Friday, November 04, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 4.11.16


HT to my friend David for this 'working paper' - Challenges facing the 'new' Spain, authored by William Chislett and published by the Real Instituto Elcano, a Spanish think tank

For those who can't face 32 pages, here's the Summary and the Conclusion.


Although some Spaniards joke that the country has got along fine with a caretaker government for 315 days, this year has been a lost one. There are some pressing issues that need to be tackled now that there is finally a functioning government. But the new Popular Party (PP) government no longer has an absolute majority. As a minority administration it will have to negotiate its laws and reforms in a deeply fragmented parliament, the result of the upending of the PP and the Socialist Party (PSOE) by two new parties, the far left Unidos Podemos (UP) and the centrist Ciudadanos (C’s). The government has a lot on its plate, including the following: (a) belatedly approving the budget for 2017 and meeting the EU’s threshold for the deficit (3% of GDP) in 2018 (a target imposed by Brussels that the PP persistently missed); (b) deciding what to do about the push for independence in Catalonia (the region’s government says it will hold a referendum on the issue in September 2017 regardless of whether the central government approves it or not); (c) cleaning up corruption in the political class; (d) making the judiciary more independent; (e) possibly deepening the labour market reforms in a bid to reduce the still very high unemployment rate (18.9%); (f) reforming an education system whose early school-leaving rate of 20% is close to double the EU average; (g) bolstering the ailing pension system hit by a sharp fall in the number of social security contributors and a rapidly ageing population; and (h) making its voice heard more in the post-Brexit debate.

Conclusion: consensus the watchword

The new minority government faces a bumpy ride as it gets to grips with a series of problems that will significantly shape Spain’s economic and political future. Consensus, a virtue in short supply, will have to be the watchword if Spain is to continue to progress. [You can say that again. The bit about consensus being in short supply, I mean.]


Enjoying November: Here's The Local's take on what's on this month.

The Joys of Spain: And here's The Local again on why Spain is the best place in the world to live. Unless you're between 16 and 65 and facing a life of permanent unemployment, of course.


Podemos: Here's a Guardian article on this newish party from Owen Jones, a youngish commentator who seems to sit between Jeremy Corbyn and the parliamentary Labour Party on the spectrum of The Left. Personally, I think he's optimistic about the future of the party. Which has already destroyed the old Left and may well devour itself, if it doesn't sort out its internal differences. As I've said, parties of the Left have a tendency in this direction.

Gibraltar: So, the shrill Spanish Foreign Secretary, Motormouth Margallo, has finally been ousted from office and has had the megaphone removed from his mouth. Even better, an all-party committee has called for a more consensual approach to the question of sovereignty over The Rock. In other words, a partial return to the constructive policy of the late PSOE government. About bloody time. 

The Interior Ministry: Also unfrocked has been Fernández Diáz, renowned for being an 'extreme Catholic bigot'. The world can certainly do with fewer of these, not just Spain.


Banco PopularHere's Don Quijones on the bank which took over mine a year or so ago and which is now giving me sleepless nights. Almost.


Brexit: May-hem(!), then, following a court ruling that parliamentary approval is required to trigger Article 50. See below for Ambrose's comments on what he sees as a triumph of British democracy.

How to Leave the EU?: Here's the estimable Richard North on the slow progress being made towards the Flexit he comprehensively proposed many moons ago. He still can't get over how ignorant British politicians and commentators are on this challenge.


The Daily Telegraph: A bizarre experience at 6.30 this morning. The on-line version of this once-great newspaper was dated yesterday but consisted of pre-Brexit articles dated 31 March. A new low. At 8.40am, it's still there . . . 

Xmas: It must be coming; the TV is awash with drinks ads.


Russia: Another article on the threat to the West, this time from The Guardian.

RT News: You couldn't make it up . . . The head of this dishonest propaganda channel is threatening to take legal action against people in the USA for spreading lies. They must do a lot of laughing in Moscow.


Drivers: A lot of these in our region have neither licence nor insurance, raising costs for the rest of us. But few have been getting away with it for more than 50 years, like the 74 year old woman featured here. How? I've just never been stopped, she replied. Unlike the majority of the soft-touch rest of us


A Camino cartoon . . .  Sort of:-


It's reported that only 12% of crimes related to corruption here in Galicia ever involve the initiation of a court procedure. The number is surely smaller for both judgements and sentences. In fact, over the last 5 years, only 100 of more than 1,000 cases have resulted in a judgement. Like illegal parking and the chances of having your car hauled to the pound, the statistics are with the miscreants. Unless you get caught in a trap.


