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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.

Why the UK Must Steer Brexit & Not be Steered

by John Brian Shannon

As the UK is a net contributor to the EU, there’s no incentive for European Parliament negotiators to want an early deal

However, yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May ‘called time’ on never-ending Brexit negotiations by informing the EU that October 29, 2018 is the last day to avert a WTO-style Brexit, commonly called a ‘No Deal’ Brexit

UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Image courtesy of Reuters

To understand why there is any debate at all about the UK leaving the European Union, one must understand that the United Kingdom contributes more to the EU than it receives. Over £8 billion (net) per year flows from the United Kingdom to the European Union and people are wondering why the EU Parliament is opposed to Brexit?

That’s a lot of money even by European standards, a continent of 504 million people.

£8 billion is the difference between a rich EU and a cash-starved EU that can’t afford all of its legitimate programmes and its excesses. To wit; The alcohol budget for the EU Parliament is in the tens of millions (euros) per year.

Yes, every government has a wine and spirits budget, but the EU Parliament alcohol budget is bigger than the next ten countries alcohol budgets combined. And it’s not just the alcohol budget that we’re talking about here.

The only country that contributes more to the EU budget is Germany — which pays even more than the UK! — and not a word of thanks to either Britain or Germany for subsidizing almost every policy and almost every country in the 28 member bloc.


Ready for some numbers?

Britain’s population is 65 million, so the net contribution of £8 billion works out to £123. per Briton, per year.

If you want to figure it by workers, who after all are the ones paying this bill, there are about 33 million workers in the UK, and 30 million of them are Britons.

So, let’s do the math; £8 billion, divided by 30 million, equals £266 per worker, per year. Over ten years, that’s £2660 per British-born worker.

What could that amount of money done for each British worker over the past decade? We’ll never know.


So far, so good?

Let’s look at the UK contribution over the past decade, which means we are simply multiplying those numbers by ten.

The net contribution of the United Kingdom over ten years is £80 billion.
Let’s see what the UK could’ve done with that money:

  • 26 Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, completely fitted-out. (or)
  • 100 more Wembley Stadiums. (or)
  • 146 state-of-the-art UK hospitals such as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. (or)
  • 183 copies of The Shard, an iconic building in London. (or)
  • 2285 brand-new Academy schools, or 5333 brand-new state-run Secondary schools. (or)
  • Every UK high school graduate could receive a tuition-free PhD education and a new small car.

That’s just the past ten years…

What could be better than any one of those things? Is there anything better? Let us know in the comments section below!

Really, for all the (net) billions that go to the European Union courtesy of the British taxpayer what do Britons get in return?

Not one thing. Because it’s the net amount, not the gross amount. Which by definition means that Britons are getting nothing for that particular £8 billion (annual) or £80 billion (decade) net payment to the union. It’s the net amount. Get it?


Obviously, there’s nothing in Brexit for the EU

How could there be? It’s all in their favour.

Every year that the EU can stretch Brexit out is another £8 billion (net) for the European Union to fund its good and necessary budgets and their unconscionable, wasteful spending programmes. (Bad for Britain, but good for the EU!)

Only the most foolish and irresponsible British government would allow the EU to stretch this out for as long as possible (and who could blame the EU for doing so?) and that’s why Prime Minister Theresa May must be shown respect here.


In Theresa May’s UK, Britain is No Longer the EU’s Cash Cow

Love her or hate her, everyone knew that Margaret Thatcher truly loved Britain — and we’re starting to see a renewed and more confident Theresa May rising to meet the challenges of her time, as did Maggie in her era.

Theresa May has wisely informed the EU that there is a ‘Best Before’ date for Brexit negotiations and that October 29, 2018 is the absolute last date that the proposed 2-year implementation deal can be offered to the European Union.

In the absence of such a signed agreement Brexit negotiators will have no other option but to prepare for a full-blown WTO-based Brexit. (Which won’t be half as traumatic as it sounds as most of the world operates on WTO rules and have done so since 1995)

Therefore, smart EU negotiators will string it along for as long as they can as it’s (obviously) the logical way for their side to proceed. But now that the Prime Minister has provided a timeline to work toward, expect the 2-year implementation deal to be signed one day before the deadline, because that gets the European Union the most British taxpayer cash without actually missing the October 29, 2018 deadline.

Calling ‘time’ on the EU’s negotiating tactics (delay, obstruct, delay some more) is the single best, and strongest thing Theresa May has done since becoming Britain’s Prime Minister — and when combined with her Florence speech where she reached-out to EU leaders and to the European people as never before by a British PM — Mrs. May will earn and thereby guarantee her place in British history as the UK’s Brexit Prime Minister.

Well done on all counts, Theresa!


Related Articles:

  • My mission is a two-year bridge to a final Brexit deal, Theresa May tells MPs (The Times)
  • Brexit divorce lawyers eye up EU’s wine list (Financial Times)

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)