France gives the EU a breather

The nightmare scenario in Brussels would have been a le Pen/Mélenchon run off in the second and final round of the French Presidential election. Both candidates, for different reasons, were strongly EU-critical and the far left Jean-Luc Mélenchon put in a strong showing in the final days of campaigning.

Not strong enough, however, to beat Emmanuel Macron, the most pro-EU candidate of the four front runners. He will go forward to the second round where he is widely expected to win comfortably against Marine le Pen, although probably not by anything like the same margin as the 82%-18% victory of Jacques Chirac over her father Jean-Marie le Pen in  2002

One reason why a Macron victory is unlikely to be that decisive is that he has come out openly in support not only of the EU but of multiculturalism and diversity. France today contains a substantial number of voters who are distinctly unenthusiastic about both. Indeed, a total of 46% of all votes were cast for either le Pen, Mélenchon or “Frexit” candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan. Abstention is likely to be high in the second round and some supporters of the defeated candidates may well switch to Marine le Pen. Even so, it would be a brave man who would bet any money on her becoming president this time round.

So huge sighs of relief are the order of the day in Brussels and Berlin. What about in London? A run-off between two EU-critical candidates with one of them eventually becoming president would have perhaps given us a Brexit-friendly voice in the Elysée Palace but at the expense of the remaining EU-26 wanting to take a tougher line on Brexit to minimise the risk of contagion. A probable Macron victory relieves the fear of any other country voting to leave. As with the failure of Geert Wilders’ PVV Party to top the polls in the Netherlands’ election earlier this year, Brexit now looks more and more like a one-off as far as the EU is concerned.

But those disaffected 46% will be heading back to the polls in June to vote in elections of the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament. Even if France ends up with a pro-EU president, that president is likely to deal with a considerable number of députés who do not share his enthusiasm. As in other European countries, support for the mainstream socialist party is in freefall and the centre-right Les Républicains are unlikely to perform well. This doesn’t mean that the EU’s day of reckoning has only been postponed by a further two months. Its final collapse could be several years away, but as one Old Testament prophet put it, “The vision is yet for an appointed time… thought it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come.

Scotland, Separation and the Brexit Question

The SNP has abandoned ‘True Independence’ and Sturgeon is forcing Scotland to choose between a more powerful Scotland inside a Federal UK, or a less powerful one inside the EU and most likely the Eurozone.

I remember the SNP’s 2015 manifesto commitment very clearly: the more seats they won in Westminster, the more powers they would get back for Scotland. It was not their most original manifesto commitment, but it was consistent with the main theme of Scottish politics for the past few decades: that devolution should bring power closer to the people of Scotland.

It is not an idea which most of us who support devolution tend to argue with, nor was it the majority of Scottish voters who, on 7 May 2015, returned 56 SNP candidates out of a possible 59 to the House of Commons.

It puzzles me therefore, in this Brexit age, why Nicola Sturgeon was so counterintuitively against the United Kingdom leaving the European Union in the referendum last year, and why she is fighting so hard for Scotland to secure a bespoke deal on membership of the EU’s Single Market.

Of course, the First Minister is trying to manufacture a pretext for a second referendum in Scotland. Forget that for a moment: Nicola Sturgeon is playing political games. She has a ‘Party management issue’ following the influx of die-hard nationalists who swelled the SNP’s membership figures after their referendum defeat in 2014. Also, forget (but only for a minute) that since occupying Bute House the SNP has sought to find differences with England wherever there aren’t any; it’s all part of the drive towards so called ‘independence’.

I always imagined that the First Minister after a Leave victory would have been “champing at the bit” to empower her own office and Scotland. After all, she has a manifesto commitment to keep… Alas, no.

