Hold on to your hats!

The terms proposed by the EU for a transitional deal, even if this had only lasted for 21 months, are totally unacceptable, as we have pointed out. Our fishing industry would be decimated. However, it seems that the government is now talking about this arrangement lasting more than 21 months.

Opposition  to any transitional agreement on these terms in growing. Mrs May recently received a letter signed by 62 Tory MPs reminding her of the “red lines” in her own Lancaster House speech. These include:-

  • Take full control of UK tariff schedules at the WTO with the power to change them without sign-off from the EU27
  • Enjoy “full regulatory autonomy” with the ability to change British laws and rules unilaterally
  • Be free to start trade negotiations immediately after leaving the EU, which may involve ensuring the UK has the power to discuss the division of the EU’s Tariff Rate Quotas with non-EU trading partners bilaterally
  • Have the freedom to negotiate and sign other trade agreements during the implementation period in line with WTO principles

There has been a much greater level of disquiet about the EU’s terms among backbenchers, as these four points (and other vital issues, such as the end of any role for the ECJ) would not be permitted, but some other MPs were bought off by the assurance that it wold only be for 21 months and then all would be well. The Cabinet meeting at Chequers today could be rather turbulent.

Now this is looking less likely, we could be entering a period of far greater political turmoil. It is hard ot predict what will happen next. Although the majority of Tory MPs supported remain, real headbangers like Anna Soubry are a small minority and most Tories know that they will face electoral oblivion if the government botches Brexit. The stakes are clearly getting higher. However, it may require some senior heads to roll if the transitional blind alley is to be averted. It is a case of holding on to your hats.

Perhaps rather ironically, the combination of the narrow margin of victory in last June’s general election and the remainer-inspired initiative to give Parliament a vote on the final deal may work in our favour. Mrs May dare not force through the transitional deal relying on Labour votes, but she looks unlikely to get it through otherwise. Hopefully, a discreet change of tack will take place to avoid what would be an unmitigated disaster for the PM.

Meanwhile, Anti-Brexit campaigners are planning a six-week blitz in the Midlands and North of England, according  to the Financial Times.  Predictably, George Soros who was neither born in this country nor lives here, is involved.  If anyone comes across such groups canvassing,   we would ask them to be polite, even though it is very tempting to behave otherwise! Thankfully, although remainiacs have been trying to subvert democracy for over 18 months now, there is little evidence of any significant shift in public opinion. As one London street newspaper vendor said recently, most people are sick of Brexit.

In these troubled times, it is encouraging that a group of pro-Brexit academics have come together. We would commend their website Briefings for Brexit to your attention and you may, in particular, enjoy reading this piece by Professor Robert Tombs of Cambridge, which points out how ill-advised the remainers are and that far from being a position of stability, EU membership exposes us to considerable uncertainty. Perhaps one should add that the uncertainty may have increased still further next week with next Sunday’s Italian General Election unlikely to usher in a government with much sympathy for the federalist vision of France’s Emmanuel Macron

Going back to the academics, these people are brave individuals, who have had to take far more flak that most of use here. They will need thick skins, says Dominic Lawson. He mentions one academic who said,  ‘I can’t come out as pro-Brexit, it would make my life impossible here.’
How sad that in many of our once great universities, the very sensible and rational idea that we should once again be self-governing seems to engender such hostility.
But then this reminds us of one important reason why many of us voted to leave the EU. If successful, it could and hopefully will be the start of a massive and long overdue shake-up  of our society, including politics, the media and our entire educational system. The latter will be a particular challenge, but it is encouraging to know that there are a few sane voices out there.

Photo by ™ Pacheco

Security – partnership but not participation

Mrs May’s speech on security cooperation last Saturday was given in Munich, famous for the meeting between Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler in 1938 where an agreement was signed which Mr Chamberlain, on his return to the UK, would lead to “peace in our time”.

His hopes were sadly shaken a year later. Mrs May did not come away with any agreement, She was not expecting to. Instead, she went to Munich to deliver a speech which, like that by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, earlier in the week, was good on mood music and aspiration but not at all satisfactory when it comes to detail.

