Saturday, March 31, 2018 10:06 pm
Engineer and writer, David Barnby is a British citizen. He has worked in Nigeria, Canada and other countries before taking up writing and publishing. A vocal campaigner for British exit of the European Union, Barnby tells NKRUMH BANKONG-OBI about the impact of Brexit on Nigerians.
You hold the view that “global corporate interests were and are behind the demise of freedom and democracy that joining bodies like the EU entails.” Is this a holistic view of the EU as an anti-democratic body or just aspects of the time organisation?
Firstly, I have to point out that I do not consider myself to be an expert on the EU and corporate issues. I spent my working life, including four happy years working for Nigerian Post and Telecommunication, P&T in the 1960s, as a telecommunications engineer and eventually became a fellow of the then Institution of Electrical Engineers and latterly became accepted on the President’s list of consultants – perhaps that’s closer to becoming an expert.
I have an enquiring mind even in these later years and need to find answers. This is made easier in post-modern (whatever that means) times by the internet. However, I usually have to go to primary sources, such as the Public Record Office in Kew, London, The Bodleian Library, in Oxford, just down the road from me, so what I write and say comes not from prejudice, but from the record, well everyone has prejudices, but I try to approach everything with as open a mind as possible.
On the EU, once the Common Market, I can best demonstrate this with my long term thinking on the organisation. Way back in the early 1960s (the Common Market first came into being on 1st January 1956 by the way) the government of the day decided that Britain ought to join it and started negotiating for entry.
The quest came to an abrupt end in February 1963 when President Charles de Gaulle of France vetoed Britain’s entry. I remember it well even today. I was in Norway on a skiing holiday and the news was announced over the Tannoy in the skiing hostel I was staying at, as we were queueing for our supper.
I felt very dejected at this, as I had assumed joining was in our best interests, well the media had persuade me, I suppose – remember, when you are young, one is more easily persuaded .
To get back to your question; yes, I suppose you could attribute my view to being holistic, though I have never thought of it that way before, but I don’t think of the EU as being deliberately anti-democratic, it just suites their objectives to be that way. Remember they do have an EU Parliament but it has no real powers and is more of a talking shop and an apology for democracy.
Though, having said that, members from several nations are now increasingly speaking up against that very issue – it being undemocratic and dictatorial.
But the institution was never designed that way. I think the founders, the corporates and international bankers, though it would not serve their purposes. I worked it out some time ago, and I say to people, that the EU is a symptom, a symptom of bigger disease that pervades the world – ,you can see that in Africa where corporate interests have overwhelmed the interests of small farmers and fishermen (I am thinking of The Gambia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Cape Verde, all of whom are subject to EU Fishing Agreements that, seems to be to the cost of individual local fishermen) – this has been explained in a booklet whose title I don’t like, being very pejorative, ‘The Evil Empire’ by Ray Finch* .
Is not the EU sort of neo-colonialist?
You argue in your book, The EU: A Corporatist Racket that British leaders entered into agreement with Brussels (common market/custom union) without consultation with the electorate or constitution. Aren’t leaders elected to take decisions on behalf of the people?
My view is that it is the people who are sovereign, or ought to be. Parliament is the ‘representative of the people’ and that powers are, at general elections, only lent to Parliament and the resulting government, until the next election, in the UK every 5 years unless it fails in a vote of no confidence, or the PM calls a new election. This was the view of the late Tony Benn who also thought parliaments should only last one year.
That being so, – if you agree; at the end of term Parliament should return to the people all the powers borrowed in order for them to govern. The history of the UK’s involvement with the EU and its predecessors has been nothing like that. The governments of the day since 1971, when the UK was eventually admitted, and after making huge concessions (Common Fisheries policy, Common Agricultural Policy and, not many people know this; the sacrifice of Britain’s space programme to appease the French) adopted, including the Treaty of Rome, which took us in, the Single European Act (1986), the Treaties of Masstricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon (An European Constitution).
These Treaties were all contrary to the written Constitution, – politicians nowadays, of course, argue that we don’t have one, for if they didn’t, much of what they have done in the ‘cause’ of integration would be illegal.
