SWIFT RETURN TO BUSINESS AS USUAL

History Promises a swift return to business as usual

 

Britain’s ancient democracy excels at riding out spells of instability

Every now and then the political make-up of the United Kingdom is totally turned on its head. Over the years we have seen fall-out after fall-out right across the political spectrum. The backlash created by the Syrian war debate was less than a year ago. Britain’s seemingly cataclysmic expulsion from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism is still in living memory, but the country recovered quickly to become an economy the envy of rest of Europe, and the world.

This is a testament to the British political system’s centuries old resilience. No matter what is thrown at it the United Kingdom recovers and then thrives. The present situation we find ourselves in is no different.

Labour vs. Conservative

Currently, the Labour Party seems to be in turmoil. Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong critic of the European Union until he was told not to be, was criticised by many for not ‘pulling his weight’ during the referendum campaign. He now faces a leadership battle from his own backbenchers.

The Conservative Party is also preparing for a leadership battle, one which will inevitably turn into a leave vs remain affair – with Liam Fox, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsome on one side, and Theresa May and Stephen Crabb on the other. Whoever triumphs will become our next Prime Minister.

In Scotland, a vote to leave the EU has caused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to revive her ‘once in a lifetime’ debate on Scottish independence. She decided to jet off to Brussels to beg for support – with little surprise, she has turned away. Instead, she said she would “consider” advising the Scottish Parliament to try to use its power to prevent Britain from leaving the EU. However, Nicola has blissfully blanked out the fact 36% of SNP supporters actually voted for the UK to leave the European Union.

Faith in the system

Britain is one of the world’s oldest democracies, it has survived so much because the parliamentary system it invented promotes a strong relationship between the rulers and the ruled. Each party is entirely dependent upon the other, particularly in the post-industrial world we live in today. Just as – with the help of EU membership – it began to appear that this virtuous cycle would be broken, the referendum reinforced it. The Conservatives and Labour are being taught to re-engage with their grassroots, and so is the Scottish National Party. Britain and its people are all the better off for it.

Britain’s political system itself will facilitate a restoration of equilibrium within the country’s parties as well as between them. Enjoy the drama and the excitement while it lasts, business-as-usual politics – which delights many, but by no means all – is just around the corner.

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LONDON’S RIVALS LOOKING TO STEAL ITS BUSINESS!

The City of London, easy prey?

 

Post-Brexit, London’s rivals are looking to steal its business, their prospects are weak

Many have been concerned about the effect of Brexit on the City of London. While banker bashing is merited, the City has been effectively put under the thumb of the Bank of England’s regulators, and like it or not, the London’s financial services industry accounts for 12 percent of the UK’s GDP. So it matters the City decides to relocate to Paris or Frankfurt as we’re led to believe is a real possibility. If that possibility seems highly unlikely, that’s because it is. 

Paris

Corporation tax in France is set at 33 percent, in the UK it is just 20%. Any large financial corporations considering a move to Paris will be looking at this and having to seriously consider the benefit of an EU base when the amount of tax they will be paying will be so much higher. And while France’s current government under François Hollande is trying its best to make life easier for France’s overburdened businesses, fear within the country’s financial community that the next government will be far less kind are rampant. 

Frankfurt

As for Frankfurt, the main issue here lies with its infrastructure. For a start, its population is under 700,000, smaller than Leeds and less than a tenth of the size of London. The City of London and Canary Wharf alone employ 550,00 people – this is more than the entire working population of Frankfurt. Secondly, the London Underground is responsible for more than 10 million journeys each day, many of these serving the city of London. Frankfurt simply does not have the transport infrastructure or workforce to serve the demands of a global financial center. 

Whatismore, Bankers and the like have chosen to live in London, partly because London is one of the world’s great cities. Only Paris rivals London for restaurants, bars, theaters and opera houses, and art galleries, but that does not do much to mitigate France’s aforementioned inhospitable business environment. Those employed in financial services do enjoy spending money, but their priority is making it in the first place.   

