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A US-UK free trade agreement – not as simple as some seem to think

Theresa May seems to have secured the support of Donald Trump for a UK-USA free-trade agreement (FTA).  With the backing of these leaders, negotiating an FTA between these two developed economies with a shared long-standing support for open markets, on the face of it, should be relatively straightforward.  The reality is likely to be much more complex. At this stage, the two main unknowns are how the new US Administration will approach trade negotiations, and what the UK’s starting position will be in them.  So we are left to read the tea leaves. Under this Administration, the American position in any future negotiation is unlikely to reflect the way in which the US has approached trade negotiations in the past.  Lasyweek, Peter Navarro, Director of the White House’s new National Trade Council said trade policy is “pretty straightforward: We know what we want…We think we can build strong relations bilaterally with countries that want to together reclaim their supply chains from…countries around this world which have been dumping components and basically getting the best jobs.”  How this thinking is then developed by officials into actual negotiating positions remains to be seen. For the UK, it is also too early to know what its starting point in any negotiation would be.  The UK’s post-Brexit trade regime, however, is likely to be heavily influenced by its more than four decades in the EU. If so, the negotiations under the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) provide important insights into some of the core issues and challenges that will need to be addressed in a UK-US FTA negotiation. As the EU’s negotiating positions in the TTIP would have to some extent reflected the UK’s priorities, a UK-USA FTA could start from what has been achieved in the TTIP negotiations, and build further.  (It is also likely that some elements of the Canadian-EU FTA may appeal more to London than those under discussion in the TTIP). With the TTIP negotiations, both sides say that they have already agreed on the early elimination of tariffs on 97 per cent of tariff line, but that there may be some products where only “partial” market access will be possible.  Agricultural trade in TTIP has been a problem.   Although the UK will not have nearly the same constraints and domestic pressures as the cross-channel EU members, inevitably there will be sensitive items on both sides that will need to be finessed. Apart from a few agricultural products, trade in goods has, however, been relatively straight forward in the TTIP negotiations.  Other aspects have not been, and it is here that the UK’s decision to take the EU’s position as the starting point for its negotiations with the US will be crucial. For example, the EU’s position in the TTIP negotiations on investment has been that the existing Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) arrangements should be replaced by one governed by an as-yet-to-be-created system incorporating a new Investment Court, wherein companies could not claim compensation simply because government regulatory systems led to a loss of their profits.  This is unacceptable to the US in its current form. In the case of sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), the EU position in the TTIP talks is that EU animal welfare laws need to be fully respected.  Not so much of an issue, maybe – but the USA has said that non-scientific SPS measures, such as the EU ban on hormone-produced beef, would have to go in an FTA.  This could be an area where the UK and US might find it easier to come to an accommodation than the US and EU could.  On the other hand, EU restrictions on GMO crops and products using GMOs are also a key issue, and one where the UK’s position may be closer to the EU’s than US’s. Geographic Indications (GIs) are also like to be a point of difference between the UK and US, where the UK’s position is again closer to that of the EU’s.  In the TTIP talks, the EU evidently wanted additional (to the WTO TRIPS agreement) geographic indications (GIs) protections for 210 food products.  GIs are an anathema in American trade policy circles. On other important issues, the UK is likely to be closer to the US on some and to the EU on others.  In services, the “cultural” excuse saving the French from Hollywood would not be a big problem for the UK.  However, there was a significant difference between Washington and Brussels on data protection standards. For other aspects of services, as we have suggested before, a good start on services post-Brexit would be the UK’s becoming a full member of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) under negotiation in the WTO.  This would go a long way to setting the stage for the services part of an eventual UK-USA FTA negotiation. While TTIP provides a useful guide to many of the key points of convergence and divergence between the UK and US that will need to be navigated in an FTA negotiation, much remains uncertain until the UK settles its post-Brexit trade regime. As of today, however, the biggest unanswered question about a potential UK-USA FTA is the Trump Administration’s view of international trade.  Trump’s comments about “buy American” suggest, for example, that he may even seek “WTO-minus” deals on topics like government procurement. All the uncertainties notwithstanding, undoubtedly the UK and USA will be able to negotiate a post-Brexit high-quality FTA and that is a good thing for the parties and for the international trading system beyond.  But in January 2017, the degree to which the UK’s negotiating positions will be influenced by its longstanding participation in the EU, and how the new Trump Administration will impact on those eventual talks are both major unknowns. Tea-leaf reading is the order of the day.

