Douglas Carswell's Blog

07 DEC 2016

Theresa May must call a binding vote to trigger Brexit - and watch Remainers squirm

Six months ago, more people voted to leave the European Union than have ever voted for any political party in any British election ever. Turnout in the referendum was higher than in any general election since 1992. A clear majority backed Brexit. The British people issued an unambiguous instruction.

Yet today marks the first time that the Labour party has formally set out a position in the Commons on Brexit since the referendum. Ostensibly, their motion aims to push the government to disclose its Brexit plan for parliamentary scrutiny. But who are they kidding?

The pretence that some on the Labour frontbench are sudden converts to the idea of parliamentary oversight is pure sophistry. This is a party whose leadership willingly signed away parliament's sovereignty to Brussels on countless occasions over the last twenty years.

If Labour's backing for Brexit is conditional on how the government negotiates it, that alone is an affront to the pro-Brexit majority. The referendum result was unconditional and unequivocal. Obstructing Brexit on any pretext is anti-democratic.

Yet obstructionism is all some Remain MPs have to offer. In reality, the sole intention of today's motion is to give Europhile MPs an excuse to obstruct the triggering Article 50. They want nothing more than to bog it down in an unendingly complex Bill - over which they and the courts can then preside.

That was until the government called their bluff.

Last night the Prime Minister tabled an amendment that turns Labour's plan on its head. By calling for Article 50 to be triggered by March 31 2017, the amendment puts Parliament's reactionary Remainers on the spot.

I have cheerfully added my name to the amendment.

But enough of these Parliamentary parlour games. I'd like to see the government go much further. Today's vote isn't binding. We need one that is – and the sooner, the better.

Rather than waste time letting lawyers and vested interests tie the Prime Minister's hands, the government should put Brexit legislation before MPs now. If this parliament refuses to back it, let's elect one in 2017 that will.

Remain supporting MPs are in no position to dictate terms. By some estimates, seven out of ten Labour constituencies voted Leave. I know at least two Remain Tory MPs being threatened with deselection by their local associations. Go ahead, my friends. I dare you to go all Guardianista in your constituencies in the current climate.

There's a rising unease out there across the country. If this Parliament gets in the way of what the people have decided, we can always elect a new Parliament. And many Remain MPs know it.

Let's call their bluff with a binding Bill to trigger Brexit.

This article originally appeared in the Telegraph

06 DEC 2016

The euro is overdue a popular revolt

Matteo Renzi has become the latest prime minister to quit after losing a referendum. The vote was on constitutional reform, but it could herald another referendum on Italy's membership of the euro. That has been a long time coming.

The economies of southern Europe have been in crisis for almost a decade. Italy's economy has contracted by 10% since 2007. Youth unemployment is 39% - and even higher in Spain and Greece. Banks across the Mediterranean are overexposed to their own governments' debts.

Much of this is directly attributable to the single currency.

First, the euro enabled southern European countries to borrow too cheaply. Currency parity with Germany made imported goods cheaper than they should have been. The result was debt-fuelled consumption – which couldn't be sustained.

Having created the debt bubble, the euro then prevented the correction southern Europe needed to overcome it. If Italy, Spain, and Greece hadn't joined the euro, the value of their currencies would have dropped when the downturn hit. That would have made their exports more attractive, stimulated tourism, and made many of their debts cheaper to repay.

Instead, they had no way to devalue, while the ECB – which had made monetary policy too loose for southern Europe before the sovereign debt crisis hit – kept it too tight afterwards.

Economically speaking, the main beneficiary of the single currency has always been Germany. With southern Europe dragging its value down, the euro is cheaper relative to other major currencies than the deutschmark would have been. That makes German exports more competitive.

But, even for Germany, the costs of maintaining the single currency now outweigh the benefits. If Italy goes down, it will take German banks – like Deutsche – with it. German taxpayers have already had to fork out to keep Greece (and her German creditors) solvent. Doing so again for Italy – a much bigger economy – will provoke huge public resentment.

Yet amidst all this, the EU maintains the fiction that the euro is a roaring success. According to the European Commission, the benefits of the single currency include "improved economic stability and growth" and "greater security" – along with "a tangible sign of a European identity".

The Commission's blissful ignorance of reality could be its downfall. No one would bet against a political backlash against the euro across the Continent. The "tangible sign of European identity" may soon pull the entire European project apart. For southern Europe's sake, let's hope it does.

05 DEC 2016

Grayling is right to take on Network Fail's monopoly

Clacton's commuters are all too familiar with the poor service delivered by Network Rail. I've long argued that ministers need to challenge the monopoly that enables Network Rail to ignore passengers' interests. Now it seems ministers agree.

