Some Brexit insights from Ireland

Dr Anthony Coughlan, a leading supporter of  “Irexit” and long-term acquaintance of Edward Spalton, our Chairman, has recently forwarded some interesting insights into Brexit which come from a well-placed Irish friend of his.

“The editorial in today’s Irish Times and the article by Stephen Collins are saying – obliquely – what you … and others have been saying since the referendum, i.e. that the British and Irish Governments have to sit down and work out a post-Brexit border regime, which requires technical and pragmatic solutions according to Michel Barnier.

Indeed it does, but the European Commission was not saying that at first. It is doing so now, I suspect, because the continental Member States are getting fed up with the Irish Government and the European Commission, along with British Remainers, attempting to use the border to scupper Brexit. The Continentals just want the thing sorted.”

This is one glimmer of light in what has not been a happy time for negotiators as far as the Irish border issue has been concerned. Barnier’s “backstop” proposal of keeping Northern Ireland in the Customs Union was greeted with widespread anger among Unionists in Northern Ireland. It does not bring the issue any closer to resolution but does suggest that, not withstanding public shows of solidarity by the other 26 EU member states, the Irish government will not garner much support for being deliberately obstructive over the search for a resolution to the border issue.

On a less encouraging note, however, Dr Coughlan’s friend goes on to say:-

I suspect, incidentally, that if the West attacks Syria the British Government might use it as an opportunity to “suspend” Brexit. I have little doubt that the British Foreign Office is working up something along those lines to present to Theresa May. If there is a really serious war, i.e. WW3, it won’t matter, but a shooting war that is something less than WW3 would suit the Remainers down to the ground.

The latter are well capable of urging an attack on Syria for that purpose. I hope the Brexit community in the UK is alive to this possibility, particularly Tory MPs, some of whom might otherwise be expected to be gung-ho for war over Syria.”

Since Dr Coughlan sent us his friend’s comments,  a military force including the USA, the UK and France has bombed Syria. The first polls taken after this action suggests that there is strong opposition from the UK public to these actions, with supporters outnumbered by two to one. Furthermore, Mrs May faces strong opposition from Parliament, annoyed at not being given a vote. So while an escalation of the conflict may be in the remainiacs’ interests, it does not look particularly likely at the moment.

Even so, this bunch of bad losers needs careful monitoring. A meeting of remoaners took place yesterday (Sunday 15th April ) in London, with the hope of launching a major drive to stop Brexit. Our friends from Leavers from London turned out in some force with a counter-demonstration, holding placards yet being polite and friendly.

It remains our opinion that a badly- executed Brexit remains a far greater concern than the activities of disgruntled, incorrigible remoaners,  but they must not be underestimated.

The Greek tragedy deepens

Retired Greek Diplomat Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos spoke at CIB’s 2017 rally. This is a translation of an interview he recently gave to Afrique-Asie of France. Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos was the Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization from 200 to 2012. He represented Greece at the U.N.,was director of the diplomatic cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director general of EU affairs. His diplomatic experience extends from Toronto to Warsaw and from Erevan to Beijing. He is fighting today against the policy of reducing the sovereignty of his country by the EU and NATO.

1) Last January and February massive demonstrations were held in Greece in support of the return  of national sovereignty and the protection of territorial integrity of the country. After almost two centuries from the uprising of Greece against the Ottoman occupation, it seems that your country remains to be decolonised. How have we reached this point?

The issue is that we liberated ourselves from the Ottomans only to find ourselves under the influence of the great Powers of the time. Our first leader of independent Greece was Ioannis Kapodistrias, who as foreign Minister of Russia played an important role in creating the Swiss constitution. However we assassinated him and was replaced by a Bavarian king. Our first political parties were called the Frenchofile,the Russianofile and the Englishofile – all under the influence of the country they were named after.

During WW1, Athens and Piraeus were bombed by the French fleet in order to force the pro-German king to abdicate and Greece to join the allies. Then the fascist pro-German prime minister of Greece Ioannis Metaxas on October 28,1940 opposed Mussolini when he wanted to march through Greece. Greek armed forces threw the Italians back to the sea from Albania.

