Short changing the British people over Brexit

It is becoming an increasing concern that the British people are being short-changed over Brexit  – by Mrs May, the Department for (not) Exiting the European Union (EU), the government generally, and Parliament. The final Brexit settlement with the EU should correspond in large part to addressing the significant wishes, hopes and fears of the electorate as expressed in the Referendum vote. Are there important pieces of pieces of information which we not being told that we really should know?  What will be the political consequences if and when we find out the hard way that our leaders are misleading and cheating us?

The vote to leave the EU was a cry for a change of direction. In particular, it was an expression of the desire to leave the EU, which is evolving into a centralised homogeneous superstate. It was certainly not for “politics as usual”  – the status quo whereby an out of touch ruling establishment in Westminster and Brussels would continue to conceal the truth, using fear to manipulate people and doing what it wanted to whilst ignoring the wishes of the Electorate.  Ultimately, the Brexit vote was about ‘the sovereignty of the People’ and their right to governed by consent – in other words, government of the people, by the people, for the people.  Brexit, therefore, needs to be a complete change of political direction, not leaving us stuck in the political EU (aka Greater Germany) under a different name, all the time aided and abetted by a deceptive Westminster clique.

If we had voted to remain in the EU, whatever the reasoning of individual voters, we would have been forced to accept not only the current status quo but also of the EU’s direction of travel.   Remain voters were effectively putting their trust in the ruling establishment in both Westminster and Brussels. Any Brexit settlement outside remain voters’ ‘comfort zone’ of EU membership therefore needs to provide something like the same measure of reassurance and must address, wherever practicable, their real concerns.

Whilst it would appear the objectives of Leave and Remain voters are completely different, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they cannot, or should not, be reconciled in the resulting Brexit settlement.  To ignore the minority who voted Remain is tantamount to  a dictatorship of the majority and very un-British.  It is also quite likely that the economic fears of Remain voters are also shared to some extent by Leave voters, whilst many Remain voters share the Leave voters’ disillusionment with, and distrust of, the ruling élite and share their concerns about uncontrolled immigration and open borders. Political independence from the EU whilst maintaining close trading arrangements (such as through the Single Market) and co-operation should be achievable if Mrs May and Mr Davis understood how the EU thinks and works, following the example set by other prosperous European nations which are not in the EU.

The political establishment and main stream media are not presenting us with anything like the full picture on leaving the EU. In turn, the resulting distortion is creating misconceptions about what can and cannot be achieved.  Firstly, if we re-join EFTA (the European Free Trade Association) we can remain in the Single Market (more accurately the European Economic Area, EEA) under different, much more flexible or bespoke conditions including allowing us to control immigration (by unilaterally invoking Article 112, the Safeguard Measures) in the EEA Agreement and leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.  Secondly, the acquis (or body of law) of the EEA is about a quarter of the total EU acquis and is relevant to the facilitation of seamless trade, rather than the furtherance of a political project.  Thirdly, about 80% of the EEA acquis originates outside the EU, to facilitate more global trade, so we would (probably) need to comply with it anyway.  Fourthly, ‘all singing, all dancing’ Free Trade agreements (FTAs) take several years to negotiate and don’t provide seamless trade.  Fifthly, the EU is unlikely to agree to an advantageous FTA because it is not in the interests of their centralising control-freak political agenda. Sixthly, outside the EEA we will be a ‘third country’ subject to vastly increased difficulties while trading with the protectionist EU through tariffs and non-tariff barriers including regulation, approvals and surveillance.

Mrs May and Mr Davis’s Transitional Deal and overall handling of Brexit so far has the potential to lead to widespread dissatisfaction and disillusionment on both the Leave and Remain sides.  For the leaver, there is dissatisfaction that Brexit under the current plan will not be a clean break on 29th March 2019, but will begin a period of costly servitude to the EU, effectively a vassal state, which will last for at least 21 months and quite possibly even longer. In other words, it will be an indefinite Brexit in name only. For the concerned remainer who is not an ideological europhile but motivated primarily by worries over the economy, the limited duration of the proposed transitional period may result in either an unsatisfactory Free Trade agreement or else an extension of the transitional deal with the resulting uncertainty this would cause. Businesses share these concerns and at the moment have not been given any clear idea of the potential barriers to seamless trade with the EU that will occur whether or not there is an FTA.

Since the Referendum, the disillusionment with the ruling establishment has continued. It is not a problem peculiar to the UK or engendered by Brexit as there have been similar trends within the EU and in the United States.  Often decried as ‘populism’, it is a visible rejection of mainstream parties, the political status quo and its direction of travel. Our electoral system does not make it easy for new parties to make a breakthrough, but it cannot ultimately prevent radical change if dissatisfaction grows sufficiently. Given the trend amongst the ruling class to respond to their obvious unpopularity by becoming more insular and arrogant, we could see even greater political instability.

The Brexit dividend, which offered an opportunity for our country to reinvigorate freedom, enterprise, democracy and our world-leading traditional strengths for the benefit of all is being wasted. A period of unpredictability on the political front is looking increasingly likely given that it will not be long before the British people conclude en masse that the main problem, which is making their lives and those of their children potentially worse, is the ruling class.

2018: Must do better

After a week’s break – well, sort of – it’s back to Brexit with a vengeance. The big hope for 2018 is that the government will finally get to grips with what is involved in achieving a seamless divorce from the EU.  At the moment, we seem to be heading for a most unsatisfactory “transitional arrangement” which will see us still stuck in the EU in all but name for a further 21 months.  We would not be able to restrict freedom of movement, we would not regain control of fisheries and we would be stuck with every piece of legislation the EU cares to throw at us without any say in how these laws are framed.

It’s hardly surprising that Theresa May’s popularity is plummeting and public anger is rising as confidence in the ability of her team to deliver a decent Brexit is falling.  A poll conducted by YouGov found that six out of ten think that ministers are negotiating with the EU “badly”.

Two Brexit stories did surface during Christmas week – the welcome return of our traditional blue passports in 2019 and the proposal to award a knighthood to Nick Clegg. Enthusiasm for the former has been dismissed as old fashioned jingoism, but this is to miss the point. The production of our own passports without any reference to the European Union will be a powerful symbol that we are once again a sovereign nation, deciding our own laws and no longer being shoehorned into a madcap project which can only end in a catastrophic failure. The colour of the passport is irrelevant.

As for Nick Clegg’s knighthood, while he did serve as Deputy Prime Minister, viewed from a broader perspective, it is a reward for failure.  After leading his party into coalition with the Conservatives, the Lib Dems were decimated at the following general election. He failed to achieve his great ambition of bringing in a new voting system and then found himself on the wrong side of the Brexit campaign, losing his seat as a result. For anyone who feels that a reward to such an individual is totally misguided, you may like to sign this petition objecting to it. At time of writing, it has already gained over 45,000 signatures.

In 2018, it’s also important for us ordinary Brexit-supporters to up our game. Our enemies are still scheming. We were recently sent this link which comes for a pro-EU website urging people to spend their money supporting pro-EU groups rather than Brexit supporters. Companies and individual on both side of the debate are named. So although we believe it’s time to move on from the divisions of 2016, in the face of such malice, perhaps it behoves us to give our support to the likes of Wetherspoons, Tate & Lyle and Dyson rather than EasyJet or anything connected with the Virgin group.

We also need to up our game in explaining the real reasons for the Brexit vote, especially for the young. The appearance of this piece on the Huffington Post website a full 18 months after the referendum is very sad and deeply concerning.  The author, who identifies himself as a “millenial” still sees the Brexit vote as driven by nostalgia – particularly among older voters. The message still hasn’t got across that it was about re-joining the world instead of being stuck in the myopic, misguided and failing European project. Beyond the EU, the project is viewed negatively in a number of other neighbouring countries – including in some accession states. It’s not just old-fashioned English fogeys who don’t like the idea at all; plenty of ordinary people around the world share their disdain for the project.

The writer enthuses about proportional representation. People like him need to be told that if we really want to update our democracy, the answer is not to change the means by which we choose our elected representatives but the degree to which we can call them to account. Significantly, the best country in Europe, if not the world, to offer us a model for an advanced democracy fit for the 21st century is Switzerland, where “only a few lunatics” want their country to join the EU.

The young will be the main beneficiaries from Brexit. They won’t have to deal with the problem which has plagued us for over 40 years. They will be the main beneficiaries from the cut in migration – which is already happening – as fewer foreigners entering the UK will reduce the pressure on the housing market. Above all, they will reap the financial benefits, which are for the long term rather than for the immediate post-Brexit period. Rather than voting Brexit for selfish reasons, the older generation sought our departure from the EU for the good of their children and grandchildren as much as for themselves. The challenge for all of us in this new year is to get this message across. We too need to do better.

On that note, we in CIB wish you all a Happy New Year.

