The world faces a very grave situation over what to do to contain the North Korea dictator.

Lord Owen in the Daily Mirror 5 September 2017

View the article here: DropMOABifDiplomacyFails

The world faces a very grave situation over what to do to contain the Korean dictatorship of Kim Jong-un after the sixth and most powerful nuclear test in defiance of international law and progressively tougher UN resolutions passed unanimously with the support of China and Russia.

This comes after a series of Korean missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads were launched demonstrating to Japan and South Korea that they can be hit and promising the same would be done to the island of Guam in the Pacific.

Guam is an unincorporated US territory whose inhabitants are automatically US citizens and it has been a critical place for US defence ever since the war against Japan in 1941.

The closest comparable threat to the US was during the night of the 26 October 1962 when Soviet troops in Cuba, ignoring President Kennedy’s earlier public demand for the removal of all Soviet missiles, moved three FKR missiles with 14 kiloton nuclear warheads, to within 15 miles of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

For that one night the Russians, without reference back to Moscow, had orders to fire if the US invaded the island.

The UK will not be asked in advance to approve any US action against North Korea but the UK was part of a UN force that the Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, agreed should fight in defence of South Korea in June 1950.

The Korean War was brought to an end in July 1953 after President Eisenhower had used the Indian Prime Minister Nehru to warn the Chinese leader Zhou Enlai in May

that the US would use atomic bombs north of the Yalu river in North Korea unless peace talks in Panmunjom between North and South Korea made rapid progress.

In 2006 the deteriorating situation in North Korea was part of an “uncertain world too big a risk for our defence” that convinced another Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to renew our UK nuclear deterrent. More recently some 170 Labour MPs supported that decision in Parliament, later confirmed in Labour’s manifesto in the recent 2017 General Election.

So Britain cannot wash its hands of the dilemma the US faces and disown any decision President Trump might make particularly if it emerges it had the support of the Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis.

President Trump has talked directly to the Chinese President Xi in person and by other means many times. If Chinese diplomacy cannot change the mind of the Korean leader what will short of force? Perhaps initially using the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bombs on all nuclear sites will suffice, leaving nuclear bombs as a last resort only if South Korea is attacked.

These MOAB bombs (also known as Mother of All Bombs) were used for the first time ever in April against an ISIS tunnel and cave complex in Afghanistan. It is an horrendous choice the US is facing.

“…the existing machinery that we could most easily adopt is to remain a contracting party to the European Economic Area agreement, as a non-EU contributing member.”

Lord Owen, addressing the House of Lords Debate on the Queen’s Speech, Wednesday 28 June 2017.

Read Lord Owen’s full speech here: QueensSpeech28Jun17

Excerpts: “…Everybody accepts now – the term is ‘implementation period’ – that when we leave the EU, there will have to be a vehicle by which we continue the negotiations. It cannot be Article 50. I believe, and have made clear my view to the Government privately for many months, that the existing machinery that we could most easily adopt is to remain a contracting party to the European Economic Area agreement, as a non-EU contributing member. That is a framework which they and we know – we have been in that same framework ourselves.


“I hope that… that the EU negotiators will see the value of the country and the world knowing, as soon as humanly possible, where we will be for the next four to five years—first in the Article 50 process and then in the EEA. That at least provides a structure to weld together our disagreements and agreements in the interests of Article 8.

“We should remember that there is not just Article 50; there is Article 8 in the treaties, which is about good neighbourliness.”

Courage, Mrs May: minority rule can work.

Opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph, 22 June 2017.

“Jim Callaghan guided his restless party through choppy political waters and this PM can do so too.”

“Minority government is a grind, with the Whips’ Office becoming more important that the great offices of state. From February 1974 to May 1979, I saw the inner workings of the last minority administration to survive more than a few months. Few of us Labour MPs thought it would last as long as it did. The lesson is that voters expect Parliament to live with the result they voted for.

…“In Callaghan’s case., once he had taken over from Wilson, the office of minority PM made the man. He liked negotiations. He was good at them. He held his core group of ministers together with consummate skill showing great respect to different factions. While Theresa May has not shown such diplomacy in the past, no-one should underestimate her resilience.”

“…her task is difficult. But if she can build a new spirit of cooperation it is possible that this parliament will deliver exit from the EU as the first stage. It may be the next parliament delivers the second stage – namely as a party to the European Economic Area while we negotiate the detailed implementation of an EU-UK trade agreement.”…

Germany’s ‘soft Brexit’ suggestion is not as favourable to the UK as being a non-EU contracting partner to the European Economic Area Agreement (EEAA).

Letter to The Times, June 20 2017.

‘Soft’ Brexit plan

Sir, Further to your report “Germany offers soft Brexit amid worries about coup at No 10” (June 19), the German suggestion is well meant but is not as favourable to the UK as being a non-EU contracting partner to the European Economic Area Agreement (EEAA) as we negotiate an EU-UK trade agreement. The proposed court would be joint EU-UK, ie. it would retain a direct EU influence. In contrast, the EEA agreement’s “Efta” court is a fully independent court whose judges come only from non-EU members.

The contracting parties to the EEAA formally agreed in 2007 that the “Efta” court can differ significantly from the European Court of Justice in its interpretation of the implications of the free movement of persons directive. This highly advantageous (to the UK) agreement could easily be lost in a bespoke negotiation. Bundling the single market and customs union, as in the EU treaties, contrast unfavourably with the EEAA which rightly keeps them rigidly unbundled. Norway and Iceland do not have customs union arrangements with the EU. Lichtenstein is part of a customs union, but that is with Switzerland. The EEAA also allows the UK to run its own agriculture and fishing policy.

The primary aim of the EEAA is commercial and for open trading, whereas the primary aim of the EU customs union is protectionist.


House of Lords


Lord Owen speaks out again on a different interpretation of the EEA Agreement.

Paper presented to the Global Strategy Forum and Political Economy of Financial Markets, St Antony’s College, Oxford.
Wednesday 14 June 2017.
Lord Owen speaks out again on a different interpretation of the EEA Agreement. He considers why it could be used for the implementation period, the period the Prime Minister has discussed covering the transition from EU in March 2019 to the completion of a EU-UK trade agreement, avoiding any cliff-edge or political uncertainty.
Read Lord Owen’s paper: The Brexit process UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL NOON ON 14 JUNE 2017
Read a more detailed paper on Lord Owen’s interpretation of the EEA Agreement: DOonEEAAinterpretation

Radio interview: Lord Owen comments on the current General Election.

Lord Owen is interviewed by David Mellor as part of his LBC series ‘The Election Experience’.

Hear the interview here

Brexit: An amicable divorce? (Q+A)

The Question + Answer session following Lord Owen’s speech to the University of Oxford International Relations Society, Wednesday 17 May 2017.

View the Q+A session (approx 26 mins), courtesy Voices from Oxford.

Issues touched on include:

  • The importance of accepting the result of the Brexit referendum
  • Issues within the Labour party
  • Post-Brexit challenges around offshore territories and fisheries, the risks of a ‘cliff edge’ in negotatitons and the need to be prepared to use international treaty laws
  • How issues around the ERM showed the necessity of having a bottom line “when things are fundamentally wrong”
  • Issues of citizenship post-Brexit.

View or read Lord Owen’s speech preceding this Q+A.

Brexit: An amicable divorce? (Speech)

Lord David Owen’s speech to the University of Oxford International Relations Society, Wednesday 17 May 2017.

View Lord Owen’s speech (approx 45 mins), courtesy of Voices from Oxford.


Read the speech: Brexit- An amicable divorce?


My main message is Brexit does not belong to the Conservative Party. It belongs to us all whether in different parties or people who voted Leave or Remain in the referendum.

I hope today to dispel some myths and establish some facts about the European Economic Area Agreement, EEAA and why it is a potential vehicle for the ‘implementation period’ that should follow exiting the EU and which we will leave once we have an EU/UK trade agreement or conclude the EU is too dysfunctional to offer an agreement of mutual advantage.

What this existing EEAA transitional mechanism provides is a framework which we leave when we want to after having left the EU after two years with a further three years maximum for agreeing a trade agreement. There is no cliff edge. No point where we negotiate in good faith and find the design of Article 50 precipitates a crisis choice ‘accept or chaos’ under this existing legal structure. David Cameron told the country before the referendum that we would invoke Article 50 while ignoring the fact that it is designed in a way that is a deterrent to leaving because of its in-built cliff edge. The design is deliberate so that in some circumstances we could be left with a ‘take it’ or ‘leave it’ offer with little time to adapt.

It was not foolish for the government to say that faced by a bad offer from the EU, which we are not allowed to change, we would leave. It would have been irresponsible to declare any other position. But it would also be irresponsible not to assert our right to remain a Contracting Party to the EEAA after we have left the EU, and if necessary to exercise our right to use the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, VCLT, dispute procedure to establish in law that right.

The EEA Agreement is binding upon the Contracting Parties, one of which is the UK. It is a multilateral international treaty. It is not a bilateral agreement between the EU and EFTA as is sometimes supposed. Decision-making autonomy in respect of treaties is, of course, constrained for EU Member States, but by the EC/EU Treaties, not by the EEAA.

NEU states, as the UK will be after leaving in March 2019, retain their unconstrained treaty-making powers outside the ECJ: a major difference between the entailments of the EC/EU Treaties and of the EEAA.

Read Lord Owen’s full speech here: Brexit- An amicable divorce?

View the Q+A session following the speech