Thursday, April 28, 2016

Man in court over plane bomb hoax on day of Brussels attacks

A 26-year-old man from Scotland has pleaded not guilty to charges that he made a bomb hoax whilst on board an Easyjet flight on the same day as the Brussels airport bombings.

Calum John Lochhead, of 42 Boyd Orr Crescent, Kilmaurs, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, is charged with committing the offence on 22nd March on-board Easyjet flight EZY217 which was flying from Stansted Airport in Essex to Glasgow, Scotland.

On Wednesday this week Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard that Lochhead allegedly "communicated false information to passengers which he knew or believed to be false with the intention of inducing that person or any other person a false belief that a bomb was present."

Prosecutor Harshika Da Silva, told the court that the flight was delayed for a around half an hour amid pandemonium, and the plane was off-loaded after the bomb claims.

Meanwhile, Lochhead's counsel, Jo Pumfrey, told the court Lochhead had not said what he is alleged to have said.

Lochhead indicated a not guilty plea and the case was sent to Chelmsford Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on 25th May.

Lochhead, sported a neatly trimmed beard as he stood before magistrates and was smartly dressed in grey trousers, a white shirt and maroon red tie. He was released on unconditional bail.

A number of reporting restrictions were not lifted for the hearing.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

© 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Obama not the only world leader concerned about Brexit

The Brexit campaign was this weekend fixated with the US President, Barack Obama's intervention and supposedly rigged speech in which he suggested Britain would find itself left out in the cold should it leave the EU.

Obama said Britain might find itself at "the end of the queue" when it came to negotiations for any future trade deals with the United States. This was seen by those in the leave camp as interfering with some fixating on his use of the word queue instead of line, suggesting that Number 10 had been involved in formulating his speech.

But President Obama was not the first major world leader to stick his oar into the EU referendum debate.

China syndrome

Last October China's President, Xi Jinping, made a rare and unusual public statement about Britain's relationship with the EU when he expressed the view that Britain would play a far more constructive role with developing Sino-EU ties.

In a statement, Xi said, "China hopes to see a prosperous Europe and a united EU, and hopes Britain, as an important member of the EU, can play an even more positive and constructive role in promoting the deepening development of China-EU ties." [RT]

China usually abstains from commenting on the internal affairs of other countries so Xi's statement along with similar comments made by China's Foreign Ministry earlier the same month made it clear that the country is concerned about a possible Brexit.

While the statements coming from both the US and China may well be seen as one of self interest, they also give an indication how Britain's relationship with the world's two biggest trading blocks may well be affected should the UK leave the EU.

If the UK left the EU, it would be leaving the biggest trading partnership in the world. Moreover, the UK may well be left out if the EU is able to negotiate more favourable access for European companies to China's markets.

Some have argued that leaving the EU would create the opportunity for the UK to negotiate its own trade deal with China based explicitly on UK, rather than EU interests. However, critics of this view warn that because of the relatively small size of the UK market, China may remain more interested in negotiating with the EU, leaving the UK out in the cold unless it agrees to less favourable terms than might otherwise be secured through the EU. And Obama's statements over the weekend echo this warning.

Business interests

It is not just the leaders of the two biggest economies that are making their views felt. International business leaders have urged the UK to stay in the European Union, warning of complications that could follow a Brexit vote.

There are suggestions that a Brexit could also bring Britain's so-called special relationship with China to an end. With the real possibility now emerging that Britain could exit the EU, Chinese investors are getting nervous.

China's richest man and the head of airline Qantas have both joined the chorus of corporate heads calling on Britons to vote to remain in the EU.

Billionaire Wang Jianlin, who owns businesses including Britain's Sunseeker yachts and the firm behind the One Nine Elms development in Battersea, predicted that Chinese companies could move elsewhere [Guardian / InFacts].

A Brexit "would not be a smart choice" for the UK, and separation "would create more obstacles" for investors, Wang told the Sunday Times. Meanwhile, Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce voiced his view saying that it was "in the economic interest of Britain and the EU to stay together" [FT / Brookings].

