people had decided they had had enough.  They had voted to leave for a variety of reasons, some social, some cultural, some economic, some political, some environmental.  They had different ideas too on exactly what sort of Britain should emerge when full statehood was regained. But that did not matter.  The common denominator of their opinion was that Britain and its people would be better off outside the EU.  Leaving was the necessary first step in all scenarios.

Leaving the EU meant taking back control of its laws, of its borders, of its budget.  Most people are not well versed in all the institutions of the EU – in fact, the same could be said of many journalists and politicians – but for the people who voted to leave, it did not matter.  Leaving meant no longer being subject to the laws and regulations of a foreign organisation.  The single market, the customs union, the European Court of Justice, these were just other manifestations of the political body which for too long had made our laws.  It did not matter if one did not know the dictionary definition of their powers; it was enough to know that we preferred democracy and to make our own laws.  The prime minister of the time (now forgotten) and his chancellor (George somebody or other) had made it clear that leaving the EU meant leaving all the institutions through which the EU controlled its territories.  And that is what we voted for.

The Establishment was stunned by this turn of events.  How dare the ignorant mob ignore their wise counsel! This majority were clearly xenophobes, racists, stupid and ignorant – not fit to take any decisions.  That incidentally had always been the view of EU officials and leaders of other member states.  They had all advised our PM – their errand boy – against holding a Referendum because the result might not be what they wanted.  The “elite” must make the decisions on behalf of the masses, who could be kept anaesthetised by a diet of mind-numbing televised sport, game shows and other dumbed down material that the TV channels push out (one of the largest of which is the state-owned Establishment channel, the BBC), and kept sweet by a strategic subsidy placed here and there when disaffection threatened (all paid for by us taxpayers,of course).  Initially routed by the result, in complete disarray, the Establishment tried to establish its democratic credentials by saying they accepted the result.  The People had spoken, let it be so.  In fact, that was a refrain which was to recur, even when they had regrouped and decided on their strategy to undermine the result.  Never let it be said they weren’t democrats!

What was their strategy?  So simple.  It was to argue that leaving the customs union and the single market was not on the ballot paper and therefore there was no mandate to leave these institutions.  We could leave the EU, politically, and lose our voice at the table, but we should stay bound economically to Brussels, still paying in £15bn per year and increasing, still restricted in our trading arrangements with the rest of the world, still subject to all the rules and regulations that Brussels decided to impose on us – in short, changing nothing for the better but actually becoming a client state of the Brussels machine.

This has been the theme of the resistance to leaving the EU for the past year.  Those with power and influence have been pushing this line relentlessly.  Conservative MPs like Clarke (he with the big business directorships), Soubry and Greive; the Liberal “Democrats” of course lead by Cable and Cleggy; the entire Civil Service, and the Treasury in particular, it seems, which is still pushing out ridiculous economic forecasts of catastrophe should we dare leave; the Bank of England lead by a Canadian who knows nothing of this country except what he sees from his luxury central London apartment paid for by us, and whose friends and advisors are all from the Establishment who do not want any change in the status quo; the BBC, that home of the mostly mediocre (with some outstanding exceptions) and the politically correct, run by people on enormous salaries and financed by all of us whether we watch or listen to their programmes or not, a state organisation that has a vast assured income which enables it to limit the growth of competitors; the CBI, that sturdy representative of some businesses that think it is the country’s duty to ensure their flow of dividends and bonuses is not disrupted by them having to look beyond their comfortable rut; and now the Labour party.  Notwithstanding that so many of their supporters voted to leave the EU, and that initially the Corbyn leadership supported that view, the difficulties of the Government in commanding a majority in the Commons has encouraged Corbyn to oppose anything and everything the Government proposes with the hope that he can force a general election and be swept to power on a mixture of anti-Conservative and anti-Brexit sentiment.  To that end he supports the UK remaining in an EU customs union (a neat hedge that – the indefinite rather than the definite article), effectively strangling any independent trade policy, and ensuring this country is still tied to the regulatory framework that we voted to leave.

According to these people, moving away from the friendly embrace of the single market and the customs union would mean exposing us to the cold winds of a competitive global market. But what is the evidence that these policy frameworks have been better for us than living in a global market?  Yes, the CBI can point to the flood of cheap labour which flowed in and made their businesses more competitive and increased their profitability. But since when have the profits of a company equated to the social welfare of a country?  They exist to make money for the owners and top executives.  Any well-paid employment they generate is an incidental benefit to the country, but not one which is their goal. Companies have a very narrow outlook and what is good for them is not necessarily good for society. They argue that they need access to skilled labour via the single market, but the single market precludes them from tapping into the skilled labour from 90 per cent of the world.  And what we get is mostly unskilled labour driving down wages for the unskilled and deskilled UK worker.

Academics argue that they will no longer be able to collaborate with their colleagues on the continent – an amazing argument when one considers that the exchange of information via the internet has never been easier and is not subject to any restrictions.  No, what these academics are going to miss are the subsidised jollies and the specious collaboration between European universities which is not driven by research needs but by EU grants and subsidies (paid for by us, of course).  There is a whole world out there in N America, Asia, Australasia where ground-breaking research is being undertaken not to mention the lessons that can be learned from some universities in S America and S. Africa.  The whole world should be their oyster, rather than limiting themselves to the politically chosen few in Europe.

Politicians of course have narrow self interest at heart.  Those that want to lock this country into the Brussels hegemony see career opportunities for themselves or fall-back positions when they fail at home (look at the Kinnocks, Patton and Mandelson).   It is also an easy life for them if all decisions are made behind closed doors.  Either that or they are cowed by the idea of standing up and taking responsibility.  And that is true for the civil service too. Anything for an easy life, even if the people of this country have to bear the cost in terms of lower income, lower opportunity, ever increasing regulation, and rapid cultural change.

“Lower opportunity? “some will ask incredulously. “We have the right to live and work in other EU countries, a privilege we will lose if we leave the EU or the single market.”  That is half right and half wrong.  They are right that they are in a privileged position by their educational and language skills, a position that 95 per cent of the UK’s population does not have.  THESE must cope with a cultural influx which threatens their way of life and their jobs.  But the spoiled, selfish minority are wrong in thinking that the EU will be closed to them after Brexit.  If they have the skills, they will get the jobs (there is no bar to non-EU citizens working in the EU – yet), and further they will have far more opportunities in the big wide world where the other 95 per cent of the world’s population live, with far more cultural variety, if that is what they really want (as many claim).

Underlying all the resistance to Brexit and a complete break with all EU institutions is fear of change bred by laziness, selfishness (“I’m all right, Jack”) and a lack of confidence in themselves.  Remainers want the security of a large and all-embracing bloc, where everything, everywhere will tend towards the same centrist blandness, and policy is determined by those at the centre (a self-styled “elite”) with wisdom. It’s a vision where decision-making is handed over lock, stock and barrel to a minority, and the only call on the individual is to turn out once every 4 or 5 years to cast a vote for the toothless national parliament or the Commission’s tame talking shop, the European Parliament just to give the illusion of democracy.  This is probably why our ex-PMs like Major (the hypocritical grey man) and Blair (who deceived and defied the entire country with his war in Iraq) like it so much.

One cannot quell the fears of the irrational or the naturally fearful, but one can provide them with some evidence that they have misread the picture.  Let’s take the benefits of the single market & customs union which according to Remainers we could not afford to lose:  out of the customs union we apparently could not sell to other EU countries.  Well, in 1972, the year before we joined the Common Market as we called it then, when UK exporters faced extremely high EU tariffs as well as non-tariff barriers like regulatory differences and plain discrimination, 40 per cent of our exports went to the 6 countries of the European Economic Community (EEC).  At the same time, 41 per cent of our imports came from those countries.  We were an important trading partner of the bloc even though we were outside it.

