RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

The text below was amended on 7 March and on subsequent dates as the war developed.


6 March 2022


MUNICH ALL OVER AGAIN .......NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANISATION HOISTS WHITE FLAG IN BRUSSELS....UKRAINE TOLD "YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN, BUDDY"


Displaying a breath-taking lack of courage and moral fibre, the 30 member states of NATO, the world's most powerful military alliance, whose sole raison d'être is to use its overarching superiority to counter enemy aggression, decided in Brussels on Friday 4 March 2022 to sit on their hands and allow Moscow's Führer to wipe democratic Ukraine from the face of the earth. After all, who cares about 44 million Ukrainians? Kyiv is a long way from Washington D.C. 


HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF


1. At its meeting in Brussels NATO decided to REFUSE a request by the democratically elected President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to impose a no-fly zone excluding all aircraft and missiles from the country's air space on pain of being shot down. Instead, the West is banking on financial sanctions to end the conflict. Sanctions, however, will take time to have a significant effect and will not work at all if Putin can find away round them with the help of his friends further East, not least China. An article on the BBC website on 5 March 2022 summed it up: "You can't fight tanks with banks".


 NATO has refused to fight to roll back the occupation of Ukraine by the Russian army, even ruling out the least they could do, namely impose a no-fly zone which would have grounded Russian bombers, fighter planes and missiles. There is no evidence to suggest - contrary to what NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has claimed - that to impose such a zone would lead automatically to a European war. There is even less evidence for the doom-mongers'warning that such a move would result in open-ended nuclear confrontation. Putin wants to be able to sit back and gloat over his imperial conquests. Less well armed than the Americans, he does not want to be sucked into a fireball of Mutually Assured Destruction. 

It is true that NATO members are supplying military hardware to the Ukraine army. So apparently it's OK for the West to send heavy weaponry to the Ukraine army for use against Russian armour and aircraft, but not for NATO countries themselves to shoot down Russian missiles and bombers. The latter will lead to nuclear Armageddon, it is argued, but the former will not. The casuistry is jesuitical and does not stack up. Except perhaps that the last thing the US authorities want is for the corpses of US soldiers to arrive back in America in body-bags. They've had enough of that in the last two decades.  It doesn't look nice on TV. 

Moreover, after a succession of unsuccessful imperial adventures, the hegemonic NATO state is tired of warmongering for the nonce. After losing both the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and the Afghan War (2001-2021) and after failing to establish a stable democratic government in Baghdad following the Iraq War (2003 - 2011), the United States has turned in on itself and jibs at the prospect of getting bogged down on yet another battlefield "because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing" (Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister, 27 September 1938, referring to Hiter's annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia).

On the other hand, the massacre of children, women and men by uniformed thugs from the East is actually taking place day after day, as I write, in the blood-stained snow of the killing fields of Ukraine. Horrified, we witness it daily on our TV screens as we sit back relaxed in the comfort of our armchairs. For example, we read in our newspapers this morning 7 March that the safe humanitarian corridor offered by the Russians to allow civilians to escape from the besieged city of Mariupol was not only shelled while residents were using it but it had also been mined!

On the one hand, you have human beings actually being slaughtered in real time before the eyes of the world. On the other hand, NATO mouthpieces make the contestable claim that imposing a no-fly zone could spread the conflict to other European countries and - even less likely - might even lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

In these circumstances, the moral imperative is incontrovertible. The Western powers - with military resources massively superior to those of the Russia - should act IMMEDIATELY to give relief to the brave but beleaguered and outnumbered defence forces of Ukraine instead of hiding behind a smokescreen of limp-wristed excuses, their eyes turned resolutely away from the carnage which is taking place daily in the here and now while they focus on hypothetical and eminently contestable scenarios in some unknown and unknowable future. As military chaps know only too well, in war as in life, you gotta take risks. There's no escaping that indisputable truth. The simplest and most straightforward way for NATO to bring succour to Ukraine is to impose a no-fly zone in the country's airspace. 

NATO REBUFFS ZELENSKY'S CALL FOR A NO-FLY ZONE 

There's a guy who is currently being idolised by the Western powers - and, incidentally, by freedom-loving people throughout the entire world - for his heroic leadership of Ukrainian resistance to the butchery of his people by Putin's uniformed thugs. We are referring, of course, to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has not fled to safety abroad, as many in his position might have done, but continues to lead his compatriots and boost their morale by staying put in his besieged capital as the bombs fall around it.

We thought it might be of interest to know what President Zelensky thinks of the NATO decision to rule out the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Right on cue, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) provides us with the answer. Here is what it said on Friday 4 March 2022:

"Ukraine's president has attacked Nato leaders over their refusal to implement a no-fly zone around the country.

In a fiery speech, Volodymyr Zelensky said the West's reluctance to intervene had given Russia 'a green light' to continue bombarding towns and villages.

Nato has argued that a no-fly zone will result in confrontation with Moscow.

And Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, said on Saturday 5 March that any such move would be seen 'as participation in an armed conflict by that country'.

In his speech from Kyiv, Mr Zelensky said he disagreed that direct action could 'provoke Russia's direct aggression against Nato'.

In angry comments, he said the argument reflected the 'self-hypnosis of those who are weak, under-confident inside' and that Western reservations indicated that 'not everyone considers the struggle for freedom to be Europe's number one goal'.

'All the people who will die starting from this day will also die because of you. Because of your weakness, because of your disunity,'a furious Mr Zelensky added.

On Friday 4 March, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, warned that the introduction of a no-fly zone could lead to a 'full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering'. 

The only way to impose a no-fly zone would be 'by shooting down Russian planes,' Stoltenberg said." 

Our comment: Now there's a man who knows his onions. His knowledge of what constitutes a no-fly zone is cannot be bettered. Nato is lucky to have such a brain-box to guide them. 

LETTING THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG

2. NATO gave the Russians IN ADVANCE an undertaking that NATO would not engage in combat with them instead of at least leaving its intentions undefined and thus keeping the enemy in the dark as to what its plans were.  What military genius in the Pentagon conjured up that brainwave? Moscow can hardly contain its delight.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE A NATO MEMBER STATE

3. NATO is said to have told the Ukrainians that it would be happy to admit them as members and thus enable them to benefit from NATO protection in case of attack..... but not so long as the Ukrainians actually need protection from attack. Let's wait until the Russians have overrun Ukraine, then we will look again at its request for membership. This is NATO's little joke. We presume that NATO statesmen, like Bad Samaritans, turned to look the other way today 5 March 2022 when the Russians offered Ukrainian civilians safe passage out of the besieged southern city of Mariupol...and then shelled them as they emerged from the shelter of their cellars to take advantage of this kind offer. 

4. What is more, it is NATO's apparent willingness to consider NATO membership for Ukraine that has given Ivan the Terrible the pretext for invading Ukraine, since he regards the presence of a new NATO member state right up against the Russian border as a threat to Russian security. Since NATO is not prepared to defend Ukraine now, when it desperately needs to be defended, it would clearly have been safer for Ukraine if NATO had rejected outright from the start Khiv's request for membership. Then Moscow would at least have had no pretext for its invasion. 

DAVID VERSUS GOLIATH

5. What is the point of NATO if it is not willing to go to the help of a large democratic West European state that is in the process of being destroyed by barbarians from the East? What does it matter if Ukraine is a member of NATO or not? Albeit not currently a NATO member state, it is clearly "one of us", a peaceful democratic David posing no threat whatever to the huge Goliath to the East. Moreover, if NATO is not willing to defend Ukraine in any meaningful way at a time when that state is facing an existential crisis, then what guarantee is there that Washington will rush to the defence of existing NATO statelets like Estonia or Latvia should Moscow take a fancy to them? Our assessment is that there is no way that Washington will risk a nuclear attack on Chicago by sticking its neck out to save Tallinn or Vilnius. The logical conclusion of this argument is that, even in the case of a NATO member state, it is by no means certain that the NATO sword will be unsheathed to counter an enemy attack. Nor is it at all likely that Washington would risk an attack on New York even to save Paris or Berlin. Which us why French President Macron argues persuasively for Europe to have its own army. Remember the dictum of mid-19th century British Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston that Britain had no permanent allies, only permanent interests.

And yet surely Europe at least has a permanent interest in the protection of Ukraine from Moscow's expansionist designs. With an area of 600 000 square kilometres, Ukraine is larger than any other state in the European Union. What is more, the black soil steppes of Ukraine are the most fertile area of the former Soviet Union and contribute significantly to total global grain production. Is it not eminently in the interests of the European Union to retain this state within the ambit of Western Europe rather than abandon it against the will of its people to the clutches of the Russian Bear? Once Ukraine, the bread-basket of Eastern Europe, is absorbed into a resurgent Russian empire, it could be lost for ever to the free world, together with its immense grain resources.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF NATO? 

What is the point of NATO if it sits on the fence at a time when its intervention is most needed? 

It has long been a given in western military circles that conflict between nuclear-armed superpowers might in the last resort (for instance, if one of the parties is losing the fight) result in the use of nuclear weapons. 

However, it is also the accepted wisdom that the use of nuclear weapons would inevitably result in Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

It follows from this long-established doctrine that the nuclear superpowers are unlikely to go to war against each other. 

However, stuff happens and things go wrong. As Aristotle said, the unexpected has a tendency to occur. So there will always be the possibility, however remote, that one nuclear power or another will be tempted to resort to the use of nuclear weapons. Russia has already announced that it has put its nuclear arsenal on standby, suggesting that it may use it if necessary. It is almost certainly bluffing but maybe it is not and it is thar doubt, however small, that is tying the hands of some would-be interventionists in the NATO camp. 

However, there is another less discussed consequence that follows from this nuclear stand-off between the superpowers. It gives any nuclear power the relatively risk-free opportunity to wage a conventional war against a non-nuclear state in the virtual certainty that the conflict will not lead to nuclear intervention by another nuclear superpower. 

It is this opportunity that Russia has seized by invading Ukraine. And it has paid off. NATO has made it abundantly clear that it will not intervene directly to protect Ukraine against the slaughter of its citizens by Russia. Writing in the 24 March number of the London Review of Books, commentator James Butler highlights the now blazingly obvious fact that Western countries will not risk even conventional war - let alone nuclear war - to preserve Ukraine's sovereignty. 

UKRAINE BARRED FROM THE PROMISED LAND?

On February 14 President Zelensky made it clear that Ukraine aspired to membership of both the EU (European Union) and NATO. And why not? Ukraine is a democracy that wants to join the community of free nations and escape from the stranglehold of a Russian dictatorship aided and abetted by its partner in crime, the dictatorship in Belarus. What would be more logical than to admit Ukraine forthwith to the EU and NATO? Then it would have the protection of both bodies and NATO in particular would be obliged to go to its aid to ward off aggression.  

However, as reported on the BBC on 16 March, Mr Zelensky surprised everyone by saying that Ukrainians now understood they could not join NATO: "We have heard for years that the doors were open, but we also heard that we could not join. It's a truth and it must be recognised." 

Nor has the European Union shown any sign that it is enthusiastic to admit Ukraine any time soon to EU membership. 

No reason has yet been given for this comprehensive "NET" from 
the West. We can only assume that the 44 million citizens of Ukraine with its globally significant grain resources are not important enough for the richest and strongest economic and military alliance in the world to intervene to save it from Putin's butchery. 

TALKS "ONLY A SMOKESCREEN"

Several meetings have taken place between Ukrainian and  Russian delegations supposedly with a view to agreeing terms to end the conflict. Media reports have suggested that a peace treaty would include the permanent neutrality of Ukraine, guaranteed by outside powers, and restrictions on the size of its armed forces. Austria could set the precedent. On 15 May 1955, the USSR, together with the three Western powers occupying Austria (USA, Great Britain and France), signed a treaty which officially put an end to Austria's war status stemming from World War 2. In accordance with the new treaty, the Austrian Government had to proclaim the country’s military neutrality in exchange for the withdrawal of the occupation forces.