Another big player has warned that a Brexit could seriously harm Sino-UK relations when it comes to business. Chief executive officer of BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's biggest mining company, backed the campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union, saying that exiting the bloc would damage its relationship with China.

"I can tell you from my dealings with the highest level of the Chinese government that China takes Britain far more seriously because we are a major player in the EU," Andrew Mackenzie said [Bloomberg].

Financial services

The focus of Obama's comments have hinged on trade deals. However one major area in which Britain might lose out is with financial services.

Banks in the US that have operations in the EU will have a new headache in an already-difficult year should UK voters opt out of the political and economic union. And most of the biggest banks operating on Wall Street have key operations in places like London and Ireland, which could turn into a management nightmare instantly should UK residents vote on 23rd June to opt out of the governing collective.

US and European banks alike that benefited from "passporting" regulations that let them run trading operations in UK locations like London would have to hastily revisit those operating plans. Some banks may consider relocating trading operations to cities like Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt if the UK opts out of the EU.

"At the moment they can run operations out of London," said George Karamanos, head of European bank equity research at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. "If they lose that, it means that no longer can they run regulated activities out of London." [CNBC]

And Katie Nixon, chief investment officer of Northern Trust Wealth Management, told CNBC's "Power Lunch" that a Brexit could create further uncertainty in already uncertain financial world market.

According to Nixon, "Immediate economic impacts will be felt through the trade channel, as well as through the movement of people. Both are negatives for growth. Further, a Brexit would introduce additional risk to the EU: who would be next?" [CNBC]

Indeed there have already been signs of uncertainty after Asian stocks fell over concerns of a possible Brexit [The Street].

US and EU deals

But what of Britain's relationship with the US. Obama certainly made his position clear, saying he preferred the current status quo and warned of difficulties in making trade deals [WSJ].

"The UK. would not be able to negotiate something with the United States faster than the EU," Obama told the BBC.

And while Brexit proponents insist that deal could be struck with the US, it ignores the hard reality that the US has a preference for big regional agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership now being discussed with the EU, something Britain would be left out of.

The same might apply to trade deals within the EU itself. One risk to the UK economy is that much of the trade in today's world of global supply chains is in intermediate goods such as motor parts and electronic components.

British businesses, as well as foreign businesses based in Britain, would be likely to find themselves at an immediate disadvantage and potentially excluded from those supply chains. Following a Brexit the UK government would have to find a way to plug the gap quickly.

Plugging such holes would only be the beginning of what might become a costly and time consuming exercise, not only for the British government but also for British businesses [FT].

While Brexit campaigners are, in a democracy, entitled to their opinion, so too are those that wish Britain to remain a part of the EU. And while those that wish to leave may feel indignant at Obama's comments, he is not the only foreign leader or commentator to express an opinion. And as far as other states are concerned not one single country has of now declared they would prefer the UK to leave the EU. Not one.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Brussels attack raises more security questions

The attacks in Brussels which left at least 31 dead and nearly 300 injured has raised the issue once again as to how such attacks might be prevented in the future.

Terrorists affiliated to ISIL set of explosives in an airport check-in area and at a Metro station, both soft targets and areas which until now have been left relatively unguarded.

Growing security

Following aircraft hijackings and the threat of bombs being placed on board planes airline security has been significantly tightened.

After 9/11 knives and sharp objects were banned. Soon after restrictions increased further with passengers being forced to remove their shoes for inspection after the so-called Shoe Bomber Richard Reid attempted to detonate explosives in his footwear. That incident also precipitated the ban on matches and lighters.

A plot uncovered by British and American investigators suggesting terrorists might be planning to use liquid explosives smuggled on board aircraft disguised as soft drinks resulted in a ban on all liquids being carried.

Some restrictions have been relaxed slightly. Some airlines, though not all, allow a single lighter to be carried on one's person. And liquids in small quantities such as a 100ml tube of toothpaste, may now be carried in carry-on baggage. Knives and other sharp objects remain on the banned list, however.

Such restrictions have undoubtedly prevented attacks. But they have had had other effects. The increased security has made travelling more difficult and often confused. The tight controls have merely forced terrorists to look for easier targets.

Moving goalposts

Tuesday's attack at Zaventem Airport was a clear indication of such a shift in methods. Unable to breach airport security and target an aircraft, terrorists simply switched to the check-in area.

In some respects the attack was more devastating than if they had managed to bring down or destroy a plane. While more lives would certainly have been lost should a plane have been destroyed, as was seen following the downing of a Russian aircraft last year, the disruption caused by this week's Airport terminal bombing could have far reaching implications.

One of Belgium's main airports has essentially been shut for weeks, if not longer. And now security officials around the world may have to find ways to prevent similar attacks from happening again.

Security rethink

This is easier said than done. Though it is not impossible. The simplest method might be to implement screenings at the entrance to the main terminal itself.

Such screenings can already be seen in China. At Chengdu's international airport armed security personnel check people's luggage as they enter the building, wiping bags with swabs.

How practical this might be in Western airports is unclear. Indeed such security measures may only shift the terrorists' focus, perhaps to the drop-off area, parking lots or even the main roads into the airport.

Do we then employ road blocks and check points? How long before a whole country becomes a fortress? Or do we change our focus and instead target Islamic terrorism more seriously and strike them before they strike us? Even this might be easier said than done.

Blinkered governments

As Andrew Neil from the BBC politics program This Week pointed out there may be between 400 and 600 ISIL trained terrorists deployed across Europe, ready to strike and bring more death and terror to the streets of capital cities.

"When the same Islamist scumbags who'd brought carnage to Paris in November visited their barbarous death cult on the people of Brussels," they left "our politics parochial, even pathetic in its wake," Neil said.

"It's far from clear even after Paris and Brussels, that Europe's powers that be have any real idea of the scale of the threat and the daunting counter insurgency task before us; and it's something that we shall have to pay our part in addressing."

Fears and reactions

The attacks in Paris and Brussels and the threat of another attack in another European city has certainly raised fears amongst regular travellers. However most people say they refuse to let the fear of attacks cower them since this only hands a victory to the terrorists.

Nonetheless, the terrorists have already won tacit victories in that our lives have changed significantly with increased security checks and armed forces deployed upon our streets. And while Belgians have been resolute in their opinion not to let the terrorists win, organisers of a "March against fear" have were forced to call off a planned rally in Brussels this weekend for security reasons, at the request of authorities [BBC].

It is easy to recoil against the kneejerk reaction of increased security, more bombing raids in Syria and Northern Iraq and more surveillance. But we have to acknowledge there is a war being waged against the West and its interests by extreme Islamic groups. These groups must be identified, sought out and destroyed. And uncomfortable as it may be Europe's security and intelligence services must ignore any politically correct sensibilities and seek out the insurgents who are hiding in plain sight within Muslim communities across Europe. Peaceful Muslims too must be more proactive too and help identify any amongst their community who have strayed towards violent Jihad and pass along the information to authorities.

No-one can ignore the threat, be it governments, security services, ordinary citizens and indeed Muslim communities amongst which these terrorists attempt to hide. And all must play a part in rooting them out.

tvnewswatch, Yunnan, China

Saturday, March 19, 2016

China's Intranet becomes more a reality

Most people are perhaps aware that apart from North Korea, where there is no Internet at all, China is probably the worst place in the world if you want to get online - that is if you want to access Western websites and pretty much anything that isn't based in China.

And things aren't getting any better. In fact it's definitely worse than it's ever been.

It's been two years since I last visited China, and of course, like any seasoned traveller to the Middle Kingdom, one comes prepared with a paid for and reliable VPN.

Without a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, your phone, iPhone, tablet or PC may as well have no Internet capability at all.

No Google, no Internet

For iPhone and iPad users things are a little easier since at least the iTunes store is not blocked, though one may have the same problem using many of the apps as Android users. Android users from outside of China have the hardest time since Google is hardwired into almost everything. And if you weren't aware China and Google had a bit of a row - to put it mildly - back in 2010 and relations have not improved. Indeed they have worsened considerably to the point that almost every Google service is throttled by the Great Fire Wall.

Thus Android users are unlikely to get app updates since Google Play is inaccessible. Gmail too is off limits, as is Google's search engine, Google Drive and even Google Maps. YouTube has been blocked for some time, but Google's other entertainment platforms are also blocked or almost impossible to use. Google Movies doesn't work at all, though if you had the foresight to download content it will of course play fine. Google Music suffers from similar issues. Downloaded content plays OK but streaming continually brings up an error saying the app "Couldn't play the track you requested".

Books are also off limits and while downloaded content is accessible, any new bookmarks and notes will fail to sync across devices until you connect to an IP address outside of China.

Indeed it is the syncing, or lack thereof, that can prove to be very tiresome especially if you regularly use several devices.

Photos won't upload or sync to other devices. Bookmarks will not appear on your tablet soon after finishing with your smartphone. And Gmail can look very confused, should it work at all.

While Drive does not work Google Keep does, though it only works locally. In other words it won't sync to Google servers. Translate is also scuppered leaving travellers well and truly lost unless they downloaded the appropriate language packs for offline use.

So where does that leave you? According to Android devices it leaves you with a connection but no Internet as the device sees its inability to connect with Google servers as having an Internet connection.

VPNs and alternatives

There are alternatives. Bing search for example. And there are other map apps, though none as good as Google's offering. But should you rely heavily on many Western services you could find yourself on a network that is little more than an intranet.

Even with a VPN things can be be frustrating with slow speeds, disconnections and other issues. For example while a VPN may allow traffic to flow through a web browser the Google Drive for desktop may fail to connect.

The mounting censorship and control is all part of Xi Jinping's effort to control not only the flow of information, but also to maintain his position as one of China's most authoritarian leaders in recent years.


However, President Xi Jinping's administration has run into mounting resistance to its efforts to tighten its vice even more completely over the country's printed works, its airwaves and digital networks, while it strengthens the Great Firewall to keep out foreign content [WSJ / Johnib Wordpress].

But to be outspoken can bring its own problems. Western websites that push too far are simply blocked but Chinese websites and individuals can face harsher punishment. Recently, China's government stripped prominent and outspoken businessman Ren Zhiqiang of his social media accounts after he issued a rare direct challenge to President Xi Jinping over the loyalties of state-controlled news media.

The influential business publication Caixin ran into trouble too when it hit back after authorities forced it to take down an article posted on its Chinese-language website that quoted one of the government's own advisers, the Shanghai professor Jiang Hong, defending the right to free speech. In response, Caixin posted an account of the censorship on its English-language website, illustrated by a picture of a mouth taped shut. However, that article also disappeared.

Meanwhile, China's propaganda machine is revelling in what many see as the political circus currently ongoing in the United States as the controversial Republican hopeful Donald Trump battles towards the White House [Guardian].

"The rise of a racist in the US political area worries the whole world," the party-controlled Global Times crowed this week.

"He has even been called another Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler by some western media," the state-run paper continued adding that, "Mussolini and Hitler came to power through elections, a heavy lesson for western democracy."

However as many Guardian readers pointed out democracies tend to have checks and balances, unlike one party dictatorships.

"So the Chinese Communist Party reckon the ballot-box is a problem? Well, in the last hundred years, the bullet put Vladimir Lenin and Jozef Stalin in charge of Russia, Mao-Tse-Tung as chairman of China and Pol Pot as #1 in Cambodia. They only managed to murder or starve over 100 million of their own beloved people. What's not to like about dictators staring down the barrel of a gun?" one comment read.

Nonetheless, many readers conceded that Trump was a concern and that western democratic methods - as well as a lot of money - were helping him achieve success. That said there were few who proclaimed they would adopt China's political system.

Democracy vs a one party state

Winston Churchill once said this; "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." and indeed the West is far from perfect. There are economic problems - which it could be argued have resulted partly from globalisation and farming industry off to the Far East, including China. There has been an erosion of freedom in the US and many European countries, partly due to terror threats. But there is no comparison to the freedoms experienced by most in the West and the restrictions faced by those living in a one party states like China.

China is seeing human rights tightened and freedom is being eroded at a faster rate than at any time in the last 20 years. And the tightening censorship perhaps epitomises the way things are going in the Middle Kingdom.

UPDATE: In late March new regulations were announced which proposed even greater restrictions on the internet in China. Draft laws posted by one of China’s technology regulators said that websites in the country would have to register domain names with local service providers and with the authorities. Should the rules be applied to all websites, it could have major implications that would effectively cut China out of the global Internet [NYT / WSJ / BloombergDaily Mail / Quartz].

tvnewswatch, Yunnan, China

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

China financial woes hit world markets

The FTSE 100 fell for the second session in a row on Wednesday 9th March following overnight figures which showed a 25% fall in Chinese exports last month. The fall in stocks was a further indication how world markets are affected by China's growth and decline.

Uncertainty over the state of China's economy is unsettling investors and has done for many months. "Global markets have been rattled by the sharp decline in China's exports which reinforced the lingering concerns over the slowing pace of growth in the world's second largest economy," said FXTM research analyst Lukman Otunuga [BBC].

It wasn't just London that was reeling markets in Asia and the rest of the world were also rocked [Bloomberg / FT].

The fall in Western markets came as new data revealed that Chinese exports saw their sharpest drop in almost seven years. Exports dropped sharply by 25.4% from a year earlier, while imports fell 13.8%. It has fuelled concerns over the health of the world's second largest economy and comes on the heels of Beijing registering the slowest economic growth in 25 years [BBC / BBC].

The newly released figures also coincide with the China's National People's Congress, currently underway in the capital Beijing, which has just revised the 2016 growth target down, predicting a "battle for growth" [BBC].

But while Western markets reacted negatively to the recent financial data coming out of China, Chinese stock markets have risen, shrugging off the fresh government data [BBC].

There are fears in some circles that China is heading for a fall. However not everyone is so pessimistic. Perhaps predictably China's chief economic planner said the world's second biggest economy will "absolutely not experience a hard landing" despite growth forecast cuts.

Predictions of an abrupt economic slowdown were "destined to come to nothing", said Xu Shaoshi, head of China's state planning agency.

China's National People's Congress on Saturday meanwhile lowered the economic growth target for 2016 to a range of 6.5%-7% [BBC].

It's not just economic news that is raising concerns. There is a fear that Beijing is making a sharp turn to increased authoritarianism [BBC].

There have been further clampdowns on free speech in recent days with Caixin a top financial magazine target over an ill-advised article on censorship [Guardian / BBC].

But President Xi Jinping's crackdown on free speech is also being criticized by advisers to China's Communist Party. Indeed, an unusual number of CPPCC members, who serve as advisers to the party from industry and academia, are openly advocating broader freedom in China [QZ].

Such calls have come after recent increased controls on cyberspace and a crackdown on human rights [CNBC / QZ].

China was recently ranked the world's worst abuser of internet freedom and its system of heavy censorship is now well known outside of the country [Freedomhouse.org]. However many people living in China are not so aware how censored information is.

And there appears to be no sign that Beijing will yield to calls for any relaxation on such censorship. In fact during last December's 'World Internet Conference', held in Wuzhen, China championed its vision of a new set of rules for cyberspace, by which any sovereign power can claim the right to keep its people in ignorance [BBC].

With an uncertain economy, tightening Internet restrictions, and further erosions of human rights perhaps it's no wonder there is a gradual but growing exodus from the country. But it is capital outflow that is the biggest concern for authorities. Thus Chinese officials are trying to slow the unprecedented money exodus from the country, clamping down on individuals seeking to flee the yuan and making life tougher for companies that need to trade the currency for dollars to do business [WSJ].

No-one thought Xi Jinping would offer an easy ride. But his authoritarian approach has perhaps exceeded even his worst critics.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Crazy stuff some people try to take on planes

People are rightly concerned about airport security, especially after events such as the downing of the Metrojet Airbus 321 on 31st October with the loss of 224 lives [Wikipedia].

It is suspected that Islamic militants managed to load a bomb onto the aircraft after breaching airside security checks at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

That incident resulted in the grounding of flights to Egypt and prompted some airports in the US to rethink their security measures.

Such measures are employed to thwart terror attacks. However security officials often come across naive passengers attempting to take prohibited items on planes.

Only this week TSA officials at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport found a woman trying to board a plane with a pair of gun-shaped stiletto heels. The shoes were in the woman's carry-on luggage, along with bracelets lined in faux bullets, and whilst harmless, the TSA officials were not amused since the agency prohibits passengers from carrying "replica guns or ammunition" through airport security checkpoints [Fox News].

It's not the only incident where someone has attempted to board with fake or even real weapons however.

In one incident last year, security officials in China detained a woman attempting to board a flight in Kunming with a knife disguised as a hair pin [Daily Mail / SCMP]

In another bizarre incident, also in China, a man was arrested after trying to board with a disused bomb in his luggage [Daily Mail].

And in September last year bomb disposal units were called to Toronto Pearson International Airport in Canada after a teenager tried to board a plane with an alarm clock designed to look like an explosive.

The 15-year-old was travelling to Vancouver and was reportedly going through security when officials noticed the 'device' in his luggage.

The explosive disposal unit was dispatched to Terminal 3, the screening area was shut down, and the surrounding area was evacuated for about three hours [Daily Mail / CBC].

In July 2015 a woman sporting a handbag embossed with a gun was stopped at Bremen Airport in Germany by officials for arousing suspicion.

The fashionable accessory, popularised by celebrity owners such as Rhianna, is part of the Guardian Angel collection by Dutch designers Vlieger & Vandam.

Following the incident, Bremen Police in Germany have issued a photograph of the handbag and warned passengers not to travel through Bremen Airport carrying the item as hand luggage [Daily Mail].

Whilst most of these items might be harmless, or pose little risk to passenger safety, it beggars belief that some travellers seem to have little or no common sense when packing their suitcase.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Europe - In or Out?

The British Prime Minister David Cameron has returned from Brussels with a so-called deal for Britain in Europe. And with that deal under his belt he has formally announced the date of June 23rd for the referendum when Britain will go to the polls to decide whether to remain a part of the European Union or to leave.

With the announcement made both the Stay and Leave campaigns have begun in earnest. However, for many people the facts are unclear and the issue is very much an emotional one or influenced by fears of rocking the boat.  

Pros and Cons

Within hours of David Cameron's announcement of the referendum several members of his party including London's mayor Boris Johnson said they were backing the Brexit campaign.

Boris Johnson insisted that Britain would not lose out should it go it alone and that concerns raised by the Stay campaign amounted to scaremongering.

Questions remain however. Indeed amongst many people there is uncertainty which may prove to be a deciding factor with voters likely to opt for the status quo than risk venturing into the unknown.

There are many pros and cons, but one major factor is how Britain might do financially should it leave.

One of the biggest advantages of the EU is free trade between member nations, making it easier and cheaper for British companies to export their goods to Europe. Some business leaders think the boost to income outweighs the billions of pounds in membership fees Britain would save if it left the EU. The UK also risks losing some of its negotiation power internationally by leaving the trading bloc, but it would be free to establish trade agreements with non-EU countries [The Week].

Even if Britain survived a Brexit, there are concerns both sides of the channel that Britain's quitting its membership could encourage other nations to follow suit with referendums of their own [Telegraph]. This could undo years of work that have brought many nations together. This could hand further advantages of the other trading blocs such as China and the other ASEAN member states, the so-called BRICS and the United States [Guardian / Telegraph]. The risks of contagion are very real indeed [Telegraph].

Flippant responses

There are many who suggest that other non-EU countries have survived without being member states. But the pro-Europe camp often respond with flippant arguments to make their case.

"So what's your alternative?" demand Euro-enthusiasts. "D'you want Britain to be like Norway? Or like Switzerland? Making cuckoo clocks? Is that what you want? Is it? Eh?" [Spectator].

There would likely be turbulence should Britain leave the EU. Many businesses, especially financial ones, may well feel unnerved by a Brexit and may well relocate. But in the long term Britain would likely be able to survive and renegotiate its position since it would remain in everyone's interest to do so.

But how long would such a transition take and what would be the repercussions before stability and certainty is restored?

Ruled by Brussels!

One of the main arguments concerning Britain's membership of the EU concerns European Law.

This is a highly charged and emotive debate. Brexit campaigners often get hot under the collar that 'unelected bureaucrats' in Brussels 'dictate' laws that Britain must follow.

It is of course true to say that EU mandates and law is woven into the very fabric of British law. But it is not entirely true to say that EU law is made by unelected officials any more so than Britain's laws are made by unelected individuals.

The European parliament is made up of both elected MEPs as well as so-called bureaucrats and other officials.

But so too is the British parliamentary system. There are elected MPs, the Lords some of which are essentially unelected - at least by the electorate - and of course there are countless civil servants.

The question should be not so much who makes the laws but whether they are just, appropriate and beneficial.

In fact many EU laws and mandates have benefited people far more than they might presume. For example it has only been through pressure from the EU that mobile operators have been forced to cut the cost of texting and using the Internet on mobiles while roaming [BBC / FullFact].


It is big business that is most concerned by the repercussions of a Brexit. The biggest effect indeed would be a financial one. On the first day of trading after the announcement of the referendum and Boris Johnson's stance on Europe the pound tumbled, hitting a two-year low against the yen [Reuters / FT].

FTSE chiefs have already raised fears concerning the British economy [Sky News].

According to Open Europe, a Brexit could result in a GDP loss by 2030 from 0.8% to 2.2%. Meanwhile, according to calculations made by the Centre for European Reform (CER), the accession to the EU increased British exports by 55%.

Indeed it has to be remembered that the EU is the first economic partner of the UK, representing 45% of British exports and 53% of imports in 2014.

But the biggest worry will be to the City. Currently banks & financial services, including US ones, may operate across EU from a UK base, known as passporting [DLAPiper]. A Brexit would end this without a renegotiation. Hence the recurring headlines warning that big corporations such as HSBC and Deutsche Bank threaten to leave for a European base should the Brexit become a reality [Guardian / Guardian / Guardian].

It is not just single institutions however. The CBI, the Confederation of British Industry, a UK business organisation, which in total speaks for 190,000 businesses, made up of around 1,500 direct and 188,500 indirect members, has also raised concerns [Daily Mail / Telegraph / Guardian].

Meanwhile a report published by Brussels-based CEEMET, an umbrella group which represents 200,000 manufacturers across Europe, has given one of the most pessimistic forecasts of the impact of a possible Brexit. The report - Brexit: A 'lose-lose' situation for EU manufacturers - suggests that reduced trade and weaker industrial productivity could slow Britain's economic growth by 0.5% a year for the next 15 years if it leaves the European Union [Reuters]

Military and defence

There are also concerns over the future of NATO and Britain's position in a Europe-wide defence strategy

Some British military leaders have already warned against Britain leaving the EU [Telegraph].

