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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 EU Relationship: After Brexit

by John Brian Shannon

Overcoming significant obstacles in the postwar era, continental Europe has grown into one of the world’s most developed and successful grouping of nations in every possible category.

From conflicted littoral states pre-1945, to a unified trading bloc in 1972 (the EC) to a full customs and trade union in 1993 (the EU) and with several future member states lined-up to join, the modern European Union continues to morph into all that it can and should be.

From its rich history, to its culture and its support for the rule of law, and by placing a high priority on governmental and non-governmental institutions, EU countries have set a global standard in the architecture of governance.

Yet, it isn’t for everyone. Greenland left the bloc in 2009, followed by Switzerland in 2014 which withdrew its application to become an EU member. The Swiss are like that anyway. Very Independent People!

The Swiss remain members of the EFTA, which is simply a group of four like-minded European nations who’ve agreed to streamlined trading arrangements. The EFTA serves to improve trade flows between its members.

Norway, for example (an EFTA member) chose to not join the EU, but participates in many European Union institutions on an al a carte basis, although it must pay a higher price than EU members to have the option to join or not join certain EU institutions and frameworks.

And finally, the UK voted to leave the European Union in the June 2016 referendum, but the Brits joined to leave anyway, it was just a matter of time before they left.

Even with those disappointments (as seen from the EU side) the European Union is still a stunning success with every opportunity to double its standing in the world. Viel Respekt!

Taking the High Road with the EU in the Post-Brexit Timeframe

As good as the European Union is for its continental partners, it just doesn’t work as well for the UK and its Commonwealth partners, which has resulted in the inevitable Brexit vote and all the subsequent steps the UK government has taken towards Brexiting the European Union.

Of course, the EU people may feel some hurt feelings when a country wants to leave its bloc — nobody likes a one-sided divorce. But there soon exists the possibility of creating a new and better relationship between the UK and the EU. And there is plenty of room to improve on that count.

For some, getting Brexit out-of-the-way is merely a necessary step towards getting on to the super-important work of creating the all-time best possible relationship between the UK and the European Union.

The potential for increased trade between the two blocs, for additional mutual aid in addition to their respective NATO commitments, for multi-lateral support at the UN (for example) and to have two powerful European voices registering their positions in the world media instead of one, are just the beginnings of helping the two main European blocs hold even more sway in international affairs.

Yes, the EU can seem a little bureaucratic and autocratic, but they are dedicated to creating a peaceful world order within a standardized regulatory environment centred around global trade. Unless you just arrived from Mars, you’ve got to like that.

For its part, the UK can seem a little disorganized and even frantic at times, but forced to become all it can and should be via the Brexit change-up, it should emerge as a calmer and more mature country that happens to be attached to a large Commonwealth bloc of 2.5 billion citizens.

If managed properly, Brexit will move the UK and the EU relationship one order of magnitude forward — instead of the present situation where the EU is holding the UK back from fulfilling its best destiny and the United Kingdom appears as a thorn in the side of continental European plans.

Time for the UK and the EU to Write Their ‘Best Possible Relationship’ List

Yes, let’s get Brexit over and done with as soon as possible so we can get onto the far more important work of deciding how to maximize European clout in the world and then working together within a permanent pan-European institution set-up for that purpose, figure out how to best work together for mutual economic benefit, and how best to share the overwhelming number of obligations that are owed by developed nations to developing nations.

Things evolve over time. But just because they evolve, doesn’t mean that those things are the best they can be. It simply means that evolution has occurred.

For example, no modern city planner would’ve located Athens where it is now. It’s impossible to defend militarily (in our modern era) it suffers from lack of rainfall+water shortages, it’s hellishly hot in the summer, and it sits atop a major earthquake fault system. Yet, the city evolved and both its residents and the city government have made the best of it.

But it would have been far better for everyone if Athens had been located near the cities of Ioannina or Arta in Greece, where the city of Athens could’ve prospered a 100-times more than it has in its present location.

Likewise, now is the time to draw up what could’ve been all along and work towards what it still could be with the right vision, leadership, and management.

Rather than a splintering Europe that is getting weaker and less goal-directed as time rolls forward, Brexit offers the opportunity to make Europe work better for all its citizens and to strengthen the pan-European worldview — starting with a clean sheet that allows the UK, the EU, Switzerland, Norway and Greenland to succeed as never before!

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.

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