HANSA returns

I’m going to call it a tie on the North Sea Union question. I received lots of answers, roughly half for and half against.

In favour of the North Sea Union

To take the “for” camp first. Many of you pointed out that the North Sea Union sounds like what the European Union (or the EEA before it) was always supposed to be. This note sums that position up neatly – and comes with a warning:


The North Sea Union proposal looks a good idea. It’s what the EU was supposed to be when it started out.

Unfortunately, politicians and bureaucrats with power hungry aspirations have diverted its original intention.

The same could happen to the NSU unless there are fundamental ground rules that cannot be shaken and stirred.

As does this email:


Our ancestors had the HANSA ports – we have had North Sea Trade without tariffs since the new stone age when the North Sea was created. It seems an eminently sensible proposition to anyone who lives round the North Sea I would have thought.

And this note (which because of time restraints I’ve edited down from a much longer and more detailed piece):

A very interesting piece Nick and it is quite similar to my long-held belief that, well before politicians meddled in order to create personal empires and inflate their egos, trade was a global idea that brought wealth, growth and usually peace to the world. Peace lapsed when politicians decided they wanted a piece of someone else’s action.

If you remove the potential for embargos (which would be created by politicians after all), the free market can operate to the wider benefit. Do we really need multiple tiers of government, appropriating the individual’s wealth to distribute according to a politician’s whim? I think we would be better off without yet more levels of (expensive and frequently unaccountable) government. This is not “survival of the fittest” , nor is it London-centric. The UK needs to adjust its economy and take in areas where it has significantly more resources (water in the west and north, wind and good agriculture in the east). That would share the success of the southeast (mainly due to the financial sector) outwards which could bring growth to a wider area.

The problems of a North Sea Union

But not everyone is for it, by any means. I think any form of “union” will make some people uncomfortable, for the entirely understandable reason that it’d be all too easy to morph into a wider political and social union.

You may think that sounds pedantic. I don’t. There’s power in language. The choice of words you use to describe something, or to enshrine its purpose in law, become a part of its DNA. Think of “ever closer union”: three words that ultimately defined everything about the EU. So perhaps it’s worth thinking carefully about the language we use to describe any new deal.

Here’s a note that sums up the “against” position.

“The bloc would promote an integrated sphere for offshore energy and marine research, and as well as better grid network with interconnectors to drive down costs and boost back-up power. It would have a defence and security component.”

The British people voted for Brexit not an EU substitute.

An integrated sphere for offshore energy is about tying the UK into an energy grid, which would create a total dependency upon the EU – into which the grid would be connected – which could switch of the lights if it came to it.

The defence and security component amounts to the same thing. It also means that our troops could be sent to overseas theatres to secure the

interests of the EU – such as Ukraine. One only has to consider the goings on in Syria and Libya to appreciate this.

There is no question of the EU failing to trade with us. Were it to do so, two things would occur:

1 The EU would plunge into recession; the UK holds a colossal balance of payments deficit with the EU.

2 Britain would have to import more from the Far East and America but also start manufacturing the goods we currently import. British manufacturing would boom for decades.

The so called ‘soft-Brexit’ would doubtless involve freedom of movement too, a membership fee and ‘pooling’ of sovereignty.

As does this one:

Don’t think I like your trade association Nick. That would seem to imply that the rest of Europe would still have fishing rights to our territorial waters, which I would like to see reclaimed and the re-establishment of our exclusive fishing fleets.

What was wrong with the original European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that we used to belong to? It was the Common Market we thought we voted for back in the 1970s, not the Federation of Europe that we’ve managed to escape so narrowly.

Managed to escape in the past tense seems slightly hopeful to me. We haven’t left the EU yet. We haven’t triggered Article 50. We’ve simply signalled our intention to leave. Who knows what comes next?

Nick O'Connor's Signature

Category: The End of Europe

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