Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 10.7.18

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 hereGarish but informative.

  • There are thousands of dying villages in Spain. No more so than here in Galicia. Here's news of a fightback.
  • I've long known that lots of Spanish wine is sold in France as being of French origin. As with olive oil. So I'm surprised this is news
  • Click here for Timothy Parfitt's weekly take on matters Spanish. Still rather angry.
Life in Spain
  • I wish this had happened before my elder daughter in Madrid had spent thousands on treatment . . .
  • The Spanish army wises up.
  1. Having driven there numerous times, I've long rejected the Spanish view that the locals are terrible drivers. But on Sunday someone drove out in front of me on a main road not once, not twice but thrice. The first one – who shot a red light with her kids in the back – merely laughed at my protestation. The second apologised. But the third just stared at me (Spanish style), as if I were the malefactor. On top of this, I had to swerve on the autopista, when returning home, to avoid someone racing from a slip road. So, I'm reviewing my opinion. But everything's relative, of course.
  2. Portugal can be remarkably cheap when compared with Spain. An Irish couple we were talking to in Ponte de Lima thought they'd been undercharged for their drinks. I told them that the 4 drinks we'd had during the England match on Saturday had been cheaper than just the GnT would cost just an hour away in Spain.
  3. As every patron in the bar in which we saw the match was smoking, I had to check the law in Portugal. Turns out it's been banned since 2009. Hard to believe the more-polite/considerate Portuguese are less rule-abiding than the Spanish. Maybe the bar is unique. Possibly owned by a local police officer.
The EU and Brexit
  • The farce has entered a new phase. Says Ambrose Evans Pritchard: An entirely new Brexit chapter is suddenly upon us. Anything is now possible. I guess that's very true.
  • For anyone interested in the latest developments, see the Special below this post.
  • News of an interesting way to protest against the Catholic church, an institution with an appalling record of abuse in Ireland. As the writer points out, despite recent wholesale rejection of Catholic dogma in Ireland, it's still involved in running 90% of state-funded primary schools and is still 'deeply enmeshed' in the country's medical system. Very possibly even more so than here in Spain. But at least things are moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.
Talking of religion . . .

  • From day one of this administration, the President has bent over backwards to do the bidding of religious ideologues. So it comes as no surprise that the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh continues this pattern of elevating the religious views of an extreme minority above the rights of women, LGBTQ Americans, atheists, and religious minorities. What a way to establish a supreme court!
  • Only 37% of Galicians think that Franco's body should be moved from the basilica in the Valley of the Fallen. Whereas, in sharp contrast, 37% think it shouldn't be. As this is a pretty right-wing, conservative region, this is probably not representative of the national view.
  • Some new beggars yesterday. A not-exactly-underweight couple standing outside a food shop and asking for money to allow them to eat. . . .

As you can see, they have rucksacks on their backs. I decided not to ask them how they afforded to get to Pontevedra.

  • I confess that I have a daily feed of mentions of my name on the net. Usually it's just my blog but occasionally a namesake does something somewhere in the world. Today there are more than 30 citations, 27 of which relate to some Alberta oil company and its CEO.
© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 9.7.18


Who on earth can say what's going to happen next. A selection of comments:-

Rachel Sylvester in The Times this morning:- This week it looks more likely than ever that the eventual result of all the political shenanigans will be deadlock between parliament and the executive over Europe. The only solution to that would be for MPs to throw the question back to the voters in a new referendum on the terms of the final deal. How ironic that the resignations of Mr Johnson and Mr Davis could have increased the chances of Brexit being overturned.

Richard North and Christopher Booker: When future historians seek to explain why Britain made such a disastrous shambles of its bid to leave the EU, nothing may surprise them more than to discover how little the British seemed to understand the basic workings of the organisation they wanted to leave. Nothing better defines the nature of the EU than its rigorously rules-based “internal market”: which allows its members to enjoy “frictionless” trade with each other. Yet, however often this was pointed out to the British, they seemed incapable of recognising the inevitable consequences of their decision to leave the entire European Economic Area (EEA), to become what is termed a “third country”.

Richard North on Boris Johnson: As we bid farewell to the oaf, we lose someone who was unfit to make any useful contribution to the Brexit process. We are far better off without him.

