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Weekend reading: Christmas crackers

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What caught my eye this week.

I have a stuffed hamper’s worth of links below to help get you through the Christmas break. However I struggled with how to introduce what’s probably our last post of the year.

Covid? Too miserable, interminable, unresolved, and depressing.

Brexit? Ditto, with knobs on.

Even recapping this bonkers year is a hard task for an investment blog.

In March we stared into the abyss. In a rare show of animation The Accumulator charged into the fray, urging “Do not sell!” from the ramparts of our passive investing HQ like some calculator-wielding William Wallace. I even sensed an opportunity, but hindsight and global indices back at their highs are deceiving and make such calls look smarter than the hunches they were at the time. This year confounded, and confounded again.

As I was mulling all this over, I was also moderating the comments on TA’s Financial Origin story from Tuesday and I realised they are the best way to end 2020. More than 70 readers have now shared their financial journeys – and in some cases report they’ve already reached financial independence.

The stories make for a heartening read. Please consider adding yours.

Keep on keeping on

More than a few of the stories give Monevator a nod, among other blogs, as playing a part in their success. Talk about an early Christmas present! It’s great to hear we’ve helped nudge a few lives in the right direction.

Indeed thank goodness for the much-maligned Internet. Some of us have spent most of this year alone. But it’s rarely felt that way to me, partly because this blog reaches a vast audience – approaching three-quarters of a million individuals over the course of a year.

Monevator has at heart a simple message and a design that needs updating, but it still finds a readership. Hopefully we’ll all spend less time in front of our screens in 2021 – but do continue to make some time for us!

Until then have the best Christmas you can in the miserable circumstances. Maybe phone a lonely friend?

I continue to think that (again, like Brexit) the true toll of the virus and the countermeasures will be counted over decades, not months. But when it comes to the upfront impact, the worst is nearly behind us.

The global economy could well roar in 2021. Stay with it!

From Monevator

What’s your financial origin story? – Monevator

…don’t miss the amazing replies from readers on that one – Monevator

From the archive-ator: How to enjoy life like a billionaire – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!1

Bank of England governor apologises after FCA failings over £237m investment scandal – Sky

Bitcoin breaks [far] above $20,000 for the first time ever – CNBC

Citigroup to offer up to 12-week sabbaticals to staff – Guardian

FCA establishes Temporary Registration Scheme for cryptoasset businesses – FCA

Average UK house prices up £13,000 to new record of £245,000, says ONS – ThisIsMoney

How London’s reach will shrink after Brexit [Search result]FT

Value is cheap, so is growth a bubble? – GMO Quarterly

Products and services

Big banks paid as little as 38p on each £1,000 held in an ISA in 2020 – ThisIsMoney

How to save the planet? Richard Curtis says it involves pensions, actually – Guardian

Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200 – Freetrade

Natwest the latest to bring back 90% loan-to-value mortgages – ThisIsMoney

Investment platforms scramble to retain new customers [Search result]FT

Another backdoor crypto investment option opens [In the US]ETF.com

Comment and opinion

Custom indexing is the investing mega-trend of 2021 – The Reformed Broker

Wealth tax would prove taxing for the Tories – FireVLondon

Supercharging your financial bullshit detector – Incognito Money Scribe

As Covid optimism grows, investors seek ways to hedge inflation risk [Search result]FT

Why Bitcoin is not that stupid – Deep Dish

Penis thieves and asset bubbles – A Wealth of Common Sense

Get ready to explore in retirement – Humble Dollar

Poisoned just enough: Why MMM is so optimistic about 2021 – Mr Money Mustache

Why you don’t want to invest in a hedge fund ETF – The Evidence-based Investor

A bubble in US stocks? Maybe, but the US is richer than ever, too – Calafia Beach Pundit

Macroeconomics and money [Reminder: I don’t necessarily agree with all that I link to. IMHO the first half of this is a useful summary. The second half is a provocative opinion.]Richard Murphy

Naughty corner: Active antics

Decoded: institutional investors’ BS – Institutional Investor

This man lost everything betting on stocks – Pragmatic Capitalism

HICL Infrastructure: dividend growth on hold – IT Investor

How to categorise stocks as quality, defensive, and/or value – UK Value Investor

The Unicorn decade is over and everyone is a winner – I’m Late To This

Analysts react to incentives, too – Klement on Investing

Professional investors underweight cash for the first time since 2013 – All-Star Charts

Covid corner

How science beat the virus – The Atlantic

Coronavirus doctor’s diary: “Have I got Covid for a second time?”BBC

Christmas relaxation will overwhelm the medical services – BMJ

Boris Johnson refuses to rule out third national lockdown – Guardian

More than 130,000 vaccinated in the UK in the first week – BBC

Online calculator estimates when you’ll receive vaccine – Omni Calculator

Sweden reverses face mask guidelines – BBC

New Covid variant spreading faster, scientists warn ministers – Sky News

NICE advises hospitals to check patients for ‘Long Covid’ after six weeks – BBC

Politics and Brexit

Brexit trade talks enter yet another ‘critical’ 48-hour period – BBC

How offshore odds-makers made a killing in the betting markets from gullible Trump supporters – Slate

Kindle book bargains

Wouldn’t a Kindle make a great present for that hopeless illiterate in your life?

Amazon FBA Step-By-Step: A Beginners Guide To Selling On Amazon – £0.99 on Kindle

Make Your Bed: 10 Life Lessons from a Navy SEAL by William McRaven – £1.99 on Kindle

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – £1.99 on Kindle

Bean Counters: The Triumph of the Accountants and How They Broke Capitalism by Richard Brooks – £1.19 on Kindle

Off our beat

Blob opera [Interactive fun!]Google Arts

Super cubes: inside the big business of packaged ice – Guardian

“Should I quit Wall Street to pursue my passion project?” [Podcast]FT Money Clinic

When a virus is the cure [On bacteriophages]The New Yorker

When the 1% moves town – Bloomberg

Jerry Seinfeld’s systems, routines, and methods for success [Podcast]Tim Ferris Show

Cockroach: Ai Weiwei’s new documentary on last year’s Hong Kong protests – BBC

The man who taught Uber to say sorry [Two months old but interesting]BBC

And finally…

“The love of money is the root of all evil.”
– Timothy 6:10, King James Bible

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every Friday! Like these links? Note this list includes a few affiliate links. We may be compensated if you pursue these offers. This will not affect the price you pay.

  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []
{ 148 comments… add one }
  • 1 xeny December 19, 2020, 12:02 pm

    For Saturday only, “The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution ” is 99p on Kindle – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Who-Solved-Market-Revolution-ebook/dp/B07NLFC63Y/

  • 2 BerkshirePat December 19, 2020, 12:04 pm

    I’ll be glad to see the back of 2020, assuming (hmm) 2021 will be better.
    Cue the murder hornets/alien invasion/return of the mullet

    Happy Christmas to all at Monevator- the ONLY blog I look forward to and read 100% of. Thanks for everything.
    Best wishes from a newly Tier 3’d West Berkshire

  • 3 Poweredbycaffine December 19, 2020, 12:18 pm

    TA’s Do Not Sell is without doubt my favourite work from here. During the preceding bull market I wondered how you’d deal with a significant sell off; very well it turns out.

    Thanks for a great collection of articles this year. Long may it continue. Here’s to a more prosperous 2021 for all.

  • 4 Haphazard December 19, 2020, 12:27 pm

    Thanks so much for a year’s worth of blog posts that have helped keep me grounded through quarantines, isolation and redundancy. The familiarity and simplicity of the design is a plus!
    Happy Christmas to everyone. Let’s hope next year is a better one.

  • 5 Neverland December 19, 2020, 12:59 pm

    The level of stupid is in England really amazes me. Any rational government would have posters up on every motorway and every railway station saying something like “See granny at Xmas, bury her in the New Year” instead we have a lockdown loosening

    People’s delusion and lack of self control is truly frightening

    Incapable of waiting six months for a vaccine rollout … truly depressing

    Still makes Brexit easier to understand

  • 6 William December 19, 2020, 1:15 pm

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all at Monevator and all Monevator contributors and readers.

  • 7 Vanguardfan December 19, 2020, 1:23 pm

    Well, I’m not sure if we’re allowed to mention the C word, or the B word, but with our elderly relative half vaccinated I am feeling like there is finally cause for optimism (notwithstanding the next 2-3 months which were always going to be the biggest challenge). I feel pretty heartened by the global expert scientific and humanitarian effort that has got us to that place. Let’s not forget it. Happy Christmas everyone!

  • 8 Playing with Fire December 19, 2020, 2:18 pm

    Thanks for a fantastic year of content Monevator. You’ve made a tough year a little easier.

  • 9 Grff December 19, 2020, 3:26 pm

    As any one ever used a no win no fee solicitor. I am considering using one to make a claim against LINK regarding Woodford equity income where I lost a few Bob. I am a bit concerned it will cost me if they lose. The chap from the solicitors said it might cost a token few quid if they lose but I don’t want to throw any more money at it for the sake of winning a couple of K back.

  • 10 Sara December 19, 2020, 3:33 pm

    Happy Christmas to Monevator – thanks for making Saturday mornings interesting & occasionally mid week too.
    3/4 million reach is something to be proud of.
    With a bit of luck, the Army will roll in to help, get the vaccination rate super high and the end of 2021 will be better than the beginning.

  • 11 The Investor December 19, 2020, 5:20 pm

    Breaking: New Covid rules for London and the South East. Into a new ‘tier 4’.

    Christmas relaxation plans cancelled for England.


  • 12 Tony December 19, 2020, 5:23 pm

    @ Neverland (5) totally agreed. One example, do people understand what 2m means in practice? I actively dodge others and move out of the way on the street and shops. Habitual for me but 99% of people I observe, no. Not everyone could do it, agility wise, but v.few even try.
    Grff (9)@ the terms of engagement will specify your liability for your solicitor’s fees, win or lose. Ditto the defendant’s costs if you lose and are subject to a costs award. There’s insurance I believe for that. But…..litigation is, like investment, a relative gamble only worth doing if a) you can afford the time and costs, b) the likely damages are worth it. A few K is not worth engaging a solicitor for and I’d be surprised if any solicitor would take that on, unless it’s group litigation. The only time usually it’s worth litigating a few K is if a) you need the cash, b) it’s a certainty you’ll win, and c) it’s a costs free jurisdiction (like the Employment Tribunal, or small claims procedure, most of the time) or your potential outlay is negligible for costs and legal fees.

  • 13 xxd09 December 19, 2020, 6:14 pm

    Happy Christmas and New Year to all -not meant cynically!
    Re Custom Indexing-one of the blogs highlighted
    I smell another scam to part us from our hard earned money via increased fees
    Am I overly sensitive?
    PS I notice that a lot of other sites with blog posts have an edit button available so that a correction can be made to a post for an hour or two after posting if a spelling mistake etc is noticed
    Useful for older members!
    Just a suggestion
    Keep up the good work -you are going to be needed in the NewYear

  • 14 Grff December 19, 2020, 6:26 pm

    Cheers Tony. It is a group litigation by a firm called Harcus Parker. I may leave it though. Not worth the stress.

  • 15 Scrooge December 19, 2020, 6:56 pm

    Thank You Monevators for another year’s excellent output.
    I’d like to wish you a Happy Christmas as much as the restrictions allow. And a prosperous New Year for everyone.

  • 16 weenie December 19, 2020, 7:26 pm

    Just seen the government’s new Christmas rules – just as well our expectations were set really low and we only planned for 1 day (mixing 2 households) over Christmas so phew, no change (still Tier 3)!

    Wishing all at Monevator and readers/commenters as good a Christmas as possible and here’s to a better 2021 for all of us!

  • 17 BerkshirePat December 19, 2020, 8:15 pm

    @The Investor
    “Breaking: New Covid rules for London and the South East. Into a new ‘tier 4’.”
    Yes, including West Berkshire..so I can’t travel home to see my mum and sister for Christmas. First time ever I’ll be stuck on my own. I will still find an excuse not to build the IKEA bed that’s been in its box since I bought it 6 months ago

  • 18 Tom-Baker Dr Who December 19, 2020, 8:57 pm

    Thank you Monevator for the great content you have been providing us all these years! Even more appreciated this year during the various lockdowns.

