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.

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!


Related Article:

This Week in Brexit: Expat rights

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToBritain.com

Now that Brexit issues of substance have percolated up into the mainstream everyone has stopped talking about the Tories getting their electoral wings clipped and we can now move on to far more important matters! And just in time folks, it was getting a bit much.

The Queen looked positively radiant reading aloud the document that will change European history on both sides of the English Channel.

Some comments were made about her EU-bleu hat which had five golden embellishments reminiscent of the gold stars on the EU flag. If so, it’s the Queen’s prerogative what to wear and if she wanted to send a polite message to the European Union via her choice of attire, why not?

If you asked 20 people what that message might have been, you’d probably get 20 different answers. Note to conspiracy theorists; Knock yourselves out!

You must be dying to know what my read of the Queen’s outfit is: After all, you ARE reading this blog, aren’t you?

I think the Queen knows there are hurt feelings in Brussels and that others in the EU are sad to see Britain leave. And it could be that as she read the speech written to begin the process to take the UK out of the EU, she wanted to politely emote, ‘We are leaving your Union, but we respect you and want to keep good relations with you.’

How could it be other than that? What else would you expect from the reigning Monarch of the United Kingdom? Of course, continental Europe will still need the UK… and the United Kingdom will still need the EU.

Trade, a common European defence, social causes, families, etc. are so interlinked between Britons and the people across the Channel that good relations must be preserved, sparing no effort.


EU Membership is no guarantee of a booming economy

Over 175 nations in the world are not members of the EU, nor do they have trade agreements with the EU.

Some nations, even those in close proximity to the EU declined to join the Union. And some, like Norway, Switzerland and others simply worked out different arrangements with the EU.

Greenland applied for EU membership, then withdrew its application once Greenlanders were consulted via referendum. Yet, Norway, Switzerland and Greenland have continued along just fine without EU membership, as have other European and non-European states.

The UK will get along fine without EU membership

Yes, some things will be better for Britons. Yes, there will be a period of adjustment after Brexit. And minor economic disruptions could occur here and there, at various waypoints along the Brexit timetable.

But what negotiators on both sides must remember is that, ‘What’s good for the UK, is good for the EU.’

Large EU companies like BMW and Mercedes don’t want a recession in the UK! It’s one of their best markets. Large British companies like BP (British Petroleum) want continental Europe to thrive, else how can it remain profitable?

Arguably, small business is even more dependent upon thriving economies on both sides of the English Channel.

Which is why Brexit must be made to work!

If the EU ‘stabs’ the UK, it will be the EU that bleeds! The reverse is also true!

Hurt feelings aside, let’s hope that negotiators on both sides are dedicated to ensuring they aren’t the cause of their own ‘bleeding’ and that they continually work towards a better agreement — one that works for Britons and EU citizens alike.

RECIPROCITY should be the watchword every day until Brexit negotiations are concluded. And thenceforth, all relations between the two sides should be guided by that ultra-important word in perpetuity.

UK and EU -- RECIPROCITY definition by Cambridge University Press

What all this is leading up to is the present discussion surrounding expat privileges in both jurisdictions — succinctly covered by Laura Kuenssberg, Political editor at the BBC, here.

But we can’t have one ruleset for UK citizens who live, work, attend university, or are retired in EU nations… and a different ruleset for EU citizens who live, work, attend university, or are retired in the United Kingdom.


SSTWB: Simple Solutions Tend to Work Best

So with that in mind let’s declare that from January 1st 2018, any EU citizen who moves to (or already lives in) the United Kingdom for any reason (work, school, retirement, or to live as one of the idle rich) must register with the UK government and pay an annual £100 fee per each family member (in the case of EU citizens that move to the UK) and for those Britons who move to the EU for any reason (work, school, retirement, or to live as one of the idle rich) must register with the government of that jurisdiction and pay an annual €100 fee per each family member.

