The Common Fisheries Policy – Part 4

Cam’s great sham will need some pretty wrapping paper

With December’s European Council meeting now behind us, the political world is now winding down for the Christmas break. What are we to make of the situation as 2015 draws to a close?

Firstly, things have moved on dramatically in the last year following the victory of the Conservative Party in May’s General Election. David Cameron’s commitment to hold an in/out (or rather, remain/leave) referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU has concentrated minds in the withdrawalist movement. The goal for which some of us have been striving for 40 years or longer could finally be within our grasp in the next two years.

Furthermore, the battle lines have already been drawn. We know what David Cameron is going to try to sell to the electorate. Forget all the discussions about opt-outs from closer political union and curbs on migrant benefits. There has not been and will not be any real renegotiations of any substance. Cameron has basically capitulated to the EU. “We need a British model of membership that works for Britain and for any other non-euro countries”, he said. What this really means, in the words of the former Environment Minister Owen Patterson is that “he is bumping around the back, towed along in the dinghy and this is all froth and bubble “

Associate membership – re-packaged as “The British Model” – will nonetheless be marketed by Mr Cameron as a major triumph – the result of “battling for Britain” in hard negotiation. Having downplayed expectations, Cameron will in reality be attempting to sell us a very shoddy deal – and not one for which he can even claim any credit. The original plans to turn discussion of a “two-speed Europe” into something concrete go back to a proposals by Andrew Duff, the arch federalist former Lib Dem MEP in 2006. It then moved up to consideration by the Bertelsmann-Spinelli group and the Five Presidents’ group. Carefully orchestrated press releases indicate that Mr Cameron has been going down this route for some months, with full support from leading figures in the Brussels establishment.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU Commission, stated to a meeting in Brussels on 18th November that the EU “is a family. Over time, one needs to give them (we the children!) the possibility to find their place on an orbit that better suits their sense of temperature. But Brexit will not happen”. Give Mr Juncker’s words, we can take it that the plan has been agreed. There is going to be a great deal of theatre. The script and choreography are mostly written already.

It will be Cam’s great sham. At the heart of this new arrangement, nothing of substance will have changed:-

  1. We will still be subject to the European Court of Justice
  2. Our ministers will still be overruled by qualified majority voting at the Council of Ministers
  3. Our Parliament will have to implement legislation with no power of unilateral veto.
  4. The European Commission will continue to churn out new laws and if the European Parliament and Council approve them, we will have to put them on the statute books.
  5. We will have an opt-out from the Euro, but this basically means relegation to the EU’s second division – indeed, Mr Duff has actually used the word “relegation” to describe his associate membership proposal.
  6. We will be still liable for any future eurozone bail-outs, even though outside the Single Currency
  7. We will still be tied in to Europol
  8. We will not be on the EU’s “top table” in spite of that being one of Mr Cameron’s stated objectives.

That Cameron is working hand-in-glove with the EU élite is more than apparent from his refusal to consider the far better alternative of the Norway Model – i.e., retaining our access to the Single Market from outside the EU by re-joining EFTA and thus availing ourselves of the European Economic Area agreement.

  1. Unlike the UK, which is represented by someone from the European Commission, Norway represents itself at the real “top tables” like the WTO and the United Nations Economic Committee for Europe (UNECE).
  2. It can refuse to put EU legislation onto its statute books – for instance, it refused to implement the Third Postal Directive, even though it was labelled “EEA Relevant”.
  3. If the Euro goes belly up, Norway will not be liable for its debts.
  4. EEA countries like Norway are widely consulted when EEA-relevant legislation is being framed and the lack of a final vote is not seen by most Norwegians as a problem.
  5. Liechtenstein, whose relationship to the EU is likewise via EEA/EFTA, used a clause in the EEA agreement to apply an “emergency brake” on immigration from the EU 20 years ago and the “emergency” is still in force!
  6.  Norway does not participate in Europol and the Eurpean military police (EUGENDFOR) will not have any rights to operate in the country.

