It’s hard to believe our government is putting us in such a vulnerable position

John Ashworth of Fishing for Leave, who has campaigned tirelessly to Save Britain’s Fish from the EU says; It’s hard to believe that our own Parliament is going to place us in such a vulnerable, dangerous position with a transition. He writes:-.

Ever since Michel Barnier was appointed to lead the Brexit negotiations for the EU he has been clear and precise. Unfortunately, neither the UK Government nor the mainstream media have taken the slightest notice in what he is saying.

In his press statement of 20th December 2017, Barnier laid out the procedure the EU wants the negotiations to follow as everyone moves on to so-called “Phase 2”:-

  • By October 2018 a withdrawal agreement and a new treaty to cover only the transitional period should be in place, in order for time to get these through the various bodies by the end of the Article 50 process on 29th March 2019 when the UK leaves regardless.
  • The Article 50 of TEU allows the negotiation of the withdrawal agreement, which must be completed on time or else there will be no agreement, whether including a transition period or not.
  • The new treaty to be agreed will come into force on 30th March 2019, and I suspect it will be the reverse of an Accession treaty, with transitional derogations.
  • This is where it gets a little complicated. At 23:01 of 29th March 2019 the UK will have left the EU and will have become a “third country”. Apart from Barnier’s talk of a treaty, no one has provided any other detail, so we have to make a guess as to what will happen next.
  • You can’t leave the EU, take up third country status, and then carry on as if nothing had happened until 1st January 2021.
  • So the new Treaty which will cover the withdrawal agreement will come in to force in tandem with the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Together, these two pieces of legislation would, I suspect, enable us to carry on trading, as we do at present, although it will be only for a fixed period covered by a time-limited transitional derogation.
  • On 1st January 2021, the derogation will cease, and either a new EU/UK trade agreement treaty will be created, or added to the new treaty otherwise it is possible the UK will be in the same position as we are under Article 50 with the transition coming to an end and no future agreement in place.

The transition period means we will be no further forward than now but will have left the EU and in effect re-acceded to obeying all EU law under our own steam.

This means Parliament will have taken back control only to give total control of all the UK’s affairs from 30th March 2019 to 1st January  2021 back to the EU even though we have officially left.

Meanwhile, the UK government will bang on about a “deep and special relationship” and the wonderful trade deal we will get, yet at the same time, the European Commission and Parliament have both made it very clear that we will be treated like any other third country while at the same time we would be trapped as a vassal state.

It is hard to believe that our own Parliament is going to place us in such a vulnerable dangerous position.

What are the electorate going to say and do when they find the UK trapped in obedience to EU law, locked out the rest of the world as we have agreed to do so?

With the EU able to claim ‘continuity of rights established’ as the UK undid the clean slate of Article 50 by agreeing to continue obeying EU law after leaving? This is not what the British people voted leave for an anything but Brexit.

The government cannot even get their terminology correct. “Transitional” is the word the EEC/EU has used since our 1972 Accession Treaty, so why is the government using entirely different terminology by talking about an “implementation” period?

Both the Prime Minister and David Davis claim that the plan for a transitional (or implementation) period was first mentioned in the Lancaster House speech of 17th January 2017. Michel Barnier, however, claims it was first raised in the Florence speech and this appears correct.

Mrs May said in Florence; “As I said in my speech at Lancaster House a period of implementation would be in our mutual interest. That is why I am proposing that there should be such a period after the UK leaves the EU”

But what she said in the Lancaster speech was; “I do not mean that we will seek some form of unlimited transitional status, in which we find ourselves stuck forever in some kind of permanent political purgatory”

Here, Mrs  May uses ”transitional” the commonly used word of the EU since 1972 for such a situation, so why switch to “implementation” if there is not a difference of meaning?  No one seems to have offered us any real answer.

In the House of Lords Select Committee session of 13th December 2017 asked what the difference was between transition and implementation but was not given an answer – what is the government missing or trying to hide?

In the Florence speech, she continued; “we believe a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us will be in our mutual self-interest.”

This all sounds very confusing, but I believe the key to Mrs May’s thinking remains the words in her Lancaster House speech: “I want us to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two-year Article 50 process has concluded

I take this to mean that she wanted an agreement concerning a long-term future arrangement concluded by Brexit day, which will be 29th March 2019. She did not mean that only a withdrawal agreement would be in place by that date, with a trade deal to be discussed during a transition.

She continued; “From that point onwards, we believe a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us will be in our mutual self-interest”.

“For each issue, the time we need to phase-in the new arrangements may differ. Some might be introduced very quickly, some might take longer.”

Her original objectives seems to be the very opposite of the direction in which we are now heading. Caused by so much time being wasted as the government deluded itself that adopting all EU law onto the UK statute book alone would be enough rather than cracking on with new UK policy to allow the UK to be entirely independent at the end of Article 50.

Instead of applying for an extension to Article 50 of TEU the Government has chosen formally to leave the EU at 23.00 hours on 29th March 2019 but then hand over our governance back to the EU, with no representation, and accepting all the institutions of the EU.

This is a situation far worse than anything we suffered during our 44 years of membership and all for the hope of a trade deal which still may not be ready to be signed in time.

The worst feature of this proposal is that during those 21 months the EU has been clear that the UK would have to accept any new EU legislation that comes into force during those 21 months.

Commission 830 – Final ANNEX 1 to the Recommendation for a Council Decision

  1. Any transitional arrangements provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement should cover the whole of the Union Acquis…. the Union Acquis should apply to and in the United Kingdom as if it were a Member State. Any changes to the acquis should automatically apply to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period.

Donald Tusk – Phase 1 talks – 8th Dec. ‘17
“As you know the UK has asked for a transition of about 2 years while remaining part of the single market and customs union…during this period the UK will respect the whole of EU law including new law”.          

However, David Davis was very evasive when questioned about this during the select committee session of 25th October 2017:

Question 89 – Mr Djanogly: During that period, will the UK have to accept new EU laws made during that period?

Answer – Mr Davis: One of the practical points of this, which anybody who has dealt with the European Union knows—as you will have done, I guess—is that it takes two to five years from inception to outcome for laws to make it through the process. Anything that would have any impact during those two years we are talking about will already have been agreed with us in advance.  Anything that happens during it will be something for subsequent discussion as to whether we propose to follow it or not.  That is where the international arbitration procedure might become important.

Mr Davis thinks we will have some choice, However, M. Barnier, made it very clear in his speech of 20th December 2017 there will be no cherry picking; we will have to accept EVERYTHING during transition period, including legislation currently in the pipeline.

This is a rather complex and technical subject, but I hope I have been able to convey just how dangerous this “transitional period” is.  Our fishing industry would still be stuck with the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but worse, as the EU could move the goalposts to it’s own advantage to cripple what it left of Britain’s fishing fleet and coastal communities.

If the EU can clear the UK fleet from the seas it can then invoke Article 62.2 of UNCLOS which says;
Where the coastal State does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch, it shall ….give other States access to the surplus of the allowable catch.

If the government signs up to a transition it would not really be Brexit in anything other than name only as the UK would become a vassal state.

Preparing for Brexit – a letter from our Chairman

Sir,

It is one of the very few advantages of getting older that you can remember things which others either do not know, have forgotten, or wish had been forgotten.

When we joined the EEC on 1 January 1973, our animal feed mill entered a completely new way of doing business. We were prepared because the government gave very full, detailed information starting from late in 1971. Whilst the new system was complicated, bureaucratic and alien, we were able to continue earning our living smoothly because we knew what to do and had been given adequate time to prepare.

So I heartily endorse Heather Wheeler’s point (“Focus is now on getting best trade deal” 15 December) that firms will need similar guidance and time to adapt to all the new procedures which will be required when we become what is called a “ Third Country” outside the EU.

The detail required is tremendous and advance notice to business essential. Our successful chemical industry is in the middle of a lengthy period of adaptation to the existing EU REACH Regulations which require all chemicals to be registered with the EU for health and safety purposes. So, back in March the government assured the industry that there would be an identical British scheme. Not only has there been no progress but the EU has indicated that only its own scheme will be acceptable and that is only available to firms established within the EU. So British chemical manufacturers are having to set  up EU subsidiaries to avoid being excluded from their important EU market.

Similarly, the airline Easyjet, presently a British company, plans to move its headquarters to mainland Europe and alter its articles of association so that a majority of shareholders must always be EU companies or individuals – not British. That way, it will be able to stay flying between the 27 other EU countries, if the UK is unable to conclude an agreement with the EU before Brexit to continue present aviation arrangements.

On a more homely note, sheep farmers need to know immediately whether to breed from their youngest ewes or to fatten them for slaughter. Forty per cent of British lamb goes to the EU. If we are outside with no agreement on Brexit day, 29 March 2019, there will be a tariff of as much as £2689 per tonne. Lamb would be would be unprofitable. Not only that, coming from a ”Third Country”, British lamb would face sanitary inspection at the border before being allowed near EU customs.

It is, of course, a British tradition to conceal a sharp intellect and selfless, unsparing, industrious dedication to duty behind an appearance of languid amateurism. In a recent interview, David Davis said “I don’t have to be very clever. I don’t have to know very much”. Taken with his performance to date, one has to admit that it is a singularly effective disguise. At least, we must hope so!

Yours faithfully,

 

Edward Spalton

The border which nobody wants

Ar first glance, it seems utterly bizarre. We don’t want to build a hard border fence between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and neither do the Irish or the EU. No one wants it but it may nonetheless have to be erected.

The reasons lie with the UK’s change in status. If it leaves not only the EU but also the European Economic Area, it becomes a Third Country. The EU does not permit goods to be transferred across its borders without the necessary customs clearance and the fact that we are going to maintain regulatory convergence with the EU up to Brexit day makes not one iota of difference.

But couldn’t we just agree to treat Ireland differently? In this instance, the rules of the World Trade Organisation wouldn’t allow it. Discrimination in trading arrangements that favour one country over another without any formal trade deal is not permitted – and we can’t strike a bilateral trade deal with the Irish Republic as it has no freedom to negotiate such deals, being a member of the EU. After all, this desire to regain control of trade policy was one of the reasons why we voted to leave.

So it is no surprise that Mrs May came away empty handed from her meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday. It is hard to read between the lines and fathom out what really went on. Did she really consider a deal which would have seen Northern Ireland end up with separate trading arrangements from the rest of the UK?  Such an arrangement would compromise the constitutional integrity of the UK and thus was never going to be acceptable to the Unionist community in the Province. “Northern Ireland must leave the European Union on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom,” insisted Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.

On the other hand, the Dublin government insists that EU regulations on issues such as food safety and animal welfare must be maintained in Northern Ireland, to avoid damaging cross-border trade once Britain leaves the EU’s single market and customs union.  However, to repeat, mutual recognition of standards cannot be agreed without a formal trade arrangement and that isn’t going to be on the table any time soon.

Parliament’s Exiting the European Union Committee published a report which  was decidedly pessimistic about the  prospects of a deal given Mrs May’s insistence that we will be leaving the Single Market. “The Committee does not see how it will be possible to reconcile there being no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with the Government’s policy of leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union.”

Quite why the Customs Union has to be dragged into this debate is anyone’s guess. There are seamless borders between non-EU Norway and EU member states Sweden and Finland. This is everything to do with the Single Market but nothing at all to do with the Customs Union, of which Norway is not part.

There can be no doubt about the concern felt in the Irish Republic about the prospect of “no deal”. Comparing the UK to EU-27 as a whole, our country could well end up facing the greater problems in the short term. Some individual countries would not suffer that badly either. Germany, for example, would soon shrug off any decline in trade with one of its major export markets and find others. For the Irish Republic, however, the effect of “no deal” would be devastating. We are the second largest importer of Irish goods and services after the USA, receiving 13% of total Irish exports. We are also the biggest exporter to Ireland, with a 24% share of Irish imports.

Given these figures, you would expect the Irish government to be among the most dovish of EU27. Unfortunately, according to Anthony Coughlan, this is far from being the case. In an e-mail to Edward Spalton, our Chairman, he wrote:

The members of the political Establishment in the Republic of Ireland, dominated as they are by career Euro-federalists, hope fervently that the whole Brexit project can be aborted or made effectively meaningless by doing everything they can to obstruct the EU/UK negotiations and by interacting privately with those cross-party interests that are seeking to test Brexit to destruction in Parliament. Irish policy-makers are doing everything they can these days to encourage this end, egged on by the Brussels people –  while not saying so publicly of course.”

He went on to claim that there was some collusion between Irish Euro-federalists and UK remainiacs: “I have not the least doubt that  key Irish/EU grandees such as Peter Sutherland, John Bruton, Pat Cox  and Alan Dukes are interacting at present with the likes of  Peter Mandelson, Keir Starmer, Tom Tugendhat et al to do all they can to frustrate Brexit in Parliament and that they are being encouraged by Messrs Barnier, Juncker and the Brussels people to do this, with the full support of the Irish Government and Opposition behind the scenes.”

Some eagle-eyed readers will remember that Peter Sutherland, a former European Commissioner, was the person who told the House of Lords that the EU should do its best to undermine the ethnic homogeneity of individual nations by increasing mass immigration. Anyone in this country who is formally associated with this contemptible individual is truly beyond the pale.

Given these serious allegations of troublemaking by Irish politicians, it is unsurprising that Mrs May has been sent a letter signed by a number of Tory MPs, economists and business leaders urging her to take a tough line with the EU, insist on a trade deal and walk away if the EU will not play ball. Add into this potent brew the firm and perfectly understandable stance of the DUP that every part of the UK must leave the EU on the same terms and it is unsurprising that David Davis has found himself having to work hard to find a solution to the impasse. His latest suggestion is that that the whole of the UK, and not just Northern Ireland, should retain regulatory “alignment” – not “convergence”  -with the EU.

Even before any discussion has taken place on what this actually means, however, an un-named EU official has effectively torpedoed the whole idea:-  “The UK will not have any say on the decisions taken in Brussels and will basically implement them without having any influence over them… it makes the UK kind of a regulatory ‘protectorate” of Brussels.‘” Any suggestion that such an abject surrender would be acceptable to the signatories of the letter to Mrs May – or the DUP for that matter – is plainly ridiculous.

It isn’t easy to separate the wood from the trees in the current flurry of activity, but it is looking highly unlikely that the Brexit negotiations will be moving on to the next stage (i.e., trade talks) after the critical European Council meeting later this month. The deadlock over the Irish border issue is raising the stakes higher by the day and it would be a brave man who would place any money on what the eventual outcome is likely to be.

Photo by Michael 1952

Risk management of Brexit to date

Politicians generally don’t give much thought to risks and risk management. After all, risks are part of the downside of their policies (or ‘bright ideas’) and they try to airbrush or spin them out of the narrative.  Whilst risks and their effective management are serious concerns across all areas of government from agriculture, through defensive and security, education, international relations, justice, law and order, to the economy, the National Health Service etc., a successful Brexit presents unique challenges. Furthermore, it does not help that the government has had to start from a state of total unpreparedness; Messrs Cameron and Osborne prevented the Civil Service from preparing any viable Brexit plan.  So how well are Mrs May and Mr Davis doing – both in understanding the risks involved and effectively managing them?

‘In-depth’ subject knowledge is obviously essential to being able to ‘tease out’, understand and manage risks. An aircraft pilot who knows nothing (if allowed to fly at all) is potentially dangerous, and so is a clueless politician. Sadly, this government has not given any serious indication that it knows much about how trade deals are negotiated or even how the EU works. There is very little, if any, detail in Mrs May’s and Mr Davis’s pronouncements. We hear predominantly robotic mantras, aspirations and wishful thinking. There also seems to be an unwillingness to acquire that necessary in-depth knowledge.

Subject knowledge is not enough to manage risks. Our Brexit team needs to understand the subtleties of the EU’s approach to risk and its effective control, and hence how these impact on the Article 50 negotiations.  The EU in general – in theory if not in practice – follows something like the Prussian edict ‘everything is forbidden except that which is allowed’. Pre-emptive mandatory standardised (inflexible) regulation controls risks at each stage of activity, with the result that an acceptable outcome is achieved.  Regulation gives rise to surveillance, monitoring, oversight and ultimately centralised control by the EU’s bureaucracy. Anyone with some exposure to this environment in one field should be able to recognise the same general approach, some of the terminology and regulatory or monitoring agencies, and role of the centralised EU bureaucracy, when they encounter it elsewhere.  The EU’s approach also fits in well with extending control into an ever-increasing number of areas, thus fulfilling its mission of creating a superstate.

The traditional alternative to the EU’s approach to risk management is to emphasise accountability. When things go wrong there are the options of civil courts, damages, or even criminal prosecution. In the case of politicians, they will be ejected from office. In English law, everything – in theory – is allowed except that which is expressly forbidden.  In practice, this purity is often replaced by some form of hybrid of ever-expanding regulation and increasingly punitive accountability.  Mrs May and Mr Davis, perhaps because they were schooled outside the EU loop, seem unable to understand or accept the EU’s rigidity, its risk control rationale or the implications for the Brexit negotiations and the resulting risks posed.

Mrs May’s commitment to leave the Single Market and instead negotiate a bespoke free trade agreement supposedly providing equivalent utility appears indicative of poor risk management.  This decision was reportedly made by her alone after consulting her closest advisor and without involving the cabinet or even discussing it with them.  It was a similar story regarding her decision to call a general election in last June, with disastrous results for her party and her reputation.  Mrs May does appear to make decisions based on flimsy advice, ignoring sensible safeguards and risk management tools.

Mrs May has ended up choosing the most difficult and complex Brexit option, requiring the greatest flexibility and cooperation from the EU and the most (competent) resources. We are not told what other options for leaving were considered, what risks were posed and why they were dismissed.  There also appears to be nothing actually in place (or comprehensively planned) to absorb any potential problems or risks.  To date, little or no progress appears to have been made in successfully delivering her ambitions or mitigating the risks. Meanwhile, time is marching on.

The approach to negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU has once again demonstrated a cavalier approach to the management of risk. We are told it will be all right in the end, because at the eleventh hour the EU will cave in and give everything wanted.  It is highly unlikely that it will do so, but even if it does, leaving a significant part of the future economic wellbeing of the country in a state of uncertainty until the last minute is a huge risk. It is a wild gamble based on successfully negotiating a myriad of potentially show-stopping trade (and other) conditions and one which totally ignores the EU’s general approach to risk management, which I have outlined above.

Just suppose that the EU caved in to Mrs May’s demands for an ambitious, innovative, deep and special relationship. It would create a precedent which would cause much concern in Brussels. Granting any exceptions to one country (even if possible) would open up disorderly and uncontrolled challenges elsewhere and could violate the EU’s general risk control philosophy.

Then the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, spun as providing certainty in the fundamentally changed situation of ‘third country’ status outside the EU and the Single Market contains many undisclosed potential problems and risks. Some pieces of transposed EU legislation may not actually function as intended, because they were designed to operate in an environment of close integration with the EU and its administrative apparatus. The Fisheries regulation 1380/2013 is a good example.

It would be a tragedy if we ended up with a poor Brexit because of poor risk management. Brexit provides us with a tremendous opportunity to escape the clutches of the EU’s political folly with its unaccountable, extravagant agenda to create a superstate regardless of the costs to its subsumed peoples. Effective risk management historically does not form part of the EU’s political agenda or mitigate its actions. By contrast, the return of full responsible government to these shores should mean our elected representatives will once again respond positively to the wishes of the people, accepting responsibility for their actions and – most importantly of all – behaving responsibly.

Brexit:- Politics versus Practicalities

Politicians do politics whilst other people – and businesses in particular – are usually forced by circumstances to do practicalities. When the two diverge or conflict over a particular subject, politics wins for the politician and practicalities of necessity takes priority for people and businesses. For completeness, we must add that bureaucrats do bureaucracy (it’s their raison d’être), the more rules, the more gold-plating of rules and the more enforcement of rules (procedures and processes) the better.