Michel Barnier had stated that upon Brexit, we will no longer be part of Europol or the European Defence Agency. He did not mention the European Arrest Warrant, but it is not unreasonable to assume that we would be excluded from this too. At this point, virtually everyone who voted for Brexit should have been giving three loud cheers. Mrs May, in her speech, however, seemed to be saying what a disaster this would be. “Let’s be clear about what would happen if the means of this cooperation were abolished. Extradition under the European Arrest Warrant would cease. Extradition outside the European Arrest Warrant can cost four times as much and take three times as long. It would mean an end to the significant exchange of data and engagement through Europol.”

Fine, for as far as the EAW is concerned, as we have pointed out many times on this website, its convenience is outweighed by its serious flaws – flaws which have caused great grief to a number of UK citizens,  For example, Edmond Arapi was subject to an Italian EAW in 2004, being convicted in absentia of a murder in Genoa, even though he had never visited Genoa in his life and was working in a café in Staffordshire on the day of the murder. Andrew Symeou, a UK citizen, was extradited to Greece, denied bail and incarcerated for 11 months on charges of “fatal bodily harm” thanks to the signature of a Greek magistrate that no UK judge could overturn despite the evidence against him being obtained under duress. Mr Symeou published an account of his ordeal in a book called Extradited. He pointed out that unless, like him, you suffer from a miscarriage of justice, you are unlikely to appreciate just how flawed the EAW is.

Then, although we may be ejected from Europol, we would still be members of Interpol. If the EU is keen to cooperate with us on matters relating to criminal justice, which it would be foolish not to do, there are other models available which would enable us to maintain our independence.

Mrs May was right to highlight the need for close security cooperation between the UK and the EU after Brexit but we should be seeking to distance ourselves from the EU’s confrontational stance towards Russia. As Peter Hitchens put is, “Russia is no more of a threat to the UK than the Klingons”

Unfortunately, Mrs May has not freed herself from the widespread misapprehension that today’s Russia is merely the former Soviet Union under another name. She referred to “Russia’s hostile actions.” The reality is that blame for the current hostility between Russia and the EU lies as much, if not more, with Brussels than with Moscow. True, NATO must shoulder some of the blame for rapidly extending its reach to the boundaries of Belorus and Russia, but until 2009, it appeared that Russia was not that worried and might even have been considering joining NATO itself. It was the EU’s meddling in Ukraine, working behind the scenes to oust the pro-Russian but democratically elected Viktor Yanukovich, which has been the principal factor behind the deterioration in relationships between Russia and the West in recent years. Free from any vested interest in seeing Ukraine join an organisation which we have just voted to leave, we have the opportunity to re-set our own relationship with Russia rather than having to toe the EU’s expansionist, provocative line. It is surely wrong to seek to maintain enmity with a nation with whom we share a common European culture when it is possible to be friends.

Mrs May proposed that an new UK-EU treaty should be signed covering cooperation in defence and security issues. Will the EU play ball? Without a separate deal, it will take up to three years after Brexit for Britain – as a “third country” – to receive EU approval for data to be freely exchanged, so says the Independent. It will not be us who will be the biggest losers if the EU sticks rigidly to its rules about “third countries”, but then, if it is prepared to make an exception for security issues, this then poses the question, why not for trade?

All in all, the impression given by Mrs May’s speech is that she fails to see that in these issues, she has the whip hand and can use it to ensure that we achieve a full and complete break with the EU, replacing  participation in its agencies with a partnership which can still keep Europe secure. We just hope that as the negotiations proceed, in this area as well as in other key Brexit issues, her MPs will continue to give her a few gentle prods to ensure we do indeed achieve a proper Brexit in these key areas.

