Article 50: UKIP’s crucial weaknesses under the spotlight

Writing in the Telegraph today, City AM’s Allister Heath delivers a balanced if whistlestop article exploring some of the major problems that UKIP faces yet is doing little to overcome.

However Heath’s otherwise valuable piece gets off on the wrong foot from the get go with its title, ‘Nigel Farage’s biggest problem is Ukip doesn’t do details’.  For the piece to be more accurate that should have read, ‘UKIP’s biggest problem is Nigel Farage doesn’t do details’.  After all, Farage alone calls the shots and the party dances to whatever tune he chooses to play on any given day.

Even so, some of the analysis is penetrating and underlines much of what this blog has been arguing, even if Heath’s colour commentary about ties with the EU needing to be ‘significantly loosened’ is weak fluff.  The emphasis below is mine:

Ukip’s problem is that its policy positions are uncosted aspirations, rather than properly thought-through proposals. Until this is sorted, they risk being torn to shreds as media scrutiny increases. Those who simply wish to protest against a snooty establishment, or who like how Farage “represents people like us”, won’t mind; but much of the country will, and Ukip’s bubble would deflate almost as fast as it takes its leader to down a pint.

In particular, Ukip doesn’t have a plan to exit the EU and to introduce alternative trading arrangements that reflect the complexities of the modern economy. The challenge is especially acute when it comes to complex rules of origin for manufactured goods, and to protect London’s financial services industry against protectionism. This problem is shared by the broader Eurosceptic movement, including in the Tory party; a lot of work is needed, and fast. For those of us who agree that the European project is a busted flush and that the UK’s ties with the EU need to be significantly loosened, this is a source of major frustration.

The absence of a cohesive UKIP exit plan and vision for new trading arrangements is the most critical issue for the whole Eurosceptic movement.  This gap is a knife to the heart of the credibility of withdrawalists. It is the equivalent of a boxer not lifting his gloves and instead allowing his opponent to rain blow after blow on him.

Without a plan that triggers negotiation to bring about a replacement trading arrangement and access to the single market before the UK leaves the EU and abrogates existing treaties and agreements – which can only be achieved by invoking Article 50 – voters will be convinced to stick with the status quo, through a combination of Europhile FUD and the all-too-accurate exposure of the damaging consequences of simply leaving before securing trade deals that safeguard our economic interests.

Unless and until Farage gets serious about withdrawal, does detail and understands the mechanics and states the strategy to enable the UK to leave the EU, while maintaining our access to the single market – and crucially ensuring we can trade with those other countries around the world with whom trade agreements only cover EU member states – the ‘No’ campaign will lose any referendum.

Article 50 is the path to restoring our independence after which we can unpick the acquis at our leisure, secure in the knowledge we have access to the markets our businesses are so worried about losing.  If the Eurosceptics present a robust plan to give businesses confidence that decoupling from political union does not mean we lose access to the single market or the countries with whom we have EU-negotiated trade deals, they have no economic basis for opposing the out campaign.

114 Responses to “Article 50: UKIP’s crucial weaknesses under the spotlight”

  1. 1 Paul Perrin (@pperrin) 21/05/2013 at 8:37 pm

    There are many ways of leaving the EU – it would take detailed analysis by the civil service to produce the *real* plan.

    For UKIP to pretend it can do this would be stupid and leave it open to ridicule – see the SNP, they can’t even decide which currency they might be able to use!!

    UKIP only need to establish that an exit is possible/feasible the rest of the actual exit is detail.

    More importantly a vision of an independent UK after the exit *is* needed – few people will vote for a ‘leap into the the dark’ so lack of this is a show stopper.

    Anti-EU’ers need a vision of where we should be and what it should look like, and just enough detail to show that it is *possible*. More than that is creating pointless hostages to fortune.

  2. 2 Autonomous Mind 21/05/2013 at 9:03 pm

    There is only one way of leaving the EU and ensuring we still have access to the markets by negotiating an agreement before leaving. That in turn is the only counter argument to businessmen who rightly claim just leaving will have terrible ramifications for British companies.

    It isn’t a leap in the dark. It’s a clearly defined road map the EU never believed would be used.

    No amount of postulating changes that, Paul.

  3. 3 Antisthenes 21/05/2013 at 9:08 pm

    As much as I agree with you that certainly the only way for the UK to extradite itself from the EU is through article 50, however that is also fraught with difficulties. Difficulties that could be just as insurmountable as any other method because that relies on the EU being fair in their negotiations in the period up to final exit. The EU I am sure cannot be trusted to to give the UK a fair deal and only allow the UK an arrangement that heavily favours the EU and the UK not at all. The EU will undoubtedly emphasis that fact if the UK at all indicates that it is heading towards invoking article 50 and certainly in the run up to any referendum. To me it appears that the EU is holding all the cards as the UK has left it too late to leave without sustaining a great deal of damage. The only hope is that the EU will destroy itself and that is looking ever more likely as it has no real plan to hold the project together. As the more it integrates the more the flaws are showing and the more it’s member states are becoming aware of the high cost of membership especially the more prosperous ones. The only ones in the end to cling on will be those poorer states who are only really in it for the handouts.

  4. 4 White Wednesday (@WhiteWednesday) 21/05/2013 at 9:30 pm

    Paul, With the greatest of respect, if we leave the exit strategy until later, we will firstly have the debate framed for us by EUrophiles and faux sceptics – the rule-by-fax point for example is already entrenched despite it being wrong – and secondly we will get torn apart on this point before the referendum campaign has even begun.

    Witness the SNP and the hullabaloo about them ‘suddenly’ wanting to remain in sterling after all. The SNP are asking voters to reject the status quo (a hard sell at the best of times) yet they evidently have a wobbly exit strategy. In such circumstances, they’ll never get the chance to examine the detail because the voters will vote No to an independent Scotland.

    The parallels between an EU referendum and the ScotNat referendum are clear.

    It is true we don’t need to cover every last detail of exit but as Automonous Mind indicates, at minimum we need to be able to say:

    1. We will invoke Article 50
    2. We will negotiate an EEA-type position (single market only) taking the Acquis into domestic law as a first step.
    3. We will demonstrate throughout why the ‘fax rule’ argument is nonsense.
    4. Once UK removed, we will set about the detail of unpicking and refashioning the Acquis to suit us and we will sign trade deals/look out to the wider world once more.
    5. Yes it will take time. One can’t (and may not actually want to) unpick 40 years of entangling law overnight.

    The onus is on us, as the disrupters of the status quo, to put forward a clear alternative that doesn’t collapse in the heat of battle.

  5. 5 Richard North 21/05/2013 at 9:37 pm

    EU member states need a deal as much as does the UK and, with the EU-26 running a current account surplus with the UK, it is not in the interests of EU negotiators to mess around.

    However, the problems are very far from insurmountable. If the UK seeks the EFTA/EEA option, and then also agrees to repatriate the acquis, there is very little to argue about. The UK essentailly runs a “EU lite” membership scenario which is very little different from its current membership status.

    This, though, changes the dyamics of the EU, and leaves it open for there to be longer-term arguments and negotiations which take us towards a better solution – probably in several stages.

    The big mistake would be to try to negotiate a full solution or even expect a full solution. We’ve had forty years-plus of political integration and it cannot be unravelled easily or quickly. We have to take it in easy, careful stages.

  6. 6 james higham 21/05/2013 at 9:41 pm

    Though Article 50 is the nice way to do it, the UK can do it at any time under precedent which then comes down to legal legerdemain. This comes down to the EU arguing the complexity and the UK not even bothering arguing – there is precedent even without Article 50.

    However, Article 50 is no doubt the way it would go. As for trading, there is a lot of bilateral discussion preceding formal agreement [I was for a short time peripherally involved with this] and that is the critical side. The problem for UKIP is that there is no legitimate way they can carry out such discussions before being elected.

    So the roadmap would have to state that any formal talks would follow being called upon to form a government. It then becomes far more straightforward than people are imagining. The EU map will have also altered by then.

  7. 7 Clive 21/05/2013 at 9:57 pm

    I keep reading how leaving the EU would be a disaster for UK trade, but from my observations it is likely to be as big a disaster for the other EU countries if not more so. Take a stroll around any reasonably large car park and count the number of Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, VWs, Smart Cars, Porsches and Minis. ( I make it between 10% and 25% on average). Do you really think the country that makes these would want to give up such a large part of their Market, and I havent even mentioned Renaults, Fiats, Citroens, Skodas, Alfa Romeos, Seats, Volvos and all the rest. Even if they did, would it be so bad ? What a tremendous market opportunity it would be to our own auto manufacturers. They could reduce the unemployment total in a stroke. I realise I am highlighting only one market but I cant believe on the basis of the above that Germany at least wouldn’t want to start trade talks from day one of us invoking Article 50.

  8. 8 Paul Perrin (@pperrin) 21/05/2013 at 10:27 pm

    You seem to forget that the UK parliament is sovereign.

    Call the exit ‘article 50’ or call it ‘tiddly eye pom’ – the UK government will do precisely what it wants, when it wants, based solely on what it thinks is the best way to get what it wants’.

    The UK government is *not* bound by any article of any treaty, ever. To say otherwise is to say parliament is not sovereign.

    There seems to be a bit of an ‘article 50 fetish’ going on among some…

  9. 9 Richard North 21/05/2013 at 10:43 pm

    Mr Perrin – the UK has a long history of choosing to abide by the terms of the treaties it has signed and ratified. And when it come to breaking off a treaty, where there is provision in a treaty for an orderly end, then the UK may invoke that that provision, not because it is forced to do so but because it is the sensible thing to do.

    Sovereignty, therefore, is not an issue. Honouring international treaties is.

  10. 10 Richard Tyndall 21/05/2013 at 10:47 pm

    Sorry but I have one big problem with this commentary and with the follow up from Richard. As far as the 1994 treaty that established the EEA is concerned we are independent signatories irrespective of our membership of the EU. Indeed the EU signed the EEA treaty itself as well as the individual countries.

    My understanding is that that means that if we leave the EU we will not have to negotiate on the free trade area agreements because we will remain a member of the EEA until such times as we choose to leave.

    Richard in his reply makes the mistake of referring to the “EFTA/EEA option” but these are very different options and at least one of them – the EEA – would require no negotiation at all as the rules of membership and its relationship with the EU are already firmly established by treaty.

  11. 11 Richard North 21/05/2013 at 10:59 pm

    No, I have not made the mistake of referring to the “EFTA/EEA option”. The EEA agreement is made between the members of EFTA (with a special opt-out for Switzerland, which was unable to ratify the agreement) and the members of the EU.

    Thus, member states are members of the EEA either by virtue of their membership of the EU, or of EFTA. If we leave the EU, the we would have to rejoin EFTA (we were one of the founding members) and then amend the EEA agreement to include the territories of the UK.

    With willingness on all sides, this could be a very simple procedure, but it could actually be blocked by any member of either the EU or EFTA.

  12. 12 Richard Tyndall 21/05/2013 at 11:15 pm

    I utterly disagree Richard.

    If you actually look at the EEA treaty you will see we signed as a separate entity. We had already left EFTA upon entering the EEC in 1973 and were already members of the EC/EU when the EEA was formed but nowhere does it say that our membership of the EEA is dependent upon EU membership.

    If we were to leave the EU then the EEA treaty still stands and so does our access to the single market. The EU could not stop this without tearing up the 1994 EEA treaty.

  13. 13 Richard North 21/05/2013 at 11:39 pm

    Do you really think I would have made the statements I have without looking very carefully at the treaties, and taking advice on the legalities?

