🇬🇧 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.

🇬🇧 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!

🇬🇧 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.

🇬🇧 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.

🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Roger’s View

A week or so ago, I asked our UK and Canadian friends to give us their views on the situation in their own countries, for we here in the U.S. have been so wrapped up in our own troubles that we may not fully understand theirs.  Last week, John Fioravanti rung in with his take on the scandals surrounding Prime Minister Trudeau, and how they might affect the upcoming election.  Three of our UK friends volunteered to give us their thoughts and views on the current state of their nation with the Brexit deadline just about 3 weeks away.  Today, I am featuring Roger’s excellent analysis, tomorrow will be Colette’s, and on Wednesday, we will hear from Gary.  These posts are lengthy … about 3 times as long as my usual posts, but theirs is a complex situation and cannot be condensed into a nutshell.  I think you will find all three of these posts to be informative and quite interesting!  And so, without further ado, I give you the words of our good friend, Roger Jacob!


Roger JacobBrexit- No. Let’s Discuss Something Simple Like Quantum Field Theory. (This is why you have a 2,500+ word post)

Proviso

Before I commence the commentary let the record show:

(1) I voted to Remain in the EU

(2) I am so hard-left, Jeremy Corbyn and his folk are considered betrayers of the people for failing to control the narrative and throw out the Conservatives; thankfully for most people there is not the political party to suit me.

Preface

To make anything close to sense of Brexit it is essential to consider History, Social interactions, Folk-Memories, Human fallibilities and the force known as The Population. To try and take small slivers of events is to mire the reader and the writer in confusions. You cannot do Brexit in The Small. Buckle in for a long ride. For it did not start in 2016. That is only the bar-room brawl after a night of drinking and it’s not just the two who started it, it’s to do with the others who joined in or bawled and shouted their encouragement.

Brexit? Where does one begin?

In most histories it is common for some of the work to contain an account of events which precede the events being discussed. In the case of Brexit this is important when folk, be they natives or outside spectators wonder how the UK could have ended up in such a confused and humiliating mess which has taken on proportions of a Civic War (ie one is which mostly words of vitriol are used as weapons) with no indication of anything remotely such as order arising?

I will try and be brief in my own idea of a backdrop. Remember History has a long and pervasive reach.

In this we must consider the UK between 1914 and 1945 took part in two Global Wars which left the nation’s sense of pride intact but ruined the fiscal infrastructure and eventually relegated it to a second-tier power which lost its empire. In folk-memory terms this is a powerful matter to deal with, particularly when only 50-60 years ago you were top nation and won both wars. “Someone else must be to blame?” goes out the cry. Really? Oh yes. For certain. If you live in the USA ask any Confederate Waver.

The Events

On Thursday 5 June 1975 a referendum took place to decide whether UK should stay in the EU. With a national turnout of 64% across the United Kingdom, the target secure a majority for the winning side was 12,951,598 votes. The result was a decisive “Yes” to continued EC membership, which won by a huge majority of 8,908,508 votes (34.5%) over those who had voted “No” to reject continued membership.

Now bear in mind the Conservative Party officially supported joining, whereas the Welsh (Plaid Cymru) & Scottish (SNP) nationalist parties did not … Labour had no official opinion (they were in government) although it was split nearly 50/50 as a party.

Leave called ‘foul’ and continued to do so for the next 40 years.

Onto the second decade of 21st century and the wake of financial crashes caused by deregulations and a subsequent return to government of The Conservatives. By now this party was riven over the question of membership in Europe and Farage had become a bothersome but known political figure taking the previously margin comical UKIP and making it a force to scare the Conservative establishment. After a stunning General Election victory in 2015 the then Prime Minister David Cameron in an act which screamed for Hubris to come knocking, said there would be a referendum over EU membership in 2016. Even before the dates had been announced and campaigning formally started the battle lines were drawn and such words as ‘stupid’ and traitor’ were common currency.

Following a June 2016 referendum, in which 51.9% of participating voters voted to leave, the UK government formally announced the country’s withdrawal in March 2017. Stats:

Total electorate: 46,500,001

Turnout: 72.2%

Leave 17,410,742

Remain 16,141,241

Again, bear in mind …

Firstly, the question though: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”. The government of the day asked an opinion not a binding contract an important factor for the Remain wing.

Secondly 13,000,000 voters were conspicuous in their absence.

Anyway, it was fair democratic result. What a shame it wasn’t over something very usefully important but mundane like ‘Should there be a library in every population centre of 5,000 people’.  However.

Here I mix facts mixed with commentary. My own sense of History and Politics takes over and I have to cry out:

‘Ha! God Love you all. Did you think it was going to be so easy to leave a 40-year-old multi-layered relationship?’

(I pause and for clarification’s sake admit to being a person who leans to the authoritarian in matters of the state management, and until I read 1,000 intelligent and well-argued statements in social media such as FaceBook I will maintain this stance – so sue me)

Overview of the Referendum 

In short, it has to be said, whether anyone likes it or not this was a simplistic response to a very complex situation involving political, trade, economic, social, security and legal interactions built up over 40 years. If there was ever a time an electorate being unqualified to answer a question this was the time. Had there been a party with a political attention span greater than a fruit fly, perception deeper than allegorical skin-deep and an intelligent sense of how European History has worked over the past 1,200 years they would have run on a campaign for a slow, gradual and dignified withdrawal. But to be fair it was a difficult task when you represent or court the votes of ‘The Ordinary Person’.

So, let us consider the true Villains of the Peace in this matter. The ones who have been dodging the issue with self-righteous outrage and breath-taking unwillingness to reach across the divide.

The Voters:

Never blameless. It has to be said this time a howling mob shorn of rationale and perception. Slavering and spittle flecked.

Let us look at the Accused:

Where Were You:

Yes, there might be very good reasons why a small percentage of the 13,000,000 who did not vote were not able to. And Yes, there would be a goodly few who, so fuddled by the whole screaming match, could not make up their minds. But the ones who just ‘didn’t? In this case, when the very fate of a nation hangs in the balance…. ‘Social Irresponsibility’ is a phrase that springs to mind.

Leave:

These, like most groups, are an eclectic mix. There are folk who feel small is better and a nation should run itself. There are those who think if we just leave then Britannia will once more magically rule the waves and all the money we need to build merchant fleets, large navies and all an island needs will appear. There are nasty mean-spirited racists candidates for re-education in large camps. There are folk who believe any scare story they are told. There are hard-left wingers who think the EU is a corporate stitch up (Looking at you Mr C). A number (excluding the racists) mean well. Sadly, there are an excess of the strident, belligerent and essentially ignorant and naturally attracted the attention of the politicians.

Remain:

Another Eclectic group. Left-wingers who believe in Unity there is strength. Moderate Right-wingers who believe in stable markets, trade, whole trade and nothing but trade. Socially minded people who reckon whatever the opposition is saying has to be bad. Nationalists who, after the dalliance with neo-fascism in the 1970s, decided they can trust Brussels far more than London. The dogged ‘Why Rock The Boat’ folk allied to the ‘If It An’t Broke Don’t Fix It’ people. Remain also have a strident wing whose approach is to consider the Leave voters as essentially stupid (err…guilty on several counts –  let the record show I was provoked)

Thus, we have in round figures 33,000,000 people who are so passionately divided that relationships and families have broken up, areas of the UK where you do not mention you voted Remain and a spike in racially aggravated attacks. A challenge for any professional politician to unite such a grouping. Sadly.

Politicians:

The financial collapse at the end of the first decade of the 21st century witnessed the rise of the simplistic populist and the demise of the professional, straight out of college, brief spell in something nebulous, politician. Long ago had passed the reasoned and eloquent debates to stir the heart. Thanks to the erosion of the attention span in which The People were cheerfully complicit, politics relying upon snappy sentences, regarding vague announcements on the future and condemnations of the last administration, with a suitable scapegoat minority thrown in for good measure, and of course a Popular Press who are nothing like the noble or gritty reporters of fiction.

As the populist, colourful or dogmatist took centre stage urged on by the voter base thinking Sunshine and Lollipops would be over the hill the result was a dilution in the capacities to discern, ponder and listen to the uncomfortable possibilities. They worked on the basis all would be splendid if they promised everyone what they wanted to hear. A simple, uncomplicated answer to complex matters. ‘We need to go to the moon’ ‘Fine I will build you a big step ladder’ ‘Hoorah! They’ve got my vote’

Summing Up

Yes, there is no avoiding this, the driving force all along has been the passionate and ill-informed voter. The person who thinks Shakespeare, Marlow, or the latest over-heated fiction set long ago is history (and that’s before we get to TV series or films). Admit it, we’ve all fallen for it, imperfect creatures that we are. Never did any of us stop and think … A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.

We The People screamed at the politicians to ‘Do Something’. We sent them hysterical e-mails, we wrote hate mail, we threatened them and their families, we chanted endlessly and waved flags, we marched, we organised petitions, we ranted, we vented spleen, our more actively inclined few said we would not have them as MPs and find someone more simplistic. Small wonder that when faced with this barrage of invective, howls of fury and mindless baying set against the mountain of complexity that is the EU and the understandable intransigence of impatient other states MPs became entangled in complex debates and curious votes which would have challenged the capacity of the best of philosophers to analyse.

People, the MPs were only reflecting you. Yes, You. You are at fault, this is Yours. Admit it.

Meanwhile Government By:

Look How Tough We Are. We Are Climbing Everest in T-shirts, Shorts and Trainers.

