The EU, Commonwealth of Nations and Crown Dependencies

The Commonwealth of Nations, British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies

With less than 100 days to go before the EU referendum on Thursday 23rd June, those who are a part of the StrongerIn campaign are attempting to convince the electorate to remain within the EU. They always give the argument of sticking with the status-quo and by remaining in the EU it’s a case of going with the flow and causing the least hassle. It appears to be the most prudent option to take. Not just the supposition of saving jobs and sating the economic fears of some within the business community; this comes with a feeling of apathetic resignation that the UK is already too far ensconced within the system of the EU, with the threads of the EU’s web woven tightly into every strand of UK legislation and everyday life. For many that moment for the UK to have chosen to leave the EU has long since passed. There is an element of truth to this, in that it would have been far better if the British government and the delegation that spoke on the UK’s behest in 1991 at Maastricht had chosen not to be a part of the new EU. It would have made the matter a lot less complicated than now, but it is only now that the UK has given the electorate the chance to choose.

Whether the UK decides to leave or remain in the EU, for many this boils down to the notion that the amount of time, money and effort required for the UK to extract itself from the EU far outweighs the overall cost of doing nothing and remaining in the EU to the point where the UK loses its sovereignty and all forms of independence, being reduced to a state within a one nation federal Europe. For those people this future for the UK is the most preferable one.

Of course, by making this claim, those who are campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU (unless they are deaf and blind they are also compliant to the UK becoming a state within a one nation federal Europe) hold the belief that when the UK does lose all sovereignty that will be it. They assume that it shall be a smooth and relatively painless transition, bereft of any complications or any grave implications. In their views, all loss of sovereignty shall be irrelevant. Unfortunately, those with this view grasp tightly to this blinkered notion being an absolute, but they are very much mistaken. If the UK, or rather if Great Britain were to lose her independence, self-determination and sovereignty there would be a high price to pay for many and it would come on a global scale, affecting far more people globally, greater than the citizens of the current EU.

By size in area and population the greatest area affected by the UK’s loss of sovereignty shall be the Commonwealth of Nations, what was once the British Commonwealth and the British Empire before that, consisting of 53 member states covering an area of 11,566,870 square miles* and containing a population (2013 estimation) of 2.328 billion*. It should also be noted that the Commonwealth had a 2014 estimate GDP of $14.623 trillion*. I am certain there are many all too willing to poke fun at and mock the Commonwealth. I assume in their eyes it is an archaic, redundant monolith drenched in pomp and circumstance having Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of the Commonwealth. For many people they only become aware of this organisation once every four years when the Commonwealth Games are held. For the remainder of the time the Commonwealth must be redundant so, why the concern with the UK’s sovereignty?

Great Britain is the catalyst, the heart which draws and holds the 53 members together, collectively. The Commonwealth does much good, uniting all member states in a common bond. The aim of the Commonwealth of Nations were enshrined in the Singapore Declaration of 1971, where the Commonwealth as one declared that it was committed to promoting world peace, representative democracy and individual liberty, while pursuing equality and opposing racism, while also fighting poverty, ignorance, and disease and promoting free trade throughout the Commonwealth. Later additions to the declaration have also included opposing gender discrimination and promoting environmental sustainability. All of which I am sure you will agree are just, noble and honourable intentions for any organisation. It should also be noted that unlike the EU, the Commonwealth takes into account representative democracy and Great Britain has no desire, nor any future plans to require any member state to rescind its nation status in order to be a member of the Commonwealth and to benefit from the practices of free trade within the said Commonwealth. Indeed, the Commonwealth of Nations is referred to by members fondly as the Commonwealth Family. Not a contrived artificial union of convenience or necessity but a collective of family members.

From the arts and culture, to the sciences and sport the fabric of the Commonwealth flows deep through the infrastructures of all these member states. Of course many of the more deprived and poorer member states within the Commonwealth benefit from millions of pounds worth of aid gifted by the UK but there are many other ways in which all members benefit on a symbiotic level including joint associations, charities and organisations. One notable example which many have benefitted from (whether they are aware or not) is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The CWGC founded in 1917 is responsible for maintaining the graves of 1.7 million service personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the Commonwealth from the Great War onwards. Great Britain provides over 75 per cent of funding for the CWGC but the remainder of the funds are supplied by five other Commonwealth members Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa. In 2014 to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of the First World War if you travelled to France or Belgium to visit and pay homage at one of those vast war cemeteries, with their large gardens, mausoleums and memorials I’m sure you were amazed at their splendour. Even if you only watched them from the comfort of your sofa, seeing them on commemorative shows on your TV, I’m sure you were equally impressed at the care and quality given to these cemeteries. With British and Commonwealth service personnel having laid down their lives fighting to free these nations of German tyranny I expect you’re assuming that these cemeteries were paid for and cared by those grateful nations? You’d be incorrect. A grateful France and Belgium did purchase the land occupied by the cemeteries and they did gift the land to the CWGC in perpetuity. After that, all funding and maintenance since has lain with the CWGC, paid for by the Commonwealth. On soil which is under the jurisdiction of the EU, the funding and maintenance of the graves of those who died in two world wars (ensuring the freedom of European citizens and their nations) is carried out by the Commonwealth of Nations. This example explains all. The Commonwealth Family sacrificed their own for freedom and paid that cost in blood and money and has since continued to pay for the care of their dead. The Family has and continues to share the burden of the cost while the EU provides nought.

If the UK were to be reduced to merely becoming a state within a one nation federal Europe imagine the complication and horrors that Great Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations would face untangling their woven infrastructures and breaking up the Family. What chance that the Family would even hold together not having Britain at the helm? If the Commonwealth were to fall what would be the cost to all those member states around the world? With the loss of aid and so many other inputs, what affect would this have on over 2 billion people? Is that a price worth paying to remain in the EU or an act of selfishness? If the UK remains in the EU and slides into becoming a member state how much misery and suffering shall be inflicted across the globe?


From the threat faced by the Commonwealth Family from the EU to the threat faced by the British Overseas Territories. Additionally, to the 53 members of the Commonwealth the 14 British Overseas Territories (BOT) need to be considered. The British Overseas Territories once known as British Crown Colonies cover a land area of about 667,018 square miles* and containing a population of approximately 250,000*. Though spread all across the globe, many of these territories share a common theme of physical isolation due to locality and fragility in terms of being home to some of the most diverse and rarest ecosystems on the planet. Great Britain has done its utmost to preserve these territories while simultaneously giving protection to the peoples who call these territories home.

 The most notable and famous of these British Overseas Territories in the UK are undoubtedly the Falkland Islands. I have written at length in Britannia and Her Hearts of Oak on the defence of the Falklands by the Royal Navy since the war in 1982. If the UK were to remain in the EU and suffer the consequences of having the British armed forces absorbed and ensnared in a quasi EU military force, what shall become of the Falklands and the 13 other British Overseas Territories left defenceless and bereft of the protection from the British armed forces?

“Naturally this would be a devastating and disturbing outcome for the Falkland Islanders themselves but it would also be a terrible blow to those brave servicemen who were present in 1982. Shall all those servicemen lost in the conflict have fought, bled and paid the ultimate sacrifice in vain? Shall all those who were severely injured, maimed and scarred both physically and mentally for life, be told that all their pain and suffering endured ever since was for nought?”

I doubt very much that any good shall arise from this scenario if Great Britain does not have full control and sovereignty over her armed forces to come to the aid of these territories, especially the Falkland Islands. In effect the upcoming EU referendum is a proxy vote on behalf of the Falkland Islanders on deciding whether in future they shall always remain as subjects of the British Overseas Territories or conversely if they are to be cast aside to face an uncertain future.


Closer to home the Crown dependencies face an uncertain future with the threat from the EU of the UK being absorbed in to a single federal nation. Great Britain has three Crown dependencies, the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey. These three Crown dependencies are all self-governing islands, independent of the UK and therefore the EU but they are all possessions of the Crown, coming under the protectorate of the Crown and the UK with Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of State. This means that the majority of these citizens will be ineligible to vote in the upcoming EU referendum as those who have resided there for more than 15 years concurrently shall not be considered EU citizens, even though they shall be some of the most greatly affected.

Tellingly, these three Crown dependencies are desperately seeking membership to the Commonwealth of Nations as their fears grow of a protectorate UK being fully absorbed into a one nation federal Europe. If that is the case and the UK is reduced to a state member, what does the future hold for these three Crown dependencies? Again, like the Commonwealth Family the untangling of these infrastructures would hold prohibitive costs and unpalatable complications that nobody can truly foretell. The Three Crown dependencies face an even bleaker future than compared to that of the Commonwealth Family. Between them, self-governing for millennia but under the protectorate of the Crown, these three islands would have very few options available to them. None of these options could be considered favourable. One option is to become a part of the Commonwealth Family but what happens as and when the Commonwealth falls when the UK is absorbed as a state within a federal EU nation? Another option is to seek complete independence by becoming sovereign states in their own right. Taking into account they would then have to cover all of their costs, their lack of size and the price of isolation, most would doubt the feasibility of it being possible. A third option would be for these three islands to be induced into becoming members of the EU. It is very doubtful they would be allowed full membership, more likely they would be persuaded into signing the EEA (European Economic Area) Treaty and being granted the equivalent of EFTA (European Free Trade Association) status so as to be in the single market but without representation. These three Crown dependencies each with their own unique quirks and identities would suffer devastating harm and lasting damage adopting a one size fits all EU legislation, changing their characters and national identities beyond recognition. Whichever way you look at it, the UK remaining in the EU would eventually provide a devastating and fatal blow to the freedom and self-determination of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

In the run up to this decisive EU referendum we hear the opinions of those who wish to leave or remain but very rarely will anyone openly admit to having a vested interest in the result of either outcome. It is almost impossible to be an impartial neutral as you will have opinions or a vested interest in the result. I can freely admit that I love the Isle of Man. Any minor changes or repercussions to its national identity or harm incurred to the IoM caused by the UK remaining in the EU and being reduced to a state within a one nation federal Europe, I would find utterly heartbreaking. The IoM embraces the embodiment of self responsibility and respects the freedom of choice of the individual. This fits in very well with the old British ethos, a throwback to the days of Empire where an individual was the sole custodian of their actions and deeds; therefore an individual reaps the rewards gained through endeavour but also pays the cost for mistakes and misfortunes and sometimes that cost in life can be to pay the ultimate price. For many in today’s world this kind of thinking is abhorrent and a total anathema to their way of life. Contrarily, for those with this throwback position on life this is the very definition of the “Nanny State” at work, removing responsibility for the individual from the self to the state.