    The wording of the treaties is complex, and not something amenable to interpretation by the amateur. It is very easy to come away with the impression that EEA membership would carry over. You have to read several articles together to get the full meaning, and you will look in vain for any specific part which links EU membership to EEA membership. But, as far as I am concerned, the sum of the provisions does in fact do as I suggest.

    And, if you are in any doubt, why don’t you write to the Director General of EFTA and ask him? I am sure he would put you straight, and if I am actually wrong, then I would be quite happy to apologise.

  14. 14 Paul Perrin (@pperrin) 22/05/2013 at 12:46 am

    The treaty means whatever our sovereign parliament decide it means.

    What a lot of effort expended on this article 50 fetish when there is so much else to do.

  15. 15 Halinof 22/05/2013 at 2:21 am

    Or, we could just strike the Act(s)/Law(s) of which bind us into Europe from our statute books.

  16. 16 Autonomous Mind 22/05/2013 at 5:27 am

    For the love of God, Halinof… what part of ‘if we abrogate the treaties without a trade deal in place we would be unable to export to the EU’ do you not understand?

    As for this supposed Article 50 ‘fetish’ Paul… what part of needing this nailed down to ensure our ability to trade and neuter the FUD of the likes of Branson do you not understand?

  17. 17 Richard North 22/05/2013 at 8:02 am

    AM – there is always one. Actually, the trouble is that there are hundreds if not thousands of UKIP supporters who are prepared to parrot the “tear up the treaties” meme.

    Constant repetition of this is beyond the realms of stupidity – the advocates seem imbued with a death wish, giving the europhiles exactly the ammunition to assert that leaving the EU would be an economic disaster. Rarely does one find a campaign were a major tranche of the players thus are determined to ensure that they fail to achieve their objective.

  18. 18 BrianSJ 22/05/2013 at 8:26 am

    Richard’s easy stages advice would also apply to Mr Salmond and Scottish independence, where the debate seems to think it will be an overnicht event.

  19. 19 edmh 22/05/2013 at 8:55 am

    The EU administration probably fears the possibility of a UK withdrawal.

    It gives legitimacy and incentive, if any were needed, to all those other countries still within the EU who even had referenda, voted against them and then had them rejected, France, Netherlands and Ireland come to mind.

    There is throughout Europe a growing resentment of the centralisation of Brussels as the only solution in Europe and the UKIP stance gives great succour to these movements elsewhere in Europe.

    The EU certainly does not want to give the people all 500 million of them what they wanted originally, just an effective trading group. The grand plan cannot be sustained indefinitely against the will of the people and is going to come to grief in the end.

    Sadly it could all end in real tears.

  20. 20 grahamwood32 22/05/2013 at 9:17 am

    I agree with poster who see an obsession with Article 50. It is in any case irrelevant until the POLITICAL decision to leave the EU is taken, we assume after an OUT vote in a referendum. It is al therfore 5/6 years ahead, even assuming we know the direction of British and EU “politics” so far ahead.
    “Planning” 50 is therefore like a committee meeting on which exit to use in a house fire!

    Article 50, when the time approaches is but one route. As Rodney Atkinson wrote to the Sun Telegraph – there is another.

    “Although it is understandable that many who wish to leave the constitutional clutches and economic disaster of the European Union are tempted by using Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty such a move would be a fatal mistake.

    The Lisbon Treaty article puts us completely under the control of the EU, the Commission in Brussels and the European Parliament. Anyone who has read the Article is struck by the long tortuous process of EU parliamentary approval, commission procedures, majority votes and bureaucratic confusion which it entails. The whole process would be used to procrastinate, giving the EU time to threaten and browbeat the British electorate.

    As a sovereign democratic country the way out is the repeal of the British Laws which put us in – in particular the 1972 Act. The we embrace the world wide principles of free trade guaranteed by the World Trade Organisation – and indeed accepted by the European Union for those not inside it!

    No one who can freely leave jail would agree to remain under the clutches of their jailor while “negotiating” a way out.”

  21. 21 mowmeadow 22/05/2013 at 9:28 am

    Only when the EU members can see Britain means business to quit the community will they espouse to talk in detail. It is up to the British to hold their nerve and go through with it. Already many on this blog are in defeatist mode. This is no way the attitude to take. When confrontation begins you stick to your guns, and show them you mean business. They have more to lose. Three quarters of the membership are broke and in no state to see the UK disappear off the radar. They must hang on to what is a big slice of the market. My advice for what it’s worth is; “go for it” , and don’t look back.

  22. 22 Richard North 22/05/2013 at 9:37 am

    Ah, Mr Wood, I see you have re-emerged – despite not having answered the questions on the previous thread. It is also interesting that you return to your failed “prison” analogy, which was answered on an EU Referendum thread … but which you have ignored.

    The point was made that you, in your ignorance, chose the prison analogy, yet the author of the original exit provision (subsequently adopted in the Lisbon Treaty) was Alterio Spinelli. He called for the inclusion of an exit clause precisely because – citing Lenin – he did not want to see the European Union cast as a “prison of nations”. What sort of “prison” is it that its inmates can at any time give notice of their leaving?

    That said, of course, the prison analogy only goes so far. Where it falls down badly is that, while one might expect prisoners at the end of their sentences to walk away from prison and have nothing further to do with it, a departing member state will still want to do business with the EU, and maintain a strong and continuous relationship.

    Thus, the argument boils down to whether we have the negotiations before leaving (Article 50), or after we leave (unilateral withdrawal). In the latter event, You choose not to answer the question as to what happens to our trade between us leaving and negotiating a new trade agreement. On this blog, you tell us you do not know, which means you advocating a course of action, the outcome of which is unknown.

    And then, if my memory serves me correctly, you call us naïve?

  23. 23 grahamwood32 22/05/2013 at 10:04 am

    You’ve got it in one Richard – quite right we do not know! As mentioned it is all academic at this point. A week is a long time in politics – let alone 5/6 years!
    What we DO know is that invoking Article 50 if a future British government chooses that route must, in the words of the Article, express an intention to leave the EU. That is a political decision, and one is contingent upon the other.
    No political party to date has indicated the slightest intention of leaving the EU as you well know, with the honourable exception of UKIP.

    You say the latter does not do detail. How very wise of them – because the instant they attempted that impossible scenario, then they too would be a hostage to fortune, and their best plans and predictions open to being entirely overturned. Best, as already suggested, simply campaign on the broad front at this stage of a commitment to leave.

    The big difference between invoking Article 50 is that we are constrained by the terms of EU negotiators and the complications of that are unknown, unpredictable, and I suggest, likely to be unwelcome.

    The alternative, which all agree is constitutionally legitimate, namely repeal of the 1972 Act, which has the virtue of being a swift exit, cheap(er) for the British taxpayer, and with no strings attached! It can be done at any time by a determined, and patriotic Parliament without reference to Article 50
    In reality, both routes are as yet remote and remain theoretical possibilities.

  24. 24 Richard North 22/05/2013 at 10:18 am

    No, Mr Wood. You pretend you don’t know which, as I remarked at the time, is a non-reply, geared to avoiding answering a question which you find embarrassing. The question was very specific, but basically comes down to your best guess as to what would happen to our trade with European Union member states if the UK unilaterally abrogated the EU treaties.

    And, as has been pointed out many times, unless you can answer that question, or make a pretty good guess, then all your waffling about Article 50 being “academic” and “hypothetical” is so much evasion.

    The point, of course – which has been explained to you many times – is that, unless we are able to offer a credible exit plan, the europhile FUD will set the agenda, and make winning a referendum extremely difficult. Thus, as you have also been told many times, it is necessary to work up a plan and then to use the time between now and any referendum to spread the message to as many people as possible.

    That you hide behind your smokescreen of it being “theoretical” is entirely typical of you and, I suppose it is only a matter of time before you discover another excuse for not answering the question, and run away from the argument, as you always do.

  25. 25 Richard Tyndall 22/05/2013 at 10:21 am

    I agree entirely with Richard that we cannot simply tear up treaties. It not something we have ever done and he rightly says that to do so now would fatally weaken us when trying to renegotiate new terms with the rest of Europe. It would also create a dangerous precedent and put doubts in the minds of other countries with whom we might wish to negotiate treaties.

    My only difference with you Richard is on the position regarding the EEA treaty. I accept your comment about it being complicated but careful reading shows that one of the reasons for the difference of opinion is of course that no one ever envisaged a country leaving the EU so the status of such a country with regard to the EEA is simply not covered in the treaty.

    That doesn’t change the fact that the UK is a separate signatory to that treaty in addition to the EC/EU and as such cannot simply be excluded because its status with regard to the EU changes. The rules are clear under the 1969 Convention on Treaties.

    Of course there will be those who argue that we would no longer be a party to the EEA treaty but they would have to prove that case and I see nothing in either the 1994 Treaty or the 1969 Convention that would support that claim.

  26. 26 Autonomous Mind 22/05/2013 at 10:40 am

    Graham, for someone who professes not to know the answers to the questions I have put and Richard has reiterated, you do seem rather certain that the way to leave the EU is via repeal of the ECA.

    It has been explained here and on EU Referendum that following that path would mean UK exports could not be landed in the EU as the trade agreements that are required would have been swept away in Rodney’s bonfire of the treaties. Do you accept that?

    So, once again I invite you to explain how Britain would trade with the EU – and other countries where our trade with them is covered by EU membership.

    If you or Rodney can’t or won’t answer that question, why do you persist in advocating the repeal of the ECA as the path this country should follow? Are you advocating it because you want to destroy our trade with the EU, or because Rodney says it and you are acting like a faithful disciple, following his teachings without the faintest idea of the consequences?

  27. 27 Vanessa 22/05/2013 at 11:00 am

    Oh, and Mr Cameron’s idiotic policies are well-thought out and costed are they?
    I agree with much of what Richard North says in his blog about UKIP (sadly) but when you see the disaster this government is pulling this country into it is rich to say that a party which wants to leave the EU (with all the savings that will give – albeit sometime down the line) has not costed its policies.

    The present lot seem to spend more time looking up each other’s arses (and their own) rather than governing in the interests of the British people. Remind me – how many recesses have they had in the last 3 years ???

  28. 28 Richard North 22/05/2013 at 11:07 am

    Richard – I really do not want to fall out with you over this. My reading is that the agreement is between the Contracting Parties, which are the members of EFTA and the EU (EC). The EU member states are party to the agreement as Contracting Parties, by virtue of their membership of the EU. I thus take the view that, once a member state is no longer an EU member, it is no longer part of the EEA.

    However, to resolve the point, I have written to the deputy secretary general of EFTA. If he answers, it will be interesting to see what he says.

  29. 29 Vanessa 22/05/2013 at 11:13 am

    One last point. The one huge obstacle of invoking Article 50 is Britain is then barred from the discussions and negotiations of our exit. The Commission is not going to like one of its members leaving and so could make it extremely onerous for us to leave and take a lifetime to implement. They will not want a queue of other countries wishing to leave if it was too easy for Britain to go its own way.

    I, personally, do not know what the answer is.

    Oh, by the way did anyone know that, buried deep in the Lisbon Treaty is the death penalty for us all? In a totalitarian State they need to get rid of people who do not agree with them !

  30. 30 Richard Tyndall 22/05/2013 at 11:23 am

    Thanks Richard,

    I am not for falling out on this either :-) It is a huge point that should inform our view of the best way to approach the exit strategy but we are all supposedly on the same side as far as wanting and exit is concerned so I find the ‘attack dog’ attitude by some people to be very counter productive.

