Skip navigation

Pages tagged "David Campbell Bannerman"

Mark Dolan meets David Campbell Bannerman

On his 'Mark Meets..." slot on GB News, Mark Dolan interviewed our chairman, David Campbell Bannerman, about Brexit. David said that some of the benefits have started to come through, but there are many more to come. The Government also needs to remind everyone of those benefits, something which it is failing to do. 

When governance breaks down

By David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman of The Freedom Association  

Latest Political events have left most of us breathless, bewildered and despairing. Once Great Offices of State have been brought into dispute, changing hands faster than gambling cards. Five Prime Ministers in six years and four Chancellors in under four months. Now the total volte farce of a Budget delivered only in October is being binned and totally reversed following serious market instability from the party that trades on economic competence.

Now we have seen the total abandonment of the programme the new Prime Minister advanced just months ago. We have a Prime Minister in Rishi Sunak Conservative Party members didn’t endorse; indeed rejected just months ago, and an empty programme no-one has backed, but which seems in contravention of key aspects of the 2019 manifesto on which the Conservative Government under Boris Johnson was elected with the biggest mandate for 35 years. This is not a criticism of Sunak, but of the party process.

This is a sham, a farce, a disaster. The only benefit is that Rishi Sunak’s Government has brought some stability after such turbulence worthy of the most ferocious of rollercoasters.

What we are witnessing seems to be an absolute breakdown of governance itself. I say ‘governance’ not ‘government’ – meaning the “manner of governing a state” rather than “the body/entity invested with the power to manage a political unit, organisation or state”.

That to me lies at the heart of this appalling shambles. The manner of governance.

The Freedom Association is not just about defending individual freedom, free speech and free expression; our principles embrace the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, limited government, the free market economy, too – all affected by this failure of governance.

Governing has become like running in quicksand, with the public wondering why Government seems incapable of getting anywhere and of delivering anything, fast. This has brought about dangerous levels of dissatisfaction, complacency and cynicism of the public in the electoral system.

Examples readily abound. The ‘Boats Crisis’ is a perfect example. One would expect one of the primary duties of Government would be to protect our freedoms by maintaining the borders of the country. Yet so far this year 43,000 undocumented unknown individuals, mainly young men, have arrived uninvited and unannounced on our shores.

The Government response is what? Mass arrests? Troops ordered to defend the beaches? The Navy turning back the boats? This is what the Australians successfully did (ensuring the vessels were safe and with fresh provisions – which led to a drop from 60,000 a year to zero. I met the minister responsible).

No! The response has been to welcome them into our country, give them free meals, free instant healthcare (unavailable to those outside the camp walls), free high-grade mobile phones, bicycles and handouts, and treat economic immigrants like refugees when they have travelled through so many safe countries without claiming asylum there. It has been to make dedicated hotel workers redundant before Christmas as hotels are turned into hostels (often in breach of planning permission which only allows 28 days of such ‘change of use’) right across the UK at 300 sites. Veterans’ events, weddings, major functions have been cancelled with the Home Office offering £1 million cheques at a time and a daily cost of £7 million so far.

Meanwhile Care4Calais and other misguided charity workers (allegedly the charity is under investigation by the Charity Commissioners) offer illegal immigrants advice on how to beat the system in French camps. Demonstrators arrive at the Manston immigration centre on behalf of the illegal immigrants - and they are immigrants as they are coming into the county. Migrants move within a country.

Above all, we have human rights lawyers line up to use taxpayers’ cash to work against taxpayers’ interests – particularly by using the twisted knot of human rights laws from ECHR Court judgements to Blair’s Human Rights Act to May’s Sex Trafficking Act to frustrate removals policies such as the Rwanda Plan – approved by Parliament; suspended by lawyers.

This is what creates this legalistic quicksand - and the Government is then continually made to look like the bad guy with numerous Parliamentary and legal challenges. Rather than indulge in PR friendly schemes which appear to address the problems – such as paying the French more to try to stop migrants – we need to address the real causes. The BBC even reported a Calais policeman saying that the EU was to blame by preventing the French police from arresting undocumented illegal immigrants, Even if they stop them getting in boats, they have to let them go again.

There seems to be a new enthusiasm to open the gates to yet more people coming into the UK, despite the fact that now 1 in 6 people in the UK were born abroad and around 8 million people – the equivalent of all people living in Wales and Scotland – have arrived since 2004. The public have reached their tolerance limit when it comes to the scale of Immigration. The British people are law-abiding and strong – they are slow to rise, but when they do, they are formidable.

This picture looks like total and abject failure. A collective breakdown brought by excessive technocratic and legalistic obstacles to the democratic will. It is more the failure of governance than an individual Government – these barriers would apply to a future Labour or Coalition Government. It was John Reid, whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently, who coined the phrase “not fit for purpose” to describe the Home Office. Despite decades seeking reform, the same failure to reform is with us today. The failings are systemic.

A barrister friend of mine says this represents the 1930s Weimar Republic in the weakness and frustration of its democracy, which is a scary parallel indeed.

Unfortunately, we saw this again with Brexit. I really fear that there is an agenda to obstruct and undermine all the benefits of Brexit currently in the pipeline, as there was negotiating a Brexit deal under Theresa May – where it often seemed our negotiating team was on the same side as the EU. Thank God for Lord Frost later.

Suddenly, progress on the UK-India trade deal, which would bring major benefits for UK exports through removing 150% tariffs on luxury goods such as top-end cars and whiskies, appears to have stalled despite warm relations between Sunak and Indian Prime Minister Modi. So too has the prospect of joining the World’s largest trade block, which is not the EU, but the Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade block. Again, talk of that has quietened. These would both be decisive breaks from EU convergence. Is that the problem? Would it disrupt the new agenda to retain convergence?

In my view, EU deregulation – the removal, repeal or reform of up to 700,000 pages of EU red tape, directives, regulations and ECJ court rulings (a Nelson’s Column worth of paper) – is the primary economic benefit of Brexit.

Whilst it is very welcome news to see one such benefit – the billions in extra investment that scrapping the EU’s excessive solvency II directive required – in the Autumn Statement as Treasury policy, progress on removing up to 700,000 pages of EU red tape has suddenly been put in doubt by a feeble excuse: they have discovered another 1,200 laws in the archive and OFFICIALS DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO GO THROUGH THEM ALL! What? Wouldn’t saving money be rather a good use of officials time – that large army – just now? No wonder Jacob Rees-Mogg, who introduced the Brexit Freedoms Bill, has attacked the delay.

Now the Sunday Times reports that we are slipping back to discussing failed and rejected trade models when we have the arm’s length deal we need now – and just need to sort the protocol. The ‘Swiss option’ is half a deal. It covers only goods and people of the four core freedoms at the heart of all free trade deals and EU membership, and not investment and Services such as Financial Services – which is why Swiss banks such as Swiss Re and UBS operate out of London.

It is over complex and unwieldy, with 120 bilateral agreements, not the one like the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (the TCA) we have now. Above all there is no control over immigration – the second dominating reason why people voted for Brexit – as the Swiss option has a signed freedom of movement bilateral agreement.

Even the Director General of the CBI, who were very anti Brexit, said on Laura Kuenssberg’s show on the BBC that the Swiss deal would be a distraction and the Government should focus on sorting the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Protocol is another example of such failure of governance. This revolves around selling-out the UK on alignment to EU rules in order to ‘solve’ the so-called ‘border issue’ that was always ever a device, a tool, to keep the whole of the UK aligned to the EU. It is the EU that has incited community tensions this way by weaponizing the issue through Varadkar and the Irish Government. A previous Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny did not regard it as hard to solve.

How many times has the Government threatened to invoke Article 16 of the Protocol? Article 16 is an emergency clause to allow (where there are serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are likely to persist) a suspension of the Protocol until sorted. At least the Protocol Bill, which has passed through the Commons, is now making its way through the Lords, but there is a reluctance even to use that legislation or act on the Protocol, in fear of EU retaliation. Another logjam; another lack of courage.

