Report from Glasgow

Having travelled up to visit relatives who were not well, it was a surprise to find that the ORANGE WALK had been routed past our hotel, so we heard many, many flute and accordion bands, from Scotland, England and Northern Ireland – drums under the window – the rattle of the drums and the deep booming thud of the bass drums against the shrill flutes – on their way to Bellahouston Park where their leaders were to demand that the SNP Scottish government should STOP TRYING TO OVERTURN THE REFERENDUM which  resulted in a vote for Scotland to remain part of the UK.

 “The best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley” – Robert Burns

I reflected how the Labour planners of devolution had congratulated themselves that their scheme was ingeniously clever. It gave so much power to the Scottish Parliament that it would surely take the wind from the nationalist sails and the electoral system was such that no single party would ever be able to command a majority. They were wrong on both counts!

Flute bands are a bit samey and I lost count of them. We had been told to expect twenty six but press reports said there were over sixty. Tunes varied from “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” to the more traditional Irish tunes, including the oft-repeated strains of “The Sash” with which I had become familiar on other occasions-

“Sure it’s old but it is beautiful and its colours they are fine.

It was worn at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne.

My father wore it when a youth in bygone days of yore,

And on the Twelfth I’ll always wear the sash my father wore”.

Many of the Scottish and English bands would be with their Northern Ireland brethren on that day. Brethren and sisters too. Ladies were playing in many of the bands. Lodges were often headed not just by a drum major but by a young person carrying an open bible, ahead of the lodge banner and other colours – a symbol of the sole claimed source of authority, freely available to all without the intervention of a church hierarchy.

It was a sweltering day. We decided to seek a quieter quarter of the town. If there was going to be any trouble, it would be when the lodges returned from their meeting in the park, having drunk deep. I believe there were four arrests that day which, considering the thousands of marchers and spectators, was insignificant.

So we adjourned to a quiet bar parlour where the television was showing the England v Sweden football match. Not being a sporting enthusiast, I had not watched a match from start to finish before. I found the skill quite gripping. The crowd in the pub was certainly not anti-English, cheering the English goals scored and getting equally excited when Sweden came close.

It’s never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine” – P.G. Wodehouse

As a (small u) unionist I sometimes get fed up with the incessant aggressive whingeing tone of Scottish and other nationalists but find this site to be frequently businesslike and objective. The distance between the author, James Kelly, and his subject, Theresa May has lent an accurate perspective and sharp focus to the author’s view. His latest post is reproduced in full.

The Brexit Delusion over who calls the shots

I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve been rubbing my eyes in disbelief over the last few hours. If you’ve been listening to the mainstream media’s verdict about what was agreed a Chequers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the fabled Brexit deal that Theresa May has been tasked with striking needed only to be a deal with the rest of her own cabinet, and not with the European Union. By that rather lower standard, what has just happened might be seen as a stunning personal triumph for the Prime Minister and a guarantee of a (somewhat) softer Brexit, exactly as Stormfront Life is claiming tonight. The agreement will only be subject to a few modifications if Brussels raises any objections, reveals The Guardian, which apparently believes that the EU has only a limited consultative role in the whole process.. It’s the old imperial delusion – decisions are things that happen in London. The same commentators who complacently tell us that an indyref is a non-starter because Theresa May will say “no” also apparently believe that it’s a mere point of trivia that the EU have already ruled out many elements of May’s Brexit proposal. Back in the real world, without the EU’s assent there is no deal at all, and that would mean the hardest of hard Brexits.

A rare injection of realism was provided by Sam Coates of The Times, who acknowledged that the EU may well still insist on a straight choice between a looser Canada-type deal and the Norway model that would entail the retention of the single market. But he argued that the Chequers proposal was about 80% of the way towards the Norway model, thus making it that much easier for the Prime Minister to jump towards Norway if forced to choose. What he didn’t expand on is the consequence of such a decision. It’s highly debatable whether the government really are now 80% of the way towards Norway, but even assuming for the sake of argument that they are, the reason they haven’t travelled the remaining 20% of the distance is that doing so would completely breach the red lines on formally leaving the single market and ending freedom of movement. Some may say that a Soft Brexit is inevitable because there is a natural parliamentary majority for it – but that majority is cross-party in nature and neither the government nor the Prime Minister are sustained in office on a cross-party basis. I find it in conceivable that a Tory government led by Theresa May could keep Britain in the European Economic Area or retain freedom of movement, even if they wanted to.

