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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Brexit & The Poison Chalis by Patrick Brigham


We all know what Brexit means, and that on the 29th March 2017, the famous Article 50 was signed on behalf of the British Government, by Prime Minister Theresa May. We all know how it came about, the players involved, the poor explanations, the misinformation, and the insane promises. Having signed the exit document, recent history and subsequent events mean nothing much, because it is too late, and in any case there is little point in crying over spilt milk. What is more interesting, is what other members of the European Union think, what they predict will happen, and how they see their future relationship with Great Britain.

The Brussels view is typically laid back, remembering that much of the EU is devouted to the collection and redistribution of money and resources. There are no visible panic attacks in progress, and one can hear an almost monotonous, monosyllabic drone, coming from EU technocrats as they reveal the present and future present facts. One such person is Siegfried Mugason, who was interviewed recently by Dan Alexe, on behalf of New Europe. Dan says –

After the European Parliament’s adopted its priorities for the next year’s EU Budget, or “The Report on the General Guidelines for the preparation of the 2018 EU Budget,” New Europe has asked the Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan – chief negotiator of the EU Parliament for the 2018 budget of approximately 160 billion euros, as well as spokesman for the EPP and vice president of the Committee for budgetary affairs in the Parliament, if Brexit – Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, is having any impact on the EU’s budget as a whole? Also. asked if HRM Queen Elizabeth’s – Britain’s reigning monarch – farms would continue to receive EU subsidies? Our gallant Romanian MEP replied-

“Yes, during the whole period of the Brexit negotiations, the UK remains an EU member with total rights, paying its contributions and benefitting from EU structural and cohesion funds. Although the UK is a performing economy, there are British regions that are less developed than others, so they qualify for EU funds, including in agriculture. It is interesting and revealing that such regions, that plainly benefit from EU funds, have voted in favour of Brexit, and leaving the EU. This shows us that the benefits of belonging to the EU were not convincingly communicated by the political forces. Populists won, by trafficking the truth, and by using the wrong figures in their pamphlets. That explains why people from poorer UK zones voted in favour of leaving the EU, against their own interests.”

The Brexiteers Rock Group

Asked what lessons should be drawn from Brexit, his reply was very clear- “That populists have to be confronted. We have to be able to explain to the population the benefits of staying in Europe, but this has to be done there, not by speaking out from the Brussels bubble. If your name is David Cameron and you have built your whole career in the last ten years in Europe bashing, you cannot be credible if, for the last six weeks of your campaign, you switch your discourse, and start saying that in the end, staying in the EU is not such a bad idea after all. The EU needs politicians with a clear message, that can confront the populists.”

Well, you could not be much clearer than that, and that is the general consensus of most EU countries, but each has its little addition to such cold techno -thinking. Some said au revoir and good riddance, while others were more supportive. In France, following the historic Brexit vote, and according to ‘The Local,’ a French English language news magazine-

“France has shown a divided response to the news, that the UK has voted to leave the EU, although a vocal majority – online at least – appear to have been pleased. A survey of newspaper Le Figaro’s readers found recently, that most respondents in France were satisfied with the result of the vote. And this majority was the most vocal on Twitter, as many French people vented their anger – as well as predictable digs at “Les Anglais, over the Brexit vote.”

The hashtag #BonDebarras – Good Riddance – spoke for itself, and one user sniped – ‘Les Anglais are beginning to realise that most Europeans are delighted that they are splitting.”

A virtually unread document

Other snarky tweets recalled that Britain had always had an arm’s-length relationship with the European Union, having opted out of the euro, the visa-free Schengen zone and the Common Agricultural Policy. “Have they ever really been a part of the EU?” one asked. Another said – “They were a pain in the ass when they wanted in, now they’re a pain in the ass going out: The English are the cats of Europe!”

But, let’s now see how the UK fared in Germany?Jan Henrik Schimkus, writing for ‘The Smarter German Magazine,’ had this to say- “When the votes were finally cast, we were shocked, to say the least; some maybe even angry. European economic experts and scientists had stated that the United Kingdom would suffer terribly under Brexit, while the EU would be damaged, though not severely. European Parliament officials were quick to stand together and pledge the unity of the EU’s remaining members.

As for Britain, I was wondering about the social and political atmosphere, it took to allow the referendum to go out the way it did. And, to be honest, I was wondering about the outright stupidity and falseness of some of the claims made by UKIP and other pro-Brexit organizations and individuals; as well as the way they ran the campaigns. Of course, some people were well informed and had made up their mind. Nevertheless, the viral videos of individuals who had no clue whatsoever what they were voting for, or even what the EU was, was heartbreaking. As somebody not living in the UK, I cannot assert that I would know what actually happened.

But taking the British people and the British media into account, that inhabit my social bubble, I feel a bit scared because I cannot exclude something like this happening in Germany. Germany is one of the very few countries which would most likely survive a collapse of the European Union relatively unharmed.”


And finally from Vincenzo Scarpetta of Open Europe Magazine. He asks the big question– “What can the UK offer, to secure Italian continued goodwill?

