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William Keegan on business
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    As the reality of what lies before Britain dawns, the voice of the people, which spoke via the referendum, may well wish to speak again

    Shortly before the fateful referendum, Lord Carrington, the Tory party’s most distinguished elder statesman, was at a Sunday lunch in the country, listening patiently to the younger element discussing the merits or otherwise of one Alexander (Boris) Johnson. When they eventually paused for breath, the great man spoke, and brought the conversation to a halt with the simple remark: “Anyway, he won’t do.”

    I recalled this episode last week when Ken Clarke, one of my favourite Tories of the generation after Carrington, and now in turn very much an elder statesman in his own right, was reported as saying something that could be paraphrased as “anyway, the referendum won’t do”.

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    Opposition to the Labour leadership from MPs who remember the 1980s is easy to understand. But it is time to focus on the grave prospect of EU exit

    ‘Why are you going to the Labour conference?” asked the Liverpool taxi driver.

    “Well, I’ve got used to attending funerals this year.”

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    Mark Carney warned months ago about the difficulty of financing Britain’s deficit when confidence in us is collapsing. He was right

    We Remainers must not give up. The future of this country, and indeed of Europe, is far too important to accept the argument that we are bad losers and “it is time to move on”.

    It cannot be repeated often enough that on the evening of the fateful day, 23 June, when the initial results of the referendum seemed to be going against him, Nigel Farage declared that, if the result were to be 52% for Remain and 48% for Leave, then there should be another referendum.

    Brexiters crow that the roof has not fallen in. Or, as the man said toppling from the skyscraper: 'So far, so good'

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    Theresa May should be true to her pre-referendum views – and put our departure from the EU to a parliamentary vote

    People in high places have been shocked by the ignorance of the leading Brexiters, who are embarked on a course which threatens, unless they are thwarted by our sovereign parliament, to bring this country to a sorry state. It is astonishing that in the early days after that fateful day of 23 June it had to be explained to the leading Brexiters what exactly a customs union was!

    This reminds me of the occasion a few years ago when my old friend Lord Lawson and I were invited to address a conference of high-powered lawyers and accountants on the subject of Europe at a resort in Portugal, our oldest ally. We were on different sides of the argument about our membership, but we both gave the audience a historical perspective from our own vantage points. It later became apparent that many of the intelligent members of the audience were grateful for the history lesson because, as they confessed, they knew little about the origins of the EU, not least the way it was designed to bring previously warring nations together in the hope of achieving a lasting peace by linking them economically.

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    The consequences of US isolationism, or an alliance with Putin, are so ominous that leaving the EU is the last thing the UK needs

    All right: the egregious Donald Trump’s victory is, in his words, “Brexit plus, plus, plus”, and it is far more significantly ominous for the rest of the world than Brexit.

    But what Trump’s triumph also does is to strengthen the case for re-examining the Brexit decision. Europe is now faced with huge geopolitical concerns. It should be pulling together, and resisting the centrifugal forces which the result of the British referendum can only aggravate.

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    The Leavers somehow managed to deflect the blame for austerity on to ‘Europe’. But they are far less convincing about our economic future now

    The European Union did not cause the 2007-08 financial crisis. The European Union did not instruct George Osborne to introduce an austerity policy which magnified the deleterious effects of that crisis. The European Union did not impose neoliberal and excessively deregulatory policies which contributed to a situation where the “fruits of globalisation” were concentrated in the top 5% of the population.

    However, in a propaganda feat which will go down in history, the Leave campaigners managed to persuade enough British voters that the EU was the source of many of our problems, and, just as bizarrely, that leaving the EU would be the answer.

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    The process of leaving is descending into a farce that reminds one of The Fast Show – except that it is happening so excruciatingly slowly

    The Fast Show, which ran on BBC television from 1994 to 1997 – the last few years of Ken Clarke’s chancellorship – has been voted the second-best television sketch show ever, after Monty Python.

