Statement by Barry Legg, Chairman of the Bruges Group

Theresa May has decided to pursue a policy of Brexit in name only (BRINO). This arrangement will be worse than our current membership of the European Union as we will then be a vassal state.

If this policy is implemented the electoral consequences for the Conservative Party will be dire. I urge all members of the Bruges Group to contact their Conservative Member of Parliament if they are represented by one to explain that this is unacceptable. The decision of the British people to leave the European Union must be honoured. In many cases an appeal to a Member of Parliament`s self-interest is the most effective way of influencing him or her.

Next week on Wednesday evening we have a meeting at 7 o`clock at the ROSL with Nigel Dodds, leader of the DUP in the House of Commons, and Professor Patrick Minford. Patrick has an unapparelled knowledge and understanding of the huge economic benefits that are to be gained by leaving the European Union. Nigel Dodds, as Leader of the DUP, is the most influential figure at Westminster as his Party holds the balance of power. I hope that you will be able to attend this meeting to hear these outstanding speakers and give your views at this critical time for our country.

Barry Legg

Chairman of the Bruges Group

The lyrics of Jerusalem – updated for Brexit

We have been sent these excellent alternative lyrics to Blake’s hymn Jerusalem by an anonymous supporter. Especially given recent developments, they are particularly pertinent at the moment:-

And did those men in ancient time
Fight for our rights and liberty
And with belief and blood divine
They set laws that made us free

And yet a countenance malign
Did seek to steal those rights away
And turn us back to slaves again
Ruled by their evil empires sway

Give me my country back again
Bring back the land my fathers made
I strive for justice, not for gain
To see our people proud and staid

I will not cease this endless fight
Nor shall my sword fall from my hand
Til we’ve restored our liberty
In Britain’s green and pleasant land

Greeks have no reason to celebrate

Last week, Euro zone finance ministers offered Greece a 10-year deferral and maturities extension on a large part of past loans as well as 15 billion euros in new credit to ensure Athens can stand on its own feet after it finally exits its bailout in August, eight years after stringent austerity measures were imposed on the country.  On hearing this news, many Greeks celebrated. Even Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared wearing a tie! However, in the words of Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, the country has nothing to celebrate.

Greece was obliged to submit to EU programs in 2010  so that the public debt could be reduced.In 2010 this debt was 262 billion euros. In 2018 it is 323 billion euros and growing. To put it another way, debt was 120% of GDP in 2010 and 185% in 2018. So the objective of the program failed,the public debt was not reduced and after eight years of measures,the country has been destroyed and the people continue to suffer.

To present the completion of the fourth and final review of the growth strategy as a victory and a story of success, the Eurogroup statement of 22 June 2018 congratulated the Greek authorities and the Greek people on the successful conclusion of the ESM program. The statement is a masterpiece of manipulation of public opinion, presenting a disaster as a success.It might have been perhaps more honest to present it as a successful disaster.

The Eurogroup did not give to Greece a debt relief or reduction as had been promised in the past. The unsustainable debt magically became sustainable.What was given to Greece was an extension of  debt interest repayment and maturity for Greek bonds for 10 years.

Not many paid attention to a document called Annex A in which six specific commitments are mentioned in order to ensure the continuity and completion of reforms adopted under the ESM programme. These commitments concern:

1.Fiscal retrenchment where Greece assumes to fully respect its commitment to ensure that its annual budget achieves a primary surplus of 3.5% of GDP over the medium term.This means constant overtaxation of the Greek people and no relief in sight.

2.Social welfare, where Greece will continue with efforts to modernise its social welfare system,health care system,pensions and proposing a new approach on disability benefits. Modernisation in euro-jargon means collapse through financial squeezing, as we have seen from the last eight years.

3.Financial stability obliging Greece to continue implementing reforms aiming at restoring the health of the banking system.This health is more important than the health of the Greek people and obliges Greece to implement the comprehensive action plan on household insolvency with the objective to eliminate the backlog of cases by end 2021. This means that more people will be rendered homeless in order to restore the health of the banking system.