In short, the “Norway Option”, while not an ideal long-term arrangement, would get us through the escape hatch and is far nearer to achieving Cameron’s stated objectives than his crummy “British Model.” One of his former constituents, Dave Phipps, who was the author of the now-defunct Witterings from Witney blog when he lived in the area, met with him and explained the obvious benefits of the Norway Model, but it has not made any difference. Unless Mr Cameron is a bear of exceedingly little brain or suffering from severe amnesia, one can only surmise that his mind is not open to any possibility of leaving the EU, in spite of his utterances that nothing is off the table. While Steve Baker, the MP for High Wycombe, claims that, “the only logical and consistent position the Prime Minister can take is to lead our country out of the European Union”, that just isn’t going to happen.

Mr Cameron may already have his “British Model” neatly under wraps, but there isn’t very much actually to wrap it in. The mainstream press is preoccupied with benefit restrictions on EU migrants and the opposition Cameron faced from Poland when he raised the subject of a four-year residency period, but this is a sideshow. The opt-out from “ever-closer union” is meaningless and recognition of the UK’s right to keep the pound is hardly a great concession. An agreement to cut red tape – in other words, addressing the lack of competitiveness within the EU – is hardly a big deal. True, Cameron complained in February 2014 that the Commission “is so obsessed with red tape that it believes that removing regulations which damage businesses is an act of self-harm”, but in reality, as new regulations are handed down from global standards-setting agencies, the EU does actually ditch obsolete regulations and will continue to do so.

Furthermore, the treaty changes which would be required to formalise a two-tier EU won’t be ready for signing until after the UK referendum, so all he can do is offer us a promise. Thinking back to his “cast iron” guarantee of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, this doesn’t really inspire any confidence.

Admittedly, opinion polling doesn’t inspire much confidence either, but last week’s YouGov poll, suggesting that perception of the success of Cameron’s supposed renegotiations hold the key to securing a “leave” vote is consistent with a number of other studies. If he can find some suitably pretty wrapping paper, selling the British Model as the middle way, the safe option that resolves our long-standing frustrations with Brussels, he may win. As it’s his only hope of winning, we can be assured that the spin machine will be revved up to full speed. Our task is not to be distracted by side issues like benefits for migrants. If we can show the public – and in particular, the undecided – that underneath the wrapping paper, Cam’s great sham is a non-solution meaning more Europe and even less say in how it is run, we can pull off a great victory.

On that note, a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year from all of us in the Campaign for an independent Britain. Let us hope that 2016 will be the year when the tide finally turns irrevocably in our direction

Mood Music

To win the referendum for the UK to leave the EU, we will need to battle on a number of different fronts. Some of the crucial issues have been frequently mentioned on this website – the need for a credible exit strategy, the need to ensure our sums are correct and, of course, how to handle the thorny issue of immigration, which can be a bit of a two-edged sword.

One other important but much more “fuzzy” battlefront issue must also be addressed if we are to win – mood music. It is not sufficient merely to offer a series of facts explaining how much better off we would be as a free country; we need to make withdrawal feel good. This all sounds very wishy-washy, but basically, it’s all about soundbytes. Our opponents are past masters of this. When I took part at a debate at Southampton University back in September, one of my abiding recollections was that my principal opponent, Peter Wilding of British Influence, didn’t attempt to rebut my criticisms of the EU but instead made it appear a much safer option to remain.

Our Chairman, Edward Spalton, has also noted the power of mood music. Edward has participated for several years in the CIVITAS programme of information about the EU, speaking to sixth forms in debate with representatives of the European Movement. He used to win every time, usually convincingly. However, around two years ago he had the salutary experience of losing a debate with an MEP who advanced very little of substance except to say “The EU is like a family. Like your own family it’s not perfect but you would be very lonely without it”.

During the recent Council of Ministers meeting, many leading political figures on both sides of the channel have been canvassed for their opinions about Britain leaving the EU and their comments are far more laced with mood music than substantive arguments.