    I hope you all have the best Christmas you can manage given the circumstances! As TI put it: 2021 might very well roar. And I, for one, plan to stay with it. Have a nice one! Cheers

  • 19 Tyro December 19, 2020, 11:11 pm

    @ Berkshire Pat: “I will still find an excuse not to build the IKEA bed that’s been in its box since I bought it 6 months ago” ….

    I dismantled one when I moved home in February 2018. Its various pieces are still propped up against my (not-so-) new bedroom wall, awaiting re-building. I expect to be chucking them out when I next move home in 3 years or so. But who knows, maybe I’ll pay to move them from one end of the country to another all over again, so they can spend another few years being ignored by me …..

    Thanks again Monevator, and all the best to all for 2021.

  • 20 Dr FIRE December 19, 2020, 11:36 pm

    Merry Christmas to all at Monevator, and to all the readers and commenters.

    Thanks for the consistently excellent posts you produce each week, and for the valuable discussion that follows in the comments.

    Here’s to a better 2021!

  • 21 Maximus December 20, 2020, 2:32 am

    That Blob Opera link is brilliant!
    Merry Christmas to TA, TI and all.

  • 22 Warren Bogle December 20, 2020, 9:37 am

    Many thanks for your blog which I look forward to reading every weekend. Have a Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2021.

  • 23 Corvid December 20, 2020, 10:56 am

    I don’t comment much but I think I might be an an unusual demographic for you (female! Correct me if I’m wrong but your comments certainly seem to skew male). I love this blog although I don’t follow regularly – just binge-read once in a while. That said, I’ve pointed a lot of people in your direction. I know a lot of women who are where I was, which is early/mid-thirties, sort of stable (academia, so lots of short-term post-doc contracts), having a vague idea they should be investing for the future but with no idea how. There’s something about investing that is very intimidating – I guess it benefits fund managers to keep it that way. Monevator provides a perfect primer, which I have followed – and vastly improved my net worth. The main take-away was that you don’t have to get it perfect – any old collection of index funds is probably good enough, and certainly better than nothing. The main thing is to get started. I’ve sent the link to lots of other women and encouraged them to have a look and give it a go.

    So happy holidays to you all and thanks so much for the amazing resource. Hugely appreciated and I sing your praises whenever the topic comes up.

  • 24 Tony December 20, 2020, 1:03 pm

    Grff I vaguely had heard of Woodford claims. Looking at that firm’s website, I note it says “You could be entitled to 40-50% of the value of your investment as compensation.”
    At what point in time I wonder. Counsel will have given written advice as to the prospects of success. They’re the ones who win or lose this, more or less, subject to the evidence collated by solicitors and rebuttal of the other side. A claim like that is broadly pure legal argument, probably not involving much stress for you. But it will incur some time and paperwork. Whatever time committment is involved, the return needs to justify it, relative to other ways to spend time. Probably more enjoyable to use that time on more pleasurable investing and pursuits.

  • 25 Aron December 20, 2020, 4:59 pm

    Thanks to TA, TI and guests for great articles as usual.

    A very strange year, no doubt next will be just as eventful.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  • 26 spacebadger99 . December 20, 2020, 9:10 pm

    @Grff .. check out https://rglmanagement.com/woodford-litigation/ .. not a recommendation but one of the many out there. DYOR.

    Merry Christmas all…
    Looking forward to a round up of the year on Monevator… Jan to Feb!!

  • 27 Matthew December 20, 2020, 10:20 pm

    Ratesetter’s release queue has progressed quite rapidly in the last few days since they sold off their property loan book, they seem to want to do right by their clients (I just wanted the bonus) – but even in normal times I don’t think they give enough of a rate to the investor to justify the concentration of risk or the potentially slow access – I would say much better off with a total bond market fund if not for the fact that ratesetter is more cashlike/ individual bondy so there’s less interest rate risk, I just find it hard to place in your plan when you know about conventional investing – illiquid but low return? More default risk but less interest rate risk? Doesn’t cushion equities in a crash like gilts would for rebalancing?- would you really want that to be your “safe haven” or income that you live on?

  • 28 Pinch December 21, 2020, 12:18 am

    @Grff #9 and #14,
    ShareSoc is running a Woodford campaign which can be found here https://www.sharesoc.org/campaigns/woodford-campaign/

    They endorse the Leigh Day Group claim against Link Asset Services in connection to Woodford Equity Income Fund (WEIF).

    From the ShareSoc website:
    “Leigh Day’s investigations lead it to believe that Link allowed WEIF to hold excessive levels of illiquid or difficult-to-sell investments, and that this caused investors significant loss. In doing so, they consider Link breached the rules of the FCA Handbook and failed to properly carry out the management function of the Woodford Equity Income Fund.

    Leigh Day is accepting clients on a no-win-no-fee basis with each claimant’s contribution to the costs of the litigation being capped at no more than 30% (including VAT) of any compensation received, subject to the 30% being sufficient to repay the funder’s capital outlay and cost of funding. Leigh Day has secured the necessary funding and insurance.”

  • 29 The Accumulator December 21, 2020, 9:21 am

    @ Maximus – Blob Opera is brilliant! I skipped the link until your comment made me check it out. I’m glad I did.

    @ all – thank you for taking the time to comment. Knowing that what we do helps people really does make all the difference to us.

  • 30 MrOptimistic December 21, 2020, 11:05 am

    Thank you TI and TA for all your hard work, diligence and ( seemingly) inexhaustible enthusiasm. Looking forward to your book.

  • 31 MG December 21, 2020, 1:07 pm

    Glad to see the Richard Murphy article suggested!
    Found it a very interesting read

  • 32 Factor December 21, 2020, 7:04 pm

    I did a touch of just delivered early present opening today, to verify that it was the anticipated gift from number 1 son, so that I can confirm receipt to him.

    It is The Investment Trusts Handbook 2021 (hardback by choice because I always opt for them if available) and it truly is a “class act”. It’s brimming with hugely useful information and guidance, and even includes a table of platform costs (to compare with the familiar one here). I unhesitatingly recommend it to Monevatorites, whether into ITs or not.

    No personal link to anyone involved in the production or sale of the book.

  • 33 Al December 21, 2020, 8:29 pm

    The reference for your final quote is 1 (one) Timothy 6.10 – he wrote two letters. The translation, money is the root of “all kinds of evil” gives a better sense of the Greek. There is plenty of evil that isn’t related to money, like the mother-in-law! (Sorry, that example was unfair…on my wife).
    A Happy Tier 4 Christmas to you all!

  • 34 Matthew December 21, 2020, 9:37 pm

    Money = square root of evil
    (Money)^2 = evil
    Time is money, so anything involving
    Money * Time = evil

  • 35 KeepOnKeepingOn December 22, 2020, 9:36 pm

    Did try to leave my story on our personal journeys – but didn’t post/stick for some reason…? Interested to see Northern Soul inspired sub-title on weekend reading !
    THE blog, my guide and North(ern) star for my passive journey – 4 yrs to go.
    Will try re-submitting the journey once we get to Xmas…
    Festive wishes to all

  • 36 The Investor December 22, 2020, 11:26 pm

    @all — Thanks for all the comments here and on the other thread. I hope to dive in with some proper replies at some stage, but it’s all very much appreciated!

    @K.O.K.O. — Hah, glad someone noticed! Generally at most one reader spots my musical subheadings I’ve done whole posts with them without a peep before. Anyway, your comment ended up unseen in spam for some reason. Not sure what happened there but I’ve now approved it (and had a quick hunt in spam for any others!)

  • 37 hosimpson December 24, 2020, 8:39 am

    Interesting quote. Would not have pegged TI for a religious type, albeit a Biblical reference seems quite appropriate at this time of year.
    Timothy was a funny one though… A real zealot, if you catch my drift. Apparently his teacher and mentor Paul had encouraged him to have a drink every once in a while (for health reasons, you understand). Shame Monty Python never produced a sequel to The Life of Brian based on the lives his the disciples and their followers… Fun fact: Timothy was circumcised as an adult purportedly to make him credible with the Jews whom he were supposed to Christianise. Now, does this mean that in Biblical times, when attempting to convert a stranger to one’s religion, the first order of business was The Showing of The Knob? Jehovah’s witnesses should take note.

  • 38 Grand December 26, 2020, 11:14 am

    I hope you and TA had a good day yesterday and you’ve both a lovely new year. Saturday mornings is all about this blog!

    Keep it steady.


  • 39 Boltt December 26, 2020, 5:09 pm

    Thanks for a great website, keep up the good work (is it just me or are we losing fire blogs at quite a pace).

    The comments are also excellent – can someone kick off the Brexit deal comments…


  • 40 BBlimp December 26, 2020, 11:28 pm

    @boltt I’ll kick them off…

    -Tariff and quota free access to the single market

    -Some of our own fish back (compared to none)

    -No more 12bn a year net given away

    -oh let’s not forgot we rolled over virtually every deal with trading partners that the EU has – turns out you don’t need to be the worlds largest market to get these trade deals ( who would have known)

    …and us brexiteers are meant to be the economically illiterate ones 😉

    No point the economy being 4pc larger in fifteen years time if in each one of those 15 years you give 0.5pc of it away…

  • 41 xxd09 December 27, 2020, 12:25 am

    Light blue touch paper!!!!!!!!

  • 42 xeny December 27, 2020, 3:02 pm


    >No point the economy being 4pc larger in fifteen years time if in each one of those 15 years you give 0.5pc of it away…

    I disagree with your premise and conclusion. Simplifying somewhat:

    We give .5pc away each of those 15 years for a total of 7.5pc of GDP.

    Let’s say the extra 4% growth is evenly distributed over the 15 years, so on average over the 15 years the economy is 2% bigger.

    That totals 2% x 15 years = 30% of GDP. Subtract the 7.5% going in to the EU for a net gain of 22.5% of GDP. GDP/annum is ~£ 2 trillion, so you’re talking about a difference of £450 Billion over 15 years.

  • 43 The Investor December 27, 2020, 4:21 pm

    The only sensible argument for Brexit from a national position (versus this or that individual interest) has always been sovereignty. The economics are a matter of downside limitation.

    I guess we can give the government a nod for sticking to its guns on sovereignty, given that. I always call it ‘technical sovereignty’ because — as Ursula von der Leyen said this week — it’s a live question to ask what ‘sovereignty’ really means in 2020. It’s hard to see many examples where maximum sovereignty is going to solve the big issues of the day, apart from that minority for whom nationalism is all, of course.

    So fair enough, it is enough of a break to tick the sovereignty box I’d say. Personally I believe pretty much everyone else will be disappointed (until the self-delusion kicks in, so we get a new factory in Sunderland or whatnot and people ludicrously claim it’s *because* of Brexit, rather than despite it) but time will tell.

  • 44 Matthew December 27, 2020, 4:34 pm

    @TI – sovereignty can mean nimbleness to adapt quicker to problems without 27 different states with different interests having to agree – ie quicker approvals of every vaccine we will approve, avoiding the sovereign debt crisis by avoiding the euro. Policies that might be appropriate down one end might not work at the other – countries generally don’t get excessively big. There is an ideal size of country where you’re not having to duplicate parliments over and over again but you can set policies that are appropriate. – IE you would not have one common interest rate for the world or the EU, you wouldn’t have one size fits all fiscal policy – even geographical differences mean that in some places agriculture would thrive and in other places it’d be oil or industry or something else

    We also might want different environmental, or workers rights policies for example – if there was a lot to be gained from being more competitive it might be worth breaking ranks with eu policy

  • 45 The Investor December 27, 2020, 4:41 pm

    @Matthew — Sorry, I have zero interest in re-debating all this for the gazillionth time. I’ve said my piece on the final result, the deed is done. If you guys want to discuss it on this thread then fair enough, as long as it’s kept civil please.

  • 46 BBlimp December 27, 2020, 5:00 pm

    @matthew interestingly they probably could have authorised the vaccine in a similar time but when they moved their medicines regulator out of London none of the staff would go with it and they haven’t had a pool of sufficiently skilled staff to replace them… the theory of pooled sovereignty falls short of the reality which is why proponents also talk about it in the generality and never of any foreign policy successes

  • 47 Richard December 27, 2020, 5:34 pm

    @BBlimp – what? The staff didn’t want to leave? But I thought everyone wanted to work in the EU. I often wonder how many people kick off about losing their right to work in the EU but actually have no intention of doing so…

  • 48 A Betta Investor December 27, 2020, 8:45 pm

    The graph of “value stocks” relative to “growth stocks” in this article is astounding.