Constitutional observers will have noticed in recent years how the SNP has instead empowered the Scottish Government by centralising almost everything – from policing to planning for wind turbine projects – away from local government and into the hands of Edinburgh. Their attack on localism is an idiosyncrasy I fail to understand given their commitment to bring power “closer to The People”. But equally difficult to understand is the SNP administration’s shunning of the opportune moment that Brexit presents to “grab” yet more power.

Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon genuinely believes she can win the second referendum on so-called ‘independence’, despite recent opinion polls consistently showing Scotland would vote to stay part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, the Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson, in a recent interview in The Daily Telegraph’s Scottish edition, warned the SNP that they would lose a rerun of the 2014 vote by an “even larger margin”.

Yet, despite a recent opinion poll by BMG Research showing that only one in four Scots want a second independence referendum before Brexit talks are complete, the Scottish Parliament voted through a request for a Section 30 order from Westminster, giving the Scottish Government the power to hold a legally-binding referendum on so-called ‘independence’ between the Autumn of 2018 and Spring of 2019.

Theresa May is adamant that there won’t be a second referendum… at least not until after the Brexit negotiations have been completed, and the United Kingdom has left the European Union… So another referendum could still yet take place at some point in the future.

For the sake of this paper, let’s imagine Nicola Sturgeon eventually gets her way, and the UK Government grants the Scottish Parliament’s request for a Section 30 order. What would a second referendum look like?

Timing is everything… And so is the question…

Regardless of your views on ‘independence’, it must surely be fair to both sides of the argument, and most importantly to the Scottish people, that voters be able to make their choice at the ballot box based on full knowledge of how Brexit will work.

As First Minister Alex Salmond was more or less allowed to dictate the terms of the first referendum on Scottish ‘independence’ which was set out in the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012.

I recognise that the Agreement was signed at a time when the SNP had a majority in the Scottish Parliament so it must have been hard for the then Prime Minister David Cameron to reject the Nationalists’ mandate to hold a referendum following the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May 2011. Two crucial things however did disadvantage the Unionist cause.

The first was effectively allowing Alex Salmond to hold a two-year referendum campaign which gave him the time he needed to build support for a Yes vote; a calculation which almost paid off.

The current occupier of Bute House is presumably pushing so hard for a second referendum now because she hopes to benefit from a similar time advantage. Sturgeon has an enthusiastic base of core supporters left over from three years ago, and she no doubt wants to put them to good use instead of waiting, possibly beyond 2020, for her second bite at the cherry.

This time the Nationalist calculation is that a snap poll in the middle of what will of course be challenging Brexit negotiations can exploit apparent ‘uncertainty’ and deliver them victory – before Scotland is ‘dragged out’ of the European Union ‘against her will’.

The UK Government’s position is therefore right. It not only takes away the initiative of the SNP to ‘gerrymander’ the timing in their favour, but it also ensures that any second referendum in Scotland is based on fairness and experience of an independent United Kingdom after Brexit.

The second crucial thing was the question; ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ The very word ‘independence’ has a positive and proactive meaning which handed the argument to the Nationalists.

Objectively, few of us would ever choose to be ‘dependent’, and yet as you will read later, it was completely disingenuous for the Yes campaign to argue in the positive that Scotland would have been ‘liberated’ or ‘emancipated’ when ‘true independence’ was never actually on offer.

Undoubtedly, the question handed Nationalists the advantage. Voters were given a binary choice between another Nationalist positive, and a Unionist negative: ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. It was a loaded question, which is exposed as such when compared with the process undertaken to compose the question for the EU referendum.

After much debate, and representations from all sides, the UK’s Electoral Commission ruled that a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote would not be fair, nor indeed suffice, in a complex and multifaceted debate on whether we should ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ the European Union. In the end, they came up with a neutral, unemotional question which handed neither ‘Leave’ nor ‘Remain’ the advantage.

And so it must surely be right that if Scotland does hold a second crucial referendum on our constitution, the UK Electoral Commission be handed the responsibility again of writing the question.

