Nissan, Felixstowe, Lettuces and Whisky

I am sure we all understand the situation Nissan and other companies which export a majority of their UK production to the Eurozone will find themselves in after Brexit. They will face 10% tariffs by the EU on these exports, and it stands to commercial reason they would then be better off re-locating their production into the Eurozone, where they would face 10% tariffs only on their re-exports into the UK – a lesser percentage of their total turnover. Neither we nor they want that.

The obvious solution is export subsidies. Payments would be made directly to the foreign importer on presentation of their receipt for import tariffs paid, with the exporter acting simply as agent. We could for example implement an export subsidy regime which is a mirror-image of our import tariff regime, with the latter funding the former. For as long as we run a deficit the Treasury would make a profit, but when we move into surplus it would make sense to negotiate trade deals wholly or partly removing both subsidies and tariffs together. Provided our import tariffs, and thus export subsidies, on cars are the same as the EU’s Nissan will not be affected by Brexit. Indeed the effect would be like unilateral free trade for exports only – no need to negotiate anything with anyone!

The question then arises as to whether this would contravene WTO rules. These are governed by the Anti-Dumping Regulations and the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, often referred to together as “AD-CVD”. Dumping and subsidies — together with anti-dumping (AD) measures and countervailing duties (CVD) — share a number of similarities. Many countries handle the two under a single law, apply a similar process to deal with them and give a single authority responsibility for investigations. Occasionally, the two WTO committees responsible for these issues meet jointly.

I am not a lawyer but it seems clear to me that my proposal would neither be dumping – defined as the export of a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges on its own home market, nor would it contravene either of the two categories of subsidy –Prohibited subsidies: subsidies that require recipients to meet certain export targets, or to use domestic goods instead of imported goods, or Actionable subsidies: in this category the complaining country has to show that the subsidy has an adverse effect on its interests, otherwise the subsidy is permitted.

In any case the most sensible course of action, which needless to say Theresa May’s government has not taken, is to negotiate a special transitional agreement with the WTO which could remain in force until we have eliminated our trade deficit. Such an agreement would be in the WTO’s interests as it has been unable to negotiate any further General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATTs) since 1994, due to the massive international trade imbalances that have developed around the world since the onset of globalisation.

We need a new international regime which promotes equilibrium at balance. My proposal would not only do that from the UK’s perspective,  it could also, with the proviso that only deficit countries may pay subsidies, be rolled out by the WTO as an international standard to everyone’s benefit, thereby recreating the conditions under which free-trade deals would be mutually beneficial. Otherwise there is always the option of not re-joining the WTO! For our economic survival our prime focus must be on eliminating our current account deficit as described in my last post. My proposal gives us for the first time the tools to manage our trade balance.

Let’s also just think through what WTO Rules mean as far as import tariffs are concerned. There are two principal requirements. First the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) rules require us to charge the same tariffs to all countries for each product category, and second, once we have re-joined, we cannot increase our tariffs we can only reduce them.

This means we have quite a wide range of options on how we set these tariffs (strictly speaking after Brexit but before we rejoin). We can level up to the EU tariffs, or even beyond, or we can level down to zero, or we can cherry-pick somewhere in between. It would make most sense to charge tariffs on those goods where UK producers can substitute, but zero-rate those we cannot or where we don’t want a cliff-edge increase in prices such as lettuces. However we do want to encourage UK producers to substitute for imports. This means a gradualist and selective approach; the former would have to be agreed with the WTO. We also want to make sure we raise tariffs as much as we can to maximise revenues for the Treasury as well as reduce the deficit.

Import tariffs are just another tax, but they are unique as a form of taxation that boosts the economy and creates jobs. Obviously (one would have thought) placing tariffs on both sides of the Channel will make foreign stuff more expensive than British stuff, which means people will buy more British stuff and less foreign stuff, thereby reducing the deficit, creating jobs, boosting the economy and providing additional income for the Treasury all at the same time! If we level up to EU tariff rates the additional income for the Treasury could be as much as £25bn. Of course the same is true on the other side of the Channel, but as we have a deficit the impact is less. All this talk of crashing out and disaster is pure Remainian fantasy.

Of course there are always those Magic Money Tree growers who want zero tariffs now! Zero tariffs will have the opposite effect and just increase the deficit still further. But consider this. Given that the Treasury must fund public expenditure somehow, whatever level of expenditure we settle at, and that all other forms of taxation reduce consumer demand and employment, surely it makes sense to have import tariffs in the mix?

