Russian ship sinking: it’s all relative

Not the Russian navy’s finest hour:

A Russian naval intelligence ship sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast on Thursday after colliding with a vessel carrying livestock and all 78 personnel on board the navy ship were evacuated, Turkish officials said.

The rescued crew members of the Russian ship Liman were in good health after the collision with the Togo-flagged Youzarsif H, Turkey’s Transport Minister Ahmed Arslan said.

The incident took place in fog and low visibility 18 miles (29 km) from Kilyos village on the Black Sea coast just north of Istanbul.

A spokesman for Hammami Livestock which owns the Youzarsif H said there had been no loss of life on board the vessel. “It is considered a slight hit, for us,” he told Reuters in Lebanon, adding he had no information about the cause of the collision.

So, a lot of Russian surveillance equipment lost but no cows. I refer to this article as an excuse to cite my favorite story regarding the Russian navy: the Dogger Bank Incident.

The Dogger Bank incident (also known as the North Sea Incident, the Russian Outrage or the Incident of Hull) occurred on the night of 21/22 October 1904, when the Russian Baltic Fleet mistook a British trawler fleet from Kingston upon Hull in the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea for an Imperial Japanese Navy force and fired on them. Russian warships also fired on each other in the chaos of the melée. Three British fishermen died and a number were wounded. One sailor and a priest aboard a Russian cruiser caught in the crossfire were also killed. The incident almost led to war between Britain and Russia.

Why the hell would the Russians think a British trawler in the North Sea was a Japanese warship? Because:

The Russian warships involved in the incident were en route to the Far East, to reinforce the 1st Pacific Squadron stationed at Port Arthur, and later Vladivostok, during the Russo-Japanese War. Because of the fleet’s alleged sightings of balloons and four enemy cruisers the day previously, coupled with “the possibility that the Japanese might surreptitiously have sent ships around the world to attack” them, the Russian admiral, Zinovy Rozhestvensky, called for increased vigilance, issuing an order that “no vessel of any sort must be allowed to get in among the fleet”, and to prepare to open fire upon any vessels failing to identify themselves. With ample reports about the presence of Japanese torpedo boats, submarines and minefields in the North Sea, and the general nervousness of the Russian sailors, 48 harmless fishing vessels were attacked by the Russians, thousands of miles away from enemy waters.

As military blunders go, this one is hard to beat. As The Times said the next day:

“It is almost inconceivable that any men calling themselves seamen, however frightened they might be, could spend twenty minutes bombarding a fleet of fishing boats without discovering the nature of their target.”

Hitting a boatload of cattle in fog off Turkey seems almost professional by comparison.

On whose side are the British Police?

My walk to the office each morning takes me through a gigantic pedestrianised concourse with a police station located smack in the middle of it. This means that police cars often have to enter the concourse area and navigate their way through crowds of pedestrians.

This morning I saw a fully-marked police car (without its lights flashing) trying to enter the concourse and into a line of commuters. They weren’t having an easy time of it because nobody was really willing to move aside, and if they did it was a couple of feet at the most. The police car had to inch forward and wait every few metres for a pedestrian to walk past; nobody was particularly interested in cooperating to give the men in uniform an easier life. If one were to look at who had the power in that situation, the conclusion would be that it lay with the pedestrians. The ordinary people, in other words. I thought it interesting that the policemen didn’t resort to using their lights or sirens or even trying to push through aggressively. They looked a bit annoyed, but they didn’t make any moves to insist the pedestrians change their behaviour any more than necessary.

If the same scenario were to take place in the UK, the public would be a lot more helpful. They’d leap out of the way in their attempts to show the police they are cooperating, mainly out of pure public-spiritedness. I’ve written before about this difference:

Growing up in Britain you are sort of taught that policemen are nice people who are there to help. Terms like “citizens in uniform” and “friendly neighbourhood policeman” are bandied about, and this mindset appears in the British culture in shows like Dixon of Dock Green and the Noddy series of books where Noddy invites the policeman into his house for a cup of tea. As far as I can tell, British citizens still view the police as people to be trusted, approached for help, and to cooperate with at all times.

This contrasts sharply with places…such as France for example. Here people think the gendarmes and other police forces are there to catch criminals and keep the piece, but are to be avoided wherever possible. They are not your friend, you don’t ask them the time or for directions, and nor do you invite them into your home for a cup of tea. You hope to go through life with a minimum of contact with them, and any other uniformed authority.

