As in other Western countries, Spanish partners are not procreating enough to secure the future of their grandchildren. One near-term result is the plummeting of primary school numbers. See here on this. This is a huge reversal from the Franco subsidised 'large family' era and, if you want to read a jeremiad(realistic?) view of how this and other nations will be affected, read this book.
The growth of the Spanish economy last year was 3.2% but it's forecast to fall to around 2.3% this year. If you believe this sort of thing, it'll fall further to 2.1% in 2018. Macroeconomically speaking, this is impressive relative to the rest of the EU but, as I keep stressing, down at the micro level things are far from good - structural problems, sky high unemployment, continuing corruption, etc., etc. Nonetheless, President Rajoy is adamant it's time for Spain to return to the top table and to tell everyone how to do things as successfully as he's done. Well, he would, wouldn't he?
In the political arena, the great hope of the (far?) left - Podemos - continues to suffer from a very public spat between its No 1 and its No 2. Which must make said Sr Rajoy smile a bit.
As noted yesterday, the UK bought into the EU for very different reasons from the old war-mongering, invasion-devastated enemies, Germany and France. And so has never been, to say the least, a comfortable subscriber to the political dream of a European federal superstate. The Brexit article at the end of this post starts with this premise but moves to stress that the factors which have finally driven the UK out of the EU will continue to have an impact on the remaining members. So, it should reform or die. But history doesn't justify much optimism as regards the former. Though you never know. Imminent death, as they say, concentrates the mind. Or should do, even among bureaucrats as well as politicians.
Today's cartoon, forwarded to me by an Anglo-German friend after it appeared in a German newspaper this morning:-
Finally . . .
Kids! 1 : My lovely neighbours, Ester and Amparo, bought me a scarf for my recent birthday. I thought this was very sweet of them but worried it was a tad . . . well, feminine. But I checked with the staff of my regular bar and they all poo-poohed this notion. So, imagine my surprise when almost the first thing my daughter said to me when we met was: “I think you should ditch the scarf, dad. It's rather gay”. Kids, don't you just love 'em. Fortunately, my son-in-law disagreed with her but I suspect he was primed.
Kids! 2: Conversation with said daughter:-
Han, I love this foto of you with Gracie asleep in your arms. It reminds me of paintings of the Madonna and child.
Wasn't Jesus dead though?
No, sweetheart. You're confusing it with the 'Pieta'.
The clue was really in the word 'child'. In the case of the Pieta, Jesus is very adult. And dead.
I hope you're not going to put that in your blog tomorrow!
By the way . . . I'm the atheist; she's the Catholic . . .
Eurocrats think Britain is an exception. But the forces that drove Brexit are coming for them too Jeremy Warner, The Telegraph.
Rewind 50 years: it was 1967, and for the second time that decade, the French President, Charles de Gaulle, had said “non” to British membership of what was then the European Economic Community. Politically and economically, Britain was incompatible with the structure and ambitions of the common market, he said, and he warned that if British membership was imposed, it would lead to break-up of the EEC.
His fears look today to have been more than prescient; indeed, he was right on all counts. It might have saved everyone an awful lot of trouble had his view prevailed. What’s more, his suggested alternative of a purely commercial relationship with Britain – “be it called association or by any other name” – looks very much like what the May Government is asking of Brussels today.
For Britain, membership of the EU was never anything more than a pragmatic, or economic, endeavour; it was about little else than free trade and getting along with the neighbours. Few Brits ever shared the federalist vision of the project’s founding fathers. That’s always been a problem for the EU. For many Europeans, Britain has long seemed a difficult and reluctant partner, constantly frustrating the ever closer and deeper union of “manifest destiny”.
The loss felt by Europe’s established elites over Brexit is therefore mixed with a certain sense of relief, that finally after all these years a troublesome and disruptive cousin is about to leave the room. The lesson they are inclined to draw from Brexit is not that there is anything fundamentally wrong with the EU, but that Britain had never properly bought into it in the first place. The fault is seen to lie with the UK, not the EU.
This is a huge mistake, if also an entirely predictable one that reflects the still delusional levels of self-belief prevalent in much EU thinking. Like the House of Bourbon, the EU establishment seems blind to the discontents massing at its doors. There has been no obvious attempt even to understand what led to Brexit, still less to act on the lessons. The same concerns – immigration, economic failure, distant government and increasingly alien law making – are common to the whole of Europe, and yet the EU simply ploughs on regardless. Making Britain suffer for leaving is seen as more important than answering underlying concerns. It’s an almost wilfully self-destructive approach.
Even in Germany, which arguably benefits more than any other nation from the European Union, the pressure for change is at boiling point, with the Eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland achieving 16 per cent support in recent polls. If sustained in an election, it would destroy the post-war German political contract, which has thus far made the emergence of any significant Right-wing threat to the centrist Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union party all but impossible.
The dangers are even more evident in France, where exactly the same forces that gave rise to Brexit and Trump are present in magnified form – de-industrialisation, increasingly insecure employment prospects, loss of national identity, and growing alarm over immigration. In Britain, the Tories have cleverly managed to harness these complaints to their own purposes. Theresa May calls it “change and conserve”, a long-standing Tory approach to upheaval which helps explain why the Conservatives have proved such a durable force in UK politics. There is no party more pragmatically adaptable than the Tories. Hey presto, a vote which was at least in part a scream of rage against globalisation, put through the Prime Minister's mangle, becomes reinterpreted as a vote for “global Britain”.
This type of bend-with-the-wind leadership is proving much more problematic for the established centre ground of Continental politics, wedded as it is to fulfilment of the European project. Angela Merkel, the German leader, has been quite visibly traumatised by the election of Donald Trump, a political leader who seems to desire the destruction of the European Union almost as much as Vladimir Putin.
Friendless and increasingly isolated, she is like a rabbit frozen in the headlights, incapable of answering the now evident insurgency sweeping the continent around her. Religious adherence to the EU’s “four freedoms” rules out any move backwards towards a Europe of more sovereign nations; by the same token, fear of the electoral consequences make it impossible to move forwards to the politically-integrated Europe necessary to salvage the Continent’s ill-advised experiment in monetary union.
Into this void step the vehemently anti-EU Geert Wilders of the Netherlands and France’s Marine Le Pen. We are told there is little chance of either of them gaining power, but exactly the same thing was said of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. In both countries, there is a sneaking admiration for Britain’s willingness to grasp the nettle, as well as a growing belief that too high a price is being paid for European solidarity.
Something big is happening. For better or worse, the established political and international order, born out of the ravages of the Second World War, is drawing to a close. Only the EU’s high command seems stubbornly unwilling to listen, and change course accordingly.