Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Nuclear First Strike In Europe

I haven't forgotten my intention to have a crack at the sinister putative EU Energy Union initiative: but in the meantime, here's an interesting development of one of the strands I suggested last week:
France has always wanted the rest of us to pay its astronomical nuclear decommissioning bill so a 'CEP' was always going to be on the table to join the CAP at some stage ... Why would the fervent anti-nukes allow France the opportunity to enshrine the nuclear option in an EU charter? (as they surely will - an absolute red line for them)
Well France has made the first strike, cannily rallying the UK and others to her flag.  (Why exactly the Grauniad fingers Romania is anyone's guess: their fault, I suppose, for being pushed out in front by the French.)  They call for
"new EU financing mechanisms for nuclear as a low carbon technology, and research and innovation initiatives to deal with the costly and unresolved issues of nuclear waste and decommissioning. New state aid guidelines are also needed, it says, and these should be based on past EU decisions, including the approval of the UK’s planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset. “It is vital that the forthcoming communication on an Energy Union reaffirms the important role that nuclear power ... can potentially play in Europe”
Note the other countries involved: Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia.  In other words, this isn't just a nuclear hunting party, its members include the core of the anti-Russian eastern grouping (with which the UK is often allied in matters EU) - another key strand we identified last week.

"Energy Union" obviously means very different things to different people.  I'm looking forward to a ten-nation riposte along greenish, anti entente-cordiale-nuclĂ©aire lines.  Britain and France and Poland and Czechoslovakia against, errrr, Germany and Italy and Austria ... this promises to be epic.  Energy Union in our lifetime?  Pardon me if I'm skeptical.


Off shore Tax havens used for secrecy purposes

You can often read some great stuff in the Guardian Newspaper - on a know thy enemy basis I must read articles a few times a week from the site.

Alot of the time though they manage to be both right and wrong in the same article. Today there is a breathless puff piece from a company called Transparency International. It claims there is huge corruption behind the practice of people using off shore tax havens to have Special Purpose Vehicle companies buy property, often will stolen money.

This definitely falls into the no shit Sherlock category of reporting.

It then makes some wilder guesstimates about how widespread this is and also some awful examples of bad practice. It says for example that Saif Gaddafi had used such a process to buy a property...of course this must be corruption. But of course when Gaddafi likely did this he was Tony Blair's best friend and buddy and not an enemy to the UK. Oh how we forget the changing whimsy of our foreign policy . Of course, once declared an enemy of the State the UK has stepped in and taken the property back. The allegation of corruption can only be that, there is little proof that Saif actually looted the money - circumstantially we know it to be true, but in any Country we would always wait for the rule of law rather than making populist judgements.

(OK, we will be making populist judgements in Ed Milliband's Britian because that is what the man is about, but we will see about this in a few weeks time...).

At the end of the article though, having not made much sense thus far, the Transparency International group say what they are looking to do is know who beneficial owners are prior to properties being bought in the UK by foreign companies and also to stop large cash transactions. The first idea is a good one, it should be publicly knowable as to who owns what, after all that is the point of the Land Registry. That alone will kill dead much property based tax avoidance and money laundering.

The use of cash is less appealing as it is quite possible for people to sell one property and make lots of cash and then buy another. Why this needs to be controlled is not clear beyond allowing the Banks even more control over your finances (on behalf of the State) than ever.

What goes unnoticed is the rather large efforts, via special stamp duty on SPV ownership, made by recent Governments. Property is now much more highly taxed than it was and though exposing corruption is a good thing, I expect any Government advised by the Treasury may think long and hard about the revenue implications of enacting such legislative change.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Competition! William for Beijing - Who for Moscow in May?

The Royal Family are just brilliant for diplomacy and soft-power exercises generally.   The "Windsor"  brand catalogue offers such a nicely graded range of options - a perfect choice available for all occasions - and other countries are left floundering in their wake.   From the lightweight-but-dutiful 'Edward', the man-of-the-world, know-what-you-mean-squire 'Andrew', the robust and heavy-duty 'Anne', the lucky-dip, maybe-you'll-get-a memorable-gaffe 'Phillip', to the seriously A-list 'Harry', the only-if-you've-been-very-good 'Kate', the ocean-going, this-is-really-important 'Wills', the president-trumping 'Charles', and the earthquake-grade, once-in-a-lifetime 'Her Britannic Majesty'.

They all come in uniform and/or on horseback if desirable; speak French; fly themselves in (some even at the controls of a helicopter, which is no mean feat); and don't require two battalions of large grey-suited men wearing shades and microphones to be placed between themselves and the adoring crowds.

Yes, with the occasional fleeting exception like Obama six years ago or Mandela in the 1990's, there's really no-one else to touch them.

Now: here's the challenge.  Wills is doing great business in China just now but another, more sensitive gig looms.  Yes folks, 9 May 2015 is Moscow Victory Day Parade and it's a big'un, the 70th anniversary, no expense spared.  There will be T-34's on show!  And they've already got acceptances from, oooh, the President of, errr, Serbia and, hmmm, the President of Vietnam and  ....  yes, Fat-boy Kim himself, Jong Un the wrong'un!

But somehow, little Volodya's party is not yet complete.  After all, he went to Normandy in 2014 and he really, really feels everyone should do him the honour of paying a return visit - not just the sub-communist nobodies.   Egad! - a tough decision for Whitehall, what with all the posturing over Ukraine: and given the General Election two days before, there's the possibility we won't even have a proper Prime Minister!

So, compo time:
  1. who should we send?
  2. who will we send? 
Doesn't need to be from the Windsor collection, of course - there's more than one way of sending a soft-power message.  Could be Neil Kinnock, for example, or Keith Vaz.  No prizes for guessing our Ambassador to Moscow - let's focus on the most senior marquee Brit(s) in an official capacity; and there will be awards for getting this right.

I'm saying: 

1.  HMQ, on condition that Crimea is relinquished beforehand
2.  Prince Charles in full rig, on condition that Fat-Boy is debarred

Have at it, C@W!


Monday, 2 March 2015

Greenist Fantasy - only in Wales and the minds of Lib Dems

The news that the Tidal Lagoon Power have got Ed Davey, Environment Secretary for two more months, excited about plans that have been around since the 1960's should not really be news, but the BBC have decreed so there we are.

The interesting part is in their plans are, by Greenwash standards, actually costed. The key aspect is that they think a 2 mile long lagoon built in Swansea Bay will only need a £168p/MWh subsidy.

Let's compare that to the totally unaffordable and expensive proposed new nuclear plant. The one we hate the Government for because they caved in and agreed to a £90/MWh subsidy. Oh dear, oh dear indeed.

Of course for Green power fantasists that fact that these things are not economic does not matter. The subisdy comes from you, the bill payer after all and they don't expect to ask you just ratchet up your bills by say, er, 50% and have it all stamped and agreed by the Government. Of course, Tidal power is probably worse than wind power as it is only available 4 times a day for an hour - not of much use to a 24hr power requirement is it?

At a time when the fall in Oil Prices has made even Fracking (er, no subsidy here) look like it will be too expensive, then this floating of this 'idea' to try and shore up the Lib Dem vote in Wales is pure nonsense-on-stilts.

Moreover, it is not even a new idea, tidal power and the Severn barrage have been talked about by the ill-informed since the 1960's. perhaps earlier. At every stage the costs are looked at it becomes so astronomical as to be completely prohibitive - and that is before another bunch of decry the impact on the sea and the creatures who live there.

I so hope for Ed Davey to lose his seat in the General Election and the Country to be rid of such ludicrous people in its crucial Energy Department.