A little common sense goes a long way.
Margaret Thatcher would never have allowed the huge metal cage and gates that keep the people out of Downing Street. That says all you need to know about the pygmy prime ministers who followed her but were too small to tread in her footsteps.
On return from Vietnam in the autumn of 1971 the FCO put me in Western European Department working for my previous boss in Saigon, Kenneth James. With a very clever and warm hearted colleague, who put up with my cigars, we worked for Kelvin White, who was charged with relations with the Holy See, Switzerland and Ireland. By this time Kelvin was the most over-worked First Secretary in the office. My job was liaising with the MOD on Northern Ireland. Kenneth told me that across the road the FCO was known as the ‘enemy’ and the Irish prime minister as Union Jack. John Peck, our ambassador in Dublin, was called Green Mantle. There was indeed a problem. Within a month four of us became a brand new department led by the unflappable Kelvin. My job took me to Northern Ireland and the border. Fortunately I had friends in the Parachute Regiment serving in Northern Ireland who welcomed me whenever I went over there. We had very good cooperation with the Republic and the border at first was still largely open. The hardening came later and proved very unpopular.
Yet throughout the troubles we had very close relations with the government in Dublin and all the usual cooperation went on normally - the joint tax office to give but one example. If there was rivalry, it was friendly; for example, competition for inward investment was fierce.
Therefore I can understand Mr Varadkar's anxiety to stop the neighbours introducing more attractive conditions for investment, but either his confidence is misplaced or there is collusion by British officials. No sooner has he met with Mrs May than he's demanding that we stay in the Single Market. It's all a bit too obvious.
TIME TO SACK MRS MAY
Our prime minister told a meeting of her MPs that she had to create some form of border across Ireland otherwise the EU would be forced to defend the integrity of the Single Market. In case she's not aware, she is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. If the EU wants a border with customs posts across Ireland, they can pay for it, build and police it. When somebody smashes their cameras and customs posts, as inevitably will happen, that's their problem, not ours. Mrs May and her officials for some blinkered reason think it's the job of the Northern Ireland Police to force a customs regime down the throats of the Irish on both sides of the border. Moreover, all done on behalf of the EU empire - otherwise known as Germany - and its page boy, France.
North and South, the Irish don't want a border. Nor do we mainland Brits want one between us and the Irish, not on the land, nor on the sea. For once we are in complete agreement with Sinn Fein. Why then does our Prime Minister persist that she has to install one instead of telling the EU they can build one themselves? Although if I was you, Angela Merkel, I wouldn't start from here. Any form of border is intensely unpopular. Only cattle smugglers and VAT dodgers have a good word for the border. Twas' always so. The North American media will fly across the Atlantic in huge flocks. The villain of the story is the one who wants the border. Let the EU build one on their side. The good guy will be the one whose border is open for every man, woman and child, dog and cat, cow and horse, sheep and donkey on the island to wander across when and where they please.
There is no commercial or political advantage for Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a border with the Irish Republic. Already there are different kinds of money, different taxes, different laws and there are cameras either side for checking commercial vehicles. Much of the road traffic is taking goods from EU Ireland by ferry, road across Britain then by another ferry to the Continent - where it is checked again before delivery somewhere within the EU. The Eurocrats claim that non-EU standard goods might slip into the Single Market. We could say that China will dump steel on the waterfront at Cork. It's politically driven, complete nonsense.
According to FactsforPeace some £50 billions of the Northern Ireland economy is domestic, £ 15 billions is sent to the mainland, £ 4 billions to the Irish Republic, £ 3 billions to the rest of the EU and £ 5 billions to the rest of the world. Trade with the Republic and EU is being used for political ends out of all proportion to its economic significance and impact. A relationship that works is being distorted by irresponsible politicians and officials. How come the current exceptionally anti-British government in Dublin feel they can push their luck to the point of provoking violence? Violence that very few people living either side of the border ever want to see again. Partly the EU is using Ireland as a pawn to try and stop Brexit; Merkel et al really believe that the majority of the Conservatives plus the Blairite Labour MPs will vote down Brexit. Merkel was brought up in Communist East Germany and still doesn't fully understand what makes old democracies tick. She doesn't understand the Swiss who have been a group of democracies for eight hundred years. Almost certainly the EU are playing with fire because civil servants and diplomats in London, who want to stay in the EU, are encouraging and even orchestrating the EU's campaign which regards the Irish as expendable. They are exceeding their duties - which I deplore - because they know their weak Prime Minister wants to crawl back to the EU as much as themselves.
Irish voters should wake up. The EU negotiators are fraudsters. They deride a modern electronic customs clearance system as a ' magical solution ' that's completely impossible to install in less than sixty-five years and yet the whole EU uses of one every day on the frontiers of Switzerland. Every morning 135,000 people come in from France to work in Geneva alone while another 650,000 people cross into Switzerland from France, Germany, Austria and Italy. Every day 350,000 cars and 20,000 heavy trucks come into Switzerland from the EU. Every day hundreds of trains and planes cross into Switzerland from the EU. The Swiss built a new tunnel and railway under the Alps to speed up this freight traffic as it crosses their country. Swiss tax payers including my wife and I coughed up billions. You can read my articles about this system on Briefings for Brexit and The Red Cell websites. Switzerland's electronic customs system clears nearly thirty million consignments each year. They are the crossroads of Europe.
Added to this EU dishonesty, our own Parliament plots and schemes against the people's vote to leave the EU. We can no longer trust our Parliament to represent our views. So we have to do something about Parliament as well. More detail on this further below.
Within a decade conventional customs borders will no longer exist. They won't cope with delivery by flying robots, driverless cars, orders via 3 D printers. Everything will be electronic and free trade will be the norm. Medieval customs fortresses - Zollverein - such as the EU, approach extinction. This is bad news for Germany. The EU and the Euro - inside which hides a 30% devalued Deutschmark - allows Germany to exploit most other EU economies as captive export markets. They do this by controlling EU standards for everything from beds to bulldozers. The German Army strategic plan 2040 was leaked to Der Spiegel last November. Germany believes that both the EU and NATO are breaking up, therefore they must look after themselves. For the first time since 1945 the Germans are making plans to operate outside NATO command and their diplomats hope to make a pact with Russia camouflaged with an EU flag. Meanwhile the Eurozone economies must be kept together as a bloc of important export markets and the others - including both the UK and Ireland - kept in close orbit as satellites of the German economic sun. Not everyone will go along with this plan, their neighbours should expect trouble. Those who read the Veterans for Britain website may remember that months ago I forecast that Angela Merkel would make the kind of approach to Putin that has taken place at Sochi.
We have no interest in prolonging the German stranglehold on most of Europe's economies. Nor has Ireland. Within a decade the Eurozone may indeed fall apart and take much of the EU with it. So why on earth reopen old wounds in Ireland for the sake of scheming Eurocrats and foolish politicians who don't care a scrap about the border or peace other than whatever they can milk from either for German commercial advantage? The Good Friday Agreement involved the Dublin Parliament altering the Irish constitution and removing its claim to the Six Counties. The Northern Irish matched this with a promise that if ever a majority wanted a united Ireland, expressed through democratic and peaceful means, they would not stand in their way.
Personally, having spent three years of my life dealing with the Troubles, the border in particular, from 1971 to 1974, I don't take kindly to French and Germans poking their noses into matters that are none of their business. The Americans brokered the Belfast Agreement. There is a long history of Continental rulers using Ireland as a way to attack England. This is simply the latest version.
Already Brexit stimulates our economy. What's going to happen when we're out and free of the EU and its German slanted book of rules. We have the potential to create an economy the size of Japan anchored off the Continent. That's why the EU are attacking us through Ireland.
Mind, listen to former IRA gunmen, and you discover they don't like the EU any more than we do. The Irish may even decide to join us one day. But not with the present government where weak leadership acts as Angela Merkel's messengers.
Why does our Prime Minister ignore all these blindingly obvious signals? Why can't she give a straight answer when media interviewers ask her if she is in favour of leaving the EU? I can only conclude it's because she is a rigid supporter of Remain. By declining to come clean, she is cheating the voters as much as any other politician. She wants to sabotage our Brexit vote, she wants her party to admire how she fooled the ' stupid and uneducated ' voters and kept us all in the ghastly EU. Beware, Mrs May; some of us may be uneducated, none of us are stupid. No doubt, Mrs May feels confident that she'll be very popular with her fellow MPs; after all, she has a party who are mostly Remain supporters. She doesn't seem to care that voters will despise her along with most MPs. She simply doesn't understand any better than Angela Merkel that retribution will come to the House of Commons as it will to the House of Lords. The voters have acquired a taste for voting on big decisions. We are not going to give it up. We're hooked.
If you happen to be a Conservative MP and you have any common sense, get smart, recognise that your party is ahead in the polls only because it claims to support the real version of Brexit. If Mrs May cheats the voters, believe me, they'll switch. They'll vote Labour. Because they know that the only way Jeremy Corbin and his Marxist chums can nationalise chunks of the economy - is by leaving the EU. If you're an ordinary voter, earning ordinary wages, you don't care what the CBI fat cats say, you don't care if Corbin takes over their businesses. I don’t either and I was once a member of CBI Council but I know how more often than not their horizons stretch no further than their own businesses. All ordinary voters are now aware that the Tories, even when led by a vicar's daughter, have no qualms about cheating the voters.
Think about that before you support anything this summer.
Massive betrayal of the voters’ trust will bring about a watershed, a seismic shift of the tectonic plates of our history, so great that only Charles the First’s attempt to arrest the five members matches it for importance. Some us intend to encourage a movement that will sweep away the present system of representative government. Yes, people may stand as MPs, but they won’t have ultimate power. We’ll take that away from them. We the people will make the big choices through referendums. We will copy the Swiss who have been governing themselves this way for the last eight-hundred years.
At least she's out of the closet now, a Trojan Horse for all to see, the leading Remainer, our Prime Minister who speaks with forked tongue. You have to hand it to the EU negotiators but we simple souls, the British voters, don't have to go along with their scheming, nor Westminster's and Whitehall's. We don’t want another general election. We can vote to change the powers of Parliament instead. At this moment we want the Brexit for which we voted. Not our dull, penny-pinching Chancelllor’s – who dislikes the Armed Forces so much that he never provides them with enough money to do the things the government agreed to pay for. We have the only Tory Prime Minister in history with a victim complex, also no imagination and a tick that makes her sprawl face down whenever she meets a Continental. Sack her now, Tory Party, and find someone who believes in Britain.
We reached this far because we took a decision away from Parliament. We should copy the Swiss, expand the use of referendums and from now onwards, make all the important choices ourselves.
HOW TO DRAW TEETH
‘ My dear boy, Marble Arch – cradle of democracy.’
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the author in Lahore 1964
The referendum in June two years ago was bound to bring out the worst in some people. David Cameron probably thought that with the government’s machine at his finger tips the vote would prove a walkover. If so, he was more ignorant of his fellow countrymen and women than I thought. As the going became tougher, panic spread, the campaign style of the government and its allies became desperate – nine million pounds alone wasted on leaflets to every household, threats of punishment budgets and even the President of the United States dragged in to threaten the voters with what soon became labelled ‘ Project Fear.’ They are not the first government to try and browbeat the people into appeasement and surrender to a foreign power, nor the last. What all these governments have in common is contempt for the voters. One still hears Members of Parliament declaring that their constituents are not sufficiently well educated to understand the impact of the referendum question, civilised debate is beyond them. Obviously these people don’t mix much with their voters. The latter have the common sense not to make rash judgements based on ignorance and then confess this stupidity to the wider world. Remain campaigners accuse the Leavers of cheating, mostly over money; some young people have been investigated and cleared three times over the same accusations. I regard this as simply a way of distracting the voters from the real questions while conveniently wasting the time of political opponents. Money has talked, nowhere more so than in the lawyers’ chambers and the Courts. Many voters would like to know who is paying for all this time wasting through legal attrition and also why the Electoral Commission has not challenged the government’s campaign – which spent many millions at our expense as taxpayers and as they lost, squandered for saving their own political skins and faces.
Our Parliament has proved itself shallow and inadequate, a real challenge beyond them. Most members of both chambers supported remaining in the European Union, including the Prime Minister; that’s who the party officials selected over the last forty-five years. After an interview with the Conservative Party Chairman, in those days Sir Michael Fraser, I was welcomed by the MPs on the selection board for new candidates in 1973. The election was at least a year away. I made no secret during the interview that I was utterly against joining the Common Market. The MPs thanked me for speaking my mind. I was a refreshing change from most people they interviewed. The man on the board from the Central Office sidled up to me afterwards and told me that his office would make sure the party never offered me a seat where I might win.
Today about seventy MPs in the Conservative Party and a smaller number in the Labour Party support leaving the European Union with a clean Brexit. Had Mrs May won a large majority last year another hundred Remainers on the government benches would have given her a comfortable majority over the Leavers in her own party, never mind Labour or any others. Forget Putin’s bots and the young, their parents are the ones who are street wise. Older voters are the only people who remember Britain before EU membership. They also smelt a dirty deal in the wind - over the property legacies for their children - and decided to pull the rug from under her feet. The Prime Minister and the mass of MPs of all parties belong to the 48% who voted Remain, barely ninety MPs represent the 52% who won the referendum by voting to leave. The bulk of MPs ( nearly 90% ) of no less than five parties want to stay in the European Union while only a minority ( just over 12% ) of MPs in two parties plus all the MPs in a sixth party want to leave. Parliament does not reflect the people’s will and this Parliament is openly hostile towards the people's will.
Mrs. May’s transition and customs deals are straight out of the FCO/Treasury joint scheming department manual – in a nutshell, staying in the Customs Union until the next general election so that Labour take the blame for applying to rejoin the European Union on supplicant terms. Ministers who are thinking of resigning in protest should bear in mind that according to the media, the fast stream of the Home Civil Service and the FCO are running a betting book on your departure. That implies your departure is part of their plan. They don’t want to leave Auntie Brussels’ skirts. Deep down they know they’re not up to life in the fast lane. They feel threatened, ply the gullible Mrs May with threats of disaster once the umbilical cord is severed.
We have yet to hear anyone in either chamber of Parliament point out that the European Union of June 2016 is no more and already the European Union of 2018 significantly changed. Instead we suffer depressing 1970s era sermons on how any form of national advance and success is beyond the population of these islands. Some of us heard this doom and gloom forty years ago – and admired the way Margaret Thatcher swept aside its high priests. These days the Conservative, Labour, Liberal and Scottish Nationalist benches are packed with MPs recruited for their worship of the great nanny, the goddess Europa. Labour’s benches are mostly the rump of New Labour and it appears they would rather cheat the British voters than stand up for themselves within their own party. They prefer to depend instead on the European Union Commission as their most fail-safe means of blocking the path to state control and Marxism advocated by their party leaders. None-the less, for most of a party to hide behind the skirts of unelected foreign officials is hardly cool Britannia.
