Ireland may lose badly by obstructive behaviour over the border

This piece, by Ray Bassett, was forwarded to us by the veteran Irish Eurosceptic Anthony Coughlan

Playing the EU’s Game on the Border Will Damage Ireland’s Interests, says former Irish diplomat in Politeia’s new analysis.

Dublin should accept UK border plan and work with Britain to make Brexit a success for both islands

The Irish border has become an obstacle to the Brexit negotiations. All sides want to keep the border ‘soft’ and friction free and preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement. But the EU and Dublin have rejected Britain’s proposals.

In Politeia’s next publication, Brexit and the Border: where Ireland’s True Interests Lie, Ray Bassett considers the border against the background and reality of Ireland’s economic and political interests, and the options for the UK government. A former diplomat, who served as Ireland’s Ambassador to Canada and was also a Good Friday Agreement negotiator, Dr Bassett explains that the Irish Government’s present policy is not in the country’s best interests. It leaves Ireland dangerously exposed if the border problem scuppers an overall EU/UK deal.

The author analyses the different options floated to ‘solve’ the border question. Politically the only possible solution is one based on technology along the lines proposed by the UK. This would be based on a trusted trader programme. Proven models, such as that in Australia, already exist from which some useful features might be adopted.

By contrast the EU’s proposals would endanger the stability of the island. Brussels should abandon its red line that anything on the island of Ireland must “maintain the integrity of the Union’s (i.e. the EU’s) Legal Order”. Bassett questions the wisdom of the Irish Government in aligning itself with Brussels at a time when the EU itself is undergoing changes, none of which are in Ireland’s interests. Moreover, a number of national elections across the EU have made clear a rising alienation of voters from the centralising policies of the present EU.

Irish leaders should change course and work to resolve the border dispute rapidly and towards a comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. Given the historic, ethnic, cultural and economic links between Ireland and Britain, it is strongly in their country’s interests to do so. Ireland needs a successful Brexit.

The author concludes by proposing the Irish government should:

 *   Make clear both to London and Brussels that the Border must not be used as a weapon to thwart Brexit.
 *   Enter into immediate and practical bilateral discussions with London to resolve the border question.
 *   Work with the British government and the political parties in Northern Ireland to avoid any undue hardening of cross-border arrangements on the island of Ireland.
 *   Work with the British government to avoid any new barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
 *   Seek to join EFTA and leave the EU. EFTA membership would facilitate continued trade with the EU and allow a free trade with the from outside the Customs Union

Commenting on the legal framework, Professor David Collins explains that legally Bassett’s proposals would work well to Ireland’s interests. Liam Halligan explains why economically, Ireland cannot afford to play the EU’s game over the border, but should accept that Ireland’s economic interests demand that it should work with Britain to develop and put into effect the technological solution.

The paper was launched at a special meeting in House of Commons Committee on Thursday 17th May, with the speakers including the author, Ray Bassett, David Collins, Professor of International Economic Law, City University, and Liam Halligan, co-author of Clean Brexit with Gerard Lyons and Economics Columnist at The Sunday Telegraph.

THE  AUTHOR


Dr Ray Bassett has been a senior diplomat at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and has served as the country’s Ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas 2010-2016. Other diplomatic postings include Copenhagen, Canberra, Belfast (twice), London and Ottawa. He was involved in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations as part of the Irish Government Talks Team and participated throughout the discussions, including the final session at Castle Buildings in Stormont.


RIP Sir Richard Body

This tribute first appeared on Brexit Central and is reproduced with permission.

The death has been announced at the age of 90 of Sir Richard Body, Conservative MP for Billericay between 1955 and 1959 and then Holland with Boston (later Boston and Skegness) between 1966 and 2001. He was a long-serving Co-President of the Campaign for an Independent Britain and in 1994 he famously resigned the Conservative whip in solidarity with eight fellow Tory MPs who had the whip suspended after abstaining on a Commons vote on the European Communities (Finance) Bill, which would increase the UK’s contribution to the EU. He is remembered here by Dr Lee Rotherham.

