Trust, once lost, is difficult to regain

In a surprise to no-one, the EU27 have “hardened” the language of a proposed Brexit resolution for this week’s European Council summit in following David Davis’ remarkably stupid comments on Sunday that last Friday’s Brexit deal with the EU was “more a statement of intent than a legally enforceable thing.”

The text now also says the U.K. will stay in both customs union and internal market for the time of a transition period, which includes the whole acquis (the body of EU law) and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. While that has always been clear to the EU side, it will be made explicit in the summit resolution “to avoid any ambiguity,” according to one diplomat.

Spelling out what transition means also include making it explicit that the UK will have no representation in any EU body or agency, “neither as a member nor as an observer,” the diplomat said.

And it doesn’t stop there. The European parliament’s main parties have drawn up an amendment to their Brexit resolution, on which MEPs will vote today, condemning the Brexit secretary personally for damaging trust.

Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for Europe, told German media he was “taken aback” that the language May had used in Brussels “differed somewhat” to what the prime minister had said in London since her return, referring in particular to the suggestion that Britain would only pay the final bill to the EU once a trade agreement had been reached. “She needs to be taking the same line in Brussels as in London,” he said.

The arrogance, incompetence and stupidity of the Brexit fantasists in Theresa May’s cabinet are undermining the future of the the UK and putting at risk the economy, jobs, services and the status of British citizens around the world. Their actions are liable to torpedo any deal with Europe and leave the rest of the World wondering why on Earth they would talk to us.

It’s way past time for some adults to step in, take charge and call a halt to this whole farrago.

Flattr this!


Two days after signing an agreement, the UK government is already trying to welch on it.

Putting everything else to one side for the moment, this is a government that wants to strike new trade deals around the world. What makes them think that anyone is going to want to start negotiating with a country that can’t keep its word for more than two days?

Flattr this!

UK cabinet soon to hold debate about ultimate Brexit aims

According to The Guardian, the UK cabinet will soon meet for their first formal discussion over what the government should be aiming for at the end of Brexit discussions.

Sources said May would update her cabinet on Monday about the latest breakthrough, but admitted a wider meeting would be held within a fortnight.

That could pitch the demands of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – who could be wary of too much regulatory alignment with the EU – against remainers such as Hammond and the home secretary, Amber Rudd.

Well, better late than never, I suppose, but it would have been a lot better all round if this ongoing joke of a government had given some thought to what they wanted to achieve before triggering Article 50.

Flattr this!

A future Darwin Award winner

From The Register comes the news of a YouTuber who valiantly attempted to select himself out of the gene pool by cementing his head inside a microwave.

The channel’s two stars – Jay Swingler and Romell Henry, of Fordhouses, Wolverhampton – mixed several boxes of Polyfilla (spackling paste for our US readers) before inserting Swingler’s head, bound in a plastic bag with a breathing tube, into a microwave full of the quick-setting plaster.

Swingler (understandably) found it difficult to breathe despite inserting the tube. Henry and other friends struggled to break through the solidified paste using metal tools and an electric drill, before calling the fire brigade and ambulance.

Emphasis mine.

The emergency services managed to free Swingler from the contraption after an hour and a half, so no Darwin Award for him this time. But I’m sure it won’t be long before success strikes him down.

Flattr this!

Muddying the water

New Europe reports that Yale psychiatrist, Dr. Bandy Lee is calling for a psychiatric evaluation of Donald Trump.

Lee argues that President’s Trump public language in infused with a pattern of “decompensation,” that is, “loss of touch with reality, marked signs of volatility and unpredictable behaviour, and an attraction to violence as a means of coping.” Dr. Lee believes that the President’s deteriorating condition is perhaps triggered by the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation over his campaigns links with Russia.

President Donald Trump’s Twitter account has become a major concern, as he recently retweeted violent videos posted by a British far-right violent group and he referred to Elizabeth Warren as Pochahontas during a speech honouring Navaho World War II heroes.