  31. 31 Richard North 22/05/2013 at 11:25 am

    Vanessa – Britain is barred from attending council etc., meetings where the negotiating position of the remaining members states is being discussed. That is perfectly right and proper, otherwise, when it comes to the negotiations, the UK will have been sitting on both sides of the table. There is nothing at all sinister in that and it is not an obstacle – just standard negotiating practice.

    As to the terms, these are for the member states to decide, via the European Council. The commission is not the main party to the negotiations.

  32. 32 Peter S 22/05/2013 at 12:59 pm

    Surely, there is an argument to be made for tearing up a treaty if it can be shown that its signatories had no mandate or authority to sign it in the first place? This, of course, is central position taken by virtually everyone who wishes to leave the EU – it is well understood by the electorate and difficult to argue against (it is precisely the awareness of this constitutional ambiguity which forces Cameron to promise a referendum).

    Like any ‘union’, a marriage will be dissolved if it is subsequently proven that one partner (or both) entered into it unlawfully… a process which has no concern over where it leaves the (ex) partners. The muddle over the Britain/EU bond is the result of a failure to recognise that an honourable British government must play two roles concurrently in rectifying it. The first, as the authority upholding and enacting the constitutional law of the land. And the second, as one of the ex-partners finding its situation significantly changed as a consequence of the first.

    Dissolving a ‘union’ on the grounds that it is demonstrably illegal, at the same time as announcing to all those in trading relationships with British companies that – as far as the British government is concerned – the door remains wide open for business-as-usual, would place a pressure on Brussels that it is unlikely to survive. In its efforts to do so, the EU would quickly reveal itself to political and economic communities across Europe for all that it actually is: a massive obstacle. Checkmate.

  33. 33 Richard North 22/05/2013 at 1:21 pm

    Peter S

    You tear up the treaties, and what then? Your former partners continue in the belief that the treaties are valid and continue to implement them. They take the view that you have unilaterally abrogated the treaties and you are now outside the framework of the trade and other agreements. Exports to the EU are then subject to the full degree of controls applicable to third countries, and trade slows to a trickle.

    What have you achieved?

  34. 34 Richard Tyndall 22/05/2013 at 1:21 pm

    Article 46 of the Vienna Convention on Treaties does allow for invalidation on the grounds of lack of competence.

    “Article 46
    Provisions of internal law regarding competence to conclude treaties

    1. A State may not invoke the fact that its consent to be bound by a treaty has been expressed in violation of a provision of its internal law regarding competence to conclude treaties as invalidating its consent unless that violation was manifest and concerned a rule of its internal law of fundamental importance.

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

    But there is no way that you could ever produce a convincing argument that any of the EU treaties were invalid on that basis given that all of them were ratified by Parliament.

  35. 35 Furor Teutonicus 22/05/2013 at 1:53 pm

    A few points.

    1) Do not whistle on a ship. It is a sign of mutiny. And the E.U do not like that.

    2) a misquoted quote from Jasper Carrot; ” There is only one way to get rid of an E.U (He said mole), and that’s to blow its bloody head off!”

    3) You can NOT “negotiate” your way out ( see Minator for details)

    4) Refer back to “2)”

  36. 36 Richard North 22/05/2013 at 2:31 pm

    Richard – thank you for that. And gets even more interesting. If the purpose it to withdraw from the EU treaties, and the party to the treaty is not seeking any other remedy prescribed by international law, then the Vienna Convention cannot apply in any case.

    They would be up against a doctrine in law known as Lex specialis which holds that where two laws govern the same factual situation (i.e., withdrawing from a treaty), a law governing a specific subject matter (lex specialis) overrides a law which only governs general matters (lex generalis).

    In the context of seeking to withdraw from the EU treaties, there is specific provision for withdrawal, in Art 50. This will override general provisions for withdrawal, as in the Vienna Convention. The motive for withdrawal is not relevant.

    Thus, any member state seeking to invoke provisions of the Vienna Convention (or the UN Charter for that matter), in order simply to withdraw from the treaties would simply be directed to Art 50.

    Furor Teutonicus – get back to your nursery. This section is for grown-ups.

  37. 37 Richard Tyndall 22/05/2013 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks Richard, I wasn’t aware of the Lex specialis rules. It maks sense though that if a formal mechanism exists then it should be used.

    On the more general topic of the tone of these debates, I think the mistake people make is in thinking that simply because people are careful and mindful of potential pitfalls they are less committed to a cause.This of course is rubbish. It is because they are so committed that they do not wish to risk the end result by following an ill thought out or rushed solution.

    In the end the aim of the BOO movement must be to convince a rock solid majority of the population that leaving is viable, effective and in the best interests of the country. This must be done in the face of an opposition who will not hesitate to distort and lie about both the aims and outcomes of leaving the EU. Give them any sign of weakness in the form of an ill thought out policy and they will destroy you.

    I still think that leaving is both possible and highly desirable. I therefore think we have to be willing to spend the extra time necessary to make sure it happens.

  38. 38 Richard North 22/05/2013 at 3:25 pm

    I do so much agree on the tone of the debate. That is what this piece was about. It does not matter what the politically committed want. Everything has to be looked at through the filter of the uncommitted – how will it play with the people who are going to vote in a referendum, who are only marginally concerned about leaving the EU?

    What the committed eurosceptic might be quite willing to take an economic cost for the benefit of leaving, others will be heavily influenced by the fear facto, aka the status quo effect. As the polls stand, we would most likely lose an in-out referendum, now and in the foreseeable future, and it is only by reassuring people that harmful effects will be minimised that we can get the maximum people on board.

    Thus, I am prepared to compromise on the exit plan, simply of the basis that a slow, gradual exit is better than no exit at all. Yet, as you observe, for that we get called “europhiles”, “traitors” and the rest, all by people who seem determined as a matter of principle to lose us any referendum.

  39. 39 Peter S 22/05/2013 at 5:24 pm

    Of course, the argument exists that if the EU treaties (of which Art 50 is a part) are not recognised by a UK government as having any legal standing – due to a clear absence of full constitutional procedure prior to their signing – then the UK is not acting to ‘withdraw’ from the EU at all. It is simply acting to ‘rebalance’ a relationship (to an external entity) distorted by the misadventure of its predecessors.

    Whether or not the EU agrees a) to recognise the constitutional flaw as grounds for renegotiation, and b) to participate in rebalancing the relationship in goodwill and on mutually agreed terms, is up to it. Either way, with the eyes of the world and other member states upon it, it is checkmated.

  40. 40 Richard Tyndall 22/05/2013 at 6:31 pm

    No that argument does not exist because it is based on an utterly false premise. However much we might disagree with membership of the EU, each and every treaty that brought us to this point was signed by the British government and ratified by Parliament. They are legal under British law and as signatories to the Vienna Convention we have agreed to abide by such treaties.

    Can we renege on a treaty unilaterally. Of course we can. It won’t be legal either under British law or under the other treaties we have signed but we can do it.

    We can then sit back and watch as any and all of the treaties we have signed in the past are reneged upon by other countries including those protecting our embassies around the world, those providing health treatment for our citizens overseas and all those trade deals we have made with different (non EU) countries.

    Of course we can all sit back and happily claim that we can do all of this because our Parliament is sovereign but then we will have to suffer the consequences, all because we were too impatient and stupid to do things properly.

  41. 41 Richard North 22/05/2013 at 7:13 pm

    Richard – I think the argument goes that Heath and every subsequent prime minister was a “traitor”, usually also a builderburger and/or a trilateral. Thus, because the treaties were brought about by “traitorous acts”, they are necessarily illegal.

    Most recently, I learn that these terrible people are most probably “Identity Christians”. This latter group, according to comments on Robert Henderson’s blog is the group who used to be called “British Israelism” – people holding the belief that Jesus and his family got away to France and then settled in and around these islands. This, apparently, is a 19th century fantasy concocted to serve the needs of imperial “Britain”. More recently, we discover, it’s been commandeered by the “celts”, to whom “lying comes naturally anyway”.

    That is the level of political discourse from a group seeking unilateral withdrawal. My posts on the need to accommodate all manner of legal technicalities before even attempting to escape the EU are cited as evidence of my being an “Identity Christian”. Clearly, we are traitors, not least because we are at ease with miscegenation and support “deconstruction” of this and all nation states.

    You should not be reading these words, as that probably makes you a traitor as well.

  42. 42 Richard Tyndall 22/05/2013 at 7:22 pm

    I am stumped for a response.

    My only real reaction would be a slap to my forehead but that doesn’t really work on a blog posting.

    Mind you if I am a traitor I assume that puts me alongside 90% of the Eurosceptic movement so at least you and I are in good company.

  43. 43 Peter S 22/05/2013 at 8:07 pm

    Richard Tyndall

    But I wonder if the signing the the EU treaties is as rock solid as you claim? Even Cameron appears to acknowledge the legal ambiguity of such acts by introducing his “referendum lock” to prevent any further occurrences… a move which implies an historical constitutional misadventure – yet shies away from his having to address its huge consequences.

    And again, what is Cameron’s bowing to pressure for a referendum if not his reluctant admission to the public that those treaties were signed in contravention of their constitutional rights?

    The other treaties you mention have no bearing on this argument as they are not constitutional and amount to little more than gentlemen’s agreements.

    “Doing things properly” won’t be possible until the core of the problem has been identified and isolated as the starting point.

  44. 44 Richard Tyndall 22/05/2013 at 8:16 pm

    Not at all Peter.

    I may have no time for Cameron and feel that he has been duplicitous in his treatment of the public over the EU. But there is no reasonable argument that can be made that a treaty signed up to by a British Government and ratified by a properly elected Parliament is ‘illegal’ when both Government and Parliament have previously been granted the right to take such steps under British law.

    Cameron’s referendum lock is merely an acceptance that the British public are becoming ever more Eurosceptic and is a pretty desperate act by someone who knows his beliefs and views are not shared by the majority of the British public. He had to do something and so he has done this.

    Personally I think both the referendum lock and the ‘repatriation’ promise are utterly hollow and meaningless. But that does not for a minute mean that any previous treaty is ‘illegal’ or can simply be ripped up without serious consequences.

  45. 45 Peter S 22/05/2013 at 8:55 pm

    The difference is, Richard, you are reading your own interpretations into Cameron’s referendum lock, whilst I am taking it (as intended) at face value. At face value, it implies past misadventure.

    As we all know, any change in this country’s sovereign powers requires the the majority agreement of the adult population (as sought through a referendum). That a parliament/government colluded in bypassing this mechanism (for fear of failing to receive the agreement it wanted) is a matter of fact. That the collusion happened historically is no more of an argument for its dismissal than a murderer demanding charges against him are dropped on the grounds that he did the act eight years ago and he promises never to do it again.

  46. 46 Richard Tyndall 22/05/2013 at 9:11 pm

    It implies nothing of the sort. You are the one reading in your own interpretations based on nothing more than your (understandable) distrust of Cameron. There is no implication of past misadventure at all, simply a recognition that the public no longer shares the views of the political elite and that as such he needs to do something to appear to be answering their concerns. Personally I think his gesture is meaningless but all it shows is that he is a typical gesture politician.

    Your second comment is also clearly wrong. No where is it stated that a change in the sovereign powers of the country requires majority agreement. We do not have a history of referenda in Britain and all of the major changes in power since the Glorious Revolt have been carried out with little or no direct reference to the people. The Acts of Union of 1707 and 1800, the great reform acts of the 19th century which fundamentally changed Parliament, the Parliament Act of 1911 and the recent devolution acts all happened without any direct measure of majority agreement of the adult population. That is not to say that I would not welcome a referendum on us getting out of the EU. If that is what it takes I will leap at the chance. But the idea that these past treaties are somehow invalid because there was no direct measure of the will of the people is simply wrong and shows a lack of understanding of how the constitution actually works.