The UK then embarked on a six-year transitional arrangement on its way to full alignment with the EEC in 1979.  Our tariffs were increased in stages against imports from the rest of the world (RoW) to align with EEC tariffs, and at the same time our tariffs against EEC products were reduced in stages to zero.  Here was a huge change in the incentive structure for exporters and importers in favour of the EEC.  The outcome was predictable – an increase in UK-EEC trade and a reduction in UK- ROW trade.  By 1979, our share of trade with the EEC had increased to 50 per cent for exports, and 51 per cent for imports, so it was as important as non-EEC trade.

That rate of increase in EU (EEC)-UK trade in the transition period proved to be the fastest in our 45 year relationship with the EU.  Over the next 20 years, EU trade as a percent of all trade hovered between 47 and 58 per cent but averaged 53 per cent.  Considering all the supposed advantages to trade that the EU represented (physical proximity, no tariffs, no regulatory or political discrimination) it was barely able to keep ahead of trade with the rest of the world which was many times more distant and discriminated against with tariffs and non-tariff barriers.  This would surprise people like Cleggy who thinks that one trades most with one’s neighbours (yes, he said that) when in fact one trades most with people who have something you cannot produce yourself or something you want, at a competitive price.  What really puts these figures into context is that during this period the EU had added another 6 countries (Greece, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland and Austria) so the EU market was 45 per cent larger in population terms than in 1975.  But the relative importance of the EU market, apparently so highly advantageous to us, was virtually unchanged.

Now what happened after the EU introduced their political flagship project, the Euro, in 1999?   At that time, the EU accounted for 53 per cent of our exports and 54 per cent of our imports.  Sixteen years later, in 2015[1] the EU had expanded from 15 to 28 countries and its population had increased by another 35 per cent[2] so there was this huge market accessible by the UK on the most favourable terms imaginable.  And what was its importance to us in terms of exports?  It had fallen to 44 per cent.  Exports to the rest of the world have increased at a much faster rate.  Import trade had managed to maintain its 1980s share of 53 per cent, but measured against the large increase in the size of this so-called favourable market, it was actually in relative decline.  The single market and the customs union are of declining importance to us, tradewise, and have been for 30 years.  However, because the EU is a political project, its adherents try to stress its economic importance even though any analysis shows that year by year it is becoming less and less relevant for our capacity to trade.

I know too many numbers can confuse people, so here at the end I summarise in tabular form the annual growth of exports and imports with the EU and the rest of the world (RoW) since 1999.  The numbers speak for themselves and must be seen against an EU population increasing at a faster rate than world population, a frightening prospect in itself, and all the favourable trading terms that exist between EU member states.   Exports first (and apologies for the fuzziness of the tables below and the text boxes above but that is the price of this free WordPress software):

UK exports to the rest of the world are increasing at a much faster rate than to the EU, AND the percent we export to the EU is virtually the same as it was in 1973 when we joined.  But on this the Remainers are naturally silent.

And on imports the picture is almost the same, though not marked.  It’s funny how such facts elude the Remainers and they prefer to concentrate on abuse of Leavers and scaremongering, anything in fact which they believe will weaken the belief of Leavers in their own country.

If the UK can expand its trade faster with the rest of the world while an EU member, how much faster can it expand when we are freed from the controls of the EU Customs Union.  Anyone who denies this is a recidivist of the first order, a die-hard against change, and frankly the pathetic sort of person that relies on Big Brother (whether the UK Establishment or the Brussels machine) to keep things cosy for them as long as they toe Big Brother’s line.  We are worth more than that.

[1] Latest available data for this trade series.  All data from UK’s Office for National Statistics.

[2] The EU market in terms of population had doubled since 1975 when the UK was “transitioning”.

In Praise of Binker

Binker died on Sunday morning, August 13th, 2017 after suffering an apparent stroke during the night.  Binker was strong, very fit, and never gave any sign of his age – he would have been eleven in December – so his death was a terrible shock to us.

Binkie was not an easy character – after the age of one when his hormones stated racing, he could be defiant and aggressive.  Even castration at the age of two did little to change him (though he did stop chasing all the females in the neighbourhood).  We had a number of crises with him when, mistaking his mood, we had tried to get him to do something he obviously did not want to do.  In our inexperience, we went too far for Binker, and we suffered a few bites on the way.  He also had a penchant for biting visitors – a quick nip from behind on the calf to assert his territorial dominance.  The mayor’s wife, a B&B guest, a casual caller and Gilbert the shearer were all casualties of Binker’s in this way.  I received much more substantial bites on the thigh and arms when on 3 or 4 occasions I attempted to assert MY dominance, and the marks would remain for a couple of months.  Why then did we keep him?

Simple.  Most of the time he was a most affectionate dog, and an integral part of the family.  He was an excellent guard dog – Carol always felt secure at home with him there, especially if I were away – and a great companion in the countryside, where he belonged naturally.  Away from  home, he was never a threat to anyone.  People I met on walks were amazed when I told them that this friendly dog could be a terror if they met him on his home territory.  He could be trusted absolutely with all farm animals, especially sheep and poultry and even domesticated rabbits.Binker and the geese

Binker and the sheep

Once I had made clear the rabbits were part of the household he never touched them, and even when I released one to join its wild brethren in the valley, Binker knew which was which and only chased the wild ones.  I ascribed his shortcomings to our lack of experience in bringing him up.  After all, a spoilt child is the fault of the parents, not the child.  I did learn to recognise his mood, and  the different levels of gradation that would lead to a bite, and

Binker down the valley with untroubled sheep

so I usually managed him to avoid the extreme confrontations.  Others did not understand this and were on the receiving end.  The French dog trainer, a big, strong, rather arrogant man, in the end retreated ignominiously from Binker’s snap.  And Peter, my brother in law, after a week of Binker lying adoringly at his feet, misunderstood Binker’s intense territorial instincts and, despite our warning, went to touch Binker in his den (the boot of the car) and received a deep bite to his arm.  Most owners would have had him put down after one of these incidents.  And after one, indeed, Carol insisted that he would have to go and I had the heartbreaking task of taking him to the vet for the lethal injection.  I cried all the way into Aunay, barely able to see the road through my tears.  Out of the car he jumped in Aunay, opposite the vet, blissfully unaware of what was in store for him, and trotted with me across the road.  It was a Saturday morning and normally the vet’s would be open.  But today it was closed!  It was a public holiday which I had not realised (we rarely did in France, living our life at La Vauterie quite separate from the daily life of the surrounding area).  And so Binker was thankfully reprieved and Carol accepted him back into the household.

Binker 2016
Young Binker
Binker with B&B guest – he took to this young lady from Romania

Binker was a Korthals Griffon (http://www.griffonkorthals.fr), a hunting dog of medium size (30-32kg).  In the winter he had his long shaggy coat, and looked relatively stocky.  Shorn in summer he was like a lean, silky smooth racing thoroughbred.  His colouring was most attractive: large, brown, velvety, floppy ears, his head mostly rich brown but with a blonde beard/moustache, and his body a superb mixture of greys and white, with the hint of brown in various places.  He was an extremely handsome dog, a complete eye catcher.IMG_0586

Binker at 3 months

In the early days at La Vauterie, he would go for a “walk” with me after breakfast and late afternoon or evening down to the river and back through the woods and along the property boundary to the sacred lake.  Sometimes he would get an extra one thrown in.  I was, of course, doing the walking and Binker was doing the bounding, and sniffing, and chasing.