The situation is now different from that in 2011: the SNP has no mandate to pursue another referendum, nor a majority in Holyrood. This time, Downing Street is just as entitled to have a say on the timing and question as Bute House.

The UK Government should make it clear that Scottish voters have a right to experience life in a truly independent United Kingdom, both the pros and cons of life after Brexit.

If there is to be a second Scottish referendum, it should only be held two or three years after the United Kingdom has left the European Union. And only then!

But whatever decision the Scottish people make in that ballot, the choices before them will be much more nuanced than last time.

The choices before the Scottish people

At this point it is important to clarify what the SNP mean by ‘independence’. Cast your mind back to the Scottish Government White Paper in 2014 and you will remember that they proposed a formal currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote.

This was soon rejected by the then UK Chancellor George Osborne, forcing the Scottish Government to propose the ‘Sterlingisation’ option which meant unilateral use of the Pound, but with the disadvantage that Scotland would have no control over monetary policy, nor have a Central Bank which could act as a lender of last resort.

In short, what the Yes campaign proposed on the ballot paper was separation, with dependency on the impulses of a foreign power Scotland would have spurned.

Scotland would have been unable to set interest rates, print money, or devalue. Ceding the fundamental levers of power which shape your economy does not allow you to claim true independence.

‘True Independence’, the preferred option of ‘more committed’ Nationalists who make up a significant tranche of the SNP’s grassroots, means full fiscal and monetary autonomy; a Scottish currency with its own central bank and interest rate; and the ability to levy taxes and borrow money.

A ‘True Independence’ supporter resists membership of global institutions such as the European Union, some even NATO, and demands a Scottish Armed Forces made up of whatever the UK Government agrees to share with Scotland once she has left the Union. For them her own territorial waters, including the much-discussed North Sea oil and fishing, a land border with the UK and her own immigration policy, are an important part of reclaiming Scottish sovereignty.

Without EU membership, a ‘truly independent’ Scotland would of course not be part of the EU’s Single Market to which she exports £12.3bn of goods and services, but free from the rulings of the European Court of Justice. Perhaps more crucially in financial terms, she would no longer be a ‘member’ of the UK’s ‘Single Market’ where her exports are worth £49.8bn.

The path to ‘true independence’ is rocky, and the SNP know this!

It is why when a Currency Union and then Sterlingisation was rejected by the UK Government in 2014, they announced that the latter would be a transition currency. But a transition to what? Official SNP policy up until the 2008 Financial Crash had always been for an ‘independent’ Scotland to join the Euro.

The SNP has rather bashfully always put great faith in the idea that the best path to ‘freedom’ is to separate Scotland from the UK and join a Federal United States of Europe. Its belief has always been that the rights of its citizens, security and economic future can be protected inside a Federal Europe, but you could be forgiven for not knowing this. It’s not a policy they advertise with any great enthusiasm.

In fact, since the then First Minister Alex Salmond was forced to drop his much-vaunted idea of an ‘Arc of Prosperity’ (the proposed economic and trading alliance between Ireland, Iceland and Norway), and then subsequently drop formal plans to adopt the Euro, the SNPs silence has been deafening.

Before a second referendum takes place in Scotland, the SNP will need to come clean. If ‘True Independence’ is left off the ballot paper again, then they need to be clear what exactly it is they will be asking the Scottish People to vote for.

To me the choice they want to offer Scots is becoming more and more apparent:

–       Separation from the UK and dependency on the EU

A second Scottish referendum could end up being a hybrid plebiscite, not so much debating ‘independence’, but answering a refined Brexit question. And that is no bad thing for Unionists.

Assuming the Scottish Government were successful, and Spain did not veto their membership, re-entering the EU would mean adopting the Euro – taking the SNP back full circle to 2008; a more honest time for manifesto promises.

There is no avoiding the fact that Scotland would have formally to adopt the currency. Scotland would be forced to inherit the European Central Bank’s interest rate, and a monetary policy geared towards maintaining the success of the German economy. Much like Greece, Scottish jobs and inflation would be secondary concerns.

