The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: (1) Why we need it

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which is being debated in Parliament this week, prepares the way for us to abrogate the 1972 Accession Treaty by which we joined what has become the EU and repeal the European Communities Act 1972 which gave the Treaty its force in British law. If there are no delays, we will cease to be a member state of the EU on 29th March 2019.

The campaign to regain our sovereignty has lasted for many years and it is encouraging that Parliament will finally be preparing the way whereby this is to happen. After over 45 years as a member of the European project, however, we are currently in a position whereby many items of legislation on our statute books originated in Brussels and what is more, derive their authority from the EU treaties to which we have been a signatory.

In this regard, the wording or Paragraph 3 of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which the UK Government invoked last March is particularly important:-

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.

Note the phrase “The Treaties  shall cease to apply.” This means that the current basis for any EU-derived legislation being included in UK law disappears on Brexit Day in March 2019. In other words, if the Government doesn’t take action, a considerable number of laws completely lose their authority.

For the benefit of anyone who has never studied any EU legislative document, you may like to click on this link, which does admittedly take you to one of the most pointless of all regulations, but at least it is short, so you won’t have to plough through pages of technical detail.

It begins by saying:-

THE COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES,

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,

Right from the start, the document makes clear that it derives its authority from the EU treaties, which will cease to apply to the UK once we leave the EU. Therefore this regulation’s authority also ceases for us.

Just to confirm this point, Article 3 of this regulation says:-

This Regulation shall enter into force on the 20th day following its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union

and then the Regulation concludes with these words:-

This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States

So to underline the point, we will no longer be a Member State, so it will no longer apply.

The disappearance of this particular Regulation, complete with its picture of a cuddly toy sheep, from our statute books wouldn’t create any anxiety for HM Government or the team of Civil Servants in the Department for Exiting the European Union. There are, however, many far more important pieces of EU legislation which, if they lost their authority overnight without anything else being put in their place, would cause chaos.

For instance, the EU’s Bathing Water Directive 2006/7/EC which deals with the quality of bathing water. Readers may like to study this page of the DEFRA website which tells Councils what they must do to inform bathers at beaches and lakes about the quality of the water in which they will be swimming. If there is no regulation in force to replace the one which the EU has foisted on us, there is an enormous potential for serious problems to ensue. To take an extreme example, someone could pour hundreds of gallons of a highly toxic substance into a lake used for bathing and if the local council failed to put up a notice about it, there would be no mechanism to prosecute it. The legal basis for a court case would have vanished on 29th March 2019.

What the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will do is to “repatriate” EU legislation. In other words, it will remain on our statute books but in an amended form so that its authority will derive not from the EU treaties, which no longer apply, but from our Westminster Parliament.

It may upset some Brexit supporters that we still will be stuck with this legacy of our EU membership, but it was the approach adopted by several newly-independent states in the past as the only way of ensuring life carried on normally after independence. For instance, in 1922, the Irish Free State adopted all laws bequeathed to it by the Westminster Parliament to be effective in the newly-independent country and enforced by its institutions. The alternative would have been an impossible legal vacuum.  India did likewise when the British Raj came to an end in 1947.

While it may go against the grain still to be reliant on laws bequeathed by the authority you have just shaken off, as an independent country you will be in a position to revise or repeal them at a later date if you don’t like them. Even though there is more time to prepare for Brexit than the very hasty British withdrawal from India, however, negotiating independence will be a massive undertaking. As far as the mechanisms for day-to-day administration of the UK are concerned, it is therefore best to let sleeping dogs lie during the period immediately after independence.  The EU (Withdrawal) Bill seeks to do just that. Some EU legislation is actually very sensible. An independent UK would probably have passed a very similar act to the Bathing Water Directive. It is therefore likely that this piece of EU-inspired legislation will continue as UK law more or less unaltered for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, some EU laws do not suit the UK and would better be replaced by new domestic legislation. Take the Landfill Directive which was brought in because Denmark and Holland, two small flat countries, had run out of holes in which to bury their domestic waste.  The UK, with its quarrying industry, does not suffer from this problem, but the requirement to comply with this directive has resulted in the erection of smelly incinerators.  In due course, we can rid ourselves of unhelpful legislation like this.

