Tag: Lawfare

Are we heading inexorably towards a Great Boris Betrayal?

Misgivings that Boris Johnson, across several policy areas, is in the process of betraying many of the promises he made or implied in both his party leadership and general election campaigns, are growing

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 16th October 2020

Straws in the wind?  Maybe.  An overdeveloped sense of cynicism and scepticism on my part, laced with premonition?  Perhaps.  But the past few months have given enough indications to justify misgivings that, on several pressing issues of contemporary policy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is progressively abandoning the positions on which his General Election campaign was based, less than a year ago.

On immigration, both legal and illegal, election pledges are going significantly unfulfilled. Johnson has failed to withdraw Britain from the UN Global Migration Compact signed up to by Theresa May – a withdrawal which would surely have given us considerable leverage in our negotiations with the EU over our future relationship – and which I suggested in July 2019 should be one of the eight key tests by which we could judge whether as PM, Johnson would delight or disappoint us.

The promised ‘control’ of illegal cross-Channel migration and people-smuggling has not only not materialised, but numerically has worsened. Operationally, it has descended into farce; if deploying an Airbus Atlas A-300M transport to conduct low-level Channel surveillance patrols wasn’t a desperate enough ploy to try and convince a sceptical population that action was being taken, how about the idea of deploying nets to catch boats ferrying illegal migrants? [Applications from unemployed lepidopterists welcome, presumably.]

The points-based assessment system following the Australian model looks reasonably robust – if and when it ever goes into practice – but the legislation faces defeat in the overwhelmingly pro-Remain House of Lords. Meanwhile, attempts to deport illegal migrants and asylum-seekers whose claims have been rejected are regularly being thwarted by ‘liberal’-left open-borders activist human rights lawyers. Yet, in the EU negotiations, possible concessions over free movement and/or the continuing jurisdiction in Britain of the European Courts frequently pop up on the radar.      

If pre-election Boris was suspiciously susceptible to the blandishments of the eco-lobby, then post-election Boris appears in total thrall to the Green Blob. Scarcely a speech passes without some hyperbolic reference from Johnson to how Britain’s economic recovery from Covid19 will be built on a ‘Green’ energy investment and production bonanza, despite its so far unmitigated expense, its continuing reliance on fossil-fuel powered back-up to cope with the intermittency problem, and its still relatively low contribution to the total energy output.

Consider for one moment the Britain in prospect under the rolling Covid-19 lockdowns to which Johnson appears irrevocably committed, despite the increasingly powerful and widespread arguments for a different approach, less damaging to our economy and society.

Whole areas under virtual house arrest. Travel, especially aviation, severely restricted. Rising energy prices. An increasing role for the State in the economy, needing to be financed of course by higher taxes, especially enviro-taxes. Unemployment growing, and business collapsing.

Johnson and Hancock’s policy response to Covid, imposing serial lockdowns in slavish deference almost exclusively to the doom-merchants among the medico-scientific advice available to them – despite a growing body evidence favouring a different, less economically and societally damaging approach – is certainly killing ‘Business As Usual’ for many firms, and their employees.

Tell me how this doesn’t go a fair way towards meeting many of the strident demands of the hard Green-Left, anti-capitalist, eco-totalitarian Extinction Rebellion? And if so, why? Undue influence from the distaff side, perhaps, or……what?      

Johnson’s condescending assurance to newly Tory-voting electors in the Midlands and North, worried about losing their jobs in the developing economic fallout from lockdown, and apprehensive about whether they’ll be allowed to set their relatives at Christmas, that they’ll eventually be able to boil a kettle from ‘renewable’ energy – provided, of course, the wind is blowing hard enough (but NB, not too hard) at the time –  is unlikely to retain their loyalty. And who can blame them?            

The allegedly ‘libertarian’ Boris Johnson has not been much in evidence during 2020’s explosion of leftist Wokery at not only street, but also at political, institutional, media, cultural and academic, levels. He has been reticent, to say the least, in robustly defending free speech, and has largely refrained from unduly criticising egregious instances of corporate Wokeness.

Particularly unedifying was the image of him, bunkered and mute in Number Ten, while hard-Left Black Lives Matter / Antifa protestors violently trashed the Parliament Square statue of his supposed hero Churchill, Johnson finally emerging to comment only after the statue had had to be boarded up for its own protection. We appear to have elected a Prime Minister reluctant to defend our history and heritage when both are under (literally) physical assault.

On Brexit, in recent weeks my colleagues Adrian Hill and Tim Bradshaw over at The Conservative Woman  have done a sterling job of chronicling in detail the twists and turns of the tortuous negotiations with Brussels over Britain’s future relationship with the EU. To repeat many of their arguments would be superfluous, so that here I merely need to summarise and comment.

Despite Boris’ tough talk for public consumption, it’s been possible to detect potential harbingers of compromise and concession. While the EU’s, and Barnier’s, intransigence continues virtually unabated, there has been talk of the deadline being extended to ensure Britain doesn’t leave without a trade deal, within which it would be surprising if some concessions were not made.

Pressure for compromise and concession to ensure No-Deal continues to come from parts of the financial marketsbusiness sectorsand lobby groups. Some of the direst security warnings of Project Fear are being dusted off and regurgitated. Meanwhile, the EU still insists on retaining enforcement powers in any UK trade deal, while rumours circulate that an accommodation will be reached on the continued jurisdiction, after the end of the Termination Period, of the ECJ on business regulation.

On fishing rights, if arguably not the most economically significant issue, then certainly the most politically totemic, can we be sure that a government seemingly powerless to stop rubber dinghies full of illegal migrants crossing the Channel has the determination to resist, whatever it takes, the threatened ongoing predation on our sovereign fishing grounds? The likelihood of compromise to avoid confrontation surely can’t be ruled out.

For a PM who prioritises being liked over being feared and respected, his record of resiling from previous commitments since last December’s election, and his evident susceptibility to pressure, cannot but produce apprehension that potentially damaging last-minute concessions will be made, purely to avoid No Deal.   

On relationships with our natural Anglosphere allies, Johnson has, according to The Times, ordered the No 10 team and key government departments to establish links with the Biden campaign team, citing private polling telling him that Trump is unlikely to be re-elected.

It isn’t hard to see where this could be going. Are they hoping to use the anti-Brexit and EU-favouring Biden’s hostility to a good US-UK trade deal as an excuse to make last-minute concessions to Brussels, and thus be ‘forced’ to concede a BRINO 2.0 that separates us much less from the EU?

On the other hand, if Trump does win, he’s unlikely to thank Johnson for cosying up to Biden in mid-campaign, and will be less inclined to give us a good US-UK trade deal. This, of course, can be also be used as the excuse for making last-minute concessions to Brussels and thus retaining a BRINO 2.0 that separates us much less from the EU.

All this will inevitably have electoral consequences. I warned about it on 7th October, but mainstream media commentators are now cottoning on to the prospect of Johnson’s Red Wall crumbling fast.

As Rachel Sylvester points out in The Times, backbench pressure from Tory MPs worried about retaining their seats is starting to crystallise. Johnson’s apparently cavalier attitude towards the travails his lockdowns risk inflicting on the North can only revive the tropes about the ‘Conservatives’ being solely a party for the affluent South, predicts Nick Cohen at The Spectator.

Seldom in modern political history can such a newly acquired electoral advantage have been so recklessly and needlessly squandered in so short a time. Whether it’s deliberate, accidental, or, as Mary Harrington argues persuasively over at UnHerd, Boris hasn’t recovered from Covid and, notwithstanding his colourful ‘I’m as fit as a butcher’s dog‘ metaphor, is actually suffering from Long-Covid, leaving us effectively leaderless, is a moot point.  

However,  I don’t believe Johnson cares overmuch about the potential electoral impact of all this on his party.  I suspect he’s discovered that,  in contrast to becoming PM, he doesn’t very much like actually being PM, because the job is too much like hard work, often involving having to choose that which he must judge is the least bad from several equally unpalatable and unpopular options.  