Sir Richard Body was a thoughtful, courteous, courageous and engaging parliamentary veteran who played a long and significant role in the Eurosceptic movement. He also had a thoroughly disarming manner. After spotting a vacant spot on the European battlefield, he would identify a strategic hill and predict its significance; then, after a pause, he would lean forward: “Now,” he would say with a very perceptible twinkle in his eye, “I do think there’s something we could be doing here.” And having identified a minuscule budget to achieve the task (Euroscepticism in those days was a shoestring affair), a surprise flanking manoeuvre would take place that no one else had considered, the critical importance of which might only be fully revealed several years later.

Sir Richard was an independently-minded Quaker, and what used to be called an old school shire Tory. His unhurried pre-24 hour news cycle style could be problematic to media monsters: on being invited to Downing Street to follow the other whipless rebels back into the party, the Whips’ Office jumped the gun and released a statement that took the action as granted. But Sir Richard had resigned on principle, and in defence of the interests of his constituents. The presumption was dangerous and for some hours the Downing Street press office had to embarrassingly hold a wobbly line of their own making while Sir Richard reflected on whether the commitment made by the Prime Minister over fisheries policy was sufficiently robust.

By that stage he was an extremely experienced parliamentarian. I recall once being taken aback in the late 1990s, when discussing certain developments: “This,” he observed, “reminds me of the mood in the House at the time of Suez.” As such anecdotes (some lately happily captured by the Parliament archivists) remind us, he had by then been on the green benches long enough almost to be in the running to be Father of the House. However, a necessary stint in the private sector (MPs were not well remunerated in those days) generated a break in that service, and he was to observe that he considered himself extraordinarily lucky to have been given a second opportunity. His was, incidentally, the first seat to be announced by live television coverage by a field camera unit. The result came through unexpectedly early and the candidate had retired for a nap in the interim: an unknown force pulled him out of slumber and encouraged him to dash off into the main hall – thus narrowly avoiding the embarrassment of being literally caught napping on camera…

His four decades of parliamentary service did not see him rise to ministerial rank, though he did serve as Chairman of the Agriculture Select Committee. He was a long-standing campaigner on a number of avant-garde environmental and rural issues, amongst them animal welfare, the overuse of antibiotics, and aggressive farm gangmasters. It was not just EU issues that led to an overlap of interests with the Goldsmith ‘green Eurosceptics’.

The most intriguing aspect of his career was perhaps the fact that he started out as a very, very early pro-European. Visitors to his constituency home would even be shown the ‘Ted Heath chair’ on which the future Prime Minister had sat during a visit. The reason why there weren’t more pieces of such nomenclatured furniture, however, lay in a visit that Sir Richard made to Brussels. Over lunch, his interlocutors, believing they were speaking with a convinced integrationist, felt that they could confide fully in their visitor on the scale of their ambition, caveating it with an “Of course, we cannot reveal this in public, because the public would oppose it.”

The deep deceit involved and anti-democratic nature of the project drove him into opposing it. As the programme became clearer over the years, it also revealed itself to be far from the model of accountable, devolved government that he himself supported. For Sir Richard, if federalism were an ideal for any state, it required the balances and parity of scale involved in the Swiss model; political unification on a continental scale, by contrast, meant abandoning the lessons learned from the Renaissance, where humanity had leapt through competition between small states each proud of their achievements and cityscapes, and where a free market urban competitiveness drove innovation and social progress. Strikingly, his Euroscepticism was unusually internationalist in outlook. His links with Scandinavian Eurosceptics was particularly important, and fostered valuable wider co-operation between campaigners.

Sir Richard’s long campaign saw him play a central leadership role during the 1975 EEC referendum. Amongst other actions, it is also worth recalling his commissioning Professor Patrick Minford’s early cost-benefit analysis of EU membership. Quite aside from the significance of this audit in its own right (acknowledged indeed in Margaret Thatcher’s Statecraft), it perspicaciously included a further commentary by a leading Japanese economist. On top of that it also added a brief introduction by several prominent businessmen. Sir Richard predicted the need to bring business leaders openly onto the Eurosceptic campaign trail, and signatories indeed subsequently set up Business for Sterling and, in turn, Business for Britain.

