Theresa May decides to go to the country  – Start counting the spoons

Robert Henderson

Theresa May has announced that she wants an early General Election on 8 June. However, this is no longer a simple matter of the PM going to see the Queen and requesting that Parliament be dissolved and  an election called. Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act  Mrs May will require a two thirds majority in the House of Commons to vote  to call an early election.

The odds are on May   getting  a two thirds majority because the leaders of the Labour and LibDem parties, Jeremy  Corbyn and Tim  Farron have both welcomed the idea of an early election . However, the position  is not quite as straightforward as it might seem. The two thirds majority in the Commons is not two thirds of those who vote,  but two thirds of the entire Commons personnel, that is,  434 of the 650 MPs. If there  is a heavy abstention – the  coward’s way out for an MP – May could  struggle to reach 434 voting in favour.

Suppose that 100 MPs abstain. That would mean May would have to gain 434  votes out of 550, a majority of those  voting of  79%. Only 116 votes against an early   general election would be needed.   If the SNP with 56 MPs voted en bloc against the attempt  to call an early General Election it would require only 60 other MPs to vote against the same way.  Are the SNP likely to vote en bloc? Well, there has been no definitive statement from the SNP leadership but their leader Nicola Sturgeon appears to be taking the proposed General Election as a fact rather than a possibility, viz  ‘[Nicola Sturgeon] said the election would “once again give people the opportunity to reject the Tories’ narrow, divisive agenda, as well as reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists for giving the people of Scotland a choice on their future.”’

All that  seemingly makes a vote against an early election unlikely. However, that is what the party leaders are saying. There is an outside chance that a hardcore of remainer MPs might spoil the party and defeat the motion for an early election.  As the figures above show relatively few MPs would have to rebel either by voting against or simply abstaining. There are strong reasons for them to do so.  Apart from wanting to sabotage the Brexit vote for ideological reasons many remain  MPs also a  venal interest in not having an election now because they fear that they might lose their seats.

If May loses the vote

If May is unable to get a vote for an early election she will be in something of a pickle for her  authority will be diminished and she will then have to endure over three years of the dismal picture she painted in her speech announcing her intent to seek a dissolution of Parliament, viz:

“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not. In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the European Union.

 The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill.

The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union.

And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way. “

What would be May’s options if she cannot get the Commons to vote itself into a General Election? She  could attempt to repeal the fixed term Parliaments Act which could be done by a simple majority , but she would have to get that through the Lords which  would probably   prove impossible. In theory she could engineer  a vote of no confidence in her own government to bring about an election,  but that would be both absurd and uncertain of success. The reality is that if May  cannot get the motion passed permitting an election on 8 June that will be the end of any immediate prospect of a General Election.

If  a  General Election is called for 8 June

If a General Election is called it is important that  Brexiteers,  especially those who are supporters of the Tory Party, do not relax.   The polls show the Tory Party hugely in front of Labour with an average of five  polls in April having  the Tories at 43% and Labour at 25%.  That looks very solid,   but importantly the proposed  election will be held before boundary changes to constituencies are made.   These  are thought to be worth at least a   a couple of dozen seats to the Tories  and cost Labour a similar number,  so the increase in the Tory majority may not as large as anticipated. .  It is also true that most  Labour seats have sizeable majorities so that gaining large numbers of seats from them  is a big ask. .

A June  General Election now would  not be a normal one. Like the Peers v the People Election of 1910  it will be predominantly  about a single issue, namely, Brexit. Indeed, it  could reasonably be portrayed as a proxy for re-running the EU Referendum.

There is a considerable psychological difference between voting in a referendum with a clear cut yes or no decision for the voter to make and a General Election,  which  is about choosing a people to make decisions on a multiplicity of subjects for several years . Many of those who voted to Leave the EU are not natural Tory voters, especially those working-class  Labour voters who did much to win the referendum. Those voters  may not be anything like as willing to vote for a Tory government as they were to vote for Brexit.

Motivation to vote will also be important.  It is arguable that the remainers will tend to be  more strongly committed  to vote than Brexiteers simply because they  were the referendum  losers and consequently  will be without any feeling of complacency. They will see this as an occasion to vent their anger and frustration. Brexiteers may be more inclined to think that the Brexit   job is, if not done, is at least on a track from which it cannot be derailed and be less inclined to vote, especially if they are the  people who are not natural  Conservatives.

Remainer voters will also be  energised by the fact that May has said repeatedly that she would not attempt to call an early  General Election. Some leave voters may also  feel  uneasy about this and be persuaded not to vote on 8 June.

Finally, there is sheer  voter fatigue. British voters have had a General Election in 2015, the EU referendum in 2016 and face local elections . Scottish voters had  the independence referendum in 2014 and Northern Ireland had devolved elections in March 2017 .  Getting voters out for elections where voters are voting for parties have been in decline since the 1950s. It is probable that the turnout of a June General Election will be significantly below the turnout for the EU referendum which saw a turnout of 72%.  If the turnout was significantly below this the remainers will use it to cast aspersions on May’s claim that she had a mandate from the British people.

All of this adds up to a need for all those who want to see Brexit completed to be both committed to the coming election and to think forward  beyond it.  If, as seems most likely, Theresa May comes back from the election with a substantial  majority that does not mean Brexiteers can relax. A large majority might allow May to push Brexit through but it will also allow her to be dishonest. It should never  be forgotten that she is a remainer and most of her cabinet and Parliamentary Party are remainers.  They would in their heart of hearts like to have something far less than Brexit. Already there have been disturbing signs of May’s r intentions to sabotage the vote to leave. For example, in the prime areas for Brexit of   immigration and the Single Market,   Home Secretary Amber Rudd  says immigration may not drop significantly  after Brexit , while  the supposedly rock solid Brexiteer David Davis suggested in December  that the UK might  pay a fee to the EU to retain access to the Single Market.

