Saturday, March 11, 2017

Case for Ireland's exit

The country most affected by Brexit, other than the United Kingdom, is likely to be Ireland*.  This is the only nation that shares an actual land border with the UK.  Additionally, the UK is Ireland’s largest export market in the current EU (The exports to Belgium are higher value but most of this is shipped on).

*In truth though, all of the remaining 27 countries will be affected by the UK’s Brexit since Britain is the second largest contributor to the EU budget and either EU spending must be cut or other countries must fill the gap with higher contributions. Or a combination, thereof.  Though how Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy would be persuaded to fund the EU largesse showered on countries like Poland, I cannot contemplate.

The land border between the UK and Ireland lies between Northern Ireland/Ulster and the Republic.  This was, prior to the 1997 Peace Agreement, a much troubled area, IRA terrorists often visiting death and mayhem on people in Ulster and then fleeing across the border to the Republic in the South.  These same terrorists are now part of the devolved government of Northern Ireland!

What happens to that border, post-Brexit? 

What I am about to suggest will upset some right-thinking people and maybe lead them to believe I propose rewarding terrorists but please stay with me.

I propose two connected actions. 

The Republic of Ireland to also exercise its rights under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and leave the EU and the Euro currency, timed to coincide with the final departure date of the UK.

On the date of this departure, the Republic of Ireland to once again become part of the United Kingdom and as a consequence re- join the Commonwealth.  And, as a simultaneous act, Ulster to become part of the devolved government of a united Ireland.  The powers of this united Ireland would be the same as those enjoyed by the devolved government of Scotland – principally responsibility for domestic issues – health, education, social care, policing, etc.  and the ability for limited local tax-raising powers.  Defence and Foreign Affairs as well as overall tax and financial policy to remain with the Westminster parliament.

Okay, so, at first glance this would seem to reward the murderous IRA and give them what they have so long fought for – a united Ireland.  However, this Ireland will be part of the United Kingdom and Ulster’s Protestant majority should be able to take comfort that their traditions will be respected and protected by the government of the United Kingdom.  Perhaps the devolved government can rotate the seat of government between Dublin and Belfast (just like the EU parliament rotates between Brussels and Strasbourg).

For Ireland this would represent an opportunity to protect tariff-free access to a significant export market.  They would also have the opportunity to become a part of the free trade agreement that will be established between the UK (it’s second largest export market) and the USA (Ireland’s largest export market) and the traditional goodwill, extended to the Irish by Americans can only enhance the chances of a good free trade agreement between the UK and USA.

Of course there would be adjustments needed to harmonise social laws and Ireland would need to ditch its policy of neutrality but on the former there is a narrowing gap, anyway.

Ireland is more closely aligned with the Anglo-Saxon approach to market economics than to the European model favoured especially by countries like France.  This would smooth any transition.

In terms of immigration, Ireland wouldn’t seem to be a threat as there has long been unfettered movement of people between the two countries – ever before the European Superstate was even thought of.  

Another thing that occurs to me is that given Ireland has received significant injections of EU provided funds, which have been invested in roads and other infrastructure projects, then this would negate the need for the EU to refund the UK with the surplus contributions it has made, over the years. 

Oh yes, I think, contrary to the fools who think the UK should pay a hefty divorce settlement (£ or €50-60 billion is mentioned), the UK should be compensated, on departure for the assets it has contributed to, which will remain after we leave.  It is ludicrous that when people talk about this ‘divorce’ they talk only of future commitments and turn 27 pairs of blind eyes to all of the assets that were built up, using UK funds, during the ‘marriage’.   

Consider though that this idea isn’t followed. 

There would surely need to be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.  You can’t have freedom of movement between the Republic and the rest of the EU and an open border.  Similarly a hard border would be required to ensure that trade is administered in accordance with the eventual trade agreement that is reached between the UK and EU. (Scottish Nationalists – do take note that were you to achieve independence and subsequently membership of the European Union, these requirements would also apply between Scotland and England)

From an Irish perspective, they would be sacrificing sovereignty but gain a long cherished dream of a united Ireland and also access to a strong economy and market.  Some would say that the Irish would be dominated by the English but consider too, that the loss of sovereignty needs to be seen in the light of exactly how much sovereignty the Irish really have in a German-dominated EU. 

Another thing that would need to be considered – and this might help assuage the fears of the constituent parts of the UK – is that a parliament for England’s would need to be established.  Right now the English, rightly, feel hard done by as Scotland’s, Wales’ and Northern Ireland’s parliaments/assemblies receive generous subsidies at the expense of the English taxpayers.  This is something that Scottish Nationalists conveniently ignore but if they do hope to achieve independence and to join the EU (bizarrely then relinquishing their newly won independence) then they will need to bridge a current £15 billion annual deficit which would be even higher when a post-independence Scotland also has to take on a share of the UK’s national debt – rough estimate £8 billion a year cost.

Please give it some thought and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Leave - why wait?

By the time you read this, events will have kind of overtaken it but please do read on.

Today, Tuesday 17 January, 2017, UK Prime Minister, Theresa May will lay out the framework for Britain’s exit from the European Union – Brexit.