Is anyone interested in one - or more - of these delightful puppies? If so, write to me at:    Yes, one of the shortest emails in the world! Available to rent or buy . . .


Supremacy of Parliament is the whole point of Brexit: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Let us toast the High Court with Kentish sparkling wines. Its ruling on Article 50 today is a service to the nation.

The elemental purpose of Brexit is and has always been to restore the supremacy of Parliament - and to return legal authority to British courts - not to introduce a lawless dictatorship of plebiscites.
It is up to the Members of Parliament - acting under the Burkean principles of Bristol - to discern the will of the nation and to discern the broader collective interest, imposing its constitutional authority as it sees fit.

Assuming that this ruling is upheld by the UK Supreme Court in January or soon after - and there is every reason to suppose it will be - the Government has effectively lost its power to impose its own Brexit predilections.

This is a triumph for those who want a liberal withdrawal from the EU on cordial terms, and place the highest value on the cohesion of the UK’s four constituent nations.

Theresa May will now have to reckon with a Scottish political veto through the arithmetic of the House of Commons, and she will have to listen even more attentively to the benches from Northern Ireland. Or put another way, Mrs May can now use this pressure to rein in the hotheads in her own party.

This is exactly what I hoped would happen. A Brexit conducted so recklessly that it led to the break-up of the UK, destroyed the Good Friday Agreement, and caused havoc to our friends in Ireland would not be worth having.

No party or grouping has ownership of this process, or a monopoly on how to interpret the vote. The British signalled many different things on June 23. There was not a single word on the ballot sheet about immigration, despite a reductionist attempt by some in the Leave camp to make it seem so.

Remainers and moderate Brexiteers together form a large majority of citizens. They are in implicit alliance over nature of Brexit, if they could only stop arguing like maniacal factions, like those of the 1690s eternally relitigating the Bloodless Revolution.

The EU treaties are like no ordinary treaty, and the referendum was not an election where the winner takes all. To see the events of this year in narrow tactical terms is to misunderstand the historical enormity of what has happened.

The Government certainly has no electoral mandate to impose a particular form of Brexit - be it hard, clean, diamantine, or whatever you care to call it -  against the collective will of Parliament, if that is what it intends to do.

The window is now open for a more equal debate about the appropriate access to the EU single market and passporting for the City, and this new possibility has been instantly reflected in the value of sterling, back up to a one-month high of $1.2445 against the dollar.

My own loose preference is for some variant of the European Economic Area as a transition arrangement for the next decade, a phased withdrawal that allows Britain to negotiate trade deals gradually with the rest of the world.

To argue that this would reduce Britain to the status of Norway - or a sort of Puerto Rico - as a feeble outsider forced to accept rules imposed upon it, is to vastly misstate the correlation of power and strategic realities.

That reality is staring us in the face as Russia’s Vladimir Putin amasses an estimated 330,000 troops on the EU’s eastern border, and British reinforcements are sent to Romania, Poland, and the Baltics.

The EEA allows an emergency brake on migrants and even in theory a quota system - as a strict matter of precedent it has already happened - but the issue of free movement is in any case a shifting debate since France and Germany themselves face populist dissent. Europe will look very different within a year.

Where there is a will there is a way. As the German Council of Economic Experts said this week, it is imperative to “come to an agreement that minimizes the damage for both sides”. That is likely to reflect the political consensus in Berlin, so as long as the British government acts with the moderation required to give our German friends political cover.

There may well be better arrangements than the EEA, but at least we can now have the discussion rather than being steamrolled toward a hard Brexit by a self-appointed vanguard in one part of the Conservative Party.

But Remainers have to make to a choice. If they still think they can reverse Brexit altogether - and if they operate from that motive - the situation will become extremely unpleasant.

The logic of such a position is to wish the worst at every juncture, to fasten onto all bad news with ecstatic Schadenfreude, and to run the country down incessantly. This is deeply corrosive. It will grate on fellow citizens, and ultimately provoke a reaction.

Brexit means Brexit. Let us argue only about the terms.

1 comment:

Sierra said...

Thanks for confirming the Telegraph nonsense - same thing happened to me this morning - thought I'd been hacked. Obviously their IT department in Mumbai were having a lie-in

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