We live in febrile times, but in many ways it is just the calm before the next storm, each one battering at the very foundations of the edifice we know of as the United Kingdom. We as Britons are very fortunate to have managed to build a system of government envied by many in the rest of the world for its stability; a stability given to it by the careful balance between the power of the individual and the state.

We owe this to Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, the Common Law, the Acts of Union, Simon de Montfort, John Wilkes, suffragettes and many other events and people in our history. However, over the last 45 years the EU has come like a bull through this and has not just upset it, but as we try to leave is threatening to destroy it.

We, the people, elect representatives to Parliament to run the country on our behalf, yet over the last 45 years they have increasingly delegated this responsibility to Brussels without declaring in many cases that this is the case. They have in many areas been reduced simply to ciphers for the Commission in Brussels. Nearly four years ago Parliament voted to put this situation to a referendum and give the people the decision as to whether the UK and its institutions should be fully independent of the EU. Three years ago it was decided quite clearly that this was so and all decision-making that had moved to the organs of the EU should return to the UK.

Now, nearly three years later, due to EU intransigence – with, one can only assume, a certain complicity on the UK side – a Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration have been proposed that is not Brexit. It is Remain with a Brexit wrapper, converting our membership to that of a colony that can be asset stripped with impunity by the EU without repercussions. It is a disgrace and epitomises a deep low point in British statecraft.

We have got to this point because MPs and the Government have consistently taken the easiest option. They voted for a referendum, thinking it would be won by Remain, and then backed the triggering of Article 50 because they knew they could not look the voters in the eye if they didn’t. In voting through Article 50 and then the EU Withdrawal Act they set a deadline of 29th March to leave with or without a deal with the EU.

Now that the choice is between a No Deal exit on WTO terms or the Prime Minister’s flawed deal, many MPs and ministers are trying to backslide on their previous commitments. They quote business as being the reason, the need to avoid chaos or the devastation that will be caused by No Deal etc. I write this as someone in business importing assemblies and components from all over the world and exporting more than two-thirds of our turnover to more than 120 countries around world. Whenever I ask who it is that is going to cause all these problems, no one can tell me; initially it was going to be due to delays at the Channel ports due to extra checks, but the port operators, Border Force and HMRC all say “Not us, Guv”!

With any changes, such as applying new procedures to almost anything, there is always an element of disruption – but it will be small in the overall context and in a few months’ time we will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. However, what we are witnessing is a groupthink bubble that has been inflated to such a size that those propagating it have to keep inflating it, because if we do leave on WTO terms and it is as I expect a relatively straightforward change, they will be shown to have been crying wolf.

I can understand that ministers and MPs are continually buffeted by the professional lobbyists of the CBI and others who are looking at any way of preserving the status quo. For them the fear of sudden change is paramount; they can happily cope with the drip drip draining of sovereignty and they may whinge about bad regulation, but they find it hard to handle change that might adversely affect their vested interests and the status quo.

However, ministers and MPs have been charged by the electorate, who under our system are ultimately sovereign, to take back control. They seem reluctant to take on the extra responsibility that this entails; they appear to think that they are not able to do it. How do the other 165 non-EU countries of the world cope? Instead they wriggle and fidget in every way possible to try and thwart the wishes of the people, using every sort of excuse from the downright arrogant – that Leave voters are stupid – to telling us that if we had known it was so complicated, we would not have voted Leave. It is only complicated because they have chosen to make it complicated. Instead of carping, they all need to concentrate on making departure under WTO on 29th March as smooth as possible. The irony is that because it is the only option we in business can plan for, it is the only one we are prepared for.

It is worth remembering that these are the same MPs who say that we must increase voter participation at elections. Yet when we had the highest turnout in a generation for the EU referendum, they attempt to ignore it!

There is considerably more at stake here than just leaving the EU, there is the whole fabric of what makes Britain what it is and that is worth more than a possible temporary shortage of lettuce. The problem is that at each stage the Government and Parliament have made the mistake of never seriously addressing our relationship with the EU – in part because our membership is based on a lie, that it would not affect sovereignty, over which politicians have always been in denial. An ever-increasing proportion of the population, meanwhile, have smelt a rat especially as whatever the politicians say we have seen more and more areas of policy drift out of our control.

Now in theory in the departure lounge, we see the same pressures coming into play because what has been presented as a Withdrawal Treaty plainly is not, so the only escape is to leave on WTO terms. As the date for departure was set two years ago, this has become a totem from which any slippage will be seen by the voters as betrayal.

