Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The reality of Brexit strikes home

by Frank Schnittger Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 12:07:00 AM EST

Newton Emerson, a unionist commentator, has an article up in the Irish Times echoing Boris Johnson's complaint that the EU is threatening to blockade N. Ireland's food supplies. This is part of Johnson's justification for breaking international law even though discussions at the joint implementation body on the N. Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement had been, by all accounts, making good progress in resolving outstanding issues.

The three British supermarket chains which control 80% of N. Ireland's grocery trade have been campaigning to be allowed to circumvent customs controls on the grounds that their internal controls are sufficient to ensure all standards are met and tariffs paid. Those internal controls were not sufficient, in the recent past, to prevent horse meat being passed off as beef in beef burgers, and giving them such privileged treatment might also kill off the remaining 20% of the grocery trade they don't currently control - small retailers who wouldn't get similarly preferential treatment.

German supermarket chains such as Aldi and Lidl are making great inroads into the grocery trade in the Republic of Ireland, as are other retailers like IKEA and Decathlon who don't source most of their goods in Britain. Presumably the British based supermarket chains in  N. Ireland - Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury - are concerned they might be disadvantaged by customs checks retailers sourcing their goods within the Single Market would not face. But this is the reality of Brexit.

I have responded in the Irish Times letters page as follows:

`Brussels is threatening NI food supply'

Sir, - Parts of Newton Emerson's article citing the EU customs compliance costs of half the cost of a typical container's contents read as if they were inspired by a supermarket PR department ("Brussels is threatening the North's food supply", Opinion & Analysis, September 17th).

It is not the job of the EU to copper-fasten the virtual monopoly of the North's grocery trade by three supermarket chains. The customs controls he complains of apply to all goods from all countries outside the EU which do not have a special trading and regulatory relationship with the EU.

And isn't that precisely what Boris Johnson has been asking for? To be treated just like Australia, which doesn't have a trade deal with the EU?

In any case, what's so bad about trying to prevent chlorinated chickens, steroid- or antibiotic-treated beef, or live animals with foot-and-mouth disease getting on to the island, and from here potentially onto the continent?

Of course, Boris Johnson may not have done his homework to find out exactly what controls Australia faces in trying to export into the single market, but whose fault is that?

This is what Brexit is - Britain is voluntarily deciding to forgo the benefits of a common market and regulatory area many other countries would die for. It never made any sense, but Newton Emerson only seems to be discovering this now.

Many supposedly objective political commentators stood idly by while the DUP went all gung-ho for Brexit against the wishes of a large majority in Northern Ireland. It was all good political fun and games at the time, one in the eye for the nationalists. This is when the reality strikes home. - Yours, etc,


Sucks to be them but that's what the Dupes wanted.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 12:35:15 AM EST
If you recall, the original Brexit referendum was fought on the basis that the UK would remain in the Single Market and Customs Union, or at least would have a trade deal which granted them equivalent access "the easiest trade deal in history!"

It is only when Theresa May and then Johnson pivoted to wanting out of the Single Market and Customs Union as well that this all became an issue. Apparently the whole rationale for Brexit now is to free the UK from all meddlesome EU regulation, but this means customs controls and tariffs in the event of no deal.

If the UK proceeds with breaching the Withdrawal Agreement as well - which enshrined N. Ireland's place within the Single Market and Custom's Union - then all bets are off WTO terms as well, and a trade war will probably ensue.

In that case the EU will be powerless to prevent goods leaking control free between N. Ireland and Britain, and hence across the border into Ireland. The only effective way it could retaliate is by restricting British goods at Calais and other ports/airports, including Irish ports.

This could, and probably will get nasty.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 12:49:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Brexit was sold as different things to different audiences. Though not honest, was in the nature of things.

What should have been done as soon as the result was in was to nail down what Brexit there was a majority in parliament for, create forms to maintain that majority through the negotiating process, investigate all the thorny questions that are likely to come up in negotiations, establish your BATNA and so on. And then (a year or so later) trigger the exit process. Then all the possible Brexits would be boiled down to one Brexit with some negotiation space on the margins.

