Sunday, August 28, 2016

Ponters Pensées: 28.8.16

Spanish Politics: This article might just give you an understanding about what's going on and why Spaniards might be going to the polls on Xmas Day. 

Bullfighting: I attend the occasional corrida and have been known to defend la fiesta nacional, while accepting that it's cruel. Unless you live in a cave, you'll have seen this video showing the maltreatment of calves in the village of Valmojado, southwest of Madrid. It's suggested this has been doctored but I find this claim hard to understand. Whether it has or it hasn't, it certainly is the sort of thing which gives bullfighting a bad name. The local council - clearly resident in El País de Las Maravillas - has complained that the video has tarnished the good name of Valmojado, its history and traditions. It added that We reiterate our absolute rejection of all types of animal mistreatment but stressed that the spectacle is a legitimate part of the country’s bullfighting culture. As if all this weren't mad enough, the council has said it's seeking legal advice regarding the insults levied at it on the internet. As you do. There's nothing more legalistic than an insulted Spaniard.

The Noisy Spanish: Several years ago - doubtless when I was complaining about just how noisy this country can be - a neighbour scornfully retorted: Where there's no noise there's no life. And then she went on to disparage life in both Britain and (nearby) Portugal, seeing these as dull beyond belief. As she was married to an Englishman, I guess she had experience of both countries on which to base this contemptuous dismissal. I was reminded of this today when reading this El País leader sent to me by my friend, David, who's - topically - just moved from raucous Madrid to sedate Winchester. The article asks which is noisier - a group of sober Spaniards or a group of drunk Brits, as if the UK was full of the latter. Might as well ask whether chalk is better than cheese. Anyway, he's in no doubt that, if there's no noise, you might as well be dead. Which I guess has an element of truth about it. Whatever, there's a slightly improved Google translation at the end of this post. It'll certainly give you the gist.

The World's Most Mysterious Book: A limited number of facsimiles of this is/are about to be published here in Spain, raking in many millions for the enterprising small publisher in Burgos. Impressive.

The Camino to Santiago: As I've said, the numbers doing this continue to grow rapidly. Here's a documentary on it and here's where you can buy it, if the short video inspires you to do so.

Pontevedra's Humidity: My visitors commented yesterday that the heat was much drier than in England, where heat is always uncomfortable. I said it probably wasn't and cited the example of an earlier visitor this summer who thought the humidity was around 25%, when the reality was 60%. Checking yesterday, we discovered that it had varied over the previous 24 hours from 27% to 98% and stood, at 1pm, at 92%. I then checked on Jakarta - where you can't move for sweating - and was astonished to see it was 'only' 94%. The consensus was that Pontevedra benefitted from sea breezes but this is only a guess.

Finally . . . My short-cut bridge: I see it's open again, though the No Entry sign is still standing in all its pointless(?) glory. More anon.


My standby . . . 


The El País Leader:-

The strange friends of silence

Who are noisier: Sober Spaniards or drunken Brits?

Are you one of them? Part of the minority that enjoys a good silence and a good read? If what you claim is your right to a quiet environment, you have know the wrong country. Try to take a train and check it out.

There is an urban legend about a man who sounded the phone and went to the platform to receive the call, but no one has been identified and, in fact, be much doubt that someone had committed such folly. Others say that the story is reversed, someone saw this man talking on the phone on the platform between two carriages, standing, subjected to uncomfortable rattle of the tracks, and between several passengers, pure shame that gave them their state, urged him to get into the car to continue his conversation comfortably with the argument that anyone could disturb his conduct.

But there are many more legends: it is said that on a trip was someone who after enduring an hour's conversation with his seatmate on his intimate partner, politely asked to please end the conversation and the other person replied with a friendly smile saying "by all means, have said it before, I did not mean to disturb". They have also heard stories of people that played on their mobile phones video with those jokes and raucous jokes arriving by whatsapp but headphones to avoid disturbing the neighbor set, but neither has managed to understand what forced these people to act so strangely .

Just imagine. It is said that Spain is so loud that the railway company in the country has had to enable silent carriages, only one cariage, of course, because there are so many people so strange, and it should explicitly say so in booking your ticket to avoid misunderstandings. Some unwary fall into these cars without realizing it or because there are places in the other and, to their surprise, when they make a phone call or receive, even if it is short and does not speak very high, their seatmates look at them severely and even they chide them.

Such a huge intolerance of noise is not acceptable in a country of people known for their sympathy. In fact, when one enters the silent wagon one is received by a music that does not stop until the train starts, proof that the company itself also abhors silence that causes a stopped train.

A traveler who passed through this country said at the end of his journey he had grave doubts about who were noisier: Spanish sober or drunk British. An acute observation that speaks of laxity with which the concept of silence is interpreted. In Spain, silence is not the absence of noise, that would be empty, ie, outer space, where the sound is not transmitted, but simply a brief or attenuated noise that differs from the usual noise. We flee silence, we live in it or with it. We feel uncomfortable. The silencephobe is right: What is life but noise? What is death but silence?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ponters Pensées: 27.8.16

The Spanish Economy: So, how come it's growing so well when there's been no real government for over 8 months? Well, here's the rationale of the Wall Street Journal. Whatever the real reasons are, economists predict a slow-down for next year, whoever gets into power. Assuming that some party finally does.

Spanish Manners: The Spanish see themselves as very polite, or buen educado as it's said here. And they really are. In their own way. Especially if they know you and so there's the essential personal connection. But one thing that tends to shock folk new to the country is the (apparent?) lack of consideration for others. As with 3 teenagers bombing right next to a mother introducing her baby to a pool for the first time. NTS, there's always a huge - and genuine - apology when things are taken up with them. And it's not really the fault of, say, teenagers as they're not noticeably taught to take others into consideration as children. Swings and roundabouts, as ever.

The Spanish Attitude to Risk: Another favourite . . . I took my visitor, Jack, to a famous beauty spot at the mouth of the river Míno last Thursday. Where there are fantastic views of both Spain and Portugal from the top of a steep hill, on the side of which there's an iron-age castro to wander around. Young Jack was astonished to see no fences at all at the very top, where potential falls down the precipitate hill-sides would be a magnet for the excesses of British Health and Safety officers. But he was not as shocked as me and Dutch Peter 2 were when, later that day, we observed a father carrying a 2 year old on his shoulders while making no attempt to hold either her arms or her legs. Or, indeed, any part of her.

Yet More Lists from The Local:
  • Spanish Drinks everyone should try.  A large beer is called a bok or bol here in Galicia. No one should drink a shandy containing far-too-sweet limón. Go for gaseosa, or lemonade. As for gin tonic, the pronunciation isn't hin tonic but khin tonic. I have terrible trouble stopping waiters and waitresses chucking the entire contents of a market garden into mine. And - would you believe - pouring the tonic down the back of a bloody tea-spoon!
  • Spain's To Ten beaches. Perhaps. Most of these appear to be on islands, not the mainland.

Finally . . . I was going to tell you about the re-opening of a bridge across a tributary of the river Lerez which affords me a shortcut to my 'secret' parking place down near the old quarter. And I was also going to mock the fact that the Road Closed sign was still up, despite the fact the bridge was now in use again. But, after 2 days, it was closed again. Making said sign once again relevant.


Young Jack, Dutch Peter 2 and some woman they befriended:- 

And here are Jack and Peter again, with more women. Plus Dylan, the guy who runs the Pontevedra English Speaking Society. They get around:-

Peter, as you can see, is sporting what the best-dressed Dutchman is NOT wearing this year. And Jack appears to be proposing to one or all 3 of the young women. Who are pretending to be delighted. Being buen educadas.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ponters Pensées: 26.8.16

The Spanish Economy: This is benefitting enormously from the lack of government, just as patients do when the doctors go on strike. See here for details.

