Sunday, 20 January 2019

The most fascinating moment in British history since the decision not to negotiate with Hitler in 1940

The solution to Brexit is not simple but the starting point is accepting a hard border with Southern Ireland. 

Sinn Fein/IRA will not start murdering people because of the border (which is not mentioned in the Good Friday Agreement). In any case, we cannot let IRA decide the future of Britain. Though this is what people in Parliament and in the media repeatedly argue that we should do.

Both the UK and Eire have said they will not have customs inspectors at the border, but it is it is not in the power of Eire to decide this. It is for the EU to decide how Eire controls her part of the EU border. 

And the EU has no choice either. The EU must insist on customs being levied at the border. That is what a customs union means. And a customs union is the essence of the EU ('the Common Market'). 

The good news, however, is that this can be done using electronic means.

Theresa May's proposal for leaving the E.U. was defeated by 230 votes, including that of the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, the biggest defeat by far that any government ever sustained in the House of Commons, at least since the records were destroyed in the great fire of 1834. 

Commentators (on Sky News for example) said that the defeat could be of that magnitude, but were obviously shocked when it was. I am not sure how much it matters and no-one knows what it means.

Was Mrs May's the best 'deal' that could have been made? 

Undoubtedly not and Theresa May's former Svengali-like adviser Nick Timothy is much to blame, as he is for calling and especially for losing the 2017 election.

The biggest mistake was to announce that there would not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the South. 

Another mistake was using Article 50 at all. Britain could have threatened to prevent the EU working by using her veto until a deal was made with EU leaders. 

Another huge mistake was not to have accepted the offer by Donald Tusk of the Canada option. 

Or the Norway option would do, at least for some years, even though it involves free movement of EU people. But the Norway option is only a tolerable idea, crucially, with a hard border. Otherwise it means remaining in the customs union and being a vassal state. 

Staying in the customs union means in essence countries that made trade deals in the EU would automatically have free trade with the UK without our having any say in the negotiations. 

Many mistakes, but we are where we are.

The biggest problem was a Prime Minister who is unable to communicate a vision of why we should leave - in any case, she does not have one - or to make decisions about what sort of method of leaving she wants.

The deal negotiated by the Prime Minister, which is not a deal but a promise by the EU to negotiate a trade agreement after we waive our rights to 
£39 billion of our money (over which the EU has arguably little claim), is worse than staying in. This article explains why. 

However, the Tory Brexiteers mostly think staying in the EU is even worse while on the other hand t
here is, very unfortunately, very little chance of our leaving with no deal because the Prime Minister, most MPs and the civil service think that would be a disaster. 

They are almost certainly wrong and 'no deal' gets a lot of support in the opinion polls. It elicited a huge prolonged cheer from the audience on BBC's Question Time, the other night. But that probably will make no difference.

Which makes me think that a variant on Mrs May's proposals will be adopted by a House of Commons that does not want to leave at all but knows it must. This is why she sticks to her guns. 

Mrs. May's Plan B is a bilateral treaty with Eire - I cannot see this washing with the EU, for reasons I explained at the start. But it lets her run down the clock. Like Fabius Maximus, who gave his name to the Fabians, she is the great delayer.

The Prime Minister's chief of staff is Gavin Barwell, an ardent Remainer who tweeted on the morning after the referendum:
He is reported in the Sunday Times today as urging the Prime Minister to agree to remain in the customs union permanently. This is something Norway Switzerland and Iceland wisely do not do. The Prime Minister listened instead to the Chief Whip who made the obvious point that this would destroy the Tory party.

But it is impossible for anyone to know what will happen. 

Another general election now seems to many attractive and to others unavoidable, even to Tories who are rightly terrified of Labour's Marxist leaders taking power. 

But on what platforms would the parties campaign? 

An election would make them decide. Or split.

The great John O' Sullivan writes interestingly about how an election would change things.

