The EU Withdrawal Bill

I confess, I’m not too sure what’s going on here:

Theresa May is due at a summit in Brussels, hours after Conservative rebels in the Commons defeated the government in a key Brexit vote.

MPs backed an amendment giving them a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels.

One rebel, Stephen Hammond, was sacked by the prime minister as a party vice chairman in the aftermath of the vote.

I think this might be the key passage:

It will not derail Brexit but MPs who voted against the government hope it will give them a bigger say in the final deal Theresa May strikes with Brussels.

The government had promised a “meaningful vote” for MPs on the final Brexit deal, but this defeat means that promise now has legal force and must happen before any UK-EU deal is implemented in the UK.

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing for Brexiteers. Firstly, I heard this EU Withdrawal Bill contained passages which effectively gave unlimited power to the government with no oversight. I don’t know whether the vote last night has removed those clauses, but I’m not going to be too upset that someone like May is getting a kicking from the back-benches over a bill with stuff like this in.

Secondly, a few months ago I wasn’t too happy at the prospect of parliament having an effective veto over the final agreement with the EU over Brexit. Back then I thought the most likely scenario is one whereby we get a reasonable deal which gets scuppered by a hardcore Remain parliament, but now I think it’s far more likely May & Co. will sign us up to the worst deal imaginable with concession after concession in return for almost nothing leaving us in the EU in all but name. If this is what the negotiation progress brings, and the EU continue to display their staggering arrogance towards the people of the UK, the make-up of parliament in 2-3 years time may well be firmly behind Leave and can subsequently reject it. In other words, I think the benefit of a Leave-leaning parliament being able to reject a terrible deal outweighs the risk that a Remain-leaning parliament will reject a reasonable deal.

How this will all play out, and what shape parliament will be in on the day the vote is taken, is anyone’s guess. But one thing is still abundantly clear: May needs to go, immediately.


The Rights of EU Citizens

When I first moved to France I did so as an EU citizen, as you probably guessed. Under EU law, the non-EU spouses of EU citizens residing in an EU country other than their own are entitled to receive a residency card within 3 months of application. In practice, this means the non-EU spouse gets an entry visa in their home country and arrives in the EU country to join their partner: he or she is entitled to stay as long as they like, even once the initial visa expires, and is entitled to work because their rights are statutory and not dependent on receiving a residency card. However, for all practical purposes such as opening a bank account or leaving then re-entering the country, they will need a residency visa.

When I tried to apply for my wife’s in France, I was told there was a 6-week wait before they could accept her application. We waited 6 weeks and the bureaucrat at the prefecture said our paperwork was not in order and the application was rejected. I hired a lawyer who pointed out to the prefecture by law they were not allowed to reject the application for that reason, and the head bureaucrat shrugged and said “So what?”. They made us wait another 6-weeks in contravention of their own laws, so 12 weeks passed before we finally got the application in. EU law says the residency card must be issued within no more than 3 months, but 3 months passed and no card. The bureaucrats at the prefecture shrugged and said “So what?” I called the EU ombudsman to intervene, and they were very helpful, but they couldn’t get the bureaucrats at the prefecture to cooperate. Eventually the ombudsman called the French ministry of the interior and got someone to kick some ass in the prefecture, and we got a notice saying the card was ready for collection: this was some 5 months after the application, and 8 months after we’d first walked into the prefecture. When we went to collect the card they demanded 300 euros, but EU law says it must be issued for free. I called the ombudsman who called the French Interior Minister who called the prefecture who told them to give it to me for free. When the guy handed it over he said “Sorry, but we don’t know any of the EU laws. They don’t give us any training here.”

The whole episode taught me that the rights of EU citizens are enjoyed only at the discretion of the bureaucrat sat in front of you. If they refuse to recognise them, then they’re not really rights at all. Disgracefully, the prefecture insures itself against legal action by capping any compensation lower than what it would cost to hire a lawyer even for a day. I raised this with the ombudsman and warned her that there is a strong sentiment among the British that costs of membership of the EU simply aren’t worth it because the supposed rights we enjoy often don’t materialise in practice, and I had now joined their ranks. This was back in early 2015, so before the Brexit vote. I contacted UKIP to see if they’d be interested in my experience, and they directed me towards some eurosceptic MEPs in Brussels. They asked me for details, I provided them, and never heard a thing back afterwards. For my wife’s part, the experience put her off living in France completely and she skedaddled the day after she got her card and never returned in any meaningful sense.

Although living in France I undoubtedly benefit from my rights as an EU citizen, it is undeniable that these are still subject to the whims of the local bureaucrats. In other words, they’re not rights at all. When I hear everyone wailing about how British citizens might lose their rights in EU countries when the UK leaves, I shrug and recall how we had to stand in line for hours with several hundred Africans on a dozen separate occasions, plus shell out over a thousand wasted euros, in order to exercise those rights. My non-EU colleagues, who weren’t labouring under the illusion of getting any rights recognised by a French prefecture, simply fell in line and went through the normal process. When we compared notes, I couldn’t for the life of me see how their experience was any different from ours.

I get the impression a lot of people who claim to be worried about their rights in the EU after Brexit have never actually tried exercising them. I’m happy to take my chances in whatever regime follows.


We’ve agreed an agreement is necessary

Years ago I was an engineer working with a team that was being sent to site to carry out a load of construction works. Nothing too major, but no matter what the workscope any  company showing up on site has to have in place a Site Safety Plan, which is a document identifying all the risks associated with the works and how they intend to manage them. Any contractor working in the oil and gas business will have a procedure describing how to prepare a Site Safety Plan, and it will typically contain prescriptive instructions such as:

– A hazard identification workshop and risk ranking exercise shall be carried out prior to mobilisation.

– A risk mitigation plan shall be put in place detailing how each identified hazard shall be managed such that the residual risk is as low as reasonably practicable.

– Tool-box talks shall be prepared and tailored to address the residual risks associated with the works.

In short, prior to mobilising to site, the Safety Manager leads an exercise in identifying the risks and mitigating against them, which usually involves compiling (or writing) numerous procedures related to the execution of the works (e.g. excavations, lifting, vehicular transport, etc.) This will all be collated in the Site Safety Plan and communicated to everyone involved, including the owners of the site, and demonstrates that the risks involved with the works have been properly thought about and are being managed. (Bardon will know all this stuff backwards and inside-out, as would anyone who’s spent time on a site.)

Anyway, our Safety Manager was given several weeks to prepare this document, and a few days before mobilisation it was passed to me for review. This is what I read:

– A hazard identification workshop and risk ranking exercise shall be carried out prior to mobilisation.

– A risk mitigation plan shall be put in place detailing how each identified hazard shall be managed such that the residual risk is as low as reasonably practicable.

– Tool-box talks shall be prepared and tailored to address the residual risks associated with the works.

Rather than doing the tasks required, the Safety Manager had simply repeated what we were supposed to do prior to mobilisation. He had completely failed to understand that now was the time to do what was required. Or he had no idea how to, and just winged it. I suspect the latter.

I was reminded of this when I turned on the TV this morning to see Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker telling everyone a deal had been struck such that Brexit talks can now move forward. But when journalists asked for details, such as the shape of the final agreement on the Northern Ireland border, the response was that they’d agreed than an agreement must be reached. Via Gareth Soye on Twitter, I found this excerpt from the report which supposedly gives us more detail:

Since the result of the Brexit vote was known, the question was always how to reconcile a differing regulatory regime either side of the border without putting in place a hard border. This was supposedly something that had to be agreed before the talks could proceed, but in the finest style of a modern corporate manager they’ve just said:

“We will not have a separate regulatory regime for Northern Ireland nor a hard border. Now, moving on…”

I suspect the intention of both May and the EU is that this issue will never come up for serious discussion again because, one way or another, the UK will remain in the EU in all but name.


More on that Irish Border

It should come as no surprise that the BBC’s reporting on this is absolutely abysmal:

Theresa May is under pressure to get an agreement from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on the status of the Irish border when the UK leaves the EU.

The prime minister pulled out of a deal with Brussels that would have kick-started trade talks after meeting fierce resistance from the DUP.

The party said it would not accept a deal which saw Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK.

The BBC, along with most of the Remain establishment, is presenting this as if it’s only the DUP which is standing in the way of an agreement between the EU and UK in advance of trade talks. In reality, I suspect a great many Tory MPs, more than a few old-school Labour MPs, and a large percentage of the British population would also object vehemently to Theresa May deciding for herself that Northern Ireland should remain under the jurisdiction of the EU at the behest of the Irish government and their masters in Brussels. Anyone who thinks this is a minor detail being blocked by a gaggle of DUP hardliners really doesn’t understand the issue at all. Or they do, but are spinning it differently for political gain.

