More on Damian Green and the bent ex-copper

Giolla Decair makes a good point regarding the porn supposedly found on Damian Green’s laptop:

As they were thumbnails that’s almost certainly in the browser cache ( who the hell deliberately saves thumbnails). So based on thumbnails no evidence that any porn was actually watched just that some porn sites were browsed and the thumbnails cached, given modern browsers sometimes pre-fetch pages it might not even have been that many pages/sites browsed. Again given it’s thumbnails a typical page could easily have 100 thumbnail images so if there’s pre-fetching going on you could be talking about having browsed just a handful of pages without having fetched a single thing.

This is worth keeping in mind when listening to the arguments from some people that surfing porn while at work is a sackable offence and because this guy is an MP and works for us, it’s in the public interest and he should be fired. Leaving aside the fact that it is not the job of ex-policemen to act as any employer’s HR department particularly ten years after the event and having retired, it’s not clear-cut this will be a sackable offence.

Firstly, having evidence of visiting porn sites on your company laptop does not mean you were surfing porn at work. I suspect most people in this situation were away on business without a personal laptop and used their work machine to visit dodgy sites back at the hotel at night. Unless the timestamp on the files can be matched to Green’s working hours, the offence is more one of using a company laptop for visiting prohibited websites. This already puts us in a grey area insofar as HR is concerned.

What websites are prohibited? Anything not work related? Okay, so how many people have been fired for visiting Amazon on a work laptop? Visiting anything deemed to be pornographic or with “adult content”? How is that defined, exactly? I suspect these matters are decided on a case-by-case basis and if HR get wind of anything untoward they haul the employee in and ask them for an explanation before telling them to pack it in. If they’re going to be fired, the number of sites visited, the visit duration, the regularity of the visits, and the content of the pictures will all form part of HR’s decision over what action to take. If there are a dozen thumbnails that the browser cache stored when the user inadvertently opened a site he probably shouldn’t have, he’s probably going to be sent on an IT awareness course rather than being fired. Even if he’s looked at porn, they’ll have to show it happened during work hours if they want to fire him for anything other than a breach of the IT protocols.

The fact is we know nothing about the files Damian Green allegedly had on his laptop, and it is simply untrue to say that any such pictures would immediately result in dismissal from a regular job. This is a hatchet-job, and Theresa May needs to make it her personal mission to destroy the life of this ex-copper who is attempting to bring down senior members of her government. If she doesn’t, this sort of thing is going to become the norm; I’d rather see a bent ex-policeman doing a fifteen year stretch than have the entire political system further undermined. However they go about it, they need to make an example of him.

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Damian Green, the Met, and the BBC

From the BBC:

A former Scotland Yard detective has told BBC News he was “shocked” by the amount of pornography viewed on a computer seized from the Commons office of senior Tory MP Damian Green.

Neil Lewis examined the device during a 2008 inquiry into government leaks and has not spoken publicly before.

He said “thousands” of thumbnail images of legal pornography were on it.

I think this says far more about the Metropolitan Police and the BBC, who are running the story on their front page. One thing that was blindingly obvious about the Leveson Enquiry was that the practice of policemen dishing up gossip on prominent people to journalists was widespread and well-known, but the political establishment and their supporters needed an excuse to try to break Rupert Murdoch’s media empire so they grabbed one where they could.

That we now have ex-policemen engaged in selling information – none of which concerns illegal or even immoral activities whose exposure serves the public interest – and the likes of the BBC are falling over themselve to publish it only confirms what most sensible people already knew. Any government worth its salt would come down on this ex-policeman like a tonne of bricks, give the Met a thorough and public dressing-down, and revoke the BBC’s charter.

If the Theresa May’s Tories are too piss-weak to do this then perhaps they deserve to be gossiped about. It’s about all they’re useful for.

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Trump: worse than ISIS

Two stories from the Telegraph. The first:

US diplomats have dropped plans for Donald Trump to conduct a visit to Britain in January amid a war of words between the two countries’ leaders.

Mr Trump, the US president, had been penciled in for a ‘working visit’ in the first month of 2018 to formally open America’s new London embassy.