  47. 47 Peter S 22/05/2013 at 10:17 pm

    I’m afraid you won’t get very far in formulating an EU exit strategy if you cannot separate out your opinion from fact, Richard.

    Cameron would have had no need to introduce a “referendum lock” law if there wasn’t a problem its introduction intended to fix. In announcing it, he identified himself what that problem was… “it is now the only way to reassure the British people that powers cannot be given away without their explicit approval in a referendum”.

    Taking his statement at face value, we can see the government giving away powers without the British people’s “explicit approval in a referendum” was seen by Cameron as an historical abuse of power necessitating a law.

    We can either build this historical abuse of power into a compelling description of what Britain’s connection to the EU has turned out to be… ie: a distortion of what it would otherwise have been – what it now is – had the British people provided “explicit approval in a referendum” for constitutional changes. Or…….

    …we can take your view that Cameron made his law to protect a political elite. A view which may leave you feeling gloriously cynical but which also leaves you powerless to advance a coherent argument.

    As for referenda. I believe every modern referendum has concerned itself with sovereign/constitutional matters in the British Isles.

  48. 48 Richard Tyndall 22/05/2013 at 10:28 pm

    I am not the one having trouble separating fact from fiction Peter. Simply because you believe something and it fits your world view does not make it fact. Cameron introduced the referendum lock as a political gesture to the Eurosceptics, nothing more. It would not even have entered his mind that he was doing it because of some strange belief that previous decisions had been ‘illegal’. Even if there was any basis to that claim (and there isn’t) as part of the political class he would not have thought in those terms at all.

    Your position on previous treaties is without any foundation at all. It runs counter to British law and the current British constitutional settlement. If you try and win any sort of support for leaving the EU on the basis of such an argument you will be destroyed and we will have lost before we even got started.

  49. 49 Peter S 23/05/2013 at 12:05 am

    Richard. Who said Cameron’s words fit with my world view? I didn’t. Neither did I say I believed them. All I’m doing is giving him the benefit of the doubt – without which there can be no intellectual progress towards an effective and well-grounded claim for leaving the EU.

    And of course, my position on the EU treaties has no legal or historical foundation. The situation Britain is now in has no legal or historical foundation either. That’s no reason to refuse or shut down a broad exploration of all avenues towards a resolution.

  50. 50 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 12:23 am

    Peter S – your use of absolutes betray you. It is self-evidently wrong to assert that the EU treaties have no legal or historical foundation. And in any case, what you think is irrelevant. No sane government is going down this line, and to pursue it is to waste your own time and everybody else’s.

    However, it is not beyond expectations that we will some day be confronting an in-out referendum, which will require an exploration of how we leave. Clearly, to minimise disruption to trade, we need a phased withdrawal and we have a mechanism for leaving in Article 50. On the assumption that the treaties are valid, that is the most obvious route. Assuming the treaties are not valid is a dead end.

  51. 51 Reg 23/05/2013 at 12:34 am

    Regarding the enforcement of the EU trading rules everyone assumes that they will be enforced by member states should the UK leave without renegotiating. But what if member states don’t actually bother to enforce the EU treaties regarding Britain? You have to concede that the stresses on the individual member countries within the EU are considerable and show no signs of slackening off. Indeed they will only get worse. The current relationship between France and Germany – those twin motors powering ‘The Project’ – appear to be at their lowest point ever. Everyone here is assuming that an exit without a renegotiation means trading rules will continue to be enforced by EU diktat. But those diktats assume the co-operation of member states and my point is ‘What if they aren’t?’

  52. 52 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 1:09 am

    Reg – think about it. Do your really think that is likely, and – even if there was some chance of it – are you going to base your policy on a series of unknowns?

    As it would stand, the member states and importers within the member states would be bound by EU law. If it is not observed, it is open to the Commission, to any other member state, to aggrieved importers or to any other operation or individual who feels they are disadvantaged, to take a case in the ECJ.

    If no one took a case (unlikely) the commission would, because wholesale unchecked breaches of the law would lead to the collapse of the Single Market and the EU. That, they could not allow to happen.

  53. 53 grahamwood32 23/05/2013 at 9:13 am

    Peter s. You stated: ” And of course, my position on the EU treaties has no legal or historical foundation. The situation Britain is now in has no legal or historical foundation either. That’s no reason to refuse or shut down a broad exploration of all avenues towards a resolution”.

    I agree completely “no legal or historical foundation” and I think you have put it precisely right.
    It is because of this apparent paradox that some of the implications of leaving are unprecedented and unique. Britain has never been “here” before in terms of a foreign power exercising almost total hegemony over our politics and economy, justice and home affairs etc, but all with the open connivance of a succession of British governments.

    There is a further irony in that of course the passing of the Treaties by these governments was ‘legal’ in that they were the decisions of a freely elected government through Parliament, but at the same time, and here is the paradox, they were also wholly unconstitutional – in direct contradiction of the spirit and letter of our Declaration & Bill of Rights alone – and the Coronation Oath Act. Both Enoch Powell and Wedgewood Benn agreed about the constitutional anomaly this represented – and still does!

    However, I believe we need to separate out the issue of trade deals with the EU on our exit from the bigger question of HOW we take the decision to leave.
    Questions arise: is Parliament ultimately sovereign? Does it have the power to unilaterally break the EU’s hegemony? To whom is Parliament finally accountable – the British people, or some process contrived by the EU Commission? Why should 60 odd million people in the UK continue to be subject to an unelected (unelectable) self appointed EU Commission on the “terms” of our exit? All of these are relevant.

  54. 54 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 10:21 am

    Ah, Mr Graham Wood … supporter and admirer of Robert Henderson. Do you think I am an “Identity Christian” as well?

    I see also you are evading the questions put to you as always, yet preach about “a broad exploration of all avenues towards a resolution”. Well, as part of your “broad exploration”, would you care to tell us what you think might happen to UK trade if we unilaterally abrogate the EU treaties”, whether you think it is because those treaties are illegal or for other reasons.

    And while you are about it, do try to avoid parading your ignorance so prominently. The exit deal is negotiated between the member states, with the UK on one side of the table, and the representatives of the other 26 (now 27), under the aegis of the European Council. The Commission makes proposals, but the decisions are made by the states, and the final outcome is a bilateral treaty which we are free to accept or reject, with or without a referendum.

    But then, it is very easy to distort the debate, as you well know Mr Wood, by introducing red herrings and straw men. It might, therefore, be better it you just answered the question we put to you. Otherwise, go find another reason for running away and avoiding the question, to avoid your wasting our time and your own.

  55. 55 Eddy 23/05/2013 at 10:22 am

    “However, to resolve the point, I have written to the deputy secretary general of EFTA. If he answers, it will be interesting to see what he says.”
    Well done Richard, now that actually moves things forward.

  56. 56 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 11:30 am

    Eddy – he may not answer. The next step would then have to be the EU Commission. Of course, it would be helpful if an MEP put in a formal question …

  57. 57 Peter S 23/05/2013 at 1:26 pm

    Richard N – “Clearly, to minimise disruption to trade, we need a phased withdrawal and we have a mechanism for leaving in Article 50. On the assumption that the treaties are valid, that is the most obvious route. Assuming the treaties are not valid is a dead end.”

    There could be an enquiry into the legality of the EU treaties (similar to the enquiry into the legality of Britain entering the Iraq war). It would ask: Was all effort made to follow full constitutional procedure prior to their signing? Had ministers/officials fully read, digested and understood the contents of the treaties before giving approval for their signing? Why was the British people’s explicit approval for their signing not sought? etc.

    Ring-fenced to examine only the legality of the treaties, preferential pleas from the likes of Branson, Mandelsohn etc would have no bearing on the enquiry (in fact, they may even be seen, historically, as contributing to the government’s bypassing of constitutional procedure).

    Its findings would provide the new government with far more than an “assumption” upon which to proceed. The enquiry might, for example, conclude that there was a woeful disregard for a constitutional process one might have expected a government to be acutely mindful of in events of such magnitude and having such far-reaching consequences for Britain’s sovereignty… and that, due to this failure of duty to the British people, the signed treaties are – to all intents and purposes – valueless.

    The enquiry might sum up that it: Recognises Britain’s affairs are now intertwined with those of the EU – as a result of the treaties being signed. However, this fact should not dissuade the government from seeking all possible mechanisms (including, if needs be, those which are unilateral) to rebalance Britain’s relationship as one which most closely resembles that to which the British people last gave their explicit approval (ie, a trade agreement). In so doing, the British government should enter no negotiation with other parties unless this specific goal is understood and mutually agreed to being the purpose of those negotiations.

  58. 58 Richard Tyndall 23/05/2013 at 1:36 pm


    That is simply cloud cuckoo land. There was and is nothing illegal about the treaties we entered into. They comply with our own domestic laws and the constitutional settlement that governs the operation of Parliament and the functioning of government. There are absolutely no grounds to challenge that and you would not even get as far as being able to make your case.

    If you attempt to use this as the basis of an argument for leaving the EU you will set the cause back by years – perhaps even decades. You would be acting as the UK equivalent of the ‘Birthers’ in the US and would deserve to be treated with equal disdain.

    If your whole case for leaving the EU rests upon this approach then you (and we) have already lost

  59. 59 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 1:46 pm

    Peter S – “There could be an enquiry into the legality of the EU treaties (similar to the enquiry into the legality of Britain entering the Iraq war). It would ask: Was all effort made to follow full constitutional procedure prior to their signing? Had ministers/officials fully read, digested and understood the contents of the treaties before giving approval for their signing? Why was the British people’s explicit approval for their signing not sought? etc.”

    Intellectual masturbation.

  60. 60 grahamwood32 23/05/2013 at 2:03 pm

    Richard. you said: “Ah, Mr Graham Wood … supporter and admirer of Robert Henderson. Do you think I am an “Identity Christian” as well?
    I see also you are evading the questions put to you as always, yet preach about “a broad exploration of all avenues towards a resolution”.

    I think you must be confused in attributing these comments to me.
    My post above was a response to and agreement with that of Peter S, and neither mentioned you, Robert Henderson, or your beliefs. I have no idea what an “Identity Christian” may be either, although I am familiar with Biblical Christianity.
    Also. “A broad exploration. . . . .” Not my words, you must be thinking of somebody else !

  61. 61 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 2:28 pm

    Mr Wood – spooling down through your exudations, it is very easy to light upon the wrong part of the thread. That is one of the limitations of this format. I therefore apologise unreservedly.

    How could I possibly have thought that anyone with such a narrow mind as yours could be in the least interested in a “broad exploration” of anything? I am truly sorry for making such a silly mistake.

    As to your reference to Mr Robert Henderson, I do not believe I actually specified the source of your reference. I simply observed that you were a supporter and admirer of Mr Henderson. This you must be because here you actually referred me to his website, with very obvious approval.

    And since you so obviously approve of the website, and it is the comments there which refer to me as an “Identity Christian”, with the evident endorsement of Mr Henderson, I just wondered whether you shared these views as well, and endorsed the comments on the website to which you referred me.

  62. 62 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 2:35 pm

    And, Mr Wood … you are still evading the question.

  63. 63 Peter S 23/05/2013 at 2:49 pm

    Strange isn’t it – that when I suggest a view of Britain’s distorted connection to the EU which places “we the people” as the absolute governor of what that connection should have been, of what it currently should be, and what – above all else – should guide and inform all its future rebalancing to become… I get accused of intellectual masturbation?

