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Message Received, Theresa May?

by John Brian Shannon

It’s not you Theresa May, it’s your draft Withdrawal Agreement that’s caused your problems!

That can’t be said enough, for it’s the only glaringly wrong thing that Theresa May has done throughout her premiership.

Perhaps ‘wrong’ is too strong a word as it’s more like an error of omission (but an ‘omission’ that has the potential to cost the country dearly!) and her brutal personal schedule, plus a lack of support from her party, added to the lonely battle of one human being against many in Brussels must have contributed to Theresa May’s failure to grasp the importance of the fourth and final piece of the Brexit puzzle.

It’s been pointed out many times that more people want you to fail than want you to succeed when you’re a British Prime Minister. The UK political system and certain media outlets are particularly harsh on British PM’s, but that’s the life those politicians chose so there can be no complaining. Although we can understand she might experience a high level of frustration from time to time.


Theresa May Comments After the Conservative Party Confidence Vote

With characteristic class and resolve Theresa May stood outside 10 Downing St. last night after what was surely the most trying day of her premiership and spoke candidly about the result of the Conservative Party confidence vote — which she won — but not by the landslide predicted.

Some 117 Conservative MP’s voted against her staying on as leader and 200 voted for her to continue.

Though Theresa May won on numbers, former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was forced out even though she survived a similar confidence vote with 4 more votes than Theresa May has just done allowing Theresa to continue her premiership.

Which must send Theresa May a clear message. And that message must be that at least 17.4 million Britons and 117 Conservative Party members are very concerned about getting stuck in a permanent Customs Union/Single Market with the European Union — with no chance to leave it, ever!

That’s a bad deal by any standard, and I hope the Prime Minister recognizes that millions of Britons (and non-British, but significant stakeholders in the UK economy) are genuinely concerned and it isn’t about political tub-thumping.


Britons Need Proof the Backstop Has Been Removed or a Firm End Date to Customs Union Membership Has Been Agreed

It’s of no use for EC President Donald Tusk and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker to tell Theresa May that the Irish backstop won’t ever be employed so don’t worry about it. It’s equally of no use for a non-legally binding addition to the Political Declaration document. It’s not worth one penny.

Because neither Donald Tusk nor Jean-Claude Juncker will remain in their posts after the EU elections next year, and their successors won’t be obligated in any way to follow non legally binding agreements that were made prior to their own swearing-in ceremony. Not only that, but unless these terms are written into the legal document (the draft Withdrawal Agreement) they aren’t binding, they’re just fluff.

The only way to solve this problem is for Theresa May to inform both the EC and EU presidents that her party will not vote up a draft Withdrawal Agreement in which there is an Irish backstop, or one that doesn’t have a firm end-date for Customs Union membership. And the EU can forget about the £39 billion divorce payment.

“Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, a former party leader and a Brexiteer who voted against Mrs May in Wednesday’s vote, said he wanted to “send a strong message” to the PM.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We cannot go on just with the idea that a fiddle here and a fiddle there is what the problem is.”

Instead, he said Mrs May should say that the £39bn the UK has agreed to pay the EU as part of the divorce deal is “at risk”.

“They have got to say to the EU… we are not committed to this £39bn unless we get some resolution.” — BBC

For as long as the existing Withdrawal Agreement continues to include a backstop clause and/or lacks a Customs Union automatic escape date, I strongly suspect it will continue to be voted down in the UK House of Commons, and if the EU is looking to drive the UK into a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’ they’re on that trajectory with certainty.

Let me repeat: As long as there is a backstop, the draft Withdrawal Agreement won’t pass in the UK House of Commons.

Alternatively: As long as there’s no automatic end date to Customs Union membership, the draft Withdrawal Agreement won’t pass in the UK House of Commons.

Like it or not, that’s where we are. And the job of politicians is to fix political problems. So, it’s time to get to work, Theresa May.


Is Theresa May Up For It?

Full marks to Theresa May for making it through another brutal day. Why anyone would want to be a British Prime Minister is quite beyond me — but more power to her! — especially if she gets the backstop removed from the draft Withdrawal Agreement, or if an automatic end-date to Customs Union membership is added to the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

You’re becoming a better Prime Minister every month, Theresa May.

Now just meet this final challenge and you’ll be 4-out-of-4 and able to score highly among British Prime Ministers throughout Britain’s history. Your country needs you to be that good, that dedicated, and that strong!

It’s Not You Theresa May… It’s Your Brexit Deal!

by John Brian Shannon

Very Important People said it would never happen.

They said it would be impossible for Britain’s 1922 Committee to gather enough votes to call for a leadership contest in the Conservative Party. They laughed, they wrote Op/Eds mocking the UK Conservatives, and they called the European Research Group (ERG) a paper tiger — because word on the street was — they couldn’t muster enough votes to challenge Theresa May’s premiership.

Yet, within one week of Theresa May bringing home a substandard draft Withdrawal Agreement, the ERG and its friends gathered enough votes to call for a leadership review and they made it look easy. Well done!

Tonight, between the hours of 6:00pm and 8:00pm London time, Theresa May will be reapplying for her job, and if she loses, she will remain Prime Minister until the Conservative Party chooses a new leader. If she wins, the Conservative Party won’t be able to contest her leadership for 12-months no matter what good or bad she does during those 12-months.

So it all comes down to this;

Do you trust Theresa May with the reins of power for the next 12-months leaving the Conservative Party as mere passengers (accomplices?) in the Brexit bus that Theresa May is driving?


Theresa May Has Nobody to Blame but Herself

It’s the Prime Minister who has created this situation. When you’re driving the car and you don’t like where you’ve ended-up, it’s 100% your fault.

Theresa May lollygagged her way through the first 2-years of her premiership, and then suddenly returned from Brussels 2-weeks ago with the ol’ hurry up and sign this draft Withdrawal Agreement before-the-ink-is-dry gambit.

Which seemed a bit off to say the least. Uh, can we read it first, or do we have to vote on it… unread? British MP’s seemed taken-aback by this approach and it took a few days for them to respond. And respond they have!

The Prime Minister is going to hear loud and clear from her party tonight, and by the end of it she may be a lame-duck Prime Minister or she’ll win them over and be free of leadership contests for the next year.

Either way, it’s on her.


It’s Not Her Leadership – It’s the Substandard Draft Withdrawal Agreement

Theresa May has said all along that she wanted a real Brexit and made sweeping statements like, “Brexit means Brexit” and “No Deal is better than a Bad Deal” and “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and other, similar, strong statements which the UK public and media ate-up like chocolate. Oh, how we loved her!

But now that it’s time to deliver, the Prime Minister has fudged on one crucial part of Brexit and it’s arguably the most important part of all — the sudden appearance of a Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ — which could prevent the UK from ever arranging its own trade deals in the post-Brexit timeframe.

You can check for yourself, the words “Northern Ireland backstop” never appeared in the 2016 referendum on EU membership. And, as there wasn’t any other UK referendum on EU membership since the United Kingdom joined the European Union in 1993, that term never appeared anywhere else either.

It’s something that Brussels and Theresa May have dreamt-up because they weren’t committed enough to find a workable solution to an Irish border problem left over from a previous century. Disappointing to say the least — because to overcome political problems is what elected officials are paid to do and if they can’t do it, they don’t deserve their jobs.

The four pillars of Brexit were and are:

  1. Take back control of the UK’s borders and immigration
  2. Take back control of the UK legal system
  3. Take back control of the UK economy
  4. Take back control of UK trade

And Theresa May’s draft Withdrawal Agreement only succeeds on the first three due to the so-called ‘backstop’ clause in the draft Withdrawal Agreement. The backstop wouldn’t be required at all if a political solution had been found at any time over the past lollygagging 2-years.

Conceivably, the UK could lose all chance of ever making its own trade deals if the backstop kicks-in — which could easily happen if we are to judge it by the low-level of success we’ve seen so far in Brexit negotiations.

Therefore, having failed to agree an Irish border solution, the Prime Minister is asking for more time to arrange an Irish border solution — even though nothing on this brief has been resolved in over 2-years? Give me a break!

Rewarding mediocrity is not the way to deal with politicians.

Either Theresa May is complicit in trying to keep the UK (permanently) inside the EU Customs Union and Single Market against the instructions of 52% of UK voters (thereby giving up any chance of Britain ever signing its own trade deals, which strays dangerously close to becoming an act of treason for a sitting Prime Minister) or she is very naively gambling with the UK’s future by allowing the backstop to form part of a signed and therefore legal Withdrawal Agreement (thereby giving up any chance of Britain ever signing its own trade deals, which strays dangerously close to becoming an act of treason for a sitting Prime Minister).


Summary

If Theresa May continues to insist that the backstop must remain part of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, the Conservatives need to cut her loose, fast. The backstop clause is just too dangerous for the country and if it ever did kick-in, it would prevent the UK from seeking its own trade deals — thereby dramatically limiting economic growth in the UK for the next 100-years. That’s treason and tragedy in one dose.

If Theresa May says she can remove the backstop or add an addenda to her draft Withdrawal Agreement with a guaranteed end-date to the UK’s membership in the EU Customs Union, then I hope UK Conservatives vote to keep her on and give her every opportunity to succeed as Prime Minister and importantly, every opportunity to succeed as the Prime Minister responsible for the UK’s exit from the European Union.


Notes:

  1. Calls by anyone for a 2nd referendum are premature at best, dangerous at worst, and it adds to civil unrest with real consequences for the country and the economy — and the poor losers of the 2016 referendum should realize the country already had a ‘People’s Vote’ on June 23, 2016 — and the government still hasn’t gotten the job done from that referendum. Adding more work to the UK government when they haven’t even caught up with the last referendum result is lunacy.
  2. Theresa May threatening to cancel Brexit is undemocratic. The People voted to Leave and the government is to follow their instructions with no departing from those instructions. She hasn’t the right, short of nuclear war breaking out, to cancel what her employers have instructed her to do. If she’s complaining the government has run out of time, let’s remind her that she spent 2-years lollygagging around doing nothing productive with Brexit. Yes, it takes both sides to make a deal, but there is much that could’ve been done that wasn’t; Like formulating a ‘No Deal’ plan to help ease the country through the immediate post-Brexit period in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. If she persists with her threat to cancel Brexit, she should be removed as Prime Minister and forced to resign her Member of Parliament seat in Maidenhead. That’s just too undemocratic to tolerate — for backbenchers, let alone for a Minister of the Crown, or indeed the Prime Minister of the country.
  3. Theresa May threatening to ask for an Article 50 extension is also a case of her wasting the first 2-years of her premiership, and then, not being able to get the job done on time. Again, if she persists asking for an extension to do her job when she should’ve been doing it all along, Conservative MP’s need to remove her from the PM’s chair.
  4. Apocalyptic cries about a so-called ‘No Deal’ Brexit should be ignored. The UK will begin saving money right away in the event of a No Deal Brexit: £39 billion on account of walking away instead of paying the EU for an Implementation Period, also, £12.205 billion (net 2019) will be saved by no longer having to contribute to the EU budget and £10.05 billion (net 2020) will be saved in FY 2020. Also, the obscene trade surplus that the EU runs with the UK of £95 billion per year will wither, perhaps by 50% per year until it hits zero. And in other ways, the UK will SAVE, SAVE, SAVE, money — beginning in the very first year of a No Deal Brexit. That’s a lot of money that the UK could put to better use than sending it to Brussels and hoping for morsels in return as the UK has done for decades.

Why the ‘Norway Option’ Presents a False Choice for Brexit Britain

by John Brian Shannon

If there was one thing that unified the 17.4 million Britons who voted to Leave the European Union, it was to end freedom of movement between the UK and the EU, as the utter failure of the EU’s Schengen Agreement means that anyone from anywhere can simply walk across an EU border and can’t be deported under EU law.

These days, the bloc doesn’t even police much of the EU’s perimeter, whether on land or sea. People arrive from anywhere; They are given a landed immigrant card that entitles them to the same rights, privileges and freedoms as any EU citizen — which includes eligibility for free healthcare, social welfare programmes and social housing. And in recent months, rioting refugees and economic migrants have agitated for employment guarantees and it looks like they may win that right. Which is a right that not even native EU citizens enjoy. (Just to show you how nutty it can become in the EU)

Therefore, for some UK MP’s to suggest that the so-called ‘Norway Option’ is a viable way to honour the instructions of The People, they are sadly mistaken. In no way can continued free movement of persons from a bloc with zero control over its borders form part of the legitimate remit of British MP’s who work for the good of the country and its citizens.

Signing up to a worse deal than the UK has now is a non-starter. Signing up to a worse deal than Theresa May’s draft Withdrawal Agreement is also a non-starter. The so-called ‘Norway Option’ just isn’t an option for the UK and no amount of spin is going to walk back the primary demand of 17.4 million British voters.

As baseball umpires say; Steeeerrrike One!


Onward to Strike Two:

Another reason that anyone who believes in democracy and sovereignty shouldn’t be pushing the Norway Option is that another primary demand of 17.4 million British voters was to end the jurisdiction of the European court and Norway remains under the jurisdiction of the ECJ on many matters — especially on trade related matters.

British MP’s should know better than to peddle this shambolic plan that continues to allow freedom of movement and ECJ jurisdiction over trade, some healthcare, and other social issues.

The ECJ is a fine institution in and of itself, and that is recognized around the world. No issues there. However, it’s an EU institution and by definition it must rule in the EU’s favour — as it isn’t named the Chinese Court of Justice, the Australian Court of Justice, nor is it called by any other name. It’s an EU-centric organization and everyone realizes and respects that. It’s a court that’s in business for the EU — not Norway, not for post-Brexit Britain and not Japan — for three more examples.

Again, signing up to a deal that’s a worse deal than the UK presently has with the EU just isn’t an option.

For now, as long as the UK remains within the EU, the UK has a small amount of ‘pull’ with the ECJ as the UK is a dues-paying member of the EU for the time being — but after Brexit the UK won’t have any say into how the ECJ operates, nor will it be allowed to offer unsolicited legal opinions to the European court

Umpire, please make the call: Steeeerrrike Two!


On to Strike Three!

BASEBALL ANNOUNCER: “Alright everybody, get ready. The Norway Option is down two strikes and the last and final pitch is imminent here at the bottom of the ninth inning. Let’s see what happens… and no matter which way it goes folks, it’s going to be a blockbuster.”

Ask any Norwegian what they think of the Norway Option. That’s it. I win!

And the Umpire calls: Steeeerrrike Three!

BASEBALL ANNOUNCER: “It’s ‘Game Over’ for the Norway Option team!”


Post-Game Commentary

Yes, folks. It’s just that easy. Because there is hardly to be found anywhere in Norway anyone who would agree that their present deal with the EU is a good deal.

Business owners there like it because it grants them access to the huge EU market. But it’s a costly access and there are millions of regulations that must be strictly adhered-to which drives up costs for those businesses.

But the vast majority of Norwegians aren’t business owners surrounded by mountains of regulatory paperwork to keep them well-insulated during the harsh Norwegian winter.

Most are people who appreciate the EU for what it is, but don’t like masses of homeless refugees and immigrants sleeping in the streets and panhandling (such things were never before seen in Norway!) and making their contribution to other crimes — and increasingly nowadays — organized crime rings led by recent immigrants from North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

In a country of only 5 million citizens, Norway has enjoyed one of the world’s lowest crime rates. Indeed, most years go by without one (not even one!) murder per year. Historically, Norway has astonishingly low rates of rape and other sexual assault, and the lowest rate of property crimes in the world. However, since freedom of movement was foisted on Norway via their arm’s-length EU contract these things have almost become commonplace.

The beautiful Norwegian people and the pristine countryside have been befouled by relatively large numbers of low-level criminals and Norwegian business has been curtailed by the high cost of accessing the EU Single Market.

It’s like getting nicely dressed for an outing to a prestigious art gallery and paying good money to see the Mona Lisa or Group of Seven painting and then getting spit-on by a refugee hiding behind the artwork. (That’s how I imagine Norwegians feel about their à la carte deal with the EU)

I won’t even start on the loss of sovereignty in other ways, nor will I discuss other high costs that Norway and Norwegian consumers must bear as part of their country’s deal with the European Union.

But let’s end this discussion without prejudice to the EU, which, aside from the problems noted above, has become a great asset to our world and leads the world community of nations in many ways.

It’s just that at present, with unrestricted immigration and the high costs of exporting into the EU’s Single Market, combined with loss of sovereignty as an EU member or arm’s length member, it’s not the best deal, nor is it the only game in town. Yet, let us continue to respect old Europa for all the positive things she’s accomplished.

BASEBALL ANNOUNCER: “Okay folks, that’s a wrap. It was an easy win here today at the ol’ ball game; Come back next week when Canada+++ goes up against the ‘No Deal’ Brexit team from Britain’s ERG. Goodnight everybody!”


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