Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stuff and nonsense

Spanish (non)Government: Tuesday is the next big day for us, when the PSOE tries to get acceptance of its coalition with Ciudadanos. Meanwhile, having picked up its bat and stomped off the field, the (far)left-wing party, Podemos, has kindly said it'll return to negotiations with PSOE if they dump their current partner, said Ciudadanos. A dose of political realism at last? It eventually comes to all parties of this stamp. And will surely one day arrive at Jeremy Corbyn's door. Whether he lets it in is anyone's guess. But some of his party - New Old Labour - certainly will.

Airport Antagonism: Vigo hosts the smallest of Galicia's 3 small, unviable 'international' airports. And it's the one which has lost out most to Oporto's hugely successful airport not far south of the nearby Spain-Portugal border. Which has the gall to advertise itself as Galicia's Airport. To everyone's surprise – and to the huge annoyance of the guy who runs the Oporto facility – Vigo has just announced a regular flight to Lisbon, Portugal's capital city. Worse – if you're the said Oporto guy – the airline is Portugal's national carrier, TAP. The boot is now firmly on the other foot and we're all amused at the sight of tantrums, threats and feet-stamping in Oporto. And now wait to see the reaction. Perhaps we'll all be offered free transport to and from the airport there. Which is currently a slow and slightly complicated business, unless you drive. Meanwhile, what I particularly like about this spat is that it's international. Usually, the 3 Galician facilities spend their time vaingloriously fighting each other over local subsidies/bribes.


Galicia's Foreigners: A friend in the business of helping people from overseas buy houses here tells me that, after several years in the doldrums, business is really picking up. Clients are again coming from several European countries to buy holiday or residential properties here. In contrast, it's reported that 20,000 foreigners from mainly South America have gone home in the last 2 years. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Selfishness or Stupidity?: I was tempted to say this was the sort of thing – parking so that you block the sight lines at the start of a zebra crossing – was the sort of thing that annoyed foreigners here. Less so the Spanish. But, today, it also angered the driver who stopped to let me across. He blew his horn loudly at the occupant – who was waiting for someone to come out of the shopping centre – but was contemptuously ignored.


Words: 1. SpanglishEl cros: Cross-country racing. 2. English: A TV ad heard today offered a DVD 'To buy and keep'. As opposed to the novel concept of buying and sending back, I guess.

Facebook: I took a look at my Profile today and was concerned to find that my elder daughter, Faye, was down as my 'Pet' and that – unknown to me - I'd been married in 2013. The former proved hard to change, the latter impossible. I could only change Faye's description to No gender: Child. As for the wedding reference, I could only add: 2013: Got divorced from a marriage FB has invented. All rather odd. Perhaps I've been hacked. By my pet, I suspect.

Finally . . . A Nice Story I've nicked from someone: Einstein was being visited by the US ambassador. His wife urged him to change suits for the occasion. “Why?” he asked. “If he wants to see me, here I am. If he wants to see my clothes, he can look in my closet.” Genius.

P. S. My family 'pet' has reminded me it was I who added the 2013 marriage to FB, to stop FB deluging me with fotos of scantily dressed Russian brides. Sadly, it worked.


BREXIT SUPPLEMENT

Here's an article from Ed Conway of The Times, an Outer:-

Why Brexit can be the road to prosperity

There would be months of volatility but a constructive divorce could open up Britain to the world

Rarely in political history has an economic warning been quite as prescient. A couple of years ago, as the Scottish independence referendum loomed, economist after economist warned that a Yes vote would leave the country dangerously dependent on North Sea oil; that any fall in the price would be disastrous for an independent Scotland.

Barring some last-minute miracle, Scotland’s public finances are heading for their worst year since the North Sea came online. Those who warned of the dangers of a Yes vote could hardly have been more right.

So what does it say about British politics that the independence race was nonetheless far tighter than anyone expected? That many who campaigned for Yes believe a second referendum is inevitable — whatever the result of the EU vote?

As an economics commentator I don’t know whether to be reassured or depressed by this, but it does underline one certainty: irrespective of what happens on June 23, we (and the Conservative party) will still be arguing about our place in Europe many, many years from now.

In other senses, the comparison with the Scottish referendum is bogus. Crucially, those voting in Scotland had two relatively clear options: stay in the UK with slightly more devolution, or choose independence and the route laid out in the Scottish White Paper.

As of today there is no straightforward choice on offer in the EU referendum. Voters must choose between the status quo and, well, something else. That might mean ditching EU membership and reconstituting the UK as Norway or Switzerland; it could mean aping Singapore or Canada; it could even mean a second referendum and a lengthy renegotiation that plonks Britain back inside the EU. On the flipside, it could mean shutting down immigration, raising the drawbridge and retreating from globalisation. So far, the Leave camp has been unable or unwilling to provide the voters with a clear, single vision, leaving those in favour of Brexit free to sketch out different versions.

As such, it is impossible for the time being to offer a comprehensive economic analysis. However, given that both camps in the debate have used this lack of clarity to spout nonsense about the economic rationale of voting for the other team, an initial fact-check wouldn’t go amiss. For the truth is that the economic case against leaving the EU is far less clear-cut than the economic case against Scottish independence. An independent Scotland would have been more unstable and dangerously reliant on oil revenue. Britain could survive perfectly well outside the EU. Provided it does not shun globalisation, it could well thrive, boosting trade and reducing red tape. Far likelier, though, is that life outside the EU would look almost identical to life inside the EU, minus a few Eurostar frequent traveller points.

When members of the Remain camp hint that three million jobs could be at risk, or that £3,000 of annual household income depends on the EU, they twist the truth. Those numbers simply tell you the amount of economic activity associated with EU trade. No one — not even the most pessimistic analysts — expect that to dry up, or even fall that much, were Britain to trade with Germany from outside the EU.

What of those warnings you’ll hear from multinational companies in the coming weeks about the likelihood of job losses and factory shutdowns if Britain leaves the EU? The reality is that such threats have rarely been borne out by actions. In the run-up to Gordon Brown’s decision on whether Britain should join the euro, many foreign car manufacturers hinted that they might have to shut down plants if Britain stayed outside. In the event, most of them increased production and employment and Britain’s car exports recently hit the highest level since the 1970s.

Then again, many of the numbers being bandied around by those in the Leave campaign are similarly questionable. They claim that EU membership costs Britain about £20 billion a year (not true — the net cost is £8.4 billion). That under Europe’s qualified majority voting system Britain has only an 8 per cent vote on key EU rules and regulations (not true — the voting share is 12.6 per cent, following recent reforms).

They are right to point out that Europe is responsible for a whole gamut of regulations, the top 100 of which cost around £33.3 billion a year, according to the Open Europe think tank. However, were Britain to leave the EU and remain in the Common Market, like Norway, 93 of the 100 would still apply to the UK, at an annual cost of £31.4 billion.

Which brings us back to that as yet unanswered question: what kind of deal will Britain have if it leaves? The longer this remains unanswered, the more jittery markets will be about a Brexit vote — and rightly so. Yesterday was only the beginning.

In the long run there is nothing stopping Britain becoming more like Switzerland or Norway, or forging another more independent model where trade rules are determined by the World Trade Organisation rather than the EU. Should the Leave camp articulate a truly inspiring case for a constructive divorce, under which the country opens itself up to the world, then the vote will be tight.

Except that even in the best-case scenario there is no guarantee that life outside the EU will be much more prosperous than life inside. And in the short run, getting there will certainly involve many months, if not years, of economic volatility.

Is that a risk voters will really want to take?

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