Photo by EU2017EE

Mrs May – trying to face both ways

Like the Roman god Janus, Our Prime Minister, it seems, is trying to face both ways at once. On the one hand, she has been kicking out against the unacceptable terms which the EU  has set for any transitional agreement while on the other, she seems keen to capitulate on important areas such as criminal justice.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator recently stated that agreement on a Brexit transition was “not a given” and with good reason. Theresa May, having read the EU’s terms has fought back, insisting that we must have greater freedom than the EU wants to allow us after Brexit.  She apparently intends to oppose the EU’s terms for citizen’s rights and any thought of us being a passive recipient of EU law but with no say in its formulation. The terms are so harsh, as we have stated, that it would have been unacceptable for Mrs May to have rolled over. Already there is much backbench disquiet over the EU’s proposals. Hopefully all MPs will have read the document produced by the European Commission dated 7th February and in particular, the chilling words in the first paragraph of Page 5:- “For the purposes of the Treaties, during the transition period, the parliament of the United Kingdom shall not be considered to be a national parliament.

Of course, Mrs May presides over a split cabinet. Our friends in Fishing for Leave recently commented on the struggles which Michael Gove has faced merely for wanting the UK to take control of its fishing policy after Brexit. That such a battle even needed to be fought is a cause for concern.

Recalcitrant cabinet members cannot, however, take the blame for Mrs May’s proposed speech in Munich next Saturday where she will give a speech including a  declaration that the UK will continue to participate in the European Arrest Warrant as well as retaining its Europol membership.  Mind you, like much of Mrs May’s Brexit strategy, this may well amount to wishful thinking as it’s not up to us whether we remain participants in these two schemes. Last November, Michel Barnier said that we would be ejected from Europol as it was only open to EU member states. Our ejection was the “logical consequence of the sovereign choice made by the British.” Unlike our team. M. Barnier is not known for changing his stance on key issues, so Mrs May’s speech next Saturday may turn out to be  empty rhetoric.

Indeed, we hope it is so for otherwise, she will face yet more fully-deserved criticism from her MPs. Jacob Rees-Mogg, first off the mark as usual, has reiterated his long-standing opposition to any further UK involvement with this flawed scheme. Regular visitors to this website will be in no doubt about the Campaign for an Indepndent Britain’s opposition to any ongoing participation in the EAW, Europol or the EU Gendarmerie – and we will continue to campaign on this issue if we are not pre-empted by M. Barnier rendering our efforts unnecessary. We fail to understand why Mrs May, Amber Rudd or anyone else wants to keep us locked into our current unsatisfactory relationship with the deeply flawed inquisitorial criminal justice systems of most EU member states.

On a different note, readers will be familiar with our reporting of the pathetic behaviour of the remoaners. It  seems that a small minority of them have touched a new low. At least six major backers of the Leave campaign have received identical death threats. The wording is quite chilling:- “You have stoked the fires of Brexit and led us to this moment. You can no longer be tolerated. We are coming for you. We are going to kill you.” The group sending these letters calls itself “the Real 48 per cent” and has also targeted Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom.

We would be the first to point out that the vast majority of remain voters, including most of those who sincerely believe that we should remain in the EU, would not remotely condone this sort of intimidation. Indeed, this shadowy group’s title is misleading in the extreme. They only speak for a minute fraction of the 48% of voters who supported remain.  The reality is that most voters on both sides of the debate actually care very little about Brexit any more.  As one writer put it, most people just wish that, as an issue, it would just go away.

So indeed would we, but not until we have achieved full independence – and this includes freedom from the EAW and Europol, full control over who fishes in our Exclusive Economic Zone and a relationship with the EU which is far looser and completely free of the subservience of the proposed transitional agreement.

Brexit means Brexit (in name only)

Politicians, civil servants and Eurocrats, economical with the truth as ever, if not actually disingenuous, are doing their best to create a Brexit in name only.  Mrs May, Mr Davis and the Department for (not) Exiting the European Union (EU) are carrying on regardless. They appear oblivious to the contradictions in what they are saying and doing, and the obvious warning signs from Brussels.  The following merely illustrates the tip of a delusional, ill-informed myopia.

