Theresa May’s New Year of Hope

As far as years go, UK Prime Minister Theresa May must be glad to see the end of 2017 as are many others in Britain and around the world. In matters Brexit, it was a year of low-level chaos and unfulfilled expectations — lots of ‘churn’ but not much actual progress.

Yet the Prime Minister did make some exceptional speeches and unexpectedly reached-out to EU citizens to assure them that while Britain was leaving the European Union, it wasn’t leaving Europe. Well done on both counts, Theresa May.

She also told EU citizens living in the UK that their situation wouldn’t change, aside from having to register their residency with the Home Office and pay a nominal fee to retain their ‘settled status’. And while that didn’t seem to impress small numbers of EU negotiators, it brought great comfort to millions of expats living in Britain.

Of course, it’s all contingent upon reaching a final ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ between the United Kingdom and the European Union, but it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that the UK would act unilaterally to guarantee the rights of EU citizens working or studying in Britain in the case of no agreement.

Theresa May also offered £40 billion of UK taxpayer money to the European Union; Everyone is unclear what this is for, as nobody from the government has bothered to explain it to citizens.

Many people think that the UK’s share in the EU Parliament buildings and in other EU properties and assets should be sold off to the other EU27 members and the £9.65 billion (estimated) value could be used to pay future UK liabilities to the EU and that there is no need to pay £40 billion. Which seems reasonable.

If there is an actual need for the UK to pay £40 billion to the EU, surely British taxpayers have the right to know what they’re paying for, and to whom.

But if Theresa May has agreed to continue paying the £8.6 billion annual net payment to the European Union until Brexit completes within 2 years (approximately) plus 2 more years to cover the transition period, then that seems pretty reasonable too. If that’s how the £40 billion is being arrived at, there’s not much to complain about there.


With all this reasonableness going ’round it’s no wonder EU negotiators agreed to move to Phase II of Brexit negotiations — trade — a hyper-important part of the post-Brexit relationship on both sides of the English Channel.

Negotiating a mutually beneficial trade agreement between the UK and the EU in 2018 is Job Number One for negotiators on both sides.

Trade between the United Kingdom and the EU27 ranks as one of the most robust trading relationships in the world

  • 44% of UK exports are sold to the EU27, making them Britain’s most important trade partner.
  • 16% of EU exports are sold to the UK, making Britain the EU27’s most important trade partner.

Which makes the whole ‘getting an agreement’ discussion largely academic — as there will be an agreement or hundreds CEO’s on both sides of the English Channel will be breathing fire down the necks of UK and EU negotiators every day until an agreement is reached. “Don’t even think about coming home without an agreement!” (Yes, just like that)


UK/EU Trade: Where do United Kingdom Exports Go?


Where do UK exports go? UK Office for National Statistics 2015.


UK/EU Trade: Where do European Union Exports Go?


The EU's largest single export market is the UK. European Commission Export Helpdesk.


So There We Have It: They Can’t Live With Each Other, But They Can’t Live Without Each Other!

Which is a very good thing.

And because companies on both sides need to keep their biggest export market open and flourishing, there absolutely will be a reasonable trade deal — one that both sides can live with. There is simply no alternative.

Which neatly explains the title of this blog post ‘Theresa May’s New Year of Hope’ because Job Number One for Brexit negotiators on both sides must be working a successful trade deal — and every CEO in Europe will be watching with keen interest, to put it very mildly.

You don’t want to be the trade negotiator coming home without a deal and having to tell the CEO of Volkswagen or BP that you were too incompetent to get a deal. Yikes!

There will be an excellent UK/EU trade deal in 2018, a trade accord that both sides will be rightly proud of — one that works for CEO’s, citizens and governments throughout Europe.


Trade As Saviour

As the focus will be on trade in 2018 (something that both sides must preserve if today’s politicians want to keep their jobs) the new year looks to be one of the better years for relations between the UK and the EU27.

