The divorce Bill to the electorate

This letter, written by CIB Committee member Michael McGough, appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 22nd November 2017.

SIR – I hope that the Prime Minister and her team will be able to justify any “divorce bill” paid to the EU.

Sums must not be plucked from the air, but fully justified and audited. Most of the information upon which to calculate this payment is readily available. Our share of EU assets must be fully accounted for at our exit.

This is not an auction, but an orderly departure. We will pay what is due, but no more.

Michael McGough

An Irish version of Tony Blair?

This letter, which originally appeared in the Southern Star, a local newspaper covering the western part of Co. Cork in Ireland, was spotted by our Chairman, who considered it to be well worth reproducing.

SIR – John Bruton, former Taoiseach, appears to see himself as the Irish version of Tony Blair, telling everyone in Britain they ‘must’ stay inside the EU, regardless of the democratic vote which told John and Tony that Britain is leaving. What part of this democratic expression do they not understand?

Bruton says that the UK ‘needs another six years to reconsider voting again to stay’ within the EU shambles. Oh really?

Why would this happen, exactly, when the facts point to continuing austerity and unemployment, which for a decade has been the policies for all of us, by Brussels, Berlin and Paris?

Voting for a better way of life by the powerful population of Britain was the most sensible route to take when the very national laws of each member State in the EU is under the process of being usurped or changed by that dictatorial bloc.

In Ireland we are still blind to this, even though by us passing some EU referendums and being made to change others after we were naughty, we cannot now even hold a referendum to leave the EU. This was a clause in one of those decrees we signed up to. Where is the freedom of nations in such a regulation?

We now begin to learn that this little republic has no power or even the tiniest say in Britain’s negotiations with the EU. We do not count in all of this … and why should we?

John Bruton and his likes are just blustering has-beens who are never listened to, no matter how much they get paid to waffle on and on.

Britain has won all of their vital battles and saved Europe when it was called upon, twice in the 20th century. This is a world power which will not be pushed around by Irish-EU yabber-jabberers, or the supposed heavy-hitters in EU headquarters. Britain will be progressing long after the European Union tyranny is long gone.

The latest news from Westminister shows that pulling away from listening to all of the EU threats and demands is a real decision that may not be so far away.

Is this suitable to Mr Bruton, even when it is none of his business?

Just be quiet, sir. The British believe in the decision of the ballot box.

Robert Sullivan,

Bantry.

Photo by Horasis

The deal that will (hopefully) keep Brexit on track

The Democratic Unionist Party has recently signed a deal with Theresa May’s Conservatives. Unlike 2010, we will not have a coalition government but rather, a government relying on a “confidence and supply agreement” whereby the DUP will support the Tories in certain key areas. In this instance, these include “all motions of confidence, the Queen’s speech, the budget, finance bills, money bills, supply and appropriation legislation and estimates”  plus. of course, Brexit.

The Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party between them have 328 MPs  out of 650. This, in theory, gives them a slender majority if all Tory MPs behave. The margin for dissent is increased slightly by the likely absence of the seven MPs from Sinn Féin, who historically have never taken their seats at Westminster.

The full agreement can be downloaded here. As far as Brexit is concerned, the key passage is on Page 1:-

In line with the parties’ shared priorities for negotiating a successful exit from the European Union and protecting the country in the light of recent terrorist attacks, the DUP also agrees to support the government on legislation pertaining to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union; and legislation pertaining to national security. 

Defence issues – concerns to put to candidates

We have produced questionnaires on the subjects of fisheries and civil liberties which were available for anyone wanting to raise issues with their candidates during the General Election campaign. Although we will not be producing a similar questionnaire on defence issues, there are a number of area of concern, which have been highlighted by Veterans for Britain. These include:-

  • Fears that the UK, on Brexit will still be giving away some of its defence decision-making to the European Union.
  • Fears that the UK may concede any control of its defence policy to the EU to win favour as part of the Brexit negotiations.
  • A concern that the European Commission, despite Brexit, may try to engage directly with UK defence manufacturers to build a common EU defence industry
  • A concern that upon independence, the UK may remain part of an EU Defence Single Market, under the auspices of the EU Defence Fund.
  • A determination that on Brexit, the UK will not be part of a common EU military command structure
Our attention has recently been drawn to an article by David Banks of Veterans for Britain which is well worth reading in full. Mr Banks quotes disturbing evidence that EU-UK military co-operation has actually stepped up since the Brexit vote. With our foreign policy naturally diverging from that of the EU once we leave, this is extremely worrying as the policy being pursued by Michael Fallon seems to be a running down of the UK’s defence autonomy.
With the Conservatives’ lead in the polls dipping, Mrs May could do worse than to give us a clear indication that “Brexit means Brexit” in defence as well as in other areas. We at CIB are receiving all too many comments from people concerned that a Conservative victory means Brexit betrayed. Some reassurance at this critical time would not go amiss.

Photo by 7th Army Training Command

A project management view of Brexit

There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glorySir Francis Drake, 1587

As Mrs May’s intrepid Brexit negotiating team set fair for Brussels, carrying with them the hopes and fears of our realm, are they mindful of the six stages of many major projects? These are often written as:

  1. Enthusiasm,
  2. Disillusionment,
  3. Panic and hysteria,
  4. Hunt for the guilty,
  5. Punishment of the innocent, and
  6. Reward for the uninvolved.

Undoubtedly within their midst must be a project manager (or perhaps a project management team) well experienced in delivering complex projects for difficult customers on short timescales to wide-ranging specified requirements and within tight budgets.  He (or she or perhaps, they) will have his/her/their work cut out.