The watchword for Brexiteers must be as ever eternal vigilance. Start counting the spoons.



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Funny Business at No 10

Posted on April 13, 2017 by Robert Henderson  

The No 10 petitions unit  rejects  a petition to get the UK out of the EU using the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
On 2nd  April 2017 I submitted a petition to the No 10 website  which hosts petitions created by  any British citizen. My petition, including the further explanatory details which are allowed on the No 10 site,  was this:
The EU can spend two years giving the UK the run around whilst pocketing two years of further UK contributions and obliging the UK to honour all EU laws and regulations including freedom of movement. At the end of the two years the UK is unlikely to have an agreement which will effect Brexit .
More details:
The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties gives the UK ample grounds for repudiating all EU Treaty obligations on the grounds of bad faith by the other treaty members and the failure to apply the rules of the EU, for example, the repeated failure to produce accounts which satisfy the auditors, the multiple breaches of Eurozone rules and the failure to enforce government aid rules against the likes of Germany, France and Italy – see
When I submitted the petition the No 10 website software brought up a message stating there was no similar petition already on the site.
The second  hurdle a petition has to clear is to get five sponsors for the petition. This I rapidly achieved, with a total of 19 sponsors.
When I sent the petition I received an acknowledgement  saying that a decision to allow or disallow a petition “ usually takes a week or less.”
It  took  11 days to reject mine.
The  rejection
My petition was eventually rejected on the single ground that a similar petition was already on the No 10  website.
This is the Petition:
End negotiations with the EU forthwith.
The PM has no mandate to negotiate with the EU. We voted for a hard Brexit and demand it. Time to tell the EU “no deal, end of negotiations, goodbye.”
The reason given for the rejection is literally absurd, for the two petitions do different things.  My petition gives a legal way to leave rapidly, the other petition  offers no legal route out of the EU. In fact it urges the Government to act illegally by breaching a treaty.
The difference between my petition and the  other one is so striking that it is not unreasonable to suspect that the refusal of my petition is for political reasons rather than the reason the No 10 Petitions Unit has given.
What might that reason be? Well, the Vienna  Convention on the Law of Treaties  allows the UK  to  get  out of  the  EU a good deal faster and  with a much cleaner exit. The delay in rejecting the petition is also suspicious as it suggests there was an extended  debate about it taking place.
The other suspicious thing is the fact that the petition which is supposedly similar to mine has only just be posted to the No 10 site. Each accepted petition expires after six months on the site. The expiry date  for this one is 11 October 2017. Hence, it must have been put up after I sent in my petition on 2nd April. The odds are that this petition is one concocted by those opposed to Brexit  after my  petition was submitted to provide an  excuse for rejecting mine.  It is worth  remembering that public servants are generally remainers. 
Whatever the reason is for refusing my petition, it indubitably qualifies to go  up on the N 10 website.  
Let us hope the civil servants responsible for the  petitions  see sense and change their mind. 

   I am waiting for a reply from the No 10 unit to this email

13 April 2017

  Dear Sirs, 

The reason for your rejection is literally  absurd. My petition gives a legal way to leave rapidly  the petition you cite offers no legal route out of the EU. In fact it  urges the Government to act illegally by breaching a treaty.  I would also point out that when I registered the petition with you your own software created a message saying  there was no  similar petition already in existence on the site. 
In the light of these facts I ask you to reconsider your rejection of  my  petition. 
I also ask  you to give me the name of the person heading  your unit  and a phone number on which I can contact him or her. 
Yours sincerely, 
Robert Henderson       
Posted in Nationhood, Politics | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

How foreign imports sabotaged English cricket

Robert Henderson

The  governing body of English cricket the ECB  is concerned about the number of foreign players playing in English cricket.  So is David Letherdale, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

“It is hugely disappointing that some counties have felt the need to sign players as Kolpaks or on EU passports instead of developing and producing home-grown players themselves for the future benefit of English cricket. We are concerned that the number appears to have risen again in recent months. It is a situation that gives us cause for concern and one that we will continue to monitor.”

The deterioration in the  England cricket side can be dated  from 1969 when  the residential  qualification rule was dropped and foreigners came into county cricket in numbers.  Although it took a decade or so after 1969 for the full effects to be felt the 1980s saw the damage it had done  becoming apparent as the England team became more and more  restricted to a small pool of players . Eventually in the  1980s the selectors turned to  foreign imports who  had qualified as English after less than ten years residence in England.

After the freeing up of entry to the County Championship in 1969 there was no limit to the numbers of foreign players who could come.   Restrictions were eventually placed on the number of foreign players who could play but it still meant that every county bar Yorkshire had two foreign imports who normally  played regularly .  This meant that  34 or so places were barred to English players, There were also a few foreign players who came with  EU passports and more who arrived with British passports or the right to one because of one or more of their parents or grandparents was British.

The final nail in the coffin for English cricketers was the creation of  the Kolpak status in the 2000s. This allowed anyone who could claim a passport from an EU country or  from any country which had an associate relationship with the EU which included freedom  of movement to have the right to work in the UK. The countries with EU associate status include South Africa, Zimbabwe and several in the Caribbean.

The argument for foreigners

The argument for importing large numbers of foreigners into English cricket has rested on two claims both of which is false. When the residential  qualification rules were removed in  1969 it was argued that  high quality  foreign players would substantially  increase crowds particularly at  County Championship games. This never materialised as a sustained phenomenon. The arrival of a particular star such as Gary Sobers at Nottinghamshire or Barry Richards at Hampshire might result in a temporary boost in the  numbers of spectators  but it did not last.

The second claim  was that having high quality foreign players in County Cricket  would raise the standards of the English players. This argument was developed when the increase in crowds argument had become  a dead duck. It can  be comprehensively shown to be untrue.  Between the mid 1970s to the mid-1990s the general quality of foreign imports was at its highest and the imports were contracted for the whole cricket season. Many of these imports remained with the same County for years so English players had every chance to learn from them if learning was possible simply from  observing them.  Yet it was during  this time  – and particularly the 1980s and 1990s –  that  the England side was hideously  unsuccessful, indeed,  arguably the twenty years from 1980-2000 were the least successful overall for any extended period  in its history.  The truth was that  English  players learnt nothing of use from the foreign imports, either from playing with them or against them.

Since the invention of the Kolpak status  and the rise of T20 the quality of the  foreign imports has declined sharply and the  foreign players who do come often play only part of a season and rarely stay with the same clubs for years on end.

But it  was never simply  a question of  the quality of the foreigner brought into county cricket.  The problem was whether of Test quality or not the foreigners have displaced English  players in large numbers.

The problem with foreign players goes far beyond their numbers.   They tend to be  pace bowlers and upper order batsmen. These players  normally occupy the  best batting spots and their pace bowlers will generally get the new ball. Foreign bowlers of any type will also tend to get choice of ends and to be under bowled when a pitch is benign.  English players have  take the crumbs which are left after  the foreign players have been fed. It also means that there have been times in the past 50 years when the England selectors have had precious few upper order batsmen and opening bowlers to from which to choose, for example the lack of quality pace bowling in the  1980s and 1990s because so many of the foreign imports  were pace bowlers.

It is important to understand that the influx of  foreigners does not affect just the first class county first teams. Foreigners are increasingly flooding into the second elevens of  the first class counties, the minor counties and good quality club sides, in fact, any team which can pay them.

There are and have been  plenty of very promising young English cricketers over the years who have never been given an  early chance when their second team performances for first class counties  have justified it or even worse were never given an  extended run in the first team.  A, Gordon, PC McKeown, B Parker, G P Burnett, R J Bartlett,  JW Cook, A R Roberts,  JD Fitton, PJ Lewington, D M Cox. Any of those  names ring a bell? I doubt it but they were all very successful second eleven players who have played since the 1969 influx of foreigners  but who never got a sustained chance in their respective first teams. (Details taken from the First-Class Counties Second Eleven Annual)

No other Test playing country in the cricketing world opens its first class domestic competition to huge numbers of foreigners. Neither should we.

The extent of the current infestation of foreigners

The 2017 County Championship season has just begun. In the first round of matches begun on 7 April 2017 the foreign component was as follows:

There were  6 matches comprising 12 teams of 11 players   = 132 players in total

43 of these players were born outside  the British Isles

This means 33% of players in this round of county  matches were not born in the British Isles

The counties which did not play in this round of matches are Derbyshire, Durham, Middlesex, Somerset, Sussex, Worcestershire. If they have the same proportion  of  foreign born players on average as the 12 counties which played , that would mean  another 22 foreign players to add to the 43 making a total of 65  players out of possible 216  players (12 x11) from the 18 counties.

Analysis by County of the foreign born players in the six matches played commencing 7 April 2017

Essex:  RN ten Doeschate, SR Harmer, N Wagner (3)

Glamorgan:  B Cooke,  CAJ Meschede, M de Lange, JA Rudolph, N J Selman, CA Ingram (6)

Gloucs:  CT Bancroft,  GL van Buuren (2)

Hants:   RR Rossouw, SM Ervine, , KJ Abbott, GK Berg, BTJ Wheal, FH Edwards (6)

Kent:   AP Rouse,  ME Claydon (2)

Lancs:  S Chanderpaul, DJ Vilas, R McLaren, KM Jarvis (4)

Leics:  CJ McKay, PJ Horton, CN Ackermann, MJ Cosgrove (4)

Northants:  RE Levi, SP Crook,  RK Kleinveldt (3)

Notts: MJ Lumb,  MH Wessels, SR Patel,  JL Pattinson (4)

Surrey: KC Sangakkara,  SM Curran, TK Curran, JW Dernbach (4)

Warks: IJL Trott, SR Hain, TR Ambrose†,  JS Patel  (4)

Yorks:  PSP Handscomb, GS Ballance, Azeem Rafiq, (3)

It is also likely that there are foreign players missing from the early  Championship games as they complete other cricketing obligations in  foreign T20 tournaments or for their national sides.

Analysis of  the  role(s) these cricketers play

The groups is  very heavily slanted towards upper order batsmen and pace bowlers

Batsmen (18)

JA Rudolph, N J Selman, CA Ingram, CT Bancroft, RR Rossouw, S Chanderpaul, , PJ Horton, CN Ackermann, MJ Cosgrove, MJ Lumb, MH Wessels, RE Levi, KC Sangakkara, IJL Trott,   SR Hain, PSP Handscomb,  GS Ballance

Wicket keepers   (3)

B Cooke*, A P Rouse*, TR Ambrose*

Pace Bowlers (18)

RN ten Doeschate*  CAJ Meschede*, M de Lange,  N Wagner, SM Ervine*,  KJ Abbott,  GK Berg*, BTJ Wheal, FH Edwards, ME Claydon, R McLaren*, KM Jarvis, CJ McKay, SP Crook*,  RK Kleinveldt*, JL Pattinson,  TK Curran*,  JW Dernbach

 Spin Bowlers (4)

SR Harmer*,  GL van Buuren*, JS Patel*,  Azeem Rafiq*

* Denotes any player other than a specialist batsman is a competent batsman

Analysis of players by country of birth

Australia:  PJ Horton,  MJ Cosgrove,   SR Hain, PSP Handscomb,  CT Bancroft,  N J Selman , TR Ambrose, ME Claydon, CJ McKay, SP Crook*, JL Pattinson  (11)

New Zealand:  JS Patel*,

South Africa:  JA Rudolph,  CA Ingram,  RR Rossouw, , CN Ackermann,  MJ Lumb, MH Wessels, RE Levi, IJL Trott,  B Cooke*,  CAJ Meschede*, M de Lange,  N Wagner,   KJ Abbott,  GK Berg*, BTJ Wheal, R McLaren, RK Kleinveldt*, TK Curran*,  JW Dernbach, SR Harmer*,  GL van Buuren* (21)

West Indies: FH Edwards

India :  None

Pakistan:  Azeem Rafiq*

Sr Lanka KC: Sangakkara

Zimbabwe:  GS Balance, A P Rouse*, SM Ervine*, KM Jarvis (4)

Bangladesh: None

Posted in Immigration, Nationhood, Sport | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Petition on Number 10 website : The UK to use the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties to leave the EU now

Message body

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The Vienna Convention on  the Law of Treaties gives  the UIK the right to leave the EU immediately

Robert Henderson

If the UK is trapped for two years within the EU ( or even longer if all parties agree to extend the negotiating period)  a great deal of damage can be inflicted upon the UK  by hostile EU member states egged on by  the British remainers who have not accepted the referendum result and will do anything to produce a  “Brexit” which is no Brexit in anything but name.  Consequently our best course of action is for the UK to leave now and trade under WTO rules, a course of  action embraced by  the  likes of Lord Lawson and  James Dyson .

Leaving the EU now and trading on WTO rules would have considerable benefits. These are:

  1. The payments the UK makes to the EU would cease immediately . The UK makes a payment each year to the EU. When the British rebate (won by  Thatcher)  is deducted,   the money left is divided into two parts. The first  is the money which is spent as the  EU  dictates.  The second is the money which  the EU simply takes and distributes to other EU members.  Exactly how much is taken away  is debatable because of complications such as the UK  Aid money the UK  gives to the EU. But even taking the lowest estimates of how much money the EU keeps for itself  this is in the region of £6-7 billion and another  £6 billion for money is  returned to fund  public and private bodies and programmes in the UK   but with EU instructions on how it is to be spent .

If   we continue with the two years after the activation of Article 50 that will mean  the UK will have paid 33 months worth of contributions  to the EU since the referendum.

  1. The UK immediately gains control of  our  borders. As things stand free movement is likely to continue until March 2019. The UK government wants to introduce a cut off date from which  the free movement and the state supplied benefits  which arise from it  will cease. Their  favoured date is the 29 March this year, the day Article 50 is triggered.  The EU insists  that free movement must remain until the UK has left the EU.  If this happen several s million could flood in before the UK leaves the EU.
  2. The UK can immediately start negotiating trade and other deals with any country outside the European Economic Area. If the UK goes through the two year period of negotiation no  such deals can be made or at least finalised.
  3. The UK can immediately start to regain control of its fisheries.
  4. The UK will immediately be free to remove or adapt any EU laws and regulations which already exist and will not be subject to any future law. If we spend two years or  more negotiating the UK cannot amend or repeal and existing EU laws and regulations and , most importantly, the UK will have to implement any new EU laws and regulations passed during the negotiating period. This would allow the rest of the EU to engage in a great deal of mischief with the intention of damaging the UK.
  5. Leaving now will remove the opportunity for the remainers with power and influence to sabotage Brexit . That is probably the greatest benefit of all because there are  cabinet ministers, shadow cabinet members, backbench MPs, peers , public servants or the wealthy who  are willing  to fund court cases who would be only too willing to overturn Brexit, either  overtly or covertly.

The Vienna Convention on the  Law of Treaties provides the legal basis for the UK walking away from the EU right now. The relevant passages are these: .



Article 26 “Pacta sunt servanda” Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.


Article 31 General rule of interpretation 1. A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose.

Article 32 Supplementary means of interpretation Recourse may be had to supplementary means of interpretation, including the preparatory work of the treaty and the circumstances of its conclusion, in order to confirm the meaning resulting from the application of article 31, or to determine the meaning when the interpretation according to article 31: (a) leaves the meaning ambiguous or obscure; or (b) leads to a result which is manifestly absurd or unreasonable.

SECTION 2. INVALIDITY OF TREATIES Article 46 Provisions of internal law regarding competence to conclude treaties

  1. A violation is manifest if it would be objectively evident to any State conducting itself in the matter in accordance with normal practice and in good faith.

  Article 60 Termination or suspension of the operation of a treaty as a consequence of its breach

  1. A material breach of a bilateral treaty by one of the parties entitles the other to invoke the breach as a ground for terminating the treaty or suspending its operation in whole or in part.
  2. A material breach of a multilateral treaty by one of the parties entitles: (a) the other parties by unanimous agreement to suspend the operation of the treaty in whole or in part or to terminate it either: 20 (i) in the relations between themselves and the defaulting State; or (ii) as between all the parties; (b) a party specially affected by the breach to invoke it as a ground for suspending the operation of the treaty in whole or in part in the relations between itself and the defaulting State;

 Article 62 Fundamental change of circumstances

  1. A fundamental change of circumstances which has occurred with regard to those existing at the time of the conclusion of a treaty, and which was not foreseen by the parties, may not be invoked as a ground for terminating or withdrawing from the treaty unless: (a) the existence of those circumstances constituted an essential basis of the consent of the parties to be bound by the treaty; and 21 (b) the effect of the change is radically to transform the extent of obligations still to be performed under the treaty

These provisions mean the UK could summarily leave by arguing (1) the EU are not acting  in good faith because of the many threats  to punish the UK for leaving the EU made by EU functionaries and politicians; (2)  that  the Treaty  leads to a result which is manifestly absurd or unreasonable or (3)  that the circumstances which now exist are radically different from what existed when the last EU treaty was signed by the UK (The Lisbon Treaty).

Statements by EU politicians and functionaries that Brexit will be deliberately punitive  for the UK to dissuade other members from leaving clearly go against the provisions of Article 50 – see examples at the bottom of this post.  Having a provision for leaving  in a treaty implies that states leaving  according to the provisions of the  treaty have a right to leave. Deliberately making leaving very  damaging for the leaving member of a treaty nullifies the right to leave. Ergo, that is  clear and emphatic  bad faith.  In this context it is important to understand  that the Vienna Convention does not require all parties to a treaty to act in bad faith to nullify a treaty – see section 2 of the Convention quoted above

But it is not only  direct threats of penal treatment of the UK which matter when it comes to bad faith.   Suppose   the EU  passed legislation during the negotiating period which  placed the UK  at a grave disadvantage  the UK would still have to implement the legislation regardless of its effects on the  UK during the period of negotiation. A good example, would be legislation   which would have severe  ill effects on the City of  London such as  a  transaction tax.

As for circumstances  being radically different take  the massive deterioration in economic performance by some Eurozone countries resulting from  the actions of the European Central Bank which are arguably directly at odds with the  rules of the ECB  for managing the Euro.  This mismanagement has created severe problems within the EU both in terms of economic instability and the increased tendency of migrants from the suffering countries to move to the richer EU countries  including the  UK.  The failure of the Eurozone to manage its affairs honestly must  count for a radical change of  circumstances.   (The vote by the  UK to leave does not  count as  a radical change of  circumstances because it is something engineered by  the UK and the Vienna Convention disqualifies such deliberate changes  as a cause to repudiate a treaty.)

Even though Article 50 has now been triggered that does not mean the UK could not leave under one or more of the Vienna Convention permitted reasons because any of those reasons and especially  that of bad faith could be invoked at any  point in the negotiation process.

Examples of EU functionaries and politicians threatening the UK with a damaging Brexit

Here  is just a minute sample of the many threats made to the UK about Brexit:

French President  Francois Hollande  “There must be a threat, there must be a risk, there must be a price, otherwise we will be in negotiations that will not end well and, inevitably, will have economic and human consequences,” the French president said.

Robert Fico, Slovakia’s prime minister, on Monday said that member states intend to make it “very difficult for the UK” and said Britain is “bluffing” when it says it can get a good Brexit deal.

The British people will be treated as “deserters” following a vote to leave the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker has warned.

Spain will ‘take control of Gibraltar as soon as Britain leaves EU’ says Spanish Foreign Minister

Wolfgang Schäuble , the German finance minister also said the UK would be forced to pay EU budget bills for more than ten years, echoing proposals for the UK to pay an exit bill of up to £43billion.

Guy Verhofstadt has now said he expects Britain to cough up over £500bn to the European Union as it extricates itself from Brussels.

Former Belgian Prime Minister  Guy Verhofstadt claimed Britain will have to foot a €600billion bill before leaving the EU.

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MPs who voted against triggering Article 50

MP                                                Party                       June 23 referendum result

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh                 SNP                            60.7% Remain

Heidi Alexander                              Labour                       64.6% Remain

Rushanara Ali                                  Labour                        69.1% Remain

Graham Allen                                 Labour                         63.8% Leave

Rosena Allin-Khan                          Labour                       74.7% Remain

Richard Arkless                               SNP                            54.6% Remain

Hannah Bardell                               SNP                            56.2% Remain

Luciana Berger                                Labour                       64.2% Remain

Mhairi Black                                     SNP                           65.8% Remain

Ian Blackford                                   SNP                            56.6% Remain

Kirsty Blackman                              SNP                            56.9% Remain

Philip Boswell                                  SNP                            61.3% Remain

Ben Bradshaw                                 Labour                        55.3% Remain

Tom Brake                                        Lib Dem                     56.3% Leave

Kevin Brennan                                 Labour                       55.2% Remain

Deidre Brock                                    SNP                             78.2% Remain

Alan Brown                                       SNP                            60.4% Remain

Lyn Brown                                        Labour                        52.6% Remain

Chris Bryant                                     Labour                        61.2% Leave

Karen Buck                                       Labour                        67.0% Remain

Dawn Butler                                     Labour                         57.1% Remain

Ruth Cadbury                                   Labour                         60.5% Remain

Lisa Cameron                                    SNP                              62.0% Remain

Alistair Carmichael                          Lib Dem                       59.7% Remain

Douglas Chapman                            SNP                               60.0% Remain

Joanna Cherry                                   SNP                               72.1% Remain

Ken Clarke                                         Conservative                 58.7% Remain

Nick Clegg                                          Lib Dem                          64.1% Remain

Ann Clwyd                                          Labour                             57.0% Leave

Ann Coffey                                          Labour                            51.8% Remain

Ronnie Cowan                                    SNP                                  63.8% Remain

Neil Coyle                                              Labour                           73.0% Remain

Angela Crawley                                    SNP                                 64.5% Remain

Mary Creagh                                         Labour                            62.0% Leave

Stella Creasy                                         Labour                            63.6% Remain

Martyn Day                                            SNP                                58.4% Remain

Thangam Debbonaire                          Labour                           79.3% Remain

Martin Docherty-Hughes                     SNP                               62.0% Remain

Stuart Donaldson                                  SNP                                61.4% Remain

Stephen Doughty                                  Labour                           55.1% Remain

Jim Dowd                                               Labour                           65.5% Remain

Mark Durkan                                          SDLP

Maria Eagle                                            Labour                          52.1% Remain

Louise Ellman                                          Labour                         73.1% Remain

Paul Farrelly                                            Labour                          61.7% Leave

Tim Farron                                               Lib Dem                       52.5% Remain

Margaret Ferrier                                      SNP                              62.7% Remain

Vicky Foxcroft                                          Labour                          75.3% Remain

Mike Gapes                                              Labour                           56.1% Remain

Stephen Gethins                                      SNP                                61.9% Remain

Patricia Gibson                                         SNP                                57.7% Remain

Patrick Grady                                           SNP                                 78.4% Remain

Peter Grant                                              SNP                                  53.5% Remain

Neil Gray                                                   SNP                                  59.9% Remain

Lilian Greenwood                                  SDLP

elen Hayes                                              Labour                               77.9% Remain

Drew Hendry                                           SNP                                   58.6% Remain

Sylvia Hermon                                         SDLP

Meg Hillier                                                Labour                              77.8% Remain

Stewart Hosie                                           SNP                                    61.7% Remain

Rupa Huq                                                  Labour                               71.8% Remain

George Kerevan                                       SNP                                      64.6% Remain

Calum Kerr                                               SNP                                       56.8% Remain

Peter Kyle                                                Labour                                    66.1% Remain

David Lammy                                           Labour                                  66.6% Remain

Chris Law                                                  SNP                                        58.8% Remain

Caroline Lucas                                          Green                                    74.3% Remain

Angus MacNeil                                          SNP                                       55.2% Remain

Rachael Maskell                                       Labour                                   61.5% Remain

John McNally                                            SNP                                        58.0% Remain

Kerry McCarthy                                         Labour                                   53.2% Remain

Stewart McDonald                                   SNP                                          71.8% Remain

Stuart McDonald                                      SNP                                           62.1% Remain

Alasdair McDonnell                                 SDLP

Natalie McGarry                                       Independent                           56.2% Remain

Catherine McKinnell                                Labour                                    57.1% Leave

Anne McLaughlin                                      SNP                                        59.3% Remain

Carol Monaghan                                       SNP                                         68.5% Remain

Paul Monaghan                                        SNP                                          50.6% Remain

Madeleine Moon                                     Labour                                      50.3% Remain

Roger Mullin                                             SNP                                          58.3% Remain

Ian Murray                                                Labour                                     77.8% Remain

Gavin Newlands                                       SNP                                          63.9% Remain

John Nicolson                                           SNP                                          73.3% Remain

Brendan O’Hara                                       SNP                                          60.6% Remain

Sarah Olney                                            Lib Dem                                      72.3% Remain

Kirsten Oswald                                       SNP                                             74.3% Remain

Steven Paterson                                     SNP                                             67.7% Remain

Stephen Pound                                       Labour                                       51.2% Remain

John Pugh                                               Lib Dem                                     54.5% Remain

Margaret Ritchie                                     SDLP

Angus Robertson                                     SNP                                           50.1% Remain

Alex Salmond                                            SNP                                          55.4% Remain

Liz Saville Roberts                                    Plaid Cymru                           51.6% Remain

Virendra Sharma                                     Labour                                      55.7% Remain

Tommy Sheppard                                    SNP                                           72.4% Remain

Tulip Siddiq                                              Labour                                      76.5% Remain

Andy Slaughter                                        Labour                                      69.0% Remain

Jeff Smith                                                  Labour                                      73.7% Remain

Owen Smith                                              Labour                                      54.2% Remain

Chris Stephens                                         SNP                                           59.1% Remain

Jo Stevens                                                 Labour                                     69.6% Remain

Alison Thewliss                                         SNP                                          71.2% Remain

Michelle Thomson                                    Independent                          71.2% Remain

Stephen Timms                                         Labour                                     53.1% Remain

Mike Weir                                                    SNP                                         51.9% Remain

Catherine West                                          Labour                                     81.5% Remain

Eilidh Whiteford                                         SNP                                         54% Leave

Alan Whitehead                                         Labour                                     50.7% Leave

Philippa Whitford                                      SNP                                          57.3% Remain

Hywel Williams                                         Plaid Cymru                            65.1% Remain

Mark Williams                                           Lib Dem                                   54.6% Remain

Pete Wishart                                                 SNP                                         59.8% Remain

Daniel Zeichner                                            Labour                                   73.5% Remain

Posted in Nationhood, Politics | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Theresa  May’s   “clarification” of Brexit means Brexit

Robert Henderson

May’s speech  of 17 January 2017   was  a classic Theresa May performance , mixing  statements somewhere between a  boast and a threat to give the idea that the UK would be looking to its own interests first, second and last with  suggestions  which undermined the Britain First message.   Contrary to the many media  reports welcoming it as giving clarity it is, with the exception of the Single Market, a speech with  a great deal  of wriggle room not least over her acceptance of a transitional period and suggestion that the UK should remain attached to some  unspecified   EU projects. Here is some of the Britain First rhetoric:

 “Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave.

“That means taking control of our own affairs, as those who voted in their millions to leave the European Union demanded we must.

“So we will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.

Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. And those laws will be interpreted by judges not in Luxembourg but in courts across this country.

“Because we will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws.”

“But I must be clear. Britain wants to remain a good friend and neighbour to Europe.  Yet I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path.

“That would be an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe. And it would not be the act of a friend.

“Britain would not – indeed we could not – accept such an approach. And while I am confident that this scenario need never arise – while I am sure a positive agreement can be reached – I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”

Balanced against the Britain First rhetoric were statements which directly or by implication undermined  the idea that the UK would be truly sovereign.  Around a miasma of waffle the details May gave allowed for a large amount of wriggle room.    Her  “I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain”  is meaningless because she has never properly defined what a “bad deal” would be.  The only thing which could be said to be certain (in the sense that it was not  covered with overt  qualifications)  is that the UK  will not be joining  the Single Market.  However, even with that seemingly unequivocal statement  it  is important to understand that  the ground which the Single Market covers including freedom of movement  could be brought back in part by whatever agreement , if any,  is concluded between the UK and the EU.

Remaining attached to the EU 

A good example of the lack of clarity is May’s  rejection  membership of the Customs Union, but leaves  the way open for the UK to become a semi detached member:  viz:

“…I  do not want Britain to be part of the Common Commercial Policy and I do not want us to be bound by the Common External Tariff.  These are the elements of the Customs Union that prevent us from striking our own comprehensive trade agreements with other countries.  But I do want us to have a customs agreement with the EU.

Whether that means we must reach a completely new customs agreement, become an associate member of the Customs Union in some way, or remain a signatory to some elements of it, I hold no preconceived position. I have an open mind on how we do it. It is not the means that matter, but the ends.

And those ends are clear: I want to remove as many barriers to trade as possible. And I want Britain to be free to establish our own tariff schedules at the World Trade Organisation, meaning we can reach new trade agreements not just with the European Union but with old friends and new allies from outside Europe too.”

May also wants to keep open the possibility of the UK continuing to contribute  money to EU programmes, viz:

“…because we will no longer be members of the Single Market, we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget. There may be some specific European programmes in which we might want to participate. If so, and this will be for us to decide, it is reasonable that we should make an appropriate contribution. But the principle is clear: the days of Britain making vast contributions to the European Union every year will end.

“…we will also welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives.”

“With the threats to our common security becoming more serious, our response cannot be to cooperate with one another less, but to work together more. I therefore want our future relationship with the European Union to include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and the sharing of intelligence material with our EU allies.

Then there is  immigration, viz:

“Britain is an open and tolerant country. We will always want immigration, especially high-skilled immigration, we will always want immigration from Europe, and we will always welcome individual migrants as friends.  But the message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear: Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver.

“Fairness demands that we deal with another issue as soon as possible too. We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as we can.

“I have told other EU leaders that we could give people the certainty they want straight away, and reach such a deal now.  “

This is a woolly commitment which could mean virtually anything as to how many EEA migrants could come to the UK, both skilled and unskilled.  Large numbers of skilled people will give British employers no incentive to train our own people and the fact May does not rule out unskilled or low skilled workers suggests there will be large numbers of these.

As for the position of UK nationals living in the EU and EU citizens living in  the UK , if an agreement is made to simply guarantee the rights of UK nationals and EU citizens in the countries which they are living,  then the UK will be losers because  the benefits which most countries  within the EU offer are much less generous than those offered in the UK to EU citizens.   Health service provision is  the outstanding example of this.  There is also the question of how honest each EU country will be when it comes to  allowing UK  nationals access to their  benefits after Brexit.   For some years there have been reports of the Spanish making access to their  health services  by UK nationals difficult and since the British vote to leave the EU Spain has been trying to get the UK to pay the medical costs of UK nationals living in Spain. .

Perhaps most immediately  disturbing is May’s commitment to a  transmission period with  different  periods of transition, vz:.

“I want us to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two-year Article Fifty process has concluded. From that point onwards, we believe a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us will be in our mutual self-interest. This will give businesses enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements.

This might be about our immigration controls, customs systems or the way in which we cooperate on criminal justice matters. Or it might be about the future legal and regulatory framework for financial services. For each issue, the time we need to phase-in the new arrangements may differ. Some might be introduced very quickly, some might take longer. And the interim arrangements we rely upon are likely to be a matter of negotiation.

But the purpose is clear: we will seek to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge, and we will do everything we can to phase in the new arrangements we require as Britain and the EU move towards our new partnership.”

Any of  the items mention under the heading of Remaining attached to the EU  might have a specious rationality about them,  but they all offer considerable opportunities to prevent a genuine Brexit simply  by  their multiplicity.

Devolved powers

May made this commitment:

“I look forward to working with the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole of the United Kingdom.

“Part of that will mean working very carefully to ensure that – as powers are repatriated from Brussels back to Britain – the right powers are returned to Westminster, and the right powers are passed to the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“So we will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic, while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom’s immigration system.

“Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past, so we will make it a priority to deliver a practical solution as soon as we can.”

This could be an excuse for substantial new powers to be given to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in an attempt to stifle opposition to the UK withdrawal from the EU.  But every time new powers are granted to the devolved administrations this edges them nearer to independence because it prepares them for independence.

The Common Travel Area with the  Republic of Ireland 

Independence is a medium to long term problem. The border with the Republic of Ireland (RoI) is an immediate and  very  serious problem .    If the Common Travel Area is retained then the UK will not have control of her borders because anyone wishing to settle in  the UK can do so via the ROI.

May will doubtless come up with claims that new surveillance techniques  based on computer systems to identify and track migrants working  or drawing benefits will substitute for physical border controls,  but does anyone have any faith that the British state will have either the resources or the will to identify those working illegally (many will simply work in the black economy) and to deport them?

The lack of a hard border between the RoI and Northern Ireland  would also mean that EU goods could be smuggled into the UK if a tariff wall  exists between  the UK and the EU.

Our Europhile Parliament

But whatever  agreement is finally  made between the government and the EU it will not be a done deal.  Why? Because May revealed that she could  “confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force.”

