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Friday 21 September 2018

The Robbins Plan is dead. Time for a change of course.

We all knew that the Robbins Plan was dead in the water. It was rejected by the EU and Mrs May's own colleagues, by the intelligent press and by grassroots Brexiteers long before Mrs May started packing for her trip to Salzburg. Everyone knew, it seems, except Mrs May herself. Her evident open shock and distress at yesterday's rejection made clear she actually believed beforehand that it had some realistic chance of success.  

And whatever one's regard for Mrs May's intellect or her judgement, it's impossible not to admire her tenacity and resilience. The sheer boorishness and bullying incivility of the EU capos yesterday will have sparked a tiny flame of resentment in the hearts of many non-Brexit Britons; she may be a bloody useless plank, but she's our bloody useless plank. Thank you, gents. 

Likewise, many non-Brexit Brits will also have been irritated at being told that the EU capos want us to vote again, after they've smashed the windows and keyed the car and left a horse's head in blighty's bed. Malta is fast becoming a failed State, run by a criminal cabal with the island's politicians in their pockets, a place where inquisitive journalists can be murdered with impunity. I'd suggest Joseph Muscat would be better employed trying to restore justice and the rule of law to his mafia-fouled little country. And Herr Macron has been listening for too long to his granny's quavering fears.

The Federasts simply don't understand the 'hearts and minds' thing, do they? With every move they alienate more and more Brits, create greater hostility and make a future relationship more difficult. 

Well, I can't tell you what the deal should be, but I'm confident there will be some last-minute accommodation, if we don't blink first. A Federast was quoted yesterday as saying 'don't think it's five minutes to midnight; it's more like half-past eight'. Well, I'd put it at about a quarter past ten myself, but point taken. Now will someone please convince Mrs May that we need a change of plan?

Wednesday 19 September 2018

EU enables remote customs clearances - no hard borders - in Austria

You will have missed it - it's slipped right off the main news radar - but the EU is just enabling all customs clearances and taxes for all goods entering and leaving the EU through the Italian port of Trieste to be paid, accounted and administered in the small Austrian town of Fürnitz, some 200km away. Yes, that's right. Trieste customs will now be based in Austria. 

During the pilot phase, the organisers wrote
Trieste has a harbor with a space problem due to the narrow coastal area towards the city. Fürnitz is ideally located at the junction of the Baltic-Adriatic axis (Gdansk-Warsaw-Vienna-Villach-Trieste-Venice-Bologna) and the Tauern axis (Munich-Salzburg-Villach-Ljubljana-Zagreb-Belgrade-Sofia-Istanbul). In order to prevent delays in customs clearance and to reduce the burden on the environment, the Interreg project Smartlogi now wants to work on new forms of intelligent logistics, which should, among other things, enable a cross-border customs corridor.

The port of Trieste has a great interest in passing on goods as quickly as possible, since the area is limited by the nearby city of Trieste. Inevitably, loads are loaded onto trucks and transported across the streets. Numerous administrative and technological challenges currently prevent a so-called "modal shift" (shifting traffic from one mode of transport to the other) from road to rail.

In the Smartlogi project, the LCA in Fürnitz, which is perfectly connected to the various main traffic routes, would like to develop into a close cooperation partner of the Port of Trieste. The project is being funded with a total volume of approx. 1.3 million euros from the Interreg program Austria-Italy. In addition, the equity shares of the Carinthian project partners are being co-financed by the Carinthian Economic Development Fund (KWF).
'Intelligent logistics' and 'customs corridors' mean that borders don't actually have to be located at borders, and that queues of trucks and containers can easily be avoided with advance clearances, computer tracking and so on - so that customs clearances are just an information exchange formality, rather than the physical impounding and holding of objects and vehicles at ports and border crossings. 

ORF reported yesterday
Great opportunity for Fürnitz

This is definitely a great opportunity for Fürnitz, said economic officer Ulrich Zafoschnig (ÖVP). He had received information from the Ministry of Finance that the necessary intergovernmental agreements should be made in September. Theoretically, customs clearance in Fürnitz could start this year, according to Zafoschnig.
If this can be done for Trieste, why not for Ireland? Why can't Ireland's custom clearance point be in Calais, or Hamburg even? Why shouldn't there be a customs corridor from Dublin to Dover?

I rather think this proves that the Irish Border Issue isn't actually an issue. I wonder if anyone's told Mr Robbins that he doesn't have to surrender the UK's sovereignty to Brussels after all?

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Rocks and hard places - digital regulation

I don't know what the collective term is for Youtube channels, infomercials, newstainment, multi-channel infotainment, e-pinion and the like - 'digital' is too encompassing, 'media' too finely drawn. 'Content' seems to be a useful portmanteau sort of word. There used to be certain checks and standards for those who created and disseminated Content. Newspaper and magazine ownership and distribution, broadcasting bandwidth governance and licencing, professional journalists, barriers to entry including technical complexity, equipment cost and limited capacity. Making a video use to be a matter of  a camera, lighting and sound crew, an offline editor, an online editor and a facility with half a million quids worth of Beta SP machines, editing suites, reference monitors and so on. Then came processing power, software and easy GUIs that meant a video recorded and edited on an Apple laptop could rival in look and feel one costing £2k a broadcast minute to make.  

Regulation has yet to catch up with what has happened. If I want to broadcast a three minute speech, I need a government licence for a digital broadcast radio channel, a transmitter, and a roomful of compliance and diligence stuff and every breath I broadcast is subject to the most minute scrutiny. If I put the same speech on the web as a podcast, there are no restrictions, no standards and no regulation whatsoever bar the criminal law. One can argue that broadcast bandwidth, for the 'push' media, is a limited and valuable resource that must be centrally controlled and rationed, whilst internet bandwidth, for the 'pull' media, is effectively unlimited and use is determined by market forces, i.e. popularity. 

Why should these differences be a problem? Can't we live with the way things are? well, perhaps today we can - but technology and economics mean the boundaries between the transmission mechanisms of exactly the same Content are being increasingly blurred. Established broadcasters want to regulate the Wild West of the internet to replicate the analogue regimes under which they toil. Authoritarians strive to impose their own bigotry. And all the while champions of free speech, Libertarians and democrats are resisting State control, censorship and the economic cudgels of the global corporates all seeking to 'own' the internet. 

Personally, I don't buy the guff that the internet is 'harming millions'. The few sensitive souls getting the vapours because someone was rude to them on Facebook seem the same sort of folks who used to swoon at the sight of a nipple on 'Play for Today'. Yet I also want to take-down ISIS videos of lads from East Ham hacking-off people's heads, sick paedo filth or grainy footage of dogs tearing eachother to pieces. These views are not inconsistent; the latter repulsive Content types are all contrary to existing law. We don't need new laws - we just need a mechanism for we, internet users, to apply the existing law. We don't need need nine-hundred police officers crouched over glowing screens - we need ways in which we, Peel's citizen police, can act ourselves to exclude the already-illegal stuff whilst leaving the hurty words intact.