Thursday, August 30, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 30.8.18

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.

Matters Spanish
  • The Franco family say that it's uncivilised to move the dictator's remains. Apparently, they labour under the delusion that his reign was the epitome of civilisation.
  • One of Spain's weirdest fiestas . . . La Tomatina.
  • The Daily Express reports that the number of Brits living in Benidorm, Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca has fallen sharply in the last year, which it attributes to Brexit. And El Pais says the total number of British residents in Spain had dropped from 397,892 to 240,785. But, as ever, these numbers are suspect. No one knows how many Brits reside (or semi-reside) here. And there might well be other factors – e.g. Modelo 720 – at play.
  • Says a Guardian columnist here: One of the coolest destinations in Europe just two decades ago, Barcelona is now so overcrowded it is losing the character that made it so popular. . . A new word has been coined to describe this apparently unstoppable process: 'parquetematización' - the act of becoming a theme park. Barcelona has become an imitation of itself. I would say caricature. Sad to say, Oporto and Lisbon are going the same way, albeit they're still a bit behind.
  • In contrast . . . An unquestionably good news story.
The UK
  • Wonga is a short-term loan company which is in trouble. From an ad on TV, I heard that their 'representative APR' was 1,286%. A look at Wiki indicated it has been as high as 5,853%. And a glance at their Spanish website – which came up every time I tried to get their UK or US sites – suggested a mere 287%. Looks like usury to me, aimed at the poorer members of society. Capitalism/commercialism at its worst?
  • Brexit: Ambrose Evans Pritchard is optimistic that a catastrophic no-deal deal can be avoided but saddened that the final result of 2 years of madness will be an EU-biased version of the Chequers option which everyone on all sides is said to to hate. AEP states categorically: I think Chequers is the worst of all worlds. It does not restore sovereign self-government. It turns this country into a dependent colonial adjunct for the first time since the Norman Conquest, subject to the EU’s legal and regulatory writ but without a Council veto or democratic consent in the European Parliament. It is a formula for future conflict and is almost certain to break down within five or ten years, forcing us to go through this agonising ordeal yet again. He goes on to list the major mistakes of the British government. Specifically, he says: It should never have allowed Brexit to be defined in economic terms. The Referendum was to settle the elemental question of whether we govern ourselves, or whether we accept a higher level of government that British voters cannot remove by any democratic process. It had nothing whatsoever to do with GDP or the commercial interests of global capitalists. See his full article below. For what it's worth, I agree with him.
The USA
  • How can anyone with even a smidgin of self-respect and/or self-awareness appear in public with an orange face and pink hands?

Galicia and Pontevedra
  • Stand by for a new camino route. . . The good burghers of the town of Cuntis, envious of the dosh coming to other townships by dint of the increasingly popular camino de Santiago, have searched their archives and have been lucky enough to find exactly what they were looking for - a document which proves that a variant of the camino ​portugués once wended - after Pontevedra and Porráns - via Moaña and 'Los Baños' to Santiago. That's to say a little to the east of the traditional route through Caldas de Réis and Padrón. And 'Los Baños' is, they reveal, what Cuntis used to be called. This, though, is not mentioned on the Spanish Wiki page for the town. Yet. Nor, as far as I can see, does the term feature on the town's web page. Work to be done, then.
  • In a letter to a local paper yesterday, a camino pilgrim complains that the performance of the botafumeiro has to be financed by someone before the priests will perform it. I didn't know that. Serving both God and Mammon, then. 
Finally . . .
  1. Wopular is an online newspaper rack and a news and search aggregator. Today it cites my colourful(!) acount of my camino with friends back in 2010. One wonders why.
  2. My thanks to Demetria Rogers – or his/her computer - for 11 comments to my blog the other day even if they were all identical. And, as the first step in a scam process, not worth reading. This is what happens when you remove all restrictions on comments. At a reader's request . . . .
© [David] Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 30.8.18

THE ARTICLE

Celebrate the coming Brexit deal, but mourn the lost country: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The likelihood of a no-deal rupture over Brexit is diminishing by the day.  One can detect the contours of a political fudge behind the Kabuki stage.

You see it in today's conciliatory Berlin speech by the Irish Tanaiste. Simon Coveney, once a hardliner, is actively pushing for an EU gesture on post-Brexit trade ties to unlock a deal.

If the UK Government can “develop its position further” on the Chequers plan, the EU should reciprocate. “I am sure our union can be imaginative in return,” he said.

You hear it too in the changing tones from Michel Barnier, now touting an EU partnership “such as there never has been with any other third country”.

This is his new message, delivered each time as if the words were pregnant with diplomatic meaning, as indeed they are. We have reached the odd pass where Mr Barnier is now propping up Theresa May’s fragile Government. Brussels is her chief ally.

Let us set aside the catastrophe scenarios as August nonsense. If there were to be a quarantine of the UK economy, with no landing and overflight rights for British aircraft, and a halt to cross-border payments and data sharing, we would be in a state of war with Europe.

Even a partial dose of this would ricochet back into the EU through multiple channels of contagion. Airbus would spiral into crisis since the jet wings are made in Britain, and the company says it would lose €1bn a week.

Financial contracts worth trillions would be frozen. The derivatives market would seize up. European firms would be cut off from their main capital market. The shock would send the eurozone crashing into recession, reigniting the Italian debt crisis. European bank shares would collapse.

Such mayhem would crystalize late-cycle stresses already visible around the world, probably triggering a nasty correction of overvalued equities and a global recession.

East Europeans on the Russian front line would be incensed with EU ideologues who had shattered defence, security and intelligence ties with a key ally.

Any EU officials who think it to be in the interest of the EU Project to punish Britain in this way - and to do so in the menacing world of Putin, Erdogan, Xi, and Trumpian isolation - need their heads examined. It is absurd. It will not happen.

Even in a no-deal scenario there would be mini-deals to keep the show on the road.  The plausible dangers are of a different kind and lie lower down the Richter scale. What is true is that some in Brussels do not fully understand how vulnerable the EU is even to minor shocks, given its composite character and low political boiling point.

This may cause them to push the UK a step too far as they chip away at Chequers. That is where the risk now lies.

On the British side it is hard to see why bookies are pricing in a 50% chance of a no-deal. Events are moving in the opposite direction. It is becoming clear that Parliament has just two realistic options: either the Chequers package once Mr Barnier has finished with it, or no deal at all.

If Theresa May lacks enough Tory votes to pass Chequers, Labour will have to acquiesce, or abstain. Should the Labour Party vote down the deal, it will be held responsible and will ‘own’ the economic consequences.

Contrary to my earlier views, I now think the Tory rump will hold together as long as Michael Gove, Liam Fox, and the Cabinet Brexiteers remain loyal to the Prime Minister. They have concluded that it would be too dangerous to take a divided nation into a full-blown showdown with the EU at this point, and they have tied themselves to the mast of Chequers.

The 60 to 80 Tory ‘souverainistes’ in the camp of Jacob Rees-Mogg might vote in honourable dissent but they would be in an unholy alliance with hard Remainers, who also prefer a no-deal (and of the worst kind) in the desperate hope that a sterling and gilts crisis would abort Brexit altogether. This twin-headed Orthrus would not command the nation.

In any case, there is little sign yet that leadership letters from Tory MPs are pouring into the 1922 Committee.

It is worth reading a paper for the European Policy Centre by Andrew Duff, president of the ultra-federalist Spinelli Group and one of the MEPs who drafted the European Constitution. It captures the prevailing mood among EU insiders.

His greatest contempt is reserved for hard Remainers, living in the parallel universe of Westminster and seemingly unaware that the EU does not want to extend Article 50, or allow Britain to remain in the EU on status quo terms, or indulge in their procrastination games. The Barnier package is coming soon and will be the EU’s final offer.

“If Parliament refuses the EU’s 2019 offer of an association agreement, there will be no going back to the drawing board: Europe has run out of tolerance. If the deal is rejected by the British Parliament, the EU’s contingency plans will be put into operation,” he writes.

Mr Duff says none of the opposition parties have come up with a viable alternative to Chequers, and those Remainers now demanding a second referendum - after having vowed to respect the results of the first one, he notes - are playing with fire. It would become a battle over the betrayal of democracy. “A panicky referendum in present circumstances promises to be catastrophic. The nation would end up even more divided in terms of social class, generation and province, potentially pitching into a revolutionary situation,” he said.

Mr Duff said the EU has no desire to prolong this messy divorce. The more urgent need for them is to “salvage the international reputation of the EU” and build a new relationship that could become a model for orbital satellites in Europe’s near abroad.

Charles Grant, from the Centre for European Reform, said something may yet survive of Chequers but Theresa May will have to give ground on the Customs Union, the role of the European Court, and the scope of free movement.

I suspect that she will do exactly that, with enough camouflage offered by the EU side to disguise the violation of every red line. I suspect too that the Tory Party will go along for fear of political Armageddon. “Pundits claim that there is no majority in the Commons for anything. That, of course, is nonsense. Under Britain’s wondrous constitution, a simple majority of one can be full of meaning,” said Mr Duff.

Let me be clear, I think Chequers is the worst of all worlds. It does not restore sovereign self-government. It turns this country into a dependent colonial adjunct for the first time since the Norman Conquest, subject to the EU’s legal and regulatory writ but without a Council veto or democratic consent in the European Parliament.  It is a formula for future conflict and is almost certain to break down within five or ten years, forcing us to go through this agonising ordeal yet again.

The Government should not have triggered Article 50 before it was ready. It should have mobilised the British state behind a World Trade Organisation strategy from the outset, as a credible springboard for a ‘Canada plus’ trade deal on the basis of mutual recognition. It should never have allowed Brexit to be defined in economic terms. The Referendum was to settle the elemental question of whether we govern ourselves, or whether we accept a higher level of government that British voters cannot remove by any democratic process. It had nothing whatsoever to do with GDP or the commercial interests of global capitalists.

Yet two years of unforced errors, wishful thinking, and economic fear have led the Government into the current quagmire, and the die is cast. The balance of probability is that Mr Barnier will offer just enough to sweeten the bitter pill, and that both Tory and Labour MPs will sheepishly swallow it.

So celebrate the coming deal, and mourn the lost country.

1 comment:

Eamon said...

I enjoyed reading again your account of the 2010 camino. It was one of your better blogs and very informative. Your blog has changed a lot in the passing 8 years but I won't say for the better or worse. Yours is the only blog I have kept reading without fail since 2005. Do I need to see my doctor?