By committing to allowing both the Lords and Commons to vote  on whatever is agreed she has greatly increased the opportunity for Parliament  to either delay or even thwart Brexit altogether.    Whether the vote is on a motion or on a  Bill either can be amended,  so matters could be delayed or sent back to square one not only by a vote against the motion or Bill, but also by amending the motion or Bill to overthrow the terms of the agreement between the Government and the EU .

As the Prime Minister has committed the Government to  allowing the Lords and Commons a vote,  it would be impossible to meaningfully accuse those in Parliament who voted against the  terms of the agreement between the Government and the EU of acting against the will of the people because by agreeing to allowing the Lords and Commons  a vote they  have  accepted that Parliament has the right to refuse or amend  the terms agreed  with the EU. Not only that  it would be politically hideously difficult going on  impossible to ensure the Lords voted for whatever terms were put before them by arranging to have hundreds of new peers created who could be trusted to vote for the terms.  Not only that,  but by agreeing to a vote by the Lords May has given the peers  who want to remain in the EU a respectable excuse for going against the  referendum result and, if the Commons did vote to agree the terms,  of thwarting the Commons as well by delaying matters. The Government could use the Parliament Act  to force a  Bill through after a  year or so but has no power over a defeated motion,  so if a motion was rejected a Bill would have to brought forward which would mean further delay.  Because of this a Bill is more likely than a motion of both Houses.

There is the further complication of  legislation  to  give legal post-Brexit status  to all the EU law which the UK is already committed to – “as we repeal the European Communities Act, we will convert the “acquis” – the body of existing EU law – into British law.”

Presumably this would be  legislation separate from any  legislation brought forward to allow the Lords and Commons to vote on the terms agreed with the EU. If so that would allow further opportunities for substantial delay.  Moreover, if the UK leaves after  two years (the period stipulated in Article 50 if the EU does not agree to an extension)  without any agreement having been reached between the UK and the EU, the need to pass  a Bill making EU  derived law UK  law would still exist and  the opportunities for delay or rejection by one or both of  the Houses of Parliament would still be there,  arguably  in an enhanced form.

As things stand the earliest the UK can escape from the EU will be March 2019. The next General Election is due on 7  May 2020 according to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011.  The only ways  an election could be called earlier is either two thirds of the House of Commons (that is two thirds of the total number of Commons seats not two thirds of those who vote – 417 seats out  of 650) vote for an earlier election or the Government loses a vote of No Confidence.  With the present balance of the Commons  and the state of disarray in the Parliamentary  Labour Party the first option is very unlikely and the second would require the absurdity of Theresa May somehow engineering a vote of confidence against her own government.  Hence, either is very unlikely.  That would mean that when Parliament gets to vote on whatever agreement is reached by the Government and the EU , even the Lords alone would have the power to delay matters either into the general election or shortly after it.

The political weather might change radically by 2020. It could be that the EU deliberately gives the UK the run around for two years or more and no agreement is reached  before March 2019 or one or more of the 27 remaining EU members refuses to ratify the proposed agreement.  The UK would then be forced either to leave the EU without an agreement  and trade under WTO rules or the UK government  under the pressure of time  would have to cave in and agreed to  very disadvantageous terms  for the UK.  It could even be that the  Government, their backbenchers or the entire Parliament of both Houses will secretly be delighted if the latter happens because it would probably re-attach the  UK to the EU it is a way to enable future UK Governments  to be  able to embed the UK ever more firmly back into the EU.  Improbable?  Well, remember this, the Government , the Commons and the Lords are strongly in favour of the UK remaining in the EU. The Prime Minister,  Chancellor and Home Secretary are all remainers at heart and the Foreign Secretary  is a shameless opportunist who would come out for remain at the drop of a hat if he thought it would aid his political career.  Not only that but the Civil Service at least  at senior levels  are also very wedded to the idea of the  UK being in  the EU.

The idea of leaving and trading  under WTO rules until if and when new trade arrangements can be made with the EU is not  an unattractive one.  The problem is that  if it happens in 2019 that will have cost the UK a great deal . If it was done now this  would have a number of great advantages.  It would immediately bring certainty whereas delaying the UK’s departure until March 2019 or even later will involve a great deal of uncertainty. In addition The UK could stop paying the huge subsidy the EU extracts  from the UK each year soon, decide where the money the EU  currently returns to the UK with strings attached  may be spent, be  immediately removed from the reach of the European Court of Justice, be  free to make new trade deals with the rest of the world, control immigration from the European Economic Area (EEA)  and repeal or amend any of  the  EU inspired legislation which is on the Statue Book.

If the UK remains entwined within the EU until March 2019,  regardless of whether any agreement is reached between the UK and the EU ,  will have since the vote to leave on 23rd June  last year  have paid 33 months of  the huge  annual subsidy to the  EU   (33 months  worth would be  around  £26 billion),  have had to spend the money which the EU currently returns to the UK  on  what the EU directs it shall be spent on, accept any new  EU laws and regulations which cannot be vetoed, remain under the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction and,  most importantly , be unable to control immigration from EEA, which if it remains at the level of last year  (net EEA  immigration to the UK is estimated to be  189,000 in the  Year Ending  June 2016) would mean  around  half a million more immigrants by the time  the UK leaves the EU  (and it could easily be higher as would-be immigrants scramble to get in before the UK’s departs the EU).

The long and the short of the speech  is that  despite its range of topic  May’s speech provided  precious little clarity overall about either what the Government will be seeking or what will happen once an agreement is made between the UK and the EU  or no  agreement is made.

Posted in Devolution, Immigration, Nationhood | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment