"I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic psychotic pigheaded politicians
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth."
John Lennon: "Gimme Some Truth." From Imagine (1971)
'Truth' about Brexit
'Truth' is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as: 'The quality or state of being true', or as: 'A fact or belief that is accepted as true'. Truth is linked to trust, as in order to trust someone, it is necessary to believe they tell the truth. The OED defines 'trust' as a: 'Firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.' It is also the: 'Acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence of investigation.' Thus, in the context of the current Brexit negotiations, a key question must surely be: 'Can we trust those involved to tell us the truth?' Unfortunately, thus far the Brexit 'manoeuvres' appear to be bereft of this precious commodity, and consequently we appear to be increasingly running the risk of losing what was the essence of Brexit. I (and I suspect many others) voted 'leave' based on a number of issues, amongst which six were of crucial importance, and are presented below in descending order of importance:
1) To halt the drift towards the UK being a mere region (or state) of the United States of Europe, controlled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, rather than politicians in Westminster who are at least accountable to the electorate every four years or so. By leaving, we would no longer be an unwitting party to this monumental continental-wide duplicity.
2) To regain control of our borders, and allow the UK government and its agencies to decide who enters the UK, under what conditions/restrictions, and for how long they can remain here.
3) To trade with any country in the world on mutually-agreeable terms, and without having to seek 'permission' from Brussels for such activities. Unless the EU is willing to make an exception in our case, this would mean having to leave the Single European Market (SEM), and the Customs Union (CU), and to trade around the world through a series of bi-lateral trading arrangements – working under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation.
4) To regain control of our legal system, and have ALL UK domestic matters settled by UK courts, thus excluding the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, as established by The Lisbon Treaty (Article 6).
5) To take control of our fisheries and reinstate our national fishing waters as they were prior to EU membership This, according to British Sea Fishing (BSF), was "…a zone extending 200 nautical miles from a country's coastline (or the median point if another country is closer than that distance), an area known as a country's Exclusive Economic Zone." Since our membership of the EU (then EEC) we are allowed to "… control a zone just 12 miles from the UK coastline, with the rest of Britain's waters now part of Europe's combined Exclusive Economic Zone…" (BSF, 2018). However, for a foretaste of things to come, one only has to view the recent confrontation between UK scallop fishermen and the French. As reported in The Daly Telegraph, when UK trawlers tried to fish for scallops of the coast of Normandy (well within their rights according to EU Fisheries Law), they were attacked by: "French vessels… hurling stones and flares" (Swinford and Samuel, 2018: 1). Later reports suggested that British ships were forcibly boarded by the French Navy (Leake, 2018: 8). Whilst such a confrontation might seem just short of farcical, it does serve to highlight the importance of territorial waters to the UK fishing industry, and why such incidents should be taken seriously. As Mike Hookemen, the UKIP MEP and spokesman for fisheries said: If action is not taken quickly, someone is going to be killed" (McGoogan and Samuel, 2018: 4).
6) To halt the regular payment of money to the EU budget: in 2016, we paid some £8.6 billion (net) (Full Fact, 2017).
Comparing this 'shopping list' of demands with what has been apparently achieved so far, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we are moving towards BRNO ('Brexit in Name Only'), rather than the Brexit voted for. And this brings us to my plea for truth, as it would appear that we have either been lied to, been the recipients of what Churchill famously referred to as 'terminological inexactitudes', or at the very least some of those involved have been 'economical with the truth.' As noted at the start of this article, trust is something that requires 'reliability' and 'truth.' In terms of the delicate negotiations over Brexit, it is crucial that the ability to be open and honest ('tell the truth') is an attribute not found in equal measure on both sides involved in the process of negotiations.
