Sound and Fury, Indicative of Nothing

“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century: Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others; Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected; Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it; Refusing to set aside trivial preferences; Neglecting development and refinement of the mind; Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.” – Cicero

I write this on the eve of what would have been the UK’s departure from the UK. As it stands, there is still no actual plan on how to do so – though a recently negotiated extension has pushed the cliff edge out to April 12th. I didn’t realise just how prescient my “dystopian Brexit” mini-fiction was going to be when I wrote it last year. The UK Government still doesn’t have a clue how it wants to cut through its own red lines.

Incidentally, CGP Grey recently posted a good video illustrating the same paradox as I did but with shinier illustrations.

One interesting thing has happened though. Parliament, as exasperated as everyone else is, decided to “Take Back Control” from the Government and yesterday held a series of “Indicative Votes” in which the Parliament came up with a list of 15 possible options for Brexit (of which, the Speaker chose 8), and then they held “free”* votes on each of them.

*”Free” in the sense that some of the parties only whipped for or against some motions and the Cabinet were whipped to abstain on everything.

And the results of the Indicative Voters to check to see if Parliament, rather than Government, could come with an option that could command majority support? Well, in true Brexit style…they couldn’t.

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Exporting Scotland

“Trade negotiations are exercises in mutual self-interest. They are not power plays, or coercions” – David Davis. Former Brexit Secretary.

The annual ESS report came out last week and – as is traditional in Scottish politics – it was pounced on by those eager to make a quick headline out of the numbers. When statistical reports like this come out it’s always better to take a bit of time to dive a little deeper into them and to discuss the details that can often be far more interesting than those initial headlines.

The Carta Marina showing some of Scotland’s important trading partners in the 1500s.

First though, we should talk a little about what ESS is and what it measures (as well as what it doesn’t measure). Continue reading

The Final Countdown

“We’re leaving together,
But still it’s farewell
And maybe we’ll come back
To earth, who can tell?” – Europe

We’re finally there, after delay and shambles, at the day of the “Meaningful Vote” on May’s Brexit deal. I’m about to commit that cardinal sin of political commentary and analysis and actually try to make a prediction about what happens next. May my desk soon suffer not as it has.

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Source here.

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As Many As Are Agreed

“No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally without any democratic control over the laws applied, nor the ability to decide to exit the arrangement.” – Dominic Raab in his resignation letter as Brexit Secretary.

I pity the journalists who have to do this kind of thing for a living. Especially the ones who have to wait several hours before seeing their article in print. A week is a lifetime in politics. Today, an hour merely felt like one.

BrexitAgreement

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has finally been agreed between the EU and UK negotiating teams. It has also been agreed by the Cabinet of the government – albeit only “collectively” (read: not unanimously – merely by majority. Rumours speak of an 18-11 vote). It now needs to be passed by the UK and EU Parliaments and then it’s done. So…what could go wrong?

So, what’s in it and what has happened

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Demanding Supplies – Supplying Demand

“There will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside” – David Davis, October 2016

“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” – Apocrypha, commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette

I hesitated to write this article. Why, shall become clear in the reading but the short version of it is that this is not just a sensitive topic but the mere act of talking or writing about it may provoke the negative effects discussed.

The artifact warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I am talking about the recent stories that as we enter the “kinetic phase” of Brexit, beyond which any meaningful control of the course can be made, it is looking increasingly likely that the negotiations will conclude without a deal. The UK’s own red lines are insurmountable and are themselves incompatible with the EU’s red lines.

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unDemocracy

“I think it would be a good idea” – Apocrypha attributed to M. Gandhi on his being asked what he thought of Western civilisation.

The UK Government’s handling of Brexit continues to be veer somewhere between being a shambles and a criminally negligent disaster.

From its position on customs which remains something like “We have no idea what we want and we’re damn sure we’re not going to lift a finger to plan for it.”

Through its tearing away from anything even remotely connected to the EU – including Euratom (which means good luck running a nuclear power plant or obtaining a medical radiological), the Gallileo satellite system (to which the British response was a petulant “We’ll build our own…somehow”) and fundamental human rights which protect us all from the whims of governments that act a bit like the current UK one does.

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Trumped Up Trade Talk

“Sooner or later every war of trade becomes a war of blood.” – Eugene V Debs

This past week has been an interesting one in terms of international trade news. President Trump announced, via a Tweet, that he was slapping import tariffs on Chinese steel and that “trade wars are good, and easy to win“.

The ripples of this announcement are still spreading but already countries and trading blocs like Canada and the EU are considering retaliatory tariffs.

The thing is, China isn’t even a particularly major player in US steel imports. It barely factors on any of the top fives by specific products.

US Steel

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