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"When you get into one of these groups, there's only a couple of ways you can get out; one is death, the other is mental institutions"

BREXIT; British Exit from the European Union (EU)

Brexit divided the UK, not only by region, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland voting overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union (EU), but within England as well, where the majority wanted to leave, but a significant minority wanted to stay. The majority that wanted to leave was sufficiently large as to out-vote those in the UK regions. Both sides of the Leave-Remain divide were made up of various groups that had different reasons to stay or leave, and different agendas. It wasn't a straight left-right, labour-conservative split either. One group of hardcore Remainers emerged from this soup of loose coalitions, the radical 'Wokers' who tried to intimidate and label all Leavers as racist, xenophobic right-wing bigots; the usual thing. There were small groups of extreme xenophobic right-wing groups that supported Leave on nationalist grounds, and the Wokers pointed to them and basically said 'if you vote Leave, then you are the same as them, and we will call you such when we scream in your face in the street.

One of the mainstream arguments to leave the EU was aimed at none-extreme English nationalism and UK sovereignty. Another was aimed at UK pride, where it seemed the UK was being taken for a fool, paying out huge sums of money and getting nothing back except contempt, whilst an increasing majority of EU countries were taking what they could and giving nothing back.

A less mainstream argument was US foreign policy, had since the Clinton era, put in place a succession of US-puppet European leaders that would support the US unconditionally with respect to rhetoric and sanctions, and allow US bases, troop deployments and nuclear missiles along the Russia's boarder. This was partially a strategy of economic and physical containment, but also to protect the US homeland against a nuclear strike, should it prove necessary. At the time of the Trump-Clinton election, the war rhetoric coming from the Clinton camp against Russia was seen by many as quite alarming. The US had been politically active in Eastern Europe, turning previous USSR allies into NATO adversaries, and its CIA had been doing its thing in Ukraine with the help of local far right militia. The irony was the UK leadership was probably the most pro-US of all of them. Blair, then Cameron campaigned to stay in the EU. Leaving the EU would break the hold the US had on Europe and force them to control each country the hard way, one at a time, and against the rising tide of popularism that was sweeping Europe.

The EU grew out of the European Economic Community (EEC) which in 1957 formed the Common Market. The EEC grew out of the need to reconcile after WW2 and make sure Germany and Italy didn't re-arm by keeping an eye on their coal and steel industries. The EEC was formed between France, West Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The UK stayed out and went for a free trade agreement (EFTA) with the EEC, but later, as the common market looked more profitable, it tried to join but was blocked twice by France because it saw the UK being controlled by the US, and this was a threat to Europe. The fear was the US would use the UK to take the place over. In 2016, President Charles de Gaulle's warning that the US would one day control Europe through the EEC seemed to ring true with some Leave voters, particularly with those that viewed US open aggression towards Russia and deployment of tactical nuclear missiles along the EU border with Russia, as a recipe for disaster.

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Wed Oct 21, 2020 11:25 am
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The idea behind the common market was simple really, peace through commerce and buy and sell among ourselves where possible. In practice this is not as easy as it sounds. You need common standards of products that will ensure food, goods and services are to a certain level of quality. You need regulations to stop one country dumping cheap products on the market and putting industries in other countries out of business. There needs to be what is often referred to as a level playing field, so there has to be regulations and rules that govern behaviour. The traditional way to stop a foreign country dumping cheap products and putting your businesses out of business is the use of tariffs. Tariffs are a country’s friend when it comes to cheap imports, but when applied to your exports by your competitor to deter you from protecting yourself, trade wars can develop. The EEC solution was to drop tariffs and introduce pricing regulations, quotas and subsidies. It wasn’t long before the Common Market had wine lakes, butter mountains, milk oceans and surpluses galore. It was eventually sorted out over the years, with winners and losers emerging from the process, but once you put regulation writers in charge, well, their main job is to regulate. And you end up with an awful lot of regulations, some more ridiculous than others. The right amount of regulation is good, too much and too little is bad, and the EEC started to collect regulations like a cat lady collects cats.

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Fri Oct 23, 2020 10:08 am
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In 1992 the EEC turned from being a common market with a few common social rules, to being a political union between 12 countries; Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. No one really knew where and how far this was going to go, but the 12 went along with it. Ideas of European political and economic integration and European citizenship could mean anything from friendship, to a loose affiliation, to not being an independent country anymore; something the Scots are bitterly complaining about now in their quest for a 2nd independence referendum to leave the UK. The result was a 2 speed EU with Germany and France wanting to get to the end point as quickly as possible and the UK wanting to take it one step at a time, evaluating each step, and deciding if that is where they wanted to go.

Some of the countries, in particular the euro-sceptics in the UK, believed the EU was a covert measure to establish a new federally controlled United States of Europe with Germany and France slugging it out politically and financially to run the show. The EU adopted a single currency, common foreign and security policies, along with common policies covering human rights, asylum, immigration, and terrorism. There were social policies covering European worker rights and minimum wages, and the rights of European citizens to be able to move freely in any of the 12 EU countries, to live and work anywhere they pleased.

The Ratification of the Maastricht Treaty was not all plain sailing. Denmark rejected it in their 1st referendum. France only narrowly voted to support the treaty, so clearly the country was split between those seeking a greater France and those fearing they would lose France altogether. The UK was split down the middle, even the ruling Conservative Party under John Major was split. The right of the party wanted the profitable common market, but were horrified at the idea of the UK be being run by Brussels, which in turn would probably end up being run by Germany. The centre left of the conservative party saw Europe as a sort of friendly, cosy, gentlemen’s club that offered them business opportunities and a chance to grow their stash. The opposition centre left Labour party saw the EU as a moderator of extremism on both the left and the right, and welcomed institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Social Policies laid out in the Social Chapter of the treaty as a way to address poverty. The UK just managed to ratify the treaty. Labour wanted to ratify it but mostly abstained over the Conservative’s opt out of the social chapter, but the centre left conservatives just managed to defeat the Euro-Sceptics on the right by threatening a vote of no confidence in the government if the treaty was not ratified.

This is all history now, but it’s worth mentioning as it puts BREXIT into some context. Many of the concerns the UK had about this new EU back in 1992 seem to have come true today.

