After a relatively quiet summer, the world of Brexit has been hotting up. With media-induced petrol panic largely in abeyance, pro-EU news sites have instead resorted to playing up shortages of workers in slaughterhouses. Again, industries’ interest is identical: they want access to cheap labour and to avoid paying British workers higher wages, although each industry’s problems run far deeper.
Neither is their timing coincidental. The government’s Nationality and Borders Bill (which aims to reduce numbers claiming asylum in this country) is presently going through the committee stage. Bosses may be hoping for amendments that allow them for flexibility on the related issue of economic migration.
In more general news, Boris Johnson’s inspirational speech at the Tory Conference may have lacked detail but this can wait until later. He dashingly set out the philosophy and direction of his Government, including levelling up and a more skill-based economy. The strong endorsement of David Frost – “the greatest Frost since the great frost of 1709” – confirms what we hear, i.e. that Boris is shoulder to shoulder with Lord Frost in remoulding the Northern Ireland protocol. The EU seems to be underestimating their determination.
Negotiations around the protocol continue, meanwhile. Some news sources have seized on the EU’s willingness to offer concessions on the implementation of the Northern Irish Protocol as evidence that Brussels is willing to roll over, averting the trade disruptions that the NIP is causing. But as even Remain-leaning commentators acknowledge, the concessions may mean relatively little for the bulk of trade. We will know on Wednesday what is on offer from the EU.
Readers may have seen that Poland’s constitutional court has challenged the legality of several of the ECJ’s rulings. It has also, more decisively, ruled that many of the fundamental provisions of the Treaty on European Union (the 2007 Lisbon Treaty) conflict with the Polish constitution more broadly. In the wake of the German constitutional court’s growing assertiveness over the European bailout fund and French Euroscepticism, the beginnings of a more widespread revolt of national judiciaries may be underway.
Finally, as we suggested in a rebuttal piece published earlier this week, European countries have largely failed to back France in its attempt to impose sanctions on the UK. Belgium, indeed, has actively sent signals to the contrary – which may evidence a desire to receive more UK traffic if France attempts to block ‘commercial flows’ as it threatened last week. Ultimately, as we’ve argued before, this reflects the UK’s size, significance, and trade deficit with the EU collectively, which makes most European countries unwilling to provoke conflict.
Things are getting busier here at Briefings for Britain. We’ve also been beavering away in other media. Graham Gudgin recently wrote on the Northern Irish Protocol for Spiked, and we have posted an extended version on our website. Robert Tombs was on Newsnight this Thursday to discuss Anglo-French relations – albeit unnecessarily introduced as a Brexiteer, with only one question and answer from him compared to a much longer and predictable sequence with a former French ambassador.
Articles this Week
In this extended version of his recent article on the Spiked website, Graham Gudgin anticipates the hotting up of differences between the EU and UK on the Northern Ireland. The threat of unilateral action by the UK has brought the EU to the table. On Wednesday we will see how much it is prepared to move.
Gwythian Prins updates his earlier article on fuel shortages and uses the context of Ashby’s Law to demonstrate how Remainers were able to use minor shortages of fuel to create a national panic. Professor Prins sees this as part of a wider Remainer strategy which includes calls for the UK to rejoin the EU’s Galileo satellite project.
In this article, Robert Jackson (former MEP, MP, and Minister for Higher Education and Science) seeks to give a balanced analysis of these structural weaknesses. He draws no hard and fast conclusions as to how they will work out, and how the UK should respond to them. But readers of “Briefings for Britain” will find much matter in what he has to say.
One of our subscribers writes in defence of previous criticisms we’ve levelled against the Common Agricultural policy, and argues that its replacements may be even more bureaucratic. We invited him to present his view on the matter. In his personal account of a lifetime in agriculture and land management, Nicholas Davie-Thornhill outlines the pressures upon modern farming and argues for a continuing regime of subsidies to private farmers.
Key Points on Brexit
License to Fish: No Time to Cry
What can France legally do in its latest fishing dispute with the UK?
Tensions have been rising in the last week between France and the UK over fishing. The AUKUS pact had contributed to a frosty atmosphere, before the announcement by the government of Jersey that only issued 64 full licenses and 31 provisional ones to fish in the six to twelve mile zone around the island, rejecting another 75. Moreover, only 12 of 47 recent applications to fish in UK waters more generally have been successful – though in this article we’ll concentrate on Jersey, which was the flashpoint of tensions earlier this year.
French reactions have been generally hostile, though not uniformly so – no doubt with one eye on the coming elections, and empowered by the lack of a moderating influence from German politicians embroiled in coalition negotiations. The maritime minister Annick Girardin has accused the UK of ‘totally unacceptable and inadmissible’ behaviour, hinted at re-opening ‘the energy question’ of Jersey’s electricity supply, and mooted threats to the status of UK students in France, motorway access for UK goods and ‘commercial flows’ more broadly.
Yet what can France actually do? The French government can certainly turn a blind eye to the anti-British protests of French fishermen. Official state retaliation, however, may be more problematic.
The Trade and Co-operation Agreement’s Heading on fishing (pp. 642-74) provides that the fishing party may take proportionate measures against the host country if it denies access or reduces the quota unreasonably. The host then has the right to take the dispute to arbitration (see Articles 501 and 506 of the TCA). If the host is successful and the panel finds that the measures are disproportionate, the panel may be asked to sanction a proportionate response by the host in turn.
Article 502 of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement provides (for Guernsey and Jersey) that licenses be granted on essentially historic grounds (Art. 502 (2) (a)).
Here lies the problem. The licenses in dispute are in addition to a number granted earlier in the year. As such, they are likely to be for boats that lack evidence of a historic right to fish: which might be GPS data from chart plotter records, local witness testimony, past dealings with Channel Island officials and markets, and so on. Many of these requests may simply be opportunistic, rather than from boats with actual historic connections to the area.
Indeed, to Julien Mouton, head of one Normandy fishing committee, the number of licenses granted ‘appears coherent regarding the boats that truly work in these zones’.
For this reason the European Commission has been much less heated in its response than many French stakeholders. It has asked for more information on the UK’s decision-making process – possibly because it wishes to assess its chances of success at arbitration before it accepts French demands for sanctions. With that said, it is possible that it will take the plunge – and that relations will grow frostier still as French boats ‘prepare to go into attack against St Helier’. A different kind of ‘winter of discontent’ may be in the offing.
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion also continues over on Facebook.
How you can help
There is much about Brexit still to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency – for example, in rural areas, articles on the threat to British agriculture. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in in his post-election address, it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU will be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
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A Cambridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge