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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!

Why are we Talking About Russia and Syria Instead of Brexit?

by John Brian Shannon

A civil war has been raging inside Syria since 2010 — a conflict with roots back to the Western-backed ‘Arab Spring’ which left all those countries in MUCH WORSE CONDITION and if you believe the press reports, great atrocities were perpetrated by some or all sides in Arab Spring nations and continue to occur in the Syrian conflict.

No surprise there. There hasn’t been a civil war in history where heinous crimes haven’t been committed and they are often committed by more than one side. Syria is nothing special in that regard.

Not that we should ignore those events. Far from it!

But most Western politicians are of the mind that when such atrocities are committed they should be countered with an appropriate military strike directed against the suspected perpetrators of such attacks — to act as a deterrent to prevent future heinous attacks. Except that it doesn’t work.

It’s a very human response that is typical of non-military minds to think that a military counter-strike will accomplish anything, but combat-experienced military people know that war isn’t over until it’s over, and that never happens until there’s a clear winner.

Less than twelve months ago, the United States used cruise missile strikes to punish those Syrians who purportedly used chemical weapons in an attack against combatants, non-combatants, and any civilians who happened to be within range of the chemical bombs dropped by helicopter and here we are again contemplating a Western-backed missile attack against Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons.

READ: Timeline of chemical weapons attacks in Syria (Washington Post)

Which proves that occasional cruise missile attacks by the United States against the Syrian military and against non-state actors in Syria, doesn’t work. Because as soon as we turn our backs they’re at it again. Check that timeline link above and remember that timeline only covers the chemical attacks we know about.


Parallels With the Vietnam War?

Prior to the United States becoming involved in the Vietnam conflict, heinous acts were suspected to occur and was one of the reasons used to justify American intervention.

As usual, it wasn’t long before every side — including the Americans — were receiving bad press for purported wartime atrocities during the Vietnam War. It was a war that lasted exactly 10,000 days and during that time every side was lambasted by the world media for certain usages of force.

‘Agent Orange’ (a chemical defoliant used to strip the leaves from trees and plants to allow better ground surveillance) was used by the Americans and it’s plausible that enemy combatants could have been in the area during spraying and may have received lethal doses of the stuff — yet the chemicals used by the other side were even worse for plants, jungle life, and humans alike.

In the end, the Vietnam War, like any other war, wasn’t over until it was over — counter-strikes for chemical weapons use notwithstanding.

Which is a different way of saying that occasional military strikes prior to full involvement by the Americans in Vietnam did nothing to prevent suspected chemical weapons use and other wartime atrocities perpetrated by the North Vietnamese Army and its sidekick the Viet Cong militia group, but neither did full engagement.


What’s the UK’s Role in the post-Brexit World?

It certainly isn’t policing Syria. Nor is it patrolling or intervening anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea region which by definition is in the EU’s sphere of influence as it’s the dominant superpower in the region. And other than helping to protect longtime ally Israel, the Americans have no legitimate business in the Med either.

Launching into nebulous encounters with Syria, Russia and China over suspected small-scale chemical weapons attacks in Syria is begging for trouble. The kind of trouble that gets shiny new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers sunk for no good reason.

The UK’s role in the world is changing and it must evolve ahead of the curve, not behind it.

First and foremost must be the protection of the United Kingdom, which has thrived under both NATO and EU protection. And thanks to the UK’s longtime relationship with the United States, if things had got past the point that the UK and EU acting together couldn’t handle a particular threat, the Americans would’ve come to our rescue. Thank you again, America!

But in less than 352 days the UK can no longer count on EU protection (nor should it expect any special treatment from the EU) and with America turning away from the world, it’s well past the time to take a full spectrum view of UK defence and capabilities.

And before you can do that, you need to define the role the military is expected to play.


Priorities

  1. Protection of the land, sea and airspace, over, in, and around, the United Kingdom.
  2. Protection of and mutual aid agreements with; Norway (because of its proximity to the UK) with NATO countries (still close to the UK) and with all Commonwealth of Nations members.
  3. Mutual aid agreements with *potential* Commonwealth nations.
  4. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK *has* bilateral trade agreements.
  5. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK is *exploring* bilateral trade agreements.
  6. Humanitarian assistance operations approved by the UN.

In short, just like a policeman, every country has its own ‘beat’ — the territory it needs to defend.

The UK’s beat in the post-Brexit era must be limited to operations and mutual aid to partner countries in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean, otherwise the UK will need to purchase more aircraft carriers and other capital ships and severe UK budget cuts would be required to afford all that extra warfighting capacity.

I respectfully posit that protection of the UK, Norway and other NATO countries, and the Commonwealth of Nations is a sizable enough beat for the United Kingdom now, and will remain that way for many years to come.

Making 2018 the year to drill down to find what is, and what isn’t, of the utmost importance to the United Kingdom’s future.

Parts of the world that have only a passing socio-economic or military interest for the United Kingdom must remain off-limits, unless British taxpayers want to fund a military that is comparable to the U.S. military in size and scope.

Let the superpowers and the countries closest to the world’s various conflict zones assist those nations in crisis — Britain can’t be everywhere, cleaning-up everyone else’s messes.

Taking care of the UK, the Commonwealth, and upholding NATO commitments will be more than enough to keep the UK occupied for the balance of the 21st-century.