The uniqueness of the breadth of anti-EU sentiment in the UK

Next Wednesday, Parliament will be dissolved in preparation for June’s General election. The final Prime Minister’s Question Time has already taken place and it provided an opportunity for retiring MPs to make their voice heard in the debating chamber for the last time.

Quite a number of MPs have already indicated that they will not be seeking re-election. Some, like Alan Johnson, who headed up the thankfully ineffective Labour in for Britain campaign last year, will be no great loss. His colleague Gisela Stuart is a different matter, however. One of the few solidly pro-leave Labour MPs, Mrs Stuart’s eyes were opened   when she was appointed as one of the UK Parliamentary Representatives to the European Convention, which was tasked with drawing up a new constitution for the European Union.

Another veteran pro-leave MP to be stepping down is Sir Gerald Howarth, the Member for Aldershot since 1997, with whom I shared a platform last May at a debate held in nearby Farnham.

These two individuals, from different parties but united in their opposition to our membership of the EU, epitomise the uniqueness of anti-EU sentiment in the UK and ultimately, why we were able to secure a sufficient majority to leave.

Historically, in most member states, anti-EU sentiment has been primarily a phenomenon of either neo-fascists or the political left. Jacques Delors’ “Social Europe” of the 1980s won round most Socialist parties to supporting the EU, including our own Labour Party. Sections of the Far Left remained irreconcilable and as Delors’ vision has faded with the EU gradually turning into a honeypot for lobbyists from multinational businesses, they have further reason for their opposition. In this country, even though left-of-centre anti-EU sentiment in the UK has never been as strong as it was in the 1970s and early 1980s, it never died out completely.

What marks out the UK as unique, however, is the strength of Thatcherite anti-EU sentiment. The centre-right Christian Democrat-type parties in the other member states are solid supporters of federalism. David Cameron’s pledge to pull the Conservative Party’s MEPs out of the European People’s Party grouping in the European Parliament, which includes Angela Merkel’s CDU and France’s “Les Republicains”, when seeking to become Conservative leader, was one of the reasons for his success. It was probably no great issue for the ideology-light Cameron, but many of his MPs were aghast at their colleagues in Brussels being bedfellows of unreconstructed federalists.

The Campaign for an Independent Britain has always sought to act as an umbrella group for anti-EU organisations on both the left and right of the political spectrum and by and large, we have found that the vast majority of pro-withdrawalists have been willing to work together, notwithstanding their differences over other issues.

Indeed, this held true during the referendum campaign itself. Some left-of-centre Brexit campaigners felt that Martin Durkin’s Brexit the Movie presented a vision of an independent UK which was too free market and Thatcherite for their taste and produced their own Lexit video to offer a more socialist picture of life after the EU. This did not preclude left- and right-leaning withdrawalists sharing of platforms, nor did differences in other matters obscure the considerable degree of overlap. Ultimately, the undemocratic nature of the EU and its progressive erosion of our national sovereignty is not an issue which is the exclusive concern of any one part of the political spectrum.

This is because the scale of revulsion over the EU’s intrusion into the political process in our nation is born out of something which transcends party politics – our long-standing tradition of freedom and our mature democracy. This is without parallel in most other EU member states. Only the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries can begin to compare with us in this area.

And thankfully, this deep-seated loathing of foreign interference in our affairs was sufficient to bind an otherwise disparate group of MPs and activists together and secure the magnificent result of 23rd June. To all those departing pro-leave MPs who are bowing out:- Ladies and Gentlemen, enjoy your retirement and thank you for your efforts. We owe you a great debt.

Why Herr Steinmeier is so wrong about Brexit

Last Tuesday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the newly-elected President of Germany, delivered a very outspoken message to the European Parliament, highly critical of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

“It is wrong to say, in my conviction, that in this world a single European country standing alone and without the EU can make its voice heard or assert its economic interests”, he said. “Quite to the contrary.” He called last year’s Leave campaign “naive and irresponsible” and strongly attacked the concept of taking back control. “Take back control is a strong slogan that we hear everywhere. Nationalists are unable to deliver it and if it can be delivered at all, it is something we can only do together. It is irresponsible to lead people to believe that, in a world that is becoming more complex, the answers are becoming more simple.” He dismissed our desire to return to being a self-governing nation state and called those of us who voted to leave the EU “bitter”.

