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After 3-years of Lollygagging Now They Want An Article 50 Extension?

by John Brian Shannon

The best example of European ‘Low Ambition’ has arrived (in the UK of all places!) and British citizens should be enraged.

After piddling around for over 2 1/2 years, the UK government is now putting out ‘feelers’ about how the UK public would react to an Article 50 extension. Pathetic.

There are many valid reasons why citizens and the media should virtually veto this idea — and number one on the list is that it cynically works to strengthen the hand of Remainers many of whom still can’t accept the June 23, 2016 referendum result and are actively working to this day to subvert the will of the majority.

Is Theresa May actually trying to create the conditions necessary to start a civil war? Because without her feeding the anti-Brexit movement at irregular intervals over the past 30-months it would’ve died out of its own accord as it wasn’t that strong to begin with.

What kind of leader would work against the wishes of a majority of referendum voters to strengthen the losers of such an historic referendum? Sir Winston Churchill (who earned his title by the way) is rolling over in his grave at this very moment.

Again, Britain’s leaders must stop acting like they’re representing the 120th-largest economy in the world and begin acting like they’re representing the 6th-largest economy in the world. Yes, even if that is scary. Oh Winston, where are you?

Britons and the entire world are dying to hear Winston Churchill snarling, ‘This will be Britain’s finest owwwa!’ in full British bulldog mode.

And far less of;
‘IsItAlrightToSitHere?Oh,ItIsn’t?OK,Sorry,I’llSitRightOverHereThenIfThat’sOKWithYou. AndI’mWillingToPay£39BillionForThePrivilege,ButIfYouWantMoreThat’sOKToo. ButPleaseJustGiveMeSomeTimeToSellItToMyGovernmentFirst.
IfThat’sOKWithYou,Jean-Claude.Don’tBeMad,OK?’

Followed by the mandatory 5-minute round of air-kisses between the two. Sickening.


Let’s Look at the Pros and Cons of a Delayed Article 50

As there aren’t any ‘Pros’ let’s skip directly to the ‘Cons’ of an Article 50 extension:

  1. It might create a civil war in the UK: Or it might strengthen the present divisions which could lead to the kind of polarized society we see in the United States. Which is great if you’re a UK politician trying to make a name for yourself by using ‘Divide and Conquer’ tactics leftover from the feudal era, but it’s never good for a country. Yes, it might work for you but it will permanently damage the country. Anyone who uses such tactics to further their own career, prolong their premiership, or gain a fleeting advantage over their political opponents should be fired by their party for fomenting public strife.
  2. Adding even more uncertainty is bad for the economy: Keeping the fight going for whatever reason instead of getting on with the business of the country has had a deleterious effect on the UK economy. As long as a Remain vs. Leave fight continues business confidence within and outside the country is negatively affected. Leave won. Remain lost. Even Remainers in government must get over it, or do the honourable thing and resign their Parliamentary seat. This applies to the House of Lords as well. If you can’t accede to the will of The People you’re not a democrat, you’re a despot. And nobody wants you — except the losers of the 2016 referendum. Bye! We (the people who believe in democracy) won’t miss you. Don’t call. Don’t write. We don’t want to know.
  3. The UK looks weak in front of the entire world: As the world watches, the way Brexit has been handled on the British side makes Britain look disorganized, unsure of itself and led by a closet Remainer, that is at all times afraid of its own shadow… and this! this? is the UK that hopes to become a major exporting nation in a globalized world that (try not to laugh here) is supposed to be based on a meritocratic government and society according to Theresa May? Give us a break!
  4. There is nothing to be gained by extending Article 50. Nothing! The same (apparently intractable) problems will remain and nothing more can be said then, that hasn’t already been said between the two sides. If they can’t get it done in 3-years (!!!) what makes them think they can get it done in 3-years + 3-months? Ludicrous! The EU says the draft Withdrawal Agreement can’t be renegotiated (which is incorrect, as it’s only a ‘draft agreement’ or ‘proposal’) and if they want to sell cars, etc. to the UK they will sign a revised (no backstop) agreement at some time before the 11th-hour on March 29th. And I don’t blame the EU one bit for trying that bluff on a weak UK Prime Minister. I would too, as would any negotiator. But Theresa May will be a fool if she falls for that ol’ negotiating ploy. Everyone can see it for what it is. So why can’t Theresa May? Inexplicable!
  5. After the EU/EC elections in May 2019, the UK will be facing the ‘Hard Crew’ — not the ‘Soft Crew’ of jolly old (and powerful) Jean-Claude Juncker and businesslike (and powerful) Donald Tusk — both of whom almost like the British. The Hard Crew is most decidedly NOT going to be easier to negotiate with. The Hard Crew is NOT going to allow any better deal for the UK. The Hard Crew is NOT going to put up with some of the shenanigans we’ve seen from the British side. And the Hard Crew certainly won’t consider changes to the proposed backstop. And the Hard Crew (and this is important!) won’t be bound by any self-serving and pollyanna Political Declaration that has absolutely no force in law. Might as well tear that up right now Theresa because the Hard Crew isn’t going to entertain one word of that document unless some part of it happens to favour the EU side. If you think the EU aren’t your friends now (and they aren’t, they’re quite rightly negotiating and bluffing for their own side, not the UK side) just wait until you meet the new boss!

