The EU is right – our government is wrong!

Shock horror! Can a Brexit supporter honestly utter such a phrase as the above?

Sadly, yes, especially when the subjects include cooperation in security and criminal justice matters. These two issues powerfully illustrate the illusory nature of our government’s approach to Brexit. It still wants to have its cake and eat it. Reality is dawning that this isn’t possible on the trade front, but somehow that reality has not spread to other areas where some sort of future cooperation is needed. Be it trade, criminal justice or military cooperation, the EU is concerned at all costs to preserve its integrity. In voting to leave, we dealt it a massive blow. Obviously, it recognises that some form of cooperation will be necessary but it does not seek a warm and cosy “deep and special” relationship with us. Yes, we were once part of the club, but we won’t be after March 29th next year. We made the decision to leave and we must accept the consequences.

To any Brexit supporter, this is perfect common sense. We knew what we were doing when we voted Brexit.  Among the many issues which we highlighted as a reason to leave the EU were concerns about the flaws of the criminal justice system in some EU member states and the need to disentangle ourselves from the EU’s military and security aspirations.

So yes, if the EU says we cannot participate in its flawed European Arrest Warrant scheme after Brexit, great! That’s what we voted for. Likewise, the EU’s disdain for Mrs May’s “ambitious future security partnership” with the EU won’t cause many Brexit supporters much lost sleep.  As a Third Country, we would no longer participate in several EU security data bases which hold intelligence and help track criminals. However, there are other means of cooperation over these matters. We have Interpol as well as Europol. The procedure may be more complex but at least UK citizens will be one step further removed from the EU’s interference with our daily lives. We don’t want the EU to give us special treatment. What is more, is Europol reliable? One report suggest that its statistics distort the truth about terrorist threats in the EU, with more emphasis being placed on monitoring so-called “separatists” than those who pose the biggest threat to ordinary people.

On a different note, we heard recently that Olly Robbins, who has more or less pushed David Davis into the sidelines and has become the de facto chief negotiator, has been told by the EU that there is no chance of a bespoke trade deal with the EU.  It will either be a very loose trading arrangement or what has been described as a “Norway-type deal”. There are strong opponents of both these options and even among her cabinet, Mrs May will have her work cut out to square the circle.

She has not, however, signed a letter promising a second referendum, Two separate copies have been sent to me, one by a very concerned Brexit supporter who feared Mrs May was about to  cave in to the remainiacs. If anyone has come across this spoof letter, try to find an example of the PM’s real signature. You will then see that it does not match the signature on this letter.

Observant readers may have noticed that we have said little about the latest EU council meeting. This is not because we were unaware of it but rather because it has been a foregone conclusion that nothing was going to be said to indicate any progress with the Brexit talks. We did pass a milestone last week when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill became law. It paves the way fro the 1972 Accession Treaty to be repealed when we leave the EU in March next year, but as far as what our future relationship with the EU is going ot look like,  we are still none the wiser.

Why did we vote to leave? Two quick reminders

A number of UK companies are to be given a pre-Brexit leaving present by the EU – a substantial fine. According to this piece in Bloomberg, the European Commission intends to complete its investigation into a controversial tax break for U.K.-based multinationals will be ready later this year. None of the companies involved in the U.K. probe is accused of wrongdoing. It is the government’s tax system is the issue for regulators in Brussels.

With the second anniversary of the Brexit vote looming, here is a timely reminder of why we voted to leave – to take back control from these unelected bureaucrats.

Another reminder was provided by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. He warned that we would be ejected from Europol and from the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Although meant as a threat, if his words are to be taken at face value. they ought to be a cause of rejoicing for Brexit campaigners. On this website, we have repeatedly highlighted the failings of the EAW and have stated that Brexit must mean our withdrawal from it.

Unfortunately, things are not that simple. Barnier’s words are most likely designed to pile additional pressure on Theresa May, who is desperate to keep us in the EAW. Still, who knows, more by accident than design, thanks to the government’s lack of progress,  we could end up with a better Brexit at least in the area of criminal justice than the Government actually intends?

