Ireland’s bluff called – a letter from our Chairman

This letter was sent by our Chairman, Edward Spalton, to the Scottish Daily Record in response to an article which appeared in the paper on 27th November.

Sir,

( I was visiting, so chanced to read your article “Dublin Down” p4, Monday 27 November).

For an EU document, Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union is unusually short and easy to understand.

It is quite clear that the arrangements for a country to leave the EU are to be agreed by the European Council under the Qualified Majority procedure. The Council’s decision is then subject to approval by the EU parliament.

Neither the Irish government nor any single member state has a power of veto. I am no longer surprised at the ignorance of our politicians which allows the threat of a veto by the Irish Prime Minister to go unchallenged.  But I live in hopes of better informed newspaper correspondents!

Unwillingness to consult original EU documents is widespread in high places. At a recent private meeting of top business leaders in London, nobody put up their hand when asked if they had even skim-read an EU Free Trade Agreement. Former civil servants who were present said this was true of ministers they had served.

Of course, most such documents  are long and crashingly boring but this is not true of Article 50.

Yours faithfully

Edward Spalton

European Council authorises the start of Brexit talks and adopts negotiating directives

Below is an official press release from the European Council. Brexit talks are expected to begin in earnest during the week beginning 19th June according to Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. This will be shortly after the UK General Election

The Council, meeting in an EU27 format, adopted a decision authorising the opening of Brexit negotiations with the UK and formally nominating the Commission as EU negotiator. The Council also adopted negotiating directives for the talks.

Both texts are based on a recommendation presented by the Commission on 3 May 2017 and build on the guidelines adopted by the European Council (Art.50) on 29 April 2017. Their adoption allows for the start of negotiations with the UK following the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU (under article 50 of the Treaty of the EU).

“Today we have established the EU position on the key issues for the beginning of the talks. The rights of citizens are at the very top of our agenda and we aim for an ambitious solution, where those affected continue to enjoy their rights”.

Louis Grech, Deputy Prime Minister of Malta and President of the Council

Negotiating directives and phased approach

This first set of negotiating directives is intended to guide the Commission for the first phase of the negotiations. They therefore prioritise issues that have been identified as necessary for an orderly withdrawal of the UK, including citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the situation of Ireland, as well as other matters in which there is a risk of legal uncertainty as a consequence of Brexit.

The first phase of the talks aims to provide as much clarity and legal certainty as possible and to settle the disentanglement of the UK from the EU. Once the European Council deems sufficient progress has been achieved, the negotiations will proceed to the next phase.

An agreement on a future relationship between the EU and the UK can only be concluded once the UK effectively leaves the EU and becomes a third country. However, discussions on an overall understanding of that future relationship could start during a second phase of the negotiations.

The negotiating directives may be amended and supplemented during the negotiations.

Citizens’ rights

The first priority for the negotiations is to agree on guarantees to protect the rights of EU and UK citizens, and their family members, that are affected by Brexit. The EU27 insist that such guarantees should be reciprocal and based on equal treatment among EU27 citizens and compared to UK citizens. This should cover, among others, the right to permanent residence after five years of legal residence, including if this period is incomplete on the date of withdrawal but is completed afterwards.

The negotiating directives specify that workers, self-employed persons, students and other inactive persons should be covered, as well as frontier workers and family members. Guarantees should protect residence rights and free movement, as well as all the rights attached to them (such as health care). All rights should be protected for the lifetime of the persons concerned.

Financial settlement

The EU27 agree there must be a single financial settlement and the UK must honour its share of all the obligations undertaken while being a member. The UK should also fully cover the specific costs related to the withdrawal, such as the relocation of EU agencies currently based in the UK. The agreement should include a calculation of the total amount and a schedule of payments, as well as further rules and arrangements to address specific issues.

The situation of Ireland

The EU is committed to continue to support peace, stability and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. Nothing in the UK withdrawal agreement should undermine the objectives and commitments of the Good Friday Agreement. Negotiations should aim to avoid a hard border, while respecting EU law. Issues such as the transit of goods will need to be addressed.

Goods placed on the market and procedures based on EU law

The negotiating directives also cover other issues were arrangements are needed to reduce uncertainty and avoid a legal vacuum. This includes addressing what will happen with procedures based on EU law and with goods already on the market. For instance, if a product is already placed on the single market before the withdrawal, it should be ensured that it can remain in the market afterwards.

Other matters where there may be a need to reduce uncertainty or avoid a legal vacuum, such as services, will be covered in future negotiating directives.

