Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 30.3.17

Life in Spain: Sometimes it's hard to believe what you read here. As with this staggering report of a woman jailed for insulting a dead Francoist. As she says, her entire life will be adversely affected by having a criminal record. Spain's real criminals are, of course, immune from prosecution. As we regularly see evidence of in the still largely free media.

The Spanish Media: I say it's still largely free but the Opposition parties are trying to do something about the control of the public TV stations by the governing right-of-centre PP party. They won't succeed, of course. See here, in Spanish.

The Spanish economy continues to motor along at annual GDP growth rate above 2%. And unemployment has plummeted in the last couple of years from 25% to a mere 17%, though rather more if you're not yet 35. One possible reason for this success – additional to the serendipitous increase in tourism receipts from holiday-makers too terrified to go anywhere else – is the government's massive boost to public sector jobs. As if Spain didn't have a surplus of these already.
Some details here in English. And here in Spanish.

I've given up trying to understand the Spanish government's attitude towards renewable sources of energy. Five years or so ago, it was massively into it – chucking subsidies around with abandon – but then it was massively out of it - bankrupting some of the companies who'd got the subsidies. But now it's said to be back in it, though I don't know on what scale. Here's an article on the subject.

Here's a longish article - in English – which sets out to explain why most Europeans still love the EU, even in those countries where the economy has been damaged by the stupid decision to introduce a currency which was only ever going to benefit Germany. For balance . . . At the end of this post, there's a nice article from someone who voted to remain but now thinks the querulous Remainers should stop their bitching. She also explains something about British attitudes.

Note: As usual on a Thursday, I'm indebted to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for several of today's items. Or at least for the incentive to address them.

Today's cartoon:-


I voted Remain, but these delusional Remainers are damaging Britain  Juliet Samuel.

It wasn’t until the long morning of June 24 that I realised how thoroughly the EU had permeated my world. I, who wasn’t even born when Margaret Thatcher negotiated the rebate, watched from my sofa through the night as the country I thought I knew defied all my expectations and voted for a quiet revolution. 

 I had been torturously on the fence about Brexit. My principles had said “out”, but my pragmatism – on geopolitics, not the economy – had won out and, in the end, I voted “remain”. So when the country voted the other way, in accordance with my principles, perhaps I should have been happy. Instead, I was knocked totally off balance, not by thoughts of politics, prosperity or anything quite so grand and momentous. 

What hit me was much more personal. Here, suddenly, my path diverged from that of all the Europeans I knew. The lands and cities they called home were no longer open to me in the same way. And they no longer felt so at ease in London, in what we had all tacitly thought was Europe’s real capital – the place where young Europeans came to make it big. I woke up to find that we were all a little bit more foreign to one another than we had been the day before. 

This underlined to me that for all the rational arguments and the data and the experts, politics, in the end, is an emotional business. So I understand the grief and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth, if not the futile marches and flags and petitions mounted by Remainerswho cannot accept what has happened. Now, though, Article 50 has been triggered and it is time – well past time, to be honest – for these campaigners to put down their placards and rejoin the real world. 

 I was shocked in June, but it never occurred to me for a moment that the decision made by millions of thinking people was reversible. I did not hate them for disagreeing with me, or think that they were stupid or vicious. I did not delude myself that the result was illegitimate or temporary. And it was clear to me immediately that any fight to subvert or deny the implications of what had been decided would end only in disappointment or, worse, if it succeeded, national tumult and fury. 

The negotiations, I am sure, will be difficult and painful, but I am not interested in fatalistic prophecies of doom – the bitter words of those who want it to go wrong, so they can be right. Those angry Europhile holdouts, who are still desperately arguing with the dealer, must now fold their cards and accept defeat. They lost, and many of them, like Tony Blair and Gina Miller, aren’t used to losing (Nick Clegg excluded). They are not obligated to change their minds, but they do need to accept that the democratic process has now taken over. None of them, whatever their delusions of grandeur, can claim a mandate to stop it. 

Worse, their doomed attempts to stop Brexit are harmful to our chances of a good deal. Since June, British and European politicians have been on separate planets as far as Brexit is concerned. Their expectations and ours are wildly unaligned, but nowhere are they further apart than in the belief, cherished in some EU circles, that the genie can be put back in the bottle. Die Welt, the German daily, splashed its paper on Wednesday with a message: “Dear Brits, ze door is schtill open.” Cute, but delusional. 

The problem is that the more reversible EU leaders think Brexit is, the worse the deal they are incentivised to offer. The logic is simple: put together a really dreadful package for us and the regretful Brits will have second thoughts. 

Nothing could illustrate more plainly the continent’s profound misunderstanding of British democracy. It’s winner-takes-all or it’s nothing. That, incidentally, is one of the fundamental reasons why we never bought into the EU project. British voters don’t trust permanent political coalitions and unchallenged consensus. 

Now, Theresa May’s tricky balancing act, as her letter to Brussels showed, will be to generate a positive atmosphere for negotiations, while conveying Britain’s sense of determination and commitment to leaving, deal or no deal. She must be tough, but without descending into the slanging match that some EU figures are spoiling for. 

These fanatics, like the British fatalists arguing that the country is ruined or the holdouts still declaring maniacally, like the philosopher AC Grayling, that “Brexit must be stopped!”, are just driving us all further apart. 

One of the troublesome aspects of democracy is that voters aren’t controllable. It is also its essence. The EU project has been pushed and pushed on its citizens regardless of their votes or their views.

This is precisely what has left it in such a dangerous, half-baked position, with a dysfunctional currency, porous borders and dependent on others for its defence. Whatever our flaws, that is not how Britain does things. And all of us, Remainers included, should be grateful for that.


Sierra said...

There are a couple of wind-turbine assembly plants adjacent to the A6 autovia, and during recent trips South the convoys of large sections of masts and generators seemed to have restarted. There was a noticeable lull for a period

Eamon said...

I read the article about the Euro currency and it would seem many are happy with it. Apart from the British pensioner whose pension is up and down like a yoyo, the same situation applies to those Spanish pensioners receiving their pension from the UK. When Spain had the Peseta it was to their advantage because each revalue meant their Pound was giving them more Pesetas. Now of course it is a different story and those Spaniards returning as pensioners are going to find it hard to balance the books. I remember the days when the Spaniards who worked in the UK use to come here on holiday to Coruña with their wads of Pesetas and stories how well they were doing in the UK. Many lived in domestic premises where they paid no rent or travel expenses. There was a big outcry when Mrs. Thatcher introduced the poll tax because they had never paid anything to the local council before. I don't think the article was written for your average Joe to read.