A voter exercises their democratic right

…. to vote for the thing we voted for 35 months ago yet still haven’t fucking received.

Why not UKIP? Because the Brexit Party has momentum and no policies other than a WTO terms exit from the EU.

The message offered by a vote for that party should not be interpreted as a “low information vote” or for “we must do a deal at all costs” but an unequivocal, “just leave“.

Just do your damn job, politicians, or move aside and let someone take over who is able and prepared to.

Bill’s Opinion

Democracy is an exercise in mass self-delusion.

The moment those in power make the mistake of allowing us to see behind the curtain, they have put themselves in grave danger.

The batsman is Holding, the bowler’s Willey

There’s a great tradition of spoof obituaries in England. The oldest international cricket rivalry, The Ashes, takes its name from one published in 1882 for example.

This one has a more serious subtext however;

UK Democracy on 29th March 2019, aged 312. It was with sad regret that Democracy died quietly in her sleep at 11pm, on the 29th March 2019. The cause of death was by foul play and the culprits have yet to be brought to justice. Democracy campaigned for the rule of law, human rights and free elections. She listened to everyone and favoured the majority in all her decisions. She will be sorely missed. God have mercy on her soul.

This is in response to the decision, if indeed one can call it that, of the UK Government and the House of Commons to not follow through on their previous majority decision that, absent a negotiated settlement with the EU, Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar would leave the EU at 11pm on Friday 29th March 2019.

The can has subsequently been kicked twice more down the road to 11pm, October 31st 2019. There’s little consensus on what, if anything, might change between now and then to break the impasse.

The negotiations have been ongoing for two and a half years and yet there has been a complete failure to discover a comprise win-win solution acceptable to both the EU unelected officials and the British Parliament.

This indicates one of three possibilities;

1. Such a compromise is not possible, or

2. The negotiating team or teams are not competent enough to reach one, or

3. One party has not been negotiating in good faith.

If we accept as true that, in the words of one ex-Brexit Minister, “If the UK thrives after a negotiated exit, it’s bad for the EU. If the UK thrives after a no-deal Brexit, it’s the end of the EU“, the UK should have been able to have negotiated a deal acceptable to Parliament, assuming Parliament wanted such a thing.

Using our patented razor, we’re going to have to assume it’s the British Parliament that’s the problem then. If they wanted to leave, they would have left by now.

How the hell did the mother of all parliaments become so timid and forgetful of their mandate.

One of the main justifications being wheeled out against simply leaving is the economic impact.

Here’s one such argument in the house from Hansard:

….how cautious should we be of incurring a loss of such magnitude, that the whole revenue of the country may be too little to make it good. l am aware that those who maintain this last opinion have alledged, that compensation may be demanded for voluntary and exaggerated losses, and for a sacrifice of extravagantly computed prospective profits.

Actually, that wasn’t an argument against Brexit, that was Mr. George Hibbert, MP for Seaford, arguing against the abolition of slavery in 1807.

The vast majority of his colleagues took the opposite view that not only was it the morally correct thing to do but the majority of the electorate agreed with the motion to leave and accept the economic consequences and make the egregious slave trade illegal.

And so, the British Parliament became the first to legislate against slavery, a practice that had been present in almost every culture globally for the entire history of humanity (not that you’d realise that by reading the news today; it would seem the current prevailing view is that the British invented the trade… that the Arabs had been profiting from for centuries prior and after the British copied them).

The irony shouldn’t be lost that some of the arguments against the abolition of the international slave trade are eerily similiar to those deployed against implementing the result of the largest democratic vote in British history, particularly the concerns about the economic consequences.

In fact, the British people were asked twice to confirm they wanted to go ahead with Brexit; both the Conservative and Labour parties campaigned in the 2017 general election on manifestos promising to implement the result of the previous year’s referendum. The third party, the Liberal Democrats, offered voters another referendum to confirm the result of the first. They were utterly destroyed in the election.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s time to clean out this Augean stable. In the words of Oliver Cromwell:

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place,

which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!

