One step nearer….

It’s good to have some good news on the Brexit front after hearing of the hardening of the EU’s stance on the proposed transitional arrangement and the recent but unnecessary talk of a second referendum. Last night, something positive happened which takes us one small step nearer to leaving the EU – the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons and will now go to the Lords.

Recently, the focus of Brexit has been on our future relationship with the EU once we leave. There is another equally important aspect of leaving the EU  – ensuring that we have sufficient laws in place to enable the country to run smoothly on Brexit day. Essentially, all laws passed by the EU which have then been included on our statute books derive their authority from the EU treaties, but these will cease to apply once we leave the EU and repeal the 1972 Accession treaty, so the resultant legislation also becomes null and void.

In order to avoid a legal vacuum, with no regulation at all covering areas of day to day life, laws originating with the EU must be “repatriated” so that they derive their authority from our Westminster Parliament instead and this is what the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill provides a framework for. They will not necessarily be transposed verbatim. Last year, we highlighted the problems with so doing using one particularly obnoxious law – the Fisheries Regulation 1380/2013 – as an example.

The debate over the Bill has centred on the scale of the task in ensuring all this legislation works for an independent UK. Labour has been concerned that the Government may try to twist the necessary re-wording of some directive and regulations for its own political advantage, bypassing Parliament in the process – commonly referred to by the media as the “Henry VIII powers”. However, all the proposed amendments were defeated (See here)

What is more, not a single Conservative MP voted against the bill. Even Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry trooped into the “Aye” lobby! Four Labour MPs – Kate Hoey, John Mann, Graham Stringer and Frank Field (along with the suspended Kelvin Hopkins), rebelled against the party whip to support the government which ended up with a majority of 29. They deserve our thanks. A further eight Labour MPs did not vote either way. A full list of how MPs voted can be found here.

For the benefit of anyone not familiar with Parliamentary procedure, bills normally pass through three reading before coming law. The final reding has now been completed. The predominantly Europhile House of Lords may try their hands with further amendments, but some of their number have thankfully acknowledged that it is not appropriate for an unelected body to try to mess up the democratic will of the people. There may, perhaps, be a bit of further Parliamentary ping-pong with any Lords’ amendment, but  essentially, we are one step nearer leaving the EU as very little now stands in the way of one vital piece of the Brexit jigsaw finally being put in its place.

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)]

Peer says that the General Election could mean that anti-Brexit Peers have committed the “ultimate act of political hara kari”

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)                                                                                          

News Release

 

19th April 2016

 

House of Lords “badly served” by anti-Brexit Peers as it faces threat to its powers from General Election

 

The independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has reacted to the announcement of a General Election by pointing out the threat it is to the future of the House of Lords, following its opposition to the Government’s Brexit legislation.

Lord Stoddart said:  “The House of Lords has been badly served by those Peers who have threatened to delay or block Brexit completely, because their threats have certainly contributed to the Prime Minister’s decision to call a General Election.  Undoubtedly, the Tories will include a manifesto pledge to clip the wings of the Lords by sharply reducing the period by which Peers can block legislation.  They could also propose a reduction in the number of Peers or restrictions on their eligibility to take part in votes.

“Standing up to the Government is one thing but seeking to invalidate the will of the people cannot and should not be tolerated.  Opposing Brexit as strongly as they did may go down in history as the ultimate act of political hara kari by Peers who should have known better.”

Ends

 

When turkeys really do vote for Christmas

“Don’t worry, Rupert,” said the backbench MP I was having tea with, “turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.”

The “turkeys” in question were the House of Lords, and the “Christmas” was the idea that they would seek to block Brexit by undermining Article 50 Bill.

Well, we now know that the Lords have voted to defeat the government on the rights of EU citizens in the UK – and by doing so have thrown UK citizens in the EU to the wolves. Given the size of the rebel majority, it now looks likely that the Lords will inflict other defeats on the government on this Bill.

This should not come as a surprise. There have been many instances in the past when turkeys have voted for Christmas. As a rule, this happens when the turkeys have managed to convince themselves that they are voting for Easter, not for Christmas. They ignore the gathering storm clouds heavy with the snows and blizzards of winter, and instead see only the narrow gleam of sunlight that they think heralds spring and so rush eagerly forwards seeking chocolate eggs.

Perhaps I am taking this analogy too far.

Let me give you some examples.

In 1785 the government of France faced bankruptcy. King Louis XVI brought in the financial guru Jacques Necker to solve the problem. Necker looked at the hideously unfair tax system by which poor peasants were highly taxed, but wealthy nobles lived largely tax-free. He proposed a new tax system under which the nobles and the Church paid their fair share of taxes. The nobles were appalled and forced Louis to sack Necker, bringing in a more compliant finance minister who scrapped the idea of taxing the nobles. The noble turkeys thought that they had voted for chocolate eggs at Easter, but instead had voted for Christmas in the form of the French Revolution that followed. Many of their heads fell on the guillotine as a result.

