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Theresa May’s New Year of Hope

by John Brian Shannon

As far as years go, UK Prime Minister Theresa May must be glad to see the end of 2017 as are many others in Britain and around the world. In matters Brexit, it was a year of low-level chaos and unfulfilled expectations — lots of ‘churn’ but not much actual progress.

Yet the Prime Minister did make some exceptional speeches and unexpectedly reached-out to EU citizens to assure them that while Britain was leaving the European Union, it wasn’t leaving Europe. Well done on both counts, Theresa.

She also told EU citizens living in the UK that their situation wouldn’t change, aside from having to register their residency with the Home Office and pay a nominal fee to retain their ‘settled status’. And while that didn’t seem to impress small numbers of EU negotiators, it brought great comfort to millions of expats living in Britain.

Of course, it’s all contingent upon reaching a final ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ between the United Kingdom and the European Union, but it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that the UK would act unilaterally to guarantee the rights of EU citizens working or studying in Britain in the case of no agreement.

Theresa May also offered £40 billion of UK taxpayer money to the European Union; Everyone is unclear what this is for, as nobody from the government has bothered to explain it to citizens.

Many people think that the UK’s share in the EU Parliament buildings and in other EU properties and assets should be sold off to the other EU27 members and the £9.65 billion (estimated) value could be used to pay future UK liabilities to the EU and that there is no need to pay £40 billion. Which seems reasonable.

If there is an actual need for the UK to pay £40 billion to the EU, surely British taxpayers have the right to know what they’re paying for, and to whom.

But if Theresa May has agreed to continue paying the £8.6 billion annual net payment to the European Union until Brexit completes within 2 years (approximately) plus 2 more years to cover the transition period, then that seems pretty reasonable too. If that’s how the £40 billion is being arrived at, there’s not much to complain about there.


With all this reasonableness going ’round it’s no wonder that EU negotiators agreed to move to Phase II of the Brexit negotiations — trade — a hyper-important part of the post-Brexit relationship on both sides of the English Channel.

Negotiating a mutually beneficial trade agreement between the UK and the EU in 2018 is Job Number One for negotiators on both sides.

Trade between the United Kingdom and the EU27 ranks as one of the most robust trading relationships in the world

  • 44% of UK exports are sold to the EU27, making them Britain’s most important trade partner.
  • 16% of EU exports are sold to the UK, making Britain the EU27’s most important trade partner.

Which makes the whole ‘getting an agreement’ discussion largely academic — as there will be an agreement or hundreds CEO’s on both sides of the English Channel will be breathing fire down the necks of UK and EU negotiators every day until an agreement is reached. “Don’t even think about coming home without an agreement!” (Yes, just like that)


UK/EU Trade: Where do United Kingdom Exports Go?


Where do UK exports go? UK Office for National Statistics 2015.


UK/EU Trade: Where do European Union Exports Go?


The EU's largest single export market is the UK. European Commission Export Helpdesk.


So There We Have It: They Can’t Live With Each Other, But They Can’t Live Without Each Other!

Which is a very good thing.

And because companies on both sides need to keep their biggest export market open and flourishing, there absolutely will be a reasonable trade deal — one that both sides can live with. There is simply no alternative.

Which neatly explains the title of this blog post ‘Theresa May’s New Year of Hope’ because Job Number One for Brexit negotiators on both sides must be working a successful trade deal — and every CEO in Europe will be watching with keen interest, to put it very mildly.

You don’t want to be the trade negotiator coming home without a deal and having to tell the CEO of Volkswagen or BP that you were too incompetent to get a deal. Yikes!

There will be an excellent UK/EU trade deal in 2018, a trade accord that both sides will be rightly proud of — one that works for CEO’s, citizens and governments throughout Europe.


Trade As Saviour

As the focus will be on trade in 2018 (something that both sides must preserve if today’s politicians want to keep their jobs) the new year looks to be one of the better years for relations between the UK and the EU27.

Let’s hope that Phase II of the Brexit negotiations move smartly along and that (if a Phase III is required) the momentum that gets built throughout 2018 works to facilitate friendly and workable solutions to any remaining issues between the two blocs.

Politicians and negotiators on both sides of the Brexit divide have everything to gain by bringing home a fair and workable trading agreement and everything to lose if they don’t.

Therefore, let 2018 be ‘The Year of Hope’ as 512 million European citizens are counting on their politicians and negotiators to open windows of opportunity as big as the sky, and to create even more justice and fairness for all Europeans, no matter where in Europe they may live, work, or play.

No matter which side of Brexit you’re on, we at Letter to Britain wish you a Happy, Safe, and Prosperous New Year!

 

Theresa May Cuts a Deal With the EU

by John Brian Shannon

Just as Theresa May’s government appeared to be on the brink of collapse, the European Commission President asked the British Prime Minister to meet him in Brussels to jointly announce that negotiators had achieved the breakthrough to move forward to Phase II of the Brexit process.

EC President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “sufficient progress” had been made on Phase I discussions by December 8th, and the parties can now move on to matters of trade. Which is a great relief for some. For others, not so much.

Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nigel Farage is on record as being against anything other than a complete Brexit with only the timeline to be negotiated.

Indeed, this is the position of many of the 17,410,742 people who voted for Brexit in the June 23, 2016 referendum that decided the United Kingdom’s future in, or out of, the European Union. And as negotiations drag on and as more political plays come to light courtesy of the ever-present media, the number of Britons who support Brexit are increasing, while those who supported it from the beginning want a faster, ‘harder’ and more complete Brexit.

If those who voted Remain were once within striking distance of preventing Brexit, their hopes are surely dashed now. ‘Off to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, are we?’

We hope you will enjoy the show.


So, What Did Theresa May Agree To on Behalf of All UK Citizens?

a) In May’s favour, it appears she agreed to continue negotiating with the EU, more than anything else

For now, nothing will change in the UK until Brexit day. The existing EU customs and trade union will continue to be in effect and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) remains the top court for the entire European Union, including the UK.

It’s also been reported that the ECJ will continue to be the court that rules over EU citizens living, working or studying in the UK for up to 8 years after Brexit — thereby giving European Union expats full access to the British court system — but also full recourse to the ECJ.

Essentially,  EU citizens living in the UK will enjoy the protection of two court systems, while UK citizens will have the protection of only one court system.

Further, Theresa May has agreed that from December 8, 2017 until Brexit completes (whenever that  is) the UK will abide by all laws and regulations passed by the European Parliament, the European Commission, and that the UK will accept European Court of Justice rulings. The final Brexit date has been suggested as March 29, 2019 but at this stage anything could happen including the government bodging the job and not getting voters their Brexit for another decade.

Goodness knows what kind of legislation the EU could pass during that time, yet the United Kingdom would be obligated to follow both the spirit and letter of that legislation. And EU citizens living in the UK would have more rights than UK citizens due to the ECJ deal. Let’s hope they don’t send an extra 5 million migrants to Britain annually (for example) as the UK would be obligated to accept them under the terms of this agreement.

If breaking the UK Treasury and maybe breaking the country is the goal of the EU (or if it ever ‘becomes that’ due to new politicians coming to power in the EU/EC) that’s surely the way to accomplish it. Certainly, the United Kingdom is in a precarious position from now until the day Brexit occurs.

Finally, there will be no transition period for Gibraltar.


Oh, and it Cost £40 Billion

Did I forget to mention that? Yes, they did too at their joint press conference, until a reporter asked about it.

Now the UK is obligated to pay £39 billion to the EU, and will continue to pay £8.6 billion (net) to the European Union budget until such times as the UK is no longer a member of the union.

Nobody has really said what the £39 billion is for — other than to say it covers the UK’s future obligations to the EU (which, reliable sources have said should only amount to £6.15 billion) and let’s keep in mind that the United Kingdom remains part-owner of many EC and EU buildings and properties — including the Parliament buildings in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg, and Britain’s share in the value of those and other EC/EU holdings exceed £9.65 billion.


Now for the Sweet Part of the Deal

Thus far, it sounds like a pretty one-sided deal in the EU’s favour — and many are now calling Prime Minister May ‘Theresa the Appeaser‘ after former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who tried to ‘appease’ Adolf Hitler and his Nazis prior to Britain’s entry into WWII — for which he was unceremoniously booted from the Prime Minister’s chair never to return.

Others have called the deal a ‘sell-out’ of British interests, while other groups claim that Theresa May (an admitted Remainer) is trying to scupper the deal by using the high cost of Brexit to get more Britons over to the Remain side.

b) Maybe Theresa May is smarter than everyone suspects

What if it’s true that this deal is merely the deal that the UK will be forced to honour if UK and EU negotiators can’t arrive at a better deal that supersedes this deal?

There is real incentive for Theresa May and her Conservative Party to excel here because it is 100% certain they will lose the next election if this deal isn’t replaced by a better deal prior to March 29, 2019.

Prime Minister May will thereby have almost as much power as a wartime Prime Minister to get a better deal done, and that’s as good a way as any to move things along.

What if she now spends a year trying to negotiate a better deal knowing that at worst the present agreement is the worst that can possibly happen? A little brilliant, I’d say.

c) So she spends a year negotiating uphill with the EU trying to get a better Brexit deal

And in the meantime, the worst-case scenario is survivable by her country but unsurvivable by her party if they want to win the next election.

In the simplest terms, if Theresa May’s Conservative Party don’t fully cooperate with her to gain a better Brexit deal, they will by default, have handed the reins of power to Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

d) By virtue of the December 8th baseline agreement, Theresa May now ‘owns’ her party until March 29, 2019

Which means that the Prime Minister with her party helping, must find a way to improve on the present deal and they have one year to make it happen.

As one Machiavellian to another; Nice touch, Theresa.


Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons on  December 11, 2017 where she comments on the December 8th Phase I agreement with the EU.

Theresa the Brilliant, or Theresa the Appeaser?

by John Brian Shannon

It’s starting to heat up in Brexit-land after 17 months of jockeying for position, and this month more than any month since June 2016 might indicate whether UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s critics are right or wrong.

Will Theresa May travel confidently to the European Union this week to explain what she expects to receive in exchange for offering a £40 billion divorce payment? Or will she arrive and meekly accept whatever crumbs fall from the EU master’s table?

The result will determine what Prime Minister Theresa May will be called for the rest of her political life — she’ll either be known as ‘Theresa the Brilliant’ or ‘Theresa the Appeaser’ — or worse variations of those two titles.


Why Would the UK Choose to Offer £40 billion to the EU?

Certainly, the UK has pension and other legitimate obligations to the European Union that must be covered in the post-Brexit timeframe, no one is disputing that.

Also important to this discussion is that the UK has been and remains the second-largest contributor to the EU budget and is thereby part owner with the European Union of many shared buildings and properties — like the EU Parliament building in Brussels, for instance. (Total UK equity in the EC/EEC/EU institutions and real estate could be as high as £9.65 billion, although it’s difficult to find agreement on the amount)

So the question becomes; What’s the UK paying for, when it offers apropos of nothing, £40 billion?

Clearly, it isn’t to cover the legitimate obligations of the UK post-Brexit which amount to £6.15 billion, nor does it factor-in the UK’s share of the EU’s institutional equity — some £9.65 billion worth of land, buildings, and other holdings.

Indeed, Germany (#1) and the UK (#2) have paid the largest share of the EC/EEC/EU’s operating budget since 1972, and in recent years the UK’s annual net payment to the EU has hovered around £8 billion.

British Taxpayers: “If £40 Billion Isn’t Enough, Then It’s a WTO Brexit, Prime Minister”

Therefore it would seem that the £40 billion offer to the EU isn’t to pay future obligations, but that PM Theresa May has decided to pay in advance for (a) a bespoke free trade agreement with the European Union, (b) a bespoke Northern Ireland border agreement, and (c) to clear every single miscellaneous issue so that Brexit can proceed quickly.

And if that’s the Prime Minister’s thinking, it seems sound logic although it could be seen by some pundits as an expensive way to go.


Q: “Could I Have a Nice and Clean Brexit?”
A: “That Will be £40 Billion, Please.”

If Prime Minister May gets a nice clean Brexit, the UK can then sign free trade agreements with most of the countries and trading blocs in the world, in addition to maintaining a healthy trading relationship with the European Union which accounts for 15% of all global trade.

In addition to that, such a bespoke Brexit payment should guarantee perfect cooperation on a soft border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It should guarantee that the European Court of Justice won’t comment or interfere on UK matters, and it will simply become one of many global courts that UK judges consult when making precedent-setting rulings.

And because in the whole history of the world there has never been such an unprecedented £40 billion divorce payment, Prime Minister Theresa May and every subsequent UK Prime Minister should be entitled to the utmost respect in EU capitals until the year 2100.


It Sounds Expensive, But It Isn’t

Once the UK signs free trade agreements with China, with all of the UK’s Commonwealth partner nations, with the United States, and perhaps ASEAN nations, MERCOSUR, Russia and its CIS partners, African Union member nations, and with other free trade associations like the Pacific Alliance, the UK will dramatically ramp-up exports to more than five billion people around the world.

If the Prime Minister and her negotiators can sign reasonable free trade agreements with much of the world immediately post-Brexit, it means that instead of paying the EU a net annual payment of £8 billion — increased exports and other positive economic activity (such as increased tourism) will boost the UK economy by £10 to £20 billion annually.

Making Theresa May’s present plan look brilliant, in retrospect.


A Slight Lag, Followed by Economic Boom

Although the first year won’t show instant results, and it depends on the quantity and quality of those free trade agreements and upon how quickly UK exporters can respond to the changed market, as time rolls forward, paying £40 billion to the EU in order to gain a bespoke Brexit and Free Trade Agreement might seem like an exceptionally wise decision by Theresa May.

At the very least and to get the ball rolling in the first few days after Brexit, the United Kingdom could coordinate military procurement with other Commonwealth of Nations countries so that navy destroyers, frigates, coastal patrol craft and army tanks required by Commonwealth countries could be sourced from the United Kingdom. The bonus of such a plan is that through bulk purchasing power and common design parameters, such military equipment costs could be reduced for all member nations.

That plan has ‘instant success’ written all over it because there is a real need among those countries for new and used UK military equipment.

Either Theresa May is one of the brightest politicians of our century (paying £40 billion to get free of the EU more quickly and completely, and by obtaining a bespoke UK/EU free trade agreement) or she’s heading off to Brussels this week to accept whatever crumbs the EU mandarins toss her way.

As the entire country waits this week for the news reports, let’s hope she’s the former.