They still haven't done this even though they signed the Withdrawal Agreement. So now they are going back on what they recently agreed to do.

Like a college student that keeps changing topic of studies, they are choosing their direction through their process of avoiding an active choice. Reacting to things, but not acting. And time is ticking, there will be a day when everyone else has become tired and they drop out without even making that decision for themselves.

by fjallstrom on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 09:31:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you recall, there wasn't a majority in Parliament for any particular vision of Brexit, and so Theresa May was effectively paralysed. She triggered A.50 to try and force the issue (and prove her Brexiteer credentials) but that just made the divisions worse. Eventually Boris got a mandate to "get Brexit done" but did so by signing a withdrawal agreement which still left some true believers unhappy. Of course it was just a ruse to create the appearance of a clear end game and win an election.

But the biggest problem was always the totally unrealistic expectations of virtually all Britons, Brexiteers and Remainers alike, as to what they could get out of a negotiation with the EU. Basically it was a have cake and eat it strategy because "they need us more than we need them".

That was always the main reason I expected a hard Brexit, even if no one have predicted just how incompetent the once hallowed halls of Westminster and Whitehall would prove to be. An empty echo chamber where only Brexiteer clarion calls could be heard.

It isn't over yet. The UK still has a long way to fall. The surprising thing is how reasonable they make the EU by comparison, allowing the EU to take an increasingly hard line in response. Basically anything goes, now that Boris has chosen to break the law.

The reality is the UK neds international law more than anyone to provide cover for its weakness and isolation. With the WTO effectively paralysed and out of the game and Trump likely to lose in the US they will soon find themselves friendless, isolated, and in catastrophic decline.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 12:19:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remainers had no unrealistic expectations at all. We always expected Brexit to be a complete shit show, and so it has proved. The problem with the NI border was flagged as a showstopper before the dust had even settled on the vote. No one on the Remain side had any illusions that the EU needed the UK more than vice versa. That was always and exclusively a stock Brexiter trope.

The only unrealistic expectations we had were of the intelligence and integrity of the Brexiters. They started low, kept digging, and still haven't hit bottom.

The worst thing about Brexit is the way that a gaggle of chinless entitled idiots and semi-literate buffoons have captured the media narrative. In reality support for the EU is higher than ever in the UK, but you won't hear about that from any mainstream media outlet or any mainstream politician.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 02:54:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The 'semi-literate buffoons' didn't have to capture the media as the media was there from the start and, in fact, captured a majority of  the electorate on the behalf of the buffoons. It used to be 'no bishop, no state'. Now it is 'no media, no government'.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 08:49:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They will cozy up to Harris, Biden being a ventriloquist's dummy. What do they call a reanimated corpse? A Golem. If not Harris, then Pelosi, another geriatric wreck, will be the power in DC.
In any event, the billionaires will back Britain because of their investments and to maintain a facade of international agreement for the wars.
by StillInTheWilderness on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 08:44:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the billionaires will back Britain because of their Investments

You don't get to be a billionnaire by backing losers. You cut your losses and move on.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Sep 21st, 2020 at 02:41:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the thing about money:  It's just electrons on a computer balance sheet.  It's easy to move it to another jurisdiction, and there is always a jurisdiction that will give you a tax-advantaged transfer.
by rifek on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 04:37:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There wasn't a majority in Parliament for any particular vision of Brexit, but one could have been created.

One can imagine a different approach from May (or someone else being PM) where you start with formulating the options, holding indicative votes in her own Conservative party group, trying to formulate a consensus. Failing that, checking with the opposition parties to formulate a common majority in exchange for influence over the negotiations. Failing that, she could have held indicative votes in parliament to show that there is no majority for any particular visions.

Then either going for no Brexit failing a majority for any particular Brexit and blaming parliament (gambling on events making Brexit less of an issue down the road, which it probably would have been in that alternative 2020) or commiting to a particular vision of Brexit, purging her party of opponents and then taking this particular Brexit to the country in a new election.

