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Theresa May’s New Year of Hope

by John Brian Shannon

As far as years go, UK Prime Minister Theresa May must be glad to see the end of 2017 as are many others in Britain and around the world. In matters Brexit, it was a year of low-level chaos and unfulfilled expectations — lots of ‘churn’ but not much actual progress.

Yet the Prime Minister did make some exceptional speeches and unexpectedly reached-out to EU citizens to assure them that while Britain was leaving the European Union, it wasn’t leaving Europe. Well done on both counts, Theresa.

She also told EU citizens living in the UK that their situation wouldn’t change, aside from having to register their residency with the Home Office and pay a nominal fee to retain their ‘settled status’. And while that didn’t seem to impress small numbers of EU negotiators, it brought great comfort to millions of expats living in Britain.

Of course, it’s all contingent upon reaching a final ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ between the United Kingdom and the European Union, but it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that the UK would act unilaterally to guarantee the rights of EU citizens working or studying in Britain in the case of no agreement.

Theresa May also offered £40 billion of UK taxpayer money to the European Union; Everyone is unclear what this is for, as nobody from the government has bothered to explain it to citizens.

Many people think that the UK’s share in the EU Parliament buildings and in other EU properties and assets should be sold off to the other EU27 members and the £9.65 billion (estimated) value could be used to pay future UK liabilities to the EU and that there is no need to pay £40 billion. Which seems reasonable.

If there is an actual need for the UK to pay £40 billion to the EU, surely British taxpayers have the right to know what they’re paying for, and to whom.

But if Theresa May has agreed to continue paying the £8.6 billion annual net payment to the European Union until Brexit completes within 2 years (approximately) plus 2 more years to cover the transition period, then that seems pretty reasonable too. If that’s how the £40 billion is being arrived at, there’s not much to complain about there.


With all this reasonableness going ’round it’s no wonder that EU negotiators agreed to move to Phase II of the Brexit negotiations — trade — a hyper-important part of the post-Brexit relationship on both sides of the English Channel.

Negotiating a mutually beneficial trade agreement between the UK and the EU in 2018 is Job Number One for negotiators on both sides.

Trade between the United Kingdom and the EU27 ranks as one of the most robust trading relationships in the world

  • 44% of UK exports are sold to the EU27, making them Britain’s most important trade partner.
  • 16% of EU exports are sold to the UK, making Britain the EU27’s most important trade partner.

Which makes the whole ‘getting an agreement’ discussion largely academic — as there will be an agreement or hundreds CEO’s on both sides of the English Channel will be breathing fire down the necks of UK and EU negotiators every day until an agreement is reached. “Don’t even think about coming home without an agreement!” (Yes, just like that)


UK/EU Trade: Where do United Kingdom Exports Go?


Where do UK exports go? UK Office for National Statistics 2015.


UK/EU Trade: Where do European Union Exports Go?


The EU's largest single export market is the UK. European Commission Export Helpdesk.


Everything you want to know about the UK trade with the EU. Image courtesy of FullFact.org and the ONS.

Everything you want to know about the UK trade with the EU. Image courtesy of FullFact.org and the ONS.


So There We Have It: They Can’t Live With Each Other, But They Can’t Live Without Each Other!

Which is a very good thing.

And because companies on both sides need to keep their biggest export market open and flourishing, there absolutely will be a reasonable trade deal — one that both sides can live with. There is simply no alternative.

Which neatly explains the title of this blog post ‘Theresa May’s New Year of Hope’ because Job Number One for Brexit negotiators on both sides must be working a successful trade deal — and every CEO in Europe will be watching with keen interest, to put it very mildly.

You don’t want to be the trade negotiator coming home without a deal and having to tell the CEO of Volkswagen or BP that you were too incompetent to get a deal. Yikes!

There will be an excellent UK/EU trade deal in 2018, a trade accord that both sides will be rightly proud of — one that works for CEO’s, citizens and governments throughout Europe.


Trade As Saviour

As the focus will be on trade in 2018 (something that both sides must preserve if today’s politicians want to keep their jobs) the new year looks to be one of the better years for relations between the UK and the EU27.

Let’s hope that Phase II of the Brexit negotiations move smartly along and that (if a Phase III is required) the momentum that gets built throughout 2018 works to facilitate friendly and workable solutions to any remaining issues between the two blocs.

Politicians and negotiators on both sides of the Brexit divide have everything to gain by bringing home a fair and workable trading agreement and everything to lose if they don’t.

