Politicians underestimate immigration

Back in late 2013, Nigel Farage suggested that the lifting of immigration restrictions on Romania and Bulgaria from January 1 2014 would lead to an additional 50,000 migrants arriving in Britain per year, drawing the ire of media commentators and political opponents who accused him of grossly exaggerating the number.

Today the latest ONS figures for the year to September 2016 show immigration from Romania and Bulgaria at 74,000. UK politicians’ collective failure to appreciate the scale of immigration to Britain is such that even Farage underestimates it…

Brexit means leaving the single market

In response to recent calls for Britain to pursue a “soft Brexit”, which would see it remain in the single market, it is worth recalling the following from an article which appeared in the (staunchly Remain) Financial Times during the referendum campaign:

“The intellectually coherent alternative to staying inside the EU is full exit, that is, a move to relations governed by the rules of the World Trade Organisation. All other alternatives would force the UK to accept many of the most onerous rules of the EU, while giving it a far smaller voice in reaching them”.

In other words, Brexit means leaving the single market.

How Donald Trump could win

As of late, the inconceivable has become conceivable. It is now widely recognised that Donald Trump – the businessman and political outsider who has never before held political office – could be elected US President.

Given Trump’s enormous unpopularity a lot of people will wonder how that’s possible, particularly after the recent emergence of a video from 2005 in which he was overheard making lewd comments about women.

Part of the explanation lies in the fact that Hillary Clinton is also very unpopular with voters, and is widely thought of as being untrustworthy. Her unpopularity is effectively propping up Trump’s beleaguered campaign. When the FBI announced that it was reopening its investigation into her emails Trumps’s campaign received a much needed boost.

Since then, the FBI has announced that it hasn’t found evidence of criminality. But once suspicions have been repeatedly raised on the subject of Clinton’s emails, it’s difficult to rebuild trust. A significant amount of damage has been done that cannot be undone. Indeed, the FBI’s “nothing to see here” press release just days before the vote could play into Trump’s hands. He has already renewed talk about a “rigged” system.

Trouble for Hillary is not enough to give Trump the White House. He still needs voters to have positive reasons for voting for him to ensure a sufficiently good turnout of supporters. Ultimately, “Trump is the lesser of two evils” is more likely to demoralise people than to mobilise support. Most people don’t like picking evils, and may decide they have better things to do.

If Trump has a chance of winning, it’s because he has tapped into an enormous and seemingly inexhaustible well of discontent. He talks about everything wrong with America and speaks to people about their difficulties. He promises that he has the business acumen and common sense approach America needs. The politicians have failed; you need a businessman to step in.

So Trump talks about the decline in manufacturing jobs that has taken place for decades. He blames this on free trade deals like NAFTA. He blames it on the Chinese artificially lowering the value of their currency to give their steel exports a competitive advantage in the global market. In simple words he gives simple answers. No more bad trade deals, and no more letting China get away with it.

He talks about the threat of Islamic extremism and Islamist terrorism. Muslim extremists are killing Americans. His answer: stop Muslim immigration “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on”.

He talks about illegal immigration. Mexicans are crossing the border in their millions. Hillary Clinton would let in 650 million immigrants in a week. His answer? Build a wall. Don’t grant amnesty to illegal immigrants (it incentivises it). Increase the current rate of deportations.

He talks about political correctness. Political correctness prevents people from pointing out politically incorrect truths that need pointing out. It means Clinton can’t say “radical Islamic terrorism”. His answer: say it how it is.

He talks about a self-serving, self-perpetuating political and cultural elite in the pocket of Wall Street and big business. This is a global elite which doesn’t care about the country, or ordinary people: people in it for themselves and each other, as revealed in the Podesta emails. Clinton is at the heart of this elite. His answer: vote Donald Trump.

So who does he appeal to? Blue collar workers who have lost their jobs in manufacturing, or who are still waiting for a pay rise as the cost of living increases; those concerned by mass immigration and Islamist terrorism; those concerned by political correctness which censors an ever-increasing number of views; people who care about free speech; people who want to preserve their second amendment rights; those who are suspicious of elites, and who dislike politicians who have are to seen to have a sense of entitlement – politicians like Hillary Clinton…

Trump’s unorthodox approach offers his supporters hope that ordinary, moderate politics has long since ceased to inspire. Perhaps some of them are sceptical of his answers. But they won’t miss this unique chance he offers them to protest against the status quo and the political establishment. And since they’ve been told by virtually all of the political and media establishment not to vote for Trump, it’ll be all the more powerful a protest.

The contest has been fraught, and the differences that it has revealed are difficult if not impossible to reconcile. If Clinton wins there will be a lot of anger from Trump supporters who believe that the system is rigged. That is not to mention the disappointment of people who are struggling when they realise it’s business as usual.

On the other hand, if Trump wins he will have to live up to the impossible expectations which he has raised. He will inevitably fail, and there is no telling how his voters will react when the cent finally drops.

In the end, the vote will be an expression of whether or not Americans think things are going alright. If you think a majority of Americans are at least moderately happy the status quo, expect Clinton to win. If you think a majority are dissatisfied, expect Trump to clinch it.

One last thing. When it came to the UK’s EU referendum, most of the polls on June 23rd got the result wrong by predicting that Remain would win. They underestimated the number of “left behind” working class voters in deprived areas who turned up to vote, which made all the difference. A similar thing could happen in this US Presidential election owing to the success Trump has so far had among that same sort of demographic. So if polls predict that Clinton will win by a small margin, prepare yourself for a Trump Presidency. On numerous occasions, Trump has sought to capitalise on the success of Brexit by comparing his campaign to it. He has said that the US vote will be “beyond Brexit”, “Brexit-plus”, “Brexit x 5”, “Brexit x 10”, and now “Brexit plus-plus-plus”, by which he presumably means that his campaign will defy the pollsters to gain victory on the 8th just as the Brexit campaign defied widespread predictions that it would lose.

While it is impossible to predict the result with confidence, one thing’s for sure. If Trump does win it will be a wholesale rejection of the political establishment and the status quo of the same significance to what we saw in Britain on June 23rd.

What changed David Cameron’s mind?

In a recent speech at the British Museum, David Cameron implied that Brexit could lead to war:

“Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt? Is that a risk worth taking? I would never be so rash as to make that assumption. Britain has a fundamental national interest in maintaining common purpose in Europe to avoid future conflict between European countries. And that requires British leadership, and for Britain to remain a member.”

This suggestion is the latest in a series of stark government warnings against Brexit, dubbed ‘Project Fear’. This warning is difficult to believe because only a few months ago David Cameron was saying the UK could “thrive” outside the EU. If Cameron now wants to argue that Brexit would mean Britain’s ruination he must show what has changed since then to make him change his mind.

Jean-Claude Junker’s thoughts on democracy

During a recent debate in Rome, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker shared his thoughts on democracy in Europe:

“Too many politicians are listening exclusively to their national opinion. And if you are listening to your national opinion you are not developing what should be a common European sense and a feeling of the need to put together efforts. We have too many part-time Europeans.”

Is Britain safer in the EU?

Following the recent attacks in Brussels, the EU referendum debate on security has intensified. Both Leave and Remain claim that they offer greater security for the British people. But which side, if any, has the stronger case?

Leave has gone on the offensive, arguing that the EU has failed to protect its citizens. It has failed to secure its external border. Thousands of undocumented migrants are entering Europe from North Africa and the Middle East. Who are they and what are their intentions? We don’t know. Leave explain that the EU’s Schengen Agreement is the equivalent of hanging a ‘welcome sign’ above Europe’s door – including to terrorists. They remind us that up to 5000 IS terrorists are thought to have entered Europe among the migrants. Schengen facilitates their movement in Europe. Were terrorists to strike again, open borders could help facilitate their escape. They point out that the migrants are overwhelming economic migrants rather than refugees. They are mostly ambitious young men with enough money to get to Europe illegally for a better life. In most cases, Europe’s generosity helps the ambitious rather than those most in need.

The Remain campaign has responded by warning that Brexit would put at risk Britain’s existing arrangement with European intelligence agencies. Theresa May has warned that Britain risks loosing access to intelligence from European partners were it to leave the EU. According to the Home Secretary, “there are things we can do as members of the European Union in terms of the exchange of data, but also working together within the EU, that is of benefit in terms of catching criminals”. Meanwhile, Met police chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has warned that Britain faced a “bureaucratic nightmare” if the authorities had to renegotiate existing arrangements with EU partners.  Leaving the EU wouldn’t be worth the hassle.

In an article for Prospect Magazine, Lord Richard Dearlove, has argued, contre Sir Bernard, that the security costs to Britain leaving the EU “would be low” because Britain would retain its current arrangements with the US:

“Would Brexit damage our defence and intelligence relationship with the United States, which outweighs anything European by many factors of 10? I conclude confidently that no, it would not. The replacement of Trident, the access to overhead satellite monitoring capabilities, the defence exchanges that are hidden from public view, the UK-US co-operation over signals intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency/Secret Intelligence Service/Federal Bureau of Investigation/MI5 liaison and much more would continue as before…

“Brexit would bring two potentially important security gains: the ability to dump the European Convention on Human Rights… and, more importantly, greater control over immigration from the European Union.”

Remain campaigners might argue that close cooperation with European intelligence trumps these security gains. However, Britons presumably would not have to choose between the two. European intelligence services have an interest in continuing to work with British intelligence regardless whatever happens. As Sir Richard explains:

“Britain is Europe’s leader in intelligence and security matters and gives much more than it gets in return. It is difficult to imagine any of the other EU members ending the relationships they already enjoy with the UK. Furthermore, counter-terrorist and counter-espionage liaison between democratic allies is driven as much by moral considerations as by political ones. If a security source in Germany learns that a terrorist attack is being planned in London, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, Germany’s domestic intelligence service, is certainly not going to withhold the intelligence from MI5 simply because the UK is not an EU member.”

If Sir Richard is correct then a British exit from the EU would benefit British security. It would involve “important” security gains at little cost.

Why Cameron won’t criticise Schengen

Following the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels (30 dead, hundreds injured), the referendum campaign returns to the question of security.

Critics have said that Schengen – Europe’s open border zone – is allowing terrorists to move freely in Europe and is thereby endangering Europeans. Former Conservative leader Lord Howard claimed that “Europe is holding up a welcome sign to terrorists”. This echoed claims by the former head of Interpol that the open border arrangement was “like hanging a sign welcoming terrorists to Europe.”

The Prime Minister has responded by saying that it is “not appropriate” to offer criticism so soon after the attacks. But that was on Tuesday 22nd. Just over a week later Cameron has still not challenged the assertion that Schengen aids terrorists.

Given that the Prime Minister is leading the Remain campaign, he has a strong incentive to challenge the claim that a central tenet of the European project is exacerbating the threat of terrorism in Europe. If he has not done so that is because the claim is beyond contention. Had Cameron sought to deny it he would only have damaged his credibility.

If terrorists benefit from the absence of borders within the Schengen area, which helps them get to target areas and subsequently make their escape, why isn’t Cameron raising concerns with EU leaders?

Perhaps the PM doesn’t feel the need. If countries within Schengen are already questioning the arrangement they might be better off reaching their own conclusion. Criticism of Schengen from a country outside of it might not go down well. “Mêlez-vous de vos propres affaires” could be the European response. This is especially true in this delicate time in UK-EU relations.

Cameron may also realise that criticising Schengen risks strengthening Leave by drawing attention to a problem with the EU he cannot remedy. And there is the risk that the EU would remain committed to the principle of free movement whatever his criticisms. Were this to happen, it would offer another reminder of the limits of British influence within the EU.

In short, Cameron won’t criticize Schengen because to do so would risk placing further strain on Britain’s relationship with other EU members, as well as being a gift to the Leave campaign.