The IoM caters very much to those who believe in responsibility from the self. The individuality of character held by the IoM has ensured since 1907 that the International Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Race, simply known as the Isle of Man TT has taken place. Run every June, this event takes place over a fortnight. The first week is Practice Week and sees motorcycles and riders, sidecars and crews set loose on public roads for practice sessions to set up, fine tune and fettle their machines. The second week is race week. Referred to as a race it is in fact ran as a time-trial. Man/Woman/Sidecar Crew and machine, released at 10 second intervals race the clock, competing for a set number of laps where each lap covers a distance of 37.73 miles. Held on closed public roads the course takes a route which traverses towns and villages which carry the obvious dangers of obstacles for motorcycles travelling in excess of 100mph. Then there is the Snaefell Mountain section of the course which carries the risks of travelling at similar speeds on mountainside roads.

All who compete are fully aware of the dangers and risks yet these riders and sidecar crews choose to pit themselves and their machinery against the clock, the public roads of the mountain course and the ever changing weather conditions of a course that is run over a distance of 37.73 miles. Over the many years of competition riders, sidecar crews, marshals and other race officials along with spectators have paid the ultimate price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time on the IoM TT course. And still there is no shortage of willing competitors, nor a lack of race officials and would-be replacements, while from every part of the world thousands of fans descend upon this small island. All accept the potential risks involved to enjoy the thrills of attending the IoM TT.

Just when you think an event like this can’t get much crazier you can throw “Mad Sunday” into the mix! On the Sunday sandwiched in between the practice and race weeks there is held an unofficial event where spectator fans will tour the 37.73 mile course which the Manx authorities permit. Only because the Isle of Man is a self-governing island; only because the IoM is under the protectorate of the Crown and the UK which permits the IoM to have the choice to decide to run the Isle of Man TT can the IoM close public roads and allow this event to take place.

If the UK were to remain in the EU being reduced to a state within a one nation federal Europe, the consequences for the Isle of Man whether directly or indirectly affected by the implementation of EU legislation could prove devastating. With the “Nanny State” mindset of the EU, the fear would be that the EU would use legislation to bring an end to an event and a tradition which has taken place for over a century, in the process destroying the entire ethos and identity of an island race. If this were to happen, I know many who would be left heartbroken.

Never mind untangling the Commonwealth of Nations from the UK or untangling the three Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey from the UK, how on earth do you ever manage to begin to untangle the Crown from the entire UK infrastructure? To separate the Crown from Westminster and Parliament, to separate the Crown from the law courts and all areas of legislation, to separate the Crown from the armed forces and emergency services, to separate the Crown from all areas of civic life. These costs would be exorbitant beyond anyone’s possible imagination. Even as the UK is being absorbed as a State into a one nation federal Europe, the UK would be financially ruined covering the cost, while the new EU federal nation would not contribute one penny, not even one cent to cover the cost. The overall financial cost of Brexit, of the UK extracting and disentangling itself from the EU at this moment in time must surely come at a lower price to the nation as compared to the financial cost of the eventual untangling of the Commonwealth, Crown and Crown dependencies. Yet still there will be those foolish enough, clambering to remain within the EU, wishing to keep the statue-quo, ever willing to allow the UK to be sucked into a one nation federal Europe, for many are too young and naïve to have ever known different. Great Britain used to be so much better than this and it could be again.


 

References

* Population, area and GDP figures obtained from Wikipedia.

The British Fishing Industry

As like a game of tennis, claim and counterclaim are endlessly batted to and fro between those campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU and those who are campaigning for the UK to leave. In the end this hubbub gets diluted to little more than white noise. Whether it’s the EU’s incredulous edict for straight bananas or counterclaims with threats of tariffs it all seems to fall into that confusing tit-for-tat spat routine which makes people switch off and close their minds and ears. It ends up becoming yet another “It doesn’t affect me directly so, why should I bother to care?” moment.

This is why you should care. The following is just one example of only one area of one British industry completely affected by external factors placed upon it by the EU. That industry is fishing.

British trawlers, fishing vessels and commercial inshore fishing boats, their skippers and crews must be some of the most beleaguered, harassed and “put upon” within the entire EU. Fishermen in general have been one of the EU’s bogeymen targets but the “allowed” harassment of British fishermen has been nothing short of brutal.

One of the most recent fiascos of the EU’s handling of the fishing industry has been the disastrous affair concerning the ban on returning unwanted discards back in to the sea. Where the topic of unwanted by-catch and discarding is concerned the EU has continuously gone from one bungled effort to another, further exacerbating the predicament of fishermen.

Under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) the EU Fisheries Council meets every December and they decide what each country will be allocated, a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each species of fish caught. In turn each country allocates these fish quotas to trawlers and fishing vessels. This is where the problems for fishermen begin. Place (pun intended) yourself in the position of a skipper on a fishing vessel, sat in the wheelhouse, setting out to sea to go gillnetting. Whether you’re an owner/skipper or employed as one, the pressures and worries are pretty much the same once you’ve slipped your moorings and cast off. No matter that in the back of your mind there will be thoughts of your crew’s safety, wondering how long it will take to be on the right fish species and whether you will catch enough fish to cover the overheads and pay the crew. Talking of overheads, there will be that nagging worry of hoping your gear lasts the trip with no expensive breakdowns; taking into account your destinations for shooting your gear and how soon you catch your quota, with the prevailing winds, tides and currents, what will the expense of burning all that fuel come to? Plus you have the worry of will the catch be healthy? Will the fish be free of parasites like cod worm? Add to that the concern of keeping your log and the paperwork for each haul constantly up to date and in order, even during rough seas just in case a RIB comes alongside and you are boarded by the authorities who will carry out an on the spot inspection, looking for any discrepancies or violations on your part and checking that your fish hold is correct and in order and the same with all your fishing gear and nets. Add to all that the worry of the constantly fluctuating price of fish when you return your catch to port and send it off to the fish market, surely that would be enough for any one person to fret over while trying to keep of sound mind?

You would think so, but that is not the case. As a skipper you will have other considerations to take into account. You’ve shot your gear, you know the monthly quotas for each species of fish your vessel has been allocated so, from now on with fair winds it should be plane sailing, right? Fishermen are not farmers, they can’t guarantee what they will, or will not catch. It is often said that fishermen are the last of the great hunter-gatherers. There are no certainties, no sure things. Even using the latest echo and sonar locators with all the modern digital gizmos, even they do not guarantee success. The only thing fishermen can guarantee is uncertainty; it is their one abiding companion in all matters concerning the sea.

As this hypothetical skipper, you’ve picked your spot, risking life and limb in all kinds of weather and seas, you’ve shot your gear and you’ve hauled in your lines. You’ve been fishing for cod and discounting by-catch you’ve caught your monthly quota for cod. But your fish hold is far from full and you still need to keep fishing. You’ve got no choice but to switch species for a fish which you still have got a monthly quota for, hake for example. You move on and shoot your gear again. The next time you haul your gear, you’ve been fortunate and you catch hake but you also happen to catch more cod. Not just cod but fine top quality cod fish. The problem is you’ve already met your quota of cod for this trip. Unfortunately, even if you land on your target species of fish, even if that species is shoaling, this does not mean that other species won’t be shoaling in the same location. This has always been the flaw with whatever ruling the CFP decides upon, the vagaries of fish.

In the past, those fine top quality cod fish you’ve just hauled in, which could have fed people and earned money for you, the crew and the vessel would have to be discarded. That’s right, due to some arcane and random CFP quota limit which the government had allocated to you, meant you had to discard, to throw the cod overboard to see them get picked up by seabirds or watch them sink to the sea floor. Since 1963 due to European legislation British fishing vessels in the North Sea alone have dumped well over £1 billion worth of cod. It seems almost impossible to comprehend such an amount lost of edible cod, wasted solely by legislation.

Common sense would tell you that just because a quota had been met it would be the sensible choice to keep and land the exceeded cod. That way the tally of exceeded cod could have been added on to the following month’s quota, giving a reduced quota for that month. Anything would have been more sensible than discarding good quality cod and other quota fish species back in to the sea. If the EU and CFP were truly concerned about sustainability and the potential collapse of certain fish species, with all those resources and funds available to the EU, why did they not decide to compensate and subsidise commercial fishermen enabling them to lay up their vessels for a certain period?

That was in the past. EU legislation has since moved on and changed. This has been due in part to the celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who, shocked by the volume of discards, with good intentions led the lobby against dumping with the Channel 4 series, Hugh’s Fish Fight. I’m sure he, like the participating fishermen and nearly everyone else was convinced that the resolution to these senseless discards would have seen a sensible solution similar to those mentioned in the previous paragraph. Unfortunately, what began as a harmless campaign to lobby against waste and dumping good quality fish became something completely different once the EU, the European Council and the CFP got their claws into it. As soon as the EU had grasped the discard agenda they twisted the proposed new ruling, changing the legislation to suit their own bizarre intentions and they turned what was a wasteful and needless ruling into one that is now utterly toxic. The European fishing industry is in this incredulous position, where skippers now not only have to retain all the fish (cod in our hypothetical scenario) which would have been discarded due to reaching their quota, but the entire by-catch of fish must be retained also. Skippers have ended up being required to return to port and land with fish holds that are partially full of unwanted by-catch. This legislation is doing nothing but harm to the eco-system and to those in the fishing industry. In the past skippers would have returned the by-catch (along with quota discards) back in to the sea. Both the fishermen and the eco-system along with the food chain benefitted from this. For the fishermen this meant unwanted and unsellable fish could be discarded leaving greater quotas for species of fish which are profitable. The eco-system also benefitted from the return of by-catch. A proportion of the by-catch would consist of juvenile fish, of which a considerable proportion would survive the process of being caught and returned to the sea. Those returned juvenile fish would mature into adulthood and become a part of the breeding stock, thus helping to ensure the future of their species. Those fish species which are simply unpopular with the consumer and unsellable that were discarded in the sea were also beneficial to the eco-system being re-entered into the food chain. From the moment of discard the by-catch had become a part of the food chain, firstly being predated by seabirds. On submersion the by-catch would be predated by those fish and mammals which prey on those species. For those fish which reached the seabed and were not consumed by crustaceans, they also provided nourishment for fish in the larval stages to that of fry and fingerling, plus a source of nourishment for a diverse array of other sea life. Even after all that, the benefits of the discarded by-catch didn’t end there. The fish from the by-catch that weren’t consumed quickly would have slowly broken down, releasing much needed, enriching nutrients into the sea, most notably Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS), which is the very essence of life, which gives the sea that tangy aroma which we all love to smell and whiff when we visit the seaside. This natural chemical DMS forms the building block of all sea life. Without DMS our seas and oceans would become lifeless deserts.