Peter Hartcher probably thinks this is objective

Time to fisk, Right Wing Nationalists Are Learning From the UK’s Pointless Ugliness.

Now that Brexit is indisputably established as one of the most monumentally stupid pieces of self-inflicted injury by a developed nation this century, other nations are learning key lessons from its mistakes.

Brexit hasn’t happened yet. In other news, the UK economy’s growth is currently outstripping that of all of its European neighbours, particularly Germany. Sure, the onmishambles that the British are currently suffering in Westminster is a national embarrassment but I’m not seeing much that could be called a “self-inflicted injury”.

The concept behind Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was that it would recover its sovereignty. On the day that Britons voted by 52 per cent to 48 in favour, its main cheerleader, Nigel Farage, declared it “independence day”. That was nearly three years ago.

Other than padding to hit the word count, I’m not sure what this tells us that anyone not living under a rock doesn’t already know. Three years, you say? Article 50 was always going to be at least a two year process, as advertised during the referendum campaign.

Today the country is a global laughing stock. It’s in an interminable dead-end, neither able to move forwards nor back. It’s lost investment and jobs, political stability, national credibility and, perhaps worst of all, it’s inflicted new anger and division within British society.

Let’s take those statements one at a time, shall we?

The country is a global laughing stock – Maybe. Or perhaps the politicians are the source of amusement. As for Britons caring what others think of them; there are only about 20 countries in the world, i.e. 10%, who we’ve not had a bit of a ruck with in the past. As Millwall fans chant, “Everyone hates us, and we don’t care”.

Dead end? Perhaps, but again, if the politicians can’t pull their fingers out of their arses by 11pm on Friday we’ll be moving one way…. out of the EU.

Lost investment? See the previous comment about the relative strength of the economy. Also, predicting what would have happened to an economy if something hadn’t happened is a mug’s game. QV the Bank of England’s predictions of Armageddon should the vote go the “wrong” way.

Lost jobs? Unemployment is the lowest it’s been for decades.

Political stability? Yes, and as we can see, the politicians have been found wanting. More instability please.

National credibility? This is from a journalist who presumably would claim he comes from a democratic country yet they change Prime Minister every 18 months and government every 36 months. Oh, and they’re in the insalubrious club of nations that enforce voting by law.

Anger and division? Yes, mainly concentrated at those paid to do a job and yet can’t.

Across the other 27 members of the EU, the main lesson learnt is that it’d be a bad idea to follow Britain out the door. In one country after another, the political parties that were inspired by Brexit have dumped their campaigns.

This isn’t quite giving the message Peter thinks it does. Perhaps nobody should wish to be in a club that punishes you for leaving? See also; Islam.

Two years ago, the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was demanding a referendum on whether to leave the EU, a Frexit, as was known. Today she speaks of making the EU work better. Italy’s Matteo Salvini of the League ran a right-wing nationalist campaign to reject the EU common currency, the euro, but now, as deputy prime minister, he has stopped using the hashtag #BastaEuro – enough of the euro. The idea is now effectively moribund. In Austria, the Freedom Party dropped its call for a referendum on dumping the euro and joined a coalition government that favours the status quo.

Again, Peter’s not really giving the message he thinks he is here. Some of us read this as a declaration of hostilities against any population that dares to defy the will of the EU. That’s a club nobody sane should wish to join.

Britain’s experience with Brexit has shown the world such pointless ugliness that it has boosted support for the EU to its highest in 35 years. Specifically, according to a Eurobarometer survey last year, two-thirds of Europeans say that their country has benefited from EU membership.

A survey commissioned by the EU found the EU was good? That’s some high kwality journalisming there, Peter. Bravo.

In Canada, Brexit is being used as an object lesson for secessionists in the French-speaking province of Quebec: “It has given us a picture of what actual attempts to withdraw from a long-established legislative union, as opposed to fantasies, look like,” says the National Post’s Andrew Coyne. “In particular, it has permanently discredited once-common claims that secession from Canada would be a quick and relatively painless affair.”

