Beware the Brexit “transition” period

Introduction

In The Godfather III, mafia boss Michael Corleone finds his hopes of exiting the world of organised crime are in danger of being thwarted.

Just when I thought I was out; they pull me back in…” he laments.

Whilst we would not wish to push the gangster analogy too far (despite the EU’s behaviour), nor compare Corelone’s fate to that of the UK, there is a certain aptness to his phraseology when describing Brexit. Yes we are supposedly leaving the EU in March 2019 – despite the threats, blackmail and bullying from our erstwhile fellow EU gang members – but in reality we’re still at risk of being pulled back in.

May: scared to leave?

As we have previously observed, whilst repeatedly stating that “Brexit means Brexit”, Theresa May has often given the appearance of being fearful of actually leaving the EU. Hence, her government’s unhealthy fixation with the so-called “transition period”. It is as though she and her fellow remainer ministers and civil servants cannot quite pluck up the courage to walk out of that exit door.
They seem to want to hang around by the exit for as long as possible.

It is worth reminding ourselves that despite the UK voting to leave the EU in June 2016, it took until the following March 2017 to formally serve notice that we were going to do so. That should have meant finally leaving the Bloc by no later than the end of March 2019. But now, we are to “leave” but then immediately enter a transitional period until the end of 2020. This amounts to leaving in name only.

Throughout that “transition period” we will continue to pay huge sums to Brussels and must abide by whatever laws it decides to make. We must also bow down before the rulings of the European Court. Free movement of people (i.e. mass uncontrolled EU immigration) will continue unabated. Yet, despite all these “business as usual” features of EU membership, we will have even less say in how EU laws are made during the transition than than we have now. Such are the huge concessions given by May to the EU in her desperation to reach a deal.

It is true that we are allowed to make new trade deals with other countries during the “transition”. Also, the risk of a second referendum being called (let alone delivering the result the Remoaners want) appears to have receded. Nevertheless, the real worry for Brexiteers is that what is supposed to be a limited transition period to implement our exit deal becomes an endless suspended animation – the worst of all worlds.

We know that in order to secure the transition period and move to the next stage of negotiations, the Government agreed to go on paying budget contributions up to the end of the EU’s current 7 year funding period (to 31 December 2020). But that was a voluntary gesture and must remain conditional on our getting an acceptable final free trade deal. In other words, the EU must not be allowed to string out negotiations so that we have already paid all that money before we know what the final deal is.

We must watch the government like a hawk on this. Already there are calls in some quarters to extend the transition period still further. That would be totally unacceptable.

We want out of the EU. But just when we thought we were out, we must not allow the bullying EU gang to pull us back in.

May’s desperation for a “deal” is putting Brexit at risk

Introduction

Theresa May is back in Brussels battling with EU leaders in an effort to put the Brexit negotiations back on track. But whose track is that?

The problem right from the start of these talks has been a twofold one.

First, there is the apparent lack of reality on the UK side about what the EU wants out of the Brexit process. Secondly, there is the political weakness of the Prime Minister, whose divided cabinet is riddled with Remainers and whose government can barely command a majority in the House of Commons.

All of this has led to Mrs May staking everything on being able to trumpet that she’s “done a deal” with the EU – no matter how much she may end up giving away in the process. Moreover this obsession with doing a deal is to look at Brexit through the wrong end of the telescope.

The important thing is that proper Brexit is delivered – not the appearance of Brexit.

Concessions

In recent weeks, we have seen evidence of increasing desperation on the part of Mrs May and her government. In Florence, May offered concessions on the EU budget by promising to pay an extra two years’ worth of EU budget contributions up to the end of the EU’s current long term funding cycle at the end of 2020. This was despite there being no legal obligation on the UK to do so. It also came in the face of the continuing obstructionism, intransigence and bullying that have become the hallmarks of EU negotiating tactics.

Today, we learn of an open letter being sent by Mrs May to EU nationals in the UK.

All of this smacks very much of a Prime Minister who feels she must keep making the first move, to keep the prospect of a deal in play – no matter how unreasonable and intransigent the EU has been.

What is so frustrating is that none of this is necessary. The UK’s position is far stronger than the Remainers and the EU would have us all believe. We can leave with no deal and start enjoying the immediate benefits of Brexit – free and back in control. As Roger Bootle and many others have argued, we have nothing to fear from such an outcome. The screams and scaremongering from Remainers about the perils of “no deal” is simply a repeat of Project Fear – and about as convincing.

EU still wants to punish Britain

When she triggered Article 50, the PM was warned by none other than the former Greek finance minister that allowing the EU to dictate the terms of the Article 50 negotiations would be a recipe for disaster. Yet she agreed to the EU’s demand that initial discussions be limited to just three issues – the Brexit bill, NI border and EU citizens’ rights. Only if sufficient “progress” was made on those issues, so the EU insisted, could talks move on to the far more important subject of trade.

In the event, this has all worked out exactly as the EU intended. The pressure has built on the UK to offer concessions on these matters because – correctly – EU leaders have assessed that May is weak and desperate to reach a deal. We can expect them to keep turning the screw now they think they have May where they want her.

The point is of course that the EU has no interest at all in giving a favourable deal to Britain. On the contrary, they want to put our head on a proverbial pole and make an example of us so as to deter any other Member States from following suit. If Britain is shown to have suffered by leaving the EU, the hope in Brussels is that they will still be able to use fear to keep the other countries in line. By contrast, if Britain were to thrive after it has left, the writing would be on the wall. Populist politicians in other EU states would soon be campaigning for their own countries to come out. The dream of “ever closer union” would be in tatters.

So when Theresa May keeps talking up the idea of a “special partnership” and David Davis talks about how “constructive” his talks with Mr Barnier have been, the reality is that they are pursuing something that is never going to be voluntarily on offer.

The EU will never – voluntarily – offer terms that are anything but lousy for Britain. Only if it is forced to make a pragmatic compromise will there be a semblance of a deal that we can and should accept.

EU objectives

No doubt some in Brussels harbour hopes that the more difficult they make things, the more chance there is that the government could fall and the UK will end up giving up on Brexit altogether. But if that doesn’t happen, the EU has two very obvious objectives.

First it wants to screw as much money out of the UK as it can in order that it can go on spending and won’t have to ask other states to make up for the huge gap in funding that would otherwise be left behind by a departing Britain.

Secondly, the EU will do what it can to tie the UK’s hands, post-Brexit. The aim of this will be to stop the UK reaping the full benefits of its new found freedom. Brussels will want to stop the UK undercutting the EU on taxes and regulation or doing deals with other countries – the very things that make Brexit – economically speaking – worth doing. Talk of a “transition period” epitomises this.

The way things are going, the UK is simply going to end up being dragged along by its nose and kept in permanent orbit around the EU. As Boris Johnson has rightly pointed out before he was shouted down by the Remainers – that would be the worst of all possible worlds.

So the key question is how do we force the EU into a position from where it has no choice but to offer us a reasonable deal, but one that still delivers on the essentials of Brexit?

Time to make a stand

Theresa May and her government (which is full of Remainers), too often gives the appearance of being scared of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement. The desire to cling on in a transition period illustrates this.

What she needs to do is make clear to Brussels that the UK has gone as far as it can in relation to the three pre-conditions of NI, citizens rights and the “Brexit bill”. We cannot and will not agree to pay anything to the EU after we have left, except possibly as part of an overall deal. Agreeing payments now, as the EU is demanding, is impossible.

The message should be that if the EU still insists on our making such a commitment before it will talk about the future, we will have no choice but to withdraw from further talks and work on the assumption that we leave without a deal in March 2019. Full and serious preparations need to be made and publicised to prepare the country for “no deal”. This cannot be a bluff. It must be real.

Pressure on EU

If the UK adopts that stance, then the EU will be faced with an unpalatable situation.

First, as of March 2019, it will no longer be receiving any money from Britain. So it will have to immediately revise its financial budgeting for the remainder of the current financial framework period up to the end of 2020. That will be painful and difficult because no other states will want to pay more than they already do. The UK’s offer to pay another two years’ worth of contributions will suddenly look very attractive indeed.

Secondly, for EU exporters, the nightmare prospect is that the UK will free up trade with other countries and the tariff-free access EU exporters have enjoyed in the huge UK market will disappear. EU producers will face stiffer competition from US, Australian, Japanese and other goods without the tariff advantage they have previously enjoyed. The main European economies of Germany, France, Italy and Spain all run trade surpluses with the UK. They stand to lose much.