It should be stressed that by agreeing to a peace treaty accepting permanent neutrality and policed by outside powers Ukraine would be accepting a status involving less than the full sovereignty enjoyed by fully independent states. It is to be doubted that Ukraine will fall for this ploy. It is virtually certain that, before signing up to this proposal, the Russians would insist on being one of the overseeing powers. Which would enable Moscow to continue interfering with internal Ukrainian politics - this time legally in accordance with the terms of such a treaty but with precisely the same goal in view as now, namely, the absorption of  Ukraine in its entirety into the Russian Federation. 
 
Be that as it may, writing in the Mail Online on 20 March, Liz Truss, the UK Foreign Secretary, suggested that the Russians were not serious about negotiations, warning that Vladimir Putin may be using peace talks as a smokescreen to allow Russian troops to regroup for a fresh offensive on Ukraine. 

In an interview with the London Times on 19 March, Truss said she was
“very sceptical” about the talks, which she viewed as a standard part of Russia’s playbook:"I mean, if a country is serious about negotiations, it doesn’t indiscriminately bomb civilians that day.” President Putin would resort to “worse and worse” methods as his progress in Ukraine continued to falter, she added.

The last word should perhaps go to Ukrainian film maker Sergei Loznitsa in an interview with Graham Fuller in the Guardian newspaper on 24 March: 

"The concept of war that we have today allows.......destroying civilian populations. What do we think about this situation? How do we deal with it? The world observed how cities in Syria were destroyed. Now, having practised on Syria, Russia is destroying the cities of Ukraine. And again, the world is just an onlooker, standing at a distance as this destruction goes on.”

All of which brings Loznitsa to a grim conclusion. “The politicians of the countries that have the means to stop this are acting immorally,” he says. “It’s doubly immoral because they base their policies on fear. They claim that if they intervene, it will result in a world war, whereas the world war has already begun.”

APPEASEMENT 

6. Here we go again. In the 1930s, when Hitler was in the process of acquiring dictatorial powers in Germany, the West did nothing to stop his build-up of Germany's military might. Germany was allowed to reconstitute its fleet, reoccupy the Rhineland, ramp up arms production, conclude a pact with Mussolini's Fascists in Italy, occupy Austria and finally - in September 1938, with British and French agreement, at a meeting with Hitler in Munich - take over the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to UK waving a document signed by Hitler promising that the peoples of Britain and Germany would never again go to war with each other. "I believe it is peace in our time", Chamberlain told the British people. Six months later, in the spring of 1939, Hitler occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia. The autumn of that year saw the outbreak of the Second World War. 

Putin's assault on Ukraine is just the beginning. Give him an inch and he'll take a mile. His aim is to reconstitute geographically as far as possible the Soviet Empire. His modus operandi is "one thing at a time". He snatched Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The West did nothing. Soon afterwards he carved Russian satellite states - Donetsk and Luhansk - out of two Ukrainian regions bordering Russia. The West did nothing. Now, his appetite whetted, he wants the whole of Ukraine. The West turns the other way. And this is only the beginning. If Putin gets Ukraine, there can be no doubt but that he will be back for more. Just like Hitler.  

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1.Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2.Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3.The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4.Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)
6.A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7.A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8.Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

Editorial note: The eight posts recommended above have lost their hyperlinks. This has occurred as a result of the fact that this
post is the first we have had to write using the complex new drafting procedure introduced in the meantime by our publishing service provider. We hope to be able to restore these hyperlinks in due course. However, if any reader would like to access the eight articles immediately, they have only to scroll down to the bottom of the last post "POTUS meets the Queen of England", where the same eight posts are listed with their hyperlinks. Just click on any of the eight hyperlinked posts you wish to check out and, hey presto, Bob's your uncle. 

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POTUS meets the Queen of England

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

4 June2019

Swansong of lame-duck Prime Minister

From 3 to 5 June 2019 POTUS Donald Trump, his extensive family and the usual motley crew of hangers-on are enjoying (or enduring) the pomp and circumstance of a pageantry-stuffed state visit to the United Kingdom courtesy of lame-duck UK Prime Minister Theresa May. 

The visit includes a meet-up with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England and a full-dress banquet with all the trimmings at Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s London residence. 

Mr Trump’s host, Theresa May, is being forced to resign as leader of the governing Tory Party in just two days’ time on Friday 7 June 2019 as a result of her catastrophic botch-up of arrangements to divorce Britain from the suffocating embrace of the European Union. She is to step aside as Prime Minister once the party appoints a successor later this summer. 

Away from the royal razzmatazz, there have been extensive protests against the visit, by politicians as well as the general public, in London and in cities throughout the country.

The question then naturally arises: 

“Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?”

Our attention has been drawn to the following reply ascribed, rightly or wrongly, to a writer, apparently called Nate White, that has seemingly received much attention on social media. Our aim is simply to recycle these remarks, without comment, in the public interest.  We have sought to find a counter-balancing view but have unfortunately drawn a blank. Here is White’s response to the question:

“A few things spring to mind.

Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.

So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.

I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.

But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.

And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.

Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.

Well, we British don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.

And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.

Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.

He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.

He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.

That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.

There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant majority – perhaps most  of ‘Middle American Red-Necks’ look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:

* Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.

* You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.

After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W Bush look smart.

In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:

‘My God… what… have… I… created?

If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the star and a boxed set.”

Antigone1984:

No comment. We leave it to readers to form their own opinion of Mr White’s philippic. In doing so, they might also be advised to seek out the counterbalancing view that we have been unable to track down.  

Malicious tongues might venture to suggest that this expensive highfalutin junket brings together the worst President in American history with the worst Prime Minister in the history of the United Kingdom. 

But this might seem a tad unkind. 

In any case, who are we to judge?

Let the facts speak for themselves.

And, above all, let’s not spoil the party. 

It’s not every day that chaps get invited to supper at Buck House. 

So to our American friends,  we hold out the glad hand of welcome.

“Chill out, guys, and enjoy!”

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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FAQ: Antigone1984 and Brexit

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

11 January 2019

As the Brexit (Britain’s Exit from the European Union) train heads at warp speed for Armageddon, we provide the answer to a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ).

Why is hard-left blog Antigone1984 in bed with hard-right Brexiteers in the reactionary British Tory Party?

