Why Brexit should be followed by Irexit

By Anthony Coughlan

The Republic of Ireland joined the then European Economic Community in 1973 primarily because Britain and Northern Ireland did so. Now a group of Irish economists and lawyers of which I was rapporteur have produced a report advocating that Brexit should be accompanied by “Irexit” (Ireland Exit), for a number of decisive reasons.

If the UK leaves the EU customs union while the Republic stays in the EU, the North-South border within Ireland will become an EU land frontier, with customs controls being inevitable and possibly passport controls too. EU-based laws and standards, for example in relation to crime and justice, will prevail in the South and UK-based ones in the North. The only way for the Republic’s politicians to avoid adding new dimensions to the North-South border within Ireland is therefore for them to leave the EU along with the UK.

Since 2014, the Republic has become a net contributor to the EU Budget. This is a big change from the previous 40 years, during which it was a major recipient of EU money, mainly through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. In future, money from Brussels will be Irish taxpayers’ money recycled, as is already the case with the UK. This removes what up to now has been the principal basis of Irish Europhilia, official and unofficial – namely, easy EU cash, not any ideological enthusiasm for Eurofederalism or “the EU project”.

If the Republic seeks to remain in the EU when the UK leaves, it will henceforth have to pay more to the EU Budget as its proportionate contribution to help compensate for the loss of Britain’s contribution. On the other hand, a bonus for Ireland of leaving the EU along with the UK is that it would get its sea-fisheries back – the value of annual fish-catches by foreign boats in Irish waters being a several-times multiple of whatever money Ireland has got from the EU over the years.

As regards trade and investment, the Republic sends 61 per cent by value of its goods exports and 66 per cent of its services exports to countries that are outside the continental EU26, mostly English-speaking. It gets two-thirds of its imports from English-speaking countries. The USA is the most important market for the Republic’s foreign-owned firms and the UK for its Irish-owned ones – the latter being particularly important for employment. These two markets together are comparable in importance to that of the EU26 post-Brexit. Taking other English-speaking markets into account makes the English-speaking world much more important for the Republic than the EU minus Britain. This is also so for foreign investors coming to Ireland. Economically and psychologically, Ireland is closer to Boston than Berlin, and to Britain than Germany.

It is not of course a question of the Republic having to choose between one export market and another if it should decide to leave the EU along with the UK. If common sense prevails in the negotiations, there should be continuing free trade between the UK, Ireland and the EU in the context of Brexit and Irexit occurring simultaneously.

Without Britain as an ally beside her in the EU Council of Ministers, the Republic will be in a much weaker position to defend its low rate of company profits tax, which is the principal incentive that it uses to attract foreign capital investment to the country. Germany and the Brussels Commission are already gunning for this. It would also be in a weaker position to defend its fishery interests, its trade interests, its distinctive Anglo-Saxon-based traditions in the area of law and justice, which the EU aims to harmonise, and its military neutrality.

The main argument for the Republic staying in the EU when the UK leaves is the negative one that it is a member of the Eurozone while the UK is not. When the euro was established in 1999, Dublin’s ultra-europhile politicians were so foolish as to adopt the currency of an area with which Ireland does only one-third of its trade. They thought at the time that the UK would be bound to adopt the euro-currency too, and that Dublin would show how “communautaire” it was by going first! The Republic now desperately needs to get its own currency back so that it can devalue it along with sterling and the dollar, and not be stuck with an implicitly overvalued euro that is now crucifying its exports.

That is why Dublin should aim to leave the Eurozone in a planned, concerted manner, negotiating its departure with Germany, the ECB, the UK and the Bank of England in private behind the scenes as part of its move to leave the EU along with the UK, rather than be forced to abandon the euro anyhow in the next Eurozone financial crisis.

The EU plans closer military cooperation when the UK leaves. From Britain’s point of view, can it be be happy with the thought of the Republic participating in EU security and defence policy and implementing ever-closer integation with an EU/Eurozone that is likely to come under greater German hegemony following Brexit?

