Brexit still on course – a statement from Anthony Coughlan (Dublin)

BREXIT STILL ON THE WAY AS THE EU/UK NEGOTIATION MOVES FROM PHASE 1 TO PHASE 2

Genuine democrats and EU-critics everywhere will welcome the news that Brexit is still on the way following the decision of the European Council of Prime Ministers and Presidents to move to the next stage of the EU/UK negotiation, i.e. on the two-year withdrawal period and the post-withdrawal trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

If there had been a failure to move the negotiation to Phase 2, ultra-Europhiles and Eurofanatics everywhere would have been delighted.

The European Council decision of the other day means that the hopes of such people that they can stop Brexit are significantly diminished, although they will continue to hope on and still do all they can to  attempt to derail the process.

The less EU-besotted amongst Irish policy-makers and media commentators will now have to start thinking for the first time whether it is really a good idea for this State to attempt to remain in an increasingly federalizing EU when 1.8 million of our fellow-countrymen and women  in Northern Ireland will be leaving it.

They will need to ask themselves do they want to be responsible for a new Partition of Ireland!

If the EU/UK negotiation leads to a meaningful Brexit, which means that the UK as a whole will leave the EU single market and customs union at the end of the UK Government’s proposed two-year transition/implementation period, as now looks probable, ONE CAN BE CONFIDENT THAT THE REPUBLIC WILL FOLLOW THE UK OUT OF THE EU IN TIME  because the drawbacks of the Irish State seeking to stay in the EU when the UK leaves will become so obvious and be so painful that the Irish public will come to demand nothing less.

However, wishful thinking is still likely to prevail widely in the Republic for some tine and among those “Remain” supporters everywhere who seek to overthrow last year’s democratic UK referendum result  –  in particular the hope that Brexit can still be frustrated in the Westminster Parliament or by a change of UK Government during the negotiations; or that at the end of the day the softest of “soft” Brexits will mean that the UK will effectively remain under EU supranational  jurisdiction.

Genuine democrats everywhere will  now wish UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her Government every success as they move to implement a meaningful Brexit that gives citizens of the UK democratic control of their own law-making once again and removes them from the EU single market and customs union.

Three little words

This letter was sent by our Chairman to Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Burton on Trent papers.

The government is introducing the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and many Europhiles have acquired a new-found zeal for the principle of parliamentary scrutiny. They say the Bill gives “Henry VIII” powers to the government to strike out legislation which has come to us from the EU.

This is the height of hypocrisy. The European Communities Act 1972 was voted through by MPs who had not had a chance to see the treaty to which they were agreeing. Nigel Spearing (Labour), the last MP to speak against it, complained that Parliament was “signing a blank cheque”.

The treaty of accession to the EEC had been signed under royal prerogative without any parliamentary scrutiny at all. The 1972 Bill made the terms of the treaty enforcible in British law. It said that all European law – past, present and to come – would immediately become binding in its entirety “without further enactment” by our Parliament. This is the settlement of subjection which advocates of EU membership have maintained and supported ever since.

It was an Enabling Act, transferring responsibility for our laws out of democratic control – more gradual but not dissimilar in kind to the one which Hitler used to nullify the German parliament. Twelve years before, the Lord Chancellor Lord Kilmuir had written to Edward Heath to say that Parliament would have to become accustomed to being a rubber stamp, if we joined the EEC. That was kept an official secret for thirty years.

Governments of all parties have since promiscuously overused the device of Statutory Instruments to bypass effective parliamentary scrutiny and debate. So there is every reason to reform parliamentary procedures, now we are getting our country back. However, the least hint of filibustering by Europhiles under the cloak of a pretended concern for the dignity and powers of Parliament should be seen for the fraud that it is and disregarded. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill must go through in a timely way, or we will never see a return to any proper, democratic accountability at all. Parliament can always kick out a government here – something we never could do with the European Commission.

Yours faithfully,

Edward Spalton

You can never trust an emigré

I was going to write this column a couple of weeks ago, but I was unable to find the correct source for the quote that serves as the title. I still haven’t been able to track the quote down properly, so you will have to take this as an unsourced anecdote instead. But one of immediate and urgent relevance to our current state of relations with the European Union.

In the autumn of 1813, Wellington was poised to cross the Pyrenees and invade southern France. He was faced by the decision of where to strike. At this point a group of French Royalist emigrés appeared with inside information that had, they said, come from their contacts inside France. Bordeaux was in a state of turmoil. Royalists had armed themselves and were just waiting for a chance to rise up against the hated Bonarpartists. If Wellington attacked towards Bordeaux, the emigrés claimed, he would have a warm welcome and an easy victory.

It was at this point that Lt Colonel Colquhoun Grant , Wellington’s chief intelligence officer, stepped in to say “You can never trust an emigré”. He suspected, rightly, that these emigrés wanted Wellington to do their dirty work for them, defeat the French forces around Bordeaux and so allow them to move in and exact their own brand of revenge on personal enemies. Wellington listened to Grant, and advanced toward Toulouse instead.

