Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 18.10.17

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 here.

Life in Spain

  • Both Spain and Cataluña are already experiencing the economic consequences of the mess they've got themselves into. See here and here. Things can only get worse.
  • And the street protests have begun in Catalan cities. Same comment. Here's the BBC on last night's candle-lit protest in Barcelona.
  • Meanwhile, Spain's property sector continues to recover from La Crisis.
  • And here's an amusing tale of frontier nonsense, to lighten the mood.
  • As usual, it seems, a heavy fine - of €25.8m - on Telefónica has been annulled on appeal. This time, the operator has saved itself 25,780,000 euros. I wonder what this company has to do to get even a rap on the knuckles.
These are some of the Yes percentages in a 'worldwide' survey on the answer to the question: Do you think religion does more harm than good?:
Germany 63
Spain 63
UK 63
Sweden 62
France 61

Argentina 49
Poland 49
Italy 47
Turkey 40
USA 39
Russia 36
Japan 26

Spain's number will probably surprise a people who don't live here but I guess the US number shouldn't come as a surprise, given the large number of (Trump supporting) Christian Evangelists there.

Meanwhile, here in Europe  . . . Developments in Germany and adding to the EU's list of existential woes . . .The new kingmakers of German politics have dashed hopes for a Franco-German ‘Grand Bargain’ to relaunch the eurozone, dismissing plans for a joint budget and shared banking debts as totally unacceptable. The fiery chief of the Free Democrats (FDP), said his party would not tolerate any drift towards a fiscal transfer union, and demanded that holders of eurozone sovereign debt should suffer sobering losses before there can any further rescues for governments in trouble.  As if this weren't enough . . . The rightward shift in German politics comes as the country’s top court decides tomorrow whether to ban the Bundesbank from taking part in the ECB’s quantitative easing after January 1. Any such ruling would have profound implications, tying the ECB’s hands and catching the bond markets badly off guard. It would sweep away a crucial monetary backstop for the eurozone system. While the ECB’s family of central banks could in theory continue to purchase Italian, French, or Spanish bonds, the political storm would be hard to manage.

Finally . . . Looking at the 'apology' issued by the disgraced Harvey Weinstein, I thought it would be a good idea to have a competition for the best deathbed letter from Henry VIII. Offerings very welcome. Perry?

Today's Cartoon:-

I keep thinking it's Thursday . . . 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 17.10.17

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 here.

Life in Spain
  • The current Spanish government is good at both turning screws on others and generating bad PR for itself. Simultaneously, in fact. Yesterday it both effectively confirmed the imminence of direct rule over Cataluña and oversaw the jailing of two Catalan activists on charges of 'sedition', as well as the prosecution of the head of the regional police force on the same charge. All with the support of Brussels, of course.
  • So, as Don Quijones puts it here, Spain has its first political prisoners – and martyrs? - since the Franco era.
  • As we wait on further depressing developments, here's the BBC on Why Cataluña Wants Independence. And here's Wiki with more of the region's rebellion-filled history.
  • The local economy: The BBC again:- With no sign that Spain’s worst political crisis since the failed military coup in 1981 will come to a swift resolution, businesses are still leaving Catalonia. Already 541 businesses have left. As I wrote last week, there was no need to use police force. Money talks. And the Catalans are renowned for their commercial nous and their common sense. Possibly even some nationalists among them.
  • Spain's Image Abroad: While it might be true that the folk in Madrid are doing their very best to damage this, it's also irrefutable that foreigners – even in the most developed countries – have a cockeyed, 'romanticised' view of the country. To which they doggedly stick in the face of contrary evidence. Antonio Muñoz Molina takes these folk to task in a thought-provoking article in El País, appended to this post.
  • Iberian Fires: These are now raging in both North Portugal and in at least 2 regions of NW Spain – Galicia and Asturias. As in the terrible year of 2006, fingers are being pointed - especially by cost-cutting politicians - at pyromaniacs. How true these accusations are is unknowable but I confess to some doubts.
Talking of inept/duplicitous politicians . . .  Here's a nice Guardian article on developments in the UK at least. I like the concept of cutesification – the shrinking of any debacle, no matter how big, to ensure it fits within the confines of a short studio discussion.

And still on the theme of ignorance and incompetence, here's Richard North again on the British political and journalistic classes:- One can imagine that, if we do drop out of the EU without a deal – and that looks increasingly likely – it will all come as such a shock to media and politicians alike. But saying "I told you so", will not be enough. To avoid real suffering, somehow we need to get through to these stupid people, before it is too late. If you read North in ignorance of his Flexit-Brexit stance of several years, you'd be forgiven for thinking he's long been against the development. What he's really against, though, is the crass stupidity of those negotiating it, especially those - such as Farage - who push for a 'hard' Brexit, following the failure to reach a sensible accommodation with Brussels. And who can blame him?

Finally . . . Here's a great example of Northern English culinary fusion – A bacon and egg sandwich on white bread, with a side salad of rocket and peppers. Fantastic. I haven't had white bread for years but, for a bacon sandwich, there's nothing better. Especially if accompanied by a glass of wine:-


And here's an interesting looking - but unknown - Argentinean wine, apparently named after me:-



I should explain that David is my first name and that I use it whenever in Spain I'm asked for my name, as this is the first forename on my ID documents. Which is usually taken by Spaniards to be my only forename, while Colin is taken as the first of 2 surnames. I've given up trying to educate them on the system outside the Hispanic world. Ironically, the request for my name and phone number almost always come from shopkeepers who will never call me in any circumstances. Least of all when the product I've enquired about is back in stock. Or something is ready for me to collect. It's just one of those Spanish customs that no one queries. Like banks asking for your ID when you're paying a motoring fine.

THE ARTICLE

In Francoland: Antonio Muñoz Molina

Both Europe and the US love what they see as Spain’s quaint backwardness so much that they feel insulted when we explain to them how much we have changed

It happened to me on the last night of September in Heidelberg, but it has also happened quite frequently in other cities in Europe and the United States, and even here in Spain, when talking with foreign journalists. 

At various points throughout different eras, I have been forced to explain patiently, and with as much clarity as possible for educational purposes, that my country is a democracy, while undoubtedly flawed it is not any more seriously flawed when compared to similar countries. I have gone to great lengths to name dates, mention laws and changes, and establish useful comparisons. In New York, I had to remind people, who were full of democratic ideals and condescension, of the fact that my country, unlike theirs, does not accept the death penalty, sending minors to prison to serve life sentences, or torturing inmates in secret jails.

Sometimes outside Spain, one is forced to teach a history or geography lesson. Until not too long ago, a Spanish citizen had to explain that the Basque Country is not even remotely like Kurdistan, Palestine, or the Nicaraguan jungle where Sandinistas used to protest Somoza the dictator, all in spite of being aware that the odds were that he wouldn’t be listened to. We had to explain that the Basque Country is among the most advanced territories in Europe, with one of the highest standards of living, and that it has a degree of self-government and fiscal sovereignty considerably higher than any state or federal region in the world. The answer used to be, at best, a polite but skeptical smile.

A great deal of educated opinions, both in Europe and the United States, and even more so among the academic and journalistic elites, would rather hold a bleak view of Spain, maintain a lazy attachment to the worst stereotypes, particularly about the legacy of the dictatorship, as well as a bullfight-like propensity to civil war and bloodshed. The cliché is so captivating that is unapologetically held by people who are convinced they really love our country. 

They want us to be bullfighters, heroic guerrillas, inquisitors, and victims. They love us so much that they hate it when we question the willful blindness upon which they build their love. They love the idea of a rebellious, fascism-fighting Spain so much that they are not ready to accept that fascism ended many years ago. They love what they see as our quaint backwardness so much that they feel insulted if we explain to them how much we have changed in the last 40 years: we don’t attend Mass, women have an active presence in every social sphere, same-sex marriage was accepted with astonishing speed and ease, and we have integrated several million immigrants in just a few years, without outbursts of xenophobia.

The other night in Heidelberg on the eve of the notorious October 1, in the middle of a pleasant dinner with several professors and translators, I had to explain that once again with a forcefulness that helped me overcome my despondency. A German female professor told me that someone from Catalonia had assured her that Spain was still “Francoland.” I asked her, as nicely as I could, how she would feel if someone said to her that Germany was still Hitlerland. She felt immediately insulted. With as much calm as I could manage and in an educational tone, I clarified what no citizen from another democratic country in Europe has ever been forced to clarify: that Spain is a democracy, as worthy and as flawed as Germany and as far away from totalitarianism; even more so, if we look at the latest election results achieved by the far right. 

If we are still in Francoland, as her Catalan informer said, how is it possible for Catalonia to have its own educational system, parliament, police force, public television and public radio, and an international institute for the dissemination of Catalan language and culture? Acknowledging the singularity of Catalonia was a priority for the new Spanish democracy, I told her that the Generalitat, the Catalan regional government, was re-established even before voting on the Constitution. What an odd Francoist country, one that suppress Catalan language and culture so much that it chooses a Catalan language film to represent Spain at the Oscars.

Anybody that has lived or is living outside our country knows about the precariousness of our international presence, the financial strangulation and the political meddling that have so often thwarted the relevance of the Cervantes Institute, the lack of an ambitious, long-term foreign policy, and a national framework agreement that doesn’t change with every change in government. Spanish democracy hasn’t been able to dispel age-old stereotypes. Basque terrorists and their propagandists took good advantage of that for many years, precisely the years when we were at our most vulnerable, when the most murderous gunmen were still being granted asylum in France.

Therefore, the Catalan secessionists have not needed much effort or a sophisticated media campaign to turn international opinion in their favor, the so-called “narrative.” They had succeeded even without the dedicated cooperation of the Interior Ministry, which sent forces from the National Police and the Civil Guard to appear as extras in the bitter spectacle of our discredit. Few things make a foreign correspondent in Spain happier than the opportunity to corroborate our exoticism and our brutality. Even the renowned Jon Lee Anderson, who lives or has lived among us, is deliberately lying, with no qualms he is aware that he is lying and aware of the effect his lies will have, when he writes in The New Yorker that the Civil Guard is a “paramilitary” force*.

As a Spanish citizen, with all my fervent Europeanism and my love of travel, I feel hopelessly doomed to melancholy, for a number of reasons. One of them is the discredit the democratic system in my country receives due to ineptitude, corruption and political disloyalty. Add to that the fact that the European and cosmopolitan world where people like me see ourselves and which we have so painstakingly worked to appear to be a part of, always prefer to look down upon us — no matter how carefully we try to explain ourselves or however assiduously we learn languages, so that they can better understand our useless explanations.

*I have to admit I've always thought that the Guardia Civil was a military-ish institution. Probably because they live in large barracks and, moreso, because I've been told several times by Spanish friends that they are.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 16.10.17

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 here.

Life in Spain
  • The Catalan president has been for at least a week between a rock and a (very) hard place - not wanting to either alienate his (increasingly) extreme nationalist coalition partners nor to answer Madrid's ultimatum re the status of Cataluña, precipitating direct rule. This morning saw his latest doomed-to-fail attempt to square the circle. And, if we thought last week's address to parliament was rambling and confusing, we knew nothing. Inevitably, Puigdemont has ducked Madrid's key question about whether or not Cataluña has declared independence and sent a long letter to the Spanish president aimed at 1. stalling for time; 2. avoiding the acrimonious break-up of his fragile coalition; 3. stopping the flood of companies moving their HQs from Cataluña; 4. initiating a nothing-off-the-table dialogue with Madrid; and 5. internationalising this (so far non-existent) dialogue. If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable. Suspicions must now grow that he's aiming for the martyrification of both himself and the head of the regional police who just happens to be in court in Madrid this morning.
  • In a word, the appalling situation is about to get a lot worse, especially in Cataluña itself. As Don Quijones says here: While much of the focus of the international media has been on divisions between Spain and Catalonia, it’s within Catalonia itself that the most toxic effects of this political crisis are being felt. Communities within the region are fracturing, families are splintering and friendships are breaking apart as the politics of sectarianism worm their way into just about every public and private space.
  • And here's news of the worst development - the resurgence of the fascist right. I should add that 'fascist' is the go-to insult of every Spaniard involved in an argument, whether his/her opponent is on the Left of the Right. But these bastards really are fascists. And should be stopped. Especially as it's a crime in Spain to 'disrespect' the authorities.
  • Meanwhile, in the rest of northern Spain, wildfires are ravaging the countryside of both Galicia and Asturias. As well as northern Portugal. Most worryingly, the flames have reached the centre of Vigo, the largest Galician city, killing at least 3 people on their way. There's been low rainfall this years in (“perpetually rainy”) Galicia but, thankfully, it's forecast for today. Here's a map of the outbreaks, many of which are thought – as usual – to be deliberately started. I wonder if we'll now get the wide raft of theories that we got back in 2006, when the situation was even worse.