Rather than the EU deterring foreign aggression, many feel it has become a proxy for US aggression against its foreign neighbours.

It now has a European Central Bank, an effective tool for the ultra rich to leach money out of the member nation economies. It has a European Army of sorts in the form of NATO, commanded by the US.

The promise of jobs and higher wages turned out to apply to other countries, not to the UK. As one of the biggest net contributors to the finances of the EU, it was a promise paid for by the UK. The UK would see the wages of its own workforce undercut by the heavily subsidised countries. The promise of reduced poverty and unemployment seemed only to apply to the net takers.

The idea that free movement within the EU boarder was ever going to work was ridiculous. The EU boarder is so big and so difficult to secure that once breached, whoever has breached it can go anywhere freely and undetected. This applies to immigrants and terrorists alike. Seeing the threat, the UK opted out of the Schengen agreement and EU citizens still have to show a passport before entering the country, but it is a headache for countries that have signed up to it, and although a great idea, in practice it was never going to work.

The idea that a group of European nations would come together and put aside their nationalistic interests in favour of the common good proved to be another promise that was never going to happen. Each country is out for what they can get, and most don’t particularly like each other. There is a clear divide between east and west, culturally, economically and politically.

The promise that the EU would take the common market to new levels, inspire innovation, achieve year-on-year growth, achieve ever increasing profit and prosperity for all; all thanks to the hard working, dedicated, dynamic leadership of the European Parliament, proved to fall a little short of the mark. But the Members of the European Parliament have proved most effective at debating issues, and introducing new rules and regulations. Now I’m not saying they are a closed club of gravy-train riders, or that there is a lack of transparency, responsibility or accountability going on, or that the UK's 70 odd delegates are ignored by the combined 350 German, French, Italy, Spain and Poland delegates of which control half the votes and where only Germany, France and Italy are net contributors; but some might ask the question, ‘what do you lot do, other than talk and collect your expenses?’

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Last edited by Beerman on Wed Nov 25, 2020 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Nov 02, 2020 12:10 pm
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The EU has its good points

Nearly half the people in the UK didn’t want to leave the EU, so it couldn’t have been all bad; admittedly most of them were young and emotional, and most of the pro-EU alliance came at it from a social aspect. The UK had opted out of the Social Chapter of the EU treaty, but there is always the European Court of Human Rights, which I think on the whole has been a good thing.

The European Court of Human Rights

The ECHR has been a thorn in the UK government’s side for years; some might call it a safeguard against some the government’s more extreme policies. One of its most recent rulings in October last year just before the Covid-19 outbreak was to rule against the Tories plan introduce a bedroom tax to financially force people to leave their homes for smaller ones. This was part of a larger plan to reduce housing benefits in general. The UK government tried to appeal but were told the ruling was final. Other notable rulings in the last 5 years have interfered with government policies on abortion, votes for prisoners, deportation of immigrants, and US-UK government surveillance of UK citizens (and probably on EU citizens as well).

The rulings in the UK’s favour never seem to get mentioned, but the rulings against the UK always seem to hit the news. Despite the fact that the vast majority of cases brought against the UK are settled out of court (over 90%), the government has waged a PR campaign against the ECHR on the ground that it constantly undermines UK sovereignty. The government would argue that they were voted in to rule the country, and the ECHR has no business to oppose the will of the majority of the people, that allows them to do whatever they want to do to whoever they chose to do it to, including the most vulnerable and those least able to defend themselves. The thing is, most of the things the government end up doing were either misrepresented in their election manifesto, open to interpretation, or never appeared in it at all. I don’t remember bulk collection and sharing of electronic communications between US and UK secret services ever appearing in the conservative manifesto. But they have a point when it comes to issues like immigration which is a political matter, and votes for prisoners which is a civil rights matter rather than human rights. I’m not sure the ECHR had the right to rule on abortion rights in Northern Ireland given its large Catholic population.

These examples point to a major problem with the ECHR; what constitutes a human right and what doesn’t. Some other contentious ECHR rulings;

- The UK could not deport the radical cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan, because of fears that he would get a fair trial.

- Christians could not refuse to work with gay couples on religious grounds.

- Christian’s had the right to wear crucifixes to work on religious grounds.

- Whole Life Sentences were torture and breach human rights

The UK government has been threatening to ignore rulings of the ECHR for years, but many have said, including some Tories, that this would breach international law. Current plans are to opt-out from parts of European convention of Human Rights in order to speed up deportation of asylum seekers, but not to rip it up, at least for the time being. The EU, has warned the UK that adherence to the ECHR was a red line for Brussels.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/20 ... eu-sources

Hopefully the UK will continue to agree to be subject to the jurisdiction of the ECHR, at least for as long as it is seen to be neutral and fair in its rulings towards the UK. I think it needs to address its reach in terms of what are human rights that apply to everyone regardless of governments and what are sovereign matters. Some feel it’s a shame the ECHR has the word European in it, but I would argue that it doesn’t have European Union in it, and although we have left the EU, the people of the UK are still Europeans and deserve to have their human rights protected against governments. To that end, the ECHR should have non-EU European Judges on its bench, which should include the UK along with countries like Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland that meet the court's acceptance criteria.

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Wed Nov 04, 2020 12:15 pm
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The European Court of Justice

The ECJ is modelled on the US Supreme Court, which holds jurisdiction over non-sovereign member states. But, you say, the EU comprises of sovereign states, and you’d be right to point out the contradiction. Normally a sovereign country has its own judicial system and its relations with other sovereign states are handled by international law. International law is a kind of gentleman’s agreement on acceptable ways for a sovereign country to behave. It doesn’t involve penalties or punishments like a sovereign legal system, but rather other countries show their displeasure by withholding cooperation, introducing sanctions, or isolating the offending country on the international stage. Breaking international law does have consequences, unless the country doing it is powerful enough that no one would dare take action against them, but enough of the US.

The UK legal system is based on common law; the legal system the EJC follows is based on Civil law. With common law , the judicial system is kept independent from the political system by basing judgements on case law and precedent. The legal system in most continental European countries, most notably Germany and France is based on civil law where judgements are based on statute. This gives the opportunity for politicians to pass laws against people and institutions, and in the case of the EU, against countries that oppose the political will of those that write the statutes. I’m being over simplistic here, in that the UK courts obviously have to follow statutes as well, but case law and president offer a degree of checks and balances.