Thanks to the EU, the European Council and the CFP this is precisely what is happening. The EU on one hand claims to be the saviour of the environment, constantly passing new legislation to combat global warming or environmental damage. While on the other hand this same EU enforces legislation which bans discards, requiring fishing vessels to return from sea and land their entire by-catch, sending it to landfill to rot, yet depriving our seas and oceans of the nutrients which would break down and eventually go on to produce Dimethyl Sulfide, which all sea life requires. How can the EU be so contrary on this? Being a self appointed saviour of the environment while at the same time being so obstinate as to push this harmful and destructive ruling into legislation?

Granted, this destructive EU ruling on by-catch affects all fishing vessels within Europe, not just the British fishermen. But don’t let that fool you. Although all fishing vessels and their crews within Europe might claim to be hard done by, it’s the British fishing community who can rightly claim to be the most truly beleaguered.

Let us return to our hypothetical skipper and his fishing vessel. You’ve landed your catch and by-catch and your vessel is tied up in the harbour. You’re ready to go back out to sea, to start shooting your gear again and go fishing. The problem is you’ve already reached your quota of fish species for the month so, even though you and the crew are able to work and the expenses are mounting up, you’ve got to remain in harbour ticking off the days, waiting as best you can. Surely, this is the same situation for all skippers? All around the coastlines of Europe, skippers are simultaneously fretting on the shoreline, likewise counting off the days before they can return to sea?

As a hypothetical skipper do you want the bad news first? Or would you rather the really bad news first? Let’s go for the bad news. I’m guessing you’ve been under the assumption that all trawlers and fishing vessels of similar size were allocated identical fish quotas on species, irrespective of nationality? Well, you would be wrong, very wrong. Even George Eustice  the Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment at DEFRA has stated:

“This principle has locked in some historic unfairness to the UK fleet especially in the Channel and the Celtic Sea in the far South West.  If you look at Cod in the Celtic sea and surrounding areas, in 2015, the UK allocation was just 834 tonnes compared to 5,500 tonnes for France.  For Plaice in the Channel, it was 1,300 tonnes for the UK but 2,600 tonnes for France.  In the Eastern Channel which is important to our south coast fishermen, the UK received 670 tonnes of Dover Sole in 2015 but France received 1,875 tonnes.  If we take control of our fishing grounds we will have the opportunity to revisit some of these issues with a view to delivering a fairer share of fishing opportunities.”

This shows in British waters that French skippers have been granted a sustainable quota for cod that is over six and a half times greater than that of the British skippers in their own waters. Similarly, French skippers have been granted a sustainable quota for Plaice that is twice the amount granted to the British fishing fleet. Again, French skippers have been granted a sustainable quota for Dover Sole that is over two and a half times greater than that of the British skippers operating within their own waters.

That excerpt just covers three fish species and French fishing vessels. So how much more of the sustainable quota for fish in British waters is allocated to the fishing fleets of Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, et al? How much greater is the sustainable quota for the other fish species in British waters that has been granted to the French fishing fleet? As a hypothetical British skipper parity for you is non existent; while you’ve met your monthly quota of fish and your vessel is tied up in the harbour, as you worry about covering your costs and overheads you go online and look on the AIS vessel tracking site where you can observe all those European non British vessels fishing in your waters. Frustrating isn’t it? Hypocritical too, for you know if you were caught anywhere near French waters, not only would you be breaking the law but you would also be on the receiving end of aggressive gunboat diplomacy from the French authorities.

The position of a hypothetical British skipper is beginning to look really stressful, isn’t it? Knowing all those other EU fishing vessels have been given far greater quotas than you. I bet by now you’re starting to feel beleaguered and harassed by the EU?

Now it’s time for the really bad news. Surely, this can’t get much worse? As a hypothetical British skipper this is going to make an unpleasant discovery to say the least. The EU Fisheries Council which annually allocates the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each species of fish caught per nation consistently allocates a total quota to the entire British fleet of fishing vessels a sum of 13 per cent of the sustainable fish in British waters. Basically, this means that British fishermen in their own waters have the legal right to be “allowed” to catch 13 per cent of the sustainable fish present in their own British waters. These allocated fishing rights and the permission to fish is solely granted by the EU Fisheries Council. What this also means is the EU Fisheries Council have allocated 87 per cent total annual (TAC) quotas and fishing rights in British waters to other nations within the EU. Little wonder that all those EU fishing fleets have been granted such high fish quotas.

In a similar vein to banning discards and retaining by-catch, if the EU, the European Council and the CFP were truly concerned about sustainability and the potential collapse of certain fish species, they would have ensured parity across the board issuing identical quotas at the lowest level to every European nation. The fact that the EU has not done so only goes to prove that any concerns from them about the environment or sustainability are very tenuous, to say the least. If the EU truly cared about preserving fish stocks they would have marine biologists working hand in glove with the fishermen. All fishermen, not just British fishermen want to pass on a legacy to their children and the next generation. The overriding majority of fishermen don’t wish to be remembered as the generation which wiped out any species of fish within their waters. Of all the people who understand the sea, care about the sea and recognize the pressures placed upon the fishing stocks it is the fishermen themselves. Yet it is the fishermen, who are present at the sharp end, but have been completely removed from the consultation process, where only the scientists and politicians have a voice. Making all fishermen the scapegoat is an easy solution, better than admitting their own errors of judgment by implementing EU wide policies which are so inherently flawed that they worsen the situation.

Compare that to Iceland where marine biologists and Icelandic fisherman have worked in co-operation in setting and allocating quotas for over 30 years. This has benefitted both the sustainability of fish stocks and the fishing industry. This could never have been achieved if Iceland were a member of the EU due to the CFP. As Iceland retains sovereignty over its own waters it ensures that only Icelandic licensed vessels which have a vested interest in the future sustainability of fish stocks are operating in those waters. This adds a secondary incentive for marine conservation. If the UK left the EU and only British licensed vessels could fish in British waters they like their Icelandic cousins would be the sole custodians of their waters. With only a licensed British and Irish fishing fleet operating in British waters all the onus of responsibility, credit and blame would be placed upon the shoulders of those vessels and their skippers. I am certain the majority of fishermen would heartily welcome the opportunity to work directly with marine biologists, in the same way as Iceland, to agree together the quotas to be set for catching sustainable fish.

It is not only certain fish species which are endangered and threatened. By remaining in the EU, the British fishing fleet and fishing industry is in very real danger of suffering a catastrophic collapse. As the situation stands now, entire fishing communities have been destroyed, leaving a ghostly wasteland while their residents have long since vanished. The British fishing industry is a shadow of its former self. Once, at its peak there were approximately 12,000 fishing vessels including inshore and all other boats within the British fishing fleet. Now in the whole process of the British fishing industry there is approximately the same amount of people employed as there were once vessels; 12,000 people who make a living from fishing and the bounty of the seas, an industry that at one time employed over 600,000 people. Those large fishing communities and that level of employment can and will never return to our shores. That does no mean that the pressures placed upon the British fishing industry cannot be eased while at the same time guaranteeing a sustainable future for the current British fishing fleet.

The severe catch limitations placed upon British fishermen has had a detrimental effect throughout the British fishing industry. Despite Britain having a sustainable supply of fish to supply to British consumers, the low fishing quotas mean that suppliers have to import fish from overseas. It’s difficult to comprehend but Britain a maritime nation surrounded by the sea has to import nearly two-thirds of the fish which is consumed within Britain.

As a hypothetical British skipper you’ve learned about the stresses of being a British fisherman. You’ve discovered the unfair advantages which the fishing fleets in the rest of the EU hold over you. Do you believe this situation will ever be resolved amicably in favour of British fishermen? Or at least resolved with more parity?

At the beginning I mentioned how all this confusing talk ends up becoming yet another “It doesn’t affect me directly so, why should I bother to care?” moment. Hopefully, after reading this and placing yourself in the shoes of a hypothetical British skipper I do hope it makes you stop and think again, potentially making you bother to care. The next time you go to your local fish and chip shop and order a portion of battered cod and chips, I hope you stop to think what effort this has taken to reach you. Better still, I hope it makes you truly consider the idea of choosing Brexit and voting to leave the EU.

Further more; all I can recommend to readers of this blog is that you eat more fish. Don’t buy just any old fish, buy sustainable fresh British fish. Vary your choice of fish species, don’t always buy cod, and choose other sustainable species to help the British fishermen with their fish quotas. Give your support to the British fishermen. Unlike you, the hypothetical British skipper, these fishermen are very real, with very real concerns just like the dangers they face.

 

BEFTA – The Future of EFTA and the UK

In the run up to the EU referendum on Thursday 23rd June we are constantly hearing from the mainstream media what is the alternative if the UK votes to leave the EU? What comes next? What are the fiscal and diplomatic plans when dealing with the EU afterwards? Examples the media are currently trotting out for the UK to follow range from those ineffective models from European countries like Norway or Iceland, or cumbersome and complex bilateral talks with the EU similar in ways to which Switzerland and Canada have or, do you wait and see and go with the current status-quo?

None of these models are particularly appealing that’s for sure. But for many in the UK remaining in the EU is simply not an option. Since the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 the EU has become an entirely different entity to which the UK and many other nations entered in to. With an unelected European Commission having the sole power to propose, repeal or amend EU legislation; with an EU demanding payments of vast sums of monies from members and non-members at will, combined with the ever present desire to eventually form a one nation federal Europe leaves many nations on the fringes of the EU feeling disenchanted and disenfranchised. The handling of some nations tied up within the Eurozone by the European Central Bank only adds further weight to many nations to reconsider or regret the option of choosing the Euro.

As often happens in most areas of life, organisations which become too large, too bureaucratic fall in to the trap of either believing they are so powerful that they no longer need to account for themselves or, they become slothful and no longer care any more about paying regard to the wants, needs and requirements of others. The EU is not a recumbent behemoth that’s going to slow down any time soon. It seems the only way to ensure the EU listens to the requirements of the disenchanted nations of Europe is to ensure that there is another organisation within Europe capable of enacting checks and balances upon the EU and the European Commission. Ultimately, this will even prove to be beneficial to the EU and those who desire a one nation federal Europe.

French President Charles de Gaulle always accused Britain of being a Trojan horse. At every opportunity he vetoed the UK’s entry into the Common Market. Charles de Gaulle envisaged a day when Britain would bring about the demise of what has gone on to become the EU. This is the EU’s bête noire, the EU desires, demands even, closer ties and closer unity with all member states fiscally, legislatively, economically, politically and socially but it faces one big stumbling block, the electorate of certain nations. Not including the UK in recent years legislation has been vetoed in referendums held by the Swiss, Danish and several others. They are all becoming a thorn in the side of the EU, all are becoming Trojan horses. The concerns of the citizens of these nations cannot simply be swept aside. These nations shall forever feel aggrieved and disgruntled with the current model for the EU and trying to keep them within the fold is nonsensical. Once the desire for ever closer ties was sealed and decided upon during the Maastricht Treaty, those nations which could be predicted to wobble at the mere thought of this should have been presented with a sensible alternative rather than dragging these nations along under foot. This shows a large organisation incapable of alternative thought and inflexible with its decision making. Why include someone in an event who doesn’t even wish to be present?

The sensible resolution for all of this rests with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This is where matters may become a little complicated but please bear with me. Firstly, let’s look at the inception of the original EFTA. In 1960, unable to become a member of the European Economic Community (EEC) thanks to the vetoes from France, the UK became a founding member of EFTA. The other nations who joined EFTA in 1960 with the UK included Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. When the UK, along with Denmark entered the EEC in 1973 they both ceased to be members of EFTA. In those intervening years as members of EFTA, the UK and the other EFTA members known as the “outer seven” proved to be a very effective and successful trade bloc when “handling” the EEC for trade deals. With EFTA being a trade agreement agreed upon within Europe, this allowed EFTA members to hold their own free trade agreements with other non European nations. In fact during the UK’s tenure in EFTA, the organisation proved to be so successful that it validates the reasoning that the UK does not need to be a member of the EU to prove itself successful.

In 1970 Iceland joined EFTA while the UK was still a member and EFTA became the “outer eight”. When the UK and Denmark joined the EEC in 1973 the EFTA members became the “outer six”, only to be joined in 1986 by Finland, but the status quo was maintained with Portugal joining the EEC. In 1991 Liechtenstein joined EFTA and became one of the “outer seven”. This proved to be short lived as in 1995 Austria, Finland and Sweden became members of the EU, reducing EFTA to the “outer four” of the current members which are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

It was only once the UK had left EFTA in 1973 that the organisation itself began to lose its political and economic clout, allowing the member nations within EFTA and finally the organisation itself to falter and weaken as the EU strengthened. Ultimately, when the UK chose to leave EFTA for the EU, this proved to be catastrophic not only for the organisation but also for those nations who chose to remain within EFTA. The current EFTA members which are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland can now be separated into two groups. The one group consists of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway while the other group consists of a singular Switzerland.

In 1992 after the Maastricht Treaty the EU reconvened at Porto where the then seven members of EFTA and the members of the European Community (EC) within the Single Market signed the European Economic Area (EEA) Treaty which grants all EEA members the freedom of movement for people, goods, services and capital throughout the EEA, while accepting all legislation from the EU. The EEA was established in 1994. The EEA Treaty appears to be an incongruous and disingenuous act on two counts. Firstly, EFTA members were not members of the EC, the soon to be renamed EU, but even though these countries were not members of the EC, nor members of the Common Market they were expected without redress to accept and adopt a Treaty drawn up by countries they were not affiliated to and implemented by an organisation to which they did not belong and to also willingly accept the laws of these other countries without any form of redress. Secondly, the EC were able to gain the signatories of the EFTA members as Austria, Finland and Sweden were in the process of becoming members of the EU and at the time Switzerland was also seeking membership of the EU. This left Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway literally out in the cold and in a weakened position of having to sign the treaty. Being such small populated countries they held little sway. If the UK had remained a member of EFTA the EC would never have dreamed to dare to impose the EEA Treaty upon EFTA. There is one obvious absence from the EEA and that is Switzerland. At the end of 1992 the Swiss held a referendum and their electorate sensibly voted to reject signing the EEA Treaty. Since then the Swiss have continued to hold negotiations with the EU under bilateral agreement. For the Swiss this has been a slow, often painful and at many times disagreeable affair, constantly tackling bureaucratic red tape as the EU have tried to impose and implement their legislation upon the Swiss. Switzerland, though a small nation with a population of just over 8 million punches well above its weight for economic wealth. It must be assumed for this reason alone, for fear of some form of economic retribution that the EU sets Switzerland apart allowing it special status to remain outside of the EEA.

Furthermore, to add to the disingenuous act of coercing EFTA members into being EEA signatories, the treatment of the EU (discounting Switzerland) upon the three remaining countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway has been nothing short of despicable. Despite not being members of the EU, solely for the purpose of trading within the single market these three nations have been forced under an EU controlled EFTA to accept the “European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority” whereby a “Surveillance Authority” based in Brussels monitors these three small nations to ensure they abide by the EEA and obey the legislations set out by the EU. Not only satisfied with that, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) based in Luxembourg has its own EFTA Court solely to preside over those three nations and to pass judgement.

All those of you eager and happy to remain within the EU, contemplate and digest that information. The EU making, passing, policing and upholding laws upon nations to which it is not affiliated and should have no jurisdiction over. If this occurred in South America or Asia you would soon accuse the organisation of acting immorally. That it is the EU you blithely accept these conditions. Imagine the future, with the UK being reduced to a State within a single European federal nation, with laws made, enforced and policed by those from outside what was once your own country. Are you still clambering to remain in the EU?

It is a terrible affront that the EU via the EEA have taken over EFTA and changed it into something completely different. EFTA did not belong to the EU. EFTA worked in unison with the EU. EFTA was envisaged by the UK and EFTA was founded by the UK when the UK had no affiliation whatsoever with the then EEC.

So is that it then? Is it all over before it has even begun? Does this mean that if the UK votes to leave the EU they shall have to adopt the Swiss plan of dealing painstakingly with the EU, holding negotiations with the EU under bilateral agreement? Perhaps. Does this mean EFTA isn’t a solution for the UK upon exiting the EU? Possibly.

There is one nation that has to be taken into account with all of this. Switzerland. Even the thought of tiny Switzerland turning its economic wealth and banking system against the EU proved too much of a potential threat for the EU to face head on and force the Swiss to accept the EEA Treaty. Now after 24 years of waiting to join the EU, even with all the confines of being in an EU owned EFTA, Switzerland is finally withdrawing its application to join the EU. Unfortunately for the Swiss in 2005 the electorate in a referendum voted to sign the Schengen Treaty and become a member of the agreement even though Switzerland was not a member of the EU.

So where does this leave the UK exactly? Well, never in a million years did the EU expect the British public to be granted a vote in an EU referendum. That was never a part of the plan. If the electorate were to overwhelmingly vote to leave the EU? I believe the shockwaves in Brussels would be seismic. If the EU backs off terrified at the mere hint of seeing the Swiss as a potential threat to them, imagine how they shall perceive the UK, a colossus economically, politically and population wise in comparison to the Swiss. Quaking and boots spring to mind. In the past where the three tiny EFTA nations of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have had to ask, plead and beg on bended knee, the EU would discover a very different reaction from the UK if it were negotiating its exit from the EU. Those politicians nominated on behalf of Westminster to negotiate for the UK would not ask of the EU, they would demand of the EU. Something very different and something I’m sure that would make the EU feel very uncomfortable. The EU never envisaged being in this position and that is to the benefit of the UK.

EFTA never belonged to the EU in the first place for them to subjugate it. The first act the UK could do is, with immediate effect is to remove itself forthwith from the EEA without any fear of economic retribution from the EU. The next step would be for UK delegates (without any referral or communication with the EU) to convene with delegates of those countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The UK could inform them that they were setting up a new trade bloc and cordially invite them to join. As the EU had “taken” EFTA, this new organisation could be called the British & European Free Trade Association (BEFTA). By agreeing to become co-signatory members of BEFTA this would rescind any and all previous deals those nations have with the EU, effectively moving them from EFTA to BEFTA making all EFTA contracts null and void. Once the wheels were set in motion and the BEFTA regulations were being finalised, only then would BEFTA recognise the presence of the EU. By becoming a new trade bloc within Europe the EU would have to understand and comply with the formal regulations set up by BEFTA. BEFTA would refuse to recognise the EEA, with their nations having transferred from one trade organisation to another the EEA becomes moribund. BEFTA should then refuse to acknowledge the presence of the “European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority” and the EFTA Court with immediate effect, not only claiming it was irrelevant to BEFTA, but that it should also remove itself from sovereign soil and sovereign affairs. BEFTA can then painstakingly go through the processes of removing all insidious and pernicious articles, clauses and sub-clauses which affected the nations of BEFTA members. BEFTA acting on behalf of Switzerland can then withdraw the nation from the Schengen Agreement. Only then, once all of the foundations of BEFTA are complete would they even consider sitting down at the table with the EU to begin bilateral negotiations between one trade bloc to another. I would assume this would come as a huge blow to the EU.

This new trade bloc would certainly prove alluring to those held captive within the red tape bureaucracy of the EU. For several nations within the EU the sight of a prosperous and successful brand new BEFTA may prove so alluring that they would defect, swapping their allegiances and memberships from the EU, to escape the EEA. The two prime examples at present for this would appear to be Denmark and Sweden. Neither country is in the Eurozone and the thought of joining a new friendlier trade bloc based solely upon trade would be far too appealing to turn down.

Earlier, I mentioned that the UK and these other disgruntled nations leaving the EU would actually prove to be beneficial to the EU. How so? Firstly, I stated that every over large, slothful organisation requires a form of checks and balances to keep it in control. For the EU this could be a new UK led trade bloc in direct competition which would be a healthy adversary to deal with the EU and keep it in check. Secondly, there is every possibility that the EU would be forced to consolidate and contract all plans of a Pan-European federal nation. It would also seem plausible that the EU would officially form a two-tier EU. Germany, France and the Benelux countries would form the top-tier and in the future they may absolve their sovereignty to form a united federal nation. If those within this bloc are so eager and keen to lose their sovereignty to form a new Germania, then by all means let them feel free to do so at their own behest. The bottom-tier would be formed of those nations remaining within the EU and EEA, answerable to the edicts and whims of the newly formed federal nation. Again, it would seem plausible that some of these countries discontented with their position within this tier of the EU may choose to seek extrication from the EU and membership within the brand new BEFTA trade bloc. All new members would be welcome so long as they agreed to sign a covenant agreeing to abide to the edict that this brand new BEFTA would always remain a trade organisation, allowing free trade agreements by the BEFTA nations with other non European nations, nor would BEFTA members ever be allowed to have future plans to incorporate any EU edicts of joint fiscal policies.

If all of this seems too complicated and the UK doesn’t find the idea of forming and setting up BEFTA a new trade bloc within Europe attractive, yet the electorate vote to leave the EU, what are the options then? Well, the UK could just wash its hands of the EEA and the EU completely. The UK would have immediate access to global markets outside of Europe and immediate access to expand trade deals with the Commonwealth of Nations. So the UK could still quite easily lay out its demands to the EU before making a complete extraction from the EU. There are always options. There is always a choice.

 

 

Sovereignty

Definition of sovereignty:

The authority of a nation to govern itself or another state.

The liberty and free will to decide one’s own thoughts and actions.

The act of a nation making its own laws and controlling its own resources without any coercion or interference from other nations.

It’s a contentious issue, the notion of sovereignty. Being non-tangible, the essence of sovereignty can therefore only be defined in emotive ways. The idea of sovereignty can be subjected to all manner of nationalistic and patriotic ideals, ranging from the extremes of anger and fear to the funny and silliness, from violence towards others to the pomp and circumstance joy of the Last Night of the Proms. No matter how much we try and push it to the back of our minds, the notion of sovereignty is vital as this forms a definition of self.


 

It is often said with age comes wisdom. Perhaps this should be wisdom comes more often with age? Even in my own situation I find this to be a universal truth. I was a part of the young adult generation who watched “Blackadder Goes Forth”, when it first aired on the BBC. Set in the trenches of the First World War, we the fans all waxed lyrical of how excellent the series was, how wonderfully hilarious it was, yet how tastefully the farce of war was handled right up until the final scene of the final episode, with the ending credit simply showing a field strewn with poppies. How we all laughed and pitied our ancestors, the British Tommies, lions led to the slaughter, to die in the fields of Flanders for a senseless cause not of their own making, having been led by idiotic foolish old duffers, those stupid old donkeys. This became the accepted view by many, including my own self I must admit.

I have always had a great interest in history. To mark the centennial anniversary in 2014 I was asked to research the names of the fallen at my local war memorial. While tracing the movements of these men and their battalions I came to understand how much more complex the Great War actually was when looked at in depth. To discover how Great Britain entered the war, not because some unknown in a distant land had assassinated an Archduke but how Great Britain was brought into the war having to honour a pact to protect Belgium from Germany. In 1839 at the Treaty of London, Great Britain signed a covenant swearing to protect and uphold the neutrality of Belgium. To protect the sovereignty of Belgium and the other nations in Europe including its own self, Great Britain sacrificed the lives of over 730,000 in the armed forces, with over 1,600,000 military wounded. Civilian deaths were in excess of 120,000. In lives and monetarily Great Britain paid a heavy price for taking part in the Great War.

Throughout history Britain has fought on the seas surrounding Europe and fought on the soil of mainland Europe to protect British sovereignty and the sovereignty of other nations within Europe. Be it at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when Britain’s Vice Admiral Lord Nelson fought Napoleon Bonaparte’s navy of the First French Empire and the navy of the Spanish Empire, or the Peninsular War in Iberia which saw the British armies of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington fight alongside Bourbon Spain and the Portuguese against Bonaparte’s France and Spain. All of these actions culminated on Sunday, 18th June 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. Again this saw Wellington’s British armies alongside the other nations of Europe, the Netherlands and the pre-German kingdoms of Prussia, Hanover, Brunswick and Nassau take on the might of Napoleon Bonaparte’s French armies. All the while, defending the sovereignty of these European allies against Napoleon, Britons fought with honour and pride, they bled and laid down their lives for “God, King and Country”.

In today’s modern society to fight and lay down one’s life for “God, King (Queen) (the Crown) and Country” may seem totally archaic and obsolete. We now tend to live in a secular, agnostic society, more republican in thought rather than displaying signs of monarchical loyalty and as for country? There are those who wish for devolution, to break up the Union and to extricate Scotland and Wales from Great Britain. There are also those who would be content to sacrifice their sovereignty, for Britain to be dissolved into nothing more than a European State, little more than a principality.

After Waterloo the next time Britons sacrificed their lives on the soil of Western Europe was the Great War. Germany, a nation in its infancy, not yet fifty years old by 1914 and whose kingdoms had stood beside the British at Waterloo now stood against the British. Germany had believed Great Britain would not go to war over a mere “scrap of paper” but they found the British honours covenants and vows of sovereignty.

Sadly, only twenty one years later, honouring another covenant to help protect Poland’s sovereignty, Great Britain was at war with Germany. Yet again British troops were on European soil defending Western Europe, this time against the might of Hitler. British troops bled and laid down their lives in attempting to preserve the sovereignty of those nations, defensively fighting on the back foot all the way to the Dunkirk evacuation. By the end of June 1940 France and the Low Countries had fallen to Germany. Free Europe had fallen to the Axis Powers of Germany and Italy.

Great Britain, an island, stood alone, under siege but the sovereignty of her nation’s peoples held firm. For the duration of the war the Royal and Merchant Navy fought the dangers of the Battle of the Atlantic to keep a supply line open to Great Britain. While mainland Europe lay under the shadows of the Axis Powers, Great Britain with the aid of her Empire was much more than a small island. The island of Great Britain was a static giant aircraft carrier, a troop ship, an ammunition dump and a supply depot all rolled into one. With a far reach into the Atlantic Ocean, resupplied by convoys, Great Britain was able to withhold the Axis Powers indefinitely. So much so that Britain was able to fight and expand the theatres of war in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Britain and her Empire also fought in the theatre of South-East Asia against the Axis Power of Japan. Again British troops were defending the sovereignty of her colonies and other nations. If Great Britain had fallen to the Axis Powers in 1940, without multiple theatres of war Germany in all probability would have defeated Russia. Without Great Britain the forces of the USA would never have been able to launch the D-Day Normandy invasion. Without Great Britain and the resources of her Empire, the USA acting alone would have had to have gained a foothold in North Africa before launching an assault in the Mediterranean. If Great Britain had fallen there is every reason to believe the Third Reich would have endured, possibly to the present day.

Ironically by holding out and winning the war, one of the biggest overall losers was Britain, losing her gold reserves, greatly in debt Britain lost swathes of her Empire, granting those nations autonomy and self determination. Again, recognising the importance of sovereignty Britain relinquished her overseas territories. The only things Britain gained from being on the winning side of World War II was the satisfaction of being there from the start; being the only nation to withhold the onslaught and keep Axis troops from landing on sovereign soil; being one of the few nations who foretold and predicted war with Nazi Germany; and the only nation who could claim a moral victory of fighting in the name of freedom, self determination and sovereignty.

If you just consider all those Britons who have bled and paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War I and World War II, who died on the land, on the seas and in the air for the freedom of their fellow Britons, all those Britons horrifically scarred and injured physically and mentally, all who paid a price so that theirs and future generations could live in freedom, in a sovereign nation with self determination and a national identity of self. Now if it were at all possible, tell them, tell those Britons to their faces that their sacrifices were for nought, utterly in vain, that they may have died for your freedom and sovereignty but you don’t care. Tell them you’re only too willing to betray their memories, that you shall be content for Britain to be slowly but ever so surely absorbed into a federal state within the EU, no matter the price which your ancestors have paid for the butcher’s bill to give you freedom, you’re more than willing to sacrifice your own national identity, your own sense of self, your own sovereignty purely for economic reasons. How cheap do you hold the nationality of your own self, or that of your children, grandchildren and future generations? Will thirty pieces of silver purchase the betrayal of your ancestors who fought and died for your freedoms and sovereignty? You decide that on Thursday 23rd June when you vote.

 

 

The British Fishing Industry

FishingAs like a game of tennis, claim and counterclaim are endlessly batted to and fro between those campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU and those who are campaigning for the UK to leave. In the end this hubbub gets diluted to little more than white noise. Whether it’s the EU’s incredulous edict for straight bananas or counterclaims with threats of tariffs it all seems to fall into that confusing tit-for-tat spat routine which makes people switch off and close their minds and ears. It ends up becoming yet another “It doesn’t affect me directly so, why should I bother to care?” moment.

This is why you should care. The following is just one example of only one area of one British industry completely affected by external factors placed upon it by the EU. That industry is fishing.

British trawlers, fishing vessels and commercial inshore fishing boats, their skippers and crews must be some of the most beleaguered, harassed and “put upon” within the entire EU. Fishermen in general have been one of the EU’s bogeymen targets but the “allowed” harassment of British fishermen has been nothing short of brutal.

One of the most recent fiascos of the EU’s handling of the fishing industry has been the disastrous affair concerning the ban on returning unwanted discards back in to the sea. Where the topic of unwanted by-catch and discarding is concerned the EU has continuously gone from one bungled effort to another, further exacerbating the predicament of fishermen.

Under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) the EU Fisheries Council meets every December and they decide what each country will be allocated, a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each species of fish caught. In turn each country allocates these fish quotas to trawlers and fishing vessels. This is where the problems for fishermen begin. Place (pun intended) yourself in the position of a skipper on a fishing vessel, sat in the wheelhouse, setting out to sea to go gillnetting. Whether you’re an owner/skipper or employed as one, the pressures and worries are pretty much the same once you’ve slipped your moorings and cast off. No matter that in the back of your mind there will be thoughts of your crew’s safety, wondering how long it will take to be on the right fish species and whether you will catch enough fish to cover the overheads and pay the crew. Talking of overheads, there will be that nagging worry of hoping your gear lasts the trip with no expensive breakdowns; taking into account your destinations for shooting your gear and how soon you catch your quota, with the prevailing winds, tides and currents, what will the expense of burning all that fuel come to? Plus you have the worry of will the catch be healthy? Will the fish be free of parasites like cod worm? Add to that the concern of keeping your log and the paperwork for each haul constantly up to date and in order, even during rough seas just in case a RIB comes alongside and you are boarded by the authorities who will carry out an on the spot inspection, looking for any discrepancies or violations on your part and checking that your fish hold is correct and in order and the same with all your fishing gear and nets. Add to all that the worry of the constantly fluctuating price of fish when you return your catch to port and send it off to the fish market, surely that would be enough for any one person to fret over while trying to keep of sound mind?

