First published 10 March 2019. Updated: 14 April 2020
The three main points of brexit were about immigration, EU regulations and trade with the wider world. There has been far too much control from Brussels and it’s the reason the referendum chose to Leave the EU.
Membership of it was supposed to bring stability and prosperity through common arrangements like the Common Fisheries Policy and Common Agricultural Policy. Instead that trade organisation forged itself into a superstate.
True ambitions of expansionism were kept hidden in 1973 and in the 1975 referendum of 1975, from voters deciding on whether to stay in that trade organisation. On both accounts the true cost of joining was deliberately hidden from people.
In the 2016 referendum much fear was around losing membership to the Single Market and Custom’s Union and the debate centred around what to do with Northern Ireland. This time there was information available on the internet for anyone caring to know, so the EU created ‘project fear’ and used propaganda to deter voters from voting to Leave – But it didn’t work!
Project Fear propaganda was everywhere including across most of the media.
Prime Minister Edward Heath was complicit in withholding the salient points of joining from being common knowledge and clearly in 1975 people voted on the little information there was from limited sources and considering the local gossip and opinions. It’s agreed that almost certainly people would have voted to leave what was the EEC at that time, if they had known the truth.
The people were not fooled a second time. The result of the 2016 referendum was a resounding vote to Leave the EU, without a deal if necessary.
On 16 March 2017 the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 received Royal Assent and was the document in law that was presented to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, to formally give notice of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union and begin the process in accordance with the procedure stipulated in Article 50 in accordance with the Treaty of Lisbon 2007.
Page 1 of the document.
During the withdrawal process, the EU and the UK had two years to reach an agreement on any future relationship. At the end of that period if no agreement had been reached, EU membership would cease unless the European Council decided unanimously, in agreement with the withdrawing member state, i.e. the UK, to extend the deadline. The first deadline was 29 March 2019.
Prime Minister Theresa May had tried to negotiate with EU senior ministers several times but was sent home empty handed because they simply refused to accommodate her proposals. She was getting a hard time at home over brexit, but it did seem as though she was single-handedly trying to sort brexit with no help from a hostile parliament.
Theresa May ridiculed by the pro-EU press.
The EU were ignore proposals presumably believing Prime Minister May would be so discredited that the UK would demand a general election or even a second referendum. As neither were happening the focus changed to backing the Remain campaign.
In December 2018 a group of Scottish campaigners for a second referendum received a positive ruling by the European Court of Justice that the UK could revoke Article 50 and halt brexit without any permissions from other member states – which is in contravention to Article 50 itself which stipulates that unanimous consent of the European Council is required, a point which the ECJ ignored.
Article 50 was not revoked. But the next item was to prevent the UK from leaving without a deal by compelling the government to seek an extension to the Article 50 period to prevent the Prime Minister pursuing a no deal brexit.
A cross-party group of MPs forced through an emergency bill in less than six hours. The Cooper-Letwin bill, better known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019, passed its third reading in the House of Commons by just one vote – 313 ayes to 312 noes.
The Brexit Party labelled Theresa May as the worst Prime Minister we’ve ever had. Perhaps she was even weaker than John Major once was. It’s notable that she tried her hardest to leave the EU with a deal in the face of a parliament that opposed her and most Brexiteers that wanted a clean break brexit.
She did not want to give away too much sovereignty in contrast with previous Prime Ministers like Edward Heath, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, that all signed treaties that ceded a lot of power to the EU.
But in contrast to John Major, when he negotiated the opt out from the Single Currency during the Maastricht negotiations in 1991, his ministers continued to reject the Single Currency but they did so knowing they had the legal right not to adopt the Euro. Mrs May’s deal could get no such opt outs as parliament having taken her option of a no deal away, had no bargaining power with the EU.
John Major in his election addresses on 16 April 1997 said:
“Whether you agree with me, disagree with me, like me or loathe me, don’t bind my hands when I am negotiating on behalf of the British people.“
Unfortunately this happened to Theresa May, parliament tied her hands. Negotiations can not be made if you are not prepared to walk away from the table. Additionally she was on a tight rope with the Democratic Unionist Party, a party in Northern Ireland that had kept her in office, and therefore she had no sway in the important issue of a backstop.
Her Checkers deal would have left the Irish borders as they were, but the EU in return wanted to control immigration and UK waters which are compromises the Prime Minister would not make. The EU in their documentation already outlined that they did not intend for a border in Ireland but strangely Mrs May did not use that vital hand. Indeed, it was the EU that used it effectively when the UK would not yield on immigration and fishing.
Sammy Wilson, the UDP’s Brexit spokesman said: “If we finish up with no deal it is a result of the intransigence of the EU.”
Leaving the EU without a deal was much the same as leaving with a deal because the circumstances in most cases would be similar. Leaving with a deal meant leaving the EU with additional benefits for both sides. The UK had already agreed to follow all the rules for non-EU countries for trading with the EU and offered suggestions where EU vessels might fish in UK waters with permission. But it was not enough for the EU who wanted to actually own the legal rights to UK fishing territory.