Earlier in the day, Manfred Weber, a fellow-German who leads the European People’s Party grouping in the European Parliament said that “Some of the politicians in London have not understood what leaving the European Union means. It means being alone.”

It is very apparent than many on the Continent still feel very uncomfortable about Brexit. This is not going to make the already complex task which our negotiators are about to begin any easier, but this does not alter the fact that we were right in voting to leave the EU and regain our sovereignty.

Herr Weber’s claim that we will be alone is a very myopic, Eurocentric view of the world. On leaving the EU, the UK will still be a member of the G20, G8, NATO, the Commonwealth, the World Trade Organisation and a host of other international bodies. We will regain the ability to arrange our own trade deals with other countries. Places at our universities will still be in demand worldwide. London will still be a magnet for tourists – and a global financial centre to boot. Hardly a picture of splendid isolation.

It must be conceded that a change of mindset will be needed in both Westminster and Whitehall. Our politicians and civil servants will need to adjust to the hard truth that the buck will soon stop with them and no longer with anyone in Brussels. This is hardly a bad thing, however and is after all, the norm in the 160+ countries that are not members of the EU.

More importantly, however, Steinmeier’s defence of pooled sovereignty is an anachronism. It goes back to the immediate post-war period when politicians and bureaucrats between them were seen as the answer to all the issues facing the world at that time. Seventy years on, politicians and bureaucrats have instead become part of the problem.  Only a handful of anarchists and libertarians believe that mankind could one day manage without any government, but there is a very convincing case to be made that we need a lot less government and such government as we do require needs to be a lot more accountable to us, the voters. The EU’s institutions, notably the unelected Commission, are far more accountable to lobbyists and big multinationals than to the voters of the member states.

To suggest therefore that an organisation with as serious a democratic deficit as the EU is necessary to solve the world’s problems is quite frankly laughable. The EU’s track record in addressing issues in its own back yard, such as the migrant crisis, is hardly impressive and it must bear much of the responsibility for the catastrophe which has engulfed Greece in recent years.

Meanwhile, non-EU Switzerland and Norway seem unpeturbed by their seeming economic impotence  Both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank reckon them among the top 10 wealthiest nations in the world.  Leaving the EU is not going to result in the UK shooting up the rankings as soon as the Brexit deal is signed, sealed and delivered, but it will at least set us up for a longer-term recovery from the long, wasted years of subservience to Brussels.

In short, Herr Steinmeier’s criticism of Brexit voters as “bitter” is complete and utter baloney. There may well be a few bumps on the rocky road to Brexit, but the underlying reasons for wanting to leave this club of failures are sound and sensible. After all, is it really “naive” or “irresponsible” merely to wish to re-join the rest of the world whose nations seem to manage remarkably well without being members of the EU?

 

The Law of the Land and Alien Law – a summary of CIB’s meeting, 15th March

On March 15th, the Campaign for an Independent Britain organised a meeting in the House of Lords to discuss the issue of alien legal systems in the UK.

We would like to thank Lord Pearson of Rannoch for arranging the venue and also our two visiting speakers, Anne Marie Waters of Sharia Watch and Torquil Dick-Erikson of Save British Justice.

Our Chairman, Edward Spalton, opened the meeting, introducing the speakers and the subject in question. What bound together the two subjects of Sharia law  and the European Arrest Warrant was their insistence “on imposing alien law and making it superior to our own law of the land. For some reason, which  I cannot fathom, there are presently and have been for two generations  now, many of our leading fellow countrymen and women who think so little of their own people, land and culture that they are willing to submit it to one or other or both of these projects.

Anne Marie explained that the problem with Sharia Law  was that, because the state does not enforce it and it thus has no legal validity in official UK Law, in reality, for many Muslims, particularly women, the situation is very different. “Most Muslims do not make an active choice to be Muslims, they are born in to their religion.  Their family life, community life, is inextricably bound up in the religion.” Islamic law – i.e., Sharia – is therefore the code by which they are bound and unofficially, in spite of its lack of formal legal status. This is a particular concern when it comes to family law.

In Sharia family law, a wife is worth less than her husband.  She cannot divorce of her volition, even if she subject to violence and abuse.  Her testimony in a family law dispute is worth only half of her husband’s.  This is intended to make it as difficult as possible for women to ‘win’ in any family law dispute.  The reason for this is simply because the Koran deems women to be worth less than men.  Furthermore, in Sharia law, the best interests of the child do not come first – again in defiance of the standards, principles, and spirit of British law.  The best interests of the child do not come first in sharia because Islam deems that children are the property of their fathers, who has sole power over their lives.  Mothers have no input and no rights.” To put it simply. these Sharia courts, for all their lack of official status, are still making decisions which have a huge impact on the lives of women and children in particular.

She concluded “We must stop pretending that there is nothing specific to Sharia that should worry us.  There is. It is a system predicated on male dominance, on violent punishment, on arbitrary whims of clerics, and on complete disregard for the humanity and rights of children.  Sharia is not compatible with Britain; it’s not compatible with our social values, our legal principles, or who we are as a nation.  Its practice should therefore not be permitted.  The fundamental principles of British law should instead be upheld as supreme.”

Torquil began by warning us that it still appears to be the Government’s intention to keep us invovled with the EU’s justice system on Brexit. Britain will try to remain in European Union security organisations and systems such as Europol – the EU’s law enforcement agency – and the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) after Brexit. These are the words of Amber Rudd, the current Home Secretary.

He went on to explain the fundamental differences between UK law and that of the EU. In your humble scribe’s opinion, this was one of the clearest explanations of the incompatibilities of the two systems that he has ever heard.  At the heart of Magna Carta was its commitment to individual freedom – a determination to limit the power of the king and to avoid the concentration of power into too few hands. Almost at the same time, on the Continent, Pope Innocent III was  setting up the Inquisition, which sought to “unify the functions of accusation and judgement, into the same hands, those of the Inquisitor. The function of defender was kept quite separate. With the Inquisition the dice were loaded in favour of the accuser.”

Although ironically it was Napoleon’s armies which finally destroyed the power of the Inquisition in Spain, “Napoleon was a law-giver. His codes underlie many of Europe’s laws to this day. Unfortunately he did not adopt the English system, derived from Magna Carta, which aimed to limit the power of the State over the individual. Instead he adopted and adapted the essential methods of the inquisition. Continental European criminal-law systems are called ‘inquisitorial’ to this day. He adapted the system by re-orienting it, from the service of the Church to the service of the State.”

Of particular interest was Torquil’s  debunking of the myth that Continental law must be OK because all EU member states have signed the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR “does not contemplate what we in Britain would consider a right of Habeas Corpus. All it says, in article 6 is that a prisoner has a right to a public hearing before an impartial tribunal in a ‘reasonable’ time. But nowhere does it define what is ‘reasonable’.”

In the UK, a prisoner must appear in a public court within hours, or at most, a few days (with the exception of certain terrorist offences, but on much of the Continent, “for many EU states, under their Napoleonic-inquisitorial jurisdictions, it is considered ‘reasonable’ to keep a prisoner under lock and key with no public hearing for six months, extensible by three months at a time. These are the terms of the Commission’s Corpus Juris proposal for an embryo single uniform criminal code to cover the whole of Europe, including the British Isles.” Torquil mentioned Andrew Symeou, who spent nearly a year in a Greek prison on trumped-up charges as a result of being served with a European Arrest Warrant.  Torquil went on to ask “why do the European courts need to be able to keep a prisoner in prison for so long before formally charging him? There is a simple reason. In Britain, the Habeas Corpus right to a speedy public hearing after arrest ensures that the investigators have to find some pretty solid EVIDENCE of a prima facie case to answer BEFORE they arrest someone. This is based on Magna Carta’s article 38. It seems to us to be mere common sense.

On the continent, in contrast, they only need a suspicion, based on mere clues or what we would consider to be very flimsy and insufficient evidence, in order to arrest and imprison a person. They can then seek EVIDENCE AFTER they have arrested him. And of course it is quite “reasonable” for them to say that this can take months. This is the official reason. Of course there may also be other reasons, derived from the historic roots of their system in the Inquisition. In the bad old days they used the rack and thumbscrews, but nowadays they may be hoping that the harshness of unpredictably lengthy prison conditions will induce the prisoner to CONFESS.”

He proposed withdrawing from the ECHR as well as from participation in the EAW. We were able to cooperate with police forces within the EU before the EAW came into being and he urged that the UK should withdraw at once from the EAW, and replace it with an arrangement similar to that which prevailed before the EAW was brought in.”

Although criminal law may seem an esoteric issue, given how few of us are likely to find ourselves being charged with an offence, it is actually very important. “Criminal law is the basis of State power, and seizing control of the criminal law is essential if one is to take over an existing State, or to build a new State, as the EU seeks to do.  Why? Because the essential distinguishing feature of any State is the ability to use violent coercion on the bodies of the citizens – legally….Different peoples with different value-systems have different ideas of Right and Wrong, what is Justice and what is Injustice. We see this with crystal clarity when we consider Sharia law. But in any case, the criminal laws are the handle for regulating State power over the individual.  It is therefore in the criminal laws that the safeguards of our FREEDOM are to be found.”

So Brexit will not truly be Brexit unless we are free of the power of an alien legal system. “The two systems cannot co-exist in the same state. One must prevail.” These same comments could equally apply to Sharia Law as well.

The talks were followed by a lively question-and-answer session. 

Edward’s introduction can be downloaded here

Anne Marie’s speech can be  downloaded here

and Torquil’s speech can be downloaded here.

Would Scotland REALLY want to rejoin the EU after Brexit?

Nicola Sturgeon is currently attempting to create the momentum for a second Scottish independence referendum  – alias “Indyref 2”. The 2014 referendum was described at the time as a “once in a generation” but Sturgeon said last Monday that because the UK voted to leave the EU but Scotland did not, there has been a “change in material circumstances” since 2014 that justifies a second vote. She wants to give Scottish voters the option “to follow the U.K. to a hard Brexit — or to become an independent country.”

“Scotland’s future will be decided not just by me, the Scottish government or the (Scottish National Party),” she said. “It will be decided by the people of Scotland. It will be Scotland’s choice. And I trust the people to make that choice.”

Some recent reports claim that the SNP’s plan for an independent Scotland now involve gaining access to the Single Market by rejoining EFTA rather than trying to rejoin the EU. No doubt we will know more after the party’s forthcoming spring conference this weekend, but given the activities of malign individuals like Tony Blair south of the Border,  it is hard to believe that all Scots – and the SNP leadership in particular – have thrown in the towel as far as membership of the EU is concerned.

Perhaps, however, reality is beginning to dawn on at least some pro-remain Scots that rejoining the EU would be on massively disadvantageous terms because the country would not benefit from the opt-outs which successive British Prime Ministers the UK fought for and which the whole UK currently enjoys.

Were Scotland to overcome concerns in Madrid, which is worried about the Catalan separatist movement, as a new state joining the EU, this would be its fate:-

(a) It would have to adopt  the euro currency  – although this can be deferred somewhat.
Furthermore, what currency would a newly independent Scotland use between leaving the UK and joining the EU? Would it use the euro unofficially like ( say) Montenegro?

