The General Election: Where to Go Next


The General Election: Where to Go Next
by Sean Gabb
11th June 2017

Since yesterday, I have changed my mind about the result of the General Election. Or I may have changed it. Yesterday, I was ready to suggest a National Government as the only alternative to chaos. That may still be desirable – but not yet. Because I want to go to bed, I will try to be brief.

Let us begin with the assumption that the Parliamentary Conservative Party will not panic. This is a large assumption, bearing in mind the low quality of its membership. But let us make it. The Conservatives emerged from the election with 317 Members of the House of Commons. The Commons membership is 650. However, the Speaker never votes, except to side with the Government in a tied vote. Also the seven Sinn Fein members never take their seats. That gives an effective membership of 642 members. The Conservatives are five short of an overall majority. The Alliance they have made with the Democratic Unionist Party gives them an additional ten supporters, which brings them almost to where they were before the election.

Let us now assume that the Conservatives not merely do not panic, but also close ranks. Virtually their entire hold on British conservative opinion lies in their commitment to leave the European Union. If they fail in this, they do not just split – they lose their reason for existing. Therefore, they need to go into the negotiations determined to reach an agreement acceptable to conservative opinion, and not outrageous to the majority of everyone else. I did believe yesterday that the European would turn very hard, given the weakness of the Government. But they might not. They still need a deal acceptable to their own business interests. If they overplay their hand, the British Government needs to throw itself on the sympathy of the nation, and challenge the opposition parties to side with the foreigner. I doubt Labour would do this.

The reason I hoped for a small Conservative majority was my fear that a vast mandate would let them set about passing more police state laws. They now have that small majority, and will be advised to try passing very few contentious laws. There are obvious reforms needed to welfare and education. But these are not pressing, and can be put off to another Parliament. Censoring the Internet is best avoided on the grounds of practicality. So too dropping more bombs in the Middle East, and provoking Russia.

If they can hold together, and get us out of the European Union on reasonable terms, they may not be able to get a two thirds majority for another dissolution. Even so, they will be back in business, and can expect a decent majority when the next election falls due according to law. Or, if they lose the next election, they can remain in being, and hope to win the one after.

The longer an effective Conservative Government remains in being, the more likely we are to have a good look at Jeremy Corbyn. I never shared the general belief that he was unelectable. He has solid virtues as a campaigner that he had time to display throughout the election. At the same time, he is a radical socialist with some very unattractive opinions. He remains hated by the Blairites in the Labour Party. He remains hated by a large and influential section of the media class. Enthusiasm may have peaked last Thursday. Just as Theresa May shrivelled and died in the glare of election publicity, so Mr Corbyn may not survive the grind of parliamentary opposition.

It is possible that Mrs May can survive the mess she made of the election. But I presently doubt this. If so, she must go in the next week or so. She should resign and nominate an heir. This should be a boring but reassuring man. I know that women leaders are the current fashion. But we have had enough of probably demented cat ladies and girlie-men. Though it is unfashionable to say, part of Mr Corbyn’s appeal lies in the fact that he has a male organ in working order. That appeal must be neutralised by a Prime Minister who is himself married with children. He must take over at once by acclaim, not by election. This does not mean Boris Johnson. He does well in television debates, but is idle and incompetent. We need someone else to lead the way out of this crisis. I will not presume to suggest who this should be. In a parliamentary party of 317, there must be someone who is not mad or stupid or up to his neck in scandal.

These are my thoughts on what ought to happen. What will happen, of course, may be different. The Government may fall apart on Monday, and we shall have a leadership campaign as unedifying as the last. In this case, whoever gets into Downing Street can sit there, rotting in office till we somehow get another early election. Whoever wins that can be led in, like the German delegates at Versailles, to sign whatever thousand pages of horror the European Commission may have drafted.

These are my present thoughts. They may be wishful thinking. At the same time, I can think of no better alternative.

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41 comments

  • Reblogged this on Empirical Anecdotes.

  • There will be no Brexit.

    “Barwell wanted the UK to Remain inside the European Union and branded Nigel Farage a “bigot” and a “racist” who “hates modern Britain” in the run up to the EU referendum.”

    http://www.westmonster.com/mays-new-chief-of-staff-remainer-who-called-farage-a-bigot-and-racist/

    • Mr Barwell was, appropriately enough, born in Cuckfield, a village in Sussex. I can tell the type of views he will have just from looking at a photo of him.

      But on the topic of Brexit, the Article 50(2) notification has been served. Brexit happens automatically in March 2019 unless an extension to that deadline is granted by unanimity of the European Council. Nobody knows what is in the future, but the present signs are that Brexit will happen.

      • Hey – that’s where I was born!
        A hundred pounds says we won’t be out by 2019, or by 2022, or any time soon. I’ve noticed you have a tendency to take the EU at face value; “this is what the rules say” type of thing. They have no regard for such irrelevances – that stuff is for the amusement of the Plebs. The only thing that is ‘automatic’ in these negotiations is that they won’t let us leave.

        • “Taking at face value” means accepting something as it appears rather than studying it more closely. Well you have to start by understanding the facts and from there develop an understanding of how things are in reality. So in the case of the EU, we would note that the Commission is the EU’s executive political body with only a very limited legislative function, whereas the Council of the EU and the Parliament are the primary legislative bodies. The European Council decides on political priorities, which it communicates to the Commission, which then comes up with legislative proposals for the Council of the EU and the Parliament. The Council of the EU and the Parliament can accept, amend or reject the Commission’s proposals. Those are the facts we can learn from public sources. You didn’t even know this, but you expect me to entertain your theories and think you can call me naive?