And this is the EU’s catch 22. It wants to punish Britain. But if it does, it will inevitably hurt the economies of its own member states in the process. Sure, Britain will suffer too, but the pain will also be felt in Europe. That will do nothing for the EU’s popularity as jobs are lost and livelihoods destroyed – all to keep the EU’s vanity project on track and to spite Britain.

Wiser heads are likely to prevail when faced with the unattractive consequences of a punishment approach to Britain. But they won’t be heard as long as the UK keeps giving in to bullying and making concessions.

Don’t do it May

May is under pressure from Remainers who have foolishly whipped themselves up in a frenzy about the supposed perils of a no deal exit. It is as though she sees a deal with the EU as almost an end in itself, her political salvation perhaps, rather than a means to an end. The danger is that if she keeps giving away more and more concessions, she and her Remain colleagues, together with the Remainer civil service, will end up tethering Britain to the EU in the worst possible way.

The Brexiteers were correct to demand that Mrs May walk away from talks.

The fear is that her desperation to “to a deal” could ruin Brexit. It must not be allowed to happen.

Time for the EU to grow up

Introduction

For the last few days, the EU has behaved increasingly like a spoilt adolescent whose parents have threatened to cut off its pocket money.   It’s hysterical demands for the UK to pay punitive reparations as the price for exercising its legal right to leave the “Union” are totally unreasonable.  The contrast with the moderate and temperate language of the UK’s article 50 notice letter could not be clearer.

Screaming at us that Brexit cannot be a success and that they will not talk to us unless we pay them €100 billion is utterly preposterous.  It also shows a complete recklessness to the interests of EU citizens and their livelihoods.    It really is time for the EU to grow up.

Bullies

Over the years we have become used to watching the EU bully and cajole smaller countries like Greece into submission.  Now, they are seeking to subject us to the same treatment.  The problem is that they seem to have forgotten that we are not a small, ruined country which owes them billions.  Rather, we are one of the EU’s largest paymasters. We are also a hugely important market for their exports.

In the circumstances, their ridiculous demands for us to pay ever larger sums after we’ve left, are symptomatic of an organisation that has lost touch with reality.  How ironic that the EU leadership and their puppet masters in Berlin should have described Theresa May and Britaian as being “in a different galaxy” or labouring under “illusions”.  The reverse is true.

Whether, ultimately, the heads of the EU’s Member States will rein in the Commission and initiate a more statesmanlike approach to negotiations remains to be seen.  But until we see evidence of some grown up behaviour by Barnier, Juncker and others in Brussels, the U.K. must clearly plan for a “no deal” Brexit in two years time. It seems fairly clear that right now it is inconceivable that an acceptable deal will be on offer.  The best course will be to walk away until the EU comes to its senses – if that is still possible. We must not sign up to a bad deal.  Nor must we compromise on allowing the CJEU any further jurisdiction over the UK.

Grown up behaviour?

Meanwhile, if there are any grown ups left in Brussels what they should of course be doing is urgently revisiting the EU’s financial plans for the period ahead and revising them to take account of the impending departure of the UK in March 2019.

In the world of business, if an event occurs that is bound to lead to a fall in revenues such as the loss of an important customer,  the business will revise its financial plans accordingly.  The EU should be no different.  Since from April 2019 onwards, it will no longer enjoy the net €10 billion + UK contribution to its budget, it must adjust for that new reality.

There are only three choices: either the EU cuts its spending or it asks its remaining Member States for more money. Or it employs a combination of both.

Incredibly,  there is no sign of the EU doing anything along these lines.  No doubt this is because the moment that it is suggested that other countries pay more or receive smaller handouts, the unity of the 27 will collapse in an instant.

The more desperate the EU is for our money to prevent that from happening, the stronger our negotiating hand becomes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Remain lies exposed

UK increasingly dominated by laws made in the EU

During the referendum campaign we became used to Remainers dismissing the idea that so many of our laws originated in Brussels.  Every time this subject came up, their tactic was to downplay the degree to which we had given up control of our legislation to unelected, unaccountable EU authorities.

Now, however, we hear nothing but screams from them about how many thousands upon thousands of EU laws there are in the UK covering everything from vegetables to nuclear power and how difficult it will be to convert them all into UK law.   And arch Remoaners like Gina Miller, Nicola Sturgeon and co are already saying that they intend to do all they can to make it as difficult as possible for the government to perform this exercise.   How patriotic of them.

Hypocrisy

There is much bleating from the Remoaners that the Government’s proposals for tackling this huge exercise will by-pass proper parliamentary scrutiny.  They profess to care how important such scrutiny is and to hide behind the notion as justifying their obstructive intentions.

But the simple truth is that such a stance – as with so many aspects of the whole Remoaner movement – displays rank hypocrisy.

The first and most obvious point is that when the UK was giving up its power to legislate in all those different areas and the EU was doing it for us, did they complain?  Of course not.

Secondly, there is a fundamental misconception in play here which the media clearly does not understand.

EU legislation – little or no role for parliament

EU legislation comes in two main forms: regulations and directives.  They are slightly different animals but have one thing in common – neither is susceptible to any meaningful parliamentary scrutiny.

Regulations are pieces of EU legislation that once issued by Brussels become directly binding in the UK and other member states – and do not pass through parliament at all.   Moreover, such regulations can be forced upon the UK through qualified majority voting.  Thus, an EU regulation can become law in our country without anyone in the UK having voted for it and without anyone in the UK having a meaningful say on what it contains.  Nor can anyone in the UK vote to repeal it.

Directives, as their name suggests, are pieces of law which amount in effect to an order by Brussels to member states to implement domestic legislation that accords with the terms of the directive.  A time limit is imposed for this to happen.  Thus, a Directive leads to the making of domestic legislation in the UK either in the form of an Act of Parliament or a “Statutory Instrument.    However, there is no meaningful scrutiny of that legislation in the true sense of the word for one simple reason: EU law is supreme.  This means that Member states cannot depart in their own legislation from what is required by the EU Directive.  To do so is illegal.

Thus, the implementation by domestic parliaments of EU directives amounts to little more than a rubber stamp.  So irrelevant is parliament in the whole process, that when the Courts deal with cases based on an EU directives, in many cases the judgments issued by the Court will not even bother to refer to the UK legislation at all, but just to the governing directive.  That is the only law that matters.

Thus, all EU-derived law in this country – whether in the form of an EU regulation or an Act of parliament or statutory instrument made to implement a directive, represents the UK doing as its masters in Brussels have ordered.  It follows that if such laws now need to be amended so they make sense in a post-EU country, why do the Remoaners think that parliamentary scrutiny is so important?

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry Gina. It didn’t work.

On 3 November 2016, a chill came over the millions of UK citizens who had voted to leave the EU in June’s referendum.  Having believed that the decision to leave was theirs to make, it felt as though the forces of the establishment were mobilising to deny them what they had voted for.  Three judges in the High Court had just handed down a ruling that stopped the Government implementing the referendum result without an Act of Parliament.

The referendum was barely mentioned in the judgment.

Watching Gina Miller touring the TV studios in the aftermath of her victory only compounded the sense of powerlessness felt by millions who had dared to dream that their votes might actually count for something.

Whatever the protestations of Miller and the other claimants who brought it, for many, it was impossible not to view their legal challenge on the Article 50 issue as anything but a cynical attempt to frustrate the result of the referendum.  By giving the decision back to Parliament, with its massive pro-EU majority, it seemed that the Court had set up a formidable roadblock to escaping the EU.   Worse, the Government itself had only a slim majority in the Commons.  So if only a few of its own MPs rebelled, the risk was that the referendum result would be overturned.

When the case came to be heard in the Supreme Court in December,  observing the obvious hostility of many of the judges to the Government’s arguments, it was little surprise that by a large majority, come judgment day in January, they upheld the earlier High Court ruling and dismissed the Government’s appeal.

So began the second battle for Brexit.

Remoaners outfoxed in Parliament

As it turned out, the Leavers need not have worried.  Showing a dexterity and guile so lacking in the previous administration, Theresa May and her lieutenants skilfully evaded their enemies in Parliament.  They comprehensively outmanoeuvred the anti-Brexit forces at every turn.  The Bill to trigger Article 50 was tightly drafted and all attempts to amend it, in both the Commons and in the Lords were ultimately  defeated.

Today’s votes in the Commons and Lords marked the successful conclusion of the second battle for Brexit.   The hopes of the Remoaners that the Gina Miller case would lead to Brexit being blocked or watered down by Parliament have been dashed.

At some point over the next few weeks, notice will be delivered under Article 50 and the UK can finally start the long overdue process of extricating itself from the tentacles of the EU and into a brighter, more democratic future.

The right stuff?

Whether our political leaders are up to the job of steering the country to a successful Brexit  remains open to question.  Yesterday’s  contradictory statements on television by Boris Johnson and Liam Fox about the consequences of  a “no deal” exit do not exactly inspire confidence.   The ridiculous manouverings of the SNP are another unwelcome distraction.

It is to be hoped that Theresa May and Co are up to the task ahead.  We shall be watching.

The Lords: Enemies of the people

The arrogance of the Remoaner peers in the House of Lords is breathtaking.  One after the other, they have taken to their feet to spout the usual Remoaner drivel about Brexit (i.e. those who voted out didn’t know what they were voting for, no one voted to leave the single market, no one voted to be made poorer blah blah blah).

Every time they vote through an idiotic amendment to the Article 50 bill, they stab the UK in the back.  All they are doing is weakening our negotiating position with Brussels.   By contrast, for such a divided  group of countries, the EU has so far shown commendable self-discipline in ruling out any discussions with the UK ahead of our triggering Article 50.  They must be pleased to see the Remoaners doing their dirty work for them and undermining the UK from within.

By doing what they are doing, the Lords are signalling encouragement to the EU to strike an intransigent tone in negotiations in the hope that the UK may yet be bullied into stepping back from the brink and choose to stay in.

The referendum result was decisive.  The huge majority in the House of Commons in favour of the unamended Article 50 bill was another sign of UK resolve.  It was a clear message to Brussels that the country -despite propaganda to the contrary – remains united.  What a shame that their Lordships and Ladyships couldn’t do the decent thing and vote the bill through without further ado.

The House of Commons has a democratic and national duty to strike down the Lords wrecking amendments and demand that the Article 50 bill be passed unamended and without further delay.  Anything less than that would be an affront to our democracy.

The cronies and placemen who inhabit the Lords must be put back in their box.  It is time to strip the upper house of its ability to force changes to legislation and to reduce it to an advisory capacity only.  The performance of the Lords in the context of Brexit has proved that they cannot be trusted to do the right thing for their country.

The conduct of those voting in favour of these amendments is a disgrace.

 

€100 billion exit bill for Brexit? Nonsense.

How many times are we going to have to listen to people like Sir Ivan Rogers, Jean-Claude Juncker our the usual Remoaner suspects at home tell us how expensive it is going to be for the UK to leave the EU?

Project Fear wasn’t just about trying to stop us voting to leave.  It has continued post-referendum to try and scare us into staying.

Before the referendum, we heard nothing but doom and gloom about how our economy would “crash” to use David Cameron’s terminology, the moment we voted to leave.  In fact, the stock market has soared, consumer spending has continued to rise, unemployment has continued to fall, the deficit is coming down (albeit still too slowly for comfort) and investment into the UK has continued.  In short, all of the wildly exaggerated claims of the Remain lobby have been dispelled.  Just about the only thing that they got right was the fall in the pound.  But even that has its upsides – cheaper UK exports and a boom for domestic tourism and the leisure industry.

The latest scare story from the increasingly desperate Remoaners  is the absurd idea that the UK is somehow obliged to pay a vast exit fee when we leave.  This is nonsense.  There is nothing in any of the EU treaties that requires an exiting Member State to pay anything. Article 50 simply provides that the “treaties cease to apply” two years from the giving of notice, if a withdrawal agreement is not reached between the parties.

In short, unless the UK agrees to voluntarily pay something, there is nothing that the EU can do to force us to pay.

The EU is facing a financial crisis as and when the UK exits because it will suffer a sudden, enormous hole in its bloated budget.  The UK is the  second largest net contributor after Germany.  In two years time, the countless billions of pounds paid into EU coffers by the UK every year will no longer be available.  The EU financial gravy train faces derailment. That is why the EU establishment is so fearful of a UK exit.

It may be that when the dust settles on the forthcoming Article 50 negotiation, the UK will agree to make payments of some kind as part of the overall deal.  But the point is that such payments will be our choice not the product of any legally binding obligation imposed by the EU.

It is high time that instead of forever asking the question “What effect will Brexit have on the UK?” the Remoaners and their EU chums started asking the more pertinent question “What effect will Brexit have on the EU?”   The honest answer is: Who Knows?  But one thing is for sure, looking around the mish-mash of subsidy-hungry former Warsaw Pact countries and near bankrupt ClubMed states, it ain’t gonna be pretty.