Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in SpainSave
- Spain will go to the polls in April for its third general election in four years after its Socialist government failed to pass the national budget this week. What fun.
- An ultimatum has been given to the (appalling) Franco family over the removal of his bones.
- Reverting to the 2 items on perceptions of Spain . . . I gave some thought to the other side of the Leadership coin and - rather to my own surprise - quickly came up with 14 'negative' points. Maybe I'll cite them here one day, though regular readers won't be too surprised at any them, I suspect. But, anyway, as with people, the most important question is whether the net balance is positive or negative. For me, as a retired Brit, it's always been very positive. But, if I were a young, unemployed Spanish graduate, I might well regard even the UK as a better place in which to live. And I've always admitted that, having quite a short fuse, I would surely have found it hard to work in Spain, notwithstanding its numerous attractions/positives. Horses for courses, as they say.
- Talking of life here . . . Years ago, I wrote a spoof guide to driving in Spain. I thought about this yesterday when concluding - probably not for the first time - that the only time you can confidently expect or believe a signal here is when someone overtakes you on an autovia and indicates they're going to pull in front of you. Ironically, no one does this in the UK. I don't recall what happens in other countries.
- By the way, this year is the 300th Anniversary of a British capture of Vigo and Pontevedra. I don't think there are going to be any local celebrations. Except in my watering hole. As I recall, the biggest item removed by the Brits was the wine stores of both Vigo and Pontevedra. I like the final sentence of this Wiki item on the events of 2 weeks in October 1719: This caused some shock to the Spanish authorities, as they realised how vulnerable they were to Allied amphibious descents, with the potential to open up a new front away from the French frontier. I'll bet.
- The Galician city of Lugo has also started to use archers to cull wild boars entering residential areas.
- It's no secret that the far left of the Labour Party has been anti the EU since the 1970s, when - under Michael Foot - it fought against the UK's entry into the EEC, as it then was. The leading lights of today's Labour Party still see it as a capitalist club bent on exploiting the workers and this has naturally caused headaches for its 'old school' leader, Jeremy Corbyn. As Private Eye put it recently: Any young supporters who voted Labour in the belief that the party was pro-Europe should have watched as their leader took his Strategy and Communications Director, Seumas Milne, to an emergency Brexit meeting with prime minister Theresa May last week. Milne has opposed the EU as intensely as Tory Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, only for much longer. . . . Labour insiders bewail the influence of Milne and other ex-communists on Jeremy Corbyn. It's no coincidence that the Labour 'policy' on Brexit has been a case study in obfuscation and dissimulation. But time is running out. For everyone.
- Ambrose Evan Pritchard - below - continues to be optimistic that common sense will prevail, if only because the EU now has a lot more to lose that it had - or thought it had - months ago. Interesting to note confirmation of the hardening of his views re Brussels.
- Anyone surprised at this?
- Religion in the benighted USA 1: Anti Trump Christians are as bad as Nazi enablers.
- Religion in the benighted USA 2: More than half of Republicans believe in divine involvement in their elections. But only when it suits them, of course. Presumably it's the Devil at work when things go against them.
- Word of the Day: Nefasto.
- Odd old word: Preferment: "You unmarried women were said to be on their preferment when they were waiting to be preferred by some young man". So, probation.
- The sales director of a sex toys company - Yes Yes.org - was sacked after he changed its domain name to .com without realising its founders had chosen it because of its closeness to orgasm. But I suspect there must have been other reasons as well.
A no-deal Brexit starts to lose its terror as the EU draws up survival plans: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The leaks from Brussels have begun. Unnamed EU "diplomats and officials" have floated the subject of a temporary opt-out for Ireland in a no-deal Brexit.
Dublin will not have to erect customs infrastructure or police the outer limits of the single market immediately. There will be a transition.
Officials told Reuters that Ireland will ultimately face checks on its own exports to Europe or face being kicked out of the EU customs union if it refuses to put up a trade border against Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal. “If there is no physical border, the customs checks would have to take place on all goods coming from Ireland,” said one.
But ultimately may be a long way off. There will be a strange hiatus. The derogation period circulating en coulisse in Brussels is about six months. In my experience such time-frames tend to be elastic.
So think this through. Later this year or at some point in 2020 the Irish government will come under pressure to erect a border, which both Dublin and the EU insist would be a violation of the Good Friday Agreement.
My supposition is that the interests of Ireland and the UK would that at stage become at least partially aligned. Both would be searching frantically for some sort of solution based on the latest digital and blockchain technology. Options now dismissed as “magical thinking” would look attractive. This includes the report written for the European Parliament by the former head of the World Customs Organisation, Lars Karlsson.
As months went by and various ways were found to manage cross-border trade in Ireland, it would become progressively harder for Brussels to push its maximalist position. It too would start to have a political interest in making it work.
The alternative would be ghastly. The EU would find itself sliding towards a diplomatic crisis with Ireland, whatever Leo Varadkar is now saying about the undying unity of the EU (which he knows to be humbug after the EU Troika manhandling of Ireland in 2010). The political fall-out of such a showdown could not easily be predicted.
Inventive officials in Brussels would start to float the "Canaries formula". The Canary islands have their own tax and customs arrangements within the EU that is justified on grounds of distance from Spain and the rest of the EU. The European Commission said the geography of the islands “permits specific measures to be taken so as to take account of the particular characteristics and constraints of these regions.” “Local manufacturers have to contend with a number of handicaps, caused especially by their remoteness. This has justified the implementation of a specific measure to safeguard their competitiveness.
I do not wish to labour the point. The case of the Canaries is not an exact template. What it shows is that the EU comes up with flexible arrangements when it has to.
There would certainly be calls for "trusted trader" schemes to carry out rules of origin processing away from the border. There would be a growing acceptance that local cross-border trade (80pc of the total) could be given an exemption. Who is going to challenge this at the World Trade Organization if the UK, Ireland, and the EU all agree?
Ireland has been thrust into a very difficult position by Brexit through no fault of its own, and we in Britain should be cognisant of that. Many of us are partly Irish in any case.
My great great grandfather, Captain Hampden Evans, was sentenced to death by the British crown for his role in the United Irishmen revolt of 1798 (he died in exile in France). My great grandmother was a Fenian activist. Countless readers will have their own family parallels.
The EU has exploited Irish sensitivities - with some encouragement from Mr Varadkar - to shut off Britain’s negotiating options and to shoehorn us into a customs union under EU legal and regulatory control. My own view of Brexit hardened drastically when it became clear this was the strategy. But I also think that this opportunism will come back to haunt if there is a no deal. What worked to the advantage of Brussels at one stage of this process will be a diplomatic quagmire in the next stage. That is why solutions will be found.
And what applies to the Irish issue will be apply to varying degrees to trade. A cliff-edge rupture will tip the eurozone itself into a recessionary downturn that it cannot easily withstand, given that it has no monetary and fiscal defences, and already has one foot in Japanese deflation.
So it will not allow the cliff-edge to occur. The open letter of the pan-EU lobby FoodDrinkEurope to Michel Barnier gives us a window into what is really happening. It warns that €58bn of annual UK-EU trade in food and drinks will blow up unless emergency measures are taken.
It calls on the Commission to prepare “unilateral contingency measures”. This includes forbearance on customs clearance for up to 24 months; mutual recognition of certifications; continued acceptance of licences for hauliers; and so forth. In other words, common sense should prevail.
To a great extent, we have already paid the price of a no-deal Brexit. Banks and City finance houses have had to activate their contingency plans already. Investment has already hit a wall.
With each passing week the economic return we get from giving up self-government and sovereignty is diminishing, even if that is not what Theresa May intends as she runs down the clock.
As we enter the final weeks, it is becoming clearer that the long-predicted doomsday scenario of March 30 will not happen even in a no deal rupture. At that moment Brussels will instantly lose the leverage of the Article 50 process. It will instead find itself having to explain to EU national capitals how it so misjudged the Brexit negotiations.
We will be in a new situation. Britain will be in a mess: Europe will be in a mess. Both will have a strong incentive to sort it out in a practical fashion. Ideology will no longer cut much ice.
Perhaps it is a wicked thought, but I cannot bring myself to share Sir Oliver Letwin’s alarm over the “terrifying” prospect of a no-deal. For me the terror peaked months ago. It has since been ebbing away. It is almost tempting to let events run their course.