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Come to the EU – The Home of the 11th-Hour Deal!

by John Brian Shannon

“Every day we teach others how to treat us” …is a truism that hides in plain sight wherever there are human beings

And the EU has taught the world and UK politicians that the EU27 countries are famous for their last-minute 11th-hour trade and political agreements.

No matter the hoopla surrounding any potential agreement that the EU is negotiating and whatever is said by European Union leaders and negotiators during the entire course of negotiations, it turns out that most of it is nothing more than posing and positioning in order to subsequently obtain the best deal, and this process continues right up to the last-minute during negotiations.

Which is completely legitimate! Yes, it’s frustrating and they bring a lot of anger towards them from their negotiating partners — but that’s the way the EU chooses to negotiate their trade and political deals, and it’s as legitimate as any other way to negotiate deals. (It’s just not my way, for the record)

The negative for the EU is that it teaches the EU’s potential partners that there will always be a deal, but that it won’t be signed until the last possible second.

Consequently, anyone who has watched the EU since 1993 knows that there *will* be an 11th-hour deal — in this case on the topic of Brexit — which is why everyone should forget the smoke and mirrors routine, go home, and completely disregard EU utterances until March 28th, 2019.

Because nothing about Brexit really matters to the EU until then.


Would You Like an Example?

Of course you would! And I’m sooo happy to provide it.

The (excellent, by the way) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada, the European Union and its member states took 7 long years to negotiate and even now in its 8th-year still isn’t fully implemented due to protectionist elements within the EU.

Not one EU member has ratified the CETA agreement and some of the EU27 have indicated they want to renegotiate the agreement, or they want exceptions or even certain provisions added to the existing CETA agreement.

In the meantime, CETA has been provisionally applied which means that the treaty eliminates 98% of the tariffs between Canada and the EU.

In the end, there seems only a 50% chance of getting this agreement ratified by the EU27 — yet it’s such a good agreement that other countries are considering it as a template to use for their own (non-EU) trade agreements.

Remember the adage: “Every day we teach others how to treat us.”

(Drum roll, please)

So, let’s look at what the EU has taught the world in regards to negotiating CETA

  1. The EU played its typical negotiating games and signed at the last-minute, in a huff
  2. It took 7 long years for Canada to negotiate a trade deal with the EU
  3. The EU implemented only the parts of the deal that they liked
  4. Not one EU country has yet ratified CETA although Canada ratified it promptly
  5. If only one of the EU27 fails to ratify CETA it cancels the entire deal
  6. Long after negotiations were concluded, some EU27 members are now trying to cherry-pick and/or renegotiate the parts of the deal that they didn’t like

I dunno. That’s a pretty damning indictment of the EU. Certainly there’s no blame on the Canadians, even the EU agrees that.

Canada negotiated fairly and got the best deal it could over the 7-year negotiating process, it ratified the deal promptly, and implemented it immediately as instructed by the agreement terms — and then, settled down to wait to see if the EU would keep their side of the bargain.

And it looks like, well… not. It looks like the EU will not be keeping their side of the bargain. At least, they haven’t kept their side of the CETA agreement, yet.

But they said they would! cried naive Canadians.

Consequently, every day that passes since CETA was signed equates to the EU living a lie.

How’s that for rude negotiating tactics, an abnormally long negotiation process, only partial implementation on the EU-side, failure to ratify on the EU-side, and some EU27 countries are now trying to cherry-pick or renegotiate the parts of the CETA agreement that they didn’t like?

Does that sound like a reliable trading partner? You tell me.


All of Which Should Convince You to Ignore EU Utterances until March 28, 2019

So, pack your bags, Theresa May. The EU27 are using you.

The EU27 have no intention of negotiating in good faith (until, say, the 11th-hour of March 28, 2019) and then, once an agreement is hastily signed in a flurry of bureaucratic face-saving on March 29th, the EU will expect the House of Commons to ratify the agreement promptly, yet the EU27 itself will fail to ratify the deal, followed by certain EU countries trying to cherry-pick or renegotiate the parts of the agreement that they didn’t like… in a process that could last for years.


Prove me wrong – I dare you!

Nothing is so damning as history and the Canadian example is but one of many that demonstrates the EU’s history of employing disrespectful negotiating tactics against its potential trade or political partners.

Those who see the EU through rose-tinted lenses must do their own Google searches to find out that the EU27 are only in business for themselves and will stop at nothing to further their own agenda (as is their right).

But what ‘throws’ a lot of us is that they use tactics that will (if we let them away with it) turn every one of their good EU allies into EU enemies. And that isn’t good for us, it isn’t good for the world, and ultimately it’s not good for the EU27.

Let’s therefore help these continentals learn to play well with others, and thereby change their sad history of bad dealing with friendly nations.

Message Received, Theresa May?

by John Brian Shannon

It’s not you Theresa May, it’s your draft Withdrawal Agreement that’s caused your problems!

That can’t be said enough, for it’s the only glaringly wrong thing that Theresa May has done throughout her premiership.

Perhaps ‘wrong’ is too strong a word as it’s more like an error of omission (but an ‘omission’ that has the potential to cost the country dearly!) and her brutal personal schedule, plus a lack of support from her party, added to the lonely battle of one human being against many in Brussels must have contributed to Theresa May’s failure to grasp the importance of the fourth and final piece of the Brexit puzzle.

It’s been pointed out many times that more people want you to fail than want you to succeed when you’re a British Prime Minister. The UK political system and certain media outlets are particularly harsh on British PM’s, but that’s the life those politicians chose so there can be no complaining. Although we can understand she might experience a high level of frustration from time to time.


Theresa May Comments After the Conservative Party Confidence Vote

With characteristic class and resolve Theresa May stood outside 10 Downing St. last night after what was surely the most trying day of her premiership and spoke candidly about the result of the Conservative Party confidence vote — which she won — but not by the landslide predicted.

Some 117 Conservative MP’s voted against her staying on as leader and 200 voted for her to continue.

Though Theresa May won on numbers, former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was forced out even though she survived a similar confidence vote with 4 more votes than Theresa May has just done allowing Theresa to continue her premiership.

Which must send Theresa May a clear message. And that message must be that at least 17.4 million Britons and 117 Conservative Party members are very concerned about getting stuck in a permanent Customs Union/Single Market with the European Union — with no chance to leave it, ever!

That’s a bad deal by any standard, and I hope the Prime Minister recognizes that millions of Britons (and non-British, but significant stakeholders in the UK economy) are genuinely concerned and it isn’t about political tub-thumping.


Britons Need Proof the Backstop Has Been Removed or a Firm End Date to Customs Union Membership Has Been Agreed

It’s of no use for EC President Donald Tusk and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker to tell Theresa May that the Irish backstop won’t ever be employed so don’t worry about it. It’s equally of no use for a non-legally binding addition to the Political Declaration document. It’s not worth one penny.

Because neither Donald Tusk nor Jean-Claude Juncker will remain in their posts after the EU elections next year, and their successors won’t be obligated in any way to follow non legally binding agreements that were made prior to their own swearing-in ceremony. Not only that, but unless these terms are written into the legal document (the draft Withdrawal Agreement) they aren’t binding, they’re just fluff.

The only way to solve this problem is for Theresa May to inform both the EC and EU presidents that her party will not vote up a draft Withdrawal Agreement in which there is an Irish backstop, or one that doesn’t have a firm end-date for Customs Union membership. And the EU can forget about the £39 billion divorce payment.

“Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, a former party leader and a Brexiteer who voted against Mrs May in Wednesday’s vote, said he wanted to “send a strong message” to the PM.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We cannot go on just with the idea that a fiddle here and a fiddle there is what the problem is.”

Instead, he said Mrs May should say that the £39bn the UK has agreed to pay the EU as part of the divorce deal is “at risk”.

“They have got to say to the EU… we are not committed to this £39bn unless we get some resolution.” — BBC

For as long as the existing Withdrawal Agreement continues to include a backstop clause and/or lacks a Customs Union automatic escape date, I strongly suspect it will continue to be voted down in the UK House of Commons, and if the EU is looking to drive the UK into a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’ they’re on that trajectory with certainty.

Let me repeat: As long as there is a backstop, the draft Withdrawal Agreement won’t pass in the UK House of Commons.

Alternatively: As long as there’s no automatic end date to Customs Union membership, the draft Withdrawal Agreement won’t pass in the UK House of Commons.

Like it or not, that’s where we are. And the job of politicians is to fix political problems. So, it’s time to get to work, Theresa May.


Is Theresa May Up For It?

Full marks to Theresa May for making it through another brutal day. Why anyone would want to be a British Prime Minister is quite beyond me — but more power to her! — especially if she gets the backstop removed from the draft Withdrawal Agreement, or if an automatic end-date to Customs Union membership is added to the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

You’re becoming a better Prime Minister every month, Theresa May.

Now just meet this final challenge and you’ll be 4-out-of-4 and able to score highly among British Prime Ministers throughout Britain’s history. Your country needs you to be that good, that dedicated, and that strong!

The Day After Theresa May’s Draft Withdrawal Agreement Fails…

by John Brian Shannon

Theresa May’s draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA) may be better than nothing but it isn’t the best possible deal for the UK, for British business, nor for British citizens. But a better deal may still be in the cards for the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The difference between a *somewhat better than a No Deal Brexit* and the *best possible Brexit* amounts to making three changes to the present draft Withdrawal Agreement:

  1. Remove the backstop
  2. Remove jurisdiction of the European Court (ECJ)
  3. Add a guaranteed end date to Customs Union membership

That’s the difference between Theresa May’s risky deal and a great deal for both sides.

With better negotiators the UK government would’ve succeeded on all counts, including the three mentioned above. That goes without saying.

If Theresa May had brought that deal home it would’ve been signed, sealed and delivered by now.

