🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Bee’s View

I was thrilled with the guest posts on Brexit from Roger, Colette, Frank and Gary, and thought that project had likely run its course for the moment, when my friend Bee asked if she could contribute a post.  I immediately jumped on that opportunity, for Bee’s perspective will, no doubt, be significantly different than the previous four.  You see, Bee is a German national who has been living in the UK for quite some time … not sure how long … and she fears being forced to leave and return to Germany when Brexit, deal or no-deal, is complete.  Bee’s post is heartfelt, and I think presents a side we haven’t seen before, so please take a few minutes to read her tale.  Thank you so much, dear Bee!


GoodreadsBeeYesterday, I read the views on Brexit from several of my fellow bloggers here on Jill’s blog. Thanks very much, Jill, for giving us the platform to express our experiences and views. All of their posts and many of the comments taught me a lot. But it felt that the view from an EU immigrant to the UK on Brexit was missing. So, I decided to give my pound’s worth of opinion too.

I am sorry, but this will be a bit messy because my mind is a jungle, and Brexit is very personal for me. For me, Brexit is not a theoretical mind game that might or might not bring me advantages of any sort. Brexit means in a worst-case scenario, the existence I have built here is going to be destroyed.

The worst-case scenario would be, I apply for “Settled Status” which allows EU citizens to stay in the UK with mostly the same rights as before, but were rejected. Currently, that means I would have to leave the UK within four weeks. We have a house with a mortgage and jobs here. How do you create a new life within four weeks?

Let’s assume we would go to my home country, Germany. Many think that because I am German I would get help from there but nope: for the last 12 years I have paid my taxes and social contributions here in Britain, so why should they give me anything? I am not sure if we could get any help from the UK, but chances are we would not.

Germany is, like the UK, interested in “useful” immigrants who can work, pay taxes and bring in skills that are needed. My husband has a back problem and at nearly 60 wants to settle down and not to start all over again. It is unlikely he would easily find a job in Germany or elsewhere. We also do not have a big bank account to cushion any decision we would have to make. He would go with me despite all, but he would leave his children and all security behind but what for? Because some people don’t believe the EU gives Britain any benefits?  So please bear with me if I am sarcastic, angry and very scared.

I read in some of the previous posts about Brexit that immigration isn’t the main reason for voting to leave. However, to me, this looks differently maybe because of where we live. Our home is Norfolk which is a rather rural county in the East of England. Most jobs are in agriculture and tourism unless you are in Norwich, the only city in Norfolk. Norwich has a university, a thriving tech industry and it probably doesn’t surprise you that Norwich mainly voted to remain while the rest of Norfolk mainly voted to leave.

Both tourism and agriculture are heavily dependent on seasonal EU workers. To those Norfolk residents, who do not have a job, it appears that EU workers “steal” the jobs they feel are theirs. Since the referendum, the influx of seasonal EU workers seems to have decreased though. But it doesn’t look like the vacancies are taken by jobless leave voters. They are simply not filled while farmers and restaurant owners say that they just can’t find staff that is qualified enough and/or is willing to work the necessary hours. The same goes for care staff, nurses and doctors by the way.

Leave voters I know, do say that immigration was a huge reason why they voted to leave. They mention how EU immigrants come with filled-in forms to get benefits while British people can’t get any. I have not researched how much any of this is true. However, I have tried to get benefits this August after nearly 1 1/2 years without a job. Imagine my surprise when I was told that I only qualified for 6 months of job seekers allowance. To get this my husband had to sign up as well even though he had a job. The British benefits system is complicated and has changed a lot in recent years that’s why it would go too far to explain that as well.

On top, I had to prove that I had the right to get any benefit in the UK. This entailed an interview with someone from the jobcentre where I had to bring all the proof I had that I didn’t spend all my time in Germany or elsewhere. I also needed to prove that I work and live here. I was told, I would need to tell them every time I moved within the UK, how often and when exactly I left to go on holiday and whatever else that person felt they needed to know to grant me the benefit. At that point, I gave up because I can hardly remember what I did last week, let alone remember when I went on holiday ten years ago. Also, my husband would not have to prove all this. Both of us were rather appalled that I would need to be investigated like this, especially as they have my social security number. They know what I earned and where I worked.

20190218_120157I also think they probably know better than I when I was abroad: There are only three ways to come and go from the UK: you fly, you use a ferry, or you use the channel train. In all occasions, you have to show your passport because Britain did not sign the Schengen agreement. You can travel without your passport being checked in European countries that have signed the Schengen agreement. Even when we went to Switzerland which isn’t in the European Union but has an agreement on travel and trade with the EU, we didn’t show our passports once at the Swiss border. However, we had to show them when we left and came back to Britain. So surely they know how often I left the UK?

What surprises me about the Brexit debate, in general, is the view most people seem to have about the EU. For most people, not only in the UK but also all over Europe, membership in the EU mainly seems to be a question of business and economy. However, one of the main reasons why the EU was founded after the second world war was Peace. Europe had seen wars between its countries for centuries, and it culminated in WWII. The founding fathers and mothers of the European Union had experienced the destruction and human cost this war had brought, so their aim was firstly peace, and secondly a thriving economy for all of us. In all this struggle of a changing world, we do forget how important peace is for our countries wellbeing.

Peace is what the European Union mainly symbolises for me. To me, it is the guarantee that Europeans work together for peaceful and prosperous countries.  Yes, this Union of now 27 countries is far from perfect. But maybe it would be a good idea for European voters not to practice protest votes which result in getting people into the European parliament who are against everything EU? Surely if you vote for someone like Nigel Farage (who, by the way, had a German wife, and now has a French girl-friend, but campaigned against the EU for ages) to be your Member of European Parliament (MEP) you can’t be surprised that there are bad decisions made for your country on EU level?

Many European voters use the EU elections to vent frustration about many topics. But the EU-critical MEP’s they vote in, of course, do not do a fully constructive job. Most won’t make anything done in the EU look positive. So much of the anti-EU sentiment in any European country today might be non-existent if we only had MEP’s who are devoted European Unionists.  This is not a particularly British problem either. All European countries face anti-European tendencies, and I often said after the referendum: “If Germany had this referendum it would have gone the same way. German politicians are just not so stupid to do such a referendum.”

The EU certainly needs improvement, and most EU politicians are fully aware of it. However, they can’t get on with that job because the whole union is currently occupied with getting Brexit done. And the stakes are high on both sides. I recently read that Germany would lose about 100,000 jobs if the EU and Britain would not be able to strike a deal. That is a lot of jobs and can get any politician in trouble. But as far as I can see, most Germans think: “No matter the cost and no matter how flawed, the European Union is worth it!” And that seems to be the opinion of most Europeans outside of the UK.

I am fully aware that my points are just a tiny little part of the whole complex problem of Brexit and not very well researched or explained. To me, it is not only disenfranchised jobless voters who want to get rid of any immigrant, or lazy politicians who follow their agenda and not the good for the people who voted for them. Brexit is the expression of humans who feel that their life and their society does not offer them the possibility to live the best possible life. The reasons for this are many, and no one quite understands them, so many look for easy answers. In this case: “If only we could leave the EU all will be well”.

