Rumble in the EU Jungle
David Cameron suggested this week that the current border arrangements with France could be rescinded in the event of a vote to leave the EU. This would mean migrants won’t meet a UK border guard until they were across the channel and thus they would become the UK’s problem and not France. As a result he was accused of scaremongering. While this may be true to some degree, but I think the key point missed in this debate was that a vote to leave the EU will have implications well beyond EU treaties.
In essence if the UK votes to leave, all bets are off. Many of the treaties and agreements the UK has signed with its neighbours, allies and trading partners over the last fifty years (relating to migration, defence, trade, etc.) were negotiated on the basis that the UK was a member of the EU. Inevitably they will have to be renegotiated and it is very unlikely the UK will get such a good a deal as a non-EU member. The US for example has made it clear that a vote to leave the EU will invalidate current trade treaties between the UK and the US. A UK of 60 million simply will not get as good a deal as an EU of 500 million.
One could draw a parallel with the Scottish independence debate. The SNP and the Tories both thought they would have each other over the same barrel in the event of a Yes vote. In truth compromise would be necessary. The idea that the Scot’s could share the pound was always absurd, as was the notion that they could gain independence or EU membership according to such an aggressive timetable as put forward by the SNP. Equally however, the rUK could not afford to antagonise a now independent country who controlled most of the Britain’s fossil fuels, water and renewable electricity supply….not unless they fancied going through a winter without heating and electricity!
So similarly, there will have to be some negotiation in the event of Brexit. The only difference is that the EU (or the US, or China) will very firmly have the UK over a barrel, with the UK holding very few if any cards. The UK will need to establish trade deals and do so quickly or risk mass capital flight out of the country. Indeed, speaking of energy, the generally UK imports more gas from pipelines cross the Channel than it sends the other way and electrical imports from France are critical to balancing the grid in southern England. Inevitably, on many issues that come up the UK will probably have to make most of the concessions. Not least because the EU (and in particular the French) will have various “nuclear” options with which they can use to very quickly bring the UK to heel (withdrawing passport controls at Calais being one of those).
Another flash point is Northern Ireland. The good Friday agreement only works because there’s an open border. The minute you put in border controls, it breaks down, it would have to be re-negotiated and my guess is that Sinn Fein will probably demand a border poll as the price for even starting such negotiations. And maintaining an open border means that all a migrant needs to do is hop on a plane to Dublin (and Ryanair do direct flights from Sofia or Marrakech to Dublin for around 30 euro, Turkish Airlines fly’s direct Dublin to Ankara, although ticket prices are a little higher), get on a bus (and there are buses outside Dublin airport direct to Belfast) and you’re across the border and into the UK.
Then of course there’s the issue of NATO. There are many who would argue that the EU is the glue that joins NATO together. Of the European nations in NATO only two, Iceland and Norway. are not members of the EU. And both are part of the Schengen area and have free trade agreements with the EU (quite unlike the sort of arrangements UKIP want, both agree to the imposition of EU legislation to maintain their trading status with the EU), plus they have very specific reasons for being in NATO (i.e. they are vulnerable to invasion and lack the means to defend themselves). Given events in the US (i.e. if a loon like Trump or a leftie like Bernie Sanders became president) if NATO starts taking a more Europe led approach, it is by no means guaranteed that the UK can remain a member of NATO.
The problem is that UKIP seem to think that they’ll get everything their own way, they can keep all of the current agreements and be lavished with gifts. They will often try to claim that the EU has more to lose than the UK, even thought in reality the complete opposite is true.
Dr C*nt and the Medics
Tory smugness drone Jeremy Hcunt has a problem with his junior doctors, whom he is now at war with. It would seem that the doctors think that working 18 hour shifts seven days a week might endanger patient safety. But what would they know, its not as if they’ve got medical degrees or something….oh, wait, apparently they do!
Also it would seem they are a tad upset as it would seem they’d signed these things called “contracts” a few years ago, which my dictionary tells me is merely “A bidding agreement which is legally enforceable”. Unfortunately, the doctors should have perhaps read the Ferengi rules of acquisition (number 17) which states “A contract is a contract is a contract… but only between Ferengi”….or perhaps between Tories!
Also it would appear that our Mr Hcunt is unfamiliar with this thing called “capitalism”. There is plenty of demand for doctors overseas, or in Scotland (where these new contracts don’t apply) and it would be all too easy for any doctors who don’t like these contracts to simply leave and go overseas, after the NHS spending all the money it costs to train them in the first place. And with the sort of tight border controls the bigot brigade are demanding its doubtful enough replacements can be drafted in from overseas to replace them. In short, the NHS in England is being set up to fail….
…which beg’s the question, is this the whole point of the this doctor’s strike? The Tories, who don’t use the NHS (they all have private health care) want it to fail so that they can privatise it, same way they did with the UK’s energy market and railways under Thatcher.
US election – why Rand Paul’s plight tells us a lot
In the US primary races the democrats Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton are neck and neck. As one commentator puts it “Bernie is a bit fuzzy on historical events since Woodstock” . Meanwhile the Republican battle is dominated by Trump and Cruz (a Canadian visitor who seems to think he should be president). Several candidates lagging in the polls have dropped out. Unusually one of these was the libertarian Rand Paul. His father tended to perform reasonably well attracting a near cult like following. But this time the Paulestinians seem to have deserted Rand Paul. This begs the question why?
I would argue the reason why was that it was always myth that a large chuck of the republicans subscribed to libertarianism. As I’ve discussed in the past, if anything right wing parties like the Republicans are the ideological enemies of libertarians, as many Republican’s, and in particular those in the Tea Party, advocate big government and authoritarian policies.