          As to how all this works in reality and the dangers of it, we can say that the Commission effectively operates as a supranational body, while the European Council is intergovernmental, the Council of the EU is a hybrid supranational and intergovernmental body, and the Parliament, being directly-elected, and the European Court of Justice, being the highest judicial level, are federative. So most of the different institutions of the EU do have some of the characteristics of a supranational body that could develop into a federative state of some sort in the future.

          However you want me to say that the EU is a unity state that nobody can leave. You are saying that has been the case since the Lisbon Treaty. I assume you’ve copied this argument from somewhere else. You are at least wrong in a technicality in that even if we accept your argument in the generality, the EU is not, and cannot be, a unitary state. You will therefore understand that I am left in something of a quandary here, as it would appear that you are talking nonsense.

          On the other hand, I ought to consider your general point. If we ignore the phrase ‘unitary state’ and modify your thesis, we can consider whether, on account of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU is a state unto itself that no Member State can leave, or leave easily. My immediate response is that, in a broad sense, you’re not telling us anything new. Surely the plan all along was that the EU would become a confederative or federative super-state of some sort? In fact, it was openly the intention of the founders of the original European Communities that they would create a latter-day Holy Roman Empire. I’ve never understood those who think it was only meant to be an economic bloc or trading association of some sort. Apart from anything else, you can’t separate the ‘economic’ from the ‘political’, and the intentions of the then-EEC were there for all to see. However, the problem I have with what you say – once we’ve cleared away the clutter of your false facts and misunderstandings – is that I just differ from you as to what the EU is now. Who is right and who is wrong in this regard is really an exercise in reviewing the technical details, in which we consider the various treaties and the operation of the institutions and the extent to which they are supranational in character – which is why it’s important to understand the basic facts about the institutions. All I can say is that our various exchanges could have been abridged if you’d not confused me with your poor and incomplete grasp of the basics.

          Article 50 is not relevant to any of this. The fact that a Member State can notify its withdrawal at will does not undermine your argument that the EU is a state. Even if Britain does withdraw from the EU in March 2019 (or at some point after that), your argument is not defeated. That said, it doesn’t surprise that you would like to place a bet on the outcome of the Article 50(2) notification, because while your thesis (which is all it is) doesn’t rest on it, if the UK does indeed withdraw at or around the appointed time, then your argument is weakened somewhat and the intergovernmental point-of-view is bolstered, as it would mean that any Member State can just withdraw at will, which reflects the reality of an intergovernmental relationship. I would add that the very fact that Britain can serve the Article 50 notification at all also weakens your position somewhat.

          There is an academic debate to be had over the extent to which the EU has taken on the characteristics of a supranational organisation. It’s an evolving process. I think I mentioned in a post on the other thread that the Commission, especially, operates as, or akin to, a supranational entity, and the Council of the EU is evolving in that direction, and so on, but in my opinion the EU remains at this point an intergovernmental organisation. That could of course change in the future, but it’s expected that we will have withdrawn by March 2019, partly for that very reason, so the problem will be less important to us.

          You’ve accepted that Greenland was able to withdraw without a formal withdrawal mechanism, again a fact you were oblivious to, so why should it be different in principle for Britain? (Note I ask why it should be different ‘in principle’, since your argument seems to be that Britain’s withdrawal would be void ab initio. You need to explain that reasoning, as the basis for it is unclear.

          In regard to withdrawal, all that’s changed is that there is a codified withdrawal mechanism which is automatic on serving a unilateral notification. A Member State does not have to ask the EU if it can withdraw, it just withdraws at the expiry of the Article 50(2) notification period or sooner by mutual arrangement. A Member State could also withdraw unilaterally by abrogating the relevant treaties.

          • I just wrote a considered reply to some of your points, hit the ‘post comment’ button and the whole bloody lot evaporated. It just said ‘error’. If this post appears, I might re-do it.

            • It would be best for my sanity if you could refrain. My mental state is fragile enough as it is.

              • “… Surely the plan all along was that the EU would become a confederative or federative super-state of some sort? In fact, it was openly the intention of the founders of the original European Communities that they would create a latter-day Holy Roman Empire. I’ve never understood those who think it was only meant to be an economic bloc or trading association of some sort. ….”
                Absolutely. That is clear now, and has been clear to me at least since Maastricht. Back in 1975 this was not clear to me, which is why I voted to stay in what I naively believed was a free-trade zone.

                “…Article 50 is not relevant to any of this. …….if the UK does indeed withdraw at or around the appointed time, then your argument is weakened somewhat and the intergovernmental point-of-view is bolstered, as it would mean that any Member State can just withdraw at will, which reflects the reality of an intergovernmental relationship. I would add that the very fact that Britain can serve the Article 50 notification at all also weakens your position somewhat….”
                Whether or not the EU remains an inter-governmental organisation is not a “point of view”. It is set out quite explicitly in the Lisbon Treaty that the inter-governmental EU has been abolished, and a new EU created which derives its authority from the Constitution. We have adopted their Constitution, so we can no longer leave ‘at will’. We can indeed invoke Article 50 ‘at will’ but that is not the same as leaving the EU, as we shall find out soon enough. PLEASE study this Treaty and its implications.

                “… I think I mentioned in a post on the other thread that the Commission, especially, operates as, or akin to, a supranational entity, and the Council of the EU is evolving in that direction, and so on, but in my opinion the EU remains at this point an intergovernmental organisation…. ”
                Yes, that is your opinion, but it is one based on total ignorance of the implications of the Constitution a.k.a. Lisbon Treaty. I urge you once again to inform yourself about these documents.

                ” …You’ve accepted that Greenland was able to withdraw without a formal withdrawal mechanism, again a fact you were oblivious to, so why should it be different in principle for Britain? (Note I ask why it should be different ‘in principle’, since your argument seems to be that Britain’s withdrawal would be void ab initio. You need to explain that reasoning, as the basis for it is unclear…”
                I can’t explain the reasoning behind that, because that is not what I am saying. I have been well acquainted with the Greenland situation for forty-odd years. Why should it be different in principle for Britain? Well, prior to Lisbon it would not have been different at all. Now it is. Everything changed with Lisbon. Pre-Lisbon we could have simply repealed the 1972 ECA and walked away. Just like Greenland (yes, I know Greenland didn’t repeal the 1972 ECA, but you get my drift). Now we must follow the Lisbon process, and that is where the trap lies. I did not say either that Britain’s withdrawal would be ‘void’. I am simply asserting that, were we to follow Gerard Batten’s proposed route and repeal the 1972 Act, this would not be recognised by the ECJ. As it happens, I am completely with Gerard on this – I think that is exactly what we should do. Repeal the 1972 Act and tell the EU to get stuffed. Such a course of action will, however, put us in breach of our Constitutional obligations, so that is a position we must be prepared to defend by force if need be.
                You say Article 50 will lead to our exit automatically within two years’ time. I say it is clearly a trap, designed to make sure we never leave. We shall see soon enough which of us is right.

          • Ok, take two; a lot of words here. As usual, you have managed to completely mis-construe my comments. I’m going to break my response down into bite-sized chunks to make it easier to understand: –

            You say this; “… in the case of the EU, we would note that the Commission is the EU’s executive political body with only a very limited legislative function, whereas the Council of the EU and the Parliament are the primary legislative bodies. The European Council decides on political priorities, which it communicates to the Commission, which then comes up with legislative proposals for the Council of the EU and the Parliament. The Council of the EU and the Parliament can accept, amend or reject the Commission’s proposals. Those are the facts we can learn from public sources. You didn’t even know this, but you expect me to entertain your theories and think you can call me naive?…”

            This is the same old propganda we’ve been hearing for years from the usual EU apologists. I have to wonder why you are still spouting this stuff when every informed person by now knows it is all nonsense. Yes, we can learn these ‘facts’ from public sources. But we don’t have to believe them, do we?
            But tell me, how do you claim to know all this stuff? How do you know what is decided by the European Council? How do you know what they communicate to the Commission? How do they communicate it? I ask these basic questions because everything is conducted in secret behind closed doors, and no minutes are ever issued. We are not allowed to know what is discussed or by whom, what is communicated or how. So how do you claim to know what goes on there?
            You assert that ” the Commission is the EU’s executive political body with only a very limited legislative function, whereas the Council of the EU and the Parliament are the primary legislative bodies.”. This is pretty much an inversion of the truth: – The Commission is the ONLY body with the right to initiate legislation. They do so entirely in secret, so we have no idea hw they arrive at their decisions. We do know there are some three thousand secret committees which ‘advise’ the Commissioners. The European Parliament has no function at all, except to give a pretence of democracy to this anti-democratic organisation in order to gull people who take it at face value. It is not a Parliament as we know it; there is no debate, the MEPs have no clue what they are voting for, and they cannot block the will of the Commission. If you think they can, tell me when it has ever happened.

            “…we can say that the Commission effectively operates as a supranational body, while the European Council is intergovernmental, the Council of the EU is a hybrid supranational and intergovernmental body, and the Parliament, being directly-elected, ….”
            Why use one word when ten will do? The Commission IS a supra-national body. Period. I must have pointed out a dozen times the changes that were wrought by the Lisbon Treaty. This fundamentally altered the nature of the European Council, changing it from an inter-governmental body to an EU institution. When Mr Blair attended meetings of the Council, he attended (in theory) as a representative of his own country. When Mr Cameron attended, he did so as a representative of the European Union. Why can you not grasp this? It is SUCH an important point. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read up on the Lisbon Treaty so you can see for yourself that I am not just making this up. Also, I feel it would be easier for others to understand (assuming there is anybody left out there) if you were to call the Council of the EU by the name everybody else uses; the Council of Ministers.

            “…However you want me to say that the EU is a unity state that nobody can leave. You are saying that has been the case since the Lisbon Treaty. I assume you’ve copied this argument from somewhere else. …”
            I never said that ‘nobody can leave’ the EU. I said that they will never let us go, which is not quite the same thing. I am here, of course, venturing into the realms of speculation: – If we leave, the EU is finished. They are not just going to sit back and allow that to happen.
            The difference since Lisbon, one of the many differences, in fact, is that we now have a codified exit procedure, whereas before we had none. That all sounds fine and dandy, except that, having adopted their Constitution, we are now bound by it. This is what I mean when I say the old inter-governmental EU which derived its authority from the treaties is now gone; in its place is a new (unitary or not) country, which derives its authority from the Constitution. In other words, prior to Lisbon, we could leave the EU on our own terms. Now we have to leave on theirs. I am told, although I have never checked, that Josef Stalin had a similar ‘exit’ clause in his constituion. Didn’t do the Hungarians a lot of good, did it?
            More to follow!

            • I’m very sorry, but I do not have time to read this, I believe I have already made all the necessary points anyway, and I will NOT be responding to any more of your posts.

              • That’s what you said last time 😉 I think it’s a pity, as I would like to see you justify some of the assertions you are clinging to, rather than just clam up. But that’s fine – don’t read what I write, but please DO read up on the Lisbon Treaty and its implications.

                • I’m not “clamming up”, Hugo, I just don’t have the time to wade through your posts. If you had made a convincing argument at the start (getting your facts right), I might have been more receptive to it. However, you will see from my last substantive post that I address the issue of the Lisbon Treaty. There’s really nothing more to add, except that I don’t make “assertions” in subjects like this, I simply base my views on facts and I address both sides of a controversy.

