The Spanish (non)Government: For reasons best known to them, the leaders of the PSOE and Ciudadanos parties felt it necessary to hold a formal signing ceremony of a contract which embodies their agreed coalition aims. Gratifyingly, these include getting rid of the provincial layer of government. Plus, they might well get round to returning Spanish time to what it was – that of the UK to the north and Portugal to the west – before Franco moved it to Central European Time in sympathy with Nazi Germany in 1942. All that said, the chances of the coalition getting voted in on March 1 are slim, to say the least. Still, it's good that these objectives are being talked about. Click here for The Local's comment on the several hoped-for advantages of a belated return to British-Portuguese time.
A Merited Mojácar Moan?: This is a lovely-looking, white, hillside town down in Almería. Click here for fotos and info on the council's site. Once a small village, it's now quite a large conurbation in which foreigners are the majority residents. But this fact appears to have gone unnoticed by the locals, as my net-colleague Lenox Napier amusingly notes here. Doesn't seem quite right somehow. BTW . . . Yes, it's the same Lenox of Business Over Tapas.
Spanish v. English: The annual Eurovision Song Contest looms and Spain has finally decided to go with lyrics in English, though with the chorus in Spanish, I believe. This has naturally upset the President of the Royal Academy, who's condemned the song as “inferior and idiotic". I'm compelled to say this is probably true, regardless of the language it's sung in. More accurately, he adds that: Bearing in mind that Spanish is a language spoken by 500 million people, presenting a song in English is surprisingly stupid. I understand that a country with a language that has a limited number of speakers would try to use a language understood by many, but this is disgraceful. Finally, he stressed that the state broadcaster, RTVE, had “a moral and cultural obligation to safeguard the national cultural heritage”. He then spontaneously combusted.
The Execution Stakes: Saudi Arabia is coming in for a bit of stick because of its public executions. Fair enough, but here's a Private Eye comparison with a country that's just come back into the international fold:-
Saudi Arabia: 90 in 2014 and 158 in 2015
Iran: 694 in the first half of 2015 alone.
Which reminds me . . .
Iran and Britain: When I lived in Iran 30 years or so ago, it was amusing to be told regularly that is was still the UK, and not the USA or the Soviet Union, which was manipulating global affairs in its interests. Particularly in Iran. Astonishingly, they're still at it there. Recent demonstrations – no doubt spontaneous – have accused Britain of interfering in their presidential elections, apparently by mentioning them on the BBC Persian service. The Death to America signs have been replaced – temporarily? - by those demanding Death to England. Which will annoy the Scots. It should, of course, be Death to Britain.
Finally . . . A ham-footed Spanish thief.
THE BREXIT SUPPLEMENT
Superstates: So, Trump's triumphs so far – they say – indicate that the Americans are more than unhappy with their malfunctioning federal government. So, what is David Cameron asking Brits to sign up to?I rest my case.
Demonstrating my impartiality, here's an article from a Stay Inner, Oliver Kamm in The Times:-
Any economic benefits from Brexit will be trivial and short-lived
Dire forecasts about Britain and Europe have a habit of looking silly in hindsight. In the early 1970s, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary James Callaghan warned that the language of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton was in danger if Britain joined the European Economic Community as “French is the dominant language of the community”
Voters should be wary, therefore, of confident claims made about the consequences of Brexit. Here are mine, anyway. The immediate financial savings from being outside the European Union are likely to be trivial and shortlived. The long-term economic costs, on the other hand, will be big.
One problem with the referendum debate is that partisans on each side are looking at different things. In his thoughtful statement for Brexit, for example, Michael Gove puts a high value on sovereignty. Fair enough, but this has costs. Economists refer to a “trilemma” between national sovereignty, financial stability and cross-border finance. A country can have two of these things but not all three. For example, Britain’s financial system is more stable by being part of international regulation, which means giving up some sovereignty.
A rule of thumb is that advocates on either side who don’t mention the costs of their desired policy aren’t being serious. With that in mind, here’s my assessment of the competing economic claims.
If Britain left the EU there would be savings. The main one would be our budgetary contribution of about £8 billion a year. Food would be cheaper as we could unilaterally cut tariffs on agricultural produce from all over the world. Business costs would be lower if we junked some EU regulations, such as the agency workers directive, which gives temporary workers the same rights to equal pay as permanent staff, or the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive, which requires member states to promote recycling.
But Brexit campaigners tot up the supposed costs of EU membership without taking account of any alternative arrangement. That’s not a proper comparison. For a start, it’s unlikely that interest groups that benefit from our EU membership would just write off the support they get. British farmers receive subsidies of well over £2.5 million under the common agricultural programme. You think they’ll refrain from demanding compensation from British taxpayers? I don’t.
Moreover, Brexit would impose costs on British business. The car industry would face a 4 per cent tariff on sales to the EU. Some would absorb this, but some would choose to relocate. We don’t know whether Out campaigners want Britain to have an arrangement like Norway’s, outside the EU but with access to the European single market through membership of the European Economic Area. In debate with me in 2013, Nigel Farage cited Norway as a model for Britain. In that case, we’d have to pay budgetary contributions to the EU and accept much of its regulation. And our exporters would have additional costs of customs and sales-tax bureaucracy whenever they shipped to the EU.
The economic case for Brexit hinges on the fact that Britain runs a large trade deficit with its EU partners. Out campaigners claim the EU would be eager to cut a deal with Britain sooner than compromise its access to this export market. I don’t see it. The recent deterioration of Britain’s trade position with the EU is primarily due to Germany and the Benelux countries. There’s no reason that the EU in aggregate should throw its consumer markets open to a post-Brexit Britain.
Set against speculative and probably overstated economic benefits of Brexit, there’s the likelihood of a steady diversion of investment away from Britain and towards the EU in the event of an Out vote. That’s not everything in this debate, but it matters.
The obligatory FB foto:
My beautiful Grils
Yes, Grils. One is a great tango dancer and the other is a mother who has no time for such fripperies.