But what’s more interesting is how the British police would have behaved had the citizens not cooperated by flinging themselves into bushes and ditches to get out of their way. They would almost certainly have used the sirens, causing people to jump out of their skin. They’d have turned the lights on implying there was an emergency when none existed. And they’d have wound down the windows and threatened people, and if one or two were not sufficiently cowed they’d have jumped out and quite possibly tasered and arrested him. As I discussed in my earlier post, the British police are quick to use intimidation and force against people who they are reasonably sure will not fight back, i.e. proper criminals.

Of course this is speculation, and maybe this wouldn’t happen at all. So let’s take an example of what the British police actually do. I sat down this morning expecting to use this example in which the police see motorists as a handy revenue stream, but opening Twitter I saw this:

(In case you can’t see the picture, a screen-grab is here.)

This comes from those who police a city where:

Daylight stabbings of schoolchildren have become “part of the workload” for London’s Air Ambulance medics, they revealed today.

The service is now treating almost as many shooting and stabbing victims as people seriously hurt in road crashes, with open-heart surgery on knife victims performed in the street on an almost weekly basis.

This morning I read this:

Detectives in Greenwich Borough are appealing for witnesses and information following a stabbing in Plumstead.

Officers and the London Ambulance Service attended and found an 18-year-old man suffering stab wounds. He was taken to a south London hospital his injuries are being treated as life threatening.

DC Andrew Payne, the officer in the case, said:

“This attack happened in broad daylight, in a busy street and I am appealing for anyone who saw anything, or who knows anything, about the attack to contact me.”

And this:

A man has been found stabbed to death on a bus in central London.

Police said the man, aged in his 40s, was found fatally wounded on the 189 bus in Gloucester Place, near Dorset Square, at about 00:10 BST.

And last week I saw this video of events which took place in Hackney:

As I said before:

If the police in Britain … want to remain relevant, they had better make up their minds whose side they are on and inform the law-abiding masses of their decision, preferably via demonstration rather than empty speeches.

At the rate they’re going, the British police are going to be awfully surprised when one day in the near future they are called upon to restore law and order find the population treating them very much as part of the problem.

The French police might not be liked and respected, but at least they are confident the people they serve know whose side they’re on.

The NHS Litigation Fund

I used to enjoy the blog of Anna Raccoon, and I wish her all the best with her ongoing illness (she has cancer), but I believe the fight she is currently waging on behalf of the NHS is wrong. She recently had an article in The Times:

A woman dying of cancer has started a campaign to curb the compensation culture in the NHS despite suffering two cases of medical negligence herself.

NHS Resolution (formerly known as the NHS Litigation Authority) estimates that £56bn could be needed to deal with all cases arising from failures and mistakes made up to March 2016.

She is currently running a campaign on Twitter to prevent people from suing the NHS and “free up” that £56bn to cover ongoing expenses:

Her arguments seem to be that the NHS will take care of anyone who they damage anyway, so no monetary compensation is necessary; that years ago nobody thought of suing the NHS and so there is no need to allow it now; and this pot of money, if freed up for general expenditure, would reduce the chances of mistakes being made in the first place.

None of these is convincing, at least to me. I assume that the NHS is self-insured, meaning it must pay compensation and other legals costs themselves rather than taking out an insurance policy. I don’t know where the £56bn figure comes from but I will further assume that is calculated using actuarial data and is of a size commensurate with the volume of litigation and size of compensation payouts expected. Little wonder they are self-insured, then: no insurance company would touch them.

I pointed out in my conversation with Anna Raccoon that requiring organisations and individuals to either take out liability insurance (or set aside funds if self-insured) is absolutely standard pretty much everywhere: what the NHS is doing is hardly unusual, but because it’s the state religion we’re talking about here, people think exceptions should be made. She made the quite reasonable comment that this £56bn could be better spent elsewhere, but I responded by saying that anyone who has to pay insurance premiums of any kind would think the same thing. I’m sure I could find better uses for my car insurance premiums, for example, but there are good reasons why the law requires me to have it before I take to the road.

There is also the issue that if freed up, this £56bn would be swallowed up in an instant, probably on increased salaries, and when the time came to pay somebody compensation the NHS would not have any spare cash. Ring-fencing it for compensation claims is probably a very sensible idea. The suggestion that nobody should be allowed to sue the NHS is also one I don’t like much. Whereas I believe the litigation culture imported from the US has gotten out of control and needs to be curbed, particularly in relation to silly multi-billion pound awards resulting from class-action suits, being able to sue a government organisation for damages caused through incompetence or negligence is a fundamental right in a civilised country. But given we’re talking about a Soviet-style public service here, a lot of people think the people forced to use it should enjoy a Soviet-style right of recourse. Где книга жалоб?

I am also skeptical of the idea that the NHS can provide all the care it needs to a victim of negligence, something Anna and her supporters insist it can do. They believe if somebody loses an arm in a botched operation, it is enough that the NHS provides all the necessary care thereafter. Even assuming they can and they will – a big assumption – what if the negligence results in a loss that doesn’t need NHS services to resolve? The example I’m thinking of is a woman losing her child giving birth. She doesn’t need any special care afterwards, except perhaps some counselling. But is she not entitled to monetary compensation? From what I can gather, some people think she should just suck it up.

When I mentioned the fact that the NHS’ idea of what constitutes “all the care necessary” after a foul-up might differ from what the patient thinks, and the responses really got to the heart of why it is so impossible to reform the British healthcare system. Basically, most people believe individual patient choice is secondary to the greater good, and they do so because in their personal experience the NHS has been satisfactory. They think that because their personal experience was fine, everybody else should reach the same conclusion. There is no contemplation of the fact that other people’s experiences may differ, let alone that they might have a different opinion on the same experience.

The problem with the NHS isn’t that it is universally shit, because it isn’t. I know enough people who have used it who tell me how wonderful their experience was, and Anna Raccoon is currently singing the praises of those treating her. The problem is that things do go wrong and people are treated appallingly with alarming regularity but there is almost no meaningful recourse and no feedback mechanism to ensure things improve. The way the NHS is set up means there is no incentive to pick up on the failings and eliminate them, and being able to sue is one of the few avenues open to a victim of negligence or incompetence.

If the NHS is finding too much of its budget going to the victims of negligence or incompetence, they should find ways of reducing the instances of negligence and incompetence rather than preventing the victims from suing and forcing them to accept “compensation” in a form of the organisation’s own choosing. If it were not the hallowed NHS we were talking about, the conversation wouldn’t even be taking place.

Bravery in the Face of Safety

From the BBC:

A viral photo of a woman smiling at an English Defence League (EDL) protester in Birmingham was snapped after she stepped in to defend a “fellow Brummie”, she has told the BBC.

The image of Saffiyah Khan has been shared thousands of times since it was taken at Saturday’s demonstration.

Ms Khan, from Birmingham, said she had intervened when she saw another woman surrounded by about 25 men.

Ms Khan, who was born in the UK and is half-Pakistani, half-Bosnian, said she “wasn’t intimidated in the slightest”.

I’m not surprised she wasn’t intimidated. Why would she be? The EDL might occupy the knuckle-dragging end of the political right but they don’t go in for beating people up at protests, let alone young women. One might be able to imagine circumstances where confronting a bunch of protesters would be intimidating, but going up against of middle-aged white men in Britain? Nah. Never in a million years was she going to come to harm, and she knew it.

She added: “He put his finger in my face. It was very aggressive. A police officer was there and the man took his finger out of my face. I wouldn’t have responded violently.”

Had the circumstances been slightly different she’d have found herself arrested for breaching the peace.

The picture was shared by, among others, Piers Morgan, who called it “photo of the week”, and Birmingham Labour MP Jess Phillips.

People need their heroines, I suppose.

The Baltic States and Brexit

Sometime last year I got into a rather heated exchange with a Latvian lady on the subject of Brexit. I think she’d done what I described here: raise a subject on which it was a near certainty I’d agree with her, only I didn’t. She seemed to think that those who voted to Leave were completely idiotic and that a matter of such importance should not have been put to a popular vote; she thought such issues are too complex for ordinary people to understand and that is why we elect representatives to handle such matters on our behalf.

It is not an unusual view to hold, but what interested me was that it came from a Latvian. Had this conversation not come at me so quickly I might have asked her whether Latvian independence from the Soviet Union ought not to have been decided at the discretion of the representatives of the Latvian SSR and their masters in the Supreme Soviet back in Moscow. After all, the issue of Latvian independence from the USSR was no less complicated and fraught with potential pitfalls than Britain exiting the European Union, so perhaps it would have been better to leave it up to the representatives of the people rather than the people themselves? Okay, there is the issue that the Latvian people’s representatives were not elected, but then nor were those demanding independence.

I couldn’t help but be a little cheesed off that somebody, whose own people demanded independence from a supranational political system they didn’t want and never asked for, and who personally enjoys the benefits of that independence, would be so critical about British people wanting similar independence (as they see it).

