Small teacup, big storm?

The agreement hammered out at Chequers last Friday went down like a lead balloon among Tory Brexit supporters. Here is the text of the final statement.  Martin Howe QC, from Lawyers for Britain, produced a briefing which expressed grave concern that it would leave us tied in perpetuity to EU law and forced to accept binding rulings by the European Court of Justice.

The EU laws in question were those relating to goods, their composition, their packaging, how they are tested, etc etc, in order to enable goods to cross the UK/EU border without controls. This does, of course, raise the question as to how aware critics like Mr Howe actually are that many rules governing standards within the Single Market are not actually set by Brussels. The EU merely acts as a conduit for laws originating with global standards bodies to which we would have to be subject regardless of the Brexit model adopted.

Note the word “goods” rather than “trade”. Mrs May’s proposals would have seen the UK essentially remain in the single market for goods but not for services.  This was never going to wash with the EU. as some commentators were warning within hours of the statement being released.

Its pie-in-the-sky nature did not stop a deluge of negative comment. A majority of Conservative Party members regarded it as a bad deal, so said Paul Goodman after conducting a snap poll for Conservative Home.  More ominously, a poll commissioned by Change Britain suggested that a deal along the lines of that proposed by Mrs May would cost the Tories a lot of votes. For example, 32% of voters would be less likely to vote Conservative if the Government agreed a deal which results in UK laws being subject to rulings by EU courts and More than a quarter would be less likely to support the Conservative Party if a deal meant that the EU retained some or substantial control of the UK’s ability to negotiate our own free trade agreements.

Still, if the EU’s spokesmen had acted quickly to reject the deal out of hand, it would have been a storm in a teacup for the Tories, which would have blown over. Simon Coveney, the Irish Republic’s Foreign Minister, said that Michel Barnier would find it “difficult ” to accept the  proposals. It is now quite probable that he won’t have to do so as a crisis has erupted at the very heart of Mrs May’s government. On Sunday night, David Davis resigned. Effectively sidelined by Olly Robbins for many months, the most surprising aspect of Mr Davis’ announcement is that it has taken so long in coming. With him went his deputy Steve Baker. Mrs May reacted speedily and appointed Dominic Raab, a prominent Brexit supporter, to replace Mr Davis. However, within hours of Mr Davis going, Boris Johnson resigned as Foreign Secretary.

This means that a small teacup is producing what could turn out to be a considerable storm. Mrs May is due to meet her backbenchers later this evening and especially given her decision to brief Labour and Lib Dem MPs on her Brexit proposals, the mood is likely to be sombre if not angry.

One Labour source said of this meeting, “It’s an opportunity to tell the PM’s chief of staff why the Government has got it so wrong.”  With that, we would agree.  Almost every government publication on the subject of Brexit is, at best muddled.  The fisheries white paper also appeared last week – its publication somewhat overshadowed by the dramatic events following the Chequers meeting.  We will provide some further comment oin this later this week, but suffice it to say it seems very optimistic, ignoring the determination of the EU to preserve its access to our waters and to control the allocation of quota if it gets half a chance.

With events happening so quickly, it is impossible to predict whether Mrs May will face a leadership challenge or indeed whether the Brexit talks will break down. However, we have been saying for some time that a crisis is essential if the disastrous Brexit plans hatched by Mrs May, including the fatally flawed transitional arrangements, are to be jettisoned. At long last, it looks like the crisis has arrived.

 

Peer says: Let’s back Boris’s “positive vision” not Juncker’s “nightmare”

THE PRESS OFFICE OF

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon

(independent Labour)

News Release

 

18th September 2017

 

Let’s back Boris’s “positive vision” of UK’s future not Juncker’s “nightmare,” says independent Labour Peer

The independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has welcomed Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson’s controversial intervention in the ongoing debate about the Brexit negotiations.  Lord Stoddart said: “I congratulate the Foreign Secretary for having the courage to write about a positive vision of the future of our great country, in the face of so much pessimism from gutless politicians who seem to have no faith in our country or its prospects.

“Mr Johnson has laid out the golden future that awaits us outside of the European Union and the public sector ought to welcome the £9 billion net saving we will make on leaving, as this sum gives the Government the funding not only for decent public-sector wage increases but also for investing in the NHS. His vision is particularly timely given that the European Union, in defiance of public opinion, has unashamedly set itself on the road to a federal super-state, as has been made all too clear by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, in his recent state of the Union address.

“We must strongly support the Foreign Secretary’s vision of the future, not the nightmare envisaged by Mr Juncker.”

Ends

NB: Boris Johnson’s full article can be read at: https://en-gb.facebook.com/borisjohnson/posts/10155036320191317

 

Boris and the Great Escape

There is an old joke about the Foreign Office. A tourist visiting London approaches a policeman in Whitehall.

“Excuse me,” says the tourist. “Where is the Ministry of Defence?”

The policeman points along Whitehall. “It’s over there, on the right.”

“Thank you,” says the tourist. “And where is the Treasury?”

“Over there on the left”, says the policeman.

“Ah,” continues the tourist peering along Whitehall. “And which side is the Foreign Office on?”

“It’s on the side of the foreigners,” replies the policeman.

Like many jokes, it has a kernel of truth. It is the job of the Foreign Office to understand foreign governments and foreign peoples, to be able to explain their views and predict how they might react to British actions. Sadly, of course, it can be a short step from empathy to sympathy and individual diplomats and FO officials have made that step perhaps too often.

But Boris’s comment about punishment beatings tells us a lot about himself, and about the Europhiles who have denounced him.

First let’s look at what Boris actually said, rather than what his critics pretend he said. In reply to a question about a comment by the French President suggesting that the UK would be punished by the EU for leaving, Boris said “Look, if Mr Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape rather in the manner of some World War Two movie, then I don’t think that is the way forward – and actually it is not in the interests of our friends and our partners.”

The point Boris made is unexceptional. If the EU imposes harsh trade conditions on Britain post-Brexit then that would hurt them at least as much as it hurts us. But rather than look at this truth, the Europhiles have objected to Boris’s metaphor. They complain that he likened Mr Hollande to a Nazi camp guard.

Well, in a roundabout way, perhaps he did. I have no doubt that Boris will have seen The Great Escape, probably more than once. Perhaps he has also seen The Colditz Story, The Wooden Horse, Danger Within or The Password is Courage. In seeking a metaphor, Boris reached to British culture, British histories and British memories of an heroic period in our recent past. He reacted like a Briton, not like a Foreign Office mandarin on the side of the foreigners.

The interesting thing about these movies, in reference to Boris’s comment, is their portrayal of the camp guards. Yes, some are shown as villains, but others are portrayed as relatively decent chaps doing the unpleasant job that the war means that they are ordered to do. The Great Escape, in particular, is sympathetic to the camp commandant. These portrayals are far more lifelike and close to reality than the way that Boris’s critics portray camp guards. To them the camp guards are evil personified. They are “Nazis”, not Germans or Italians. They are sadistic, murderous beings unworthy of the description “human”.

This tells us much about the EU. Rather than confront the reality that it was Germans – along with their collaborators in France, Italy and elsewhere – who did unspeakable things to their fellow humans within living memory, the Europhiles prefer to pretend that such things were done by “Nazis”, some bizarre alien species which had nothing to do with the nice Germans of today.

Only by confronting the reality of the past can the demons be exorcised. Boris has faced the past, knows the reality and can treat it as history. The Europhiles, and the EU corporate mentality, has refused to face the past, still less to learn its lessons.

Boris’s only crime was to speak truth and to be on our side.

Photo by National Museum of Denmark

Rupert Matthews

Rupert Matthews

Rupert Matthews is a freelance writer and historian. During the recent EU Referendum campaign he served as Campaign Manager for Better Off Out and spoke at meetings from Penzance to Aberdeen, Belfast to Dover. Rupert has written over 100 books on history, cryptozoology and related subjects. He has served as a councillor for 8 years and has stood for both the Westminster and European Parliaments. You can follow Rupert on Twitter at @HistoryRupert or on Facebook as rupert.matthews1.

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The Foreign Secretary has a point

Germans often complain about the continued use of World War II imagery by some people in the UK. Yesterday, however, it was a Belgian, Guy Verhofstadt, who took exception to Boris Johnson’s warning to France’s president, François Hollande, not to respond to Brexit by trying to “administer punishment beatings” in the manner of “some world war two movie”.

Mr Verhofstadt called the Foreign Secretary’s words “abhorrent and deeply unhelpful” while later the same day, Malta’s Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, insisted that any future deal “necessarily needs to be inferior to membership”.

There is a flaw in this approach, however, and Mr Johnson, whether one approves of his rather colourful language or not, has hit the nail on the head.  Any organisation which seeks to punish  – or even to make life tough for – those who say “this isn’t working for me” has a big problem.

To illustrate the point, last Tuesday, BBC Radio 4’s Call You and Yours debated the  quality of public services in rural locations. One caller rang in to say that she had lived in the countryside for several years, but was moving back to a town because  rural life just wasn’t working out for her. Other callers, by contrast, said how much they enjoyed such a lifestyle, but no one picked on the woman planning to return to a town because life in the country didn’t suit her. No one would have dreamed of denying her the freedom to exercise a lifestyle choice.

By contrast, let us consider the organisations that do – or have – punished deserters and dissenters. To the Second World War POW camps mentioned by Mr Johnson. we could add the Spanish Inquisition, the former Soviet Union, North Korea and, of course, many Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Afghaniatan where apostates face the death penalty.

Are these the bedfellows which the EU wishes to keep? If the European project was really such a good thing, shouldn’t its member states be bending over backwards to help poor little UK make its way in the big wide world after voting to leave its kindly embrace?

The harsh truth is that any talk of inferior status for an independent UK reveals a great deal of self-doubt about the whole EU plan. But then, given that in 2014, the EU spent a staggering €664 million on propaganda telling its citizens – and indeed the world – what a wonderful organisation it is, Mr Muscat’s comments do not really tell us anything new.

This year marks 60 years since the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which formally launched what has become the EU. Everyone has had enough time to determine what they think of the project and surely after this time, it ought to be self-evident by now whether or not the EU is a good thing.  The size of its publicity budget, not to mention the EU’s own polling suggests that a significant and steadily growing minority of its citizens have already made their minds up in a way that is not to the liking of the Brussels élite.  Mrs May tactfully stated that she did not wish to see the EU unravel in her speech on Tuesday, but the question from a staff member of President-Elect Trump’s team about which nation will be next to leave  will probably prove to be nearer the mark.

Photo by BackBoris2012

Those pesky Russians!

In George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eight Four, everyone is required to participate in the daily Two Minute Hate – an outpouring of loathing directed against Emmanuel Goldstein, the symbolic enemy of Big Brother’s state of Oceania. Failure to hate the enemy sufficiently renders you guilty of “thought crime”, even if nowhere in the course of the book is it revealed whether Goldstein really is really as bad as depicted or even if he actually exists.

Of course, there is no doubt about the existence of Vladimir Putin, but it seems that the demands for us to hate him are getting to the point where the slightest doubt that he is the very devil incarnate will cause you to be hauled up before the thought police.

There is no doubt that Mr Putin is a pretty ruthless individual. No one who can remember the Soviet Union and the Cold War could realistically expect a former KGB Lieutenant-Colonel to be leading Russia down the path of Thatcherite free market reforms or Swiss-style direct democracy. Indeed, it is doubtful whether many Russians would be particularly keen on the idea. In the UK, we have developed a strong aversion to tyrants and value our historic freedoms. By contrast, Russians even today maintain their long-standing support for strong leadership.

Therefore, it is no surprise that Putin enjoys a massive degree of popularity in his own country. After the chaos of the Yeltsin years, his presidency has eliminated corruption from the police and brought the rule of law to the country, making the streets of Russian cities safer than some Western European  capitals. He has also given Russians a renewed sense of national pride, supporting the rehabilitation of the Russian Orthodox Church back into national life after the militant atheism of the Soviet era, but more significant have been his military interventions.

And it is Russian foreign policy which has turned him into this hate figure on the international stage – the reunification with of Crimea, the support given to Syria’s President Assad and the allegations – totally unproven – that Russian state-sponsored hackers were the source of those e-mails obtained from the Democratic National Committee which were published on wikileaks to the great consternation of Hillary Clinton.

No one has yet claimed that Mr Putin swung it for Brexit, but before June 23rd’s vote, it was claimed by the remain camp – with no evidence whatsoever – that he would support Brexit. Furthermore, his alleged links to anti-EU parties elsewhere are widely reported in the media.

A shrewd operator, a man whose path you would not want to cross (ask the late Alexander Litvinenko) but is he really the devil incarnate?

Or, to put it another way, is Putin’s Russia really any less pleasant that Saudi Arabia? Only a week or so ago, Boris Johnson, now our Foreign Secretary got into trouble for saying the Saudis were “puppeteering and playing proxy wars” – just like the Russians in other words, except that, of course, we have to be nice to the Saudis as they are “a key ally”.

We also pointed out several months ago that there was no logic in the EU’s courtship of Turkey while at the same time deliberately pulling the plug on discussions about closer trading relationship with Russia.

As for Russia’s meddling with the democratic process in the USA, the most vocal critic recently has been Barack Obama, who has vowed retaliation against Russia. But hang on a minute, wasn’t it the current US president who interfered in OUR democratic process a few months back? Something about trade deals and being “at the back of the queue”? His stunt actually backfired. At least one undecided voter and one erstwhile remainer contacted us to say that they would now be voting to leave as they were so incensed by Obama’s comments.

Ukraine is another instance where all is not what it seems. The sad story began when Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-Russian President democratically elected by the whole country was removed in a plot which is widely claimed to have been orchestrated by the EU – or in reality, Germany. With US support, Ukraine was to be detached from Moscow’s orbit and encouraged to join the EU as a deliberate provocation to Moscow.

What is so nauseating is that the nasty Mr Putin is always contrasted with the virtuous west – and especially the virtuous EU. This is claptrap. The EU doesn’t use the same brutal tactics as Mr Putin, but the methods used to railroad the Lisbon Treaty through after French and Dutch voters rejected its very similar predecessor, the European Constitution, is not the behaviour of a virtuous organisation. Indeed, the whole European project was deliberately built on deceit – a political project disguised as an economic project.

