Sunday, 17 January 2016

FUD-Fight: Exit holds no fear

FUD - Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. A strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information. We have seen a lot of FUD regarding the process and negotiations for Leaving the EU. The truth is, the Exit process should hold no fears.

Last week we saw Stephen Kinnock (Labour MP for Aberavon) choosing to inject a strong note of fear into the prospect of a UK exit from the EU. In the commons, he suggested that the EU would subject the UK to "punishment beatings". He followed this up by misrepresenting Article 50 (the EU treaty clause that provides for states to withdraw from the Union).

This is clearly intended to suggest that under Article 50 the EU will simply impose exit terms without consulting the UK. The truth is very different :
- Clause 2 of Article 50 explicitly states that the EU will negotiate and conclude an agreement with the withdrawing state;
- Clause 3 of Article 50 sets a 2 year deadline for negotiations but also provides for these to be extended subject to unanimous agreement;
- Clause 4 of Article 50 makes it clear that the withdrawing state continues to take full part in the EU institutions during the period of negotiations, except for those occasions where the Council of the European Union discusses the state and progress of the withdrawl negotiations.

This is entirely reasonable. The UK would not expect to be present while the EU council discuss the progress of negotiations, anymore than EU representatives would be present when the UK Government discuss the progress of negotiations.  To use the same metaphor as Kinnock, you would expect mediation and negotiations with your spouse during divorce proceedings, you would not expect to be present in your spouse's private consultations with their lawyer.

This is not the first occasion that Article 50 has been misrepresented in this way. On each occasion the challenge and correction has come from bloggers rather than mainstream media:
- Lucy Thomas, Business for New Europe corrected by blogger The Boiling Frog
- Bronwen Maddox in Prospect Magazine corrected by blogger The Brexit Door
- Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph corrected by blogger VoteToLeave
- Kinnock & various others corrected by blogger Lost Leonardo

Kinnock's reference to "punishment beatings" reflects a story earlier in the week: "House of Lords warned EU will punish UK if it votes for Brexit" as reported in Catherine Bearder (Liberal Democrat MEP) is quoted as saying:  "My concern is that if we vote to leave that the deal we’d be given would be such that no one else would want to leave. We would bear the brunt of the angry other 27 EU countries."  Catherine Bearder has form on this, having made similar comments last November as reported in EUobserver and in an interview to LibDem Voice.

Such a view of the EU punishing the UK flies in the face of what is actually written in the Treaty of the European Union. Articles 3.5, 8, 21.2 commit the EU to maintaining good international / neighbourly relations based on co-operation.  The same articles also commit the EU to promoting free & fair trade and progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade.  Article 50.2 states that the EU will negotiate with the UK "taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the union", i.e. a future relationship as defined by Articles 3.5, 8, 21.2 discussed above.

Article 50 also states that agreement is reached via Qualified Majority Voting, not unanimity. However, it has been suggested that Article 50 would not cover the details of a free trade agreement, which would need to be negotiated separately.  The EU’s free trade agreements are in practice ‘mixed agreements’ which require the consent of the EU institutions and ratification by all Member States.  However, if the UK simply reverts to membership of the EEA, it is simply a continuation of existing trading arrangement in the single market and detailed negotiations requiring unanimous agreement are avoided.  This emphasises once more that “Leave the EU, Keep the Single Market” provides a risk-free exit plan.

Furthermore, as pointed out by another blogger The Sceptic Isle, negotiations will have to be undertaken in “good faith” :
- the EU Treaties exist within the framework of the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties, which requires the parties to act in "good faith"
- “good faith” in itself is an underlying principle of international law
- “good faith” is also a principle of World Trade Organisation (WTO) international law (and the UK can rely on WTO non-discrimination, which requires the EU to offer EEA or equivalent terms).

In short, the frightening claims made by Bearder & Kinnock do not appear to have substance when the details of the EU treaties are examined.

Catherine Bearder is the sole surviving Liberal Democrat MEP and is part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) within the EU parliament.  The ALDE group is headed by Guy Verhofstadt, the arch-federalist former prime minister of Belgium.  Verhofstadt and former Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff are spearheading progress to a federal europe.  So it would be fair to categorise Bearder as an enthusiastic supporter for more European integration and progress to a Federal political union.

Stephen Kinnock is of course very much part of the EU aristocracy. His father Neil was the Labour Party leader who reversed his party's historical Eurosceptic position to a pro-EU stance  and then served as the UK's EU commissioner 1995-2004, including an inglorious period as administration commissioner for eliminating fraud (removed whistle-blower Marta Andreasendismissed complaints from whistle-blower Dorte Schmidt-Brown and faced calls for his resignation over the Eurostat scandal).  Stephen Kinnock's mother, Glenys, was an MEP before becoming an unelected minister for Europe in Gordon Brown's cabinet.  Finally, Stephen Kinnock's wife is Helle Thorning-Scmidt, who was also an MEP prior to her term as Danish prime minister.  Stephen Kinnock recently launched the "Stronger In" campaign in Wales, so he is clearly an EU enthusiast as well as EU insider.

So why would EU supporters such as Bearder & Kinnock Jnr claim that the EU would act in such a capricious way ? Is the EU not after all the beacon for progressive, enlightened government that they proclaim ? If the EU is capable of such actions in breach of its treaty commitments, is it wise to remain in such a union ?  Or is the Remain case so weak that all they have to offer is fear and intimidation ?

To return to the marriage metaphor introduced by Stephen Kinnock, blogger Semi-Partisan Politics poses the question: is the EU a trusted partner or an abusive spouse ?  During the Referendum campaign we will be fed a constant diet of stories about the dire consequences of leaving, how we'll be too weak and too small to survive etc.  The truth is the EU treaties promise trade & co-operation for neighbouring states and international law requires "good faith" .  The truth is, there is a plan for a "soft exit", i.e. "Leave the EU, Keep the Single Market".  The truth is, the UK is the 5th largest economy in a world where the overwhelming majority of countries are not in the EU.  We'll be fine.

With any abusive relationship, staying never makes things better - instead the abusive partner draws strength from their partners fear.  The right answer is always to leave.  Then the abusive partners lies and power to coerce is proven to be illusory and a brighter future awaits.  We have nothing to fear from Leaving and everything to gain.


  1. With the history of the Kinnoch family and how they turned their backs on Britain and the British people in order to climb the EU Political Ladder to their own advantage, it is very sad that people in Wales actually voted Stephen Kinnoch into Parliament. Another political parasite EU trained and brainwashed to deceive the vulnerable Labour Voters who have failed to wake up to the fact, that Labour does not represent them. Lib/Lab/Con, like the so called Common Market, has morphed into the one Political Party. The Totalitarian State of the United States of Europe is the end game.

    1. I agree with the sentiment that the EU has succeeded in exporting its democratic deficit to the UK. The EU Referendum is the one chance the UK public has to vote against the current political establishment elite and gain democratic control. Its telling that all living PMs and all establishment political parties are aligned with telling us to stay in the EU. Its also telling that across Europe, the democratic deficit has resulted in the rise of more extreme political parties to fill the vacuum - ironically, the type of political party the EU is supposed to render redundant ! We have to break the power of the current political establishment elite in this Referendum, before the EU implodes in a much nastier fashion.

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