Monday, July 16, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 16.7.18

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 hereGarish but informative.

  • So, the Pamplona bull-running is over for another year. As ever, I'm astonished by 3 things:-
  1. How small the bulls are next to the cows,
  2. How stupid some runners are to place themselves in the left hand corner of a sharp right turn, where the bulls (450-550 kilos each) nearly always crash into the barrier, and
  3. How few people are killed or even just injured.
Here's a report suggesting there were 28 injuries during the week, with 6 on the last day
  • No real surprise to read that, when they travel abroad, the top 3 destinations of Spaniards are 1. Paris; 2. London; and 3: Rome. Even less surprising is what they head for when they get to these cities
Life in Spain
  • Just under 60 years ago, the British newspaper, The Observer, published an article on Franco's rapidly changing Spain. This is an extract. Interesting to note that some Spaniards were already worried about the early tourist 'hordes'. It is impossible to overlook the danger represented in certain regions of Spain by the tourist current as a vehicle of ideas and customs highly pernicious to our family morality, warned the National Association of Fathers of Families. Which possibly no longer exists. The original article can be purchased here.
  • Our Iberian neighbour is big on cork. I can't help feeling this is a declining market, at least as regards the bottle-stopper niche.
The UK/Brexit
  • For those very few still interested in where this is going, here's Richard North's comments this morning, on the White Paper and Mrs May's TV interview yesterday. In which she regularly – and almost impressively – dodged the key questions.
  • And below is a slightly earlier article on her easy-to-reject offer to the EU.
  • So, we now know that the ('brutal') 'advice' Trump gave to Mrs May was that the UK should not negotiate with the EU but, instead, sue it. Which is either brilliant or insane.
  • Trump once again displayed his incapacity to keep his considerable gob shut by talking of the queen's view of Brexit. Personally, I find it impossible to believe she voiced any to the man.
  • Nice cartoon:-

  • As Trump picks a fight with the EU, Putin spots an opportunity to make Russia a 'natural ally' of Europe, it says here. Taster: There are signs that Putin is less interested in what Trump might or might not offer — especially given the American president’s unpredictability and constant self-contradictions. Instead, he has positioned himself to capitalize on the meeting in Helsinki by reinforcing the view among his own citizens that he has succeeded in making Russia great again, and demonstrating to Europe that on many issues — from trade to climate change to the Iran nuclear cord — its interests align more closely with Moscow than Washington. Well done, Donald.
Finally . . .
  • World Cup: France were worthy winners but what a shame a good final was marred by a ridiculous penalty decision by the referee. As someone has written this morning: VAR is a boon to the game, vital in the modern technology age, but weak officials don’t help. One thing that would be worth discussing is whether handball incidents should be viewed in slow motion because, when they are, penalties are more likely to be awarded as the impression is given that there is time to get your hand out of the way. It distorts things. Those decisions would be better off being seen again in real time.
© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 16.7.18


Theresa May's Brexit proposal is so detached from reality that it can only end in disaster
Ever since 17.4 million of us voted to leave the European Union, we have been confronted with one question overriding all others: how could we free ourselves completely from the political structures of the EU without doing irreparable damage to our economy?

During more than 40 years of European integration, the UK economy has become so enmeshed with those of the rest of the EU that a vast tranche of our economic activity is only legally authorised by a thicket of EU laws. Was it possible that we could extricate ourselves entirely from the EU, while holding on to that economic relationship which, in exports alone, provides 14% of our national income, also yielding a hefty slice of government tax income?

Even before the referendum, some of us were urging that there was only one practical way we could get pretty well all we wanted: to become a fully independent country, freeing ourselves from three quarters of the EU’s laws, while continuing to enjoy “frictionless” trade. And also leaving us free to sign trade deals across the world, and even to exercise some control over EU immigration. This was to remain in the wider European Economic Area (EEA) by rejoining Norway in the European Free Trade Association.

This could have solved virtually all the problems that have proved so intractable, including the Irish border.

But Theresa May chose instead to leave the EU’s economic system altogether, to become a “third country”. Thus have we wasted 17 months discussing entirely fanciful proposals, each of which contradicted the “core principle” that the EU made clear even before we triggered Article 50: that it would not be possible “to cherry-pick and be a participant in parts of the Single Market”, to enjoy a uniquely privileged status not open to any “third country” outside the EEA.

Yet what is Mrs May’s latest proposal, which has provoked such uproar, but again exactly that? It is so detached from reality that it can only end next March in the ultimate disaster, where we crash out without an agreement. Few people in Britain yet have any idea of the chaos that will ensue, as we are shut out of our largest export market and much besides. Whole industries will go into meltdown. It will be the gravest economic crisis in our history. And we shall have brought it entirely on ourselves, because those in charge of our affairs have never begun to understand the technical realities of what we’re up against.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 15.7.18

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 hereGarish but informative.

  • Interesting to read that Spain ranks very high on the number of recommended daily units of alcohol around the 28 members of the EU:-
1. Spain: 4.0
27.The UK: 1.6
27. The Netherlands: 1.0 
28. Bulgaria: 0.8
3. Spain: 2.0
10. UK: 1.6
27. Netherlands: 1.0
27. Slovenia: 1.0
28. Bulgaria: 0.8

The UK
  • In a sentence . . . When Mrs May brings the further-mutilated [by the EU] Brexit compromise back to Westminster, these are the 3 lousy options MPs will have to choose between: Swallow fake Brexit (which everyone despises); Risk a no-deal hard Brexit (for which no one has prepared); or 3. Call another referendum (which no one wants). Happy times.
  • Meanwhile, The Guardian has finally declared that the Trump-May joke of a press conference was 'extraordinary'. Adding that Not even Donald Trump can defuse a diplomatic hand grenade after it's exploded.
  • And the cartoonist of The Times has given us this insight into what No 10 insiders call Trump's Fuck-you diplomacy:-

  • It's some time since I first expressed my horror and disgust at TV ads for shysters who preach the 'prosperity gospel', to largely poor folk. This, as the article below puts it, is a uniquely American fusion of Christianity and capitalism that believes God will grant [financial] success to those with enough faith, and exhorts its followers to live a life of “triumph”. Naturally, it encourages adherents to donate generously to their church and its leaders. One of these, Joel Osteen, is worth an estimated $50m. Another, Jesse Duplantis, recently asked his followers to pay for a new $54m jet. Needless to say, these preachers and their deluded followers are avid supporters of Trump. Not so much Mormons as Morons. The First Church of Christ the Multi-millionaire. But all part of the rich American pageant, I guess. The truly gullible bit. The good news, for humanists, is that this madness is contributing to the flight of the country's young away from religion. Or at least the lunatic fringes of it.
  • Back to prostitution. . . I don't think there's the equivalent here of the British crime of 'living off immoral earnings'. So it's difficult to do anything – assuming there was the political will to do so – about people who merely rent rooms to women. But it certainly is possible to arrest traffickers of women. And this has just happened in Meis, near Pontevedra. A Brazilian Club owner had lured 3 young Venezuelan women here with the usual promises and landed them with the usual large debts, to be worked off in the usual way.
  • Even I was surprised to read that half of Europe's heroin – not just cocaine – passes through Galicia. Specifically our Rías Baixas The gangs behind this business are reported to be Dutch, Turkish, Bulgarian, Colombian and 'Albanian-Kosovan'. Impressive international cooperation, then.
Finally . . .

The World Cup . . .
  • I didn't know that Luka Modric is not very popular with many citizens back home. This is because he's accused of making false statements in a tax-fraud trial relating to his move to Tottenham Hotspur in 2008. And he might well end up in clink.
  • I fancy France to be too good for a – surely tired – Croatia today. But I will be delighted to be wrong.
© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 15.7.18


Prosperity preachers fuel faith in Trump: The Times

A muggy summer’s evening in the heart of Brooklyn is not natural territory for a Texan preacher, but 10,000 people turned up on Friday for Joel Osteen’s Night of Hope. They poured into the Barclays Centre, usually known for its basketball games and Jay-Z concerts, to listen adoringly to a slick evangelist bearing a message of hope and self-improvement.

The crowd was buoyed not just by Osteen’s loving gospel, but also by the political events of the past week, which saw Brett Kavanaugh, a deeply conservative judge, nominated to become Donald Trump’s second pick for the Supreme Court.

Following on from the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, another staunch conservative, the nomination has emphasised to many evangelicals why Trump is their favourite president for decades, and why they intend to turn out for him in high numbers again in November’s mid-term elections.

“Judge Kavanaugh is brilliant,” said Jody McNulty, a businessman from Long Island who had driven in with his wife, Alisha, to see Osteen’s show. “He [Trump] made a good choice. The pendulum in this country swings to the left and to the right. It went pretty far to the left, but now President Trump is bringing it back to the centre.”

Osteen is perhaps the most famous proponent of what is known as the prosperity gospel, a uniquely American fusion of Christianity and capitalism that believes God will grant success to those with enough faith, and exhorts its followers to live a life of “triumph”. It is a message that resonates with Trump, who attended the church of prosperity-style preacher Norman Vincent Peale as a boy.

The prosperity gospel also encourages its adherents to donate generously to their church and its leaders — Osteen is worth an estimated $50m (£38m) and was criticised last summer for taking four days to open his Houston church to refugees from Hurricane Harvey. Another prosperity preacher, Jesse Duplantis, recently asked his followers to chip in for a new $54m jet.

Lakewood church in Houston, founded by Joel’s father, John, is a family business for the Osteens. Osteen’s wife, Victoria, preaches alongside him and the Night of Hope features cameos from his 84-year-old mother, Dodie, and 19-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who sings in the Christian rock band that warms the crowd up into a state of ecstatic excitement before Osteen comes on stage.

Osteen is one of many evangelical leaders to have lavished praise on Trump, calling him “an incredible communicator” and “a friend of our ministry”, despite the president’s at times unchristian behaviour.

But it is the Texan’s emphasis on worldly triumph that has led many to associate him closely with the president. Trump has retweeted Osteen’s mantras: “Life is too short to hang around cynical people. Find people who will believe in your dreams and celebrate your victories.”

Evangelical support for Trump has rallied around issues such as moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, the pro-choice reproductive health group. But at the heart of evangelical support for Trump is a pact: he appoints solid conservative judges and gets unwavering Christian voters in return.

Some 81% of evangelical voters supported Trump in 2016. Many were buoyed by a list of approved judges that was provided to Trump by conservative legal groups in 2016. Both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were on the list.

“The political fight over the Kavanaugh appointment is going to energise the Christian community to come out in great numbers once more,” said Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family and one of a number of evangelical leaders who have met often with Trump.

“A lot of Christian voters weren’t thrilled with candidate Trump, but they were willing to hold their noses,” Daly said. “Sometimes you need an alley fighter in your corner. What he’s done with the judicial nominations has confirmed this for many voters.”

This includes Bob and Nancy Griffin, from Massachusetts, who drove down to see the Osteen show on Friday night. “He’s our inspiration,” said Nancy. “Even on Sundays I listen to him before we go to church.”

She’s excited about the Kavanaugh nomination. “I think he’s a good judge who will return to the constitution,” she said. “That’s what the country needs.” Will it encourage her to vote for Trump

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 14.7.18

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 hereGarish but informative.

  • Spain's abdicated king might well have been even more corrupt than we ever knew. According to a British newspaper: The former king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, used his alleged lover Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein to buy multiple overseas properties due to her tax residence in Monaco, according to claims made by the German aristocrat in a leaked audio recording. In a 2015 conversation with a former Spanish police officer in London, Princess Corinna alleged that the king’s lawyers put her name on overseas properties without her permission, complaining that she was being drawn into “money laundering”. The 53-year-old princess, who obtained her title from her second marriage, also claimed that Juan Carlos I held bank accounts in Switzerland in the name of his cousin, Álvaro Orleans de Borbón. I wonder how much these allegations will feature in the local media, which is said to have known all about this sort of thing for a long time. Here's one El País article in which the princess doesn't deny the validity of the recording.
  • At least some PP politicians can't grasp that judicial systems in other countries aren't exactly the same as that of Spain. Following this decision of the German court, they've demanded that Germany be punished for being nasty to Spain. Some have gone so far as to say that Spain should respond to 'insults' by quitting the Schengen free-movement area.
  • I said years ago that the Guardia Civil should equip me with a head camera so that I could pass on fotos of the many drivers I clocked using mobile phones. I'm reminded of this by news that the penalties for this are to be increased. Because it's now the biggest cause of fatal accidents.
  • But, to put this in perspective, more young people die of suicide in Spain than in traffic accidents. And, while huge sums of time and money are spent on reducing the latter, rather less is spent on eliminating the former. However, maybe things are changing.
Europe/The UK/Brexit
  • Astonishingly . . . According to YouGov, 13% of Brits still think the government is handling Brexit well. I guess there's always someone to take a contrary view, possibly just for the sake of it.
  • Donald Trump must be the best exponent ever of the validity of the maxim: Better to keep your mouth shut and he thought a fool than to open it and prove it. Witness the bizarre press conference yesterday, when he tried to row back on some of his outrageous statements and then repeated others. You only have to ponder how he'd react if another world leader did the same to him in the USA.
  • It has to be admitted, though, that some of the things he says are, indeed, correct. And remain correct even if he later disowns them.
  • That press conference:-
- The Times: 'often surreal'.
- The Telegraph: 'extraordinary' and 'incredible'
- The BBC refrained from providing adjectives.
- Politico: Headlined an article: Trump blows up Theresa May’s party in his honor. And, referring back to the prior Nato meeting said: As a summit he threw into chaos wrapped up Thursday, President Donald Trump cheekily declared himself a “very stable genius.” European leaders beg to differ: The president’s wild shifts in tone left many NATO allies concluding no hidden strategy lies behind his unpredictability. More here. As I say, imagine Trump's reaction to any of these leaders doing the same on his patch.

  • As feared, the Minister of Development has hinted that there might be delays in implementing the AVE high-speed train plans of the last PP government.
  • The first 6 months of this year have seen at least 1,128 dogs abandoned in Galicia. These were perhaps the lucky ones. Many greyhounds (galgos) are hanged from trees at the end of their short hunting career.
  • A year or so ago, a visiting male friend of my younger daughter spoke of a sex shop in the city. I said there wasn't one. He insisted we'd passed it several times when walking into town. He was right, of course, and the reason for my missing it was perhaps that its windows were full of not-very-sexy objeces, most of which seemed to be part of the 50 Shades of Grey franchise. But, walking past it last night, I noticed it'd changed its shop-window strategy. Hard not to, really . . . 

Finally . . .

The World Cup:-
  1. Outplayed in the first half by England, it was 5ft 5in(165cm) Modric - his passing, his harrying, his unwillingness to yield -- which dragged Croatia to victory. More testament – as if Messi weren't enough – to the fact that you don't need to be huge to be a football(soccer) superstar.
  2. Twenty reasons to be glad that England lost: Giles Coren, The Times
1. Had we made the final, it would have been via a miserably inglorious route that would have taken the shine off it. On the way to the semis, we beat four inferior nations — all of them either tiny or very poor or both — and lost to the reserve team of the only half-decent country (also small) that we played. To have beaten yet another very small and poor nation to get to a World Cup final would frankly have looked like bullying. Croatia, on the other hand, have beaten Argentina, England and the host nation. That’s how you win World Cups.

2. It was better to go out fighting in a close match against a small country with no football league to speak of, than to beat them and go into a final against an actual footballing nation in front of the eyes of the whole world, and lose 10-0.

3. We were all able to get home after the match, driving through nice empty streets. Whereas if we had won, the streets would have been full of cheering drunken arseholes jumping on cars and we’d have been stuck in traffic till midnight. (I genuinely worried all through the game about getting my kids home from the party we were at in Dalston, and a little piece of me genuinely celebrated the Mandzukic goal because I knew we’d be able to get back okay).

4. Winning is vulgar and teaches us nothing. Losing builds character.

5. It’s in Russia, so it is all fixed anyway. Like Argentina ’78, Russia 2018 will be looked back on as a farce and whoever wins it, it won’t really count.

6. Kylian Mbappé is the player of the tournament, a teenager with pace, skill and intelligence and it will be good to cheer him on in the final in earnest, taking unalloyed pleasure in his genius.

7. Kyle Walker will probably get a Pizza Hut advert.

8. Nice girls on Twitter will stop going on about how the only thing this World Cup needs now is for darling little Raheem Stirling to score a goal.

9. There’s no pressure to go out and watch the final on Sunday on a big screen with a load of boozed-up morons throwing beer in the air. Now you can watch it as television is meant to be watched: at home, alone.

10. My dear friend David Baddiel will not now move to the top of the Sunday Times Rich List on the back of his Three Lions royalties.

11. Had we made the final, the BBC was planning to fly the surviving members of the 1966 team out there for it. They are mostly around 80 now and I’m sure a couple of them would have died from all the excitement, which would have been awful.

