Brussels’ provocations

By Horst Teubert

German business associations are calling on the EU Commission to end its Brexit provocations. A disorderly Brexit would entail enormous costs for the German economy, the President of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) warned; therefore an amicable Brexit agreement with London must be reached. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) expressed a similar view. The head of the EU’s Commission’s recent audacious financial demands and deliberate indiscretions have stirred massive resentment in the United Kingdom and were rightfully considered an attempt to influence Britain’s upcoming parliamentary elections. Observers attribute these indiscretions to EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker’s German Chief of Staff, Martin Selmayr (CDU), who is currently playing a key role in the Commission’s Brexit negotiations’ preparations. The German Chancellery is now calling for restraint in view of the severe damage a hard Brexit could entail for the German economy.

The Commission’s Indiscretions

German businesses are complaining about the EU Commission’s recent provocations: On the one hand, the deliberate indiscretions concerning confidential talks on April 26 in London between the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and their respective closest collaborators in preparation of Brexit negotiations. The alleged contents of the talks were leaked to a German newspaper, which published a detailed report, spiked with assessments, presenting the British government as blind to reality, uncompromising and disunited.[1] Juncker’s statements, reproduced in the report, are rightfully regarded in Britain as an attempt to tarnish Theresa May’s Conservative government and thereby reinforce EU-oriented forces, particularly among the Liberal Democrats and segments of the Labour Party during the election campaign – apparently to no avail. The obvious attempt to interfere in the country’s internal affairs has stirred massive resentment in the United Kingdom. In last week’s local elections in various parts of the country, all pro-EU parties, except the Welsh Plaid Cymru, lost mandates, whereas the conservative party made substantial gains. In spite of the significance of particularities in local elections, this is regarded as an expression of the wide approval for May’s political course.

Berlin’s Special Role

London has taken note of the special role Germany is playing in this affair. The indiscretions were published in a German newspaper and were probably leaked by the German EU official Martin Selmayr, a member of the CDU. Selmayr is Commission President Juncker’s Chief of Staff, and, according to reports, he is closely allied with Chancellery Minister Peter Altmeier. He is considered to be Juncker’s most important prompter, having a “tight grip” on the Commission, according to observers. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) He also holds a prominent position in the Brexit negotiations: Last October, Juncker mandated him to conduct regular preliminary talks on the Brexit negotiations with London. In the meantime, Selmayr has repeatedly announced that “Brexit will never become a success,”[3] thereby following Berlin’s suggestion that the Brexit could possibly have a deterrent effect on EU critics in other member countries. Selmayr is suspected of having leaked the recent indiscretions, because they contained also those parts of the confidential talks in London, in which only he and Juncker had participated on behalf of the EU. Michel Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator, and his deputy, Sabine Weyand, joined the talks only later on April 26th. Alongside Selmayr, trade expert Weyand is the second German in a decisive procedural position in the Brexit negotiations.

100 Billion Euros

Alongside this indiscretion, the most recent hike in the amount Brussels is demanding that London pay for its exit from the EU is being met with resentment in Great Britain. Even the 60 billion euros, mentioned a while back must be seen – to put it mildly – as an unrealistically exorbitant starting point for the negotiations. Last week, the commission increased the amount even further, to €100 billion, according to which, two years after its exit, the United Kingdom is to pay, for example, agricultural subsidies for other EU countries, as well as EU administrative costs, alongside co-financing both the European Central Bank (ECB) and the refugee agreement with Turkey. On the other hand, London would not be able to lay any claims to its share of the EU’s assets.[4] Observers suppose that these unorthodox demands have been ultimately raised to increase pressure on London’s government and lower its re-election possibilities in favour of EU-oriented forces – until now, to no avail.

More Strain on Germany

Instead, Brussels’ provocations are now leading to public complaints from the German economy. Britain is its third largest sales market for the highly export-dependent German industry and its second largest foreign investment site. At a time when business with important business partners is suffering – due to sanctions (Russia) or political tensions (Turkey), when trade with its most important ally, the United States, has become unreliable with the recent change of government and its number one sales market – the Euro zone – remains deeply embedded in a crisis, German business associations are adamantly refusing to take on any more risks.[5] “Now, it is important not to smash any more porcelain during the talks,” warns Dieter Kempf, President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), in reference to Brexit negotiations. “Reason and pragmatism” must be the guidelines for “both” negotiating partners.[6] One should not forget “that the Brexit will come at high costs, also for the German economy,” warned Eric Schweitzer, President of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). A disorderly Brexit, in which merely WTO standards apply between the EU-27 and Great Britain, trade between Great Britain and the EU would engender trade tariffs of around twelve billion euros. Because of the extensive exports to the United Kingdom, this “would engender an enormous additional strain, also on German enterprises.”[7]

Calls for Restraint

Over the weekend, the first calls for restraint had been heard in Berlin because of complaints from within business circles, and the fact that the EU’s provocations seem to be backfiring in the United Kingdom. Chancellor Angela Merkel made known that she is “upset” about Commission President Juncker, because “his failed Brexit dinner” has only made the climate worse between Brussels and London.[8] The German MEP Ingeborg Grässle (CDU), chair of the European Parliament’s budgetary control committee, criticized Juncker in the name of the European Parliament. “It is time that the EU Commission presents a bill comprehensible for everyone,” she demanded in view of the sum London has to pay for the Brexit. “We want to maintain good relations with the British.” The most recent demands – a good example of the EU Commission’s dealing – are “completely exaggerated.”[9]

The original was published by german-foreign-policy.com and is used with permission

[1] Thomas Gutschker: Das desaströse Brexit-Dinner. www.faz.net 01.05.2017.
[2] See Eine nie dagewesene Machtkonzentration.
[3] Florian Eder, David M. Herszenhorn: Brexit will never be a success: Juncker’s top aide. www.politico.eu 05.05.2017.
[4] Hendrick Kafsack: Ich will mein Geld zurück. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04.05.2017.
[5] See A Dangerous Game and Auf brüchigem Boden.
[6] BDI fordert Pragmatismus im Brexit-Poker. www.handelsblatt.com 06.05.2017.
[7] DIHK warnt vor hohen Brexit-Kosten. www.dihk.de 04.05.2017.
[8] Merkel verärgert über Juncker nach Brexit-Dinner. www.spiegel.de 06.05.2017.
[9] Andre Tauber: Wie hoch ist der britische Anteil am EU-Vermögen? www.welt.de 07.05.2017

EU bolshiness has converted a remainer into a leaver!

With thanks to Rev Philip Foster for spotting these two letters in the Daily Telegraph.

Sir,

At the referendum, I voted to remain in the EU. However, after seeing how some of the European leaders and bureaucrats have behaved towards Britain, like petulant children who have had their ball taken away, I am now totally convinced that we should leave the EU.

A J C Gorman, Ickenham, Middlesex

This letter appeared on 3rd May. The previous day, a very interesting letter was printed, written by a German now resident in Switzerland:-

Sir,

Since German unification – about which Margaret Thatcher was rightly very sceptical – the EU has ever more succumbed to the will of a nation that is obsessed with the idea of a Reich. What we are witnessing now is the latest attempt in the form of the German usurpation of an EU that will eventually morph into the Fourth Reich.

For a German of a certain age like myself, this is painful to experience, and one can only hope that the Fourth will last even less time than the Third.

Heinrich Wenzel Randogne, Valais, Switzerland

 

Photo by HonestReporting.com

CIB’s first post-referendum rally

So much has happened since 14th May 2016 when we staged our last rally. On that occasion, our Chairman, Edward Spalton, pointed out that it could be the last rally before we gained our freedom. Forty days later came that historic vote, but there is much to do before we will be totally free of the EU’s clutches. Even so, looking back on last year’s event, it is hard to believe that we are finally on the way out, with a new Prime Minister who has pledged herself to honour the Brexit vote and has already triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, thus formally beginning the withdrawal process.

Our first speaker, Patrick O’Flynn MEP, will be one of those who will lose his job when we finally withdraw, but he didn’t seem too perturbed about it. He said that UKIP will be putting country before party and does not intend to field a full slate of candidates in the forthcoming general Election. A distinction will be made between long-standing consistent Brexit supporters, especially if they only held their seats with small majorities, and those he called “five-minute-to-midnight” converts to the Brexit cause. His concluding remarks were particularly well received:- Remainiacs were welcome to campaign to reverse the result, he said, but it would take forty years by which time the EU would no longer be in existence.

