Sunday, 17 December 2017

Your weekend Brexit

Yeah, I know. I really wanted to not talk or think about Brexit for a couple of weeks, but it seems that the Brexiteers are not happy.

You won, get over it!

The fact there is an undefined transition deal to be negotiated means that there is a possibility that the transition deal could be pushed back and back, to the point it might never end. So, and this is really astonishing, doubly so a few days after 11 Conservative MPs were vilified in the press and received death threats for voting so that Parliament could have a "meaningful" vote on the final deal, if any, DD gets with the EU, the Foreign Secretary, and lets remember that is his role, not Editor of The Spectator or Mayor of London, but a Minister of the Crown, today had another article published in a Sunday newspaper saying the deal was a bad idea and that Britain should not become a "vassal" state. Let me look at was vassal means.

From Wiki: "A vassal state is any state that is subordinate to another." As a member of the EU we are one of the 28, out of the EU we would become the 51st State. As the tale of the chlorine-washed chicken will tell you.

Let me get this straight, in a trade deal with a larger country, what the larger country wants the larger country gets. There is a choice of adhering to either EU rules, or so it seems, the US's. We get no say, they tell us what to do, and we do it. This is not taking back control, just the reality of international trade. That any other country, say Ireland, might want something out of the negotiations is an inconvenience.

But at the root of it, we have a Minister of the Crown, again, undermining his own PM's and Government's position, doing and saying what is right for Boris de Piffel Johnson, and not is right for the country and its people. Let us not forget, Boris was a major supporter of the EU until the late winter of 2016, and he changed his mind.

As ever making that is very complex seems very simple is not just untruthful, but dangerous.

And there is still the Irish border to sort out. No, that's right, its not sorted, just been set aside as the UK Government said that in the event of there not being a deal, there will not be a hard border between the Republic and NI. But what that means and how regulatory alignment will be achieved, which will have to be done whilst staying within the WTO rules, is unclear, but as ever, will be interesting. It cannot be fudged forever, nor can the fact that the UK still does not know what it wants at the end of negotiations; what terms it wants to be on with the EU, and the rest of the world will also wait to see, because if we are on poor terms, then deals with us might have lesser or greater value.

Make not mistake, May has to steer a path through what the EU27 wants, what NO wants, what the DUP wants, what her Europhile MPs want, what the Brexiteers wants, what the editors of the daily and Sunday newspapers say they want and against what she believes, as she campaigned to remain. It is a mess and without the wisdom of Solomon, it could end with no deal with the break up of the UK or Great Britain as NO has to be on certain trade terms with the Republic, and thus the entire EU, in order for the phase 1 agreement to hold and be in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement. This weekend 51% of those polled in N said they would vote for reunification with Ireland.

It is also in the Good Friday Agreement in the even that the people of NI want reunification, the British Government should not stand in its way, and a referendum (another one) be held. These will be interesting time, where what happens in NI will likely apply to the rest of Great Britain, and saying otherwise is not truthful. Brexiteers in not highlighting issues and having solutions ready shows that it was purely ideological, not based in the real world, where political theory have to be made to work.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Friday 15th December 2017

It is with some relief that the week draws to an end. B the end of it, I had been in over 20 hours of meetings this week, and what with writing and reading the minutes of the meetings, what chances are there to get work done?

We wake up and find it a fine day, out the back of the house the old moon was rising, just three days from being new, it is just a sliver with Venus to its right. It is a beautiful sight, and once I get back from dropping Jools off, I take some shots. Oh yes, drop Jools off at the bus station as we have to be in Canterbury by three in the afternoon and the only way to get there in time is for me to pick her up then drive to the university.

three hundred and forty nine It is a mighty cold morning, the roads are lined with frost and the sky is still black. There is no other traffic around, so we cruise into town and I drop Jools off in Pencester where her coach is waiting to take her to work. Its not just for her, but you know.

Back home for more coffee and breakfast and then start work at half seven to be prepared. Prepared for anything.

Outside the day is fine and sunny, and I would like to go out, instead I have to sit inside and take part in three online meetings, which will take up the whole working day until I have to leave to collect jools at one.

So, at one I pack up for the week, and get ready to leave.

It should be a straightforward drive to Hythe, but with the random roadworks that are springing up, it could take an hour. At least it is a fine day, and with the radio on it is again pleasant. I reach the factory with 20 minutes to be spare, the descent into Hythe with views to Saltwood Castle is fine, doubly so now as the council have cut the hedge back. Funny how such a fine looking castle is almost unknown, yet a few hundred metres from the motorway, but hidden by woods. I will stop to take a shot, one day.

Jools gets out at two, and so we have an hour to get to Canterbury University, where our financial advisor has his office. Yes, it is true. We hope to retire as soon as possible, but for the moment it is just a pipe dream, but after rearranging our pensions, things are better this year. We shall see.

We go up Stone Street, through orchid country, or will in just over four months time of course. Its strange to go along the old Roman Road and not turn off to the great orchid locations we know so well, but on we go into the city, then round the ringroad before turning up the hill to the University. Beside it is a public school, looking all the world like Hogwarts, but is unremarkable in a city so full of grand and important buildings.

His office is in a new building, we arrive ten minutes early, and time to have a coffee before our meeting. Well, chat. Results are discussed, outlooks shared, and decisions made.

Instead of trying to get through the city at rush hour, we follow the road through Blean until it joins the Thanet Way, and from there we cruised to Ramsgate as darkness fell. From Ramsgate it was simple to head over the marshes to Richborough, Sandwich and home. We passed within a mile of the chippy, so it seemed a no-brainer to all in get dinner then make brews and butties once we were home. And feed the cats.

But it was the weekend. And so, relax.

To be honest, dinner is a disappointment, the fish limp and the chips overcooked, but its still OK. I mean we didn't have to cook it, and we have eaten and washed u in 20 minutes. And its still the weekend.

The evening, as most Friday evenings are, was spent watching Mastermind and Only Connect, our brains having been exercised, we go to bed.

Friday, 15 December 2017

The Last (Brexit) Post, of the year. I hope.

I love my country. I care very deeply about it, even the silly inward looking people who voted to leave the EU, despite Britain having prospered for some 45 years under it. Some people really do blame the EU for all the UK's ills and problems, and no matter how many times it is pointed out that they were wrong, they will shout and scream demanding their Brexit it got their country back.

Of course it is not their country, nor is it mine either. It is ours. And how, no matter what happens, are we all going to get along once it is all over and the dust has settled? I want to remain in the EU so we can all be richer, wealthier and more diverse, so that people from the EU can come and work here, share in our prosperity, and help the country by filling in jobs, paying taxes and working in sectors and industries that need them. Without them, there will be less tax paid, and more cuts will have to happen, and in due course, even the privileged Boomers will have their pensions and care cut. Not because they deserve it, but simply because there will not be enough money in the pot for all of it to go round.

But I cannot see how leavers love the country that much, as leaving will damage it, make it poorer as a result. Maybe they really don't believe experts, but reality will win out, it always will.

Today, the EU27 agreed that sufficient progress has been made in phase 1 of the negotiations, allowing for phase II to begin. This will not be trade talks. Nor talks about trade talks. But talks about the transition, and the terms that Britain will have to adhere to, and for how long.

Talks about trade talks will begin in March, and will just talk about a framework and the politics of it; Britain will leave the EU in March 2019 without any deal on trade, that is because no deal can se even talked about until Britain is a 3rd country. No matter how friendly, how close the two sides are, even at the start, a trade deal could take 5 years to conclude, and industry a decade to adjust. Jobs will be lost, businesses will move abroad, there will be jams at ports, especially Dover. It is unavoidable.

And some Brexiteers are intent on scuppering any deal that is being done, or might be done. And some of those are in May's cabinet. All is not settled yet, nor will be for many years.

Any deal, any deal based on talks about trade talks, will have to be ratified, and will have to be passed unanimously, if not, it fails. Of course there could be a political solution, like stopping the clock, or post-dating the final agreement maybe for 5 years. But that would be difficult as it would have to be within WTO rules, as would any deal, so it is not cut and dry that all is settled. But the real big barrier to Brexit is that Britain, the UK, the PM and her cabinet, still do not know what they want at the end of it all. And a wise man once said if you don't know where you're going, you might end up somewhere that you don't want to be. And with the EU prepared, united and wanting to get it over with, still, anything can happen.

But Britain has to make its mind up what it wants, to enable to EU to know what to negotiate.