They’re almost as bad as the old pensioned diplomats preaching despair and surrender in the House of Lords. I’m an old pensioned diplomat who preaches the opposite though at my expense! After the last fortnight the voters should abolish the place. A shame but it can’t go on defying the conventions that allowed the place to survive so long. Filling it with Liberals was another stroke of Cameron genius. What drives these people? Why is this cabaret so crucial for our foreign policy and defence forces? One needs to know a little history. A charming space in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is the Durbar Court, once part of the India Office, famed for hosting the Sultan of Turkey at a bash’ where you could eat anything that wasn’t made from gold. Nearby is the Locarno Suite, three rooms where the treaty of that name was signed in 1925. This settlement of frontiers and interests on the Continent was repudiated by Hitler when he occupied the Rhineland in March 1936.
THE ROOTS ARE APPEASEMENT
During the early nineteen-twenties the Foreign Office preached disarmament and promoted the League of Nations, during the nineteen-thirties appeasement of the dictators. Eventually this naivety led to the Munich Agreement of 1938 between Hitler and Chamberlain. Fortunately, other people in Britain, including Winston Churchill, had given warnings for five years and the country started to rearm. The FO was still preaching appeasement when Poland was invaded on the 1 September 1939. There followed a phoney war until April 1940 when Norway and Denmark were invaded. Chamberlain eventually was forced to resign after the debate on disaster in Norway. This took place on the 10 May 1940, the day after Holland was invaded, the day Belgium and France were invaded. Luxembourg allowed itself to provide the Germans with their start-line. A month later the FO argued for a negotiated settlement while thanks to the Royal Navy and RAF, the BEF minus nearly all its equipment *escaped from the port and sands of Dunkirk. Churchill, strengthened against his own party by the support of Atlee, Greenwood and Bevan, gave his answer in those famous words that began, ‘We shall fight…’ The following spring Hitler invaded Yugoslavia and Greece then Russia. That December the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and proceeded to grab Hong Kong, Indo-China, Malaya and Singapore, the Dutch East Indies and countless Pacific islands.
The FO strategy ever since 1919 had vanished in several huge puffs of smoke. The only embassies left in Europe were Lisbon, Madrid, Bern and Stockholm. The only one in the Far East was Chunking. The secret service lost its networks apart from Iberia and Latin America while being betrayed to Stalin by its own quite senior officers. Churchill’s solution to all this disaster was to take one of the cleverest people in the Labour Party, Hugh Dalton, and put him in charge of what became known as the Ministry of Economic Warfare – a double meaning given that its main weapon was SOE, Special Operations Executive, with orders to set Europe ablaze. And they did – by building up intelligence gathering networks and armed resistance groups all over Europe and eventually the Far East as well.
After the war, the Foreign Office very quickly disbanded SOE which the mandarins regarded as a threat to their own influence. This short-sighted act of self-preservation was a strategic blunder. The Kremlin gained the most. SOE was probably the ideal core force around which to forge a variety of weapons for all the clandestine wars that Britain would fight – from Malaya to Afghanistan and Syria. The next Foreign Office blunder was the Suez Operation in 1956. Eisenhower called a halt to Eden’s invasion with the French of the Suez Canal Zone. For the Foreign Office mandarins Europe became a life support system just across the Channel. But what to do about that huge Commonwealth power base just across the courtyard in Whitehall? Hence the merger that cleared the way for the next massive strategic blunder - joining the Common Market. These days it is difficult to picture the world of Britain before Margaret Thatcher unless you survived the experience. The miners strikes, the hospital strikes, the piles of rubbish climbing higher, inflation at 27% a year and the doom watchers in charge of almost everything. The country really seemed finished - unless you knew and understood ordinary working people. Margaret Thatcher did, she was one of them and proud. Many of the officials and diplomats who worked for her had not a clue what made their ordinary fellow countrymen and women tick. Many had never mixed with ordinary people. National Service had ended nearly twenty years before. Now I fear this same generation look desperate enough to preside over another historic wrong turn simply to survive as the controllers of Britain’s destiny. What is the alternative they fear so much that they would rather their fellow Britons became political, economic and military vassals of the German sun?
Pipers of the Khyber Rifles
Pakistan's Army proudly blends tradition from the British Raj with the clothes of the North West Frontier. We may find their generals' reluctance to sort out the Afghan Taliban a source of frustration - but there's a lot we can relearn from the Pakistan Army and the Frontier Corps.
A picture is worth a thousand words. The pipers mix tartan with traditional salwar kameez, long shirts and loose trousers and the famous sandals - you can walk all day over any country in chaplis, what's more a locally made pair lasts forever.
Anyone who has ever had the privilege of living among these men and their families knows that faith, courage, loyalty, pride with modesty, decency, kindness and warmth are qualities they enjoy in abundance. That's only the first lesson but it's the most important.
THE QUEEN'S GLOBAL GARDEN
Had there still been a Commonwealth Relations Office in the early 1970s opposition to joining the Common Market would have had a focal point in London. Forty odd years ago those of us who foresaw disaster none-the-less accepted the result and did our best to make it work. Today the European Union blatantly meddles in our political life. The German sun wants all the European economies under its control. How dare the British yet again deny the sun its destiny? Yet only two years after British voters defied project fear our economy ridicules the high priests of remain. We are like a ship that has sailed on the wrong compass bearing for nearly fifty years. Turn the ship onto the true bearing with the wind behind her and almost without effort, she picks up speed. To make sure we stay on course it’s time we take the C out of FCO. Let’s resurrect what the mandarins suffocated. Let’s revive the Commonwealth Office and merge the International Aid Office including its budget into this new Department of State. As in the 1960s serving diplomats should be allowed to volunteer for the new service or opt to stay in the Foreign Office. The old argument was that the CRO had to be gobbled up by the FO because otherwise we had two foreign policies. We have two now. The CRO was gobbled up partly because of a propaganda campaign that the Commonwealth depended on British political enthusiasm. There was indeed an assumption across the courtyard in the Foreign Office that the other member countries weren’t interested in talking to each other. Remove us and the Commonwealth soon would wither away. What utter nonsense. I would even go as far as racist nonsense. When I served in Jamaica nearly thirty years later the chairman of the Jamaica Telephone Company told me that the highest volumes of phone calls off the island were with Atlanta, Toronto and London. When the history of the last sixty years is written I think the robust health of the Commonwealth through millions of warm personal relationships will prove the Queen’s greatest victory.
Much as I enjoyed working in foreign countries as well as the Commonwealth, indeed with some very likeable colleagues, reluctantly I have reached the conclusion that the Foreign Office is simply not interested in the Commonwealth which it regards as a backwater yet threat to its influence. All responsibility for our relations and trade with the Commonwealth should be taken away from FO. By establishing a new Commonwealth Office we may once more focus our diplomatic and economic effort on our family of nations who are destined to enjoy increasing influence around the whole planet. While we veered off up a European cul de sac the Commonwealth countries shrugged off their disbelief and kept on going. And it was disbelief – I served in four on three continents and they all said the same. Just imagine if the hundreds of billions we paid over nearly fifty years to support wealthy farmers in the prosperous countries of Europe had instead been spent on the poor farmers in the poorer countries of the Commonwealth. Just imagine if our market had been open to finished food products – sugar, coffee, chocolate to name only three. We could have paid Jamaica’s debts with the money we give to Poland every year. At long last we have another chance to finish the job.
Our defence forces should be strengthened as a matter of urgency to support this effort. The obvious core is the Five Eyes Intelligence family. Other than NATO we should have no formal ties with the European Union’s new defence structure. We should discourage any move that duplicates or weakens NATO. My own hunch is that the German sun wants to make a pact with Russia and thereby distance the European Union from NATO which they regard as an Anglo-Saxon club. Many of my German friends are not fans of Russian Mutti but they may be out-voted. Our effort should focus on rebuilding our defence industries, shipbuilding, shipping, aircraft, space and advanced technology.
‘ One of the Federal Counsellors told us that voting for membership of the EEA customs zone was like signing up for the training programme for membership of the European Union.
As the people voted not to join the club, there was no need to do the training.’
Swiss lawyer Hans Brunner talking about the 1993 referendum.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
There won’t be a revolution – that’s not British – but, as both houses of Parliament wish to ignore our democratic votes, two can play that game. We could just as easily decide not to accept the result of a General Election. Let me warn our politicians - stop playing with the matches, otherwise you’ve chosen the road to political chaos. We voters don’t want to take that road. There won’t be any warning before we slam on the brakes and turn round. The bond of trust between voters and Parliament is broken. I am sure that I’m not alone in regarding Mrs May as the latest version of a Trojan Horse in harness to her officials with Europhile MPs watching her back while the Opposition would betray themselves to get elected. Only the People’s Assembly of China has more members than the House of Lords. One sees how the newer life peers are ignorant of the rules of Parliament as they never fought an election let alone served in the House of Commons. Former senior diplomats are lecturing the nation’s industries on where and how to export and yet themselves have never run a business.
There are two roads that avoid a civil switch-off. We have Cabinet government in Britain, not a president. Those seventy Leaver MPs should have it out the Prime Minister and if needs, remove her, form a new Cabinet, and make the Civil Service get a move on as well. To take a military analogy, on the 4 June 1940 Winston Churchill wrote a minute proposing that 5000 paratroops should be trained. On the 13 July 1940 the first jumps took place at the new Central Landing School at Ringway. On the 10 February 1941 the first operation took place with a small force dropped on Sicily. The following February a company parachuted onto the French coast and stole the new German radar. That November a battalion operation took place in North Africa in tandem with the Americans. In July 1943 two full divisions, British and American landed on Sicily. In other words, this country went from not a single airborne soldier to around 11,000 going into battle in the most complex form of land warfare ever seen. So please, Mrs May and Remain ministers and officials, don’t insult my intelligence by claiming that you can’t make a computer system work in a matter of years – because I’d give the job to the students at Cambridge and Imperial College and see how long they take.
We can’t set this country up for another great era – yet at the same time, kow tow to Brussels, Berlin or anyone else. That also means walking away from the trade talks with the European Union, any defence alliance other than NATO and our Five Eyes partners and telling the European Union where to put their transition period. Seventy per cent of Conservative voters and a large share of Labour voters want to leave the European Union. Wales as a country wants to leave the European Union. Most Ulster Unionists want to leave the European Union. Of course they want a recognised border with the Republic. Forty per cent of Scots want to leave the European Union. According to a fascinating article in the Irish Independent even former IRA gunmen would rather have close economic ties with us than the European Union. Only a few defeatist Tories, aging New Labour, the Liberals, Scottish Nationalists, officials and diplomats want to rejoin the European Union.
Mind, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t bring any good to someone. The referendum has. Remember when the politicians had the insolence to try and make us voters fund their parties through our taxes? Since the referendum, as a country we have suddenly gone from apathy to all becoming politicians. That deserves encouragement in this age of the Internet. Which brings me to the best way to avoid political apathy - perhaps it is time for another peaceful revolution. Do you trust our Parliament to have responsibility for important let alone vital decisions? Their latest buck pass is no less than sixteen hundred official enquiries costing millions - all to avoid any politician having to make a decision. They only asked the voters to decide whether or not to stay in the European Union because they didn’t want the responsibility themselves – their usual crutch the polls didn’t provide a large enough comfort zone. Now they won’t accept the answer that we gave them. We can’t place our nation’s future in the hands of overgrown school children. Why do many voters want the final say on any trade treaty with the European Union? Simply because we don’t trust our politicians of any party to land a good deal. All we see are surrender after surrender. The Prime Minister seems incapable of giving a straight answer to a simple question over Brexit. She is reputed deliberate and cautious over decisions but if pursued to its ultimate extent that becomes dithering or worse, fickle. The leader of the Opposition is a flag in the wind but even he’s realised that staying in the Custom’s Union will block the left fork in the road. David Cameron tried to fob off the voters with debates in Parliament about matters where a large number of voters register their interest. What’s the point of that when we know that afterwards nothing will happen?
May I offer a proposal? The Swiss long ago took away all important decisions from their politicians. They know that people who are any good at something don’t become politicians. Not all the methods and customs of the Swiss will suit British voters but more direct democracy will. I’m not a fan of proportional representation but straight forward votes on whether to raise or lower taxes, local and national choices such as pollution standards and international treaties would blend easily into our politics. Although that will require presenting all sides of the argument in the professional way it’s done in Switzerland rather than the shoddy propaganda we’ve been presented with so far.
The Swiss evolved the way they govern themselves over eight-hundred years. Villages, towns, cities and the equivalent of counties, all govern themselves. Matters such as foreign policy and defence are devolved from the cantons to the confederation but the people still make the important choices. The Swiss system would give the authority to our counties, not the four countries of the United Kingdom, because disagreement at national level is divisive whereas agreement or disagreement at county level is a binding experience. There is also a system known as the double yes whereby the popular vote is not enough, there must be a majority of cantons as well. This stops the smaller though far more numerous country and mountain communities from being ruled by a few big cities. They also have a procedure whereby an individual voter or group of voters can drum up one-hundred-thousand signatures and have a proposal put to a local, cantonal or national vote. This stops a coalition or single party from having a veto over public opinion and stems from the nineteenth century when the Radicals ( liberals ) did exactly that.
Modern politicians in Britain tend to follow along the wake of the opinion polls. The difference in Switzerland is that the federal government or cantons and communes must hold votes on a number of matters and a voter also can demand a vote on a particular matter or cause. Some politicians build their careers on this simple right. This is possible because the Swiss are wise enough from experience to respect the results of popular votes, no matter how close. After a very narrow vote in 1993 against membership of the EEA – although the cantons individually voted against by a wide margin - support for joining the European Union steadily dwindled in each vote connected with the original question although two practical questions about freedom of movement were passed – with caveats – until on the 16 June 2016 the Federal Parliament voted to withdraw the country’s letter requesting that negotiations begin over membership. The letter had been sent on the 20 May 1992.
I hope this living example of direct democracy will serve as both catalyst and template for fellow voters in Britain. I believe we should organise a campaign for the people to take away quite a number of powers from Parliament and decide important matters ourselves. I feel confident that the Queen would recognise that this was simply the people desiring to modify their relationship with Parliament. Our relationship with the Monarch and indeed, the Law, would stay the same. Let’s have a vote on establishing a new Commonwealth Office. Let’s have a vote on the size, strength and purpose of the Armed Forces. There is no intention to reduce the government’s freedom of action in an emergency. The Prime Minister and Cabinet must have the right to ensure that our Armed Forces keep the advantage of surprise. What I would like to see are national votes to make sure the country is fully prepared, properly defended, adequately represented, ready to resume a future free of the European Union’s political and economic interference. For a start we should decide the division of money we give away as international aid as opposed to backing our cash starved armed forces and hollowed out diplomatic service. Our sailors and airmen were put at grave risk during the recent Syrian operation – because the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force went into action with about a quarter of the ships, weapons and aircraft they required. What is the point of spending a billion pounds on a destroyer and then failing to arm her fully? We will find out if the voters are happy to rely on barely enough nuclear weapons to deter Putin and no credible conventional defence to speak of. Are the voters aware that the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are a quarter of the size needed for their protection and safety, that our battalion on the Estonian/Russian border are described by former soldiers as ‘ tethered goats ’ with no air defence.