                  • Ok, lets’ try a different approach; rather than endlessing repeating myself and have you calling me a liar, why don’t you check out the European Parliament website. Maybe you will take their word for it? By the way, I think “clamming up” is a perfectly fair description of your response when I asked you for examples of when the European Parliament had ever ‘vetoed’ anything from the Commission. Anyway, here are a few short clips from – http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ftu/pdf/en/FTU_1.1.5.pdf ; –

                    “The Lisbon Treaty gives the EU full legal personality.

                    The Treaty of Lisbon completes the absorption of the remaining pillar three aspects of the area
                    of freedom, security and justice (FSJ), i.e. police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters,
                    into pillar one. The former intergovernmental structure ceases to exist,

                    The European Council
                    The Lisbon Treaty formally recognises the European Council as an EU institution, responsible
                    for providing the Union with the ‘impetus necessary for its development’ and for defining its
                    ‘general political directions and priorities’. The European Council has no legislative functions.

                    A new institutional set-up
                    1.
                    The European Parliament
                    Pursuant to Article 14(2) TEU, the EP is now ‘composed of representatives of the Union’s
                    citizens’, not of representatives of ‘the peoples of the States’ (Article 189 TEC).

                    [in the Council of Ministers] to block legislation, at least four Member States have
                    to vote against a proposal. A new scheme inspired by the ‘Ioannina compromise’ will allow 75% of the Member States necessary for the blocking minority to ask for reconsideration of a proposal during a ‘reasonable time period’ ” End quotes.

                    ” to ask for reconsideration of a proposal during a ‘reasonable time period’ “. Is that what you refer to as a veto?

                    • I have not called anybody a liar anywhere on this site.

                      I have just skimmed through your posts. None of it changes my replies. I’ve already responded to all these points (or similar points in the general sense). The difficulty we have here is your inability to put forward a coherent argument or get your facts right. You started by telling me that Member States have no involvement in EU law-making, which is not true. You kept repeating the assertion even though I have demonstrated the untruth of it. Under those circumstances, a sensible exchange is impossible.

                      The rest of what you say is nothing new. Some people think the EU is already a supranational entity in all but name. Some people think it is still an intergovernmental body but is evolving in a federative direction. I think those are the two main schools of thought, and I would fall into the latter. I’m not clear where your view that the EU is a “unitary state” fits into all that, but in any event, I fail to see where this discussion is going or how it can be useful.

                      I am extremely busy.

                    • Yes, yu’re quite correct. Giving “false facts” was I believe what you accused me of, which of course is not quite the same thing as lying.
                      “The difficulty we have here is your inability to put forward a coherent argument or get your facts right. You started by telling me that Member States have no involvement in EU law-making, which is not true…..”
                      The EU Parliament website says this; “The European Council has no legislative functions.”
                      You say it does. Who do you think is right?

                      You say “Some people think the EU is already a supranational entity in all but name. Some people think it is still an intergovernmental body but is evolving in a federative direction. I think those are the two main schools of thought, and I would fall into the latter.”
                      The EU website says “The Lisbon Treaty formally recognises the European Council as an EU institution,…..The former intergovernmental structure ceases to exist,…”.
                      Again, who do you think is right?

                      You say “I’ve already responded to all these points (or similar points in the general sense).”
                      But you haven’t! You never do! I asked how you know what happens in all those secret meetings between the Europan Council and the Commission behind closed doors. I asked you to give me an example to support your assertion that the EU Parliament can and does veto proposals from the Commission. While we’re at it, why do you continue to maintain that the EU is still an inter-governmental organisation when every commentator, and even the EU itself, says it’s not? Whenever I ask you to provide evidence of your claims, you just clam up.

    • I agree with you, but for different reasons. I got involved in this EU lark over 25 years ago, and it has been apparent to me from that day on that the EU cannot survive without us. They will never let us go, except by force of arms. Especially now that they are laying the last bricks of their edifice, having imposed their Constitution on us via Lisbon. The notion that they will allow us, just as the final nails are being hammered into our coffin, to break free and escape is frankly ridiculous. Once we have broken down the barriers, the other member States will follow in no time flat and the dream of a unified Europe, which they have been working at for over half a century, will be gone forever. They are simply not going to let that happen.

    • The morning after the referendum, Barwell tweeted that Leave voters supported hate and division.

      He was booted out by his constituents and then 48 hours later finds himself at the heart of Downing St.

  • Ruth Davidson is already sqawking about a soft Brexit or no Scotch Tory support. She is supposedly hot and bothered about the DUPs dislike of gay marriage.

    She should be told to shut up or it is another election and Venezuela UK. But May and her gang don’t have the guts.

  • “…part of Mr Corbyn’s appeal lies in the fact that he has a male organ in working order….”
    I trust this is mere conjecture on your part?

  • It seems that the Davidson story may be Torygraph clickbait and Davidson is supposed to have denied it. Although the message was likely intended for May’s earholes.

    It makes sense as now is not the time for rocking the boat.

  • I am now expecting a so-called ‘soft’ Brexit. If The Guardian is to be believed, that was the whole point of the snap election, with the repeated encouragement of Juncker. I, for one, do believe it. I have been saying it to anyone who’ll listen for the last two months, and it is one reason why I opposed the calling of this General Election.

    Thankfully, though, the Prime Minister had the good sense to trigger Article 50, empowered overwhelmingly by a House of Commons that knew she wanted out of the Single Market, before this pointless election. Labour also campaigned on a manifesto pledge to quit the EEA, bringing the number of MPs standing for a party with a ‘hard’ Brexit ticket to about 85%. In the political game of wordplay, spin, and showiness, it doesn’t matter that most of these MPs did or do not want Brexit of any variety; it is enough to use this statistic and fact to buttress her pursuit of a hard Brexit, and claim that is her mandate to stick to her original strategy in the national interest with cross-party consensus.

