Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"



Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Theresa May's Vision of Brexit

Yesterday Theresa May made her long awaited statement as to what she meant when she said "Brexit means Brexit".  Some say we have had to wait far too long for an indication as to Britain's position, but surely this is Cameron's fault. He was so convinced that the country would vote to remain in the EU that no preparations had been made by the Civil Service for a possible Brexit vote.

 Most of the arguments to date have been over the so-called soft or hard Brexit options, the former appearing to me to be almost the same as remaining a member of the EU under a new name.  She  made it very clear that we wanted to control Britain’s borders and create an immigration system that “serves the national interest”.  And whilst we would like free trade arrangements with the EU, this will not be at the expense of us either having free movement of people or paying vast sums into the EU coffers. Most importantly, as far as I'm concerned, is the fact that the UK “will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain”. 

She also said that we do not wish to remain in the existing customs union as we would be required to have the common tariffs with the EU which are designed largely to protect various EU producers from world wide competition. She also pointed out that the existing customs union precludes us from negotiating our own trade agreements with other countries.

Most importantly she said that she prefers 'no deal' rather than a 'bad deal'. This, of course is something that Cameron would never have said which was why he got nowhere in his pre-referendum discussions.

Mrs May made it clear that existing EU laws which applied to this country would be enshrined into UK law and any that were no longer required would subsequently be repealed.  Whilst this would satisfy those workers who were worried about the possible loss of some rights that they had obtained under the EU, I am sceptical about the subsequent repealing of unwanted rules; no legislation ever seems to get repealed!

She said that she expects co-operation to continue on matters like security and other areas of mutual interest. Surely no one is going to oppose such an idea, although with the EU, who knows?

The Remoaners of course found fault with almost everything that she said. Clegg announced that he would vote down the deal in Parliament before talks have even started. So much for democracy, listening to the debate in Parliament and the electors views, 'No, I will vote it down regardless'. Tory MP Ken Clarke claimed that Britain could still find itself under the jurisdiction of the European Court as part of its new trade deal with the EU. And as usual Queen Nicola of Scotland had her moan about wanting to be consulted. They just won't give up and accept the result of the referendum!

Hopefully, regardless of what the High Court says, I believe that Parliament will vote in terms of allowing Mrs May to send the letter required under Article 50, as the alternative would be a snap General Election at a time when every poll suggests that the Tories would get a large majority.

Monday, 16 January 2017

EU Dictatorship


Donald Trump has said that Britain that we will be first in the line for a rapid trade deal with the US. Great, at least he doesn't want to put us at the back of the queue like Obama.

And the EU's response? Don't you even dare think of starting informal talks with the US before Brexit is complete.

Just who do they think they are?
Britain is a sovereign country, and as far as I'm aware we are free to talk to anyone or any country  about any subject. Why even Queen Nicola of Scotland is free to go and talk to whoever she likes, even if there were times when I'm sure that many at Westminster would like to stop her!

Mrs May should send our trade negotiators to Washington immediately following Trump's inauguration to start talks. This would at least show the EU that we are serious about leaving and running our own country without EU interference. If all goes well the deal could be in place to be implemented the day we leave the EU.

What is the EU going to do if we ignore their demand? Throw us out?
Yes please, it would be far quicker than lengthy talks and probably considerably cheaper.

I suspect that the French Official who demanded that penalties are imposed on the UK if we leave the EU but who has recently backtracked to say that France would want access to our financial markets might not agree; nor I suspect would the German car industry.

I think that on balance, the UK has a far better hand than the EU, lets hope Mrs May plays her cards wisely.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Hacking

Hacking seems to be everywhere these days! The Russians were accused by the Democrats of hacking into their  computers; the Germans are claiming that the Russians have targeted international peace monitors in Ukraine; the Chinese appear to be hacking everyone; the list is for ever increasing.

But what's new? Surely this has been going on for years? What else are organisations like GCHQ and the CIA expected to do. What do we expect the Russians and Chinese to do? From time immemorial, countries have spied on both their friends and enemies. All countries expected that other countries would spy on their activities. Until the internet came along, you tried to recruit people inside government departments, which of course led to the Official Secrets Act with its severe penalties.