Binker by the firs
Binker by the firs
Binks in the wood
A frosty day by the river
Binker by the sacred lake
Binker in the rising river


After the first year or two, he rarely stayed with me the whole course.  Once at the river and turning for home, he was off, racing back to Carol, whom he regarded as his natural master.  By the age of 6 or 7 this walk no longer interested him, and he refused to go with me.   So I went on my own – my daily commune with nature, watching the changing patterns, marvelling at the fact that everything I saw I owned, and making my plans for coming hedging, fencing, cutting, etc.  And it was at this time that Carol decided she needed some brisk walking for health reasons, so she would take Binker on the lead on her circuit via the village.  And Binker loved it.  As soon as Carol picked up the lead he would be jumping in the air like a pony.  Most strange I thought.  He had hardly had a lead in his life because there was no need at La Vauterie, but here he was eager for it.  Looking back, I can see he got bored with the same old walk, and he wanted more variety beyond our 14 acres.

There was one curious incident when he was very young – about 6-9 mths at a guess – when he disappeared entirely from the house and its surrounds.  When he never returned, I started a thorough search of the entire property right down to the river.  There was a rumble of thunder in the air, and I thought perhaps this might have frightened him.  So I called his name all the way down the valley and through the woods, but there was no response.  And then I suddenly stumbled upon him, curled up in a grove of pine trees.   He seemed frightened or distant and I never understood why he never responded to my calls.  He had been missing over two hours and he certainly knew the way home well enough.  I put it down to the thunder or the first hormonal stirrings of independence.

We lived only 40 minutes from the Normandy  beaches so out of the main holiday season we would often take Binker to Arromanches (Gold Beach).  When the tide was out, but incoming, Binker would race along in the shallow waves chasing the fish coming in on the tide. He would go completely out of sight on occasions – it’s a very long beach.

Binker racing after fish
Binker at Gold Beach
Binker responding to our call

Also at about the age of 3, Carol decided he wasn’t getting enough exercise, and one evening she took him in the car down to the bottom of the lane and let him out.  She drove home and Binker raced after her.  It was only about 600 yards but he seemed the better for it.  And so it became a regular evening exercise, and I soon took it over, and extended it as far as the crossroads beyond Le Moulin, which was as far as one could go while keeping on the little-used, quiet lanes.  And this routine of an evening run of about 2kms became established, summer and winter, for the rest of the time we were at La Vauterie -about six years.   It probably played a key part in Binker’s fitness.  He would hare off as soon as he was let out of the boot, and soon be out of sight if one did not jump back in the car quickly and get after him.  Sometimes he was distracted by an animal – a fox, a badger, deer, or rabbit (and once a herd of wild pigs) – and would disappear over the fields, but he had an unerring instinct for home and while I might wait for him to reappear, he would usually have found his own way back to the house long before me.  The usual pattern, though was for me to follow behind him at a speed of 20-30 kph.  In his early days he would reach 40 kph, especially if he thought I might overtake him.  He always wanted to be in front, whether on these evening runs or on our many walks.  And I preferred it that way since I could keep an eye on him and watch out for any car (fortunately rare) coming in the opposite direction.

I thought that these evening runs would end once we returned to the overcrowded roads of England, and they did for a time when we lived near Crediton.  But our next move to Westworthy near North Tawton took us to a much quieter part of Devon, and I soon discovered I could resume the evening runs.  This time it was the run up from Bondleigh Bridge just over a mile away, and in the summer this run was usually after a walk from the bridge to Clapper Woods along the river.  Binker wanted the run even if he had had a good walk during the day.  And he did get some good walks, mostly over Dartmoor which was just 20 minutes away.  No longer having any land maintenance responsibilities, I was able to plan long walks, and Binker was the ideal companion.  No walk was too long for him, no weather too bad.  And he never argued about the route!   I had some wonderful walks with him to the different tors of North Dartmoor, including a search for Cranmere Pool and the Ted Hughes Memorial Stone.

Binker at Cranmere Pool Letterbox. April 2017
Binker at Cranmere Pool


Ted Hughes memorial stone – close to Taw River source. April 2017
Binker on Oke Tor, April 2017
Cal & Binker on Dartmoor
Cal & Binker on Yes Tor, February 2017
Binker at Belstone 3
Binker at Belstone, January 2017
Binker above Cullever Bridge Dec 22 2016
Binker above Cullever Bridge, Dec 2016

He could scramble up all but the highest rocks so we would often have a sandwich lunch together on top of a tor.  And, of course, I never had to worry in the slightest that he might chase or worry the sheep on the moor, unlike many dogs that had be kept leashed by their owners.

Binker’s temperament certainly caused us many difficulties and we never knew when there might be a confrontation over getting him to bed at night. But it was part of his independent outlook, which I very much admired, even while I was battling it.  There was nothing cur-like about Binker.  I think I enjoyed his company more because he was so independent minded and occasionally defiant.  I recognised a fellow member of the awkward squad.  It was never a traditional master-dog relationship, more a matter of equals -at least from my perspective.  Binker may well have thought that he was in charge!

One could never forget Binker’s presence.  Not for him a a quiet withdrawal into a corner of the room to await a call to action.  He liked to sprawl on the rug in front of the woodburner, a space he regarded as his own.  And we were happy to see him there – it was his home as much as ours, and it was a very contented scene.  In fact, he tended to sprawl wherever he lay down so he was not a dog one could miss.  The only time he curled up into a compact form was when he went to bed in the entree (which was deliberately kept cool) or when he slept outside.

2014-07-18 Binker & Tiggy in kitchen
Sprawling in the kitchen

He also made his presence felt through an array of sounds  for different circumstances and moods: obviously his deep bark at the approach of anyone coming down the drive or even someone going along the lane 70 yards away was enough to waken the dead or make one jump out of one’s skin if concentrating on something else.  Then there was his Kevin-like grunt “Uuuhhh” as he flopped down in disappointment when he realised there was going to be no immediate action.  He had a mewing sound when licking himself, and a mew-whine mixture when he could smell a bone or similar on a worktop and which he knew from experience was ultimately destined for him; his full-on whine came when he was locked in somewhere or trapped and unable to get out, as in the barn.  He could also howl like a wolf, something he always did when Carol played or sung a certain Mika song. In fact, in the end, one would only have to say the word Relax in a high pitch and Binker would start his wolf howl.  There is a Youtube video of him somewhere singing along to Mika (link here). His deep growl, of course, was an unforgetable warning not to cross him!  He never bothered making a noise when he wanted to get into the house – he would just scratch with his great “plaw” on the door, knowing that we could not bear that and would do something pronto.  There was also his Mew-Mew noise when he agitated to go for a walk.

Binker was very much like a coiled up spring, ready to shoot off at a moment’s notice.  An apparently sleeping dog would transform himself in seconds when he saw one of us put on a coat or shoes.  At these times he became so excited that we had to put him outside while we finished getting ready because he really was unmanageable otherwise.  However, if we were going to the shops and we could not take him with us, all we had to say was “shops” and he would immediately quieten, sit, and look at us with reproachful eyes.  If we ever had to be away for a few hours, as we had to on some of our house viewing days, we would look forward as much as Binker to getting home and being greeted by our doggie.  He made home really feel like a home.