What is more, to join the Eurozone,  Scotland’s top- heavy public sector would have to be pruned as vigorously as in the “club Med” countries like Greece where many unemployed people no longer have access to the NHS and long-term unemployed households are on income of only 8.40 euros per day

(b) Scotland would not have the derogations which the UK presently enjoys. For instance, VAT would have to be added to food, children’s clothes, books and house sales. The minimum rate would be 5 per cent. But much, much more would be required to make good the deficit left by the withdrawal of subsidies from England

(c) If there were a strong possibility of a yes vote, financial institutions, pension funds, mutual organisations,  charities and other investors with members and clients in England would have a duty of care to protect them from currency risks, possible exchange restrictions and seizure of money from bank accounts (as happened in Cyprus), as an independent government would quickly become financially desperate. This would undermine the position of the considerable Scottish financial,sector.

(d) Scottish energy policy has been based on selling overpriced “renewable” electricity to England and buying cheap, conventionally produced electricity in the other direction when the wind doesn’t blow.
With the discrediting of the global warming myth, Independence would give England an excellent opportunity to discontinue the arrangement.

(e) The unkindest cut of all. There are already excellent English and Welsh whisky brands which could quickly be expanded and much reduce England’s demand for Scotch whisky.

(f) The much smaller area of Scottish territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (Compared with those of the UK as a whole) would be shared among an unchanged number of EU trawlers, barred from English waters by Brexit.

All in all, the prospects for Scotland if it tries to re-join the EU do look bleak.  It is hard to say how widely these negative impacts are known among the Scottish population – or indeed, by Scotland’s politicians. As mentioned above, it is possible that the SNP’s recent talk of looking at EFTA rather than EU membership may be due to their recognition of  harsh reality of these disadvantages.

However, in the event of any attempt to whip up support for re-joining the EU by the SNP or anyone else, we believe the points set out above need to be widely publicised throughout Scotland. For anyone wishing to start the ball rolling, this helpful website gives a list of all Scottish newspapers, great and small.

Ancient Loyalties

Time to declare a personal interest. I’m a historian and earn a living writing history books – check me out on Amazon – advising TV and film production companies and such like. So I love history. And now I’m going to impose on you a rather sideways look at the Brexit decision.

Looking back at the results, it was striking how the five nations of Britain voted.

England vote Leave, Wales voted Leave, Cornwall voted Leave, Scotland voted Remain, Northern Ireland voted Remain.

Now, this plays into one of my pet theories about Britain and British history. It is widely accepted that the various nations of Britain were fixed in the chaotic and violent years of the Dark Ages that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. In AD400 the British Isles were divided into Roman-controlled areas south of Hadrian’s Wall, Pictish and Celtic tribes of varied cultures to the north of the Wall and a culturally united, but politically fragmented Ireland. Come the year 600 and all that had changed. The English, Welsh, Irish, Scots and Cornish were [more or less] where they are today.

How all this came about is a matter of bitter dispute among historians. Written sources for the period are slim, while archaeology can tell us only so much.

I have my own theories, of course. I believe that what had once been Roman Britain remained politically united rather more than has generally been thought. While the English flooded in and grabbed most of the land, leaving the Romano-Celts to inhabit Wales and Cornwall, there remained an overarching political authority. The English usurped what had been the Roman authority over all lands south of Hadrian’s Wall. They gave the office of governor their own title of Bretwalda and monopolised it for themselves. Quite what powers this title carried with it have always been rather obscure, as has the process by which it passed from one monarch to the next, but we know that it had a real power of some kind.

Crucially the title covered not just England, but also Wales and Cornwall. By the more settled times of the High Middle Ages, England had become a single kingdom and the King of England sought to exercise this power of the Welsh. That led to long wars and disputes with the Welsh princes, who sought to protect their own powers and rights. Those disputes ended when Wales was integrated into the English system of local and national government.

The point I seek to make is that culturally and politically England and Wales have a lot more in common with each other than either does with the Scots or the Irish. Those links stretch back centuries into the poorly understood Dark Ages, but they are very much alive today when it came to Brexit.