And if that proves correct, there are really only four alternatives –

  1. The EU backs down and accepts British cherry-picking of the most desirable aspects of the single market and customs union. This is almost unimaginable because it would create a precedent that Eurosceptics in other countries would try to follow, thus risking the unravelling of the EU.
  2. A Canada-type deal is negotiated after all. This is possible but it would require turning the super-tanker around, because it’s clearly not close to what Theresa May has in mind at the moment. It would mean a very hard Brexit in any case.
  3. There is no deal at all
  4. The Prime Minister’s failure to strike a deal (or a deal that is consistent with her red lines) triggers a political crisis that results in a change of leadership and/or a general election.

I can recall at least two previous occasions when we’ve been told that the PM has made a decisive move towards a soft Brexit, only for us to realise weeks later that there had been no change of any real significance. I fully expect the same to prove true on this occasion. “

(My emphasis because I remember exactly the same thing – Edward)

Where does Sturgeon go now Corbyn says Brexit means Brexit?

This piece by Brian Monteith of Global Britain originally appeared in the Scotsman and is used with  permission.

The Labour leader, from his new position of strength, is revealing his true Trotskyist approach on Europe, writes Brian Monteith

It was not just the Queen’s Speech that passed last week – the greater battle of the day was on a different field altogether – it was hard Brexit against soft Brexit, and it was hard Brexit that won resoundingly. The margin of 322 against 101 was larger than even that of the vote to invoke Article 50, despite Theresa May losing her overall majority, so what have we just witnessed, what is going on?

Thursday’s vote was not just a victory for May’s proposals on how to achieve Brexit, already laid out in her Government’s White Paper, but a resounding show of strength by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who afterwards dismissed three shadow ministers who dared to break his whipping for an abstention by voting for a soft Brexit. This is a new Corbyn, a hard Corbyn willing to deliver a hard Brexit. Clearly emboldened by his comparative success in the General Election (even though he lost more seats than Callaghan or Kinnock, who both resigned as a result), Corbyn is now revealing his true self – the blood-red socialist against the EU corporate state.

Corbyn’s past shows him as a man who voted as regularly against the empowerment of the EU to the cost of the UK’s sovereignty as any Tory Eurosceptic rebel. His reasoning was different, however, believing that the development of an EU superstate would enshrine open-season capitalism behind a high customs union wall that would diminish trade with the poor of the world. The trade unions would be emasculated and British workers would be impoverished as millions who could not find work in the African states denied tariff-free access to the single market would instead supply a steady flow of cheaper immigrant labour.

At so many levels – be it the EU’s privileged elite against the masses, those inside the single market against those outside it or those in the euro against those outside it, the EU is indeed a heady political cocktail designed for the few rather than the many.

Unfortunately for Corbyn, his election as leader of his party by its members and trade unions left him at the mercy of the overwhelming majority of the parliamentary Labour Party that supported the European project with an unalloyed devotion. His first act was to ditch his Euroscepticism and play for time, so he could gain strength. Hence his tussles with his former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn. (Ironically it was Corbyn that better represented the views of Tony Benn on the EU than his son Hilary.)

The General Election has changed all of that. Now the majority of Labour MPs doff their cap to their leader, believing he has rejuvenated his party and may yet one day lead them to victory. And now from this position of strength, and with a manifesto that to all intents and purposes mirrored the Tory approach towards a so-called hard Brexit, Corbyn is able to drop his mask of europhilia and reveal his true Trotskyist approach by 
challenging once more the EU corporatist state.

Make no mistake, what this metamorphism means is that the UK is leaving the EU – and it will be Corbyn who will help the Tories do it.

Where does this leave Nicola Sturgeon when a hard Brexit is delivered? By that I mean the UK being outside the single market and customs union, with all immigrants from around the world treated equally, denying the special treatment given to people from the EU.

In Sturgeon’s own mind a hard Brexit might provide a fresh pretext for her to push once more for Indyref2 – but paradoxically it also makes the case for independence that much more difficult to win.