In recent days we have seen a resumption of Project Fear, but we must address the points that arise and show how we will deal with them otherwise uncertainty will continue. I have answered the Nissan and Lettuce issues above, so that leaves Felixstowe and Whisky unless I have missed something.

The Felixstowe issue involves bonded containers arriving from Asia with products for re-export all over Europe. The concern is that they will face double tariffs; once here and then again on re-export. Again the solution is obvious – zero-rate imports for re-export! We will be perfectly free to do that. Yes we would lose 20% of the tariff revenues (the other 80% is paid across to Brussels anyway at present), but that is peanuts compared to the revenues we will be getting after Brexit.

The Whisky issue is a classic government cock-up. This concerns those countries with which the EU has free-trade agreements, such as South Korea. On Brexit, if we haven’t agreed roll-over treaties with those countries, our exports will face their normal tariffs – 20% in the case of whisky to South Korea. Needless to say the Government could have started doing this two years ago but hasn’t. As a result there are now ships loaded to the gunnels with whisky for South Korea, for example, and they are not expected to arrive until after 29th March. As the Government is culpable it should bear the cost of these tariffs until the relevant roll-over treaty is in place so that trade can continue smoothly.

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Supply Chains of Corruption

Since I postulated in my last post that British companies with component manufacturing supply chains on the continent may be in the pocket of Brussels, and that in turn the Conservative Party may be the recipient of donations from those companies, I have received the following list of companies, which is just a selection apparently, that have moved their manufacturing to Europe with the help of EU subsidies. I have not been able to verify this list for myself but as you will see it is very specific, and so I challenge the Prime Minister to say whether or not it is accurate.

– Cadbury moved to Poland 2011 with an EU grant.
– Ford Transit moved to Turkey 2013 with an EU grant.
– Jaguar Land Rover (now a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata who mis-sold and decimated British Steel pension funds) recently agreed to build a new plant in Slovakia with an EU grant.
– Peugeot closed its Ryton (was Rootes Group) plant and moved production to Slovakia with an EU grant.
– The British Army’s new Ajax combat vehicles are to be built in Spain using Swedish steel, at the request of the EU, to support jobs in Spain with an EU grant, rather than Wales.
– Crown Closures (formerly Metal Box) has been relocated to Poland with an EU grant.
– Gillette has been relocated to Eastern Europe with an EU grant.
– Texas Instruments, Greenock has been relocated to Germany with EU grant.
– Sekisui Alveo’s production at its Merthyr Tydfil Industrial Park foam plant has been relocated to the Netherlands, with EU funding.
– The Hoover Merthyr factory has been relocated to the Czech Republic and the Far East with EU backing.
– Boots was sold to Italian Stefano Pessina who is based in Switzerland to avoid tax, using an EU loan for the purchase.
– The Mini cars which David Cameron stood in front of to showcase British engineering, are built by BMW mostly in Holland and Austria. His campaign bus was made in Germany even though we have Plaxton, Optare, Bluebird, Dennis etc., in the UK.

Anyone who believes the EU is good for British industry or any other business simply hasn’t paid attention to what has been systematically asset-stripped from the UK.

 

I have checked this list of companies with the Conservative Party’s returns of donors on the Electoral Commission’s website. Unfortunately those results do not show anything before 1st January 2017 (why?) and there were no matches since then, but that does not mean donations could not have been laundered through some other institution. So again I challenge the Prime Minister to deny there is any connection between these two lists.

Either way this situation is clearly appalling and unacceptable, so once again I call for the ending of all donations from institutions to registered political parties and for the introduction of modest state proportional funding as well as proportional representation. Only registered voters should be allowed to donate to registered political parties in this country.

 

 

The Economic Imperative for a No-Deal Brexit

Well things are really hotting up now. I have designed a new leaflet which also has been accepted onto the Bruges Group website here, and which you can view in the original  here. I am also in the process of sending a copy by post to ever single member of the House of Commons, so lets hope they get past their gatekeepers and find their recipients in open-minded mood.

A further point has occurred to me and I have asked my own MP, Cheryl Gillan, to ask the following in the House:

“firstly whether any of the UK companies who outsource component manufacture to the continent receive any subsidies from the European Union, and, secondly, whether or not they do, those companies donate to the Conservative Party? It strikes me as extremely odd that such companies would wish to manufacture on the continent which one of the most expensive places to do so in the world. It would surely require substantial subsidies to make that viable. This leads me to wonder whether we have a supply chain of corruption going on here, with the companies in the pocket of the EU, and the Conservative Party in the pocket of the companies. If this is the case then the British public and their representatives need to know before a vote on Chequers is taken.”