    Stranger yet, the jibe – in being issued – brushes aside “we the people” in preference for the primacy and dealings of the very organisations whose machinations seek only to crush them.

  64. 64 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 3:11 pm

    Peter S – you get accused of “intellectual masturbation” for suggesting something which, while undoubtedly pleasurable to you, is inherently sterile and therefore unproductive and which none of us would want to watch or take part in.

  65. 65 Peter S 23/05/2013 at 3:55 pm

    Richard N – On the contrary, I see including the views of the demos in decision-making as fertile and productive intellectual intercourse. All the more so when their exclusion, retrospectively, has so clearly resulted in the impotence as we now struggle with as a country. But diagnosis, of course, is the first step of a cure.

  66. 66 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 4:02 pm

    Peter S – when all is said and done … what have you achieved? You end up making an Art 50 notification to withdraw from the EU. You are back where you started, several years later, having spent millions on lawyers fees and not got result worth talking of. Me, I’ll go straight for the Art 50 and not waste time and money.

  67. 67 grahamwood32 23/05/2013 at 5:41 pm

    ” I see including the views of the demos in decision-making as fertile and productive intellectual intercourse. All the more so when their exclusion, retrospectively, has so clearly resulted in the impotence as we now struggle with as a country.”

    Peter S. Again I agree. Particularly so because IMO repealing the 1972 ECA is not only the vital step will have to take to exit the EU, but as it happens, would be precisely in line with the Harrogate Agenda which Dr North has himself with others, initiated.

    I don’t know if you are familiar with the “6 demands”? The first one clearly would endorse such a step – i.e. “We the people are sovereign: the sovereignty of the peoples of England . . . . SHALL be recognised by the Crown and the governments of our nations”. That would find expression in a national referendum, and in this instance should bind a government to its result.

    Further; the fourth demand would tend to exclude a protracted negotiation for an EU exit whilst we remain under its jurisdiction- i.e. “No treaty, law, or regulation shall take effect without the direct consent of the majority of the people”.

    Further, continued financial cost by the UK to the EU coffers during a two year negotiation period would appear to be entirely contradicted by demand five: – i.e. No tax, charge or levy shall be imposed, nor any public spending authorised, nor any sum borrowed by any national or local government except with the express permission of the majority of the people.

    In effect these demands are already a reflection of essential elements of our existing Constitution differently phrased, and they would of course take immediate effect via the repeal of the Act. That is why it is so important.

  68. 68 PeterMG 23/05/2013 at 9:37 pm

    People we all agree that we must leave the EU. We all agree we would prefer it to happen tomorrow. But not all of us have coherent thoughts about the day after we leave the EU. And it is that very lack of thought that is more than likely to frighten those whose support we need to get our converted yes/no vote.

    Given that the Lisbon Treaty has a tailor made way out, what is the point of debating how, when the answer is so bloody obvious? What is the point of arguing the academic merits of past decisions went the pressing issue is how we convince everyone leaving the EU is the safe thing to do?

    We need to put all our energy and focus in to what we do after leaving the EU, and article 50 is the perfect start as nothing changes with our trade on day one. As has been said it defuses 99% of the negative argument from the establishment.

    But make no mistake just leaving the EU is no panacea to solving the UK’s problems. I don’t see much difference between Barroso, & Van Rollipoli, and Cameron Clegg & Milidumb. Leaving the EU is just the start of an even longer road to reform, making some of the above comments even more irrelevant.

  69. 69 Peter S 23/05/2013 at 9:57 pm

    grahamwood32 – of course I am aware of the Harrogate Agenda and was rather rubbing Richard’s nose in it in my earlier posts :)

    I would say the fourth demand must be changed to: “No treaty, law, or regulation shall BE without the direct consent of the majority of the people”. It would then embrace all existing treaties, laws, and regulations – for which the people’s consent would be sought en-bloc and with the exclusion of the EU treaties.

    It would be impossible to seek the people’s consent for these treaties because, by their nature, they remove the people’s consent as precondition to their being governed. As such, they would be recognised as a constitutional contradiction and simply become void.

    Thereafter, the remaining hurdle facing the British government would be finding a shared language with which to deal with the EU. For example, if the Brussels bureaucrats wished to flatter themselves that Britain’s assertion on rebalancing its relationship to the EU is “invoking Article 50”, then why not indulge them?

  70. 70 Richard North 23/05/2013 at 11:11 pm

    PeterMG – Article 50 does indeed offer us a negotiating structure for reaching an agreed exit settlement. You are absolutely right. What we need to concern ourselves with the details of that settlement, and how we present them to the British public in such a way as to maximise the chances of winning an in-out referendum.

  71. 71 Richard North 24/05/2013 at 12:28 am

    Mr Wood – it would be nice if you could display as much enthusiasm for answering questions put to you as you display for generating red herrings. The Harrogate Agenda (six demands) is not relevant here, as their implementation is incompatible with membership of the EU. First we leave the EU and then we seek implementation of the six demands.

    Now, please will you answer the question: what to you think will happen to UK trade if we unilaterally abrogate the EU treaties?

  72. 72 grahamwood32 24/05/2013 at 10:12 am

    “what to you think will happen to UK trade if we unilaterally abrogate the EU treaties?”

    As I have repeatedly said the question at this stage is so far ahead as to be hypothetical, andlikely to remain largely academic for years.
    But once the political decision to leave the EU has been taken then either route (Article 50) or repeal of the ECA 1972 are options.

    If the latter, IMO the only realistic course, then the UK would not be under the jurisdiction of any EU trade constraints and we would be free to arrange bi-lateral and multilateral trading arrangements globally.

    Both the EU and the UK are members of the WTO and as such would presumably use their offices to find mutually agreeable trading arrangements.

    My view is that the issue of UK trade with the EU is a relatively minor consideration at this stage, compared with the far greater issues to do with freedom, sovereignty and democracy – all of which the EU systemically and deliberately is opposed to.

    Eurosceptics need to concentrate on a united strategy to get us out in opposition to the policies of the three main political parties and the growing opposition of some corporate business leaders which would seek to keep us in for their own protectionist interests.

  73. 73 Richard Tyndall 24/05/2013 at 10:23 am

    The problem is Graham that whilst it might be hypothetical, it is the question that everyone will be asking when they have to decide whether or not to support UK withdrawal. It is the question that the pro EU side will ensure is uppermost in the minds of the public and unless the BOO side have a very clear and convincing position which cannot be challenged by the EU or its supporters in the UK then we will lose.

    It is as simple as that. If you go into a battle unprepared for all foreseeable eventualities, especially against an opponent who can be guaranteed to fight dirty then you will not stand a chance of winning.

  74. 74 Spinwatch 24/05/2013 at 11:45 am

    I very much sympathise with what Dr North is trying to do. Would be preferable if some could adopt a less confrontational attitude as the central issue is “what’s right” rather than “who’s right”.

    The whole business of constitutions and treaties is not an exact science. It is very much subject to interpretation and some decent people have got their fingers burned over the years because they only did the minimum homework before launching legal challenges.

    In the Metric Martyrs’ case, well before the Lisbon Treaty, a British judge ruled that the UK could leave the EU. Even though the then treaty had no exit clause.

    So I prefer to be a little agnostic and ask questions. There seems to be four main options open to the UK (apart from staying in the EU).

    ONE Get a legal ruling annulling EU membership (unlikely to succeed given the precedent over ‘legal treason’)
    TWO Unilaterally leave the EU. This would only work without major problems if there were precedents (WTO/GATT treaties. Vienna Convention?) guaranteeing the inheritance of deals done as part of the EU and thus providing continuity.
    THREE Gradually negotiate a withdrawal from the EU, using the EEA/EFTA option as a stepping stone towards full independence. Dr North is doing the right thing in seeking clarification of what trade terms we might inherit. One disadvantage is that the EU could still demand punitive terms for access to the Single Market, although I have an open mind on whether it would opt for a lose-lose arrangement. We might have to suffer two more years under EU rule, accepting whatever new costs and political arrangements the EU could force on us – such as the proposed bank crisis fund that might ‘only’ cost us £12 billion –
    FOUR Negotiate a ‘fast-track’ withdrawal, similar to Three, but as the price of leaving early, we voluntarily offer to keep to (existing) EU regulations and trade arrangements en masse for up to two years, pending negotiation of a new deal. This currently seems the least worst option if it can be achieved. Although it will still require ongoing negotiations, it might offer relative stability for business knowing that certain regulations could be sunsetted on a deregulatory timescale.

  75. 75 Richard Tyndall 24/05/2013 at 12:01 pm

    I believe that the reason the judge said that Britain could leave the EU was not ‘even though’ there was no exit clause but specifically because there was no exit clause. This would be in line with the Vienna Convention.

  76. 76 grahamwood32 24/05/2013 at 12:56 pm

    Spinwatch. “Unilaterally leave the EU. This would only work without major problems if there were precedents (WTO/GATT treaties. Vienna Convention?) guaranteeing the inheritance of deals done as part of the EU and thus providing continuity.”

    The only precedent is I believe that of little Greenland, and if they could, then why not the UK?
    You present very interesting and relevant possibilities – but each one remains hypothetical unless and until the political decision to exit is made as I’m sure we all accept as basic anyway.

    More crystal ball gazing would throw up other and perhaps more pressing scenarios which could strongly influence future politics about the In/Out question. Any one of the these could radically alter the picture – I only tentatively suggest the following of which we are all aware:

    1. The obvious, but real possibility of the end of the Eurozone in its present form due to its ever growing internal contradictions.

    2. A serious escalation of social unrest in member state using the Euro as their economies continue to shrink or collapse with continued very high unemployment (particularly youth disaffection), and specifically attributed to EU membership and policies? Likely to affect public opinion in the uK.

    3. A radical change in current UK politics with accelerated disaffection with the ‘political elite and the three main parties, resulting in the rise and rise of UKIP? Associated with this may well be a corresponding and severe decline in Conservative fortunes with the resultant political vacuum following.
    I’m sure there are other ‘known unknowns’

    Richard (Tyndall) “The problem is Graham that whilst it might be hypothetical, it is the question that everyone will be asking when they have to decide whether or not to support UK withdrawal.”

    I take your point, but not sure that any future In/Out campaign in the MSM or “popular” public perception will focus on this over-much, and I think once a campaign gets off the ground then much will hang on which side can best present coherent and fact based arguments simply and clearly to the British public.
    For example, how to nail the lie of the “three million jobs will be lost if we leave”. Or, the “£53 million per day” cost, which I believe is now widely accepted by the public as so fully emphasised by Nigel Farage and UKIP activists. I also believe that Better Off Out’s 10 reasons to leave have also great potential to be presented simply and powerfully.

  77. 77 Spinwatch 24/05/2013 at 2:10 pm


    All the four options I outlined of course assume that a decision to leave the EU has been made. Something I fully support and hope we are all working towards.

    I would defend Dr North’s willingness to consider Article 50 as a means of achieving Brexit, as the legal environment would point to the UK government being sued by any company, etc that lost out because we just summarily exited the EU in breach of perceived legal obligations.

    Greenland left by mutual consent of EEC members, although this had to go through due process. Although self-governing, it is still a territory under limited rule from Denmark. EU law still applies to Greenland in the area of trade, as the country retains ties with the EU via Denmark

    Greexit would not be similar to Brexit under international law.

  78. 78 Peter S 24/05/2013 at 2:55 pm

    The trouble with the A50er’s is that they project post-EU Britain as being the same politically impotent satellite state as EU Britain is. In doing so, they promote the same view as the Europhiles and unwittingly do much of their devil’s work for them.