12. If France lose to Croatia it will be doubly humiliating for them. Being beaten by England would have been bad, sure, but there would have been some honour for the Frogs in defeat at the hands of a heavily-funded, big-hitting rival with massive international support and a glorious history. But to lose to a weeny nation of nobodies will mean nothing short of national disgrace. Huzzah!

13. I didn’t like where Gareth was taking the whole thing, talking in overtly political terms about the problems Britain is having and how his team was helping to heal the wounds. If England had won, I am pretty sure he would have mounted some sort of soppy Lib Dem putsch and we’d have ended up living under a mealy-mouthed, centre-left dictatorship with compulsory waistcoat wearing and inflatable unicorns for all.

14. It’s put a stop to all this nonsense about the glory of teamwork and how planning, collective spirit and hard work is more important than experience and individual flair. That was a terrible neo-Stalinist message to be putting out. It’s no surprise all the Corbynite snowflake whingers were so behind this England team, for it represented the total eradication of self-expression on which their dream of a socialist future depends.

15. It’s only 21 days till the English football season starts again. We need a break from the mania. And we need it to start now. Not next week. Now!

16. If England had got any farther in a week when BBC salary revelations restarted the gender pay-gap dispute, the spotlight would have fallen on players’ incomes and how the likes of Trippier and Rashford and Kane are paid considerably more than Winifred Robinson and Martha Kearney. Which is of course an absolute outrage.

17. We can finally stop the dreary, misinformed conversation about the “diversity” of this oh-so-special England team and how it is a better representation of the country at large than it has ever been in the past. As if the teams I cheered for in my youth were some ghastly collection of pasty-faced Nazis. In fact, England’s last World Cup semi-final in 1990 featured two black players out of 11 — Des Walker and Paul Parker — which was and is a very fair representation of the black-white ratio at home. And in most of the matches John Barnes started as well, making the team over-representative even then. So for a load of weepy white middle-aged media tarts to sit at home tweeting about how five or six black players in the side sends some beautiful message of diversity is frankly vomitous. It’s what everyone said about the French World Cup-winning team in 1998 and the country has been more or less in flames ever since.

18. I put £50 on Croatia at 33-1 before the tournament started (thanks to a fellow dad at the school gates to whom I said, “what’s a good long shot for the World Cup?”) so I stand to win £1,650 if we, I mean, they, pull off a miracle against France tomorrow.

19. Summer is for cricket, not football. The Test series against India starts in a couple of weeks. That’s proper sport, that is.

20. Look at how the memory of 1966 crippled our football team for half a century. Are you really telling me you wanted that to happen AGAIN?

© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 15.7.18

Friday, July 13, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 13.7.18

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 hereGarish but informative.

  • On the one hand, Spain seems to be giving a good example to others as regards refugees. On the other, it seems to be failing to comply with its prior obligations. All rather confusing.
  • More positive measures from the new government.
  • And good news for the country's hard-done-to pensioners. 
  • Things take their time here. The investigation into the Santiago rail crash which saw the deaths of 80 people is reported to have entered its final phase – more than 5 years after it took place. We might soon see if the government has been successful in obfuscating matters and pinning the blame entirely on the driver.
Europe/The UK/Brexit
  • For those interested, in the 2 articles below Ambrose Evans Pritchard gives his reasons for believing that: 1. The EU would bring about its own destruction by rejecting the Chequers deal, and 2. The worst thing for the UK would be for the EU to accept it. As to whether his preferred development would work, Richard North would probably demur.
  • For the very seriously interested, the 3rd article is Richard North's view of the UK White Paper and the deal/offer enshrined in it. Essentially: This is a litany of delusion. . . . There is not the slightest chance of this being accepted by the EU.
  • Donald Trump, as is his wont, has said that the Brits are his 'dearest friends'. Given his outrageous impolitic statements so far, one's forced to say With friends like this . . . Was there ever a politician who made comments on the basis of such monumental ignorance? Or who blantantly lied so much?
  • A onda feminista no é un bluf . . . .
  • I discovered why the Post Office was closed the other day; it was a local public holiday. San Benito.
  • Spanish society is slowly changing but more than 50% of parents here still depend on grandparents looking after their kids during the working day.
  • I wish I'd seen the big quay-side fight earlier this week involving 15 anglers and mariners. Apparently the boats of the latter got too close to the lines of the former. Possibly deliberately.
Finally . . .
  • Reading an Orwell novel of the 1930s – less than 100 years ago – I found myself wondering how many modern Brits would know these usages:-
To communicate: To take communion
A cure: A place of work for a curate.
To make love to: (As with Duff Cooper) To chat up
Cretonnes: ???
Spillikins: A game with sticks???
A coster: A street seller of fruit and vegetables.
A villanelle: ???
To condole: To offer condolences/sympathy.
Paregoric: ???
Tow: ???
Butter muslin:
Pull baker: Tug of war???
Absolutely spiky: ???

BTW – As in another novel, Orwell writes of men trying to chat up women by 'pinching their elbows'. I guess this has died out. Or maybe it was just his own preferred method.

© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 12.7.18

1. The EU is threatening to destroy the UK economy – but will only bring a doomloop that guarantees its own ruin

An Airbus without wings is a just a bus. It is an old joke in the aerospace industry. It is also true.

Wings for the A320, A330, A340, A350, and A380 series assembled at Airbus plants in France and Germany are built in Britain. Some are flown in giant Beluga transport aircraft to Toulouse. Others are shipped by water on special craft, and hauled in convoys from Bordeaux through the villages of Aquitaine.

Airbus warns of “catastrophe” following Brexit if there is a total rupture in trade. It fears a “€1bn (£800m) weekly loss in turnover”. The supply chain would “fall apart”.

The company’s "Brexit risk assessment" says 4,000 UK firms supply over 10,0000 aircraft parts, including Rolls Royce engines.

Airbus is running at full capacity. It does not have the means to stockpile wings and other parts for a long siege. Talk of trying to cover the breach with old-technology wings from China is laughable.

It would take years for the company to replace the UK’s operations. Costs would be crippling. Europe’s foremost industrial venture with a 130,000 employees and enormous global prestige would either risk bankruptcy or require a massive EU rescue in breach of WTO rules.

The Airbus monitum was reported in the British and EU press as a warning to Theresa May – or rather her opponents – that the UK must back down on Brexit or lose much of an aerospace sector worth £35bn a year. Yet it could equally be read as a warning to Europe’s leaders. Integrated supply-chains cut both ways.

I wish no ill towards Airbus. Chief executive Thomas Enders has done a superb job. The ex-Bundeswehr parachutist has fought a long campaign to liberate the company from meddling by governments. He has turned it into a genuine market animal rather than a trophy project for Euro-nationalists. He has been a firm friend of Britain.

The Airbus doom scenario assumes that certification for parts would break-down and there would be no roll-over of (EASA) flying authority. This is possible, given the ideological fever of Martin Selmayr’s punishment task-force in Brussels.

Yet if the EU were to impose such an absurd settlement – to discourage future apostasy – there would be greater matters to worry about than trade. The strategic order of Europe would disintegrate. It would also entail mutual assured destruction, our old friend MAD from the Cold War.

The fact is that aircraft parts are exempt from tariffs under WTO rules. The aerospace lobby ADS told the House of Lords that the tariff barrier challenge was “doable” for the industry.

If Britain remained outside the customs union but had a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU, any raw materials that were not exempted could flow back and forth on a “fast-track” basis. It is no more than a friction. Only if the EU refused to make the relationship work would Airbus be prevented from carrying on more less as before.

The car sector faces a parallel saga. If the EU acts on the Selmayr method – to create havoc unless Britain swallows the customs union, the single market, and the European Court of Justice, using the Irish border as the pretext – it will inflict a massive shock on its own companies.

The German auto firms would be shut out of their biggest market, and the one with the highest profit margin. Their cross-Channel supply-chain would also “fall apart”. Were this to combine with Donald Trump’s 25pc car tariffs, it would quickly pose a systemic danger to Germany’s core industry.

We have the spectacle of VW, BMW and Daimler eagerly pushing for the abolition of EU car barriers in order to assuage Mr Trump’s wrath. They are not demanding that America accepts the writ of the ECJ, or submits to the EU regulatory regime. They are not insisting on the "four freedoms", or babbling pieties about the sanctity of the single market. They just want to trade.

Yet the same companies are sternly demanding – through their business federations – that trade barriers be erected against Britain (and themselves) unless the UK bows to EU control over great swathes of its laws and policy social policy. They are taking this hard line because they think Europe has us over a barrel, encouraged in thinking this by large parts of the British establishment, Parliament, and the press.

You can go through the sectors one by one – airlines, tourism, agro-industry, etc – and it is obvious that a full attempt by the EU to suffocate the British economy would recoil with shattering force. Blowback from a punishment Brexit would be enough to trigger a violent recession. Financial contagion would lead to a chain of sovereign defaults and a "doomloop" on steroids for the banking system.

The stock EU narrative is that Britain would face the greater devastation by far. But you can construct the opposite case, and not merely because the EU has an £80bn trade surplus with the Britain to protect. At the end of the day, the UK has its own central bank and currency, a deep Gilts market, and resilient institutions. The ordeal would be horrible, but Britain has survived worse.

The brittle EU Project would not survive. It is an open question whether the euro can hold together through the next global downturn even without the accelerant of a Selmayr-induced firestorm. It still has no fiscal union to back it up. Bail-out fatigue pervades in the North; rebel eurosceptics run Italy.

The European Central Bank has run out of powder. Interests rates are minus 0.4pc. The South has exhausted its fiscal space. Debt ratios are far closer to the danger zone than in 2008. Clemens Fuest, head of German IFO Institute, warned last week of an almighty disaster when the cycle turns.

The denouement is laid out in “Collapse: Europe after the European Union”. It is acri de coeur by Ian Kearns, co-founder of the European Leadership Network and a British diplomat of pro-EU sympathies. His point is that the toxic legacy of the last crisis has never been resolved.

“Macron’s fiscal union is going nowhere. The eurozone is a sitting duck waiting for the next crisis to happen. When it comes the fundamental weaknesses will be exposed brutally by markets, and Italy will be at the eye of the storm. We are looking at an unmanaged rout,” he told a gathering of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

His book explores all the “triggers of disintegration”, from the migrant crisis, to Putinism, and the ascendancy of the Salvini generation.

My own view is that if the EU pushes a maximalist line on Brexit to the point of total rupture – ie economic warfare – it guarantees its own ruin. It will cause tectonic rifts across multiple strategic fault-lines.

The difficulty is that many of those currently in charge of the EU machinery believe their own propaganda. They think that Brexit is largely British self-harm, with slim implications for them if it goes wrong.

If the UK chooses to resist – rather than accept colonial status – there may well be a hair-raising episode that would test nerves before the metaphorical penny drops in Brussels that you cannot fly an Airbus without wings.

This could be mitigated on the British side by a pre-funded fiscal bazooka worth 4pc of GDP for "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects, starting with a shock-and-awe blast as soon as the economy slows. That would alter the political optics of a no-deal Brexit in those crucial early months. It would greatly raise the chances that the EU would blink first.

Would Parliament vote for such a policy under its current composition? Of course not.  So let us get rid of it. Let us hold the Tory Party to its electoral pledges. Let us encourage Brexiteers to force a leadership contest that goes to the party base. We know from Conservative Home’s snap poll that over 60pc oppose the Chequers Deal. Let the party members pick a leader less terrified of shadows on the wall. Let them carry out a deselection purge of those Tory MPs in breach of their electoral Manifesto.