Instead she triggered the declaration and went to elections which even if she had won had not given her a majority for any particular Brexit.

To further my simile it is if the college student had decided to graduate within two years, but still haven't decided what to graduate as. It forces the situation, but only in making it worse.

Hard Brexit by incompetence.

by fjallstrom on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 12:03:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indicative votes were held in parliament, and none yielded a majority. But the big problem was May refused to work with Corbyn, who would have supported a version of Brexit which included effectively staying within the Single Market and Customs Union. That would have caused huge ructions within the Tories and within Labour, dividing both, and possibly imperilling her Premiership, but would also have yielded a majority in the country at that stage if she had called an election before the Brexiteers could oust her.

It would have been high stakes politics, requiring real leadership, and a willingness to work with the devil (Corbyn). May was capable of none of this - too dyed in the wool, true blue, unionist conservative. She went for the road of least resistance, every time, and eventually ran out of road.

Boris, in fairness to him, was always capable of the extravagant gesture, such as working with Corbyn, but by the time he got into office the die was cast, and his only option was to cobble together some sort of deal and then run to the country to get a mandate to get it done.

Even here he was favoured by fortune and the pusillanimity of Farage, who abandoned his own party to the wolves and made way for Boris by withdrawing candidates from key marginals. Had he stood his ground, arguing for a "pure" Brexit rather than Boris' opportunistic deal, he would have divided the Brexit vote and perhaps enabled a Corbyn win.

The Brexit party could then have replaced the Conservatives in bipolar UK electoral system and lived to fight another day, banking on Labour divisions under Corbyn to have failed to deliver Brexit and resulting in another general election soon.

But of course his Billionaire handlers couldn't have that - Corbyn in power under any circumstances - and so he meekly made way to become a complete has been in politics, probably never to be seen again, except on some Billionaire's yacht.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 12:57:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IIRC, the indicative votes weren't held until article 50 had been triggered and negotiations had run a lot of its course. In effect, it was far to late to discover that there was no majority.

Yes, there was a clear lack of leadership, which in the end lead to a very short premiership.

I wonder what someone like Merkel would have done. While one can say a lot about her politics, and lack of real leadership for the eurozone, her instincts for political survival are top notch. Probably would have realised the lack of a majority and appointed a patsy (Boris?) she wanted to get rid of to run down the process of creating a majority and then blamed him for failing.

I still find it remarkable that a major state can fail this spectacularly in formulating what it wants in a crucial issue. It points to problems not only in the leadership but also the government bureaucracy.

by fjallstrom on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 01:29:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't imagine Johnson working with Corbyn. The Tories, the Blairite crypto-Tory Labour right, and the not quite so crypto-Tory LibDems all loathe Corbyn and the Left with an almost supernatural intensity.

I also don't think No Deal is an accident. It's more likely it was always the plan, so there was nothing unfortunate about the "mistakes". Especially considering how many of them there were, and how consistently they all enabled No Deal.

May was always just a seat warmer. Getting her Not-Quite-No-Deal over the line was Plan B, not Plan A. She didn't have the majority to make it happen - which was unfortunate, but whatevs.

Now that that problem has been fixed we can see what Plan A always was.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 01:40:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't imagine Johnson working with Corbyn.

Well... Churchill worked with Atlee.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 06:30:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I fully understand the issues, so a few questions:

Post Brexit, would the goods imported from Britain to NI be subject to customs controls? Is that what the Big 3 are complaining about?

Similarly, German, French or Swedish retailers can import goods freely into the Republic, thanks to the single market, but will they also be able to sell those goods in NI without customs controls after Brexit?

If that is the case, then British retailers would be at a disadvantage in NI, but is this what the "no border checks" in Ireland is all about in the end?

by Bernard on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 06:50:06 PM EST
The EU - quite reasonably - insists on customs controls for trade with third countries. So there has to be a customs border somewhere.

The UK isn't sure what it wants, or what day of the week it is, but in theory it also reserves the right to implement its own customs controls.

So both sides need controls to manage quotas and tariffs/taxes and to make sure regulatory requirements are being met for everything from animal imports to fruit and veg to car parts to electronics to fine art.

But... there can't be a hard border between NI and Ireland for political and historic reasons. Both the EU and UK have said they don't consider border checkpoints an acceptable outcome, and this solution treads perilously close to blowing up the Good Friday Agreement and restarting the Troubles.

There can't be customs checks by UK officials inside Ireland for political and historic reasons. The Irish government considers this option unacceptable.

There can't be a hard border between NI and the UK for political and historic reasons. Although it started implementing this option earlier in the year, the current British government seems to have decided this option is now unacceptable.

There must be a customs border somewhere. There cannot be a customs border anywhere.

Maybe Gibraltar?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 07:26:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The people problem is even more complicated. Ireland and the UK have a Common Travel Area which gives anyone with a UK or Irish passport the right to live in, move around in, and work in the common area. So currently there are no passport checks on the Irish border. In fact there isn't really any border at all.

This was fine when EU Freedom of Movement was a thing. Now that it's not a thing, the UK wants to make sure it can check the passports of people coming into NI from the EU to make sure they're Irish and not some other unacceptable kind of European immigrant.

This is impossible without border checks. See above re: GFA.

Which means checks will either not happen at all, or they'll happen somewhere between NI and the mainland. As before, the UK is very unhappy about this - partly on principle, but also because there's a fair amount of traffic between the two, and no-compromise border controls would be complicated, time-consuming, and expensive.

My spies tell me the UK's solution will be to wave goods and people through for at least the first few years - good news for smugglers, people traffickers, drug dealers, and other undesirables, and a "solution" which will do even more to damage the UK's international reputation.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 07:39:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As an Italian-American without a single drop of Irish blood (I've had DNA tests), NI as part of the UK makes as much sense as Piedmont being part of Austria or Sicily being part of Libya.
by StillInTheWilderness on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 08:51:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But union of North Ireland and Ireland makes Brexiteer's heads explode. In the end it will likely be the desires of the residents of North Ireland than make the decision that it makes more sense to join Ireland than to remain part of the U.K.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 08:57:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'that make the decision'.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 08:58:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The last thing the Republic needs is an economic basket case with Protestant terrorist groups added at no extra charge.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 02:09:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Passport control already happens on the NI-GB link, effectively. You can't really travel legally from NI to GB without papers of some kind.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 09:46:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The obvious solution to the Northern Ireland question is making it a special economic area. But I guess emotional issues are more important.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 10:15:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In practice, this may be how it all turns out, with N. Ireland businesses having relatively unencumbered access to both the Single and United Kingdom Markets. It is about the only thing that could make the place economically viable again.

Given that most North South and east west trade is dominated by a few large retailers and other businesses, "trusted trader" schemes whereby these businesses report their import/exports in the same way as their VAT returns, could work for perhaps 80% of all trade.

The relatively small amounts transported by private individuals/sole traders and small business in cars/vans would be immaterial in an EU context and be made legal by exempting "shipments" under (say) €1,000 for personal use. On-line retailers wouldn't be exempt because they are generally large companies.

Large trucks would be subject to random spot checks near the border, and at ports exiting the island for the rest of the EU. It simply isn't feasible to block 300 road crossings along the 500KM border, and these blockades were regularly blown up during the troubles as they divided farms, towns, and rural communities with intimate ties.

I hear Amazon and other multiples are busy setting up distribution centres in Ireland having previously serviced the Irish market from UK warehouses. Aldi and Lidl and Decathlon are expanding rapidly. Tesco et al used to regard Ireland as "Treasure Island" as they could sustain much higher margins here for lack of competition. This is changing and they will lose market share v. rapidly if they don't adapt from exclusive reliance on British distribution centres.

This is the reality of Brexit, although Brexiteers and many political commentators have been remarkably slow at grasping the significance of the economic changes that will ensue. Who knew that customs controls could be so much hassles? It strikes at the heart of the globalising business and consumer trends of the past 50 years that everyone took for granted.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Sep 20th, 2020 at 10:53:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the Norway-Sweden border you can bring goods for personal use, but not for selling. Exactly how much that is, there are court cases about. In practise the police doesn't bother to check cars that isn't obviously carrying a lot of weight. Trucks are checked, though.

There is smuggling: meat and alcohol to Norway, rice and sugar to Sweden. But it is at the margins and there is a risk at getting caught.

by fjallstrom on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 11:42:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Citizens of the UK and Ireland can travel legally around the Common Travel Area without a passport if they have other ID, which may be checked on boarding. But it's fairly casual.

There are currently no airport-style hard border queues with immigration officials checking passports/ID/visas on entry - which would be the only way to control immigration to the mainland, which is what Brexiters really care about, but is also impossible because etc.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 01:04:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've never had a passport but I've day-tripped to Mexico and Canada. Three days in Canada, entering from Detroit and exiting at Niagra Falls. Mountie asked my business and how long I was staying, cautioned me to exchange money only at banks and government stations and said, "Enjoy your stay in Canada,Sir." US Border patrol pulled me over (Illinois license plates), accused me of being a drug smuggler and/or a Communist agent, rummaged through my daughter's underwear, then left saying "You can go now", leaving the undies strewn about the trunk. Didn't open any other luggage only the sole bag that looked "girly". circa 1986
by StillInTheWilderness on Mon Sep 21st, 2020 at 11:07:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a pretty typical experience. In the 1970s the Canadians didn't even stop your car.
by asdf on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 05:33:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 08:31:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mexico, in the '70s:
Day trip, san diego to Tiajuana. carefully stepped over Mexican border guard as we walked over the border. Took a cab to downtown Tiajuana, ate at a hotel (much better Mexican food at a little place in San Diego a colleague referred us to) and returned. At the US border, my partner dclared a leather jacket and stated he had not bought anything else for six months. Passed, no duty. I had nothig to declare. "You didn't buy anything in Mexico?" "No, just a restaurant meal." Passed. Then after avbout ten steps: "You! Back here! Empty out your pockets!" I had them half emptied when "Okay, you can go." BTW, both of us were  US Civil servants (Navy Department). Jim was 70, I was late 20's. So border guards do not pick on Latinos. They are just surly a__holes.
by StillInTheWilderness on Fri Sep 25th, 2020 at 03:03:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brexit is a disaster for Gibraltar because its economic model is based on being in the single market but not in the customs union - so it can be a tax haven and smuggling base - but even Theresa May's best version of Brexit involved being in the customs union but outside the single market (because no freedom of movement). There has been no serious discussion of this in the past 4 years. Gibraltar wants a close economic relation with Spain, but at the same time needs to make noises about its inalienable Britishness. It's going to be a mess.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 10:13:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe the question is how long Gibraltar can hang on with nobody crossing the border. A couple of weeks?
by asdf on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 05:34:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brexit is fundamentally incompatible with the settlement in Northern Ireland: it immediately undermines it by taking away shared citizenship of something bigger. Customs and border control just make it all more exciting. The problem is repeatedly over constrained and there are no solutions that don't involve radically changes in something.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 09:50:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The reality of Brexit is that it is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement and this has been evident since 2016.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 09:59:25 AM EST

And the cheapest solution to the border in Ireland would be barbed wire fences, guard posts, and road blocks.

by asdf on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 04:08:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This worked so well during the Troubles.
by Bernard on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 04:43:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming that the goal is "works well"
by asdf on Sun Sep 20th, 2020 at 05:00:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brits want all the rights and privileges of being in the EU without any of the costs, duties, and responsibilities of being in the EU and they can't understand why the EU is objecting.

