Can it really be done?

In just over 21 months time, we will hopefully be leaving the EU. With the exception of military matters and the European Arrest Warrant, Mrs May’s objective appears to be for the UK to enjoy a looser relationship with the EU than that of any other European country which is not a member state, apart from countries like Belorus and Russia.

After all, all four EFTA countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) are part of the Schengen area while several micro-states including Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City use the Euro. Turkey is part of the EU’s Customs Union while Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are, of course, part of the European Economic Area.

Can we realistically expect to reach a greater degree of detachment than these countries by March 2019? The Government has not gone into any detail about how it proposes to achieve such a radical divorce in a very short space of time, but the Bruges Group published a booklet earlier this year, entitled  What will it look like? How leaving the single market can be made to work for Britain. Two of the authors, Robert Oulds and Dr Lee Rotherham, are CIB Committee members.

The problem with staying in the European Economic Area by rejoining EFTA is that it would not resolve the customs clearance issue. We do need a customs agreement with the EU, as a lack of a deal in this area is the biggest problem which our trade with the EU would face. (Just to reiterate, a customs agreement is totally different from remaining in the customs union which, as we have pointed out, is irrelevant as far as Brexit is concerned.)

By contrast, standards compliance rarely causes delays. Another red herring is the issue of access to the EU’s financial services market. It can be accessed from outside the EEA, as the authors explain.

The key to a successful trade deal lies in identifying the potential problems early on, which the authors seek to do in this publication.

With the terms “Hard” and “Soft” Brexit bandied about without everyone being agreed on what this means, the authors claim that there is no such thing as a truly “Hard” Brexit. but  there are significant obstacles to be overcome. Nonetheless, a trade agreement between the EU and the UK, focused on tariff reduction and clearing customs, could take just 18 months to complete.

The authors explain why UK’s bargaining position is stronger than many commentators believe. Given that David Davis has already had to concede to his EU counterpart’s demands that talks on a trade deal cannot begin until other exit arrangements have been agreed, any strong cards in his hand will, I am sure, be most appreciated.

 

 

Ten Years? not likely

It could be a full-time job just to debunk all the nonsense that is doing the rounds at the moment.

The latest scare story to do the rounds is a suggestion that UK withdrawal would trigger “ten years of uncertainty.” This is partly based on fears about the validity of trade deals negotiated by the EU on our behalf (and the other member states too, of course).

Lord Lawson, interviewed on the World At One, disputed this and he is right. At a recent seminar Robert Oulds, a CIB Committee member, explained that there was a “presumption of continuance” when one party to a trade deal underwent a change of circumstances. Thus, we would still be able to participate in such trade deals as those negotiated between the EU and Chile, Mexico and South Korea on leaving the EU. Let’s face it, this is sheer common sense; why would either party not want to continue?  All that would be needed is for the two parties to sign an agreement stating that they wish the deal to continue.

Of course, trading with the EU could be more complex and this is why there has been much support for using the so-called Norway Option (re-joining EFTA to allow sealess access to the EEA) to tide us over. It is possible that the desired Europe-wide genuine Free Trade agreement which would replace the EEA COULD take another 10 years, but as long as trade continues seamlessly throughout the withdrawal period, as it would with the EEA/EFTA secnario, no one need be worried. Indeed, as Richard North has put it, this ten years would be a Decade of opportunity.

While we’re at it,  claims that we need ot stay in the EU for security grounds have also been dismissed by Richard Walton, Scotland Yard’s former head of Counter Terrorism.  According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, he said that reducing terror plots is “absolutely not” dependent on being a member of the European Union. “So let’s not scare the horses with fears about Brexit.”  How many more scare stories are we going to have to debunk?

Returning to the World At One feature, it was correct on one point. An academic was quoted saying that once Article 50 is invoked. “the train has left the station” – in other words, withdrawal MUST happen.

Is this scary? Hardly. If you were told, “After 43 years in prison, we’re going to let you out soon, but beware! Once you go through that prison door, we’re never going to let you back in again”, would you really worry about that?

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George’s game

It is not only the PM who has been jet-setting around Europe to try and convince us he is engaged in serious talks about EU reform. His side-kick George Osborne has been getting in on the act too, embarking on a tour of European Capitals that began in Paris a couple of days ago.

Osborne recently gave an interview with the Daily Telegraph in which he stated that “For Britain, I always felt that the central attraction of European Union membership was the economic one.” He also went on to say that “I prefer to talk about it as a single market of free trade. It’s free trade with the rules that enable the free trade to be a real success. That’s the way I think we should think about it.”

So Osborne isn’t interested in the EU’s political agenda? Could it be that he isn’t even aware that the objective of the EU is to create a federal superstate? That the great Monnet plan to deceive the peoples of Europe by disguising a political project as an economic project has been so successful that it has pulled the wool over the eyes of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer?

We are left with one of two conclusions. Either he is so stupid, ill-informed or naïve as to be totally unfit to hold such high office or else he is playing a game – engaged, like his boss, in a charade. One is inclined to the latter option, but it is possible that Ozzie really is a complete dimwit, especially given his economic record. We must never over-estimate the intelligence of our politicians. After all, his mate Dave (you know, our Prime Minister), was educated at one of the coutry’s top schools but was still unable to provide an English translation of Magna Carta for an American news channel.

Whatever, in the unlikely event that either George or any of his close friends visits this website, perhaps they should encourage him to read the Flexcit document which explains how we can maintain full access to the single market without having to be a member of it. If this proves too much for such a bear of very little brain, then perhaps he should try Robert Oulds’ Everything You wanted to know about the EU but were too afraid to ask, which goes over some of the same ground but isn’t so long or detailed. I think that shouldn’t be too hard for you, Georgie Boy. Oh hang on a minute – it has over 200 pages and there aren’t any pictures in it, so maybe it might be a bit too taxing after all…..

Photo by altogetherfool

Article 50: Is it a trap or not?

Some of our supporters have expressed a concern that invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which is the EU’s own prescribed exit route, would lure us into a trap designed to ensnare countries and ensure that departure from the EU is impossible.

Any discussion of this subject must being by looking at what Article 50 actually says; Its wording is as follows:-

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

Robert Oulds, the Director of the Bruges Group and a member of the CIB Committee has researched this subject in some detail. These are his conclusions:-

1) Article 50 does not preclude unilateral withdrawal. If after two years a withdrawing country does not want to conclude an agreement then it can just simply leave. But Article 50 is the only way the EU can be brought to the negotiating table, otherwise a post-EU withdrawal agreement will take time to achieve, from 5 to 10 years.

2) Article 50 can be initiated by an Act of Parliament or by Royal Prerogative, HM Government simply making the decision to withdraw by giving notification. Such notification cannot be cancelled, only delayed but that can only be done by unanimous agreement of the European Council.

3) Once the UK has submitted its notice to leave Britain will automatically withdraw unless those negotiations are extended. The European Council will have to unanimously agree to the extension, perhaps one or more of the UK’s less reliable ‘allies’ on the continent will wish for Britain to just go and will therefore not extend the discussions thus forcing the withdrawal to take place regardless of whether or not there had been a change of heart at home.

4) The provisions in Article 50 are there because the European Union wants to perceive itself as a voluntary union but also to make sure that it can negotiate a future post-EU relationship based mainly on trade.

As can be seen, there is no “trap” in Article 50. What is does make clear is that if a country leaves, it would be a long process if that country has second thoughts and decides it wants to re-join. However, which prisoner, being offered the chance of release after 44 years in jail, would be upset on being told “once we let you out, it will be very hard for you to come back in there again”?

Photo by uitdragerij

Report on “Flexcit” Workshop, 29th April

Several members of the Committee of the Campaign for an Independent Britain were among those attending a workshop at the Farmer’s Club in Westminster, London on Wednesday April 29th. The workshop was originally to have been chaired and hosted by Peter Troy, but he suffered a severe heart attack a couple of days before the event. The two sessions were therefore chaired by CIB’s new chairman Edward Spalton and vice-chairman Anthony Scholefield.

The speakers for the two sessions were Robert Oulds of the Bruges Group and the political analyst Dr Richard North. Robert Oulds explained why the EEA/EFTA model as used by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein was the only route to a seamless exit from the EU. While it is not an ideal long-term relationship between an independent UK and the EU, it will prevent job losses and enable the UK to function without any hiccups form day 1 of exit. He showed how “soft” the support for withdrawal is. Many people would prefer to stay in a “reformed” EU, but when businessmen are quoted in the press supporting EU membership, it is the trade aspects that interest them. They are not really interested in the EU’s political agenda. One opinion poll commissioned by the Bruges Group indicated that when the voters are offered a choice between the EU and EFTA – in other words, between a political Europe and a trading relationship – the result is overwhelmingly in favour of EFTA. He stated that senior officials from EFTA have indicated that the UK would be very welcome to re-join.

Richard North’s “Flexcit” presentation emphasised that withdrawal is only the beginning of a process. He pointed out that with the growth in international trade, standards are often decided at a much higher level than the EU. This shoots down David Cameron’s “top table” argument inasmuch as an independent UK would have its own seat at the WTO and various UN bodies. At the moment, the EU negotiates a previously agreed position on behalf of all 28 member states, with France and Germany usually the dominant forces in agreeing what the EU position will be. WE therefore have less influence by being in the EU.

He pointed out the unrealistic approach to withdrawal taken by some individuals. In his proposals, the full acquis, the CFP and the CAP would have to be “repatriated” into UK law to tide us over because of the length of time it will take to devise independent domestic policies. Research he undertook with Owen Patterson MP suggested that at least five years would be required to produce an independent agricultural policy. Also, farmers like the CAP and some are dependent on its subsidies. Britain’s growing population is becoming increasingly and dangerously dependent on imported food and sudden drastic changes to the farm support system would make the situation worse at a time when production needs to be encouraged, not disrupted.

Robert Oulds summarised the picture both speakers were painting: withdrawal was like arriving at Heathrow Airport – the beginning of a journey rather than the destination, (No one goes on a holiday to Heathrow!) Flexcit is a guide to where the journey will lead our country. Time was too short for Dr North to go through the remaining five stages on the journey in detail – addressing the immigration and asylum question, creating a genuine European single market, developing independent policies (including foreign and defence policies, agriculture and fisheries), global trading and finally domestic reform. This final section suffered particularly from the constraints of time, but it is in many ways the most radical and exciting area – a major re-vamp of the entire political system designed to return power to the people and to ensure that the lies and deceit which saw us dragged into the EU can never be repeated again. This will already be familiar to some readers as the Harrogate Agenda

All in all, a stimulating afternoon that generated some interesting question and answer sessions. However, it left many of us wanting to know more. Thankfully, to that end, all participants were given the latest version of the Flexcit document – a full 411 pages – which will make for stimulating reading for us all over the next few weeks. Anyone wishing to download the document for themselves can do so here.

Videos of both sessions will be posted onto the website in the nest week or so. CIB wishes Peter Troy all the best for a speedy recovery.