The time for kicking the can down the road has come to an end and MPs – especially in the governing party – have to look over the edge at the train of events that they are going to set off if they don’t hold out for No Deal and leaving on 29th March.

The first thing is that the Conservative Party would be finished for at least a generation, if not ever; and secondly, the UK would probably be finished: the SNP-run Scottish Government say they will call a referendum in the event of a No Deal. They are looking for any excuse, but the likelihood of them winning it is probably higher in the event of No Brexit, a delayed Brexit or even under the terms of the proposed treaty. Thirdly, society would become ever more polarised between Leavers and Remainers. Fourthly, the very roots of British democracy, envied around the world, would have been cast aside, and the votes of 17.4 million people disregarded by an arrogant elite.

The EU has behaved just as Yanis Varoufakis predicted and in turn the UK has fallen into the traps he predicted. There is only one way out and that is to go WTO on 29th March, otherwise the conversation between MPs and voters is going to go something like: “Sorry old boy, I am afraid your vote didn’t count but mine did so we are staying in”. That would set off a chain of events over which politicians of all parties would have little control.

The post MPs handed the Brexit decision to the people – they must not now be allowed to overrule us appeared first on BrexitCentral.

Those of us who have made our lives in Brussels have always known it: EU referendums are a trick for idiots. The people can vote, but their vote will have no effect, not unless the vote is what the EU wants.

Of course, I thought that would not apply to the UK; we are not idiots.

But it turns out that maybe we are.

The Prime Minister is now giving out signals she is willing to extend Article 50. Here is the first signal. At the EU-Arab summit at the weekend, Mrs May produced a new, shrunken assurance on Brexit day: “It’s still within our grasp to leave the EU by 29th March,” she said. Not that Brexit is going to happen on the day she had repeatedly promised. Just that it’s there, around, in the neighbourhood of possibility.

The second signal was the story in the Telegraph that Number 10 is preparing to ask for a two months’ extension to Article 50. The decision for extension will be presented by the Government as a political manoeuvre to placate those Conservative MPs who are refusing to consider leaving the EU without a deal. Short-term stuff. No more than eight weeks. Just enough time to get the assurances in respect of the Withdrawal Agreement for which we have been negotiating and agree the deal.

Except there have been no negotiations for months, so that, right there, is a fraud. Nothing has changed in the Withdrawal Agreement since it was agreed between the Prime Minister and the EU last year. Not a word, not an inflection. Nothing.

There have been trips to Brussels by Mrs May and others, of course. But there have been no negotiations. The deal, a deal exactly to suit the EU, was agreed last year, and done. What Mrs May and the others do in their meetings at the Commission is nothing but a pantomime of a negotiation. There are no negotiations going on now over the Withdrawal Agreement. A two-month Article 50 extension would continue the same level of negotiations, which is, exactly level zero.

One could say even that there have never been any negotiations, not negotiations as anyone British would understand the term. As Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister who was politically mauled when he tried to negotiate changes to eurozone demands on Greece in 20015, told the BBC last November:

“Once the European Union presents a deal on the table, there is no way that it can be unpicked. It is take it or leave it. Nobody negotiates with the European Union… Bureaucrats are like software, like algorithms. They have a check list. Mr Barnier has no mandate to negotiate with Mrs May on anything of substance. So he goes tick, tick, tick.”

Why then are the Commission signalling that of course they would ensure that all 27 other member states would agree to an extension for “further negotiations” – when they know there are no negotiations at all? Because it suits their technique. Since the foundation of what would become the EU, the tactic used by negotiators in getting what they want is “engrénage” or gearing – meaning no sudden demands, no sudden moves, only the gradual ratcheting up of a process.

The gearing has no reverse movement. Only forward click, click, click.

Or as Varoufakis identified, tick, tick, tick. What is important is to understand who it is who draws up any Brexit checklist that must be ticked: Martin Selmayr, the German lawyer and bureaucrat who runs the European Commission, leaving Jean-Claude Juncker free to enjoy lunch. He has only two aims when dealing with Brexit: either manoeuvre the United Kingdom to stay and have its billions of pounds pour into the EU’s 2021 seven-year multi-annual financial framework –  or leave and be punished. The report that Selmayr said “losing Northern Ireland is the price Britain must pay for Brexit” sounds true to those of us in Brussels who have watched his skill in manipulation.

Which is why this idea of a two-month Article 50 extension would be deadly. It is the next click of the gear. Selmayr would nod through a two-month extension, allowing Mrs May to pretend she will go on with negotiations.

