Ten Years? not likely

It could be a full-time job just to debunk all the nonsense that is doing the rounds at the moment.

The latest scare story to do the rounds is a suggestion that UK withdrawal would trigger “ten years of uncertainty.” This is partly based on fears about the validity of trade deals negotiated by the EU on our behalf (and the other member states too, of course).

Lord Lawson, interviewed on the World At One, disputed this and he is right. At a recent seminar Robert Oulds, a CIB Committee member, explained that there was a “presumption of continuance” when one party to a trade deal underwent a change of circumstances. Thus, we would still be able to participate in such trade deals as those negotiated between the EU and Chile, Mexico and South Korea on leaving the EU. Let’s face it, this is sheer common sense; why would either party not want to continue?  All that would be needed is for the two parties to sign an agreement stating that they wish the deal to continue.

Of course, trading with the EU could be more complex and this is why there has been much support for using the so-called Norway Option (re-joining EFTA to allow sealess access to the EEA) to tide us over. It is possible that the desired Europe-wide genuine Free Trade agreement which would replace the EEA COULD take another 10 years, but as long as trade continues seamlessly throughout the withdrawal period, as it would with the EEA/EFTA secnario, no one need be worried. Indeed, as Richard North has put it, this ten years would be a Decade of opportunity.

While we’re at it,  claims that we need ot stay in the EU for security grounds have also been dismissed by Richard Walton, Scotland Yard’s former head of Counter Terrorism.  According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, he said that reducing terror plots is “absolutely not” dependent on being a member of the European Union. “So let’s not scare the horses with fears about Brexit.”  How many more scare stories are we going to have to debunk?

Returning to the World At One feature, it was correct on one point. An academic was quoted saying that once Article 50 is invoked. “the train has left the station” – in other words, withdrawal MUST happen.

Is this scary? Hardly. If you were told, “After 43 years in prison, we’re going to let you out soon, but beware! Once you go through that prison door, we’re never going to let you back in again”, would you really worry about that?

Photo by infomatique

An interesting read while we wait..

While we await the conclusions of the European Council meeting and wonder what exactly David Cameron will emerge with,  this article by Lord Lawson which appeared in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (slightly amended here), sums up how far the Prime Minister has fallen short of his original objectives.

The Prime Minister has clearly failed to achieve his objectives, and  the time has come for us to leave

In four months’ time the British people are likely to be asked to take the most important decision for the future of our country in their lifetimes. It is not about Europe as such. It is about whether we should remain within a deeply misguided and troubled institution known as the European Union. No one could have been clearer about the problem than David Cameron, in his Bloomberg speech three years ago, when he committed himself to securing a “fundamental, far-reaching reform” of the EU. He has conspicuously failed to do so.

He committed himself to ending the notorious ratchet, and ensuring that “power would flow back to the member states, not just away from them”. He has conspicuously failed on this front, too: not a single power is to be returned to the United Kingdom; and the doctrine of the so-called acquis communautaire, which holds that powers once transferred to the European Union cannot be taken away, remains firmly in place.

He also promised that whatever he did achieve in his negotiations would involve “proper, full-on, Treaty change”, without which they could not be legally binding. No Treaty change has been secured.

The Prime Minister cannot be blamed for the abject failure to achieve his objectives. The European Union is adamant against any change other than further integration. What is unacceptable is presenting the so-called concessions he does appear to have secured, which range from the wholly inadequate to the completely meaningless, as constituting success.

Let us have a look at them. He claims that he has secured a “red card” system to prevent new EU legislation that is damaging to the UK. Some red card! The draft agreement states that this will only come into play if and when more than 55 per cent of the EU wants it to – a highly unlikely state of affairs in the first place – and, even if it does, all that follows is that the presidency will put it on the agenda for “a comprehensive discussion”.

He claims to have addressed the serious problem of uncontrolled and uncontrollable levels of immigration by securing what he likes to call “an emergency brake”. Some brake! All that is provisionally agreed is an offer by the EU to allow us to bring in a temporary reduction in the level of some benefits (which no one who has studied immigration into the UK believes would make any significant difference, anyway). This is an offer which the EU would be free to withdraw at any future date – such as after a vote by the UK to remain within the EU.

And as for the City of London, and our ability to flourish outside the dysfunctional Eurozone, we are sternly told that we must “refrain from measures which [in their opinion] could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of the economic and monetary union” and that “the existing powers of the Union institutions to take action that [in their opinion] is necessary to respond to threats of financial stability” remains untrammelled. We have been warned.

So what was presented as a drive for fundamental reform has turned into an exercise in damage limitation: how to limit the damage that EU membership inflicts on us. And even that has scarcely been achieved. The only way to end the damage is to leave.

As Chancellor, I became increasingly aware that, in economic terms, membership of the EU did us more harm than good. And that was before the arrival of European monetary union, which occurred after I had left office, and which has had such a disastrous economic effect on the EU.

But it is unsurprising that it brings no economic benefit, for the European Union has never been an economic project. It is has always been a political project, with a political objective which we in the UK do not share. That is the fundamental reason, above all others, why we must vote to leave.

That objective is the creation of a full-blooded political union, a United States of Europe.

That is what “ever closer union” is all about. As the 1983 Solemn Declaration on European Union makes explicit, this is not simply a union of the peoples of Europe but a wholehearted political union of the member states.

That is what monetary union is all about. The father of European monetary union was Jacques Delors, the former President of the European Commission. I knew him very well, since before he became President of the Commission he was France’s finance minister and my opposite number. He fully understood that you cannot have a workable monetary union without a fiscal union, and you cannot have a fiscal union without a political union. That was the object of the whole exercise.

Hence the proposal, in the European Commission’s so-called “Five Presidents’ Report” of June last year, for a single Eurozone Finance Ministry and a single Eurozone Finance Minister by 2025. This is clearly not right for us, and we must leave. Otherwise, although we have a notional “opt-out” from the political union, we will still be obliged to accept EU laws framed with this object in mind.

I have been asked “what, then, is your alternative to being in the European Union?” A more foolish question is hard to imagine. The alternative to being in the European Union is not being in the European Union. Most of the world is not in the European Union – and most of the world is doing better than the European Union.

So far as the detail is concerned, the morass of EU regulation, much of which is costly, unnecessary and undesirable, would become UK regulation, which we would then be free to accept, repeal or amend as our national interest requires.

Above all, we would become once again a self-governing democracy, with a genuinely global rather than a little European perspective. We would prosper, we would be free, and we would stand tall. That is what this referendum is all about.

Peter Lilley – a reluctant convert to leaving the EU?

This piece appeared as an op-ed in Friday’s Daily Telegraph.  We may not agreee with Mr Llley’s assessment of David Cameron, but his testimony of a seeingly reluctant conversion to a pro-withdrawal position is well worth reading.

When David Cameron invites you into No 10 to discuss your concerns he  can be immensely persuasive. His courtesy and frankness are disarming;  his grasp of detail, impressive. Last time I visited, he persuaded me  to shift my position on bombing Syria. I hoped that this time, on  Tuesday, he would overcome my concerns about remaining in a largely  unreformed EU.

In 1975, I campaigned to remain in. I love Europe: I did an apprenticeship in France, have a holiday home there, chaired a small  German company, worked in the Netherlands and Belgium, and speak French. But I’m not so fond of the EU – not without fundamental reform.

Some have suggested the largely inconsequential outcome of Mr  Cameron’s negotiations means he is a closet Europhile or a weak negotiator. He convinced me that neither accusation is true. He is our most euro-sceptic Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher’s last term and a determined negotiator. The insubstantial outcome reveals all the more powerfully the intransigence of the EU establishment.

I am a gradualist by temperament – not one of those content with nothing less than immediate and complete restoration of sovereignty.  Given that Britain lost its powers in a series of salami slices, I accepted that we could only hope to get powers back bit by bit. I wanted the PM to start that process but knew it would be difficult. It  would mean abrogating the doctrine that once a power has been transferred to the EU it can never return to a member state. That  doctrine (not “ever closer union”) has driven the process of European  integration and is held tenaciously by the European Commission.

To reverse that ratchet required two things. First, create a precedent by getting some modest powers back. Sadly, the PM was unable to get back a single power conceded to the EU. Secondly, whenever the process of integrating the eurozone involves directives or treaty changes requiring our consent, use that leverage to insist on devolving more powers to the UK. Unfortunately, the draft agreement pledges that the UK “shall not impede the implementation of legal acts directly linked to the functioning of the euro area”. That would mean throwing away our trump cards.

I understand that wording may be watered down. But without a single precedent for returning powers and with our leverage in doubt, Britain remains vulnerable to the ratchet. Each new directive, regulation and court ruling will leach power irrevocably from Britain to Europe.

What would Britain’s position be if the UK electorate decides to remain in the EU on these slightly modified terms? Clearly we have abandoned the “heart of Europe” strategy. If that meant paying enthusiastic lip service on the continent to the European Project, so much the better. Supporting measures we did not want so as to win influence to prevent them happening was never a credible strategy. We have voted against 72 EU measures and lost every time.

Instead, we would be adopting the “appendix of Europe” strategy. The appendix is the one bit of the anatomy, left over from evolution, which serves no function. Likewise, our membership no longer serves any function in a body whose primary purpose (political union) we reject, whose main projects (the euro; Schengen) we are not part of, whose laws we find onerous and whose economic attractions have turned into costs. The alternative is to leave.

That was not my initial position. I was concerned it might involve  disruption. But closer study convinces me that it can be done smoothly. There are plenty of precedents for countries leaving far closer unions than the EU. First we should adopt existing EU law into UK law: we would then be free to amend them in due course.

Next, under the “principle of continuity”, we would accede to most EU trade and other treaties on existing terms. In the unlikely event the EU refused a trade agreement, we could ensure our export trade was unaffected by using the savings on our EU contribution to reimburse the tariffs exporters would otherwise face, still leaving £4 billion to spare. We could make our own trade deals. As the minister who
implemented the Single Market, I believe membership brings little further benefit but exposes us to ever more regulation.

I respect Mr Cameron’s views as I believe he does mine. Maybe he failed to convince me because I have heard too many assurances that European political integration has peaked or that Britain has erected barriers to it – only to see the tide flood in and the barriers washed away. Only if we leave can we regain control of our laws, our money and our borders.

This is a man with a plan, but is is legally binding?

When a politician says that he wishes to make something `absolutely clear’ you can rest assured that there is something in his subsequent statement that is of an ambiguous nature or worse still something which is at complete variance with what he is stating.

Well, last week David Cameron stood up in a hushed House of Commons and uttered those hallowed words ,”Let me be absolutely clear about the legal status of these changes that are on offer ….these changes will be binding in international law and will be deposited at the UN …in key areas treaty change is envisaged…”

The changes which were apparently `on offer’ were those which had been hatched between Cameron and Donald Tusk, on a number of topics which the Prime Minister and he had decided should be laid before the British public as proof that EU and Britain had reached a civilised accommodation of each other’s hopes and aspirations for new beginning.

To be fair to Cameron, he did use the future tense when stating that these changes would be legally binding but he totally failed to lay out the procedure whereby they would become binding and which particular key areas would need treaty change .The clear implication being that some would not need anything other than a quick agreement by some higher authority.

Tusk in his letter had written that “most of the substance of the proposal takes the form of a legally binding decision of the Heads of State or Government,”i.e. the European Council.

The House had of course been given sight of the Tusk letter and knew in advance what it said so it perhaps surprising that no one cross examined Cameron on the precise detail of the next steps in the saga.

Dominic Grieve added to the discussion by saying that the House should be aware of the “legally binding nature of the document that he (Cameron) will bring back if it is accepted by the European Council”

No ifs and buts there then, says Mr Grieve. Once it is agreed by the European Council it is law!

The only problem is that the European Council (Heads of State et al) is not part of the legislative body so it can`t make laws so whatever Cameron brings back will be just a statement of intent, no more no less.

On the other side of the coin, some realism has been introduced by our old friend Martin Schulz who has warned of the fact that the MEPs will need to agree to the proposed changes otherwise there could be “roadblocks “to these changes. The fact is that they can stop them.

So there we have it. On the face of it we now have complete confusion over what we, the general public, have been led to believe by the different parties to this discussion.

Are we looking at a quick legal settlement via an agreement of the European Council (which we know they are not entitled to do) or the more convoluted process whereby we have the prospect of treaty change via the normal processes which involve a meetings, conventions and conferences a vote by the EU Parliament? All of this will take time.

There is also the possibility of the use of the simplified procedure which is available under Article 48 TEU for revising treaties. If the European Council is seized of the matter and considers the proposed changes to the treaties to be of a minor nature (well frankly whatever Cameron says, this is all they are) and they are in agreement with those changes they can consult with the Commission, the EU Parliament and then move on to the ratification process will have to be unanimous.

That is what I suspect may happen and nothing will be set in stone until the proper legal processes are complete. They are unlikely to be completed if we have a referendum in June and therefore the British public may be asked to consider its vote in the absence of any legally enforceable changes to our terms of membership in spite of all the hot air in Parliament.

Our Chairman’s comments on the “British Model”

Edward Spalton, Our Chairman, sent the following letter to several local and national newspapers:-

Sir,                                                                 “The British Model”
Just as the pantomime season has ended, Mr. Cameron is putting on a show of this title. It is the name for his new romance with the EU, which will lock us permanently, formally and happily ever after into second class membership but with a first class subscription.
The script and choreography are written although some of the parts still remain to be cast. It could be a one performance show with a finale in June or it may run and run until the end of 2017.
One sketch is called “The Emergency Brake”. This is the mechanism by which the British government can restrict the influx of EU migrants if there are too many of them to cope with. But it’s not a matter for the driver’s decision, as is usually the case in emergencies. He first has to stop, get out of the cab, go to Brussels and ask permission to apply the brake. If it is granted, he comes back again and applies the brake. If not, the vehicle continues to gather speed. It makes an interesting comic interlude.
The independent countries in the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) have an Emergency Brake too. They don’t have to ask anybody’s permission to use it.
Little, tiny Liechtenstein has done so, said “enough is enough” and specified just how many EU migrants they will admit in a year, so that their social services and budget can cope.
Yet with all the supposed influence and “clout” which Britain’s place at the “top table” of the EU is supposed to afford, Mr Cameron is asking for arrangements inferior to those already enjoyed by Liechtenstein. There is a strong comic content.
The show is a successor to Harold Wilson’s 1975 imaginative fantasy  “Fundamental Renegotiation”, which attempted even less but went down well with the public. The opinion of critics is divided this time.
Yours faithfully,
Edward Spalton

The people, not politicians, will decide.

The referendum will be decided by the people, not the politicians who are well out of step with the people..

Anthony Scholefield,Vice Chairman of the Campaign for an Independent Britain commented on David Cameron’s EU proposed reforms and the House of Commons debate

“A referendum is called because the politicians cannot solve a problem and have to refer it to the people.

“Therefore the obsession of the media about Westminster and politicians’ views is misplaced. Politicians will not decide the referendum and especially not the political class of 2016.

“In the 1975 referendum,the Hose of Commons voted 396 to 170 to   support Harold Wilson’s ‘renegotiations’, about 70% to 3o%. In the subsequent referendum,the electorate  voted 67% to stay in and 33% to leave.so it was quite fair to observe that the people and the politicians were reasonably agreed.

“However in 2016,all the major parties including the ScotsNats are in favour of remaining in the EU and only about 70 MP’s, perhaps 12% of the House of Commons will vote to ;leave so it will be 88/12 in percentages.

“Yet there is not a single poll showing Remain above 60% of the vote and it is generally running at 50%;.

“The political class of 2016 is massively out of touch with the electorate on remaining in the EU.”