Europe in 2016

Throughout 2016, Europe has lurched from one crisis to another. The British voted to leave the EU. Russia stepped up its interference in domestic politics in several European countries by planting false news stories and financing populist, right-wing movements. Terrorist attacks and the refugee and eurozone crises divided the EU’s 28 member states. On the other side of the Atlantic, Americans elected Donald Trump as their next president on a ticket promising to make the United States great again. Trump professes little interest in what has kept the West together: the transatlantic relationship.
All the above crises have one thing in common. They are having a profound effect on Europe’s future. As 2016 draws to a close, the EU’s extreme vulnerability and growing instability are exposed. The Brexit decision has weakened Europe. If they chose to do so, European leaders could mitigate the political fallout of Britain’s exit. But instead of using Brexit to push for further integration or a two-speed Europe—or even as a chance to get out of their bubble to explain why Europe matters—most leaders are engaged in petty institutional or domestic power games. As they do so, they seem to underestimate how the roles of Russia and the United States are planting the seeds of Europe’s destruction. For centuries, European states were always at war with each other or had various empires vying for supremacy. The EU, which grew out of the ashes of World War II, put an end to this internecine fighting and these power struggles. But the EU is a young construction. Its existence has always relied on the United States. Dean Acheson, who was U.S. secretary of state from 1949 to 1953, believed passionately in a Western Europe knitted to the United States through NATO and the shared values of democracy and liberalism. That dependence on the United States, exemplified by the U.S. nuclear security umbrella, is no longer a given. Yet many European leaders and politicians, especially in Berlin, don’t want to recognise this changing geostrategic reality. They are not prepared to consider the possibility of what happens the day after the United States withdraws from Europe. In practice, that means they are unwilling to consider any alternative to the U.S. security umbrella, such as Europe having its own nuclear defence—which could exist through France. There are Germans who shudder at the idea of a European nuclear deterrent on the grounds that it would provoke Russia. But what world are they living in? Russia is already deploying nuclear-capable missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between EU and NATO members Lithuania and Poland. Yet Europe is muddling through each crisis without realising that this time round, the EU’s defence and durability are at stake. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, knows exactly what buttons to press when it comes to Europe. Despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s admirable tenacity in confronting Putin—primarily by pushing the EU to keep sanctions imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea in March 2014 and then de facto occupied the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine—she is practically alone in her consistency. She is also the one leader whom Putin wants defeated as she makes a bid in late 2017 to serve a fourth term as chancellor. Germany’s security services are acutely aware of how Russia may interfere in the federal election. But most EU leaders have a singular lack of political will to act, coupled with a dangerous complacency about the threats facing them. This is despite the fact that Russian interference in the German election—as well as in votes in France and the Netherlands—would weaken Europe. The threat is plain to see: Europe’s democracy and stability are being threatened as they were during the Cold War. Then, Europe had the United States to protect it. Today, efforts by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński, and France’s National Front Leader Marine Le Pen to defend their nation-states against the EU are grist to Putin’s mill. Unless Trump radically shifts his stances toward Europe and Russia, the United States will unwittingly hand Russia a silver platter that will lead to the breakup of the transatlantic alliance. That could transform the EU into a motley of discombobulated nation-states. European leaders at the national and EU levels are contributing to the gradual eclipse of what could have been a powerful, confident, and strong European Union. In its place could be a mishmash of nation-states that have neither the security nor the leadership to protect what Europe stands for. Such are the trends of 2016. Such is the specter of 2017 and beyond unless leaders adopt a radically different mind-set to push Europe together. Have a great 2017 everyone.

My piece in the United Politics ( English) Newspaper:

Russia has had a rough year: it lost to Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest; some of its athletes were banned from competing in the Rio Olympics; and the European Union (EU) decided to renew its sanctions against Russia. Many Russians think these events are Western conspiracies designed to keep Russia down. What does this tell us about how Russia sees the West? After all, whether the Russian view is right or not, this perspective shapes Russian foreign policy. Thus, the West must make an effort to understand the Russian point of view in order to better anticipate Russian actions and make the West more secure. Russia views the West as an aggressor to be defended against. This perception has deep historic roots dating back to the Napoleonic invasion, German Imperial and Nazi invasions, and the Iron Curtain and proxy wars of the Cold War. The 1990s offered a brief reprieve in Russian-Western relations, but the general theme has remained the same: Russia feels threatened by the West. To see the full article, please click on this link

My piece in the PARAPOLITIKA (Greek) Newspaper:

With the outcome on the referndum for the UK’s membership with the EU being Brexit, to leave, I was asked to give my views on the decision the British people to the Greek newspaper PARAPOLITIKA.

I focused on the consequences for Greek nationals living in the UK, and the impact it will have on them. First was the impact of Greek nationals coming to study in the UK. Greek’s have the fourth largest presence in UK universities, and with that pay EU subsided fees. The impact of a Brexit, and increased fees brings the prospects of future Greeks coming to the UK to study at risk. Second was the conscious feeling of now residing in a nation outside the European Union. It gives the impression to current EU residents that they are unwelcome… That their contribution to the UK is not enough. One could call this a “punishment”, for taking British jobs, for using public services, and for fairing better than people either born or in the UK before them. This I mentioned  “Is not something that will slowly die away and be forgotten about, this will be in EU nationals minds forever.” Third, I mentioned the impact of Greek exports to the UK. Whether it be food, clothing, or services, Greece will be far worse off from Brexit in terms of the trade relationship between the two countries. Another important point is the possible decline in tourism in Greece as UK nationals either cant afford because of a worsening exchange rate, or because the economic uncertainty leads to more caution with spending on luxuries. Lastly I mentioned the impact of freedom of movement between the UK and Greece. Myself traveling frequently between the two countries felt upset, and deprived, of this blessed luxury that for so long I and others took advantage of. The knowingness that on arrival in Greece we will be in the “other passports lane” is something I have never experienced, and never wanted to. To see the article in Greek, please click on this link.

Exhibition illustrates how ouzo is an integral part of Lesvos’s culture

If you get sloppy drunk on ouzo, then you simply don’t know how to drink, say experts on the Greek spirit from the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, where it has been produced since at least the second half of the 19th century. This aspect of the drink and all sorts of other fascinating scenes related to ouzo are the subject of a photography exhibition by Olga Saliampoukou and the Lesvos Association of Distillers in the garden behind the old town hall of the island’s capital, Mytilene, running through August 12. Evthymios Papataxiarchis, a professor of social anthropology and history at the University of the Aegean in Mytilene, studied the culture of ouzo drinking at a local village and ascertained that inebriation is a rarity in the small community, which equates drunkenness with a disease. The important thing to the local, he found, is not how much you drink, but how you drink. Ouzo, Papataxiarchis notes, is, after all, a part of the culture of the traditional Greek kafeneio – so much more than just a cafe; an all-day hangout and meeting point where alcohol is inevitably served with a few mezedes on the side. Saliampoukou could not agree more with the professor’s observation. “If you don’t accompany ouzo with a meze, you can’t fully appreciate its flavor,” she says. “No one can talk about ouzo without having felt its intensity. And I’m not talking about getting drunk on it, but the intense flavor experiences it brings.” For the Lesvos photographer, ouzo instantly awakens memories of her grandmother rubbing her down with the potent spirit to stave off a fever or ease a stomach ache, or afternoons at the kafeneio and the smell of her village, Kerasia. Lesvos has 16 distilleries – though few know about them off the island – and over 30 ouzo labels. Matis, established in 1861, is the oldest distillery. The others are EPOM, Veto, EBA, Barbayanni, Isidoros Arvanitis, Smyrnio, Matarelli, Aigaio, Giannatsis, Samaras, Kefi, Kronos, Psaropoula, Petra and Pitsiladi. Saliampoukou visited the distillers and has recorded the production process. Her work also illustrates the differences in the production units, which range from the very small to the ultramodern but are all connected by the fact that they are family businesses. “A plethora of herbs boil for hours in a bronze cauldron and then the ouzo is enjoyed for even more hours at various seaside paradises,” says the photographer. “Lesvos,” she says, “may be surrounded by sea but it brims with ouzo and olive oil. Ouzo here is not just a spirit; it’s an intrinsic part of our culture, of this wind-swept land that has soaked up the aroma of anise.”

Brexit Might Bring Changes to the Lives of Greeks Living in Britain

The decision of British people to leave the European Union after Thursday’s referendum is about to bring changes to the lives of Greeks living or studying in Britain. Now a visa would be required of EU citizens to travel to England, Europeans who live there would not be getting the social benefits they are getting now, while tuition for foreign students in British is likely to be significantly higher, while policies on student loans would change as well. According to official figures, 10,130 Greek students were enrolled in British universities for the academic year 2014-2015. The UK has always been a favourite for Greek students. It is estimated that, at the moment, 35,000 Greeks study in English higher education institutions. The Greek students in England, as members of the EU, were paying the same tuition as British students. Tuition averages 11,500 euros per year for British students and its is about 17,500 euros for “overseas students.” Now the Brexit would change that, since Greeks would be considered “overseas students”. It should be noted that Greeks rank fifth in the number of international students in England. More importantly, though, Greek students would lose the right to get student loans, a privilege they used extensively as EU members. Regarding Greeks working in the UK, it is likely that they would have to go through several bureaucratic procedures to maintain their status, while they might not be entitled to social benefits British citizens enjoy. Those who wish to work in the UK may have to go through more strict hiring procedures and requirements such as income level or higher education might apply. At the moment, 1.6 million foreigners from EU members states work in England. If Britain leaves the union, then those foreign workers will have to apply for a work permit. According to an analysis of the Social Market Foundation, 88% of them would not meet the criteria to get the work permit. Until the end of 2014, the official number of Greek nationals working in the UK was 52,000. However, a big wave of Greeks migrated to the UK in 2015, as more than 10,500 nationals received a British social security number that year. After the Brexit, their future stay in the UK is not certain.

Article for NewEuropeans.net: ‘Where now for Cyprus?’

Results in Sunday’s general election showed that Cyprus’s ruling conservatives took the lead in Sunday’s general election, while a far-right party won its first seats in the legislature amid voter disillusionment after a 2013 financial meltdown. With the voting tally at 100 per cent, and an unprecedentedly high abstention rate, the right-wing Democratic Rally party was ahead with 30.6 per cent of the vote followed by Communist AKEL with 25.6 per cent. Compared to the previous elections of 2011, those two main parties on the Cypriot political scene suffered setbacks. AKEL’s Communists lost up to seven percentage points while Democratic Rally lost 3.7 percentage points. By contrast ELAM, an extremist party forged on the coat-tails of Greece’s Golden Dawn, scraped past a newly-imposed 3.6 percent electoral threshold and won up to two seats, according to preliminary estimates. So where does Cyprus go from here? Well, its problems have not changed. The ongoing Cyprus problem, the recent financial collapse, and Turkey’s membership of the European Union are key issues that remain. The Cyprus problem is the longest dispute the EU has ever had to deal with. Since 1974 negotiations have been hopeless, and still we have a divided island, with a so called “North Cyprus” which the EU refuses to recognise. But there is hope from this election. Nicos Anastasiades has proved to be the closest yet to a reunification deal, and Akinci is also pushing for a solution. Combine that with optimism of Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz, and Ban Ki-moon, who all say a deal is ‘highly likely’ this year, there is certainly a feeling amongst those in charge that this year could be the year. Sunday’s election was the first since Cyprus required an international bailout in 2013, partly because of the exposure its systemic banks had to Greece’s write-down of sovereign debt. It introduced a ‘bail-in’ on client’s deposits at one major bank and wound down a second, leaving thousands of disgruntled bank deposit holders.  Since then, Cyprus has returned to growth, with rising employment, investment from abroad increasing, and most importantly has exited the International Monetary Fund program. You could say that Cyprus is the example Europe needs in regards to dealing with financial problems. However, one problem still remains and that is the outward flow of labour from Cyprus, migrating abroad to places such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Greece. The loss of tax revenue and increasing spending on pensions is something Cyprus will have to tackle if it wants to maintain its recent economic recovery, and not fall back to austerity which was the key to getting the economy back on track. And now, Turkey. Its membership has caused quite a row amongst European nations. Cyprus has made it absolutely clear that it will use all voting powers available, in order to block its access to the EU unless a solution is found to the Cyprus problem. But looking at the current state of play, the EU has already promised free movement for Turkish citizens, increased funds for the migrant crisis, and most importantly fast-track membership to the EU. So what makes us think Cyprus could have a mass influence over its future membership? Well, given it can veto, and influence the likes of Greece to veto too, Turkey could very well be blocked entry if it doesn’t change its ways. Nations such as France have also been contemplating a referendum for Turkey’s membership, whereas the UK Vote Leave campaign is using Turkey’s membership talks as a reason for the UK to leave the EU, as they argue immigration from such membership could further put a strain to public services. The problems have not ended there. Cyprus now has an even bigger problem on its hands… The upcoming referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU. As weird as it may sound, the outcome could very well have an impact, not least because 72,000 expats live there, but because Britain is a guarantor protector of Cyprus in the case a war ever again breaks out. Cyprus is one of two nations (along with the Maltese) who are eligible to vote in this referendum, so it is important Anastasiades sends a clear message to voters back in the UK that the relationship should continue with the UK remaining in the EU. The EU-Cyprus relationship has always been strong. From not recognising the occupied area, right down to allowing its small economy to join the Euro currency, and prosper. Focusing on the future, there are two key priorities. One, resume peace talks and get that solution. Two, make sure Cyprus gets the Cypriot voters back in the UK to vote to stay.

Why I’m Voting to Stay IN Europe.

By the end of this lengthy blog post (forgive me), I still don’t think I will be able to summarise every single reason why we the UK people should vote to stay IN the European Union. Your going to see endless scaremongering, and eurosceptics tell you “We want our country back”. But quite frankly, I think we should be saying “We want our country IN”. David Cameron came back with a bunch of concessions that basically give the UK special status in the EU. Now here is the thing… Brussels didn’t have to give us anything, they could have just said “Take it or leave it”, hence we should grab it, take advantage, and stay in what I believe will be a soon reformed Europe.

This isn’t a general election… Parties come and go. This my friends is a test of Great Britain’s trust on a global scale, that will stay with us for the rest of time. Our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, deserve the same opportunities to benefit out of the European Union the way we did. I don’t want to be the one to advocate “isolation” for the upcoming generations of our country. So here are a few reasons why I believe we “MUST” stay in the EU. First and foremost is the single market, which gives British business access to the entire EU with its 500 million consumers. Free trade is one of the most powerful ways of boosting wealth. We would be foolish to compromise our access to this market. Contrary to popular belief, EU membership doesn’t cost us much, either. Our annual budget contribution, after taking account of money transferred back to the UK, is £8.3bn. That’s around half a per cent of our GDP, or £130 per person. When the Confederation of British Industry surveyed its members in 2013, it found overwhelming support for Britain to stay in the EU among both big and small businesses: 78 per cent wanted to stay versus only 10 per cent wanting to quit. Three-quarters thought leaving would have a negative impact on foreign investment in the UK. At the moment, when we negotiate with America, China or Japan, we are doing so as part of the world’s largest trade bloc, which accounts for nearly 20 per cent of world GDP. Washington, Beijing and Tokyo have to take Brussels seriously as a trade partner. If we were on our own, the balance of power would be quite different. The US economy is seven times as big as ours, the Chinese is five times as big, and Japan’s is twice our size. If we left the EU, we’d often find ourselves opening up our markets more to the world’s big economies than they would open theirs to us. We’d typically have to play by their rules – whereas, at the moment, we influence the EU’s product regulations, which then have a chance of becoming global standards. We’d also have to negotiate with the EU, whose economy would be six times our size after we quit. Far better to stay in the EU and use its influence to open up markets elsewhere. The single market is based on what are known as the “four freedoms”. These were contained in the Treaty of Rome that set up the forerunner to the EU in 1958: the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. This is one of the most important charters for freedom the world has ever seen. In Britain, there is little controversy over the first three freedoms. But the free movement of people is the subject of heated debate. Indeed, a desire to keep foreigners out of Britain is the main reason why the electorate may want to quit the EU entirely. Immigration is undoubtedly an emotive topic. But allowing free movement of people within the EU has been good for our economy. It has also enriched our culture and given our own citizens more opportunities to work, study and retire across the Channel. Hundreds of thousands of our citizens work in other EU countries; hundreds of thousands more have retired to sunnier climates around the Mediterranean. There are one million Brits living in Spain, 330,000 living in France, and 65,000 in Cyprus. There are also 330,000 in Ireland. If we left the EU, it is not at all clear what would happen to our citizens living and working abroad. But the best guess is that tit-for-tat would prevail. In the unlikely event that relations got really acrimonious and we kicked EU citizens out of the UK, the EU would probably retaliate and kick out our citizens, too. That would be disastrous. More likely, we would just severely curtail new immigrants crossing the Channel to Britain. But if the EU then stopped Brits going to live and work there, that would still be a diminution of the freedom we currently enjoy. Now look at the EU citizens living in the UK. Most are young and skilled. They come here mainly to work. Their so-called “non-activity” rate – which covers pensioners, students and stay-at-home parents as well as the unemployed – is 30 per cent. The rate for the UK population as a whole is 43 per cent. Meanwhile, 32 per cent of recent arrivals have university degrees compared with 21 per cent of the native population. Many Brits are worried about EU immigrants taking our benefits. The facts, though, don’t bear this out. European immigrants are half as likely as natives to receive state benefits or tax credits, according to a study by academics at University College London. The average age of the European immigrant population in Britain was 34 in 2011, compared with 41 for the native population. We don’t pay much for the immigrants’ education since they normally arrive after being educated. And, since most of them are of working age, we don’t pay much for their pensions or healthcare, either. Many eventually return home, carrying good memories of the UK with them. In other words, we get a good deal from EU immigrants. In judging the merits of EU membership, we should look at the future, not just the present. In particular, can we make it more competitive and less centralised? The crisis in the eurozone and rising euroscepticism throughout the EU mean we are well placed to do this. This argument, it has to be admitted, is contrary to the conventional wisdom that the eurozone will have to integrate further to solve its problems. Germany, France, Italy and the other countries will then act as a single bloc, with the ability to dictate what happens in the EU without taking account of our interests – even on matters that are vital to us such as how the City is regulated. But the eurozone probably won’t rush towards so-called political and fiscal union. The growth of euroscepticism across Europe means the elites won’t be able to bamboozle the people into agreeing more transfers of power to Brussels, as they have done in the past. Political union is also unnecessary because the main problem with the periphery is one of competitiveness. Centralising power and giving hand-outs won’t solve that. The solution, rather, is to restore competitiveness and boost productivity by freeing up markets. This is not a pleasant process, but it is beginning to happen in places such as Greece and Spain. The euro crisis is an opportunity for Britain, because all these things would be beneficial for our economy. Just think how Germany is the big winner from the single market in goods because of its prowess as a manufacturing nation. Extending it fully to services, where Britain excels, could be correspondingly beneficial for us. Or think about what would happen if the EU was less “bankcentric” and relied more on capital market instruments, such as shares and bonds, to channel funds from investors to companies. The bulk of the business would flow through the City of London with its army of investment bankers, lawyers and accountants. More trade and less red tape would help our businesses, too. The time is ripe to persuade the EU to sign up for such an agenda. Germany’s Angela Merkel made clear on a visit to London in early 2014 that she saw Britain as an important ally to make the EU more competitive and less bureaucratic. In determining whether to quit the EU, we shouldn’t just look at the benefits of being in, but also understand what “out” would mean. None of the varieties would be attractive. Let’s start with the option of staying in the single market. That may be feasible. After all, Norway has access to the single market without being in the EU. This means it isn’t part of the CAP. But there is a big disadvantage: Norway has to apply all the rules of the single market without any vote on what those rules are. If Britain was in the same position, it really would be subservient to Brussels. Quite apart from the blow to our sovereignty, the rules would be written without taking account of our interests and so could easily harm us. It’s hard to see how such an arrangement could be preferable to our current membership. Because the Norwegian option is unappealing, many eurosceptics cast around for half-way houses that give some access to the single market but without following all the EU’s rules. The two main ones are Switzerland and Turkey. Unfortunately, they don’t have full access to the market and they still have to follow some of the rules, without a vote on them. If we copied them, one consequence is that the financial services industry, which accounts for 10 per cent of our economy, would lose its “passport” to offer services across the Channel. Other eurosceptics think we should rely on our membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ensure access to markets. The snag is that, although the WTO has made progress in opening up trade, it has not secured anything like free trade in manufacturing – let alone services, which account for more than three-quarters of our GDP. Our large car industry, for example, would have to pay 10 per cent tariffs on exports to the EU. No wonder Ford warned in early 2014 that the UK would be “cutting off its nose to spite its face” if it quit the EU. Investment would fall as foreign companies that invested in the UK as a launch-pad for serving the entire EU market shifted some of their activities across the Channel. Some British companies would do the same. Unemployment would rise until wages had fallen far enough for people to price themselves back into the market. There are no good alternatives to membership. We should stay in the EU and put our energy into reforming it. We should fix it, not nix it.    

Greek Islands for the Nobel Prize.

When a nation in the face of political, economical, and social unrest opens its arms to refugees fleeing war zones such as Syria, its worth recognition… This is why I think its right we at least consider why we should take the Greek islands as a serious candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Firstly, its worth noting that its not just their “open arms” approach towards refugees that’s striking. As nations such as Germany, Hungary and Serbia now place borders, the Greek approach has been somewhat different. Not once did they turn boats away, and not grant them passage through their lands, but instead act humanely and offer food for all, education for children, medication, and temporary shelter. From the story of the Kos baker Dionisis Arvanitakis that gives migrants around 100kilos of bread every day, to the Greek army camps in Mytline and Samos, and even the Olympic Hokey stadium in Athens that now provides migrants and their families housing, the Greeks have played their part and exceeded expectations when other well-off nations bare little help. The humanitarian work has not gone unnoticed, though. At least three online petitions have made an appeal to award the next Nobel Peace Prize to the citizens of the Greek Islands. One of these, specifically mentions Lesvos, saying, “It is always those who have little that give, those who have no means that help, those who look horror in the eye that hope. It is the people of Lesbos (sic) who have provided consistent care and tenderness in welcoming the refugees.” I want to leave you all with a video of a Greek priest that until recently passed, Father Efstratios Dimou, or Papa Stratis as he was known on Lesvos. Although one of many helpers towards refugees, I was amazed by how a man that at the time with such bad (and deteriorating) health, until his last moments helped others regardless of their religion or colour of skin. To sign the Nobel Prize petition click this link