There would in fact be no more negotiations, only meetings.

At the end of the two-month extension, the Withdrawal Agreement on the table would be the same one which is on the table now. The European elections would call for another extension fix of some sort – perhaps saying that MEPs such as myself can go on sitting in the European Parliament until the end of this year “to allow more time for negotiations”.

That would be the gear turning again. No negotiations, just more time. What the Commission is already signally today is that they would be happy with a further extension of two years.

What the EU would be doing is waiting for either a general election in the UK, or a new Prime Minister, or the move for a second referendum to succeed. As long as the UK is still in the EU, any of those could stop Brexit.

The only way to stop the EU and their Remainer allies overturning the greatest democratic result in this country’s history is to jam the gears now. No extension, none, not for a moment.

I wish we could have a deal. I wish we could leave on easier terms than WTO. But most of all I wish were sure we will leave the EU on 29th March.

If we don’t, Brexit will not be extended. It will be extinguished. Click, click, click.

The post Delaying Brexit with an extension to Article 50 means Remaining in the EU appeared first on BrexitCentral.

If you ask any cabbie who’s running the EU they are bound to mention Angela Merkel – at least for now. But if you asked anyone in the Foreign Office, it’s likely they would go through unheard of names like Antonio Tajani or Mário Centeno before they’d get to the German Chancellor. Even then, squeamish officials are likely to mention her as part of the wider group of EU leaders, without singling her out.

Germany’s formal position under the European treaties might be no different to other member states – in theory the European Commission makes proposals and the Council and EU Parliament make the decisions – but as the UK’s former ambassador to Germany, Sir Paul Lever, mentions in his recent book, it’s Germany’s view which is sought by the Commission before it acts, and other governments make sure they know what Berlin wants before they decide on a course of action.

The extent to which German decisions dominate is well-known by the left-wing firebrand and former Greek finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis. Before Eurozone meetings he would receive support for his ideas in private discussions with his EU counterparts, who were keen and willing to sort out the crisis. However, once seated round the table, the very same Ministers would defer to one man: Germany’s Wolfgang Schäuble. Representatives of ostensibly sovereign nations would flip their position completely if it became clear that the Germans had made their minds up on a proposal.

In Britain, former Cabinet Minister Iain Duncan Smith watched in frustrated amazement as Angela Merkel sabotaged Britain’s attempts to control immigration during David Cameron’s failed renegotiation attempts before the referendum. Later, Duncan Smith described it as if they were “sitting in a room even though they weren’t there. There was a chair for them, a German chair. They had a veto over everything.”

All this matters because if the UK plans to sign up to a ‘Common rulebook’ with the EU it will be Germany calling the shots. Recently Dyson attracted criticism for deciding to build a new electric car plant in Singapore. According to the firm, the decision was made “based on supply chains, access to markets and the availability of expertise, which offset the cost factor”. UKIP founder Alan Sked pointed out it might have also had something to do with the regulatory framework Britain is planning to sign up to. Why would a company trying to join a new market want an EU common rulebook written by their competitors? Kept inside the EU’s regulatory framework, the German government, under pressure from Audi and Volkswagen, could conceivably out-regulate their plucky British challenger.

As a recent paper by Roland Vaubel explained, if a qualified majority of member states within the EU which favour a high level of regulation gang up, they can impose higher regulations on the rest: “Thus, while regulatory collusion presupposes unanimity, the strategy of raising rivals’ costs merely requires a qualified majority.”  Vaubel says the anti-regulation coalition includes Ireland, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands but that various indices show that the UK has the least regulated labour market of all. If we stay tied to the EU, Britain is most at risk from damaging rule-changes.

We need to recognise that the ‘Common rulebook’ isn’t a neutral body of legal text. Like the EU itself, it is a mechanism which can – and will – be used to bend the rules to favour some nations over others. Few dare to admit this and credit is due to Sir Paul Lever who devastatingly exposes Berlin’s influence in his book Berlin Rules. Sir Bill Cash is another notable example who over the years has highlighted the hidden hand of Germany. But it’s time our negotiators recognised that the EU is not a federation of equals. Angela Merkel may be on the way out but Germany has consistently been the determiner of EU policy decisions and that won’t change after she is replaced. We must accept that if we decide to remain it will be Berlin, not Brussels, who will decide our fate.

The post Merkel might be going, but the common rulebook would still mean Berlin writing our rules appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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