Hence from the moment Mrs May, a consummate politician, said “Brexit means Brexit” we were inevitably going to be landed with a political Brexit, not a practical Brexit if we have any kind of Brexit at all.  It suits the exigencies of the Conservative Party and the ambitions – indeed, the survival in power  – of Mrs May.  Politics is all about gaining and keeping power. This involves creating ‘favourable’ appearances and impressions in the eyes of the electorate, scoring points against others, concealing the whole truth and in some cases, outright deceit. Public ‘U’ turns and admitting mistakes must be avoided at all costs.

From the European Union’s  perspective there is a political dimension to Brexit as far as the European Council is concerned but elsewhere in Brussels it is mainly a bureaucratic process with severe constraints imposed by the EU’s complex and rigid system of rules. Anyone with experience of the EU’s workings will probably be able to recall those frustrating anecdotes illustrating just how inflexible and rule-bound the EU can be when trying to get anything done. It does not like to deviate from the letter of the law.  This same bureaucratic approach will govern the EU’s approach to Brexit, where a tangle of complex inflexible regulations must be followed, without deviation and exception.  Dr Richard North’s excellent blog Eureferendum.com provides a valuable (and comprehensive) source of well researched information about the ensuing problems it is creating for our team.

Making a practical success of Brexit is something that will involve extracting ourselves from the political institutions of the EU, thus restoring the sovereignty of UK institutions while at the same time ensuring existing trading relationships can be maintained. It will be a successful combination of reconciling a politically-inspired British Brexit with the bureaucratic procedures of the EU.  Can it be done? – or is ‘walking away’ from negotiations without a deal a viable alternative?

When the worlds of the British politician and the Eurocrat meet, as they have done in the Brexit negotiations, the net result is mutual incomprehension and therefore little or no progress. Let us not assume this is a result of ulterior motives or hidden agendas.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, for each side to enter the mind-set of the other. To add to the difficulty, the ‘devil is in the detail’ and our negotiators have not historically been keen on detail and it will thus require a great deal of time to familiarise themselves with the subtleties, implications and ‘stupidities’ of the EU’s regulations.

As time marches on, we are slipping further away from any possibility of achieving a practical Brexit.  The idea that trade with the EU can be conducted within World Trade Organisation ‘rules’ (if all else fails) is a practical non-starter. These are not rules, but ‘principles’ to facilitate trading agreements between different countries or trading blocs.  “No deal” therefore creates a legal and administrative void which would crash into the brick wall of the EU’s many inflexible regulations – not to mention its lack of preparedness for the huge increase in paperwork which would result. After all, the EU was not expecting us to vote to leave and is having to start from scratch as well! Mrs May’s so-called ‘deep and special relationship’ between the UK and EU would also face these self-same hurdles in obtaining seamless access to the Single Market (or European Economic Area, EEA); after Brexit the UK becomes a ‘third country’ to be treated the same way as any other country not a member of the EEA.  So is a ‘U’ turn or betrayal of Brexit ‘on the cards’?

If Mrs May doesn’t deliver a genuine Brexit, the result will be calamitous for her and her party.   The Conservative Party might even split along Brexiteer and Europhile lines. However, she stood for leadership on a platform of leaving the EU. She has since stated her desire to leave the EU on 29th March 2019 with a trade agreement in place but a bespoke trade deal isn’t achievable by then and  the walk away option is also an impractical non-starter. So where does she go to next?

Sooner or later, the lack of any practical option will dawn on some members of her party, who will realise the electoral price the Tories will pay in 2022 if a successful Brexit hasn’t been delivered.  Spin, playing a blame game with the EU and ignorant indifference by the media can only go so far in concealing the truth from the mass of an increasingly worried electorate.  It seems that the only way of delivering a practical Brexit within confines of the EU’s bureaucratic Brexit is to reconsider a way of retaining full access to the EEA from outside the EU. Membership of the European Free Trade Association, EFTA, would provide different more flexible terms for membership of the EEA and at much lower cost than through membership of the EU. Yes, it will mean that Mrs May or her successor will need to make a ‘U’ turn over EEA membership (in spin terms ‘an exciting refocusing of efforts, with our European partners, to achieve a deep and special relationship’ et al) but the alternative is electoral oblivion for her party.

So come on Mrs May, there is no time like the present to set a new direction to a practical Brexit on 29th March 2019.

Fishing – a step backwards