For those who DON’T want a break from Brexit……

Maybe you are longing for Christmas, especially given the Parliamentary recess will at least give s a week’s break for Christmas. If so, there’s no need to read any further…..

On the other hand, you may find this article of interest. Whatever the turmoil of our Brexit negotiations, our country has risen from fifth to first ranking in the Forbes list of the best countries in which to do business.  This is the first time we have ever taken the top spot and the competition is fierce – several Anglophone nations, Scandinavia, Hong Kong Singapore and Switzerland  would have given us a good run for our money.

On a very different note, Open Europe has published a report entitled Beyond the Westminster Bubble – what people really think of immigration. It’s quite long- 74 pages in total, but it well illustrates the strength of feeling that exists among the UK population for a cut in migration, even though there isn’t much confidence in the Government’s ability to meet its target to reduce numbers to “tens of thousands”.

Open Europe may not be the moist popular think tank among Brexit supporters, but it does produce some very useful research and this paper is well worth reading.

 

 

What to tell your grandchildren

The depths to which the remainiacs are descending is simply staggering. A recent article in The Times to which one of our supporters drew our attention shines the spotlight on a murky group fronted by, among others, the Labour peer Lord Adonis. It will be targeting young people, urging them to tell their grandparents that if they care about their grandchildren, they should reconsider their support for leaving the EU. In other words, they are trying to ferment inter-generational conflict to further their miserable hopes of stopping Brexit.

This “Ring your granny” strategy has a very dubious past. It was apparently used  to build support for same-sex marriage in Ireland.  One of the other promoters is a crackpot by the name of Madeleina Kay, who managed to get herself thrown out of  a Brussels press conference for wearing a superwoman costume! One report claims that her blog features pictures of her posing with pro-EU pond life such as Bob Geldof, Eddie Izzard, and Nick Clegg. Enough said.

Let us be clear:- there are people who either supported Brexit or else who have accepted the result of last year’s referendum who are genuinely concerned about the lack of progress with the negotiations so far. They are worried that a no-deal scenario would be far more damaging than we are being led to believe. The leading figures of this new campaign, however, have a totally different viewpoint. They want us to stay in the EU. They were convinced that Article 50 would never be triggered; when it was, they hoped that  the government would get cold feet and back out. Now reality has dawned that we really are leaving, nothing, it seems, will dissuade them from using every means, fair or foul, to frustrate the democratic result of last year’s referendum.

So, Grannies and Grandpas of this world, what should you do if you receive a phone call from a worried teenage grandchild? Here are a few suggestions:-

  1. Tell them that they should be grateful that the boil has finally been lanced and that over 40 years of our unhappy relationship with Brussels will finally come to an end, meaning that this problem won’t be bequeathed to their generation to sort out.
  2. Tell them that they will be the main beneficiaries. Yes, it may be tough for a year to two before things settle down, but within a generation, free to rebalance our trade with the growing economies of Asia and the Commonwealth rather than the sclerotic EU and free to set our own taxes and tariffs,  we will become more prosperous than if we had stayed in.
  3. Tell them that you can remember the days when we were an independent sovereign country and not only did we manage very well, it was actually better to be ruled by democratically-elected people from our own country than by unelected bureaucrats  in Brussels. Suggest that they stop being myopic and look beyond Europe to Australasia, America and Asia where successful nation states are the norm – and are flourishing. The Brexit vote, in other words, was a vote to re-join normality.
  4. Tell them of our deep love from freedom; how Magna Carta and our Common Law legal system have given us safeguards which are absent even now on much of the continent where Napoleonic inquisitorial legal systems reign supreme. Point out that we would have lost all this before they reached middle age if we had remained in the EU.
  5. Tell them that they will still be able to travel and study abroad. No one is suggesting putting up some sort of drawbridge nor is there any reason why we can’t stay part of the Erasmus scheme.
  6. Tell them that by being able to restrict immigration, it will make life a bit easier for them (albeit only slightly) by removing a little pressure from the housing market and thus helping them to buy their own home.
  7. Tell them to ignore the miserable self-flagellants who are always talking our country down. Remind them of the many events and people from our long history of which we can be proud. Maybe some of them have only been taught tosh in history classes, so a bit of education may be needed here, but what of our great military heroes like Drake, Blake, Nelson and Wellington? Inventors like James Watt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, John Logie Baird and Tim Berners-Lee? Tell them of Wilberforce and the campaign to eradicate slavery; of Churchill and how we stood alone against Hitler in 1940; of David Livingstone, the great missionary and explorer. The list is endless.
  8. Finally, tell them that you are not going to be around for ever and that one day their generation will have to take over. Warn them that if they continue swallowing all this nonsense from remainiacs, they won’t be fit to run a whelk stall, let alone the country!