One interesting answer he received was that Italy sees the Brexit negotiations as an opportunity to relaunch the broader discussion about the future direction of EU integration – along the lines of the two-circle Europe model – laid out by Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni with his then UK counterpart Philip Hammond. This was concerning the preservation, and the cohesion of the EU-27 as an absolute priority for Rome. He says –

“From Italy’s standpoint, it would be helpful if the UK made it clear from the very beginning of their negotiations that, although it is leaving, it wants the EU-27 to be united and successful in the years and decades to come. A fragmented EU-27, I was told in Rome, would ultimately be more likely to give the UK a bad deal. In other words, playing ‘divide and rule’ in their negotiations, would not be in the UK’s best interest.”
Balkans, political map

“The related risk of Brexit for the Western Balkans, is the ascendance of geopolitics. European integration as a political project is based on the idea of inter-connectivity, and the conception of power as cooperation. Europeanisation of the Western Balkans, entails forging political, economic and cultural connections with the EU, as well as between Balkan states. But the geopolitical outlook is its antithesis; all about going it alone, and the conception of power as a threat.”

“The Balkans has been a geopolitical battleground throughout history, and its position as a non-EU enclave within the EU makes it particularly conducive to the logic of competition and protection. Russia and Turkey have each stamped their mark on the region, while the EU tries to exercise its magic power of attraction and transformation. But unlike the EU’s vision, which is future orientated, Russia and Turkey have drawn on certain historic links, reinforced by religious affinities. Russia appeals to the idea of Slavic brotherhood – a notion that resonates with large sections of the Christian population in the Orthodox world, and Turkey is seen as a natural guardian of fellow Muslims.”

So clearly, there is a lot more going on, than a couple of friends might think, discussing Brexit down the pub in terms of foreigners taking jobs away from UK workers, and stories of foreigners damaging our English society. Muslims planting bombs everywhere, is simply extremist rubbish, and blatant lies are nearly always propagated, by well known Brexiteer zealots, on the unwary and the ignorant.

Finally, apart from French angst, it seems that most of EU member countries are level headed and practical, but nevertheless the general view is that by leaving, Great Britain might somehow cause a populist uprising, clearly based on further lies and alternative facts! There is talk of possible war in the Balkans, the breakdown of trust amongst the EU membership, and a return to European chaos, or even a new Cold War, although in my view, this is most unlikely to happen.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Who Guards the Guards? - By Patrick Brigham




‘Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodies?’ In this article, Patrick Brigham attempt’s to unravel the Iraq Historic Allegations Team or IHAT mystery, of legacy investigation, but in juxtaposition to Northern Ireland, Stormont and ‘The Good Friday Agreement.’

It seems that British military personnel, during the course of their duty, are often damned if they do, and damned if they don’t, and since many retired service men and women live here in the Balkans, I will attempt to keep them up to date. But firstly, what is IHAT?

The general view by military personnel at least, is that IHAT has very little to do with the realities of war. For them, it is another branch of the UK’s over stretched and self serving civil service, which believes that soldiers of all ranks, should act more like social workers than well trained combat troops. Many unpleasant things happen in wartime, and although a soldier should be accountable for his actions, it is never totally possible, in the heat of battle. The unfairness of IHAT, has been likened to that of The Spanish Inquisition, and with powers which touch on persecution, and intimidation, it has caused great hardship to battle weary veterans and their family’s.


Blatantly open to abuse, many lawyers have taken advantage of the loose requirements regarding evidence, that IHAT needed before instigating a case against a soldier or ex-soldier; the worst culprit being a Solicitor called Philip Shiner. With 250 cases to his credit, Shiner was recently charged, before a tribunal of the Solicitors Regulations Authority.

Shiner has subsequently admitted to eight allegations, and of acting without integrity, including that he made “unsolicited direct approaches to potential clients’, and one other allegation of acting recklessly.. Andrew Tabachnik, prosecuting for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, said that Shiner’s defence to the dishonesty charges, was effectively to say that – “I was not in full control of my mental faculties at this time, and I didn’t know right from wrong, or what I was doing.”

The tribunal found him guilty of multiple professional misconduct charges, including dishonesty and lack of integrity, and.twenty two misconduct charges, were proved to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. Two other charges were left to lie on the file, and by February 2017, the tribunal of the Solicitors Regulation Authority had him struck off as a solicitor, and also ordered him to pay for the full costs of the prosecution, starting with an interim down payment of £250,000.


By the time he was struck off in February 2017, IHAT had fewer than 250 active investigations, and so a week later, Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced that IHAT would soon be shut down, largely due to the exposing of Shiner’s dishonesty.

When welcoming the decision to strike him off, the chief executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Paul Philip, stated – “His misconduct has caused real distress to soldiers, their families and to the families of Iraqi people who thought that their loved ones had been murdered or tortured. More than £30m of public funds were spent on investigating what proved to be false and dishonest allegations.”

In remarks made by the Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP, chairman of the defence sub-committee meeting in the UK Parliament, he made it clear that IHAT had never really worked nor would it do so.

Here follows his summary of that meeting –


Dr Julian Lewis MP

“The UK’s military must be equally subject to the law as any civilian, whether in barracks or on operations. The UK military rightly demands that those who fall short of these standards should pay the full penalty for doing so. However, just as in civilian life, investigations into wrongdoing must be fair and be seen to be fair.

The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) was set up in 2010 to investigate allegations of abuse by Iraqi civilians against UK armed forces personnel, that were said to have occurred between 2003 and 2009. It was expected to take two years to complete its work. Exploited by two law firms in particular, caseloads rose from 165 to over 3,000 over subsequent years. It is now expected to complete its work in 2019 and will have cost the taxpayer nearly £60 million.


A large number of those claims were taken up by IHAT despite a lack of credible evidence and the investigations have taken years to complete. As a result, those under investigation have suffered unacceptable stress, have had their lives put on hold and their careers damaged. They have been, and in some cases continue to be, treated in an unacceptable manner as a result of serving the United Kingdom.

The catalogue of serious failings in the conduct of IHAT’s investigations points to a loss of control in its management. Service personnel and veterans have been contacted unannounced – sometimes years after service – despite assurances that this would not happen. Covert surveillance appears to have been used on serving and retired members of the armed forces. IHAT investigators have impersonated police officers in order to gain access to military establishments or threaten arrest. Investigations, which had previously been closed down were re-opened on the back of dubious evidence.


Perhaps the most telling failure of IHAT is the absence of a single prosecution against the UK military. It has been an unmitigated failure for both ‘victims’ and military personnel alike. Of the total number of cases investigated by IHAT – more than 3,500 – most have or will shortly be, dismissed. The Secretary of State for Defence told us that he hoped that the number would be reduced to 60 by summer 2017. Once the number of cases outstanding reaches that target, it is our view that IHAT must be closed down, with the remaining cases passed to the service police, with support from civilian police.

Throughout this process, there has been an almost total disregard of the welfare of current and former service personnel and their families. Soldiers have had to fund their own defence and have been left in the dark by a chain of command which has appeared to be unable or unwilling to interfere with the process.

IHAT has operated without any regard to its impact on the UK military, which has directly harmed their reputation across the world, and negatively affected the way this country conducts military operations and defends itself.


The MoD must take its share of responsibility for this. Both the MoD and IHAT have focused too much on satisfying the accusers and too little on defending those under investigation. Ministers must take the lead in ensuring that this is rectified.
The MoD is now reforming its package of support for servicemen and women. In October 2016, it announced that it would now cover the legal costs for all of those under investigation by IHAT. It has also started work on how the UK can derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights so that claims through the European Court of Human Rights cannot be made for future conflicts.

The manner in which the armed forces are investigated requires fundamental reform. The focus has been on satisfying perceived international obligations and outside bodies, with far too little regard for those who have fought under the UK’s flag. Our report contains a set of principles to which the MoD and any future investigatory body should adhere. The armed forces deserve to be held in the highest esteem and a repeat of IHAT must never be allowed to happen again.


The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) was an organisation set up to review and investigate allegations of abuse by Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel in Iraq during the period of 2003 to July 2009.

The alleged offences ranged from murder to low-level violence and the time period covers the start of the military campaign in Iraq, in March 2003, through the major combat operations of April 2003 and the following years spent maintaining security as part of the Multinational Force and mentoring and training Iraqi security forces.

Because the MOD and Service Police do not have sufficiently experienced professional investigators, the unit is led by retired senior civilian police detective, Mark Warwick, and comprises some 145 employees, including Royal Navy Police personnel, civilian investigators and civil servants. The MOD funds the IHAT, consistent with its obligations to ensure that allegations are investigated in compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).”


The Stormont Parliament Northern Ireland

Well, IHAT seems by now to be dead in the water, and so I now go on to Northern Ireland, where military personnel – although sent there on peacekeeping duty - ultimately became front line troops, in their own country. In the presence of three eminent Law professors from London, Lancaster, and Belfast Universities, a case was also put by various members of the committee, whereby legacy investigation, should include UK military activities worldwide, and it was agreed that there should be one law for all.

That and any investigation should be carried out by Service Police, and by using the same resources as the civilian authorities, they should do so with direct assistance from the civilian Police Force. They also recommended a ‘Statute of Limitations,’ or amnesty period, which would affect both the military and the civilian sides. As a point of fairness, there should also be a strong emphasis on ‘A Truth Commission,’ whereby a party once forgiven or absolved, should be encouraged to ‘spill the beans.’

At this point, a twenty year period cut off point was recommended, and it was further said that a Bill could shortly be presented to Parliament, although – as far as Northern Ireland was concerned – it would still be subject to ratification by the Stormont Parliament, and under The Good Friday Agreement. This is also subject to Stormont having an elected government, which it presently does not, suggesting direct rule from London, and all that this implies.