The EU – blissfully adhering to rules …
The snippets of today’s Brexit news fall into the category “now isn’t that interesting”, before generally being consigned to that circular file cabinet called ‘waste paper bin’. That would be a mistake though because they are inadvertently demonstrating our position during this Transition Period.
Let’s start with a rather worrying item which at first glance seems to be totally unrelated to Brexit. It’s about the Corona virus which dominates the headlines. While I’m no immunologist, no medical doctor, I am sitting on the fence as to how dangerous this virus is. However, I’ve had my doubts about the news coming from China because some of them simply do not add up.
For example, one report yesterday said that the crematorium in Wuhan is working 24/7 because the bodies of the infected ‘must be burned’ (link). You can find out on the internet how long it takes to cremate a human body – and then ‘do the maths’ yourself. This morning we read that there was an alleged ‘technical blip’ on Saturday: a Chinese ‘web giant’ briefly listed the number of deaths as 25,000 before taking this down and correcting it to the official figure (link).
Blips do happen, but it’s the official attitude of governments and health services, in the EU and here, which is so very unsatisfactory. We simply aren’t told if this virus is indeed as deadly as the authorities say, or if it isn’t. And this is where Brexit comes in. A report in the DM this morning asks if the EU is delaying our response to contain this outbreak because:
“the UK is still thought to be bound to EU immigration laws and obligated to fall in line with any decisions on travel restrictions made by the bloc, despite having technically left on January 31. […] Government sources suggested it would be pointless if Brussels does not follow suit as passengers could still enter Britain indirectly via another EU state due to freedom of movement rules.” (link)
So far so predictable – illustrating yet again that the Transition Period is not just about Barnier and trade. It gets worse:
“The Home Office said it was unable to confirm whether or not UK border force officials could tell if a traveller had been through China in the past 14 days because it could compromise security. Italy has already taken the dramatic step of banning all flights from the country – a move which is said to have caused deep irritation among European states who want to coordinate a ‘joint response’.” (link)
As usual then, our Mandarins hide behind ‘rulz’ while Italy does what it deems best while the rest of the EU is incapable of reaching an agreement, a ‘joint response’. That’s why we voted Leave, but Whitehall is still playing the EU games!
Next: the Fishery industry, Macron’s and Barnier’s favourite cudgel. Here’s a report quoting our fishermen (worth reading!), and here’s another, on the rising tensions and the government’s response. The Times reports:
“Ministers are getting ready to triple the number of boats in Britain’s fisheries protection squadron to police territorial waters in the event of a no-trade-deal Brexit.The government has already given the go-ahead to hire two more maritime protection ships and two aerial surveillance aircraft to be operational by the end of the year. The Royal Navy’s fishery patrol squadron at present has five offshore patrol vessels and one helicopter.” (link, paywalled)
‘Ministers are getting ready’? Why are they not ‘ready’ already? Did January 31st come as a totally unpredictable event? Do our fishermen have to wait until December before our government is stepping up? Does our government perhaps want to see another ‘fisheries war’ in the Channel? Is this how the Transition Period works – that French fishermen can do what they like, supported by Macron, while our government ‘is getting ready’, with some pitiful attempts to ‘step up’? See this:
“The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has also recruited 30 extra fishery enforcement officers to inspect fishing vessels and make sure they have the right to be in UK waters. Ministers are now preparing to redeploy a further 22 boats, which patrol coastal inshore waters at present, if needed, which could offer a force more than three times as big. The move […] is designed to give the government more capacity in case a deal on fishing rights cannot be agreed with the EU before the end of this year’s transition.” (link, paywalled)
That is, with respect, an inadequate response, with a ridiculous ‘explanation’. Do civil servants not follow reports in the MSM, even the Remain MSM? Do they not read the press releases from e.g. ‘Fishing 4 Leave’?