The house is now quiet, too quiet, without him.  We miss him dreadfully.  The one thing we are thankful for, though, is that he had no lingering illness, no drawn out decline into infirmity.  He was vigorous to the end.  We simply could not imagine Binker ever being a slow old dog.  He died peacefully in his sleep, a matter of 8 hours after he disturbed us in the early hours of the morning when he had clearly lost his orientation.  We could not bear the thought of cremation and wanted  him buried.  But where?  Our problem was solved by Carolyn Richards, the owner of Westworthy, who allowed us to bury Binkie in a corner of the little woodland there.  It was the only place in England that had felt like home to Binker.


Cal & Binker in Springtime by the river – around 2008
Binker at La Vauterie
Binker by the new kitchen
Cal & Binker Oct 26 2016
On our walk to Sidmouth, Sept 2016
Cal & Binker in the sitting room before renovations – around 2010

And now that mighty heart is lying still.

The €50 billion publicity fund

Has there ever been a bigger publicity fund in the history of the world?  A billion euros spent on average every week in promoting the role and virtue of the European Union!  No wonder there are so many people out there who have been  duped, deluded, brainwashed and hypnotised into thinking the EU is the benefactor of all and the people’s defence against their own wicked, money-pinching governments.

Of course, the EU does not publicise the fact that it has such a huge publicity budget.  That would defeat its objective.  So they call this money the Structural Funds, and they spread it around the regions of every member state under the pretence of improving their economic lot.  Some of this money will certainly improve the lot of some people in the regions – those consultants and firms that get contracts to undertake some public function, and those publicly funded organisations that get an extra lease of life from an injection of funds.  But the amount of economic benefit that filters down to the general population is usually quite small, and certainly small in relation to the total expenditure.  But this does not matter, because the principle objective of these funds is to promote the EU.

How can I say this?  Well, it is not me that says it, it is there in the words of European Commission. Take Regulation 1828/2006 which sets out the provisions for the Structural Funds (which are actually five separate funds).  There are 55 Articles governing the use of the Funds, and Articles 2-10, right up front, govern the publicity requirements for any project funded by the EU.  Most of the rest of the Articles are about control systems on where and how the money is spent.  One would have thought that the most important aspect of any project would be to produce benefits for the target population. But to such benefits there is no reference.  It is just about expenditure, which for a Eurocrat (and indeed bureaucrats everywhere) is always a key objective.  And the publicity. 

Project beneficiaries, those that receive the money directly, are told:

Meeting the publicity requirements set by the Commission is part of the formal Funding Agreement, and failure to publicise the European Regional Development Fund support could result in projects having to repay grant. This has happened in the past, so meeting the publicity requirements should be taken very seriously.   

No such threat is ever made for a failed or inadequate project.

What is this publicity requirement?  Here is a sample in the Eurocrats’ own words:

Strict publicity requirements have been set by the European Commission which must be followed by anyone developing and delivering projects, or managing the Programme.

It is a condition of grant that any assistance received by a project from the European Union through the Structural Funds is clearly and appropriately acknowledged in all publicity material (including plaques and site signage), publications, public procurement documents, and events.

The European Union logo is the primary visual representation used for the European Regional Development Fund Programme and one of the most important communication tools. It is mandatory that it is used and applied correctly, prominently and consistently on all publicity materials and project documentation produced by a project supported by the Fund.

The logo consists of a number of key elements which must be used:

  • The standard European Union emblem (Twelve five-pointed gold stars in a circle on a blue background)
  • Reference to the European Union
  • Reference to the European Regional Development Fund
  • The statement ‘Investing in your future’

If any part of the material is produced in colour, then you must use a full colour version of the logo with the standard colours:

  • Pantone Reflex Blue – 100% process cyan and 80% process Magenta
  • Pantone Yellow – 100% process yellow

Are you still with it?   You can manage the colours?  There’s a lot more to come:

The logo works best in colour on a white background. However if it appears on a coloured background the black text of the logo may be hard to read. In those cases it is permitted to change the text to white to improve clarity. In addition a white border must be included around the rectangle of the flag emblem with the width of 1/25th of the height of the rectangle. The important thing to remember is that the background should be uncluttered and provides enough contrast to ensure clarity.

The logo should be placed in a prominent and suitable position, on all materials. If used alongside other funders logos as acknowledgements, then the ERDF logo has to be of an equivalent size and appropriate to the scale of the material and documents being used. As a minimum, the logo, including the emblem and the wording, should be used at 40mm width (landscape logo) and 25mm height (portrait logo).

To prevent any visual interference the logo must be positioned in its own clear space, standing  apart from other images, text and logos, and should not be placed immediately against a document edge

 Got that?  The EU logo is all important and must be placed so that no one can avoid seeing it.  And the all important slogan “Investing in your future”.  Well, it is the eurocrat’s future that is being bolstered here.  And the eurocrat likes to control everything:

 The ERDF logo must not be stretched, squashed or reproduced in colours other than those stated in these guidance. Nor should it be reproduced in a different typeface or be rotated. The standard typeface to be used is Arial. When resizing the logo you must ensure that it stays in proportion and does not become distorted.

 There follows at this point three illustrations of the EU Logo with the commands emphasised

YOU MUST use Arial typeface

DO NOT distort the logo when resizing

DO NOT rotate the logo

EU logo 2

This is an example of an EU logo given which would not pass muster, and would make any project that used it liable to a clawback of funds.

So we get it.  The EU wants you to do EXACTLY what it tells you.  No ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’.  Now let’s get on to the real self-promotion:

Billboards must be erected on the sites of projects where infrastructure or construction projects are being financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the total public contribution to the project exceeds €500,000.  A billboard must be erected at the start of the works. Billboards should be sited to maximise the opportunities for it/them to be seen by the public and include a space reserved for the ERDF logo as acknowledgement.

 The ERDF logo should take up at least 25% of the total billboard size

When the project is completed, the billboard should be replaced by a permanent plaque within 6 months. 

Projects are required to put up a permanent plaque in an appropriate visible place and ideally accessible to the general public, no later than six months after completion of the project. This is applicable where the total public contribution to the project exceeds €500,000 and the project consists in the purchase of a physical object or in the financing of infrastructure or of construction projects.

 All this, of course, when the money for the project is but a small part of the money the UK has already handed over to Brussels.

 Plaques should be of a significant size and include a space reserved for the European Regional Development Fund logo as acknowledgement of the role played by the fund in part-financing the project.

 Plaques must include the following information:

  • Name of the project
  • Name of the Programme: ‘European Regional Development Fund’
  • Description of the activity supported by the project
  • Display the full ERDF logo

 The information above should take up at least 25% of the total plaque size.

 So no acknowledgement that it is the UK taxpayer that is really funding these projects (and in fact thousands of projects in central and eastern Europe whose people are lead to believe that everything is coming from good old uncle EU with the very deep pockets).

 All plaques must be produced and funded by the project

 Well, actually not just the plaques but all this publicity has to be paid for by the project – it is the first call on the funds.

 All printed documents and publications produced by projects supported by the Fund must acknowledge and reference the ERDF funding received by displaying the full European Regional Development Fund logo and ensuring it is visible in a prominent position. This extends to a variety of materials and documents including, but not restricted to:

  • General advertisements, job advertisements and notices
  • Leaflets, brochures, flyers and posters
  • Case studies
  • Exhibition banners and display panels
  • Invitations
  • Business cards
  • Promotional items
  • Newsletters
  • Stationery
  • Letterheads and compliment slips
  • Reports and papers
  • Project documentation
  • Procurement material
  • Job descriptions

 For small promotional items, such as business cards, the European flag emblem and words ‘European Union’ can just be used.

