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
- Cataluña1: President Rajoy, ever the optimist, has said that, if there's civil unrest in Cataluña, he will extend the period of control and call for elections 'as soon as normality has been restored'. Another strategy that should work well, then . . .
- Cataluña 2: Not all is well in the Catalan independence camp. Click here for details.
- Cataluña 3: Where next? No one knows. But here's a try at the possibilities.
- Cataluña 4: You'll recall that John Carlin was sacked by El País for showing sympathy towards the Catalans and criticising the Spanish government. This is him in an interview this week: There is a danger of identifying Spain with the Partido Popular and with that sector of the establishment in Madrid so mediocre and outdated that it is leading the politics towards Catalonia. Spain is a great country, surely the best country in Western Europe for immigrants, a good country for homosexuals, for women, for children and for the elderly. There are many things that are progressive and modern in Spain. And these people are not going to be in power forever. HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for this.
- Spain 1: In court this week, President Rajoy was accused - by the ex Treasurer - of receiving almost €400,000 in cash from his party's Black Box. The Spanish media didn't deem this worthy of much attention.
- Spain 2: El País has strenuously denied that it's a government mouthpiece on the Catalan issue. Some of us will think the paper doth protest too much. See Lenox Napier on this here.
- Spain 3: Commerce in Spain is not exactly as it is in the Anglo sphere. Is this a good example of this?: The European Court of Justice has ruled that selling items at a loss in stores is legal. A Spanish law prohibiting ‘loss-leaders’ is, therefore, illegal.
- Spain 4: The country has some very odd forenames, such as Dolores, Pilar, Penitencia and maybe even Purgatoria. I came across Estabilez yesterday but was surprised it doesn't seem to have anything to do with 'stability'. Or estabilidad.
- Spain 4: It's reported that: The police have so far identified 800 British tourists who'd participated in the widespread hotel diarrhoea scam. They deserve everything they get by way of punishment. As would all Spain's corrupt politicians, should they ever get any.
- At the end of this post is an article by the estimable David Aaronovitch on the madness of the leading lights in the UK government's woefully managed negotiations. It contains nothing with which a sensible Brexiteer like Richard North could disagree. And it even contains a bit of Spanish . . . In essence, realistic folk on both sides of the Brexit divide are tearing their hair out at the prospect of a UK future far worse than it ever needed to be. At least pro tem.
- In case you're not inclined to read it, the article contains this news:- The government whip has sent a letter to all UK universities requesting a list of names of professors “involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit”. When an explanation for this was demanded, a government minister laughably responded that the whip had “long-term interests in the history of European thought” and was thinking of writing a book about it. Worthy of the Spanish government. Possibly.
- Here's said Richard North, of EU Referendum, in a similar vein: The real story is that of a Prime Minister who is almost daily demonstrating her own incompetence. . . . Such is the magnitude of this endeavour that we should almost be approaching it on a level of wartime planning, with party politics temporarily suspended. In this current, fractious environment, there is no likelihood that people will work together to provide what is needed. . . So, it seems, we are doomed. Breaking through the noise level and overcoming the stupidity and the institutional inertia seems now to be beyond human capability. We either need a miracle – or substantial emergency stocks of food. I'm opting for the latter.
Think about it . . .
Brexit fundamentalists are the enemy within: David Aaronovitch
I’ve written some books. One of the things you say when you’re asking for help, usually near the beginning of your request, is “I’m writing a book”. The other thing you might do if using Commons-headed notepaper would be to add the words “in a personal capacity”. Mr H-H did neither. Even so it took four attempts by the interviewer to get the man responsible for universities to agree the letter should not have been sent.
What is going on here? Why is a whip making such a fool of himself and why is the minister so afraid to call him out on it? Why indeed did several of Mr Heaton-Harris’s colleagues immediately support his request for information, or as one Leave campaigner put it (unaware of the book angle), his request that “academics disclose what they’re teaching in the interests of transparency”?
Indeed within hours one or two were even extending the scope of the inquiry to include what was being taught in schools. This prompted one teacher to respond that since “there is no national curriculum any more in academy schools we just burn the flag and sing the Ode to Joy until lunchtime”.
Things have not gone as the people who led the Leave campaign in 2016 imagined they would, have they? The vote unexpectedly won, joyous dawns breaking, a new prime minister with a new mantra. They live by a set of propositions: the EU wants a deal as much as we do; it’s in their interests even more than it is in ours; trade deals are easy. As though winning a vote to go to war was somehow the same thing as fighting and winning the war. Berlin will fall by Christmas: it must do, we voted for it!
Soon it will be 18 months since the referendum and we’re not through phase one. We’re arguing about how long a transitional arrangement will last, which will take us to a final agreement we haven’t even articulated.
For a thwarted Leaver there are broadly two explanations for this failure: we were wrong about all that, or we were robbed. Human nature, fallen and self-exculpatory as it is, tends to favour the latter. In which case, who’s done the robbing?
Heaton-Harris’s target in this instance, whatever Mr Johnson’s literary diversion, was Remoaning academics. This elite part of the elite is being paid by the taxpayer (sorry, wrong century: by the feepayer, at least in part) to give a biased and frankly unpatriotic gloss on a vital national issue. Let’s expose them.
Another week the house journals of the Brexit movement will give great prominence to a bogus and statistically useless report claiming that the BBC has been biased against them. Or it’s the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, who was described by Jacob Rees-Mogg this week as an “enemy” of Brexit. Which of course means an enemy of the people’s will as expressed in the referendum and therefore (the polite Jake won’t say it but there’s plenty who will) an enemy of the people.
Or it’s Hammond and the Treasury. Believe it or not, at a time when much of business is already nervous and skittish, there are Tory MPs agitating for the prime minister to sack the chancellor.
Before PMQs yesterday David Davis appeared in front of the Commons Brexit committee. Earlier in the week there’d been an “Ooh Canada!” moment among some Brexiteers when Michel Barnier said he envisaged something like Canada’s deal with the EU being the end result for the UK. Confusing Canada’s trade deal with actually being Canada, they must have felt deflated when Mr Davis pointed out that, among other problems, Canada has no agreement on financial services. So no to that.
Mr Davis was also asked how far in advance of leaving the EU in March 2019 we would get a chance to look over the deal. He allowed that it was quite possible that the deal would arrive after departure.
Mr Rees-Mogg pressed him. Not about parliament’s right to have a vote prior to departure but on the “worry that if we get to March 2019 [a transitional deal will mean] we stay in the EU for a further two years”.
The worry! I have my views on Brexit and readers know what these are. Even so, listening to colleagues, friends in the civil service and in business, to negotiators and (sorry) experts, I am clear that Brexit is 20 times as difficult and complicated as even I had ever imagined. It will cost us however we do it, but do it badly and in a hurry and it will be incredibly harmful, not least for those “left behind” voters who backed it.
And yet here we have Bernard Jenkin MP, of the influential Tory European Research Group, writing three weeks ago that “there is no intrinsic reason why Brexit should be difficult or damaging”. He was urging Theresa May to stand against the Treasury. On to Berlin!
A report from the Henry Jackson Society was released this week looking, among other things, at why converts to Islam were more likely to become radicalised, and I found myself thinking of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. The first was unsure which way he’d jump till 2016 and the other didn’t want a referendum at all. And now they’re black-turban Brexiteers. We all have to suffer for their convictions.
Between them all they’re destroying the room for manoeuvre that the prime minister has. She daren’t cross them. They have a Remainer like Jo Johnson scared to call them out on their nonsense. Though there are precious few takers in Britain for their kind of Brexit, they still have the government and therefore the country by the cojones.
Mr Corbyn doesn’t mind. He hardly mentioned Brexit yesterday. He doesn’t have to fly to Europe to be photographed alone surrounded by mourning lilies. He goes down the allotment before appearing on Gogglebox to have a little twinkle. The Heaton-Harrises, the Jenkinses, the Rees-Moggs, the new Orange Order, “pickled in dogma”, suit him just fine.