Monthly Archives: May 2013

The EU: Making the going good for getting Out

ROBERT HENDERSON  suggests some ways in which the No side can maximize its chances of winning the referendum on EU membership

Amidst all the confusion and excitement of bringing about a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, it is easy to forget that there are considerable risks associated with the vote. The government will almost certainly campaign to stay in, as will the Labour Party, and many institutions, lobby groups, media groups, foreign governments, and influential individuals. Public opinion, although hardening towards leaving, is fickle and cannot be relied upon. A decision to stay in would probably destroy the UKIP, and would also seriously undermine Conservative Eurosceptics. It is therefore essential that we should think about the likely shape of the campaign, and how we who believe in leaving can improve the odds.

The general strategy

A) How to leave

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty states

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49. (http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-european-union-and-comments/title-6-final-provisions/137-article-50.html).

It is strongly implied in in  para 3 of  the Article that unilateral withdrawal is possible :

“ The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2”.

However, the clause does not explicitly  give the right of unilateral secession and could be interpreted as merely referring to how any agreement might be scheduled to take effect. The other EU members could adopt this interpretation to thwart the UK leaving without declaring UDI.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties cites two legitimate  instances where a party wants to withdraw unilaterally from a treaty which does not make any provision for withdrawal : (1) where all parties recognise an informal right to do so or  (2) the situation has changed so substantially  that the obligations of a signatory are radically different from that which was originally agreed to.   The informal right patently does not apply in the case of the EU. As for radical changes to the obligations of a signatory, that would be difficult to sustain. It is true that the organisation (the EU) the UK belongs to now is radically different from that which they originally joined in 1973 (the EEC), but the  UK has signed  new treaties to agree to the new circumstances as they have arisen.  Hence, there would be no radically changed obligations which had not been taken on formally by the UK.

The only precedent  of any sort for withdrawal is Greenland’s  secession  in 1985 from the European Economic Community (EEC).  The was facilitated by the Greenland Treaty. However, it is not  an obviously relevant precedent because Greenlanders retain Danish citizenship for  Greenland has home rule not full independence from Denmark. They are consequently full  EU citizens.  Because Greenland is also one of the  Overseas Countries and Territories of the EU it  is also subject to some EU law and regulations, mainly those relating to the Single Market. .

Even if it is accepted by the other EU members  that there is a unilateral right of secession,  the fact that it  could only  take place legally after two years would give the remainder  of the EU the opportunity to run the UK ragged before the UK left.

As for getting an agreement which would allow the UK to generally re-establish its sovereignty, especially over the control of its borders, this is most improbable.  A  Qualified Majority in the European Council  is required  and even if such a majority is obtained the European Parliament can block the secession. The potential for delay and blackmail by the EU of the UK is considerable.

In any event it is likely is that the EU would  drive a bargain which is greatly to  the UK’s disadvantage because the  Eurofederalists would be terrified of creating a precedent for any other EU member which might wish to radically change their relationship with the EU.  That would make them demand conditions of the UK which were so unappealing it would deter other member states from following suit. There is also  the danger that  the Europhile UK political elite  would take the opportunity to agree to disadvantageous terms for the UK simply to keep the UK attached to the EU in the manner that Norway and Switzerland are attached. The treaty arrangements of  Norway and Switzerland  are routinely portrayed  by supposed  Eurosceptics  as purely trade relationships. They are not. Both countries are firmly within the EU straitjacket. Indeed, the Europhile BBC  ran a story in 2012 entitled Non-EU Norway ‘almost as integrated in union as UK ‘ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16594370). As for Switzerland, a glance at their treaty arrangements will show their close EU embrace http://www.europa.admin.ch/themen/00500/index.html?lang=en.  Most importantly they have no control of immigration from the EU . If the UK signed up to the Single Market after formally leaving the EU  we should be in the same boat.

The OUT camp must make it clear that  it would be both damaging and unnecessary for the UK to abide treaty requirement. Even if the UK did not try to sign up to  the Single Market, it would allow the EU to inflict considerable damage on the UK both during the period prior to formally  leaving and afterwards if  the price of leaving with the EU’s agreement was  for  UK to sign up to various obligations – for example, to continue paying a large annual sum to the EU for ten years.

There is also the danger that the stay-in camp could use Article 50 to argue that whether the British people want to be in or out, the cost of leaving would be too heavy because of this treaty requirement.

The Gordian knot of Article 50 can be cut simply by passing an Act of Parliament repealing all the treaties that refer to the EU from the Treaty of Rome onwards. No major UK party could  object to this because all three have, at one time or another,  declared that Parliament remains supreme and can repudiate anything the EU does if it so chooses.

If the stay-in camp argue that would be illegal because of the treaty obligation, the OUT camp should simply emphasise (1) that international law is no law because there is no means of enforcing it within its jurisdiction if a state rejects it and (2) that treaties which do not allow for contracting parties to simply withdraw are profoundly undemocratic because they bind future governments.

The OUT camp should press the major political parties to commit themselves to ignoring Article 50. If a party refuses that can be used against them because it will make them look suspicious.

Before the vote

B) The parties’ plans of action if there is a vote to leave

It is important that all the parties likely to have seats in the Commons after the next election are publicly and relentlessly pressed to give at least a broad outline of what action they would adopt in the event of a vote to leave. Left with a free hand there is a serious danger that whatever British  government is  in charge after a vote to leave would attempt to bind the UK back into the EU by stealth by signing the UK up to agreements such as those the EU has with Norway and Switzerland which mean that they have to (1) pay a fee to the EU annually, (2) adopt the social legislation which comes from the EU and (3) most importantly agree to the four “freedoms” of the EU – the free movement of goods, services, capital and  labour throughout not merely the EU but the wider European Economic Area (EEA).

It is probable that the Westminster parties will all resist this, but that would present them with two problems. First, a refusal to do so would make them seem untrustworthy; second, if one party laid out their position but the others did not, that would potentially give the party which did say what it would do a considerable advantage over the others which did not. If no party puts its plans before the public before the referendum, there should be demands  from those who want the UK to leave the EU that  any new treaties with the EU must be put to a referendum and, if they are rejected, the UK will simply trade with the EU under the WTO rules.

C) Repudiate re-negotiation before the referendum

Supporting the negotiation of a new relationship between the UK and the EU before a referendum is mistaken, because it would seem to many to be giving tacit approval for renegotiation and legitimize the possibility of the UK remaining within the EU. It is also rash, because  the likelihood  of the EU giving nothing is very small. Indeed, they might well give something substantial, because the UK leaving the EU would be a very great blow to the organisation. The UK is the country with the second largest population within the EU with, depending on how it is measured, the second or third largest  economy and the country which pays the second largest contribution to the EU budget. For the EU to lose the UK would not only be a blow in itself, it would also create a very strong precedent for every other EU state, especially the largest ones. If  the UK left and prospered, the temptation would be for other EU states to leave.

If the EU offered  a big carrot such as the abolition of benefits  for migrants to the UK  from the rest of the EU until they had lived in Britain for ten years, that could  seriously  undermine the resolve of those wanting the UK to leave the EU because it would dovetail with British fears of mass immigration from the EU and the mainstream media representation of the immigration  problem as being essentially a welfare problem. The Europhiles would then be able to represent the immigration threat as no longer a threat as they bleated their  mantra “the only immigrants will be those who are working and paying their taxes”.  That would be difficult for any mainstream British politician or party to counter because they have all be peddling the line of welcoming “hard working immigrants” for years.

But even if negotiation produced nothing of substance, as happened with Harold Wilson’s “renegotiation” of 1975, it would be a mistake to imagine that it would not influence the referendum result. The electorate is divided between the resolute come outs, the resolute stay-ins and the wavering middle. A claim by the stay-in campaigners that something had been conceded by the EU, however  insignificant, would provide the waverers with an excuse to vote to stay in because they could convince themselves they were voting for change. If the EU were to offer nothing, waverers might see this as evidence that the EU was too powerful to oppose.

