Should the UK Have an Opinion on Catalonia?

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from Letter to Britain

As long as the UK remains a fully paid-up member of the 28-member European Union it seems fair that the government should have a position on Catalonia’s recent move toward greater autonomy. Which in recent weeks, has grown beyond simple autonomy within the Spanish federal government architecture to seeking full independence, but the attempt has since been knocked down by the Spanish authorities.

Had the UK passed the Brexit threshold by now, it would be difficult indeed for the British government to have any public opinion at all as it then becomes a very different thing. It’s fair comment to opine on the internal politics of a fellow EU member state, but it is quite another for a non-member to criticize the goings-on in a foreign country.

For that reason, it’s well within Theresa May’s purview as the Prime Minister of a paid-up member of the European Union to comment on issues Catalonia.

Nigel Farage MEP certainly didn’t hold back from informing his viewers about his opinions on the Catalonian situation and it’s difficult to find flaws in his argument. See video here.

Certainly, it was a tragedy that 900 mainly peaceful protesters were injured and/or arrested by Spanish federal police, although many of those charges against protesters may be dropped in exchange for the much more serious charges against the police being dropped.

Look for this to happen on a case-by-case basis. Many of the police are reputed to have used excessive force against the (most probably annoying, but otherwise peaceful) protesters.

Until such times as Britain is no longer an EU member state, the UK and its citizens have every right to comment on the unfortunate Catalonian situation, but after Brexit I hope the UK government feels constrained about commenting, as it will then be a comment on the internal affairs of a political bloc (the EU) a sovereign nation within the EU (Spain) and a state within that nation (Catalonia)


“What Goes Around, Comes Around”

This has been true since the universe began and were the British government to attempt to unduly affect the outcome (either way) in Catalonia, eventually it could work against the United Kingdom and conceivably against the Commonwealth as there are rumours from time to time about disaffection among jurisdictions in either entity.

Therefore, it’s best for the UK government to comment in good form only and avoid trying to make political hay against the EU bloc simply because some in the UK may have other frustrations with them.

Hey, they’re frustrated too. It isn’t a one-way street. Let’s just get the Brexit done and not unduly antagonize the EU Parliament or its individual member states in the meantime, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because that works better for the UK in the long run.


Related Graphic:
Catalonia referendum 2017

It’s time to grow the market! (and not fight over market share)

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LettertoBritain

A sea-change is upon the United Kingdom whether some have come to that full realization or not

The relationship between the UK and the rest of the world is beginning to change as the UK exits the European Union. Not only that, but the relationship between the UK and the other Commonwealth countries is changing. And while all of that is occurring, it is also a time of change in the postwar international order.

These changes are coming and we have no ability to stop them. What we do have though, is the ability to choose whether these changes are ultimately negative or positive for Britain.


The days of ‘Win-Lose’ politics are over

When every second country (seemingly) has WMD weapons, suddenly Win-Lose doesn’t work anymore. Do we really want to solve every issue between nations with nuclear weapons? Because eventually, that’s what it will come to.

It’s great if you ‘Win’. But then you ‘Lose’ because the fallout from large nuclear explosions travel around the Earth a few times per season and nuclear particles continue to exist in the environment for decades (some isotopes linger for 20,000 years) and as everyone needs to breathe the air, eventually you will inhale and, well, (do I really have to tell you this?) your lungs will filter the radioactive isotopes out of the air.

The ‘Winners’ of a WMD conflict will also become ‘Losers’ of that conflict within months. It’s nonsensical to consider nuclear war in the 21st-century.

All of which means, that in the final analysis, international hot points must henceforth be solved by the cool hand of diplomacy.


The days of fighting for Market Share are over

More than any other country, fighting for market share no longer makes economic sense for the UK, because every other country/corporation is likewise fighting for market share.

Larger countries with serious export expertise and fully developed and long-term foreign client relationships have a distinct advantage over a born-again United Kingdom re-entering the exporting world. Fighting for market share against far superior marketing superpowers like Germany and China is like paddling upriver in a hurricane, and good luck with that.

Rather than fighting for Britain’s slice of the pie, the UK should be the one country in the world that works to make the pie bigger for everyone! wherever free markets exist.

In that way, whatever global growth occurs will benefit all exporters equally — including Britain’s born-again export economy, because the UK will have as good a chance as any to capture some of that growing pie — as opposed to fighting companies well entrenched in foreign markets and trying to steal tiny percentages of their total market share. See the difference?

“Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning.” — Erwin Rommel

Rommel was right. And to adapt his truth to Britain’s new place in the world, fighting for market share in countries that are already well-served by European and Chinese exporters will gain British exporters very little and could create trade frictions between Britain and the European Union which is still the UK’s largest trading partner in the 21st-century. We don’t want that.

Grow the entire market instead of fighting for tiny increases in market share
Grow the entire global market — instead of fighting for tiny annual increases in market share.

‘Win-Win and Growing the Market vs. ‘Win-Lose’ and fighting for Market Share

Win-Win political thinking and growing the global market is the best prescription for Britain’s economic future.

Countries with rapidly growing economies like the BRICS countries and many Commonwealth nations are the best places for Britain to concentrate its export efforts. By helping those countries to succeed more than they would have without the UK’s assistance, Britain can grow its export base by selling to people in rapidly growing developing nations enjoying their newfound discretionary income.

It’s all about rising Disposable Income in Developing Nations

The example of India is most poignant, because in that country the average discretionary income of citizens is doubling every five years; All Britain’s leaders must do now, is to work respectfully with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers to the end that British exports to India are welcome and that Indian exports to the UK are just as welcome. (It helps if both countries aren’t manufacturing and selling the same items, of course) If India sells toasters in both countries then Britain should sell kettles in both countries, if you take my meaning. The less overlap, the better.

A few years from now, when a larger percentage of India’s 1.5 billion population can afford to buy a new car, perhaps Indian companies will offer tuk-tuks, small cars and farm trucks for sale in India and the UK, while the UK sells family sedans and Landrovers in India and the UK.

Any other method of working to each country’s strengths — without stepping on each other’s toes — would also be profitable for companies of both countries. What matters is that whatever method is chosen works for companies in both countries.

With the right approach to rapidly growing countries and some standardized and respectful trade rules, the UK could help to grow the global pie, dramatically increase its own exports, keep good relations with exporting superpowers in Europe, China, and America, and be seen as a ‘White Knight’ to developing nations by playing a pivotal and ongoing role in helping them to build their economies.

That future is so much better than bickering over fractions of market share with other (and economically superior) exporting nations — the very countries that Britain depends upon in many ways.

Here’s to ‘Win-Win’ paradigms and growing the global economic pie; A plan that will work for the United Kingdom more than almost any other country — while preventing harm to Britain’s present and important trade relationships.

Northern Ireland and the ‘Soft Border’ Option

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from Letter to Britain

Thanks to the dedication of thousands of people, the problems that plagued Northern Ireland for decades have all but disappeared. While we mourn those lost during ‘The Troubles’ we must move forward and provide the best possible future for the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The best way to continue to move forward is for a ‘soft’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland so that the free movement of people and unimpeded trade may continue along the 310 mile border.

Many people on both sides of the border meet for tea, travel across the border to shop, or are employed on the other side of the border and it would be unfair to require these people to face a regular border crossing twice daily. And a hard border would definitely hinder trade, which trade is a vital part of the local economy along both sides of the divide.


A dedicated ‘Commonwealth and Ireland’ line at UK ports of entry

The smartest thing the Home Office UK Visas and Immigration department could do is to create a separate queue line at all UK ports of entry and mark it “Commonwealth and Ireland” so that people from Commonwealth countries or from the Republic of Ireland have a dedicated and streamlined entry into Britain.

In this way, goods and people can move much more efficiently between those jurisdictions.

If it sounds like I want to favour people from Commonwealth nations, you’re right. If it sounds like I want to favour people from Northern Ireland who may decide to fly to Britain, you’d be right. And if it sounds like I want Republic of Ireland citizens to easily travel to any part of the UK, you’d be right in that assumption.


Special Treatment at UK ports of entry: A ‘Nexus Card’ for frequent travelers between Ireland and any UK port of entry

Here in North America, citizens who cross the U.S. / Canada border can apply for a Nexus Card or an Enhanced Driver’s Licence — either of which dramatically speed border crossing times for holders of those cards — and not incidentally, also lowers wait times for the people in the non-Nexus lineups because fewer people (or vehicles) are traveling in that particular queue — it’s a bonus for frequent travelers in North America.

Such a streamlined customs experience should be extended to all Irish citizens as a courtesy — and for the Republic of Ireland in exchange for their help in patrolling and securing the soft border with Northern Ireland.


The UK Government (UK.gov) Paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland

Stormont is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly and is located in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Stormont is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly and is located in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Image courtesy of visitbelfast.com

“The UK government pledges to protect the Belfast Agreement and Common Travel Area in new position paper published August 16, 2017.

The Government has today published a comprehensive paper which outlines the UK’s position on addressing the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and the land border with Ireland.

The position paper — which has been published ahead of the August negotiating round — states that the Government will protect the Common Travel Area (CTA) and associated rights for UK and Irish citizens, and put upholding the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement at the heart of its Exit negotiations.

The paper also puts forward proposals on avoiding a hard border on the movement of goods — making clear the UK’s position that there should be no physical infrastructure at the border — and plans to preserve the wide range of institutional cooperation between Northern Ireland, Ireland and Great Britain including for the energy market.” — From the UK.gov website


Trade Between the UK and the Republic of Ireland

Billions of pounds sterling in trade crosses between the UK and the Republic of Ireland and a significant amount of it is spent in the small and medium-sized business (SME) trade. Keeping the border open, yet enhancing security will be a challenge for both the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but with good will and some visionary thinking it shouldn’t be too difficult to get an agreement that benefits the largest number of people.

Brexit - Ireland and UK trade
Brexit – Ireland and UK trade in numbers. Image courtesy of cso.ie

A Soft Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is in everyone’s interest

For as long as the Republic of Ireland remains a member of the European Union it’s in everyone’s best interests to keep the soft border arrangement and to work together to enhance security on both sides of that soft border by any reasonable means.

If that means having facial recognition technology and vehicle license plate readers at all government buildings and properties, ferry terminals and international airports in Northern Ireland and Britain, it’s a small price to pay to preserve and enhance security for the EU, for the Republic of Ireland, and the UK including Northern Ireland.

The soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland must work for citizens of each country, for small (and large) business, and it must ensure a high level of security for both the EU and the UK. This is one Brexit negotiation that must succeed for the benefit of all.


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The Brexit Team: Swiss Watch or Contraption?

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LettertoBritain.com

One of the most credible economic stewards to serve Britain in a long time is the inscrutable Philip Hammond who has done nothing but improve the UK economy since the day he was sworn in to the post. Which was merely an extension of him having been born for the job, it seems.

It’s not only that; Mr. Hammond’s word carries a lot of weight in foreign capitals, and in the EU his word is his bond. Soft-spoken, adroit and adept, Hammond is one of the darlings of financial capitals everywhere and it’s a great thing to see him in his element.

So began Prime Minister Theresa May’s summer vacation, where she and her husband (also named Philip) went off to Switzerland to take the mountain air and hold long and meaningful conversations at full stride up the Matterhorn.

Leaving the country in the capable hands of Philip Hammond must be a comforting thought for Theresa May as she and hubby blow past the tourists struggling to get to the top for a selfie. My advice: Just get out of their way or you’ll get run over. Seriously.


The Exchequer comments on post-Brexit Immigration

However wonderful it is having a powerful Exchequer, there is the temptation for them to overstep their bounds and cross over into the areas of responsibility reserved for the Prime Minister.

And just as predictably as that; Before Theresa May had gotten her first alpine air, Hammond told reporters, “there should be no immediate changes to immigration or trading rules when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.” (Sky News)

It’s forgivable, and probably wise for Conservatives to be seen voicing the concerns of voters on both sides of Brexit. However, Exchequers should stick to their primary interest (the economy!) and let others, whose direct responsibility it is, to hold forth on immigration issues.


With Theresa away, the Remainers will play

While Theresa May gets some mountain air, the Remainers in the Prime Minister’s cabinet are clearing the air by presenting their side of Brexit — and that’s fine. But let’s make certain that fair play rules are enforced; Which means that cabinet officers publicly comment only on their primary area of responsibility. Only the Prime Minister has the authority to publicly comment on all matters, otherwise it looks like a circus.

Every misstep is celebrated in foreign capitals. People in the EU who may be opposed to Brexit are incredibly strengthened by each implied criticism directed towards the Prime Minister by members of her cabinet.

The entire period of Brexit is a highly unique time, a time where all Britons must pull together and come to the realization that many in the EU are fighting for a ‘Win-Lose’ outcome, an outcome where Britain loses vis-à-vis the European Union.

Meanwhile, the best of the Brexiters are fighting for a ‘Win-Win’ outcome where both Britain and the EU win. And those are the people I’m putting my money on.


Clear Lines + Clear Thinking = Positive Results

There’s nothing wrong with MP’s on both sides of Brexit informing the public about how they would proceed on any matter — as a sort of trial balloon to gauge public mood. That can be useful moving forward by keeping those who voted Remain interested and engaged with Brexit, and there is every opportunity that Remainers may come up with excellent ideas related to soft Brexit implementation within their field of expertise.

But greater care must be taken to avoid strengthening the hand of anti-Brexit forces in the EU, now that Britain has finally! asserted her rights.

Government ministers must draw the distinction between legitimate discussions about how Remainers (read: Soft Brexiters) or vocal Brexiters (read: Hard Brexiters) would handle any Brexit issue — and how the wrong sort of discussions or even the wrong tone of discussions could work against Britain in foreign capitals. The wrong public discourse works against both versions of Brexit.

Let’s not be naive. Each misstep by anyone in the UK government is celebrated at the EU Parliament and certain EU capitals. Whatever is going on behind the scenes within the UK government, a unified face must be presented to the world in order to obtain the best Brexit result.


Controlling the Narrative: Job #1 for Every Prime Minister

UK government ministers, and possibly even the Prime Minister herself may not yet realize the extent to which the world now sees the United Kingdom as a completely different entity. The UK no longer exists as only one of 28 EU members, and what the UK will eventually become, is unfolding every day like an onion being unpeeled.

Is the UK destined to become a nation of cross-talkers, mixed messages and unreliable partners? Or is Britain starting with a clean sheet to become all that she can and should become in the 21st-century?

Only the Prime Minister knows, as she’s the one holding the pen. Let’s see what script she writes.


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This Week in Brexit: UK leaves London Fisheries Convention

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LettertoBritain.com

Environment Secretary Micheal Gove has signaled that the UK intends to leave the London Fisheries Convention (LFC) as the first move towards an eventual Brexit completion within 24 months.

The original London Fisheries Convention was signed in 1964 and it allowed vessels from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands to fish in British waters in the 6 to 12 nautical mile range which was a significant upgrade for those fishers as UK coastal areas are abundant fishing grounds.

(It was also a significant upgrade for those who ship any kind of contraband to the UK because it allows them to get much closer to British shores and drop their loads with less chance of being detected by police — and people wonder why London has the world’s highest cocaine concentrations in their wastewater treatment plants!)

Once Brexit completes, UK fishers will obviously lose their right to fish in EU waters in the 6 to 12 nautical mile range.


The Tory government said the change will allow more direct control and better responsibility for fisheries management in the 0 to 12 nautical mile range.

“Leaving the London Fisheries Convention is an important moment as we take back control of our fishing policy. It means for the first time in more than 50 years we will be able to decide who can access our waters. This is an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union – one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the UK.”Michael Gove, UK Environment Secretary

“This is welcome news and an important part of establishing the UK as an independent coastal state with sovereignty over its own exclusive economic zone.”Barrie Deas, National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations

“For years, successive UK governments have blamed Brussels for their own failure to support the small-scale, sustainable fishers who are the backbone of our fishing fleet. If Brexit is to herald a better future for our fishers, the new Environment Secretary Michael Gove must keep the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto commitment to re-balance fishing quotas in favour of ‘small-scale, specific locally based fishing communities’.”Will McCallum, Greenpeace UK


In 2015, the British fishing industry caught 708,000 tonnes of fish worth £775 million.

A claimed 10,000 tonnes of fish were caught by EU countries in Britain’s waters in the 6 to 12 nautical mile zone. (2015 statistics) It could be much higher than that, but nobody would know because nobody is policing it!

That’s a minimum of £17 million in fish that leaves Britain each year. Fish that will now be caught by UK fishers (and presumably) will be processed by UK fish processing and packaging plants, adding even more value to the British economy.

Scottish government says UK is right to leave fishing deal (BBC)

It’s true that since 1964 when the LFC came into existence the UK fishing industry lost millions of pounds sterling and hundreds of jobs every year for the privilege of belonging to the then-European Community / now European Union.

As so often happens in the postwar relationship between Britain and continental Europe, it is Britain that winds up subsidizing the continent.

How else can it be termed anything but ‘subsidizing the continent’ when millions of pounds sterling (in this example, raw fish) and hundreds of fish processing and packaging jobs were handed to the continent every year since 1964?

Here! Take our jobs! We’re British!’

Now that PM Theresa May has delegated this poignant case to Secretary Gove with instructions to effect a win for UK fishers, fish stocks will rebound, there will be more jobs for UK fishers, there will be more UK fish processing and packaging jobs, and anti-contraband efforts in UK waters will become more effective.

And that’s no fish story!


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