Unfortunately, easy answers never solve complex problems, and it hurts me to see the country I chose as my home and which I love, in this unholy mess, that might never be solved. It hurts me to see families, friends and communities so divided, so angry and so lost. But maybe this pain and division are necessary for us to become open for previously unthought solutions that let us live our best possible lives. I so very much hope for this!

*** Note to Readers:  Bee asked me to add the following information to her post:

I have lived in the UK since 2007 and have worked at the same company from the beginning until March 2018 when my mental health took a turn to the worst partly because of the insecurity of Brexit. Since September I am working in a new job.

A Day In Honour Of Indigenous Peoples

Today in the nation’s capital, there is no Columbus Day. The D.C. Council voted to replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in a temporary move that it hopes to make permanent. Several other places across the United States have also made the switch in a growing movement to end the celebration of the Italian explorer in favor of honoring Indigenous communities and their resiliency in the face of violence by European explorers like Christopher Columbus.

The simple facts are that Christopher Columbus did not ‘discover’ the Americas … the indigenous people were always here.  And, at the hands of Columbus and those Europeans who would come after, the indigenous people, aka Native Americans, suffered greatly from being enslaved, diseased, dispossessed of their land, and slaughtered.  So, over the past few decades there has been a growing movement to alter the holiday to honour those who first occupied the country.

The movement is controversial, for we tend to cling to the traditions we have known all our lives, but it is a growing movement, with a number of states and cities doing what D.C. did, replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.  Thus far, the states of Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont, Maine, Louisiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Oregon, have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day on this date, and South Dakota celebrates Native American Day, as have many cities too numerous to list here – more than 130, in fact.

Trump, however, instead has issued a formal proclamation recognizing Columbus Day, citing Columbus as a “great explorer, whose courage, skill, and drive for discovery are at the core of the American spirit,” calling the two-month journey across the Atlantic a “watershed voyage” which ushered in a new age.  But then, in this I consider him to be rather irrelevant.

So … how did this all start?

In 1977, the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, sponsored by the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, began to discuss replacing Columbus Day in the United States with a celebration to be known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

1992 would mark the 500th anniversary of the voyage of Columbus, and there was a “Quincentennial Jubilee” planned to mark the date.  In San Francisco, the day was to include replicas of Columbus’ ships sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge and reenacting their “discovery” of America.  It was then that the Bay Area Indian Alliance was formed, and they created the “Resistance 500” task force, promoting the idea that Columbus’ “discovery” of inhabited lands and subsequent European colonization of these areas had resulted in the genocide of indigenous peoples by decisions of colonial and national governments.

The group convinced the city council of Berkeley, California, to declare October 12 as a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People” and 1992 the “Year of Indigenous People”. The city implemented related programs in schools, libraries, and museums. The city symbolically renamed Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” beginning in 1992 to protest the historical conquest of North America by Europeans, and to call attention to the losses suffered by the Native American peoples and their cultures through diseases, warfare, massacres, and forced assimilation.indig-peoples-day.jpgIn the years following Berkeley’s action, other local governments and institutions have either renamed or canceled Columbus Day, either to celebrate Native American history and cultures, to avoid celebrating Columbus and the European colonization of the Americas, or due to raised controversy over the legacy of Columbus.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the many contributions indigenous people have made to our world:

  • indig-peoples-day-3Constitution & Bill of Rights: According to Benjamin Franklin, the “concept” for the federal government was influenced by the Constitution of the Iroquois League of Nations.
  • Sign Language:  Today, hand signals are used to communicate with those who are deaf and/or mute. A similar system was originated to facilitate trade between Native Americans and early trappers/traders.
  • Products:  Native Americans are credited with introducing such diverse products as snowshoes, moccasins, toboggans, buckskin jackets, Kayaks, cradle boards, tomahawks, rubber, cotton, quinine, tobacco, cigars, and pipe smoking, among others.
  • Military Service:  The participation rate of Native Americans in military service is higher than for any other ethnic group in the U.S.  Members from many Indian nations have served with distinction and in a way that helped the U.S. win World Wars I and II… through the use of their various Native languages.
  • Conservation:  The Native Americans have always held a deep respect for the land and for our connection to this planet known as “Mother Earth.” They have always striven to live in harmony with the seasons and the land, to take only what was needed, and to thank every plant, animal, or thing that was used.
  • Art/Design:  The traditional and contemporary music of Native Americans have become integrated in many other cultures and musical styles. Indian artwork such as paintings, beadwork, totem poles, turquoise jewelry, and silversmithing, all remain beautiful and unmatched in this society.

Native-American-Day-Wampanoag-220px-SquantohowwellthecornprosperedAnd of course, a wide variety of foods, including potatoes, beans, corn, peanuts, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, peppers, nuts, melons, and sunflower seeds.

We can never make up to the indigenous people in the Americas for what was done to their ancestors, but we can resolve to do better, and we can honour them in this way, by setting aside a special day of remembrance for all that they went through, and for all that they have given. celebrate-500-years-of-survival

Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de Grâce … Redux 2019

Today is a very important day in a couple of ways.  It is Thanksgiving Day in (most of) Canada, and it is also Indigenous Peoples Day in the U.S.  So, rather than dwell on the depressing latest news about the stench in Washington, I thought it would be more fun to take a look at these two holidays!  Yes, I realize it is Columbus Day, as well, but frankly that has been over-hyped for a long time, and you probably know a lot more about it than you do these two.

Since I have already done a fairly in-depth post about the Canadian Thanksgiving, I will share that first, and have an additional post later this afternoon about Indigenous Peoples Day.


🇨🇦 Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

I just realized, after a comment by friend Emily (Eschudel of Zombie Flamingoes) that today is Thanksgiving … in Canada!  Action de grâce!

Now, for those outside Canada, I thought I would look a bit into the history of Canada’s Thanksgiving.  We all know the lovely little story about the pilgrims and the natives and the first Thanksgiving in the U.S., which is basically a myth, but whatever.  So, I wondered if Canada has such a feel-good story too.  Well, turns out it’s confusing, but … let me tell you what I found, and then perhaps some of our Canadian friends will either correct me, or fill in the gaps.

According to Wikipedia …

“Thanksgiving is an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

According to some historians, the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America occurred during the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England, in search of the Northwest Passage.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, from 1604, also held feasts of thanks. They even formed the Order of Good Cheer and held feasts with their First Nations neighbors, at which food was shared.

After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year.

During and after the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year.”

But then, I found an article in The Star (Toronto) that I think is more likely to be authentic …

“In the case of Thanksgiving Day, the critical actors were a group of Protestant clergymen in what is now Ontario. In 1859, these men petitioned the Canadian colonial government to declare a mid-week day of thanksgiving in recognition of the harvest. The government agreed to the ministers’ request, and it would do so again four more times before 1866, and annually beginning in 1871.

Protestant leaders had dual motives in lobbying for an autumn holiday. First, they wanted to reassure Canadian Christians, whose faith had been shaken by the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859.

Second, they felt obligated to mould Canadian identity in light of the prospect — and after 1867, the reality — of Confederation. To clergymen, an abundant harvest provided proof of God’s hand in nature, and evidence that Canadians were a chosen people. As such, a holiday that celebrated the harvest would give them the opportunity to remind Canadians of both their material prosperity and their divine national destiny.

Initially, Canadian Thanksgiving was a solemn and pious occasion compared to its American namesake. All businesses closed for the day, and church services were the only activities of note. Ministers delivered sermons that blended nationalism with religious dogma. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, they hailed the superiority of British political institutions and praised Canada (incorrectly) for having avoided the evils of slavery.

Overall, their Thanksgiving sermons celebrated Canada for being a white, British, Protestant country — a perspective that pointedly ignored the presence of French Canadians, Catholics, Indigenous people, and non-British immigrants.

In time, however, the Protestant conception of Thanksgiving Day, and the narrow definition of Canadian identity that it promoted, gave way to other influences. From the 1870s onwards, holiday church services lost ground to secular community events and commercial amusements.

Meanwhile, Canadians began adopting American Thanksgiving traditions, such as family gatherings, turkey dinners, and football games. Such activities enabled previously excluded groups to stake their own claims to Thanksgiving, and by extension, to Canadian citizenship.

By 1957, when the government permanently fixed the timing of Thanksgiving Day, the holiday’s domestic focus was firmly established. While many Canadians used the occasion to close their summer cottages for the season, others devoted the day to family get-togethers and turkey dinners.

Today, Canadian Thanksgiving shows few hints of its religious and nationalist beginnings.”

Interesting … things are rarely as they seem on first glance, and it is always fun to delve into the traditions and history of other nations.  At any rate, I wish all my Canadian friends & readers a very Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de grâce. You have one very obvious thing to be thankful for:  that you have Justin Trudeau instead of Donald Trump! I hope you were all able to celebrate with loved ones, much laughter and good food.

t-giving-3.jpg

🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Gary’s View

When I first asked for guest posts from my Canadian and UK friends, Gary generously said he would write one for me, but as we all know, sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans.  This morning, I was thrilled when I woke up and saw this one in my inbox!  This is the fourth guest post on the topic of Brexit from a citizen of the UK, and tackles the issue from a slightly different perspective than previously done by Roger, Colette, and Frank.  Thank you so much, Gary, for your time and effort, and for sharing your views on this multi-faceted issue!


The World Carl Predicted

“Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness”

The great Carl Sagan wrote this in 1995. I think even he would have been shocked at how quickly his prophecy has come true. Many industries are broken. Technology is in the hands of the few with our privacy compromised. So many feel alienated from society.  Our political systems are increasingly ineffective and compromised. Reason has been replaced by self-interest. That is America today. Unfortunately, you can substitute the United Kingdom for America here. I suspect a growing list of countries can slot in here. It’s a sobering thought.

“… we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness”

In the United Kingdom the country is imploding. It has the feel of a society spiralling out of control towards civil unrest. The middle ground is silent. Political debate has been ditched in favour of fake news, lies and threats. Media is becoming propaganda led. Where Extremists go unchallenged and the country is obsessed on one issue – nothing else matters. That subject, Brexit, is no longer justified in terms of benefits for the population. It’s Brexit couched in the narrative of the 1930s.

In the United States effective government has been replaced by a modern-day Nero. Just replace a fiddle with a twitter account. In both countries Climate Science is scorned in favour of late night claret-fuelled meetings with the leaders of the fossil fuel industries. Where our political elite talk of making our countries great again while they feather their nests. They spout increasingly vile racist and inflammatory language.

Recently the United Kingdom woke to the Leave Campaigns new slogan.

“We didn’t win two world wars to be pushed about by a Kraut.”

The person the leave campaign are abusing is someone who was a distinguished research scientist who became the first female German Chancellor and has successfully served 4 terms. Compare that to the people behind the slogan who are basically narrow-minded racists funded by profiteers (Hedge Fund Investors). But that’s the problem in the UK. Brexit has allowed the extremists to come out from the shadows and drive national policy. As Sagan would say – ‘almost without us noticing’. But sadly, it’s not by chance. It’s fostered at Government level. Our puppet PM Johnson views his best way to personal success is by crashing out of Europe. Riding the anti-Europe/Little England bandwagon. His Puppet Master Cummings (the PM’s Advisor) has a clear game plan. To pour petrol on the simmering schism. To marginalise and vilify anyone who gets in their way. Be that MPs, Doctors, Business Leaders, Judges and people who voted to stay in Europe. We are all branded traitors. Enemy of the people. The only people who count being the 17 million who voted to leave. Let’s not forget the UK population is 64 million.

So maybe our PM should leave the Brexit debate to the grownups and go back to doing what he does best – providing public funded favours to his girlfriends. We can then halt the attempt to drive a country purely fuelled on superstition and hate into the darkness. We desperately need a viable way out of this mess. I voted to remain but I have come to the conclusion that we now do need to leave in some form. I just can’t see how a new referendum will bring healing to this nation. I fear it will add more impetus to the extremists. A potentially violent campaign ending with one side further alienated. The alienated provide rich pickings for the extremist vultures. It’s a recipe for further prolonged conflict and social disaster.

We need to find compromise. Middle ground that can unite the moderates in both camps. So, for me it’s Brexit but with the important compromise. Agreeing to the key principle of freedom of movement. I have never understood how the Government has championed the ending of this freedom as some sort of huge win for our people. How can taking away the right of British citizens to travel freely to 26 countries be seen as a step forward. As soon as we accept the principle of freedom of movement then many of the current negotiating logjams are removed.  It then opens up the prospect of more fruitful negotiations with our friends in Europe. Borders, trade and travel continue to operate effectively. We can then concentrate on finding the right balance between increased political freedoms and essential Europe wide partnerships.

This would provide a bridge between the moderates on both Leave and Remain sides. It would also provide a bridge between the older generations who voted more heavily in favour of leaving and the younger generations who largely voted to remain.

Unfortunately, this is not a time for building bridges rather it’s the age of WALL-building. Putting up barriers again. It’s the time when doing the right thing for your country is an increasingly alien concept. It’s the age of Self Gain. Where policy is driven by Hedge Fund profits and the location of Hotels. Where the Brexit financial backers are scheduled to make billions from a crash after betting against the pound. Where US foreign policy is determined by the location of Trump Hotels and his business interests. Where the removal of citizen rights is applauded. Where former war on terror allies are thrown to the wolves.

These are dark times driven by hate, greed and superstition. When one of the few lights is a growing climate movement driven forward by a brave teenager vilified as being both demonic and dangerous by the establishment. When you hear that language, you know the few are worried. Just maybe we can continue accelerate this movement and we can save our planet. And at the same time the seismic changes this would cause would help save our individual nations. Sweep away the Darkness and lead us all to a better place. I’m sure Carl Sagan would sign up to that.


Note to Readers:  Thanks so much to all who participated in this project, either by writing a post or through comments.  The project had value beyond what I initially envisioned, and those of us living outside the UK have learned so much from Roger, Colette, Frank and Gary.  We are all hoping for the best possible outcome at the end of this month.  Hugs to all!

Time For Some ‘Toons!