Those who want the UK to leave should unambiguously put the case for no renegotiation. Dismiss anything Cameron (or any other PM) brings back from the EU by way of altered terms as being irrelevant because the EU has a long record of agreeing things with  the UK and then finding ways of sabotaging what was agreed. In addition, a future British government may agree to alter any terms offered at the time of the referendum. The classic example of this changing of agreed terms happening in the past is Tony Blair’s giving up of a substantial amount of the Thatcher rebate in return for a promised reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a promise which was never met. That episode produced my all-time favourite amongst Blair’s penchant for lying. Two days before he went to the EU meeting at which he  gave away a substantial part of the rebate he declared during Prime Minister’s Questions that the rebate was “non-negotiable – period”.

It is difficult to envisage any British prime minister not trying to  negotiate with the EU before a referendum, but it might just  happen if whoever is in power when the referendum is announced were to be told privately by the  major EU players that nothing will be given and the prime minister of the day concludes it would be best to pretend that a decision had been made not to negotiate rather than risk the humiliation of getting nothing, perhaps not even a pretence of negotiation before nothing is given. Why would the EU do this? They might calculate that it would be a gamble worth taking to send a British PM away with nothing, whilst hoping the referendum vote would be to stay in because then the power of the UK to resist further integration would be shot.

If the EU offers nothing, the OUT camp should welcome the fact and stress to the public that if the referendum is to stay in,  the EU could force any federalist measure through because not only would any British government be much weakened in its opposition to more federalism, the UK political class as a whole would more than willing to go along with it because of their ideological commitment to the EU.

D) After the vote

Ideally the government which deals with the EU after a vote to leave will have committed themselves to a plan of action before the referendum vote.  However, as described above, it is quite possible that this will not happen because  the UK’s overwhelmingly Europhile political class will try to re-entangle the UK with the EU. To prevent them doing so there should be a concerted campaign after the vote to ensure that the British public understands what is being done on their behalf with a demand for a further referendum to agree any new treaty.

The terms of the debate

It is essential that the Europhiles are not allowed to make the debate revolve around economics. If they do it will effectively stifle meaningful debate. As anyone who has ever tried to present economic ideas to an audience of the general public will know it is a soul-destroying experience. Take the question of how much of UK trade is with the EU. The debate will begin with the stay-in camp saying something like 45% of UK trade is with the EU. Those wanting to leave the EU will respond by saying it is probably less than 40% because of the Rotterdam/Antwerp effect. They will then be forced to explain what the Rotterdam/Amsterdam effect is. That is the point where the general public’s concentration is lost and the debate ends up proving nothing to most of the audience.

But although nothing is proved to the general audience by detailed economic argument, the audience will remember  certain phrases which have considerable  traction. In amongst the serious debating on the issue of trade there will be phrases such as three million jobs in Britain rely on the EU and dire threats about how the EU will simply not buy British goods and services any more. This is nonsense, but fear is not rational, and many of those who vote will enter the voting chamber with fear of losing their jobs  in their heads regardless of what the OUT camp says if the debate is predominantly about economics. Shift the debate away from economics and the fear-inducing phrases will be heard less often.

National sovereignty

How should those wanting to leave the EU shift the focus of debate? They should put the matter which is really at the core of the UK’s  relationship with the EU  – national sovereignty – at the front of the  OUT camp’s referendum campaign. Campaign under a slogan such as Are we to be masters in our own house?

Making national sovereignty the primary campaigning issue has the great advantage of  it being something that anyone can understand because it is both a simple concept and speaks directly to the natural tribal instincts of  human beings.   Being a simple concept readily  and naturally understood,   it is a far more potent debating tool than arguments attempting to refute the economic  arguments  beloved of the stay-in camp.  The fact that the natural tribal instincts have been suppressed for so long in the UK will increase its potency because most people will feel a sense of release when it begins to be catered for in public debate.

The appeal to national sovereignty has a further advantage. Those who support the EU are unused to debating on that ground. That is because uncritical support for the EU has long been the position of both the British mainstream political class as a class and of the mass media. That has meant that the contrary voice – that which wishes Britain to be independent – has been largely unheard in public debate for thirty years or more. Where it has been heard, the response of the pro-EU majority has not been rational argument but abuse, ranging from patronising dismissal of a wish for sovereignty as an outmoded nationalism to accusations that national sovereignty amounts to xenophobia or even racism. These tactics – of excluding those who want to leave the EU from public debate and abuse substituted for argument – will no longer be available to the  pro EU lobby.

Immigration

The most threatening and energising subject relating to the EU for the general public is immigration. The public are right to identify this as the most important aspect of our membership of the EU because immigration touches every important part of British life: jobs, housing, education, welfare, healthcare, transport, free expression  and crime besides radically changing the nature of parts of  the UK which now have large populations of immigrants and their descendants.

The public rhetoric of mainstream politicians and the media is changing fast as they begin to realise both what an electoral liability a de facto open door immigration policy is, as the effects of mass immigration become ever more glaring. The argument is shifting from the economic to the cultural.  For example, here is the Daily Telegraph in a leader of 25 March:

“The fact is that, for many in Britain (especially those outside the middle classes), it is not just a matter of jobs being taken or public services being stretched, but of changes in the very character of communities. Those changes may not necessarily be for the worse: as the Prime Minister says, Britain’s culture has long been enriched by the contributions of new arrivals. But as long as ministers treat immigration as a matter of profit and loss, rather than the cause of often wrenching social change, they will never be able fully to address the grievances it causes.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/9952717/Immigration-and-the-limits-of-the-possible.html)

This new frankness in public debate means that the OUT camp can use the immigration argument freely, provided they keep the language within the confines of formal politeness. The subject will naturally dovetail with the emphasis on national sovereignty because the most important aspect of sovereignty is the ability to control the borders of the territory of a state.  Judged by their increasing willingness to talk publicly about immigration, it is probable that the mainstream UK parties will be content to go along with  ever more frank discussion about immigration.

The economic argument must be kept simple

It will not be possible to avoid  economic arguments entirely. The OUT camp should concentrate on repeating these two facts:

The disadvantageous balance of payments deficit the UK has with the EU

The amount the UK pays to the EU

Those are the most solid economic figures relating to the EU. There is some fuzziness around the edges of the balance of payments deficit because of the question of where all the imports end up (whether in the EU or outside the EU through re-exporting), while the amount the EU receives is solid but it has to be broken down into the money which returns to the UK and the amount retained by Brussels. Nonetheless these are the most certain  figures and the least susceptible to obfuscation by the stay-in side.

The best way of presenting the money paid to the EU is simply to say that outside the EU we can decide how all of it is spent in this country and to illustrate what the money saved by not paying it to the EU would pay for.

It will also be necessary to address the question of protectionist measures the EU might take against the UK if the  vote was to leave. It is improbable that the EU would place heavy protectionist barriers on UK exports because:

1. The massive balance of payment deficit between the UK and the rest of the EU, which is massively in the EU’s favour.

2.  Although the rest of the EU dwarfs the UK economy, much UK trade with the EU is heavily concentrated in certain regions of the EU. The effect of protectionist barriers would  bear very heavily on these places.

3. There are strategically and economically important joint projects of which the UK is a major part, like Airbus and the Joint-Strike Fighter.

4. The Republic of Ireland would be a massive bargaining chip for  the UK to play. If the UK left and the EU rump attempted to impose sanctions against Britain this would cripple the RoI because so much of their trade is with the UK. The EU would be forced to subsidise the RoI massively if protectionist barriers against the UK were imposed. The EU could not exempt the RoI from the sanctions because that would leave the EU open to British exports being funnelled through the Republic.

5. The EU would be bound by the World Trade Organisation’s restrictions on protectionist measures.

The economic issues which are not worth pursuing in detail are those relating to how much the EU costs Britain in terms of EU-inspired legislation. It may well be that these load billions a year of extra costs  onto the UK  but they are not certain or easily evaluated costs, not least because we cannot in the nature of things know what burdens an independent UK would impose off its own bat.

Getting into detailed discussions about such things will simply play into the hands of  the stay-in camp because it will eat up the time and space available to those promoting the OUT cause.

Other issues

Apart from the economic questions, the stay-in camp will use these reasons for staying in:

That the EU has prevented war in Western Europe since 1945. This can be simply refuted by pointing out that the EU was not formed until  twelve years after WW2; that until 1973 the EU consisted of only six countries, three of them small,  and  of only nine countries until the 1980s. Consequently it would be reasonable to look for other reasons for  the lack of war. The two causes of the peace in Western Europe have been the NATO alliance and the invention of nuclear weapons which make the price of war extraordinarily high.

That nation states such as the UK are too small to carry any real diplomatic weight in modern world. That begs the question of whether it is an advantageous thing to carry such weight – it can get a country into disastrous foreign entanglements such as Iraq and Afghanistan – but even assuming it is advantageous, many much smaller countries than the UK survive very nicely, making their own bilateral agreements with other states large and small. It is also worth remembering that the UK has such levers as a permanent seat on the UN Security  Council (which allows the UK to veto any proposed move by the UN) and considerable influence in institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

ROBERT HENDERSON is a London-based freelance writer

 

Originally published in the Quarterly Review

Published in http://www.quarterly-review.org/?p=1737

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Operation Elveden dragging their feet over Piers Morgan

To DC Paulette Rooke

Operation Eleveden

Metropolitan Police

New Scotland Yard

8/10 The Broadway

London  SW1H OBG

CC

Commander Neil Basu

John Whittingdale MP

George Eustice MP

John Whittingdale MP

George Eustice MP

Gerald Howarth MP

Keir Starmer (DPP)

mark.lewis@thlaw.co.uk

17 May  2013

Dear DC Rooke

It is now more than four months since I submitted to Operation Elveden cast iron  evidence of Piers Morgan’s  illicit receipt of information from the police, Jeff Edwards’ illicit receipt of information from the Met Police, the perjury of Morgan and Edwards before the Leveson Inquiry and Det Supt Jeff Curtis’ failure to meaningfully investigate Edwards and Morgan’s involvement in receiving information illicitly from the police.

To recap, the evidence I have provided includes a letter from Piers Morgan when editor of the Mirror to the PCC in which he admits receiving the illicit information, a Mirror story which  contains information which could only have been obtained illicitly from the police and a tape recording between Jeff Edwards and me in which D-Supt Curtis states that he will be interviewing Morgan and Edwards  and says the matter is straightforward because of the evidence I had provided. Curtis then failed to interview anybody at the Mirror or have any check made of their records for evidence of payments  for information.

With such rock-hard evidence in your possession, I think most people would be utterly astonished that no investigation appears to have commenced after 4 months. Yet that is, to the best of my knowledge, exactly what has happened.   I have had no substantive contact with Operation Elveden since I submitted the complaint and my requests to give a formal statement and meet to  discuss the matter further  with a senior officer have been ignored.  When you reply please tell me exactly  what has been done so far to investigate this matter .

I repeat my requests to give a formal statement and meet with a senior officer from Operation Elveden to discuss the progress of my complaint.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

See also

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/piers-morgans-illegal-receipt-of-information-from-the-police-his-perjury-and-operation-elveden/

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/piers-morgans-illegal-receipt-of-information-from-the-police-his-perjury-and-operation-elveden-part-ii/

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/piers-morgans-illegal-receipt-of-information-from-the-police-his-perjury-and-operation-elveden-part-iii/

———————————————————————————————-

Below  is the reply I received. When rank and file staff start saying they have to refer something up the line after they have been dealing with an issue for some time you know there is something fishy going on. RH

Received 20 May 2013
Dear Mr Henderson
I have forwarded your email to my line manager.
Kind regards

Paulette Rooke

ADS PAULETTE ROOKE

JUBILEE HOUSE PUTNEY, 230-232 PUTNEY BRIDGE RD, London SW15 2PD

Internal  58526  External  020 8785 8526
Mobile 07771 553043 (office hours)

 

Richard North: useful idiot or Europhile wolf in Eurosceptic’s clothing?

Campaign for an Independent Britain meeting 4th May 2013

Dr Richard North: The way forward

His  contribution was very odd indeed for someone who is supposedly strongly Eurosceptic.  His “way forward” is for the UK   to remain entwined in coils of the EU for the foreseeable future.  Of course, North does not describe his suggestions as leading to this, but that is the practical consequences of what he advocates.

North’s strategy for the UK’s departure from the EU is this:

“….invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, leading to a negotiated exit based on UK membership of the EFTA/EEA as an interim settlement. To ensure short-term continuity, we would have all EU law repatriated, giving time for examination and selective repeal, and the enactment of replacement legislation as necessary – all over a period of some years.”

He wants the UK to sign up to the type of arrangements Norway and Switzerland have with the EU. This requires them to  adopt a large proportion of  EU regulations (not least because of the ever broadening bureaucratic demands of the EU obsession with competition and harmonisation ), pay large annual sums to the EU to subsidize the poorer members of the EU and,  worst of all, subscribe to the four EU “freedoms”, the free movement of   goods, services, capital and labour across not only the EU but also the larger European Economic Area (EEA).

That would be bad enough but his naivety  over what Article 50 entails is startling. Here is the article in full:

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49. (http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-european-union-and-comments/title-6-final-provisions/137-article-50.html).

It is strongly implied in in  para 3 of  the Article that unilateral withdrawal is possible :

The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2”.

However, the clause does not explicitly  give the right of unilateral secession and could be interpreted as merely referring to how any agreement might be scheduled to take effect. The other EU members could adopt this interpretation to thwart the UK leaving without declaring UDI.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties cites two legitimate  instances where a party wants to withdraw unilaterally from a treaty which does not make any provision for withdrawal : (1) where all parties recognise an informal right to do so or  (2) the situation has changed so substantially  that the obligations of a signatory are radically different from that which was originally agreed to.   The informal right patently does not apply in the case of the EU. As for radical changes to the obligations of a signatory, that would be difficult to sustain. It is true that the organisation (the EU) the UK belongs to now is radically different from that which they originally joined in 1973 (the EEC), but the  UK has signed  new treaties to agree to the new circumstances as they have arisen.  Hence, there would be no radically changed obligations which had not been taken on formally by the UK.

The only precedent  of any sort for withdrawal is Greenland’s  secession  in 1985 from the European Economic Community (EEC).  The was facilitated by the Greenland Treaty. However, it is not  an obviously relevant precedent because Greenlanders retain Danish citizenship for  Greenland has home rule not full independence from Denmark. They are consequently full  EU citizens.  Because Greenland is also one of the  Overseas Countries and Territories of the EU it  is also subject to some EU law and regulations, mainly those relating to the Single Market. .

Even if it is accepted by the other EU members  that there is a unilateral right of secession,  the fact that it  could only  take place legally after two years would give the remainder  of the EU the opportunity to run the UK ragged before the UK left.

As for getting an agreement which would allow the UK to generally re-establish its sovereignty, especially over the control of its borders, this is most improbable.  A  Qualified Majority in the European Council  is required  and even if such a majority is obtained the European Parliament can block the secession. The potential for delay and blackmail by the EU of the UK is considerable. In any event it is likely is that the EU would  drive a bargain which is greatly to  the UK’s disadvantage because the  Eurofederalists would be terrified of creating a precedent for any other EU member which might wish to radically change their relationship with the EU.  That would make them demand conditions of the UK which were so unappealing it would deter other member states from following suit. There is also  the danger that  the Europhile UK political elite  would take the opportunity to agree to disadvantageous terms for the UK simply to keep the UK attached to the EU in the manner that Norway and Switzerland are attached. The stay-in camp could use Article 50 to argue that whether the British people want to be in or out, the cost of leaving would be too heavy because of this treaty requirement.

The Gordian knot of Article 50 can be cut  simply by passing an Act of Parliament repealing all the treaties that refer to the EU from the Treaty of Rome onwards. No major UK party could  object to this because all three have, at one time or another,  declared that Parliament remains supreme and can repudiate anything the EU does if it so chooses.

If the stay-in camp argue that would be illegal because of the  treaty obligation, the OUT camp should simply emphasise  (1) that international law is no law because there is never any means of enforcing it within its jurisdiction if  a state rejects it and (2) that treaties which do not allow for contracting parties to simply withdraw are profoundly undemocratic because they bind future governments.

The OUT camp should press the major political parties to commit themselves to ignoring Article 50. If a party refuses that can be used against them because it will make them look suspicious.

How much of the vote does UKIP command?

North also addressed the question of UKIP’s  share of the vote in the recent council elections. This he represented as  trivial because although they took 25% of the vote  the turnout was very low (around 30% overall).  He ignores one important fact about turnout: if the turnout is shrinking then the potency of those who vote rises. UKIP voters and those willing to vote to come out of the EU at a referendum may be much more inclined to vote than those who want the status quo or at least are not motivated to vote for the UK’s independence.

Based on objective facts North  is far too pessimistic about obtaining a vote to leave. There are two great  differences between now and the 1975 referendum. In 1975 the British public had only two years’ experience of the EEC which was a vastly less intrusive body than the EU is now. If a referendum is held in the next few years the electorate will have 40 odd years of ever greater interference by Brussels with British politics and in  the lives of Britons.  To this can be added the growing number of prominent voices, both political and from the media and business , which are calling for either an outright campaign to leave the EU or at least a reshaping of the EU in such a radical  fashion that it has no chance of success. Both factors  will lend vastly greater potency to the OUT camp campaign now than was the case in 1975.

North’s  tactics before a referendum

Much of this was driven by fear, fear that a the British electorate would not vote to come out.  The consequence is that North proposes a complex, expensive and above all time consuming schedule of preparatory work before any referendum is held.  There are also conflicts between his desired ends and proposed means.

North  addressed the subject under five separate heads. I comment separately on each.

Reassurance for business

North argues that because the EU is first and foremost a political construct, business has no right to have a say in whether the UK is in or out of the EU. I have sympathy with that view, but North  immediately capsized this position by stating:

“…business has a right to expect a predictable and stable regulatory and trading environment, the status of which is affected by our membership. Therefore, we need to be able to assure the business community that, should we leave the EU, there would be no adverse effects.

“In effect, that would mean “protecting” membership of the Single Market – which could be achieved through EEA membership. And, as long as that membership is assured, business has no locus in the broader debate.”

By taking this position on the Single Market North is effectively granting business a very large say in how we are governed,  because continued membership of the Single Market will require at the least subscription to the four “freedoms”  and the acceptance of  EU laws relating to the Single Market. That will greatly impinge upon the UK’s sovereignty.

An alternative to the EU

North believes that we should not merely take back power from Brussels but also stop the power regained being grabbed by Westminster. He starts from the claim that  the UK has never been a democracy.   That is true in the sense that there has never been direct democracy – that is no more than a commonplace – but for a century before the UK was signed up to the EEC in 1973 there was a good deal of democratic control because the UK’s politics were national. British politicians then could not routinely hide behind supranational agreements such as those  governing the EU to avoid responsibility for unpopular policies or be forced to adopt policies which were in the interest of foreign powers and to the UK’s disadvantage  simply because of  Treaty arrangements.  If the UK leaves the EU utterly and  our relationship with the EU becomes the same as we have with any other foreign power British politics will again become national not supranational. That is the most certain way of re-democratising the UK.

What does North want?  He is much taken with the Harrogate Agenda  (HA) (http://harrogateagenda.com/).  This has six demands which are similar in tone to those of the 19th century Chartists and the 17th century Levellers before them.  Here are a couple of the demands to give a flavour of the HA:

2. local democracy: the foundation of our democracy shall be the counties (or other local units as may be defined), which shall become constitutional bodies exercising under the control of their peoples all powers of legislation, taxation and administration not specifically granted by the people to the national government;

4. all legislation subject to consent: no legislation or treaty shall take effect without the direct consent of the majority of the people, by positive vote if so demanded, and that no legislation or treaty shall continue to have effect when that consent is withdrawn by the majority of the people;

Whether or not these are practical (which I very much doubt if put forward in this extreme form) , there is irony in the fact that North espouses such ideas  because his proposals for a new relationship  between the UK and the EU would utterly undermine  the thrust of the HA demands  for a  UK  entangled in an EFTA or similar arrangement would still be subject to decisions being made by foreigners with,  doubtless,  the willing complicity of Westminster politicians.  The Europhile British political class is not going to vanish overnight so the only realistic way of making them behave reasonably is to force them to operate within  a national context.

 A network for dissemination

Here are North’s proposals:

“ Spreading the message is an essential part of any campaign, but reliance on the media is not going to be sufficient. Formal and informal networks will have to be built, some not dissimilar to direct marketing networks. Activities should include formal training and education, as well as more general propagandising.

Many revolutionary organisations have acquired their own newspapers, or news magazines, as a means of better spreading the message.”

Even if all this was possible, which is very doubtful  because it would need serious money as well as willing hands,  it would take far too long to establish as an effective propaganda tool.  A referendum if it comes will not be that far in the future.   What is needed is a simple readily understandable message such as “Are we to be masters in our own house” repeated as often as possible through the national and local media. With more and more politicians, mediafolk, businessmen and various celebrities making Anti-EU noises this is not a forlorn hope.

 Agitation

North proposes a campaign of civil disobedience, including the late payment for “Council Tax, water bills, BBC license fees and other such fees” and  visiting every “agency, every employment office, etc. and remove all information (leaflets, brochures) not in English”.  He goes on to say that there are “A very wide range of activities is in fact possible, many entirely risk-free and totally within the law”.

I doubt whether in these politically correct and increasingly authoritarian times that there would be  many which are “entirely risk-free and totally within the law”. Late payment of the BBC license could get you a criminal record; removing information leaflets not in English would probably get you investigated for  racial harassment because there would not be much point in removing them without running a campaign saying what you were doing and why;  failing to pay many official bills on time could result in late payment surcharges.  If civil disobedience is urged it is important that the possible consequences are spelt out to prospective candidates for such action.

Nonetheless that is not my main concern with civil disobedience committed in this random fashion. Civil disobedience is only effective if it is (1) focused, (2) publicity worthy (3) does not greatly inconvenience or disgust the general public and (4) does not make the protestors look ridiculous.   A good example of a serious single issue campaign blighted by clownish antics is that of Fathers for Justice. Leaving people to engage in acts of civil disobedience (particularly on a local scale) as they choose will not meet those criteria.  If it is to be used, civil disobedience must be a national act. The Poll Tax disobedience is the best example in modern British history of such action. A readily understandable single issue: we won’t pay the tax. It was perfect because it blocked up the magistrates courts and brought the everyday system of justice to its knees.

Sovereignty and opposition to  immigration are the two strongest cards the OUT camp has  to play. If it is used , civil disobedience should be designed to focus public interest on those two issues.

 A coalition of allies

North tried to make a distinction between umbrella groups (bad) and coalitions (good).  In practice the two are indistinguishable.  What determines the unity of purpose of  any coalescing groups is not what they are called but the nature of the groups and their leaders.

North’s response to being challenged

During questions from the audience I said that North’s proposals were an excellent recipe for remaining within the EU for the reasons I have already given. North became very animated and spoke at considerable length to refute what I was saying.  People only behave in such a manner during debate if they feel their position is under real threat.

The kindest interpretation of North’s position is that he is acting as a useful idiot for the Eurofederalist cause in the mistaken belief that things can be resolved to the UK’s advantage  by talking, by being “reasonable”; the unkindest interpretation is that he is a Eurofederalist wolf in Eurosceptic clothing attempting to undermine the campaign to remove the UK from the grip of the EU.

North  has condensed the   views  espoused in his speech into  written form on the CIB website – see  http://www.freebritain.org.uk/_blog/Free_Britain/post/an-eu-free-future-for-all-by-dr-richard-north/

And

http://www.freebritain.org.uk/_blog/Free_Britain/post/turnout-by-dr-richard-north/ ).

Robert Henderson

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