Next steps

The Commission will agree with the UK the dates for the first negotiating sessions. The first formal meeting between the EU and the UK negotiators is likely to take place in June.

 

Aspirations, but little detail

The Government’s eagerly-awaited white paper, “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union” appeared yesterday. It consists of over 70 pages in total, although one or two pages are blank.

It has twelve sections, which are as below:-

1. Providing certainty and clarity – We will provide certainty wherever we can as we approach the negotiations.

2. Taking control of our own laws – We will take control of our own statute book and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK.

3. Strengthening the Union – We will secure a deal that works for the entire UK – for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all parts of England. We remain fully committed to the Belfast Agreement and its successors.

4. Protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area – We will work to deliver a practical solution that allows for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area, whilst protecting the integrity of our immigration system and which protects our strong ties with Ireland.

5. Controlling immigration – We will have control over the number of EU nationals coming to the UK.

6. Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU – We want to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in other Member States, as early as we can.

7. Protecting workers’ rights – We will protect and enhance existing workers’ rights.

8. Ensuring free trade with European markets – We will forge a new strategic partnership with the EU, including a wide reaching, bold and ambitious free trade agreement, and will seek a mutually beneficial new customs agreement with the EU.

9. Securing new trade agreements with other countries – We will forge ambitious free trade relationships across the world.

10. Ensuring the UK remains the best place for science and innovation – We will remain at the vanguard of science and innovation and will seek continued close collaboration with our European partners.

11. Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism – We will continue to work with the EU to preserve European security, to fight terrorism, and to uphold justice across Europe.

12. Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU – We will seek a phased process of implementation, in which both the UK and the EU institutions and the remaining EU Member States prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us.

After reading it through, the abiding impression it creates is that it has identified the key issues we will face in leaving the EU and also sets out in very broad terms what the Government would like a post-Brexit UK to look like. What is missing is the detail, including how we will arrive at the end point.

To take one subject which will be familiar to readers of this website – fishing.  All the White Paper tells us is that “it is in both our interests to reach a mutually beneficial deal that works for the UK and the EU’s fishing communities. Following EU exit, we will want to ensure a sustainable and profitable seafood sector and deliver a cleaner, healthier and more productive marine environment.” There is no detail regarding what is to supersede the Common Fisheries Policy, even though there would be huge problems if it were  repatriated into UK Law.

For instance, Regulation 1380/2013, the most important fisheries regulation, contains numerous mention of “union waters”. On leaving the EU, the waters up to 200 nautical miles from our shoreline (or the median point where we are less than 400 miles from another country’s coasts) will no longer be union waters, so a lot of re-writing would be necessary. Why bother, however, when the CFP and its quota system is so seriously flawed?  We can but hope that by the time negotiations get under way, the Government realises the importance of excluding fisheries legislation from any large-scale repatriation of the EU Acquis into UK law.

The White Paper raises the issue of the EU customs union and our future relationship with it. The Government has been very enthusiastic about wanting to make the most of our freedom to strike our own trade deals but there is very little detail about how it proposes to maintain trade with the EU. “There are a number of options for any new customs arrangement, including a completely new agreement, or for the UK to remain a signatory to some of the elements of the existing arrangements.”

The positive assessment of the UK’s involvement in Ukraine (under Section 11) does not make for happy reading, sadly. Now we are on the way out, it is time to leave the EU to its own empire building and to join President Trump in seeking rapprochement with Russia rather than than continuing foolishly and unnecessarily to antagonise Moscow.

Of course, this white paper has been produced to satisfy demands by MPs to be given some idea about the Government’s Brexit plans. The government has a bit of a tightrope to walk. MPs understandably don’t want to be left in the dark but at the same time, there are good reason for Mrs May and her team keeping their cards close to their chest so as not to give too much away to the people from the EU with whom they must negotiate.

On balance, however, anyone who has been listening to the recent speeches by Mrs May and her Brexit team would have not found much in this document which they did not already know. It defines the important tasks which needs to be addressed and paints a very positive vision of what life will be like once we’re out. How the Government will take us to this point is another matter and we hope more will be revealed soon as it cannot afford to get this wrong.

 

Overturning Referendums – it’s the European way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fisheries Part 5:- Brexit must mean Brexit

I hate to be sounding a negative note after the euphoria of the recent Conservative Party conference, but having seen and spoken to so many people in Birmingham, from Ministers and MPs to ordinary party members and lobbyists, I got a pretty good feel as to what is developing and as far as fisheries is concerned, it could end up being a sell-out.

The party is currently on a massive high. It believes that it will be in power for years to come, but if it does not deliver a good Brexit, it could be heading for serious trouble in the not too distant future.

Mrs May stated her intention to invoke Article 50 will be invoked by the end of March 2017. The objective is that we will have left the EU before both the next European Parliamentary elections and the next UK general election. This sounds fine, but even at very senior levels, there is still considerable ignorance about the implications of Section 3 of Article 50, that the Treaties shall cease to apply the moment we finally leave.

The next Queen’s speech, which is usually delivered in May, will lay out the intention to repeal the European Communities 1972 Act, the Act which allows all EU legislation to pass into UK law, This repeal act is expected to be passed before the two year Article 50 period is up.

So far so good. This is part and parcel of Mrs May’s insistence that the UK will again be a sovereign and independent country. The problematical part is how the government proposes to address the problem of filling the holes that result from EU legislation no longer having any force because the treaties no longer apply. What about, for example, the standards for bathing water in UK beaches, which have been determined by the EU?  What of other environmental legislation which originated with the EU?

The simplest and safest models to follow are countries like Ireland and India. When Ireland beacme independent in 1922, it incorporated all existing British law into Irish law and unpicked those acts which did not suit Ireland’s interests once things had settled down. India adopted a similar policy in 1947.  Mrs May has hinted that the UK government intends to follow the same route – in other words, to incorporate the full acquis communautaire (all EU legislation), into UK law and then review everything at a later date, discarding those laws which are not in the national interest.

However, there is no reason why some exceptions should not be made and fisheries is one such area. If all EU fisheries legislation was just incorprated lock, stock and barrel into UK law, it would not only be an opportunity wasted but would create serious and totally unnecessary problems.

The Common Fisheries Policy is well known to have been a disaster both for our fishermen and for the marine environment. The beauty of Article 50 is that at the end of the two year period the Treaties and regulations cease to apply. As the CFP has relied on regulations, this means that without having to do anything at all, control of our 200 mile/median point reverts to the UK government.

Unfortunately, it appears that the government is planning to include the CFP in the overall incorporation of the acquis communautire into UK law, which means that we would continue with the CFP in all but name. This means that Parliament will continue to give our resource away and worse still, it is sending out a signal that we endorse the CFP.

By the time we have reached the proivisonal exit date, the present 10-year management derogation under which we presently operate would have been up for review if we were still in the EU, as it is due to expire at the end of 2022. If we agree to continue with what is something like the CFP, we will therefore find ourselves stuck on April Fool’s Day 2019 facing a complex set of negotiations just to determine how much access our fishermen may have to something which is theirs by right.

Under international law, the waters round the UK are as much part of our country as the Yorkshire Dales or the South Downs. Considering the tough words we heard about restricting access to our country for EU citizens, it is therefore crazy not to take the chance of restricting access to our waters by EU fishing vessels. It will be a tough balancing act if the Government is to secure sufficient access to the Single Market without having to agree to freedom of movement for EU citizens. It can be done, as Liechtenstein has shown, but even so, the repatriation of fisheries to natonal control  is far more straightforward. Do absolutely nothing during the two-year Article 50 period and the moment we leave,  the regulations cease to apply. Job done.

Unfortunately, unless we continue to lobby hard, I can envisage the UK agreeing to a fisheries policy  running in parallel with the CFP. The possibility of turning British fisheries round and introducing a sensible and sustainable model, based on days at sea rather than the flawed quota system, may well be wasted, along with it the opportunity to revitalise our coastal communities. Sadly, at conference, the only person I met who fully understood the situation as I have described it was the Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan.

Unless the Conservative Party gives a clear commitment to ensuring that at the same time as the acquis is transferred to UK law, the relevant parts of UK legislation that gives the quota share-out and historic rights to the EU, is repealed, then it could result in the termination of our industry. Two generations will have gone due the the blight of the CFP and very few young people are coming into the Industry. This is our last chance to rebuild the industry. Sadly, it  became very clear as conference progressed that one has any confidence that the Conservative hierarchy has the will to take back real control of our 200 nautical mile/median line zone. The emphasis sadly seems to be on looking after our European neighbours rather than making Brexit mean Brexit.

What has changed since 1972? Just like Peter Walker, who refused to fight tough in 1982 when the first derogation was up for renewal because it might upset “our friends and partners in Western Europe“, the emphasis sadly still seems to be on looking after the interests of our European neighbours rather than making Brexit mean Brexit. Mrs May has insisted that the UK will not be a “supplicant” to Brussels  and “will negotiate from a position of strength”, but here is a case where the mechanics of the EU have dealt us a strong hand and her ministers seem intent on throwing it away.

