Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The fracking = lower energy bills myth

In the wake of the decision by Tory dominated North Yorkshire County Council to approve a fracking licence just a few miles south of the North York Moors national park, the fracking apologists have been out in force to try to defend the decision to completely ignore the massive 131:1 scale of opposition to the plans.

One of the favourite tactics of the fracking apologist is to pretend that there is some kind of correlation between fracking and lower domestic energy bills. In this article I'm going to explain how this argument is not only wrong, but actually completely backwards.

Evidence-free assertions

The claims that the introduction of fracking rigs in the English countryside would bring down domestic energy bills is a classic evidence-free assertion. Fracking enthusiasts just seem to take it as an article of faith that fracking would reduce domestic energy bills in the UK. It's like some kind of unquestionable religious to these people.

If you see anyone making these claims it's a good tactic to ask them to direct you to a peer reviewed scientific study detailing a link between fracking and low energy prices in the UK domestic energy market. They won't be able to do so because no such study exists. They'll just continue repeating the claim on the basis that it's true because they want it to be true.

The UK is not the US
Evidence of devastating environmental damage in the US and "cut and run" tactics from unscrupulous US fracking companies who abandon their fracking rigs for the taxpayer to clean up is shrugged off by fracking enthusiasts with the excuse that those things happened in the US and it will all somehow all be different in the UK. However, when it comes to their stories about fracking leading to lower energy prices, they immediately point to the fall in domestic gas prices in the US as if it represents compelling and unquestionable evidence.

It would be easy to dismiss such tactics as "wanting to have their cake and eat it" because it is about as clear an example as possible, but there are some specific reasons that direct comparisons between the US and UK dometic gas markets are desperately misleading.

The early 21st Century fracking boom in the US did lead to a fall in domestic gas prices in the US, but their gas industry was not set up for the mass export/import of gas, so the majority of additional supplies remained within the US market, which created a glut which drove down the price of gas. Not only is the US gas market not set up for mass exportation, there are also
laws to disincentivise US firms from exporting energy.

The UK gas industry is very different. The UK gas market is much more interconnected with other countries. If gas production rose in the UK, then domestic prices would be unlikely to fall far because the UK gas market is nowhere near as closed as the US market. In order to significantly reduce domestic gas prices, the UK would need to begin extracting a vast enough quantity of shale gas to impact the entire European gas market. Anyone who thinks that is likely to happen any time soon clearly has no idea whatever about the scale of Russian gas exports to the European market.
In 2015 Gazprom (the Russian state gas monopoly) exported 159.4 billion cubic metres of gas to the European market. Third Energy are reluctant to disclose their projections for how much gas they are planning to extract from the KM8 fracking zone, but it's fair to asume that it's going to be an absolutely tiny drop in the ocean compared to the production of the North Sea gas industry, let alone the scale of Russian gas exports to the European market.

Anyone who tries to point to the fall in gas prices in the US as evidence that UK gas prices would also fall is doing nothing but displaying their ignorance of the structural differences between the US and UK energy markets.

Ignoring externalities
Even if we allow the entirely unproven assertion that fracking will produce lower UK domestic energy bills to stand, there's still the issue of externalities to consider.

If fracking does shave a few pennies off our domestic energy bills, what will be the hidden/unconsidered costs? 

One of the most obvious potential costs that is excluded from the "lower energy bills" claims is the potential cost to the taxpayer of attempting to repair fracking related environmental degridation (in 2013 the Tories exempted the fracking industry from liability insurance). If fracking causes environmental degridation it will either be permanent (an environmental externality), or the taxpayer will have to foot the bill (a taxpayer subsidy that is excluded from the calculation).

Then there's the cost of George Osborne handing the fracking industry a vast tax break in order to make the industry seem even remotely viable. If lower energy prices come at the cost of the taxpayer propping up an unviable industry with huge tax breaks (lost tax revenues), that's clearly an example of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

Another potential cost is the environmental harm from continued reliance on the burning of fossil fuels to meet our domestic energy demands. Instead of handing vast tax breaks to the fracking industry, surely a more environmentally sustainable strategy would to invest more in things like renewable energy, increased energy efficiency and research into technology like clean fusion reactors?

Another set of costs that has been excluded from the optimistic and unsubstantiated "lower energy bills" claims of the pro-fracking brigade are the costs to the local community. If roads need to be widened to cope with increased traffic, local taxpayers will pay the cost. If property prices fall because of the gigantic fracking rigs in the area, the local community will pay the cost. If the fracking process ends up damaging or destroying the land, the local community will pay the cost.

One of the classic ways of making a bad deal look like a good deal is to cut out all of the extrnalities such as social harms, environmental degredation and economic costs borne by the taxpayer. If these costs are taken into consideration, an even bigger heap of salt needs to be piled on top of unsubstantiated claims that fracking will cause domestic energy bills to fall.

Fracking depends on high energy prices
It's already established that claims that fracking will cause UK energy bills to fall are not based on anything remotely resembling peer reviewed scientific studies. It's also clear that such claims are worthless if they involve the exclusion of externalities like social and environmental costs, and economic costs that are carried by the taxpayer. However the most damning criticism of all is that the whole claim is completely backwards. There's no evidence to prove that fracking in the UK would cause energy bills to fall, but if energy bills do fall significantly, then fracking becomes an economically unviable method of energy extraction.

Fracking won't cause lower energy bills because the whole industry is relient upon high energy prices to survive.

The reason fracking relies on high energy prices is that it generates very low rates of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) meaning that the margins are an awful lot slimmer tan traditional forms of fossil fuel extraction like oil and natural gas.

The ever improving EROEI ratings for renewable technologies such as solar, wind and wave power also point to difficult times ahead for the fracking industry (unless the Tory government decide to prop fracking up with even more tax breaks and subsidies whilst directly attacking the renewable energy sector).

A look at the way fracking companies across the US "cut and run" when energy prices fell leaving a trail of envirnmental degridation in their wake is direct evidence that the fracking industry is highly dependent upon high energy prices. If falling energy prices caused such chaos in the US fracking business that left Exxon's Chief Executive complaining that they were "losing our shirts" and Total's boss decying extraordinary losses in Texas with claims that Fracking "doesn't work" and that there's "no point in investing where there is no profitability" - then what on earth makes fracking enthusiasts think that the UK fracking business would be exempt from the consequences of the low energy prices they claim that it would cause?
Tory energy market price-fixing

Fracking enthusiasts need not be too worried that falling energy prices will derail their beloved industry though, because the Tories have signed up to a vast energy price-fixing deal to bribe the French state into building a nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point C by paying them double the market rate for electricity for 35 years. A crackpot scam to artificially inflate energy prices like the Tory price-fixing deal with the French is a surefire way of making the horribly inefficient shale gas fracking industry look financially viable.
Environmental destruction in Wyoming after fracking
companies "cut and run" leaving the US taxpayer to
pick up the bill.
Even after the US propped up the shale gas fracking industry with vast tax breaks and woefully inadequate liability insurance rates, the fracking business in the US has imploded due to falling energy prices, leaving an environmental catastrophe in its wake.

The Tories are utterly determined not to learn any lessons from this debacle in the US, deciding to throw vast subsidies and tax breaks around in order to promote fracking in the UK. It's absolutely clear that a large number of Tory politicians have investments in the fracking business, so it's no wonder they're doing everything in their power to promote an industry that is only viable if energy prices remain high.

If deliberately puncturing the growth of the UK sustainable energy sector; signing completely unjustifiable 35 year price-fixing deals with the French to keep UK domestic energy prices as high as posible; giving fracking companies vast tax advantages over other fossil fuel sourcesbribing local councils into allowing fracking to go ahead in their areas;
 exempting fracking companies from covering their own clean-up costs; riding roughshod over the concerns of local communites where fracking is going to be imposed; and spreading completely back-to-front myths about fracking lowering energy prices - is what it takes for the Tories to support the fracking industry, then so be it. David Cameron and his Tory chums have made it absolutely clear that they're "going  all out for shale".

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Fracking in Ryedale, a guide to Tory style "democracy".

On Monday the 23rd of May 2016 the Tory dominated planning committee of North Yorkshire County Council voted to approve fracking in the village of Kirby Misperton in Ryedale despite a massive groundswell of public opposition to the plans.

The Council received 4,735 objections to the application by Third Energy to begin fracking in Ryedale and only 36 letters of support, but the Council decided to ignore the concerns of the local community in order to turn the scenic village into the first testing ground for the fracking business
since fracking tests on the Fylde coast in 2011 were found to be the probable cause of local earthquakes.

North Yorkshire is a stunningly beautiful area, but it suffers from a chronic infestation of Tory voters. Perhaps all of the locals who voted Tory in local and general elections imagined that the unelected Tory peer David Howell was referring to some other part of the north when he declared that "there are large and uninhabited and desolate areas, certainly in part of the North East where there's plenty of room for fracking, well away from anybody's residence"? Maybe they thought that fracking rigs would be imposed on lowly Labour voting "scum" in places like Sunderland or Middlesbrough, not in a scenic Tory village that lies just a few miles south of the North York Moors national park?

Economic concerns

There are plenty of legitimate environmental concern over the fracking business, ranging from land and groundwater pollution to earthquakes, however some of the biggest concerns are economic in nature.

One huge concern is that fracking is only economically viable if energy prices remain high. Even with George Osborne's extraordinary tax breaks for fracking companies
, if energy prices fall, it ends up costing more to extract shale gas than it can be sold for. This is the case because fracking has a very low level of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI), meaning the margins are very fine indeed.

Another really big concerns is the way that the Tories exempted fracking companies from paying liability insurance to cover the cost of cleaning up fracking sites should the companies go bust. This means that if fracking causes some kind of environmental disaster the company responsable can just "cut and run" leaving the taxpayer to cover the entire cost of cleaning up their mess.

It's remarkable that the Tories decided to give the fracking industry such a huge incentive to set up small shell companies that can be abandoned if they end up creating a costly fracking mess, especially given the situation in Wyoming where hundreds of fracking wells were simply abandoned by their operators who chose to disappear into bankruptcy rather than clean up their mess. When gas prices were high these companies were happy to extract shale gas, but when prices fell they chose to forfiet their $50,000 per fracking well liability bonds and leave the entire mess for the US taxpayer to clean up.

The fact that US fracking companies chose to cut their losses when the bonds were $50,000 suggests that the figure was way too low, but instead of setting the UK bonds at a higher rate to prevent the kind of "cut and run" environmental catastrophe suffered in Wyoming, the Tories decided that fracking companies in the UK should pay no bonds whatever!

Third Energy

The Company that was granted the licence to begin fracking in Ryedale looks an awful lot like the kind of small shell Company that would cut and run if their fracking tests caused any kind of expensive environmental damage. The main company is called Third Energy Holdings Ltd and is based in Portland House in Westminster and have  capital holdings of just £21.4 million. However they have established three subsidiaries based at the same address in North Yorkshire; Third Energy UK Gas Ltd, Third Energy Onshore Ltd, and Third Energy Trading Ltd. The fracking licence has been given to Third Energy Onshore Ltd, so no doubt that entity will be folded up and abandoned if  their operations end up causing costly environmental damage.

It is interesting to note that Barclays Bank are investors in Third Energy and have also made individual donations to a number of Tory party MPs. This is hardly an isolated case of conflicts of interest between the Tory party and the Fracking industry.

Tory promises

Before the 2010 General Election David Cameron made a huge fanfare of signing a "Contract with the Electorate" that promised to "give communities the power to take charge of the local planning system". It eventually became clear that the Tories were going to break pretty much every single clause in their so-called contract, so they simply deleted it from their website and relied on the mainstream press to not bother mentioning it at all in the run-up to the 2015 General Election.

Apparrently this Tory commitment to give communities the power to take charge of the local planning system involves completely ignoring a 131:1 scale of opposition to the plans to frack in Ryedale, and swearing to use central government powers to over-rule local councils that decide not to fast-track approvals for fracking rigs in their communities.

So much for Tory promises eh?


The potential environmental impact doesn't matter. The economic frailty of the fracking industry doesn't matter. The fact that fracking companies don't have to pay liability insurance in case of economic problems or environmental damage doesn't matter. The huge 131:1 local opposition to the plans doesn't matter. The conflicts of interest between numerous Tory politicians and the fracking industry don't matter.

All that matters is that the Tories want to allow their mates to use North Yorkshire as a testing site for fracking, and they're determined to have their way, even if it means exposing their contractual promise to empower local communities as the absolute bullshit that anyone with any sense saw it as from the very beginning.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why did Boris Johnson bury that damning air pollution report?

In 2013 the consultancy firm Aether completed a report for the Greater London Authority on the state of air pollution in London and submitted it to Boris Johnson's administration who then sat on it for two and a half years until his successor Sadiq Khan uncovered it shortly after taking office.

The Analysing Air Pollution in London report contained an awful lot of damning information about the state of pollution in London, including the fact that 433 London primary schools were located in areas where levels of the toxic pollutant 
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) exceeded European Union pollution limits.

Nitrous Oxides

Nitrous Oxides are toxic pollutants that most often come from road pollution, especially from diesel engines. Other sources of Nitrous Oxides include electricity generation and industry.

Nitrous Oxides are proven to trigger asthma, coughing, skin irritation, aggravate bronchitis and pneumonia. Repeated exposure can cause permanent damage to the lungs and reduced lung capacity. It is estimated that Nitrous Oxide pollution causes thousands of premature deaths per year in London alone.

Nitrous Oxides are also linked with the formation of ozone
which occurs when Nitrous Oxides and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of heat and sunlight. Children, the elderly, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are at risk for adverse effects from ozone, including reduction in lung function, respiratory illnesses and respiratory-related hospital admissions.


Some of the most shocking findings in the report were the disparities in pollution levels between poor areas and wealthy areas. 83% of the schools with illegally high levels of Nitrous Oxide pollution were classified as "deprived" (40%+ children on free school meals). Meanwhile less than 20% of the schools located in areas below the pollution limit were classified as "deprived".

This means that over 80% of the schools suffering illegal levels of pollution were in poor areas, and over 80% of the schools with acceptable air standards were in rich areas.

The research also showed that over half of the very poorest areas of London suffered illegal levels of pollution, while the illegal pollution rate was just 1% of the very richest areas of London.

Why did it get buried?

Nobody but the most rabidly right-wing sociopath could try to claim that it's perfectly acceptable that tens of thousands of primary school children, mainly from poor and ordinary backgrounds, are being poisoned with health destroying pollutants.

Once the information that this is the case in London would have reached the public domain it would have meant that Boris Johnson would have had to either take the incredibly unpopular stance of doing nothing about the inequality on the grounds that the affected primary school children should have had the good sense to be born into richer families, or actually try to do something about the problem.

Boris Johnson and the Tories clearly didn't want to do anything about the appalling inequality between levels of air pollution in poorer parts of London and richer areas, but neither did they want to be seen to be doing nothing. Hence the logical course of action from a self-serving Tory perspective was to bury the report so that the public had much less evidence on which to base their demands for action.

Cherry-picking the good bits

The decision not to publish the report was clearly a political one because despite deciding to not bother publishing the full report, Boris Johnson's team were happy to cherry-pick and publicise some of the positive conclusions in the report, whilst completely ignoring the bits highlighting the severe inequality in exposure to air pollution.

The director of the company that produced the report Katie King said that "The crux of the report was about understanding the inequalities of air pollution, so they chose not to make public the findings regarding inequality ...The information that they did take from the report was the positive, that exposure was predicted to fall in the future".

There's no way that the decision to cherry-pick the best bits of a scientific report, whilst completely ignoring the negative parts can be seen as anything other than a display of the worst kind of cynical political opportunism.


I really do pity people who are so lacking in political insight that they can't see Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as the ruthlessly self-serving political careerist that he so clearly is, rather than the harmless foppish buffoon he pretends to be. In 1951 (13 years before BoJo was even born) Bertrand Russell warned of the dangers of politicians like him when he said "our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature has made them".

Boris Johnson is a man so lacking in principle that he refused to answer the charge that he wrote two completely different versions of his famous Telegraph article, one opposing the EU and one supporting it, then chose the one that he thought would be best for his own political ambitions.

He's so lacking in basic human morality that he buried a report into the toxic environments suffered by tens of thousands of primary school children because to publish it would have negatively impacted his own career, yet had his team cherry-pick good bits out of the report to make him look good.

The reason Boris Johnson failed to publish the damning report into air pollution levels in London schools is obvious. It's that he's one of the worst examples of the ruthlessly self-serving over-privileged Tory careerist type. It's just a damned shame that so many people fall for his foppery act and allow themselves to forget who he actually is, and what he actually represents.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Project Fear vs Project Fear

The EU referendum debate is an incredibly important one, the outcome of which will decide the entire socio-economic future of the UK. It doesn't matter which side you're on, or whether you haven't made up your mind yet, it's clearly a decision that is going to have huge social and economic repercussions.

The problem of course is that both sides of the debate are engaging in desperate and pathetic fearmongering tactics in order to try to frighten people over to their side of the argument.

The Brexit camp have combined utterly dishonest fearmongering tactics and pathetic Third Reich comparisons with an abject failure to spell out anything resembling a coherent economic strategy for what a post-Brexit economy would actually look like. Meanwhile senior figures on the "Bremain" side of the debate have taken to fearmongering about economic Armageddon should the British public vote to leave the EU. No doubt Gordon Brown will soon be wheeled out to scare pensioners into believing that Brexit would cost them their pensions, just like he scared the overwhelming majority of Scottish pensioners into shooting down a Scottish independence movement that was actually supported by the majority of working age voters.

