Brexit – Is the UK really free from the EU? Part 4 – Fisheries

 
Editor's Note: The use of the expression, "TCA" in this series of posts refers to the "Trade and Cooperation Agreement" signed between the UK and the EU on December 24th 2020. 

Philip Gegan

[Click here for Part 1]

[Click here for Part 2]

[Click here for Part 3]

Our fishing industry has been among the worst hit of all our industries as a result of membership of the European bloc. It’s endured 48 years of having our fishing waters plundered by foreign vessels. Fishing businesses that have been in the same family for generations have been decimated by Brussels dictats, red tape, and remorseless over-fishing by EU-based trawlers.

The EU’s brilliant answer to over-fishing and depletion of fish stocks is to list every conceivable species of fish, from Alfonsinos to Whiting (Celtic Sea), issue quotas, and require any excess fish caught to be thrown back into the sea, even though such fish are long since dead by the time the catch is weighed.

In Scotland a third of fishing boats are now tied up at their harbours. The Scottish fishing industry is estimated to be losing £1 million per day. This seems set to continue for a long time before the creaky wheels of the British civil service gets around to doing anything about it.

Throughout the withdrawal negotiations, the EU negotiators sought to keep full access to British fishing waters without making any concessions in return. So far, they’ve succeeded in doing just that.

The whole subject of fisheries is dealt with not only in Heading 5, which has nineteen articles. It’s also covered in four Annexes, occupying six pages. Anyone needing to refer to the Agreement’s provisions for our fishing industry has to shuttle to and fro between pages 261 and 899. Let’s take an in-depth look at what these say, to gain an insight of what the rest of the massive Agreement is like.

Loss of sovereignty illustrated

Article 1 confirms that the sovereign rights of coastal states are limited already as they have to conduct their fishing in accordance with the principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982. As all parties have (regrettably) signed up to that Convention then it’s puzzling as to why it should be repeated here.

Article 2 contains “objectives and principles” that both sides should follow (so we’re not free to make our own rules and standards). These cover the painfully obvious for the most part, such as not destroying fishing stocks by over-fishing, following the best available scientific advice when making management decisions, and co-operating with each other to ensure the conservation of shared fish stocks. This Article occupies a full page of the Agreement. We should note here that it is European fishing vessels that have become notorious over the last few decades for recklessly plundering the fishing stocks of wherever they happen to be fishing, including UK waters.

Article 3 deals with definitions (another page and a bit) and Article 4 covers Fisheries Management, which contains much of what I always refer to as the “bleedin’ obvious”. An example of this is where it refers to each party enforcing the “objectives and principles” of Article 2 in its own waters, saying

“A Party shall not apply the measures referred to in paragraph 1 to the vessels of the other Party in its waters unless it also applies the same measures to its own vessels.”

So one party can’t ignore the rules in its own waters and yet try to insist that the other party obeys said rules. As I said, the “bleedin’ obvious”. I really do believe the EU will one day set out regulations covering how its citizens may breathe.

Tied to the EU in perpetuity

Article 5 is equally superfluous. Under it, each party has to give the other a list of vessels that it wants permission for to fish in that other’s waters. After that has been done, “the other Party shall issue authorisations or licences to fish”. So there seems to be no power to refuse such a request. As very few British vessels fish in European waters, and yet there are massive numbers of European vessels always fishing in British waters, we know in whose favour this article works.

Article 6 commits the UK to annual “consultations” with the EU on such matters as agreeing the “total allowable catches” (“TACs”) for each party. Naturally, each species of fish, or “stock” is listed in a separate annex to the Agreement. Three annexes, actually, this being the EU we’re talking about. Either side can demand an additional such consultation at any time if it thinks fit.

There’ll soon be more Eurocrats talking about fishing than there will be European fishermen fishing illegally in UK waters. This article is another example of how the UK is tied to the EU in perpetuity. We never had to have these regular “consultations” before we were taken into the EEC in 1973, so why do we need to have them now?

Article 7 provides for the aforementioned “provisional total allowable catches” in any year in the event of the sides failing to come to an agreement in the time allowed. Different provisions, of course, apply to “special stocks”, which then have to be defined.

Each party, in effect, sets its own “provisional TAC” (“which shall not exceed its share as set out in the corresponding Annex”) but then has an obligation to tell the other party what it is in each case. How’s that for regaining our national sovereignty and freeing ourselves from EU bureaucracy?

Annual consultations, the “specialised committee”, and more loss of sovereignty

Article 8 commits both parties to further annual consultations (and additional consultations as and when called for by one or the other) to agree the extent to which each side will grant the other access to its fishing waters. How much will all these “consultations” cost, and who will have to pay the bill? This article alone binds the UK indefinitely to the requirement that we adapt our fishing practices to accord with what has been agreed between two lots of bureaucrats, supposedly each lot representing their side’s fishermen.