Germany, like the other 27 EU States, will seek to prevent Brexit if it can but, if it is unable to thwart it, it will accept it, as will the others. This and other considerations may possibly encourage Germany to support Irexit alongside Brexit if that should become Irish Government policy. Germany could more easily aspire to greater hegemony over the continental EU Member States if Ireland as well as Britain cease to be EU members. This should appeal to influential sections of Germany’s current political elite.

It is only since Theresa May’s speech in January that Ireland’s ultra-europhile political Establishment is beginning to realise that Brexit really does mean Brexit, and the case for it being accompanied by Irexit is starting to be heard in Irish business circles. Irish public opinion is in advance of élite opinion on this. An opinion poll last October showed that almost four in ten Irish people would choose open borders and free trade with the UK over the EU. This was before there was any realisation of the hugely adverse effects on the Republic if it is so foolish as to seek to remain in the EU when Britain and Northern Ireland leave it.

That realisation is now growing in Ireland. Both public and élite opinion is likely to move in the direction of Irexit over the coming two years, and UK policy-makers should do all they can to encourage it.

This article originally appeared on the Conservative Home website.

A template letter for writing to your MP about fishing

Britain’s Maritime Resources & the Great Repeal Bill

You may like to use all or part of our Chairman’s letter to his MP as a template if you wish to write to your own MP expressing your concern that the UK does not end up with a Common Fisheries Policy Mark 2 and thus betray our fishermen a second time. We also need to renounce the 1964 London Convention, so that other countries do not acquire rights to fish in our waters. 

Dear……           

I write as a constituent as well as on behalf of concerned members of CIB and friends in the fishing industry. The surrender of our seas as a “common resource” to the EU was a particularly shameful act, as HMG was fully aware that the then EEC had no legal basis for the Common Fisheries Policy which it introduced into our negotiations to join at the last minute. There is now opportunity for a root and branch rectification of this disastrous decision.

* By international law all living marine species within the  200 nautical mile/median line zone belongs to the coastal state.

* A British Act of Parliament (Fishery Limits 1976 Act) established our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of  200 nautical miles/median from our coast.

* Under the  term of the European Communities Act 1972, this solely national resource was shared with every other EU member state.

* Our friends in the fishing industry advise us of the following figures.

UK catches in UK waters amount to 461,047 tonnes value  £593,600,000

UK catches in EU waters  amount to   88,126 tonnes value  £102,136,000

EU  catches in UK waters amount to  674,601 tonnes value £711,224,000

EU catches in  EU waters  amount to 568,575  tonnes value £777,081,000

* Repealing the ECA 1972 and invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty reverts control of the British EEZ from Brussels to Westminster Control, returning to the Fishery Limits Act 1976 and the London Fishery Convention of 1964.

* In the London Fishery Convention of 1964, the UK gave mainly  to France and four other countries rights to fish within our 6 -12 mile territorial limit zone. From 1986 the UK can renounce this agreement by giving two years notice. We urge that this should be done at the same time as invoking Article 50, so there is no overlap time.

* From the Brexit White Paper

To provide legal certainty over our exit from the EU, we will introduce the Great Repeal Bill to remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert  the “acquis”- the body of existing EU law into domestic law. This means that, wherever practical and appropriate, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after we leave the EU as they did before.

* The fisheries acquis includes the main fisheries regulation 1380/2013, which establishes who  catches what, where and how much in UK waters. So the figures quoted above would become British Fishing Policy.

* It seems incredible that HMG appears to have decided to run a policy based on regulation 1380/2013 so that EU vessels will continue to plunder 59% of the British people’s resource.

* HMG has made much of not being “half in and half out” of the EU and characterised the EEA/EFTA as that sort of arrangement. Yet Norway and Iceland, which are in EEA/EFTA, exercise whole and sole control over their own national fisheries. As with agriculture, they make their own arrangements.

* We urge that the UK’s arrangements should be no less sovereign over our own EEZ and territorial waters.

* We also believe that the whole of the existing CFP quota regime is unfit for purpose and should be scrapped.  Our expert colleagues in Fishing for Leave have prepared proposals for  control by permitted days at sea, as currently used in the Faeroe Islands. This  is far more practicable and removes the incentive to cheat. It can provide a more effective system with local ecological controls for the very different fishing grounds in our waters. Fishing rights should not be individual  property but remain under public control, inalienably for the nation.

* We also urge that immediate preparations should be made for an adequate force of Royal Navy Fisheries Protection Vessels, which could also provide a platform for HM Customs and Excise and Immigration Control purposes.

Yours sincerely,

Photo by Oldmaison

When they say “Divisive”…

One of the words that has been bandied around a lot lately has been “divisive”.

We have all heard it, usually on the BBC from unreconciled Remain votes or from grumpy Hilary Clinton supporters. We are supposed to believe that there was something uniquely “divisive” about the decision to leave the European Union. Or, in the American context, something unbelievably “divisive” about the decision to put Donald Trump into the White House.

Note that the cry went up from the losers in both these nationwide votes long before anything had actually happened. Brexit was “divisive” before Article 50 has been triggered, let alone Britain actually leaving the EU. Similarly, Trump’s victory was “divisive” before he even got to the White House, never mind actually did anything with his new found power.

So, I’ve been thinking about these outcries from the defeated. Is Brexit really divisive? No, I don’t think that it is. So why all the talk about Britain becoming more divided?

I think that there are two things going on here.

First, it might be that some of the losers are seeking to undermine the Brexit victory (and probably the Trump victory too). By painting the decision as utterly disastrous even before it has taken effect, those who have not accepted the decision hope that they can overturn it at some point in the future.

But there is something else. Look at the people who are talking about Brexit being divisive. These are almost without exception the gilded élite. Those who went to good schools, effortlessly slipped into well paid jobs and now live in nice houses in nice neighbourhoods with nice social circles. They tend support a multi-cultural society, support decarbonisation to fight climate change and back the whole host of soft-left doctrines.

By and large these people have had their way in politics and in society all their lives. They like multi-culturalism and large scale immigration and bask in the advantages it brings, without having to put up with their children being elbowed out of the local school due to high demand for places. They can smugly impose decarbonisation policies secure in the knowledge that they can afford the higher fuel bills that they bring.

And now, just for once, they have not got their way. The great unwashed have risen up and rejected the European Union – another of the unquestioned shibboleths of the soft-left.

How awful. How shocking. How “divisive”.

Our friends from the gilded élite have, probably for the first time in their lives, realised that not everyone agrees with them. For the first time in their lives they have not got their way on one of the big issues in life.

I pray fervently that it will not be the last time.

 

Labour’s Brexit dilemma

Before the EU referendum, many people thought that the outcome, whatever it might be going to be, was going to cause far more problems for the Conservative than the Labour Party. At least up to now, this is far from what has happened. Only one Tory MP, Kenneth Clark voted against Article 50 on 2nd February 2017 while 47 Labour MPs voted that way, showing how deep the divisions within the Labour Party over Brexit are at the moment.

A number of key statistics tell the story. Of the 230 odd constituencies held by Labour at the time of the EU referendum, 70% had Leave majorities. If London and a small number of university cities are excluded, the ratio rises to about 90%. Some of these Leave majorities were very substantial. In Stoke on Trent, where one of the recent bye-elections was held, the Leave majority was close to 70%. Among Parliamentary Labour Party members, however, the picture is very different. There is still only a comparatively small minority of committed Leave supporters, and most of the seats with the largest Remain majorities had Labour MPs.

This is what has caused the Labour Party such huge difficulties. Clearly there was a democratic vote in favour of leaving the EU on 23rd June 2017 which needs to be respected. Many Labour MPs who were both personally strongly for Remain and who had substantial majority support for this position among their constituency electorates, however, thought that they had good reasons, in their judgement, for voting against Article 50.

The danger then is that the Party as a whole loses out heavily in the country at large because of its ambivalent stance on Brexit – and more polling evidence emphasises the scale of this risk. On the one hand, of the 9.3m people who voted Labour in the 2015 general election, just short of 3.5m voted Leave in the EU referendum and half of these people, about 1.7m of them, say that they do not intend to vote Labour again at least partly because they are unhappy with Labour’s policies towards the EU. At the other end of the spectrum, fervent Labour-leaning Remain voters are concerned enough about Labour supporting Article 50 to desert the Party and to vote for the Lib Dems, which is clearly what happened in the recent Richmond by-election at the beginning of December 2016, where Labour finished up with only 4% of the vote.

Labour is thus threatened with losing large numbers of votes both among its industrial heartland blue collar erstwhile supporters, because it is not Eurosceptic enough, as well as from metropolitan middle class people, many of whom do not want to leave the EU at all.  Of course, issues to do with Brexit are not the only reason why the Party is in difficulties, but Brexit is currently dominating political discussion in the UK at the moment, and Labour cannot afford to call this issue wrongly. So what can it do?

The by-elections held on 23rd February 2017 provide some guidelines. In both Copeland and Stoke Central Labour’s share of the vote fell. Obviously, other factors were in play apart from Brexit but both the loss of the seat by Labour in Copeland and the low turnout in Stoke suggest that many Labour-leaning voters away from London and university cities are upset by the Labour Party’s lack of enthusiasm for Brexit.

Furthermore, even though there was some good news from a Labour perspective, this needs to be treated with caution. The threat from UKIP turned out to be much weaker than might have been expected, no doubt mainly because the Conservatives have promised to do much of what UKIP supporters want. Nor did either the Lib Dems or the Greens do well. The problem Labour faces, however, is that, as the main opposition party, it has to win support back from the government and this is not what is currently happening. Instead, it seems that the Conservatives have been much more successful on Brexit in positioning themselves where the country wants to be.

What, in these circumstances can Labour do? Really, there is only one way ahead on Brexit which has any realistic chance of helping it to recover the electoral support it needs to become an effective opposition, let alone the party of government. It cannot afford to disregard the result of the EU referendum both for democratic reasons and because the Party stands to lose much more support from those alienated by Labour backing off supporting Brexit than it is likely to lose by failing to obstruct the Brexit negotiations, which has to be Lib Dem and not Labour territory.

What Labour needs to do, therefore, is to recognise that it has to accept the referendum result and then to play as constructive a role as it can on the Brexit negotiations. This will not be secured by tactical manoeuvring against the government. It will be achieved by supporting the government wherever it is acting in the national interest, while no doubt carving out a distinctive Labour position where there is genuine difference of view, for example of social legislation. 

Brexit is all too likely to dominate the political horizon for all the period running up to the next general election in 2020. Labour needs to use this period to rebuild the electorate’s trust in the Party on the EU – as well as much else.

Photo by DavidMartynHunt

Migration, housing, robots, lettuces… Time for some joined-up thinking

Some clear thinking on how post-Brexit Britain will function is urgently needed and it seems in rather short supply at the moment. On the one hand, arch-remoaner Lord Mandelson recently claimed that the electorate will change its mind about Brexit when levels of immigration fail to drop. His assumption is that it will not do so – an assumption which has already been contradicted by a survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel, whose members are suggesting that there has been a drop in the number of workers from EU countries coming to the UK.  Quoting statistics from the Office of National Statistics, more than 60,000 EU workers came to the UK in each of the three quarters prior to the referendum. That number fell below 30,000 in the three months to the end of September. Furthermore, the most recent quarterly figures from the Office of National Statistics saw net migration fall by 49,000, with 23,000 fewer people arriving and 26,000 more departing. In other words, Mandelson’s claims have already been rebutted and we haven’t even triggered Article 50!

Indeed, ever since the referendum result, some EU citizens resident in the UK have been considering returning home. The Chartered Institute of Personnel report claims that up to a quarter of firms in their survey believed that some of the EU nationals they employ are possibly considering leaving the country in 2017.

David Davis recently told an audience in Estonia that the UK would not suddenly shut the door on low-skilled migration form the EU. The word “suddenly” is significant. If on Brexit day, all migration were to cease, it could cause labour shortages in several sectors, but fast forward a few years and the ability to control migration is likely to be a great blessing. Mr Davis said it will take “years and years” to persuade British workers to do jobs in the hospitality industry or agriculture that are currently carried out by EU migrants, arguing the economy needs continued immigration to maintain its success. This, however, is questionable. Will these jobs still be done by human beings, British or otherwise? As far back as November 2015, speaking to the Trades Union Congress, Andy Haldane of the Bank of England suggested that within  a decade, as many as 15 million jobs could be at risk of automation – in other words, replaced by robots. Although Mr Haldane didn’t mention migration, many of the jobs which he cited as vulnerable, such as “production tasks” are done by migrants.

The idea that we need migrants to fund our pensions unless we want to work into our 70s, as suggested by John Cridland, a director of the CBI, is therefore very debatable. Within 10-15 years, even if Mr Haldane’s figure of 15 million is a bit optimistic,  we could well be suffering from a surfeit of labour almost on a par with the 19th century when mechanization resulted in a massive fall in the number of farm labourers needed to work the land. Fortunately, at that time, industry was able to absorb the surplus labour, but in the early 21st century, few, if any, growth industries are labour intensive. What will we do with all the unemployed immigrants? Perhaps Mr Cridland would like to answer. One thing is sure, if their jobs have been displaced by robots, they will not be contributing to anyone’s pension.

The likely reduction in migration on Brexit should therefore be welcomed as an incentive to develop artificial intelligence. As far back as July 2013, Fraser Nelson of the Spectator  wrote “We have to wean the country off the drug of immigration.” In Japan, the robotics revolution is already under way.  Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is laying off 34 employees and replacing them with an artificial intelligence system. Besides saving on salaries, the company reckons that the new machine will be more productive as it can calculate policyholder payouts at a much faster rate than humans.

Japan has never been keen on encouraging immigration and even with a falling population, the electorate would rather encourage more women back into the labour force or else increase the number of older retirement-age workers. While the well-entrenched Japanese preference for cultural homogeneity and very little immigration has attracted much criticism, in the age of robotics, contrary to received wisdom, it may well prove a blessing.

Certainly, as a result of its opposition to large-scale immigration Japan has been spared some of the problems which the UK is facing. In many parts of our country, groups are forming to oppose large-scale housebuilding on green field sites. In places like the Cotswolds and East Kent for example, there is widespread anger at the prospect of large, unsightly developments. Were it not for immigration, the UK population would be more or less static and there would be no need to concrete over the countryside.

And the problems of removing land from agricultural use has been highlighted recently by the sharp increases in the costs of vegetables such as lettuces and courgettes. Poor weather conditions in southern Europe, including flooding in Spain and cold weather in Italy, where many winter vegetables are grown, has been the cause.  Why not, then, grow more produce in this country? This is what some MPs are proposing and it makes a lot of sense as we are only 77% self-sufficient for food. However, a growing population fuelled by immigration, leading to less available agricultural land is only going to make things worse.

These challenging issues give the lie to claims that those who voted for Brexit out of a desire to reduce immigration were all motivated by racism. It is more a case of weighing up the alternatives and deciding that a cut in immigration is the better option. What is racist about the concern that if migration is not reduced, we will be vulnerable to food shortages? Or that we are likely to find ourselves stuck with possibly millions of unemployed immigrants once the artificial intelligence revolution really gets under way? From the Flemish weavers through to the Huguenots, immigration benefitted the UK in the past but things are different now.

Of course, those who have already settled in the UK should not be booted out on Brexit. Of course,  UK citizens should be free to marry a spouse from another country. Of course, the international nature of our academic institutions should be allowed to continue, but large scale migration is another matter. Weighed in the balance, it is likely to cause more problems, particularly in the longer term, than it solves.

The government therefore needs to engage in some joined-up thinking as it plans its post-Brexit immigration policy. Next year marks 70 years since the arrival of 492 Caribbean citizens on board MV Empire Windrush  – an event which marked the beginning of large-scale immigration to the UK. We needed those people then and they are to be admired for their tenacity in  staying put in the face of quite blatant hostility. 70 years on, however, the assumption that we will still need to bring people – particularly low-skilled workers – into this crowded little island is looking very questionable.

Time to call MEPs’ bluff

 

Last week, an article in the Guardian painted a bleak picture of the prospects for the UK fishing industry after Brexit:- “The hopes of British fishermen that the UK can win its “waters back” after Brexit are expected to be dashed by the European parliament, despite the campaign promises of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, a leaked EU document reveals.

MEPs have drafted seven provisions to be included in Britain’s “exit agreement”, including the stipulation that there will be “no increase to the UK’s share of fishing opportunities for jointly fished stocks [maintaining the existing quota distribution in UK and EU waters]”.

The document, obtained by the Guardian, adds that in order for the UK and EU to keep to commitments on sustainable fishing – contained within the United Nations stocks agreement – “it is difficult to see any alternative to the continued application of the common fisheries policy”

It is time for those MEPs to read Article 50, which they as a Parliament, and each EU member state have twice endorsed. While it is correct that where you have two nations’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) that adjoin one another you will have a straddling stock and the percentage share-out is agreed on the basis of the total allowable catch within each EEZ, it is totally wrong is to suggest to any degree that the share allocated to the British EEZ has to be shared out between the EU and the UK as at present.

Section 3 of Article 50 states “The treaties shall cease to apply to the state in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement, or failing that, two years after the notification Or failing that, if there is no agreement,  the treaties – including regulations – shall cease to apply two years after notice has been given.”

Going back to section 2 of Article 50, it says  “the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with the state”. It does not say that the leaving Nation has to negotiate.

Of course the MEPs are going to try it on. They don’t want to lose out taking a British resource for free, as they have been doing for over 40 years. Taking the phrase “the Union shall negotiate”, they want things to remain as they are  – in other words, as far as the UK is concerned, a shadow CFP. However, the main straddling stocks are located in the North Sea and English Channel, where our EEZ in that area is larger than the EU one. This implies that the EU should follow our policy, not that we should follow theirs – i. e, maintain the CFP.

The MEPs stress that we must abide by International law – the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS3).  Actually, we would agree with this as sections 55 to 75 clearly lay out the guidelines for operating an EEZ. At one second past the two-year period stipulated under Article 50, competency and control reverts to Westminster. We return to the Fishery Limits 1976 Act and its amendments, which accepts the guidelines of UNCLOS3. This states that the marine resources within the British EEZ belongs to the British people. The EU and its MEPs in particular have no say in the management of our own EEZ post-Brexit.

To repeat, international law bestows the responsibility of the British EEZ of 200 nautical mile/median line zone solely onto the UK Government.

In order to prevent an overnight collapse of EU fleets by excluding them totally from day one from our waters, under UNCLOS3 Section 62,  we can make a generous offer in the negotiations. We could allow EU vessels a limited right to fish in UK waters on a decreasing transitional basis – to fish the overcapacity of our resource until we build up our own fleet.

So whatever the Guardian‘s source may say, while the MEPs can huff and puff as much as they wish, there is nothing they can do about it. The only way they can achieve their desire would be if a weak UK government capitulates and creates a British fishing policy based on the CFP for the British EEZ. In other words, giving the EU what they want and repeating Edward Heath’s betrayal of our fishermen. They must not cave in to pressure and deny our coastal communities this lifeline after over four decades of EU-instigated decline