English-Speaking Spanish Pols: My net colleague, Lenox of Business Over Tapas, has corrected my comment about these. The leaders of the other 3 parties all speak good English, he says. It's only the very unimpressive but stubborn Gallego - Mariano Rajoy - who doesn't.

Spanish Lists: Here's the latest offerings from The Local:-
Right, you're all ready to go now . . .

Spanish Racists: Yes, there are quite a few of these but they don't see themselves in this light. They take the old but now totally discredited view that, if they didn't mean to hurt a black football player with their monkey-chanting, then he couldn't - or at least shouldn't - be upset. Here's the latest example of this. Good to see El País laying into these cretins this morning.

Anglicisms: Talking of El País, there's a letter in it this morning complaining - justifiably - of those entering Spanish when there's no need for them. Examples cited are:-

  • Cool
  • Runners
  • Trendy, and
  • Air meeting [No, I don't know either]
The Future of the UKHere and here are 2 more another must-hear podcasts from the brilliant philosophers, John Gray and Roger Scruton. In my view, every critic of Brexit and of 'racist' Outers should be chained to the wall and made to listen to them. I share their views, of course, and their optimism for the future of the UK. Unlike many expats, it seems, I'm less concerned with the short-term impact on my finances. But, then, I might well be in a better position to absorb the shocks.

The UK and Spain: There was a nice, balanced article in El País on this relationship recently. And I was delighted to see the (Spanish) author taking the piss out of Motormouth Margello, the Foreign Affairs Minister, who screams Gibraltar is Spanish! when he wakes up every morning and then several times during the day. I've pasted the article at the end of this post but haven't bothered to give you the atrocious Google machine translation.

Finally . . .  Forecasts for the Portuguese Camino to Santiago are 50,000 'pilgrims' for this year and 80-100,000 by 2020. God help us. These numbers compare with:-
2015: 45,000
2014: 36,000
2013: 30,000
2012: 25,000
2011: 22,000
2010: 34,000.  This was a 'Holy Year', offering above-normal indulgences for the faithful/gullible. I did this camino that year - at least from Tui to Santiago - and rather got the impression there were only a few hundred people doing it in late May-early June.


Courtesy of clever Google Photos, here's the lovely vista below the large church in the hamlet of Bastavales, near Santiago. It's deliberately too large for the box:-

There was a kestrel on the telegraph wires just to the right but I missed it . . .

Inglaterra y los españoles

Reino Unido —que, como buena parte de sus propios habitantes, aquí solemos llamar erróneamente Inglaterra— ha tenido una influencia crucial en la historia contemporánea de España. Un ascendiente comparable tan sólo al de Francia y, en la época actual, al de Estados Unidos. Ha habido, entre ambos países, relaciones tan intensas como decisivas, en las que Inglaterra ha representado al mismo tiempo varios papeles relevantes para los españoles: gran potencia, modelo político o enemigo secular, espejo y refugio en caso de crisis.

Para empezar, el imperio británico, un actor europeo de primera fila, constituyó el principal poder mundial entre comienzos del siglo XIX y la Gran Guerra. Y España fue tan sólo uno de los múltiples escenarios en que se desplegó esa fuerza imperial. Casi desde el principio, cuando Wellington comandó las tropas que derrotaron en 1814 a Napoleón en territorio ibérico. Esa victoria no estableció un protectorado, ni España se volvió un mero peón de Inglaterra como Portugal. Pero a la larga se estrecharon vínculos económicos que, por ejemplo, permitieron al capital inglés hacerse con enclaves mineros cuasi-independientes.

Tras décadas de aislamiento y un desastre colonial, España se comprometió con la entente franco-británica al iniciarse el XX. Pero la apertura no implicó su entrada en la Primera Guerra Mundial, ni por tanto su participación en la paz aliada. La coyuntura en que Gran Bretaña resultó más importante para el destino de los españoles fue, seguramente, la Guerra Civil de 1936, cuando los gobiernos de Londres, tratando de apaciguar a Hitler, impusieron una política de no intervención internacional. Como ha mostrado Enrique Moradiellos, esa estrategia perjudicó de un modo determinante a la causa de la República: una democracia abandonaba a otra y facilitaba el triunfo franquista. Ni siquiera ayudó más tarde a instaurar una fórmula constitucional moderada, sino que consolidó la dictadura.