Boris, on the other hand, as the only just released new biography of him by Tom Bower reveals, is not so much fundamentally lazy as chronically ill-disciplined and temperamentally disinclined to immerse himself in details. It’s easy to conclude that his innate desire to be popular rather than respected makes him find the stimulus and hyperbole of campaigning in purple poetry infinitely more agreeable than the more humdrum yet far more complicated business of governing in grey prose.

Moreover, he’s allegedly already complaining to friends about money: that becoming PM has left him significantly short of the income he needs to meet his ongoing financial liabilities which are the consequences of his louche, priapic, chaotic personal life. He knows he can make considerably more money as an ex-PM and journalist than as an incumbent PM. Presumably, he’ll claim ‘family reasons’ or something similar at the opportune moment.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong. But I fear we are about to be royally shafted on Brexit, just as Johnson is currently doing on Covid, immigration, Woke-ery and Green-ery. Messing up Brexit could even be his crowning excuse, and his chosen route out.

UPDATE: On Friday morning, in a development as surprising as it was welcome, Johnson announced that, unless the EU fundamentally changed its previously intransigent and uncooperative negotiating approach, Britain would conclude there was no prospect of an acceptable deal being agreed, and would therefore trade on WTO terms with effect from 1st January 2021.

If he means it, and sees it through, then I’ll be happy to admit I was wrong on this point.

However, the worry is that, despite it undoubtedly being the right thing to do, it might not be a statement of irrevocable intent by Johnson, but merely another negotiating tactic by a PM who has already allowed three deadlines he set to over-run without consequence, to be eventually diluted or discarded if it persuaded Brussels to return to the negotiating table in a more amenable frame of mind.

However, the likelihood of that diminished somewhat on Friday evening, when it was reported that our chief negotiator David Frost had told the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier not to even bother coming to London for more talks next week.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith asserted, in The Sun on Sunday 18th November, that ‘Boris isn’t bluffing; that he really will go through with his threat to abandon negotiations and go for WTO on 1st January 2021 unless the EU grants Britain the same comprehensive free trade deal that it granted Canada.

Well, we shall see; after all, Johnson has bluffed for much of his life. Let’s hope this time he isn’t, and really means it.

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Brexit-Watch: Saturday 15 August 2020

Beware the siren song of Brussels on Defence and Security issues. Like that of the original Sirens of Greek mythology, it is designed to lure us into a trap.  

Note: Updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 13 August 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length piece in response, nevertheless warrant a few paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines. 

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

Boxing Clever with the Withdrawal AgreementBriefings for Britain

Last week’s minor furore over the demand made by some Tory MPs for the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to be re-negotiated produced a response which concentrated overwhelmingly on the political fall-out.

The predictably indignant among the ranks of the Continuity-Remainers and Aspiring-Rejoiners chuntered censoriously about the abrogation of an international treaty.  Others noted acidulously that some of those Tory MPs had themselves voted for the Withdrawal Agreement, a criticism which at least had the merit of being valid.  Few bothered to consider whether the aims behind the demand might be achieved without a formal re-negotiation.

However, there’s more than one way to bake a cake, and regular Briefings for Britain contributor “Caroline Bell” has come up with a different method. Instead of provoking what she accurately describes as the ‘Remainer Undead’ into a fresh bout of parliamentary warfare and judicial lawfare, she shows how a combination of smart domestic legislation, leveraging the ambiguities so beloved of EU agreement-drafters, and adopting a strictly third-country approach in all our dealings with the EU, could achieve the same desired result. 

 

Our sovereignty on defence matters will mean nothing if we are drawn in by EU’s siren songDaily Telegraph (£)              

For those inside the UK Government machine, whether politicians in Westminster or officials in Whitehall, who are determined surreptitiously to keep post-Brexit UK within the EU’s ambit as much possible, the inept handling of both the Covid-19 crisis and the surge in cross-Channel illegal immigration provide a useful smokescreen.