I would be interested to know whether the voters support City bankers or our fishermen and shipping industry? We can decide this by asking the voters whether upon Brexit day we should resume control of our Exclusive Economic Zone with a new licensing system for the fishing fleet or bargain these away to obtain advantages for the City bankers? Brexit will revive our old sea trading routes. Let’s vote on whether the government should encourage shipbuilding and a modern merchant fleet – rather than hand the French, Dutch and Germans yet another market. Perhaps we should have a peoples’ vote on the Brexit deal but not quite as Tony Blair and chums envisage with rejoining the European Union as its ultimate purpose. I suggest that we should ask the voters whether they want to pay any money at all to the European Union coffers – or do we continue to prop up Germany’s satellite export markets ( their description in Vorausshau 2040 ) whether or not the European Union attempts to hamper our exports through hidden trade barriers. I’m confident that the ordinary voters of Britain will show a lot more common sense than their politicians - not hard – just as the voters do in Switzerland, time after time.
*From the history pages on my website.
Catastrophe during May 1940. Across the Channel in France over 350,000 British and French troops are rescued off the sands at Dunkirk from the tanks of the encircling German army. Though the British have lost 68,000 killed and leave behind all their tanks, guns, trucks, vast reserves of ammunition and spare parts and stores - more than 600 tanks, nearly 2500 guns including all their heavy artillery, some 84,500 vehicles including over 20,000 motorbikes, some 77,000 tons of ammunition, over 416,000 tons of stores and 165,000 tons of petrol. As Winston Churchill told the House of Commons - wars are not won by evacuations.
A British/French expeditionary force escapes from Norway though again only through abandoning all its equipment and losing an aircraft carrier, HMS Glorious, sunk by German battlecruisers. Particularly sad is the loss of most of the pilots who with great skill had flown their Hurricane fighters onto the Glorious to bring their aircraft home.
Meanwhile the victorious Germans swing west towards Paris driving before their tanks the remnants of the French Army and the remaining British formations on the Continent. The French surrender in late June. After headlong retreat to the western ports the last British troops escape though, once more, must abandon much their equipment though save a surprising amount including guns, vehicles and even a few tanks apart from their personal weapons. None-the-less, of the 700 tanks sent to France over previous months only 25 are brought back across the Channel. Britain's army has suffered its greatest defeat.
The Royal Air Force has lost almost 1000 aircraft during only a few weeks fighting. Terrible losses were suffered trying to destroy the bridges over the canal at Maastricht to stop the German advance west. Between the 10 May and the end of the Dunkirk evacuation the RAF has lost no less than 432 Hurricanes and Spitfires. Some 40 destroyers have been sunk or severely damaged as a result of the Royal Navy's epic rescue of the Army from the Dunkirk beaches and French ports.
Winston Churchill, who had been Prime Minister only a few weeks, warned the nation, ' The Battle of France is over, the Battle of Britain is about to begin.'
Always think outside the box for the most effective strategic team. Modern conflicts are no place for hide bound conservatives.
When asked by the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration, the first UK National Security Adviser couldn't explain what is meant by strategy, offering instead that of course he understood strategy - there was a box on his annual report that had to be ticked!
THE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER IS A HALF BAKED IDEA
Until the outbreak of the Second World War an ad hoc organisation, the Committee of Imperial Defence, planned strategy and was also responsible for research projects. The committee had been founded in 1902 by Arthur Balfour, then Prime Minister, to replace the Cabinet’s defence committee which only met in times of crisis. The new committee’s main task was to decide strategy for the Royal Navy and the Army following the ‘ peace dividend ’ after the Boer War.
No arrangements were made for the committee to formally pass on its conclusions to those with the authority and the means to turn them into action. This gap soon became obvious and a secretariat was added, led by Sir George Clarke. Far from simply acting as a message service, Clarke expected to develop policy and make it happen. Balfour’s Government fell in 1906. With the two armed services determined to control their own futures, Clarke's plans ran aground, and with no support from the incoming Prime Minister, he resigned in 1907.
The secretariat carried on, largely as a forum on lesser matters between those service members who wanted to speak to each other, and with the civil servants. Strategy was left to the individual services. For example, after Britain decided not to join the Triple Alliance, the Foreign Office and the Army handled the early talks about Anglo-French military co-operation.
Then in 1908 a young captain in the Royal Marines Artillery with experience of intelligence work was appointed Naval Assistant Secretary to the Committee; his name was Maurice Hankey. He became Secretary to the Committee in 1912 and he would hold that position for the next twenty-six years. Hankey became Secretary of the War Council during the Great War and Cabinet Secretary from 1916. He held all three jobs together. This gave him enormous influence – Hankey was the person who made sure that Winston Churchill when First Lord of the Admiralty, heard about the work of a lowly Royal Engineers major, Ernest Swinton, who was building a tracked vehicle to break through the German trenches on the Western Front. The Army were not interested. Churchill was, immediately. A land ship committee was formed. After all, the navy were paying.
By 1914 the Committee was beginning to act as the defence planners for the whole British Empire, consequently providing advice to the Dominions – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Hankey carried on with this role into the 1920s. Effectively, his committee was the peacetime defence planning system, one which only provided advice; formal authority remained with Ministers and the service chiefs, which helped ensure the Committee's acceptability to Whitehall and the Dominions, the India Office and the Colonial Office. Chaired by the Prime Minister, its members were Cabinet ministers, the heads of the military services, and civil servants; the Prime Ministers of the Dominions were de facto members of the Committee in peacetime as well. Hankey added Clerk of the Privy Council to his portfolio in 1923!
A sub-committee was added in 1936 called the Joint Intelligence Committee and its chairman was Ralph Stevenson, a diplomat who had served on the Western Front as an officer with the Rifle Brigade. During the Second World War the JIC was to become the main body dealing with intelligence and today is housed in the Cabinet Office. The Imperial Defence Committee was wound up following the outbreak of the Second World War largely because Winston Churchill wanted to keep plenty of elbow room when fighting a global war that had begun with disaster after disaster.
My point in describing all this (courtesy of Wikipedia in some places) is that Maurice Hankey only landed the job because he was a serving Royal Marine officer. He turned out to be a brilliant civil servant with a remarkable mind and incredible stamina. Nowadays some say that he never understood the strength of the tide that would bring the Labour Party to power in 1924 because he was rooted in the Victorian era. Who wouldn’t have been in those days? Just as many of my own generation have our roots in the Churchill era. One has to have lived through great events to understand their gravitational pull on the human soul.
Let us take this argument a step further. My generation saw the end of National Service, prolonged because of the Korean War. As a young officer in the Royal Engineers I trained some of the last conscripts. Most of my seniors were veterans of the Second World War, Malaya, Korea and the Near East including Suez. In the Airborne we still had many veterans of the big parachute and glider landings. Our brigadier was Johnny Frost who captured the Arnhem Bridge that bears his name today. The same was true of the old Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office. My first head of department was George Price, a sapper general who as a colonel had served on General Ismay’s staff in Number Ten throughout much of the war. George was the most intelligent person I ever worked for and had worked direct to Churchill for five years. George was the nearest person to another Maurice Hankey, he retired in the mid- sixties. A wartime photo of him as a young Lt. Colonel hangs on the wall of the Cabinet Office War Rooms. My line manager, John Champion, had been one of the original desert rats. My next boss, the High Commissioner in Pakistan, Morris James, had commanded a Royal Marine Commando and my line boss in Lahore an artillery battery in Normandy. The Trade Commissioner had flown a Hurricane and been badly burnt during a crash landing. Next came Cyprus where our high commissioner was David Hunt who had served on Field Marshal Alexander’s staff – he wrote Harold MacMillan’s Wind of Change speech about Africa and in 1977 won BBC Mastermind at the age of 64 and won again as Mastermind of Mastermind ten years later. Vietnam followed where Murray Maclehose was our ambassador, later a very popular Governor of Hong Kong. Murray had trained Chinese guerrillas to fight the Japanese. His successor in Saigon, John Moreton, as a gunner, had won an MC at the Battle of Kohima. Our defence attaché was John Waddy, whom most airborne officers will know from the Arnhem pilgrimage. After Vietnam I helped create a new department for the Irish troubles and liaised with the MOD for three years. Our head of department was a former paratrooper who soon put me to work on committees to thwart bombers and various other desperadoes. In Switzerland our ambassador, John Wraight, had fought in the Desert. I arrived single and left with a wife and son. When we arrived in Canada the High Commissioner was John Ford, who had won an MC as a battery commander in Normandy. His successor was John Wilson, Lord Moran, son of Winston Churchill’s doctor. As an ordinary seaman he had been in the aircraft lookout of HMS Belfast on the night of Boxing Day 1943 when the battleship HMS Duke of York sank the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst in what became known as the Battle of the North Cape. When this generation retired the Foreign and Commonwealth Office became a lesser place to work and I took the advice given quite independently both by John Ford and Lord Moran: I left.
I am ever grateful to them both for sparing me from the sheer professional frustration of a further decade of diplomacy for anyone who has worn a uniform let alone survived large scale combat. This destruction of our armed forces started with Denis Healy, halted with Jim Callaghan, started again with John Nott, reversed after the Falklands, started again with Tony Blair and blithely went into top gear with David Cameron and Mrs May. Right now young people who volunteer to serve their country are treated – as one general recently described – as tethered goats. Our battalion in Estonia has no means of air defence against drones let alone strike fighters. This is not simply a government that shirks its responsibility to keep our defences strong but one that fails miserably a moral test. They should all hang their heads in shame. Personally, I would tether 800 peers and MPs along the Russian frontier with Estonia.
Our diplomats are very good at providing the secretariat for the JIC and have run the organisation since it started. The JIC collates and assesses intelligence then distributes it to the customers. It does not give orders. The National Security Committee on the other hand has an executive role that sometimes can involve life or death for those carrying out its proposals. As a result a major problem with putting across difficult truths in London is that the advice given to our political leaders comes from diplomats who are military virgins serving as national security advisors. So far we have suffered four diplomats and the state of our Armed Forces is shocking. On the pages of the 2010 Defence Revue the government claimed that there was no possibility of state on state war for at least a decade. Obviously the authors didn’t read history very often. Modern diplomats are wholly unqualified to make such judgements – they have no military experience let alone of major warfare. All young officers in the Armed Forces start life at their individual Service College before university or specialist course. I did mine at the Royal School of Military Engineering. As they gain experience most officers will attend year long courses at Staff College, Joint Services Staff College, and those destined for higher rank will spend a year at the Royal College of Defence Studies or an overseas equivalent. The FCO has no structured training programme that an officer in the Armed Forces would recognise as such. Nor would the Department of State where attendance at Service Colleges and sabbaticals are regarded as par for the course. Serving as a diplomat in a war zone is not the same as wearing a uniform, obeying military discipline and expectations, perhaps exposed to daily close quarter combat, surviving mass incoming mortar or artillery rounds. Most diplomats could not begin to imagine what it’s like being an officer responsible for the lives of many trusting young men and women, some experiencing the shock of combat for their very first time. After days of taking casualties even the most seasoned troops take a deep breath when about to go back into action. I would even maintain that it’s rather comfortable for our politicians to hide behind an ‘innocent’ diplomat and thus avoid awkward questions themselves. Moreover, as officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office they are rivals for the money pot, thus not above the scrum fighting for a share of a shrinking pot.
In fairness, one must point out that while nearly everyone serving in the British Armed Forces has experience of small unit combat, not a soul has experienced high command in hot war. The last people to carry the nation’s future on their shoulders were Rear-Admiral Sandy Woodward and Major-General Jeremy Moore during the South Atlantic War. When the liberation force took Port Stanley, Julian Thompson commanded almost as many commandos and paras’ with his brigade as the average fighting strength of the British force in Afghanistan. Only senior American officers have experienced allied high command – both William Westmoreland and Creighton Abrams commanded some half-million Americans in Vietnam and Creighton Abrams effectively also commanded about a million South Vietnamese, Norman Schwarzkopf about seven-hundred thousand Americans out of a million in the first Gulf War, Tommy Franks some two-hundred-thousand Americans out of three-hundred thousand in the Iraq War and David Petraeus about the same number counting the Afghans in their stubborn war. The British contribution to both Gulf Wars was a division plus with naval and air support but the top American carried the burden and both Prime Ministers failed to influence the planning. Neither one had any military knowledge let alone combat experience.
President Harry Truman created the original post with the National Security Act of 1947. This was the measure that separated the US Air Force from the US Army, brought into being the Department of Defence, and the Central Intelligence Agency. From the start the American committee worked at the highest level with the President in the chair, with members of his cabinet, the service and intelligence chiefs around the table. This should not be confused with the National Security Agency founded in 1952 for signals intelligence.
I swiftly came to the conclusion that in this country the post of national security adviser does more harm than good. The job is for a Minister – Gordon Brown came closest to right approach when he appointed Lord Alan West as Security Minister. As the former First Sea Lord, Alan West was exactly the kind of person required for one of the most responsible jobs in the government. There are potential candidates among the current younger Ministers and Select Committee Members but none have any experience of higher command. One possible candidate is a minister who is a reserve officer in the WRNS but one suspects that she’s happy at DFID where she has only just started. Maybe each former Chief of the Defence Staff could take over this task on retirement until replaced by his own successor. Otherwise another senior officer, for example, is the Director of Defence Intelligence. The post should not be filled by former heads of SIS, MI5 or GCHQ because that blurs the sensitive constitutional separation of the intelligence gatherers from the executive – no more dodgy dossiers and so forth.
The present situation is dangerously inadequate. Heaven help us if the Prime Minister had to decide whether or not to use nuclear weapons. Our conventional forces are about a quarter of the size and strength they actually require to keep our islands safe. That invites gamblers. Operations against the Syrian regime and its allies were far more risky than the public realise. A single Astute class submarine played a lethal game of cat and mouse with at least two Russian Kilo class submarines supported by surface ships and patrol aircraft. The Astute had to rely on the US Navy for its supporting patrol aircraft and surface ships. One new Daring class destroyer joined the American task force though fired no strike missiles because to save money the means to do so had never been fitted. Had she been armed with surface to surface missiles, even better rail guns, she could have intimidated the Russian surface ships and probably destroyed all the chemical weapons sites on her own. Rail guns are British technology purchased by the United States and probably stolen by China. Why spend a billion pounds on a superb warship and then fail to arm her properly? The Royal Air Force announced that its Tornado strike aircraft would retire only to need them a week later for Syria.
Naive prime ministers and chancellors swallowed the nonsense they were given as advice - that no war between states was likely for a decade - and cheerfully sabotaged our armed forces. The last time our plans were based on a ten year rule led to the Second World War. My generation learnt about this stupidity at home and school. We remember Atlee’s massive rearmament following the Korean War. Today lack of conventional defences leads to over-reliance on a nuclear threat. That’s an invitation for a dictator to call our nuclear bluff with conventional and cyber attack. The Royal Navy wisely read the storm warning ten years ago and chose to save their core skills. Two full-sized aircraft carriers armed with stealth aircraft, submarine nuclear deterrent force, nuclear attack submarine force, anti-aircraft cruisers called destroyers, general warfare frigates, a modern amphibious support fleet, minesweepers and patrol vessels. These cores exist but that’s all they are - the numbers are the bare minimum and most vessels are inadequately armed. The other two services took the same stony road. Fortunately for the RAF their founder, Hugh Trenchard, showed them what to do in the 1920’s. Trenchard found his fleet of fighting aircraft cut to the bone so he built the foundations of an air force – an apprentice school, a cadet school, a staff college. When the danger became so great that action finally had to be taken, the RAF was able to swiftly expand. None-the-less, we could have been defeated in 1940 or the following year. Nearly eighty years later the good news is that with the kind of money we paid the European Union or give away as overseas aid, all three Services could recover surprisingly fast. This is urgent - yet not the least important as the Cabinet appear to have been advised.
As mentioned above, the FCO used to be able to provide well qualified candidates but it’s become obvious that it can’t any longer. The senior diplomats who had combat experience from global war are all long gone. My generation of ex-service people left with them. While the diplomats are perfectly able to deal with intelligence matters, our intelligence services are not part of the Armed Forces, nor are the police. When dealing with National Security in its full sense, I think we are asking our modern diplomats to perform a task way beyond their ability and experience. We’re expecting something they just can’t deliver. One only has to watch the performance of today’s FCO provided national security advisers before the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence to realise that the appointees at best simply do not understood what ultimately is the government’s job – namely our survival as a free country – and consequently flounder like well-meaning carpet salesmen offering cheap wall-to-wall hemp to people who want to buy Afghan wool carpets weathered on a house roof for twenty years.
They seem totally unaware that the inconceivable is what usually happens. There is a long history in the FCO of resenting the armed forces, particularly the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, both heavily dependent on equipment and therefore not cheap. I well remember the odd mutters among the diplomats in Ottawa during the South Atlantic War when Lord Moran and I were putting our British arguments on TV and radio and the visiting Lord Jim Callaghan went on TV with us as well. If the FCO needs more money – and it does – the Foreign Secretary should say so. Cyber security is vital – but ultimately only because it supports hardware, ships, aircraft, missiles, drones, satellites. You won’t win any battles without cyber security but you won’t win any without sufficient fighting forces either. Nor will you if you don’t design, launch, control and defend your own satellites.
And then along came the Syria debate and I thought, now be fair, give them another chance, maybe they’ll rise to the occasion as they did when the Falklands were invaded? And to be fair, the Prime Minister did very well until about two hours into the debate she gave a reply that revealed her foolish gullibility when listening to her advisers. But let’s start at the beginning. Why avoid a debate, why not take a vote? A debate with a vote about going to war is fine so long as they all vote no – because our young people in uniform would no longer be expected to go into action against a by now, fully alert enemy. A debate with a yes is both immoral and disloyal and any force commander should refuse to send his loyal young people into action. Surprise is vital. So is time. Time for the enemy to hide their poison gas. Time for the Syrians to move their warplanes inside Auntie Putin’s shelters. Time for Russian attack submarines, surface ships and patrol aircraft to pin down the whereabouts of our lone submarine because our defensive preparations may reveal that one is present, somewhere closer than they otherwise might have realised. Time for hostile SAM batteries to ready their cyber and electronic counter-measures, move their radar onto higher ground. Time to clean up the scene of the crime. Time for the leadership to hide in bunkers. And so on….though I didn’t expect anything from the Labour front bench I did expect the back bench would rise to the occasion. I wasn’t disappointed. For me, Mike Gapes made one of the best interventions, because he couldn’t listen to nonsense and just let it pass without challenge.
Barely a handful of speakers realised the huge risk – even in alliance with the United States – taken when launching air attacks on Russia’s Levant colony. Our sailors and airmen were put at grave risk during the recent Syrian operation. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force went into action with about a third of the ships, weapons and aircraft they required for the mission. What is the point of spending a billion pounds on a superb destroyer then failing to arm her fully? Our lone submarine had to rely on the Americans for any kind of surface and air protection. What did the Cabinet think they were going to do if our lone submarine had been sunk by one of the two Russian Kilo class submarines, according to the media hunting her under sea? What did the Cabinet think they were going to do if, in self-defence, our Astute class submarine had sunk one or both those hunting Russian submarines? In all-out war you sink both and eliminate the threat altogether. How were they going to protect RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus from air and missile attack, our infantry battalion who have been likened to tethered goats from the multiple threats they face on the Estonian border with Russia? Rely on the Americans with their hot-line to the Russians? I suspect they had not a clue other than ask for help from the Americans. A few thoughtful Conservative members asked the Prime Minister whether she would spend more on defence. One of these members was rewarded with a teacher’s smile and mini-lecture about how the grown-ups knew there were other aspects of defence that were more important than conventional hardware. Tell that to your America allies, my dear lady, and the Chinese! But don’t insult the intelligence of our Servicemen and women, nor my generation’s. Like one Labour MP, my childhood started with the London Blitz and progressed through Doodlebugs to V2 rockets. We’d worked out the value of military hardware before we could read. She confirmed my worst fears and as a matter of urgency the national security adviser should either be axed or forthwith, become a job for a minister who has at least served in the Armed Forces.
On a shelf in my library is a book I bought as a schoolboy in 1954 telling the story of the phoney war and the blitzkrieg that followed in spring 1940 – it’s called Keep their Memory Green.
A strategic booster rocket called Brexit is changing the way we look at the world. Once again our armed forces have been neglected and abused for twenty years. Another Louis Mountbatten would be fighting the Treasury and Prime Minister for much greater funds – daring them to risk their own heads by his dismissal. Courage is also required to do the job properly, not just cunning and career survival. Ideally for the job, experience of major combat is a must. We need to stand off from Europe and once more start thinking like an island nation and global trading power. Instead the government line put out by the National Security Advisers for their elusive boss, the Prime Minister, is that there is not enough money for adequate armed forces and we must rely on the Americans or else our European neighbours for support. This is nonsense. Already the Germans admit through press leaks that they will distance themselves from NATO – which they believe is breaking up - and seek a pact with Russia. They also believe the European Union is breaking up and simultaneously released that opinion via Der Spiegel. We should rely on the Five Eyes intelligence partners and the rump of NATO for the foundations of our future global alliance but we need adequate sea, land, air and space forces for independent operations. Judging from the national security advice offered so far, we’re not going to get some badly needed, far sighted analysis unless our approach to strategy fundamentally changes.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and the USS George Bush
‘ I humbly confess I am neither a diplomatist nor a politician. I thank God I am neither. The former are senile, and the latter are liars.’
Admiral Sir Jackie Fisher in a letter to King Edward VII
WHO PAYS THE PIPER?
I was released from the colours in October 1962 after serving as an officer in the Royal Engineers. That summer I did three things that kept me in touch with our Armed Forces for the rest of my life – I joined the British Parachute Club which pioneered sport parachuting in Britain, I joined the Royal United Services Institute and I applied to join the Civil Service – the last one put me in the Commonwealth Relations Office where the Head of the Defence Department was retired sapper general, George Price. Without doubt George was the most intelligent person I ever worked for and when he retired, George was kind enough to say that he’d been particularly lucky with his staff!
The RUSI also has been lucky with its staff and this good fortune continues today. After fifty-six years of membership I have reasonably good perspective - and a task for them. Over the last ten or so years, for my taste, as an institution the RUSI has strayed off course and made itself an academic forum rather than a club for spawning imaginative ideas where young officers’ voices are heard alongside their seniors – as intended by its founder in 1831. Twenty-six years later the Duke of Wellington founded another club, the old St James’s for diplomats with exactly the same purpose. One suspects that it was never Wellington’s ambition that either one should become a mouth piece for anyone’s establishment.
Nowadays, obviously much smaller armed forces and modern law and order challenges mean the institute has to explore a wider world. Generating income becomes harder when you no longer have a large number of young officers as your pool of potential members. Why not open membership wider and welcome senior non-commissioned officers? Surely that would throw the net much further in the best direction and restore the armed forces atmosphere. One ‘suspects’ there are more police officers among the membership these days. Of course, one must throw the net much wider for sources of money, otherwise inevitably the donor who pays the most, soon will call the tune and even if they don’t, no-one will believe a word. According to the list on the website just one organisation supports the RUSI with over a million pounds a year, dwarfing all other donors and most of them by many fold: the European Union Commission provides at least a quarter of the institute’s income but as we don’t know how much over a million pounds, this share could be larger, possibly much larger. Suspicions of bias are inevitable when permanent staff members also write for other organisations which are more political. Even more so when the institute welcomes the Brussels assistant to an Italian Communist who lectures our members about the wonders of the new European Union armed forces to Little Britain.
In fairness, the Europeans were a lot more helpful than the Leader of the Opposition when we dealt with Putin. But why didn’t we just kick out a hundred plus Russian embassy staff and close Russia Today ourselves?
What’s the task for the RUSI? For a start, launch a recruiting drive - among all ranks from petty officer and sergeant onwards, all sized companies and overseas governments to replace this income from the EC Commission as a matter of urgency. Even better, surpass it handsomely. Fortunately the institute has a very good membership team for this kind of marketing campaign. Again, just look at the list of smaller sponsors on the website. Otherwise there is a danger that the RUSI no longer reflects the Duke’s vision.
Right up to the 1980s of two dozen members on the RUSI Council only eight were civilians and two of them spoke for the universities, the others for their ministries and industry. Today we have the opposite. Barely a handful of former officers are involved with an RUSI Council packed with civilians, many retired from government jobs. They are eminent souls but the name of the institute says all you need to know – The Royal United Services Institute. Sometimes papers issued by the institute read as though written by the Treasury, Cabinet Office, FCO or all three. Therefore, may I also urge that some blue water between the RUSI and ‘Whitehall group think’ would go a long way to liven up an institute now in the capable hands of a lady from America. Let’s hear opinions from serving officers - and why not NCOs as well? When Jenny Shaw commissioned my articles for the Journal years ago – written while serving as a diplomat but about airborne forces, airmobile and armoured warfare, indeed strategy - the FCO tried to block their publication. My article ‘ challenged the concepts on which the 1975/1975 Defence Review had been based.’ Damn’ right! True to the duke’s legacy, Jenny ignored their objections. She had the support of two D Day veterans – General Tony Younger who as a major on the 6 June 1944 commanded 26 Squadron RE with its AVREs for clearing mines and booby traps, filling moats and blasting pill boxes until wounded; Rear-Admiral Teddy Gueritz who as a Commander waded ashore as a beach master and directed the landings under fire for nineteen days until wounded. Tony was the Director of the RUSI and Teddy the Deputy-Director. At the same time Christopher Foxley-Norris, who flew in the Battle of Britain, was not only Vice-President of the RUSI but Chairman of the Battle of Britain Fighter Pilots Association and also President of Leonard Cheshire’s Foundation; they had met at RAF Hullavington when learning to fly. I count myself extremely lucky and honoured to have known all four of them as friends.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with using the RUSI to promote the government’s policy. Sometimes that’s good for the institute such as giving a platform for an American President or another international figure. There are also plenty of when times it’s not a good idea. Papers about defence that swallow the previous prime minister’s disastrous cuts don’t help a new Secretary of State for Defence when he goes into battle with the Treasury for more money. This is all the more urgent after the recent naval and air operations against the Syrian regime. A single Astute class submarine played potentially lethal game of cat and mouse with at least two Russian submarines supported by surface ships and patrol aircraft. The Astute had to rely on the US Navy for her supporting patrol aircraft and surface ship. One new Daring class destroyer joined the American task force though fired no strike missiles because the means to do so had not been fitted to save money. Had she been armed with surface to surface missiles, even better rail guns, she could have intimidated the Russian surface ships and probably destroyed all the chemical weapons sites on her own. Rail guns are British technology purchased by the United States and lifted by China.
For my taste the RUSI has been rather timid for over a decade about the state of our Armed Forces which are a quarter of the size actually required for our peoples’ safety. General Nick Carter recently spoke from a foreign policy brief describing a Europe that no longer exists, just as those Buzz feed leaks on the economic impact of Brexit probably started from on calculations made for Project Fear which have been ridiculed by real life. Readers may find four essays on this website worth a look – they discuss the German Army’s forecast of the future European Union – European Union or yet another Empire and then compare them with Mister Junker’s post election twittering to Putin and the running state of the German armed forces. Again, all reported in thorough detail by Der Spiegel. I am glad that David Petraeus is Honorary Vice-President - but he must feel lonely at times.
Even just a little more input from members who wear uniform would avoid obvious howlers.
This is from a paper for the RUSI on defence and security co-operation with France after Brexit, written by a former diplomat who probably didn’t realise his words could be read two ways…the bold italics are mine.
‘ The successful development of a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force gives Britain and France a highly trained pool of forces capable of a wide range of missions up to high-intensity combat. To keep up the momentum of the initiative, it will be important to find an opportunity to employ the capability.’
No-one who has been shot at while wearing uniform would make the above suggestion. The crystal simple chain of command in the Armed forces relies on trust – that includes confidence your superior officers will not allow their political bosses to risk your life and your limbs unless the threats to our country are so dangerous that there is no other choice. This is the kind of trust in their young platoon leader that gives his surviving soldiers the guts to follow him back into combat after heavy losses. The sentence above in bold print raises two fingers at the moral compass my generation obeyed and guarded as young officers. Parents lend the Armed Services their sons and daughters, often still in their teens – I was commissioned aged nineteen – they would be horrified if they thought their offspring might be gambled at mortal risk just to score diplomatic cookie points for some nameless foreign suits. So would the wives, children and nowadays husbands of our young people in uniform. One suspects the French officer corps would agree with these sentiments.
Nor do I think it exactly sensible for the same paper to present Donald Trump’s threats about Article V of the NATO treaty as any more than easing his blood pressure while trying to drag some Euros out of the all too comfortable Germans whose leader may strike a deal with Putin behind our backs. Again, read my pieces on Germany and NATO starting with Wood and Trees for an explanation of why I regard this kind of political stirring as unhelpful to our county’s best interests and frankly, childish. As for teaming up with the French for nuclear deterrence, read The Silent Deep by Peter Hennessy and James Jinks who describe in considerable detail how the US Navy and Royal Navy submarine services operate near enough as one.
I’ve said this before – you cannot ask a diplomat with no military experience to make the kind of choices that confront a national security adviser. Such grave responsibility should be carried on the shoulders of a minister, preferably one who has served in the Armed Forces. Anyone reading this who has retired recently, your country needs you!
Over the last three decades British diplomats including two recent ambassadors to Washington have preached that the special relationship is a myth. They wouldn't have clue - you need to have worn a uniform to judge.
‘ It is fashionable in English politics to discredit the opinion of people on the spot. They are supposed to be excited and prejudiced, to be unable to take the judicial and comprehensive views which can, it is believed, be adopted only in an atmosphere of ignorant indifference.’
Lieutenant Winston S Churchill 4th Hussars for The Daily Telegraph
Shumshuk 21 September 1897
A CHAT WITH THE SWISS CUSTOMS
We hear far too much about the impossibility of solving the problem of the border between the north and south of Ireland.
One of our neighbours is a senior officer in the Swiss Customs. He is on the team that negotiates the free trade agreement with China and has many years experience including the aftermath of the December 1992 referendum on EEA membership. Rejecting EEA membership was not a major problem because they simply resumed normal service. The Schengen Agreement has meant more work. Freedom of movement is not an open door for the EU to push the people they don’t particularly want over the Swiss frontier. Here one sees the strong cantonal influence. Both the Zurich Cantonal Police and their colleagues in the Bern Cantonal Police are responsible for border controls in their own cantons. This includes two airports. As our neighbour puts it, ‘ We offered to do it as we have that responsibility pretty well everywhere else but they both emphatically refused our suggestion. Only they were going to say who could come into their cantons.’
Switzerland constantly modernises its systems for clearing consignments. These are now completely electronic and these days the customs are recruiting IT people and accountants. They are urged to regard themselves as a helpful service to business and industry. Less than one per cent of road freight is controlled and such controls are carried out well away from the border. Random controls are sometimes carried out at small border crossings but the vast majority are at the usual place of delivery. Large to medium sized companies have a system whereby they can file electronic clearance forms for the whole month. There is no system for small traders because they are rarely checked and then only randomly. Containers already controlled at Rotterdam, for example, rarely require another check in Switzerland. Much of the freight passes through Switzerland on its way from one EU country to another.
There are Customs offices all over the country. These days small border posts are closed at night but clearance forms are available and invoices sent within two days. The deterrent against people taking a chance and driving past the Customs is random checks – if caught the fine makes the booze taste less good and besides, most people are honest. Random checks are often the result of tip offs or specific information.
Air freight requires more care because the cargoes are world wide and often valuable.
The largest amount of freight entering Switzerland for import or transit comes by rail. This varies from rolled steel joists to cars to containers. The Customs established focal points to deal with this traffic. A good example is the focal point at Aarau, roughly equidistant from Bern, Basel and Zurich. Trains deliver cars to a customs and auto trader centre alongside the Basel autobahn junction on the Bern, Zurich autobahn. An electronic clearance system makes focal points very attractive and business and industry find them very convenient. From the point of view of the Swiss Customs a good rail system makes possible an integrated transport system for most freight. Combine this with an electronic clearance system and the whole structure becomes very efficient. They have found that customs revenue rises every year.
Switzerland has free ports where goods can be held and viewed, art and precious stones for example, including goods sent for valuation. This system is popular with art dealers and duty is only paid when an item is sold and imported. The French Finance Minister was invited to visit the Freeport in Geneva and departed much happier than when he arrived! Fintech is a new area and the Swiss are conscious of the anxiety of their neighbours about tax evasion. Bringing large amounts of cash over the frontier is now illegal and a new limit is ten-thousand francs in cash. However, suitcases of money are very old fashioned. They have very good cooperation with the German Customs service.
We discussed the Channel Ports and the Northern Ireland border. There should not be any problems at either was his conclusion. The only people who could cause problems are the French and Irish Republic governments. He suspected that the customs officers on both sides of the Channel and those working either side of the north/south border in Ireland have no other interest save smooth cooperation. In the case of Ireland, North and South, there were already VAT and currency differences and veterinary checks. A way of avoiding needless delays is to establish focal points and make some of them free ports. I mentioned that the Tees community in North-East of England was all for doing this to encourage industry and shipping. Maybe Belfast Loch ought to become a free port and freight go straight there as a major focal point and delivery centre. For ordinary people there has been a Common Travel Area since the early 1920s and that simply continues after Brexit.
Our tea time chat ended with a request – when we take down the signs at ports and airports for EU passenger arrivals please could we leave a special lane for the Swiss…why not indeed!
WOOD AND TREES
General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff, recently gave a lecture at the RUSI about the urgent need for the Army to modernise. This good news was long overdue. I liked his emphasis on leadership training for dispersal tactics and a more structured approach to signals and cyber warfare. None-the-less, the British Army never fought in Vietnam and remains about fifty years out of date when it comes to tactical organisation for airmobile warfare. Sir Nick also mentioned how the Russians were designing two man crew tanks as though this idea was brand new – back in the early 1980s I wrote an article for the RUSI Journal that described AAI Corporation’s new two man tank which could add or strip off armour like a knight of old. AAI were based in Baltimore but the tank was under test out at the Carlisle proving grounds. The design, HSVT ( L ) was intended to provide air-portable tanks for the Rapid Deployment Force. The Army ( US ) surprise, surprise, the Managing Director of AAI, Ivan Barr told me and an American friend, wanted a commander in charge of the two crew! So they designed one with enough room, although inevitably this tank was slightly heavier. While the US Marine Corps showed interest, the Army decided to stick with their new big beast called the Abrams.
I watched the lecture from Switzerland – an excellent improvement for members who are not based near London – thus was not able to raise a hand for a question. The direst threats described by the general were from Russia, on land towards the eastern marches of the European Union, by sea and air towards these islands. The general’s main words on the European Union concerned the wisdom of completing the final pull out of all British troops from Germany. He thinks not. And some 4,000 British troops will remain in North Germany based around Paderborn and Sennelager, home of the 20th Armoured Brigade. At first sight this looks common sense – unless, of course, you’ve read edition 45 of the weekly magazine Der Spiegel which came out on the 4 November last year. It doesn’t sound as though they read Der Spiegel in the Cabinet Office or the Ministry of Defence. Surely the British Embassy in Berlin takes a copy although they may draw other conclusions from the article – Denken auf Vorrat – Thinking about the future emergency larder is the closest way of saying it in English. Perhaps budget cuts forced the embassy to cancel their subscription. I’m sure some kind soul would have passed them a copy. Unlike politicians and officials in London, those of us who live on the Continent can watch pretty well every TV station and listen to every radio station from Portugal to Poland.
As the media were invited to the lecture at the RUSI the traditional question and answer session afterwards was on the record. (By custom it’s normally off.) One questioner pointed out that not once had China been mentioned. Sir Nick replied that China was not an immediate threat – personally, I would have qualified that with ‘yet’ because otherwise his answer rather brushes aside the growing challenge from China to our freedom of passage at sea and how rebuilding our deterrence at sea and in the air after such deliberate politically driven damage takes years, not months. Nobody challenged the absurd situation where more than forty years after the Vietnam War the British Army still relies on the RAF for its troop-lifting helicopters. During the Vietnam War both the 1st Air Cavalry Division and the 101st Airborne Division each had 450 helicopters on the TO&E. Yet the biggest surprise was that nobody raised Vorausshau 2040 – the German Army’s recent paper, Strategic Perspective 2040 - which last November somebody leaked to Der Spiegel.
The leaked paper was reported at the time by the British media and found its way to the middle pages of at least three broadsheets. None pointed out the implications or else they didn’t realise what they were reading. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is rather like a religious order whose monastery occupies the south side of Downing Street. Doctrine is strictly policed. Only true believers in the European Union have been allowed into the order for over half a century after seizing the rival order of Commonwealth believers with a Papal bull from the north side of Downing Street. Heresy is rare and always stamped out. The Foreign Office took over the Commonwealth Relations Office – who controlled most of the aid budget - during 1968 but the merger had been under way for nearly four years. The Foreign Office had supported appeasement right up to May 1940 when Hitler occupied France after defeating Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland and Belgium. Italy, Hungary and Romania were allied to Hitler. The following spring Hitler seized Yugoslavia and Greece and by June had invaded Russia. Five months later Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. Britain’s pre-war foreign policy had vanished in several puffs of smoke. Churchill’s answer was to take one of the cleverest people in the Labour Party, Hugh Dalton, and put him in charge of what became known as SOE, Special Operations Executive, with orders to set Europe ablaze. And they did – by building up intelligence gathering networks and armed resistance groups all over Europe.
After the war, the Foreign Office and Secret Service very quickly disbanded SOE which both regarded as a threat to their own influence. This short-sighted act of self-preservation by both organisations was a strategic blunder. SOE was the ideal force for all the clandestine wars that Britain would fight – from Malaya to Afghanistan. The next Foreign Office blunder was the Suez Operation in 1956 when Eisenhower called a halt to Eden’s invasion of the Suez Canal Zone with the French, not to mention the Israelis. For the Foreign Office mandarins the European Union became a life support system just across the Channel. But what to do about that huge Commonwealth power base just across the courtyard in Whitehall? Hence the merger that cleared the way for the next massive strategic blunder - joining the Common Market. Now I fear they look desperate enough to preside over another historic wrong turn.
The Prime Minister and others have made clear that they think the European Union will strike a reasonable bargain over trade and this goal is helped by proclaiming that our Armed Forces remain ready to defend Europe. I think this is to completely misunderstand what has been going on inside the European Union since the 23 June 2016. The two largest economies in the European Union are less than an hour up the road from where I’m typing. The French are more obvious in Geneva but up here on the Bernese side of the Roesti Graben you find that Germans pop out of the snow. A quarter of the population in Switzerland are not Swiss which leaves six million real Swiss such as my wife and family. Just up the road are eighty-three million Germans with an education system that produces more doctors, scientists, researchers, engineers, and academics than jobs for them. We have many good doctors and dentists from Germany but there are ten times as many people in the British Isles. Here any Swiss will tell you, they’re everywhere. The main newspaper is owned by a German paper. Swissair went bust and Lufthansa bought its cheap Swiss rival. They bring whole teams to the hospitals and the same is happening in the universities and the arts. Some academics bring their politics with them. The professor of Second World War History, a German, at Bern University would not sponsor a lecture I gave about Winston Churchill as a young man, because it might be divisive. Fortunately the Professor of English, who is British, was happy to give his support – after all, the young cavalry officer grew up to become a Nobel Prize Winner for literature. Let me simply add that with all the pressure on Switzerland to give up its tradition of direct democracy, rightly or wrongly, many people here believe that ultimately is coming from Berlin although Brussels demands the bribes and delivers the threats.
As for ourselves, there is more than enough evidence in the public domain to conclude that the European Union is not interested in our Armed Forces but very keen to keep our import market open and the pound hose squirting money. They’re equally anxious to keep us trussed up a huge fishing net of regulations and standards negotiated over decades to give German industry the power to ban often better rival products from the European Union. Should we slip past the open mouth of this net trap, they fear our islands could turn into a nightmare neighbour with the economic power of another Japan.
Don’t take my word for it – read Der Spiegel and judge for yourselves.
Watch this space.......
THE STRUGGLE FROM EUROPE
With apologies to the late Chester Wilmot
Whoever holds Berlin, holds Germany.
Whoever holds Germany, holds Europe.
Ever since the article in Der Spiegel there has been radio silence from Berlin. The report is probably quite lengthy but from just reading the leaks in Der Spiegel one realises that the new German strategy plan is a watershed. Not since the Second World War has the German Army contemplated a future without belonging to the NATO command structure though not every German will like this idea. Parts of the report are most likely contributions from diplomats and officials, which is illuminating in itself. Some of the forecasts are astute, indeed already have come to pass. The author, Katrin Suder, has worked for McKinsey. Her study’s core message is that Europe cannot rely on the Americans any longer. I don’t agree. For us Brits, having the Americans involved with Europe’s defence has kept the peace for seventy-two years and still does even with Donald watching TV for hours and tweeting all day long.
The paper’s central worry is that a break up of the European Union could bring about the collapse of the economies surrounding Germany and kill off these valuable export markets. The consequent unemployment could lead to civil disorder, even another Weimar crisis. One assumption is that the European Union started to break up during 2008. This is when the Lisbon Treaty did away with each member country’s veto and replaced it with majority votes. Another assumption suggests that NATO started breaking up during 2014. This was the year when member countries were asked to work towards spending 2% of their gnp on defence and 20% of that on new equipment. Germany falls well short of both targets each year.
Now an observer from space might be forgiven for concluding that the high-handed introduction of the Euro – when the German Parliament decided over the heads of the people, who were not given a vote – followed by the present similarly high-handed push for a European Union super-state complete with its own military just might have something to do with both these break up scares. Add on Sigmar Gabriel and Martin Schultz calling for a United States of Europe built around Germany and the Euro and you have the whole picture bar a few details. Martin Schultz openly contemplates expelling the Poles and Hungarians and possibly others who won’t adopt the Euro nor always toe the line. Angela Merkel’s recent speech at Davos sounded a barely coded message urging the European Union members to shed their cocoon and become a united states of Europe. We have a breathing space after the car-crash coalition when Martin Schultz was thrown into the road but it’s going to be a very short one.
The Army planners are convinced that Germany must look after its own security. An obvious start is to concentrate on binding together the inner core of Euro Zone countries, economically, politically and militarily. An outer ring of satellite economies, which includes us Brits, must be kept within the political and economic orbit of the Euro Zone and its political and economic sun, Germany. The scale of Germany’s reliance on these satellite markets is best measured by the lengths to which the German government goes to disguise the size of the country’s huge annual trade surplus – somewhere around 340 billion Euros according to Professor Heiner Flassbeck and Friedericke Spieker in their recent report – helped enormously by the existence of the Euro as a currency inside which hides a very under-valued Deutschmark. According to Heiner Flassbeck one can reasonably argue that German workers pay for this huge surplus through a lower standard of living than if their money floated at its real worth. Control of markets and money, in my view, becomes essential for managing this export machine as it sucks the life from once thriving industries in almost thirty satellite countries.
One perceives a defensive logic behind the European Union’s crushing of the bid for independence from Catalonia and the gaoling of their elected government; likewise the disapproval of protest in Austria, Hungary and Poland over invasions of Arab refugees from Greece to avoid that county’s economic collapse; deep offence when the Poles want to clean up the way their judges appoint each other which they say hasn’t changed since Communist times. These squabbles also shine a torch on the style of recent European Union negotiating tactics over Brexit – namely, blatant interference in our politics on a scale that makes the FSB look like walk on extras; conjuring up fantasy problems only to make impossible demands such as splitting Northern Ireland from Great Britain; combining these with demands for absurd sums of money; meddling in our affairs by hiding behind has-been politicians like Tony Blair and Nick Clegg; veto even the softest trade deal offer and combine this with demands for a second referendum; threats of sanctions against us and anyone who wants to enter a free trade agreement with us after Brexit.
While I fully respect those who wanted to remain, we voted to leave, and now a brain washed fifth column seems hard at work in London, mostly within the circuit of the M 25, but regardless of the wishes of the millions of others who live in that foreign country that starts about thirty miles in any direction from Charing Cross. All talk of divorce payments, lousy trade deals or threats of trade sanctions, demands for second votes, for European Union defence with European Union armed forces, indeed all speeches by the likes of Angela Merkel, Martin Schultz and Sigmar Gabriel should be swallowed carefully and digested from the viewpoint of the German Army’s Strategic Perspective 2040.
Why the rush? We couldn’t influence the European Union’s regime des petits copains nor its ultimate choice of destination during the last fifty years. One needs only look what happened to David Cameron when he tried to persuade the European Union to become less rigid. Angela Merkel showed him the door. Our membership simply provided a sea anchor that slowed down those small though relentless moves away from NATO towards a unified state with its own chain of command and military forces. Dragging out the negotiations on Brexit allows the European Union to prolong the period when we pay although Britain cannot attend let alone influence European Union political summits. All talk of wanting us to stay – swallowed whole by devoted remainers – is just a means to keep the British money hydrant open so that our taxes continue supporting Germany’s satellite export markets. And perhaps extend a little solace for the liberal minded lovers abandoned by the fickle European Union empress across the water. There seems no other plausible explanation for the total incapability of politicians and officials in Whitehall to see what is right under their noses. Reality is not hidden, it’s in full view. The European Union is sprinting towards a finish line set out by the German umpires seventy-four years ago. One prospect still makes them nervous. Brexit success. That’s why the European Union is so desperate to keep us aligned – controlled by them for as long as possible into the future.
Leaving aside the political dichotomy over our future as a global power, commercially there are sound reasons for splitting from the European Union. Technologies that have not been invented are going utterly change the way we work and do business. To make the most of these wonders requires mental agility and our language – after eight thousand years of immigrants – allows this by default. The European Union is run by people who think in French and German, both precise and logical languages, beautiful to talk and read, yet somehow far more rigid when steering the brain than English. Like the Chinese and Vietnamese, we have simplified our grammar, albeit in different ways, just as six-hundred years ago King Sejong of Korea invented a new alphabet to replace Chinese characters - we all have more in common with each other when it comes to logic and mental processes than with our neighbours across the Channel. Believe me, once we are finally out, making simpler more flexible rules, on a clear day we will offer a highly visible alternative to the latest version of a single continental super state, our white cliffs marching along the skyline a mere twenty-one miles from Calais.
As for the other large neighbours, deciding to deploy Baroness Ashton and her European Union action force diplomats as their public face the Germans rashly brushed aside Britain, the USA and Russia, treaty guarantors of Ukraine’s integrity following the dismantling of the latter’s nuclear arsenal – itself one of the truly great achievements following the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a consequence, their attempt to lure Ukraine into the German orbit as a new satellite export market turned sour through misreading Putin. To their surprise, he invaded. They were caught out a second time by America’s reaction. The price for the European Union’s miscalculations was lives lost and ruined as Putin invaded Eastern Ukraine then the Crimea. Russian suspicion and bungling led them to shoot down a civil airliner. Nor is the danger over but Putin’s ground forces although modernised, cannot sustain a hot operation for longer than a matter of weeks. Perhaps Angela Merkel, educated in the communist system of East Germany and a confident Russian speaker, over-estimated her influence on Putin. After all, she has a former German Chancellor deeply involved with a key Russian company, moreover the one who ran for election with the most anti-American campaign in modern German politics. The way for dodging NATO sanctions on Russia was to build a gas pipeline along the Baltic Sea bed from Russia to Germany.
One should not overlook the impact of childhood and education in East Germany. There is an increasingly visible difference between the old Western Germany of the Cold War and the new united Germany today. During spring 1945 East Germans simply exchanged one tyranny for another. Ten years later when she was three months old, Angela Merkel’s father emigrated from the west to Stalinist East Germany; he was appointed pastor of a country church in Brandenburg. She had to join Communist organisations to gain access to better schools, youth activities and eventually university. She was not alone. All girls and boys had to swear some form of allegiance to Marxist ideology and the state if they were to advance in life. But this means the reunited Germany of today has absorbed mind-sets infected with traces of the old Prussian over-confidence and inflexibility, the tunnel vision that led them into two seismic defeats, followed by partition in the first half of the last century.
After the unconditional surrender in 1945 the victorious allies sent many potential opinion formers on re-education courses at places like Wilton Park in Sussex run by the Foreign Office. No such programme was created for former East Germans in 1989 when – as a very close German friend put it, ‘ The Russian mother could no longer feed her child, so she left the baby on our door step, but twenty years earlier than we expected.’ One sees the echoes of that time in the recent election throughout the east of the country where votes surged for Alternative for Deutschland. They look upon themselves as well meaning but are more dangerous than they realise for reasons that are not their fault. Angela Merkel became involved with the democratic movement only shortly before the first reunification election. We have a friend who was a student with Angela Merkel. She says that on the night the Berlin Wall came down, rather than join the celebrations, Angela spent the evening at a coffee house with fellow students discussing a physics problem set by their tutor and that required answers by next morning.
He who defends everything, defends nothing
Frederick the Great
A EUROPEAN UNION OR YET ANOTHER EMPIRE?
According to Der Spiegel, ironically, the Army report speculates that one day the Poles and Baltic states might throw in their lot with Russia. The planners also worry that the Hungarians and the Balkans might do the same in protest against a European Union run by Germany and France. Keep in mind, as an old friend and onetime very senior German intelligence official explained to me one evening over supper at our home, that our membership of the European Union made Franco-German rule more acceptable for the rest. That was not a sufficiently good reason, I observed reasonably, for us British to stay and, besides, millions of us including my wife and I had voted to leave. Yet one could argue that the present situation in Poland suggests the reverse of the planners' fears is happening. Whether it’s through buying gas or investing in Baltic pipelines and Siberian car factories, Germany seems the country with the closest economic relationship with Russia. During his lecture, General Carter mentioned the importance of reducing our dependency on Russia for energy. Far from diplomatic flirting with the Russian bear, Poland and the Baltic states appear glad to have NATO troops and supersonic fighters based in their countries while some in neutral Sweden even think of moving closer to NATO. As for the former Balkan Soviet satellites, RAF Typhoon fighters are based in Romania on rotation and last spring HMS Daring joined exercises in the Black Sea. Though only token deployments, they are welcomed. Are the Eastern Europeans ready to hand over their protection from Russia to Putin’s telephone friend, Angela Merkel?
After reading Der Spiegel and then comparing its report with the reactions of German friends, then comparing the speeches of Sigmar Gabriel and Martin Schultz, Angela Merkel’s speech at Davos, one spots a pattern. Many ordinary Germans are concerned because they know that our departure from the European Union opens a window of opportunity for Merkel and her allies. She declared recently that they must have the courage to finish the business. German friends recognise that the British never had much influence within the European Union other than perhaps to delay the inevitable. Yet they are not at ease, don’t know how they can turn the ship around, confess they envy the British who had the courage to say no thanks, we’re leaving, now, before it’s too late.
Over the last eighteen months but particularly since the German election there have been plenty of signals about the future of the Europe. My own forecast is to expect a gradual disengagement from NATO by the European Union countries led by Germany until eventually that leads to a Russo-German pact draped with a European Union banner. Negotiating such a pact may take longer than Angela Merkel’s latest Chancellorship – if that lasts through this spring. German political leaders may genuinely believe that under their management the new European Union super state ought to be able to pull off a diplomatic coup that brings peace to Eastern Europe including the Baltic and Balkan satellite economies, moreover, a peace deal that removes all threats from Russia. Such a deal could safeguard Germany’s considerable investments in Russia, above all cost far less than another Cold War arms race, or God forbid, another European war. The latter fear makes it much easier to sell a pact to uneasy German voters. Putin, of course, wants to split NATO and part of any deal will include a demand that the European Union lifts all sanctions. As part of a new ‘ peace dividend ’ almost inevitably our troops would swap Paderborn for Salisbury Plain. The Americans would also be asked to depart from the soil of the European Union. The obvious price for this would be that Russia gives back the Kalingrad enclave and Germany regains Konigsberg and whatever is left of the Masurian Lakes in that portion of East Prussia. This might prove a master stroke but it could also be the match that lights the gunpowder. As Digby Jones pointed out the other day, while we focus on smoothing trade in goods and services, the Germans and the European Union seek political gains for which they are prepared to make economic sacrifices. May I suggest that there might be other sacrifices for which they have made no allowance – despite thinking they have.
Lifting sanctions is the high value card and it’s held by Angela Merkel as she pursues rapprochement with Putin. He’s not an easy neighbour and any deal with him will be tricky to police. Along the Russian marches some countries worry, they could pay a steep price for diplomatic and defence incompetence in Brussels - as has Ukraine already. There’s also the danger of tensions to come as remarked by General Sir Nick Carter in his lecture – Estonia, Georgia and Moldavia, Poles, the other Baltics and Balkans, any one of them could be next. As history goes they’ve only just emerged from fifty years of tyranny and still the Russian’s meddle, even in tiny states far away from their frontier like the northern half of Macedonia. Personally I rather doubt that ordinary people throughout the former Warsaw Pact countries would trust their first violent occupiers to save them from the second ones. Poles know reality. From the mass graves in Katyn Forest to the Warsaw Pact maps in Polish for the invasion and occupation of Britain that are on sale in London – the Poles were going to occupy us for the Russians – they have seen what happens when you have no friends within reach. Some of the more privileged have swallowed the European Union lexicon. I have been lectured by the wife of a Polish ambassador that Angela Merkel saves Poland from Russia, that the British like the Swiss have no experience of war. I asked the lady if she knew that my country declared war on the Germans three days after hers was invaded by them on the 1 September 1939. She looked puzzled.
Listening to Sigmar Gabriel one pictures a Continent where the only independent democracy is Switzerland, a target because of its independent law, independent politics, independent trade and independent Swiss Franc. Stealing the Swissie would pay for countless European Union junkets. Since then we have had the Merkel speech in Davos hinting at a European Union foreign policy as a counter to the protectionists – the United States, us and the Commonwealth, and many others – blandly ignoring that she spoke for the largest Zollverein on the planet. Given the latest exposure of the German trade surplus I found her remarks about trade protection plain hypocrisy; but what she said obliquely about Russia ( rather than Donald Trump ) was very revealing, ‘ Since the Roman Empire and the Chinese Wall, we know that simple isolation does not help in securing borders and a good cooperation with neighbours is needed.’ Merkel went on to explain that this includes deals with neighbours such as the European Union-Turkey migration deal that she brokered. Expect further diplomacy towards better relations with Moscow and perhaps eventually leading to that camouflaged pact. Because, should the European Union have its way, all the other ancient states – including our islands if the fully brainwashed remainers have their way as well – would become satellites, controlled through Brussels, but European Union branch plants of the German economic and political sun.
All staff officers have four qualities – intelligence, stupidity, industriousness and laziness. If an officer is intelligent and industrious, he will do quite well. If an officer is intelligent and lazy, he will do the best. If an officer is stupid and lazy, he can do no harm; but if an officer is stupid and industrious, remove him immediately.
A PLACE AS THE SUN
Already we stray into the realms of historical root causes and their unanticipated consequences, what Mervyn King describes as random uncertainties. What do I mean by this? Even with the best intentions human beings make mistakes that later seem obvious. When dealing with the embryo Channel Tunnel – and I took part in the very first exploratory meeting in London with John Ure and Nicko Henderson – very early on it was decided that HMG would be its own security adviser. We thought of every possibility – from rabid rats crawling through the tunnel to the tanks of Group Soviet Forces Germany. It never occurred to anyone that refugees from Afghanistan and Africa would become the biggest security problem at the French end of the tunnel. The origins of the European Union are fascinating and the seeds of the imperial urge but this historical path goes back a long way and is another story. Whether she intended to or not, Angela Merkel is setting up a European Union empire with control over twenty-seven satellite economies and the desire to become a military power. Quite a few people living next door in Switzerland ask themselves, ‘ Haven’t we seen this twice before?’ Nor are they impressed by a creeping lack of democracy in the European Union and its hostility to the political foundation stones of their country in particular. Swiss friends are wary because such a pact with Russia will leave Britain and Norway as the only real NATO members on this side of the Atlantic - unless the Danes, all three Baltic states, the Poles and Hungarians, Czechs and Slovaks, Romanians and Bulgarians prefer to stick with us and the neutrals become worried enough to seek a formal pact with the alliance.
My immediate concern is how senior ministers and their officials in London quite happily advocate placing the Queen’s armed forces under the control of a group of equally mediocre foreign politicians who are steadily falling under the spell of this vision for a new imperial power. This is a strange world for my generation when the blindingly obvious seems beyond the brains of people who had a lot of money spent on their educations. One wonders if they are simpletons, suffering from tunnel vision, worse than lemmings or just plain daft? Such an obviously stupid move would have swift and seismic impacts on all our closest alliances and probably destroy our relations with the United States and the Commonwealth. Perhaps that’s what some politicians and senior officials want? They’re supposed to be reasonably intelligent, so maybe they’re just warped. For a variety of peculiar grudges, plenty of them have been taught at university to loathe America and Britain’s history yet for even weirder reasons to adore the seedy European Union. Let them all come clean along with their fellow travelling Ministers and defend their positions before the voting public. If their Ministers didn’t know what’s happening, they’re not fit for public office. If senior officials recommended the idea, we should follow the sound advice of Clausewitz.
Nor is Donald Trump a reason for a new European Union pact with Russia, he’ll be gone in three years. Putin may not. What we are witnessing – thankfully from our side of the Channel – in my opinion is the latest reflection of a struggle to dominate the Continent that goes back to a secret meeting on the 10 August 1944 at the Maison Rouge Hotel in Strasbourg. This meeting ultimately leads more than seventy years later to the choice before Britons on the 23 June 2016 – and we chose survival and our future as a free country. Our people decided to govern themselves rather than decline as a satellite export market for the German Sun of the European Union. That was our seismic moment – the spirit of Britain was not only alive but kicking. At last after fifty years of defeatist appeasement by politicians and senior officials, the people rebelled peacefully. We are on the way to becoming a great nation once more. Across the Channel, on the other hand, the French seem ready to collaborate a second time, oblige their paymasters, welcomed at the top table simply to soften the elbows of imperial rule from Brussels for Berlin.
An early test will be whether the eventual Berlin/Brussels management decides to take Putin’s side against the Americans and the rump of NATO including ourselves and lift European Union sanctions from Russia. This move would help Putin restore a poorly performing Russian economy. Russian manufacturing relies considerably on the 21% increase in the annual budget for defence, much of it spent on warships, warplanes, missiles and weapons. Well worth taking the time to read the very detailed assessment by Edward Hunter-Christie, Defence Economist at NATO, published by the RUSI that shows how Russia would have little difficulty sustaining this level of expenditure. Public spending was an enviable 36.3% of GDP in Russia during 2015 but the government may not wish to draw or borrow from the Reserve Fund and possible alternatives are to raise taxes or the retirement age. Probably neither will happen until the forthcoming election has been fixed and done. On the brighter side, Russian grain exports rose, thus compensating Siberia in particular for lower exports of raw materials. Russia may have learned to live with sanctions after grabbing Crimea, but they have an impact and will continue to hamper growth. All the more reason for Russia to encourage a German driven European Union to distance itself from the American led NATO. On top of all these troubles Russia has a stagnant population and third world statistics for health and well-being. Some 20 million of its 143 million people live below the poverty line. These problems are potentially the most serious and most urgent but remain underestimated and un-tackled.
Where does Mrs May and her largely remain Cabinet suppose they would stand? Deciding is their job, not General Nick Carter’s. Who advises the Cabinet? Senior officials who are for want of any other description, military virgins. Remember that unlike British politicians and officials, I am not pretending that the European Union is an earthly paradise, but simply reflecting on what was leaked to Der Spiegel, Germany’s equivalent of Time or Newsweek. Would Britain’s leader object to a new Berlin-Moscow pact? Would she side with the United States? Or would her officials persuade her to kow tow towards the European Union capital. Even if she supported the Americans, one doubts if anyone in Berlin or Brussels would give a rodent’s backside.
Ardent remain fans don’t seem the least concerned by the idea that the UK would no longer exist as an independent country, become a province of a new imperial European Union. Our pound gobbled by the Euro Zone’s bottomless pit. Our armed forces part of the European Union super state’s border force – exactly as proposed by some mysterious person speaking for the Treasury, Cabinet, FCO or all three in an article in The Times the other day. The last remnants of our global power scuttled a hundred years after the navy and the little boats saved our Army and many French soldiers from Dunkirk while RAF fighters won the air battle over the beaches. Both services saved our Army and our country but what a national disgrace. The present generation of astonishingly worthless politicians outnumbers the sensible ones by roughly ten to one – they want to inflict a final, complete and irremediable defeat on the British people better than could any enemy. This time not a shot will have been fired. Do we really have to go through another global humiliation before the penny drops, must we wait until a furious voting public start stringing up politicians and officials from lamp posts?
Were we to follow the remain agenda, we would immediately disqualify ourselves from membership of the Five Eyes intelligence group and bring to an end five-hundred years of shared history with the Commonwealth. You have to be obsessed with the European Union dream to even consider such lunatic acts of self-harm. Common sense suggests we should do the complete opposite. We should start turning the Five Eyes into the foundation stones of a new global alliance. We should have a plan to support the Baltic states and Poland through Scandinavia. By that stage the neutrals may well include the European Union, because eventually Europe could consist of two groups of neutrals living as uneasy neighbours with Russia and each other. That tends to suggest that our Army needs to modernise but not as an information technology version of the old armour heavy Rhine Army. We need an Army that is highly airmobile including its armour for deep penetration. We will need more, not less Airborne and Royal Marine Commandos who can arrive fast, hit hard, and swiftly vanish into the night. Our national strategy should focus on global sea power and air power. My hunch is that with a large spoonful of luck, we have until 2030 not 2039 to rebuild this nation, restore its self-belief, and dare I warn, rearm properly, particularly at sea and in the air. We should stop borrowing billions to give them away. We need to spend more money on our defence, a lot more money. Some of us lived through this nightmare the first time, in real life.
I’m not convinced that the average German will sign up for this high risk plan without asking a great many questions. As another German friend remarked dryly, ‘ Not everyone is a fan of Mutti. Now you’re on the way out, she’s in a hurry. That’s why she wanted to make sure you would leave by giving Cameron nothing. She wants to force through these proposed changes on the remaining member states – at least half a dozen of them don’t like her ideas. One of those half-dozen countries may turn out to be Germany.’
An island people just across the sea, free spirits with global influence, their own money, a strong economy and powerful armed forces, won’t be ignored by anyone on the planet. Such a nation gives a great deal of reassurance to small countries anywhere on the planet. Many belong to the Commonwealth or are trading partners. Perhaps we should add France to that list needing moral support as Macron launches his tapestry diplomacy.
At present, by disarming at sea, just as John Nott invited the Argentines to invade the Falklands, we are inviting Russia ( and China ) to take further risks. The first thing Stalin did after the Nazi-Soviet Pact was to occupy the Baltic States and the second was invading Finland. Thankfully, not all Germans regard it as clever to dismantle NATO. As for our recent leadership, Tony Blair was out of his depth and still doesn’t realise his limitations. David Cameron even repeated the mistakes of the 1920s. ( Don’t people read any longer?) Margaret Thatcher learnt the hard way but she always listened and consequently rarely repeated mistakes. The last Prime Minister with a warm relationship with an American President and sound personal knowledge of the Armed Forces, began rebuilding the navy - Jim Callaghan, who had served in the Royal Navy. One morning during spring 1982 in an Ottawa hotel, he told me about the previous Argentine invasion scare. As I rose to take my leave, he said, ‘ Like to do me a favour, Adrian. When you’re on the phone to Downing Street this morning, remind the lady who ordered all those ships she’s sending south.’
Wer die Wahl, hat die Qual
Who has the choice, has the pain.
Old Swiss proverb
We should also learn from the Swiss. They will tell you that everyone knows the best people don’t go in for politics. Long ago they took away all serious decisions from their politicians. You cannot raise or lower taxes here without a referendum. You cannot agree a foreign treaty either without a referendum. That one saved the Swiss from joining the European Union. Also, the Swiss have votes which require a majority of cantons in favour as well as winning the national popular vote. Perhaps in this electronic age, we could just pull down the Houses of Parliament and save ourselves the repair bills. Most of its inmates don’t represent the wishes of their voters anyway. Churchill in his memoirs describes how when a great cause is put before the people all manner of surprising things happen, another lesson from Dunkirk and that first darkest hour. Ignore our failed or frustrated politicians, those wannabe’ diplomats in the media. Let’s copy the Swiss and decide the big things ourselves. That’s the real lesson from the 23 June 2016.
When asked by the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration, the first UK National Security Adviser couldn't explain what is meant by strategy, offering instead that of course he understood strategy - there was a box on his annual report that had to be ticked!
THE GERMAN QUESTION
Whoever holds Berlin, holds Germany.
Whoever holds Germany, holds Europe.
A HOLD UP
At the moment for all practical purposes Angela Merkel still calls the shots for Europe although perhaps for not much longer. I suspect the chain of command goes through the EC Commission via Martin Selmayr to Jean-Claude Junker as flak jacket, but also through other politicians, officials and focal points such as the European Parliament. Frau Merkel may yet retire injured, but such is the dread of another election, more likely she will struggle through for another term. Even if she doesn’t, the EC negotiating tactics will not change. Nor will those of Mrs May, at heart a remainer as nowadays is her Chancellor and most of the people around her. My impression is that she’s trying to stay just enough locked into the EC to make a humbling re-entry possible. The remain hope is that Corbin will form a government and they can blame him for grovelling back into the EC with no rebate and membership of the Euro. I found Tony Blair’s fake leaked note to Alistair Campbell courtesy of Austin Mitchell lays out a plausible New Labour approach and conveys all my suspicions about Tony’s low opinion of the voters, including most of those who voted for him. What a shame it was just a wonderful bit of satire! As for Mrs May’s approach, the Conservative Party already rehearse for their starring role in Death Wish Two. We the tax payers are being asked to hand over £ 40 to £ 50 billions for effectively staying in the EC until 2021 with all the red tape but denied anything in return such as passports for our service industries. We thought that was what all this money is for? The EC also want us to keep all their rules and regulations long into the future. Bye bye 21st century competitive economy. People living in the British Isles may be forgiven for wondering what Parliament is for – it certainly doesn’t take much notice of the voters.
Nor should one place too much weight on demands from the CBI. Some twenty years ago as a member of its Council along with 399 other representatives of industry and business, I filled out an opinion poll with lots of questions over whether or not we should join the Euro. (I voted never.) Towards the tail end of this quiz one question went something like, ‘ Do you think the UK will join the Euro at some time in the future?’ This actually meant, ‘ Do you think that one day enough people in British industry will be daft enough to give up control over our nation’s money? ’ Most reasonable people know that with enough silly people gathered in one place, anything is possible, thus instead of ‘ over my dead body ’ the rational answer becomes ‘ possible but not for the foreseeable future’ when allowing for all circumstances. That does not mean you want it to happen. Headlines inevitably declared, ‘ CBI poll reveals that most industry and business chiefs expect Britain eventually will join the Euro. ’
Not all Europe’s politicians and big business leaders are fans of the British people although they all like our money. Most can’t wait for us to leave the EC but they have two major problems: they don’t want to cancel the bribes planned for their own voters within the current EC budget nor dig deep into their own pockets. While they can’t wait for our departure, they fear our becoming a powerful rival just across the narrow seas and potentially with the economic power of another Japan.
The hold up divorce bill serves at least four purposes. The British must cover a share of the budget as though still EC members and for a further five years at the least, thereby indirectly forcing us to invest in the very EC economies that are our direct competitors. At the same time this ensures that we cannot invest that money in our own economy. Forget about our squabbling Parliament obsessed with gender warfare, we tax payers should rebel. A third purpose is that Britain’s tax payers hand over enough money to fill the 67 billion Euro black hole in the EC pension fund. Fourth is to arrange that our payments to the EC never stop with the aim of making Brexit pointless. This raises a few questions.
C’elui qui paie qui demand
Louis Quatorze mais npas Monsieur Barnier
Why should we pay for access to the EEA and Single market when other countries such as America, Japan and China don’t pay and would not pay to trade with Europe? Furthermore, this demand for money before any business deal resembles a form of trade warfare. Should it be dealt with as such, regardless of the under-lying intention? We have resisted following the Poles by sending Berlin a bill for many trillions to cover our costs during and after World Wars One and Two. On the other hand the Poles might yet create a precedent! Or should we instead go for people power and launch a media campaign, urge people to buy British and Commonwealth (welcoming the Americans as honorary members) or from other friendly countries rather than from the increasingly greedy EC member states. The easiest way to ensure success would be to abolish import duties for goods and services other than those imported from the EC. Bear in mind, however, that many Germans did not vote for Angela Merkel, nor agree with her tunnel vision approach to negotiations. She would lose any follow up election so strives to avoid one. Though I don’t think much would change either way - and further down will explain why I draw that conclusion.
Any so-called divorce bill will be paid by you and me, the voters and tax payers, nobody else. We are told by Mrs May that we should fork out huge sums as bribes on behalf of the City of London and big business. Does this actually make sense? As one shrewd member of the public recently remarked, it’s like going to a restaurant and being asked to pay the bill before they’ll show you the menu. He should take over the exit talks.
I sometimes wonder if Mrs May and her Cabinet are simpletons. According to the Chancellor we spend more money on debt servicing than on the Police and Armed Forces combined. That’s a revealing glimpse of his priorities for a start. However, when one adds the cost of the financial crisis and banks’ life rafts, some half a trillion pounds or more was added to the national debt. The bankers and financial wizards bear responsibility for about half the cost of debt servicing. I am all for removing the upper limits on City bonuses after Brexit. I would tax them to make the bankers and financial wheeler dealers pay the divorce bribe on their own behalf. Nobody else other than the EC is going to benefit directly from this monster robbery.
Germany and France keep much of our manufacturing out of the EC and have done for years. It all goes back to when Herr Bangemann was the EC Commissioner for standards for almost a decade, he knew the worth of making your own national standards the ones for the whole Single Market. Since the negotiations began, Monsieur Barnier has not hidden his ambition to keep our goods and services out of the EC. After Brexit, whether or not it’s worthwhile to open a production line for EC standards, becomes a purely commercial decision. Would the sales volume and cash flow make the work and investment, the running costs worthwhile? Meanwhile, handing over ridiculous sums for nothing in return will mean real shortages of money for much more important things – our defence, our health, our infra-structure, education and research. Personally I would rather see £ 60 billions spent on restoring the Royal Navy to viable strength or else for laying down a modern fibre optic and truly national telephone system capable of delivering one gigabyte a second broadband – as the South Koreans have done to lay the foundations for their smart economy. Better still, do both.
Wer die Wahl, hat die Qual
Who has the choice, has the pain. One must ask who will benefit most from our reluctant largesse as tax payers? The third largest exporter in the world, most of whose exports go to the surrounding EU countries is the real winner. Their trade surplus with us is surpassed only by China’s and by a comparative whisker. Yes, Germany, whose federal government enjoyed a budget surplus of 27 billion Euros last year while the country earned a trade surplus eleven times larger. Gravity theories do apply to land powers but have little value for sea powers.
One fully understands ordinary Germans’ dislike of paying for other peoples’ rash spending. Don’t we all. We do exactly that for the Scots, Irish and Welsh, but it’s the price for enjoying one of the oldest and most successful political and currency unions in the World. However, there’s no sensible reason why millions of British tax payers should prop up Germany’s core export markets on the Continent. Absurdly, we have been propping them up for over forty years, paid nearly a half a trillion pounds to subsidise French farmers, deserted regional airports in Spain, all sorts of schemes on the Continent. Just think what that money could have done for our people. Angela Merkel knows perfectly well that demands for larger contributions from the remaining 27 members will simply strengthen those who oppose the new Berlin-Brussels-Paris axis. She also knows her own voters don’t want to pay any more as bribes to weaken the impact of the growing Euro sceptic movements throughout the other twenty-six member states. The Alternative for Deutschland movement in her own backyard is why she struggled to form a government and dare not risk another election. They took her previous majority of seats in the national parliament. British voters should demand Mrs May tells us precisely what she has offered. Meanwhile we should bin this bill for modern Danegeld.
Lifting sanctions is the high value card and it’s held by Angela Merkel as she pursues rapprochement with Putin. He’s not an easy neighbour and any deal with be tricky to police. Along the Russian marches some countries may pay a steep price. Ukraine has already. There’s a threat of more to come – Estonia, Georgia and Moldavia. Poles, Baltics and Balkans know they could be next – as history goes they’ve only just emerged from fifty years of tyranny and still the Russian’s meddle, even in tiny states far away from their frontier like Macedonia. I rather doubt that ordinary people throughout the former Warsaw Pact countries trust their first violent occupiers to save them from the second ones. Poles know reality. Warsaw Pact maps in Polish for the invasion and occupation of Britain are on sale in London – the Poles were going to occupy us for the Russians - and to give an idea of the current official EC lexicon, I have been lectured by the wife of a Polish ambassador that Angela Merkel saves Poland from Russia. More astonishing, young German speaking Irish are employed by the EC Commission to persuade the Swiss that it’s a fine thing to be dependent on a bigger country – so much for Sinn Fein.
