Category Archives: European Politics

Everyone is terrified, Vote Leave’s on fire

Things are not good. Just four days after Britain took its biggest post-war decision, a vote to leave the European Union, the country is indeed at breaking point – perhaps Nigel Farage was right. The consequences of Brexit were always going to be massive. The Remainers feared them and us Leavers were wary of them, but are least our new de facto leaders had a plan.

Or so we thought.

As of 28 June 2016, there is no plan to take the United Kingdom out of the EU. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would begin a two-year process to extricate the country, is yet to be invoked, despite David Cameron saying it would be immediately if a Leave vote was returned. After all, why should he “do the hard shit”? No reason, except for that bit where you said you would, Dave.

We are witness to an ill-prepared Vote Leave, who are suffering a pyrrhic victory, and a government digging its heels in to delay or deny the will of the British people. Westminster’s bigwigs evidently do not approve of the peasants’ revolt which has taken place. Tottenham MP and anti-democrat, Labour’s David Lammy, has already made the risible pledge to “stop this madness” and ignore the referendum result. Some much-needed comedic relief, at least.

Meanwhile, the rightfully forgotten Liberal Democrats (ha!) have confirmed that they will stand on a platform to flip the 52 percent off and keep Britain in the EU should they be in government – they won’t, but this is 2016 and nothing can be ruled out completely. Okay, perhaps this can. However, these two moves did neatly clarify that our issue with authoritarians does not begin and end in Brussels.

“But we have a parliamentary democracy! The referendum was only advisory!” cry the diminishing yet pesky Remainers in denial. That’s very true, parliament is under no legal obligation to follow through with the plebiscite. But it is also true that parliament should be representative of the electorate. It is now apparent that with 479 out of 650 MPs publicly voicing their support for remaining within the EU, that parliament is out of touch with the public on the biggest constitutional issue the country faces. For that reason alone, an imminent general election is required, with current and prospective MPs displaying their EU stance. But not before Article 50 – the slippery establishment cannot be allowed off the hook it’s taken decades to get them on.

Until the already notorious Article 50 is triggered, nothing happens. The UK remains a fully paid up member of a union which wants us out pronto. Once started, the process is irreversible, hence the delay. The official word is to strengthen Britain’s negotiations with the EU, but the murmurs from grandees of a second referendum, and the declared intention of some to ignore the nation’s choice means the electorate must be extra vigilant.

We are now seeing exactly why allowing the Conservatives to control both sides of the debate was a serious mistake. However much these careerists-turned-statesmen told you they cared, ultimately, party was always going to become before country. As far as they are concerned, finding a new leader and grabbing a stronger hold of the House of Commons is their priority – an easy task thanks to Labour’s implosion.

In fact, it’s not far-fetched to suggest Vote Leave’s virtual leader and part-time Eurosceptic Boris Johnson would have preferred a narrow loss, so not to damage himself and skirt this Brexit nuisance altogether.

To lead Britain out of the EU will be political suicide for whoever has to do it. The implications are undeniable. A period of economic trouble and the likely departure of Scotland from the union are two events no prime minister could survive. However, paying no heed to the 17.4 million who opted for Leave, or performing a stitch up which effectively sees us stay in is also unworkable.

Scotland’s second plea for independence was always going to happen, but leaving the economy teetering without stability was an avoidable scenario, had Johnson, Michael Gove and the other official Brexiteers decided on a destination for their ship.

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. So many promises were made from so many people – in truth, they probably had to be to form a winning coalition – that it’s impossible to deliver on all of them. The cake Johnson is after is not, and will likely never be on the menu. Staying in the single market, not contributing to the EU budget and ending free movement is a fantasy. If the EU did grant it, petrol would be added to the Eurosceptic fires roaring in France, the Netherlands and others. Thus, the end of “ever-closer union”. That won’t be in the #junckerplan.

It seems as if the likely Tory government would settle on Britain joining the European Economic Area (EEA) – the Norway model – if they cannot get the caveats they desire. Vote Leave representatives have already been keen to stick with the single market, while some are keen on the free movement of people continuing. The EEA may now the best hope now for economic stability, but there’s no denying that this isn’t the Brexit many Leave voters would have had in mind. The UK would remain in the single market and crucially, have to accept the free movement of people.

Such a move would be considered by many as another establishment betrayal and not what they voted for. Out was supposed to be out. If such a play was made, unprecedented discontent and a surge in support for UKIP would be inevitable. If disregarding the vote entirely is the worst course of action, politically, this would be a firm second. Our steeliest Eurosceptic Farage will push, and he’s been pretty successful doing that so far. In such an uncertain political climate, who knows what gains his party could make in the short and long-term future?