His biggest battle was over fishing, and standing up for the livelihoods of his constituents in the port of Boston. When eight Conservative colleagues voted against the Government over an increase in the EU budget, and John Major removed their whip, Body voluntarily followed them: the money, after all, meant upgrading the Spanish fishing fleet while paying for British boats to be scrapped. Sir Richard supported Save Britain’s Fish at a time when party policy on fisheries was, to say the least, shallow. The extent to which it is less so today is in part down to his support of a cause that had shamefully for so long been considered politically on the periphery and indeed expendable; he, for example, commissioned a legal review by a QC that confirmed beyond doubt the UK’s default sovereign standing over the 200-mile limit. The fact that Conservatives Against a Federal Europe (CAFE) included fisheries as a commitment was effectively down to him – indeed, the move by the Whipless Eight to take over and reinvigorate CAFE in 1996 and turn it into the party’s largest grassroots organisation was at his recommendation.

His early support for Margaret Thatcher as a potential leadership candidate (notwithstanding the fact that she was apparently at the outset quite a shaky speaker!) has been recorded. Less well recalled was his engagement with key proto-Thatcherite think-tanks in the 1970s. In due course he set up his own Centre for European Studies and long co-operated with the late John Coleman in such projects as New European Publications and the New European journal (still going today, and certainly not to be confused with the anti-Brexit rag of the same name). In his own writings, he published books that, amongst other things, supported English devolution, predicted the development of tablets and scanned payments technologies and set out a loose style of European arrangement (Europe of Many Circles) that might still in future years inform debate about a post-EU Europe. He achieved all of this despite a much-hampered eyesight, that when encountered at his desk lent him the air of a jeweller hard engaged on his task.

Coming soon after the passing of Sir Teddy Taylor, the Eurosceptic movement has been hit by the sad loss of another great Brexit pathfinder and pioneer. My thoughts are with his family.

Best be leaving now

The European Commission has launched a public consultation to gather views of the broader public on setting up a European Labour Authority and the introduction of a European Social Security Number.

The European Labour Authority should ensure that EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in a fair, simple and effective way. Concretely, building on existing structures, the Authority would support national administrations, businesses, and mobile workers by strengthening cooperation at EU level on matters such as cross-border mobility and social security coordination. It would also improve access to information for public authorities and mobile workers and enhance transparency regarding their rights and obligations.

The European Social Security Number (ESSN) aims at simplifying and modernising citizens’ interaction with administrations in a range of policy areas. An EU Social Security Number would facilitate the identification of persons across borders for the purposes of social security coordination and allow the quick and accurate verification of their social security insurance status. It would facilitate administrative procedures for citizens by optimising the use of digital tools”.

Both initiatives were announced by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address. Legislative proposals for both initiatives are announced in the European Commission’s Work Programme for 2018 and planned to be tabled by spring 2018.

There are two ways to look at this. This could be viewed as the EU steaming ahead to do all that which it could not do with the UK as a member, much like PESCO. The other way to look at it is that this was always the direction of travel. UK membership only really governs the pace of integration and a “public consultation” means they are going to do it regardless of what anyone thinks.

Either way, this is not the domain of a mere trade bloc. This is an instrument of an emerging supreme government, to which the UK would otherwise be subordinate. It is the foundation of Juncker’s “Social Europe” meaning that social and welfare policy will gradually drift toward Brussels and far out of the reach of democracy. Of course, this would follow that much vaunted Brussels subsidiarity principle. You are free to have any have any policy you like, just so long as it stays within the parameters defined by the Commission and the ECJ.

And this is the thing with the EU. Once consent is established for the basic foundation, the ossification process begins to the point where you no longer have the power, reform is impossible and like trade and agriculture, it simply drops out of public discourse. Why debate that which cannot be influenced? This is how we drift from democracy to technocracy – and subsequently stagnation and disaffection. That is why I would vote to leave every single time.

