May’s deal: “Out of Europe but still run by Europe.”

Former CIB President George West gives his personal reaction to the prime minister’s deal and the political fallout, and concludes that the battle to leave the EU has only just begun.

Theresa May says that if Parliament does not accept her Brexit deal we will be back to square one. If only that were possible – but starting with a Leave-voting prime minister.

To get her way May resorts to bullying tactics and deceit, just as Edward Heath did in 1972. Con O’Neill, the civil servant who led the UK’s negotiating team for Heath, summed up Britain’s negotiating position as “swallow the lot, and swallow it now.” May is now expecting parliament to do the same.

She tells us the deal is the best she can get. That alone should put a stop to her political career and further damage to the UK.

Dominic Rabb boldly told us that the Withdrawal Agreement is worse than staying in the EU. That should enhance his future political career.

Lucy Harris, founder of Leavers for Britain, appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live programme on Friday. When asked to choose between the draft Withdrawal Agreement and staying in, she wisely chose not to be drawn in to such a false choice.

If only Nigel Farage and UKIP leader Gerard Batten had kept silent, rather than trading blows on internal UKIP business in public.

What are loyal UKIP supporters to think now of Farage, who opened his mouth at this critical stage and attracted more post-Henry Bolton bad publicity? And what are UKIP supporters to think of Batten’s ill-advised choice of Tommy Robinson as a special advisor and speaker for his Brexit rally, in a bid to attract Tommy’s followers?

The campaign to actually leave the EU is nowhere near an end. It is a very long time until 20XX – the year that the transition period can potentially be extended to. It is even longer until ‘never’.

Where is the new effective leader of the Brexit movement to extricate us from this mess? Quite possibly Lucy Harris, who is of an age to appeal and talk sense to the younger people who have grown up exposed to propaganda myths such as that the EU has “kept the peace in Europe”.

Mrs May seems to be intent on earning her place in history alongside those other notorious Conservative Europhile traitors, Edward Heath and ‘green peas’ John Major.

For years we have been fed dishonest political slogans to trick us into accepting the forward march of EU integration. We were told we must not “miss the train”, and that we could be “in Europe but not run by Europe.” A more honest slogan for Mrs May’s deal would be, “Out of Europe but still run by Europe.”

After 46 years of campaigning to leave the EU it seems to me that the battle has only just begun.

No-deal? What are the options?

How likely is no-deal, and what will happen next? Economist and businessman John Mills, founder of Labour Leave, goes through the possibilities. This article first appeared on Birmingham City University’s Centre for Brexit Studies blog and is reproduced with their kind permission.

It is clearly impossible at this stage to predict with any confidence what the outcome of the current Brexit negotiations will be. Reflecting on some of the constraints operating on both the UK and the EU27, however, may be more helpful and illuminating.

While nearly everyone in both the UK and the EU would like there to be a deal maintaining mutual access, if not membership, for trade within the Single Market and perhaps “a” customs union, there are quite lot of people in the UK and the EU27 who would prefer no-deal to one shaped around the Chequers proposals. With members of the Conservative European Research Group (ERG) minded to vote against the sort of deal that the Prime Minister might recommend, Theresa May is likely to have to depend on at least some Labour support to get her proposals through Parliament.

Will this be forthcoming in sufficient volume to offset ERG opposition? It is very hard to tell, but it may not be. An important objective for the Parliamentary Labour Party is to bring down the government and to trigger a general election, even though not all Labour MPs may be happy with this approach.  This may lead to heavy pressure being put on Labour MPs to vote against the PM’s deal, lessening the chances of it going through. Labour will also be mindful of a backlash from its erstwhile working-class Leave-voting supporters in Wales, the Midlands and the North if it is seen to be supporting the government’s very poor deal for the country.

The timing and sequence of events is also crucial. If there is going to be a deal, this will have to be agreed and voted through by Parliament this side of Christmas 2018, to provide anything like enough time for it to be implemented by the end of March 2019. But to get there, apart from a deal on trade, Parliament will also have to agree a legally enforceable Withdrawal Agreement with – as things stand at the moment – two crucial commitments from the UK.

One is to pay £39bn to secure the go-ahead for negotiating a trade deal, without any firm commitment from the EU27 as to what this might turn out to be. The other is for the UK to abide by the EU27’s interpretation of what would be acceptable to them on the Irish border issue. Leaving aside any consideration to do with an overall trade deal, it is not at all clear that Parliament will accept these specific conditions.

Parliament is thus very likely to be faced with a highly unenviable choice: voting through a deeply unsatisfactory deal almost certainly by a very narrow majority, or facing a no-deal scenario, for which the UK – and the EU27 – are patently relatively ill-prepared. What will happen then?