I don’t think it’s difficult to see what’s going on here. The EU wants to see Brexit reversed so have chosen the NI border issue as one of several extremely politically unpalatable topics to be resolved before “trade talks” can supposedly start. I don’t for one minute believe actual trade talks will start: what will happen is the EU will secure concession after concession from the hapless May before torturing us with years of bad-faith negotiations aimed at punishing the British for daring to leave, ending in no deal whatsoever. The forerunner to this is demanding Britain puts in place a hard border in NI while at the same time telling us this is unacceptable. You’d have to be willfully blind not to see the game being played: if these discussions really did concern a border with Ireland, there are several options which could be discussed in a mature and sensible manner. Instead we’re getting ridiculously short ultimatums, threats, interference from chancers like Sadiq Khan, and posturing in front of a gullible and complicit media.

I don’t believe the media when they say the two sides were close to a deal yesterday. I don’t think we’re any closer than they were the morning after the referendum, for the simple reason there is no deal to be had. The media peddled this line because they want to pin the blame on the DUP, and force May to choose between them and the EU. She’s damned either way, which is exactly what the Remain establishment want.

Apparently a deal must be reached by the end of the week. If May caves in, she’ll be out of office before Christmas. People are worried about Corbyn but I think I’d rather see that idiot in charge for a brief term (and it would be brief) rather than May crumble in front of every EU demand for the next few years. I don’t think it would ever come to that, though. If May is forced from office over an issue such as this, a solid Leave Tory would likely win the subsequent election (David Davis, putting himself forward as the “Brexit PM), and interfering harpies like Amber Rudd shoved aside.

There is one good thing which will come out of all of this. Regardless of what happens next – even if Brexit gets reversed and the British population is persuaded to stay in the EU – there can be absolutely no excuse for saying they didn’t fully understand the nature of what they were dealing with. Since the referendum in 1975 the British have always complained they were mislead as to what sort of agreement they were getting into. That line of argument ends pretty much now.


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.


Brexit, Britain, and Mainland Europe

I have noticed on Twitter a certain propensity among the metropolitan elite, particularly journalists, to claim that Britain is now the laughing stock of Europe and that everyone on the Continent thinks Brexiteers to be delusional. I imagine that in their world this is actually true: most of them will speak French, German, or Spanish and will spend much of their time in Europe for work or visiting families and friends. Only you can be sure they’ll be swanning around the nicer areas of Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, and Geneva with wealthy, middle-class journalists and the sort of “businessmen” whose nose is never more than half-an-inch from a politician’s arse. They sure as hell won’t be hanging around a Portuguese dock or drinking vodka in a Latvian bar with a bunch of ethnic Russians.

From what I can tell, Europeans don’t seem particularly interested in Brexit. I think everyone was rather surprised initially, but now they’re so resigned to Britain leaving that it barely gets mentioned. I work in a very international company with major operations in the UK, and talk of Brexit is conspicuous by its absence. When the subject comes up, usually over lunch with colleagues who ask me for my opinions on the matter, there is some disappointment but in general they don’t see it as a big deal. For a lot of mainland Europeans, Britain was never really part of the club anyway. We were always complaining, we seemed to prefer the company of Americans, and a few are not even sure why we joined in the first place. It’s a bit like Australia being in the Eurovision Song Contest, nobody is quite sure what they’re doing there. The attitude of everyone seems to be slight confusion as to why Britain voted to leave but now they have, can we just get on with it ASAP and if we can still work, travel, and trade that would be grand.

Unlike perhaps our lofty metropolitan elites, the mainland Europeans appreciate that Britain is quite different. The mainland Europeans, particularly the French and Dutch, still have bad memories from the war and are willing to do anything to avoid a repeat. They truly believe the EU is responsible for keeping the peace, whereas in the UK we think that was down to Nato. There are reasons for this.

Britain had the enormous advantage of not being occupied during WWII, which had a major effect on how we viewed the war afterwards. We lost a lot of men and saw our cities bombed, but we never had to deal with the messy compromise of an occupation. The excellent book Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of WWII goes into some detail on this subject, and explains the effects of prolonged occupation on a population. At some point people cooperate, because they have to: the book cites an example of a French baker accused after the war of selling bread to the Nazis. He asks what choice he had, and points out that he was also providing bread to the French population who would otherwise have starved. It discusses the issue of young women who engaged in relationships with the occupying soldiers, and met the full fury of their countrymen when the war was over. One girl protested that as far as she could make out the Nazis were the local government and had been for some time, and plenty of other people were interacting with them. How is having a relationship with a soldier of the de facto regime a crime? She had a point.