John Major, for instance, claimed that leaving the EU was “dangerous”. That’s very emotive word. What exactly does he mean? What increased dangers will we face? Invaders from Mars? A plague of locusts? He then went on to say that leaving the EU would leave us in “splendid isolation”. Again, a very fuzzy term. From what exactly would we be isolated? We would still be members of the UN, Nato, the Commonwealth, UEFA and countless other international bodies; our airports and seaports wouldn’t suddenly close if we left the EU, our international telephone and railway links would still continue to operate and Dover would still only be 21 miles from Calais. Or does he really mean that withdrawal would usher into power some Kim Jong-Un-like ruler who would close down all contact with the outside world?

Glenis Willmott, a Labour MEP, told the meeting of the European Parliament that she found it “hard to believe” the UK’s “position as a global leader” was “under threat”, adding that she hoped “sanity prevails”. Well cheer up, Mrs Willmott. Regaining our places on the world’s top tables, we will be far more of a global leader than in our present situation, shackled to the EU. As for sanity being the exclusive preserve of the “remain” camp, the very fact that Nick Clegg is included in their number is surely enough to dispel that particular argument!

Frivolity apart, these examples show the potential power of soundbytes. We may dissect them and point out that there is no substance behind them, but we nonetheless have to master these tools and fight back – in other words, to use the soundbyte as well as the detailed economic study and the exit strategy document to counter our opponents. If the remain camp uses fear as a weapon, we must emphasise hope and opportunity. Personally speaking, I find the prospect of withdrawal incredibly exciting. It will be the greatest day in our country’s history since VE and VJ Days, both of which took place over a decade before I was born. People threw street parties to celebrate. Even though I am not much of a party animal, I fully intend that my village will have a party to celebrate independence even if it may fall on my inexperienced shoulders to organise it. But how can I encapsulate that excitement in a few pithy phrases? With the number of meetings and debates about the EU likely to increase during 2016, we will all need to develop our skills when it comes to mood music. We have a much better narrative than our opponents, but style as much as content and passion will determine how persuasively we come across to our audiences.

The Common Fisheries Policy – Part 3

We have established in parts 1 and 2 that Parliament itself is the danger to our nation. Parliament has become a middle tier of management through which EU legislation passes (via the European Communities 1972 Act and its additions), to be then administered and policed by the Nation State.

As we observe Prime Minister Cameron do the rounds, for whatever he wants to portray as his reform package to bring about this second tier, it is important to compare what is happening now, to the beginning, 43 years ago, by another Prime Minister – Heath.

On the 17th. February 1972, during the debate in the House of Commons during the second reading of the European Communities 1972 Bill, the Leader of the opposition Harold Wilson, after talking about sugar and New Zealand stated: The fisheries ‘Transitional arrangements’ (Article 100 of the treaty) allows members until 31st December, 1982, to restrict fishing in waters under their sovereignty or jurisdiction. Beyond that date the Commission has the initiative in making proposals, and then the Council: acting on a proposal from the Commission…shall examine the provisions which could follow the derogations in force until 31st December, 1982. It does not say it will or must. The derogation is in force until 31st December, 1982, and the Council has to decide. Unanimity rule? Veto? Whose veto? It really is New Zealand again in the case of fisheries, except that it takes effect a few years later. There is no automatic continuation of the temporary provisions, with a veto on attempts to end them, but the working out of new and conceivably entirely different provisions which could follow. It is worse than New Zealand because with New Zealand there is some commitment to do something. How much is not stated. Here there is no commitment whatever which could follow.”

Wilson was nearly there, but he clearly did not know what happens when a transitional derogation ends. That is, you revert back to what you were derogated from.

Prime Minster Heath replied: “The Leader of the Opposition must surely agree that we cannot go into Europe and take decisions unilaterally, on our own. The question, therefore, if one is dealing for example, with fisheries as far ahead as 1982, is how we can best protect our rightful interests. If it is to be done on a majority decision, then there is a possibility of being outvoted. But if it is a question of a unanimous decision and we have the right of veto, then we have the ability to protect our essential interests. [Interruption.] With respect to hon. Gentlemen opposite, we have the right of veto.”

