The Armed Forces of the EU

In the run up to the EU referendum on the 23rd June there has been much talk in the media of the formation of an EU Armed Forces; if it will be formed, when shall the inception take place and has this process already begun?

Many of these answers can be found in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty (Treaty on European Union) and the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon (TEU) but the seeds for an EU Armed Forces were sown decades earlier. This vision could even be said to go as far back as Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet the fathers of the modern EU who laid down their vision in the Schuman Declaration in 1950.

In the modern EU, one of the most important moments was the meeting in Brussels in 2003 where France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg met and agreed on the formation of the “European Defence Initiative”, whereby the armed forces of each nation would in future work closer together in cooperation.

This meant reinforcing the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) which lead to the formation of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Though both policies serve the same purpose, there are major and important differences in how they each go about achieving that goal.

Primarily it is the Treaty of Lisbon which has accelerated the immediate likelihood of seeing an EU Armed Forces come to fruition. The reasoning for this is at the Treaty of Lisbon under Article 42 it was agreed for the upcoming CSDP to pool the resources available to the European Defence Agency (EDA) and form a “Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence” within the EU. In effect this was the license granting the EU to form a combined EU Armed Forces enshrined as a directive in EU legislation. However, this is only possible because at the EU’s inception at the 1992 Maastricht Treaty (TEU) under Article J.4 it was agreed for the EU to form a common defence policy, with the aim to go on and form a common defence, i.e. the basis on which to form the inception for an EU Armed Forces. This proves unequivocally, since the very birth of the European Union in its current form in 1992, the desired goal has always been to see an EU Armed Forces and therefore their desired goal is also to see the EU transformed in to a single federal nation.

For this to come to fruition the Common Security and Defence Policy was required to supersede the European Security and Defence Policy. It is vital to understand the differences between the two. The main points of the ESDP are:

  • The ESDP though being of Europe was not operating under direct legislation from the EU.
  • The ESDP was enacted under the organisation of the Western European Union (WEU). Though the WEU’s Council and Assembly operated from a headquarters in Brussels, the organisation was in fact a part of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), the Allied Command Operations headquarters for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • The remit of the ESDP was enacted under NATO protocols.
  • In 1995 a European multinational rapid reaction force, the European Rapid Operational Force (Eurofor) was set up by the WEU. The deployment of Eurofor was a joint NATO and EU action.

By comparison the nature of the Common Security and Defence Policy brought about by the Treaty of Lisbon differs greatly to the previous European Security and Defence Policy. Those differences are:

  • The CSDP falls entirely under the jurisdiction of the European Union. NATO has no say and plays no part in the policy.
  • The WEU embedded in NATO was abolished to be replaced by the European Defence Agency (EDA) as early as 2004. The EDA is answerable solely to the EU Council and has no links with NATO. The EDA is responsible for a remit that covers everything from defence think-tanks to research and development, from operational planning to tactical deployment.
  • Eurofor the joint NATO and EU European multinational rapid reaction force was replaced by the EU Battlegroup (EU BG). Again, this EU Battlegroup is solely answerable to the Council of the European Union.

The EU Battlegroup is also complemented with the European Corps (Eurocorps), the European Gendarmerie Force (EUROGENDFOR or EGF), the European Maritime Force (Euromarfor or EMF) and the European Union Force (EUFOR). All are joint EU operations.

The process of implementing an EU Armed Forces has steadily increased apace twofold. Firstly, the EU member nations have the perfectly feasible excuse of citing joint collaboration being due to EU wide cuts in the defence budget. Therefore, they claim the only way these countries can maintain the same levels of defence is to work in partnership with other nations, each bringing together their own specialities, thus ensuring there is no wastage of funds due to duplication. At face value this seems perfectly feasible and sensible.

However, the EDA has completely removed all EU military operations from NATO. This was carried out under the pretext that the EU wished to ease the cost of the defence burdens placed upon the USA and Canada. Yet there is a hollow ring to this statement. The USA is constantly taking the European members of NATO to task for not spending enough on the NATO defence budget, indeed they are consistently berated for not achieving the correct levels of expenditure.

This tears apart the reasoning for joint collaboration being due to defence budget cuts, as now thanks to the EDA, many EU nations are now doubling up and deploying two armed forces, one to meet the needs of the Council of the European Union and one to fulfil the duties required by NATO, more so now with less joint deployments from the USA and Canada. It may even be possible to claim that the actions of the EDA are in fact weakening NATO Forces and placing NATO members in increased and unnecessary danger. This does not even take into account the extra duties required to be undertaken when carrying out UN Peacekeeping Operations.

Secondly, the implementation of an EU Armed Forces has steadily increased apace due to the recent migrant crisis within Europe. At present, the European Council and the European Commissioner have agreed to accelerate plans for an EU combined Coastguard and SAR service. The EU is citing the migrant crisis as another valid reason to speed up the formation of joint European Armed Forces.