Brexit, especially the route the government has, for now, chosen) is a complex process requiring a multitude of different strands, including other associated and critical projects, to be pulled together. Worse, much is actually outside our direct control, involving activities ‘over there’ in the European Commission, European Parliament, and government departments or ministries within the 27 remaining Member States.  And even these will probably be receiving input from European Union (EU) agencies and external organisations (such as trade or commerce organisations) as well.  Herding the contents of a sizeable African game park or engineering a trip to Mars would probably be simpler and more predictable than project managing this lot.

Brexit, then, needs great project and process management. Unfortunately these are things we traditionally don’t do that well, relying instead on muddling through, a process of centralised micromanagement by a ‘great leader’ and minds being concentrated at the last moment. And our governments usually talk down the difficulties (and costs) involved in any major project, until bitten really hard by the facts on the ground. Think of the Millennium Dome, the NHS and HMRC Information Technology projects or the Nimrod AEW3 airborne early warning (surveillance) project?  To make matters worse, we often go for ‘re-inventing the wheel’  – and then find that it doesn’t work at the first attempt anyway.

Rather than try to project manage Brexit in its current form with all the complexity, unknowns and risks involved, much can be done to make the task easier and, therefore, the end result more likely to meet or even exceed expectations. Here is a helpful checklist:-

  • be realistic about what can or cannot be achieved  in a given timescale
  • take out as much of the complexity as possible and get control of as much of the overall project (including the EU’s contribution) as possible
  • find adequate, experienced, competent resources rather than ending up surrounded by sycophantic Yes men (or women) or Yes Minster (Sir Humphrey Appleby) obstructionists.
  • plan and programme before rushing in
  • monitor and predict the problem areas/activities well in advance and then proactively solve them
  • adapt and respond quickly when the unexpected occurs – as it surely will,
  • identify and attenuate undesirable/unwanted consequences (collateral damage)
  • avoid fudges or letting incomplete or wrong work carry on (as they will come back to bite you later)
  • use proven standardised methods, products and solutions, wherever practicable
  • to communicate and listen to the messenger rather than shooting him or her when the message is unpalatable
  • watch out for the subtle confidence tricks such as nonsensical excuses, playing politics and ‘moving the goalposts’
  • watch out for members of the team changing sides through regular interaction with the other (EU) side (assuming they are actually on our side to begin with)
  • keep good, traceable, up to date records from the very beginning.

This is pretty basic and obvious. There are plenty of standard techniques, textbooks and management tools around to help with project management. If the basics are not right, the more complex aspects become expensively ineffective.

Brexit involves negotiation which is widely assumed to require compromises such as meeting half way or quid pro quo. This can obviously set precedents that again come back later to bite hard. From a project management perspective, firm commitments and precise statements of the current status of the proceedings are more likely to lead to the desired outcomes – as far as our country’s interests are concerned – being achieved. This is also called driving a hard bargain or “statecraft”.  Perhaps Mrs May already has an experienced mentor for this important art in Donald J Trump, who has had a many years’ experience in dealing with truculent contractors and insular officialdom, having been taught some basic skills, on the job, by his redoubtable father.

All major projects eventually come to an end, usually in a far more imprecise and messy way than they started. And then the project team disbands, its members moving onto other things.  Presumably the same will happen years hence for the Department for Exiting the EU? – or perhaps not?  There can’t be many instances when civil servants have intentionally worked themselves out of a job in two years?

The final observation in this brief look at the project management of Brexit comes from Sir Francis Drake’s motto – Sic Parvis Magna, translated literally, as: “Thus great things from small things (come).”

When they say “Divisive”…

One of the words that has been bandied around a lot lately has been “divisive”.

We have all heard it, usually on the BBC from unreconciled Remain votes or from grumpy Hilary Clinton supporters. We are supposed to believe that there was something uniquely “divisive” about the decision to leave the European Union. Or, in the American context, something unbelievably “divisive” about the decision to put Donald Trump into the White House.

Note that the cry went up from the losers in both these nationwide votes long before anything had actually happened. Brexit was “divisive” before Article 50 has been triggered, let alone Britain actually leaving the EU. Similarly, Trump’s victory was “divisive” before he even got to the White House, never mind actually did anything with his new found power.

So, I’ve been thinking about these outcries from the defeated. Is Brexit really divisive? No, I don’t think that it is. So why all the talk about Britain becoming more divided?

I think that there are two things going on here.

First, it might be that some of the losers are seeking to undermine the Brexit victory (and probably the Trump victory too). By painting the decision as utterly disastrous even before it has taken effect, those who have not accepted the decision hope that they can overturn it at some point in the future.

But there is something else. Look at the people who are talking about Brexit being divisive. These are almost without exception the gilded élite. Those who went to good schools, effortlessly slipped into well paid jobs and now live in nice houses in nice neighbourhoods with nice social circles. They tend support a multi-cultural society, support decarbonisation to fight climate change and back the whole host of soft-left doctrines.

By and large these people have had their way in politics and in society all their lives. They like multi-culturalism and large scale immigration and bask in the advantages it brings, without having to put up with their children being elbowed out of the local school due to high demand for places. They can smugly impose decarbonisation policies secure in the knowledge that they can afford the higher fuel bills that they bring.

And now, just for once, they have not got their way. The great unwashed have risen up and rejected the European Union – another of the unquestioned shibboleths of the soft-left.

How awful. How shocking. How “divisive”.

Our friends from the gilded élite have, probably for the first time in their lives, realised that not everyone agrees with them. For the first time in their lives they have not got their way on one of the big issues in life.

I pray fervently that it will not be the last time.