Ultimate End of the World Free Fire Zone

We have never before seen or heard of a constellation of omens such as we’re confronted with now. To begin with, this is Friday the 13th. We don’t need to elaborate on that!

In addition, this is also the time of a full Moon. You can read about it at NASA: December 2019: The Next Full Moon is the Cold Moon. They say:

The Moon will be full just after midnight on Thursday morning, Dec. 12, 2019, appearing “opposite” the Sun (in Earth based longitude) at 12:12 AM EST. The Moon will appear full for about three days centered on this time, from Tuesday evening through Friday morning.

The Moon is indeed full this morning. Your Curmudgeon went outside and looked for it. Yes, it’s true!

And that’s not all! Besides having a full Moon fall on Friday the 13th — which is bad enough! — there’s also something else. It’s of special significance to your Curmudgeon and his legion of fans. This — the very post you’re now reading — is post number 8,000 for our humble blog. Think about it. What are the odds against a post number like that falling on Friday the 13th during a full Moon? It’s overwhelming!

Your Curmudgeon is prepared. We’re ready for the Cosmic Aardvark to carry us on his back and fly us to the firmament. There’s nothing left to be done except to declare what may be our final Intellectual Free-Fire Zone.

You know the rules. We’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters. The comments are open, dear reader. Have at it!

Oh, wait! Because this is a doomsday post, we adhere to tradition and close with this:

Thats all folks

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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114 responses to “Ultimate End of the World Free Fire Zone

  1. To say nothing about what has just happened in the UK, or, more precisely, England

  2. Dr. Braterman speaks truly: English nationalism has totally eclipsed rationality in the The Britain Formerly Known as Great. Careful reason and measured argument has been defeated by atavistic emotion and hollow sloganeering as the Age of Endarkenment continues to unfold.

    But, with Orwell, I must give 2 cheers for democracy. As one who voted to remain in the EU, I can take no credit for all the myriad blessings and plethora of benefits which we have been told that Brexit shall shower upon this Happy Realm–but we must all now bend over and prepare to receive them…

  3. There will be bargaining with trading partners, and at least some of those partners will be eager to capitalize on the weaknesses.
    For example, private health insurance companies will be eager to take over the national health service. You will discover the benefits that they will bring you.
    I am curious about what will happen to Gilbraltar. Would they try to join with Scotland to stay in the EU? Or just admit defeat?

  4. Nice new logo, Megalonyx. Is that a photo from your youth?

  5. Let’s celebrate this special day and what would be better than an appropriate video?

  6. Our Curmudgeon enquires:

    Is that a photo from your youth?

    I freely own that I am kin to monkeys–but no, the image is in honour of our political retreat into the tribal nationalism of what I had dared but wrongly hoped were bygone days.

    I must give way to the popular will, as democratically expressed. And my previous ‘Stop Brexit’ avatar is inappropriate to the fresh round of celebrations which our UK election has doubtless triggered at Mar-a-Lago and in the Kremlin…

  7. TomS wonders

    I am curious about what will happen to Gilbraltar. Would they try to join with Scotland to stay in the EU? Or just admit defeat?

    The constitution of Gibralter gives that particular British Overseas Territory autonomy in its internal governance, but its matters of its foreign affairs and defence remain with the UK government. An additional piece of legislation was required there to enable Gibralter to participate in the 2016 UK referendum on the EU, otherwise Gibralterians would have had no say on that issue.

    In the event, 95% of Gibralterians (on a turnout of 84%) voted to remain in the EU. But that counts for nothing, as 52% of total UK voted to Leave under the simple-minded banner of ‘Taking Back Control.’

    In that same 2016 Referendum, 62% of Scots voted to Remain in the EU; this was two years after their own referendum on independence for Scotland, in which 55% of Scots voted to remain in the UK. One of the points made in that referendum was that, were Scotland to become independent, it would not automatically remain a member of the EU but would have to apply afresh for membership, the success of which could not be guaranteed; it is a moot point how much weight that point had on that referendum in 2014.

    The result of the Brexit referendum re-animated the debate on independence for Scotland, and the stunning success of the SNP yesterday (winning 48 of the 59 Scottish HoC seats) has significantly increased calls for a fresh referendum on independence for Scotland.

    But get this: the devolved government at Holyrood, which has broad powers over taxation and law, cannot instigate such a referendum on its own authority but can only do so with permission from the UK government in Westminster. And such permission will not be forthcoming from BoJo’s new adminsitration.

    So to your question: Gibralter has no say over its own foreign affairs, so could not legally seek to detach itself from the UK in any case, and the Scottish government cannot legally hold another plebescite on independence without permission from the UK.

    To Gibralterians and a majority of Scots, that battle cry of Brexit–“Take Back Control!” rings very hollow indeed.
    But I’ll leave it to Dave Luckett to explain why this is a good thing, as I am unable to do so…

  8. @TomS, speaking as a Scot, I find the election result paradoxical in its implications. It reinforces my wish for independence from English occupation, but makes such independence unattainable, since Scotland would only be viable outside the UK if it were part of the EU, and that would mean a hard border at Berwick on Tweed, which does not strike me as a serious possibility.

    A sentence with five clauses. “Get Brexit done” sounds a lot simpler

  9. I omitted from my screed above:

    In yesterday’s UK election, 53% voted for parties committed to holding a confirmatory referendum on the EU–that is, the actual Brexit withdrawal agreement as presently negotiated vs. remain in EU on current terms, and 47% for parties (the Tories and Farage’s Brexit Party) that are committed to implementing the current withdrawal agreement on 31 Jan 2020. But, as in the USA, raw popular vote alone does not determine the outcome, and the Tories have indeed emerged with a commanding majority in the Commons and can thereby implement the deal without delay.

    Of course, that deal only covers the interim transition period of 11 months, during which it is supposed the UK will successfully negotiate trade deals with the EU, USA and RoW. In other words, despite the Tory party’s (admittedly successful) electioneering slogan of ‘Get Brexit Done on 31 January’, that date is in fact when Brexit negotiations get started. So we are in for some fun and fractious times.

    But somehow, it is democratic to heed the 52% who voted in 2016 for an unspecified Brexit but to ignore the 53% who voted yesterday for an opportunity to either confirm a specified Brexit or else cancel it.

    O, the mysterious wonders of Taking back control!

  10. I am speaking in ignorance, but has anyone suggested a parallel between Gibraltar and Hong Kong?

  11. @ TomS: That’s an interesting thought, but the subject of how all the relics of past imperialism are legalistically regarded today is too vast a subject for this forum. Short form: the forceful (and perpetual) acquisition of Gibralter was ‘legitiamised’ by Treaty of Utrecht, whereas Hong was held on a 99-year ‘lease’. Of course, the treaty arrangements were imposed under duress–but hey, that’s what military power does for you!

    Another parallel to consider: 1860 secession of the Confederacy from the United States. And that turned out so well…

  12. @TomS, no. Hong Kong, war spoils of the Opium Wars, was always ethncally Chinese apart from the UK colonial administration, has 7.4 million people, and reverted to China in 1997, in accord with the 1842 treaty.

    Gibraltar has a population around 32,000. It was seized from Spain in 1704, and ceded to Britain in 1713, after the War of the Spanish Succession. The population is ethnically very mixed, with Spanish-descended Gibraltarians the largest single group, speaking a dstinctive dialect. The population have strongly favoured remaining independent of Spain, but in the EU. Before the UK joined the EU, the Spanish, who claim the territory, periodically obstructed the border. I’ve no idea what happens now

  13. @Megalonyx, you don’t understand! Control by who?

  14. Michael Fugate

    I still don’t understand how the UK will work the borders or if they can. Ireland will be very problematic and Scotland would be even more so. I once spent a few days in Berwick – nice little town with an interesting history and fortifications.

  15. @Michael Fugate, the Scottish border will not be an issue unless and until Scotland becomes independent of what I would love to refer to as the Former UK. Regarding Ireland, Johnson seems to be trying to satisfy three conditions, of which it is only possible to satisfy two: no harder border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, no hard border between Northern Ireland and Britain; Britain outside the Customs Union.

  16. Michael Fugate

    But it will be a big issue if it does.

    Interesting thought on conspiracy theories:
    https://www.yahoo.com/news/conspiracy-theories-belief-rooted-evolution-143309953.html

  17. I don’t understand the results in Scotland. Appareny the SNP got 45% of the vote, but a overwhelming majority of the MPs: Conservatives 6 and Labour 1! How can a minority so dominate?

  18. It’s called First Past the Post. The non-SNP vote in Scotland was split between LibDem, Labour, and Conservative.

    When you have only two parties, the overall winner must have had, or been close to, 50% of the votes (ofc, gerrymandering,and the great gerrymander called the Electoral College, can distort this a bit). Part of the UK’s problem, but not I think unique to the UK, is the breakdown of the post-WWII two-party system.

  19. As Christians celebrate this most holy time of year let us look to our King of kings Donald J. Trump for inspiration. Christians believe he was chosen by God himself to lead us.

    “First of all I am a great Christian–and I am, I am. Remember that.”
    Donald J. Trump
    Oct. 27, 2015

    Let us bow our heads and reflect by asking:

    WWJD?

    Who would Jesus defraud?

    https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2019/donald-j-trump-pays-court-ordered-2-million-illegally-using-trump-foundation

    NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today released the following statement after Donald J. Trump was forced to pay more than $2 million in court-ordered damages to eight different charities for illegally misusing charitable funds at the Trump Foundation for political purposes:

    “Not only has the Trump Foundation shut down for its misconduct, but the president has been forced to pay $2 million for misusing charitable funds for his own political gain. Charities are not a means to an end, which is why these damages speak to the president’s abuse of power and represent a victory for not-for-profits that follow the law. Funds have finally gone where they deserve — to eight credible charities. My office will continue to fight for accountability because no one is above the law — not a businessman, not a candidate for office, and not even the president of the United States.”

    As part of a resolution of the lawsuit announced on November 7th, Trump was ordered to pay $2 million, or $250,000, a piece to eight different charities. Those charities are Army Emergency Relief, the Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of National Capital Area, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Additionally, Trump was forced to reimburse his namesake foundation $11,525 for sports paraphernalia and champagne purchased at a charity gala, which was added to $1,797,598.30 already in the foundation’s bank account. The combined $1,809,123.30 was split evenly and recently transferred to the eight agreed upon charities. Each charity ended up receiving a total of $476,140.41.

    Additionally, as part of the settlement, Trump was required to agree to 19 admissions, acknowledging his personal misuse of funds at the Trump Foundation, and agreed to restrictions on future charitable service and ongoing reporting to the Office of the Attorney General, in the event he creates a new charity. The settlement also included mandatory training requirements for Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, which the three children have already undergone. Finally, the settlement required the Trump Foundation to shutter its doors last December and dissolve under court supervision.

    It is right to give him thanks and praise!

  20. Derek Freyberg

    Hong Kong was never on a 99-year lease, nor indeed was Kowloon – both were ceded to Britain in the 19th century (Hong Kong in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, Kowloon in the Convention of Peking in 1860). The New Territories were indeed leased to Britain on a 99-year lease in 1898 (which is why they reverted to China in 1997). Britain allowed Hong Kong and Kowloon to transfer to Chinese sovereignty (i.e. essentially gave them away) at that time, with a promise of a 50-year period of local economic and political rule – we can see how well that has worked in practice, and come 2047 it will no longer be “one nation, two systems” but “all China all the time”.

  21. Matt – can I post your comment on my Facebook page??

  22. Douglas Swartzendruber, Yes, please do!

  23. @Derek Freyberg is quite correct about Hong Kong, thanks. Though given the realities of power, the UK may have had little choice

  24. I have waited until the dust settled a little, both on this thread and the UK election, before commenting. I do not wish to offend, and I will be as careful and moderate as I can contrive to be.

    Firstly, after careful examination of the European Union, its present and possible institutions and its historical trajectory, I am of the opinion that it is a good idea gone wrong. It has succeeded in its original purpose, to prevent another war between France and Germany, but it has now travelled far beyond that, into realms that do not bode well.

    It is now an overstate. Via variously named rules and laws it controls the manufacture, growing, raising, import, transport, packaging, storage and conditions of production (including labour and environmental conditions) of every product offered for sale in Europe, whether produced in Europe or not. This gives it a leverage over the economy and trade of every member State that in effect – in real effect – turns them into economic provinces. It need not control more, to achieve that object. “Ever closer union” is and has been achieved entirely on the back of that.

    But, in addition, it is now acquiring armed forces. I will repeat that, for that is crucial: it is now acquiring armed forces.

    It is no democracy. Its Parliament cannot propose its own legislation, and for that reason alone, is not sovereign. It has no cabinet or ministers that it holds to account. The European Commission is appointed, one Commissioner from each member State, by the governments of the States at the time; but once appointed, the EC is in practice immune to oversight. The member States cannot remove their own Commissioner. Even the Parliament and the European Council of Ministers, cannot remove a specific Commissioner, not even for particularly gross corruption. On the one occasion when the Parliament was likely to censure the entire Commission, the Commissioners resigned en bloc, in effect reappointed themselves to their original terms, and continued on their merry way, unfazed. Seven years later, the European Court of Justice found one Commissioner guilty of diverting funds for her own use, but exacted no penalty.

    The result is a technologically-minded bureaucracy. So far. But like all systems not thoroughly subject to the oversight of a vigilant public, it is subject to authoritarianism. Sooner or later there will be a crisis, and some person will stride to the fore and take charge.

    There is no reason to suppose that Britain’s interests march with those of such a body. The EU now looks suspiciously like one of the European empires that Britain has spent centuries opposing. Britain’s interests more naturally lie in trade with the Anglosphere, overseas. Seaborne trade scales not so much to distance as to port costs, including imposed tariffs and demurrage. Britain, an island – or rather, a considerable archipelago – must trade overseas. It is better served by free trade across the world than by free trade only with Europe, with heavy tariffs and administrative barriers outside that.

    It is only those issues – the unity of the Anglosphere and the possible improvement of the terms of trade with my own country, Australia – that allow me to have an opinion on Brexit at all. But I applaud the British for their decision. As Megalonyx observes, there is now no doubt of it. They have returned a solid majority to the Conservatives, specifically on the promise that they would “get Brexit done”. Labour and the Lib-Dems (and the Greens) have suffered a heavy defeat, and with them, the remain cause itself.

    This, however, is going to be costly. Megalonyx is right to say so. It will be as costly as the EU – or rather, the EC – can contrive. I believe that the British understand that well, and have chosen their course nonetheless. I hope and trust that their governments will now pursue means of ameliorating the costs and lessening the burden, especially on the poor and the sick; but I am confident that if they appeal to the British people in the terms to which the latter have always responded, they will respond again.

    I will add only one personal reflection. In 1979, and several times since, I visited Britain. All four of my grandparents and one of my parents was born there. I was, among other purposes, visiting family and also the grave of an Australian great-uncle, in Essex near the airfield he flew from, and to lay flowers on the memorial of another cousin, an Australian who has no known grave – although I would have to visit France to do that.

    I was held at a customs barrier in a line for thirty minutes or so. My Australian passport was carefully inspected, and I was closely questioned about my intentions and funds before it was stamped with a visitor’s visa for ninety days only, and I was cautioned not to overstay. Meanwhile, through was what then the EEC channel, Germans and Italians streamed in without conditions; without even a glance.

    Yes, I resented it. Yes, I reflected that nations have no constant friends, only constant interests, but I doubted that interest was correctly perceived. I doubt it still. And I fear for the future, with a European Union that is in fact an overstate, lacking only an army and an Emperor to become a real Empire, and expanding relentlessly into what Russia regards as its borders. Britain will be well out of that, if indeed it can remain out.

  25. DaveL starts a well known mechanism: “I do not wish to offend”.
    So of course he does – but to his credit he doesn’t realize how.

    “I am of the opinion that it is a good idea gone wrong.”
    The relevance of which is exactly zero unless, and here comes the offending part, he thinks he’s better qualified for such a judgment as the majority of the Europeans themselves. Given what follows he thinks the latter:

    “Via variously named rules and laws it controls the manufacture, growing, raising, import, transport, packaging, storage and conditions of production (including labour and environmental conditions) of every product offered for sale in Europe, whether produced in Europe or not.”
    Never mind nearly 100% of the corporate businesses, who appreciate what these rules and laws do: guarantee both the quality of those products and fair competition.

    “it is now acquiring armed forces”
    Fortunately here he starts offending himselves, displaying his ignorance of hard facts. No, it doesn’t. The European armed forces are, remain and always have been national. There is eg no way France will give up control of its nuclear weapons. There are many cooperative structures, as DaveL could have known if he had taken the immense effort to consult Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defence_forces_of_the_European_Union

    None of them implies giving up national control.

    “It is no democracy.”
    Karl Popper’s definition (I paraphraze): a political system that allows its citizens to get rid of its authorities without using violence. That totally applies to the EU. What’s more, a nobody like me has a better chance to become a leader of the EU (like the President of the European Council or President of the European Commission) than an American nobody has to become President of the USA.

    “It has no cabinet or ministers that it holds to account.”
    It has. It’s called the European Council. The President is Ursula von der Leyen.
    Next he starts to contradict himself:

    “The European Commission is appointed.”
    First (and later) DaveL objects that the EU is so powerful and lacks control, then he objects that the national states control the EU via this appointed commission. Of course he also “forgets” to mention that every member state has a veto right in the European Commission.

    “The result is a technologically-minded bureaucracy.”
    OK. This bit finally is correct. Again DaveL “forgets” to mention that the overall budget of this bureaucracy is lower than the UK’s.

    “But like all systems not thoroughly subject to the oversight of a vigilant public, it is subject to authoritarianism. Sooner or later there will be a crisis, and some person will stride to the fore and take charge.”
    BWAHAHAHAHA!
    That bureaucracy is designed to exactly avoid this. It’s why the European Commission is appointed by the member states. It’s why the EU has not one, but two presidents. There have been several crises (Greece and the Syrian refugees being very recent examples). No way anyone could even try to display dictatorial tendensies. Exactly that is the problem of the European bureaucracy – the impossibility to decide quickly and forcefully.

    Ah well – DaveL is about as expert on the EU as Ol’Hambo on Evolution Theory. His attitude is largely the same: never mind the facts! Only opinions matter.

    Overall the Brexit soapera is a blessing for the EU. In all member states the Euro”sceptics” have crawled back under the stones where they belong. In the Netherlands for instance the rabid right parties PVV (Geert Wilders) and FvD (Thierry Baudet), while popular as always, have quit pleading for a Nexit.
    Sorry, PaulB and others, but I’m happy with the outcome of the British elections. With BoJo the clown there is a fair chance that the impasse will be broken. WIth Jeremy Corbyn it would have lasted even longer.

  26. David Luckett

    FrankB reads my mind at remote distance. His reading is, however, wrong. And if he is offended by a politely expressed difference of opinion, that is his problem.

    Karl Popper’s definition of democracy is, to say the least, idiosyncratic. I prefer the more usual definition: rule by the people. But if Popper is insisted upon, the events of 1999, to which I referred, demonstrate that the EU cannot rid itself of its authorities.

    The budget of the EU is irrelevant to its leverage. It is, in fact, only that low because the EU is run by a small elite. But its power is transnational, routinely capable of overruling national legislatures and national interests. The very crises in Greece and Syria illustrate that fact, and also the fact that Brussels can make its mind up rapidly when it wants to. Rome was run by two consuls, one to check the other, as the EU has two presidents. The Romans thought that secured them against dictatorship and the rule of Kings. Like FrankB, they were wrong.

    National states do not “control” the EC. They nominate the Commissioners, but no more, and they cannot hold them to account. Once appointed, the several Commissioners are answerable to nobody. And member states do NOT have a “veto” in the European Commission. Commissioners do, but they are sworn NOT to consider any nation’s interest in their decision. In effect, they operate by quid pro quo principles in the furtherance of their personal agendae. Those agendae commonly include the enhancement of EU power – which is to say, of their personal power. I would not necessarily look to them for a Consul-turned-Emperor, though. The Commissioners are, generally speaking, party functionaries and superannuated political hacks sent to the Commission as a plum, often to get rid of them. But that person could come from anywhere.

    France, the only nuclear power remaining in the EU, will never release control of its nuclear arsenal, that’s true. The French are not that crazy. But conventional forces are something else. A European army is forming. From the Wikipedia article FrankB was good enough to reference: “The forces are under the direct control of the Council of the European Union.” Unless “direct control” means something different from what the words mean, they are ipso facto not under national control. FrankB’s assertion, “The European armed forces are, remain and always have been national” is so much wishful thinking. What they will be used for is an open question. I don’t know – but neither does FrankB.

    I am glad to concur with FrankB’s opinion of Boris Johnson. I believe that the impasse will be broken. Britain will leave. FrankB does not say whether he actually approves of them leaving, but I sense in many Europeans – not necessarily FrankB – a weariness with the British political process, in which a national consensus emerges gradually and unpredictably from a multi-sided conversation, with many a compromise, exception, special case and accommodation. There is probably no conscious intention to this, but the effect is to keep all parties talking. I gain the general impression – it’s no more than that – that many Europeans prefer the clarity and decision of authority, not to mention its panoply and theatre. FrankB refers to “,,, the problem of the European bureaucracy – the impossibility to decide quickly and forcefully.” The European bureaucracy can decide quickly enough, where its own interests are concerned.

    But forcefully? An interesting choice of word. How much force, FrankB? Applied to, and by, whom?

  27. @DaVE LUCKETT, I would take issue with you on one question of fact. You say that the British people “have returned a solid majority to the Conservatives”, which is of course true in Parliamentary terms, but you go on to argue that this represents the general will, although Peoples’ Vote parties (Labour, Lib Dem, SNP etc) attracted more votes than the pro-Brexit parties (Conservatives, Brexit, UKIP).

    More seriously, I think you badly misread the UK constitutional crisis.” [T]he British political process, in which a national consensus emerges gradually and unpredictably from a multi-sided conversation, with many a compromise, exception, special case and accommodation” is what Johnson is in the process of dismantling, by purging his own party, offering an electoral platform of vacuous simplicities and unrealistic slogans (“Get Brexit done”, “50,000 more nurses), and a campaign, indeed a career, built on total disregard for the truth. The Conservative manifesto declares the intention to restrict the ability of citizens to sue the government over political matters, thus siding with the Court of Sessions rather than the U.K.’s Supreme Court, whose very future must now be in doubt. If he gets the changes he wants and there are none to stop him, he will be able to prorogue at will, and define the limits of his own powers., And the idea that Parliament will act as a check on him is as unrealistic as the idea that the U.S. Senate will act as a check on Trump. And, like Trump, Johnson projects the appearance of ” the clarity and decision of authority”, frighteningly so.

    Having said that, I cannot disagree with anything you say about the EU. I have not studied the matter as I should, but know what happened to Greece, and you can add the slave markets of Libya to the indictment. Not that Johnson, or the English population (I deliberately said English, rather than British), would care very much about that.

    In the short run, the UK will see its economy damaged by its departure from the EU, individual liberties and protections weakened, and much loss of talent. In the longer run, there are deep structural and constitutional problems on both sides of the Channel, as on both sides of the Atlantic. This at a time when informed and coherent policies are necessary to deal with accelerating environmental deterioration of many kinds.

  28. Paul Braterman, by “solid majority” I meant a Parliamentary majority. I did not argue that Brexit was the general will. Perhaps another referendum would give a different result, but that is indeterminable. There is, however, no doubt whatsoever that the Tories campaigned on a promise that if elected they would deliver Brexit, and they won the single biggest share of the vote. The rest is an artefact of the “first past the post” system.

    Living as I always have with a preferential “instant run-off” voting system, I recommend it. But I have no actual reason to believe that it would have delivered a different result in this election. Perhaps so. But now, alea iacta est.

    Please note that as I said all along, this will be costly and painful. I certainly don’t blame anyone for finding it too much so. Nevertheless, I believe that all nations should be governed by their own institutions, democratic, representative and sovereign, and it is for that reason that I applaud the result.

  29. Michael Fugate

    Republics are representative democracies – we will always have unrepresentative and unelected people in power over us even in local settings and it only gets worse the bigger the constituency. Because I live in a populous state my political power is diluted, but within my state rural voters have little power; 95% of us live in cities. The right whines about “identity” politics because they believe their are normative. “White male history” is just history to them as opposed to black history or queer history which is neither valid nor important. It shouldn’t take laws to make everyone in a country equal.

  30. Here’s an idea — how about the US admitting UK as the 51st state?

    Got to admit — the US and UK have more in common than UK – EU. About the only thing going for UK – EU is proximity.

    Besides, the irony would be delicious. UK might want to wait, though, until Trump is no longer president.

    (Just in case you can’t tell, I’m not being serious. Although…)

  31. @retiredsciguy, Orwell has anticipated you. Best Christmas wishes from Airstrip One

  32. Paul Braterman responds to David Luckett:

    I cannot disagree with anything you say about the EU.

    What!? No true Scotsman could agree with everything he claims about the EU!

    I can find plenty of things to challenge—and I am only 1/8th Scottish!

  33. I’ve never looked into the Brexit matter, so I won’t offer any opinion. When the issue first arose, I thought it was a reaction to uncontrolled immigration, which was understandable. But I know nothing about the economic or political issues. I will say one thing, however. Considering the American experience when some states tried to withdraw from the US, it’s entirely admirable that the UK can withdraw from the EU peacefully.

  34. @David Luckett: No need to worry about offending anyone here (least of all me) though you are certainly damaging your own otherwise good name with some of the nonsense you’ve repeated here on Brexit. That’s severely at odds with the clear thinking and good sense you express on other topics (my appreciation of your contributions elsewhere on this blog is entirely genuine), so I am always puzzled by your repeated assertions about the EU that are unsupported by evidence but delivered with such hyperbolic vehemence. But alas, this issue is one in which many folk’s positions are derived, not from reason, but from emotion and thus it goes on forever, just as no amount of empirical evidence persuades a Creationist. Nonetheless, a few points really do have to made here, such as the assertion that the EU

    is now acquiring armed forces. I will repeat that, for that is crucial: it is now acquiring armed forces.

    Flat-out rubbish and bull-puckey, no matter how many times it is repeated—which it is, on fringe websites, with about the same regularity as Darwin’s deathbed confession to ‘Lady Hope’ on other fringe websites. FrankB has already called you out on this one, to no avail, so there may be little point in directing you to a little history about this particular internet scare story (but for the sake of anyone interested in the source of this particular rubbish, here’s a link Jonathan Lis’ article, Brexiters’ scaremongering about a European army

    But you take it to a new level of nonsense: “is now acquiring armed forces! Really!? Even now?! Can’t say I’ve seen any recruiting posters for this phantom EU Army. Is their uniform nicer than those available from the British or French armed forces? Why has no one told my nephew, currently serving as a Corporal in the British Army, that he is about to be made replaced by the EU Army? This is rather alarming! Or it would be , if it were even remotely true.

    Or how about your assertion:

    The EU now looks suspiciously like one of the European empires that Britain has spent centuries opposing.

    You keep using that word, ‘empire’, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.

    What ‘European empire’ do you mean? Was it the ancient Roman Empire that a nation could only join by treaty and meeting a set of entry requirements? Was it Bonaparte’s First French Empire that ensured by treaty a nation’s right to withdraw from the empire any time it so chose? Was it–..but no, you tell me which ‘Empire’ you had in mind as somehow analogous to the EU. And bonus points for some actual evidence for your supposed analogy.

    Or how about:

    Britain’s interests more naturally lie in trade with the Anglosphere, overseas. Seaborne trade scales not so much to distance as to port costs, including imposed tariffs and demurrage. Britain, an island – or rather, a considerable archipelago – must trade overseas.

    Well, that’s the best argument for Mercantilism that anyone has made since it went out of fashion sometime in the 17th Century. Your claims about Britain’s ‘natural interests’ in the ‘Anglosphere’ or your imperative that it ‘must preferentially trade overseas’ have about as little weight as the Creationists’ invocation of a ‘Law of Abiogenesis’.

    Or how about…but no, it would be too tedious to answer all the unsupported assertions in your Gish-gallop. Is there any point in arguing facts when you are making claims about “possible institutions” or your suggestion—and credit where it is due, this may be original with you—that the EU could fall into the hands of an ‘Emperor’? Well, it’s also possible that the US Department of Agriculture might be secretly raising an army and planning a massive coup to take over the government and invade Canada—but is it likely? Or rather, is it even remotely worth considering such an absurd scenario?

    OK. Were this a reasoned rather than an emotive discussion, I could readily contribute my own lengthy catalogue of just some of the many shortcomings/failings of the EU. Mind you, one could provide the same about any large corporation, local government, even charity organisation. Nobody loves the EU, nor should they, any more than anybody loves, say, the ISO—but it’s insane to demonise them.

    So let’s have a little look at the emotions on display here; I will endeavour to be sympathetic, though it is hard not to snark a bit (for which I apologise in advance). You describe (and have done previously) a ‘triggering’ experience when he visited the UK in 1979:

    I was held at a customs barrier in a line for thirty minutes or so. My Australian passport was carefully inspected, and I was closely questioned about my intentions and funds before it was stamped with a visitor’s visa for ninety days only, and I was cautioned not to overstay.

    This is an extraordinary coincidence! When I first arrived at Heathrow in 1973, my American passport was also ‘carefully inspected’ at the Immigration Control (not ‘Customs’) and I (also of predominantly British ancestry) was also ‘closely questioned about my intentions and funds’ (I was a student, and produced documents from a UK university to confirm); I was granted a 6 month visa, which I was obliged to renew every 6 months during the course of my studies (which entailed an all-day visit to the Home Office in Croydon, in the aptly-named Lunar House). And at that time, I was also obliged to register at the local Police Station in Lamb’s Conduit Street (that requirement was dropped a year or so later). And this 6-monthly ritual was carried out for a further three years; it was only when I married a British citizen (the divine Olivia—but let’s not rile our Curmudgeon with details) that my US passport was stamped “Indefinite Leave to Work and Reside in the United Kingdom”. And ‘indefinite’ did not mean ‘permanent’, it could be revoked. None of this ‘triggered’ me as you clearly were.

    Three years ago I naturalised and became a full British citizen (I had to take a test to do so!); prior to that time, every entry into the UK meant my wife and daughters, British nationals, went into one short and quick queue and waited on the other side for me to emerge from the longer non-EU one. So please: your dreadful ordeal on entering the UK was no different than for any other non-EU arrival. If you think British ancestry should have entitled you to some kind of special treatment (only a cursory rather than a ‘careful’ examination of your passport, perhaps), well, that is a frankly idiotic expectation.

    But you are talking out your backside when you claim that as you were enduring this dreadful inquisition:

    Meanwhile, through was what then the EEC channel, Germans and Italians streamed in without conditions; without even a glance.

    This is total bollox. At no time whatsoever has anyone from anywhere been waved through the British border without an inspection of the passport. The UK is not part of the Schengen accord (and isn’t a marvel that our dictatorial EU Overlords in Brussels have not compelled us to join!) and all arrivals present their passports. The length of the queue to so present depends on the point of origin of travel: flying in from within the EU, the non-EU arrivals queue is much shorter than the EU arrivals queue, and vice versa for flights from the USA or Australia.

    And all arrivals, from any foreign country EU or otherwise, are subject to questions and challenges at the UK border—it would seem (but I can’t find data to confirm) this is often determined by ones complexion. My own appearance is basically white (you have to go back four generations to find the Nigerian ancestor), but I have a number of cousins who are appreciably darker than I am and have had—anecdotally at least—more intense questioning at the UK border, which is genuinely shameful. More concretely: if you really want to feel some outrage about British attitudes on immigration, consider ongoing Windrush scandal. . I hate to say this, but your ‘resentment’ over how you were treated at the border in 1979 is pretty damned trivial—and nothing whatsoever to do with the EU.

    Oh dear, so much bull-puckey in your Brext posts, so little time to respond! How about we change the topic to Australian politics? That’s something I know almost nothing about, but following your lead that shouldn’t stop me from suggesting, oh, I don’t know, how about: the whole of Australia should be returned to its Aboriginal inhabitants, the white descendants of the British usurpers thereof being sent to the re-opened facility of Christmas Island?

    I’m sorry, for I genuinely appreciate your contributions on other topics here, but when it comes to the EU and Brexit, you sound every bit as pig-ignorant and insane as my modest proposal above for Australia. If you would lay out a cost/benefit analysis of the UK’s membership of the EU, you might be able to argue a case for some form of Brexit (and remember, no one can actually say what is or is not entailed in ‘Brexit’), but you have offered nothing that would allow for that sort of rational analysis, and that, given your clear abilities elsewhere, is a shame.

  35. Megalonyx, we shall have to disagree. You, as a British citizen, are more entitled to an opinion on continued British membership of the EU than I am. Doubtless you voted to remain. You were, however, in the minority then. The Tories have just won a substantial majority on a specific and oft-repeated promise to deliver Brexit. As you wrote yourself, it’s going to happen. I’m glad that you accept that fact.

    I saw what I saw at Heathrow: EU passports were not inspected then – they were merely produced. The sight was sufficient, and there was hardly a pause. And if you cannot understand why an Australian might resent such treatment, given the purpose of the visit – and it was only a visit, not a residency – I wonder at your lack of empathy.

    The US Department of Agriculture has no army, cannot raise one, cannot make plans to invade Canada, and there is not the faintest possibility that it ever could. There is, however, an EU military force. It is gradually becoming more integrated and more powerful, and it is under the control of the European Council. I can readily envisage a scenario where it might be used – for example, to restore civil order in a member state in the face of an insurrection or a secession movement from the EU. At the request and with the approval of that government, of course – as recognised by the EU. Yes, FrankB attempted a dismissal, but was refuted by the words of the Wikipedia article he cited. Your own Guardian piece admits that the EU military exists, that “the EU has sought to collaborate more widely on security and defence”, that Juncker has proposed more integration, and that there are a number of military operations already in progress. This is the way the EU has always operated: by small increments, by gradual and stealthy gains. Thus it has established control over practically every transaction in Europe, on the brazenly false premise that absolute regulatory uniformity is indispensable for open trade. The Brussels mandarins are past masters of the art of leverage.

    An empire is a polity that has established effective rule over formerly sovereign and independent nations, entities, or peoples, subordinating essential aspects of their governance to its own regime, including requiring their support and taxing them. Empires often have emperors who are effectively dictators, but not necessarily. The British Empire did not, for example. Neither has the EU – yet.

    The Windrush affair was a disgrace. About a hundred people were deported despite being permitted residents and even citizens. I join you in condemning it. On the other hand, EU immigration into Britain amounts to about 300 000 annually. As that famous commentator Anon remarks (it wasn’t Stalin): “Quantity has a quality of its own”.

    The economic facts about seaborne trade are as they are. Call the facts anything you like, “mercantilism”, if you wish. It doesn’t change them. Britain gains more from open trade across the world, ideally including Europe, than it does from open trade with Europe alone, with tariff barriers against the rest.

    The same for the Anglosphere. It exists, and it is perverse to dismiss the prospects for closer relations it offers, as must be done if Britain remains in the EU, for the EU will have it no other way. It’s not surprising that they would, mind. No other EU member has such a possibility open to it.

    For all that, as I have said from the start, Brexit is going to be costly and painful. I see that soft words are emanating from Brussels now that the decision is unmistakable. However, I very much doubt that there will be any real goodwill to see Britain leave and prosper. British prosperity might be in the interests of most nations and people in the EU, but as far as the EC is concerned, it is contrary to their own interests. Britain should suffer, and be seen to suffer for its withdrawal, pour decourager les autres.

    I hope – I hope – that Unionists in Northern Ireland will merely grumble about Johnson’s border between them and the rest of the UK, for even the most convinced Ulsterman should see the benefits of frictionless borders with the Republic. I don’t know, though. The tribes of Northern Ireland operate on principles of their own. If ever there was an example of the folly of attempting to introduce a large minority of aliens into an established society of substantially different culture, Northern Ireland would be it. With that example constantly before them, no wonder the British remain unconvinced about the benefits of unrestricted immigration, no matter what the Guardian says.

    As I said, we shall have to disagree. But life will go on.

  36. @Megalonyx Re: Brexit misinformation. Does it seem to you that the Russian internet trolls are at it again? It appears that it worked to get Trump elected; now BoJo? There’s a pattern emerging here.

  37. @Dave Luckett; “The Tories have just won a substantial majority on a specific and oft-repeated promise to deliver Brexit.” True, but I trust that you are aware that total votes for Second Referendum parties exceeded those for Brexit parties. The First Past the Post system is designed to deliver such clear decisions even when opinion is badly fragmented.

