Mayday, Mayday! Brexit Mayday!

Be not intimidated…nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice. ― John Adams, 1765, British Citizen, Founding Father and 2nd President of The United States of America

It’s over! It’s over, bar the ridiculous charade of ‘tough negotiations’. The thoroughly nasty and vindictive European Union (EU) has won. And gallant, heroic and duped Mrs May and her negotiating team have already lost. We can forget a fair deal on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and a free trade agreement.  And, unlike in normal divorce proceedings, there is no independent arbitrator to ensure something approaching ‘fair play’ where differences are irreconcilable.

In any negotiation the parties have to progress in good faith because each knows things the other cannot know; privileged information that could be used by the unscrupulous to exploit the situation.  Our contract law consequently places obligations on the parties and means of redress through the courts when one party abuses its position.  Unfortunately the EU, so far, appears to be negotiating in bad faith, not telling the full truth about what can and cannot be negotiated, and the UK is buying the deceptions considerably weakening our position; the EU are effectively ‘laying down the law’ and simultaneously getting us ‘over a barrel’.

Ambassador (rtd) Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos (Former Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization) was on the inside of the Article 50 negotiations when it was included it in the Lisbon Treaty. He has revealed that Article 50 was only intended to cover financial arrangements for a Member State leaving the EU. The remaining conditions now being set out by the EU are outside its scope and can only have been included to pressurise us, exact a far heavier price and coerce others into not leaving the EU.  It is one thing freely to negotiate issues that are outside the scope of Article 50 but quite another dishonestly to hold a sword of Damocles over Mrs May’s head that ‘everything must be agreed before anything is agreed’.   Obviously Europhiles on the inside are not going to own up to this subterfuge; they haven’t up to now have they?

Then there is the misinformation about the Single Market, free movement of people, costs of Single Market membership and the jurisdiction of the EU’s European Court of Justice (ECJ) etc. Different arrangements are open to members of EFTA; the European Free Trade Association who are also members of the Single Market, (the European Economic Area (EEA)) but not Member States of the EU and its Customs Union. They can and do negotiate free trade agreements with other countries. Free movement can be unilaterally suspended by any member of EFTA by invoking Article 112 (the Safeguard Provisions) in the EEA Agreement. The UK as a member of EFTA would be able to do the same, if we chose to leave the EU and join this trading association of independent European countries to remain in the EEA.  Also, it costs the EFTA countries little financially to be members of the EEA although Norway does separately contribute towards EU facilities or services used and to development funds.  The ECJ only has jurisdiction over the EU Member States and hence over part of the EEA, but not over EFTA (i.e., non-EU) countries.

There is also increasing evidence that the EU is out to punish us for the temerity of Brexit. Their ‘negotiating position’ is hardening and the language becoming ever more strident.  For example, see Britain needs fighting ‘Plan B’ for trade as EU turns screws on Brexit by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard first published in the Daily Telegraph 26th April 2017. They can also be very obstructionist. For example, see The six Brexit traps that will defeat Theresa May by Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece, published in The Guardian 3rd May 2017. Perhaps worse, the EU knows how to inflict real damage on our economy in the event of us leaving the Single Market (EEA) and becoming a ‘third country’ with or without a trade deal.  On the outside, we would face external tariffs, non-tariff barriers (such as special rules, standards, certifications, approvals and inspections) and a massive expansion of Customs Clearances both here and in the protectionist EU (which they might want us to pay for as well).

What we are seeing is a well-established modus operandi for the EU which can be explained in a few quotes from Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission:

When it becomes serious, you have to lie.

We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.

There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.

Article 50 negotiations as they now appear can’t achieve a reasonable outcome in our interests (we are being misled) and who would actually choose to touch these EU people  – gangsters more like – with the proverbial barge pole?  We need a plan to out-manoeuvre them, a strategy to ensure they cannot hurt us and to avoid any negotiating except where we are the visibly stronger party; money and concessions invariably flow from the weak to the strong.  These are high stakes and if we get it wrong the EU will likely exact a price worse than they’ve inflicted elsewhere, notably upon Greece.

We could ‘weaponize’ our ingenuity, industry and research to redress the balance of negotiating power, for example, by investigating background facts, intelligence gathering and analysis; something akin to the backroom work of Bletchley Park. There are obvious skeletons in the EU cupboard and some that need digging much deeper, such as the sinister origins of the EU and long-standing anti-British sentiments.  The earliest predecessor of the EU (the European Coal and Steel Community) was profoundly anti-British and had an aim to damage our then industrial power. We were saved by the then Prime Minister Clement Attlee from this calamity, only to have later Prime Ministers and British civil servants collude in the EU’s ‘management of our decline’.  Former EU insiders ‘coming clean’ could be goldmines of information.

We could cultivate allies and build alliances with those we can do business with to mutual benefit.  The obvious ones are EFTA, probably by becoming a (temporary) member. The media here and overseas, up till now mainly Europhile could be another ally. Communications to influence public opinion are essential, otherwise the EU’s propaganda arm and fellow travellers will use it against us.

There are other things that can also be done to defend our national interests once it is recognised that the EU’s actions relating to Article 50 are part of a major scam.

England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example. William Pitt the Younger 1805

Conservatives Must Exorcise the Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing

Press release from Fishing for Leave

Fishermen’s organisation Fishing for Leave have questioned the government’s electoral resolve on repatriating Britain’s fishing waters and resources that were so shamefully surrendered by Edward Heath as “expendable” in the rush to join the EEC.

They cite that the government’s continued failure to rescind the London Fisheries Convention 1964 is a tangible example that there is no commitment or resolve in government to take back national control of one of Britain’s greatest national resources.

Fishing for Leave spokesman Alan Hastings said “By failing to serve the 2 years notice it the London Convention requires at the same time as Article 50, EU vessels will still have unfettered access to fish in UK waters between 6 and 12 nautical miles after UK withdrawal from the EU”.

“By continuing to prevaricate on scrapping this Convention the government has squandered the opportunity to take back control of all our fishing waters as per international law and in doing so secure the strongest diplomatic hand of controlling all access”.

“Reclaiming our fishing waters and resources can give more sustainable management and would be worth £6.3 billion and which will rejuvenate coastal communities by creating tens of thousands of jobs”.

“A Conservative government must exorcise the abject betrayal of Britain’s fishing and coastal communities and correct the past injustices inflicted on them as they were sacrificed to the EU by politicians complicit in the EUs agenda”.

“A Conservative government must categorically commit to reclaiming all sovereignty and control over UK waters. To scrapping the London Convention, to not adopting the CFP with the Great Repeal Bill for political convenience and to commit to implementing an entirely new, uniform UK policy that will rejuvenate the industry across the whole UK and end the shameful rules that force fishermen to discard upto 50% of their catch”.

 “All it would take is for Mrs May, Conservative MPs and party to show political will and determination by giving a cast iron manifesto commitment on fishing which can be a beacon of success and one of the “acid tests” for the government on Brexit”.

MIKE HOOKEM

EU Fisheries Committee MEP Mike Hookem joined in the criticism of the governments inaction and commitment on Fishing saying “I am yet to be convinced that Theresa Mays government has any intention of repatriating UK fishing to our sovereignty”.

“Time and again in the EU parliament we see British MEPs voting down amendments that aim to repatriate sovereignty to this country.  The fact is the political establishment are so intertwined with the EU that they cannot see the wood from the trees and understand what is best for Britain”.

“Look at towns Like Grimsby, Lowestoft, Whitby, Fleetwood and any of the other traditional port that have had their livelihoods decimated and their communities destroyed through the political establishment sell out to the CFP”.

“We now have an opportunity to regenerate and reinvest in these fishing communities and make them the thriving hubs of industry once more. All it would take is the political will and determination to rebuild the ports and towns that have suffered at politicians hands in the past”

The 2017 General Election we weren’t expecting

Since becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May has insisted that she wasn’t going to cut and run. Although the Conservatives have consistently held a substantial lead over Labour, she has resisted calls from within her own party to hold a snap general election and has been adamant that her government would run its full five-year term.

Her change of heart this morning therefore came as a bolt out of the blue. This was her statement in full:-

“I have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet, where we agreed that the Government should call a general election, to be held on June 8th.

“I want to explain the reasons for that decision, what will happen next and the choice facing the British people when you come to vote in this election.

“Last summer, after the country voted to leave the European Union, Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership, and since I became Prime Minister the Government has delivered precisely that.

“Despite predictions of immediate financial and economic danger, since the referendum we have seen consumer confidence remain high, record numbers of jobs, and economic growth that has exceeded all expectations.

“We have also delivered on the mandate that we were handed by the referendum result”.

Of course, Mrs May cannot ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament. The Fixed Term Parliaments Act, passed under David Cameron in 2011, requires Parliament to serve a full five year term unless there is either a successful vote of no confidence in the Government or else two-thirds of MPs back an early election. Can Mrs May achieve that majority? With Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron and Nicola Sturgeon all enthusiastic to fight another General election, she stands a reasonable chance. However, assuming that every Tory MP will support their leader, this still requires every SNP and Lib Dem MP to do likewise along with at least 30 Labour MPs. If some MPs abstain and enough Labour MPs are fearful for their seats, achieving this figure may prove a bit challenging.

Presumably Mrs May and her supporters have been taking soundings, for if she fails to gain the necessary support, it would not look good for her, especially as she would then be going into the all-important Brexit negotiations from a weakened position. The only other alternatives for a snap election – calling a vote of no confidence in her own government or seeking to repeal the 2011 act, which would require approval of the House of Lords – do not look very likely.

Assuming that she does secure a majority, from the perspective of the Campaign for an Independent Britain, this will be a very different election from anything in the recent past. Being a cross-party campaign organisation, our focus has been to encourage voters to support candidates supportive of withdrawal from the EU, regardless of their party allegiance. With the vote to leave and the triggering of Article 50 behind us, the dynamics have changed considerably, particularly as many former remain-supporting Tories along with a significant minority of their Labour colleagues have insisted that they will honour last June’s vote and will not be obstructive of Brexit. Our task, therefore, will be to highlight obstructive individuals – either sitting MPs or candidates – while encouraging voters to support any candidate who is committed to the UK securing a good Brexit deal, whatever party they come from.

We can but hope that this election, rather than resurrecting the animosity of the Brexit campaign, will give us a Parliament which will carry out the wishes of the people as expressed last June and work constructively to secure such a successful exit from the EU that by the time the next General Election takes place, it will no longer be an issue for the UK electorate.

Second referendum? Nein Danke!!

It is now almost ten months since the referendum on our membership of the EU. After a long wait, Mrs May has now triggered Article 50 and we are finally about to begin the exit negotiations.

While Brexit is likely to feature prominently in the newspapers and on radio and TV news bulletins in the next two years, how much interest the finer points of the negotiations will be to the majority of the population who are not political “anoraks” is debatable.  The EU has never been popular in this country, but it has only ever set the adrenaline racing for a tiny minority of voters.

Of course, it took centre stage for the first half of last year, but now we have made our decision, it has retreated into the background as an issue for most people. Whichever way they voted, the result has been accepted and life carries on, focusing on areas of greater concern.

There are a few exceptions, it must be admitted. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is doing all she can to stir up resentment to the Brexit vote in order to pursue her aim of a second independence referendum, In some parts of London, disagreements between leave and remain voters have left a legacy of unpleasantness and even in the Somerset village of Norton-sub-Hamdon, home of a former Lib Dem leader, some neighbourly relations are a bit strained.

But this hardly justifies a German politician urging us to hold a second referendum. The proposal from Katarina Barley, the general secretary of the German Socialist Party (SPD), therefore needs to be firmly rejected. She claimed that, “when the referendum was held, nobody really knew what it would be about — not the British people, not even the political class….A lot of people wrongfully thought that Britain could get a deal like Switzerland or Norway without the inconveniences, without accepting the rulings of the European Court of Justice, without free movement of labour.”

This is hardly an accurate summary of the referendum campaign. In reality, the leave campaign gave very little detail about exit strategy – indeed, Dominic Cummings of Vote.Leave decided quite deliberately not to adopt an exit plan. As for the aspiration to end free movement of people and the power of the European Court of Justice, the issue is not so much whether these things will happen but when. Theresa May has been quite specific in stating that Brexit means both of these things. The complexities of the divorce settlement may mean that we cannot distance ourselves from the EU to the degree we would like as quickly as we would like, but we’ll get there in the end.

The leave campaign did have its weaknesses – no one could deny that. On the other hand, the remain campaign, with its cranked-up Project Fear and its reluctance to admit that the EU was a political project designed to build a superstate, was equally flawed.  After such a bruising and mediocre campaign, it is hardly surprising that only 21% of those surveyed in a recent poll by YouGov want a second referendum. If the same pollsters had asked the speakers and activists who had taken part in last year’s campaign, enthusiasm for a re-run would have been even lower.

So Ms Barley’s claim that the mood in the UK is shifting towards a second referendum has little basis in reality, not to mention the prevalent attitude in Brussels being a desire to be rid of us ASAP.  At the end of the day, we voted to remove ourselves from a project designed to emasculate our national political institutions. Forget last year’s debate about the percentage of our laws which originate in Brussels. The reality is much more complicated and as the scale of the Brexit negotiations becomes clear, it will also become increasingly clear exactly how much independence has been surrendered by 44 years of EU membership. We are getting out just in time – and by the time we actually go, there will be few regrets.

Sorry, Douglas, but you are a bit premature

Douglas Carswell resigned from UKIP last month and now sits as an independent MP. On his resignation, which was announced a matter of days after Mrs May triggered Article 50, he said “It’s a case of job done…..we have achieved what we were established to do.”

In other words, he felt that UKIP had served its purpose – a theme to which he returned yesterday during a speech at an event hosted by the Institute for Government:- “I think we’ve done our job, and I think we should award ourselves a medal, or a knighthood, and take pride that we’ve won….if you’ve won a battle or a war you disband and you go home”.

But is Mr Carswell right in saying that the job is done? Winning the referendum last June against all the odds was an amazing achievement and the triggering of Article 50 last month to begin our divorce from the EU was a truly significant milestone for our country, but there are still hard campaigns to be fought in the next two years if Brexit is truly to be Brexit.

Many readers will be aware of the campaign by Fishing for Leave to  see a swift denunciation of the 1964 London Convention and the exclusion of all CFP-related legislation from the “Great Repeal Bill” so that we will regain control of all our waters once we leave the EU. While there have been a few positive signs that the Government is listening, a long, hard battle will need to be fought if we are to secure a Brexit that truly means Brexit for our fishing industry.

An equally fierce battle will need to be fought to extricate the UK from the European Arrest Warrant. Chief Police Officers support continuing UK participation in this odious scheme and they have the backing of the Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Last month, the Campaign for an Independent Britain hosted a meeting where legal expert Torquil Dick-Erikson highlighted the grave flaws in the EAW and mentioned some of the miscarriages of justice which it has engendered. Thankfully, there is a growing awareness of this issue among Leave-supporting Tory MPs and Peers, but it will not be easy to force Ms Rudd to climb down.

A third critical issue is foreign policy. Our friends in Veterans for Britain are seriously concerned about our being far too closely linked to the EU’s military policy even after Brexit.  On independence, our foreign policy will inevitably diverge from that of the EU. There may well be instances when we will wish to work alongside them, but we need to keep our distance from the European Defence Agency if Brexit is truly to mean Brexit.

If that is not enough, the battle is not won when we have taken the UK out of the EU. The EU needs to be taken out of  many UK citizens, especially young people. Those of us who took part in debates in schools and universities were made all too aware of the damaging effect of years of pro-EU propaganda. Of course, some europhilia among our young people is very shallow and superficial, revolving around the ungrounded fear that Brexit will stop them travelling around Europe. Such concerns can be easily dissipated by older people relating their experiences of inter-railing in the 1960s, years before we joined the EU.

For some, however, their love of the EU goes deeper and will require somewhat more intensive de-programming. A re-vamp of our GCSE history syllabus is essential as so few young people have any knowledge of our development as a nation. This, of course, will be mean challenging the far too prevalent self-loathing mentality which likes to talk about racism and slavery and generally to demean our great country, ignoring our many remarkable achievements over the centuries which prove that we have the capacity to manage our own affairs – and indeed, to run our country much better without the EU’s “help”.

Mr Carswell’s comments were directed primarily towards his former party. While this website is not the place to debate whether his assessment of the state of UKIP is correct or not, we can but hope that he and those who agree with him will resist any temptation to put their feet up as far as the battle for independence is concerned. The referendum result and the triggering of Article 50 were indeed causes for celebration, but the battle for independence is not over yet.

A war of attrition is in no one’s interests

We may have triggered Article 50 this week, but the negotiations haven’t begun yet. Rather like those pre-match interviews with boxers who boast of their strength and vow to knock their opponent’s block off, we are still going through the preliminaries. On both sides of Channel, politicians are creating soundbytes rather than giving any concrete details of their negotiating strategy.

This has clearly been the case over here. Mrs May is reputed to be a lady who pays great attention to detail. It is now over nine months since the referendum result and we must hope that the ministers and Civil Servants who will lead the negotiations have been doing their homework. We know that there have been meetings between the UK’s Brexit team and a number of figures from the business world along with representatives of other interest groups such as the fishing industry, but we still know very little apart from the Government’s desire for us to leave the Single Market.  Even here, however, little has been given away. The idea of a transitional deal has been doing the rounds in the media and isn’t being denied by the Government.

This is as far as it goes. Obviously, there is much to be said for keeping one’s powder dry and not revealing our negotiating position in advance of the talks beginning, but the lack of detail has given carte blanche for remainiacs to paint a doomsday scenario.

Meanwhile, in Brussels and Berlin there has been a rather odd mixture of conciliatory language and very tough talking. One blogger has described the utterances from the EU as “models of Teutonic coherence.” The article goes on to say that “one can almost hear the machine-gun rattle of the press officer listing out the points at the journo’s winking recorder. And once they actually realised that the UK really will walk away from a bad deal, the focus of their press manipulation has been pushing the line that our hopes are unrealistic, and that our only option is to take our punishment for the good of the 27. Only it must never be called punishment.”

In other words, it’s pure gamesmanship and the Continental press are happy to play ball. The article features a link to a piece on the on-line English language version of Der Spiegel which is worth quoting in full as an example of the sabre-rattling which is going on:-

Hopes and Delusions from Brexitasia

The EU isn’t setting out to punish Britain for leaving the bloc. But it is almost certain that the ultimate deal will be portrayed as such by Brexiteers. The reason is the completely unrealistic expectations harbored by the British.

The British don’t just live on an island in a geographical sense — it’s also part of their mentality. But when it comes to Brexit these days, that island seems like it’s on a different planet.

Britain’s Brexit secretary David Davis said in January that the United Kingdom wanted to have “the exact same benefits” after its departure as it did before. It is a comment that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t forgotten. If the UK isn’t as well positioned with the EU on trade and customs as it was before Brexit, his party won’t approve the Brexit deal, he told parliament on Wednesday.

If Corbyn means this seriously — his parliamentary group, after all, approved the motion for Brexit — it suggests that he has lost touch with reality. The EU position — backed by the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU member states — has been crystal clear for months: Following Brexit, the UK cannot end up in a better situation than EU members, if only to avoid giving EU-skeptics in other countries a boost.

Theresa May, by contrast, finds herself in a position that could hardly be weaker. In only two years, she must lead the highly complicated negotiations to a successful conclusion — a task which is, to put it mildly, rather ambitious. It’s made even more complicated by the fact that she must fight on multiple fronts: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Brussels, the British economy and domestic British politics. If she doesn’t succeed, a so-called “dirty Brexit” looms, the departure from the EU without a trade deal. Were that to happen, British trade with the EU would then be conducted on the basis of WTO rules. For the EU that would be unpleasant; for the UK it would likely be a catastrophe. The British Treasury has predicted that the country’s gross domestic product could shrink by 7.5 percent in such a scenario and tax shortfalls would amount to 45 billion pounds.