There are at least five solutions on the table, and three of them are arguably Leave or semi-Leave proposals. Of these, the so-called Canada Plus proposal has perhaps the best chance of adoption because it is the solution that least divides the governing Tory party even if it doesn’t attract many Labour votes. But none of them may pass muster.

What we may be moving towards, therefore, is a situation in which a Parliament and government that cannot agree on how to handle Brexit give the problem back to the voters by calling a general election. Brexit would then be the single most important election issue (in a way that May failed to make it in 2017).

If that happens, it will be the moment when a great deal changes. Almost all of this column has been devoted to parliamentary minutiae, the calculations of senior politicians, and issues such as the Northern Ireland backstop that are little understood outside the political class and sometimes only worth understanding for the purpose of logical destruction. Such issues shrink in importance or are seen less technically and perhaps more clearly when they have to be discussed in clear terms with the electorate. The backstop was a device, jointly developed by the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadhkar, and the EU negotiator, Michel Barner, to bully the Brits into going along with EU tariffs and regulations for fear of being blamed for unsettling the Good Friday Agreement that doesn’t mention them. It’s hard to believe that ordinary voters would be hornswoggled so easily. They would at least ask skeptical questions.

In an election, the voters — who have been unobserved off-stage during recent parliamentary maneuvers — suddenly become central players. Not only do they have very different concerns, but they force those concerns onto the agenda. That happened in the 2016 referendum when the voters increasingly discounted the Project Fear campaign that warned of economic disasters and insisted instead on getting answers to the question of how Britain could “take back control” and restore its self-governing democracy. Remain never developed effective answers to the sovereignty question (and it still hasn’t done so) because it doesn’t really believe it’s a serious or important question. From the standpoint of the political class, the EU is a means of acquiring control and insulating itself from interference by the voters in, ahem, elections. Among other people the voters want to control, therefore, are the U.K.’s own politicians.

Saturday, 19 January 2019


Claude Monet: 
To see we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at.

George Will, in the National Review two years ago today likened Trump to the water beetle described by Hilaire Belloc:
He flabbergasts the Human Race

By gliding on the water’s face

With ease, celerity and grace;

But if he ever stopped to think

Of how he did it, he would sink.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Would a hard Brexit be the latest chapter in Ireland's tearful history?

This was written by Dr Jennifer Cassidy, who describes herself on Twitter as: Irish. Politics Lecturer @UniofOxford. Former Diplomat. PhD Digital Diplomacy (Oxon). Books Gender and Diplomacy, @UN Consultant, TED Speaker.
You invaded us.
You conquered us.
You divided us.
You robbed usof our language,
our heritage, our land.
You starved us.
You starved us.
You starved us.
You shot us.
You imprisoned us.
You killed us.
We made peace.
We trusted you.
We trusted you.
#HardBorder 🇮🇪

We did not starve the Irish and they would have conquered us had they had the means.

I borrowed this argument from the Irish American theologian and heresiarch, John

Douglas Murray on populism

This is a very interesting interview with Douglas Murray, the most interesting and important intellectual in Great Britain on Donald Trump, Brexit and populism. Mr Murray is our equivalent of France's Michel Houellebecq, but without the obscenity.  I quote:
There is no one elite in America or Britain, but certainly a part of one elite and a part of the public are genuinely shocked, public are genuinely shocked, because there was a presumed direction of travel we were all meant to be going in: greater multilateralism, weaker borders, a more porous, interconnected world, and so on. The only job left was to progress through ever more minute remaining rights issues and then arrive at our destination. But then the public came along — twice in a few months — and threw the biggest spanner available to them into this machine. A lot of people still cannot believe the public could do this, and I understand their shock. This was the first time in their adult lives that they were told No, and it destabilizes

Seen in a book review on

“Why is it that present day Europeans are expected to take collective responsibility for past Western colonialism, but Muslims don't take collective responsibility for Muslim colonialism and get upset if there is any suggestion that they should take collective responsibility for present day Islamic terrorism.”

[The answer is because teachers and academics have taught two generations to despise Western civilisation and admire its enemies.]

Thursday, 17 January 2019

How long can Sweden and the whole of Europe ignore the voters?

I translated this very eloquent and shocking article in the Swedish press by Paulina Neuding using Google Translate, which does a very good job - a far, far better job with English than with Romanian. Paulina Neuding also writes for Quillette.

For a number of years, voters have asked the parties the same question, in different forms: What should one as a voter do to prevent a more liberal migration policy? For as many years, the answer has been more liberal migration.

It was just over ten years ago, in August 2008, and Margot Wallström, then Vice Chairman of the European Commission, was invited to the BBC's flagship Newsnight to be interviewed on the EU's new foundations. The treaty had been voted down in a referendum in Ireland without being seen as a hindrance to EU leadership. The new legislation would be pushed through, the question being just how it would do so technically.

Consequently, a number of times the presenter repeated the same question to Commissioner Wallström:

Can you explain what voters have to do for the treaty not to go through? What must voters do to kill the treaty?

After having questioned the question in various forms, Wallström finally suggested that the voters would "leave to the leaders to discuss what to do a situation like this" and emphasized that these leaders "invested a lot of political capital" in the project.

Michel Houellebecq says the EU is murdering Europe and I realise suddenly that he is right

Houellebecq is a very important figure of our times. He has suggested restoring Catholicism as the state religion of France, to assist Muslim assimilation and still he got the LĂ©gion d'Honneur.

I just read an article in Foreign Policy by an annoyingly PC American professor about him, which I recommend - Houellebecq's words shine out from the professor's like diamonds gleaming in mud.

Houellebecq declared he was less interested in the decline of the West than in its murder. By bringing its member states under a single set of laws, the EU “assassinated” them, Houellebecq concluded....

“We in Europe have neither a common language, nor common values, nor common interests, that, in a word, Europe doesn’t exist, and that it will never constitute a people … simply because it doesn’t want to constitute a people.”

The European Union “is just a dumb idea that has gradually turned into a bad dream, from which we shall eventually wake up.”


“You can’t go back and change the beginning. But you can start where you are and change the ending.”

C.S. Lewis

“People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It's not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.”

Milan Kundera

Class warfare lies behind populism

Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas called these party hacks the “New Class,” noting that instead of workers and peasants against capitalists, it was now a case of workers and peasants being ruled by a managerial new class of technocrats who, while purporting to act for the benefit of the workers and peasants, somehow wound up with the lion’s share of the goodies....

But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change....

Monday, 14 January 2019

"While no-deal remains a serious risk"

"While no-deal remains a serious risk, having observed the events at Westminster over the last seven days, it's now my judgment that the more likely outcome is a paralysis in parliament that risks there being no Brexit."
Theresa May, 20 minutes ago.

"While no-deal remains a serious risk"? For two and a half years she has robotically repeated that no deal is better than a bad deal.

The sandal wearers and fruit juice drinkers are about to be swept from power

For years the white working-class have had their lives lampooned and been smeared with a multitude of ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ by politicians and journalists who, simultaneously, champion open borders because they believe Europe owes it to the third world. They don’t understand that the misery and poverty they think exists only in Africa and the Middle East is also found closer to home. The victims of globalisation are everywhere.

What France (and the rest of Europe) is witnessing is not a populist revolt but a politically incorrect one. People have had enough of being mocked and marginalised by what George Orwell described as ‘a dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of ‘progress’ like bluebottles to a dead cat.’

The difference between now and 1936, when Orwell wrote that pungent depiction, is that then the ‘dreary tribe’ had no influence. They were swept into cultural power in the 1960s but they are in the process of being swept back out in the second decade of the 21st Century. This will be hard to bear for progressives after a half-century of hegemony. The silent majority has found its voice and it demands it be listened to. A failure to do so will have dire consequences for Europe.

From a post you should definitely read called 'The yellow vests are at the vanguard of a politically incorrect uprising' by Gavin Mortimer in the Spectator

Sunday, 13 January 2019

A sort of synchronicity - before I came here my two funniest stories concerned Romania

The funniest line in literature is spoken by Thora Hird in Alan Bennett's 'Me, I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf'. She is his mam who has descended on him unannounced in the poly where he lectures because she was 
'making some purchases in the vicinity.' 
He loses his temper with her in the canteen and she retreats behind the Daily Mirror, then says: 
'I see the President of Romania's mother has died.'
 'Always trouble for someone.'
I saw that play when I was 20 and the line has always stayed with me. A friend whom I hadn't seen for ten years until last month reminded me of it. 

Oddly enough the second funniest piece of writing I know, the obituary of Denisa, Lady Newborough, also concerns a Romanian and Romanians were a very obscure nation in England in the 1980s. These things have a meaning, though we cannot understand it.

Christians persecuted in the West

We may be coming to a time when it is considered normal for Catholic priests to approve of abortion, remarriage of divorcees and same sex marriage. Instead climate change and immigration may become the centre of Catholic teaching.

We are still a long way from that at the moment, but meanwhile Catholicism and traditional Christianity in general is more and more considered by liberals and centrists as extremist, extreme right.

You might think the Knights of Columbus, an American Catholic lay organisation, are as uncontroversial as the Rotarians, the Mothers' Union or the Boy Scouts, but the Knights are Catholic and so highly controversial in modern American politics. The Democrats are traditionally the Catholic party, but not any more.

Leaving with no deal won't happen - Britain will probably be a neutered vassal state

The European Union complains that the Government doesn’t know where it wants to end up. Closely aligned to the EU or more distant? Norway or Canada? It is absolutely right.
Cabinet members are united on one point, however. All now hope that May’s deal passes Parliament, if not next week, then later. And, collectively, they will carry on hoping – as authority drains away from them to Dominic Grieve, Steve Baker, and the Opposition, among whose numbers we of naturally include the Speaker. This Cabinet is firewood.

(Paul Goodman on Thursday, in Conservative Woman.)

It looks increasingly obvious that there is no possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal, something that makes me very sad indeed. 

I think the deal will probably mean vassal status though, if we had the same deal as Norway and – crucially - abandoned the backstop, this would not be so.

The whole thing has the look of a plot against Brexit. The Prime Minister does not revise her plan which has no chance of passing the House in its present form this week. The EU refuses to consider any changes and tries to hide its delight at the Carthaginian terms it has negotiated. The British press is full of stories about the horrors that would accompany leaving without a deal. Diabetics would die. There would be no mars bars. Soldiers would stand ready in dozens of places to enforce order against an infuriated mob. The Bank of England promises calamity as it did during the referendum campaign if Leave won.

Jesus Christ talks about effeminate men

'In a little known passage from the Gospels, Jesus contrasts his saintly second-cousin John the Baptist to the filthy Herod who would one day kill the Baptist. St. Matthew writes: “As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.’”—Mt 11:7-8 ESV. [Matthew has the Lord repeat the word.]

Austin Mitchell on Prime Ministers

Austin Mitchell was a veteran and much liked Labour backbench MP until he left politics in 2015. He always opposed membership of the EEC/EC/EU. These passages are from his memoirs.

Being top dog is debilitating. It drains prime ministers, destroys the gloss and leaves them running on empty.
Labour’s Harold Wilson, the only one who recognised this, confessed that, towards the end, only brandy made the job bearable.
As for Margaret Thatcher, though I opposed almost everything she stood for, she got top marks from me for her cynicism about the Common Market.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Dominic Cummings in 2014 explained why we have to leave the European Union

Dominic Cummings, who ran the successful Vote Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum and was the subject of a recent TV film, explained in this passage from his blog, back in 2014, why we have to leave the European Union. 
One of the things that is most striking is how much of a Cabinet Minister’s box is filled with EU papers. Here the process is simpler than for Clegg’s appalling Home Affairs Committee, where at least there can be disagreements about policy. In order to continue the pretence that Cabinet Government exists, all these EU papers are circulated in the red boxes. Nominally, these are ‘for approval’. They have a little form attached for the Secretary of State to tick. However, because they are EU papers, this ‘approval’ process is pure Potemkin village. If a Cabinet Minister replies saying — ‘I do not approve, this EU rule is stupid and will cost a fortune’ — then someone from the Cabinet Office calls their Private Office and says, ‘Did your Minister get pissed last night, he appears to have withheld approval on this EU regulation.’ If the
Private Office replies saying ‘No, the minister actually thinks this is barmy and he is withholding consent’, then Llewellyn calls them to say ‘ahem, old boy, the PM would prefer it if you lie doggo on this one’. In the very rare cases where a Minister is so infuriated that he ignores Llewellyn, then Heywood calls to explain to them that they have no choice but to approve, so please tick your box and send in your form, pronto. Game over. 
It’s the sort of thing you read in history books about how a capital city operated just before the regime collapsed.

 Let's hope we do leave the EU and in a satisfactory way (no deal is by now my preference).

Yet more quotations

A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.

W. H. Auden

Life is, I am sure, made of poetry. 

Jorge Luis Borges

The theologians say the soul has no sex but I wonder, I very much wonder. 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.

Ruth Reichl

Today on the net: things look bad except for America

Things are so much more exciting than they were when I was growing up during the Cold War. Things look bad in England, Europe and the world in general, and especially in the Catholic Church, but there are some signs of hope everywhere. Hope, of course, can be deceptive.

I wouldn’t get too excited about the prospect of no-deal if I were you. It may be what you want. It may be what I want. It may have the most credible arguments in its defence of any of the current positions on offer. Indeed, it may seem to be becoming more plausible by the day. But the people who are now joining forces in their determination to stop it are very likely to be invincible. In fact, a lot of the talk about the imminence of no-deal is being orchestrated by them. Paradoxically, the more feasible the Unthinkable Outcome appears, the more acceptable the once Unthinkable Strategies of resistance become.
..The EU not giving an inch is, of course, part of the plan. The Conspiracy party’s wish (which is to say, Parliament’s wish as it is presently construed by Speaker Bercow) is precisely to see Mrs May’s “deal” go down – whereupon the nightmare prospect of no-deal will rear its terrible head thus making it absolutely imperative to extend Article 50. That is the real prize. Put the whole thing off. Slam on the brakes. Reverse the legally prescribed process. We need to re-think this business from the ground up. That will take time. Lots of time. Maybe forever.
Janet Daley in today's Daily Telegraph

Quotations about food and drink

"Hunger is the best sauce." Spartan proverb

"“There is no love sincerer than the love of food." George Bernard Shaw

"You can eat better in England than in any country in the world providing that you have breakfast three times a day." W. Somerset Maugham

"It has been a common saying of physicians in England, that a cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing."
Dr. Johnson, quoted in Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.” Oscar Wilde

Every nation has the government it deserves and other remarks of Joseph De Maistre

Every nation has the government it deserves.

The more one examines the apparently most active personages in the Revolution, the more one finds in them something passive and mechanical. We cannot repeat too often, that men do not lead the Revolution; it is the revolution that uses men. They are right when they say it goes all alone. This phrase means that never has the Divinity shown itself so clearly in any human event. If the vilest instruments are employed, punishment is for the sake of regeneration.

No nation can give itself liberty if it is not already free.


Bob Kostic‏ @causticbob
I settled down to watch this programme about transgender marriage the other night, but was disappointed that it focused on scenery instead. I phoned the BBC to complain. Turns out that the Hebrides are Scottish islands.

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune. William James

Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words. 
St Francis of Assisi 

My dears, apart from Anatole France and Albert Schweitzer, there is no man interested in anything but sex.
Barbara Amiel, Lady Black, quoted in Tom Bowyer's 'Conrad and Lady Black'


Life dooms you to success. To enough success to prevent you trying something else.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

'No Deal' seems doomed - a prolonged punishment beating for Britain is impending

A couple of days ago Kenneth Clarke and everyone else was saying they simply could not see what would happen about Brexit. They really had no idea.  Note that very clever experienced politicians, commentators and academics do not know what will happen in the future, even though, once it happens, it seems by a trick of perspective to have been predestined.

Today I feel I can see what will happen and it is the worst of all options: the one Mrs May proposes, which is not a deal but puts us completely at the mercy of an EU that has proved its hostile intentions towards us.  'No deal' is not the calamity people fear. It would be a liberation and would respect the referendum result, which Mrs. May's proposal would not, but the politicians and establishment will not permit it. 

Here are some things I read today.

It is not often that Donald Trump and the EU Commission’s Secretary General, Martin Selmayr, agree. But on the Withdrawal Agreement, they are as one. It looked “like a great deal for the EU” to Trump, and Selmayr confirmed to the Passauer Neue Presse in December that the EU had “negotiated hard and achieved their aims.” 

Frenchmen in exile

Unromantic places where famous Frenchmen were exiled: Zola lived briefly in Upper Norwood, Verlaine in Bournemouth and Napoleon III in Chiselhurst. Esterhazy - the real traitor and villain in the Dreyfus Affair - shaved off his moustache and fled to England where he published anti-Semitic journalism under the name of Jean de Voilemont and lived in Harpenden, which was then a village.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Dominic Cummings explains why Leave won the Brexit referendum

Dominic Cummings, organiser of the Vote Leave campaign, is said to be the hero (or villain, if you prefer) who won the Brexit referendum for Leave. I think the British people are the heroes (or villains, if you prefer) but he certainly played a large part in the result, as did Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. 

In this speech in 2017 Mr. Cummings identifies three reasons why feeling in the UK had swung against the EU in the fifteen years since he organised a campaign against the UK adopting the euro.
“Essentially I found that people didn’t know more about the EU in 2016 than they did 15 years earlier. However, three things had changed in the world during that time: the first was immigration – the scale of immigration and the fact that the EU was now blamed for immigration problems.

"The other big thing was the financial crisis in 2008. It undermined confidence in government, in Whitehall, in big business, in the banks and also in the European Union.

“The third big factor was the euro.”


Mr Memory‏ @AmIRightSir
after resigning as Prime Minister on this day in 1957, Anthony Eden went on a cruise, where he met John Prescott:

G. K. Chesterton‏: The special mark of the modern world is not that it is skeptical, but that it is dogmatic without knowing it.

Lord Macaulay: "The Puritans hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators."

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Anna Soubry and the n-word: it's not disgraceful, it's free speech

One Lucy Mangan, in The Guardian reviewing Brexit: The Uncivil War, the Channel Four TV film about the Brexit referendum, condemns it as superficial and irresponsible for being balanced and not coming down on the side of Remain. 

Move along. Nothing to see here. 

Nothing to say really. Stupid woman is no longer a permitted phrase, even in the case of someone who is (a) stupid and (b) a woman. Especially not in such a case.

Miss Mangan interested me when she said she understood why the writer made Dominic Cummings the protagonist. He organised the 'official' Leave campaign and is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

You can see why he was catnip to a dramatist otherwise looking out at a sea of grey suits and wondering how to get inside the heads of shapeshifters like Cameron or Gove (as Gertrude Stein famously said of her old home, torn down to make way for something new – “there is no there there”) or persuade viewers that Boris Johnson is real enough to be a protagonist in anything other than the rolling Boris Johnson show that is his life.

This reminds me of a conversation between Harold Nicolson and J. M. Keynes, in which the former asked 
What do you think Lloyd George is like when he is alone in a room?

to which the other replied