  • 49 Jonathan B December 27, 2020, 9:52 pm

    @BBlimp, I think your information is dodgy. The UK decided to put the vaccines through something called an Emergency Use Authorisation which happens under the EU regulations which still apply and any other individual country could have done. However the central European Medical Agency (not short of expert staff in its new Amsterdam office) went for Interim Authorisation which applies in every EU country – since its remit isn’t for any particular country individually – and that is a more stringent requirement taking longer scrutiny.

    (@TI, apologies for replying to a Covid-related post).

  • 50 BBlimp December 27, 2020, 11:23 pm

    @Jonathon B… why didn’t you look that up before saying it was dodgy?

    ‘’EMA previously said its total available workforce in Amsterdam is about 730, which is about 20% less than the 900 staffers EMA had in London. EMA said that 74% of those who left the agency in 2018 left by resignation, which was double the average resignation rate for the preceding five years’’.


    Handy thing computers

  • 51 BBlimp December 27, 2020, 11:33 pm

    @Richard – indeed. There was a huge fuss at the time about them being allowed to work remotely from London after the agency moved to Amsterdam…


  • 52 Jonathan B December 28, 2020, 11:00 am

    @BBlimp, my point in my post was that the two authorities were following different processes – both under EU regulations – whose requirements were not identical. That is why there was a difference in timing.

  • 53 BBlimp December 28, 2020, 4:40 pm

    Apology re; staffing accepted

    Different systems indeed- the point I was making was sharing sovereignty is a bad idea – sounds great in theory but the practicality is if we shared our sovereignty with the Eu the way Germany currently is it would involve us paying £12bn a year to get vaccinated later

    Lucky 52pc of us realised this was a bad idea. … I’m sure it’ll come a bit clearer in the summer when we’re a quarter ahead of Germany in the vaccination programme as Der spiegel laments;


    I so look forward to remainers looking at lockdowns in Germany and explaining to us how problems in the modern world can only be solved by sharing sovereignty

    Or perhaps with us as members we’d be able to convince Poland and Hungary to follow the rule of law ? If the shared sovereignty of 25 of them can’t convince their own members to behave how can 27 of them hope to influence the wider world ?

  • 54 The Investor December 28, 2020, 7:18 pm

    I so look forward to remainers looking at lockdowns in Germany and explaining to us how problems in the modern world can only be solved by sharing sovereignty.

    The pandemic is an emergency, not one of the big problems of the world (which would be things like climate change, nuclear proliferation, hollowing out of labour via globalization and technology, AI etc).

    The easiest and fastest way to get vaccinated would be as an individual buying a single shot and skipping the queue, were it allowed. Smaller units can of course be more nimble for certain challenges. I don’t recall ‘speedy response to a global pandemic’ being on the Leave literature in 2016, which is surprising given almost every other promise they could think of was on there.

    Personally I think nation states are a solution to a 19th century problem, not something you’d come up with from a blank piece of paper in a world with nuclear weapons, total war, instant communication across the world, etc, and many of the issues we’re seeing emerge in the 21st century are going to amplify the tensions of that mismatch.

    Fair point on Poland and Hungary, the EU isn’t covering itself in glory here, but to be fair it’s a pretty difficult issue given, again, nationalism is in the mix.

  • 55 The Investor December 28, 2020, 7:22 pm

    p.s. Italy, France, Hungary and Slovakia (at the least) have already started vaccinating their citizens. So your point about Germany as it pertains to the EU would seem to follow the traditional pro-Brexit template of being a cherry-picked bit of sensationalism.

  • 56 BBlimp December 28, 2020, 8:00 pm

    The article genuinely is interesting… Germany started to vaccinate a day earlier than those countries but they all more or less moved as one… but Germany has thrown its lot as regards the ongoing timetable in the with the EU.

    I chose Germany specifically because, similar to the U.K, it would be able to purchase/ produce sufficient vaccines for its population ahead of poorer EU states ( Der Spiegel contrasts Germany with Romania) but rather than purchase sufficient for its population and use them first it has instead chosen to use its money to help vaccinate the populations of all Eu states in sync…

    Would you be happy with the U.K. waiting an extra quarter with coronavirus because we’re busy vaccinating other Eu countries ? Think of all the money that’s been lost in the past three quarters – all the job losses, businesses gone under, mental and other ill health not to mention actually dying from the virus itself…

    I genuinely believe some remainers would be. They’d laud it as sharing sovereignty and the end of the nation state. Personally I can’t wait to see the back of covid restrictions and having a three month lead on the powerhouse of the EU will be the cherry on the cake ( and eating it )

  • 57 The Investor December 28, 2020, 8:27 pm

    @BBlimp — Yes, I probably would be. Not as a one-off, obviously, where we take it on the chin and that’s that, but as part of an ongoing 100-year commitment or whatnot, where we’re all getting richer, mutually supporting, sometimes we benefit sometimes they benefit, and so on. These poorer countries are not going to be poorer for ever — they are typically growing much faster. And Germany benefits hugely from trading with a weaker currency than it otherwise would if it traded alone, so it’s all swings and roundabouts.

    This is not to even get into the fact that the pandemic isn’t really solved unless everyone is vaccinated in a hugely interconnected landmass like continental Europe. Arguably slightly different for us as an island but you wouldn’t know it from our strategies/policy (all self-selected by the UK government of course).

    Anyway as usual when pitting Remain versus Leave pros/cons, it’s a matter of perspective. It’s not hugely clear to me why I should intrinsically want a petty nationalist Barry Blimp (no relation of yours! 😉 ) who is very unlike me in some far flung province of the UK to get vaccinated before some poncy pseudo-intellectual metrosexual hipster tosspot far more like me in Budapest. It was clearer in the 18th Century or even the 19th. I’ve got nothing specifically against that Blimp (apart from his terrible politics) but I don’t feel any great affinity.

    From memory Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash was prophetic on this — basically ‘nations’ become idealogical/political affiliations and tax bases, rather than bounded accidents of birth/geography — but I haven’t read it for 25+ years so might be misremembering.

  • 58 BBlimp December 28, 2020, 9:34 pm

    In this instance it’s not a personality ( or even nationality) thing… the sooner people ( of whatever nationality) who live here get jabbed the sooner the U.K. economy can open up and we get back to normal… I’d rather a French person living in the U.K. was vaccinated before a British person living in France…

  • 59 Matthew December 28, 2020, 9:45 pm

    @TI – once emerging Europe does grow to rival France, Germany, etc, maybe even sensing a stronger hand of their own, can you rely on their future generations staying in from that point? Maybe that would be different for a geographically peripheral country than a central one

    I suppose a separate thing would be being a citizen of the world vs a citizen of your own back garden – I think parenthood is a strong reason for people to be nationalistic – to favour their own. Likewise parents might sense that their own children/grandchildren won’t be too badly affected by climate change so might put economics ahead for the benefit of their own children’s futures. Also would have implications on opinions of IHT of course

    As Al Murray once said, becoming a parent can make someone immediately more right wing (as in “what just happened to me!” lol)

  • 60 The Investor December 28, 2020, 10:04 pm

    @BBlimp — Ah, I take your point. Yes, that’s coherent.

  • 61 The Investor December 28, 2020, 10:19 pm

    @Matthew — Yes, there are clearly reasons *why* people become nationalistic, because they self-evidently do.

    And I concede there are some arguments for it / ways in which it’s beneficial. There’s pros to literally every system of organizing people. For instance I do recognize the perception of a democratic deficit as groupings get larger and larger, even if I think it’s pretty arbitrary and basically historically-anchored. (E.g. The US does fine with its mix of States under a Federal Government and muddles along with a population of well over 300+ million — roughly 5x our population).

    The point is for me (and outside of sport! 😉 ) the cons of nationalism mostly outweigh the pros, especially in modern times.

    It’s hard to point to catastrophic downsides of international co-operation and greater unity, except vague senses of ennui or political alienation that may or may not really be at issue (famously many who came out to vote Leave didn’t vote in national elections previously, so I don’t really buy that they at least want more democratic accountability, but there you go) or second-order affects that are mostly failures of attempts at collective action (E.g. League of nations) rather than a consequence of it.

    In contrast it’s trivially easy to find disaster after disaster from too much nationalism — you can go to Godwin’s Law, obviously, but you hardly have to — just recently Venezuala, Zimbabwe, Turkey, arguably the US from a multilateral perspective under Trump although it looks like it’s drawn back before too much concrete (as opposed to institutional) damage was done.

    You may prefer a bit more nationalism, me a lot less. The obviously difficulty is that unlike if I like coffee and you prefer tea, we have to live in each other’s political realities, which is why roughly half of us have been at war with roughly the other half for the past 4.5 years 🙁

  • 62 Richard December 28, 2020, 10:32 pm

    @TI – isn’t the EU pretty much a 19th century state? Unification of Germany against France, Russia etc. Unification of Europe against China, USA, Russia. You may believe that the EU has prevented war in Europe (I don’t think it has myself), but I am not convinced it makes the world a safer place. Another superpower flexing its muscles over limited resources. Now having the power to counter China et al is one of the strongest reason for me to be in the EU, but it makes me sound awfully like a 19th Century balance of power politician.

    Interestingly, the winds at a more local level seem to continue in an early 20th Century self determination philosophy. Independence movements pushing to create smaller and smaller states. People wanted to take back control and have a bit say. I do believe Western democracies can be grown up enough to talk without needing a super national body to facilitate it. The issue is do we become easy pickings for larger neighbours……

  • 63 The Investor December 28, 2020, 10:35 pm

    Basically there was a time when say one country drunk out of the skulls of its vanquished enemies while simultaneously a near neighbour and rival worshiped a man who said turn the other cheek.

    Huge differences that could make different groupings of human beings appear almost alien to each other.

    There was a long time when to get a message from one place to another went as fast as a horse.

    We had devolved local institutions to wield remoter power (i.e. the feudal system) because there was no other way for a ruler/warlord whatnot to manifest the state’s wishes.

    Later a prosperous capitalist class demanded entry into the power structure, and this pretty much coincided with notions of nationhood and whatnot — for me (and the likes of Marx I guess) pretty bogus concepts and responsible for vast amounts of war in Europe alone for 400 years, but probably an inevitable phase we had to go through. And perhaps Germans were still sufficiently distinct from French to make a difference until the last 100 years or so.

    To stretch the case, even in the 1970s my childhood Atlas of the World had colour photos of thousands of Chinese people in their Mao suits or whatnot from the 1960s riding bicycles to their collective factory.

    But now, in 95% of ways, it’s not even that Europeans are mostly alike — even the Chinese and Mongolians and Chileans and the residents of East Timor are using Gmail and watching Pornhub (or its equivalent) and are basically capitalist and are overwhelmingly not warring with each other but rather trading and wearing each other’s jeans and t-shirts and slogans.

    Nationalists can make a massive song and dance about small residual cultural differences, but on any historical comparison nearly all nations are basically run the same way and involve citizens who live similar lives.

    There are big differences within any given society, but they map pretty closely to the same differences in any other given society, which is why you have hipster cafes in Melbourne, Bogata, and East London, and why you have disaffected ex-industrial unemployed people tending nationalistic in Africa, the Red states in the US and Bolton in the UK.

    It seems to me that logically nations have clearly outlived their practical application, but they could of course survive forever (/to the zombie apocalypse or whatnot) because they’re already incumbent.

  • 64 Richard December 29, 2020, 8:49 am

    What is the EU if not a form of nation state? Why does it refuse say Turkey entry if all ‘nations’ are essentially the same? Why does it enforce certain ‘cultural’ requirements to get entry to the club (levels of democracy, rule of law etc). Who says these requirements are the right / best way to organise people? Would you be happy for the Chinese political model to be here, after all people in China live the same as you?

    I believe the nation state has evolved rather than no longer being relevant, in the 19th century it was perhaps about the language you spoke or the colour of your skin. Today, it is more about the ideals, beliefs and political systems a group of people have. Whether that be democracy and the rule of law or universal free healthcare and un-chlorinated chickens. Which is why I believe the general direction in developed countries is actually devolution – people want more control over their own lives and more power to have a larger say in the issues that affect them (tech actually helps here). So lots of small ‘nation’ states. But of course not all things can be organised at a village, town, city or even 19th century nation state level. So mechanisms to settle differences, organise large scale, expensive programs and to protect these small nations ‘way of life’ are needed (such as the EU).

