Righting the Wronged!

Over the last two years I have had many conversations with good people who are at the front of the queue for the Big Brexit Chaos Bonanza.  Their stories are all different.  They are young, old, married, single, parents, grandparents.  They are nurses, musicians, warehouse operatives, civil servants, cleaners, carers, students.  They live across the UK and the EU.  They like literature, popular culture, sport, cooking, eating, watching the Proms, Strictly and the GBBO.  They like burgers and the theatre and pop music.  They run businesses, they work for someone else, they hold down 2 jobs, they travel across the continent as consultants or as tradespeople or as carers. 
Here is what they all have in common.  They were deliberately denied a say on a question which affects their lives and their status.  #the5million.  I don’t think many of us thought too hard about that.  Even now there is recognisable shock when my friend Nicky tells people how she was not allowed to vote because she has lived outside the UK for more than 15 years.  They are even more shocked when she points out that losing our EU citizenship, for her, will result in losing a right to vote for an MEP in the Netherlands and she may even lose her right to vote in her local elections.  She will have no political voice at all. 
At the same time 16-17 year olds were also denied a say, young people who were perfectly grown up enough to have an opinion of their own are the ones who will live with the consequences of this referendum outcome for the longest time. Incidentally these are the same kids we are all relying on to pay for our pensions and old age care.  I hope you were all careful what you wished for when you decided where to put that cross on the ballot paper.
Brextremists are very fond of saying it is undemocratic to campaign to stop Brexit because it was the “greatest democratic exercise in the history of the UK”.  Well I have news for you – your democratic exercise was pretty stinky as democratic exercises go.  It was flawed in a multitude of ways. Not only did leave campaigns (yes plural) cheat, not only was there lying and empty promises by them but fundamentally a huge group of people who would be affected by the decision were ignored as if they did not matter, as if they were objects to sort out later whether to keep or throw away, only measurable in pounds and euros and usefulness to those with British passports. 
Brexiters, you deliberately stopped all EU27 citizens in the UK, regardless of how long they have been members of our communities up and down the country, from having a voice. the people immediately affected by the outcome were ignored.   You stopped British citizens in the EU and elsewhere who had been overseas for more than 15 years from voting and many of the ballot papers to those who qualified did not arrive.   You stopped 16-17year olds from having a voice even though you deemed Scottish youth to be capable of casting a vote only a year before in the indyref.  You tried to tell them they would be okay – everything will work out, of course you don’t want them to leave, of course they would be protected.  At best you guessed, at worst you blatantly lied about your intentions.  The fact remains you have kept these people in limbo for 2 years and overnight millions will have a different status and will have to “register” to go back to their home that they never moved out of.  Millions across the EU have been given no guidance or support by the British government and are relying on the countries of their residence to help them secure their status.  What did Mrs May say when asked in the house of commons?  “I hope they’ll be okay”.  If this does not pull you up short on this subject I don’t know what will.
This Brexit is nauseating enough.  The economic consequences over the short and medium and long term are ridiculously damaging and in themselves should ensure a rejection by a sensible parliament of Brexit – yes, I know we are way short of a sensible parliament.  But the disenfranchisement of so many of our friends, our families, our neighbours underpins my greatest disgust, fills my head with anger and determination to fight. 
On Saturday I will be marching for a Peoples Vote, for an opportunity for a new vote to examine all the consequences we now know will result from the so-called work the government have been doing for 2 years.  A new vote requires a new franchise.  I will be arguing that not only should we have the opportunity to examine the deal, not only should we be able to keep remain as an option, but there is no doubt in my head the franchise should include the voices of the #5million and the 16-17 year olds who will carry the biggest burden of Brexit.
It will be an opportunity for us to Right all the Wrongs of June 2016 and we must fight for all of that.  
#brexitispersonal
#finalsayforall
@redalphababe

Face up to the Truth about Freedom of Movement.

Those of you who voted Leave because of immigration I have news for you.  Everything we have been saying to you for more than 2 years about immigration is correct.  Ask the Migration Advisory Committee who have brought some inconvenient facts out into the open.  They were assigned the job of designing an immigration system outside EU membership.  In so doing they made a thorough examination of the impact of EU immigration in the areas of concern.  I have laid those out below point by point in a handy table for you to cut out and keep.   
In short, if you saw the Breaking Point Poster revealed by the leave campaign and Nigel Farage and when its clear and unsavoury message sat in your head, burning the fire of resentment and righteousness inside you, making you look at the foreigners around you with new suspicion or as a group of people who are taking the proverbial, well I am sorry to tell you once again the poster was wrong.  You are still wrong if you believe that immigration or FOM has a single thing to do with any of the things that made you unhappy.  You are still wrong if you think throwing away your (and everybody else’s) EU citizenship and your rights to FOM will make any of these things better.   
If you are fed up of static or low wages, or expensive housing or big queues in the doctor’s surgery, or the lack of growth in the economy, well stop worrying about where your neighbours were born and start looking at our government, who makes the policies which help to address every single one of these things.   You will not be any better off as if by magic on Brexit day – whatever the kind of Brexit foisted on you.  All you will have achieved is the creation of  upset and hostility towards a group of people who have just lived their lives, just like you.  Going to work, paying their taxes, looking after their children, loving their neighbours, running their businesses, looking after old people, looking after sick people, supporting the environment, offsetting the impact of our ageing population on services.     
So now we have this “FOM has damaged us” nonsense debunked by the Governments own findings, can we have a proper conversation about our EU membership please and the genuine benefits of being EU members?  Can HM Opposition finally stop upholding these immigration myths at every twist and turn?  Can we now properly assess the real and full consequences of the outcome of government’s Brexit policy on ALL OUR LIVES PLEASE.
Time for a #peoplesvote with an option to remain.
@redalphababe
IMPACT
REPORT COMMENT
Employment
Little or none
“we found that migrants have no or little impact on the overall employment and unemployment outcomes of the UK born workforce” 
Wages
Little or none
“migration is not a major determinate of the wages of UK born workers. We found some evidence suggesting that lower-skilled workers face a negative impact while higher-skilled workers benefit, however the magnitude of the impacts are generally small.”
Self-Employment
No Meaningful evidence
“We do not conclude what, if any, impact immigration has had on the economic prospects of the self-employed but do present some descriptive statistics taken from Self-Assessment and National Insurance Number registration datasets. These show that self-employed EEA nationals have lower declared profits than UK nationals on average, likely reflecting differences in the type and duration of work undertaken”
Productivity
Positive Probably
“the studies we commissioned point towards immigration having a positive impact on productivity, but the results are subject to significant uncertainty.”
Innovation
Positive
“high-skilled immigrants make a positive contribution to the levels of innovation in the receiving country”.  Innovation is hugely important to an economy like our because this is what drives new industries, technologies and skilled jobs.
Training
Positive
“no evidence that migration has had a negative impact on the training of the  UK-born workforce. Moreover, there is some evidence to suggest that skilled migrants have a positive impact on the quantity of training available to the UK-born workforce. Any potential impact on the quality of training provided is unknown”
Services Prices
Downward pressure
“We found some evidence that migration, particularly from New Member States (NMS) and non-EEA, has reduced prices of personal services”
House Prices
Upward Pressure
“Our analysis suggests that migration has increased house prices. The impacts of migration on house prices cannot, however, be seen in isolation from other government policies. The evidence points towards a higher impact of migration in areas with more restrictive planning policies in which it is harder for the housing stock to increase in line with demand”
Contribution to public purse
Positive
“Our commissioned research found that EEA migrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.”
Health and Social Care
Positive
“contribute much more to the health service and the provision of social care in financial resources and through work than they consume in services.”
Education
Positive
“no evidence that migration has reduced parental choice in schools or the educational attainment of UK-born children. On average, children with English as an additional language outperform native English speakers.”
Social Housing
None to slightly negative
“Given there is little building of new social housing this is inevitably at the expense of other potential tenants.”
Community – crime
No impact
“migration does not impact crime “
Community – well being
Varies – no real evidence
” no evidence that migration has reduced the average level of subjective well-being in the UK.”

A Life in Business, Tomb Raider and Brexit

I sometimes think a life in business is like playing Tomb Raider.  It’s a strange analogy, I know.  Having spent more hours than I should have sneaking onto my son’s computer in the noughties there are some similarities so bear with me whilst I try to explain my logic.

When you start, the first couple of levels seem easy.  You are well signposted, there are plenty of instructions, there’s lots of information available to guide you and give you some clues about which direction to explore in.  You can, if you have been cautious, afford a few false starts before you have fully committed yourself heart and soul into the game ahead.  Most importantly, you get a huge buzz out of every problem you solve and feel happy as you work your way up, around and through and over all the obstacles towards your goal.

It’s not long before you get on to the harder levels.  There are fewer pointers here. You have an idea of where you want to go but in the words of Oasis, “all the roads we have to walk are winding, and all the lights that lead us there are blinding “.   Every new level brings with it unfamiliar territory. The problems are harder to solve, the obstacles trickier. There are sabre toothed tigers and baddies with pistols around the corner threatening to end your game. Along the way you acquire new skills and weapons.  You make mistakes you lose a life you try again having learned from your mistakes.  But here is where the analogy departs for a while because suddenly your business is your life, it has become  almost your entire life and now you are immersed the consequences of the decisions you must make are very real.   

I am not an academic or an expert or an economist.  All I can offer are my personal thoughts having been a co-director of a small business for 20 years.  In fact, I have been involved in small businesses since I left university in the late 80s.  During all those years we have seen many things. I have experienced dealing with bailiffs at the door and conversely been in the fortunate position of being able to help when others were at a similar low point. There have been times when we had to sell everything we could to help us through cash flow squeezes or borrowed heavily on credit cards to make month end and times when making money was easy and we have been able to happily reinvest in the business to expand and move it forward.  We have had the privilege of building a team of people who do their best for us every day. We have been able to borrow to invest and taken many risks and chances, always calculated but sometimes dicey even so.  Some paid off some did not.  This is life. We make decisions, some are right, some are wrong, some work out, some not so much.  Just as in a computer game though, we only have so many business lives.  Unlike Lara, we can’t reboot and replay the game once all our chances have gone. 

Summary of Stats on business number from Briefing paper number 06152
28th December 2017 Business Statistics, House of Commons Library.

Here is the thing I have learned.  However stable a business is, nearly all companies are really only 3 to 6 months away from annihilation.  From time to time paperwork will cross my desk from a liquidator winding up a customer or supplier and I always notice the same thing.  The implosion after the crisis point is pretty dramatic and rapid.  

There are several reasons why a crisis can occur.  Bang – a change in government policy.  Slap – a loss of an important contract. Biff  – the most profitable product is now out of fashion.  Punch – a miscalculation of stock.  Crash – a sudden dramatic move in currency exchange rates. Kick – a rise in interest rates when over-borrowed.  Zap – a stupid misjudgement on an expansion plan.  

This is not an exhaustive list but any of these things can happen to any SME with fatal consequences for their business.  The liquidators move in.  Suppliers switch to self-protect mode.  All the value everyone thought was there ebbs away and dissipates like Lara’s energy bar, as the customer base drifts off to competitors, stock is marked down, customers find reasons not to pay their outstanding bills and the accountants and bankers who make their living out of the dead bones of SMEs take their cut.  Long standing contacts distance themselves uncomfortably, embarrassed to admit a superstitious fear that failure could be catching.   I look at the updates from these liquidators and I shake my head with sorrow as it could be any of us.  I doubt I am the only one who sees it this way. 

So you see, the life of a small business is  fragile.  We plan, we build reserves, we look at the prevailing conditions, the things out of our control, and we try to make sensible decisions, we hedge against our vulnerabilities where we can, we look for opportunities to get ahead and hope they pay off.  Here is where I come around in a roundabout way to Brexit.  The fragility of SMEs means we are heading for some extremely difficult times with Brexit looming. Remember my list of potential obstacles?  Well for a proportion of the 5.7million SMEs and even some of the large businesses, Brexit, any flavour of Brexit on the menu, will mete out a number of those blows simultaneously.  The companies affected won’t so much be rolling with the punches as knocked unconscious before they have had a chance to even buy gloves.  We could do some contingency planning, we are doing what we can, but when there is a finite amount of time and resource and personnel we need to know roughly what we are planning for otherwise we may as well just buy a lottery ticket.  