The trip, a scaled down version of a state visit with no meeting with the Queen, was intended to allow Mr Trump to come to the UK while avoiding the mass protests a full state visit would likely trigger.

The second:

Proposals to offer extremists including returning jihadists taxpayer-funded housing and help into work are a “fundamental error” amounting to bribes to potential terrorists, it has been claimed.

The Home Office is looking at a new strategy to reintegrate extremists that could even see them propelled to the top of council house waiting lists if needed.

Under pilot schemes being looked at, police and local authorities would assess extremists formerly investigated as suspects by the security services to see what danger they pose and what it would take to help reintegrate them into society.

It appears that the US president retweeting videos deemed racist is enough to bring MPs onto our television sets calling him “evil” and to motivate enough Brits to protest his planned visit such that it gets cancelled. Meanwhile, those who have actively and gleefully taken part in some of the most evil savagery the world has seen in quite some time will be allowed to enter the UK permanently and avail themselves of goods and services funded by the ordinary taxpayer.

I don’t know if those protesting Trump are the same people happy to give jihadists council houses as part of their “reintegration” into a society they were never part of, but I am certain that there is a large overlap. Whoever they are, this cohort seems to be doing a good job of setting the agenda as far as media and politics go. This in turn raises the following question: are these people acting with a sizeable backing of the British population?

If not, and they keep going in this direction, eventually they’ll end up hanging from lamposts with their flesh carved off.

If they are, and the British people are actually on-board with this, then the country is absolutely, well and truly, down-the-road fucked.

Either way, this will not end well.

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A Shambolic Study of Unpaid Work

Via Twitter I came across this report which attempts to tell us that women actually do more work than men:

Across all world regions, women spend more time on unpaid care work than men. On average, women spend between three and six hours on unpaid care work per day, while men spend between half an hour and two hours. If we consider the sum of paid and unpaid work, women tend to work more than men – on average, 2.6 extra hours per week across the OECD.

Women spend more time on unpaid care work than men. Okay, but what about other sorts of unpaid work? You know, stuff like mowing lawns, clearing gutters, painting sheds, unblocking drains, changing car batteries, assembling wardrobes, replacing loose slates, bleeding radiators? Or does the report only take into account care work when looking at unpaid work? Indeed it does. All that unpaid work done by men just gets ignored (incidentally, I raised this with the author on Twitter, and got no reply.)

It is therefore not surprising that the factors driving change in female labor supply – whether they are improvements in maternal health, reductions in the number of children, childcare provision, or gains in household technology – all affect unpaid care work. Because time allocation is gendered in this way, female participation in labor markets tends to increase when the time-cost of unpaid care work is reduced, shared equally with men, and/or made more compatible with market work.

So changes in technology, healthcare, and societal expectations have changed in ways that primarily benefit women, and they’ve used the spare time to go off and work. Yet somehow they’re still crushed under the patriarchal yoke.

With this said, an obvious question remains: why do women perform a disproportionate amount of unpaid care work in the first place?

Why do men spend a disproportionate amount of time doing unpaid maintenance work on the family home?

As we discuss below, although time-use should be a choice, evidence shows that social norms play a large part in determining gender roles and consequently, gendered time-use.

Men and women split the household tasks between them, each taking those they’re best at? Who knew?

In 1890, only 24% of US households had running water. In 1900, 98% of households in the US washed their clothes using a scrubboard and water heated on a wood or coal-burning stove. It is not hard to see then why in 1900, the average American household spent 58 hours per week on housework. By 1975, that figure had declined to 18. Progress in labor-saving consumer durables in the household has thus been another factor contributing to the rise in female labor force participation, especially in early-industrialized countries. Of course, this is feasible especially because women – both in 1900 and now – take on a disproportionate amount of unpaid domestic work.

Greenwood et al. (2005) present evidence for this by calibrating a quantitative economic model to show that the consumer goods revolution – which, as we can see in the chart below introduced washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and other time-saving products – can help explain the rise in married female labor force participation in the US.

So basically, women’s lives got one hell of a lot easier thanks to technological improvements. Rather than sitting back and enjoying their free time as any man would have done, they demanded to join men in the labour force. That’s fine, I have no problem with that: why shouldn’t women have careers? What I don’t understand is why they are now complaining about doing more work than men.