And then there is the Irish border. There is an agreement that there will be no hard border, but the solutions to avoid that are difficult and will be tricky to sort out to everyone's satisfaction. Toe have a soft border then, SM, CU or FTA. First two mean oversight by UCJ and the four freedoms. And the UCJ May ruled out as she confused it with the ECHR, and to admit the mistake would be worse (for her) than forcing the country, for decades, into a trade deal that put British jobs, workers, businesses at a disadvantage.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday 14th December 2017

Each of my working days this week have been taken over by at least half by meetings or webinars. Its bad enough to sit in a room when there is a meeting going on, but to be on the other end of a Skype conference call, it audio dropping in and out, tech problems and when the audio does work, if the speaking not on top of the mic, then it comes as garbled.

And I am supposed to be following this, even when sound drops out for a minute or two.

Three hundred and forty eight At least it was going to be a fine, sunny and cold day. And so hopefully that meant not being bothered by cats who maybe would be out hunting or basking in the sun. Molly, however, has taken to sitting or aying bside me as I work at the dining room table. I mean she lays in the table, and no matter how many times I put her on the floor, she gets back up and stares at me. Not sure what this means, she grumbles when you ick her up. And when you don't. The vet says she is fine, but we are worried.

A winter wander to Fleet House The day pans out as you would imagine; meetings, coffee, meetings, lunch, meeting, coffee, big meeting. Ans then it was three and my brain was melting. I had had enough. I joined Scully on the sofa with a bag of freshly popped salty corn and a bottle of silly strength Belgian beer, and settle down to watch an episode of Time Team. Te dig holes, point at soil and say there was a ditch here, and there, and over here there was a mansio, and a mighty large one too. Fnar.

A winter wander to Fleet House Hypercourse, tessari, coins and brooches. All Roman.

And it ends with the team in a pub toasting their good fortune and another fine three day dig.

A winter wander to Fleet House In fact, over lunchtime, I had half an hour, so with it being a glorious day, and an allergy attack had been threatening all week, I go out for a walk. Outside it is bright, I mean with the low sun in the south, it was blinding, and casting long, long shadows across the fields.

A winter wander to Fleet House I walk to the end of the street and over the fields to Fleet house; the recent rain had turned the ground to mud, but not too deep, and the air was so clean it sparkled. Nothing to see in the pig's copse, and it would have been too slippery down the dip, so went to look down the slope to the farm, then walked back via the butterfly glade; none there now of course, but it is full of teasel and buddleia bushes gone to seed. I take shots and walk back ready for the next meeting.

A winter wander to Fleet House Supper is jacket spuds, so I can watch MOTD from the sofa as the suds bake, ready for when Jools returns.

It is a quiet evening, we listen to some music, and drink coffee and eat ice cream. As you do.

Four working days to go.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Amendment 9; the aftermath

I really, really did not think I would be still writing about Brexit 18 months after the referendum. I thought Brexit would not happen because, well, its a bat shit idea, and no sane country could go this made for so long, would have to wake up after the mother of all hangovers, thinking, what did we get up to last night. Take a look at the newspapers and see where we are, and just call Mr Junker, and ask, please ignore that letter.

I write about this because I love my country. I really do, and I am pretty darn sure that Brexit will make the country weaker, poorer, more inward looking, and those that are left will turn on each other. Oddly, Brexiteers like to say they love their country do, and try to prove it by stifling debate, discourse and calling non-believers saboteurs. Or worse. That all most of us want is a little scrutiny, some oversight as to what Maybot 2000 is doing as PM and her merry band of Brexiteers. Those self-same Brexiteers also claimed Brexit was needed to return sovereignty to Parliament, and yet when Parliament vote to return some sovereignty to itself, they all say it is defying the will of the people.

It is possible they will say the people wanting a second referendum is also defying the will of themselves, as it will threaten their beautiful Brexit. I mean, what can they be afraid of? The front page of the Mail today was as horrible as you would expect, calling the 11 Tory MPs who voted against the Government as malcontents and that they should be deselected by their local parties. Is this what it has come to, something akin to the Communist Party COngress where delegates go to rubberstamp what the Brexit Politburo says?

I am more convinced than ever that the referendum was cover for a power grab by the COnservative Party; come up with a vague question, then once won fill in the blanks and say Brexit means whatever you say it means. On the ballot there was nothing about leaving the SM, CU, Euratom, Open Skies, etc, etc, but that is what we are getting, and told it was the people's will. Maybot even said yesterday the people voted to leave the SM. They did not, they voted to leave the EU in an advisory referendum. And that is it, no one voted for the hard Brexit or no deal Brexit DD, Johnson et al seem to want, apparently sabotaging May's deal before 24 hours have passed, and even then that not criminal enough for DD to get sacked.

Maybe things will be quiet over Christmas on the Brexit front, and we can go back to just talking about cats, orchids and churches. But I think this is going to rumble on and on. And how will it end? As I said before, there are those mad enough to push for a no deal, not knowing, or caring, what tat would mean to the country or its people and businesses.

How did we get here, and how do we get out? Not sure if we can.......

Wednesday 13th December 2017

The year gently fades away, in eight days reaching the shortest day of the year, and just when it seems like it will get darker forever, the days will little by little begin to lengthen. At first not really any noticeable change, but the sun will begin to rise further south each morning, and those sun rises will get earlier. Of course, we could have hard weather after then, and the cold snap Britain just experienced could be the fortaste of the tough ones like 1963 or 1947. On the other hand we might not see frost again. High pressure has settled over the country, bringing short sunny days, and long dark nights with the stars and waning crescent moon shining bright enough to cast shadows. Yes, its cold, but not that cold, and in our garden, sunflowers and Foxgloves are still in flower, apparently ignoring the date on the calendar.

Wednesday morning was cloudy and dull. Dawn didn't announce its arrival by reds and yellows, just a lightening in the clouds covering the sky from horizon to horizon.

Three hundred and forty seven This week has been marked by the endless meetings each day, three hours as a minimum, and by three or four in the afternoon, my brain has turned to mush.

As was the case on Wednesday, time between the meetings for work; replying to mail and the urgent tasks. And then in meetings, listening to what people had to say, taking notes. Notes that I will probably never read, or if I do, not understand.

I have Molly now sleeping next to the laptop when I am working at the table. She seems to want company, which although is nice, her drastic change in temperament and nature is causing for concern; is is also easily cowed by the twins, and even Scully is stealing her favourite sleeping spots. The vets say there is nothing wrong, but Jools and I are both worried.

The day passes, with two thick crusts left in the loaf, I toast them, put slices of mature cheddar on the flat side and toast until brown and bubbling, before covering with half a can of beans. It is simple, but brings memories of suppers back in my parent's home, on Saturday evenings, watching the Two Ronnies or Dick Emery, and counting the minutes until Match of the Day would start. Simple meals for a simpler time, maybe.

I make more potato bread to go with the curried soup for dinner, Jools coming back at six or so, it already having been dark for two hours, with a storm beginning to build. Best batten down the hatches and make a brew then!

There was seven games being played, so I listen to the radio a bit, sit with Scully on the sofa, and in that way the evening passes quietly.

Five working days left this year!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Brexit irony overload

It was always going to be the way, that as the clock ticks down on the two year A50 timetable, that things in Parliament, Tory HQ and Brussels get more fraught. So while I am home and not traveling with work, I am able to comment on the day in Brexit.

Early this morning the EU tightened up its clauses in the agreement thrashed out with Mrs May last week, in order that DD knows what he has to do and can't palm off as a voluntary thing.

And then there was the passage of the one Great Repeal Bill. At ten past seven this evening, the Government lost Amendment 7, thus ensuring that Parliament would have to approve any deal DD reached with the EU. The Government lost by 4 votes, even after trying to sway events with an eleventh hour compromise. Some took it and either voted with the Government, or abstained.

Whether it will make any difference remains to be seen, but Parliament being sovereign was one of the main pillars of the who referendum campaign. So, Parliament asserting its sovereignty is now somehow an issue. Holding the Government to account is what Parliament is for, so finally Westminster walking should be seen as a good thing. And if the reasons for Brexit are so good, then the PM should not be worried about some scrutiny. No?

One of the main arguments against the amendment was time constraints; time constraints that May created in triggering A50 before she and her Cabinet were ready. She was warned.....

And your weekly reminder that Article 50 is ticking, it is independent of anything that is under the direct control of any UK politician or political institution. Whatever is going on in UK or Westminster, it is largely the equivalent of re-arranging deckchairs on the sinking Titanic. Might look nice but has no effect. In order for Brexit to be stopped, the Government would want it to happen, and then, in most likelihood, have to ask the EU27 for their permission. We are still a long way from the first part of that, even if Parliament rejects any deal, it is probably that there is nothing that can be done.

Parliament could have inserted all sorts of clauses in the A50 bill, but chose not to.

Of course, if it is in the interest of the EU27 to stop Brexit if asked, they would consider it, but under what terms to the UK? Might never happen of course, but then there have been so many things happen that it was said could not happen......