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Why Britain is Definitely Leaving the European Union

Talk of a second referendum or of the British elite successfully conspiring to subvert the Leave vote are almost certainly wrong.

Alexander Mercouris

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Ever since Britain voted by a clear margin to leave the EU, there have been calls for the vote to be set aside or ignored.

Advocates of this course have pointed out correctly that the vote was purely consultative and that Britain is a parliamentary democracy and that the British parliament is under no legal or constitutional obligation to carry out the referendum result.

People who say that the vote should be disregarded also say the vote was obtained by lies and that many of the benighted voters who voted to Leave, having now realised they were lied to, are experiencing “buyer’s remorse” and would vote Remain if asked to vote again.

Others, whilst grudgingly admitting the vote cannot be simply set aside or held again, propose an alternative more insidious strategy.  They want the British government to go through the motions of pretending to negotiate the terms for Brexit.  Then when in two years time the deal produced is obviously unsatisfactory it can be put to the people in a second referendum, presumably in the expectation they would vote to reject it, allowing Britain to stay in the EU.  Proponents of this strategy include the political commentator Timothy Garton Ash, who in a column for the Guardian put it this way:

“By 2018, the likely result of an article 50 exit negotiation, Scotland’s intentions and any changes that may be made on the continent will all be clearer – and a new Labour leader should be firmly in the saddle. That is likely to be a better moment to ask the British people if they really want to commit this act of self-harm. Or maybe the right moment will come a little sooner, or later.

The strategic goal is clear: to keep as much as possible of our disunited kingdom as fully engaged as possible in the affairs of our continent. But sometimes in politics it is wisest to watch and wait, playing for time and keeping your options open. This is such a time.”

Some of these demands to reverse the referendum result are couched in very emotional language, with a common complaint that the vote to Leave was a betrayal by the old of the young, and with some going further still, like the Observer’s Will Hutton who in a column in the Observer calls the EU

“a noble idea that represents the best effort the world has seen to build international cooperation”. 

Such a great cause apparently cannot be given up even if that means setting aside a clear demand of the people expressed in a democratic vote.

These widespread calls to set aside the referendum result find a strange echo from some people who actually welcome the result.  These people do not want the result to be set aside but are nonetheless confident that it will be.  They say democracy does not exist any more in Britain, Europe or the West, point out that the EU has a habit of ignoring or setting aside referendum results it doesn’t like, and predict that this will happen to the British referendum result as well on the grounds that Brexit would supposedly be too great a blow to the EU and the West for it to be allowed to happen.  Classic statements of this view have been made by the Moon of Alabama blog, by Eric Zuesse here in The Duran and – with important qualifications – by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts.

I am sure these views are all wrong.  I do not believe the referendum result will be set aside or that the referendum will be fought again now or in two years time.  I am sure Britain will leave the EU.

First, as to the referendum result itself, there are no grounds to set it aside.  No one is claiming there were irregularities that might invalidate the result.  Claims the result was built on lies are wrong.  The result was not close.  On a high turnout the people of Britain voted by a clear margin to leave the EU and in England outside London – the core region of the United Kingdom – the vote in favour of leaving was overwhelming.  The fact that the vote is in theory consultative rather than binding is neither here nor there.  The people of Britain were promised before they voted that parliament would be bound by the result and the political reality is that parliament is bound by that promise.  Parliament draws its legitimacy from the people and it cannot simply disregard how they have voted without putting its legitimacy – or rather of that of the politicians and political parties represented in it – in question.

Talk of widespread “buyer’s remorse” amongst Leave voters is for the moment just that – talk – with no polling evidence behind it.  Besides even if some voters who voted Leave are now having doubts there is no reason to think the vast majority of Leave voters, who make up a large majority of English voters outside London, share those doubts.  The expression of doubts in the immediate aftermath of a vote no-one expected is not surprising or even politically important.  Once the situation has calmed down the strong likelihood is that any doubts there now are will settle, and that any Leave voters who in the days immediately following the vote wobbled amidst the noise, hysteria and panic, will quietly firm up again.

As for the attempt to play generations off against each other, that is an appalling argument and is certainly no reason to set the result aside.  Besides the claim 75% of young voters voted Remain is misleading given the very high abstention rate amongst such voters.   The Moon of Alabama blog has explained the point best:

“First, young voters feel cheated of their future because some old, grumpy people voted for Brexit. Well, these young voters of age 18 to 24, tearfully interviewed by the BBC and Channel 4, constitute only 5% of the electorate. Only a third of them voted at all, 70% of those 1/3 of 5% for “Remain”. This is a small part, and a not very interested one, of the population. Who are they to deserve some special attendance?”

If the British government or parliament or the elite in general try to set aside or ignore the vote, they would create for themselves a major crisis of legitimacy especially in England.  Whilst this being the United Kingdom we are unlikely to see riots and tanks in the streets – as some are already warning – it would create a huge sense of grievance, which would very quickly crystallise into a major political movement that in England outside London could easily sweep all before it.  Once the hysteria in Westminster has died down – which it will – that fact will become obvious and politicians being in their mass the political animals that they are – intent first and foremost on their own survival – they will quickly adjust to the fact and will recognise that their only prospect for future political success is if they accept the result and guide Britain towards Brexit.

What of the EU, will it to try to invalidate the result as it has so many other referendums in the past?  For the first and I suspect only time in my life I find myself in agreement with the Le Monde and Guardian commentator Natalie Nougayrede who sets out the obvious difficulties:

“First, about previous referendum reruns. In 1992 Denmark rejected the Maastricht treaty with a 50.7% majority. That set its European partners scrambling for a solution: opt-outs were granted on economic and monetary issues, on common defence and security policy, on home and justice affairs, and on the question of European citizenship. The following year, after that package had been presented, another referendum was held, with this time a 56.7% yes answer. In 2001, Irish voters said no to the treaty of Nice (by 54%). EU statements were then made that Ireland needn’t join a common defence policy and could refrain from other enhanced cooperation. In 2002, a new Irish vote produced a 63% majority in favour. In 2008, again Ireland rejected (by 53%) a new European text, the Lisbon treaty. A special document called “the Irish guarantees” was then produced, allowing for a rerun of the Irish referendum in 2009, with this time 67% of the electorate approving. But what was possible then is not necessarily possible now.

One essential difference is that these previous referendums were not about national membership of the EU, but about plans to strengthen integration. They were about adding layers to the project – not subtracting a key member state from it.”

The point Nougayrede is making, and she is right, is that all the previous referendums she discusses that were set aside were about giving or withholding consent for further EU integration.  When the results went the “wrong” way it was relatively easy to massage them away by making what turned out to be fake concessions that formally met the demand that the referendum result had expressed.  That way the pretence of abiding by a democratic outcome could be preserved.  That incidentally is what also happened following the French Constitutional Referendum of 2005 – a referendum Nougayrede strangely fails to discuss.   That rejected by a clear majority the EU constitution that was being proposed in that year.  The EU got round that rejection whilst formally abiding by it by pretending to drop the constitution whilst repackaging it as the Lisbon Treaty, which France then accepted without holding another vote.

As Nougayrede rightly says, it is simply not possible to do things like that in the case of Britain’s Brexit vote, where the vote was a straightforward vote to leave the EU.  That is too unambiguous a rejection of the EU to be massaged away.  Any attempt to do so would cause fatal damage to the core of the EU’s ideology and self-image, written into its founding Treaties, of itself as a community of democracies and free peoples.  As its leaders undoubtedly know, doing anything like that would completely vindicate the EU’s critics by proving conclusively that they are right: that it is not the democratic structure which it claims to be but is rather one which depends purely on force.  Given the crisis of legitimacy that would cause it is unlikely the EU would survive such an exposure of itself for very long.

The same by the way holds true of one other referendum that Nougayrede also for some reason does not discuss – the one that was held in Greece last year.  That too was not a vote to stay or leave the EU or even to stay or leave the Eurozone.  Rather it was or purported to be a referendum about whether or not to accept the EU’s bailout conditions, a massively complicated issue in which Tsipras and the Greek government could pretend to be carrying out the will of the Greek people after the result was declared whilst actually doing the opposite.

I would add that if the EU were to attempt the same sort of financial terrorism towards Britain that they carried out towards Greece last year – something which is actually impossible given Britain’s far bigger and stronger economy and the fact that Britain is not a part of the Eurozone – the effect in Britain would be calamitous and would massively strengthen the demand in Britain to leave the EU and to do so moreover immediately.  The effect on the world economy – including the EU and US economies – of targeting in that way the country which hosts one of the world’s largest financial centres anyway ensures it will not happen.

In fact the impossibility of reversing the British referendum result is so well understood within the rest of the EU that only marginal players like Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynsky are reported to have even suggested it.  On the contrary the consensus within the EU appears to be that they want to end the uncertainty by getting Britain to leave the EU as quickly as possible and that they want that to happen by having the British initiate the process by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty with the least possible delay.

What of the view that efforts will nonetheless be made by the elites both in the EU and Britain to keep Britain within some of the institutions of the EU – first and foremost the European Single Market – even if Britain formally quits the EU?