Well, readers who have managed to stay awake during our pro-Brexit screeds should know the answer to this one. We have supported Brexit consistently for at least three decades – before the word itself was coined. However, the Brexit saga has dragged on for so long that it is understandable if people’s eyes glaze over now whenever the dreaded “B” word is mentioned. 

Here is a short answer to the above FAQ.

A friend recently singled out for coruscating criticism Tory MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Daniel Hannan, who published two crystal-clear fast-paced fact-packed page-turners on Brexit (“Why Vote Leave” and “What Next”) before and after the Brexit referendum on 23 June 2016.

Our critic said: “He [Hannon] is the most ideological conservative that I have heard in ages. Steve Bannon would pale into insignificance in comparison. He is glib, massively rightwing, utterly selective about his evidence, and lacking in emotional intelligence when he he is in front of the general public. He insists private sector solutions are the answer to every social and economic issue. He is a Hayek disciple and his hero would, I am sure, denounce his naiveté…[He is] wholly shallow.”

Our response is as follows.

“It is indisputable that Hannan’s economic aspirations – post-Brexit – are classically rightwing. However, his non-economic arguments in favour of Brexit  – for example, restoring democracy, national identity and sovereignty (“bringing back control”) – are, in our view, highly persuasive. 

And sometimes in politics, in order to achieve an overriding objective, one has to forge temporary alliances with other parties some of whose views may be uncongenial. Consequently, we support Hannan up to the point where Britain exits the EU but not beyond. 

Post-Brexit, the gloves come off. 

If the Tories are still in government, they will aim to prune external tariffs between Britain and the rest of the world, recognise the equivalence of foreign product standards (instead of, as at present, only trading in products that meet EU standards),  introduce huge tax cuts, decimate spending on public services (including education, housing, local government and health and welfare), cut social benefits, discourage trade unions and privatise public services. The free-wheeling economy of authoritarian Singapore is their model.  

A truly leftwing Labour Party, should it gain power,  would aim to do precisely the opposite: increase taxes, jack up public spending and social benefits, double the minimum wage, welcome trade union contributions to economic development, and re-nationalise the commanding heights of an economy then unfettered by EU commitment to “free” markets. And that would be only for starters.

At some juncture after Brexit, in a two-party contest within UK national boundaries, it is likely that, as in the past, the opposition Labour Party would come to power in a country untrammelled by the corset of EU regulation. What happened then would depend upon the extent to which the Labour Party had moved to the left or to the right. A leftwing Labour Party, free to carry out the wishes of the people who elected it, could act swiftly to roll back the so-called “end of history” (the allegedly irreversible manipulation of western democracies by free-market elites) and launch a root-and-branch transformation of society in a socialist direction – something unthinkable as long as Britain remained trapped in the clutches of the economically liberal European Union. 

Such a transformation would be inconceivable, however, without the repudiation by the Labour Party of the capitalist ideology that has been the hall-mark of European social democracy since shortly after the end of the second world war.  Here, sadly, the signs are not encouraging. When the current Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was first elected to that post in September 2015, there were high hopes on the left that this inveterate Eurosceptic and self-styled democratic socialist would move the party firmly in a socialist direction. To do this, however, he would have had to defang the Blairites, a reactionary die-hard capitalist faction within the party named after the ideologically rightwing  Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, who was UK Prime Minister from1997 to 2007. Alas, Corbyn did nothing of the sort. Chickening out, he made the fatal mistake of trying to sweet-talk left and right to come together in a single big tent in which they would smoke the calumet and bury the hatchet. This never works. To thank Corbyn for his pains, the Blairites forced a new party leadership contest in 2016 but fortunately failed to unseat him. They are still there, however, a tightly organised faction within the party, waiting for the next window of opportunity to defenestrate him. Moreover, with the party split down the middle between progressives and reactionaries, Corbyn has not been able or willing to hammer out a radical socialist platform for the party’s policy manifesto. The few ideas that have been mooted, eg greater protection for workers, are milk and water rather than red meat. Finally, in the Brexit referendum itself, Corbyn, supposedly a Eurosceptic since his election to Parliament over three decades ago, turned coat and voted in favour of Britain remaining within the EU. Today you could not put a cigarette paper between the Labour Party’s current policy towards the EU  – “keep as close to the status quo as possible” – and that of the current Tory Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Brexit policy can be summed up as “BINO” (Brexit In Name Only”. As far as Labour and the Tories are concerned, it’s tweedledum and tweedledee. In these circumstances, it has to be admitted that even if the Labour Party succeeds in ousting Mrs May, which is unlikely but not impossible given the shifting sands of party allegiance, not much is likely to change for the better in the immediate future. 

Sadly, things have moved on from those happy days when Daniel Hannan’s hopes for a clean Brexit, cutting organisational and structural ties with the EU, were in the ascendant.

The Prime Minister’s current “deal” is BINO (Brexit In Name Only).  Antigone1984 does not support it. In fact, we go so far as to agree with those Brexiteers who maintain that it would be better to stay in the EU than leave under this fake prospectus. 

What we have now, of course, is the logical result of putting Remainiacs – Theresa May and her Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasury Secretary) Philip Hammond – in control of the Brexit negotiations. We have engaged arsonists to put out the fire. They have done their damnedest to sabotage the Brexit vote on 23 June 2016. 

Hats off to the Remain Camp!

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——————

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Giant’s Causeway to Brexit

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

9 January 2019

Northern Ireland is the Ultima Thule of the British Isles. A Province of the United Kingdom (UK) , outside the Pale and off the beaten track,  largely agricultural with an industrial and business hub in its main city, Belfast, it has a population of 1.9 million compared with 66.5 million for the UK as a whole (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). 

Nonetheless, the Province has been playing a crucial role in the current crisis that has erupted following the decision of the British electorate – in a kingdom-wide referendum on 23 June 2016 – to extricate itself from the clutches of the European Union (EU) after 45 years of turbulent association as one of its 28 member states. 

Britain is commonly seen throughout Europe as the eyes and ears of the United States – a Trojan mule at the beck and call of its transpontine master in the EU capital of Brussels.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has pointed out that, in the Brexit (“Britain’s Exit” from the EU) negotiations between the UK and the EU, Northern Ireland has been the tail wagging the British bulldog.  

Why so?

There are two reasons. 

The first is that the governing Tory (reactionary) Party is 9 seats short of a majority in the House of Commons (the principal organ of the UK Parliament). To make up this shortfall and so prop up her government, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has had to solicit the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Parliament. In exchange, she has had to concede substantial financial subsidies (in effect, bribes) to Northern Ireland and agree that any Brexit arrangement clinched with the EU would apply in all respects to Northern Ireland. 

The second reason is that Southern Ireland (the Republic of Ireland), an independent member member state of the EU, has insisted that there be no overtly demarcated frontier impeding frictionless trade between Southern and Northern Ireland, customs posts marking the border having been abolished as a result of the“Good Friday Agreement” (signed on Good Friday 10 April 1998) between Southern Ireland and the UK. Customs posts at the border in the past had been the target of attacks by Irish patriots seeking the reunification of Ireland. 

However, despite the absence of customs posts, the frontier between Southern and Northern Ireland still exists. Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom – a fact which was acknowledged by Southern Ireland in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement between Britain and the Republic. Therefore, if the UK leaves the EU, Northern Ireland must logically leave as well, while the independent country of Southern Ireland will remain remain an independent state within the EU. 

However, none of the parties involved – neither the British Government, the Southern Irish Government, the European Union or  the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (on whose support in the House of Commons the minority UK Government depends) – want the reintroduction of customs posts. 

This is partly because they fear – with or without good reason – that this may result in a resurgence of  violent attacks by Irish irredentists provoked by the reintroduction of border check-points. It is also because they are all quite happy with the frictionless trade established between Southern and Northern Ireland as a result of the Good Friday Agreement.

However, while not wishing to reintroduce overt border controls, the European Union is absolutely committed to making a clear distinction between the territory of EU member states and the territory of states which do not belong to the EU. 

EU Member States are subject to a common customs tariff for goods entering or leaving the EU across its external borders –  that is to say, the borders of EU member states that do not abut the frontiers (internal borders) of other EU member states. They are also obliged to accept the free movement of people, goods, capital and services within the EU as well as a raft of environment and social provisions. All these requirements are subject to interpretation by the European Court of  Justice in Luxembourg. 

Obviously,  countries outside the EU are not subject to the same obligations. Hence the need, so far as the EU is concerned, for a clearly defined border between EU and non-EU states. 

This brings us back to the Northern Ireland problem. 

If the UK leaves the EU, then Northern Ireland will leave with it. 

Therefore, in reality there is bound to be a border between Southern Ireland (part of the EU) and its northern neighbour Northern Ireland (which will have left the EU).

The Withdrawal Agreement concluded between the EU and the UK resorts to smoke and mirrors to obfuscate, at least temporarily, this border problem.

The agreement has magicked, out of thin air, a “transitional” or “implementation” period between Britain’s leaving the EU on 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020. During this period the UK has undertaken to respect the EU’s common external customs tariff and its four freedoms, while at the same time accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). 

Problem solved! Britain will be out of the EU and yet still, to all intents and purposes, inside it. Whizzo! Well done,chaps! 

This is what we called BINO (Brexit In Name Only) in our last post.  

The ultimate aim is to have in place a comprehensive long-term trade agreement between the EU and the UK by the end of the transitional period (which may be extended by agreement between the parties). 

However, what happens if such an agreement is not in place by the end of the transitional period or an extended transitional period? 

In that case, Northern Ireland will remain in the EU customs union and form part of the EU’s internal market for goods, while also accepting the jurisdiction of the ECJ – this until such time as a long-term agreement is stitched up. So frictionless trade between both parts of Ireland would continue. 

However, the rest of the UK would take a different route. Following the conclusion of the transitional period and until a long-term agreement is clinched, Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales excluding  Northern Ireland) will be in a customs union with the EU. However, unlike Northern Ireland, it will not be in the single market for goods. Moreover, responsibility for interpreting the deal will rest with the UK courts, not the ECJ. 

In order to understand the Talmudic complexity of post-transitional arrangements and in particular the alembicated distinction between customs union with the EU as it applies severally to Northern Ireland and GB, we only hope that it will muddy the waters yet further if we quote verbatim from the opinion sent to UK Prime Minister Theresa May on 13 November 2018 by the UK Attorney General, the Government’s chief legal officer, Geoffrey Cox:

[The numbers refer to paragraphs in the text]

7. “…NI remains in the EU’s Customs Union……GB is in a separate customs union with the EU creating a single customs territory between the EU and the UK, meaning NI and GB are not in separate customs territories…GB goods will … be able to pass between the UK and EU tariff-free. Goods passing from GB to NI will be subject to a declaration process…..”

8. “….The implications of NI remaining in the EU Single Market for Goods, while GB is not, is that for regulatory purposes GB is essentially treated as a third country by NI for goods passing from GB into NI. This means regulatory checks would have to take place between NI and GB, normally at airports or ports….”

9.”….Great Britain will no longer be a member of the EU’s Single Market for Goods or the EU’s customs arrangements. This means that any GB goods crossing the border into the EU will be subject to third country checks by Member State authorities to ensure that those goods meet EU standards. The EU currently requires some of these checks to take place at the border.”

If you can figure that out, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din! 

Poor Theresa May, the recipient of this advice! No wonder she’s lost her marbles.

If one tries to see the wood for the trees among all this legalist gobbledegook, it seems, subject to correction, that, post-transition, the rest of the UK will have a different regulatory relationship with the EU than will be the case in Northern Ireland. As a result, some form of border will need to be introduced to supervise trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

This dog’s breakfast of an arrangement  is what – in exchange for indispensable DUP support for her minority government – UK Prime Minister Theresa May promised the DUP would not happen. The DUP, naturally enough, have said they will not accept it. 

What is more, legal opinion suggests that the UK will not be able to withdraw unilaterally from the agreement, which could remain in force indefinitely until a long-term agreement superseded it. Thus, the UK could remain bound into a customs union with the EU sine die. 

What kind of Brexit would that be?

What happens now is anyone’s guess.

Antigone1984:

For all the DUP resistance to the political differentiation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, the fact is that Northern Ireland already has its own special political setup. The 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement between Britain and the Republic of Ireland gave the latter – an independent state – a consultative role in the government of Northern Ireland. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement between Britain and the Republic gave the Province a devolved government in which power is shared between the Protestant majority (focused on maintaining the union with Britain) and the Catholic minority (which largely aspires to Irish unification). It also provided for the establishment of three British-Irish institutions: an intergovernmental conference, a ministerial council and an interparliamentary body. No foreign state plays such a key part in any of the three other states forming the UK. Hence, if the end of the Brexit transition period results in a political regime for Northern Ireland that is different from that for the rest of the UK, that is not without precedent.

Blue skies thinking for a rain-sodden island

Another solution – taboo for the nonce – is for Britain to wash its hands of Ireland once and for all.  That delightful country of hospitable natives has been a cauldron of political trouble for its imperial overlord and a burden on its exchequer since King Henry II of England landed in Ireland to establish his dominion in 1171 AD. 

Moreover, nearer our times, the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty instituting partition of the island – unprecedented in the 850 years of English occupation – was a classic “unequal” take-it-or-leave-it treaty foisted on the impoverished Catholic south by Britain’s imperial administration (like those it foisted on East Asia fifty years earlier)  in order to continue to profit from the output of the then prosperous industrialised Protestant north. 

One commentator: “For all I care, Northern Ireland can join up with the Republic, from which it should never have been amputated, or form its own independent mini-state on the lines of Luxembourg or Malta. Britain, for its part, should get shot of this unruly province for good and proper with a resounding “goodbye and good riddance!”. That would be a major positive spin-off from Brexit. If only!”

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Brexit sabotaged

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

30 December 2018

Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus

Horace,  Ars Poetica, line 139

           “She’s all hat and no cattle”  (Texan translation)

In a series of blogposts – for example, Bad Losers and Victory for the People, Defeat for the Ruling Class – Antigone1984 has made its position crystal-clear: as democrats, we are in favour of respecting the decision taken by the British people in the referendum of 23 June 2016 in favour of Britain’s leaving the EU. 

Unsuprisingly, since that happy outcome, the ruling class – the UK government, the political class, big business and the elitist media – has fought back fanatically, tooth-and-nail, to undermine systematically the democratically expressed wishes of the British people. 

Leading the fightback has been the reactionary Tory Government of Prime Minister Theresa May. Knowing that time was of the essence, for about year after the June 2016 referendum her government sat on their hands and did diddly-squat. 

Then, with time running out, they fixed a date for Britain to leave the European Union – 29 March 2019 – that would by no measure allow enough time to negotiate the extrication of Britain from 45 years of legal and bureaucratic enmeshment with the embryonic EU superstate. 

Knowing from the outset that it would be impossible to conclude the negotiations within this timescale, PM May then produced a rabbit out of the hat: she invented out of thin air an additional layer of complexity of which the referendum had said nothing: there would be a transitional period between Britain “leaving” the EU on 29 March 2019 and a second arbitrary date of 31 December 2020. During that “transitional”period of nearly two years, Britons were told, they would in practice notice very little difference between EU-UK relations then and now. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. However, amazingly, it didn’t end there. By agreement with the EU, the UK has secured the possibility of yet a second “transition” period, of as yet undetermined duration, to follow the ending of the first “transition” period on 31 December 2020.

This is what the UK Government calls “leaving the EU”!

PM May is clearly following the machiavellian advice of Tancredi in the 1958 novel “The Leopard” by Prince Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa : “Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi.” (“If we want everything to stay as it is, then everything will have to change.” That is to say, “everything will have to appear to change.”)

The Tory Party lead by Theresa May is avowedly the political wing of big business. Yet since the result of the referendum of 23 June 2016 became known the morning after, big business, needing to take long-term decisions as regards trade, services and investment,  has, quite reasonably, been clamouring for clarity as to what precisely was going to happen to Britain’s international economic relations after Brexit.

They have received the dustiest of dusty answers from their political partner: “Wait and see!” So much for PM May’s concern for the pressing concerns of her party’s economic allies. 

It was less than two years before the March 2019 deadline that the government buckled down to the monumental task of negotiating the unravelling of 45 years of Britain’s legal and bureaucratic entanglement with the European Union. 

The result – the Withdrawal Agreement on the transition period concluded this autumn between Britain and the European Commission and approved on 25 November by the European Council – is a botched deal that would transform Britain from being a provincial member state of the EU into an EU vassal state – and that for an indeterminate period.

Incredibly,  the “deal” involves Britain remaining within the EU Customs Union and the Internal Market – the essence of the European Union – for a so-called “transitional period” lasting from 29 March 2019 till 31 December 2020. However, this period may be extended indefinitely for years by agreement with the parties. During the transition, however long it lasts, Britain will continue to pay its gigantic annual subscription to the EU as if it were still a member state. However, unlike a member state it will have no say in decisions taken by the remaining 27 EU member states. Nor will it have any representatives in the European Parliament. 

This is the “deal” that UK Prime Minister Theresa May shamelessly describes as delivering the Brexit that the people of Britain voted for in the referendum. 

[Those who voted to leave the EU we call Leavites or Brexiteers (a term derived from Brexit – Britain’s Exit from the EU). Those who voted to stay we call Remainers or, more bluntly, “Remoaners”.]

Bullshit!

This is a copy of the text of the referendum ballot on which the British electorate was asked to vote on 23 June 2016:

Vote only once by putting a cross X in the box next to

your choice

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the 

European Union or leave the European Union?

         Remain a member of the European Union   [box]

                                       Leave the European Union  [box]”

Voters were asked to mark with a single X the remain or leave box.

It is hardly possible to imagine a more straightforward question. 

The result, too, was crystal-clear.

Of the British people who took part in the ballot, 51.9 % voted to leave the European Union as against 48.1 % who voted to remain. The turn-out was a substantial 71.8 % of the electorate. 

It is of the utmost importance to note the exact wording of the referendum. There are no ifs or buts. The winning majority of voters opted to leave the European Union. They did not vote to remain organically attached to it by the umbilical cord of the EU’s Customs Union and Internal Market and still subject to the supreme legal authority of the EU’s Court of Justice.  Even less did they vote to pay ginormous annual sums into the coffers of the EU – and that without having any say in decisions affecting Britain that are taken by the remaining 27 EU member states. On the contrary, the voters of Britain voted unambiguously by a clear majority to LEAVE THE EUROPEAN UNION.  

