Business and Politics

If Around the World.... has been negelected over the past 18 months or so, this is largely because work-wise I've been located in one place for an unusually long time.  As nice as Amsterdam is (and it's one of my favourite places ever), when I'm spending most of my time there working long hours on a project site and traveling home weekends, it means I'm not experiencing as much of the place as a casual visitor might, and hence have less to write about.

That's not to say the creative brain has atrophied in that time - the nature of my work won't allow that.  But increasingly the things that have seized my interest have not involved travel, so I've used another outlet for my writing.  LinkedIn offers a reasonable means through its long-post facility and I've published a number of essays there.  All to do with politics and business - and let's face it, there's been a LOT going on lately!  The global recesssion, general elections in the UK and elsewhere, the farcical Brexit referendum, the rise (and hopefully eventual fall) of the be-wigged Trump in the US......  it's all grist to the mill.


So this Section will contain further essays on those topics......
So....let's get started.......

Corbyn makes May's day

So Jeremy Corbyn has won a resounding victory in the Labour leadership contest.  Well, whoop-di-doop.  It comes as no surprise, I guess, because even if most of his Parliamentary colleagues think he is a walking disaster area, the majority of the Party membership love him to bits so the result was pretty much a foregone conclusion.  But it seems to me the big winners in this are Theresa May and the Conservative party, because the vote has probably guaranteed her a clean victory whenever she cares to call a General Election to rubber stamp with the population at large her own ascent to her party’s leadership in the wake of Cameron’s post-Brexit retirement.

You can read more 

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Tel Aviv 24 September 2016

The Brexit End Game

So the EU Council Summit last weekend was an unqualified success, then. After the best part of two years haggling, a process that cost the UK Government two Secretaries of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexiters both) and God know's how many acres of newsprint and hours of media broadcast, the EU agreed to the May Plan (with small clarifications, notably around Gibraltar).

We have a Divorce Agreement signed off between the two parties, and an agreed Political Declaration that will form the basis for any future relationship. Hurrah!

The dreaded Cliff Edge has been avoided, thanks to the sterling efforts of the British Government and its dedicated negotiating team, in the face of months of EU bullying and intransigence. Woop-woop.

Well, no, actually. That is not the case.

Sure, the leaders of both the UK Government and the EU Council have reached agreement in principle. But that is far from the end of the bickering.

For a start, the UK Parliament has to agree to it. That is far from likely. The opposition Labour Party at present has stated it will not accept it (although with Corbyn in charge who knows what may happen - certainly he has no clue). The LibDems will vote against it, since it is the only party whose declared policy (from its annual conference and before) is to vote against any proposal and demand a second referendum (sorry - People's Vote). The SNP are dead set against it, because Scotland voted to Remain in the first place. The DUP, whose 10 MPs have been propping up the Government since the last general election, is also against it and in prime position to vote it down and force the Government (and May) from office.

Most tellingly, depending on which count you believe, there is the best part of 80 Tory MPs, including Cabinet members and lower ranking Ministers, who are minded to vote the deal down and either support a second referendum - oops, People's Vote - or jump over that Cliff Edge come hell or high water and trust to the WTO (an organisation many experts and, um, Donald Trump say is not fit for purpose) to save them. The numbers just don't add up.

And that's not all. Once the UK Parliament has voted its agreement (for the sake of argument let's say it does), then the EU Parliament has to vote its support too, and the "national interests" of the remaining 27 member states might kill the deal instead. But of course, should the UK Parliament kick the deal out, as at the moment seems to be a nailed on certainty, then the vote of the EU Parliament becomes totally unnecessary since the Cliff Edge will be right in front of us.

And all this between now and 29 March - call it 120 days, give or take, from now.

For once, I feel slightly sorry for Mrs. May. She is on her own, possibly the only person in the country who thinks the May Deal is the right deal. She is beavering away, apparently single handedly, trying to "sell" her deal to the country and Parliament, and all she is being told by colleagues and opponents alike is it's a dead deal that "must be re-negotiated". Are these people completely stupid?

This deal (and I will not comment on whether it is good or bad) is IT. There is NOTHING ELSE on the table. The EU will NOT NEGOTIATE further or accept any changes. This has been made perfectly clear since last week, when it was announced by a beaming Barnier and a magnanimous May. In perfectly clear and simple English. The same message has been given by every European head of government asked to comment since then.

There should be no doubt. Anyone who thinks otherwise is in cloud cuckoo land. If the deal is not accepted by Parliament, there is no choice but to leave on WTO rules without a deal, and no prospect of concluding any individual trade deals to replace what we have now as a member state within the span on the Transition Period. Now isn't that just great?
In a nutshell, my friends, you are looking at a tanking economy and currency by about lunch time on 30 March 2019.