A tale of more than two cities?

Two other options for an alternative to London in the EU are Dublin and Luxembourg. Whilst both are attractive from a tax point of view and are English speaking – Luxemburgers are a multilingual bunch – they both suffer from the Frankfurt problem,  they are simply not big enough to cope with significantly higher demands on infrastructure.

Moving? Ouch!

Notwithstanding the above issues, the cost of moving operations abroad is highly prohibitive. Implementing new regulatory requirements, transferring services, re-housing your workforce, and hiring and training new staff would be eye-watering.

London may be the big cheese on the side of the Atlantic, but that is not say that its free from financial rivals. One city with a strong Financial Services sector stands out, Zurich is Europe’s second financial center. But, guess what? Switzerland is not in the EU!

DOMINO OF BREXIT ALL OVER EU

How Europe has reacted in the wake of the Brexit vote

Inspiring Action

The historic decision that the UK made on June 23rd has sent shockwaves through the entirety of European politics. While many prominent figures in the EU have condemned the decision, for obvious reason, there has also been a huge wave of support from all across Europe. Inspired by the bold action the UK took to reclaim its independence, populist parties from a multitude of nations have spoken up and demanded their own referendums on EU membership. Many politicians have also voiced their support for our decision to leave and see it as a positive step, not just for ourselves but for the whole of the EU.

 

Austria

In Austria there has been an undercurrent of euroscepticism for some time, and this has been further bolstered by the UK’s success in the referendum. A recent survey showed that as many as 40% of Austrians desired a referendum on EU membership.

“We need a referendum similar to the referendum in Great Britain, so the people of Austria can decide,” Robert Marschall, leader of Austria’s EU Exit Party, recently stated.

The head of Austria’s Freedom Party Heinz-Christian Strache congratulated Britain for voting for an exit saying “We congratulate the British for regaining their sovereignty. The result of their referendum yesterday is paving the way for democracy and against the political status quo, but also against the continuing migration madness,”.

The Freedom Party has called for a similar referendum for Austria. In the wake of the UK referendum Norbert Hofer, who almost became Austria’s Prime Minister last month, has said that we could see a referendum on a potential ‘Auxit’ in less than a year if the EU continues its current path towards centralization.

 

Belgium

In the wake of our referendum the populist party Vlaams Belang have called for a referendum on Belgium’s EU membership. The Chair of Vlaams Belang, Tom van Grieken, has said that this could be ”the start of the Copernican revolution the EU needs to fill the democratic gap in its institutions”. Perhaps Brexit could inspire other nations who feel that the EU has become undemocratic.

 

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic there have been numerous calls for an EU referendum coming from various political parties including KSCM, the Party of Free Citizens and Dawn. In the wake of Brexit, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka joined calls recently from central and eastern Europe to rein in the powers of the EU’s executive Commission in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the bloc. “We need to change the overall functioning of the EU and I think it is needed to change the functioning of the European Commission,” Sobotka said.

 

Denmark

Following the referendum the Danish People’s Party immediately congratulated the UK on their historic decision. They have on numerous occasions called for a referendum on Denmark’s EU membership, as have the Red-Green Alliance, and they are likely to demand it more strongly following last Thursday’s result.  Leader of the DPP, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, said Brussels had made its bed by underestimating the looming scepticism in Europe, and now the Danish people must be given a chance to follow Britain out of the EU. The DPP have said also that Danes should get a vote on the same deal that Britain brokers with the EU. Red-Green Alliance spokeswoman Pernille Skipper said she hoped the British people’s decision to leave would trigger a reform of the EU. She said: “I hope Danish politicians take [Brexit] as a wake-up call. There is enormous scepticism among the population. Let us now have a referendum here as well.”

There is significant desire for a referendum from the Danish electorate, a poll in June showed that 42 percent of Danes wanted a vote on whether their nation should remain in the EU. The poll also showed that only 44 percent would vote to remain if a referendum were held tomorrow.