You would think so, but that is not the case. As a skipper you will have other considerations to take into account. You’ve shot your gear, you know the monthly quotas for each species of fish your vessel has been allocated so, from now on with fair winds it should be plane sailing, right? Fishermen are not farmers, they can’t guarantee what they will, or will not catch. It is often said that fishermen are the last of the great hunter-gatherers. There are no certainties, no sure things. Even using the latest echo and sonar locators with all the modern digital gizmos, even they do not guarantee success. The only thing fishermen can guarantee is uncertainty; it is their one abiding companion in all matters concerning the sea.

As this hypothetical skipper, you’ve picked your spot, risking life and limb in all kinds of weather and seas, you’ve shot your gear and you’ve hauled in your lines. You’ve been fishing for cod and discounting by-catch you’ve caught your monthly quota for cod. But you fish hold is far from full and you still need to keep fishing. You’ve got no choice but to switch species for a fish which you still have got a monthly quota for, hake for example. You move on and shoot your gear again. The next time you haul your gear, you’ve been fortunate and you catch hake but you also happen to catch more cod. Not just cod but fine top quality cod fish. The problem is you’ve already met your quota of cod for this trip. Unfortunately, even if you land on your target species of fish, even if that species is shoaling, this does not mean that other species won’t be shoaling in the same location. This has always been the flaw with whatever ruling the CFP decides upon, the vagaries of fish.

In the past, those fine top quality cod fish you’ve just hauled in, which could have fed people and earned money for you, the crew and the vessel would have to be discarded. That’s right, due to some arcane and random CFP quota limit which the government had allocated to you, meant you had to discard, to throw the cod overboard to see them get picked up by seabirds or watch them sink to the sea floor. Since 1963 due to European legislation British fishing vessels in the North Sea alone have dumped well over £1 billion worth of cod. It seems almost impossible to comprehend such an amount lost of edible cod, wasted solely by legislation.

Common sense would tell you that just because a quota had been met it would be the sensible choice to keep and land the exceeded cod. That way the tally of exceeded cod could have been added on to the following month’s quota, giving a reduced quota for that month. Anything would have been more sensible than discarding good quality cod and other quota fish species back in to the sea. If the EU and CFP were truly concerned about sustainability and the potential collapse of certain fish species, with all those resources and funds available to the EU, why did they not decide to compensate and subsidise commercial fishermen enabling them to lay up their vessels for a certain period?

That was in the past. EU legislation has since moved on and changed. This has been due in part to the celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who, shocked by the volume of discards, with good intentions led the lobby against dumping with the Channel 4 series, Hugh’s Fish Fight. I’m sure he, like the participating fishermen and nearly everyone else was convinced that the resolution to these senseless discards would have seen a sensible solution similar to those mentioned in the previous paragraph. Unfortunately, what began as a harmless campaign to lobby against waste and dumping good quality fish became something completely different once the EU, the European Council and the CFP got their claws into it. As soon as the EU had grasped the discard agenda they twisted the proposed new ruling, changing the legislation to suit their own bizarre intentions and they turned what was a wasteful and needless ruling into one that is now utterly toxic. The European fishing industry is in this incredulous position, where skippers now not only have to retain all the fish (cod in our hypothetical scenario) which would have been discarded due to reaching their quota, but the entire by-catch of fish must be retained also. Skippers have ended up being required to return to port and land with fish holds that are partially full of unwanted by-catch. This legislation is doing nothing but harm to the eco-system and to those in the fishing industry. In the past skippers would have returned the by-catch (along with quota discards) back in to the sea. Both the fishermen and the eco-system along with the food chain benefitted from this. For the fishermen this meant unwanted and unsellable fish could be discarded leaving greater quotas for species of fish which are profitable. The eco-system also benefitted from the return of by-catch. A proportion of the by-catch would consist of juvenile fish, of which a considerable proportion would survive the process of being caught and returned to the sea. Those returned juvenile fish would mature into adulthood and become a part of the breeding stock, thus helping to ensure the future of their species. Those fish species which are simply unpopular with the consumer and unsellable that were discarded in the sea were also beneficial to the eco-system being re-entered into the food chain. From the moment of discard the by-catch had become a part of the food chain, firstly being predated by seabirds. On submersion the by-catch would be predated by those fish and mammals which prey on those species. For those fish which reached the seabed and were not consumed by crustaceans, they also provided nourishment for fish in the larval stages to that of fry and fingerling, plus a source of nourishment for a diverse array of other sea life. Even after all that, the benefits of the discarded by-catch didn’t end there. The fish from the by-catch that weren’t consumed quickly would have slowly broken down, releasing much needed, enriching nutrients into the sea, most notably Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS), which is the very essence of life, which gives the sea that tangy aroma which we all love to smell and whiff when we visit the seaside. This natural chemical DMS forms the building block of all sea life. Without DMS our seas and oceans would become lifeless deserts.

Thanks to the EU, the European Council and the CFP this is precisely what is happening. The EU on one hand claims to be the saviour of the environment, constantly passing new legislation to combat global warming or environmental damage. While on the other hand this same EU enforces legislation which bans discards, requiring fishing vessels to return from sea and land their entire by-catch, sending it to landfill to rot, yet depriving our seas and oceans of the nutrients which would break down and eventually go on to produce Dimethyl Sulfide, which all sea life requires. How can the EU be so contrary on this? Being a self appointed saviour of the environment while at the same time being so obstinate as to push this harmful and destructive ruling into legislation?

Granted, this destructive EU ruling on by-catch affects all fishing vessels within Europe, not just the British fishermen. But don’t let that fool you. Although all fishing vessels and their crews within Europe might claim to be hard done by, it’s the British fishing community who can rightly claim to be the most truly beleaguered.

Let us return to our hypothetical skipper and his fishing vessel. You’ve landed your catch and by-catch and your vessel is laid up in the harbour. You’re ready to go back out to sea, to start shooting your gear again and go fishing. The problem is you’ve already reached your quota of fish species for the month so, even though you and the crew are able to work and the expenses are mounting up, you’ve got to remain in harbour ticking off the days, waiting as best you can. Surely, this is the same situation for all skippers? All around the coastlines of Europe, skippers are simultaneously fretting on the shoreline, likewise counting off the days before they can return to sea?

As a hypothetical skipper do you want the bad news first? Or would you rather the really bad news first? Let’s go for the bad news. I’m guessing you’ve been under the assumption that all trawlers and fishing vessels were allocated identical fish quotas on species, irrespective of nationality? Well, you would be wrong, very wrong. As an example, let us take haddock quotas. As a hypothetical British skipper you would be able to catch 250kg of haddock per month. Sounds quite reasonable, doesn’t it? It does, until you discover your French counterpart skipper has a quota to catch 2,000kg of haddock per month. So your French counterpart can legally catch and land 8 times the amount of fish per month, every month. That’s just one EU nation and one species of fish.

In a similar vein to banning discards and retaining by-catch, if the EU, the European Council and the CFP were truly concerned about sustainability and the potential collapse of certain fish species, they would have ensured parity across the board issuing identical quotas at the lowest level to every European nation. The fact that the EU have not done so only goes to prove that any concerns from them about the environment or sustainability are very tenuous, to say the least. So far the only endangered species in fear of extinction from the seas appear to be British fishermen and their vessels! The position of hypothetical British skipper is beginning to look really stressful, isn’t it? Knowing all those other EU fishing vessels have been given far greater quotas than you. I bet by now you’re starting to feel beleaguered and harassed by the EU?

Now it’s time for the really bad news. Surely, this can’t get much worse? As a hypothetical British skipper this is going to make an unpleasant discovery to say the least. The EU Fisheries Council which annually allocates the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each species of fish caught per nation consistently allocates a total quota to the entire British fleet of fishing vessels a sum of 13 per cent of fish in British waters. Basically, this means that British fishermen in their own waters have the legal right to be allowed to catch 13 per cent of the fish present in their own British waters. These allocated fishing rights and the permission to fish is solely granted by the EU Fisheries Council. What this also means is the EU Fisheries Council have allocated 87 per cent total annual (TAC) quotas and fishing rights in British waters to other nations within the EU.

The severe catch limitations placed upon British fishermen has had a detrimental effect throughout the British fishing industry. Despite Britain having a sustainable supply of fish to supply to British consumers, the low fishing quotas mean that suppliers have to import fish from overseas. It’s difficult to comprehend but Britain a maritime nation surrounded by the sea has to import nearly two-thirds of the fish which is consumed within Britain.

As a hypothetical British skipper you’ve learned about the stresses of being a British fisherman. You’ve discovered the unfair advantages which the fishing fleets in the rest of the EU hold over you. Do you believe this situation will ever be resolved amicably in favour of British fishermen? Or at least resolved with more parity?

One possible solution is Brexit, to vote to leave the EU. The future of Britain may be with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The UK has been a past member of EFTA and current members include Iceland and Norway. They are two seafaring and fishing nations who understand Britain. Kindred spirits you might say. If Britain returned to EFTA, the other remaining members who also include Liechtenstein and Switzerland may become more emboldened together to renegotiate with the EU. Britain, Iceland and Norway could stand together, as one, to oppose their unfair treatment at the hands of the CFP compared to the other fishing countries within the EU.

At the beginning I mentioned how all this confusing talk ends up becoming yet another “It doesn’t affect me directly so, why should I bother to care?” moment. Hopefully, after reading this and placing yourself in the shoes of a hypothetical British skipper I do hope it makes you stop and think again, potentially making you bother to care. The next time you go to your local fish and chip shop and order a portion of battered cod and chips, I hope you stop to think what effort this has taken to reach you. Better still, I hope it makes you truly consider the idea of choosing Brexit and voting to leave the EU.

Further more; all I can recommend to readers of this blog is that you eat more fish. Don’t buy just any old fish, buy sustainable fresh British fish. Vary your choice of fish species, don’t always buy cod, and choose other sustainable species to help the British fishermen with their fish quotas. Give your support to the British fishermen. Unlike you, the hypothetical British skipper, these fishermen are very real, with very real concerns just like the dangers they face.

Norway, EFTA and Brexit

 

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Is there a brighter future for Norway with the UK in EFTA?

Poor Norway. What has Norway ever done to anyone? To be the one country which is constantly drawn from the hat to be used as the canary in a coal mine for any country which dares to raise the proposition of leaving the EU? The greatest irony from all this is, Norway never has been a member of the European Economic Community (EEC), nor a member of the European Commission (EC), let alone ever having been a member of the European Union (EU)!

When someone mentions Brexit they immediately face the backlash of claims that the UK could not manage alone and it would end up in this imaginary European limbo. The example always offered is that of poor voiceless Norway, bereft of any MEP’s, a nation which has to endear to all of the demands from Brussels without any recourse. Therefore an independent UK will surely end up with these same constraints?  Right?

Poor little Norway. Well not so little geographically. Norway has an area size of 148,718 square miles*. The UK is 93,628 sq mi*. You do the math. That’s a disparity of 55,090 sq mi. In 2016 Norway has a population of 5,214,900* compared to the UK’s 2015 population of 64,716,000* giving a disparity of 59,501,100 citizens (with 55,090 fewer square miles).

Norway is also very different to the UK where the three-sector theory of economics is concerned. In the three-sector theory there is the primary sector which includes agriculture along with fishing, forestry and the extraction of raw materials. The secondary sector includes all forms of manufacturing and the tertiary sector includes those businesses that provide services.

The similarities are that both Norway and the UK have a strong primary sector. Norway’s could be said to be even stronger, rich in oil and petroleum, along with valuable mineral resources. Norway’s primary sector has a healthy productivity from agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining. In 1969 the Americans (Phillips Petroleum Company) struck oil and the Norwegians haven’t looked back since. Both Norway and the UK similarly have expanding tertiary sectors.

When we come to the secondary sector a far different picture appears. Even though the UK manufacturing sector has had its great share of problems and might be claimed to be past its peak, compared to Norway’s manufacturing sector it is a Colossus. It is this weak sector which hurts Norway and places it at such a disadvantage when dealing with the EU.

Norway, like the UK, in 1960 was a founding member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The UK left EFTA in 1973 to join the European Economic Community (EEC). But Norway does not even deal with the EU under the terms of EFTA. Despite being an EFTA member Norway has to deal with the EU via the European Economic Area (EEA), established on 1st January 1994. Despite not being a member of the EU this has placed Norway in an unfortunate situation, effectively allowing itself to be bullied by the EU. By not having a strong enough manufacturing infrastructure and needing to import so many products from the EU, they can effectively dictate their terms upon Norway. Under the EEA, to gain access to the single market, Norway is required on the EU’s terms to accept all EU legislation, along with freedom of movement for people, goods, services and capital which effectively makes Norway a silent, ghost member of the EU and the Schengen Agreement without any redress or voice within the EU.

Even though Norway has to obey and accept all of this EU legislation, there are two sectors of the EU in which they have a marked advantage, even over the UK. Norway are neither a member of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) nor the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) so, they are neither reliant upon meeting the requirements of the EU to receive CAP subsidies nor do they have to adhere to EU legislation for the CFP. This means that Norway, unlike the UK still hold sovereignty over their own waters and fish stocks. With Norway being so reliant upon the primary sector, even in the weakened state of being EEA members it could be claimed they are in a better position than which the UK now finds itself in.

Switzerland is hardly much better off than Norway where EEA rulings and EU legislation are concerned. The Swiss, like the Norwegians took part in negotiations on becoming members of the EEA in 1992. By the end of 1992 the Swiss had held a referendum and chose to reject EEA membership. Instead Switzerland chose to defend their rights and in 1994 the EU accepted terms to begin negotiations with the Swiss under bilateral agreement. For the Swiss this has been a slow, often painful and at many times disagreeable affair, constantly tackling bureaucratic red tape as the EU have tried to impose and implement their legislation upon the Swiss.

Is this the potential future for the UK if it chooses Brexit? So it would seem. If you listen to the EUrophiles, the UK only has two options. One is to be like Norway, leave the EU but still remain a part of the EEA, thereby electing to lose all MEP’s along with any say within the EU and Brussels, while at the same time being worse off having to accept the same EU legislation and terms as Norway. The second option is go down the long winded route which the Swiss have been forced to take. To try and take on the EU alone, in bilateral talks over many years hoping that we can acquire as many legislative concessions as the Swiss have done, while still having favourable access to the single market.

Whisper it quietly (the EUrophiles are going to hate this) but there is a third option. If the UK votes to leave the EU, it still has the safety in numbers route. If the UK rejoined EFTA it would embolden, bolster and strengthen the positions of the other members; Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. With the UK as a prominent member in EFTA this would ensure the EU had to enter into real bilateral negotiations with all the members. A reinvigorated and united EFTA would be able to renegotiate with the EU and gain far better terms with the single market, while still ensuring all EFTA members left the EEA without any recourse from the EU. A newly strengthened EFTA may give cause for other EU nations to reconsider their position within the EU. Denmark only joined the single market because the UK entered into it. If the UK left the EU for EFTA there is every chance the Danish themselves would be tempted into holding a referendum on leaving the EU.

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Is EFTA the UK’s future?

For those nations disenchanted and disenfranchised with the current model of the EU they have a third option if they so chose. The future for Norway, along with the UK’s and Switzerland’s future (including current and future members) is to hold bilateral talks as one, as EFTA with the EU. That way, EFTA members shall regain their voice in the world. If this is to happen, first of all on Thursday 23rd June the UK electorate will need to vote leave, they will need to vote for Brexit.

 

 

References

* Population and area figures obtained from Wikipedia.

 

 

EU Referendum

Britanniaonthewaves

I felt compelled to create “Britannia On The Waves” and to compose this post on the EU Referendum for this reason. Even though the campaigns over whether we vote to leave or remain in the EU have just begun, we’ve become awash with hysterical hyperbole and downright scaremongering. I’m afraid to say the remain campaign heavily financed by the EU themselves have been doing their utmost to portray the average leave voter as an inward looking, negative thinking and deluded individual.

What many may find incredulous by the time you’ve finished reading this, is that once I was pro EU. I was fed the mainstream media reports and for many years I believed in the EU. But I was fooled. Like many members of the public, even older ones like myself only saw the positives and not the whole picture.

My only wish is, rather than focusing upon all the negatives, the Brexit campaign instead focus upon all the positives of the UK leaving the EU so as to counteract the scaremongering of those who campaign to remain.

The greatest barrier to the leave campaign is the vote of the younger generations. Those too young at the time and those born after the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 have only grown up in a world shaped by the EU, knowing nothing else but the EU and being a member and citizen of the EU. It is these generations who need to be educated and informed. Not belittled, preached or shouted at but actually informed. I am sure there are many things of which they are unaware, of which their parents, grandparents and teachers have not passed on to them. This has ramifications over how the EU is perceived and how national and self identity is put in to context.

Firstly, we have to understand the conceptual beginnings of the EU. This is where hyperbole enters the fray. People will inform you that the seed of the EU was planted after World War II with the notion of a great European alliance to prevent countries from going to war with each other, ever again. This is the `sound-bite’; this is the hyperbole and not the entire truth. The reality is the only concerns of war in Europe at that time lay with fears of yet another war between France and (West) Germany. Wars tend to be fought to either win land or to win fuel/energy resources or natural materials and ores in order to expand national growth. Conversely if there is a shortage of these resources this can lead nations into a war of necessity if they continue to be deprived. In 1951 at the Treaty of Paris, France, West Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands joined the European Coal and Steel Community. This ECSC was the foundation of the EU. Merely an organization established to ensure these nations shared their natural resources to prevent conflict between them. Note the absence of the UK. This was of little or no consequence for the UK as she had a plentiful supply in her own nation of energy and material resources. If she were found wanting she had the safety-net of access to the bounties held within her British Commonwealth, the once British Empire. At the inception of what would become the EU, the UK was absent.

The other myth often pedalled of the EU was its inception was designed to protect Western Europe from the threat of communist USSR. Again, this is another myth as the protection of Europe during the Cold War fell to NATO and that protection is still carried out by NATO.

In 1973 the UK entered the European Economic Community (EEC). Note well, not the EU but the EEC. Prime Minister Ted Heath and his Conservative government took this nation into the EEC without consultation of the electorate. The UK became a member of the EEC before the public could be consulted in a referendum. In June 1975 after being a member of the EEC for over two years the British electorate were at last allowed to have a say on the matter. The electorate were asked if they wished the UK to remain a part of the EEC, known as the Common Market. This was a referendum about trade within Europe, not about stronger ties with Europe or a loss of sovereignty. The electorate had voted to remain but I suspect if many had foreseen the future that lay ahead they would have changed their mind and the way they voted. At the time it was not seen as an important issue and I know many people who did not even vote in that referendum. Perhaps that is a good reminder to encourage people to go out and vote in this referendum. Coincidentally, in the 1975 referendum both the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru were a part of the NO campaign and wished to leave the Common Market.

Our circumstances really changed in 1992 with the Maastricht Treaty. This is the treaty that was perceived by many to show the Conservatives as a divided party rife with Euroscepticism. John Major the Prime Minister of the day is remembered for leaving the treaty having signed an unsatisfactory outcome for Europhiles and Eurosceptics alike. All the time the public media portrayed the doubters as eccentric imbeciles. In retrospect I think this does a great disservice to these individuals. What the Maastricht Treaty should be remembered for is the recognition of the aims and goals of the Europhiles finally being laid open for all to see. The EEC Common Market, an economic trade agreement became the EC, the European Community and the forerunner of the EU. With the Maastricht Treaty we learned that their ultimate goal was to have an enlarged European community, with one shared currency, the Euro within a single market trade bloc. Future goals included closer integration for members leading to a common legal and social system. On reflection, this bore all the hallmarks of the moment of inception for the idealized dream of one day achieving a European federal state.

What may be forgotten about the Maastricht Treaty was the introduction of the codecision procedure, now formally known as the ordinary legislative procedure to the newly named EC. What we have with this procedure is a system whereby the European Commission sits over the European Council and European Parliament. The Commission proposes new European legislation which goes before the Parliament and Council who have equal joint powers and both of them must be in agreement for new legislation to be made law. This all sounds very civil and the electorate may feel their voice is being heard in Parliament via their elected MEP’s. On closer inspection the reality is not quite what it seems. The influential and powerful Commission which sits over the Council and Parliament is unelected. Since 1992 these unelected members sitting on the Commission have the sole power to propose, repeal or amend EU legislation. This means not a single politician who has been publicly elected has the power to influence, or propose new legislation to reform the EU.

For those who wish us to remain in the EU we get reminded of all the benefits open to us, like some kind of Holy Grail. The main benefit which concerns us all is the freedom of movement within the EU. The Schengen Agreement, of which the UK is not a member, is held aloft like a beacon. The perception that is falsely made is that before Schengen British citizens didn’t travel or live as domiciles within Europe. This is a fallacy. Since the late 1950’s those Britons with sufficient funds have vacationed, worked and lived within Europe without hassle or hardship.

The other supposed benefit of our membership is being within a single market trade bloc. We are supposed to feel reassured and emboldened by this. They would have us believe that we are weak and we require the single market bloc to trade as one on equal terms with countries like China and India. This is preposterous and foolish talk. The EU bloc may indeed hold trade talks with countries like China but when trade agreements are thrashed out, the eventual outcomes may in no shape or form bring any succour to British businesses. Trading within this bloc the EU acts as the middleman and patriarch setting out the criteria and the distribution of trade within the EU between these other nations. This handicaps British businesses (and government trade) forcing them to act within set legislation and to be reliant upon what is handed down to them by the EU. This is all about preventing any one nation growing too powerful economically bringing in checks and balances to harm those economies. To show how bizarre these trade deals are and how ineffectual we are perceived by the EU is our trade with India. For much good and ill, India a vast country before partition was a part of the British Empire. India has gone from partial rule and trade through the East India Company to becoming a full member of the Empire under the rule of Queen Victoria, Empress of India. Thanks to this bond India remained a member of the British Commonwealth and is now a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Aid is given to India by the UK and their unifying language is English. And yet Belgium has more trade deals with India than the UK.

If the UK were to begin the process of leaving the EU on a Monday, on the Tuesday a British trade delegation could be sitting down with the Chinese, freed of the shackles of EU red tape and legislation being able to speak with one voice. Any trade lost within Europe could soon be replaced by new trade deals with many other countries like China. This is why some within the G20 and the EU are scared of the UK leaving. If this were to happen and the UK was able to trade successfully on its own gaining more lucrative deals on better terms with countries like China, how envious would those in the single market be? All of a sudden the trade bloc nations might find their membership a great hindrance rather than an advantage. This may get other EU countries reconsidering their own future within the EU.

Of course, it is at this time I am expecting to hear the rhetoric of those who will claim if the UK leaves the EU, the UK will be forced into paying more for European goods and services through tariffs and higher taxes. But in the long run will this really be the case? Let us take one example from one EU nation. When the UK entered the EEC in 1973 we were followed in by Denmark and Ireland. Both countries felt they had no choice but to enter the EEC as they had such close economic ties with the UK. Let us take Denmark and Danish bacon as one example. The UK is the largest consumer of Danish bacon. If the UK were to leave what would potentially happen? Theoretically the EU could force Denmark to place tariffs on our purchases of their bacon. But in reality, could or would this ever happen? I very much doubt so, as the UK would be able to cope with the outcome, more so than the Danish economy. To begin with if the tariffs were implemented in the short term all that would happen is that the British consumer would buy more British bacon. This would boost the wealth of British farmers and the UK economy. In the long term of course demand would outstrip supply. British farmers would not be able to supply enough bacon to the nation. No one person and no one nation are indispensable. Freed of the hindrances and shackles of the single market the UK could source its own supply of bacon elsewhere. In future the British consumer could be purchasing reasonably priced rashers of bacon from somewhere like Canada. The only country to be hurt in this process would be Denmark if it were forced to implement tariffs against the UK. Of course Denmark could decide on its own to trade with the UK and continue to supply Danish bacon to the UK on equally agreed terms and arrangements. I cannot imagine the EU being very happy about that. I am certain this is one of the major worries of the EU if the UK chose to leave.

The UK leaving the EU could deal a heavy blow to the EU perhaps even bringing about the demise of the EU in its present form. How long would the single market trade bloc hold if those members observe UK trade delegates gaining better deals and terms on the world’s stage than them? If the EU enforces their members to pass on high tariffs to the UK thereby harming their own economies, how long will these nations tolerate the loss of UK trade? If the UK leaves how long before other EU countries decide to take the exit route? The UK leaving the EU would almost certainly embolden those within the EU who are dissatisfied with the direction it has taken to likewise seek an exit from the current EU. This is their great fear.

For those of you still undecided and who remain unconvinced that the UK can go it alone, believing that we shall be cast out into the wilderness, convinced that there is no Brexit plan and that we have nobody to turn to, well there is another option. The UK and other disgruntled EU countries already have a potential trade safety net. In 1960 the UK became a founding member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The UK only left once it became a full member of the EEC. The current remaining members of EFTA are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. If the UK were to leave the EU I am sure that those countries would willingly welcome the UK back in to the EFTA fold with open arms. Past EFTA members now within the EU include Austria, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and Finland. If the UK returned to the EFTA fold how long would it be before those other past members wished to do likewise? I can easily envisage a disillusioned Denmark and Sweden soon longing to return to EFTA. If EFTA, free of EU bureaucracy were able to gain more lucrative trade deals on the global market compared to their EU counterparts I’m sure other EU countries would be looking to make the switch to EFTA. This can only be achieved if the UK votes to leave the EU and joins EFTA. This gives the potential of an empowered EFTA weakening the tenure of the EU’s grip on its member nations. Brexit would be a way of helping those other nations gain independence from the EU. French President Charles de Gaulle always accused Britain of being a Trojan horse and at every opportunity vetoed the UK’s entry into the Common Market. Charles de Gaulle envisaged a day when Britain would bring about the demise of this European organisation. A vote for Brexit could prove de Gaulle was right all along.

Why is it right this time for the UK to leave the EU? Luckily our integration into the UK has been nowhere near as extensive as other countries. From bad comes good. On 16th September 1992 the UK suffered Black Wednesday. At this time the UK had placed Sterling within the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) with the option of then adopting the Euro and joining the Eurozone. On that fateful day when Sterling devalued, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont was forced to take Sterling out of the ERM. Over the coming years this has since proved to be a blessing, with those nations within the ERM not only tied to the parameters and constraints of the ERM but also tied in to the German economy which has been problematic to all other nations within the Eurozone. Firstly the Euro countries suffered due to Germany’s high interest rates and expenditure caused by the reunification of West and East Germany. Subsequently the Deutsche Bundesbank of the Federal Republic of Germany has been transformed in to the European Central Bank while cleverly extricating itself from being a lender of last resort. All this time German economic growth has been very high bordering on becoming an over heating economy. This has meant all those other Eurozone nations have struggled greatly in controlling their own economies. In effect the German economy controls the EU. This has been to Germany’s advantage (something which the original ECSC was founded upon to prevent the economic dominance of one nation) and Germany has had to lend funds to the majority of other nations within the Eurozone. The UK is one of the very few nations which are not indebted at this time to Germany.

This may be a pertinent point but the same people who wrongly urged the UK’s entry into the Euro and then wrongly claimed that the UK would suffer if the nation retained Sterling and kept out of the Euro are now the very same people who are urging that we remain within the EU and are preaching doom laden tales of retribution and punishment which the UK shall receive if we vote to leave. The very people who are scaremongering and spreading fear are the same people who had foretold and predicted disaster at every turn that the UK has made away from the EU. Yet nothing has come to pass.

The UK is not in the ERM, nor the Eurozone, nor is she indebted to Germany. Nor is the UK signed up to the Schengen Agreement. At this moment in time we shall never be farther from EU integration or more closer to extraction from the EU than we are now. To withdraw from the EU at this time would involve a lot less disentanglement than farther down the road if the UK is a member of the Eurozone.

As the situation stands now there is unofficially a three tier system to the EU. Those within the Eurozone cover two tiers. Germany, France and the Benelux countries which have coped with the constrictions of the Euro fall in to the top tier. The middle tier is occupied by the countries in the Eurozone who have struggled with the Euro, Italy, Spain, Greece, etc. The third and bottom tier, which holds the most ineffectual countries within the EU who have less of a say are those nations not yet in the Eurozone which of course includes the UK. No matter what any nation has signed to enter into or, to abstain from, the harsh reality is that this ad hoc compromise cannot continue in perpetuity. Nor will the EU permit this. There have always been those since the 1951 Treaty of Paris who have wished to one day see one united and federal European country. This desire will never subside and whether it takes fifty years, eighty years or a century from now there is a real likelihood that a federal Europe will come to pass. One united country made up of States. One currency. One parliament. One Council. One President. One nation. Each country within the EU will cease to be a nation, similar to each State within the United States of America. How often does someone from Arkansas say they are an Arkansan? Or that someone from Florida is a Floridian? Or any State for that matter with the possible exception of Texans from Texas. The remainder without hesitation shall cry that they are “American”. At least the USA was a nation founded upon personal freedom and a collective dream of a new nation.

For Europe this is very different, we are all old nations with our own identities fully formed and well cemented. Imagine the loss of nationhood? Words like sovereignty and national identity get bandied about with little understanding. Imagine future generations not referring to themselves as British, nor English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish for that matter, but referring to themselves solely as Europeans. If you choose to vote to remain within the EU this shall be a shameful inheritance to bestow upon future generations. It would not only be a betrayal to future Britons born within the UK but it would also be as deep a betrayal to the members of the Commonwealth of Nations. With the UK reduced to a member State of a federal Europe this would leave Commonwealth nations bereft of a collective voice, of which we have a duty of care having once been members of the British Empire. For that matter, what future lays ahead for the Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man, along with the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey? What rights of self governance and sovereignty shall they be guaranteed in the future?

This is what makes the EU Referendum so vitally important. This is not a once in a decade vote, nor a once in a generation vote, nor even a once in a lifetime vote, this is the once only, forever, in perpetuity vote, never to be offered to the British public ever again. This will be our one and only chance to grasp this opportunity and vote to leave the EU while we still can.