Has Jeremy Warner seen the light?

I started to think so last weekend as I read his column in the Sunday Telegraph business section. Each week Warner provides a Remainer view while on the same page Liam Halligan gives a Leave perspective. I always read both as I enjoy the challenge of debunking Warner’s arguments, but this week I found him saying some things which are undoubtedly correct.

First he acknowledged that we have a massive and increasing current account (trade) deficit. He also saw that this is being funded, in foreign currency, by massive capital inflows, causing an increase in the value of the pound making it less competitive. He noted the devaluation since the referendum and the consequent small reversal in the deficit, but was inclined to attribute the reduction in the deficit more to the buoyant international economy than to devaluation.  He then observed that many manufacturers had scaled back investment since the referendum, and even acknowledged this may simply due to uncertainty and concluded by admitting to a degree of uncertainty himself. None-the-less, he stuck to his Remainian position!

What he failed to point out of course was that all and more of our current account deficit is entirely and solely due to our trade with the other EU countries, as shown in this graph. Our trade with the Rest of the World is actually in surplus. So why the divergence?

2017 EU,RoW CA

He is probably right to observe that our exchange rate is not hugely over-valued, otherwise why would our trade outside the EU be so successful? Nor can it due to tariffs as there aren’t any within the Single Market. He also failed to point out that under-investment and the consequent ‘productivity gap’ goes back to the banking crisis and the start of QE, rather than just to the referendum.

I covered this point in my recent facebook post in response to an IEA podcast, and concluded that the only possible cause of the EU deficit is that over the past twenty years Brussels has methodically and surreptitiously been piling up a great stack of regulations and other non-tariff barriers against us. Whether this has been by design or by accident I leave you to ponder! Either way it means that we must recover control over our terms of trade if we are to have any chance of reversing the deficit and thereby avoiding a massive recession when people can’t borrow any more. That is only possible through a No-Deal (WTO terms) Brexit. Any sort of deal with the EU will lock us into this disastrous trend. Even so, it will take many years of painstaking work to unravel these non-tariff barriers. In the meantime tariffs on both sides of the Channel will help to reduce the deficit and create jobs as people revert to buying British rather than foreign, and the Treasury will have a further £25bn or so of import tariff revenues to help with the fiscal position. Exports are likely still to thrive as devaluation at around 12% is far greater than the average tariffs we will face. We would also have the money to subsidise any exports facing tariffs in excess of 10% if we wish. See also my facebook page for a description of how the max-fac import system could work – it does not require any software investment by industry at all!

It is the re-starting of QE together with consequent record levels of personal debt which gives the game away. The Treasury don’t want you to know this as they were facing a big problem in financing the trade deficit domestically before the referendum. They were under pressure to increase interest rates and restart savings and growth. It is not just about paying import bills in foreign currency; it is also the fact that if both we and foreigners are buying more foreign stuff instead of British then unemployment will rise.

If it really is the case, which traditionalists will argue, that the capital inflows will convert into job-creating investment by industry then why restart QE? The reality is that most of those inflows are simply going into the property market and inflating other assets.

So the Treasury were delighted when they could blame the referendum for the restart of QE, when in reality it had nothing to do with the referendum and everything to do with financing our EU trade deficit. They could even wave their arms about and point to a reduction in unemployment and record job numbers when in fact all they had done was puff up the economy using QE. But in truth it is a con as such a policy is unsustainable. Who will be around when these chickens come home to roost?

Finally a comment on the position of the other parties. Labour, entirely in keeping with their historic and somewhat tenuous relationship with the science of economics, say, as we do, that they want to protect jobs; and then get the technical argument completely back-to-front! It is the No-Deal Brexit which will create and protect jobs, not any deal with the EU as they favour. Neither should we fall into the arms of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who looks forward to eliminating import tariffs on food, clothing and shoes. This is Jacob’s very own magic money tree! Yes of course we would all like lower import prices, but as everyone then buys more foreign than British unemployment will rise. It is the balance of trade that matters, not the volume or the level of import tariffs.

As with the ERM and the Euro, once again only UKIP gets it right!