Article 9 covers a situation where one party refuses to allow the other party access to its fishing waters. The parties have to consult under the auspices of the “Specialised Committee” and an arbitration tribunal has to be appointed. How are the members of this tribunal selected? The answer, presumably, is in Article INST.14 [Arbitration procedure] of Title I [Dispute settlement] of Part Six, without having recourse to consultations in accordance with Article INST.13 [Consultations]. Got that?

fisheries
Some of the Whitby Fishing Fleet in harbour. Photo by Michael Jagger, reproduced here under Creative Commons Licence Conditions.

Article 10 has special provisions relating to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, none of which islands should be of any further concern to the European Union with regard to fisheries or anything else. In short, if the UK wants certain provisions of the Heading relating to fisheries not to apply to any of these islands then it has to apply to the “Partnership Council” for a ruling. More loss of sovereignty.

Article 11 provides for more red tape for fishing vessels from the Channel Islands landing fish in EU member-states’ ports.

Article 12 commits both parties to seek advice from the “International Council for the Exploration of the Sea” (ICES) within six months of the Agreement concerning the “alignment of the management areas” and other matters. More loss of sovereignty, and not just to the EU.

EU retains control via “joint committees”

Article 13 covers shares of TACs for “certain other stocks”. As these shares may fluctuate from time to time, each side has obligations to notify “the relevant States and international organisations” of its shares each time they change. This Article, though short, is drafted in an extremely shoddy manner, with undefined references to “relevant multilateral fora” and to the “Partnership Council” having powers to amend the Annexes that define the various types of fish that the whole Fisheries Heading refers to in the first place.

Article 14 covers “remedial measures and dispute resolution”, of which this Agreement promises plenty. As with other parts of the Agreement, everything conceivable is covered whilst at the same time leaving the door open to ample cross-interpretation and dispute.

Under Article 15 we are bound to share data with the EU (as it is with us, supposedly) so as to enforce the whole fisheries heading, “subject to each Party’s laws” (our laws being different from those of the EU, what could possibly go wrong?).

The “Specialised Committee on Fisheries”, referred to in Article 9, is given extensive powers under Article 16. It may “adopt measures, including decisions and recommendations” on a wide variety of matters. Who would expect anything else?

It is another example of how the EU has presumed for itself the power to retain control over vital areas of British policy through the establishment of joint committees, consisting of members from the EU and from the UK, and for the retention of such committees indefinitely.

You may think that, because it’s a joint committee, the UK’s sovereign rights will be safeguarded. Let’s hope they will be, indefinitely into the future, and that all our representatives on these various committees will be as fierce and committed to the preservation of our national sovereignty as we ourselves would be. Personally, I’m not going to bet any money on it.

EU wants our Channel Islands

There’s a ray of hope in Article 17. It covers how the Heading itself can be terminated. “Each Party may at any moment terminate this Heading, by written notification through diplomatic channels.” The amount of notice required is eight months plus the remainder of the then current year. This could mean nearly 20 months in practice. Why not adopt a simpler way of expressing the amount of notice required? But remember, again, this is the EU we’ve been dealing with. Again, extensive provisions apply to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Do I detect a measure of envy on the part of the EU on account of the Channel Islands belonging to the UK when they are unarguably closer to the Continent? Blame William the Conqueror for that!

Article 18 provides for the implementation of the Heading to be reviewed jointly “four years after the end of the adjustment period referred to in the Article 1 of Annex FISH.4”, and then after every subsequent period of four years. And you thought the period from the referendum until we “finally left” on December 31st 2020 was long drawn out! Complete extrication of our country from the clutches of the EU is a long, long way off. The EU negotiators here are clearly signalling that they expect the UK to be back inside the EU before long.

So that’s it, right? Not so fast. There’s a final Article in this Heading. Article 19 is headed “Relationship with other agreements”. Yes, this part of the Agreement has a relationship with other (existing) agreements! Needless to say, it supersedes or replaces any such.

It’s funny how we never needed agreements like this before the EU came along. But then that was in the days when national governments were sovereign, and made laws for the benefit of their subjects, without any hidden agenda remorselessly driving us all in the direction of a one world government.

Just as if Brexit had never happened

In summary, this part of the Agreement keeps us tied to the EU indefinitely. It’s true that in theory we have the power to terminate it unilaterally (as does the EU), but how likely is it that the career politicians in Parliament and Downing Street will defy all the pressures that would inevitably be applied to them at the first sign of such a rebellion?

You have to look at “ANNEX FISH.4” for some of the small print. This is on page 899. It establishes an “adjustment period” lasting from 1st January 2021 until 30th June 2026. During that time it will be, for fishermen of both sides, just as if Brexit had never happened.

Forty eight years of subjugation to the EU have ruined our fishing industry and brought it to the brink of collapse. The Heading and Annexes on fisheries, taken together, is a clear example of how the EU has dominated the drafting of the Agreement, and in doing so has treated the UK as if it were still a “member-state” that has to be regulated so as to be subservient to the EU itself.

It didn’t take long for the EU to display its vindictiveness towards the UK over fishing. In the opening days of 2021, for no reason, it imposed a ban on live shellfish exports from the UK. For some reason all shellfish caught in British waters has for a long time been sent to the EU for processing, and the EU Commission saw its chance. This shellfish remained the exact same product as it was up to December 31st 2020.

Wearing us down

If this is how the EU is going to behave towards us in the post-Brexit world then perhaps it’s time for us to retaliate. For starters, we could ban all EU fishing vessels from operating in UK waters, and do our fishing industry a huge favour at the same time.

Unless this whole “Trade Agreement” is repudiated then it will be used to gradually wear down the people who have to abide by it in one way or another until the prospect of surrendering our national sovereignty to the EU again will seem like a blessed relief.

In Part 5 (the final part) of this series of posts I will be taking a look at other important areas of the TCA.

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Brexit – Is the UK really free from the EU? Part 3 – Nothing “free” about this free trade agreement

Editor's Note: The use of the expression, "TCA" in this series of posts refers to the "Trade and Cooperation Agreement" signed between the UK and the EU on December 24th 2020. 

Philip Gegan

[Click here for Part 1]

[Click here for Part 2]

In this part I am looking at how the Brexit “Trade and Cooperation Agreement” (“TCA”) affects trade in both goods and services between the UK and the EU.

Trade in goods

In 2019 the UK had a deficit of around £97 billion in trade in goods with the EU. The EU wants to keep it that way, and the agreement provides for just that. The UK negotiators let the EU have its cake and eat it. It gave us the dubious privilege of remaining the dumping ground for surplus EU products, made possible by a gross undervaluation of the Euro. And we’ve paid for this liability by agreeing to obey all EU rules on trade in goods. That includes any changes to those rules, in which we have no say, in perpetuity. So much for regaining our national sovereignty. The EU thereby managed to protect the integrity of their precious Single Market. What did our negotiators secure for us in return?

Very little, it seems. We should not be surprised here, because the UK’s negotiators, like all mainstream politicians of any Western country, believe in the fundamental goodness of free trade. They believe that all forms of protection of the home market – tariffs, preferences, and so on, are bad. Unregulated competition from foreign countries, however, is good. Even though that may mean the decimation of home industries, the closure of factories and mines and the throwing of good working men and women onto the unemployment scrapheap.

In order for us to grasp what the TCA does for trade relations between the two parties, we have to understand what exactly free trade means, both to its proponents and to everyone who has to live with it. In the absence of clear thinking, it means different things to different people.

Any free trade agreement involves an infringement of national sovereignty. It has superficial attractions to naive career politicians, but beyond that it is just a chimera.

An unworkable system

Anti Free Trade Postcard From 1910. (Corbis via Getty Images ; Getty Images)

Anti Free Trade Postcard From 1910. See foot of post for attributions.

The popular conception of free trade is of goods and services freely moving from one country to another without hindrance in accordance with the laws of supply and demand. Everyone is happy. Consumers because they can purchase goods cheaply from the source with the lowest price, and manufacturers and suppliers because they have a much larger market to sell in. That’s how ignorant politicians, economists and broadcasters see it.

But in reality it’s nowhere like as rosy as that. It’s an unworkable system. Quite aside from the depressive effect on wages, which ultimately keeps most people as poor as the poorest in the free trade area, there are restraints on natural development and progress.

If one party to a free trade agreement is more inventive than the other parties, or becomes more efficient, or less prone to wasteful practices, they thereby acquire an advantage over the others. They become more productive and therefore more prosperous and they are rewarded with a higher standard of living.

But this is at the expense of all the others who are a party to the agreement, whose standards of living, on average, will tend to fall, whose balance of payments will suffer, whose industries will wither and factories close. It causes an imbalance, and this imbalance will increase with time until the cost to the other countries is too high and the whole agreement becomes unworkable. Those other countries, if they wish to survive, will have no choice but to raise tariffs and destroy the agreement.

Further restrictions on our freedoms

But if there are bankers and financiers profiting handsomely from the free trade agreement, as they are bound to do, then there will be pressure to keep the system going artificially by destroying the ability of the successful party to be successful. Everything depends on absolute equality, including equality of poverty and equality of inefficient working practices. This leads to the stifling of any form of inventiveness or enterprise on the part of a more successful signatory to the agreement, and acts as a break on human progress.

This artificial equality is built into modern free trade agreements, and it is right there in the TCA. If a situation such as I’ve just described arises then what’s called “the level playing field” concept kicks in.

This artificial concept provides that no party should have any advantage over any of the other parties, even though such advantage has been obtained honestly and fairly by prudent investment (e.g. government subsidies), technical ability or other such property that any other party could have utilised if they had had the ability and foresight.

Under the rules of free trade, the cry will go up, just like the children in a playground where one of the participants in the game is perceived as having an unfair advantage. “That’s not fair! The playing field isn’t level!”

So it can be no surprise that there are countless restrictions on our freedom to conduct our national affairs in the TCA.

The “level playing field”

For example, any sovereign nation has the right to extend financial support to any section of its economy that is in difficulties. But if we want to do that in the future, for any section of our economy that is involved in trade with the EU, we have to abide by EU rules so as to ensure a “level playing field” and eliminate so-called “unfair competition” (TITLE XI: LEVEL PLAYING FIELD FOR OPEN AND FAIR COMPETITION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT). The sole beneficiary of this arrangement is the EU and its “Single Market”.