All through WW2 our resistance was under British domination until the USA took over in 1947.The NATO-supported military dictatorship collapsed after seven years in 1974 but at a tragic cost since almost half of Cyprus was and still is occupied by Turkey.

In 1976 we opted to join the EEC mainly for political reasons-to protect our fragile democracy and Greece from Turkey. We joined the EEC in 1981 and right after PASOK of Andreas Papandreou came to power, for a few years Greece enjoyed an independence that it never had before. The US bases were removed, Greece  became an important actor in international politics respected by the Non-aligned movement .

Papandreou had made world headlines by organising in 1983  a meeting between Mitterand and Gadaffi  in Crete.

From the 90s onwards a united Germany became gradually the driving force of the EU  which from an EEC of the people became the EU of the bankers. And as the EU supported the bankers, Greek politicians became professional liars and were elected on programs that were never  kept. George Papandreou  was elected in 2009 with the slogan that there were sufficient financial resources to allow the country to progress, only to put Greece under IMF and EU control with the Memorandum of 2010 which never was voted by Parliament and was instrumental in bringing financial and social collapse.

 The left party SYRIZA was elected with the slogan  we will denounce the Memorandum and thus save Greece. When Brussels started blackmailing the Tsipras government ,he called for a referendum which by a large majority – 62% – rejected further austerity measures. During a Summit in Brussels right after the July 2015 referendum, Germany blackmailed Tsipras by telling him that if he did not do what Berlin wanted, then they would create a bank run in Greece and further chaos. Tsipras got scared and instead of cutting off diplomatic relations with Germany for a period, he succumbed and since then has been following orders from Brussels to the detriment of Greece and its people.

2) Why is the Turkish army once again displaying aggression towards the Greek islands of the Aegean? Do you see a link between between the Turkish officers that have asked for asylum in Greece and the Greek officers being held in Turkey?

Erdogan is taking advantage of the fact that Greece and its people are exhausted by the austerity measures imposed upon it. Furthermore he is going through a phase of illusions de grandeur and wants to recreate the Ottoman empire. Statements like “We had territories that we lost but that we may get back, we will shed our blood to make Turkey a great country again and if necessary we shall shed the blood of others” are not helpful for consolidating  peace and stability. I do not see a link between the Turkish officers who have applied for asylum and the two Greek officers that were apprehended, but I cannot exclude the thought that the Turkish authorities make such a link. The issue of the Greek islands was first raised by Turkey in 1973 when oil was discovered in the Aegean. From 1923 until then it had never been an issue. Now this aggression is within the policy of taking advantage of an exhausted Greece.

3) Why is President Erdogan opening the issue of the Lausanne Treaty by threatening directly his Greek neighbour? Is it a simple populist manoeuvre?

I think that my answer to the previous question covers this question. It is not a populist manoeuvre. The Lausanne Treaty has been violated ad nauseam by Turkey mainly as far as the minority issues are concerned. The recent invasion of Syria also constitutes a violation of this Treaty which defines the eastern borders of Turkey. Turkey thinks that by reopening the Lausanne Treaty it may get a better deal than now. A few islands for example.

4) What is the situation of the Greek Armed Forces 10 years after the gradual descent of your country to hell? Do you think that they are in a position to defend the integrity of national territory?

It is true that the eight years austerity measures have taken a toll on the Greek armed forces but not to the extent that it cannot fight. Our air force is one of the best of NATO since we have been practicing everyday chasing away Turkish warplanes violating Greek air space and our Navy is in good condition. Overall the Greek Armed forces are in a position to defend  the territorial integrity of our country.

5) What is NATO doing to help Greece and Turkey, who are both members, to find a peaceful solution to their differences?

Absolutely nothing, since NATO does not deal with differences between its members. It only deals with differences between a NATO member and a non NATO country. We saw that in 1974 when Turkey invaded Cyprus and NATO stayed out of the issue.

6) Do you think that the Greek army can play a role so that your country can recover its sovereignty or it might awaken the old demons of the dictatorship of the colonels?

The Greek Armed Forces should remain vigilant to defend our borders against external threats. And when the Greek people attempt to overthrow the Athens régime, the Greek Armed Forces should refrain from following possible orders to defend the regime.

7) Returning to relations between Germany and Greece, how would you describe them today?

I would say that they would fit more to relations between a colony and a colonial power. With one difference, of course. In the colonial period, the colonial power would defend the colony against external threats which is not the case today. But between Greek and German people there are no problems. At least for the moment.

8) Where are we on the question of German reparations for the damages inflicted during the German occupation of Greece from 1941 to 1944?

There is no movement there also. Germany considers the issue closed, since Athens did not raise it at reunification. The Athens regime does not want to anger its masters by raising it. There is, however, one item that even Germany has difficulty in avoiding .That is the loan that was imposed upon Greece by Germany and Italy in 1942. According to that, Greece was obliged to pay 1.25 billion drachmas per month for costs of occupation to Germany and Italy. In 1964 it was estimated that the total amount that Germany owed to Greece was about 400 million DM. The loan is something separate from reparations which are still outstanding according to Greece. Yet the Athens regime is not doing anything about it. .The value of the loan today, if it were to be repaid by Germany to Greece, would cover the so-called debt amounting to 300 billion euros.

9) You write: “At the moment, capitalism without frontiers is crushing everything in its passage and that our leaders have chosen for a “globalisation” benefitting only the banks and the multinationals, they are presenting the collapse of our countries as a natural phenomena that is unavoidable. At the same time they are constantly repeating to us that the “minorities” (ethnic,national, religious) of Europe “are awakening” and that their claims are legitimate but result in the weakening of the sovereignty of the State to which they belong.”

Once again the Balkans are on the verge of a war, fomented by a reunited Germany. With the objective to strangle Russia, NATO is advancing its pawns, breaking the engagement made to Gorbachev at the moment of the German reunification. The last pieces of former Yugoslavia are being integrated, one by one into NATO. You condemn the breaking up of the Balkans to non-viable client states, while at the same time pointing your finger at Germany. According to you, what is the interest of Berlin in defending such a policy since the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991?

It is actually the same policy followed by Hitler before and during WW2, to control energy resources. By controlling the Balkans, Germany has easy access to the energy resources in the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean and Azerbaijan.Not only that but it will be easier for Berlin to transfer the oil or gas to Germany.

10) Do you think that the Macedonian question is on the way to be solved since the leaders in Skopje agreed to change the name of their international airport and their highway?

No. It is more complicated than that. Already there are problems. Greece insists that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) changes its Constitution so that all nuances of irredentism are removed. Skopje refuses to do it. The vast majority of the Greek people are against ceding the name Macedonia to Skopje, a name that has belonged to Hellenism for the last three thousand years. Then if you give a country a false history, you create the conditions for a failed state. Also the politicians of FYROM do not believe in their “Macedonian” heritage. I have heard the present President of FYROM  Ivano, saying to a Georgian vice president in 2012 that the word Macedonia derives from the Turkish word dunya-which means world!!!!!!.Then why should FYROM enter NATO? What is the danger? where is the danger? Of course the West has so easily forgotten the promises given to Gorbachev in 1991 that Nato will not be enlarged  if Germany is allowed to be reunited. And we saw what happened .All the former Warsaw pact countries are today NATO members.

11)Is the current Greek Government in a position to defend Cyprus givne the ambiguous positions of prime Minister Tsipras on this issue?

Diplomatically it can but militarily it is not easy because of the distance. But that goes for all governments. We saw what happened in 1974. Itt was the coup d’état against Makarios organised by Athens that provoked the Turkish invasion. When the military regime collapsed the armed forces in Greece were in disarray and in no position to defend Cyprus. However if the circumstances were different it would have been very difficult for the invasion to have succesfully taken place, taking into consideration that the Turkish air force sank one of their destroyers.

Is the end night for Angela Merkel and her disastrous EU?