    Let us remember that with Article 50 invoked, there is nothing left for the Commons to vote on in relation to the Brexit process, except whether to approve the final deal she has negotiated. Rejection of the negotiated deal means departing the EU, nonetheless, without a deal — or “crashing out”, as the Remain press calls it. This would secure Brexit either way and pro-EU MPs will basically be forced to approve the package to avert an alternative that they see as a national calamity.

    The very last thing she should consider doing now is resigning. I am baffled by Brexiters who regard this as a wise course of action. This close to the Brexit negotiations, we do not need or want a party leadership contest. We do not then need or want another crowned Conservative Prime Minister, still with no majority, to claim he lacks a ‘personal mandate’ and must send the country back to the polling booth — essentially a repeat of the last nine months with a different face in Number 10. This also risks kicking the door wide open to Conservative leadership contenders campaigning on a ‘soft’ Brexit deal instead. Even if the new candidate weren’t too enthused by the ‘soft’ Brexit option, they might want to go for it just to make their mark on the party and be seen to be different from May. That will mean, at the least, scrapping her Brexit Minister, her aim in the negotiations, and her approach.

    Of course, it is likely that this government will fall, one way or another. But let it be by a coup or a vote of no confidence, not voluntary surrender. Tactically speaking, once the negotiations have begun, it would be much more difficult, given the time restraints and the importance of the whole affair, for May’s replacement to backtrack on whatever progress had been made up until then than to start the process from scratch with some sort of fudged Brexit.

  • I should have added that it actually is possible to end free movement while being a member of the EEA/Efta, via Article 112 of the EEA Agreement. Liechtenstein has used it, and there is an Efta Court opinion confirming that the circumstances of the UK are such that the Article 112 route would be applicable to us.

    My natural concern is that the government will be too incompetent to realise this or too unconcerned to do anything about immigration. It has consistently failed to properly manage non-EU migration, over which we have full control, to the point that this now exceeds rates of migration from EU countries. with whom we have free movement.

    Even the language of politicians is one of abdicating responsibility for immigration. They say things like “100,000 is an unrealistic target and we will not be able to do it”, despite any target, be it 100,000, 10,000, or 0, being fully, squarely, and solely within the power of Parliament.

    • “..It has consistently failed to properly manage non-EU migration, over which we have full control,..”
      Do we? I thought we were bound by some EU rules on refugees or something?

    • Vabadus,

      Two very good posts.

      My comment is on this technical point you make:

      [quote]I should have added that it actually is possible to end free movement while being a member of the EEA/Efta, via Article 112 of the EEA Agreement. Liechtenstein has used it, and there is an Efta Court opinion confirming that the circumstances of the UK are such that the Article 112 route would be applicable to us.[/quote]

      This is well-taken, but the difficulty here, as I see it, is that everything depends on negotiation, and freedom-of-movement as a treaty principle will be pushed for hard by the EU negotiators. And even if an exception could be pulled off on some basis, you then have the problem that we are still within the EEA and susceptible to erosion of this protection over time. Indeed, within the Single Market we are presented with something of a fait accompli in this regard because you have the practical problem that de facto free movement (as opposed to freedom-of-movement as a treaty principle) is difficult to stop.

      Certainly in the case of Liechtenstein, the exception was considered acceptable due to that tiny country’s circumstances. It was appreciated that requiring freedom-of-movement would not be appropriate given its location in central Europe. I am not sure that analogous points would hold for Britain, especially given that we now have a long and (perceived to be) ‘successful’ record as a Member State that allows and accommodates freedom-of-movement, albeit without the liberality of the Schengen Zone.

      • Tom Rogers, the idea that Liechtenstein is an anomaly is Remainer propaganda. See here:

        Whilst these rights replicate the ‘Four Freedoms’ established under EU law, the restrictions which a country can place on these four freedoms under EEA law are tougher than the restrictions which can be placed over their equivalent freedoms arising under EU law. If we left the EU but remained in the EEA, we could exercise much greater control over our borders if we wished to under Article 112 EEA. Also, Liechtenstein even has a quota on the number of EEA citizens who can reside within its borders. This model of border control is not an exception to the rule, but a precedent for how the UK could manage its borders under the EEA treaty.

        Dr Richard North and Christopher Booker, who have advocated Flexcit for years, support EEA/Efta membership (their economic and trade predictions about ‘hard’ Brexit and especially ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ are so dire as to make Tim Farron’s Remoaning sound mild and unconcerned) and using Article 112 to manage immigration. As North argues on his blog:

        The numbers involved are, of course, small beer, but Liechtenstein is a tiny country. What matters is that a precedent has been set. Within the framework of the EEA Agreement, an Efta state has suspended freedom of movement and replaced it with a quota system for what amounts to an indefinite period.

        This is where the situation currently stands. Thus, whatever the EU might declare in terms of freedom of movement being “non-negotiable” for EU Member States, it is undeniable that it is negotiable within the framework of the EEA Agreement, as it applies to Efta states.

        Therefore, if the UK chooses to follow the Efta/EEA option as an interim solution to expedite the Article 50 settlement, once the agreement is adopted it can follow the procedural steps pioneered by Liechtenstein. And by this means, it can impose limits on immigration from EEA states.

        In terms of applying a quota system, it should be noted that, in the Australian-style points system, only 23 percent of the migrants admitted come under the points system. The overall limit is set by way of an arbitrary quota, set annually – currently at 190,000. This is, by any measure, a quota system.

        To that extent, the UK can have some of its cake and eat it. The “Liechtenstein solution” potentially gives our negotiators far more flexibility than at first imagined. We accept the EEA acquis as it stands, but negotiate “sectoral adaptations” that bring the Agreement into line with UK needs. This should help us reach an amicable settlement with the EU, while keeping us in the Single Market.

        The Bruges Group and the Campaign for an Independent Britain have spoken favourably of it.

        Unfortunately, I cannot now find the court opinion I read a few months ago that confirmed the UK’s eligibility to use the emergency brake under Article 112.

        All trade negotiators and diplomats I have read about are of the view that a hard Brexit — out of the EEA and with a bespoke trade deal — cannot be accomplished by March 2019. If they are right and we need a transitional deal, the EEA/Efta off-the-shelf solution seems a no-brainer. I would be prepared to endorse it with enthusiasm if it were confirmed that plans to leave the EEA/Efta for ‘fully’ independent status commenced on the day we rejoin it, just to give reassurance that it is a stop gap rather than a final destination.

        As far as stop gaps go, it is not the worst platform to stand on: EEA states are exempt from the EU’s farming and fisheries policies, as well as from foreign affairs, defence, and justice; EEA states are not subject to the ECJ’s limitless writ over almost all areas of law through elastic invocation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; we have Article 112 to deal with immigration. I would recommend reading North père and fils for a fuller understanding of the Flexcit proposal.

        My negativity, though, is purely because of politicians. The only open advocates of the EEA/Efta option are Remoaning Remainers. If we have to go down that route, I cannot see that Brexiters would co-opt it for their own ends. And as I said before, I do not expect anything to be done about immigration, even if Article 112 is known to them. Our ruling class is so inveterately wedded to mass immigration that they would rather be seen to have betrayed the electorate by lumping for a ‘soft’ Brexit and doing nothing about immigration, and then suffering the resultant losses through the ballot box.

        • The links in this post qualified it for entry to our spam filter, from which I have just rescused it.

          • Many thanks!

        • Vadabus,

          A hard Brexit is perfectly possible by March 2019. it is a matter of political will.

          The idea that Liechtenstein is an anomaly is not, or not just, propaganda. It is the fact of the situation. I simply make the point that Britain is a different case to Liechtenstein, not least because we already have a record of implementing freedom-of-movement. Is it likely that the EU will allow us to remain in the Single Market/Customs Union without freedom-of-movement? I think not, but I must concede it is possible, but since it’s possible, I have already addressed in part the practical flaw that will arise if such an arrangement becomes reality. The ‘political’ and ‘social’ realities cannot be separated from the ‘economic’ and migrants will just come here anyway, as a consequence of the Single Market.

          Do you suppose Liechtenstein could keep out CRA migrants if it wanted to? It couldn’t, but nobody sees that as a problem. Why? Because the migrants are not terribly interested in going there. Liechtenstein is not an attractive place for migrants, for a number of reasons. Therefore Liechtenstein was permitted to operate the exception due to its circumstances and as it does not affect the integrity of the Single Market. Can the same be said of Britain?

          As for Richard North’s argument, I am totally opposed to Britain remaining within the EEA. This is on principle. It is worth noting that Dr North is a liberal-minded Brexiter who is known for his breezy dismissals of any argument that does not involve us remaining within the Single Market/Customs Union. It occurs to me that if Britain does secure an exception to freedom-of-movement, it will not be long before we are told that we must have freedom-of-movement after all, to [improve the economy/improve productivity/become a more diverse, enriched, tolerant and loving society/improve the weather/better align the Moon with Jupiter].

          • One more thing: as Dr. North tacitly concedes in that quote from his blog, Liechtenstein strictly-speaking has not excepted itself from freedom-of-movement but only had it suspended within the framework of an EEA agreement. The quid pro quo for this rather flimsy arrangement was a quota system.

            Very sorry, but I don’t find that very reassuring! I do appreciate that we adopt “the procedural steps pioneered” by the EFTA negotiators in the Liechtenstein case, so presumably we would have a more radical outcome in mind but I think you can appreciate that a quota system is not an improvement at all. In practice, it just means freedom-of-movement in all but name, and it also means that as the social and political environment changes, we will end up adopting freedom-of-movement after all.

            Sorry to burst your bubble, but Dr. North has an agenda which blinds him to certain realities. I just don’t think Dr. North’s understanding of the Liechtenstein situation is credible. That’s on the assumption that such a solution is even on the table, which I think is doubtful for the reasons explained.

            We need to leave the EEA and instead secure access to the CRA/CU under memorandum terms pending the negotiation of formal agreements. As an existing member of the EU with a long and successful history of regulatory conformity, there is no reason – and no excuse – for not securing a clean break by March 2019.

            • You’re not bursting my bubble — I prefer a hard Brexit because a soft Brexit with this crop of politicians would be ‘in the spirit of Remain’ rather than in a spirit of a transitional deal before a full, hard Brexit. But as someone not au fait with the intricacies of trade — and generally interested in clashes of ideas and proposals — I read the Norths’ blogs with interest.

              To my knowledge, nobody has been able to explain to them how we can Brexit without the EEA/Efta without serious economic harm and insuperable customs issues, as well as continuing to be subject to the CJEU. I don’t think they hate the idea of a hard Brexit per se; they are just unconvinced that it can be done within two years.

              In any case, including a soft Brexit in which Article 112 is not available to us, we need to be drastically curbing non-EU immigration. One great thing about Brexit is that the Government cannot hide its own incompetence by blaming the EU.