4.Greece will safeguard competitiveness of its labour market through an annual update of the minimum wage in line with the provisions of law 4172/2012. In other words, a continuation of low minimum wages and poverty for the people.

5. Privatisation. Greece confirms its intention to complete a large number of privatisations including airports,ports,marinas.Actually most of the country becomes privatised as the state is stripped from its assets and this “with a view to swiftly attract investment to support a sustained economic recovery”.

6.The implementation of reforms to modernise the public administration will be sustained. In other words, more civil servants will be fired so unemployment will increase.

What is totally surreal and shows the true face of the EU is the paragraph of the Eurogroup statement that intervenes into the Greek justice system and tries to influence it.There have been court proceedings that have started against members of the Committee of Experts of TAIPED for violating Greek law. TAIPED is an institution created by the Troika that acquires public property and sells it within the framework of the privatisation policy that is being imposed upon the country.

The former president and some senior staff of the Greek Statistical authority ELSTAT have had proceedings opened against them for falsifying statistics..The blatant intervention into the Greek justice system mentions: ”We recalled that the ongoing legal proceedings against the members of the Committee of experts of TAIPED are a matter of very serious concern and we reaffirm our full confidence in the work of the experts, which was also confirmed by the Hellenic Court of Auditors. Preoccupations also concern the proceedings against the former President and senior staff of ELSTAT,notably as regards the alleged falsification of fiscal data.The Eurogroup continues to have full confidence that the data validated by Eurostat and delivered by ELSTAT since 2010,including the 2009 general balance outurn is in compliance with the rules that are applied in all Member States.The Eurogroup mandates the institutions to continue monitoring the developments in those cases and the supporting actions taken by the Greek authorities,including legislative actions if needed,for instance strengthening the independence of ELSTAT,in full respect of the independence of the judiciary,and report back to the Eurogroup in the context of the post programme surveillance.”  This paragraph is a masterpiece of hypocrisy that undermines the judiciary system of what is left of a member-state. Our BREXIT friends should be informed about this.

In these eight years, Greece has been destroyed systematically. Thanks to the austerity measures, people have died, unemployment has soared, poverty has increased and basic human rights have been violated. Meanwhile, in Brussels the politicians and technocrats have been congratulating themselves on the “progress” achieved in Greece.

So what can be done? Nothing, unless we have regime change in Greece.Once that is done, then the Loan Facility Agreement of May 2010 can be unilaterally denounced according to UN procedures, the country cold then leave the eurozone and the EU. Criminal charges should be raised against the Greek regimes that that collaborated with the troika and against the  the troika itself for crimes against humanity. Article 41.3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU must be implemented. It stipulates:”Every person has the right to have the Union make good any damage caused by its institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties,in accordance with the general principles common to the laws of the Member States.” And finally Greece should claim reparations from Germany for the loan that it made during the occupation of the country from 1941 to 1944,which it never payed back and which created the famine in the country that killed thousands of persons then.The amount with interest is more that the public debt of Greece.

Only by taking these measures can Greece be saved .

Ireland may lose badly by obstructive behaviour over the border

This piece, by Ray Bassett, was forwarded to us by the veteran Irish Eurosceptic Anthony Coughlan

Playing the EU’s Game on the Border Will Damage Ireland’s Interests, says former Irish diplomat in Politeia’s new analysis.

Dublin should accept UK border plan and work with Britain to make Brexit a success for both islands

The Irish border has become an obstacle to the Brexit negotiations. All sides want to keep the border ‘soft’ and friction free and preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement. But the EU and Dublin have rejected Britain’s proposals.

In Politeia’s next publication, Brexit and the Border: where Ireland’s True Interests Lie, Ray Bassett considers the border against the background and reality of Ireland’s economic and political interests, and the options for the UK government. A former diplomat, who served as Ireland’s Ambassador to Canada and was also a Good Friday Agreement negotiator, Dr Bassett explains that the Irish Government’s present policy is not in the country’s best interests. It leaves Ireland dangerously exposed if the border problem scuppers an overall EU/UK deal.