The new Prime Minister should table a proposal for a free trade accord covering both goods and services (with a partial carve-out for farming). There should be no offer of regulatory subordination. The deal should be on the standard basis of mutual recognition. Take it, or leave it.

If the EU says no – which it will, at first – the UK should embrace WTO terms with confidence and pursue Washington’s offer for an accelerated free trade deal. None of the £38bn exit fee should be paid until the EU stops its threats on aircraft landing rights, Euratom nuclear flows, and routine housekeeping matters.

The new Prime Minister should go to the people and seek a mandate for this demarche. Jeremy Corbyn might win, but he cannot easily repeat the two-faced deception of 2017: Brexiteer to the North; Remainer to the South.

The only way to find out whether the electoral majority favours Spartan sovereignty or a luxurious suzerainty is to have a contest. Bring it on.

2. The danger is that Europe might accept our Brexit White Paper  

The White Paper is modelled on the country's EU accord, but does it make any sense? 

The European Court will reign supreme. It will be the final arbiter in disputes over swathes of UK law and social practice.

The Government has tried to disguised this by obfuscation. The “common rulebook” for goods and agri-foods is linguistic legerdemain. It is patently the “EU rulebook”.

The full 98-page draft White Paper fleshes out how Brussels will secure British compliance on EU laws covering the environment, employment and social policy, consumer protection, state aid, and competition – indefinitely.

The UK would commit by Treaty to “pay due regard” to ECJ case law. If a conflict arises from the new EU-UK joint committee or arbitration panel, the dispute goes to the European Court.

Martin Howe, QC, from Lawyers For Britain, likens this to the Moldova Association Agreement. That distressed country in the upper Balkans – involuntary host to the Russian 14th Army – accepts binding ECJ rulings because it is desperate to join the EU. “Quite why this is thought suitable for a country which has left the EU and is the fifth largest economy in the world is unclear. The supremacy of the UK courts over laws in the UK would not be restored,” he tweeted.

The Government will offer the EU “non-regression” clauses on the environment, employment, and social policy. This is what the EU’s Michel Barnier has been demanding all along. It is the legal mechanism to stop the UK gaining competitiveness – as he sees it – by means of social and economic dumping. Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, told Parliament in April why this abstruse wording is so crucial. “The non-regression clause, in essence, is a means of the EU giving itself potential control over domestic legislation. It goes against the spirit of taking back control,” he said. Whoops.

The White Paper pledges total compliance on EU competition law. Britain would “commit to a common rulebook on state aid”, and would maintain “current antitrust prohibitions and the merger control system”. This has major political implications. It shoots Jeremy Corbyn’s fox. The Labour leader would not be able to carry out his core economic policies. This greatly reduces the likelihood that he will join forces with Theresa May to push the proposals through Parliament against resistance from Tory Brexiteers.

Professor Costas Lapavitsas from London University (SOAS) says EU rules would“place severe constraints” on Mr Corbyn’s plans for state aid, nationalisation, public procurement, and so forth.
“These are not minor issues. They lie at the heart of any attempt to transform Britain’s economy in a socialist direction, especially when it comes to industrial policy,” he said. Mr Corbyn would have far more freedom under World Trade Organisation rules.

Thatcherite Tories might have less trouble accepting the EU’s state aid and competition regime, if you leave aside the large issue of sovereignty. The EU’s Competition Directorate has long been an Anglo-Saxon sphere and an agent of market reform in Brussels. However, it may cease to be so over time without Britain in the system. It may become more Gallic or Rhenish. This area is a textbook example of why the UK is better either essentially in the EU, or essentially out.

The White Paper insists that the writ of the European Court will extend only to issues concerning the common rule for goods and agri-food, and only where needed to achieve frictionless trade. It is window-dressing. “This cannot be limited to export industries. It must cover the whole economy. How could you police two different sets of standards?” said Dr Simon Usherwood from Surrey University and UK in a Changing Europe. The idea of one labour law for goods and another for services is jejune.

The UK would sign up to most of the EU’s ‘Pillar 1’ directives and regulations, the bulk of the 170,000 Acquis. While this can in theory be rescinded under the Withdrawal Act, the White Paper freezes in place this vast corpus of law, some of which is incompatible with new technology such as Blockchain.

The plan allows the UK to diverge on future laws – subject to “consequences” – but other countries have found themselves unable to exercise such a prerogative. When the Swiss voted to restrict migrants and infringe free movement, the EU cut rough on everything from science research to electricity policy. Brussels put the country on a tax evasion "grey list" as a pressure tool, and threatened to cut off market access. Switzerland capitulated.

“If the EU suspected that the UK was messing around on part of the agreement, they might give us the Swiss treatment,” said Dr Usherwood. The Sword of Damocles would hang forever.

Much of the White Paper is eminently sensible. But it is not Brexit. By accepting the EU’s regulatory orbit, it greatly reduces the chance of meaningful trade deals with the US, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the rest of the world. There is no escape from the EU’s clammy embrace.

It abandons the quest for "mutual recognition" as the central philosophy of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU. By separating services from goods, it precludes the UK offering countries such as China full access to its lucrative goods market as a door-opener for our service exports.

It tilts the whole Brexit settlement towards the interests of the car industry, aerospace, chemicals, and the traded goods sector. No wonder they seem pleased. But UK goods exports to the EU are around 8% of GDP, and part of that is the recycling of high foreign content in UK car exports.

It allows the EU to preserve its surplus in manufacturing trade (now £95bn) without demanding reciprocation on services, where Britain has the advantage. It gives the EU continued control over Britain's policies, while removing Britain’s veto in the Council of Ministers, its Euro-MPs in Strasbourg, and its judges in Luxembourg.

As I wrote in today's paper, it is suzerainty. The danger is not that the EU will reject the White Paper, but that the EU will accept it. How they must be laughing at the Berlaymont.

3. Richard North's comments on the UK's White Paper deal/offer.

The Government, says Mrs May's White Paper, "is determined to build a new relationship that works for both the UK and the EU". This is a relationship, the paper says, "which sees the UK leave the Single Market and the Customs Union to seize new opportunities and forge a new role in the world, while protecting jobs, supporting growth and maintaining security cooperation".

It goes on to say that the Government "believes this new relationship needs to be broader in scope than any other that exists between the EU and a third country". It should, it says, "reflect the UK's and the EU's deep history, close ties, and unique starting point".

Before the White Paper had been completed and signed off, though, it might have been a good idea if Mrs May had reviewed the EU position a little more carefully. A good start might have been Michel Barnier's speech to the Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 22 March 2017, only a week before the UK was to deposit formally its Article 50 notification with the European Council.

This speech was of special significance as it was entitled: "The Conditions for Reaching an Agreement in the Negotiations with the United Kingdom". And, as described by the label on the tin, that is precisely what Barnier did.

The challenge, he said, was "to build a new partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom on a solid foundation, based on mutual confidence". That meant "putting things in the right order: finding an agreement first on the principles of the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom, in order to discuss subsequently – in confidence – our future relationship".

As to the partnership, Barnier readily conceded that there would be a free-trade agreement at its centre. This, he said, we will negotiate with the United Kingdom in due course. But, he added: it "cannot be equivalent to what exists today. And we should all prepare ourselves for that situation".

Re-stating the obvious, to give emphasis to the position, he noted that the UK "chooses to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union. It will be a third country in two years from now". And, by making this choice, the UK "will naturally find itself in a less favourable situation than that of a Member State". It will not be possible, Barnier said, "to cherry-pick and be a participant in parts of the Single Market".

If there was any doubt about the sincerity of this statement, and whether it represented EU policy with the full backing of the Member States, this was dispelled by the European Council's negotiating guidelines, published on 29 April 2017 – a month after the Article 50 notification.

This was M. Barnier's negotiating mandate, which remains in force right up to today. And right up front, it is "core principles", it stated:

A non-member of the Union, that does not live up to the same obligations as a member, cannot have the same rights and enjoy the same benefits as a member. In this context, the European Council welcomes the recognition by the British Government that the four freedoms of the Single Market are indivisible and that there can be no "cherry picking".

These principles were to be repeated and emphasised many times by many different speakers, and M. Barnier remained true to them, throughout. In Berlin, on 29 November 2017, Barnier was saying: "A third country, however close it may be to the Union, may not lay claim to a status that is equivalent or superior to that of a Member of the Union". And, on 13 March of this year, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reminded us that cherry-picking was not possible.

This was followed up by supplemental guidelines published by the European Council on 23 March. Here, it is stated:

… the European Council has to take into account the repeatedly stated positions of the UK, which limit the depth of such a future partnership. Being outside the Customs Union and the Single Market will inevitably lead to frictions in trade. Divergence in external tariffs and internal rules as well as absence of common institutions and a shared legal system, necessitates checks and controls to uphold the integrity of the EU Single Market as well as of the UK market. This unfortunately will have negative economic consequences, in particular in the United Kingdom.

The thing is, these are not just words. It is a serious weakness on the part of generations of English politicians to dismiss statements of continental politicians as rhetoric, devoid of meaning. But even if one wants to ignore the speeches, there is no getting round the negotiating guidelines. These are immovable. 

Thus, when Mrs May expresses via her White Paper that she believes the "new relationship" that the UK wants to negotiate "needs to be broader in scope than any other that exists between the EU and a third country", she is tilting at windmills. She will get a "bog standard" FTA, the so-called Canada-dry deal – no more, no less.

Yet this has not percolated Mrs May's brain. She does not seem to be able to cope with the idea that Brexit means Brexit. It means we leave the EU and, when we do, we become a third country. 

In this context, I have written many times about the EU's system for type approval of vehicles. Any and all third countries that want to sell cars within the territories have to submit their products for EU approval to a certification authority. After Brexit. UK certification will no longer be valid.

Yet, we see the White Paper blithely prattle about this subject, offering an "example" of mutual recognition of Vehicle Type Approvals. With the proposed "common rulebook", it says, the UK and the EU would continue recognising the activities of one another's type approval authorities, including whole vehicle type approval certificates, assessments of conformity of production procedures and other associated activities.

Furthermore, it says, "Member State approval authorities would continue to be permitted to designate technical service providers in the UK for the purpose of EC approvals and vice versa", and "Both the UK and the EU would continue to permit vehicles to enter into service on the basis of a valid certificate of conformity".

This is pure, unmitigated fantasy. There is not a single country outside the Single Market that is permitted this facility. And, at the very least, if the EU permitted the UK to certify vehicles, it would be forced under WTO non-discrimination rules to permit every other nation the same rights – driving a massive hole in the Single Market.

There are no possible circumstances, therefore, where this is going to happen. Mrs May and her government are deluded in even suggesting this as a possibility. 

But the delusion does not stop there. The UK is also proposing a "common rulebook on agri-food", which "encompasses those rules that must be checked at the border". Its adoption, it says, "would remove the need to undertake additional regulatory checks at the border – avoiding the need for any physical infrastructure, such as Border Inspection Posts (BIP), at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland".

Again, this is fantasy. Outside the Single Market, with the one very special exception of Switzerland - which adopts in its entirety the food-related Single Market acquis and has all its imported goods run through BIPs – there is not a single country anywhere in the world that is permitted to by-pass the border inspection system.

There is an outside possibility that, if the UK adopted the entire acquis, plus the surveillance and enforcement systems, and opened up his premises and government agencies to EU inspection, and also undertook only to import foods which conformed with EU law, inspecting them at the border through BIPs at it does now, then the EU might waive border inspection.