Melanie Philips of The Times. Two Rights and one Wrong
  • Right: Contrary to Remainer sneers, people voted Brexit for the most principled of reasons. They wanted their country to regain the power to decide its own laws, act in its best interests and rule itself with policies passed by its own parliament.
  • Right: Few, however cynical, could surely have foreseen the utter ineptitude of what then followed. 
  • Wrong: At such a momentous time, a real leader would have told the country something like this: “Look, we may have to bite some bullets. But overall, a clean break will open up stellar economic prospects for us. More important still, we will once again control our own laws and destiny. “And for that great prize we will pay a price if we have to, just as this country has always done for freedom and independence - which, after all, is what Britain is fundamentally all about.” And such a leader would have told the EU something like this: “The people of Britain have spoken and we are leaving you. We will not seek a deal; we will take our chances with WTO tariffs because even with those we’ll still take you to the cleaners. If you would like to offer us a deal, though, you’ll find our door is always open. Goodbye!” [As Richard North has frequently pointed out, this is dangerous nonsense.]
Ambrose Evans Pritchard, probably being far too optimistic this time.

A sovereign Brexit is suddenly possible again

Theresa May made a fatal error trying to bounce the Cabinet into a violation of its Manifesto

The Chequers Plan is still-born. Theresa May cannot command a Tory majority in Parliament for her fatal compromise. The votes can be found only by turning to the opposition, and that way lies Sir Robert Peel and the schism of 1846.

The Prime Minister overplayed her hand disastrously by trying to bounce the Cabinet and the Parliamentary party into support for a settlement that violates the electoral manifesto, the Lancaster House speech, the verdict of the referendum, and the minimum conditions of sovereign self-government.

An entirely new Brexit chapter is suddenly upon us. Anything is now possible. The spectrum ranges – by way of a snap election – from "Global Britain" on WTO terms at one end, to a Corbyn government at the other.

Markets are belatedly waking up to the enormity of this. There had been a view among currency traders that the resignation of David Davis would clear the way for an even softer Brexit, or partial EU membership without voting rights to be more accurate. Sterling briefly rallied. The departure of Boris Johnson hours later shattered that illusion.

Thirty Conservative MPs were in revolt even before the misjudged lock-in at Chequers. They now have two of Brexit’s Cabinet heavyweights in their camp, flanked by Jacob Rees-Mogg and the seventy-strong militia of the European Research Council. The floodgates have opened. It is surely only a matter of time before the requisite 48 letters needed to trigger a leadership race arrive at the 1922 Committee.

I do not wish to labour the details of the Chequers Plan. Martin Howe, QC, has already conducted a forensic analysis of what we know about this week’s White Paper. His verdict – all over the internet – is worth repeating: “These proposals lead directly to a worst-of-all-worlds 'Black Hole' Brexit where the UK is stuck permanently as a vassal state in the EU’s legal and regulatory tarpit, still has to obey EU laws and ECJ rulings across vast areas, cannot develop an effective international trade policy, and has lost its vote and treaty vetoes rights.”

Yes, it pulls Britain out of the EU’s foreign policy sphere (Pillar 2), and "justice and home affairs" (Pillar 3). It remains to be seen how this squares with Mrs May’s Munich pledge in February to accept the writ of the European Court in dealings with Europol, Eurojust, and the European Arrest Warrant.

It removes the UK from the ambit of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This was the mechanism by which the ECJ was acquiring jurisdiction over almost anything it wanted – in violation of Britain’s opt-out under Protocol 30 – and was the biggest single reason why I voted for Brexit. Hurrah for that.

But what it does not do is to free Britain from EU’s ‘Pillar 1’ legal structure, the central corpus of directives and regulations that make up most of the 170,000-page Acquis. This is an inertial body of law. The EU rarely repeals any of it even when known to be harmful.

The UK would accept this existing stock of law totally. Some divergence would be possible on future laws but subject to “consequences” (ie reprisals). There is any case a separate pledge for “ongoing harmonisation with EU rules on goods” written into the withdrawal treaty.

The plan effectively binds Britain into EU law on the environment, social policy, employment, and consumer protection, and leaves British judges subordinate to rulings by ECJ – all behind a cloak of formal sovereignty. It is in fact suzerainty.  

The Facilitated Customs Arrangement would make it all but impossible to carry out free trade deals with the US, or Australia, Japan, China, or to join the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership. The UK would not be able to offer “mutual recognition” on goods and farm produce. It would therefore leave the UK trapped in perpetuity in the EU’s legal orbit.

While Britain would still be free to pursue service deals, it would lack the chief instrument of leverage needed to pry open this highly-protected global market. If the UK cannot offer other countries open access to its market for goods as a quid pro quo, it is not going get very far knocking on trade doors. The only way to carry out global trade negotiations with force and credibility is to restore total control over all areas of policy.  

There is some merit to Michael Gove’s view that “best is enemy of good” and that what matters now is to consummate Britain’s legal exit from the EU before it is obstructed by Brexit foes. Much can be done later. You can certainly argue that Britain should bide its time as the EU lurches from one convulsive crisis to another. It is doubtful whether the eurozone can survive another global downturn with its current structure, in which case the EU will evolve into a different animal. Yet to rely on this is dangerously passive. As Boris Johnson wrote in his resignation letter, Britain is “headed for the status of a colony” in the Chequers course. Such an outcome would have corrosive effects on our democracy. It could not plausibly be a stable settlement for either Britain or the EU. Nor is there really an economic imperative to accept this.

Observing the European side of the Brexit drama closely over the last two years, my views have hardened. Much ink has been spilt on the likely damage to the UK economy if Britain opts for a clean Brexit, that is to say if it leaves the customs union and the single market, and opts for the WTO rather prostrating itself in hope of a Canada-minus trade package on the EU’s ideological terms.

Little has been written on the traumatic consequences for EU itself if – as a result of its own actions – trade barriers with Britain are erected in March 2019, and if it loses full access to the City’s capital markets. My conclusion is that the EU is extremely vulnerable to such a shock. Large parts of European industry would be paralysed. Recession would reignite the EMU banking crisis. The political fall-out would lead to bitter recriminations between EU states with different strategic interests.

These are themes that I will explore over coming days. Suffice to say that the collective loss of nerve by the British establishment is pitiful to behold. They have succumbed to a psychology of fear. Vested interests have run amok.

Conservative MP John Redwood has pithy advice in his latest Brexit diary. The Prime Minister should offer the EU the choice of trading with this country on the basis of a comprehensive free trade deal, or on WTO terms. End of story. No requests should be made. No concessions should be made.

Britain should reclaim its schedules from the WTO while leaving the door open for a full trade deal that includes services on the basis of mutual recognition, should the EU wish to protect its €80bn (£71bn) surplus. This would concentrate minds in Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, Madrid, and Warsaw. [As pointed out above, Richard North  - despitre being an ardent Brexiteer - insists this would be madness.]

If Theresa May will not embark on a radically different course, others might.


Sierra said...

Portugal - noting that dual-language (Spanish/Portuguese) packaging is appearing in Mercadona, pending their opening of supermarkets there, and your note on low prices - wonder if this will encourage cross-border shopping, if the locations are convenient?

Perry said...

Dying villages. Entropy cannot be reversed.

Link to your daughter's treatment is faulty.

Spanish military. How do women march in skirts & high heels, as shown in the link?

Belguim has a bad rap re its drivers. https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/anything-goes/where-will-you-find-worst-drivers-europe

Rucksack with legs beggars. Ask them if they like sex & travel? Loses its pithiness when translated though!

Te gusta el sexo y viajar Vete a la mierda.

EU. It would see that the only politicians who read


were on the other side of the ENGLISH Channel.

TOYS FOR BOYS. https://www.springfields.co.uk/anglo-arms-jaguar-crossbow-set-175lb.html

Colin Davies said...

Good question, Sierra. Will have to check on that.

Colin Davies said...

Thank, Perry. Link fixed.

Colin Davies said...

@Sierra. We might see many Spaniards going south to shop in Valença passing an equal number of Portuguese going north to get their petrol in Tui.

Mercadona has a supermarket near the autovia outside Tui. Wonder how their prices will compare with any Mercadona store across the border.

Dr Aliu Shadira said...
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