Mrs May’s flimsy free trade agreement with the EU

If and when Mrs May, Mr Davis and the Department for (not) Exiting the European Union eventually  finalise a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU), it could potentially render the UK somewhat powerless against EU hegemony.  It will most certainly not be “taking back control” in any meaningful sense of the term, instead it will give the EU carte blanche to ‘turn the screws’ on the UK any time it wishes.  This potentially painful situation arises as a consequence of how the Single Market, the EU and our own Government, including the Civil Service, functions.

As first stated in her Lancaster House speech 17th January 2017, Mrs May recklessly decided to leave the Single Market (and the wider European Economic Area, EEA) when the UK notionally leaves the EU on 29th March 2019. As a result, under current plans, we will become either a temporary or permanent Vassal State of the EU. In place of membership of the Single Market, she is proposing an ambitious Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which, she hopes, will offer a continuation of existing stable ‘frictionless’ trade with other Member States of the EU and avoid trade ‘falling off a cliff’.  In the real world, trade deals with the EU are usually complex and slow to negotiate, taking several years. However, Mrs May and Mr Davis still believe it can be negotiated and finalised in a matter of months. At first, they hoped to have everything signed, sealed and delivered before next March when we leave the EU. Now they are aiming for 31st December 2020, 21 months later, following what the EU calls the “transition period” although misleadingly referred to by Mrs May et al the ‘Implementation Period’.

By any standards, the negotiating timescale for the FTA is very short and likely to be further shortened due to delays in fully agreeing the necessary terms within the Withdrawal Agreement for the Transition Period. Given Mrs May’s desperation for a deal, the ticking clock is a recipe for concessions being made on the UK side. Unless closely monitored and exposed, the many mistakes and concessions she is likely to make may well only show up later when both parties start implementing the complex and wide-ranging FTA.  Shortcuts and inadequate assessment of the details and their consequential implications are likely to be the order of the day.

The British negotiating side is further hampered through a general lack of motivation and expertise in intra-governmental negotiations in Government, Parliament and the Civil Service.  After kowtowing to the EU and its executive (the European Commission) for 43 years, our government has lost much of the acumen necessary to govern a sovereign country competently and responsibly. In any case the responsibility (‘competence’) for negotiating FTAs rests with the EU.

Once competence built up over many years is outsourced to the EU, it is rapidly lost and extremely difficult to reacquire in a short period.   The Civil Service, reduced to little more than a rubber-stamping organisation for EU directives could prefer to remain under EU leadership as it makes for a quieter decision-free and responsibility-free life.  This would explain their willingness to acquiesce to EU demands.  This seems to be the case with defence and defence procurement where the plan appears to be for increasingly close integration with the EU.

The EU negotiators, on top of their subjects, are running rings around our negotiators, who are repeatedly caving in to their demands and agenda. The EU’s negotiators are demonstrating a level of competence that is far superior to that of Mrs May, Mr Davis and Department for (not) Leaving the European Union.  Their dedicated website and Notice to Stakeholders (under Brexit preparedness) are not replicated on this side of the Channel.  A major consequence has been that the EU has effectively been in the lead all the time, dictating the terms for the negotiations and setting demands far outside what they are reasonably entitled to. For example, Article 50 negotiations were originally intended to cover financial arrangements for a Member State leaving the EU, nothing more.  Now, however, the EU wants to control UK fishing during the Transition Period through a continuation of the Common Fisheries Policy and still to manage our fishing afterwards – at least, what little is left of it – by treating it as a common resource.  The EU’s position is becoming more uncompromising slipping in further demands outside those strictly necessary for trade.

Another major weakness on the UK’s side is a lack of understanding of how the EU and the Single Market (or wider EEA) function.  The aspirations of ‘frictionless’ trade through an FTA and a soft border on the island of Ireland cannot be achieved by anything so far suggested by the UK side, as the EU has repeatedly pointed out.  Leaving the Single Market (or wider EEA) on 31st December 2020 (when the Transition Period is meant to end)  makes the UK into a ‘third’ country, nominally outside EU control, and subject to the same treatment as any other ‘third’ country trading with the Single Market (or wider EEA).  It is membership of the Single Market AND NOT THE CUSTOMS UNION which delivers customs cooperation between Member States across a range of products and frictionless internal trade.