The UK Government
Firstly, in what way(s) - if any - has our government been less than honest? As no government is going to admit to duplicity or lying to the electorate, to answer this question one has to rely on informed speculation. To begin with, it would appear that David Davis and his team were undermined from the very start of the negotiations. Theresa May, is a well-known 'remainer', leading commentators such as Swift (2018d) to argue that: "…placing a 'remainer at the head of a government that had to implement a 'leave' agenda could never work." In the minds of some people, there will always be the suspicion that May, either by accident or design, did not pursue the Brexit agenda with sufficient vigour and sense of purpose that she should have. Indeed, it took her some nine months to trigger Article 50 – something that she should have done in her first week as Prime Minister. Perhaps she should not have sought the top job, but given her backing to someone more suited to carry out the Brexit process with all the energy and vigour required for this challenging task. Thus, right from the start, it is probable that the political will and sense of purpose underpinning Brexit was at best lacking in energy and drive, and at worst, deliberately vague – in the hope that events (in the shape of a second referendum) would catch up with the Brexit bus.
Such criticism, however, could not be levelled at David Davis, who throughout his tenure as 'Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union' (a title as ponderous as the process of leaving itself) appeared to be doing as good a job as possible considering the circumstances under which he was forced to work. Whilst one would not have expected him to explain his negotiating tactics to the UK media - this would have been subsequently used by his EU opposite numbers - there always appeared a slight 'unease' or 'hesitancy' about his public communications, as if he were being restrained from doing what he would really like to have said. Such a supposition would explain why he chose to resign on 8th July of this year, freeing himself from the confines of Cabinet collective responsibility. As he explained in an article written for The Sunday Times Theresa May's "Chequers Proposal" betrayed the promises made in the referendum, namely the: "…return of control of laws, borders and money to the United Kingdom parliament and exit from the single market and customs union…. they were the democratic decisions of the British people" (Davis, 2018:21). Since the resignation of both Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, things appear to have gone from bad to worse. For example, the latest attempt by Theresa May to 'unblock' the Brexit impasse over Northern Ireland, by offering to extend the transition process – in other words, extend EU control of the UK! As reported in the Financial Times, her offer "…to keep Britain tied to the EU until 2021…" led to a "…torrent of criticism at Westminster, with MPs across the Brexit divide lining up to attack the plan" (Barker and Parker, 2018:1). This extension of the transition period represents the total opposite of what we should be doing, and is an example of the most ludicrous, 'half-baked', appeasement to the demands of Brussels since the emergence of a transition period itself. I was always under the impression that the two year 'negotiation' period was designed specifically to allow both sides to work out details of the transition. We are now apparently being told that we need more time to allow both sides to work out details of the transition! By a combination of procrastination, mendacity and stealth, the EU appears to be winning!
As May's latest proposal is the total opposite of what Brexit stood for, it will doubtless be welcomed with open arms by Barnier. it allows the EU to bind us to them for an unspecified period - don't' believe the talk of one extra year - during which time a number of other considerations would be likely to emerge, bringing us still deeper under EU control. In the first place, it would take us into a new round of EU finances - to which we would doubtless be expected to make a significant contribution, thus increasing the reparations bill yet further! Furthermore, during the same extension period we would have no voting rights or opportunity to influence any budget decisions or policies. We would remain under the jurisdiction of EU courts, and subject to EU legislation in the area of common agricultural and fisheries policies. We would be unable to control our borders, which would remain open to unrestricted migration by EU passport-holders (a major reason behind the vote to leave two years ago), and would become enmeshed still further in those rapidly-expanding areas that are designed to ultimately subsume us within the 'Grand Project' – the formation of the United States of Europe.
In addition, we would be one year (at least) further into the bureaucratic nightmare of a European Defence Force, and closer to the adoption of the Euro. Whilst critics might scoff that all this is unlikely, I would ask them to look at the proposals by Juncker: in September 2017 in his "State of the Union" Address (a telling heading if ever there was) he called on all EU states to join the euro, and suggested that the post of European Finance Minister be created. He also suggested widening the Schengen passport-free travel area, and claimed that by 2025 the EU would have "…a fully-fledged European defence union…" (Boffey, 2017).It would appear that we got out just in the nick of time, and that May's proposal would only bring such dangers ever-closer. Finally, it has to be said that, in view of the duplicity of the EU negotiators thus far, there is no guarantee that even with such an extension, they would be able to arrive at an agreement; a more likely scenario would be a succession of 'extensions', keeping us 'locked in' for an indeterminate period. That there has been no final agreement during this two-year period is a fact; who is responsible for this inability to arrive at a deal is open to opinion, and that will be discussed later. Personally, I have always blamed the EU (Swift, 2018a:115), which has no intention of negotiating, and would dearly love to see May fail. The only small crumb of comfort to be derived from this latest nonsense is that, ironically, May appears to have united both wings of her party. However, before the (imported) French champagne bottles are opened to toast this rare display of unity, there are a number of other issues relating to a lack of trust that must be considered.
The UK's 'Fifth Column'
Our Brexit negotiators have also been undermined by the activities of high profile 'Fifth Columnists' – 'remoaners' who cannot accept the result of a democratic decision, and who feel that they have the power, authority, and sacred mission to nullify the referendum result, instigate a second referendum (now referred to as a 'People's Vote'), and save us from ourselves. Such people include ex-Prime Ministers (Tony Blair, John Major), a slew of high profile 'never-quite-made-it' politicians (Michael Heseltine, Peter Mandleson, Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, and Lord Peter Hain – who apparently now feels he has the right to challenge the UK courts whilst hiding behind Parliamentary Privilege). The activities of these and other fellow travellers must appear as a godsend to the likes of Michel Barnier, as it suggests that the UK is divided and is considering another referendum. That is not the case – despite the noise produced by such people, they have little evidence that people would change their minds if there were another referendum vote. It must look to the EU that all it has to do is sit tight, and wait for the UK to tear itself apart. The fact that the referendum was a transparent democratic vote, and expressed the voice of the British people is likely to be irrelevant to the likes of Barnier, Tusk, Verhofstadt, and Junker – none of whom owe their very powerful and privileged current positions to a public vote.
Right from the start, the UK negotiating team has been working on the basis of arriving at an equally-beneficial agreement that would accommodate both the EU and UK viewpoints, but has been hampered by their own government, aided by an influential cabal of UK 'Fifth Columnists' with an apparent scant regard for democracy. Added to this, is the intransigent and duplicitous role played by the EU negotiators.
The EU Negotiators
The tone for negotiations was set early on, when Juncker chose the Anglophobe Michel Barnier to lead the EU negotiating team; earlier this year, in an interview on a US news channel, Barnier was quoted as having said "…we don't want to negotiate, we don't want to compromise…" (Rayner, 2018:4). Bearing in mind his attitude, the subsequent actions and pronouncements of Barnier and his team are more understandable: stall for as long as possible, procrastinate, be belligerent, always criticise the UK offering and ask for more. All in the hope that the UK 'Fifth Column' will rescue the situation by instigating a new referendum, that the Conservatives will trigger a leadership challenge and topple May, or that the government will be forced to call a general election. Or possibly a combination of all potential outcomes. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to see how any UK team could arrive at a deal. If we view this two year period in the light of Barnier's comments, the apparent delay and lack of substantial progress is explained. In 2017, the Brussels negotiators were pushing us to come to some agreement over the so-called 'divorce bill' - or the settling of outstanding club membership fees, depending on your viewpoint (Swift, 2018a: 100-104).
In addition to the large membership payments detailed earlier, there is the more pressing question of the current payment to Brussels, to enable us to leave. This is known variously as the 'Brexit Bill' and the 'divorce payment', although might be more accurately described as a 'reparations' charge levied on us by Brussels in order to squeeze as much out of us as they can before we finally leave, and the not inconsiderable UK contribution (mentioned above) dries up. After all, how are they going to cover the costs of the grandiose schemes planned for the future, in addition to the exorbitant 'running costs' of salaries, expenses, and the annual movement between Brussels and Strasbourg, to name but a few? It is difficult to come up with an exact figure demanded by the EU: various sources give it as €60 billion (Barker, 2017); The Daily Telegraph of July 2018 mentions £39 billion (Editorial, 2018c: 17; Kanter, 2018) – equating to around €44 billion at October 2018 exchange rates; and £52 billion (BBC, 2017).The consensus of opinion suggests that the final settlement should be around £45 billion – but that is still subject other calculations, and unless we secure a free trade deal, then nothing at all may be paid. As Allister Heath noted last year, the outrageous financial demands made by Brussels serve only to unite the country in the face of such 'preposterous demands' (Heath, 2017:18).
The EU has consistently dragged its heels over the future EU-UK relationship, which is why they insisted on dividing the process into two parts, with the payment coming first, and claiming that future relations could not be discussed until the money issue had been settled – knowing full well that at that stage they would hold the whip hand. In September 2017, Michel Barnier insisted that the UK '…settle its accounts…' before the issue of future relationships and trade could be discussed (Crisp and Maidment, 2017:6). Then time was on their side and negotiations were all about what they wanted from us. The second phase (future politico-trading relations) is more focused on what we want from them, and as such, they undoubtedly felt that it could be left until the last minute – which would have the added advantage of making us desperate and more inclined to sign virtually anything. Judging by Mrs May's latest ponderings, the EU's logic appears to be spot on! This also demonstrates why the EU is not to be trusted, and that communications emanating from Brussels should not be regarded as truthful. After all, it was Barnier himself who suggested that Britain would be 'less secure as a result of Brexit' (Crisp et. al, 2017:1), and who used the reparations bill as a weapon – threatening that there would be no Free Trade deal if the UK did not pay the arbitrarily-decided figure dreamed up by the EU negotiating team. He cleverly switched around the question of trust in a speech to the Italian Parliament, when he said that 'Britain must agree to the Brexit divorce bill if it were to "…build trust…", as there was still considerable uncertainty over key issues (Crisp and Maidment, 2017:6).
How can one negotiate with people who are prepared to lie over major issues (Jean-Claude Juncker), and for whom the whole two year period is a simple charade, designed to cause the UK as much humiliation and financial pain as possible? As was recently pointed out in a letter to The Daily Telegraph: the reason why negotiations are proceeding at such a slow pace, is because; "We are not dealing with nice people, but with people who would happily wreck our country and who have happily wrecked the economies of several countries under the guise of partnership" (Burne, 2018). Some months after the Brexit vote, and even before Article 50 had been triggered, Juncker set the tone for subsequent negotiations when he said that the EU had to be "….intransigent …" in the question of freedom of movement within the EU, linking it to the single market (Foster and Day, 2016: 18). Such an attitude sums up the futility of attempting to negotiate with people who have already made up their minds before the process begins.
Furthermore, as 'bullies' (according to the Greek ex-Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis) (Editorial, 2017:19), the EU regards any concessions made on our part as a sign of weakness. Thus, initiatives such as that muted by May, will only encourage them to press their demands yet further. As Churchill noted appeasement "…in all its forms…" only encourages an aggressor further (Churchill, 1948:194). Just as Hitler viewed Chamberlain's offer of peace as a sign of weakness and an inability (or unwillingness to oppose him), the way that the UK has bent over backwards to accommodate the unreasonable and deliberately – provocative demands of Barnier and his cohorts has obviously worked in the EU's favour.
This brings us to the question of what to do next. As I have pointed out on many occasions (Swift, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c, and 2018d) the EU never wanted us to leave in the first place. However, as it must now be obvious to even the most blinkered EUrocrat, we are determined to leave. Consequently, the EU negotiators have undoubtedly been told that, rather than agree a mutually-beneficial 'divorce' with the UK, it is their job to ensure that we remain sufficiently tied to the EU in issues such as trade and law. They have to ensure that abide by EU legislation, but are not allowed any say in its formation and/or enactment, and that we are still required to contribute financially to the organisation we were supposed to have left. All of which points inescapably to the fact that there is simply no point in trying to negotiate with the EU: in the first place, because they have no intention of negotiating (only crippling), and secondly, they will only agree to concessions that leave us tied to (but not of) the bloc. It is a dream come true for the French and Germans who have long regarded us as 'awkward' members of the EU club, and have only put up with us because of the hefty financial contribution we make to the EU coffers, and the market we provide for EU exporters. What better solution that to have the UK - in the words of Boris Johnson - as a 'vassal state' (Stewart, 2017), or a 'rule taker' not a 'rule maker.' Under such circumstances, the unwelcome British spotlight would no longer illuminate the more opaque areas of EU democracy, finance, expenses and long-terms aims.
Guy Verhofstadt, the Chief Negotiator at the European Parliament, said that issues of national security were so important, that they should not be considered as part of the negotiations process (Foster, 2017:9). Thus, even before negotiations began in earnest, key functionaries in the EU were contradicting themselves by suggesting that certain issues could be excluded from negotiations. Surely common sense would suggest that if intelligence/security co-operation could be excluded from the deal, then why could the issue of the Northern Irish-Eire border also be excluded, and the details of trade and movement of people left to respective governments to agree between them? Both the UK and Irish governments want a deal that will enable cross-border activities – such as employment and trade – to continue in their current format.
The 'Irish Question'
Once we leave the EU, regardless of any deal concocted between the UK and the EU, the Republic will share a land border with the UK, which will no longer be a member of the same grouping. This will place the two countries in a similar position to that of other EU member states that share borders with non-EU countries. It is the implications of this simple fact that are apparently creating problems. The Irish people (both north and south of the border), are overwhelmingly in favour of a 'soft' border with all that such a scenario entails, and from first-hand reports (Dejevsky, 2018), it would appear that both sides are hoping for a tariff – free continuance of existing arrangements. Why, then, is the issue apparently creating problems? Enter the EU, which has stated in its wisdom that if there is to be an 'invisible' border (ie. no tariffs, customs duties, passport checks) between Northern Ireland and the Republic, then this can only come about if both remain part of the Single Market and Customs Union. Why? If the peoples on both sides of the border want an 'open' border, and their respective governments support this desire, then what right has the EU to interfere? This is surely the latest example of the EU trying to sabotage the UK's desire for independence, by interfering in an area in which their malevolent ministrations are neither required nor welcomed? As the Telegraph editorial for February 2018 noted: "…border checks can be mostly carried out electronically. However, that would require EU co-operation, whereas so far Brussels seems more intent on driving a wedge between London and Dublin" (Editorial, 2018)
Once again, the EU is aided by mischievous 'Fifth Columnists' such as Tony Blair who tried to stir up trouble by linking this issue to the Belfast Agreement of 1998. In an interview on BBC Radio 4, he suggested that it was 'sickening' that people were prepared to "…sacrifice peace in Northern Ireland on the altar of Brexit …" (Radio Four, 2018). The Good Friday agreement (more accurately known as the Belfast Agreement) was signed on 10th April, 1998, between Tony Blair – representing the UK, and Bertie Ahern – representing the republic of Ireland. In this agreement, there was greater political integration and cooperation between the two states, something that would not be consistent with the introduction of a 'hard' border. In his exceedingly unhelpful contribution, Blair was joined by other 'remoaners' such as the ex-Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain (who also voted 'remain'), and who is reported to have said thatno deal on the border would "…drive a knife into the heart of the peace process in Northern Ireland" (Williams, 2018). Whilst such flowery rhetoric might be well received in the pro-IRA pubs of Belfast and Dublin, it is surely an example of someone out of touch with the reality of modern politics?
The problem lies not in Dublin or London, but in Brussels, as the EU is still desperately trying to tie us into the customs union and single market for the future, by saying that a 'porous' border between North and South Ireland would only be accepted if we remained within this agreement. Nonsense. As has been consistently pointed out, the EU is using every trick it can think of, employing every delaying tactic, and trotting out every argument (factual or otherwise), to prevent us leaving – the "Irish Question" is merely another example in their long line of delaying tactics. Despite the protestations from Brussels suggesting that their opposition is to some form of 'electronic' control of an open border, the real reason is political: the EU views the 'Irish Question' as a convenient way to attempt to split the UK, to keep 'negotiations' dragging out for longer, and to perhaps lead to the reunification of Ireland. So, assuming that there will have to be a border (of whatever description) between Northern Ireland and the Republic, how could the issue be resolved to the satisfaction of both governments and peoples?
Whilst there is a considerable amount of cross-border traffic, which includes people commuting to and from work, and legitimate businesses transporting goods across the frontier, this would not be an insurmountable problem, even assuming the resumption of (minimal) border controls – such as are likely to be reinstated between the UK and France. If necessary, those who cross for work purposes could be issued withidentification – other than a passport – to assure border personnel that they cross frequently on legitimate business, and need be detained at the border no longer than a few minutes whilst such documents are checked. The same procedure could be instituted for commercial crossings – deliveries etc, which could even be checked at their factory of origin. For such people, there is no reason why a 'hard' border should be anything more than a very minor inconvenience: citizens from both the UK and the Republic have been allowed to enter, live and work in each others' countries long before we both joined the EU. This was based on an agreement dating from the creation of the Irish Free State (Eire), in an accord known as the CTA (Common Travel Area) implemented in 1923. Whilst membership of the EU has negated this arrangement, would it not be possible to revert to it if Brussels continued to be uncooperative? Aside from illegal border crossings for the purposes of terrorism and/or smuggling, why should anyone object to border controls? As law-abiding businesses and individual citizens (on both sides of the border) have no apparent desire to return to a scenario that includes frontier checks with their inevitable delays, it is more sensible to work out a formulae that allows the uninterrupted passage in people and goods between the two states, without having to resort to a 'hard' border.
Thus, any agreement concerning the movement of goods and/or people across the border, should be decided by the UK and Irish governments, both of which have ample experience of handling this issue, and neither of which wish to see the return of a hard border. The extension of the negotiating period will be of little use and plays right into the hands of the people who are at the heart of the reason we voted to leave. Junker is reported to have said that an extension is a "…good idea…" and that it would "…probably happen…" to which one might observe: "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?" French President Macron - who was happy to receive £44.5m from the UK to enhance border security at Calais at the start of 2018 (Travis and Stewart 2018; Rayner et. al., 2018) - is quoted as having said that it was "… not for the EU to make some concessions to deal with a British political issue…"(Barker and Parker, 2018:1). Whilst it is to be appreciated that Macron has apparently woken up to the importance of the UK leaving the EU, one is forced to ask why the EU (in which France is a major force) feels that it has the right to meddle in an internal UK issue? To separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK (whether temporarily or permanently) is unacceptable, and is another example of EU interference in the domestic affairs of member states. As The Telegraph pointed out:
"It must have escaped the notice of the EU's negotiators, but Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Michel Barnier and his Brussels cohorts have no business dictating to this country how to preserve its territorial integrity" (Editorial, 2018a)
If she caves in to blackmail from Brussels, then May deserves to lose the support of the DUP. Additionally, she may well also lose the support of many voters in England, Scotland, and Wales, as she would have shown herself to be untrustworthy. I sincerely hope that May can see that in making such an offer, she has played right into the hands of Junker et. al. whose long-term game plan is to drown us in detail, in the hope that we will eventually tire of the process, and/or give it up as an impossibility.
There is, then, a simple solution to this artificially-created impasse – if the EU will not agree to the issue being decided by the Irish and UK governments alone, then we should simply go ahead, and leave the EU without any agreement. Once out of the EU, we would be better placed to decide on future relations between ourselves and specific countries, and would be free to implement a mutually-beneficial agreement with Dublin. The EU would huff and puff, but we have had decades of hot air from Brussels. If an open border is as important to the peoples of both parts of the island of Ireland as is suggested, then we should consider the needs of the people, not those of some faceless bureaucrats in Brussels. In the final analysis, what could Brussels realistically do? Any sanctions they might consider employing against Dublin for 'breaking the rules' about trading with non-EU states might well be counter-productive, driving The Irish Republic further into a closer relationship with the UK. It would be ironic if, as a consequence of EU 'punishments' against Dublin, the Irish government were to offer its people a referendum on continued membership of the EU.
We have acceded to their demands time and time again, and in return have received nothing of any significance, such trust of the EU that might once have existed has, in my view, been well and truly lost. The one thing we really want – to cut all politico-social ties with Brussels – will never be offered; we shall have to take such action on a unilateral basis and the best way to do that is to raise two proverbial digits to Brussels, and leave – taking our reparations money with us. As Dominic Raab - the new Brexit Secretary - told the Conservative Party conference in September 2018: "If the only offer from the EU threatens the integrity of our Union then we will be left with no choice but to leave with no deal" (Holden et.al., 2018). It is to be hoped that eventually the message penetrates even the thickest of EU skulls!
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