Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos on US/Russia tensions

Anyone attending our annual rally last April will have heard the former Greek Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos describe in graphic detail the problems his country still faces.

Those who appreciated his speech may be interested in his comments about the current tensions  between Russia and the USA. Click on this link and you will be able to follow his take on the current tit-for-tat, which provides a welcome contrast from the reporting in the mainstream media. The Ambassador’s comments begin about four minutes into the video clip.  He is very critical of what he sees as an unnecessary move by the new US administration and makes the very valid point that modern Russia is poles apart from the old Soviet Union, but some people don’t seem to have woken up to this reality.

 

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Legislation for the Great Repeal Bill to be introduced soon

The Brexit secretary, David Davis, has indicated that legislation for the “Great Repeal Bill” – the incorporation of laws passed by the EU onto our statute books so that they take their authority from Westminster rather than Brussels, could be introduced as early as next week.

The objective of this Bill is to enable life in the UK to run as smoothly as possible during the immediate post-Brexit period when, under the rules of Article 50, the EU treaties will cease to apply.

Obviously, it would not be appropriate for all EU legislation to remain on the EU’s statute book lock, stock and barrel. Thankfully, it appears that there is growing awareness that EU fisheries legislation must not apply once we leave. We will no doubt be made aware of other exceptions in due course. They will either need so much re-working that it is best to start from scratch or else they are totally unsuitable.

There are also plenty of other pieces UK legislation which have been put on our books such as the Landfill Directive or the Interoperability Directive, which are far from ideal, but with which we can live for a couple of years. After all, the Government will have its hand full dealing with essential issues, including the complex subject of trade, a subject about which little of substance has been revealed as far as exit strategy is concerned.

Therefore, much as many of us resent the fact that so much of our legislation during the last forty years has originated in Brussels rather than Westminster, we have little choice. Not bringing this legislation across would leave us without any standards and regulation in many crucial areas of our nation’s life, including health standards for bathing water or car exhaust emissions. Some of them are actually quite sensible. After all, even the worst of régimes occasionally come up with some good laws. Only when we have achieved our very challenging objective of leaving the iron grip of the EU will the resources be available for the re-evaluation of these regulations.

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Where does Sturgeon go now Corbyn says Brexit means Brexit?

This piece by Brian Monteith of Global Britain originally appeared in the Scotsman and is used with  permission.

The Labour leader, from his new position of strength, is revealing his true Trotskyist approach on Europe, writes Brian Monteith

It was not just the Queen’s Speech that passed last week – the greater battle of the day was on a different field altogether – it was hard Brexit against soft Brexit, and it was hard Brexit that won resoundingly. The margin of 322 against 101 was larger than even that of the vote to invoke Article 50, despite Theresa May losing her overall majority, so what have we just witnessed, what is going on?

Thursday’s vote was not just a victory for May’s proposals on how to achieve Brexit, already laid out in her Government’s White Paper, but a resounding show of strength by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who afterwards dismissed three shadow ministers who dared to break his whipping for an abstention by voting for a soft Brexit. This is a new Corbyn, a hard Corbyn willing to deliver a hard Brexit. Clearly emboldened by his comparative success in the General Election (even though he lost more seats than Callaghan or Kinnock, who both resigned as a result), Corbyn is now revealing his true self – the blood-red socialist against the EU corporate state.

Corbyn’s past shows him as a man who voted as regularly against the empowerment of the EU to the cost of the UK’s sovereignty as any Tory Eurosceptic rebel. His reasoning was different, however, believing that the development of an EU superstate would enshrine open-season capitalism behind a high customs union wall that would diminish trade with the poor of the world. The trade unions would be emasculated and British workers would be impoverished as millions who could not find work in the African states denied tariff-free access to the single market would instead supply a steady flow of cheaper immigrant labour.

At so many levels – be it the EU’s privileged elite against the masses, those inside the single market against those outside it or those in the euro against those outside it, the EU is indeed a heady political cocktail designed for the few rather than the many.

