Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Make the punishment fit the, er...

From The Daily Mirror:

Helen May, 39, who initially got benefits due to a heart problem she had since the age of 10, failed to tell authorities that her health had improved so much between 2014 and 2017 that she was capable to work in three different places.

The woman was caught cheating the benefit's system when a co-worker at a cafe reported May had recorded 10,000 steps on a single day on her fitness watch.

Appearing at South Cumbria Magistrates Court this week, May was handed a community order and told she must wear an electronic tag for the next 10 weeks.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Lammy Dodgers

From the Daily Mail

Critics round on MP David Lammy as Comic Relief suffers £8MILLION drop in Red Nose Day donations amid fears public was put off by his bitter 'white saviour' row with Stacey Dooley over Strictly star's trip to Africa

Comic Relief raised a total of £63million - compared to £71.3million in 2018

I don't think so. I think Lammy's an arse and I think most people recognised that in this case.

Here's the real problem

This year's Comic Relief's Red Nose Day show was watched by 600,000 fewer people than in 2017.

Some 5.6 million people tuned in to watch the star-studded telethon on BBC One last night, but last time round the biennial fund-raiser was watched by 6.2 million viewers.

6.2 million down to 5.6 million is a drop of around 10.7%. 71.3 down to 63 is a drop of around 13%. Not an exact correlation, but probably close enough. People are finding something entertaining to watch on a Friday night on Netflix rather than a bunch of old has-beens doing the equivalent of a company Xmas show.

Highway Code question(s)

If you are turning left, you indicate left. If you are pulling in from a slip road, you indicate right.

Q1. Where is the tipping point between them - how small does the angle between the roads have to be before it flips from being 'indicate left' to 'indicate right'?

Q2. Does it make a difference if the road you are turning onto is one-way (i.e. actual one-way road, or half a dual carriageway?).

Here's the diagram I did in Excel:

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Strange thought - maybe Jeremy Corbyn was right all along (on this particular issue)...

I've pretty much ignored Labour's wafflings about Brexit because they are woefully unclear and contradictory, all they do is trot out some gibberish and repeat the mantra "avoiding a damaging Tory Brexit".

In among the waffle however, Jeremy Corbyn himself has been consistent on two matters - he refuses to say how he voted in the Referendum and has always said that he thinks the UK should leave the EU but remain in the Customs Union. This always seemed like a daft idea to me, and I automatically assumed it was wrong because he said it.

This is a perfectly plausible outcome - Turkey is in the Customs Union (actually, it's in a customs union with the Customs Union as this lengthy but informative article explains) but not in the EU.

The (a typical) CU only applies to goods, not services; Turkey is not in CAP or CFP; there's no free movement between EU and Turkey; a lot of EU rules simply don't apply there; Turkey doesn't have to impose VAT; and so on.

At our last YPP meet-up, Mombers (a moderate Remain voter) asked me what was so bad about staying in the Customs Union, given that the average tariffs are only 1.5% (a drop in the ocean compared to the current UK domestic tariff of 20% on most goods and services).

And to be honest, I struggled to think of anything really bad. Even the hard Leaver present (see comments!) couldn't think of any fatal flaws. Which got me thinking. Clearly, it's not a one way bet and there are downsides, but it would fix a lot of actual problems (car manufacturer supply chains) and perceived problems (chlorinated chicken, Irish border).

So not much changes, nothing changes for the better (but those who would gain don't know it so aren't protesting) but nothing changes for the worse either and everybody knows what they are doing. A price worth paying to get out of the EU.

The Week has a nice short article on the pro's and con's of leaving it (so the con's are pro-CU etc).

The advantages (actual or perceived) of staying in the CU make sense to me.

What are the disadvantages of staying in the CU, do they outweigh the advantages?

The first linked article lists some downsides for Turkey of the EU-Turkey deal, but these are individually negotiated and we should be able to do better. Turkey made a lot of concessions being a much weaker partner and seeing this as a first step to full EU membership. The UK is going in the other direction. I've read other articles and all the disadvantages, while real, are fairly minor.

The second article lists the following:

Hard Brexiteers warn that staying in a customs deal with the EU will prevent the UK from negotiating future trade deals.

That is true, but we've not done very well so far, in two-and-a-half years, we've managed an FTA with Switzerland and that's it (which we'd have in the CU anyway). I'd rather have free trade with Europe than with America anyway.

May herself has been vehement in her desire for Brexit Britain to be a “global leader in free trade”, arguing in her Mansion House speech that it would be a “betrayal of the British people” to stymie its potential by joining a customs union.

Ignore the grandstanding crap about "global leader in free trade". What does that even mean? We should be doing things for our own benefit, not to impress or influence other people. The deal which May (a Remain fifth columnist) is pushing really is a "betrayal of the British people", so she can shut up.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has tweeted that “the referendum vote was clear - we need to take back control of trade - that means leaving the protectionist customs union”.

The vote was to leave the EU, full stop. Everybody had their own reason why they voted Leave. I doubt that many Leave voters put "take back control of trade" right at the top of their list of reasons.

Arch Brexiteer and chair of the European Research Group Jacob Rees-Mogg has argued that staying within a customs union would leave the UK paying Brussels huge sums each year while having no say on rules and regulations imposed on business and commerce.

He can f--- right off. The first part is either a lie or evidence that he knows nothing about it. If we were in the Customs Union, we would have to impose EU mandated tariffs (about £3 - £4 billion a year) but would not need to hand them over to the EU any more, pretty much the opposite of what he said.

True, the EU will no doubt stiff us for an 'access fee', but such is life, it depends on the numbers. As long as it's less than £10 billion a year (or whatever our net payments are now), that's a win.

It is also true that the UK would have no say over the rules, but:
a) EU rules on quality of food and goods seem fair enough to me
b) the UK is a fairly typical European country. Measures that 'protect' French farmers would also 'protect' UK farmers; measures that harm UK potteries would also harm German potteries etc. The EU would have to pretty devious to think up things which only harm UK producers or consumers while benefiting them in EU Member States.
c) UK services would be entirely outside the system anyway.

Rees-Mogg believes that, after leaving the union, the UK should phase out all tariffs in order to reduce consumer prices and stimulate competition.

Oh does he now? The average EU tariff is only 1.5% for crying out loud, that is the least of our worries. I bet he loves VAT though.

Nobody move or the estate agents get hurt!

From the BBC:

Some 77% of members asked by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said that the Brexit impasse was holding back activity.

New buyer enquiries, sales, and homes being put on the market all fell in February, the survey said.

This would mean a "challenging spring" for housing and the economy, it said.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Nobody move or lower ranked NHS managers will throw more sickies!

From The Daily Mirror:

Almost 11,000 doctors, nurses and support staff were off work daily with stress, anxiety and ­depression, the latest NHS Digital figures reveal.

The biggest proportion of sick days triggered by stress was among lower ranked managers for whom it was one in three.

Across the NHS stress now accounts for 24% of all days lost to sickness. Five years ago it was 19%.

Sara Gorton, of Unison, said: “The huge shortage of staff is the biggest problem and Brexit uncertainty isn’t helping."

France not entirely daft - shock

from Ecommerce News Europe:

The French Minister of Finance told newspaper Le Parisien that the proposed tax is aimed at companies with worldwide digital revenue of at least 750 million euros and a French revenue of more than 25 million euros.

He wants to target commission-based online platforms, like Amazon or Companies that sell their products on their own websites, like French ecommerce company Darty, wouldn’t be targeted.

Good start - the point about these platform/intermediary companies is that their value is in network effects aka rent, and rent is the main thing that governments should be taxing. You have to be able to distinguish it from true earnings, which is why companies like Darty are exempted. People only use Facebook, Twitter etc because everybody else does.

In total, there are about 30 companies that would be affected if the tax plan gets greenlighted. These companies are mostly American, but also German, Spanish and British, as well as one French company (Criteo) and several companies that are originally from France but have been bought by foreign players.

According to Le Maire, a taxation system for the 21st century has to be built on what has value today. “And that’s data”, he said. The minister also added it’s a matter of fiscal justice, with these companies paying some 14 percentage points less tax than small- and medium sized enterprises in Europe.

He misses two points. It's not so much control and ownership of "data" in itself that indicates a rentier status (some companies store lots of their own data, and good luck to them, that's not rent, that's good record-keeping), it's "other people's data" aka network effect etc. And how much tax other companies pay is irrelevant, if they are earned profits in a competitive market, then they should be taxed at lower rates (or not at all). But never mind.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Cattle news - sign the petition

Via @AmbushPredator, from The Daily Mail:

For decades, a farming family’s herd of long-horned highland cattle have been a Peak District tourist attraction. The ‘gentle’ beasts had roamed Baslow Edge in Derbyshire since being introduced by the family and were admired by photographers and ramblers alike.

But now farmer Alex Birch has been forced to sell or slaughter the herd of 27 after a dog owner complained he felt threatened by one of the animals. The 32-year-old said the dog owner made a complaint to the Health and Safety Executive after a cow ‘pinned him against a wall’.

He said: "They claimed the cow went for his dog and the dog went to the human who protected the dog. The cow never hurt anyone but just approached the man. Anyone who knows about these cattle will know that, if you get in that close, it’s going to hurt you."

Dog walkers are asking for trouble near cattle, doesn't everybody know that? Maybe they should start printing reminders on dog food packaging.

I also feel threatened by cattle, which is why I give them a wide berth, it never occurred to me to contact Health & Safety.

Here's a link to the petition, now up to 20,000 signatures - please add yours!

Friday, 8 March 2019

Nobody move, or the expat pensioners get hurt!

Spotted by Physiocrat on

Will UK nationals continue to get their State Pension uprated under no deal?

The UK leaving the EU will not affect entitlement to continue receiving the UK State Pension if you live in the EU, and we are committed to uprate across the EU in 2019 to 2020. We would wish to continue uprating pensions beyond that but would take decisions in light of whether, as we would hope and expect, reciprocal arrangements with the EU are in place.

Physiocrat (himself an expat pensioner) adds:

My father emigrated to Australia to be with relatives and was swindled by the UK Government due to the non-uprating of pensions.

It seems as if the UK government is about to play the same dirty trick again. This is just using Brexit as an excuse. If the Spanish government decides not to uprate its citizens pensions living in the UK, why should the UK government punish UK citizens living in Spain by refusing to uprate theirs?

What is the connection? I understand that Norway has a reciprocal arrangement, but then the numbers involved as so small as to be insignificant.

Like so much that has been said about Brexit, it is a strange logic. The British pension is a contributions-based entitlement. What business is it of the government to restrict it if people choose not to live in the UK?

I smell foul play in the offing. A stink needs to be made.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

If only...

From Sky News:

The Government will slash Britain's trade tariffs to more than at any point in history...


... if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, Sky News has learnt.