Remainiacs have moved their goalposts!

While the official Leave campaign faced much flak – both during and after the campaign – for giving misleading information, the Remain campaign was no better.

This scathing article exposes their hypocrisy. The author compares current statements from hard-core remainers with the things they were saying during the campaign.  The cusp of the author’s argument is that  Open Britain, which is what the failed Britain Stronger in Europe has now become, is arguing that leaving the Single Market would be a disaster. A few months ago, on the other hand, they were saying that leaving the EU would be a disaster. In other words, adopting the exit strategy they are now throwing their weight behind, would mean there need not be any economic damage from withdrawal. This isn’t what they were saying in the run up to June 23rd.  To quote:-

For top Remainers the EU referendum was never about economics. It was about their craven desire to live in an amorphous internationalist blob where the nation state is fatally undermined and the strongest level of government and identity reforms at the European level. That’s what they wanted but couldn’t say in public. And so instead they falsely equated the EU with the single market in an attempt to scare low information voters and assorted unthinking lefties that voting for Brexit inherently meant economic doom.”

We must be thankful that most remainers, including Labour MPs, have accepted the result of June’s vote but it would be very good news if they were prepared to admit that they were at the time deliberately diverting attention away from the EEA/EFTA option which they are now ardently embracing. From David Cameron downwards, they all knew that this exit route would take us out of the political union, preserve our trade links and – most importantly – be a far more popular option than continued EU membership.

Furthermore, this implicit admission shoots dead any idea of a second referendum. If erstwhile hard-core remainers are admitting that the EEA/EFTA  exit route really isn’t too bad, they would be laughed out of town if they tried to crank up Project Fear again. Thankfully, the goalposts have moved; the debate is no longer about in or out, but rather about the best route out. For this, we must be thankful.

Photo by grassrootsgroundswell

Fisheries part 7- Historic rights

Thanks to our membership of the European Union, there are now no “British waters”. Whereas independent countries have control of an area which stretches out 200 nautical miles from the low water shore line (or to the median point when the distance between two countries is less than 400 nautical miles), from 1973 onwards, we surrendered the right to have any national waters at all, so the waters round our coast are EU waters and will be so until we regain our independence.

Supporters of the Common Fisheries Policy make the point that fish know no boundaries, so any stock that moves across a boundary belongs to both sides. They therefore imply that the UK should remain within the CFP and not reinstate national control, or at least run a parallel system. This is a very devious argument as no one in the Faroe Islands, Iceland or Norway – whose waters all border what are currently EU waters – ever suggests that they should somehow surrender control of their waters because of fish migration. Independent sovereign nations tackle issues relating to straddling stocks using agreed international law.

CFP supporters also raise the subject of historic rights. These historic rights pre-date our membership of the EEC/EU, and are sub-divided into rights within the 6 to 12 nautical mile zone and the 12 to 200 nautical mile/median line zone. The first agreement on these rights, which covers the 6 to 12 mile zone, was the 1964 London Convention which gave France 15, West Germany 6, Belgium 5, Holland 3 and Ireland 2 geographical areas within the UK 6 to 12 nautical mile limit where they could fish. In return, the UK obtained similar rights to fish in two Irish, one French, one West German and one Dutch area within the 6-12 nautical mile zones belonging to these countries.

This was not a fair deal and even at the time, there was much debate as to whether France really qualified for such rights. In theory, the agreement was an attempt to secure a legal arrangement for fishing vessels who had regularly fished in a particular area between 1st January, 1953 and 31st December 1962. In practise, other forces were at work.

The London Convention needs to be understood in the context of the UK’s attempts to join the EEC, as it then was. Our first application was made as far back as 1961. France’s General de Gaulle vetoed this application in 1963 and was to do so again in 1967. While it cannot be proven, it is quite possible that even in the 1960s, our politicians were prepared to surrender a resource that belongs to the people of these islands as a sweetener to EU membership. This does seem the most plausible explanation for French fishermen being given such extensive access to our waters with little or nothing being given in return.

The net result of these arrangements was that small fishermen – and therefore smaller coastal communities – were particularly disadvantaged, since they tend to fish closer to the coast than larger vessels. Thanks to the desire of the Government for us to join the EU, they suddenly found themselves in competition with larger vessels from other countries without even having been consulted.

Under Article 15 of the Convention the agreement can be denounced by any contracting party after 20 years after coming into force, which did not happen until 1966. By 1986, we had joined the EEC, so this did not matter. EEC Regulations had superseded the Convention. If we were remaining within the EU (and thus within the CFP), it would still not be an issue, but with independence looming, this Article will acquire considerable importance.  Article 3 of the Convention is also important as if granted rights to specific fishing vessels operating at that time.

The reason for these articles being so important is that once we leave the EU, this CFP Regulation ceases to apply and earlier legislation, including the 1964 Convention, will regain its force. However, there is no legal obligation for Parliament to uphold these rights, In particular, given that the Convention took place over 50 years ago and unlike the current CFP legislation is vessel-specific, it is well-nigh impossible that any fishing boats covered by the legislation will still be in commercial use when we leave the EU.

The current CFP Regulation includes the derogation which the UK has had to renew every 10 years which restricts access by foreign vessels to the waters up to 12 nautical miles from the coast, although we have had to grant access to vessels from other member states that have acquired historical fishing rights in areas between six and twelve nautical miles from the UK coast. These historical rights are, in fact, those granted by the 1964 Convention and which, as was noted, unfairly favours France. Indeed, it does not make provision for any fishing in our waters by boats from countries which are now EU member states but which were not included in the 1964 agreement.

For this reason alone, Parliament needs to exercise its right to terminate the 1964 agreement as well as repealing the CFP legislation. We obviously will need to allow a limited degree of access for EU vessels into our waters upon independence, but the existing historic rights agreements are not suitable, especially as they are vessel-specific. Supporters of the CFP are therefore attempting to muddy the waters and in the process hindering the development of  a fisheries policy which would work in the UK’s best interests.

Euro ‘house of cards’ to collapse

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. This article originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

The European Central Bank is becoming dangerously over-extended and the whole euro project is unworkable in its current form, the founding architect of the monetary union has warned.

“One day, the house of cards will collapse,” said Professor Otmar Issing, the ECB’s first chief economist and a towering figure in the construction of the single currency.

Prof Issing said the euro has been betrayed by politics, lamenting that the experiment went wrong from the beginning and has since degenerated into a fiscal free-for-all that once again masks the festering pathologies.

“Realistically, it will be a case of muddling through, struggling from one crisis to the next. It is difficult to forecast how long this will continue for, but it cannot go on endlessly,” he told the journal Central Banking in a remarkable deconstruction of the project.

The comments are a reminder that the eurozone has not overcome its structural incoherence. A beguiling combination of cheap oil, a cheap euro, quantitative easing and less fiscal austerity have disguised this, but the short-term effects are already fading.

The regime is almost certain to be tested again in the next global downturn, this time starting with higher levels of debt and unemployment, and greater political fatigue.

Prof Issing lambasted the European Commission as a creature of political forces that has given up trying to enforce the rules in any meaningful way. “The moral hazard is overwhelming,” he said.

The European Central Bank is on a “slippery slope” and has in his view fatally compromised the system by bailing out bankrupt states in palpable violation of the treaties.

“The Stability and Growth Pact has more or less failed. Market discipline is done away with by ECB interventions. So there is no fiscal control mechanism from markets or politics. This has all the elements to bring disaster for monetary union.

“The no bailout clause is violated every day,” he said, dismissing the European Court’s approval for bailout measures as simple-minded and ideological.

The ECB has “crossed the Rubicon” and is now in an untenable position, trying to reconcile conflicting roles as banking regulator, Troika enforcer in rescue missions and agent of monetary policy. Its own financial integrity is increasingly in jeopardy.

The central bank already holds over €1 trillion of bonds bought at “artificially low” or negative yields, implying huge paper losses once interest rates rise again. “An exit from the QE policy is more and more difficult, as the consequences potentially could be disastrous,” he said.

“The decline in the quality of eligible collateral is a grave problem. The ECB is now buying corporate bonds that are close to junk, and the haircuts can barely deal with a one-notch credit downgrade. The reputational risk of such actions by a central bank would have been unthinkable in the past,” he said.

Cloaking it all is obfuscation, political mendacity and endemic denial.  Leaders of the heavily indebted states have misled their voters with soothing bromides, falsely suggesting that some form of fiscal union or debt mutualisation is just around the corner.

Yet there is no chance of political union or the creation of an EU treasury in the forseeable future, which would in any case require a sweeping change to the German constitution – an impossible proposition in the current political climate. The European project must therefore function as a union of sovereign states, or fail.

