Monday, July 23, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 23.7.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Spain
  • The widespread view is that the new leader of the PP party will take it (even further) to the Right.
  • I couldn't help noticing that his (blonde) wife resembles Mrs Macron. Indeed, the couple together look rather similar to the Macrons. As do the leader of Ciudadanos and his (blonde) wife. Telegenic, I guess. As Mr and Mrs Blair used to be . . .
  • Someone has described Sr Casado as 'A robot created in the factory of [ex-president] Aznar'. Sounds about right.
  • You have to laugh at Casado's assertion that No one is going to lecture us on corruption.
Life in Spain
  • If you live here and feel some food prices have been rising sharply, you're right. Fruit and veg in particular. See here.
  • There might be a huge backlog in Spain's slow-moving courts – especially in post-strike Galicia – but this is no reason to change cultural norms. When, last week, I told the clerk of the court that I couldn't make the appointment for this week, she replied it would have to be either the next day or some time in September, as nothing happened in August. As if I didn't know.
  • My comment yesterday about there being no 5 centimo coin was, first, an afterthought and, secondly, totally wrong. There are 5, 2 and even 1 cent coins. My excuse is that I was thinking about no one these days quoting prices in duros (5 cents), as they did to me in a village near Malaga back in 2001. But this is probably wrong as well. I can imagine it happening in a village up in the hills.
The UK and Brexit
  • What was I saying about the Norway option? See the articles below. 
  • Nice comment: Brexit has become like one of those obscure theological debates, where seemingly trivial doctrinal differences that few outside the priesthood fully comprehend manage to incite extreme passions and seething anger
  • Richard North remains pessimistic: Whatever else, we are not going to see the adoption of the Efta/EEA option under our current prime minister. This stupid woman has convinced herself that it "would mean continued free movement, ongoing vast annual payments and total alignment with EU rules across the whole of our economy, and no control of our trade policy". If that was true, it would be unacceptable. That Mrs May believes it to be true makes it unacceptable to her and her followers. And that puts it out of reach as a solution for the time being. we can all live in hope that a last-minute solution will be found. But only fools will embrace the current situation or look upon it with any degree of optimism. We are sleepwalking into a political crisis, the like of which has not been experienced in living memory.  . . From our point of view, we must never accept that a "no deal" is the end of the matter, or abandon hope that, some day, we can get things moving in the direction of the Efta/EEA option. This requires an intensification of effort, to overcome the ignorance and misinformation that has so damaged perception of the option.
  • Christopher Booker: The full implications of leaving the EEA were never explained in the referendum campaign, and they have never been understood by our politicians since. But in eight months time, they will begin to be brought home to us. To put it mildly, we will not be happy.
The UK
  • Utterly depressing news . . . Thirty-four per cent of Brits think Johnson would do a better job than Mrs May in negotiating the Brexit. Though, on reflection, this is not so surprising. Or even depressing. Almost anyone in the UK would do a better job. Certainly depressing, though, is that the majority of Tory voters think Johnson should lead the Conservatives into the next election. A poor man's Trump. God forbid.
The USA
  • If Trump were to go, Mike Pence would be in charge. Watch this video for a coruscating view of the man from a fellow Republican.
Russia and The USA
  • Historian Niall Ferguson affirms that, if future historian are any good, they will ask is: What did Trump and Putin actually discuss in private, with only interpreters present? He speculates: If I know Putin, it will have been the big-picture geopolitical stuff, and then hazards this guess at what was said:-
VP: What is the point of our constantly being at odds, Donald?
DT: Beats me.
VP: These sanctions are the work of your corrupt Congress. They are pointless. I am not giving back Crimea, and you know it.
DT: That’s a fact.
VP: True, I occasionally try to liquidate my political opponents, sometimes in foreign locations such as Salisbury, sometimes unsuccessfully, but your CIA has been doing that kind of wet job since time immemorial.
DT: There’s no denying it.
VP: Who are our real enemies?
DT: The Chinese. The Iranians. I’m kind of sick of the Germans too.
VP: You’re talking my language. I don’t much like those guys either. Here’s the way I see it. If you and I can work together, I can help you and you can help me. We cut a deal in the Middle East. We screw the Iranians — I don’t need them any more in Syria. We put the squeeze on the Chinese before they take over the world, including my back yard in central Asia. And we remind the Germans how much they fear us and need you.
DT: I like it.
VP: But just one thing, Donald.
DT: What’s that?
VP: No one must find out what we just agreed. So when we do the press conference, make sure you play your usual game with the press.
DT: Leave it to me.
VP: You know what the historians will call you and me one day, Donald?
DT: No — what?
VP: The Double Negatives.
DT: I don’t see why they wouldn’t.
Galicia/Pontevedra
  • I don't know what happens in real federal states such as the USA and Germany, but here in this pseudo-federal state major taxes can differ markedly from region to region. Capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes and property transger, for example. It's all a bit of a mess and the tax office (the Hacienda) appears to be gearing up for standardisation. The Galician president has insisted this is a devolved competency and that it'll never happen. I wouldn't be so confident. The new PSOE government needs higher tax revenue. What would be easier than to modify low-tax regional schemes?
  • As if we really needed it, there's a new autovia – the A57 - being built to connect the north-south AP9 while bypassing Pontevedra in the hills to the east. Some work is taking place in one place and other stretches have been identified and even approved. But I note that the press reports don't mention even a tentative date for completion. Possibly wise.
  • There's a vicious kind of Asian wasp that's killing people here in Galicia – 2 farmers in the last week or so. It's called the velutina here, based on it's real name of Vespa velutina. Almost as dangerous as our kamikaze drivers.
Finally . . .
  • I wonder why Americans say cohabitate, when Brits say cohabit.

© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 22.7.18

THE ARTICLES

1. Britain's politics have been broken by Brexit, leaving the Norway option as the only viable way forward
After another turbulent week at Westminster, epitomised by Tories screaming abuse at one another as if on opposite sides of the house, Brexit is once again in a state of limbo.

Even though agreed by Cabinet, the Chequers white paper was essentially dead on arrival. No deal is better than a bad deal, Theresa May famously said. About the only thing everyone agrees on is that Chequers is very bad indeed; so bad in fact, that Brussels would be biting the Prime Minister’s hand off to accept it if negotiators thought there was any possibility of it being the final negotiating position.

Brexit has become like one of those obscure theological debates, where seemingly trivial doctrinal differences that few outside the priesthood fully comprehend manage to incite extreme passions and seething anger. There is not just the overarching schism between Leave and Remain, but schisms within schisms, and heresies so arcane that even their advocates struggle to define them.

The result is total gridlock. Understandably, markets grow ever more concerned about an accidental, no deal outcome. That certainly seems to be the logic of the present impasse; if nothing else can be agreed, then there is nothing to negotiate, and Britain will tumble out on World Trade Organisation terms.

Even so, I can’t see that happening; on present parliamentary arithmetic, it wouldn’t be allowed. My bet is still that once the politicians have fully exhausted themselves, we’ll end up with an ultra soft, Norway or European Economic Area type Brexit. Hardliners will just have to suck it and hope that it’s no more than a staging post to a more comprehensive divorce down the line. One thing looks ever more certain, however; it won’t be Mrs May who delivers it.

2. The shambles that is the Brexit negotiations is entering its dog days: Christopher Booker

The last days of July were known to the ancient world as the “dog days”, associated with oppressive heat and drought, causing human affairs to become feverishly unreal and men (and dogs) to lose their marbles.

Certainly, recent days have lived up to that billing, most obviously in the ever more glaring shambles we are making over Brexit. First, we had Chequers and Theresa May’s tortuous “final offer” White Paper. It prompted a stream of ministerial resignations but was almost immediately dismissed by the European Commission as wholly unworkable. Then came those fractious Commons debates, which showed that scarcely a single MP has any idea of what an impossible situation we find ourselves in.

This was followed by Liam Fox warning the EU that, unless it accepts Mrs May’s “fair and reasonable” offer, several of its economies, such as that of Ireland, would face severe damage, amounting to tens of billions of pounds. No mention of the far greater damage we are risking to our own economy.

Finally, any sense that we might be fast approaching a denouement to the mess we have made of our negotiations could only have been confirmed by the Commission’s 16-page “Communication” on Thursday, warning all concerned that they must urgently prepare themselves, with or without a deal, for the very serious consequences of the UK’s decision to withdraw itself from every aspect of the EU’s economic system, to become what is termed a “third country”.

This followed the 68 Notices to Stakeholders issued by the Commission since March, setting out the legal repercussions of our decision to become a “third country” for almost every sector of our economic activity (how many British politicians have read them?).

Economic chaos now seems inevitable. And this will be the result of a quite unprecedented failure by our entire political class, so lost in its soap bubbles of wishful thinking that it has never begun to appreciate the reality of what we were up against

The latest paper reminds us that our decision to leave not just the EU but also the wider European Economic Area (EEA) makes it inevitable that, even with an agreed deal, we shall face often fatally time-consuming border controls all along our new frontiers with the EU (Ireland included).

So enmeshed have we become with Europe over four decades that previous Notices to Stakeholders have already pointed out just how much of our national life is now only legally authorised under EU regulations, from our driving licences and our right to fly into EU airspace, to those “passporting rights” that have helped London to stay the financial centre of Europe.

Yet we now have barely three months to sort all this out before October, when we were supposed to have signed a final deal: all because our politicians have frittered away 17 months putting forward nothing more than fantasy “non-solutions”, not one of which could have worked.

Barely imaginable economic chaos now seems inevitable. And this will be the result of a quite unprecedented failure by our entire political class, so lost in its soap bubbles of wishful thinking that it has never begun to appreciate the reality of what we were up against. Worst of all is the realisation that virtually all of this mess was avoidable, if only Mrs May had not made her fateful Lancaster House decision to leave the EEA, our membership of which could alone have ensured continued “frictionless” trade “within the market”, which, until then, she told us was what she wanted.

The full implications of leaving the EEA were never explained in the referendum campaign, and they have never been understood by our politicians since. But in eight months time, they will begin to be brought home to us. To put it mildly, we will not be happy.

4 comments:

Sierra said...

Main problem with fruit has been availability - our local Mercadona was usually running out by late afternnon. Haven't seen any stalkless Picota cherries, which are usually in season from mid-June to end of this month (think they are all being sent to UK)

Lenox said...

A 'suro' was five pesetas. The centimos de peseta came in ten, twenty and fifty but weren't very exciting.

Lenox said...

Bloody hell. I'm always writing things and pressing 'go'! just as I see a mistake. So, it was a 'duro' and not a f**king 'suro'.

Colin Davies said...

Ah, yes. But it remains true no one uses it, I guess.

I do that too . . . Often. Especially in WA messages.

Spaniards simply omit punctuation and accents, just to make things easier for guiris . . .