The Economic Case for Brexit

Over the past couple of weeks I have been lobbying as many members of the House of Lords as I can with the following email as they debate the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.  This is not an easy task as there are restrictions on bulk emails, but thankfully many members retain their own personal addresses, and there are ways round the central system to some extent anyway. So here is what I have sent.

Dear Lord or Baroness X

THE ECONOMIC CASE FOR BREXIT

I should be grateful if you would spare a few moments of your time checking out the economic case for Brexit which I set out below.  This has scarcely been examined in any detail in public and we face the terrifying prospect of members of both Houses taking momentous decisions about the future of our country without the benefit of a full and proper briefing. There is no need to depend on the type of bland assertions, lazy assumptions, dodgy forecasts and personal opinions with which the establishment has bombarded us. Hard facts and logic are available and compelling.

Do we really want to carry on like this?

I start with a couple of graphs using data I have downloaded from the Office for National Statistics’ website.

180314 EU BoP CA180314 GDP pc growth

The first shows a deterioration in our trade deficit by almost 6% of GDP over the past twenty years, whilst the second shows how average incomes are growing at an ever slower and paltry rate. With widening income and regional gaps it is likely that many people are experiencing a real fall in their standard of living. This coincides with the onset of globalisation and our joining the EU Single Market. The EU been responsible for our trading affairs over this period of time and is thus guilty of monumental failure. That alone should be sufficient to sack them.

The link between trade and economic growth

I am not talking here about the correlation between global growth and free trade, which is well supported by research. A closer look at that research however shows that it is only the surplus countries, like Germany, Japan and China, which benefit, while deficit countries like the UK and US have missed out and declined. There has in fact been a transfer of existing wealth from the deficit countries to the surplus countries as well as growth in the recipient ones.

At national level a deficit is like having a hole in the bottom of our economy. If nothing were done about it unemployment would go through the roof. Fortunately the Bank of England has been able to put its finger in the dyke using Quantitative Easing. This works by reducing interest rates thereby encouraging people to borrow more, save less and use up their existing savings. As Mervyn King put it in his recent book, The End of Alchemy, people are now spending their future earnings today. This, he goes on, cannot continue for long because sooner or later tomorrow becomes today and they cannot borrow any more. They will also have used up existing savings. The low interest rates also have the effect of limiting saving, which starves the banks of money to lend to business for investment in new technology and productivity growth. The productivity gap has been well documented as you know, though curiously the obvious cause ignored. This does lead me to suppose that the establishment is only showing us the side of the coin it wants us to see.

It is therefore imperative that we end QE to increase interest rates by balancing our trade before a new financial crisis hits us and to re-establish savings and growth. There are only two ways this can be achieved; though devaluation and by increasing our import tariffs. We have already had some benefit from devaluation following the referendum, but its size is determined by the markets. That just leaves import tariffs as a direct instrument of government.

Whilst a no-deal Brexit will be a substantial step in the right direction, there is no guarantee it will be enough. We must retain the flexibility after Brexit to set our import tariffs at a level which will balance our trade. This may mean delaying re-joining the WTO. Conversely any attempt to do a trade deal with the EU, or anyone else for that matter, will limit that flexibility, whilst remaining in the Single Market will lock us into the £115bn trade deficit we currently have. We would then be completely stymied and helpless. Please note that the Government’s enthusiasm about the opportunities for doing trade deals around the world is misplaced, at least until we have established a balance. Indeed this is also the principal reason why the Doha round of global trade talks collapsed; the precondition of balance was not met.

Jobs

We all want to see the creation of more jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector outside London and the South East, and I am not surprised the Labour Party have recently made this their priority. Their tragedy is that they have got the argument completely back-to-front, by concluding it requires us to remain in the EU customs union and single market when the very reverse is the case.

Even though the above graphs show clearly what a disaster EU membership has been for trade and growth in the UK, the following logic demonstrates it further. We have this massive trade deficit with the EU. That means our imports are greater than our exports. Suppose now we place import tariffs on both sides of the channel, which is what a no-deal Brexit would involve. The result will obviously be a reduction in the volume of trade. Assuming the tariffs are at the same percentage level on both sides, the reduction in percentage trade volumes will be similar. But that means that the absolute reduction in imports will be greater than the absolute reduction in exports since we start with a deficit. This in turn means that the number of new jobs created from import substitution will be greater than the number lost to export substitution, ie a net increase. In short it is the balance of trade that matters, not the volume.

