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WEEKEND WEB: Free Press letters

READERS' PHOTOS: Steve Hubbard's picture of the River Nene at Sutton Bridge.
READERS' PHOTOS: Steve Hubbard's picture of the River Nene at Sutton Bridge.

Your views on Brexit, illegal shop sales and Surfleet’s sports pitches

Democracy demands a vote on exit terms

John Elson's Free Press cartoon.
John Elson's Free Press cartoon.

I’m indebted to Craig Jackson (Free Press, February 13), our local Vote Leave constituency coordinator, for revealing that the Leave campaign’s economic arguments for Brexit are based on the work of Professor Patrick Minford and his tiny group of ‘Economists for Free Trade (EFT)’.

Clearly, if I can convince readers that EFT’s economic assumptions, modelling and conclusions are fundamentally flawed, then the whole economic argument for Brexit collapses.

Before I get started on debunking Leave’s economic argument for Brexit, I need to remind readers that, prior to the EU Referendum, the Leave campaign deliberately set out to demonise experts, claiming they’re always wrong, can never be trusted, and serve as some sort of “fifth column” for the rich, capitalist class.

But, isn’t it interesting that, when the Leave campaign discovers just one economist, like Minford, who actually supports their belief in Brexit, they feel entitled to put him on a pedestal and claim, as Craig Jackson does, that “Our economy will be boosted by £650billion” .

Let’s start by examining Craig Jackson’s claim that “Minford has been correct in his forecasts of the major economic changes in Britain over the past 35 years.” Readers may have forgotten or be too young to know that it was Minford, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s economic adviser, who convinced her introducing the Poll Tax would be a fabulously successful economic policy – a view I gather he still passionately supports . . . and we all know what a stellar success that turned out to be. Also, Minford was in the vanguard of arguing against the introduction of the National Minimum Wage in 1999, claiming it would cause huge job losses, which never materialised.

Now let’s take a look at Minford’s latest report, “From Project Fear to Project Prosperity”, which Craig relies upon and advises us to read. This document is riddled with flawed methodology and data, so much so it’s been described by the wider community of economists as “crazy” and worse. Let me focus on just four key flaws:

1 – Minford rejects what other economists call “the gravity model”. This model is based on the reality that, since the dawn of humankind, most trade has been done between neighbouring tribes and territories. Obviously, this doesn’t preclude us trading with faraway places, like China, but Minford offers no explanation for why Germany currently does over five times as much trade with China than the UK. Hopefully, Craig will be able to explain to us how ‘freeing ourselves from the shackles of EU regulation’ will miraculously increase our trade with China by fivefold, just to catch up with Germany

2 – Minford bases his entire economic analysis on the assumption that, post-Brexit, the UK will immediately adopt “Unilateral Free Trade (UFT)”. Readers may be unaware of what UFT means; so let me explain. It means the UK will unilaterally eliminate all our current tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports of goods and services from every other country in the world, regardless of what tariff and non-tariff barriers these countries choose to impose on our exports. Minford has, in the past, admitted this policy will crucify many sectors of our economy, notably manufacturing and farming, and create huge wage inequality in the UK. However, he now claims this pain will somehow force us to retrain ourselves to work in different sectors and instantaneously transform ourselves into a far more innovative, entrepreneurial country. It also means there will be no barriers to us importing cheap US GMO crops, chlorine-washed chicken and antibiotic-and-growth-hormone-rich meat, accepting US healthcare providers outsourcing our NHS services, giving our young children unsafe Chinese toys with lead paint, etc.

3 – Minford also assumes: all goods and services are totally ‘homogenous’; all markets are perfect; and there are absolutely no geographically-related factors influencing international trade. This is like assuming the sun rotates around the earth, when science tells us it’s the other way round.

4 – Minford uses his own, simplistic, outdated 1970s ‘Liverpool Model’ and data 14 years out of date to make his flawed predictions. Personally, I wouldn’t believe any of Minford’s forecasts without scrutinising them in detail. However, you won’t hear this advice coming from Craig Jackson, Jacob Rees-Mogg or other leading Brexiteers.

I could go on – but won’t. Personally, I trust voters locally to reject Minford’s economic forecasts and start demanding a vote on the terms of Brexit actually negotiated by our government by October this year. If Craig Jackson, John Hayes MP and others say you can’t have a vote on the actual exit terms, I suggest you ask them why not. Democracy demands it.

Meanwhile, what Jackson, Hayes, and other Brexiteers totally ignore are the very real social and economic benefits of remaining in a progressive, continually improving EU.

Clearly, my task now is to explain to readers what a new and brighter future within the EU will look like, and how we get there.

Alan Meekings


Shop should be closed down for good

Regarding your story concerning illegal cigarettes being sold by the manager at Nasza Biendronka in Spalding’s Sheep Market.

Is it not time this shop was shut down?

The law has consistently been broken at this shop over the years.

There have been too many warnings and it is high time the shop was closed down for good - the people of this town demand it.

The powers-that-be should act now to clean up ourr town and get rid of law breakers for good.

Bert Collins


Glen Park pitch does not belong to hockey club

To avoid any confusion that might have been caused by the article ‘Time for change at hockey club’s pitch’ in last week’s Free Press, I should make it clear that the Glen Park pitch belongs to Surfleet Play and Recreation Charity (SPARC), not Spalding Hockey Club.

The Hockey Club has no special status other than as an occasional user, hiring it on the same terms as the many football teams who also play there.

Nick Davis

SPARC chairman


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