But all this assumes that Scotland could meet the convergence criteria of a less than 60% debt to GDP ratio, and reducing the deficit to GDP ratio below 3%. Such a feat is likely to take the Scottish Government years. According to the TaxPayers’ Alliance in 2015/16 Scotland had a deficit to GDP ratio of 9.5% – the highest in the EU, twice that of the UK, and even higher than that of Greece. Scotland under the SNP is some way off meeting these targets.

If the timetable remains on track, in two years the United Kingdom will leave the Common Fisheries Policy and Common Agricultural Policy, both of which have caused significant damage to Scotland’s fishing and farming communities. It is clear from reading the Scotland Act that competency over rural affairs and fishing, not to mention the environment, business regulation, and transport, rests with the Scottish Parliament.

There can be no doubt that powers and responsibilities returning from Brussels in these areas are going straight to Scotland. The UK Government is committed to this aim, and I am encouraged that it is right, and will happen.

Having already created the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world, Brexit is going to make the Scottish Parliament even more powerful.

It seems extraordinary therefore that a Party which said in its manifesto, and has argued for decades, that it wants more powers for Scotland, is now committed to giving them away. At a time when the SNP could empower the Scottish Parliament, they are preparing the ground for a referendum which would see them giving newly returned powers back to Brussels. It is a bizarre paradox.

Make no mistake, ‘independence’ would not be on the ballot paper. A vote for the SNP’s interpretation of ‘independence’ would be a vote to make Scotland less powerful. Scotland would be anything but an ‘independent nation’, but instead a small separated one with hardly any voice inside the EU and Single Market, while losing access to the UK’s Single Market and the trade deals which the UK is seeking to sign with the more prosperous parts of the world.

It is why, following the EU referendum in which pro Leave SNP MPs and MSPs were allegedly ‘gagged’, Eurosceptic Nationalists are finding their voice. The SNP’s former Deputy Leader Jim Sillars has said he would not vote for so-called ‘independence’ in a second Scottish referendum if it meant re-joining the EU after Brexit. In a recent interview with The Herald newspaper he said he would abstain and believed many SNP supporters would follow suit:

“I do not want to be run by an unelected, self-serving elite… I, for example, could not vote Yes if on the ballot paper it said, ‘We wish the Scottish state to be a member of the European Union’, and I’m not alone in that… One of the biggest miscalculations by Nicola Sturgeon is to believe that the 1.6m Scots who voted Remain would automatically then vote to go back into the European Union… That means Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Tory party, and all the Tories who voted to Remain, would in fact vote to leave the United Kingdom and take a Scottish state into the European Union. I think that’s fantasy.”

Jim Sillars is not alone. Survation estimates that 34.9% of surveyed voters who backed the SNP in last year’s Holyrood elections voted to leave the EU in the UK-wide referendum, presenting Sturgeon with a difficult conundrum.

As a Leaver, I share Jim Sillars sentiments towards the EU, and as a Unionist I part company with him over ‘independence’. But as someone who fought hard in 2014 to preserve our precious 300-year-old Union I believe the UK Government must do all it can to find a new settlement that Scotland and the Scottish people can be comfortable with; a settlement that has broad support, and longevity.

This is where the second option on the ballot paper can play a significant part in answering the Brexit Question.

–       Staying in an independent Federal UK

This second option should be an invitation to Scottish voters to empower their Parliament through Brexit. Scotland is a divided country so this invitation needs to be open to both Nationalists and Unionists alike. With 45% of voters demonstrating very clearly in 2014 that they are not content with the status quo, it will be hard in the future to maintain the Union without reforming the way that it works for all its people.

The second option needs to say that if it is independence you crave then look no further than the United Kingdom which, having invoked Article 50 on 29th March 2017, is well on the path to regaining hers, and is committed to sharing sovereignty among the family of nations.

