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Come to the EU – The Home of the 11th-Hour Deal!

by John Brian Shannon

“Every day we teach others how to treat us” …is a truism that hides in plain sight wherever there are human beings

And the EU has taught the world and UK politicians that the EU27 countries are famous for their last-minute 11th-hour trade and political agreements.

No matter the hoopla surrounding any potential agreement that the EU is negotiating and whatever is said by European Union leaders and negotiators during the entire course of negotiations, it turns out that most of it is nothing more than posing and positioning in order to subsequently obtain the best deal, and this process continues right up to the last-minute during negotiations.

Which is completely legitimate! Yes, it’s frustrating and they bring a lot of anger towards them from their negotiating partners — but that’s the way the EU chooses to negotiate their trade and political deals, and it’s as legitimate as any other way to negotiate deals. (It’s just not my way, for the record)

The negative for the EU is that it teaches the EU’s potential partners that there will always be a deal, but that it won’t be signed until the last possible second.

Consequently, anyone who has watched the EU since 1993 knows that there *will* be an 11th-hour deal — in this case on the topic of Brexit — which is why everyone should forget the smoke and mirrors routine, go home, and completely disregard EU utterances until March 28th, 2019.

Because nothing about Brexit really matters to the EU until then.


Would You Like an Example?

Of course you would! And I’m sooo happy to provide it.

The (excellent, by the way) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada, the European Union and its member states took 7 long years to negotiate and even now in its 8th-year still isn’t fully implemented due to protectionist elements within the EU.

Not one EU member has ratified the CETA agreement and some of the EU27 have indicated they want to renegotiate the agreement, or they want exceptions or even certain provisions added to the existing CETA agreement.

In the meantime, CETA has been provisionally applied which means that the treaty eliminates 98% of the tariffs between Canada and the EU.

In the end, there seems only a 50% chance of getting this agreement ratified by the EU27 — yet it’s such a good agreement that other countries are considering it as a template to use for their own (non-EU) trade agreements.

Remember the adage: “Every day we teach others how to treat us.”

(Drum roll, please)

So, let’s look at what the EU has taught the world in regards to negotiating CETA

  1. The EU played its typical negotiating games and signed at the last-minute, in a huff
  2. It took 7 long years for Canada to negotiate a trade deal with the EU
  3. The EU implemented only the parts of the deal that they liked
  4. Not one EU country has yet ratified CETA although Canada ratified it promptly
  5. If only one of the EU27 fails to ratify CETA it cancels the entire deal
  6. Long after negotiations were concluded, some EU27 members are now trying to cherry-pick and/or renegotiate the parts of the deal that they didn’t like

I dunno. That’s a pretty damning indictment of the EU. Certainly there’s no blame on the Canadians, even the EU agrees that.

Canada negotiated fairly and got the best deal it could over the 7-year negotiating process, it ratified the deal promptly, and implemented it immediately as instructed by the agreement terms — and then, settled down to wait to see if the EU would keep their side of the bargain.

And it looks like, well… not. It looks like the EU will not be keeping their side of the bargain. At least, they haven’t kept their side of the CETA agreement, yet.

But they said they would! cried naive Canadians.

Consequently, every day that passes since CETA was signed equates to the EU living a lie.

How’s that for rude negotiating tactics, an abnormally long negotiation process, only partial implementation on the EU-side, failure to ratify on the EU-side, and some EU27 countries are now trying to cherry-pick or renegotiate the parts of the CETA agreement that they didn’t like?

Does that sound like a reliable trading partner? You tell me.


All of Which Should Convince You to Ignore EU Utterances until March 28, 2019

So, pack your bags, Theresa May. The EU27 are using you.

The EU27 have no intention of negotiating in good faith (until, say, the 11th-hour of March 28, 2019) and then, once an agreement is hastily signed in a flurry of bureaucratic face-saving on March 29th, the EU will expect the House of Commons to ratify the agreement promptly, yet the EU27 itself will fail to ratify the deal, followed by certain EU countries trying to cherry-pick or renegotiate the parts of the agreement that they didn’t like… in a process that could last for years.


Prove me wrong – I dare you!

Nothing is so damning as history and the Canadian example is but one of many that demonstrates the EU’s history of employing disrespectful negotiating tactics against its potential trade or political partners.

Those who see the EU through rose-tinted lenses must do their own Google searches to find out that the EU27 are only in business for themselves and will stop at nothing to further their own agenda (as is their right).

But what ‘throws’ a lot of us is that they use tactics that will (if we let them away with it) turn every one of their good EU allies into EU enemies. And that isn’t good for us, it isn’t good for the world, and ultimately it’s not good for the EU27.

Let’s therefore help these continentals learn to play well with others, and thereby change their sad history of bad dealing with friendly nations.

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.