Finally . .  Here in North Cheshire, my second grandchild, first grandson is now a day late. Kids! En passant, I wonder if that comment in Spanish would literally translate as mi segundo nieto, mi primer nieto. 'My second grandson, my first grandson'. Confusing or what? And . . .  muy macho.  I'm advised that, of course, an additional word has to be used:- mi segundo nieto, mi primer nieto varón. 'My second grandson, my first male grandson'.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 15.10.17

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 here.

Life in Spain
  • The Catalan president is under increasing pressure from his left-wing, hard-line secessionist coalition partners to confirm tomorrow that Cataluña is now an independent republic, even though they can't be unaware that - by Thursday - this would bring the full might of the Spanish state - economic and other - down onto Cataluña - however mad you and I might regard this. Worse, it would almost certainly lead to the arrest and martyrfication of several Catalan politicos and the further hardening of 'moderate' opinion there. As someone has written: After the heavy-handed police effort to stop voting, that would be sure to reignite Catalan fury while darkening Spain’s reputation abroad. It may be exactly what Puigdemont is intending.
  • Needless to say, the EU president, while saying Brussels won't get involved, has announced that the last thing he wants to see is an independent Cataluña. This, he (rightly) fears would put wind in the sales of secessionists in the likes of Venice, Scotland, Flanders, Corsica and Brittany. Not to mention Cornwall. If this happened, he avers, the EU would become impossible to govern. As if that's possible now, other than by regularly ignoring the will of the people.
  • As you'd expect, this weekend the Spanish media -  as heavily government-influenced as ever - is having fun "feeding suspicions" of Cataluña and revelling in the economic impact of the flight of corporate HQs.
  • After a plane crashed shortly after Thursday's air display in Madrid, a politician suggested on social media that it was perhaps time to do what happens after every car crash and check the pilot's alcohol level. For this  he was charged by the police - presumably under Spain's infamous 'gag law' - with a 'hate crime'. Welcome to the Spain of the PP party. The one which for years has made an unholy mess of dealing with Catalan complaints of mistreatment by Madrid. Perhaps Cataluña could denounce Spain for this 'crime' motivated by 'hate'.

Brexit: The ever-despairing Brexiteer, Richard North, claims that the English language is being 'brutally tortured' by both negotiating parties. . . .We are entrapped in the debate of the insane . . . Words are losing their meaning.  . . No-one actually knows what they're talking about or, to be more precise, people are talking about the same things using different vocabulary and meaning different things, or even the same things described with different words. . . Where we go from there, I honestly don't know. If we can't even agree on what words to use and what words mean, and can't even rely on the various factions to apply honesty in their dealings, it does not seem possible to have meaningful negotiations. Mrs May is asking for something that cannot exist, while the EU is demanding some things that the UK cannot deliver – and neither side will offer any clarity as to what they really want. . . .  I'm moving towards the idea that there is nothing salvageable from the current negotiations

Talking of the EU . . . Don Quijones here describes the immense power of the ECB and tells us who benefits most from this. You won't be surprised to hear, I guess, that the major banks which exercise a 'staggering' amount of influence. The ones who've served us so well in the past 20 years. As DQ says of these institutions: These banks are supposed to be under direct ECB supervision, and yet they have been repeatedly caught committing serious financial crimes. And now it turns out that they enjoy more influence over ECB decision making than anyone else, begging the question: how can the Eurozone’s most powerful financial regulator possibly regulate European financial institutions when it receives most of its advice and guidance from their senior executives? 

Here's Donald Trump addressing US evangelists on the 'shared and timeless' values he'd never heard of before he became a (fraudulent) presidential candidate. And here's how someone thinks he can be removed from power before he starts a war of some sort. Meanwhile, his Republic colleagues are reported to be increasingly at odds with an ‘incredible shrinking president’ in whom they have nil trust. As one of these colleagues put it: With Trump, we can’t get anything done. There is no trust; no strategy. In terms of our foreign policy, America is at its lowest ebb. Allies can’t rely on us; no one knows where we stand. We’re in a dark cellar. It’s hard to think of a more dangerous moment.” With friends like this . . .

Finally . . . Last evening I checked out the Spanish wines in a local Coop supermarket. As usual, I recognised very few of the labels – and the prices! - and neither of the 2 albariño options on the shelves. There was no godello, of course. Anyway, having chosen a couple of – unknown – Spanish reds, I then made the mistake of using the self-service checkout, only to be told to wait until an employee could confirm if I was over 25. When someone finally came, the bastard didn't even bother to seek proof of this but just pressed a button.

Today's Cartoon:-

And he says if I'm really nice, he'll take me up in his helicopter.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 14.10.17

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 here.