The Prime Minister seriously misled the House. Instead of explaining how the system works to the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister confusds the issue further, by stating we held the veto, which we didn’t. All the other Members held the veto to stop a replacement derogation being created, which can again only be transitional, (No longer than the original) not permanent.

At the end of Prime Minister Heath’s winding up speech he stated: “If this House will not agree to the Second Reading of the Bill tonight and so refuses to give legislative effect to its own decision of principle, taken by a vast majority less than four months ago, my colleagues and I are unanimous that in these circumstances this Parliament cannot sensibly continue. I urge hon. Members to implement the clear decision of principle taken on 28th October last and to cast their votes for the Second Reading of this Bill.”

So Prime Minister Heath gave the House of Commons false information during the debate on the Second reading, and threatened to dissolve Parliament. He won the vote by 8. If he had told the truth he could have lost.

With Prime Ministers Heath and Cameron it begs the question, did/do they understand Accession Treaties, derogations, and the acquis communautaire? I believe they did/do, but deliberately pull the wool over our eyes.

Heath is now history concerning sovereignty, but little is known about his antics over sugar, New Zealand, and this subject – Fisheries, but he certainly covered up on derogations and made them appear the absolute opposite of what they really were. .

Cameron is doing the same with the acquis communautaire. When he went to Poland recently he gave the attitude of being equal partners.

Mr Cameron was forced to admit that the two nations have not managed to reach agreement on key elements of his renegotiation plan ahead of the Council Meeting

Why should they? If a subject that Cameron wants changing is part of the acquis communautaire, Poland can sit back and do nothing. Why should she negotiate away something that is hers by Treaty, a Treaty signed and endorsed by the British Parliament and voted for by Cameron? Heath gave the impression he held the veto to renew a derogation, Cameron gives the impression that he can make another EU member change the acquis communautaire, when that member was obliged to fulfil, without exception, the acquis on joining.

Remember Poland on joining, was in a similar position to Spain, which had a 16-year transitional derogation against her to stop full rights on fishing. Poland had a 7-year derogation against her for the free movements of workers, but the UK, via Westminster MPs, decided to waive it.

During the second reading of the European Union (Accessions) Bill, on 21st. May 2003, that endorsed Poland’s terms, not one MP voted against.

In that debate Michael Ancram said: “We made it clear all along in this House that we believed in accession and wanted enlargement of the European Community. That was the position of the Conservative party and it is exactly what we have said all the way along.”

The Minister for Europe – Denis MacShane said: “I refer to the free movement of workers. Once the 10 new member states are full members of the EU, all EU citizens will be able to travel freely. People will come and go as they please. Those who want to work here must have jobs to go to.”

and The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – Jack Straw said: “It will attract the workers we need in key sectors. It will ensure that they can work here without restrictions and need not be a burden on the public purse. It makes sense financially, as we can focus resources on the real immigration problems, rather than trying to stop EU citizens enjoying normal EU rights.”

What is it about our Prime Ministers, that they appear incapable of telling and acting within the bounds of truth? They happily sign Treaties and legal documents, then want to renege.

EU dredging rules make effective flood prevention in Britain impossible

A letter to the Sunday Telegraph – 13th December 2015

SIR — It is not surprising that the rivers in Cumbria have flooded again (report December 6), so soon after the last inundation in 2009.

The Environment Agency cites all kinds of reasons for this. However, it neglects to mention that its policy is dictated by the EU Water Framework Directive, adopted 2000, which places constraints on the dredging of rivers.

Putting in flood defences does not infringe the policy, as long as the river is not dredged or embanked. Hence, for example,  the erection of expensive and ineffective glass panels on the wall next to the Greta river in Keswick. Here there has beenabsolutely no dredging of the gravel that has raised the river
bed considerably over the last decade.

There is nothing unusual about heavy rainfall in Cumbria;  what is unprecedented is the refusal of the authorities to dredge  the watercourses to carry it away.

 

Philip Walling
Belsay, Northumberla

Ten answers to ten questions

The “Remain” camp will be seeking to probe all the “leave” campaigns and to pick holes in thier strategies. However, there is only a finite number of questions they can ask. British Influence has probably covered most of them in a recent 10-point challenge to us all. Here, below are their questions  with replies from Dr Richard North, which show that a well-thought-out leave strategy is on the one hand essential, but on the other, fully able to address our enemies’ challenges.

1. What would the Eurosceptic ideal arrangement between the UK and the EU look like and how realistic is it possible to achieve?

There is no ideal arrangement. We have never pretended that there was one, and it is facile even to suggest that there should be one. Essentially, after nine treaties and more than 40 years of political and economic integration, there can be no optimum or “ideal” mechanism for leaving the EU.

Nor is it possible or even advisable to specify precisely which arrangement might be best or most realistic for the circumstances, when the outcome depends on negotiations between parties. We thus suggest a series of options in our Flexcit plan, any one of which, if adopted, will permit a trouble-free exit as part of an overall process which involves six measured steps to freedom.

The real issue then is whether it is possible to develop a good working relationship with the EU once we have left it. The answer to that is an unequivocal yes, with every reason to believe that this would be beneficial to the UK and EU member states.

2. Every successful arrangement with the EU to allow countries outside of it access to the Single Market has included freedom of movement – how would we arrange access to the Single Market without agreeing to freedom of movement?

Under the options available to us, we would compromise on freedom of movement for the purposes of retaining access to the Single Market, pending a longer-term resolution. We recognise that Brexit is a process rather than an event, and the immediate goal of leaving the EU is best served by the continued adoption of freedom of movement, to allow for a staged exit.

In the interim, we would take such measure as are permitted under current agreements to restrict migrant flows, by administrative and other means. This would include dealing with non-EU measures which permit or facilitate third-country immigration.

3. Article 50 stipulates a two-year timeline for exiting the EU. However, the Swiss deal with the EU took almost ten years to agree. How would we avoid any post-Brexit arrangement taking as long as the Swiss deal did?

We do not endorse the “Swiss option”. The reason we propose the EFTA/EEA (“Norway”) option is that it is a well-established off-the-shelf option and the best for a rapid exit, within the two-year Article 50 period.

Should the Norway option not be accessible, there are other off-the-shelf options available, allowing considerable negotiating flexibility. There are no good reasons, therefore, why negotiations should not be completed within the two-year period.

4. Won’t the commercial interests of the remaining EU countries take precedence for them over giving Britain “a good deal” post-Brexit?

Article 50 prescribes that Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with the departing State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. International law and the rules of the Union require that the negotiation shall be carried out in good faith.

Within the framework of the negotiation, we are conscious that the legitimate concerns and needs of all parties must be respected. We also understand that the Union cannot, for its own purposes, offer the UK a better deal that it could secure through membership of the EU. Our plan, therefore, sets realistic objectives and ones which do not prejudice the survival of the EU or the commercial interests of its members.

5. Won’t the two-year (at minimum) period post-Brexit period see Parliament completely tied up in renegotiation with the EU to the detriment of all other legislation?

The Article 50 negotiation is a matter between the European Council, with the European Commission, and the Member State government. Parliament is not directly involved in the negotiation.

We would expect Parliament to approve the Government’s negotiating mandate, and to be informed as to its progress. There would also be some merit in the Houses establishing a joint, cross-party select committee to review and advise on the negotiations, and to report occasionally to both Houses. Any final agreement would also require the approval of both Houses, and possibly a referendum, which would also have to be authorised by Parliament.

The burden thus imposed, in total, would not be substantial and would be well within the capability of Parliament to accommodate without the allocation of any further resources.

Further, as a point of information, the UK would not formally leave the EU until the negotiation had been concluded, or the two-year period expired.

6. Without the weight of the Single Market behind us, how will Britain avoid being in a poor bargaining position with countries like China, should they wish to come to the bargaining table in the first place?

As regards existing trade deals, the UK will be in no worse position outside the EU than it will be in. It can rely on the legal assumption of continuity to ensure that it will continue to trade with third countries on the same basis as it did before it left.

As to trade generally, the “big bang” trade deals such as TTIP belong with the dinosaurs. They are expensive and time-consuming to negotiate and rarely deliver the benefits they claim.

The greatest growth in international trade is being achieved through innovative, flexible agreements such as the Partial Scope Agreements – and their equivalents which deal with technical barriers to trade – plus “unbundled” sector- and product-specific agreements, cast on a regional or global basis, without geographical anchorage.

The UK, freed from the encumbrance of the EU and the need to work within the constraints of 28-member “common positions” will be better able to partake in these innovative mechanisms, and improve its trading position far beyond that afforded by old-fashioned trade deals.

It would also be in a better position to broker deals between non-state actors, where growth potential is high, without being held back by the lethargic bureaucratic procedures of the EU.

7. How could voters be persuaded that the more radical alternatives to EU membership wouldn’t bring radical economic and political change with it that would disadvantage them?

Political realities suggest that the more radical alternatives would not arise. In our plan there are various fallback positions, some of which are sub-optimal for the time being, but hardly radical.

In any event, post-exit we will see the restoration of democratic controls over the legislative and treaty approval process. We expect Parliament to resume its historical function of reflecting the will of the people, and thus ensuring that undesirable and unasked-for changes are avoided – unlike at present, where the will of the people can be overturned by the undemocratic institutions of the European Union.

We do, however, recognise that there are weaknesses to our democratic system – in addition to those brought about by our membership of the EU – and thus propose as part of our exit plan reforms which will strengthen democratic control, and thereby better ensure that the wishes of the people are respected.

8. Are those who wish Britain to leave the EU proposing open borders – or even significantly relaxed visa restrictions – with all Commonwealth countries, including some developing countries with massive populations, and in some cases large scale internal political problems, such as India, Pakistan and Nigeria?

In our plan, we do not propose open borders – or even significantly relax visa restrictions – with any Commonwealth or any other third country. We would, however, seek to include mutually beneficial visa arrangements in any new trade deals, over which we would retain total control.

9. During the two-year negotiation period that starts with the triggering of Article 50 post-referendum, wouldn’t there be a large incentive for an unprecedented amount of EU citizens to emigrate to the UK while it was still legally possible?

Since our plan retains freedom of movement provisions, there would be no need for any citizen of any other EU Member State to make any special arrangements in seeking residential status in the UK as their rights and responsibilities will be largely unaffected by the UK leaving the EU. We expect EEA rights to be maintained.

However, it would be perfectly legitimate within the context of the Article 50 procedure, to negotiate a side deal on an intergovernmental basis, temporarily removing or modifying reciprocal establishment and citizenship rights, to pre-empt and thereby prevent migration surges.

10. Are proponents of Brexit willing to remove a crucial aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process and risk Scotland leaving the UK in order to leave the EU?

We think British Influence does a great disservice to all the players involved in the Northern Ireland peace process by pegging its success on the EU. Ultimately, devolution is helping to create a distinct governing body separate to London which will do more for peace.

As to Scotland, ironically, we would ask ten questions not entirely dissimilar to those pitched by British Influence. Those who say Scotland would break the Union should also read our Brexit plan in that they will find that breaking away from the UK is as politically and technically tricky as the UK leaving the EU.

The EU will likely reform on the basis of a two speed Europe to address the necessity for more economic governance over the eurozone. That is an inevitable consequence of currency union. Scotland using the pound means full separation is not a political reality. Thus, in most respects Scotland is as independent as it is ever going to be (give or take).