But all that is now 'old hat'!
Everyone seems to keep a record of everything they do on a computer which is connected to the internet whether this is needed or not. And once it is connected to the internet, unless you are very, very careful, anyone can hack into it. Why should countries bother to infiltrate spies into, say, the Ministry of Defence or Foreign Office, when the information is on computers and there for the taking, protected only by a simple password?

Not only that, but many with confidential data have it on lap-tops or other portable devices and use it in insecure locations. Just go into any local coffee shop with "free wi-fi" and see how many people are using computers. The banks like to stress the advantages of mobile banking but rarely mention the risks involved.

Why do individuals and governments take these risks? Is it really necessary for all computers to be connected to the internet? Is it really needed for work or is it for vanity? I use a computer dedicated to video editing, it's not connected to the internet, I download any software updates onto a memory stick using another computer. I don't need to worry about its security, Windows updates or even anti-virus software. This way the computer is faster and doesn't have problems of possible interruptions when rendering video or burning DVDs

Meanwhile, those in or close to government who need to use the internet should be asking whether their defences are adequate to defend against the ever more sophisticated hackers. Clearly in the case of the Democrats in America they were not; the password used by one well known Democrat was stated to be, surprise, surprise, "Password". It doesn't need Russians to hack that, I'm sure many a computer aware teenager would be able to do it if he had the mind to do so. After all, it is a British teenager who has been accused of breaking into the Pentagon's computers!

So next time we read about the Russians, or anyone else, hacking into a government computer, this is what we should expect. We should not be blaming the Russians but blaming those responsible for having a computer system that was insufficiently secure. We should also expect GCHQ or some other state organisation to be doing exactly the same; spying isn't a one way process.

Meanwhile, I would urge anyone who does internet banking to do it at home and, as a minimum, to encrypt any data stored on their computer using a suitable program and a strong password.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Year Mayhem

Or what the papers DON'T say!
If you believe what the BBC and most newspapers tell us, New Year was generally peaceful both here and in Europe at large. The worse thing that happened was that too many people got drunk and that the NHS was overwhelmed by the A&E admissions.

But Breitbart tells a different story.
First we read that the City of Augsberg in Bavaria where, as well as a spate of sexual attacks, revellers were also attacked and several properties were damaged by Syrian migrants using fireworks.
Then another report from Austria reveals that there multiple cases of sexual assault, violence, and attacks with fireworks committed across the country by migrants.
A further report from Germany relates that in Dortmund, a mob of more than 1,000 men chanted ‘Allahu Akhbar’, launched fireworks at police, and set fire to a historic church.
This, according to most of our media, was a generally peaceful start to the new year. Whether the locals where the above events took place would agree with this assessment is questionable.

Of course, the EU apologists will tell us that Breitbart is part of the new "alt-right" responsible for fake news, where in practice they are the people exposing the fake news that all went well over the new year. But in the case of the reports above they quote the local newspapers reporting the events, and even if you can't read German, the pictures and video tell their own story, just don't expect to see any of the videos on UK TV.

The good news today is that the British Ambassador to the EU has resigned. Much of the media, led by the BBC are trying to convince us that this is a total disaster for our forthcoming negotiations with the EU as he is the most knowledgeable person in the UK concerning the workings of the EU. He is also firmly in the 'Remain' camp and has been part of the message of doom, most recently with his leaked warning that it could take ten years to negotiate a new trade treaty with the EU.

I trust that when it comes to his replacement it will not be up to the Foreign Office but is let to the Brexiteers in the Cabinet. My choice would be Nigel Farage!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year

Slightly belated, but I've decided that it's time to start trying to write something at least once a week.
Last year was not a good one for Mrs EP and myself with us both having a number of health problems. Thankfully, the NHS, at long last, appears to have sorted things out for both of us, we are both feeling better and hopefully we can both look forward to 2017 with more optimism.