How did it come to this?

Anyone who followed the Scottish independence referendum will have seen how the Unionist camp beat the hope and optimism of the Yes campaign with their "Project Fear" tactics. In fact the director of Better Together Blair McDougall openly admitted that the Unionists could have lost the Scottish independence referendum without having resorted to such desperate fearmongering tactics.

The victory of "Project Fear" in Scotland made it completely inevitable that the EU referendum debate would turn into a desperate fearmongering competition replete with spurious Hitler analogies and terrifying forecasts of economic doom from both sides of the debate.

Tories on both sides

If the success of "Project Fear" in Scotland didn't make a fearmongering arms race completely inevitable, the presence of senior Tories on both sides of the debate certainly did.

Fearmongering rhetoric is the favourite tactic of the Tory party. If they're not still harking on about the 1970s or blaming Labour for the 2007-08 global financial sector insolvency crisis, they're running a filthy BNP style muck-slinging, Islamophobic divide and conquer campaign to get their latest Eton posh-boy installed as Mayor of London.

Any debate that has foul-minded people like David CameronTheresa May and George Osborne on one side and horrifically right-wing zealots like Michael GoveBoris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith on the other is clearly going to end up getting messy.

With self-serving and fundamentally dishonest Tories on both sides of the debate, the degeneration of the argument into a sub-Tabloid level fearmongering farce was completely inevitable.

Driving people away from the debate

Over the last few weeks by far the most common request from people who follow the Another Angry Voice Facebook page has been for some relatively unbiased, fact-based analysis of the EU debate.

There are clearly an awful lot of people who would actually like to make their minds up about the EU based on facts and evidence, but they're being driven away from the debate in droves by the heavily biased fearmongering propaganda being pumped out by both sides.

Totally unbiased coverage is impossible

I can't promise to give a completely unbiased angle because I believe that quitting the EU when the Brexiters have completely failed to come up with anything resembling a coherent economic strategy for what a post-Brexit UK would actually look like would be a spectacularly reckless move. Brexit under such conditions would empower the hard-right fringe of the Tory party, and with no actual blueprint for what they plan to do, it would give them free rein to do whatever the hell they want.

I strongly believe that it 
would be a classic case of "out of the frying pan, into the fire" to bail out of an EU that is riddled with right-wing economic dogma, but in the process hand even more political power to fringe right-wing Tories who are much more fanatical pushers of hard-right economic dogma than the EU institutions.

I'm not a big fan of the EU, but if your boat has a few holes in it, it's generally a good idea to first attempt to repair the holes and bail out the water, rather than immediately abandoning ship and trying to swim to some mystical fantasy island that doesn't even appear on any maps.

Even though I have my opinions and admit them openly, I'm certainly not going to allow my commentary to descend into the utterly pathetic fearmongering seen from both sides of the debate so far. If you ever see me comparing the EU to the Third Reich or uncritically repeating projections of doom sourced from the very financial institutions that failed to even project the biggest financial crisis since the Wall Street Crash, then feel free to call me out on it.

Who benefits the most from this farce?

I'm of the opinion that a low turnout in the EU referendum would strongly favour the Brexit camp, and that the lamentably low standard of debate so far is making a lower turnout very much more likely. If people end up believing that both sides are feeding them inaccurate fearmongering propaganda, they're more likely to just abstain.

The head of Leave.EU Arron Banks has admitted that Brexit depends on a low turnout. He told a gathering of policy experts at the (extremely right-wing) Cato Institute that "If turnout is low, we win. If it’s high, we lose, our strategy is to bore the electorate into submission, and it’s working."

Driving fair-minded people away from the debate through the use of fearmongering tactics plays right into the hands of fanatically right-wing Brexiters like Arron Banks. People like him don't just know that a low turnout is necessary for them to get what they want, they openly admit that they're depending on it.


Trying to form an objective view on the EU referendum debate is very difficult because all economic projections are riddled with uncertainty. One thing you can be sure of is that anyone who tries to present economic projections as if they're facts, rather than theoretical outcomes based on fallible economic models, is not to be trusted. Without looking at the underlying assumptions built into the economic model that generated the predictions, the numbers are pretty much meaningless.

Another much more obvious thing you can be sure of, is that anyone who tries to compare the peaceful and co-operative structure of the EU to Hitler's militarist Nazi empire building is using desperately low smear tactics, and should be completely ignored.

It's becoming more and more obvious that really strong arguments from either side of the EU referendum debate are pretty damned rare in comparison to the sheer volume of fearmongering propaganda. 
Admittedly this is quite a dispiriting conclusion, but a good starting point for dealing with this situation is the adoption of the policy that it's a good idea to apply your critical thinking skills to pretty much everything anyone tries to convince you to believe, whether it's about the EU referendum or not.
 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


How the Vote Leave case for Brexit is an absolute shambles

It doesn't matter what your opinion on the EU is, or which side you favour in the EU referendum debate, only those suffering extreme confirmation bias could be unwilling to recognise that the official "Vote Leave, take control" case for Brexit is an absolute shambles of empty misleading propaganda, unsourced statistics, fearmongering rhetoric, misleading claims, transparent false dichotomies and outright lies.

The "£350 million" lie

The official "Vote leave, take control" document repeats the lie that the UK sends £350 million per week to the EU five times. The lie has been repeatedly debunked as a massive over-estimate based on the dodgy misuse of official figures, yet it's the most oft repeated economic claim in the primary document of the Vote Leave campaign!

Surely it's a damning indictment of the Vote Leave campaign that they repeatedly use deliberately misleading numbers as crude propaganda instead of presenting anything even remotely resembling a structured and costed plan for what would happen to the UK economy after Brexit.

What would post-Brexit Britain look like?

The Vote Leave campaign have not prepared any kind of manifesto whatever for what a post-Brexit economy would look like, preferring to proffer a series of completely uncosted possibilities like "All this money could be better spent on the NHS, schools, and fundamental science research".

The idea that a Tory government that has spent the last six years on an ideological mission to slash spending on the NHS, education and science research in order to fund vast tax cuts for corporations and the very rich, are suddenly going to reverse direction after Brexit is a pure fantasy that only the most delusional people could possibly allow themselves to believe in.

This fantasy that Brexit would save the NHS is particularly delusional given that Brexit would further empower the most fanatically right-wing elements within the Tory party, who are the kind of people who hate the NHS with a burning ideological passion because it's a glowing beacon of successful, popular and efficient socialist policy.

Possibilities not promises

"All this money could be better spent on the NHS, schools, and fundamental science research"
The use of the word "could" gives the game away. It makes it absolutely clear that the right-wingers behind Vote Leave know perfectly well that any savings from leaving the EU will immediately be distributed to the rich, so they're only offering increased spending on stuff like infrastructure, services and scientific research as a theoretical possibility.

The hardline right-wingers behind Vote Leave know that they have no power, nor inclination to ensure greater funding for socialist projects like the National Health Service or the universal education system, but they're perfectly happy to use these possibilities as bait to hook in the gullible.
Even though Vote Leave make it absolutely clear that they are only offering increased funding for the NHS and scientific research as a possibility, not as a promise, they are perfectly happy to set it up as an utterly misleading binary either-or choice at the end of the document.

"A vote to keep sending hundreds of millions to Brussels every week, or a vote to put that money into scientific research and the NHS?"

The "Vote Leave, take control" document continually claims to be championing British science, however what they completely fail to mention is that scientists overwhelmingly oppose Brexit. A survey of 2,000 EU based scientists found that 75% oppose Brexit, Stephen Hawking and 150 Royal Society scientists have claimed that Brexit would be "a disaster for British science"the House of Lords Science committee have calculated that Brexit could cost British research projects £millions in funding, and that none of Britain's most successful technology companies support Brexit.

Repeated claims to be standing up for British science when there is a mountain of evidence that an awful lot of scientists see Brexit as something that would damage UK science and technology is pretty brazen stuff. Even more brazen is the attempt by a bunch of right-wing Tories and 'kippers to criticise the EU for cuts to their science budgets when the Tory government in the UK has been savagely slashing spending on science, research and development, universities and adult education for the last six years.

The ideologically driven Tory freeze on science spending has seen the UK fall way behind industrial competitors like the US and Germany. These savage real terms cuts to UK science projects have nothing to do with the EU and everything to do with the crackpot Tory ideological austerity agenda that would be further empowered by Brexit.

Unsourced statistics

The "Vote Leave, take control" document is absolutely rife with unsourced statistics and graphs. One particularly egregious example is the claim that 74% of UK based Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) think that the UK government, not the EU should control trade policy. No source is given, no data, no sample size, nothing. The inclusion of unsourced statistics like this in a document that repeatedly claims to be championing science should be enough to cause cognitive dissonance in even the most determined of Brexiters.

There is simply no excuse for the repeated presentation of unsourced statistics, especially in a keystone document from the official Vote Leave campaign.

Who is "we"?

"We regain legal control of things like trade, tax, economic regulation, energy and food bills, migration, crime, and civil liberties."

Who is this "we" that Vote Leave are referring to in this sentence? If the UK public vote for Brexit, who will benefit from these additional powers? Will it be the man on the street? Or will it be the Tory government and the unelected House of Lords that David Cameron has spent six years stuffing full of hundreds of unelected cronies?

It's absolutely clear that "we" refers to the Westminster political establishment, not to ordinary British folk, so what would the Tories do with their "regained" powers?

Trade: The Tories are massively in favour of the TTIP corporate power grab, so anyone who thinks that they wouldn't cook up an even more terrifyingly pro-corporate "trade deal" with the US after Brexit is guilty of fantasy land thinking. Donald Trump has indicated that a post-Brexit UK would not be pushed to the back of the trade-deal queue were he to become President. Can you imagine how dangerously pro-corporate/anti-worker/environmentally destructive a trade deal drawn up between the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson would be?

Tax: The EU doesn't actually exert that much control over the UK tax system. There are EU rules on VAT, but there is still a lot of variance in VAT rates and applications across Europe. The EU has not prevented the Tory government from repeatedly slashing the rate of UK Corporation Tax over the last six years so that the rate of Corporation Tax tax rate for multinational corporations (the ones who actually pay their tax) is now below the basic rate of income tax for their workers! 
The UK government retains autonomy over all kinds of taxes such as Corporation Tax, Income Tax, Inheritance Tax, Council Tax, Stamp Duty, Fuel Duty, tax rates on alcohol and cigarettes ... so it seems that the word "tax" has only been included in the above list to make it seem longer and more impressive.

Economic regulation: On several occasions the Tories have wasted taxpayers' money trying to defend the interests of their rich mates in the City of London from EU regulations. Remember the time when George Osborne was the only finance minister in the entire EU to oppose the plan to cap bankers' bonuses at 200% of their annual salary? Vote Leave clearly want to help the Tories tear up EU regulations that impede their mates' financial sector profiteering.

Energy bills: Remember when Ed Miliband proposed a government cap on energy prices and the Tories lined up to shriek "communist" and "price-fixer" at him? Remember how just a few weeks later the Tories signed up to a ludicrous price-fixing deal to pay EdF (85% owned by the French state) and the Chinese government twice the market rate for electricity for 35 years? If the Tories are given more control over the energy market, they'll simply hand more of it over to Chinese communists and state operated energy companies like EdF in line with their crackpot ideology that the French, Chinese, German and Dutch states are more capable of running UK infrastructure than the UK state itself.

Food bills: Vote Leave don't bother to explain the means by which the UK government will gain additional powers over food bills, however it seems fair to guess that a Tory government would set up their own system of landowner subsidies to replace the subsidies distributed by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. If the new Tory landowner subsidies are higher than the current EU ones, food prices would probably fall, but taxpayers would foot the bill, if they are lower than the current ones then food prices would rise. The idea of the Tories scrapping landowner handouts in line with their free-trade mantra is completely unrealistic. Farmers are such a loyal Tory demographic that Brexit would probably result in a large increase in free handouts to major landowners from the Tory government.

Migration: For the last six years the Tory Home Secretary Theresa May has been conducting an economically insane war on non-EU migrants, including migrants who are married to British citizens (the most likely of all to assimilate, contribute and stay long-term rather than working in the UK a while then extracting their wealth), non-EU students (a vital source of income to British universities, and a net positive to the UK economy) and non-EU workers who earn less than £35,000 per year (the average UK wage is £26,000). Anyone who thinks that such malicious and economically incompetent Tory immigration policies would just stop after Brexit is wandering into post-Brexit fantasy land again.

Crime: Again, Vote Leave offer no detail whatever on what they mean by "regaining local control of .... crime". In fact this sentence is the only mention of the word "crime" in the entire "Vote Leave, take control" document! Since Vote Leave are totally unwilling to specify what crime powers they think the UK needs to repatriate from the EU, it's fair to assume that it's simply another word added to their list seem longer and more impressive.

Civil Liberties: Given that the current Tory government are intent on scrapping as many civil liberties as they can get away with (the right to free speech, labour rights, the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy, the entire Human Rights Act ...) it's an utterly bizarre item to add to the list. Essentially what Vote Leave seem to be saying is that it would be a good thing if the Tories gained even more capacity to scrap any of our human rights that stand in the way of them doing whatever the hell they like.

Eurozone Austerity

One of the most bizarre things about the "Vote Leave, take control" document is the way that it tries to portray the dire consequences of ideological austerity in the Eurozone as a reason to vote for Brexit. Of course anyone with any macroeconomic sense should be appalled at the way the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF have colluded to force socially and economically toxic austerity on countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, but using that as a reason to support Brexit is utterly illogical. It's illogical because the Tory government are even more fanatical about ideological austerity than the EU, in fact, George Osborne even found £10 billion in British cash to hand over to the IMF in order to go around forcing austerity onto other countries.

A bunch of hard-right Tories who have voted for one appalling austerity policy after another in the UK for the last six years using austerity in the Eurozone as an argument for Brexit is a display of the worst kind of unprincipled opportunism.


During the 2014 campaign for Scottish independence the right-wing media constantly attacked the Vote Yes campaign and the SNP government for perceived flaws in their detailed plan for post-independence Scotland. During the 2016 campaign for the UK to quit the EU, swathes of the right-wing press have been completely silent on the total lack of an actual plan for what a post-Brexit UK economy might look like.

As far as the right-wing press seem concerned "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it" is a viable economic strategy for a stable transition out of the European Union!

It's incredible that swathes of the right-wing press were so desperate to fearmonger about the uncertainties of Scottish independence, but less than two years later they're supporting a Brexit campaign with no detailed plan whatever for what comes next. 

Economic chaos

The lack of anything resembling a coherent plan for what comes next is certain to cause economic uncertainty if Vote Leave win.

It doesn't matter how much froth and bile Brexiters like Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrea Leadsom spit about expert interventions, financial institutions like the Bank of England would be utterly reckless if they were to fail to point out the obvious fact that Brexit with no strategic plan of action from the people who are promoting it would be extremely likely to cause severe economic turmoil because financial markets generally don't like uncertainty and instability.

  An unjustified and unjustifiable conclusion
"A vote to leave is the safer option"
There is absolutely no effort to justify this conclusion from an economic, political or security perspective. 

Economic: I'm not one to take the utterances of financial institutions like The Bank of England, IMF, OECD or private banks at face value. These are the institutions that failed to see the 2007-08 global financial sector insolvency crisis coming. However, the underlying justification for their pessimistic projections about the economic consequences of Brexit seems sound. The Brexiters have outlined no real plan for Brexit and seem to think "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it" is sufficient. This mens that severe and sustained economic uncertainty is inevitable given the total lack of strategic planning. Under these circumstances anyone who tries to claim that Brexit is economically safer than Bremain is playing you for a fool.

Political: Post-war European co-operation came about as an effort to prevent another massive conflict between the European powers. Given that the first half of the 20th Century featured the two most deadly industrialised wars the European continent had ever seen, it is worth celebrating the fact that there have been no wars between EU states since the era of European co-operation began. It would be the worst kind of fearmongering to suggest that Brexit could lead directly to war, but it's difficult to imagine how it's possible to justify any claim that voting for the UK to remain in Europe would make the UK politically safer.

Security: Despite all of the Britain First style fearmongering about refugees from the Syrian civil war being terrorists, it remains an incontestable fact that all of the deadly terrorist atrocities carried out on British soil since the 1950s have been perpetrated by people born in the British Isles. The idea that withdrawal from the EU would make Britain safer from terrorism is the worst kind of counter-factual nonsense.

It beggars belief that high profile Brexiters like Michael Gove blubber away about the unfairness of fearmongering rhetoric from the Bremain side when the official Vote Leave document ends with an unjustified and unjustifiable assertion that voting to remain in the EU is somehow more unsafe than voting to leave.


The EU is far from perfect, I've been criticising it for years, but the official "Vote Leave, take control" document is an abject demonstration that the official Brexit campaign is a complete shambles run by people with no strategic plan whatever, who think that a garbled mess of fearmongering rhetoric, unsourced statistics, shocking opportunism, misleading claims, blatantly false dichotomies and outright lies is sufficient to convince anybody of anything. 

Essentially the whole "Vote Leave, take control" document is a demonstration of the utter contempt that the hard-right Tories and 'kippers behind Vote Leave have for the general public. It's a demonstration that they believe that people are so ill-educated and lacking in critical thinking skills that they'll simply uncritically rote learn the abject mess they've presented as their keystone document, then trot off to vote for Brexit.

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