The EU’s approach to most products within the Single Market is outlined in principle in COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL AND THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT Enhancing the Implementation of the New Approach Directives and in more detail in the EU’s Guide to the implementation of directives based on the New Approach and the Global Approach and encapsulated in EU law in REGULATION (EC) No 765/2008 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 9th July 2008 setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 339/93.

The EU’s guide, in describing the processes involved and their overall approach, also provides an indication of where future problems could occur and how out of touch with reality Mrs May and Mr Davis are.  At any time the EU can legally ‘turn the screws’ on us when it comes to trade.  Mutual Recognition of Standards or an FTA will not make much – if any – difference, simply because the EU’s negotiators will make sure they don’t.  They don’t have much alternative since to cave-in to UK demands would go against their direction of travel which was determined many years ago. Such a cave-in would set a precedent that could be exploited by other ‘third’ countries.

There is no guarantee that we will get to a Free Trade Agreement. The Transition Deal and Withdrawal Agreement are still far from finalised and, as the EU have stated many times, ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’.  However sacrificing UK fishing, defence and agreeing to continue to adopt existing and future EU laws et al in the hope of one day achieving a free trade utopia is delusional and incompetent.  Hopefully reality will dawn – in particular, the horrific electoral consequences for the Conservative Party of such an abject surrender – in time to change tack. It is not too late for Mrs May to cut off negotiations and pursue a faster, safer and simpler approach to leaving the EU – for example EFTA/EEA explained in some detail in Brexit Reset.  Is it too much to hope that our latter-day Chamberlain may net metamorphose into a Churchill or the second Iron Lady which we so desperately need? “No! No! No!” is the only language which the EU understands. They need to hear it loud and clear from Mrs May or she will soon be hearing it from disgruntled voters.

CIB Annual Rally 14 April 2018 – a Resounding Success

OUR RALLY THIS YEAR was very well attended and I have to express my gratitude to colleagues who helped with the arrangements, the people who attended and, of course, the impressive panel of speakers who held the keen interest of the audience throughout. It was gratifying to receive email congratulations from people who had attended.

The speakers were

STEVEN WOOLFE MEP (Independent) who gave a stirring call to arms for pro indpendence activists to work togetherand oppose the Remainers who want to overthrow the democratic decision of the British people.

BRENDAN CHILTON – National Organiser for Labour Leave whose passionate, Old Labour oratory is now directed to  campaign to ensuring  that the many Labour constituencies which supported a return to democracy are not betrayed..

AARON BROWN of Fishing for Leave – an equally rousing speaker for our often-betrayed fishermen. He points out that there is an opportunity to be free of the plundering European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)  – but only if we leave it on March 29th 2019. Without that, the proposed “transition” period would lock us into the terms of the CFP forever and a day.

DR LEE ROTHERHAM  Executive Director  of Veterans for Britain who has served in the Reserves for twenty years with three overseas deployments. He spoke won the dangers remaining after Brexit in the process of EU defence and Security Integration and the “deep and special partnership” in defence to which the government has already agreed.

DR. GRAHAM GUDGIN – Associate at the Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and co-editor of the Briefings for Brexit website. He was special advisor to the First Minsiter of Northern Ireland  from 1998 -2002 .For once, we heard an economist who was down to earth, devoid of jargon and  whom members could understand with clarity.

ALL THE SPEECHES WERE FILMED AND WILL BE AVAILABLE ON THIS WEBSITE SHORTLY.

Here is how we started the afternoon..

Opening Speech by Chairman, Edward Spalton.

We held our Annual General Meeting for members this morning, so it is a pleasure to welcome friends from the wider independence movement this afternoon to exchange views and to hear from our distinguished panel of speakers. CIB was founded in 1969 before we joined the EEC and has always been a cross-party organisation, comprising a wide range of political views but always united in the aim of restoring democratic self-government and independence to our country. In 1972, in spite of valiant efforts by our founders, we failed to stop the passing of the European Communities Act by a slim majority of 8 votes. What a lot of trouble we would have saved ourselves, if only we could have persuaded those few MPs to do their true duty by their country!

Last year I remarked that this year’s rally would be the last one held under our EU captivity, as the government had served the Article 50 Notice and, in accordance with its terms, the treaties would cease to apply from 29th March 2019 at the latest. But I had to add “unless the European Council in agreement with the member state concerned unanimously decides to to extend this period” (clause 3, `Article 50).

Well, it appears that the government and European Council have so decided in principle on an extended “transition” period of another twenty one months which can be further extended by joint agreement. So this 48th annual meeting and rally of the Campaign for an Independent Britain will not be the last one under de facto subjection to the EU’s laws even if the Article 50 Notice period has de jure expired.

The newsletter before this rally went to members before the announcement of this development, which was rather less triumphal than the press and media reports suggested – more just a matter of “kicking the can down the road”. Of recent months I have found Private Eye’s “Brussels Sprouts” column very concise and accurate. The most recent (No 1467 p 11) sums things up very well

….the impression of a breakthrough on all things from future trade to the 21 month transition is false: a deal is no closer and the Northern Irish border question is as vexed as ever….

.In substance, the Irish border dispute has always appeared synthetic: officials on both sides have recognised the reality of the new land border from the start…. While the EU argues that Northern Ireland must remain aligned with the EU on goods to avoid border controls and Brexiteer “ultras” claim that HM Revenue and Customs can solve everything with an electronic pre-clearance system, UK ministers accept that this would not obviate the need for border inspections ….A hard border in other words.

..Having said that “no British prime minister could ever agree to” the EU’s “backstop”, the prime minister quietly accepted it, should the two sides fail to agree a better arrangement…..

That has been the pattern with the Article 50 process: the EU tables a proposal that is angrily rejected, then quietly quietly and substantially agreed to later. With the EU making the running on almost every thorny subject, it’s no surprise that Davis & co are chasing the game”.

And the proposals, for what the EU calls the “transition” period and Mrs May the “implementation” period, are very thorny indeed, truly a vassal state situation with the UK, helplessly subject to every jot and comma of existing EU law, anything they choose to spring on us during the 21 months, subject to the sole interpretation and ruling of the European Court of Justice and – do not forget – capable of being extended.

For most years of our long struggle, I and most campaigners thought that leaving would be some, great, glorious single event when Britannia waives the rules. The European Union and other affected states would agree and we would continue our commercial relationships with them more or less as at present but as an independent country. Now we realise it is much more complex and that there will have to be a series of steps.

In the run-up to the referendum I was talking to one of our most determined, long-serving campaigners about what might follow.

“ We can’t just haul up the anchor and sail away” I said.

“Oh” said this lady – the sort of person without whom we we would never have got to a referendum – “ I do so wish we could”. It was deeply heartfelt and that is a feeling with which I can fully sympathise, having myself been opposed to our membership since 1972. We abhor our subjection to the European project but we would do well to remember who brought this evil upon us. The EU does have a dark side but in its various stages has always been pretty straightforward about its objective of political union. I must refer you to this quotation from 1947

No government dependent on a democratic vote could possibly agree in advance to the sacrifice that any adequate plan must involve. The British people must be led slowly and unconsciously into the abandonment of their traditional economic defences”.

That was written in a pamphlet called “Design for Europe” by Peter Thorneycroft, later Chancellor of the Exchequer and Chairman of the Conservative Party. So the British people who had spent all of their treasure and much of their blood, fighting a war to preserve freedom and democratic self government for themselves and others, were to be led “slowly and unconsciously” into a completely different form of government – of which they were to be kept in ignorance. That is the arrogance of the British promoters of the European project from the beginning.

It is in our own political class where the real, evil, sly, manipulative authoritarianism has lain – not so much with the EU itself.

The EU could have taken nothing from us without this deliberate concealment at the highest level of the state, by our own people who were sworn by their most solemn oath to uphold our sovereignty. And much of it was done not only in arrogance but later in ignorance too. Time and again at various crises, the governments of EU countries had to remind their British colleagues that they should “Go home and read the treaties” which they or their predecessors had signed.

Our leaders had not even bothered to do their homework and find out what they were signed up to. That is the negligence and contempt in which they held us, our rights and freedoms.

Recent events suggest that making good this ignorance is still necessary if we are to extricate ourselves in the most advantageous way, ensuring the smooth continuity of trade – on both sides – upon which prosperity depends. Businesses have to pay their wages and their bills every week and it is no use having some splendid, glorious conception of our ideal final terms of independence without knowing the steps we have to take to get there – minimising disruption and giving businesses ample, timely advice so they may adapt.

Another Europhile, Lord Hattersley, was more straightforward, speaking in a BBC programme in 2000 . “Not only was it wrong for us to deal superficially with what Europe involved, but we have paid the price for it ever since…Because every time there is a crisis in Europe people say, with some justification “Well, we would not have been part of this if we’d really known the implications”. This is the nearest thing to an apology which I have ever heard from any politician! Well, people did realise the implications and gave their verdict in the referendum.

Those two quotations are the first and last from our CIB booklet “A House Divided” – one of the series on sale today. All of them are deeply researched, written in clear, moderate terms and have been very handsomely designed by our Deputy Chairman, Philip Foster.

We still have a job on our hands, educating our MPs and peers on the size of the hole they have dug us into and how to get us out of it. We cannot do this without informed campaigners to remind them. Whilst we do not claim infallibility, we are sure that any campaigner who takes the trouble to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” these pamphlets will be better informed than many MPs and Ministers (as evidenced by many elementary mistakes in recent debates and statements in the media). As our representatives have not informed themselves, it is up to us to urge and help MPs achieve what Parliament already agreed by a large majority – to deliver the independence settlement, the verdict of the people in the referendum. No ifs and no buts about that! It is their duty and privilege to be the people’s servants.

I will now ask Philip to describe them. They consist of reliable, well-researched information, presented in a most attractive way with Philip’s great talent for design. Remember, these are all ammunition –effective weapons of mass liberation, powerful if you master them . We can provide them but you need to know well and practice how to handle them. Well-informed MPs and peers will then have no excuse for the ignorance and muddled thinking (feigned or real) behind which they have hidden for so long.

Fishing protests a success – and this is only the start

Organisers Fishing for Leave welcomed the success of last Sunday’s demonstrations and thanked the hard work of members and the public for their support.

FFL says it is now important that the politicians pay heed to not only the fishermen but the thousands of people who turned out to support on the quaysides or this would just be the start.

Yet Mrs May said in Denmark that she wanted “fair and reciprocal” access to waters for the countries’ fishermen after Brexit.

Mrs May’s definition of ‘fair and reciprocal’ fishing access is probably as far away from the rest of the population as her idea of Brexit meaning Brexit. Access should only be on a needs must equal swap basis.

Sadly it seems Mrs May’s idea is the same as that of her predecessor Edward Heath. That Britain’s greatest natural resource and coastal communities are expendable negotiating capital as her capitulation to trapping Britain’s fishing in transition shows.

Theresa May needs to stop playing semantics and for once live up to her rhetoric of ‘let me be clear’ by having the decency to stop playing with real people’s lives, futures and businesses in coastal communities.

She must reverse the capitulation on fishing and categorically promise that we will be entirely free of the Common Fisheries Policy come March 2019. If not, she will consign another British industry to museum and memory as the EU culls what is left in the 21 months of the transition period.

PROTEST A HUGE EFFORT THAT’S JUST A POLITE START

All those from the industry who made the effort to turn out around the coast did a fantastic job and should be massively proud to represent and fight for their industry, communities and way of life. That is what this is all about for us. Milford Haven, Portsmouth and Hastings were all phenomenal efforts with excellent turnouts from along the coast. A “well done” must go to Weymouth for coming together at such short notice as well as Newcastle, where a “well done” is due to many North Shields fishermen who rose to the occasion on short notice.

Special mention must go to Plymouth for the sheer numbers and the artillery battery of fireworks launched and to Whitstable  where Chris and Luke’s symbolic burning of a boat was a show stopper finale that deservedly won top trumps.

To see so many younger folk at sea showed that this is an industry that has green shoots if they are given a chance to be nurtured. We’d like to convey a big thanks to all those who worked like Trojans to make this happen and the thousands of members of the public that came down to support the flotillas, ultimately our seas and fish stocks are the nation’s resource and as much theirs as anyone else’s. Some people even travelled to Plymouth from as far as Stoke-on-Trent!

These were peaceful protests conducted with black humour and high professionalism – even when Remainers chained themselves to the boat Thereason May that was about to be symbolically burnt.

However, these events weren’t a party but a full-blown protest. We’re sick to death of being malevolently and dismissively portrayed as being justifiably expendable when we are anything but. Fishing is a primary wealth generating industry providing food security and employment in ancillary industries in rural coastal areas.

Repatriating our fishing grounds and the 60% of the fish the EU catches in them is worth a potential £6-8bn every year to coastal and rural communities and can create tens of thousands of jobs.

For the remainers gleefully peddling the deliberate narrative that fishing doesn’t matter, we ask – how much is your job worth to the economy?  Something that the professional students who berated fishermen, claiming that remainers knew best about fishing in Whitstable should consider.

TRANSITION MEANS MORE BOATS WILL BE BURNT

The transition isn’t just 21 months to suck up but an existential threat and potential death sentence for what’s left of Britain’s fishing industry.

DEFRA’s  peddling the government line about “delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit” along with “safeguarding fishing communities” is laughable given obeying all EU law after Brexit means the EU is able to enforce detrimental policies to cull our fleet.

The EU has every incentive to do this as under international law, UNCLOS Article 62.2, if a nation is unable to catch all its resources it must give the surplus it can’t catch to its neighbour – the EU.

Our big fear is the ill-founded EU discard ban is to be fully enforced as of 2019. The EU’s inept quota system forces fishermen to discard half their catch to try find fish their quota lets them keep.

The ban addresses the discard symptom not the cause – quota. Vessels must stop fishing when they exhaust their smallest quota. These ‘choke species quotas’ will see the fleet tied up, boats and businesses at sea and ashore go bust.

The 12 mile limit that protects our inshore fishermen and nursery grounds can also be abolished upon withdrawal.

Despite DEFRA’s pathetic official protestations that “the UK’s share of catch could not be reduced over the transition period”, the EU commission has sole discretion to award and change resource shares and has every reason to do so  – to our detriment.

DEFRA’s statement that we will be ok because we ‘are working in good faith’ is pitiful given the EU has repeatedly said that a departing member must be seen to suffer.

We would love to know how DEFRA squares the bunkum that “by December 2020 we will be negotiating fishing opportunities as an independent coastal state” given obeying all EU law doesn’t end until 2021 with international fishing negotiations not agreed until that Autumn?

To sacrifice tens of thousands and communities to appease a few ideologically pro-EU vested interests is a second betrayal that would have dire electoral consequences for coastal MPs

Now coastal MPs must listen to the thousands who turned up at short notice and the many more members of the public who support this totemic industry or we will go up a gear or two. In other words, last Sunday will just be a polite start.

It is important that MPs in coastal constituencies remember they serve their constituents who elect them and not a dismissive chief whip. If MPs have any inkling of self-preservation they must heed what we are saying and put country before party. They must stand by and remember: “No deal is better than a bad deal” and that coastal constituencies count.

WELCOME MPs SUPPORT BUT MUST BE ACTION TO BACK WORDS

We welcome the statements of support from Owen Paterson, John Redwood, Sheryll Murray, Derek Thomas and Luke Pollard but are hugely disappointed that all the other MPs that were invited to show their support weren’t in attendance.

The politicians have now been told clearly that the transition is unacceptable – and why. It’s now time they honoured the vote and walked away from the transitional terms as it is clear the EU, in order to dissuade other countries from leaving,  is not prepared to offer a leaving member a deal worth more than a packet of smarties.

If they do not change tack and shovel fishing away in desperation for any deal, they will be guilty of a conscious second betrayal of thousands of lives, businesses and coastal communities and will be culled in those constituencies in the same way our fleet will be.

Fishermen are not going to take being thrown to the wolves lying down and these protests will just be the start if patriotism, decency and good sense do not prevail.

A year to go and we’re nowhere near a satisfactory Brexit

A significant milestone which most people would otherwise probably have failed to have noticed has been widely reported in the media today.

The picture above depicts how I had been imagining the mood will be in exactly a year’s time – on March 29th 2019 when the two-year Article 50 period expires and we finally leave the EU. As things stand, however, it will be Brexit in name only, so most certainly not be a cause for celebration. Ahead lies a minimum of 21 months as a vassal state, where we will continue to suffer all the frustrations of being in the EU without any representation in the EU institutions.