By Professor Arthur Noble

‘Après moi, le déluge’

The EU is in chaos after German Chancellor Angela Merkel, once dubbed ‘the most powerful woman in Europe’, stormed out of the Bundestag on 22 February 2018 when Dr Alice Weidel, the new (though in her personal life controversial) leader of the anti-EU and anti-Islam Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD), blasted her for threatening to “punish” the UK over Brexit and for squandering German taxpayers’ money to finance “her” [Merkel’s own] EU project. The speech drew huge applause.

In her fiery address,1 Weidel demanded that Merkel should “stop issuing threats” against the UK: “The EU wants to make an example of Great Britain, a punishment beyond any economic or political reason. This is not how one treats a European partner.” She pointed out that the predicted recession in the wake of the Brexit vote did not happen, but that on the contrary the British economy showed growth. Rodney Atkinson, who is well known for his incisive analyses and accurate predictions, has summarised the already positive results of Brexit for the UK even before it happens, and its negative effect on the EU.2

Weidel then denounced the Chancellor’s refugee quota system for immigrants and refugees; but it was a comment by the AfD co-founder, Alexander Gauland, that provoked Merkel’s hasty flight from the chamber: “Countries want to decide for themselves whom they take in. There is no national duty with regard to multiculturalism.”

Money

Weidel warned that the European Commission was planning to restrict Britain’s access to the single market, even during the transition period, specifically because of the fear that other countries in Europe could follow suit and “take back their sovereignty”: “By supporting these plans to ostracise Germany’s biggest trading partner in the EU, you [Merkel] are taking free trade and competition hostage and establishing a failed EU ideology. The good trading relationship with Great Britain and the rest of the Continent must be maintained; otherwise Europe will be disadvantaged in global trade.”

The speech also attacked Merkel’s plan to transfer “more money and sovereignty” away from the Europe’s nation states to Brussels because Brexit has drained the financial coffers of the EU and would leave “a huge financial black hole” in its budget, which she said should be “cut” instead. In fact, the EU Statistics Office Eurostat has discovered and admitted that the EU already has a debt of “at least 21.5 trillion Euro”.3

Brussels is now trying to solve its looming post-Brexit financial bankruptcy by targeting Central and Eastern Europe countries (the so-called Visegrad nations – the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary) with drastic cutbacks on agricultural subsidies. Czech State Secretary for European Affairs Aleš Chmelař says that this will put the whole EU project at risk. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in an angry confrontation with the EU elite, is demanding a massive refund of 1bn Euro from Brussels’ coffers as compensation for his country’s having been on the front lines of the EU’s borders and forced to build a wall to keep migrants out.4

Revolt

The rise of populist movements across Europe has been slow but steady. The recent spate of electoral defeats which they inflicted on the EU actually started with Merkel herself, where the AfD gained record electoral support and won seats in the Bundestag for the first time in the January 2018 election, severely damaging her and her CDU. The AfD is now more popular in the polls than the Social Democrats (SPD), with whom Merkel is desperately trying to form a Grand Coalition. Recent elections across Europe nevertheless testify to her coming demise as Chancellor.

Despite the narrow defeat of the National Front’s (FN) Marine Le Pen by the EU’s globalist plant in the French Presidential elections, she did beat the two major French parties. Her niece Marion Maréchal Le Pen, who is “waiting in the wings” to become FN leader, has blasted the EU and proposed that France should follow in the footsteps of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump by putting “France first”.

The Austrian People’s Party’s (ÖVP) Sebastian Kurz took his country’s electorate by storm to form a rightwing coalition with the Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) Heinz-Christian Strache in a centre-right coalition government for the first time since World War II – a coalition which Deutsche Welle says “threatens the EU”.5 In the Czech Republic, the ANO’s Andrej Babiš, who rails against EU migrant quotas and has repeatedly stated that Euroscepticism would grow in his country, garnered 30% of the vote to defeat seven other candidates, while Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who has consistently expressed his uncompromising defence of national sovereignty and his opposition to so-called ‘political correctness’, built anti-immigrant razor wire fences with water cannons stationed on his borders and denounced Merkel’s demand for the rest of the EU to follow her unilateral opening of its borders as “moral imperialism”.6