    @Megalonyx, yes, the trolls and sock puppets were out in force. There is one example that I happened to follow quite closely. In the last week of the campaign, the Yorkshire Post published, and national news picked up, a well validated story about a four-year-old boy resting on a pile of clothes on a hospital floor, for lack of a bed, while awaiting treatment. The Internet was flooded with identically worded stories allegedly from someone who knew a nurse at the hospital and knew that the story was a fake. Amusingly, if one can find humour in such a situation, the troll stories got the name of the hospital wrong. Nonetheless, we had right-wing commentators including on Twitter one correspondent for the normally reputable Daily Telegraph, relaying the troll story, and I heard one Talk Radio commentator telling her listeners that “there are unconfirmed reports that…”

    There are known connections between the Johnson and Trump campaigns, the Conservatives are well-financed, and I would guess that the trollery is a genuine British initiative, without having to rely on any nasty foreigners at all. All of this raises huge questions about the future of democratic government in a world where the techniques for manipulating opinion are so well developed, thus granting a huge advantage to the most unscrupulous

  38. Our Curmudgeon notes:

    When the issue [Brexit] first arose, I thought it was a reaction to uncontrolled immigration, which was understandable.

    That certainly would have been understandable had it been true. But there has been no ‘uncontrolled immigration’ to the UK since the end of the 19th century (see History of UK immigration control.

    What there has been, however, is an often fractious saga of which would-be immigrants needed to be ‘controlled’, and to what end. Much of that history is ugly, to be sure: the original introduction of immigration control resulted from an openly anti-Semitic impulse, and at other stages calls for ‘tougher immigration control’ have often been unabashedly racist in intent.

    On the other hand, keep in mind that the loss of Empire and decolonisation in the mid-20th century presented the UK with some unique challenges, to say the least. And of course the biggest driver has been that ole Invisible Hand of the Market. In the aftermath of WWII Britain had a manpower shortage when it most needed it to rebuild, so immigration from the Commonwealth was actively encouraged. During the financial slump of the 1970’s, when Britain was bailed out by the IMF, large numbers of unemployed British workers relocated for a time to Germany, where work was then plentiful. There are many twists, turns and crises (like Idi Amin’s outrageous expulsion of Asian Ugandans in 1972) in the saga, too big a topic for here.

    The relevant part of the story for this thread was the UK’s entry into the EEC (precursor of EU) in 1973. Core principle of the EU has always been the free movement of goods, capital and people within the EU. EU citizens are free to travel, reside, and work anywhere within the EU, on a mutually reciprocal basis, but the UK subsequently negotiated some limitations on freedom of movement and applies additional ‘right to reside’ tests on EU nationals in the UK (IOW, contrary to Brexiteer propaganda, EU citizens in the UK do not have unlimited access to local social services such as housing and welfare benefits). Other EU nations do not currently apply these additional tests to UK citizens residing elsewhere in the EU, but this could change post-Brexit. Spain, for example, has a large population of UK retirees whose current access to Spanish medical services could be withdrawn post-Brexit unless a some sort of new arrangement is negotiated; no one knows how this will go.

    Sovereign states within the EU retain absolute control over its borders with respect to the entry of non-EU citizens. The Schengen area agreement is not entirely co-terminus with the EU (the UK has opted out), but signatories within in have agreed common visa requirements for non-EU entrants to the zone. Once in the zone, there is no need for passport checks at internal borders, precisely as one does not need a passport to travel from New Jersey to New York.

    The ONS (Office for National Statistics) tracks annual net migration; as you would expect (it’s that ole Invisible Hand again), that figure fluctuates over time in line with relative performance of national economies. But even in times of high net immigration to the UK, EU citizens make up less than half the total; the proportion has been dropping sharply since the 2016 Referendum (in which, btw, EU citizens were not eligible to vote).

    Moreover, ONS shows that EU migrants to the UK are net contributors to the economy, chiefly because they tend to be younger folk without dependents who contribute substantially more in local taxes than they consume in social services. That contribution is now falling, of course, and will continue to do so now that we are ‘gettting Brexit done.’ The already considerable manpower shortages in some sectors (medical care and agricultural labour) have increased and will likely be filled (if at all) by non-EU migrants–and control of that stream of immigration has always been independently exercised by the UK and will not be effected by Brexit.

  39. Our Curmudgeon further notes:

    Considering the American experience when some states tried to withdraw from the US, it’s entirely admirable that the UK can withdraw from the EU peacefully.

    …But…but…the Brexiteers tell us the EU is an Evil Empire that has robbed us of our sovereignty and holds us in the fetters of thraldom! As Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe said:

    “There is a pattern consistent throughout history of oppressed people turning on their oppressors, slaves against their owners, the peasantry against the feudal barons, colonies against empires, and that is why Britain is leaving

    Such hyperbolic nonsense has characterised much of the Brexiteer’s rhetoric throughout. In truth, any nation can quit membership of the EU at any time of its choosing without any let or hinderance from the other members.

    IOW: Olivia is not my slave, nor I hers, because we are both free to divorce the other, should either of us choose.

    But don’t get your hopes up, she is devoted to me and our marriage is very happy

  40. Megalonyx claims: “Olivia is not my slave, nor I hers, because we are both free to divorce the other, should either of us choose.”

    Olivia is nowhere near you, but your neighbors can attest to the nightly howls of terror that escape from your windows. Who knows what horrors are going on therein? And so it is with the cries of the Brexiteers. It’s difficult for an outsider to know what to believe.

  41. @ Our Curmudgeon: I should have noted that Ann Widdecombe perhaps should be considered for inclusion in the Gallery of Creationist Hotties. See Anne Widdecombe approves of the creationist zoo, wherein she is quoted:

    In short the British Humanist association does not believe that children should be allowed even to discuss creation or to be exposed to any evidence that might support it.

    But she may only be a Fellow-Traveller rather than a full-blown Creationist, I’m not really sure.

  42. Oops! HTML tag thingy failure! Apologies, O Great Hand of Correction!

    [Voice from above]: Your link was all botched up too.

  43. Megalonyx thinks Ann Widdecombe is a hottie. You can see a few pics of her here: Google image search on Ann Widdecombe.

  44. @ Dave Luckett: Of course, on simple disagreements of opinion we can agree to differ with a gentlemanly shake of hands. But sorry: a number of your claims disagree with reality and must be challenged, viz.:

    I saw what I saw [in 1979] at Heathrow: EU passports were not inspected then – they were merely produced. The sight was sufficient, and there was hardly a pause.

    No. You saw no such a thing. Not in 1979. Not ever. Your memory is demonstrably false.

    Every passport is inspected at the UK border, be it British, EU, Commonwealth, Rest of World, or Mars for that matter; how could it possibly not be?

    Passports are issued by individual sovereign members; by agreement, in 1988, the format of each nation’s passport was harmonised and in conformity with the machine-readable standard adopted by the USA in 1981. Most EU most countries opted to use the same colour (burgundy) for the outer cover at that same time, but this was optional. So I am extremely curious to understand your claim that, in 1979 what you “saw what you saw” included, in

    the EEC channel, Germans and Italians streamed in without conditions; without even a glance.

    They cannot have been streaming by all that quickly if you were indeed able to distinguish that the passports were German and Italian. Or else you really are extraordinarily observant.

    Is it just a remarkable coincidence that the nationalities you noted were adversaries in WWII. Are you entirely certain that some unconscious bias hasn’t edited of your memory?

    And if you cannot understand why an Australian might resent such treatment, given the purpose of the visit – and it was only a visit, not a residency – I wonder at your lack of empathy.

    Your treatment at the UK border was no different than anyone else’s (including my own, on innumerable occasions over more than 40 years) from a non-EU country. I would imagine it was no different than that meted out to non-Australians arriving in Oz. And your claim that “not even a glance” was given by officials to EU passports is a manifestly false memory.

    I don’t lack empathy for anyone who has faced UK Border Force Officials, even when bearing a UK passport! And I am deeply grateful for the services and sacrifices of your relatives in the War (my own father, two of his brothers, and a bunch of cousins also served). But emotions aside, please, they do not advance the rational discussion; indeed, in the case of your false memory, they distort it.

  45. On immigration, I commend Megalonyx’s summary.

    Brexit was largely based on appeal to xenophobia and racism. One of the most effective posters showed a long queue of people somewhat swarthier than you would expect to find in the EU, represented as the uncontrolled immigration from the EU with which the UK was threatened.

    One irony of Brexit, is that we may well end up with more, rather than less, people visibly different in pigmentation from the native UK population.

    Btw, I cringe when people self-righteously criticise racists. We are all xenophobic about different things. Being sanctimoniously xenophobic toward xenophobes is unlovely in itself, and reinforces the sense of exclusion and being looked down on that gives anti-elitism a very understandable appeal. Deplorable! (and politically extremely expensive, as I fear it deserves to be; I think you will all catch the allusion)

    As for Anne Widdecombe, she described Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm near Bristol as “a moderate, education-focused organisation that challenges children’s minds and produces evidence from fossils to support it”. (Summary at https://newhumanist.org.uk/articles/2460/bad-faith-awards-2010; my own account of the Zoo Farm, or rather of an exchange of comments between the Farm and Alice Roberts, is at https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/noahs-ark-zoo-farm-responds-to-criticism/ ). She also regards homosexuality as a potentially curable disease

  46. This Dutchman visited Great Britain twice for holidays in the 1980’s. Both times my passport was thoroughly inspected and one time the inspector questioned me about my financial means etc. in a quite unfriendly way.
    However anyone visiting The Netherlands won’t even notice the German or Belgian border when crossing it.
    I saw what I saw too.

  47. @Dave Luckett: I’ve just found out about an even more terrifying military organisation posing an existential threat to the United Kingdom: the NATO Army! Run by the undemocratically elected Jens Stoltenberg, who was not born in the Anglosphere, this awesome and nuclear-capable force could invade us at any time! Sound the alarm!

    Well, it is probably futile (and certainly tedious) to grind through the details about the CSDP, its relations with NATO, and the fact (yes, fact) that armed forces remain firmly under the ultimate control of the contributing member state. This is the same as NATO and in accordance with the charter of the United Nations, and–… but no, you have already determined (without offering evidence) that what you characterise as “an EU military force” is

    is gradually becoming more integrated and more powerful, and it is under the control of the European Council. I can readily envisage a scenario where it might be used – for example, to restore civil order in a member state in the face of an insurrection or a secession movement from the EU.

    Let’s just parse this a moment. The control does indeed reside with the European Council—that is, the heads of state of each member state of the EU—poses an potential existential threat against a hypothetical “secession movement” by a member state (the head of which is a member, with veto, of the EC) which is able to secede from the EU simply by sending a letter to the EC invoking Article 50.

    Let’s be generous and suppose that the European Council decided to deploy it’s military forces—which include units of the British army—to invade the United Kingdom because–…well, I can’t think of a reason why, but let’s just say they want to invade and occupy the UK just because. And let us further suppose that the UK Prime Minister, who is one of the 28 members of the European Council, decides not to exercise his veto to prevent this outrageous invasion, and then let us suppose….no, sorry, my imagination is exhausted at this point. You are better at such ‘envisagement.’

    In short: whatever you are smoking cannot be legal.

    So let’s move on and consider your claim that the EU resembles “one of the European empires that Britain has spent centuries opposing”. On this point, you tell us:

    An empire is a polity that has established effective rule over formerly sovereign and independent nations, entities, or peoples, subordinating essential aspects of their governance to –

    Whoa! You are dodging the very simple question I asked of you, to wit. “What ‘European empire’ do you mean?” I did not ask you for your personal definition of ‘empire’, I asked you to back up your previous emotive and hyperbolic claim—and that such a claim was indeed wildly overblown is demonstrated by your inability to answer. Which is a pity, as it does not permit me to go to point out that the Britain did indeed spend centuries opposing other European empires, not in the name of human liberty, but in its own naked self interest of protecting and extending its own rapacious empire. And a btw footnote thrown in: the EU neither collects taxes nor set tax rates except for a collectively-agreed minimum on VAT; taxation is reserved, as it always has been, to the sovereign member states.

    I can find a point of agreement with you when you say

    Britain gains more from open trade across the world, ideally including Europe, than it does from open trade with Europe alone, with tariff barriers against the rest.

    It would indeed be a fine thing if “open trade across the world” existed, but it does not—and, with the present levels of grotesque global inequality, is not currently possible to achieve. But the EU is an example of the benefits of open trade—and also the kinds of agreements that need to be in place to enable it. Nothing has done more to re-integrate former Soviet-block satellite countries into a more free and prosperous world than the EU. And it has done so, not by imperial diktat or military force or by any other means than international dialogue and co-operation.

    Just a quick gloss on your note about

    the Anglosphere. It exists, and it is perverse to dismiss the prospects for closer relations it offers, as must be done if Britain remains in the EU, for the EU will have it no other way. It’s not surprising that they would, mind. No other EU member has such a possibility open to it.

    You would seem to be unaware of the current EU-Australia Trade Agreement , which is currently in progress. So, contrary to your assertion, the EU is enthusiastic to inmprove trade with your corner of the ‘Anglosphere.’
    I must presume ‘anglosphere’ has a different meaning in Australia; here, it is a dog-whistle term for ‘ English-speaking ‘white folks’ and is best avoided. Among other things, there are a vast number of folks, of many different complexions, whose first language is not English but who are far more fluent–indeed eloquent–than, say, the President of the United States. And bigly.

    That to one side, can you offer anything at all by way of clarification and, even more importantly, a little evidence for your claim that “the EU will have it no other way.” And here’s a hint: everytime you claim that the EU will do X or the EU will not do Y, do try to remember that the UK is (for a little bit longer) a voting member, with veto-wielding powers on a range of areas.

    And a little sidebar note: do you know how much EU legislation has been passed that the UK voted against?

    No? Then I’ll tell you: 2%.

    My god, what slaves we are to those tyrants in Brussels and Strasbourg!
    Continuing your comments:

    For all that, as I have said from the start, Brexit is going to be costly and painful.

    I am in raging agreement with you. The cost to the UK is already deep into the 100’s of millions, and the final bill will be in excess of £30 billion–and that is in direct costs, not including the reduction in GDP universally forecast (only the size of the reduction is disputed). I could further itemise very specific costs to myself, companies for which I have worked, European colleagues resident in the UK, and the employment prospects of my daughters—but let’s put all that to one side.

    Instead, please itemise for me the benefits of Brexit. And I mean real tangible benefits and freedoms that arise entirely from Brexit, benefits not currently available to me, my family, my community. Take as long as you need to answer: I’ll wait.

    I very much doubt that there will be any real goodwill [from the EU] to see Britain leave and prosper. British prosperity might be in the interests of most nations and people in the EU, but as far as the EC is concerned, it is contrary to their own interests. Britain should suffer, and be seen to suffer for its withdrawal, pour decourager les autres.

    You have this pretty much backwards. Yes, the EU will do whatever it needs to do to maintain its own integrity. It did not initiate Brexit, its member states have already paid financial price in severing the many beneficial links which have evolved over 40 years with UK manufacturing &c. It is not for the EU to change its own rules in order to mitigate the UK’s self-inflicted harm. But the ill-will is much more in the other direction—as some of your own hyperbole itself demonstrates. I could readily fill up pages with links to speeches by Farage, Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Raab, Arron Banks and most of the other ardent Brexiteers in which they explicitly state as a goal the dismantling of the EU and their hopes that Brexit will contribute to such an end. And for the kinds of reasons you give: the architects of Brexit do not want to see the EU prosper in our absence, that would rather undercut the rationale of the whole ill-defined project.

    I hope – I hope – that Unionists in Northern Ireland will merely grumble about Johnson’s border between them and the rest of the UK, for even the most convinced Ulsterman should see the benefits of frictionless borders with the Republic. I don’t know, though. The tribes of Northern Ireland operate on principles of their own.

    Those tribal principles are nationalism–which is the same tribal principle behind Brexit, your fanciful ‘Anglosphere’, and much else besides. Personally, I think the world currently faces severe global challenges that cannot be solved by nation states but only by international co-operation.

    If ever there was an example of the folly of attempting to introduce a large minority of aliens into an established society of substantially different culture, Northern Ireland would be it.

    Australia is an even better example, at least from the Aboriginal point of view.

    As I said, we shall have to disagree. But life will go on.

    Indeed it will. But my life, and the lives of my offspring, friends, and colleagues, are already materially damaged by the ideological folly of Brexit, and that damage is certain to increase now that Brexit will indeed take place. How much damage is down to how hard or soft the Brexit that is imposed (remember, no one has yet agreed the actual form of Brexit).

    So we do indeed agree to disagree, for now. But ultimately, the matter is empirical. Let’s reconvene in a year’s time, when Brexit is actually applied, and see who has made the better prediction.

  48. Megalonyx:

    2016 Referendum (in which, btw, EU citizens were not eligible to vote)

    And nor were British citizens resident in the EU.

  49. @jimroberts, you surprise me. I thought UK residents abroad, if they had been resident in the UK within the previous 15 years, could register to vote at their last UK address. Am I wrong? Wikipedia: “The Representation of the People Acts 1983 (1983 c. 2) and 1985 (1985 c. 50), as amended, also permit certain British citizens (but not other British nationals), who had once lived in the United Kingdom, but had since and in the meantime lived outside of the United Kingdom, but for a period of no more than 15 years, to vote.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_United_Kingdom_European_Union_membership_referendum#Eligibility_to_vote

    There was a lot wrong with the referendum, but not, as far as I can tell, what you just said, except for citizens who had been resident outside the UK for > 15 years

  50. @ Megalonyx:

    A few random points. On passport control on entry to the UK. I cannot, indeed, say, that the EU passport gate at Heathrow was being used by Germans and Italians while I was there. Those that I saw “streaming through” were merely EU passport holders. But, being EU passport holders (EEC in 1979), Germans and Italians were certainly among them. At the EEC gate there were no delays. The mere production of the passport was sufficient. Yes, I did choose former enemies. That was merely instinct, to sharpen the irony. Do you deny that Germans and Italians held EEC passports then and EU now? And do you deny that it is ironic, considering the history?

    I am not worried about an EU invasion of Britain. As Churchill remarked, that has often been thought of before. But most of the EU is composed of small and rather poorly defended states with land borders. And the EU operates on the same principle as the camel in the tent – gradualism. It might be unthinkable for an EU army to invade a member state now, but a police intervention to secure public order in the face of a (tut!) nationalist insurrection is even now a possibility, and will grow. For there are still nationalists in Europe, as you admit.

    I remarked that the tribes of Northern Ireland operate on principles of their own, and I agree with you that one of them is nationalism. So nationalism is real – as real as the Anglosphere – and it is opposed to the extension of EU power and to “ever closer union”. There is certainly the possibility of conflict there. And I might well ask, if an EU military is to be discounted as an actual, you know, army, what better purpose can it have, but to intervene in such a case?

    What do you think the EU “needs to do to maintain its own integrity”? Insist on its absolute control of every manufacturing, agricultural, husbandry, environmental, labour, import and trade policy? For that is what it is insisting upon. Integrity my foot. This is about power.

    Australia has been trying to negotiate a freer trade (not entirely free trade) treaty with the EU for fifteen years now, and has mostly been getting nowhere. The Common Agricultural Policy is the main impasse. EU forbid that the people of Europe should get cheaper food! Think of the French farmers, the Dutch market gardeners, the Italian tomato growers! Oh, and before you denounce GM canola, or chlorinated chicken, or antibiotic or hormone-contaminated beef, or whatever, Australia guaranteed compliance with EU standards from the start, and our own are pretty good anyway. That was never an issue. The issue is the influence big agribusiness has on the EU.

    It’s actually an illustration of another of the EU’s defects. Since all effective initiative resides with the European Commission, and since that consists of a limited number of immovable appointees with no electorate, who are not subject to oversight, and who deliberate in confidence, without transparent debate, the EU is strongly susceptible to lobbying and influence-peddling. Agribusiness is not the only such lobby group, of course. Large businesses of all kinds enjoy the EU’s ever closer regulation – it makes it ever more difficult for new techniques, new players, new products to enter the market, which suits big business very well, since they have heavy investments in existing ones. Of course innovation would benefit them in the longer term, and some of them do innovate, as well. But still, control of the present market is crucial to them, and as we have seen, big business is by no means necessarily far-sighted.

    (Irony indeed. Here am I engaged with a person whom I sense is far to my left on most issues, and I am the one advancing an argument against the power of naked capitalism. But there – I never did approve of naked capitalism.)

    My claim was: “The EU now looks suspiciously like one of the European empires that Britain has spent centuries opposing.” To make that claim good, I had to define “empire”, and did so. I do not deny that Britain opposed such empires in its own interest; I do claim that that interest remains. Denial of either the EU’s powers of regulation that reach far into national sovereignty, or of its effective taxing power, is useless. Both exist. “Ever closer union” means precisely that both will grow.

    I agree that if we reconvene in a year, we will probably see Britain worse off, economically. Try a longer period, though, and grant the possibility of good government (always, I admit, an imponderable), and we shall see then.

  51. @Dave Luckett
    I have appreciated the Brexit debate as I know little about either side.
    I do want to dispute a point made in the article you linked above as it reiterated a point that seems pervasive and one I find perplexing.
    The statement was that Trump’s election was based largely on racism and xenophobia. This troubles me because the racial demographic Trump made the smallest gains in comparison to Romney was amongst whites where he gained 1%. Compared to gains amongst blacks, Hispanics, and Asians where he gained 7%, 8%, and 12% respectively this does not seem to support racism or xenophobia as motivating factors.

    Granted, white voters make up the largest majority but that majority does not in any way explain the behavior of minority voters who were more affected by whatever factors got Trump elected.
    I don’t think that is why you linked that article, but it is a point I find troubling in its persistence since it does not fit available data.

  52. Er, TomS, I linked no such article. I believe you might be referring to the Guardian article that Michael Fugate linked.

  53. @ Dave Luckett: I appreciate your responses, but before responding in turn let me note that I am conscious we are both guests here of our Curmudgeon and I do not wish to be an unwelcome one if he would consider me such by continuing to pursue this topic on this IFFZ. If that should be the case, SC, just give the word and I’ll cease and desist; but in the meantime, I’ll continue — but maybe in more manageable, bite-size chunks:

    I would like to move the arguments here to an empirical rather than an emotional base, but it seems that first we still need to address the enduring emotional trauma you sustained at the UK Border in Heathrow. But I am still struggling to understand why you found your treatment so harrowing when, as I have said, I have undergone that same standard treatment several hundred times over a period of 43 years, but I have no lasting sense of aggrievement (although I’ll certainly allow that a high proportion of UK Border Force agents are rather dour and cheerless jobsworths.

    Specifically, it’s not clear if you felt so wounded by [1] the particulars of your own treatment on that occasion, or if it was [2] your perceived difference between the treatment you received and that received by others. So let’s look more closely at the apparent scenarios:

    Scenario [1] Young Dave Luckett arrives at Heathrow and, after an annoying 30-minute queue because several planes have arrived around the same time, he presents his Australian passport for inspection. When the official is satisfied that the photo in the passport matches the man, he asks Dave a few questions such as (I am presuming here, from my own multiple experiences of the process) the purpose of his visit to the UK, the intended duration of that visit, and a declaration (perhaps even with some documentary evidence) of sufficient funds to cover his expenses during the visit. He is also reminded that he is not permitted to take employment in the UK (in fact, the visa stamp will specify, as my old ones do, that he is not to engage in “employment, paid or unpaid”!) before his passport is stamped with a 90-day visitor’s visa. And it is an entirely safe bet that the Border Agent does not then smile and say, “Welcome to the United Kingdom, Mr. Luckett, I hope you enjoy your visit,” because UK Border Agents are carefully vetted and any traces of basic human warmth or civility deemed incompatible with the job are surgically removed.

    Sorry, but I all I can detect here is the agent of a sovereign state exercising legitimate control of its own borders in an entirely routine fashion. I daresay it was essentially the same scenario you would have encountered on entering any other country in Western Europe or, say, the United States (except there it might have concluded with a ”Have a nice day” from the official). And pretty similar to that of an American entering Australia &c &c

    So your beef must be with

    Scenario [2], where you elaborate:

    Those that I saw “streaming through” [the EEC queue] were merely EU passport holders. But, being EU passport holders (EEC in 1979), Germans and Italians were certainly among them. At the EEC gate there were no delays. The mere production of the passport was sufficient.

    What you describe as “the mere production” of the passport (you’ve walked back a little your previous “without even a glance”) must have entailed the official inspecting the passport to confirm that the photo therein matched the bearer. The official would have additionally checked the name (in all cases, including returning Brits) against a printed (now computerised) list of names on a Home Office ‘watch list’. But you are correct, the process for EEC/EU nationals was from that point onwards is different: by the terms of UK’s voluntary membership, EEC/EU nationals do not require visas for entry to the UK, and so indeed do pass through the border more quickly: as you said earlier, ”without conditions” — because there are no conditions to apply. But they still don’t get a cheery welcome from the official, because no one does.

    Again, on the face of it, I just don’t see anything to get any more upset about than about, say, the fact that New Zealanders entering Australia are issued with an SCV (that permits them to work – ‘without conditions’) while Americans and Brits are not: that’s a reciprocal agreement between those two countries, and it is not for me to find it objectionable, leave alone to resent it.

    So I’m still missing something here. Now, it is interesting that you emotively characterise these other folks as “streaming”. Isn’t it curious how commentators from one end of the political spectrum regularly describe foreigners as moving in “floods”, “tidal waves”, “torrents”, and resulting—according to an extreme fringe of such reporters—in “rivers of blood”. But that to one side.

    Yes, I did choose former enemies [Germans and Italians]. That was merely instinct, to sharpen the irony. Do you deny that Germans and Italians held EEC passports then and EU now? And do you deny that it is ironic, considering the history?

    Yes, I entirely deny that it is ironic. Rather, it is profoundly laudable that by 1979 Europe had made some progress in healing the wretchedly deep, generational wounds of two World Wars and was striving to work together to build a peaceful and prosperous future instead of binding itself to the appalling conflicts, senseless bloodshed and mindless hatreds of our history. We still have a long, long way to go, of course, and at the moment the biggest obstacle to that progress is the reactionary recrudescence of the worst form of atavistic, jingoistic nationalism which you regard as “merely instinct” which leads you to say, of a queue of Europeans peaceably visiting another European county, “Yes, I resented it.”

    In France, this ‘instinct’ is represented by Le Pen and Le Front National, in Italy by Salvini and the Lega Nord, in Austria by Orban and Fidesz, in Germany by Meuthen and the AfD, and in the UK by Farage and UKIP (rebranded as Brexit Party, which has successfully pulled the Conservative & Unionist Party far to the right and set its agenda). For a thoughtful take on this ‘instinct’, I recommend Alex von Tunzelmann’s article in The Atlantic: The Imperial Myths Driving Brexit

    So no, the only irony on display here is how much you are unwittingly revealing about your emotive bias. And that does nothing to advance a rational discussion about the costs v. benefits of the EU.

  54. [grumbles to self] …bloody HTML tag thingies…will I ever learn?…will the Great Hand of Correction yet again give me succour, or will He sorely smite me, His patience exhausted?…grumble, grumble….

    [Voice from above]: All is well. Keep ranting if you so desire.

  55. @Megalonyx, to do @Dave Luckett more justice than perhaps he has latterly been doing himself, he did start off with serious complaints about the governance of the EU and the lack of accountability in its decision-making processes. There were two sets of issues there; the possible emergence of an EU military force (which I think you convincingly dealt with), and regulatory governance where Dave argues with some plausibility (I do not have enough knowledge to evaluate further) that policies with major repercussions are being formulated by a self-policing bureaucracy that lies beyond the reach of democratic control.

    Can you comment on this?

    @SC, one of the fringe benefits of your site is that it often sparks more detailed in-depth discussions than one normally sees elsewhere. I think that the current debate is an example, and that you should allow it to keep going, if the disputants wish to continue, for at least a couple more rounds

  56. Megalonyx: You assume correctly that it was the differential treatment meted out to the peoples of the old Commonwealth – not only Australians. After the blood and treasure we poured out for Britain, (now there’s a fluid metaphor for you to conjure with) to be less favoured to visit the country of my own father’s birth than the sons and daughters of people who would have cheerfully destroyed it was galling. I understand that you can’t comprehend that. Or, at any rate, that you’re going to pretend that you can’t. But my experience is personal, as I said at the outset, and hardly worth the space and effort you have devoted to criticising it. Yes, it was emotional. But do you really imagine that politics consists of adding up the numbers?

    The main points remain: Britain should be, like all nations, under the sovereign rule of its own democratic institutions. Its terms of trade should be negotiated by those institutions in its interests, not by others in their own. The EU has leveraged control over trade into control of every aspect of production and import of all commodities, and that into virtual control of entire national economies. That goes far, far beyond its original purpose. Its real ruling institution is fundamentally unrepresentative and unaccountable to the people. It has acquired armed forces, and is developing them further. It is protectionist, expansionist, and prone to both authoritarianism and to undue influence by well-funded lobbies.

    Britain is better served by free trade across the seas and oceans than by free trade only with Europe and barriers against the rest. Certainly Europe is at peace, but there is at least a respectable argument that the peace is an artefact of European democracy, and the fact that the EU is no democracy is an actual threat to peace.

    But above all, this: Brexit will now go ahead, despite what we all admit will be difficulties, costs and pains. All Britain can do is make the best of it. I hope and trust that they will.

  57. @Paul Braterman: I thought UK residents abroad, if they had been resident in the UK within the previous 15 years, could register to vote at their last UK address.

    I was wrong, overgeneralising from the sample known to me.

  58. It’s not relevant to the Brexit issue, but as I remember it, every time I returned to the US from a trip abroad I had to go through the same line as everyone else — including foreign (non-US) visitors. I got the same interrogation, passport check, and luggage inspection that foreigners got. I think some of the questions were just because they wanted to hear me speak, so that they could be certain I had an American accent. I was treated like everyone else, and I didn’t think it was offensive.

  59. @ Our Curmudgeon: But did the official give you a smile and a “Welcome back” or similar greeting? I always do.

    Mind you, once when I was about to fly back to the UK from Atlanta I had my suitcase taken apart and minutely-inspected because I had packed a sack therein of Jim Dandy Grits, which are unobtainable over here. A swab was applied to the outer pack to ensure it really was just grits and not narcotics; having established as much, the previously-gruff inspector offered me his recipe for shrimp ‘n grits, which was rather kind, I thought.

  60. @ Paul Braterman: Jeepers, how long have you got? You are asking for the serious discussion that I thought would take place—should have taken place—during the 2016 Referendum instead of the crazy nonsense and sloganeering we’ve been through since what feels like forever on Brexit.

    I’m certainly no expert, but you ask for my comment on the EU’s

    regulatory governance where Dave argues with some plausibility (I do not have enough knowledge to evaluate further) that policies with major repercussions are being formulated by a self-policing bureaucracy that lies beyond the reach of democratic control.

    Short form answer: I am in massive agreement with Dave about the severe democratic deficiencies, the Byzantine complexities of the bureaucracy, and its tendency (shared with most if not all bureaucracies) toward over-reach, self-preservation, and opacity. I would go on to add to that already substantial set of major criticisms and bewail many instances of egregious waste (like shuffling Parliamentary sessions back and forth between Brussels and Strasbourg) and the absurdities of earlier forms of the CAP (remember the wine lakes and butter mountains?). You have already noted the appalling handling of the Greek debt crisis, but there are other major failures, not only in setting out policies, but in their implementation. The roll-out of the Euro was, in my view, wildly premature at best and possibly ill-advised altogether—but I am not knowledgeable about such matters. To (hopefully) avoid getting enmired in too much detail, let’s set these issues under two principal headings: Structural and Directional. (I’ll expand on this in a minute).

    Full disclosure: when the 2016 Referendum was announced, I was genuinely undecided on how I, freshly naturalised as a British citizen, would cast my vote. If anything, I initially leaned toward Leave, on the basis of the kinds of criticisms outlined above, though the EU is not something about which I had given much thought. In fact, I can still make what I think is a credible case for Leave (of which, more anon).

    To take things under the proposed headings:

    Structure: The current structure of the EU is certainly not ‘intelligently designed’ but a product of evolution—with all the weird messiness, bizarre vestigial organs and sub-optimal work-arounds which that analogy suggests. It is not even straightforward to classify it: it is far short of being a government, nor is it a full federation, yet it is substantially more than an international body like the UN or Nato. (Dave Luckett has yet to persuade me is an “Empire”, and a malevolent one, at that). The weakness of the democratically-elected EU Parliament relative to the Commission is perhaps the most serious defect; that’s arguable, of course, but I’ll assume for now agreement that taken as a whole the EU is insufficiently democratic in its structure.

    But on reflection: one can find many of these same defects in other, and classifiable, governments and institutions. In the UK: what is an unelected House of Lords, with its government-appointed peers and Anglican Bishops, if not a severe democratic deficiency? Is it fully democratic that, under First Past the Post elections, the weight of your vote varies, depending solely upon your address, anywhere from critically-decisive to utterly negligible? We could very easily reel of many such examples, of course, but I don’t think we need to. And I am confident that similar examples, with similar facility, could be produced for virtually any other government, federation, or international treaty organisation.

    Of course, agreeing that ‘X’ is a problem is relatively easy; agreeing on a solution for ‘X’ is another matter. Would PR be better than FPTP? It is (and had been) arguable—but that is by the by.

    What I think Dave deliberately overlooks is that the EU is not some utterly alien body that has forced itself upon the UK. We joined voluntarily as an equal partner, our sovereignty is no more compromised than any other member state’s, and—I argue—the benefits of membership far, far outweigh the legitimate costs and even the small compromises.

    If it were somehow decreed that the institutions of the EU were to be permanently fixed in their current structure, with no possibility of any further evolution, I would likely agree there was a strong case for quitting the club. But that is not the case, so the questions really fall under the next heading, viz:

    Direction: Many of the criticisms previously enumerated need to be updated. The CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) remains flawed, no doubt, but is vastly better than it was even 10 years ago (so, no more wine lakes and butter mountains). Over the past 15 years, the balance of power has demonstrably been moving in a favourable direction toward the Parliament from the Commission (for example, the Commission alone held the power of veto which the Parliament now also has IIRC). That’s just plain old politicking at work, as it should do.

    It would be a lengthy matter to trace in detail the overall trajectory of the development of the EU; I don’t know that level of detail, but I think one can pretty firmly establish that the direction of travel is toward greater accountability and transparency. I know Dave Luckett would not agree, but that’s the argument we should be having rather than repeated assertions about an armed EU ‘Empire.’ We overlook what a lengthy process it was to establish democracy in the UK, and the gradual movement of power from the Lords to the Commons &c. It is remarkable how far the EU has developed since the Council of Europe was first convened in 1949.

    All that (controversially) said, there are of course different political currents within the EU and certainly some advocates for a more government-like federation. But that is no different than the political discussion that takes place (and properly so) in any body representing a diverse population. In our recent UK election, Ashfield has just returned Lee Anderson as its MP; this is a man who advocates that “nuisance tenants” in council houses should be made to live in tents in fields and pick potatoes for 12 hours a day. Alarming, yes, but I don’t think we need worry that his crackpot proposal will actually be implemented. Still less do I think we need to abolish the House of Commons and return to rule by the Divine Right of Kings just because a few idiots are sometimes elected MP’s. However, I do sympathise with Scots who really want to be free from Westminster!

    If you’ll forgive an analogy: I don’t know a married couple that doesn’t have the occasional disagreement. And if the disagreements really are frequent, severe, and unresolvable, then a divorce is surely indicated. But I just don’t see any cause for the UK to divorce the EU, though I have no doubt about the severe suffering it will inflict on millions.

    I promised earlier to offer my own best case for Brexit:

    Because the UK is dominated by a large body of insular, mostly elderly, and mostly English folk who cling to the myths of a glorious imperial past, the UK simply was not ready to join the European project, which requires mutual respect and a spirit of co-operation. This is a pity, because the existential problems facing humanity are global and beyond the ability of individual nation states to solve on their own. But when I listen to democratically-elected Nigel Farage in the European Parliament doing nothing more than insulting the other MEP’s and obstructing at every opportunity, I am embarrassed and left wondering if the EU wouldn’t be better off without us.

    But then I look at my daughters and their generation of fresh graduates whose opportunities have already been blighted by Brexit, and I really don’t understand why we are doing it. I do not doubt we will come to regret it, and it will be hard at that time to forgive those who brought it about.
    But we shall see.

  61. Quick addendum on the matter of “Getting Brexit Done”:

    Even now, no one knows what Brexit will actually be! The legislation the new UK government is currently implementing is the transitional Withdrawal Agreement, which comes into force at 23:00 on 31 January. Its terms last until 23:00 on 31 December 2020, and under those terms trade between the EU and UK will continue on more or less the same basis as now, while the UK is still a member.

    What will be different during this transitional year is that the UK will no longer participate in the various legislative and administrative bodies of the EU, but we will be free to enter into fresh trade negotiations with other countries with which we currently trade under the EU, such as the USA. Additionally, of course, we will negotiate new trading terms with the EU. All of these negotiations are supposed to be completed within months rather than the usual years. If no trading agreement is reached by the end of 2020, the UK will exit on WTO terms. The final status of UK resident in the EU, and of EU residents in the UK, has yet to be settled.

    IOW: No one will know what Brexit actually is until it happens on 1 January 2021.

    Yes, that is indeed crazy. It is precisely as if I had asked my family, “You have a choice on where we go on holiday this summer. The choice is [1] We just stay at home and watch TV, or [2] we go to a thrilling destination abroad!

    Needless to say, Option 2 is democratically selected.

    But I then reveal that the ‘thrilling destination abroad’ is Syria…

  62. @Megalonyx, thanks.

    “the UK simply was not ready to join the European project”; but in 1975, continued membership was supported 2:1; in 2016, ofc, it was only supported by 48% of voters.

    I see this (just an impression) as related to a general deterioration in relations between different groups in the UK.

    I fear that negotiations are set upto fail within their impossible timeframe. There is good reason why Farage and ERG backed Johnson. The only bright spot is that now he has so large a majority that he can do whatever he wants, whatever assurances he gave them, so we can pin our hopes in his capriciousness and mendacity

  63. The impression that he gives in the USA is that whatever faults he has, he is not stupid or ignorant, and he is not malevolent. However, the UK may be in a weak position of bargaining on trade, and a trading partner may try to take advantage. He has to make a deal, right away.
    ISTM that the U.K should have bargained before invoking section 50.

  64. @TomS, I dn’t think he’s actually malevolent. Ofc, May shoud have negotiated (and she had a Parliamentary majority, at least nominally, at the time) before invoking Article 50. But then, if she hadn’t called the 2017 election, she would have had the majority she needed to pass the deal that she did get, which was far better in many ways than what we’re looking at now.

    He has a deal,at least in name,already. By June, he needs to decide if he needs to request an extension of the Dec 31 2020 deadline,depending on whether the outline needs more time to flesh out. What many of us fear is that he will neither get a real deal in place in time,nor request a further extension, and we’re out in the cold just over a year from now, with virtually nothing in place

  65. Paul Braterman notes:

    in 1975, continued membership [of the EEC] was supported 2:1; in 2016, ofc, it was only supported by 48% of voters. I see this (just an impression) as related to a general deterioration in relations between different groups in the UK.

    I well remember the 1975 Referendum (I was an undergraduate in London), and it is indeed fascinating to compare and contrast with 2016. What is particularly striking to me is how the argument mapped differently then onto party political lines: then, the Tories were (as I recall) pretty solidly behind the EEC (along with the Times and the Telegraph; can’t remember the tabloids, but they are always best ignored anyway), and the strongest opposition came from Tony Benn’s wing of the Labour party (though Wilson, of course, campaigned for Remain). Benn’s argument, from the left wing perspective, was that the EEC was a cabal of capitalists who brought in cheap labour to undercut UK wages, and that the business-friendly regulations of the EEC would prevent a future Labour UK government from nationalising/subsidising manufacturing industries. The EEC would squash Labour’s socialist project.

    During run-up to the 2016, I had a number of conversations with many folks who had voted Remain in 1975 who now intended to vote Leave, and there was a recurring theme along the lines of, “when we joined, it was just a single market and customs unit, but since then it has become a political project.” They also believed (oh, how tragically wrongly!) that Brexit meant the UK could cut free from bureaucratic regulations but continue to enjoy the benefits of the single market. That was pretty much the line the Telegraph took—but it is demonstrably false, at least insofar as the European side is concerned. And the political dimension was there from the outset and is explicit in the Treaty of Rome, and few remember that Jean Monnet was instrumental in limiting the political scope of the community, and on the grounds that the ultimate sovereignty of member states cannot be compromised. Monnet was generally in accord with the vision set out in Winston Churchill’s 1946 Speech

    I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral leadership of Europe. There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by their contribution to the common cause.

    But although the Telegraph’s narrative (that the trajectory of the EEC/EU had utterly changed) is clearly false, I do think it fair to say that the Heath and the Tory government sold the project as a purely economic treaty without political implications. And I strongly suspect that is a factor for many, of that generation of Brits, who feel they were ‘betrayed.’ In a sense, they were—but by a mendacious Tory government, not the EEC.

    And that, FWIW, was my basis, in the best case I can make for Brexit, in suggesting that “the UK simply was not ready to join the European project”

    I didn’t say it was a good case for Brexit.

    I agree with your impression that the 2016 represents deterioration in relations between groups. I believe the best predictors of how someone voted in the referendum are [1] Age (younger voting Remain), [2] Education (lower attainment voting Leave) and [3] Region (north v south in England, and of course England v. Scotland)

  66. TomS suggests:

    ISTM that the U.K should have bargained before invoking section 50.

    That’s not allowed under the treaty, and for good reason: it would be like telling your spouse, “I’m thinking about divorcing you, but before I do, I want to make sure I have a new spouse lined up, so I’ll be sleeping around for a while. But if that doesn’t work out for me, then we’re staying married.”

    Article 50, the instrument for a member state to leave the EU, allows for up to 2 years in which the departing state and the EU can agree the ‘divorce’ settlement, the length and terms of the transition period, and a non-binding statement of political intent to outline the basic proposal for relations between the two parties after exit (the final terms of that relationship to be negotiated during the agreed transition period).

    But you’re spot-on insofar as PM May should not never have triggered Article 50 until the UK had a definition of what Brexit meant and how to implement it. The plan she did eventually produce was blocked in Parliament by the far-right and dominant wing of her party that had advocated Brexit in the first place — and the reasons for their objections are both complex and absurd. That is when it became very clear that no one actually knew what was entailed in ‘Brexit’. The referendum was a binary choice, either Leave or Remain, with no indication of what form ‘Leave’ should take. Was it a Norway-style ‘soft’ Brexit (retaining access to single market, with full alignment with trading standards and rules but with no seat at the legislative table that set those rules)? Or was it a total severance, with the UK trading on WTO rules (under which any tariffs—including zero tariffs–applied to one trading country must be applied to all trading countries)?

    The first option means Brexit is pointless, the second means it is economically ruinous.

    And that second option would also mean resurrection of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, something which had been removed by the Good Friday Agreement, guaranteed by an international treaty of which the US is a guarantor. Despite Trump’s promise of an advantageous post-Brexit trade deal (no prizes for guessing advantageous to whom), how likely is US Congress to approval a trade deal that entails violating the Good Friday Agreement?

  67. SC states that he, a US citizen, on re-entering the US, “was treated like everyone else, and (he) didn’t find it offensive”. My beef was precisely that I, an Australian citizen entering the UK, was not treated like everyone else.

    Megalonyx, the assumption you accept – possibly without examining it – is that the EU’s regulatory control of every production process in Europe AND of all imports from outside the EU is indispensable to free trade over open borders within the EU. Granting that is to render the entire impasse inevitable and to grant powers to Brussels that it should not have and were foolish to grant.

    This is the “integrity” that you speak of – that the EU must have the power to dictate, not just to Europeans, but to European governments, what the people may eat, drink, wear, drive, live in, work at, sleep on… That there must be regulations that define and restrict every commodity, lest Europeans, in their folly, buy goods or contract services that are inferior. That is, Europeans must be kindly but firmly prevented from making their own decisions, but not only that: they cannot be trusted to elect governments that will enact reasonable and prudent regulations as the people wish, either. It must be done by the savants of Brussels, who are wise and far-sighted and incorruptible.

    Yeah, sure.

  68. @Dave Luckettt
    You are correct, I did attribute an article linked by Micheal Fugate to you.
    My apologies.
    Although, while far more understandable, you attributed my comment to TomS.

  69. Oh, dear. So I did. Please accept my apologies.

  70. @ Dave Luckett: I think we might finally be able to reach some closure, at least on the sub-thread about your experience all those years ago at the UK border:

    After the blood and treasure we poured out for Britain, (now there’s a fluid metaphor for you to conjure with) to be less favoured to visit the country of my own father’s birth than the sons and daughters of people who would have cheerfully destroyed it was galling.

    OK, the picture is getting much clearer—but please bear with me for a moment first to clarify something:

    We previously established that, as you stood watching the other queue for visitors from within the EEC, you were not literally able to see all their individual passports and thereby identify their respective nationalities. But that is of no consequence, because I readily allow that there most certainly could have been ‘Germans and Italians’ among them, and at various times (whether or not during the interval you fleetingly observed) there certainly will have been, and after that interval would continue to be, Germans and Italians among them.

    I have belaboured the above point in order to clearly establish a principle which we can both use going forward in this discussion. It is clear now that when you say

    “I saw what I saw”

    you actually mean

    “I saw what might have been there whether or not it was actually there.”

    And that’s fine here, for we can define the folks in that other queue as the Set of All Citizens from EEC Members in 1979 (let’s call it SET A), and among them you observed some virtual ‘Germans and Italians.’

    But Dave, you don’t go far enough! The entire population of SET A was virtually “streaming” past you, and you could have also observed among it not merely the “sons and daughters” but indeed some of the very “people who would have cheerfully destroyed [the land of your father’s birth]” themselves! You missed a trick there, for that would have delivered a much bigger rhetorical punch!

    Or perhaps you were intentionally echoing Exodus 34:6–7, wherein God is noted for “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation”?

    [Sidebar: In the early 1970’s, outside the Bodleian in Oxford, I happened to fall into a casual conversation with an elderly German tourist who had stopped me to ask directions. I complimented him on his excellent English and enquired if he had previously visited the UK. “Not precisely,” he replied, “But I have seen Oxford before. The towers showed us when to turn north to Coventry.” I confess the moment was rather chilling.]

    So let’s continue with more of the virtual observations you could have made at Heathrow. Had SET A not been streaming past quite so swiftly, you would have more easily been able to pick out the veterans and their offspring of the French maquisards, the Flemish Belgisch verzet, and the Danish Danske Modstandsbevægelse. There were some Dutch civilians who had run the Landelijke Organisatie voor Hulp aan Onderduikers. Should we not also note, among the members of SET A that you omitted, the veterans and their offspring of the Italian Partigiani? And, in tragically far smaller numbers than there should have been, there were some of the Jews who survived the Holocaust.

    All of these were among the folks that you collectively “resented”.

    And what a pity you did not make a similar virtual observation of SET B—that is, the queue of non-EEC citizens in which you yourself were standing. Your own sense of deep aggrievement might have been mitigated, though only a tad, to know that at least the same ordeal you had to endure was also inflicted upon Spanish Falangistas and deposed Portuguese functionaries of Salazar’s old Estado Novo. And, given the tight grip on foreign travel exercised by the Communist Block, you can be quite certain that the sprinkling of Bulgarians in the queue were carefully-vetted party apparatchiki.

    Mind you, those particular folks, who in 1979 were in SET A, have since moved to SET B and presumably can now earn thereby your “resentment”.

    But…hang on! Did you not, in the course of your virtual observation, see me?! There I was, the jet-lagged Yank standing directly behind you in SET B, my American passport in one hand and my filled-in landing card in the other! There was probably a sack of Jim Dandy ® grits in my suitcase.

    [And lo! I have some personal details not dissimilar to your own, for the USA also ‘poured…blood and treasure’ into the fight against European fascism. During WWII, my father was in the Navy onboard the USS Varian on Atlantic convoy service; he was present when sister ship USS Frederick C. Davis was torpedoed, and was among the crewmen who helped fish out such bodies as could be found. Two of his brothers served in the Army; one survived D-Day, but the other was to die 5 years afterward in part due to combat injury to his lungs sustained elsewhere. And my step-father, an Italian who had emigrated to the US in 1931, served as a civilian aircraft engineer at the joint RAF/USAF air base at Langford Lodge, NI. But his cousin Nando, who had remained in Italy, could have been among the SET A visitors above: he was a veteran partisan of the Brigata Garibaldi in Padova during the war.]

    Does all that entitle me to share, not only the same arrivals queue at Heathrow, but also your moral outrage and resentment? I have certainly met American veterans (and their offspring) visiting the UK who do indeed like to complain that the British are insufficiently grateful to America for “saving the limeys’ butts” (NB: it is not advisable to point out to such folks, as some Brits do, that the Yanks were a tad late in coming to the rescue, and that victory was achieved, not by any single nation, but by the Alliance).

    Nope. Despite the similarities in our situations at Heathrow, and trying with all my might—…sorry, I just don’t feel galled and can’t whip up some ‘resentment’ as you can. And I don’t think this is from some lack of empathy on my part. For I can readily imagine the resentment likely felt by, say, Indian commonwealth citizens arriving in Sydney during the early days of the old White Australia policy. There has to be something else going on here…

    Doh! It was there in front of me all along! You uniquely feel wronged because you felt

    less favoured to visit the country of my own father’s birth

    But of course! The blood and soil of The Fatherland! No wonder, in your virtual observation of SET A, you could only ‘see’, not just Germans and Italian foreigners, but only German and Italian foreign enemies!. Even, so keen is your virtual vision, if they weren’t actually there!

    I bet if you looked, you could find them all over the place!

    …I wonder if there is a word for this kind of thing?

    my experience is personal, as I said at the outset, and hardly worth the space and effort you have devoted to criticising it. Yes, it was emotional. But do you really imagine that politics consists of adding up the numbers?

    No, I don’t so imagine, but you haven’t provided any numbers. Or any other data, just a shedload of emotive assertions. I’m not discounting emotions—but when the emotions contradict the numbers, question the emotions. Emotions alone can often mislead one to such conclusions as “When I look at a rainbow, I know God exists” or “If I feel that it looks designed, then by golly it is designed!”

    Something like Diogenes and his search for an honest man, I have been trudging around for 4 years now with my little lamp in search of a Leaver who could provide me with a rational case for Brexit. On the strength of your excellent posts on other topics, you’re the best candidate I know for providing that—but sorry, so far it’s been a massive fail.

    And unfortunately, that’s going to take another post or two from me to elaborate…

  71. @ Dave Luckett: We need to briefly back up a bit, for there’s an awful lot of stuff in your earlier Gish gallops that needs attention—really, clarification–but there’s too little time and space for it all, so I’ll be selective.

    Let’s start with a term you tossed in that, I must admit, I had only previously encountered on far-right websites filled with the ravings of Tommy Robinson:

    Britain’s interests more naturally lie in trade with the Anglosphere, overseas. …[snip]… It is only those issues – the unity of the Anglosphere and the possible improvement of the terms of trade with my own country, Australia – that allow me to have an opinion on Brexit at all.

    And after I pointed out the dubious provenance of the term, you responded:

    …the Anglosphere. It exists, and it is perverse to dismiss the prospects for closer relations it offers, as must be done if Britain remains in the EU, for the EU will have it no other way. It’s not surprising that they would, mind. No other EU member has such a possibility open to it.

    Well, I have to concede that the Anglosphere does indeed sort of / kinda exist! As the linked wiki article summarises, the term was conceived in 1995 in the mind of a science fiction writer (no, not L. Ron Hubbard), and although the definition of what is meant by the concept is vague, it has a strong proponent in the redoubtable James C. Bennett, who, rather like the Discoveroids, has his own Institute.

    I leave the curious reader to make their own determination about the content of that site.

    But here’s the shocker! As the wiki article reveals, the Anglosphere has acquired Armed Forces on land, sea and air! Who knows the intentions and nefarious purposes of this military power in the hands of the elusive and undemocratic Anglospherian cabal? And why do they uses such challenging acronyms for these secretive forces like ABCANZ and AUSCANNZUKUS?

    Trying saying those names after a couple of beers!

    Can the unpronounceable forces of the Anglosphere save us from the fell phantom armies of the EU?

    On which side will the forces of NATO join in this approaching cataclysm? Will the UN send in a blue-helmeted peace keeping force?

    Or will a dreadful war be averted when someone realises that all of the above forces pretty much overlap?

    Tune in for the next thrilling episode to find out! Same bat-$**t-crazy channel, same—

  72. Megalonyx: “I saw what I saw” means this: I saw EEC citizens flowing far faster and with far less hindrance through their own dedicated lane, by the simple production of an EEC passport, than Commonwealth citizens with Commonwealth passports, including me. I perceived thus that EEC citizens, which included Germans and Italians, were preferred as visitors to the UK, which was also the country of my father’s birth. I resented the implications. Make of that what you will. You have already made a very great deal of it, but by all means go on. It obviously diverts you, and I have no objection to it, since I regard it, as you do, as a purely emotional and personal response, and from the first have described it in those terms. The odd part is that you experienced exactly the same response to the former Luftwaffe flyer’s statement – and yet you deny that it was real.

    When you have extracted the last tincture of sensation from my emotions, it is possible that you will turn to an actual defence of the EU’s waste, lack of democracy and transparency, Byzantine structure, usurpation of national sovereignty, susceptibility to improper influence, and steady accretion of real power. Or perhaps not, since you have actually conceded most of those already. On wider overseas free trade you have also conceded, in a left-handed fashion, that it would be a good thing if it could be achieved, while doubting that it could be. Certainly it could never be achieved while remaining in the EU. I don’t believe I saw a denial of the EU’s protectionism (that would be scarcely possible) or expansionism. You deny that the EU is an empire. I would say it is showing some of the marks of one, and the longer the “ever closer union” mantra is chanted, the more it will do so.

    What remains, it seems, is our respective takes on the EU’s acquisition of armed forces and whether there is such a thing as an Anglosphere, and what it might mean if there is. We differ on those.

    I see no reason why a customs union and open-trade bloc requires armed forces. Armed forces, by definition, project power. One can see why NATO, essentially a military alliance, has them. Such power may be used benignly, but often it is not. Only one reduction of the threat of malign use exists: that the armed forces be under the control of fully democratically elected national institutions in a genuine democracy directly responsible to the people. Even that is not a guarantee, alas. But the EU is not a democracy at all.

    As to the Anglosphere, let us cut to the chase. It consists of those nations that speak English as a primary language and are democracies governed by representative assemblies derived ultimately from proportional representation, with an independent judiciary fundamentally based in the Common Law. That group of nations is real, and has much in common. The common language and understanding of their own institutions makes negotiation between them much easier. There is also more trading scope derived from the fact that they have very different economies and resources. I used the word “perverse” to describe the deliberate neglect, or worse, denial, of the possibilities for free and open trade between them. Perverse it is, but so much is absolutely required by the EU.

    You informed me that the EU has with much fanfare opened negotiations with Australia. I informed you that those negotiations have been going on for fifteen years, (this because the EU, up until last year, has fobbed off or simply ignored our approaches) and there is no end in sight, for the reason I gave – the CAP. The most recent snarl appears to be EU insistence that Australia adopts the EU’s own environmental regime – a typical example of how the EU leverages trade policy into far-reaching controls of economies, in this case of a non-member.

    People often prefer to live as citizens of nations, and nations have identities derived from that fact. I gain the sense – perhaps mistaken – that you have little sympathy for that. But perhaps, once you have finished deconstructing my own emotional response to it, we can move on.

  73. @Dave Luckett, I had not intended to contribute further to this discussion, but must correct you on several significant points.

    You define the Anglosphere as, among other properties, “democracies governed by representative assemblies derived ultimately from proportional representation, with an independent judiciary fundamentally based in the Common Law.” The United Kingdom’s assemblies (unlike the Scottish Parliament) are not derived ultimately from proportional representation, and if they were, we would now have a government committed to a second (or strictly speaking a third) referendum.

    And the independence of the judiciary is limited by the sovereignty of Parliament, and by the Royal Prerogative that comes perilously close to granting Her Majesty’s advisers (i.e. the Government) the right to overrule that sovereignty. England’s highest court recently refused to rule on the legality of the Johnson prorogation of Parliament, on the grounds that this was a political matter. That decision was overruled by is the UK’s Supreme Court, but the Conservative manifesto promises to re-examine the circumstances under which the Government can be held to account by the courts in political matters. Prorogation, you will recall, was an act of the Queen as advised by the Government, with no mandate from Parliament.

    Scottish law is derived from Roman law, rather than common law. That could be why Scotland’s highest court got the prorogation case right, while (as I mentioned in the previous paragraph) England’s highest court got it wrong.

    @Megalonyx, AFAIC you have demolished Dave’s claim of Europe as an incipient empire with army, but have not answered his criticisms about its governance.

  74. Paul Braterman, you assume that everyone who voted for other than the conservatives or the Brexit party wanted to have another referendum. I doubt that assumption. I suspect that most who voted SNP, for example, were simply registering their perfectly understandable dissatisfaction with the Westminster Parliament, and that many voters who remained loyal in Labour’s heartland voted according to tradition, despite their lack of enthusiasm for another referendum.

    The Parliamentary constituencies of the United Kingdom are of approximately equal numbers of electors per representative, which is what “proportional representation” means. Roman law might have more influence in Scotland than elsewhere, but the Common Law is recognised as one of the four main fundamentals of Scots law, while Roman law, as such, is not. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scots_law. But suppose I posit that the Common Law has less influence in Scotland. Does that mean that Scotland is not in the Anglosphere, or that there is no such thing as an Anglosphere?

    As for the rest, you must follow your own judgement, “demolition” and all. But what part of “The EU is acquiring armed forces” is wrong? As for empire, I remarked that it looks suspiciously like one. I offered a definition, too, which is more than anyone else has done. I remain of that opinion.

  75. @Dave Luckett, I overstated the importance of Roman law in Scots law, and stand corrected. Thank you.

    As the term “proportional representation” is generally understood, number of seats in the legislature is proportional to the total number of votes. The parties seeking another referendum polled, in total, more than the parties opposed to one, and this despite the massive and IMO well-deserved unpopularity of the Labour Party leader. Thus, under proportional representation, the new Parliament would have been committed to such a referendum. As you point out, Brexit was not the only issue, but polling suggests that ever since the details of Leave began to emerge, a clear majority of voters would have preferred to Remain:https://whatukthinks.org/eu/questions/if-there-was-a-referendum-on-britains-membership-of-the-eu-how-would-you-vote-2/

    In the 2016 referendum, Scots voted Remain by 2:1. Since then, both demographics and shifts in sentiment will most probably have increased the pro-Remain preponderance.

    I spent 18 years in Texas, but returned to the UK at considerable financial sacrifice because I found the culture so alien, with its high level of religiosity, nationalism, naive individualism (sorry, SC), and belief in American exceptionalism. I doubt if I would have felt less at home anywhere in Western Europe.

    But FWIW, @Megalonyx has yet to reply to your critique of the EU’s governance.

  76. Paul Braterman, we cannot know what the UK would vote now, or six weeks in the future. We only know how they voted last Thursday, which was to return the Conservatives, with a decisive majority. As I remarked, preferential voting might have returned a different result, but that is also indeterminable. It’s possible that a majority might have endorsed having another referendum, but they elected a Conservative government that was committed to leaving without one. That much is all we can say. The rest is speculation.

  77. @Dave Luckett, for the last time: “We only know how they voted last Thursday, which was to return the Conservatives, with a decisive majority.” That is on 43.6% of the vote. I do not contest the fact of a decisive parliamentary majority, nor that this is the legitimate outcome of FPTP, working here as intended to provide an effective government for a deeply divided nation, but it is simply incorrect to treat the Conservative majority as an expression of the general will. Indeed, the entire “Get Brexit done” campaign is directed at preventing the general well from being reassessed, on the grounds that this would prolong damaging uncertainties. You may think this justified, but you should not deny that it is what has happened.

    As I said, this is “for the last time”. We disagree over what we want, and such disagreement is healthy, but I am sad that this has led us to disagree over what is the case.

  78. Paul Braterman notes:

    Megalonyx has yet to reply to your critique of the EU’s governance.

    Apologies for delay; I have been detained. And I mean, literally detained–as I’ll explain in a moment.

    I did sit down to start writing about the Democratic Deficiencies of the European Union. In particular, I was going to focus on the imbalance of legislative powers between the Commission and the Parliament, noting that the Parliament wasn’t even an elected body at the time of its creation (well, its members were appointed members of national parliaments to which they had been elected, but that’s not the same thing), and was at that time an utterly impotent debating chamber. It was not until 1975 that the Parliament acquired the power of the purse strings, and not until 1979 that its members were elected in a popular vote by European citizens. But its powers were limited to passing, amending, or blocking (but critically, not initiating) legislation proposed by the Commission. Nonetheless, it has steadily clawed back powers from the Commission, and in 1999 was famously able (though someone has grossly misrepresented this, but I name no names) to force the resignation of the entire Santer Commission over a major budget dispute. Its powers to approve/reject appointments to the Commission have since been strengthened by treaty. But it still lacks the critical power to initiate legislation, a power that remains with the Commission. In practise, Parliamentary party blocks routinely make legislative proposals, but to produce a draft bill can only do so through a Commissioner; this is indeed IMO a significant flaw, as it lacks transparency and is at too great a remove from any sense of mandate from the electorate.

    However—I would have gone on to say—it seems clear to me that there is a strong political current in favour of reforming the Parliament as a full legislative body. But, in what is genuinely ironic, the problem with making the European Parliament as fully democratic as are national assemblies would be a step pushing the EU into a full-blooded (and probably bicameral) structure much more like a national state (or a federation of states, like the USA), which is precisely the direction that the Brexiteer decriers of the EU’s democratic deficiency do not want! And there are indeed some European party groupings that favour that direction, but they are a fringe (though their proportion will increase with the UK’s departure). So for the EU, in attempting to further democratise, it’s a bit of damned if they do and damned if they don’t. In short, the EU is not the ‘overstate’ (still less, an ‘empire’) that our Little Englanders criticise for its democratic deficit, but introducing the full democracy of a national assembly actually could make the EU more like the kind of federation they do not want. I little doubt that the EU would be much further along the path of democratisation if the UK, during its membership, hadn’t kept returning moronic obstructionist demagogues like Nigel Farage as MEP’s—but that’s another story.

    And I then would have continued with some of the things that should have been part of the 2016 Referendum discussion instead of the idiotic sloganeering that transpired: the national discussion should have been about the meanings and the limits of sovereignty, democracy and nation–which might have been a bit tedious but is essential to understanding that the EU has clearly been moving towards better transparency and democratisation. And, that as a unique supranational body, the EU can both ensure the individual sovereignties of its individual member states while granting them the collective power to withstand domination by external superpowers like the United States (and, before much longer, China). Even more critically, to be a body able to address the genuine and global problems of all our futures—the degradation of our shared environment, the grotesque inequality between the developed and undeveloped portions of the globe, and the social upheaval as technology utterly transforms the nature of human work and society. The kinds of problems, that is, that individual nations are unable to solve on their own. And I don’t think I need itemise some of the problems that nations acting alone can create, instead.

    The above is a summary of what I was going to write when my front door was brutally kicked in by jack-booted and heavily-armed Agents of the EuroThought Police conducting yet another unscheduled inspection of my home (third time this month! I’m not going to bother replacing the lock this time).

    Of course I protested. “You guys turned my house over last week! Why are you here again?”

    My question only elicited a blow from the butt of an AK-47 to my solar plexus. And then I remembered: I had not consulted Brussels that morning when deciding which trousers to wear! I had somehow forgotten that, as someone recently pointed out:

    the EU must have the power to dictate, not just to Europeans, but to European governments, what the people may eat, drink, wear, drive, live in, work at, sleep on… That there must be regulations that define and restrict every commodity, lest Europeans, in their folly, buy goods or contract services that are inferior. That is, Europeans must be kindly but firmly prevented from making their own decisions

    And I would pay dearly for forgetting those facts, for the EuroThought Police, as they ransacked my home, found I had committed no end of infractions.

    “Hah!” they cried, as they began to gleefully smash my wine-rack, stocked as it was with bottles from Australia, New Zealand, and California. “Contraband smuggled in from the Anglosphere!”

    “Contraband?” I challenged. “No, no, I bought those yesterday in Sainsbury’s, where they were on open sale.”

    This brought me another blow to the stomach. “Comrade Megalonyx, you unbellyfeel EuroSoc! That was yesterday! Today, we are at war with the Anglosphere. And we have always been at war with the Anglosphere. We are taking your children for immediate impressment into the EuroNavy; an invading armada of the Anglosphere’s AUSCANNZUKUS has been sighted off the coast of the Isle of Wight.”

    Futilely endeavouring to ward off their blows, I tried to appease them. “But…but…I love Airstrip One!”

    “Fool!” barked the EuroCop as he struck me again. “We live in Pista di Atterraggio Uno!.” And he tossed in another EuroSlogan for good measure. “Two feet bad, four meters good!”

    And with that, I was handcuffed, hooded, and bundled into the back of police van for transport to the EuroMiniTrue, where I have been taught the execrable errors of my ways.

    Among other treatments, I was force fed French ratatouille until I finally blurted out, “Do it to Giuliani!”.

    “Excellent,” purred my ruthless captor kindly EuroTeacher. “You are now free to go. Just click your ruby-red electronic ankle-tags together while chanting, ‘There’s no Treaty like Rome! There’s no Treaty like Rome!’.”

    I tightly clutched the photo I had been given of Angela Merkel.

    It was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished.

    I had won the victory over myself.

    Ich liebe Großen Mutter!

  79. Megalonyx blurted out: “Do it to Giuliani!

    Somewhere, Orwell is smiling.

  80. My real hope is that somewhere the Great Hand of Correction has gazed upon my unforgiveably-long posts, this time with all their HTML tag thingies in proper order without His assistance, and smiled…

  81. @Megalonyx, thanks. Democratising the EU raises very much the same paradox as democratising the House of Lords; if the Lords were appointed by some less haphazard and more defensible process, would they not start infringing on the powers of the House of Commons in a way that they have not even contemplated for decades?

  82. @Mega and PaulB: I think the biggest and most urgent problem with the EU at the moment is not the undeniable democratic deficiencies, even if they should not be ignored. The biggest and most urgent problem right now is to a very limited extent the same the USA faced the few decades before the civil war: the balance of power of the EU vs. the member states. For fifty years (with complete consent, I hasten to add) power has been transferred to the EU; right now the estimation is that 40% of legislation is determined by the EU, whether the parliament, the commission or the committee. No matter how stupid and dishonest the pro-Brexit campaign, it’s undeniable that this meets resistance with the citizens and not only in the UK. In order for the EU to function properly at all this has to be addressed.

  83. @ FrankB: I agree with your point, though one needs to note that the percentage figure you give is potentially misleading on a number of counts:

    First, a simple percentage is going to vary from member state to member state. For the UK, in the period 1993-2014, 24% (231 of 945) of passed Acts of Parliament were to implement EU law. In the same period, 13% (4,283 of 33,160) Statutory Instruments associated thereby were passed: see Reality Check: How much UK law comes from the EU?. The Brexiteers in the Referndum campaign claimed a global figure of 60%–and continued to make that false claim even when their ‘mistake’ was pointed out, but that was par for the course.

    All the same, it certainly true that whenever any legislative body is created, at whatever level, it will generate legislation above and beyond what is actually beneficial or needed; there is an inherent tendency to cancer-like growth. This is as true of the UK Parliament, the US Congress, &c &c as it is to the EU.

    Democracy applies checks and balances to that tendency, but it’s a constant political tussle.

  84. Oops, omitted 2nd point I meant to make above, to wit: a reminder that EU law implemented in member state law is not imposed from some utterly alien outside body (as some here have claimed), but by a body which is wholly composed of the member states, on which the member states have equal representation with one another, and in a broad range of areas in which each member state holds veto power.

    But your point is well taken, reform within the EU is vital and, I am convinced, inevitable. It’s an interesting tussle–but I am sorry that, as my European citizenship is being taken from me against my will, I will not be participating in that good and worthy fight

  85. Nobody claimed that the EC was “some utterly alien outside body”. On the contrary, it is all too indigenous to continental Europe. I claimed that once appointed, its members were not answerable to anyone, certainly not the people, and that it deliberated in secret to select and advance agendae of its own, while its members were sworn not to consider the interests of their own nations. Those are undisputed facts. I also claimed that it was in practice not removable, as the history shows, thus demonstrating that even by Popper’s definition, the EU fails the test of democracy, as it does every other reasonable one.

    As to the rest, there are still Europeans now in the EU for whom Megalonyx’s very amusing satire was only too real, and not so very long ago. Being, as he is, used to living in the US and Britain, a living example of the compatibility of the Anglosphere, Megalonyx would perhaps not appreciate the chord he would strike with Poles or Czechs or Hungarians, or many others – or with anyone who has read history.

    I stated that I did not see why a customs union and free trade area required armed forces, as opposed to a military alliance such as NATO. I appealed to Paul Braterman to tell me what part of “The EU is acquiring armed forces” is incorrect. No response. Would anyone?

    I remain of the opinion, above all, that the terms of trade and general oversight – if not actual direction – of national economies should be negotiated by the sovereign and democratically elected institutions of the nations, not by others. The reason is that the nation proceeds in its own interests, and if a genuine democracy, in that of its people, while others tend to proceed in their own.

    Reform within the EU might be vital, but it is not inevitable. It might happen. It would require a completely new treaty. I will look out for it. Until I have seen it, read it, and convinced myself that it at least much ameliorates the EU’s defects, I will applaud the British decision, however fraught, however narrow, and however costly, to leave.

  86. @ Dave Luckett: I’ve bookmarked this thread (well, it is billed as the ultimate IFFZ) because it will be useful to refer back to it in one and two years’ time when we can evaluate the empirical reality of Brexit against at least some of the catalogue of delusions, misrepresentations, and xenophobic paranoia which have been variously advanced in its favour before implementation. We will be better able, I hope, to then determine what was real and what were alternative facts. Like: your hopes that Ulster Unionists

    “will merely grumble about Johnson’s border between them and the rest of the UK, for even the most convinced Ulsterman should see the benefits of frictionless borders with the Republic. I don’t know, though.

    I don’t know, either. Having lived in London in the 1970’s, when sectarian violence from NI was being exported to the capital, I share your hope here but think it a very feeble one. I certainly wouldn’t bet on it.

    But in the meantime, it’s time for a few quick-fire rounds, just for the record. These shouldn’t take too long because the unsupported assertions in your last couple of posts just don’t have much meat on them, alas:

    Britain should be, like all nations, under the sovereign rule of its own democratic institutions.

    And it is.

    Scotland, not so much—but that’s not the fault of the EU.

    The interesting questions—and ones which should have been at the heart of the discussion about Brexit instead of the emotive stuff—are the meanings and the limits of sovereignty, democracy and nation. And with a sidebar on the different connotations of the terms nation vs. state.

    In the above, you couple ‘sovereignty’ with ‘democracy’: that is the ideal, of course, but there is not a logically necessary connection between them. And we need not detour into notions of what constitutes freedom if you will allow that ‘democracy’ is a necessary but alas not a sufficient pre-requisite thereof. But you appear to hold that ‘sovereignty’ must be absolute, that it is strictly a binary condition: a state is either wholly sovereign or it is not. By that measure, a sovereign state would be one that rejects any higher authority such as international law or treaties, for to be bound by obligations to any other state or federation of states in any way would infringe the purity of its absolute sovereignty.

    And this is theoretically possible to achieve: it’s called autocracy. North Korea is perhaps the closest thing to a state with unadulterated sovereignty—but I am confident that’s not the model you would propose. In practise, there are necessarily degrees or levels of ‘sovereignty’.

    Which is why we agree that the ideal is indeed to couple ‘sovereignty’ with ‘democracy’—but again, do you suppose that exists in some absolute form of direct democracy, i.e. universal suffrage and a popular vote on every individual piece of national legislation? That might be splendid in some purist theory but is wildly impracticable. Hence our various flavours of representative democracy, which posits sovereignty with the collective consensus of the people as periodically determined by ballots to select a body of representatives to exercise that sovereignty. This can be messy and necessarily entails compromises, but as Churchill famously said

    Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. 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

    The final issue is: the collective consensus of which people? No need to review the historical struggles to extend the franchise beyond property-owning white males; I mean here: which people constitute citizens of a nation (where nation represents, as you seem to hold, the only level at which ultimate sovereignty resides)? In practical terms, the answer is obvious: citizens within the geographic boundaries of the polity, the state.
    That’s fine as long as we continue to take state as interchangeable with nation–but unfortunately, that is not always the case. Russia’s outright annexation of the Crimea, and its continuing pressures on eastern Ukraine as well as the Baltic states, are ‘justified’ (not!) by claims to be in defence of a Russian ethnos or nation. The German Anschluss of Austria and its machinations to acquire the Sudetenland were similarly only possible because part of the populations of those states claimed to belong to a different ethnos/nation.

    I see these examples as acts of aggression, and I don’t suppose for a moment you would defend them. But I also don’t think you are able to see just how similar are the mentalities of a Russian-speaker residing in the Donetsk Oblast and an Australian citizen of English ancestry who regards himself part of an English nation and thereby entitled to a special status which is not recognised by the British state. It is certainly the emotional mentality that gave rise to the Windrush scandal.

    I don’t argue with your feelings on that score. Still less do I say you’re wrong to experience them; emotions arise unbidden, worthy or no. But I do say, and emphatically, those are an extremely poor basis for a rational evaluation of the pros and cons of the UK’s membership (soon to be, former membership) of the European Union.

  87. As long as we’re not in anyone’s way here, let’s continue. This is fun! You say:

    The EU has leveraged control over trade into control of every aspect of production and import of all commodities

    Really? Every aspect of production? Like, whether to use Phillips- or Slotted- headed screws in the manufacture of the Mark IV Hypersonic Widget Thingummie? Or might you just be exaggerating a tad?

