Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Government loses Brexit appeal...oh happy days

Hey nonny-nonny....

This will be a fun day now because:

- Remoaners will think there is some sort of victory

- Lot of Lefty hand-wringing about the sovereignty of parliament

- Threats from the Lords about not playing ball as Article 50 is not in the Tory manifesto and so lots dark threats about not passing a Government bill.

- The Lib Dems will declare a need for a new referendum and an end of hunger globally.

All the while, the bullet is already shot. The EU already hate us and want us out; there will be no going back to them as the terms have been changed already.

Furthermore, May is in a great position, if Brexit is blocked by the Lords or Parliament then a snap election it is, with a 100-Seat majority as Hard Brexit as clause one of the manifesto.

Still, as they say of remoaners, its the hope that kills.....

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Cold, Hard Reality Check

Check that top left-hand dial.  I think we all know this, but it bears repeating:  often, during the coldest periods of winter, the wind just doesn't blow


It's been like this most of the week, BTW.



We have been having a lot of discussion about the implications of moving to "WTO only" trade relations with the rEU once the UK has left. But not much has been said about the costs we already pay thanks to the EU's existing common external tariffs. It is almost not worth repeating that the EU is not a paragon of free trade with the rest of the world. While the EU treaties (claim to) aim at an undistorted market within Europe's boundaries, they do not shout from the rooftops the protectionist goals of Fortress Europe. We tend to forget that for a long time the UK ran a unilateral free trade policy with the rest of the world. When we joined the Common Market we agreed to erect barriers with former major suppliers. Food prices soared as a result, and this was much discussed during the 1975 referendum apparently.

The EU customs barrier is protectionist, aiming to save certain national industries from international competition. It (sometimes in combination with other EU policies) keeps certain prices in Europe much higher than world prices. In some areas it deliberately forces world prices down while keeping internal prices high. This is especially true with food, where Europe actually exports processed food to poorer countries - trashing their agricultural industries while we pay more than we need to. We then often send the same countries aid money. Meanwhile capital is invested inefficiently in the production and processing of food which could be imported more cheaply from elsewhere. How many whammies is that now?

This is especially visible when there is a European industry in processing a raw material that does not naturally occur in Europe. Coffee and chocolate spring to mind. Raw coffee beans can be brought into the EU without a tariff, but if an African company dares try to export roasted coffee beans to the EU it is hit. The more the developing world tries to rise up the value chain, the more it is taxed. Do you know which country dominates the EU coffee processing industry? Hint: it isn't Italy. 

The EU slaps around a 32% levy on wine imported from the new world and about 18% on processed chocolate. One wonders who these are supposed to benefit. These numbers are all estimates because the rules are extremely complicated (shock) and opaque (shock): there seem to be exemptions and surcharges and quotas aplenty. So much for "frictionless" trade.

Still keen on staying in the EU Customs Union? 

But surely we should not be cutting tariffs unilaterally? After all, we put ourselves at a disadvantage if we allow foreign goods in without them allowing in our exports in return? Who cares if a bottle of Chilean red is a bit more expensive than it otherwise might be? Well maybe this recent BBC article will help.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Two Autopsies and a Funeral

May and her clever GCHQ buggers eclipse Corbyn and his daft buggers
(1)  Corbyn's Relaunch

The political relaunch is always a soul-destroying exercise, forever associated with doomed leaderships:  IDS, Brown, Miliband (several times) ...  One supposes the corps of political hacks must get a sort of professional kick from it - they, after all, are the primary target, it being the sole aim of the exercise to get just the faintest soup├žon of a favourable review out of them.
March to the gallows

D-Day will be announced;  a speech will be carefully crafted; a bizarre venue, supposedly of deep symbolic significance, will be chosen;  a fake audience will be invited (on terms of bewildering secrecy);  the speech will be rehearsed, then re-crafted; focus groups will be hastily convened;  sound bites will be trialled, then trailed;  should we brief Michael Crick? - but he'll just remind us of when we said the exact opposite fourteen months ago?;  packages will be prepared for the Sundays;  every broadcasting studio will be awarded an exclusive interview in a logistical plan requiring SAS precision to deliver the leader hither and thither across London over a six hour period; the speech will be re-crafted (again);  big packs of Tena-pants for grownups will be procured and distributed;  favours will be exchanged with news editors (OK, how about if you are the only paper to be given the full text in advance?);  pre-spun headlines and gobbets that it is hoped will command the airwaves on D-Day are issued in strictly embargoed press-releases;  the leader's best suit is dusted down and his shoes polished (do I really have to wear a tie?);  the pre-spinners make their final calls to maximise the chances everyone gets the message on Jeremy 2.0 (sic) ...

And then - the sun rises on D-Day and HMS Corbyn (Corbyn the corvette: there is no battleship of that name) heads for the beaches.  Carnage!  He runs ashore miles away from the intended target and Oberst John Humphrys is well-prepared.  The leader forgets all his special training and looses off a clip of non-issue ammunition that misfires.  By midday he is well off the intended track and his staff are obliged to hatch a new plan from scratch and insert a lavish retraction in the afternoon's speech - thank the Lord they are all former journalists and can turn out that crap at 500 words to the hour - and pretend they are delighted with the outcome:  "am told Team Corbyn pleased" - (Norman Smith, BBC).

Yes, that's what they did alright: a classic reverse-ferret.  You know it, because "Mr Corbyn's office are said to be relaxed about his unscripted early-morning remarks on capping pay, and are pleased that it dominated the headlines".  That's relaxed as in senna-pods and syrup-of-figs.  *Said to be relaxed* is code for chewing the carpet, sobbing.