Mrs May in an interview broadcast on 2nd February 2018 on Channel Four said:

“ …..we have until March 2019, that is when we are leaving the European Union. 

… What we are going to be negotiating with the European Union is a free trade agreement with them that will be about a tariff free, a frictionless trading as possible. …..That’s the sort of deal I’m going to be negotiating……What we will have in future and that is what the next few months negotiating is about is a bespoke free trade agreement.”

The EU sees things somewhat differently and has remained consistent in its approach, although as time passes it appears to be getting increasingly uncompromising and demanding.  Its top priorities are the preservation of its own interests and obedience to its rules rather than accommodating the wayward United Kingdom. This is very apparent in recent report and their published text and slides on the EU’s view of the transitional period.

Mr Barnier (the EU’s chief negotiator) on his recent trip to London, repeating previous comments (for example), said:

“The only thing I can say – without the customs union, outside the single market – barriers to trade and goods and services are unavoidable.”

An all-singing, all-dancing free trade agreement is not likely to be the long term solution even if it can be negotiated. Furthermore, negotiations on such a deal can only start after the UK has formally left the EU, that is, after 29th March 2019 or later, as confirmed the EU’s Trade Commissioner back in 2016. The EU’s perspective on a free trade agreement with the UK is roughly on the lines of  ‘OK if it is a win for us and a lose for you’.  The Irish Times has recently been reporting on what the EU is up to, such as hamstringing our businesses and government, and retaining the right through the Common Fisheries Policy to plunder our Exclusive Economic Zone (i.e., the waters up to 200 nautical miles from the shoreline. or the median point where the sea is less than 400 nautical miles wide).  The EU’s demands go far beyond what is strictly necessary for trade.

Unbelievably Mrs May is likely to agree to this and much more. Time is not on her side. Also the unbreakable law of negotiations is against her as well – in other words, ‘money and concessions flow from the weakest (or more desperate) to the strongest party’.  The transition cave-in (aka agreement to avoid a ‘cliff-edge’ of barriers to trade) effectively turns the UK into a powerless EU vassal state as explained here and here (where vassal status becomes permanent without a free trade agreement).  It looks like this could actually be less awful than the terms eventually on offer for an unfree trade agreement from an omnipotent EU to a subservient Mrs May-led UK.  Germany, in the form of Mrs Merkel, is already making disparaging jokes in semi-private about Mrs May.

That a domestically weak Mrs Merkel can lampoon our supposed ‘negotiating dreadnought’ points to an uncompromising EU/German-centric position.  And what Germany wants from the EU, Germany gets.  After all, the EU is a political construct which was designed to tame German nationalism, whilst facilitating its industrial, commercial and demographic clout, and at the same time giving France delusions of grandeur. Economic objectives are subordinate, not dominant to political objectives.  In considering a free trade agreement there should be no underestimating the EU’s continuing priorities of control-freak centralisation (under German hegemony), homogeneity and undermining national identities.  It is unlikely Mrs Merkel (or her eventual successors) will treat the UK kindly as this could encourage other Member States to rebel.

Yet the prospect of the UK becoming a permanent, powerless EU vassal state by indefinitely extending the transitional arrangement or by signing a one-sided free trade agreement is basically thanks to Mrs May’s dithering.  Although presumably Mr Davis and the Department for (not) Exiting the European Union had some input. Mrs May, for reasons never explained, decided that we must leave the Single Market (and by extension the European Economic Area, EEA). Remaining in the EEA by rejoining EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, is a much better proposition as a temporary or transitional measure. It would allow fairly frictionless trade and a breathing space in which to negotiate a suitable long-term trading relationship without being under duress.

The EFTA/EEA option allows for control of immigration through unilaterally invoking Article 112 (the Safeguard Measures) of the EEA Agreement.  The EFTA route to EEA membership gives members outside the EU a say in EU legislation affecting the EEA, is largely free (although ‘voluntarily’ Norway does contribute to regional development funds) and is outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The EEA Acquis or body of law is about a quarter of the total EU Acquis since it only relates to successful functioning of the EEA. And EFTA members make their own trade agreements with other countries.  Membership of the EEA solves the problem of maintaining a soft border in Ireland between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. It also gives us full control of fishing.