Few people in the occupied countries wanted to dwell on matters of collaboration and cooperation after the war: there was a period of retribution, much of it vicious and used as a pretext for power-grabs and the settling of old scores, but the various governments quickly found themselves establishing a semi-believable narrative that made them look good and running with it. To be fair, they had little choice: the late 1940s was not the time for hand-wringing, there were nations to rebuild and Soviets to keep out. This is why the French, even to this day, skip over the small matter of the Vichy regime when celebrating Charles de Gaulle and the heroic Resistance. It’s why the Dutch never point out that quite a few of them welcomed the Nazi occupation initially, seeing them as Germanic cousins. Britain avoided all of this, and their particular tale of heroic resistance and defiance against all the odds was much easier to weave.

Britain also didn’t get wrecked like Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, parts of France, and other countries on the mainland. Our cities took a pounding, particularly London and Coventry, but there was not the sort of devastation seen in those cities which first saw aerial bombardment and then ground fighting as they were liberated. We also didn’t have the hunger: there was a famine in the Netherlands in 1944-5 which claimed the lives of 22,000 people. There were major food shortages in Austria and Germany after the war, and it was years before food supplies were back up and running across the continent again. Britain had rationing, but nobody starved.

The mainland European view of the war is very different from the British: our culture makes light of the war – Dad’s Army, and ‘Allo ‘Allo being two examples – because for us it was a jolly old ruck with the Bosch that we won. Our families, homes, and communities weren’t wrecked, for the large part. So when we talk about keeping the peace in Europe, we’re not haunted by the same memories as mainland Europeans. We saw the priority as keeping the Russians from occupying all of us, hence Nato. If Europe got demolished in the meantime, then meh. Whereas for the Europeans, particularly the Dutch and French, they are equally if not more concerned about keeping the peace among themselves because that is what caused so much destruction last time. It’s hardly surprising, then, that they see the EU as a greater guarantor of peace than Nato.

The way people think, vote, and behave differs wildly between nations, regions, groups, and individuals and there are usually very deep cultural and historical reasons for these differences. It is not a lack of intelligence, information, and values which drive the French to maintain a political and economic system which is unfathomable to an Anglo-Saxon: they simply have a different history and culture than us. This is why I find the self-righteous posturing of London’s elites over Brexit so irritating. They may share pro-EU views with their counterparts in mainland Europe, but they have no idea why. If they did, they’d understand why so many people don’t share their views. They hope that by writing puff-pieces about pro-EU attitudes on the mainland while sneering at their own people they will ingratiate themselves with the former and show themselves to be superior than the latter.

Neither will happen for the same reason I will always be considered a Brit and never a Frenchman: culture and history matter and shapes who you are, even if you detest them and wish you were someone else.


Taking the lead, German style

From the BBC:

Angela Merkel has said she sees no obstacles in the way of beginning Brexit talks as scheduled after Theresa May failed to win a majority in Thursday’s UK election.

The German chancellor said she believed Britain would stick to the timetable, adding the European Union was “ready”.

I don’t know if it was always like this, but the EU seems to have given up all pretence that it isn’t the Germans running things. A few weeks ago we were told there was an EU negotiating team and that Britain would have to deal with it, rather than individual countries. We were told the EU member states had such faith in their team that they took fifteen minutes to agree on the approach they’ll take when negotiating.

Yet here is Merkel apparently speaking on behalf of the EU. Would the Czech prime minister get away with that? And note that she made these remarks pretty much immediately the election result was known, so she obviously didn’t run any of this by the EU negotiating team or the member states. She’s just assumed that Germany can speak on behalf of the entire EU and isn’t even bothering to hide it any more.

A half-decent negotiator on the British side could use this to drive a coach and horses through the EU strategy. The trouble with that is we have almost no chance of getting one. Either way, mainland Europeans seem quite content with Germany assuming the leadership. Let’s hope they don’t change their mind on that at some point.


The Nation Speaks

Well, Theresa May has played a blinder, hasn’t she?

Unlike some, I didn’t think her calling the general election was a bad idea. I thought she needed a stronger mandate from the people to negotiate Brexit otherwise she would be undermined by Remainers pointing out that she never won a general election. However, a lot of people got the impression that is was more of a ploy to kick Labour while they were down and reset the clock for a five year term starting this summer rather than in 2015. Whatever her reasons for calling it, she must be seriously regretting it now.

A lot of people are blaming the young for voting for Corbyn having not understood his history or policies. Basically, they’re saying he has offered them free stuff and they have fallen for it, being too young to remember the effect such policies had on the country a couple of generations ago. There may be some truth in this, but I’m not happy with it as an overall explanation. I didn’t like disparaging all Trump voters as being thick, backward racists and I don’t think we should dismiss Corbyn’s supporters in the same way. We’d be better off trying to find out exactly why people might have voted for him rather than May.

I saw Andrew McNeill’s interview with Jeremy Corbyn and I thought he came across very well. Not in the sense that I believed a word he was saying or wasn’t openly expressing a political stance that I found appalling, but Blair did much the same and look how everyone loved him before he went off starting wars. No, he just came across well, somebody who seemed reasonable. He didn’t look like someone who nobody could possibly vote for, at any rate.

The young folk won’t remember the IRA’s bombing campaign and were probably utterly confused when Islamic terrorists attacked Manchester and London and the right thought the best political response was to show Corbyn with Irishmen in balaclavas in the 1980s. If anybody under the age of 25 had the slightest idea what the connection was I’d be surprised. What they would have understood is Theresa May looking and sounding like a wrinkly, annoying Head Girl telling them she’s going to restrict the internet. It might not have occurred to May, but the young folk quite like their internet and won’t like plans to restrict it in any way. “Clamping down on online spaces” sounds a lot like a nagging parent banning their kid from going on YouTube, and coming from a 60 year old vicar’s daughter the effect would only be magnified.

So it is not difficult to see why people, particularly the young, were turned off May and preferred Corbyn. There may be other reasons too, wholly economic. Before we pompously dismiss the young for voting for free stuff, let’s look at who owns the wealth in Britain. No, not the Jews and not “the corporations”. It’s those who own property. One thing every government since 1997 has had in common is that they saw ever-increasing house prices as a central policy in order to trick the middle classes into believing they are wealthy. Having ensured that property was the only meaningful investment in Britain, successive governments dared not do anything that could make house prices fall – such as raising interests, or relaxing planning laws. In fact, it is hard to think of any government policy that has been more firmly entrenched than ensuring house prices don’t fall: I think Britain would go to war before that happens.

This policy, coupled with immigration which has put ever-more pressure on property prices particularly in London, has benefited people approximately over 40 to the detriment of anyone younger. If you were of an age around about 2000 when you were just buying your first house, suddenly you saw your “investment” increase threefold and you could strut around the office boasting of your business acumen as if you were Warren Fucking Buffet. Anyone younger found the price of a crumbling shithole to be “worth” eight times their salary and the deposit equivalent to what their parents paid for their 4-bed detached house in a leafy suburb in 1986.

I wondered when the younger folk were going to notice that they have been utterly stitched up by the generations above them, and now it appears they have. People say the country is divided between Leavers and Remainers, but from what I can see there is also a divide between the propertied classes and the younger generations who have had the ladder kicked from under them. All the Labour supporters I saw slagging of Corbyn were from the property-owning classes, who would have fully approved of the New Labour economic policies which saw the value of their houses magically skyrocket. Most of the Tories, whether they liked May or not, own their own homes.

To anyone sitting in a £600k house they paid £200k for and a mortgage with a 1.2% interest rate, things like the EU and Trident probably seem very important. To somebody just graduated on a salary of £25k per year and looking at paying £650 a month in a shared house worth £600k owned by a very average middle manager who happened to be born twenty years earlier, these issues won’t be so important. This situation will only have been exacerbated by the dismissive attitudes towards Millenials, who are portrayed by the media and middle classes as spoiled brats who don’t know the meaning of hard work.

Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking it was the current crop of middle classes who jumped out of aeroplanes over Normandy and ran up her beaches. A 40 year old now would have been born in 1977 and hit adulthood as Tony Blair took office. If he or she was lucky enough to be gifted soaring equity in their property, it is hard to believe the current crop of teenagers is any more molly-coddled by the government than they.

I am saying this with the benefit of hindsight, but it appears the middle classes who wanted either a return to New Labour or a Tory government (assuming there is a difference) vastly underestimated how out of touch they are with the younger generation. Sure, Corbyn promised them a lot of free stuff but maybe they think they are entitled to something given the older generations have helped themselves to a large chunk of the country’s wealth using no efforts of their own, and have been rubbing it in everyone’s faces for years.

Whatever the reasons, May has taken a battering and needs to go. This has thrown Brexit into disarray as her primary reason for calling the election was to unify the country behind the negotiations. As I said earlier, I am ambivalent as to whether Britain leaves the EU or stays in it, but I think any negotiations need to be done from a position of strength and by a person who the whole country believes is up to the job. It is clear that very few people think this person is Theresa May, and we need to find a replacement ASAP. That will probably mean another general election this year, then.

Lucky Britain.


A New Class of Political Bore

One thing I have noticed in the past few days is the number of hardcore Remain advocates, mostly media figures based in London, who appear to be firmly on the side of the EU in their negotiations with Britain over Brexit. They seem to think, perhaps as those leading the EU negotiations do, that leaking details of meetings and making absurd threats and demands will force the British people to cave in and change their minds.

It is remarkable that these people believe these tactics will not be completely counterproductive, and turn more Brits against the EU. Yes, we know the Metropolitan elite didn’t vote for Brexit, but now we are here they are hoping the process of leaving gets scuppered by any means necessary, even if that increases the possibility of Britain getting the worst of all outcomes. They remind me of the so-called anti-war crowd who were hoping for a complete disaster in Iraq and the deaths of British troops just so they could say “I told you so”. For some people, any price is worth paying to avoid being wrong.

I keep reading people swallowing hole the line that May & Co. are blitheringly incompetent and Britain is headed for disaster. Perhaps they are right, but I’d prefer it if they offered more evidence than the hyperbolic ravings of a dyed-in-the-wool Eurocrat who has clearly taken the Leave vote as a personal insult. There are reasons to be concerned over the Brexit negotiations and there were valid reasons to vote Remain. Neither of these should mean the antics of Juncker and others are cheered by anyone in Britain, but they are.

These people never saw the Leave vote coming because they lived in a privileged bubble in which the benefits of EU membership were obvious and the drawbacks non-existent. Like the Hillary supporters who deluded themselves into thinking Trump would be impeached within the first month and somehow their candidate anointed, they have never stepped back, looked around them, and understood the country they are living in. In their arrogance they think they know best and have the numbers, but neither is true.

I suspect what we’re seeing here is the creation of a new class of political bores, identical to the ones who spent their entire lives blaming the world’s ills on Thatcher and taught their infant children to do the same, only instead of Maggie it will be Brexit which is the object of their ire. One thing is for sure, they’re not going to shut up, nor are they going to change the subject, long after Brexit is done and dusted and Britain is going its own way.

(This over at The Last Ditch is worth reading, too.)


Ireland’s Unenviable Position

One of the main points of discussion surrounding Brexit is what happens to the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is the only place (with the possible exception of Gibraltar) where the UK will share a land border with the European Union, and people are worried that chaos will ensue if border controls and customs points are installed. The EU has even gone so far as to suggest the Republic of Ireland might annex Northern Ireland with the full support of Brussels, perhaps not realising that a lot of blood has been shed over this subject already.

Personally I think they’re missing the bigger picture here, or they’re pretending to. Even if there is no border between Eire and NI, there is no way to get from Ireland to the rest of the EU without going through Britain – unless by air or a lengthy boat trip: Cherbourg to Rosslare takes about 18 hours. I don’t know if things have changed since I was a kid, but the Pembroke Dock and Fishguard ferries did a brisk trade with with lorries going to and from Rosslare, and I believe Holyhead to Dublin was much the same. It would be interesting to see how much of Ireland’s trade in physical goods with the EU minus the UK passes through the British mainland; my guess it would quite a bit.

How this will work post-Brexit is anyone’s guess. These goods will either have to be shipped directly via sea or custom-cleared into Britain and then back out again at Dover. Perhaps an agreement could be made for sealed containers to pass through without clearing customs or being charged transit fees, but that would rather depend on the goodwill of the British government towards Ireland at that point, wouldn’t it? And this opens up all sorts of opportunities for smuggling and cross-border shenanigans.

The truth is, Ireland is in a really shitty position right now. For historical and nationalistic reasons they have to pretend their future lies with the EU if they have to choose one or the other, but for all practical purposes Ireland is dependent on having full access to the UK for its goods, services, and people – which they had long before the EU came along. At some point they’re going to have to admit to this and whisper in Juncker’s ear that they really, really don’t want to lose the right to live, work, and study in the UK that they had all along. Then we’ll see just how much the EU cares about them.