Basically the Brits are sociopaths: a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 at 02:13:31 PM EST
That is such a racist thing to say. I hope you're suitably ashamed of yourself (but thank you for saying it so I didn't have to)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Sep 21st, 2020 at 02:50:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But don't get me wrong. I have a pet Brit who isn't at all like the others. In fact, some of my best friends are Brits. Really.

But as for my daughter marrying one, don't get me started.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 01:14:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not Brits in general - it's specifically the Tory upper class. Although after decades of propaganda from the sewer press, they've done an excellent job of infecting some of the rest of the population.

There have been a couple of memoirs published this week - one by Barbara Amiel, wife of convicted criminal and former Daily Telegraph owner Conrad Black, and one by Sasha Swires, wife of a central but not particularly notable Tory MP who is part of the inner circle which includes Johnson and Cameron.

Both do a jaw-dropping job of revealing just how banally amoral and mediocre these people are. And also how socially interbred. Not only do they all know each other, they all go on holidays together and socialise in other ways.

Ethically, they're literally stuck in arrested adolescence. Senior Tories routinely make snickery penis jokes and show no interest in the lives of most of the population. They have money and an unshakeable sense of entitlement, and narcissism does the rest.

I don't think there are many outright sociopaths, but severe narcissism is certainly endemic - and Swires, with a rather unusual hint of self-awareness, says as much. Some even feel a vague sense of unease that perhaps things are not quite as they should be, but not to the point they'll do anything about it.

To be fair it's a very British kind of narcissism - class-driven and sneakily passive aggressive. It's slightly more covert than US narcissism, which might as well be the Official State Religion because of the way it permeates business and personal relationships at every level.

Just as in the US, the most distinctive feature of these professional narcissists is their utter mediocrity. Trump is fundamentally a cheap con artist who was born rich and privileged enough to be able to run his lies and scams with a certain amount of political air cover. Johnson is exactly the same, but instead of owning a gold plated lift, he speaks Latin and plays on the sympathies of his victims.

The rest of the British Tories are similarly clueless, but with varying degrees of burning ambition.

It's a horror show in both countries - a perfect kakistocracy of emotional dysfunction and practical idiocy.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 21st, 2020 at 05:26:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Galloway goes Full-McConnell
archived "none of us currently living are responsible."
by Cat on Mon Sep 21st, 2020 at 07:52:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The longer term problem is that at some point the peasants revolt. Right now it's all bread and circuses and racism (outright slavery not being acceptable yet), but that is not a sustainable path. Especially when you have climate change and the Asian economic systems coming along. It's just a matter of what breaks down first.

My guess is that it's the economies in both the UK and the US. The UK because of Brexit and the US because of completely strategy-free economic policy.

by asdf on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 05:39:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh the Ueberklass has a strategy all right: How much can we steal before it all falls down?
by rifek on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 04:53:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"That's the thing about money:  It's just electrons on a computer balance sheet.  It's easy to move it to another jurisdiction, and there is always a jurisdiction that will give you a tax-advantaged transfer."
by asdf on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 10:16:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chris Johns is a Welsh Irish Times columnist and usually a perceptive commentator on economic and political matters, especially pertaining to Brexit. He has a column up saying the UK faces a perfect trifecta of storms relating to Covid-19, Brexit, and the US Presidential Election, the combined effect of which could be very bad. I have commented as follows:
This piece started out promisingly, as when Chris promised to break his own rule about never making a forecast. But then it gradually fizzled out into saying that most of the risks are on the downside, and combined, could end up being very downward indeed. But we knew that.

And the decision about where the border will be has already been made in the Withdrawal Agreement signed and ratified only last January: It will be down the Irish sea. Break that Treaty and all bets are off. WTO terms can no longer be taken for granted as a lowest common denominator of any trading arrangement. A full trade war beckons if Boris fails to honour the Withdrawal agreement. And that will be a very bad outcome indeed. But we knew that.

A victory for Biden also means there will be no US/UK trade deal if the Withdrawal Agreement is broken. Britain will be in lockdown not only in terms of Covid-19, but in terms of economic activity and international trade as well. With 50% of UK exports going to the EU, and only 5% of EU exports going to the UK, that too, is very bad news for the UK. But we knew that.