It’s been another of those weeks that was filled with ‘breaking news’, most of it angst-inducing.  These days, as never before at least in my recollection, has it been so difficult, nearly impossible, to keep up with it all.  To a large extent, perhaps that is the intent of the small mind in the Oval Office.  I have no less than five posts started, but before I can finish one, something else pops up and the result is I cannot focus at all now, so … I decided it’s time for a cartoon break!


Last Monday morning, after a telephone conversation between Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan, Donald Trump announced that he would be pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, thus leaving our Kurdish allies to fend for themselves.  Since then, hundreds of Kurds have been slaughtered by the Turkish army.  Nothing funny about the situation, but the cartoonists sum it up well …

kurdskurds-2kurds-3kurds-4Thank you Kurdskurds-6kurds-7kurds-8kurds-9


And, of course the other big news concerns Trump’s other phone conversation, this one with President Zelenskyy of the Ukraine, whereby he attempted to bully, blackmail, or bribe Zelenskyy into ‘digging up dirt’ on one of Trump’s potential competitors in next year’s election, Joe Biden.  A whistleblower, concerned about the call and other issues, came forward, and it was this that at long last motivated the House to open a formal impeachment inquiry …

impeach-2impeach-4impeach-5ukrainewhistle-blower


Just under three weeks ’til Hallowe’en, folks.  Those kids who are hoping to score some treats at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue might want to re-think that plan …

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon - tt_c_c191009.tifimpeach-1-a


We all know of Trump’s ego … it goes beyond ego, really … narcissism, megalomania … I’ve never seen someone who thought himself to be so superior …

trump-egoBruce Plante Cartoon: Trump's new doortrump-ego-3


A last one … this, I believe, sums up the entire past three years …

trump-smoking-gun


Enjoy your weekend!

Filosofa’s Thoughts

Tonight, I was in an introspective mood, doing some thinking about where this nation appears to be headed and about the people of this nation who seemingly applaud the direction we are taking.  In the midst of my introspection, came the news that the so-called president of this country was once again conducting a rally and that he was, once again, denigrating those of us who speak or have spoken against him or his actions.  The rally was in Minnesota where he said of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden …

“He was only a good Vice President because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

This isn’t Dave down at the corner bar talking after a few beers, my friends … this is the ‘man’ who was elected to lead a nation of 330 million people.  At the same rally, he slammed Ilhan Omar, the U.S. House representative from Minnesota, saying …

“How do you have such a person representing you in Minnesota? I’m very angry at you people. She is a disgrace to our country, and she is one of the big reasons that I am going to win, and that the Republican Party is going to win, Minnesota in 13 months.”

But do you know what disgusts me the most, my friends?  At that last malicious statement by Trump, his audience stood and begin chanting “Four more years” and “Send her back”.

That’s right, my friends … a large number of the people of this nation still, despite his rants, his foul language, his illegalities, his anti-humanitarian rhetoric and policies, his self-serving nature, still find something to relate to … something to cling to.  And that is what disturbs me most.  People who I once thought I knew, people I once called “friend”, support the speech and actions of a person who is … a lawbreaking, lowlife bucket of scum.  And they want him to lead this nation … straight over the cliff or into the iceberg, whichever analogy you prefer.  I find that I can no longer respect or even tolerate those who would support a president whom I cannot respect.  And this led me to some thoughts … thoughts which, if you care to listen, I will share with you tonight.

  • I think that when the person who sits at the highest level of our government invites foreign nations to create chaos and promote falsehoods in our elections, as Trump did in 2016 and is doing already for the upcoming 2020 election, we cannot respect that person, for he is breaking the law, undermining the Constitution, and acting out of self-interest, not the interest of the nation.

  • I think that when the person who occupies an office that has been respected for more than 200 years stoops to calling any who don’t agree with him names such as ‘pompous ass’, ‘fat Jerry’, ‘nervous Nancy’, ‘lyin’ Ted’, ‘shifty Schiff’, and more, that person cannot expect and does not deserve the respect of the nation.

  • I think that when the person who was elected to lead a nation of 330 million people turns his back on that nation’s allies, pulls out of crucial previously negotiated treatises, and leaves other allies to certain death, that person loses the respect not only of the people of the nation, but of the people of the globe.

  • I think that when the person who supposedly ‘leads’ a nation disregards environmental threats to not only the nation, but the entire globe, and instead provides incentive to wealthy industry barons to further decimate the planet, that person has earned the scorn and wrath of every person on the planet.

  • I think that when the person elected to the highest office in the nation lies, cheats, steals and then bullies those who would hold him accountable, we cannot possibly have any respect or compassion for this person.

  • I think that any person who has taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of a nation, then breaks that oath on a near-daily basis, does not deserve the honour of the position to which he was elected.

  • I think that a person who holds an office that historically has been internationally respected, but yet praises strongman dictators while stabbing that nation’s allies in the back, can only be considered a traitor who deserves no respect.

  • I think that any person who defends a president guilty of the above trespasses, cannot claim to be a good person, a patriot, or a concerned citizen, for he or she is defending a creature who has no concern for the nation and its people.

In the words of writer and friend John Pavlovitz …

“I just want a President with compassion, intelligence, and simple human decency.”

And in the words of Filosofa …

“I just want a president I can respect and trust. I don’t need to like him, but I need to be able to respect him.”

Tonight, as I write this, I sit here with tears in my eyes and a very heavy heart, for we do not have a president that meets either John’s standards or my own.  We have a dishonest, deceitful, bullying ‘person’ in the White House who is leading us quickly down a path to … what?  Destruction, certainly, but … will this nation survive intact?  I once thought I knew this nation, thought I understood our government even with its flaws, and thought I liked the people I called ‘friend’.  If our friends and neighbors who are still wearing their slightly frayed maga hats, who are still playing that somewhat warped “he tells it like it is” record, don’t take off their tinted glasses and find a functional mind and a conscience, if he is allowed a second term, I think this nation will not come out in 2024 only slightly damaged, but completely destroyed.  I shan’t be here to see it.

🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Frank’s View

When I first came up with the idea for this project, soliciting guest posts from my readers in the UK and Canada offering their views of what is happening in their countries today, I had no idea it would elicit the wonderful response it has!  I am pleased today to offer another post from a UK reader that offers a slightly different tone and perspective than we have seen in either Roger’s or Colette’s excellent posts.  I don’t know about you guys, but I am learning so much from these posts — and the comments!  Please welcome today Frank Parker, a citizen of the UK living in Ireland.  Thank you, Frank!


Why Brexit is Impossible

My Perspective

I have been a proponent of the European ‘project’ ever since I was old enough to take an interest in national and international politics. I recall the UK’s repeated applications to join what was then the 6-member EEC in the early 1960s, and disappointment at our repeated rejection by France. In 1988 I became a founder member of the Liberal Democrats, having previously been a member of the Liberal Party. I served both parties as a councillor at county and district level. During that time, I had the opportunity to visit some of the EU institutions and to learn something about the way they operate.

Upon retirement, 13 years ago this month, I left the UK and came to live in Ireland. My son, his Irish wife and their daughter were already here. So, I am one of the approximately 3 million UK citizens domiciled in another EU country.