The Quebecois want to secede from Canada? Really, when did this shocking development occur and please explain to me again the subtle reason why nearly every Canadian Prime Minister always seems to have to come from Montreal?

This point carries particular force for any Australian thinking of voting for Clive Palmer, who is running candidates across the country for the federal election in a shameless attempted comeback even as his creditors try to recover hundreds of millions from his collapsed Queensland Nickel.

Palmer proposes that North Queensland break away and form a separate, new state. Ironic, perhaps, for his so-called United Australia Party. Palmer has learnt nothing from Brexit. He is either a buffoon or an irresponsible populist.

That’s the sound of Peter jumping a shark. Clive Palmer has three fifths of fuck all support from the Australian population, he’s lucky to get a majority of support in his own family. Brexit, on the other hand won a majority in the biggest democratic turn out in British history.

And this is the first lesson that Australia, like countries everywhere, should learn from Brexit. Populists offer emotional appeals that lead to dead ends, just as Farage led Britain to Brexit.

An alternate lesson might be, voting for anything the ruling class don’t like is a futile gesture. Better to let the politicians and journalists make all the difficult decisions and you lot can go back to watching Married at First Sight.

There are many definitions of populism. The one I prefer is that populism offers unworkably simple solutions to complex problems. Palmer is not the only populist on the ballot paper at the federal election. One Nation is another standout. Single-issue parties are no better.

….unworkably simple solutions to complex problems”. I think you’ve just described every opinion column and editorial in your publication, Peter.

Brexit has been described as a crisis of many types. A crisis of national identity, a crisis of leadership, a crisis of the Tory party, a crisis of British politics, a crisis of democracy, a constitutional crisis, and so on. And you can make a solid case for each of these claims. But, at its broadest, the Brexit dead end is a crisis of overpoliticisation. That is, every realistic and practical element of the national interest is lost to a self-interested free-for-all, like hyenas preying on the body politic.

Brexit has also been described as the British people doing what the British people do very well; holding the ruling class to account occasionally. The alternative approach, as demonstrated in “less happy lands” (to quote The Bard), is violent revolution.

The triumph of Farage’s populist “Leave” campaign dealt Britain a jolting blow to the head, disorienting the political system and signalling to the politicians that it was time to let their inner hyenas out. Overpoliticisation is not simply where a government can’t get its way in an uncooperative parliament. That is standard in a democracy. It will often occur for perfectly legitimate reasons of difference over principle or policy. It often happens that the Australian Senate, which was designed to represent a different priority of interests to the House, will block legislation that has passed the lower house.

Brexit is not overpoliticisation; it’s 17.4 million people explaining to about 400 MPs that they have an opinion that’s 180 degrees different to theirs and, lest you forget, we pay your salaries.

As the chaos of the British parliament demonstrates, overpoliticisation is where there is a breakdown of any goodwill or discipline within the parties themselves. It can’t happen here? It already has. In Australia’s case, it was not as all-encompassing as Brexit. But the pathetic tale of climate change and energy policy in Australia over the last decade is a clear case of overpoliticisation. The net result so far is a policy dead end, where a government of six years is about to go to an election without an energy policy.

Brexit and Australia’s woeful energy policy are linked? That’s a bloody long bow to draw.

Electricity prices have soared, companies are being put out of business, Australia’s carbon emissions commitment is in doubt, and the entire power grid is approaching collapse. As the Australian Energy Market Commission reported last week, “the grid is holding up but only because the energy market operator is intervening on a daily basis to keep the lights on”. And this in a country that is an energy superpower.

This national failure didn’t happen because of the routine operation of Australia’s political system. First a Labor government, and then Coalition ones, proved unable to cohere around a policy. The parties fractured within. Labor struck down its own prime minister over an emissions trading system, pitching the Rudd and Gillard governments into a disarray that neither recovered from.