Brexit – yes, we mean it!

In a recent article, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard painted an almost surreal picture of the misinformation circulating in the corridors of power in Brussels about Brexit.

He claims that many within the EU never took the Brexit vote seriously. He quotes Wolfgang Münchau, the associate editor of the Financial Times, who  claims that the EU has been caught off-guard at every stage of the saga. “We have argued for some time that the main risk to the entire Brexit process is a source of cognitive dissonance on the part of the EU, which has a long history of misjudging UK politics,” he said. He claimed that they did not believe that Mrs May was serious when she said that “Brexit means Brexit.” Unlike the Danish and Irish referendums on Maastricht and Lisbon, there was no call from Brussels for a second vote. Perhaps, one could argue, this was because it was felt that it wouldn’t be necessary as the UK government would back-pedal. Well, they were wrong.

Also quoted in this piece is Garvan Walshe, a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party. He recently stated that “Britain is no longer the rational, stable country that we are used to. There is a nationalistic, almost revolutionary mood” and went on to claim that the situation for EU nationals living and working in the UK is now so hostile that many will no longer want to work in the country whatever happens. He advised companies to prepare fro political breakdown in the UK.

This is hardly a picture of our country that we would recognise. Life has been remarkably normal since  June 23rd. The EU has never figured large in most voters’ list of concerns and now the vote is behind us, many people have accepted the result, lost interest and just want the government to get on with it. Having said that, it can be argued that the campaign leading up to the Brexit vote last June has changed things in certain areas. For instance, people are now far less inhibited when it comes to speaking their minds. There are far fewer taboos compared with the dark years of Tony Blair’s premiership. Although this has resulted in a few ugly incidents, overall it is a good thing as it shows that the stifling influence of political correctness enforced by a self-selecting élite has started to wane.

What is more, the Brexit vote was the result of years, if not decades, of campaigning to right what a sizeable number of the population have always regarded as an historic wrong. Winning the referendum may have made us a lot happier, but it hasn’t transformed us – suddenly turning us into hostile revolutionaries. The idea that to quote Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, some people now believe that “a once liberal nation is succumbing to dark forces” is ridiculous.

The likes of Mr Walshe may wish to point to the immigration figures for 2016 to try to prove their point. They were published this morning and reveal some welcome news – migration has fallen by 84,000, taking the total to 248,000 – just below a quarter of a million, although still well above the Conservative Party’s target annual target of 100,000.  The Brexit vote has almost certainly been a factor here as the main reason for the drop has been a notable fall in migration from EU member states, with 25,000 fewer arriving from so-called “EU8” – the former Soviet bloc countries which joined in 2004 – and an increase of 31,000 in the number of “EU8” nationals leaving the UK.

But is this due to “dark forces”? More likely due to a combination of a drop in the value of the pound, a lack of clarity about the status of EU nationals on Brexit and a perception that somehow the Brexit vote was a vote against them – which is a gross simplification of the many reasons why people voted to leave the EU. It is not as if a desire to reduce drastically the current totally unsustainable levels of migration somehow implies that one hates foreigners, much as some Guardianistas would like to have us believe

On one point, however, we can be sure. Those who voted for Brexit, with very few exceptions, knew what they wanted and still want it. Will there be some difficulties caused by leaving the EU? Almost certainly. It’s like an operation to remove a cancerous tumour which will inevitably be followed by a difficult and painful time of recuperation while things heal, but the alternative of not going through with the operation is far worse – certain death. It is this mindset which, seemingly, a good many politicians and bureaucrats the other side of the Channel cannot understand.

To pursue the cancer analogy, we do, however, need the best possible team of surgeons to be performing this pioneering operation and one article drawn to our attention raises a few concerns here. Michael Mosbacher claims that some local Conservative party branches have been blocked from choosing Brexit campaigners as candidates. In Aldershot, for example, which was formerly represented by leave supporter Sir Gerald Howarth, the branch wanted the well-known eurosceptic MEP Dan Hannan as their candidate, but he was not allowed to seek selection here.