    One cannot fundamentally change the dynamics of a relationship and then believe (for lack of vision) that its entities will remain functioning in the same way – with the same power distribution, the same stilted authority – as in their pre-changed days.

    If the effort to exit fails, it won’t be for lack of detail – it will be for lack of the intellectual courage in building and defending an accurate description of what post-EU Britain will be like… how it will speak to the world… how it will express its sovereign powers… how it will delineate and protect both its physical and political boundaries.

    Will that Britain be ‘isolated’? YOU BET! But ‘self-contained’ is the more grown-up term.

    Is the debate about Britain ‘withdrawing’ from the EU? NO! The debate is about Britain ‘entering’ independence… a goal for which any withdrawal is but a mere step along the way… and the EU a mere obstacle to navigate beyond.

    And Article 50? It should take two minutes, not two years. At the outset, Sovereign Britain would state: “Our politics AND our trade are non-negotiabe. Our politics, because we surrender only to the will of the British people. Our European trade, because we surrender only to the full rules and regulations of the EU (as they stand, and as if they are our own)”.

    Negotiation belongs to some future time – if and when Britain and the EU diverge on some detail of those trading rules and regulations. But such exchanges would fall within the ongoing, everyday business of a rebalanced relationship have nothing whatsoever to do with ‘Article 50’.

  79. 79 Spinwatch 24/05/2013 at 4:00 pm

    Peter S. I want out of the EU, no ifs or buts, and have expended a lot of effort in taking on the defeatists who want a soggy EU renegotiation.

    But I don’t think that you understand either Article 50 or the nature of trade – it’s not as simple as five year olds swapping stamps for smarties in the playground. There is a legal dimension, not just in the UK but in other countries.

    I hope that someone could prove to me that under various agreements, trade would continue on the day of Brexit with no attrition. In that case, it’s a no-brainer to just get out as soon as we’ve sorted a wind-down agreement; the fast-track withdrawal I mentioned.

    Whereas I would stick 2 fingers up to the EU and the euro, the countries in the EU27 will still be our trading partners, and we have every interest in keeping the relationship with them practical if not amicable while we re-establish our sovereignty in wider matters.

    I don’t personally believe that the EU27 would want a trade war that damages them more than us and causes their stock markets to slide. As they haven’t invaded Switzerland for opting out of political union, I think that they would play ball.

    The EU at least suspects that some of its members have had enough. It provided an exit clause in the current treaty, and it has also made provision for free trade and free movement of capital (investment). There are also words on co-operation.

  80. 80 grahamwood32 24/05/2013 at 5:25 pm

    Peter. Good post, and :”The trouble with the A50er’s is that they project post-EU Britain as being the same politically impotent satellite state as EU Britain is. In doing so, they promote the same view as the Europhiles and unwittingly do much of their devil’s work for them”

    Indeed so! One further anomaly thrown up by the appeal to A50 is the assumption that the EU Commission has some sort of legitimacy in its own right, and therefore authority to “negotiate”, or set “terms”, or continue the absurd facade of real political representation. It has none of these things and is therefore another authoritarian emperor with no clothes.

    What about the democratic will of the European Parliament then?
    But all UK MEPs together only amount to 8% of the total and any meaningful idea of national democracy operating is a sick joke.

    How can a self appointed unelected body possibly stand as an equal with a democratically elected government, particularly one which, hopefully in the future was armed with a mandate to leave from an electorate?

    One simple question put to Barrosso and his pals to call their bluff would be sufficient – ‘By what authority?

  81. 81 Peter S 24/05/2013 at 6:25 pm

    Spinwatch – in using a naff term like “brexit” you have already become a defeatist without realising it – by allowing your opponents to frame (and therefore, control) the debate.

    Should your desire ever become for Britain to enter – independence – then your campaign would not be stunted by limiting itself to a description of the obstacles it meets along the way… but would hold aloft its goal and shout its name with unflinching conviction.

    Thereafter, your opponents would not cease from throwing obstacles in your path (redoubling their efforts to distract you again). Yet, so set to your course, you shall know that obstacles cease to be (dissolve from your way) by simple virtue of your agreeing to their contents.

    So yes, EU law shall be as my law – down to every last dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t’. What obstacle is it then to the flow of our usual exchanges? None.

    And what of Article 50? We can see that it too is an obstacle tossed in our path to wear us down. But one already evaporated by our agreement. What are we to do for those two years?… sit twiddling our thumbs and watching the clock for the time to pass? For there will be little to negotiate.

  82. 82 Paul Perrin (@pperrin) 24/05/2013 at 7:08 pm

    Good point on brexit (I haven’t used it myself….)

    Maybe we could push for ‘Brindependence’?

  83. 83 Spinwatch 24/05/2013 at 7:36 pm

    Grahamwood32, today

    You might not understand Art 50. Negotiations will be through the European Council, with rubber stamping from the European Parliament. The Commission will only make some recommendations, typically on foreign policy matters (Art 218.3 TFEU).

    Think you’re also getting the Council (8.4% of vote) and Parliament (just under 10% of MEP votes) mixed up.

    Peter S

    Have you come back from a heavy session in the pub as it reads like that? Just read what I said. No ifs or buts on withdrawal, just a question of how (and a viable answer might win a referendum whereas a load of gung-ho bluster won’t).

    We are going to be stuck with a lot of EU law short term as it’s been made UK law – even Gerard Batten MEP admits that and he wants out immediately! It will take a while to repeal and must be done ‘eyes open’.

    I’ve also said I’m for rapid withdrawal if the details support it – nobody seems to have done the full impact analysis. If not I favour fast-tracking, which could only take a couple of months, particularly if the groundwork has been done, and we keep stability on the trade side. In that time we don’t obey any EU diktats or pass any directives into UK law, and we’ll be out before the EU Court whispers there might be a problem…

  84. 84 grahamwood32 24/05/2013 at 8:17 pm

    “Think you’re also getting the Council (8.4% of vote) and Parliament (just under 10% of MEP votes) mixed up.”

    Spinwatch. Thanks, I stand corrected!

  85. 85 Peter S 24/05/2013 at 8:29 pm

    Spinwatch – as I have said, should your desire ever become for Britain to enter – independence – then you can retemper your words to reflect that goal.

    With no such desire in evidence, all you have left is to forever fanny around with half-baked notions of ‘withdrawing’ with no apparent motive for doing so – other than for its own sake. Either that, or you want to make the simple process (were there a will) of navigating this obstacle appear so convoluted and labyrinthine that it provides you with a usable excuse never to do it (if so, you will find your natural ally in the Europhile camp).

  86. 86 Richard Tyndall 24/05/2013 at 8:41 pm

    Peter, apart from you fatuous attacks on other people you have shown nothing on here that proves you have any interest in doing anything constructive to get us out of the EU. Whilst many of us are looking at the serious ways of winning any referendum and ensuring we do escape from the EU, all you can do is make snide remarks about other people and produce ill conceived pipe dreams that will do nothing to advance our cause.

    I am sorry but it is exactly the sort of postings that you make which make people doubt there is any serious intent to get us out of the EU and which are an absolute godsend to the Pro EU lobby as they are proof that a section of the Eurosceptic movement have no serious ideas of how to ensure we can withdraw and maintain a position as a leading trading nation.

    This separation from reality strongly reminds me of the conspiracy theorists in the US who will cling to any notion irrespective of the facts simply because it would shatter their whole world view were they confronted with the reality that they were wrong.

  87. 87 Richard North 24/05/2013 at 9:46 pm

    Spinwatch – in your first intervention on this thread, you walk into a “non-dialogue” that has been going on for some months, on various media comment threads, forums and blog comments.

    We are dealing with a response to a case made by myself and others that the only (rational) way for the UK to leave the EU is to invoke Article 50, and enter into negotiations in the prescribed manner, with a view to agreeing an exit settlement which would form the basis a post-exit bilateral treaty between the UK and the remaining EU members.

    We are not dealing with “science” here. The whole business of constitutions and treaties is not a science at all. It is a matter of administrative procedures, and in particular domestic and international law and, with the advent of the Lisbon Treaty, the procedure for exit is now set out in an EU treaty.

    Having, in a number of newspaper articles, and many blog posts, set out the arguments for invoking this procedures, we are confronted by a number of “actors” of which Mr Wood and Peter S are only but two, who all assert in various ways and forms that we should note invoke the Article 50 procedure, but instead (as a better option) that the UK should unilaterally revoke (abrogate) the EU treaties and then seek to negotiate trade deals with the EU.

    It is our view that this is a dangerous option and one which, therefore, could increase the resistance of the British public in any referendum to voting to leave the EU, and could thereby actually prevent us winning any referendum which called for us to leave the EU.

    In the interests of better understanding the case made by those who would advocate unilateral exit, we have therefore, for some months, on various media comment threads, forums and blog comments, been asking this group of essentially interchangeable “actors” for their best estimates of what might happen to UK trade if the EU treaties were unilaterally abrogated.

    This is a simple enough request – and the potential consequences are relatively easy to spell out yet, throughout the whole period of this “non dialogue” we have encountered nothing but prevarication, evasion, red herrings, straw men, and just plain stonewalling.

    Peculiar to this breed of people is the technique of passive aggression (look it us), whereby they seek to position themselves as the innocents, the injured parties, the sweet, reasonable people who are interested in debate. Yet, over these many months, they have done nothing but frustrate the debate, while continuing at every opportunity to assert that the unilateral abrogation is the best option for leaving the EU.

    This leaves us with no option but to repeat, again and again, the very simple request, for the best available estimates of the consequences of unilateral abrogation which you, walking into a dispute that has gone on for many months, wrongly interpret as “confrontational” on our part.

    However, in dealing with this particular tactic of passive aggression, there is no other way to progress other than to insist that this group obey the rules of fair debate and set out their best estimates as to the consequences of their preferred course of action.

    Continually to ask this is not confrontational. It is the continued challenge to Article 50 without in any way attempting to justify the contrary option, which is confrontational. We are simply reacting calmly and politely to that confrontation, to which we have yet to have a satisfactory response.

    And, until we get one, we will keep asking.

  88. 88 Peter S 24/05/2013 at 11:57 pm

    Richard T. It’s a pity you feel that way, not least because it has no bearing on my contribution here. I have, in fact, introduced a plethora of fresh ideas and new thinking into a debate which has otherwise been constipated by its own narrow self-reference and an inability to free itself from a framework set, as yet unchallenged, by its opponents. That those ideas do not necessarily chime with your own views does not, in itself, make them ‘unconstructive’ – and you would be wise to note the difference.

    People cannot desire a negative. So forcing them to vote for one – whilst its corresponding positive is kept out of the picture – borders on an insane death-wish for anyone hoping for an outcome that would initiate real change.

    Nor can you counter a negative by arming it with gazillion ‘details’ in the hope that will become more desirable. It may become more plausible, but it will remain a (now, overbearingly intricate) negative.

    No. The only way to win this referendum is to relegate this negative – the EU obstacle – to its rightful position and replace it with its positive – an independent, sovereign Britain, open to global trade. Thus elevated – and fully, ceaselessly promoted – the avenue is clear for people to bring their desire into the frame and march, inspired by an irresistible idea, to the ballot box.

    That’s not to say ‘detail’ doesn’t have a role to play in this battle. But tidy, packaged smart bombs (very possibly of some Article 50 variant) can only serve one purpose – preventing the opposition from achieving what it will be hell-bent on doing… moving the negative EU obstacle back to the top of the agenda to usurp, drown-out and crush the positive.

    Once these things are taken into account, the way forward will become clearer.