When Mrs May first rejected remaining in the Single Market, in her Lancaster House speech in January 2017 she appears to have been unaware of the EFTA/EEA route and its possibilities. Unfortunately, she does appear both then and in her later Florence speech of 22nd September 2017, to have swallowed ‘hook, line and sinker’ the disingenuous line repeatedly peddled by the EU leaders about the four freedoms (of movement of goods, capital, services and people) being inviolable – they certainly are if you are a Member State of the EU but not for EFTA countries who can unilaterally invoke Article 112 of the EEA Agreement.

EU leaders and Mr Barnier in particular appear to have been both unhelpful and economical with the truth about the EFTA/EEA route. However, recently it appears the European Commission may be seriously evaluating the EFTA/EEA route for transitional arrangements for the UK as noted by an EFTA Court judge (Mr Carl Baudenbacher) giving evidence to the Commons Committee for Exiting the EU on 7th February 2018 and reported in the Telegraph on-line. It would be very ironic if it was the EU which finally pushed Mrs May into signing up even temporarily to a better proposition – i.e., EFTA/EEA membership –  than the one she is currently minded to pursue.

We can but hope that common sense will prevail for if not, no amount of spin will be able to conceal the truth about Mrs May’s submissive transition to an unfree trade agreement. There will obviously be a heavy political price to be paid in the next General Election in 2022 for short- changing the British people over Brexit through turning this country into a permanent EU Vassal State.

Mrs May’s trashing of the Successful Nobo Industry

Notified Bodies (Nobos), together with Designated Bodies (Debos) and Assessment Bodies (Asbos), are one of our country’s least known success stories. Yet they could easily largely disappear, together with thousands of well paid jobs and millions if not billions of pounds in export earnings, if Mrs May persists in her determination to take this country out of the Single Market and European Economic Area (EEA).

A wide range of products – from equipment used in explosive atmospheres to toys – are required by EU product law to undergo third party conformity assessment and/or testing by suitable independent accredited organisations (Nobos) in order to be placed on the market in the European Union (EU) and often by extension the EEA. This is to ensure that they meet EU legal requirements, which often includes compliance with specified requirements in European Standards (ENs).  This assessment, depending upon the relevant EU product legislation and ENs may require continuing surveillance (of manufacture) and testing of the product by the Nobo.  Certification can also be time limited as well, requiring reassessment after a number of years.  Over the years, the EU has increased the scope of its legislation, which may in part originate elsewhere in world bodies or agreements and it carries out periodic updates of existing product legislation.

In turn, the Nobos need to be resident in the EEA, Switzerland or Turkey, be accredited with relevant competence(s) and are listed on the EU’s NANDO database.  Each Member State also has an accreditation organisation which regularly checks the competence of Nobos to carry out assessment and testing work. The UK-based list of Nobos includes famous and respected names such as British Standards Institute (BSI), Lloyd’s Register, the National Physical Laboratory and The Vehicle Certification Agency. There are also many other less well known, smaller organisations in the private and public sectors.

Through mutual recognition, a product with a conformity certificate issued by an accredited Nobo in one Member State is accepted in all the others without further assessment or testing.  Sometimes, however, a product may undergo further assessment as part of an overall system, but this is not intended to repeat previous work.

Recently the European Commission has published guidance for manufacturers and Nobos for after 29th March 2019 Notice to stakeholders withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU rules in the field of industrial products.  After this date Nobos registered in the United Kingdom (as a ‘third country’ outside the EU and EEA) will lose their EU Nobo status and be removed from the EU’s database.