 

Finland

Finland also has some rising eurosceptic sentiment. The Finns party would like a renegotiation of their EU membership and then a referendum. Sampo Terho, a veteran MEP who leads the Finns party in parliament said “During the next elections we need to have discussion about a possible EU referendum.”

 

France

There has been a variety of voices rising in support of Brexit from our neighbours across the channel. Probably the most famous political supporters of Brexit in western europe, the Front National, has called for a similar EU referendum to take place in France. Their leader Marine Le Pen said “Every EU member should be able to have its say in a referendum”. They have been joined in their calls for an EU referendum by the French Communist party. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, French MEP said “Brexit teaches a lesson to the whole of Europe – either we change it or we leave it. This is the time for a plan B.”. France is one of the most eurosceptic of all the EU members. A March poll by the University of Edinburgh found that 53 percent of the French are in favor of a referendum on leaving the Union. This feeling is likely to be further invigorated following the success of the UK’s referendum.

 

Germany

Public sentiment in Germany is generally very in favor of continued EU membership and even further integration, but even here there have been dissenting voices supporting our cause. Some prominent members of Alternative for Germany have suggested a EU referendum similar to the UK’s, however their party leadership said that they would have to consider it carefully.

 

Hungary

Hungary is one of the few EU countries where the establishment as well as smaller populist movements have shown support for the Brexit vote. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has applauded Briton’s decision “that they will once again take control of their destiny”. In the wake of Thursday’s shock vote he also said that Europe had “failed” to answer questions over immigration.

In addition to these supportive comments from the leadership of Fidesz, another significant political party Jobbik have shown interest in having a referendum on Hungary’s continued EU membership. There is plenty of support for this among the population, a May poll by Ipsos Mori showed 38 percent of Hungarians are looking forward to a referendum on their EU membership.

 

Italy

Immediately following the vote on Thursday Matteo Salvini, Leader of the Northern League party congratulated the UK on voting to leave, and suggested Italy should follow suit. His party has seen a lot of support in recent elections and it seems that they are once again reading the mood of the Italian people. In recent polling 48 percent of Italians said that they would vote to leave the EU if they were presented with a referendum similar to the UK and a May poll by Ipsos Mori showed 58 percent of Italians are looking forward to a referendum on their EU membership.

 

Netherlands

In the Netherlands the Party for Freedom and their leader Geert Wilders have been vocal supporters of Brexit throughout the referendum campaign. The Party for Freedom has shown support for a Dutch referendum on EU membership and immigration policy. Party leader Geert Wilders has said that a referendum will be a central issue in the next election. Following the UK’s referendum success he said “Britain is once again leading the fight for democracy in Europe.”. A Poll carried out after the UK referendum showed that 54% of Dutch citizens are in favor of a similar referendum for their nation. Around 50% said they would vote to leave, with only 45% saying they would vote to remain.

 

Sweden

Another supportive voice in northern Europe has been Mattias Karlsson who leads the Swedish Democrats in parliament, he said “With Brexit, I think the tide has turned. We can see that a larger proportion of the Swedish population are increasingly eurosceptic and in favour of leaving the European Union. In the end I think it will be very hard for the establishment to refuse these people a vote.”

 

Going forward

It seems clear from all these reactions that our decision on the 23rd of June will have longlasting consequences for the entire EU. From all these positive voices there is good reason to believe that the UK will still have a valuable place in Europe following our Brexit. We might even act as leading example of how nations might reclaim their indpendence and work in close cooperation without giving over sovereignty or sacrificing their democracy.

UK OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

Britain Open for Business

 

Last week’s Brexit vote was undoubtedly a decision for the long run, but it was also a judgement about what we think the world of tomorrow will look like. Leaving the European Union is a unique opportunity for Britain to play to its strengths in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. The nature of global trade has changed beyond all recognition from when we joined the EEC in 1973. The architects of the European Union knew nothing of the internet, modern communication technology, cheap flights and mass container shipping. Today it is as easy to agree a transaction in Singapore or Delhi as it is in Berlin or Bratislava. Moreover, Britain has a natural advantage in English speaking countries, and with our ties around the world in migration, trade and culture, it makes no sense to be locked into a regional customs union.