Brexit – the current state of play

Edward Spalton gave this review of the Brexit situation at CIB’s annual rally on 14th April 2018. In view of the need for a simple summary of the progress (or lack of it) regarding Brexit, it is may be of benefit for readers to study his assessment of the present state of play.

2017 was an intensely frustrating year for independence campaigners. Looking back at my last annual report, it is remarkable how little has really progressed. Yet we are now less than a year away from Brexit on 29th March 2019 when, as it says in Article 50, clause 3, of the Lisbon Treaty, “The treaties shall cease to apply…unless the European Council in agreement with the member state concerned unanimously decides to extend this period”.

This is one part of the “cliff edge” to which Mrs. May occasionally refers. Much of the law on which we rely for our protection now comes from our 46 year sojourn in the EU. We would be in a legal vacuum at home, if the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill were not enacted by Brexit day to repatriate EU law to the British statute book. For instance, there would be no laws at all protecting food safety.

It is nauseous hypocrisy that Europhiles in Parliament, who never raised the least objection to the outsourcing of huge swathes of our law to the foreign power in Brussels, have tried to hinder the Bill’s passage. They suddenly discovered a devotion to the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty. The Bill, they claim, gives too much power to the government – “Henry VIII powers”- they say. Yet Parliament can sack the government, something it could never do with the European Commission – or with Henry VIII for that matter!

One other great aspect of the “cliff edge” is the interface between ourselves and the EU countries with which we have very close relations on which many people’s livelihoods depend. Mrs. May gave notice that the UK would become an independent country outside the EU and European Economic Area. So all sorts of things just cease to exist, if there is no new agreement with the EU in place by Brexit day. For instance, your driving licence will no longer be valid for EU countries. Neither, of course, will EU driving licenses be valid here – unless it has been specifically agreed, along with thousands of other matters great and small – and there is less than a year to do all this.

After Mrs. May made this intention known in her Lancaster House speech in January 2017, the EU pointed out that all its regulations for dealing with imports from foreign countries outside the EU would apply to British goods after Brexit, if no other agreement was in place. The British government knows exactly what these regulations are because Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs plus the Port Health Officers and Local Authorities apply these same rules already to goods arriving here from countries outside the EU. The port of Southampton deals with 1,300,000 containers per year. So the government has full information about all the procedures.

There is no excuse for delay in informing export businesses of the rules which they will face – particularly the need for firms to appoint an EU-based representative to take responsibility to the authorities for the compliance of goods with EU health and technical standards, a far more onerous business than an easily computed tariff.

The EU itself has been issuing “Notices to Stakeholders”, setting out the requirements sector by sector . But from Her Majesty’s Government to British exporters, there has been no advice at all.

It seems that the government has been deliberately avoiding consultations with business. Theresa May set up a business advisory council which, at the time of writing, has not met since October 2017. Chris Brannigan, the key Downing Street official responsible for communicating government policy to business, left in June after the general election and has not been replaced. It seems that nobody wants the job. (Edward Malnick, Whitehall Editor, Sunday Telegraph 4 March). In spite of the need to have a confident and well-informed business community, there is a black hole at the centre of government communication. It is as if they are frightened to tell business the likely outcomes of their policy – insofar as any coherent policy yet actually exists. It ought to be known in considerable detail 21 months after the referendum.

Last year I wrote “If we leave the EU without an agreement, British goods will be treated as “third country” origin, That is, from a country outside the EU which is what we want to be! The EU will not be “punishing” us by treating us as an independent country”. The EU has been very clear all along that it would maintain the integrity of its common external border, one of its main institutions. Even countries with “deep and special” free trade agreements, like South Korea and Canada, accept that. There are ways of making compliance less onerous and more “frictionless”, such as electronic pre-declarations for customs and “trusted trader” schemes. The government has conspicuously failed to come up with specific, detailed workable suggestions and has so far neither recruited staff for training nor placed orders for necessary infrastructure. So the EU has developed its own policies which are very unpalatable and in parts completely unacceptable, especially with regard to the Irish border and the so-called “implementation” period after March 29th 2019.

Unfortunately British ministers spent most of 2017 deluding themselves, their more credulous colleagues, supporters and eurosceptic media that we could “have our cake and eat it”. That is, “Britannia would waive the rules” – we could leave the EU, make our own and expect the EU to treat our products as if we were still EU members – a piece of monumental ignorance and arrogance., slightly modified in tone by Mrs May in her speech from Florence in the Autumn and by her more recent Mansion House speech which has not really clarified very much else at all.

In researching these matters, I hunt for various sources of information to get as good an all-round picture as possible. The following short article from Private Eye summarised things so well that I am grateful to the editor for permission to publish it. Whilst it is not comforting reading, it is necessary information for mature campaigners to know.

DExEU DESPATCHES.

The Department for Exiting the EU, aka DExEU, has never been a happy place. David Davis’s fiefdom took several months to find a formal home in Whitehall. It was able to attract hundreds of bright young things, keen to serve their country in its hour of need in negotiating Brexit. But the sheen soon wore off. Officials privately concede that their ministers are being comprehensively outgunned by Michel Barnier’s European Commission team.

The place also “leaks like a sieve from top to bottom” says one former official.

“Olly Robbins (Theresa May’s Brexit adviser) is basically being left in a room to negotiate without a mandate” says another.

Eighteen months after its creation, 3 per cent of officials are leaving DExEU each month and 44 per cent are likely to leave in the next year, says the Institute for Government.

Even though several thousand officials have been reshuffled across Whitehall to support the creation of DExEU and Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade, the 600 strong DExEU still has 143 vacancies 18 months after it opened its doors. Many of its staff are on short term contracts, either loaned from other departments or from outside the civil service.

If many DExEU staff are on the Whitehall equivalent of “zero hours” contracts, Davis’s team has at least been flashing the cash at management consultants. Deloitte helped set up DExEU in Summer 2016 and others who have benefited from its largesse include Boston Consulting Group, Accenture, KPMG and McKinsey.

McKinsey was paid £1.5 million last September to lead DExEU’s “Brexit Planning”, a move that achieved little other than see McKinsey’s executives pocket inflated salaries while rubbing shoulders with lowly civil servants, safe in the knowledge that they will return to the private sector when all the Article 50 unpleasantness is over.

Needless to say that had nothing to do with Tom Shinner, the department’s director of policy and delivery coordination whose job is to lead “DEXEU’s work to coordinate the domestic policy implications of Brexit across government departments, to seize the opportunities and ensure the smooth process of exit……….”

So it is not very surprising that the EU is able to outrun them by just standing still.

Having failed (if it was ever intended) to have a workable Brexit up and running by March 2019, it is not surprising that Mrs. May is a desperate supplicant to the EU for extra time to get her house in order after all the wasted opportunities of the previous year – not least two months taking her eye off the ball to fight an unnecessary election after Article 50 notice had already been served and the clock was ticking remorselessly down to Brexit day.

Naturally the EU is demanding very severe terms which will place the UK in the position of a vassal state with no rights and Parliament not actually recognised as a real Parliament in the eyes of the EU. Every EU law will apply, including any new ones they choose to spring during this period of “implementation”. Ominously our own government has asked to be able to extend it beyond the originally intended 21 months.

Looking back on our labours since our last AGM, I cannot report much significant progress on three of the key issues which we identified then. Although the EU itself may unwittingly have come to our aid on one of them!

A Truly Independent British Fisheries Policy.

Edward Heath’s surrender of our fisheries to EU plunder as a “common resource” may well be continued. Our territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone could easily be used as a bargaining counter. Our friends in Fishing for Leave point out that the proposed “implementation” period would imply the continuance of EU fishing rights and of the iniquitous quota system. Ominously in her Mansion House speech,

Mrs May referred to “shared stocks” of fish – in our own waters! That is rather like catching the burglar red-handed with the family silver and conceding he has a right to share it! The EU has since indicated that it intends to do a little “cherry picking” of its own, demanding the continuance of rights for EU vessels equivalent to the Common Fisheries Policy as part of its price for a free trade deal.

The European Arrest Warrant, Europol and the European Gendarmerie

On the presently suggested terms, these institutions will remain in existence with full powers throughout the “implementation” period. Prominent members of the government are known to favour these arrangements. One Conservative minister was on record as welcoming the possibility of deploying these foreign men at arms on our streets. So far, we have not heard that he has changed his mind! However, the EU has indicated that, as a non member, we may not be allowed to take part in these institutions . So the EU rules may actually protect us from Mrs. May’s fondness for subjection to them, developed during her time as Home Secretary.

The European Defence Agency and European Defence Integration

Following the referendum, the government signed up to a whole swathe of EU initiatives, bringing defence forces closer together. Parliament was not awake to the danger. The government did not sign up to the permanent structure (PESCO) but has gone along with a great deal which has the potential to tie our hands in the procurement of armaments for our own forces.

We continue to campaign on these issues and have prepared an informative booklet for MPs and others. This includes detailed information and suggestions for avoiding the trap of the vassal status of the presently proposed vassal status of the implementation period.

It will be available on the website as a PDF.* A number of copies will be available for sale to members .

Edward Spalton – Chairman

* Brexit Reset In pamphlets section of publications.

 31st May 2018 – Supplementary Note.

I can well understand the exasperation felt concerning the lack of progress. Some have suggested that “No deal is better than a bad deal”. If that turns out to be the case on 29 March next year, then the government has followed Mr. Cameron’s precedent of “no Plan B” and Britain and British business are totally unprepared. The Dutch appear to be further forward than us, having begun the training of extra customs staff and allocation of space for new port facilities. Trading with post Brexit Britain, they say, will be procedurally the same as trading with Morocco.

Some companies are already making their own precautionary arrangements. Rolls Royce, for instance, is preparing to move its regulatory compliance operation to mainland EU. EasyJet has moved its headquarters to mainland EU and has plans to change its Articles of Association so that a majority of its shareholders must be EU nationals. This will enable it to keep flying in the “No Deal” situation.

If there is no agreement, Rolls Royce aero engines would have no valid safety certification and cease to be saleable. By leaving the EU and EEA, the government also leaves the European aviation safety agency EASA which produces the safety certification. There is no present provision for non EU countries to belong to EASA. The British Civil Aviation Authority has said that it would take some five to ten years to build its operation up to the required global scale and standard to replace it. There are other similar EU bodies for different industries where the government is trying to get back in on some sort of associate status. Whilst Britain negotiated opt-outs whilst an EU member, it is now trying to negotiate various opt-ins as an independent country. That is somewhat ironic!

When Britain joined the EEC in 1973, our family firm had already received over a year of thorough briefing from the government and so were prepared. We had some problems but could nonetheless get on with making our living from day one. Businesses have to pay their bills and wages every week so a smooth transition is essential. Once businesses close they very rarely reopen. I describe the experience of joining the EEC in the series “The Miller’s Tale” at the end of Episode 2 and all of Episode 3. To give the sort of guidance we then received, the government had to know exactly what it was doing. That does not appear to be the case today.

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 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 should have been 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.

If Denmark can opt out of Europol, so can we

Last Saturday, those of us who attended the Campaign for an Independent Britain’s annual were reminded that anti- EU sentiment is still alive and kicking in Denmark. We were privileged to be addressed by Luise Hemmer Pihl from the Danish People’s Movement against the EU, who explained that Denmark too has taken a semi-detached position within the EU and many Danish people have no desire for further integration.

Among the evidence she quoted was Denmark’s withdrawal from Europol. In a referendum in November 2015, the Danes decided to keep their opt-out from EU cooperation on justice and home affairs issues.

As from 1st May, Denmark will no longer be a member of Europol but thanks to a last-minute agreement, the country  will still have access to EU police agency’s databases.

If Denmark, an EU State, can maintain an independent position on justice and home affairs, then the UK, which is leaving the EU, has no reason to stay in Europol or in the European Arrest Warrant scheme. Whatever the result of the next General Election, we will be continuing to campaign that Brexit must mean Brexit in these critical areas.

Photo by @boetter