Then it was the Coalition’s turn. Even after Malcolm Turnbull got his National Energy Guarantee through the Liberal party room, a revolt detonated the policy and destroyed the prime minister.

In the cases of Labor and Liberal, it was a free-for-all, without the party discipline that a Westminster system requires or the goodwill to agree on a compromise. No democracy can function without compromise.

The hyenas fed amid the chaos in a frenzy of self-interest and self-indulgence, and the Australian electorate was disgusted. Labor paid the price, and now it seems the Coalition will pay the same price at next month’s election.

All of which can be summarised as, “Australian politicians pushed an agenda that was directly against the wishes of the electorate and now they are struggling to explain why a country rich in coal and uranium has the most expensive electricity in the world”.

Britain’s madness is broader, deeper and more intractable, but Australia has shown over the last decade that it, too, is capable of ruinous over-politicisation. No matter how bad the tragi-comedy of Brexit, Australia cannot be smug.

Peter Hartcher is international editor.

Bill’s Opinion

Peter Hartcher is lacking self-awareness, an ability for introspection and is probably of the opinion that he is objective.

Independent. Always

Because of/despite Brexit (delete where appropriate)

From the BBC (Brexit Blocking Corporation), comes this tale of woe and personal disasters.

British nationals who have retired to EU countries may no longer have their healthcare costs covered by the NHS in the event of a no-deal Brexit and many are considering returning home, reports Vishala Sri-Pathma.

Why’s that?

Currently expat pensioners can get treatment reimbursed by the NHS under an EU-wide deal

Ah, yes that would be a problem.

How does it currently work?

Pensioners who have paid in to the UK’s national insurance system for the qualifying number of years benefit from the S1 reciprocal healthcare rules if they retire in EU/EEA countries or Switzerland.

What’s the revenue flow for that arrangement, one wonders? How much is charged each way, who runs the deficit?

The system currently saves the NHS about £450m a year. In 2017, a senior health department official told a parliamentary select committee that Spain charges an average of £2,300 for every pensioner it treats, compared with £4,500 charged by the NHS.

I though the NHS was “the envy of the world“? Are we now saying it’s twice as expensive for the same outcome?

Why on earth hasn’t Britain started running hospital tourism cruises to Santander and saved a fortune?

Yet there are no guarantees that this arrangement will continue under the Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals to protect the rights of EU citizens, including the 1.2 million Britons living elsewhere in the EU.

Frankly, nobody has a clue what bloody deal will be implemented on March 29th, least of all the incompetent idiots negotiating it.

The UK government is currently advising expat Brits in the EU to register for access to healthcare in the EU/EEA country they live in, as some residents may need to be a long-term resident or to pay social security contributions to access free or discounted healthcare.

Good advice.

Of course, even better advice is; whenever you reside in a new country long enough to qualify for citizenship, seriously consider it as an option, given that taxation and immigration are the most frequently amended laws.

Residents of Spain, take note.

Another consideration is to plan for changes in laws. The European reciprocal arrangement for healthcare has only been in existence for about 15 years. Anyone emigrating for a retirement in Asia from Europe would budget for healthcare insurance, in contrast.

Another blow to the British in Spain has been the falling value of the pound. “It’s (Brexit) costing me great amounts of money in my pocket,” one bowler says as he lines up the balls for the next game. “I’d like to sees the exchange rate to go back to what it was six years ago – but that’s wishful thinking.”

Let’s fact check that shall we?

How long has the pound been in decline and is it really due to Brexit?

It’s currently sitting around $1.29, so unless the Forex markets knew about the Brexit vote result back in 2010, there’s not much about the exchange rate one can blame on Brexit.

If your retirement financial plan is underwater after a negative 10% exchange rate change, consider the possibility you weren’t ready to retire.

But possibly the best quote in the whole article is this:

“When I voted to leave I didn’t think it would change anything,” says Yvonne Stone

Good grief.

Bill’s Opinion

On verra. On verra.

Three cheers for Jeremy Corbyn!

The slow moving car crash that is Brexit continued last night with the government losing the vote to ratify the deal made with the EU by a unprecedented margin as predicted by everyone…… including most of Theresa May’s cabinet.

The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, had several options in front of him at that point. He chose to call for a vote of no confidence, which, if lost by the government, will result in a General Election.

We don’t really do predictions here but we’ll make an exception in this case – there is more chance Halle Berry will turn up at my house tomorrow evening wearing sexy lingerie and holding a bottle of Krug, a box of Godiva chocolates and a Barry White playlist on her iPhone than Jeremy Corbyn winning today’s vote.

To have called for a vote that he so clearly won’t win (the rebel Conservative MPs hate Theresa May’s deal but they aren’t going to allow the Labour Party have an early chance at government either – turkeys don’t vote for Christmas) shows a depressing lack of imagination.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with more than a passing familiarity with Corbin’s history. He used to be my MP for a while during my years in London (no, I didn’t vote for him), during which time I learned enough about him to realise he fits the “useful idiot” description perfectly. His deputy, John McDonnell, in the other hand, would be truly terrifying if he got close to the reigns of power.

Corbyn has, in effect, been wrong and proven wrong about nearly everything for nearly all his adult life. His fundamental belief is that socialism is the ideal form of political and societal organisation and that we just need to implement it correctly this time. The 200 million or more dead bodies in the 20th century are simply a statistical side note during the experiments to find the right version.

No surprise then, that a pointless gesture would be his first choice tactic. But what were his other options last night when responding to Theresa May?

Here’s a few this non-political professional can think of;

1. Commiserate Theresa May and offer to form an emergency cross-party cabinet to thrash out a counter offer to take to the EU next week.

2. Commiserate Theresa May and thank her for her efforts to negotiate in good faith with the EU but state that this has clearly been a one way street. The EU have not intended to find a mutually acceptable compromise from the start of the process and, therefore, Labour recommend the government pivot to the assumption that they are dealing with a hostile foreign power and commence planning accordingly. Labour will fully support the government in a bipartisan approach during this period of national crisis.

3. Commiserate Theresa May and ask her to return to the house within 24 hours with an outline of her revised approach to ensure an orderly exit from the EU on March 29th. The house should be offered a vote of confidence on this approach and, if lost, she will resign as Prime Minister or a general election will be called (pick one).

4. Commiserate Theresa May and then read a prepared statement which sets out, in simple language, Labour’s alternatives to the contentious elements of the bill. Offer to support the government to pass the re-submitted bill if these amendments were made.

There are probably loads more versions of these suggestions that Corbyn could have taken last night. That he took the one least likely to succeed is in character but still confusing. He suffers greatly from cognitive dissonance but this takes it to a new level.

Bill’s Opinion

What’s going on?

I can think of a few possible explanations and, frankly, I’ve not settled on which one is most probable;

1. Everything is as it appears; we have an incompetent Prime Minister, an even more incompetent Leader of the Opposition and a foreign power acting in bad faith.

2. Losing the vote was a deliberate negotiation tactic by the Prime Minister, enabling her to put the EU under pressure to improve the terms of the deal or risk the “no deal” option. The Leader of the Opposition is incompetent and the EU are acting in bad faith.

3. It’s all kayfabe. What we are witnessing is a public play between the EU and UK government to give an impression of conflict and subsequent resolution while the terms of exit have already been agreed and the strategy to achieve approval has been meticulously planned. Jeremy Corbyn is still incompetent.

4. As (3) but Jeremy Corbyn is in on the secret too.

(1) and (2) don’t concern me; we will either see a “no deal” exit (i.e. WTO terms) or a reasonable but not perfect deal.

(3) and (4) are truly scary but, to be true, using our razor, have the most unproven assumptions.

Have I missed any potential explanations?

Which do you think is most likely?

What this war needs is a futile gesture….