And how did it go down with the political hacks?  Pretty much the best Corbyn's office could muster was "all publicity is good publicity".  Anyone taking comfort from that is way too easily satisfied - and clearly didn't read the actual write-ups.  "Still a coherent message on Brexit eludes him"; "his proposals flipping around like a dropped hosepipe"; "Corbyn could no more approximate Trump-esque barnstorming rhetoric than he could fly".  And that's just the Guardian writers.  The fragrant Laura K summed it up in her closing words on the 10 O'clock News: "doomed to fail".  

And since the re-launch?  More of the same, including mockery of the utterly contrived parrotting of Trump's "rigged system" meme in the desperate belief Corbyn can ride the anti-establishment wave that is deemed to sweep all before it.  It's hard though, isn't it, to associate that dynamic metaphor with the man whose instinctive posture when riding is ... crouched on the floor of the train.  Behind the lavatory.

(2)  May's Speech

Bit of a contrast here.  Nicely trailed; everything kept tidy; pretty respectful write-ups.  Nine-out-of-ten.  Contrasted pointedly and favourably with Corbyn everywhere, in fact.  And actually revealing something worthy of note: she's concluded (as have we all) that by their churlish demeanour over the past several months the eurofed-leadership leaves us with no alternative but to plan for Hard Brexit.  Hurrah (or YAY!, according to choice.)

A couple of other highly encouraging things.  (i) P.Hammond properly onside - at last, but hey, he got there in the end - and coming onto the dancefloor with a nicely choreographed and plainly worded newspaper interview for German consumption.  (ii) That fantastic story in the Guardian that had me so happy last weekend.  The one with the leak from a briefing for MEPs by M.Barnier, where he said they badly needed a special deal with the City.  How very convenient - and so beautifully timed.  Leaks like that put the bastards on notice that if they reckon to hold any planning meetings in nice, comfortable offices in Brussels or Strasbourg, or use telephones, or email ... GCHQ will have 'em for supper. 

Grown-ups - 3.  Kindergarten - nil  (points deducted for fielding a player out of his league)

(3)  Rick Parfitt RIP

Anyhow, it's the weekend, and a proper C@W tribute is long overdue to the great Rick Parfitt of Status Quo, whom we lost last month.  Take four minutes out and enjoy this.  Sorry, I know the pic below is not of the man himself - blame the blogger/youtube embedding function.  But the song is one of his.  A great intro - and quite a lot more than 3 chords ...


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Mischief in The Gambia: The Remainer of Banjul

                                                                                                Map:  Wiki
Politics in the UK and the USA, it has to be said, are pretty interesting just now: but meanwhile, in the rest of the world ...  As Gambian president Yahya Jammeh plays his post-election game of Will He, Won't He (go without a fight), his neighbours steaming across the border to offer menaces against him and tourists reluctantly coming home on FCO advice, the Army declares itself a non-participant.  “I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight. I love my men” said Ousman Badjie, chief of the defence staff
... stopping to pose for selfies with admirers. “If they [Senegalese] come in, we are here like this,” Badjie said, making a hands up to surrender gesture.  
Sounds about right, from my modest experience of this strange little country on business 18 months ago.   (This boosted my stock of crazy third-world anecdotes, which I may relate in some future Saturday post if it's quiet one week.)   His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh Babili Mansa - el presidente for a few more hours perhaps - was always a bit flaky, e.g. his recent declaration that The Gambia was going to become an economic superpower a few years from now.   His electorate were evidently sceptical about this; and to be fair, there were no outward and visible signs of superpower-type things happening.  Or anything, really. 

I couldn't help noticing that the locals in this longtime British Commonwealth country spoke English and French equally, and the explanation I was given (plus a glance at the map) makes it obvious enough.  The lengthy border with francophone Senegal is totally porous and bears no relationship to the tribal boundaries: people drift in and out between the two countries all the time.  Not a propitious basis for armed resistance against the local heavyweights of the country that surrounds them on three sides, plus Nigeria. 

The majority of the population are Muslim in an easygoing sort of way (hey, for years before ebola it was a major-league holiday destination for scantily clad, boozy westerners); but there is no shortage of Christians either.  The entertaining local newspapers devote the front page to obsequious coverage of the president's latest witterings, but inside the crime reports are colourful, and a page each is given to an Imam and a Catholic priest, from which columns I learned several worthwhile doctrinal points.

The beaches are stunning (my pix, not a brochure).  But my "4-star hotel"  - a household name global franchise - had an extremely dodgy electricity supply (no fun in a hot conference room when the OHP and the aircon die on you)  and no telephones ... 

Jammeh has been offered exile in Nigeria, but at the time of writing he hasn't taken it up.  The whole of the dark continent is watching this one closely as it might still represent an exceptionally rare event - an African dictator giving up power without bloodshed.  And with a strategic position as weak as the one conveyed by the map, I think we must assume that'll be the eventual result.  Hopefully so - for all concerned.


EU show their teeth

Been very busy here at Capitalists Towers, what with the need to earn salaries and income etc.

So apologies for the lighter posting this week.

The EU seem to be really goading themselves for a fight though. Anything said by Mar or Johnson at the moment is being taken as a horrific insult worthy of instant response and denigration.

There are a couple of obvious themes:

- Left-Wing Euroers are much worse and are very akin to remainers.
- The Brussels crowd are this doubleplus
- There is the strange outlier here of Donald Tusk who seems to be acting like a grown-up.
- Key player Merkel is remaining very quiet, lots of the national political whining is by politicians trying to shore up their positions ahead of elections this year they are likely to lose.

These 'negotiations' are unlikely to last very long in this environment.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017