Rail privatisation is a bit of a misnomer. Since the collapse of Railtrack, Network Rail – a government subsidiary – has owned and operated all the track.

Yes, private franchise operators run the trains. But the conditions for how trains are run are issued by the government – along with substantial taxpayer subsidies.

The Department for Transport actually has more direct control over railways now than it did in the days of British Rail.

Which is why renationalising the railways is no solution to poor service. State-backed monopolies aren't the answer. They're the problem.

It's because Network Rail has no competition that it has no incentive to avoid delays. British Rail was much the same.

So the news that Network Rail's monopoly may soon be coming to an end sounds promising. The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, is set to announce that Network Rail will have to share responsibility for maintenance with train operators – who have more of an interest in finishing repairs on time.

There may be other ways to boost rail competition too. Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority recommended that the government open up intercity routes to multiple train operators instead of contracting them to just one franchisee.

Of course, there is no silver bullet here. Consumer choice is difficult to create when infrastructure is limited and economies of scale are important. With any reform, the devil is in the detail.

But passengers will never get better service as long as train and track operators can get away with ignoring them. Breaking the monopolies is the right way forward.

02 DEC 2016

Ending free movement is non-negotiable

Immigration from the EU hit record levels this year, according to the latest figures. The majority of the British people made clear in the referendum they want immigration brought under control. Ministers and MPs now need to make that happen.

In June, we voted to take back control. That entails an end to the free movement of people. From now on, our parliament and our government must control our borders. We should be able to decide how many enter and on what grounds – and to modify criteria as circumstances change. Anything else would be a surrender of sovereignty.

Most voters want immigration reduced. David Cameron was elected on the promise to cut it to the tens of thousands. Brexit will allow the government to fulfil that manifesto pledge on EU immigration – though it must also do likewise for non-EU immigration, which it already has the power to control.

But controlled immigration doesn't mean zero immigration. We should attract talented people who add significant value to our economy.

That's not the system we have at the moment. Unskilled immigrants from the EU get priority over skilled immigrants from non-EU countries. People are judged based on nationality, not merit. That's not just bad for Britain. It's patently unfair.

The latest immigration figures should be a wake-up call to the Remain rearguard in Parliament. The issues that motivated people to vote Leave won't just go away. If control over our laws and our borders is not restored, the majority of voters – Lib Dem by-election success notwithstanding – will react accordingly. Remember, seven out of ten Labour constituencies voted Leave.

There is an alternative to obstructionism. Brexit enables us to rethink whole swathes of policy areas – from immigration, to fishing, to energy. We have the opportunity to build a broad, new post-Brexit consensus.

Those Remainers who accept the people's mandate will play a constructive role in shaping Britain's post-Brexit future. Those who reject it will ultimately be ousted by the electorate. Choose wisely.

01 DEC 2016

How to fix Britain's broken banks

Three of Britain's biggest banks failed the Bank of England's latest stress tests. Despite billions in bailouts, interest rate cuts, and new regulations, our banks still aren't any more secure. Doesn't that suggest governments got their response to the financial crisis wrong?

This year's stress test was meant to mimic the economic conditions of the financial crisis. So it's ominous that RBS, Barclays, and Standard Chartered all failed. None would have sufficient capital to withstand another shock.

That's an indictment of the response to the financial crisis.

We were assured that there was no alternative to bailing out the banks, because they were too big to fail – notwithstanding the cost to taxpayers, who still own a majority stake in RBS.

We were told ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing was essential to keep banks liquid – in spite of the dire consequences for savers.

But we were promised that new regulations would make sure that banks were much better capitalised, so they wouldn't have to be bailed out at our expense again.

In reality, though, all governments, central banks, and regulators did was to reward banks for failure – and repeat the same mistakes that caused the crisis.

They allowed banks to privatise profits, while socialising losses. They made credit too cheap, incentivising banks to issue too many high-risk loans all over again. They never significantly raised capital requirements.

The precarious state of Britain's banks today comes as no surprise to UKIP in parliament. Last year, we published a paper warning that banks' capital ratios were far too low, while the Bank of England's stress tests were far too weak. In fact, the only surprise is that the test seems to have been toughened up.

Our paper recommended that banks need much higher leverage ratios: not 3%, as mandated by Basel III, but 15%. Interest rates also gradually need to rise.

But to make the financial sector secure in the long-term, we have to go further still.

The only way to stop bank failures is to rein in the excesses of fractional reserve banking. To do that, we need a legal separation between deposit accounts and loan accounts – as I wrote in my pamphlet After Osbrown. Banks should no longer be able to lend on deposits multiple times over as a matter of course.