Prof Issing slammed the first Greek rescue in 2010 as little more than a bailout for German and French banks, insisting that it would have been far better to eject Greece from the euro as a salutary lesson for all. The Greeks should have been offered generous support, but only after it had restored exchange rate viability by returning to the drachma.

His critique will exasperate those at the ECB and the International Monetary Fund who inherited the crisis, and had to deal with a fast-moving and terrifying situation.

The fear was a chain-reaction reaching Spain and Italy, detonating an uncontrollable financial collapse. This nearly happened on two occasions, and remained a risk until Berlin switched tack and agreed to let the ECB shore up the Spanish and Italian debt markets in 2012.

Many would say the crisis mushroomed precisely because the ECB was unable to act as a lender-of-last resort. Prof Issing and others from the Bundesbank were chiefly responsible for this design flaw.

Jacques Delors, the euro’s “political” founding father, issued his own candid post-mortem last month on the failings of EMU but disagrees starkly with Prof Issing about the nature of the problem.

His foundation calls for a supranational economic government with debt pooling and an EU treasury, as well as expansionary policies to break out of the “vicious circle” and prevent a second Lost Decade.

“It is essential and urgent: at some point in the future, Europe will be hit by a new economic crisis. We do not know whether this will be in six weeks, six months or six years. But in its current set-up the euro is unlikely to survive that coming crisis,” said the Delors report.

Prof Issing is not a German nationalist. He is open to the idea of a genuine United States of Europe built on proper foundations, but has warned repeatedly against trying to force the pace of integration, or to achieve federalism “by the back door“.

He decries the latest EU plan for a “fiscal entity” in the Five Presidents’ Report, fearing that such move would lead to a rogue plenipotentiary with unbridled powers over sensitive issues of national life, beyond democratic accountability.

Such a system would erode the budgetary sovereignty of the member states and violate the principle of no taxation without representation, forgetting the lessons of the English Civil War and the American Revolution.

Prof Issing said the venture began to go off the rails immediately, though the structural damage was disguised by the financial boom. “There was no speed-up of convergence after 1999 – rather, the opposite. From day one, quite a number of countries started working in the wrong direction.”

A string of states let rip with wage rises, brushing aside warnings that this would prove fatal in an irrevocable currency union. “During the first eight years, unit labour costs in Portugal rose by 30pc versus Germany. In the past, the escudo would have devalued by 30pc, and things more or less would be back to where they were.”

“Quite a few countries – including Ireland, Italy and Greece – behaved as though they could still devalue their currencies,” he said.

The elemental problem is that once a high-debt state has lost 30pc in competitiveness within a fixed exchange system, it is almost impossible to claw back the ground in the sort of deflationary world we face today.

It has become a trap. The whole eurozone structure has acquired a contractionary bias. The deflation is now self-fulling. Prof Issing’s purist German ideology has no compelling answer to this.

Fisheries Part 6 – an exemption to the repatriation of the acquis

“Repatriation” of EU law into UK law – what does it mean?

Although the proposal to “Repatriate” EU law into UK law has been made both by the hardest of Brexiteers and by the Prime Minister, many independence campaigners are still distinctly uneasy at the idea that large parts of the “Acquis Communautaire” being incorporated onto our statute books as Britiish legislation, for later amendment,  replacement or repeal if thought desirable.

Perhaps this note will help to explain the reason why this is necessary and dispel unfounded fears.

We are in a similar position to the newly-independent Parliament of the Irish Free State in 1922 when it enacted its constitution. Although the situation of  the United Kingdom government and Parliament vis a vis the institutions of the EU is by no means identical to that of the Irish Parliament of 1922 to the British government of the day, there is sufficient similarity in the situation, as a Great Repeal Bill is promised and its wording will be scrutinised.

With regard to the “nationalisation” of EU laws to the British statute book, Act No.2  of 1922 in the newly independent Irish parliament adopted all the laws from the Westminster Parliament to be effective in the Irish Free State and enforced by its institutions. To have done anything less would have left an impossible legal vacuum.

A similar thing would happen here on a lesser but significant scale, if (as some suggest) we simply repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and abrogate the treaties.

Amongst other things, there would be no laws at all to protect food safety and no legal basis for the Customs and Excise.  These both presently  stem from regulations made in Brussels, not Act of Parliament and would instantly cease to exist if the U.K. simply “walked away” from its treaty obligations and repealed the European Communities Act 1972.