BRITANNIA AND THE BEAR
Where do we stand with Russia at the moment? I’m old enough to have known veterans of the epic battles of the Russian convoys. Most of the tanks that saved Moscow from the Germans were made in Britain, delivered by our Merchant Navy, and they didn’t hear much in the way of thanks. After the war no medal was awarded for the Arctic convoy battles. Back in the 1970s my job at the embassy in Bern often took me to Zurich. Phil, our chief security guard in the Consulate-General in Zurich ( yes, we had one in those days and another in Basel ) used to recall the horrors. Phil had been in HMS Mayflower, a corvette, and had been sunk. Phil had been pulled out of the freezing water just in time – a man lasted only minutes in the Arctic Ocean. Ashore in Murmansk he learnt some Russian from the locals. This came in useful years later. One afternoon Phil asked me if I minded walking to the Zurich main station. Not at all, I said. It was a gorgeous winter afternoon. Phil explained that on this day every week he took the mail to Solze where he and Peter, the driver, always had tea there. Phil did the interpreting as Solze didn’t speak much English. One of my greatest regrets is that I didn’t go with them - I was one of his greatest fans – for very Wednesday afternoon Phil and Peter did what the world’s journalists would have given their right arms for. Solze, of course, was Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
The last time the Russian security state was dealt with firmly was by Ted Heath’s government. Today Russia’s secret agencies are allowed open season on the British Isles. There have been murders where suspicion fell on their intelligence services. They run a TV news channel as well as a more modern twin of Tass. Successive governments have done nothing. We have been through all this hassle when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. Then he lost an election. Alec Douglas Hume became Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. In 1971 a Russian defector told us in detail all about the sabotage reconnaissance work of the Russian Embassy and Consular staff in Britain. They were touring all over the country picking targets. We expelled 90 diplomats and refused readmission to 15 more – 105 in total. Life became much easier for MI5 and Special Branch. And in those days we did not have Muslim terrorists as well as Irish. I would suggest to Mrs May that rather than more vague words far better a cull of all Russian diplomatic and media activity. I don’t think 20% is enough this time. I would suggest that all Russians with intelligence traces are expelled. That may remove 40% or 50% of the Russian officials and media people resident in the country. If we leave any, they’ll know why. So let’s get rid of the lot and make them start all over again. Give MI5 and the Police a breather. Such a cull will cripple their fake news campaigns because they won’t have people on the ground monitoring our politics and finding ways to meddle with our public opinion. To anyone who thinks this harsh, I say that in 1971 the Russians did retaliate, by expelling 6 British diplomats. I accept that Russia’s propaganda warfare has little impact on British votes at elections and referendums. Personally, I didn’t need any help from Vladimir Putin. I never had a vote in the Harold Wilson referendum because I was overseas as a diplomat. I waited forty-one years to vote leave.
There seems little likelihood of the Russians throwing off the burden of their president and all the costs that come with such regimes. Putin is running for election again in 2018 despite hitting retirement age – but as an oligarch’s fixer once protested to a friend of mine, ‘ Retire! Make business in Russia, nobody retire other than in wooden box.’
THIN GREY, KHAKI AND SKY BLUE LINES
Our armed forces will have the greatest strategic impact when our contribution is largely naval although sometimes with strong air power and specialist land forces. At present we have the core but not much more. The navy urgently needs double or triple its numbers of surface ships and submarines; I do not mean cheapo’ corvettes rather powerful warships that can defend a carrier group against ballistic missiles. Ships and submarines armed with all kinds of robot weapons for defence and attack. Corvettes designed for export are better suited for protecting our waters and fishing grounds around the British Isles and Overseas Territories.
Joining the F 35 project was a smart move that places our aerospace industry among the global leaders and we should build on this collaboration with the Americans. Obstacles with security and commercial secrecy are not impossible to overcome. Several industries have escaped terminal decline because of the F 35 programme but we need to design and build a home grown new generation multi-purpose fighter. Whether it is manned or flown by AI depends on research but without such a project we will lose the ability to make our own fighters. We urgently need a national space programme. All the more important as the European Space Agency countries turn their backs on us, so will Europe’s aircraft industry slowly although I suspect the next aircraft the Germans build will have been designed in France. I strongly urge that our F 35s have the full data-transfer suite that allows them to pass tactical information to fourth generation aircraft such as Typhoons. Although ships, aircraft and UAVs are astronomically expensive, if we want to stay a global player, there’s only one way forward. Invest in the latest technology, stay ahead of the pack. Start to think like a global power.
The Army is going through a tough period. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron sent small and weakly armed forces into impossible situations in distant places. The results were near defeats and certainly no real success. Theresa May continues this kamikaze tradition by sending an armoured infantry battalion to Estonia without any air defence to provide what one distinguished general could only describe as a tethered goat. There is no way of extracting them other than threatening tactical nukes. Our political leaders need to stop listening to diplomats and others with no combat experience. You don’t gamble with loyal young peoples’ lives. Why don’t we tether eight-hundred politicians along the Estonian border with Russia? And they wonder why the three services are short of recruits. I think we need to have another referendum, on defence and international aid. The Prime Minister and her Cabinet are collectively shirking their duty to keep us all safe with strong armed forces.
The Army’s equipment has been neglected so long that its own Brexit moment has arrived. My advice is sit down with a blank sheet of paper, draw up new ways of reaching the battlefield and fighting hot wars, then work out a strategy that the other two services can fully support. I have few suggestions but they might help. An army is manpower intensive and a professional one pay expensive. Design an army with a professional core that has much larger volunteer reserves. The British Army is fifty years out of date. Take over all troop carrying helicopters from the RAF. The two airmobile divisions in Vietnam had four-hundred-and fifty helicopters each. Make 16 Air Assault Brigade the template for small airmobile divisions. Helicopters are expensive. Design an aircraft similar to a crop sprayer bred from a Pilatus Porter for close support off short runways. When you run out of fresh ideas, read some of my old articles for the RUSI about airborne, airmobile and armoured warfare then have a look at Ivan Barr’s design for a 17 tons tank that was fully air-portable and very fast once on the ground. Apply technology such as drones and AI to all forms of support fire including AAA and SAMs. Don’t buy another over heavy tank or APC, invent a new way for infantry to move around the battlefield. Take cyber warfare seriously but don’t let some *remf in the Cabinet Office tell you it’s more important than your fighting skills. Let the Germans, Poles and Ukrainians look after their frontiers with Russia, the dangerous threats to us will come from the air and sea.
This is the sort of outside the box thinking the National Security Adviser should be doing, supporting the Armed Services and intelligence agencies, supporting HM Diplomatic Service, not fighting them on behalf of some *remf in the Treasury.
A LITTLE HISTORY GIVES SHARPER PERSPECTIVE
In late August 1963 the Beetles were topping the record charts. I joined the Commonwealth Relations Office, on a Monday. On Wednesday I was rewarded with a pay rise for my birthday. ( We did that sort of thing in those days.) By Friday I had become part of the new Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service also known as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Our PUS became the Permanent Under Secretary of the new Service but everyone concluded we were victims of a hostile take over by the Foreign Office.
Eight months earlier General de Gaulle had pronounced his ' Non ' regarding Britain's joining the original EC. This was another major blow for a strategic plan designed by the Foreign Office. Their record was pretty awful. Almost until the last moment, the FO had pursued a policy of appeasement with Hitler and the other dictators, a policy which led to the occupation of most of Europe and the loss of allies, markets, money, not to mention huge diplomatic and intelligence networks built up over five-hundred years. Churchill himself took over strategic foreign policy and nurtured the special relationship until Pearl Harbour enabled Roosevelt to cast aside isolation and lead the allied war effort. Next came the Suez Crisis where Eisenhower demanded that Britain and France cease their military action against Egypt. Caught like startled rabbits against a background of industrial strife and aging industrial plant the FO concluded that only membership of the new Common Market of European countries would force Britain's industry and unions to join the modern world. Never mind the belief in our country and the brains of its youth that led Winston Churchill to found a new college bearing his name at Cambridge and devoted to the sciences. The FO preached a strategy of tail between the legs retreat from our history as a world power. They believed their duty was to manage inevitable decline.
The CRO as it was known for short, steered our diplomatic relations with the Commonwealth, not only the great dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and finally India and Pakistan, many other newly independent nations but also all those countries which had not yet become independent. Our job was to keep our relationships close with the all the countries which had recently belonged to the British Empire. Since the war Britain's foreign policy had been dominated by three main themes - economic recovery from the cost of the war, massive rearmament including nuclear weapons since the Korean War, bringing our former colonies to independence with parliamentary democracies and independent judiciaries backed by a targeted aid budget. The Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, set the tone with his famous ' wind of change ' speech to the Parliament in Cape Town about Africa as nation after nation peacefully became self-governing. Our task was far from easy but the potentially spectacular rewards were worth the struggle. Our opponents were defeatist British politicians and diplomats, Soviet Russia and Communist China, the worst of British banking and industry, corrupt politicians and officials in the newly independent countries - and in that order. On the other hand, we were led by people who knew well the people and leaders of the countries where they served and our own leaders were uniquely experienced men and women. Straight from the Army and placed in the defence and intelligence department, my own boss was George Price, a retired Royal Engineers general who as a colonel had been the assistant to General Pug Ismay, Winston Churchill's Military Assistant throughout World War Two. George and Louis Mountbatten, Chief of the Defence Staff, had been friends for nearly twenty-five years. We young people had a sense of mission, that what we did counted, there was no doubt that we were changing the world for the better for the peoples of our former colonies and by doing so, helping nearly fifty new UN members to belong among the democracies.
The FO take over was justified by accusing the CRO of running a separate foreign policy. The lexicon soon became that the Commonwealth had turned its back on Britain and were importing manufactured goods from our rivals in America, Japan and Europe - no mention was made that perhaps the unreliability of British industry at that time had something to do with seeking alternative suppliers. During the 1950s we ran a surplus on manufactured goods worth 10% of GNP. That advantage was lost to the recovering industries of Europe and Japan through poor management coupled with poor labour relations and poor road infrastructure. The railways were extensive and reliable for freight - until Dr Beeching closed down all the small branch lines that allowed parcels to arrive within hours by train. Britain's first motorway was only completed in 1968.
A year later de Gaulle said ' non ' again. Five years later Prime Minister Ted Heath managed to join the Common Market but Harold Wilson took much of the credit. Heath had lost an election after sheer industrial chaos. None of them expected that within five years a woman would lead the Conservative Party, win the election, go on to win two more and drag the British economy into the modern age. They were all too wet as Margaret Thatcher would occasionally let slip.
LIFE AFTER LIBERATION - LEARN FROM THE SWISS
Forget arrangements on the lines of the one the Swiss negotiated. The original agreement drawn up by Paul Jolles in 1972 was very good but Paul was one of the outstanding diplomats of the 1970s from any country. Paul also negotiated our exit from EFTA. Switzerland went on to negotiate a series of bilateral agreements with the EC member states of that time. Some 64% of Swiss trade is with the modern EC. About one third of Swiss trade is with Germany alone thus some kind of arrangement is important. Today the Swiss are constantly nagged by the EC Commission and threatened with dire consequences if they don't fall into line with EC rules on trade, taxes, refugees, you name it, in force within the Single Market by implementing rulings from the European Court of Justice. Most of the Swiss regard this idea as creeping colonisation by the EC. Today the EC Commission has a fan club among Switzerland's left of centre politicians and some of the senior diplomats and officials while most Swiss want to keep their direct democracy which allows even EC regulations to be questioned.
Swiss friends tell us that they were so worried about direction in which the EC was heading, becoming more rigid by the day, indeed almost totalitarian, that when they heard the news that we had voted for Brexit, they threw parties to celebrate.
Brexit will electrify the British people. Sudden release from the dead weight of the EC albatross around our necks will unleash all sorts of imaginative and inventive forces. We might even rediscover our old sense of community. Once again we can make our own rules. I would like to see a space industry strategy and a rejuvenation of shipping and shipbuilding through lower taxes and ultra modern designs and technology.
There is no point voting to leave the EU only to let Brussels sneak in through the back door. We should make a clean break. Let's stick to WTO rules and treat the EC as a single market from day one. Just as we do the United States. Should the EC seek tariff free trade with us, that's fine so long as there is no question of payments to the EC budget nor accepting EU regulations in our economy. Obviously any tariffs would apply throughout the Single Market and become reciprocal. Most WTO tariffs are low single figures but some products, luxury cars for example, face around 10% duty. Imports of cars alone would earn the Treasury several billions a year.
For a UK global diplomatic and export plan........an island lives and prospers on sea power.........just click the ships
With lower taxes on shipping the Merchant Navy grows - as owners recognise the increasing risks at sea and return to the red duster.
Photo Royal Navy
A GREAT DAY FOR THE ROYAL NAVY
The Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh, Lord High Admiral, and Admiral Sir George Zambellas, admiring the Royal Navy's latest aircraft carrier - HMS Queen Elizabeth - up in Rosyth on the 4 July.
The previous Queen Elizabeth was also a trail blazer, built as a fast oil-fired battleship armed with eight fifteen inch guns, she set a new benchmark for big gun ships and was to serve in two world wars. During the first with the Grand Fleet as Admiral Beatty's flag ship and during the second in the Mediterranean and Far East.
The new HMS Queen Elizabeth weighs in at 72,100 short tons - 65,000 imperial tons - and will carry an air strike group with stealth fighters able to reach targets hundreds of miles away. Her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, will take her place in the huge assembly dock now the Queen Elizabeth has taken to the water for her sea trials.
' How big did you say? '
' The one bearing your name is the larger one, Maam.'
The Queen concentrates as the bottle of Islay single malt hits grey steel.
Alongside the new carrier is HMS Illustrious, last of the ' through deck cruisers ' known by the navy as ' see through carriers ' which kept alive carrier jet fighter operations with the Sea Harrier jump jets. Otherwise, John Nott's suicidal naval cuts would have reduced the Royal Navy to a third rate naval power. Harrier carriers made possible liberation of the Falkland Islands.
The jet fighter on the ski ramp of HMS Elizabeth is a mock up but gives a very clear idea of the size of the flight deck. The Royal Navy will fight to ensure that both new aircraft carriers join the fleet. I feel confident the RN and its many staunch fans will win that fight. Everyone who thinks we should have a much stronger navy needs to make their voice heard. This is a job for a single massive public voice. The coming political battle will involve public pressure to double the number of destroyers, frigates and submarines. Ideally the Royal Navy could find plenty of work for a third new carrier and a four-fold increase in surface ships and submarines but let's take things a step at a time. First the British public have to be educated that they live on an island that's becoming as over-crowded as Japan.
Then compare the size of their navy with ours.
All the same, truly, a great day for the Royal Navy ( not to mention Gordon Brown ) and all the ship yard workers, the thousands of skilled people who delivered her on time for the Queen.
COMMONWEALTH'S GRANDMAMA INVITES EUROPE'S MUTTI TO TEA
DAVE AND ANGE
Oh dear, Mutti has bitten another partner but this time the victim survived. Dave had an easy decision but he made heavy weather of it - as usual. There was a landslide election victory staring him in the face. The Tories and UKIP had 35% and 10-15% of the vote together. The only negotiation with the EC that made sense was British exit. That would given the ' conservative vote ' a boost up to 55% of the voters, possibly 60% with the prospect of freedom from the EC shackles around our commercial ankles.
Dave bungled his negotiations with Mutti, called a referendum so we could decide, then threatened us voters with project fear, roping in everyone from Tony Blair to the American President.
He lost and now Theresa May is trying to keep us in the EC by pretending she's making a mess of leaving.
Far from facing ruin, freed from Europe's sheet anchor, Britain's economy will grow much faster. We should become a another Japan anchored off the Continent.
The price is worth paying - much larger armed forces, particularly the Royal Navy, and restoration of the FCO to its former strength.
Forget our useless politicians.
Let's get started.
Start buying British.