A la vez, el régimen parlamentario británico sirvió de ejemplo a diversos sectores de la vida política española. Pese a lo que se ha afirmado estos días, no se trataba de una democracia antiquísima, pues hasta bien entrado el Novecientos y a diferencia del norteamericano, aquel sistema político fue más liberal que democrático y no reconoció el sufragio universal. El bipartidismo inglés inspiró, tras la Restauración de 1875, el turno pacífico entre conservadores y liberales, versión castiza de los partidos ingleses enraizada, eso sí, en unos niveles de fraude electoral superados en las islas. Pero donde tuvo un influjo más profundo fue en la izquierda liberal, monárquica o republicana y admiradora del selfgovernment —el gobierno de la sociedad por sí misma— que ejemplificaba la representación a la inglesa.

Los hombres de la Institución Libre de Enseñanza, anglófilos sin fisuras, aplicaban métodos pedagógicos pensados para formar individuos libres y amantes de su patria, al tiempo que fiaban, al estilo británico, el progreso de España a reformas que la transformaran de manera gradual, no a revoluciones destructivas. Sus fundaciones, como la Residencia de Estudiantes y la de Señoritas en la Junta para Ampliación de Estudios, recordaban a los colleges de Oxford y Cambridge. Frente al café y al chocolate, los institucionistas preferían el té.

Hubo, pues, liberales españoles de raigambre inglesa, algo exóticos en un país donde abundaban la francofilia y el gusto por las emociones fuertes. Contra ellos se destacaban los anglófobos, quienes mantenían vivo el odio a la Pérfida Albión, impulsora de la leyenda negra contra la España de los siglos XVI y XVII y dueña de Gibraltar, una afrenta permanente para el españolismo. Esa obsesión alimentó la germanofilia entre católicos y tradicionalistas durante la Guerra del 14, se prolongó en la política exterior de Franco y ha llegado hasta nuestros días, cuando el ministro García-Margallo no ha perdido ocasión de gritar, sin miedo al anacronismo: “¡Gibraltar, español!”

Porque Inglaterra también ha tenido un peso fundamental en la construcción de la imagen de España. No ya la de la vetusta leyenda, sino la que forjaron desde el Ochocientos los viajeros primero y los hispanistas después. Ese fenómeno que Tom Burns Marañón llamó hispanomanía, y que tejió lazos muy especiales entre ambos pueblos. Desde George Borrow, el misionero protestante, hasta el ensayista Gerald Brenan, estos escritores alimentaron la visión romántica de una península semisalvaje, apartada de Occidente y, por ello, auténtica y admirable. Lo curioso es que fueron otros ingleses, como el historiador Raymond Carr, quienes deshicieron esos tópicos al mostrar cómo la trayectoria española no respondía a una psicología singular ni a rasgos excepcionales. Aún subsisten ramalazos de aquel enfoque entre quienes se encandilan con peculiaridades como el anarquismo hispánico.

Por último, las ciudades inglesas han sido un imán para los españoles huidos. De expatriados liberales que escapaban de Fernando VII o de republicanos que hacían lo propio respecto a Franco. También de los emigrantes que, por razones económicas, han salido de España, en los sesenta y en estos últimos años de desempleo masivo. Al mismo tiempo, las costas españolas se han llenado de británicos, de gentes que buscan un lugar soleado donde pasar unas vacaciones o comprar casa, aunque apenas se relacionen con sus vecinos autóctonos. Según los datos oficiales, hay más de 100.000 españoles viviendo en el Reino Unido y al menos 250.000 británicos residentes en España, aunque pueden ser muchos más.