Meanwhile there are other worries. Would Brexit spell the end of European defence? The quick answer to this question is that Brexit would not spell the end of 'European defence', as broadly understood.

NATO would continue to exist and presumably the US would continue to guarantee the territorial integrity of its European allies. European states would continue to try to protect their own national security and would cooperate within NATO and bilaterally to that end. Thus the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy [CSDP] would continue to exist.

However, Brexit could have serious implications for the UK's role in the world, for NATO, and for the EU [Europpblog / EuropeanGeostrategy

Indeed there are some who fear that leaving the EU could undermine British as well European security interests [Guardian].


One issue that affects most people in Britain is the subject of European travel.

Essentially few things would change, at least on the surface. But costs could certainly go up according to some recent reports with flights being particularly affected [CityAM / Sunday Times].

The British traveller may see a weaker pound in their pockets, but the biggest drawbacks may be when British tourists need compensation of flight delays or when seeking medical assistance.

There has been a long battle to ensure airlines respect the EU directive which sets out requirements for compensation if a flight is delayed, or cancelled, or if a passenger is 'bumped off' a flight. There is the argument that compensation levels are too harsh on the airlines and will push up fares generally. However passengers' rights are now properly enshrined in law thanks to the EU. If Britain left, there would be nothing to stop those rights being watered down once more.

The European Health Insurance Card [EHIC] which entitles UK citizens to free or reduced-cost treatment in other EU countries may also be consigned to history. While it doesn't have the same benefits as proper travel insurance many travel insurance policies will waive the excess payment on a claim. In the event of a Brexit, such agreements would have to be renegotiated and there is no guarantee of the same result [Telegraph].

There is also the issue concerning passports and free movement across Europe. Of course there is unlikely to be any issue about Britons facing restrictions to travel to the EU member states. However it was not so very long ago that Britons driving in some European countries needed an International Driving Permit and it is unclear whether rescinding membership might roll the clock back to those days of the 1970s when travelling to Europe created extra paperwork for those wishing to drive.

Even those who don't regularly drive to the continent could face bigger fuel bills. According to the AA, a Brexit could add a wallet busting £494 a year to a two car family's fuel bill as motorists pay the price for a weaker pound [Mirror].

And what of those British expats who benefit from Britain's EU membership. The uncertainty over work permits, pension entitlements, healthcare and other issues has prompted many to consider dual nationality. And it's not just Brits living in continental Europe. There are countless numbers of Europeans living in the UK who are just as concerned for the future.

It is estimated that the consequences of a Brexit would affect 2.4 million EU citizens living in the UK and also the estimated 2 million UK citizens living in Europe. While it is unclear what will happen, many of these people are not leaving their livelihood to chance and are now applying for dual citizenship [UnlockTheLaw / Guardian].

European reaction

There has been some consternation amongst some European politicians over a possible Brexit with some expressing an almost indignant response.

Some have given veiled threats of punishing the UK [Daily Mail].

And there have also been some who have expressed a view of 'good riddance'. But while there may be some bad blood, at the end of the day Europe needs Britain as much as Britain needs Europe [FT].

So how will Brits vote in a little under 4 months? Polls aren't always reliable, though they do provide some indication as to the way the vote may go. Most recent polls show the public split at roughly 50:50. A poll of a small number of individuals conducted by tvnewswatch indicated that 30% were undecided and only 20% said they intended to vote to leave. The remaining 50% sided with the decision to remain part of Europe but were nonetheless unhappy with some issues such as immigration and the amount of money paid by Britain to be part of the EU club. However depending upon which media you watch or read will depend on whether the slim marginal swings are interpreted as a move towards a Brexit or the status quo [Express / Telegraph / Telegraph].

Just as with the run up to a general election there will be much backbiting, debate and argument leading up to polling day.

Whichever way the vote goes one can be certain that the arguments will continue.

tvnewswatch, London, UK