The Single Market is the EU’s own incarnation of a free trade area and the preservation of this artificial construct was one of the issues at the forefront of the EU’s considerations during the negotiations. They were desperate to preserve the status quo, so that in the event of the UK becoming more competitive than EU member-states in any area of productive industry, it would be easy for them to use the TCA to reverse the process and make it difficult to impossible for British companies to sell competitively inside the EU.

All kinds of rules, regulations, and mechanisms were therefore embodied in the Agreement to cover such an eventuality (see, for example, Title XI, Chapter two: Competition Policy). Especially in a situation where one side (the EU) is seeking to punish the other side (the UK).

Looking at the Agreement itself, you can see where various “member-states” of the EU have successfully lobbied for the protection of their own important industries during the long-drawn-out negotiations. Hence we have special Annexes dealing with motor vehicles (Germany, France), wine (France), and chemicals (Germany, Italy).

The UK negotiators have agreed on our behalf that neither side can create for itself an advantage over the other. This is the “level playing field”. Moreover, there will be a dispute settlement mechanism on state aid, with both sides able to impose tariffs unilaterally, if the “level playing field” is upset, ostensibly to protect against “unfair competition”.

“Confidentiality”

If there’s one thing the EU is famous for, other than corruption and bureaucracy, it’s secrecy. So under the TCA decisions will be the subject of often-confidential discussions, while dispute resolution and arbitration will be subject to absolute and discretionary rules of confidentiality (See, for example, Article INST.29: Arbitration tribunal decisions and rulings, and Article INST.30: Suspension and termination of the arbitration proceedings).

That’s not part of the British tradition, which places great importance on openness and transparency in all court trials and hearings, and other decisions that impact on our citizenry. Secrecy and “confidentiality” are part and parcel of the doings of the EU. They evidently don’t want the workers and management of British companies put out of business by the decisions of the Partnership Council to know the identity of the individuals responsible for it.

The “level playing field” concept illustrates the hypocrisy of the EU perfectly. It’s all for free market competition when it benefits thereby, but when it has to face the reality of not being able to compete successfully, it resorts to the “level playing field” to keep in the game. This neatly brings us to the next item to consider, which is trade in services.

Trade in services

When it comes to trade in services, in 2019 the UK had a surplus of around £18 billion with the EU. In stark contrast to goods, the EU negotiators refused to come to any agreement on services. Any future agreement would have to be sanctioned by the EU Commission, which is not known for giving consent on these matters easily.

The TCA generally makes trade in services between the UK and the EU much more problematic than it need be. For example, service agreements can no longer be between the UK and the EU. They have to be signed by the UK and each individual “member-state” affected by such trade, i.e. be on a “country-by-country” basis. This adversely affects service companies in the UK more than it does their EU counterparts.

Yes, the EU Commission don’t mind returning a little national sovereignty to each of its members if, thereby, it can gain a little revenge against the UK for its blatant defiance in going through with the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

There’s still plenty of scope for contrariness on the part of the EU going into the future. Under the TCA, although the EU cannot impose tariffs it can impose “non-tariff measures” to trade in services. These can be, for example, additional proposed regulations that will have to be followed if a particular service trade is to be allowed to continue. Again, it has to be said – this isn’t what we voted for in 2016.

EU threatens UK services sector

There’s more (you didn’t think that was it, did you?). If the UK government wants to make subsidies to any of its service industries, such as finance, then it will have to follow the rules of Part Two, Title II of the TCA. As we’ve observed earlier, there must be a “level playing field”. So if the EU is behind us, for example, in the field of expert advice on some aspect of concern to the construction industry, and companies and authorities in the EU wish to purchase such expert advice from a UK company, then all parties, including the UK company, will have to follow as yet unwritten rules that will be dreamed up by Eurocrats in Brussels.

The EU is being so obstructive in the matter of service industries that UK service industry chiefs are now talking openly of the need to withdraw from the EU market and seek new markets elsewhere. The resulting loss of foreign earnings will doubtless be put down to “Brexit” by Remainers, using their usual simplistic logic and ever determined to find no fault at all with the EU.

Share trading

A good example of how the EU have outflanked the UK’s negotiators is in the sphere of share trading. London has long been the largest stock exchange in the world. Before this TCA was signed, anyone wanting to trade in European equities would most likely have traded on the London Stock Exchange, regardless of which country they operated from.

Post TCA, a UK investor can choose to trade in either London or one of the EU stock exchanges, but an EU investor can only trade on an EU stock exchange. This gives EU stock exchanges a vital advantage, and investors based in the UK will invariably choose to trade in the EU, where all their portfolios can be managed from the one platform.

Our negotiators were assuming that the EU would grant the UK what is called “equivalence”, i.e. the practice and procedure would be the same as it was when the UK was still a “member state” of the EU. But the EU have refused to grant equivalence. This should have come as no surprise. Switzerland had a disagreement with the European Commission in 2019. Equivalence was withdrawn by the EU and Switzerland, having done their best to compromise, are still waiting for it to be reinstated. Woe betide any independent nation that crosses the European Union.