A manufacturer (or supplier) of a product requiring third party conformity assessment after 29th March 2019 will have to use a Nobo based in the EEA, Switzerland or Turkey in order to place a new or modified product on the EU market.  When placing a new or modified product on the UK market, the manufacturer is likely to opt for an EEA- or Switzerland-based Nobo for all conformity assessment to prevent duplication of work and costs. After all, Mrs May intends that after Brexit (if it ever happens instead of EU Vassal State status) UK legislation (presumably including product legislation) will follow EU legislation.

UK-based former EU Nobos could then see much of their work disappear quickly, including any work related to putting products on the UK market.  The Annex to the EU’s Notice to stakeholders withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU rules in the field of industrial products lists the EU product categories covered. This, however, may be just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ since, depending upon the EU product legislation, components making up a particular product may also need some form of independent conformity testing and inspection.  Manufacturers or suppliers may also like to use a ‘one stop shop’ approach developing a longer term relationship with one Nobo to cover a wide range of their independent conformity, testing and quality assessment requirements, not merely to comply with EU product legislation.

A further blow to UK based Nobos is that without the potentially larger market provided by the EU, some investment decisions, say for testing facilities, may not be justified or even feasible.  In the current climate of uncertainty, prudent UK-based Nobos could already start transferring work and jobs to other EEA members in order to retain existing EU based customers.  They may also consider working through an EU-based Nobo who will ‘rebadge’ their work and obviously charge for so doing. This would in turn undermine their unique selling proposition – competitiveness.

It is possible that this impending loss of EU accreditation by Nobos can be successfully resolved by the Department for (not) Exiting the European Union.  However, at the moment, this does not look promising given that some of the inaccurate and uncompromising statements in the EU’s Notice to stakeholders withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU rules in the field of industrial products relating to Nobos may not be legal under EU law; Nobos are not solely within the EU.

Third party testing and certification appears to have a very promising future worldwide. It provides confidence that safety, environmental impact and energy consumption have been independently assessed.  It may be essential when assessing some of the products of the future, such as autonomous or driverless cars. Sadly the UK is potentially going to face a huge handicap if Nobos cannot viably operate here through political decisions of the government.

The potential loss of UK and EU markets for UK based Nobos would not arise if Mrs May had not made such a rash decision in ruling out any ongoing membership of the EEA after Brexit.  She could have decided instead after Brexit on 29th March 2019 to re-join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This provides a breathing space. enabling us to remain in the EEA (whilst outside the EU) under different conditions which, for example, allow unilateral control of immigration (see Chapter 4, Schedule 112 The Safeguard Measures in the EEA Agreement).  Will she have the courage after 29th March 2019 to face people from these UK-based former EU-accredited Nobos who have worked hard over the years to build expertise, facilities, reputations and long-term relationships with customers and yet face unemployment, because of her premature rejection of a useful “holding position” without any consideration of an alternative?

The European Arrest Warrant – an expert’s opinion

We have frequently emphasized the importance of ending our participation in the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) if Brexit is truly to mean Brexit.

Jonathan Fisher QC produced this comprehensive summary of  the EAW in 2014, when Parliament was debating whether to opt back in to 35 criminal justice measures contained with in the Lisbon Treaty after obtaining an opt-out four years earlier.

As readers will know, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, led the ultimately successful campaign for us to opt in. However, Brexit provides us with welcome opportunity to reconsider this ill-advised decision.

The issue may be taken out of our hands as the EU has already suggested that we may not be able to be part of Europol on Brexit and our exclusion may stretch to include the EAW  as well.

We cannot, however, take this for granted so it is in our interest to continue to campaign against the EAW and this means informing ourselves as best we can about this iniquitous scheme. Mr Fisher’s document is a very useful resource in this regard. In particular, it has pointed out how it conflicts with our historic liberties under Common Law. For instance, “the EAW does not sit happily with the fundamental principles which underpin Habeas Corpus.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu pointed out on the BBC “Today” programme” on 16th February 2006, Habeas Corpus is such an incredible part of freedom”  Unshackling ourselves from the EU will therefore be compromised if the freedom-threatening European Arrest Warrant is allowed further to menace UK citizens on independence.