…For a post-Brexit Britain the challenge is abundantly clear. It is to make an urgent decision – I am surprised it has not already been made by this Government – to increase our defence spending from 2% to, at the very least, 2.5% and as soon as possible up to 3%.
Lord Owen speaking in the House Of Lords debate on the National Security situation, Thursday 19 April 2018
The full text is here: 19.4.18HL
“There are three dangerous potential military crises on the international agenda: North Koreannuclear weapons; eastern Europe, focused on Ukraine; and the Middle East, focused on Syria. Any or all of these could bubble over into serious military conflict.
“… Churchill did not say that jaw-jaw is better than war-war. He said: “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war”, which is a far more toughly worded explanation of why we must always be open to negotiation while preparing for war.
“… For a post-Brexit Britain the challenge is abundantly clear. It is to make an urgent decision – I am surprised it has not already been made by this Government – to increase our defence spending from 2% to, at the very least, 2.5% and as soon as possible up to 3%.
“… It is up to us in Europe to demonstrate to the US that we will match its NATO commitment. On this Britain should take a lead, and urgently.
“… There is a strong case for considering the establishment of a NATO-EU permanent joint council—a PJC—of NATO non-EU members and NATO EU members.
“… This is a troubled and difficult time. This debate is well timed. There needs to be great thought about how we proceed, but we should not underrate the importance of Putin and Trump meeting very soon. The trade-offs in Syria have to come with benefit to Russia. The trade-offs in Ukraine have to come with benefit to the United States.”
“…There is a group in Whitehall who are not reconciled to Brexit, who are pushing hard for decisions to be taken in … areas of defence policy on an absurdly short timescale. Post Brexit defence policies will take time to evolve and a lot of consultation and the UK military voice needs to be heard loud and clear.”
Speech by The Rt Hon Lord Owen to the Henry Jackson Society’s ‘British Foreign Policy After Brexit’ event, London 19 April 2018
Full text here: 19.4.18HenryJackson
“There will either be war in the Middle East over Syria and possible increased military activity in Ukraine, or there will be a meeting between President Trump and President Putin trying to resolve these two potential conflicts. …It is a simple fact that Russian influence is the vital ingredient for peace in Syria and the Middle East and American influence is essential in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
“… For a post Brexit Britain the challenge is abundantly clear. It is to make an urgent decision to increase our defence spending from NATO’s target figure of 2% of GDP to 2.5%; to put the weight of our diplomatic and military effort into NATO and to show that the speech President Macron made to the European Parliament on 17 April is wrong and defeatist and that in opposing authoritarian powers Europe can rely on the United States.
“… on exiting the EU on 31 March 2019 … we should no longer be a member of the EU’s European External Action Service EEAS … We should retain, of course, at all times a deep-seated security relationship with the EU … But we are not – and should not be – institutionally part of EU defence.
“… There is a group in Whitehall who are not reconciled to Brexit, who are pushing hard for decisions to be taken in … areas of defence policy on an absurdly short timescale. Post Brexit defence policies will take time to evolve and a lot of consultation and the UK military voice needs to be heard loud and clear.”
(Recent research is indicating) a stress model for hubris syndrome: more research into its linkage to hubris offers a very real opportunity for improving decision-making. Lecture for the Society of British Neurological Surgeons spring 2018 meeting.
Speech by The Rt Hon Lord Owen to the Society of British Neurological Surgeons spring meeting, Torquay, Friday 13 April 2018: The Geoffrey Jefferson Lecture – Neuroscience and Psychology of Hubris Syndrome.
Full text here: Torquay speech
PowerPoint slides here: Torquayslide
“…(Recent research is indicating) a stress model for hubris syndrome. …A little bit of stress (may be) good, probably improves decision-making, but too much will deplete the system.
“I have no doubt that stress is the factor most commonly found in all people in power. If we can do more research into its linkage to hubris it offers a very real opportunity for improving decision-making.
“Those close to people in power, their wives or husbands or other family members, can go direct to these individuals and urge them to reduce stress. Professional advisers can explain in scientific terms when excessive hours of working, travelling, particularly across time zones, and the exclusion of hobbies, sporting activities and leisure, can do to their decision-making.
“Destressing these individuals’ lives will not be easy but it is achievable.”
Lord Owen comments on latest Syria events: “Russia must be a player in solving the overall Middle East picture but has to accept that Assad is a war criminal and cannot be allowed to remain as President in any long term solution. Boris Johnson should meet with the Russian Ambassador, likewise Trump should meet Putin.”
Lord Owen interviewed by Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning – Monday 9 April (full recording below).
“Unlike in 2013 when Obama was not contemplating serious action (which I did not support), it now looks as if the US are serious and are not prepared to accept Assad continuing as the Syrian President in any peace. Russia will have to get used to this, and the UK and France should act with the Americans.
“….Theresa May and her government have handled the Salisbury poisoning incident well in mobilising so many states to remove diplomats. However with regard to Syria it would be good for Putin and Trump to meet.”
Commenting on this morning’s reports of an air raid on a Syrian airbase:
“On the basis that there were Iranian planes there as well as Syrian, it was probably Israel who often do not immediately confirm their attacks. We shall see if I am right.”
Listen to the full interview (8’30”) here:
Lord Owen argues for the very costly Health and Social Care Act 2012 to be urgently revoked and the vocational, ethical and moral foundations of the 1948 legislation restored.
Keynote speech to a conference on ‘Brexit and the NHS’ held by the UK in a Changing Europe initiative at the Wellcome Centre, 14 March 2018. Full text here: Brexit&NHSspeech
“I am genuinely puzzled why the main NHS charities that dominate discussion on the NHS – the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust – continue to champion [the] external market? They have become not charities in the true sense of the term to serve those in need; but partisans fighting for a political view of the NHS held by a managerial class and MPs which poll after poll shows is not supported by public opinion.
“At last the Labour Party is changing its position and they know that reverting to the principles of the 1948 Act will be much easier outside the EU legislative framework than inside.”
“… I have no doubt whatever that a transition predominantly via the EEA would, quite manifestly, be better for all concerned.” Lord Owen writing in the Sunday Times, 28 January 2018.
Read the full article here: SundayTimes28.1.18base
“A vital Brexit issue will have to be resolved in the next six to eight weeks. Are we to be thrust into political limbo after leaving the European Union next year or will we assert democratic control through parliament, a core reason for many voting to leave the EU?
“…We could effectively avoid (the so-called ‘cliff edges’)— an agreement on leaving the EU and on free trade — if the European Council’s guidelines for the ‘political limbo’ (transition) period allowed for the UK to participate inside the single market as a non-EU member of the EEA.
“For the past 18 months, I have quietly tried to convince the prime minister that this is the best existing democratic framework for us to be within for the transition period. It does not mean exercising the same powers as are open to the other three members — Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein — and we would be accepting the European Council’s demand for an absolutist status quo standstill, but we would not be in limbo.
“We would have automatic EEA consultation rights on EU legislation and would not be under the ECJ, but the EEA-Efta (European Free Trade Association) court and the EEA governance pillar.
“I have no doubt whatever that a transition predominantly via the EEA would, quite manifestly, be better for all concerned.”
Read the full article here: SundayTimes28.1.18base
Lord Owen speaking to the Institute of Policy Research, University of Bath, 18 January 2018.
Full text here: Bath18.1.18
The EU-UK negotiations over a Withdrawal Agreement from the EU have gone far enough to show we can find a way for a smooth, not a hard, exit. That is an exit with a sufficient period to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement that does cover financial services, the largest part of the UK economy, and sets the parameters of an ambitious Free Trade Agreement, giving sufficient time during a transition to adapt to WTO trading.
It will need a greater sense of national unity to achieve; a greater readiness on this issue of overwhelming national importance to put to one side party politics or personal preferences. In addition, we need provision in case there is no agreement by October 2018 for a more limited, less ambitious default transition before embarking on WTO trading in 2021.
The EU-UK document ‘On Progress During Phase 1 of Negotiations Under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom’s Orderly Withdrawal from the European Union’ which was published on 8 December 2017 is a sensible document.
Drawing on my experience of the EU since 1976 I judge it will be impossible to get the European Council to change its position adapted on 15 December without the UK proposing a detailed ‘managed divergence’ approach to the Single Market in the transition.
In responding, therefore, to the EU wish for the Withdrawal Agreement to be “clearly defined and precisely limited in time” the UK Government would be wise to state now that they are ready to rely for legislative purposes during the transition chiefly upon the European Economic Area Agreement during the transition to which we are a contracting party. This does not resolve all issues – transitory status quo arrangements for agriculture and fisheries will still be required – also while the Customs Union is allowed under the EEA neither Norway, Sweden nor Liechtenstein thought it necessary to take it up. The Withdrawal Agreement it is clear from the outset is for the transition and no longer than the transition period which is currently planned to end no later than 30 December 2020. We can set aside legal arguments as to whether or not a contracting party to the EEA Agreement ceases to be one if they leave the EU by making provision for the small amendments that make it clear that the UK will continue to be a contracting party to the EEAA within the Withdrawal Agreement. As such an amended EEA Agreement will respect our sovereignty, as it does for Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
On Tuesday 16 January Professor Baudenbacher, a judge of the EFTA Court and President until last year, in giving evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee indicated that the EEA-EFTA option for the UK’s transition period using its Protocol procedures for amendment is potentially feasible, even given the short timescale.
This EEA transition option plainly gives the UK more power and control over subsequent developments than would the European Council’s proposal of last December. But it would also be easier for EU members. It follows precedent and in some parts would be bespoke but it means much of the legal provision is contained in a well understood international treaty with its own legal framework. It ought to unite all shades of Leave opinion, and attract some Remainers who recognise the need in practical negotiations to start to respect the referendum decision.
Full text here: Bath18.1.18