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:-


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.


Q10 said...

Colin, You appear to understand this Catalonia issue much better than me and just about anyone else I know.

Just been reading THIS and Catalonia, as an autonomous community, has quite a big bunch of exclusive competences already.

I assume their desire for independence is driven by their wish to be rid of the partial & shared ones.

As an expert in all this, could you suggest which partial & shared competences are most important to them?

How much is the need to raise and spend their own tax a driver in this?

Ophelia - Have you seen THIS?

Hatches fully battened down I trust.

Colin Davies said...

Well, I guess the quick answer is that they should have the additional rights already ceded to the Basques. And be part of a truly federal state such as the USA and Germany. But, TBH, I have no real idea how these operate in practice. Nor how happy this would make the Catalans. The nationalist coalition is comprised of political enemies, some of whom know see the president as a 'traitor', along with a few mayors. The coalition will, therefore, ultimately break up. Possiby over any deal Madrid is finally compelled to offer them, short of full independence.

Perry said...


This is a video of the Mossos facing down the Guardia Civil.

It was embedded in the Spengler article you posted yesterday. It all comes down to fertility.

In addition, Spengler has a different opinion from you about President Trump.

How do you feel about H. Clinton, the Obamas & the Hollywood cabal who lionised Harvey Weinstein & ignored the rumours about his predations. It would seem that these moralising, selfish hypocrites should study the New Testament more carefully: "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone". Their political stances are rather more dissolute than the President's

Colin Davies said...

Trump: Do you mean the man or his policies?

Colin Davies said...

Spengler on Trump: "Trump is vulgar, ill-informed and poorly spoken. He has no foreign policy credentials and a disturbing inclination to give credit to Russia’s Vladimir Putin where it isn’t due. But he has one thing that the fifty former officials lack, and that is healthy common sense."

Can't say I disagree much with any of that. Though not sure that whatever he has compensates for his deficencies . . .

Doubtless, though, he's made other comments, both negative and positive.

Colin Davies said...

And I do agree with his pressure on Islamic countries - and on NATO members re defence spending, for example.

I have strong views, too, on uber-liberal attitudes to tribal societies and multiculturalism. I have lived in two Muslim societies for several years and know both the good and the bad of them. To some extent, at least. I also know what repressive RC societies can be like as well.

Colin Davies said...

Perry: Just been reading some of this. Rather doubt Spengler would respect the individual who comes across, as opposed to (at least some of his) commons-sense strategic views.

Perry said...


Yep, President Trump is a conundrum all right, but he's certainly a better proposition than the smegheads who despise him. There is no freedom without responsibility. Democrats neither accept not understand this principle, upon which all other principles are founded. They are whited sepulchres, clean on the outside & full of corruption within. Freedom is the willingness to accept the result of one's actions & thoughts.

How does one know when one has won a debate? When the opposition is reduced to cruel, vindictive & sometimes violent personal attacks. For example, Tony Abbott has given an explosive speech saying there’s basically nothing Australians can do to change the climate, and a little warming may actually be good. You know it was a good speech because you can hear the screaming and the abuse.

Perry said...

Here's Justin, wrecking his children's futures. What a ponce.

Colin Davies said...

@Perry: From The Times of 12.10: All President Trump’s yes men aren’t helping, says his friend Tom Barrack

A close confidant of President Trump delivered a rare public rebuke yesterday, saying that he had surrounded himself with “yes men” and urging him to split from his nationalist base.

Tom Barrack, 70, a billionaire property mogul who turned down a cabinet position, is considered one of the few people whom Mr Trump regards as a peer.

He said that he was bewildered at the president’s focus on contentious policies such as the Muslim travel ban and building a wall along the Mexican border.

“He thinks he has to be loyal to his base,” Mr Barrack told The Washington Post. “I keep on saying, ‘But who is your base? You don’t have a natural base. Your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies. Show them who you really are.’ In my opinion, he’s better than this.”

Mr Barrack has known Mr Trump since the 1980s. He raised funds for his presidential campaign and has been mentioned as a possible White House chief of staff.

He said yesterday that he had been shocked by Mr Trump’s incendiary tweets. “I tell him all the time, ‘I don’t like the rhetoric’,” Mr Barrack said.

Mr Trump, he added, was surrounded by too many “yes men”. He said: “He is very good at being told he is wrong. People don’t have the courage to do it. He pushes back hard, but the people he respects the most are the people who have the most refined and not wimpy point of view.”

Mr Barrack said the pair had “a great personal friendship”, adding: “Our lives went along the same cadence. We both got divorced, we both had kids the same age, we both got remarried, and we did different deals together.”

Asked how their friendship had survived, Mr Barrack said: “Here’s what I think the answer is: I’ve never needed anything from him . . . I was always subservient to him.”

Search This Blog