Finally, Theresa May has been getting better and better by the month. However, she’s failed to grasp some important points which may prove disastrous to Britain and to her legacy once she leaves office.

Her oft-repeated statement which she quoted on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday goes like this; “Don’t let the search for the perfect become the enemy of the good.”

Which is a nice thought but it misses the mark and she doesn’t see it. Brexiteers aren’t asking for “the perfect” — they’re asking for a “successful” Brexit. What Theresa May thinks is “the perfect” is what Brexiteers merely consider “the bare minimum” level of Brexit success.

Remember the four metrics of Brexit success?

  1. Take back control of the UK’s borders and immigration
  2. Take back control of the UK legal system
  3. Take back control of the UK economy
  4. Take back control of UK trade

And her draft Withdrawal Agreement as it presently sits (unloved by anyone in the world except Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker) satisfies only 3-out-of-4 of those metrics, but is otherwise an excellent document.

Which results in a failed grade for Theresa May as far as Brexit negotiations are concerned.

A ‘No Deal’ Brexit is far superior to the present draft Withdrawal Agreement as a No Deal Brexit WILL ALLOW THE UK to strike any trade deal it wants, post-Brexit.

Theresa May is living a fairy-tale if she thinks that allowing the backstop to remain in the draft agreement and then post-Brexit trying to negotiate her way out of the backstop with the Hard Crew is going to get the UK out of the backstop. (What???)

Sorry Theresa. I like you. But the EU is trying to steal Northern Ireland from the UK by stealth (If I were them, I’d try the same thing!) employing the backstop to arrive at the point in time where a UK Prime Minister’s choice would be narrowed down by events to only one of two choices; Either surrender Northern Ireland to the EU, or the UK becomes trapped in a worse deal.

Theresa May’s draft Withdrawal Agreement as it stands would’ve gotten her a 1-out-of-10 grade in Political Science class. That’s a 10% grade. Not even up to the D- mark that we all feared in high school.

Yet, with one change (dropping the backstop, or alternatively, putting a firm end-date on Customs Union membership) would turn that very same draft Withdrawal Agreement into an A+ agreement, or 95% if you prefer that measure.

Who wants an even worse deal than at present? Hands up! None? See Theresa, I’m right!

So choose to drop the backstop, or alternatively, get a firm end-date on Customs Union membership and you’ll be the hero of Brexit and live out your life in the House of Lords after your premiership ends! Or, choose to be reviled worse than Guy Fawkes — for being the Prime Minister who delivered the British people into the hands of the EU’s Hard Crew and concomitantly trap Britain in an even worse deal than it presently has.

There’s no other options left. Taking the path of least resistance with your EU pals is no longer an option. The time has come to show some mettle or get out-of-the-way and let someone who can get the job done, get it done.

And forget about cancelling Brexit. That should be a treasonable offence even for British MP’s including the Prime Minister. The People voted to Leave and you must follow their instructions.

Of course it’s nice to leave the EU with a Withdrawal Agreement that allows an easy Implementation Period so that no one has to work too hard at moving to a new way of doing things, and it’s nice to create fluffy and pretty Political Declarations that sound wonderful and sweet (but in reality will rank as nothing once the Hard Crew gets into power) and all the other sweet, flowery, diplomatic and fluffy things that the new relationship with the EU could and should be. But none of that is based in reality.

And unfortunately, no matter how we try to pretty it up, we live in reality, not in non legally binding documents. And no one wants to be trapped in a worse deal.

So, put on your big-girl pants and get the final and most important part of the job done, or get out-of-the-way and let someone else who can, get the job done.

You’ve been great, but obtaining a successful Brexit is bigger than any one Prime Minister (or two, or three!) and it must be done right.

Hurt feelings, being pushed aside for a more proactive and bolder Prime Minister, or not being able to build the legacy you want are far less important than the British people getting out of the EU (which is what they voted for) and either obtaining a better Withdrawal Agreement prior to March 29, 2019 or moving smartly along to a No Deal Brexit by the same date, are your only two options.

Any other paths are merely flights of fantasy that only serve to waste everyone’s time, including yours.

Theresa May: Out of the Frying Pan and Into 2019

by John Brian Shannon

Well Brexit fans, that was a year, wasn’t it?

Everything that could’ve happened, did happen — except for a 2nd EU referendum which (speaking hypothetically) if the Leave side won, might’ve put a stop to the complaining of Remainers who still can’t reconcile the fact that they lost the referendum 2 1/2 years ago. It’s time to move on, folks!

But what if Remain had won a 2nd referendum on EU membership, you ask? It would’ve turned it into a best-out-of-three affair that would’ve required another costly and divisive referendum to settle.

If the UK had unlimited funding and unlimited time — a best-out-of-three referendum scenario would’ve worked out nicely, wouldn’t it?

Just for the record, Brexit would’ve won it two-in-a-row, thereby preventing the need for any third EU referendum and Remainers (I’m sure!) would’ve thanked Brexiteers for saving taxpayers even more millions for a third EU referendum. Because for Brexiteers it’s all about saving UK taxpayer money. You’re welcome! Just another Brexit dividend.

Fortunately, as time is short, there’s no time for another referendum to ensure ‘The People’ voted the ‘right way’ and only the usual malcontents are holding placards and yelling at cars, because, well, they didn’t get their way!

That old democracy thing really sorts them out, doesn’t it? (“Why can’t I just get my way every time?” “Because, democracy.”)


Only 90 Days Until Brexit

Although UK Prime Minister Theresa May tried mightily she wasn’t able to get a draft Withdrawal Agreement passed in the House of Commons that would’ve allowed the UK and the EU an easier transition through Brexit and (bonus for the EU!) a £39 billion, one-time payment.

However, the EU is well-known for its last-minute 11th-hour deals, and nobody should expect the draft Withdrawal Agreement to be modified enough to pass in the UK House of Commons and be approved by each EU27 country until at least March 15th. That’s just the way they do things there. Hey, they’re allowed to use whatever negotiating ploys they want, as is the UK. All’s fair in love and divorce, they say.

In the meantime, Theresa May has but one option: Prepare for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit with as much enthusiasm as she can muster, getting all of her departments moving in the right direction, and she must continue with the non-Brexit business of running the country — until the 11th-hour people want to talk again.

And they already know what they must do in order to gain a deal that will pass on both sides of the English Channel: It’s as simple as removing the Irish backstop, or putting a firm end-date on UK Customs Union membership. Either of those choices are fine.

And once that happens the UK House of Commons will pass the amended draft Withdrawal Bill with plenty of bipartisan support as party politics must step aside for the good of the country at such historical moments, and it’s likely the EU27 parliaments will pass it as well.

For EU countries, there’s not only continuing access to UK markets to think about, there’s that £39 billion one-time payment to gain or lose. And if they miss it they’ll have only themselves to blame because all it takes to obtain that £39 billion payment is a signed Withdrawal Agreement — and that means signed by both sides — the UK and each of the EU27 countries.


Steady-On, Theresa, Until the EU Get Serious About an Implementation Period + Withdrawal Agreement

According to the terms of Article 50, Brexit will occur on March 29, 2019 and it’s the default option — no matter what else happens or doesn’t happen in the meantime. If the Withdrawal Agreement never gets signed, Brexit will still occur. Let’s make no mistake.

However, Theresa May has no power to force the EU negotiators to the table in order to arrive at a mutually beneficial Brexit agreement. If they want a deal, they’ll show up prior to March 29, 2019.

But if they don’t, the UK gets to keep the £39 billion and spend it on the NHS and other important parts of the UK economy and the UK will be completely (and mercifully) out of the European Union governance architecture. Which might involve a little ‘short term pain for long-term gain’ for both sides.

Yet it’s coming out a little more each day that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit scenario isn’t as scary as Project Fear has made it out to be. Let’s try to forget how wrong they were over the past 2 1/2 years. Nobody is listening to their ‘sky is falling’ toxic talk any more.

Almost every economic indicator in the UK is on the uptick since the EU referendum and a lower pound sterling works to make UK exports affordable overseas. Which is a very good thing for British manufacturing — a sector that has fallen to less than 10% of UK GDP since the 1970’s when it contributed 25% to UK GDP.

One of the best things about Brexit is that the UK will again forge its own trade relationships with the rest of the world instead of being tied to the EU economy which has fallen from 25% of global GDP in 1993 to 11% of global GDP in 2016, and is projected to fall further to 9% of global GDP by 2020.

While we should wish the EU27 well, it’ll be a breath of fresh air for British exporters to finally leave the bloc. Yet, let’s hope the UK can leave the EU on good terms, with a decent Withdrawal Agreement that’s acceptable to all 28 nations, and with a CETA-style trade agreement.

Anything less than that minimum level of success would be a case of leaders on both sides of the English Channel shooting themselves in the foot.


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

As Brexit Negotiations Drag On: Are Europeans Missing Opportunities as Big as the Sky?

by John Brian Shannon

Countdown to Brexit

Countdown to Brexit. As of August 5, 2018 there are 237 days until the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019.

 

Only 237 days to go until the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019, and only microscopic progress has been made on crafting a ‘Win-Win’ divorce deal.

Such is the state of affairs that exists (1) within the UK, (2) within the EU, and (3) between the two countries. It is to weep.

But whether the United Kingdom or the European Union are ready for Brexit or not, the Brexit baby will be born — therefore, it’s imperative that both sides stop posturing and get on with creating a deal that works for citizens and industry on both sides of the English Channel.


What Else Is There Besides Brexit?

Although it may be difficult for Europeans to see, there are bigger issues in the world than Brexit which is why a deal needs to get done properly and quickly as there are other, more pressing, and more important matters for European politicians to attend to.

If we liken the geopolitical world to an auto race (a Formula One race) while all the other teams are busy prepping for the race and getting to their startup positions, the UK and the EU have found a muddy part of the infield and are playing ‘bumper cars’ with each other like a couple of overly-exuberant teenagers — getting mud all over their sponsor’s brand names and on their respective drivers’ goggles, they’re damaging the tires and composite body of their race cars, and they’re burning up precious fuel reserved for racing against the ‘big boy teams’ of America, China, Japan, India, Brazil and others.

Either the UK and the EU governments already have a deal and just haven’t announced it to the public, or they don’t realize that other more important geopolitical matters will soon bypass the ‘tempest in a teapot’ happening in Europe.

New and important things sometimes start small. Don’t believe it?

The first streetlights were installed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1879 when electric lights (Brush arc lamps) were placed along major roadways. Thomas Edison (who spent most of his day napping in his workshop only to become extremely productive afterward) was a person who toiled away for years inventing and designing a reliable light bulb, manufacturing one bulb at a time. Yet, the lighting industry in its entirety is a multi-trillion dollar business in our day.

George Eastman, right under everyone’s noses created a company in 1888 (Kodak) that eventually made so much money they weren’t always able to count it. New machines had to be built (computers) to keep track of the astronomical number of transactions happening all over the world, every minute of every day. Over the decades Kodak contributed more than a trillion dollars to the global economy and made the company and its shareholders unbelievably wealthy. Kodak’s patents and knowledge are still with us today.

The Wright Brothers ultralight aircraft first flew on December 17, 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. At that time, the two men were thought of as odd, even eccentric people with fantastical ideas wasting precious days that could’ve been better spent. Yet, look at what their great invention has created — a multi-trillion dollar civilian airline industry and military aircraft industry.

From tiny beginnings, the first Model T automobile rolled off the assembly line on October 1, 1908 and see the changes the auto industry has brought to the world. Henry Ford is widely credited with the creation of the American middle class, something that propelled America far ahead of its competitors. Today, the world’s auto industry is also a multi-trillion dollar business, yet everyone thought old Henry was a bit of a dreamer.

King George VI united the modern Commonwealth of Nations under the banner, “Leaders agree that Commonwealth members are free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations, freely co-operating in the pursuit of peace, liberty and progress.” The Commonwealth now have 53 members with a total population of over 2.5 billion citizens and ranks near the United States, China, or Japan in GDP and PPP.

Steve Jobs created a company that in relatively few years became a trillion-dollar company, designing a computer operating system that was ahead of his competitors, and designed an astonishing number of world-class products, services and apps that allowed users capabilities they’d never imagined.

All of these great advances slipped completely under the radar at the time of their creation. Governments, industry, and citizens were completely oblivious as to what would follow.

The first flight at Kitty Hawk was seen as a sort of carnival ride item that made you wish you’d live long enough to see it come to your hometown, while Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Yes, Henry was that far ahead of his contemporaries.

The point is, all these advances and others haven’t stopped at any time during the 20th century — technological advances are happening right now, right under our noses, just as in the time of Henry Ford — and the next Steve Jobs or Henry Ford aren’t going to stop and wait a few years for the UK and the EU to get their Brexit act together.

For all we know, the next trillion-dollar company or multi-trillion dollar industry might be deciding (this week!) where to set-up their ground-breaking operation and such entrepreneurs are likely to avoid regions of the world where economic instability appears or where regulations aren’t finalized. Dragging-out Brexit = European instability.

It’s not against the UK or the EU… it’s against both.

Both will suffer if a stabilized economy and a finalized regulatory environment are seen to be ‘aspirational’ — which is a word entrepreneurs sometimes encounter in developing nations.


Missed Opportunities?

UK and EU leaders should rethink their negotiating ‘strategy’ and factor-in the potential for losing the next start-up, disruptive technology, or multi-trillion dollar industry to a different region of the world, whenever they next meet to discuss Brexit.

Imagine if Europe would’ve ‘had it’s act together’ in previous decades… perhaps Thomas Edison, George Eastman, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs would’ve started their businesses in Europe instead of America.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, negotiators.

With financing and instant communications available almost everywhere, the global playing field has levelled since the 19th century, so ‘ease of doing business’ and ‘a transparent regulatory environment’ can make all the difference when today’s entrepreneurs meet to choose a location for the next trillion-dollar business.

We’ll soon know if any of this registers with British and European leaders…