Statement by Barry Legg, Chairman of the Bruges Group

Theresa May has decided to pursue a policy of Brexit in name only (BRINO). This arrangement will be worse than our current membership of the European Union as we will then be a vassal state.

If this policy is implemented the electoral consequences for the Conservative Party will be dire. I urge all members of the Bruges Group to contact their Conservative Member of Parliament if they are represented by one to explain that this is unacceptable. The decision of the British people to leave the European Union must be honoured. In many cases an appeal to a Member of Parliament`s self-interest is the most effective way of influencing him or her.

Next week on Wednesday evening we have a meeting at 7 o`clock at the ROSL with Nigel Dodds, leader of the DUP in the House of Commons, and Professor Patrick Minford. Patrick has an unapparelled knowledge and understanding of the huge economic benefits that are to be gained by leaving the European Union. Nigel Dodds, as Leader of the DUP, is the most influential figure at Westminster as his Party holds the balance of power. I hope that you will be able to attend this meeting to hear these outstanding speakers and give your views at this critical time for our country.

Barry Legg

Chairman of the Bruges Group

Small teacup, big storm?

The agreement hammered out at Chequers last Friday went down like a lead balloon among Tory Brexit supporters. Here is the text of the final statement.  Martin Howe QC, from Lawyers for Britain, produced a briefing which expressed grave concern that it would leave us tied in perpetuity to EU law and forced to accept binding rulings by the European Court of Justice.

The EU laws in question were those relating to goods, their composition, their packaging, how they are tested, etc etc, in order to enable goods to cross the UK/EU border without controls. This does, of course, raise the question as to how aware critics like Mr Howe actually are that many rules governing standards within the Single Market are not actually set by Brussels. The EU merely acts as a conduit for laws originating with global standards bodies to which we would have to be subject regardless of the Brexit model adopted.

Note the word “goods” rather than “trade”. Mrs May’s proposals would have seen the UK essentially remain in the single market for goods but not for services.  This was never going to wash with the EU. as some commentators were warning within hours of the statement being released.

Its pie-in-the-sky nature did not stop a deluge of negative comment. A majority of Conservative Party members regarded it as a bad deal, so said Paul Goodman after conducting a snap poll for Conservative Home.  More ominously, a poll commissioned by Change Britain suggested that a deal along the lines of that proposed by Mrs May would cost the Tories a lot of votes. For example, 32% of voters would be less likely to vote Conservative if the Government agreed a deal which results in UK laws being subject to rulings by EU courts and More than a quarter would be less likely to support the Conservative Party if a deal meant that the EU retained some or substantial control of the UK’s ability to negotiate our own free trade agreements.

Still, if the EU’s spokesmen had acted quickly to reject the deal out of hand, it would have been a storm in a teacup for the Tories, which would have blown over. Simon Coveney, the Irish Republic’s Foreign Minister, said that Michel Barnier would find it “difficult ” to accept the  proposals. It is now quite probable that he won’t have to do so as a crisis has erupted at the very heart of Mrs May’s government. On Sunday night, David Davis resigned. Effectively sidelined by Olly Robbins for many months, the most surprising aspect of Mr Davis’ announcement is that it has taken so long in coming. With him went his deputy Steve Baker. Mrs May reacted speedily and appointed Dominic Raab, a prominent Brexit supporter, to replace Mr Davis. However, within hours of Mr Davis going, Boris Johnson resigned as Foreign Secretary.

This means that a small teacup is producing what could turn out to be a considerable storm. Mrs May is due to meet her backbenchers later this evening and especially given her decision to brief Labour and Lib Dem MPs on her Brexit proposals, the mood is likely to be sombre if not angry.

One Labour source said of this meeting, “It’s an opportunity to tell the PM’s chief of staff why the Government has got it so wrong.”  With that, we would agree.  Almost every government publication on the subject of Brexit is, at best muddled.  The fisheries white paper also appeared last week – its publication somewhat overshadowed by the dramatic events following the Chequers meeting.  We will provide some further comment oin this later this week, but suffice it to say it seems very optimistic, ignoring the determination of the EU to preserve its access to our waters and to control the allocation of quota if it gets half a chance.

With events happening so quickly, it is impossible to predict whether Mrs May will face a leadership challenge or indeed whether the Brexit talks will break down. However, we have been saying for some time that a crisis is essential if the disastrous Brexit plans hatched by Mrs May, including the fatally flawed transitional arrangements, are to be jettisoned. At long last, it looks like the crisis has arrived.

