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Stephen Booth: There are reasons to be sceptical about the Brexit deal. But its security provisions aren’t one of them.

Stephen Booth is Director of Policy and Research at Open Europe.

In the vociferous debate about the proposed Brexit deal, the implications for UK security and foreign policy have come a distant second to economic and institutional considerations. However, this week Richard Dearlove, former MI6 head, and Charles Guthrie, former chief of defence staff, have written to Conservative Associations warning that the Brexit deal will “threaten the national security of the country in fundamental ways” and bind the UK into “new sets of EU controlled relationships”. We certainly should debate the UK’s future security and foreign policies in light of Brexit, but there are several reasons why these dire warnings about the proposed deal are either misplaced or implausible.

Successive UK governments have cooperated selectively with the EU in security and foreign policy, reflecting concerns about the direction of travel or degree of integration. The UK secured opt-outs from EU law enforcement and internal security integration and many Brexiteers cited the erosion of these protections by ECJ jurisprudence as justification for withdrawal. Nonetheless, matters of external security, defence and foreign policy were largely protected by our national veto, the threat of which the UK successfully used to prevent EU ambitions for an autonomous military HQ, for example.

At the root of concerns about the proposed deal seems to be a fear about what might happen, rather than what the Withdrawal Agreement actually says. It is true that, during the transition period, the UK will be bound by EU foreign and defence policy decisions. The UK may be consulted on a case by case basis, but we will no longer have a formal role in shaping these decisions or be able to lead any resulting operations. However, crucially, throughout the transition period, the UK can refuse to apply EU decisions for “vital and stated reasons of national policy” – we have a de jure veto. The UK will be bound by existing EU rules on police and judicial cooperation during this time, but will be excluded from new rules that fall under our existing law enforcement and Schengen opt-outs.

If the UK were to enter the Backstop, either in 2021 or by 2023, there is no agreed provision for UK-EU security and foreign policy cooperation. UK commitments under EU law and the Withdrawal Agreement would fall away and the basis for cooperation would need to be negotiated either separately or under the auspices of a comprehensive UK-EU future partnership. The UK would not be legally obliged as a result of the deal to do anything, although the Withdrawal Agreement provides both sides with the option of agreeing a successor security agreement – obviously the UK would have a veto over this.

It is further argued by the deal’s critics that “buried in the Agreement is the offer of a ‘new, deep, and special relationship with the EU in defence, security and intelligence”, which would undermine the UK’s three core security and foreign policy relationships with NATO, our US bilateral agreements and Five Eyes intelligence sharing arrangements”. This warning presumably refers to the joint UK-EU Political Declaration on the framework for the future partnership.

First, as many critics of the deal have pointed out, the Political Declaration is not legally enforceable, whereas the Withdrawal Agreement would be. At this stage, it is simply an “offer” and does not bind the UK. Indeed, the lack of legal enforceability of the Political Declaration is the typically-cited reason for opposing the deal. Here the assumption is that the Political Declaration is binding. It is not.

Second, the future relationship foreseen in the Political Declaration is impossible to reconcile with the claim that it would undermine the UK’s core security relationships. Indeed, the declaration states that the entire future relationship should provide exceptions for matters of national security, which is the “sole responsibility” of the UK and the EU’s member states respectively. The UK could “participate on a case by case basis” in EU-led security and defence missions and be consulted accordingly. Intelligence sharing would be “voluntary” and the parties would “produce intelligence products autonomously”. The UK and the EU would pursue “independent sanctions policies driven by their respective foreign policies”. None of this would compel the UK, or the EU, to do anything at all with regards to external or security policy, other than keep the other party informed.

Finally, it is unclear what alternative, if any, form of cooperation with the EU the authors of these warnings would find acceptable. There is no doubt that past and future UK governments would rank the three core relationships with NATO, bilaterally with the US and Five Eyes, as the most important (a Jeremy Corbyn-led government might prove the exception). However, successive governments have also acknowledged that the UK must also promote its interests, both offensively and defensively, with European partners and allies. The UK has a close bilateral relationship with Europe’s only other globally-relevant military and defence power, France. This is underpinned by bilateral treaty, but France is actively pursuing its foreign policy interests via the EU and therefore cooperation with the French could well mean working with the EU to some degree. The question is on what basis.