Whilst such a thing is theoretically possible I frankly doubt it will happen.  The British want to stay within the European Single Market but essentially want to do so on their own terms – with unrestricted access for their businesses to the Single Market whilst opting out of the EU’s core principle of unrestricted movement of labour.  Whilst such a thing is theoretically possible, I cannot see why the EU would concede it when doing so would merely encourage other EU states to demand the same.  Ultimately hopes for these sort of arrangements rest on assumptions about British power and importance to the EU which have no basis.  Given the bad example making such concessions to Britain would create, I cannot see why the EU would want to make them.

We should not let the hysteria amongst the political class in Britain blind us or confuse us to the realities.  Britain is definitely leaving the EU, and there will be no second referendum and no reversal of the decision.  Perhaps Scotland will split away and will negotiate to join the EU, but that will come later.  England at least is definitely leaving.

As for the idea that Britain can quit the EU but remain a member of the European Single Market on its own terms, frankly I think that is very unlikely and I doubt it will happen.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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Saudi Arabia trying to squirm free of Khashoggi murder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 2.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s possible admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi…accidentally, while they were torturing the man inside the consulate in Istanbul.

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Via Zerohedge

Even before the publication of last night’s Saudi trial balloon hinting that the kingdom would soon acknowledge that the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi – the insider-turned dissident journalist who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never walked back out – was the result of a “botched” kidnapping attempt carried out by “rogue killers” (despite reports that the US intelligence community knew that Khashoggi was being “targeted”), two realities had become increasingly clear. One: That the Saudis would avoid responsibility for the killing by pinning it on some unfortunate underling, and two: that there would be few, if any, lasting diplomatic repercussions.

And as more media organizations confirmed reports about Saudi’s plans to spin Khashoggi’s murder as a botched interrogation (we can only imagine what was said in that room to justify the use of such extreme violence), CNN calculated the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for approximately 15 minutes early Tuesday, following his 12-hour-plus flight to the kingdom.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia lasted no more than 15 minutes, CNN estimates based on the time the top US diplomat’s motorcade arrived at the royal court and departed.

The motorcade arrived at the royal court at 11:42 a.m. (4:42 a.m. ET) and left 26 minutes later. There is a fair distance to walk from where the motorcade dropped Pompeo off to where he met the king.

While Trump said on Monday that Pompeo would travel to Turkey “if necessary”, the Saudi’s decision to “come clean” about Khashoggi’s death pretty much rendered Pompeo’s fact-finding mission unnecessary.More important are developments in Turkey, where the joint Saudi-Turkish “investigation” is turning its attention toward the home of the Saudi consul, where a black diplomatic van that departed the Saudi consulate just under two hours after Khashoggi entered was captured on camera disappearing into a garage. Some speculate that this is where the killers finished disposing of Khashoggi’s body. This comes after a “nine-hour” search of the Saudi consulate building that, according to leaks published in Al-Jazeera, turned up “evidence of tampering” by the Saudis. On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister clarified that Saudi had yet to admit its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and probable death.

Turkish investigators will carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence on Tuesday as the probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

CCTV footage released to the media from the day the Washington Post writer vanished show movement of vehicles from the consulate building to the Consul General’s residence nearby.

As speculation mounts that the incident could unseat the increasingly authoritarian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (who has already marginalized or incapacitated nearly every threat to his rule), it’s looking more likely that neither the US nor the rest of the Western world will do much to punish the world’s most important oil exporter, which can “weaponize” the oil market seemingly on a whim.

Any punishment for this flagrant violation of human rights will need to come, therefore, from the private sector, which, according to Bloomberg, could sabotage MbS’s grand Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake the Saudi economy via a flood of foreign direct investment:

The economic strategy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, is to make investment the main engine of economic growth instead of government spending, but the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could frustrate these ambitions. Foreign direct investment, a key part of the plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s economy, declined sharply in 2017 and is unlikely to return to previous levels, leaving the government’s target for 2020 beyond reach, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. Increased policy uncertainty and, after the Khashoggi incident, the risk of reputational damage to foreign companies working in Saudi Arabia won’t help.

 

 

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Defeat in Bavaria delivers knockout punch to Merkel’s tenure as Chancellor (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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The stunning CSU defeat in Bavaria means that the coalition partner in Angela Merkel’s government has lost an absolute majority in their worst election results in Bavaria since 1950.

In a preview analysis before the election, Deutsche Welle noted that a CSU collapse could lead to Seehofer’s resignation from Merkel’s government, and conceivably Söder’s exit from the Bavarian state premiership, which would remove two of the chancellor’s most outspoken critics from power, and give her room to govern in the calmer, crisis-free manner she is accustomed to.

