Donald Tusk (not Trump!) Reminds us why we voted to leave

We will not be providing you with a blow-by-blow commentary on the progress of the European Union (Notification of withdrawal) Bill as we believe that, in spite of opposition from the Lib Dems, the SNP, some Labour MPs and Ken Clarke, it will complete its passage through Parliament in time for Mrs May’s deadline of 9th March when the government will formally trigger Article 50.  There will be plenty of press coverage and analysis for people wanting to follow the Bill’s progress through both houses of Parliament but this website will confine itself occasional comment on the key moments of the Bill’s progress. We will also be monitoring which MPs support and which oppose the will of the people.

Of more immediate interest is a speech by Donald Tusk, the President of the  European Council, which provided a welcome reminder why we voted to leave. In order to understand where Mr Tusk is coming from, we need to remember that next month marks 60 years since the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which formally inaugurated what has become the European Union. Naturally, the EU wants to celebrate this milestone but we pesky Brits have already spoiled their party with Brexit and, to add insult to injury, the USA has voted for a president who, in the words of Ted Malloch, the new US ambassador to the EU, “doesn’t like an organisation that is supranational, that is unelected where the bureaucrats run amok and that is not frankly a proper democracy.”

So what was Mr Tusk’s response?  The answer is – guess what – More Europe! “We must therefore take assertive and spectacular steps that would change the collective emotions and revive the aspiration to raise European integration to the next level”, he said. Yes, he means further integration. Just to make sure no one could be in any doubt, he also added “If we do not believe in ourselves, in the deeper purpose of integration, why should anyone else? In Rome we should renew this declaration of faith.”

He did not go into much detail about how integration was to proceed, There was no mention of fiscal or monetary union within the Eurozone, although he did talk of “strengthening the foreign policy of the EU as a whole.” Brexit received only a very oblique mention when he claimed that “the disintegration of the European Union will not lead to the restoration of some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China. Only together can we be fully independent.”

Why could no EU member state be fully sovereign? On which superpower is New Zealand, with a population less than one eighth of Mr Tusk’s native Poland “really and factually” dependent? Or Australia, India, St Helena, South Africa or Morocco, to name a few countries at random.

There is a particular irony in this statement given that many EU member states are also members of NATO and have been accused, with good reason, by President Trump of being too dependent on the USA for their protection.

Tusk complained about “Russia’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine” without the slightest mention that the EU must take the blame for the current state of that country by fermenting opposition to a democratically-elected leader.

He also complained that, faced with “national egoism….becoming an attractive alternative to integration”, the pro-European élites (his own term, may I add) were suffering from “a decline of faith in political integration.”

In other words, it’s the same old message, underpinned with the belief that if it is repeated sufficiently, it will convince the doubters. Tusk’s political rival Jaroslaw Kaczynski, however, is unlikely to be impressed. The leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party has called not for more integration but for the very opposite- a new treaty which would return power to the member states. “The vision of the EU forced upon us by the Lisbon Treaty has failed”, he said.

Thinking back to this time last year, we will recall that David Cameron went to Brussels asking for something similar – a return of some power back to the UK. He came away with only a few crumbs which ultimately didn’t sway the voters and we wisely voted to leave.

Neither Poland nor fiercely EU-critical Hungary looks likely to follow us out of the door at the moment, but Mr Tusk’s words were those of a man who realises that supporters of the European project are on the back foot at the moment. Unfortunately for him, the determination he expressed to carry on ploughing the same old furrow is unlikely to address the growing disillusion with the project across a number of EU member states.

“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” goes the old saying and there is much wisdom in it. Unfortunately, Mr Tusk and his friends in Brussels seem both unable and unwilling to turn their digger off.

Photo by Glueckstadt

Death of a parliamentary colleague

Death of a parliamentary colleague – Nigel Spearing

Nigel’s death comes at a turning point in our long and arduous campaign against UK membership of the EU. He was always a strong opponent of the ‘European Project’  to build a United States of Europe without first getting the approval of its peoples. He was one of the first Labour politicians to appreciate there could be no compromise with the Eurofanatics in the British Press and Parliament. The weakness of their arguments was finally exposed in the 2016 Referendum campaign. Until his final illness, Nigel was a stalwart of our long drawn out battle to save the country we loved from an ignominious future as an outpost of a superstate. His work for our cause over several decades, in and out of Parliament should be long remembered

Eric Deakins

Former Labour MP

1970 – 1987

Forgetting the lessons of the past

Oh dear. They never learn, do they?

Those Eurocrats over in Brussels think that they have hit on a clever new ploy to victimise Britain and punish us for having had the temerity to vote to Leave. After years of telling us that life outside the EU would be awful for Britain, they have now been forced by reality to admit that, actually, it is going to be pretty good. All those free trade deals that Liam Fox is busily chasing are going to be good for British business.

So now the EU has decided that when the rules of the EU say that a member state cannot agree to any trade deals due to the restrictive nature of the Customs Union, what it really means is that we cannot even talk about a free trade deal until after we have left.

What they hope to do is build in a time lag of a year or more between the UK leaving the Customs Union and any new trade deals coming into operation. That will hit the pesky Brits in the pocket and allow the Eurocrats to crow over our misfortune.

And they intend to follow that up by dragging their heels over a UK-EU trade deal. They will throw obstacles into the path of British trade to the EU. More punishment for the UK.

But they forget that this has been tried before. And it did not end well for the European Empire that tried it.

Back in 1806 the Emperor of the French, Napoleon Bonaparte, ruled most of Europe. France itself extended deep into what are now Italy and Germany, while his family and acolytes sat on thrones in Italy, Germany, Poland and Scandinavia. Only Britain stood defiant. After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 Napoleon had no chance of an armed invasion of Britain. He was stymied.

Then he had an idea. He called it “The Continental System”.

Under this masterful plan all contact between Britain and the European Continent would be cut off. Not even the mail would be allowed through. All trade would grind to a halt. Britain would be economically prostrate. She would be bankrupt in a matter of months and forced to surrender. Napoleon issued his orders. The ports were closed to British ships, no ships could sail for Britain. Every country in Europe was bullied into joining the Continental System.

All except one: Portugal. Portugal is Britain’s oldest ally and had important trade links to Britain. So in 1808 Napoleon invaded Portugal. To do so he had to march through Spain, and so invaded Spain as well. The Portuguese asked for British help. The British sent an army under Wellington and so began the Peninsular War that would drain France of men and money.

Meanwhile, the Russian economy was tottering toward collapse without British trade and British investments. The Tsar of Russia lifted the embargo and began trading with Britain again. So in 1812 Napoleon invaded Russia, a campaign that destroyed his own army. With the threat of Napoleon’s army gone, more and more countries opened up to trade with Britain. They had been suffering economically and unemployment was rising.

In any case the French economy itself was crumbling. The tax take was nose-diving and Napoleon’s government was facing bankruptcy. Napoleon could no longer keep a large army in the field. He was defeated and exiled to Elba. His attempt to return to power was crushed at Waterloo. He ended his days a prisoner of the British on the remote island of St Helena

As for Britain, how had she fared while Europe suffered massive economic dislocation and bankruptcy? Well, British trade with Europe fell by 55% between 1806 and 1808, and did not recover for years. However, the British had the open sea to take advantage of, and they did. British ships had to take British goods further, but they found eager customers.

Britain ended up more prosperous after the Continental System than before.

If only the Eurocrats bothered to read their history they could save themselves a lot of trouble.

Photo by pijpers662

The Australian High Commissioner backs Brexit

The original article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 17th December

Australia is backing Brexit Britain all the way – ALEXANDER DOWNER

As the UK leaves the EU, our two nations will grow close again to promote our shared values and interests. I am not the first member of my family to serve as Australian High Commissioner to the UK.

My father held the position between 1964 and 1972. You will understand the significance of that period. For the past few years of his posting my father argued, sometimes acrimoniously, with the British government about the damage the UK’s terms of accession to the EEC – as it was then called – would do to Australia.

Over four decades later I am talking somewhat more amiably with Whitehall about the consequences for Australia of Britain’s departure from the EU. So there you have it. Britain’s adventure in the EU has been bookended by the Downer family. Let’s be frank. (We Australians do frank quite well.) My father’s generation was deeply hostile to Britain abandoning those Commonwealth countries which had stood by her in her darkest hour. In two world wars, New Zealand, Australia and Canada – with India, South Africa and other members of the then Empire – sent thousands upon thousands of troops, airmen and sailors to help save Britain from the Germans. And during the Second World War, following the fall of Hong Kong and Singapore in 1941, we Australians also had to deal with the Japanese on our doorstep.

Despite this sacrifice, the attitude of the Heath government in the Seventies was “So what?” Government is about the national interest, not emotion. Britain had to make its future in Europe and we could make our futures somewhere else. So our dairy, horticultural, beef and lamb exports were largely replaced by imports from the EU and our citizens were sent to the “Others” queue at Heathrow. Doug Anthony, the then deputy prime  minister, was so incensed that he abandoned his lifelong support for the Queen in Australia and joined the republican movement.

As for my father, he finished his term in London three months before the Act of Accession came into force. He left London a sad man. I remember standing with him at the Menin Gate looking at the thousands of Australian names inscribed there. With tears in his eyes he denounced Roy Jenkins for saying he had no time for kith and kin politics. For my generation of Australians, it’s different. We haven’t had the wartime experiences of our parents and grandparents. Britain long ago withdrew from what was called East of Suez and while we and the Americans fought communism in South-East Asia, after the Sixties Britain largely abandoned that task. Britain threw its lot in with Europe.

I was the Australian foreign minister for nearly 12 years. Not once in that period did a British foreign secretary visit Australia. But instead of sulking, we’ve been forging new markets in Asia and North America. It’s been hard going but we’ve stuck at it, securing free trade agreements with the US, the major economies of north Asia including China and with much of South East Asia. I can immodestly say we’ve done well. Politically, we’ve built fruitful relations with the Asean countries, we’ve forged strong ties with China, Japan and Korea and are building a multidimensional and vibrant relationship with
India.

Yet clever foreign policymakers know that in the era of globalisation, significant countries like Australia and the UK have global interests, not just regional interests. And in recent years our relationship has started to flourish again. Both of us have realised we can help each other, whether it’s militarily in Afghanistan or politically in institutions like the UN. We think alike on most of the great issues facing the world so it makes sense to reinforce each other when we can.

Now the world has changed again. The British people have voted to leave the EU. Had he lived until June 23 2016, my father would have been so pleased. An emotional man, tears would have come to his eyes. His son is something else. I do have a heart, of course. But my head said that Britain’s departure from the EU would damage the EU: it would blow a hole in the EU’s budget and the EU would lose a member with substantial strategic reach and awesome soft power. And that would not be in Australia’s interests, which are best served by a strong UK and a strong EU.

Nevertheless, once decisions are made, it is better to look to the future. So for our part, we are encouraging the UK and the EU quickly to establish a new, mutually beneficial relationship that sustains the economies and global influence of both. We are also keen to strike a free-trade agreement with the UK. That shouldn’t be too hard to do because we are like-minded free traders who know that protectionism makes people poorer and costs jobs.

Finally, we have another hope: that Britain will continue to recognise it is a global power with global responsibilities, not just a regional player. If it does so, this will mean Australia and the UK finding yet more ways to work together to promote the values and objectives we share. We’ll never recreate the era my father mourned, nor should we aspire to; but we should be able to do something special all the same.

Trading with Canada – the EFTA angle

Mrs May is keeping her cards close to her chest regarding the sort of post-Brexit relationship she is seeking with the EU. Of course, there has been much intense and often ill-informed speculation in the media, which (in our opinion) is better ignored.

Occasionally, however, she or one of her team lets slip the occasional clue. It looks highly likely that the “WTO option” alias “Hard Brexit” is a non-starter.  In an exchange between the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Question Time last week, Mrs May said, “We’re going to deliver the best possible deal for trade in goods and services with and operation within the European Union, and we’re going to deliver an end to free movement.” A couple of days later, Greg Clark, the Business Secertary, told Andrew Marr that “our objective would be to ensure continued access to the markets in Europe and vice versa, without tariffs and without bureaucratic impediments.”

The obvious assumption is that some form of continuing membership of the European Economic Area is envisaged, either by re-joining EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, or by a one-off arrangment whereby the UK, as a current participant in the Single Market, will be allowed to continue to be a member of it after we leave the EU. Either way, once outside the EU, like Liechtenstein, we can avail ourselves of Article 112 of the EEA agreement and restrict freedom of movement by EU nationals into the UK.

This seems to be the direction in which Mrs May intends to take us. The decision of Nissan to produce two new models at its Sunderland plant points strongly towards some form of continued membersip of the EEA. The complexities of the supply chain, to which Greg Clark referred during his interview with Andrew Marr, are such that, without a guarantee that there would be no disruption, Toyota would have not made this commitment. As state aid – in the shape of compensation for loss of single market access – is ruled out by WTO  rules,  this once again points to some sort of continued access to the single market being Mrs May’s objective.

This, of course, has been a divisive issue among Brexit supporters. Ironically, if the government formally announces that this is the plan, it will bring our side closer together for no leave supporter views access to the single market, whether or not via EFTA membership, as anything other than a short-term holding position – to get us through the Brexit door without  disruption to trade. We all want a looser arrangement in the longer term.

However, EFTA membership would raise a number of interesting points. Firstly, EFTA already has a trade deal with Canada,  It is a much less contentious arrangement that the CETA deal between Canada and the EU. While all relevant parties have now signed the CETA deal, it is not yet in force and by the time it is fully implemented, we may well be on the way out. Signficantly, there has been objections from a few EU leaders to the idea of the UK automatically being able to “piggyback” onto trade deals to which it signed up as an EU member state.

As far as CETA is concerned, re-joining EFTA would not only cirumvent this problem, but would be a much better outsome, as the EFTA-Canada deal has a much simpler disputes system. Each party will nominate one person who is impartial, then they agree on a third person who will be the President of the tribunal, and the case is then heard. If this doesn’t work, the WTO arbitration process kicks in. All in all, this deal is much less likely to see our elected government sued by predatory multinationals. Anti-CETA campaigners should read more about the EFTA-Canada deal. Unfortunately, those who have e-mailed me about the subject do not seem to have EFTA on their radars at all. 

Of course, EFTA has suffered from a low profile for many years. Apart from Liechtenstein, which joined in 1991, no other country has become an EFTA member since 1970. The organisation has lost member after member to the EU and has had to accept underdog status in its dealings with the EU. It now has only 4 members as opposed to the 28 member states of the EU. Iceland, which currently holds the EFTA presidency, has expressed its support for the UK rejoining. “The EFTA countries might make an agreement with the UK,” said Iceland’s Foreign Minister Lilja Alfredsdottir. “We are chairing the EFTA right now and I put it as a priority to analyse the possibilities that EFTA had on this front.

Of course, the UK’s re-accession to EFTA would tip the balance slightly. It would still be much smaller than the EU, but the additional presence of a heavyweight European nation would certainly give he organisation some extra clout. More importantly, it would put EFTA back in the spotlight, which could be something of a worry to the EU. Would applicant countries like Serbia, Montenegro or even Turkey start to weigh the two options of EFTA or EU membership and decide that, even if they would not be bribed with further EU funds,  preserving their political freedom by joining an organisation that is committed to trade and not political integration might be a better bet? What about Sweden and Denmark, who may be tempted to follow us out of the Brexit door?

Back in the 1980s, Jacques Delors envisioned the EU and EFTA states as working in cooperation as partners in a “European village”, which in due course became the European Economic Area (EEA) alis the Single Market. However, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were fears that if joint decision making between the EU and EFTA was to be implemented,  the newly-independent nations of Central and Eastern Europe may plump for EFTA rather than the EU, which the EU hierarchy was none too keen on. The EU therefore had to be the lead partner and EFTA subordinate in the EEA. With EFTA still draining members to the EU in the 1990s, it had little choice in the matter. 

Now, however, Brexit has dealt a hammer blow to the credibility of the entire EU project at what was already a difficult time.  It has also put the final nail in the coffin as far as any hopes that existing EFTA members might leave it and join the EU. Making the EU more attractive than EFTA may have been a simple job in the early 1990s; the UK rejoining EFTA after Brexit in a couple of years’ time would lead to a very different perception of the situation.

Of course, to repeat, the EEA or indeed EFTA is not a long-term arrangement for the UK. Ideally, what is needed is a continent-wide free trade agreement – one without the baggage of CETA or TTIP – which would replace the EEA, probably EFTA too and would only include free movement of capital, goods and services like any normal free trade agreement. This is a long-term goal around which all Brexit supporters could unite.  In the short term however, EFTA, while far from perfect, may prove a valuable tool for tipping the balance of influence in Europe away from Brussels, which would be no bad thing.

(with thanks to Hugo van Randwyck for details about the EFTA/Canada FTA)

Virtue Signalling & Democracy versus Populism

One of the most nauseating features of the post referendum period is the effortless assumption of superiority by those who lost the vote. They are, they maintain, the educated people, the successful people, the outward-looking liberal people, the idealistic young and the truly compassionate. The European Union, they believe, is an institution which affirms all those values and reinforces their already exceedingly good opinion of themselves.