 OK, OK.  We understand that the only important thing in these projects is to promote the EU.

 All electronic materials produced by projects supported through the Fund must acknowledge and reference the ERDF funding received by displaying the full European Regional Development Fund logo. This extends to a variety of materials including, but not restricted to:

  • Websites
  • E-Newsletters
  • Presentation Slides
  • Email footers and signatures
  • Audio visual material including films, video, DVDs, CD Roms
  • Social media tools including Face book, Twitter and SMS Messages

 The logo is to appear on the homepage for all project specific websites and within the website of the project sponsoring organisation the logo is to appear on project related pages.

So if we splatter the EU logo everywhere, we get the money?  Correct!  But you must do more by organising promotional events:

 Conferences, seminars, exhibitions and events are an ideal way to promote a project supported by the European Regional Development Fund. All materials and documents produced for an event in advance, on the day and after the event must acknowledge and reference the funding received by displaying the full European Regional Development Fund logo.

 All press releases produced on projects supported by the European Regional Development Fund should include a text reference to the ERDF support and when initially launched should state the amount of funding awarded.

 And don’t neglect press releases throughout the project which will promote the EU on a more continuous basis:

 Press releases should be developed for the launch of the project, and additional releases announcing key milestones and achievements. Your local Programme Delivery Team in the Department for Communities and Local Government will be able to provide advice and guidance on press releases developed.

 The following wording should be included in the editor’s notes for all press releases concerning projects part financed by the European Regional Development Fund:

The [INSERT NAME] project is part financed by the [INSERT NAME OF PROGRAMME] European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013.

 Please note that the European Regional Development Fund Funding Agreement for the project should be in place before any media or PR activities are completed. If projects are interviewed by the media (print or radio), with the aim to produce a news story about funded activity, or produces a radio or TV advertisement to promote the project, reference should be made to the European Regional Development Fund support provided.

Publicity must not be confined to informing the general public about how generous the EU is.  One must also ram home to anyone working with the project how much they owe to the EU:

 All projects must provide beneficiaries who are taking part in activities associated with the project, clear notice that the project has been funded under the European Regional Development Fund Programme. Projects must ensure that they have provisions in place to notify those taking part in the project activity that it benefits from the Fund. Ideas of how to achieve this include:

  • Mention during induction sessions as part of a training course
  • Note the support in any contracts or paperwork given to beneficiaries
  • State the support in internal newsletters and bulletins
  • Provide the beneficiary with a leaflet explaining European Regional Development Fund investment in your project
  • Plaques, posters and displays

 And to emphasise just how key an activity publicity is, the EU requires a PLAN on what and how it is be done.  And this Plan will be assessed and if it is not up to EU requirements then you’ll lose project funds.  Hardly surprising that project managers give publicity the priority over everything else.  Is there time for any of the real project activities aimed at generating benefits?  Not much!

 It is important that everyone involved in delivering a project, not just the project owner, understands and follows the European Regional Development Fund’s publicity requirements. Applicants should demonstrate how these will be delivered by the project as part of the application through a Communications Plan, Project Management Plan; or produce this separately. This may be called upon during assessment of the project. The plan should be proportionate to the scale, scope and nature of the project and contain as a minimum:

  • Aims of the project and target groups
  • Strategy and content of the information and publicity activities to be delivered by the project, aimed at potential beneficiaries, stakeholders and the general public
  • An indicative budget for delivering the plan
  • People and companies involved in delivering the plan and its activities
  • Details on evaluation of the activities

 During the lifetime of the project, regular monitoring activities and audits will take place where all projects will be required to evidence how they have met the publicity requirements. Therefore it is essential that you keep evidence of all project publicity materials. Typical types of evidence could include, but are not restricted to:

  • Press releases
  • Press cuttings indicating publication and date
  • Photos from events
  • Literature such as leaflets and brochures
  • Presentations and speaker notes
  • View the plaque and billboard or photographic evidence
  • Website materials
  • Project documentation and correspondence

 Audits can take place a long time after the project has been completed. Therefore ensure all evidence is kept until advised by the Managing Authority that it is safe to dispose of it.  If a project is unable to evidence adherence to the publicity requirements, it could result in the clawback of the funding.

When fulfilling the publicity requirements it is important to remember that any publicity materials produced and services used, must adhere to the European Commission procurement rules and regulations. Failure to provide appropriate evidence is identified as one of the most common audit failings and is subject to a high degree of attention from UK and European Commission verification and audit visits.

 So there you go.  The important thing is the publicity for Big Brother, not benefit-generating activity.  But get it right and you’ll be in line for another dollop of money the next time around.  The EU always rewards its own.

But wait!  I almost forgot.  That is not the end of it!  At any particularly auspicious event, like the opening of a centre of something or other, where there is something physical to see, the EU wants the project to invite an EU Commissioner (with a national Minister if necessary) to make an inaugural speech with the flag flying and no doubt the Ode to Joy playing in the background.  It’s all good publicity!  And it’s all paid for by you.

The Reasonable View: David Davis talks

After listening to this talk, you will wonder how the Conservatives ever preferred Cameron to Davis.   Davis has principles, ethics and a belief in liberty and democracy, all of which are lacking in the person who climbed the greasy pole to become the UK’s Prime Minister.

The talks lasts about 35 minutes and should be essential listening for anyone intending to vote on Thursday.  The sad part is that so few voters will be armed with the broader view that Davis discusses.


£350 million per week to spend? Really?

The airwaves have been fairly hot over the past few weeks with claim and counterclaim about the amount of money the UK would save by leaving the EU.  £350m say the Vote Leave campaign.  Rubbish say the Remainders.  And the UK Statistics Authority wades into the debate by calling it highly misleading.  Numerous commentators have pointed out that this is a gross figure and takes no account of what the UK gets back.  One website (IN Facts) claims  that the net cost is half a Mars Bar per person per day which does not sound much at all, but is actually close to the figure in my previous article of £13.60 per month per income taxpayer. One can always make something trivial if one reduces it to half a Mars Bar a day.

What none of the commentators seem to have done (and apologies if someone has and I have missed it) is to break down the flow of this money and look at who benefits and who pays and where the £350 m figure might have come from.

To understand the EU budget and why the UK alone out of every member state gets a rebate each year one needs to know the historical context.  When the UK joined the EEC in 1973, its international trade with the rest of the world was relatively much more important than it was for the founding EEC members which had built a highly protected economic community.  In addition, the UK’s agriculture sector was much smaller in the context of the economy (2 per cent of GDP) than the EEC agricultural sectors (10-15 per cent).  These differences were important because the EEC took for itself as revenues for its centralised operations 90 per cent of the customs duties and all agricultural levies on imported goods.  The UK had to adopt not only the much higher import tariffs and levies of the EEC, (which of course forced up prices and inflation) but it had to pay them over to the European Commission.  EEC revenues rocketed as a result of the UK joining.

Was there any compensation for this cost by way of money returning to the UK?  Well, no, not of any substance, and the answer lies in the size of the agricultural sector.  At the time of joining (accession it was called, as if it were somehow being raised to a higher rank and power), the EEC had only one common policy – the Common Agricultural Policy – and it absorbed 75 per cent of the entire budget.  It had been a French construct, demanded by de Gaulle, which pushed up the prices of all agricultural products, protected the sector from world competition through tariffs, and maintained prices by buying and stockpiling surpluses.  Some of you will recall the wine lakes, and butter and sugar mountains, and wheat stockpiles, some of which had to be subsidised to be sold on world markets, and some had to be denatured or destroyed.  De Gaulle believed that the British with their relatively smaller and more efficient agricultural sector could never accept such a policy which would see them subsidising smaller, less efficient continental farmers and this would effectively prevent them joining his club.  De Gaulle, however, did not anticipate the stupidity, pig-headedness and pusillanimity of Edward Heath who was determined to join whatever the cost.  Of course, he never asked us if we wanted to pay the price.