And yet the UK Prime Minister Theresa May has the bare-faced sass to describe her “deal” – remaining for an indefinite transition period within the core EU structures of the Customs Union and the Internal Market, continuing to pay pharaonic quantities of tribute to the EU treasury whilst at the same time relinquishing Britain’s representation in the European Parliament and in the European Council –  as delivering the Brexit that the people of Britain voted for in the referendum!  

Which part of “LEAVE” does the Prime Minister not understand?

The Prime Minister’s Brexit is BINO – Brexit in Name Only.

And the reason for this could not be more obvious.

The two architects of the “deal” – Theresa May and her Chancellor (Finance Minister) the charisma-free Philip Hammond – are both remainiacs who voted in the referendum that Britain should stay inside the European Union. 

That says it all. 

What we have now is the logical result of putting Remainers – May and Hammond – in control of the Brexit negotiations. We have engaged arsonists to put out the fire. They have done their damnedest to sabotage the Brexit vote on 23 June 2016

This view is confirmed by UK Tory Member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group. In a report for “Guardian Live” on 20 November 2018, he is quoted as saying that the UK Government was determined not to deliver a meaningful Brexit: “What we are seeing from this Government is a deliberate decision not to deliver a proper Brexit. We have a Government led by Remainers who want to keep us tied into the EU as tightly as possible.”

Hats off to the Remain Camp!

How different was the stance that May adopted in the heady months that followed the referendum! Setting out the backstory in the Daily Telegraph on 7 December 2018, another Tory MP, Ben Bradley, pointed out that, making a keynote speech at Lancaster House in London on 17 January 2017, Theresa May said she would seek to negotiate “a bold and ambitious free trade deal” with Europe that would also give Britain the ability to fraternise around the world [ie conclude trade deals with non-EU states].

According to Bradley, May “was aiming to take back control of our money, borders and laws. These, she said quite rightly, were at the heart of the reasons why people voted to leave. She said that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal‘ and that if the EU would not give us something that worked for the United Kingdom, then we could walk away and succeed on our own merits.”

Alas it was not to be.

Bradley continues: “It is hard, looking back, to understand how it can have gone so wrong since then, and that from those bright and optimistic beginnings, the Government now presents us with this choice: vote for mediocrity or risk chaos.”

By voting to leave the EU in the referendum, he maintains, voters had shown that they were eager to “take back control of their destiny”.

“This vote for change is what the Government has misunderstood. You cannot deliver on it by seeking to replicate as much of the status quo as possible. You cannot deliver an outcome that meets the ‘spirit’ of the referendum result if we remain tied, perhaps indefinitely, to the institution that we promised to leave.”

Calling for a free trade arrangement, such as that between the EU and Canada, that does not tie Britain into all the regulatory and financial obligations in the Prime Minister’s “broken proposal”, Bradley recommends that the UK have the confidence to strike out on its own.

“Such a decision would restore the brittle faith in democracy in communities like mine around the UK, ” according to Bradley, who is Member of Parliament for Mansfield, a market town in Nottinghamshire far from the madding crowd of self-serving anti-democratic EU apologists in London. “It would prove that they have a voice and that when they vote for change, the establishment will not block or ignore them.”

Quite.

Needless to say, Antigone1984, which was a dyed-in-the-wool champion of Brexit for decades before the 2016 referendum, does not support May’s so-called deal. 

In fact, mirabile dictu, we go so far as to agree with those members of the Remain camp who maintain that it would be better to stay within the EU than leave under Theresa May’s fake prospectus.

You would think that things could not get much worse. In fact, they have. 

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,

He had ten thousand men;

He marched them up to the top of the hill,

And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,

And when they were down, they were down,

And when they were only half-way up,

They were neither up nor down.

                            English nursery rhyme

Earlier on in the Brexit saga the House of Commons forced an unwilling Prime Minister Theresa May to give Members of Parliament a “meaningful” vote on the final agreement reached between the EU and the UK. 

To fulfil this obligation, the Government programmed five days of debate in the House of Commons in early December 2018 followed by the “meaningful” vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday 11 December. 

However, while graciously agreeing to allow the elected Members of Parliament to have a meaningful vote on the proposed deal, this tricky-dicky Government then refused to allow the Commons to see the full legal advice upon which its decision to sign the agreement was based. 

Fortunately, the Commons was having none of this. Not unreasonably, it took the view that the Government’s concealment from Parliament of this crucial opinion from Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox, the Government’s chief legal officer, constituted contempt of Parliament and, on 4 December, the first day of the parliamentary debate, voted to compel the Government to publish Cox’s advice.

Not only that, but it also voted to compel the government to give Parliament a say in any subsequent Brexit-related agreement should the Commons reject the Withdrawal Agreement in the meaningful vote on 11 December. Naturally, this was an appalling prospect so far as the government was concerned because it meant that, should the vote go against it, the Government would no longer have a free hand: in any subsequent negotiations its scope for manoeuvre would be curtailed as a result of interference from the elected Members of Parliament. Imagine!

Since as far back as the referendum on 23 June 2016, it was uncertain as to whether Parliament would vote to leave the EU – in accordance with the will of the people as expressed in the referendum – or to stay inside it regardless of how people had voted. 

Since the details of the Withdrawal Agreement became known and, in particular, since the publication of the Attorney-General’s advice, which suggested that the agreement might keep the UK indefinitely subject to EU regulations, parliamentary sentiment has hardened against the deal on the grounds that it constitutes a comprehensive cave-in to the EU in exchange for sweet-fanny-adams.  

By the final day of the Parliamentary debate on Monday 10 December, it became clear beyond doubt that the deal would receive a massive thumbs-down the next day in the “meaningful” vote in Parliament. At the eleventh hour, frit and panicking, General Theresa May – “she who can do no wrong” – marched her troops down again. At the eleventh hour Tuesday’s vote was put off to the Greek Kalends

So that was the vote that wasn’t.

Naturally, there was uproar in Parliament. MPs had wasted five days debating for nothing. The Government had pulled the vote at the last minute to save its skin. The Mother of Parliaments had been dissed. Most thought that the vote should be reinstated lickety-split. 

Well, naturally, it wasn’t. Some days later the Government let it be known that the postponed vote would not take place till the week beginning 14 January more than a month after the vote had been postponed on 11 December. This in a context where Britain is slated to leave the European Union regardless – with a deal or without one – on 29 March 2019.  That leaves only two and half months between the rescheduled vote and the fixed date for Britain’s departure from the EU. 

The vote has now been rescheduled for 15 January – although clearly one cannot now trust any such information from a government capable of upsetting the apple cart and making panicky changes at any moment.

The question naturally arises: given that there is not much on the parliamentary agenda at this time of year and certainly nothing as important as the decision to sever 45 years of close political, economic, legal and cultural links with the European project for a United States of Europe, why is the Government now dragging its feet and refusing to resubmit its Withdrawal Agreement to the vote immediately? 

One can only speculate. However, dirty tricks are to be expected. 

The following is more than likely:

  1. The  month-long delay will allow ample time for government lackeys, not least party whips, using bribes and threats to put pressure on individual MPs to accept the deal. They are doing precisely this as we write these lines.
  2. Government envoys, programmed by a panicking Theresa May, will spend the month scuttling back and forth between London and Brussels in the hope that yet more bowing, scraping and grovelling will soften the hearts of EU officials and persuade them to throw some crumbs of comfort into the UK begging bowl in the form of legally valueless concessions couched in the creatively ambiguous language of which the European Union is proud. 
  3. The main purpose of the delay, however, is to play for time. Theresa May is running down the clock. Time is her trump card. Come the week beginning 14 January 2019, she can tell MPs that either they accept her agreement or Britain will be ejected from the EU on 29 March 2019 without any agreement. Given the 18 months it has taken to get this far, two and a half months will hardly suffice to renegotiate a new agreement with the EU from scratch. But it is not only in respect of relations with the EU that an abyss would open up. So far as we know, virtually no trade agreements have been negotiated between Britain and the rest of the world outside the EU. Expect Prime Minister May to play the time card hard. It’s my deal or nothing, she will tell MPs. Fall into line or your country will go down the Swanee.

If MPs back down and accept the deal, Mrs May will have achieved her original object: BINO (Brexit in Name Only). Since becoming Prime Minister shortly after the referendum, she has worked ruthlessly, losing Brexit secretary after Brexit secretary in the process, to preserve in reality, if not in name, the status quo between Britain and the EU. We shall be leaving the EU while remaining in it at the same time. May has pig-headedly refused to countenance any alternative (such as the conclusion of bilateral agreements with third countries, including the EU, on World Trade Organisation terms). Maybe, in some deranged way, she believes that she has squared the circle – that her agreement is giving what they want to both Leavites and Remainers. 

Good luck with that one, Theresa!

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

He who has nothing has nothing to lose

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

17 October 2018

Post equitem sedet atra cura

Wealth and worry – you can’t have one without the other

HORACE  ODES 3.2

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Up north

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

16 October 2018

“Brought up in the provinces in the forties and fifties one learned early the valuable lesson that life is generally something that happens elsewhere.”

Alan Bennett, English playwright, actor and author. The son of a butcher, Bennett, who was born in 1934, is a tyke. Which means that he was born “up north” in what was at that time the county of Yorkshire far from the madding crowds and bright lights of the country’s capital “down south”. For all the fame and fortune that came to him in later life, he never lost contact with his northern roots. 

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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Posted in Literature, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The iron law of politics

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

15 October 2018

 

“Never believe governments, not any of them, not a word they say.”

 

Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998), US novelist, travel writer, journalist and war correspondent.

 

Antigone1984:

For a minor example of this iron law of politics, let’s check out the current issue of UK satirical magazine Private Eye (No. 1480 of 5 to 18 October 2018, page 7).

In October 2009  Sadiq Khan, transport minister in the then Labour Government, assured a fellow Member of Parliament that privatisation of the railways had been a success: 

Dr B. Ching, who writes the Signal Failures column [in Private Eye], is a long standing advocate of nationalisation, but the Government takes the view that the current system has delivered many benefits for passengers, and can continue to do so, without the wholesale upheaval of a complete industry restructuring.”

In September 2018 Sadiq Khan, now Mayor of London (the Labour Government having been booted out of office in 2010), tells the City AM freesheet why he backs rail nationalisation: 

Privatisation has been a failure. All the evidence is there.

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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Posted in Politics, Transport, UK | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Two Cultures

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

14 October 2018

“If a scientist were to cut his ear off, no one would take it as evidence of heightened sensibility.”

Haiku by Sir Peter Medawar (1915-1987), English immunologist, who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine in 1960.

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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Posted in Art, Health, Japan, Literature, Netherlands, Science, UK | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Batting for England

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

13 October 2018

WORDS OF WISDEN

“It’s a funny kind of month October. For the really keen cricket fan it’s when you discover that your wife left you in May.” 

Denis Norden (1922-1918), English comedy writer and television presenter 

Antigone1984:

This is English humour at its most arcane. You could not translate it into Chinese – or even hieroglyphic Egyptian, for that matter. It is one of the main arguments in favour of Brexit – the exit of Britain from the homogenising European Union, which is slated to take place on 29 March 2019.  Save the date – and get ready to join in  the universal rejoicing that must surely accompany such an auspicious deliverance.  But foes abound – not least the black-hearted quislings within our own playing fields  –  and fond hopes of repatriating the Ashes of national sovereignty – shamefully ceded, for a mess of potage, to the away-team  from Euroland – may yet turn to ashes. If the whey-faced glumbags of Brussels succeed in thwarting the People’s Vote of 23 June 2016 in favour of winning back our liberty, the unique English sentiments of free spirit, humour and fair play will inevitably be relegated for ever to the realm of oblivion. In fact,  according to the usual unreliable sources at the European Commission,  red tape is already being manufactured across the Channel that will impose a standardised format and procrustean restrictions on gaiety of whatever kind throughout the union’s 28 member states. This is no laughing matter.

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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Posted in Brexit, China, Egypt, Europe, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment