A Commonwealth free trade area?

The Commonwealth Games may not generate the same passion as the Olympics, but as this 11-day sporting extravaganza draws to a close in Glasgow this Sunday, attention has once again been focused on this voluntary association of 53 nations, most of which were once part of the British Empire.

It makes us ask what exactly, apart from this sporting event, held once every four years, binds the Commonwealth of Nations (to give it its full title) together? The use of English as a common language and the Common Law-based legal systems are two obvious links. Maybe it’s a sense of all being part of one big family with the Queen as its head, even though only 16 nations recognise her as their monarch.

However, could the Commonwealth also develop into a Free Trade area? In 2005, a Canadian economist, Brent Cameron, wrote a book called The Case for Commonwealth Free Trade. He pointed out that the Commonwealth contains 13 of the world’s fastest growing economies and contains one third of the world’s population.

What is more, the Commonwealth is a voluntary organisation. The constituent nations are members are there by choice. Rwanda and Mozambique, which were never ruled by this country, have chosen to join, recognising the economic benefits of so doing. The member states have no legal obligations to each other. It does possess a secretariat, but unlike the EU’s secretariat, the European Commission, its employees do not spend all day devising debilitating legislation and working out what is the next thing that should be banned.

It makes sense, therefore, for the UK to pull away from the sclerotic EU and build closer economic ties with these countries. In Robert Oulds’ words, “Exiting the European Union and enhancing links with the Commonwealth will not only disentangle the UK from the growing influence of Corpus Juris {the EU’s legal system}, but also enhance links with nations with nations that Britain has more in common with, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.”

The former Indian Development Minister, Kamal Nath, is enthusiastic about the idea of a Commonwealth Free Trade area. In 2010, he said, “The Commonwealth is the ideal platform for business and trade… I hope that India’s ties with the Commonwealth will move from strength to strength, and that the new paradigm will only mean greater warmth, greater co-operation.” The Royal Commonwealth Society also claims that “there is a clear relationship between Commonwealth membership and increased trade and membership.”

Of course, membership of a Commonwealth Free Trade area need not be and indeed, is not, exclusive. Canada is also a member of NAFTA, Malaysia and Singapore both belong to ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations) and Guyana is also a member of CARICOM, the Caribbean Free Trade area. However, the UK within the EU will always be hamstrung if it desires to be more actively involved with a Commonwealth Free Trade area. We are currently unable to negotiate our own trade agreements and free trade negotiations at EU level are always long and complex affairs, not least because some other member states aren’t actually that keen on free trade anyway.

Still, we can but hope that by the time the next Commonwealth Games begins in Australia in four years’ time we are at least on the way out of the failing EU and deepening our ties with these countries who are not only our real friends in the world but which also offer us far better opportunities to develop our trade.

Rules on lorries means Britain loses more ‘clout’ from EU membership

Edward Spalton

THE BBC Today programme reported that the EU parliament would shortly vote to introduce new regulations for lorries to have improved rear view mirrors and windows, designed to remove blind spots and improve the driver’s field of view.

This report was true, but also highly misleading. These regulations were not drawn up by the EU but by a superior interational body called UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe). That is where the real decisions are made. The EU institutions and parliament merely do as they are told.

UNECE consults with member countries in formulating regulations, but Britain has no voice there. The EU decides on a “common position” before going to the consultation. So the EU actually keeps Britain off the “top table” where the critical decisions are made. Regulations cover increasing aspects of our lives and the EU is merely the local enforcer.

Like Britain, Scandinavian countries frequently have different standards from those of the big, mainland European countries. So they are disregarded too. But they have a friend to speak up for them. Denmark and Sweden frequently ask Norway to make their case. Little Norway has a voice where it counts. As an EU member Great Britain does not. Neither do Denmark and Sweden.

Britain gains no “clout” at the negotiating table from its EU membership but rather loses it entirely.

Edward Spalton

This article appeared in the Derby Telegraph, 28th April

Trade with the European Union and its member states does not depend on being members of the European Union.

At present, the European Union (EU) has bilateral and regional trade agreements with the following countries:

Free trade agreements (FTA) with Chile, South Africa, Mexico, and South Korea; as part of the wider European Economic Area

FTAs with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland;

Negotiations with Central America (El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama), Andean Nations (comprising Peru and Columbia), and Ukraine have been concluded, and will be ratified in due course.

Negotiations are ongoing with other countries or groups of countries, namely: Canada; India; Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay); Singapore; Malaysia; Vietnam; Moldova; Georgia; Armenia; and the Gulf Co-operation Council.

Furthermore, the Government are supportive of negotiations starting in 2013 with Japan, the
USA, Morocco and Thailand.

In addition, as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a multilateral trading system for the 157 member countries, the EU is party to both the general agreement on tariffs and trade (GATTS) and general agreement on trade in services (GATS).