Professional qualifications

Next is another good example of how the EU works. I’m referring to the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQs). It is the mechanism that allows professional people such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects to have their qualifications recognized all across the EU.

Such an arrangement shouldn’t be necessary if the EU was run on the basis of common sense. But it can’t allow anything like that to go unhindered by rules and regulations.

So the MRPQ came into existence. It was, surprisingly, an arrangement that worked tolerably well for many years, helping to facilitate trade, mainly in the services sector. In the negotiations this arrangement should have been little more than a formality to agree on. But the EU negotiators refused to agree.

As a result, our services trade with the EU is suffering due to uncertainty over whether professionals who become involved will have their professional qualifications recognized (and therefore their services paid for) in the EU. All the TPA does (in Part Two, Heading One, Title II, Chapter 5, Section 2, Article SERVIN.5.13: Professional qualifications) is to refer the whole matter to the Partnership Council, which can then “within a reasonable time [undefined]…. develop and adopt an arrangement on the conditions for the recognition of professional qualifications” which can then be shoved in as another Annex to the TCA itself.

In the meantime most UK service industries are in limbo as far as supplying services to any country that is a “member-state” of the EU is concerned. It would probably be easier negotiating a trade deal with the Mafia.

In Part 4 I will be looking at how the TCA affects our much maligned fishing industry.

The Anti Free Trade Postcard From 1910 is published by virtue of the Creative Commons Licence. The original creator is unknown but this copy has been uploaded by "Corbis via Getty Images" to https://upload.wikimedia.org

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Brexit – Is the UK really free from the EU? Part 2 – The “Trade and Cooperation Agreement”

The Brexit process has given the EU a golden opportunity to spawn a whole new extension to its already bloated bureaucracy. And it gave the bloc a chance to produce a massive, intricate and tortuous document designed to make any meaningful interpretation impossible and to keep the UK tied to the EU into perpetuity.

 Editor's Note: The use of the expression, "TCA" in this series of posts refers to the "Trade and Cooperation Agreement" signed between the UK and the EU on December 24th 2020. 

Philip Gegan

[Click here for Part 1]

One moment before we examine the “Trade and Cooperation Agreement”. Note carefully the title. The ordinary Brexit supporter was expecting a withdrawal agreement. Those of us who followed the course of the long-drawn-out “negotiations” were expecting a trade agreement. But a Trade and Cooperation Agreement? Let’s see what is meant by “cooperation”.

Was such an Agreement desirable?

In 2016, when over 17 million people in the UK voted to leave the EU in the teeth of Operation Fear, these people just wanted their country to get out. Whether there should be an agreement or not was of little interest to them. Given the extensive artificial ties binding the UK to the EU, it is not surprising some kind of agreement should be deemed desirable by both sides.

An appropriate agreement would have been one that provided for an orderly and timely transfer of powers and sovereignty back to the UK from the EU. The UK would then treat the EU and its member states in a similar way to, for example, the United States or the Russian Federation. The EU would treat the UK in the same way as it does, for example, Japan or Australia.

An appropriate name would have been “Withdrawal Agreement”. But at an early stage it was termed a “Trade Agreement”, or even a “Free Trade Agreement”. Bi-lateral free trade agreements are very fashionable these days. Britain has recently signed such agreements with Japan, Canada, Cameroon, Jordan and Mexico, among others, and is on course to sign more with the United States (subject to the irregularities of the Biden regime), Australia and New Zealand.

Trade vs Cooperation

Remainers, as we know, were anxious to put as many obstacles and as much delay as possible in the way of the Brexit process. They latched onto the concept of a trade agreement being an essential component of Brexit in the hope that negotiations would flounder and the British people would eventually abandon the idea of leaving the EU.

So a trade agreement was acceptable in principle to most Leavers and most Remainers. But it took over four and a half years (a period longer than the duration of the First World War) before agreement was reached, and when it was published, it had become the “Trade and Cooperation Agreement”.

Trade between sovereign nations is, by its nature, mutually beneficial. But the concept of cooperation takes it a step further. Trade is something that takes place one unit at a time. Someone has something to sell. Someone else wants that item. A sale is agreed, and the goods or services and the money are exchanged. That is the end of it until next time.

But cooperation implies commitment. It assumes that the parties are going to have an on-going relationship, with ongoing rights and obligations. It impinges on national sovereignty and is something that was rejected in the referendum.

Moreover, cooperation is something that should come spontaneously, not as a result of contractual obligations.

As we shall see, this little, seemingly innocent, amendment to the name reflects a change in the nature of the document signed on 24th December 2020.

The Agreement Labyrinth

The Brexit process has given the EU a golden opportunity to spawn a whole new extension to its already bloated bureaucracy. And it gave the bloc a chance to produce a massive, intricate and tortuous document designed to make any meaningful interpretation impossible and to keep the UK tied to the EU into perpetuity.

The “Trade and Cooperation Agreement” (TCA) is 1,246 pages long and contains a Preamble and seven Parts. Part One contains three Titles; Part Two contains six Headings, the first four of which contain 18 Titles. The fifth contains four Chapters and the sixth ten Articles. Part Three contains 13 Titles, and Part 4 contains two. Part 5 contains two Articles and five Chapters.

Part Six contains three Titles, and Part Seven contains 10 Articles with rather strange names, in which sometimes the numbering is rather questionable, so that Article ‘FINPROV.3: Review’ is followed by ‘Article FINPROV.7: Integral parts of this Agreement’. One can well imagine the draftsmen drifting off to sleep whilst assembling this monumental work of verbiage and doublespeak, and losing track of the numbering.

There are 49 Annexes with names like ‘ANNEX ENER-3: NON-APPLICATION OF THIRD-PARTY ACCESS AND OWNERSHIP UNBUNDLING TO INFRASTRUCTURE’. All these Annexes have Chapters and many of those Chapters have Articles.

There are three Protocols (not including the Northern Irish Protocol, which is in a separate document). The first Protocol has five Titles. Title I has Articles 1 to 6, Title II has four Chapters, containing Articles 7 to 19, Title III has four Chapters containing Articles 20 to 38 (though Article 24 is, for some reason, not within any of those Chapters).

Title IV contains Article 39 and Title V Articles 40 and 41. Naturally, this Protocol has its own Annex, containing three Sections, the third of which contains six Articles plus a number of model forms, such as “Uniform notification form providing information about notified document(s) (to be transmitted to the addressee of the notification)” Quite so.

A Bureaucratic nightmare

It establishes, in Part One, Title III, an “institutional framework”, consisting, at the top, of a “Partnership Council”, whose job is to “oversee the attainment of the objectives of this Agreement and any supplementing agreement”. Rather strange, since the whole point of Brexit was for the UK to break free of EU bureaucracy and regain its sovereignty, not get entangled in new commitments.

Of course, I get it. We can have our independence, but naturally the EU has to make sure that our enjoyment of it doesn’t upset their Customs Union, Single Market, level playing field, and “Court of Justice”. And to ensure that, of course, we need an expansion of the existing EU bureaucracy.

trade and cooperation agreement
The EU has always been a bureaucratic nightmare for small businesses.
Image: Harald Groven – Creative Commons Licence

At the top of the pecking order is the Partnership Council, supervising the operation of the TCA “at a political level”. The Partnership Council itself is run by the two-member Secretariat – one member from each side, naturally.

Under the Partnership Council are no less than nineteen committees, all of them “specialised” except for the “Trade Partnership Committee”, which seems to be regarded as the most important, being listed above all the others. Why do we need a “Trade Partnership Committee”? We’re supposed to be trading freely with each other, not going into partnership.

Below these committees are four “working groups”, each with the power to “set their own rules of procedure, meeting schedule and agenda by mutual consent”. These working groups, like the committees, consist of an equal number of members from the EU and from the UK, with co-chairmen, one from each side. They are the dogsbodies of the committees, who in turn are the gophers of the Partnership Council.

Then there is the “Parliamentary Partnership Assembly”, consisting of members from the European Parliament and from our own dear Parliament. It’s a forum to “exchange views on the partnership…..request relevant information regarding the implementation of this Agreement from the Partnership Council…….be informed of the decisions and recommendations of the Partnership Council, and make recommendations to the Partnership Council”. Pretty useless, then.

Next up are the “domestic advisory groups”. These comprise “a representation of independent civil society organisations including non-governmental organisations, business and employers’ organisations, as well as trade unions, active in economic, sustainable development, social, human rights, environmental and other matters.” Each party to the TCA has to consult with these groups at their annual get-together.

Each party also has to publish a list of the organisations comprising its own “domestic advisory groups”, with contact points, and also to “promote interaction between their respective domestic advisory groups, including by exchanging where possible the contact details of members of their domestic advisory groups“. So the pointless and corruption-ridden “twinning” schemes between towns in the UK and towns in the EU is set to continue.

We’re not done yet. The TCA sets up a new “Civil Society Forum” “to conduct a dialogue on the implementation of Part Two of this Agreement” (“Trade, Transport, Fisheries and Other Arrangements”). Isn’t that nice?

Oh, and just in case anything goes wrong (perish the thought!) we have the charmingly named COMPROV.13, which provides that, “For greater certainty, an interpretation of this Agreement or any supplementing agreement given by the courts of either party shall not be binding on the courts of the other party”. So each party can interpret the TCA in whatever way they like, regardless of how the other party does so. What could possibly go wrong?

Remember that all of this is in stark contrast to what happened ninety years ago, when Britain and the White Dominions got together, in the face of the Great Depression, and formed a trading system that was known as “Imperial Preferences”. It was this that saved Britain and its Empire from the worst excesses of the Great Depression that ruined whole countries elsewhere.

Did Britain and its White Dominion partners need to engage in a wrangle-fest that went on for four and a half years, and to form a Partnership Council (with Secretariat), numerous committees, a Parliamentary Partnership Assembly, “domestic advisory groups”, and so on? Did they need a series of agreements, the main one of which alone totals over 1,200 pages?

Of course not. It’s amazing what progress can be achieved when both sides are bound by a common purpose, common ancestry, the common law, and, above all else, common sense. And, on top of that, actually trust each other.

How can anyone trust the European Commission of failed and corrupt politicians?

In Part 3, we’ll be looking at the actual “trading” sections of the TCA.

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Brexit – Is the UK really free from the EU? Part 1 – Do we have a genuine Brexit? From Triumph to Betrayal

This series of posts takes a closer look at the Agreement that was arrived at between the UK and the EU and signed on 24th December 2020.

Editor's Note: The use of the expression, "TCA" in this series of posts refers to the "Trade and Cooperation Agreement" signed between the UK and the EU on December 24th 2020.

Philip Gegan

After four and a half years of negotiations, on December 31st 2020 at 11:00pm, Britain finally completed the process of leaving the European Union with a “free trade deal”.

Yes, Boris had “got Brexit done”. Since the 2016 referendum delivered an unexpected body-blow to the plans of the “Global elite”, the British people had been treated to

• all the delaying tactics, the manoeuvrings, and downright betrayal from Remainers both inside and outside Parliament,

• betrayal by our judiciary,

• sanctimonious humbug from former failed prime ministers,

• the subterfuge and weakness of former Prime Minister Theresa May and her government and their attempts at total sell-out,

• a well-funded lawsuit that sought to give Parliamentary Remainers the power to frustrate the referendum result,

• the threats and lies about what would happen if we actually went ahead and insisted on leaving,

• and all the other spiteful tactics that the Remain camp, the mass media and the EU itself could throw at us.

It took the Euro elections of 2019, and two general elections sandwiching them, in all of which the parties and factions supporting Brexit triumphed in the teeth of determined and well-funded opposition, to get to a position where we are a free and independent nation once more. That is, free and independent from the European Union.

Or are we? This series of posts takes a closer look at the Agreement that was arrived at between the UK and the EU and signed on 24th December 2020. The full title of the Agreement is “Trade and Cooperation Agreement”, and I am going to refer to it for the most part as the “TCA”.

Twists and turns of the Tory Party

The Tory Party, having hitched itself, for the time being, to the ‘Leave the EU’ cause, was especially pleased with itself. This is the party, remember, that was happy to have the arch-traitor, Edward Heath, at its head as Prime Minister, when the disgraceful negotiations to join what was then the “European Economic Community” went ahead without any mandate in 1971. The same party, without doubt, most of whose members applauded as Heath signed the Treaty of Accession the following year, surrendering our country’s sovereignty to Brussels. That subjugation was to last nearly fifty years.

It is sobering to think that, since the end of the Second World War, our nation has been a vassal state of an artificially constructed, anti-democratic European super-state for 48 out of less than 76 years. What would our fighting men have thought if someone had been able to whisper that into their ears as they departed these shores in 1940 to fight yet another European war?

But back to the present day. We are now, on the surface, no longer in the Euro superstate that the original European Economic Community had become. This is due to a number of factors, including long-standing opposition from minority parties such as the National Front of the 1970s and, more recently, Nigel Farage’s UKIP and Brexit parties. Nigel Farage himself has to be credited with having the single-minded resolve and determination to see through the whole campaign right up to the 2016 referendum and beyond. Let’s hope he receives some kind of national recognition for his achievement.

The Tory Party were always heavily pro-EU until UKIP and, later, the Brexit Party, threatened to keep them in permanent opposition. Of course, there always were plenty of Tory “Euro-sceptics” as well. They didn’t like the idea of our country being sold out to Brussels in the first place but went along with it for career reasons. Now they are celebrating our departure from the EU and congratulating themselves on getting our nation’s freedom and independence back.

Does the CTA “fully achieve the goal of Brexit”?

Let us take one of them, Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire and member of their “European Research Group”, as broadly representing them. He wrote a piece in the Daily Mail of 30th December 2020 headed “I see no traps… that’s why I’ll seize our day of destiny”, heralding “a new era of free co-operation in place of the former dominance by Brussels”.

Bridgen is satisfied that the deal “fully achieves the goal of Brexit”.

Under the agreement, according to Bridgen, “free movement will end, as will the jurisdiction of the European Courts and the vast contributions to Brussels’ coffers”.

Try telling that to the good citizens of Northern Ireland.

“The biggest obstacle,” Bridgen writes, “was fishing rights, since control of our waters is a symbol of nationhood. But here too I am satisfied…”.

Try telling that to our fishermen. We have a further period of five and a half years before we see the last fishing vessel from mainland Europe cease from plundering our fish stocks.

do we have a genuine brexit
EU membership has been a disaster for Britain’s fishermen

No worries, according to Andrew Bridgen. “The transition period…. will provide time to rebuild coastal communities.”

So all is well, according to populist politicians.

Sadly, all is not well. Before examining the “deal” in detail, let’s briefly recap on how things turned out this way.

The Brexit “negotiations”

May’s negotiators, at the start of negotiations in 2016, immediately announced that the UK would be giving the EU £39 billion as a “sweetener”, to give the negotiations the best chance of success for both sides. May’s team thought that this would be sufficient to induce the EU into granting a Canada-style free trade agreement that would be even better than Canada’s.