Likewise, the Interoperability Directives,  which set the rules for the registration of newly-built railway rolling stock, are unnecessarily complicated for well over 95% of the trains running in the UK because they were designed to make it easy for trains to cross international borders. Given the UK’s island location, the Eurostar services, car, coach and lorry shuttles through the Channel tunnel, international freight trains and the handful of through Belfast-Dublin passenger trains (Currently eight in each direction on weekdays and five on Sundays) are the only rail services ever likely to cross international boundaries. We could replace it with something much simpler for the benefit of most UK domestic rail operators.

At the end of the day, however, if it takes a couple of years before Parliament has the time to look at replacing these less-than-ideal pieces of legislation with something better, the sky is not going to fall in if we still abide by them post-Brexit. What really matters is that on 29th March 2019, we don’t wake up to a huge legal vacuum where areas of our life as a nation are completely unregulated because the EU treaties no longer have any force.

This, then, is the rationale behind the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. In the next article, I will address an obvious concern that sharp-eyed readers may have spotted. Taking again our “Cuddly Toy Sheep” Regulation 1462/2006 as an example, it clearly cannot be transferred onto the UK  statue books verbatim. It is no longer a Regulation deriving its power from the EU treaties so any reference to the Commission or to Council Regulations and other EU legislation will need to be re-worded. Then there is the phrase “Member States”. This again will need to be changed in the “repatriated” version or it won’t make any sense.  You would think that it ought to be a simple job using certain formulae to make the necessary corrections in regulation after regulation without altering the provisions of the original EU law beyond limiting its scope to the UK, but in reality life isn’t quite that simple…………………

 

The great day dawns!

Just over nine months since the UK voted to leave the EU, the great day when that process begins is finally dawning.  On one hand, it is a cause for celebration as we formally begin our journey back to being a sovereign, independent nation free from control by Brussels. On the other, however, big challenges lie ahead. We do not know how much preparation has been undertaken by the government and the Civil Service for what is going to be a gruelling two years, which will probably end with us out of the EU but still only in a transitional arrangement as far as trade is concerned. We also need to be fighting hard to ensure that we get the best possible Brexit deal in other areas, notably fishing, criminal justice and foreign policy, where current government thinking is, at best, muddled and at worst downright dangerous.

Another potential problem is that the hard core remainiacs are not going to give up. Some 50,000 demonstrated against Brexit in London on Saturday 25th March and they have their friends in high places, who do not want to heal the wounds and make positive, constructive contribution to help deliver the best Brexit possible. Instead, people like Alastair Campbell are determined to further the divide in our country.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Campbell was Tony Blair’s spin doctor or, in the words of Kelvin Mackenzie, someone who “told lies for a living”. He has recently taken over as editor of The New European, a pro-EU newspaper originally intended as a short-term publication for remain supporters after the Brexit vote. Higher than expected readership figures, however, have given it a lease of life which it clearly doesn’t deserve. Campbell’s decision to take the job is based on his belief that Brexit can be stopped – and his method? To counteract the “lie machine” which he claims has been built by the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Express. “Never has the truth about this debate been more needed,” he said. Finding the word “truth” and the name Alastair Campbell in the same sentence can only be described as highly amusing, given Mr McKenzie’s accurate description of his CV. Not to mention that this is the same Alastair Campbell who, only a few days ago eulogised the terrorist IRA thug Martin McGuinness as “a great guy, a good guy.”

He will have a fine team to work with. A list of writers for the paper reads like a veritable rogue’s gallery, include his old mate Tony B. and the former Europe Minister Dennis McShame. Such people are no match for any of the four titles mentioned when it comes to being economical with the truth. It was back in 2003 that Iain Duncan Smith perceptively observed of Mr Blair, “people no longer believe a word he says any more.” Fast forward 14 years and nothing has changed.