Life in Spain
  • Only in Spain?: There's a bit of Cataluña -  Vielha - which will declare independence if the region succeeds in seceding from Spain. All rather unlikely, though.
  • During this lull in the Cataluña v Spain proceedings, the analysts are hard at work improving your understanding of the mess. And some of them are pretty incisive:-
  1. The Guardian: Suspended animation and bewilderment
  2.  Reuters: An effective alternative?
  3. The Local: A step forward?
  4. The Guardian: Towards federalism?
  5. CNBC: Spain's nuclear weapon.
  6. Time Magazine: The Crisis in Cataluña. The Reality Check.
  7. The NY Times: Can Spain reform and keep Cataluña et al?
  8. Antonio Carty: A heartfelt aspiration.
  • Somewhere among that lot is the nice - and accurate - comment: Millions of people have the impression that two bullies, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Mr. Puigdemont, are leading them toward a terrifying situation: if not a blood bath, at the very least a lot of sweat and tears.
  • And probably this as well: The government in Madrid will seize the opportunity to feed its own nationalist base and take electoral advantage of the situation, while it tries to restore its dignity and authority after the humiliation suffered during its pathetic and failed attempt to stop the referendum from taking place. Most probably, Madrid will keep the judicial pressure on Catalan leaders, and end up holding them accountable for breaking the law. Also very probably true.
  • And this - possibly a tad OTT: The harmful and dangerous rise in polarization of Spain’s people against the region of Cataluña is being most duplicitously and deliberately provoked, as an energizing exploitable crisis, by the failing minority rule of the ‘Popular Party’ Spain’s central government. The P.P’s are the torchbearers of Franco’s divided fascist Spain.  . . . The PP’s seem outrageously and arrogantly inept but are working a deliberate strategy. Twice they have lost a ruling majority, they see provoking Catalan and polarizing the attention of all Spain, as a way to gain back their dwindling conservative support, they’ve been losing the people’s support because of all the many mounting court cases and scandals against PP politicians for crime and corruption as well as their fundamental hopeless economic failure and injustice.
  • As for the vainglorious Sr Puidgemont . . . Pressure is growing from allies of the regional president for him to lift his 'suspension' on a declaration of independence. Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), a radical anti-capitalist party that helps prop up Puigdemont's 'Together for Yes' (Junts pel Si) coalition in the Catalan parliament, published a letter addressed to Puigdemont on Friday morning in which it insists that "the proclamation of the republic is necessary". "If they (the Spanish government) intend on continuing to apply the previsions of article 155 of the Spanish constitution – with the formal requisites now already met – and they want to continue threatening and gagging us, then let them do it with the republic already proclaimed," the letter notes. The move follows a similar call from major pro-independence organization Catalan National Assembly (ANC), which released its own statement late on Thursday saying the suspension should be lifted due to the "rejection from the Spanish state of any kind of proposal of dialogue". It can only end in tears. Lots and lots of them. Collective insanity.
Which reminds me . . . I really don't know the answer to this but in how many western developed countries could this sort of thing happen? I doubt anyone would do it in Britain but, then, it's not only Spain that's different . . 

On a more macro level . . . How the world turns and how this is relevant to Cataluña. Superb.

Brexit: Richard North: The thing is that the hacks do not understand the issues here, while the Kuenssberg's of this world regard the detail as "boring" and "nerdy". They prefer to stay in the more familiar territory of personality politics, reporting on the Brussels talks as an extension of the Westminster soap opera, but with a few foreign actors. 

Donald Trump has boasted that: “Fake” is one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with. As someone has said: Other F-words are available.

Theists do get themselves into some terrible messes. Reading about Pontevedra yesterday, I learnt that Sister Lucia of Fatima fame might well have been 2 different people, with very different views. And that the phony Lucia was probably installed by freemasons. Click here for more on this fascinating tale . . . And talking of mad Christians, this strikes me as about right, as regards American evangelists at least: This is what evangelical Christianity is these days: fear, lies, and uncritical support of an unhinged president who panders to the only base gullible enough to stay by his side no matter how many awful things he does.

As I live near oyster beds and mussel farms in Galicia and, more importantly, as someone concerned for the future of the planet, I was very concerned to read that: Populations of mussels, clams and oysters produce “ridiculous” levels of climate-warming gasses on a par with herds of cattle. Scientists have warned they're producing large amounts of the strongest greenhouse gases - methane and nitrous oxides - from the bacteria in their guts. This methane bubbles out of the water contributing to global warming. It has to be stopped. It's the least we can do . . .

Spanish Trivia:-
  1. When they built the railway station at Canfranc [On the Franco-Spanish border] it was on a grand scale and with no expense spared. It had to be bold and modern - an architect's dream come true, built in iron and glass, complete with a hospital, restaurant and living quarters for customs officers from both France and Spain. To give you an idea of its size - there are 365 windows, one for each day of the year; hundreds of doors; and the platforms are more than 200m long. The question is, how did such an extravagant station, high up on a mountainside in a village with a population of just 500 people, ever see the light of day?
  2. HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for the news that unexplained major fires are a frequent occurrence in Spain. There have been, he says, 141of these in different recycling plants across Spain since February 2012. But I doubt anything compares with the scale of the sudden conflagration that allegedly engulfed all the alleged flax factories in Spain after the start of an investigation in the late 1990s into one of the EU's largest ever CAP frauds. For which Spain was mightily fined. Though I'm not sure she ever paid up. 
English Trivia:-
  1. In the John Lewis department store near my younger daughter's house, a notice by the coffee machines in the café says you can get milk sachets after you've paid. So I was (doubly) surprised to see on offer a 'White Americano'. And I might have got to see what this was, if I hadn't pressed the 'Americano' button by mistake. My point is – Why offer a White Americano – actually a contradiction in terms – if you can take a (black) Americano and add milk to it after you've paid for it? I guess it makes sense to someone, if not to me.
  2. I forgot to say that neither my incoming daughter nor I had phone coverage at Liverpool airport, despite having roaming on on our (albeit) Spanish phones. Am I being cynical to suggest this forces people who can't communicate with each other to use the prince's-ransom carpark?
  3. If you drive down Menlove Avenue from my sister's house near the top of Penny Lane to the airport, you'd think Liverpool was a magnificently beautiful city. More than 2 miles of little but sandstone walls and trees, as you pass through the lovely barrio of Calderstones. There are trees even on the wide island down the middle of the 4-lane road. See here,  And these 2 fotos:-


















Spanish-English Trivia
  1. There's said to be a horrible new trend in the UK – pigging - starting a romance with an 'ugly' woman and then revealing it was a pathetic joke, or a bet with your mates. It's said to stem from a 1990s US film but some will recall the 1956 Spanish film Calle Major, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem. See the IMDB write-up here. One or two reviewers cite earlier films with the same theme. So pigging ain't that new. But, then, neither are very nasty men. 
Finally . . .  To end on a postive note . . . Here's what I've been saying for years now: Look to Galicia for textured complex whites — Godello and Albariño in particular. From this page. I favour the Godello  over the Albariño. If you can find it . . .

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 13.10.17

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 here.

