“financial settlement should be based on the principle that the United Kingdom must honour its share of the financing of all the obligations undertaken while it was a member of the Union. The United Kingdom obligations should be fixed as a percentage of the EU obligations calculated at the date of withdrawal in accordance with a methodology to be agreed in the first phase of the negotiations”.Readers will be aware of my cynicism about the binding nature of International Law, but clearly Britain is going to comply with the governing treaties for diplomatic purposes so, ultimately, this is a legal negotiation, based upon their terms. I have only one question therefore. Where in the treaties governing the relationship of the member states of the EU is the above "principle" stated? Spoiler alert. It isn't.
Ignoring, for the time being, the demands on immigration, it seems that the EU has finally given some workings on their calculation of financial demands on "divorce" (as they emotively choose to characterise our leaving their political club).
I made my living as a negotiator. There's always a ritual dance. No-one opens with what they expect to get, but this is a joke that destroys the EU's credibility as a negotiating partner. It is a signal of bad faith and an insult to the British people.
one approach I am quite certain does not work is candlelight vigils, weepy hashtags and a refusal to face up to who the enemy is and why they are doing what they are doing.
He makes a good point but what will?
To begin with we should do nothing to validate the belief of these losers™ that they are special. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 – a piece of knee-jerk legislation that led me to begin this blog long years ago – was (and this is the least of my criticisms) a mistake in psychological terms. It dealt differently with those who murder for political reasons thus confirming their view that they were more than "common criminals". This was a very different approach to that of Margaret Thatcher. She always insisted that Jeremy Corbyn's chums in the Provisional IRA were not "soldiers" or "political activists" but criminals like any other; that their motives made no more difference to the legal analysis of their actions than they did to the reality of the outcome for the victims and their families. One is no less dead for being murdered in a cause and one's killer is no more for it.
Such criminals should be detected, arrested and tried. If convicted they should go to the same prisons as other murderers and be treated exactly the same. Murder carries the maximum penalty presently permitted under English Law because it is the worst crime. Any special treatment of terrorist murderers and their accomplices is legally a distinction without a difference and – worse – will be in their eyes a badge of honour.
If, statistically, Muslims are currently producing more terrorists, I see nothing illiberal about controlling future immigration from their countries until the terrorism has been defeated. Let's acknowledge we have a problem among the Muslims we already have. Let's own it, address it and while we are doing so prevent it from becoming worse. Some people will call that "racist" but they should not confuse us with people who give a damn about their playground name-calling. Repeal whatever legislation prevents such a policy and put it in force — just as President Trump has been wading through the Deep State swamp to attempt in the USA. Opinion polls suggest there is massive democratic support for such a policy across the whole of Europe.
That leaves the question of the already resident Muslim population most of whom, thank goodness, pose no threat. We can maximise that proportion by some common sense measures:
- Change our relationship with Saudi Arabia, the heart of Islamic darkness. It does not permit Christian evangelism on its territory. In contrast, as a civilised country, we permit all religions to be practised, but that does not mean we have to allow the Saudis to fund theirs. Currently there are more Wahhabi Korans in the UK than any other versions because Saudi Arabia provides them free of charge. Wahhabism is a particularly dangerous sect and motivates a disproportionate number of terrorists.
- If this is thought likely to affect arms sales to that Kingdom, then perhaps we should form an Organisation of Weapons Exporting Countries to fulfil a similar function to that of OPEC in relation to oil.
- It may be necessary, after appropriate research, to prevent other countries from funding mosques and madrassas in Britain. I see no problem with that either. I am sure local Muslim philanthropists will step into the breach.
- We should ditch the doctrine of multiculturalism and make it a matter of immigration policy that new arrivals are welcome only on the basis that they agree to integrate into our society and live according to our values. There is no ethical problem, in my opinion, in stating definitively that Shariah Law is incompatible with those values. New immigrants should swear an affidavit on entry to confirm that they understand and accept this.
- We should break the news to our Muslim communities that they and their families have come to live in a Christian culture. Most Brits may not be religious now but still our country is one formed by Christian values. Constitutionally, it is actually a kind of mild Christian theocracy as we have no separation of Church and State. The Church of England is Established and twenty-six of its bishops – the Lords Spiritual – are ex officio members of Parliament. In this quirky theocracy, the Theos is Jehovah, not Allah. Daft, in my personal opinion, as I very much believe in the separation of Church and State on the American or French model, but no less true for that.