              • Dr. North has an agenda to “soften” Brexit, that much is obvious. His motive for this is less clear. It may be good or bad (‘good’ and ‘bad’ being relative of course to the point-of-view adopted). Actually, I would have preferred it had we followed something like the FLeXCiT Plan, because it is sensible, but I think the political situation makes it redundant.

                The reality is that we have an elite who want to stop Brexit, and who will gladly settle for Plan B (EFTA/EEA) on the basis that we remain a de facto Member State. That is my reasoning for a Big Bang approach to this. If we go along with the Norway-style option and with a Liechtenstein-type exception, we will end up being sucked back into the freedom-of-movement and the other undesirable things because the protections are too flimsy. You will see a public campaign mounted to that effect. That, in essence, is my problem with people like Dr. North – they fail to take account of a dynamic political reality and also that the interests of a liberal business elite are largely antagonistic to the interests of ordinary people (I realise that ‘elite’ and ‘ordinary people’ are loose phraseology). The reason they do so is myopia: they do not see the EU as an ‘enemy’, but as just an inexpedient trading arrangement. I think there is no “halfway house”, even in a process of continuous development. What you will get instead is Britain back to pretty much where we started.

    • Vabadus, you’re right. There is nothing unrealistic about stopping immigration! And a good start would be ending completely all non-European immigration. No more Indian family reunification. No more Pakistani brides. No more Somali refugees jumping over 10 countries to get to the UK benefits system. We can’t afford this any more.

      • I have said to acquaintances before that if the Government had drastically reduced or completely halted non-EU immigration, Remain would have won the referendum. There are other, smaller, sensible measures we could take, as EU or ‘softly Brexiting’ EEA members, such as ending the entitlement of non-British citizens to social housing and all other state benefits (or even more moderately, terminating such entitlements to aliens who have been here for under five years). Settlers would have to take out health insurance and unemployment insurance to cover themselves for illness and job loss.

        I am also favourable to a very modest ‘tourist tax’, which would be included in the air fare, which would amply cover visitors’ use of the NHS, should they fall ill, and general wear and tear. The Balearic Islands had a €2-per-day levy of this kind on tourists under its eco-socialist government, but there is nothing inherently left-wing or Green about the proposal. We had 36,115,000 tourists in 2015. Adding, say, £10 or slightly less to their air fares for this purpose would not be so burdensome as to stop them from coming here.

        These little measures do not strike me as inherently right-wing or anti-immigrant anyway. All nation-states have to differentiate between citizens and non-citizens somehow, and if you were designing a system from scratch, you certainly wouldn’t give the world a free-for-all.

        • I will be the very first at the queue of people who want to bash both the main parties, and UKIP too, for their inept handling of things. In a different sort of way, I actually agree with Dr. North that a gradual approach should have been taken. Ideally, we should have left the EU in around 2007, when the Lisbon Treaty was being signed, and joined EFTA instead. From there, we should have then negotiated a gradual disengagement from the Single Market. I completely agree that had the perfectly legitimate and normal views and concerns of the British people found expression at the top, that would have probably taken the edge off the Brexit problem and a more sensible approach such as that outlined could have been politically possible.

          Paradoxically, it is for that reason I am very grateful to the main parties for ignoring us, and I am also grateful to UKIP for their blundering approach to things. It’s a classic case of ‘being clever by accident’. We now have a chance to leave the EEA architecture completely and secure this country’s future as independent, sovereign and free.

          Meanwhile, what Dr. North & Friends would have us all do is join this halfway house. The problem with this is that the FLeXCiT Plan was meant for a situation such as that I have outlined, where the British elites have taken account of the normal, reasonable and legitimate wishes of the native white British people, and as such, have decided on a gradual programme of disengagement, with a stated destination of complete disengagement (whether or not eventually achieved).

          The difficulty for Dr. North is that that is not the situation we find ourselves. The elites hold the public in contempt. In those circumstances, what Dr. North contemptuously dismisses as ‘noise’ is actually the just and legitimate demand of the native British for the right to control their own national destination. That will not be assuaged with FLeXCiT.

          The halfway house idea, and this notion of British and EU negotiators sitting down for tea and cake and coming to a mutually-beneficial deal where we stay in the EEA, sounds very nice, and I’m sure it’s perfectly sensible too and will go down well among all sorts of clever people who know the difference between a ‘directive’ and a ‘regulation’, and know their rapporteurs from their stagiaires, but here we have the problem of the technician who is adept at detail but doesn’t see the big picture. If we join EFTA, what will actually happen is that we will just get sucked back in again, because the elite do not represent the people. Anybody who knows how politics works in this country knows that is what is going to happen. And the issue is political, whether you wish to acknowledge it or not.

          We have to leave, full stop.

          • The Norths certainly would not see Flexcit as a half-way house. They complain that politicians on both sides of the referendum divide simply do not understand what the EEA/Efta is designed for, which is why the criticisms of Norway’s status as a fax democracy by Remainers and Leavers alike are, in their view, fallacious.

            Their blogs are difficult to get your head around unless you’ve been following them from the start (I haven’t, so I’m not perfectly au fait with all their reasoning either), but their approach is purely pragmatic. They acknowledge the deficiencies of the EEA/Efta option (although they are obviously not as negative as hard Brexiters are) but they see no other viable, smooth, or economically neutral way to leave the EU. A divorce and trade deal simply cannot be negotiated in two years, and they would point to the Canada-EU or South Korea-EU trade deals, which took the best part of a decade to agree on far less, as good examples. They reserve their fiercest and most scathing criticism for the “no deal is better than a bad deal” or “unilateral free trade” Brexiters (such as Patrick Minford), a situation they describe as a “trainwreck”, with examples to illustrate why. In their view, all the political will in the world (which most certainly is not shared by both sides in any case) cannot surmount the legal, regulatory realities of trade.