Life in Spain
  • Cataluña 1: This weekend sees a clash between Barcelona FC and Read Madrid, in the capital city. Should be interesting. Expect lots of flags!
  • Cataluña 2: Manuel Vazquez, who runs a camera equipment company in Barcelona, said Chinese investors had halted a deal with his company, citing political unrest. “These politicians should realise the damage this is doing to real people who are trying to earn a living. Is this how they are constructing a better Catalonia?” he asked. Good question.
  • Cataluña 3: Much of Spain's political history has been a tale of savage partisan strife. See Article 1 below for the rest of this informed commentary.
  • Cataluña 4: Notwithstanding that, is there cause for optimism? See Article 2 below. 
Many of us have problems with the excesses of modern liberalism. Reader Perry certainly does and I thought of him – inter alia - when reading the 3rd article below. The EU, of course, is a prime example of the new autocratic illiberal liberals.

Some trivia:-
  1. Yesterday I procured the 5th charger – in 6 years – for my MacBook. Happily, this was under the guarantee of the one I bought back in February on my last trip to Manchester. With all the money they make, you'd think Apple could come up with something more reliable. On the other hand, seeing what the chargers cost, perhaps not.
  2. Liverpool airport is infamous for the high cost of parking there. So, ahead of collecting my Madrid-based daughter last night, I checked on the internet what the – hopefully free, albeit short - pick-up option is. Or, rather, what it was in 2014. But now, they're different and, confused by a sign saying that the Drop Off 2 zone was now some way away from the terminal, I parked off the approach road to check on things. Only to be almost immediately harassed by some sort of pseudo-police van with a camera on top of it. Clearly, profits from the parking are so high they can afford to take aggressive measures I've not seen in any other airport around the world. But maybe I'm out of touch. Or too used to the parking in every public space anywhere near a Spanish airport.
  3. Brilliant smile-generating video.
Finally . . . This morning I heard my elder daughter telling her sister: “What happens with men is that . . .” Sadly, I didn't hear the rest.

Today's Cartoon:-



ARTICLE 1

Much of Spain's political history has been a tale of savage partisan strife: Alberto Letona 

Like many of my fellow countrymen in Spain I feel strained and anxious these days. I hate the sectarianism and tension created between two democratically elected governments, whose only victory so far has been to pass on their antagonism to a large portion of the  population. Emotions are running high, and coherence seems to have flown out of the window. Things can only get worse.

I want to hold on to the idea that Spain is not the former Yugoslavia, and that Catalonia is not Kosovo, a country whose conflict I covered as a reporter between 1998-1999. Before those days neighbours who had been living together for centuries became the fiercest of enemies. The amount of cruelty on both sides was unthinkable. I cannot believe that what I saw in the Balkans could be repeated in modern Spain. However, it has to be said that we have had a difficult and ugly history. Much of our political history has been a tale of savage partisan strife.

For many years the Popular Party, with a small political representation in Catalonia, has fuelled the resentment of many by ignoring their demands. The region, one of the wealthiest in Spain, has gone through a long recession and at the same time its autonomy has been substantially weakened by the central government. All this has created a climate of indignation between different layers of Catalan society, a climate that the Prime Minister disregarded completely despite numerous requests from the Catalan government to meet and try to find common ground.

Mr. Rajoy's reaction to the referendum was wrong and callous. He first shielded behind the judges and later behind the police. Millions of people throughout the world could see the  violent reaction of the police against peaceful citizens armed with nothing but a ballot paper. He has obstinately been following that path, and paying little attention to other political forces. Dialogue with those who want independence is out of question.

King Felipe VI has not done much to improve things. His harsh discourse against the Catalan government and his lack of sympathy for the people who were injured has put the monarchy at stake by taking sides with Mr Rajoy.

For the Spanish government, the Constitution - the cornerstone of the legal system- is written in stone, and it chooses to ignore that legality and legitimacy are different concepts. Everybody knows that laws change with the times, without this there would not be any progress. Furthermore, the reputation of the legal system in Spain is distrusted by many who accuse it of being controlled by the two main parties.

Triggering article 155 in Catalonia, that is to say voiding the autonomy of the region and putting their politicians in prison, can only lead to disaster. People will rebel against it, but even if they do so peacefully the situation could get out of hand. Would Mariano Rajoy ready to use the military force against a civil population? Some former politicians are in favour, but for most of us it would be suicidal.

There is another way: dialogue. They could call simultaneous elections in Spain and in Catalonia. The political map could change and the current politicians along with it. If they make their programme on Catalonia clear, we would know who to vote for and would respect the electorate’s decision.

The Catalan crisis has brought out some ghosts from the past. Jingoism has awoken and it is not difficult to foresee the rapid rise of the Spanish far-right that until now seemed non-existent. Their allegiance to the security forces could prove uneasy for the government in Madrid.

For some of us who lived under Franco's regime, a semi-fascist dictatorship that survived the victory of freedom over the Nazis, the problem is not Catalonia, but rather, Spain and her failure to create a modern state. The always glorified Transition did not finish with Franco's legacy. Fear was difficult to overcome after so many years of brutality.

Blaming only the PP is unfair. The Catalan government has ignored its own legality (Estatut). Many citizens in the region, seemingly between 70 and 80 percent, wanted to have a referendum, but not all of them are in favour of independence. They don't have the support of any country and their romantic vision could end in disaster. The main party of the opposition, the Partido Socialista, is also at fault, as is some of the more vociferous and sensationalist media.

Victorian traveller, Richard Ford, said that Spain is "a bundle of local units tied together by a rope of sand". And the truth is that a century and half later, many Spaniards are still arguing how to shape a nation, whilst not asking for total independence.

For many years, Spain was socially, politically and economically torn by civil wars and military coups. I hope that the ghosts from the past will not come back to haunt us.


Alberto Letona is a Basque journalist living in Bilbao. He is the author of "Hijos e Hijas de la Gran Bretaña" -Sons and Daughters of Great Britain – in which he delves into the psyche of the British in an attempt to explain them to his own countrymen.

ARTICLE 2

Federal formula may halt Catalan split: Charles Bremner

Mr Puigdemont hopes to follow a similar route.

In his ambiguous speech on Tuesday he hammered home the point that Catalonia was a European question and implored the EU to intervene in the name of its founding values.

But times have greatly changed since 1992 and the EU has no appetite for embracing new nations, least of all ones that have split from one of its own members. If Catalonia is to combine nationhood with the prosperity of EU membership it must look for something akin to a federal status within Spain.

A self-proclaimed Catalan republic would threaten to Balkanise not just Spain, with Basques, Galicians and others seeking breakaway, but could prompt Corsicans, Bretons, Bavarians, north Italians and others to try for independence.

All would be denied the EU membership on which they would depend for survival. Even Scotland, which prepared for possible independence in agreement with London in 2014, was told that it would take many years to rejoin the union.

Visionaries used to talk of an expanding “post-national” Europe of regions under the umbrella of a federal Union. The idea has fallen by the wayside with the rise of populism, trouble in the east and financial crisis. The EU has no raison d’être if the frontiers of its members come undone, says the new consensus.

Mr Puigdemont must look at Belgium as the model, according to Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the centrist group in the European parliament. The creation of a federal state had calmed Flanders’ demands for separation in the 1990s, he said yesterday. “In Spain, they should do the same and create a federal state”.

Q&A

What will the commission discuss?
Members of all parties in the Spanish parliament, including Catalan nationalist MPs, will debate a possible reform of the 1978 constitution. It could make Spain a federal state, like Germany, or give Catalonia a better financial deal, like the Basque country.

Is Mariano Rajoy laying a trap?
No, it’s a genuine offer. The Socialists have long pushed for this move and the present crisis has allowed them to demand that Mr Rajoy agree.

Does the formation of the commission absolve Carles Puigdemont?
No — it is up to the Spanish constitutional court to decide if the Catalan leader has contravened the law, so he could still face prosecution.

Experts are divided on whether he has broken the law. He could face charges of disobedience and malfeasance, punishable with heavy fines, and be banned from holding public office.

Can Madrid impose direct rule while at the same time discussing reform?
Mr Rajoy might yet invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which empowers the central government to take any “necessary measures” to ensure the compliance of a rogue autonomous region.

It might involve dismissing or arresting Catalan government officials, calling elections or taking control of the regional police force. Given the atmosphere, such a move would probably lead to huge demonstrations in Barcelona.

Will the commission choose reform?
It might. The Socialists and other smaller parties have campaigned for it. Given the crisis over Catalonia, it could offer all sides a way out. It must report, with proposals, after 6 months.

How is the constitution changed?
MPs must vote on a change to the constitution. A simple majority is sufficient to approve reform.

How would the rest of Spain react?
Some poorer regions might begrudge Catalonia a better deal on finances because it is already a wealthy region that accounts for nearly 20 per cent of GDP. However, if that reduced demands for Catalan independence it might prove popular. Galicia, in the northwest, might try to claim that it, too, should have a better deal.

Does this make Catalan independence more or less likely?
Real reform would make Catalan independence less likely. The Republican Left of Catalonia Party, part of the regional government, has admitted that a financial deal would deflate support for separatism.

ARTICLE 3

From Brexit to Barcelona, liberal elites have lost faith in self-determination: 

There was a time, just a few decades ago, when most young radicals espoused a heady mix of Enlightenment values, Left-wing economics and a liberalised personal morality.

The Sixties’ generation embraced free speech, legal equality, religious freedom, the presumption of innocence and democratic empowerment. In foreign policy, they supported anti-imperialism, and in economics the welfare state and big government.

Some of these ideas were right, others dangerously wrong, especially the rejection of capitalism and the family, but they were coherent and inspired by many great Western philosophers of the past 350 years. They were grounded in reason, liberty and scepticism. As a result, conservatives and liberals, socialists and libertarians could still talk to one another, if merely to agree to disagree.

The great tragedy of the 21st century is how it has become cool and edgy to repudiate these Enlightenment values and to embrace a darker, ultra-adversarial ideology.

Many of our best and brightest still agree with the baby boomers’ youthful rejection of conservatism and free markets: these are easy positions to hold. But the harder-edged ideas have gone out of the window. Contemporary “liberals” – the dominant group in the civil service, academia, the cultural industries and among young, highly educated urbanites – have all too often become born-again authoritarians.

Far too many applaud when Balliol’s Junior Common Room bans the Christian Union from its freshers’ fair on the grounds that it would be “alienating” for followers of other religions and constitute a “micro aggression”; they cheer drastic restrictions to free speech in the name of “safe spaces”; and they no longer believe in national groups’ rights to self-determination.

Forget about democracy, people power and autonomy: the New Left loves authority, elite rule and cultural warfare. It’s out with John Locke, Montesquieu and David Hume, and back in with Plato.
The trendy, right-on classes now seem to oppose all independence movements. In the Fifties and Sixties, young idealists took to the streets to defend the right of the ex-colonies to break free of the imperialist yoke. Today, those who see themselves as their political heirs spend their time decrying “nationalists” and cheering on those who threaten to ruin the secessionists.

Take Brexit, Kurdistan and Catalonia: people who believe themselves to be progressive and enemies of oppression reflexively back the status quo. Big is beautiful; small is seditious. The way that Catalonia has been treated is one of the great scandals of our time, a disgraceful stain on Spain’s and the EU’s reputation. The province deserves a free and fair referendum.

The violence, the intimidation, the bullying have all been outrageous, yet the New Left couldn’t care less. As to Kurdistan, which was originally promised a referendum on independence at the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, the silence from the “progressives” has been deafening, even though the only way forward in the Middle East is to ensure that states and nations are aligned.

This ideological shift among Western elites is staggering: it risks undermining the foundations of much political progress of these past 250 years. The US Declaration of Independence argued that governments derived “their just powers from the consent of the governed”; and that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it”.

The French Revolution also referred to the principle, which became hugely influential in the 1800s. Slowly but surely, the new battle was between the imperialists, who wanted the Great Powers to dominate, and the liberals, who wanted nations to set their own rules. There was much talk, after the First World War, of the “principle of the nationalities”.

By the time of the Atlantic Charter of 1941, President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill pledged that there would be a “right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live”, and six years later India and Pakistan were independent. The United Nations charter enshrined the principle of self-determination into international relations.

So are Western elites really seeking to renege on all this? Do they not see how they are playing with fire? Do they not recognise the connection between their support for oligarchy and the growth of populism in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Eastern Europe and almost everywhere across the Continent? Britain was a pioneer in promoting self-governance, despite our colonial history.

