What Do I Think of the Chequers Agreement?

One could have said having reached this latest milestone that the Prime Minister "is a remain-er who has remained a remain-er" that may be one way to look at the Chequers agreement. Though she insists "We seek a new and equal partnership ... not partial membership" the question then that can't escape her is, has Theresa May met her own test, or have her red lines turned noticeably pink?

At best her approach to Brexit doesn't see it as an opportunity in itself, she hasn't fully grasped enough the case for economic freedom in regulatory reform and trade negotiations. Instead, she treats it as a task in damage limitation, something to be water down.

We've gotten into this position because the cards held by the UK have been given up without being matched with equal concessions from our EU interlocutors. We agreed to pay a £37 billion divorce bill which is no longer tied, as first proposed to the prospect of a trade deal. We agreed to the unconditional security of Europe, incredibly we even agreed to the "Irish backstop" which would leave us, essentially a vassal state worse the leaving or remaining.

Let's consider it though, in its own right. The Chequers plan maintains a common rulebook on goods and agricultural products, not too different from Switzerland which is a partial member of the EU single market (not a signatory of the EEA) but also has the option to defy Euro-court rulings. This is one area where I'm much more relaxed than most hard-line leave supporters.

Let’s also recognise that May has achieved a major concession from the EU, by getting both tariff free access on  goods while also repatriating controls over immigration back to the United Kingdom. Which was previously seen as unthinkable.

Under the current proposal, we may have an arbitration mechanism that refers to the ECJ but that's entirely different from a system that involves direct rulings of the ECJ on British territory. It also allows for incremental divergence over time, with parliament, not the commission, our elected representatives and not unnamed Eurocrats having oversight of the incorporation of these rules into the UK. As HMG put it "the court of one party cannot resolve disputes between the two".

It may indeed make sense to have a common rulebook on goods, most of our goods exports go into the European Union, and these standards are usually set at a global level, anyway. It's not at all likely that even with regulatory autonomy that the UK is going to produce goods at a different standard. For services it's better to push for something like mutual recognition, the United States is already a bigger market for us than Europe.

On agri-foods the proposal doesn't make sense, EU standards are, if anything harmful to our economy, they involve a ban on certain products that meet perfectly reasonable standards, like American chicken. But at least we're pulling out of the Common Agricultural Policy. Restricting us to transcribing EU law would also leave trade barriers (particularly non-tariff barriers) to trade with the rest of the world. As for mutual recognition with other countries standards, this isn't feasible with a common rulebook. We’re therefore restricted to doing trade deals based on services, but this is still better than membership of the EU.

The Chequers agreement also carried the promise of speeding up preparations for a no deal scenario, which so far have been virtually non-existent. That should involve not just preparations for airline slots, international driving licenses, widening the M20 and so forth but also swinging cuts to regulation and tax.

By far though, the most concerning part of the agreement is on customs. We've somehow gotten into a position where we're seriously entertaining the idea of collecting tariffs on products intended for the EU and concerning ourselves with what it does beyond our border. There was a much easier way of reaching a customs agreement with a free trade deal that involves mutual recognition, not common standards.

This latest attempt, the Chequers agreement is definitely a let down–with supporters e.g. Anna Soubry, Douglas Carswell, Michael Gove and detractors e.g. Justine Greening, David Davis, Boris Johnson on all sides of the debate–but really it's not quite as simple as "all good" or "all bad".

Borrowing from a Swiss-style model is in reality not a bad idea, one can't help but notice that at least according to the UN they're the second wealthiest and the second happiest people in the world. So the question that then arises, is it better to seed some of these power over to Brussels in exchange for an agreement? Perhaps but now a line in the sand has to be drawn, it's this or nothing. Chequers or no deal.

Set Theory

This post is a very brief introduction to some of the basic concepts of set theory. Set theory is a branch of mathematical-logic, that has wide applications across disciplines. Its not just used in the obvious way of studying the foundations of mathematics by mathematicians but also in physics, social science, and even by philosophers as a theory of semantics for predicate logic (although you can do propositional logic without set theory).

A set is a collection of elements, or members; the notation for a set is specified by listing its components. So the set of even numbers can be represented a
$E: \left \{ 2,4,6,8 ... \right \}$$E: \left \{ x: x > 0 \wedge even\right \}$ Either of these notations is valid. Further, elements of a set can only be in that set, once. So   $E: \left \{ 2,2,2,4,4,6,8 ... \right \} = E: \left \{ 2,4,6,8 ... \right \}$ The notation used to indicate that something is an element of a set, is using the Greek symbol "epsilon". That is: $4 \epsilon S$…

William Lane Craig and the Hartle-Hawking No Boundary Proposal

Classical standard hot Big Bang cosmology represents the universe as beginning from a singular dense point, with no prior description or explanation of classical spacetime. Quantum cosmology is different in that it replaces the initial singularity with a description in accord with some law the "quantum mechanical wave function of the universe", different approaches to quantum cosmology differ in their appeal either to describe the origin of the material content of the universe e.g., Tyron 1973, Linde 1983a, Krauss 2012 or the origin of spacetime itself e.g., Vilenkin 1982, Linde 1983b, Hartle-Hawking 1983, Vilenkin 1984.

These last few proposals by Vilenkin, Hartle-Hawking and others are solutions to the Wheeler-DeWitt equation and exist in a category of proposals called "quantum gravity cosmologies" which make cosmic applications of an approach to quantum gravity called "closed dynamic triangulation" or CDT (also known as Euclidean quantum gravity). I&#…

Can inflation be eternal into the past?

Back in 2003 a paper appeared on the arXiv titled "Inflationary spacetimes are not past complete" that was published by Arvind Borde, Alan Guth and Alexander Vilenkin which has had considerable amounts of attention online. The theorem is rather uninteresting but simple and doesn't require a very complicated understanding of math. So I thought I'd explain the result here.

It's purpose is to demonstrate that inflationary models are geodesically incomplete into the past which they take as "synonymous to a beginning" but Vilenkin stresses that the theorem can be extended to non inflationary models so long as the condition of the theorem that the average rate of expansion is never below zero is met. These models too then are incomplete into the past. Consider the metric for an FRW universe with an exponential expansion

Where the scale factor is

Since the eternal inflation model is a "steady state cosmology" the mass density and the Hubble paramet…