Tuesday 5 June 2018

Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Adviser?

“This morning the British Brexit delegation in Brussels handed the European negotiators a final note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock, that they were prepared at once to grant the United Kingdom a satisfactory trade arrangement and accept our proposals for the Irish border, a state of trade war would exist between us.

I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is now in a trade war with Germany”



The last, most fantastic piece of civil service hogwash was released a few days ago. When many thought Project Fear, an increasingly ineffective method of frightening voters to back a government decision, had already deployed its most doom-laden and apocalyptic visions of the terrors to come, the civil service Remain contingent, turned the dial up to eleven.
“In the second scenario, not even the worst, the port of Dover will collapse on day one. The supermarkets of Cornwall and Scotland will run out of food within a couple of days, and hospitals will run out of medicines within two weeks.”
So the Guardian was led to believe.
Now, even the Guardian was a bit embarrassed to be repeating such blatant falsehoods.  So much so it gave a voice to Brexiteers the next day. Without even hinting those Leavers might be wrong in their denunciations of the obviously unrealistic, exaggerated, hyperbolic amplifications of “possible” scenarios for “The No Deal report.”
So frightened are the mandarins who run the nation that such a terrible thing could even be countenanced, they were prepared to allow such blatant lies to be “leaked” to the press. To ensure the forthcoming vote on the Brexit amendments would be free from any talk of leaving without agreeing to remain in all but name.
That this was leaked deliberately to obtain the most negative possible press coverage for no deal is beyond doubt. That it was the civil service themselves, the Remain Cabinet Secretary cabal approving, the Remain ministers colluding, cannot be known for certain. But the hallmarks bear all the signs of the establishment at work.
The playbook says release a file with four or five possibilities scenarios. Ensure three are predicting a crisis the likes of which would make The Rapture more appealing. And the others with lots of doubt and gloomy language. Though nothing quite as fire and brimstone as the lead case study. The one the service knows full well the newspapers are going to run as a headline. 
How do we know the possible outcomes of medicines being non existent and food rationing being introduced immediately? 

Well, it’s simple.
We have a modicum of understanding of the world. We know, for instance, that even somewhere such as Syria, today in the midst of a civil war killing hundreds of thousands, people can still get food.
We know also that in Venezuela even after five years of disastrous, economy killing, thousand percent inflation, and catastrophic government mismanagement, medicine is still, just, available.

Soon after Cuba booted out the Batista government in the late 1950's, the USA imposed total sanctions on that Island. Cuba's trade with the USA was 65% of all their trade. And it ended virtually at once. Cuba is still there. They haven't all died.

The UK had its lowest ever level of recorded food self sufficiency in 1939. Just 33% of total consumed foodstuffs were grown or reared in the UK. And a few months later an economic blockade of U-boats and Luftwaffe aircraft began. Merchant shipping fled UK waters for fear of being sunk. A full scale European War was on so a huge rearmament project was undertaken at the expense of consumer goods. To make matters worse a military conscription was instituted. Severely limiting the availability of workers to make those military machines. Or grow the food that was suddenly, overnight, required. 

AND..to make a bad situation worse,  the 1939/1940 winter was the coldest one for 45 years.

AND..worse, the nation still had not recovered from the Great Depression. Was almost bankrupt, despite being a Great Power of Empire. There really was 'no money left.'
And the tiny amount that was left was required for fuel, food and weapons with nothing left over for anything else.

AND.. to make a terrible situation even more unbearable, as the British Empire and French Empire had failed to repay their war loans of 14-18, ALL goods that now needed to be purchased on an unimaginable scale from the New World, were required, by US Law, to be paid for in cash. And shipped in Empire and French empire ships that were currently being sunk by bomb, torpedo and mines.
The USSR would not supply the western democracies. They had done a deal with our enemies. There was no G8. There was a G5. China was an agricultural warlord run country. Already at war with one of the other great powers. And able to supply the UK with nothing at all. 
And not as today, able and willing if necessary to replace as much of the EU trade as we wish.

AND..as if it couldn't get any worse, Southern Ireland refused to have anything to do with the UK. So only UK ports and airfields could be used for shipping. And any planes landing on those airfields arrived totally empty as cargo carrying aircraft had not yet the range to reach the UK from the USA.

AND..the port of Dover, that, remember, could apparently be shut down overnight by a no trade deal, was under air, artillery and missile attack from the fall of France in 1940 until the end of 1944.

AND .. UK transport was primarily rail and sea. Even when those ports and stations and rail junctions and electricity hubs were not being bombed with high explosives and incendiaries there were very lengthy load/unload times. There were no container ports. There were no containers. There were about to be fewer dockers and railway workers too. As men volunteered or were called up the hundred's of thousands.

AND ..AND..the Nazi war machine wasn't just bombing airfields and tank parks and dockyard cranes. It was bombing cities. 

