The strategy of the Tories with regards to Brexit is quite clear. The idea that they might negotiate a withdrawal agreement that will satisfy both their heavily Brexiteer membership and the EU within the next few weeks is laughable. Instead they are concentrating on winning an election which they would like to take place as soon as possible after we ‘drop out’ of the EU with no agreement in place on 31 October.
Their slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’ is based on the misleading idea that, once Brexit is ‘done’, we will be able to ‘move on’ to more pressing domestic matters, such as hospitals and schools and whatever else their ‘magic money tree’ will pay for. What this disguises is that, on 1 November, some 50% of our overseas trade and 8% of our GDP will still be dependant on the EU which means we will be entering into urgent trade negotiations which could easily last decades. Instead of being ‘done’, Brexit will only just have started.
This is why the Tories want an election as soon as possible, before the full impact of a ‘hard’ Brexit becomes clear, and while the bruising run-up is still fresh in the mind. In the meantime the Tories are intent on portraying Parliament, now dominated by opposition parties, as the culprit.
What is sad is that Remainers seem intent on helping them. If they had not challenged the proroguing of Parliament then Parliament would not be sitting, and the Tories would have no-one to blame for the mess but themselves. We also would not have had what the Tories have quite successfully (and not without justification) branded the ‘Surrender Bill’ sitting there ready to take the blame.
What Remainers should be doing is questioning the Tories about what our relationship with our biggest trading partner is likely to be from November onward, and asking them how they expect to pay for their spending extravaganza. Instead that bastion of the liberal elite Andrew Marr wasted the morning quizzing Boris Johnson about his relationship with the lovely Ms Arcuri, and his colourful use of language, neither of which concern a large chunk of the British electorate.
So looks like we’re going to be faced with a general election which will effectively be a second referendum, and a Tory party that has successfully positioned themselves as ‘champions of the people’. And so it goes.
Posted in Politics
So far there seems to be little discussion as to what is actually going to happen after the 31 October deadline passes, so I thought I’d have a go at working out the possibilites. At the moment it looks like there are three:
1. We gain an extension to negotiations
Matters continue as they stand, although the credibility of the Tory Party, and in particular Boris Johnson, evaporates.
2. We leave the EU with a deal
Given the short time left, this would be a deal negotiated by Boris Johnson’s current minority government, and a deal that Parliament is happy to accept. Even if this is possible, the resulting ‘deal’ is only a withdrawal agreement. Once that’s settled we will start negotiating the trade deal itself, the deal which will eventually establish the terms under which we trade with the EU in every sector, from fishing to financial services, from agriculture to personal data. Negotiating such a wide-ranging trade deal is likely to tie up government business for many years to come. Continue reading
Posted in Politics
Recent events have brought to mind an old joke that goes something like this. It involves two vessels approaching each other on a collision course:
“Please make way! You are obstructing our passage through the open seas.”
“Regretfully we are unable to comply. I’m afraid it is you that must make way.”
“We are a battleship of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy! We represent the glorious British Empire and all who sail in her! Brexit means Brexit! You must make way immediately!!”
“We are a lighthouse.”
I understand that Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier have at last cobbled together a trade deal that has proved, after a somewhat fraught five-hour meeting, acceptable to the cabinet. There will inevitably be some hiccups on the way (such as the resignation of said Raab, announced as I write) but it seems to me that its future course can be mapped out with some confidence. Continue reading
Posted in Politics
In 1948, the renowned scientist Albert Einstein co-authored an open letter to the New York Times expressing his concerns about the visit to America of Menachem Begin, leader of the Freedom Party in the newly-formed state of Israel. Earlier that year, Begin had been involved in the massacre of an Arab village which had shocked the world, including most in the Jewish community. In the letter, Einstein describes the Freedom Party as “a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.” Begin went on to become Prime Minister of Israel in 1977 and remained in power until 1981.
Things are different now, which is perhaps why the 10th example given in the Working Definition of Antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) sites “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” Einstein was not only a Jew but also a Zionist, although he resisted “the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power.” Nevertheless, if such a statement was to be made now, then the IHRA suggests it be branded antisemitic. Continue reading
Is it anti-Semitic to accuse rich bankers of living off the backs of the poor? Or to condemn the Israeli government for its treatment of the Palestinians, or indeed the Lebanese? I don’t think so, and one reason I support the Labour Party is for its robust condemnation of these things. However it is anti-Semitic to suggest those bankers are necessarily Jewish, or that the activities of the Israeli government are necessarily endorsed by all Jews, and I find it disturbing that the Labour party seems unable to distance itself from such views.
There is a long history of anti-Semitism in British politics, both on the left and on the right, but it has no place in the modern world, and no relevance to the central message of Jeremy Corbyn’s new Labour Party. And yet, for some reason, Corbyn seems unwilling to shrug it off with any real conviction. Continue reading
You can learn an awful lot about Brexit from chlorinated chicken.
The term itself refers to the process of dipping fresh chicken carcasses into water containing chlorine dioxide just prior to packaging in an effort to kill off any potentially dangerous organisms such as E. coli or Salmonella that might be present. It is a process that is legal in the United States, but not permitted within the European Union where farmers are allowed to wash raw meat in precious little other than fresh water. For this reason it is not permissible to import fresh chicken from the US into the EU. Continue reading
Posted in Politics
What happened in Manchester on 22 May is of course a tragedy and an atrocity. However, as I take in the images of the dead children and their grieving relatives, the memorials, the news items, the interviews, the debate and the double-page spreads, I can’t help but think of those countless other children who have been killed in their schools and hospitals and homes by the bombs of the West and its allies in countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Palestine. They too had hopes and dreams; they too have parents, friends, neighbours and relatives who grieve and feel anger and despair. I did not see their pictures, and I do not know their hopes and dreams, but are their lives worth any less than ours? Is their grief or their anger and despair any less valid than ours? Of course not, and if that is the appearance we give, then we should be ashamed.
Posted in Politics
We should by now be well accustomed to the capacity of our politicians to spout endless bullshit, and of our news services to take such bullshit seriously. However seldom has that bullshit seemed more endless and pointless than in the current Brexit ‘debate’.
For example, as I write, so-called Brexiteers are crowing over the fact that the British economy seems to be booming, despite the woeful predictions of the Remoaners. This is to ignore the fact that we have a least two years to go before we do actually Brexit, and no idea of what that will actually involve, rendering any judgement at this stage utterly meaningless. Instead, what our economy is currently experiencing is the reaction of the world to the inevitable uncertainty that surrounds our decision to do so. Continue reading
Posted in Politics
Photo by Albert Bridge (Creative Commons licence)
At around 11pm a few nights back I was walking through the centre of Bath when I encountered a woman and her dog sitting on a blanket next to a hat containing some small change. I did what I usually do when I encounter such people, which is acknowledge them and walk on, reminding myself that I can’t give money to every beggar I pass, and I do regularly donate to charities that work with the homeless.
However this time, having walked on a few yards, I stopped and returned. I had just come from a party where I had been talking to some extremely wealthy people, and I am not exactly hard up myself. Life works out nicely for some of us and not so well for others, but when all’s said and done, we’re in it together. I dropped a couple of pounds into her hat and apologised for my rudeness. No, she said, Don’t apologise – it’s nice to just get a smile. And so I listened to her story. Continue reading
Posted in Politics
Anyone who has wandered into a Waterstones bookstore recently will have noticed a display of Amazon Kindle ebook readers, apparently for sale at the same prices as those displayed on the Amazon Web site itself. More recently you would also have noticed prominent signs encouraging you to connect your Kindle to the free in-store WiFi, from which you could presumably buy any book you fancy directly from Amazon. So why is Waterstones doing this?
James Daunt, MD of Waterstones, announced a deal with Amazon back in May 2012, but was reticent to discuss the “commercial details of the partnership.” Howevere his response to the accusation that he had signed the company’s death warrant was: “Do I look like a total moron? Because what you’re describing is the behaviour of a total moron.” (BBC News)
So there is definitely more to the arrangement than meets the eye. What I have heard from private inquiries is that a substantial chunk of the proceeds of a purchase made from a Kindle through the in-store WiFi go to Waterstones, rather than Amazon. In return Waterstones makes no profit on the devices themselves, which is why they match Amazon prices.
Waterstones press office still refused to disclose details of the deal when I spoke to them this morning, but they did not deny this was the case, and indeed confirmed they had heard the rumour before. If it is the case then I assume the details are being kept quiet to prevent unrest from competitors. There will also be technical changes that need to be tested. However such a deal would allow traditional bookstores to participate in the ebook boom, which can only be a good thing.