It’s entirely possible that her speech will have had a bit of a re-write in the last couple of days, to take account of comments by soon to be US President Trump and by the lead EU negotiator, Michel Barnier.

President Trump has indicated a desire for the USA to conclude a free trade treaty with the UK, as soon as possible.  So no more ‘back of the queue’ from the Britain-hating Obama

M. Barnier has apparently recognised the importance of the City of London to the European Union’s financial system.  ‘Apparently’ because having said this in an interview with the ‘remain’ leaning Guardian newspaper, he then sought to backtrack.   Whatever!   Barnier’s position will become clearer over time though I suspect the recent comments are closer to reality than his politically inspired backtracking.

Both though show that Brexit doesn’t presage the doom-laden future that the ‘remainers’ and global ‘experts’ predicted.  Indeed, even the Bank of England Governor now seems to recognise that the immediately greater risk from Brexit is to the EU rather than Britain.  On the same track, the IMF, headed by convicted criminal, Christine Lagarde, have rowed back on their gloomy predictions for the UK economy and are now upgrading their growth predictions for the UK economy.  Also they and other so called experts have come to recognise that the UK was the strongest  economy in the world, during 2016.  And yes, Remainers, that includes 6 months of the ‘dark Brexit winter’ that started on June 23rd, 2016!

Anyway, to Theresa May’s speech and my hopes for it.

Ted Yarborough, writing for the Daily Globe, has succinctly outlined the five key points that Theresa May needs to ensure are met.  These are:

1.     UK having complete sovereignty over its borders and free movement of people to end.

2.     UK to have free trade with the EU outside of the Single Market and Customs Union

3.     European courts and European Law to have no jurisdiction in the UK

4.     Future contributions to the UK are up for negotiation

5.     Open borders, with the Republic of Ireland to remain.

Ted covers these issues very well and so I won’t repeat his arguments.  I would add the following though.

On the day that the UK invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, signalling its intent to leave the European Union, the UK should actually leave the EU, that very day. 

Okay, I know that that will freak out some people and the ‘Remainers’ will have all sorts of ‘conniption fits’ but stay with me a moment.

Such a move will require emergency UK legislation – I am thinking of a simple one paragraph law that states that as of this date, existing EU law that is on the UK Statute book will remain in effect, even though Britain is no longer a member of the European Union until such time as it is repealed.

That gets us over the immediate legal ‘hump’.

Why leave the same day? 

Well, firstly, bureaucrats have an awful habit of dragging things out.  The recently-resigned UK ambassador to the European Union, Sir Ivan Rogers, had indicated he thought it would take 10 years to conclude a treaty.  That would be a nice ‘little earner’ for Eurocrats and lawyers and a great chance to pad-out the pension pot.  Incidentally, why does any country have an ambassador to the European Union?  It isn’t as if it is a country!

Secondly, nothing concentrates the mind of those conducting the negotiations more, than having a deadline.  On the converse, an open-ended timeline – say ten years – means that talks will drag on and on and progress is bound to be glacial.  Indeed, one would suspect that this is a ploy of the ‘Remainers’  - drag it out so that the British people lose interest and then quietly drop the whole exercise.  And, in the interim, the EU’s freedom of movement policy continues to swamp the UK with migrants for which the UK does not have the resources.  There is currently much talk in the UK media, of a crisis in the NHS.  Apart from those people called ‘health tourists’ who travel to the UK, take advantage of free at point of delivery healthcare and then head home to their own country, without paying for the service they received, the UK NHS simply wasn’t designed for such numbers as it is now being called upon to serve.  UK’s immigrant population jumped from 3.8 million to 8.4 million, in the last 10 years or so.  Such growth is unsustainable.  Just think about that increase.

Thirdly, a repeat of the second – nothing concentrates the mind more than the cash tap being turned off.  Yes, on the day we invoke Article 50, we cease contributions to the EU.  Why on earth would we pay a membership fee for a club for which we have ended membership?  Both ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ seem to agree that the net contribution is £8.5 billion a year.  Other than providing a welcome reduction in government spending, this will focus the Eurocrats in speeding towards a treaty.  The UK is the third largest contributor to the EU budget.  We account for more than 12% of the total.  Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, this would suggest that the much needed cuts to the bloated EU spending will have to be made.  Better late than never, I suppose.

Another reason is that leaving immediately will ‘lance the boil’ in the UK.  This will provide a ‘crossing the Rubicon’ moment and will allow Britain’s politicians to move on from the result and to focus on the way forward. To focus on how Britain can benefit from the opportunities presented by Brexit.  How Britain can roll back the role of the State in the life of Britons by repealing the more petty and intrusive EU inspired legislation.  (If I were in charge, my mantra would be repeal unless you can show how a law or regulation benefits the UK people and show the cost-benefit case for your assertion.  And this would apply to all such legislation!)

Finally, leaving immediately allows the UK to press on and conclude free trade treaties with other countries.  In the interim, WTO rules would apply but we can take advantage of the apparent desire of trading partners to conclude agreements.

So, hopefully, Theresa May has already thought of this or reads the above and tells the EU that we  will leave the organisation by the self-imposed March 31, 2017 deadline.

Leave now – why wait?

Leave the Single Market

Leave the Customs Union

Leave the corrupt and undemocratic European Union.