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Category Archives: Europe

Competition Is Bad And Must Be Stopped, Says @RichardJMurphy

This ‘competition’ thing really must stop. We need a level playing field. It cannot be right that car maker A who produces, say, a better quality vehicle for the same price as car maker B, can then take so many of B’s customers. Or that maker C produces a less well-appointed car than maker D, charges a lot less for it, and again takes so much more market share.

What about, instead of buying a car from our choice of dozens of manufacturers, we simply acquire a car from any one of them and then the price we pay is ‘fairly’ apportioned between all the makers – regardless of who you actually ‘bought’ the car from?

Of course, the method of calculating this apportionment ‘would be a huge task’.

Yet we could then apply the same logic to, say, the supply of and payment for state-run services. Maybe something like this intellectual colossus of the economic firmamentsuggests:

… we can recalculate what Amazon should pay here in the UK using the unitary apportionment formula method of taxation …. We split the profit in accordance with a formula.

…we need radical corporation tax reform in the Uk and worldwide. IUnitary apportionment formula taxation stops tax haven abuse of countries like the UK.”

Multinational siting HQ in low tax country shocker!

By ‘tax haven abuse’ Murphy means, of course, tax competition, and naturally the EU leans towards the view that while competition in the private sector is a Good Thing (and it is), when it comes to themselves tax competition between countries is a Very Bad Thing. We must create and maintain the cartellevel playing field and all that.

Ritchie does have it right, briefly, here though:

… we need radical corporation tax reform in the Uk …

We do – we need to abolish it.

P.S. Christie, as ever, has also had a swipe.


Internet Surveillance: Yes, It’s Another Round of Big Government Bingo!

OK, so far, I’ve got:

  • “combating terrorism”
  • “need to take action”
  • “serious crime”
  • “potential for saving lives”

I’ve also picked up the ‘ratchet effect’ bonus point for:

  • “There is nothing new about this….updating existing regulations.”

And for triple points the perennial:

  • “paedophile”

Of course, it’s another broken manifesto promise and another desperate attempt to pander to a perceived Daily Mail constituency (the last six years of courting the Guardian having gone so well). Today it’s the proposals to force ISPs to install equipment to monitor everyone’s internet traffic (to conform, it appears, to EU desires). It’s OK, though, they won’t be storing the contents of your emails (yet) and they will need a court order to undertake the interceptions (for now).

Indeed almost every sentence that is spoken or written in defence of the plans can be suffixed with the words ‘yet’ or ‘for now’ without negating what has been said.

I suppose we should congratulate the Home Office for so effectively house-training the Home Secretary and her team.

However, judging by the comment ratings over at the Mail, this isn’t going down too well even there.

So let us, just for the record, run through the usual rebuttals, as they cannot be repeated too often.

“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear.” If I’ve done nothing wrong, why should I have to prove it? Innocent until proven guilty and all that? It’s one thing to be questioned by a police officer if I was at the scene of a crime, or close to a suspect, but to have my everyday movements monitored on the assumption, or just in case I am a criminal? Oh, and don’t patronise me by comforting me that court orders will be required before all this happens; how many such orders ever get refused?

“If you’ve nothing to hide…” another variation on the above. You may not think you’ve anything to hide today, but we live under a law that criminalises free – albeit very distasteful – speech and is open about introducing retrospective legislation.

“It’s for the children.” Yes, they have actually mentioned paedophiles in all this, because they’re on every street corner, you know, and no-one has ever been picked up and prosecuted after surfing or downloading such material. That famous episode of Brass Eye episode wasn’t satire, it was a prediction.

It’s all OK, though, because there will be some vague form of independent oversight, and it’s not going to be a central database (yet). So that’s alright then, we can trust the government’s word on that can’t we?



How To Get The Right & Bob Crow on the Same Side #EU #PeoplesPledge

Tomorrow’s vote will change nothing and we will not get a referendum on our EU membership this side of 2016.

Well, that was stating the blinking obvious I admit; it’s a non-binding vote even if enough MPs had the principles and minerals to vote for it. The debate is significant though, as it will be the first time that there will be a serious debate on the principle of a referendum on our membership of the EU which will draw in the PM and Foreign Secretary.

It will also be a useful albeit small step on the road to a referendum and, hopefully, our exit from the EU (or, as Europhile referendum supporters like Keith Vaz would put it, ‘settle the issue once and for all’ in the hope of staying in). We will be able to name names and see just how sound our MPs are.

It will also enable us to carry out that exercise on MPs on both sides of the house. One refreshing aspect of yesterday’s ‘People’s Pledge’ event was the genuine cross party involvement (by which I don’t mean another session of UKIP vs. Tory back-biting) and for a rightie like me it was particularly enlightening to hear the case put from a left-wing perspective alongside those of my own political persuasion. Indeed, I didn’t stay for the Conservative panel’s session; if I wanted to hear right-wingers banging on about Europe I could just talk to myself go to a Bruges Group meeting.

It takes some doing to get the likes of the RMT (one of the anti-EU unions) and Dan Hannan to agree, but the arrogance of Cameron and Miliband have achieved it. Ed Miliband might be siding with David Cameron in calling the pro-referendum campaigners ‘barking’, but he should remember that Britain is a nation of dog lovers. His own party membership’s views on a referendum are close to the Conservatives with over half supporting it.

Frankly the news I found most disconcerting in recent months was not Cameron’s three line whip on tomorrow’s vote (sadly I was unsurprised by such Heathite behaviour), but Ed Miliband’s ruling out a referendum being in the next Labour manifesto – I suspect that, given Cameron’s self-survival instinct, such a pledge could tip the balance and force the Conservatives to match Ed’s bid or risk serious in-fighting 1992-style. Of course, given that Labour’s half-baked promise ‘to increase tuition fees but just not by as much as those nasty Tories’ was openly admitted to be unlikely to survive until 2015, there may still be some cause for hope.

For once only I shall say, “more power to Bob Crow’s elbow!”

Nigel Farage Risks a ‘Toynbee Moment’, But He’s Probably Right.

Ed Milliband MP speaking at the Labour Party c...

Scary: OK Ed, it's all up to you

Nigel Farage, at the UKIP conference yesterday, was reported to have said something less than critical of RMT chief Bob Crow. This cardinal sin among right-wingers was committed when he pointed put that the two of them hold similar positions on the EU, and that Nigel welcomed that.

Now we all know that these spur of the moment utterances (I believe he was responding to an audience question) can sometimes be taken out of context, and that a better prepared speech or article would have perhaps phrased things differently. Mentioning Bob Crow may give potential UKIP supporters second thoughts and it is unfortunate to mention his name when UKIP’s most fertile recruiting ground is disaffected Conservatives.

It reminded me of the infamous quote from Greg Clark, now a junior minister in the DCLG, when he referenced Polly Toynbee in suggesting that the Conservatives should focus on relative rather than absolute poverty.

Of course one difference between then and now is that Greg Clark wasn’t, and is unlikely ever to be, leader of his party. The more important difference is that Nigel Farage’s comments are probably right.

If the unions turn in favour of an EU membership referendum, and possibly even ‘properly’ eurosceptic, then the odds will be on seeing a referendum commitment in the next Labour manifesto. That, along with 60% or more of Conservative members wanting out, will mean that ironically it could be Ed Miliband who will make the referendum happen, even if only indirectly.

(Picture licence: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

From One Lib-dem Led Government to Another?

Front-page of The Sun from Saturday 11 April 1992.

It's that Murdoch again

Guido seemed to having a “It’s the Sun Wot Won It” moment yesterday. That’s not to say that he swayed the electorate in a last minute clarion call – for neither did the Sun in 1992, if truth be told; rather they and he simply read well and had faith in the opinion polling close to polling day. In the Sun’s case it was the eve of poll results. These days the pollsters have honed their skills, and there is such depth now to the data, that one can get a pretty good idea of the result even a month beforehand, as did Guido.

Anyway, he is appears to be hinting at a Lib/Lab coalition after 2015.

Reading the runes again it seems to Guido increasingly likely we are looking at a one-term Tory-led government.

I could comment that we actually have a LibDem-led government. He then goes on:

Right now the bookies favour no overall majority, polls suggest Labour could be the largest party, in that event the LibDems, probably without Clegg, will in all likelihood support a Labour government.

Guido is circumspect enough not to actually call it for another coalition but the implication is there. He raises two key points in his analysis: the danger of a global double-dip recession and the possibility of Andy Coulson being tried and convicted close to the next election.

As regards Coulson, I think Guido is suffering from Westminster Proximatosis. The public are already tiring of Hackgate, and as the economic picture plays out this will only increase the apathy. Remember, the public only started taking an interest when Milly Dowler entered the picture; attention was briefly re-engaged with the Murdochs’ appearance before the select committee. The riots then largely killed the story in the popular soap-opera-following, where’s-next-month’s-mortgage-payment-coming-from conscience. As more newspaper titles are implicated in the scandal, so one may find the print media going rather quieter on the subject than previously.

As always, though, it will be the economy stupid, and I think Guido is right to focus on this as there clearly is a danger.

The primary cause will be the economy, the probability of a double-dip recession is rising. The US economy is in trouble, the Eurozone is in turmoil, growth is faltering at home and abroad. Inflation is out of control, real incomes are actually falling in the UK. By 2015 the answer the electorate will give to Ronald Reagan’s Are you better off than you were four years ago?” question may well be “No.”

However, many people, if asked if they feel better off than four five years ago, will only tend to think of the last one or two years’; by 2015 that only takes us “back” to 2013, two years’ away still from now, and the 2013-15 period should see us naturally emerging (albeit slowly) from any double-dip. Also by then I predict that the armageddon promised by the Left as a result of the cuts will have failed to materialise. In any case, it would be easy to underestimate people’s intelligence in how they react – it’s not as if Labour have been nowhere near the tiller in eighteen years.

This is not to say that I am a fan of the Cameron-Osborne clique. Reducing the deficit is key and the timescale is realistic (if not particularly bold), but it’s the detail where they have shown a disconnection with people. Ringfencing overseas aid but cutting defence, and then exacerbating it with the Libyan adventure has damaged Cameron beyond the Tory hardcore. The government seems to suffer from a chronic inability to defend itself – even, for instance, through the simple expedient of properly explaining the benefits to students of the new tuition fees system. A drip feed of incompetence stories will also, if unchecked, erode political confidence among floaters. They could even, arguably, have slowed any recovery: not by the cuts, but by over-doing the rhetoric to a degree not warranted by the necessity of playing to the audience in the markets. Recessions are ultimately states of mind, and can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Finally, Cameron can always be relied upon to lose his cool with euro-sceptics; whether it’s ridiculing UKIP (a bad move, given that many Tories sympathise with the ‘Kippers) or condescending remarks on the desire for referendum on continued EU membership. Insulting your core supporters is never a good strategy especially when those supporters, who previously could only stay at home as a protest, now have another option to show their displeasure in the form of support for Nigel Farage’s gang. Lest we forget, finally, Cameron failed to win the general election – and for that he largely has himself to blame.

There is a possible saving grace, though, which really is difficult to call even if closer to an election: the Lib Dems. They have been thoroughly contaminated by coalition. They’ve spent a hundred years striving to get back into government in any meaningful sense, and they couldn’t have picked a worse time. With so many Conservative seats formerly seeing the Lib Dems as the natural challengers, we may now see the defections of former Lib Dem voters to Labour simply moving the colours around on the map, but making no real impact on the Conservative majority. Indeed, the prospect of a hung parliament in 2015 may be further away than at any time in decades. In what way this plays out depends on how the LibDems behave after Clegg. So, just as the final outcome of this election depended on the fortunes of Nick Clegg, so will the next.

The EU Endorses International Price Fixing

Let’s imagine for a moment that there was a collection of large corporations which held monopolies, or at least pretty unassailably dominant positions, in a number of key markets in their respective countries.

In each of their home territories these companies had the ruling politicians, and much of the opposition, on their payroll.

Abusing their monopolistic positions they were delivering poor quality services to customers who had little other choice but to take such services, and so they were able to charge pretty much whatever they felt like.

You would think that such corporations would be the target of some ire, not least among the Left. There would be calls to break up these organisations. They would be held up as an example of the ugly face of capitalism and certainly, in the current times, UKUncut and their fellow soap-dodging travellers would be occupying their branches, boycotting their businesses, marching and violently smashing their way to “social justice”. The intelligentsia and self-appointed experts would opine about the morality of such companies and what should be done to cut them down to size.

Then, as if to rub salt into a fatal wound, these companies openly colluded to fix prices across the EU. Those more enlightened businesses who saw an opportunity to benefit, by not going along with the racket, were bullied into line. Would you not expect – be you of the Left or Right – something to be done?

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EU To Push Up Mobile Phone Charges

Mobile phone evolution

Image via Wikipedia

OK, so the actual headlines today, following the EU’s latest bit of interference, are slightly different from mine:

EU mobile phone charges coming down
More enforced cuts in mobile phone roaming charges apply tomorrow – with the European Commission intent on closing the gap between domestic and “foreign” call rates to virtually nothing by 2015.

The ever-Europhilic Indie goes on to tell us:

Tomorrow the maximum permitted charges fall yet again: consumers opting for the EU-regulated “Eurotariff” will pay no more than 32p per minute (excluding VAT) for calls made while abroad – down from 35p – and 10p per minute for calls received while abroad in the EU.

Action by Brussels against high roaming charges has been one of the most popular consumer-driven moves by the EU – an average 60% cut in the maximum charges operators could levy on mobile users making or receiving calls while in another EU country since 2007.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. So given that mobile phone companies are in business to make a profit for their shareholders – including my pension fund and probably yours – just how do we suppose they will go about both plugging the hole in their profits, and doing what the Commission desires – narrowing the gap between domestic and EU roaming charges?

Thank you, dear Eurocrats, you’ve just applied even more upward pressure on our domestic and non-EU ‘phone usage. Another benefit of EU membership!