For example, immigration, which many Republicans want to stop. However this means the state putting a guy at the border checking people’s papers are in order, faceless bureaucrats centrally planning the economy (by deciding how many should be allowed in) and employers facing government interference in who they hire (e.g. don’t hire this young fellow from Poland with a degree and relevant experience, no you have to take Bob from the job centre down the road who likes to sniff glue and was sacked from his last job for laziness). Similarly the GOP wants to allow intrusive government surveillance of the sort that we’re more familiar reading about in 1984. The fact is, the GOP is not a libertarian friendly party, this is why the US has a separate libertarian party.
So why were all those Tea baggers flocking to Rand or Ron Paul in previous elections? Well it might have something to do with dog whistle politics. Often both Paul’s would say things that sounded a little bit racist, such as wanted to repeal equality laws or expressing support for the Confederates in the Civil war on the basis of “state rights”. Now both claimed that no, they weren’t being racist, it just this is how they interpreted these issues from a libertarian prospective. I would argue however, that what was actually happening was that the many racists in the GOP were decoding these speeches as a nod and a wink from the Paul’s along the lines of “we don’t like Nig%ers neither”.
Obviously once such individuals were presented with an actual racist to vote for (two of them in fact), they quickly switched support to Trump or Cruz and Rand Paul found his base evaporating. This theory would also serve to explain why many of the other Republicans are struggling in the polls. Many of them try to tap into this “small government” Tea Party types by talking about downscaling the government by cutting X number of departments (then forgetting how many they planned to cut). However, they don’t seem to understand that very few Americans actually want this, its the racist code words that some are reacting too.
The fact is that they two candidates leading the polls are very much big government national socialists. While Cruz or Trump might cut back some parts of the state (the bit that does important things like rescue people from hurricanes or provides medical care to wounded veterans), in reality they are running on a ticket of expanding government, with more surveillance and government powers, more FBI/CIA agents, more border guards and with bans on gay marriage or abortion. In short Trump and Cruz want a US government that is so big and so authoritarian it is allowed to come into your home, up the stairs and dictate what consenting adults can do in private.
All this is very worrying. Two decades of Fox News lies has created a Frankenstein monster that is now out of control, much as how similar Daily Mail bigotry in the UK now threatens the very survival of the United Kingdom (given the very real possibility of the UK breaking up if the UK votes to leave the EU).
If there are any nuclear options for the grandee’s of the GOP to play, now is the time. I would advocate all of the established candidates pulling out and endorsing one of their own (likely Kaisch or Rubio) as the challenger to the Tea Party candidates. Furthermore they should make it clear that if their guy loses to Trump or Cruz they will all leave the party and either endorse Hilary or Michael Blomberg as well as handing them control of all of the GOP superpac’s, all but guaranteeing the Tea Party candidate will lose and lose badly.
Irish Election – A fight in more ways than one
One has to contrast events in the US with those in Ireland. An election was announced on the 6th of February with polling day on the 26th. A twenty day campaign, although the country has been in defacto election mode for a month or two now. Even so compare that with the two years of campaigning in the US. American doesn’t have a democracy, they have an elaborate system where you pile more and more money onto a weighting scales and the one who says the dumbest things and has the biggest pile wins. No wonder Trump is out in front!
Of course its not that we don’t have problems of our own in Ireland. They’re called “Sinn Fein”. Like many populists parties they’ve been promising everything under the sun. Abolition of water charges and other unpopular austerity measures, 100,000 new homes…while at the same time cutting taxes. They’re even promising an extra holiday! It is a manifesto that only appeals to those who are poor at maths…. which unfortunately appears to be about a fifth of the electorate. The other parties have all vowed not to form a coalition with Sinn Fein, even if they have to go to the polls again or enter into a grand coalition (that said, I won’t be surprised if one of them reneges on that after election day). A grand coalition is a possibility as its likely the Irish labour party are likely to go the way of the lib dems (inevitably blamed for everything the past coalition did, even tho it was the other bigger parties idea in the first place).
And it is for good reason that Sinn Fein should be kept from power as there has been a spate of recent murders in Ireland, which are believed to be linked to fighting between republican controlled gangs with SF or IRA links. In most countries politicians say I’m not a crook. SF politicians have to say, well I’m not a crook any more and I forget where my victims are buried.
Judge Scalia no more
One of the most right-wing and outspoken of the US supreme court judges, Judge Scalia died in his sleep on Saturday. This is quite a significant event, as it provides Obama with the opportunity to change the balance of the Supreme court towards a more liberal view point.
That said, Scalia was so far to the right, you could put G. W. Bush on the Supreme court and it would still pull the court to the left. He was so far too the right that he was treated as a cartoon figure by some comedians. This is the guy who allowed the US Supreme court to ignore the “well regulated” bit of the 2nd amendment and effectively decide it meant “no regulation” of guns. He recently voted against Obama’s climate change mitigation plans, which has the potential to all but guarantee that Florida drowns. Quite apart from handing the US presidency to Bush, even though Gore had clearly won the most votes (minor pesky detail that!).
Anyway, needless to say, the GOP nominee’s aren’t seeing the funny side of it and are suggesting that Obama should not appoint a replacement (even thought its entirely within his right, the Constitution makes no mention of any pause in election years, indeed it seems to imply he should do so promptly). The Republicans have threatened to fight it right the way through Congress….of course they’d never dream of replacing a Supreme court justice in a presidential election year…of course Bush did this very thing in 2009…and Reagan did in 1988…..