Its odd that a nation that is going to run out of medicines just 14 days after a 'no deal' with only the Eu countries, managed to treat 1,000,000, additional civilian injuries between 1940 and 1944. That's 1,000,000 war related injuries. 87,000 additional life threatening injuries. On top of all the other injuries that were going on anyway in a very less health and safety at work conscious, health conscious, only semi-mechanised country. 
While those same civilian killing bombs {45,000 deaths in 1940-1941 alone}, killing doctors and nurses and landing on hospitals and cutting power and restricting ambulances etc. Without the benefits of modern medicines, vaccines, antibiotics and so on.
 AND ..there wasn't even an NHS bureaucracy to oversee all this mayhem! 
There wasn't even an NHS.

Somehow, within the memory of our grandparents, this country that is prophesied to fall to pieces within 48 hours of nothing more critical than a failure to agree something other than using existing world trade organisation rules, survived a total war that came with limited warning at at one of the most inopportune moments in our nation's history.
Not just survived that total, global war. But played a major role in winning it.

So, in that spirit, I call Total Bullshit on that most slanted of reports about this nation's capacity to withstand sudden change.


John in Cheshire said...

Bill, a good article, well said.
If only Mrs May would get rid of the traitors in the Civil Service who are doing their level best to stop us leaving the EU. But in reality, I think she's one of them.

roym said...

Feel like you haven't done history corner for a while.

Quick question. How long was that fuel hauliers strike back in the naughties on before we got queues at the pumps?

Bill Quango MP said...

The fuel protest strike was about 10 days before the government caved in.
Very, very quick in bringing the nation to a halt.
And the danger today would be exactly the same. Critical industry and limited stocks not able to be supplied from UK only shores. In fact it would be worse. As we import much more oil and gas now than in 2000. Mostly it all comes from Norway.

But how could a government, intent on going to no deal, NOT fill up the storage tanks. Not warn people in advance to stock up. And NOT have already a deal with the USA and others for immediate shipments, all customs cleared already, of oil and gas,in those home countries who are shipping?
DHL do customs for their parcels on route. On the planes that take them to their destination.
Gas is a worry. 45%+ from Europe. That's a lot of gas to find in a hurry. And. granted this is Theresa the Unready. So anything could happen. But still.

Mr Drew is the man for this critical energy supply situation.

The piece however, is simply a doomsday. All ports and airports in the UK are closed to everyone in the world, for long enough to kill us all. Nothing comes from anywhere and we all die in a month.

That there is very real danger and very real hardship possible from a no deal, should not allow for the Project Fear story to be given consideration as a serious scenario of what could occur.

andrew said...

Not to mention a flip side

Throughout europe, millions of people's jobs cease to exist as the UK doesnt get the goods and therefore does not pay.

A lot of that stuff will be food that expires in a week or so.

Supply chains crash.

300 tonnes of danish bacon are dumped on the steps of brussels.

The city goes on hols to the maldives en masse and forgets to supply liquidity to the shakier french businesses.

In other news and off topic
Happy to see highview getting their laes project going.
An answer to 'how does solar work in the dark' question.

Anonymous said...

All these scenarios presume that if forced to choose between starvation or allowing goods in without all the forms correctly filled in we will choose to die. Maybe. Maybe this says more about the world view of those in the civil service.

Anonymous said...

Anon - me back again.

To be even clearer. The EU can put up whatever barriers it wants to exports from the UK (subject to WTO - though even there they can break the rules and make you sue). However for goods coming into the UK the UK is in charge. Some pretty senior civil service people came into work, and spent time modelling out a scenario where they forbid food and medicine to enter the UK thereby killing large numbers of UK citizens.

1. What do you have to do to get fired in these jobs?

2. The question no journalist is asking is, "doesn't this mean we should prepare for an open border, unilateral free trade option if the alternative is death?" Follow on, "the infamous treasury scenarios which were covered up earlier this year did not include a unilateral free trade option, who chose the scenarios? Given - as shown here - the alternative is killing your citizens?"

I am not normally a fan of conspiracies but I am struggling to come up with an honest explanation of why public servants would model such catastrophic policy choices and ignore the ones that would not only avoid death but actually make people richer. Nobody is leaking that they are being forced to model silly scenarios so a good chunk of the blame sits with those officials and not their ministers.

As an aside it is funny that everyone is calling trump an idiot for his tariffs....then proposing to put up tariffs of their own.

As a final aside the head of customs has already testified that they should apply risk based measures, i.e. these are the same trucks with the same docs pre as post brexit and the risk of letting trucks through is minimal - especially compared to the economic suicide of stopping everything. So people know that frustrating incoming trade is deadly and unnecessary, and thus if they choose not to listen then every single iota of harm is intentional.

Jan said...

Bill..............this deserves a wider audience. Maybe the Telegraph or Mail could publish it to counteract the Guardian nonsense.