Let’s hope that Phase II of the Brexit negotiations move smartly along and that (if a Phase III is required) the momentum that gets built throughout 2018 works to facilitate friendly and workable solutions to any remaining issues between the two blocs.

Politicians and negotiators on both sides of the Brexit divide have everything to gain by bringing home a fair and workable trading agreement and everything to lose if they don’t.

Therefore, let 2018 be ‘The Year of Hope’ as 512 million European citizens are counting on their politicians and negotiators to open windows of opportunity as big as the sky, and to create even more justice and fairness for all Europeans, no matter where in Europe they may live, work, or play.

No matter which side of Brexit you’re on, the kleef&co team wish you a Happy, Safe, and Prosperous New Year!

Written by John Brian Shannon

Day 548: Pass the Eggnog & Where Are We on Brexit?

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from Letter to Britain

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Oops, that was another lifetime. But in the here and now, London rain still falls in torrents, violent winds sweep up and down the streets, and the flames of freedom still struggle against the forces of darkness.

Our protagonist is of course the redoubtable Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who has given repeated assurances since her July 2016 inauguration that “Brexit means Brexit” and “Brexit will occur on March 29, 2019” and has repeated many similar expressions of intent.

But not much has changed.

For all the talk by Remainers and their skulking ‘Project Fear’ campaign, none of their shrill accusations have materialized; The economy didn’t crash, unemployment didn’t skyrocket, the deficit hasn’t increased, and governments haven’t fallen.

It’s been a rather bit dull, hasn’t it?

For all the talk by Leavers and their loud promises to save £350 million per week (and redirect the money to the NHS) and to save UK taxpayers £8.6 billion (net) per year, and the largely unfulfilled increase in British exports due to renewed interest in UK goods, not much has happened there either.

In fairness to the Leave campaign, as Brexit hasn’t yet occurred they can’t be faulted on promises which can’t be kept until Brexit completes.


So, What Has Happened?

Politicians on both sides of the Brexit line have been talking, and they’ve decided to talk some more.

Apparently, the talks are going so well that one side wants to pay the other side £40 billion in advance of gaining a bespoke trade deal, while the other side say that talks have progressed so well that they’re going on to ‘Phase II’ — more talk — but this time the talk will be about trade.

Oh, and March 29, 2019 appears to be the mutually agreed official Brexit date, but negotiators on both sides have created a policy ‘Mulligan’ allowing them to postpone the official Brexit date in case one side misses the target date by a few days or weeks.

How very European.

And you must know they agreed on the Mulligan as the first order of business, but then delayed announcing it until concluding their ‘Phase I’ negotiations.

Here in North America such concepts as missed deadlines aren’t tolerated. ‘Get it together or you’re fired’ is how deadlines are kept in the U.S.A. (and no Mulligans)


What’s on the Horizon?

Next-up appears to be working towards a trade deal by October 29, 2018 — as a lack of agreement by that date will indicate a WTO-style Brexit.

NOTE: October 29, 2018 is cited by many as the latest possible date to sign a Brexit trade deal and still have time for industry and government to properly implement such agreements.

Newspaper columnists are wondering aloud about a CETA-style deal between the UK and the EU. (CETA is a trade deal between Canada and the European Union that took 7 years to negotiate and even into the 8th year isn’t fully implemented)

Still, CETA is an excellent basis upon which to build a future trade relationship with the European Union. The UK could do worse than using CETA as a template to forge a new trading arrangement with the EU. Such an agreement could be further tailored in later months or years to meet specific needs on both sides of the English Channel.

But as of December 2017 we’ve not seen much urgency for trade discussions. However, as October 2018 draws close, the speed at which things happen will increase exponentially.

Nobody wants to fail at getting a trade agreement — UK and EU industry would crucify politicians who didn’t sign a viable and timely trade agreement — and voters would likely punish their respective politicians at the following election. Yet, if some horsepower isn’t soon applied to the slow-motion Brexit discussions, policymakers on both sides are likely to find themselves speaking from the opposition benches after the next election.


