March 11th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Money flows freely to fuel anti-coal campaign

CANBERRA OBSERVED People and renewables get on till pay day arrives

EDITORIAL Commission report demonstrates old saying about statistics

ENVIRONMENT Ignore claims that Antarctic ice sheet will melt away

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Taiwan society divides over gay agenda

ECONOMICS Globalisation: a bumpy ride for some

GENDER POLITICS Parliamentary stalemate on same-sex marriage

CULTURE WARS Samizdat and the internet

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Theresa May prepares Britain for post-EU life

HISTORY Christianity and progress in human happiness

MUSIC What's the score? Originality v novelty

CINEMA Silence: Stamping on the face of faith

POETRY AND SOCIETY The modern world and damnation as voyeurism

SOCIETY The working class and globalisation

BOOK REVIEW The man who split the party

It's time to build new water storages in the Basin

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Theresa May prepares Britain for post-EU life

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, March 11, 2017

As British Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, backed by a vote of the British Parliament, attention has turned to the terms of separation, which will depend on negotiations between Britain and the EU.

Theresa May is standing firm.

Despite an attempt by anti-Brexit campaigners to thwart Britain’s exit by forcing the matter back to Parliament, the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly – with support from both Labour and the Conservatives – to give the Prime Minister the authority to initiate Britain’s separation from the EU.

The vote was 498 to 114.

Prime Minister May would like to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels on March 9.

Interestingly, the agenda for the meeting, posted on the European Union’s website, contains no reference to Britain’s decision to withdraw from the EU.

In fact, the agenda shows that the meeting will begin with a presentation by the Prime Minister of Malta, providing “an overview of progress on the implementation of earlier European Council conclusions. “The EU leaders will then look at a number of the most pressing issues, including economy, security and external relations.”


At the end of the agenda, it states that the EU leaders “might also address foreign policy issues, in light of latest developments” – a passing reference to the elephant in the room.

The British PM has adopted a firm tone in relation to future negotiations, saying that Britain wants the closest possible relations with the EU, wants free and fair trade, and will protect residency rights for EU citizens living in Britain and wants reciprocal rights for British citizens in Europe. But she has insisted on control of the country’s borders and the sovereignty of British laws.

The EU negotiators have threatened to play “hard ball”, saying that Britain will have to pay up to €60 billion ($A82.3 billion) as an exit fee. British Trade Minister Liam Fox declared the claim “absurd”. He said: “I find it bizarre because the UK is using a legal power that we have under the Lisbon Treaty, a provision that was freely entered into by all our European partners.

“Why should they then turn around to say that we should pay their costs for a process that everybody equally entered into at the time? So it seems to be an absurd argument.”

While Europe could notionally cut off Britain, it stands to lose heavily by forcing a “hard” Brexit, as the balance of trade between Britain and the rest of the EU is very substantially in Europe’s favour.

A recent report by the Civitas think tank stated: “Whereas 3.6 million UK jobs are linked with exports to the EU, 5.8 million EU jobs (excluding the UK) are linked with EU exports to the UK.”

One problem that must be dealt with quickly is the issue of customs clearance. As part of the EU, there are no customs barriers between Britain and the EU, and neither France nor Britain has the capacity to have them built within two years.

It is therefore a matter for negotiation.

While both French Prime Minister François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said that there will be no “special deal” for Britain, others in Europe want a mutually satisfactory resolution.

Markus Kerber, the head of the BDI, the voice of German industry, told the BBC before the British referendum that it would be “very, very foolish” if the EU imposed trade barriers on Britain to leave the EU.

He added: “The BDI would urge politicians on both sides to come up with a trade regime that enables us to uphold and maintain the levels of trade we have.”

Speaking after the Brexit vote, the president of the German Bundesbank, Dr Jens Weidmann (who also sits on the European Central Bank’s governing council), expressed similar sentiments.

He said: “It is in the interests of both parties for the EU and the United Kingdom to quickly enter into level-headed negotiations on their future relationship. Neither party will have anything to gain from erecting trade barriers – the UK is Germany’s third most important export destination.”

These comments echo those by Michael Roth, Germany’s European Affairs Minister, who said: “Given Britain’s size, significance and its long membership of the European Union, there will probably be a special status which only bears limited comparison to that of countries that have never belonged to the European Union.”

The British Prime Minister has warned that unless there is a satisfactory resolution, if she fails to secure a fresh trade deal, Britain will be forced to make “other arrangements”– widely interpreted as a threat to slash taxes and regulations to attract investment.

The other major uncertainly comes from within the EU itself. There are elections in Holland on March 15, in which anti-EU campaigners are expected to poll well; and later in the year, governments will face the people in both France and Germany.

Due to the unpopularity of the present French Socialist Government, President Hollande has already said he will not be recontesting the position.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm