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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Brexit - the road narrows

At each stage of this protracted Brexit process, the closer we get to the end of the month, the number of remaining options decreases and the choices available to those holding power become more stark. Parliament may today vote against no deal, and may tomorrow vote to ask for an extension of Article 50, but as far as I can see neither vote matters very much. The only meaningful vote that Parliament could now take would be to withdraw Article 50 completely - and this would almost certainly mean a General Election to follow which few now in the House would welcome; voters in most constituencies would slaughter them.

It's now all in the hands of the EU - and this time, not just the unelected officials. If Parliament asks for an extension, it will be up to the individual EU governments whether to agree. There is talk of a year's extension but I don't give this much credence. They've already redistributed the UK seats, will be voting from May and won't want Farage's Brexit Party back in July, crowding the UK seats as they will have annihilated Conservative and Labour MEPs. As far as they're concerned, we've left. So they may agree a few weeks delay - perhaps until the end of April.

So MPs, it appears, can only choose either to cancel the Referendum, or choose to swallow the Selmayr-Robbins Treaty, or choose neither which allows us to Leave by default in either two or six weeks. What other options are there? 

And now for something completely different ...
It was 25 years ago that I first downloaded Netscape Navigator via a noisy and slow modem. It took more than half an hour to download, and transformed my life. The 'Edit' button I think allowed one to compose and save HTML pages, which could be uploaded by FTP. I once spent an entire day hand-coding nested tables, with reams of 'cellpadding' and 'cellspacing' commands. Now one can do the same in about 20 seconds.



DeeDee99 said...

Will Parliament light the touchpaper to set off a (peaceful, I hope) civil warO only this time, it will be the Establishment and a rigged Parliament against the people.

The last two stanzas of GK Chesterton's The Secret People are becoming more relevant with every day that passes:

"They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger or honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.

We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
Our wrath come after Russia's wrath and our wrath be the worst.
It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
God's scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget."

We spoke in June 2016. Are they really going to ignore it and demonstrate that they have dismantled democracy in the UK.

Stephen J said...

Yes Netscape and its associated Web-crawler was basically one man with a dream, prepared to take a risk...

It didn't only just change your life Raedwald, it changed everyone's, I would argue for the better...

Gawd bless Marc Andreason. I t sometimes pays to take risks. The latter worked but only in a very limited way, e.g. it only ran on a mainframe, so Andreason went to some business people and made a proposition and Netscape/Mozilla was born... Web-Crawler, later became Internet Explorer.

The big company that Andreason worked for, was full of corporate politics, and they wanted to prevent anyone getting access to such a new world...


People were determined.

Politicians would have stopped it altogether.

Makes you wonder whether that class of seedy bottom feeders is good for anything?

Poisonedchalice said...

What next? These series of votes our politicians keep having aren't meaningful, they are meaningless! It's like voting for or against breakfast cereal, when the subject matter is aircraft noise. And what would another general election settle? Nothing. It would be just another meaningless vote. It could also possibly plunge Britain into a communist state.

I feel despair for Britain. Maybe it's time to just sell up, pack up and leave. At least the weather is better in Spain!

DiscoveredJoys said...

I'm not even sure that an extension to the A50 process could be achieved before 29 March. Even if the UK Parliament agrees and could pass primary legislation in time (bit of doubt there) the rEU countries all have to agree to the extension - and there are a few that might play silly beggars for their own purposes.

The common chatter is that May is desperate and running down the clock to get her deal through, but I wonder if she has also run down the clock to ensure that we might get 'no deal' (by accident on purpose) rather than split the Conservative Party by revoking the A50 process and 'remaining'.

Anonymous said...

Both of these parliamentary votes seem to me to be outside their domain, no 'no-deal' requires the other party (the EU)to come up with a new 'deal', (bearing in mind they said right from the start that they wouldn't deal until we had left), and extending Article 50 notice requires the EU's consent too. Why can't they be honest and vote on "this house believes we should remain in the EU"? Ditto all this nonsense re. a 'second' referendum, 'the people must decide', what, so they can be ignored again?

I have a theory that if the internet had been invented in India, say, then it would never have become what it is. It needed the cultural background of the USA to become 'world-wide'. Indeed one only has to look at what the EU has done and plans to do, (cookie control, data controls and copyrighting), to see that it 'Europe' could never have produced the internet either.

Netscape started something amazing but don't forget all those other building bricks, keyboards that cost less than a single switch did through to 4 kHz telephone lines that now support ten magabit per second data links. All driven by open-market economies, not by the closed minds of Eurocrats and the like.

Dave_G said...

The quickest (and potentially only) way to get a deal with the EU is to leave.

I still suspect that a 'no deal' situation will prevail with .gov/EU subsequently throwing all manner of obstacles in the path to cause as much mayhem and expense as possible and put '(re)joining the EU' as the only possible recovery.

- If you care to revisit many older pieces of software you will find they are as capable as newer 'bloatware' although require a little more effort to negotiate. This is a pattern - increase efficiency (/sarc) by making the software more processor-intensive instead of making the user put in some effort.

It's also why kids 'can't add up' these days too...!

JohnofEnfield said...

I hope you’re right. I am extremely suspicious of Brecow & other underhand persons in power. However I’m beginning to think it’s all over bar the (very loud) shouting with the release today of the Table of Tariffs. Mostly zero. So that takes the wind out of the catastrophers sails.

jack ketch said...

increase efficiency (/sarc) by making the software more processor-intensive instead of making the user put in some effort.

Kids today tend to be amazed by what we could get into 1K or I discovered taking my Neff to a computer museum a few years back. Mind you I surprised myself by sitting down at the ZX81 and writing a simple PrintScrn 'hello world' programme without even thinking about it and its been 35 years or so. Bit like riding the neighborhood bike I suppose.

Dadad said...

If an extension to A50 was requested I would hope that Spain would say: give us back Gibralta and we'll say yes.

jack ketch said...

Mostly zero. So that takes the wind out of the catastrophers sails. John Enfield

It isn't so much about the tariffs but the regulatory framework and customs checks. A pallet of zero tariff goods is of little use if the pallet itself is 'illegal' (although I believe they have sorted that one out now?). Ask that nice Mr.Spalton,he can explain it all to you much better than I could.

Raedwald said...

The neighbourhood bike was a lot quicker than trying to download images - with three-part image files via alt newsgroups that had to be stuck together to give you a girl in a bikini, only 15% of which would fit on the screen at full resolution, like the KP nuts cards in pubs with random packets removed, after about three hours of modem time.

Still, at least it got us out of the house.

John Brown said...

Despite what the EU says (and this is always their standard negotiating tactic) that the ball is in the UK’s court, it is in fact in the EU’s court.

The UK Parliament has in fact passed a WA - the one which replaces the backstop with “alternative arrangements” – so the EU are not even correct in saying that the UK (Parliament) cannot make a decision.

I expect that today our largely remain Parliament (although their constituencies voted 64:36 to leave) to vote today to remove “no deal” (WTO terms) from the table in order to further weaken our negotiating stance in the hope of thwarting the referendum result.

Parliament would then have to vote tomorrow to extend Article 50.

The ball is then definitely in the EU’s court and they will have to make the decision as to whether to amend the WA closer to the “alternative arrangement” version passed by Parliament, or agree to a delay.

A small delay would not worry the EU, but as you say a long delay they would not like (and this is a very good reason in itself to ask for it) and in fact if the PM really was trying to get a deal “in the national interest” she would be asking the EU for a long delay anyway.

A long delay of 21 months is far better than Mrs. May’s/the EU’s WA because during this time we will still be able to partake in the MEP elections, all Council of Minister meetings bar those concerning Brexit of course, and have full voting rights including a veto on legislation where a veto still exists.

None of these rights would exist with the surrender, vassal status WA during the so-called “implementation period”.

During this time the UK could better prepare itself for a “no deal” exit and continue with the “negotiations” and leave “cleanly” and completely with no long lasting lingering ECJ powers etc..

Similar to when Mr. Neville Chamberlain in September 1938 obtained a signed piece of paper he called “Peace for our time” (the Munich Agreement) which gave the UK vital additional time for re-armament.

We can then leave with “a deal” (as parliament wants) but with one nothing like the WA and also with a completed trade treaty.

See :

mongoose said...

Yes, every now and then I get a sniff of May dancing towards the no-deal exit by stealth but I think that that is just wishful thinking. Parliament will certainly vote overwhelmingly tonight to take ND off the table but we knew that two years ago. And there'll be pretty much the same vote tomorrow for a delay.

I cannot see anything now but a cack-handed delay of a few weeks to avoid the EU elections. All it needs though is some troublemaking saviour somewhere in the 28 to nix it. Then we are in Remoaner Panic Revoke A50 Project Fear Max territory. That would be ugly.

It is clear now too that the pro-Brexit cabinet members saw the writing on the wall almost from the start and left so the present lot carry the can in the cold and clear, unconfused light of day. This is going to obliterate a lot of careers.

George Mainwaring said...

You harp on about faceless EU bureaucrats and yet you are happy to go along with this?

But what it really entails is an complete overnight overhaul of our entire trading system. No serious nation does business like this. It would be like being hit by an asteroid. There'd have been no consultation with industry, with producers, with parliament, or with the public. Just men in a room somewhere, scribbling down numbers, and then inflicting them on the country with no real idea of what is going to happen.

JohnofEnfield said...

-> Jack

“It isn't so much about the tariffs but the regulatory framework and customs checks”.

I take your point & agree that NOTHING is beneath the EU when negotiating & dealing with the likes of the UK.

But there comes a point when a tough negotiating stance, when play-acting by Spanish sailors pointing loaded guns at our lawful shipping, works-to-rule by French Customs officials etc begins to look like more that just the application of a regulatory framework. It’s the same with their verbal abuse of our country, the refusal to discuss trade terms until we’ve paid £€$39Bn whatever’s.

Eventually they have to decide whether or not to treat us as an ally or an enemy. I look forward to the day (29 March hopefully) when that realisation dawns on “Brussels”. I don’t care either way frankly.

Anonymous said...

Replying to George Mainwaring - please understand that its ok to take orders from faceless Englishmen but not from Johnny F

Elby the Beserk said...

Ah Netscape. How many are aware there was a command line web "browser" way back as well, which used garish colours on an old terminal. Just saying.

Your assessment of our Brexit shambles would seem to be connect. Whatever happens, the country is now in a state of unarmed civil war.

Raedwald said...

They all have an incentive in the EU to get rid of the UK before the EP elections 23rd-26th May. Previously the 27 had 678 seats plus the UK's 73. After we go, the 27 have 705 seats - 27 additional sinecures worth a quarter of a mil each to the lucky placeholders. Plus they all become incrementally more powerful. It's a big incentive not to have Nigel's lads and lasses taking the piss out of them all.

Mark said...

The EU is going down and it won't be pretty. There really is no easy way out of this for us as the options are quite stark: integrate fully and be at the heart of the catastrophe; leave.

Anything has got to be better than the former. Of course, we cannot leave as the EU doesn't want this (in any meaningful sense). The home grown vichyites - for reasons I simply cannot understand (and probably never have been able to) don't want it either. Hence the current farcical situation.

I don't think they can stop it but if they are trying to use the threat of a disaster to scare us into accepting a catastrophe, well I'll choose the disaster.

I don't know how much of a disruption no deal actually will be (I'm not - and nobody should be - of the belief that there will be none, particularly if an embittered establishment does its damnest to cause it) but for us, problems will be temporary.

For the EU, the threat is existential. The nastiness we've seen shows they are lashing out and they are also lashing in, at those countries who are not doing as they are told.

Dave_G said...

But what it really entails is an complete overnight overhaul of our entire trading system

No it doesn't.

Business could carry on under the existing rules until such time as changes are made/new rules implemented.

Where is there any 'requirement' to overhaul anything immediately?

Edward Spalton said...

Hello Jack Ketch.

When I last checked HMG had still not sorted out supplies of special pallets for food products. They have to be heat treated as a precaution against transmission of diseases and creepy crawlies. Within the EU (as we are at present) factories are inspected by national and local inspectors with the EU inspecting the inspectors to keep them up to the mark. With stuff coming from outside this has to be established at the border which is much easier to do if you have an MRA ( Mutual Recognition Agreement for conformity assessment)
such as Dr Liam Fox recently concluded with the Americans. Without one of those, we would have been “ at the back of the queue” as President Obama threatened before the referencdum. This new agreement replaces the one we had through the EU. Fortunately President Trump was more helpful.

British politicians have difficulty in understanding the difference between internal and external borders. I had an object lesson in this back in the Sixties. It was the border of one of the smallest customs jurisdictions, the Bailiwick of Guernsey but the principle was just the same. I We had started to ship baby calf food there in paper bags in the days before shipping containers and were getting an unacceptably high number of broken, torn bags. So we decided to overslip them with hessian bags. We had a supply of these from one of our raw materials, a byproduct from corn flake production in a human food factory. So we were confident that they were clean. We could send product, packed like this to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland etc including Anglesey and the Isle of Wight. Those were internal borders. But Guernsey, we found, was different. To protect the precious blood lines of their pedigree cattle from potential infection, the authorities had decided that second hand bags for animal feed were a hazard and had banned them. So when our first delivery of overslippec bags arrived, the Port Health Officer at St Peter Port impounded them and we had to bring them back ( also,paying for storage). The Bailiwick of Guernsey was not “ punishing “us - except for our ignorance. Yet, if ever something similar happens as a result of wrong pallets at the EU border, I will take a bet that is how some newspapers will report it along with complaints about “ red tape” .It’s what they do!

jack ketch said...

The Bailiwick of Guernsey was not “ punishing “us - except for our ignorance.

A point i was making the other day during a 3 hour wait in a coach full of , if not 'gammons' then Rural Roly Poly Oldies, at Calais. My travelling companions were FURIOUS (to put it in their language and the font of their daily 'reading' material) that French Customs should have the audacity to delay THEIR journey and to seek to PUNISH us Brits so.

Actually the delays was due mainly to the weather more than the Douane, but as God is British they couldn't really moan about him.

Anonymous said...

"When I last checked HMG had still not sorted out supplies of special pallets for food products."

Why is this the government's job ? Surely it is up to the importers and exporters to source the pallets and packaging that they need.

Don Cox

mongoose said...

Listening to the tone of today, I think that the fix might be in for revokation. It explains the Labour shambles - venal but rational.

Matt said...

For those who missed it (or are wilfully ignoring it) all the dire predictions about the world ending if we leave the EU without a deal have already been mitigated by the EU as per their press release at the end of last year:

Edward Spalton said...

Dear Anonymous/ Don Cox,,

When a government introduces sweeping rule changes, it is surely in everybody’s interest to advise people in plenty of time. The need for the new pallets for food etc was known to HMG all along. Our own Customs and Port Health authorities already enforce these rules on non EU food imports. They could have told people at the same time Mrs May made her Lancaster House speech or certainly a year later when David Davis suddenly realised what “Third Country” meant - but they did not. Better-informed people than I had been trying to tell politicians and officials but nobody official wanted to “ go public” - so it came as a very late surprise.Of course, large firms have whole departments dedicated to regulatory compliance. They tend to like this sort of thing because it raises the bar to competition.

I still have a clear memory of our family firm’s transition to the Common Agricultural Policy. Whilst it was strenuous to adapt, we were given plentiful timely advice. I was later surprised to discover that the senior civil sevant in charge of the process had been vehemently opposed to the policy but nonetheless made sure we were ready to make our living as soon as it began. I wrote the experience up in four episodes which you can Google at “Edward Spalton the Miller’s Tale” .

Edward Spalton said...

The point is that these are UNILATERAL, time-limited arrangements which will only last as long as suits the EU. They are not permanent. Indeed, I believe that those WTO rules to which some people attach magical properties would only allow them for a short ( although not strictly defined) period. Other countries dealing with the EU could claim they were unfairly discriminatory in our favour and appeal to the WTO.

Domo said...

"which is much easier to do if you have an MRA ( Mutual Recognition Agreement for conformity assessment)"

The EU has refused to discuss mutual standards recognition at all.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Spalton

Your original post implied that the Government should supply the pallets. Supplying advice, in booklets and on the web, or even by holding conferences, is quite another thing and is I think a valid activity of Government.

Don Cox

Matt said...

@ Edward Spalton

All true, but the point is that the EU recognises that they have to make alterations as well as the UK. They have and (despite being time limited) these will take effect if we leave after 29th March.

So there is time afterwards to work on a longer term agreement with the EU. We most definitely won't fall off a cliff immediately afterwards.