With the Campaign  for an Independent Britain being a cross-party group, we encounter all shades of opinion and on more than a few occasions recently, your author has heard concerned activists express their opinion that Mrs May is gong to “betray” Brexit. Accounts like that of Mr Mosbacher lend credence to such stories, but against that is the momentum within the grassroots of the Tory party and a good number of its backbenchers which will not countenance any betrayal. One notable characteristic of Mrs May which was very apparent long before she became Prime Minister is her solid loyalty to the Conservative Party. She stood to become its leader on a platform that “Brexit means Brexit”, even though we still do not know the detail of what that will mean.

What we do know is that, assuming she wins this election, failure to deliver will not only be political suicide for her but will trigger the worst crisis in her party since 1846 when the Tories split down the middle over the repeal of the protectionist corn laws.  So far, she has held her party together and even though arch-remainer Ken Clarke has decided to carry on as an MP well past his sell-by date, she is unlikely to face much opposition from the other remain-supporting Tory MPs – after all, he was the only one to vote against the Brexit bill. Cross the ardent leave supporters on the Tory back benches and that is another matter.  Even if Mrs May’s team may have kept ardent leavers like Dan Hannan out of the vacant seats, the stakes are simply too high to backtrack. Any fudging on Brexit and yes, we would then see a “revolutionary mood” in the country. Thankfully, we can be sure that Mrs May is well aware of this. She will indeed be that “bloody difficult woman” when she goes to Brussels. Her party – indeed the 17,410,742 voters who supported Brexit – have given her no other option.

Could the Dutch follow us out of the EU door?

A new poll about attitudes to the EU in Holland, undertaken for the Bruges Group, by Maurice de Hond shortly before the country’s General Election, shows the Dutch prefer alternatives to the EU rather than EU membership. Support for Nexit (i.e., the total of  EFTA and FTA supporters) stood at 56% as opposed to 44% EU supporting continued EU membership. This compares to an IPSOS poll last year showing 64% preferred to remain in the EU. With the Netherlands going to the polls on 15th March, this poll could help pro-sovereignty parties. The poll gave respondents two choices for leaving the EU, the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) option and the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) option, which also included controlling immigration. The results show the Dutch are open to a working alternative, such as EFTA.

The full results were as follows:

39% = EU/Single Market
23% = EFTA/Single market (European Free Trade Association)
27% = FTA (Free Trade Association)
11% = Don’t Know

When Don’t Knows are excluded, this equates to:
56% = Nexit (EFTA+FTA)
44% = EU

The detailed results showed equally men and women supported Nexit options.

The national media on the continent is even more censored than the UK media, so the EFTA option may well be the easiest route to self-government and restoring democracy.

If the Dutch were to have a successful Nexit referendum, it would help our own Brexit negotiations if there was another country looking for a similar simple free trade agreement, with full immigration control. There is also the option of the other EFTA countries looking to renegotiate their terms and joining the UK and other European countries looking for self-government.

Interestingly, a similar poll for the UK, commissioned before last year’s referendum for the Bruges Group and undertaken by Opinium, showed 61% would support an EFTA+FTA option.

In summary, this poll shows that there is a real possibility the Netherlands may hold a Nexit referendum, with good chances of winning if the EFTA option is selected along with, maybe, a more phased approach to immigration control –  e.g. new Eastern Europeans having a 1 year working working visa, with a points system for staying longer. Since European relations have been in flux for hundreds of years, new ideas for trade agreements that benefit the majority of people, including the EFTA option, are showing in this poll.

The Bruges Group press release can be found here, with results tables

The Daily Express has published the poll results:

There are a number of options for EFTA membership:
– Full membership
– Associate membership

There are also a number of ways EFTA countries can trade with the EU
– EFTA/Single Market (Norway, Iceland)
– EFTA/Single Market, with immigration control (Liechtenstein)
– EFTA/bilateral (Switzerland)
– EFTA/FTA (Free Trade Agreement) (e.g. South Korea)
– EFTA/WTO rules (World Trade Organisation) (similar to China, which exports €300bn to the EU a year)

For regular updates about EFTA and the UK and Europe see here
For EFTA seminar powerpoints see here.
For a list of EFTA worldwide free trade agreements, see here

Hugo van Randwyck has been suggesting the EFTA option as a stepping stone for full self-government, starting with a transition to EFTA/Single Market, and using the articles 112 and 113 for phasing restoring self-government from the Single Market, e.g. immigration control . With the a simple FTA as the aim. In addition, looking at the option of northern Europe becoming an EFTA zone, with new members, the UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria ,Ireland, joining Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. He has written for the Bruges Group and also CIB.