Anonymous said...

AEP in the Telegraph was warning months ago that we should be planning for no deal, because if we didn't do that the EU would dig in their heels, knowing we had no Plan B.

If Mrs 'No deal is better than a bad deal' May hasn't got this sorted than she should be shot. Are we really saying that the Civil Service are just sitting on their hands and refusing to do the planning, or sabotaging as in the OSS manual?

(The trouble with the 1940 analogy is that we were pretty united in 1940, now the majority of our ruling class are half-hearted about democracy and a large minority (for example, those MPs who approved a referendum but refuse to implement the result) are out and out traitors.)

K said...

Others here are correct: the worst case scenario is not that nothing comes in but rather that everything comes in. This has its own problems that will be exploited by the less scrupulous and so it's very reckless for the civil service to be prepping for a fantasy scenario instead.

However even if everything comes in that does not mean that anything will go out but that's the EU's problem. Where is their preparation plan?

And why is nobody mentioning the fact that not all customs clearance occurs at the border? BQ mentions that DHL do clearance on their planes but most likely their whole infrastructure is a form of bonded warehouse similar to the duty free area in airports: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonded_warehouse

My guess is that most big companies have bonded warehouses so they completely bypass the whole customs procedure and do it themselves. So if Dover/Calais is jammed companies like Amazon can simply fly stock from their EU warehouses into their UK warehouses and have their own staff do customs clearance.

One of our US suppliers keeps pestering us to get our warehouse bonded but when I skim gov.uk it just seems like too much work. The actual calculation and payment of taxes and duty is easy but it's the physical separation and inspections that we don't like. If HMRC would trust us we can do our own clearances and if things fuck up so badly people are dying then most likely HMRC will trust us.

Ravenscar. said...

I would write the same, you did it better Bill.

thank you.


Ravenscar. said...

A couple of thoughts to add to that superb post.

Necessity is the mother of invention and thus getting things done.

Money makes the world go around, it greases the cogs and loosens the bureaucracy.... and the world likes a good payer. If, if goods are being stopped at channel ports, the Americans and the rest are ready to step in but I'm sure it will never come to that, French Farmers as indeed the German car manufacturers will make sure of that, Britain will be fed and wheel clad and Italian shoe shod.

The real problem is desk bound unimaginative paper clip counters who foresee perpetually countless problems and can't envisage that, deal makers and importers/exporters find a solution - everytime.

Maybe, we're down but by a long chalk - not OUT and to that, we must engage thoroughly and with force of will, if civil servants cannot aid and adide to the end (OUT), then they should be shown the bloody DOOR, pour encourager les autres.

Anonymous said...

"they should be shown the bloody door"

Loss of pension for wilful obstruction would concentrate the mind wonderfully, but our wonderful judiciary would doubtless veto it and say it can only be used in cases of un-PC tweeting or Facebook posts.

Raedwald said...

Well said, Bill. Very nicely put.

When we get through this, as we will, it will be time to turn our attention to our public servants - the senior ones, I mean. Unless they abolish universal suffrage and the secret ballot they can't prevail in the long term - and right now they're digging their own graves.

CityUnslicker said...

This article is so on point I am leaving it for another day!

Ravenscar. said...

"they should be shown the bloody door"

Loss of pension for wilful obstruction would concentrate the mind wonderfully, but our wonderful judiciary would doubtless veto it and say it can only be used in cases of un-PC tweeting or Facebook posts."

Indeed and that is very much part of the problem, that they're bullet proof and they know it. what is clear, accountability and responsibility with large dosage of honesty needs to return to the ranks and in order to enable and facilitate it, we need to bin the HRA-ECHR-ECJ thus to get OUT - and so it goes, we arrive at another catch 22.
When did it happen that, the administration who are paid for by the taxpayer turned from public servants unelected at that and into the a authoritarian secret state?

The inexorable power grab by the unelected Kommissariat - EU politburo is the answer to that.

Jan said...

"When did it happen that, the administration who are paid for by the taxpayer turned from public servants unelected at that and into the a authoritarian secret state?"

I think it really started in earnest when TB was elected. There was a certain type of mindset fostered then which infiltrated all our institutions, the media and many of our large companies. He also stuffed the Lords with his cronies.

Anonymous said...

"I think it really started in earnest when TB was elected."

I think it started during WWI, and really got going during WWII. Rationing and controls were unavoidable, but they did give a great deal of power to civil servants.

They hung onto this power through the Attlee and Wilson governments, and various Tory governments were too weak to take them on. Only Thatcher had a go, and then as you say, Blair encouraged them. Telling people what to do and what not to do is essential to socialism.

It's interesting that the word "ministry" is used both for the church and the civil service.

Don Cox

Anonymous said...

100% OT - Trump and Greavsie !!


hovis said...

Jan, it's almost as if they have a "Common Purpose" isn't it?