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Going Dutch?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jun 7th, 2019 at 10:26:49 PM EST

Unlike the low key, almost private, visit of Donald Trump to Ireland this week, Dutch King Willem-Alexander is being afforded the full formalities of a state visit next week. Accompanied by the Dutch foreign and trade ministers and a trade delegation, the subtext is the preparations both countries are making for Brexit.

Mark Paul has produced an excellent preview for the Irish Times

A few years ago, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who occasionally used to moonlight for fun as a pilot for the Dutch airline KLM, bumped into the Ryanair chief executive, Michael O'Leary, at a conference.

O'Leary was characteristically bombastic and facetiously invited the royal to work for Ryanair instead. It isn't hard to imagine O'Leary smirking in self-admiration at his temerity in wiping the eye of a monarch in a slagging match.

Ryanair subsequently became embroiled in a damaging industrial relations war with many of its pilots, leading to strikes in some countries before a peace deal was struck last year. Its difficulties were compounded at one stage by a staff scheduling crisis that forced Ryanair to cancel thousands of flights.

For a time, O'Leary's well-won reputation as an aviation genius lay in tatters. Sensing an opportunity to get his own back, the Dutch king sat down at his computer and composed an email to O'Leary, asking him if he was still looking for pilots. By some accounts, the Ryanair boss struggled to see the funny side.

Quite a few years ago my young family spent a few pleasant holidays camping near Delft, enjoying the water slides and amusement parks, cycling around the extensive cycle tracks, and taking in the delights of IKEA on a wet day long before that store had become established in Ireland. Oh the joys!

Holland, to us, seemed like a gigantic theme park designed for children, bicycles, bad weather, and a very civilised way of life based on strong community values. Compared to Ireland's much rougher, wilder, and sometimes chaotic charms, it seemed a model of good organisation, social cohesion, and economic efficiency. A sort of Germany without the Germans: more laid back, relaxed, and a with a lot of emphasis on family. As one commenter on Mark Paul's article put it: "If the Dutch had Ireland's land they would feed the world, whereas if the Irish had the Dutch land we'd all drown."

Almost exactly 10 years ago these impressions were reinforced by my attendance at a blogging conference in Rotterdam, admittedly not perhaps the most representative sub-sample of Dutch life. But Ireland has changed perhaps more than any other country I know of in the meantime, with a sustained drive towards liberalisation whereas Dutch politics seems to have moved in a more reactionary direction.

Brexit represents a huge challenge for both countries as they are the most exposed to trade with the UK. But whereas the Dutch seem to have embraced the challenge with enthusiasm and efficiency, Ireland is still in denial. Any acceptance that customs controls are going to have to be erected at or near the border with N.Ireland raises the spectre of the civil war fought over that border in 1922/3, and the Troubles in N. Ireland from 1968-98 where all customs posts were terrorist targets. Any Irish government proposing to re-implement border controls at the border faces imminent defeat.

The "Irish backstop" seems to be the one issue which unites all the likely Tory leadership contenders against the Withdrawal Agreement, and so a no-deal Brexit seems most likely unless the Conservative/DUP government is overthrown. Then the only hope of avoiding border controls is for a future UK government not dependent on DUP support to agree to customs controls "down the Irish Sea" and keeping N. Ireland in the Custom Union and Single Market even if Britain leaves.

Failing that, the probability of a united Ireland rises, with opinion polling in N. Ireland showing a gradual trend in that direction especially in the event of a no deal Brexit. However the difficulties associated with any move in that direction are huge, and no real preparations are being made for that contingency either.

So the current governmental strategy seems to entail a large measure of hoping a no deal Brexit doesn't happen, or at least will be short-lived and end before real divergences in customs regulations and tariffs between the UK and EU emerge. Not exactly the Dutch approach...

Going Dutch is a phrase invented by the English to describe the practice of everyone paying for the cost of their own restaurant meal rather than relying on a sole benefactor to pay for all. However it also has pejorative undertones hinting at meanness  and is part of a series of phrases arising out of historical English Dutch rivalry and presenting the Dutch in an unfavourable light:
Back in the 17th century the intense rivalry between the British and the Dutch, both countries fighting to build their global empires, led to many phrases being coined by the British navy to insult their Dutch counterparts. Dutch-courage: implied that the Dutch needed a few drinks inside them to have the stomach required for a fight. Dutch defence: retreat, rather than fight. The phrase "going Dutch", where a couple each pays for their own half of a restaurant bill implies "cheap", basically.


In US English at least, "Dutch" was used as a adjective that means "false". For example, "dutch courage"- courage from drinking liquor (no real courage), "dutch metal"- imitation gold made mostly of copper, "Dutch nightingale"- a frog; "Dutch concert" - an unmusical racket, "Dutch auction" - auction starting at maximum price. Therefore, "Dutch treat" means no treat at all.

In the context of this blogpost, I am using the phrase ironically to ask the question whether Ireland is prepared to pay its share of the price of maintaining the integrity of the EU's external frontier post Brexit. Our approach so far could not be less like the Dutch...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 8th, 2019 at 01:28:56 AM EST
...for a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson to EU: I won't pay unless deal improved

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is stepping up his campaign to be Britain's next prime minister by challenging the European Union over Brexit terms.

Johnson told the Sunday Times he would refuse to pay the agreed-upon 39 billion-pound ($50 billion) divorce settlement unless the EU offers Britain a better withdrawal agreement than the one currently on the table.

Johnson is a hard-line Brexit advocate who vows to take Britain out of the EU on the Oct. 31 deadline even if there is no deal in place.

If a future PM Johnson is determined to leave the EU without a deal come Halloween, there is bugger all the Parliament can do to stop him.
by Bernard on Sun Jun 9th, 2019 at 03:01:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It can vote no confidence in his government, which could force a general election. But not if parliament is prorogued before that can happen...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 9th, 2019 at 04:10:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am probably confused, but isn't Brexit a two-step project: first, the divorce, and second, any subsequent trade or other treaties?

If so, BoJo can argue, perhaps, that the UK won't pay the 39B divorce settlement, and will leave without a deal. That covers the first part.

But then what? Would the EU begin to negotiate the treaties before the 39B is delivered? I would think not, but that doesn't affect his current promise. Seems like he is making a supportable claim, but just shading it to avoid mention of what happens after leaving.

by asdf on Sun Jun 9th, 2019 at 06:34:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the UK reneges on the deal freely negotiated with the May government the EU will probably refuse to negotiate on stage 2 - a FTA or whatever future trading relationship the UK wants.  What is the point of negotiating further with a country that doesn't honour previous agreements?

No deal means NO DEAL, so the EU may even refuse to negotiate landing rights for UK carriers to destinations in the EU = no flights, although some "sectoral arrangements" formal or informal, might persist - e.g. security cooperation, intelligence sharing, and NATO related matters.

The EU might even impose tariffs on UK goods to recover the "lost" 39m Billion, reduce congestion at borders by reducing trading volumes, and compensate for increased administrative costs and the loss of competitiveness created by a radical devaluation of Sterling...

You will note that all the talk of trading on WTO rules is coming from the UK hard Brexiteer side. The EU has given no guarantees that this will be the case. Trump has driven a coach and four through WTO rules in any case. If the UK takes Trumps side in any US/EU trade disputes, it can expect to be in the front line.

My problem is not that this is all project fear stuff. My problem is project fear doesn't come close to describing what a rapid deterioration of relations post Brexit could lead to. No one wins trade wars, but the weaker side can lose pretty badly. CF The Anglo-irish Trade war 1932-38.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 9th, 2019 at 08:10:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The other candidates for Tory leadership are saying the same. (Raab, McVey, Hunt...).

Gesticulation aimed at the Tory membership "base".

Proroguing Parliament to impose a policy Parliament has several times voted against would be an outright putsch by the executive. Aggravated by the fact that opinion polls show pretty solid opposition to that policy on the part of a majority of the electorate. That way lies constitutional mayhem and a country paralysed by conflict for years to come.

To that add what Frank says above about EU reactions.

The only route for a PM who wants to pull out with no deal is to win a general election fought on the question. The Leave vote would be split between Farage and the Tories, and Labour would stand an excellent chance of making it on an anti-no-deal platform, in spite of Remainer defections to the Lib Dems.

To the objection that BoJo et al have fat-cat backers who are licking their chops at the prospect of UK roadkill, I'd suggest they wouldn't be tipping their cards so blatantly at this stage. These declarations of wicked intent from the candidates are aimed at the comparatively small number of aged swivel-eyes who are to elect the Tory party leader.

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Mon Jun 10th, 2019 at 08:02:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The irony being that having just voted for unelected EU bureaucrats the British public or their elected representatives won't get to vote on who should be their "democratically elected" PM.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 10th, 2019 at 09:05:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's called "taking back control" of something you've never had control of.

