Friday, November 16, 2018

Thoughts from Hamburg, Galciai: 16.11.18

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
  • More here, from the Guardian, on the government's admirable plans to stop the prescribing of quack medicines.
  • And here's The Local on some specifics, acupuncture for example.
  • As we all know, Spanish is a very largely phonetic language. So, spelling is easy, yes? Well, no, it seems. School leavers and undergraduates are getting worse at it, for one reason and another. See El Páis on this here, in English. Note; Having a few years ago regularly read social media messages from British teachers, I can assure you that this problem isn't confined either to Spain or to students. But, then, English isn't a phonetic language by any stretch of the imagination.

The EU/the UK/Brexit
  • All bets are off. As, indeed, they have been for some time. Only a lunatic would claim they know what will happen now. So, my prediction is for No Brexit. Not a No-Deal Brexit, but no Brexit at all. Total victory for the EU pseudo-empire in its objective of preventing a theoretically free, sovereign nation from leaving its 'voluntary' association. Honest Brexiteers such as Richard North have always said this would happen if the UK proposals were not sensible for both parties. Which, thanks to the combination of ignorant, extremist, ambitious Brexiteers and an incompetent Prime Minister, they weren't from the outset. As I wrote yesterday, it's an opportunity lost. As to how the UK will eventually arrive at a No Brexit and stay in the EU, returning to the status quo ante, there's an awful lot of muddy water to flow under the bridge until then. And a helluva lot more pantomime. Which could well start with a Prime Ministerial resignation within 24 hours . . .
  • I say the status quo ante but, of course, for a time at least, the UK won't be the member it used to be. Which could well be a relief to the other members.
  • Sorry, I've failed to resist the temptation to cite articles. The 2 below give an insight into why Brexiteers of all stamps consider Mrs May's deal too bad to support. As do all the Remainers, of course. As I think I've said before, Mrs May has proved that you can displease all the people all the time. Perhaps the main reason for this – apart from incompetence – is that she was always a Remainer. So, if I'm right that the UK will stay as a full member of the EU because there'll be no Brexit of any kind, she should be able to look back on the last few tough years with some personal satisfaction. She will have acted, as she always insists she is doing, in the interests of the UK, as she sees them at least. But at what a price!


Matters Galician
  • Reader Sierra has advised that, while some autopistas will cease to be toll roads, some existing free highways could well go in the opposite direction. Especially in Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria. Which would make my trips to Madrid and to the ferry port of Santander very much more expensive. I have long wondered/worried when this would happen. Particularly as regards the relatively recently completed A8 along the north coast.

© [David] Colin Davies, Hamburg: 16.11.18


1. Theresa's May Brexit plan concedes our sovereignty in a way even worse than if we stayed in the EU
: Iain Duncan Smith, MP - a former secretary of state for work and pensions

In December last year, the Prime Minister surprised us all by proposing to accept a deal with the EU in which we were committed to the Northern Ireland backstop. On top of that, the UK agreed to pay the EU £39 billion to allow the UK to have a two-year transition period after the end of the Article 50 process. Although we would have left the EU we would remain locked to the customs union and the single market, bound by all regulations and overseen by the European Court of Justice.

This, Oliver Robbins, her civil service negotiator, told her was required to unlock future trade talks. I begged the PM not to sign up to the arrangement. I said that if she did sign, that would mark the end of her negotiations because two of the critical things the EU wanted were about to be handed to them without anything in return. Sadly, she did not take my advice, and the EU, far from entering trade talks, continued to demand further concessions.

The EU knew they had us over a barrel. They only had to sit tight, say no to all our demands and we would be forced to concede. In an attempt to break the subsequent deadlock, the PM launched the Chequers plan – filled with yet more concessions – at the Cabinet, again maintaining the EU would accept this hybrid complicated sharing of the EU rule book and we would get on with trade deals. The EU, of course, refused to countenance it.