What to tell your grandchildren

The depths to which the remainiacs are descending is simply staggering. A recent article in The Times to which one of our supporters drew our attention shines the spotlight on a murky group fronted by, among others, the Labour peer Lord Adonis. It will be targeting young people, urging them to tell their grandparents that if they care about their grandchildren, they should reconsider their support for leaving the EU. In other words, they are trying to ferment inter-generational conflict to further their miserable hopes of stopping Brexit.

This “Ring your granny” strategy has a very dubious past. It was apparently used  to build support for same-sex marriage in Ireland.  One of the other promoters is a crackpot by the name of Madeleina Kay, who managed to get herself thrown out of  a Brussels press conference for wearing a superwoman costume! One report claims that her blog features pictures of her posing with pro-EU pond life such as Bob Geldof, Eddie Izzard, and Nick Clegg. Enough said.

Let us be clear:- there are people who either supported Brexit or else who have accepted the result of last year’s referendum who are genuinely concerned about the lack of progress with the negotiations so far. They are worried that a no-deal scenario would be far more damaging than we are being led to believe. The leading figures of this new campaign, however, have a totally different viewpoint. They want us to stay in the EU. They were convinced that Article 50 would never be triggered; when it was, they hoped that  the government would get cold feet and back out. Now reality has dawned that we really are leaving, nothing, it seems, will dissuade them from using every means, fair or foul, to frustrate the democratic result of last year’s referendum.

So, Grannies and Grandpas of this world, what should you do if you receive a phone call from a worried teenage grandchild? Here are a few suggestions:-

  1. Tell them that they should be grateful that the boil has finally been lanced and that over 40 years of our unhappy relationship with Brussels will finally come to an end, meaning that this problem won’t be bequeathed to their generation to sort out.
  2. Tell them that they will be the main beneficiaries. Yes, it may be tough for a year to two before things settle down, but within a generation, free to rebalance our trade with the growing economies of Asia and the Commonwealth rather than the sclerotic EU and free to set our own taxes and tariffs,  we will become more prosperous than if we had stayed in.
  3. Tell them that you can remember the days when we were an independent sovereign country and not only did we manage very well, it was actually better to be ruled by democratically-elected people from our own country than by unelected bureaucrats  in Brussels. Suggest that they stop being myopic and look beyond Europe to Australasia, America and Asia where successful nation states are the norm – and are flourishing. The Brexit vote, in other words, was a vote to re-join normality.
  4. Tell them of our deep love from freedom; how Magna Carta and our Common Law legal system have given us safeguards which are absent even now on much of the continent where Napoleonic inquisitorial legal systems reign supreme. Point out that we would have lost all this before they reached middle age if we had remained in the EU.
  5. Tell them that they will still be able to travel and study abroad. No one is suggesting putting up some sort of drawbridge nor is there any reason why we can’t stay part of the Erasmus scheme.
  6. Tell them that by being able to restrict immigration, it will make life a bit easier for them (albeit only slightly) by removing a little pressure from the housing market and thus helping them to buy their own home.
  7. Tell them to ignore the miserable self-flagellants who are always talking our country down. Remind them of the many events and people from our long history of which we can be proud. Maybe some of them have only been taught tosh in history classes, so a bit of education may be needed here, but what of our great military heroes like Drake, Blake, Nelson and Wellington? Inventors like James Watt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, John Logie Baird and Tim Berners-Lee? Tell them of Wilberforce and the campaign to eradicate slavery; of Churchill and how we stood alone against Hitler in 1940; of David Livingstone, the great missionary and explorer. The list is endless.
  8. Finally, tell them that you are not going to be around for ever and that one day their generation will have to take over. Warn them that if they continue swallowing all this nonsense from remainiacs, they won’t be fit to run a whelk stall, let alone the country!

At least someone in Europe likes us!

The UK has never been popular in the corridors of power in Brussels, but we do at least have a few friends on the continent.