The Balfour declaration, a hundred years ago, was a milestone, with the UK promising to set up “a national home for the Jewish people”. The Statute of Westminster in 1931 granted self-government to the dominions. There have been two European referendums and one for Scotland, and the public still overwhelmingly backs self-rule as an ideal at home and abroad.

Yet all of this is now obsolete nonsense, as far as the new authoritarians are concerned. Self-determination is too messy, too complicated. It is in this context that the British government’s incompetent approach to Brexit and the establishment’s increasingly successful counter-offensive to sabotage it needs to be understood.

In such a hostile climate, those entrusted with pushing through Brexit need to be passionate, competent and as hard as nails. They cannot be mainstream centrists who just want to follow their civil servants’ advice, especially given that they will be dead set against the principle of self-determination. They need to surround themselves with the best of the true believers.

Crazily, neither Theresa May, Damian Green nor, of course, Philip Hammond can bring themselves 
even to say that they back Brexit, despite it being their policy. Revolutions are hard at the best of times: how can they be executed successfully by people who can 
almost not bear to enact them?

Mrs May, assuming that she stays in office, must therefore urgently involve more Brexiteers. Boris Johnson should accompany her to the negotiations, to stiffen her resolve, and a newer generation needs to be promoted. Leaving the EU is an ideological project, grounded in hundreds of years of Western political philosophy, so now is the time to call in the ideologues to the rescue.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 12.10.17


THE CATALAN TRAGEDY

The ecstasy and the agony. Puigdemont's declaration of Catalan independence and its immediate suspension:-


 HT to Lenox of Business over Tapas for that.

Steps forward?? The Catalan president has said he's open to dialogue and the Spanish president has replied that he's willing to discuss anything that's within the law. So, probably no real progress. Possibly more encouraging is the assurance of the PSOE leader that President Rajoy has agreed to a parliamentary commission on the reform of the Spanish constitution with the aim of revising the relationship between the centre and Spain's 17 regions (the Autonomous Communities). Possibly jam tomorrow. And maybe after elections which have strengthened Rajoy's hand in non-Catalan Spain. So, just a chimera far away on the horizon?

The Current Situation: Here's Don Quijones' doomladen overview. And his pessimistic take on current (non?)developments. The euphoria, he says, is surely premature. And he has to be right about this.

What's Happened: Madrid has given the Catalan president a few days to say whether he's pregnant or not. If he says he is, he'll be given 2 or 3 days to get an abortion. If he doesn't, Madrid will apply the - so far unused Article 155 of the Constitution - and rip baby Cataluña from the womb in a violent caesarean operation. And all hell will break loose.

The Catalan Nationalist Players: I've mentioned that both the Catalan and Spanish presidents are right wing capitalists. Which can't really be said of the former's main coalition partner - the CUP (the 'Coop'). Which is a rabidly nationalistic party which, Lenox reminds us, wants to create a “socialist, feminist and ecologically sustainable Catalan republic". Politics, they say, makes for strange bedfellows but nothing could be odder than this couple. It surely won't last much longer. Especially if Puigdemont resiles further next week from his bewildering semi-declaration of independence of Tuesday last.

Cataluña Conclusion: All so bloody predictable. All so bloody tragic for both Cataluña and Spain. Not to mention the EU and the world. The genie is out of the bottle and can't be stuffed back in. We now await to see what shape it assumes. And how much violence and bloodletting it engenders. I say 'the genie' but there are really two of the damn things, fighting to the death.

Spain Conclusion: Spain is still 'different'and will never be the same again. Both Catalan and Spanish prideful nationalists are heading for a fall of unquantifiable proportions. With the price being paid by everyone else. You'd think they'd have all learned something from the 1930s but apparently not. Those who don't study history are condemned to re-live it, said Santayana. It certainly looks like it in this case.

Global Conclusion: Nationalists can be very, very stupid. But I knew that already.

Let's hope I'm being too pessimistic.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 11.10.17

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 here.

Life in Spain
  • So, Cataluña is half pregnant. Truly independent but not quite yet. The details are to be worked out . . .
  • The true Catalan nationalist politicians - who stayed away from the parliament - are as disappointed as Madrid is intransigent.
  • The strangest thing about the Catalan president's discourse for me was the cognitive dissonance of talking about Cataluña and 'Spain' as if they were separate entities, while simultaneously demanding the independence of Cataluña from something which in his mind it didn't actually form part of. Schizoid, then.
  • Query: Have 2 people ever more stupidly painted themselves into the opposite corners of a very large room?
  • Cataluña delenda est?: In this article, the writer stresses what many of us know - that there's no single word in Spanish for 'compromise'.  And that: De-escalation is off the table, because there is no table. This is, after all, nothing more than a stand-off, and the crisis can only end when one side concedes defeat. The Spanish government will use its constitutional arsenal and plain brute force to squash the hopes of an independent Catalonia. The likely outcome is that Puigdemont will eventually give up. . . If Spain doesn’t consider modifying its constitution to cater for the plurality of voices of its different regions, it will only force pro-independence movements to use other, probably more extreme means to speak out. After all, if your democracy denies you the right of the ballot box, what else can you expect? 
  • The majority view now seems to be that - whatever he does with Article 155 of the Constitution - President Rajoy will eventually drive for early regional and national elections. In which his (right-wing) PP party will secure a greater share of the vote and, thus, a majority administration. Which might warm the cockles of many hearts but which won't solve the problem, of course. Except for here-and-now Spanish nationalists who can't see beyond their noses. One of the failings of the 'Spanish character', it's said.
  • I doubt that any PP politician sees the creation of a truly federal state - and a revised constitution - as the solution. Will it really take civil unrest and violence to make them see sense? I fear so. And even it the left wing parties do, Rajoy's electoral 'success' will keep them out of power for several more years. Very disheartening.
  • If you're not Catalanned out, click here for a discussion of the nuances of the imbroglio. Or the cat-and-mouse game, as a BBC reporter has termed it.
Talking of the BBC . . . I've now thrice unsubscribed from their - unrequested - news update emails. But still they come. Not impressive.

Brexit: In the article below, the ever-pragmatic Ambrose Evans Pritchard tells the British government, in not so few words: Like Greece, you're being taken for a fool. Get real. Stop playing games. Especially as you're inept at them. He has to be right. I wonder if there's a word for 'compromise' in German . . .  Someone else has asked the obvious question: Brexit is deadly serious – so, why does the government have only jokers in charge? No answer to that. It could be worse, of course. Jeremy Corbyn could be doing the negotiating. No one would have the slightest idea what he really wanted beyond platitudinous aspirations.

The USA: Fewer and fewer Americans are fooling themselves . . . When Donald Trump assumed office, he enjoyed the lowest approval rating of any recent president – and these ratings haven't got any better. At the 100-day milestone, Gallup daily polling showed that just 40% of Americans approved of the way Trump is handling his new job – compared to 55% that disapprove. Historically, it has usually taken American presidents hundreds of days before they reach a majority disapproval rating. Things can only get better. Unless, of course, he decides to court popularity by nuking either North Kore or Iran. Or both simultaneously. Would you put it past him??

Finally . . . Galicia is beefing up its production of wolfram, a substance (metal?) which was popular with the Nazis and which led to a German colony in the Galician hills. Some say it's still there . . . Or the vestiges of it, anyway.

Today's cartoon:-


THE ARTICLE

Never bluff the EU: if Britain talks defiance it must be deadly serious Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

If the European Union will not take Yes for an answer on Brexit, this country faces a traumatic decision very soon.

Should the European Council refuse to endorse talks on future ties with Britain next week in Brussels, we may indeed be forced to depart without a deal, on minimalist terms and in acrimony.

One loses count of Theresa May’s concessions, all seemingly to no avail. There comes a point in diplomacy when a sovereign nation must stick its ground. This decision cannot be put off for much longer. ‘Time decay’ is poisonous. It is working remorselessly against British economic interests.

The Bank of England’s Sam Woods warns that banks and City finance houses will activate their contingency plans and start to decamp en masse by Christmas unless they know where Brexit is heading.

RBS chairman Sir Howard Davies said American, Japanese, and Chinese banks are poised to shift operations out of London. The question is whether City losses will be in the thousands or the tens of thousands, and the timing is “very tight indeed.”

The German industry federation (BDI) said it is working on the assumption that Brexit talks will break down. Its Brexit ‘task forces’ are already taking steps to replace British subcontractors and reorganize their supply chains.

Every week that goes by in this purgatory means Britain suffers the irreversible effects of a hard Brexit, yet without any of the benefits of free agency and without being able to negotiate new trade deals. It is dragging out the ordeal. It is risks turning into the worst of all worlds: a hard Brexit by default.

The Brexit mandate imposed on EU negotiators by the EU Council is legally dubious. Article 50 does not stipulate that all divorce issues must be settled before there can be any talk about trade ties. It states that the EU should work out the arrangements for withdrawal while “taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.”

Britain has gone along with the EU’s sequencing framework nevertheless. It has done so even though the three chapters on Ireland, citizens’ rights, and the alimony bill cannot logically be separated from longer-term trading and security links.

Theresa May has largely signed off on citizen’s rights. It is fudge, of course: a legal mechanism will be found to lock in the privileges of EU nationals in Britain, with UK and EU judges working in concert.  “The British have basically given in,” said Charles Grant from the Centre for European Reform.   

In her Florence speech, the Prime Minister pledged to “honour commitments” made during Britain’s EU membership and to ensure that no EU state ends up worse off. The wording of that passage was negotiated in advance with Brussels, effectively drafted by the Michel Barnier’s negotiating team at the Commission.

At a meeting of EU ambassadors last Friday, Mr Barnier recommended that EU leaders accept Britain’s overtures and launch talks on the future relationship at their October summit. This was vetoed by Germany and France. “The Germans are blocking everything until they are offered more money. But they had better be careful because if this leads to the downfall of Theresa May, they will come to rue the consequences,” said Mr Grant.  

Britain faces a corrosive state of affairs. The EU powers are “shaking the tree”, delaying real talks even as they compete in trying to carve off hunks of the British carcass for their economies. Former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen says the time has come for a “unilateral declaration” stating how the country will proceed.

Brinkmanship is a part of every EU summit. Germany and France may be playing a tactical game to wring out a few more concessions. By the same taken, the British government is hoping to concentrate the mind by floating contingency plans for a ‘no-deal’ scenario.

I have no objection to such plans. What bothers me is that this is suddenly coming to the fore just days before the summit in what looks like a negotiating ploy, supposedly in order to call Europe’s bluff. This is a dangerous gamble.  It is the sort of thinking that led the Syriza rebels in Greece to so gravely misjudge the Eurogroup, and why the much-bruised Yanis Varoufakis warned the Tories never to fall into the same negotiating trap.

It is an error to try play the ‘no-deal’ option as if it were a card, not least because it misreads the European landscape. Two years of ultra-easy money and fiscal loosening have together generated a boom. We are in the white heat of a cyclical expansion.

Germany has just recorded its best month of industrial growth in six years.  Romania’s economic growth rate has hit a nine-year high of 6.1%. Italy looks almost healthy again. City analysts know that the underlying pathologies of monetary union have not be cured, and that North-South divide will lead to a fresh euro crisis once the next global downturn hits. But right now the mood in EU capitals borders on hubris.

The Germans calculate that Brexit severance on WTO terms would be a manageable friction for their own companies, even though their €52bn current account surplus with the UK matches their entire surplus with the rest of the EU.  This is odd in one sense, but the EU single market is so central to German strategic dominance in Europe that it has taken on a totemic, ideological significance. The BDI industrialists have bought into this Weltanschauung. They will not rescue the British.

If we are going to talk about a ‘no-deal’ rupture, we must be willing to see it through. Here we confront the Original Sin of the Brexit ‘cake and eat it’ movement: they never admitted that Brexit means blood, toil sweat, and tears. They never told the British people that there might be a stiff price to pay for restoring the Supremacy of Parliament, or that it would be a logistical nightmare to extract ourselves after over 40 years enmeshed in the EU system.

They have no political mandate for the hairshirt sacrifices that a walk-out may entail. It is time to tell the British people immediately what those sacrifices might be. If we opt for defiance, nobody should be in any doubt about what it means.


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