[The birth of the CAP gives an insight into the thinking and attitudes of the European “elite”.  The Agricultural ministers of the six member states were given a deadline (December 31st, 1961) to come up with a common agricultural policy.  By midnight that day they hadn’t, so being good Europeans and able to walk on water (or able to legislate that they could), they stopped the clock, continued their negotiations for over a week, and pretended it was still 1961 and that they had met their deadline.  The deadline was important for de Gaulle because the British began their negotiations to join the Common Market at the beginning of 1962, and he wanted the CAP in place before then.  As it was, the British applied for membership without even knowing what they were applying for.]

There was little mention of these costs during the 1975 Referendum, with all the emphasis on joining a rich man’s trading club.  It was not until Mrs Thatcher came to power that the subject got a proper airing – there we were, though one of the big three economies in the Common Market but one of the poorer in terms of income per head, paying the lions share in net terms of the EEC budget.  Hence Mrs Thatcher asked for, and got, a rebate equivalent to approximately of 66 per cent of the net contribution (defined as the difference between our gross contribution and what we got back in terms of subsidies and grants).  That rebate has continued ever since, though it is not enshrined in any treaty.  It has been amended and the basis altered, notably when the countries of central and eastern Europe joined, so that the UK paid, and is paying, its full share of those costs.  It is also periodically challenged by other member states, but the UK has been able to preserve it by its threat to use its veto.  This, of course, has political consequences and has lead to the isolation of the UK in EU decision-making, and is a contributory factor to our lack of influence.

When one talks of the UK’s contributions to and the rebate from the EU, it is usual to take the figures of a given year.  However, the figures for any one year reflect adjustments from the previous three years, as a country’s income estimate is refined (on which 60 per cent of the contribution is based).  So a more meaningful approach is to take a four year rolling average.  The latest 4 year data available shows that the rebate has averaged 38 per cent of the gap between contributions and “EU”money coming back to the UK.  The average 4 year figures are:

2010-2013 annual average


Gross contribution


“EU” money returned to UK




Net contribution


In sterling terms, using the official EU average exchange rate for each of these years, the average gross contribution was £13,047m and the net contribution after rebate was £5,173m.  On a weekly basis, which is what the Leave campaign has been using, this equates to a gross contribution of £250m and a net contribution of £100m.  So why has the Leave campaign overstated the case?

Simple answer.  I don’t know.  There are only two possible reasons that I can think of.  The first is that it is a basic unthinking counter to the deception and lies of the Remain campaign which has claimed a Treasury model predicts economic collapse. In fact, the model predicts no such thing, and anyway economic models are notoriously unreliable just a year ahead, let alone 15 years.  They are based entirely on assumptions, and if you start off with the assumption that everything will get worse then obviously the model will compound that assumption.  Perhaps the economic claims of Tweedledumb and Tweedledee instigated this tit for tat – or one lie for another.  The second possibility is that the Leave campaign have got confused between euros and pounds.   According to a paper by Alessandro D’Alfonso of the European Parliamentary Research Service published in February this year, the average UK gross contribution for  2013 and 2014 was 18,107 million € (which itself is higher than European Commission data published in 2015).  And the weekly average is 348 million €!  I think some researcher at Vote Leave extracted this data and somewhere along the line the conversion to sterling was forgotten, or the headline makers did not notice the € symbol.  Either way, it’s very sloppy work which detracts from the force of the Leave arguments  which are strong enough without this.

What should have been pointed out is that there are many deadweight costs associated with money returning to the UK – the costs of complying with all the EU conditions attached to the money so that only a portion is actually available for the end purpose, and that the end purpose may not necessarily be a UK priority (examples will be given in the next article).    It should also have been pointed out that while all taxpayers contribute to these funds, the beneficiaries are very small in number, and have a vested interest in making a lot of noise to ensure that this benefit continues.  The outcry of some academics is a case in point.  The more honest academics understand that EU funding encourages academic junkets around Europe, and the requirement to team up with other institutions in as many different EU countries as possible has nothing to do with academic excellence but plenty to do with the dream of a European state controlling finance and research directions from the centre.

Then there is the rebate.  It exists, and the UK can maintain it through its veto. But the use of the veto further marginalises the UK at the Council of Ministers.  The influence that Tweedledumb maintains is wielded by the UK “at the heart of Europe (sic)” – he means the EU – is actually very little and will become even less.  One can gain friends in the EU only by buying them, and that will mean at some stage giving up the rebate.   Tweedledumb thinks the British are somehow wanted in Europe for themselves.  He is deluded.  There is dislike and jealousy of the British amongst many foreign politicians and a great desire to pull Britain down.  But they also want our money, our resources, so naturally they want us to remain.

Given the £350 million per week is clearly wrong, it would be appropriate for the Leave campaign to hold up their hands and admit they had made a mistake.  They still have the arguments, and an admission of a mistake would give them the moral high ground because Tweedledumb and Tweedledee will never admit to their lies, distortions and errors.

So come on, LEAVE, and set the record straight!



How has the EU affected you?

That was the question which the BBC is asking of its listeners.  Send us your experiences, they ask.  What a fatuous question.  Even worse, what a biased question, designed to induce a series of responses about how the EU funded our local visitor centre, how it paid for the reinstatement of a coastal footpath, how it funded an arts centre, how it financed this and how it financed that.

How can most people have a negative experience of the EU when most have no contact with it, and have no idea what exactly it does.  And is there an item on our income tax form saying EU levy?  If there were, a taxpayer on £30k per year would see every month a deduction of around £20 alongside his tax payable to the UK government of around £310.  He knows what he is getting for his £310 (schools, NHS, roads, an army and navy and air force, etc) but what is he getting for his £20?  For most people it is less than zilch.

Of course, the Cambridge scientists referred to in a previous article will say they’ve got research funding.  Lucky them.  What they and other researchers got will account for about £1 of our taxpayer’s £20.  Where has the other £19 gone?  Well, our farmers got more than anybody (£3.60), but it is worth remembering that long before we entered the Common Market (which transmogrified itself into the EU without any vote of agreement by the people) we were committed to supporting our farmers, and it is inconceivable that this policy would change in the event of a Brexit.  So how  else does the money get back to the UK?

The third largest source of “EU” money coming back to the UK is the Structural Funds.  These funds are aimed at improving the competitiveness and sustainability of regions with well below economic performance.  And about 80 pence of our average taxpayer’s money is used for this purpose.  Adding in various minor activities, and the costs of administering these EU activities, about £7.40 of the taxpayer’s £20 actually comes back to various interest groups in the UK.  Without Mrs Thatcher battling for Britain in the 1980s and getting a rebate, this figure would have been as little as £4.

If the taxpayer had these figures pointed out to him or her, it is fairly certain he or she would not be happy.  But taxpayers are not told.  Instead, they are led to believe that the EU is a generous benefactor, funding many activities that the wicked UK Government would never consider.