Similar revolts have occurred in the Netherlands, where, in the opinion of The Atlantic,7 Geert Wilders with his Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) actually “won by losing”, and “still poses a grave threat” to the EU with his demographic warning that ‘the bell tolls for Europe’ as Muslim immigration is in danger of replacing Europeans.8 Finland’s right-wing populist party True Finns has had great success with its Eurosceptic programme and is now urging Helsinki to hold a Brexit-style referendum reflecting a growing anti-EU backlash across Brussels.

In 2017 Spain reacted with brutality when the Catalan regional Parliament became the first area of the EU to declare actual independence from the staunch EU puppets in Madrid and therefore symbolically from Brussels, while referenda in the richer regions of northern Italy – Veneto and Lombardy – revealed overwhelming support in favour of more autonomy if not outright secession.

Auf Wiedersehen, Angela!

Merkel’s hasty exit from the Bundestag on 22 February may well become a potent historical symbol of the break-up of the EU. The populist revolt against her disastrous policies make it more difficult, if not impossible, for Germany to dictate to the rest of the EU in the way that she and her globalist supporters like Tony Blair and global mischief-maker billionaire George Soros want. The latter interfered with a donation of £400,000, and when criticized contributed a further £100,000, in a last-ditched attempt to thwart Brexit and overturn the democratic will of the British people.

As the de facto leader – or rather ‘misleader’ – of a Union which is disintegrating under the weight of her dictatorship, Merkel can now no longer convince or win with her policies of ‘more Europe’ which are the very cause of the Europe’s disintegration. Europeans have rejected her policies on security and immigration, making it impossible for a bankrupt EU9 to provide debt relief for countries such as Italy and Spain or to secure control over the EU’s insubordinate eastern members.

Merkel has suffered a series of deadly blows from which she cannot recover, and yet, obviously oblivious of reality, she continues to parrot the same incessant rant about her plans to create an EU superstate. She calls it “a new dawn for Europe”, but it is nothing but the old one dressed up like the legendary Emperor in his new clothes. Speaking ahead of the most recent EU summit, symbolically unattended by the UK, she said rather laughably: “We want to have a Europe capable of action that is in solidarity and has self-confidence.”10 It clearly has neither. “To achieve this we must be ready to strengthen Europe where a European solution is better than a purely nationalist one.” There you have it: ‘Nation states are out; the European model must prevail.’ No change then!

FOOTNOTES

1 https://youtu.be/uTNAr_k4k9M
2 http://freenations.net/massive-eu-losses-of-no-deal-brexit-german-industry-expects-free-trade/
3 http://www.eutimes.net/2018/02/eurostat-discovers-that-the-eu-has-at-least-e12-5-trillion-debt/
4 https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/923338/EU-finances-Viktor-Orban-Hungary-Brussels-450m-border-protection
5 http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-a-right-wing-coalition-in-austria-threatens-the-eu/a-40962645
6 https://www.politico.eu/list/politico-28/viktor-orban/
7 https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/geert-wilders-won-by-losing-netherlands-vote/519834/
8 http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/06/02/wilders-europeans-danger-replaced/; http://www.eutimes.net/2017/06/wilders-surgingdemographic-
change-means-europeans-are-in-danger-of-being-replaced/
9 See fn. 3
10 https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/922389/Angela-Merkel-EU-latest-news-Germany-coalition-SPD-EU-superstate-Bundestag

Photo by Glyn Lowe Photoworks.

A letter from our Chairman – the lethal austerity of the €uro

Sir,

From the beginning of this year the Greek government stopped publishing the usual monthly statistics of births and deaths. Continuing to do so would give a truer cost of the EU-imposed austerity programme than any massaged economic statistics.

In 2017 the annual total of deaths was 123, 700 as against 118,623 in 2016. But in 2013 the total was only 70,830 and before the financial crisis the death rate was usually around 60,000 . So twice as many people are dying than used to be the case.

The reason for this massive increase in mortality is the austerity imposed by the EU and the IMF, which dissolved the Greek NHS. Poverty, hunger, lack of heating and increased suicides account for the rest. These figures measure a terrible increase in human suffering, taking place in a modern European country. But that’s all right with the BBC and broadcast media because it’s happening in the EU which, they believe, is such a wonderful thing and rather fashionable on the left of politics. Whilst the UK remains an EU member, our government is part of the government of the EU, responsible for the deaths in which Europhile MPs and MEPs are also complicit.

Whoever the Greek people elect to government, it is the EU authorities which dictate policy, such as the privatisation of public assets – ports, airports, electricity etc. They are also insisting that the government must speed up the auctioning of homes on which people can no longer afford the mortgages. Wages and pensions have been drastically cut and direct and indirect tax rates increased.

To prevent interference with the forced sales, electronic auctions have been introduced. Around 5 million taxpayers lack the funds to pay taxes and the state can now auction properties for debts over 500 euros.

I would not have credited this information, if it had not come from an unimpeachable source. Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos (Retired) had a distinguished career in his country’s foreign ministry. He is now a member of the secretariat of the Front for a Free Greece. Last year I hosted a conference which he addressed and thought surely “things could only get better” for the Greek people. But they have not.

Those who presently complain of austerity here need to be reminded that our fate would have been very much more like that of the Greek nation, if people like Tony Blair and Ken Clarke had got their way and locked us into the prison house of the euro currency. It is time to leave the whole tyrannical project behind and perhaps to divert at least a small portion of our bloated foreign aid budget to the worthwhile relief of the unfortunate citizens of Greece.

Yours faithfully

 

Edward Spalton

 

Our Chairman is confident that these figures are  accurate. Do feel free to copy this letter and send it to your local newspapers.

If you want to find out more abut the effects of austerity on Greece, this video (in  Greek but with English subtitles) lasts an hour and a half but provides some deep insights into modern Greek history.

Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos (depicted above) spoke at last years Annual Rally. You can watch his speech here

Russia is as much of a threat to Britain as the Klingons

Britain could not cope with an attack by either, but then neither are likely to invade any time soon

By Peter Hitchens. This article first appeared in Peter Hitchens’ blog. and also appeared in Russia Insider. It is used with full permission of the author. He writes a regular column for the Mail on Sunday.

I can’t blame the Army for trying to save itself from the current mad round of cuts, but could there be anything more ludicrous than a warning that we need to beef up the Army because it can’t cope with an attack on Britain by Russia? Likewise we could not cope with an attack on Britain by Klingons (who don’t as far as I know exist), or, come to that, by the Chinese People’s Republic (which does exist).  But these attacks are not likely, let alone imminent.

I say, please plan for what is realistically likely, rather than frightening people with bogeymen, and so perhaps creating the preconditions for a war which, if you had not been so silly, would never have happened.

General Sir Nick Carter, head of the army, was all over the media this morning warning of the Muscovite threat.

What is he talking about? Years ago, the great conservative satirist Michael Wharton (who wrote under the name ‘Peter Simple’ in the old Daily Telegraph, a very different newspaper from the one that now bears that name) invented a war between Sweden and Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was then a country in the South-East of Europe, not having been dismantled to suit the convenience of the EU. It was also about as far as one could get from Sweden, while staying in the European landmass.

I forget what grievance had sparked this fictional conflict. One day I shall write a Wikipedia entry on the Suedo-Yugoslav war (I wonder how long it will take them to notice) which will doubtless explain all these things.

But the real lasting joke was of course that the two enemies could never find each other. They had nothing to fight about, no common border, no territorial dispute. It could have lasted for decades without an actual shot being fired.

Much the same is true of our relations with Russia. We have no land or maritime border. We have very little mutual trade or any other connection which might lead to war. We are far away from each other.

Silly media reports contrive to suggest that Britain is ceaselessly ‘confronting’ or ‘escorting’ Russian ships or planes which fly through international waters or airspace near our islands. But read them carefully. They often seem to suggest that Russian planes have violated our airspace. As far as I know, this has not happened. Likewise, Russian naval vessels have a perfect right under the International Law of the Sea, to pass through the North Sea and the Channel (I have checked the laws on this) provided they undertake no hostile action. Indeed, it would be hard to see how else they could get from their home ports to Atlantic or Mediterranean destinations unless they took these routes.

As I have pointed out in myriad posts on this indexed, archived and searchable blog, Russia is not a very significant country, even though it takes up a lot of space on the map. Its GDP, the best measure of economic importance, is roughly the same as that of Italy, a country which rightly does not trouble us.

Its nuclear weapons are unusable (like ours). Most of Russia’s conventional army and air force is deployed to defend its home territory, because (unlike us)  it has no natural physical borders in the shape of seas or mountain-ranges, and is vulnerable to invasion (see recent history). Its second most important city suffered countless deaths by starvation thanks to a siege by German invaders within living memory.

Many widely-believed myths about Russia are not true. Russia did not start the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia. The EU’s own Tagliavini report concluded that this was begun by Georgia.

Russia has long regarded NATO eastward expansion as hostile and expansionist, and sought to counter it through diplomatic warnings at the highest level. These were ignored. NATO expansion was not the consequence of some desire by the peoples of the region. The Baltic States, for instance, gained their independence from Moscow in 1991 and maintained it for many years without any threat or danger, without needing to join NATO. Expansion was in fact the result of expensive lobbying of the US Senate by American arms and manufacturers in the 1990s, exposed by the New York Times at the time. It was specifically warned against by George Kennan, architect of the containment of the USSR, who came out of retirement aged 93 to say it was dangerous folly.

Russia’s response only became military when NATO countries openly backed the violent overthrow of a non-aligned government in Ukraine in a lawless putsch, and its replacement (contrary to the Ukraine constitution and with armed men present in the Kiev Parliament building) by a pro-NATO regime. Russia’s response has in fact been highly limited and cautious. Russia has as legitimate a claim to Crimea (largely populated by Russians who were prevented from voting on their future by the Ukrainian government in 1992) as Britain has to the Falklands, and at least as good a claim as NATO Turkey has to North Cyprus. Russia’s troops were stationed in Crimea quite legally in accordance with international treaties. Russia is undoubtedly using covert and undeclared forces in Ukraine, but it should be pointed out that Western countries have done the same or similar things, notably in the Middle East and SE Asia. It is at the very least likely that NATO countries have also taken (and continue to take) covert action in Ukraine, and in my view laughable to suggest that they have not.  But the important thing is that the conflict was initiated by Western, not Russian action. Russia’s principal policy since 1989 (dictated by economic weakness which still persists) has been to retreat without violence from the countries it previously occupied. It did so on the basis of what it took to be promises that NATO (an alliance against whom, by the way?) would not expand into the areas from which Russia had withdrawn.

I have no purpose in writing the above except that it is the truth and that (having witnessed some of it) I hate war and wish to ensure that we do not wander into one through stupidity and ignorance. I also have some experience and knowledge of the region, having lived in Moscow form 1990 to 1992 and travelled in the former USSR reasonably extensively.  I regard Vladimir Putin as a sinister tyrant, repeatedly say so in unequivocal terms and have no relationship, direct or indirect, with the Russian state or any of its organs.  If we are truly so worried about Russian internal politics, it is odd that we were entirely complacent, and even supportive while Boris Yeltsin was using tanks to bombard his own Parliament back in 1993. The fact was that Yeltsin let the west push him around, whereas Putin does not. That, and not Mr Putin’s internal regime, is the reason for the change in posture towards Russia. Beware of this stuff. History shows that those who pick fights with Russia are seldom glad that they have done so, once the combat is over.

Photo by newandrew

Thanks but no thanks!

We have already reported Donald Tusk’s comments about his hopes that the UK might have “a change of heart” over Brexit. Now Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission (how many Presidents does the EU have – or need?) has chimed in, saying in a speech to the European Parliament , “once the British have left under Article 50 there is still Article 49 which allows a return to membership and I would like that.”

