Brexit roundup – short-term problems; longer-term potential?

With Parliament  still in the Easter recess, things have been a bit quieter than usual on the Brexit front. However, the well-supported fishing protests last Sunday suggest that we are going to be entering a  period in which the Government will face ever-mounting pressure to try a different approach to securing some sort of workable short-term post Brexit arrangement.

The long term is not looking promising either. Given how readily Mrs May and David Davis rolled over, what is the likelihood of their resisting demands from Michel Barnier that the UK sign a “non-regression” clause in any long-term agreement, which would force the UK not to undercut EU standards on tax, health and the environment to poach investments. He has also insisted that access for EU fishing vessels must be included in any long-term deal. The “environment” issue is a red herring as many EU environmental laws owe their existence to UK influence, but why should we not determine who fishes in our waters? Why should we be denied the freedom to cut tax? The state in the UK is horrifically bloated, as in most other Western nations.  It needs to be shrunk drastically and were this to be undertaken, taxes would inevitably undercut those in many EU member states.

Going back to the transitional arrangements, a report from the House of Commons Brexit Committee has confirmed that if a “deep and special partnership” with the EU proved unsuccessful, EEA/Efta membership was an alternative that could be implemented quickly. Although the Committee is looking at EEA/Efta as a long-term solution (which it isn’t)  it would be a better alternative than the current proposals for the short term, which poses the question as to why Mrs May and her team are pursuing such a damaging alternative. Maybe they still believe that it’s worth enduring 21 months of humiliation because  there will be a marvellous deal at the end – a hope which is unlikely to be fulfilled. Barnier’s comments make it clear that he wants to deny us as much long-term freedom as possible.

A number of Commonwealth countries have been discussing a future trade relationship with the EU. The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that it would be “fairly easy” to negotiate “an improved approach on trade between Canada and the UK” after Brexit. The same article claimed that India is becoming less enthusiastic, no doubt due to  the recent statement by Theresa May that she still intended to reduce annual net UK migration to less than 100,000, meaning that India’s desire for more of its citizens to come over here as part of a new trade deal is unlikely to be fulfilled. Australia is also keen to start negotiations with the UK on trade, but pointed out that  if we stayed in the EU’s customs union after Brexit, we wold become “irrelevant”.

Meanwhile, disgruntled remoaners are still seeking to over turn Brexit by demanding a second referendum.  For all her failings in other areas of Brexit, at least Mrs May is standing firm on this. “Regardless of whether they backed Leave or Remain, most people are tired of hearing the same old divisive arguments from the referendum campaign, and just want us to get on with the task of making Brexit a success. And they’re right to think that. The people of this country voted to leave the EU and, as Prime Minister, it’s my job to make that happen.” she said in a recent speech to mark one year until Brexit day.

Mrs May is most definitely right in claiming that most people have had enough of Brexit controversy. Claims that some 44% of voters want a second referendum do not tally with real-life experience.  Given that the poll was conducted by a pro-remain group, Best for Britain,  a healthy degree of scepticism is justified. Mrs May has the support of Jeremy Corbyn in opposing a second referendum and it is doubtful whether those activists on both sides of the argument who spoke in debate after debate, criss-crossing the country and having to suspend anything resembling a normal life for three months would want to go through it again.

The clamour is coming from those who wouldn’t have to do the donkey work. The latest addition to the ranks of these good-for nothings is David Miliband, who called Brexit “the humiliation of Britain.”  Well, Mrs May does seem to be trying to do this at the moment, but a decent Brexit would be the absolute opposite – a chance to stand tall as a sovereign nation once again. there’s nothing humiliating about this.  One after another, the fears stoked up by remoaners are being debunked. The UK economy has performed well since the vote and only today, Andreas Dombret, Member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank, stated that despite attempts to lure parts of the finance industry to Paris or Frankfurt, London would remain Europe’s financial hub after Brexit.  A mass exodus from the City was always a concern during the referendum campaign, but such fears are unfounded.