This may seem a very downbeat assessment, but it is better that everyone is aware of the problem at this stage so that we can organise a campaign before Article 50 is invoked. As Sir Robert Worcester, the founder of Mori, pointed out at a fringe meeting, one person in a hundred switching sides during a General Election can change the result. Over 17 million people voted to leave the EU. When they realise that unless the Government give a clear commitment on fisheries, Brexit does not mean Brexit, the current euphoria in the Conservative Party could rapidly come to an end.

Some helpful support from Ireland

As a new month begins, we all in the “leave” campaign are looking for a boost during this critical period. This e-mail from Dr Anthony Coughlan of Dublin offers us some encouragement – or rather, points (1) and (3) do. With regard to point (3), there is no doubt that the commitment of pro-withdrawal activists massively exceeds those who support staying in the EU. We have a belief in our cause. True believers in the EU project will get short shrift if they explain honestly what they would like to see the EU (and the UK in it) become – hence the predominance of fear tactics and deceit on their side. It is all they have to offer. We need to counter it and the more of us who can get the message across to the undecided voters, the more we are likely to succeed. As the day draw nearer.  many of us are queitly hopeful that things will gradually turn round. We must not underestimate our opposition (see point (2) below), but this referendum is eminently winnable.

Dear British Friends,

As an Irish EU-critic who ardently desires the “Brexiteers” to win  in June and who is following the referendum campaign closely, may I make what I believe are three points, based on extensive experience of EU-related referendums in Ireland, in the hope that you may find one or other of them useful:-

1)   The first is to say that in my opinion and that of colleagues as interested and  committed outsiders the most potentially winning message for the Brexit side is to stress the  need for Britain to make its own laws and decide its own policies in its own people’s interests, rather than have the EU do that … In other words to have laws and policies decided by people whom the British people elect and who are responsible to them, rather than by EU committees that serve continental interests.

This key point of National Independence and National Democracy/Self-determination encompasses ALL the other EU-related issues  – viz. who decides trade treaties and in whose interests,  who controls the State borders and immigration, who decides Britain’s fishing policy, tax policy, energy policy, human rights policy, civil liberties  etc…National Independence and national democracy are over-arching concepts that cover all these subsidiary policy areas, as against rule by Brussels and indirectly by Berlin.

In my opinion the “Remain” camp can be put on the defensive by the issue of whether  it  London or Brussels/Berlin should make the laws and decide what policies the British people follow in order to serve their own interests. Might it be worth asking voters: “Do you support democracy or not?”,   “Do you want Britain to be an independent State or  not?”.. .  “You Lose Money, Power, Jobs by voting Remain”.. .”Make 23 June the day when the British people win back their democracy and national  independence” etc.


2.) The second point is that, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points out in today’s Telegraph, it has been US Government policy for decades to build up the EU in the context of the Cold War and America’s European policy generally. It was President John F. Kennedy who pushed Prime Minister Harold Macmillan into applying to join the then EEC in 1961. This remains US policy, as reiterated by President Obama, and the policy of the major Western Governments today. In that connection one can expect that if the  referendum vote looks like being close as 23 June approaches, the intelligence services of the major Western Powers are likely to do all they can to influence the referendum outcome in favour of “Remain”. 

The Leave-side should therefore be prepared in advance for “dirty tricks”, electronic communication problems  and provocations of various kind. In particular the Leave-side organisations would be well advised to be especially alert regarding the counting of votes, the sealing and security of ballot boxes, and their overnight care and supervision before the referendum count when that comes nearer. For obvious reasons a referendum poll is much more open to abuse in these respects than is a general election poll.

We had some experience of such incidents in Ireland’s second Lisbon Treaty referendum in 2009, when it was vital for the EU interests generally that Irish voters should reverse their earlier rejection of the EU Constitution now embodied in the Lisbon Treaty. Even greater issues are riding on the Brexit vote, so people should not be naive regarding what to expect and one should make preparations accordingly.  

3.) Ireland’s referendum experience shows that the winning side will be that which does most personal communication, giving people personally and ideally face-to-face the reasons why “Vote Leave is the Safer Option” for them – through social media, street leafleting,  door-to-door canvassing, the organisation of local campaign groups etc.  

With all good wishes from some of your friends in Ireland. . .
yours faithfully

Anthony Coughlan
DIrector     

 

Photo by The British Library