Again, predictions are very difficult. Good and bad outcomes lie along a spectrum, depending very much on the extent to which – when it comes to the crunch – the UK and the EU27 are prepared to co-operate with each other to avoid a cliff edge, with aircraft not flying, ports jammed with lorries, and food and medicines running short. The most likely outcome may be some reasonably manageable disruption, especially initially, until matters slowly settle down, but there is a wide dispersion of outcomes either side of this scenario which might materialise.

This is why fear of the worst is likely to push both the UK and the EU27 into avoiding a confrontation, with the way to do this being some temporary agreement which maintains enough of the status quo to give everyone time to broker longer-term solutions. How long “temporary” would be would then remain to be seen. Norway voted not to join what was then the EEC in 1972, leading, via their membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), to the Norwegians still being half in and half out of the EU 46 years later.

It may, nevertheless, then be possible either to negotiate a free trade deal along the Canadian CETA lines, although there is no majority for this in the UK Parliament at the moment. It is also just possible that there could be a second referendum which would lead to the UK re-joining the EU, although this option is fraught with so many problems that it is also unlikely to get through Parliament. More likely, it seems, is that the temporary arrangements will drift towards becoming more permanent, as has happened in the Norwegian case.

Among all these uncertainties, however, one prediction can be made with some confidence. This is that it unlikely that the UK’s relationship with the EU27 is going to reach any satisfactory conclusion in the near-term. The UK will remain deeply divided, making any resolution of the conflicting visions as to what our future relations with the EU should be as difficult to bring about in years to come as it is now.  The EU as a major element of UK politics will run and run.

The Real Brexit that Never Was

As the scale of the mess that Theresa May has created for herself and the country on Brexit becomes clear, Nigel Moore points out that we could have already left the EU while carrying on commercial activities largely as before. Why was this simple, off-the-shelf option not taken?

It is now two years and four months since the British people voted to leave the European Union. If our politicians had made wiser choices, we could have already left the EU while carrying on commercial activities largely as before.

The UK could have already been well on the way to free trade agreements with old and new trading partners. The UK together with its partners inside the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Visegrad countries and the European Commission could have started exploring adaptation of the EEA to better suit emerging needs.

The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice could have ended. The Common Fisheries Policy could have ended. We could have started limiting freedom of movement to suit our interests. The UK could be once again joining the countries at the top table of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other global bodies to promote its interests.

None of this has happened, although perfectly feasible – simply through continued membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). Why was this sensible option not taken? Largely because of the antics of David Cameron, Theresa May, and the wider Conservative Party.

A FINE MESS…

Mr Cameron as prime minister prevented the Civil Service from preparing a viable and practical exit plan for leaving the political control of the EU. Such a plan would almost certainly have included retaining, even temporarily, membership of the Single Market (and wider EEA) through re-joining EFTA. This would have avoided many of the problems inherent in both no-deal, and Mrs May’s unworkable, Brexit-in-name-only Chequers Plan and White Paper. But instead of triggering Article 50 immediately, as he had claimed he would do, Mr Cameron resigned.

Once prime minister, Mrs May dithered and delayed in triggering Article 50. But nor did she use this time to develop a viable exit plan to leave the political EU whilst retaining frictionless trade. Instead, in her speech at Lancaster House on 17 January 2017 she recklessly announced her decision that the UK would also leave the Single Market. Her declared grounds related to control of immigration and the indivisibility of the ‘four freedoms’ of the Single Market.  Whilst this is true for EU Member States, it is untrue for members of EFTA participating in the EEA who can take unilateral action by implementing Article 112 (the Safeguard Measures) in the EEA Agreement.

The Conservative Party has only added to this mess. During their increasingly bitter internecine conflict, the various factions within the party have developed scenarios that are usually poorly informed, and often far from realistic or achievable. This has hampered discussion of the important issues and examination of viable options for leaving the EU.

There are some bizarre claims that need debunking: that frictionless trade is possible in the event of no-deal by falling back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules; that a ‘bonfire’ of EU regulations is possible; and the notion that the EU will cave-in at the last minute.

WTO ‘RULES’ DO NOT ENABLE FRICTIONLESS TRADE

WTO ‘rules’ are something of a misnomer. These ‘rules’ are merely basic principles to facilitate international trade. They have to be incorporated into more detailed or prescriptive rules, regulations and laws by WTO members.  Perhaps foremost amongst these principles is that of non–discrimination.  WTO principles can be circumvented in exceptional circumstances, such as emergencies or for national security.

