On June 23, 2016 the United Kingdom held an historic referendum so that voters could decide whether they wanted to leave the European Union governance architecture and over 52% of UK voters elected to “Leave” the EU.
Subsequent divorce negotiations between the two sides have been sporadic with short bursts of progress.
In recent days, UK Prime Minister Theresa May suggested to EU negotiators that a figure of £40 billion would be an appropriate amount for the UK to pay the European Union as a sort of “divorce fee” to allow the UK to leave while still gaining a favorable post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.
However, the day after PM May suggested the £40 billion divorce payment, her government tabled an autumn budget with massive budget reductions for the already cash-strapped British military, one assumes to be able to afford the unprecedented divorce bill that the UK must now pay before March 29, 2018.
This blog post discusses the pros and cons of UK Ministry of Defence cuts and suggests a better way to afford the Brexit divorce bill.
The Responsibility of Government
The Number One responsibility of every government in the world is the protection of the country’s citizens and the sovereignty of the national borders. Everything else by definition, must be of lower importance. That’s how countries work.
Yes, even the UK’s cherished and highly ranked National Health Service (NHS) funding must fall to second place behind the safety and security of the country — as the NHS could (if worst came to worst) access significant billions in funding via corporate sponsorship — an option not open to the military.
How to Determine Military Funding
The size, composition and funding of the UK military MUST be determined by its overall mission — not arbitrary decisions by bureaucrats. Full stop.
(NOTE 1) Long-term stable defence funding is far better than generous amounts one year, followed by low funding the next (due to arbitrary budgetary decisions not based on actual military need) and then, who knows what funding they might get the year after? It’s the absolute worst way to fund a military. Pencil-pushing bureaucrats might as well be working for the enemy at that point.
(NOTE 2) This blog post isn’t “for” or “against” Theresa May or Philip Hammond, it’s a general statement on how to best fund any military, anywhere.
(NOTE 3) This blog post is based solely on the opinion of its author, although any military officer in the world would agree were they to view it from the UK perspective.
So, what is the mission – in order of priority?
- Absolutely 100% protection of the land, sea and airspace around the UK.
- NATO commitment.
- Commonwealth mutual aid.
- United States mutual aid.
- Potential Commonwealth member mutual aid.
- Only UN Security Council approved missions (and never any unapproved foreign missions)
- Creation of a HUGE civil engineering department, on par with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which build many of America’s roads, bridges, dikes, levees, ports and other infrastructure too important to be left to corporations where profit makes the final decisions. Oh, by the way, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saves the American taxpayer more money than it costs when compared to having U.S. infrastructure projects built by corporations. The UK has missed “windows of opportunities bigger than the sky” by not building critical national infrastructure using the UK military under a USACE-style system, and it has cost multi-billions more that it should.
- Humanitarian assistance delivered to any natural disaster zone or human-caused crisis anywhere in the world.
Military forces perform better when their mission is clearly defined, when they have stable funding (and once the amounts have been promised by the government, untouchable) and have very clearly defined powers.
Tampering with this age-old formula for success is the surest way to help any military fail in its appointed role, and will work to demoralize the troops and cost the taxpayers much more than by using universally accepted practice.
- To watch a segment from LBC’s The Nigel Farage Show on the topic, click here.
- To read a related Westmonster.com blog, click here.
“It’s starting to get a little rich.” That seems to be the general opinion of UK taxpayers judging by the thousands of terse comments posted in the comments section of UK newspapers, on UK talk shows, and in places like YouTube where hundreds of Brexit videos (both pro and con) await your viewing pleasure.
But the general consensus seems to be that these extremely large numbers will require huge tax increases and may reflect badly on the Conservative Party’s chances in the next election.
It’s Fun, Fun, Fun, ’till Daddy takes the T-Bird away as the Beach Boys tune goes.
It’s great to make nice with the EU people and pay them billions in exit fees, but after a certain large number is reached taxpayers are likely to revolt, signalling the end of the Conservative reign for the foreseeable future.
Why Should There be a Divorce Bill at All?
This still, even at this late date, hasn’t been explained. AT ALL.
Not even Theresa May’s government seems to have received guidance from the EU Parliament or their negotiators as to why the UK should pay the outrageous sums demanded by the EU.
What’s it for? Everyone wants to know. The silence on this is deafening.
Both sets of numbers, whether proposed by the EU or the UK seem completely arbitrary to put it mildly.
Let’s Leave on Good Terms
Having said that, when you exit a marriage or a long-term business agreement it’s expected you don’t leave the other party in the lurch. Of course some kind of payment for loss of opportunity by the jilted party is de rigueur if you want warm trade relations to continue.
It’s also good business to NOT ask for wholly outrageous amounts of money (too late for that, I guess) otherwise, they risk ‘poisoning the well’ and even if trade continues, over time evermore billions of UK trade will be done with the U.S. and billions less with the EU.
What is Fair?
No change in money flowing across the English Channel for four more years (but no lump sum payment to the EU either) and Brexit can occur as scheduled on March 29, 2019 — but until then, the UK should continue to receive the exact same benefits from the EU as it will remain a paid-up member until that date. (Hey, no shorting us!)
After that date, the UK can continue to pay the EU the same £8 billion (net) for three more years — a full three years beyond Brexit day.
- Article 50 triggered March 29, 2017, therefore,
- March 29, 2017 to March 29, 2018 (£8 billion net)
- March 29, 2018 to March 29, 2019 (£8 billion net)
- Also, March 29th 2019 will be Brexit day, and after that date the UK will no longer be an EU member
- March 29, 2019 to March 29, 2020 (£8 billion net)
- March 29, 2020 to March 29, 2021 (£8 billion net)
- March 29, 2021 to March 29, 2022 (£8 billion net) and the final payment to the EU
Take it or leave it Mr. Barnier, or the EU won’t get to sell their goods to the UK after March 29, 2019 except under WTO rules.
Many UK citizens will miss buying BMW’s, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagens, etc. for a couple of weeks (hehehe) until the EU would come to its senses. I bet EU heads would roll if it ever came to that.
OK, Seems Reasonable Enough. But What Will the UK Get in Return?
Nobody seems to know…
It’s always a busy time for a British Prime Minister, isn’t it? Poor Winston had WWII to deal with and faced some very tough weeks, several British PM’s had utterly sleepless weeks during the height of the Cold War, and Maggie endured a backsliding economy, the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands debacle, and destabilization in Zimbabwe — and sometimes all in the same week.
Theresa May on the other hand, has “only” Brexit to worry about — complete with an increasingly hostile EU Parliament, Donald Tusk demanding evermore unearned money ahead of any agreement with the EU, a Conservative Party that offers lukewarm support, Cabinet members either not communicating well or going off in various directions, and uncertainty in Zimbabwe an important Commonwealth partner.
Sheesh Theresa, anything else?
Where Do We Go Now?
There are only two outcomes here; Either Theresa May crumples under the strain of things imposed on her by others, or she tosses the lot of them aside and rises like the British lion with steely eyed determination, hunting down each challenge and owning it.
And that will determine the Theresa May premiership for future historians.
Frankly, she’s been too nice, too accommodating, too gentle and too PC, and these are wonderful attributes for normal folk but terrible liabilities for sitting PM’s.
Such niceties are detrimental to progress for Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings or Queens, Popes, and Generals and Admirals because at a certain point someone (anyone!) must stand up and make the tough decisions and be seen to be in charge by their own people and by the public.
And in Britain’s case it’s got to be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Full stop.
Don’t Hold Back Theresa, Tell Us How You Really Feel!
When the day finally arrives that Theresa May unloads on everyone trying to keep her ‘down’ is the day she will finally rise above the problems that surround her — most of which aren’t her fault BTW — although by being too nice, too docile, too accommodating, she may have allowed them to continue longer than is healthy for her and her government.
Theresa May’s To-Do List, November 20 – 27
- Fire the most problematic Cabinet minister (whomever that is)
- Tell Donald Tusk to take a hike! (Yes he’s a very nice man, but he’s NOT working for Britain’s best interest, is he?) See you sometime after January 1st, Donald.
- Inform the EU Parliament that a WTO Brexit is now Britain’s default option (but if they want to work something out, sure, we’ll consider it)
- Call the CEO’s of VW, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Seimens, and other notable EU companies to ask if they still want to export to the UK. (Just a friendly question, not one word more, not one word less) That will get them phoning their EU parliamentarians to ensure free and fair trade with Britain continues after Brexit!
- Invite Nigel Farage and other well-known Brexiteers to 10 Downing St. for a working lunch. (Why would she do this? Think about it. All she ever hears is the tired Project Fear / Professional Remoaner party line. A PM needs to hear both sides of every issue, every week, in order to make the best decisions for the country)
- She needs to inform her Conservative Party that lukewarm support just won’t cut it any longer and that party fortunes are falling due to the aforesaid lukewarm support. It’s time for the party to throw their entire weight behind Ms. May as the next 16 months are chock-a-block full and leadership contests are quite out of the question if anything of value is to be accomplished in that small-ish timeframe.
- Theresa May, more than anyone should be calling for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe to replace the possibly deposed but ailing 93-year old Robert Mugabe and offering as many UK and Commonwealth election observers as Zimbabwe requests. And she should dangle an amount equivalent to 1/10th the annual UK foreign aid budget in front of Zimbabwe in order to put some impetus behind the drive toward free and fair democratic elections there. Maybe Grace Mugabe will win one election which might smooth the transition to open democracy? You never know until you try.
- Ask the Foreign Office why the UK spends foreign aid money in any country that isn’t a Commonwealth member nation? It astonishing this has been allowed to happen. Keep the money in the family, Theresa! (No, it’s not her fault, it’s been going on for ages) Not one sterling in foreign aid should go to a non-Commonwealth nation. Ever. There are plenty of other countries to assist non-Commonwealth developing nations and it’s high time for them to step-up.
- Keep standing up loud and proud in the House of Commons. Some of Theresa May’s best days in office have been the recent PMQ’s where the PM dressed like the owner of the House of Commons and blasted anyone who tried to put one over on her. At the very least, give as good as you get Ms. Prime Minister.
- A lot less with the pleasantries Theresa, and a lot more banging your fist on the Cabinet table. If you don’t appear to be in charge, you’re not.
Don’t Let Brexit be ‘The Biggest Thing In The UK’ or the EU Will Own Your Narrative!
Sure, Brexit is important. But it’s only a means to an end.
What’s really important are the opportunities that come after Brexit, like the ability to trade with any nation in the world under rules decided through friendly bilateral talks.
It’s the ability to have a UK-only foreign policy. It’s the ability to allow only the people into the country that Britain wants and can afford to house and provide jobs — instead of being forced to accept millions of cast-offs from other nations, and to tailor Britain’s new infrastructure construction to actual, definable needs, instead of trying to provide enough appropriate housing during a time of staggeringly irregular refugee and economic migrant flows.
It’s the ability to create UK-only laws with the guidance of Britain’s best legal minds and with the approval of British citizens. (Although the European Court will continue to be an important source of guidance to UK courts, for a time)
And the UK won’t be sending £8 billion (net) annually to the EU just to be nice neighbours. ‘Oh Luvvie, those nice Brits filled up the EU Parliament wine cellar again!’
Finally, ‘The Biggest Thing In The UK’ will again be the opportunity for it to become all that it can and should be — without restraint. And that should be Job Number One for every UK Prime Minister. Always.