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.
by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Mon Jun 10th, 2019 at 09:15:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or 100,000 self entitled, ageing, Tory snobs deciding they don't want to share power with anyone...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 10th, 2019 at 11:11:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I were European Commission president, the moment Boor-Ass became PM, I would use that statement as a basis for freezing all UK assets in the EU.
by rifek on Sun Jun 16th, 2019 at 02:15:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No need for anything illegal. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 16th, 2019 at 09:34:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't illegal, it's just always been reserved for little people like Iceland and Venezuela.  But now that the UK has decided to relegate itself to vassal-state status....
by rifek on Sun Jun 16th, 2019 at 12:22:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the EU decides to get tough with the UK, and recover the costs of commitments (incl. pensions) it has incurred on behalf of the UK, all it has to do is slap a global 10% "surcharge" on imports from the UK, thereby reducing the impact of a radical Sterling devaluation and any competitive advantage the UK seeks to gain through that. No doubt Brexiteers will complain that it is in breech of WTO rules on "most favoured nation status". Perhaps they will seek to enlist Trump's support for a "rules based international order". Good luck with that...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 16th, 2019 at 03:38:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The UK gets about 6% (??) of its annual electricity from continental interconnectors - 2GW to France, 1GW to Netherlands, 1GW to Belgium 0.5GW to Ireland (which can be export from UK rather than importing Irish surplus).

Other interconnectors are planned to export / import surplus wind power.

Peak demand is 16:00 to 18:30 in mid January, when, if a high pressure system covers EU/UK, it is cold, there is no wind power and no solar power.

If UK leaves in acrimony, it will be interesting to see how the EU reacts to our "membership" of the single EU Electricity / Energy markets in mid January 2020 and whether there is still surplus to keep UK lights on.

But such a move would create problems for the single energy market in Ireland.

by oldremainmer48 on Sun Jun 16th, 2019 at 05:57:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IE is getting/has a direct French interconnection.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 16th, 2019 at 06:42:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Learned about it while reading @BorderIrish:

by Bernard on Sun Jun 16th, 2019 at 08:14:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, "Will be getting".

From Wikipedia -

The cable is expected to be operational by 2025
by oldremainmer48 on Mon Jun 17th, 2019 at 08:13:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My mistake / bad memory. 1GW to/from France.
by oldremainmer48 on Mon Jun 17th, 2019 at 01:31:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have learned from this error. That is a good thing.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Jun 17th, 2019 at 01:54:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
About the border controls for freight:

by Bernard on Sun Jun 9th, 2019 at 06:27:11 PM EST
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 9th, 2019 at 07:54:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bernard on Sun Jun 9th, 2019 at 08:55:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I love Spooky's report of the UK solution: unicorns farting rainbows across the border.
by rifek on Mon Jun 17th, 2019 at 06:27:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Views from Unionists, via Politico.eu:

Brexit's Ulster problem

The Irish border Brexit fight is fixated on the wrong thing.

That's the message unionists in Northern Ireland would like political leaders in London, Dublin, Brussels and other European capitals to hear.

The border, a key sticking point in the Brexit impasse, is part of the complicated political puzzle of preserving Northern Ireland's peace settlement. But, say Unionists, it is not the only part -- and to elevate it above all other considerations puts real strain on the very settlement it is designed to protect.

In order to prevent Brexit from upending the delicate settlement in Northern Ireland, EU negotiators have insisted that any agreement governing the U.K.'s departure must include a cast-iron mechanism to prevent the need for checks on the border between the U.K. nation and the Republic of Ireland to the south.

Having read the whole thing, this continental was left with the feeling of a very insular group of people who yet do insist on the whole 300+ million people EU27 dropping their priorities to accommodate theirs.

And what about the whole "no border in the Irish sea" thing? Does it mean that abortion is legal in NI because it's the "British law"?

by Bernard on Tue Jun 11th, 2019 at 07:50:28 PM EST
What they've said is that they want to leave the EU without leaving. It's bollocks. They may even know it's bollocks - hard to say, quite a number of them are young Earth creationists.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 11th, 2019 at 09:53:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Brexiteer leitmotiv has always been the assumption that the current Benefits of the EU can be taken for granted and preserved, while the costs and obligations can be avoided.  Thus there is no need for customs controls at the border, and it will be the EU's fault if they are implemented. In principle they want everything to stay the same, but without the UK's contribution to the EU budget, subjugation to EU regulation, and requirement to pool sovereignty. Only the EU's stubbornness and desire to "punish Britain" is preventing this form being eminently feasible.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 11th, 2019 at 10:21:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Once again the DUPes demonstrate a firm nongrasp of reality.  I'm compelled to conclude their party meetings are held in opium dens.
by rifek on Sun Jun 16th, 2019 at 02:25:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, but they did begin life as the political wing of Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church which was a breakaway from the Presbyterian Church because the latter's bigoted, homophobic, and creationist teachings weren't fundamentalist enough... Religion rather than drugs is their thing, but then religion is the opium of the people...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 16th, 2019 at 09:39:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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