They are, of course, in favour of democracy – after all, the EU has its own elected parliament where the peoples’ voices are heard! But when the people vote against this wonderful European construct, that decision is not democracy but populism. Then the voice of the people must either be disregarded completely or they must be made to vote again until they come to their senses and conform to the pattern of the benevolent EU project.

After all, the voters of France, the Netherlands and Ireland have all had this sort of treatment and quietly resumed happy fulfilled lives within the great harmonious European polity. This has not been done by any external force or coercion but by powerful people within each member state who have given their first loyalty and duty to the European Union above that which ordinary people owe to their own country. One of their most vigorous advocates is a Mr. Westerman who writes to papers all over the place from his home in Wales. On October 28, I responded to a letter of his in the Derby Telegraph where he had made such assertions.

C.N. Westerman brackets Nigel Farage with the late British fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley. (“Populism in politics can arrest critical thinking” October 24).

This is most misleading as Sir Oswald was a keen advocate of European union, which Nigel Farage certainly is not.

Euro-fanatic Kenneth Clarke twice invited Sir Oswald to address the Cambridge University Conservatives while another then student, Michael Howard, resigned in protest. Perhaps we should not read too much into the genial Clarke’s youthful enthusiasm.

While the European project drew on many ideological sources, including Christian Democracy (Konrad Adenauer), Socialism (Paul Henri Spaak) and Communism (Altiero Spinelli), there is no doubt of the transfer of Nazi principles and personalities to the post war era.

For years I puzzled over the origin of the EU’s biggest project, the Common Agricultural Policy. It was so grotesquely bureaucratic and alien to the common sense system we had before, I just could not place the ideology behind it.

It was not until 2002 when someone sent me a German book, “European Economic Community”, that I knew beyond reasonable doubt. It was a collection of papers by senior figures in government, industry, diplomacy and academia, published in Berlin in 1942.

I translated the lead paper * by Walther Funk, Reichsminister for the Economy and President of the Reichsbank. Apart from uncomplimentary references to Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt, there is hardly anything in it which has not come out of the European Commission and European Movement in the last fifty years. The similarities are just too many to be merely coincidental.

The first President of the European Commission, Dr. Hallstein, was previously member of the “National Socialist League of Protectors of the Law” and addressed a Nazi rally in early 1939 on unifying the legal system in territories under German control. Much of his post war activity was spent in “harmonising” the legal systems of EU member states.

Perhaps one reason people think politicians of the main parties are “all the same” arises from their leaders, until recently, all being enthusiasts in the common cause of subjection to the EU – effectively a one-party state with a deceptive choice of flavours.”

So the “nice” people don’t look quite so nice now, do they? Kenneth Clarke was fascinated by Mosley and fascism as a young man and certainly retains Mosley’s euro-fanaticism. Clarke hoped to see the day when Parliament was reduced to a mere “council chamber in Europe” – and he could have become Prime Minister. Just imagine the fuss, if somebody of his background had been prominent in the independence movement!

The Nazis, of course, were heirs to earlier German plans for domination of Europe. On 9th September 1914 the First World War was over a month old and the Imperial German Chancellor, Bethmann Hollweg, thought he had better get some war aims. Here is an excerpt from his memo.

Russia must be thrust back as far as possible from Germany’s Eastern frontier and her domination over non-Russian vassal peoples broken…..We must create a Central European Economic Association through common customs treaties to include France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria-Hungary and perhaps Italy, Sweden and Norway.

The association will not have any common constitutional supreme authority and all members will be formally equal but in practice under German leadership and must stabilise Germany’s economic dominance over central Europe”.

The unique thing about the EU is the addition of that “common constitutional supreme authority” –  the EU Commission – the true legacy of Monnet, Schuman & Co. It has not prevented the continuing “Drang nach Osten” – the process of EU enlargement to the East in the interests of German economic domination. The proxy wars in former Yugoslavia in the Nineties and in the Ukraine today testify to that and also give the lie to the EU’s myth of uniquely peaceful intent. Few people realise that British soldiers are already stationed in the Ukraine – effectively to defend Germany’s sphere of influence.

The peace of Europe would be much better secured if the German ruling class forgot expansionism – even if it is wrapped in an EU flag- and recalled Bismarck’s great dictum on foreign policy. “First make a good treaty with Russia”.

* To get the full translation Google “The European Union’s Evil Pedigree” . This is on the website www.freenations.net .