A storm is coming

In the fishing industry, we expect winter storms – they are part and parcel of the job, Is our government, however, aware of the looming storm of its own making?

The best news of 2017 was our Government’s success in moving the Brexit negotiations from phase one to phase two, although in reality we are only moving on to to phase one and a half, because the transition/implementation period was not on the original agenda and this is what will create the storm.

Storms expose weaknesses, and for the Government it will be its entire Brexit strategy, focussed on this supposed “deep and special relationship.” Just to remind ourselves, Mrs May first used this phrase in herLancaster House speech.”The United Kingdom would seek to secure a new, deep and special partnership with the European Union”.

But there has been nothing of any substance to give us any idea of the foundations upon which this new relationship/partnership is to be based. Is it,

  1. like the present  – in other words, almost as good a deal as if we were still a full EU member? or
  2. starting with a clean sheet of paper?

It is fair to say that, given all the hype over this phrase, that the electorate thinks it is going to be the first of these options whereas the truth is that it is more like the second. When the penny drops, there will be immense disappointment and indeed, anger.

So the storm clouds are building over continental Europe, ready to lash the British Isles. We can expect them to arrive around the end of this month – January 2018. At the eye of the storm is the harsh reality that the unity and solidarity of the 27 EU member States comes first. In order that this will not be compromised, the EU’s proposal for a 21 month transition period will see us totally subservient to our continental cousins. No wonder Barnier was delighted when the UK asked for a transitional period. It suits the EU very nicely.

The EU will spare no effort in its battle to save “Le project” which, it must be emphasized, is primarily a political not an economic project. We have been told that as far as access to the Single Market is concerned, there is to be no cherry picking by the UK, yet this is exactly what the EU itself is doing in areas such as defense and security.

The recommendations being issued by the EU institutions for the operation of this proposed 21 month transition are horrific. We will have no representation in the EU institutions, but will have to accept the full EU acquis during this period. We will be back under the Common Fisheries Policy for another 21 months and charged a hefty bill for these “privileges”. Furthermore, who can guarantee that a new trading arrangement will be signed and sealed by the end of the 21 months? The EU has indicated that it is willing to consider an extension to the transitional period in which case, we may never leave in reality, only in name.

It is easy to be cynical about this transitional period. After all, why did we vote to leave? Brexit is about control coming back to our elected representatives, not further subservience to the EU.

Some Westminster MP’s are beginning to grasp that we could end up wasting 21 months under these arrangements and on 1st. January 2021 we could be no further forward – in fact, we would be heavily weakened as these 21 months would give EU companies time to find alternative suppliers within the 27. Other MPs are hiding behind this phrase “deep and special relationship” – as if Brexit is nothing to do with them, The bottom line, however, is that responsibility rests with every MP. There is no mandate to give our country away again, even under the guise of a “transitional arrangement”. Thankfully the plans will be put to the vote, so we will know where each MP stands and how many of them are truly committed to honouring the Prime Minister’s pledge that “Brexit must mean Brexit”.

Short changing the British people over Brexit

It is becoming an increasing concern that the British people are being short-changed over Brexit  – by Mrs May, the Department for (not) Exiting the European Union (EU), the government generally, and Parliament. The final Brexit settlement with the EU should correspond in large part to addressing the significant wishes, hopes and fears of the electorate as expressed in the Referendum vote. Are there important pieces of pieces of information which we not being told that we really should know?  What will be the political consequences if and when we find out the hard way that our leaders are misleading and cheating us?

The vote to leave the EU was a cry for a change of direction. In particular, it was an expression of the desire to leave the EU, which is evolving into a centralised homogeneous superstate. It was certainly not for “politics as usual”  – the status quo whereby an out of touch ruling establishment in Westminster and Brussels would continue to conceal the truth, using fear to manipulate people and doing what it wanted to whilst ignoring the wishes of the Electorate.  Ultimately, the Brexit vote was about ‘the sovereignty of the People’ and their right to governed by consent – in other words, government of the people, by the people, for the people.  Brexit, therefore, needs to be a complete change of political direction, not leaving us stuck in the political EU (aka Greater Germany) under a different name, all the time aided and abetted by a deceptive Westminster clique.

If we had voted to remain in the EU, whatever the reasoning of individual voters, we would have been forced to accept not only the current status quo but also of the EU’s direction of travel.   Remain voters were effectively putting their trust in the ruling establishment in both Westminster and Brussels. Any Brexit settlement outside remain voters’ ‘comfort zone’ of EU membership therefore needs to provide something like the same measure of reassurance and must address, wherever practicable, their real concerns.

Whilst it would appear the objectives of Leave and Remain voters are completely different, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they cannot, or should not, be reconciled in the resulting Brexit settlement.  To ignore the minority who voted Remain is tantamount to  a dictatorship of the majority and very un-British.  It is also quite likely that the economic fears of Remain voters are also shared to some extent by Leave voters, whilst many Remain voters share the Leave voters’ disillusionment with, and distrust of, the ruling élite and share their concerns about uncontrolled immigration and open borders. Political independence from the EU whilst maintaining close trading arrangements (such as through the Single Market) and co-operation should be achievable if Mrs May and Mr Davis understood how the EU thinks and works, following the example set by other prosperous European nations which are not in the EU.

The political establishment and main stream media are not presenting us with anything like the full picture on leaving the EU. In turn, the resulting distortion is creating misconceptions about what can and cannot be achieved.  Firstly, if we re-join EFTA (the European Free Trade Association) we can remain in the Single Market (more accurately the European Economic Area, EEA) under different, much more flexible or bespoke conditions including allowing us to control immigration (by unilaterally invoking Article 112, the Safeguard Measures) in the EEA Agreement and leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.  Secondly, the acquis (or body of law) of the EEA is about a quarter of the total EU acquis and is relevant to the facilitation of seamless trade, rather than the furtherance of a political project.  Thirdly, about 80% of the EEA acquis originates outside the EU, to facilitate more global trade, so we would (probably) need to comply with it anyway.  Fourthly, ‘all singing, all dancing’ Free Trade agreements (FTAs) take several years to negotiate and don’t provide seamless trade.  Fifthly, the EU is unlikely to agree to an advantageous FTA because it is not in the interests of their centralising control-freak political agenda. Sixthly, outside the EEA we will be a ‘third country’ subject to vastly increased difficulties while trading with the protectionist EU through tariffs and non-tariff barriers including regulation, approvals and surveillance.

Mrs May and Mr Davis’s Transitional Deal and overall handling of Brexit so far has the potential to lead to widespread dissatisfaction and disillusionment on both the Leave and Remain sides.  For the leaver, there is dissatisfaction that Brexit under the current plan will not be a clean break on 29th March 2019, but will begin a period of costly servitude to the EU, effectively a vassal state, which will last for at least 21 months and quite possibly even longer. In other words, it will be an indefinite Brexit in name only. For the concerned remainer who is not an ideological europhile but motivated primarily by worries over the economy, the limited duration of the proposed transitional period may result in either an unsatisfactory Free Trade agreement or else an extension of the transitional deal with the resulting uncertainty this would cause. Businesses share these concerns and at the moment have not been given any clear idea of the potential barriers to seamless trade with the EU that will occur whether or not there is an FTA.

Since the Referendum, the disillusionment with the ruling establishment has continued. It is not a problem peculiar to the UK or engendered by Brexit as there have been similar trends within the EU and in the United States.  Often decried as ‘populism’, it is a visible rejection of mainstream parties, the political status quo and its direction of travel. Our electoral system does not make it easy for new parties to make a breakthrough, but it cannot ultimately prevent radical change if dissatisfaction grows sufficiently. Given the trend amongst the ruling class to respond to their obvious unpopularity by becoming more insular and arrogant, we could see even greater political instability.

The Brexit dividend, which offered an opportunity for our country to reinvigorate freedom, enterprise, democracy and our world-leading traditional strengths for the benefit of all is being wasted. A period of unpredictability on the political front is looking increasingly likely given that it will not be long before the British people conclude en masse that the main problem, which is making their lives and those of their children potentially worse, is the ruling class.

Legislation for the Great Repeal Bill to be introduced soon

The Brexit secretary, David Davis, has indicated that legislation for the “Great Repeal Bill” – the incorporation of laws passed by the EU onto our statute books so that they take their authority from Westminster rather than Brussels, could be introduced as early as next week.

The objective of this Bill is to enable life in the UK to run as smoothly as possible during the immediate post-Brexit period when, under the rules of Article 50, the EU treaties will cease to apply.

Obviously, it would not be appropriate for all EU legislation to remain on the EU’s statute book lock, stock and barrel. Thankfully, it appears that there is growing awareness that EU fisheries legislation must not apply once we leave. We will no doubt be made aware of other exceptions in due course. They will either need so much re-working that it is best to start from scratch or else they are totally unsuitable.

There are also plenty of other pieces UK legislation which have been put on our books such as the Landfill Directive or the Interoperability Directive, which are far from ideal, but with which we can live for a couple of years. After all, the Government will have its hand full dealing with essential issues, including the complex subject of trade, a subject about which little of substance has been revealed as far as exit strategy is concerned.

Therefore, much as many of us resent the fact that so much of our legislation during the last forty years has originated in Brussels rather than Westminster, we have little choice. Not bringing this legislation across would leave us without any standards and regulation in many crucial areas of our nation’s life, including health standards for bathing water or car exhaust emissions. Some of them are actually quite sensible. After all, even the worst of régimes occasionally come up with some good laws. Only when we have achieved our very challenging objective of leaving the iron grip of the EU will the resources be available for the re-evaluation of these regulations.

Photo by (Mick Baker)rooster

Brexit is not enough

Being a realistic leaver is a difficult line to walk. Some think Brexit is a matter of crisis management. Others think it’s an opportunity to be grasped. I think it is both. In this I really don’t think it helpful to pretend Brexit is a walk in the park but it certainly isn’t a catastrophe either. As much as I have to keep making the case for an orderly withdrawal, I have to keep making the case for leaving.

This week I have seen a number of well-argued pieces that Brexit should be called off merely because it’s too expensive for the marginal gains we might make. Again I find myself pointing out that Brexit is not an economic proposition. This is really a matter of individual conscience as to whether you want Britain to be part of a country called Europe. I really don’t for a whole host of reasons.

It is these issues we need to be more vocal about. Remainers tend to view Brexit as an entirely transactional issue with a price tag and that is the only measure of it. We are still not seeing any principled cases presented for full economic and political union. This week presents an ideal opportunity to restate why we don’t want that.

Presently, negotiations are centred around the matter of citizens’ rights. In all the online debates I’ve had this is reduced to just the perks and entitlements dressed up as rights when in fact the very concept of EU citizenship is an extension of EU imperialism and an intolerable incursion on our democracy.

In purely economic terms, free movement of goods, services and people can be achieved by means other than political union. There is every reason to argue for a status that closely matches single market membership, but to extend the concept of EU citizenship is to grant supreme authority to the EU to legislate on matters that pertain to our identity, values and our somewhat unique cultural constitution. These are not irrelevant superstitions of little Englanders. These are major constitutional issues.

While we are told that the EU does not legislate directly in many of these matters, that is not true. Moreover it can “recommend” that we adopt international conventions on things like labour rights – and it can issue directives which form the parameters our policies must follow. These are the invisible goalposts that constrain democracy. As bad as that is, we are finding that ever more regulation pertaining to social issues is touched on by modern trade agreements – and that spells less control in the future.

In this the modern left has an aversion to democracy and sees no real problem with democracy being constrained as the EU is largely a benign technocracy which, in their eyes, curbs the excesses of Tories. What we eurosceptics know, of course, is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and all too often the law of unintended consequences will inevitably make manageable problems worse.

What makes this difficult to argue is the overall lack of domestic competence and presently a lack of will to diverge significantly from the rights and entitlements we have already established – thus rendering our new-found abilities somewhat inert. Many of the stated advantages of Brexit are only theoretical or conceptual – so they ask why go to all the bother now?

That is a question I often find difficult to argue because most Brits tend to be quite utilitarian about such things. Most people will ask how it directly affects them – and in most instances, the effects of EU policy are insidious, difficult to prove and Brexit is not necessarily a remedy.

The point, however, is that the EU depends on this slovenly utilitarianism to advance its own agenda. A gradual salami slicing of powers may not make much immediate impact but now we are leaving we can see the enormity of precisely what has been handed over while we were sleeping. The point of Brexit is to get out before we reach that point of no return.

Some argue that we are long past that point of no return which is why we shouldn’t bother. Arguably they are half right. What is done is not easily undone – but not actually impossible. We would have saved ourselves a lot of hassle and expense by getting out sooner but the fact is we didn’t because our establishment colluded to deny us having a say in the matter. If there is now a cost then the blame lies squarely with those who did this to us in the first place – not the Brexiteers. This is the price we pay for correcting their mistake.

Ultimately the power that MPs exercise is power held in trust on our behalf. That is the basis of representative democracy. The power is not theirs to give away thus it becomes a matter of necessity that representative democracy is suspended in favour of plebiscite to return those powers. That is why we fought for a referendum. Our trust has been abused and power has been given away by deception.

That though, is not enough for us. Even now we see that die-hard remainers are chomping at the bit for parliament to reassert its supremacy and override the mandate of the referendum. This is why Brexit alone is insufficient. The last four decades have proven that representative democracy as a concept is insufficient democracy – if we can even call it democracy at all. It is clear that we need a revised constitution to ensure they never do this to us again.

A year ago we achieved what many of us have worked tirelessly toward for a very long time. The temptation now is to shut up shop thinking we have achieved our goal. We would point out that we are nowhere close to having completed the task. Leaving the EU is largely an administrative chore. We now face a decades-long campaign to reshape and revitalise our democracy and put the people in control rather than the wastrels and frauds in Westminster. If the power we have fought so hard to return remains in the hands on Westminster then we cannot say that we have taken back control. London has proved time and again that it cannot be trusted with the power that belongs to us.

Brexit was never an economic proposition

If there is one universal truth about we eurosceptics it is that, aside from hating the EU, we cannot agree on anything. Over the last three years I have had more arguments with Brexiteers than I have remainers – and made more enemies on the Brexit side than remain.

The crucial bone of contention is the mode of leaving the EU. Anything that it not “hard Brexit” is denounced. There are many who believe that Brexit is simple and that there is no cause for delay. I wish that were true. Worse than that, though, are those who know it not to be simple but maintain the pretence that it is. I have no time for intellectual dishonesty.

I am also less enthused by Brexiteers who insist that Brexit is an economic miracle waiting to happen. It isn’t. Trade is a fiendishly complex endeavour and we will doubtlessly have to march double time just to get back to where we are. All of our present trade relations are via the EU and restoring and optimising those links will take time.

Personally I see no reason to make an economic argument for Brexit. It is not an economic proposition – and if there is one thing we can all agree on it is that Brexit is ultimately in the interests of democracy. The economy is entirely secondary.

At one point I might have made the case that Brexit will bring about cheaper food, clothing and much else – but I now have serious doubts about this. Trade in the modern global system is a lot like whack-a-mole and not every thread is one you necessarily want to pull on. There are no sweeping unilateral measures we can take and and every measure we do take will have consequences. Everything we do must be done carefully and with due consideration as to the potential fallout.

If Britain is to make a success of Brexit we will need to seek out sector specific alliances and work through the multilateral system and use collective pressure to bring about the changes we want to see. There is only so much we can do unilaterally.

This is why I believe an Efta EEA Brexit would be the more intelligent path in that Efta with the UK would make the fifth largest bloc in the world and one which could bring to bear considerable pressure on the EU to drop some of its protectionist measures. In some circumstances we are more likely to achieve EU reform from the outside. Failing that, Britain is going to find it difficult going it alone.

There are some who still believe we can pick up where we left off with old allies but the old rule is still the same; twice the distance means half the trade. To an extent the internet and trade in services breaks this rule but New Zealand and Australia are in a different sphere of regulatory influence. We on the, other hand, will still be in the EU’s gravitational pull come what may.

More to the point, any alliances we make must be toward addressing particular problems – and our most pressing being that of the migration crisis where all our efforts must be focussed on those trade measures which best eliminate the push factors in Africa. We are going to have to coordinate our efforts with the EU and we will still need close cooperation in order to make an impact. We may leave the EU but we cannot turn our backs on Europe.

I take the view that Article 50 talks and any subsequent trade talks must not be viewed as a chance to get one over on the the EU. If we play that game we will lose. We have to take a more collaborative approach and for the time being we are in a mode of damage limitation. We should leave the radicalism until we have left the EU. Brexit is radical enough for the moment.

The short of it is that we need to be more honest and realistic about what Brexit will achieve economically. We are certain to take a hit and it is insulting to pretend that we won’t. We all knew Brexit would have economic consequences – and if we are honest, none of us cared. We would have voted to leave regardless.