    What we are now witnessing is the Slow Show – this excruciating, drawn-out process of Brexit, which shows every sign of eventually proving the most dangerous and self-defeating political tragicomedy of our age.

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    The effect of voting to leave the EU will become all too clear as prices rise and earnings are hit

    This is the year when our politicians and the so-called “people” – all 28% of the population who voted to leave the European Union – will reap what they have sown. Unfortunately, unless sense prevails, the rest of us will also suffer the product of their wild oats.

    The absurdity, indeed perils, of Brexit become more obvious by the month. Business is nervous; so is the City, which constitutes far more hundreds of thousands of employees than the small, avaricious band of bankers who made their notorious contribution to the financial crisis.

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    The prime minister’s simultaneous promises to exit the EU and look after the interests of Remainers simply cannot be given credence

    Theresa May is hopelessly conflicted. Quite simply, she cannot reconcile her promise to look after the interests of those who voted Remain with her commitment to a hard Brexit. To put it another way, she cannot look after the interests of the 72% of “the people” (that is, including those under 18) who did not “speak” on 23 June.

    For hard Brexit is what her policy is. By repeatedly placing controls over immigration above continued membership of the European customs union and the single market, she makes it abundantly clear that she has been captured by the Brexiters.

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    The abandonment of laissez-faire capitalism would be welcome indeed – if the shadow of Brexit were not looming over our whole economic future

    ‘If America had a parliamentary system, Donald Trump … would already be facing a vote of no confidence. But we don’t; somehow we’re going to have to survive four years of this.” Thus wrote the Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times recently. Unfortunately, although we in the UK do have a parliamentary system – indeed, the “mother” of them – the signs are that the majority of our parliamentarians are prepared to go along with the prime minister’s plan to invoke article 50 of the Lisbon treaty.

    It was Edmund Burke who, in his celebrated address to the electors of Bristol, said that MPs should regard themselves as representatives of their constituencies, not delegates. As far as one can gather, although Conservative Brexiters such as John Redwood and Iain Duncan Smith make all the noise, the majority of MPs think Brexit is a crazy idea, with the potential to do enormous harm – and last a lot longer than four years of Trump.

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    The majority in both houses believe leaving the EU is a disastrous idea. But only a principled few have tried to steer Britain away from its fate

    ‘The first duty of an MP is to do what he [or she] thinks … is right and necessary for the honour and safety of Great Britain. His second duty is to his constituents, of whom he is the representative but not the delegate.”

    These are the wise words of Sir Winston Churchill, ignored by the majority of our elected representatives in last week’s vote on the Brexit bill.

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    It is not just the British economy at stake: the absurdities and evasions of the Leave campaign are jeopardising hard-won stability across the continent

    There are many problems afflicting the British economy, and many afflicting the European Union. The trouble with Brexit is that it is almost guaranteed to aggravate both.

    Although I continue to emphasise the economic damage likely to result from cutting ourselves off from half of our export market, in common with many Remainers I am also exercised by the geopolitical risks in any move that encourages the current outbreak of nationalism in Europe.

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    Despite their conciliatory words, the chancellor and Theresa May are merely continuing the damaging small-state policy of George Osborne

    As the immensity of the consequences of the referendum strikes home, the May government is becoming increasingly dependent on the Conservative party’s rediscovery of the need for “infrastructure” and “industrial strategy”.

    It was therefore entirely in keeping with the chaotic approach of the Brexiters that Theresa May should sack one of her leading advisers on both these subjects last week, because she did not like Lord Heseltine’s opposition to Brexit.

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    Amid warnings of the dire economic impact of leaving the EU, we are reduced to hoping the Evening Standard’s new editor can counter the Brexit nonsense

    To adapt Dr Samuel Johnson’s famous saying: attacking the BBC for alleged bias is a last refuge of the scoundrel. In this case, the scoundrel is one Julian Knight MP, who last week assembled some 70 fellow Brexiters to attack the BBC for allegedly being biased in favour of the Remain camp.