En medio siglo las cosas, por fortuna, han cambiado mucho. Roza la cincuentena la primera generación de españoles que, en vez de francés, estudió inglés en la escuela. El aprendizaje de esta lengua, una verdadera industria, ha llevado a miles a viajar con frecuencia a Inglaterra. Aunque se sorprendieran con la escasez de duchas, la omnipresente moqueta o las patatas fritas con sabor a vinagre, esos niños y jóvenes se han convertido a la anglofilia. Como si el institucionismo hubiera al fin vencido. Hoy muchos de ellos trabajan en Gran Bretaña y no se defienden del todo mal.

Reino Unido ya no es una gran potencia imperial, España ha crecido y se ha acercado a él: uno es la quinta economía del planeta, la otra la decimotercera. Tampoco representa un modelo político para los progresistas españoles: es ejemplar en algunos aspectos, como el trato a la corrupción o la agilidad parlamentaria, pero no tanto en otros. Hemos descubierto que uno de los Estados que creíamos más sólidos padece problemas territoriales similares a los nuestros, aunque afrontados con mayor flexibilidad democrática. Y ahora nos deja helados su decisión de salir de la Unión Europea, un decepcionante reflejo nacionalista. Nos quedan las relaciones humanas, el aprecio que ha fomentado el continuo roce, el hábito de visitar el país del otro, los negocios y la cultura. Ojalá el Brexit no nos los arruine.

Javier Moreno Luzón es historiador.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ponters Pensées: 25.8.16

The Spanish (non)Government: Acting-President Rajoy's latest tactic in the challenge to retain his job is to threaten that, if he isn't invested early next month, the 3rd round of elections will be held on Christmas Day. After the vast meal of the night before. Is there anything he won't stop at?

Tourism: Spain has benefitted enormously from terrorism elsewhere. Numbers this year are way up and the hoteliers, etc. are happy for once. Galicia has done better than average and the south of the region - the Rías Baixas - is the star performer here, with an increase of 15% over last year. Nationally, the percentage of GDP represented by tourism is now 11-12%. Great but a tad worrying, given the volatility of things.

Tourism Competition: Despite this bumper year,  Spain's hoteliers persist in their campaign to have all competition wiped from the face of the country. As ever, the government is sympathetic to business, for reasons we must guess at. Hence the raft of laws in respect of AirBnB and of private rentals. This is the Spanish way - death by the thousand cuts of 'regularisation' - registrations, licences, inspections, certificates of this that and the other, and - of course - new taxes. And no evidence at all of thinking of either tomorrow or of consumers.

A Possible Galician Agenda: I've just received this from my friend, David. Happy to say I've done 17 of the 20. Interestingly, the favoured months for foreign tourists here are July and September. October even, if the weather holds as well as it did last year. But Spanish tourists prefer August. As do the traffic police and Guardia Civil revenue collectors.

Galician Nosh: One of our famous dishes is Padrón peppers. There's a laudatory bit on them here. This quotes the local refrain: Os pementos de Padron, uns pican e outros non. Or 'Padron peppers: some are hot, some are not'.  The Gallego doggerel would read better if they'd bothered to put the accent on Padrón. They also suggest we all fall about laughing when someone gets the hot one. Well, firstly, there's always more than one hot one. Secondly, because of a very hot and dry July and August, the ratio of these this year is so high, you'd be lucky not get a hot one. Hilarious.

The EU: A looming Frexit?: See here for the comments of Ambrose E-P. Or P-E. I can never remember.

That British Airways Gesture: Yesterday, I joked that the luggage of the Olympics heroes had gone on to Manila. Reader Sierra has kindly advised that the reality really was funny . . .

Finally . . . A true professional: My young visitor, Jack, leaves early tomorrow morning - just as his friend, my younger daughter, arrives. In fact, they won't even meet to say Hello, despite both passing (inevitably) through Oporto airport. But, anyway . . . As I was putting his washing in the machine this morning, it occurred to me that this was his last day. Que cara! Incidentally, Jack is head of a Religious Education department in a school in the UK. He was telling me early this morning about the GCSE results of his pupils. I suggested that, if God really existed, he'd surely engineer it so that everyone got an A*. From the non-very-religious language used in Jack's response - I suspect he wasn't impressed with this line. God knows what God thinks of my thought.


Another cartoon on the hapless leader of the British Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. Or at least of the far-left subset of it. Which is rather more like a sect, in fact.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ponters Pensées: 24.8.16

BA and the British Olympian Athletes: What a nice gesture to paint the nose cone of one of their planes gold to bring the heroes back home. They all looked thrilled at the reception they got at Heathrow. Shame their luggage went to Manila.

The EU and the euro: Rather than cite an apposite article, I've pasted it to the end of this post. Post-paste, as it were. The writer thinks that The euro has destroyed the EU and led directly to Brexit. He might well be right. It was always vainglorious madness to introduce it so prematurely and for purely political/idealogical reasons. IMHO.

You Couldn't Make it Up: The EU Commission has issued a list combining the Olympics medals of all 28 member states to show that the European Union was top with 325 medals, followed by the US with 121 and China with 70. Delusions of grandeur. More evidence of insanity in Brussells.

Gypsies: I'm not fond of those who live near me. But I was pleased to read that, nationally, only 14% of these much maligned folk live in shacks. Unlike 100% on this side of the river and perhaps 80% in Pontevedra city as a whole. It was also good to read of those who've gone into tertiary education and then on to successful careers in Spain. I doubt that any in my barrio have. Though those who live in flats in the Pontevedra suburbs are usually profitable market traders who send their kids to school. At least until they're 16.

Garden Tales:

  1. I didn't know there were municipal allotments - huertas urbanas - in the city but the Diario de Pontevedra tells me there certainly are and that, as in the UK, there's a waiting list for all of them. Perhaps some of those in the queue could come up and turn the bottom of my garden into a vegetable patch, below the lemon, peach and fig trees.
  2. For the last few weeks, I've been looking for my rake. Seeing the lovely Ester in her garden this morning, I asked her if - by chance - she might have it. Yes, she said, It's in my shed. But I've got my own, so I've no idea how or why it got there. Neither have I, NTS.
Finally . . . . I bought this British cop's truncheon at the Sunday flea market. 

The trader had no idea what it was but assured me there were no woodworm still in it. That said, he also suggested I put it in the freezer for a while to ensure they were all killed off. Which I've done. Now to varnish it and hang it somewhere.


A cartoon on the British Labour party leadership race:-


The euro has destroyed the EU and led directly to Brexit: Jeremy Warner 

They just don’t get it, do they? Of all the stupidities aired by EU policymakers in response to Britain’s referendum vote, there are two standouts.

One was the verdict of Herman Van Rompuy, former president of the European Council. Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum, he said, was “the worst policy decision in decades”. You’ll be relieved to learn that Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (Europe manages to have no less than five separate presidents), doesn’t agree. In fact, he says, “borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians”.  This from someone who while prime minister of Luxembourg cynically used sovereign borders to make Luxembourg into Europe’s premier tax haven.

Even acknowledging that this latter remark was made in the context of the migrant crisis, it goes to the heart of what’s gone wrong with the European Union. For together with Mr Van Rompuy’s condescending dismissal of the democratic process, it displays a deep contempt at the heart of the European project for the collective will and concerns of the people.

As the economist Joseph Stiglitz, notes in a compellingly argued new book on the failure of the European project – The Euro, and its threat to the future of Europe – on virtually every occasion when voters have been directly consulted, they have rejected the idea of further integration. 
And in each case, whether it was introduction of the Euro or reform of the constitution, they have been ignored.

The EU cannot stop Britain from leaving, but what it can do is turn a tin ear to the message that loud and clear Britain’s vote for Brexit has delivered – that Europe isn’t working and if it is to survive, then it must urgently reform. 

