Are Speakers Listening?

Nick has prepared letters to two people whose views carry weight and who should be challenged when they mislead their audiences.

Nancy-Pelosi-1A. To Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, in response to her speech to the Dáil (the Irish Parliament) on April 17, 2019. A report on her speech for the Irish Times can be found here:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/oireachtas/no-chance-of-us-uk-trade-deal-if-brexit-risks-belfast-agreement-pelosi-1.3863434

Ms Pelosi repeated her warning that “if the Brexit deal undermines the accord [the Good Friday Agreement] there will be no chance of a US-UK agreement” on trade. “We must ensure that nothing happens in the Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday Accord, including but not limited to the seamless Border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.”

It was, of course, a political speech, made as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Dáil, so it was full of sycophantic praise for Ireland and the Irish. She even got in a reference to her Irish grandchildren. The letter below picks up on her echo of threats made by the EU in references to the border issue.

Irish border-4

Dear Nancy,

We were sorry to learn that you and some fellow Democrats have threatened to veto any trade deals with the US if Brexit undermines the Good Friday Agreement. I hope you will decide to support what is best for Americans rather than mimic the behaviour of the EU with threats of punishment. It is difficult for your people to understand our motives and feelings, living under the control and jurisdiction of what might seem, from a distance, to be a benign authority. Imagine how you Americans would feel taking orders from a foreign government over which you had very little influence, saw few if any benefits but which interfered in so much of your everyday lives. You might remember how your ancestors responded and do something similar. Ireland too struggled for 50 years to achieve Home Rule but are Britons now to be denied the rights that the Irish and Americans demanded and won?

We appreciate that the voice and influence of the Irish-American community is strong in your country but some of them were responsible for supporting and prolonging violence in Ireland through their advocacy and donations to NORAID, which supplied arms to the IRA. Their objective was the violent overthrow of a majority-elected government, hardly what Democrats should align themselves with. Today the EU has used the threat of a return to killing as a means of achieving unfair advantage over UK negotiators and this is, sadly, an example of how they defeat their own values. Do not be fooled by the cold-hearted and cynical bureaucrats of Brussels, nor indeed by the Irish nationalists exploiting an opportunity to win their cause (a unified Ireland) by dangerous duplicity.

Look at the facts. All sides – the UK, EU and Ireland – have agreed there will be no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, whatever the outcome of Britain’s proposed withdrawal from the European Union. The EU and Ireland have made plans to ensure that a hard border would not be necessary whilst insisting in their stance towards the UK that it is unavoidable unless at least the North remains subject to the EU. Don’t be fooled by the hypocrisy. Do you think it appropriate to overturn a democratic decision by threatening a border war over demonstrably unnecessary infrastructure?

Yours etc,

Peter Foster 1B.  To Peter Foster, Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph in response to his Brexit Briefing of April 2, 2019 titled Wasting time on unicornology. These Briefings are emailed to subscribers only so, unfortunately, we cannot provide a reference link.

Foster relays a collection of depressing arguments in order to ‘prove’ that a hard border is unavoidable if a ‘no deal’ Brexit goes through, thereby echoing the bullying and misleading tactics of the EU. For example, he quotes an official of the European Commission: “The backstop is actually avoiding a border full stop. …No deal will show the beauty of the backstop to all.”

He argues that the technology to manage border crossings does not exist, which is why, “Northern Irish businesses and their representatives are so bitterly opposed to the idea” of enforcing a UK-EU customs border in Ireland.

Irish border-3

Dear Peter Foster,

On the 8th of May your article in the Daily Telegraph stated that all plausible outcomes of Brexit end up with a customs union. Fair enough, that’s your opinion; it contrasts with the typically more eurosceptic articles in that newspaper so it helps keep a balance.

I find your Brexit Bulletin a very useful summary of the day’s news with its references to reports in various sources. However I believe a ‘briefing’, unlike a commentary article, should first of all be a factual summary, a disinterested report. I don’t object to you presenting your views and I learn from them but the Briefings ought to make clear what is, and what is not, a fact. You might even present alternative interpretations.

For example: on May 3rd your Brexit Briefing stated the fact that the UK’s GDP is a mere 20% of the EU27’s combined GDP; fine, but you presented this as clear proof of the UK’s relative powerlessness. If trade drastically collapsed it would not affect all countries equally, nor their most vital sectors. Also, given the extreme fragility of the EU’s financial situation, it faces huge risks that a simple aggregation ignores. Maybe the UK would be the bigger loser, as you imply, but it has far more options to help it address the outcomes. It already has an independent monetary policy and could adapt its trade arrangements to mitigate problems, whereas a ‘bad’ Brexit might trigger a Eurozone collapse given its present, fragile state. I can’t be sure but you seem to know – please face the fact that nobody knows for sure.

Again on April 2nd your Bulletin “Wasting Time on Unicornology” gave an example of how the intricate relationships North and South of the Irish border are almost impossible to solve: the collection of milk from farms on both sides by the same tanker. With a tariff on only part of the load how can the milk be separated so that the business may continue? Bear in mind that this is a tiny proportion of our trade and should not determine whether we stay or leave the EU or the Customs Union.

I respect that you have detailed knowledge and I find that useful but, as with many experts, it can obscure the broader picture. Our country should not allow itself to be trapped indefinitely by the threat of violence over a land border, that is anti-democratic. If no accommodation can be agreed with the obdurate EU the dairy trade would have to change, or suffer if it cannot do so. We should assist our citizens in this and other cases where severe problems arise as a consequence of leaving because an agreement cannot be reached. The UK has identified £39 billion it is prepared to give to the EU in anticipation of a fair separation and this should be redirected if necessary to agriculture, the car industry or wherever the burdens fall. Subsidies must not continue indefinitely, programs must be devised to transition to new, self-sustaining endeavours.

You say the temporary work-arounds devised by the EU and Ireland will be withdrawn when it suits them. This may be true but demonstrates where the intransigence lies. With goodwill and determination to avoid border infrastructure the work-arounds would remain only as long as they were necessary, until 2030 if that’s how long before the technology and agencies are ready (as you tweeted on 17th April). Without that goodwill, which is not evident now, Britain would be signing an open cheque.

We can find a path from where we are now to a new, independent future without the minutiae of smaller trade sectors preventing us. If technology cannot solve a problem it may be possible to avoid it without unacceptable consequences but we must never submit to murderers.

I hope you can recognise that the ‘hard-cases’ of Parliament’s ERG are not idiots, their opinions differ from yours, not because they won’t admit to problems but because they wish to overcome them and believe it is possible.

Yours etc,

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