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Should the UK Have an Opinion on Catalonia?

by John Brian Shannon

As the UK remains a fully paid-up member of the 28-member European Union, it seems fair that the government should have a position on Catalonia’s recent move toward greater autonomy. Which in recent weeks, has grown beyond simple autonomy within the Spanish federal government architecture to seeking full independence, but the attempt has since been knocked down by the Spanish authorities.

Had the UK passed the Brexit threshold by now, it would be difficult indeed for the British government to have any public opinion at all as it then becomes a very different thing. It’s fair comment to opine on the internal politics of a fellow EU member state, but it is quite another for a non-member to criticize the goings-on in a foreign country.

For that reason, it’s well within Theresa May’s purview as the Prime Minister of a paid-up member of the European Union to comment on issues Catalonia.

Nigel Farage MEP certainly didn’t hold back from informing his viewers about his opinions on the Catalonian situation and it’s difficult to find flaws in his argument.

Certainly, it was a tragedy that 900 mainly peaceful protesters were injured and/or arrested by Spanish federal police, although many of those charges against protesters may be dropped in exchange for the much more serious charges against the police being dropped. Look for this to happen on a case-by-case basis. Many of the police are reputed to have used excessive force against the (probably annoying, but otherwise peaceful) protesters.

Until such times as Britain is no longer an EU member state, the UK and its citizens have every right to comment on the unfortunate Catalonian situation, but after Brexit I hope the government feels constrained about commenting on what will then be, a comment on the internal affairs of a sovereign bloc (the EU) a sovereign nation within the EU (Spain) and a state within that nation (Catalonia)


“What Goes Around, Comes Around”

This has been true since the universe began and were the British government to attempt to unduly affect the outcome (either way) in Catalonia, eventually it could work against the United Kingdom and conceivably against the Commonwealth, as there are rumours from time to time about disaffection among jurisdictions of either entity.

Therefore, it’s best for the UK government to comment in good form only and avoid trying to make political hay against the EU bloc simply because we may have other frustrations with them. (Hey, they’re frustrated too. It isn’t a one-way street. Let’s just get the Brexit done and not unduly antagonize the EU Parliament or its individual member states in the meantime, because that works better for the UK in the long run)


As a Member of the European Parliament and as a citizen of the United Kingdom, Nigel Farage has much more leeway to comment than the government, and his recent talk show brings up some fascinating points about Catalonia. Take a few minutes and watch Nigel take calls from all over the world about the attempted Catalonian secession.

UK PM in Brussels, OECD Barbs & the EU’s Rising Champagne Budget

by John Brian Shannon

What’s a UK Prime Minister to do who is away for meetings with EU officials to discuss Brexit terms and to solve practical matters and common problems, when the richly-funded-by-the-EU Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) seeks to undo the democratic will of the British people by claiming that undoing Brexit would bring more wealth to the UK?

It’s not like the OECD utterances on the UK economy have been accurate since Brexit was first discussed in the public arena, and it’s not like the OECD has a legitimate mandate to comment on political developments in any OECD member nation. In fact, it’s expressly forbidden in their charter.

Since Brexit was first suggested, the OECD have been the prophets of doom, telling anyone who would listen that economic Armageddon would occur were the UK to continue pursuing Brexit and yet, almost exactly the opposite has occurred. UK markets are booming, trade is flourishing, countries are lining up to sign free trade agreements with a post-Brexit UK, and Britons are looking forward to taking back control of their country.

Yes, the EU Parliament will miss the (net) £8 billion annual contribution from the UK taxpayer. Britons get that.

But the United Kingdom must do what’s best for its citizens not what’s best for a greedy and overly bureaucratic EU politburo that wants to spend its time passing arcane legislation and finding ways to get evermore money out of Britain (mainly) and other EU member states, to support its extravagant operations.

“Will it be Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon White Gold, Mr. Junckers, or a couple of Heineken?” — You know the answer to that question! 😉

UK and EU membership.

Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon White Gold

On a related note: UKIP’s Nigel Farage said today on his wildly successful call-in talk show that the EU Parliament wine and spirits budget is in the tens of millions of dollars and that they are thinking of upping their annual alcohol purchase.


Summary

For as long as the UK remains a paid-up member of the European Union, it’s fair for the UK and other members of the union to comment on political, economic and social developments happening within the other EU member states.

However, the OECD should refrain from commenting on the politics of any nation.

Don’t forget that as a paid-up member of the EU until Brexit actually occurs, the UK (along with Germany) are paying the lion’s share of the OECD’s £85 million annual budget.

On top of that, the UK has its own (country) account with the OECD which costs the UK £11 million per year. You think the OECD would show the UK a little respect as it’s paying 2X its required dues there.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development needs to realign itself with its original charter to maintain its credibility and thereby maintain its present membership numbers. If the OECD can’t manage to do that, it’s time for the UK to leave the organization.


Related Articles:

  • UK Treasury rejects OECD’s call for second Brexit referendum (The Guardian)
  • At a glance: the big issues PM must confront tonight (The Times)

This Week in Brexit: Expat rights

by John Brian Shannon

Now that Brexit issues of substance have percolated up into the mainstream everyone has stopped talking about the Tories getting their electoral wings clipped and we can now move on to far more important matters! And just in time folks, it was getting a bit much.

The Queen looked positively radiant reading aloud the document that will change European history on both sides of the English Channel.

Some comments were made about her EU-bleu hat which had five golden embellishments reminiscent of the gold stars on the EU flag. If so, it’s the Queen’s prerogative what to wear and if she wanted to send a polite message to the European Union via her choice of attire, why not?

If you asked 20 people what that message might have been, you’d probably get 20 different answers. Note to conspiracy theorists; Knock yourselves out!

You must be dying to know what my read of the Queen’s outfit is: After all, you ARE reading this blog, aren’t you?

I think the Queen knows there are hurt feelings in Brussels and that others in the EU are sad to see Britain leave. And it could be that as she read the speech written to begin the process to take the UK out of the EU, she wanted to politely emote, ‘We are leaving your Union, but we respect you and want to keep good relations with you.’

How could it be other than that? What else would you expect from the reigning Monarch of the United Kingdom? Of course, continental Europe will still need the UK… and the United Kingdom will still need the EU.

Trade, a common European defence, social causes, families, etc. are so interlinked between Britons and the people across the Channel that good relations must be preserved, sparing no effort.


EU Membership is no guarantee of a booming economy

Over 175 nations in the world are not members of the EU, nor do they have trade agreements with the EU.

Some nations, even those in close proximity to the EU declined to join the Union. And some, like Norway, Switzerland and others simply worked out different arrangements with the EU.

Greenland applied for EU membership, then withdrew its application once Greenlanders were consulted via referendum. Yet, Norway, Switzerland and Greenland have continued along just fine without EU membership, as have other European and non-European states.

The UK will get along fine without EU membership

Yes, some things will be better for Britons. Yes, there will be a period of adjustment. And minor economic disruptions could occur here and there, at various waypoints along the Brexit timetable.

But what negotiators on both sides must remember is that, ‘What’s good for the UK, is good for the EU.’

Large EU companies like BMW and Mercedes don’t want a recession in the UK! It’s one of their best markets. Large British companies like BP (British Petroleum) want continental Europe to thrive, else how can it remain profitable?

Arguably, small business is even more dependent upon thriving economies on both sides of the English Channel.

Which is why all of this must be made to work!

If the EU ‘stabs’ the UK, it will be the EU that bleeds! The reverse is also true!

Hurt feelings aside, let’s hope that negotiators on both sides are dedicated to ensuring they aren’t the cause of their own ‘bleeding’ and that they continually work towards a better agreement — one that works for Britons and EU citizens alike.

