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4 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Get ready to play May'... · 5 replies · +1 points

She's a 62 year old woman with Type 1 Diabetes who is working 18 hour days. On Tuesday alone she travelled more than most younger people would consider comfortable when going on a city break, let alone when meeting with heads of government. Of course she's not looking perky and fresh-faced without make up.

4 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Get ready to play May'... · 1 reply · +1 points

This is not true as is well set out in this piece from LeaveHQ

In particular, it is not true that the US trades with the EU purely on WTO terms with no trade deal

"What the WTO Option advocates have done is make a very basic but fatal mistake. They’re so obsessed with tariffs, they haven’t begun to focus on non-tariff barriers. Thus, by and large, they are only looking at trade agreements dealing with tariffs — a sub-set of international agreements which are registered with the WTO. But there are many different types of agreement and many which involve trade, either directly or indirectly, which are not registered with the WTO. These, for our WTO Option advocates, remain under the radar. To them, they are invisible.

Yet one of the most important types of trade agreement is the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) on conformity assessment. This gets round the problem of border checks, as the EU will then recognise the paperwork on product testing and conformity certification. Throw in an agreement on Customs cooperation — to ensure that official paperwork and systems mesh — and you are on your way to trouble-free border crossings.

China has a Mutual Recognition Agreement on Economic Operators, signed in May 2014, the United States has one on conformity assessment which runs to 81 pages, agreed in 1999. Australia has one on conformity assessment.

All of these are outside the remit of the WTO but they are nonetheless trade agreements, and vital ones at that. But look then what the think-tank Global Britain — another WTO Option advocate — is doing. "As an example", it writes, "Australia has no trade agreement with the EU…". It then goes on to cite an EU web page, which actually tells us:

The EU and Australia conduct their trade and economic relations under the EU-Australia Partnership Framework of October 2008. This aims, apart from cooperation on the multilateral trade system and trade in services and investment issues, to facilitate trade in industrial products between the EU and Australia by reducing technical barriers, including conformity assessment procedures.
What is the EU-Australia Partnership Framework, if not (inter alia) a trade agreement? In the detail, it sets the framework for the all-important MRA on conformity assessment. One MRA runs to 110 pages, with an amendment running to a further 20 pages.

There are, in fact, 82 agreements between the EU and Australia, of which 18 are bilateral. There are 65 between the EU and China, of which 13 are bilateral. Between the EU and the United States, there are 135, of which 55 are bilateral. As regards trading agreements, not only is Global Britain incorrect in its assertions, its authors apparently don’t even read their own reports."

4 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Get ready to play May'... · 5 replies · +1 points

Another option is that with the timetable being set as it is by the government and a vote on the deal (and it is THE deal - there isn't any other substantially different one available to us) unlikely before the second week of January, if the deal is voted down, May will be left with no decent option but to withdraw the A50 notice.

I think she should be coming round to the reality that those pressing for No Deal are irreconcilable. There is no change to the deal which would assuage them. If the backstop suddenly can be negotiated away in a clearly binding way, the focus for them will move to something else and then something else again. The only options are to cave into them or to ignore them completely.

While shifting to No Deal would in one sense be "easy" in that notionally it would in conjunction with the DUP restore a majority, in practice we would not have that majority because it would bring back into play those Tory MPs who could support the deal, even if they'd prefer a second referendum or to remain, but who could not bear a No Deal Brexit, They make a No Confidence vote more likely to be lost and make the chances of passing any other legislation, particularly if any is needed to enable mitigations for the impacts of No Deal, slim to non-existent.

On the other hand, shifting, albeit with great reluctance and having worked tirelessly and in the face of resistance from all sides to avoid it, to remain because of the ineluctable horror of the reality of No Deal, would immediately yield a strong and workable Parliamentary majority at least for the measures needed to achieve it. Corbyn is not nimble enough to switch straight to it and in any case is hamstrung by his own policy that seeking to bring the government down with a No Confidence vote and a General Election is the first priority. He'd react to that pivot by calling a No Confidence vote which he'd lose because even with the support of the Tory Irreconcilables, he has an even larger number of his own backbenchers who would vote to remain. There may be a stampede across the House in both directions. It'd be bloody. But it would provide stability. If Mogg's Independence Conservatives want to ally with Corbyn's Momentum Labour in an ensuing General Election and renotify under A50 that's their prerogative.

5 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - May's policy leads ine... · 1 reply · +1 points

No deal Brexit is just such an astonishingly awful prospect I'm surprised anyone is seriously suggesting it. It might just have been possible to have had a "managed no deal" had that been the position agreed upon back in 2016. But back then the idea was confined to a very small minority indeed. Yet by having moved the Overton Window no deal seems now to be the only "true" Brexit, because no other deal is available from the EU than substantially what May has negotiated and because there seems to be no way of achieving a deal which does not provide for the contingency of technical methods to ensure no hard border with Ireland.

If that is what we are heading for the reality, unless we really can be sanguine about the real life impacts for months if not longer, of leaving on 29/3/19 with absolutely no agreement on anything with the EU, is that we need to extend A50 to restart things to enable suitable plans to be put in place. I don't think we or business could plausibly have done that in parallel with negotiating any other form of deal. We just need to admit that we've wasted 2 years in discovering for ourselves that no deal is what we wanted all along. If it is.

Otherwise, we risk fetishising the referendum result and hoping that after a truly horrific unmanaged exit, things will have picked up sufficiently afterwards that the electorate come the next election will say "we don't mind having gone without medicines etc, at least we're out and FREE!". It won't happen. Just as it is only now, 10 years on, that people largely aren't giving us the benefit of the doubt on the economy just because it crashed under Labour's watch. Every bad thing will be our fault for years to come. And PM Corbyn, who'll be rubbing his hands with glee at not having any constraint on his policies, will point to us for our hard Brexit whenever anyone tries to complain about the desolation that his lunatic Bennite economics will wreak.

5 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Chris White: A guide t... · 0 replies · +1 points

Alternatively, the PM could be about to deliver this speech amended to be without being in response to defeat on the meaningful vote but pre-emptive of it. It would even fit having Andrea Leadsom on straight after to rearrange the parliamentary business timetable.

5 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Exclusive. New Governm... · 1 reply · +1 points

You've given Vaz a job?!

10 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Peter Ainsworth: The p... · 1 reply · +1 points

They already are in effect but are not perceived as such so the debate around them goes all wrong. In practice, and increase in student fees is an increase in public funding of universities at nil additional cost to all but the very highest earning students. It isn't perceived as such. An increase in the interest rate is an additional tax on higher earning students. It isn't perceived as such.

Were it to become an actual tax the discussion would be about the actual rate being paid and who paid it. It would be clear from the Red Book and modelling what the impact on general taxation would be were the graduate tax rate to be increased or decreased and what the impact on the actual funding provided to universities would be. We'd then have a proper discussion about reality rather than one skewed by perceptions which don't align with the reality because of the use of an artificial mechanism for funding degrees.

The number of hours and lectures is a red herring. Our two most famous universities provide on average 2-3 hours contact time a week for three 8 week terms for all but those doing lab based science courses. Everything else is optional and nothing much is assessed formally other than in end of year exams at one and two sets of exams in 3 or 4 years at the other. They still provide an excellent education and one generally considered better than other institutions where there might be 10-15 hours of lectures and seminars required every week. Turning university into contracted for services won't improve them because much of the value of a university education comes from the work done by the students rather than the stuff they are being told by lecturers formally.

10 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Peter Ainsworth: The p... · 0 replies · +1 points

I think this is spot on. The proposals sound like the group was tasked with finding the worst possible solution to the problem of the unpopularity of the current university funding system. Cutting the fees would make no difference to any student's actual outgoings once they graduated but would mean that those entering higher paying jobs paid them off more quickly. Which is hardly progressive and helping out struggling families. Making the fees for medicine and STEM subjects higher would make them seem more expensive and potentially discourage applications in subjects which would generally be seen to be ones we want more students to study. And all at the cost of increasing direct funding from tax beyond the hidden amount accounted for currently by the built in expectation that about a third won't repay their loans.

There's nothing in the proposals to deal with the immediate hardships that students face by the lack of support for maintenance unless they qualify for maintenance loans. It is utterly tin eared as a response to what is obviously a real issue for many (as can be seen in the popularity of Corbyn's promise to "deal with it" and abolish tuition fees).

I don't understand why we as Tories haven't grasped this issue to replace the current system with a more transparent one and to convert the entire tuition fees/maintenance/loans system into a graduate tax. It would be easily done as revenue neutral. Politically, I think we could even extend it retrospectively to cover every student since tuition fees were introduced and so reduce the % level of the tax (yes, those who graduated in the earlier years would end up paying more and some might complain it was "unfair" if they'd already paid off their loans but remember, Corbyn and Labour have big leads among everyone in that demographic and particularly high leads among under 40s who are graduates - they're actually going to be EASY to persuade that a new system where they pay say 6% on earnings above the payment threshold and that this would fund nursing bursaries, free tuition and grants would be a positive move).

Fiddling with the fee level, the interest rates, the repayment cut off etc will do absolutely nothing to dispel this as an issue and will do nothing for us electorally. Cutting university places would be massively unpopular and lead to serious levels of public protest at the institutions which would be hit. We need to go to a graduate tax to reset the debate.

10 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Connor Short: For the ... · 0 replies · +1 points

I think the NUS is just discovering that it serves no good purpose beyond national campaigns on national issues and a decent discount card. But at the national level, other than specifically student issues like funding, it is unlikely to be seen as the vehicle of choice for many (even if you leave aside its well-earned reputation for being a home for far left nutcases). I can just about see it having some point to run on Brexit due to potential impacts on foreign students, overseas placements, research standings etc.

Other stuff, like the quality of accommodation and obligations of private landlords, are probably much more effectively worked for at a local level. Even then, as the Southampton SU President showed recently, once you get past the boring backroom meetings with university officials and landlords etc, the NUS and SUs are basically an embarrassing irrelevance for most students.

13 weeks ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Nick Hargrave: Cameron... · 1 reply · +1 points

Good piece and I think May's conference speech suggested that she got this, even if the policy output is not yet there. It was hinted at in the introduction to the 2017 manifesto (then abandoned in the rest of that wretched document).

The good that government can do.

That doesn't mean taking everything over and running it, Corbyn-style, but it means recognising that whoever wants to be in government needs to persuade the public that it will do good in that role. With the financial crash and Brexit, we've had years of technocratic work that has been necessary and valuable in setting us on the right course for the future, but no time to do much work on what that future will actually look like and on whether there is any thought in our heads about making it look good for ordinary people beyond cutting taxes and leaving it to the market to provide. That's not what Thatcher did - alongside cutting taxes she spent on the NHS and education, she privatised and liberalised markets and worked hard to give ordinary people stakes in those markets by making buying your own home a realistic prospect and getting a whole generation to buy shares (my water shares bought at 18 paid for my time at university).

At times, it sounds like too many in the Party think the retail offerings of the Thatcher era were aberrations and sops to the Wets rather than an integral part of what made her such a successful PM and so effective in demonstrating why free market economics worked for everyone.