There was a serious side to the previous post [The train now standing] because it is the start of a journey and the train has only just pulled out of the station, for it then to come to a grinding halt. There is apprehension that the train will reverse back in to the station. Passengers are now waiting nervously for an announcement as to how it is to proceed. Slowly and vaguely appears to be the order of the day. The official indication is the journey will start in January 2017 with the invoking of Article 50 and we will arrive at our destination, outside the EU, in 2019 with plenty of time to spare before the general election in 2020. Now that seems to be very optimistic and it is inevitable that delays will occur. The passengers will start to get impatient and demand more haste, but that is exactly what must not happen.
The danger is for Foreign Office negotiators to scurry, speed up the proceedings and then by keeping the public informed reveal their hand to the European Commission negotiators. That would be hare-brained. Preparation is the major part of a job, so it is important for the FO to get all their ducks in a row before embarking. After that they must pace the negotiations with a deadline for leaving no matter what the state of play is. President Juncker might be impatient and pressing for a quick start, but at the same time he is already putting obstacles in the way. Article 50 is very brief and has never been invoked before, but the EC are making up the rules as they go along. Rather than haste we may find that they attempt a long drawn-out process beyond the 2020 general election in the hope of a new pro-EU government with a manifesto mandate.
Conversely, for the UK, it might be better to delay invoking Article 50 until the results of the French and German elections are known in 2017. By then we will also know the result of the October Hungarian referendum on the imposition of a migrant quota, the result of the re-run of the Austrian presidential election, and the outcome of negotiations between the EC and Swiss government following the Swiss referendum on restricting free-movement of people. All this is relevant and might be favourable to the UK, but it does entail a risk. However, if Juncker really does want haste, keeping him waiting at the divorce court could drive him to drink and also be of benefit.
Such things are pivotal to negotiations as also is the skill of our negotiators. Thankfully for us the grown-ups are now back in charge, with the sixth-formers relegated to the back benches. All will be well if we set 1st January 2020 as the deadline for our release and are adamant that whatever the state of play – we are out, even if it means complying with World Trade Organisation rules. As in the fable, the determined and focused tortoise – with a thick shell – will win the race.
This will be in stark contrast to the shambles of David Cameron’s negotiations for a reformed EU. The Tory Manifesto promised to reform the workings of the EU that was too big, too bossy and too bureaucratic; reclaim power from Brussels and safeguard British interests in the Single Market; and complete ambitious trade deals and reduce red tape. European leaders were left mystified, unable to fathom what Cameron wanted, as was the British public. I quickly formed the opinion that any union shop-steward, who had been on a basic stage-one TUC course, would have been better able to conduct and conclude an agreement. The first thing is to be clear about is what the grievance is and what you want. In this case it was all about overbearing governance and being out-voted, with the introduction of majority voting following the Lisbon Treaty. So the focus should have been on Title I of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) that deals with categories and areas of EU competence.
Article 3 sets out the exclusive competence of the EU and it relates mainly to areas that were new and not previously the responsibility of member States, such as the customs union, common commercial policy and the establishing of the competition rules for the internal market. More controversial was the inclusion of monetary policy for the Euro Zone states, which was in reality an area of enhanced cooperation, and should have had a stand-alone organisation for administrative purpose. As the UK was outside the Euro, and with no intention of joining, it could be argued that it was of no real concern; but it created a block of states with an inbuilt majority under the new EU qualified double-voting system. It is even harder to comprehend why the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy was an exclusive EU competence under this Article. The second part of Article 3, if applied literally, was logical. That is, it gave the EU exclusive competence for international agreements in certain stated circumstances.
Article 4 sets out areas where the EU shares competence with member States. This list is really contentious:
a) customs union;
b) social policy, for the aspects defined in this Treaty;
c) economic, social and territorial cohesion;
d) agriculture and fisheries, excluding marine conservation as above;
f) consumer protection;
h) trans-European networks;
j) area of freedom, security and justice;
k) common safety concerns in public health matters, for the aspects defined in this Treaty.
The Article also includes two areas where the EU has competence but member States will not be prevented from exercising theirs. They are, research, technological development and space; together with development cooperation and humanitarian aid. That’s magnanimous of them?
Article 5 is unequivocal. 1. Member States shall coordinate their economic policies within the Union. To this end, the Council shall adopt measures, in particular broad guidelines for these policies. Specific provision shall apply to those member Sates whose currency is the Euro. 2. The Union shall take measures to ensure coordination of the employment policies of the member States, in particular by defining guidelines for these policies. 3. The Union may take initiatives to ensure coordination of member States’ social policy.
Article 5 is like the Trojan Horse, but Article 6 is intrusive in the extreme. The Union shall have competence to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of member States. The areas of such action shall, at the European level, be:
a) protection and improvement of human health;
e) education, vocational training, youth and sport;
f) civil protection;
g) administrative cooperation.
Nowhere does it list what the untouchable competences of member States are. It is hard to find any area that the EU cannot interfere with. They may pay lip service to the principle of subsidiarity, but it turns the whole concept on its head. They have accrued all power to the centre at Brussels and are not going to relinquish it, even under the pretext of devolution. Don’t even look at Title II of the TFEU, it will give you apoplexy. These are the provisions having general application.
For example; Article 13. In formulating and implementing the Union’s agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage. The EU is more concerned for the safety and wellbeing of animals than it is for the protection of the unborn child.
Colonel Tim Collins, of the Royal Irish Rangers, recalled that during the Troubles while stationed in East Tyrone, the Dissident Republicans were also masters of the smuggling trade. They exploited the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to take advantage of export duties and EU subsidies and made a fortune. The trade in cigarettes, diesel, illicit drink and pornography netted millions of pounds, sometimes with ridiculous ease. He recalled one occasion when a smuggler was stopped as he drove a lorryload of pigs back and forth across the border, clocking up subsidies on each crossing. However, the reason they eventually stopped him was nothing to do with Customs and Excise – that was too difficult and discouraged by the peace lobby – but because the pigs were clearly becoming exhausted and needed a break.
That just about sums up what is wrong with and the abuse of EU rules. The Articles in TFEU give plenty of scope for reform, but they require Treaty change by way of a new Treaty and that in some countries requires referenda. The Eurocrats do nor want that and the risk of another chance for European citizens to register opposition to the European Project. In that context the piece of paper, that Cameron came back with from Brussels, was irrelevant and a complete nonsense.
Our relationship with the EEC, EC and EU has always been a matter of foreign policy, and will be more so when we exit. So what should our European policy be in the future? After the Monarchy lost its lands in France, and any claim to be the King of France, there was no continental aspiration other than to prevent any single power achieving dominance, be it Austria, Spain, France or Germany. The same applied with the Ottoman and Russian empires as the focus of England’s commercial activities became worldwide and relied on maritime control. Interventions were expeditionary, anywhere in the world. So the desire to join the EEC was a massive and major change of direction. Of most concern was the change in attitude to Germany, from restraining its future aggression to facilitating its resurgence and reunification. If the calculation was that it would be in a minority within a larger group and thereby controlled, it was a grave miscalculation. Germany is Queen Bee and calls the shots. With their push for enlargement and expansion of the EU there is the potential for conflict; Russia has assessed the EU along with NATO to be the greatest risk to its territorial integrity. The UK could also come to the same conclusion as it takes on a more independent role and the EU creates its own military alliance and armed-forces, to the extent of leaving NATO.
So, for the CDP, our European policy is to trade freely with, and live in peace and harmony with all our continental neighbours, including Russia. Not to be dragged in to any future conflict due to EU intransigence. The collapse of the EU is not our hope. On the contrary it must thrive, but must reform itself and narrow the areas of its competences, and become less threatening. This recognises a fundamental difference and experience. Boundaries on Continental Europe are not immutable and have often resulted in the displacement of populations. Island nations have a totally different attitude and behaviour. A priority of the UK exit from the EU must be the continuation of the special relationship with the Republic of Ireland. The British and Irish Council, together with the Common Travel Area, must be maintained. Indeed, we would like it to be extended to include Gibraltar. A changed status for the Overseas Territory to that of a Crown Dependency should be considered. Spain must be told in no uncertain terms that their illegal harassment of the Rock and its territorial waters will no longer be tolerated. This will involve a change to the ‘rules of engagement’, serve notice to cease and desist, and enforcement by arrest.
We also want the Government to come clean about its plans to reform and expand the UN Security Council. The last Tory Election Manifesto included the proposal to support India’s desire to become a permanent member with a veto. Although there was no mention in the Manifesto, in the Strategic Defence and Security Review this was also extended to Germany, Brazil and Japan. This requires an explanation as to how this will improve Global security as it is already difficult to reach joint resolutions. In the future there must be much more emphasis on the Commonwealth and there will be a need to reinvigorate the Atlantic Charter, while being a close but critical friend to the United States.
We have also got concerns about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US. The concerns are that we do not know enough about them. There is too much secrecy and it is reminiscent of how we were led in to the EEC.
There is a real danger that the EU and the Euro Zone will implode by refusing to address the concerns of EU citizens. The high level of unemployment among the young and free movement placing an unrealistic burden on host nations, together with uncontrolled economic migration from outside the EU are a festering sore. In choosing to lead the previous post with the chorus from ‘Oh! Mr Porter’ it was for the purpose of making a point. This old music hall song was typically risqué and filled with innuendo, being about a girl called Mary Ann ‘going too far’. The point is that Angela Merkel is the silly girl who has gone too far.