It is, indeed, a truism that you cannot trust those with ulterior motives. Particularly emigrés.

From 1998 to 2002 the American intelligence agencies spent a lot of time speaking to Iraqi emigrés. These exiles poured out a host of stories about how unpopular Saddam Hussein was, how Saddam had vast stocks of weapons of mass destruction and how Saddam was a dangerously unstable dictator who was just itching to invade neighbouring states. The only solution, the emigrés said, was for the USA to invade Iraq and remove Saddam from power.

The US intelligence services did not heed Grant’s advice. They believed the emigrés and only later realised that it was all a pack of lies designed to get the Americans to remove Saddam from power. We all know how well that ended.

And so we come to today. In the Referendum last year, those who wish to leave the EU gained a majority. Since then most of those who voted “remain” have accepted the decision. But a small number of die-hard Europhiles have not. They fondly believe that they are right, that a growing number of British people agree with them and that the referendum decision can be overturned. For the most part they are harmless, but some are not.

Some are men and women who have high level contacts in Brussels, Berlin or Paris. Like the emigrés of old, they are saying what their audience want to hear. “The British people are changing their minds”; “The British economy is in trouble”; “We can stop Brexit with legal challenges”; “Parliament will never agree to go with WTO rules” and so on and so forth.

This is dangerous stuff. If the EU negotiators believe these emigrés  – and from what I have heard some are inclined to do so – then they will seek to impose a punishment deal on the UK in the belief that this will cause the UK to change its mind and stay within the EU.

So those well-connected big beasts with their contacts within the EU machinery are working against the interests of their own country. Like the emigrés of old, they are wanting the EU to do their bidding for their own reasons. They are potentially dangerous, they are certainly wrong. The EU should heed Grant’s advice and “never trust an emigré”.

Photo by dun_deagh

Boris and the Great Escape

There is an old joke about the Foreign Office. A tourist visiting London approaches a policeman in Whitehall.

“Excuse me,” says the tourist. “Where is the Ministry of Defence?”

The policeman points along Whitehall. “It’s over there, on the right.”

“Thank you,” says the tourist. “And where is the Treasury?”

“Over there on the left”, says the policeman.

“Ah,” continues the tourist peering along Whitehall. “And which side is the Foreign Office on?”

“It’s on the side of the foreigners,” replies the policeman.

Like many jokes, it has a kernel of truth. It is the job of the Foreign Office to understand foreign governments and foreign peoples, to be able to explain their views and predict how they might react to British actions. Sadly, of course, it can be a short step from empathy to sympathy and individual diplomats and FO officials have made that step perhaps too often.

But Boris’s comment about punishment beatings tells us a lot about himself, and about the Europhiles who have denounced him.

First let’s look at what Boris actually said, rather than what his critics pretend he said. In reply to a question about a comment by the French President suggesting that the UK would be punished by the EU for leaving, Boris said “Look, if Mr Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape rather in the manner of some World War Two movie, then I don’t think that is the way forward – and actually it is not in the interests of our friends and our partners.”

The point Boris made is unexceptional. If the EU imposes harsh trade conditions on Britain post-Brexit then that would hurt them at least as much as it hurts us. But rather than look at this truth, the Europhiles have objected to Boris’s metaphor. They complain that he likened Mr Hollande to a Nazi camp guard.

Well, in a roundabout way, perhaps he did. I have no doubt that Boris will have seen The Great Escape, probably more than once. Perhaps he has also seen The Colditz Story, The Wooden Horse, Danger Within or The Password is Courage. In seeking a metaphor, Boris reached to British culture, British histories and British memories of an heroic period in our recent past. He reacted like a Briton, not like a Foreign Office mandarin on the side of the foreigners.

The interesting thing about these movies, in reference to Boris’s comment, is their portrayal of the camp guards. Yes, some are shown as villains, but others are portrayed as relatively decent chaps doing the unpleasant job that the war means that they are ordered to do. The Great Escape, in particular, is sympathetic to the camp commandant. These portrayals are far more lifelike and close to reality than the way that Boris’s critics portray camp guards. To them the camp guards are evil personified. They are “Nazis”, not Germans or Italians. They are sadistic, murderous beings unworthy of the description “human”.

This tells us much about the EU. Rather than confront the reality that it was Germans – along with their collaborators in France, Italy and elsewhere – who did unspeakable things to their fellow humans within living memory, the Europhiles prefer to pretend that such things were done by “Nazis”, some bizarre alien species which had nothing to do with the nice Germans of today.

Only by confronting the reality of the past can the demons be exorcised. Boris has faced the past, knows the reality and can treat it as history. The Europhiles, and the EU corporate mentality, has refused to face the past, still less to learn its lessons.

Boris’s only crime was to speak truth and to be on our side.

Photo by National Museum of Denmark

Overturning Referendums – it’s the European way.

Sometimes I don’t know how they do it, these politicians. They stand there with straight faces and say things that are not true. They know they are not true, we know that they are not true. And yet still they expect us to believe what they are saying.