 

Report from Glasgow

Having travelled up to visit relatives who were not well, it was a surprise to find that the ORANGE WALK had been routed past our hotel, so we heard many, many flute and accordion bands, from Scotland, England and Northern Ireland – drums under the window – the rattle of the drums and the deep booming thud of the bass drums against the shrill flutes – on their way to Bellahouston Park where their leaders were to demand that the SNP Scottish government should STOP TRYING TO OVERTURN THE REFERENDUM which  resulted in a vote for Scotland to remain part of the UK.

 “The best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley” – Robert Burns

I reflected how the Labour planners of devolution had congratulated themselves that their scheme was ingeniously clever. It gave so much power to the Scottish Parliament that it would surely take the wind from the nationalist sails and the electoral system was such that no single party would ever be able to command a majority. They were wrong on both counts!

Flute bands are a bit samey and I lost count of them. We had been told to expect twenty six but press reports said there were over sixty. Tunes varied from “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” to the more traditional Irish tunes, including the oft-repeated strains of “The Sash” with which I had become familiar on other occasions-

“Sure it’s old but it is beautiful and its colours they are fine.

It was worn at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne.

My father wore it when a youth in bygone days of yore,

And on the Twelfth I’ll always wear the sash my father wore”.

Many of the Scottish and English bands would be with their Northern Ireland brethren on that day. Brethren and sisters too. Ladies were playing in many of the bands. Lodges were often headed not just by a drum major but by a young person carrying an open bible, ahead of the lodge banner and other colours – a symbol of the sole claimed source of authority, freely available to all without the intervention of a church hierarchy.

It was a sweltering day. We decided to seek a quieter quarter of the town. If there was going to be any trouble, it would be when the lodges returned from their meeting in the park, having drunk deep. I believe there were four arrests that day which, considering the thousands of marchers and spectators, was insignificant.

So we adjourned to a quiet bar parlour where the television was showing the England v Sweden football match. Not being a sporting enthusiast, I had not watched a match from start to finish before. I found the skill quite gripping. The crowd in the pub was certainly not anti-English, cheering the English goals scored and getting equally excited when Sweden came close.

It’s never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine” – P.G. Wodehouse

As a (small u) unionist I sometimes get fed up with the incessant aggressive whingeing tone of Scottish and other nationalists but find this site to be frequently businesslike and objective. The distance between the author, James Kelly, and his subject, Theresa May has lent an accurate perspective and sharp focus to the author’s view. His latest post is reproduced in full.

The Brexit Delusion over who calls the shots

I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve been rubbing my eyes in disbelief over the last few hours. If you’ve been listening to the mainstream media’s verdict about what was agreed a Chequers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the fabled Brexit deal that Theresa May has been tasked with striking needed only to be a deal with the rest of her own cabinet, and not with the European Union. By that rather lower standard, what has just happened might be seen as a stunning personal triumph for the Prime Minister and a guarantee of a (somewhat) softer Brexit, exactly as Stormfront Life is claiming tonight. The agreement will only be subject to a few modifications if Brussels raises any objections, reveals The Guardian, which apparently believes that the EU has only a limited consultative role in the whole process.. It’s the old imperial delusion – decisions are things that happen in London. The same commentators who complacently tell us that an indyref is a non-starter because Theresa May will say “no” also apparently believe that it’s a mere point of trivia that the EU have already ruled out many elements of May’s Brexit proposal. Back in the real world, without the EU’s assent there is no deal at all, and that would mean the hardest of hard Brexits.

A rare injection of realism was provided by Sam Coates of The Times, who acknowledged that the EU may well still insist on a straight choice between a looser Canada-type deal and the Norway model that would entail the retention of the single market. But he argued that the Chequers proposal was about 80% of the way towards the Norway model, thus making it that much easier for the Prime Minister to jump towards Norway if forced to choose. What he didn’t expand on is the consequence of such a decision. It’s highly debatable whether the government really are now 80% of the way towards Norway, but even assuming for the sake of argument that they are, the reason they haven’t travelled the remaining 20% of the distance is that doing so would completely breach the red lines on formally leaving the single market and ending freedom of movement. Some may say that a Soft Brexit is inevitable because there is a natural parliamentary majority for it – but that majority is cross-party in nature and neither the government nor the Prime Minister are sustained in office on a cross-party basis. I find it in conceivable that a Tory government led by Theresa May could keep Britain in the European Economic Area or retain freedom of movement, even if they wanted to.

And if that proves correct, there are really only four alternatives –

  1. The EU backs down and accepts British cherry-picking of the most desirable aspects of the single market and customs union. This is almost unimaginable because it would create a precedent that Eurosceptics in other countries would try to follow, thus risking the unravelling of the EU.
  2. A Canada-type deal is negotiated after all. This is possible but it would require turning the super-tanker around, because it’s clearly not close to what Theresa May has in mind at the moment. It would mean a very hard Brexit in any case.
  3. There is no deal at all
  4. The Prime Minister’s failure to strike a deal (or a deal that is consistent with her red lines) triggers a political crisis that results in a change of leadership and/or a general election.

