Salmond is a chancer in the mode of Paterson and Law (Robert Henderson)


by Robert Henderson

http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/alex-salmond-is-a-chancer-in-the-mould-of-paterson-and-law/

Alex Salmond is a chancer in the mould of Paterson and Law

Robert Henderson

William Paterson was the main mover of the Darien disaster which bankrupted Scotland in the 1690s through a mixture of ignorance, general incompetence and embezzlement; John Law was the Scot who ruined the currency and economy of Louis XV’s France through the use of paper money backed by land. The men had something in common with Salmond: they were both hideously reckless. This disastrous trait was evident in spades during the first of the debates between Salmond and Alastair Darling on 5 August 2014.

Overall the event was a truly depressing affair, being little more than a shouting match. Salmond spent most of the time with a fixed condescending smile glued to his face while Darling, thinking he had to be seen as assertive, frequently sounded and looked peevish as he adopted a behaviour horrendously at odds with his reticent and mild personality.

The discussion was horribly narrow, being concerned almost entirely with the material advantages and disadvantages of independence and even there much was either omitted or barely touched upon, for example, the large numbers of businessmen warning of a likely decamping from Scotland to England of many organisations if there is a YES vote or the loss of UK government contracts if Scotland becomes a foreign country. Other issues which had economic implications but a much wider significance, most notably immigration, remained unmolested by the debate. To a significant degree the debate was limited in scope by the disproportionate amount of time taken up by Salmond’s refusal to give a straight answer to the question of what currency Scotland would use if the vote was for independence . More of that later.

Completely lacking was any mention of the consequences of a YES vote for the rest of the UK in general and for England in particular. The debate was conducted entirely on the basis of what was to the advantage of Scotland. The fact that the programme was only available on terrestrial television in Scotland on STV or streaming through the STV Player (which crashed because it was unable to handle the demand) made some unkind souls see this as ironically symbolising both the exclusion of the rest of the UK from the debate and the many warnings from various quarters that Scotland would be a shambles if it goes alone.

Darling had the better of the debate simply because Salmond was so inept . Making cheap gibes about Westminster and repeatedly telling the same old evasive lies on any topic which caused him problems did not go down well even with the sizeable studio audience . The polling after the programme confirmed it. The YouGov poll taken after the debate showed those who have decided which way to vote will vote 61% No and 39% YES. With the undecided included there were 55% supporting a No vote and 35% backing independence, with 9% undecided.

Salmond was particularly weak on the question of the currency. He started from the objectively false claim that the Pound belongs to Scotland as much as it does to England. Darling counter-argued that the Pound belonged to the entire UK.

Legally speaking they were both wrong. The Pound Sterling is the English currency which Scotland was allowed to share when they signed the Act of Union in 1707, viz.

XVI That, from and after the Union, the coin shall be of the same standard and value throughout the United Kingdom as now in England, and a Mint shall be continued in Scotland under the same rules as the Mint in England; and the present officers of the Mint continued, subject to such regulations and alterations as Her Majesty, her heirs or successors, or the Parliament of Great Britain, shall think fit.

The Scottish pound became defunct at the same time. If Scotland repudiate the Act of Union of 1707, they lose the right to use the Pound Sterling in the sense that they no longer have a political right to share the Pound on an equal basis with the rest of the UK.

Scotland could of course simply use the currency, but they would have no say over its the management, no printing or coining rights, and the Bank of England would not act as lender of the last resort to Scottish financial institutions. Scotland would also have the problem of buying enough Sterling on the open currency market. To do that she would have to sell goods and services abroad to provide the wherewithal to buy Sterling.

During the time set aside for the Salmond and Darling to question one another, Darling asked Salmond repeatedly what was his Plan B for the now that all three main Westminster Parties had stated categorically that there would be no currency union between England and Scotland if there was a Yes vote in the referendum. Salmond simply kept on repeating that if there was a Yes vote Westminster would cave in and accept a currency union. This so angered many of the studio audience that Salmond was roundly booed as time and again he evaded the question of what would happen if there was no currency union.

Salmond has stuck to the same line on the currency since the debate saying in an interview that “There is literally nothing anyone can do to stop an independent Scotland using sterling, which is an internationally tradeable currency.…the No campaign’s tactic of saying no to a currency union makes absolutely no economic sense. But it also makes no political sense, and is a tactic that is a deeply dangerous one for them.”