Maybe at this time when the Brexit process is finally under way, it’s time to remind ourselves of a few home truths. Firstly, the EU project was, is and always will be about creating a federal superstate. The plaque in the European Parliament visitor’s centre includes these words:- “National sovereignty is the root cause of the most crying evils of our times….The only final remedy for this evil is the federal union of the peoples.”  Although the article which displays the image of the plaque was written almost a year ago, there is no reason to believe it has subsequently disappeared  – or that the EU has changed its objective. We voted to regain our sovereignty – in other words, to leave this club of failures and re-join the rest of the world.

Secondly, many people voted to leave because they did not want the freedom of movement of people to continue.  The crowd of pro-EU remainiacs in London would no doubt want to label as a racist everyone who voted to leave the EU in order to curb immigration. This is a long way from the truth. While no one can deny the existence of some ugly attitudes towards foreigners, firstly, the alleged spike in “hate crimes” since Brexit is based on distorted figures and secondly, there are other good sound reasons for wanting a drastic cut in migration.  At the moment, we would struggle without foreign workers. Fast forward a mere 15 years and instead, we will be struggling to find work for the millions who have come to the UK in recent years.  A recent study by PriceWaterhouse Coopers suggested that  10 million low-skilled jobs could disappear due to advances in robotics.  Given the predominance of migrant workers in the lower end of the labour market, the last thing we want is any more people coming to our crowded islands, unless they have short-term work permits and nothing more.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a well-respected economist who voted Brexit primarily due to concerns about the scale of immigration. “It’s unsustainable”, he said – and rightly so.

Thirdly, as has been mentioned many times on this website, the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy has been a disaster for our fishermen. Brexit offers us, in the words of fisheries campaigner John Ashworth, an “exciting future” due to the “tremendous resource” in our territorial waters which we  can reclaim.

Fourthly, Brexit will enable us to take our seat on the world trade bodies which count. At the moment, we are represented by someone from the EU who is meant to be speaking for all 28 nations. Given the clout which Germany and especially protectionist France has within the EU, it’s fair to say that the UK’s interests have not been well served. We can also make our own trading arrangements and reorientate our trade away from the EU towards the growing economies of the world. Trade with the EU is important and must not be jeopardised by a gung-ho approach to the negotiations, but it is nonetheless declining as a percentage of total exports and this trend is likely to accelerate in the years to come.

There are umpteen other good and valid reasons for wishing to leave the EU. While we would concede to Mr Campbell that not every claim made by the Leave side in last year’s referendum campaign was totally accurate, such as the alleged £350 million weekly saving which would be available for the NHS, this does not negate the very real benefits we will gain from leaving this sclerotic organisation.

The idea that Mrs May is betraying our war heroes by invoking Article 50, as suggested by Michael Heseltine,  is therefore so ludicrous as to be laughable.  One of those surviving heroes, Bryan Neely, strongly disagreed with Heseltine’s claim that we have “handed {Germany} the opportunity to win the peace” by leaving the EU.  Mr Neely, now aged 92, said that “it was the EU which is letting down our war dead.”

“Winning the peace is certainly not about the UK being outnumbered or overruled in the EU,” he added. “The UK has had very little voice for a long time. You only need to see the lack of influence {David} Cameron had in his negotiations to see that.”

This is the crux of the matter. We were duped into joining an organisation that has never had our interests at heart and in so many fields has been progressively moving in a different direction from that which most in the UK would wish to go. The road back to freedom is going to be long and hard, with many potential pitfalls on the way, but there cannot be any turning back now. The EU wants us out. “The bus has gone,” as one senior diplomat expressed it recently. It is now up to the Government and Civil Service to make sure they get things right.

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.

Donald Tusk (not Trump!) Reminds us why we voted to leave

We will not be providing you with a blow-by-blow commentary on the progress of the European Union (Notification of withdrawal) Bill as we believe that, in spite of opposition from the Lib Dems, the SNP, some Labour MPs and Ken Clarke, it will complete its passage through Parliament in time for Mrs May’s deadline of 9th March when the government will formally trigger Article 50.  There will be plenty of press coverage and analysis for people wanting to follow the Bill’s progress through both houses of Parliament but this website will confine itself occasional comment on the key moments of the Bill’s progress. We will also be monitoring which MPs support and which oppose the will of the people.