However, there’s no guarantee that Britain will even get EEA. Hath no fury like an EU scorned – we are not the most popular folk on the continent right now. That they refuse to even engage in informal discussions before Article 50 is invoked is proof enough of that.

Talk of an associate membership akin to Georgia’s has been mooted, while it’s not inconceivable that there will be no deal at all, if they really set out to punish us. To view it from their perspective, stopping other brewing dissent from manifesting into further referenda is a priority. They may think that giving the UK a raw deal is the best way to do that.

Brexit has plunged the country into the unknown – no surprise in itself. But the thoroughly incompetent Vote Leave clan has made things 10 times worse. They won, but refuse to “take control”. Don’t expect them to do so anytime soon either with the Tory leadership contest about to get into full swing.  Four days on, the British public has no idea what sort of Brexit to expect, if it can even expect one at all.

Leaving the European Union should be a time of hope and opportunity – Australia and New Zealand are already in search of a trade deal – but for now, we are plunging into the abyss that Project Fear predicted.

We need Brexit leadership, and fast.

How the EU’s over-regulation stifles education

Anyone who’s been paying attention over the past few years knows that EU regulations and directives are a bane. Brussels interference is rife and is going anywhere. It’s like a rework of the notorious Rule 34 – if it exists, they’ve regulated it.

“So what EU regulations and directives would you actually get rid of?” says the smug Remainiac.

Well, here’s one totally senseless regulation which helps nobody.

Duolingo is a fantastic website where you can learn languages for free – from English to Spanish to Vietnamese to Swedish, with more in development all the time – without adverts. It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. The site is thorough and respected – you can even use your Duolingo ratings on LinkedIn, as proof of your fluency in a language. While there may be better resources out there, I have not found one, and there are certainly none available free of charge.

Learning a language usually requires a substantial financial commitment which puts many off, because they either don’t think they’ll keep it up or they can’t afford it. That’s why Duolingo has such huge appeal. There’s no commitment needed, and it’s there for anyone who has an internet connection. This is a perfect example of where the free market has filled a gap in the market in a way that’s beneficial to anyone who chooses to use it.

So how do they make money? The site’s ‘Immersion’ section allows users to become fully-versed in a language by translating real, previously unrelated content. Not only does this help unlock previously inaccessible web knowledge for everybody, but it helps keep the site free. How can you trust a few wannabe linguists? Because hundreds of users translate the same content, ensuring reliability and accuracy. It’s a solid and respected system – even the mighty CNN use Duolingo to translate articles into Spanish.

All of that’s good, of course, unless you’re in the EU. Enter Bruxelles.

The EU deems this to be “unpaid labour” since there is no financial transaction for users translating content. But that totally ignores the beauty of Duolingo. Users are able to learn a language charge-free and ad-free. That, in essence, is the payment, and the reason why the site is rated so highly. There is no unpaid labour, and if people don’t like the system, no one is forcing them to use it anyway.

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But Brussels rules, and as a result, the ‘Immersion’ section is not available to those locked in the 28-country stranglehold. And this has been the case for some years now. As a result, European Union citizens are denied full access to a website which, in the space of four years, has gone from square one to the “most downloaded education app in the world”.

Frivolous? Perhaps. It probably doesn’t affect your life, but it’s yet another example of how the EU wants to control everything it can.

Regulation is how big business Brussels operates – it’s how small businesses are forced out of the market. Larger companies are able to account for the costs that the EU’s demands bring, but small businesses aren’t and subsequently get squeezed out.

Stop the regulation, and leave us alone.

I really do love Europe, that’s why I’m voting Leave

I love Europe. No, genuinely, I do. I drink German wheat beer by the gallon, enjoy Scandi-noir on a regular basis and am a self-confessed Eurovision obsessive. Hell, I’ve even become addicted to some Spanish television series – Locked Up (Vis a vis), watch it, it’s pretty great.

Living just a few miles from continental Europe puts me within reach of a vast land, teeming with different cultures, experiences and people. And hey, we don’t even go to war with each other anymore.

None of that, however, makes me want to vote to Remain in the European Union on 23 June.

I’ve bored those who’ve had the diligence to traipse through my ramblings for months – years, even – on the democratic failings of the EU, the organisation’s incompetence and its sheer wastage. Now it’s time to explain why any attempts to integrate these amazing countries – politically, economically and culturally – is foolhardy.

It’s because we, as a continent, are so different that it’s impossible to meld us together. For more than four decades until 1989, the European divide was a political, vertical one slicing through Germany. Now, there’s an economic, horizontal line cutting the continent in half.

In the north we have the Germanys and the Frances who, despite having their own problems are faring far better than the Spains and the Greeces, where unemployment runs rampant. What good has the Euro project done them? Instead of leaving the single currency last year and devaluing, the Greeks were imposed with more EU straitjacketing – not helped by the toothless Syriza government and its turncoat leader, Alexis Tsipras. Iceland, meanwhile, simply jailed the bankers and devalued its currency when their financial crisis hit in 2008.

Eight years on, Icelandics are doing well. Economic growth has returned and is steady, while unemployment has fallen to around 3 percent, just six years after it ballooned to nearly 10. Unsurprisingly, desire to join the EU club is low. Yet instead of returning to monetary sovereignty, Greece has been lumped with bailout after bailout and debts they’ll never be able to repay. And for what? Unemployment in Greece has remained at 25 percent or more for four years now, while youth unemployment reached a staggering 60 percent in 2013, and is still at more than 50 percent now.

For the EU, maintaining the dream of its founders is considered way more important than the welfare of the people. That alone rubbishes the Remain campaign’s line that Brussels bureaucrats are champions for workers’ rights. One can only be grateful that we have not, as yet, been dragged into the euro.

Yet a Remain vote on 23 June would be an implicit acceptance for further integration – nothing would be off the table long-term. There is no “new deal”. Special exemptions don’t work in federalism, and nor should they. David Cameron is selling the British people a dud. If countries started exercising vetoes left, right and centre, the EU would never get anything done.

Europe is much too brilliant and vibrant to be represented on the world stage by a bunch of beige, unaccountable politicians. That’s not to say we shouldn’t cooperate together – of course we should. After all, time spent talking is time not fighting. But the EU in its current state is not responsible for peace. If anything, it threatens it. Euroscepticism is rife across Europe, and while the rise of Right-wing (and in cases far-Right) parties is welcome in some cases, it is terrifying in others. The UK is lucky to have something of an alternative in the UK Independence Party, but other countries are deprived of a real choice.

On the continent we are seeing nationalism, but not as we know it. The ‘them’ in “us and them” is a group of unaccountable, unelected politicians; not demonised immigrants. The worse off a country is, the worse its democratic options become. Nearly one in 10 Greeks are now dabbling with neo-Nazism (Golden Dawn), while many have given up voting altogether – turnout at the last Greek general election was a mere 56.6 percent.

Britain is very fortunate. It’s not too deep into the EU that it’s beyond repair, and the exit door has presented itself after persistent knocking. The dangers of integration EU-style are clear, and next, it will be a military. I don’t just want the UK to get out; I want the other 27 EU nations to free themselves too. But if we choose not to walk through that door next month, we will have approved a failure and be solely responsible for our own demise.

The tampon tax is ridiculous, but once again, almost everyone has missed the point

While under no illusion that my comments are about as significant as a farting gnat, I feel it’s my duty to opine to you all once more in the hope that you will one day realise I was right all along (a bit too Milo?).

Yes, the latest hoo-ha sweeping the nation (sorry, social media) is the tampon tax, which in the space of 48 hours has descended into one big bloody mess. In a rare case where feminists, Eurosceptics and anti-taxers meet, the Great British Public is united at the ridiculousness of it.

The idea that an additional tax should be levied on women because they have periods is illogical, although the logic for defining its illogicalness is rather weak.

Many, including the greatest female heroines of our time – yes, you, Stella Creasy – have wasted little time in waging war. In their attempts to look more self-righteous than the folk next to them, proclaim: “They should be free!” before continuing to blast the patriarchy and the man – because it’s always a man – who would have imposed the tax initially.

This, of course, is nonsensical. It’s not the role of the state to subsidise tampons, no more than it is for the government to pay for condoms, toilet paper, shampoo or any essential. The case that this is only a female problem doesn’t hold up to scrutiny either unless you are to address every disadvantage males are at in society.

And, as you all know, nothing is free anyway. By declaring that something should be “free”, you simply demand that somebody else should foot the bill. That doesn’t however mean that the tampon tax is right. It isn’t.

So, what is the root cause of this temper tamptrum? Surprise, surprise, it’s the European Union. Yes, thanks to being a member of the failing political union which gives us access to a declining trade area – and one that is in the midst of a haplessly-handled migrant crisis – the tampon tax is unavoidable.

As a result of EU regulations, our unsovereign nation is unable to lower the VAT rate on sanitary items below 5 percent. And, to achieve any change, the agreement of all 28 member states would be required. Quite simply, the entirely unelected European Commission which proposed this absurd legislation overrides anything which Westminster may desire.

However, despite this evident unnecessary Brussels interference, the Labour Luvvies and co. will quietly sidestep this issue, and God forbid would they consider that our EU membership is riddled with negatives. As well as going against the party line – although we all know Jeremy Corbyn is a closet Eurosceptic anyway – it’s also a trickier horse to flog. Having a crack at the patriarchy earns far more retweets and likes than a pop at EU meddling could ever dream of – trust me, I know.

And, amusingly, the first party to bring up the crazy tampon tax was UKIP. More in common than you once thought?

But perhaps more than anything, that the tampon tax is symbolised as one of the biggest indicators of sexism in society is a symptom of ugly modern feminism. In the Western world, we have reached a situation where sexism is no longer an issue. Rude tweets, tampon taxes and “lad culture” are – I would hazard an educated guess – not problems which Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Davison and the like were fighting for.

However, there are plenty of injustices taking place around the world which modern feminism shuns. Female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honour killings go unnoticed, largely because tackling them would require feminists to remove themselves from Twitter, get their hands dirty, and risk “offending” horrendously backwards cultures.

These women face genuine oppression, but their plight is forgotten. It doesn’t have the social media sellability that the attention-seeking Caitlyn Jenner has.

The tampon tax story has many similarities to a play in the horrifically patriarchal sport of golf. The sweetly struck shot came so close to glory, zoning in on the pin, but ended up pinging off the flag and into the rough. Instead of highlighting the actual problem, the point, once again, has been badly missed.

Must be the time of the month.

Greek default does NOT equal Greek exit

Anyone’s guess as to what will happen in Greece at the moment. Here’s what the new Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, had to say in 2012.

There may be trouble ahead…

Yanis Varoufakis

Perhaps the greatest enemy of the eurozone, at this particular juncture, is an erroneous assumption: that a Greek default is inextricably linked to a Greek exit from the eurozone. The problem with this assumption is twofold: First, it prevents Europe from escaping a trap of its own making. Secondly, it is false.

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Are you really all Charlie?

The outpouring of support for freedom of speech and Charlie Hebdo after the horrific Paris attacks would be so much more heartening if it were not for the hypocrisy or naivety – perhaps both – of so many who have proclaimed.

“Je suis Charlie” is the slogan. And a very good one it is too. I am confident I can use it since I make no effort to silence opposing views, no matter how much I abhor them. But the thousands who recently signed a petition to have Katie Hopkins arrested for “offensive” Twitter musings, or those who shout down any attempts of those who express the failures of multiculturalism have no business in calling themselves Charlie.

In addition, Nigel Farage was condemned by British politicians for his comments on just that, the failures of multiculturalism. He has been accused of making “political capital” out of the attacks by the Westminster cartel. I ask, when should such matters be discussed? Since politicians have done their utmost to avoid talking about them for many years, evident from the backlashes now seen in the polls, backlashes they deem to be “protest votes”.

Rest assured, the people who want the likes of Mrs Hopkins arrested, would never have affiliated themselves with the work of Charlie Hebdo before the massacre. I doubt very much whether they fully understand it now. It is nothing more than a bandwagon to portray their apparent liberalism.  For these “liberals”, freedom of speech ends the moment they hear views they don’t like. The tolerance they preach soon morphs into something more akin to an agitated toddler in a pram. Charlie? Non.

Nor do the French government have the right to call themselves Charlie. Within 48 hours of the initial attacks, President Francois Hollande was already seeking ways to ban Marine Le Pen’s Front National – the same party Charlie Hebdo regularly mocks with their cutting humour – from joining the solidarity marches in the French capital on Sunday in a display of both incompetence, and supreme ignorance. The newfound desire to press home the importance of freedom and liberty appears not to have lasted long.

The BBC. Well they’re not Charlie either. Live on Question Time, host David Dimbleby said: “Due care and consideration must be used regarding the use of religious symbols in images which may cause offence, the Prophet Muhammad must not be represented in any shape or form”. The public broadcaster, which is supposed to act in the interests of those who fund it, have taken it upon themselves to silence free speech via the form of censorship wherever they see fit. Is this a North Korean tribute act?

The British media have also let themselves down. Immensely. Instead of plastering the most controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons over the newspaper front pages in an act of defiance, they meekly surrendered by not doing so. This form of cowardice is a sign of defeat – the hatred and fear spewed by the extremists serves to grant them the censorship they so desire. I highly doubt any decent practicing Muslim would protest against the necessity for the media to preach their right to free speech – indeed it is the honest Muslim who also suffers when the radicalised commit these acts.

Satire, as heinous as it may come across at times, is ultimately, just satire. The ability to mock and poke fun is essential to a free society, and wavering to those who look to block it is a grave injustice. Britain to an extent has already given in – there is no magazine published on these shores comparable to Charlie Hebdo. You may be offended by what satirists say, you may not think it’s “right”, but neither of those mean it shouldn’t be allowed.

The solidarity shown by the European people for their liberty in the wake of the attacks cannot fail to instill hope. But we must all heed our own words. To everyone who has considered themselves Charlie, ask yourself if you really do believe in all true freedom of speech entails. If you do, go forth. If not, I invite you to travel to any oppressive country which shares views similar to yours. I’ll even pay your air fare. One way, of course.

Do Sweden Democrats gains set the tone for 2015 General Election?

The Swedish Elections may have resulted in an overall shift to the left, but the big story of the night was the rise of the Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna).

The Sweden Democrats (SD) took an unprecedented 13% of the vote – up over 7% from 2010 – to become the third largest party in the country, and increase their representation in the Riksdag to 49 – up 29 seats from 2010. The party famed for it’s anti-immigration stance polled far higher than both opinion and exit polls suggested, whilst the Feminist Initiative who were predicted to be on the cusp of the 4% threshold required to gain seats in Parliament, fell short with 3.1%.

In an attempt to distance themselves from the Swedish Democrats, alliances from both left and right have been ruled out. Social Democrats leader and Prime Minister-designate Stefan Lofven has announced a desire to form a group with the Greens and other “anti-racist” parties. Meanwhile the Moderate Party, the big losers from the Election, have also refused to co-operate with the Swedish Democrats.

The results rather confirms the mood from May’s European Elections. Euroscepticism and concerns over immigration are continuing to grow, reflected in the rise of the sometimes unfairly dubbed ‘far-right’. Media bias and smears have failed to turn voters away from them, if anything they have strengthened their support.

The news has come as a shock to many, particularly around the rest of Europe. Yet with Sweden’s liberal immigration laws – an estimated 80,000 asylum-seekers will enter the country this year – the rise of a party like the SD, rightly or wrongly should have been anticipated, particularly after the European Elections. The fact that these Elections have been reported as such a shock is further proof that the growing concerns of the public are still being ignored. Branding people who hold these opinions as xenophobic and racist is foolish and has only served to further alienate ordinary people from mainstream politics.

Looking from a UK perspective, the news from Sweden will come as a boost to the UK Independence Party. The Sweden Democrats and UKIP form part of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the European Parliament.

Opinion polls in Britain show UKIP consistently polling at around 15%, slightly higher than the Sweden Democrats. However due to the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system in the UK it is highly unlikely that UKIP will garner anywhere near the representation in the House of Commons that the Sweden Democrats have in the Riksdag. Similarly, if Sweden operated under FPTP, votes for the Sweden Democrats would almost certainly not have translated in to seats in the numbers that they have.

Does this indicate a significant problem in the UK voting system? Well not if you support either Labour or Conservative, or hold a dislike for UKIP. Based on current voting intentions for the General Election in 2015, the likely scenario is that UKIP will pick up around 15% of the vote yet no more than around five seats. Labour are currently predicted to gather around two and a half times the popular vote of UKIP, which predictions suggest would give them around 350 seats. Two and a half times the vote, 70 times the number of seats. This isn’t a case of being sympathetic to UKIP. In 2010, the Liberal Democrats polled 23.2% of the vote, compared to Labour’s 29%. The Liberal Democrats won 57 seats, Labour 258. The Conservatives took 36.1%, which gave them 307 seats.

Without getting too technical, the Riksdag in Sweden more or less equally represents the popular vote. If we applied this to the current opinion polls in the UK, UKIP would be on course to make up around 100 of the 650 MPs in the House of Commons in 2015 – a whole 20 times more than what they are currently on target for. Using this system for 2010, the Liberal Democrats would have won around 150 seats (up 93), Labour 189 (down 69), and the Conservatives 235 (down 72). A far more accurate representation of how the public voted.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to decry calls for an electoral system to be changed providing it doesn’t affect a party you support. Everyone knows the Greens like a good shout, if it were they who were picking up a sixth of the vote but facing less than one hundredth of parliamentary representation, you can guarantee you wouldn’t be able to move in the liberal hotbeds for weeks.

In a democratic society, if the public vote for something they have the right to be heard, no matter their opinions. It is time outdated systems which serve to protect the Establishment parties who have little interest in offering any real change left or right were abolished.

Euroscepticism, immigration concerns and a desire to regain sovereignty is on the rise across Europe. But not all countries will show it.