Leaving the EU is likely to mean the UK will not be able to formally shape, lead or veto EU foreign policy or defence decisions in the future. This is a direct consequence of Brexit. Equally it means we will not be directly bound by them. It is possible to argue that the EU is being short-sighted in only offering the UK take it or leave it European cooperation on security and foreign policy issues. This may yet change, and if the EU wants to secure UK cooperation, our ability to provide resources and capabilities will be of immense value and therefore provide us with influence.

Nevertheless, it will be up to future governments to work out how best to further UK foreign policy interests independently of and sometimes in cooperation with the EU. Nothing agreed to date would prevent the UK from refusing to take part in EU-led or “controlled” initiatives or from insisting that any future cooperation would only be provided under a NATO umbrella.

There are many valid reasons to be sceptical about the Brexit deal. My judgement is that, on balance, it is worth supporting. But the concerns raised by Sir Richard and Lord Guthrie don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

France prepares to teach those protesters a lesson

Westlake Legal Group YellowVests France prepares to teach those protesters a lesson yellow vests The Blog riots Paris french protests France Emmanuel Macron crackdown

As we discussed over the weekend, the protests (well… riots, actually) in Paris aren’t over yet. Despite having many of their demands met when French President Emmanuel Macron caved to the increasing public pressure, the yellow vest squads are still out in the streets calling for his resignation. It seems that the French government has had enough of this unrest and is preparing new legislation aimed at tossing the unhappy peasants into the dungeon if they don’t go home and shut up. It’s really sort of an homage to the France of a couple centuries ago. (BBC)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has announced plans to punish people who hold unsanctioned protests after seven weeks of anti-government unrest.

His government wants to draft new legislation that will ban troublemakers from protests and clamp down on the wearing of masks at demonstrations.

He said 80,000 members of the security forces would be deployed for the next expected wave of protests. Protesters smashed down the gates to a government office this weekend.

In other chaotic scenes in Paris, demonstrators fought riot police, and cars and motorbikes were burnt.

Details of the new penalties and how the crackdown would be executed were a bit sparse, but the Prime Minister did offer some general guidelines. Everyone will need to submit requests to hold a protest and obtain approval from the government. (This seems a bit more onerous than the usual permit system used in the United States.) Because some of the protesters/rioters have been showing up with yellow bandanas covering their faces or, in some cases, Guy Fawkes masks, the wearing of anything covering the face will also be outlawed. The usual penalties for destruction of property remain in place.

In addition to possible jail time, Phillippe said that those engaging in arson or other destructive activities would be held accountable for the cost of repairs. In other words, the people who are rioting because they are too poor to afford food will be given new bills they won’t be able to pay. That’s not to say that I’m endorsing such destruction, and protesters should indeed be prosecuted when they become rioters, but it’s a bit of harsh irony nonetheless.

The point here is that the government is quickly moving toward increasingly repressive tactics to end the unrest. Many of the yellow vest squad members aren’t burning anything or destroying property. They’re just airing grievances against government policy. That’s the danger of living in a far more socialist society than our own in America. When you begin surrendering your rights and freedoms to the government, trusting that they know what’s best for you, the iron fist of control can come smashing down pretty quickly.

The French don’t have the same broad list of fundamental rights that are provided by the United States Constitution. And when pressed or discomfited too much, the government will take advantage of the power they’ve been given over their citizens. There’s a lesson in here for all of us if we pay attention.

The post France prepares to teach those protesters a lesson appeared first on Hot Air.

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I bet you thought those riots in France were over

Westlake Legal Group YellowVests I bet you thought those riots in France were over yellow vests wages The Blog riots Paris gas tax french protests France Emmanuel Macron

After much of November and December were characterized by riots in Paris and various other cities across France, it looked as if peace was going to be restored when President Emmanuel Macron completely caved to the protesters’ demands. A new, drastic increase in the gas tax was scrapped and higher wages for the working poor were announced. Having put the elitist president in his place, the angry rabble were then free to go home and take a victory lap.

The problem is, they didn’t. Or at least not all of them. Significant numbers of the unhappy citizenry were back in the streets this week, setting fire to government buildings and clashing with the police. One common element in their demands appears to be a desire for Macron to resign immediately. (Associated Press)

French security forces fired tear gas and flash-balls after a march through picturesque central Paris went from peaceful to provocative Saturday as several thousand protesters staged the yellow vest movement’s first action of 2019 to keep up pressure on President Emmanuel Macron.

A river boat restaurant moored below the clashes on the Left Bank of the Seine River caught fire. Smoke and tear gas wafted above the Orsay Museum and the gold dome of the French Academy as riot police, nearly invisible at the start of the demonstration, moved front and center when protesters deviated from an officially approved path.

