Yesterday’s paper published by the ERG has put the Irish border issue to bed, from a UK perspective at least.
Crucially it outlines how we will overcome each obstacle the EU has attempted to throw in our way, keeping the border as it is and preserving the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom.
There is no longer any excuse for delays to the Brexit negotiations based on the border. The government should adopt this workable solution as it’s own policy, and put the onus squarely on the EU.
The plan has four elements which explain how each function of a border can be conducted. The need for tariffs can be eliminated through a free trade deal. VAT, customs procedures and declarations are dealt with via a range of pre-existing technology solutions. With regards trading standards, eventual regulatory divergence will be flagged through data-sharing and cooperation. Agricultural standards, the paper concedes, will have to be maintained through the all-island Common Biosecurity Zone, mutual recognition of some standards and pre-export inspections which are common elsewhere.
None of this is new – these are solutions raised by many of us during the referendum campaign and subsequently.
However, the debate on how to deal with the border has taken place with little regard to either rationality or the 44% of people in Northern Ireland who voted leave. It is a debate that has, until now, been devoid of substance and meaning.
Of course, the usual crowd have their objections. Objectors to Brexit have frequently used the Belfast Agreement as an excuse to stay in the Customs Union and/or Single Market, but the text of the Agreement demands no such thing. Others say that the ERG plan demands more cooperation than the EU is used to allowing with non-members, but as all parties have already acknowledged the special circumstances of Northern Ireland and the reality that bilateral agreements like the Common Travel Area already mean the UK and Ireland cooperate more than is usual, this is not a fair or legitimate objection either.
Managing divergence is, of course, a challenge. Especially to a supranational organisation used to arranging convergence. The ERG paper tackles this by looking at how other countries manage cross-border trade, including mutual recognition of standards and other measures. This is not as challenging as it might be elsewhere, as most of the NI-RoI cross-border trade is simple, repetitive, and predictable.
The Irish government, in the form of the completely unlikable Neale Richmond, says it’s unworkable but doesn’t say how – only saying that they would prefer it if we were in a customs union. They were joined in this call, predictably, by the Alliance Party. Have they not realised that that ship has sailed? Have they not realised that such a thorough, sensible, coherent proposal from the ERG requires an equally thorough rebuttal for that rebuttal to be anything close to credible?
On Radio Ulster yesterday, the former head of the Remain campaign in Northern Ireland conjured up images of tailbacks as vehicles were checked. He perhaps didn’t realise that most countries only physically inspect around 5% of freight anyway – usually that suspected of violations. The ERG paper itself calls for intelligence-led customs inspections. Only 5% of NI sales go to the Republic. There is very little freight actually passing between the Republic and Northern Ireland that has either destination as its end point. Most of what does travel across the border belongs to businesses that make regular trips and won’t need inspecting. At a rough estimate, you might be checking one or two vehicles a day. If that.
These are emotionally charged objections that aren’t based in reality, from people who simply can’t accept change or who have an ulterior motive. Such is the impotence of their arguments that we can be assured that we’re finally on to something.
Conservatives for Liberty believes in the Union and believes in Brexit. We therefore back these sensible, practical, solutions to deal with the Irish border issue.
National pride isn’t very fashionable anymore. People who drape themselves in the Union Flag, sing the national anthem and talk about how GREAT Britain is are sneered at as at best being deluded, harking back to a long-gone past, and at worst being some kind of fascist – as though patriotism is inevitably Nazism.
We’re told that after Brexit – and especially if there’s a no deal Brexit – the UK is going to be a little fish in a big pond. And the sharks are coming for us.
But if those of us who are proud of our country are supposedly deluded, what are the people who seem to have no concept of the privileged, wealthy and powerful position the UK occupies, relative to the rest of the world?
Let’s look at the facts.
In terms of our economy, we’re no minnow. The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world according to rankings by the UN, IMF and World Bank. Ours is bigger than the economies of countries including India, France, Canada, Russia and Australia.
When it comes to defence spending we’re up there with the big boys. Measured by overall size of military budget, the International Institute for Strategic Studies ranks the UK as the sixth biggest spender in the world, while the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute puts the UK at seventh in the world.
The Soft Power 30 index by Portland and The USC Center on Public Diplomacy ranks countries according to their influence, attractiveness and persuasive power. The 2018 index places the UK top, making it the world’s biggest soft power. The report identifies the UK’s underlying strengths in education, culture, digital, creative, finance and tech as the reason the UK is so popular around the world.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report – which assesses how countries perform in terms of infrastructure, education, market efficiency, financial markets, market size, tech and innovation – places the UK eighth overall.
The UK also has a permanent seat on the UK Security Council, has had its national dress adopted around the world (suit and tie), and has untold influence as the anchor member of the 53 country strong Commonwealth of Nations.
It’s not harking back to the British Empire to acknowledge that the UK is a strong and powerful nation. We should own the objective reality that we are a hard, soft and economic power, with more authority and influence than most countries in the world.
Instead of being shy, nervous or falsely modest, the UK needs to move forward with confidence. Not only for our own sakes, but because by reconciling ourselves to our status as a world leader, we can use that influence to do good.
Because Brexit is not just an opportunity for us to realise our full potential as an independent trading nation, but also an opportunity to spread the values and institutions that create the circumstances for prosperity: free trade, property rights, the rule of law, individual civil liberties and an independent judiciary. Built on these foundations prosperity is not a zero-sum game where as one country gets richer another gets poorer, but instead it is a recipe for everyone to improve their lot.
Following on from last week’s five suggestions for a decent Brexit here are five more ways we can make out country better.
6. Reform of our immigration system
Much of the dissatisfaction with immigration stems directly from the system we have been shackled to by our EU membership. Obliged to admit every ‘European citizen’, policy makers have instead focussed their efforts at curbing immigration on a comparatively small number of people who very often have more to offer and who usually deserve better. To do this, they’ve employed a system of central planning which was always doomed to fail.
Free of free movement, we can move to a model which chimes with our values. Fair for immigrant and non-immigrant alike, the system CfL is proposing would correct that which the general public believe has gone wrong without generating the type of skills shortages and demographic problems solutions at either end of the scale would.
7. Ending subventions. Inventively.
CfL is realistic. While the dependence on some geographic areas and industries on EU subventions was overplayed by remainers, there can be no sudden sharp shock as we seek to roll back the frontiers of the state that EU imposed.
In moving away from the Common Agricultural Policy we need to be vehement in correcting the injustices heaped upon the developing world by its very existence. We need to be clear in our determination that agriculture is a global market and that tariffs on imports are not acceptable.
We would also do well to emulate New Zealand where the ending of agricultural subsidies has served to make it an agricultural powerhouse, successfully overcoming the blow it was dealt when its main export market – the UK – suddenly jilted it in the 1970s.
8. Exit the Common Fisheries Policy
In what can only be written off as another attempt to get the EU to be nice to us, we’ve decided to give the EU another couple of years to kill off our fishing industry for good.
If independence means anything then it surely not allowing other nations to plunder our natural resources to support industries that are, for the most part, built on that plunder. We need to leave this charade in 2019
9. Legislate for minimal bureaucracy
A simple but effective Act would write into law the principle that no other piece of legislation could place undue burdens on people. It could determine that regulations could not involve, say, more than one point of contact with government and more than an hour’s worth of time per person, per year. In this way government will be tied only to finding solutions that make things quick and efficient for businesses and individuals. And if it can’t be done then it won’t be done. Too bad.
And after all, nothing would underline the vast cultural differences between ourselves and the fussy, authoritarian, cloudy brained mess across the channel than offering the public a degree of clarity in their relationship with the state.
10. Deepen ties with the Anglosphere
Having emerged from our temporary tryst with our slightly alternative neighbours, much the worse for the whole experience, it’s now time to rebuild our relationship with our much-maligned brood.
As family, we share common legal systems, common systems of government, a common tongue and a common heritage ensuring that things are just easier when we’re together.
Because our experiences in the EU may have tamed us and, in the cases of some people, caused us to forget who we are entirely, we have much to learn from the nations we spawned and whose cultures best resemble caricatures of our own.
Whether it’s New Zealand’s belief that subsidies are ‘abhorrent’, Australia’s control of its immigration system or Canada’s firm belief in personal liberty, much about these nations represent the British values that have been denied us by the Euro-statism that has crept into our national discourse over the years.
Brexit is on the horizon. However two years of tedious debate has been exclusively focussed on the mechanics of leaving and whether it’s even worthwhile. None of us can remember a time since the campaign when anybody, seriously, talked about thing great things we can do with the powers we’ll get back.
We’ve taken the opportunity presented by the second anniversary of the referendum to outline what is possible now that we’re leaving and what ‘taking back control’ could mean.
1. Gradually phasing out VAT
Did you ever wonder what the government did to deserve the extra 20% they slap on the value of everything you buy? Or why they want to increase the price of the things you sell beyond the point where they are sellable?
Well the answer is that the EU made them.
As a regressive form of taxation it hits the poorest hardest because it’s based on spending rather than income. The amount a millionaire spends on a day-to-day item is the same as someone on minimum wage. The poorest 10% of households pay more than 20% of their gross incomes on duties and VAT – twice the average.
We can’t afford to scrap it straight away – more’s the pity – though we should immediately lower it to a point in the Laffer curve where both consumption and income rises, with a view to eradicating it completely as debt falls and the state becomes smaller.
2. Scrapping Air Passenger Duty on internal flights
HS2 stands to cut the average journey time from London to Glasgow by a whopping 30 minutes, to Liverpool by 32 minutes and Newcastle by 33 minutes. What economic benefit these cities are meant to derive from this is unclear.