            My gravest concern with ‘soft’ Brexit is the people who are espousing it — Remainers — and the obvious consequence that nothing will be done about immigration even though Article 112 might be accessible to us and despite us never having lost control of non-EU migration, which surpasses immigration from the 27 states with whom we currently have total, unrestricted free movement.

            To their credit, they bring to our attention regulatory bodies such as Codex and Unece, whose rules and proposals the EU adopts and codifies as law. Flexcit within the EEA/Efta would give us a chance to contribute to the making of those regulations. The Norths also argue that a hard Brexit would still leave us subject to the ECJ for trade purposes, while their proposed route would not. I do agree with them, though, that absolute national sovereignty does not exist, if it ever did, and Brexit is best regarded as shortening the chain of accountability.

            For non-experts on trade like me, there is sadly a complete absence of responses and rebuttals to Flexcit. I e-mailed Dan Hannan about it once, knowing that he advocated EEA/Efta but was blindly on board with Theresa May’s aims, but I got nothing back. Now the referendum is done and dusted, and most Remainers have accepted that we should leave, I would like to see the type of Brexit we get debated (and not by politicians). Richard and Pete North vs Patrick Minford and Ruth Lea would be a corker. At the very least, the Flexcit blogs have highlighted how few trade experts the UK has at all.

            To conclude by returning to the original post, if Theresa May resigns, hard Brexit is off. Sean Gabb should think about whose chorus he is singing in when he calls for her to go now. Make no mistake that she will be kicked off her pedestal at some point, but I want the Brexit process to be well on its way by then and difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. There is no reason at all for her to quit except for reasons of shallow political image. When she does sulk off, I will offer a year’s free menial labour to any Conservative who prevents Boris Johnson or Amber Rudd from becoming Prime Minister.

            Article 50 is triggered. The Commons need to be consulted on nothing. Labour, Liberal Democrats, and the SNP will not be at the discussions. The negotiations are about to begin. The only thing that can stop her in her tracks is an internal coup or a vote of no confidence. Any reneging on hard Brexit without her quitting will be nothing less than craven, unnecessary acquiescence.

            If she must leave, let it be with the bitterest of efforts to cling to power.

            • Again, I need to make something clear because you’ve partly misunderstood me – I HAVE READ ALL OF DR. NORTH’S PAPERS. I am familiar with his position. And I didn’t say that FLeXCiT is a halfway house, I said that EFTA/EEA is regarded as a sort of a halfway house, which is what FLeXCiT potentially entails (depending on developments in the future).

              I accept I’m not an educated person, but I am more knowing than people realise. I do read things, I’m not a complete idiot. I would not critique Dr. North’s work unless I had read his output.

              Having read all of Dr. North’s papers, I have decided that I think he is wrong. We need to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union.

              However, my view of his wrongness is caveated. I think had we taken the initiative in 2007, or maybe 2005, to leave, which is what the Blair government should really have done when Lisbon was on the table, and joined the EFTA at that point, or sought some other status within the EEA, that could have happened without a referendum, and it was the moment when Dr. North would have come into his element, because his FLeXCiT plan would have been ripe for such an initiative. But it is not ripe under present circumstances. That ship has sailed now. The politics of this (what Dr. North calls ‘noise’) have moved on, in that nobody trusts any politicians to deliver what they have promised, and we know that a deal within the EEA would then be a basis for further betrayals. First it will be: “Let’s increase the quota, our businesses need more immigrants”. Then it will be: “Let’s have freedom-of-movement”. You know the drill. Yes, it is true, that we have non-European immigrants coming here, and I object to that, but I also object to a free and easy immigration and borders policy with regard to European immigrants. The existence of freedom-of-movement within the EU is a factor in this and we don’t address the problem by allowing freedom-of-movement to continue.

              You say that nobody has come up with a response to FLeXCiT. Actually, they have, and I have my own response. The costs of Single Market membership far exceed the value of exports to the EU. The EU operates a trade deficit with the UK and has very high total trade with us. The ‘who needs the other most’ paradigm is misleading. It’s not that they need us or we need them. It’s the reality that we trade with them, so it’s desirable to do a deal – you might say, we must – but it isn’t necessary because trade will continue anyway and for entirely practical reasons, the EU will not want to be seen to block trade from the UK. And if they are stupid enough to do so, then we can deal with the consequences. In all of his writings, Dr. North never explains why it would not be feasible to establish trade facilitation by March 2019 and then negotiate formal free trade agreements once we have left. As far as I can see, the entire matter is about political will, which in turn depends on what you want. Dr. North doesn’t want what I want. He wants to stay close to Europe, he’s a liberal. I’m a nationalist. Neither view is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in any objective sense.

              • Tom Rogers, if you’re not an educated person then I don’t know what one is. Can you please tell us what you think an ‘educated person’ is?

            • I agree with the generality of this. Let us take what we can get.

            • Regarding the impact of the EU on non-EU immigration, you may wish to consider this link:

              https://www.rt.com/news/392080-eu-legal-action-refugees/

          • ….this notion of British and EU negotiators sitting down for tea and cake and coming to a mutually-beneficial deal….
            In a sane world that is exactly what we would do. But the EU cannot allow us to have any sort of ‘beneficial’ deal (even though it would be mutually beneficial), because the whole thing would unravel. Why should the other Member States stay in, if they can be given as good a deal on the outside as they have on the inside?
            It will be interesting to see how Frau Merkel deals with the protestations of the German car makers.
            It is also interesting, from a masochistic point of view, to note that a full year since the referendum, all we have achieved is to deliver a letter to President Tusk.

  • There is now a story in the papers that Theresa May called the election at the urging of the EU. If that is true, then it just beggars belief.

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