For an independent Scotland outside the UK but aiming to be back in the EU, a hard Brexit must mean a hard divorce with the UK, resulting in a hard border and, of course, giving up our fishing grounds that will have only just been won back.

While the newly liberated UK will be free to decide its own economic future, striking advantageous trade deals with the likes of India, China and the US (three of more than 30 already being considered) Scotland would be tied to the slowest growing economic region in the world and bound by all its growing regulation. In addition, by 2020 the EU budget will grow by more than 15 billion euros and plug the black hole of 10bn euros caused by losing the UK’s annual payment. Scotland would have to bear its share of the existing EU budget plus this additional 25bn euros.

Even a Scotland in the European Economic Area will not soften the blow. It would be like moving from the bridge to be shovelling coal in the boiler room.

Sturgeon’s Scotland will be just like Norway (in the EEA) or Poland (in the EU) – both sitting next to Russia, with border posts, different currencies and the possibility of a tariff wall – only the barriers will be between England and Scotland.

Where also does this leave the EU negotiators when they can see a more united House of Commons than even on the vote to invoke 
Article 50? Do they climb down on some of their more perverse claims? The signs are that they are already retreating on the demand for the European Court of Justice to have jurisdiction over EU citizens in the UK.

And if they do climb down and a deal is struck, where again does that leave Sturgeon? Would a softer Brexit not neutralise any pretext for a second Indyref? Will the Scottish public not ask: “Seriously, what is the problem?”

The votes on Thursday were probably missed by most people who are only given the glibbest of reports by our broadcast news, but they were momentous and have changed the nature of the Brexit debate substantially. It appears May did not need a stronger majority to deliver Brexit after all – it was Corbyn who has benefited and it is Corbyn who looks like making Brexit mean Brexit.

 

Photo by Ninian Reid

Could fisheries prick the SNP’s bubble in Scotland?

The roots of the SNP lie in the coastal communities, especially the fishing communities that in the 1960s were safe Conservative seats. It was Edward Heath’s surrender of our fishing industry which  provided the impetus for SNP’s subsequent growth. Alex Salmond, the previous leader of the SNP, once put forward a private members Bill to take back control of UK fishing grounds of 200 nautical miles/median line zone during his first stint as a Westminster MP.

How times have changed! Power has gone to the SNP’s head and now they do not want to be in an union with the UK but want Scotland to be part of the Union of the EU.

But what would happen if, following Brexit, Scotland voted for independence and then re-joined the EU? The membership terms are unequivocal: Scotland would have to hand back her Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to the EU on the basis of equal access to a common resource without discrimination, and not increasing fishing effort.

Furthermore, the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy state that EU fishing capacity must be balanced to EU marine resource, and with the loss to the EU of the UK’s EEZ, even though Scotland would have its own EEZ, the loss of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish EEZs would result in the EU having to reduce its overall fishing capacity, but that reduced number of vessels would have to share in that reduced capacity – including Scotland’s EEZ.

So if the SNP were to take an independent Scotland back into the EU, it would result in a further decline in the Scottish fleet, finishing off the already devastated coastal communities that originally helped to create the SNP.

It does not end there. The territorial waters of 12 nautical miles come back to the coastal state through a transitional derogation which expires on 31st. December 2022 and would have to be renewed. With the rest of the UK out of the EU and our Accession treaty of 1972 (which was the main reason for the 12 mile derogation) now confined to history, why would the EU wish to offer a fresh derogation covering Scottish waters only? In other words, Scotland could find herself with the EU vessels fishing up to her beaches.

The SNP will huff and puff over this, saying they will negotiate, but there is no way out. These are the rules of EU membership. If, therefore, the SNP is so desperate to rejoin the EU, it would be at the cost of destroying the party’s roots.

The Conservatives, who are currently looking to become the main challengers to the SNP north of the border, would benefit immensely from including a clear fishing policy on the lines we have proposed in their manifesto. Who knows, it may enable them to recapture those seats they lost in the the 1960s and 1970s and tear the heart out of the SNP?

Fisheries Part 8 – Devolution issues

A good fisheries policy could be a means of binding the UK together, mitigating the worst aspects of devolution and maybe even hastening the decline of the Scottish nationalists.