Readers may like to hear from one of these people – Hans-Olaf Henkel, an MEP from the German LKR party, the Liberal & Conservative Reformers, who split from the AfD party in 2015. In this short video clip, he makes the amazing statement that  “the last country with any common sense is going to leave the European Union.”

Cameron’s legacy of confusion

David Cameron didn’t expect to lose last year’s referendum and banned the Civil Service from devising any exit strategy. That became an excuse for a nine month gestation period by Mrs. May which delivered only repetitions of “Brexit means Brexit”. The official leave campaign, vote.leave, refused to devise an exit strategy either. The only serious research on offer before the referendum which charted a comprehensive exit strategy was Flexcit, which recommended the EEA/EFTA route as a transitional arrangement. Since the referendum, only one further independent, detailed attempt has been made to tackle the issues involved – the Bruges Group’s What will it look like? which claimed that another exit route was possible within the time limit, while recognising a number of potential obstacles.

A recent post by Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service painted a very upbeat picture of the work being done by the newly-created Department for Exiting the EU but he didn’t go into any detail about exit strategy. This department has far more staff available than the Bruges Group so it is rather worrying that we still know so little.

As our Chairman, Edward Spalton, has pointed out, when we joined the EEC in 1973, businesses were being briefed over a year in advance about the forthcoming changes.  Recently, a number of businessmen  who  met with government ministers, including the Brexit secretary David Davis, were very concerned about the lack of  detail they had been given. Similar reservations have come from groups ranging from the chemical manufacturers and the Federation of Small Business – the latter including a number of long-standing Brexit supporters.

Mr Davis unquestionably feels very confident about the UK’s prospects outside the EU. In the long term he could well be right. To be free of control by Brussels and able to manage our own affairs will be an inestimable benefit – but only if we are able to chart a sensible course through the choppy waters of what are shaping up to be far more complex negotiations than many Brexiteers ever imagined.

The stakes could not be higher for Mrs May and the Conservative Party.  There will be no backing out of Brexit.  Even though only a minority of MPs campaigned for leave, the majority of her party’s activists are staunch leavers and would not countenance any sort of betrayal. The unexpectedly strong showing by Labour in last month’s General Election only adds to the pressure. Any failure to deliver a competent Brexit as good as guarantees Mr Corbyn the keys to No. 10 in 2022 – or perhaps earlier.

Leaving  the EU  is the biggest challenge Mrs May and her team will face. We do not know what is going on behind the scenes but  the government  needs to have sufficient known policies in view to reassure the public, to avoid disrupting  economic expectations  and to deny traction to the campaign to rejoin the EU. Advice to all industries concerning the effects of government plans needs to be given in plenty of time for them to adjust.

To put it another way, our EU membership has been like a malignant, cancerous tumour. Untreated, it would have led to certain death. That’s why we were right to vote to leave. However, the complex task of cutting it out should  be done by a team of top surgeons who not only know what they are doing but can communicate their knowledge and confidence to the people. At the moment, even though there seems to be a growing agreement that some sort of transitional deal is necessary, no details at all have emerged.

Membership of the Single Market, even as an interim arrangement, has been ruled out and significantly, it was the Chancellor Philip Hammond, one of the “doves” in government, who stated this explicitly on the Andrew Marr show last Sunday. So what will it include? Catherine McGuinness, the de facto leader of the City of London’s municipal body, says Britain and the EU must agree the outlines of any transition before the end of the year or as many as 15,000 banking jobs could leave London.

The sense of lack of concentration was not helped by a picture of Michel Barnier and his EU team turning up  for the second round of Brexit talks with  great thick folders of notes while David Davis and his associates had none.

So will some positive signal emerge to calm worried businesses  – and indeed, worried Brexit supporters? If so, the sooner the better, as the opponents of Brexit are gleefully cashing in on the  lack of direction,  communicated by default.   Most people just want to see Brexit done and dusted with reasonable assurance of that steadily performing  economy on which all our livelihoods depend.