On current evidence, it shows virtually no sign of doing so. To the contrary, in his mini-summit on the island of Ventotene this week, the Italian premier, Matteo Renzi, insisted that Brexit could not be allowed to drive the process of European integration into reverse. The venue was deeply resonant of the narrative he wished to convey, for Ventotene was where Altiero Spinelli, while imprisoned by the fascist dictator Mussolini, wrote one of the original federalist manifestos for Europe.

Renzi echoed this founding father of the EU in his summit rhetoric. Europe is not the problem amid today’s myriad challenges, he said, but the solution. It is, lamentably, ever harder to agree with him.

Six years after the start of the Eurozone crisis, the economy is still deep in the doldrums, with output in some nations a pale shadow of its former self, shockingly high levels of youth unemployment and what growth there is now almost wholly dependent on the drip feed of central
bank money printing.

How did things get so bad? In his book, Stiglitz convincingly demonstrates that the root cause of virtually all Europe’s economic and political ills was the premature introduction of the euro.
In itself, this is not a  new idea, but Stiglitz lends it virtually irrefutable intellectual backing.

To begin with, things seemed to go swimmingly, with all member states apparently growing richer together. But far from leading to convergence among national economies, the single currency was beneath the surface driving a dangerously destabilising process of divergence. Structurally, economies were growing apart, not together, with the Eurozone ever more precariously divided into surplus and deficit nations.

“That the euro still survives at all is explained only by the egos and political careers still tied up in its continuation. That, and fear of the economic costs of trying to disentangle it.”

This process met its nemesis in the financial crisis, when it became brutally apparent that while nominally a monetary union, Europe lacked the political and economic institutions, or indeed the political consensus, to make it properly function as one, with mutualisation of debts built up in the boom and a counteracting policy response.

In forging monetary union before political, banking and fiscal union, Europe had put the cart before the horse and is now devastatingly paying the price. Europe had taken away the natural market based adjustment mechanism of free floating exchange rates, but with nothing to replace it.
German refusal to increase its wages and prices meant that deficit nations were forced to reduce theirs instead. This process of so-called internal devaluation, besides being socially and politically extraordinarily painful, has succeeded only in further increasing the real terms debt burden of afflicted nations.

To compound it all, Eurozone policy makers tried to force the pace of convergence by imposing austerity in a futile attempt to eradicate budget deficits and mounting debts. By crimping growth, the effect was precisely the reverse - again to further increase real debt burdens.

Brexit too, it might be argued, is in some way linked to the failure of monetary union, even though Britain wasn’t ever a part of it. The impact was threefold. First and foremost, it ratcheted up the alienating process of European integration. Britain as a member of the EU was collateral damage in the federalist endeavour. Second, it destroyed faith in the competence of European policy makers. And finally, it greatly increased the number of migrants coming to Britain by creating a depression across great swathes of the Continent.

Free movement became a substitute for enhanced trade and national economic advancement. By the by, it has further contributed to the eurozone debt crisis, in that the young and talented tend to migrate, rather than stay at home to work off the liabilities.

As with monetary union, imposing free movement on nations of widely different incomes, wealth, and welfare systems, was always bound to cause problems, resentment and a consequent political backlash. These chickens have come home to roost in Brexit. Unless things change, others will at some stage follow. Italy or France will be the next shoe to drop.

That the euro still survives at all is explained only by the egos and political careers still tied up in its continuation. That, and fear of the economic costs of trying to disentangle it. Rather than making it work for the economies that use it, policy has become focused almost entirely on whatever contrivance is thought necessary to sustain it.

Logically, a project whose purpose was originally to bind nations together through trade would be doing all it could to ensure an amicable divorce with Britain so that this trade might continue.

But such a rational outcome is to misunderstand the nature of the beast. The early signs do not look encouraging. This is what Mr Juncker had to say about it all. “There will be no access to the internal market for those who do not accept the rules – without exception or nuance – that make up the very nature of the internal market system.” He appears to want to punish Britain for daring to leave, even if this proves damaging to Europe too. One can but hope that cooler heads and wiser counsel prevails. Unwise to count on it, though - given the record.

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