Tag Archives: EU

Hutton dogma

Journalist Will Hutton has a distinguished career, but in common with many journalists, communication with others is unidirectional. They write, they speak, they opine, and occasionally they debate. What they seemingly don’t have a lot experience with is negotiating.

Hutton was pontificating on the various interchanges with the EU in relation to final pattern of Brexit (a misnomer – we have left the EU and it’s over). He was highly critical of some form of agreement which approached anything like ‘no deal’, and lambasted David Frost and others for not concluding an agreement.

But no deal means, no deal. There are two parties and one of those parties cannot unilaterally effect a ‘deal’. No deal simply that means they can’t find common ground within their negotiating parameters. If all frameworks proposed violate the bottom lines of one or both parties, there can be no agreement.

Hutton, and most remainers don’t understand this simple business truth. You can always “agree” by capitulation. So If the EU said “you can have just 1% of fish from British waters or no deal – our final position” . Where is the negotiation? It’s not a failure of the negotiators if there is no agreement because the parties cannot agree within their solution constraints. Hutton would of course say “take it” ? The only logical outcome of Hutton’s approach – no deal is not acceptable – is that we accept whatever the EU decide if we want a deal. Negotiating principle 101 is broken – the determination to walk away from the table if real (as opposed to ‘ploy’) red lines are breached by some proposed agreement. Every negotiator needs a “walk away” scenario.

Whatever is decided with the EU now will have a generational effect on the UK. Do we in essence cede sovereignty to to the EU or not ? Do we have the some responsibilities of sovereign government delegated to France or Germany? Should disputes be resolved by a foreign court in which we have no participation? these are the stark choices for the UK.

The whole essence of negotiation is to have a bottom line – an “or else”. David Frost knows that if there no overlapping set of positions it’s their deal or no deal. NO businessman or government would or should accept that, and neither should UK Limited.

Law – what law ?

Labour (along with a motley assortment of remainers and of course the SNP) has predictably got into a flurry over the Internal Market Act and the assertion that it will ‘break international law’. Their feigned horror that the UK will become an international pariah in so doing is couched in words that imply (for the benefit of the casual listener or uninformed) that (a) there is some coherent codification of such global laws, and (b) that there is some body that might impose sanction on an ‘offender’.

Neither of these things appears to be the case. To quote Wikipedia, International Law operates “largely through consent, since there is no universally accepted authority to enforce it upon sovereign states. Any enforcement authority is rather less defined than that of the local magistrate fining a drunk. Further, the claim that the UK will lose all international standing as a trustworthy party has a whiff of hypocrisy about it.

One body for enforcing law pan-nationally is the International Court of Justice (ICJ). A casual glance shows, for example, that their rulings went against the UK (on the Chagos Archipelago) and over the years the UK government has found every way to avoid complying with those rulings. Indeed, the UK rejected the ruling of the ICJ as having no authority in the matters at hand. The issue was rights of the indigenous islanders against Uncle Sams’s shilling for having the nuclear air base of Diego Garcia sited there. The labour party (in the shapes variously and particularly of Harold Wilson, JackStraw, David Milliband and Lord Falconer) and never seemed to bother about the injustices they heaped on the Chagos islanders in the face of ICJ rulings. So much for ‘International Law’ as far as Labour is concerned.

The Conservative party endorses these injustices. Not only did the UK reject the ruling of the ICJ, the UN overwhelmingly passed a motion that the UK should allow the islanders to return in 2019; the UK ignored this on the basis that it was non-binding. Consideration if morality or trustworthiness was certainly not raised over these matters by any of the current bleaters over BoJo’s move.

Another source of cross border treaty ‘enforcement’ is possibly the Vienna Convention on treaties, which MP’s said provided a framework for the validity of the EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement. Is this universally recognised? Well, no, because Iran and San Salvador are not signatories – as indeed is the position with the United States, which has never ratified it. So the world’s largest military and economic power sees no reason to even become a party to such structures to govern international treaties. [The US also withdrew as a signatory from the International Criminal Court, presumably on the basis that its military excesses might be held to account].

As to what the rest of the world might think about expedient breaking of treaty agreements, we just have to look westward at the USA’s view of treaties and enforcing organisations; one can list JCPOA, START, NAFTA, WHO and the Paris Accord to see that the USA feels it is perfectly ok to unilaterally pull the plug on something they signed with another country when it suits them. It is therefore all the more surprising (and irritating) that geriatric Nancy Pelosi (speaker of the House of US Representatives) has somehow forgotten all these acts when threatening the UK on trade if it signs an act in our sovereign parliament – one would have thought that she had enough troubles at home without criticising the UK about an agreement to which the USA is not a party, and none of their business, other than for political expediency with the Irish lobby.

{Of the many analyses of the Chagos situation, comprehensive references can be found in https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/review-of-international-studies/article/decolonising-the-special-relationship-diego-garcia-the-chagossians-and-angloamerican-relations/258A631202B296843E1373A4A81CC444 ]

Out of work ? Ask a farmer for a job

In 1999 ‘duty free’ shopping in entry to the UK came to an end. All manner of vested interests loudly vocalised the end of a £4.5b market and forecast mass redundancies in cross channel ferry companies and the like, and massive rises in fares to compensate.

None of this came to pass, but it highlights how organisations seek to leverage their vested interests by latching on some vaguely related topic in the news, in that case the EU.

According to the Guardian (09.02.2018) the National Farmers Union is using Brexit and the EU  as a whipping boy to forecast a repeat of labour shortages last year, “with food left rotting in the fields”. Blaming brexit, and consequent uncertainties about whether EU citizens will be able to provide the necessary manpower, the NFU is citing a possible shortfall of 4,000 people.

Coincidentally, at around the same time, the Office of National Statistics published unemployment  figures for Q4 2017, which were 1.4m.

The confluence of these two things is puzzling to Grumpy. Farmers have jobs to fill, and 1.4 million people are looking for jobs, and presumably drawing some benefit paid for by tax-payers whilst doing so. So the question arise why farmers, government agencies and those without work can’t join the dots here? 

If less than 3% of those unemployed were to take up these jobs, there would be no problem. Instead, we have to ask why farmers would prefer to have the hassle of recruiting and managing foreign language speakers from Bulgaria and Romania to do this? Just how long does it take to train someone to pick fruit or other crop ?

Could it be anything to do with the fact that these immigrant workers would be happy to work hours which breach EU limits,  live in tents or multi-bunkered sheds, and take less than the minimum wage for cash in hand?

None of this adds up, but whatever the equation is, the government ought to be asking why there is no-one in more than 97% of those unemployed – 1.36m people –  able to provide this labour.