Once they have registered and paid, it thereby proves their status and good intentions to the jurisdiction in which they intend to live (or already live) and they should have the ability to join the NHS (in the case of EU citizens living in the UK) and pay the same NHS contributions as Britons do.

Of course, those contributions are scaled to income so EU citizens would need to provide a copy of their income tax form to the UK government when paying their annual £100 per family member expat tax in order to qualify for the subsidized NHS rate appropriate to their income level.

And all of it should be easily done every year — either online or in a government agent’s office. And it should be a simplified form so that the entire process takes less than 5 minutes. Keep it simple!

  • Name
  • Address
  • Work or University address
  • Income tax ID number
  • Pay £100 per family member here via credit card

UK citizens that live, work, or retire in the European Union should receive corresponding privileges — the only difference being the value of the currency — the €100 annual fee per expat vs. the £100 annual fee per expat.


Issues of Law and (worryingly) Issues of Precedent arise

Some (very unreasonable) EU people suggest that EU laws should apply in Britain! (Yes, some people have actually said that aloud)

Do I have to say it? It is the very definition of Bureaucracy Run Amok!

And further, they’ve stated that EU citizens living in Britain should be bound by EU laws, and any court proceedings that involve EU citizens living in Britain would need to be conducted in an EU-court located somewhere in Britain. Facepalm!

It’s one of the most absurd things I’ve heard, and people who suggest such things need years of psychological treatment (You need to be deprogrammed Comrade Bureaucrat, as you’re no longer in the Collective!) and remains true EVEN IF they support having British courts in the European Union to adjudicate Britons who break UK laws while in the EU.

Stop the insanity!

FACT: The Colonial Era is over. FACT: The United Kingdom was never a colony of the European Union. FACT: The United Kingdom really is leaving the European Union!

Trying to pull such stunts shows how buried in the sand, are some heads in the EU, even at this late Brexit date.

There is only one way it will work

EU citizens must obey the laws and be bound by British courts whenever they are in Britain — and the reverse is just as true — Britons living in the European Union must obey the laws and be bound by EU courts whenever they are in the EU. Full stop! No other choices available!

Although I’d certainly support a reciprocal incarceration agreement, whereby once sentenced, a UK citizen (for example) could apply to serve out his/her prison time in a United Kingdom prison instead of in the EU where he or she broke EU laws.

EU citizens who break the law in the United Kingdom should likewise be offered the opportunity to serve out their prison term in the EU.

And all of it should be simplified and standardized, so that any such prisoner requests could be completed within 48 hours. People in prison have families too — and why exactly should they be punished?


IN SUMMARY

Once we ditch the crazy people from the negotiations, mutual interests should prevail and allow the economies of Europe, a common European defence, commerce, industry, and family ties to remain unaffected, and in some ways improved. Above all else, overall improvement in the multifaceted relationship between the UK and the EU should be the goal for negotiators.

Getting to a ‘Win-Win’ Brexit

Written by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToBritain.com

What results can Britons hope for during the next two-years of Brexit negotiations?

In the aftermath of the UK General Election 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May has her work cut out for her.

With the whole country and indeed the world looking on, Brexit negotiations are set to begin next week. One note that inspires some early confidence is the mild but useful cabinet shuffle announced by PM May at the weekend.


PM Theresa May must gain control of borders and the numbers of people allowed into the UK

It’s become clear over many months that immigration levels are seen by many citizens as too high and that far too much ‘catering’ to the needs of refugees and economic immigrants has been allowed to occur.

Of course it makes sense to take care of people new to the country and few would begrudge decent treatment for people looking for a better life free from persecution in the case of refugees, and in the case of economic migrants having the ability to earn a living and a shot at a real life.

However, when the migrants seem to be doing better than the 13 million Britons who make up the bottom economic quintile group it’s a sign that adjustments are in order.

NOTE: The UK’s bottom economic quintile group report average incomes of £6146 (original income) £13,841 (final income) and £11,883 (disposable income) – uk.gov

Either because of young age combined with entry-level work or part-time work, or poor opportunities for less-educated older members of the workforce, or diminishing opportunities in their chosen career due to market forces, the bottom quintile group suffers from lower-income, poorer health, poorer housing, and lower life satisfaction index scores. They also die younger, spend more time in hospitals, and as a quintile have more dealings with police and security agencies.

Through no fault of their own (as offshoring of jobs isn’t their fault, nor is increased immigration where lower paying jobs are taken by cheaper labour immigrant workers) this group costs the UK economy billions of pounds sterling every year.

If there were jobs available for the people in the bottom quintile they would take them, and no longer find themselves in the bottom fifth with all the attendant costs to themselves, their families, and to UK society

But the simple fact is, in the UK there are many more people looking for work, than there are jobs available — and this is particularly true since the beginning of the influx of eastern European immigrants and refugees from other regions.

This means ‘hard’ borders with real border guards and guns. It means people must be turned away if they don’t meet all of the requirements to enter the country and it means that those non-UK-citizens presently in the country must register their status with the Home Office by January 1st of each year, with updated address, phone number, employment details, or if a student their university details, etc. and pay an annual fee of 100 pounds sterling to the Home Office.

It really isn’t much to ask when the positive is that they get to live in one of the best countries on the planet.


PM Theresa May must insure that all offshore areas presently under EU jurisdiction and formerly under the jurisdiction of Great Britain, must be returned to the UK

UK fishers, those in the undersea resource extraction field, and corporations that build wind turbine installations in the North Sea were under the authority of the EU while the UK was a member of the European Union, however, now that the UK is leaving the EU, maritime borders must revert to their previous status.

Not only will jurisdiction revert to the United Kingdom, but the responsibility to patrol and protect those waterways will once again fall to the Royal Navy and the RAF. The primary responsibility of every government on the planet is to protect its citizens, and that means spending significant time and resources to protect the land, sea, and air boundaries of the country. Real countries don’t ‘contract it out’ to other nations. If you want it done right, do it yourself.

I hope Theresa May won’t get shouted down by EU negotiators on this primary and important aspect of statehood.

Not only are the fishing zones rich, but so are the undersea resources, as are the wind and wave resources for corporations that spend billions to build offshore wind farms.

In their entirety, UK marine zones represent almost uncountable riches, and the European Union can’t be happy about losing their claim on these abundant waters.


PM Theresa May must negotiate a reciprocal expat agreement that works for both UK and EU expats

At present, 1.3 million British citizens live in the EU, while 3.3 million EU citizens live in the United Kingdom.

But neither the European Union nor the United Kingdom has any particular obligation to host the others’ citizens after Brexit.

For example, EU citizens living in the UK have no special status and the UK isn’t obligated to allow them to continue to live or work in a post-Brexit Britain. The same is true for Britons presently living in the EU whether they are working on the continent, attending university there, or have retired in the European Union.

One would like to think a standardized agreement for reciprocal expat rights can be signed immediately between the two blocs.

But it’s a situation where the benefits to politicians are relatively small, as only tiny numbers of voters are involved out of Europe’s total population of 504 million.

In the (hypothetical) worst-case scenario, three times as many EU citizens would be required to return to the EU while only 1.3 million Britons would be required to leave the European Union following Brexit.

Wouldn’t it be great if politicians could agree on a standardized bill of rights for all European expats?

Instead of the usual tug-of-war where the only eventuality is a ‘Win-Lose’ outcome, all European leaders should broaden their worldview and seek a pan-European ‘Win-Win’ agreement that works for all expats.

Goodwill and a ‘Win-Win’ attitude will be everything in regards to successful Brexit negotiations

Without those two ingredients, leaders on both sides will buy themselves years of misery and bad polls: But by employing those ingredients in generous measure, European leaders on both sides of the Brexit negotiations will prove their world-class credentials and abilities to 7.4 billion onlookers.