I can recall at least two previous occasions when we’ve been told that the PM has made a decisive move towards a soft Brexit, only for us to realise weeks later that there had been no change of any real significance. I fully expect the same to prove true on this occasion. “

(My emphasis because I remember exactly the same thing – Edward)

The lyrics of Jerusalem – updated for Brexit

We have been sent these excellent alternative lyrics to Blake’s hymn Jerusalem by an anonymous supporter. Especially given recent developments, they are particularly pertinent at the moment:-

And did those men in ancient time
Fight for our rights and liberty
And with belief and blood divine
They set laws that made us free

And yet a countenance malign
Did seek to steal those rights away
And turn us back to slaves again
Ruled by their evil empires sway

Give me my country back again
Bring back the land my fathers made
I strive for justice, not for gain
To see our people proud and staid

I will not cease this endless fight
Nor shall my sword fall from my hand
Til we’ve restored our liberty
In Britain’s green and pleasant land

The EU is right – our government is wrong!

Shock horror! Can a Brexit supporter honestly utter such a phrase as the above?

Sadly, yes, especially when the subjects include cooperation in security and criminal justice matters. These two issues powerfully illustrate the illusory nature of our government’s approach to Brexit. It still wants to have its cake and eat it. Reality is dawning that this isn’t possible on the trade front, but somehow that reality has not spread to other areas where some sort of future cooperation is needed. Be it trade, criminal justice or military cooperation, the EU is concerned at all costs to preserve its integrity. In voting to leave, we dealt it a massive blow. Obviously, it recognises that some form of cooperation will be necessary but it does not seek a warm and cosy “deep and special” relationship with us. Yes, we were once part of the club, but we won’t be after March 29th next year. We made the decision to leave and we must accept the consequences.

To any Brexit supporter, this is perfect common sense. We knew what we were doing when we voted Brexit.  Among the many issues which we highlighted as a reason to leave the EU were concerns about the flaws of the criminal justice system in some EU member states and the need to disentangle ourselves from the EU’s military and security aspirations.

So yes, if the EU says we cannot participate in its flawed European Arrest Warrant scheme after Brexit, great! That’s what we voted for. Likewise, the EU’s disdain for Mrs May’s “ambitious future security partnership” with the EU won’t cause many Brexit supporters much lost sleep.  As a Third Country, we would no longer participate in several EU security data bases which hold intelligence and help track criminals. However, there are other means of cooperation over these matters. We have Interpol as well as Europol. The procedure may be more complex but at least UK citizens will be one step further removed from the EU’s interference with our daily lives. We don’t want the EU to give us special treatment. What is more, is Europol reliable? One report suggest that its statistics distort the truth about terrorist threats in the EU, with more emphasis being placed on monitoring so-called “separatists” than those who pose the biggest threat to ordinary people.

On a different note, we heard recently that Olly Robbins, who has more or less pushed David Davis into the sidelines and has become the de facto chief negotiator, has been told by the EU that there is no chance of a bespoke trade deal with the EU.  It will either be a very loose trading arrangement or what has been described as a “Norway-type deal”. There are strong opponents of both these options and even among her cabinet, Mrs May will have her work cut out to square the circle.

She has not, however, signed a letter promising a second referendum, Two separate copies have been sent to me, one by a very concerned Brexit supporter who feared Mrs May was about to  cave in to the remainiacs. If anyone has come across this spoof letter, try to find an example of the PM’s real signature. You will then see that it does not match the signature on this letter.

Observant readers may have noticed that we have said little about the latest EU council meeting. This is not because we were unaware of it but rather because it has been a foregone conclusion that nothing was going to be said to indicate any progress with the Brexit talks. We did pass a milestone last week when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill became law. It paves the way fro the 1972 Accession Treaty to be repealed when we leave the EU in March next year, but as far as what our future relationship with the EU is going ot look like,  we are still none the wiser.

Is the single market expanding?

With Mrs May having decided to leave the Single Market (and wider European Economic Area, EEA), it could be critical to know if it poses a long term existential threat to our future as a global trading nation.  Whilst in a formal sense the EEA will contract after Brexit, it actually wields considerable informal influence over much global trade. Ignore its ramifications at your peril.  Could then Mrs May’s government, having decided to leave on somewhat disingenuous grounds, that the four freedoms are indivisible, be unaware of this less obvious consequence?