We do have time during the two-year negotiating period of Article 50 to highlight some legislation to exclude from the “nationalisation” of EU law, in particular fisheries, where there is no need to pursue a shadow version of the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy. Unlike, for example, food safety or bathing water standards, where we would have no laws at all if we did not incorporate the acquis into UK law, we are in a different position with fisheries. Making an exception gives us complete control over our national waters and than chance to bring in a much better  fisheries management system.  Similar considerations apply with agriculture.

See also the attachment A Time Like Never Before from our last CIB members’ newsletter. The Prime Minister has decisively rejected any harebrained scheme to renege on treaty agreements and also promised a Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972  when the agreed settlement is in place. We will then finally be out of the EU which, after all, is our main objective. The tidying up can come later!

Tough Brexit rhetoric by the EU will only highlight its failure

The EU is going to talk tough in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, so we are told. Last week, François Hollande, the French President, insisted that “There must be a threat, there must be a risk, there must be a price.” Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, adopted a similar tone at the same meeting in Paris. “You can’t have one foot in and one foot out,” he said. “We must be unyielding on this point”, he said.

The desire of the UK to restrict freedom of movement for EU citizens while at the same time retaining access to the single market lies at the heart of the EU’s tough stance. The UK must not be allowed “to have its cake and eat it”, as Boris Johnson once described it. However, some reports suggest that the tough line promised by leading EU figures goes beyond the single market/free movement conundrum. According to the Sunday Times, Didier Seeuws, the Belgian diplomat who has been appointed lead Brexit negotiator for the European Council, apparently wants to stop the UK ‘grandfathering’ the 36 free trade deals the EU has in place with third countries after Brexit – in other words, contuniung to be a party to these deals on independence.  The idea that these third countries may want to continue free trade with the UK does not seem to have occured to Brussels. The same article quoted an EU source as saying, “we cannot make the separation look like a success.”

Of course, in view of the lack of detail being provided by Mrs May’s government, we are currently only hearing one side of the story, which may well include an element of posturing. It is in no one’s interest to go for a suicidal divorce and there have been hints that a “transitional arrangement” with the EU pending a more complete separation has defintely not been ruled out by the Prime Minister. This could possibly be something along Liechtenstein model lines – although at this stage, we can only guess.

If, however, we are to take the hard words of senior EU figures at face value, they reveal an underlying weakness. Of course the leaders of EU-27 do not want the project to fail and France faces a presidential election next year which M. Hollande is likely to lose heavily. The obstacles to Marine le Pen becoming his successor are considerable, but any deal which makes it look like the UK will prosper outside the EU will only bolster support for her anti-Brussels rhetoric.

But if the EU is such a marvellous idea, should not the UK be pitied rather than punished for leaving it? Just think of some of the institutions that took, or take a severe line towards escapees and defectors – German Prisoner of War camps in World War II, the Inquisition of Roman Catholic church, the Soviet Union, North Korea… Not a very distinguished list. Mrs Merkel, the most powerful leader within the EU, grew up in East Germany, 50 miles from the divided city of Berlin. She will recall the machine-gun posts positioned on the Berlin Wall to stop people trying to leave for the better life in the West.

In reality, there are already countries in Europe that have been proving for many years that life is better outside the EU. Switzerland and Norway took first and third place respectively in the Economist Intelligence Institute’s quality of life index. Swizerland is the only European country to be ranked as “free” in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom while in the World Bank’s rating of countries by per capita GDP, Norway and Switzerland are ranked 7th and 8th, ahead of every EU country except tiny Luxembourg.

Norway’s current government is led by a Europhile and the Swiss tend to keep quiet about their excellent lifestyle and system of government. Neither therefore trumpet from the rooftops the benefits our being outside the EU. Furthermore, these countries never joined the EU. If a member – especially a large country with a higher international profile – left the EU and prospered, the world would sit up and take notice.  The very fact that EU leaders are inadvertently admitting that unless they take a hard line, the UK will be better off out shows how concerned they are. Their behaviour, however, poses the question as to why they do not dismember the whole project so the other 27 countries can follow suit and be better off too.

However, the EU élite would rather rave at the “populism” behind the Brexit vote rather than admit that it suffers from a serious democratic deficit that is alienating voters in plenty of other countries besides the UK. We have done the EU a favour in pointing out its shortcomings. In return, it wants to punish us.

Photo by Fabrice Plas