Looking back to that incredible morning of 24th June 2016 when the referendum result was announced, not even the worst pessimist could have predicted the complete shambles which the Government has made of the Brexit negotiations. Without any clear idea of what sort of final deal they sought and outsmarted at every turn by Michel Barnier  and his team, Theresa May and David Davis have made concession after concession to the EU and have come up with the idea of a transitional deal as a means of buying time after realising that so many areas of detail cannot be sorted out in time for a long-term deal giving us full independence to be signed off in time to be implemented a year from today.

So we are facing a situation where our bright future has been postponed. No restrictions on immigration, no freedom from the European Court of Justice, no cut in our contribution to the  EU’s coffers and the decimation of our fishing industry. This was not what we voted for in June 2016.

The big question is why so many Tory MPs, even staunch supporters of independence, are being so quiescent in the face of what is likely to be a disaster, not just for the fishing industry, but for the country as a whole  – and thus, for their party electorally. Are they, as one report suggests, mere “paper tigers”  who “may huff and may puff, but they won’t blow the Prime Minister’s house down – however far any heads of agreement deal may be from perfection”?

Thankfully, all is not lost – yet. The divorce document has to be signed off not only by the EU but by our Parliament too and the combination of a vote forced through (ironically) by remainers giving MPs the chance to reject the final deal and Mrs May’s wafer-thin majority may save the day. For one thing, the Irish border issue, in spite of reports to the contrary, is unlikely to be solved quickly in a way that will satisfy the Democratic Unionist Party, upon whose support Mrs May depends.

Secondly, the cave-in on fishing has provoked immense anger – on a scale that appears to have taken the government aback. Michael Gove was clearly uncomfortable when he faced some awkward questions in the House of Commons and given the fishing industry’s long history of campaigning, we can be sure that we have not heard the last of this issue yet.

Furthermore, it is not too late to try a different approach. The EEA/EFTA route has its friends and also its critics among Brexit supporters. Everyone, however, must agree on two points. Firstly, that it is not the ideal long-term relationship for an independent UK to have with the EU, but secondly (and in the immediate context, far more importantly), it is better as an interim arrangement in every way than the transitional terms which the EU is offering us – and is still a viable option which could be implemented with in a year. The EEA/EFTA countries are not part of the political structure of the EU, subject only to the 25per cent or so of laws relating to the internal market, not directly subject to the ECJ but to the EFTA court which can only rule on EEA-relevant matters and does not have any formal powers of enforcement. IF we took this option, we would be outside the Common Security and Defence Policy, the so-called  “Common Area of Freedom and Justice” – especially the EAW, Europol and the Eurogendarmerie. We would also be outside the Common Agricultural Policy  and critically, our fishing industry can return to domestic control. We could also restrict immigration as Liechtenstein has done.

For those who would like some more detail on this subject, this chart was produced by Anthony Scholefield during the Referendum campaign and although showing the advantages of the EEA/EFTA route compared with EU membership, if you substitute “our vassal statehood after 29th March 2019” for “remain” would still be a pretty accurate comparison.

We believe that all is not yet lost, but the lunacy of Mrs May and Mr Davis in pursuing this terrible transitional arrangement is totally baffling given something better is on offer. The electoral consequences for the Conservatives will be enormous. The sooner and more often they hear “1846” whispered in their ears* the more likely we are to see a desperately-needed change of tack.

 

  • In 1846, a crisis over the Repeal of the Corn Laws precipitated  a crisis for Robert Peel and the Tory party. The damaging split which ensued kept the Conservatives effectively out of office for 28 years. Your author is firmly convinced that the party will face a catastrophe of equal magnitude if Brexit is botched.

Draft Exit Agreement: Deep concerns over defence component

This is a comment from Lt-General Jonathon Riley (ex-ISAF deputy commander) and ex-military colleagues expressing deep concerns over the defence component of the Draft Exit Agreement:

“The exit agreement shows that the Cabinet Office does not intend to regain the defence autonomy it gave away on paper in 2017.

As a result of a below-radar deal reached 15 months ago, the UK will now be transitioning via a third country arrangement, that provides a u-bend route for the UK to come back fully under EU authority in the future.

Political commentators in academia and the media are largely yet to grasp the small print of what is really going on. By that time, it will of course be too late.

It’s not wise to stand still in setting concrete and that’s what this transition agreement amounts to in terms of defence.”

Lt-Gen Riley is ex-ISAF deputy commander and a former commander of UK forces sent to Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Iraq.

His cosignatories to the statement are:

Maj-Gen Julian Thompson (former commander of landings in the Falklands),

Rear-Admiral Roger Lane-Nott (former Flag Officer Submarines, NATO Commander Submarines Eastern Atlantic)

Professor Gwythian Prins

(with thanks to our colleagues in Veterans for Britain for this article)

Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed

Before readers start getting too angry about the agreement between David Davis and Michel Barnier over the terms for an interim relationship with the EU, it must be pointed out that the handshake between the two men does not mean that everything is done and dusted.

The transitional arrangements are only part of an overall deal which have to be approved by the European institutions and national parliaments, including our own. We are still a long way from reaching this point.

On this website, we have already explained why the transitional terms on offer from the EU are unacceptable. It will be very hard to follow it with a truly clean break. We most certainly don’t need to be shackled to the EU’s customs union and any ongoing participation in the Common Fisheries policy would be the ruination of our fishing industry. Fishing for Leave didn’t mince its words in a recent press release – it is nothing less than a capitulation by a weak government.

Just to remind readers about our fisheries:- The UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles/median line was established by a British Act of Parliament – the Fishery Limits 1976 Act – but because of our membersip  of what was then the EEC, that zone was promptly handed over to the EEC, to become EEC/EU waters, right up to the low water mark, and the resource within that zone also became EEC/EU resource, managed by them and not us.

In 1983 the EU established the quota system, shared out amongst the member states by means of what is known as “relative stability keys”. These keys do change when a new member joins or one leaves.

At 11pm, 29th March 2019 the UK’s EEZ is returned to our Westminster Parliament, who must take full responsibility under the guidelines of International Law – UNCLOS3. At that moment all EU quota ceases to exist in the UK’s EEZ.

It is then down to the UK Government with the support from a majority of the Westminster parliamentarians how much of the British peoples resource they intend to give away. There is no negotiation as such.

The EU has no legal authority to demand anything, because in just over a year’s time, the UK will become an independent coastal state under third country status. Unfortunately, it seems that our government is willing to concede to demands which the EU has no right to make.

There is hope that the deal may yet be torpedoed. The Committee for Exiting the European Union could not come to an agreement on a report not about the transitional deal per se but extending it. Jacon Rees-Mogg, in his characteristically eloquent manner,  called the majority report (which he and six colleagues refused to sign) a  “prospectus for the vassal state”.  He also called the its authors the “High priests of Remain”. Mr Rees-Mogg also fired a shot across the bows of Theresa May in an article for the Daily Telegraph. “The United Kingdom will not accept being a subservient state” he said. “In the case of tariffs, once we have left the EU, it is non-negotiable that our trade minister should be able to respond to any threat of increased tariffs from other nations as suits our national interest, not the EU’s,” He went on to add “In the words of one country’s frustrated trade negotiator, Britain has to decide if it is a serious country or a joke nation. It would be humiliating for others to have cause to think thus of us.”

Trade issues are not the only cause for concern. Since the Brexit vote, our government has signed a number of agreements with the EU on military cooperation, without consulting Parliament. The details can be found on the Veteran for Britain website, which we would thoroughly recommend to anyone wishing to follow this subject in greater detail. This article in particular warns of the potential dangers that will result from this and it seems that  ministers have indicated they intend to make the UK’s role in the agreements permanent via the exit treaty. The Government’s published negotiation aims include a proposal to stay in the European Defence Fund and defence industrial programme. This essentially means that we, as a free country, will be ceding our defence to an organisation we voted to leave.

On another key issue, the European Arrest Warrant, one concerned correspondent wrote to his MP about its dangers, which are well- reported on this website, only to be told that we were intending to stay a signatory of  the EAW and that was that.

To end where we began: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The battle is not lost yet, but our government, whether through incompetence, deceit, spinelessness or all three, is not delivering the Brexit for which we voted. As a democracy, we are given the chance to tell our politicians what we think of them. We in CIB will ensure that they will get the message well before the next General election – indeed, well before any deal is ready for signing. Recent developments are discouraging, but for the good of the country we love, the fight must and will go on. Sadly it appears that our real enemies are not in Brussels (let alone Moscow) but in Westminster and Whitehall.