Some argue that there is a “natural” distribution of gender roles, with women being better suited to domestic and child-rearing responsibility and men to working outside of the home. Such assertions lack compelling evidence and more importantly, perpetuate a status quo that limits the choices available to both men and women.

Several thousand years of observing how household tasks are divvied up voluntarily between couples doesn’t constitute compelling evidence, I suppose. Or do these people think the man of the house orders his wife to feed the kid while he fixes the hole in the roof against against her will?

Instead, it is known that social norms and culture influence the way we see the world and our role in it. To this end, there is little doubt that the gender roles assigned to men and women are in no small part socially constructed.

Well, yes. Society being the result of humans interacting with each other over centuries or millenia, this is hardly surprising. A study of human behaviour which ignores societal norms and culture is of questionable value.

And while it is possible that socially-assigned gender roles emerged in the distant past, our recent and even current practices show that these roles persist with the help of institutional enforcement.

Presumably the millions of men and women in happy, cooperative partnerships are all under the influence of this “institutional enforcement”.

Social norms and culture are clearly important determinants of female labor force participation. So how can social norms be changed?

So western women, having suddenly found themselves with an abundance of free time, joined the labour force to work alongside men. If we take into account the unpaid care work women do at home, and ignore all the unpaid work men do, women work slightly more than men. Therefore we must change society.

In the context of ‘private’ family life, social norms across the world have long dictated that women should perform unpaid care work – taking care of children and elderly parents, making meals, doing laundry, maintaining family relations – while men engage in market work.

I’m beginning to see where the idiots who dreamed up this homework got their ideas from.

Rather, the hope is that with sustained social change, neither women nor men will be obliged to make decisions about time allocation on the basis of their sex.

Only when we have reshaped society will men and women be able to do the household tasks they want to.

If this is what passes for research at Oxford University these days, they might as well merge with the old poly.

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More in Trump’s Twitter Trolling

Polkamatic makes the following comment under my post on Trump’s Twitter trolling:

So the POTUS sees trolling the media as an appropriate activity for a sitting POTUS. Maybe even his top priority, by the looks of it. And by reporting on this bizarre state of affairs, the MSM is somehow wasting its time and money, because there’s nothing the viewing public is less interested in seeing than a tawdry spectacle.

This deserves a proper response. Let me take this part first:

So the POTUS sees trolling the media as an appropriate activity for a sitting POTUS. Maybe even his top priority, by the looks of it.

This is obviously true: Trump seems to spend as much time trolling the media as he does anything else. Is this appropriate for an American president? Personally I don’t think it is, but then I also believe it’s a moot point.

If Americans wanted a president who acts in a presidential manner, then they ought to have left the door open for such a candidate to step forward and get themselves elected. Instead, the media and political establishment decided they would back the Democratic candidate regardless and carry out a complete and utter character assassination of the Republican candidate. I remember when Mitt Romney ran against Barack Obama: he was called a Nazi, a religious fundamentalist, a misogynist, and a tax-evader. He then spent the entire campaign mumbling apologies, explaining himself, and reacting to every media revelation his political opponents aired. Sure enough, he lost by a mile. Had Jeb Bush won the Republican nomination in 2016, the same thing would have happened to him and we’d now be listening to President Clinton screech at us from our TV screens.

I’ve said it many times on these pages, Trump is a symptom of the malaise in American politics, not the cause of it. The reason you have an egotistical asshole in the White House is because the media and political establishment made it impossible for any decent non-Democrat to win a presidential election. Any Republican candidate who would have behaved in a presidential manner in office would never have got close to the White House, he’d have been destroyed by the media using every dirty trick in the book to bring him down. This didn’t work on Trump because he simply didn’t care, had his own money, owed nobody anything, and refused to apologise.

My post was simply to point out that Trump figured out the media’s role in American politics and rather than reacting to every story they put out about him, he plays the tune while they dance. And let’s be honest here: if he wasn’t doing this, and he had settled into the role and was doing his level best to do his job in a highly professional manner, the media would still be pumping out one anti-Trump hatchet-job after another, wailing about Russia and calling for his impeachment. Anyone who thinks the media, political establishment, and Democrat supporters would allow a Republican president to quietly get on with the job at hand is absolutely deluded.

And by reporting on this bizarre state of affairs, the MSM is somehow wasting its time and money, because there’s nothing the viewing public is less interested in seeing than a tawdry spectacle.

As I said in the original post, the people screaming about Trump are preaching to the choir. Part of the reason Trump was able to shrug off the media attacks during the election campaign was because millions of Americans had come to believe they are interested only in political campaigning and are hence highly selective about the stories they choose to cover. The diminished influence of the MSM was laid bare when, against all their dreams and predictions, Trump won and Hillary lost. If there was ever a time for self-reflection and recalibration, that was it. Instead, they’ve just trebled-down on the hysteria and hammered the point home they’re partisan hacks with no interest in reporting objective truth.

Is the public interested in a tawdry spectacle? Well, it certainly provides plenty of Twitter-fodder but the likes of the NYT, WaPo, BBC, and CNN are not tabloids: I am sure most Americans would prefer it if they started reporting the news properly instead of pasting up headlines regarding who said what about Trump on Twitter. Now maybe the MSM is enjoying healthy profits by pursuing this approach, but my bet is they’re losing money hand over fist.

On another note, I don’t think Trump’s method of communication is part of some overall grand strategy, I think he’s just doing what comes naturally to him. But regardless of why he’s doing it, the effects are substantial. I don’t know why he retweeted the videos that Britain First put up but it caused all manner of journalists, celebrities, and politicians to vent their outrage at what they see as his endorsement of a racist party. This has had the knock-on effect of:

1. Highlighting the rank hypocrisy among Britain’s political and media establishments. Jeremy Corbyn is a long-standing supporter of the IRA and Hamas, anti-semitism is rife across the British left, people with blood up to their elbows are welcomed with open arms, yet Trump retweeting a video from Britain First is deemed beyond the pale.

2. Exposing who is thinking what in Britain’s supposedly Conservative political circles. I wouldn’t expect any Conservatives to endorse Trump, but if they’re queuing up behind Labour politicians and left-wing media loudmouths in calling him “racist” and “not welcome in Britain” and “irresponsible” then they’re doing everyone a big favour. I suspect much of the British public couldn’t care less about Trump’s tweets and when they hear he’s posted something on a subject their own political classes refuse to address, they’re probably quite glad. I haven’t seen the videos in question (I generally find this sort of thing on Twitter to be presented in a wholly misleading context), but if the political classes think Trump tweeting videos of Muslims allegedly being violent and murderous is something that will horrify the public, they’ve not been paying attention.

3. It is now confirmed that retweeting does indeed equate to endorsing. Expect the trolls to have some fun with this over the next few weeks.

Trump’s tweets are often filled with infantile posturing, but the reaction to them is stuff that will fascinate historians and social anthropologists for years to come.

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Trump’s Twitter Trolling

North Korea is lobbing missiles around again and the hapless Theresa May is shipping billions of pounds over to Europe in the hope they’ll make her life a bit easier next month, but here’s the BBC’s lead story:

It’s reached the stage that I think Trump is simply trolling. The outrage machine is still going full blast more than a year since his election, but there he is, still sitting pretty as president. He knows that by simply clicking a few buttons on his iPhone he can send the world’s media – who hate him anyway – into one meltdown after another, giving them no time to catch their breath in between. Historians are going to look back on this and recognise it as masterful media manipulation; he really is playing with them like a cat does a mouse.

What really gets me is the disparity of effort. Master trolls don’t hang around writing screeds online, their role is to throw petrol on a fire and walk away, leaving everyone else to waste days or weeks fighting each other. In Trump’s case, he can tie up tens of thousands of his enemies’ manhours and get them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars simply by retweeting a video, an action which takes less than a second. This must be costing the media companies an absolute fortune, and for what? The BBC won’t care because they extort money from the British population, but for the rest who rely on selling copy or getting eyes on screen, Trump’s making them dig their own graves. For all the million articles and interviews decrying Trump, nobody’s much changed their minds about the man: all they’re doing is preaching to the choir. They desperately need to start covering stories professionally and recapturing their lost audiences in order to survive, but instead they’re stuck with this blinding obsession. How none of the shareholders or executives realise this is incredible.

Trump is unlikely to leave office remembered as a great president or even as a good politician, and I suspect his legislative changes won’t even amount to much. But I think there’s no doubt he will be remembered for the manner in which he completely outflanked a hostile media and led them straight over a cliff. For all his other faults, Trump is probably the first major political figure to really understand the power of social media. Twitter should give him a seat on the board when his time in office is up.

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Workplace Romance

Over what could loosely be described as my professional career I have encountered the following situations (European also includes Britain):

1. A lead engineer in a giant European company reporting directly to his long-term partner, who was in a very senior position.

2. An HR manager in a smallish European/American/Russian JV reporting directly to her husband, who was the company General Director. When an employee had a serious row with her over his terms and conditions, it was escalated to her husband for arbitration.

3. A lead engineer in a giant European company reporting directly to her husband, who was in a reasonably senior position.

4. A woman working in a giant European company who was tasked with managing a subcontractor on behalf of her husband, who was the actual contract holder. Any disputes between the subcontractor and her would be escalated to her husband to resolve.

5. A very senior site manager working overseas for a giant European company got his (local) secretary pregnant. He sent his family back home and moved his new mistress into his company-provided house. His boss couldn’t complain too much because he’d done much the same thing several years earlier.

6. A lead engineer working in a large European company embarked on a relationship with one of his trainee engineers, who was about 30 years his junior.

All of the above situations were not only allowed to continue, but some were even known at the outset. The excuse given was that the company had to find positions for both partners and this was difficult at the best of times. Others didn’t want to lose an experienced staff member, so turned a blind eye.

By contrast, I once met a man working for ExxonMobil who managed a team of translators and began a relationship with one of his direct reports. They declared the relationship in short order and they were told one of them would have to resign. The woman got a job elsewhere, they married, and had kids.

It is perhaps significant that all of these happened outside the country where the respective companies were based. Whether this is also permitted in their HQ I don’t know. What this taught me is that a lot of management is simply individuals doing whatever is most convenient to them at the time, principles and ethics be damned. The Americans seem to be a little more professional in this regard, and I don’t think it comes as a surprise that the sole exception came from ExxonMobil.

For my part, I was told early in my career never to “poke the payroll”. It was good advice.

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Has one done one’s due diligence?

So Prince Harry intends to marry an actress from a television drama, eh? Somehow I get the impression that this is rather apt, because this has every chance of becoming a reality TV show in short order.

Here’s the piece of Meghan Markle’s biography I find most interesting:

Markle was in a relationship with actor and producer Trevor Engelson from 2004 until 2011. They married on September 10, 2011, and divorced in August 2013.

So we can assume that Markle has a good working relationship with a divorce lawyer she keeps on speed-dial. Being an American celebrity, this is hardly surprising. Looking at those dates, she was in a seven-year relationship before she got married aged 30, and threw in the towel two years later. This is not a good sign, although to be fair with a background like that she’s joining the right family.

I really hope that Harry has done his due-diligence here. At the very least, he ought to have gone for a quiet beer with this Engelson chap and got the straight skinny from him. The last thing he wants to do is listen to Meghan’s version of how the relationship broke down. In my experience, divorced women talk about their ex-husbands as if they were sacrificing children on the living room floor every night. The men are equally bitter, but their anger is normally directed towards the divorce proceedings and her behaviour during this period rather than her conduct during the marriage itself.

I met a woman once who claimed over and over that her marriage failed solely because her husband was a lying alcoholic who mistreated her. But the more I learned, the more I got the impression a portion of the blame lay with her. When I put this to her she went mental, and shouted at me for suggesting she “deserved” her ill-treatment. The idea that she ought take some responsibility for her predicament was met with apoplectic anger.

Later, just out of curiosity, I dropped the ex-husband an email. He was surprisingly receptive and gave me a brief overview of their marriage. He said there was blame on both sides, and admitted fault on his own part. Without any prompting he then described his ex-wife’s behaviour which by then was all-too familiar to me. In fact, he had her down to a T. He said she’d started slandering his name about town as soon as the divorce was initiated, and he was disappointed to hear that she was still doing it. For his part, he said he’d moved on, made peace with himself, and put the whole episode behind him.

Now he could have been bullshitting. But if you have a guy saying there was blame on  both sides and admitting to fault on his part, and saying it’s water under the bridge and he’s moved on; and a woman saying it was 100% his fault and continuing, years later, to portray him as a monster and flying into a rage at the mere suggestion she takes at least some responsibility, who do you believe?

Yeah, me too. If Harry or one of his mates hasn’t sat down with this Engelson fellow and got his view on why and how the marriage fell apart, I fear Meghan’s plan to quit being a star in a TV drama may remain unrealised.

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The Border with Ireland

There are a few things I don’t understand about the whole issue of Brexit and the border with Ireland.

Firstly, Ireland is not in the Schengen area and there has been free movement between the UK and Ireland since 1922 as part of the Common Travel Area. If this were to continue (or be resurrected), it would mean all EU citizens could enter the UK via NI without being subject to passport control, but non-EU citizens or visitors wouldn’t be able to, as Ireland isn’t in the Schengen area. Is there any likelihood of Britain being flooded with EU citizens via Northern Ireland in the absence of a hard border? I’d say this is highly unlikely, and if it turns out that tens of thousands of Romanians or French are pouring into Strabane and later taking the ferry to Anglesey, we can probably cross that bridge when we come to it.

Which leaves the main problem being that of customs. Switzerland is in the Schengen area but not in the customs union. That’s why if you drive from Annecy to Geneva you pass through a customs post with bollards, chicanes, and an absence of anyone manning it. I’ve been pulled over once and I when I explained I was going to Switzerland solely to change the PIN number on my Credit Suisse ATM card, the man’s face looked more confused than if I’d told him I was smuggling cuckoo clocks. If this is what a hard border between the customs union and a neighbouring country looks like, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

Actually, I do. The EU is worried that goods might pass between Britain and the EU via NI without being subject to the tariffs they wish to put in their way. I don’t think anyone in Britain is particularly worried about EU goods being smuggled into Britain and avoiding British tariffs. At least anyone sensible. The EU therefore want a hard border to prevent this, but they don’t want to be seen as imposing it because that would seriously piss off the Irish on the south side. So, from what I can tell, the EU is demanding the British put in a hard border to keep the two customs regimes separate and making out it is a British obligation as a result of Brexit. The advantage in this is that it would make the Brits extremely unpopular, and the whipped-up anger from rent-a-gobs in Ireland can be used to bash Brexiteers over the head.

Which leaves me wondering why the British government doesn’t simply say:

“We have no interest in a hard border, but we may put a few cursory customs posts on our side if we feel like it. If the Irish or EU want a hard border and to control everything that goes in or out, they are free to put one in place – on their side of the line.”

Am I missing something here? Or is the reason we are not saying this simply that Theresa May is blitheringly stupid and incompetent? That I could well believe.

Also, I don’t think waving the Good Friday agreement around is a sensible tactic. Firstly, the British public were not informed that signing the Good Friday agreement meant the UK could never leave the EU; had they been, it would never have been passed. Secondly, there are probably a good few Brits – especially among those who voted Leave – who might want to scrap the Good Friday agreement and immediately move to prosecute the likes of Gerry Adams and others who have blood on their hands. This is particularly true while former British soldiers are still being hauled in front of courts for their conduct forty years ago. The more attention is drawn to the Good Friday agreement, the more Brits might be inclined to revisit it – particularly if it is being held up as a blocking point to leaving the EU.

And let’s be honest, for all the squawking about the Good Friday agreement, that ship has sailed. Terrorism is a lot less fun these days – the perpetrators tend to get killed outright – and the Americans are strangely less inclined to fund the murder of civilians since 9/11. The main players who were making the bombs and laying the traps for the British during The Troubles are well past retirement age now, and won’t have much stomach for returning to the field against an opponent which is a lot more technically savvy than they are. Is there a new generation of nationalist youngsters ready to dig up the arms caches and start fighting the British over an EU-imposed hard border between NI and Eire? I highly doubt it.

It’s high time the British called their bluff and closed this issue out: border or no-border, this is an Irish/EU problem and we don’t care either way.

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