In recent weeks, I have heard on radio and television (BBC, of course) numerous interviews of individuals lauding the EU for paying for this and that.  Most of the examples have been of expenditure under the Structural Funds, particularly helping a region or area to “converge” towards the average, and improving regional competitiveness and employment – basically all the same thing.  The respondents believe this expenditure would not have occurred without EU membership.   That is a moot point.  Regional policy did not begin in 1973 with membership of the EEC.  For a start the EEC had no regional policies.  But the UK had, and indeed had been providing differential assistance to economically depressed or disadvantaged areas since 1934.  And look at the post-war legislation:

1945  Distribution of Industry Act and the designation of  Development Areas with subsidies available

1950  Act to encourage firms via grants to establish themselves in the Development Areas

1960 Local Employment Act and the creation of Development Districts with subsidies for firms

1963  Extra incentives for firms establishing themselves in the Development Districts

1966 Industrial Development Act created Development Areas with special assistance (grants) for a range of activities

1967 Creation of Special Development Areas with enhanced incentives.

1970 Creation of Intermediate Development Areas with different grants and incentives

[No, this is not lifted from Wikipedia, but from my PhD on policies for employment and income in the remoter areas, completed in the 70s]

Regional policy was very much at the fore of economic thinking in the period before accession to the EEC.  In fact, the EEC only moved towards its own regional policy at the behest of the UK, which at the time was just subsidising continental agriculture and getting very little back.  The Structural Funds were seen as a way of getting something back.  This is not to say that UK regional policy was successful or even correct in its approach.  It was not.  But it was seen as a way of reducing regional inequalities which is also the aim of the structural funds.  So people who today see these subsidies and grants coming into their region are completely wrong in thinking they owe this to the EU.

As with everything associated with the EU, there is a price to pay.  Once the EU gets a little power, it wields it without concession to the needs of the country or the region.  The objective is really to spend the funds allocated to the activity, to have a large number of checks to make sure all expenditure is politically correct, and to ensure that as much publicity as possible is generated to promote the EU as the benefactor.  Whether the activity funded is useful or not is secondary.

Projects requiring  funding  must usually have a value of at least £250 000 – it is not worth a Eurocrat getting out of bed for less – and many run into millions of pounds.   The recipient of the money must either be a public body or a private company undertaking some public function, so it is an exercise in spreading the influence of the public sector and reducing the role of market forces in directing resources to the more efficient firms.  Instead, a whole host of different skills are needed to get hold of this money: ability to penetrate the bureaucratic world which makes the decisions on who is to get it, to have the patience to go through all the forms and leaflets (e.g. English Business Support State Aid Scheme, Full application form guidance,  MCIS assets screen, National eligibility rules,  Procurement law compliance guidance note, Procurement checklist, MCIS procurement screen, National publicity requirements, ERDF logos, National ERDF handbook), a knowledge of how to put forward a proposal in a way most pleasing to the bureaucratic masters, and knowing what buzzwords to scatter throughout one’s application (“sustainable” being a must on every page).

So specialised is the process of applying for these funds that consultants often have to be used to draw up the application. Of course, there is a 50 per cent grant for these consultancy services so a whole new industry has grown up of people who know how to satisfy the bureaucracy.  But of value added from their activity there is none.

There is also a neat little catch that the European Commission has in store, and this is perhaps the main objective of the funding.  Every project must adhere strictly to EU regulations regarding publicity and promotion of the EU.  Any project which fails to promote the EU in exactly the way prescribed by the Commission faces the loss of the entire grant.  You see, it is not the project that is important and whether it achieves anything, it is all about promoting the EU.  With our money.  So outrageous is this that I will devote a separate article to these regulations.

So getting back to our average taxpayer who is paying £20 a month to the EU, perhaps 99 per cent will see no tangible benefit from membership of the EU.  But they are not complaining because they don’t know they are paying.  But there is this very small minority who benefit directly from the grants from the structural or research funds and these are quite vocal because their  honey pot is threatened.  It is to these people that the BBC gives a voice, not the large majority.

Some quotations from the early days of the EEC/EU/USE

You’ve heard of the EEC (European Economic Community), the thing we voted on in 1973, you all know the EU (European Union) which until now we have never voted on, but what is this USE?  Get used to it, because it is the coming thing – the United States of Europe, with its capital in Brussels.

Ludwig Erhard (Chancellor of Germany 1963-66)

‘If I criticize the German constitution,’ he said, ‘no one tells me I’m a bad German. But if I criticize the Community of the Six in the name of a wider Europe, I’m immediately accused of being a bad European.’

Charles de Gaulle (President of France 1958-69)

 The British are not Europeans

John F Kennedy (President of the USA 1960-63)

 A Europe without Great Britain would create a situation in which the United States was bearing the enormous costs of Europe’s protection without any voice.

….plus ça change …  Now it is Obama who wants Britain in the EU to keep the American voice at the heart of decision-making

Jean Monnet (President of the European Coal & Steel High Authority 1952-55, Founder of the Action Party for the creation of the United States of Europe, often referred to as the Father of Europe)

The European Army is not an end in itself: it is the instrument of a patriotic foreign policy. But European patriotism can develop only in a federal Europe.

What is being achieved in our six countries for coal and steel must be continued until it culminates in the United States of Europe.

The reports from our experts left no room for doubt: nuclear energy could replace all other forms of energy by the end of the century and for centuries to come.

….well, we all know about experts’ forecasts, don’t we.

To achieve the objective of a United States of Europe, it is necessary to put aside all specious solutions.  Mere co-operation between Governments will not suffice.  It is indispensable for States to delegate certain of their powers to European federal institutions.

Don’t forget the Action Committee for the United States of Europe. You’ll be hearing from us again.

Little by little the work of the Community will be felt, and the already distinguishable bonds of common interest will be strengthened.  Then the everyday realities themselves will make it possible to form the political union which is the goal of our Community, and to establish the United States of Europe.

I have always been convinced that the unification of Europe cannot be achieved by intergovernmental compromises: such supposedly time-honoured proceedings are never-ending and they never satisfy anyone.

… thus speaks the democrat.  Monnet, a very rich man’s son,  was never elected to any position in France or Europe but was appointed to positions of importance by virtue of his business background, his network of contacts and his passion for a countervailing European bloc to the USA and the USSR.

Of all the contributions that the British have made to civilization, two seem to me essential: respect for freedom, and the working of democratic institutions. Where would our society be without habeas corpus and without Parliaments to counterbalance executive power?

….. where indeed?  Habeas corpus hardly exists in many EU countries (one can languish in jail for months before going to a court) and the European Parliament does not have any power to propose legislation (which is reserved for the Commission, an executive-government institution all in one)

The British had not known the trauma of wartime occupation; they had not been conquered; their system seemed intact. In reality they suffered – paradoxically – from not having had their pride broken and their factories destroyed.

… so they must be brought down by peaceful methods, it seems

I have always believed that Europe would be built through crises.

…. presumably because Monnet knew his ambition for a federal Europe would never be accepted by the citizens of the nation states unless a crisis threatened.  Perhaps this is why Tweedledumb and Tweedledee, and others on the Remain side forecast war and economic recession if the British people dare to disagree and vote Leave.  Monnet’s logic is that one can expect further restrictions on national sovereignty after the Brexit “crisis”, whichever way the vote goes.









Unscientific scientists at Cambridge

A group of  Cambridge academics wrote to the Daily Telegraph on or around June 1st, putting forward, as they thought, their case for remaining in the EU.  Actually, it was more than a group as there were well over 500 signatories, which included about 200 professors, a handful of doctors, and the rest without titles were presumably students since academics love to flaunt their handles.  As I thought the letter merely showed self-interest, ignorance and selective statistics (not what one expects from people presumably trained in the scientific method), I penned a reply to the DT.  Of course, my reply never got published so I give here the original Cambridge letter (without the hundreds of signatures) and my response.