I can’t help but feel that speculation about Trump’s mental state is a bit beside the point. His behavior makes him unfit for office and it’s because of his behavior that he should be ejected from office.

Why he behaves as he does doesn’t really have any bearing on this and speculation like this — regardless of how professionally grounded it is — runs a sizable risk of distracting attention from his many failings.

Flattr this!

First trailer for Alita: Battle Angel

According to Den of Geek, Alita: Battle Angel

hails from Japan, where the successful manga spawned a 90s anime adaptation. It tells the story of a cyborg heroine, Gally, who’s rescued from a scrapheap by a kindly scientist. A confused innocent in a violent cyberpunk world, Battle Angel follows the athletic heroine as she searches for the secret of her own past.

The film is directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, who also has a writing credit. The first trailer is out and it looks really stunning.

CGI heavy films often suffer from the Uncanny Valley effect, but if the trailer is anything to go by, it looks like Cameron and Rodriguez have solved that problem spectacularly.

Flattr this!

Brexit Cancelled!

Albion Estate Sign (1970) from Scarfolk Council

After a week’s intensive negotiation, Theresa May has agreed that Britain will do exactly what the EU tells her. The Guardian has a summary of the main points:

EU citizens

  • EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the rest of the EU have the right to stay. Rights of their children and those of partners in existing “durable relationships” are also guaranteed.
  • UK courts will preside over enforcing rights over EU citizens in Britain but can refer unclear cases to the European court of justice for eight years after withdrawal.

This is good, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the UK, are guaranteed and, quite frankly, the UK government could and should have confirmed this at the outset. I’ve seen elsewhere that Guy Verhofstadt is also saying that that these rights will also need to be guaranteed for future partners future free movement and residence of UK citizens all 27 Member States should also be guaranteed.

It’s becoming increasingly safe to assume that — regardless of the form of words used — freedom of movement between the UK and the rest of the UK will be preserved.

Irish border

  • The agreement promises to ensure there will be no hard border and to uphold the Belfast agreement.
  • It makes clear the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland, will be leaving the customs union.
  • It leaves unclear how an open border will be achieved but says in the absence of a later agreement, the UK will ensure “full alignment” with the rules of the customs union and single market that uphold the Good Friday agreement.
  • However, the concession secured by the DUP is that no new regulatory barriers will be allowed between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK without the permission of Stormont in the interest of upholding the Good Friday agreement.

In summary, Britain is leaving both the Single Market and the Customs Union. But will continue to abide by all of the rules laid down by both in order to continue to uphold the Good Friday agreement.

Where this becomes really interesting is when you look at the Brexiter fantasy of a buccaneering Britain striking its own trade deals. If Britain is outside of the Customs Union then yes, these deals can be struck — in theory at least. However, Britain can’t strike any deals that diverge from the Customs Union regulations.

In order to maintain this regulatory alignment, any trade deal is going to have to be validated by the EU. This gives the EU an effective veto on any deal that the UK tries to sign and means that the best that Britain can hope to achieve is a deal that replicates what the EU has already negotiated.


  • There is no figure on how much the UK is expected to pay but the document sets out how the bill will be calculated – expected to be about £50bn.
  • The UK agrees to continue to pay into the EU budget as normal in 2019 and 2020.
  • It also agrees to pay its liabilities such as pension contributions.

So much for “go whistle.”

Other issues

  • The two sides agreed there would be need for cooperation on nuclear regulation and police and security issues.
  • There was an agreement to ensure continued availability of products on the market before withdrawal and to minimise disruption for businesses and consumers.

This agreement keeps the show on the road for Theresa May and reduces the risk of a disastrous “no-deal” Brexit. It also means that Britain is heading for the softest of soft Brexits in which — like Norway — the UK continues to observe EU rules indefinitely but without any say in what those rules are.

The Brexit wing of the Tory party seems remarkably sanguine about all of this so far. I’m stocking up on popcorn while I wait for them to realise what they have just signed up to.

Flattr this!

Neither credible nor competent

So, on Monday, the wheels finally came off the Brexit bus with the DUP instructing Theresa May to take her carefully negotiated compromise off the table.

The biggest surprise to me was the number of politicians and commenters expressing surprise. The UK’s Brexit strategy — if you can call it a strategy — is a mess of contradictions wrapped up with wishful thinking. It was only a matter of time before their bluff was called and the emptiness of their proposals was exposed. And now that’s happened and the only reaction from the Tories is to engage in yet another round of bluster and blame-dodging.

Not surprisingly, there have been calls for May to go, with prominent Conservative party donor, Charlie Mullins pointing out that:

Theresa May has neither the power to do a good Brexit deal for the UK nor the authority to call off the madness.

I certainly agree that Britain needs a PM that is both competent and credible. But I can’t think of anyone in the Tory party who both fits the bill and would be willing to take over this ongoing disaster. Which, of course, is why May will remain in office (if not in power) for the foreseeable future.

And it’s not just in Britain that this Government’s incompetence is so painfully obvious:

While the next “final” deadline for stage one has not been defined publicly, several EU sources said the deal would have to be struck by the end of the week, with either Friday or Sunday as the last resort.

One EU ambassador told the Guardian the failure to reach a deal on Northern Ireland was a microcosm of a wider problem. “At root the problem is that [May] seems incapable of making a decision and is afraid of her own shadow,” the source said.

“We cannot go on like this, with no idea what the UK wants. She just has to have the conversation with her own cabinet, and if that upsets someone, or someone resigns, so be it. She has to say what kind of trading relationship she is seeking. We cannot do it for her, and she cannot defer forever.”

For weeks, European officials have walked a tightrope between sticking to the EU’s tough negotiating stance and seeking to avoid action or words that could destabilise the fragile May government.

“We have to treat the UK political system like a rotten egg,” said one EU source in the run-up to Monday’s talks, suggesting that if “the realities of the world” dawned too soon, the British government could become more fragile.

If reality did dawn, and if Britain had a Prime Minister with enough courage to be honest with both her party and her country, many people would be recognising by now that the time has come to stop pretending and call a halt to Brexit. It is not in Britain’s interest and the longer that May lets the bonkers wing of her party corral her into ever more unrealistic positions, the more harm it will do.

Of course, no-one is going to try to make the Brexiters face reality any time soon.

Flattr this!

The Tribes of Europe

Chatham House has published a study (pdf) (via Politico) that attempts to quantify the diversity of political views across the EU. They came up with six ‘political tribes’, or broad segments of the electorate with distinct attitudes about the EU:

  • The largest tribe consists of what can be termed ‘Hesitant Europeans’. They sit in the middle on many issues, and need persuading on the merits of the EU. They tend to be apathetic about politics, are concerned about immigration and tend to prioritize national sovereignty over deeper EU integration.
  • ‘Contented Europeans’ are optimistic and pro-European. Often young and broadly socially liberal, they feel that they benefit from the EU but tend to favour the status quo over further integration.
  • ‘EU Rejecters’ are angry about politics and the EU. They are least likely to feel any benefits of membership, and overwhelmingly view the EU as undemocratic. Most feel negative about immigration and are socially conservative.
  • ‘Frustrated Pro-Europeans’ want a more integrated EU driven by progressive values. They support the idea of richer states helping poorer ones, but are more mixed about immigration than are other pro-Europeans.
  • ‘Austerity Rebels’ want a looser, more democratic EU driven by solidarity, with powers returned to member states. They tend to think that richer states should support poorer ones, and that each state should accept its fair share of refugees.
  • ‘Federalists’ make up the smallest tribe. They support a deeply integrated ‘United States of Europe’, feel that the EU has benefited them, and are the most positive about immigration. They tend to be wealthier, older and disproportionately male, with strong and diverse social networks.

Obviously, there are many ways to slice up voter attitudes, but this looks like a perfectly valid one and an interesting attempt to go beyond the slogans and ask what people really think about the EU. The key challenge, as the report’s author notes, will be to engage the so-called Hesitant Europeans — the largest and most moderate group on the list.

Flattr this!