Quote of the day: The freedom to offend

The unwillingness of liberals to stand up for basic liberal principles, their readiness to betray progressives within minority communities, nurtures reactionaries, both within Muslim communities and outside it. The more society gives licence for people to be offended, the more people will seize the opportunity to feel offended. And the more deadly their outrage will become.

Kenan Malik

Brexit: the Digby Jones Jobs Lost Index

Back in 2016, Lord Digby Jones, a vocal proponent of Brexit, inanely asserted that “There’s not going to be any economic pain. If there are job losses, they will be very few”.

As late as January 2019 he was still maintaining “not a single job” would be lost because of Brexit.

In a darkly humorous move, Yorkshire Bylines have come up with the Digby Jones Jobs Lost Index.

It’s a list that keeps on growing.

All’s fair in love and (cod) war

Flanders will use charter from 1666 to guarantee post-Brexit fishing rights

The Flemish government argues it can invoke a charter that dates back to 1666 to secure its right to fish in U.K. waters if there’s no deal on fisheries before the end of the Brexit transition period.

It turns out that King Charles II granted “eternal access” to fifty fishermen from Bruges way back in 1666.

It sounds like a joke, but a spokesperson for Flemish Fisheries Minister, Hilde Crevits has claimed that the charted “has been confirmed by a U.K. lawyer in 1820.”

That’s a mere ten years before Belgium was founded.

After seeking legal guidance, the government of Flanders has sent a copy of the charter to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

One of the things I love about living in Belgium is the surrealism of the country’s politics.

Brexit Bonus

Andrew Page notes that:

One of the challenges facing Leavers during the EU referendum campaign was to provide evidence of cast-iron, certain, undeniable benefits of Brexit.

And they’re still struggling. In the four years since the referendum, no-one has yet managed to come up with a single solid benefit of Brexit and appear to have given up trying.

Helpfully, therefore, Page has come up with 25 unquestionable benefits of Brexit.

It almost makes the whole mess seem worthwhile.

Belgium has a government

Talk about cutting things fine. After twelve attempts and just before the “we really mean it this time” deadline of 1st October, the seven parties involved in the current round of coalition negotiations have finally reached an agreement.

Belgium has been struggling to form a new federal government since the general election on 26 May 2019. Ever since the Flemish nationalists quit the cabinet in December 2018 Belgium has been administered by a minority government, for the past three months by a government with special powers to tackle the corona crisis that enjoyed support from the opposition benches.

That support runs out tomorrow, so we have only just avoided another election.

It should come as no surprise that Flemish Liberal, Alexander De Croo is Belgium’s next prime minister. He and Francophone Socialist, Paul Magnette have been leading the negotiations for this final stage. In principle, either could have taken the top job but, with the Francophone parties dominating a Flemish leader provides some balance. The same (in reverse) was the case when Charles Michel was chosen to lead the amazingly ill-described Kamikaze coalition in 2014.

This coalition has been more poetically dubbed the Vivaldi coalition on the basis that the four political groupings involved can be said to reflect the composer’s Four Seasons: red for the Flemish and Francophone Socialists; blue for the Flemish and Francophone Liberals; green for the Flemish and Francophone Greens; and orange for the Flemish Christian democrats.

At 493 days, these negotiations have been the second longest Belgium has seen. The government formation in 2010-2011 took longer.

But if you count from the collapse of the last government in December 2018, Belgium has broken it’s own record for the longest period without an elected government.

Congratulations all round!

Don’t hold your breath…

But Belgium might actually achieve a government. After much drama, many false starts and almost two years…

Efforts to form a new Belgian government are back on track tonight after Francophone liberal leader Georges-Louis Bouchez agreed to the conditions set by preformateurs Egbert Lachaert (Flemish liberal) and Conner Rousseau (Flemish socialist) with regard to the texts that will form the basis of formal coalition talks.

The seven parties currently involved in preliminary negotiations to form a government have finally reached a broad agreement on a government programme. Now they just need to thrash out the details.

The current caretaker government has been given until 1st October which means that formateurs, Alexander De Croo and Paul Magnette have a week to get everything nailed down.

Ooh. It’s exciting!

Flexibly Confused

I’m not entirely sure about this:

A committee of coronavirus experts has come up with a plan to tighten or relax social contact rules in Belgium depending on the situation in a particular province.

Presently, the rules on how many people you can have in your social bubble are determined nationally. What the Celeval group of experts is proposing is that this approach should be determined locally, based on factors such as numbers of coronavirus hospitalisations in a given province.

Given that most of the cases at the moment are coming out of Brussels and Antwerp, there is some logic to allowing some variation between these and other regions. It does, however, take another step away from having a single, clear set of rules towards expecting people to navigate multiple, and not always clear sets of rules.

People don’t generally pay that much attention so complexity is often best avoided.

RTBF quotes an unidentified source pointing out that there are already colour code systems for education and travel. I’m not convinced that this is relevant, though.

In the case of education, for example, the rules can vary, but we are able to rely on the affected schools to let us know whenever something changes that we need to know about. I’m not convinced a provincial government would be able to send out such updates to everyone, even if they wanted to.

The National Security Council meets later today, so we will find out soon enough just how confusing things are set to become.