The campaign group Veterans for Britain has long been at the forefront of publicising, not only how the EU’s desire to create a military capability independent of (or as a potential rival to?) NATO remains undimmed, but also how elements within the Ministry of Defence, notwithstanding unconvincing ineffectual protests to the contrary by Defence Secretary (and Remainer) Ben Wallace, continue to beaver away below the radar to make it happen.

The warning from Major-General Thompson is thus timely. He shows how accepting the superficially tempting offer of EU participation in the funding of UK Defence projects invariably comes at the heavy price of inextricable entanglement in an interlocking web of ‘in one automatically means in all’ commitments, which have pan-European political integration, not military or defence effectiveness, as their overriding purpose.

 

Italy and France confirm Euroscepticism is a growing threat to EU’s existence BrexitWatch.org

Making Brexit as difficult as possible for Britain must seem almost literally an article of faith to the Europhile member-state leader or Brussels Eurocrat who sees it, not as a friendly country merely opting democratically for a different relationship, but as an irredeemable heretic deserving of punishment for resiling from the supranationalist religion.

Such uncompromising dogma, however, can be counter-productive.  The more harshly the British apostate is treated, the more likely it is that other member-states may start to question whether their best interests are served by remaining part of such a doctrinaire, illiberal and vengeful institution.

Recent polling data reveals signs of this starting to happen, especially in Italy – which perhaps isn’t surprising, given the suffering its population and economy have had to endure under successive Pro-Consuls appointed by the Brussels Imperium over the heads of the leader which Italian voters chose – but also in France, which is more surprising, despite the widespread disillusion with ostentatiously pro-European Macron.

Notwithstanding the continued, albeit softening, reluctance to contemplate leaving the EU or the Euro, the poll finding that over 40 per cent of both French and Italian people believe Britain will actually prosper by leaving the bloc is a potential challenge to their leaders’ ongoing Europhilia.  It could explain why Macron is being so uncooperative and intransigent about curbing the illegal cross-Channel migrant-smuggling.

 

Farage predicts that what Brexit will look like on 1 January 2021 will anger Leave voters – Daily Express

Following the warning to MPs that Britain should not realistically expect to achieve more than 60 per cent of its negotiating objectives in the talks of our future trading relationship with the EU, Farage’s prediction cannot be easily dismissed.

In previous articles in this Brexit-Watch series, I have expressed reservations at Boris Johnson’s stated intention to get more personally involved in the Brexit trade talks, not only because of his notorious lack of attention to detail and justified fears about his desire for a deal at all costs, but also because of his erratic and diminished performance since recovering from his bout of Covid-19.

So the news a few days ago, that David Frost would stay on as Brexit negotiator, in addition to his new role as National Security Adviser, if a satisfactory deal is not agreed by September, was, on the face of it, reassuring. Except that it was Frost who had delivered that ‘no more than 60 per cent of negotiating objectives’ warning to MPs.

Is it possible that Macron is ramping up his intransigence on curbing cross-Channel migrant-smuggling, knowing the extent of public anger that the Johnson Government’s apparent inability or unwillingness to prevent it is creating in Britain, to incentivise the UK into making concessions on fishing rights and continuing EU financial obligations, in return for more French maritime ‘co-operation’?  If so, and the over-eager Johnson falls for it, then Farage may well turn out to have been correct.

Update: on Friday 14 August, the Financial Times hinted strongly that such a stratagem might indeed be on the cards.  This was so predictable.  It isn’t especially hard to see what Johnson’s tactics might be here.

Via deliberate inaction, let the anger about the failure even to reduce, never mind stop, the illegal cross-Channel immigration traffic build up to such a pitch that making concessions on continuing French or EU fishing access to UK territorial waters will seem an acceptable price to pay in return for a French promise to curb the boats.  Which of course would not be kept.

They take us for fools.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Saturday 07 March 2020

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier today, Saturday 07 March 2020

A weekend update on some recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines, choosing four which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.  (NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall.)

 

Brexit row erupts after Barnier accuses UK of planning to ditch human rights commitmentPolitics Home

In a typically disingenuous combination of red herring and attempt to assert EU extra-territorial jurisdiction over the post-Brexit UK, Barnier has accused the UK of ‘refusing to continue to apply’ the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) after full-Brexit. This is arrant nonsense.