    And, I don’t mean to shock you, but pretty much every (ok, it actually is ‘every’) individual state in the world regulates the import of commodities. And so do federations, like the USA. And so does, as in the case of the EU, a supranational agreement on a customs union and single market, the rules of which are decided by all members collectively. Within the EU, this has enabled highly-efficient ‘just-in-time’ supply-chains for manufacturers who draw components for their products from specialised suppliers throughout the union; disruption of the ease of this process, and the need to relocate manufacturing plant or resource suppliers (where possible) is just one of the many new costs Brexit is bringing, and without any compensating benefit.

    But heigh-ho, we’re ‘taking back control’!

    Next up: oh dear, you insist on yet another round of whack-a-mole when you yet again claim the EU has

    acquired armed forces, and is developing them further.

    Once more you insist upon “seeing what you see” even when it is not there. These EU “armed forces” are secondments from the national forces under formal, voluntary co-ordination, just as there is within NATO. The individual nations retain full control over those forces, and can withdraw them from the voluntary co-operative agreements (just as France withdrew from NATO between 1966 and 2009). The driver for that co-ordination is uncertainty about the future of NATO, as a relic of the Cold War, and more specifically growing questions (on both sides of the Atlantic) as to the American role (especially in the Age of Trump) in Europe’s collective security.
    BTW, there are currently, as part of NATO, 65,000 American military personnel in Europe, 24,000 of them in the UK. Does this mean that Europe is under NATO occupation? Of course not. But do you suppose that NATO is somehow a ‘democratic’ organisation while the EU is not?

    But believe as you will, there’s no more point in arguing this point with you than trying to persuade Truthers that 9/11 wasn’t an inside job. Or that con-trails—which really do exist!—do not contain mind control drugs being sprayed by the CIA.

    You are of course entitled to your opinion no matter how demonstrably contrary to facts it may be. But as such it is wholly unpersuasive, and your repetition of this particular falsehood has grown tedious and unnecessary.

    You’re on slightly firmer (but not much) ground in claiming the EU

    is protectionist, expansionist, and prone to both authoritarianism and to undue influence by well-funded lobbies.

    Which is wholly unlike the actions of individual nation states? I don’t need to give examples, do I? But let’s take these attributes one at a time:

    Which do you suppose might be more prone to ‘protectionism’: an individual state, or a member state of a voluntary body which agrees to common standards that are thrashed out on utilitarian terms of greatest good for the greatest number? Do you imagine that the UK, once freed from those dreadful shackles of the EU, is going to become less rather than more protectionist of UK agriculture, fisheries, and manufacturing? If you believe that, then I’d like to offer you the chance to buy the Tower of London for only £1000 (cash only, please).

    And is not ‘authoritarianism’ far more likely to arise (indeed, already manifest) in individual states than in a supranational co-operative which has collectively agreed minimum standards of human rights and the rule of law? And if you can tell me any place on earth beyond the reach of “well-funded lobbies”, I want to move there. Or would you care to name the specific “well-funded lobbies”, and demonstrate their “undue influence” on the EU? But don’t bother—because it is too facile for me to offer in reply a list of even better-funded lobbies exerting even greater influence on, say, the USA. (Even more relevant would be to name the overseas organisations that funded (and very well indeed) the Leave campaign in 2016).

    But I can’t speak for Australia. For all I know, your government is democratically perfect, chooses to exert no control over imports, product standards, or conditions of employment, and is entirely immune to lobbyists, open or covert.

    As for ‘expansionist’ : it is not a synonym for ‘expanded’ or even ‘expanding’, though you appear to use it that way. Russia is currently expansionist, as was the United States in the 19th century (Manifest Destiny, anyone?). And the greatest example of expansionism is of course the British Empire—which I presume you appreciate, as aggressive expansionism was the basis for your ‘Anglosphere.’

    But the EU ‘expands’ only when a state applies to join, and joining is contingent on meeting a raft of the prerequisites specified in the Copenhagen Criteria (CC)— go on, check them out!

    And applications can be vetoed by any one of the existing member states, just as France (well, DeGaulle—but it comes to the same thing) vetoed UK membership for many years. Turkey has been applying for membership since 1999 but is no where near meeting the requirements of the CC—but that didn’t stop the Leave Campaign falsely claiming Turkey was about to join the EU , and that 77 million Turks were poised to descend on this green and pleasant land. That was, of course, just one of the flat-out lies of the Brexiteers.

    Moving on: oh dear, it looks like another round of whack-a-mole when you once again don your Mercantilist hat to claim:

    Britain is better served by free trade across the seas and oceans than by free trade only with Europe and barriers against the rest.

    Without some numbers on trade figures, market demand, price trends &c, and—most crucially, a firm date that the entire globe will drop all customs barriers (the 9th of Notinourlifetimes is my guess)—this remains an unsupported assertion. Simply repeating it does not convince.

    But finally, we find a point of agreement (well, sort of):

    But above all, this: Brexit will now go ahead, despite what we all admit will be difficulties, costs and pains.

    Indeed it will, no one can deny. And I thank you for your honesty in acknowledging here that Brexit will certainly entail ”difficulties, costs and pains”–but you are flat-out wrong in stating that is something “we all admit”. The 2016 Leave Campaign claimed there was no such costs or pain, and that claims to the contrary by the Remain Campaign were dismissed as ‘Project Fear.’

    There are many instances of these claims, here’s the famous one from David Davies—and particularly rich, given that he said this in October 2016, after the Referendum:

    “There will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside”

    Other lies during the campaign include Daniel Hannan’s “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market” after Brexit, and of course Boris Johnson’s legendary £350 million per week for the NHS (chapter and verse for these and many, many other lies available on request from Google).

    But no point in arguing this: we’ve agreed, ‘Brexit will now go ahead’ because 52% of the UK electorate voted for a simple ‘Leave the UK’ in 2016 and 44% (not an overall majority, but enough to secure a commanding number of seats in the HoC) voted for ‘Get Brexit Done.’

    But if you suppose that all of these folks, or even most (or perhaps even any), voted for the “difficulties, costs and pains” which you acknowledge Brexit will bring, then I would like to throw in the Crown Jewels with my previous offer, and all for only an additional £1000.

    There were a number of reasons why people voted Leave, many (but I do not say all) of those reasons were at least questionable if not downright unworthy, but that is by the by. For what ever reason they voted Leaver, I believe those voters are soon to be severely shocked by the actual ‘costs and pains’ as they become apparent, and the promised sunlit uplands prove illusory.

    But of course I could be wrong. It is possible to fool some of the people all of the time, and while I don’t think that ‘some’ will be a majority when they realise they’ve been sold a pup, I can’t know that for a certainty. Which is why I propose we check back on this thread in 12- and 24-months’ time. I am predicting widespread outrage among the very people who voted for Brexit who will come to rue what was, in your own words, their “decision, however fraught, however narrow, and however costly, to leave.”

    But we shall see…

  88. @Megalonyx, for the first time in this discussion I find myself in total disagreement with you. You say “I believe those voters are soon to be severely shocked by the actual ‘costs and pains’ as they become apparent, and the promised sunlit uplands prove illusory.” But this, I fear, is contingent on the voters realising that the costs and pains are attributable to Brexit. Indeed, even if they do, they may well blame those dastardly Europeans and find confirmation of their belief that the UK is better off free from their evil grasp.

    And has not Boris Johnson promised us a new golden age?

  89. Michael Fugate

    Are you saying that people in power will take credit for things deemed “good” and blame others for things deemed “bad”? I am shocked that you believe our leaders don’t accept responsibility for all things happening under their watch.

  90. @ Paul Braterman: I had a conversation about an hour ago with a neighbour who used to on the BoE Monetary Policy Committee during Blair’s premiership, and she made pretty much the same point you have: that is, has not Johnson’s lies been sufficiently exposed and published to demonstrate his total mendacity–and that a large block of voters discount that, and will continue to discount that? On which basis, she gloomily predicts 10 years of Tory government.

    She, and you, are probably correct here. I confess, I cling to a hope, probably derived from an earlier experience. I first arrived in the UK in January 1973, just two months after Nixon had been re-elected in a devastating landslide, winning 49 of the 50 states in the Electoral College. I wept.

    18 months or so later, I was incredulous to watch <em<vox pop interviews of voters in Republican strongholds denouncing Nixon as a ‘crook’, and the rest is history.

    Footnote: Massachusetts was the sole state Nixon didn’t take in the ’72 election. As the Watergate scandal unfolded, a popular bumper sticker (a major communication channel in the US) read “DON’T BLAME ME, I’M FROM MASSACHUSETTS”

  91. @ Dave Luckett Damn, there’s so much more could be challenged here that I’m passing over—but we just have to have this one more, because you have wandered out on to particularly thin ice when you write:

    As to the rest, there are still Europeans now in the EU for whom Megalonyx’s very amusing satire was only too real, and not so very long ago. Being, as he is, used to living in the US and Britain, a living example of the compatibility of the Anglosphere, Megalonyx would perhaps not appreciate the chord he would strike with Poles or Czechs or Hungarians, or many others – or with anyone who has read history.

    I’m not sure where you got a copy of my curriculum vitae, but the bigger mystery is that, having done so somehow, you entirely overlook the three years I spent working in Sofia at the beginning of this present decade. I don’t want to overstate my command of spoken Bulgarian, which is not fluent but good enough to get by—and when it wasn’t, it was of little consequence because d my Bulgarian colleagues (mostly young IT professionals) spoke excellent English. Almost all of them had fluency in a least one other language as well (German and, oddly, Spanish were the most popular), which rather puts us Anglospherians to shame—but that’s by the by.

    True, my CV doesn’t itemise some extensive travel in Eastern Europe—Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic—as that was as a mere tourist, nor extended periods working in France, Germany and Italy. But I think I can speak with some knowledge and maybe even a pinch of authority about Bulgaria, and my more limited experience in other parts of Eastern Europe do not contradict what I wrote earlier on this thread:

    Nothing has done more to re-integrate former Soviet-block satellite countries into the more free and prosperous western world than the EU. And it has done so, not by imperial diktat or military force or by any other means than international dialogue and co-operation.

    Or did you think I was idly asserting made-up stuff when I wrote that? As if anyone would do such a thing!

    In any event: I have had many, many discussions with many, many Eastern Europeans, of all ages, about the pros and cons of EU membership. No one denies there are defects in the EU, though almost all were far more concerned about levels of inefficiency and flat-out corruption within their own national governments. Apart from a few rather elderly folk, no one hankered for a return to the 45 years of Soviet domination; among the younger generation (and the Bulgarian demographic is remarkably young), enthusiasm for the palpable benefits arising from membership in the EU, which gave them employment opportunities not otherwise possible, was extremely high.

    Your comments about what “chords” I strike with such folk is waaaaay off the mark. So you will understand that I simply dismiss your uninformed comments on Eastern European attitudes.

    But you are entirely correct in identifying me as “a living example of the compatibility of the Anglosphere”, and I am grateful to be such on at least this count: it spared me from being on the receiving end, on the very day in 2016 when the Referendum results were announced, of the spike in hate crimes against eastern Europeans. These acts ranged from simple harassment of folks on public transport to bricks through the windows of Polish grocery shops; mercifully, there was only one death as a result. This was far, far short of a Kristallnacht—but the impulses behind these crimes springs from a similar place. And that stuff, which has since the Referendum has remained higher than it had been, has produced a distinctly hostile environment in beloved Olde England, which probably explains why so many eastern Europeans are leaving these shores.

    Which was, after all, one of the ends sought by the Leave campaign. And for a good chunk of Leave voters, their stated primary objective, which they moreover thought achievable without a bit of ‘downside.’

    Happy days!

  92. So back we go to definitions.

    A sovereign state is one ruled entirely by its own institutions. Those institutions may negotiate agreements and arrangements with other nations or powers that include undertakings on their nation’s part. (The idea that an autocracy such as North Korea is more sovereign because it’s an autocracy is grotesque.) But they may not subordinate their own governance and law to another nation or power and still be sovereign. The European Communities Act, 1972, by which any law passed by the EEC became British law without the oversight or consent of Parliament, and by which the European Court overruled British courts, did precisely that.
    ;
    The “nations” of the UK – England, Scotland, N Ireland and Wales – are not sovereign states. The UK isn’t, either, at the moment, but it will regain its sovereignty presently.

    A democracy is a polity in which the effective government is subject – at least at regular and unexceptionable intervals – to the judgement and oversight of the whole people, who may remove and replace it, under a constitution understood by the people, providing for changes as the people will. The whole people, mind, implying universal adult franchise of equal weight.

    I explained why the EC – which really controls and runs the EU – is more susceptible to lobbying, undue influence, and probably corruption than an elected Parliament overseeing a Cabinet. (I only say “probably corruption” because its operations are so opaque as to make effective investigation impossible.) I repeat, it is because the EC is small, enclosed, effectively not removable, and deliberates without open debate, negotiating in secret within itself on agendae it sets for itself. Elected members of a Parliament are many, are responsible to and must answer to an electorate in whose interests they must work, and must debate openly, with their voting records open to public scrutiny. This is the best that can be done, in the real world. Admittedly, it requires an informed public willing to pursue its own best interests. An admission that no system of government is ever perfect does not bar the observation that some are far less perfect than others. Australian government is far from perfect, but it is genuinely representative, and Australia is a genuine democracy. The EU is neither.

    I am glad to read that Megalonyx has much experience in eastern Europe, especially Bulgaria. Possibly that might make him aware of how uncomfortably close to home his satire was for eastern Europeans, despite his obvious confidence that it was farcical for westerners. So it is, for now. But history rhymes. The present is not the past, but it is not the future, either.

    I was, however, well aware that the eastern Europeans

    “were far more concerned about levels of inefficiency and flat-out corruption within their own national governments”,

    and that their

    “enthusiasm for the palpable benefits arising from membership in the EU, which gave them employment opportunities not otherwise possible, was extremely high.”

    Quite so. The EU is certainly better for them than Soviet domination, or even their own governments as they are now, and western European employment far more rewarding and remunerative than anything they would be likely to find at home. Thus their high emigration rates. But I am mystified to understand why the British should regard eastern Europe’s approbation of the EU as relevant to themselves. True, the EU is better than what Eastern Europe suffered, and suffers now. But is it better for Britain than a sovereign British government? I think most British people would strongly doubt it.

    (I agree with Megalonyx that the frequent ability of Europeans to speak English puts most native English-speakers to shame. I can manage in French and stumble along in German, and, curiously enough, in Welsh, but I am in awe of the genuinely multi-lingual people I met in Europe. I hasten to add that, like any civilised person, I would NEVER assume that any person in their native country might be addressed in English, and I testify to the good effect it has, to earnestly strive to use the vernacular. Even on the French, even, good heavens, on Parisians.)

    I argued that a customs union and open-border free trade bloc does not require an army. I see no rebuttal of that point. But when Megalonyx writes:

    “The driver for that (military) co-ordination is uncertainty about the future of NATO”

    he admits, however indirectly, that the EU is taking up functions and aspects of NATO. NATO was and is a military alliance, not a trade bloc. But of course he simultaneously denies that the EU is gaining a military, and insists that it is the very same as the various portions of the national forces that make it up. The proof of that will be in the pudding, but I would ask the obvious question: “If the EU military is no more in whole than its national contingents severally, why have it?”

    A deployment of EU forces is yet to take place, except for anti-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa. A revival of the Troubles – all too real a prospect, as both Megalonyx and I accept – would be an… interesting scenario. I wonder if the urge to fish in troubled waters will be felt by the EU, once Britain is out. I think it quite feasible that it would find a call by the Irish government for peacekeepers quite difficult to resist. After all, the Irish could urge that if it weren’t for the EU insisting on a hard border with customs inspections, they wouldn’t be having this problem.

    Expansionism. A policy to expand. Take a look at the map of Europe in 1965 and now. Colour in the EEC members then and EU members now. Tell me, with a straight face, that the EU is not expansionist. Observe also the main axis of expansion – eastwards. I do not understand why Megalonyx thinks that the fact that Russia is also expansionist – and has been throughout all of its history – helps his cause. Rather, it increases the peril of conflict.

    As we both say, we shall see.

  93. “the frequent ability of Europeans to speak English puts most native English-speakers to shame”
    I had intended to object to the “Anglosphere” as an opposition to the EU by pointing out that the lingua franca of the EU is English: if a group of Bulgarian, Italian, Greek and German politicians hold a press conference in Brussels, it is obvious that it will be in English.
    Dave now accepts that the EU is essentially part of the “Anglosphere”. The UK is culturally part of Europe, and the “Anglosphere”, so far as it still subscribes to European enlightenment values, is part of European culture.

  94. “The UK is culturally part of Europe”
    Whether Australian DaveL, living at the other side of the globe as he does, will recognize this irony is something I can’t predict, but it’s English historians who do research from this angle.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/05/the-edge-of-the-world-north-sea-michael-pye-review

    Well, I suppose even he has heard of Dane Law, but possibly not of Holland, Lancashire. More irony: the district of South-Holland (not the Dutch province) produced the second biggest majority vote to leave the EU. This shows that arguments based on history make next to zero sense.

  95. jimroberts, please see the definition I gave of the Anglosphere. While I recognise that many Europeans speak English, I acknowledged the implied insult it is to address a European on the continent in English on the assumption that they would speak English. Often that assumption is sound; nonetheless it is presumptuous and arrogant, unlike the assumption that an Australian, New Zealander, Canadian (outside Quebec) or American would speak English. Or an Indian, English being one of the official languages of India.

    The UK is culturally part of Europe, agreed. So is Australia, mostly. That doesn’t mean that either of them isn’t or shouldn’t be, a sovereign nation.

    FrankB, you suppose correctly. My first degree in medieval history included an adequate coverage of the Danelaw.

  96. @DaveL is worried about stepping on long continental toes:

    “Often that assumption is sound; nonetheless it is presumptuous and arrogant”
    We Dutch almost always prefer such arrogance to the pain it causes to our ears when native English speakers butcher our beloved language.

  97. Paul Braterman previously noted:

    @Megalonyx, for the first time in this discussion I find myself in total disagreement with you. You say “I believe those voters are soon to be severely shocked by the actual ‘costs and pains’ as they become apparent, and the promised sunlit uplands prove illusory.” But this, I fear, is contingent on the voters realising that the costs and pains are attributable to Brexit.

    On further reflection, and following some lively discussions elsewhere, I also now disagree with myself on this point as well (and to change ones thinking is a great prerogative of democracy, however infrequent that privilege is invoked).

    And, since our previous exchange, we learn that PM Johnson is disbanding the splendidly comic DExEU and has directed government Ministers to cease as far as practicable to use the word ‘Brexit’ (and this was reported by David Shiels himself). Having won the election with the promise to ‘Get Brexit Done’ on 31 January—when of course that date is only the start of the negotiations to determine what Brexit actually will be when it commences 1 Jan 2021—it is now clear we have truly entered into an Orwellian era of double-think.