Whatever pretexts the EU wishes to choose, the inescapable fact is that EU nations are experiencing an acceleration in the policy of amalgamating and merging military forces. As touched upon in an earlier article Britannia and Her Hearts of Oak, where I wrote:

“Since 2013 Germany has begun the integration and amalgamation of its Deutsche Marine with the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Koninklijke Marine, including their respective Marine forces, the German Seebataillon and the Dutch Korps Mariniers, along with all submarine operations…..”

Further to add to this, an 800 strong German army battalion will be integrated into the Dutch Navy. This battalion will be subordinate to the Dutch Navy until 2018. This is very interesting. One can only assume that the circumstances shall have changed after 2018. Will that battalion be reassigned elsewhere, or will they take precedence over the Dutch Navy afterwards? Or by 2018 will the presence of this Bundeswehr battalion in the Dutch Navy be a moot point due to the fact that an EU Armed Forces will already be in the processes of being formed?

For now this collaboration between Germany and the Netherlands has seen over 2,000 Dutch soldiers from the 11th Airmobile Brigade (11 Luchtmobiele Brigade) integrated into the Rapid Forces Division (Division Schnelle Kräfte) of the German Bundeswehr. In future the 43rd Mechanized Brigade (Gemechaniseerde Brigade) of the Royal Netherlands Army will be integrated into the 1st Panzer Division (Bundeswehr Panzerdivision), but the Bundeswehr 414 Panzerbattalion has at this time already been merged with the Gemechaniseerde Brigade. These troops are assigned to the EU Battlegroup.

Add to this the desire from the Deutsche Marine to create and take command of an EU combined Auxiliary Naval Fleet which would include the British Royal Navy. Also, the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr showing a keen interest in merging with the French Air Force, the Armée de l’air.

Where does this leave the British Armed Forces? It could be claimed that the British Armed Forces have been overstretched to beyond their full capacity. Currently, the British Armed Forces are deployed in order to defend the UK, the Commonwealth of Nations, the British Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies which have been discussed at length in my article Great Britain, the Commonwealth of Nations and the European Union. The British Armed Forces are also deployed in service as members of NATO, are a part of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) along with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, also the UK Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) along with Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Norway, and also with France a member of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF). Not forgetting of course the British Armed Forces commitments to UN Peacekeeping Operations.

While the forces of other nations within the EU may be in the process of becoming more specialised so that duplication can be avoided when merging forces, the British Armed Forces occupy a very different position. Once the Royal Naval is in possession of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and she is deployed with fixed-wing Joint Strike Fighter Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft, which is expected to be by 2020, the British Armed Forces will be in the position of being able to deploy every conceivable specialisation for any and all contingencies that may arise. The British Armed Forces, no matter how overstretched will be in that enviable position of being able to deploy a complete sovereign combat force at will. Very few armed forces in the world, never mind the EU can claim such a feat. The size and range of the British Armed Forces even in this reduced state must be a troublesome concern for those in the EU who wish to speed up the process of forming an EU Armed Forces.

So what future awaits the British Armed Forces? This rests entirely on whether the UK votes to remain or leave the EU. If the UK chooses to remain in the EU it is difficult to see beyond Article 42 and the “Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence”. No matter the protestations or denials from concerned parties, this can only mean unequivocally one day in the future the British Armed Forces will form a part of the EU Armed Forces. Like a society member invited to the ball, if you spend the entire evening at the ball, no matter how many times you refuse an excuse-me, eventually you’ll end up on the ballroom floor irrespective of your protestations. The same goes for the EU. So long as the UK remains a member of the EU, no matter how many times the British Armed Forces protest and refuse the offer to amalgamate and merge with foreign forces, one day in the future that opportunity to decline will be refused and by then it will be too late. The British Armed Forces will be on that path to becoming a part of an EU Armed Forces.

The problem today is that far too many people focus on the “here and now”, and so long as there are no immediate issues they are able to ignore any matters of concern. What must be remembered is that the “here and now” is completely and utterly irrelevant as far as the EU and defensive strategic planning are concerned. The founders of the EU had the foresight to see 50 to 60 years in to the future, to the present day of “now”. For those concerned with the EU, they must do so likewise and predict all of the eventual outcomes 60 years hence. How will the future EU Armed Forces look? What shall be the objectives of this EU Armed Forces? These are the questions that need to be asked.

There are many differing permutations to predict but it is difficult to envisage anything other than a dystopian future. It may be a case of fearing something that may never come to pass. It is quite possible in the future the German economy may overheat and the Eurozone collapses, leading to the end of the EU dream. But it is equally plausible that given time the EU or, certain nations of the EU will eventually go on to form a single federal nation.

Back to the present and near future. What are the possibilities of an EU Armed Forces being realised long before a single federal nation becomes an actuality? As German and Dutch Armed Forces are already merging, the chances of witnessing an EU Armed Forces sooner rather than later is all the more likely and inevitable.

Returning to the future possibilities of an EU Armed Forces, how will this affect the British Armed Forces?

  • Firstly, if the British Armed Forces are merged in to an EU Armed Forces this shall mean a loss of sovereignty of the British Armed Forces, which shall mean a loss of sole control of the UK’s defences and military deployment.
  • With the British Armed Forces merged in to a European-centric EU Armed Forces and with the loss of sovereign control over the British Armed Forces, the UK government shall be incapable of deploying a military force at will. This will inevitably leave the Commonwealth of Nations and British Overseas Territories exposed and in several cases undefended. To many this inability to continue the protection of those peoples shall be an unforgivable act of betrayal.
  • To save on defence expenditure the armed forces of member nations within the EU are specialising so, when these nations’ forces merge, duplicate resources are surplus to requirement. With that being the case, as the British Armed Forces are capable of deploying every kind of combat force whether by air, land or sea, it would seem inevitable when the British Armed Forces were merged in to an EU Armed Forces, so as to cut out duplication many of the British Armed Forces units and therefore their personnel would no longer be required.
  • Once the EU Armed Forces become a reality what shall become of what remains of the member nations own armed forces? It is difficult to envisage anything other than the EU viewing them as a perceived threat and rival to their own EU Armed Forces. If tolerated at all, at best these armed forces will be reduced in size and stature to little more than bit part players, akin to the USA’s National Guard at best.
  • Taking the last two points into account, with sections of the British Armed Forces merged in the new EU Armed Forces and any remaining residue either heavily constrained or stood down, there is the very real threat in future of massive job losses. The British Army was initially shaken to the core in the mid 2000’s when venerable regiments were reduced in size and amalgamated in to new smaller regiments. This will seem like window dressing compared to the potential future cuts. Right across the board covering the British Army, the RAF and Royal Navy, in future years the cuts to their budget may seem utterly incomprehensible when viewed in today’s world.

The future social integration and organisational structure of an EU Armed Forces must also be considered when in comparison to the British Armed Forces. For the majority of the population in Britain Her Majesty’s Armed Forces are beloved, respected and trusted; knowing that their service personnel bear allegiance to the Crown and have sworn an oath to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and by doing so are ensuring the protection of the people of Britain. For the main, British people feel safer when in the company or vicinity of members of HM Armed Forces. It is an inherent trait bred in to the psyche of the British population. As long as there is continuity with loyalty to the Crown, even non British forces earn the loyalty and trust of the British public, be they Australian, Canadian or New Zealand or based in the UK, the Brigade of Gurkhas. All are cherished and revered because they come with history and their track record of bravery and loyalty is legend.

For the British people we also know that by acting on behalf of the Crown, HM Armed Forces are representing a known quantity. Incumbent governments, their Prime Ministers and the sitting Cabinets along with Parliament as a whole may order deployments of the British Armed Forces in to combat, but these are all Ministers who have been directly elected by the British public. If mistakes are made they can become public knowledge and the British electorate hold the power to vote that incumbent government out of office. By comparison, the EU Armed Forces shall be deployed by the European Defence Agency (EDA) which is answerable to the European Council and therefore the unelected European Commission. This is all well and good for so long as the European Union remains in its current form. However, with dynamic entities such as the EU their processes are not set in stone, they are fluidic, always vulnerable to change and once a single federal nation comes to pass they may be subject to pressures from political forces who wish to exploit these weaknesses.

In the far and distant future who knows how much power shall be gained or rescinded by the European Council, Parliament or Commission? In a European single federal nation how much sovereign power will be yielded by its incumbent President? In the future, no matter how small, is there a plausible possibility in this European single federal nation of a tyrannical despot being swept to power as the President of a continent sized nation? If so, and they are able to deploy the armed forces of the federal nation at the will of their whims then British personnel serving in those armed forces shall be held prisoner to give sway to those whims and allow themselves to be deployed in to combat wherever their President deems necessary. Granted this is a vision of a dystopian future at the extreme end of the scale but there is no reason to dismiss this outcome out of hand, as one day in the distant future it may potentially become an actuality.

Lastly, what of the dynamics of the structure of an EU Armed Forces? Which nation or nations shall take precedence over the other nations, if any? Will the merging of forces be biased towards enabling a structural system to be built around a single federal nation? If this is the case, in future how shall battalions be deployed and how shall their ranks be filled? Will there come a day when Dutch-German battalions are based on British soil in the same manner as British and US military bases operating from West Germany? If in this future there is mass civil unrest could we potentially witness non British personnel being deployed on to British streets in British cities to quell the people?

Or rather, if the EU Armed Forces are to be biased towards enabling a structural system to be built around a federal nation, does this mean in future so as to dilute the ideals of national identity at a state level will the EU Armed Forces operate on a level akin to the French Foreign Legion? In future when young hopefuls present themselves to their local army recruitment officer, will there be every possibility that new recruits shall be expected to complete their basic training in another member state to make them feel more European?

If in future personnel of the British Armed Forces are required to pledge an oath of allegiance to the President of a federal nation rather than to the Crown would this guarantee a drop in new recruits? If so and if this were to be mirrored by other nations would a federal Europe out of necessity be forced to bring about federal wide conscription? Of course there are far more questions to be asked than there are answers on the formation of an EU Armed Forces.

If the electorate of Great Britain decide to vote to remain in the EU on the 23rd June, there is every chance in the coming years thanks to Article 42 of the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon (TEU) and the “Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence”, that HM Armed Forces shall be merged and lost to the EU Armed Forces.

However, as one EU Article seeks to remove the sovereignty of the British Armed Forces and the sovereignty of Great Britain, there is another EU Article which can restore that lost sovereignty. Under Article 50 of the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon (TEU): “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”

It is as if Brussels and the other members of the EU have always realised that Article 42 would be far too bitter a pill for the British Armed Forces and her nation to swallow. Being amalgamated and merged in to an EU Armed Forces or a European single federal nation would prove to be more than a step too far. For this very scenario, solely for the British, the EU appears to have created Article 50 so that Great Britain can escape the clutches of Article 42. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; embrace this offer from the EU graciously and on the 23rd June vote to leave the EU and vote for Brexit!

 

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Great Britain, the Commonwealth of Nations and the European Union

The Commonwealth of Nations, British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies

As the EU referendum on Thursday 23rd June draws ever closer, 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 or the British Overseas Territories 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 (and emotional) cost of the eventual untangling of the Commonwealth, British Overseas Territories, Crown dependencies and the Crown. 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 could be so again.


 

References

* Population, area and GDP figures obtained from Wikipedia.

Self – Determination

Watching the BBC’s Newsnight EU referendum special with Evan Davis I was intrigued to how they would approach the subject of “Sovereignty”. Sadly it was tackled with childish mirth, being an intangible notion and not once was “Self-Determination” mentioned. If Newsnight really were perplexed by the notion of sovereignty then they really should have searched out my blog on Sovereignty!

One of the issues with words like sovereignty is that they become “loaded” with preconceived prejudices and ideas. Take national pride; usually portrayed as an evil of the world and is expressed as nationalism or jingoism. But then there is the flipside to that coin; the expression of loyalty to your country, its peoples and shared beliefs that is patriotism. No matter how much others will deny this, words like sovereignty and self-determination are important, they define who we are. They shape our beliefs and core values.

For many involved in the campaign to leave the EU, sovereignty is the crux of the matter. To regain and retain the sovereignty of Great Britain is the only issue of consequence. This is what gives the various leave campaigns so much substance.

By contrast, those who are in the remain campaign suffer from the reverse. They have to tackle the EU referendum from the other side, which is to offer the British people “Project Fear” and the negative outcomes of the UK leaving the EU. The remain campaign can only offer voters hollow talk; empty promises and empty words. They know this to be true, which makes their campaign all the more galling and incredulous.

No matter what either campaign or the media says, all the average British voter cares about is who is running our country now and who will run it in the future? Does Westminster run our country or Brussels? Whether the EU becomes a true single nation federal Europe is probably neither here nor there to your average voter but what they do worry about is who is controlling and pulling the strings above them? The politicians of Westminster may be very unpopular at the moment but the thought of being placed completely at the mercy of Brussels in future is a completely unpalatable thought for the average Briton.

The remain campaign know that all of their pledges are completely hollow. All pledges from Westminster on Europe have always been and always shall be hollow ones. Since the conceptual beginnings of the EU after World War II, from the Schuman Declaration of 1950 and the 1951 Treaty of Paris where France, West Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands joined the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), these countries of mainland Europe have sought to form a union, a single nation federal Europe. Nothing the remain campaign says can alter this truth.

Since 1951 every single European treaty has contrived to bring the European nations closer together in order to form a single nation federal Europe. From Harold Macmillan (who attempted to join the Common Market) to the incumbent Prime Minister at No.10, irrespective of which political party they came from, every PM has attended these treaties in the full knowledge that their European partners were all unanimous in agreement that the eventual outcome for Europe is to see their vision of a single federal nation. Knowing this, each PM from Macmillan onwards at each treaty knowingly agreed to sign away more British sovereignty on each occasion, while denying this to all and sundry. Each and every Prime Minister seemed to have been suffering a case of denial. This is the exact same stance held by the remain campaign; equally suffering and in complete denial unable to accept that the entire reason for the EU is to form an eventual single nation federal Europe. That ultimate goal shall never dissipate; one united country made up of states. One currency; one parliament; one Council; one President; one nation joined economically, fiscally, legislatively, militarily and socially. For over 65 years this has been a truth and yet even now the remain campaign would deny this fact. This is why their campaign is built upon self denial and hollow promises which can never be kept.

While the remain campaign revolves exclusively around the hollow negativity of “Project Fear”, in stark contrast the leave campaign calls upon the positive virtues of loyalty, duty and patriotism from the British voters. That’s the beauty of choosing to vote leave. It is a positive action. Those Britons who vote leave on Thursday 23rd June are choosing the positive step of regaining the sovereignty and self-determination of their own country.

 

Britannia and Her Hearts of Oak

Si vis pacem, para bellum – “If you want peace, prepare for war”

Every nation has the sovereign right to self-determination. In order for this to be so, there are times when force is required to protect and maintain the sovereignty and self interests of that nation. For this to be achieved that sovereign nation has a need for their own armed forces, kept independent from exterior influence from other nations.

Britain an island nation has always relied heavily upon her navies. The Royal Navy, unbowed, unbeaten, her Jolly Tars with hearts of oak forever keeping Britons safe from peril. The Royal Navy has done so, giving over 350 years of service.

In spite of the best efforts and intentions from the Royal Navy, how long this continues to be so remains to be seen. The fact must be accepted that recent policies of the British government have been equally if not more harmful to our armed forces than any edict from the EU. In the past 10 years there has been some very short-sighted and ill-conceived policies for our armed forces, most notable the Royal Navy.

Since the 2008 global recession the government has sought to cut the budget deficit. Even though there were defence cuts at the time, it was after the 2010 general election the defence budget became “fair game” and the pips have been squeezed thereafter. The Royal Navy was the only division of the armed forces to have the foresight to commission their own full internal audit before the election. Better for skilled surgeons to act and cut away the excess rather than having a butcher hack at the marrow. The Royal Navy with their audit complete were able to show the MoD the minimum strengths needed in order to be an operational force. By some perversity, in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review it turned out that the largest defence cuts would be placed upon the Royal Navy. For all their efforts the butcher had arrived with his block and he was going to cut to the bone.

This is nothing new. It has been ever thus. As is often quoted, history does have a tendency to repeat itself. Wishing to cut budget deficits but unable to make the figures tally, the defence budget, never popular with large ranks of the general public is always the soft, easy, go to target. Be it the build up to World War II, countless actions thereafter up to the Falklands War and beyond. Many of these conflicts may have been avoided if a visible show of force had remained a constant presence. The short-sighted view, the easy option tends to always win the day so, incumbent governments by appeasing the masses take the cleaver to the defence budget. It is only ever in the long-term that these decisions prove to be erroneous. Only in the aftermath and with hindsight once the butcher’s bill of the dead and wounded has been paid, once the true cost of rushed logistics and materials has been tallied, only then is the true cost realised. The government cries out “Never again!” in the aftermath. But there always is and there always shall be.

When it comes to botched implementations while showing little foresight, one of the best examples of a bungled policy in post 2010 defence cuts was the rushed decommissioning of the Invincible class light aircraft carriers, chiefly HMS Ark Royal (R07) in 2011. The Invincible class have served the Royal Navy with distinction. HMS Invincible (R05), the namesake of her class, laid down in 1973 and launched in 1977 was one of the carriers present during the Falklands War. It should be noted at this time, before the Falklands War in 1982 the British government were planning to sell HMS Invincible to the Royal Australian Navy. This short-sightedness along with Defence Secretary John Nott’s flawed plan to withdraw the Royal Navy ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance from Antarctic patrol in the South Atlantic were contributing factors for the Argentinean invasion of South Georgia and the subsequent invasion of the Falkland Islands. Additional cuts to the Royal Navy in Nott’s 1981 Defence White Paper included the scrapping of HMS Hermes (R12), a Centaur class conventional aircraft carrier laid down in 1944 but still operational in 1981 she served as the British flagship during the Falklands War. Surviving the war she still survives to this day serving the Indian Navy. Yet again short-sighted defence cuts led to a cost that was eventually far greater than many could have realised at the time.

The other sister ship to HMS Invincible and HMS Ark Royal in the class was HMS Illustrious (R06), laid down in 1976 and launched in 1978. It was “Lusty” who relieved “Vince” in the Falklands after the war. “The Mighty Ark” was laid down in 1978, launched in 1981 but not commissioned until 1985. From 1986 onwards the Royal Navy had access to 3 Invincible class light aircraft carriers and at their time of decommission each was capable of carrying either 12 British Aerospace Harrier II GR.7/9 vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) jet aircraft along with 10 Westland Sea King helicopters and AgustaWestland Merlin helicopters or carrying a compliment of 18 Harriers and 4 Sea Kings and Merlins. Each carrier was capable of carrying approximately 22 aircraft. The class also had the capability of carrying a compliment of 500 Royal Marines.

HMS Invincible, the carrier which had seen distinguished action in the Falklands War was the first to see her demise. After a recent and extensive refit, HMS Invincible was decommissioned in 2005 and effectively mothballed. In 2011 she was sold to Turkey as scrap, an ignominious end and a tragedy for such a distinguished vessel. HMS Ark Royal was decommissioned in 2011 and in 2013 she suffered the same ignominious end as “Vince” being sold to Turkey as scrap. This left us with “Lusty”.

In 2010 HMS Illustrious was operational but without any fixed-wing aircraft capable of flying from her. In 2010 under the defence cuts all British Aerospace Harrier II GR.7/9 (V/STOL) jet aircraft were retired early from service. The Sea Harrier had already been retired early from service in 2006. Pleas to retire the RAF’s Panavia Tornado in place of the Harrier fell on deaf ears, in spite of the Royal Air Force operating the Eurofighter Typhoon. Since 2010 this has left the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Navy without any combat ready (V/STOL) fixed-wing aircraft capable of operating from an aircraft carrier.

All of these decommissions were unplanned and rushed. In place of the Invincible class carriers were to be 2 carriers of the new Queen Elizabeth class. It is to be assumed that the planned changeover from the Invincible to Queen Elizabeth class was expected to have been a synchronised overlap, ensuring that the UK had a seamless constant protection with deployed aircraft carriers and fixed-wing aircraft. Thanks to short-sighted and short-term thinking this has been far from the truth. Defence cuts have turned this whole affair into a fiasco and a potentially dangerous one at that.

Over the last 6 years the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Navy have lacked any combat ready fixed-wing aircraft, leaving them with only helicopter tactical support. This is where excessive and rushed defence cuts turned to fiasco and indecision. In 2009 aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) of the same class was laid down. Launched in 2014 the vessel is currently being fitted out and is expected to be commissioned in 2017 and to enter into service in 2020. The sister carrier HMS Prince of Wales (R09) was laid down in 2011 and is under construction, expected to be launched some time next year in 2017 to potentially be commissioned in 2020 and enter service in 2023.

These are the current plans, for now. With so much indecision due to the defence cuts it is difficult to predict what the final outcome will be. After the 2010 general election the situation was complicated by the decommissioning of Invisible class carriers and the retirement of all British Aerospace Harrier II GR.7/9 (V/STOL) jet aircraft. The Harrier was expected to be in service until at least 2018 and similar to the RAF’s Tornado was expected to be operational long past its intended date of retirement. A future decision that was not expected to be taken until 2020 was decided a decade earlier. So what aircraft was the MoD going to operate on the Queen Elizabeth class carriers? Were the aircraft carriers even going to be completed?

The MoD had a firm contract with BAE Systems Maritime to build 2 carriers. At a similar time the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod, a maritime patrol aircraft in service from 1969 was retired in 2011, while its successor the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 after huge investment had already been cancelled in 2010. In 2011 it proved less expensive to break up the aircraft already manufactured. So the Nimrod could be added to the casualties along with the Harrier. With the same mindset of cutting the defence budget, plans for the Queen Elizabeth class carriers seemed to constantly change by the week. One option was to build both carriers then sell them to other nations, another option was to retain the Queen Elizabeth and cancel the laying down of the Prince of Wales, which due to costs changed to retain the Queen Elizabeth and build the Prince of Wales only to have it scrapped with immediate effect. Then it became retain the Queen Elizabeth, build the Prince of Wales and mothball the carrier before the fitting out, to now the possibility of seeing both carriers being commissioned.

The fiasco doesn’t end there, with more decisions to make. What multirole fighter aircraft will operate from these carriers? With the Harriers retired from service it was decided they would be replaced by the Joint Strike Fighter Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Which variant model would be chosen? The United States Navy have and continue to operate different variants of the Harrier Jump Jet, mostly operated by the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Fixed-wing fighter aircraft operating off US Navy aircraft carriers use the conventional CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) launch system, where a steam catapult is used in launching the aircraft from the flight deck and upon landing the aircraft’s tailhook is used to catch steel cables stretched across the flight deck to decelerate the aircraft using this “Arresting Gear” mechanical system. If a CATOBAR system were used for the Queen Elizabeth class carriers this would place them on a more similar footing to the US Nimitz-class supercarriers, though certainly not in the same league. The initial purchase of the F-35C carrier-based fighter would be less expensive but it would mean operating the CATOBAR system and adapting the class to accommodate the steam catapult system.

The tried and tested method for the Royal Navy in recent decades has been that of the Harrier, a V/STOL (vertical and/or short take-off and landing) aircraft operating as a STOVL (short take-off and vertical landing) aircraft using vectored thrust. To retain this system would require the more expensive initial purchase of the F-35B STOVL aircraft. For technical and safety reasons the intended plan of the Royal Navy for the F-35B is to operate a SRVL (Shipborne rolling vertical landing) system, effectively turning a vertical landing into a CATOBAR landing minus the arresting gear.

Even past the final hour there was indecision. From the beginning both Queen Elizabeth class carriers were intended to operate a variant of the STOVL Harrier. This plan changed to HMS Queen Elizabeth operating STOVL aircraft but HMS Prince of Wales would be converted to operate the CATOBAR configuration. This would mean procuring both F-35C and F-35B variants. This option then proved to be too costly and the decision was reversed, cancelling all work on incorporating CATOBAR and requiring the need for a STOVL ski-jump ramp. The eventual outcome is the MoD will procure the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II variant. However, even this outcome is not final. The future has been left open where either or both carriers could one day be refitted for CATOBAR.

I am not going to discuss whether the MoD have made the correct decision or not in choosing the F-35, or if they have chosen the correct variant. What can be stated is that the F-35 is well behind schedule and is coming in well over budget. The F-35B is even farther behind schedule than the other variants. This could also be claimed for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. What this does mean, if all goes to schedule, is that the Royal Navy and Great Britain from 2010 to 2020 will have gone an entire decade without the capability of deploying into combat an aircraft carrier equipped with fixed-wing fighter jets. If by 2020 and HMS Queen Elizabeth is operational, able to deploy 24 F-35B’s into combat and in the remaining intervening years their use has not been required then we can by the Grace of God say that Great Britain and her armed forces were most fortunate.

How has the Royal Navy managed in these intervening years? HMS Invincible and HMS Ark Royal were both scrapped so, what of HMS Illustrious? In 2010 as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review it was decided to decommission either the light aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious or the amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean (L12), their survival dependent upon which vessel would make the most viable helicopter platform. That turned out to be HMS Ocean. Even after a multi-million pound refit, HMS Illustrious despite being deployed on duty as a helicopter carrier was withdrawn from service in 2014 and is laid up at this time. As the last of the Invincible-class light aircraft carriers in existence, “Lusty” will be preserved for the nation. At least, that is the current plan. There is every chance that “Lusty” will eventually face the same ignominious end as HMS Invincible and HMS Ark Royal, being sold to Turkey as scrap.

Having read this far, by now I am sure you are wondering, what has any of this to do with Europe, the European Union or the upcoming EU referendum? After all, the only organisations mentioned so far that are open to criticism are the British governments and the MoD. The answer to this comes in several parts.

I could have written about many of the other defence cuts made to the Royal Navy and the other armed forces but I wished to specifically write about aircraft carriers being able to deploy combat ready fixed-wing fighter jets, to show as an example. It is a commonly accepted opinion in modern naval warfare that the quality of aircraft carriers in a naval fleet is paramount to its superiority at sea. They are the flagships of the modern navy. Ever since the decisive Battle of Midway, in June 1942 when the United States Navy took on and beat the might of the Japanese Imperial Navy in the Pacific Theatre, during World War II it has proven the vital importance and necessity of being able to deploy carriers and their aircraft during naval engagements. This fact remained a constant right up to 1982, where HMS Hermes (16 British Aerospace Sea Harriers) and HMS Invincible (12 BAE Sea Harriers) proved to be utterly vital in the Falklands War. To the present day aircraft carriers have had a vital role to play in major navies.

The Falkland Islands and the ghosts of that war play a major role in this piece and to the history of the modern Royal Navy. Hermes and Invincible were not alone. Despatched to the Falklands Conflict as a Task Force, the fleet was comprised of 127 ships, which consisted of 43 Royal Navy vessels, 22 from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and 62 merchant ships, including the 2 aircraft carriers already mentioned. Even then, in 1982 a much reduced Royal Navy to what it once had been was required to requisition merchant shipping in order to complete the task. Now, nearly 35 years later, the Royal Navy is in a far sorrier state. The Royal Navy while awaiting the 2 Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers has been reduced to 19 surface vessels; 6 destroyers and 13 frigates currently in service and even these are undermanned. It was a stretch for the Royal Navy to form a Task Force in 1982, today it would be nigh impossible to do so again at such speed.

Militarily, the first of many reasons for the UK leaving the EU is for the UK to bring an end to the exorbitant payments of hundreds of millions of pounds to the EU each and every week. With extra funds freed up from Brexit the MoD could consolidate the current position of the Royal Navy and armed forces before looking to expand the armed forces into an actual viable operating force.

Returning to the aircraft carriers, while the Royal Navy carrier-less awaits the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Navy is without any combat ready fixed-wing fighter aircraft support, the French Navy are in a very different position. The Marine Nationale has the luxury of being able to deploy their aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle (R91), an equivalent Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier operating a CATOBAR configuration. As mentioned earlier, the Royal Navy’s plans are for the F-35B’s on the Queen Elizabeth class to operate a SRVL (Shipborne rolling vertical landing) system. To test this method a development program using a QinetiQ VAAC (Vectored-thrust Aircraft Advanced Control) Harrier was carried out. Despite running tests on HMS Illustrious the Royal Navy was placed in the embarrassing position of having to approach the Marine Nationale for the QinetiQ Harrier to have access to run trials on the Charles de Gaulle. This is not so surprising to discover considering the amount of joint NATO exercises and deployments. The Royal Navy, since the retirement of all British Aerospace Harrier II GR.7/9 (V/STOL) jet aircraft from service in 2010 has been, and still is at the complete mercy and whim of the French Navy, the French government and the EU if the British government ever require the need of naval fixed-wing fighter aircraft support. If the British sovereignty of the Falkland Islands were to be tested now, it would be doubtful if either the EU or the French government would be compliant in agreeing to send a joint task force including the Charles de Gaulle to the Falkland Islands. With no naval air support such a venture by the Royal Navy would be untenable.

With so many EU members operating in joint military exercises it comes as little surprise that so many people hold the misapprehension that these are EU exercises and missions. In reality these are joint NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) operations; for now. Canada and the United States are NATO members and if the UK were to leave the EU it would still be a member of NATO so, there would be no increased threat to British defence if it were to leave the EU. In reality with released funds from leaving the EU, the UK could increase funds spent upon British defence.

Increasingly, it appears that NATO exercises and deployments within Europe are being reassigned (if only unofficially) as joint EU exercises. At the same time there is constant talk of an EU combined army, air force, navy, coastguard/SAR (search and rescue) and police force operating within a single nation federal Europe. There is even the possibility of this coming in to effect long before the EU witnesses a single nation federal Europe.

With recent events that have concerned the borders of the EU, the European Council and the European Commissioner have already agreed to accelerate plans for a EU combined coastguard and SAR service. This potentially means in future the UK’s MCA (Maritime & Coastguard Agency) will at first be answerable to, and then at the disposal of the EU, before a possible absorption in to an EU wide Coastguard Agency.

This is just the beginning. Plans are afoot, once the EU referendum has been held and the expected “remain” vote wins, the EU will set in motion the plans for a new EU combined Auxiliary Naval Fleet that involves the participation of vessels from the already depleted Royal Navy. It is expected for the German Navy, the Deutsche Marine to take command of this fleet. This may start off as a small flotilla but this is only the first phase. Since 2013 Germany has begun the integration and amalgamation of its Deutsche Marine with the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Koninklijke Marine, including their respective Marine forces, the German Seebataillon and the Dutch Korps Mariniers, along with all submarine operations, with the German contingent taking precedence. By this reasoning the eventual outcome shall be the complete absorption of the Koninklijke Marine in to the Deutsche Marine. Neither navy is what it once was in strength and there are many reasons for both nations finding this an attractive option by taking this route. With this in mind, the reasoning behind the new EU Auxiliary Naval Fleet becomes more apparent. It will begin with a small flotilla, a gesture at first, then it will expand in to a fleet, eventually comprising of an entire EU Naval Fleet. It would only be a matter of time before these navies were amalgamated and absorbed in to a single EU Naval Fleet commanded by some form of Deutsche Marine in another EU guise. The navies of France, Italy and the rest of Europe may find this to be a cost effective and prudent step to take but it would be catastrophic for the British Royal Navy to take this route.

I have also in previous pieces mentioned the EU’s desire to one day witness a single nation federal Europe bound together fiscally, legislatively, economically, politically and socially. I should of course also added bound together militarily as well. With plans already begun for an EU Coastguard and Naval Fleet, it seems we shall not be required to wait until we witness a single nation federal Europe in order for us to bear witness to an EU combined armed forces. The EU may be a two-tier behemoth split by the Eurozone, the UK may not be in the Euro, nor in the Schengen Agreement for that matter, but it seems increasingly likely that shall be of little consequence; whether desired or not within the next 2 to 4 decades the only armed forces that shall exist on UK and EU soil are those who march in step under the EU flag.

Other member nations of the EU may be comfortable with this absence of military sovereignty, willing participants who are content to see their air forces, armies and navies completely absorbed in to an EU combined force. If the UK were to comply with this in the future, losing sovereign control of the RAF, British Army and the Royal Navy would prove to be catastrophic for not only Great Britain and her armed forces but also potentially catastrophic for many other nations.

As I have written in earlier pieces on this blog, particularly “The EU, Commonwealth of Nations and Crown Dependencies” and “Sovereignty“, it has been shown that the UK has many great commitments and obligations to uphold outside of the EU and its remit. One of those obligations is to protect the Commonwealth and the 14 British Overseas Territories (BOT) once known as British Crown Colonies which include South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands along with the Falkland Islands. A duty of care is offered to these Overseas Territories to grant their sovereignty and protect their freedoms. If the Royal Navy were in future absorbed in to an EU Naval Fleet these duties of care would become an impossibility to uphold. The same could be said of the duties of the RAF and British Army. There would be no reason to believe that the other EU members would allow or permit their forces to become embroiled in the UK’s concerns of the Commonwealth or British Overseas Territories.

This shall be the great tragedy that will unfold. This is not so much a danger of the present but a very real and possible threat writ large in our future. It should be the moral duty of our politicians and high ranking military to forewarn fellow Britons and members of the Commonwealth and British Overseas Territories of the impending dangers that are looming ahead if the UK chooses to remain within the EU. Those territories that are the most vulnerable and placed in a position of the greatest danger must surely be those in the South Atlantic, namely the Falkland Islands. If in future the British armed forces are permitted to become ensnared and absorbed in to an EU combined armed forces, this shall be nothing but an open invitation to Argentina to use coercion, whether it be by armed force or diplomatic and political delegation to gain sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. 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?

The UK is on the verge of taking a path of no return; if the electorate of their own volition decide to vote to remain within the EU, they shall be complicit in not only betraying the service personnel of our current and future armed forces but also of betraying the memory of past combatants and the armed services themselves. Those who vote to remain within the EU, thus placing British Overseas Territories, the Commonwealth and in future, possibly Britain herself in perilous danger will leave a tainted stain upon this nation which may never be washed clean.

Those who vote for Brexit; who vote to leave the EU in future shall be remembered as having done a service to their nation, having carried out their duty and paid their respects to the Crown, the British armed forces and to Great Britain herself.

On Thursday 23rd June we can all become “Hearts of Oak” for Britannia, the Royal Navy and HM armed forces by voting to leave the EU.

 

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.