Finally even sympathetic UK observers are saying Johnson has lost his confidence, energy and drive. His bluff has been called and he hasn't a leg to stand on. And he knows that. At the October15th. EU summit the EU will probably announce legal actions, sanctions, and punitive tariffs if Boris doesn't withdraw his Bill breaking international law. So how will that play out? Tell us something we don't know, Chris!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Sep 20th, 2020 at 04:15:55 PM EST
The big difference between Boris dePiffle and Der Drumpfenfuehrer is that Boris actually has the ability to self-analyze.
by rifek on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 04:56:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah but the big difference between Brexit and current US problems is that the US problems can, in theory, be remediated within a few months. How the UK is going to get back into the EU is a puzzle.
by asdf on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 10:18:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How the UK England is going to get back into the EU is a puzzle.
by asdf on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 10:19:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NI Assembly approves motion calling on UK to `honour' Brexit commitments
A motion has been passed in the Northern Ireland Assembly calling on the UK government to "honour its commitments" regarding the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

MLAs also agreed that Westminster should ensure the "rigorous and full implementation" of the Northern Ireland protocol, "prioritise peace and stability" and "work to secure a future economic partnership with their EU colleagues".

The Internal Market Bill, which is making its way through the House of Commons, threatens to override parts of the protocol, the part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The motion, put forward by Sinn Féin, was passed with 48 in favour and 36 against. It was supported by the SDLP, Alliance and other smaller parties, but opposed by the DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).

Proposing the motion in the Assembly, Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson said the UK government was "driving a coach and horses through strands one, two and three of the Good Friday Agreement".

"Britannia waived the rules," she said.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 21st, 2020 at 09:21:26 PM EST
Clever turn of phrase by Ms. Anderson, and more importantly a clever procedural move.  Put the point front and center that the Tories want to light up The Troubles again, and then get it on the record that the DUPes and OOPs support that.  Your Ulster Ammosexual may be on board with that, but I don't think your average Northerner is.
by rifek on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 05:02:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Theresa May says 'reckless' Brexit bill risks UK's reputation
Theresa May has launched a blistering attack on the government's plan to give itself powers to renege on the special arrangements for Northern Ireland in the Brexit deal.

She described the plans as "reckless" and "irresponsible" and said they "risked the integrity of the United Kingdom", as they would not only tarnish Britain's reputation globally as an upholder of the law but could contribute to a reunited Ireland.

In a strongly worded speech in the House of Commons, she said: "I cannot emphasise enough how concerned I am [that] the Conservative government is willing to go back on its word to break an international agreement signed in good faith, and to break international law."

Sitting beside two former Conservative party Northern Ireland secretaries, Karen Bradley and Theresa Villiers, and Sir Bob Neill, who threatened a backbench rebellion against the government, she said there could never be a time a minister could walk through the voting lobbies and say yes to breaking the law. May said the bill would also mean trust would be undermined in future negotiations with other countries. "So much for global Britain," she quipped.

The Belfast South MP, the SDLP's Claire Hanna, said Boris Johnson's government had to own the consequences of the type of Brexit it agreed and should not "feign shock" when nine months later it emerged there would be trade barriers between east and west.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 21st, 2020 at 09:30:55 PM EST

Well, [No Shit, Sherlock!]

by Bernard on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 at 07:02:35 PM EST
Such a shame... we'll never get the headline "Fox to run WTO henhouse"

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 06:37:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He used to help run the UK chicken farm, until even BoJo realised he was clueless...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 08:33:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the US that's not a bug, that's a feature.
by rifek on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 05:04:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tangential to this current discussion but something to keep in mind for the future is that the Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world, after the USA, and has plans to become the breadbasket to the world.

Solar IS Civil Defense
by gmoke on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 06:52:13 PM EST
Amazing!  I would have thought that Argentina would exceed Netherlands. Or Norway. Fish don't count?

Dairy? I see much more Irish dairy products (butter and cheese) in my American grocery store. And Argentine beef.

Lot's more Mexican cheese than either Irish or Dutch, but maybe that's just the area's ethnic makeup (26% Latino)

by StillInTheWilderness on Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 at 07:28:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UK minister: Avoiding post-Brexit border chaos is in France's hands
LONDON -- Britain's worst-case scenario predictions of two-day delays at Dover would happen only if the French authorities "decline to be pragmatic," U.K. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said Wednesday.

In a letter to trade bodies seen by POLITICO, Gove warned that the government's "reasonable worst-case scenario" forecasts two-day delays due to border controls, with up to 7,000 trucks stuck at the Port of Dover -- regardless of the outcome of ongoing trade talks.

But speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Gove pointed to the role that the French authorities would play, noting they would have the power to send back trucks without the necessary paperwork, "clogging the Dover to Calais crossing."

"I should stress that [the worst-case scenario] is not a prediction nor a forecast, it is just a prudent exercise of what could occur if we don't improve preparedness, and of course if our neighbors decline to be pragmatic," he said.

Shorter Gove: "We created that mess, but it's the French's responsibility to clean it up"

Also: "How dare you not give us everything we want"

by Bernard on Fri Sep 25th, 2020 at 07:25:57 AM EST
Apparently Gove has complained that the EU is refusing to negotiate with the UK as equals... well doh...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Sep 25th, 2020 at 10:12:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Conversely, what if the French--as a nation overall, or at the agency level, or at the individual personal level--decide to take out their frustrations on England and actively baulk? I'm pretty sure any immigration agent can think up dozens of ways to slow the processes.
by asdf on Fri Sep 25th, 2020 at 08:28:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cummings the libertarian rewrites the data laws

The government's newly published national data strategy, promising a "transformation" long sought by Boris Johnson's chief adviser and the former Vote Leave director, has sparked concern at a sensitive time with the continued flow of data between the UK and EU member states in question.
The European commission is currently examining whether the UK's data laws will be in line with the EU's general data protection regulation (GDPR) and law enforcement directive after 1 January 2021, allowing the movement of data vital to the law enforcement agencies but also the banking, health, entertainment, insurance and tech sectors.

The EU will not be railroaded into declaring "adequacy", i.e. equivalence between EU data protection standards and what the nutjob is proposing.

Another train wreck coming. They will patch together something on police and security data (UK leaving Europol leaves a huge hole in the UK's security which they have to cover with bilateral agreements) but for the rest... Armageddon for the UK's dematerialised service sector.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Sep 25th, 2020 at 02:07:06 PM EST
JPMorgan to Move $230 Billion Assets to Germany Under Brexit

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is moving about 200 billion euros ($230 billion) from the U.K. to Frankfurt as a result of Britain's exit from the European Union, a shift that will make it one of the largest banks in Germany.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Sep 25th, 2020 at 02:59:32 PM EST
The Guardian: Brexit: EU launches legal action against UK for breaching withdrawal agreement:
The EU has launched legal action against Boris Johnson's government over breaching the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, announced that the UK had been put on formal notice over the internal market bill, which ministers admit breaks international law.

Brussels had given the prime minister until the end to September to drop the contentious clauses in the draft legislation.

by IdiotSavant on Thu Oct 1st, 2020 at 09:34:11 AM EST
This is a bit like hitting a rhinoceros with a handbag. Brexit is all about putting facts on the ground and worry about legalities later - maybe years later. If the EU isn't to become a laughing stock - and undermine its own legal order - decisive political action needs to be taken, like excluding the UK from WTO tariffs and quotas and imposing broader tariffs and controls as sanctions. Given that the WTO doesn't currently have a Director General or a functioning dispute resolution process (thanks to Trump failing to nominate judges) it could also be years before that dispute is resolved.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 1st, 2020 at 10:22:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No handbags, please. Brings back some unpleasant memories:
by Bernard on Thu Oct 1st, 2020 at 03:57:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]