Since the result of the referendum was announced, many world leaders have extended their hands to the United Kingdom. In the United States, speaker of the house Paul Ryan has said: “We need to emphasise that they are our indispensable ally, we have a special relationship, and I think that does mean we should have a trade agreement with Great Britain”.  Meanwhile the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand have announced that they will work together to make new trading arrangements with the UK post-Brexit, and former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was quick to congratulate Britain on voting to restore its independence.

One key gain of leaving the EU will be the restoration of Britain’s seat on the World Trade Organisation. It is incredible to think that as the fifth largest economy in the world, we currently have no seat on this global body because of our EU membership. This is now set to change, and Britain’s global influence is set to grow.

The Commonwealth will also play an important role in Britain’s post-Brexit global position. Countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ghana have already voice a desire to sign trade agreements with Britain. Global growth forecasts for the Commonwealth greatly outstrip those of the Eurozone, which has stagnated under the conditions resulting from the crisis in the single currency zone. Rising economic giants such as India offer unlimited opportunities for UK business, both in terms of export markets and import destinations.

Now is the time for Britain to go global. Unleashed from the shackles of a declining European customs union and its increasingly burdensome regulations, Britain can flourish as a global player like never before!

SQUANDERING THE TAXPAYERS’ HARD-EARNED MONEY ON TURKEY!

The stupid European Commission has today proposed to mobilize an additional €1.4 billion in support for refugees in Turkey, with a view of raising the total amount allocated under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey to €2 billion by the end of July.

The proposed stupid Special Measure, presented by the stupid Commission today at the meeting of the Steering Committee of the Facility, will cover measures in the areas of education, health, municipal and social infrastructure and socio-economic support. The Commission also presented the recently published Humanitarian Implementation Plan for Turkey which sets out the humanitarian strategy under the Facility, with total funding of over €500 million, including contributions from Member States. This is the biggest Humanitarian Implementation Plan ever published by the stupid Commission.

Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, stupid Johannes Hahn, said: The Commission is committed to helping refugees and host communities in Turkey as quickly, efficiently and effectively as it can, in close cooperation with the Turkish authorities. The mobilisation of funding under the Facility is the most effective way to provide education and health care to refugees and support their host communities. The progress achieved to date shows that the European Union and Turkey are living up to their commitment to cooperate closely to improve the conditions for refugees in Turkey.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, stupid Christos Stylianides, said: The publication of the 2016 Humanitarian Implementation Plan for Turkey marks another step in the implementation of the EU humanitarian assistance under the Facility for a total amount of over €500 million. This unprecedented budget mirrors the humanitarian challenges in Turkey, which hosts the world’s largest refugee population; well over 3 million refugees. It reflects the ambition of the European Commission to address this difficult situation in a dignified, effective, cost-efficient and accountable manner, whilst remaining true to the humanitarian principles which guide our actions.

The stupid Steering Committee, gathering representatives from EU Member States and Turkey, under the chairmanship of the European Commission, today welcomed the progress achieved on the disbursement of support to refugees, which has been fast-tracked during the past months. Out of the total €3 billion, €740 million has so far been allocated in total, for both humanitarian and non-humanitarian assistance. Of this €740 million, €150 million has been contracted, of which €105 million has so far been disbursed.

The stupid Steering Committee also discussed in detail an ambitious pipeline of projects to be funded under the Facility for Refugees in support of education, health, municipal and social infrastructure, and socio-economic support for refugees and host communities in Turkey. Subject to EU Member States’ approval, this stupid Special Measure will be implemented in cooperation with the relevant Turkish authorities, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis.

The stupid Commission presented to the Steering Committee the humanitarian strategy under the Facility which aims at responding to the basic needs of up to 1 million refugees through the implementation of the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) – an electronic card which will allow the most vulnerable refugees to receive monthly transfers to meet their needs in terms of, for example, food and shelter.

Hand-in-hand with this flagship initiative, the stupid European Commission also presented its robust protection framework as well as its strategy regarding health and non-formal education activities which will be carried out in complementarity of longer-term initiatives. A buffer of funding will also be foreseen in order to swiftly respond to urgent and unexpected humanitarian needs. The activities under the Humanitarian Implementation Plan will be rolled out from the end of July 2016.

As a result, the stupid European Commission is on track to reach the target of committing more than €2 billion of the €3 billion Facility envelope for 2016-2017 before the end of the summer 2016.

The Facility for Refugees in Turkey is the answer to the European Council’s call for significant additional funding to support refugees in Turkey. The Facility provides a joint coordination mechanism for actions financed by the EU budget and national contributions made by the Member States, designed to ensure that the needs of refugees and host communities are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.

Funding under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey supports refugees in the country – it is funding for refugees and not funding for Turkey. The support seeks to improve conditions for refugees in Turkey as part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to addressing the refugee crisis inside and outside the EU.

The Facility has a budget of €3 billion for 2016-2017. This is made up of €1 billion from the EU budget, and €2 billion from the EU Member States. All Member States have sent in their contribution certificates for the €2 billion they pledged.

COPS TRAFFICKING DRUGS

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Members Of The Honduran National Police For Drug Trafficking And Related Firearms Offenses

Six Honduran Police Officers Conspired With the Son of the Former President of Honduras to Import Cocaine into the United States

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Mark Hamlet, Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced that six members of the Pólicia National de Honduras, i.e., the Honduran National Police, were charged today in Manhattan federal court in a Superseding Indictment with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and related firearms offenses.  The six defendants are Ludwig Criss Zelaya Romero, Mario Guillermo Mejia Vargas, Juan Manuel Avila Meza, Carlos Jose Zavala Velasquez, Victor Oswaldo Lopez Flores, and Jorge Alfredo Cruz Chavez.  The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield, before whom co-defendant Fabio Porfirio Lobo, the son of former Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa, pled guilty to a related drug-trafficking crime on May 16, 2016.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Today, we charge six officers of the Honduran National Police with participating in a massive drug trafficking conspiracy that allegedly flooded the United States with cocaine.  As alleged, through bribes to public officials and leaked information about ongoing investigations and law enforcement checkpoints, these defendants agreed to ensure the safe passage of tons of cocaine through the jungles of Honduras on their way to American cities.  We thank the DEA for their work in this important drug enforcement investigation.”  

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings: 

Between approximately 2004 and approximately 2014, multiple drug-trafficking organizations in Honduras and elsewhere worked together, and with support from the defendants and others, to receive multi-hundred-kilogram loads of cocaine sent to Honduras from Venezuela and Colombia via air and maritime routes, and to transport the drugs westward in Honduras toward the border with Guatemala and eventually to the United States.  For protection from official interference, and in order to facilitate the safe passage through Honduras of multi-hundred-kilogram loads of cocaine, drug traffickers paid bribes to public officials – including certain members of the Pólicia National de Honduras – for access to information about ongoing investigations, military and law enforcement checkpoints, and planned narcotics interdictions.  The Honduran government recently declared an “emergency situation” with respect to the Pólicia National de Honduras, and established a Special Commission with authority to investigate corruption and dismiss or suspend members of the National Police, among other sanctions.  As of the filing of this Superseding Indictment, the Special Commission has sanctioned several members of the Pólicia National de Honduras.