The EU negotiators immediately trousered that, and then acted as if that was the least we should have offered. They then scuppered any prospect of a Canada-style agreement with the UK. They realised that Canada is on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The UK is just 22 miles away from the French coast. That fact, of course, only affects the fisheries part of the negotiations, but that’s the excuse they used.

At this point, if the UK’s negotiators really meant to protect our interests, they would have reciprocated by demanding the return of our £39 billion. There was absolutely no legal requirement for the UK to pay a penny for leaving the EU, and the fact that this money, and a whole lot more, has been paid is nothing short of a national humiliation and scandal. Withdrawing the offer of money would have signalled to the EU that we weren’t going to be pushed around any longer, and done wonders to make them more reasonable in the negotiations.

But May’s negotiators were Remainers at heart, and it was only taxpayers’ money. They were all too easily hoodwinked by Barnier and his cronies in the EU’s negotiating team. They had no real interest in securing a fair deal for the UK. Their main concern was to reach an arrangement that looked genuine to anyone who didn’t look at it in detail, and would make it as easy as possible for the UK to be re-admitted to the EU at an early date in the future.

They colluded with the EU negotiators and Remainers in Parliament and the media to bring about a phoney deal. A deal that would in reality bind us to the EU forever and make life so uncomfortable that public opinion would swing behind a move to re-join, just to relieve the pain.

Remainers fight to frustrate the Brexit vote

It wasn’t just the UK’s negotiators who were working secretly to frustrate the wishes of the British people expressed in the 2016 referendum result. As we’ve just seen, Parliament itself, even after the 2017 General Election, was dominated by Remainers. Nearly all these Remainer MPs had promised during the 2017 election campaign to honour the referendum result and play their part in securing Brexit. Almost to a man, they broke that promise and instead obstructed the process in every way they could.

One of the most blatant moves was to pass into law a provision that made it unlawful for the UK to leave the EU without a “deal”. I’ve commented before on how this move gave the EU’s negotiators tremendous power in making unreasonable demands of the UK and refusing any compromises.

The House of Lords was even worse. I’m not going into the history of treachery and betrayal over the period from the June 2016 referendum to late 2020 in Parliament. The important point is that until the 2019 General Election Remainers, both in Parliament and on May’s negotiating team, were openly and brazenly defying the referendum result.

Boris’s negotiators, headed by Lord Frost, were a little better, but not much. Their main fault was that they appeared to treat the EU negotiators as if they were genuine in wanting a deal that was mutually beneficial. That was a mistake. The EU wanted everything and didn’t want to have to give anything in return.

At least by this stage the UK’s negotiators had the prospect, and soon the reality, of a UK Parliament that had a pro-Brexit majority. It was only when Parliament repealed the notorious law requiring a “deal” and passed a new law binding the UK to leaving the EU by no later than 31st December 2020, with or without a deal, that the EU negotiators reluctantly eased their unreasonable demands and started to compromise in some areas.

Even so, the process of extricating the UK from the morass that the EU has become, was lengthy and complicated. Further months of negotiations followed. Deadlines came and went. There had to be a deal, if a “no-deal Brexit” was to be avoided, by no later than 20th December 2020.

Everything is covered

Negotiations still regularly ground to a halt. The EU seemed to enjoy displaying itself to the world in its true colours – an oppressive, intolerant, stiffling and anti-democratic bureaucracy. In the end Boris had to meet in person with Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and smooth things out. The Agreement was announced on Christmas Eve 2020 to tremendous applause from the populist media.

That gave only a week, including the Christmas holiday break, for the Agreement to be scrutinised for any sign of a sell-out. The Conservative “European Research Group” instructed its “Star Chamber” of “top lawyers” to examine the document – all 1,426 pages of it – to determine if it really did deliver the Brexit promised.

This was duly done, or so we’re assured, and the genuineness of the Brexit deal negotiated was pronounced.

If Tory Brexiteers like Andrew Bridgen did actually read the full text of the TCA as they claim to have done, in the space of just a few days, then it was indeed a superhuman achievement.

The Agreement itself must be one of the most verbose, tedious, long-winded and unreadable documents ever produced in history. Page after page of it contain tables which in turn contain lists of things such as all the species of fish and animals likely to be affected by certain provisions, constituent parts of industrial products, agricultural products, medicinal products, and more, that have rules, and exceptions to those rules, for us all to enjoy. On and on it goes.

The Brussels bureaucrats who drafted the agreement sought to cover every possible permutation of every possible eventuality in all the minutia of commercial life that could possibly be imagined. Nothing has been left to chance. The problem with an agreement like that, as every lawyer knows, is that by defining everything you end up defining nothing. Rich pickings lie ahead for lawyers, especially those in the UK who specialise in European law, and those in Europe who specialise in UK law.

In the next part of this post, I will be looking at the TCA in some detail while at the same time attempting to preserve the sanity of my readers.

Click here to read Part 2 in this series, “The Trade and Cooperation Agreement”.

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