Project Fear 2

I was wondering…what if someone made a movie trailer from the scare stories politicians keep telling us about Brexit? So I did. Here’s Project Fear 2 – this time, it’s not at all personal.

 

 

 

Q: Is this true, or is it a spoof? 

 

A: It’s a film trailer-style video, designed to demonstrate a point – but shockingly, everything in the video is based on truth.

 

The Mirror did run a headline ‘Brexit could trigger World War 3‘ after David Cameron suggested that Brexit would risk peace and stability on our continent. The European Council President did indeed say that Brexit could ‘destroy Western political civilisation‘, and the Commission President agreed with him. The Treasury did claim that at least 500,000 jobs would be lost within 2 years if people voted for Brexit. This claim was made, in public and on television, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

 

There’s a little poetic licence in the storytelling (it’s a spoof movie trailer, after all), but it’s all based on fact.

 

Q: Isn’t the phrase ‘Project Fear 2’ a bit disparaging?

 

A:  The phrase ‘Project Fear’ was coined by Rob Shorthouse in the Scottish independence referendum campaign, and it quickly became used to describe the Remain campaign’s tactics in the Brexit referendum too. Use of a label like ‘Project Fear’ is actually tame as a description of the campaign tactics of threatening war, mass unemployment, cancer, etc.

 

Now establishment figures, including former Prime Ministers, are openly working to reverse Brexit. Project Fear 2 seems an apt title for that.

 

Q: Are you actually making a feature-length film?

 

A: No. It’s just the trailer, sorry.

 

Q: But don’t Project Fear have a point? If experts are saying that Brexit could cause cancer, shouldn’t we listen to them?

 

A: There are expert arguments on both sides as to how Brexit will impact on healthcare, but Project Fear portrayed it as though Brexit was going to kill people. Morris Brown, professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Cambridge described the EU’s Clinical Trials Directive as “a disaster that threatens patients’ lives”. That’s pretty strong stuff, reflecting the verifiable data in the link, but I don’t recall leading Brexiteers using such scaremongering tactics and saying that ‘Remain will cause cancer’. And Sir Andre Geim said in his Nobel prize lecture that [EU rules] were “discrediting the whole idea of an effectively working Europe”.

 

Q: But surely the mass job losses have happened?

 

A: Quite the opposite. In fact, more people are in employment than ever before, with unemployment rates close to a record low. Project Fear couldn’t have been more wrong.

 

Q: Brexit hasn’t happened yet. The economic disaster is yet to come.

 

A: Here’s the problem with that argument. Project Fear campaigners claimed the disaster would start from June 24 2016, the day after the referendum. That just didn’t happen. If anything, the economy has improved. If they’d said it would happen from Brexit Day originally, they might have had a point. Now they’re moving the goalposts because they don’t like the economic data.

 

Here’s my report on why these projections are so wildly wrong.

 

Q: In the trailer, a sinister voice says ‘if you want to know the reason for the lies, follow the money’. What’s that all about?

 

A: This isn’t intended to be taken 100% literally, but there’s actually a strong argument that ‘big money’ is behind much of the Remain campaign, and the attempt to reverse the Brexit referendum vote.

 

Half a million pounds is being spent on a series of adverts designed to do just that. The Best for Britain group is funded by multi-billionaire George Soros, once dubbed ‘the man who broke the Bank of England’ over the UK’s withdrawal from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. During the referendum campaign Remain outspent Leave by roughly 3 to 2, and the UK government spent a further £9.2 million over and above that on leaflets and online advertising recommending a Remain vote. Many of the pro-Remain groups in the EU referendum campaign had received EU funding themselves, to the tune of €160 million. Some of the questionable campaign tactics of the Remain campaign seem to be receiving a ‘free pass’ in sections of the media. Then from the EU’s point of view, the UK flits between being the second and third-largest contributors to the EU budget. The UK pays the EU far more than it gets back in return – why wouldn’t the EU want that to continue?

 

Q: And the phrase ‘standing up against a sinister government’…?

 

A: A more accurate phrase would be ‘against a bureaucratic and incompetent government’, but that wouldn’t really fit well with the genre. A little poetic licence, perhaps.

 

Q: What about the phrase ‘we’ll call them racists’? Surely nobody’s suggesting that all 17.4 million Brexit voters are racists?

 

A: Surprisingly, this slur comes up more than you might think. Even the leader of the Liberal Democrats was accused of doing precisely that after he claimed that older Brexit voters wanted ‘a world where passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink’, though he later denied that he was accusing all 17.4 million of racism.