Furthermore, under Putin, Russia would never remotely contemplate some of the daft ideas doing the rounds in this country – take for instance the targeting of children as young as seven with a book called Can I tell you about Gender Diversity? which discourages the use of phrases like “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen”.

Putin is also very alert to the threat of Islamic terrorism. No surprise that US President designate Donald Trump is keen to forge a close relationship with the Kremlin to defeat this common enemy.

As mentioned, Mr Putin has encouraged the renaissance of  the Russian Orthodox Church. He recently said, “Orthodox Christianity has always played a special role in shaping our statehood, our culture, our morals. The Church may be separate from the State. But in the soul and history of our people, it is all together. It always has been and always will be.” He even has his own personal confessor – Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov. While Christians of an Evangelical persuasion may hesitate to call this former KGB officer a true Christian, the revival of a robust Christian influence in Russian culture stands in stark contrast to the pathetic attitude of the west where even the celebration of Christmas is dumbed down in case it offends those of other faiths – who are usually not in the slightest offended anyway.

So while not every aspect of Mr Putin’s Russia sounds particularly appealing to the average Brit, things have definitely improved in that land since the dark days of the Soviet Union. By contrast, much of the west has been going downhill in the last two decades – in this country especially since the election of Tony Blair in 1997. Brexit may well give us the chance to re-boot our entire political system and change direction in more ways than just reclaiming our sovereignty. We can but hope. However, until we have put our own house in order, pointing the finger at the Kremlin is little short of hypocrisy.

 

An open letter to the peoples of Turkey, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro

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Dear citizens of countries considering joining the European Union,

We wish to distance ourselves from Boris Johnson, our Foreign Secretary, who recently said he will continue to support Turkey’s desire to join the European Union.

We believe that, instead, he should have been telling his Turkish hosts that we voted to leave the EU in last June’s referendum because the EU is not a good organisation to belong to.

We are not the only people who don’t like it.

  • British holidaymakers visiting some parts of Italy found themselves cheered by the locals because of the Brexit vote. They want a referendum too and if they are given one, it’s quite possible they would vote to leave.
  • In France and the Netherlands, parties critical of EU membership have seen a massive surge in support during the last few years.
  • In the Czech Republic, less than a decade after the country joined the EU, their former President,   Václav Klaus, published a book saying that his country should leave the EU

Why, then, do you want to join a club of failures that is falling apart?

Why do you want to surrender control of your country?

  • If you join the EU, you will not be able to send your own representatives to many international bodies. Instead, someone from the EU will attempt to represent yourselves and the present 27 countries. How can one person be a voice for so many conflicting interests? Rest assured, your concerns won’t get much of a look-in
  • If you join the EU, you will eventually have to adopt the €uro, which has caused widespread unemployment and misery in countries like Spain and Greece.
  • If you join the EU, you will find yourselves plunged into a heated debate about migrant quotas which is causing bitter division between the old EU countries and some new member states
  • If you join the EU, you will have to put something like 170,000 pages of the EU Acquis Communautaire onto your country’s statute books
  • If you are a small country, your voting weight in the EU institutions will be pretty limited.
  • Yes, you will receive some money from the EU’s various funds, but don’t be fooled. You are being bribed to give up your freedom.
  • Your national political institutions will be progressively hollowed out, with more and more power being handed over to Brussels
  • You will be subject to fines from the European Court of Justice if you breach EU rules
  • You will find yourselves fighting a rearguard action to prevent powers to tax and spend being taken away from your own elected representatives,

Is this really what you want?

We voted to leave the EU because we believe there is a better way forward

We voted to leave because we don’t think the EU is viable in the long term – and with good reason. Just look at Belgium, the country where so many EU institutions are based. Its two main constituent communities, the Walloons and the Flemish, still don’t get on after over 180 years. What chance, then, of building a successful stable federal superstate with 30 or more different countries?

If you want to trade with the EU, why not join the European Free Trade Association, which could offer you access to the Single Market without getting sucked into a political project?

Its four members, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, know they are better off outside the EU.  Iceland and Switzerland were potential candidates for EU membership for some years, but have now withdrawn their membership. It has nothing positive to offer them

We voted for Brexit on June 23rd because we know we will be better off outside the EU

So please don’t take any notice of Boris – you will be better off too!

One final point:- If you ever join the EU but later have second thoughts, think of our situation. One expert has described the complexity of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations as “mind-boggling.”  We’re not in the Euro, not in Schengen and had more opt-outs from EU legislation than any other member state. If it’s going to be challenging for us, it will be worse for you. Best keep well away and not join up in the first place.

Yours sincerely,

The Campaign for an Independent Britain