The ECHR is the creation of the immediate post-WW2 Council of Europe, is enforced by the Council’s European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, and is separate and distinct from the EU.  The latter is not even a signatory to the Convention, merely requiring new member-states to be signatories, and the EU has no jurisdiction over it.

It’s conceivable however that, once freed of the obligation to be a signatory to the ECHR by virtue of its EU membership, the UK could decide after Brexit to enact its own Bill of Rights (possibly linked to a written Constitution) and, as part of that, withdraw from either the ECHR in full or merely from the jurisdiction of its ECtHR.

As Lawyers for Britain‘s Martin Howe QC explains, there’s a compelling case for such a move.  The Strasbourg human rights court has come to mirror some unsatisfactory features found also in the EU’s own European Court of Justice, principally a tendency to judicial activism rather than interpretation, introduction into European human rights law of concepts not present in the original text, and the predominance of the Continental Codified, rather than English Common Law, legal tradition.

Barnier in effect wants the EU to have the power to direct the democratically elected government of an independent sovereign nation-state on which international treaties and conventions it should or should not sign up to. That is an outrageous demand that deserves to be dismissed out of hand.

 

Paris versus London: the clash of the financial centresJohn Keiger, Briefings for Britain

Having failed, in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 EU Referendum, to persuade many, if any, City-based European banks to move their London operations to Frankfurt or Paris, the French are now coming back, but cloaked in the EU flag, for another attempt.  The possibility that this is sabre-rattling as part of French domestic politics’ general background noise to the upcoming French municipal elections this month, where Macron looks likely to be embarrassed at least, can’t be ruled out.

Despite the European Banking Authority having made the move, London’s sheer size, global reach, expertise, power and capacity for innovation as an international financial centre compared to Paris suggests this will be a futile quest.  Even if this were not a factor, the far more onerous and restrictive, and significantly slower-deciding and less flexible, regulatory regimes covering both financial services and labour markets would surely be a disincentive.

The threat to withhold passporting rights from UK banks doing business in France looks similarly unlikely to succeed.  The French may have introduced this whole issue into the negotiating mix as a giveaway to be traded off in return for getting something else.

 

Negotiating deals with both the EU and the US will be tricky for Britain: but it does have a trump card Shanker Singham, Telegraph (£)

The overriding difference between the two sets of negotiations is this: that while both parties in the UK-US negotiation will focus on economics and trade, both parties in the UK-EU negotiation will not.  For the EU, this deal isn’t about economics and trade, but about politics, in particular, Brussels’ semi-existential political need to try and limit the competitiveness of an ex-member on its north-western doorstep, even at the price of harming its own member-states’ economies. That is bound to maintain, if not incrase, its tendency to intransigence.

Britain taking up its seat at the WTO this week, for the first time as an independent member in nearly 50 years, has sent what ought to be a powerful signal to Brussels that, if it continues to try to insist on setting both our regulatory environment and legal order after Brexit, then we are quite prepared to walk away and go WTO.

 

We must not allow the EU to bind our hands in trade negotiations with other partners Stephen Booth, Conservative Home

In what’s been appropriately described as a ‘multi-dimensional game of chess’, and despite the demands likely to be made on our trade negotiating resources and expertise, for Britain to conclude, or at least substantially conclude, as many overseas trade deals as possible during 2020, in parallel to the trade-talks with the EU, must be an imperative.

In macro terms,  one vital fact should not be overlooked. Time is not on the EU’s side. The Eurozone economy is suffering its slowest growth in 7 years. Internally, its rate of GDP growth continues to decline, while externally, it accounts for an ever-diminishing share of global GDP growth.

EU quarterly real gdp growth 2016-19

EU declining share global GDP growth

Seeing the UK reach trade deals with the parts of the world which are growing, not stagnating, is essential towards disincentivising the EU from continuing to insist on its absolutist level-playing-field on, e.g.,  state aid, environmental and labour standards, an approach which is intended, not so much as to facilitate trade, as to protect its own heavily regulated economies from competition.

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