Festivals Delayed

The plans to launch an annual referendum festival for Scotland have been pushed back until May 2018.

RefFest2018_270However the inaugural festival will still be themed IndyRef2. And the promoters remain convinced that Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will live up to her frequently repeated promise to fund a second independence referendum with the approval of the UK government.

A spokesperson for the promoters said that the main cause of the festival being delayed was the lack of meaningful progress towards implementing the result of the 2016 referendum on EU membership. It’s hard to kick-off a new referendum when the previous one is still being argued over said the spokesperson.

The hope is that by this time next year the situation will be that much clearer and the IndyRef2 campaign can start. However the second annual festival planned for 2018 – EuroRef2 – may now have to go back to 2020 thus making the event into a biennial promotion. The spokesperson confirmed that this was the most likely outcome given that referendum fatigue was in danger of reducing its appeal to both sponsors and the public. Also if the 2018 result was in favour of  leaving the UK then 2019 would be a year taken up with implementing its consequences. The idea of linking the festival to a song contest that would select Scotland’s Eurovision entry was confirmed as dead in the water due to a total lack of support.

Too Big Too Slow

The project that was too big to stop – the High Speed rail service between London and Birmingham (HS2) – received its final political approval today. Phase one of the £55,700 million scheme is scheduled to start construction within a few months and be open for fare-paying passengers in nine years time.

HS2_Plan1This will be followed by Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe around a year later and Phase 2b from Crewe to  Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds sometime in 2033 – if things go well.

The reasons why this approach to rail network improvement makes good economic sense when compared to the alternatives are hard to find or – more likely – non-existent. Simply following the example set by the motorways and upgrading existing routes to four track instead of two – while also doubling the production of conventional high speed trains – would have benefited so many more people for so much less expense.

However that would not have fitted in with the plans produced by Brussels (yes, them again) for their high-speed Euro rail network – all the way to Turkey (yes, I know that they are not a member but Brussels has big ideas). So it is a touch ironic that Britain will, in theory, have left the EU well before the UK part of the Euro rail plan reaches Birmingham. I wonder if Brussels had promised any funding before our vote to leave?

But still we have not left yet. And in the 245 days that have passed since the historic EU vote no one has been able to send the official resignation letter – so we could be still in limbo when that first train sets out for Birmingham Curzon Street in 2026.

In Denial

In 1999 the Charlemagne Prize of Aachen went to a certain Anthony C L Blair for his efforts towards creating a united Europe.

billy-liar300Lionel Jospin, then French Prime Minister, said at the award – 16 years lie between the founding of the European Economic Community and Britain’s accession; 11 years went by before Great Britain joined the European currency system; 6 years—and only 6 years separate the composition of the Social Charter and it’s signing by Great Britain. We have you to thank, Tony Blair, for the shortening of these intervals.

In reply ACLB said – Our first phase was peace within the EU; our second phase is meeting the new global challenge. The next era must be how we build Europe’s strength, power and responsibility vis-à-vis the outside world.

In 2016 the UK rejected the prospect of a Europe under a single administration and voted to regain its independence. A Brexit process that has not yet got past first base.

Today we have our former PM and unelected millionaire using his money and past position to change the minds – and votes – of the British public by kicking off a programme of re-education. The publicity event hosting him being organised by Open Britain – a pro-EU think tank lead by Peter Mandelson and Roland Rudd. Mandelson was famously dubbed Prince of Darkness well before he became Baron Mandelson of Foy and Hartlepool. And just this month he was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur for a career serving the United Kingdom and the European Union and being a long-time friend of France. Rudd is a PR millionaire and brother of the Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Earlier there were press claims that ACLB was putting £9 million into a PR vehicle to change our minds over – or at least cause the maximum trouble before –  leaving the EU. But there cannot be many rich – or even very rich – Grandads that would blow £9 million on a scheme that had no prospect of a meaningful return. So the unanswered questions are – who really benefits from his intervention? And what’s in it for Blair, Mandelson and Rudd?

Monopoly Money

For us mere mortals the idea of handling thousands of millions of pounds – or any other currency – is close to fantasy. And there are plenty of stories of how suddenly becoming rich has just been too much for the lucky recipient to handle.

So it is no surprise that those who do handle money on such a grand scale tend to be regarded as people empowered with superior – almost supernatural – powers. But in reality this is never the case. They are just humans who through birth, skill, hard work or sheer luck have got their hands on wealth. And the successful ones have used that wealth to make even more – often through avoiding unnecessary expenses like taxation.

Take Christine Lagarde; currently in her second five year term as managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A role that seems to operate outside the constraints placed upon the rest of us. For example Lagarde’s summary of the Greek financial crisis in 2012 was that not enough Greeks had paid their taxes. Now this may be true but coming from someone not paying any taxes on an annual salary of $468,000, plus serious expenses, strikes a sour note.  A situation that supports the charge that the elite are granting themselves exemptions from taxation.

Euro_Banker444But personal gain is not the biggest issue involving the big money players. Rather it is how they are managing the millions, billions and trillions of dollars. euros, et al that flow through governments and central banks. And the biggest potential source of problems here is the European Central Bank (ECB); mainly because it directs the EU’s national banks but also because of the huge amounts involved.

The president of the ECB, Mario Draghi, controls and sets policies involving vast amounts of euros; either directly or via the EU’s interest rates. And for many months the ECB has been buying bonds to the tune of 80,000 million euro per month. But buying them by simply creating more euros – a process that used to involve printing bank notes but is now just updating a number in a computer record.

Obviously for anyone other than a central bank this would be fraud on a grand scale. And for anyone to suggest that this is a policy that is bound to fail eventually would mean that they are dismissed as too dumb to understand such high finance.

But simply this monopoly money is being swapped for bonds (more pretend money) issued mainly by big business or national debts. Finding out how much goes to who is not straight forward. However the Corporate Europe Observatory has worked out that some big beneficiaries are corporations like Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Shell, Total, Eni (Italian Oil), Repsol, Siemens, Thales and even Ryanair.

Now even if everything in this quantitative easing programme is legal and transparent its only function is to shore-up struggling Eurozone economies with cheap money. And the scale of the money printing is frightening. If we bring the amounts back to  human scale you can see the problem. With roughly 500 million people in Europe the ECB are creating some 160 euro per person per month. Not a lot it seems – but the total is mounting steadily and that is on top of the vast amounts of debt that the EU already has.

But with such vast sums being produced out of thin air and moved across multiple jurisdictions the opportunities for the odd million or two to vanish are all too real ..