The pro-Brexit press seems unperturbed. “The EU is on the verge of the abyss,” the Daily Telegraph wrote on Wednesday. The growth of populism on the Continent, the strength of the British economy and Europe’s terrorism fears, the paper claims, strengthen the UK’s odds for a good deal. It argued that May needs to “go all in.”

Terrorism Threat

But the British are also afraid of terrorism and are likewise dealing with a rise in populism, as the racist undertones of the Brexit campaign recently proved. Furthermore, the fact that the British economy has not plunged yet is due to a simple truth: Nothing much has changed so far. The UK is still an EU member and it still has access to the common market. Two years from now, however, things will be different.

May knows this too. On Wednesday, she warned “there will be consequences for the UK of leaving the EU.” The country would lose influence over the European economic rules to which British companies would have to adhere in the future. It’s not for nothing that May’s stated goal wasn’t the “exact same benefits” but the “best-possible deal.”

A section of May’s Brexit letter demonstrates the true weakness of her position. If there isn’t a deal at the end of the negotiations, the letter to the EU states, the UK wouldn’t just be reduced to following WTO rules — it would “mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.” On this subject, unlike economic issues, disadvantages would be equal for both sides. The danger of terrorism would grow for the UK just as it would for the EU. The fact that May has issued such a threat seems desperate.

Will Brexit negotiations end with a punishment for Britain? It is an impression that will be difficult to avoid in the UK. The EU was demonized in the country for years, allowing EU-skeptic politicians and media to claim that Brexit would allow the UK to regain its lost greatness. The Brexit deal can only disappoint such expectations. And it seems likely that Brexiteers will seek to portray those shortcomings as an EU effort to punish Britain. Otherwise, after all, they would have to take responsibility themselves.

The seeming rejection by the EU of trade negotiations taking place in parallel with the main divorce settlement is grist to the mill for people like Markus Becker, the author of the piece above. The EU is going to punish us or at least impose such a bad deal that this is what it will look like. Is this the truth, however?

Not according to Vincenzo Scarpetta of  Open Europe, who has seen a draft of the EU Council President Donald Tusk’s Brexit plans. They look “anything but punitive” and  leave “the door….wide open for parallel negotiations, albeit not from the very beginning.” In other words, claims that the final divorce settlement must be agreed before any trade talks can start seem to have little foundation in reality. The argument that EU claims about non-members not enjoying the same benefits as members is facile. As Scarpetta rightly says, “what else could EU27 say?”

Exactly. Damage limitation is the name of the game. The UK cannot be seen to be doing better by being out of the EU as it would encourage anti-EU parties in the other countries to jump on the exit  bandwagon. Furthermore, there is much truth too in Der Spiegel’s argument that crashing out of the EU on WTO rules would be unpleasant for the EU but a catastrophe for the UK.

But this is highly improbable. There will be some agreement – if only an agreement to extend the negotiating period. Especially since the election of President Trump, who is no friend of the EU project,  the EU would not want to be seen as  a punisher of dissent. After all, whatever the truth in the claim that Article 50 was inserted into the Lisbon Treaty but never meant to be used, we have played by the EU’s own rules – taking advantage of what was available to us under a treaty of which we were one of 27 (now 28) signatories. Would the EU wish to align itself with the Inquisition, the Soviet Union or North Korea in treating dissent as a heinous crime for which no restraint need be used when dealing with offenders?

Ultimately, we have made a democratic decision to leave an organisation which was never to the taste of many people in this country. There are good reasons to be grateful we left, as Lee Rotherham pointed out a few days ago.  However, there will inevitably be trade-offs as the price for regaining our freedom. We have some strong cards in the negotiations, notably the expertise of our security services and the possibility of closing our waters to EU vessels if there is no agreement on fisheries. There are also areas of vulnerability. At the end of the day, however, even the recent sabre-rattling over Gibraltar cannot hide the fact that there is so much to be lost by a acrimonious divorce that common sense must prevail on both sides – at least, we hope so.