The Grumpy Old Man

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EU Brexit wind bagging
Note:this grump was originally published in January 2017, and updated in November 2018

Some off-the-cuff statements and developments from the EU and a "British" response to them

To even hope to understand some of the kites that the EU is flying (with regard to Brexit) it is useful to remember what the EU claim are their "four freedoms". These are;

freedom of movement of EU citizens within the EU
freedom of movement of goods within the EU
freedom of movement of capital within the EU
freedom of EU companies to provide services to anybody within the EU

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty states that negotiations must be complete within a two-year period of "activation", unless both parties agree to a different timescale. Grumpy would observe that should activation take place in March 2017 there are EU Parliamentary elections in 2019. The French have already said that they want negotiations complete in 18 months because they've got their own national elections. Grumpy says what a nerve. Both parties have got to agree to a change in the timescale so, the quicker they agree to UK proposals, the sooner the process will be complete. In this respect, it should be pointed out that the UK is in the driving seat, not some Brussels windbag. Also during the period of negotiations Germany has national elections and I would be very surprised if other EU members governments aren't up for re-election as well.

The moment the UK referendum result was known, some of these European windbags were saying that the UK should trigger article 50 immediately. Who do they think they are? Grumpy would observe that nobody, not even politicians in the UK, or the EU, expected the result that the glorious British people sent down. Neither the UK nor the EU governments had done any preparation whatsoever for a "Leave" vote, or even how to go about it, since the UK was the first country voting to do so. To suggest an immediate trigger was just an example of EU dictatorial, ludicrous wind bagging.

Grumpy found amusing and annoying the EU Hidalgos pontification with yet more hot air saying "there shall be no negotiation until article 50 is triggered". The next thing they do is go around saying "you can't have this, that or the other. This principle is a red line that we will not cross". If that is not the beginnings of negotiation, I'm a monkey's uncle!

One of these red line issue was that "the four freedoms are not negotiable". As an ex-Project Manager, I immediately recognise that as saying, we don't want to, but the "four freedoms" may have some wriggle room, so we may be able to negotiate on them!

Another idea floated by these EU windbags was that Britons could purchase an EU passport giving them the right to live, work and travel freely within the EU. What a ridiculous and farcical idea. Before the UK joined the EU, I travelled albeit on an intermittent basis to many countries already part of the growing union. In all of these countries, although I had to wave my blue British passport at an official as I moved around, it was unusual to have it inspected. On only one occasion did I collect a stamp (Visa) on entry to a European country, and that was Spain, which at the time was not part of the EU, and still under "dictatorship" rule. The second occasion I visited, many years later, even accepting that the border crossing was high in the Pyrenees on a very grotty little back road, the border check consisted of me waving a handful of blue passports at an official who just waved us through. I didn't even need to lower the car window! Now what is wrong with going back to that lovely system? If you want to work, fine, secure a job, and get a working Visa. If you have a job at the time, the company wishing to employ you will most certainly sponsor you and ease the Visa through the system.

It has been suggested that the UK might like to pay for entry to the Common Market. Touché, two can play at that game, perhaps the EU might also like to pay the UK for access to the huge UK market. Do bear in mind that the UK represents the second-largest market in the EU. It is clear that EU firms will not want to lose access to the this market. In fact, German carmakers have already expressd concern at the loss of such access. In business terms, the EU needs UK trade as much as the UK needs the EU.

It has been stated, or even suggested by some Eurocrats that the UK will be contributing to the EU budget for 10 years after Brexit. Gordon Bennett, who in the world do these idiots think they are? To quote a well-known phrase "Brexit means Brexit!" As if the UK has not contributed enough to the EU already, why the hell should we continue to contribute after we have left? Historically, the UK is one of only two EU member countries who have been net contributors to the budget for every single year they have been members.

It is being claimed, presumably by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that they will have jurisdiction over British laws for 10 years after Brexit. What a load of nincompoops these people are. Part of the reason the UK people voted for Brexit is that the ECJ is not being run by British judges, the British Parliament or the British people. "Brexit means Brexit" and that means Britain having its own justice system back. Thank you very much.