Finally this 500-page document – which on inspection looks just like all the demands the EU has made from the beginning, dressed up as an agreement – was produced. Anyone reading it can see that the EU have waited until the UK became so desperate to get a deal, they simply picked up their original document, turned to the last page and said “sign here”, and we meekly agreed.

We have allowed the EU to stop us leaving the backstop/customs union when we wish, as they have an equal say in that decision. We have the sovereign right to withdraw from the UN, Nato, even the EU, but not from this perpetual membership of the customs union. Welcome to the Hotel California.

On top of that we will be stuck suffering extensive interference from the European Court of Justice. We have conceded our sovereignty in a way we haven’t even had to do in the EU and we are paying £39 billion for the privilege.

It didn’t need to be like this. It still doesn’t. The Prime Minister should at once tell the EU this is unacceptable and it will not get through the House of Commons. She should demand that we pursue a different course, one that keeps our borders open without border checks and doesn’t require membership of the customs union. She should also tell them that the UK is content to leave without a trade deal, and trade on WTO terms – 90% of global growth will be outside the EU anyway.

Change must come one way or another – and now.
2. This ghost of a prime minister has humiliated her country and lied to its people. She must go, and go now: Allison Pearson. Daily Telegraph

Who will rid us of this terrible prime minister? If there was any lingering sympathy for Theresa May surely every last jot of it must dissolve as the details of her dastardly Draft Withdrawal Agreement start to become clear. Mrs May is much too insipid a figure to inspire hatred. It would be like hating a mop or a seagull. But I actually felt cold fury as I read just one clause which begins, “For the purposes of this Agreement all references to Member States in provisions of Union law … shall be understood as including the United Kingdom and its competent authorities, except as regards… decision-making.”

There it is in black and white, the very thing the PM assures us is not happening. The UK will be regarded by the European Union as a member state because that is what, by law, we will be, only without any power. The eunuch in the room. And the person who leads our country seriously believes this “delivers the Brexit the British people voted for”. I know. There you were thinking the British people voted not to be a member state of the EU!

It’s simply staggering. The PM who assured us in her stirring Lancaster House speech that “no deal is better than a bad deal” had the effrontery to stand outside Number 10 on Wednesday night and say, in effect, “any deal is better than no deal”.  Jacob Rees-Mogg found a typically courteous and elegant formulation for this dissembling: “What my Right Honourable Friend says and what my Right Honourable Friend does no longer match.” If you translate that from eighteenth-century Moggese, he’s calling the Prime Minister a liar. And he’s right.

 Fib after fib. At her Wednesday press conference, Mrs May told the assembled media that she had “the confidence of the Cabinet”. Except it now emerges that, at the end of the Cabinet meeting, a furiously deceived Dominic Raab told the Chief Whip he was resigning. To lose one Brexit Secretary may look like misfortune, to lose two looks like that is a job in name only only because the man actually running Brexit is a senior Remainer civil servant. All credit to Raab who refused to get on a plane to meet Michel Barnier and pose for the Neville Chamberlain Memorial Handshake.

Yet more lies. Last year, the PM told her Cabinet she had got a good deal and not to worry about that small technical business with the Northern Ireland backstop. Having deceived her own colleagues, Mrs May now hopes to fool the British people. In her statement last night, she said that her deal would end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK. No, it wouldn’t. As Esther McVey said in her superb resignation letter, the people have “always been ahead of politicians on this issue and it will be no good trying to pretend to them that the deal honours the result of the referendum when it is obvious to everyone it doesn’t”.

Hear bloody hear! Give that woman Theresa May’s job. Give anyone Theresa May’s job, frankly. Boris. A random shopper in the Waitrose frozen-food aisle. Larry the cat. Lulu. Margaret Thatcher (I know she’s dead, but there’s no harm wishing). Cliff Richard. Ant’n’Dec. Literally anyone stands a greater chance of being a better leader of the Conservative Party than Theresa May.

They will say that this is not the right time for a leadership election. They will say that it’s immensely self-indulgent of the Conservatives to have a Vote of No Confidence with only four months to go until we allegedly leave the EU. Well, they’re wrong. We can’t struggle on with a ghost prime minister who has humiliated her country and lied to its people. We can’t nod along when they praise her “resilience” when what they really mean is pig-headed obstinacy and an inability to admit she’s wrong and change course. We can’t allow her to defy the single biggest vote in our history and let down the 82.4 per cent of the electorate who backed parties who said they were committed to leaving the EU at the general election.

As they prepare to cast their votes, I beg Tory MPs not to cling to nurse for fear of something worse. The something worse is already upon us. We need a new leader, one who will fight for their country. We need a chess Grandmaster to wrangle with Brussels not the runner-up in the 1973 Towcester Tiddlywinks Competition.

At her emergency press conference, far from resigning (if only), Theresa May was at her most robotically indefatigable, determined to sell her deal which has pulled off the remarkable trick of uniting people of all parties in their contempt for it. She insists she is acting in the best interests of the British people.

No, Prime Minister. To do that, you must go. And go now.  


Sierra said...

Re: the Brexit "£39 billions divorce bill" - did some simple maths to work out the cost to UK so far:

Total UK Exports (2017) $442,065,707,223
Total UK Imports (2017) $641,332,435,861
UK Trade Balance (2017) ($199,266,728,638)
GBPUSD - 29/6/16 $1.43
GBPUSD - Now $1.28

So pre-referendum cost of trade balance = $199 billion/1.43 = £139 billion
Current cost of trade balance = $199 billion/1.28 = £155 billion

So devaluation is costing £16 billion per year
or 2.5 years since referendum = 2.5 x 16 = £40 billion

The beauty of man-maths!

Alfred B. Mittington said...

My dear boy,

What, for crying out loud, is a 'phonetic language'?

Or perhaps better asked: can you give me an example of an 'unphonetic language'?

Oh dear oh dear oh dear... Lawyer dabbling in the humanities...!!!


Colin Davies said...

WTF are you talking about?

Eamon said...

I read this once in a Superman comic many years ago. Some languages are "phonetic". That means you can look at a written word and know how to pronounce it. Or you can hear a word and know how to spell it. With phonetic languages, there is a direct relationship between the spelling and the sound. It is important to understand that English is not a phonetic language.

Colin Davies said...

This esrlier message seems to have gone missing, for Alfie.

WTF are you talking about?

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Nono: I'm there! Just not always paying attention to the comment thread. Or Threat.

What you guys mean then, is not a 'Phonetic Language', but 'Phonetic Spelling'.

Quite a different thing, if you ask me.

But, whoever asks me...?


PS You are all aware that Spelling is the Plaything of mediocrities, aren't you??

Eamon said...

ABM you are just splitting hairs. Phonetic language. Phonetic is an adjective. Latin is a dead language. How ridiculous!

James Atkinson said...

G B Shaw was quite keen on the phonetic spelling of english. Inventing his own system, adopted by nobody as far as I know. He had quite a poor opinion of Shakespeare. Perhaps it was something to do with his variable spelling?

Colin Davies said...

@Alfie: As a (pdeudo?) academic, you might well be technically right in you hair-splitting but, down on the street of native English speakers, the way we use the phrase 'phonetic language' is as I and other commentators use it. And we understand each other perfectly. Do you not have a native English-speaking friend with whom you can check your concerns??

Colin Davies said...

@Sierra: Thanks for taking the trouble to do that. There are, of course, other considerations apart from money and national wealth. Achieving and protecting democracy - not to mention sovereignty - have always cost a lot of blood, sweat and cash. Britain was bankrupted after WW2 but I don't recall many people arguing before it that it would be too expensive or that, after it, it had been too expensive and that Britain should have stayed out of a Continental conflict born of Germany's invasions of sovereign nations and the elimination of democracy in both its own and in subjugated states. To put it mildly.

Eamon said...

A simple example confirming James Atkinson's post.

Anonymous said...

England may not have a phonetic language, but more than make up for it with all the weather it has. In contrast, in Spain we have a phonetic language (that's why we shout rather than speak) but much less weathers ...