I believe passionately in the ideals that underpin the EU. In the years of the cold war it provided a bastion of political and economic strength against the might of the Soviet Union. Of course, NATO provided the military backing, but economic and political unity were, I believe, key components of the defence of Western civilisation against communism. With the collapse of the Soviet Union it was important that the countries of Eastern Europe, released from the yoke of Russian domination, were welcomed into the EU and provided with the opportunity to realise the benefits of life in a free society.

There is far more, culturally and historically, that unites us than divides us.

We now face new threats, from climate change to the rise of China as a global power. European solidarity therefore remains a priority.

The European Union

The EU is first and foremost an international trading bloc. The Single Market ensures that goods traded between the member nations are produced to an agreed set of standards in circumstances that minimise the exploitation of workers. The Customs Union, by removing tariffs on goods traded between member nations, removes the need for customs barriers at the borders between those nations.

At the same time the UK is able to take advantage of free trade agreements reached between the EU and around 70 other nations in order to trade with them on favourable terms which will need to be renegotiated if the UK leaves.

In common with other members, the UK has secured exemptions from certain of the rules and regulations that enforce these standards. It is not a member of the Eurozone, retaining its own currency. It is not a member of Schengen, a scheme that facilitates visa free travel, residence and work throughout those nations that are signed up to it.

Instead, the UK, as a member of the Single Market, is obliged to permit freedom of movement of people for the purpose of work and education. This does not extend to the automatic right to social welfare payments. The citizens of one-member nation, whilst resident in another, must be economically self-supporting. If, after a reasonable period, they have not found a job they are obliged to leave. The UK government chose not to enforce this aspect of the legislation which many UK citizens were, and, it seems, still are unaware of.

Similarly, when Eastern European nations became members there was a transition period during which existing members were permitted to control the number of workers they accepted from those nations. Again, the UK government chose not to apply those controls, probably under pressure from business sectors, such as agriculture and hospitality, that saw an opportunity to exploit the availability of comparatively cheap labour to do jobs that UK citizens were unwilling to take on.

Sometimes such migrant workers were employed in breach of EU laws of which ordinary citizens were unaware so that, once again, the EU was blamed for creating conditions that were actually well within the ability of the UK government to control had it chosen to do so.

The Budget

The fundamental principle under which the EU budget operates is that the richest nations contribute and the poorest regions, some of which are within the richest nations, receive. The simple theory behind this is that by helping the poorer nations and regions to develop and, thereby, improve the economic welfare of their citizens, the possibility of conflict over resources is reduced. It is a principle with which not everyone agrees and is certainly one of the factors underlying the desire of some UK citizens to see the UK leave.

So long as it can be shown that supported schemes meet specific criteria, the way that EU funds are distributed and spent is left to the recipient national or local governments. Thus, it is unfair to blame the EU if such funds are used to support unnecessary or inappropriate schemes. They are intended to be used for social and economic infrastructure developments that increase the ability of the recipient region to attract private investment that creates long term employment. If you want the EU to exercise greater control over such spending you need more, not fewer bureaucrats, and to give up, not reclaim, local control.

The Exercise of Democracy

In most EU member states elections are conducted using systems that produce a result in which the number of representatives of each party in parliament or legislative assembly is roughly proportional to the number of votes cast for that party. This is also true of the EU institutions. The practical effect of this is that, more often than not, no one party has a parliamentary majority and two or more parties have to come together to agree a programme that is broadly in the national interest. That also tends to mean a centrist approach, either centre-left or centre-right. The extremes at either end of the political spectrum have little say. It should be no surprise that I, as a centrist, approve of such systems and the results they produce.

In the UK, however, the system regularly produces a majority for one party (not always the same party) even though that party may have fewer than 40% of the votes cast. Thus, the majority of UK citizens are used to a situation in which their needs are ignored in favour of those of a minority.

The 2016 referendum provided a rare opportunity in which they were assured, albeit dishonestly, that the wishes of the majority would be respected. It was presented as a simple choice between leaving or remaining, with the question of what kind of relationship, if any, the UK might seek to establish with the EU after it left, buried under a fog of speculation. In or out of the Customs Union? The Single Market? A relationship like the one Norway has? Or Switzerland?

The Irish Problem

This is something that was barely touched upon during the 2016 campaign but has proved to be an impenetrable stumbling block ever since. To understand why, it is necessary to review, however briefly, 850 years of British and Irish history and religion.

Around 100 years after the Norman conquest of England two childhood friends became respectively King of England and Archbishop of Canterbury. They disagreed about the extent to which the King should interfere in the affairs of the Church. At some point the king is supposed to have said something along the lines of “Will someone rid me of this troublesome priest.”

Like most such remarks uttered in moments of frustration it was not meant to be taken literally. But a few knights who wanted to curry favour with the king did. They murdered the Archbishop in his cathedral.

It so happened that the Pope was exercised about the fact that the Church authorities in Ireland were backsliding so, when an Irish provincial king was deposed, he used that fact to persuade the English (Norman) king to come to his aid. The king, needing to appease the Pope, agreed.

As a direct result, Ireland became subject to the English Crown, its land parcelled out to assorted knights and barons who had assisted with the invasion.

Move forward 4 centuries to the reformation and the long period of conflict in the British Isles between protestantism and Roman Catholicism. The Irish refused to be reformed, despite Cromwell’s massacre of tens of thousands and the confiscation of land from Catholic owners, giving it to protestants. These religious wars were effectively brought to an end when a Dutch Prince defeated a largely Catholic army on Irish soil and was crowned King. Troublesome tenants were removed from Scottish land to be replaced by sheep. They were granted large parts of Ulster in a further attempt to dilute Catholic influence on the island.

At the beginning of the 19th century Ireland, which had hitherto had a degree of autonomy but with its own Parliament still subject to the Crown, became a part of the United Kingdom. Throughout the next century the Irish campaigned for independence until, just under a hundred years ago, it was granted. But throughout the campaign the Ulster Protestants objected, so the treaty that granted independence drew an arbitrary border around 6 of Ulster’s 9 counties.

They would remain in the UK whilst the other 26 counties of Ireland became an independent republic. That division remained controversial, and a civil rights campaign in the 6 counties at the end of the 1960s escalated into widespread acts of terrorism on the island and within England.

This ultimately led to the Good Friday Agreement, an international treaty, underwritten by the EU and the USA, which, among other things, enshrined the idea that citizens of the 6 counties have dual citizenship, able to choose to hold UK or Irish passports, and total freedom of movement of goods and people between the two parts of the island.

That is, of course, perfectly practical so long as both the UK and Ireland remain members of the EU. It is incompatible with the UK’s desire to leave the EU in order “to control our borders”.

There is a lot of talk about technological solutions, and the arrangement agreed in principle in December of 2017 was that, until those solutions are available, the 6 counties will remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union (the “backstop”).

It is this part of the Withdrawal Agreement, reached by Prime Minister May and the EU at the end of last year, that has failed to secure the support of a majority in Parliament. Prime Minister Johnson’s attempt to time limit the arrangement by giving the Northern Ireland Assembly a vote every 4 years is not acceptable to Ireland or the EU.

To me the only solution is one which involves the whole of the UK remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union, a relationship not unlike that which Norway and Switzerland have, and which would seem to meet the Labour Party’s “tests”. Or the UK could abandon the attempt to leave and return to the status quo.

Good People Doing Good Things — Olawale and Temie

As promised yesterday, here it is, only a day late, this week’s ‘good people’ post!  Thanks so much to those of you who suggested that I should be the ‘good people’ of the week!  You brought a smile, and I so appreciate the encouragement, the vote of confidence.  But, in truth, I don’t see myself as a ‘good people’, especially as compared to the good people I write about who are out there doing things for others, while I sit home in my comfy chair, with a fresh cuppa coffee, and only write.  But again, thanks so much … I love you all!  But now …

I’d like you to meet Dr. Olawale Sulaiman, 49, professor of neurosurgery and spinal surgery at the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sulaiman-1Born and raised on Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria, he says of his childhood …

“I am one of 10 children born into a polygamous family. My siblings and I shared one room where we often found ourselves sleeping on a mat on the floor.”

There was no way his parents could have afforded to put him through college, but at the age of 19, he received a scholarship to study medicine in Bulgaria through the Bureau for External Aid, a Nigerian government program targeted at improving the quality of life for Nigeria’s most vulnerable communities.

He received a combined MD/MSc degree at Medical University, Varna, Bulgaria, and a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. His neurosurgery training was completed at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. He completed post-residency fellowship training in complex nerve reconstruction at Louisiana State University and complex spine surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, USA.

A well-educated and energetic man, but that isn’t what qualifies him for a spot on the “good people” post.  That honour comes from his philanthropic works for the people of Nigeria.  Sulaiman said the scholarship opened many doors and, in turn, he feels responsible to give back through healthcare.

“Africans who have had the privilege of getting outstanding training and education abroad must mobilize their network of influence to transform our continent.”

Sulaiman-wifeIn 2010, Sulaiman established RNZ Global, a healthcare development company with his wife, Patricia, a nurse. The company provides medical services including neuro and spinal surgery and offers health courses like first aid CPR in Nigeria and the US.  Dr. Sulaiman also negotiated with his employer to take a 25% cut in pay in exchange for extended vacation time so that he could spend more time working in Nigeria.

“I would use my vacation times for the medical missions, which were also planned with education and training sessions. We donated a lot of medications, equipment and hands-on training on surgical techniques.”

RNZ Global has treated more than 500 patients and provided preventative medicine to up to 5,000 people in the US and Nigeria.  But, it doesn’t stop there.  RNZ Global also has a not-for-profit arm called RNZ foundation. The foundation focuses on providing free neurological health care to those in need but who cannot afford to pay. sulaiman-2.pngSulaiman and his team have performed miracles. In December, Sulaiman operated on a man whose back pain affected his ability to walk. The man was able to walk unaided a day after the surgery. Another of his patients is also able to move independently after the doctor did emergency surgery for a brain tumor that previously left her comatose.

“That’s why I continue to do it. Because I think you can really make a significant impact on people that would otherwise be hopeless.”


And, in a related story …

Allow me to introduce you to Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder of LifeBank, a blood and oxygen delivery company in the West African country of Nigeria. Giwa-TobusunIn 2014, Giwa-Tubosun experienced complications from her pregnancy.  She was rushed to the nearest hospital where her and her son’s lives were saved by a C-section operation.

“I realized after I had my son that the highest cause of maternal mortality is postpartum hemorrhage, the most important thing you can do when a mum is hemorrhaging is replace the blood she has lost, even if you can’t stop the bleeding.”

Since she founded LifeBank in 2016, the company has raised thousands of dollars, launched across three states in Nigeria, serving in more than 300 hospitals and saved up to 4,000 lives.

Donated blood has about six weeks before it becomes too old for transfusion.  Quite often, the blood expires before it is used because doctors find it challenging to get the type of blood they need.  Giwa-Tubosun found that there was a communication lag as doctors struggled to get blood while blood banks were discarding it after the six-week expiration period.

“One of the insights I got was the existence of a surplus and a shortage of blood. We have people on the supply side discarding expired blood and on the demand side dying because the blood is not available. I thought the solution was to help both sides pass information to each other.”

With Lifebank, Giwa-Tubosun was able to connect blood banks with hospitals and their patients. Her team gathers inventory data from about 52 blood banks across Lagos and responds to requests from hospitals based on the data provided by the banks.

Between them, Dr. Sulaiman and Temie Giwa-Tubosun are saving lives in a nation where many cannot afford medical care at all.  I give two thumbs-up to both of these generous people!

thumbs

The Latest In Snarky Snippets

It took no time at all for Turkish President Erdoğan to begin implementation of his plan to attack the Kurdish troops in Syria.  Two days, I believe.  Today, Turkey launched airstrikes and fired artillery across its border into northeastern Syria.  This, Donald Trump, is what you have done …turkey_syriaturkey-syria-2Already, two civilians have been killed and others wounded.  There will be many more innocent people who will die or be injured, and the blood of those people is on the hands of Donald Trump.  These were people who were going about their lives, minding their own business, hurting nobody.  They were our allies, until Monday when Trump betrayed them.

It is a complex situation that Trump does not comprehend, that even those who are scholars in Middle-Eastern affairs often find confusing.  But, Trump sold out for some favour from Erdoğan and now the U.S. has sent a clear warning to all of our allies that we are not to be trusted, that we may turn on them any day, with no notice.


I really didn’t want to talk about or even mention the impeachment issue today, but to ignore it would be to ignore the elephant in the room, for it looms larger than life.  Yesterday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen of the various committees conducting the investigations in the House of Representatives. An eight-page letter, as it were.  I have muddled through about half of it so far, and a more pompous letter I have never read.  What he had to say could have been said in a single paragraph.

In a nutshell, Cipollone, acting as Trump’s mouthpiece, says that the impeachment process is unconstitutional and that nobody in the Trump administration will cooperate in any way, shape, or form.  Duh … leave it to a lawyer to take up 8 pages to say that.  But, most of it was hateful, arrogant verbiage attempting to defend the indefensible and criticize all those who would wish to hold Trump accountable for his actions.

But wait … it gets even better.

Since there is precedent for impeaching a corrupt, lying, cheating president, the Department of Justice is now claiming that Nixon’s impeachment was unconstitutional and that the courts in 1974 were wrong to approve the release of Watergate documents to Congress during the impeachment inquiry.  This came when Beryl Howell, chief judge for the U.S. District Court, indicated that she may rule in favour of giving the House Democrats access to certain of the redacted parts of the Mueller report.  The judge asked the Justice Department to explain its “extraordinary position” of trying to block lawmakers from seeing the special counsel’s grand jury materials, which include testimony and evidence that has been kept private since the Mueller probe ended in March.

Elizabeth Shapiro, a deputy director in the DOJ civil division, argued that if the same Watergate road map arose today, there’d be a “different result” because the law has changed since 1974. She said the judge wouldn’t be able to do the same thing absent changes to the grand jury rules and statutes.  The judge was stunned, saying only “Wow. Okay.”  Hopefully she will find her voice soon.

Let’s put this in context here.  President Bill Clinton was impeached because he lied to Congress about a consensual affair with a staffer.  Period.  Nothing more.  But Donald Trump has twice … not once, but at least twice that we are aware of … sought favours from foreign governments to unfairly influence our elections.  And, whereas Clinton lied to Congress, Trump has done something much, much worse:  he has lied to We the People … all 330 million of us.


And, on that note I find that I really don’t feel like writing any more, and so I will leave you with Stephen Colbert’s latest take on it all.

🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Colette’s View

Yesterday, I shared Roger’s guest post, his views and thoughts on the current state of the United Kingdom in the age of Brexit.  As promised, today I am sharing our friend Colette’s thoughts and views.  Thank you, Colette, for helping us to understand just a little bit better what is happening in your country and how you came to be where you are.


How to describe the mess in UK politics?

One word – Brexit!

OK that is self-explanatory but doesn’t really address the issues. While the history of our troubled partnership in the EU goes back much further, today’s Brexit hinges on David Cameron’s term as the Conservative prime minister. In 2013, Cameron approached the EU with a series of issues he wanted resolved to ensure that Britain wasn’t being used as just a revolving door of finance and payouts and basically a drop-in zone for every migrant wanting to take advantage of Britain’s free health care, and family benefits. He promised the UK taxpayer, in his ‘Bloomberg Speech’ that he would succeed in getting certain concessions (a boast to intimidate EU leaders that he would later regret), or he would give the general public, a referendum on an ‘in’ or ‘out’ vote on EU membership. I have simplified what he asked for, and what he got here…

  1. “Limit the access of union workers newly entering its labour market to in-work benefits for a total period of up to four years from the commencement of employment” The EU allowed for a one year only period. Cameron felt that supposed migrant workers freely flowing into Britain, were quickly finding ways to go straight onto Britain’s social benefits programs, with payouts for unemployment, and accommodation and living expenses for each member of the family. It was becoming a huge taxpayer burden

  2. Cameron wanted UK left out of financial ‘bailouts’ for other EU countries in the Euro zone or beyond it. As the UK kept the British pound, it felt it had never signed up to the financial solidarity with other EU countries. Cameron won this point.

  3. Working time directives come straight from Brussels. The UK wanted autonomy on setting working times for doctors, etc. Cameron failed to get this. The EU insists on setting all work hours, etc.

  4. The 2015 Conservative manifesto said, “If an EU migrant’s child is living abroad, then they should receive no child benefit, no matter how long they have worked in the UK and no matter how much tax they have paid.” Cameron did not want to pay benefits to EU workers for their dependent children if they lived in another EU country. Britain’s benefit payments were much higher than in other Member States. While he fought for Britain not to have to pay for the (often) large dependent families abroad, he won only the concession to pay them the equivalent of their home country benefit plans, but on a four-year sliding scale that would eventually bring them up to the UK payment rates after four years anyway.

  5. There was an issue with sham marriages (for people to get in to the UK). I actually heard about a few of these bogus cases from a lawyer friend of mine who works for the Home Office. The cases were truly shocking … and these people are difficult to deport. They were not just from the EU, but from all sorts of countries. Cameron wanted EU legislation to stop it. He got a bit of rhetoric, but in essence, nothing has changed from the EU perspective.

  6. An agreement that if, proportionately speaking, 55 percent of national EU parliaments object to a piece of EU legislation “within 12 weeks” the Council Presidency will hold a “comprehensive discussion” on the objections raised and “discontinue the consideration of the draft legislative… unless the draft is amended to accommodate the concerns expressed in the reasoned opinions”. (p13 of draft agreement). Cameron sort of got a part concession on this but in reality, it doesn’t happen. Brussels is in firm control, and other Member States don’t have a lot of sway.

  7. “It is recognised that the United Kingdom, in the light of the specific situation it has under the treaties, is not committed to further political integration into the European Union.” It also promises to incorporate this in the EU treaties next time they are opened. Donald Tusk gave this concession to the UK on an ‘Ever Closer Union.’ The EU continues to squeeze its member States into full and uncompromised adherence of Brussels dictates. Britain does not want to be drawn in on ever increasing EU political dominance.

  8. “To seek increased powers to bolster UK defences to “stop terrorists and other serious foreign criminals who pose a threat to our society from using spurious human rights arguments to prevent deportation.” This was intended as a method to bring forward a defendant’s’ related past history in terrorism trials. The legislation remained unchanged by Brussels. Past history could not be used.

  9. Cameron wanted member States to be able to hold on to their own currencies and not be forced into using the ‘Euro,’ but won no concessions on this. (My take on this is that if Greece had been allowed to move away from the Euro, huge bailouts would not have been necessary. Basically, Germany does very well on its exports as the Euro creates a level playing field with much poorer nations. If it used the Deutschmark as currency its exports would fail as too expensive for anyone else. It wants all its member States to use the Euros currency).

David Cameron did not get what he wanted, so he decided, in the face of his critics that he would take it to the people with the promised Referendum.

He never, in a million years thought that the vote in his conciliatory referendum would be ‘to leave.’ It shocked all of Parliament, not to mention the media.

The press and a lot of politicians believe that people didn’t understand that they would be leaving without any deal. I don’t really think that is true. It was a simple yes or no vote.

Why did the majority vote to leave? A number of issues do bother Brits. Our fishing industry collapsed as a result mostly of Spanish trawlers, but French too, coming into our waters and depleting the fish stocks to decimated numbers. Just this last month a huge East European Super Trawler has been seen in British waters off the South Coast. This thing is huge and drags nets 600 x 200 metres in size, through our waters, taking everything. Our fishermen are beside themselves with fury over this. Many years of trying to get fish stocks to recover are shot to hell as the Super Trawler takes everything in one fell swoop and then moves on to other waters. We have no power to stop this.

EU rules dictate a lot of things to how UK farms are run. There are farmers on both sides of the ‘in’ or ‘out’ debate, dependent largely on where their export market lies. Certainly, British farmers spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to gear their operations to EU dictates. All vegetables and fruits must be of a standardised size which is quite ridiculous. Anything smaller or bigger, has to find a different export market, be fed to animals or simply go to waste. And, we cannot for instance, stop ‘Live Exports’ of animals (a particularly gruesome experience for animals in journeys of days in cramped lorries all over Europe and beyond) as the EU dictates animals must be able to ship over EU borders without hindrance. Britain has already said that it will stop all live export when it leaves the EU (and will address the issues of the super trawlers too). Some manufacturers who export mostly outside the EU, want to leave, while those who rely on export to EU countries don’t. There are a few people (mainly the unemployed) in Northern counties who saw a migrant workforce (many Polish) taking lower pay for agricultural jobs. The disenchanted amongst them see immigration as changing traditional English values and taking jobs. They are a small number who feel this way, but the press coverage certainly portrayed immigration as a major sticking point (mainly with the fires of the anti-immigration rhetoric fanned by Nigel Farage).

The UK has become strong in the Service sector which is also true of Eire and that is directly a result of EU membership. American companies, like Google and Amazon use the footholds of the UK and Eire to do business within the EU block. If we leave the EU, there will be a few companies who move elsewhere to gain a better advantage.

On the positive side of staying in the EU. There is free movement across all EU countries, there is no border control on goods and there are no additional import taxes. Goods can travel freely to any member state. Britain does export to member states but only imports a portion of its goods from member states. The vast majority of goods come from other places. Also, people from any EU country can cross country borders with full autonomy (and without passport controls once arrived on the European mainland and within EU borders). People can travel freely and participate in the education system and find jobs in the EU block without penalty.

Of course, Cameron was a coward and walked away, resigning after the referendum decision, sighting that he did not believe in separating from the EU so could not negotiate it.

Meanwhile, in the Labour opposition Party, things were not too rosy. Jeremy Corbyn had been elected as leader after the resignation of Ed Milliband when David Cameron won a second term as Prime Minister in 2015. Corbyn was an extreme hard leftist totally unlike Blair, Brown and Milliband predecessors who were centre left. The party almost had a meltdown as the cabinet was made up from backbenchers who reflected the hard left model. Some MP’s disappeared altogether, having lost their seats (like the former, rather likeable, Ed Balls, the former shadow chancellor). The party itself, even today is very split on issues, including Brexit. They are also beset with some rather contentious racist extremism which they are having a tough time stamping out with a leader who refuses to do anything much about it. Corbyn also initially supported Brexit but is now soft peddling his own game of resistance in the hopes that he will become Prime Minister in the next election. He is rattling the cage, but he does not have full support of his own party, nor of every traditional labourite voter. He sways all over the place on his decision making, leaving supporters frustrated.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have lost elected members of Parliament to other political parties or to become independent Members of Parliament with no affiliation. This further dilutes the vote and the next election is unlikely to elect a clear winner.

There are lots of issues about Brexit that are too numerous to go into (needs a book), but Teresa May took over from David Cameron and despite her position as a ‘remainer’ she tried to deliver Brexit with the best of both worlds. To give us back some autonomy over our laws while remaining in a free trade agreement in ‘The Single Market’ exchange of goods. This operates within the EU ‘Customs Union,’ a block of countries who agree on the political rules and trade rules and taxation, etc., but Britain is negotiating to leave the Customs Union while maintaining a relationship in the ‘Single Market,’ for free movement of our exports and imports. This is ‘the deal’ and meant to keep the movement of people and goods open.

The EU have played hard ball with us. They do not like making concessions that may set up precedents for other member States to try to get similar ‘special treatment.’ They have basically always said ‘rules is rules and we will not break them for one member-state.’ However, at the same time, they do not want to lose a large financial partner like Britain. Despite its tiny geographical size, Britain has a large GDP output making it one of the wealthiest states. The EU membership fees are commensurate with the financial state of each member. So small members like Eastern bloc countries, Greece, etc, pay a much smaller amount in fees, but receive equal portions of distributed benefits.

So, our exit deal (and God knows what it is as we have never really got a good look at it) has been turned down in an increasingly fractious, divided Parliament which is tearing itself asunder over lies, misinformation and some whipped up fever by the ever-speculative media.

The main sticking point is the Irish Backstop. This seems to have most Brits kerfuzzled, let alone anyone abroad. My sister (a staunch Labour supporter all her life) didn’t know what it meant (and is probably still confused).

Basically, Northern Ireland is part of the UK and operates under UK laws and jurisdictions. Southern Ireland, or Eire, is autonomous and independent as a country since the 1916 Easter uprising that saw the division of the North and South and separation from British Rule. We had a long period known as ‘The Troubles’ which resulted in a lot of bloodshed in Northern Ireland. The IRA (Irish Republican Army) also set some of its bombing targets on the UK mainland with consequent casualties in cities. I won’t go into all that (messy religion and politics) but essentially, in 1998, the Good Friday agreement for peace was signed, mostly putting a stop to the fractious behaviour between Irish Catholics and Irish/British Protestants. The border between the Irish countries, was open for free movement and British soldiers disappeared from the various border checks. And along with that, the bombing and killing stopped. Clicking on this link will take you to an interactive map with all the border points and the documented violence.

The Irish Backstop (the reintroduction of customs checks either on a hard, or soft border) in the Brexit agreement is a real threat to keeping the Peace Accord in place. The EU will not allow a ‘deal’ that does not put a customs border in place to stop the transfer of goods between Northern Ireland and Eire so they want border checks on goods (like live sheep that might move from Northern Ireland to Eire). No one but the EU wants this.

Boris Johnson has said Northern Ireland will come out of the Customs Union (along with the UK) but will retain the right to govern its own ‘single market’ agreement with the EU and can revisit it every 4 years. This does not get around the problem with the EU wanting border checks.

It isn’t a huge change, but it puts the control of the outcomes of any borders in the hands of a Northern Ireland. It has made the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, happy. It has not made the Prime Minister of Eire happy. Nor has it made Corbyn happy, so there will be more fighting in Parliament ahead. The EU have seen this as slightly positive moving forward on Brexit negotiations but are not really saying whether they approve of it in its entirety at this point in time. And time is running out.

There are plenty of backstories about the Characters of Johnson and Corbyn, but basically, both are pretty narcissistic and belligerent people. Other political characters are narcissistic and belligerent too, including Farage and his centre right Brexit Party. Richard Braine, leader of the failing far right Ukip party (previously led by Nigel Farage, but having become a racist party, he stepped away from it) is not a real contender.

Corbyn and Labour is now making noises that they would support a second ‘Brexit’ referendum.

The young Jo Swinson, leader of the centrist Liberal party, who is absolutely against Brexit on any level is also fighting with a minority, though growing number of Voters. She will keep Britain in the EU.

The hard-left Green Party, led by Siân Berry and Jonathan Bartley is gaining momentum but unlikely to make majority gains. It is usually quite low on voter choices. They generally are currently fighting on Environmental platform and will also call for a second referendum on Brexit.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) led by Nicola Stergeon, wants to stay in the EU, but is also fighting for Scotland to become Independent, breaking the 400-Yr union with England.

The Welsh Assembly have generally indicated that it will go with a deal to leave the EU, but it has concerns about a no-deal Brexit.

There are many who would prefer not to leave the EU for a variety of personal reasons, but even many former remainers are now committed to leaving as the road back looks quite fraught with problems. Not least of them is the fact that if (and it is an ‘if’) the EU takes us back as a member, we will lose much of our bargaining power, and we can never trigger an article 50 mandate to leave at any time in the future. We will have shot our one arrow and missed spectacularly. I don’t think the EU will ever give us enough rope again that we can hang ourselves with.

If we do exit the EU, and worst-case scenario, with no deal, the country will go to an election. That will not have a clear-cut outcome.

And there, you have it. Clear as mud!

Brits will survive without an EU partnership, but it won’t be easy. Companies who use the UK for services to connect them to the EU will go elsewhere, but despite some initial hardships, and needing to resource import supplies from other non-EU countries, the UK will rebound, its currency will not suffer for long, and it will remain as a place full of hard working people as it always has been. We just have to be self-sufficient, and that isn’t the end of the world.

Britain leaving the EU with a deal, will at least have some easier trading, but won’t have to follow EU politics, fiscal dictates, or tightening rules.

Britain remaining in the EU, will have to follow the tightening rules, pay even more into the ‘pot’ and I would not discount the idea that they would insist on us taking on the EU currency eventually.