However, that would trash the idea of "taking back control" and also any idea of separate trade deals on agri-foods with the United States and other potential partners.
Already in trouble with the "Ultras", Mrs May would be torn apart if she conceded such a scheme.

The trouble is, it doesn't stop there. Pharmaceuticals get the same delusional treatment. So do chemicals under the REACH regime, and aviation safety is treated as if Brexit will not exist. The UK government blithely assumes that it can continue to certify those functions it already does, while EASA will retain its current functions and third country provisions will not apply.

Here, the very special case of Switzerland is cited, which again requires the adoption of the whole acquis and regulatory oversight implemented via a formal agreement with the EU, which comes under the jurisdiction of the ECJ.

Even if the UK could accept this, and thereby breach its own red lines, it is unlikely that this agreement would be repeated for the UK, as there are new legislative provisions which set out the parameters for international cooperation.

In short, this White Paper is a litany of delusion – and we haven't even looked at the Irish issue, much less the other matters. We'll attend to this tomorrow, but already we see the porcine aviation out in force. There is not the slightest chance of this being accepted by the EU.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 12.7.18

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 hereGarish but informative.

  • There's a growing number of siren voices warning that Spain is heading for another phony bum (boom) based on soaring property sales financed by even cheaper money than last time round. God forbid. But greed will have its way. And there's a speculative fool born every minute.
  • Meanwhile, there's good news on ever-lower unemployment levels, albeit from the very high base of a few years ago,
  • HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for this article about some fake news from Franco's government on healthcare in Spain. Possibly not the only subject on which porkies were propagated back then.
Life in Spain
  • So, it's not only in Galicia where a trip to the beach can be more stimulating than you were expecting.
  • Prostitution per se is neither legal nor illegal in Spain. So, the outskirts of all Spanish towns sport 'Clubs' with pink/purple neon signs. And, possibly, garish representations of the female form. Taking the secondary roads to see a friend near Santiago last Friday and then pick up someone from the airport, I passed at least 7 of these establishments. And then there are the ladies at the side of the road or in the truck carparks. About which some town halls are taking severe measures aimed at the purchasers of the services rather than the providers. For example here.
  • Another HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for this: The Spanish are tolerant and friendly towards the immigrant population, says El Diario, quoting various sources. One, from the European Social Survey, shows Spain to be close to Sweden, Denmark and Finland in their tolerance, and worldwide (according to Gallup here) as 17th out of 138 countries.
  • And for this: An amusing article from El País on 10 things the Spanish no longer do during the summer. Maybe. For details of what's replaced them, click here.
  1. Waiting up to three hours to go for a swim after lunch
  2. Ordering a beer for your 12-year-old 
  3. Dropping off your children at summer camps 
  4. Skipping siestas to watch Miguel Induráin win the Tour de France
  5. Spending the morning reading gossip magazines
  6. Spending time in the sun without sunscreen 
  7. Using a road map to find a village in, say, Murcia 
  8. Calling a hotel to make a reservation
  9. Travelling in a car without a seatbelt for 400km
  10. Thinking that flying is just for the rich
  • Down in Andalucia, there's reason to be worried about the meat you're buying in the supermarkets. Or there was at least.
  • If Trump is so sure he has deep understanding of and great relationships with the leaders of China, North Korea and Russia, why on earth does he want Western defence spending increased to a staggering 4% of GDP? Maybe he thinks his successors will screw things up. Or maybe he's in the pocket of the infamous US industrial-military complex. You have to wonder.
  • And why did he choose to walk to the Nato 'family foto' with the increasingly dictatorial president of Turkey?
  • I stumbled across the word esnafrarse yesterday. Although in an article in Spanish, I couldn't find its meaning in normal sources, nor in the dictionary of the Royal Academy. I eventually found this definition: Romperse las narices (debido a un golpe o accidente): 'To break your nostrils (after a blow or an accident)'. The suggestion was that it's a Galician word used by speakers of Spanish and Castrapo in NW Spain. Specifically Galicia, León, Zamora, but not Asturias. Resort to a Galician-Spanish dictionary confirmed this meaning, though a Galican-favouring friend insisted the blow didn't need to be confined to the nose. And added this: Si alguien tropieza y se cae, con retranca decimos: 'Non te esnafres'. The equivalent, perhaps, of the English “Had a good trip?”. Which reminds me of the Spike Milligan comment of the plaque on the deck of the Victory: Nelson Fell Here - 'I'm not surprised. I tripped over it twice!'.
  • I went to the central (i. e. only) post office (Correos) yesterday at 2.30 to find it closed. Which is not what it said on the Horario on the door. Nor on the net. And the Correos web page declared it was 'Open now'. Maybe the employees have decided to move to summer hours without telling anyone. Especially their employers,
  • I bought my now-stolen dash cam largely to film the antics of the numerous learner drivers I see every time I go to town. But I never did post any. Watching one learner yesterday, I concluded that these folk have 2 obsessions: 1. Not signalling at all on the approach to a roundabout, and 2. Pointlessly signally right after exiting it. How any of them pass their test is beyond me. But, I confess to thinking that no signal is better than a completely misleading one. As I've frequently said, it's best to ignore all signals and approach the challenge of roundabouts in Spain very gingerly. Always aware that cars will be coming at you from the right in ways you won't see elsewhere in the world.
Finally . . .

The World Cup:
  1. I was going to argue with this comment but it seems a bit pointless this morning:- Belgium created early chances but were stymied by France’s miserly defence and undone after Umtiti rose above Marouane Fellaini on 51 minutes to redirect Antoine Griezmann’s corner past Courtois.
  2. Likewise my question as to whether Croatia's first goal last night didn't come from a foot that would normally be considered to be dangerously high. The better team won, after all. And we English are good losers . . .

© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 12.7.18

Search This Blog