The WTO does not have powers to enforce its principles (or the resulting laws of WTO members) should they be contravened. However, mechanisms for redress do exist in WTO-compliant treaty provisions, although it can take some time (years) before sanctions for loss can be applied by an aggrieved party.

The Single Market (and wider EEA) has a legalistic, top down, centralised bureaucratic structure to control access, conformity assessment, and market surveillance. Protectionist as they are, the EU’s laws for the Single Market are WTO-compliant, since they apply equally to all third-countries outside the EEA. Once we’ve left the EU, the UK will also become a third-country, subject to the same EU/EEA legislation as all other third-countries.

Trying to change status from Single Market member to third-country at short notice would inevitably involve frictions. Exports to the EEA would consequently fall drastically.

NO ‘BONFIRE’ OF GLOBAL REGULATIONS

It has been estimated by EFTA that 90% of EU regulations affecting the functioning of the Single Market originate from higher global bodies such as the WTO and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).  If we wished to trade internationally whilst being a member of the WTO we would have to retain these regulations, although we could potentially implement the higher-level global standards and principles in different ways to the EU.

The body of laws governing the Single Market (and wider EEA) amounts to about a quarter of the whole EU acquis. Thus, we could potentially amend or scrap the remaining three-quarters of EU laws to suit our interests – whether or not we are in the EEA.

This stands in dramatic contrast to Mrs May’s Chequers Plan (and the EU’s demands in response), where it is clear that many (if not all existing and future) EU laws will remain and be enforceable within the UK, probably by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

LEGALLY, THE EU CANNOT CAVE IN AT THE LAST MINUTE

The EU cannot easily change its existing, legally-based arrangements for governing the Single Market to accommodate the UK.  This would be an exception that would create a precedent for other third-countries, going against its existing direction of travel over many years. It would also contravene basic WTO principles on non-discrimination.

In addition, there would need to be agreement by all remaining Member States both to amend large amounts of existing EU legislation, and to approve different terms of reference for their negotiating team led by Mr Barnier. At best, the EU could agree to temporary emergency measures to suit its interests, including making severe reciprocal demands of the UK.

Meanwhile Mrs May is becoming increasingly delusional, obdurate and making fruitless efforts to sell her Chequers Plan for Brexit-in-name-only to European leaders.  They cannot legally accept it.

…………………….

Note from CIB: further information about the EEA/EFTA option as a possible stepping stone to a Clean Brexit is available in our pamphlet Brexit Reset.

Any betrayal of our fishermen will have serious electoral consequences

Fishing for Leave’s John Ashworth explains why electoral considerations mean that British fishermen will not be sold out to the EU once again.

British fishermen have not had much reason for happiness since we joined the EEC. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has been an ecological disaster and has run our industry into the ground. But last week’s Conservative Party Conference at last gave some glimmers of hope for the future.

The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, gave us a much-needed reminder of just what is at stake with Brexit – nothing less than our very ability to govern ourselves:

‘At 11pm on 29 March 2019 we will leave the European Union.

‘And soon thereafter, in an extraordinary moment in our history, the EU institutions will no longer have the right to make laws for our country. That power will belong exclusively to the sovereign Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

‘That is a precious prize.’

It is indeed. It means that every single individual MP will become fully responsible for the governance of our nation, something which for 46 years has been missing.

And so how will we use this new-found sovereignty for the benefit of our agriculture and fisheries? The Prime Minister made the goal quite clear in her party conference speech:

‘Our proposal would be good for our rural communities, getting us out of the Common Agricultural Policy.

‘It would be good for our coastal communities. We would be out of the Common Fisheries Policy, an independent coastal state once again.

‘And with the UK’s biggest fishing fleets based in Scotland, let me say this to Nicola Sturgeon. You claim to stand up for Scotland, but you want to lock Scottish fishermen into the CFP forever. That’s not ‘Stronger for Scotland’, it’s a betrayal of Scotland.’

It is high time that someone from another political party took Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP to task on this subject. But it also nails Mrs May’s colours to the mast. If the Conservative government lets our fishermen down, then the SNP will be able to make the same accusation with a vengeance.

And were it not for all those newly gained Scottish Westminster parliamentary seats, Mrs May would not be prime minister now – all down to the fishing issue.

We can be certain of the following. If the EU believes there is going to be a ‘no deal’, it will raise the issue of EU access to British waters. The ball will be in their court: they will have to ask the UK.

If there is silence from the EU on fishing rights, then we can expect a deal – however bodged – so that both parties can move into the transitional period. And the EU will continue to benefit from access to UK waters via its present fisheries policy until 1 January 2021.

Remainers are fond of saying that the fishing issue is too small to bother with, and will be bartered away. I disagree. Like the Northern Ireland border, it will be a key issue, just as it was on accession. This time, British fishermen will not be so easy to sell down the river.

Remoaners use ridicule to try to reach the ‘yoof’ vote.

 

 

It is interesting that most of the marchers on 23 June seemed to be of the older generation! Open Britain claimed 170,000 supporters for their People’s Vote petition – 1% of the actual Leave vote. It wasn’t on the government website with independent verification, and the petition webpage seemed to show multiple signatures and a lot of foreign names.

To overturn the referendum result, crank Remoaners howl “Let the people have their say”. Hypocritically when Leave media reps are interviewed on College Green, cranks try to disrupt the show for viewers and effectively stop people having their say.

Unable to accept democracy, a Remoaner tactic is to try to link Brexit with the negative – “hate crime”, “no NHS”, Trump, (uncheckable) long term forecasts of doom and gloom.

When we got comments putting the record straight over job fears on a key local paper website, soundbite addict Remoaners were reduced to retorting “You’re a Putin bot”.

Article produced by Brian Mooney of Resistance

Summer break?

Our Parliament has stated its summer recess. After the dramatic events following the publication of the Government’s Brexit White Paper, no doubt most MPs will be glad to get away from Westminster for a few weeks.

It is unlikely to be much of a summer break, particularly for Tory MPs who are likely to have an uncomfortable time in their constituencies. Conservative Home noted that support for Mrs May’s Brexit plan, a mere 33% initially, has actually fallen subsequently – to a mere 29%.

Brexit- supporting MPs are angry and at least one of them has turned his fire on one of the worst offenders – Olly Robbins, Mrs May’s current Brexit advisor.  “You shafted David Davis’ White Paper, didn’t you?” said an angry John Whittingdale.  However brilliant Davis’ alternative paper may or may not have been, it does seem very odd that his team spent months working on it only for May and Robbins to produce something different behind their backs. Not content with humiliating Davis, Mrs May has now sidelined his successor, Dominic Raab who, in spite of being called the Brexit Secretary, will in effect be Mrs May’s deputy. She intends to lead the negotiations herself, no doubt with the odious Robbins by her side.

Of course, there are huge obstacles facing Mrs May’s proposals as well. Our colleague Brian Mooney has called it ” A work that’s already scrap”. The parliamentary arithmetic is loaded against it. Even  Mrs May wouldn’t dare rely on Labour votes to see it pass.

It would take a brave person to predict what sort of Brexit we will end up with. Mrs May has made our final payment t the EU unconditional. We will have to cough up £39 billion come what may. That much is certain. Virtually nothing else is.

Readers who have taken Edward Spalton’s advice and read the COM(2018) 556 final document produced by the European Commission will note that agreement on the transitional terms is conditional on a full withdrawal agreement being agreed. “There might be a transition period” says the Commission, but on the other hand, there might not – and we have to hope that there won’t be. All the hullaballoo about the Chequers text has diverted attention to the damaging “vassal state”  period into which we would  be locked for 21 months, with our fishing industry struck a critical blow from which it will be difficult to recover.

It is not too late for the transitional agreement along with the proposed ongoing defence cooperation with the EU to be scuppered. It is not too late for us to part company with the European Arrest Warrant. It looks like we will be kicked out of the Galileo space programme come what may, according to the Commission document. Given that its long term goal is to track every road vehicle in the EU,  this is a small crumb of comfort in these uncertain times.

Of course, Mrs May could face a leadership challenge, but would it be successful? At the moment, it is hard to say, but there is no reason to believe that the White Paper is the final word. there is still everything to play for. Unfortunately, while many of us remain hopeful that  a better escape package will be produced and the Chequers plan will indeed, as Brian Mooney suggests, be “scrap”, none of this is of any help to businesses trying to prepare for life after Brexit. If the government is still a long way off producing a viable exit plan, it is even further off being able to tell business how this plan will affect them.

To end this summary on a more positive note, readers may enjoy this clip of Labour MP Caroline Flint rubbishing the calls for a second referendum. “I will never support that” she says. “If we’re going to have a second referendum, why not a third? or a fourth?”   She also claims that were a second referendum to be held, it would likely result in the country voting more emphatically to leave.  She confirms what we have been picking up from visiting Parliament- namely, whichever way people voted in 2016, the message MPs are getting is simply “A decision was made. Get on with it”.

Let us hope that someone does – and preferably someone other than the deadly duo of May and Robbins