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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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The European Union’s Brexit Endgame

by John Brian Shannon | December 8, 2016

In the aftermath of a landmark Supreme Court ruling in the UK, British MP’s have proposed the Conservative government authour a Green Paper, a Blue Paper, or a White Paper (these are different levels of British government policy documents) to inform members of the Parliament and the public about the government’s Brexit plan.

Ranking even higher than such policy documents would be a Public Inquiry, or the highest ranking, a Royal Commission (which although quite costly) employs all the resources of Her Majesty’s government to find the best solutions to the most important problems of each era.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has so far resisted such calls for transparency claiming that by showing their hand it could help the European Union thwart Britain’s advantage in upcoming Brexit negotiations. (And I think she was mostly right about that)

But presenting a secret Brexit plan to the EU also implies presenting a secret Brexit plan to UK citizens — and that’s undemocratic.

Yes. Britons voted for Brexit! And yes, Britons voted for a Conservative government!

But they didn’t vote for Theresa May as Prime Minister, they voted for David Cameron. Not only that, but Britons didn’t vote for a secret Brexit plan to be imposed on them — should the EU accept without changes, Theresa May’s secret version of Brexit.

Therefore, Theresa May has taken not one, but two, liberties with voters. They didn’t vote for Brexit plans that were to be kept secret, and all of it decided by a Prime Minister they didn’t vote into office. Yet, it’s probable she was pursuing such a path in order to obtain the best Brexit outcome for Britain.

For small and medium policy decisions that’s 100% acceptable, but it isn’t acceptable for top-level policy decisions resulting in major changes to the way the country operates — even though she has likely done so with the best of intentions and with the best Brexit result in mind, from the British-point-of-view.

To my mind, the government now needs to show a high level of transparency with voters. Had Theresa May been voted into office by voters and not by Conservative Party members she would’ve had more wiggle room on this.

But the simple fact is, she inherited David Cameron’s chair, voters didn’t select her. Had she won the Prime Minister’s chair from the outset, she could’ve gotten away with publishing a very generalised Green Paper at any time in 2016, and the electorate would have simply trusted her to finish the job.

That’s the problem with inheriting a sitting Prime Minister’s chair; You inherit the position, but not their political capital, nor their popularity, nor their credentials.

Which is why MP’s are now calling for a detailed policy statement. And there’s no doubt any such policy documents will become public, even if it gets marked ‘Sensitive’ or ‘Classified’. It’s just the way of things these days.

Which gives the European Union an edge that it wouldn’t have otherwise had in the Brexit negotiation process.

Thanks to the UK Supreme Court ruling, and thanks to British MP’s who now demand full transparency, PM Theresa May cannot now produce a ‘fait accompli’ Brexit document to the EU Parliament and use other, non-specified leverages to get that document quickly approved by the EU Parliament and approval by the 27 remaining EU member nations.

For Theresa May, that’s a big loss, because that’s obviously what she had planned.

But it’s all moot since the UK Supreme Court ruling, and since notable British MP’s have called for a policy paper to guide the government itself, the House of Commons, and the public, on matters Brexit.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that my argument in favour of PM Theresa May, is true.

It doesn’t matter anyway. Because powerful political and psychological forces are at work in the EU Parliament and in EU member states. They’re upset that Britain is leaving the EU. Plain and simple.

And, why not? Britain pays the largest NATO contribution, it’s a large net contributor to the European Union budget paying-in much more than it receives, and it has allowed Eastern European governments to offload millions of their unemployed citizens to Britain. Why wouldn’t they want that to continue when it’s so obviously in their own best interests?

Surely, the EU plan is to reject any and all Brexit proposals — believing it’s in their best interests to force either a so-called Hard Brexit or a No Brexit result.

It’s not that EU leaders are  evil — it’s pure common sense from the European Union point-of-view.

“Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” — former British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784–1865) also known as Lord Palmerston

We’ll eventually see that no matter how well-intentioned any Theresa May Brexit plan is, no matter how many White Papers are produced, no matter how many warm and fuzzy photo opportunities with EU leaders, the answer is going to be a resounding ‘No’ to any Brexit plan produced by the UK government.

Which leaves only two options: Hard Brexit, or the option that the European Union governments prefer, reversal of Brexit.

See? It’s too hard to leave. So just stay.’

It’s so obviously the EU strategy, that the British strategy must now be all about countering the European Union strategy.

UK Supreme Court rulings, MP’s demanding policy documents and any other happenings, must now be seen as incredibly minor waypoints along the path the EU is driving the British people towards; Hard Brexit (which Europhiles hope to make as ‘scary’ as possible) or Just Stay.

We must drop the notion that the European Union is going to be ‘looking out for Britain’s best interests’ and realize that even the most well-intentioned Brexit plan will be rejected, for the express purpose of forcing a show trial in the UK court of public opinion where the only two options will be; Hard Brexit or Just Stay.

Why? Because EU politicians believe that’s in the EU’s best interests.

Reacting to any Brexit news in the meantime, is merely tilting at windmills. The real show hasn’t begun.

Brexit: The Path to UK Sovereignty

by John Brian Shannon | August 26 2016

Britain international trade 2

As the UK government gears up to deal with the will of voters, four paths to trade in Europe appear that merit consideration

  1. EEA membership
  2. EFTA membership
  3. WTO rule-based membership, sans EEA or EFTA
  4. Negotiated trade deals that are none of the above

EEA membership would qualify Britain to trade with other EEA member nations, all of which are located in Europe, but not all are members of the European Union.

From the EEA website:

The EEA Agreement provides for the inclusion of EU legislation covering the four freedoms — the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital — throughout the 31 EEA States. In addition, the Agreement covers cooperation in other important areas such as research and development, education, social policy, the environment, consumer protection, tourism and culture, collectively known as “flanking and horizontal” policies. The Agreement guarantees equal rights and obligations within the Internal Market for citizens and economic operators in the EEA.

What is the EEA Not?

The EEA Agreement does not cover the following EU policies:

  • Common Agriculture and Fisheries Policies (although the Agreement contains provisions on various aspects of trade in agricultural and fish products);
  • Customs Union;
  • Common Trade Policy;
  • Common Foreign and Security Policy;
  • Justice and Home Affairs (even though the EFTA countries are part of the Schengen area); or
  • Monetary Union (EMU).

The Agreement on the European Economic Area, which entered into force on 1 January 1994, brings together the EU Member States and the three EEA EFTA States — Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway — in a single market, referred to as the “Internal Market”.

Switzerland is not part of the EEA Agreement, but has a bilateral agreement with the EU. You can read more about this agreement on the European Commission website, and on the Swiss Federal Administration website.  

EFTA membership governs free trade relations between EFTA States, which in 2016 are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Britain was a founding member of the EFTA in 1960 until 1973 when it joined the EC. It would need to apply to the EFTA in order to become a member.

From the EFTA website:

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental organisation set up for the promotion of free trade and economic integration to the benefit of its four Member States.

The Association is responsible for the management of:

EFTA was founded in 1960 on the premise of free trade as a means of achieving growth and prosperity amongst its Member States as well as promoting closer economic cooperation between the Western European countries. Furthermore, the EFTA countries wished to contribute to the expansion of trade globally.

Based on these overall goals, EFTA today maintains the management of the EFTA Convention (intra-EFTA trade), the EEA Agreement (EFTA-EU relations), and the EFTA Free Trade Agreements (third country relations). The EFTA Convention and EFTA free trade agreements are managed by the Geneva office, and the EEA Agreement by the Brussels office.

