The Grievance Machine

When it comes to Brexit, One of the more perceptive commentators around is Rafael Behr. So it is worth considering the following remark:

For the true believers, a good Brexit is one that keeps the grievance alive; that makes foreigners the scapegoat for bad government; that continues to indulge the twin national myths of victimhood and heroic defiance. Measured for that purpose, Johnson’s pointless Brexit is perfect.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) is designed as an ongoing negotiation, with five-yearly reviews and I have tended towards the view that now Brexit is “done”, the whole issue can be toned down somewhat. The TCA framework can then be used to allow Britain to make the best of a bad deal by slowly and quietly re-aligning itself with the EU.

But what if I’m being overly optimistic here? What if the TCA turns out to be the start of a lengthy deterioration in relations. If the Brexiters continue to be unable to get over the fact that they have now achieved everything they demanded, we could all be looking towards endless and escalating confrontations.

That said, it’s only a month since the transition arrangements came to an end. I can still hope that people become bored enough of the whole mess that no-one wants to hear the Brexiters any more. And, once the process becomes as dull as it should be, things can start to improve again.

But it may be worth preparing for the worst.

Quote of the Day: Will the Brexit government take responsibility?

The full effects of Brexit, now that the transition period has ended and the TCA has kicked in, are still only beginning to be felt. Every single one of them discredits the claims made by Brexiters, including the idea that there was no need to extend the transition so as to allow a genuine implementation period. There’s no point in them continuing to deny these effects, or continuing to try to justify the false claims they made. Now, it is their responsibility to work to mitigate, so far as it is possible, the worst of the damage they have created.

— Chris Grey looks at some of the many ways in which Brexit is coming apart at the seams .

The Haggis Crisis of 2021

As Brexit disasters go, this is quite a minor one but January 25th was Burns Night, a time to drink whisky, eat haggis and recite poetry. But with ongoing supply chain effects, there was no haggis to be found in Belgium, which led to something of an outcry.

More seriously, Stonemanor, which operates two British supermarkets in Belgium, has announced that it will have to close both premises this coming weekend due to depleted stock levels caused by import issues.

Stonemanor also operates a British Store online which is how I manage to keep fully stocked with essentials like Brown Sauce, Marmite and Lemon Curd. This site has, obviously, suspended orders for the weekend as well and are asking customers to check again after 10th February.

We’re not short of anything yet, but I will be checking in again next week.

I have found the site to be a very good one. They are quick and reliable and have an impressive range of foods on stock. Their announcement about suspending orders also notes:

All our orders are processed and dispatched from Belgium, so when this service resumes, there will be no additional shipping or Brexit surcharges to cover customs clearance.

If you are living in the EU and fancy a taste of something British (they also have a decent selection of Indian and Mexican foods) without any random customs costs, I would strongly recommend taking a look at what they have to offer.

For Brexit is not our Trump

I don’t really want to have a go at Will Hutton in particular, but his is the most recent article I’ve seen to make the same mistake as many UK commenters I have seen. After much celebrating of Biden’s inauguration and a look forward to what this means for the US and the rest of the world, he attempts to draw parallels between Trump and Brexit, claiming:

Instead of the opposition conniving in the belief that the best that can be done is to improve the terms of the “deal” over many years ahead, the political task is to assemble a similarly broad coalition to Biden’s and oppose Brexit in the same terms.

There are two problems with this assertion. There first is the obvious one, that he is not comparing like for like. Electing a government is not the same as signing — or abandoning — an international treaty. Elections are regular occurrences, treaties… not so much.

Personally, I think Brexit is a stupid idea, implemented stupidly by a very stupid government. But it has happened. All the opposition in the world won’t change the fact that Britain left the EU in January 2020 and the transition period came to an end on December 31st and normal trade rules now apply to the UK’s dealings with the EU.

Secondly, and more significantly, is the parochial attitude of much of the British press on display here. What would successfully opposing Brexit look like at this stage? It’s all well and good convincing a majority of the electorate that Brexit is a bad idea, but then what? I presume the UK would want to re-apply to join the EU.

And after having spent four years wasting their time dealing with a belligerently incompetent UK government, does anyone really think that the EU governments will respond with anything other than hollow laughter?

Brexit is done but the trade agreement is an ongoing negotiation. The best Britain can hope for now is for the country to agree to align itself with the single market with the aim of rejoining it and the customs union at some point in the not too distant future.

There is no point in trying to flog a dead horse. If you really want to rejoin the EU, your best bet is to move to Scotland.

Brexit Hell

What was Brexit like? America’s declaration of independence? A man leaving a golf club but demanding to still be allowed into the bar? Over the years, I went through a few analogies, but the one that persisted was of a married man who has for years enjoyed casually flirting with a work colleague. One evening he makes his traditional half-hearted pass, and instead of rolling her eyes, she replies: “Go on, then”. A month later, he’s living out of his car and negotiating through lawyers to see his children one weekend a month, and he can’t really tell you how it happened.

Robert Hutton looks back at the unrelenting mess of Brexit and notes just how stupid the whole thing has been.

And so it remains, with the UK government managing to come up with a toxic combination of compounded stupidity, wilful ignorance and stubborn refusal to face reality. After the (stupid) referendum, the Tories rushed into Brexit without having the faintest idea of what they wanted to achieve or how to achieve it. Or anything.

So here we are, approaching the finally final (we mean it this time) deadline for a trade agreement there is still very little likelihood of anything being agreed, and probably less that any agreement being ratified.

Britain has gone from being part of the largest free trade zone in the world to having a free trade zone smaller than the UK. And for what? To be as independent as North Korea?

Was it really worth it?

Brexiter Brexits before Brexit

With the UK becoming the first European country to exceed 50,000 Coronavirus deaths, all attention is focused on the fact that Dominic Cummings has resigned.

He’s intending to be gone by Christmas, which means that none of the Vote Leave campaigners will be left in government by the time that Brexit really starts to bite.

After being instrumental securing the Brexit vote, Cummings then spent years worming his way into the government machine to ensure that his particular vision of Brexit is the one that would be inflicted on the country. Who’d have thought that such a man would want to quit just as Britain enters the sunlit uplands that he’s been orchestrating for so long?

It’s almost as if he’s finally realised just how destructive a path he’s set the country on and has decided to quit before he has to deal with any of the consequences.

Bye, Dominic. Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.

Five Things #48

“A film equal parts horror and comedy and one that would fall flat if either side hadn’t been up to muster. In that sense it’s wholly unique and might be better off staying that way.” Jack Beresford looks back at how Arachnophobia became the perfect creepy crawly horror comedy.

Solid reasoning is difficult and logical fallacies abound to trip us up and send us down, often insane, rabbit holes. Mark Manson has a refreshingly direct list of 8 logical fallacies that mess us all up, and why they matter.

From its name, to its hazy origins, to its drug interactions, there’s a lot going on beneath that thick rind. Dan Nosowitz explains why grapefruit is one of the weirdest fruits on the planet.

Another Brexit deadline is missed and Johnson blusters some more. Chris Grey notes that, regardless of the outcome of the current negotiations, there will be more because Britain is in for the long haul.

Andrew Anthony goes walking in an autumn wonderland and finds awe in deepest Surrey.

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.