What makes this interesting is that the Baltic States aren’t quite out of the woods yet. They are fully paid-up members of the EU, having received enormous funding to get their infrastructure and institutions up to scratch – with quite some success, I would add. However, they all share concerns that Russia might have designs on some or all of their territory and after the seizure of Crimea and the abysmal attempt to do the same with Eastern Ukraine, people are wondering whether Putin & Co aren’t trying to restablish their Soviet spheres of control. If that is the case, the Baltic states aren’t going to get very far asking the EU for help: the Germans would sell them down the river if it means Siemens didn’t lose its operating license in Russia, and the French probably don’t even know the Baltics are part of the EU. The Poles would make a lot of noise but not be able to do much about it; the Netherlands was unable to raise as much as a squeak when the Russian military shot down a plane full of Dutch citizens; and everyone else is flat broke or has an army that could carry out manoeuvres in a pub car park, including armour.

In other words, the Baltic states are completely reliant on Nato to keep the Russians out, which in this case means the United States. However, in diplomatic terms (and probably  a token military one as well) it also means the Brits. If we can imagine a scenario in a few years time when the Russians are massing tanks and troops on the borders of Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania on some pretext and revving the engines noisily, Britain will be one of the countries they will be pleading with to intervene (meaning, persuade the United States to intervene). How Britain responds ought very much to depend on how the Baltic states behaved during the Brexit negotiations.

It is a given that these countries are minnows in the EU and will be desperate not to rock any boats, but nevertheless the future threat from Russia might focus their minds a bit, particularly on the issue of sovereignty and independence. If the Baltic states decide to vote in favour of hardball tactics designed to punish Britain’s insolence for voting to leave, many Brits – including this one – may be forgiven for thinking independence and self-rule aren’t really important to the Baltic peoples after all. So if Putin does come a-knocking one day, don’t look at us for help: you’re on your own.

Whereas if they vote down any attempt to punish Britain, and make certain gestures towards recognising Britain’s right to withdraw and govern themselves from now on, then they will be demonstrating that these are principles that they do still hold dear themselves, and perhaps they are worth putting ourselves in harms way for.

In short, I think the behaviour of the Baltic States during the Brexit negotiations will be interesting and worth watching closely. If I were Theresa May I’d be reminding the respective leaders of their Soviet past and the Russian army nearby, and having a quiet chat about the principles of democracy, freedom, and sovereignty. Or, to save the busy woman’s time, she could just send each of them a link to this post and they could let us know their stance in the comments.

The Ones Who Flee: British Edition

Once again the BBC trawls around for folk quitting a country over the political preferences of its population. Last time it was Americans running from the Trumpocaust, only their examples left much to be desired. This time it’s Europeans fleeing Brexit:

Katarina Karmazinova came to London aged 24 to study European business. Attracted, she says, by the UK’s multiculturalism and openness, the Slovakian native chose the Royal Holloway University for her master’s degree. After graduating, she decided to stay and work – she even bought a flat. But when the UK voted to leave the European Union in June last year, Karmazinova sold her flat, quit her job, and left the country. She has been travelling and writing since.


“It made me sad that the UK, that advanced life I’ve always praised in Slovakia as an example politically and culturally, had now a crack,” says Karmazinova, who was in the UK for eight years. “Suddenly, half of the country showed a different face to me.”

Just like that, eh? Britain voted to leave and you quit your job and sold your flat in order to travel around and write. I don’t think we’re being told the whole story here. I assume she’s single, or at least childless: decisions like this tend not to be very compatible with a family life or a steady relationship. If I were to be cruel, and I will, I’d say she done quite well professionally earning enough to buy a property in London, but she’s reached middle age and found her life an otherwise complete, empty mess. Selling up to go travelling and writing is not a rational response to Brexit, and has midlife crisis written all over it.

For Karmazinova, it is the spirit of Brexit that is making her want to leave.

Whatever helps you get through the day, I suppose.

Some are simply considering leaving and waiting it out for now. Others have already left, returning home, going somewhere else within the EU, or decamping to a different continent altogether.

Have they? Or were they going anyway, like half of those in your Trump article?

If limits are placed on who can get work, Jeanne Batalova, senior policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC, says people will start to pack up and leave.

But will they pack up and leave before such limits have been imposed, based on pure speculation? Unlikely. Perhaps this is why the BBC went to discuss it with some Americans instead of Brits and Europeans.

After getting over the “shock” of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, 33-year-old Marcin Czyza got the idea for an online recruitment firm to help people.

So Czyza launched in November. Registrants can fill out profiles and answer questions about where they would like to relocate. Within a few months, interest in the site took off. There are more than 1,200 registered candidates.

1,200 people registering in a few months? It’s hardly a stampede, is it? And bear in mind that the site itself has no content whatsoever unless you register, except for this garbage:

High costs of living? Far away from family and friends? Unfriendly atmosphere? Does this sound familiar? If the only reason for you to stay in the United Kingdom is your job, we have the perfect solution for you. Just register on our website, create your profile and indicate where you would like to work. It doesn’t matter if it is your home town or an exotic destination where you were always dreaming of living. Our job is to contact all potential employers at the location of your choice. Just give yourself a chance !

Expatexit is a natural response to the recent events which took place in the UK. It is a solution for all people who do not want to be excluded from the European and International Business and who understand that there is no need to wait until the UK begins to suffer from its new policy. We truly believe that everybody has his or her dream destination and we want to help you to get there.

I wonder how many people he’s actually helped move. I wonder why the BBC didn’t ask. Or perhaps they did, and elected to cite the number of people registering instead.

“I served the first candidates with some contacts to recruiters and human resources departments,” says Czyza.

Wow, you can just feel the value being added!

Now, he says, it is hard to keep up with all of the interest in the site, and he has started working with a number of companies in industries like finance and IT that are looking to hire people away from the UK.

How. Many. Have. Actually. Left. Question. Mark.

The UK’s not alone. In the US, interest in leaving the country rose after Donald Trump won the presidency.

Oh yes, we all remember that one.

In both countries, says Batalova, anti-immigration policies could deter immigrants, and lower immigration could have a major effect on certain industries, such as agriculture, hospitality, retail and medicine.

So could higher immigration. Which is part of the problem, of course.

“Yes, these industries will adjust over time. But they will experience a short-term shock,” she says. “You can’t train a doctor, a physicist, a nurse, or an engineer overnight.”

No, which is why we poach them from the third-world in the first place. Again, this is part of the problem.

When Dariusz Truchel emigrated to Britain from Poland in 2005, he did so with the idea that he would find “better job possibilities”. Once settled outside of London, he worked as a project manager and took a number of health and safety courses, eventually setting up his own health and safety consultancy. Truchel even bought a house.

Sounds as though he’s done quite well in Britain.

But after Brexit, Truchel, 34, began feeling pessimistic about the future. He began noticing a new attitude among people who had voted to separate from the EU.

“It is hard to describe this atmosphere because nobody dares to say it to your face, but there is a feeling of being an uninvited guest,” he says.

He knows who voted Leave, but nobody will dare say anything to his face.

He registered on Expat Exit and is now seriously considering leaving the UK.

Despite having bought a house and on the basis of a new attitude which he can’t describe and remains unsaid? He should have given Expat Exit a miss and registered on Tinder where he could meet Katarina Karmazinova: the two sound perfect for one another.

He would like to resettle back in Poland or southern Europe…

Only there’s no work.

…but is also considering Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, since German-speaking countries “attract more business,” he says.

Switzerland isn’t in the EU and he has no right to work there, of course. But apparently they’re crying out for Polish health and safety consultants.

“I expect the British economy to suffer from Brexit and I don’t want to wait for it.”

Says the chap contemplating going to southern Europe.

For Alex, a 32-year-old Romanian who asked that only his first name due to safety concerns, London was “the obvious choice” in 2014. He had completed his MBA in France and was considering opportunities in London, Berlin, Dubai, and Singapore. “When London materialised, I didn’t think twice,” he says. “I loved the city and the working culture, having worked under English managers in the past.”


And all seemed to be going well until the Brexit vote. “Before Brexit, I saw myself staying in London long-term,” Alex says. Now, he is looking at alternatives, including Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

You think Britain’s intolerant but you want to go to Dubai or Singapore?

His top concern isn’t what will happen to the UK economy but rather to his family, specifically his young child who will be starting preschool soon. “I don’t want my child to be treated badly, bullied, or discriminated against. With the recent wave of hate towards immigrants, it’s a real possibility,” he says.

Because Eastern Europeans are looked on with such favour in Dubai. Does he realise most people will assume his wife is a hooker?

“Part of the reason for coming to the UK was to give my little one a good start in life, education and culture wise.”

Which Romania was incapable of providing, presumably.

In the ethnically-diverse London neighbourhood in which Alex and his family live, there haven’t been any major problems yet, just some snide comments and a sense of gloating, he says. “It’s off-putting,” Alex says.

As are the continual comments about British people being knuckle-dragging racists.

Karmazinova, the Slovakian who left the UK, has yet to decide where she will settle – but she knows it won’t be back in the UK as long it stays separated from the EU.

Nor her native Slovakia, presumably. Why not?

The most frustrating part of Brexit for her was that she couldn’t do anything other than wait and see which way the vote went since she, like many foreigners, wasn’t eligible to vote in the referendum.

Appallingly, Russians didn’t get a say in the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 either.

“I’ve spent eight years: studying, working, paying taxes and national insurance, spending money on lattes, theatre tickets and Oyster cards. I bought a flat and sold it, paid stamp duty, then bought another, learned British slang, ate fruit scones, went to council meetings, read theTime Out on the tube and laughed about its insider jokes, watched the news… until it started to feel like I belonged. I became a Londoner,” she says.

Key word: Londoner. Somebody ought to have told her that the rest of Britain is quite different.

“And yet, I could just stand by and watch.”

As things carry on much as before. Oh, the humanity!

Now, she’s watching from overseas.

Twenty quid says she’s back in London within two years.

Brexit According to Somebody on LinkedIn

I confess that I do find LinkedIn generally useful in that it allows me to keep a sort of CV online and keep up to date on where former colleagues are now working. Other than that, it isn’t much use: the recruiters who, in the days of $100+ oil, used to contact me via LinkedIn were, to a man, utterly useless.

In the last year or two it has morphed into a kind of weak blog where various CEOs and other industry bosses post unconvincing articles which show only that expressing their thoughts in writing isn’t something they do very often. I received a link to one such post recently on the subject of Brexit:

As a European based in London, the events leading to Brexit have left me amused and irritated in equal measure. As long-term practitioner in FinTech, I am mostly worried about understanding their impact on my industry.

A hint for Managing Partners writing articles on LinkedIn: I haven’t got a clue what FinTech is, and if I don’t, nor will others. I’m not out of the first paragraph of your piece and I’m already having to use Google: it’s Financial Technology. Why not say that?

London is arguably the premier global financial centre.

Indeed, yes.

Access to the rest of the EU is based on the acceptance of shared rules, policies and regulations, a process called “Passporting”. Should the UK wish to pursue a separate regulatory regime, EU Passporting in its current form will cease. Making London the access point to a market of 64m people with a $2.8T GDP — still sizeable but not nearly as large as what it is today.

That last sentence doesn’t make much sense, following as it does a full stop. Did anyone proof-read this before publishing? Anyway, you’ve just said London is the premier global financial centre, so why assume post-Brexit it will only be the access point to a market of 64m people?

In the meantime, the EU will undoubtedly continue on its cross-Europe harmonising drive, supported by initiatives like the Single Digital Market programme, making it even more desirable for start-ups, FinTech and otherwise, to be located in an EU country.

Really? Cross-Europe, harmonising EU directives are being welcomed by start-ups? I can see the potential for rent-seeking in the increasingly lucrative field of “compliance”, but genuine start-ups? Which ones?

Both Paris and Berlin have already started positioning themselves as an ideal alternative to London.

Have they? Have the French thrown that veritable thicket of employment regulations in the bin, then? And switched their working language to English? Or are they just hoping banks will not notice all this when doing their cost-benefit analyses?

English, a strong legal system and a good quality of life for expats may no longer be enough to make London the natural choice if access to rest of the continent is curtailed. Large corporates will begin to consider Dublin, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin more readily than before, depriving the UK from the talent pool that global players develop in the markets they settle in.

Yeah, we keep hearing how great Paris and Berlin are for businesses. One is tempted to ask why this was such a closely-guarded secret until Brexit. Others may wonder why Canary Wharf is rammed full of Frenchmen making hay in British-based banks instead of grinding out a 40-year career in BNP or SocGen in La Defense. Perhaps they went for the food and weather?

The European “Right to Move” has enabled foreign firms based in the UK to easily hire talented individuals from a pool of over 500m people. As these people got hired, they improved the quality of the already outstanding UK workforce, creating more interesting jobs that in turn attract more talented people. This process has become a virtuous circle making London one of the most dynamic workplaces in the world.

It is true that London has been able to attract top talent from the EU, and this has been made easier by the rules on free movement. But anyone who’s taken the London Underground will have noticed it is chock-full of Russians, Chinese, South Americans, Africans, Middle Easterners, and just about anybody else. Insofar as the normal British immigration rules are an impediment to companies being able to recruit foreigners from outside the EU, it doesn’t seem to be much of an obstacle.

The current regulatory complexity and costs of hiring non-EU talent would be extended to EU citizens.

And would those additional costs outweigh the costs of moving to France and hiring people there? I think we can answer that one already.