Since the Treaty of Rome, EU laws have permeated UK legislation but other nations have been far less willing to surrender to the EU. In order for EU laws to be incorporated into UK law the Prime Minister joined the EEC by signing the Treaty of Accession in Brussels on 22 January 1972. Parliament had prepared a short document beforehand of just twelve clauses called the European Communities Act 1972 which granted permission for the UK to be ruled by the EEC.
At the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 19 March 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was formed to aid in the re-construction of Europe. Following its success two further organisations were proposed, a European Defence Community and a European Political Community.
Negotiations commenced in 1955 at Messina in Italy; both suggestions were rejected and talks turned to economic unity which resulted in the Treaty of Rome 1957, which came into force on 1 January 1958 alongside the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC) which was agreed on the same day.
The European flag of twelve yellow stars on a blue background also emerged at that time; which had been designed in 1955 for the Council of Europe (CoE), to be adopted by the EEC and later the European Communities (EC) and today the EU.
The Treaty of Rome 1957.
The Treaty of Rome brought into existence the European Economic Community (EEC). From 1 July 1967 it became the European Community by merging the ECSC, EAEC and EEC commissions. Following the Treaty of Maastricht 1992 it became known as the European Union (EU).
The aim of the Treaty of Rome was to transform trade, industry and manufacturing and to work towards a unified Europe. That treaty today is called the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Therefore the two treaties which form the constitutional basis of the European Union (EU) are; the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union 2007 (aka Treaty of Rome -1957) and the Treaty On European Union – 2007 (aka Maastricht Treaty 1992). Both treaties having been renamed.
The Treaty of Maastricht laid the foundations for a single currency, European citizenship, the Customs Union and closer cooperation between police and the judiciary. These new areas of justice & home affairs were introduced into the scope of the new EU which saw itself as being built atop the three pillars of a new stronger union, controlling the financial and legal systems of member countries as well as the movement of goods and people.
There have been three major amendments: Amsterdam 1999, Nice 2001 and Lisbon 2007.
The Treaty of Amsterdam built upon the Treaty of Rome and increased the powers of the European Parliament, in particular to do with European Citizens and immigration.
The Treaty of Nice built upon the Treaty of Maastricht which had established the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European System of Central Banks to ensure price stability was maintained for the new Euro and thereby having a major concern in inflation, public debt, interest rates and the exchange rates of member states. The Treaty of Nice dealt mainly with banking.
The Treaty of Lisbon built upon the preceding treaties bringing them all under one umbrella. It was signed by member states on 13 December 2007, and entered into force on 1 December 2009. It established an even stronger European parliament.
The Treaty of Lisbon did for the first time give members the right to leave the EU and how to do it in Article 50. This brief document doesn’t describe the circumstances of a right to withdraw, it just sets out the procedure to be followed. Up until Lisbon members had no legal way of withdrawing from the EU other than by military force.
Gordon Brown signing the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007. He rejected a referendum and effectively signed a Constitutional Treaty handing over a swathe of powers to the EU.
Since the Treaty of Lisbon 2007, the EU has worked successfully to fulfil the trade objectives laid out in the Treaty of Rome, and then they started to focus on developing a European State by embedding a web of laws into the legal systems of member states, moulding them into principalities of a federal Europe.
The most common transport used for trade in the EU is maritime, air and road. So in joining the EU for trade reasons a new member finds themselves entangled by EU law encompassing almost every aspect at sea, in the air and on land. From the types of warehouse that can be used in road transportation, the way aircraft need to be managed at airports, the type of fishing vessels that can be used at sea. Legislation overspills into areas that have not much to do with trade at all.
The Common Fisheries Policy was rushed, in time for when the UK applied to join the EU so that UK waters would effectively be inherited by the EU. The External Aviation Policy, the so-called ‘open skies’ policies of 2002, meant that member states could no longer act in isolation when negotiating international air service agreements. And as long ago as the Treaty of Rome, member states had stressed the importance of a common transport policy and so that was the first common area for the EU to exploit.
Looking at fishing for an example, what happened in 1973 when the UK became a member state, was an overnight change from being the largest fishing fleet in Europe to in 2014 when it was revealed that 23% of the entire quota for the UK would fit on to a single Dutch trawler, the Cornelis Vrolijk.
This was followed by the ‘discards’ scandal, forcing fishermen to chuck back into the sea millions of dead fish for which they had no quota and which was later amended so that over quota fish had to be brought back to shore to be discarded at a landfill site.
And if that isn’t tragic enough, haddock and cod are being forced north as ocean temperatures rise, where the British vessels can’t go because although they are British waters, they cannot fish outside the 200 mile exclusion zone, leaving those waters to be plundered by Iceland and Norway.
The Cornelis Vrolijk. In 2014 it was reported that four ships like this, represented the total yearly catch allowed by the British fishing fleet.
It got worse over time. In 2011 the EU claimed that drinking water does not ease dehydration, saying that scientists had found no evidence to suggest drinking water stopped dehydration. They even passed a law prohibiting manufacturers of bottled water from making such claims.
Ever since joining the EU, the UK employed the principle known as ‘free movement’ whereby EU and EEA (European Economic Area – i.e. Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland,) citizens can travel to and from and live and work in the UK.
Post brexit the UK can take back control of migration policy previously determined by EU law. It can restrict EU immigration in a way that has not been possible for decades. The task of managing immigration completely changes in both scale and strategic importance once free movement ends.
It’s not a basic human right for an immigrant or refugee to settle in any country they chose. It is a case by case situation where an applicant, whatever their circumstance, should meet agreed criteria and even then a cap has to be determined to control the numbers.
The Government pledged to have a new immigration system ready by January 2021 based on a points system, restricting access for lower-paid migrants and making things easier for higher-skilled non-EU migrants to enter the UK – known as the ‘hostile environment’ policy.
Over the last ten years the UK rulebook on immigration has quadrupled in size to more than 1,000 pages because new clauses are bolted on and existing ones chopped up, creating a web of cross-references. As a result there is numerous duplication and references to sections that no longer exist. This legal document which is used to make thousands of decisions a year is largely incomprehensible.
The Government has admitted (2009) that the complexity of the rules reduced the efficiency of the decision-making processes, resulting in delays and mistakes. It wasn’t so much of a problem until about 15 years ago when large numbers of EU citizens began to make the most of their ‘free movement’ rights and moved to the UK, mostly from the newer member states of eastern Europe.
The UK economy has supported free movement and EU migrants in the labour market to the point where whole industries have become reliant on it. Of immigrant workers, almost 1 in 3 are in food production, 99 in every 100 are seasonal workers, and they make up 15% of construction workers and 15% of science research workers.
In fact when the Government tightened rules on reducing non-EU migration, EU migrants increased to pick up the demand. This is the very reason Germany accepted so many migrants and has the largest amount in Europe because it has an incredible shortage of labour for its industries.
The Home Office runs the immigration system in the UK, it has 7,500 staff working in UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) with centres across the world, costing £2.1 billion in 2017/18. More than 600,000 people are estimated to have migrated to the UK between the start of July 2017 and the end of June 2018. Roughly a third came from the EU and more than 300,000 were from non-EU countries.
Some reports suggest that immigration control is too large in itself for the Home Office and that it should become a separate entity because it isn’t as efficient as it should be, The business world on the other hand sees the UK’s system as reliable, easy to use and fast, a reputation that is not recognised domestically with reports showing the UK public does not trust the Government to manage migration.
It is the ‘freedom of movement’ that came under intense scrutiny during the referendum in 2016. The UK has limited immigration controls at its 138 ports. Only UK or EEA passports or a visa can come through, the rest need to be scrutinised, a huge task that the Border Force can just about handle; Heathrow alone handles around 75 million passengers a year.
So border controls rely on intelligence from the EU and other security services. The real enforcement work is done behind closed doors on the border and Immigration Enforcement are responsible for removing those who are in the UK illegally. In practice, only a small percentage of illegal immigrants are pursued for deportation although the UK does remove more people than most other EU countries.
In leaving the EU it is important to maintain the flow of security intelligence and it would be bizarre if the EU decided to stop this. In any case what Theresa May said in October 2018 does ring true:
“For the first time in decades, it will be this country that controls and chooses who we want to come here.”
Theresa May, as Home Secretary in the Coalition Government, was tasked with introducing the two most recognisable features of the immigration system: the net migration target and the so-called hostile environment policy. The net migration target is based on the difference between immigration and emigration (even though the UK cannot control the numbers that wish to come or leave under UK law).
After more than forty years in the EU it’s understandable why many in Europe may want to migrate to the UK but when you compare that amount with those that are allowed from overseas then the chart becomes rather bewildering – just what have these great numbers to do with the UK and why are they being admitted wholesale. Is it any wonder that in 2006, the incoming Home Secretary John Reid, declared that the Home Office was not fit for purpose.
The aim of the hostile environment policy is to make life difficult for illegal immigrants by restricting entitlements to public services and benefits that tax payers fund and to restrict access to housing – all done in the hope that it will prompt illegal immigrants to leave the UK (which seems rather unlikely when crime is the easier option).
The UK’s approach to immigration since 2010 has been simply to try to reduce it. Theresa May refined the routes to immigration appeals made by immigration caseworkers which saw an initial reduction in appeals. However this was balanced with a worrying increase in the proportion of appeals granted, so that by 2018, immigration tribunals were overturning Home Office decisions in over half of cases despite the reduction in the overall number of appeals. A new white paper on immigration was published in December 2018.
When the Government sees a labour shortage for example with the NHS, it removes the NHS from the cap so that more non-EU immigrants can come to work in the UK. Of itself, if it’s necessary this is fine but it does show how non-EU immigration is managed and today it is higher than when the Conservative Party formalised its target in its 2010 manifesto.
Considering the Home Office has been the largest recipient in Whitehall of additional brexit cash then whatever is in the 2018 white paper needs to be a realistic and workable solution. A lesson learned from the windrush was that good record keeping is essential together with cross-referencing capabilities, such that information on the HMRC database can be used to confirm residence for example. In the end the statistics will tell the story.
Nigel Farage giving Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the European Commission since 2014) a piece of his mind following the 2016 UK referendum and the decision to leave the EU.