On 5th December 1648 the English Parliament voted to accept a proposal from King Charles I that put forward a new settlement to end the Civil War that had been raging since 1642. They had forgotten that the army leaders no longer trusted Charles and would accept no deal that saw him returned to power. The next day, the army arrived at Parliament in the shape of Colonel Thomas Pride with two regiments of armed soldiers. He arrested 45 MPs and threw them into prison, while another 300 fled. Only 151 MPs were allowed to take their seats, and they did so under the guns of the soldiers. The MPs had convinced themselves that they were voting for peace, plenty and the rule of law. Instead they had precipitated a military dictatorship headed by army commander Oliver Cromwell.

In 1221 the Governor of Merv, then one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world, ordered the execution of some merchants. The pretext was that they had broken a rule on trading, but in reality it was because he wanted to confiscate their goods. It was, possibly, the most disastrous decision in history. The merchants were the envoys of Genghis Khan, ruler of the Mongols. Genghis Khan dropped everything to avenge the insult. He arrived at Merv with an army of around 50,000 men, stormed the poorly defended city and massacred the entire population. It is thought that over a million people were killed. The governor had thought he was voting for Easter in the form of a haul of treasure, but he actually played the role of a turkey at Christmas, as did the entire population of his city.

And so to today. The Lords believe that they can thumb their noses to the government and to the people. They think that they are voting for Easter in the form of flagrant virtue signalling and feeling smug over their smart dinner parties, while seeking to undermine Brexit.

It remains to be seen if they have voted for Easter or for Christmas.

Brexit blockers – or not??

Mrs May’s few hints about her proposed Brexit strategy have been enough to cause a slight fall in sterling and to generate a great deal of media speculation. In reality, she has given so little away that in CIB’s opinion, the wisest course of action is to wait for her to provide some more detail rather than trying to second-guess her plan and probably getting it wrong.

It is inconceivable, as we pointed out a couple of weeks ago, that a lady with a reputation for studying the facts carefully before coming to a decision, is unaware of the possibility of retaining single market access while limiting freedom of movement – the so-called Liechtenstein compromise. We will hopefully not have too long to wait before she will give us some idea whether or not this is to be the holding position she will adopt to get us through the Brexit door.

Still, one definite and positive piece of news is the announcement by Lord Fowler, the speaker of the House of Lords, that peers will not obstruct Brexit. “The Lords recognise the primacy of the Commons based on the fact that they are the elected chamber and we are not,” he told the Daily Telegraph last week. “In return most MPs value the check that scrutiny by the Lords provides. We are not here to sabotage legislation – we are here to improve it.”

It would be refreshing if the mood of realism which has taken hold of both major parties in the House of Commons rally has now spread to the Upper Chamber too. One major fear among Leave voters was that the Lords may try to block Brexit, especially given the number of peers who held senior positions in the EU institutions and the general europhilia of the Upper Chamber. Our Patron, Lord Stoddart, has often found himself having to battle hard for the cause of Brexit among largely unsympathetic colleagues.

Before the referendum, a major reform of the House of Lords was in the pipeline. Since the Brexit vote, this appears to slipped down the list of government priorities. Given the consensus that some changes are required to the size and workings of the Upper Chamber, peers may well have realised that obstructing the will of the electorate over Brexit would gain them no favours at a time when some have even suggested the total abolition of the Lords.

If their Lordships may prove more collaborative than some of us expected, the same cannot be said for some sections of the academic community, particularly scientists. Our attention has been drawn to a recent article in Nature magazine written by Colin MacIlwain of Edinburgh. Calling Brexit voters “a loose coalition of dissenters, doubters and right wing jackals”, he says that “researchers together with other groups threatened by Brexit should fight to keep a foothold in the European Union.” So what about democracy, Mr MacIlwain? Over 17 million people voted to leave the EU and we did it because we didn’t want to be governed by remote control from Brussels. Mr MacIlwain wants to find “a route that will keep Britain in Europe where it belongs and forestall its drift to becoming some sort of mid-Atlantic Singapore.” This is the usual remoaner claptrap confusing a political entity with a continent. We may be leaving the EU soon, but for all the lack of detail of her Brexit plan, we can be pretty confident that Mrs May isn’t planning to relocate the country. Dover will still be 21 miles or so from Calais after Brexit!

And why do remoaners love to denigrate Singapore? International Monetary Fund estimates for 2015 put its nominal GDP per capita at US$ 52,888 compared with US$ 43,902 for the UK. The tiny island state has been one of the great success stories of the last 50 years  – and what is more, its springboard to success was its separation from a political union – in this case, Malaysia.

Mr MacIlwain is not the only scientist wanting to overturn Brexit. Anne Glover, a former chief scientific advisor to the President of the European Commission, said that scientists should continue to fight to overturn the vote “by every means necessary.”