Either Way, We’re On Our Way to a Cordial Brexit

Whether a trade deal is signed in time or not, in typical European fashion a cordial parting looks set to occur.

Three years will have passed from the June 23, 2016 Brexit referendum and the only variable seems to be whether politicians will manage to negotiate a free trade deal that is ready to sign by October 29, 2018 thereby leaving enough time for implementation ahead of the final Brexit date of March 29, 2019.

Only 461 days to go, Prime Minister…

UK Brexit, PM Theresa May.

With Theresa May at the helm for the foreseeable future it may take plenty of time to arrive at certain Brexit waypoints. Yet irrespective of ongoing Brexit frictions — UK relations with the European Union are likely to improve even from their present (high) level. Which in the final analysis, means that quiet diplomacy may be the most profound of Theresa May’s political qualities.

Wishing you all a very Happy Holiday season and a safe and prosperous New Year!

 

This Week in Brexit: What Scotland Missed

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LettertoBritain.com

Congratulations to Prime Minister Theresa May for working out a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to allow the present minority Tory government to continue in office.

Theresa May strikes ‘confidence and supply’ deal with DUP

And congratulations to DUP leader Arlene Foster for negotiating so well on behalf of her jurisdiction, thereby gaining £1.5 billion in additional infrastructure and other funding.

That’s a ‘Win-Win’ for the Tories and for the Democratic Unionist Party — and more importantly (sorry, Theresa and Arlene!) it’s a ‘Win-Win’ for residents of Northern Ireland.

Theresa May signs ‘£1.5 billion’ deal with the DUP

Infrastructure in Northern Ireland is in bad shape and the funding appears at an opportune moment, as there comes a point when it becomes cheaper to tear down a bridge (for example) than to pay ever-increasing maintenance costs.

The same is true for all infrastructure. Whether roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, airports, or the underground infrastructure that carries water to homes and businesses, all of it has a ‘best before’ date where leaving vital infrastructure spending for too long can cost more than the savings of not doing the work.

The Conservative/DUP deal: what it says and what it means

Of course, £1.5 billion isn’t going to fix it all. But I wouldn’t be surprised if two years of successful DUP ‘confidence and supply’ support gets the residents of Northern Ireland additional infrastructure spending allocations, courtesy of DUP leader Arlene Foster and Prime Minister Theresa May.

And why not? Arlene Foster prevented a divisive and perhaps extended Parliamentary crisis — one that would’ve prevented much good from being done in the United Kingdom.

Speaking of which; See how infrastructure spending is increasing in Northern Ireland, and how it isn’t in Scotland? Not only additional spending, but PM May and DUP leader Foster also negotiated more devolved powers for Northern Ireland.

NOTE to Nicola: It’s great to have a particular ideology, but when it costs your jurisdiction £1.5 billion in the form of missed infrastructure funding, it’s time to review what you think you’re accomplishing!

Loss of opportunity is also a metric by which UK leaders must be measured — it certainly is for heads of government everywhere else — and not as much as it should be, but it’s still an important marker of successful leadership.

Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland’s SNP missed the boat. Arlene Foster of Northern Ireland’s DUP didn’t. And UK Prime Minister Theresa May begins to look like a bit of a deal-maker, which can only be viewed as a good thing as we head into Brexit. Well done, Theresa!


Related Articles:

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.

 

 

Will Theresa May and Donald Trump Solve the #1 Challenge of Our Time?

by John Brian Shannon – Originally posted at LetterToBritain.com

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was invited to the White House on January 27 to be the first foreign leader to meet with the new American president, Donald Trump.

It’s always an honour to be the first invitee of the new president, and the timing couldn’t be better as the Western economic order is beginning to churn.

In the West, the past 70 years have been a relatively stable era with increasing wealth (although since the Reagan-era tax cuts, obscene inequality has become a destabilizing force) and social mobility has increased dramatically since the creation of the internet.

