Friday, 8 December 2017

Brexit deal part one: not so good

Brexit part I has been agreed-ish. PM Theresa May was dragged from her bed at some ungodly hour this morning just so she could be in Brussels on TV at 7am looking pally with the EU negotiator Michel Barnier when Brexit part one was presented to the press. It's not formally agreed yet though - the EU27 governments will approve it next week.

You can read it here if you really want.

But to save you the bother, I'll tell you it's not such a good deal.

Or to put it another way, it's plenty good for the EU and not so good for the UK. You can tell this by the fact that the EU has not trimmed its budget by a single canapé, despite one of its biggest net contributors leaving. They are expecting us to carry on paying for years to come. The deal document doesn't give an amount, just a formula for working it out, but it seems £50bn is expected from the UK taxpayer.

The other two issues taxing the EU are: the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The Brexit deal says all the foreign citizens on both sides may stay where they are. This may sound all fine and dandy, but there are one million UK citizens resident in the EU27 and three million EU citizens in the UK. There is a major imbalance here which has not been addressed. If citizens are going to stay put then okay, but UK citizens should be allowed to move to the EU until that two million surplus is used up (which admittedly would probably be never.)

As far as the NI border goes - how do you leave the customs union and the trade area and still keep an open border? Likely, you cannot. The agreement says we will keep the border open though. The solution is going to have to be a fudge of some sort; maybe cars will pass without inspection but trucks must pull over. There is no good answer to this question.

However, the deal so far has two silver linings. First the "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" is written into it, so everything can be changed. And second, parliament gets a vote on the final deal, and as things are looking there is a good chance they will just strike the whole thing down and we will end up with no deal, which would be better than this deal, not least because it would force the EU to negotiate seriously. Two million surplus citizens and a massive trade imbalance will concentrate their minds.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Thesea May is a plonker

She should never have responded to President Trump retweeting the Britain First videos. A complete and dignified silence was the diplomatically correct course of action. The Donald does not forgive or forget those who cross him - and now more than ever the UK needs to make and keep friends aboard.

As for Britain First and Jayda Franken herself: props to them for the work they are doing. The mainstream of course reviles them, but what is the mainstream doing to halt the invasion of our country? Answer, nothing. At least BF are putting boots on the ground. 

As for Trump, he probably had little or no idea of what he was doing; likely he has never actually heard of Britain First (which was formed when senior BNP figures argued, resulting in a schism. The BNP effectively went out of business and a couple of other parties were formed, including BF)

Trump also tweeted at the wrong @TheresaMay. However, when Trump makes a mistake he does not retract, he doubles down. TM should know this and should not have (effectively) forced him into the current position. If you play the game according to his rules, Trump will give you what you want. If you don't, then you're the enemy.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Budget, Autumn 2017

Spreadsheet Phil was up on his hind legs in the Commons today at 12:40 PM to deliver his second budget of the year. He got a first bite of this cherry in March this year before the disastrous general election that cost the Tories their majority.

And, too late to do any good, he was in a give-away mood. In between jokes and some casual banter with fellow Tories behind him, he reported that growth was expected to less than expected; so were wages, but on the plus side inflation and unemployment were also expected to fall.

Then he threw money at every hot topic.  Universal Credit, the much reviled benefit, was made more generous.  Education was splashed with cash; especially maths teachers (although, strangely, the small print in the paperwork indicated no actual increase in spending.) There's going to be a new National Centre for Computing. 

Phil: Have some money, please, I insist...

The police got a bung. Police and Fire in Scotland got taken out of VAT. Seven new towns along the M5 corridor were mooted and the big finale - stamp duty abolished for first-time buyers. Subject to a maximum purchase price of £300K though, or in certain areas £500K with only the first £300K discounted. (The small print in this could require careful reading.)

Electric cars were mentioned; so were self-drive cars; diesel cars were practically the only thing that suffered a tax rise, but only new ones, and defo not white van man. Oh no, Phil was quite clear on that. So that's the diesel car market fooked. 

Then national living wage went up (£7.50 to £7.83); tax allowances went up: basic £11,850, higher £46,350. In this Spring budget it was £11,500 and  £45,000 - so higher rate tax payers have had a nice little bonus.

Tobacco got hit - RPI plus 2%, but alcohol and petrol were frozen; except the cheapest "white" cider. Scotland recently introduced minimum unit pricing for alcohol but it looks like Phil is going the other way and using duty to control excessive consumption.

Anyway, let's have a look at the numbers, with Spring also shown for contrast.

He's spending a total of £809bn, compared with £802bn in the Spring, but only borrowing £40bn compared with £58bn in the Spring. Debt interest payments are reduced by £5bn. Nice, and all down to quantitative easing printing away the debt for him.

Poor and sick people are the big winners with an extra £7bn on benefits and £6bn on the NHS. Transport and Housing have been scalped because the big house building give-away is going to be in the form of loans and guarantees - good old off-the-books stuff.

Phil also mentioned the possibility of compulsory purchase of land with planning permission when nothing is built on it. And councils will be allowed to charge double council tax for empty homes.

To conclude, it's a "safe" budget. All the sensitive causes have been blessed. No-one anyone cares about will be poorer. No hard decisions were taken.

So Corbyn had a hard time in his response speech. He did point out that pay was lower (in real terms, although he didn't say that) than in 2010. He then fell back on his old trick of mentioning people by name (but first name only.) Martin was on Universal Credit and had to go to a food bank; Clare's mum worked for the NHS; Tammy was a single parent suffering from a lack of policing. Sadly there was not much sympathy for them in the House.

Corbyn: A woman's mother's brother's sister's bins weren't emptied one week. Shame on the government!

To conclude: Spreadsheet Phil has learned his lesson and there will be no more tough love in the future. The news will only be good and spending will only increase.