    But perhaps the next phase is already upon us – the multi national mega corporation. Looking more like the communist party or our feudal ancestors than democracy, are the bad guy of 1980s futuristic movies already here?

  • 65 The Investor December 29, 2020, 9:44 am

    @Richard — Yes, there are still differences between some countries of course. We don’t live in Star Trek times quite yet. 🙂 Turkey might be an outlier for potential membership of the EU in my view. Britain zero reason not to be in, culturally speaking.

    I see huge super-states like the EU and the US with smaller individual states as a solution, not a problem. To move away from discussing the UK for a moment to make it easier, in the US I could choose to live in a progressive coastal city or a more rural conservative state, while living under the benefit of the US super-state. I understand there are broad divisions that don’t see it this way either here or in the US, but they did as recently as 5-10 years ago and I see much of the trauma and outrage as essentially manufactured by politicians, or simply ill-considered.

    I agree with you people want more freedom and autonomy. Alas my freedom is not the same as ‘your’ freedom. (I think you’re pro-Brexit or at least ambivalent but I may be misremembering).

    Five years ago I had the right to live and work anywhere across a vast continent with different climates, housing markets, labour markets, and sea temperatures! Now as a UK citizen my freedom and right is to just live on this island.

    Brexit has won back some sovereignty — I’d say a fairly nebulous concept for 99.99% of citizens, given the enormous difficulty of anyone actually stating how badly we suffered having to share more of it before — but the practical reality for the 48.5% is their world has been shrunk, massively, by legal force.

  • 66 Richard December 29, 2020, 10:12 am

    I actually voted remain in the referendum. Not because I wanted to live and work in Europe (15 years ago that may have been important but having had kids the desire to uproot is no longer there) but because of the high risk of being poorer and the fact I believe like you we are stronger together in some sort of super state when defending our way of life.

    I moved to being amblivient / arguing the positives in Brexit after the Leave side won. I saw trying to reverse the vote as pointless and if anything damaging. So instead I tried to embrace it and consider that there is no right or wrong answer, just different paths….

  • 67 The Investor December 29, 2020, 1:30 pm

    @Richard — Fair enough. I think it’s a perfectly respectable position to hold, and my decision to march and agitate for a new referendum was a difficult and heavy-hearted one. I agree it would have been trouble if we’d got one and there’d been a different result in a second referendum, though experience from elsewhere in the EU suggests it wouldn’t have been a long-term problem. But it’s a bad precedent.

    For me the fact the Leave platform was the most bogus manifesto I’ve seen since the Socialist Worker used to promote itself outside of my university was a huge factor, plus I was concerned about the influence of bad actors and so on via technology / targeting etc. The latest research seems to suggest that latter wasn’t a decisive factor, making the decision even more 50/50 for me with hindsight.

    As you say we are where we are now and will be for at least a decade, probably two. (I’ve very little doubt we’ll eventually rejoin the EU, assuming most other factors stay the same). And at least we’ve got a trade deal for goods, and some clarity over the likes of holidaying in Europe. Ridiculous that for a while even that seemed in doubt, but like a harassed prisoner in an interrogation camp my expectations have been sufficiently lowered.

    Obviously I still believe Brexit will be a net negative economically for the UK (and any maths should remember we’re starting in the hole after the past 4.5 years of needless slower growth and cost etc) but I don’t think it will be dramatic. We’ll just be a bit slower and less dynamic every year, indefinitely. Ho hum. At least we’ll have more haddock and a potential 0.001% boost to GDP from that. 😐

  • 68 Jonathan B December 29, 2020, 5:38 pm

    I agree. The future test is how the UK does versus say Germany or France, taking financial year 2015-16 as the baseline.

    It has been the case as long as there is history that powerful countries act as bully-boys (going back to the Roman Empire, and before that Alexander the Great). Both the US and China currently behave like bully-boys, and Russia is doing its best to. The UK hasn’t nearly got the heft to hold its own against them, but when it was part of the EU it could.

    While I guess we could try to cling onto the US’s coat tails, that would almost certainly be to our disadvantage. Whereas we share culture and values with the rest of Europe. One thing is the common historical past, we all similarly went through events like Roman domination, Church domination, democratisation, the industrial revolution, two twentieth century world wars. And alongside that there was the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, Shakespeare, Dante and Goethe, similarly shared experience of music, art, science, technology.

    I suspect, the way China is moving, you are right that the UK will have to move back closer to the EU – to the point where it is stupid not having a voice at the table.

  • 69 The Investor December 29, 2020, 6:14 pm

    @Jonathan B — I imagine it won’t take anything so dramatic as China escalating to send the UK back into the EU. The vote was incredibly close in the first place, and the Leave vote tended much older. Sure some younger people will get more Leave-y as time goes on but I think the tendency is pretty clear and overall the Leave contingent will be edged out far faster than they’re replaced. (See also the demographic shift to the Democratic party in the US).

    As I see virtually no chance of much genuine tangible benefit from us leaving the EU for the average person, I imagine it’ll be pretty easy to stand on a platform in 10-20 years and say “free trade, economically richer, live and work anywhere in the prosperous EU, kids into Erasmus, free health care when you go on your hols” etc etc and to get elected.

    The high end of my time estimate is because I don’t think the EU would take us back in until it’s convinced the electorate has permanently shifted (/turned over) given all the hassle.

    Of course our new status if/when we re-enter will be far worse than the almost unicorn status we had before we left, but that’s water under the bridge now.

  • 70 Jonathan B December 29, 2020, 10:01 pm

    Agree, whereas we were until now members of the EU on our terms, if we were to return (and agree they would need some decent guarantees) it would be on theirs.

    Difficult to see much positive, but I will live in hope.

  • 71 Seeking Fire December 30, 2020, 12:05 am

    As ever an interesting debate, which will run and run.

    Financial Services so far looks negative (it’s a rather large part of our economy) – This very negative link from a year ago has turned out to be accurate from Jan 1st. The cure is either moving individuals to the EU, which doesn’t appear to have happened yet in large numbers or hoping the UK obtains financial equivalence. But in that case banks will have to hug the rules with no say in its formation. Which has the downsides of not being able to deviate from the rules but none of the upsides of having an influence in how they are being set. And is it sensible for an investment bank to base itself in a location where financial equivalence can be withdrawn at a months notice? And does the UK want to deregulate from financial services anyway given 2008 and all that. A real life and for the UK a very material example of having technical sovereignty but a loss of influence. What’s the plan to replace financial services if it declines?


    A call today with a client today in a manufacturing industry who was tearing his hair out at the substantial increased regulation that they will need to follow to seek UK approval as well as EU approval of their industrial products.

    UK shareholders in low cost airlines today being told their vote doesn’t count from Jan 1st to comply with EU guidelines.

    There is grit in the economic wheel everywhere you look and its kind of hard to see where the lubricant is although I hear cod liver oil is good for you.

    The sovereignty argument is quite a lot more compelling (I feel) and I sympathise with the (now middle aged to elderly) person in the street who said they voted for the EEC but not the EU. Although given the political objectives of the EU is very clearly written on the first page of Treaty of Rome one can hardly say the EU have been disingenuous here.


    The fault, I fear, lies with our politicians of all political colours, who have never been upfront with the electorate as to where the EEC / EU has always been heading given the economic benefits were so strong and the UK was in the gurgler in the 1970’s. Thatcher was one of the biggest proponents of the single market knowing the economic benefits but always had to talk tough given her party and the electorate. Which is why we find where we are today.

    On the flip side, I’m not sold one jot by the idea of EU controlling more and more of our economic policy. You may recall, back in March 2019, PM May received a heck of kicking trying to get the deal through parliament. This entirely overshadowed (in the UK at least), the stated desire for the EU to harmonise corporate tax rates – i.e. for the EU to decide how much its members (the UK if we had stayed) can tax its companies. It should have been meat and drink for the brexit party but received little coverage. You can imagine the Irish view to that….


    And I agree the geopolitical risks for the UK are significant with the prospects of being buffeted around. For the last 50 years, the UK has kind of been told what to do on many occasions by the Americans, which was sort of ok as they were a big brother / cousin etc etc. Somewhat annoying but broadly speaking our interests were aligned. The next generation is going to potentially going to have to contend with dealing with being told what to do by other countries whose interests are quite clearly not aligned to us. That might be a bitter pill to swallow. Being part of the EU would help give greater safety in numbers. But that’s conjecture I appreciate.

    Full disclosure, I voted remain although I was pretty 50:50 and still would be today given all the above had there been another vote. I guess the central case is still probably that the UK will muddle through just fine, feels likely we’ll end up hugging EU pretty closely. So I guess tail risk has fallen a bit. Still keeping those $TIPS given the rather large borrowing though 🙂

  • 72 Matthew December 30, 2020, 3:06 pm

    One point on the lost automatic right to work across the EU – the language barrier – it was never going to be as smooth as migration within the US for example, and for brits to want to work abroad there would have to be a significant carrot (or the perception of a carrot) to make it worth learning the lingo – did brits really have a substantially better paid place to migrate out to within the EU?
    It meant mostly one directional travel, it seems far more about importing a supply of labour than giving us more destinations to work. Wages were lower elsewhere because of the economic suppression of the iron curtain – and it’s odd to think that decades later those mistakes have been still influencing us here – people born after all of it, or who felt no responsibility for soviet era policy are wondering why they are competing against the effects of it so strongly in the labour market, alone, with business/elites happy to reap the fruits suppressed wages

  • 73 The Investor December 30, 2020, 4:45 pm

    @Matthew — I’m afraid those are typical specious right-sounding statements made by Leave supporters (regardless of whether you are one or not) that have no basis in reality and more basis in the fantasies of 50-something Barry Blimps droning on in Wetherspoons.

    Around a million British citizens live/d in the EU.

    So yes, Brits used their right to live in the EU.

    Out of the half a dozen economics studies published before the Referendum, only one found any ‘lower wages’ effect due to immigration, and only in the bottom tier of earners. So that’s one study with one slice of workers affected.

    So no, there was no massive suppression of wages due to EU membership being reaped by elites.

    Even if that single study was correct that there was a small impact at the margin, such an impact could have been trivially corrected with redistribution, from our far stronger economy due to EU membership.

  • 74 hosimpson December 30, 2020, 6:39 pm

    Matthew – leave voters really need to get together and iron out the contradictions in the bullshit they choose to spout.
    So is the problem that the Polish immigrants can’t string a sentence together in English and offend the British populace by refusing to learn the Language of the Land? Or is it that their languished skills are so good, they outcompete you in the employment market? Or are you saying, Matthew, that your job was genuinely taken by an unskilled Pole/ Romanian who could not speak English? This being the case, mate, you have bigger issues to worry about than immigration.
    Or are you talking about things like call centres that some companies chose to establish in East Europe? If that’s the case, how is leaving EU going to help? India has never been part of the EU and their call centre business was thriving the last time I checked.
    Your entire line of argument reminds me of coal miners in Trumplandia. They think their industry has been decimated by globalisation and immigrants, whereas in fact its the automation and the technological advances in renewables. And believe me, as bad as you think low wage immigrants may be for the poor natives, robots are much worse – they don’t pay tax, don’t prop up the economy by consumption, and they don’t need visas, either.

  • 75 The Investor December 30, 2020, 7:01 pm

    @hosimpson — My favourite Leaver contradiction involves Germany.

    Apparently Germans are the super-arch instigators behind the EU project, striving to rob poor Brittania of every penny they can by foisting the EU and its four freedoms upon us, notably free movement.

    Yet at the same time the EU is supposedly an arrangement by which richer countries such as the UK see their hard-earned money being sent off to prop up / subsidize poorer countries, at supposedly no gain to us.

    So the evil German mega-villains (which is home to a higher percentage of migrants than the UK, incidentally) must be content to suffer all these economic hardships just to stick it to Blighty and any other uppity states.

    Which I guess they can afford to, because the EU has been so ruinous for their economy that they’re only the fourth largest economy in the world.

    I’d say you can’t make it up. But that would be untrue because not only did Team Brexit make it up — they won the Referendum.

    I wasn’t going to comment on this thread but it seems the PSTD runs deep. 😉

  • 76 A Betta Investor December 30, 2020, 7:07 pm

    However, the Germans have benefitted enormously from a much lower exchange rate through the euro than if they had stayed with the Deutchemark which has helped their industry at the expense of the rest of European manufacturing.