This is classic head-in-the-sand Salmon. His position is built upon two ideas: (1) that anything he demands for Scotland must happen simply because he has demanded it and (2) that any attempt by the English to point out dangers or look to their own interests is illegitimate and bullying. At one point Salmond made the incredible claim that if Westminster did not grant Scotland whatever they demanded Westminster would be denying the democratic will of Scotland. This piece of Lilliputian arrogance was sharply knocked down by Darling, who pointed out that all a YES vote would do would be to empower Salmond to negotiate terms with the rest of the UK.

At another point Salmond claimed that if there was no currency union , Scotland would not take a proportionate share of the UK national debt. Incredibly Darling did not challenge him on this issue, most probably because he would have had to say that if they did not take their share, Westminster would have to veto Scottish independence which is, legally speaking, ultimately dependent on the UK government agreeing terms.

No opinion poll over in the independence campaign has shown the YES camp ahead. The odds are heavily on the referendum will producing a NO result. If the ballot produces a seriously bad result along the lines of the YouGov poll cited above, Salmond and the SNP could be in a very difficult position because it would put another vote on independence out of the question for a long time, perhaps a generation. There would it is true be new powers given to the Scottish Parliament, but the ones likely to be on offer are likely to be things such as Scottish control over income tax rates and the collection of the tax by the Scottish government. Such developments would mean the Scottish government having to take the blame for tax rises or public service cuts if taxes are not raised. That would make the Scottish government and Parliament much more prone to unpopularity than they are now. If that happens, those living in Scotland would probably become less and less enamoured of the idea of independence because they would have had a taste of what both sides of government – taxing and spending – were under a Scottish government.

Even if there is a NO vote with a small majority, much of the difficulty which would occur with a heavy defeat for the YES side would still exist, for it would still be improbable that another vote on independence . would be held for at least ten years. During that time those is Scotland would have plenty of time to become disenchanted with their government having to make the type of hard decisions on taxing and spending which are the common political currency of a fully fledged state. Indeed, things might even be more awkward if the referendum is close rather than heavily against independence. That is because the closer the vote the more powers Westminster are likely to grant Scotland. The more powers given to Scotland, the greater the opportunity for those in Scotland to blame the Holyrood government rather than Westminster.

There is also the unresolved question of England’s place in a devolved UK. In the event of a NO vote and the granting of greater powers to Scotland (and Wales and Northern Ireland) there will be pressure for the number of Scottish MPs to be reduced, for an English Parliament or English votes on English laws. This will eventually produce circumstances which reduce or even completely exclude Scots from English domestic affairs.

Both the increased powers for Scotland and the reduced participation of Scottish MPs at Westminster will make it more and more difficult for the Scottish devolved government to blame Westminster for so much of the decision making will occur in Scotland. In addition, if the Commons becomes increasingly an English chamber through English votes for English laws or a completely English chamber if it is used as the English Parliament, that will produce English politicians who will not be able to neglect English interests as they are now more or less completely neglected.

What does Salmon really want? He certainly does not want true independence because he wishes to have a currency union with the rest of the UK, to keep the Queen as head of state and to join the EU, which would be a much harder and intrusive taskmaster than ever England would. I suspect that he does not want a YES vote but rather narrowly won NO vote. That would allow him to get the most potent form of DEVOMAX.

What will be the consequences if, against all the polling evidence, there is a YES vote? Salmond will rapidly find himself in the mire. His fantasy world is one in which there a currency union, England acts as lender of the last resort if Scottish financial institutions fail, Scotland is allowed to join the EU on the terms they now enjoy as part of the UK, England continues to push huge amounts of money by way of defence contracts and research grants to Scotland and the revenues from North Sea oil and gas continue to flow like ambrosia from heaven.

There is not one of the elements in Salmond’s fantasy world which will be realised. Even our Westminster politicians would not agree to a currency union which would involved England underwriting the Scottish financial system. The EU will be less than delighted at the prospect of one of the major EU members losing part of its territory to an independence movement because of the precedent it set for places such as Catalonia and those parts of Italy which favour the Northern League. It is likely that Scotland would have to apply for membership like any other applicant. This process would be both time consuming, perhaps several years, and Scotland would have to sign up to the requirements which any new EU applicant has to agree to, including membership of the Euro. There is also the possibility that the remainder of the UK could veto Scotland’s application to join the EU.