Before looking at the reasons why, for the benefit of any reader who has not been following this series, it is vital to point out that different rules apply for two different fishing areas, firstly 0 to 6 and 6 to 12 nautical miles from the shoreline, which will be referred to as the 12 mile limit and secondly, the waters from 12 to 200 nautical miles from the shoreline (or the median point where two countries are separated by less than 400 nautical miles), known as Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs)

Both areas are European Union waters, but the UK government has secured a derogation for the 12 mile limit, allowing us to restrict access by vessels from other EU member states. The derogation lasts for only 10 years, so every decade, we have to go back to the EU asking if they will kindly let us have a further 10 years’ transitional derogation. Meanwhile, while a derogation is in force, the UK government can devolve, for example, the management of Scottish waters in the 12 mile limit to the Scottish Parliament. No such options are available for the 12 to 200 mile area, because the living marine resource in this area (fish and shellfish) is a continual exclusive competency of the EU. We have no derogation from this principle apart from planning and nature conservation, which has already been devolved, so therefore there can be no question here of any more devolution from Westminster to Holyrood.  We don’t have the power to devolve anyting further.

The full devolution of the 12 mile limit has not been a bad thing, because the inshore sector is best managed at a local level. Unfortunately, the Scottish Parliament seems to be more interested in environmental issues than in protecting the interests of coastal communities, thus denying them  the chance to benefit from the rich fishing resources in areas like the Shetland Isles.  Now Brexit has raised a new series of issues for Holyrood. With Scotland supporting continued EU membership and few Scottish politicians expecting us to vote to leave the EU, little thought has thus far been given by Scotland’s politicians to the possibilities for the Scottish fishing industry without the millstone of the CFP round its neck.

If the Westminster Government decides not to operate a sort of shadow Common Fisheries Policy, all UK waters out to the 200 nautical mile/median limit will revert to UK control. This provides an excellent chance to rejuvenate coastal communities throughout the UK, including in Scotland. Inevitably, the Scottish National Party will demand that all control of Scotland’s waters comes back to Edinburgh.

However, things start getting very messy at this point, given that the SNP is talking about a second referendum on independence from the UK so that if Scotland leaves the UK, it can then rejoin the EU. Assuming that on Independence Day, control of our EEZ reverts to Westminster, our Parliament can then devolve control of Scottish waters right up to the 200 nautical mile/median point back to Holyrood. Yet if Scotland votes to re-join the EU, these waters will be handed back to Brussels and would be subject to CFP rules once again – but with a sting in the tail. Scotland would have to share in the overall reduced EU capacity required by the loss to EU waters of the English, Northern Irish and Welsh EEZ’s. In other words, Scottish fishermen would end up being allowed even less quota in their own waters than they currently enjoy, especially if they do not manage to negotiate any derogation for the 12 mile limit.

There is a strange irony here. The roots of the SNP lie in the Scottish fishing communities. Traditionally Conservative seats, the voters deserted the Tories because of the antics of Edward Heath and his shameless betrayal of our fishing industry. Now the SNP is doing the same. Instead of taking the lead in fighting for a better deal for those fishermen whose forebears brought the party into being, by seeking to take Scotland back into the EU, it wants to return them to the miserable yoke of the CFP under worse terms than before.

Such a policy is sheer folly. Of course, much depends on the shape of the future UK  fishing policy post-Brexit, but the chance to take the wind out of the SNP’s sails  – and thus save the Union – by developing a fishing policy along the lines suggested in these articles is yet another reason for Mrs May’s government to avoid creating any sort of shadow CFP once we leave the EU.

The implications of Article 50

We welcome back John Ashworth, whose earlier series of articles on fisheries for this website were edited into a single booklet, The Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing. In this series, John looks at how Brexit will affact our fishing industry. Firstly, however, he begins with a more general overview of the implications of Article 50.

The month after the historic referendum vote, 1,054 lawyers wrote to the Prime Minister stating that, in their opinion, the referendum is advisory. “The European Referendum Act does not make it legally binding,” they wrote. “We believe that in order to trigger Article 50, there must first be primary legislation. It is of the utmost importance that the legislative process is informed by an objective understanding as to the benefits, costs and risks of triggering Article 50”.

Having been hoodwinked many times in the past over legal issues concerning fisheries, I have come to be very suspicious about lawyers’ interpretations of the law,  especially in relation to the EU.

Let us consider in layman’s terms what are they saying. As is often the case, their argument is presented in a roundabout, confusing way. At face value, their statement appears to mean that Parliament has to vote on the triggering of Article 50. This is what they would like as Parliament would probably vote NO. I am pretty confident that this is what they are saying. We can also be confident that these lawyers are either remainers or acting on behalf of remainers. In one sense, their argument is correct – the European Referendum Act does not make the result of the referendum legally binding, but why bring that Act into the equation? It does not determine whether Parliamentary consent is required to trigger Article 50.

Article 50, as part of the Lisbon Treaty, has twice been endorsed through an Act of Parliament. Firstly through the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 accepting the Lisbon Treaty, and secondly through the European Union (Croatian Accession and Irish Protocol) Act 2013 accepting the acquis communautaire in full which includes the Lisbon Treaty, including, of course, Article 50.

So why should any further legislation be needed to accept the procedure which has already been laid out so clearly in existing Acts of Parliament?

There has been a lot of confusion about Article 50. Firstly, in July, the former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato claimed that he had been responsible for writing Article 50, but it was never actually meant to be used. It has been specifically  inserted to placate the British

“My intention was that it should be a classic safety valve that was there, but never used,” he said. “It is like having a fire extinguisher that should never have to be used. Instead, the fire happened.”

He went on to say that “Prime Minister May wants to wrap things up by 2019, but it will be easy to prolong matters.” In other words, he hopes that it could become an issue at the next General Election and the Brexit vote overturned.

Secondly, in my experience, our Ministers, even Prime Ministers have been taken to one side and told go and read the treaties. They have not studied them in detail, To avoid making the same mistake, it may be helpful to remind ourselves what Article 50 actually says, whether or not it was ever intended to be used. Here is the wording, in full:-

Article 50 – Treaty on European Union (TEU)

  1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
  2.  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.

The wording shows that Giuliano Amato is wrong to state that the process can be prolonged. It is up to the UK not the EU to decide when to Invoke Article 50. What is more, after the two-year negotiation period, section 3 kicks in and the Treaties shall cease to apply.

This means that as far as fisheries are concerned, at midnight on the given day, the competence the UK handed to the EU through our Accession Treaty no longer applies and control of the UK’s 200 nautical mile/median line zone comes back into British control. The implications of that will be considered in my next article, but in conclusion, here are two other thoughts to consider

Firstly, as Regulations (unlike Directives) take their authority from the Treaties, once the Treaties will no longer apply to the UK, ALL EU legislation which has come in the form of Regulations will also cease to apply

Secondly, when we joined the EEC as it then was, we joined as a whole “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. We can only leave as a whole, so if Nicola Sturgeon wants to stay in the EU, first Scotland has to leave the UK and then apply to join the EU. If ever this happened, Scotland was allowed to join and voted to do so, the Scottish fishing fleet, instead of being able to take advantage of independence to regain control of its fishing zone, would have to be reduced further.

 

Photo by bengt-re

Moving together towards the Brexit door?

What  a difference a week can make! This time last week, many of us were frantically pushing our final leaflets through doors, gritting our teeth and hoping that the soundings from grassroots campaigners across the country were going to prove more accurate than the official opinion polls. Now all that is behind us, although the shockwaves of the Brexit vote are still reverberating around the country, the EU and indeed, the whole world.

Some things, however, have not changed. I’m not just referring to the miserable summer weather, which kindly went on hold for a few hours last Friday morning to allow a beautiful sunrise to greet the fantastic result before reverting to type again, but also the dreadful standard of coverage of EU-related events in the mainstream media.

So what is exactly going on in Westminster, Brussels and Whitehall as far as Brexit is concerned?

Firstly, we can be reassured that, in spite of the petition for a second referendum reaching three million signatures and some Labour MPs also coming out in support of this, the Government has accepted the result. There will be no second referendum. A new Brexit unit has been set up, headed by Oliver Letwin and both Tory remainers and leavers have come together to look at the best way out. Former Remain MP Sajid Javid spoke for  many of his collegues when he said “We’re all Brexiteers now”. While distrust of our politicians was a big factor in the “leave” vote, it does seem that the pro-remain Tories are bowing to the inevitable and throwing their weight behind securing a smooth divorce from the EU.