I trust all you Brexiters who swallowed the lies peddled by Farage, Johnson, Davies, Fox, Gove, Rees-Mogg etc etc - you remember, that mob of no-marks on the Leave side - are bloody well satisfied.

Of course, the situation isn't all the fault of Mrs. May, who has done her level best with the appalling hand of cards she was dealt. The Tory Party in particular has never been totally convinced by membership of the EU or any of its predecessor acronyms since the People's Vote (the first one) in the early 1970s took us gleefully into the club. There has always been a rump of more or less intelligent Parliamentarians rampantly anti-EU that have caused problems for every Tory leader since Ted Heath. And every Tory leader since Ted Heath has failed dismally to end the infighting that now threatens to tear the Party apart.

Good old Dave Cameron decided to deal with it "once and for all" when he called the referendum in 2016. So confident were he and his bestie, George Osborne, the Harrods intern turned Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Remain campaign would win that they didn't bother to hit the stump - at least until the last couple of weeks - way too late. This was a huge mistake, Mistake number 1, because that anti-EU wing of the Tory Party was little more than a nuisance that any competent leader should have been able to handle. But of course we're talking Canmeron and Osborne here...... Remain lost, and within hours good old Dave, courageous statesman and world leadrer that he was, had jumped ship, resigned and scurried off to the gypsy caravan in has back garden, pausing only to negotiate a seven figure fee for the memoir he would scribble there, pick up a few lucrative directorships in the City, and a diary full of even more lucrative after dinner speaking engagements.

To be fair, Georgey Boy the shelf stacker had the decency to hang on for a few more weeks, until he was passed up for the top job, before he buggered off to start a completely new career as Editor of the once prestigious Evening Standard newspaper, with no more experience of the hack's trade than he had previously had of world finance on becoming Chancellor. It mystifies me how such things can happen, but there you's not what you know but who you know, clearly. Jobs for the boys and all that. The class system is alive and well, and still kicking.

Anyway. Theresa took the job, in somewhat acrymonious circumstances, of leading Party and country down this exciting road to becoming once more a sovereign nation, with control over its own borders, its own laws and its own finances (forgive me, but I thought we already had all that?). Mistake number 2: she stood on the steps of Number 10 and pledged to form a "government of national unity" to deliver "a people's Brexit". And then proceeded to form a Cabinet and new Departments specifically to do the job, without inviting a single non-Tory to serve. I'm not sure what counts as a "government of national unity"......but the last one of those we had, formed by Churchill in 1940, drew from both the Labour and Liberal parties to serve in Cabinet. So both May's governments fail on that score.

Then she called a completely unnecessary General Election to gain the mandate to be PM rather than a stop-gap appointee of her own party. Mistake number 3: she proceeded to lose her workable majority and had to run around forming a coalition. The same promise of a "government of national unity" tripped off her tongue, but instead she cobbled together a grubby little arrangement with the DUP to support the Tories in important votes, in return for a few extra million on the Province's budget. This is the same DUP that is now about to vote down the May Plan in arguably the most important vote in the Commons since World War 2....... As ye reap, so shall ye sow, Theresa.

So there we are, a sorry tale of woe, without mentioning the legal challenges, the incompetence of Boris Johnson and David Davies, the skullduggery, once hidden and now there for all to see of Jacob Rees-Mogg and the ludicrously monickered European Research Group he chairs, or the uncertainty of Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour Party barely fit to be called an Opposition and a million miles away from being an alternative government.

Where will it all end? In tears, no doubt. Britain, my homeland, once a global power respected for its statemanship and leadership, has managed to manouevre itself into a leaderless banana republic, grubbing around for trade deals with whoever is prepared to slip a few quid our way, and finding even that problematic. It faces potentially a recession the like of which it has never experienced. It faces rising unemployment, and even bigger crises in the already crisis ridden NHS, Police, Prison and Fire services, and trying to get along with a broken transport system and a population divided as never before. My generation has created problems that our grandchildren will still be trying to fix......assuming climate change or the refugee crisis, radical Islam or populist politics, don't finish us all off first.

Of course, I could be wrong. Brexit could turn out to be an unfettered success. Britain's economy could boom to the extent that badly needed funds can pour into the NHS, the Police, the Prisons and Fire Services. Other countries could indeed fall over each other as they rush to sign comprehensive and lucrative trade deals with the resurgent United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Blessed Theresa could amble off, devoted husband Philip holding her hand, into a well deserved retirement of walking holidays and watching Maidenhead United struggle in the National League South or lower, to be replaced with the smiling and not at all smug triumvirate of Boris, Dave Davies and Jacob, leading the country to ever more prosperity and global respect.

But somehow, I doubt it.

                                                                                                                                                                              Warsaw 27 November 2018