As for contracts for defence work and research grants, Westminster would have every reason to keep those within the UK. At best, Scotland would have to compete for the contracts and research grants as just another EU member. At worst, the rest of the UK might vote to either leave the UK or remain after obtain concessions which allowed preference to be shown to business and research institutions within England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Either way Scotland could easily find itself excluded.

That leaves the oil and gas dream. Production of the oil and gas in Scottish waters and the tax collected has been steadily declining, viz.:

Significant production decline and increasing costs have led to total revenues from UK oil and gas production dropping by 44% in 2012-13 and by 24% in 2013-14. In the last two years Corporation Tax revenues have declined by 60% from £8.8 billion in 2011-12 to £3.6 billion in 2013-14 and Petroleum Revenue Tax by 45% from £2.0 billion to £1.1 billion in 2013-14. [These figures
are for the
entirety of UK
oil and gas
production,
some of which
is in English
waters].

The decline is likely to continue, perhaps even speed up, as shale oil and gas deposits are increasingly being exploited. Nor should the possibility of other energy advances such as cheaper and safer nuclear power be ignored.

But those are only part of the problem for Scotland If the vote is YES. There are many public sector jobs in Scotland which deal with English matters, for example, the administration of much of the English benefits system. All those jobs would leave Scotland. Many Scottish businesses, especially those in the financial sector are likely to move at least their head offices to England. There would have to be border controls to stop immigrants using Scotland as a backdoor to England. More generally, the Scottish economy is dangerously dependent on public sector jobs. These jobs would almost certainly have to be severely culled. The Scottish economy is also very narrow with drink, food, financial services and the oil industry making up much of the private enterprise part of it.
The danger for England would be a Scotland which got itself into a terrible economic mess and Westminster politicians bailing the country out with English taxpayers’ money . However, because the politics of the rest of the UK would of necessity become ever more centred on English interests, that would become a very difficult thing for the Westminster government to do.
Salmond’s attempt to lead Scotland to independence on a wing and a prayer is horribly reminiscent of Paterson and Law’s behaviour 300 years ago, with the idea riding way ahead of reality.

 

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27 thoughts on “Salmond is a chancer in the mode of Paterson and Law (Robert Henderson)

  1. 1) The United Kingdom is the union of the crowns of England and Scotland. Scotland cannot ‘leave’ the UK; it is like a marriage – if Scotland leaves, there is no more UK.
    2) The Act of Union specifies that England and Scotland shall share a currency. Given that the UK is treaty-bound to adopt the Euro, the issue of whether an ‘independent’ Scotland will be using Sterling is largely academic.
    3) You speak of Scotland applying to join the EU. ‘Scotland’ is already a Region of the European Union. The country formerly known as England consists of nine Euro-Regions, none of which contains the name ‘England’ (Wales and Northern Ireland are also Euro-Regions). The member State to which we belong is called the UK, so presumably if Scotland elects to dissolve the so-named Member State, we shall all revert to being mere Regions. Not that it makes any difference; Scotland is in the EU either way. Some independence!

  2. Robert, I’m surprised you neglected to mention that Paterson was also the prime mover behind the Bank of England, and thus the invention of the National Debt.

  3. Hugo – Well, a country may call itself what it wishes, eg, Pakistan remained Pakistan after Bangladesh broke away.

    The UK has a de facto permanent an opt-out from the Euro.

    As for regions of the EU, the msall countries of the EU can be treated as such by Brussels but not the large ones. The only reason we appear to be so subservient to Brussels is because our politicos have been utterly committed to ever to the EU. France and Germany have played an entirely different game as EU members and constantly break the rules. Britain could do the same.

  4. Robert-

    Indeed. The “told what to do by Brussels” thing, along with occasional pantomimes of “standing up to Brussels” is really just a facade covering the fact that our elites primarily like the EU because it can be used to do things they would want to do anyway, but can then blame on them foreigners.

    This is why it is important for Libertarians to remember that leaving teh EU would not transform Britain- even slightly, a single iota- into a more libertarian country. It would probably become even more authoritarian.

  5. Robert – a country may indeed call itself whatever it wishes. But ‘England’ no longer exists except in such a form. The name was wiped from the map of the EU decades ago. And we are no longer a country, but a Member State of the ‘new’ European Union created by the Lisbon Treaty.
    Our ‘opt-out’ from the Euro was enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty. That has now been superseded by Lisbon, which states that ‘the currency of the Union shall be the Euro’. Lisbon abolished the EU and created a new Unitary State, also called the European Union in the hope that people wouldn’t notice the change. We are now living in a new country called Europe. Our opt-out went down the plughole with Maastricht. In any case, just think about it – can you imagine the ‘United States of Europe’ countenancing a Member State issuing its own currency? Any more than Oklahoma, for example, opting out of the US Dollar and minting its own currency?
    And yes, Ian, you are quite right – the EU has proved a useful vehicle for our domestic politicians to transform this country, in particular to reverse the relationship between citizen and state. In some sense the EU can be said to have outlived its usefulness in that respect. I believe this agenda goes deeper than you might imagine.
    But there is one advantage to restoring democratic self-government to this country by leaving the EU, and that is that we will then at least be able to elect our law-makers and hold them accountable. As long as we remain in the EU we have to obey diktats from people we have never heard of, did not elect, and cannot remove from office. The next General Election should prove most interesting.

    • Hugo – I said de facto permanent opt out of the Euro for Britain. That reflects the political reality. The only way we could be taken into the Euro is by our Quisiling political class agreeing to it.

  6. The E.U. is an extra layer of government. Any libertarian who claims that leaving the E.U. (getting rid of this layer of government) would make things worse (rather than better) is engaging in silliness – in Sean’s case most likely deliberate silliness (to further his sacred cause of being irritating – which he mistakenly thinks is what freedom is about).

  7. Paul, the argument is not one for staying in the EU. It is however a warning that if and when we leave, Libertarians should not expect that itself to create any more liberty, and is likely to result in less of it, because our nation’s Establishment are, currently, fiercely illibertarian.

  8. I should perhaps have added, for the sake of clarity, that the pre-Lisbon European Union was a voluntary association of sovereign states, which derived its authority from a series of intergovernmental treaties signed by sovereign countries; the ‘new’ European Union created by the Constitution for Europe a.k.a Lisbon Treaty is itself a unitary state (as opposed to an inter-governmental association) which derives its authority from the Constitution (Lisbon Treaty) itself. A completely different animal.

  9. Hugo – The EU – in all its forms – going all the way back to the European Coal and Steel Agreement, signed by France and Germany – was always a supranational treaty union. Whatever one thinks of NATO, the WTO and the UN, all are intergovernmental organisations. The EU, by contrast, is a supranational sovereignty sucking monster. The distinction may sound nerdy, but it is in fact absolutely crucial.

  10. Yes, it was indeed a supra-national organisation, but it derived its authority from inter-governmental treaties, signed by sovereign states. Any of those sovereign states could repudiate the Treaties at any time and walk away.
    The Post Lisbon EU is a unitary state which derives its authority from the Constitution for Europe (a.k.a. Lisbon Treaty). If we wish to leave this new unitary state, we must do so according to the rules contained in the Constitution (Article 50 Lisbon). Nobody in their right mind would agree to the consequences which will follow from Article 50. The alternative is to leave illegally and declare UDI just like Ian Smith. And look at the trouble that caused him.

  11. Robert – you say the only way we could be taken into the Euro is if our Quisling political class agree to it. They agreed to it years, practically decades ago. It must be 15 years since the NHS spent £1 million of our money on ‘Preparing for the Euro’. The Pound fell to $1.38 in 2001 because the markets thought Tony Blair was going to take us into the Euro on the back of his second election victory.
    It is only a matter of time – the political class long ago agreed to it – they’re just figuring out how to break the news to us.

  12. Hugo,

    A law only has meaning if it can be enforced by an authority. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia existed long after all its constituent states had ceased to recognise it. Ultimately, the means of enforcement is force- at the citizen level, police. At the national level, armies.

    The EU currently has no armed forces of its own, and no means to enforce its constitution. It only exists for us so long as we choose to submit to it. If the British government declared “UDI”, the EU could do nothing but accept it. As with the USA, this situation could change in the future- they might get their federal army. But they don’t have one yet.

    There is a strong, unfortunate, tendency for libertarians to get sucked into legalism and believe that laws and contracts have an essential reality. They don’t. They are only as real as their means of enforcement.

  13. I agree that force is the ultimate arbiter. That’s what Hitler said. And he was right.
    I have always maintained that if we are to free ourselves from the tyranny that is the EU it will be by force or not at all.
    I must however disagree with you when you state that the EU has no armed forces of its own. It has the EGF, the Euro-Gendarmerie Force. And you might also consider what Signor Prodi said (somewhat bizarrely) some years ago in answer to similar protestations; “You can call it Mary-Anne. You can call it Margaret. But it’s still a European Army.”
    In any case it doesn’t have to come to that. It must be twenty years now since the French threatened to blockade us over some dispute or other. The French and Germans between them own most of our electricity supplies. And a few high-profile arrests by the EGF would soon silence any attempts to quit the EU.
    If we were to declare U.D.I. it would in effect be treason against the EU, as it would violate our Constitution (Lisbon). The legal method of departure is to invoke Article 50, which would be a disaster and is designed to be so. If we just said ‘stuff that’ and walked away they would be fully justified in sending in the EGF to arrest the ringleaders, such as Nigel Farage. and that might damp down any further enthusiasm for leaving. Remember what happened to South Carolina a hundred and fifty years ago.
    There are a hundred and one subtle methods by which they can frustrate our will without actually sending tanks through the Tunnel.

  14. I’d like to see the European Gendarmerie Force invade England across the Channel. Hitler hadn’t got the resources to do that, even when Britain’s forces were down to two tanks and a shotgun after Dunkirk, and he’d got the Wehrmacht.

    If England left the EU, the EGF would have no authority to arrest anybody. They try landing at Heathrow, we just arrest them. Or at least deny them access through customs, and leave them sitting on the runway.

    There would be no serious use of force if we left the EU, for the foreseeable future. A British PM could just send them a Tweet to say “#Brexit kthxbai lolz” and that would be that.

  15. Hugo – thanks for the clarification. We are in fact in complete agreement about the distinction between pre- and post-Lisbon. However, I fail to see what would be so disastrous about invoking Article 50. We would have two years to reach an agreement, which would certainly be in both party’s best interests. If we are unable to do so, we leave and we take our £19 billion a year with us.

  16. What is disastrous about Article 50 is that during the two year moratorium (absent agreement from the other 26) we would be excluded from all talks regarding our future. The EU would have as much time as they wanted (the two year period may be extended if necessary) to rape and pillage this country, and there would be nothing we could do about it.
    And Ian, as I said earlier, it would be a bit more subtle than tanks through the Tunnel. Our police are already required to act under the orders of a European Public Prosecutor. All they need to do is issue a couple of European Arrest Warrants for people such as Nigel on a charge of Treason (in fact they don’t even need to specify a charge) and I think you’d soon see a drop in momentum for an exit from the EU.
    The point is Hitler didn’t have the law on his side, whereas the EU does. If we were to attempt to leave other than by the approved legal process, we would be in breach of our Treaty obligations, indeed of our new Constitution a.k.a. Lisbon.
    Yes, we could just refuse to recognise the authority of the EGF or of the Constitution, and the EU in turn would refuse to recognise the validity of our unilateral exit. Then what happens? First it would be adjudicated by the ECJ. Ok, you say, we would refuse to recognise the authority of the ECJ. Then what happens? Whichever way you look at it, this is what it will ultimately boil down to, and ultimately it can only be decided by force, or at least the subtle threat of force.
    To quote Hitler once more ‘All great issues are resolved by blood and iron’. (I think he was quoting Bismark, which I only mention because somebody else will if I don’t!).

  17. Yes, we would cease to sit on the Council of Ministers and our Commissioner would be sent home. The negotiations would be a two-way talk, however. If we are unable to reach agreement with the Commission, we leave. It really is as simple as that. The paranoia about “rape and pillage” during the interregnum is groundless. And there is no way in which the two year negotiating period can be extended without the agreement of both parties. Essentially, you are arguing that the United Kingdom cannot leave the EU without going to war. This is not true.

  18. Hugo, you’re still not grasping that the “law” only means something if somebody can enforce it. There is nobody to enforce the laws you keep referring to. If the British government left the EU, any policeman attempting to act on the orders of the EU would be effectively acting on the orders of a foreign power. He would no longer have any authority to arrest anybody. Unless the EU had some means to force Britain to comply, which means in practical terms an invasion fleet and tank divisions and the willingness to use them.

    The “law” is just words on a piece of paper. It has no existence beyond that.

  19. Ian – I fully understand your point, but I fear you have not grasped mine. You say “..If the British government left the EU, any policeman attempting to act on the orders of the EU would be effectively acting on the orders of a foreign power…”. This brings us straight back, as does everything else, to my central point; we shan’t recognise the authority of the ECJ and other EU institutions, and the EU won’t recognise the validity of our ‘leaving’ the EU if other than by means of Article 50. And they would be right. We would be acting illegally. This would have to be argued out, ultimately, by force of arms. And I say again, this need not mean tanks through the Tunnel. As long as the EU has weapons such as the E.A.W. at its disposal, they don’t need tanks. Ok, you might say, if they issue a few E.A.W.’s, we shall ignore them and refuse to implement them. Are our Magistrates and judges really going to do that, in the light of their attitude towards the E.C.H.R.?

    And Mr Leonardo, I fear you are a bit lost; It is the European Council, not the Council of Ministers, who would have to get by without us. I hadn’t heard anything about us being deprived of our Commissioner. The important thing to note is that we will be bound by our Treaty obligations for at least two years after giving notice. You say ‘if we are unable to reach agreement, we leave.’ I don’t think so; I reckon if we are unable to reach agreement, we carry on negotiating, indefinitely if necessary. If we just walk out, we are once more in breach of our Treaty obligations, and therefore on the wrong side of the Law. I am quite certain, and have been for twenty years, that if we were to take such a course of action, and I believe we should do just that, we should be at least prepared to back it up by force.

    Look at the picture through the other end of the telescope; the architects of political unity have spent the last fifty years at least trying to inveigle the countries of Europe into a new political entity. They have enjoyed an amazing degree of success, by fair means or foul. Is anybody seriously going to tell me that they are going to shrug their shoulders and say ‘We really wanted to create a union of the countries of Europe, but the Brits obviously don’t want this so I guess we’ll just have to forget the idea’. The EU cannot survive without us as a Member State, and they will do anything, and I do mean anything, to keep us in. We need to be prepared to resort to the same lengths to effect our escape. Anybody who believes that we are just going to hold a referendum and walk away needs his head examined.

  20. You’re right. European Council, not the Council of Ministers. It is like it is designed to be confusing! On the substantive point, however, I am right 😉

    If, after two years, we have not reached an agreement, which, as you highlight in your final paragraph, would be in the EU Commission’s best interests at least as much as it would be in ours, we leave. It is not an ideal outcome, but there is nothing the EU can do to keep us in, short of going to war.

    Here is Article 50 in full. I have highlighted the relevant portion.

    “1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

    “2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

    “3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

    “4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

    “A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

    “5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.”

  21. I forgot to add also that one of the subtle changes introduced by Lisbon a.k.a. the Constitution is that the European Council now becomes an EU entity. This might not sound much, but it is of immense importance. Hitherto, when the Prime Minister of Great Britain met his counterparts in the European Council, he was there to represent his own country. Now he represents the Union as a whole.
    If I understand your second paragraph correctly, you seem to imply that it would be in the Commission’s interest to reach an agreement within the two year time-frame. I think they would regard it very much in their interest to not reach an agreement at all. The longer they can string it out, the happier they will be.
    What happens after two years, if no agreement can be reached, is that the Treaties will no longer apply to us. That still leaves us with the massive problem of all the legislation that has emanated from the EU but which is enacted into British law by means of Statutory Instruments. These will remain in force and will need to be individually repealed, a process which will take years, during which period we will be in a proper legislative muddle. We have been accumulating these Directives for decades and the pace of change has been exhausting. Trying to repeal them in a fraction of the time will be a nightmare. Nobody will know what is legal and what is not for years to come until the dust settles. Remember, we are bound like Gulliver by a hundred thousand little strands; untying them all will entail far more work than simply saying ‘We leave’.
    And, as I keep repeating, there is a lot they can do to keep us in, short of going to war. A few well-aimed E.A.W.’s would do the trick. The French pulling the plug on our electricity, or merely threatening to pull the plug, that could put a bit of a damper on things too. The list is endless.

  22. I certainly accept that unpicking 40 years of political and economic integration will not be a simple process and that it will take some time. So what? Once we are a sovereign nation, we will be responsible for managing our own affairs.

    You also appear to be saying that leaving is nigh on impossible because the EU will behave badly. I am not of the “and with a single bound, we are free” school. That is childish fantasy. But, given the political will, we most assuredly can leave. And, properly managed, I see no reason why it need lead to animosity or resentment.

  23. That all sounds very reasonable – but I fear the political will of the EU to keep us in will prevail over our political will to leave! If they let us go, it is the end of their dream.

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