However, if Parliament rejects the present draft WA as it seems destined to do on December 11, 2018 — there’s another kick at the can which could happen on any given day right up until March 29th, 2018. And that’s exactly what needs to happen.

In the very few days after the present draft Withdrawal Agreement fails in the UK House of Commons, British MP’s should vote on and approve such changes to the draft as necessary and send Theresa May or her Brexit secretary back to the EU with the new offer that’s approved by Parliament. The moment the EU signs on the dotted line it’s binding on all concerned parties. That’s how to get this deal done.

Offer, then counter-offer. Repeat, until both sides are satisfied. That’s how negotiations work. Comprendi?


What’s the Deal With the Backstop?

The whole Northern Ireland border issue is a red herring.

First off, the situation between the people of Northern Ireland and the people of the Republic of Ireland has matured over many years to the point where a normal border (like every country in the world employs) could be created and there wouldn’t be a problem operating a normal, hard border.

Alternatively, if the situation between the two jurisdictions isn’t as mature as I suggest, technology could be employed to capture tariffs and ensure standards are met at the point of delivery in both jurisdictions.

And if the UK decides to utilize a zero-tariff economy post-Brexit, there’s no need for remote or in-transit tariff technology as there won’t be any need to capture tariffs.

With a little bit of creative thinking the wholly contrived ‘backstop issue’ goes away and most of the problems with Theresa May’s draft Withdrawal Agreement disappear!


Without the Backstop, the ECJ Doesn’t Need Jurisdiction in Any UK Territory – Devolved or Not

Once the backstop disappears there’s no longer any need for the ECJ to have jurisdiction anywhere in the UK.

Even if that means that Republic of Ireland exports destined for Northern Ireland must first be shipped to England, Scotland or Wales (to allow proper border checks to occur in England, Scotland or Wales) and then on to Northern Ireland in the normal manner.

The reverse is true for exports from Northern Ireland travelling to the Republic of Ireland. To satisfy all UK and EU regulations goods could be shipped from NI to England, Scotland or Wales ports, and after passing inspection, shipped on to the RoI.

Such trans-shipment procedures are quite normal in the 21st-century, but it might be a first for Europe. Can they handle it?


Negotiations 101

Only a fool accepts the first offer in any negotiation process — and that is doubly true when dealing with politicians who spend their entire careers negotiating one thing or another.

The problem is that Brexit negotiations are taking too long. The longer it takes to agree a Brexit deal, the more uncertainty for markets on both sides of the English Channel.

Only in Europe could Brexit take 3-years (we’re almost at 3-years now) and at present rates of progress it looks like it could drag on for another 3-years.

When Britons stop acting like they live in the 120th-largest economic power in the world instead of the 6th-largest the UK will finally live up to its full potential.

I exhort Prime Minister Theresa May and the rest of the UK government to; “Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions!”


The draft Withdrawal Agreement was Created to Prevent a Hard Brexit

However, it has significant deficiencies that need to be rectified before it can be approved by the House of Commons. Once those corrections are made it should be passed immediately by UK MP’s and sent on to the EU27 for their approval.

Draft Withdrawal Agreement was created to prevent a Hard Brexit

Summary

  • Theresa May should offer her draft Withdrawal Agreement up for vote in Parliament on December 11th as planned. Where it is likely to fail.
  • The PM should then offer the Political Declaration (only) up for vote on December 12th to demonstrate goodwill to the EU. Where it should pass easily.
  • Then the Prime Minister should consult with party leaders in the House of Commons and along with her Cabinet, create a counter-offer consisting of the existing draft WA, but with the backstop removed, any reference to the ECJ removed, and a firm end-date for leaving the so-called ‘temporary’ Customs Union with the EU. That date might be December 31, 2020, or it may be December 31, 2021.
  • And that new Withdrawal Agreement should be voted on and passed by the House of Commons if MP’s wish to honour the will of UK voters.
  • If the EU ratifies those changes, they get £39 billion on March 29, 2019 that Theresa May promised them in exchange for a signed Withdrawal Agreement — but if they don’t ratify it the UK owes (only) £9.65 billion (according to reliable sources) to the EU to pay expected future obligations to the EU.

On top of everything, everyone should stop panicking. We’re talking about a DRAFT Withdrawal Agreement, which by definition, means it’s still subject to negotiation no matter what EU negotiators or Theresa May say. It’s a DRAFT proposal. Get it?

It’s time for British MP’s to grab hold of this process; Let the deal fail in the House of Commons, then get the Political Declaration passed in the House, and then make the alterations to the draft Withdrawal Agreement that a majority of MP’s can support, then get that officially passed in the House — and then offer it to the EU by December 31, 2018. In that order. And that soon.

If the EU accepts the new Withdrawal Agreement proposal, everyone’s Brexit problems are solved, which allows the EU to be eligible to receive £39 billion on March 29, 2019.

If not, there’s plenty more time for negotiations no. matter. what. the. politicians. say.