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.

Leaving the EU – a Futurus briefing by Anthony Scholefield

Implementing the voters’ decision for Brexit is a huge task.  This paper analyses the way forward and recommends the most advantageous political and economic means of controlling the process.

The paper looks at the reasons why people voted to leave and summarises the debate since June 23rd. It considers how the concerns of business can be squared with a desire of many voters to restrict immigration from the EU.

Patriotism and freedom – A libertarian defence of national sovereignty

Philip vander Elst, a writer and former editor of Freedom Today, has recently produced this excellent and thought-provoking study which refutes any idea that patriotism is only appropriate for people looking back to the past. There is nothing selfish or bigoted about loving our country and its institutions.

It is a lust for power, not the existence of nation states which causes wars. Indeed, “national sovereignty and loyalty to the nation-state is one of the essential pillars of a free and peaceful international order.”

The author goes on to tackle the complex issue of immigraton and argues that “there is a strong and principled moral and libertarian case for acknowledging the right of individual countries to control their borders and the flow of migrants seeking to cross them.” In other words, a desire to restrict immigration is not necessarily racist.

The final point in the essay is that freedom is more compatible with a sovereign, democratic nation rather than a situation where people “are imprisoned within a world of monopolistic supranational regional power blocs, or worst of all, some monopolistic system of global government.”

In summary, an excellent rebuttal of the ideals of the European Project whose ideals still remain intact in the minds of some of its key players, including Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.

It also offers a useful starting-point in trying to de-programme our young people, many of whom have had little exposure to the very valid arguments against the European Union.

Brexit progress at the beginning of September

To ensure a successful and permanent separation from the EU, three tasks need to be accomplished. Firstly, Article 50 needs to be invoked, beginning the two-year process (which can be extended subject to mutual agreement)  which will actually take us out of the EU. Secondly, the government needs to have studied the alternatives and come up with a well-researched Brexit strategy that will ensure that we arrive at the exit door with the best possible future ahead of us, our trade with both the EU and the rest of the world in good shape. Thirdly,  remain voters, especially the young, need to be de-programmed and years of indoctrination undone so that the scales of europhilia will fall from their eyes. At the same time our democratic processes need to be renewed to ensure that no politician will ever be able to repeat Edward Heath’s litany of deceit to drag us back in.

The Campaign for an Independent Britain will do what we can to put pressure on HMG to ensure the first of these tasks takes place as soon as practically possible. As far as the second is concerned, we have sought to provide a forum for an exchange of views on the subject. Tackling the third will be a major long-term challenge and one which, no doubt in common with other pro-independence campaign groups, we are only starting to get to grips with. The Harrogate Agenda has gone some way to devising a blueprint for democratic renewal, but more needs to be done, especially in our schools and universities, to provide a counter-weight to years of pro-EU propaganda which young people have been fed and – in many cases – uncritically imbibed.

Another part of the de-indoctrination process is to provide resources. There is a need to disseminate news of post-Brexit developments, including informed comment. The shock of Brexit has left something of a vacuum and there has been no shortage of on-line doom mongers claiming that Brexit will never happen, while disgruntled remainers continue to call for a second referendum and to latch onto any piece of bad economic news.

We are therefore producing pieces like this article both to reassure worried leave voters and to provide them with information to use in their dealings with any remainers among their acquaintences. Once we separate the wood form the trees, the picture is actually pretty encouraging. Early economic indicators suggest that the “do-it-yourself recession” over which George Osborne fretted has not happened and is not going to. Meanwhile Theresa  May has proved much firmer on the issue of Brexit than many leave voters had expected. She intends to trigger Article 50 at some point next year and has ruled out a second referendum or an early general election. Her comments at yesterday’s cabinet meeting at Chequers have been quite unequivocal:-

“We must continue to be very clear that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, that we’re going to make a success of it. That means there’s no second referendum; no attempts to sort of stay in the EU by the back door; that we’re actually going to deliver on this.”

She also added that “quite a lot of work” had already been done over the summer to prepare the way for the Article 50 exit negotiations, although no more details were provided. She has stated that there will be a “red line” on free movement from the EU and thus that we would pursue an unique relationship with the EU rather than adopting an off the shelf solution such as the Norwegian or Swiss models.

Mrs May has also confirmed that there will be no parliamentary vote before Article 50 is triggered. This will spike Owen Smith’s guns, but is perfectly fair. After all, the referendum bill saw Parliament hand over to the electorate the final decision about whether or not to stay in the EU. Even if both Houses of Parliament have strong europhile majorities, it would still be nothing less than immoral to ride roughshod over June 23rd’s vote.

So it does look like Article 50 will be triggered and that we will therefore begin the withdrawal process at some point next year. This is all very positive. It would be good to know a bit more about the likely exit route and how the key issues of restricting migration and access to the single market will be dealt with.  It is no secret that there are disagreements over these issues within Mrs May’s cabinet. However, in view of her tough rhetoric on immigration at last year’s Conservative conference, it is no surprise that she has thrown her weight behind some restriction on freedom of movement – after all, immigration was one of the main factors behind the leave victory and recent statistics have underlined the scale of the task which her government faces if these aspirations are to be met.