The banking crisis wasn't a failure of capitalism. It was a failure of government. Around the world, governments incentivised banks to take reckless risks by protecting them from the consequences of their own decisions. To fix the financial system, that's what needs to change.

30 NOV 2016

Defence procurement needs competition - not industrial strategy

The Royal Navy today has only 19 frigates and destroyers. That's too few for comfort. Sir John Parker's report on shipbuilding critiques some of what's gone wrong with defence procurement. But it doesn't go far enough.

Too much taxpayers' money is consumed in wasteful defence procurement. Major projects routinely arrive years late and billions over budget – if they arrive at all.

The comparison to private-sector procurement is staggering. Parker notes that the Type 23 Frigate took 17 years to deliver, whereas 'mega-cruise' ships, which are 9 times the size, are delivered in 5.

The delay makes a huge difference. There's not much point in a ground-breaking, complex system if it is obsolete by the time it is delivered.

Our warships need to be built more quickly. So why aren't they?

Partly because government is often held to ransom by a monopoly contractor. Parker points out that BAE Systems' shipyards are "the only UK shipyards currently used to design build and commission a sophisticated naval warship" – thanks to "an exclusive position held under the Terms of Business Agreement between BAES and MOD."

In this context, Parker's recommendation that the construction of the Type 31 Frigate be opened up to a wider range of companies and shipyards in the UK is welcome. As is his plan for the Type 31 to be simpler, so that it can enter service urgently.

I'm less convinced by his belief that an industrial strategy which gives British shipyards a monopoly over warship construction can make them more, rather than less, competitive.

It's important to sustain British shipbuilding. But the way to achieve that is to free our shipyards to compete internationally – not to give them preferential treatment.

The reason BAE's shipyards in Scotland are less efficient than commercial shipyards elsewhere in the UK is because the government gives them guaranteed custom, whether or not they meet deadlines and costs.

By contrast, Britain's commercial shipyards – Parker acknowledges – display "no single customer dependency culture" because they are "sustained by multiple income streams".

What makes manufacturers competitive is open competition. If we want efficient procurement, shouldn't that be the model to follow?

The primary purpose of defence procurement is to keep this country safe. At the moment, it's failing. The corporate contractor cartel needs to be broken. Read our paper – Rethinking Defence Procurement – to find out how.

29 NOV 2016

UKIP's future is bright

Congratulations to Paul Nuttall! UKIP is beginning a new era – and we have every reason to be optimistic about the future. Our greatest victories are yet to come.

In his inaugural speech as leader yesterday, Paul set out his vision for UKIP to replace Labour as the party of the working-classes. It's ambitious – but it's also genuinely achievable.

Over the last year, pundits have pored over the splits in the Parliamentary Labour party between pro-Brussels Blairites and pro-Castro Corbynistas: in other words, between South Islington and North Islington.

But that's an irrelevant sideshow. Labour's real fracture is between Labour elites and traditional Labour voters. Post-Brexit, that electoral coalition could be broken beyond repair.

Seven in ten Labour constituencies voted to Leave. Yet all but ten Labour MPs declared for Remain. Indeed, many still seem to be campaigning for it.

Nor is it just on the EU that Labour MPs are out of touch. From defence, to justice, to foreign policy, to education, the position of Labour MPs is diametrically opposed to that of many traditional Labour voters.

But there's more to it than that. The truth is top-down, centrally planned government doesn't sell anymore.

In the digitised world, people are citizen-consumers. The Internet gives us more choice than ever before.

Yet, when it comes to government, Labour still expects people to take what they're given by Whitehall mandarins. They think the bureaucracy knows best. Voters know otherwise.

To beat Labour, UKIP needs to offer Labour voters choice and control. Autonomy over healthcare – so funding follows patients, not the other way round. Autonomy over education – ending the constraints of catchment areas, so kids' prospects are no longer determined by the price of their parents' house.

The lesson of the referendum is that taking back control is a winning proposition. If we offer control on the domestic front too, we can break the political cartel. Our future is brighter than ever. As Paul Nuttall put it, "there's no need for pessimism in UKIP".

28 NOV 2016

Castro symbolises socialism's moral bankruptcy

Fidel Castro systematically tyrannised and impoverished the people of Cuba for fifty years. Jeremy Corbyn has eulogised him as a "champion of social justice". Welcome to the moral bankruptcy of the left.

Castro wasn't just any autocrat. He was one of the nastiest exponents of Communist despotism.

He executed political opponents by the thousands. He sent men to forced labour camps to "correct" homosexuality or "effeminate mannerisms". He maintained power through military oppression, mob violence, and a network of neighbourhood informants.

His economic planning – which, at one point, involved co-opting people from every walk of life to work the sugar fields – reduced the people to penury. Some three million Cuban citizens fled the country for the chance of a better life elsewhere.

Both politically and financially, Castro turned Cuba into a Soviet dependency. He was instrumental in the Cuban missile crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

But Western left-wingers – and not just longstanding Communist apologists like Corbyn – have turned a blind eye to these inconvenient facts.

Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, praised a "legendary revolutionary". France's President, Francois Hollande, paid homage to a man who represented "the pride of rejecting external domination". President Obama – the leader of the free world – tritely hailed "the enormous impact of this singular figure".

Their selective recall has been topped only by their media echo chambers: the New York Times, the Guardian and the BBC.

The left's indifference to the reality of Castro's Communism is reprehensible in itself. But what makes it outrageous is the fact that these people have appointed themselves the guardians of human decency and the rights of the vulnerable.

The reason the left won't condemn Castro is because they agree with him. Like him, they propagate the lie that the world's evils can be blamed on capitalism, and the solution is socialism.

The truth is the precise opposite. No system of government has ever lifted so many people out of poverty so quickly as free-market capitalism. And none has subjected so many to poverty as socialism. The socialist lie has cost the lives of millions of people.

Leading leftists have used a veil of faux compassion to perpetuate mass suffering for the last century. They're still doing it today. It's high time to expose them for the frauds they are.

25 NOV 2016

Blairism is bust - and even Blair can't save it

Nicolas Sarkozy has abandoned his hopes of a comeback, and given up on politics for good. So, it seems, has Hillary Clinton. Shame Tony Blair didn't get the memo.

By no popular acclaim, Tony Blair has decided to return to British politics, aiming to overturn the result of the referendum. It's a sign of how detached from reality he has become that he seriously believes he could succeed.

In the first general election I fought as a candidate, back in 2001, I stood against Tony Blair in Sedgefield. There's no doubt that he was an impressive campaigner. I saw that first-hand.

But times have changed. Just as his landslide victory in 1997 marked a popular rejection of almost twenty years of Tory government, so Brexit is a public revolt against two decades of Blairism.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were blasé about European integration. With the Lisbon Treaty, Brown railroaded through the EU Constitution Blair had signed – the constitution which had been expressly rejected in referenda in Holland and France – without ever asking for the people's consent.

Blair didn't just ignore public concerns about immigration. He made immigration a taboo subject for debate. Perhaps he genuinely thought there was a consensus behind multiculturalism. But all he actually achieved was to stoke public resentment.

He might have left Number 10 in 2007, but Tony Blair effectively defined government for the next nine years. David Cameron proudly called himself the heir to Blair – and so he proved to be. On European integration, as on so much else, he delivered continuity.

But now the British people have rejected that elite consensus. Blairism is over. Thankfully, not even the return of the man himself can take us back to 1997.

It is revealing, though, that he thinks he can.

Though some ex-holders of the office seem to forget it, prime ministers aren't monarchs. They don't have a God-given right to rule forever. The people are their boss, not the other way round.

When I lost to Tony Blair in 2001, I accepted the result. Not because I thought his agenda was better than mine. But because I recognised it was for the electorate to choose.

Now the voters have chosen again. Brexit is going to happen, whether establishment grandees like it or not. They might as well get used to it.

24 NOV 2016

The political establishment can't dodge the blame for debt

Successive pro-EU Chancellors have more than trebled the national debt in ten years. Yet yesterday the pro-EU Westminster bubble tried to blame rising debt on Brexit. This is why people don't trust politicians or pundits.

As the graph illustrates, our national debt has risen from under £500 billion in 2005 to over £1.6 trillion today. That's even without including nationalised banks, or unfunded pension liabilities.

Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats have all been in government over the last ten years. They have all had ministers at the Treasury. They are all directly accountable for the mess our public finances are in.

But instead of accepting responsibility, they prefer to blame the British people. What's pushing up debt is Brexit, they tell us. We're supposed to believe that a problem that has been growing since 2005 is somehow the fault of the way the majority voted in 2016.

Worse still, this pathetic excuse for an argument is trotted out uncritically by equally pro-EU pundits. These are the people who are supposed to scrutinise our politics. Yet all they provide is an echo chamber for the political establishment.

What's truly bizarre is that politicians and pundits actually expect people to be credulous enough to buy this rubbish. No wonder Donald Trump won.

Debt isn't increasing because of Brexit. It's increasing because government spends too much money. Because successive Chancellors haven't kept their promises, or even followed their own fiscal rules.

If we don't want to impoverish the next generation, government needs to shrink. No amount of hypocritical whining from shameless Remainers can change that.

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