Of more immediate interest is a speech by Donald Tusk, the President of the  European Council, which provided a welcome reminder why we voted to leave. In order to understand where Mr Tusk is coming from, we need to remember that next month marks 60 years since the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which formally inaugurated what has become the European Union. Naturally, the EU wants to celebrate this milestone but we pesky Brits have already spoiled their party with Brexit and, to add insult to injury, the USA has voted for a president who, in the words of Ted Malloch, the new US ambassador to the EU, “doesn’t like an organisation that is supranational, that is unelected where the bureaucrats run amok and that is not frankly a proper democracy.”

So what was Mr Tusk’s response?  The answer is – guess what – More Europe! “We must therefore take assertive and spectacular steps that would change the collective emotions and revive the aspiration to raise European integration to the next level”, he said. Yes, he means further integration. Just to make sure no one could be in any doubt, he also added “If we do not believe in ourselves, in the deeper purpose of integration, why should anyone else? In Rome we should renew this declaration of faith.”

He did not go into much detail about how integration was to proceed, There was no mention of fiscal or monetary union within the Eurozone, although he did talk of “strengthening the foreign policy of the EU as a whole.” Brexit received only a very oblique mention when he claimed that “the disintegration of the European Union will not lead to the restoration of some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China. Only together can we be fully independent.”

Why could no EU member state be fully sovereign? On which superpower is New Zealand, with a population less than one eighth of Mr Tusk’s native Poland “really and factually” dependent? Or Australia, India, St Helena, South Africa or Morocco, to name a few countries at random.

There is a particular irony in this statement given that many EU member states are also members of NATO and have been accused, with good reason, by President Trump of being too dependent on the USA for their protection.

Tusk complained about “Russia’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine” without the slightest mention that the EU must take the blame for the current state of that country by fermenting opposition to a democratically-elected leader.

He also complained that, faced with “national egoism….becoming an attractive alternative to integration”, the pro-European élites (his own term, may I add) were suffering from “a decline of faith in political integration.”

In other words, it’s the same old message, underpinned with the belief that if it is repeated sufficiently, it will convince the doubters. Tusk’s political rival Jaroslaw Kaczynski, however, is unlikely to be impressed. The leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party has called not for more integration but for the very opposite- a new treaty which would return power to the member states. “The vision of the EU forced upon us by the Lisbon Treaty has failed”, he said.

Thinking back to this time last year, we will recall that David Cameron went to Brussels asking for something similar – a return of some power back to the UK. He came away with only a few crumbs which ultimately didn’t sway the voters and we wisely voted to leave.

Neither Poland nor fiercely EU-critical Hungary looks likely to follow us out of the door at the moment, but Mr Tusk’s words were those of a man who realises that supporters of the European project are on the back foot at the moment. Unfortunately for him, the determination he expressed to carry on ploughing the same old furrow is unlikely to address the growing disillusion with the project across a number of EU member states.

“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” goes the old saying and there is much wisdom in it. Unfortunately, Mr Tusk and his friends in Brussels seem both unable and unwilling to turn their digger off.

Photo by Glueckstadt

A letter from our Chairman:- the High Court Brexit case

Sir, HIGH COURT BREXIT CASE

People who have spent all their political lives undermining the sovereignty of this country and its Parliament are now appealing to the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty to delay and frustrate the exit of this country from the European Union. These are people who would echo the sentiments of Ken Clarke “I look forward to the day when the Westminster Parliament is just a council chamber in Europe”

They have now been joined by senior judges, including Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. His Lordship is a founder member of the European Law Institute, an organisation set up for the “enhancement of European legal integration” – that is, the ever increasing subjection of our law to the laws of the European Union.

Surely he must be aware of the principle that no man should be judge in his own cause – “nemo iudex in causa sua debet esse”. Yet he ignored it when he decided to sit on this case. The maxim was firmly established in the case “Frome United Breweries Co v Bath”, in which the then Lord Chancellor made a decision favourable to a canal company whilst, unknown to the parties involved, he was a shareholder of the company. His decision was set aside. “This will be a lesson to all…tribunals to take care, not only that in their decrees they are not influenced by their personal interests, but to avoid the appearance of labouring under such an influence.” Perhaps this partiality in London is the reason for the High Court’s decision being opposite to that in Northern Ireland..

Even local authorities are more careful. I recall that a lady, who campaigned to preserve the old Derby bus station, became a councillor and was disqualified from voting on the matter because her campaign was ruled to be “an interest”.

Over decades, independence campaigners have approached the courts to oppose increased subjection to the EU. On each occasion, they were summarily rebuffed on the grounds that the EU treaties were matters of Royal Prerogative – beyond reach of the courts .

There are even Europhiles who fantasise about this case going to the European Court of Justice.

It is an activist organisation, dedicated to promoting “ever closer union”. In case c-274/99 the Advocate General stated “Criticism of the EU is akin to blasphemy and can be restricted without affecting freedom of speech”.

It is unlikely that the case will go there because the relevant EU treaty specifies that countries invoking Article 50 to leave the EU do so “in accordance with their own constitutional requirements” – certainly not something which the judges just made up!

Yours faithfully

Edward Spalton

This letter was sent to a number of local papers in the East Midlands area

Re-booting our political system

By Niall Warry, Director of The Harrogate Agenda

In a recent post-mortem on the EU referendum on BBC Radio 4 entitled Two Rooms, remainers from Brixton and leavers from Boston shared their thoughts on the vote and its aftermath. There were obviously differences of opinion, but one common aspiration for both groups was to take advantage of the opening provided by Brexit to bring power closer to the people.

The Harrogate Agenda (THA) was founded in 2012 for precisely this purpose and on Saturday 1st October seven established and eight new supporters met in Warwick, in a workshop environment, to discuss the ‘Way Ahead’.  A few months ago, The Harrogate Agenda became involved, with full consent of our supporters, in the referendum campaign and along with the Campaign for an Independent Britain and several other groups, we became part of The Leave Alliance (TLA) which supported and promoted Dr Richard North’s Flexcit plan to leave the EU.

The Harrogate Agenda (THA) has six demands which, when enacted, will revolutionise the way we are governed in this country. These demands all evolve from the principle that ‘we the people’ must be recognised as sovereign. It is essential that our six demands are met to ensure we will remain outside the EU once we finally leave. At the moment, there is nothing stopping any future government taking us back in, without even consulting us. This is because sovereignty – or power – currently resides in Parliament. This makes a travesty of the claim that we currently live in a democracy, for demos means ‘people’ and kratos ‘power’. Without demos these is no democracy, but people without power is not democracy either.

The origins and location of sovereignty are rarely understood fully. In the beginning, people had power in their own hands but over time this power was eroded by sovereign monarchs whose decrees were absolute. Later, in this country, sovereignty was wrestled from the monarch to Parliament where it resides to this day.

The past and present incumbents in Westminster feel that the criteria for democracy are met because at General Elections power is temporarily handed back to ‘us’ to vote in the next government. However, our politicians conveniently overlook that they promise us the earth before an election and then happily ignore us once in power. We have little scope to hold them to account. In other words, our supposed “Representative Democracy” is a sham. The referendum result, where we voted against our government and the leaders of the Labour, SNP and Lib Dem parties, shows why things must change, with the recognition that sovereignty – and thus power – ultimately resides with ‘us’ the people. Our twenty-nine-page pamphlet which you can request from our website here explains how we believe this would work out in practise.

Our workshop last Saturday confirmed the importance of communicating our message on two established and one new fronts. First, there is the ‘bottom up’ approach consisting of any one of many possible types of meeting that can be set up at a local level. These range from organising a meeting with your own MP to giving a talk at schools or even organising meetings in village halls and similar venues. The second way of spreading the word is via the internet, including our new Blogspot, which can be accessed from our website. Also covered under this heading is the use of Social Media, especially Twitter. Third and lastly we considered the importance of working from the ‘top down’ which is currently an area that we had not previously considered. It is now our intention to create a think tank to explore the whole area of political power. This sounds ambitious and we are under no illusions that working from the ‘top down’ will take us a few years to become established and thus recognised. In the meantime, we will continue to develop our bottom up approach, using grassroots activists and the Internet to promote our cause.

So if anyone shares our desire to re-boot our country’s political system and see real power returned to the people, please get in touch with us here.