For the benefit of anyone not familiar with the entirety of the Lisbon Treaty (which is probably most of us!), Article 49 says, “Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union. The European Parliament and national Parliaments shall be notified of this application. The applicant State shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after consulting the Commission and after receiving the assent of the European Parliament, which shall act by an absolute majority of its component members. The conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded, which such admission entails, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State. This agreement shall be submitted for ratification by all the contracting States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. The conditions of eligibility agreed upon by the European Council shall be taken into account.”

In other words,  we would have to go through a new application process just like any other country wishing to join the EU. This article merely sets out the conditions for applying. There is no mention of a “fast track” process for ex-members who have a change of heart.

Juncker feels a personal sense of responsibility for the Brexit vote.  Quizzed by a German MEP, he said, “I still feel the exit of Britain is a catastrophe, yes, a defeat we all have to take responsibility for.” He is most unhappy that a member state has voted to leave under his watch.  He then went on to say, “But the reasons for the British exit lie deeper. As Prime Minister (Theresa) May has said, the British never felt at ease in the EU and for 40 years they haven’t been given the chance to feel more at ease.”

It is hard not to be cynical about Juncker’s accommodating language only a couple of days after the EU toughened its terms for any transitional arrangement. Combining his words alongside the European Parliament’s guidelines for a transitional period for the UK,  you get a message which goes something like this:- “We’re really sorry that you’ve voted to leave; we’d love you to come back and as a sweetener, we intend to make it as humiliating and as awkward as possible – within the parameters of the EU treaties, of course – for you to get out.”  To which could be added “Oh, and by the way, there will be no derogations; you’ll have to join the €uro, you’ll eventually have to accept the supremacy of  Napoleonic inquisitorial law, you’ll have to let Spanish fishing boats plunder your waters again and you’ll still have to subsidise French farmers. “

“Thanks but no thanks” would be very much at the polite end of suitable replies to this. It is easy to forget just how many good reasons there were for voting to leave the EU. If we had had longer to explain more about the EU’s failings to our countrymen and if there had been a comprehensive exit strategy around which the leave campaign could have united, we would have won by a landslide and anyone talking of abandoning Brexit or holding a second referendum would have been referred to a psychiatrist.

Unfortunately, the government’s floundering has given the remoaners the space they have craved and they have made the most of it. On balance, it still looks extremely unlikely that Brexit will be stopped. In response to Juncker’s overtures, a spokesman for Mrs May stated that there was no question of a change of heart. We will be leaving on 29th March 2019, he insisted.

But would we ever want to come back?  Not if Brexit is managed successfully. It is unfortunate that Boris Johnson has insisted that the savings from withdrawal will, in fact, be higher than the controversial figure of £350 million per week which was bandied about during the referendum campaign. It is hard to follow his logic. In the short term, we are unlikely to be any better off financially, but in the longer term, there is every reason to believe that, free to make our own trading arrangements, to set our own taxes, tariffs and to make our own laws and regulations (or at least to have our own voice on the bodies that determine global regulation), we will be in a better position.

It’s not just a question of money, however. Brexit will wrest control of our country away from Brussels. More than that, it provides an opportunity to re-vamp our entire political structure. Our democratic process is in need of a major update to reflect the realities of the internet age. Politicians should face greater scrutiny and be more accountable to us, the voters who elected them and pay their salaries. Perhaps one of the best ways of weaning our young people away from their europhilia is to explain to them the exciting possibilities which direct democracy offers us. Young people are great petition-signers and originators. If we followed Switzerland’s example, their petitions could have a real effect on how our country is run.

And of course, Switzerland is not a member of the EU and has no desire to be one. A Swiss minister recently said that in his country, now “only a few lunatics” want to join the EU. If we can make a success of Brexit, Juncker’s overtures will fall on equally deaf ears in our country too.

Mind you, considering the headaches we Brits have given the EU in over 40 years of membership, one wonders whether it’s only really the lunatics who would seriously want us back – or is it our money they really want?

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