    Yes, we Remainers still exist and, according to an interesting finding by Alastair Campbell, our numbers may well be growing, which could help to explain why the Leave camp, ostensibly monarch of all it surveys, is displaying increasing signs of insecurity, as the falsity of its prospectus becomes manifest to a more reflective audience.

    The terrible truth is that the Conservative and Unionist party has become the Conservative and Ukip party

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    The rationalisations and concessions are starting to emerge as the reality of leaving dawns. This is not the moment for Remainers to despair

    There is nothing one can do to avoid natural disasters, or “acts of God” as they used to be called. But the prospect of Brexit is a man-made disaster. I say prospect because it hasn’t happened yet and could still be avoided, despite the fact there seem to be a lot of people around who think it has already happened.

    The “best face” and rationalisation process has already begun. Last week saw inspired reports that, on her trip to Saudi Arabia, Theresa May was softening her tone from the earlier approach towards a “hard Brexit”.

    There might be a revolt of the young, who stand to lose far more than the comfortably off 'sovereignty' brigade

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    Of all the reasons for Theresa May to go for an immediate vote, the clearest is that the future prospects for Britain are darkening all the time

    My friend Paul Whitehouse told me the news in my local cafe. At first I thought he was practising a sketch for a re-run of the much-missed Fast Show.

    Sadly, he wasn’t. Theresa May’s repeated denials of an intention to call a snap election had gone the way of so many of her inconsistent and often fatuous pronouncements. There was going to be an election after all.

    If she ploughs on, she could end up by 2020 as the most unpopular prime minister since records began

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    Britain’s struggle with monetary policy has not just had economic consequences: it is also a key source of the Euroscepticism that has brought us to crisis

    This month sees the 20th anniversary of the granting by New Labour of independence to the Bank of England.

    It was not full-scale independence but “operational independence” in monetary policy: that is, the freedom to change interest rates without having to consult the chancellor. The Bank is still the Treasury’s agent in other matters, such as decisions about the nation’s currency reserves.

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    Nothing – not even policies for which Labour was excoriated two years ago – is too much to swallow for a party, and a leader, determined to rise above the fray

    Jeremy Corbyn may score badly with the wider public, but for as long as I can remember the press have given even the most admired Labour leaders a hard time during election campaigns. A recent exception was Tony Blair, who – for a time – achieved rock star status with the media.

    Many reports have suggested that when presented with individual Labour policies – in what one might call a “blind tasting” – respondents have been much more enthusiastic than when the names of Corbyn and some of his colleagues come up.

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    If the SNP or Lib Dems end up holding all the cards come Friday morning, the economic catastophe of leaving the EU could be averted

    An important moment during the so-called election “debates” last week occurred when a young lady in the studio audience told Theresa May that she had voted for Brexit because she had swallowed the lie that it would bring £350m a week for the health service. The prime minister, an uncomfortable Remainer and now an uncomfortable Brexiter, had no answer to this, resorting to the cliche that the government spends more every year on the NHS. This, like so many of the answers trotted out by her (also uncomfortable) team is an example of what Dr Johnson might have called “a last refuge of the political scoundrel”.

    The crisis arises because the increase in NHS spending each year is nowhere near enough to meet the well-known demands on the service. As I understand it, extra NHS spending is running at no more than 1% a year in “real” – ie inflation-adjusted – terms, whereas merely to avoid going backwards the service needs an annual real-terms increase of 4%.

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    With living standards already stagnating or declining, the remorseless reaction of the international markets to the referendum vote is starting to make itself felt

    When I suggested before the election that an ideal outcome would be a hung parliament and a coalition to think again on Brexit, I was certainly not thinking of the DUP. But, as Harold Macmillan once said: “Here we are, and the question is: where do we go from here?”

    It seems to be generally agreed that the election result boiled down to a vote against austerity and a vote against a so-called “hard Brexit”, with the young – predominantly Remainers and angry about austerity – in full swing.

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