On the NHS, the Government has not looked at reform, but has provided more and more resources, with seemingly greater and greater queues in the form of waiting lists. As Michael Portillo points out on GB News, we have increased spending as a share of Government expenditure from 30% to 40% at the expense of the police, soldiers and schools, but waiting lists have ballooned. The Covid impact is wearing thin as an excuse and the denial of access to care for the first time seeing the NHS drop amongst the public. What’s the plan?

There are numerous other examples of such failures in governance we can all point out, but what are the reasons and what are the elements behind this?

Taking all the sectors at play here, I’ll start with MPs first.

It is clear that people think that the quality of MPs is much diminished. I see too many ministers that are weak; too many overpromoted; and far too many lacking conviction. Compare them with Lady Thatcher’s conviction and strength; Michael Portillo, with his razor sharp mind and real authority; Peter Lilley – one of the brightest and most sensitive ministers I have met; the gutsy and competent Gillian Shepherd; Nigel Lawson, the creative Chancellor; David Mellor with his grasp of culture; Lord Carrington, the last minister to resign over something he didn’t do out of principle (the loss of the Falklands); my old boss, Sir Patrick Mayhew, a great man of principle who laid the foundations for the Good Friday Agreement; the canny Norman Tebbit, and yes, even Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine, bright characters and right on other things than Europe. Many of today’s ministers belong in the civil service or middle management. Rather than giving leadership to departments, too many have become robotic compliant reciters of given policy positions.

This is a feature of the selection of MPs, which has become a disaster in itself, in all parties. Tony Blair set the model by controlling candidate selection. All Eurosceptic Labour MEPs were wiped out in one go, a Labour MP told me. The journalist Michael Crick’s Twitter page, @Tomorrow’sMPs, lifts the lid on Labour selection, saying “Labour’s selection processes are unfair, and verge on corrupt. Some contenders get access to local membership lists long before others do”; whilst saying Lib Dems only offer a single candidate often.

Conservative Party selection procedures are far too centralised and look for the compliant MP, not the independent minded free thinkers of old – those, like Lady Thatcher, who were prepared to challenge officials and their advice; people who were ideological. They are also too much into Blair-style tokenism. I understand the emphasis on Conservative candidates to be able to demonstrate the ability to speak in public is much diminished. Some get to a high level without the ability to put their case effectively in speeches or the media. Too many are careerists. More worryingly is the lack of interview time to ascertain whether candidates are actually real Conservatives. Their actual views are little scrutinised.

Number 10, so constantly under pressure, and often without an Alastair Campbell or Craig Oliver to provide steady and informed top-level guidance, is too often pushed around by the media and Parliament, and it is too ready to throw ministers under a bus if enough pressure is brought to bear.

Whilst action on Pincher may have been too slow, action on Conor Burns may have been too fast and unjust. He was immediately fired, humiliated, and banned before having any right to reply. Now we find there is no evidence from the supposed witness - so there is not even a charge; and it was off the Parliamentary estate anyway. A good minister shoddily treated by the system.

Political correctness and wokeness are killing free speech and free expression. Any supposed variance from agreed norms and the media (primarily social media) organise a ‘pile on’.

I am informed that students in journalism are now schooled that their careers will be best advanced by tearing down rather than actual objective, intelligent and courageous reporting of the facts.

On impartiality, the great John Humphrys of BBC Radio 4 Today fame, never gave away his politics until he had retired, such was his professionalism. He was demanding of all – and fair. But now we have Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel publicly whingeing at the fact they have to be impartial, with Maitlis regularly straying into impartiality in direct and unacceptable ways.

The bias in the BBC, and other channels, such as Channel 4 News and Sky and others – more amongst those controlling the agenda than presenters generally – the Media Line – does not seek to report facts for the viewer to make their own judgement on, but seeks to campaign and load the facts one way. Apparently (Nigel Farage told) Climate Change is now such an ‘uncontested and proven view’, apparently, that bias in mentioning it is beyond the rules on impartiality.

MPs, of course, are having to operate in a media and social media world that is incessant and 24 hours. Whilst very revealing of hidden facts in a positive way, it is also too full of bile and falsities on another negative level. I am just immensely glad that as a keen tweeter, with 40,000 people kind enough to listen to my thoughts, that Elon Musk has arrived as Chief Twit restoring free speech and free expression to an important communications platform for politicians.

As for Whitehall – that great body of Government itself - the man or woman on the street see the Government in a highly personalised way: it is Boris’s Government in charge; Liz Truss’s policies; Sunak’s budget, delivered by Jeremy Hunt.

What the public doesn’t see, and doesn’t think much about, is that massive technocratic, legalistic and technical machine behind the few politicians. That is where the numbers are. The Department of Work and Pensions has 96,011 employees for example, and there are 478,540 full-time equivalent civil servants as of March 2022. The Government’s 121 ministers are totally outnumbered, and too often under remunerated. Many civil servants are paid more than the Prime Minister.

I know, as a former Special Adviser, that officials resent external influence – they want to be in control. They claim not to be political, but very much are – they just aren’t party political.

In my view, however, there are now too many special advisers to ministers (SPADS), who are half official and half party political. In my day, when I was a Northern Ireland SPAD (1996-97), there were only 40. Blair had 80. Now there are 180. I don’t knock SPADS; many are very bright, able and well connected, but some don’t have the experience, whilst others create instability in government though too many media contacts and briefings. Dominic Cummings tried to run Government through SPADS, who formed much of Vote Leave, too, but they are not really part of departmental command structures. Departments have press offices anyway, so there is some duplication.

There is also too much of a ‘Chumocracy’: a web of personal relationships where contacts and personal connections count most. The number of married or dating senior advisers, or who are children or friends of, is quite striking.

Newer, I think, is that too many senior civil servants are now becoming overtly political: in office through leaking and obstruction, as well as out of office through public statements. How dare a former servant of the Crown help bring down a Prime Minister, such as former Foreign Office Permanent Secretary (not known for being fans of Boris Johnson) Lord Simon McDonald with his “extraordinary, devastating intervention” which helped bring Boris down over Pincher? 

These generally strong Remainers loved the EU because it was like them, putting the technocratic and legalistic before the democratic. A Valhalla for Sir Humphrey Abbleby-like Yes Minister dominance. Former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell is more measured and sensible in his interventions, but he is still actively political. There is too much nauseous use of the phrase ‘Speaking Truth unto Power.’ This gives away a superior attitude where the officials are supposedly the best judges of the truth – like the EU - through what superior education and privilege seemingly. 

The ability to hamper, disrupt or destroy ministers is out of control. How can they deliver their agenda for the people who elected them when they are forever distracted by inquiries, legal challenges, departmental resistance? Priti Patel was a victim of this. Dominic Raab is being currently called a bully – with a huge media drama about allegedly throwing a few tomatoes, elevated to career-destructive level, shows officials are in power, not the Government.

If not finding resistance in departments, ministers are being subject to ‘Kangaroo Court’ justice in the Houses of Parliament. And a misuse of an over-controlling Ministerial Code, that seems designed to tie the hands of ministers delivering their agendas, rather than preventing misuse of office, which is not of course acceptable.

There is an ultimate court, and that is the British voter. They have every right to throw out supposedly sleazy or incompetent MPs, as they did after the Parliamentary expenses scandal, and the electorate is becoming more canny on tactical voting. That is the democratic way surely, not endless legalistic and technocratic codes – the stuff of EU rule.

Look at Boris Johnson. What court in the land (and the Privileges Committee is semi-judicial) would allow such compromised MPs who have been so vocal on Boris to hold court over a Prime Minister? Those who have shown such aggression or public attacks, such as Harriet Harman, have clearly been hostile to him.

This use of judicial tools for political ends seems reflected in the USA, too, where a ‘War Crimes investigator’ is let loose on Donald Trump. Whatever one thinks of Trump, to use the legal system and absurd comparisons to war crimes to debar a political candidate, is a dangerous undemocratic development indeed. Or to have the FBI as political police to make Trump look bad by raiding his Florida home in such a disgraceful manner. That too is abuse by State officials of their public office. Or to claim that Trump’s deep concerns over election fraud and voting integrity are ‘false claims’, as if that is definitive, as the BBC do, and that voter fraud doesn’t exist (think the Mafia helping Kennedy in Chicago; or the UK case of misuse of postal ballots in Tower Hamlets) is biased reporting.

Then, of course, to ban someone who was an elected President from Twitter, just because his views don’t conform with extreme forms of Californian wokeness, is very worrying. It is all part of the same problem – the onward march of aggressive Cultural Marxism on both sides of the Atlantic.

Whitehall is shown to be just as left-leaning as its genesis, Academia, which is 80-90% left-wing and hooked on state support, the mainstream media, who now put more emphasis on political activism than to report unbiased facts, and the cultural sector, also state dependent and frequent unrealistic in its criticisms of the Government. Why does it seem that it is generally the right-wing ministers attacked this way: Braverman, Raab, Boris, whilst Left-leaning MPs seem to enjoy a much softer treatment?

The evidence of this is the recent public sector strikes announced – including whole Departments going on strike from mid-December such as the Home Office, the Department of Transport and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, affecting passport and border checks, driving tests and payment of farm subsidies.

As the inventor of rail franchising (which pre-Covid attracted more passengers than BR ever did, on a third more trains, and eliminated the subsidy for trains overall, if not for track), I found the Government’s decision to replace the successful (but needing some reforms) franchises with the unsuccessful (old BR and Corbyn-style renationalisation) concessions thanks to the public sector Williams Report, incomprehensible and anti-Conservative.

In particular, the decision to negotiate as one, as the Government, was irresponsible, bringing back national rail strikes after their absence under rail privatisation. There has been confusion over whether the Transport Secretary should be in the room or not. Shapps refused to be, and his two successors have met with the unions. Are we going back to retro 1970s-style ‘Beer and Sandwiches’ as well as curly sandwiches?

Whilst there may have been some painful single franchise-only strikes, such as on Southern, other franchises kept operating, and it was not nationwide. If the Government can’t even recognise, reward and improve successful policies, what hope is there? Personally, I would extend such a franchising model to schools, hospitals and to much of Whitehall. 

So, in all these ways, and with such a rich choice of examples sadly to choose from, it is clear that something is seriously wrong with the way we are governed – with governance – that is far deeper, and in much greater need of radical reform, than just the usual choice of policies between the two dominant political parties.

Radical reform is needed to govern better; and in so doing, to restore many of the freedoms we hold dear. 


Free Speech: how can we defend it? Join us in Birmingham on Monday 3rd October

On Monday 3rd October at 11.30 am, we are holding a fringe debate during the Conservative Party Conference about free speech. It is being held outside the secure zone, so a conference pass is not required to attend.

We are delighted that Nick Timothy, a Daily Telegraph columnist and a former chief of staff to Theresa May when she was Prime Minister, and Toby Young, founder and director of the Free Speech Union, will be joining our chairman, David Campbell Bannerman and me to discuss this important subject. 

Free Speech: how can we defend it?

Birmingham & Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham, B3 3BS

Monday 3rd October at 11.30 am 

Will you please help us promote this event by sharing this post with family, friends, and on social media? And if you can make it, we look forward to seeing you next Monday. 

The Freedom Association condemns the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine

Responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman of The Freedom Association, and Andrew Allison, Chief Executive of The Freedom Association, have issued the following statement: 

“The Freedom Association, along with with the rest of the free world, condemns the unprovoked attack on Ukraine by Russia. We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and support the Government in its robust response to this aggression. This is a major assault on liberty, freedom, and democracy. It’s implications will not stop with Ukraine. It encourages other totalitarian regimes to act in similar ways. Putin’s actions must not go unpunished.”



To arrange broadcast interviews, please contact:

Andrew Allison
Chief Executive 
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 07803 741104 


The Freedom Association (TFA) is a non-partisan, centre-right, classically liberal pressure group. We believe in the freedom of the individual in all aspects of life to as great an extent as possible. As such, we seek to challenge all erosion of civil liberties and campaign in support of individual liberty, freedom of expression, and free markets. 

To find out more about The Freedom Association, visit our website: 

WATCH Nigel Farage speak about the greatest threats to freedom today

Delivering the fourth annual Jillian Becker Lecture on Friday 4th February 2022, Nigel Farage delivered a speech about the greatest threats to freedom today.

After successfully leading UKIP and the Brexit Party, Nigel now has his own show on GB News. A great defender of freedom, he continues to be one of the most influential political voices in the UK. The lecture was held at the Victory Services Club in London.

If you are in a position to do so, please consider becoming a member of The Freedom Association and/or making a donation to The Freedom Association to help us in our work promoting our important ten core principles of a free society which are constantly under threat. It also enables us to hold similar events, not just in London, but across the whole of the UK. 


The fight is on for every one of our ten core freedoms

By David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman 

Recently, the Freedom Association’s ruling Council agreed to add two precious freedoms, to bring our list of core freedoms to 10: we added ‘Freedom of Religion and Belief’, long espoused by Adrian Hilton, and ‘Freedom of Speech, Expression and Assembly’, at my suggestion, to cement this core freedom explicitly into our purpose. 

The full list now contains: Individual Freedom, Personal and Family Responsibility, The Rule of Law, Limited Government, Free Market Economy, National Parliamentary Democracy, Strong National Defences, A Free Press and Other Media, plus our two new additions. I fear we are fighting for every single one of the ten.

The State is becoming all consuming over Covid controls – ‘Individual Freedom’ is at risk. Not since wartime curfews during the Blitz have we suffered such a loss of personal freedom and control. The Freedom Association has a delicate path to tread between adherence to the rule of law for the greater good, to recognise our conviction to ‘Personal and Family Responsibility’, which clearly encourages citizens to avoid hurting others through spreading Covid, and to stand up for individual freedoms. We must be very vigilant on what is acceptable on a temporary basis, and what is not. We don’t believe further lockdowns are at all necessary, for example, nor that Britain’s vaccines passports within the UK are acceptable – we must always be on guard against the State getting too familiar and cosy with these extraordinary powers, or our people being divided into first and second class citizens. 

Covid has also exposed the reality of major problems with the ‘Rule of Law’. Policing is in crisis, with too much politically biased policing, particularly at the behest of a failed London Mayor that is unable to get a grip on out-of-control knife crime, and its tragic legacy. Policing is excessive occasionally and feeble far too often – such as the policy of blithely assisting Insulate Britain protestors onto major roads to mount a protest, in case they hurt themselves, their rights trumping those needing ambulances or desperately trying to see dying relatives. When police moved fast to intercept an Extinction Rebellion lorry about to unleash its warped street theatre and sculptures, we all cheered, more out of surprise than relief!

Far more invidious are outrages over so called, and ill defined ‘hate speech’ – too often anti free speech itself - and abuses such as deeply sinister ‘non crime hate incidents’ – allowing the police to record incidents and generate a police record which appears on potential employer checks, even though no actual crime has been committed, and often without even informing those being recorded. So, the Law is being compromised and damaged, and the creeping use of crimes of thought crime rather than criminal acts – yes 1984-style Thought Crime – are real and existent. Box ticking for politically correct reasons is damaging the police and the military, who now are totally distracted with stressing the standard use of ‘pronouns’. The US military recently blamed this kind of nonsense for a collapse of its units in a war game against the Royal Marines – the Culture Wars are designed to make us weak. 

This, and Leftist-leaning legislation like Labour’s Human Rights Act, which sought to reinterpret the rights and freedoms we already enjoyed, those which British judges wrote into the European Convention of Human Rights, but have now been twisted by excessive interpretation through the British courts, which the HRA requires courts and over-keen judges to ‘take into account’. 

The HRA is making it very hard to deport violent criminals such as Jamaican murderers and rapists because leeching human rights lawyers are able to claim ECHR protection on ‘family life’ – even a convicted wife beater could not be deported because of their right to family life. The Home Secretary is struggling to deport 50 hardened criminals at the third attempt – and her Home Office too often shows it is culturally opposed to deporting anyone. I despair that we have been unable to stop or deport any of the economic migrants arriving by boat, despite hitting large town populations at 21,000 illegal immigrants. We are running out of hotels – and what about our own people?

Britain has become a soft touch and laughing stock. Worse, these policies betray our own citizens – the 21 with everything to live for, like the young girls butchered in the Manchester Arena blast, because the Royal Navy rescued the bomber as a Libyan ‘refugee’, his brother cynically escaping the inquiry, and whose parents are still living freely in Libya. How many more will die because of this disgraceful laxness driven by a terrible fear of being labelled racist if any objection or firmness is made? 

As Chairman, I have made scrapping the Human Rights Act one of my key targets, and I am delighted that Dominic Raab as Justice Secretary and Martin Howe QC, who spoke so inspiringly to us recently, are already on the case with these reforms.

As for ‘Limited Government’, the consequences of the £400 billion plus cost of Covid is also a much enlarged State, massive wartime-like National Debt, and a budget that was big on spending but free of tax cuts. Our inability to control the size and reach of the State has given rise to major discussions on what Conservatism now means and whether Thatcherism is today as distant from the Conservative core as Lady Thatcher was from the Heathite mainstream in 1979. 

The dangerous Remainer attempts by former Legal Officers and activists allegedly in league with the former Speaker, to seek to overturn the result of the Brexit Referendum, brought our ‘National Parliamentary Democracy’ into deep dispute; as does the criminal behaviour of some MPs, furores over the standards oversight systems and the poor calibre of too many Parliamentarians, with tokenism and choosing compliant yes men and women to the fore. 

There is talk of yet more disgraceful cuts to our armed forces, when it comes to ‘Strong National Defences’. We don’t even have the numbers for an army any more, and major sell offs such as Fort George near Inverness and Redford Barracks Edinburgh, both of which I visited as an officer cadet, undermine both our armed forces and the British Union itself, as Scotland is a large beneficiary of UK Defence and provides many excellent troops. If the Union were to dissolve, our nuclear submarine defence force may have to move to the USA or France, and Russian jets would be hundreds of miles closer to us. 

A ‘Free Press and Other Media’, Number 8 Freedom, are critical to holding politicians, businesses and governments to account – to expose the inconvenient, the cover ups, and the corruption and wrongdoing of the powers that be. 

But there has been a collapse in professional standards – even newsreaders now regularly fluff their lines, and many stories and spokespeople are brought on regarding ill sourced or plainly inaccurate reports. 

The BBC has lost its core offering: rigorous impartiality. I didn’t know what John Humphrys' politics were when a presenter; but current presenters are blatantly and proudly biased, and get away with it – such as the controversial diatribe by Emily Maitlis on Newsnight. The BBC is now rabidly woke, seems to delight in stirring racial and other divisions with its programming, and has lost all sense of proportionality over Climate Change, claiming all extreme weather is caused by it and with a journalist abusing the Prime Minister whose sister was twice arrested for Insulate Britain demonstrations, and aggressive Today presenters telling the Prime Minister to “stop talking”. 

Much is brought about by the bankrupting of serious mainstream Media outlets like local papers, which once used to report so much local news such as court cases diligently, acting as apprenticeships, and thereby built up excellent journalists who learnt what a good story was and how to convey it. Major newspapers now have been hit hard by cost cutting and have lost the ability to question, to dig for stories and to provide an effective check on the establishment, though mercifully some remain in the game. 

They are less able to question reports put out by politically biased organisations or political figures, and so tend just to use many reports or opinions unquestioningly. Their parlous finances have meant they are too beholden to big advertisers – such as the Government. In Scotland, the big spending power of the SNP Government on Covid seems to have taken the edge off adequately holding Sturgeon’s disastrous domestic record to account. 

On ‘Freedom of Religion and Belief’, Christians are now second class citizens in what is meant to be a Christian country, and I know of many cases which amount to a form of persecution, where the rights of minorities trump those of Christians, who are being needlessly prosecuted – a top barrister I know, Paul Diamond, who won the Christian Cross banning case in Strasbourg against British Airways, introduced me to several Christian victims of such laws and explained their cases. It was shocking and shameful.

But we have an Established Church led by an Archbishop of Canterbury who thinks Climate Change is on a par with the Holocaust, despite being an oil man once, and warns leaders they will be ‘cursed’ if they fail to act – the first time I have heard a vicar deliver a curse. My own local Norwich Cathedral seems more interested on preaching about climate change and in favour of immigration than that of God. So, we now have to protect our own Established religion more than ever, and other religions and beliefs too. 

So, I turn to the last Freedom – one of the most vital: that of ‘Freedom of Speech, Expression and Assembly’. It is indeed sad that core freedoms we have long taken for granted, such as free speech, free expression and freedom of assembly, have to be re-stated now. Sad, but necessary - because it is clear all these freedoms are under threat.

Examples abound. Kathleen Stock, the Professor from Sussex University, even with the support of that university – which has rarity value in itself – has been forced to resign due to intimidation and threats. I heard her speaking on BBC Radio 4 and she was saintly in her dignity and calmness – this is a feminist and lesbian being hounded out, hardly someone unsympathetic to transgender people. All for mildly pointing out basic truths - that sex cannot be changed, only gender, those two definitions being easily confused. Fertility expert Lord Wilson confirmed this on Question Time – that sex is unchangeable, and our sex is ingrained in every fibre of our being. But he expected aggro. 

Today, stating the truth is no defence. That is a very scary state of affairs. I suspect there is a dam about to break, because of the public’s growing frustration and annoyance at being denied free speech and free expression and being told we are all racist, that all white people are privileged and thereby are denied even a right to an equal opinion, because of ‘unconscious bias’. This is a great way to cow the majority of the population – the 87%. 

Our cowardice, our inability to stand up and challenge their dangerous inventions and divisive language and tactics strongly and determinedly means we now live in a world where primary schools are asking boys to wear skirts to promote diversity, the respected retailer John Lewis produces a heavily criticised film of a boy in a skirt – presumably to support transgenders - wrecking his family home. Even Marks & Spencer is into pronouns. 

All major corporates are now showing as much minority representatives (just 13% population) and interracial families (7%) on TV advertising as possible to shout ‘we are woke too’ – this is all about the values of the company, not the product. Yet this bears no relation to the market – research from the CPS / Frank Luntz shows such positioning only appeals to 9% of the public who think firms should ‘speak out on important social issues that matter in Britain today’, and 45% think businesses should avoid political positions or controversial positions. 

This craziness we dare not even laugh off any more either. The British sense of humour, our wonderful comedy, so much part of our identity, is being lost. It is necessary now to be so careful – to self-censor to such an extent – that spontaneous jokes, quips, Churchillian witteries have to be held back or abandoned lest it bring down a Witch-hunt driven by righteous, deadly serious, easily offended people. 

A comedy hero of mine John Cleese maintains that political correctness started as a good idea but that society should not be centred around it. He is to do a TV series ‘Cancel Me’ on what can and cannot be said. Meanwhile, his fellow Monty Python star Terry Gilliam has had his new show cancelled by the Old Vic over views on trans people. He earlier described the ‘Me Too’ movement as a “witch hunt” and whilst condemning the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein said there were “decent people” who were “getting hammered” by the movement for highlighting abuses of power, and for backing comedian Dave Chappelle for perceived slights on trans people, in a similar way to JK Rowling’s treatment.

But when Biden’s disastrous results in the USA and a backlash in the UK shows that the public are sick to death of wokeness – that ‘holier than thou’, all knowing, arrogant and persecutory approach that seeks to correct our thinking, and treat everyone as racist – with an unconscious bias or not. All of this is a direct attack on free expression and seeks to divide, and ultimately destroy our society. 

Look at the unimpeded surge to destroy our statues. ‘Save our Statues’ is doing brilliant work opposing the tearing down of statues across the UK, driven by revolutionary zeal and an attempt to paint any historical figure as racist or slave owning. Even the National Trust is engaged in shaming many of its house owners including Winston Churchill; and I urge you to back Restore Trust in seeking to restore sanity. 

What is going on is nothing short of a determined, premeditated and wide-ranging Revolution. That is not an exaggeration. Our institutions are being captured like a cancer cell invades a healthy cell. Those institutions are being hollowed out and destroyed one by one. We are to be made weak and vulnerable through creating confusion and doubt. If you don’t even know whether you are male or female, if your society is to be celebrated or destroyed, are obsessed with not offending anyone, then you cannot stand up robustly to a major external threat, as we did in 1940. 

Their main tactic is the Communist manual of ‘Critical Theory’, and now ‘Critical Race Theory’. Basically, this is a technique of destroying our society by negative criticism of every aspect of it. Very rarely, if ever, do you hear positive stories of how we have benefited the world, only a constant critical diatribe of how bad we are – such as colonialism, the slave trade, the Windrush Scandal, Brexit fallout – just see a BBC schedule. Victimhood is rife – everyone is a victim today and all want to persecute those they consider responsible. In the USA, the organisation Black Lives Matter is at heart Marxist and revolutionary – and it has chosen race as its victim proletariat rather than class, as they regard class as more European, and with the US’s racial history. Yet in the UK White Lives Matter is being investigated as a hate crime. 

Academia is overwhelmingly left wing now – over 80% - and is ironically in the forefront of attacking truths and suppressing free speech, tamely allowing extremists to win. Running through a Left-leaning Politically Correct Whitehall, Political Parties pandering to these revolutionary forces in their tokenism, the BBC and TV media, the trades unions, human rights lawyers and Police Commissioners, we even find bastions of the establishment under attack – even the National Trust for heaven’s sake!

In summary, never have our Freedoms, expressed in the 10 that define us, been so challenged and are ever in peril. Never has the Freedom Association been so relevant as it is now. 

These are major challenges, but the people are more with us than the revolutionaries. As we saw with Brexit, ordinary people standing up to rampant powerful corporations and transnational posturing and bullying, can win. The Truth can triumph. But we must never rest. Freedom needs constant vigilance. 

How can we conquer cancel culture?

Please join us on Monday 4th October at 4.00 pm at the Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Rd, Manchester, M3 4FP.

Andrew Allison (Chair), Chief Executive of The Freedom Association 

David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman of The Freedom Association. 

Baroness Fox of Buckley. Claire is an independent Peer and Director of the Academy of Ideas.

Alex Deane. Conservative commentator, TFA Council and Management Committee member. 

Chris Green MP. Chris is the Conservative MP for Bolton West and a member of The Freedom Association. 

A conference pass is not required to attend this event or the other events in the Liberty Zone


Fighting the SNP - the next steps

By David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman of The Freedom Association 

Well, we managed to stop a majority of Scots voting for the SNP; and have denied them the ability to claim the moral case for a second Independence Referendum by a rather tight 38,462 votes. Phew!

Huge credit to the Unionist parties, led by the main opposition Scottish Conservatives party, for a successful defensive campaign – the Scots Tories gained two seats – list seats in the Highlands & Islands, where my Bannerman family hails from, and in South of Scotland. Sadly, there were losses in Ayr and a very close run battle in the strongly pro-Brexit fishing communities of Banff and Buchan, which could have seen the SNP go backwards in seat numbers rather than add one MSP. Labour and Lib Dems lost seats, whilst the SNP-Lite Greens picked up 3 seats. Overall, the composition of the Parliament really hasn’t changed much; and the Scots are seemingly split 50-50 on the independence issue.

Even so, the new SNP Government under Nicola Sturgeon is immediately back into its demands for a new Referendum regardless, with dark threats of a ‘Catalonian’-style wildcat referendum or street protests or direct action, that Alex Salmond highlighted. Surprising when Sturgeon was unable to answer basic questions – on what the new currency would be, whether Scotland would be in the EU or not, what they would do about a hard border for example, and further tried to have it both ways – saying to some supporters it was all about Covid recovery; then latterly claiming a referendum mandate. The Greens actually have a different view of independence to the SNP, so claiming a clear united mandate for a referendum doesn’t wash. There would be no room for the oil industry in their plans.

So, how do we defend the Union and ensure separation never actually happens?

I fear Unionists, in Westminster as well as at national level, are acting rather like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a fast approaching car – afraid to move; mesmerized by the SNP’s momentum, stunned into frozen inaction. There are worrying echoes of the Irish trouble in Parliament under Gladstone and the chaos over the Home Rule Bill.

There is a battle underway between whether a ‘muscular Unionist’ approach – as Gordon Brown puts it unfavourably – which was preferred it was said by the former Number 10 Union adviser and Vote Leave stalwart Oliver Lewis, who is a sad loss to government – versus a ‘soft, love bombing, money spending’ approach – some would term it ‘appeasement’ - said to be favoured by Michael Gove, who has now taken back the reins it seems. So, there are reports of billions more being spent on better road and rail infrastructure in Scotland and Scottish patients being treated in England.

Robustness versus Appeasement? The debate is actually far more nuanced. But this is what I would propose as a strategy, which has elements of both:

1. A review of how Barnett formula payments are allocated

Some time before these elections I sent a strategy paper for discussion to Michael Gove, Oliver Lewis, and senior Scottish politicians including Douglas Ross. It proposed a Treasury review of the Barnett formula - not to get rid of Barnett, because we Unionists believe in the Union, but to indicate publicly and clearly how valuable Barnett is to Scotland – and to Wales and Northern Ireland too. The SNP are now on record saying they don’t want Barnett payments – a position advocated in the Sustainable Growth Commission report written by economist and ex-SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, and liked by the SNP Finance Spokesman Kate Forbes. This is extraordinary given that Scotland is now receiving, as Andrew Marr pointed out to Sturgeon, £1,670 more per head – that’s £15 billion a year, £200 billion extra in the last 20 years. Their tax revenues are £300 less per head too.

There are no explanations how they would fill the hole; other than vague references to Trident. Massive tax hikes and austerity beckon. Losing these payments would play badly: another recent poll found 62% young Scots are pro-independence but this drops in half to 31% if it costs them £1,000 each.

Yet the SNP maintain the fiction that Scotland subsidises the UK! A poll just days from the election found that 57% Scots believe this! Sturgeon told Marr “I don’t accept that characterisation” – it’s not a characterisation, it is a proven fact.

I believe we must end the block grant that allowed the SNP to squirrel away billions in funds, £2.7 billion allegedly of Covid funds - for a possible new Scottish Central Bank. Voters I called told me that schools are not returning exam fees; Covid money for businesses have been shamefully retained by the SNP Government.

If the SNP wants to be in the EU, then it would be good practice to have to apply for individual grants (say for 3 years) for extra NHS spending, schools spending, law enforcement spending, transport spending from the UK Government. This is not ‘muscular’, it is good husbandry and fair enough for the spending of UK Taxpayers’ monies. This should also be done for Welsh and Northern Irish Barnett funding. If they don’t like these sound management requirements, then they should use their national tax raising powers to fund the extra public spending. The Scottish top income tax is already 45% not 40%.

2. Adoption of a ‘layering’ approach, with a UK top layer, instead of the current ‘silo’ approach, where all sectoral responsibilities are done nationally

This is a major flaw with devolution. Like a gain silo, all powers in certain delegated areas are passed top to bottom to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly. Others are retained in full by the UK Government when perhaps they could devolve more – over farming and fishing management, for example.

The handling of Covid restrictions through four national bodies has been disastrous for the Union – Sturgeon was able to milk the briefings, and many voters liked what she did but didn’t want independence, and Drakeford obtained a bounce too, whilst Boris Johnson was frequently left with the criticism.

We should have ‘layered’ it – public health and the NHS – so there is one UK-wide policy on air flights and when pubs open (and with booze available!) rather than a confusing mess of varying restrictions; often deliberately varied for political ends. We are one country and should behave as one country.

Of course, all the nations should retain a powerful voice in arguing for the best UK policy. But no company would present itself in such a divided and muddled manner.

I am pro devolution; but it is devolution, not independence paid for by the UK. So the UK must retain overall control at the UK-wide level, even if that is a thin top layer.

There should be a guiding principle at the heart of layering: no individual UK citizen should be disadvantaged or discriminated against by the actions of devolved national body. So, closing the Welsh border like Drakeford and Sturgeon both did with England would be ruled out – either the whole country is in lockdown or is not; or small units or local counties locked down.

I think this should also rule out discrimination on student fees in Scotland for example – and I was at student at Edinburgh when we were all treated the same. English students had to pay higher fees than local Scots (who could be English living in Scotland) or even EU students, who also generally had free fees under EU laws.

All of these things are using UK monies to create disharmony and division within the UK. The same is true of care homes or was too of prescriptions. The kind of ‘freebies’ – free laptops etc. – the SNP were able to offer voters should also be subject to scrutiny – with grants being requested off the UK. Over time, a more uniform UK-wide policy would arise and silly games ended.

Devolution also means more powers at the sharp end – to local councils. I would like to see county and city councils obtain more powers, devolved from national bodies and Westminster, and indeed from the over abundance of mayors Heseltine favoured. Whilst we need an overall high UK layer for the NHS say, which can help drive up standards in Wales and Scotland, I also think local hospital management and many services could be contracted and delivered by local councils. Councils used to have their own hospitals. A return to that is real devolution, and should be UK wide.

Schools too should be given more freedom to run themselves. I like the idea of franchising out schools by local authorities – to bring in the best experience and practices of successful operators from elsewhere to drive up standards and ferment innovation – such as Fettes and Gordonstoun running franchised state schools, just as Winchester runs schools in the Far East, Middle East and a state academy nextdoor. Scottish education used to be the envy of the world, now it has become sadly diminished. Not privatisation, as many would be run by charitable trusts, not profit making companies.

3. Promote the UK British brand, as other major corporations promote brands

Why does Coke need to advertise? We all know what it is, looks like, tastes like. It is a household name. Yet every year it relentlessly spends millions in advertising in what marketing people (like I used to be) call ‘brand support’. Every time the SNP have a rally or march or wave the Scottish saltaire around, they are building the independence brand. It is time to support the British brand. The saltaire forms the core of the Union flag anyway.

For heaven’s sake, we don’t even mark the Anniversary of the formation of the British Union - nothing marked it in 2007; but we did the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland; and by default the Republic of Ireland, this year. We must stop being so apologetic and walk tall as proud Brits – do a London Olympics, Danny Boyle type number. Didn’t we all buy into that as Team GB? Last Night of the Proms in Scotland is reluctant to wave Union flags.

Successful brands know what they stand for, what their core values and attributes are, and sell those proudly. I think we are muddled as Unionists on these, partly due to humility and partly due to not having to. We need to do a lot of thinking about what the core values and attributes are for the United Kingdom, and then go sell them.

No. not some naff, nationalistic, plastic bag campaign; but one that is subtle and emotive. The Scottish piper to Lord Lovat who led the D-Day Landings, the thin red line at Balaclava, where Scottish soldiers saved the British forces from overwhelming odds, the Scots Greys at Waterloo shouting ‘Scotland the Brave’! This is the Union working together. All the conflicts, inventions, expeditions, adventures we have shared as fellow Brits, facing a common enemy or challenge.

I liked the ‘GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland’ campaign that used to adorn Eurostar stations such as Brussels. It sold Britain as a tourist and investment destination in a classy, positive, appropriate way. We must emphasise togetherness, not division.

Our shared values, history, geography and peoples – 1 in 10 residents in Scotland are English, many Scots live out of Scotland, and we are often intermarried – my father was Scots (and Welsh); my mother English (and a bit of Irish). The EU is always doing this – claiming credit somehow for much of Europe that was built long before they even existed. The EU stars are themselves a corporate brand.

The BBC mocked the British flags behind Ministers – they should take a hard look at themselves and promote the best of British – it’s in their name; and BBC Scotland and many Scottish papers are too apologetic about towing the SNP line. Look how British Airways stupidly removed the British flag from their planes, to be replaced by a mess of multiple colours and visuals, and had to bring them all back.

Exchanges, such as between schools in different nations, have their place. I would like to see – or hear – all schoolchildren to be able to sing all national anthems of the 4 nations regularly (Ireland’s Call and Soldier’s Song for Ireland - as important to recognise both traditions), to celebrate our nations and not allow the nationalists to seize differences to foment division.  Like we love singing at 6-Nation rugby games. We are patriots – we love our country; and others too and not nationalists – who love their country by hating others.

We must put aside the normal British reticence to be too overtly British or embarrassed, for we are in a battle for our survival. I remember a UKIP Lord berating me for the idea of teaching our children to sing the British National Anthem. This is not nationalistic, it is our common anthem we use for royal events and the Olympics. Yes, we should drop the verse about ‘rebellious Scots to crush’ and move on from the Jacobite origins. We just need a simple common patriotism that unites us all in the way US patriotism is so open and endorsed by all, regardless of their background, race and politics.

4. Ruthlessly expose the SNP’s mythical claims, absurd assumptions and dodgy economics, that would spell disaster for the Scottish people

Sturgeon has looked deeply uncomfortable and vague when asked about her plans for independence, particularly the economic plans. In 2014, a massive 500-page White Paper set out the plans, and fell down on what currency Scotland would be using. The pound for a bit, then the Euro, or maybe a Scots currency – but that could mean higher borrowing costs, and a devaluation in pensions and benefit payments currently paid in pounds; same with the Euro.

Having another country setting your interest rates without any formal say or input, and under no duty to mitigate the effects, would mean yet more austerity and tax rises on top of having to fill the Barnett hole. There is the issue of financial services having to head South to stay within the regulatorily ambit of the Bank of England. Edinburgh manages more funds than Frankfurt, and Glasgow and Perth need financial services. If Scotland had become independent before the economic crash of 2008/9, it would have been bankrupted trying to save RBS and the Bank of Scotland, that the UK still props up even now.

There is a battle of the ‘Head’ and the ‘Heart’ – the SNP appeals to the emotion of the Heart, but in 2014 hard reality – the ‘Head’ cut in. I met voter after voter in Perth campaigning with Murdo Fraser on a solid Labour council estate who were attracted to the notion of independence, but the ‘Head over Heart’ economic reality on TV convinced them not to take the risk. That is when I knew we would win the Referendum.

As well as the emotive pro-British campaign to appeal more to the heart and emotions, we need to hammer the SNP on their ill-formed plans and economic innumeracy. I pity defence spending, which they would take out of their budget all together, which would disappear almost entirely, leaving fishing vessels, a rump army and small planes to ward off frequent Russian incursions. New Zealand has no fighter jets and is kowtowing to China now.

5. Embrace Brexit with enthusiasm: Bogus Independence vs Real Independence with Brexit

As a Brexiteer, I can emphasise with the SNP’s desire to run its own country, if not sympathise with it. I understand the passion, the belief the change will bring a transformation and independence from running one’s own affairs. But all this needs a healthy dose of reality – the UK has successfully left the EU after 48 years, but can stand on its own two feet, but I doubt Scotland can leave the UK at all easily after 300 years plus.

I do think that what I call an ‘Adam Smith’ Scotland could be a successful independent nation – one that embraces low taxes, low regulation, free trade, tightly controlled public spending. But this is not the SNP vision – which is essentially a hard left, high tax, high regulation, protectionist, high public spending Socialist religion.

What they offer is not real independence but bogus independence. They actually want a different form of dependence - a poll showed most nationalists want to keep their British passports. They want to keep the pound, but joining the EU as a new member requires joining the Euro and with its maximum deficit criteria of 3% - not the 9% deficit Scotland has now; 25% with Covid measures included. Eye-watering cuts would be necessary, like in Greece, probably for a decade of wrangling.

Not only do the SNP want to depend on other country’s currencies, they want to depend on the Bank of England as the central bank. How independent are you when you have your interest rates and QE set by London – but without any say anymore? How much of UK debt could an independent Scotland finance, as oil dries up and financial companies and higher taxpayers flee South?

They want to hand back control of fisheries and to surrender newly won back quotas – to Brussels. Start throwing over quota fish back in the sea again, dead.

They want to return to the French system of the Common Agricultural Policy, hurting Scottish farmers, and to abandon over 70 British free trade deals, which have gone beyond EU trade deals, or give up big deals the EU has failed to do, like India and the USA. Scotland is a great exporter – and a UK-India free trade agreement could mean the end of 150% tariffs on luxury goods like Scotch whisky. Will they happily return to 150% tariffs given the EU has failed to do a trade deal in 12 years?

Scottish Unionists should now demonstrate the real independence Brexit now offers. That means I am afraid, abandoning the Remainer default position which is highly evident even amongst fellow Scottish Conservatives. Ruth Davidson I have huge regard for, as a remarkable politician and individual – when I helped campaign for her in 2016, it was all Ruth rather than the Tories.

But she was vicious with Boris Johnson at the last EU Referendum debate in Watford, which I attended, and relations haven’t been easy. Douglas Ross now needs to embrace the benefits of Brexit, whatever the party’s original views were. For a start, it is 5 years next month since the Referendum, Brexit is happening anyway, and the opposition is going to try and blame us for it whatever, so we might as well own it and sell its considerable benefits.

This stance has not helped relations within the Conservative Party, and the Prime Minister deserves more loyalty and less criticism from the sides more befitting of an opposition party. We need the full Westminster team up in Scotland – Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock, Michael Gove, Liz Truss etc. - selling the benefits of the Union as part of the branding campaign.

It should be noted that more Scots voted for Brexit in 2016 than for the SNP in the 2017 General Election, that there are well over a million Scottish Brexit voters, that they put a UKIP MEP into the European Parliament in 2014, and that one third or more of SNP voters are pro Brexit. As we saw in Hartlepool, which was 70% pro Brexit, if you engage with those voters you can swing the political pendulum dramatically. The Brexit-loving fishermen in Banff and Buchan nearly won that seat off the SNP. There are real opportunities here.

So, overall if Unionism raises its game, boxes more cleverly and consistently, I believe we can see off independence pressures, as Canada saw off the Québécois demanding Quebec’s breakaway in a second close Referendum in 1995; it quietened the issue down-for decades thereafter.

David Campbell Bannerman is a former MEP of 10 years 2009-19 – for the East of England. He is related to former Scottish and British Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who oversaw the 1907 Union celebrations. David served as a Special Adviser on the Northern Ireland Peace Process at its start in 1996-97, stood as a Scottish MP candidate in 1997, is a leading Brexiteer and strategist, with an expertise in international trade. David is on the Scottish Conservatives Parliamentary list.


If the EU can’t be reasonable, the protocol must end

By David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman of The Freedom Association

The Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) row that has gnawed around the edges of the G7 meeting of nations is essentially a clash of two very different approaches towards the same stated aim; but with one side having a deeper, hidden objective. 

The EU prides itself on being a rules-based organisation, and in my view is run by technocrats and lawyers - techno-legal I call it - at the expense of democratic politicians. As a result, it tends to be rigid about its rules, absurdly quick to court action, and holds to this approach rigidly and stubbornly to the extent of losing sight of the wider aim. So, it has almost immediately rushed to court action - in the court of European integration, the European Court of Justice, due to the UK unilaterally extending a grace period relevant to the Protocol, despite evidence of serious trouble in Northern Ireland.

The British are more pragmatic and democratic, law-abiding, but more willing to apply the law in more flexible ways consistent with that wider aim. Whilst the EU recites rules and terms, the British point out that the whole aim of this approach is now at risk due to the reaction to the way it is implemented.

So, on the Protocol, the EU claims it is to protect the Good Friday Agreement (GFA)/Belfast Agreement that underpins the Northern Ireland Peace Process - which I worked on some years ago when it started, as a Government Special Adviser. We British clearly want to respect the GFA and to retain the peace in Northern Ireland. So important is this aim that it forms Article 1 of the Protocol. 

The EU claims that any failure to implement the Protocol is a threat to the Good Friday Agreement, except they just mean one side and one community in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, it seems that the instinctive Irish Catholic American stance, embodied by the Kennedy Clan and Ted Kennedy’s closeness to Sinn Fein, is now being reflected in President Biden’s one-sided take on the problem. If The Times report is correct that the most senior current diplomat in London, Ms Yael Lempert, read out a ‘reprimand’ – a ‘demarche’ – about ‘inflaming’ the process to Lord Frost and our Government, then the sooner a more informed and balanced Ambassador is appointed, the better for all. President Clinton gave four speeches in Northern Ireland in my time, all to different communities and brilliantly reflecting their concerns and wishes. Biden has in contrast blundered into this row ill-informed and lacking key understanding, as has the Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I met in London. They see the Protocol as protecting the GFA, but this just isn’t the case. 

OK, so clearly they don’t want a return to IRA/nationalist violence and maintain this would happen with an enforced North/South Border. But they say next to nothing about the other key community in Northern Ireland - the Unionist/Loyalist community, loyal to Britain. It is this community who are now increasingly resentful, distrustful and isolated by the implementation of the NIP. The traditional ‘Marching Season’ due to start shortly, commemorating William of Orange’s (hence the colour) win at the Battle of the Boyne on 12th July 1690 over forces of King James II, deposed by the Glorious Revolution in 1688, and with the vital Bill of Rights following in 1689 that confirmed Parliamentary sovereignty as we know it. There have already been riots and disorder, but any further EU intransigence will literally pile more fuel on the commemorative bonfire. Time is short. 

This is not some academic debate, it is very real and very dangerous. In the Peace Talks I met ex-Loyalist terrorists who had engaged in violence - one had machine-gunned a bus queue; another stabbed a Sein Fein councillor and his girlfriend to death. If the EU crosses its modern representatives, there is a real danger of a return to violence. They won’t be putting a counter case in the ECJ, but they may take action against the EU directly - its customs officials in Northern Ireland have already been disgracefully threatened. But attacks in Dublin or Brussels are not beyond the bounds of possibility, and no one wants to go back there. 

Essentially, we are at a crossroads on the Protocol now. The decision is either:

1.) To make do with the NIP; but the EU agrees to act reasonably and not treat goods arriving from GB as if arriving from dodgy East European gang sources or in Rotterdam from unethical Asian manufacturers. Maybe an agreed limit on the number of checks – 2% is the normal rate not 20% - might ease the situation. As Raab has said: the “EU must be less purist, more pragmatic and more flexible in the implementation of it.” The nub of the problem is less the actual agreement – though that is very challengeable – but the unreasonable implementation of it by the EU. 

The World Customs Organisation, which the EU and UK are part of, has long pushed for ‘intelligence led’ customs, as does the EU’s Union Customs Code 2016, meaning checks are only done if there is some information that the goods are faulty or the company trading them suspicious. 

The excessive and provocative degree of checks suggests a deeper and more sinister EU agenda: that the EU wants to use Northern Ireland as a lever to force Britain to accept its rules. It keeps pushing this as a simple solution - accept EU agricultural standards – food and veterinary - now and automatically in future and 80% checks will miraculously disappear. But the practical effect of this is that the UK has its hands tied when it comes to doing trade deals as it is no longer in control of some of the core parts of free trade deals - agricultural goods. 

Now the EU has good reason to fear competition from cheaper non-EU agricultural goods coming to Britain, because its Customs Union is protectionist and keeps EU food prices at least 20% higher than world food prices. There is also what Dominic Raab alleged as Brexit Secretary three years ago: that senior EU figures implied losing Northern Ireland was “the price the UK would pay for Brexit” – that the EU had a wish to “carve up” the UK. So, there are deeper political and economic reasons for this unreasonable stance.

Northern_Ireland_Map.png2.) The second option is more fundamental and profound, but is cleaner and neater. That is for the UK to declare that the Protocol is not working, that it is leading - in the legal language of Article 16 - to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties, that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade.”  There are plenty of grounds for this – the First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Arlene Foster, was dramatically toppled by the backlash from the Protocol, whilst serious riots and disorder have been on the streets on a scale not seen since before the Peace Process, and a return to staking out targets. Trade has been hit hard by checks on certain products – with chilled food and the iconic sausage now at urgent risk. 

So, if the UK invokes Article 16 of this Protocol – and Boris Johnson has rightly and firmly mentioned Article 16 a number of times, including in Parliament - and so suspends this ‘safeguard’ (emergency) clause. The EU actually did this for a few hours over vaccines, before withdrawing it. So what happens next?

Either the Protocol is renegotiated to make it more flexible – perhaps we could agree to an upper limit on the checks made? 2% are the normal checks - not 20%, more than for Rotterdam or Eastern European goods - or for independent experts to rule on what is actually reasonable. Or go further and remove Article 5, referring to Northern Ireland being in the EU’s Customs Union for agricultural goods. 

But President Macron has made it clear “Nothing is negotiable. Everything is applicable.” So, if the Protocol cannot be renegotiated, nor the bigger Withdrawal Agreement which contains it, and remains suspended permanently or annulled, what then? 

Technically, as Northern Ireland will then be out of the EU’s Customs Union for agricultural and industrial goods, there will have to be – shock, horror! - a border on the island of Ireland. But that doesn’t mean a ‘hard’ border. 

Firstly, technically, there are plenty of invisible, soft borders now – a currency border (Euro/£) without exchange controls or checks; tax rates – different VAT and corporation tax rates, miles go to kilometres to the South. But there is a Common Travel Area. 

Second, there have been practical fixes before. The UK earlier signed up to EU Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures – as Ian Paisley memorably quipped: “Our people maybe British; but our cows are Irish!”, so their standards have been the same both sides of the border, suggesting pragmatism – this avoided an EU ban due to Foot and Mouth.

Third, there is no need. In giving evidence to Parliamentary committees, both British and Irish senior customs officials have made it clear there is no need for a ‘hard border’ – meaning physical checks on the border line, with barriers and peaked hats. This all went with the Single Market in 1992. 

There is no rationale for a hard border: borders are in computers these days, with checks only done on the basis of perceived risk or intelligence information. Britain has the CHIEF system (Customs Handling Imports and Export Freight), and is upgrading to the massive Customs Declaration System. 2017 evidence by Chairman of the Board of the Irish Revenue Commissioners, customs expert Niall Cody, confirmed to the Irish Dail very low checks would result: “the EU policy is to go to an IT-based customs process that is totally paperless.”

Also, most exports and imports are done under a ‘Trusted Trader’ scheme where basically traders are checked up on as an organisation in advance and if satisfactory, and regular - such as regular movement of ingredients and semi-processed product for Guinness or Kerrygold back and forth – then very few actual checks are made. 

When I visited Britain’s biggest container port, Felixstowe, they informed me only 4% of incoming containers are checked on such grounds. Niall Cody explained: “In 2016, 6% of [Irish] import declarations were checked and less than 2% were physically checked… The low level of import checks is the result of pre-authorisation of traders, advance lodgement of declarations and an extensive system of post-clearance checks, including customs audit, which are carried out at a trader’s premises… There are currently 133 AEOs (Authorised Economic Operators) which account for 82% of all imports and 89% of exports.” 

So, between 8 to 9/10 movements are covered by Trusted Trader like schemes, used a lot at the US/Canadian border. Only 20% of Northern Ireland’s exports go South to the Republic anyway and we are talking about 0.02% of the EU’s GDP. 

There is an international scheme too – the common transport convention – that allows flow of trucks containers without checks, such as from Dublin to Paris via Belfast.

The problem with a border in the island of Ireland has already been mostly sorted by the Protocol – checks are done for goods (‘at risk of’) heading South are already checked well away from the actual border such as Larne, near Belfast. That bit is working – it is the GB/NI checks that are not. This arrangement could now be adapted to handle cross border UK/EU traffic. Maybe extra facilities could be added elsewhere, but the principle is established. 

I have written or helped to write three papers on a way of solving the border issue, and sat in Number 10 discussing them. May was reportedly terrified into believing a border issue would lead back to war. I never understood why the issue had become so totemic when practical solutions were always at hand and customs experts all agreed a hard border wouldn’t happen. I concluded that a solution was not wanted because a free trade agreement wasn’t wanted, because of this wider, deeper game by the EU and Remainer allies in Britain to keep the UK as enmeshed as possible in EU rules, making rejoining the EU much easier. 

So, if practical to do, what about the consequences of doing it? 

It is worth mentioning a court case challenging the Protocol for the lack of consent inherent in the Good Friday Agreement. I witnessed first-hand how it was built on consent. If proven that the NIP was incompatible, this would be helpful for the UK case. 

But whatever happens, it is likely that the EU will seek to ‘punish’ Britain in a highly legalistic way and suspend parts of the related trade deal, The Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA). President Macron in particular has been threatening tariffs and a mini trade war has been explicitly [threatened] as a sanction.

But how sensible and realistic is this really? Sure, the EU could impose some pain, as it did against US goods over their recent trade war. But with Britain we are the main customer with a normal £95 billion goods deficit with the EU - in short, we import far more than we export to the EU and have therefore a rich picking of our retaliatory tariffs. Should we slap tariffs on German cars, French wine, Belgian chocolates perhaps? 

That won’t help Macron when facing an already difficult re-election campaign as President. There is already hardening evidence that whilst UK exports to the EU have held up now as normal, imports from the EU into the UK have fallen significantly. The British customer does seem to be reacting to such threats already by avoiding EU goods. This would only increase.

The form on bullying – it punished Switzerland for seeking to limit free movement by blocking Switzerland from the Horizon research programme, and trade talks failed after 7 years. No doubt a package of irritants would be formulated as the EU did in its recent US trade war over Airbus/Boeing subsidies. But under the wider Withdrawal Agreement the EU benefits greatly from settlement rights for 5 million EU citizens – 1 million more than estimated – and from continued cash payments for various agreed schemes and liabilities. The EU is not in the greatest financial position just now, so suspending any payments could bring pressure. 

In conclusion, none of these options is too difficult to contemplate. They are doable and survivable. If being prepared for stronger solutions makes the EU see sense and adopt a more workable implementation of the Protocol that might solve the main issues, at least until the Assembly can revisit the Protocol after four years. But I don’t see any such contrition – the EU regards this as an opportunity to flex its muscles, to do down an over-successful independent upstart Britain.  

So, I think there is growing inevitability that the Protocol is suspended under Article 16, and soon, before tensions arise around the Marching Season. I think we can take any punishment meted out in our stride and reciprocate with surprising power and effect. 

The EU does need to be shown its increasingly bellicose and self-important approach, and dangerous games with a vital part of UK territory, are totally unacceptable. In the end, this is again about sovereignty. The Protocol was better than the original disastrous Chequers mess May and her advisers managed to concoct. If it has been a useful stepping stone towards a more acceptable and long-lasting arrangement, that sees Northern Ireland properly free of the EU - as Great Britain already is - then it will have fulfilled its purpose. In my view, we needed to get out of the EU first in order to be sure we were free and able to come back and negotiate a better long term deal.  

But now it is time to be bold, for the sake of the British Union. We have heard nothing but bluster, arrogance, unreasonable behaviour and threats from the EU. It is time to call the EU’s bluff. Let them do their worst. It’s time to end the Protocol. 

David Campbell Bannerman is a former MEP of 10 years (2009-19) for the East of England. He is a leading Brexiteer and strategist, with an expertise in international trade.


Photo Credit: President Macron - EU2017EE Estonian PresidencyCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

WATCH our most recent webinar. What is the BBC for? Should it be defunded or reformed?

In a Freedom Association webinar held on Tuesday 4th May 2021, we discussed, “What's the BBC for? Should it be defunded or reformed?”

The panellists were:

Andrew Allison: Andrew is Head of Campaigns for The Freedom Association.

Nick Ross: Nick is a broadcaster, journalist, and campaigner. He became a household name in the UK launching breakfast TV, Watchdog and Crimewatch and flagship radio programmes including World at One, PM and The World Tonight.

Lord Moylan. Daniel was appointed a Conservative Peer in 2020. He was chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation, deputy chairman of Transport for London, and chief airport adviser to Boris Johnson as Mayor of London. A lifelong listener of BBC Radio 3, he has described the radio channel as being "infected by a sort of relentless wokeness".

The webinar was chaired by David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman of The Freedom Association and a former Conservative MEP from 2009-2019, representing the East of England.

Click here to become a member of The Freedom Association. Click here if you would like to make a donation to support our work.