Chequers, Brexit, and The Mess

When we voted to leave the EU, my preferred choice would have been to leave at midnight that same day. Just leave. Pull all the people out of Brussels and Strasbourg, turn our back on all the rules and regulations, and politely inform the EU that if they expected us to pay any penalties, that had better engage the services of some very tough bailiffs. We could have spent the next six months unravelling all the red tape, sorting out who could stay and go, and what would happen to the ex-pats in Europe. Bring in some ‘soft’ checkpoints in Northern Ireland, tighten up customs controls at Dover, impose a bundle of random tariffs, and allow any outstanding contracts to run their course.

Why did I think that, and why would I want such a drastic step?
Because I knew full well what would happen.

Negotiations. Backlash from Remain voters. Waffle from the weakest Conservative government in living memory. Court action to try to overturn the democratic decision of the people. Staying in, in all but name, just a watered-down version of what we had before, with less influence than the little we already had. We might as well have sent the French and Germans a note, saying something like this.

Since 2016, the so-called negotiations have proved to be the most one-sided in the history of that word. They consist of us asking for something, and the EU replying “NON!” Even the man tasked with fighting our corner, David Davis, resigned from his job when he realised he had to do it with his hands and feet tied together, and tape over his mouth.

Once the various actions designed to keep us in and overturn the vote had failed, tactics changed. We were then told the horrors awaiting the dreaded ‘No Deal Brexit’. Big business threw in the heavy guns, threatening to leave these shores if the unthinkable no deal was on the horizon. Most recently, the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign has been agitating for a vote on the outcome of the non-existent negotiations, expecting a resounding decision to Remain, after that second ballot. I wonder what they would do if we voted Leave again? Go for a third try? Then the much lauded Chequers agreement was presented by Theresa May, a leader hanging on by a thread.

The EU laughed in her face, with a resounding “NON”.

Much fear is spreading (apparently) over the prospect of a ‘No Deal’ deal. It is second only to the end of life as we know it, according to the harbingers of doom. They are obviously not old enough to remember a time before 1975, when we were not in the EU. I am, and I can tell you, it wasn’t that bad.

But trendies in Chiswick and Islington are fainting at the thought of life without being able to grate their own Parmesan, or having to pay too much for Prosciutto. They want to be able to enjoy weekends in achingly trendy European locations without bothering too much about passport control. And if all the foreigners get fed up and go home, who is going to be driving the Uber cabs? All good reasons for voting Remain, I am sure you can see that.

So, back to the beginning. I knew this would happen. We are unlikely to get any ‘deal’ worth its name, and will probably just leave with nothing, in six months time.
We might just as well have done that in 2016, and saved over two years of grief and expense.


Sport: What happened to sportsmanship?

Corruption in sport is nothing new. Boxing has often been fixed since the early days, giving us the familiar expression ‘taking a dive’. Horses and dogs were doped to slow them down, or to make them go faster. Team members and individuals took bribes to lose games or matches, and bookmakers could win or lose fortunes on the outcome of a race. Money was always involved, but never on the huge scale it represents today. Winning is all, whatever the cost. It doesn’t matter if it is an amateur contest, or the prestige of playing for a national team, fame, success, medals, or money seem to be all that matter.

Recent high-profile cases have included swimmers who took performance enhancing drugs, cyclists who did the same, as well as runners and athletes tied up in doping scandals. Now we have cricketers who have admitted to match-fixing, tampering with balls on the pitch, or deliberately playing badly for payment to do so. Football (soccer) stars who have feigned injury in the hope that their team will lose, and they will make money from payoffs or gambling, and Formula One cars with unauthorised modifications that have helped them win races.

Even in the world of Tennis, unfair play in the form of ‘gamesmanship’ has become the norm, with delayed serves, arguing with the officials’ decisions, and anything else possible to unsettle an opponent.