It does seem these days that the only way a view contrary to the Establishment can be published is if one does it oneself via a blog such as this.  I have also been “moderated” off numerous forums because I have inconvenient arguments.  We have free speech, of course.  We keep telling ourselves this, but all I see are more and more views being proscribed.  Ah, Brave New Union!

Here is the Cambridge letter:

SIR – As senior members of Cambridge University, writing in our personal capacities, we wish to express our grave concern for the future of our universities and country if Britain votes to leave the EU. 

British universities are among the most successful centres of learning and research in the world. They are significantly helped in this by funding from the EU. In the sciences, we have 22 per cent of European Research Council grant-holders, with only 12 per cent of the EU’s total population. In the arts and humanities, around 30 per cent of major interdisciplinary projects at Cambridge would be at risk without EU backing. The Government would not be able to replace this scale of funding if we voted to leave. 

Our young people gain hugely from access to EU scholarships. The exchange of ideas and the stimulation of collaboration that comes from the free movement of academics within Europe are critical to research quality. Increasingly, research depends on collaborative access to larger networks and populations than Britain can provide.

The major issues of our time – in security, energy, environmental sustainability, health and the globalised economy – take no account of national borders. With the rise of academic centres in America and Asia, we will only maintain our foremost position in research and innovation if we combine our research resources within a reformed EU. Our future economic growth depends on it.

My response was:


The letter from Cambridge academics, a motley collection of professors and students it appears, illustrates why political decisions should never be in the hands of self-styled intellectuals. They say that the Sciences  have received 22 per cent of the European Research Council funding despite the UK only having 12 per cent of the population. Well, some one in the UK is suffering because according to EU data, the UK received 12 per cent of research funding for 13 per cent of the EU population (2013 data).  More to the point would have been an indication of what proportion of their funding comes from the EU – quite small, I suspect.  I thought scientists were supposed to use data objectively, and not single out one comparison to support their preconceived opinion.

And is their research really at risk from the UK leaving the EU?  The amount of research funding that UK institutions receive from the EU is just 6 per cent of what the UK pays to the EU after the rebate.  Leaving the EU would allow these research constitutions to continue with the same level of funding (assuming that what they do is justified by the results). But perhaps that is the real issue.  It is not the level of funding, but the fact that relatively easy funding via the Brussels machine might be replaced by more discerning assessments of scientific and social value.

Their second point about international collaboration is a complete red herring.  Do these scientists not follow the scientific method?  International collaboration does not depend upon the existence or membership of the EU.  How on earth do American, Canadian, Australian, Japanese or any other non-EU academics collaborate?  Perhaps out of their EU oystershell these academics might develop a more rewarding world view.  Their present myopia is hardly suggestive of the academic excellence that one used to associate with their current institution

Yours etc

Now how can I get the brilliant minds at Cambridge to read this?

The Democratic Deficit

We all think we know what a democracy is.  Adult citizens vote periodically for people to represent them and make decisions for the common good.  Half of us generally don’t like those decisions, but we accept them.  We know we’ll get another bite at the cherry in a few years time when another election will be held, and there will be an opportunity to get rid of the failures, charlatans, idiots, incompetents, crooks, corrupt or however else we see the politicians that call themselves “The Government”.  Sometimes they get re-elected, sometimes they don’t.  But at least we have the chance to turf out the people who make far reaching decisions on our way and quality of life.

But very few people seem to understand that that model no longer exists, except superficially.  Yes, we still have our elections, and we swap one of these politicians for another, so no regime apparently lasts for ever.  But since the UK parliament ceded sovereignty to the European Union through the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties (thank you, John Major and Tony Blair), it is no longer the highest law making body in the land.  That body now resides in Brussels and is never elected by us.  I refer not to the European Parliament (which is only a talking shop peregrinating around the EU at great expense) but to the European Commission, which has reserved to itself alone the power to propose all EU legislation.

Who or what is this Commission?  At the political level, it is formed by appointees nominated by each of the Governments of the Member States, so there are 28 of them, each allocated to a specific portfolio.  So Malta (population 0.4m) has the same representation as Germany (76.4m).   The representatives of small countries have proportionately the most power: the ten smallest countries with 5 per cent of the EU population have 36 per cent of the Commissioners.  Commissioners tend to fall into two categories.  The first type are former national politicians whose domestic career is over (or never got started) and they want a well remunerated place to park themselves (one thinks of Kinnock and Mandelson).  The other type is the ambitious politician who wants a bigger stage and better remuneration than he or she can get in their own country.  These guys and gals hang around for 5 years, but if they want to stay on for another term they usually can.  It really depends on whether their national government wants to reward another supporter with this plum Commission job.

The personal financial future and career of these people is intimately tied to the future of the institution, so there are none who would question its existence, its goals or its modus operandi.  The same goes for the 23,000 public servants who support these Commissioners and are the motor for the entire EU project.  It goes without saying that these people are also highly paid with a wide range of non-taxable emoluments to cover things like healthcare, education, living expenses, travel – the things that the rest of us have to meet out of our taxed income.  Oh yes, they also have a special low rate of income tax.  One can see why such people are committed European Unionists.

Now although the Commission is the only body that can initiate legislation, and it gives it to the Parliament to discuss and propose amendments (which it does though it never seems to reject anything of substance), there is a third body which the Unionophiles claim gives the EU a democratic constitution.  This is the Council of the European Union consisting of a single representative of each member state, usually the minister responsible for whatever subject is being discussed. This institution has a remarkable constitution.  Eighty per cent of all decisions in this Council are decided by a qualified majority, but this majority is harder to get if the proposal being discussed does NOT come from the Commission! A Commission proposal is passed if 16 of the 28 member states with at least 65 per cent of the population approve it.  But any non-Commission proposal (and it is not at all clear how anything can get through to this Council without first being vetted and approved by the Commission) requires 21 member states to support it before it becomes law.

So it is clear that legislation can be steered through even though a substantial minority of member states may not want it.  But what about the famous veto that Cameron insists the UK can wield to prevent developments damaging to the UK interest?

There are a number of policy areas where a member state may declare especial sensitivity and for which a unanimous vote is required to pass the measure into law.  In theory, anything can be classed in this manner, but since this would effectively prevent any decision ever being taken, member states confine themselves to issues such as the budget, EU membership, foreign policy, and a few other areas.  So, Yes, the UK does have a veto over EU expansion, as does every other member state.  But vetoes are rarely used since they are considered the nuclear option, and bring opprobrium and discrimination against the recalcitrant state.  In practice there are a number of ways in which a state can be isolated and co-operation in other policy areas withheld.  It is, after all, not a union of friends but a grouping held together by fear of isolation.  According to the Remain campaign, our “friends” in the EU would turn the knife on us if we ever dared leave.  Some friends!

In all decision making in the EU, the key institution is the Commission which is unelected and permanent (which alones give it much more influence than all the transitory ministers who fly in and out of Brussels a few times a year).  But by allowing the peoples of the EU to vote for a toothless Parliament, the Commission has kept the illusion of democracy.  We still have a vote, but it is valueless.

I was watching The Suffragettes the other day and could not but be impressed by those heroic efforts by a relatively small number of women to get the vote for women in the UK.  That was only 100 years ago.  Full enfranchisement only came in the late 1920s.  So they earned the vote, and what they struggled to get has now been rendered valueless by the institutions of the EU.  Will we reclaim our democracy this year, or will we resign ourselves to permanent rule by a foreign-based technocracy?