Tuesday 31 July 2018

Brexitwatch: BAAC-ing mad

What is Theresa May's policy on Brexit? I think you can sum it up as BAAC - Brexit at any cost. 

Long gone is any pretence that Brexit will improve life for anybody, apart from a few of the very rich who will find it easier to avoid tax and benefit from our impoverishment. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg says that after 50 years of misery, with a bit of luck, things might not be too bad. Digby Jones is less optimistic and reckons it will take at least 100. Most other Brexiters confine themselves to declaring that Brexit won't be as bad as some people are saying.

We've known for quite a while that ANY Brexit makes the ordinary Brit poorer, and if Theresa's Brexit fanatics get their way, we'll have to call in the army to stop too many people starving, or dying because they can't get their medicine. And, of course, you won't hear the prime minister talking about how we'll all lose the right to live and work in 27 of the most congenial countries on earth. 

All we hear about now from Mrs May is delivering the 'will of the people', even if it becomes clearer by the day that fewer and fewer of the 'people' actually want her to. All that matters is somehow crawling over that line on 29 March 2019, and getting us out of the EU before her government and the Tory party tear themselves apart.

Monday 30 July 2018

Brexitwatch: no deal

In my post of July 25, I broke one of my own rules: never underestimate the foolishness, incompetence and cowardice of Theresa May's government.

As Mrs May promised to spell out the consequences of a 'no deal' Brexit so we could all prepare for it, I warned that this might be a softening-up exercise. Presenting critics of Brexit with the apocalyptic results of 'no deal' so they would go along with whatever the prime minister negotiates, even though we know it will be much worse than remaining in the EU.

But now we learn that Mrs May is going to stop us preparing for 'no deal' by hiding the government's plans after reports the army would have to be called in to stop people starving or dying through lack of medicines, and after the businesses charged with implementing her ideas had ridiculed them as completely impracticable. Just like her 'Chequers plan', her 'preparations for no deal' policy had managed to survive for only a couple of days.

The attraction of 'no deal' for Mrs May is that it is the policy that postpones the Tory civil war - the only thing she seems to care about. Any decision she makes about a realistic approach to negotiations with the EU will be the starting gun for her MPs to start tearing lumps out of each other.

So be afraid. Be very afraid. 'No deal' and its consequent chaos could well happen.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Brexitwatch: no deal. Beware. Are we being played?

'No deal is better than a bad deal' is one of those vacuous slogans that Theresa May and the Brexiters love to trot out again and again until you want to scream. Well, this week the PM gave us some flesh on the bones of what 'no deal' might mean.

Actually, there probably wouldn't be much flesh. The government is planning (a novelty in itself) emergency measures to try to make sure not too many people starve to death or die because they can't get the medicines they need. Makes you wonder just how bad a bad deal would have to be, to be worse than this.

Unless Theresa May has never read a briefing paper, she has known for a long time that this is what 'no deal' would mean. So why has she gone all 'must announce a proper plan' now? To try to intimidate and/or isolate the most demented of the anti-EU headbangers, who have actually been gagging for 'no deal'?

Or is all this actually aimed at those fighting AGAINST Brexit? Here is what I blogged on 9 October 2016:

"Mrs May is engaged in a softening up exercise, conjuring up the most disastrous picture of Brexit imaginable, so that when she comes up with something that damages the country a bit less, Remainers will be pathetically grateful and go along with it, instead of continuing to argue that the referendum was (as indeed is the case) advisory and not binding, unfair, won on the basis of a pack of lies, indecisive etc"

Beware! Every Brexit is a bad Brexit. The only good Brexit is no Brexit.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Brexitwatch: demand your MP takes action over Leave campaign cheating

For the second time, the Leave campaign has been found to have cheated in the Brexit referendum. The law lays down spending limits to ensure elections are fair. The official Leave campaign broke the law by spending nearly £500,000 more than it was allowed to.

This is the second time the Leave campaign has been caught cheating. In May, Arron Banks's mysteriously financed Leave.EU group was also fined for spending too much. With a gap of less than 4% between the votes cast for the two sides, surely the referendum result should now be regarded as null and void, but bizarrely the Labour and Tory front benches seem determined to look the other way and pretend none of this has happened. 

This cannot go on. It is the duty of MPs to stop Brexit NOW because 1) it will damage our country. 2) allowing this result to stand will give a green light to cheating in all future UK elections.

My MP happens to be Labour's Brexit spokesperson, Sir Keir Starmer. I wrote to him twice about Leave.EU's cheating (see my post of May 14), and I have never received a reply.

Now that further law-breaking has been revealed, I have written to him again:

Dear Sir Keir,
I cannot believe that Labour has not called for an immediate halt to Brexit in view of the evidence provided today of yet more law-breaking by the Leave campaign. I have already written to you twice on this issue (see below) but you have ignored me. What is Labour's strategy here? Stick your fingers in your ears, cover your eyes, pretend none of this has happened, and then hopefully it will all go away?
You yourself have admitted that Brexit has no benefits, and that Labour was supporting it only because it was the 'will of the people'. Now it is clear that the referendum was won by serial law-breaking, this excuse will no longer wash.
If Labour fails to act, not only will it impoverish our country, and in particular the people Labour are supposed to care most about, destroying jobs, businesses, public services, savings,people's rights to live and work in Europe etc, it will also give a green light to any party that wants to cheat in future elections in our country. 
Take action to stop Brexit now. I appeal to you and Labour not to continue in this gross dereliction of your duty.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Disaster! audiobook out now

The audiobook of my book Disaster! A History of Earthquakes, Floods, Plagues, and Other Catastrophes (A Disastrous History of the World in the UK edition) is now out, read by Roger Clark.

It tells the story of the worst disasters to hit mankind from the volcanic eruption that nearly wiped out the human race 74,000 years ago to the catastrophes of the 21st century, like the Boxing Day tsunami. 

The first part of the book chronicles all the major natural calamities – floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, storms, disease, famine, etc. The second half describes the greatest man-made disasters – like invasions, air raids, massacres, riots, terrorism, mass poisonings, stampedes, fires, explosions, shipwrecks, and air and train crashes.

This is what the Independent said about the book: 'The publisher seems to be pushing its luck by describing this haul of the "nastiest things to have afflicted humanity" as "compulsively readable and entertaining". Weirdly enough, this is spot on.'


Friday 13 July 2018

Brexitwatch: People's Vote NOW

Many people are demanding a 'People's Vote' at some point in the future - a referendum on any final terms negotiated with the EU for Brexit, but I am going to argue that we need a referendum now.

There is, apparently, no Parliamentary majority for the approach to Brexit set out in Theresa May's White Paper, nor for the 'no deal' approach supported by the Brexit fanatics, nor for dropping Brexit even though the Leave campaign broke the law and so invalidated the referendum result. 

The problem we have is that in the referendum, people voted to 'leave the EU'. That is all. But many Brexiters, including Theresa May, claim falsely that they have some mystical knowledge that people also voted to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market.

MPs appear to have no strategy, and certainly no resolve, for dealing with the present impasse. So I propose we go back to the people, and find out what they want, asking: do you wish to

1) Leave the EU, the Customs Union and the Single Market
2) Leave the EU and the Customs Union
3) Leave the EU and the Single Market
4) Leave the EU but remain in the Customs Union and the Single Market
5) Remain in the EU.

It would be made clear that, unlike the 2016 referendum, this one would be BINDING, with MPs guaranteeing they would implement the result however damaging they believed it would be. (This would also mean that key groups such as 16-18 year olds, UK citizens living abroad, etc could not be prevented from voting as they were in 2016.)

If any of the five options won more than 50% of the vote, then parliament would implement it. If none achieved this, then the bottom three would be eliminated, and the top two would go forward to a second, final round of voting.

There would obviously need to be better safeguards against cheating than there were in 2016, and newspapers would have to be required to observe the same standards of fairness and accuracy as broadcasters.

Some might complain that having to choose between one of five options is too complicated, but leaving the EU is a highly complicated business, and those who cannot be bothered to understand the detail should not really be voting.