Security – partnership but not participation

Mrs May’s speech on security cooperation last Saturday was given in Munich, famous for the meeting between Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler in 1938 where an agreement was signed which Mr Chamberlain, on his return to the UK, would lead to “peace in our time”.

His hopes were sadly shaken a year later. Mrs May did not come away with any agreement, She was not expecting to. Instead, she went to Munich to deliver instead a speech which, like that by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, earlier in the week, was good on mood music and aspiration but not at all satisfactory when it comes to detail.

Michel Barnier had stated that upon Brexit, we will no longer be part of Europol or the European Defence Agency. He did not mention the European Arrest Warrant, but it is not unreasonable to assume that we would be excluded from this too. At this point, virtually everyone who voted for Brexit would be giving three loud cheers. Mrs May, in her speech, however, seemed to be saying what a disaster this would be. “Let’s be clear about what would happen if the means of this cooperation were abolished. Extradition under the European Arrest Warrant would cease. Extradition outside the European Arrest Warrant can cost four times as much and take three times as long. It would mean an end to the significant exchange of data and engagement through Europol.”

Fine, for as far as the EAW is concerned, as we have pointed out many times on this website, its convenience is outweighed by its serious flaws – flaws which have caused great grief to a number of UK citizens,  For example, Edmond Arapi was subject to an Italian EAW in 2004, being convicted in absentia of a murder in Genoa, even though he had never visited Genoa in his life and was working in a café in Staffordshire on the day of the murder. Andrew Symeou, a UK citizen, was extradited to Greece, denied bail and incarcerated for 11 months on charges of “fatal bodily harm” thanks to the signature of a Greek magistrate that no UK judge could overturn despite the evidence against him being obtained under duress. Mr Symeou published an account of his ordeal in a book called Extradited. He pointed out that unless, like him, you suffer from a miscarriage of justice, you are unlikely to appreciate just how flawed the EAW is.

Then, although we may be ejected from Europol, we would still be members of Interpol. If the EU is keen to cooperate with us on matters relating to criminal justice, which it would be foolish not to do, there are other models available which would enable us to maintain our independence.

Mrs May was right to highlight the need for close security cooperation between the UK and the EU after Brexit but we should be seeking to distance ourselves from the EU’s confrontational stance towards Russia. As Peter Hitchens put is, “Russia is no more of a threat to the UK than the Klingons”

Unfortunately, Mrs May has not freed herself from the widespread misapprehension that today’s Russia is merely the former Soviet Union under another name. She referred to “Russia’s hostile actions.” The reality is that blame for the current hostility between Russia and the EU lies as much, if not more, with Brussels than with Moscow. True, NATO must shoulder some of the blame for rapidly extending its reach to the boundaries of Belorus and Russia, but until 2009, it appeared that Russia was not that worried and might even have been considering joining NATO itself. It was the EU’s meddling in Ukraine, working behind the scenes to oust the pro-Russian but democratically elected Viktor Yanukovich, which has been the principal factor behind the deterioration in relationships between Russia and the West in recent years. Free from any vested interest in seeing Ukraine join an organisation which we have just voted to leave, we have the opportunity to re-set our own relationship with Russia rather than having to toe the EU’s expansionist, provocative line. It is surely wrong to seek to maintain enmity with a nation with whom we share a common European culture when it is possible to be friends.

Mrs May proposed that an new UK-EU treaty should be signed covering cooperation in defence and security issues. Will the EU play ball? Without a separate deal, it will take up to three years after Brexit for Britain – as a “third country” – to receive EU approval for data to be freely exchanged, so says the Independent. It will not be us who will be the biggest losers if the EU sticks rigidly to its rules about “third countries”, but then, if it is prepared to make an exception for security issues, this then poses the question, why not for trade?

All in all, the impression given by Mrs May’s speech is that she fails to see that in these issues, she has the whip hand and can use it to ensure that we achieve a full and complete break with the EU, replacing  participation in its agencies with a partnership which can still keep Europe secure. We just hope that as the negotiations proceed, in this area as well as in other key Brexit issues, her MPs will continue to give her a few gentle prods to ensure we do indeed achieve a proper Brexit in these key areas.

