This post continues, from Part 1, the analysis of The process for withdrawing from the European Union as issued by the FCO as an initial offering by the government for it’s case towards remaining in the European Union. It is followed by another, more lengthy document here which details alternative models to life outside the EU.
Chapter 4 – implications of withdrawal
Compared to Chapter 3, Chapter 4 is a little better in terms of quality of content, although it still reads like a set of post-it notes that have been typed out at the end of a militant undergraduates’ workshop.
Para. 4.1 once again says that it’s all very difficult and hasn’t been done before, so no-one knows quite how it will pan out. The ability to get things done is a mark of human progress. This document suggests a number of excuses which the FCO use for failing to achieve anything at all in favour of the UK.
Paras. 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5 all concern various aspects of trade. Access to the EU’s single market is what, for most of us, the whole thing is all about. It’s why we joined in the first place – and were told that this was ALL it was about. Correctly, these paragraphs draw attention to agriculture, car manufacturing and financial services. Also correctly, it points out that these industries would suffer from higher tariffs or restrictions if we failed to negotiate preferential terms. This may all be true, but it should not be assumed that our negotiating position is weak. In fact we are well placed to obtain favourable terms precisely because of our trading balance with the EU being heavily weighted towards our imports. Nearly all of the bargaining chips are in our favour.
Para. 4.2 concerns travel arrangements for UK citizens within the EU. There are also two coloured boxes which contain case studies of Gibraltar and Northern Ireland. Essentially, there are concerns as how we deal with UK expats in Spain, along with frequent cross-border travel in Gibraltar and Northern Ireland. If memory serves me right, there is still a checkpoint between Gibraltar and Spain, which the Spanish authorities use as a choke point to bring pressure to bear upon the Gibraltarians. This will be a sticking point, and where we can expect there to be difficulties. The Spanish are in deep economic recession because of the Euro. Mariano Rajoy has attempted to exploit the festering wound in Spanish consciousness and to use Gibraltar as a foil with which to distract public pinion away from his own government’s failures. It is almost as if he and Christina Kirchner of Argentina were taking lessons from each other.
Northern Ireland has always been a porous border. Some farms actually straddle the border. We coped with it before the Republic of Ireland joined the EU and I am sure we will cope with it again. Cross border traffic here is to the mutual advantage of both Ulster and the Republic. Cross-border security during the Troubles was achieved with varying success and relations are now more consistent. It is unlikely to be much of a problem.
Paras. 4.6 and 4.7 are concerned with security and immigration. They talk about loss of security because we would lose participation in things like the European Arrest Warrant. The figures quoted are revealing: since 2004, the EAW has allowed 7000 people to be extradited from the UK, and 1000 to be returned to face justice here. There are a number of cases where manifest miscarriages of justice have occurred because UK citizens have been arrested and deported without any proper hearing in the UK to establish if there is even a case against them. The imbalance in figures suggests that we have been far less able to get our criminals back. But native Brits have been extradited to countries like Romania on very thin pretexts. Far from being a reason why we should feel more secure, the EAW is one of the many reasons why we should get out of the EU.
Para. 4.9 concerns the domestic and constitutional legislation adjustments that would have to be made in order to fill the void left by redundant EU laws. It mentions laws concerning banking and investments as being specifically EU in origin. Far from being a problem, this would be an unparalleled opportunity to have a clear out of redundant legislation, of which there is currently far too much in the UK for the good of our democracy.
Para. 4.10 concerns foreign affairs such as continuing US-EU trade talks, difficulties on the EU borders with Ukraine, sanctions against North Korea and so on. It points out that leaving the EU would result in affecting the UK’s influence; and also the rather obvious point that EU law would apply to the UK up to the point of our departure from the EU.
Para. 4.11 says that the recent agreement made by David Cameron would cease to exist in the event of a vote for “Leave”. It goes on to suggest that if the UK wanted to re-join the EU, we would have to go through the accession process and that our terms of entry would not be as good as they are now.
Both the main chapters of this document are couched in terms over overwhelming timorousness. Whoever wrote this represents the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This branch of the Civil Service is the successor to the combined offices of the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office. These two were the great organs of the might of the United Kingdom which dealt with our relations with nations throughout the world; and the administration of the British Empire – which once covered a fifth of the World’s land surface, coloured the map pink, could dispatch a gunboat to quell a local insurrection in, say East Africa, and had the most stringent entry examinations for aspiring diplomats anywhere. This is the organisation that once prompted Ronald Reagan to comment that whenever he went into talks with Margaret Thatcher, she had behind her the finest advisers in the world.
And now we have this. A document produced by, and for, Generation Snowflake. It is, presumably in the modern day manner, so frightened of giving offence to their German, French or Italian opposite numbers, that it seems to be providing them with all the necessary excuses to cause the FCO to capitulate at the first curl of a continental lip.
If this is the standard of negotiating skills evinced by the FCO, then we will all be quaking in our boots as we are overrun by the barbarian hordes. Because if we don’t let them, they might be a bit nasty to us.
This is the pathetic standard of negotiating skills that we have left in this country. It is now apparent that this is the principal reason why David Cameron went to Brussels and every other European capital, more or less on his bended knees, to plead with them for permission to spend British taxpayers’ money in ways in which British taxpayers would wish.
He came back with a document whose legal enforceability is, at the very best, seriously in doubt.