It’s NOT Dover & Out!

The fact that Article 50 was submitted this week does not mean it’s “Dover & Out” as a headline from The Sun stated. The submission of Article 50 is just a formal notification of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU, and while the government had to seek parliamentary approval via a Bill with royal assent to submit the declaration, it does not need anyone’s permission to change its mind.

Article 50 symbolizes nothing more than the beginning of the Brexit negotiations, of what will likely be a long and painful, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt of trying to extract the UK from the European Union. It will not succeed because the challenges are too complex at too many levels and because the cost are too high.

It will fail because the negotiations will bring reality to the table – the reality that we are living in an inter-connected world of shared rules, and that leaving the EU means giving up control, not to the EU but to the mercenary rules of the WTO which will prevent the EU and UK from reaching a good deal no matter how much goodwill there is on both sides.

The problems brought up by the negotiations and the Great Repeal Bill will also expose the reality that Britain’s EU membership fee goes to agencies and projects that are very important to the country. In the past few weeks we have seen that leaving EURATOM and EUROPOL will create problems that may be impossible to resolve no matter how much money is thrown at them, and they were never discussed prior to the referendum. How can leaving a nuclear safety treaty and stopping anti-terrorism cooperation mean taking back control?

Ultimately Brexit will fail is because there will come a point when the people have had enough. As prices rise and truths are revealed, more and more people are coming together to oppose the destructive forces of Brexit and celebrate the European part of their identity. In all counties across the UK, local pro-European groups are forming themselves to assert their views. In Kent alone, there are over 15. The pro-European voices of this country are waking up and will remoan for a long as is necessary to remain within the EU.

Operation Stack after Brexit

What will happen to Operation Stack if Britain leaves both the Tax and Customs Union?

Whatever one’s views of Brexit are, it is undeniable that a reintroduction of customs and tax checks will result in much longer delays at the ports, and it is hard to see how this could be managed without impact on the roads of Kent.

The port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel see an average of at least 10,000 trucks per day, and the people of Kent are well aware of what can happen when this flow is interrupted by adverse weather or striking dock workers: The lack of geographical space in Dover and Ashford means that lorries have nowhere to park, and with such a volume of trucks there simply is no feasible alternative to turning large sections of the M2 and M20 motorways into temporary parking lots.

But how far will it go? Fears that Operation Stack could extend up the M20 as far as the M25 junctions at Swanley or Sevenoaks may seem far fetched, but on closer analysis they are not in the realm of the impossible.

As most recently seen during the strike by French dockyard workers in the summer of 2015, Operation Stack can extend over 30 miles as far as Maidstone, and there is little reason to think this marks the ultimate limit of how long it could become.

While it probably is extremely unlikely that it would extend as much as an extra 20 miles up the M20 to reach Swanley, it is just as unlikely that there would be no impact at all. A more realistic estimate would probably sit somewhere between these figures – taking us a further 5 miles up to Leybourne, or 10 miles as far as the M26 Junction at Wrotham.

Increased Frequency as the bigger Problem

While these are estimates based on what are currently extreme scenarios, there is another dimension to this debate that is far more important – rather than looking at how long the queues for Operation Stack could become, we should asking how often we will have to deal with it.

The answer to this is – much more often. The increasing frequency of Operation Stack is much more assured than its increasing length in distance.

A reintroduction of customs at the ports will cause delays no matter what the weather, so what are now seeing as extreme scenarios will become regular occurrences in future. The time it takes to inspect each vehicle being loaded onto a ferry or the train is simply too long to avoid doing so without causing long queues at customs controls. It is a problem that has long been recognised – and was long resolved – by the creation of the EU Customs Union.

Recommended Further reading: For more information on this subject, please see this report from the Road Haulage Association.

Open Britain’s Day of Action in Sevenoaks

SATURDAY, March 11th, 2017

Sevenoaks and Swanley together in Europe (SSTIE) will be supporting Open Britain’s Day of Action on March 11th. Come and join us to find out what it’s all about.

Time: 10.30-12.30

Where: meet outside Post Office, London Road, Sevenoaks, TN13 1AA

 

Beware of Mandate Creep

Mandate creep is not a word that is used often. Like it’s sibling, Mission Creep,  it means moving the goals of an endeavour beyond its original purpose, or “mission” in military terminology – and “mandate” in politics.

In politics, mandate creep happens when people in positions claim that they have the authority to do things they really don’t, and the behaviour of the May administration since the referendum on Exiting the European Union regrettably is perfect example of this. The reasons for this are as follows:

    1. There is absolutely no consensus as to what “Brexit” really means to the people – and politicians are now using this fact to pursue their own agendas.

      Referendum results with estimates of type of Brexit wanted. “Hard Brexit” refers to option 4 (No Deal), offered prior to the vote. “Soft Brexit” refers to the Norway, Switzerland and Canada options (models 1-3), showing that the majority of voters clearly prefers some kind of a deal. If you dispute the data, please comment below, stating reasons and/or sources to support your comment.
    2. The notion that the majority of voters support a Hard Brexit as is currently being advocated by the May administration has no basis in terms of a mandate derived from the Referendum. The campaign for “LEAVE” had 4 options on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, of which only one involved leaving the EU and single market without any new deal at all – an option which was notably derided as insane by most leading LEAVE campaigners. This means that even by the most optimistic estimates, not even half of the LEAVE voters supported the idea of a Hard Brexit. Given that less than 38% of the electorate supported the LEAVE vote overall, this places support for a Hard Brexit at barely 15%.
    3. For some LEAVE voters, the referendum was clearly little more than a protest vote against the Conservative government, and Camerons’s resignation was met by almost unanimous cheer among leave voters. Yet the conservative party itself has clung on to power, and now claims to have a mandate of speaking for the majority, and a minority within the Conservative Party is now defining Brexit on its own terms that often go against the expressed wishes of many leavers. For example, not all leave voters agree with the notion that ties to Europe should be replaced by closer ties to the USA, let alone authoritarian regimes in the Middle East – or anywhere else. Moreover, millions of health-conscious Brexiteers would object to a trade deal with the USA that requires a lowering of environmental and food safety standards to allow GMO, hormone- and chemically-treated foods onto the UK market, and even the staunchest anti-EU voices among British farmers, would have to conc that the contamination of our domestic food chain would result in an instant block of exports to the EU.
    4. Referendum results with leave vote segregated by political ideology. “Other” primarily refers to protest vote. These are estimates based on anecdotal data prior and since the referendum. If you dispute the data, please comment below, stating reasons and/or sources to support your comment.

      The lack of consensus over what Brexit really means is actually greatest among LEAVE voters. This is expressed in very different visions of Brexit that are totally incompatible with one another. They range from Anarcho-capitalist radicals to Far Right Nationalist and Far Left Utopianist, all of whom are now making competing claims for the mandate to define Brexit according to their extreme positions. The notion that Brexit should mean a choice between such extreme views has no mandate at all, since the silent majority of leave voters clearly a more moderate approach, and while the overall majority of voters prefer the status quo.

 

To sum up, any attempt to define a mandate for “Brexit” by the incumbent conservative government can only represent one vision of Brexit, and thus never have the full backing – and mandate from ALL leave voters.

In fact, there can be no consensus – and thus no true mandate – until the people are given a  vote on the type of Brexit they want – either directly via a new referendum – or indirectly via new elections.

 

For more info or to show your support for this, please see this petition.

Spare a thought for the losers

There is one simple difference between the referendum to leave the EU in 2016 and the vote to join in 1975 that is often overlooked, but is perhaps the most important moral issue of all.

41 years ago there were no tangible losses for the losing side in the sense that there are for millions of people right now.

41 years is a long time during which millions of people used the increasing freedom that EU membership gave them to establish new lives and businesses on either side of the Channel, as well as the North Sea and Irish Sea.  They formed new partnerships, started families, found new customers and friendships.

The losers include over 5 million people who have led their lives on the basis of being European, and now face the prospect of losing the right to live in their homes, to keep their jobs and to keep their children in schools, and to stay among friends they have known all their lives.

The losers aren’t just London’s bankers and lawyers, but countless small companies and self-employed people in small towns and villages throughout Kent and all over the UK, who provide a wide range of services to clients on the continent. Without the right to work freely in other EU countries, they are now threatened with anything from a 10-25% loss in turnover for some, to a total collapse of their business model for others, as their home market shrinks from half a billion to 65 million.

The losers also includes millions of Brits who never left the UK, but have benefited from a great variety of rights and standards that the political establishment in the UK was often unwilling to grant- especially in matters of environmental health, such as legislation that prohibits the use of potentially harmful additives in food.

Having so many losers puts the lawfulness of the entire referendum into question. Is it ever really democratic to have a vote about destroying people’s rights and lives?

 

Trade under WTO Rules – What does it mean?

What are the implications of “trade under WTO rules” if the UK leaves the single market?

The parliamentary International Trade Committee has been interviewing subject specialists to provide insights into the legal and political dimensions of trading under WTO rules only.

This session on Parliament TV has particular emphasis on technical issues such as non-tariff barriers to trade agricultural trade, the legality of establishing a new farm subsidy system outside the CAP, and the practical difficulties of extracting the UK share from the EU in the WTO quota system.

PARLIAMENT TV: International Trade Committee – WTO Rules and UK Agriculture (excerpt)