Those who came centre stage were the inept extremists, dogmatists and opportunists. The ones who just wanted to get ‘there’ and ‘they’ would make it all perfect and fine. In the UK the nightmare choice arose Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, two characters mired in the dogmas so deep they could not swim to the top and realise the landscapes they were in.

And having finally wrecked the last vestiges of a mature infrastructure of their governing party in strode the populist wing of the conservatives headed by opportunist Johnson and a fellow whose arrogance compares with any medieval bishop Rees-Mogg. These, so lacking in any sense of History (there’s that word folk) they thought they could drive their notions through a parliament with a history of 800 hundred years of being difficult. Edward III no pusher-over, Richard II a clever but nasty fellow, Charles I, the entire Hanoverian House, ask their ghosts about The Parliament. You simply do not say ‘This is my game. I will play in my way’. In the Late Middle Ages great and powerful folk were toppled for the old ‘We are rescuing the monarch from bad councillors’ with the approval of Parliament. These little creatures of this frenetic era have no sense of history. Of course, they try and play the People vs Parliament Card, which is double-speak of the highest order since they do not represent all of the people, just at the last count 17,000,000 +

Meanwhile The People Howl, The People March, The People urge the politicians to use words like ‘Traitor’ ‘Freedom’ and ‘Struggle’ as if we were in 1940… The People Blame … Someone else.

So to the Future

Dystopia Lite (We hope)

Who knows where this will end? I don’t mean this year’s frenetic can-can. I mean in the long years ahead.

The No-Deal, Flag-Waving, Let’s Do Churchill Impressions result.

What happens to the economy, to the infrastructure built on an EU basis. The government have plans, which a year ago those now in power would have labelled ‘Project Fear’ and dismissed as alarmist. Will those who voted Remain forgive and forget? No likely, at the first death from perceived lack of medicines there will be rage, there will … you know the rest.

Turn Around and Back From The Brink. We Remain.

Does not bear thinking about. Those 17,000,00 and the journals they ‘read’ will not go away. Lost Cause and Stab In The Back movements will proliferate (Think Southern White Supremacists or Denial in Germany Post WWI, and any other nationalist drummed up romance you care to mention). And naturally immigrants and Muslims will be blamed. Terminal Stupidity will be rife. While the wearing of Tin Foil Hats will become commonplace.

Half A Deal is Better Than None

In this case The Good Lord God saves us from ourselves and delivers unto us a Blessed Fudge. All in Parliament and their advisors claim the credit. The population stop waving flags, wearing silly hats and go home grumbling and mumbling. Everything is put on hold until the next election or referendum; when it all starts up again, though what the party stances of Conservative and Labour would be is anyone’s guess.

The nub of the issue is that whatever happens, the issue of the UK leaving the EU was raised, became public property and the British have been split along sectarian lines as if as a nation we had re-discovered religion. Scotland could drift away. Ulster will continue to mystify those outside of her borders, Wales might re-discover that London does not care and all that money was coming from The EU. The end of the UK? Possibly. Why not? Nothing new here folks, this is the latent and powerful force of History in action, driven as usual by Human Folly.

These isles might have another stroke of good fortune once the post WWII generation and their indoctrinated children have been shuffled off this mortal coil. Those born in the 21st century might have something left to build with and life can restart. The Isles might get lucky.  One thing will be certain, this was not ever by any argument our finest hour.

So I conclude. Jaundiced me?

Damn straight. After a life-time of reading histories, military and political, covering from 1066 to 2010, in particular the 20th century to see an entire population of a Nation squander the loss in life and other sacrifices on some out-dated concept in this vastly complex world. And do it all in an hysterical screaming match which would make a children’s set-to look like an exercise in Rhetorical Debate.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Scandals — A Guest Post By John Fioravanti

Today is a good day to step away from the Trump circus here in the U.S. and see what’s happening in the rest of the world.  A few days ago, I asked if any of my friends in the UK or Canada would be interested in writing a guest post about the situation in their own country, perhaps help us all understand a bit better.  John jumped right in and provided his take on the issues that have injected a bit of chaos into Canada’s upcoming elections (21 October).  His post led me to ask some questions, which he happily answered, so there is a Q&A at the end of the post.   Thank you, John, for taking the time to do this for us! 


john fioravantiI will preface my remarks with the admission of bias. I have been a supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada my entire adult life. While I do not think that the party or its leaders have always been right in their decisions, I do believe that this party has done more to advance the interests of all Canadians than the other major party, the Conservatives. As well, I do not present myself as a legal expert.

The SNC Lavalin affair was an internal Liberal Party squabble that the Conservatives twisted into a full-blown scandal. Jody Wilson-Raybould was Trudeau’s Justice Minister and she was asked to intervene in a criminal case involving the Quebec engineering giant, SNC Lavalin. Trudeau and his office repeatedly asked her to use a new legal tool to reduce the impact of the criminal outcome of the case to protect 10,000 jobs in Canada. She refused to budge. When Trudeau made Cabinet changes, she lost her plum position and was moved to a less prestigious portfolio. As far as I’m concerned, this was a huge mistake on Trudeau’s part. She then, quit the Cabinet in a huff. Another senior Cabinet minister, Jane Philpott, supported Wilson-Raybould and resigned her portfolio as President of the Treasury Board.

Both women went to the press citing wrongdoing on the part of Trudeau and his office. The Conservatives jumped all over the squabble claiming it was a terrible scandal. Trudeau tried to keep things civil within the party, but both women kept criticizing him and his office in the press. Their behaviour was a total violation of party solidarity, so the Liberal Caucus (elected Liberals in the Commons) voted to expel both women from the party. In the upcoming election they are both running for re-election as Independents.

In August, the Ethics Commissioner filed a report claiming that Trudeau actions were a violation of ethics in government. Believing he did nothing wrong, Trudeau refused to submit his resignation.

A couple of weeks ago, someone (a Conservative muck raker no doubt) found pictures of Trudeau taken in 2001. He had attended a masquerade party and wore black face as part of his costume. For this he has been branded a racist. Good grief! It may have been a stupid thing to do, but racist? He’s not done anything like that since, and he has worked hard to advance the cause of refugees in this country (most are people of colour). The charges of racism are the opposition parties’ pathetic attempt to bring him down in this election.

I don’t buy any of it. And it looks like most people here in Canada don’t either. Recent polls are showing the Liberals and Conservatives in a virtual tie with the Conservatives ahead by 1%. It will be a very interesting evening on election night as we watch the results pour in from across the country on Monday, October 21st.


Q&A:

  1. In this country, politicians (including the president) are often bought and paid for by large corporations, notably the fossil fuel and firearms industries. Do you think that Trudeau’s motivation in asking Ms. Wilson-Raybould was at the behest of SNC Lavalin, or was it genuinely, as Trudeau said, in order to save jobs?
    • Yes, large corporations and interest groups donate to politicians and political parties up here too. The Conservatives always have the biggest war chest at election time because their policies align best with Big Business. In the SNC Lavalin affair, Trudeau asked then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer the engineering giant a type of plea deal. Trudeau told the press that SNC Lavalin communicated that if they were successfully prosecuted, they would move up to 10,000 jobs out of Canada. The CEO of the company subsequently denied this on national TV. His denial was later repudiated by written proof provided to the news media of his letter to the Trudeau government. According to my research, SNC-Lavalin employees donated $110,000 to the Liberals between 2004 and 2009. The company later reimbursed these individual contributions – in violation of Canadian election laws. The company also donated to the Conservatives on a smaller scale.

  2. Your system, being somewhat different than our own, leaves me with another question: You say that both Philpot and Wilson-Raybould are running for re-election as independents this month.  Would that be re-election to the Cabinet positions they previously held, but left?  What do you think their chances are?
    • Our system is very different from yours, Jill. Your president selects cabinet members from a pool of experts belonging to his/her own party and then the Senate confirms most of those appointments. Our Prime Minister selects his/her cabinet from the elected members of his own party in the House of Commons. Often, the PM doesn’t have the expertise among these people, so each government department has an expert civil servant, the Deputy Minister, who will instruct and advise the actual cabinet minister – who makes the final decisions. Jody Wilson-Raybault and Jane Philpott are running for re-election to their seats in the House of Commons – as is Trudeau and the other party leaders. Cabinet ministers are not elected to Cabinet. If your party wins the most seats in the general election, that leader is appointed Prime Minister by the Governor General (represents the Queen) and the PM, in turn, will select the Cabinet from his own elected members. So our Executive Branch is not separated from our Legislative Branch. Cabinet Ministers are answerable to the entire House of Commons during the daily Question Period. Most often, Independent candidates are not elected. However, these are different circumstances, so the Media is watching their ridings closely. Will they get back into Cabinet? Not a chance! It is interesting to note that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer invited both women to join his party. They turned him down flat.

  3. I’m torn on the blackface issue.  Recently, similar pictures surfaced showing Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in blackface back in his college days.  For me, that was a deal-breaker, and I did see it as racism.  Still do.  But yet, I find that I would not wish Trudeau to be replaced, or voted out because of it.  Which, of course, leaves me questioning my own values.  I think the reason I am more tolerant in Trudeau’s case is because he has taken a very accepting and welcoming stance regarding Middle-Eastern immigrants that puts the U.S. to shame, so I really don’t see Trudeau as a racist.  How has he responded to this … has he explained or apologized?  Do you think there is any way he could negate the effects of this?
    • Trudeau has apologized many times for the blackface pictures. Although people may take offence, by itself, it does not constitute racism. If you combine that instance with racist, anti-immigration remarks since then perhaps the moniker fits. As you point out, Trudeau has done more to help Middle Eastern refugees get into Canada than the US has done. He also met the first planeload of refugees when it landed at Pearson Airport in Toronto and helped in the distribution of winter coats and other winter clothing. He shook their hands and welcomed them warmly. I saw that on TV. That’s a racist? I think not! He apologized saying that it was a big mistake on his part and there is no excuse. So he has not tried to justify it in any way. Sometimes, I think we have become hyper-sensitive about racism. It is ugly and it exists here in Canada – always has – but this man is not a racist.

  4. I don’t know much about Scheer, other than I do not like his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. What’s your take on him?
    • Andrew Scheer is an acolyte of the previous Conservative leader, Stephen Harper. I despised Harper because he was an autocrat within his own party. No elected Conservative in the House of Commons was allowed to make ANY statements in public without approval from his office. That Conservative caucus was muzzled the entire time Harper was Prime Minister. As well, like Donald Trump, Harper would never appear at an open Town Hall Meeting to field questions from We the People. He appeared only at Conservative rallies that could be controlled. I have no doubt that Scheer will behave similarly. He talks about putting more money in the pockets of the middle class, but I don’t believe it. The Conservatives have ALWAYS cow-towed to the rich 1% and why would that change by this Harper acolyte? Yesterday, Scheer announced that he would reduce Canadian foreign aid by 25% in order to fund his promises to the middle class. That is not playing well in the Media. Canada has only 33 million people – 10% of your population and we have never been able to afford a large foreign aid package or a large military budget, but Canadians are sensitive to their reputation in the UN and the world. Scheer is slapping that sentiment in the face. Like Doug “the Thug” Ford elected Premier in Ontario a year ago, we have no idea exactly what Scheer would do if he was elected. I don’t trust him and he is not an impressive speaker.

Thanks again, John, for this enlightening post and conversation!  

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A Call To … Write? Opine? Enlighten?

I frequently like to feature guest posts from my readers on a given topic.  Here in the U.S., we have had so much chaos in our lives these last few months that it sucks all the energy out of the room, and leaves us with little energy to look past our own troubles.  But, the UK is facing a possible “no-deal” Brexit which could be devastating for them, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been throwing his weight and his rhetoric around, making things even worse.  And our neighbors to the north have also had their share of troubles in the form of a couple of scandals surrounding their Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that has cast a shadow on his chances for re-election next month.

I would love to have some of my UK and Canadian friends contribute a guest post helping us here in the U.S. better understand your situation, and also giving us your perspective, as opposed to just what we read in the news.  Any takers?  If you’re interested, shoot me an email, or leave a comment here.

Thanks guys!

VOTE!!! – Part II — A Guest Post By Roger Jacob

This is Part II of a guest post on voting in the 2020 election, by our friend, Roger Jacob … Roger has a clear view from across the big pond of what is happening in the U.S. today, and has some words of wisdom, from a historical context, that we all need to hear.  Many thanks, Roger, for your wise words, and for taking the time out of your own writing schedule to write this post for us.

USA Not Voting Is No Longer A Luxury You Can Indulge

Part II

The Unhappy but Unavoidable Basics

“Democracy is a very bad form of government. But I ask you never to forget: All the others are so much worse.”

This stirring and wise little statement is from the opening credits of each episode of the brief CBS drama 1963-1964 Slattery’s People. The outline being the local politics and a state legislator James Slattery.

Churchill’s earlier version was, one of his less erudite and not so stirring “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”, which it is argued was not one of his own and probably explains why it lacks a Churchillian ‘something’

Thus when you objectively compare the other forms of government (or antics masquerading as government) the ask yourself this ‘Would I like to live there for the rest of my life?’. For make no mistake, in this current era of Human history of large aggressive states and huge corporations central government of a nation by a small group of people is the only alternative, unless you can find a very small piece of isolated land that no one wants and survive on it…while hoping no one finds valuable resources thereupon. You are dealing with a 7.7 billion sized very flawed but inventive species here, hiding out and surviving can be difficult.

On Democracy and more Unavoidables

Having to accept the fact that someone is going to run the place wherever you live and thus have an impact on your life, having a say in who gets there is an attractive option. As you are going to vote in people and not saintly beings there will be mistakes, flaws, compromise, disappointments and all the other baggage humans drag around with them. This is also unavoidable. This is the Current Reality. If you are looking for perfection in government. Sorry that era has not arrived yet…hopefully it will, if we survive that long.

Another facet of democracy is that folk who have very strong opinions will make sure they can get out there and vote. Now you may not care for the folk with the Strong Opinions, but if you don’t vote then they will have a disproportionate say in your life. Again you don’t get to avoid this. Yes you can protest, yes you can organise campaigns and you might win a few, but ‘they’ the elected of the ‘Strong Opinions’ will still be there and the only chance you will get to remove them will be at the next election.

This is how the flawed process of Democracy works. Participation is the only stable, civic way you can ensure it remains Stable and Civic.

Narrowing in. The USA in 2020

I address this portion to the citizens of voting age in the USA.

You will not need me to list, report or otherwise enumerate the controversial decisions, statements and persons who have appeared upon the political stage since the election of 2016. You have them burned into your memory and possibly your hearts. You know full well that the temperature of the political atmosphere has risen and thus increased the level of toxicity. You know, as I suggested before Consensus is a very endangered species, in some regions it is extinct.

Now it may be, it is possible that many of the folk associated with the current administration are not racists, homophobic, anti-minority, narrow-minded reactionaries or religious zealots. It maybe. However by the actions and statements coming out of the administration these views have been given an air of respectability, they can be howled out under the guise of the much-abused term ‘Free Speech’. There are people striding about the public domain who back in the 1960s & 1970s would have labelled ‘wackos’ and generally laughed at. Now they have far too many followers.

In this situation I will ask those of you who do not vote this very hard question. Are you content with that situation? Are you not bothered about what is happening along the US Mexican border? Are you at ease with the mass shooting? Are you at ease with the Hate-Crime and unprovoked attacks on minority peoples? Are you? Now be careful with your reply as you might feel inclined to reply to me, because whatever you write however you argue, I will be replying too … with those questions. For there is no option if you choose to stay in the USA. Are you content with this administration and its followers? Are you?  Are you willing to stand by and do naught but simply write an impassioned piece in Social Media in the belief that somehow that will change things? For ‘they’ write impassioned pieces too.

We dial back to the previous post. And that that 60,000,000+ folk voted from this administration and rest assured they will vote again, and again, and again. This 25%-30% of the numbers. But they are not the majority…they were not the majority in 2016 … thanks to a narrow margin and a freak of your system they ‘won’. So do they truly represent anyone other than themselves. Are you content with these people telling you how the nation is going to be run. Are you?

For the non-voter by principal here is your paradox which in this case has to be answered. You might well have very strong views on government, which is why you do not vote. I will again  come back to the earlier point. Someone is going to run the nation. Are you content with this administration running it, or would you rather chance another, and yes risk those disappointment? Some might say ‘better the devil you know’… Let me say from a study of American political history ‘Well folks, if you are content with a devil …’

This I will hammer home again, and again. Are you content? Are you willing to let things go on the way they are? Do you truly think that an alternative will be The Same? Do you? Are you willing to risk the lives and well-being of minorities to satisfy your own views? Are you content for them to lay there upon some allegorical petri dish while you muse over your own political philosophies hoping to gain some ephemeral moral high-ground. Sorry, but that is not the real world you are living in. Oh yes you can talk about change and I would not challenge that but in this climate you do not get the chance to make that change because it comes by steady, slow evolution and right now we are looking at a possible political extinct event.

Polemic? Yes of course. Because currently American politics is a place of polemics from both sides and in that toxic environment your way does not have a hope. Civil War does. But not yours. Not at this time. The atmosphere is too toxic.

Your only option to change is to get out there and vote.

Defeatism

This is something of fall-back cop-out which comes in many forms. Let us leave the lazy ‘What’s the point’ excuse, I’ve put up enough arguments against that in the above words. NO need to repeat. There are others worries. These needed to be address by activism

Gerrymandering- Yes, they will do that. You need a rather dull and stodgy UK style Boundaries Commission to guard against that and even then there is huffing and puffing. However you are in pre-war situation here and propaganda  plays a part. Imagine the result when Trump’s dream gerrymandering has worked. For Trump 65,000,000. Against Trump 90,000,000. Imagine what the media and world media would make of that. It would be quite comic, and the streets would be clogged with protestors. And where is Trump’s mandate? Also that would have many a congress or senate member worrying about the next election.

Not Eligible – This is an old trick which was used in the South to keep ‘those people’ out of the booths when the local politicians were queasy about ‘good ol’ boys’ with clubs. This takes finesse as what would be required would be a strongly created website were folk denied the vote could register their names and the reason. Imagine millions of  names turning up? Of course that does need, as I said a very good site.

The Russians – Yeah. That’s another old one from the European book of tricks. Influence the nation, or make you think they are influencing the nation and thus erode the feeling a vote will count. Get out there and vote and make a noise about it. As with the other two problems it is all about raising the opposition profile.

Summary

Your nation is on tracks for an extremist disaster. Trump is only a small part of it. The main issue is the polarisation. The only way that can be defeated is by The Active Moderate, who demands their voice be heard. The one who will not be silent, and the only way they will listen by is the counting of the votes and the voice of those who voted.

Anything else is quite frankly fluff the current administration will blow away with its own propaganda.

The administration’s supporters will vote you can be sure of that. By not voting you are simply supporting them and stoking the fires.

Are you content with that?

Are you comfortable with the persecution of minorities?

Are you at ease with the erosion of the environment?

Are you glad the rich are getting richer?

If you don’t vote out of choice, then you must be.

Stands to reason.

Note to readers:  I will be re-running these two posts, as well as others, in the days leading up to election day.  Meanwhile, feel free to use these to help try to convince people you may know who claim it is too much bother to vote, or have other excuses. 

VOTE!!! – Part I — A Guest Post By Roger Jacob

A week or so ago, our friend Roger and I were chatting about how crucial next year’s election will be in the U.S., how it is likely to be the single most important election in the history of the nation, and how critical it is that every eligible person uses the power of his vote on 03 November 2020.  Roger is a gifted writer with a strong sense of history, and when he offered to write a guest post on this subject, I jumped at the offer!  Roger lives in Wales (UK) and I find that often, those outside the U.S. see our situation with more clarity than we who live in this muck every day do. What follows is the first of a two-part guest post titled:

USA Not Voting Is No Longer A Luxury You Can Indulge

Part I-

Motivations, Histories, Circumstances

Preface, Emotions and History

Firstly, I would not be writing this were I not for many years pro-American. I do not subscribe to the tired old ‘USA is the root of all evils’ jag. If you are going to be critical of the USA then you had better include sentences on Russia and China in your comments, they do not get a free-ride. The Three Big Powers. Big Powers are ugly in their dealings with the world. A brief read of the histories of Empires or Very Large Nations anywhere anywhen should convince you of that.

That said back to my relationship with the USA. The music, the humour, the variety, the enthusiasm, the can-do. I thought them wonderful, exhilarating. Dare I use the shallow phrase ‘I love(d) The USA!’. I still value its freedom of art, this vast sprawling inventive nation not shackled by clichés of faux-rebellion and cliques of the self-aggrandised and their followers smaller nations can suffer with.

This opening paragraph is essential to my argument. Because I care about the USA and I see its potential about to be ruined. Torn apart by the negative parts of the Human, those which History warns us have always been there and despite the myriad of examples still lurk, with dread patience. You, The USA is at one of the turning points many nations have encountered. You can journey on. Or you can implode. 2020’s Presidential election beckons.

2016 Election

Being a retired Civil Servant I promptly started checking stats and quite frankly became very side-lined. I will spare my fascination with numbers and give you some simple facts: Clinton = 65,853,514 Trump = 62,984,828. Whereas Trump is legally and constitutionally the USA president more people voted for Clinton. 245,500,000 Americans are 18 & over. Therefore, Trump was voted in by 25.6 % of the adult population. This in itself is not unusual, other than the fact that there is a minority president. Combined these show hardly a stunning mandate.  

Ramifications

Because of the divisive nature of Trump there is at best a stubborn refusal for one side to see the other’s argument against or for him. At worse there is a loud, vociferous and toxic climate in American politics in which consensus has long since withered and there is naught but conflict. Trump has done nothing to assuage the opposition, in fact he has goaded them and relied upon his own loyal base to stoke up his confidence. Thus, widening the gap. Into such an atmosphere naturally the rabble rousers and extremists will turn up and prosper by feeding the supporters with a diet of anger, mockery of the foe and most of all hate (and rake in the bucks folks…notice how Bannon does not live in a shack or trailer park). This is always the situation prior to a civil or civic strife. A House Divided. You will see this phrase again.

Trump

People talk of Trump as if he was so great political operator with an inane sense of genius. This is not so. As businessmen before him he thought he could run the country like he runs his businesses and by woeful chance he appeared at a time when: (1) a portion of the population were reeling from having one of ‘those’ people in the Whitehouse for two terms (2) The culture wars were entering their fourth decade and getting hotter (3) The antics of ‘The Hill’ were getting on people’s nerves. Thus, Trump is but the manifestations of millions of people’s fears, angers (and in some cases) blind prejudices. As far as they are concerned he is their man and not (as he believes) the other way around. Thus, this vocal and furious approximately 25% now hold sway in the Nation. A multi-cultured, five time zone, 300,000,000 + population, politically polarised with easy access to firearms Nation. A more astute generation of politicians would have picked up on this and would be doing something to damp down the fires. Not Trump, bloated with the adulation of his creators he sees only them and their needs. Woefully ignorant of the forces which are at work. A House Divided. History beckons.

Warning

The entrenchments of both sides indicate those who are currently involved within the political processes, be they politicians, aides, activists or voters have in most cases already made up their minds. The nation has in round terms 123,000,000 voters willing to make their mark, to repeat there is a potential in round terms of of 245,000,000. The questions to ask at this stage are is approximately one-half of the population content to let (1) Their future be fought over by another divided half. (2) Thus, content to be told how Life is going to be by a subsequent victorious quarter. If you didn’t vote last time because ‘why bother’ or ‘my principals’ were your fall back reasons, ask yourself:

Are you really content with a quarter of the population dictating to you?

Do you really think in this toxic situation you or folk close and dear to you will not be affected some day, some how, some when?

In the next part we will discuss this in more detail.

Thank you so much, Roger!  😊  Stay tuned for Part II …

Meanwhile, Up In Canada — A Guest Post By Rawgod

We here in the U.S. are so absorbed in the daily dose of Trumpism that rarely in the past two years have most of us looked outside our own borders.  Oh, sure, we have the most basic knowledge of the Brexit battle, and we make note of such things as the two recent mosque shootings in New Zealand, but for the most part we are so inundated in all things “trump”, that we are almost buried in the detritus.  But, our situation is not unique in this, the year 2019.

Our friend rawgod lives in the western Canadian province of Alberta, and they have problems that are very similar to our own, and in many ways tied directly to our own.  I have long argued that no nation can afford to take an isolationist view, for this is a global world now, and no nation can survive without cooperation in many areas:  technology, trade, national security.  So, when rawgod offered me this guest post, I was happy to be able to present a first-hand, up-close-and-personal view of what is transpiring outside the U.S.  By the way … I always welcome guest posts any time somebody feels so inclined!  Thank you, rawgod, for helping to open my eyes about what is going on up north!Text dividers800px-Alberta_in_Canada.svgIn Alberta I am told that over 100,000 people are out of work because the Oil Sands production has been reduced. This is partly because of Paris Accord commitments to cleaner air, but that partly is too small. The biggest reason is because we are producing more oil than we can move to places whose people are willing to process our oil into usable form. The province’s population is crying for pipelines to move our oil, not caring whose land the pipelines might cross or what ecologies might be damaged. Mostly the land they want to use is owned by First Nations people, and government-protected wildlife areas.

Meanwhile, it is mostly white people who are clamouring for these pipelines to be built without ecological studies. Who cares how the pipelines hurt Mother Nature or First Nations people OR THE ATMOSPHERE WE BREATHE as long as they make their money. Oil Sands wages are extremely high, as wages go these days. The people who want those wages do not want to be retrained to make clean money or clean air, they want to keep on making their dirty money for dirtying the atmosphere. They care nothing about others, they care only about themselves and their wallets.

Alberta has an election coming up in April, and who is making the loudest noise about pipelines–you guessed it, the United Conservative Party, led by a man named Jason Kenney, who cheated to get the party leadership, a man who may have actually broken the law, one who definitely broached political ethics, to make sure he won. Now he wants to become Premier of our province. AND PROBABLY WILL! Alberta has, until the last election, always been a conservative-voting province since its inception.

Yesterday this party did a big flip flop, it went from wanting to expose non-straight children in our school systems to saying it wanted to protect them from exposure, after years of loud politicking that non-straight kids needed to be exposed. Does this sound like a true policy change to anyone? Or does it sound like an insincere political attempt to attract more liberal-minded voters to its march to taking over the province.

After just one day, the leader of the UCP changed his tune about Gay Straight Alliances in schools, which are what I was talking about yesterday regarding exposing those who feel they are not heterosexual. For most of the past three years he has been demanding that schools expose kids who join Gay Straight Alliances, no matter what their reason. He wanted to promote homophobia. Yesterday, he said kids needed to be safe from exposure. We all knew he did not mean that. Today, ONE WHOLE DAY after saying kids needed to be safe, he clarified his policy. IT SHOULD BE UP TO THE TEACHERS TO EXPOSE GSA MEMBERS IF THE TEACHER THOUGHT IT WAS NOT IN THE STUDENTS’ BEST INTERESTS. Who would get to decide that? Religious teachers? Of course. The teachers themselves do not want that responsibility, as a group, but particular teachers do, the ones who believe it is their right to tell parents their children might think they are gay. Or the children may want to just understand their friends who think they might be gay. That is what GSAs are for. To promote healthier relationships. To stop homophobia before it starts.

So much for a new UCP policy. The politicians want to hide behind the teachers. Gutless wonders. Homophobes every one. Suppress healing. Divide. Divide. Divide!

Oh, did I say many of their party faithful have had to pull out of the race after having their racial hatred and white superiority statements brought to light, or even just threatened to be brought to light. They made statements on social media sites before they decided to run for office, and now those chickens don’t want to be roasted with their own bigoted words. Surprise! Surprise!

These are the people who mainly make up the UCP, including their cheating leader. These are Alberta’s Trump-lovers. And these are the people who are probably going to win the election, because their policies of hatred and greed resonate with a huge portion of Albertans.

Vive Jason Kenney! Vive Donald Trump! Vive the death of humanity! Vive climate change! Barf… Barf… Barf…