Therefore, let 2018 be ‘The Year of Hope’ as 512 million European citizens are counting on their politicians and negotiators to open windows of opportunity as big as the sky, and to create even more justice and fairness for all Europeans, no matter where in Europe they may live, work, or play.

No matter which side of Brexit you’re on, we at Letter to Britain wish you a Happy, Safe, and Prosperous New Year!

 

Theresa May Cuts a Deal With the EU

by John Brian Shannon

Just as Theresa May’s government appeared to be on the brink of collapse, the European Commission President asked the British Prime Minister to meet him in Brussels to jointly announce that negotiators had achieved the breakthrough to move forward to Phase II of the Brexit process.

EC President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “sufficient progress” had been made on Phase I discussions by December 8th, and the parties can now move on to matters of trade. Which is a great relief for some. For others, not so much.

Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nigel Farage is on record as being against anything other than a complete Brexit with only the timeline to be negotiated.

Indeed, this is the position of many of the 17,410,742 people who voted for Brexit in the June 23, 2016 referendum that decided the United Kingdom’s future in, or out of, the European Union. And as negotiations drag on and as more political plays come to light courtesy of the ever-present media, the number of Britons who support Brexit are increasing, while those who supported it from the beginning want a faster, ‘harder’ and more complete Brexit.

If those who voted Remain were once within striking distance of preventing Brexit, their hopes are surely dashed now. ‘Off to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, are we?’

We hope you will enjoy the show.


So, What Did Theresa May Agree To on Behalf of All UK Citizens?

a) In May’s favour, it appears she agreed to continue negotiating with the EU, more than anything else

For now, nothing will change in the UK until Brexit day. The existing EU customs and trade union will continue to be in effect and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) remains the top court for the entire European Union, including the UK.

It’s also been reported that the ECJ will continue to be the court that rules over EU citizens living, working or studying in the UK for up to 8 years after Brexit — thereby giving European Union expats full access to the British court system — but also full recourse to the ECJ.

Essentially,  EU citizens living in the UK will enjoy the protection of two court systems, while UK citizens will have the protection of only one court system.

Further, Theresa May has agreed that from December 8, 2017 until Brexit completes (whenever that  is) the UK will abide by all laws and regulations passed by the European Parliament, the European Commission, and that the UK will accept European Court of Justice rulings. The final Brexit date has been suggested as March 29, 2019 but at this stage anything could happen including the government bodging the job and not getting voters their Brexit for another decade.

Goodness knows what kind of legislation the EU could pass during that time, yet the United Kingdom would be obligated to follow both the spirit and letter of that legislation. And EU citizens living in the UK would have more rights than UK citizens due to the ECJ deal. Let’s hope they don’t send an extra 5 million migrants to Britain annually (for example) as the UK would be obligated to accept them under the terms of this agreement.

If breaking the UK Treasury and maybe breaking the country is the goal of the EU (or if it ever ‘becomes that’ due to new politicians coming to power in the EU/EC) that’s surely the way to accomplish it. Certainly, the United Kingdom is in a precarious position from now until the day Brexit occurs.

Finally, there will be no transition period for Gibraltar.


Oh, and it Cost £40 Billion

Did I forget to mention that? Yes, they did too at their joint press conference, until a reporter asked about it.

Now the UK is obligated to pay £39 billion to the EU, and will continue to pay £8.6 billion (net) to the European Union budget until such times as the UK is no longer a member of the union.

Nobody has really said what the £39 billion is for — other than to say it covers the UK’s future obligations to the EU (which, reliable sources have said should only amount to £6.15 billion) and let’s keep in mind that the United Kingdom remains part-owner of many EC and EU buildings and properties — including the Parliament buildings in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg, and Britain’s share in the value of those and other EC/EU holdings exceed £9.65 billion.


Now for the Sweet Part of the Deal

Thus far, it sounds like a pretty one-sided deal in the EU’s favour — and many are now calling Prime Minister May ‘Theresa the Appeaser‘ after former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who tried to ‘appease’ Adolf Hitler and his Nazis prior to Britain’s entry into WWII — for which he was unceremoniously booted from the Prime Minister’s chair never to return.

Others have called the deal a ‘sell-out’ of British interests, while other groups claim that Theresa May (an admitted Remainer) is trying to scupper the deal by using the high cost of Brexit to get more Britons over to the Remain side.

b) Maybe Theresa May is smarter than everyone suspects

What if it’s true that this deal is merely the deal that the UK will be forced to honour if UK and EU negotiators can’t arrive at a better deal that supersedes this deal?

There is real incentive for Theresa May and her Conservative Party to excel here because it is 100% certain they will lose the next election if this deal isn’t replaced by a better deal prior to March 29, 2019.

Prime Minister May will thereby have almost as much power as a wartime Prime Minister to get a better deal done, and that’s as good a way as any to move things along.

What if she now spends a year trying to negotiate a better deal knowing that at worst the present agreement is the worst that can possibly happen? A little brilliant, I’d say.

c) So she spends a year negotiating uphill with the EU trying to get a better Brexit deal

And in the meantime, the worst-case scenario is survivable by her country but unsurvivable by her party if they want to win the next election.

In the simplest terms, if Theresa May’s Conservative Party don’t fully cooperate with her to gain a better Brexit deal, they will by default, have handed the reins of power to Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

d) By virtue of the December 8th baseline agreement, Theresa May now ‘owns’ her party until March 29, 2019

Which means that the Prime Minister with her party helping, must find a way to improve on the present deal and they have one year to make it happen.

As one Machiavellian to another; Nice touch, Theresa.


Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons on  December 11, 2017 where she comments on the December 8th Phase I agreement with the EU.

How Spending More on Defence Can Cost the UK Less

by John Brian Shannon

On June 23, 2016 the United Kingdom held an historic referendum so that voters could decide whether they wanted to leave the European Union governance architecture and over 52% of UK voters elected to “Leave” the EU.

Subsequent divorce negotiations between the two sides have been sporadic with short bursts of progress.

In recent days, UK Prime Minister Theresa May suggested to EU negotiators that a figure of £40 billion would be an appropriate amount for the UK to pay the European Union as a sort of “divorce fee” to allow the UK to leave while still gaining a favorable post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.

However, the day after PM May suggested the £40 billion divorce payment, her government tabled an autumn budget with massive budget reductions for the already cash-strapped British military, one assumes to be able to afford the unprecedented divorce bill that the UK must now pay before March 29, 2018.

This blog post discusses the pros and cons of UK Ministry of Defence cuts and suggests a better way to afford the Brexit divorce bill.


The Responsibility of Government

The Number One responsibility of every government in the world is the protection of the country’s citizens and the sovereignty of the national borders. Everything else by definition, must be of lower importance. That’s how countries work.

Yes, even the UK’s cherished and highly ranked National Health Service (NHS) funding must fall to second place behind the safety and security of the country — as the NHS could (if worst came to worst) access significant billions in funding via corporate sponsorship — an option not open to the military.


How to Determine Military Funding

The size, composition and funding of the UK military MUST be determined by its overall mission — not arbitrary decisions by bureaucrats. Full stop.

(NOTE 1) Long-term stable defence funding is far better than generous amounts one year, followed by low funding the next (due to arbitrary budgetary decisions not based on actual military need) and then, who knows what funding they might get the year after? It’s the absolute worst way to fund a military. Pencil-pushing bureaucrats might as well be working for the enemy at that point.

(NOTE 2) This blog post isn’t “for” or “against” Theresa May or Philip Hammond, it’s a general statement on how to best fund any military, anywhere.

(NOTE 3) This blog post is based solely on the opinion of its author, although any military officer in the world would agree were they to view it from the UK perspective.


So, what is the mission – in order of priority?

  1. Absolutely 100% protection of the land, sea and airspace around the UK.
  2. NATO commitment.
  3. Commonwealth mutual aid.
  4. United States mutual aid.
  5. Potential Commonwealth member mutual aid.
  6. Only UN Security Council approved missions (and never any unapproved foreign missions)
  7. Creation of a HUGE civil engineering department, on par with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which build many of America’s roads, bridges, dikes, levees, ports and other infrastructure too important to be left to corporations where profit makes the final decisions. Oh, by the way, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saves the American taxpayer more money than it costs when compared to having U.S. infrastructure projects built by corporations. The UK has missed “windows of opportunities bigger than the sky” by not building critical national infrastructure using the UK military under a USACE-style system, and it has cost multi-billions more that it should.
  8. Humanitarian assistance delivered to any natural disaster zone or human-caused crisis anywhere in the world.

Conclusion

Military forces perform better when their mission is clearly defined, when they have stable funding (and once the amounts have been promised by the government, untouchable) and have very clearly defined powers.

Tampering with this age-old formula for success is the surest way to help any military fail in its appointed role, and will work to demoralize the troops and cost the taxpayers much more than by using universally accepted practice.


  • To watch a segment from LBC’s The Nigel Farage Show on the topic, click here.
  • To read a related Westmonster.com blog, click here.