- We should deliver public services only in the official languages of the United Kingdom. When I lived in Poland, Russia and China I could not expect to deal with the authorities in English. They took the perfectly reasonable view that my weakness in their languages was my problem. To the extent I could not cope I found friends, colleagues or paid translators to help me. By dealing with immigrants in their own languages, we have encouraged them NOT to assimilate and have made it unnecessary for them to learn English. It is our fault, not theirs, that so many Muslim mothers live and raise their children dangerously outside our society's mainstream. I am sure most were initially astonished to find that our public sector is prepared to deal with them in their own languages at taxpayers' expense.
- We should cut all other services (e.g. translators to sit with children in classes, chaperones to accompany ladies to medical appointments) that discourage integration. Of course we should be tolerant of the needs of learners to bring English speakers along to help them out until they are fluent. I am sure there would also be some doctors prepared to allow male members of Muslim ladies' families to accompany them to consultations. I would not make any doctor do so, however. The ladies in question chose to come to a country where such an approach is alien (and rather insulting to our doctors). No-one forced them to come. They could have stayed in their countries of origin and these issues would never have arisen.
- We should provide English classes for refugees. They didn't choose to come and it's only decent to help them out. Economic migrants, like me in Poland, Russia and China, should pay for their own damned language lessons.
- Finally we must recruit thousands of members of the police, the Special Branch and MI5 from among our Muslim citizens. We are so often assured that most of them are peace-loving and loyal that I cannot imagine this will be difficult. As a young lawyer in Nottingham I personally administered the Oath of Allegiance to many new Muslim citizens and kept a Koran at hand for the purpose. I am sure many of their families have suitably qualified members now.
I don't put forward any of these suggestions to punish British Muslims or even to deter future immigration once the problem has been solved. But if we are to reduce terrorism here, rather than just accept it as "part and parcel of life in a big city", I think measures like these are necessary. Do you agree? If so what other measures would you suggest? If not, then how do YOU think we should defeat Islamic terror?
I mentioned this book in a recent post and read it with great pleasure the following day. I commend it to you.
Sadly, most Brits only study the least appealing parts of German history. Arguably the only true historical consensus in divided post war Britain is that the Nazis were not nice chaps. I hope I can claim to have done better than that because I studied European History to A level and have also read a fair amount since for my own amusement but this book nonetheless covers parts of German history of which I knew little and understood less.
I have to confess that I had the mental stereotype of Germany; one of "state worship, puritanical zeal and scar-faced militarism" that the author feels the need to refute. In fairness that stereotype — apparently more Prussian than German — was in some cases reinforced by German colleagues with whom I worked closely in my career. That might be because they act up to it. Just as Brits abroad, when tired of pointing out that we're not all floppy haired effeminates like Hugh Grant, eventually give up and act the part to comic effect. I did actually attend meetings with an elderly German colleague who sported duelling scars, for example. No really. I know. I would have called myself racist to imagine him, if I had not actually met him.
Some of the most interesting parts of the books are about prehistory. The Romans invented Germany as a term to describe the disparate and unconnected mutually warring tribes who lived beyond the Rhine. Rather like the British made a polity (and later, mistakenly, two) from mere geography in India, the Romans invaded, recruited to their armies and civilised this imaginary ethnic group and then defined its furthest limit by giving up at the River Elbe. What I mostly learned from reading this book is that when we Brits respond emotionally to the idea of German-ness we actually have the people beyond the Elbe in mind. The "real" Germans (as defined by the author) respond to these trans-Elbians, interestingly, rather as we do. Hitler's support was largely to be found there as today is more of the vote for extremes of Right or Left.
The era of West Germany was a Golden Age not just because of Marshall Aid and the Economic Miracle but because those pesky Trans-Elbeans were sequestered in the DDR living down to our mis-targeted stereotype. "Why are the Chinese so happy?" goes a modern German joke. "Because they still have their Wall".
For much of our history Brits thought of Germans as cousins. The Common Law probably began in long forgotten forests in Saxony and English is arguably German garnished with French. It has been a long sad collapse from that familial feeling to the present unpleasantness of shouting "two world wars and one World Cup" at their football fans.