The EU also has various other trade agreements with other countries or groups of countries: association agreements (AAs), economic partnership agreements (EPAs), stabilisation and association agreements (SAAs), partnership & co-operation agreements (PCAs) and memberships of the Customs Union.

Crocodile Tears over Royal Mail? By Edward Spalton

Edward Spalton
Chris Williamson, the MP for Derby North is, of course, right that the Royal Mail provides a vital service to homes and businesses. Britain invented the modern Post Office, using the monopoly power of the state to provide a national delivery service at the same price from the Orkneys to Land’s End.

But the impulse for privatisation does not come from the wicked Tories, as he suggests. He should look to EU Directive 97/67/EC “Privatisation of Postal Services” for that. This reduced the Royal Mail’s monopoly and allowed the Dutch and German postal services to cherry pick profitable business, leaving the Royal Mail with the unprofitable parts. Further Directives have followed, requiring the phasing
out of the Royal Mail monopoly by 2009. Norway has just rejected the latest Directive and will keep its own national postal service, just as it has retained its fisheries.

Instructions from the the EU to David Miliband, dated 28 November 2007, leave no doubt that the EU is in charge. He is ordered “The transformation programme will involve …..reducing the size of the Post Office network by around 2,500 branches”.

I was in Central Lobby in 2008 when a petition of over 2 million signatures against Post Office closures had been delivered and Parliament was thronged with thousands of people who had come to see their MPs. I was with three MPs of decidedly independent views and decided to stir things a little.

“How many of your colleagues” I asked “will have told these people “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do for you here. It’s all controlled by EU Directives now”?” The MPs looked a little awkward and said that they didn’t suppose that anybody had said that. “But it’s true, isn’t it?” I asked and they had to admit it was.

It made me very angry that so many people had wasted their money and taken a day off work to lobby representatives who were powerless to give them any redress but would not admit to it. The hypocrisy of MPs signing this or that petition to save some local Post Office also infuriated me. They must have known it would make no difference to the overall number to be closed.

If Mr. Williamson really wants the Royal Mail to be an effective public, national service for the people of this country, he will have to support a government which will take us out of the EU. His colleagues in the Labour Euro Safeguards Campaign would support him.

British Industry Betrayed

Industrial WastelandYet again the Government has awarded a major engineering contract to a foreign supplier – in this case to the German conglomerate Siemens when it should have gone to Derbybased train-maker Bombardier. As a direct consequence, over 1,000 jobs have been lost in Derby and the building of railway rolling stock in the area looks set to come to an end after 150 years. This is entirely due to European Union procurement rules and the Government’s failure to stand up for British interests and protect British jobs.

Edward Spalton, national vice-chairman of the crossparty Campaign for an Independent Britain (CIB), comments: “The de-industrialisation of Britain was foreseen as an integral part of the EU project from its earliest days. Time and again, our politicians award major contracts to foreign companies in preference to British ones. We can contrast the deceit and bad faith of Britain’s political class with the devotion to duty of Britain’s navy, army and air force which we so recently celebrated on Armed Forces Day.”

Mr Spalton points out that British soldiers swear an oath to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen … and defend her against all enemies”. Over 350 British military personnel have died in the last few years keeping that oath in Afghanistan. Cabinet Ministers also take an oath when they become members of the Privy Council and swear to “bear faith and allegiance to the Queen’s Majesty; and [to] assist and defend all civil and temporal jurisdictions … granted to Her Majesty and annexed to the Crown … against all foreign princes, persons, prelates, states or potentates and generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true servant ought to do to Her Majesty.”

Mr Spalton says: “Ministers who took this oath made the Queen and all of us into subjects of the European Union, bound to obey dictates of its officials whom we did not elect and cannot dismiss. This is the rottenness at the heart of the state which betrayed the workers at Bombardier and many other firms. The soldiers kept their oaths to defend the sovereignty of the Crown, and so of the country, against all comers. Yet the ministers who give them orders in the Queen’s name do not keep theirs.”

Whose side are ministers on?

Writing in the Derby Telegraph, Mr Spalton explains: “British governments have frequently preferred to give large orders to EU companies rather than to British ones. The army’s biggest ever order for lorries went to MAN Fahrzeuge when there were perfectly suitable British suppliers. They also bought an Austrian armoured vehicle, the Pinzgauer Vector, supposedly to provide extra protection for troops who were being needlessly killed in the Snatch Landrover. The Pinzgauer was withdrawn because it was even more dangerous. The driver sat over a front wheel arch, vulnerable to land mines and explosive devices.

“So Bombardier is in a long line of British companies and workers who have been consistently rejected by British governments in the name of ‘EU rules’. We may well ask: Whose side are they on?”