EFTA was founded by the Stockholm Convention in 1960. The immediate aim of the Association was to provide a framework for the liberalisation of trade in goods amongst its Member States. At the same time, EFTA was established as an economic counterbalance to the more politically driven European Economic Community (EEC). Relations with the EEC, later the European Community (EC) and the European Union (EU), have been at the core of EFTA activities from the beginning. In the 1970s, the EFTA States concluded free trade agreements with the EC; in 1994 the EEA Agreement entered into force. Since the beginning of the 1990s, EFTA has actively pursued trade relations with third countries in and beyond Europe. The first partners were the Central and Eastern European countries, followed by the countries in the Mediterranean area. In recent years, EFTA’s network of free trade agreements has reached across the Atlantic as well as into Asia.

EFTA was founded by the following seven countries: Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Finland joined in 1961, Iceland in 1970 and Liechtenstein in 1991. In 1973, the United Kingdom and Denmark left EFTA to join the EC. They were followed by Portugal in 1986 and by Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. Today the EFTA Member States are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

World Trade Organization (WTO) membership is perhaps the easiest way forward as Britain (and virtually all nations) are already members and the WTO is merely a standardized set of rules that govern trade between nations.

The present ruleset governing UK trade is the EU ruleset, meaning that who the UK trades with, tariff rates, and other rules and conditions have been decided by 28 EU nations — and not always in the interests of the UK — but in the combined interest of 504 million EU citizens.

The main thrust of this means that WTO rules would continue and that the UK would not be allowed to charge higher tariffs on EU-sourced imports, than what the EU charges on UK imports into the EU. Although the UK could certainly decide to charge lower tariffs than the EU charges. That could be a significant benefit for some UK industries.

There are other benefits to WTO membership. And as most nations are WTO members anyway, the ruleset is well-understood around the world.

In February 2014, the Swiss voted in a referendum to no longer pursue EU membership and left the bloc. The government of Switzerland has therefore negotiated a series of bilateral trade agreements with the European Union AND is a member of the EFTA, but not the EEA.

Of course, WTO rules still apply — unless both parties agree to abrogate or change some of the WTO rulesets.

Keep in mind that both the EFTA and EEA are European trading area agreements and don’t apply anywhere else in the world, while the WTO applies everywhere.

Therefore, non-EU trade will be largely governed by WTO rules (as is the case with most countries) while Britain’s trade with the EU could take several different paths.

Any combination of WTO, EFTA, or EEA, or bilateral agreements that supercede WTO rulesets could be negotiated between Britain and the EU.

At the end of it all, why did 17 million+ voters choose to Brexit?

Two main themes appeared to gain considerable traction during the campaign.

One, the democratic deficit in Brussels, and two, the wholly unregulated movement of people from eastern Europe and the Middle East/Levant and a complete breakdown of the Schengen Area border control system.

Brexit effectively solves the democratic deficit problem in Brussels by returning governance to the House of Commons and the House of Lords. While the mass migration problem is solved as Brexit returns sovereignty of Britain’s borders to the UK government.

The revised EFTA convention (the Vaduz Convention) extends beyond free trade in goods, and includes provisions on free trade in services and the free movement of capital and of persons. None of these should be problematical to the UK given that the Vaduz Convention only applies between its members and so would not act as a gateway for the free movement of persons from the r-EU or elsewhere.  All four EFTA states have standards of living comparable to or even higher than the UK so do not present any mass migration risk. — Brexit and International Trade Treaties, The European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

Recommended Read Brexit and International Trade Treaties by Lawyers for Britain

None of this can occur until Article 50 is triggered and a 24 month clock begins ticking to end Britain’s membership in the European Union.

It would be quite wonderful if Prime Minister Theresa May would hold a press conference every six months to inform Britons of the various areas of progress and ongoing obstructions until the Brexit process is complete — a process that could take as long as 5-10 years from the June 23, 2016 start date.

We are in uncharted waters and Britons are excited to be getting their country back. They know it’s going to take time, resolve, and they know full well that there will be difficulties along the path to restoring Britain’s full sovereignty. But the payoff in 5-10 years will be brilliant.

Whatever Britain is now, it’s only going to get better.

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