If you voted Leave, you – yes I do mean each and every one of you –  have helped to put my business in harm’s way, but not just mine.  A great many SMEs will face existential challenges because of a direct effect on their EU sales, disruption in the supply chain, an increase in their input costs or less directly because of a downturn, which will most definitely come, leading to cuts in their customers spending in the short to medium term.  2 years on and I still have not seen a convincing reason which explains why we are voluntarily following this insane path.  There is no benefit to me and mine, my staff or my business and after asking the question multiple times, nobody credible has ever been able to cite a specific example of a benefit to my business or my life.

My partner and I are both from working class backgrounds, we started out with no contacts and no capital but lots of bravado.  Over the years we have adapted, diversified  and changed our business model to suit changing business environments.  We have battled and fought and sought the tenacity we needed to keep ourselves in the game.  We have reinvested our profits, taken chances, learned from our errors, some of them bad ones.  Some days I look at the uncertainties ahead and the idea of giving up, selling what we can and going away somewhere regardless of the consequences crosses my mind for a moment.  But I know we are not quitters and we will fight on, one problem at a time, one obstacle at a time.  

For many in business however, Brexit might just become like one of the nightmarish corridors in Tomb Raider Level 20 with the jets of fire, a sword of Damocles and a giant boulder rolling behind.   There will be too many obstacles coming together in too short a time to negotiate successfully and no amount of stockpiled medi-packs will get us through to the next level.  Don’t be surprised if some players decide to just quietly turn the computer off and take up yoga.   �

Brexits Fable

A Cautionary Tale 
England was a great and strong leader. She always ran at the front of the pack.  She had lots of friends across the globe. She was a trendsetter in many industries and fields.  Her people were admired and lauded in the main.  She was not without fault of course.  Some felt she could be difficult and prickly and arrogant, but this was nearly always overlooked and forgiven and sometimes her awkwardness was seen as a good thing in making EU a better-balanced team and stronger overall.
However, for many years England had a little Demon of Untruths sitting on her shoulder whispering into her ear whenever things weren’t going so well. When her people were dissatisfied with her performance the demon would whisper “It’s your suit of #EUFabric that the EU makes you wear as part of her team that is holding you back.  Make your own suit of fabric forged from your glorious past.  You need a suit made of pieces of English History, Ration books, Iron, Steel, coal and unlocked back doors all sewn together with threads of gold.  Shoes made of gold encrusted with diamonds, fish and chips and blue passports.  The world will see you for the great jewel you are and fall at your feet. You do not need EU to be great you are great.  You are better than all the rest.” 
In the main England was sensible and wise and was rather partial to a continental breakfast sometimes and for many, many years ignored the silly Demon of Untruths but gradually its poison seeped into the newspaper front pages, social media and onto the tv screens and a kind of hysteria overtook some of England’s people who became scared that the Demon of Untruths was right, and that the EU had secretly and deliberately taken something away from them just to troll them.  
England had a little drink with her oldest friends Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland.  Wales said, “well I know I always complain about London holding me back and EU has given me lots of money to try and help my poorer people and my farming industry depends on EU giving it subsidy but even so, I will go with you on this rather marvellous suit idea.”  Scotland and Northern Ireland looked at the other 2 as if they had gone insane.  Scotland said “This is a bizarre idea.  The suit you are suggesting can only hold you back and it will hold me back.  EUFabric suits have made us strong members of a team and we look after each other.  EU has her faults but as part of her team she helps us in ways too numerous to count and we can continue to improve the way she works if we are on the inside.”
Northern Ireland said “Hang on, as a team member wearing the EUFabric suit I have been able to run side by side with my southern friend on this little piece of ground we share and forge new friendships and relationships since the Good Friday Agreement. Wearing your proposed suit will slow me down and jeopardise my relationship with them.”
Despite the wise counsel and warnings from NI and Scotland, England and Wales were swayed by the seductive Demon of Untruths who persuaded them that the people would be happier if England built a brand new team suit to run in and so she set about making it.
It took 3 years and all England and Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland’s spare money and time but finally 6 suits were forged.  A grand suit for England, 3 slightly less grand for Wales Scotland and NI and 2 SecondClassSuits for the #the3Million and #BritsintheEU. They glistened in the sunshine and England looked proudly at the chainmail like suits made from the GloriousPast and the 4 original friends set off on the road to GlobalPower that the demon had promised they could find.  England jogged along the path, Wales, NI, Scotland, #the3Million and #BritsintheEU by her side but soon the others were starting to flag.  The suits were heavy and hot and encumbered their progress without the smart EU protections helping them along the trickiest bits of path and steepest hills.  England grew impatient with them and barked at them to keep up.  
Scotland grew weary of England’s bossiness and was exhausted from the silly suit.  She said “Enough is enough, I am going to speak to my people.  Perhaps they are ready for a new chapter not following your stupid ideas, England and maybe we can get back in good books with EU”.  With that Scotland stalked off to examine their options.
NI and Wales were also struggling.  The suits were far too heavy for their little economies and they frequently had to stop for breath.  They said, “England this is really the worst idea you have ever had. You will have to go ahead, and we will try and catch you up”
 #The3Million was keeping up with England so far although she was looking a bit upset but they ran side by side for a while chatting about old times.  England suddenly noticed #The3Million was not wearing the rather smart SecondClassSuit she had made so lovingly for her (it was an Android version of course).
#The3Million said “England I love you dearly.  I love your culture and your music and your art and your people.  Some of my people have lived with you for less than a year and some for many, many years.  But you have ignored my advice and my opinions, and you have told me I am no longer, as I once thought, your partner, your friend, your neighbour, your equal, working together for your success.  Your success was my success for all these years, but it seems this feeling was not reciprocated even though you led me to believe it was.  You don’t want me to have a say in how the England team is shaped so it is with great regret I must carry on my life quest without you.  The suit you have chosen is heavy and slow and holds me back.  I choose the lightweight and nimble EUFabric suit to continue my race”
As England watched her old friend race on she felt some sadness. For a moment she tried to recall what had been so bad about Eastern European plasterers or Spanish Nurses.  She couldn’t quite remember why they annoyed her so, but the Demon of Untruths whispered reassuringly into her ear and she continued on with a little shrug.
 #BritsintheEU was still there by her side in her SecondClassSuit but England was taken aback with the frosty look she was getting.  “But what on earth is the matter my old friend?”. 
 #BritsintheEU replied “England I love you dearly, but you have made a huge mistake and you have ignored my opinion in the matter.  You did not even ask some of my people.  You have now turned my people into 2nd class citizens by making them wear this SecondClassSuit and unlike #The3million, my people find it more difficult to make a change so that I can carry on wearing the #EUFabric.  You have plunged me into a situation where I am neither one thing or the other when once we were all proudly equal to EU”
#BritsintheEU started to struggle more and more in her heavy SecondClassSuit and soon she was left behind by England who now found herself totally alone. 
England slowed down a little, beads of sweat appeared on her brow.  The suit was heavy and hot and not quite so shiny anymore.  Out of a side road EU appeared.  She was looking fresh and beautiful in her lightweight suit of EUFabric developed and sewn together with 60 years of cooperation, friendship, consensus and peace.  She gave England a huge hug when she saw her.  England was rather taken aback with the demonstration of affection but was secretly quite pleased despite the Demon of Untruths jumping up and down with rage at this ostentatious display of European charm and affection.  
England said to EU, “where are you going.  Slow down.  Perhaps I could come with you?  What are you working on? Is it something exciting and new?”  EU looked tearfully at England and replied “England, I love you and your oldest partners dearly.  For 40 years we have run along this road together always in roughly the same direction and together we have chosen our paths and become stronger and fitter and been able to ride the bumps in the road with the help of each other.  My people love your culture and your language and your art and your people but as your friend I must tell you the truth.  You rejected my EUFabric Suit for one of your own. I must now continue without you, working in the interest of those who continue to wear my team colours.  But you have chosen a heavy suit holding you back, anchoring you to a past that never existed except in the imagination of your Demon of Untruths.  We will continue to find ways to work together for sure but it will never be the same again and it is down to my team to decide the direction now without your wise input.  This causes me great sadness, but you have chosen to wear a suit that is too heavy to run in and you must travel at the speed it dictates.  If you do not want me then I am not going to wait for you”
As EU sprinted off down a new road that magically appeared, England wondered sadly what had been so bad about sharing the top table with EU for all those years and those lovely little Danish pastries they served with the coffee were divine.  
The Demon of Untruths whispered, “Don’t worry we always have the commonwealth”. 
Right on cue, Commonwealth appeared in all her glory.    She was looking strong and magnificent in her lightweight suit designed to look forward into a modern world.  The old friends ran side by side for a while.  England said to Commonwealth “We need to forge a closer working relationship together and run together more often.  I could design you a wonderful new suit that would complement mine.  We could get back to be the wonderful team we used to be”. 
Commonwealth looked sadly at England and said “My dear old friend, I love you I really do. My people love your people and I will continue to work in many ways with you.   But recently you have not been very kind to my children and grandchildren.  You asked them to come and help you be stronger and successful. They did that but then you withdrew your protection and support when they were no longer useful to you.  You have made yourself a very heavy and cumbersome suit to wear which you thought would be magnificent, but it will hold you back and you will have to live with the consequences.   I cannot let you hold me back when there are new opportunities and alliances for my people elsewhere to explore. Our paths will cross, and we will run together for spells, but I cannot fill the hole you have made rejecting EU’s suit”. 
England looked at the back of the sprinting Commonwealth with tears in her eyes and felt very alone.  Why was she being deserted by her old allies?  For that matter why had she left her oldest partners behind struggling in suits which were too heavy for them?  
The Demon of Untruths whispered, “Don’t worry there are plenty more where they come from”.  
Japan crossed England’s path and said to her “We can work together still but business is business and some of my industry is now running side by side with EU since you no longer wear her suit.  Her strength and speed and power help protect our people, I am sorry I have had to change my relationship with you.  We were once so close.”
China appeared next.  “Hello England, I love you and your people but regretfully I too must make some changes so that some of my industry can run directly side by side with EU for our relationship to continue smoothly.  I am sorry you have been slowed down by your choice of clothing and we have much to do together still of course but it won’t be the same as it once was”
Finally, along came TrumpsAmerica.  The Demon of Untruths jumped up and down with glee. “This is the one we have been waiting for.  Our dream of the Special Relationship which will make us the envy of the world.  Sod all the others, we don’t need them.  TrumpsAmerica did not at first recognise England in her fine new clothes.  “That’s a very shiny suit. It would look good on my lift attendant in my golden lift.   Anyway, let’s talk.” 
England said “Run with me TrumpsAmerica.  Together we will be great again and rule the world.  I have ditched EU.  I was sick of the flimsy suits she made me wear. It’s always been you in my heart anyway.  Let’s you and I be together”
TrumpsAmerica looked England up and down saying “I am sorry your suit can only hold me back and I don’t want or need hangers on.  It is far too heavy for the road to Global Power.  But I can do some good business deals with you.  That NHS you have, sell it to me and that will lighten your load – I would be interested.  All those sick people.  I could broker an excellent deal with my drug companies and health providers.  They would run by your side quite happily.  Anything else you want to sell?  What about the meat you eat.  My chicken is excellent”
England thanked TrumpsAmerica for her suggestions of business deals and told her she would give it some thought.  As she ran along the road exhausted and weighed down by her Suit of the Past doing a deal here and there – one with Lichtenstein, one with Easter Island, a little deal with Albania, a couple of little deals on scones to Australia, she couldn’t help but think about the old days when she ran at the front of the pack and when people looked to her for leadership and she wondered how she had lost so much good will and friendship in so short a time.  The Demon of Untruths laughed and laughed and laughed.
The end.