News

Newsletter 25/05/24

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The UK has ratified the terms of its entry into the CPTPP trade bloc ahead of schedule.

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The UK has ratified the terms of its entry into the CPTPP trade bloc ahead of schedule. CPTPP nations account for 15% of global GDP, a share that is projected to grow, and the UK is the first European nation to join. Joining the bloc would have been impossible were the UK still in the EU.

The Polish foreign minister has praised Britain’s ability to offer quick support and assistance to Ukraine, an ability which he says Britain has acquired as a result of Brexit. While EU nations must wait for the agreement of 27 member states, including some who seem unsure of their opposition to Putin’s Russia, Britain has the freedom to forge its own foreign policy.

A court in Belfast has ruled that parts of the Rwanda Safety Act do not apply in Northern Ireland because it is inconsistent with EU law. The ruling means that migrants who make it to Northern Ireland cannot be deported. Nobody should be under any illusions about the Windsor Framework after this decision: it keeps part of the UK beholden to EU law.

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EU law trump acts of Parliament in Northern Ireland

The SNP has declared a ‘housing emergency’ in Scotland as the numbers of people in temporary accommodation or homeless soar. A spokesperson for the Scottish government laughably blamed ‘austerity and Brexit’ for the shortage of suitable housing. The real culprits are rent controls and planning restrictions.

Protests have erupted in Tbilisi, Georgia, over a controversial new law which would class organisations receiving more than 20% of the funding from abroad ‘foreign agents’. The law is modelled after a similar measure enforced in Russia, and is seen by critics as an attempt to pull Georgia away from Europe and the West back into the remit of Russia. The President has vetoed the bill, but the ruling party in the Georgian parliament have vowed to push it through regardless.

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Georgia on our minds

Media

Camilla Turner on the civil servant booted out for challenging EDI policies

Mary Harrington on why Greta Thunberg is wearing a Keffiyeh.

Blog

Switzerland under pressure on closer relations with the EU by Adrian Hill

Adrian Hill reports a recent interview in the Swiss Der Blick newspaper with prominent Swiss businessman and Swiss sovereignty campaigner, Urs Weitlisbach and draws lessons for the UK from the Swiss-EU framework agreement under current negotiation.

Swiss diplomats and civil servants are negotiating a new framework agreement with the EU There are signals that some of the seven strong Swiss Federal Council have been persuaded to withhold detailed progress reports from the voters. That implies that the EU is demanding Swiss capitulation on some matters, but Switzerland is the only neutral European country still outside the EU and its economy is envied by the latter.

Key Points

There is no image more instructive about the problems with housing in Scotland than the smartphone charging in dingy temporary accommodation. Amidst visible poverty there is cutting edge technology which 15 years ago would have been the stuff of science fiction. How is it that ordinary people in Scotland have access to technological luxury but don’t have access to adequate housing? The answer is that the government is involved in the provision of the latter but not the former.

Not according to the SNP. They say that the reason why so many Scots are homeless is ‘Brexit and austerity’. This is nonsense. The Scottish people did not lose their ability to build adequate shelter when the details of their trading arrangements with the continent changed. Nor did the decision by a committee in Westminster to run a smaller budget deficit than its predecessor force people in Scotland to down tools and stop building new houses. To think otherwise is to think that the Scottish people are uniquely dependent on bureaucrats in Brussels and London to house themselves. This is obvious nonsense.

The real problem is rent controls and planning restrictions. Rent controls make bringing new rental properties to market unprofitable. Naturally, this means that people don’t do it. The result is fewer options and fewer places to live. Planning restrictions make building new houses unprofitable, so people don’t build any. Naturally, this means that the stock of housing slowly deteriorates and shrinks in proportion to a growing population.

Everyone knows this, so why do these policies persist? The un-cynical answer is that it is a combination of politicians chasing headlines (“First Minister cuts rents by…” etc.) and overzealous NIMBYs. The cynical answer is that the resulting crisis gives socialist ministers an excuse to take more control over housing. No doubt the SNP’s response to the crisis they have proclaimed will mean more government involvement in the market for places to live.

Until a Scottish government admits that the impulse to control and manage the provision of housing directly from Holyrood is misguided, the Scottish people will continue to suffer the effects of an inadequate stock of housing.

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Briefings For Britain