The ECJ has been establish by those who seek to create a United States of Europe and forms part of the mechanism needed to make a USE happen. Being statute driven, laws can be written by Germany and France that punish any country opposing the USE like the UK. The contradiction of the ECJ acting like a European Supreme Court over sovereign nations disappears when the nations give up their sovereignty, and this starts with their legal systems.

The ECJ enforces EU law, which takes precedence over the law of member countries, it’s as simple as that. Countries bring cases to the ECJ for a variety of reasons;

- Some seek a United States of Europe and use the ECJ to enforce statutes against dissenting countries.

- Some seek to use EU law to get as much as they can out of their EU membership

- Some seek clarification on statutes which are often unclear, ambiguous and badly written (probably intentionally); to appeal against judgements; and to seek annulment of EU law as being illegal. About one third of all cases fall into this category.

- Some seek to stop shady commercial practices, such as sub-standard quality of products and food, or abuse of Intellectual Property Rights. About one third of all cases fall into this category.

I’m not saying the ECJ is biased; it’s enforces EU law as written in EU statutes. I’m not saying its judgements are predominately unfair; many of its rulings in people related cases (about 16% of their workload) sound perfectly fair and reasonable to me, like men and women getting a bus pass at the same age, or limiting maximum working hours, or payment to and tax of workers on secondment; but they do have costs, financially and on the people involved. Some of its rulings in financial areas seem just as reasonable like ordering the UK to charge VAT on the Stock Market’s multi-trillion derivatives markets.

What I am saying is the ECJ should not have jurisdiction over sovereign countries. Some ECJ rulings have been seen as politically motivated because the court is enforcing politically motivated EU statues, and that’s the problem because the ECJ is seen by some to be biased against countries like the UK that defend their common law legal system and their rights under it.

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Last edited by Beerman on Wed Nov 25, 2020 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Nov 06, 2020 11:22 am
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Schengen

The Schengen Agreement (named after a town in Luxemburg), was signed in 1985 by Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg. These 5 were EEC members, but Schengen wasn't actually part of the EEC; indeed, the other 5 EEC nations including the UK declined to join it. The idea was to create a Schengen Area in Europe, free from internal boarder checks and controls, and to eventually turn the dream of a Europe without borders into a reality. Armed with a Schengen Visa, the people from these 5 European countries could move freely between them, to explore each other’s cultures, to visit family and friends, to conduct business and to go get medical treatment without the need for travel documents. Although the Schengen Area was created by these 5 EEC countries and has been embraced by the EU since, it is a European thing, not an exclusively EU one. Indeed, some European countries like Norway and Iceland (and others), are not in the EU, but are in the Schengen Convention. Having said that, Germany and France, who many regard as the architects for a United States of Europe, have been the champions and driving forces behind the Schengen Convention; and Germany at least, still regards it as their baby.

https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/macron-calls-for-eu-free-movement-reform/

Getting to know you

Schengen now includes considerable freedoms for members to work in each other’s countries (with a European Work Visa), and to stay much longer, enabling people to study and even live there. As always, it’s not as simple as that, as each country has its own visa policies and programs that cover specific job shortages.

The Schengen Convention has created more freedom and openness in Europe. Youngsters in particular travel around Europe, experiencing different cultures, making friends and catching diseases. That’s the key to peace really. It’s a lot harder for politicians and their handlers to wage war when the people of the countries in question don’t want to because they quite like each other. It’s why Scotland and England don’t get on, because we don’t mix. The travel industry has capitalised on this and made it easy-peasy to jump on a bus, train or a plane and just go. There have been government initiatives that have helped this happen. Millions travel between EU countries every year creating an European identity in the travellers, and the feel of being a European citizen. People talk casually in bars and pubs about foreign cities they visited, and the experiences they had, as if they weren’t foreign at all. Schengen has helped bring Europe closer together and to some degree made it a safer place to live after 100s of years of European wars and especially after the last two big ones; and some of that was true.

What is true is that the EU have claimed Schengen as their own and woven it into the EU’s very being, and in doing so, they’ve managed to convince many young UK voters to vote to remain in the EU because they wanted to belong and many felt disenfranchised at home. All their travels and interactions with other European people and cultures allowed the EU to sell them the idea that they felt this way because they were EU citizens. The reality was they were feeling warm and fuzzy about being a European citizen not an EU one. It had also passed many by that the UK was not actually part of the Schengen Convention, so the warm and fuzzy feeling the Schengen area gave of belonging to something bigger was actually due to young travelling Brits just getting out there and visiting places, and had nothing to do with Schengen. Having to show passports and visas had proven no big deal, and people had been living and working abroad way before Schengen or the EU; you just need the right documents stamped.

By the way; the EU has decided to waive visa requirements for UK citizens travelling to the EU after BREXIT, so I don’t see travel or friendship being affected at all. I feel quite honoured that groups of young French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch people (I can’t list them all), would want to come over here and experience how we live; and long may it continue.

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Sat Nov 07, 2020 1:12 pm
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Immigration, Migration and Refugeeism in to the EU

First up, the terminology;

An immigrant is someone who crosses international borders to become a permanent resident in another country, to make that country their home, and not to return to their homeland. Immigrants are therefore often families including the elderly and children.

A migrant is someone who follows the work, either by moving about their own country or crossing international borders to seek temporary employment in other people’s countries. Their intension is to return home when they have earned enough money or when the work dries up. They often live cheaply and send their money home to their families. Migrants are therefore generally men of working age. Often young single males who do not have family commitments at home, may start off as migrants, but try to stay on as immigrants if they find they have a better life where they are, than they had where they were.

A refugee is actually a defined term recognised by international law. The United Nations Refugee Convention ratified by 144 countries describes a refugee as; “a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. A refugee that arrives on foreign soil looking for safety and claiming refugee status cannot be deported immediately. Their case must be reviewed before there is a chance they are sent back their homeland, as it must be considered whether their safety is in jeopardy. If it is unlikely the refugee will ever return to their homeland they will most likely be is granted permanent residency and become an immigrant. Refugees are normally housed in centres or camps if the numbers are high. The aim is not to integrate refugees into the society of their host nation, but to keep them safe until they can be returned home.

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Mon Nov 09, 2020 4:07 pm
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Immigration

I see 4 main areas of contention with immigration; economic, infrastructure, security, and cultural. I see extreme positions held by 2 opposing no compromise camps, one shouting unlimited immigration, and one shouting stop all immigration. In between these 2 warring factions sits the ‘managed immigration’ camp, who tend to get it in the neck from both sides, i.e. in the "if you don't agree with me then you agree with them" position.

Social infrastructure has a capacity

The National Health Service (NHS) only has so many beds, so many Consulting Specialists, Doctors, Nurses and Auxiliaries, so many intensive care beds, ward beds, so much equipment, so much medicine, so many medical centres, so many pharmacies, etc. The Justice System only has so many law courts, judges, barristers, solicitors, social workers, so much processing capacity, so many cells, prisons, so many prison officers, so many police officers, police specialists and special response units, so many police cars, police stations etc. There are only so many vacancies for jobs, only so many benefits and pensions that can be paid, only so much so much administration capacity etc. The housing system has limited public housing stock and only so many teams to maintain them. The list goes on covering every aspect of social infrastructure.

Social infrastructure has a cost

Funding something like the NHS means taxing every working person in the UK a certain rate until the day they retire, on a rolling generational basis. In any one year there will be a mix of ages in the contributors, some will have paid in for nearly 40 years, whereas some may be starting their first day at work and have paid in nothing. The sum total collected each year has to provide free medical care to everyone in the UK from the newborn to the elderly. If the short term demand increases, the choice if to increase taxes, cut back elsewhere like on benefits or defence, or to reduce the level of care until the crises passes. Long term increase in NHS capacity has to be planned and sustainably funded. If the population gently and smoothly increases then as each generation reach working age, start jobs, and start paying taxes, their increased numbers help cover the increased NHS costs to support the increased population. Funding free healthcare is like balancing an ecosystem, it can survive short sharp shocks providing there are not too many of them, but that’s not to say shocks do not cause pain to the population that rely on the care.

What I’ve said about the NHS, applies to the justice system, benefits, pensions, housing, and all the other institutions and social structures across the UK; uncontrolled population increase risks collapsing society. This applies to capitalist, socialist, and communist societies, because it is an economic issue that applies to countries, which is why countries have boarders to control the population.

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Last edited by Beerman on Fri Nov 20, 2020 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:53 am
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Economic, Security and Cultural Impacts of Immigration

By Economic impact I mean the short term impact on the economy; money in and money out, rather than the funding aspects of social infrastructure which I’ve already covered. By Security impact I mean obeying UK law. By Cultural impact I mean the impact on the English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish people and their national identities and cultures.

There was a hardening of attitude towards immigration throughout Europe following the 2014-2016 mass influx of immigrants, migrants and refugees trying to illegally enter the EU mainly through Turkey, but also through other Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy. These countries were soon overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people including whole families with children. The catalysts for this were the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria that had displaced millions. This was labelled a refugee crisis, but many believed most were immigrants and migrants, and many argued that refugee camps needed to be established outside the boarders of the EU in safe zones in their homelands, protected by the UN. Instead the EU tried to impose quotas on member nations to take in these hundreds of thousands, eventually to become over a million, of self-stranded people as immigrants, to which there was a massive backlash from the people of these countries.

The EU’s failure to manage immigration’s impact on member nation infrastructure and institutions came into sharp focus, as did the drawbacks of the free movement guaranteed under the Schengen convention. It soon became obvious that those that managed to escape their confinement at the EU boarder were free to go where they pleased within the EU and many ended up in slum camps in Calais trying to cross the channel into the UK. This was a humanitarian disaster, one the EU was unprepared for and totally mismanaged due to EU and UN incompetence, and many died trying to cross the Mediterranean as a result.

The EU boarder Mediterranean countries have been pretty much left to their own devices to sort this mess out, but have done so by deterring crossings and deporting back those that made the crossing alive. By 2018 illegal crossings had dropped by 80%, but at a terrible cost to the wannabe immigrants, and to the countries that had to shoulder the cost and the guilt of making the hard decisions.

The aftermath of this was the re-emergence of some internal borders within the EU despite protests by the European Commission, who in a desperate attempt to return to the good old days of free movement, allowed temporary border controls until the crises was over. The Netherlands proposed a mini-Schengen to exclude the EU boarder Mediterranean States which didn’t go down well with them, and boarder fences were erected in Serbia, Croatia and Hungary.

In 2015 the UK watched in horror at the chaos and lawlessness that resulted from Angela Merkel allowing 1 million immigrants into Germany in what must be the world’s greatest example of virtue signalling ever. As a result, immigrations became a major issue in the 2016 BREXIT referendum, especially amongst the working class voters who feared the economic impact of finacially supporting them, impact on jobs, impact infrastructure, and being culturally overwhelmed; this created a lot of tension between the Leave and Remain voters. Many left-wingers in the Remain camp who saw the people who wanted to come to the UK as refugees, and those that saw them as immigrants still wanted to welcome them with open arms as Angela Merkel had done. They accused the mainly white working class who wanted to control their numbers as racists xenophobes and inhuman. To this day, immigration remains a divisive topic in the UK, not helped by the far right hiding behind controlling the numbers in the name of preserving infrastructure and intuitions, when in reality they don’t want immigration at all and some would gladly pay unsettled immigrants to go back to their homeland.

Here’s an interesting article from 2017 about Germany’s decision to let 1 million immigrants into the country, maybe the event that tipped the Referendum in favour of BREXIT. Germany is home to half of the EU’s illegal immigrant population, something that is not lost on Germany’s poorer population in east of the country.

https://qz.com/1076820/german-election-how-angela-merkel-took-in-one-million-refugees-and-avoided-a-populist-upset/

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Last edited by Beerman on Wed Nov 25, 2020 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Nov 20, 2020 12:04 pm
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Immigration is a subject in its own right, so let’s wrap this up or else I’m not going to end up turning an EU thread into an immigration one. I’ve tried to say why I think immigration became such an issue for so many people of the UK during the BREXIT referendum and why the EU’s handling of the 2014-16 crises together with Germany’s actions probably tipped the balance towards the UK leaving. The issue of immigration hasn’t gone away; it hasn’t gone away for the EU, UK, or for individual European countries whether they are in the EU or not.

Immigration is not free, it has to be paid for, and the rich are not going to pay for it. So in general, it lowers the standard of living and quality of life of the majority working class people in the host country, so that it may raise the standard of living and quality of life of the poor people joining the host country. The people of the host country have to be aware of this and agree to it. They have to agree to the degree their lives will be impacted to help others, and to the degree they are prepared to accept degradation of infrastructure, institutions and services due to the increase of people using them, at least until they are expanded to cope. In short, there has to be agreement on the numbers of immigrants working class people are prepared to accept each year, where those people are going to go, how they are going to be housed, supported, educated and integrated, so that the host country doesn’t culturally turn into a collection of foreign homelands.

The UK’s Immigration Strategy could probably be described as ‘keep immigrant numbers low enough so nobody notices any impact’, which is the strategy used by most European countries. You can get away with it if your country is not on the front line like the EU boarder countries are along the northern Mediterranean coast; which is why the EU quota strategy alarmed so many countries sat well away from the mayhem. I suspect if any country in Europe were to put a proposal to its people to significantly increase immigration, it would be rejected; I suspect Angela Merkel got away with it because she never asked.

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Tue Nov 24, 2020 10:36 am
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The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)

The CFP was set up to manage fish stocks. It treats fish as a common EU resource. It gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds. Quotas are used to ensure stocks are conserved. The reality it is an excuse for EU nations to economically exploit UK fishing stock and basically rip off the UK and decimate its fishing industry.

The CFP is applauded by countries like France and Spain as it has been a nice little earner for them, so much so that their fishing industries have expanded under it. Now the UK has left the EU, France in particular insists on continued access to UK fish stocks to maintain its bloated fishing fleets, under threat of blockade to UK fish exports and a no-deal BREXIT.

France has made clear its intension to use blockage strategies to restrict access to European countries and their markets. The UK needs to do the following;

- Challenge France and the EU under international law and with the World Trade Organisation.

- Seek alternative routes into Europe other than through France, say through the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

- Restrict movement of goods into the UK from the EU to reciprocate restrictions of movement goods the EU has placed on the UK, starting with restrictions on French wine and cheese imports into the UK to value of UK fish being restricted by France.

- Ramp-up enforcement capabilities to impound fishing boats caught illegally fishing in UK waters.

The demand for UK fish still exists in Europe. The UK has left the EU, and EU countries like France will have to come to terms with the fact that it will be UK fishermen that will meet that demand, not EU fishermen.

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Tue Nov 24, 2020 11:05 am
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Common Agricultural Policy

The Common Agricultural Policy, affectionately known as CAP, is a crazy solution to a crazy problem, so let’s start with the crazy problem, and then you’ll see why the CAP is a crazy solution.

The Crazy Problem

A simplified version of the food supply chain is; farmers produce food, supermarkets buy it to sell to the public, and the public buy the food from the supermarkets. The business model is high volume, small margins. The supermarkets want to maximise profits by buying cheap and selling for as much as they can get away with without affecting the volume of sales. Should the supermarket raise their prices too much, other supermarkets will undercut them. Raise prices a little bit here and a little bit there, probably won’t upset the apple cart, but too much and you will lose out to your competitors. Thankfully, price monitoring of competitors and illegal price fixing with other supermarkets can save the day.

The supermarket’s high volume, low price model is ideal for driving small and medium sized grocery shops out of business that can’t compete on range or price of products, and today the only small shops you’ll see on the high street are mini-supermarket outlets. Some small newsagents and general stores, and some specialist butchers and greengrocers have survived; many as local shops providing convenience at a price, but the supermarkets have taken control of 99% of the food sales outlets.

That leaves the buying of food by supermarkets from the farmers; that is where higher margins are to be had, and they are ruthless in pursuing lower supplier costs. There have been stories of dairy farmers throwing milk down the drain and eventually destroying the herd, because it costs more to produce the milk than the supermarkets are willing to pay. Medium farms add to the cost cutting destruction of small family run farms as they can negotiate with the supermarkets on a high volume, low price basis; and the large farms can do so even more effectively putting pressure on the medium sized farms and taking out the small ones even more efficiently.

The Crazy Solution

The EU’s crazy solution is subsidies, delivered through the Common Agricultural Policy. As in feudal days, the supermarkets acting as the lord of the manor, pay the farmers who play the role of modern-day surfs, just enough for their food so that they can pay their bills, keep the farm running, and produce next year’s products. The EU’s solution, to pay the farmers a subsidy, allows the supermarkets to pay the farmers even less, knowing the farmers subsidy will allow them to do so. In effect the EU is subsidising the supermarkets. The farmers are now in a situation where they are dependent on subsidies just to remain in serfdom.

Just to add to the crazy, the EU pays subsidies based on the size of the farm, such that large farms operating intensive farming get more money than medium sized farms, and the small farms get next to nothing. This means subsidised medium sized farms become investment opportunities for the rich who hire the necessary staff to run it, and they consume the small farms around it. It also means the highly subsidised large farms become investment opportunities for the super rich, and they consume the medium sized farms around them, attracting ever bigger subsidies from the EU.

The EU claim the CAP provides member countries with food security, self sufficiency, and low prices, whilst protecting the environment. The reality is the CAP produces surpluses, much of which is eventually destroyed, at prices that cripple supplies and make them dependent upon subsidies just to survive; and through medium and large farm intensive farming practises, CAP destroys the environment.

The EU claim the CAP protects rural communities, the rural way of life, and farmer’s wages. The reality for the small family run farm is it destroys all of these, distributing much of the £50bn of subsidies to highly mechanised medium and large farms owned by the rich and super rich.

- Farmers represent 3% of the EU population; they generate 6% of its GDP and yet get 40% of the total EU budget each year.

- 80% of subsidies go to 20% of farms.