Perhaps it’s the case that Whitehall is dragging their collective Remain feet because they’re still in that four-year rut of doing all they can to keep un In, one way or another. They are apparently incapable – on purpose or because of bureaucratic inertia – to translate the will of us, the Sovereign, to Leave, into action, and never mind that even the PM is now talking about ‘full steam ahead’ into Brexit. In a remarkable essay Sir Peter Marshall, a former diplomat, writes:
“So far the EU has adopted a negative-sum approach in their dealings with us: as they see it, both sides lose, but we lose more than do they. In a particularly unconstructive speech in Belfast on January 27, Mr Barnier warned that “whatever agreement is reached on our future relationship Brexit will always be a matter of damage limitation”. If that is what the members of the European Council decide when they meet a few weeks hence, then there is no point in continuing.” (link)
Diplomatically, he calls on the EU leaders to get a grip:
“In any great multilateral negotiation, there is likely to come a moment when the parties realise that what is required is to confront the underlying and surrounding issues rather than go on confronting one another. In the case of UK withdrawal from the EU, that moment has now come. The President of the European Council, from whom to date we have heard nothing of substance, needs to get a grip on the situation without delay.” (link)
Looking at this issue from our side of the Channel, Richard Tice, chairman of TBP, writes in the DT that instead of hand-wringing and foot-dragging ,as is the habitual attitude of our Remain mandarins, it’s time to ‘turn up the heat’:
“Now we have left, attention is switching to our negotiating tactics and ambitions for free trade deals. There is already much hand wringing about whether there is enough time to hammer out an agreement with the EU before the December 2020 deadline. Brussels is trying to worry people, saying a deal needs to be done in the Autumn to allow for ratification by the year end. Rather than fret that the timetable is too constrained, I suggest we take EU negotiators by surprise, and make it even tighter, by the end of June.” (paywalled link)
I do like this next bit, where Mr Tice continues:
“We must not wait for the EU to be ready to talk in March. Instead, we should shock them, while they are fearful and weakened. We should approach this in the way our magnificent Special Forces approach their military operations: hitting the target hard and fast, with pinpoint precision.” (paywalled link)
Being a successful entrepreneur the next observations by Mr Tice are unsurprising:
“There is nothing like a short time frame in business to focus minds. The mechanism is there, using Article 24 of the World Trade Organization rules. If they refuse to sign up to this tighter time frame, let’s make it clear we will stop the talks and urgently adopt such measures as are required to prepare for life under WTO rules from December, such as slashing corporation tax, changing VAT and ditching unnecessary regulations. Investment would pour into the country. Nissan has already shown it is ready to expand in the UK under this scenario. I am confident others will follow. The EU will bleat and splutter and say it can’t be done. There is no such word as can’t; just won’t. We must not be held back at this crucial time by unelected, protectionist, bureaucrats in Brussels.” (paywalled link)
Just so! Since Johnson has negotiators in place already, it’s time for them to get cracking. Just as with the situation pertaining to the Corona Virus, just as with the situation pertaining to our fisheries, events are developing and moving ahead in the world, regardless of EU rules and our mandarins still clinging to them.
Finally, it seems we need to have a little category called “Dominic-Cummings-Watch”. Again, RemainCentral is happy to dedicate a whole article to their “Rasputin”, based on ‘sources’ busily providing negative briefings. This time it’s about Cummings being involved in that Spending Review for next month’s budget (link, paywalled). Oh dear! How dare he, the PM’s top adviser, cast his eyes over proposals which the PM needs to see! That other ‘sources’ in Whitehall don’t take this very seriously is shown by this quote:
“One Whitehall official told the Financial Times that the splits between Downing Street and the Treasury were principally between aides” (link, paywalled)
Never mind – every little helps in that battle by RemainCentral to get rid of the PM’s top adviser! We can all surmise why that is – and thus we’ll file this warfare under ‘Brexit’.
And now for something completely different: I can report that the resident robins have started their war songs at 7am precisely today – spring is coming! That’s all for today, but rest assured: we’ll keep our eyes peeled, and will