Photo by The British Library

Aspirations, but little detail

The Government’s eagerly-awaited white paper, “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union” appeared yesterday. It consists of over 70 pages in total, although one or two pages are blank.

It has twelve sections, which are as below:-

1. Providing certainty and clarity – We will provide certainty wherever we can as we approach the negotiations.

2. Taking control of our own laws – We will take control of our own statute book and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK.

3. Strengthening the Union – We will secure a deal that works for the entire UK – for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all parts of England. We remain fully committed to the Belfast Agreement and its successors.

4. Protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area – We will work to deliver a practical solution that allows for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area, whilst protecting the integrity of our immigration system and which protects our strong ties with Ireland.

5. Controlling immigration – We will have control over the number of EU nationals coming to the UK.

6. Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU – We want to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in other Member States, as early as we can.

7. Protecting workers’ rights – We will protect and enhance existing workers’ rights.

8. Ensuring free trade with European markets – We will forge a new strategic partnership with the EU, including a wide reaching, bold and ambitious free trade agreement, and will seek a mutually beneficial new customs agreement with the EU.

9. Securing new trade agreements with other countries – We will forge ambitious free trade relationships across the world.

10. Ensuring the UK remains the best place for science and innovation – We will remain at the vanguard of science and innovation and will seek continued close collaboration with our European partners.

11. Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism – We will continue to work with the EU to preserve European security, to fight terrorism, and to uphold justice across Europe.

12. Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU – We will seek a phased process of implementation, in which both the UK and the EU institutions and the remaining EU Member States prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us.

After reading it through, the abiding impression it creates is that it has identified the key issues we will face in leaving the EU and also sets out in very broad terms what the Government would like a post-Brexit UK to look like. What is missing is the detail, including how we will arrive at the end point.

To take one subject which will be familiar to readers of this website – fishing.  All the White Paper tells us is that “it is in both our interests to reach a mutually beneficial deal that works for the UK and the EU’s fishing communities. Following EU exit, we will want to ensure a sustainable and profitable seafood sector and deliver a cleaner, healthier and more productive marine environment.” There is no detail regarding what is to supersede the Common Fisheries Policy, even though there would be huge problems if it were  repatriated into UK Law.

For instance, Regulation 1380/2013, the most important fisheries regulation, contains numerous mention of “union waters”. On leaving the EU, the waters up to 200 nautical miles from our shoreline (or the median point where we are less than 400 miles from another country’s coasts) will no longer be union waters, so a lot of re-writing would be necessary. Why bother, however, when the CFP and its quota system is so seriously flawed?  We can but hope that by the time negotiations get under way, the Government realises the importance of excluding fisheries legislation from any large-scale repatriation of the EU Acquis into UK law.

The White Paper raises the issue of the EU customs union and our future relationship with it. The Government has been very enthusiastic about wanting to make the most of our freedom to strike our own trade deals but there is very little detail about how it proposes to maintain trade with the EU. “There are a number of options for any new customs arrangement, including a completely new agreement, or for the UK to remain a signatory to some of the elements of the existing arrangements.”

The positive assessment of the UK’s involvement in Ukraine (under Section 11) does not make for happy reading, sadly. Now we are on the way out, it is time to leave the EU to its own empire building and to join President Trump in seeking rapprochement with Russia rather than than continuing foolishly and unnecessarily to antagonise Moscow.

Of course, this white paper has been produced to satisfy demands by MPs to be given some idea about the Government’s Brexit plans. The government has a bit of a tightrope to walk. MPs understandably don’t want to be left in the dark but at the same time, there are good reason for Mrs May and her team keeping their cards close to their chest so as not to give too much away to the people from the EU with whom they must negotiate.

On balance, however, anyone who has been listening to the recent speeches by Mrs May and her Brexit team would have not found much in this document which they did not already know. It defines the important tasks which needs to be addressed and paints a very positive vision of what life will be like once we’re out. How the Government will take us to this point is another matter and we hope more will be revealed soon as it cannot afford to get this wrong.