RECIPROCITY should be the watchword every day until Brexit negotiations are concluded. And thenceforth, all relations between the two sides should be guided by that ultra-important word in perpetuity.

UK and EU -- RECIPROCITY definition by Cambridge University Press

What all this is leading up to is the present discussion surrounding expat privileges in both jurisdictions — succinctly covered by Laura Kuenssberg, Political editor at the BBC, here.

But we can’t have one rule set for UK citizens who live, work, attend university, or are retired in EU nations… and a different rule set for EU citizens who live, work, attend university, or are retired in the United Kingdom.


SSTWB: Simple Solutions Tend to Work Best

So with that in mind let’s declare that from January 1st 2018, any EU citizen who moves to (or already lives in) the United Kingdom for any reason (work, school, retirement, or to live as one of the idle rich) must register with the UK government and pay an annual £100 fee per each family member (in the case of EU citizens that move to the UK) and for those Britons who move to the EU for any reason (work, school, retirement, or to live as one of the idle rich) must register with the government of that jurisdiction and pay an annual €100 fee per each family member.

Once they have registered and paid, it thereby proves their status and good intentions to the jurisdiction in which they intend to live (or already live) and they should have the ability to join the NHS (in the case of EU citizens living in the UK) and pay the same NHS contributions as Britons do.

Of course, those contributions are scaled to income so EU citizens would need to provide a copy of their income tax form to the UK government when paying their annual £100 per family member expat tax in order to qualify for the subsidized NHS rate appropriate to their income level.

And all of it should be easily done every year — either online or in a government agent’s office. And it should be a simplified form so that the entire process takes less than 5 minutes. Keep it simple!

  • Name
  • Address
  • Work or University address
  • Income tax ID number
  • Pay £100 per family member here via credit card

UK citizens that live, work, or retire in the European Union should receive corresponding privileges — the only difference being the value of the currency — the €100 annual fee per expat vs. the £100 annual fee per expat.


Issues of Law and (worryingly) Issues of Precedent arise

Some (very unreasonable) EU people suggest that EU laws should apply in Britain! (Yes, some people have actually said that aloud)

Do I have to say it? It is the very definition of Bureaucracy Run Amok!

And further, they’ve stated that EU citizens living in Britain should be bound by EU laws, and any court proceedings that involve EU citizens living in Britain would need to be conducted in an EU-court located somewhere in Britain. Facepalm!

It’s one of the most absurd things I’ve heard, and people who suggest such things need years of psychological treatment (You need to be deprogrammed Comrade Bureaucrat, as you’re no longer in the Collective!) and remains true EVEN IF they support having British courts in the European Union to adjudicate Britons who break UK laws while in the EU.

Stop the Insanity!

FACT: The Colonial Era is over. FACT: The United Kingdom was never a colony of the European Union. FACT: The United Kingdom really is leaving the European Union!

Trying to pull such stunts shows how buried in the sand, are some heads in the EU, even at this late Brexit date.

There is only one way it will work

EU citizens must obey the laws and be bound by British courts whenever they are in Britain — and the reverse is just as true — Britons living in the European Union must obey the laws and be bound by EU courts whenever they are in the EU. Full stop! No other choices available!

Although I’d certainly support a reciprocal incarceration agreement, whereby once sentenced, a UK citizen (for example) could apply to serve out his/her prison time in a United Kingdom prison instead of in the EU where he or she broke EU laws.

EU citizens who break the law in the United Kingdom should likewise be offered the opportunity to serve out their prison term in the EU.

And all of it should be simplified and standardized, so that any such prisoner requests could be completed within 48 hours. People in prison have families too — and why exactly should they be punished?


IN SUMMARY

Once we ditch the crazy people from the negotiations, mutual interests should prevail and allow the economies of Europe, a common European defence, commerce, industry, and family ties to remain unaffected, and in some ways improved. Above all else, overall improvement should be the goal for negotiators.