Concern is being expressed about money being paid under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). It is a basic and accepted fact that the population of the UK cannot feed itself without importing food. That doesn't mean we have to abide by the many stupidities of the CAP. Surely the UK can buy the stuff in? I would suggest that Ireland is fairly close and they grow a lot of stuff that the UK can eat! To me that sounds like a "trade deal". The detail mechanics of that simple task are all there in place and everybody knows how to work them. Let common sense prevail. There is no need for the UK to be burdened by the CAP which, after all, was originally designed to support the French peasant farmers. It has, I am sure, long since passed its useful sell by date.

Recently the Prime Minister of Malta (pop 415,000) stated that the UK (pop 65,000,000) could hardly expect to negotiate a better deal than they have at the moment. Accepting that the Maltese Prime Minister was doing his six months turn as president of the EU, I still felt that this wasn't what a small country should be telling one of the only two net contributors to the EU budget what to do. That apart, like many of these things the word "better" is subjective and depends very much on where you are "coming from". Grumpy feels such pontifications from one of the minor members of the EU to be just an example of what the UK wants to get away from. Grumpy would also suggest that perhaps the EU should look inwards at their own problems rather than threaten punitive measures, such as a knee capping, for potential leavers. That suggests they are worried! But then I suppose that's just how dictators operate.

Grumpy would observe that the EU have so far displayed a total and utter ignorance of the meaning of the word "negotiation". I only hope they learn it before they have to be handbagged by Theresa May into understanding that "negotiation" means give-and-take. In my experience of life, like begets like so, if the EU wants to get nasty with the UK, there would be similar very unpleasant repercussions for the EU. It is high time they stopped playing the school playground bully boy or dictator attitude in the current situation. It is actually just that approach that was a major contributor to the Brexit decision.

I read in the Daily Telegraph that the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator has suggested the EU could find a way to fast-track a British application for re-membership of the EU. He said "... We have enough experience to make it a little faster than normal...". A British official' s response was "in their (European) hearts, some still hope we won't go through with it". The Eurocrats of Brussels still appear to have not learnt the lesson that if the EU had stuck to its original format of a trading organisation, instead of encroaching over the last 40 years on the sovereignty of member states, then Brexit may never have happened. Because, in addition to immigration, particularly the British are becoming more aware of the dangers of the growing tentacles of the unelected dictatorship the EU is becoming.

Note:this grump was originally published in January 2017, and updated in November 2018

Well, here we are nearly 2 years on with little more than 4 months to go to Brexit day and the EU are still coming up with stupid ill considered or thought-out suggestions and ideas. EU statements even now show they fail to understand why the UK wants to leave the EU. They also fail to understand the basic UK psyche, in particular, that if they push and shove, they are the ones who are likely to come off worst.

They seem incapable of understanding that the basic reason the UK wants to leave their glorious club is sovereignty. Trade comes into it to a degree, but the one thing the UK is looking for, is control of its own destiny and laws (that is sovereignty). Recent statements made by the EU show their total disregard for this very fundamental concept. I heard that one of the demands the EU require (would like) to go into the final agreement is a legally binding clause stating there can be no future UK repeal of any part of the final agreement. To Grumpy, making such demand is rude, arrogant and certainly not something that any sensible negotiating team would even consider asking or agreeing to.

The second matter which has only recently surfaced is the EU commission (a totally unelected body) is tabling proposals trying to exercise control over UK tax matters post Brexit. What makes the suggestion even more galling is that their proposals will not allow any UK input. To me the matter is totally gobsmacking smacking of dictatorship.

It was interesting that a couple of weeks ago after a so-called "summit" it was announced that there would be no more press conferences or media releases until negotiations were complete. (From events after that, it seems this embargo applied to the UK but not the EU, as they continue to supply odd snippets to the media).

Concurrent with that, the UK negotiating team was heard to say that at least they (the EU) seem to be negotiating now, which clearly infers that the EU team, up until that time, were only interested in obfuscation. That certainly seemedd to be the matter from outside, as whatever was proposed by the UK was discarded out of hand with no detail as to why, or what alternative may be more acceptable. It most certainly looked as though the EU was not interested one iota in an agreement but were actively pushing the UK towards a "no deal" outcome. With a hairbreadth UK Parliamentary majority (and particularly the composition of that) Grumpy can see the situation where that which is acceptable to the EU will not be acceptable to the UK Parliament and, conversely, that which is acceptable (if anything is) to the EU, will not be acceptable to some part of the UK legislature.

There is a prime example of this situation in the shape of the "Irish border". The EU have proposed customs checks between Belfast and Liverpool (i.e. a border down the Irish Sea). Grumpy would observe that this constitutes, as a result of some of the conditions that seem to be inferred in the small print around that proposal, the annexation of part of the UK to remain in the EU. Who in the world do these plonkers think they are? If that is acceptable to the EU, would it be acceptable for the customs checks to be made between Cherbourg and Dublin? That way you wouldn't need a border in Ireland.

I must confess I've not openly heard that as a proposal but at a recent business conference in Dublin I understand the possibility of Republic of Ireland leaving the EU was mooted (see earlier in this grump where you will find just that suggestion). That would solve the problem at a stroke!

The British Prime Minister in Parliament last week stated that ninety-five percent of the Brexit deal has been agreed. I find that very interesting because of what the old 80/20 rule says! (click here to read about the 80/20 rule ). This states that a 20% return will take 80% of the effort. The actual figures are examples, but it means that in this situation, there is five percent still to be agreed, Grumpy believes that five per cent will take ninety-five per cent of effort. The Ireland border problem is one which will not go away and cannot be solved by one party annexing some of the other parties' territory to solve it. If the EU try in any way to "annex" Northern Ireland, there will be 'no deal'. Not only is that logical but it is a red line cast in blood ( quite literally) by Northern Ireland politicians. For the EU negotiating team to believe, or even suggest otherwise, again shows a total and utter ignorance of the problem they are trying to address. A solution may have been possible if the original team who crafted the "Good Friday agreement" could be re-established but that is not possible as two of the main architects have passed on. I only hope I'm wrong but, I believe the EU, through their ignorance and arrogance will precipitate a "no deal" in the negotiations. This is a great pity as even Grumpy does not believe that is what the EU wants.

Grumpy is aware of a couple of other things that never seem to appear in any of the political media reports. First is a matter which appeared in one of the initial documents tabled by the EU after the initiation of article 50.That is Spain having power of veto over anything that is agreed between the UK and the EU in terms of Brexit if that agreement does not address what the Spanish government call "the Gibraltar problem". (Historically Gibraltar was passed over to the UK by treaty and yet the Spanish government regard it as "Spanish territory"). It is presumed "addressing the Gibraltar problem" means the UK donating the Gibraltar territory to the Spanish. Grumpy cannot see that happening as, apart from the strategic importance of Gibraltar port, the majority of the Gibraltarians see themselves as British. As far as Grumpy is aware the Spanish government has not asked them what they would like. As an aside, prior to British membership of the EU Spanish citizens freely crossed the border in and out of Gibraltar for employment and no doubt pleasure activities. Post Brexit, I see no reason why that arrangement should not be reinstated.

The second matter is far more obtuse. Grumpy understands the Argentine government is once again casting covetous eyes on British territory, namely the Falkland Islands. The media report stated that the Argentinians are poised to act the minute the UK leaves the EU, on the basis that, currently, there is a common defence policy in the EU. After the UK has left, they will effectively be "on their own" with no EU support. It seems there are many opportunist chancers trying to step up to the table and annex chunks of UK territory they fancy. It does make me wonder who else is going to try and step up to the imaginary plate and lay claim to the Isle of Wight!