Friday, 4 March 2016

Cameron Watch - Dodgy Dave's Dossier

As if to cement his reputation as the "heir to Blair", David Cameron is publishing his own dodgy dossier on the options for the UK if we leave the EU.

Tony Blair published a dodgy dossier on Iraq in Feb. 2003 which suggested Iraq could deploy biological weapons within 45 minutes. Blair's reputation suffered irreparable damage and he attracted monikers such as "Tony B. Liar" and "Phony Tony". The full truth behind the Iraq war is still to emerge as the Chilcot enquiry meanders on some 13 years after publication of the Iraq dossier.

I only hope that it does not take 13 years for the public to uncover the full truth behind Cameron's deceptions on the EU, which have resulted in Cameron acquiring the moniker "Dodgy Dave".

Released against a background of "Project Fear" and some dodgy campaigning tactics from Cameron's government, you will be surprised and amazed to learn that the Government dossier concludes "no existing model outside the EU comes close to providing the same balance of advantages and influence". Let's have a closer look and see if that claim stands up.

Dodgy claims: UK's special status

The dossier claims that the UK now has a "special status" within the EU, courtesy of the opt-outs it has secured over the years and Cameron's "reforms" (sic). The description of this special status is far removed from reality:
  • "sovereign nation".  The UK Prime Minister begging round Europe for a minor tweak to the UK benefits system ? Far short of full self-government for me.
  • "acting in partnership with the other Member States". International co-operation requires the supremacy of the Brussels court, commission and parliament ? Sounds more like the UK is subordinate to Brussels. 
  • "full voting rights"  8% of the vote (12% by population) in the EU council and 9% of EU Parliament ? Records dating back to 1996 show that the UK has failed to block a single measure it opposed in the EU council.
  • "a full voice at the table and a full say over the rules of the Single Market". Except that the EU is the wrong table - it doesn't make the single market rules. Norway (outside the EU) has more say over Single Market rules, as described by LeaveHQ. 
The dossier makes great play of Cameron's "reforms":
- Emergency brake on benefits (which could still be quashed by the EU parliament).
- Greater power for Parliament via the "red card" proposal (provided 14 other national parliaments agree)
- UK opt-out from ever-closer union and protection as a non-euro zone state (subject to a future treaty change that may never happen)

These reforms do not offer the reform promised or needed. They fail to repatriate a single power or reverse any aspect of the Lisbon treaty - the treaty described by Cameron in 2009  as passing too much power from London to Brussels.  Most importantly the deal is not legally binding, recently confirmed again by arch-federalist Andrew Duff, as explained by EU Referendum.

Even if we assume Cameron's opt-out from ever closer union had any validity, then it simply highlights that the UK does not really fit inside this Union. Cameron seems to determined to keep us in a club where we pay the fees, follow the rules, but do not participate in most of the activities and whose aims we do not share. Many, including other members of the EU club, might say we should join a different club.

It also raises questions about our future in this club.  Only 2 nations, the UK and Denmark have opt-outs from the Euro.  So when 26 states are in a Euro denominated federal union, what exactly is the status of Britain ? A half-integrated Britain on the periphery of the EU will be faced with the uncomfortable choice of isolation within the EU or further integration. It makes far more sense for the UK to make this choice now - wholeheartedly commit to the Euro and federal union or part as amicably as possible from the EU in recognition that we have different destinies.

Dodgy claims:  Brexit dis-advantages

Inevitably, the dossier contains further unfounded contributions to "Project Fear".

Status of UK ex-pats in EU. The dossier opines that the UK will "almost certainly" have to offer reciprocal rights to EU ex-pats in the UK.  Actually this point is not in dispute. UK ex-pats in the EU and EU ex-pats in the UK will have "acquired rights" a well founded principle of international law. Following a gaffe by Mark Reckless, the UKIP candidate in the Rochester and Strood by-election of 2014, Nigel Farage confirmed "there is no confusion. Anybody who legally came to Britain will be allowed to remain".   Is there any reason to doubt the EU will not reciprocate ?

Northern Ireland. The UK and the Republic of Ireland have shared a common travel area since the 1920's (shortly after Ireland declared independence), which has survived the Irish Civil War, the Anglo-Irish trade war, World War 2 (when Ireland was neutral), and the troubles in Northern Ireland. The dossier claims Brexit puts the arrangement at risk. However, the example set by Norway and Iceland (both outside the EU) together with Sweden, Denmark & Finland (EU countries) suggests otherwise.  These Scandinavian nations form the Nordic Union - a passport free travel zone that pre-dates the EU's own version (Schengen).

EU's existing Free Trade Agreements.  The dossier states that the EU's free trade agreements (FTA's) with 53 nations will be lost to the UK upon Brexit. However, this is to ignore the principle in international law of "continuity of treaties". In 1993 when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the successor states simply continued the treaties inherited from the former Czechoslovakia. You can find more detail on this here. In short, the claim that the UK will lose access to the EU's trade agreements is flat out wrong.

Exit process. The dossier also refers to a previous white paper which covered the withdrawal process, describing the process as "far from straightforward" and complaining that Article 50 has never been used before.  While the whole process of untangling 40+ years of  EU integration will be lengthy and complex, the actual process of withdrawing from the treaties does not need to be.  As covered in a previous post, FUD-Fight: Exit holds no fear, the EU's own treaty commitments plus international & WTO law provide security.  If you believe that the EU honours treaty commitments and respects international law, it will be safe to Leave. If not, I would argue it is not safe to Remain.

Dodgy claims:  EU advantages

The dossier repeats the discredited claim that national security depends on continued membership of the EU.  However, the premise ignores the blindingly obvious point that political union is not a pre-requisite for international co-operation and collaboration. The UK will remain a member of NATO, the Five Eyes shared intelligence community, OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) etc.

The dossier refers to the European Arrest Warrant and the Schengen Information System II (SIS II) as crucial to our defence against terrorism and international crime. However, the dossier also concedes that non-EU Norway has access to these systems. Political union is not a pre-requisite.

Dubious claims are made for the achievements of EU diplomacy.  If anything, the need to agree a common position inhibits initiatives from "coalitions of the willing" and results in a weakened and compromised response.  Not mentioned is that courtesy of the Lisbon treaty, the UK no longer has its own Foreign and Defence policy, and that the UK role in international organisations has been reduced to that of a Brussels proxy, courtesy of Article 34.

In practice, the claims for EU advantage always come down to one thing - trade via the single market. Hence the alternatives to EU membership are primarily concerned with the UK's future trading relationship. Since this is already a lengthy post, I will defer detailed discussions on the trading options for another post.

A Positive Note

Matthew Hancock was dispatched by the Government to defend the dossier on TV's "The Politics Show". Hancock was totally skewered by Andrew Neil as can be seen on youTube here.  A number of points were covered, including the "how many EU laws does Norway adopt" meme.  Neil also pointed out that 47 of the 48 nations that make up the European continent have tariff free access to the Single Market, i.e. all except the Stalinist dictatorship, Belarus. Neil then asks Hancock whether the EU, our friends and allies, would really bracket us with Belarus in denying the UK a trade agreement ? Hancock is forced to reply "of course not".  A positive note to end on.

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