The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Remember the orang-utang Jesus in that church down in Borja? Well, they think they've found the picture on which the original fresco was based. Click here for more. And yet another laugh at the wonderful chapuza.
The Evil that Keeps on Staying: Transparency International has just issued its annual report on corruption. Spain, they say, is second only to Moldavia in Europe when it comes to this. Good, then, to see that the king has done his bit and said that this must stop. Just as well, as 80% of Spaniards or more see continuing corruption among their politicians, their guardians of the law, their business operators and even - would you believe - their judges.
An Evil to Come?: Is Spain about to be swamped by crystal meth, asks El País in English. God forbid.
THE SPANISH ECONOMY
That Deficit and Those Punishments: Need I say that Brussels - after deciding not to fine Spain for its nth failure to keep her deficit below the official max - has now announced that neither will it be following through on its threat to reduce subventions to Madrid. Instead, it's merely repeated its (toothless) demands for more cuts in government expenditure. One's forced to ask: What's the point of rules that every EU country except perhaps Greece breaks with impunity? Starting with Germany and France. What was that phrase? Oh, yes - moral hazard.
Brexit/Flexit: How frustrating it must be for Richard North. At the end of this post is a Times article pushing, as innovative, exactly the transitional 'solution' that North has been proposing for years. And which is embodied in his comprehensive Flexit document. I look forward his response in his Euroreferendum blog tomorrow. Meanwhile, I can say that the article doesn't even mention either North or his Flexit plan.
France: Would you believe that presidential hopeful, Mr Sarkozy, has said that: The EU must transform itself and try to keep Britain in with a new treaty that gives everyone what they want: limits on immigration and restored powers to national governments. Of course, he's really only interested in France and worried about Madame Le Pen. Plus, he's a politician and might just not mean what he says.
New Zealand: Another of those lunatic 'Christian' pastors attributes the recent earthquake there to God's wrath at homosexuals, etc. This guy is also one of those religious leaders who insists God wants him to be very rich. Is it not possible to apply a sanity test to people who get up in pulpits? Or just lock 'em up?
The USA 1: Recent events there - like similar things in Spain - have left me happy that the UK has neither a written constitution nor a constitutional court. They do appear to be troublesome in practice, if fine in theory. The irony, by the way, is that Britain has written many of the constitutions of those benighted countries which do have them.
The USA 2: Forty percent of the population doesn't see global warming as a problem, since Christ is returning in a few decades. And about the same percentage believe that the world was created a few thousand years ago. And they're still entrusted with a vote . . .
Renfe: This is Spain's national train operator. In the UK, you can easily buy your tickets with them on line using a debit or credit card. Here in Galicia - and quite possibly in the whole of Spain - you have to first to make a trip to a station and to register your card there. I'd experienced this a few years ago but was surprised it was still the case when a friend tried to buy a ticket on the net. The company, it seems, is still in the 20th century. Though the trains themselves are in the 21st. Mostly.
Animal Intelligence: I know a good bit about this as regards dogs. Especially border collies, as I've owned 3 of these. But I'm not very familiar with that of cats. All I can say is that the young cat I managed to get down from the top of my palm tree on Wednesday morning - after 2 hours of risky endeavour - was back up there yesterday morning. And will stay there until hunger drives him down. Or until he rots. That'll learn him!
The intellectually challenged cat . . . . Again:
How May can break free from Brexit muddle: Philip Collins
In the three-dimensional game of chess beyond the looking glass the White Queen believes six impossible things before Brexit. Her foreign secretary is impossible with the Italians about trade in prosecco and fish and chips, uses a rude word to the Czechs while being impossible about the movement of people, and is upbraided by the Dutch finance minister for talking impossible nonsense about a customs union.
Meanwhile, the prime minister insists she has a plan for the country’s departure from the European Union but refuses to say what it entails. Mrs May has already had to listen, at PMQs, to a Tory MP ask if his Italian parents will be permitted to stay. This is never going to last. There are just too many impossible things here.
It is not unreasonable for the prime minister to wish to keep her detailed thoughts secret. A comprehensive wishlist would be an open invitation to critics to denounce its contents and deplore what was missing. It would inevitably, thanks to the trading nature of negotiating, ensure that some of the wishes were denied. The published list would therefore have to include dummy options that the prime minister was secretly prepared to lose. Then she would be denounced, either for dishonesty or for not bringing home the bounty promised.
None of this makes silence a virtue. Representatives of the government had a hissy fit about the Deloitte report leaked to The Times this week but its contents brought a truth into the public realm: Britain’s process for leaving the EU is a shambles, or “Mickey Mouse land” in Kenneth Clarke’s phrase. The most complex task of postwar British politics — at least 500 separate projects — is going to require more civil servants than are employed across the EU. The official forecast for next week’s autumn statement will set the bill for Brexit at £100 billion over the next five years. The chancellor hopes to hand out goodies for those who are just about managing — the “jams” — but, as the White Queen knows too well, it is going to be “jam to-morrow and jam yesterday but never jam to-day”.
There is an inescapable sense of nobody taking back control. This is no great surprise, really. The Leave campaign was recklessly cavalier about how easy leaving the EU was going to be.
Disentangling Britain from a series of legal treaties is not one event but many. The EU has about 50 international trade agreements from which the UK benefits, all of which will now have to be begun again. It will be a mammoth task even to replicate these arrangements, let alone improve on them. Maybe one day Liam Fox will return triumphant from Bosnia-Herzegovina with a new deal. Next stop Costa Rica, Mauritius the week after.
Mrs May needs to make us think she has a plan and the best way to convince us is to have one
Dr Fox cannot even start until Britain’s relationship with the EU is settled. The laws that frame the markets for financial services, employment, restructuring and insolvency, data protection and intellectual property have all been painstakingly drafted in chambers of the EU. Pension law, competition, telecommunications and media are almost as complicated. There are some bills, such as the Equalities Act, in which some provisions refer to the EU and some do not. That’s not to mention clauses whose parentage and application is a matter of legal dispute. Somebody is going to have to go through all of it and say yes or no to every clause. Every change will be the subject of well-informed corporate and charity lobbying.
It is going to be fabulously complicated. If the referendum question had only been “can you really be bothered?” we would have voted to remain. This negotiation can only be done badly in two years and it probably cannot be done at all. “Divide a loaf by a knife: what’s the answer to that?” asks the White Queen. On the current trajectory it is likely that Britain will crash-land out of the EU in 2019 with no completed deal. It’s hard to put a figure on how bad that will be but make mine a large one. A crash landing is in nobody’s interests, least of all the prime minister’s. It is bad enough that she is inviting the charge of drift that could easily stick. Drift could soon come to define the government and its leader.
It’s even worse, though, to drift towards a cliff-edge. Mrs May needs to make us think she has a plan and the best way to convince us is to have one. The best answer is therefore to accept that half a loaf is better than none.
Mrs May should signal now that Britain will seek a transitional deal, prior to the comprehensive terms on which departure from the EU will be sought. It is entirely possible that Britain could successfully apply to the European Economic Area (EEA), which is an agreement to secure the free movement of goods, services, capital and people between Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the 28 member states of the EU. This would permit us to opt out of those EU laws, such as fisheries policy, which we found burdensome. We would have bought temporary certainty on commercial and social policy. Crucially, we would also have bought time to do a proper negotiation and Mrs May would have the scope to play poker her own quiet way.
This does present trouble politically, though. First, there is the minor problem of explaining to Dr Fox what most people have realised already, which is that his department is defunct. The bigger issue will be explaining that EEA membership includes the free movement of people. The abolition of free movement is the only European topic on which Mrs May has not been inscrutable. There is a risk of being denounced by those zealots who fear a temporary deal will end up being the basis of a permanent settlement. That is still better than landing with a thud in 2019. Mrs May will have to ask the people to take her bona fides on trust. The 2020 general election would then become, in part, a plebiscite on which team is trusted to replace the interim deal with an enduring relationship.
The White Queen has the great advantage of living her life backwards. She is given foresight through the benefit of hindsight. The White Queen screams first and only later pricks her hand on a brooch. Mrs May should be screaming silently to herself right now as she stares into the looking glass. If she wants to avoid the prick she needs a plan she can discuss in public. At the moment she is pulling a fast one which is no cleverer for the fact that she’s doing it so slowly.