Friday 14 December 2018

Things people say

Just as a matter of curiosity, could any responsible government really give a categorical assurance that under no circumstances would there ever be a hard border with the next-door neighbour?
Ruth Dudley Edwards

From the beginning I’ve been a supporter of Macron and his desire to extend economic globalization. But here’s the problem: The West is experiencing a loss of relative status, due to diminished power and influence. Western societies, including France, are being transformed by immigration beyond what many of their native-born citizens had expected. The rising prominence of terror, migration and security issues have boosted some of the less salubrious sides of the right wing. Add to that mix wage stagnation and the increasingly common view — held by 91 percent in France — that today’s children will not have better lives than their parents. Finally, the decline of organized religion, especially pronounced in Western Europe, has created a spiritual vacuum and a crisis of meaning.
Tyler Cowen in Bloomberg Opinion today.

Until today, I’d assumed that those 117 Tory MPs attempted to vote her [Theresa May] out of her job because they didn’t support her. But maybe they were just trying to be kind.

Michael Deacon feeling sorry for Theresa May today in the Telegraph.

Let’s go back all the way to the United States’s last morally unquestionable and militarily victorious intervention, namely its participation in World War II: What would have happened had the United States not entered the war (an unpleasant alternate history)? Without a doubt, the destiny of Asia would have been greatly altered. The destiny of Europe, too, but probably somewhat less. In any case, Hitler would have lost just the same. What’s most probable is that Stalin’s armies would have reached Cherbourg. Some European countries that were spared the ordeal of communism would have suffered it.

A disagreeable scenario, I admit, but a brief one. Forty years later, the Soviet Union would have collapsed all the same, simply because it rested on an ineffective and bogus ideology. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the culture in which communism has been established, it hasn’t managed to survive for so much as a century—not in any country in the world. 

People’s memories aren’t very long. The Hungarians, the Poles, the Czechs of today—do they really remember that they used to be communists? Does the way they envision what’s at stake in Europe differ so much from the Western European viewpoint? It seems extremely unlikely. To adopt for a moment the language of the center-left, the “populist cancer” is not at all limited to the Visegrád Group. Above all, the arguments used in Austria, in Poland, in Italy, and in Sweden are exactly the same. One of the constants in Europe’s long history is the struggle against Islam; today, that struggle has simply returned to the foreground.

Michel Houellebecq in the latest issue of Harper's Magazine

Largely unnoticed amid the political madness that grips our nation, the global economy is again on a slippery slope towards recession. It may be received wisdom, post the disaster scenario outlined by the Bank of England last week, to think of Brexit as the biggest of the economic threats facing Europe and beyond – but in fact it is only one of any number of clouds that increasingly blacken the skies above. 
Indeed, if Brexit is viewed as merely a change in Britain’s terms of trade with Europe, and very likely once all is said and done a comparatively minor one, then it might even be regarded as the least of these threats.

Jeremy Warner in today's Telegraph

Brexit was meant to usher in a new age of ‘global Britain’ — an idea one would think hard to criticise, though significantly it is much mocked by Remainers. As we have been diverging economically from the EU for two decades, a broader and looser set of relationships is surely logical. Why then the mockery? Because a persistent theme of our 20th-century culture has been ‘national decline’: military, economic, political, cultural. Readers will, I hope, forgive me for mentioning this again, as it lies behind much of our present turmoil. For ‘declinists’, Britain cannot exist outside a larger entity, however unsuccessful or unrewarding. Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement was an extreme expression of this view.

We might take a lesson from across the Channel. General de Gaulle decided that France must assert itself as an independent actor, even if that meant annoying his allies. Ever since the 1960s, France has followed a consistent national strategy. To create a European confederation with France at its head. To carve out a commercial and political role in the Middle East. To maintain a post-colonial presence in Africa and the Pacific. To foster soft power through La Francophonie, its copycat version of the Commonwealth. It is willing to use money, trade, aid, arms supply and troops in substantial numbers where necessary. Some of these policies may be failing or unethical —some certainly are. But they are based on a clear and consistent idea of France’s unique interests and obligations, to which politicians and officials are committed.
Do we have anything comparable? If we do, I don’t know what it is. Perhaps being best friends to the Americans (not always reciprocated), or loyal partners ‘at the heart of Europe’ (now exploded). But these are not a strategy: they are — or were — a substitute for a strategy, relying on others to define the aims. Yet if we choose, we are Europe’s leading state: one of the biggest economies, with the most capable armed forces, and with unique reserves of ‘soft power’. We are building two hugely expensive aircraft carriers, with several times the effective power of the German air force. What are they for? In which parts of the world are they expected to operate? Are these the same areas in which we make our main diplomatic efforts and give our foreign aid? If not, why not?
Robert Tombs in today's Spectator

When the EU does a trade deal with a third country, take Canada for example, she agrees to reduce the common external customs union tariff to 0% in many areas in exchange for the Canadians doing the same for EU exports. So the customs union tariff becomes 0% for imports to the EU and Turkey. In exchange EU countries get a 0% tariff when they export. But Turkey doesn’t, she is not part of the EU and therefore her exports do not benefit from the trade deal, even though imports into Turkey do.

Worse than that, because Turkey is now already offering Canada 0% tariff access to her market, there is absolutely no incentive for Canada to offer Turkish exports any sort of deal. Turkey is stuck with no protection on imports and no market access for her exports. Any Turkish company that plans to export to Canada is far better off relocating to an EU county as they have tariff free access to both Turkish and Canadian markets, which they cannot have in Turkey.

The situation gets worse with every free trade deal the EU does. Gradually huge swatches of the earth will have tariff free access to the Turkish market and Turkish companies will have no preferential access in return. The EU will soon conduct agreements with Mercosur, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and each time Turkey’s relative position gets worse and worse.

Turkey hates this situation and is desperately trying to find a way out of it. It is the primary reason that even Norway and Switzerland will not join the customs union.
Yet if the UK joins the customs union as a non-EU member this will be our future
Daniel Dalton, the Conservative MEP for the West Midlands explains in his blog that non-EU countries that are in the EU customs union are in a disastrous position - we must on no account join. It's a Sargasso Sea.



  1. The Ruth Dudley Edwards quote is very amusing. Most of the things she deplores are a direct result of the economic globalisation that she loves so much.

    Tyler Cowen is a funny guy as well. Stalin's armies overran eastern Europe because the United States gave them the means to do so. 14,000 aircraft, more than 12,000 tanks, 8,000 tractors and 375,000 cargo trucks, along with vast quantities of other military supplies.

    Without American intervention the war would have ended in stalemate. The Russians were capable of stopping the Germans. They had already done so. After Kursk in July 1943 there were never going to be any more German advances. The defensive war against Germany was won. But the Americans then supplied the Soviets with the capacity to wage offensive campaigns on a vast scale which led to the loss of the whole of eastern Europe to Stalin. That loss of eastern Europe was entirely the work of the United States.

    It was another example of the amazing capacity of the U.S. for pursuing insane and illogical foreign policy. But of course if you accept the notion that by the 1940s there were more convinced communists in the U.S. State Department than in the Kremlin it does make a sort of sense.

    Pretty much all of Europe's disasters since WW1 can be laid at the door of the United States.

  2. The impasse in parliament over Brexit is hilarious — if you have a mordant sense of humour or are a foreigner. Not a single option can command a parliamentary majority. But this is largely because the divisions between our parties no longer match the divisions that exist in society.

    An enormous proportion of the country is in effect disenfranchised. These are the people who live outside London and dislike identity politics, political correctness and untrammelled immigration, who support Brexit and feel rooted in their community and nation, and are proud of both. But they are also poorly paid and resent the growing divide between north and south and between rich and poor. Who can they vote for? If you’re an affluent, secular, metropolitan liberal, you have three main parties anxious for your vote, which in a way is just as bad.

    It is the same in the US — hence Trump — and continental Europe: those furious gilets jaunes setting fire to stuff in Paris and now Brussels and Amsterdam, or people voting for the Alternative for Germany out of desperation. The left despises populism but it is just a name for the politics of the indigenous working class — people they long ago gave up on and refer to as the deplorables. We need a realignment in politics that reflects this change.

    december 16 2018, 12:01am, the sunday times

    1. An enormous proportion of the country is in effect disenfranchised.

      Wasn't that the whole idea of the British political system right back to the "democratic" reforms of the 19th century? To give the illusion of democracy whilst keeping power in the hands of the elites?

      The nature of your elites has changed somewhat but they're still the elites and they have no intention of sharing power with those awful ordinary people.

      Parliamentary democracy is just a variation on the old three-card monte con. And the marks keep falling for it.