The UK constitution has undergone dramatic changes in the last twenty years which has seen the creation of devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and since then further powers devolved.

The Scottish Parliament is the most powerful devolved parliament in the world. In financial terms, it is more powerful than most federal states with comparative legislatures, including Germany, the United States and Australia.

Brexit presents Scotland with an opportunity to repatriate to existing institutions even more powers over fishing, farming, the environment, business regulations, transport, and the law.

Should Scotland choose this second option she would naturally keep Sterling and continue to be part of the decision-making process which sets interest rates and determines money supply.

She would be protected by HM Armed Forces, remain a member of the Commonwealth, NATO and have access to the 30 or so trade deals on offer to the UK which amount to roughly 60% of the world’s GDP. She would also continue to benefit from the Barnett Formula.

But if Scotland is to benefit from Brexit by staying in the United Kingdom, then others within the family of nations should benefit too by having the same powers and responsibilities.

After years of patchwork reform, we have ended up with a constitutional ‘dog’s breakfast’; an unfair and unclear system where the West Lothian Question remains unanswered and political and democratic inequality exists between the nations.

In November 2014, the Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell sought to rectify this by introducing a Ten-Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons to create a federal United Kingdom, with separate parliaments for each of the four nations, leaving the UK Parliament responsible for defence, foreign affairs, national security, and the macroeconomy. Unfortunately, his Bill didn’t make progress.

Many nationalists in Scotland however, and not just those who voted Leave, would be attracted by a second option which incorporates this thinking. Federalism would constitutionalise the existing and newly repatriated powers of the Scottish Parliament, and further enhance its role in deciding policies which the governing party believes will directly improve the lives of the Scottish people.

The attraction of the second option to those who up until now have identified themselves as ‘Yes’ voters is an obvious one, as a federal constitutional arrangement inside the UK is a more empowering alternative to the emasculating option that separation and EU dependency offers.

Brexit and Federalism can save the Union

In a post-Brexit, independent Federal UK, the new beginning a second option offers would address the problem of our politics being far too centralised, and our country being far too divided.

Federalism would clearly set out in statute the powers and responsibilities of the Governments of each federal state, be it England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, and of course the principle of pooling resources across the nations of the UK.

There could be no disputes from nationalist governments in the Celtic fringes playing a game of divide and rule with Westminster, and where there might be disputes, these could easily be resolved by The Supreme Court. We would move towards a more harmonious constitutional settlement.

Post-Brexit federalism would see off divisive nationalism and set the glue that would bind us together as one People sharing this new unique island at the centre of the world, and which we all call our home.

David Roach

This article first appeared on the Bruges Group’s website and is used with permission.

Could fisheries prick the SNP’s bubble in Scotland?

The roots of the SNP lie in the coastal communities, especially the fishing communities that in the 1960s were safe Conservative seats. It was Edward Heath’s surrender of our fishing industry which  provided the impetus for SNP’s subsequent growth. Alex Salmond, the previous leader of the SNP, once put forward a private members Bill to take back control of UK fishing grounds of 200 nautical miles/median line zone during his first stint as a Westminster MP.

How times have changed! Power has gone to the SNP’s head and now they do not want to be in an union with the UK but want Scotland to be part of the Union of the EU.

But what would happen if, following Brexit, Scotland voted for independence and then re-joined the EU? The membership terms are unequivocal: Scotland would have to hand back her Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to the EU on the basis of equal access to a common resource without discrimination, and not increasing fishing effort.

Furthermore, the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy state that EU fishing capacity must be balanced to EU marine resource, and with the loss to the EU of the UK’s EEZ, even though Scotland would have its own EEZ, the loss of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish EEZs would result in the EU having to reduce its overall fishing capacity, but that reduced number of vessels would have to share in that reduced capacity – including Scotland’s EEZ.

So if the SNP were to take an independent Scotland back into the EU, it would result in a further decline in the Scottish fleet, finishing off the already devastated coastal communities that originally helped to create the SNP.

It does not end there. The territorial waters of 12 nautical miles come back to the coastal state through a transitional derogation which expires on 31st. December 2022 and would have to be renewed. With the rest of the UK out of the EU and our Accession treaty of 1972 (which was the main reason for the 12 mile derogation) now confined to history, why would the EU wish to offer a fresh derogation covering Scottish waters only? In other words, Scotland could find herself with the EU vessels fishing up to her beaches.

The SNP will huff and puff over this, saying they will negotiate, but there is no way out. These are the rules of EU membership. If, therefore, the SNP is so desperate to rejoin the EU, it would be at the cost of destroying the party’s roots.

The Conservatives, who are currently looking to become the main challengers to the SNP north of the border, would benefit immensely from including a clear fishing policy on the lines we have proposed in their manifesto. Who knows, it may enable them to recapture those seats they lost in the the 1960s and 1970s and tear the heart out of the SNP?

Our closest friends would like to see an historic wrong righted

Now we are leaving the EU, Brexit provides an opportunity to put right an historic wrong which goes back many years.

Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and other ‘subjects of the Queen’ are still treated as foreigners when they visit the UK. Whereas our membership of the EU has required us to submit to the EU’s principle of free movement of people, Australians and Canadians, among others, have to apply for a visa.

The Australian Monarchist League has urged Theresa May to address this historic wrong. “Mrs May forgets that many citizens of the Queen’s Realms are domiciled in the UK and have a vote as do many people with relatives and friends in these former British nations”, said a spokesman for the organisation. “It is about time Britain undertook to resolve this situation now.”

The Australian Monarchist League is considering an advertising campaign to make this an issue in the forthcoming election. Philip Benwell MBE, the national chairman, is already in London for meetings with British and European MPs and others to urge that there be established a special entry gate for those countries, such as Australia, who have the Queen as their head of state. He is not suggesting special visa allowances but merely arguing that those from the Queen’s Realms be treated with dignity and not as aliens.

The biggest obstacle Mr Benwell and others have faced in their 20-year campaign has been the negativity of supporters of EU membership in this country. With our country now about to begin the great divorce from the EU, the time is surely right to address this issue.

Mr Benwell will be one of the speakers at the Campaign for an Independent Britain’s annual rally in London on 29th April.

Photo by Tamsin Slater

A project management view of Brexit

There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glorySir Francis Drake, 1587

As Mrs May’s intrepid Brexit negotiating team set fair for Brussels, carrying with them the hopes and fears of our realm, are they mindful of the six stages of many major projects? These are often written as:

  1. Enthusiasm,
  2. Disillusionment,
  3. Panic and hysteria,
  4. Hunt for the guilty,
  5. Punishment of the innocent, and
  6. Reward for the uninvolved.

Undoubtedly within their midst must be a project manager (or perhaps a project management team) well experienced in delivering complex projects for difficult customers on short timescales to wide-ranging specified requirements and within tight budgets.  He (or she or perhaps, they) will have his/her/their work cut out.

Brexit, especially the route the government has, for now, chosen) is a complex process requiring a multitude of different strands, including other associated and critical projects, to be pulled together. Worse, much is actually outside our direct control, involving activities ‘over there’ in the European Commission, European Parliament, and government departments or ministries within the 27 remaining Member States.  And even these will probably be receiving input from European Union (EU) agencies and external organisations (such as trade or commerce organisations) as well.  Herding the contents of a sizeable African game park or engineering a trip to Mars would probably be simpler and more predictable than project managing this lot.

Brexit, then, needs great project and process management. Unfortunately these are things we traditionally don’t do that well, relying instead on muddling through, a process of centralised micromanagement by a ‘great leader’ and minds being concentrated at the last moment. And our governments usually talk down the difficulties (and costs) involved in any major project, until bitten really hard by the facts on the ground. Think of the Millennium Dome, the NHS and HMRC Information Technology projects or the Nimrod AEW3 airborne early warning (surveillance) project?  To make matters worse, we often go for ‘re-inventing the wheel’  – and then find that it doesn’t work at the first attempt anyway.

Rather than try to project manage Brexit in its current form with all the complexity, unknowns and risks involved, much can be done to make the task easier and, therefore, the end result more likely to meet or even exceed expectations. Here is a helpful checklist:-

  • be realistic about what can or cannot be achieved  in a given timescale
  • take out as much of the complexity as possible and get control of as much of the overall project (including the EU’s contribution) as possible
  • find adequate, experienced, competent resources rather than ending up surrounded by sycophantic Yes men (or women) or Yes Minster (Sir Humphrey Appleby) obstructionists.
  • plan and programme before rushing in
  • monitor and predict the problem areas/activities well in advance and then proactively solve them
  • adapt and respond quickly when the unexpected occurs – as it surely will,
  • identify and attenuate undesirable/unwanted consequences (collateral damage)
  • avoid fudges or letting incomplete or wrong work carry on (as they will come back to bite you later)
  • use proven standardised methods, products and solutions, wherever practicable
  • to communicate and listen to the messenger rather than shooting him or her when the message is unpalatable
  • watch out for the subtle confidence tricks such as nonsensical excuses, playing politics and ‘moving the goalposts’
  • watch out for members of the team changing sides through regular interaction with the other (EU) side (assuming they are actually on our side to begin with)
  • keep good, traceable, up to date records from the very beginning.

This is pretty basic and obvious. There are plenty of standard techniques, textbooks and management tools around to help with project management. If the basics are not right, the more complex aspects become expensively ineffective.

Brexit involves negotiation which is widely assumed to require compromises such as meeting half way or quid pro quo. This can obviously set precedents that again come back later to bite hard. From a project management perspective, firm commitments and precise statements of the current status of the proceedings are more likely to lead to the desired outcomes – as far as our country’s interests are concerned – being achieved. This is also called driving a hard bargain or “statecraft”.  Perhaps Mrs May already has an experienced mentor for this important art in Donald J Trump, who has had a many years’ experience in dealing with truculent contractors and insular officialdom, having been taught some basic skills, on the job, by his redoubtable father.

All major projects eventually come to an end, usually in a far more imprecise and messy way than they started. And then the project team disbands, its members moving onto other things.  Presumably the same will happen years hence for the Department for Exiting the EU? – or perhaps not?  There can’t be many instances when civil servants have intentionally worked themselves out of a job in two years?

The final observation in this brief look at the project management of Brexit comes from Sir Francis Drake’s motto – Sic Parvis Magna, translated literally, as: “Thus great things from small things (come).”

Peer says that the General Election could mean that anti-Brexit Peers have committed the “ultimate act of political hara kari”

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)                                                                                          

News Release

 

19th April 2016

 

House of Lords “badly served” by anti-Brexit Peers as it faces threat to its powers from General Election

 

The independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has reacted to the announcement of a General Election by pointing out the threat it is to the future of the House of Lords, following its opposition to the Government’s Brexit legislation.

Lord Stoddart said:  “The House of Lords has been badly served by those Peers who have threatened to delay or block Brexit completely, because their threats have certainly contributed to the Prime Minister’s decision to call a General Election.  Undoubtedly, the Tories will include a manifesto pledge to clip the wings of the Lords by sharply reducing the period by which Peers can block legislation.  They could also propose a reduction in the number of Peers or restrictions on their eligibility to take part in votes.

“Standing up to the Government is one thing but seeking to invalidate the will of the people cannot and should not be tolerated.  Opposing Brexit as strongly as they did may go down in history as the ultimate act of political hara kari by Peers who should have known better.”

Ends