I don't regret Brexit a bit but sadly it probably won't help with this estrangement, given how devoutly Cis-Elbean Germans believe in the EU. The best that those of us who like Germany (and not just its excellent cars and kitchens) can do is read this book, encourage fellow Brits to read it, play nicely with such German friends as we may have and hope. Mostly we should hope for our two nations to feature in each others history books more, and more peacefully, in future. When they shake off their misguided obsession with the EU (or more likely it collapses under them) we will still be neighbours and - let's hope - friends.
The current public discussion about the so-called "divorce bill" or "financial settlement" claimed by the European Union in relation to the UK's termination of its membership is ill-informed on a cosmic scale. I decided to flex my neglected skills as a retired international lawyer and do a bit of research.
The EU has yet to produce any legal justification for its claim. It is simply asserting, as a negotiating position, that it will discuss nothing else until a payment has been agreed. This is an oddly weak stance. If there is a legal basis for the claim, they don't need it signed off in advance. It would simply be a contractual consequence of the treaties. The European Court would rule if the principle or amount were disputed.
To someone who negotiated for a living for decades, it has the aroma of, to be polite, bravado or, to be less polite, something else beginning with a "b".
That impression is reinforced by the fact that the EU has not produced its calculations. According to press reports it is demanding between sixty and one hundred billion Euros. Nor has it offered any legal analysis. We are told that the British government has clear legal advice that no such payment is due. Of course it won't publish that advice until the EU has offered some justification.
Lawyers for Britain (disclosure: a campaign group in support of Brexit) has however commissioned and published a counsel's opinion by Martin Howe QC entitled The withdrawal of the UK from the European Union: Analysis of potential financial liabilities. The full opinion can be downloaded here. I have also hosted a copy of it on this site and put a link in the sidebar. It is well and clearly written. I suspect many of my esteemed readers will actually enjoy reading it even if they are not accustomed to such documents.
For now, I will cut to the chase however and quote the conclusion of pages of dense analysis:
For the reasons set out in this paper, there is a powerful legal case that the UK will not owe the EU any monies on withdrawal, and will be entitled to a net payment representing the value of its capital in the European Investment Bank.
Those readers who, like, me, actively want a "hard Brexit" should take the following comfort. If the EU's negotiators stick to their present position, there can be no further negotiation. The UK will exit without any agreement. It might even be possible (though I doubt any possible government after the election would have the testicular fortitude to go for it) to dispense with the two year notice period and stop subsidising our Continental chums sooner.
We would then trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) standard terms, which will allow either side to impose tariffs averaging 2.3% on imports of non-agricultural goods (agriculture is a pampered business everywhere and the WTO has failed to broker any agreement to reduce protectionist tariffs). Britain is of course free to impose no tariffs on EU goods. The WTO sets a maximum, but no minimum. In my view that is precisely what we should do. It helps our consumers not one jot or tittle to pay more for our Audis and Camembert. As a supporter of free markets, not crony capitalism, I favour the consumer over the producer every time.
One can love capitalism without loving capitalists - or at least not loving them more than ones fellow humans in general.
It is likely of course that the mercantilist, anti-free market, corrupt crony capitalist EU will impose such tariffs. It will be true to the antiquated and discredited ideology that made us want to leave. However the adjustment in the value of the pound sterling (the genius of the Free Market at work) has already more than covered the effect of WTO tariffs and the Government has (rashly and wrongly in my view) promised British farmers that they will be compensated from public funds for any negative effects.
Much as I disapprove of that, it will cost far far less than our payments to the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which routes subsidies not just to jolly Continental peasants but to rich people such as the French, Austrian and German partners in the international law firm to which I used to belong, who owned farms and vineyards not to feed and cheer the masses, but to garner CAP subsidies from their far poorer fellow-taxpayers.
I spent most of my career working in Continental Europe. This is not a "some of my best friends are Jewish" thing (which they are by the way) but most of my best friends are Continental Europeans. As the farcical Brexit "negotiations" continue, my personal Facebook page is therefore full of their whingeing, sniping and moralising about Britain's supposed "rejection" of Europe. Perhaps it's as well I have retired as a lawyer because my advocacy skills and negotiating experience are not good enough to persuade them that is NOT what is happening.