Photo by EU2017EE

Mrs May – trying to face both ways

Like the Roman god Janus, Our Prime Minister, it seems, is trying to face both ways at once. On the one hand, she has been kicking out against the unacceptable terms which the EU  has set for any transitional agreement while on the other, she seems keen to capitulate on important areas such as criminal justice.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator recently stated that agreement on a Brexit transition was “not a given” and with good reason. Theresa May, having read the EU’s terms has fought back, insisting that we must have greater freedom than the EU wants to allow us after Brexit.  She apparently intends to oppose the EU’s terms for citizen’s rights and any thought of us being a passive recipient of EU law but with no say in its formulation. The terms are so harsh, as we have stated, that it would have been unacceptable for Mrs May to have rolled over. Already there is much backbench disquiet over the EU’s proposals. Hopefully all MPs will have read the document produced by the European Commission dated 7th February and in particular, the chilling words in the first paragraph of Page 5:- “For the purposes of the Treaties, during the transition period, the parliament of the United Kingdom shall not be considered to be a national parliament.

Of course, Mrs May presides over a split cabinet. Our friends in Fishing for Leave recently commented on the struggles which Michael Gove has faced merely for wanting the UK to take control of its fishing policy after Brexit. That such a battle even needed to be fought is a cause for concern.

Recalcitrant cabinet members cannot, however, take the blame for Mrs May’s proposed speech in Munich next Saturday where she will give a speech including a  declaration that the UK will continue to participate in the European Arrest Warrant as well as retaining its Europol membership.  Mind you, like much of Mrs May’s Brexit strategy, this may well amount to wishful thinking as it’s not up to us whether we remain participants in these two schemes. Last November, Michel Barnier said that we would be ejected from Europol as it was only open to EU member states. Our ejection was the “logical consequence of the sovereign choice made by the British.” Unlike our team. M. Barnier is not known for changing his stance on key issues, so Mrs May’s speech next Saturday may turn out to be  empty rhetoric.

Indeed, we hope it is so for otherwise, she will face yet more fully-deserved criticism from her MPs. Jacob Rees-Mogg, first off the mark as usual, has reiterated his long-standing opposition to any further UK involvement with this flawed scheme. Regular visitors to this website will be in no doubt about the Campaign for an Indepndent Britain’s opposition to any ongoing participation in the EAW, Europol or the EU Gendarmerie – and we will continue to campaign on this issue if we are not pre-empted by M. Barnier rendering our efforts unnecessary. We fail to understand why Mrs May, Amber Rudd or anyone else wants to keep us locked into our current unsatisfactory relationship with the deeply flawed inquisitorial criminal justice systems of most EU member states.

On a different note, readers will be familiar with our reporting of the pathetic behaviour of the remoaners. It  seems that a small minority of them have touched a new low. At least six major backers of the Leave campaign have received identical death threats. The wording is quite chilling:- “You have stoked the fires of Brexit and led us to this moment. You can no longer be tolerated. We are coming for you. We are going to kill you.” The group sending these letters calls itself “the Real 48 per cent” and has also targeted Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom.

We would be the first to point out that the vast majority of remain voters, including most of those who sincerely believe that we should remain in the EU, would not remotely condone this sort of intimidation. Indeed, this shadowy group’s title is misleading in the extreme. They only speak for a minute fraction of the 48% of voters who supported remain.  The reality is that most voters on both sides of the debate actually care very little about Brexit any more.  As one writer put it, most people just wish that, as an issue, it would just go away.

So indeed would we, but not until we have achieved full independence – and this includes freedom from the EAW and Europol, full control over who fishes in our Exclusive Economic Zone and a relationship with the EU which is far looser and completely free of the subservience of the proposed transitional agreement.

The European Arrest Warrant – an expert’s opinion

We have frequently emphasized the importance of ending our participation in the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) if Brexit is truly to mean Brexit.

Jonathan Fisher QC produced this comprehensive summary of  the EAW in 2014, when Parliament was debating whether to opt back in to 35 criminal justice measures contained with in the Lisbon Treaty after obtaining an opt-out four years earlier.

As readers will know, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, led the ultimately successful campaign for us to opt in. However, Brexit provides us with welcome opportunity to reconsider this ill-advised decision.

The issue may be taken out of our hands as the EU has already suggested that we may not be able to be part of Europol on Brexit and our exclusion may stretch to include the EAW  as well.

We cannot, however, take this for granted so it is in our interest to continue to campaign against the EAW and this means informing ourselves as best we can about this iniquitous scheme. Mr Fisher’s document is a very useful resource in this regard. In particular, it has pointed out how it conflicts with our historic liberties under Common Law. For instance, “the EAW does not sit happily with the fundamental principles which underpin Habeas Corpus.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu pointed out on the BBC “Today” programme” on 16th February 2006, Habeas Corpus is such an incredible part of freedom”  Unshackling ourselves from the EU will therefore be compromised if the freedom-threatening European Arrest Warrant is allowed further to menace UK citizens on independence. 

A Brexit that will work for nobody

“Brexit means Brexit,” Theresa May famously said on a number of occasions last year, “And I intend it to work for everybody.”  With the half-way point between the referendum vote and Brexit day looming next month, current pronouncements from the Government suggest that on the contrary, we could end up with a Brexit that works for no one.

Our fishermen have good reason to be worried. Unless the Fisheries Regulation 1380/2013 is exempted from the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – and there is no sign that this is the Government’s plan – we will end up leaving the Common Fisheries Policy only to revert to what is in effect a shadow CFP, including all the access arrangements which would continue to give away our nation’s resource to the EU. Last week, when asked about fisheries, the Prime Minister said,

“When we leave the European Union, we will be leaving the common fisheries policy. As part of the agreement that we need to enter into for the implementation period, obviously that and other issues will be part of that agreement.”.

While this “implementation period” may exist only in Mrs May’s imagination, she should instead have given an unequivocal statement that upon Brexit, we will not only immediately take full control of our Exclusive Economic Zone, but will not be running it on a quota basis.

At least as far as fisheries is concerned, there is hope that ultimately it will be Michael Gove who determines post-Brexit policy. He has shown himself sympathetic to the plight of our fishermen and his mention of John Ashworth in person during a fringe meeting at the Tory Party Conference is a recognition that the fishing community is running a well-organised campaign that not going to take no for an answer.

Another area of concern is the reluctance of this government to disentangle ourselves from the EU’s military machine. Our friends in Veterans for Britain  were understandably critical of the Government’s recent  “future partnership” paper on defence, which would limit our independence. They also do not want to see is tied in to PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) a key factor in the EU’s military ambitions to create a defence union. It appears from an earlier briefing put out by VfB that many MPs are still in the dark about the very limited military autonomy with which government ministers plan to allow us. This is unacceptable. As an independent country, our political objectives will inevitably diverge from those of the EU. We will no longer be interested in its empire building in the Balkans or among the former soviet republics. Our defence policy must be disentangled from that of the EU before we leave. If Mrs May is planning a reshuffle, as is widely being rumoured, the appointment of a genuine Brexiteer to  replace the most unsatisfactory Micharl Fallon as Defence Secretary would be a very good move.

We also need to make a clean break with the EU on criminal justice matters.  Torquil Dick-Erikson has raised the issue of the European Arrest Warrant on this website before. We agree with him that it is totally unacceptable for the Government to keep us as a signatory to the EAW and to be a member of Europol. More than that, Torquil has pointed out that the Government has also declared its willingness to allow “special intervention units” from the EU to set foot on British soil, and under a smokescreen of “ensuring security.”

In these three areas – fishing, defence and criminal justice, Brexit must be as “hard” as possible and the Government’s shortcomings will be highlighted over and over again on this website until there is a change of heart. This is not the Brexit we voted for.  As last year’s Vote.Leave slogan said so graphically, it was all about “taking back control”. If our fishing grounds are shared with the EU, our defence is bound up with that of the EU and EU judges still have the power to haul us off to any one of 27 member countries on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, we are not in control at all.

What is more, these issues must not be swept under the carpet while all the media focus being on trade talks – or rather, the lack of trade talks. Thankfully, as far as trade is concerned, a number of senior figures from industry, supported by a small but growing number of MPs are expressing their concern that the “No deal is better than a bad deal” mantra is unrealistic and dangerous. Leaving the EU without a deal would be a calamity for our economy, even though one recent opinion poll suggested that as many as 74% of voters would prefer this to a supposed “bad deal”. Do they realise that planes would be unable to fly? That the M20 in Kent would be turned into a lorry park overnight?

Of course, it is possible that the Government is engaging in brinkmanship to try to twist the EU’s arm and get it to start trade talks before the three contentious issues of the Irish border, the “divorce bill” and the rights of EU citizens have been agreed, but it is a high-risk strategy and one that looks unlikely to succeed. It is based on a long-standing failure to perceive that the EU is first and foremost a political project, not a trading bloc.

This mistaken perception of the EU’s nature suggests that the transitional arrangement mentioned recently by Mrs May (where we would be able to trade seamlessly with the EU after Brexit in return for being subject to most of the EU’s rules and policed by the European Court of Justice) is mercifully a non-starter.  It is an unsatisfactory pick-and-mix deal which violates the EU’s political integrity while being an extremely bad arrangement for the UK. It remains a mystery why the EEA/EFTA option is still being ruled out of court by all senior government figures when something far worse is being publicly advocated instead.

While no sane person would disagree with the statement by David Davis that Brexit is “the most complex peacetime operation in our history”, it is now nearly 14 months since the referendum vote and we do not yet have any indication that the Government has come up with a strategy which will deliver a satisfactory break with the EU.  Thanks to David Cameron’s ban on allowing the Civil Service to work on any Brexit plan before the  referendum, the Government and Whitehall have found themselves on a sharp learning curve, but some campaigners, such as John Ashworth have been active for 20 years or more and have considerable knowledge their specialist subjects. Why are their recommendations not being adopted? Why, after all this time, is the government still seemingly confused about the difference between the Customs Union and customs clearance agreements? Why has the defence integration continued since the Brexit vote without any consultation with the military, who actually understand the issues?

It does not help when anyone who dares to stick their heads above the parapet and suggest that we are heading for a disaster is labelled a “traitor” – as was the case with Philip Hammond last week. Of course, Mr Hammond supported remain during the referendum and some ardent Brexiteers refuse to believe that anyone who did not campaign for Brexit can possibly be genuinely committed to making it happen, in spite of our own soundings which suggested that most MPs, whatever side they took in the referendum campaign, have accepted the result and will not seek to be obstructive over Brexit. More worryingly, a veteran leave supporter like Christopher Booker, whose pro-Brexit credentials are impeccable, has been tarred with the same brush for expressing concern about the direction of Brexit talks. What is the point in saying things are looking good when there is every evidence that they are not?

There are two very big worries which force concerned Brexiteers like Mr Booker – and indeed, your author – to stick to their guns. The first is that a calamitous Brexit would be grist to the mill of the hard-core remainiacs who have never accepted the result of last year’s referendum. A spike in unemployment and inflation coupled with possible food shortages would lead to calls for us to start negotiations to re-join the EU, even though we would lose our opt-outs on the €uro and Schengen along with the Fontainebleau rebate won for us by Mrs Thatcher. This would be a disaster.

Secondly, it would lead to unprecedented political upheaval. Less than a year ago, some Conservatives were convinced not just that Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable but that the Labour Party was in its death throes. Last June’s election was a rude awakening for the Tories, proving their optimism to be very wide of the mark. The mood at the Party conference was apparently very sombre indeed.

There is good reason for this, as today’s young people in particular are far more likely to support Labour than the Tories, suggesting that far from Corbyn being unelectable, he is likely to become Prime Minister in 2022, bringing with him a team of MPs who are in the main, even more reluctant Brexiteers than the Tories. The best way  – indeed, probably the only way – of avoiding this is for the Tories to deliver a successful Brexit. Analysis of voter intentions suggest that the most popular reason why voters opted for the Conservatives last June was a conviction that they would deliver on Brexit. To betray the voters’ trust  would not just hand over the keys of No. 10 Downing Street to Jeremy Corbyn in 2022; it would produce the biggest crisis in the Conservative Party since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.

As  Anthony Scholefield, a CIB Committee member, pointed out in his 2011 critique of Cameronism, “Too ‘nice’ to be Tories – how the modernisers have damaged the Conservative party“,  attempts by the Tory leadership since 2005 to reach out to urban touchy-feely politically correct types have served rather to alienate many traditional supporters. As I argued a few years ago, there are plenty of people who genuinely want to vote for what Mrs May famously called a “nasty” party. I was wrong in predicting that Cameron wouldn’t win the 2015 election, but he only won it because he was forced to give in to the mounting pressure within his party to hold a referendum on our membership of the EU. It was the EU issue which also saved Mrs May’s bacon two years later. Given that a good few Tory voters (and indeed activists) still remain most uncomfortable about this move to the supposed centre ground since Cameron became leader, I believe that nothing else can save the Conservatives from calamity in 2022 except a smooth, well-managed and complete Brexit that will enable our businesses to keep trading while at the same time revitalising our fishing industry and freeing us from the clutches of the EU’s military and the EAW.

To put it another way, the Tories have a long list of EU-related sins for which they need to repent collectively, going back to the deceit of Edward Heath in the 1970s. This is their one and only opportunity to make atonement. They created the mess; it is poetic justice that they are being saddled with the task of getting us out of it. If they succeed, the country can move on after over 40 years in our unhappy relationship with Brussels and the party need never again “bang on about Europe”.  If they fail, our country may well end up marking the centenary of the resignation in 1922 of David Lloyd George, the last ever Liberal Prime Minister,  with the resignation of the last ever Conservative Premier. It really is as serious as that

 

Is David Davis going to set us free from the EAW?

It is very good to see that David Davis, by raising the point about the supremacy of the ECJ’s jurisdiction over the EAW, has taken a first step to breaking us free from the shackles of the continental inquisitorial justice system, so alien from ours. I am hoping that he might now take a second step, viz, as follows:

In my speech on Alien Legal Systems, at the CIB event in the House of Lords on March 15th this year, I mentioned David Davis. Here is an extract from that speech, with my personal challenge to him which he might now answer, and indeed perhaps he will answer it:

 “For us in Britain, the preliminary public hearing in open court,  where the prisoner is formally charged, must take place within hours, or at the most a few days, after his arrest and detention.

Some years ago there was an attempt to extend this, in serious terrorist cases, to three months, then reduced to six weeks. An MP called David Davis fought a noble battle of principle against this – he resigned his seat and stood again for Parliament on this very point – Habeas Corpus. He won and was returned to his seat. In the end, Parliament fixed a maximum limit of 28 days of detention without charge, and only in exceptional cases of terrorism. This is what we in Britain consider to be “reasonable”.

But 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. This is what is may be faced by anyone in Britain who is targeted by a European Arrest Warrant. And on a long list of crimes, not just terrorist cases.

Now is the David Davis who resigned his seat to stop the six weeks’  detention bill on no evidence, the same David Davis now in charge of the government’s Brexit department? If so, does he share Ms Rudd’s wish to keep us subject to, not six weeks, but six months and, in the case of Andrew Symeou, nearly a whole year’s detention with no public hearing? If he opposes it, will he please say so openly?

This is no marginal matter. As I have shown, whoever controls criminal justice, controls the police and prisons, and thus holds the  ace of trumps in the struggle for power over a country. And that is precisely what Brexit is really about – who shall hold power in this land? Shall it be the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels? Or shall it be the people of Britain?

So we see that the European Convention is a very thin blanket,  designed to cover systems with Habeas Corpus as well as those without. It can only work if the woolly ambiguity of its use of words like “reasonable” [in article 6, referring to a prisoner’s right to a public hearing within a “reasonable time”] remains unchallenged.”

[For your ease of reference, the whole speech is here (7 pages)]

Where do your candidates stand? (1) Civil Liberties

QUESTIONS EVERY CANDIDATE SHOULD ANSWER

Whatever the party manifestos may say, the finer points of a future Brexit settlement are by no means done and dusted, regardless of the makeup of the next government.

The Campaign for an Independent Britain will be producing a few questionnaires for you to mail to all your prospective Parliamentary candidates. The will address issues where so far, what we have heard from Mrs May’s Government has not been particularly encouraging. We want to raise the profile of these issues and make it clear that we will not accept a half-baked Brexit.

Our first downloadable questionnaire covers civil liberties, particularly the European arrest Warrant. If you would like to know more about this subject, Torquil Dick-Erikson’s speech at a CIB meeting last March will provide you with the main points of concern.

Our questionnaire can be downloaded here. Please feel free to print off as many copies as you like