Parliament forecasts that between 2013 and 2017 the UK will need to find 745,000 workers with digital skills.

I don’t mean to be overly mocking, but we’re currently a quarter of the way into 2017. It’s probably taken Parliament until now to get their forecast out. Therein lies the danger of relying on politicians for business advice.

One of the reasons the digital revolution has hit financial services so late is the weight of regulation. The UK regulators are unusually progressive and keen supporters of innovation.

Why, yes.

Firms based in the UK benefit from being regulated by a forward-thinking regulator with oversight that stretches across the EU.


Without regulatory “Passporting”, a UK FinTech firm with EU ambitions, would have to open subsidiaries or relocate to an EU country. These additional costs and complexity will inevitably lead to slower growth, need for more capital and eventually difficulty in attracting investment at the valuations of the pre-Brexit days.

So the British regulators are smart and forward thinking compared to those in the rest of the EU, and London benefits from this, as does the rest of the EU. Therefore if Britain leaves the EU, Britain will suffer. Right. Of course, there is no mention of the fact that one of the real concerns among those who voted Leave was that the EU was seeking to impose regulations on the City of London which would have removed any advantage it currently enjoys over the rest of Europe.

London is a leading location for entrepreneurs seeking venture funding.

Yet apparently, post Brexit, this will switch to Paris where companies with more than 50 employees are compelled to establish works councils:

Any company with at least 50 employees must set up a works council (CE). This committee is composed of representatives of the staff and trade unions, with a mandate of 4 years maximum. It is chaired by the employer. It has economic, social and cultural attributes. To carry out its missions, it has hours of delegation.

Which is why my colleagues and I get subsidised lunches, half-price cinema tickets, and travel vouchers courtesy of my employer. I’m sure London’s fleet-footed financial startups are looking forward to administering all of this at their own expense. Sure, many of these companies will be below the 50-person threshold, but if that’s the case then we’ll not need to worry about tens of thousands of jobs being transferred.

Secondly, if business will have to deal with a tighter talent pool they will either grow slower or have to pay more for staff.

Does anyone seriously think the talent pool for financial services will be tighter in London post-Brexit than in Paris, Berlin, or Barcelona?

All things considered it would seem unlikely that the role of London as Europe’s financial and tech hub will not be diminished.

Yes, it will be diminished just as me flushing the toilet diminishes the water level in a reservoir somewhere. The important question is by how much? Unless somebody is prepared to properly look at the costs and difficulties of transferring operations to European cities, we ought to assume they are engaging in little more than speculation and scare-mongering. Which is probably why they are writing on LinkedIn in the first place.

Standing for what, exactly?

Perhaps I am the only one who is skeptical about this:

Women gathered on Westminster Bridge on Sunday to show solidarity with the victims of the London terror attack.

Is that why they were there? Or is that why they said they were there?

Many of the women wore head scarves at the tribute and said they were wearing blue to represent hope.

I’m more interested in why they were wearing headscarves than why they wore blue. Sadly, the BBC doesn’t tell us.

The event was organised by Women’s March On London group which took part in an international campaign to highlight women’s rights on the first full day of Donald Trump’s US presidency.

So it was a political event, then.

Another woman who was there, Sarah Waseem, said the Islam faith “totally condemns violence of any sort”.

Is this what you came to tell us?

She said: “When an attack happens in London, it is an attack on me.

You know, there are some people out there who wish that, in the wake of a terrorist attack, certain groups would not insist on making it all about them.

Women’s rights activist, Akeela Ahmed, who helped organise Sunday’s event said it had been “powerful and sent a clear message”.

She said there had been no speeches and that those attending had been advised to stay for the five minutes then disperse because the group had wanted it to be low key and not disruptive.

A low-key event formally organised and advertised by a political lobby group called “Women’s March On London” and reported by the BBC on its front page.

I may be being a little harsh here, but I think the memory of the victims would have been better served had these people stayed at home.

Nissan goes a-rent-seeking

Oh do fuck off:

Nissan has told the British government to spend £100m to attract component suppliers to the UK or risk the future of its Sunderland car plant.

“This is critical. If we don’t really invest in the supply base it will be a house of cards effect,” said Colin Lawther, head of European manufacturing at Nissan, to MPs on the International Trade committee. “Nissan will not succeed in the future, with or without Brexit, unless the government does something to help us in the supply chain.”

So the British people vote for Brexit and find a gun held to their heads and a demand for £100m of taxpayer cash? How many other companies are going to be demanding taxpayer cash to offset any upset Brexit causes to their business? Do these companies hand over extra tax when things go in the other direction?

Mr Lawther said on Tuesday the current “UK supply base is not competitive globally”, making it more attractive for companies to purchase parts from overseas. “We should put a £100m fund together quickly to repower the supply base to make us competitive and to give flexibility, so that in the end under any circumstances we are in charge of our own destiny,” he said.

How does hosing £100m at a “supply base” make it more competitive? What, precisely, is this money to be spent on?

Nissan itself plans to spend an additional £2bn with UK suppliers — almost doubling the £2.5bn it currently spends on British-sourced parts.

Just one paragraph ago UK suppliers were not competitive. Now Nissan plans to increase its expenditure on them to the tune of £4.5bn. Which is it?

He said the imposition of tariffs would be a “disaster” for Nissan that may cost the company up to £600m but added the group will “honour” its decision to build the cars in the UK, though “if anything materially changes, we will review constantly”.

Sorry, what bollocks is this? I can only assume he’s talking about tariffs on importing cars made in the UK into Europe. Why should this be of concern to the British taxpayer? And how does Nissan Japan (say) manage to import cars into the EU?

He said that the northeastern site, which is Britain’s largest plant and the fifth most efficient car facility in the world, produces two vehicles a minute and uses some 5m parts every day.

It’s the fifth most efficient in the world but they’re shitting themselves over Brexit and demanding the taxpayer prop them up?

Customs checks and other measures that led to supply chain disruption will blow a hole in the Nissan’s management of its Sunderland plant, Mr Lawther told the MPs. “Anything more than six minutes a day downtime on the line is a disaster,” he said. “If you’re talking about hours waiting for supplier parts [through customs], that’s absolutely off the scale.”

Oh please! This Lawther clown must think we’re all idiots. Who compares the downtime on a production line to the time taken for materials to clear customs? He’s either an ignorant moron or he’s deliberately trying to mislead us. Then again, he was addressing a bunch of MPs who by definition are a little soft in the head.

In order to maximise its efficiency, the plant only holds half a day’s worth of stock — leaving it vulnerable to any disruptions further down the supply line.

Then increase that stock to create a bigger buffer. Does increasing the storage of parts, i.e. building an additional warehouse, really impact production efficiency that much? This is not fresh produce we’re talking about here.

Since the agency was founded in 2013, the percentage of domestically-produced parts going into British cars has risen from 36 per cent to 41 per cent.

It sounds as though British suppliers are quite competitive after all. Does any other country supply a bigger percentage of parts? Where is the journalism here?

It’s amazing how often these darlings of British industry, the ones that are held up as examples of Britain’s world-class enterprise, are actually neck-deep in government largesse, isn’t it?

A Inevitable Result of Centralisation

Staying on the subject of parallels between Britain and the US and healthcare:

Many have been angered by a photograph of Mike Pence and an all-male Republican team reportedly deciding whether maternity care should be covered in Donald Trump’s new health insurance plan.

Women’s health and fertility rights campaign group Planned Parenthood expressed their outrage at the picture.

They wrote: “Here’s the picture of the leaders negotiating away birth control, maternity care & abortion. Notice anything?

As usual, the real story is being missed here. “Progressives” in the US pushed through Obamacare which massively increased the centralisation of healthcare provision in the federal government, before which it was more dispersed among the states. Some even suspect, with good reason, that Obamacare was merely a precursor to what said progressives really want, which is a single-payer system and the federal government funding all healthcare in the USA.

So having demanded that people’s healthcare is placed into the hands of a very few people in the federal government, the progressives are now complaining of the impact these people are having on their healthcare. Well, what did they expect?

Here’s what they expected: that those very few people wielding disproportionate influence over everyone’s lives think exactly like they do and, in this particular case, share the same sort of genitals. Better still, it will be they themselves who wield this power over everyone else.

We have a similar situation in the UK with the junior doctors, nurses, and everyone else permanently protesting at the supposedly harsh treatment the incumbent health minister is dishing out that week, particularly if he or she is Tory. They complain that government ministers are clueless about healthcare issues but at the same time vehemently insist that the government remains in charge of healthcare. Their entire existence revolves around living in hope that one day a health minister will turn up and do exactly as they want him to. You can say exactly the same for teachers in Britain too, only exchanging health minister for education minister.

It never occurs to these people when they insist power is centralised in the hands of a few people that one day those people might not be the ones you like. If feminists in the USA don’t like a handful of white men deciding whether or not insurance companies should be compelled to cover pregnancies, they shouldn’t have insisted that this is something to be decided by a handful of politicians in the first place.