This combination could prove extraordinarily useful to motivate leaders to provide the kind of leadership required of the times — or 2017 could prove to be the pivotal moment in the unravelling of the Western democracies.

President Trump wasn’t elected U.S. president because American citizens were bored by the Democrats.

Americans voted Trump/Pence to overthrow the existing plutocracy in Washington, not to overthrow foreign governments.

Regardless how many Middle Eastern conflicts the West has prosecuted, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. But this time the problems are here at home, not in some faraway country.

Americans voted for Barack Obama (2008 and 2012) and now Donald Trump (2016) in large part to stop the unfolding economic disaster in the West. Britons may have held similar ideas to American voters about a sustainable economic plan when they voted for Brexit.

Will Prime Minister of Britain Theresa May and President of the United States Donald Trump work together to solve the existential challenge of our time? Image displays the share of the world’s total wealth for the Top 1% vs. the Bottom 99%. Image courtesy of OXFAM
Will Prime Minister of Britain Theresa May and President of the United States Donald Trump work together to solve inequality, the existential challenge of our time? Image displays the share of the world’s total wealth for the Top 1% vs. the Bottom 99%. Image courtesy of OXFAM.

The chart below (from 2010) reveals the bottom 80 percent of Americans share just 7 percent of the nation’s wealth, but it’s much worse now (in 2017) and this phenomenon is no longer confined to the United States.

Theresa May must work with Donald Trump to roll back record inequality
Britain’s Theresa May must work with U.S. president Donald Trump to roll back record inequality that will eventually destroy the entire middle class. You can see the bottom 80% compete for only 7% of America’s total wealth. (This image is from 2010. It’s actually much worse now)

That trend will not change until politicians are bigger than the challenges that confront them, and actually do something about the record inequality sweeping the West.

It’s not a call to ‘do something, anything, anything at all’ — as some so-called ‘solutions’ might be worse than the problem.

But what citizens of the Western nations require is an acknowledgement by politicians of the sheer scale of the problem, and some initial steps to slow the rapid transfer of wealth away from the bottom three quintiles to the top 1 percent. (Even tiny baby-steps are preferable to the decades-long stony silence on the matter)

Theresa May and Donald Trump must ensure that globalization and free trade work for everyone.
Britain and the United States must ensure that globalization and free trade work for everyone. Image courtesy of the New York Times, You can’t feed a family with GDP by Neil Irwin.

Inequality ignored, will only result in citizens ‘giving up’ on their governments and ‘giving up’ on democracy — and we know how that will end. Badly. For everyone.

Including powerful politicians who serve for amazingly short stints of time in office. Once you’re in politics, four years pass by like a long summer!

Today’s toxic combination of ultra-low taxes on the rich and unrestricted globalization aren’t working for 3/5ths of the population. In 10 years, it won’t be working for 4/5ths of the population. And let’s remember, all of them are voters.

Here’s how that looks

In 2016, more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth was owned by the 1 percent.
By 2030, more than 70 percent of the world’s wealth will be owned by the 1 percent.
By 2045, more than 85 percent of the world’s wealth will be owned by the 1 percent.

Put another way; Do you really want to live in a world where 8 billion people are fighting over the then-remaining 30 percent of the world’s wealth?

Can you imagine what it’s going to look like in 2045 when 9 billion people are fighting over the then-remaining 15 percent of the world’s wealth?

At that time, you’d better be living on an island in the mid-Pacific that doesn’t appear on any map, in a castle with 100-metre high concrete walls.

I respectfully suggest to Prime Minister Theresa May and President Donald Trump that if inequality isn’t addressed this year, it’ll be too late. Just look for a remote island in the Pacific Ocean… now, before the rush begins.

The time involved in getting new legislation passed, combined with the lag time involved for it to take effect during the following fiscal cycle, is years after the day it is first discussed.

Can Theresa May and president Donald Trump cooperate to solve record inequality.

Let’s hope that January 27, 2017 will come to be known as, ‘The day the decline of the bottom-three quintiles was halted and reversed’ by these two great leaders.

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