Just recently we have seen a great deal of this. One after another pro-EU politicians have queued up to tell us that they are now reformed characters and that they have no intention at all of trying to keep the UK inside the EU. Oh no, of course not.

“There is no serious chance that the House of Lords will block Article 50” Yvette Cooper tells us. Nicola Sturgeon says she is interested only in protecting the rights of the Scottish government. Gina Miller, who launched the Article 50 court case, assures any one who will listen that she is concerned only to establish the proper process for the move.

You can believe them if you wish. Personally, I do not.

Let’s look at how the EU élite have reacted when previous referendums have gone against them.

In 1992 the Danish voted NO to the Maastricht Treaty on European Union. Everyone agreed that democracy was paramount and that the result would stand. Then the EU promised to give Denmark some opt-outs. The slavishly pro-EU Danish government then held a second referendum, which it won.

In 2004 the EU panjandrums agreed the grandly named “Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe”. This sought to sweep away all previous treaties and replace them with a single, unified constitution. That would be a constitution like any other unified state has.

Ratification got under way with Parliaments in several countries pushing it through with big majorities. Spain held a referendum that approved the treaty. Then France held a referendum, which ended with a vote of 55% NO, followed by the Netherlands which gave a resounding 61% NO. Referendums were promptly cancelled in Poland, Portugal, Ireland the UK and Denmark. EU leaders promsied to “respect” the referendum results and called for a “period of reflection”.

That period of reflection ended with the Lisbon Treaty, which was virtually identical to the failed Constitution. This time it was pushed through the French and Dutch parliaments without a referendum. So much for respecting the results.

Then the Lisbon Treaty ran into trouble when referendum in Ireland saw a 53% NO vote. In June 2008 the EU Parliament held a debate on the Irish result. Speaker after speaker declared that they would “respect the result”. But of course, they did not. Just a year later the slavishly pro-EU Irish government held a second vote. This time the EU leaders issued a series of high sounding promises about legal guarantees. This time the Irish voted YES.

So we can see the pattern. If a referendum produces a result the EU does not like, the élites issue high sounding – but utterly worthless – statements about respecting democracy. They they announce a few cosmetic changes and hold a second vote.

I have no doubt at all that this is what is being planned by the Europhiles who were so aghast at losing the British referendum in June. The key difference is that in Denmark, Ireland and elsewhere the national government was obbsequiously pro-EU and could be relied upon both to hold a second vote and to assure their populace that the vague changes were truly wonderful.

Britain in 2016 is different. We have a Prime Minister who has declared that “Brexit is Brexit”. Like her or not, Mrs May and her pro-Brexit administration is all we’ve got to stand a chance of enssuring that our referendum result is not only “respected” but also implemented.

 

You don’t have to be a lawyer to spot a problem with the law

One of the most frequent jibes levelled at those of us who have raised questions about the recent High Court judgment on Article 50 is for Remainers to say “You’re not a lawyer, are you?” The clear implication is that those who are not lawyers have no right to have a view on the law.

But you don’t have to be an historian to know that it was unlikely that the Duke of Wellington deployed Spitfires to give his army air cover at the Battle of Waterloo. And you don’t have to be a lawyer to spot a problem with the law. In this case, you just need to have a long memory.

Back in 1993, Lord Rees-Mogg took the government to the High Court seeking to stop ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. Lord Rees-Mogg contended three things:

1 – That the Social Protocol was improper under UK law;

2 – That the Government was using its prerogative powers to change the law without Parliamentary approval; and

3 – That the Government was transferring some of its prerogative powers over foreign policy to the European Commission without Parliamentary approval.

Lord Justice Lloyd dismissed all three contentions. He ruled that:

1 – The UK was excluded from the Social Protocol;

2 – The Government was free to use prerogative powers to agree any treaty it liked, unless Parliament had specifically restricted its powers beforehand.

3 – The Government was not transferring any prerogative powers to the Commission, but was exercising them by allowing the Commission to make decisions on the Government’s behalf.

With hindsight we all know that with regard to point 1, the EU introduced all the social chapter rules by the back door anyway. With regard to point 3, I can only comment that Lord Justice Lloyd was stretching words to the limit of their meaning.

It is the second point that should interest us here. Lloyd ruled that the Government could agree to any terms it liked in a treaty, unless Parliament had specifically said it could not. Since Parliament had done no such thing prior to the Maastricht Treaty, the prerogative powers could be used.

But now we are asked to accept the ruling in 2016 by Baron Thomas that the Government can not use prerogative powers to trigger Article 50 because Parliament has not yet had its say. But if Parliament has not yet had its say, how can it (as per the 1993 ruling) have specifically told the government not to use these prerogative powers.

Now Baron Thomas is no doubt a very clever man and a highly experienced judge. I have no doubt that were this put to him he would be able to come forwards with some very clever reason why – no doubt couched in proper legal jargon – black was white and white was black.

But for us less lawyerly folks, it really does seem that it is OK to use prerogative powers to enforce “more Europe”, but not OK to use prerogative powers to ensure “less Europe”. One law for the Europhiles, another for the Eurosceptics.