  89. 89 Richard Tyndall 25/05/2013 at 12:13 am

    I agree with you position that we need a positive message. But the most important thing is to be able to provide certainty – or as near as you can get to it – to people. A message that says that large numbers of people risk losing their jobs because we do not have a well thought out plan for a post EU Britain is a sure way to lose any potential vote.

    It is not the opposition who will demand answers to these questions but the people themselves. We can easily repute the 3 million jobs lost myth at the moment by making it clear we will maintain our trading links with the EU and augment those with greater world trade. But that relies entirely upon us presenting to the people an articulate, detailed and comprehensive plan of how we will leave the EU but still maintain good relations with the rest of the EU. If we cannot do that then, however ludicrous the 3 million jobs claim might appear, people will rapidly start to believe it.

    You are not presenting an articulate and comprehensive vision. You are presenting a polemic. If you try to run a campaign on that basis, as I have said before, you will lose.

  90. 90 Richard Tyndall 25/05/2013 at 12:15 am

    Sorry, suffering from typos there. I should have said ‘refute’ not ‘repute’

  91. 91 Paul Perrin (@pperrin) 25/05/2013 at 8:35 am

    Article 50 vs Repal European Act vs etc…

    This is really simple.

    I don’t believe *anyone* has enough knowledge of all the options to make a final decision at this time. I will not rule anything in or out until all options have has been properly reviewed/analysed/explained.

    I will certainly not take anyone elses ‘word’ for it – if you are to trust others you may as well trust the EU to reform itself…

    Next someone will be saying they have a definitive answer for israel/palestine.. oh… many people do – all different and contradictory…

  92. 92 Spinwatch 25/05/2013 at 8:51 am

    I’m all in favour of positive visions, but we need to be careful as anything too radical will put off as many as not everybody has the same wish list.

    Say you favour unlimited free trade and you will have folk worrying if that means unlimited immigration. Say you favour a more equal society and there will be worries about confiscatory levels of tax to pay for it.

    I think that a referendum is the likeliest mechanism by which we might progress leaving the EU and regaining our independence. I think that the vision that will win the vote will be more down to earth – continued trade, reduction in bureaucracy and costs, ability to better control our borders, escaping political integration but able to maintain cooperation.

    Offer something incremental and it looks achievable. Promise utopia and people will ask where the magic wand is coming from.

    Few could disagree with the list of four vision points above, even though the rainbow coalition supporting withdrawal will have lots of its own pet ambitions and will have to agree to disagree on them…. amicably!

    At least as we gradually establish independence, there will be a lot more scope for things like ‘power to the people’.

  93. 93 grahamwood32 25/05/2013 at 9:33 am

    Richard wrote: “This leaves us with no option but to repeat, again and again, the very simple request, for the best available estimates of the consequences of unilateral abrogation”

    I suggest to you Richard that the only “consequence” of any importance is that we leave! That is about the most positive message which could be put forward to the British public – and is of course what a referendum would be all about.

    However, in order to clarify your own position, in order not to misunderstand or misrepresent you perhaps you could clarify the following:
    One of your critics Robert Henderson expressed what he felt was objective when he stated:

    “North proposes a complex, expensive, and time consuming schedule of preparatory work BEFORE (G.W. emphasis) any referendum is held”

    Is that in fact your position? Leave aside for a moment the polemic implied in “complex”, “expensive” & etc – is that in fact what you believe is the right approach?

    Also, given that the earliest Coalition government promise of a referendum is 2017, then what sort of time scale would your schedule fit into – just roughly? Perhaps you could give us your thougths

  94. 94 Spinwatch 25/05/2013 at 9:59 am

    I’m interpreting ‘give us your thoughts’ as an open invitation.

    “North proposes a complex, expensive, and time consuming schedule of preparatory work BEFORE (G.W. emphasis) any referendum is held”

    I think that this is absolutely essential. We need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is possible to combine independence with continued free trade and cooperation – as well as possible assurances that the EU is reform proof and it would be dangerous to stay in.

    Fortunately there has been some good work done on the acquis communautaire ratchet and the block on repatriating powers, and a lot of basic groundwork on trade and cooperation.

    For instance we could still work with the EU through G20, EFTA, World Trade Organisation and Interpol where needs coincided, although like Paul P, I think we need more detail. Doing preparatory work may cost time and money, but winning back our independence would be priceless.

    I am not totally happy with the EEA, as it would mean open door immigration and whichever authority policed the rules would have to concur with the position of the EU’s European Court of Justice. The latter currently has the say within the EU and is for free movement of criminals, so we could not ban someone except in extreme circumstances like they were an active terrorist or a typhoid carrier.

  95. 95 Spinwatch 25/05/2013 at 10:13 am

    Will just qualify the above comment on free movement, which relates to the EU Citizenship Directive. We can in theory ban some people short term after they have been given a long prison sentence in the UK (which might even be as low as two years), but my understanding is that after three years they are free to re-enter the UK, even if they are repeat offenders elsewhere.

    The European Court can also overturn bans.

    Worse still, if they have lived in the UK for something like five years, they qualify for UK citizenship.

    I’m going from memory so am only 99% certain, of the facts, but this is a good example of a complex issue. Those that support the Single Market don’t realise it comes with Trojan horses like this and the Snooper’s Charter, aka Data Retention Directive, which instructs the authorities to track our internet and phone communications.

    When businessmen say they want to be part of the Single Market, what they really mean is to trade with it. If we haven’t done our homework, how the hell do we put them right? Does the other blog have an answer?

  96. 96 Richard North 25/05/2013 at 10:30 am

    M r Wood – for the purpose of argument, one can make a tentative assumption that you are not a stupid man. If that is the case, what are we to make of your assertion that the only “consequence” of any importance to unilateral abrogation of the EU treaties “is that we leave!”.

    Not least, your glib assertion then ignores the consequences which follow our leaving in this manner. We leave … and then what happens to our trade with the EU? That was the question and that is the question you continue to evade.

    You can dress your evasion in all sorts of flannel, and seek to conceal it in a flood of redundant verbiage and diversionary tactics, but the fact remains that you are evading the question.

    Please answer the question.

  97. 97 grahamwood32 25/05/2013 at 11:44 am

    Richard North wrote:
    “Not least, your glib assertion then ignores the consequences which follow our leaving in this manner. We leave … and then what happens to our trade with the EU?”

    I have, as with others on this blog, stated that it must be obvious that our trade with the EU after we leave would continue, although of course it would not be subject to all the constraints of EU directives and regulations as at present. Once the all important decision to leave had been taken, assuming an OUT vote in a referendum, then any competent British government would immediately begin a whole new round of trading arrangements, with the EU, within the EEA, and more importantly, it would then be free to undertake bilateral deals with rising economies globally – which is not possible under EU membership.

    However, once again I suggest that as Farage and others have continually reiterated, trade obviously would not cease, and neither need any subsequent discussions with the EU about the details of uncoupling our 40 year relationship be a major factor in a referendum campaign IMO.
    That may not be the answer you like, or necessarily agree with.

    Now perhaps would you care to respond to my earlier question to you from Robert Henderson’s critique of your position:

    “North proposes a complex, expensive, and time consuming schedule of preparatory work BEFORE (G.W. emphasis) any referendum is held”

    Is that in fact your position? Leave aside for a moment the polemic implied in “complex”, “expensive” & etc – is that in fact what you believe is the right approach?

    Also, given that the earliest Coalition government promise of a referendum is 2017, then what sort of time scale would your schedule fit into – just roughly? Perhaps you could give us your thoughts.

  98. 98 Richard Tyndall 25/05/2013 at 12:00 pm

    “I have, as with others on this blog, stated that it must be obvious that our trade with the EU after we leave would continue, although of course it would not be subject to all the constraints of EU directives and regulations as at present.”

    Yes it would, If you trade with the EU you abide by their directives and regulations related to that trade. That doesn’t change whether you are a member of the EU or not.

    More to the point unless you negotiate a reasonable free trade deal then your trade is also subject to considerable duties.

    I don’t say this in any way as a reason for us not to leave the EU. But the way in which we leave will greatly influence the nature and extent of our trade with them afterwards. Trade is a two way thing and to simply ignore or insult you trading partner is a sure fire way to make sure they go looking elsewhere for their goods.

    There is a reasonable and an achievable way to leave the EU, to get all the freedom we want from their centralising project but still be able to trade with them on good terms. Simply tearing up treaties is not the way to achieve that.

    By the way, EFTA has negotiated a free trade deal with China today. If we wished to join EFTA after we left the EU then we would certainly not be able to do so if we had just reneged on our treaty obligations.

  99. 99 Richard North 25/05/2013 at 12:56 pm

    Mr Wood – slowly, slowly, we seem to be getting somewhere. “It must be obvious”, you assert, “that our trade with the EU after we leave would continue, although of course it would not be subject to all the constraints of EU directives and regulations as at present”.

    One can see now that you are so reluctant to address the question.

    Firstly, one might ask, to whom “must” it be obvious that our trade (i.e., exports) to the EU would continue? Why is it obvious that such trade would continue and if it did, under what terms and conditions would it continue? How would those terms and conditions differ from present arrangements, and what effect would they have on the flow of goods to the EU?

    Secondly, how do you support your assertion that goods (and services) exported to the EU “would not be subject to all the constraints of EU directives and regulations as at present”. Is it not the case that all goods and services exported to the EU must conform with the provisions of the Single Market?

    Is it not, therefore, the case, that all UK goods, etc., sent to the EU must continue to conform with EU requirements before they are permitted entry to the EEA area?

  100. 100 grahamwood32 25/05/2013 at 4:20 pm

    Richard (Tyndall) Re our trade with the EU after we leave.
    We agree that it would of course continue, but the question is, and it is a important one that concerns Dr North is, ‘On what terms’?

    You continued with: “If you trade with the EU you abide by their directives and regulations related to that trade. That doesn’t change whether you are a member of the EU or not”.

    Indeed so, and I don’t disagree. However, the point is that if we repeal the 1972 Act, which in effect gives legality to all EU laws, directives and regulations etc, in the UK then that repeal immediately nullifies any and all of these with immediate effect. They then cease to be part of British law, and we then re-negotiate trade terms on a new basis.

    There arises the question: On what basis do we then trade with the EU after repealing the Act which in effect takes us out of the EU?
    The answer to that question can only be – whatever a British government, armed with the changed status of representing a free and independent Britain, actually negotiates.
    In those circumstances, as I mentioned above, I envisage that mandated government to proceed in negotiations with the EU once the political decision to leave has been made. Under WTO rules this should not present insuperable problems, and of course the EU engages with many other non EU states on a mutually agreed basis.

    As it happens I agree with those who do not consider our trade with the majority of the EU states, weak and sclerotic as their economies are, with the exception of Germany and Poland, to be of primary concern when we exit the EU.
    Also, many believe that on present trends the Eurozone itself is likely to have collapsed long before 2017 and that scenario would have severe repercussions on the status quo, on the EU dream of “ever closer union”, and including world trade, signalling unforseen changes which we can only speculate about.
    On a positive note, of far greater importance would be the fact that once we have left the UK would be free to engage with other trading nations globally, and the economic benefits of that policy has massive potential.

  101. 101 Autonomous Mind 25/05/2013 at 4:21 pm

    Graham Wood will keep coming back with his display of cognative dissonance because he ‘believes’, he ‘hopes’ and he ‘wishes’. But beyond that he has nothing to offer.

    It is impossible to reason with someone who clearly has no understanding of international trade and how agreements work. The Chinese are subject to EU directives and regulations. The Americans are subject to EU directives and regulations. The Brazilians are subject to EU directives and regulations.