 

Q: Who are the ‘one small group of people’ who ‘stand up for freedom’ that are mentioned in the video?

 

A: Hopefully, you. I’m referring to the people who counter Project Fear’s misinformation. The people who keep up the pressure by writing to your MPs, by sending letters in to your local newspaper, getting on to radio phone-in shows, even just talking to your friends and family. The people who, if they tried to overturn Brexit, would take part in peaceful demonstrations to stand up for our national freedom. The people who would deliver leaflets and knock on doors if they forced a second referendum on us, to try to overturn the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ decision that we made barely 18 months ago.

 

Why am I now an Independent? I’m not prepared to excuse the cesspit of Party politics

An American Marine, in Vietnam and seeing for himself the unspeakable brutality of the actions he was required to participate in, baulked at what he had just done in the first few days. “This is war. This is what we do”, he was told. Slowly, gradually, perhaps almost imperceptibly, he came to see it as normal – to believe it. The actions of the Americans in Vietnam, the actions of the North Vietnamese forces, were nothing substantially different from previous wars: what had changed, perhaps, was the reporting of it. War had always been brutal, but never in that way had it been beamed back into people’s homes and seen on their television screens. Yet that extra glare of publicity perhaps did one thing. The use of napalm against civilian targets is now banned, as is US use of Agent Orange. War, however unspeakably cruel it will always be, is perhaps less so than before.

Politics, of course, does not match such levels of barbarity. Nothing could. For all the negative stereotypes around politics, for every cynical viewpoint expressed by a non-voter that ‘they’re all the same’, ‘they’re all in it for themselves’, ‘they’re as bad as each other’, ‘they care only about getting votes’ or ‘all they do is attack each other’, I always used to argue fervently against it. We can change things, and it doesn’t have to be like this. The nastiness, leaking, briefing and counter-briefing, attacking opponents for the sake of political point-scoring, Machiavellian plotting, seeking to generate and exploit scandal, deliberate twisting of words out of context, and all the toxicity associated with modern politics could be beaten.

Then, and I keep trying to pinpoint when, something changed. Soundbite politics had been around for a while already, but now the negatives took over. Perhaps it was the mass use of social media, opening it up for all to see. A Twitter-based assault on someone’s integrity in 140 characters (as was then) could not be proven wrong without a detailed response. It could come at any time of day or night, retweeted by thousands before the victim was even aware. A lie, it is said, can be half way around the world whilst the truth is still putting on its boots. Never was that more apt than when describing social media.

Or perhaps it was the election of Donald Trump – which left the Right feeling they could say anything they wanted, however offensive, ‘because Donald Trump could get away with it’, and which sent the Left into an existential paroxysm of anger, vented at anyone who got in their way. Maybe it was Jeremy Corbyn’s takeover of the Labour Party, leading to Momentum and a ‘newer, kinder politics’ which was ‘kinder’ only in the sense that the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984 was responsible for lies. Could it have been the reaction to the Brexit referendum, where instead of working together to make it work, many on the losing side of the referendum threw a tantrum – and then many on the winning side responded by throwing their own tantrum straight back at them?

Most likely it was gradual, a combination of all of the above. Right now, the harsh reality is that there exists no political party of any substance worthy of a vote. Politics has become dominated by ‘whataboutery’ (mention a scandal about one party and instead of answering, it will direct you to a similar scandal about its opponents which it considers to be worse), fake news (inventing statistics, or treating proven-false predictions as gospel) and tribalism (to the point that some politicians will refuse to make friends with people of different political views, perpetuating an echo chamber and promoting misunderstandings).

Even deciding which Party is the ‘least bad’ has become difficult. Democracy, the ballot box, must always remain important: it’s what we fought those wars in the first place to defend. It’s why my great uncle died hours after being rescued, a PoW forced to work on the Burma railway, why my grandfather never slept after the horrors of World War 2 and why my great-grandfather fought in every major battle on the Western Front in World War 1. So we mustn’t drift into not voting; even a spoilt ballot would be better than that. And maybe, just maybe, the added spotlight on the wrongs of politics will – as it did with the evils of war – lead over decades to a change, to people not getting away with what they did before. But if you ask me why I’m now an Independent, it’s very simple. I’m not prepared to excuse the cesspit of Party politics. I’m not going to use the puerile defence that “This is politics. This is what we do.”

A ‘culture of inspiration’ needed for school children

A culture of inspiration for school children needs to be introduced, said local MEP Jonathan Arnott.

His call follows the publication of a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England warning of the ‘huge gaps’ between the poorest Northern children and those in the South.

“We’ve known for a long time that children in Northern working-class communities are being left behind in our education system. The government isn’t putting the resources in that we need, and the so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has proven to be more rhetoric than real action,” said Mr Arnott, a former teacher.

“Yes, we do need a culture of hope. I’m fed up of seeing working-class people left behind by a system that’s more interested in political correctness than in helping real people deal with real problems.

“Until we, as a society, stop using university as the almost-exclusive metric by which young people are judged, we’ll continue to have young people feeling abandoned by the system. The Germans don’t take such a snobbish approach; they understand the value of both vocational and academic education.

Mr Arnott said, “As teaching has become more bureaucratic, more focused upon paperwork and evidence, teachers have had less time to provide the extra-curricular activities which enrich and develop all-round education. It’s children in poorer working-class communities who are being denied opportunities. Truly inspirational teachers can change lives, but they’re being hamstrung by red tape.

“It’s not just about money, it’s about creating a culture within our education system to inspire our young people. But the money counts too: I don’t want to hear about gimmicks, derisory amounts of money spent on more training to follow a broken system – I want to hear about smaller class sizes, more individual attention and a less mass-produced system,” said Mr Arnott, an independent Euro-MP.

The decision to send a passport contract overseas, to the detriment of local jobs, is another illustration of why we are right to leave

Dear Editor,

I trust that the irony of the decision to award the contract for new British blue passports to a foreign company has not passed the public by.

The reason that Gemalto, a Franco-Dutch company, has been nominated over a local British company is because the UK is still (at least until Brexit) required to follow EU competition rules.

Achieving best value is always to be desired, but we should be free to choose to which company we hand taxpayers’ cash in the particular circumstances of the work involved. Sometimes the value of creating or protecting local jobs will outweigh a marginal cost saving.

The passports are currently manufactured by a firm in my constituency and so this decision is particularly painful.

Unlike many Brexiteers, the colour of our passports doesn’t really bother me. What does concern me is what they symbolise: regaining our freedom from EU rules and regulations; our ability to once again make our own choices.

The decision to send this contract overseas, to the detriment of local jobs, is another illustration of why we are right to leave.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

Children ‘spectacularly failed’ in State experiment

 

Following reports that a thousand young girls have been sexually assaulted in Telford, an independent MEP has called for a change in the law to try to prevent more children becoming victims.

Jonathan Arnott, a former teacher who represents the North East of England in the European Parliament, has made the proposal after many people have questioned why these sexual assaults were not picked up by the authorities sooner.

“This scandal is, sadly, nothing new. Blind eyes have been turned to child sexual abuse for far too long, including some horrific cases in my own constituency. The fact is, though, that when parents are unaware of what is happening, they have no way of protecting their children.

“The law needs to be changed so that parents receive better information about their own children’s welfare.

“In 1985, a court ruled that children are entitled to access to contraception without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Later, this same logic was used for abortions to be provided and for parents to be kept in the dark by both social workers and medical professionals. This created a culture of silence around statutory rape and predatory criminal behaviour,” he said.

“That court decision was said to be in children’s best interests, but it is inconceivable that these organised cases of grooming could have continued for so long without it. We need a change in the law, to ensure that parents are once again provided with the information they need to be able to do their job as responsible parents.

“When the State started to take parenting away from parents, it undermined one of the key planks of child protection. The experiment has spectacularly failed. That 1985 court decision must be overturned, through legislation if necessary.

“Even where victims were, or are, in the care of local authorities, the authorities should fiercely protect the child’s interests every bit as much as a responsible parent – and information should still generally be shared with the biological parents.” said Mr Arnott.

Note to Editors – the relevant case law is Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority, 1985 

MEP congratulates former chess champion for stance against Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women

Local MEP and chess player, Jonathan Arnott, has congratulated Maria Muzychuk, a former women’s world chess champion, for her stance against Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women.

His comments come on today’s International Women’s Day – which ironically coincides with a controversial visit to this country by Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has been welcomed by Theresa May.

Mr Arnott, an independent Euro-MP, met the former champion at the European Parliament yesterday (Tue) where she simultaneously played chess against about 25 people, including Mr Arnott.

“I managed to win my game, thanks to the somewhat lopsided nature of a simultaneous display. I was able to devote 100% of my attention to the game, whereas she was not,” he explained

“Her sister Anna was the reigning world rapidplay and blitz champion. They refused to compete in the most recent world chess championships in Saudi Arabia in protest at the Saudi Kingdom’s treatment of women.

“Those women who were prepared to compete had to dress according to the Kingdom’s rules. The ‘when in Rome’ principle my apply as far as tourism is concerned – but it is wrong to insist that this must be a condition of defending a title. In this, I think, FIDE (the world chess governing body) erred by holding the event in Saudi Arabia.

“They were principled – and right – to refuse to compete. Doubtless, their claim that they would have ‘earned more than in a dozen events combined’ is probably absolutely true, and demonstrates how important this sacrifice was to them.

“One of the great things about chess is that there exists no barrier to competition – to win, or to lose, depends first and foremost on your ability and skill level. If you’re sexist (or racist or any other kind of ist) during a game of chess, that arrogance will lead to underperformance. The game itself is the ultimate meritocracy.”

jon and chess champ 2

The UK has failed for decades to build enough houses to meet demand

Dear Editor,

The UK has failed for decades to build enough houses to meet demand. In the last Budget, the Chancellor announced sufficient funding to deal with the issue – but what I fail to see from this government is a coherent plan to achieve it. Left-wingers do (correctly) speak about the need to protect the greenbelt; right-wingers (also correctly) point out that mass immigration further increases demand for housing. Both sides decry the failure to ensure that first-time buyers can get onto the property ladder.

I want to hear more about actual solutions. For years we’ve seen the private market, and social housing. But what if we were to introduce a hybrid between the two? What if government were to finance – using the existing money announced by the Chancellor – the setting up of a new Housing Corporation to build cheap, modern, modular, starter eco-homes – and to sell those houses to young people and other first-time buyers at cost price? When a young person comes to sell, years down the line, they could have a guaranteed sale back to the Housing Corporation (providing it’s kept in good condition, at an appropriate proportional profit) to be used to help someone else?

We could sell literally millions of people new, cheaper modern starter homes – and after the initial cost outlay to the government, it would be a self-financing project. Perhaps government won’t like this solution, for some reason. If not, they should be equally imaginative and think of something better!
It’s sadly this lack of vision, a lack of leadership, that currently infects modern politics. Successive dull Labour and Conservative governments have shown little imagination, little appetite for finding creative solutions to modern problems.
Regards,
Jonathan Arnott MEP

‘Impossible demands’ raise doubts over Brexit deal

‘Impossible demands’ contained in a draft European Parliament resolution on Brexit has led to a British MEP to question whether the European Parliament really wants to do any kind of deal with the United Kingdom.

The resolution comes just a week after the European Commission published a draft EU Withdrawal Treaty which would allow EU courts to overrule the UK and even decide the size of the so-called ‘divorce bill’.

Independent MEP Jonathan Arnott said “There are only three possibilities here: It’s possible that the European Parliament is merely playing political games, sabre-rattling to draw attention to itself as it often does. Perhaps it is trying to make any Brexit deal as difficult as possible in an attempt to undermine and reverse Brexit, or maybe it is genuinely trying to push the UK away from the table and force a no-deal scenario.”

The European Parliament’s bizarre proposals include suggestions that taxation should be ‘integrated’ between the United Kingdom and the European Union (forcing the UK to change its own tax structure after leaving the EU), that the European Court of Justice should forever have the power to override the United Kingdom, and that financial services should be ‘limited’ in any trade agreement. Furthermore, they want the UK to make further financial payments to the European Union.

Mr Arnott, MEP for the North East, said “The European Union makes much of the doctrine of ‘sincere co-operation’ when they want to stop the UK from doing something, but there’s precious little evidence that they think it applies to them too. They’re completely ignoring Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty that suggests our future relationship should be based upon a spirit of co-operation, prosperity and good neighbourliness.

“If the European Parliament were to get its way, the European Union’s desire to control every aspect of our daily lives would continue even after we leave. Their control-freakery knows no bounds. If we did a trade deal with any other nation or organisation in the world, they wouldn’t expect to be able to interfere with our tax system. Their notion that we should pay them for continuing tariff-free trade is back to front – we’re in trade deficit with them; any ‘compensation’ for non-receipt of tariffs would be the other way around.

“If the United Kingdom had set out its negotiating position in such a way – suggesting that our Supreme Court should be the ultimate arbiter of any UK-EU deal, they would have rightly accused us of breathtaking arrogance. It’s just plain common sense that if you want to work together, you negotiate as equals not as bullies. Just how bad does it have to get before the British Labour Party will admit that there’s something deeply wrong with the European Union’s attitude towards negotiations?

“It seems the European Parliament wants to test the mantra that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ by deliberately making any deal as unrealistic as possible. Theresa May’s statement last week that she won’t threaten a walkout from negotiations has clearly been treated as a sign of weakness by the European Parliament.”

ends

The text of the draft resolution can be found at:

https://g8fip1kplyr33r3krz5b97d1-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/PARL-Draft_Resolution_4_0503-1930.pdf

Response to impact studies claiming that the UK will be substantially worse off as a result of Brexit

An in-depth report about studies claiming the UK will suffer as a result of Brexit has been produced by Independent MEP Jonathan Arnott.

The document responds to the majority of studies into the economic impact of the UK leaving the EU predict that our economy will be negatively affected. Mr Arnott, Independent MEP for the North East, points out that the same modelling techniques when tested against real economic data between the date of the EU referendum and now show that there have been profound inaccuracies:

“This leads to the question – Is there any reason to suppose that such projections will be any more accurate when referring to after Brexit? I believe that there is every reason to suppose they’ll be just as bad, because the same factors causing previous projections to be wrong still apply today.”

Mr Arnott claims that there are five main areas in which impact assessments lean heavily against Brexit:

1. That underlying assumptions fail to fully take into account anticipated changes in EU policy

2. That current modelling techniques underestimate ‘added value’ arising from Brexit

3. That headline claims are often misleading and ‘gold-plate’ the content of reports

4. That ‘groupthink’ or circular reasoning leads to confirmation bias

5. That modelling does not (or can not) fully consider extra policy options afforded by Brexit

Mr Arnott said:

“As the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union, it’s important that claims are critically examined. I’ve seen politicians of all sides either praise or deny the results of Brexit impact assessments, often without even having read them. Of course, some documents aren’t even available for us to read – but I thought it was important to study the available research. Having done so, it’s become clear to me that some of the biggest positives of a clean Brexit aren’t really modelled (though they would be difficult to model). I am not seeking to carry out a detailed analysis of my own – merely to put others in context.”

Response to Theresa May’s Brexit speech

Whilst Theresa May’s speech did strike some positive notes, overall her approach fails to inspire confidence. It was a more detailed speech than most, and detail demands a careful and nuanced response.

Theresa May has taken changes to EU state aid rules off the table. Those same state aid rules prevented meaningful and timely action being taken over SSI in Redcar; this concession is a serious error of judgement from the Prime Minister.

If the UK is pushing keeping EU and UK regulatory standards too closely aligned for the long term, this must surely have a negative impact upon our ability to negotiate good free trade deals with other nations. Does May’s approach not reduce some of the ‘added value’ of regaining that freedom to negotiate independently with third countries?

May’s proposal for associate membership of European Union agencies, and the financial contributions (albeit relatively small) which that would entail, is a dangerous one. It is one which could set a very negative precedent.

Fundamentally, our Prime Minister is taking an approach which is dangerous, and likely to fail. In this speech, just as in others,she comes across as terrified of upsetting the EU. The danger of such an approach is that it can be perceived as weakness. The European Union’s approach in negotiation is to ask for things it knows it won’t get, and force the UK to push back. Theresa May, though, keeps telling us what she ‘won’t’ ask for because the EU won’t want to give. If she does not ask for more, where is the wriggle-room, the room for manoeuvre and compromise? The danger must surely be that the UK will end up compromising on issues which are important to her.

Theresa May used to say that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, but by taking off the table the possibility of walking away from talks, she has effectively done a U-turn on that too. It will be perceived by the European Union side as evidence of weakness.

Nevertheless, there are four points in May’s speech which are worth praising:

1. She is absolutely correct to state that  “the ultimate arbiter of the future UK-EU agreement cannot be the court of either side”. This is vital; we can not – and must not – permit EU courts to overrule our own. This was the most pernicious detail of the EU’s draft Withdrawal Agreement released this week, and it is good that Theresa May has picked up on it.

2. She is correct, also, to insist that the European Union’s approach to trade agreements is misleading: it is right to say that we will not ‘accept the rights of Canada and the obligations of Norway’. It is right to point out that a Canada-style deal would be incompatible with any current proposal for Northern Ireland, and indeed it is right to suggest that the Commission’s inflexible approach is unnecessary.

3. It is correct to put forward constructive suggestions regarding Northern Ireland and the avoidance of a hard border. Such issues can, if the political will exists on both sides, be overcome. The fear is that the European Union wants to create this hurdle rather than to resolve the issue.

4. Finally she is correct to hit back at EU accusations of ‘cherry-picking’. Like snowflakes, no two free trade agreements are alike. If this is cherry-picking, then every free trade agreement in history is cherry-picking.
It is, perhaps, a sign of the ineptitude which this government has shown in recent months that I can say this speech was not quite as bad as might have been expected. When expectations are so low, even a poor speech like this one seems almost reasonable by comparison.