- There are about 10.3 million farms in the EU; 1.6 million farmers receive 85% of the subsidies. 25% of farmers receive 1.3% of subsidies

- Agricultural employment has fallen by 25% across Europe in the last decade.

- The number of farms in the EU has been in steep decline, but the amount of land used for production has remained steady.

The CAP is one of the largest subsidy programmes in the world and yet allocations are not transparent. According to certain interviews in newspapers, some MEPs in Brussels have admitted they often don’t know where the money goes.


BREXIT and UK farmers losing CAP subsidies

I think this article dated July 2019 sums up the fear felt by small UK farmers as the UK went into BREXIT negotiations.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-48880939

Quote:
Last year farmers received £3.5bn (7% of the CAP subsidy budget) in financial support through the EU's CAP.

One farmer from York said he feared farms could soon be "wiped out like the coal industry".

The government said farmers had been told subsidy levels would be maintained until the next general election. But the National Audit Office said farmers had been left unable to plan for the future and the main farming union called for "cast-iron commitments" from the government.



Wrestling subsidies off a farmer is like wrestling heroin off a junkie, you keep telling them "it’s killing you", but they say "I need it to survive", and you can understand the position they are in; basically between a rock and a hard place. Leaving the EU means that heavily subsidied EU farmers could now export cheap food to the UK and further undercut UK farmers. The UK has come up with a plan to subsidise its own farmers to the tune of £3.5bn to maintain the status quo, and would you believe it, the EU objected to that.

What’s more, over the next 7 years the plan is to move away from subsidies paid on the amount of land farmed, to ‘public goods’, which obviously includes food, but also none saleable stuff like countryside management, clean water, low pollution, managed hedgerows, animal welfare standards, conservation, wildlife, natural beauty and heritage, and opportunities to engage with the natural environment. Details need to be worked out, and UK subsidies will continue until they are, but the policy seems quite revolutionary, and if it comes to fruition, it will have a positive impact on the environment unlike the destructive CAP.

This doesn’t solve the problem of UK supermarkets screwing UK suppliers into the ground, only legislation and regulations can do that through minimum price setting based on cost of production, and/or minimum acceptable profit. Maybe the UK government will gain some control over the excesses of the supermarkets and protect the UK farming industry from them now that it is free from Brussels, but the supermarkets have so much power and so many politicians on their side. You never know, miracles can happen. There’s no chance of it happening in the EU; too many vested interests, too many individuals and countries on nice little earners.

Talking of which, it’s worth noting that France, the once undisputed King of CAP subsidies, is losing its crown to the EU's central and eastern countries and has seen its share of the CAP slide from 22% to 15% in the past decade, that’s down from £11bn to just £7.5bn. OK, France is a net contributor to the EU to the tune of £6.6Bn, less than the UK’s £8.7bn, but that's more than you can say for most EU countries.

This highlights that it’s not just about net contributions; it’s also about the damage subsidies do to the industry. The UK experienced this with quotas in the Common Fisheries Policy destroying the UK fishing Industry, and we experienced it with subsidies in the CAP destroying the UK Farming Industry. Clearly the Cap needs to be reformed, if only to fund it now that the UK has closed its wallet and walked away, and to give the EU credit, it has looked at Capping, Convergence, and Coupled Payments.

- Capping. This would limit subsidies to £90,000 per farm. The central and eastern EU countries had a fit over this as they have been turning land over to farming to make mega farms for mega subsidies.

- Convergence. This would ensure every country gets the same subsidy rate per hectare, which currently they don’t because of lower land prices and labour costs in the eastern countries. Obviously this is only going to balance the books now the UK has left if everyone gets the lower rate. Needless to say the EU’s western countries hate his idea because they’d get less money, and the central and eastern countries want the same high rate as the western countries get.


- Coupled Payments. This links subsidies to struggling sectors of the farming industry. Again, this is only going to balance the books if other sectors get less and everyone gets less overall. As expected, most countries are in favour of this, providing it doesn't affect the subsidies they get in other sectors; so the effect would be to increase the CAP budget, not decrease it. Not only would Coupled Payments exacerbate the problem of CAP putting small farmers out of business that weren’t on the 'struggling sector list', but would encourage every subsidy seeker in the EU farming sector to start up businesses in these subsidy-rich sectors, bringing quality and prices crashing down.

As usual with the EU, there is no agreement, each country is out for what they can get, and no one wants to compromise. They will argue about reforming the CAP until it financially collapses.

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Thu Nov 26, 2020 11:37 am
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EU Corruption and Lack of Transparency

You have to search the internet to really appreciate just how opaque the EU is when it comes to handing out the money. Try it for yourself, there's next to nothing there. What there is, are snippets that have to be pieced together. Try finding a recent list of CAP subsidies by country, or the subsidies received by the top 10 farms, who owns them and how the land came to be turned over to farming (compulsory purchase at low prices and cronyism). The whole system, but especially the CAP is corrupt, with politicians in central and eastern countries creaming off millions, and the rich and the super rich making billions in what has been described as mafia-style land grabs. The New York Times did an investigative piece in 2019 on it.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/17/worl ... ption.html

A subsequent fraud investigation by the EU have led to a condition being placed on the next 7-year budget hand-out. Countries that have broken the law will receive reduced subsidies; up to £160bn over 7 years has been estimated.

Quote:
European lawmakers are now debating the renewal of the bloc’s next seven-year farm bill. National leaders want more discretion on how to spend the money, and farmers want fewer administrative requirements. In Brussels, there is little appetite for a major reform that would impose greater oversight on governments; even those that have manipulated or abused the system.

So the latest proposal, which will be debated in the coming months, gives national leaders like Mr. Babis (Czech Prime minister and billionaire agriculturalist) and Mr. Orban (Hungary’s Prime minister) even greater power to set farm policy and oversee spending, despite allegations of corruption. Internal auditors have criticized that proposal, and several lawmakers objected Tuesday.

“We can’t even adequately police corruption,” said Sheila Ritchie of Scotland. “What on Earth makes us think self-policing compliance is going to work?”

Johannes Hahn, the European budget administrator, defended the bloc’s approach to corruption and abuse, noting that European auditors have investigated and audited Mr. Babis. But the Babis investigations also reveal how accountability is still limited. Years ago, European investigators recommended that Mr. Babis be charged with fraud, but they lack jurisdiction or authority to bring charges. The case has languished in the Czech Republic. And the audit is expected to drag on for many months, during which time Mr. Babis can still vote on the European budget.


Poland is another country on the list over shady practices, corruption and unacceptable democratic standards. This has lead to Hungary and Poland vetoing the EU budget arguing the EU has no jurisdiction over their sovereign courts, which although true, doesn't mean the EU should reward their corruption with subsidies. Germany seems to have taken on the role of negotiator in this crisis, but is struggling to find a way around it. The Netherlands have said they would veto the budget if the EU turns a blind eye to the corruption, so there seems to be deadlock. The only way out may be for the EU to expel Hungary, Poland and possibly the Czech Republic if they join the Veto, to save the EU, as no budget equals no EU.

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Sat Nov 28, 2020 10:53 am
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Brexit: EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier Arrives In UK To Resume 'physical Negotiations'

The European Union’s chief negotiator Mr Michel Barnier arrives today in the UK to continue EU-UK post-Brexit “physical” negotiations. Harrah!

Image

Mr Barnier said that the same significant divergences persist. The deadline is nearing and many feel that the United Kingdom would have to exit the bloc without a deal.

He comes with a generous offer that the UK fishing quota could be raised to 18%, which means the UK would only lose 82% of its fish stocks. Wow! Clearly such a good deal should also apply to the EU where the UK gets an 82% quota over vineyards in the south of France. We could use our old fishing boats to ship the now UK wine to EU markets.

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Last edited by Beerman on Sat Dec 05, 2020 12:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Nov 28, 2020 11:08 am
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Post Re: EU

It will be no deal, which was the plan all along. Such a waste of time.

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Sat Dec 05, 2020 9:57 am
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Absolutely; President Macron has said he'd veto any deal that doesn't give France what their fishing industry wants, which is 80% of the catch in UK waters. That’s not going to happen, so even if Mr Barnier does agree to the UK’s terms, any draft deal would be rejected.

The question now is, if France takes unilateral action against the UK, will the EU Court of Justice stop them for breaking EU law? This is important as the UK will need to know who to take retaliatory action against, France or the EU. If it's France, then movement of goods and services with the EU can continue whilst the UK targets France's agricultural imports into the UK with quotas and import tariffs. If the EU backs France's action then the UK would need to selectively retaliate against all EU membership nations, pick out the ones most reliant upon UK imports and hurt them financially by their restriction.

A trade war with France and/or the EU is a real possibility if UK fishermen are not permitted to take their catch to EU markets through France, then this could escalate to sanctions, including the UK withdrawing from the EU's Court of Justice jurisdiction, and withholding its estimated €20 Billion net contribution towards the EU 2020-2027 funding cycle that was agreed in previous BREXIT negotiations. This estimate is based on a paper whose link I’ve provided below which estimates (1) the UK’s outstanding EU budgetary commitments (RAL), (2) the EU spending in the UK, (3) Pension/sickness insurance liabilities related to EU staff, and (4) the UK rebate

Quote:
The UK’s net contribution to the 2021-2027 MFF

The magnitude of the UK’s total net contribution to the next MFF will likely:

• The UK will contribute €35.5 billion to the RAL in 2021-2027;

• EU spending from the RAL in the UK in 2021-2027 will amount €14.3 billion;

• The UK will contribute €3.9 billion in 2021-2027 to the liabilities of EU staff pensioners;

• The UK will receive a rebate in 2021, amounting to €5.3 billion, after its contribution to the 2020 annual budget.

Therefore, my estimate for the total net contribution of the UK to the EU budget in 2021-2027 is €35.5 – €14.3 + €3.9 – €5.3 = €19.8 billion. This is the estimate I use in my paper on net balances in the next MFF.


https://www.bruegel.org/2019/12/how-muc ... eu-budget/

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Sat Dec 05, 2020 1:39 pm
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The Divorce Settlement

According to an August 2020 Sun newspaper report featuring an interview with the Conservative politician Sir Ian Duncan Smith, the UK divorce bill from the EU is a staggering £40 billion. What! That’s twice the estimate of what the UK owes. Furthermore, this doesn’t include the UK’s share of the debt the EU has run up, that adds another £120, making a total of £160 billion.

Quote:
Along with the stated £40 billion divorce payment to the EU, Sir Iain declared the UK will still be locked into the loans issued by the European Investment Bank and the European Financial Stability Mechanism in the future. Both agencies have paid out billions across the EU 27 and the UK's own repayment of the share will be 12 percent. Due to this, the UK's payment could reach as high £160 billion, but could go beyond that due to the coronavirus outbreak. Due to this, the former Tory leader demanded the agreement must be reopened or risk being locked into Europe's debt post-BREXIT. We would basically be boot-strapped to Europe for the foreseeable future. If people thought we were only paying £39 billion they can forget it. We’ve got a potential bill of £160 billion and Covid could raise that massively. This would lock us into the EU’s debt mountain.”


Like I say “When you get into one of these groups, there's only a couple of ways you can get out; one is death, the other is mental institutions". Scotland beware, don’t gain independence from the UK only to give it away to the EU. You may not be able to afford to leave.

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Mon Dec 07, 2020 4:31 pm
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Lack of Transparency over EU debt

Further to the comments Ian Duncan Smith made on the loans issued by the European Investment Bank and the European Financial Stability Mechanism;

Quote:
Both agencies have paid out billions across the EU 27 and the UK's own repayment of the share will be 12 percent


Actually all Duncan Smith is saying is the UK borrowed money from the EU instead of from international markets. I assume the UK would have borrowed this money anyway, so to include it in the £40 billion divorce package is not correct in my opinion. If the UK has to repay the loan in one go, then it would probably borrow the money to do so and in effect transfer the debt to the new lender. The only element of divorce settlement involved would be from the difference in interest rates offered by the old and new lenders.

If the UK borrowed £120 billion and that's 12% of the loans the EU has made to member nations, then the EU must have handed out £1 trillion in loans. I know the EU member states hold massive Government Debt individually, but this £1 trillion is in addition to that; and as usual there is little to no information on how much debt the EU holds. The shareholders of the European Investment Bank are the EU member states, so again, it's not clear where this £1 trillion has come from, but I assume from international lenders rather than member state deposits.

I can’t find any sort of breakdown on this £40 billion the UK has to pay the EU to leave. There’s no way of knowing why it’s so high, or how it is broken down. The lack of transparency and probity is amazing considering we are talking about billions of pounds here. I doubt if the European Parliament or Commission know where the money goes; the place is a crook's paradise.

Debt Clock

Check out the EU member state debt clock in this link

https://www.smava.de/european-debt-clock/

Scroll down to the bottom to see the combined total; €10.75 trillion, plus there’s the money borrowed by the European Investment Bank which is at least €1.1 trillion (£1 trillion).

The UK is no better. National debt around £2T and climbing; 100% of GDP.

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Tue Dec 08, 2020 10:16 am
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Financial implications of BREXIT

The Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) is the EU’s 7 year spending plan

The MFF for 2014–2020 was €1,083 billion.

The MFF for 2021-2027 is €1,074 billion.

On the face of it, the post BREXIT MFF doesn’t look too bad; down €9 billion.

The EU will not receive the UK’s net contribution over the next 7 years, which is about €77 billion; that’s using the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) annual net contribution figure of €11 billion, not the EU’s figure of €9.7 billion net contributions which includes direct subsidies to UK research facilities and universities and non-UK business based in the UK the benefits of which are shared by EU member countries and add little to the UK’s GDP.

The loss of €77 billion of UK contributions over 7 years is offset by the €44 billion (£40 billion) UK divorce bill, so the MFF should have gone down by €33 billion not €9 billion. The EU may borrow this or raise member nation contributions, which over 27 nations, isn’t be too bad, assuming it’s spread evenly and Germany and France don’t end up paying for it all. But the EU has expanded its budget beyond the MFF for the next planning round to include a €750 billion package called ‘Next Generation EU’ which will include COVID-19 relief and ‘The Green Reset’ as it is popularly called. Next Gen EU funds projects and subsidises initiatives relating to environmental issues, such as climate change, biodiversity, green investment, and digital investment etc. It sounds like the EU version of the USA’s Green New Deal.

So the overall EU budget (MFF + Next Gen EU) is actually €1,824 billion; up €741 billion from the previous MFF. The EU is going to have to borrow around €800 billion to balance its books over the next 7 years, and that doesn’t include the losses EU member states will suffer from a no-deal BREXIT and the loss of trade resulting from tariffs and quotas that will follow. I would be surprised if the EU didn’t end up borrowing well over €1 trillion. I've not seen any estimate yet on how much a no-deal BREXIT is going to affect the EU market and how much revenue is going to be lost to fund the MFF; it could jepodise the stability and even the future of the EU as member nations may be asked to contribute more and take less which is going to cause a lot of discord,

EU central debt is going to make it a lot harder for smaller nations to get out of the EU when their share of the debt is handed back to them.

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Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:51 pm
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Where’s the No Deal BREXIT planning?

For 47 years the UK has been an integral part of the EEC and EU. Not surprisingly UK trade has become dependent on the EU single market to such an extent that half of UK exports go to the EU, and breaking this dependency is not an easy matter. The problem UK exporters have in moving away from a single market that currently doesn’t charge tariffs, is you can only make that decision once you know what the new EU tariffs will be, and if they are more than tariffs that would be levied elsewhere. The problem the UK government keep giving our importers and exporters, is an ever extending deadline on the decision to move and no planning details.

If UK exporters jump the gun and move too soon, and it turns out there is a BREXIT deal that doesn’t involve tariffs, then they will end up signing export contracts with countries under WTO rules under worse trade arrangements than if they had stayed with the EU. Then when they try to go back to old EU customers, they find they have found alternative suppliers. But by not moving away they could leave themselves in a position of paying more in tariffs to the EU than they might otherwise have paid if they had sought other overseas markets. It’s been an impossible position for UK exporters who have basically been left in limbo. The UK government should have reached its decision on a deal/no deal a year ago to allow a year of trading with the EU whilst UK exporters and importers, find alternative customers and make alternative contractual arrangements.

Maybe the UK government has done this work for its exporters and importers and is just keeping its cards close to its chest whilst EU negotiations conclude. If not, and there is no BREXIT deal, then UK exporters and importers face WTO tariffs around 10% on manufactured goods and 30% on food and drink, meaning reduced export sales revenue, and UK consumers face price rises on imports, moving demand from foreign goods to cheaper UK prodcued alternatives.

It is ridiculous that 2 weeks before the deadline of the UK leaving the EU, we still don’t know if there is officially a no deal, although nearly everyone is admitting this is the case. Although this doesn’t matter practically as it’s already a year too late, symbolically, it’s a slap in the face for all exporters and importers, both in the UK and in the EU. The two sides have negotiated themselves to their minimum position and both have indicated their willingness to walk away if their minimum position is not met. So, for goodness sake, walk away and let everyone get on with it the mountain of work there is to do.

Fisheries Example

My suggestion for fisheries would be for the UK to charge foreign fishing vessels a licence fee to fish in UK waters and impose quotas on fish where there’s a UK market demand for them. This would ensure UK fishermen are guaranteed access to catches like cod and haddock, plaice and sole that can be sold in the UK. The license code could be transmitted by the foreign vessel and checked by UK fisheries enforcement patrol vessels. Quotas could be checked at sea by inspection, or at customs set up where the catches are landed.

This arrangement would not only uphold UK sovereignty over UK waters ,and allow the UK fishing fleet to re-establish itself and expand by increasing quotas as and when needed, but would also bring in revenue from a UK resource that would otherwise be underutilised. But all this needs time to be put in place and got up and running, along with handing of violation and punishment procedures.

All this should have been started on 31 December 2019, not a year later on 31 December 2020. Now there will have to be a year of UK enforcement of its waters against illegal fishing, a year of lost license fee revenue, and a year of uncertainty for the UK fishing fleet as the EU applies tariffs on the fish sold to the EU, and that assumes the French don't illegally blockade UK fish imports.

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Tue Dec 15, 2020 11:46 am
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