Primarily our future prosperity depends on fixing our politics here at home. That is what Brexit is about. Our politicians continue to abdicate from their responsibilities, handing to Brussels enormous areas of policy while they tinker on the sidelines. We continue to kick the can down the road on serious economic reform and and we have only really dabbled in “austerity”. Since our politicians have been incapable of making the hard choices, we have forced their hand. Vanity spending will have to be cut, electoral bribes will have to be slashed and white elephants will have to go on the barbecue.

In this we will have a reckoning with the wastrels, posers and charlatans of Westminster. We will have some almighty rows and we will tear the status quo apart. That is primarily what I voted for. I am under no illusions that it will come at great cost, I am as worried as any remainer about what it holds for the immediate future, and I am troubled by the wrong-headed approach to Brexit. All I know for certain is that this is a thing we must do and there can be no turning back.

At heart I am a libertarian. I take the view that every entitlement from government comes as a moral cost – and everything we get from government comes at the expense of certain liberties. There is no greater means of controlling a population than to make them dependent on government.

This is the paradigm we have had ever since World War Two. It has crushed our self-reliance, it has weakened our entrepreneurial flair and it has corroded society in all manner of pernicious ways. It has made Britain a spoiled, selfish and lazy country. It has made us a command and control economy with a cosseted middle class propped up by state spending and our whole economy is a house of cards. A Ponzi scheme. And Ponzi schemes always fail.

This is why Brexit is a revolution. It is the economic and moral revival we have been unable to secure by other means. We will prosper from Brexit not because of any direct consequence of leaving the EU but by tearing down the ossified structures of yore and rediscovering ourselves.

Shortly before the referendum I was out talking to people about Brexit. I asked a lady why she was voting to leave. I told her that we probably would take an economic hit but her reply was quite simple. “Something has to change”. And that is what gives me confidence.

We were not hoodwinked by the Boris bus, we were not fooled by Russian interference or computer algorithms. We went into this with our eyes wide open. Let us not patronise or pretend. Let us say it out loud that this is not an economic venture. This is purely political and the economy must be subordinate to political concerns – otherwise we might as well go the whole hog and abolish elections.

I did not vote for Brexit to spend £350m on the NHS. I don’t think Brexit is a free trade miracle. I just know that our politics is spent and if our politics is spent then so is our economy. We cannot fix the economy until we fix our politics. Let no man or woman interfere with that. If we do not see this through then we are not deserving of prosperity.

A voice from Dave’s back yard

Readers may be interested to read this letter which appeared in the Witney Gazette earlier this week. How power corrupts! Whatever Dave really believes about sovereignty, he said something very different when first seeking election as an MP to what he is saying now. Can we trust this man?

Sir, Watching the BBC Andrew Marr Show a couple of weeks back, I was perplexed to hear David Cameron, our Witney MP and Prime Minister, dismiss the return of sovereignty to the people of this country as being inconsequential, or words to that effect.

Sovereignty means the recognition that a people actually count and in the same way that we have district councils and county councils to create a degree of order and to avoid anarchy, so we need sovereignty at a higher level for the same thing. Perhaps Mr Cameron thinks that we would be better off with a sovereign EU, but experience has shown that that entity is, apart from being unlovable, puts accountability and understanding out of reach of we ordinary citizens because of its sheer mass and the fact we cannot get rid of those who run it, – the larger the size, the more remote it becomes.

Anyway, apart from the philosophical argument, my bewilderment arises from what it was that prompted Mr Cameron’s epiphany conversion, for when first seeking the Conservative Party candidature for Witney in early 2000, he had a very different view of sovereignty, regarding it as a major issue in Britain ’s relationship with the EU. Then he publicly declared that he opposed any further transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the EU.

In fact Mr Cameron went further than that complaining that ‘politicians have given up far too much sovereignty’ and wanted no further transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels and went so far as to say ‘If that’s being a Europhile, then I’m a banana’.

Well it could be that Mr Cameron now has a much deeper understanding of the issue, and that in spite of the transfer of huge swathes of the people’s power (and we are ultimately talking about the power of you and I through the ballot box to influence things for the better) since millennium year, he has something to tell us that we should all know about.

I believe it is the duty of our elected representatives to explain the thinking that lies behind their decision making, especially on an issue which I know to be dear to most people in this constituency and in the country in general.

Shall we be enlightened? Well let’s wait and see.

Photo by bazzadaramblerimages