    No one right now knows what Brexit will be, but Brexit has been done. And Brexit has always been done.

    Winning the argument in time to avert disaster is always preferable to an “I told you so” afterwards. It took a while for the folly of Suez to become apparent, which should at least have provided some lessons to last longer than they did in the end. It is of no real comfort that the mendacity of the enthusiasts in Blair’s government who entangled Britain in Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq is now generally acknowledged. As a different Johnson once wrote to Chesterfield, such sentiment “had it been early, had been kind: but it has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it.”

    You might enjoy this recent article: 16 writers and thinkers on what gives them hope in dark times , particularly the remarks by Peter Pomerantsev:

    There’s something desperate about hope that I want to avoid. It reminds me too much of its own necessity. Let’s be honest, it’s not been a great year for some of the things I cherish, for the woolly cosmopolitan liberalism I’ve always worn as a warm jumper. But the opposite of hope, cynicism, I want to avoid, too, comforting as it is. In times like these I turn to something eastern European inside me: a shrug of doomed optimism. In my birth country of Ukraine I’ve learnt to love that shrug: it expects nothing good will happen, but knows things could be a lot worse, and that we might as well give it a go anyway. It’s much more resilient than hope. So for the future: less hope – more doomed optimism.

  98. Michael Fugate

    One does love the “Christians” who govern Australia
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/25/an-end-to-morrisons-mean-spiritedness-is-the-christmas-gift-australia-needs

    Are trying to emulate US conservatives? How can people who style themselves Christian deny medical care?

  99. @Michael Fugate, it is well-known that you should never trust someone who tells you that they are telling the truth, because if it were so it wouldn’t need saying.

    Perhaps the same applies to those who tell you that they are acting on Christian principles

  100. FrankB, Since I can speak no word of your language, with the possible exceptions of “Sinterklaas” and “dank je”, I can only only hope that you are not pulling my leg.

    I have written to my Prime Minister and local member, expressing my strong disapproval of their policies on Medicare and of their lack of action on greenhouse gas emissions, telling them that these have become heartland issues, what with the terrible bushfire season we’re having, and that this conservative (old-school labor) voter will vote Green (Green!) if they don’t change policies. They won’t, of course.

    Much to my distress, Labor got a shellacking in the last Federal election, mostly because they were so confident of winning it – and it did look hopeful – that they didn’t bother to defend their established policies or introduce new ones. But I really think that if the Liberals (I apologise for our conservative party calling themselves that. Confusing, isn’t it?) go on the way they are, they’ll be getting the rough end of the pineapple next time, and our Federal terms are only three years. Cross fingers.

    Which brings me to the subject of hope. For me, the source of it is history. Say what you will, the facts are unassailable. This is the best educated, the most free, the least superstitious, the longest-lived, the healthiest the West has ever been, and the same is generally – not universally – true across the world. World-wide, more people than ever before have been lifted out of poverty and fewer have been driven into it, and more than ever have access to clean water and adequate food. There hasn’t been a famine in India or China in sixty years. Europe is a network of democracies, at general peace for three-quarters of a century. Bosnia, Ireland, Catalonia and Cyprus all together hardly signify on the scale of the Great War or the World War – and were all ended largely by international agreement rather than by conquest and surrender. There are salmon and seals in the Thames again. London smog is a thing of the past. Lead is not used in petrol. Smoking is on the decline. AIDS has been controlled. Malaria is slowly being beaten. Solar power is happening. New battery technology is making its storage feasible. Best of all, fusion is not far away now.

    Look at practically any datum that affected people a hundred years ago. From infant mortality to the incidence of dental caries, there is no reasonable detrimental comparison. A westerner’s life expectancy was about 60 years. Europe had just concluded the most terrible war ever fought, and was in the throes of a vast epidemic that overwhelmed its medical science. There were more wars to come, before in another generation it would be plunged into the worst of all time, and in the meantime would endure economic miseries on a monumental scale. Compared to the great depression, the economic bubble-and-bust of 2008 was a hiccup. Elsewhere in the world, famine and epidemic were unexceptional visitors. Outside Australia, New Zealand, and some American states, women could not vote on an equal basis with men, and their control of their own fertility – and the right to exercise it – lay far in the future. Democracy was rare and seemed to be in retreat. The Ku Klux Klan could march in mass through the boulevards of Washington, cheered on by multitudes. To teach the theory of evolution was a criminal offence in some US states. In Australia, it would be nearly another fifty years before its Aboriginal people were citizens, and more than that before the White Australia policy was abolished and racial discrimination became illegal.

    We have done better since. I know much is still wrong, and we have new problems as well, but still we have done better since.

    The US has spent a freakish amount of money on military equipment that cannot secure it against the only real threats it faces – WMD’s and terrorism, or worst of all, a combination of the two – but inadvertently, in doing that, has pioneered technologies that will take us to the planets. Hubble, despite its deficiencies, works. The James Webb telescope is on its way. We are on our way.

    There’s cause for hope. There are vast problems and causes for worry, and a need for resolute action, but there’s cause for hope. I therefore continue to hope. Just to hope. Not to hope in the expectation that it will be for nothing. Not to hope, but to expect disaster. Just to hope.

  101. “I can only only hope that you are not pulling my leg.”
    I am, but in another way that you fear. We Dutch don’t think it arrogant when you presume we understand English; we are flattered. Many of us Dutch are so arrogant that we think we speak English at least as good as native speakers and hence are totally willing to show off. It’s a common complaint of native English speakers, living in the Netherlands who try to practice Dutch: we don’t give them the chance. Plus we overestimate ourselves.

    https://stuffdutchpeoplelike.com/2015/04/08/dunglish-27-funny-examples-that-will-make-you-laugh-out-loud/

  102. @Dave Luckett, I hesitate to quibble, today of all days of the year, with your eirenic message, but must take issue at one pivotal point: “Best of all, fusion is not far away now.” If only! Controlled fusion has seemed to be almost within our reach since 1959.

    Things connect. The collapse of political integrity in the US, Brazil, Australia and parts of Canada (I would add the UK, but I am not sure how much that matters now) directly undermines attempts to control global warming.So in its way does uninformed environmentalism, with its objections to GMO crops and refusal to consider nuclear. Fusion remains a long shot. Climate instabilities from permafrost, methane hydrates, and the degradation of the Amazon basin and, potentially, of your own New South Wales, raise the prospect of reducing the carrying capacity of the planet to a level below its actual population. Under such conditions, the absence of major conflict cannot be guaranteed. Stress leads to a resurgent tribalism, and the mass communications that seemed to herald an open democracy have been weaponised by the unscrupulous.

    Everything else that you say is true. Averaging over decades, my own lifetime has been a period of unprecedented continual progress..Whether this will continue is far from certain.

    Our children will live in interesting times. But when were times not interesting?

  103. Dave Luckett offers this gem:

    Expansionism. A policy to expand. Take a look at the map of Europe in 1965 and now. Colour in the EEC members then and EU members now. Tell me, with a straight face, that the EU is not expansionist.

    The EU is not ‘expansionist’.

    But you’re correct in supposing I cannot say that to you with a straight face, for I am saddened to see you reduced to the pathetic Humpty-Dumpty semanticising one expects from the DI. “Expansionist” has a clear and pejorative connotation of aggressive appropriation of territory and/or resources: check the examples in the OED, or even better, the definition used by the IISS International Institute for Strategic Studies as reported in the Global Security Review:

    Expansionism largely refers to the doctrine of a state expanding its territorial base or economic influence. This occurs usually, though not necessarily, by means of military aggression. Expansionism is a growing trend in both rising and declining global powers like China and Russia. Expansionism refers to policies implemented by governments and states that involve territorial expansion through economic or political coercion and military force.

    That certainly fits your a priori conclusion about the EU, but — as with so much of your emotive hyperbole — does not at all match the reality. The EU (which is not a state nor even a full federation of states) has grown, not through aggressive ‘expansionism’, but because sovereign and democratic states have chosen to join for the sake of the clear benefits arising from membership.

    Would an organisation with an ‘expansionist’ policy:

    • Set the stringent prerequisites of the Copenhagen Criteria — which was pointed out to you previously, but which you have pointedly ignored in order to continue asserting your emotive falsehoods — for any sovereign democratic state seeking to join?
    • Require the membership application of a candidate member be subject to veto by any one of the existing members?
    • Guarantee by treaty the right of any member to terminate its membership without any let or hinderance?
    • Automatically revoke, in the event that a portion of an existing member state should obtain full sovereign independence from its original state, that that newly independent state did not retain membership in the EU? [It was made clear, during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, that were Scotland to have gained independence, it would thereby cease to be a member of the EU but would, if it wished to become a member, have to go through the full membership application (meeting the Copenhagen Criteria and securing approval of every existing member — something Spain, with its own issues about the Catalan independence movement, was likely to withhold).
    • Repeatedly denied membership applications (e.g. Turkey, since 1999, Serbia) for failing to meet the CC requirements for an open and democratic society?
    • Ensure by treaty that—

    — but why go on here? To call the EU ‘expansionist’ is as absurd as the DI’s claim that it is ‘censored’. The Walt Disney Company is a far, far better example of an ‘expansionist’ organisation. Just take a look at a map of the world in 1965 and see the tiny patch of Disneyland in Anaheim CA — and look at the map today, with Disney’s territorial acquisitions in Florida, Tokyo, Paris! And its aggressive acquisition of the Star Wars franchise and the Marvel Universe! Never mind that Disney shareholders call this growth! Surely Disney must be stopped now!

    But returning to your note on the ‘expansionist’ EU:

    Observe also the main axis of expansion – eastwards. I do not understand why Megalonyx thinks that the fact that Russia is also expansionist – and has been throughout all of its history – helps his cause. Rather, it increases the peril of conflict.

    I first thought that, of all the reactionary appeals Brexiteers had made on their side, this was one I had not encountered before. But then I thought:

    cf. Neville Chamberlain at Munich.

    Are you really advocating that the nations of Eastern Europe should return to their previous status of dominated vassals under Russian hegemony, as they were during the Soviet era? Or rather, that Western Europe should grant Putin’s Russia a ‘sphere of influence’, just like the Good Old Days of the Cold War? Really?

    It is certainly the case that Putin, as a matter of public record, is almost alone among international leaders who favour Brexit (no prizes for guessing that Trump is another).

    IOW: Whereas the Remain side in the Brexit Referendum argued the un-sexy case for the status quo, the Leave side argued for a return to the status quo ante, though ante which period depends on which Brexiteer you’re talking to. For some, it means Europe before the Second World War (and we all know how well that turned out), for others, it means back to a time when the sun had not yet set on the British Empire (which was perhaps the non plus ultra of aggressive expansionism).

    These nostalgic yearnings of the Brexiteers are retrograde and reactionary — but more to the point, they take us away from addressing the far larger global issues which cannot be solved by individual states acting alone. It is rather telling that, in the 2016 Referendum, one of the most pronounced divide in how people voted was age, the elderly voting to Leave and the younger, to Remain. IOW: those locked into the failed patterns of the past vs. those with far more skin in the game of the future.

    It will be another year before we actually know what Brexit is, but we can already start toting up some of the costs:

    • Direct UK intenal government costs: £2 billion [Source: IfG
    • Settlement of debts contractually on EU projects/commitments from which the UK will cease to participate in/benefit from after Brexit: circa £33 billion+ [Source: HoC
    • Reduced annual growth in GDP for at least 10 years; HM Treasury’s estimate in range of -7.5 to -3.8 [Source: LSE
    Other costs, although certain to arise, cannot be quantified yet as they are contingent on the final form of Brexit, and trading arrangements with USA and RoW tbc:
    • Increased labour shortages in agriculture, medical care, catering (estimates vary)
    • Greatly heightened social and political divisions: Scotland, Northern Ireland, English regions
    • Substantially reduced international influence of UK
    • Likely withdrawal of social services for the 1 million British citizens currently resident elsewhere in the EU; a quarter of these are British pensioners in Spain who may not be able to afford either enhanced charges for medical care in Spain nor the cost of rehousing themselves in the UK
    • Continual quacking on from Nigel Farage & Co., because whatever mess finally emerges from this mess, I’m betting dollars to doughnuts that the far-right will vociferously claim “this is not true Brexit.”

    But there must also be some benefits? Perhaps:

    • We can stop printing the metric equivalent on the labels of goods we sell in imperial measures (yes, it has been dreadful, when I buy a 4-pint container of milk, to have to endure the label that also says it contains 2.272 litres)
    • Increased tourism to the UK as sterling sinks lower
    • A splendid bonanza for hedge fund managers shorting the pound
    • The UK will finally receive the Dave Luckett Seal of Approval for Sovereignty
    • A warm nostalgic glow as we bask in the love of the ‘Anglosphere’
    • Er…that’s it?

    Additions to the list of benefits would be gratefully received.

  104. oops, tag-thingie error in post awaiting moderation.
    Apologies!

    [Voice from above:] No problem. Or as your kind would say: “Oook, oook!”

  105. Dave Luckett throws a roadblock on an empirically-based discussion:

    So back we go to definitions.

    No.

    I am trying to move the discussion on from your repeated Humpty-Dumptyism and ‘no true Scotsman’ deflections; I am still hoping for a discussion on the realities of the UK’s membership in the EU—and to thereby examine if a rational case for terminating EU membership can be made based on those realities instead of one, as you have continued to offer up so far, based on emotive tribalism and specious definitions.

    But we’re going to have to clear some of the clutter out of the way first. F’rinstance: your definition of a ‘sovereign state’:

    A sovereign state is one ruled entirely by its own institutions. Those institutions may negotiate agreements and arrangements with other nations or powers that include undertakings on their nation’s part. (The idea that an autocracy such as North Korea is more sovereign because it’s an autocracy is grotesque.)

    Let’s not quibble overmuch here, beyond noting (1) this falls pretty far short of the 1970 UN Resolution 2625 on self-determination, and, more significantly, (2) your arbitrary ruling out ’by definition’ established principles of pooled sovereignty, which is a fundamental principle of the United Kingdom, leave alone of full-blown federations such as the United States and—dare I say it?—Australia. And your definition does nothing to explain why you don’t allow that North Korea (which is indeed grotesque in virtually every other regard) doesn’t get full marks on a ‘Sovereignty Scale’, so I can only presume that’s because you appear to hold that ‘sovereignty’ can only be absolute or else it is absent.

    Well, you are entitled to you own idiosyncratic definitions of what constitutes true sovereignty—so let’s not go there. But look what happens when continue your own definition of ‘sovereign states’ to claim

    they may not subordinate their own governance and law to another nation or power and still be sovereign.

    which you follow up with what is a testable claim

    The European Communities Act, 1972, by which any law passed by the EEC became British law without the oversight or consent of Parliament, and by which the European Court overruled British courts, did precisely that.

    And that would be dreadful if it were remotely true. But you omit one or two teensy-weensy little inconvenient things called ‘details’ and ‘facts’ that need to be included, viz:

    “any law passed by the EEC”within the sharply limited scope limited by treaty ratified by the UK Parliament. The EEC/EU is delegated—by treaties ratified by each member state’s government—to legislate only on matters agreed in said treaties (e.g. product standards, food safety, environmental protection, &c). This is entirely conducted with full “oversight and consent” of our democratically constituted Parliament, as it is by the corresponding parliamentary bodies of every other member state; to claim otherwise is specious.

    “the European Court overruled British courts” only on the limited matters of EU law; the ECJ has no jurisdiction outside that domain. And, for what it’s worth, how about some real data>? See the IfG’s summary (with link to full report: New analysis shows UK rarely taken to European Court (spoiler alert: 83 times since 2003—mostly over breach of environmental regulations—and won 25% of those cases).

    I could go on—but it’s more instructive (well, ok, more fun) to try and bottom out your claim. Do you suppose that in 1972 the sovereign UK Parliament decided to simply abdicate all its power to the EU? Good heavens, why do they still meet at all? What are we paying them for? Ditto for our magistrates, justices, Supreme Court judges!

    Were all our leaders drunk? How did they manage to be bamboozled by those sinister Europeans, who managed to replace them with a foreign dictatorship, the EC, which you assure us is

    small, enclosed, effectively not removable, and deliberates without open debate, negotiating in secret within itself on agendae it sets for itself.

    I presume your source for this claim is some internet-circulating samizdat document, maybe something like a Protocols of the Elders of Brussels? Do such sources finally document some of the claims—and these are ones some of the Brexiteers on the far right have actually made—that the EU is the instrument of ‘Jewish bankers and financiers’, especially that demonic puppet-master, George Soros?

    That is some of the emotive company you keep when you make such claims. Just sayin’.

  106. [shamed-faced] …and there’s an html tag thingie error in one of the links (6th para from bottom) in above post.

    Apologies again. I thought i was getting better at html tag thingies, but apparently not…

    [Voice from above:] We gave it a try.

  107. Megalonyx: I’ll pass over the dire forecasts of calamity, and the tendentious belittlement of the possible positives. There’s no point in trying to convince you that there are real economic benefits to be gained. You’ve already comprehensively dismissed any such possibility.

    The European Communities Act does in fact subordinate the British Parliament and Courts to EU law and the ECJ, respectively, and claiming that that isn’t important because it doesn’t cover everything is futile. Jibe and taunt as you will, Parliament voted away its own sovereign power when Britain joined the EU. It made itself subject in vitally important areas of policy to a foreign power. That’s a fact. You first claimed that it is not “remotely true”, and then spent two laboured paragraphs confirming that it is true: a truly remarkable display of contradiction and confusion. You capped that with a painfully pointless attempt to quibble away my describing the EU as a “power”. Risible, so far. But it gets darker.

    The European Commission is not elected or removable, deliberates in confidence, sets its own agenda, and originates all EU legislation. Those are also simple facts. The EU is expansionist, has steadily expanded, and is still expanding. Your notion that it isn’t expansionist because of some set of rules it has is merely a simple denial of observed reality, camouflaged with an irrelevance.

    But then you plumb the depths. Your attempt to imply that I approve of Russian oppression because I disapprove of EU expansion is irrational. Your further attempts to smear me with antisemitism are even worse, the uttermost nadir.

    Matters having reached this pass, I have nothing more to say on this subject.

  108. For the record: I did not charge you with anti-Semitism, nor do I remotely think such a thing of you. Had I thought otherwise, I would not have engaged in any discussion with you at all.

    I have engaged with you on this topic because I have been surprised to hear you repeat so much of the grotesque caricature of the EU which is otherwise only found from some unpalatable sources.

  109. @Megalonyx, you’ll get a lot of this sort of thing in the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator. One of the achievements of the trollarchy is the breaking down of the barrier between the merely opinionated and the downright disreputable