On the other hand, a heavy loss and big resignations in the CSU might well push a desperate party in a more volatile, abrasive direction at the national level. That would further antagonize the SPD, the center-left junior partners in Merkel’s coalition, themselves desperate for a new direction and already impatient with Seehofer’s destabilizing antics, and precipitate a break-up of the age-old CDU/CSU alliance, and therefore a break-up of Merkel’s grand coalition. In short: Anything could happen after Sunday, up to and including Merkel’s fall.

The Financial Times reports that the campaign was dominated by the divisive issue of immigration, in a sign of how the shockwaves from Merkel’s disastrous decision to let in more than a million refugees in 2015-16 are continuing to reverberate through German politics and to reshape the party landscape.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the stunning Bavarian election defeat of the CSU party, and the message voters sent to Angela Merkel, the last of the Obama ‘rat pack’ neo-liberal, globalist leaders whose tenure as German Chancellor appears to be coming to an end.

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Via Zerohedge

Voters in Germany’s economically dominant southern state of Bavaria delivered a stunning rebuke to the ruling Christian Social Union, in an election that delivered another crushing blow for the parties in Angela Merkel’s grand coalition in Berlin.

With all eyes on Sunday’s Bavaria election, moments ago the first exit polls showed a historic collapse for the ruling CSU party, which has ruled Bavaria continuously since 1957, and which saw its share of the vote collapse from 47.7% in the 2013 election to just 35.5%, losing its absolute majority and suffering its worst result since 1950, as voters defected in their droves to the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

German newspaper Welt called the election “the most painful election defeat of the past 50 years for the CSU”. As predicted in the polls, the CSU experienced a “historic debacle” in the Bavarian state elections, according to Welt. The CSU was followed by the Greens which soared in the election, more than doubling to 18.5% from 8.6% in 2013, the Free Voters also rose to 11% from 9.0%, in 2013.

Meanwhile, the nationalist AfD are expecting to enter Bavaria’s parliament for the first time ever with 11% of the vote, and as such are setting up for their post-election party. Party leader Alice Weidel already is having the first beer in the small community of Mamming in Lower Bavaria.

Establishment party, left-of-center SPD also saw its support collapse from 20.6% in 2013 to just 10% today.

The full initial results from an ARD exit poll are as follows (via Zerohedge):

  • CSU: 35.5 %
  • Grüne: 18.5 %
  • FW: 11.5 %
  • AfD: 11.0 %
  • SPD: 10.0 %
  • FDP: 5.0 %
  • Linke: 3.5 %
  • Sonstige: 5.0 %

The breakdown by gender did not show any marked variations when it comes to CSU support, although more women voted for the Greens, while far more men supported the AfD:

There was a greater variation by educational level, with highly educated voters tending more towards the green GRÜNE (G/EFA) and liberal FDP (ALDE) then the average, while low/middle educated voters tended more towards CSU (EPP) and AfD (EFDD).

This was the worst result for the CSU since 1950.

Zerohedge further reports that alarmed by the rise of the anti-immigration, populist AfD, the CSU tried to outflank them by talking tough on immigration and picking fights with Ms Merkel over asylum policy.

But the strategy appeared to have backfired spectacularly by alienating tens of thousands of moderate CSU voters and driving them into the arms of the Greens.

Meanwhile, as support the CSU and SPD collapsed, the result confirmed the Greens’ status as the rising force in German politics. Running on a platform of open borders, liberal social values and the fight against climate change the party saw its support surge to 18.5%, from 8.4% in 2013. Meanwhile the AfD won 11%, and for the first time entered the Bavarian regional assembly.

“This is an earthquake for Bavaria,” said Jürgen Falter, a political scientist at the University of Mainz.

The CSU had governed the state with an absolute majority for most of the last 60 years. “It was Bavaria and Bavaria was the CSU. That is now no longer the case.”

The latest collapse of Germany’s establishment parties highlights the shaky ground the grand coalition in Berlin is now resting on as all three parties in the alliance, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the CSU and the SPD, are haemorrhaging support. Some are now questioning whether the coalition, already frayed by personal rivalries and near constant bickering over policy, can survive a full term in office.

“This outcome throws ever more doubt on the future of the grand coalition,” said Heinrich Oberreuter, head of the Passau Journalism Institute and an expert on the CSU. “Based on current polls, if an election were held now, the CDU, CSU and SPD would not even command a majority in the Bundestag.”

The CSU will now be be forced to form a coalition government — a humiliating outcome for a party that has run Bavaria single-handedly for 49 of the last 54 years. Its preference is probably for a three-party coalition with the Free Voters, a small party that is mainly focused on local politics. It could also team up with the Greens, though it would be highly reluctant to do so: the two parties are deeply divided over immigration, transport and environmental policy.

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