One of the main arguments for the European Union and particularly its much derided Commissioners has been demonstrated this week.

The Commission’s demand that Ireland recover 13bn Euros from Apple is an excellent example of where a supra national organisation can bust cosy deals between nation states and multinational companies in the interests of ordinary people who pay their taxes.

Brexiteers go on and on about sovereignty and “taking back control”. I’m happy with shared sovereignty if it empowers the Commission to take the interests of all the people of Europe into account. Multinationals like Apple are more powerful than many individual countries. They can exert massive influence by threatening to relocate. Middle ranking countries like Ireland have found themselves in hock to Apple and don’t like the ruling. Ireland is normally a “good European” and rightly so. EU membership has moved it from an agricultural backwater into the high tech world of the 21st century. But its reaction to this ruling is very “non communitare”, suggesting the EU has got it right. And so they have. For Apple to pay virtually no tax on its European profits from 2003-14 is to deprive governments and people millions of pounds that should be spent on public services.

Starbucks, Amazon, Fiat, BP and McDonalds are all in the EU Commissioners sights. None of them are too big for the EU representing 500 million people or 435 million if we are foolish enough to actually leave.


The Labour leadership election is getting acres of coverage not because it will produce a possible next Prime Minister but because the media is fascinated by the corrosive campaigns being waged by Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

Because of the implosion of the Labour Party it is quite possible that UKIP will provide an attractive alternative to millions of Labour’s former supporters in the north of England. Therefore we should pay some attention to the battle to succeed Nigel Farage.

It is a bit of a shambles and in normal times one could conclude that this would mean the party vanishing into obscurity having secured the Brexit vote and being incapable of emerging from the shadow of its effective former leader Nigel Farage. But a word of caution is needed. Most people don’t follow the ins and outs of politics and however messy the process, when one of the five candidates is elected as the next leader of UKIP, they may get support because of the depth of disillusionment with Labour.

The outstanding candidate is Diane James, a UKIP MEP for the South East. However she’s refusing to attend hustings with the other four contestants suggesting she may lack the ability to bring this fractious party together.

It is surprising who isn’t standing. Steven Woolfe, a NW UKIP MEP, would have been a good leader but then it emerged he failed to disclose a drink driving conviction and didn’t get his nomination paper in on time. I’m amazed Former Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall, another NW UKIP MEP, didn’t go for it and Suzanne Evans the best candidate of all is suspended! You couldn’t make it up. There’s even Neil Hamilton. The ex Tatton MP is now a Welsh UKIP MEP. His would have been the ultimate comeback from the political graveyard.


The Green Party is also holding a leadership election. It is to be hoped that former leader Caroline Lucas will return, albeit in a job share. She wants to forge a progressive alliance with other parties willing to back electoral reform.



Why is so much freight imported through Felixstowe and Southampton and then trundled up North?


It is a very pertinent question with fuel prices rising so fast.


Across the North we need to accelerate a concept that has been around for a few years now, the Atlantic Gateway. It is a concept based on the widening of the Panama Canal and the building of a new deep water terminal in Liverpool (work begins on that very soon). The idea then is that freight from the Americas and Ireland can use the land bridge across the North of England to Hull to access North West Europe.


Along the land bridge jobs will be created using the fantastic assets that are there. They range from Stobart’s Multi Modal Depot at Widnes, the soon to be built Mersey Gateway bridge between Runcorn and Widnes, the Manchester Ship Canal with new port depots along its length, Manchester Airport City and the Northern Hub which will benefit rail transport across the Pennines where the M62 heads for the rapidly developing city of Leeds and on to Hull, the gateway to the Baltic.


Although this is a grand design and big firms will play a major part, there is a crucial role for SMEs. This was highlighted at a recent conference that focused on the often dry subject of logistics. This is because the purpose of the Atlantic Gateway project is to get products to distributors and manufacturers as soon as possible.


Organised by the Liverpool Local Enterprise Partnership and supported by Jaguar Land Rover at Halewood and Unipart the conference looked at the current state of the economy as this huge project is embarked upon.


Kieran Ring, Chief Executive of the Global Institute of Logistics said that the widened Panama Canal would dramatically affect global trade. The price of oil is really impacting the cost of inland distribution and short sea crossings would grow. Liverpool was in the right place to benefit.


Closer to home,Stephen Carr, Head of Business Development for Peel Ports said the Mersey/Atlantic Gateway concept was already being practised by companies like Heinz in Wigan, Typhoo tea and Kellogg’s in Trafford Park. He wryly observed that there actually was nothing new in the Gateway concept producing an 1894 map showing the rail connections around the new Manchester Ship Canal.


Scott Hardy, Freight Strategy Manager at Jaguar Land Rover was in buoyant mood. JLR had there best ever month in March with great sales figures for the new Range Rover, the Freelander and Evoque. He illustrated the formidable logistics exercise that JLR had to undertake between their factories at Halewood, Castle Bromwich and Solihull in the UK and their Chinese operation. It all depended on being highly competitive with stock levels. There was a big opportunity to increase imports from America through Liverpool.


Liverpool MP Louise Ellman is also chair of the Transport Select Committee. She announced an inquiry into Britain’s ports She attacked the lopsided investment in transport infrastructure spend between the North and the South. She said this was because decisions on spend were based on congestion (always a problem in the South) not the economic impact investment would have in the North.


Its important we get on with the Atlantic Gateway project across the North so that we are ready for the pick up in the economy when it eventually comes.