The author analyses the different options floated to ‘solve’ the border question. Politically the only possible solution is one based on technology along the lines proposed by the UK. This would be based on a trusted trader programme. Proven models, such as that in Australia, already exist from which some useful features might be adopted.

By contrast the EU’s proposals would endanger the stability of the island. Brussels should abandon its red line that anything on the island of Ireland must “maintain the integrity of the Union’s (i.e. the EU’s) Legal Order”. Bassett questions the wisdom of the Irish Government in aligning itself with Brussels at a time when the EU itself is undergoing changes, none of which are in Ireland’s interests. Moreover, a number of national elections across the EU have made clear a rising alienation of voters from the centralising policies of the present EU.

Irish leaders should change course and work to resolve the border dispute rapidly and towards a comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. Given the historic, ethnic, cultural and economic links between Ireland and Britain, it is strongly in their country’s interests to do so. Ireland needs a successful Brexit.

The author concludes by proposing the Irish government should:

 *   Make clear both to London and Brussels that the Border must not be used as a weapon to thwart Brexit.
 *   Enter into immediate and practical bilateral discussions with London to resolve the border question.
 *   Work with the British government and the political parties in Northern Ireland to avoid any undue hardening of cross-border arrangements on the island of Ireland.
 *   Work with the British government to avoid any new barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
 *   Seek to join EFTA and leave the EU. EFTA membership would facilitate continued trade with the EU and allow a free trade with the from outside the Customs Union

Commenting on the legal framework, Professor David Collins explains that legally Bassett’s proposals would work well to Ireland’s interests. Liam Halligan explains why economically, Ireland cannot afford to play the EU’s game over the border, but should accept that Ireland’s economic interests demand that it should work with Britain to develop and put into effect the technological solution.

The paper was launched at a special meeting in House of Commons Committee on Thursday 17th May, with the speakers including the author, Ray Bassett, David Collins, Professor of International Economic Law, City University, and Liam Halligan, co-author of Clean Brexit with Gerard Lyons and Economics Columnist at The Sunday Telegraph.

THE  AUTHOR


Dr Ray Bassett has been a senior diplomat at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and has served as the country’s Ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas 2010-2016. Other diplomatic postings include Copenhagen, Canberra, Belfast (twice), London and Ottawa. He was involved in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations as part of the Irish Government Talks Team and participated throughout the discussions, including the final session at Castle Buildings in Stormont.


The Transitional deal and “good faith” will decimate our fishing industry

A briefing note from Fishing for Leave

The Transition deal the government is agreeing with EU has dire implications and presents an existential threat for what’s left of the British fishing industry and coastal communities.

The government hopes to ratify this transition as part of the withdrawal agreement and treaty after parliamentary approval. The terms of the transition subject the UK to re-obeying all EU law, including all new laws, after Brexit and the official termination of our current membership.

By subjecting the UK to re-obeying all EU law the transition negates the clean slate provided by Article 50, which states (as agreed by the EU) that the “treaties shall cease to apply” and with that all rights and obligations accrued under the treaties – including the disastrous, inept CFP. The transition squanders the chance to automatically repatriate our waters and resources to national control by reverting to international law (UNCLOS) and domestic legislation.

The 21month transition period means the EU will be free to enforce detrimental legislation to cull what is left of the British fleet. The EU has every incentive to do so to enable the use of international law (UNCLOS Article 62.2) to claim our resources we would no longer have the fleet to catch.

DISCARD BAN

The EU can do so in 21 months using the inept EU quota system which is wholly unsuited to our highly mixed fisheries and forces fishers to catch more than necessary and then discard to find the species their quota allows them to keep.

As of 2019 the EU discard ban is to be fully enforced, however, this ban addresses the discard symptom not the quota cause. Consequently, from 2019, when a vessel exhausts its smallest quota it must stop fishing to avoid discarding. These ‘choke species’ quotas will force vessels to tie up early in the year. Public body Seafish calculates 60% of the resources the UK is currently allocated will go uncaught and resultantly a similar proportion of what’s left of the British fleet will go bankrupt.

The EU has every incentive to fully enforce such a ban which would cull the UK fleet as under international law (UNCLOS Article 62.2) if a “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”.

The above is not conjecture, the EU also stated this possibility in a previously un-noticed document; Research for PECH Committee -Common Fisheries Policy and BREXIT – June 2017 (page17). The EU is therefore quite aware of the implications and obligations of Article 62.2 and the discard ban.

SLASH UK RESOURCE SHARES

To compound this, HM government has agreed through ARTICLE 125 of the draft agreement that the UK will be subjected to the allocation of fishing resources through the CFP.

Part 4 of Article 125 states;

Without prejudice to article122(1), the relative stability keys for the allocation of fishing opportunities referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article 125 shall be maintained.

Paragraph 1 relates to Article 43(3) TFEU;

The Council, on a proposal from the Commission, shall adopt measures on fixing prices, levies, aid and quantitative limitations and on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities.

Therefore, contrary to government assertions, the EU Commission therefore has sole power to alter the ‘relative stability’ resource shares. These can and have been altered – as happens on a state’s accession – and the EU is free to do so to the UKs detriment. A further skewing of the already disproportionately unfair share the UK receives would exacerbate and compound the discarding and discard ban problem.

12 MILE LIMIT

The EU can also abolish – indeed it may terminate with our current membership – the 12 mile limit which gives protects our inshore and shell-fishermen along with nursery grounds. The 12mile limit was established in Article 100(1) of the UK Treaty of Accession as a 10 year derogation from Article 2 of the CFP founding Regulation 2141/70.

This derogation, although reiterated in subsequent 10 year CFP renewals, ultimately stems from the UKs Treaty of Accession. With the termination of the UKs membership under Article 50, our Accession treaty will ‘cease to apply’ and the EU will be free to abolish the 12mile before its current 10 year period expires in 2023 if this does not happen automatically upon withdrawal.

GOOD FAITH

In addition to this the governments protestation that all will be well is through the assurance that the proposed agreement will be exercised under the provision of “good faith”.

Article 4a – Good faith;

The Parties shall, in full mutual respect and good faith, assist each other in carrying out tasks which flow from this Agreement. They shall take all appropriate measures…..to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising from this Agreement and shall refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of this Agreement. This Article is without prejudice to the application of Union law pursuant to this Agreement, in particular the principle of sincere cooperation.

Therefore, under draft withdrawal agreement of 19 March, ‘good faith’ far from being an all will be well clause obliges HM Government to rigorously enforce all the terms of the agreement, including our re-obedience to the CFP in its entirety – it is actually a swallow the lot clause.

Consequently, ‘good faith’ means the UK has signed up to a Transition agreement which means fully re-obeying and subjecting our fleet to a fully enforced discard ban and resulting choke species.

Has agreed to follow ‘relative stability’ shares and the ability of the Commission to alter them – possibly to our detriment. The UK will have agreed to re-obey the ‘raw’ CFP of ‘equal access to the baseline’ with the possible abolition of the 12 mile limit derogation with the termination of of our current membership.

The public perceive the transition as rendering all government and MPs commitments, promises and assurances to reclaim British waters as worthless semantics

It imperative for the survival of fishing communities in a multitude of constituencies that there is a reversal on fishing being included in a transition and that all sovereignty and control over all waters and resources within the UK’s EEZ reverts to Westminster at 11pm on 29th March 2019 on this symbolic issue.

In addition to this a clear termination clause similar to Article 50 must be inserted to the transition treaty to ensure that the transition and all rights and obligations accrued under it cease to apply on the 31st December 2020 to avoid any contention.  Failure to do so would be perceived as a tangible demonstration that there is no intention of making a serious stand on fishing or Brexit nor fulfilling “taking back control of our borders” as optimised by this ‘acid test’ of Brexit.