A slightly disappointing start to the year from a bell-ringer's point of view; this was the first year since WW2 that we have not been able to "Ring in the New Year" at our Parish Church simply because insufficient ringers were available; we now have only eight reasonable ringers along with a couple of 'apprentices' which is not enough for eight bells after allowing for absences due to sickness or other commitments. Only one of the eight ringers has not retired, and some young blood is essential if we are to keep the bells ringing for Sunday Service, weddings and other special occasions.

As far as we both are concerned, the highlight of the year was the vote for Brexit. A majority of those who voted saw through all the gloom, doom and dire predictions. The country is still here, we're not all starving and life seems reasonably normal for all of us except those who have to use Southern Rail. Fortunately, as I can still drive, the only time that I now use public transport is to attend the local hospital using my pensioner's bus pass, so avoiding the £1.50 per hour hospital parking charge.

To me, the most unexpected event of the year was the election of Donald Trump as the new American President. My reaction is that he was the better of the two candidates, but I simply can't understand why a country of some 320 million people couldn't find two better candidates. Nevertheless, we could be in for an interesting year!

The worse aspect of 2016 has been the rise of Islamic terrorism with major attacks in France and Germany. I fear for something similar in this country and am thankful that nothing has happened so far over the Christmas and New Year period.

So much for 2016. I would conclude by wishing my readers a Happy, Safe and Prosperous New Year.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Can you ever believe Cameron?

Last night, in response to a question in the Sky News interview, Cameron claimed that Turkey was unlikely to meet the criteria to join the EU by the year 3000!

Cameron has fought for Turkish membership of the EU for at least ten years and has made it quite clear that he wanted Turkey to join the EU as fast as possible. In a speech in Ankara, in July 2010, when he said the EU would be stronger with Turkey as a member, and that he would pave the way from Ankara to Brussels.

Turkey is blackmailing the European Union. First, we said we'd give them £3bn,  as part of an agreement on migrants, now we're giving them £6bn. They are now demanding, and they will probably get, visa-free access for 79million people by the end of this year.

Then last night Cameron said 'Ah yeah, but we do have a veto'. We may have, but would Cameron use it after all his previous promises to Turkey and the EU? Especially when Mrs Merkel, who's the real boss of Europe, has said she wants to fast-track them as members of the European Union

Nigel Farage dubbed David Cameron "Dishonest Dave" in an LBC broadcast and said that he doesn't believe a single thing he says any more.

It's definitely time to LEAVE the EU!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Convenient Obama Visit

Clearly President Obama is here to help Cameron in his pro EU campaign. Why else would he come, after all, he appears to dislike this country and all it stands for?

The main outcome of his visit, apart from some photographs with the Queen and Prince George for his album, is that he has shown himself to be a hypocrite and has allowed his dislike of this country to to overcome whatever common sense that he might once have had. His main argument for us staying in the EU seems to be that we will be put at the 'back of the queue' when it comes to discussing trade agreements as the US would rather negotiate with one group of 28 nations than with a single country.

I would suspect that anyone else involved in negotiating with the EU would argue the exact opposite, it is far easier to reach agreement with a single country than with a group where they all individually have to concur with the decisions reached by their negotiators. But that aside, Obama won't be president in eight months time, so he can't possibly predict what a future administration might do.

As reported in Breitbart, his view is also contradicted by an official from their Office of International Trade who, in an e-mail said
“This is the first time I’ve heard of the assertion that the UK is too small to have an FTA with the US… clearly the UK is not too small to have an FTA with the US if we have one with Oman.”
But neither is the trade deal with the EU likely in the near future, as Obama told the press that a U.S./EU trade deal is “not going to happen anytime soon”.

In any case, does it matter? We are trading with the US at the moment, apparently without any agreement, and it is difficult to visualise why there should be any change if we left the EU.

Finally, for a laugh, the reply that Obama gave when asked by a student in London what he wanted his legacy to be.
"Saving the world economy from a Great Depression — that was pretty good"
 I thought that was Gordon Brown's line!