Air Passenger Duty has been creeping up for years. Like VAT, it is strongly regressive. While scrapping the tax for internal flights won’t make flights quicker they will certainly make them cheaper and, eventually, more frequent. As compared to the HS2 method of making the UK smaller, it’s cost neutral for taxpayers.
3. Getting out of the European Arrest Warrant
You can’t remain judicially independent and stay in the European Arrest Warrant mechanism. The EAW sends Britons abroad to face political show trials in places where human rights are described as a ’theoretical luxury’. To take back control, we simply must leave.
4. Duty Free
We would ditch sin taxes in a minute however it’s very unlikely that any government of any hue will agree with us. For now. Despite the obvious opportunities to get around punitive levels of taxation presented by the return of duty free shopping, there is some economic value. The ferry industry suffered when duty free was scrapped. The UK Chamber of Shipping is already salivating at the prospect.
5. Weights and measures? Your choice mate
We can’t get too excited about pounds and ounces but if you want to use them, go for it.
Let’s get one thing straight up front: Conservatives for Liberty is pro-immigration.
We’re not pro any and all immigration with no management at all, and certainly not pro EU free movement of people, but do we generally think that immigration is a positive thing.
Some industries in the UK simply cannot survive without immigration: mostly specialist skilled areas we don’t produce many workers in like electrical engineering, skilled professions in high demand like doctors, and undesirable labour intensive work like fruit picking. Immigration helps us to supply the manpower needed in these industries, and also helps balance out the costs of our ageing population.
With employment levels consistently high, we are approaching a time where economic growth will be seriously held back by not having enough people to work.
It’s not just an economic argument. The team at Conservatives for Liberty recognises the cultural good that so often comes with immigration. The most obvious cultural value that’s brought to us through immigration is in food. But we also see it in music and the arts, and all kinds of other areas.
Brexit offers us an opportunity that we have not had for a very long time: the opportunity to design a new immigration system that can be applied equally to everyone, regardless of their nationality. This is one of the reasons Conservatives for Liberty was such an ardent supporter of Brexit in the referendum campaign.
So what does our ideal immigration system look like?
Do we want a free for all? No.
The first thing we want is proper border controls, not just as a counting function, but so that we know who is coming and going. We need to know that people are who they say they are, that they meet the criteria set out below, and that they are safe to have in this country.
Our principle for controlling immigration is simple: if you can support yourself, you can come here. In order to assess whether people can support themselves, we have three criteria and every economic migrant must meet at least one:
- Have a job to come to, not just an offer or a hope, but signed employment contracts.
- Be a skilled worker in a field the UK is seriously lacking (this list would look similar to the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List).
- Be able to financially support themselves through other means, e.g. with private wealth.
In all cases immigrants would not have access to state benefits or the NHS, and would be required to buy private health insurance.
Under our system we would not have caps or targets for immigration – we think that they are a nonsense. Caps are a nonsense because government is incapable of accurately predicting how many migrants are actually needed. The best known example of this failure has been the recent rejection of migrant doctors, to which the government has responded by removing caps on doctors and nurses. But there are hundreds – perhaps thousands – of cases where UK businesses are badly affected by difficulties in getting the right staff, exacerbated by immigration caps; they’re just not as interesting to the media as the NHS.
There are three further planks to our ideal immigration policy.
First, people with criminal records are not allowed in, and people who commit crimes whilst in the UK are deported. We think that migrating to another country is a privilege, not a right, and that privilege should be lost with bad behaviour.
Second, families can come here too, but the definition of a family connection will be limited to spouses and children under the age of 18. For their family to join them, the person (or the married couple’s income taken together) meeting one of the three immigration criteria must be able to support them.
Third, in order to get the full benefits of being in the UK, including unemployment benefits, state pension, and access to the NHS, migrants must go through the process to become citizens. We envisage this continuing much as it is, with residency requirements, language tests, and the Life in the UK test.
You’ll notice that I haven’t talked about asylum and refugees in this article – and that’s deliberate because it’s an entirely different thing. It is broadly covered by international law, with humanitarian responsibilities. That’s not to say we wholeheartedly support current arrangements for refugees and asylum seekers – it’s a topic for another day.
But what about public opinion?
Time and again we’re told that the average man on the street is anti-immigration. That the reason the UK voted to the leave the EU is because we’re a nation of xenophobes. But I don’t think either of those things are true.
Yes, people are fed up with seeing immigrants who claim benefits (even though this is a minority of immigrants), they’re fed up of seeing immigrants commit crimes and then getting to stay here, and they’re fed up of the sense that the government hasn’t gripped this issue despite decades of outcry.
The solution to these gripes is not an unworkable, unachievable, economically damaging cap on immigration. It isn’t continuing free movement from the EU – with all that entails including entitlement to state benefits – whilst clamping down on immigration from non-EU countries in a way that looks, frankly, pretty racist.
If we keep track of who is here, deport anyone criminal, and make it impossible for immigrants to abuse benefits, I suspect people will be a whole lot less bothered about immigration – and they might even start to see the positives as we do.
The Conservative Party is the most successful British political party. Our electoral record of success surpasses that of our political rivals. The Conservatives have been in office for the majority of the time that Britain has had a mass democracy. Quite simply, the Conservatives are the governing party of modern British politics.
I thought it important that we remind ourselves of that. For weeks now there has been headline after headline and article after article on how our party is doomed, “finished for at least a generation”, and that it will “forfeit its political relevance”. With headlines like that, who needs an opposition party. I welcome the fact that there is a new energy and enthusiasm to develop fresh ideas. I welcome that there are MPs more interested in thinking than drinking – well, maybe thinking and drinking – but I do not buy these arguments of impending political Armageddon, and I am certainly not convinced that a party that has such a vibrant youth activist base is incapable of appealing to young people.
I’m fed up of all the doom and gloom. I’m fed up of us talking ourselves down when actually our party has a great story to tell. It’s time to inject some optimism. I couldn’t agree with my colleague Priti Patel more when she said to The House magazine that “The relentless negativity associated by politicians – actually, the establishment in Westminster and Whitehall – is dreadful. They should be at the forefront of being advocates of change, taking on the reins of freedom, empowerment, meritocracy, looking at what change could mean for our country.” In 1987 43% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted Conservative. Why? Because the party was entirely in tune with the aspirations of the British public.
Our party is at its best when we advocate and embrace our basic and fundamental values of freedom, liberty, democracy, capitalism, free enterprise, deregulation, wealth creation, choice, property ownership, law and order, nationhood and strong but limited government.
When we stick to our values and fight for our principles, we win.
In 2017 we went into an election with a majority and came out the other side having lost it. No doubt lessons will be learned, and I’m not going to go over old ground on the number of reasons as to why that happened. The key issue for me was that the manifesto offered to the electorate a rejection of laissez-faire capitalism; a rejection of free markets; a rejection of individualism; and a rejection of Thatcherism. Fundamentally, it set us on a course out of step with the aspirations of the public. I was astonished to read the manifesto’s opening gambit, setting the tone for the whole document, which stated:
“We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous.”
In dumping the great legacy of Thatcher and our core values that individuals know better than the state and that free enterprise and capitalism are inherently good, the manifesto time travelled all the way back to the interventionist traditions of the 1950s. That’s not the party that I joined.
It has become increasingly obvious that we need to make the argument in favour of free markets and limited government, not just within the party to help it find its compass but also to make these arguments throughout the country given the significant risk and threat posed by a Corbyn-led Labour Party.
It is terrifying that in modern British politics the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell publicly stated that it is his mission is to overthrow capitalism, to bring down the UK’s system of free enterprise and to radically transform society to a socialist society. The system as we know it faces an existential threat.
This would result in higher taxes, more debt, fewer jobs and less money. Labour would bankrupt our economy and do untold, unmitigated damage to our country.
As Conservatives we know that the socialist-inspired consensus politics and the model of redistribution nearly took the British economy off a cliff. The ingrained damage it did took decades to recover from. We are at first principles a party of low tax. We understand that if the state simply confiscates the fruits of hard work and risk-taking through punitive taxes that there then is no incentive for people and businesses to push themselves to succeed. Why have we allowed the words “free market” and “capitalism” to become tarnished as if they are cold and cruel concepts? Further, why on earth did we allow our own manifesto to turn on those concepts and tear them apart. It’s time for our party to return to its principles and with missionary zeal promote the ideas that these principles inevitably lead us to. We will then enable people and businesses to unleash their full potential and reach the bounds of their imagination.
More recently the Health and Social Care Committee, under the banner of tackling childhood obesity, proposed the following measures to be adopted by the government: a ban on sponsorship deals by brands associated with high fat, sugar and salt products for sports clubs, venues, youth leagues and tournaments and extending the sugar tax to milkshakes alongside other “fiscal measures”. Further, it has been reported that the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is keen to introduce a watershed on adverts for products that contain high levels of salt and sugar in the same way we have one for showing sex and violence on TV. Apparently plans include not only banning the selection of sweets at shop checkouts and two-for-one deals, but Percy Pig may also face the chop as well as unlimited refills of your Fanta at Nando’s. And I can’t believe I’m even about to write this, but yes, there’s even a proposed ban on Tony the Tiger!
This is an alarmingly nanny state style approach to take. Sacrificing consumer choice and freedom for all responsible people on the altar of childhood obesity. No doubt the big government zealots will accuse me of not caring about the well-being of young people. Nothing could be further than the truth. Firstly, it’s blatantly obvious that these measures are not being targeted at children but at you and me. As a Conservative who believes everyone should have the opportunity to aspire and achieve, I want our children to have the best possible start they can in life and to be able to live the life they choose. I do not believe that restricting choice to this extreme, to restrict freedom of speech and expression with bans on adverts and packaging and for the government to nanny people is the best way to achieve it. Education and encouraging responsibility are merely two examples of what can be done. Growing the economy and creating well-paid jobs are others. The possibilities are endless.
I would also make the point that, as a Scot, I know that some of our greatest national dishes are very high in unhealthy ingredients. Don’t even ask what’s in a haggis! Some of our greatest national dishes help us to promote the UK abroad. They feature heavily in the GREAT Britain campaign. How can the government with one hand promote that our food is great with massive billboard advertisements at home and abroad, but at the same time say that they want to ban the advertising and promotion of products high in salt and fat?
As I’ve mentioned being a Scot, it would be remiss of me to not turn my attention to Scotland where Nicola Sturgeon runs the most illiberal, authoritarian and centralising government.
Nationalist reforms have centralised power to an unprecedented degree in Edinburgh, sucking powers from communities and councils across Scotland and into the hands of nationalist ministers.
A number of their legislative changes and reforms have been an affront to personal freedom and liberty; an assault on personal responsibility and choice. Fundamentally, Nicola Sturgeon believes she knows everything better than you, even, chillingly, when it comes to raising your children. The nationalist administration doggedly pursued a scheme to appoint a Named Person or “state guardian” for every child under 18 in order to “monitor what children and young people need” with the “power to assess well-being”. Thus, removing quite a sacred right of a parent being allowed to determine these things themselves and to raise their own child. This really is 1984 stuff.
Thank goodness the SNP were stopped in their tracks with this offensive scheme by the UK Supreme Court.
From policing to education, the SNP have a top-down authoritarian, one size fits all approach. Like nationalists everywhere, they sacrifice individual freedoms – our freedoms – on the altar of their nationalist agenda.
Linking into what I was saying about UK plans to tackle obesity, Nicola Sturgeon chummed up with freedom and choice hater Jamie Oliver, and she is now planning to ban two-for-one deals on pizza. Well, I’m laying down this marker now. She can keep her hands off my Meat Feast!
It was Ronald Reagan who said that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” The duty lies with us to make the arguments for freedom and liberty – within the Conservative Party and the entire country – as today the libertarian ideal is in more danger than ever before.
To finish where I started, Conservatives accept change, but we don’t believe in change for change’s sake. The very purpose of change must be to actually improve what already exists. Changing in order to preserve, not destroy. Therefore, the recent siren calls for immediate change because we are facing impending decline are simply not the Conservative way. To me they don’t sound very Conservative at all. Rather our values of free enterprise, liberty, individualism and freedom have always been a pull for voters. We cannot sacrifice these ideals in the pursuit of a mythical centre ground. We need to stand by our convictions. That is how we used to win and that is how we will win again.
My local Co-Op recently underwent one of those ghastly upgrades which turn slightly glorified corner shops into mini convenience meccas, where one can buy just about anything, so long as you’re prepared to pay a little bit more than you would at a place you have to drive to.
A whole new aisle was crammed in to accommodate the jars of olives, tortilla kits and bags of fancy popcorn that for some hitherto unexplained reason occupy more prominent positions than milk, bread, eggs and other things people actually want to buy.
The whole thing was launched with aplomb. A sponsored Facebook post appeared in my timeline announcing ‘Beersbridge’s new Co-Op’. Nobody calls it that. That tragic, since corrected, misfire, which probably originated inside Co-Op’s vast Manchester headquarters set the theme, for in the process of the revamp two of the most obnoxious and patronising self-service check outs imaginable were installed.
Now this has its advantages – for me – in that nobody else ever seems to want to use them. They only take card payments and are unable to dispense either tobacco or scratchcards. While the queue to check out at the only staffed checkout is often five people long, I can usually jump the queue and head straight for Little Miss Condescending, thereby drastically reduce the time I spend standing in the far-too-narrow aisle up against the one kilo bars of Dairy Milk, waiting for people to get “a Lucky Dip for tonight”.
It was during an encounter with this highly mechanised unpleasantness that I first got wind of the apparent seriousness of energy drinks.
I was on the way to the gym and had stopped for some supplies. Chewing gum, beep beep, more chewing gum, beep beep, Monster, flashing red lights and ‘Challenge 25 – the assistant need to confirm your age’ (syntax errors are an increasingly common theme of my local Co-Op) flashing on the screen.
I panicked, and not only because – like everyone else who has ever shopped in there, including police officers – I was parked on the double yellow lines outside and needed to be on my way. Instead of picking up a relatively harmless drink that would increase my focus in the gym, had I mistakenly attempted to purchase industrial effluent, some solvent, or perhaps a rather large machete?
After waiting around for two or three minutes for the one guy on the till to notice that his eventual replacement had ceased to earn its keep my age was finally verified and I was able to chug my (modest) 150mg of caffeine without any further encumbrance.
There is currently no age at which you cannot legally buy an energy drink, but that hasn’t stopped retailers enforcing their own bans and asking for ID. Most energy drink producers will state that the product isn’t meant for children despite the fact that caffeine overdoses are generally harmless. Unless you think fidgeting, anxiety and insomnia are life changing experiences, that is.
Some deaths are occasionally linked to caffeine though. However, these deaths don’t occur because of caffeine overdoses, as a lethal dose of caffeine is virtually impossible to achieve for the average person whose caffeine consumption is liquid based. Most people will die with 10g of caffeine in them. That’s 66 cans of Monster or 133 Tall Vanilla Lattes from Starbucks. And you better have the capacity to drink all of that, all at once, before it passes out of your body.
Rather, rare caffeine-related deaths are the result of bodies that haven’t yet grown accustomed to caffeine yet and underlying, or undiagnosed, heart conditions. Indeed, the coroner in one recent case was at pains to point out that the death of a teenager who drank a latte, a Mountain Dew and an energy drink was not related to caffeine overdose. Indeed, looking at a list of deaths where caffeine is known to be a factor, deaths tend to be either freak accidents or intentional.
The fact that deaths where caffeine has been a factor seem to occur mostly among the young leaves an increasing number of people ‘thinking of the children’.
The NASUWT welcomed Waitrose’s under-16s energy drink ban with a wish that it would “also encourage the Government to produce national guidelines on recommended consumption levels of caffeine for children”. They went on to say that “These drinks are readily available legal highs.”
They have previously called for a blanket ban on caffeinated products to under-16s, and so too has a Welsh Labour AM.
It seems that these people just can’t help themselves. While I’m sure some of them are motivated by what they consider to be an epidemic of deaths attributable to excess caffeine there is, as usual, a degree of snobbery about it all. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the involvement of nanny-in-chief Jamie Oliver, whose views government seem to lend credence to for no discernible reason. Jamie will serve you with virtually any caffeinated (and sugar-laden) product in one of his restaurants. Yet he hypothesises that energy drinks affect the concentration levels of kids in class, which impacts upon the grades of other children, thereby crossing his tolerance threshold.
The public health lobby have never been known for logic or consistency but Conservative MP Maria Caulfield’s argument for a ban is even more bizarre than Oliver’s. The suicide of a 25-year-old man who also drank heavily and whose parents say energy drinks made him anxious has been advanced as a reason to ban energy drinks for under-16s. The response from Jackie Doyle-Price was even stranger. The Minister said: “we do know that all stimulants whether its alcohol or caffeine do actually have consequences which can affect peoples’ mental health”.
The public health industry’s stated aim is of preventing under-16s getting their hands on a substance that is generally harmless and available in greater quantities in their local Costa. But what Doyle-Price’s response suggests is that there is a willingness in government to equate caffeine with things the public already acknowledge as harmful, like alcohol. That alone should serve to act as a red flag to anyone who enjoys a simple cup of coffee.
My knowledge of the Vauxhall constituency is typical of that of someone who only visits London infrequently. From what I understand, it is just across the big bridge from Westminster and is home to both that awful Communist-looking theatre complex on the South Bank and the much more appealing Imperial War Museum.
Its links to Northern Ireland are tenuous. It was surprising then that the General Council of the local Constituency Labour Party, to which every elected representative in the constituency belongs, recently voted to censure their MP over fairly brief, yet well-informed, comments she made concerning the Belfast Agreement.
What do the members of the Vauxhall Constituency Labour Party know about Northern Ireland? Certainly not as much as their MP.
If you thought the peculiar lack of self-awareness demonstrated in this case was a one-off and merely emblematic of the general state of internal Labour party politics then you would be sadly mistaken.
On the contrary, there is an increasing tendency amongst English remainers to consider themselves better informed than people who live here.
Take, for example, the self-righteous rage meted out to David Trimble on Wednesday. Having again made a reasonable argument – that border infrastructure was not necessary and that discussions about a return to violence were irresponsible – he was pilloried. One tweeter even went as far to label him an ‘ingrate’.
The Belfast Agreement – peace and blessings be upon it – has now been elevated to such a level that its original architects are not even trusted with its legacy. Even if they won a Nobel Peace Prize for it.
Trimble made his comments in the foreword to a report from Policy Exchange which argues that a free trade deal – the preferred relationship with the European Union of every serious Brexiteer – is the only relationship that will both respect the referendum result and deliver a seamless border. The logic is sound. Only the framework allowed by an FTA overcomes the core issue – trade.
Far from the increasingly insane rhetoric of continuity remain and the world’s most half-hearted nationalists to keep us in the EU via the Customs Union there lies actual facts.
Northern Ireland is very unlikely to suffer any economic impact from the imposition of any trade barrier along the border. If you listened to our media, and many of our politicians, you would assume that North-South trade is in some way significant or in any way important. That’s not the reality. An InterTrade Ireland report claims that Northern Ireland exports to the Republic would fall by 11% in the absence of a deal. That’s 11% of 5% of Northern Ireland’s total exports. It’s mostly milk.
The Beast from the East had a more noticeable economic impact than the immediate impact of Brexit ever could.
1.6% of the Republic’s exports come here, underscoring just how insignificant cross border trade is. 16% of Irish exports go to Great Britain though, with 80% of their exports travelling via British roads. No deal, which can only be brought about by the Irish veto, would damage their economy to the tune of 7.7%, according to one report. We would barely notice a thing.
In terms of priorities, protecting the three quarters of NI exports that go to the rest of the UK is far more important than any piffling single market or customs union. A huge Mexican-style border wall wouldn’t do anywhere near the amount of damage as the backstop solution which the Government stupidly agreed to.
So far, the Government has effectively allowed itself to be blindsided by Varadkar’s strategy, accustomed as they were to dealing with the far more cognisant Enda Kenny. The result has been a two-pronged assault from the EU and Ireland who have been allowed to overplay the border issue and tenuously link it to the Agreement. They’ve used it as a tool to make people ‘think again’ and either annex Northern Ireland or force the UK as a whole to stay in the Customs Union as a means of protecting Ireland’s economic interests.
Herein lies the reasons for the invective leveled at Trimble and Hoey. ‘Muh Good Friday Agreement’ is being used as an argument for remaining in the EU by stealth, by people who’ve never even set foot here and have only seen Northern Ireland through the very narrow lens of the mainland’s media. They don’t realise they’re dealing with a different issue altogether.
The message going out should be clear – the losses from a no deal hard border would belong to Ireland alone. Everyone knows how to avoid that happening.
In a few short days the injustice and absurdity of London’s Uber ban has been decried and derided by thousands of us who see it for exactly what it is – socialist protection of a unionised vested interest. There is no more to be said, the cronyism on show is unabashed. The only thing to do now is contemplate the massive open goal that Sadiq Khan has presented us with.
Since the election I’ve read any number of articles lamenting the inability of the Conservative Party to sell free markets to the electorate; and here is a guilt edged opportunity to do just that.
Uber’s success was clear evidence that real capitalism works for the benefit of us all and not some imaginary caricature of a ‘businessman’ in red braces. Uber’s absence will make millions of Londoners’ lives more difficult and that fact alone is proof positive to anyone that competition and free markets are better than the alternative. We should be singing it from the rooftops.
Arguing against socialism should be easy. A death toll of over 90 million should put any debate to bed but in the minds of the young it is difficult to make a connection between the nice bearded chap in the brown suit and state-sponsored rape, torture and murder (even when he fails to openly condemn it). But having your cab fare doubled overnight sends a strong message about what socialism really is and most importantly what a regressive force it is.
In the face of such an unpopular decision the question is, can we turn the Uber ban into the ‘Gateway Drug’ to Libertarianism?
Anger on this issue is only a stone’s throw away from suspicion of the nanny state, skepticism towards the welfare state and resentment of excessive taxation. The Uber ban could expose millions of free market virgins to the wondrous ‘All-You-Can-Eat Buffet’ of ways in which more freedom and less government improves everyone’s lives.
This could be the start of a real dialogue with the British people about the indisputable benefits of market economics. A debate the Conservatives will always win, a debate in which the opposition has nothing more than empty slogans and wasted saliva.
For too long ‘Capitalism’ has been a dirty word, it is time the British people confronted the truth that it is the bedrock upon which all that is great about this country is built. And even Conservatives of a more burgundy hue must not be ashamed to say this.
Renewing Uber’s licence must be the first pledge of any Conservative candidate for London Mayor and the party should make this clear immediately.
Sadiq Khan looks increasingly like a future leader of the Party and he will do so on a ‘moderate’ ticket. In this event it is our job to remind the country that after this he is nothing of the sort and his lukewarm brand of Leftism is just as insidious as anything being sold by Corbyn or his comrades in Caracas.
Another day and another regulator has stepped in to stop the clock.
That may seem an extreme statement to make about TfL’s decision not to renew Uber’s private hire operator’s licence from next Saturday but that is what the net effect will be.
Uber operates in over 700 cities across the world but London has sensationally just announced that it will render 40,000 drivers without work and 3.5 million users without any meaningful choice. While Uber will still be able to operate until the appeal process is exhausted the writing appears to be on the wall – back to your overpriced cattle pens and sweary sweat boxes, Londoners
The reasons advanced for the decision are essentially based around incident reporting, how Uber obtains documents and software that prevents the regulator accessing the Uber app.
It’s hard to believe that TfL have reached this decision all by themselves – you don’t have to look very far on Twitter to find evidence of intensive lobbying by Uber’s rivals in the capital. Indeed, when Uber prepared to launch in Belfast, the local taxi duopoly were barely out of the department responsible for regulating transport. The madness has even reached Australia where cab drivers successfully managed to lobby for subsidies to make up for their reduction in earnings.
Screeching from traditional industries aside, after years of trying to ensure that London’s roads were reserved for (the quite brilliant) Routemasters, freight vehicles and cabs, policy makers have become rapidly frustrated by the number of actual cars on the road.
A largely automated booking service and an entirely paperless system of receipting, billing and travelling has created a cheaper, better product than the Essex-based cab driver whose ability to be flagged down, excellent patter, daily commute, union fees and basically pointless ‘knowledge’ you pay a premium for. Uber grew rapidly from 2014 onwards and so short tube and cab journeys decreased.
While TfL’s brief press release didn’t go into detail, what is telling is that TfL do not like how Uber meets its regulatory obligations. It’s a process issue. At no stage do they seem to be claiming that Uber does not conform at all.
In that case, it’s reasonable to speculate about the relevance of a regulatory regime that at best is outdated and at worst has been built around the norms, of an industry that, without consistent regulatory intervention, would be dead.
By Harry Clynch
Few of us would deny that the general election was a complete travesty for the Conservative Party. Through a grossly incompetent campaign, the Prime Minister managed to squander a twenty point lead to put the most dangerous Labour leader in the party’s history within inches of Downing Street.
Of course, identity politics was a factor in this, as was Mrs May’s rather robotic approach to the election. Huge symbolic damage was done by such things as her refusal to partake in the televised debates and her U-turn on what was already a flawed policy regarding social care (only exacerbated by her refusal to admit it even was a U-turn). The dreadful campaign created the sense and atmosphere that the Conservatives were constantly trying to repair damage rather than guiding effortlessly towards a majority government, let alone the huge Commons majority that some initially predicted.
It should not have been this way. Corbyn’s support for terrorist organisations, and support for unilateral nuclear disarmament, the disgusting nature of the anti-Semitism now rife in the modern Left, alongside his tendency to justify, indeed celebrate, failed socialist regimes, would – in normal circumstances – have rendered any general election a near formality.
Instead, Labour experienced a resurgence, gaining thirty seats and increasing their overall vote share by 9.6% compared to that achieved by Ed Miliband. Could it therefore be the case that, after a 40 year break, Britain is once again tempted by socialism?
I watched with concern as an extremely worrying narrative developed during the campaign. That is, for all of Jeremy Corbyn’s personal faults, he nonetheless had an excellent manifesto. People were voting for policies, not the individuals. Yet his manifesto was an absolute disgrace!
The overall tone was unashamedly socialist, not seen since the 1970s, when proto-Corbynite policies resulted in almost incomprehensibly high rates of inflation, a massive surge in unemployment, and Britain being humiliated on the world stage with a bail-out from the IMF in 1976.
Indeed, it actively promoted various policies which should have been fatally discredited with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The defining ethic of the manifesto was the type of state-planning which Hayek so powerfully warned against. And yet, when offered the golden opportunity to discredit socialism for another generation, the Tories seemed to run away from the true ideological battles, preferring to focus on Corbyn’s personal failures – necessary, of course, but not sufficient.
This meant we ceded the moral and philosophical argument to the Left. Indeed, Mrs May tried to placate the socialists by including in the Conservative manifesto a number of clearly centre-left policies, like the energy price cap, and running away from core Conservative ideas. She went out of her way to explicitly condemn Libertarians as believers in a “cult of selfish individualism.”
Given the continued and explicit condemnation of economic Liberalism throughout the campaign, is it therefore so surprising that the electorate’s response was to (almost) turn to socialism?
Those of us who believe in capitalism and economic freedom have become too complacent in recent years. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the continued failure of socialist regimes around the world; from Venezuela to North Korea, has – to us at least – made our case almost so obvious that it does not need to be made.
Almost immediately after those East Berliners forced their way into the West, the case for free markets – understandably – ceased to be put forward; we believed we had won. Yet, both within the Conservative Party and the wider electorate, we clearly have a need to remind people which policies create wealth and the freest societies.
This – in theory – should be simple: our approach has a proven track-record of prosperity, of freedom, whereas the socialists only have failure after failure and catastrophes unprecedented in the history of human civilisation. And, though our economic case is clearly overwhelming, the political rewards could be great, too. What better way to counter the appeal of Corbyn’s socialist utopia than to emphasise the positive case for liberty, that precious concept which is a fundamental desire of each and every one of us?
How can the idea of small government, allowing the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the people to flourish, free from rule by bureaucracy, do anything other than excite and inspire people – and ultimately mobilise them at elections? The ideas of economic liberalism, of liberty and of our ancient freedoms, should be ideas that young people are inspired by; buy we have to make the positive case for them.
In the aftermath of this election, it is only natural that we will feel somewhat demoralised and pessimistic; even though the socialists still lost. Though that does not stop many of us having nightmares about the red flags being raised over Downing Street as Prime Minister Corbyn and his comrades assume office. But the re-emergence of socialism, and of a Corbyn administration, is not inevitable.
Let us not forget that the Conservative Party is the oldest democratic Party in the world, and has a proud history of electoral and governmental success. And a proud future can await us, too. If only we are bold in our convictions, confident in our case, and unashamedly in favour of the great benefits of capitalism, the Conservatives can – and will – win big once again.