Unfortunately for Corbyn, his election as leader of his party by its members and trade unions left him at the mercy of the overwhelming majority of the parliamentary Labour Party that supported the European project with an unalloyed devotion. His first act was to ditch his Euroscepticism and play for time, so he could gain strength. Hence his tussles with his former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn. (Ironically it was Corbyn that better represented the views of Tony Benn on the EU than his son Hilary.)

The General Election has changed all of that. Now the majority of Labour MPs doff their cap to their leader, believing he has rejuvenated his party and may yet one day lead them to victory. And now from this position of strength, and with a manifesto that to all intents and purposes mirrored the Tory approach towards a so-called hard Brexit, Corbyn is able to drop his mask of europhilia and reveal his true Trotskyist approach by 
challenging once more the EU corporatist state.

Make no mistake, what this metamorphism means is that the UK is leaving the EU – and it will be Corbyn who will help the Tories do it.

Where does this leave Nicola Sturgeon when a hard Brexit is delivered? By that I mean the UK being outside the single market and customs union, with all immigrants from around the world treated equally, denying the special treatment given to people from the EU.

In Sturgeon’s own mind a hard Brexit might provide a fresh pretext for her to push once more for Indyref2 – but paradoxically it also makes the case for independence that much more difficult to win.

For an independent Scotland outside the UK but aiming to be back in the EU, a hard Brexit must mean a hard divorce with the UK, resulting in a hard border and, of course, giving up our fishing grounds that will have only just been won back.

While the newly liberated UK will be free to decide its own economic future, striking advantageous trade deals with the likes of India, China and the US (three of more than 30 already being considered) Scotland would be tied to the slowest growing economic region in the world and bound by all its growing regulation. In addition, by 2020 the EU budget will grow by more than 15 billion euros and plug the black hole of 10bn euros caused by losing the UK’s annual payment. Scotland would have to bear its share of the existing EU budget plus this additional 25bn euros.

Even a Scotland in the European Economic Area will not soften the blow. It would be like moving from the bridge to be shovelling coal in the boiler room.

Sturgeon’s Scotland will be just like Norway (in the EEA) or Poland (in the EU) – both sitting next to Russia, with border posts, different currencies and the possibility of a tariff wall – only the barriers will be between England and Scotland.

Where also does this leave the EU negotiators when they can see a more united House of Commons than even on the vote to invoke 
Article 50? Do they climb down on some of their more perverse claims? The signs are that they are already retreating on the demand for the European Court of Justice to have jurisdiction over EU citizens in the UK.

And if they do climb down and a deal is struck, where again does that leave Sturgeon? Would a softer Brexit not neutralise any pretext for a second Indyref? Will the Scottish public not ask: “Seriously, what is the problem?”

The votes on Thursday were probably missed by most people who are only given the glibbest of reports by our broadcast news, but they were momentous and have changed the nature of the Brexit debate substantially. It appears May did not need a stronger majority to deliver Brexit after all – it was Corbyn who has benefited and it is Corbyn who looks like making Brexit mean Brexit.

 

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We must not allow Remainers’ predictions of economic doom to become self-fulfilling

This article by Ewen Stewart of Global Britain first appeared on the Brexit Central website and is used with permission.

The general election has excited the dwindling army of hard core Remainers. A ‘done deal’ is now being challenged with usual suspects claiming that a hung Parliament re-opens the debate about the nature of the UK exiting the EU.

What is clear is that this election was fought largely on domestic issues and not Brexit. While there were differences in the Conservative and Labour approach, both were clear in their manifestos that the UK would leave the EU and the jurisdiction of the ECJ, regain control of domestic borders and withdraw from the Single Market and Customs Unions.

The areas of difference, in terms of policy towards the EU, were largely over employment law and environmental regulations. Thus, those politicians claiming the election result re-opens the debate are trying to subvert an agreed democratic process.

However, while there is no justification for watering down the terms of the exit from the EU, it is clear that Project Fear is rearing its head again. But even if there is a complete breakdown of discussions with the EU, the UK will perform perfectly well so long as confidence holds. Global Britain’s estimate is that even under ‘no deal’ the GDP effect would be negligible.

Why can we be so confident of this?

Those who thought the UK economy would collapse after the referendum were very wrong. They misjudged what the key drivers of the UK economy were and the importance of EU membership in that mix – and indeed the very nature of why trade takes place.

The die-hard Remainers are trying the same trick again with talk of a ‘cliff edge’ and despair. But they misunderstand what makes an economy tick. The primary drivers of the UK economy are monetary policy, consumer spending and public spending. All these factors are largely domestically driven and not materially affected by EU membership.

The impact of slightly higher trade barriers, to the EU, would not be meaningful in the context of the UK economy. Trade is about willing buyers and willing sellers, competitive advantage and innovation, and much less about regulatory framework. Most countries trade with the EU under WTO rules – US, China, Japan and Australia for example – and do so very successfully. Why should the UK be any different?

Moreover, claims that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the UK would collapse have proven unfounded. After the referendum, investment increased, despite investors being well aware that the UK was going to leave the EU. According to UNCTAD, FDI into the UK surged to USD$179bn, the second highest in the world after the US – a marked increase on 2015. The combination of continuing strong consumer growth and substantial business investment has been a primary factor behind the UK’s strong economic performance and record employment levels.

But here is the rub: the constant talking down of the economy, for political reasons, by those trying to unpick the referendum by creating fear, risks becoming self-fulfilling if we are not careful. We must confidently point out that the EU is a fairly low-level factor in the UK’s economic prosperity and the Remainers’ constant doom has been confounded.

We need a rational debate about the nature of the UK economy and not one constantly undermining confidence for political ends. Let us remember that 60% of the UK economy is consumer-orientated. Furthermore, like it or not, government spending accounts for 43% of spending and remains a key driver. It seems likely the Government’s response to the election will be to encourage a modest fiscal expansion. However, perhaps the greatest single influence on the UK economy is neither the Government nor the EU, but the Bank of England, which can choose to stimulate (or not) through monetary policy and possible quantitative easing.

Exports are clearly important but even if talks completely break down and the UK relies on WTO rules (with average tariffs at 1.4%), the reality is that the impact would be fairly minimal. It is simply scaremongering to argue that leaving the EU would have a material impact on growth, unless confidence cracked.

Moreover, the EU has hardly been a success. While the EU’s tail may be up now after President Macron’s election and with slightly improving growth figures, we should remember it has been the slowest-growing region on the planet for over a generation.

Further, its record in signing trade deals is lamentable. It has failed to reach agreements with the US, China, Japan, Brazil and Australia, to name but a few. While the single currency will probably survive, it can only do so by federalising and centralising yet further. The interests of the Eurozone members and the rest will continue to diverge. The UK leaving the EU should be a win-win for both parties: we can follow our global mission encouraging free trade and co-operation and they can focus on their constitutional agreements.

However, we need to challenge those who mislead, constantly blaming everything on Brexit, no matter how tenuous. Ultimately, if we are not careful this could hit confidence. That is why the language of George Osborne and Co is so potentially dangerous, for their deliberate over-emphasis on fear and frankly misleading analysis which may start to worry the bedrock of the UK economy, the consumer. We must point to the facts of the UK economy and why the Remainers were wrong post-referendum and why they are wrong again now. All we have to fear is fear itself

The deal that will (hopefully) keep Brexit on track

The Democratic Unionist Party has recently signed a deal with Theresa May’s Conservatives. Unlike 2010, we will not have a coalition government but rather, a government relying on a “confidence and supply agreement” whereby the DUP will support the Tories in certain key areas. In this instance, these include “all motions of confidence, the Queen’s speech, the budget, finance bills, money bills, supply and appropriation legislation and estimates”  plus. of course, Brexit.

The Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party between them have 328 MPs  out of 650. This, in theory, gives them a slender majority if all Tory MPs behave. The margin for dissent is increased slightly by the likely absence of the seven MPs from Sinn Féin, who historically have never taken their seats at Westminster.

The full agreement can be downloaded here. As far as Brexit is concerned, the key passage is on Page 1:-

In line with the parties’ shared priorities for negotiating a successful exit from the European Union and protecting the country in the light of recent terrorist attacks, the DUP also agrees to support the government on legislation pertaining to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union; and legislation pertaining to national security. 

Five concerns for the UK arising from the EU Defence Union

By David Banks. With thanks to The Bruges group on whose website this appeared previously.

There are five main areas which the EU has been pursuing in order to establish what it calls an ‘EU Defence Union’ across the 28 EU countries, including the UK.

  1. Procurement policy and incentives
  2. Finance
  3. Intelligence, Battlegroups and PESCO
  4. UK defeat over HQ
  5. Contradicting statements over UK involvement.

Since 23rd June 2016, the UK has made commitments in each of these above areas of defence with no debate in the British Parliament. Each one is described in more detail below:

  1. Procurement policy and incentives

The UK has agreed to…

    More power for the EU to enforce EU-wide tendering in defence contracts

    An expanding remit for the EU over defence industrial strategy and joint-built assets

    An expanding remit for the EU in purchasing and conduct of joint-owned assets

    Incentives for UK defence companies to engage long-term with the developing EU-wide industrial strategy

The only reason the UK is permitted to build its own aircraft carriers is by using an exemption to the EU Procurement Directive. The exemption is known as the security clause (Article 346) and is permitted when a member state feels there is a national security reason to reserve production for its domestic market. The European Commission is tightening application of the clause following a review in 2016 and has gained the consent of member states to do so. (EU Council Conclusions, 14 November 2016)

The EDA and EU Commission have a benchmark of achieving 35% pan-EU equipment procurement.

(EDA Benchmarks)

UK ministers have approved measures that allow the European Defence Agency to have a greater role in standardisation and certification. (EU Council conclusions in Security Defence, 18th May 2017)

These measures would amplify EU influence in the trading conditions of the defence sector and an additional tool for the enforcement of policy. For example, certification and mutual recognition of standards might be used as a barrier to entry to UK exporters in years ahead in the same way that EU ‘standards’ produce a barrier to non-EU exporters in other sectors. Conversely, certification and standards could be used as an incentive for UK manufacturers and policymakers to adhere to EU policy. Either way, the changes bring a measure of additional control to the European Commission.

The EU refers to EU defence industrial strategy as the European Defence Technology and Industrial Base (EDTIB) and has more recently started using the term ‘Single Market for Defence’. With the objective of ‘reducing duplication, the EU intends to integrate this market under coordinated joint projects and an EU-controlled policy environment. The aim is for the resulting combined EU defence industrial strategy to serve the needs of the EU’s ‘new level of ambition’ in a military context.

This above agreement on standardisation and certification is an additional method of directing the integration of the EDTIB beyond the two already mentioned previously: 1. enforcement of the pan-EU Procurement Directive and 2. financial incentives via the European Defence Fund.

The EU Commission could conceivably tell the UK after Brexit that ‘access’ to its newly coordinated ‘Single Market for Defence’ requires adherence to the Procurement Directive. Also, now that UK participation in the European Defence Fund’s imminent incentive programmes is being concluded, UK ‘withdrawal’ could be viewed by the EU as an act that warrants retaliation or requires UK concessions.

  1. Finance

The UK has agreed to…

    The creation of the EU’s first central military budget, the European Defence Fund

    The use of European Investment Bank money (16% UK shareholding) for the European Defence Fund

    The creation of a Cooperative Financial Mechanism (CFM) to augment the European Defence Agency

    The creation of a Coordinated Annual Review of Defence (CARD), a mechanism which sees the EU offer financial incentives for adherence to EU planning over member state defence budgets.

The European Defence Fund will begin with a budget of only a few billion euros, but this money will be dangled in front of policy makers and defence companies to steer them towards joint activity and a policy environment that is under EU authority.

Millions of euros have already been placed into an “unprecedented level of engagement” with defence companies including defence industry conferences in the UK financed by the EU Commission, which started in April (Southampton) and are continuing throughout 2017 (Bournemouth etc).

UK companies are being invited to bid for the first tranche of European Defence Fund money in June 2017, via an EU Commission / EDA programme known as PADR (Preparatory Action for Defence Research). The programme is even being promoted by the UK Defence Solutions Centre, a UK-Government-funded unit which was formed to boost output of UK defence companies.

According to the EU Commission and EEAS, the Cooperative Financial Mechanism “will strengthen the European Defence Agency” as a central EU defence capabilities tool. The mechanism appears to be separate to the European Defence Fund. It is designed to manage member states’ money in a joint budget and will be spent on EDA research projects, military units conjoined under Permanent Structured Cooperation and joint assets.

This added financial firepower for the EDA overrides many years of policy by UK ministers who argued that the EDA’s scope and budget should be restricted. (European Defence Agency ministerial steering board, 18th May 2017)

The UK Government has a 16% (EUR 39 billion) stake in the EIB, the same as Italy, France and Germany (the four largest shareholders). The EU Commission is changing the lending criteria of the EIB to ensure it supports the European Defence Fund. The EIB is an instrument of the EU and operates in adherence to EU policy. There has been no confirmation of whether the UK will withdraw from the EIB, but to remain a shareholder would mean a level of participation in EU policy. The EIB has placed funds into infrastructure projects in the UK including Crossrail and the Manchester Metrolink.

The UK’s consent to EIB funding for UK defence industries provides the EU with additional locks on UK participation in EU defence policy and on its EIB shareholding. These additional locks were made after the UK’s referendum on EU membership and add to the task of unravelling these links after Brexit.

  1. Intelligence, Battlegroups and PESCO

The UK has agreed to…

    An increased size, scope and infrastructure of the EU’s military intelligence agency as a central ‘hub’.

    Participation in a 2019 EU Battlegroup under EU Council control. Approval given pre-referendum. No confirmation from MOD about whether it is cancelled or continuing.

    Drop objections to Permanent Structured Cooperation (first version of permanent military unification) by willing member states. MOD will not confirm whether the UK is staying out or not.

The European External Action Service (the EU’s ‘foreign ministry’) has put forward plans to grow the role of its intelligence agency known as the Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity (SIAC). (EU Council conclusions in Security Defence, 6 March 2017 and 18 May 2017).

SIAC is composed of the EU Military Staff Intelligence Directorate and the ‘civilian’ EU INTCEN. The EU Council agreed to develop them as an EU “hub for strategic information, early warning and comprehensive analysis”.

Member States, including the UK, have been asked to consider initiatives and ways to interact with these plans. (Security and Defence Implementation Plan, 14 November 2016).

The UK was scheduled to lead an EU Battlegroup in Jan-Jun 2019. The MOD will not state whether Britain’s participation will be cancelled or proceed.

The UK has agreed to…

 The reordering of EU agencies to include ‘permanent planning’ of EU defence missions and a ‘coordinated military command chain’.

    The creation of a permanent military HQ with staff responsible for strategy and operations. It was kept as a non-executive function of the EU, but executive power over EU military developments rests with the EU Council and EU Commission.

    Drop its objections to the wordings that describe the new HQ (May 2017) because previous approval in March 2017 had made later objections invalid.

The EU Council, with UK consent, has agreed to reorder the European External Action Service to “develop the necessary structures and capabilities for the permanent planning and conduct of CSDP missions and operations” with “distinct but coordinated civilian and military chains of command”.

These will work under the political control, strategy and leadership of the EU Council’s Political and Security Committee.

(EU Council Conclusions, 14th November 2016, with UK ministerial approval. Confirmed by EU Council heads of government conclusions, 15th December 2016)

The plans include the creation of an operational HQ, the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC). While the UK made an issue of the MPCC being prevented from having executive powers, this was a pointless fight as the executive power over the MPCC’s deployments already resides with the EU Council.

(EU Council Conclusions, 6th March 2017. Confirmed by EU Council conclusions, 18th May 2017)

  1. Contradicting statements over UK involvement.

The UK has agreed to…

    Participate in measures that apply to UK defence without the approval of Parliament, nor even a debate.

    Participate in developing plans until at least March 2019, possibly March 2022 or even longer.

    Provide the EU with several new powers over UK defence and a new bargaining chip for the EU.

    Accept measures that mean a more complicated and time-consuming withdrawal process that the UK didn’t face before the first of the EU Defence Union agreements in November 2016.

    Provisional statements on PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) while keeping open the prospect of UK participation in PESCO and the EU Council-controlled EU Battlegroups in 2019.

Each time new agreements are made, additional hours will need to be spent on severing EU ties and controls. New agreements are currently being formed in finance, intelligence, regulation, procurement strategy, joint assets, joint missions and research. This will impact upon several departments of government.

The duration of UK involvement might be expected to be until March 2019 (the anticipated end of Britain’s membership) and possibly March 2022 (end of a three-year transition deal which requires adherence to EU policy) and potentially even longer. Until then, even adhering to new EU measures (in finance, intelligence, regulation, procurement strategy, joint assets, joint missions and research) will add complexity to the UK’s exit negotiations, potentially extending the duration of the exit process.

Not a single one of these agreements at the EU Council has ever been mentioned in the House of Commons, let alone subject to a vote by MPs. All defence agreements at the EU Council take the UK further down the road of military integration and have had an immediate effect regarding UK participation. The EU Commission immediately embarked on a dialogue with UK defence companies about incentives to participate in EU defence integration projects.

EU Council conclusions are considered by the EU commission to have been co-authored by UK diplomats. Therefore, if a minister does not raise objection during an EU Council meeting, conclusions are considered to represent a joint direction, or consent, of all member states.

The EU Commission has stated that agreements the UK enters as a member state “must be carried out in full” while the UK remains subject to the EU’s treaties.

In addition, the EU has said it is not willing to even begin to discuss UK withdrawal from EU defence arrangements until a withdrawal agreement has been settled and “all other matters” agreed, because defence is “too important to be a part of the main negotiations”. This means the UK will be obliged to adhere to these rapidly developing measures for at least two years to 2019 and there is a real possibility of the UK being tied in for an additional transition period of three years up to 2022.

The Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan wrote to the European Scrutiny Committee chairman in December 2016 to inform the committee of the plans and agreements the UK was entering, as is required under UK Parliamentary protocols. Sir Alan Duncan told the committee there were parts of the Security and Defence Implementation Plan (SDIP) which his team ‘liked’ and no decision had yet been made over the quantum of UK involvement and for how long. This may be contrasted with the Foreign Secretary’s October and November statements that the UK did not wish to prevent the EU27 from participating in agreements in which the UK had no interest itself in participating.

The European Scrutiny Committee marked Sir Alan Duncan’s letter and corresponding agreements as ‘politically important’ to have them discussed in the relevant Parliamentary Select Committees of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Exiting the EU.

Meanwhile, the EU Commission will know it may now employ all of the UK’s recent set of agreements in defence as a bargaining chip, a threat, a delaying tactic and a deepening ‘binding agent’ to EU membership. It is conceivable that EU officials will cite the example of UK defence companies who have the promise of European Defence Fund money as a means of influencing or undermining perceptions among UK observers or negotiators in the realm of defence.

Finally, an answer we received from the MOD (19th May 2016) said that the British government had not ruled out joining PESCO in spite of its control by EU Council and CSDP:

“Decisions on UK engagement with CSDP after we leave the EU, including with initiatives such as PESCO, will be part of the wider negotiations.”

A UK Rep spokesperson had earlier (18th May 2016) told us the UK might participate in the EU Battlegroups after Brexit, which is also controlled by the EU and CSDP.

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