    If they were not, they would not have a trade agreement with the EU. But of course, Graham Wood, because he blindly follows where the likes of the isolationist Rodney Atkinson ‘lead’, is convinced that the UK can unilaterally demand and achieve access to markets without being bound by the directives and regulations that exist there.

    This is presumably why for him the whole notion of entering into fundamental and essential negotiations with the EU, to preserve UK access to the single market after a withdrawal from the political union, is a side show – when in reality it is the most critical element of the process of disentangling this country from rule by Brussels, because it is the only way of retaining that which UK voters say time and again they want… free(r) and open trade.

    The most noisy fan base for staying in the EU is the business community. They want access to the single market. They can see withdrawal on its own is a dangerous option and one which will cause immense harm. But they hold that position because no one is discussing and explaining to them how we can negotiate an agreement to preserve what we have, while achieving what most people in this country want – Britain to be sovereign and independent from Brussels once again.

    The Rodney-Graham alliance of closed minds takes a supremacist view of our place in the world. Their vision is impossible to achieve and would be damaging in the extreme. They don’t like the idea of nations and blocs agreeing terms even though that is the way commerce works. The solution is Article 50 and the formal negotiating platform it enshrines via treaty. No other process forces the EU to discuss terms for trade. No other process protects the UK via trade conventions.

    It should be a no brainer. But the only people challenging it are those with no brain. Paradox, eh!

  102. 102 Richard North 25/05/2013 at 4:40 pm

    Mr Wood – your thesis is that we should abrogate the EU treaties unilaterally, and you then assert that trade would continue. I have asked you under what terms and conditions would it continue?

    At the point when the treaties are abrogated, there will of course, be no agreements in place, and it may be some years before a new agreement is in place. What do you think will happen to UK trade (specifically exports to the EU) in the period between the treaties being abrogated and the new agreement?

  103. 103 Richard North 25/05/2013 at 5:18 pm

    Mr Wood – when you have answered the question above, the next thing (of many) that you need to address – it would seem – is your own stupendous ignorance.

    The 1972 Act functions, inter alia, is an enabling act. Its repeal, therefore, does not nullify any statutory instruments made thereunder, and approved by Parliament. These would remain in force. The same would apply to any EU provisions which have been incorporated into primary legislation. These would also remain in force.

    EU regulations – those which have not been incorporated into UK statutes – would, however, fall. This means that the many domestic activities covered directly by such instruments would become unregulated. I am sure the public would be delighted with that, especially as, amongst other things, it would mean that there would be no food hygiene regulations applying to any food premises anywhere in the UK.

    No doubt, in due course, we would be able to replace the several thousand technical EU regulations currently in force by virtue of the ECA. Would you care to tell us how many there are, which regulations they are, what areas of domestic activity they cover and what the effect on British society would be when those areas of domestic activity are no longer regulated?

  104. 104 grahamwood32 25/05/2013 at 5:57 pm

    “It should be a no brainer. But the only people challenging it are those with no brain.”

    With comments like that there is littler point in further discussion. Clearly we disagree. Finis.

  105. 105 Spinwatch 25/05/2013 at 6:55 pm

    (Question from Dr North) At the point when the treaties are abrogated, there will of course, be no agreements in place, and it may be some years before a new agreement is in place.

    Gw32 prefers not to continue this discussion, but I think it would be valuable to cover the contentious ground.

    All of the 27 EU members are part of the WTO that has progressively brought trade barriers down. It has a general principle known as ‘MFN’, which approximates to non-discrimination, although it permits some exceptions, for instance different tariffs. It applies to goods, some services (GATS) and intellectual property (TRIPS)

    In general, MFN means that every time a country lowers a trade barrier or opens up a market, it has to do so for the same goods or services from all its trading partners. Again there are some pitfalls, like the EU levying a (10%) non-EU import duty on say Korean Kia cars, whereas intra-EU trade is free.

    Whereas WTO rules may simplify withdrawal negotiations and permit a fast-track withdrawal, none of this invalidates Dr North’s good sense in advocating a proper negotiation of Brexit, using Article 50.

    Trade may be the easier bit, even though there might be some services not covered by MFN/GATS, and there would be the formality of waiving tariffs.

    There could be quite a long agenda of things to discuss, and it might include things like future co-operation, joint programmes, budget payments and rebates, the deployment of UK staff in EU institutions.

    But if we’ve done our homework, and can think of sensible means of running down British involvement, it may be relatively straightforward to negotiate a treaty protocol that acts to resolve loose ends and which can be expedited through EU Council and Parliament.

  106. 106 Peter S 25/05/2013 at 7:39 pm

    There is a third (well-established) way to approach this problem:

    The British Government would announce its intention to withdraw from the EU and that it considers the Lisbon treaty to have no democratic legitimacy.

    The EU would respond that the treaty has legitimacy and that Article 50 (contained therein) is the only mechanism for Britain’s withdrawal.

    Britain would respond that its Government and the EU are therefore in dispute. And, as neither side can act as both a party to the dispute and its judge and jury, an external arbitrator is required for its resolution.

    The terms of settlement the Government would take into arbitration are that the EU immediately revoke any claim it has to political influence over British territories and that the EU takes all necessary steps to protect and enshrine existing trade agreements between its member states and Britain.

    And, that Britain considers twelve months to be an appropriate timeframe for which the EU to conclude and formalise these requirements. The Government agrees to continue with its established funding of the EU up until that time, but hereafter it will withhold all funds to be payable, in full, on completion.

  107. 107 Spinwatch 25/05/2013 at 8:23 pm

    Hi Peter, hope you don’t mind me pointing out I see a couple of contradictions.

    If there’s no democratic legitimacy, then you don’t withdraw – you denounce the Treaty as if it had never been signed (think ‘annulment vs divorce’).

    However if the treaty wasn’t valid, where did our trade terms come from (up and above the general framework we have within the WTO) ?

    If the EU has no legitimacy, why are we paying into its budget at all?

    In your scenario, you could get the UN to mediate between the UK and the EU27 (as nations, the UN doesn’t recognise the EU as a ‘state’). But what if its mediator found in favour of the EU. Would you accept that?

    (My point of view) Obviously some detail needs to be confirmed, but it looks like we might be largely covered by the WTO in preserving our trade. So we should draft a win-win severance agreement that stabilises trade, joint funding and future cooperation and seek a fast-track endorsement.

    If the EU lives up to its neighbourly cooperation and free trade slogans (in fact also treaty obligations), great, we leave soon and on good terms. If not, and there is obstructiveness, we could leave on account of a lack of good faith and continue discussions outside to regularise things. If needs be, we could seek remedy via international law.

  108. 108 Richard North 25/05/2013 at 8:28 pm

    Spinwatch – it was only a matter of time before Mr Wood discovered a reason for not answering the questions and ran away. That is what he always does. He will re-appear somewhere else in due course, making exactly the same points as he originally made, as if these discussions had never existed. He always does that as well.

    That leaves us to deal with the entertaining (not) fiction from Peter S, who as a barrack-room lawyer of some repute, does not realise that he is talking utter tosh. Maybe he will take offence and run away, and then we can bring this thread to a halt.

    To conclude my input though (unless Mr Wood suddenly discovers he isn’t frit), I have to say of your last comment that tariffs, levies and the like are the least of the problems. As a self-declared third county, with no mutual recognition agreements in place, and none of the UK testing institutes recognised by EU law, the UK would have considerable difficulty proving that its goods and services conformed with EU law.

    We could expect, therefore, a period where most (if not all) goods would have to be detained at ports of entry to the EU, until such time as relevant tests had been carried out, in respect of each batch, with the delay in some cases of several weeks – and with considerable cost implications.

    For food and veterinary products, there would be no entry other than through designated border inspection posts, which is problematic for the EU, as there are no designated BIPs for many ports.

    In other words, the scenario which Mr Wood seeks to avoid spelling out, given unilateral abrogation of the treaties, it one of complete chaos. Our exports to the EU would dry up to the merest trickle and the costs would be phenomenal. If the likes of Mr Wood thus persist in their pursuit of unilateral abrogation, they are giving the game to the europhiles.

  109. 109 Autonomous Mind 25/05/2013 at 8:55 pm

    Disappointing but unsurprising to see Mr Wood snatch desperately at any available straw in order to avoid answering the most fundamental question thrown up by his unilateralist stance.

    He parrots his ‘solution’ only ad infinitum because it is what someone he considers to be an authoratative source pushes.

    The fact is Graham Wood and his fellow travellers who push that ‘solution’ had no idea what its impact would have on UK exports. So in some strange attempt to save face they refuse to accept the evidence put in front of them, and dance around for days dodging the question to avoid having to give an answer that exposes their position as ludicrous. All because the likes of Rodney have not offered them any deviation from the doctrine for them to follow they play these silly games and act as spoilers to any real solution.

    These people are a precious gift to the Europhiles who can rightly claim the Rodney ‘solution’ is dangerous and would cripple UK trade. They and their shallow view of the world would be showcased by the media as a representative example of the unbelievable ignorance of the ‘no’ campaign and result in Britons fearful of the consequences of leaving the EU voting to remain in.

  110. 110 Spinwatch 25/05/2013 at 9:10 pm

    Thanks. I’ve only had 24 hours to look at some of the aspects of this thread before going on holiday. However it has made me think and delve a bit, and I’ve learned something.

    I suppose the two main lessons are that the devil is in the detail, and perhaps never to advocate courses of action (apart from as a straw man) without thinking them through.

    I just hope that a bit of goodwill will manifest in future discussions (and it was not you that I was thinking of in an earlier comment). Too many blogs seem to become online punch-up clubs!

    Must conclude my own input, now. Over and out.

  111. 111 Peter S 25/05/2013 at 9:19 pm

    Spinwatch. Yes there are contradictions.

    I think ‘denounce’ is too aggressive a response. The Britain government would be in the situation of not recognising the democratic legitimacy of the Lisbon treaty, but this would be overridden by its need to provide social continuity until a solution is arrived at (the mad pilots may have been ejected from the cockpit, but the plane still has to be landed safely). This reality would be expressed at all times to rationalise the government’s (apparently contradictory) actions.

    Paying into the EU’s budget would also fall within this rationalisation – as well as provide the government with a bargaining tool.

    The intent would be to remove Article 50 as a mechanism (wherein the EU would call all the shots) while replacing it with a negotiating space Britain would contribute to shaping, decide what would and wouldn’t be discussed within it scope, and enter into as an equal party to the dispute. It would also place unilateral action as a last ditch option – should arbitration fail.

    I can’t see how mediation can find in favour of the EU – as the government would have a strong case that its country was drawn into the treaty without internationally recognised constitutional mechanisms being observed and enacted. Also, that the EU was well aware of these democratic abuses at the time yet failed to act – thereby, in its complicity, abrogating its own founding values.

  112. 112 Peter S 25/05/2013 at 9:27 pm

    Richard N “That leaves us to deal with the entertaining (not) fiction from Peter S, who as a barrack-room lawyer of some repute, does not realise that he is talking utter tosh.”

    Very funny, Richard. When are you going to show us a plan? Or don’t you have one either?

  113. 113 Richard North 26/05/2013 at 12:53 am

    Peter S – if you were up to speed, you would already know that I had published a plan and would not have to ask.

  114. 114 Jonathan Oakton 28/06/2013 at 12:12 am

    It would make an interesting “Freedom of Information Act” question to ask HM Civil Service as to what was the quickest, cheapest and accurate means for Britain to leave the European Union…. no doubt their reply would be “on an airplane !”

    We need to act decisively as the Euro Army could well turn up on HS2 the following morning !

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