    But as Toze demonstrated in “Crash” in 2008 they totally refused to play the game and allow liquidity injections to bail out the banks so it was left to the Fed.

  • 77 The Investor December 30, 2020, 7:48 pm

    @A Betta Investor — Agreed, they do. I mentioned this up the thread. Poorer / newer members benefit from budget transfers. The likes of Italy and Spain benefit from low yields priced barely above bunds. French farmers get their bungs. We had our rebate and our access to the single market for goods and services whilst retaining our own currency.

    That’s the point. Pros and cons all around.

    Whereas picking one part, sticking it on a Facebook ad / the side of a bus and going “‘ere, look at this scandal!” hardly sums up the big picture, which is that pretty much everyone involved is made richer because, well, economics.

    (At the loss of some measure of technical sovereignty, which I’ve never denied).

  • 78 xxd09 December 30, 2020, 8:54 pm

    I don’t think the economic arguments cut the mustard with the voters
    They are by definition often made by the beneficiaries of the current system
    There weren’t enough of those to carry the vote
    The interesting question to me is why the vote went the way it did and I don’t think that economic arguments are the answer
    Until the actual causes are determined we will continue to see these very large upsets to the status quo
    Pursuing economic wellbeing -obviously at the expense of other more important reasons for the voters-won’t work

  • 79 Jonathan B December 30, 2020, 9:59 pm

    @TI, although as a scientist I distrust anecdotal evidence, as a few data points I can add to your reply to @Matthew that half my own family ended up living and working in other EU countries. It really does happen!

    To be honest, for me it is difficult to see where any (even perceived) disadvantage to EU membership lay. But Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, the Daily Mail and friends didn’t use facts anyway.

  • 80 The Investor December 30, 2020, 10:24 pm

    @Jonathan B @xxdo9 — I’ve gone round and round with members of my family on this.

    I grew up debating politics with them/friends. I’m an independent floating voter and have voted for four parties, ranging from the Tories to the Greens (in local elections!)

    Normally you debate the relative weight of the two sides to an argument, but with the exception of sovereignty there was no other side to this argument.

    They accuse me of not trying to understand the other point of view on this or think it through (even though I’ve written at least 15,000 words on the subject, including my first rant where I specifically discuss trying to explain to London friends why people are for example distrustful of free movement: https://monevator.com/my-brexit-rant/) whereas they have at best cheered on their side on Question Time.

    They come from the provincial left-behind faction of the Leave vote, albeit the lower middle class wing (as opposed to Blimp in the Home Counties) and they believe, essentially, Brexit was ‘sticking it to London’.

    Fine, I say. Then why don’t they understand why I say sovereignty was the only rational argument for Brexit? (Something they never ever bring up. That’s for the Blimps.)

    Naturally they cannot usually give a single example of a regulation or a sovereignty issue that was a problem.

    They all see free movement as a big issue. They can’t explain why but appeal to common sense. I ask them if they really think coal mines would still be open if there wasn’t free movement. No, they eventually say, but “there would have been more investment”. Where are the examples of government investment — beyond say low-tax retail parks or commendable stuff like infrastructure — that they want to see?

    They can’t give any.

    Why do people in rural / ex-industrial areas of the US express exactly the same frustrations? Could it be something else is going on?

    Don’t lump us in with Trump – spit – supporters!

    How did being in the EU stop the UK government taxing and redistributing to the provinces or the poorer parts of society, if that’s what the country wanted?

    They don’t know. But they know I don’t understand. I’m trying to trick them.

    “What you don’t understand is that people were angry!” they inevitably get back to. “They are getting poorer while London gets richer.”

    At this point I usually remind them that the most left-wing (albeit sadly hopeless) leader of the Labour party for 30 years was in place, and they could have supported and voted for him — since the UK government of course had the power to tax, spend, invest, and redistribute.

    “I’m not talking to you about this any more.”

    For four and a half years.

    The stupidest thing I’ve seen in my lifetime.

    One consolation as a fan of history is that at least it’s now easier to understand how people did other dumb things in the past.

  • 81 The Investor December 30, 2020, 10:36 pm

    p.s. I should add — as re-reading my comment it’s not clear at all — that I do have a lot of sympathy for the provinces, and I do see the growing geographic / wealth / background inequalities as a big and growing issue. Which is why I also sometimes get accused on this website of being a rabid lefty, why I call for very high inheritance tax, etc. I even voted for Labour in the last election *despite* it being led by Corbyn!

    I believe none of those important issues have been addressed by leaving the EU, and indeed it’s probably made most of them worse.

  • 82 Richard December 30, 2020, 10:50 pm

    Perhaps the leave vote boils down to something deep rooted in the national psyche. Whether that be distrust of the French and Germans (like 1000 years of love / hate with the former and like 200 years in the later), or a rose tinted view of the long gone superpower status of empire. They are an easy target to blame all your woes on.

    Of course this starts to boil back down to Sovereignty, but I doubt anyone would admit it was due to subconscious rivalries from the 100 year war. I guess not everything we do in life is always driven by cold hard logic and reason, we are but human….

  • 83 The Investor December 30, 2020, 11:01 pm

    @Richard — Yes, I’m sure it’s that sort of thing that drove much of the vote.

    Britain is pretty unique in Europe in having a singularly positive World War 2 story to tell. I suppose the other country near-ish us that could say the same is Russia, and I don’t see them joining the EU anytime soon! 😉

    I have no problem with people saying they voted to Leave because they’d rather Britain is entirely in control of all its affairs, even at the cost of being poorer and less influential in the world. Zero problem with it, as long as they don’t try to bolt-on other fantasy economic stuff.

    I have no problem with nationalists-if-not-racists telling me they voted to Leave because they were sick of Polish shops in their High Street. I have a problem with their world view, but their vote is logical in so far as it goes.

    People can say they voted Leave because they want all UK laws to stop with the UK courts. Fine, that’s a reasonable point of view, albeit not one I share. And about the only good aspect of Johnson’s ‘deal’ versus May’s as I see it is he delivered this for Leave supporters.

    However the above makes up – generously – about 10-20% of what you hear when you talk about Brexit, in my experience.

    It’s mostly all regulation, crushed wages, fishing, sponging off benefits, UK getting ripped off and paying for Greek pensions, etc etc.

  • 84 A Betta investor December 30, 2020, 11:49 pm

    I do wonder if putting this matter to the vote, as the
    Modern trend for democracy dictates, gives us better governance.
    One or 2 hundred years ago this would have been decided by the great and the good, who would probably have said Remain. Would that have been better?
    But I guess if that meant giving up some power, even for the benefit of greater wealth for the nation, maybe even they would have said leave.

  • 85 xxd09 December 31, 2020, 12:36 am

    Interesting comments
    Especially when Leave decisions are not susceptible to rational arguments -no use going there
    What is going on?
    Obviously more than 50% of the population very disgruntled with the status quo
    Voting with their gut rather than with their head
    Still looking for reasons for this behaviour and it does need some serious work because the Brits are not alone with this type of behaviour
    If not sorted – will keep happening
    Trump,SNP etc etc
    I do think the pace and demand of a modern lifestyle in a Western democracy is pretty tough-too much for too many people?
    Some straws in the wind, divorce rate,number of single parents, women having to go to work when children are very small,many women opting not to have children ,unaffordable housing etc etc
    Just some rumbles/observations from an old man !

  • 86 The Investor December 31, 2020, 9:18 am

    One or two hundred years ago this would have been decided by the great and the good, who would probably have said Remain. Would that have been better?

    It’s really important and instructive to remember that our membership of the European Union wasn’t a ‘live’ issue for 80% (at least) of the electorate prior to around 2015. That was born out in survey after survey after survey, where it came way down the list of what general public cared about.

    It was an issue for the Conservative party, and a very important issue for a small minority of Britons who chafed under the idea of us being in the EU. (The core of the Brexiteer vote.)

    At most the EU was a whipping boy for the tabloids.

    Putting it to the vote, as you say, is literally what made it into a divisive issue, and precipitated our exit.

    If David Cameron hadn’t done that, I’m pretty sure Farage would still be campaigning for Brexit, 20% of the Tory party would be saying we wouldn’t have had the virus if we ‘controlled our own borders’ (sigh), the economy would be about 5% bigger overall (mental guesstimate of compounding 4.5 years of slightly slower growth and political rancour and distraction) and life would otherwise be as ‘normal’ (for a pandemic year).

    That’s what I mean by “the stupidest thing” by the way. I am not saying all votes for Leave were stupid (again, sovereignty, fair enough). I’m saying it wasn’t an important issue for most people, it was voted for on the back of fabrications, and it mostly won for the wrong reasons and won’t deliver what a sizeable chunk of its voters wanted, and it was a vote to make us and our descendants indefinitely poorer, with all that entails.

  • 87 hosimpson December 31, 2020, 9:31 am

    I know, I resisted commenting for three days. But in the words of Dan from Zero Dar Thirty, in the end, everybody breaks, bro .

  • 88 Richard December 31, 2020, 9:33 am

    @A beta investor – it is an interesting point. In the months following the vote I remember a number of comments here were coming close to saying we should revert to a 19th C. Oligarchy type government as the people can’t be trusted to do the right thing. I remember one or two were even along the lines of a desire to destroy the common man (financially). However you feel about Brexit, this talk is a big step back (in my mind) and really makes you sound no better than the people you are railing against. Oligarchies protect their interests, which is great while you are aligned with them, but bad news when you fall out of favour.

    The ‘mistake’ was calling the vote in the first place (assuming you only wanted one outcome). Once the vote occurs, and as long as it follows the rules agreed by parliament (I think all sides signed off on the rules), then I think it is a bad day for democracy to try and overturn it. Of course, people can still vote for the wrong thing (either with hindsight or in a morally questionable way) and democracies can still fall from the inside (rise of the Nazis for example), but you hope this makes democracies stronger in the long run rather than an argument to abandon democracy because it doesn’t always work.

  • 89 A beta investor December 31, 2020, 10:03 am

    People fought and died to achieve full democracy.
    Obviously those campaigns are lost to us now but the arguments presumably were to give control to the masses. Whether the consequences of that were explained is hard to know.
    But the opposite position, which at the extreme is represented by China, don’t worry about democracy we, the great and the good, will look after and keep you safe and prosperous.
    TI will say the campaign was mendacious. Which is true, but they all are.
    Don’t forget 71m people thought Trump was the best person to lead the world’s largest economy.

  • 90 The Investor December 31, 2020, 10:44 am

    Personally I think the best thing about democracy — and it really is the winning thing, which makes it the best system in my view — is that it curbs the ability of elites or strongmen to get indefinite unlimited power.

    In a basically functioning democracy like the UK or US or the EU, you can throw them out, in other words. All kinds of good things come from that.

    But that’s pretty much where the advantages stop. It’s a 100% winning advantage, but it only goes so far. Electorates do not always make anything like the best decisions, and as has been said above they can be lied to with success.

    I’d go even further — the inability of the electorate to assess most complex problems outside of their own domain (and obviously I include myself in this — what do I know about geopolitical instability or the most effective agricultural policy, for instance?) means they need to be dumbed down to, and perhaps even lied to.

    Many ancients thought democracies would eventually fail because the people would continually vote themselves more money and no taxes. Reality is far more subtle (they often do the opposite) but whatever the alchemy, it’s not wholly rational.

    Which, yes, I guess is an argument for saying that even though the vote to Leave was a terrible decision, in my view, even for most of those who voted for it, it might have some wider purpose in the execution of our democracy.

  • 91 A beta investor December 31, 2020, 11:18 am

    TI totally agree with you.
    As with finance the only solution is education. Voters, like investors, need to understand what they are buying.

    I think you should start a new blog:

    Ten things every voter needs to know

  • 92 Al Cam December 31, 2020, 11:27 am

    FWIW, to me it boils down to the following two things:
    a) never ask a question unless you are prepared to hear the answer; and
    b) running a campaign based on the status quo and fear may have appeared to work for Indy Ref but it was not in any way compelling re the EU

  • 93 xxd09 December 31, 2020, 11:30 am

    Currently reading “The World turned Upside Down” by Christopher Hill
    Many analogies with the 1640-50,s-Cromwellian era
    The people took back control for many years from their “Betters-“even cutting the head off a recalcitrant Remainer-Charles 1st!
    The “Betters”eventually regained control -Charles 2nd etc
    Life however was never the same again-divine right of kings abolished etc
    If our leaders or “ betters” lose touch with reality ie the people-these outcomes will occur again and again
    Probably not much any of us can do about it
    A normal state of human affairs-up and down -like the stock market-but hopefully progress is generally upward

  • 94 ZXSpectrum48k December 31, 2020, 11:36 am

    @Richard. What the Brexit vote demonstrated so admirably is that the majority of people have opinions on things they know absolutely bugger all about. That’s my biggest problem with the Brexit vote. There are perfectly rational reasons to vote Leave but the majority who voted Leave (and, for that matter, many who voted Remain) based their vote on spurious beliefs, gut feeling, instinct and other crap, rather than empirical data and logic.

    It’s Dunning–Kruger at scale. Feynman (stealing from his PhD supervisor Wheeler) put it beautifully when he said “I have islands of knowledge in oceans of ignorance”. If only people accepted that their islands are very small and their oceans are vast, then we might get somewhere. People hugely overestimate their knowledge and ability.

    So most people cannot be trusted. The “wisdom of the masses” turns into the “wisdom of the morons” because people are far too bullish on themselves.

  • 95 The Investor December 31, 2020, 11:41 am

    @Al Cam — I detest the second part of your argument, even if it is true (which I don’t think it is, in normal times anyway).

    Should we switch to an authoritarian state because only democratic parties are on the ballot every General Election? Or do we have to restate every five years why we have a democracy and not, to @xxd09’s point, Queen Elizabeth II ruling by decree?

    The status quo should be a given and shouldn’t need to be argued for. Smarter people than the average voter — you know, lefties like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, among others — gave us the European project and single market.

    The average Leave voter looked at the side of a bus, metaphorically-speaking.

  • 96 The Investor December 31, 2020, 11:42 am

    p.s. Or they were jingoistic and in some cases racist, as summed up by this MEP’s so-funny-it-is-sad tweets yesterday:


  • 97 Richard December 31, 2020, 12:14 pm

    @ZX – I don’t disagree with your or Ti’s view about the electorates ability to understand complex issues. But they were asked to vote on this issue and vote they did. I do not blame the electorate for exercising their vote or wish to turn the clock back to some glorious 19th century view of politics because I don’t agree with them (unless of course I am sitting in the front row of the political elite 😉 ). The political elites knew what they were getting into, from what I can see nearly the whole of Parliament approved the referendum act 2015. It is a lesson in the use of referendums (maybe also something about the rise of fringe parties and the impact of splitting the main party votes in our current system), but it shouldn’t be used to demonise the British public for doing what they were asked to do.

    On the point of experts, I agree but also would caution. Politicians are not experts. The civil service, certain academics and industry leaders are likely the experts. But they all have their own world view and agendas so still need to be careful.

  • 98 Al Cam December 31, 2020, 12:39 pm

    in my experience if you do not (or seemingly cannot) explain to people why something is good for them – and just appear to try and brow beat them into believing that it will be bad if they vote against it – then the outcome will almost certainly not be what you wished for. IMO, Brits are remarkably contrary by nature!

  • 99 Jonathan B December 31, 2020, 12:43 pm

    @TI, enjoying your rants, and happy that I am not the only one angry that my country has exhibited values that are simply bad and anachronistic in a modern civilised age. The UK won’t have a jot more sovereignty tomorrow than it has today or had one, five or fifty years ago.

    There is one potential benefit of Brexit that legitimately could be claimed, but doesn’t seem to be. I think the Common Agricultural Policy has been unhelpful in our modern age, with increased appreciation on man’s deleterious impact on our planet; it was clearly designed for a distant age with different priorities and never updated. Sadly, I can only assume the lack of mention means our government don’t have any ideas for a replacement subsidy that creates more beneficial incentives.

    You mention the regions above; I am in Yorkshire. I think there really is a feeling in many parts of the country of a distant “them” who do things over which ordinary folk have no influence and which ignore their regional needs. Some how the Conservative press created a narrative that this was due to “Brussels” when it resulted from a government which ignored its responsibility to the whole country – and that was then adopted by the Leave campaign.

  • 100 P Everton December 31, 2020, 1:18 pm

    Re: the argument/observations about democracy, its deficits and the public’s understanding and wisdom, is it worth reminding oneself of incontrovertible facts.

    In a binary referendum of the electorate (‘yes’ for a change; ‘no’ for the status quo) – 37% voted yes, 35% voted no and 28% stayed at home (72% turnout).

    ‘Yes’ votes being barely a quarter of the total population.

    The question is how on earth did you ever get where you are now on the basis of those numbers?

  • 101 xxd09 December 31, 2020, 2:00 pm

    There was a recent remark by the outgoing American Ambassador trying with difficulty to understand the Brexit conundrum-no doubt from the “elite-remainer” point of view
    His best shot was that “the British do not like being told what to do”
    Perhaps something for our glorious leaders/experts to take into account when managing this unruly people!

  • 102 Algernond December 31, 2020, 2:36 pm

    @Seeking Fire
    I know I’ve tried to eek out of you before the reason for $TIPS.
    Is it that the maturity is typically shorter than for other Inflation Linked bonds?

  • 103 Al Cam December 31, 2020, 4:54 pm

    @ P Everton:

    Not that surprising given that Bojo’s current parliamentary majority of some 80 seats was achieved by a tad under 30% of those eligible to vote – which, I guess, must be around a fifth of the total population.

  • 104 Seeking Fire December 31, 2020, 5:13 pm

    Hi Algernond, there is no magic here. I wanted liquidity in a non £ denominated currency as a partial hedge against a declining pound. I chose inflation linked bonds given the upside inflation protection and chose $ as better reserve currency than others. I also felt (and continue to do so) that yields would decline (which they did) and so the duration was a positive tailwind in that regard. The $TIPS were also yielding more than other inflation linked bonds. This is sounding like active positioning and I acknowledge a passively held global bond fund might have been an equal or better option. I believe from previous comments you’ve indicated a risk of a near term significant decline in £. That’s not my central view in the near term but clearly I (like everyone else) haven’t a clue although the long term trend for the £ seems more clear (i.e. down). I just wanted some protection in case that turned out to be incorrect. The £ is relatively speaking stronger now than in recent months. That means the $tips value have given up some of the gains from when I had first invested. That’s ok as net net, we’re better off if the £ is stronger. Nonetheless given the scale of the borrowing and direction of travel on govt spending, a decline in the value of money seems likely medium / long term with £ probably (educated guess) going to fare worse than others. Hope that makes sense.

  • 105 Algernond December 31, 2020, 9:52 pm

    Thanks @Seeking Fire. It does make sense.
    I’d also ben looking at the Personal Asset Trust IT portfolio; all of their bonds are $TIPS, and one of their recent annual reports implies that they are all GBP hedged. I seem to remember that you also previously indicated that some of yours were hedged, and some weren’t, so I can’t quite fit that entirely with what you write above.

  • 106 Grislybear December 31, 2020, 10:43 pm

    Best quote on the Brexit deal I have read so far is from the Guardian news paper “Despite what politicians said , a bad deal was better than no-deal afterall”.
    Gibraltar have cut a deal with Spain which means that citizens of the EU who live in the Schengen area can walk into Gibraltar without a passport, citizens of the UK will need to show their passport, interesting times.

  • 107 Boltt December 31, 2020, 11:02 pm

    I had to show my passport to visit Gib last year, and the year before. I’m pretty sure all visitors had to show some form of ID, otherwise how would they know where they are from?


  • 108 Grislybear December 31, 2020, 11:56 pm

    Yes ID for Schengen EU citizens Passports for UK citizens, however at the moment Schengen citizens only, no UK citizens allowed in due to covid ban. In effect EU border extended to cover Gibralter.

  • 109 BBlimp January 1, 2021, 11:06 am

    @Jonatahn B, not just the CAP, but already today, VAT on sanitary products has been removed. The great woke EU, taxing women for having periods. Between that, the activities of Victor Orban and the bans on transgender people serving in the military in most EU states, anyone rational would conclude the EU isn’t the liberal paradise remainers believe it to be

    Immigration rose massively to August 2020 and will hopefully resume post pandemic ( and you’ll remember our offer to HK ) to finally put to bed any suggestion Leave was about lowering immigration. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, let’s see where immigration is this time next year rather than assume Leaving the EU means it will go down.

    Brexiteers are shouted down for believing paying £12bn a year to avoid customs forms (let’s remember we have tariff and quota free access to the single market without the fee) is poor value. We will see. I’m not opposed to being part of a huge trading bloc and following its rules – just not one with the slowest growing economies on the planet and paying £12bn a year for the privilege. It is not as if the EU are the only countries who’ve heard of free trade, let us hope the TPP is a zero cost version of the EEC with fast growing economies.

    So much talk of us being safer within the confines of the EU… but it’s simply not backed up with any examples of the EU using its might to exert any form of influence on anyone anywhere. When Russia was annexing part of the Ukraine how long do you think they spent worrying if the EU would scold them? Indeed from Russia executing opponents in the uk to the US battering UK banks for allowing Iran to use them, did the mighty EU stop this ? of course not, in the same way it has no influence over Turkey and has to beg and bribe to prevent Erdogan acting in ways it doesn’t like it is a paper tiger, a talking shop.

  • 110 P Everton January 1, 2021, 12:27 pm

    @ Al Cam 103

    Agreed, though only if you accept that the criteria of democratic legitimacy (thresholds etc) of a single issue binary referendum should be the same as for general elections in a representative (constituency-based) democracy.

    I think they are clearly different beasts.

    And so, over the last three or four years, I’ve come to the view that most of the UK governments in my lifetime have had minimal levels of democratic legitimacy.

  • 111 Al Cam January 1, 2021, 1:06 pm

    @ P Everton:
    Assuming I would have asked the electorate a question like the EU referendum I would personally have set some kind of minimum winning margin or similar. Such an approach is not unprecedented – but it is not without issues too! See, for example, the Scottish referendum of 1979.

    I do not disagree with your final conclusion. For me the most striking point is the turnout figures, which, to my eyes at least, say that in 2019 around one in every three people entitled to vote could not be bothered! And note that the group of non-participants somewhat outnumber those that voted for BoJo!

    What to do is the challenge though.

  • 112 Richard January 1, 2021, 1:29 pm

    @P Everton @Al Cam – the EU referendum act 2015 which included the question and the rułes was backed by 544 out of 650 MPs. I think only the SNP really opposed it. I would argue that this would cover a huge number of the voters who put these MPs into power. It is hard to argue the referendum was not democratically ligitimate in my view.

    The only ‘get out’ here is the fact the referendum was advisory. So Parliament could have ignored it. But I think both major parties never put ignoring it on the table.

  • 113 The Investor January 1, 2021, 3:42 pm

    This assessment of the final not-so-cakey deal (by Mark Elliot, Chair of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge) puts into legal terms what I’ve been trying to say for years now about ‘technical sovereignty’.

    The money shot:

    Indeed, in one sense, it can be argued that the UK — in ‘sovereigntist’ terms — is now, post-Brexit, in a weaker position. While it was a Member State, it had a seat at the table and was able to influence the content of the obligations it was required to abide by. In contrast, following Brexit, the UK, if it wishes to avoid the imposition of tariffs, becomes a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker, in that it has no option but to align itself with a regulatory model designed exclusively by EU Member States — which, needless to say, the UK no longer is.

    Once again, then, cakeism rings hollow.

    The UK has not, through the TCA, landed upon an ingenious means by which to benefit from tariff-free access to the Single Market while escaping the EU’s regulatory orbit.

    Rather, the UK has agreed to become a rule-taker in exchange for tariff-free access, and to pay, by means of accepting the imposition of tariffs, for the privilege of exercising its sovereignty should it wish to effect regulatory divergence.


    Reading Elliot’s piece one is struck that the entire final deal is a carefully crafted piece of theater to get Johnson’s government off the hook, to allow Brexiteers to go gently into that good night without causing the UK any more harm, and to enable us to basically continue trading with Europe as we did before with only extra paperwork and general faff-age type costs — instead of outright financial tariffs — to have to pay.

  • 114 Seeking Fire January 1, 2021, 3:59 pm

    The Investor @113. That is, (I think), expected to be the case for financial services. In order to obtain financial equivalence, which will only be granted by the EU if they desire to, the UK will need to agree to follow its rules and subsequent changes. Whilst this was the case, whilst the UK was in the EU, the UK had a say (and in the case of financial services, a considerable one), in the setting of the rules. Even if financial equivalence is granted, it is questionable whether it is sensible for banks servicing EU clients to base themselves here given financial equivalence can be withdrawn at short notice. Hence some organisations are building up European offices whilst slowly reducing numbers in London. It’s not all doom and gloom by any means. London retains some significant advantages. The ability to recruit or make people redundant quickly is attractive as is the language and time zone. But given a seniorish exec might be paying to the state £200 – £250k tax a year – that’s a lot of taxation revenue to make up if that role (note it doesn’t have to be the person) is moved to continental europe.

  • 115 The Investor January 1, 2021, 4:19 pm

    @Seeking Fire — I am not sure financial equivalence is the panacea it’s cracked up to be. As I understand it the equivalence can be withdrawn at very short (near-immediate) notice. Now, the EU are grown-ups so I’m sure they’d give a grace period, but would a firm want to establish a business with a decades-long time horizon under such circumstances? I suspect firms will choose to orientate their businesses assuming such equivalence isn’t in place on a longer-term view, just in case. Thus it’s probably a stop gap measure, in practice if not stated as such.

    The recent agreement for goods enables the imposition of tariffs if there’s divergence; perhaps structuring the same for financial equivalence/services is what’s taking so long, to avoid it being quite such a trapdoor. Who knows.

  • 116 Richard January 1, 2021, 4:37 pm

    Maybe you will get headquarters in the EU and remote working for staff in London. After all, as we so often remind each other, it is a global world and tech has made it much smaller. Covid has helped reinforce this, esp for office jobs. One assumes the talent in London can’t just be replaced overnight and if it doesn’t want to relocate it may not be so easy to recruit from within the EU. Having to have the staff all sitting in the EU is so 2010’s thinking…. Of course, I have nothing to back this up, so look at it as one very wishful/optimistic scenario.

  • 117 The Investor January 1, 2021, 5:10 pm

    @Richard — That will definitely happen to begin with. It’s already happened in fact — plenty of financial firms have moved jobs/roles/assets to the Continent. However there’s not been the flood some warned of by any means. As with Brexit in general, I think such Doomsday talk misses the point… the issue with Brexit from an economic perspective is it throws grit and friction into the wheels all over the place, for no net gain (economically) and extremely likely a net loss.

    Longer-term, one might ask why London is quite as successful as it is — the global capital of capital, on some measures?

    It has lots of advantages — skills and talent already in place, language, lifestyle, arguably timezone — with some disadvantages such as high cost of living and poor infrastructure.

    However it also used to have the unique advantage of being in the EU yet on the edge of Europe, culturally-speaking… a Wall Street style attitude with unlimited visiting rights to the continents’ companies, oligarchs, governments, and deep pools of capital. That is at best no longer guaranteed.

    Of course I expect (and hope) we’ll always having an over-sized City in my lifetime, due to momentum and the other advantages, even though it will surely be smaller than it would have been without Brexit (not the same as saying it will be smaller than pre-Brexit! Inflation alone makes that hard).

    And there are some Leavers who would say we need a smaller City, if we do get that. We’ll see how they like the lower tax revenues in that case, but time will tell.

  • 118 Al Cam January 1, 2021, 5:17 pm

    My understanding of Elliot’s interpretation is that sovereignty (whatever that really means) could always have been exercised by the UK as a member of the EU. However, this would have inevitably required the UK to break EU law and, in due course, face the consequences. The TCA seems to legalise divergence from EU laws for the UK – albeit at a (to be determined) cost. So, to my mind, two similar (but not identical) ways to achieve the same end; only one of which is, strictly speaking, legal.
    Has it been worth all the time, bluster, bad-blood, faff, etc?
    I suspect not, but I guess time may tell.

  • 119 The Investor January 1, 2021, 5:37 pm

    @Al Cam — Yes, and the other, trivial but often missed, point he makes is that we were only bound by the EU rules for as long as we were in the EU. That was the contract of convenience we’d signed with it. So Parliament always had Sovereignty in the sense we could leave. Now we’ve done that we can see it’s not quite so pat, and I have some sympathy for those who say it was now or never, given the direction the Union seems to be going. (As always not reason enough for me to Brexit, but I believe it’s a legitimate point).

  • 120 Al Cam January 1, 2021, 6:10 pm

    I have always had sympathy with the belief that the EU is a great idea (in principle, at least) but just not a very good implementation. The key question to my mind was whether the implementation is/was good enough and do/did we have enough (or even any) real influence on the direction of Union travel.
    Personally, I had not reached breaking point – perhaps others had/have.

  • 121 Seeking Fire January 1, 2021, 10:40 pm

    @115 The Investor – we are agreeing with each other with respect to financial equivalence. I think I’m reasonably up to speed having read the various legal briefings albeit not an expert and many front line roles are negatively impacted. The city probably isn’t going to fall away in the very near term substantially, too much infrastructure of people, process, technology and real estate is based here and not in the EU and our flexible employment rules is more attractive. Financial equivalence, if achieved, and right now we seem to have a hard brexit, will help minimise damage. I don’t believe there are many operators who can see much upside. And there’s a complete loss of influence in setting the rules. Over time one can see significant erosion though. Many banks historically had a hub and spoke model, with London the hub. Perhaps London becomes more of a spoke albeit a large one at that.

  • 122 britinkiwi January 1, 2021, 10:58 pm

    From many miles away – and a very different free trading economy – there seems (to me) a strange perspective to the Brexit debate. There seems a mass delusion that the result of the referndum was imbued by ignorance, Cambridge-Analytica, Aaron Banks, nationalism, the Russians or any other excuse to fudge the fact that the people of Britain have, for decades, been weighing the EEC and then the EU and eventually, when finally given the chance to express their opinion over 4 opportunities, voted to withdraw. (Before you get all Twitter on me – the referendum, 2 General Elections and the European elections).

    A historic democratic mandate by any measure.

    Two bizarre themes that stuck out for me post-referndum – firstly, that most of the bigotry on display, certainly in social media generally, and occasionally a whiff in these august electrons, came from those who supported Remain.

    Secondly, how the Left (esp UK Labour Party) went from campaigning against staying in the EEC in the original referendum way back to being all in favour of a neo-liberal corporatist project (as @TI commented upon earlier) and in overturning that democratic mandate.

    @ZX you may be interested in the replication crisis in psychological research. For example – https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/critical-thinking/dunning-kruger-effect-probably-not-real.

    Here’s hoping, however it works, for a better year in 2021 for us all.

  • 123 p Everton January 2, 2021, 11:51 am

    @ Richard 112

    “I would argue that this would cover a huge number of the voters who put these MPs into power”.

    I haven’t calculated it, but I estimate that those 650 MPs were voted for by perhaps one third of the electorate.

    @ Britinkiwi

    “. . . when finally given the chance to express their opinion over 4 opportunities, voted to withdraw. (Before you get all Twitter on me – the referendum, 2 General Elections and the European elections).

    A historic democratic mandate by any measure.”

    Remind yourself of the actual numbers.

  • 124 Richard January 2, 2021, 1:52 pm

    @ P Everton – Perhaps I should have said it has democratic legitimacy within our current system, and probably more than many other pieces of legislation.

    But even so, lets look at some numbers from 2015 (from Wikipedia:

    Total votes cast: 30M
    Total turnout: 66.1%
    Total electorate: 45M

    15M votes counted for the winner in each constituency (50% of votes cast / 33% of total electorate)

    Every party voted FOR the referendum expect SNP.

    28M votes were for Con, Lab, UKIP, LD, Green candidates (93% of votes cast / 62% of total electorate)

    So I stand by the idea that the referendum looks pretty democratically legitimate.

    One area where my argument is weak. The referendum probably wouldn’t have been tabled if the CONs hadn’t won a majority (this is only conjecture of course, it could have still happened). And they won that majority with a vote total that doesn’t look anywhere near as democratically legitimate (depends on your view of non-voters how low this share of the vote goes). Which is perhaps really to your point about democratic legitimacy within our current system – but I wouldn’t hold up the referendum as a good example of this deficit myself.

  • 125 Al Cam January 2, 2021, 5:12 pm

    Re: “depends on your view of non-voters how low this share of the vote goes”
    See 103 and 111 above.
    As it stands today (2019 election) – there were more non-voters than people who voted for BoJo!
    Personally, I think that level of non-participation is somewhat concerning.
    However, what to do is the challenge!

  • 126 Richard January 2, 2021, 6:45 pm

    @Al Cam – one could counter no representation without participation. If you chose not to participate than you basically said you were happy with what everyone else voted for. So we can apportion those missing votes in the same ratio for the consitutancy as those who voted. I bet BoJo looks a bit better if you do that.

  • 127 britinkiwi January 2, 2021, 9:30 pm

    @ P Everton According to Wikipedia the UK turnout for the referendum was 72.21% – higher than GE’s since 1992. You can debate how the FPTP type systems work but that’s how the UK is set up democratically. We can (and people do) debate whether the current system entrenches a ruling class of unrepresentative elites and cronyism but it’s the system the UK uses. You could debate in a similar way the legitimacy of every UK, Welsh or Scottish Parliament or even the PR referendum or the 1975 referendum on the EEC (where the turnout was less). May I suggest we can agree on the implications for democratic legitimacy of the current system?

    But – as @Richard points out – it’s a legitimate democratic decision within the constraints of the current system.

  • 128 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 1:34 am

    @Richard and @britinkiwi:
    I hear what you are saying – but just how low must turnout be before you conclude the system has some issues. In absurdum, is one voter per constituency still really valid? You may well mock my example, but turnout in local elections is already at around 1 in 3, and parish/community elections are sometimes even lower.

  • 129 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 10:35 am

    @Richard (126):
    Another equally valid assumption would be to suppose that non-participants agree with the status quo – as they apparently cannot be bothered to say otherwise. A somewhat watered-down version of this logic was used in the Scottish referendum of 1979, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1979_Scottish_devolution_referendum
    for example. Most people have long-forgotten about this referendum – but the polling and ultimate result are IMO quite interesting.
    Hence, as I noted above at 111, this approach is not without issues too!

    P.S. I have never said that the EU referendum was illegitimate. Had it been down to me – which of course it wasn’t – I would probably have gone about things differently. Including: calling for the vote; structure/form of the vote; campaign strategy; etc.

    I do, however, have ongoing concerns about the level of participation in elections.

  • 130 The Investor January 3, 2021, 10:55 am

    Personally I think the EU Referendum as set out was legitimate on its own terms, but those terms were flawed. Countries that are regularly governed by Referendum typically set higher thresholds for important matters, especially constitutional, because the public mood is known to be fickle and floating voters malleable. So demanding say a 60% or higher win for change ensures that there’s a clearer majority of opinion that (hopefully) reflects a true underlying change in the public mood.

    One of the many things that stuck in Remainers throats was the constant refrain of “the clear majority of the British people have spoken” and similar. One can see why they took that tone — (very) generously you might even argue it was the best way to frame Brexit, from trying to bring the country back together, after Leave had won. But it was never anything like true — a slender margin had voted to Leave — and a more honest reflection of that vote would have involved making marginal changes to our relationship with the EU and then perhaps rescheduling a new Referendum in say a decade.

    The other reason I felt the EU Referendum was worth re-running was that the Leave campaign was demonstrably mendacious and for all that Remain was accused of presenting no vision of the future, Leave itself had absolutely no concrete plan, as the past 4.5 years has proven.

    Again, if we’d had a clearly laid out vision that all of the Leave leadership agreed on, spelt out clearly in documentation, then I would be much less aggrieved about the vote. As it was, people mentaphorically voted in a blank cheque with a very crappy bank.

    I have a lot of sympathy with the argument that re-running the EU Referendum so soon after Leave won would have been problematic, but the above issues swung it for me.

  • 131 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 11:35 am

    According to Mathew Paris in yesterdays Times: “Until the end of the 20th century, Britain didn’t do referendums …..”
    However, the Swiss are rather keen on direct democracy (DD) with over 500 referendums since 1848. I believe some Swiss Cantons have been practicing DD since the 14th century. Thus, they have had some time to hone their system, see for example:
    IIRC, one feature they use in assessing a referendum result in Switzerland acts to prevent the two main population centres (Zurich and Geneva) being able to dominate.
    I assume our MP’s (or at least a sub-set of them) are well aware of these facts and opted for a simple majority vote because they thought it best or just could not conceive of an outcome other than “Remain”. To my eyes they basically did not heed Aesops warning to “be careful what you wish for”!

  • 132 P Everton January 3, 2021, 1:02 pm

    Al Cam @ 128
    “I hear what you are saying – but just how low must turnout be before you conclude the system has some issues. In absurdum, is one voter per constituency still really valid? You may well mock my example, but turnout in local elections is already at around 1 in 3, and parish/community elections are sometimes even lower.”
    Britinkiwi @ 127
    May I suggest we can agree on the implications for democratic legitimacy of the current system?

    It seems to me that in a binary issue referendum, abstention should be seen as a form of participation (that’s why turnout and majority thresholds are applied).

    General Elections can quite conceivably be seen in a different light, firstly because no-voters tend to be persistent no-voters, and secondly, because they have to wait only four or five for another opportunity, if they want to take part.

    So, I think the referendum should have been structured quite differently from our normal General Elections.

    Turning to GEs, we see, on one hand, the constituency link between a representative and 50,000 local residents as important and worth retaining, and on the other hand, FPTP gives clarity.

    I appreciate the former, but also see that the clarity of FPTP comes at the expense of the true representation of opinion at the constituency level.

    So here’s a modest proposal for GEs – at constituency level, each voter has, not one vote, but as many votes as there are candidates, and distributes them as they see fit.

    The one who gets the most votes becomes the MP. You could make it even more representative, by reforming the HoL and sending the second placed candidate there. No danger of the HoL challenging the Commons – they came second!

    Now, a big problem with the idea is an educational one.
    Firstly, this is really difficult to understand. . ., isn’t it?
    Secondly, in a nice echo of (some) of the intellectual quality of Brexit debate (here and) over the last two or three years, it is almost certain that you would have people complaining that it’s not fair that they have only five votes to apportion to the five candidates in their constituency, whereas the fellow round the corner (who’s in another constituency) has ten votes for the ten candidates in their constituency.

  • 133 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 2:49 pm

    @P Everton:

    Do not disagree that general elections and direct democracy (or, referenda – if you prefer) are different beasts – and should be treated accordingly.

    Participation however remains a concern.

    I think I get your GE idea but I cannot see if/how it would address the level of participation. What have I missed?
    Options used elsewhere include compulsory voting, see e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_voting

    Personally, I think I prefer some form of education and/or civic duty training. People can always register their disgust (which is often cited as a reason why people decide not to vote) by defacing their ballot paper – and, the number of destroyed papers is always recorded and reported.

    Perhaps I am a tad old-fashioned in my thinking on this subject but, I am deeply aware of the struggles required to get people a vote in the first place!

  • 134 Richard January 3, 2021, 3:06 pm

    Remember the referendum was only advisory. There was no rule about thresholds or what the next action should be within the referendum legislation itself. So the information gathered (number of votes for each question, number of non-voters) was for the government / Parliament to interpret as they liked. Nothing forced them to take any action off the back of the referendum. What did they do next? Invoke article 50, I think by 498 to 114. These numbers are arguably driven by the outcome of the 2015 GE, in the same way any other piece of legislation is.

    Of course, the ‘legal’ side is one thing, the emotional / political side is another. Both sides of the argument had been going on about 50% thresholds so they (remain) backed themselves into a corner.

    @Al Cam – To your point about only 1 person voting. I stand by what I said before – everyone else is basically saying they are happy for whatever those who do vote, vote for. It most likely reflects the fact that they don’t see these elections as important or relevant to them. I think it is dangerous to try and assume what these people would have wanted. What would count as status quo in a GE? The party in power when the GE was called (seeing as they control the Parliament agenda and their manifesto is what gets pushed through)?

    That said, how to fix low turnout (this election is clearly pointless if only 1 person feels like it matters)? Devolution in a way to make these elections more relevant?

    @P Everton – Not sure I understand your proposal :). I mean if I have 10 votes then I will put all 10 on my favourite candidate. If I have a second favourite candidates how do I decide to split my vote? 5 and 5? 9 and 1? 8 and 2? I have difficulty understanding the best way to split my votes without seeing how everyone else is voting, so I will put all 10 on my favourite candidate to give that one the best chance. So now it is no different to the current system. How do you see other people using this system?

  • 135 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 3:27 pm

    Can you please advise where “only advisory” comes from.
    I could not find it in the legislation – but probably overlooked it.

    All assumptions re non-voter intentions are IMO equally dangerous – and you are absolutely correct that replacing a sitting government becomes harder under a status quo assumption. However, such a hurdle may actually incentivise people to vote!

  • 136 Richard January 3, 2021, 4:15 pm

    @Al Cam – yes, the act doesn’t mention the word advisory (though nor does it mention any thresholds or what will happen on the various possible outcomes). That is how the media etc refer to it. I believe this was actually clarified as a result of the court case after the government tried to invoke article 50 without Parliament’s say so.

  • 137 P Everton January 3, 2021, 4:48 pm

    Richard @ 134
    “if I have 10 votes then I will put all 10 on my favourite candidate. If I have a second favourite candidates how do I decide to split my vote? 5 and 5? 9 and 1? 8 and 2? I have difficulty understanding the best way to split my votes without seeing how everyone else is voting, so I will put all 10 on my favourite candidate to give that one the best chance.”

    Do I really have to set out all the possible permutations by which 10 things can be divided amongst 10 people?

    I couldn’t care less how you would divide up your votes.

    But, I do know that a person giving all ten votes to only one candidate is likely to be even more left-wing or right-wing than the most left- or right-wing candidate, or else they are a single issue fanatic. (I reserve the exceptional case of the single candidate running on a Reform The System platform).

    And thanks, because your reply reveals a benefit of this suggestion of mine that I hadn’t noticed before – “I have difficulty understanding the best way to split my votes without seeing how everyone else is voting”.

    If it prevents voters from gaming an election, I’m even more in favour.

    Al Cam @ 133
    You can’t make people care about politics, the future, or the political future, nor educate themselves.

    But, do you begin to see how the proposal could provoke, at least some, into more participation?

    One vote for only 1 of 10 people. . . does it matter? If it does, who?

    But 10 votes . . . – now I can begin to think through which blend of these people reflects my views and how many of my 10 to give them.

  • 138 Richard January 3, 2021, 4:56 pm

    @P Everton – I don’t think you are quite understanding. What is my incentive to spread my votes out? Why do you think I would spread my votes based on my left / right wing leanings or how I want to ‘blend’ the candidates? Only one of them goes to Parliament right? So I put all my votes on my favourite. Why won’t everyone else put all 10 on their favourite…..

  • 139 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 5:26 pm

    To my eyes, the intent of the EU Ref Act was very clear. Previous referenda have had thresholds, etc and these were all specified in the governing legislation – hence the absence of any such constraint in the EU Ref Act (to me at least) meant none existed.
    The advisory angle has always looked like “smarty pants” legalese to me and IMO is, and always was, a red herring.

  • 140 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 5:35 pm

    @ P Everton:
    re 137: if ticking one box is too much for some folks then ……

    I suspect my suggestion at 135 may push more folks into action than your explanation at 137 – that is, if you want rid of this lot you have to get off of your xxxx and vote them out! Having said that, I do not think either suggestion is likely to have much impact.

    As I said at the outset – improving election participation is a real challenge. Maybe something can be learned from TV shows where people seem to be happy enough to spend their money to vote people out of a castle, the jungle, etc. Who knows?

  • 141 Richard January 3, 2021, 5:41 pm

    @Al Cam – I am not sure on your point. If there were no thresholds or spelled out next steps then what does the act actually enable the government to do post referendum? I would propose it enables them to do nothing more than they could have done before the referendum. And this is exactly what happened, they couldn’t invoke Article 50 as an ‘executive order’ off the back of the referendum.

    But here we blur the lines between legally what they could do and emotionally / politically what they wanted/needed to do. Because it was not spelled out in the act (probably because the act would then have struggled to get through Parliament if it did) it allowed people to make assumptions and both sides of the debate to jump on 50%. But here I blame the political establishment which to an extent is the point of all my posts – don’t blame the people, blame those who put this in motion (and to me that is all Politian’s except the SNP)

  • 142 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 5:56 pm

    Re: “don’t blame the …”
    I agree entirely and, IMO, ex PM David C has the most to answer for!

  • 143 P Everton January 4, 2021, 10:40 pm

    Richard @ 138

    Many people have nuanced political views, and this system would enables their votes to reflect the fact. Other people are simpler/unthinking and/or more extreme, so they might pend all their votes on one candidate.

    But, if it looked like an extremists’ charter, a supplementary rule could be introduced so that no more than half your votes could be given to any single candidate.

    I don’t think it would in fact be an extremists’ charter, but a more proportional voting system would show more nuanced political opinion in the country (which is what FPTP fails to do).

    However, do you usually find in a GE that one candidate expresses everything you want and nothing else than what you want, and none of the other nine say anything to recommend themselves to you?

    AL Cam @ 140
    “Having said that, I do not think either suggestion is likely to have much impact.”

    It’s an interesting question.

    Take any GE over the last 40 years, would any of the parliaments have looked different under the system I’ve suggested? Any calculation of an alternative parliament must be highly probabilistic (in a one-voter one-voter system, we have no idea who a voter’s second favourite was. And that’s the point, it doesn’t arithmetically allow a truer range of opinion to be reflected), but it’s clear to me that many of the recent parliaments would have been coalitions.

    Al Cam @ 139
    I think you’re right about the referendum terms Cameron agreed.

    If he had granted a referendum, then said “and by the way it needs be 60% turnout on a 60% majority” what would the response have been?
    (Perhaps – “Come on, Dave, you got to give us a fighting chance.”)

    Of course, Brexit had no chance on those terms (let alone 71% and 71% – what it should have been).

    But, this is the point – the threshold was lowered so that there was a real possibility of the country’s direction being hijacked by a minority.

  • 144 Richard January 5, 2021, 12:00 am

    @P Everton – The problem is tactical voting pushes me towards all in on one candidate. There are 10 candidates, I love 3, I am so so on 4 and I hate 3. Only one can go to parliament. If I split my vote then I increase the risk of one I hate getting in. If I go all in on one, then I am maximising my chance of one I love winning. Of course it is difficult to say what I would do if faced with the reality, maybe if everyone else was spreading their votes I would feel more at ease spreading mine.

    Wouldn’t the alternative vote system achieve a similar thing to what you are suggesting and be easier to understand? Or perhaps a system where you rank the candidates and your number 1 gets 10 votes through to your number 10 who gets 1 vote, candidate with most votes wins.

  • 145 Al Cam January 5, 2021, 12:31 pm

    @P Everton & Richard,
    An interesting chat guys.

    To summarize, I think we might just all about agree that:

    a) politicians of almost all “flavours” are ultimately culpable for Brexit* – and some are probably more guilty than others
    b) participation in elections is probably an issue
    c) solving b) is tricky

    * there is a real risk of a massive irony herein wrt a possible future referendum

  • 146 Richard January 5, 2021, 7:57 pm

    @Al Cam – I think that pretty much sums it up. Interesting on the irony. I assume those who say the referendum ‘win’ conditions were unfair will be fighting to ensure a ‘rejoin the EU’ referendum in 10 years adheres to these rules and be denouncing it if we decide to rejoin after the vote is only 52% in favour with 30% non-voters (who obviously want the status quo of being outside the EU)….

  • 147 Al Cam January 6, 2021, 1:14 am

    I should have been clearer – the potential irony I meant was the SNP’s position re EU Ref and the possibility of what now seems to be known as Indy Ref#2.
    Having said that, I rather like your take too!

  • 148 Boltt January 6, 2021, 1:32 pm

    Note sure which thread this should be on..

    I’ve been looking into my future travel arrangements (Motorhome) given the 90 in 180 day limit. Interestingly for FIRE folk Portugal and Spain both have longer term visas available:

    Portugal D7 passive income visa – pathway to citizenship and passport with very low income requirements (more than their min wage). And amazingly healthcare after 6-12 months. And not to forget generous tax treatment for ten years via the NHR status. Basically a cheap golden visa but with 183 min residency in Portugal.

    Spain has a non lucrative visa with higher income requirements.

    Has anyone done some serious reading on this and do people have any views?

    Hmm 300 days sun…

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