There is no legal requirement for the UK to trigger Article 50 and begin the formal exit process.  After all, in law the referendum is actually a consultation only. Obviously, with so much resting on the result, it was never going to be brushed aside or ignored. Already  its shockwaves have caused the Prime Minister to resign and the UK’s Commissioner Lord Hill, has made his departure. It is a case of when rather than if. Although no formal talks are taking place with EU officials, both sides appear to be preparing for the process to begin at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The lack of any coherent exit strategy by the leaders of Vote.leave has not helped calm jittery nerves in this immediate post-referendum period. We were concerned before the referendum that the failure by the offical campaign to spell out their vision for a post-Brexit UK could lose us the vote.  Thankfully, this didn’t happen, but with the Government not expecting to lose and therefore having made little preparation either, it has led to something of a vacuum.

It is perhaps ironic that more pragmatic former Tory Remainers  are starting to line up alongside the Leave Alliance (of which CIB is a member) in recognising that withdrawal is a process rather than an event and in the interim, we must retain access to the Single Market. Support for the “Norway Option” or EEA/EFTA as it is better known, is therefore growing among our former opponents. Hopefully they will get up to speed quickly and realise that it is not a suitable long-term relationship with the EU for an independent UK. We can do better, but first, we need to get out smoothly.

For some 38% of leave voters, immigration was the big issue and there is a feeling among some leave supporters that any deal which allowed unrestricted freedom of movement to continue would mean that their vote was wasted. This, of course, was one reason why most of the big names on the leave side kept their distance from the EEA/EFTA route.

The best way of keeping everyone happy would appear to be what Richard North calls  the Liechtenstein solution.  This tiny country has used the provisions of the EEA agreement to restrict migration from the EU for over 20 years. As Dr North puts it, “The EU has been quite willing to negotiate with one of the three EFTA/EEA states on freedom of movement. Furthermore, they have come to an amicable solution, which has allowed it to secure an amendment to the treaty giving it a permanent opt-out to freedom of movement.  Of course, this won’t go far enough for some people, but it seems the best basis for an outline deal. The EU’s “four freedoms” remain intact for the 27 member states but we can still access the Single Market while giving ourselves a great deal of wiggle room as far as the emotive issue of migration from the EU is concerned. It is not twisting the rules, as some may fear, but rather, working within the rules.

The 400-plus page document Flexcit has been recently been updated to include more information about Liechtenstein’s use of the relevant articles in the EEA agreement.

The leader of another EFTA member, Iceland’s President  Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, welcomed the Brexit vote – giving the lie to those claiming that leaders of extremist parties were the only overseas politicians to speak positively of Brexit. In one Brexit debate last month, your author found himself confronted by a claim that we would not be allowed to re-join EFTA.  Mr  Grímsson’s statement proves the point, which I made at the time, that such claims are pure hogwash.

Two other issues are worth mentioning briefly. Firstly, Scotland will have to leave the EU along with the rest of the UK. Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, concerned about the possible secession of Catalonia, was quite adamant about this. This does not rule out Scotland applying to re-join the EU if it votes to secede from the UK in a future referendum, but that is another issue.  Secondly, the damage being done by the Brexit vote to both the EU’s economy and indeed its general credibility has removed one possible obstacle. While the other member states regret the result of last week’s vote, this piece in EU Observer suggests they are resigned to it, want us to get cracking and seem most unlikely to derail the Brexit process.

Of somewhat less signifiance is the statement by Australia and New Zealand that they wished to make the most of the trade opportunities provided by Brexit.  It sounds good and may well be an option to pursue in the longer term, but there is one fundamental problem:- the serious lack of experienced trade negotiators in the UK after 40 years of delegating this job to the EU.

This one issue highlights the sheer complexity of the negotiations which lie ahead of us. There is the possibility that it could go wrong, leaving us worse off financially. We could be bogged down in negotiations for years if things become difficult. The forthcoming Conservative Party leadership campaign therefore assumes a particular importance in this respect. We need a cool-headed Prime Minister who will seek the best deal for our country and lead us safely thought the Brexit door.