The next speaker was retired ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, who described in graphic detail the ongoing problems faced by Greece as a result of the EU-imposed austerity package. The Greek sovereign debt crisis began as far back as 2009 and the enforced belt-tightening has ruined the country, with the death rate having increased dramatically. Furthermore, in spite of massive spending cuts, the country’s debt to GDP ratio has got worse. It was 146.2% in 2010 but by 2016, it had risen to 179%. Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos is a member of EPAM, a Greek anti-EU campaign group with whom CIB has had links that go back a number of years.

Based on his own country’s unhappy dealings with the EU in recent years, he advised the UK to walk away from the negotiations  if the EU presents insurmountable obstacles. The timing of his words is remarkable as his compatriot Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister, had been extensively quoted by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Daily Telegraph only the previous day warning of the difficulties of negotiating with the EU.

Philip Benwell from the Australian Monarchist League made us all feel very ashamed as he described the sense of betrayal felt in his country when we abandoned our Commonwealth friends to join what was then the European Economic Community. Some of us had not previously realised the economic impact on the agricultural sector in Australia and New Zealand by Edward Heath’s wicked deceit, nor that it was a factor in the rise of republicanism in Australia. Of course, that sector has now recovered but, as Mr Benwell reminded us, the result of our flirtation with Brussels is that Asia and China in particular has replaced the UK as the main trading partner.

There is nonetheless considerable enthusiasm within the Australian government to open trade talks with the UK, but Mr Benwell was looking for one particular gesture of goodwill from the UK government in return. Immigration controls in a post-Brexit UK should no longer group other subjects of Her Majesty as aliens and that we should all share a common immigration channel. His organisation, which has 40,000 members including plenty of young people, has campaigned against this discrimination for some years but has thus far been snubbed by pro-EU civil servants.

After a short break, Luise Hemmer Pihl from the Danish People’s Movement against the EU (Folkebevægelsen mod EU) reminded us that we are not the only country with a long-standing history of opposition to the EU’s encroachment upon the nation state. She mentioned the various referendums in which the Danish people had consistently rejected further integration, including a recent vote to pull out of Europol. Like all our like-minded friends across the water, her organisation was greatly encouraged by the Brexit vote.

The last speaker, John Ashworth from Fishing for Leave, will need no introduction to regular readers of this website. His most recent book, Seizing the Moment, has been published by the Campaign for an Independent Britain. Continuing the theme of how awkward the EU can be as a negotiating partner, he told us how obstructive it was when Greenland voted to leave and only the threat to close its waters to (what were then) EEC vessels forced Brussels to agree a deal.

The film Witness to History concluded the afternoon’s programme. Lasting 35 minutes, it features a fascinating interview with Lord Walsingham, who worked in the Foreign Office when plans for the European Iron and Steel Community were being discussed in 1950. His concerns about the UK signing up to a project which was ultimately designed to weaken our heavy industry, along with his opposition to the denazification policy being pursued by the Americans led him to resign and fight in the Korean war instead.

Before the speakers gave their presentations, one man who has been a consistent opponent of our EU membership ever since being present in the House of Commons in the evening of that fateful vote on the Accession Treaty in 1972 was presented with a silver salver by our Chairman, Edward Spalton. George West, who has been President of the Campaign for an Independent Britain since taking over from Lord Stoddart on his retirement, has decided to stand down.  Readers will, I am sure, wish Mr West all the best for the future and thank him for his contribution to the cause of independence.

If Denmark can opt out of Europol, so can we

Last Saturday, those of us who attended the Campaign for an Independent Britain’s annual were reminded that anti- EU sentiment is still alive and kicking in Denmark. We were privileged to be addressed by Luise Hemmer Pihl from the Danish People’s Movement against the EU, who explained that Denmark too has taken a semi-detached position within the EU and many Danish people have no desire for further integration.

Among the evidence she quoted was Denmark’s withdrawal from Europol. In a referendum in November 2015, the Danes decided to keep their opt-out from EU cooperation on justice and home affairs issues.

As from 1st May, Denmark will no longer be a member of Europol but thanks to a last-minute agreement, the country  will still have access to EU police agency’s databases.

If Denmark, an EU State, can maintain an independent position on justice and home affairs, then the UK, which is leaving the EU, has no reason to stay in Europol or in the European Arrest Warrant scheme. Whatever the result of the next General Election, we will be continuing to campaign that Brexit must mean Brexit in these critical areas.

Photo by @boetter

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.

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