Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.
- An intriguing museum in Madrid.
- At least here in my neck of the Spanish woods, if you want to ensure no 'individualist' parks in front of your garage, you have to pay for a licence(vado) from the local council – or have a fake one made – and stick it on your garage door.
- In contrast, while looking for a parking space in Portugal yesterday, I noticed that, although there was no vado on any garage door, no one had parked in front of any of them. Very retiring folk, the Portuguese.
- I've mentioned before that Portugal frequently gives the visitor examples of both gloriously beautiful and truly horrendous buildings, sometimes cheek by jowl. In the Oporto barrio of Blessa yesterday, I snapped these 2 examples of the latter. It's hard to believe they got planning permission in a road of some splendid mansions. Or anywhere in the city, in fact.
The second one is the Vodaphone HQ in Oporto but it might not have been commissioned by them. I realise, of course, that some folk will see the building as gloriously beautiful. There's room for all of us.
- Don't be distracted by how comprehensively the EU won the first round of the Brexit negotiations (which they did) because history will show that was the easy part; a mere trifle of housekeeping that cleared the decks for the real discussion to follow. Winning a €45bn divorce settlement and solid terms for the 3.2m EU citizens in the UK does not change the reality that Brexit leaves a €13bn-a-year hole in the EU budget and the world’s fifth-largest economy (and Europe’s main financial centre) still on the EU’s doorstep. As for the future, the writer of the article the article this sentiment is taken from (see below) believes that Germany and France are about to get Brexit seriously wrong. Scroll down for his rationale.
- I'm an ambivalent admirer of Britain's 'media intellectual' Will Self, but I was pleased to hear him say in a podcast I listened to yesterday that times, circumstances and opinions change and that he'd moved away from total support of a federal Europe to antipathy towards the 'nightmare' EU Project. You can listen to him on this here at minute 7.25. Taster: A bloated bureacracy, full of the wind of its own democratic deficit. Quite.
- So, President Fart is not insane. And I'm a Dutch uncle. Actually, his doctor merely says his cognitive facilities aren't impaired. But this has nowt to do with his personality. Nor his psyche probably. I imagine murderous sociopaths also also have unimpaired cognitive abilities. They know what day of the week it is. And how to lie very effectively.
- Where does all the money come from, where does it go, and who benefits most from the flow? Click here for some answers. Taster: Simply put: our highly financialized economy is gamed to enrich those who run it, at the expense of everybody else. Who'd have thought it?
The Spanish Language
- Vado literally means 'ford'. Or passage way, I guess.
- Apologies for yesterday's calle de incorporación; it should have been carril de incorporación. Same number of syllables, though.
- Chucking out old files last week, I was amused to come across 2006 references to the AVE high-speed train from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela, La Coruña and Ferrol. For the whole thing, I'd noted The most optimistic forecast is sometimes in 2010. A note of less than a year later puts completion of the Madrid-Santiago line 4 years later, at 2014. That came and went as well, along with many, many others. The completion date is currently a mere 10 years later, at 2020. As for the planned southwards extension from Santiago to Tui and Oporto in Portugal, my note is God knows. Which, 11 years on, is still the case
- Just after crossing the river Miño yesterday afternoon and entering Spain, I saw a family group of 5 people standing at the side of the A55 autovia, taking a selfie of themselves facing back towards Portugal. Possibly with the Welcome to Spain sign as their backcloth. From their attire, my guess was they'd driven up from Morocco. Quite mad. Though with all their cognitive facilities intact, I'm sure.
The real Battle of Brexit: why France and Germany could push Europe into getting it seriously wrong: Peter Foster
Let battle commence! Over the next month or so, a true war of ideas will be fought across Europe over how best to accommodate Britain after Brexit while simultaneously revivifying the bloc’s own flagging fortunes.
Because for all the bluster from Brussels, the 27 EU nations that remain after Britain’s departure in March 2019 are still a very long way from sorting out the basic conundrum thrown up by the UK’s vote to leave.
Do not be distracted by how comprehensively the EU won the first round of the negotiations (which they did) because history will show that was the easy part; a mere trifle of housekeeping that cleared the decks for the real discussion to follow.
Winning a €45bn divorce settlement and solid terms for the 3.2m EU citizens in the UK does not change the reality that Brexit leaves a €13bn-a-year hole in the EU budget and the world’s fifth-largest economy (and Europe’s main financial centre) still on the EU’s doorstep.
This is a divorce where both parties are condemned to live next door to each other, and do business with each other, in perpetuity. The reality is that whatever the eventual terms of the EU-UK trade deal, the UK and the City of London, is not going to go away.
This is all too easily forgotten in the increasingly bitter exchanges that characterise these divorce proceedings. As in all divorces, there is fault on both sides: Barnier niggles, team Juncker leaks, but equally Johnson and Davis goad the EU with witless and self-defeating regularity.
But taking even a moderately long view, there is a serious danger now that in all the rising short-term frustration and mistrust, Germany and France are about to get Brexit seriously wrong.
Britain is not Trump’s America, nor is it Kaczynski’s Poland or Orban’s Hungary - we are not rippling up climate change accords and international trade rules, nor are we assaulting the rule of law or establishing a kleptocracy in plain sight.
It is the UK that has always faithfully implemented EU directives, often with gold plate; it has striven to green its energy mix, driven EU-wide liberalisation in services, lobbied for the completion of the digital single market and against tax dumping. None of this is changed by Brexit.
Just as financial markets often over-react to bad news, there is now a risk of a political over-shoot from Brexit on the European side.
There are already clear signs of dissent from some EU members states - including large ones like Italy and liberal free-traders in the Nordic region - that the Franco-German line on Brexit risks causing unnecessary damage to both sides.
Germany and France strongly disagree. Emmanuel Macron - a politician whose personal brand is build on bearding the populist tiger - has warned smaller EU states of the “prisoner’s dilemma”, where they put short-term interests over long-term stability.
German officials believe that dissenting states will be silenced when they understand that enforcing the EU’s ‘level playing field’ - i.e. stopping the UK from seeking regulatory advantage - they will fall into line.
Europe should be careful what it wishes for. Britain has no wish to become ‘Singapore’ off the coast of Europe, it clearly wants to stay ‘aligned’ in many areas given what Philip Hammond calls the “extraordinary levels of interconnectedness” between the EU and UK.
But the Franco-German approach, which is backed by the European Commission, risks precipitating just such an outcome if it is not tempered by the wise counsel of other member states.
Officials in Berlin dismiss the British idea of “managed divergence” as “the latest episode in the ‘cake and eat it’ sitcom series”, but that misses two key points.
The first is that, as a matter of plain fact, the EU and UK do start from converged positions. Even though the UK wants to leave the single market and the customs union (at least as it currently stands) starting a Canada-style FTA negotiation “from scratch”, as if the UK was an any old ‘third country’ is clearly an aggressive position. And it will be read as such in Britain, and the parts of Europe that will suffer as a result.
The second is that “managed divergence” is exactly that - “managed”. Depending on how such a system operated, it could actually give the EU the ability to enforce the “level playing field” that it believes is so essential to protecting the Union.
Indeed, read between the lines of British ministerial pronouncements of late on agriculture, chemicals, medicines, data, aviation and it could be hardline Brexiteers who end up disappointed by the “managed divergence” model, not the EU.
The mechanism as outlined by the non-partisan Institute of Government would give the EU the clear ability to proportionally “choke off” UK single market access when the UK was judged to have “diverged”.
As the IFG observes, the more Norway-style the converged tier becomes, the deeper the wider obligations the EU are likely to insist upon in return for access - on free movement of labour and financial contributions for example.
But where the UK says it is advancing a “commonsense” approach to Brexit, for now Germany, France and the Commission see only conspiracy. They fret that managing such an approach, particularly in the middle tier, will be impossibly complicated when it comes to assessing the material impact of any regulatory divergence, allowing the UK to gain unfair advantage under the cloak of the system. The ministerial ‘charm offensive’ round Europe needs to fix this misconception.
The Brexit vote happened It has created a genuinely unique situation. It needs to be delivered upon in a way that allows the UK and the EU to coexist peacefully and productively. As that process begins, France and Germany should remember who their real friends are.