What is the Single Market (or wider EEA)?

The Single Market provides a common mandatory regulatory framework of European Union (EU) directives (laws), standards, compliance or conformity assessment and market surveillance for many products under a centralised legalistic bureaucratic framework. Thus the quality, safety, environmental impact, energy consumption, and integration with other products can meet common (harmonised) criteria; commonly known as Essential Requirements in directives based on the New or Global Approach.  Failure to demonstrate compliance with the Essential Requirements or acceptable (harmonised) standards can prevent a product being placed on the market (in the Single Market or wider EEA) or cause it to be withdrawn.   Demonstrating compliance may require independent conformity assessment and certification; typically carried out by independent test houses and qualified notified bodies (Nobos) which in turn are regulated ultimately by the European Commission (or designated agency).  (Further information on the EEA see here, here and associated links)

What is a product or service?

Unsurprisingly any product and service is much more than just a collection of parts with some kind of functionality. Those parts, materials comprising those parts, associated services, design, production, testing and inspection processes all have to comply with recognisable and authoritative standards.  Whether it is an automobile or safety shoes, there will be standards and reliable means to ensure their compliance, often with some form of mandatory regulation or control.  The alternative to these arrangements is very much the Caveat Emptor principle and an inability to benefit from the accumulated experience of producers, regulators and users.  Costs can also be higher because of a lack of standardisation.

Not all export markets are the same

Some export markets and customers for certain products and services can be very sophisticated, featuring well-developed regulatory frameworks, facilities and knowledgeable, competent, in-house resources. Then it is a matter of complying with their requirements, their specified standards and their regulatory framework.  To offer non-compliant alternatives in the hope that they will be acceptable is to court losing the work to fully-compliant competitors.   However, some exports markets and customers need to rely on external resources and guidance from larger and well-refined markets.  This reliance can be very subtle and render otherwise generally acceptable suppliers and products uncompetitive, or exclude them completely from the market.

The March of Global Standards and the Single Market

Globally accepted standards are great facilitators of international trade.  Where a product is quite complex it certainly helps to know that is complies with standards that you (or the local regulatory authorities) are already familiar with and can trust.   In reality many standards are produced by international bodies and are the same in the UK, Japan or Germany, with perhaps minor national variations. There is also considerable interchange between European Standards (Euronorms) and International Standards.  Hence the expansion of International Standards effectively to supersede national standards and fill obvious needs.

Somewhat less obvious, mandatory regulation is also expanding and effectively following the lead of the more advanced practices.  The Single Market (and wider EEA) is the home of many businesses which are well versed in working to International and European Standards and which follow well-refined conformity and regulatory practices, thus making it somewhat of a low risk trend-setter.  The European Commission is also happy if others (particularly individual non-EU countries) follow its lead (The Brussels Effect), while for those planning to join the EU, it is necessary to do so.  Also, there can be formal agreements which effectively extend the EU’s mandatory regulatory practices into particular products and markets outside the EEA. In summary, it is a complex, ever evolving subject.

World-leading product but still  excluded from an export market

It is not surprising, therefore, to be confronted in an export market with a plethora of well-known European and/or International Standards, along with conformity assessment or regulation modelled on EU/EEA practices.  Such imitation can extend as far as using documentation that in part has clearly been re-badged from previous use inside the EEA; it keeps the costs and risks of preparation down.  It can also be advantageous to reputable organisations to point out that they vigorously follow these often high and demanding, standards and practices, while at the same time being  ‘outside the loop’ can be detrimental to other companies.

Vendors/Suppliers don’t argue with potential customers in export markets

Being ‘unfairly’ excluded from profitable business rarely leads to robust or legal challenges against the potential customer by the unsuccessful vendor; as a minimum, very deep pockets are needed which  small enterprises obviously do not possess.  It is even rarer for unsuccessful vendors eventually to win the work after having caused delays, bad feeling and extra costs.  Once excluded because of non-conformity it is difficult and costly for a company to get back into its given export market again. This is especially the case with capital goods or complex products; re-design, re-testing and conformity re-assessment don’t come cheap.

The Invisible Competitor

The subtle influence of the Single Market (and wider EEA) extends far beyond the borders of its Member States.  This extent of that influence is impossible to determine. Even knowing it is there usually requires considerable perception, industry knowledge and exposure to the export markets involved.  Yet this influence can make it more difficult or even impossible for organisations (especially smaller enterprises) that don’t follow the EEA’s standards, conformity assessment and regulatory practices to do business in some export markets.

In future, unless there is a re-think of the Government’s Brexit policy,  the UK may face problems in accessing some highly attractive export markets outside mainland Europe because of the reach of the Single Market and EEA.