Returning to the economy, things look pretty positive.  Last week, we mentioned Anatole Kaletsky, who claimed that over time, public opinion would shift back towards EU membership. In the interest of fairness, it’s only right that we report his “Remainer’s Recantation”  – in other words, his admission that  the post-June 23rd armageddon he predicted hasn’t come to pass:- “Nobody can say at present whether this newfound indifference to Brexit will turn out to be well-founded realism, complacency or wishful thinking, but it is definitely not the attitude that I expected in the panicky hours immediately after the vote.”

The CBI’s latest quarterly survey also shows that business and professional services firms – which include accountancy, legal and marketing firms – reported that business volumes were unchanged on the quarter, after rising in May. Meanwhile, consumer services companies – which include hotels, bars, restaurants, travel, leisure – saw further moderate growth in business volumes. The report highlighted a decline in optimism, but given that the CBI was a staunch supporter of remain, this isn’t really a great surprise. With business performing better than expected, it is likely that this lack of optimism will prove a short-term issue, which will dissipate once a clear timetable for Article 50 and details of the withdrawal strategy are spelt out.

This article from the oil and gas industry’s magazine expresses some concern about the possible effects of Brexit on a very unstable EU, claiming that it could trigger a fall in demand, but the article goes on to say that “things rarely turn out as bad as we feared or as well as we hoped.”  Meanwhile, consumer spending has rebounded, with strong high street sales figures reported for July.

All in all, a pretty upbeat picture of our economy. In fact, in view of the data, it is highly questionable whether the Bank of England should have re-started its Quantitative Easing. The economist Tim Congdon called the move “crazy”.

For all that, we did the right thing on June 23rd and if anyone is in any doubt, the recent behaviour of the European Commission should put their minds at rest. Less than two months after  the decision by one of the biggest EU member states to leave this project, the Commission President, the arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker showed just what a different world he lives in compared with the average UK voter. “Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians”, he recently said in a recent meeting to discuss the future of the EU following the Brexit vote.  Our Prime Minister replied that people of the United Kingdom consider the control over their country’s borders to be important.  Indeed, the desire to regain a greater degree of control of our borders was a big factor in the Leave vote.

But we are not alone in our concerns. The migration crisis is causing borders to be reinstated in many frontiers across Europe, even between countries who signed the Schengen accord. Mr Juncker’s desire to see national borders sompletely abolished is increasingly out of step with the wishes of many EU “citizens”.

Meanwhile, his colleagues at the Commission have seriously upset the Irish.  Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner, ordered Apple to pay €13 billion in tax to the Irish government, claiming that its arrangement with the Irish government is illegal under state aid rules. Not only is Tim Cook, Apple’s Chief Executive, annoyed by this decision, calling it “maddening” and “political”, but reaction in Ireland has been very hostile. The Irish cabinet is contemplating an appeal against the decision, while Michael O’Leary of Ryanair, one of Ireland’s most well-known businessman, used somewhat stronger language to register his disapproval.

While such resentment is unlikely to build up a sifficient head of steam to lead to calls for Irexit, there is no doubt that the European Commission could prove one of the withdrawal movement’s key allies in our longer term campaign to ensure we never re-join the EU.  Its behaviour makes our end-game a lot more achievable – namely when we reach the same point as Switzerland where, to quote  Thomas Minder, a counsellor for Schaffhausen state, only ‘a few lunatics’ want to join the EU,

A suggested framework for the exit negotiations

Some thoughts on how to upgrade from current EU membership to a Self-Governing Democracy with option of EFTA/Single Market + Opt Outs

There could be an easy and fast track way of switching from EU membership to a win-win agreement with EU countries, perhaps using the EFTA + Opt Outs approach? This would keep our access ot the single market and could help business confidence and also ease the strain on public services.

There could be 3 tracks for the negotiations:

  • Carrying out the negotiations
  • Using article 112 and 113 of the Single Market (EEA + European Economic Area) agreement to take ‘unilateral measures’ while negotiations are ongoing.
  • And simplifying the regulations in the UK

Firstly, having an idea of what the win-win agreement looks like is essential.  This could include membership of EFTA (European Free Trade Association www.efta.int) and keeping free access to the Single Market with goods, services and capital – with all the rest with UK control, including movement of people.

– EFTA already exists, and EFTA member Liechtenstein has ‘special provisions’ for controlling immigration

– So, arranging a meeting with EU countries and say that the is UK looking for a win-win economic agreement, not a lose-win political/economic agreement, in order of preference EFTA/Single Market + Opt Outs (Norway, Liechtenstein), or EFTA/Bi-lateral (Switzerland), then FTA (South Korea), then WTO (China). Indeed, the former is the only seamless route through the Brexit door

– Apply to EFTA countries for membership, using article 56, of EFTA Convention

– UK apply for membership of world organisations for speaking and voting, e.g. WTO

– Approach existing countries with Free Trade Agreements with EFTA-e.g. Canada – for implementing Free Trade Agreements

Secondly, using article 112 and 113 of the EEA agreement, for unilateral actions, for a win-win approach, i.e. that UK citizens could get in other countries, including standard of living, while carrying out negotiations with the EU.