And whilst other EU member states have allowed their people’s referenda on these treaties, Denmark, Ireland, France, Netherlands, for instance (in these referenda the vote has frequently gone against the government’s intentions which would have caused the process of integration to stall, but in all these cases the peoples have been required to vote again soon afterwards – and guess what, they all voted the right way).
Kindly explain what Brexit means to non-British citizens?
Oh, that’s a difficult one. I can really only respond to that, I think, in terms of how it might affect peoples in the less industrialised countries of the Commonwealth, Nigeria being a prime example. The history of this is now long forgotten; but until the UK joined, there was something known as Commonwealth preference whereby there were low tariffs between members and this benefitted countries such as Nigeria, because it provided a ready outlet for cultivated products to a large proportion of the world. It benefitted us in the UK, and I remember that food was very cheap and cost of living was lower in Britain than anywhere in Europe excepting ‘Iron Curtain’ countries and Norway.
After we joined, cheap food imports ceased because the UK was obliged to impose quite stringent tariffs and the cost of food went up steeply. I remember that because when I visited the UK from Canada (I was there from 1968 until 1979) I was stunned by the cost of food, which had been cheaper than Canada when I first arrived there.
No doubt Nigeria and other Commonwealth countries similarly suffered from the decline in exports to the UK, which was and is still a big market (we don’t produce, ourselves, anything like the quantity of food we need). And talking of New Zealand in particular, who sold large amounts of lamb to Britain, suffered hugely from the tariff barrier and had to make drastic changes to their economy. Perhaps those changes preclude a return to how it was, and they may still be smarting from the experience and not want to or be able to.
Now to try to answer your question, and it’s only my considered simplistic view as a result of your asking this question, I would think that, if there’s a will, that which existed before 1973, when the UK joined, could be resurrected. This would of course depend upon the UK leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union (which is being fought over in Parliament – not to leave these would effectively mean we have not left the EU).
What is the implication of Brexit for Nigeria given that Britain was her colonial master?
Well, I’ve partially answered this. But regarding the historical dimension of the question, I would say that I would hope and expect that any future interaction with Nigeria would be on the basis of mutual cooperation and respect. Whether there can be any special relationship and mutually beneficial trading agreement is not for me to know, but I hope so. But The UK cannot enter into trading agreements with anyone outside of the EU has left the Single Market (really a self-interested internal market) and the Customs Union, that is the rule.
Regarding Britain’s past role as the ‘colonial master’ there is evidence, and I have not researched it, but am led to believe that the British Empire was driven by corporatist and banking interests, who financed it, at least form 19th century onwards. In particular I am thinking of Rothschild Bankers, so there should be care in any future trading arrangement that any corporate and international banking interests do not come to dominate it any more than they do so already.
What do you foresee in terms of trade realignment, balances etc, if the UK eventually leaves the EU?
This is really a question for a professional economist, but whether maintaining trade balance in the modern era matters any longer – we see Quantitative Easing (QE) being massively used nowadays to dig economies out of problems. QE is a tool that creates money from nothing which can create problems especially inflation. What QE does, through the inflationary effects it creates, is to enrich bankers (banks are allowed to enter some billions on their books with a matching debt. But the debt, it seems to me, is never repaid. Never repaid because the bank relies on the inflationary of QE to reduce the real value of their debt and one must remember QE is accompanies low bank interest rates, less 1% or less. At the same time banks can lend out this money many times over (the bank multiple of up to 7 times) at interests rates many times greater than what they receive it at.
The result is that by the end of term, the bank probably owes very little in real terms on its debt. This could be 20 years down the road and maybe time for another crisis. The debt is rolled over when the next QE billions are received and so it goes on.
So does trade balance matter anymore under such conditions?
I would hope though that trade between Nigeria and the UK will flourish once we have left. I have happy memories of my time in Nigeria, long ago as it is, and wish Nigeria to do well as indeed I wish for the UK. As I’ve said above there are big opportunities, I don’t know what ambitions there are for industrialisation, but it could be an opportunity for the UK to resurrect its industrial manufacturing capacity by selling those products to Nigeria and purchasing agricultural products, in turn, from Nigeria. I well remember the ground nut pyramid mountains in Kano when I was there, of which product was destined for the UK – I don’t know where that lies now.
Populist parties and anti-immigration parties are taking roots in Europe. What does this pertain for global peace? Is this growing slant of populism healthy for global unity, democracy and cohesion?
I will skip that question, if I may, because it’s highly controversial. But I will say that the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7 in New York on 9/11 was the initiating and, may I say planned event, an event to justify the so called ‘War on Terror’. Far from corporates and bankers and their political wing, the EU (the evidence is, as I think I have proven in my book, that the EU is a product of these entities and it is these self-same organisations who are at the fore-front of attempts to stop the UK from leaving the EU (I could give you the evidence which is self-evident, but this is long enough already)) helping global peace and global unity, it is just the opposite. We have seen how the war on terror has destroyed whole countries – you know who they are, with hundreds of thousands of deaths deep poverty and mass immigration from once relatively stable countries into Europe. And who can blame them migrating from war-torn and devastated lands to the very countries and its controlling body, the EU, who either were involved or colluded in it, or said nothing.
The effect on European nations has not been insignificant, and although the services are nowhere near as dire as in some countries from where migration has been initiated and it might seem I am lamenting a state of affairs that might seem trivial to some, the fact is that in densely populated countries like Britain, the ability to feed populations, never very high, is perhaps tending towards crisis point – what happens when harvests fail?
Also the infrastructure, like the health service (GP waiting times have risen from a day or so 10 years ago to a month or more), road systems are clogged, housing is very expensive from demand, so the young can no longer expect, as in the past, to get on the housing ladder in their twenties, etc, etc.
This is the result of corporate and banking interests controlling the politics, instead of the other way round as it should be.
If Britain leaves the EU, do you think she will compete favourably in Africa in terms of trade, given that China, India and the Arabs have gained large grounds in the continent?
I think that Britain will be able to benefit from cheaper food, from low tariff food imports, as a result of leaving the EU, but other nations, such as you have mentioned, will present fierce competition and Britain will need to be more innovative and efficient and no doubt provide aid associated with exports, not to be wasted in the destination country, but to help the destination country improve its economy and increase employment prospects at the same time. The UK has advantages in that it is an English speaking country and that it can provide services which it appears are much sought after – that is just as well given that our once thriving manufacturing industry is but a shadow.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of the BREXIT negotiations have sometimes been described as tepid, lacklustre and unclear. Do you share this views?
Yes, but! First of all Theresa May is a lacklustre character herself, so what can you expect. Secondly the great majority of MPs are what are called ‘Remainer’s (that is no accident, candidates for election need massive support to win election and that support often comes from house building companies who make huge profits from building and corporatists who see the EU as beneficial for them – there is a huge lobbying industry in Brussels where they seek to influence, even write the rules and directives to suit themselves. Smaller businesses find they don’t have the resources to lobby or the comply, that’s why big business like the EU and will always seek to support pro-EU parliamentary candidates. So, we see Theresa May having to walk a tight-rope to get her exiting legislation through against pro-EU MSM who are mainly controlled by large multi-national corporations, who of course are pro-EU, and promote a pro-EU line notwithstanding the democratic wishes demonstrated in the 2016 Referendum.
Notwithstanding the fact that Theresa May supported remaining in the referendum campaign she has believed that she must honour the result and that she stood for PM following the Referendum tells me that she thinks she can go down in history by delivering Brexit .
There are very many Nigerians living in the UK. How do you think the new argument about Irish boundary, Custom union and EU court jurisdiction etc, affect them?
I wouldn’t have thought in general that it would worry them in any way, why should it.
Of course if a Nigerian living in the UK had business interests in Ireland or in the remaining part of the EU, he or she would want these issues resolved like anyone else on their position. But I’m sure that these issues will be resolved especially as the large Continental vehicle manufacturers want to continue with tariff free access to the UK market and don’t want EU officialdom sabotaging it by playing hard ball with the UK.