In many ways, a healthy debate on how we leave  – i.e., the relative merits of the current transitional proposal versus EEA/Efta as a holding position will take the wind out of the remoaners’ sails and would cut their media exposure in favour of more important issues. However, one cannot overstate the importance of winning this debate. Brexit must mean Brexit (to quote Mrs May). Surrendering to the EU’s demands for a transitional deal would prevent us fully achieving the separation for which we voted in June 2016. This must not happen.

A Nation Once Again!

By Alan Smith. This article is used with full permission of the author.

Now that Parliament has agreed that the Government may negotiate the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, discussion on the subject is concentrating on the degrees of hardness that Brexit should take. I think we should step back from the detail and define the essence of Brexit, for which I offer the following, in the language of the Book of Common Prayer: “The Queen in Parliament has the chief power in the United Kingdom and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction.”

Should the solution agreed with the EU leave the UK under the jurisdiction of any European court or under rules that give the EU the power to decide unilaterally the terms of future transactions between us, then the government will have violated the referendum decision. Any future agreement between the UK and the EU or its constituent states should be on the basis of two, or more, sovereign states freely agreeing one or more joint actions. The UK would then be free to negotiate treaties with other states throughout the world, taking care to ensure that we protect our essential industries against hostile trade policies.

The withdrawal of the UK from the jurisdiction of the various European  courts is necessary but not sufficient for our freedom. In my opinion it is also necessary to abolish our own Supreme Court and transfer its powers back to the House of Lords, reinstating the post of Lord Chancellor to the powers it held before Tony Blair’s ill-fated attempt to abolish it. That ws one of hte lighter moments in political life this century when Mr Blair announced the abolition of the post of Lord Chancellor  and was then advised that it could not be done because certain actions had to be performed by the holder of that post. He quickly backtracked and now we have the post of “Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice”. I do not wish to belittle any of the holders of this post but the position is listed seventh in the  list of members of the Cabinet and may be held by politicians with ambitions to hold higher office. This contrasts with the previous post of Lord Chancellor held by a politician with no further political ambitions, who was a lawyer respected by the profession and who was therefore in a position to speak truth to power.

Leaving the EU does not mean that the UK is leaving Europe: in the Middle Ages, England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland were part of Christendom without being part of the Holy Roman Empire. There is no need  for us to have bad relations with those states that remain within the EU, but that depends, in part, on those states realizing that their interests are not necessarily the same as those of the great wen of Brussels. In particular, there is no reason for us not to continue to maintain armed forces on the continent of Europe for the defence of these states and ourselves. However, should Brussels seek to impose severe financial penalties on the UK for daring ot leave the EU it may be necessary for us to reappraise this position. In addition, should the EU proceed with the project of a “European Army” in such a way that it makes cooperation with NATO impossible, that too would raise the question of continued British forces on the continent as well as those of the USA.

The principal objection to the EU is that it is a project ploughing on towards a “United States of Europe” regardless of circumstances or the wishes of its member states. Europe is not eighteenth century America; the original thirteen states of the USA spoke the same language and joined together in a successful revolt against the same mother country. What worked there and then may not work here and now.

Was there an alternative to the EU and would it still be possible? Certainly there was significant support in the UK for the Gaullist idea of l’Europe des patries, a “Europe of nations.”  This would operate like the Commonwealth, with the nations of Europe cooperating on a variety of projects with a minimal secretariat to coordinate activities, unlike the vast army employed in Brussels. Whatever happens to Europe, we should maintain the idea of l’Europe des patries as a hope for the future.

The chaotic appearance of the present negotiations over Brexit may tempt us traditionalists to remain where we are. the drawback to this view is that “where we are” is on a moving train and only the illuminati know the destination.

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 Australian High Commissioner backs Brexit

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

Australia is backing Brexit Britain all the way – ALEXANDER DOWNER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade – various snippets

(With thanks to various correspondents for this information)

There is no doubt that any future trading arrangement for an independent UK must include full access to the EU’s single market. For our exporters, it is too critical a market to jeopardise. However, looking to the longer term, it will decline in importance – indeed, the decline has already begun.  Not that  long ago, we were told that “47% of our trade is with the EU.” It has now gone down to 43%, but the figure is actually lower because of the Rotterdam/Antwerp figures (goods that go via these ports to the rest of the world but are counted as exports to the EU).  From a Select Committee  report repeated on BBC parliament on 4th May, it would appear that if the Rotterdam/Antwerp percentage is deducted, our exports to the EU come down to  a figure nearer to 35%.

There have also been some recent developments with the proposed  EU/US trade agreement, the Transatlanic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It has run into serious trouble, following the leaking of some of the key documents of the secret text by Greenpeace Netherlands.  Furthermore, France’s President Hollande has indicated that he would be likely to block the deal.  It may be too early to write an obituary for TTIP, but the likelihood of it ever coming into force now seems pretty remote.  It has consistently faced opposition from the political left, but as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points out, the threat it poses to Parliamentary democracy is an issue which transcends the left/right divide.  TTIP, however, is not dead quite yet and we will continue to supply copies of our leaflet to anyone wishing to order some.

Looking ahead, the UK’s trade with Commonwealth Countries looks likely to be a major growth area as the EU declines in importance. Alan Wheatley has written an assessment which can be read here.

Photo by Martin Pettitt

EU Migration controls – UK Action Plan, including Brexit

The current unsustainable migration to the EU and the UK offers an opportunity to review policies and trial new ones, for win-win outcomes, using off-the-shelf solutions. The illegal immigration of Syrian refugees and north African and also Eastern and southern Europe migrations to the UK and northern Europe. People wish prosperity for all people everywhere, with no problem with prosperous tourists visiting from everywhere, people coming to study, maybe 1 year working visas with learning of new skills. However mass migration isn’t working for low income people, nor lowering crime and having people who pick and choose which laws to abide by are not ideal; it is better to reward people who do play by the immigration rules.

Solutions could include the following

  • Brexit, for EU immigration controls
  • OCV (Out of Country Voting) organised by the IOM (international Organisation of Migration) for Syrian refugees
  • Trade not Aid for immigration from the rest of the world
  • FTAs, Free Trade Agreements, also a consequence of Brexit
  1. Brexit, upgrading to a self-governing democracy

With the EU referendum coming up, Britain could lead by example, including for Commonwealth countries, by upgrading to a self-governing democracy. The current EU agreement, has led Britain to have a cumulative trade deficit of over £400bn, net contributions of over £130bn, not a win-win agreement. Also it is difficult to say to totalitarian régimes and badly run countries ‘ be like us’, since unfortunately the answer could be ‘ we are in many respects like you as a member of the EU’: virtual one party state, voting is meaningless – as people elected cannot make, amend or repeal many laws, media censorship of pro-democracy voices, media/banking and business cartels lobby for laws that help them and reduce competition, accounts would be unlikely to be signed off by independent auditors, as power is centralised – so is wealth, rich getting richer – the poor getting poorer, large tribes bullying smaller tribes, with the EAW people can be arrested on flimsy evidence.

Any wonder, as the centre of gravity of the world has been moved away from self-governing democracies to one-party state ideology, that other countries have followed suit?

The EU referendum offers an opportunity for the British people to shift the centre of gravity to self-governing democracies, with the UK upgrading to democracy. Options include:

  • EFTA/Single Market with Opt outs for immigration control and buying property efta.int
  • FTA (Free Trade Agreement) similar to what Canada has been negotiating for more than 6 years

Leading by example in the world, is a good help.

  1. OCV (Out of Country Voting) organised by the IOM (international Organisation of Migration) for Syrian refugees

The Syrian people stood up for having a say in how their country is being run, with a desire for democratic self-government – the Syrian regime disagreed and with violence, has tried to run the country, so leading to refugees. As the refugees have moved out of control of the government, to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and also inside Syria, an opportunity has arisen for voter registration and starting the democratic process.

An off-the-shelf solution using Out of Country Voting (OCV), organised by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), is fully trained to organise voter registration and voting – as they have done for many refugee groups, including Afghanistan and Iraq, with high voter turnout.

IOM link: https://www.iom.int/jahia/webdav/shared/shared/mainsite/activities/mepmm/op_support/esu_ocv_080107.pdf

Voter registration and elections can be organised easily, in 10 weeks, in some cases. What they need is:

  • Which locations – e.g. Lebanon. Jordan, Turkey, inside Syria, already known
  • Approximate Number of people, already available
  • Who will be on the ballot paper, already different groups

It costs around US$4 per person to organise, so even with 5 million refugees, it is US$20 million, much less than currently being spent on refugees in camps. Elections could be held every 6 months, as more refugees arrive, giving more legitimacy. Referendums could be held on what kind of system of government they might start with. As the new government takes form and legitimacy, it helps people in old regime in looking for a new future –  and once, one thing changes, other things can change.

The UK, and other countries, could offer current refugees 3 to 6 month training opportunities in the areas of: running a democracy, military training and business skills. Also with selected few coming to European countries for a short while for training. So helping building up the future leaders and processes in the country for a safe and prosperous population.

  1. Trade not Aid, for immigration from the rest of the world

The unsustainable immigration from all parts of the world to the UK and northern Europe, is not win-win, and is not solving the root causes of the problems. Here is another opportunity for changes in policy.

With the EU referendum, the UK could vote for self-government and run it’s own immigration policy. This could include:

  • New Eastern Europeans getting a 1 year working visa, after which they return, or stay longer if a points systems shows their skills are in demand
  • Other new EU citizens can come and work, unless their country unemployment rate is over 7%, in which case they get a 1 year working visa, or stay longer if a points system shows their skills are in demand
  • Or the UK unemployment rate is over 7%, in which case any new EU citizen can only get a 1 year visa, unless a points system shows their skills are in demand, for staying longer.

The rest of the world includes low income countries, which is taking longer for them to develop good government and prosperity for most of the population. What to do? What new ideas could help?

Looking at decolonialisation and which countries have prospered more than others, could offer a clue. Looking at:

Singapore – which split away from Malaysia, has become a small country and prosperous with fast rates of growth in incomes

Hong Kong/China – Hong Kong was a colony for longer, with a Governor appointed by Britain, around 40% of the legislature voted by the population, around 60% appointed by Britain, stability, free trade, honest government, and prosperous with fast rates of growth in incomes. Skills learnt used to start businesses in China and accelerate growth and prosperity for millions and millions.

In Africa, since the Second World War, over US$500 billion of aid has been given, with little to show for it. Aid is not the solution, in fact some charities say it is a cause of the problems, as it helps corrupt people stay in power, and put off reforms. It could have helped if decolonialsation had taken longer, i.e. developing leaders professionally, e.g. starting with local elections, then regional, then national, starting with a higher voting age e.g. 50+, a year later elections for 40+, a year later elections 30+ etc, with regular ongoing training. We are where we are – what lessons can we learn going forward?

What are fast track options that are realistic?

  • Re-colonisation: no way, no interest
  • Smaller countries: allow countries with multiple languages, to have referendums to become smaller self-governing countries. Some people say that Africa is full of EU-type countries, that are held back by being lumped together in artificial countries
  • Free trade zones: help with setting up free ports, to help with foreign investment and growth, with trade. This option still relies on the local government, who are open to corruption, so may have partial success http://www.britannica.com/topic/free-trade-zone
  • New micro-colonies, similar to HK, 50 to 99 year leases: organising referendums in coastal areas for areas to become a temporary colony of the UK again, similar legislature set up as HK had, encourage Foreign Direct Investment, integrity, develop supply chains, fast growth, using expat UK labour and also expat labour from host country. Only with referendum approval. Likely opposition from populations, and also business cartels and corrupt politicians, so maybe not much interest, though highest chance of success for growth. This option could help create jobs, slow the brain-drain of skilled people leaving and create wealth.
  1. FTAs, Free Trade Agreements, also a consequence of Brexit
  • FTAs: Free Trade Agreements can be negotiated by the UK, once free from the EU, so helping accelerate growth. Also selected 1 year working visas for countries, for people to learn skills and government integrity – instead of aid money.

These are some ideas, which are off-the-shelf, proven and are about prosperity for the many, with democracy – and win-wins for people in different countries. A good starting point is the UK upgrading to democracy with the EU referendum, with a ‘No thank you to the EU’ and ‘Yes please to self-government’ – and shifting the centre of gravity in the world to democracy and prosperity.

 

Photo by Rex Pe