Only this morning, for example, one of my German friends wrote the following
Hmmm, folks when I look back at my divorce, it was not easy and I could not terminate my contract and run away, just to get the state of freedom (I have taken over responsibility during the time of marriage and felt to take care of it). In addition, how to explain such behavior (give notice and wait until the term of notice expired to get freedom and feel not any longer responsible for the everything I did together with my partner in the past) .... maybe somebody of you can help me how to explain this to my kids?
The "divorce" analogy keeps coming up in the Brexit debate but it could not be more false. The British people were persuaded to confirm Britain's entry into the "Common Market" (as the EEC was routinely described at the time) on the basis that it would have economic benefits. It was not a marriage. It was a "trade agreement" (that much misunderstood term which socialists and other statists seem to think means "an agreement authorising trade" whereas in truth – since trade is a basic human activity that needs no permission – means "an agreement to reduce government interference with trade"). The EEC as it was at the time was routinely spoken of as "the Common Market" and it takes very little research to find the press coverage, speeches and pamphlets of that era promising that it was nothing more than that. Here for example is an extract from the official government leaflet distributed before the 1975 referendum;
Remember: All the other countries in the Market [my emphasis] today enjoy, like us, democratically elected Governments answerable to their own Parliaments and their own voters. They do not want to weaken their Parliaments any more than we would."
Fact No. 3. The British Parliament in Westminster retains the final right to repeal the Act which took us into the Market on January 1, 1973. Thus our continued membership will depend on the continuing assent of Parliament.
"Fact No. 3" remains true as a simple matter of British constitutional law. Parliament is sovereign. It can do anything it damn well pleases (alas in many ways, but hurrah in this one). This is why I have said before that our Article 50 notice, observance of the two year exit period and participation in the farcical "negotiation" (which Juncker is trying to turn into a ritual humiliation to deter others thinking of leaving) is pure politeness. I think we should go through these motions because we have an interest in promoting the myth of "International Law." It's a myth very largely of our devising and is a useful diplomatic construct to avoid conflict in future. However, if I were leading the negotiation on the British side, I would be watching like a hawk for a gaffe by Juncker and his team that would allow me to walk out without further ado. I have enough confidence in the abilities of our Civil Service (if not our politicians) to hope that is what the person actually leading the negotiation is doing.
To return to my German friend's emotional plea on Facebook, I am astonished that a citizen of the greatest industrial power on Earth; a wealthy nation with a strong economy and vibrant culture would think of his country in such an odd way as to compare it to a spurned wife. To me it seems frankly degrading but then "victimhood" is now in many ways the highest aspiration of modern Westerners. Perhaps this is Germany's Rachel Dolezal moment in which it sheds its unloved identity as a privileged white nation with a history of racist aggression and joins an "oppressed minority" in favour of which one must now positively discriminate?
If you insist on thinking of it as a marriage, then let's at least perfect the analogy. Britain was a reluctant bride. We didn't find the other member states attractive and were very reluctant to get in bed with them, but we wanted the financial benefits that the relationship promised to bring. Whereas my German friend seems to see the 27 as a spurned family to be supported by the errant, unfaithful husband, we see ourselves as a disappointed gold-digger who has been ****ed long enough by this ugly old brute and wants out.
In this week's Spectator there is a review by William Cook of a book called The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes, which seems to go some way to explaining why Germans and Brits see Brexit so differently. I have bought it and will be reading it but here's a passage quoted in the review;
…the solutions nations seek are shaped by past experience, and in this respect Germany and Britain could scarcely be less alike. Germans have been familiar with federal institutions ever since Charlemagne. Germany has only been a nation since 1871 and its experience of nationalism was a disaster. History has taught the British that we’re best off one step removed from Europe, whereas it has taught the Germans that they’re far better off as part of a supranational superstate. Really it’s a wonder that we agree about anything at all…
I have failed so far to persuade my Continental friends but I shall persist in explaining that we have not rejected Europe. We have not fallen out of love. We are not a heartless brute of a faithless husband casting one German wife and 26 children out into the cold to starve. We are their friend and want to remain so. We have done them much good in the past and will do them more. We will buy their Audis and their Camemberts just as we always have and will holiday in France and make pathetic schoolboy attempts at their language for their amusement while they relieve us of our money. Our rejection is not even of the "Common Market" as it was sold to us (though we have to leave it because they have tied it together with the rest of the plan) but of the federal dream (to them) and nightmare (to us) of a United States of Europe.