Police boats patrolled the river while beyond the Seine, motorcycles and a car were set on fire on the Boulevard Saint Germain, a main Left Bank thoroughfare. Riot police and firefighters moved in, and barricades mounted in the middle of the wide street also glowed in orange flames.

Since we tend to see these terms used interchangeably in the media too often, I should point out that these aren’t actually “protests” going on in Paris. They are riots. Whether you agree with the sentiments of the yellow vest squads or not, a protest is just a demonstration. These people are setting fire to boats and buildings, smashing windows and, in at least one case, attacking the police. That’s a riot by any meaningful definition.

Another thing that’s missing from much of the American press coverage I’m seeing is the outrage over the police using tear gas and pepper spray on a regular basis. Aren’t those “chemical weapons” and a violation of human rights? But I suppose when it happens in France in support of a socialist leader who is a liberal icon, it’s just the way the world works.

What’s unclear here is precisely what the yellow vests are looking to get out of the government. The original gatherings all seemed to focus on the gas tax, skyrocketing prices for food and common goods and insufficient pay. Macron has already given in on all of these demands. But the rioters are now calling for his resignation, claiming that he is a “president for the rich” and doesn’t care about the working class poor. That may be true, but it seems unlikely that Macron will be packing his bags anytime soon.

Macron isn’t facing any new elections until 2022, so he’s got some time to patch things up if he’s willing. Will the tenacity of the yellow vests last that long? If the president’s reforms are rolled back and wages go up it’s hard to imagine that they will. But he’s definitely no longer the golden child and his public honeymoon is definitely over. Just as a closing note, Macron’s approval ratings have tanked from above 60 after his election to somewhere in the 20s today.

The post I bet you thought those riots in France were over appeared first on Hot Air.

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Michael Fabricant: It’s high time for us to rediscover our gung-ho spirit

Michael Fabricant is MP for Lichfield.

One of the many old jokes in the Carry On films is: “where is all your get up and go?” The answer comes: “it got up and went.” It seems, sometimes, that half the population feels that way, when I read some of the more depressing letters and articles about Brexit in the national press.

I travel to the United States three or four times each year – not for fact-finding at taxpayer’s expense, I hastily add – but with and to see friends. I was part-educated at the University of Southern California (Go Trojans!) and still have a home on the east coast near where my business had a base in New Haven, Connecticut. So before I became an MP I travelled a lot to the US on business, too.

I’m there right now – in San Diego, southern California. But thanks to the internet, I was able to hear Woody Johnson, the US Ambassador to the UK, on the Today programme yesterday. He was clear that the present terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration will prevent the US (or any other major economy, come to that) from entering into a Free Trade Agreement with the UK.

But the main issue expressed by Johnson – and Americans that I meet over here – is the surprise at Britain’s reluctance to let go of the apron strings that seem to tie us to the EU.

It’s a lack of self-confidence that might be appropriate in a developing country, but in not the fifth-largest world economy, which can boast more Nobel Prize winners than any other country apart from the US; intelligence services which match those anywhere in the world, three of the world’s top ten universities, with the top two places being British, and a major centre for biotech and space research. Why are we so timid in our dealings with Europe?

In Prime Minister’s Questions a few weeks’ back, Jeremy Corbyn claimed that the UK has “no leverage” with the EU.  No leverage? We are the biggest export market in the world for the German automotive industry – bigger than the US and Chinese markets combined. And Emmanuel Macron knows that the ranks of the gilets jaunes would be increased tenfold if French farmers could not export to their number one market – the United Kingdom.

So why all this timidity by government and civil servants in dealing with the EU, and the fear of leaving the EU by so many in the British population at large?

Friends of mine working in the City for large American banks admit that they explored the possibility of moving to Paris, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt after the referendum. But they soon realised that continental Europeans neither have the financial work pool nor the work ethic to keep long hours deep into the night when the need arises. Those plans to move were soon abandoned.

Johnson can see the opportunities open to the UK in leaving the UK and from being unshackled from the ball and chain of rules so beloved of European regulators. My American friends over here say to me “Why are you guys so lacking in self-confidence? We just don’t get it. Just leave!”

Having been in business and travelled abroad extensively exporting broadcasting systems to some 48 countries worldwide, I can see the huge opportunities that will be open to us after a clean break with the EU.

It is unfortunate that many commentators on Brexit, including journalists and some politicians, never had the get up and go in the first place. The gung-ho spirit eludes them. We should not allow their lack of aspiration and gloom to frustrate the opportunities that are there if only we have the confidence to seize them.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Why the French protests were going to happen

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No one should be surprised by the protests in France. The antipathy towards the government has been bubbling like some sort of concoction in a mad scientist’s laboratory. The gas tax appears to be the one final volatile element needed to cause an explosion.

What an explosion it was! Protests. Riots. Tear gas. Emergency meetings of government officials and, finally, concessions. France won’t do any tax or utility increases this winter – although it’s still up to the French Legislature to get the bills to President Emmanuel Macron’s desk for his signature.

Macron noted the onslaught of anger directed towards his government, writing on Change.org he was trying to reduce the gap between the people and government but, “I have not yet succeeded. And after 18 months of action, the changes we are making are far from being sufficiently perceptible.”

The frustration is still palpable, and no one knows exactly who will end up benefiting from the protests.

American conservative commentators are trying to frame the issue as a rejection of globalism (whatever the blue cow it means this week). The reality is the anger in France started – much like the 2011 Arab Spring – as a rejection of government overreach into the economy.

The clash has been a long time coming and dates back to earlier this decade when the French government was controlled by Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy’s government attempted major spending cuts and tax increases in 2011 – before he was replaced by the socialist Francois Hollande in 2012. Yet, Hollande discovered the harsh reality you can’t tax and spend your way to prosperity and France’s budget crisis refused to abate – while debt exploded.

“Everything is taxed,” Charline Petit told The Telegraph in 2014 as she explained why her bagel shop was shutting down. “You can’t move without being taxed. Even when you are not making any money, you are taxed. I had to lie about my income to rent an apartment. So then the tax authorities said I had not been declaring enough. I was taxed again. If I stopped working, I would get all kinds of benefits, but as a business person, I get nothing. You are better off unemployed.”

This was the situation Macron was coming into last year when he won the presidency. He attempted some tax reform, but The Economist noted his budget was rather light on actual spending cuts. His gas tax proposal ended up being the spark which set off the protests and riots of the past several weeks.

His reaction to said protests proves the tenet that politicians are fickle in their promises to the electorate they claim to serve because of the desire for power. Macron is trying to appease everyone by enacting multiple increases in government spending – whether it be giving police a raise for battling protesters or a minimum wage hike “without it costing your employer one more euro.” The government’s hope is this will increase participation in the workforce, and their budget for next year – which was proposed months before the “Yellow Vest” protests – already included a minimum wage hike, “to reach a total of almost €80 per month at minimum wage level by 2022.”

Of course, the question is who will pay for these changes?

“The people,” Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy declared to me over the phone. “This is what basically taxes, right, because the government won’t pay for it and that’s the problem with subsidies; gotta be paid by someone. And the problem with the French government is it’s too big and needs to be shrunk and not grown.”

This is why de Rugy is disturbed by France’s insistence on giving out more subsidies instead of trying to actually get their financial house in order – even with the repeal of the gas tax.

“These are just band-aid (solutions) because the problem is going to continue over and over and over again until they address fundamental problems with the spending structure,” de Rugy, who is originally from France, noted. “Retirements are very generous to the public sector. Macron knows he needs to change those. But each time there are big, big, big strikes about this…This is not going to address anything. I don’t even know if it’s going to help calming things down now.”

Hence why Macron’s appeasement may not solve anything and, in fact, may exacerbate France’s budgetary problems.

“I think Macron needs to buckle up,” de Rugy declared. “Realize that there’s no way he can placate them in ways that is good for France, so he needs to go on with reforms and accept he won’t be re-elected in five years.”

See previous statement regarding the fickleness of politicians.

The solution – which Macron and the French government seem averse to try – is to heed the words of eminent French economist and philosopher, Frederic Bastiat.

“Reduce taxes. Reduce expenditure in an even greater proportion,” Bastiat wrote in Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget in February 1849. “And, to clad this financial thought in its political formula, I add: Liberty within. Peace without. This is the entire plan…I grant you only that the attempt is bold. But first, if the gravity of the situation has been clearly established and second, if it has been proved that the tradition means will not extricate us, it seems to me that my thought has at least some right to be considered by my colleagues.”

Bastiat’s theory is obviously daring – but also completely correct. France and Macron would be wise to heed his words (and de Rugy’s “buckle up” declaration) and enact more spending cuts – instead of trying to make everyone happy. He’d risk not being re-elected, but the alternative is more businesses leaving the country and France spiraling into even more chaos.

The post Why the French protests were going to happen appeared first on Hot Air.

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