Inward Investment

One of the more amusing spectacles in recent weeks has been that of the Japanese ambassador claiming that Brexit would discourage investment into this country. Now that really is trying to have your cake and eat it! UK manufacturers have already had a competitive boost of about 12% from devaluation, so the 10% cost of EU vehicle import tariffs will still leave them better off. The two go together.

There has also been much talk about supply chains. These will chop and change as a matter of course anyway, but any disruption could be minimised by not charging tariffs on components and spare parts. This would have the added advantage of encouraging all vehicle manufacturers to do their final assembly here in the UK.

The Brexit Fiscal Dividend

Much has already been written about the savings from EU budget payments and I don’t propose to go over old ground here. I trust it is fair to say that a net saving of £10bn a year is not controversial. It is other savings that have been overlooked.

First there is the matter of import tariff revenues on imports from outside the EU. These amount to about 60% of all imports of some £625bn a year, on which the EU customs union currently collects just over 4% as import tariffs, ie about £15bn. We pay 80% of these, £12bn, over to Brussels. Clearly after Brexit we will continue to collect this money. Nor will it cause any inflation to do so as it is already in force. All that will change is that we will keep the £12bn for ourselves! Funny how nobody ever mentions that. So that now gives a total dividend of £22bn.

But that is not all. We will of course also start to collect tariffs on our imports from the EU, another £10bn, total now £32bn. There will be some price increases from this, but spread over the whole economy they will contribute only about half a percent to inflation on a once off basis. Big deal.

There is more. A few months ago the Bruges Group produced a paper calculating savings from welfare and pension payments to immigrants and non-residents in the order of £35bn. You can find it at http://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/brexit-the-end-to-austerity.  I have not been able to verify these figures myself, so to be safe let’s just accrue half, £18bn. That gives a total annual Brexit dividend of £50bn a year, FIVE TIMES the number that was bandied about during the referendum campaign.

How could any government in its right mind even think of throwing this sort of money away for nothing? Yet that is precisely what the Remainian camp are proposing to do. We need that money.

The Economic and Political cycles

Do not be lulled by the latest indications of a fiscal surplus. This is just a cyclical anomaly caused by the combination of loose monetary policy and tight fiscal policy. Neither is sustainable, the former economically as I have explained above, and the latter politically. Before long politically irresistible calls for tax cuts from the Right and/or expenditure increases from the Left will destroy the balance just as the former did in the late 1980s resulting in the boom and bust. Let us not repeat the same mistake.

Brexit offers us a way out by enabling us to tighten monetary policy to increase interest rates as the trade deficit is reduced, at the same time as loosening fiscal policy using the Brexit dividend to assuage political pressures, thereby keeping the two in balance. Carpe diem.

Your support

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill after completing the House of Commons is now progressing through the House of Lords. Your support for this will be greatly appreciated by millions of voters including myself. Whilst most voters will not understand the economic technicalities I have described above, they most certainly feel the results, and they are angry. The problem is exacerbated by the widening income and regional gaps so that Remainers on their massive metropolitan salaries are insulated from the consequences and do not feel them. This is not some right-wing xenophobic populist aberration; this is genuine democracy in action and a recipe for conflict if ignored and which will only increase without a no-deal Brexit.

I ask you to conclude the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill’s passage through the House of Lords without opposing it or seeking to water down Brexit. And above all else without stipulating that there should be a further and thoroughly unnecessary second referendum. Nor should there be an opportunity for the decision to leave to be overturned. As a democrat I earnestly hope that in accordance with the referendum, the general election, and the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Act, you will also approve the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

Please keep faith with the electorate and help restore our economy.

Yours sincerely,
John Poynton FCA
16th March 2018

An Epistle to the Germans

One of the papers I get a regular email summary from is Handelsblatt Global. Last Friday, 26th January 2018, they did a piece on Germans’ attitude to money. I reproduce it at the bottom. I decided to reply to the editor, Andreas Kluth, as follows.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for this opportunity to provide some feedback. I had not noticed it before. I am a Kipper (member of UKIP) and retired Chartered Accountant, and was fascinated by your article about Germans’ attitude to money. I had some experience of doing business in Germany in the early 90’s (your tax system is far more logical than ours, and I enjoyed the opportunity to write off goodwill against tax!) but recall the difficulties of paying bills by credit card. Now I know why!

I am concerned that there is so little understanding of Brexit on the continent. UKIP (and the AfD) are routinely and lazily dismissed as racist and right-wing, whereas in fact we are nothing of the sort. I was fascinated recently by a television documentary here from Freital. When people feel insecure, threatened, ignored and shat upon from on high they get angry, and when they get angry they get confrontational and even violent and abusive. It’s regrettable but it’s the only way they can get attention, and it’s perfectly normal human behaviour. No amount of sanctimonious lecturing is going to change that. The only solution is to address the underlying problems, and that means listening to the message rather than shooting the messenger. I am assuming of course that democracy prevails. You can suppress the few, but you cannot suppress the many. Even Machiavelli understood that.

People look to their own kind for support (hence all the flag waving and putting their country first – all of which I don’t personally chime with) and I see exactly the same thing in my prospective constituency of Southall in West London where there is a majority black and Asian community. We have the largest Sikh community outside India, yet we also have many other ethnic groups as well. The interesting thing is that they all self-segregate into their own streets and around their own places of worship. They feel safer that way and I don’t blame them or have a problem with it, yet when the indigenous community does exactly the same thing they are called racist! There is surely a difference between diversity (good) and cultural displacement (bad)? Many immigrants are in fact white. The immigration debate is about numbers, not race.

I can tell you that my Asian constituents understand Brexit perfectly. It’s the white metropolitan lefties who are the problem. We had a 40% vote in favour of Leave in the referendum (London generally voted to remain). The housing crisis, deteriorating public services and environmental pollution are all major concerns. On average Britons today are 25% worse off than they were 30 years ago (download the numbers for GDP, population and prices and you can see for yourself), and the effect is magnified by widening pay and regional employment gaps partly caused by wage compression from immigration. The metropolitan elite have managed to insulate themselves financially in this way, which probably explains their arrogance and their ignorance.

As I am sure you know, historically the term right-wing derives from the National Assembly in France during the French Revolution when the bourgeoisie, who were better off and better educated, sat to the right of the speaker. Not only were they richer but they also believed in a restricted franchise. Fascism also has its roots in belief in rule by the elite. If anything therefore it is Remainers who are right-wing in Britain, not Brexiteers.

I don’t know how hot you are on English history, but I see this political divide today as similar to that between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Nigel Farage is Martin Luther (ok, he was German!) with his protestations against the indulgences of the Catholic Church (the EU). David Cameron was Mary, Queen of Scots, whose fateful letter to Anthony Babington (Nick Clegg) led to her execution (the referendum result). The Spanish Armada (Article 50) continues to advance. Let’s hope David Davis (Sir Francis Drake) has enough balls (non-canon variety) to win the Battle of Gravelines, though the weather (Theresa May) is decidedly changeable!  In fact it took another hundred years until the accession of William of Orange and the Glorious Revolution of 1689 for the matter finally to be settled.  Since then of course we have enjoyed great success with our German monarchy (many thanks – a big improvement on the Normans).  UKIP may be suffering an attack of hiccups at the moment, but if Theresa May screws up Brexit, which is now looking very likely, I can but quote Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator – “We’ll be back”!

UKIP is still seen as a single issue party, despite two very comprehensive manifestos for the last two general elections in 2015 and 2017.  We stand as a centre radical libertarian alternative to the failed ideologies of socialism and conservatism (big brothers and dead sheep) who are only interested in keeping each other out. Our national political and economic situation reminds me of that of the victim in Edgar Allan Poe’s novel The Pendulum. In it the victim is strapped onto a table and cannot move. Just above him a huge pendulum is swinging from side to side with a huge knife on its underside. Tick, tock, Left, Right it goes on and, with every tick and every tock it descends another notch. Our fate is predictable if we cannot escape our bonds (the EU) and smash the pendulum (proportional representation). Why, for example, do we have to take our essential services from hopelessly inefficient public sector monopolies? Why should we not have the option to purchase them from the private sector on a means-tested basis, perhaps by using a national credit card managed through the tax system? Why do we have to send our children to single-stream comprehensive schools when it is perfectly obvious that many children, particularly those from poorer groups, are struggling to keep up and it is clear they need preferential support and perhaps a more focused curriculum? And why cannot we have a cash alternative to housing benefit when the public sector cannot supply sufficient social housing? It’s all about freedom of choice. I could go on.

However it is trade and the economy that worry me most. Over the past 30 years, since the onset of globalisation and the transfer of responsibility for our trading affairs to the EU, we have built up a massive trade deficit amounting to around 5% of GDP. The EU deserves the sack for that alone!  A trade deficit is like having a hole in the bottom of our economy, and is the single most obvious reason for the decline in our standard of living. Jobs, wealth and consumer demand are pouring out of it all the time, and if nothing were done about it unemployment would go through the roof.

Fortunately the Bank of England came up with a cunning wheeze called Quantitative Easing. This works by reducing interest rates thereby persuading people to borrow their future income to spend today.  Unfortunately it also has the effect both of building up a personal debt mountain (all bubbles burst eventually) and of reducing savings, thereby starving the banks of money to lend to business for investment and productivity growth. And the media wonder why we have a productivity gap?!

As Mervyn King (Governor of the Bank of England between 2003 and 2013) points out in his recent book, QE can only be a temporary fix. Sooner or later tomorrow becomes today and everyone has already spent all their income and cannot borrow any more. Thus the only permanent solution is to eliminate our trade deficit. If we fail to do that interest rates will remain on the floor and not only will our standard of living continue to decline but people will remain unable to save for their retirement and we will have an even greater financial crisis when the debt bubble bursts.

Any attempt to do a trade deal with the EU as part of the Article 50 negotiations will have the effect of locking us into our £70bn trade deficit, as well as denying us some £25bn or so of import tariff revenues. There are only two ways a country to manage its trade balance – devaluation and import tariffs – both of which are only available through Brexit.  It is surely imperative for us to maintain sufficient flexibility to increase our import tariffs to a level that will balance our trade, but nobody seems to have spotted this. Theresa May is clearly out of her depth and doesn’t understand the economics of it, and gets poor advice from a civil service that is no longer fit for purpose, possibly due to having been subject to years of subservience to Brussels and decades of politically-correct social engineering as well as being institutionally biased in favour of Remain. A future UKIP government would have no hesitation in tearing up anything she has signed.

There was never any need to enter into the Article 50 negotiations at all. I am not surprised that M. Barnier cannot decipher what we want from them. The real answer is nothing!  Non-tariff barriers can be overcome by the use of online predeclarations and ANPR cameras, and trackers fitted to lorries would remove the need for inspections at borders; a simple bilateral treaty with Ireland to run joint external border controls would remove the need for a hard internal border; and a two-tier immigration system (balanced migration for citizenship on a first-come first served basis following fifteen years of self-sufficient residency under a points system set to keep the citizenship queue to a reasonable length) would surely preclude the need for special arrangements for EU citizens, which we see as discriminatory anyway. Even the City is now relaxed about banking passports. What is there to negotiate? If you do not throw stones at us we will not throw them at you. Never cast the first stone. Isn’t that all we need to agree?

I shall never understand the continental fixation with free movement of people; presumably some sort of hangover from the war?  My view is that removing borders between countries is a bit like removing the bulkheads from within an ocean-going oil tanker. It just creates instability.  Balanced trade and balanced migration must surely be a precondition for peace and prosperity.  Just as the human body is composed of cells, the family composed of individuals and the nation state is composed of families, so the global community is composed of nation states. If the cell structure breaks down the result is cancer and death. If democracy is extinguished in one part of the world it can continue to shine like a beacon elsewhere. That is why I am a strong nationalist, as well as a strong believer in the benefits of competition both economically and culturally (ok, we might let you win a football match sometime!)

Also I shall never forgive our Treasury mandarins for failing to advise George Osborne  to start a Sovereign Wealth Fund when interest rates first hit the floor nearly ten years ago (I accept he would never have thought of it for himself). We now have a national debt approaching £2trn plus another £4trn or so of unfunded pension liabilities which will hit us later this century. If taxpayers can’t even fund our fiscal deficit now they will have no chance of producing surpluses of this order later. Yet the solution is staring us in the face. Any decent fund manager will get returns of between 7 and 10% on average long term from global equities, yet government 30 year money costs less than 3% simple interest at present. Even just a 5% return compounded would quadruple our money over 30 years – enough to repay the loans and all the interest on them and leave a substantial unencumbered fund thereafter. They can’t even be proper Anglo-Saxons when we want them to be! Where are the non-conformists? Where are the original thinkers? Where are the problem-solvers? Our establishment today represents the lowest common denominator from our paranoid quest for equality. UKIP stands fore-square against all forms of discrimination, including positive discrimination, but with the single exception of ability-ism. I don’t mind where they come from, and it is great to see so many women and people of colour becoming prominent and successful, but we must always chose the best.

I think Germans are very fortunate to have a distaste for debt. It has kept your trade in surplus and your economy stable. Even so your psychology is not in fact that different to ours.  You may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on account of your recent history, but our barmy establishment suffers one from our imperialistic past too, which is hardly taught in schools any more. I enjoy reminding them that the British Empire was the first Single Market!  You cannot judge the past by today’s values. The glorious irony is that history programmes on the telly have never been more popular, even those going back to Roman and Norman times.

Don’t be put off by our programmes on WW2, which I see your retiring Ambassador to London is so exercised about. It’s nothing personal. We are saddened by your apparent desire to lose your national identity in Europe, which we think distorts your assessment of the EU. As a nation you have much to be proud of. Let us all remember the teaching of the Bible which exhorts us to “visit not on the sons the sins of the fathers” (to which I always like to add “and neither credit to the sons the claims of the fathers”!). I am quite sure few Brits today blame Germans today for WW2, and as generational renewal, which has always been the ultimate cure for accumulated traumas, proceeds those with direct family memories will die out. Life goes on. It’s just history, from which we learn about human psychology generally.

Well, I hope you liked my little bit of feedback,

With very best wishes,

John Poynton

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Dear Reader,
Germans are different, and it often matters. Take, for example, a subject of more than passing interest: money. At a rudimentary level, Germans have the same attitude toward money as English-speaking people and others do: They like it, and they’d like more of it. But beyond that, Germans think about money in a way that is, to put it charitably, idiosyncratic.

For starters, compare attitudes about borrowing. Anglo-Saxons see no problem with that. They borrow money, then spend it on college tuition, get a better job and eventually make even more money. Or they just have fun. At some point, the bank might call. But, you know, who cares? Germans are aghast at such flippancy. Phonetically, etymologically, and psychologically, they understand that Schulden (debt) = Schuld (guilt). Borrow, and thou shalt die. Thy death will be slow and painful.

The differences are just as stark on the savings side. Anglo-Saxons, if they have money left over, will put it where they have been told it will grow. So they buy shares, either directly or through mutual funds. The stock market sometimes nosedives, as in 2008. But they are sure that in the long run they will win. They also buy houses, because they can live in them, and they don’t like paying rent. To buy the houses, they borrow (see previous paragraph). Some are unlucky and get foreclosed on. But most pay off their mortgages, then retire with their house and their shares and feel wealthy.

Germans look askance at shares, and many never buy their own houses (probably because that would mean borrowing). Don’t those Brits and Americans understand that shares are risky, and that risk is, well, dangerous? Germans instead practice safe saving. They put their money into savings accounts at local Sparkassen, which are municipally-owned thrift institutions. The interest paid is not visible even with a magnifying glass, and the money often shrinks when counted after taxes and inflation.

Germans also buy life-insurance policies of a type that Anglo-Saxons don’t really have. These are so-called “capital-life” policies. Like term-life policies, they pay money to loved ones if the policyholder dies. But these German policies are really savings accounts or pension plans, in that they accumulate capital until retirement and then pay an annuity even when the policyholder doesn’t die.

Some of that return is guaranteed by the insurer. But some is discretionary and thus at risk. These subtleties are in the fine print, which even Germans don’t read. Almost all Germans have placed their trust in such insurance: There are actually more capital-life policies than people living in the country.

Jeremy Gray, one of our finance editors, explains this German life-insurance culture and its consequences, which are dramatic. For many years, the life insurers promised policyholders high returns, and Germans based their retirement expectations on those promises. Then interest rates fell almost to zero, and the insurers could not invest the premiums to honor their promises and still make a profit. So now the insurers are in trouble, because their old policies have become time bombs. Many are unloading them to bargain hunters, rather as troubled lenders set up “bad banks.” Some German life insurers are no longer financially sound. A new financial crisis is conceivable.

And the policyholders? Many are suddenly realizing that their policy won’t pay out anything near the amount they had factored into their retirement planning. Some panic, and surrender their old policies, which is often a bad idea. Many fear poverty in their old age.

Just knowing a bit about these different money cultures helps to understand a lot of European politics today. Many Germans consider it self-evident that low interest rates, and by implication the European Central Bank, are the root of all evil. Anglo-Saxons, meanwhile, are watching their stock portfolios and house prices go up, and are looking for a central banker to hug.

Until the next market crash. Last time, it came from America and, tellingly, had to do with houses and shares, among other things. Next time, could it start in Germany and those staid insurance firms?