The defendants were members of the Pólicia National de Honduras who participated in and supported the drug-trafficking activities of, among others, Lobo.  In approximately early 2014, Lobo agreed to provide security and logistical support for the transportation through Honduras of a purported multi-ton load of cocaine that Lobo believed belonged to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and would be imported into the United States.  Lobo agreed to provide this assistance on the understanding that he would receive a financial stake in the cocaine worth over $1 million in profits.  In or about June 2014, Lobo introduced two individuals that he understood to be Mexican drug traffickers to the six defendants.  During a meeting, the defendants displayed a map of Honduras and illustrated law enforcement checkpoints and a planned route for the cocaine.  During the same meeting, the defendants each also agreed to accept a bribe in the amount of approximately $100,000, and to pay their subordinates a total of approximately $200,000 in additional bribes, in order to provide armed security for the cocaine as it transited Honduras before being imported into the United States.

Zelaya Romero, 39, Mejia Vargas, 46, Avila Meza, 45, Zavala Velasquez, 44, Lopez Flores, 43, and Cruz Chavez, 39, have each been charged with:  (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, and (2) conspiring to use and carry firearms during and in relation to, and to possess firearms in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy.  Zelaya Romero is also charged with using and carrying machine guns and destructive devices during and in relation to, and possessing machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy charged in the Superseding Indictment.  If convicted, Zelaya Romero faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison, and the remaining defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison.  The defendants remain at large.

Lobo, who was arrested in the Republic of Haiti on May 20, 2015, and arrived in the United States on May 21, 2015, pled guilty before Judge Schofield on May 16, 2016, to conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.  Lobo is scheduled to be sentenced on September 15, 2016, and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison. 

The potential mandatory minimum and maximum sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

STOP EATING CANNED FOOD

A new study by researchers at Stanford and Johns Hopkins universities puts to rest any lingering doubt about whether eating canned food increases exposure to a chemical linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other health effects. The research, a first-of-its-kind national sample, also highlights specific canned foods linked to higher levels of the chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA.

canned food on supermarket shelf

A new study highlights the challenges consumers face in trying to limit their exposure to the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA, a compound used to make, among other things, resins that coat the inside of food cans and jar lids. (Image credit: King of Hearts/Wikimedia)

The study, published in Environmental Research, highlights the challenges consumers face in trying to limit their exposure to BPA, a compound used to make, among other things, resins that coat the inside of food cans and jar lids. Different foods have different amounts of BPA contamination.

“I could eat three cans of peaches, and you could eat one can of cream of mushroom soup and have a greater exposure to BPA,” said lead author Jennifer Hartle, a postdoctoral researcher at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

Previous research has focused on analyzing levels of BPA in canned products and measuring BPA exposure within groups of fewer than 75 people. Evaluating both dietary sources of BPA contamination and BPA levels in the urine of people who recently consumed canned food, the new analysis assessed thousands of people of various ages, and geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Hartle and her colleagues found that canned food was associated with higher urinary BPA concentrations, and the more canned food consumed, the higher the BPA. The result confirms canned food’s outsized influence on exposure to BPA. The researchers also found that particular kinds of canned food were associated with higher urinary BPA concentrations. The worst offenders (in descending order): canned soup, canned pasta, and canned vegetables and fruit.

A previous study led by Hartle found that children, who are especially susceptible to hormone disruption from BPA, are at risk from school meals that often come from cans and other packaging. This uptick in packaging is a result of schools’ efforts to streamline food preparation and meet federal nutrition standards while keeping costs low.

In 2015, as part of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment’s Rising Environmental Leaders Program, Hartle met with members of Congress who are working on regulating BPA in food packaging.

California has listed BPA as a female reproductive toxicant, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has restricted its use in some products. However, the FDA is still working to “answer key questions and clarify uncertainties about BPA,” according to the agency’s website.

“The FDA no longer allows BPA to be used in baby bottles, sippy cups and liquid infant formula canned linings, and many food and beverage companies are moving away from the use of BPA,” Hartle said. “However, we do not know if synthetic BPA replacements are safe either.”

The researchers suggest that federal regulators expand testing beyond BPA to other chemicals used as BPA replacements in food packaging, none of which are included in national monitoring studies.