This could be used in a number of areas, to get immediate benefits for the economy

  • All new Eastern European immigrants get only a 1 year working visa, no children, no access to benefits, and a points skills system for staying longer
  • All other new EU immigrants have free movement, unless their unemployment is 7% or more, then they only get a 1 year working visa, no children, no access to benefits, and a points system for staying longer. Things that may help reduce their unemployment rate, could include restoring their original currencies.
  • If the UK unemployment rate is 7% or more, then all new EU immigrants only get a 1 year working visa, no children, no access to benefits, points skills system for staying longer.
  • Any new immigrant with an EU passport, from any EU country, who was not born in an EU country to EU parents does not get any free movement or automatic working visa, and needs to apply, using a point system, no children, no access to benefits. I.e. people who have bought their passport sin other EU countries, do not get automatic entry to work and live in the UK.
  • Optional: anyone who has already arrived in the last 5 years from Eastern Europe, is not entitled to benefits, including access to council housing. Anyone who has arrived from other EU countries, with unemployment rate 7% or over, in the last 5 years, does is not entitled to benefits
  • Any EU citizen with a previous serious crime criminal record – crime against property, financial crime, crimes against the person across any age group – is deported. Any EU citizen convicted in the UK for a crime – property, financial or person – is deported and serves sentence in EU country of origin.
  • Anyone from an EU country wishing to buy a residential property, can only buy after living 5 years in the UK and paying tax – similar to Denmark.

 Thirdly, simplifying regulations.

Setting up an online system for easily accessing, searching, sorting and finding regulations, their source and use, for all areas in the UK, including national, county and local government, so working groups can review all existing regulations and simplify. For example:

UK law

  • UK law number, relevant Ministry, topic
  • text of law, any paperwork used for implementation
  • who affects, numbers of people and businesses, cost/benefits, usage

EEA/Single Market law

  • EEA law number
  • UK law number, relevant Ministry, topic
  • text of law and listing of any UK additions, any paperwork used for implementation
  • who affects, numbers of people and businesses, cost/benefits, usage

EU law

  • EU law number
  • UK law number, relevant Ministry, topic
  • text of law and listing of any UK additions, any paperwork used for implementation
  • who affects, numbers of people and businesses, cost/benefits, usage

World laws

  • World body law number
  • UK law number, relevant Ministry, topic
  • text of law and listing of any UK additions, any paperwork used for implementation
  • who affects, numbers of people and businesses, cost/benefits, usage

Process: Select Committee, consulting all relevant parties, for ideas and any ‘quick wins’

  • -Ask for advice from expertise in existing EFTA countries, for simplifying
  • Ask for advice from expertise in other successful countries

Listing of all articles and regulations from current treaty that are to be run by Parliament, including:

  • Movement of people
  • Environment
  • Social chapter
  • European Convention of Human Rights

For setting up  cross party groups, to look at:

  • What works for the UK
  • what has had unintended side affects
  • incorporating ‘net benefit’ articles and regulations, in whole or part into UK law
  • repealing ‘net cost’ articles and regulations

In addition, for fast track simplifying:

  • Ask industry groups – small, medium and large – for listing of regulations and laws that hinder job creation and productivity, including ’gold-plating’ that add costs that prevent small businesses competing with larger businesses
  • Include a listing of which regulations make it difficult for small businesses to tender for public sector contracts and also compete with larger companies in the wider economy, e.g. excessive paperwork
  • Ask union groups for listing, as above, and also areas where health and safety is an issue
  • Listing also from charities and public sector of regulations unnecessary, since they do not export to the EU
  • e. since only 9% of the economy is involved with EU trade, eliminating unnecessary regulations for the other 91% of the economy
  • Listing of adverse rulings from the European Convention of Human Rights, that reward criminals, overrule other laws passed by Parliament, lead to loss of public faith in the legal system, are no benefit and merely create jobs in the legal profession. Listing also good rulings from the ECHR. Then look to simplify the ECHR, to be aligned with values of UK legal system and evolution.
  • Use the 80/20 rule for prioritizing, i.e. which 20% of suggestions, would give 80% of the benefits listed

Use article 112 and 113 for implementing the above and evaluate ongoing. It is also possible to start with trails in certain parts of the country, if this makes sense, before going for a nationwide implementation of unnecessary regulations

This is an easier way to accelerate the benefits for implementing prosperity, keeping it transparent, for the public to have faith, and not have big cartels, special interest groups and vote buying politicians, decide the outcomes. So restoring government of the people, by the people, for the people, prosperity for the many and also making it easier for other countries in the EU, to see benefits of voting leaving the EU and upgrading to democracy.

Hugo van Randwyck