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Brexit: Well, That Only Took 1317 Days!

by John Brian Shannon

 

After a gestation period that would’ve impressed a Brontosaurus (44-months, or 188-weeks if you prefer to measure time by the week, or 1317-days, or 31,608-hours) the UK government finally kept its promise to Britons who voted for Brexit on June 23, 2016.

So, after bobbling the ball for 3.5-years, the UK government finally got it right (Thanks, Boris!) and at 11:00pm GMT on January 31, 2020, the UK left the European Union. And not a moment too soon, as if the dithering on the UK side had continued much longer the UK would’ve been thrown out of the EU  — instead of leaving of its own accord! Yes, the frustration with successive UK governments grew to record highs over the past 3.5-years…

Anyway, that was then, and this is now, as they say.


What Next for the UK?

According to the terms of the Brexit agreement with the EU, the parties have 11-months to agree a trade deal to govern the future trading relationship, unless the parties decide to extend the trade deal negotiating period for another year, or longer.

I feel positive about getting a trade deal with the EU as it’s so obviously in the interests of both parties to arrange a fair-to-both-sides trade agreement, that there will be a signing ceremony before the end of 2020. Let’s hope!

Of course, the EU isn’t the UK’s only trading partner, so a trade deal with the Americans is important for the UK, And that too, must be concluded in a reasonable timeframe if the UK is to capitalize on its economic prospects following its departure from the European Union.

Let’s hope that Boris Johnson’s team sees the value of signing onto the CPTPP agreement — to become a member of the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership agreement — which is a huge trading region headed by Japan as the leading economy in the bloc.

Subsequent deals with Commonwealth of Nations countries — I’m hoping for a massive agreement between all Commonwealth nations, on par with the excellent CPTPP trade agreement. And, why not? The UK has ignored the Commonwealth for far too long now and huge opportunities await UK companies within that 2.5 billion member bloc (2.5 billion citizens/consumers in the Commonwealth of Nations countries by 2022) and further, the economy of that bloc consists of rapidly developing economies whose citizens are now beginning to enjoy real growth in their disposable income. Disposable income that could be used to purchase UK goods and services if you take my meaning.

Yes, huge trade opportunities await the UK, and not a moment to lose going after it. Because if the UK doesn’t go after that business, some other country or bloc will snap-up all of it and could completely displace UK trade in each country. That’s the punishment for taking too long to agree a trade deal.

Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her government found out what happens when it takes too long to accomplish something really important to the UK people, and those excessive delays are the only reason that Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. So… fast, fast, Boris, on the trade file!

And thanks for getting Brexit done.


Putting the UK – EU Relationship in Context

All in all, the UK – European relationship has been a good one when measured over the past 107-years.

In that time, the UK fought to bring peace to the continent in WWI and WWII, it was a solid contributor to the NATO alliance during the Cold War, the UK participated in operations like the Berlin Airlift, the fall of the Wall/reunification of Germany, and in missions in the Balkans to try to prevent genocide and enforce International Court of Justice rulings against non-state actors there, and it invested trillions of pounds sterling in the continent in the 20th-century.

The UK helped to bring peace and prosperity to Europe and was an early supporter of a unified Europe from the time of former UK Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill — although Winston often said that the UK did not belong “in” continental Europe, but rather, that it should support a unified continent from “outside” continental politics.

Having played a pivotal role in the creation of a peaceful and prosperous European continent, the UK can now leave with its head held high, having accomplished all of its long-term objectives there, knowing that the ongoing peace and prosperity on the continent will continue for decades to come, due in part to the UK’s huge commitment to continental Europe since 1913, or thereabout.

Although the Brexit process might have frazzled nerves on both sides, there’s no doubt that the United Kingdom and the European Union will continue to be allies sharing a similar worldview and will continue trading with each other on an epic scale. While some tears have been shed over Brexit, the special relationship with our continental friends will endure for centuries to come, of that there’s no doubt.

Now, let’s make it easy on ourselves and quickly agree a fair and comprehensive trade agreement, so that both parties can continue to build on the successes of the previous century — as befits true neighbours, friends, families, and allies — thereby setting the bar for how countries can and should work together to create a better world.

And I wouldn’t expect anything less from Prime Minister Boris Johnson or from EU President Ursula von der Layen. In fact, we’ve only just begun!


Thumbnail image courtesy of www.ft.com

Will 2020 Be the Year that Britain Shines?

by John Brian Shannon

It has been an eventful 2019, hasn’t it?

I can hear you saying, ‘Please don’t go there!’, and I don’t blame you a bit for saying it.

In 2019, the UK lurched from one disaster to another; From weak Brexit politics and its concomitant economic uncertainty, to floods, to troubles within the major political parties and miss-steps with Britain’s allies. It has been a mess.

Consequently, 2020 can only be better. YAY!

Still, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson united the formerly disunited Conservative and Unionist Party, which is now sitting at 365-seats strong — strong enough to pass almost any bill it wants — including a Brexit bill allowing the UK to leave the European Union on January 31, 2020, and a requirement for the UK and the EU to agree a trade deal by December 31, 2020 (or a so-called ‘No Deal’ Brexit will occur, which isn’t the worst thing in the world as WTO rules would automatically kick-in until a trade deal between the two parties is signed) that will set the rules and regulations (and the tone) for all future trade between the UK and the EU.

So, yeah, it’s important. To both sides. Try not to screw it up!


What We’d Like to See in 2020

Here’s a short list of some of the non-Brexit legislation that LetterToBritain.com would like to see passed in 2020 (legislation that would actually be passed into law in 2020) that would make the UK stronger economically, environmentally, and militarily.

  1. Legislation requiring one tree planted in the UK per each new vehicle sold in the UK by 2021. For cars and trucks that get over 50-miles per gallon automakers should fund the planting of 1-tree per new vehicle sold — but cars and trucks that get worse mileage than that should be required to plant 2-trees per new vehicle sold. The thinking is this: One giant sequoia tree can remove and store as much as 1400 metric tons of CO2 — which, astonishingly, is equal to the lifetime CO2 footprint of the average American citizen. Check out that claim here. Sequoia trees are the largest trees on planet Earth but even a mature Douglas fir or Oak tree can capture and hold hundreds of tons of CO2 in their trunks, branches and roots.
  2. Legislation requiring all ships to use clean power while in UK waters by 2021. Ships should be connected to cleaner ‘shore power’ instead of idling their engines while tied-up at port, and legislation requiring all ships over 20-tons displacement to use hydrogen fuel or battery power anytime they’re inside the UK’s 12-mile marine zone, and legislation requiring Royal Navy ships to use biofuels (as is already done in the US Navy) or better, to use natural gas, or even cleaner hydrogen fuel, or sail on 100% battery power like the US Navy’s newest and best destroyer, USS Zumwalt. Shipping represents just over 2% of global CO2 emissions, which could be cut in half by merely substituting biodiesel instead of bunker fuel. (Older ships may not easily transition from bunker or diesel fuel to biodiesel as biofuel tends to degrade low-quality rubber seals and gaskets, therefore, some small amount of subsidy should be offered to shipbuilders and yachtbuilders in the UK to ensure that all new ships are biofuel compatible)
  3. Legislation requiring 50/50 biofuel blended UK civil aviation fuel and UK military aircraft fuel by 2021. Like shipping, civil aviation contributes just over 2% of global CO2 emissions, which could be cut to 1% of global CO2 emissions via the use of biofuels. Today’s jet aircraft can burn biofuel with only minimal upgrades to rubber seals and gaskets. In fact, Boeing reports that because biofuels burn cleaner, engine maintenance costs fall due to less soot build-up and CO2 emissions can fall by up to 80% on civilian aircraft flights. And for the military, clean burning biofuels leave no smoke contrails behind the aircraft which is an important consideration to military aircraft survivability in combat zones! Sourcing biofuel is a little more challenging, because at the moment almost every drop of biofuel produced in the world is sold in Brazil and South Africa where cars burn a 50/50 biofuel blend and consequently, car emissions are 45% lower when compared to conventional petrol. Biofuel burns much cleaner than the best grades of petroleum-based fuels as… wait for it… there’s absolutely no sulphur in biofuel! And as you may know, cobalt removes most of the sulphur from petroleum-based petrol and diesel fuel and so much of it is used in the petroleum refining process that most of the world’s annual cobalt production is used for this purpose. All battery manufacturing on Earth utilizes only a fraction of total cobalt production, yet this fascinating point remains below the radar of the mainstream media.
  4. Legislation requiring all low-income senior citizens’ monthly income to be topped-up to £1200. per month via the reverse-income tax method and they should also receive free medical, free dental and free prescription medications (if their private or government pension plan doesn’t already include these three benefits). Any senior trying to survive on less than that amount plus those three benefits will simply cost the healthcare system, food banks, or their families hundreds or even thousands of pounds annually. How the UK treats its low-income seniors is a national disgrace! Seniors built the great UK we see today and they did it without the internet, smartphones, air conditioning, the social safety net (which still needs improvement) and they did it with lower labour standards. And worse than that. Toss in a couple of world wars, the Cold War, a few recessions, an overburdened NHS a scale of change they lived through unlike anything since the Industrial Revolution and it’s safe to say they’ve earned it. So let’s show our respect to UK seniors by helping them to live out their remaining years a little more comfortably.

Here’s a family doing a great thing for the UK: Prince William launches ‘Earthshot Prize’ to help speed climate solutions


Wishing All of You a Safe, Happy and Prosperous New Year!

No matter which side of Brexit you were on, regardless of which political party you favoured in the 2019 election, and regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or anything that could be construed by Britain’s critics as a way to divide us… there is simply much more that unites us than divides us. May that ever be the case.

Wishing all of you an enjoyable New Years’ celebration and a happy and prosperous 2020!

UK Election 2019: The People Have Spoken & Brexit It Will Be!

by John Brian Shannon

It was an historic night in the UK where a formerly weak Conservative government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson swept to power in a massive majority.

Every party in the United Kingdom has lost ground to the Conservatives — except for the Scottish National Party (SNP) which won 48-seats giving them a grand total of 4% of the UK vote — but that pales in comparison to Boris Johnson’s Conservative and Unionist Party’s 45% of the votes cast in the UK Election 2019. The Brexit Party (a brand-new party only weeks old) gained 2% of the vote, but didn’t win any seats.

Here are the percentage of votes cast in the UK General Election 2019

Conservatives = 45%
Labour = 33%
Liberal Democrats = 12%
SNP = 4%
Green = 3%
Brexit = 2%
Other = 1%

Which translates into this many seats by party affiliation

Conservatives = 365
Labour = 203
SNP = 48
Liberal Democrats = 11
DUP = 8
Sinn Fein = 7
Plaid Cymru = 4
SDLP = 2
APNI = 1
Green = 1
Brexit = 0
UUP = 0
IND = 0


Winners and Losers in the UK General Election 2019

WINNERS

UK VOTERS: The biggest winners in this election are UK voters, as every person who wanted to vote was able to vote, unlike in some countries where armed thugs try to prevent people from voting unless they’re voting for the ‘approved’ thug party. Further, a situation no longer exists where a paralyzed UK House of Commons is unable to do the work of the UK people. Following this clear election result, the UK government can now move smartly to get The People’s business done. And Number One on that list is Brexit.

LOSERS

REMAIN VOTERS: The biggest losers in UK General Election 2019 are so-called ‘Remain’ voters — those who wanted to ignore or overturn the democratic result of the 2016 EU referendum. The UK people spoke clearly in the 2016 referendum, in the UK General Election 2017, and now in the UK General Election 2019, with thousands of traditional Labour, Liberal Democrat and even SNP voters changing their traditional voting patterns (this time) to empower the leave-supporting Conservative and Unionist Party, and some people casting votes for the new-ish Brexit Party to reward their ongoing commitment for leaving the European Union.

WINNERS

THE BREXIT PARTY: Brexit Party members and their leaders should be leaping for joy, because, although they didn’t elect one MP to the UK House of Commons, they’ve dramatically changed the political landscape in the United Kingdom by capturing hundreds of thousands of votes from traditional Labour voters who disagreed with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Remain Brexit position, and from other Remain-supporting parties across the UK. Strange as it may seem, the Brexit Party like the UKIP Party before it have influenced the UK and continental Europe for generations to come. I’m not sure that Brexit Party candidates and supporters have realized this profound point just yet… But in the meantime, ‘Hats Off’ to Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party!

LOSERS

FORMER LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER JO SWINSON: Jo Swinson lost her Dumbarton seat and (thereby) her position as Lib Dem leader — and for no other reason than she cut across the popular mood of the country which was and still is to leave the EU. A polished, responsible, and committed member of Parliament, her defeat can only be seen as a loss for the Lib Dems and the House of Commons in general. But when you’re the leader of a major political party, you must be able to read the mood of the people in a democratic system, otherwise you’re soon gone.

WINNERS

THE EU: Because for the first time, the European Union now has a reliable partner across the English Channel with which to negotiate Brexit and a follow-on trade deal with the UK. Unfortunately, in the former ‘hung parliament’ situation it was very much a case of ‘mixed-messages’ coming from the UK House of Commons over the past 3-years.

LOSERS

THE UK LABOUR PARTY: As votes are still being counted, it looks like the Labour Party has lost 59-seats, but only because they supported ‘Remain’ instead of properly reading the mood of voters (who, with increasing resolve week-by-week) wanted to ‘just get Brexit done’ and get-on with whatever paradigm that will exist post-Brexit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a principled, hard-working, and committed MP and the long-serving leader of HM official opposition. Again, being able to read the mood of the public and represent their preferences is a prerequisite for the leader of a major political party. Having retained his own seat, I hope Mr. Corbyn will continue as leader of the Labour Party until an appropriate time can be found for a proper leadership contest within the Labour Party.

WINNERS

EACH MP WHO WON A SEAT IN THE UK GENERAL ELECTION 2019: Congratulations to each and every MP who won or retained their seat in the UK House of Commons. These are the people who will act on the valid and important concerns of UK citizens, such as Brexit, the NHS, the environment, industry, social care, transportation and international trade. And so much more.

Finally, a big Thank You! to the UK journalists who stayed-up all night to cover the most important UK election in decades, doing so with style, grace, and neutrality. Well Done!