One can appreciate the concern of those individuals who feel their jobs may be threatened by Brexit but, as the MacIlwain article points out, the government has promised to provide an extra £2 billion to cover the shortfall in funding of scientific research. To call the Brexit vote a “flight from Reason” as one of his fellow-columnists did in an earlier issue of Nature, is sour grapes, while “we will lose access to EU funds” is merely the pathetic bleating of bad losers. In a fallen world, life is never perfect and no Brexit campaigner ever claimed that leaving the EU would be trouble-free for all and sundry. However, should a nation with a great history like ours be complaining that it can no longer go to a foreign country with a begging bowl to ask for alms?

Brexit – media muddle and rubbish galore

At first glance, headlines in a number of papers proclaiming “No Brexit until late 2019” sound thoroughly depressing. Has some new hold-up to triggering Article 50 suddenly appeared on the horizon? Not at all. In spite of a spat between Boris Johnson and Liam Fox over whether the Department for International Trade or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will head up UK foreign policy, Theresa May has insisted that  it is full steam ahead in the preparation for invoking Article 50 early next year and has told the two men to “stop playing games.”

If her plans go according to schedule, the two-year negotiation period would take us to early 2019. Factor in even a short delay in preparing the ground or a mutually-agreed extension to the negotiations and we will find ourselves in the second half of 2019 without having gone through the Brexit door.  With France and Germany both holding major elections in 2017,  it is quite likely that there will need need to be an extension even before the complexities of negotiating a succesful divorce are taken into account. A change of incumbent or government could result in previously-agreed changes having to be revisited if the leadership in either of those countries change – a distinct possibility in France, where President Hollande’s popularity ratings are very low.

Is business going to suffer as a result of June 23rd’s vote?  Well before the referendum, we predicted a short-term blip in the event of a Brexit vote, particularly a drop in the value of sterling. We pointed out that the economic gains were fore the longer term. House prices have fallen in the wake of Brexit, dropping by 2.6% in London and 2% in the South East. Is this a calamity? Ask any first-time buyer about the absurd prices they are having to pay to get onto the housing ladder and you will not hear any sadness on their part.  Another report claimed that businesses had become “pessimistic” as a result of the Brexit vote. Read the article in full, however, and it states that 36%  of companies are planning to increase staffing levels now compared with 40% before the referendum. A slight fall in optimism, but hardly evidence of widespread business gloom.

It is frustrating that some remainers still seem unable to accept that we voted to leave – and with good reason. Avinash Persaud, writing in the Economic and Political Weekly highlights the supposed correlation between voting to leave and lower educational qualification. Those of us with degrees who voted to leave are becoming utterly sick of being characterised as ignoramuses. If anything, the number of graduates who voted for remain is an indication of the woeful inadequacy of our educational system as opposed to any correlation between intelligence and support for the EU.

Mr Persaud, like many other commentators, also links support for Brexit to disenchantment with free trade and the reforms that began under Margaret Thatcher. This again is simplistic twaddle. During the course of the Brexit campaign, one of the most frequently repeated advantages of Brexit was the prospect of beginning to take control of our own trade and escaping the protectionism of the EU. I  for one was accused in one debate by my pro-EU opponent of advocating “Singapore on steroids”.

While the Brexit vote was strong in white working classes areas, the wonderful result on June 23rd was achieved by their alliance with frustrated small businessmen, some trade unionists, a few Labour MPs, a few more Tory MPs and a selection of educated professional types unhappy with the loss of our sovereignty, control of our trade and the top-down nature of the EU.

Of these unlikely bedfellows, the most uniquely British component is the strongly Eurosceptic centre right – one of the legacies of Thatcherism.  Peter Mandelson’s claim that Jeremy Corbyn somehow sabotaged the remain vote  just does not stand up to scrutiny.  Undecided centre-right voters were never going to be  won over by a Labour politician, whether Blairite of Corbynite. Somehow, Mandelson and his ilk still seem unable to come to terms with the fact that plenty of highly educated intelligent people studied the arguments on both sides of the debate and decided that we would be better off out.

Nor, sadly, are they giving up in their attempts to overrule the will  of the people. The European Movement, which was a recipient of substantial CIA funding in the past, is organising a  “March for Europe” on 3rd September. “We need to send a message that 16 million people voted to remain” says their propaganda. Well, we have a message for the European Movement:- over 17 million people voted to leave and we won. That’s called democracy.

Lord Stoddart, a patron and former Chairman of CIB,  recently issued a stark warning to Lord Mandelson and other  Europhile members of the Upper Chamber:-

“My colleagues in the Lords would do well to remember that the Brexit vote was the largest vote for anything in the history of our nation.  According to a study by the University of East Anglia, had Vote Leave been a political party, it would have won a huge landslide of 421 Parliamentary seats.  That would equate to 65% of all seats and 73% of seats in England and Wales.  Mess with this massive mandate at your peril!”

Photo by Brian Smithson (Old Geordie)