Second best is no longer good enough, unless it comes with a substantial paycheck to compensate for it. And what about behaviour? Cricket and rugby stars in this country attacking people in the street, or assaulting a police officer whilst drunk. Should they be trying to set a better example? I think so. Should they be banned from their sport because of that behaviour? I think they should

The spirit of sport is withering on the vine as we watch, and the corruption that began in the bad old days of Soviet-bloc hormone treatments has been exceeded by such widespread abuses, we can no longer be sure of the validity of any sport we might watch, or follow.

2018: A very messy year

Still more than four months to go, but this has to be one of the messiest years I can remember. Nothing seems to be working, anywhere. Nothing seems to be getting solved, anywhere. And nobody appears to be even trying that hard, anywhere. Perhaps the heatwave here has numbed my brain, but after my year of being positive during 2017, I am struggling to find anything remotely positive about 2018.

America is in a mess, divided in ways I have never seen before in my lifetime, and arguably not since 1861. The US president is loved and despised in equal measure, and lines have been drawn in the sand that nobody is prepared to cross. He famously once remarked that he could shoot someone dead in the street, and not lose a single vote. I think he was right.

Britain is in a mess too. The government hangs on by a thread, supported by one the nastiest parties in British politics, The Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland. Brexit has been sucked into a quicksand of deals, none of which look like working. Nobody seems to want it any more (except me perhaps) in its likely form, and some Conservatives have seen it as an opportunity to oust the current leadership, and satisfy their chums in big business. We are stumbling into a bad-deal Brexit that leaves us neither in nor really out. Some people will benefit of course. They always do.

Syria is in a mess. Assad still can’t win, it seems. People are still dying, on both sides, and the western (and Russian) vultures are still circling above, looking to see what scraps they can gain from the carnage. Iraq is still in a mess. Despite supposedly democratic elections, the losers didn’t like the outcome, and won’t accept it. And nobody is completely sure that ISIS has actually been defeated there.

Israel and Palestine are still in a mess too. That’s a pretty long mess, that has carried on since the formation of that country, in 1948. And unlikely to change any time soon, as long as the US and other nations refuse to condemn Israel for its excesses.

There are some seemingly overlooked and forgotten messes too. The Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar, the cruel war against ‘rebels’ in Yemen, with the Saudi-led coalition killing civilians every day. Boko Haram operating in Nigeria, corruption and exploitation all over the African continent, and the never-ending stream of economic migrants still arriving in Europe.

And let’s not forget Europe. The Far Right on the move in countries like Hungary, Italy, and Austria. Greece still bankrupt, Sweden and Norway supposedly overwhelmed by migrants and refugees they took in in good faith, and the German leader facing the backlash of her open door immigration policies.

I haven’t forgotten South America and Asia, but then the post would get far too long.

I don’t know about you, but I see no way out of this 2018 mess, and fully expect it to carry on into 2019.

President Trump in Europe

As I have previously mentioned, I hold no brief for any American president, and have not liked a single one I have seen during my lifetime. Kennedy was an unfaithful womaniser, and a liar. Johnson was also a liar, and Nixon topped them both by taking blatant lying to a new level. Ford was unimpressive, Reagan seemed mad, (and lied) both of the Bush family are best forgotten, and Bill Clinton was a womaniser and a liar. (That again) Obama knew how to play the game, but kept few promises, and didn’t achieve much for people of colour, the poor, or women, all of which was expected from him.

So, that covers my life from the age of 9, until the year 2016. But one thing about all those former presidents is worth mentioning. They all knew how to behave in public. They understood the ‘game’, and how to play it on the international stage. Some may have been caught out with their sexual indiscretions, or behind the scenes deals and interference in other countries. But they spoke well, and (most of the time) appeared to be dignified, and statesman-like. They represented their country as we had come to expect them to, with concern for their allies, and suitable expression of the power behind their office, at least on the surface.

The along comes Donald Trump. He throws away the rule book. He has no class or style, treating his job as if he is the CEO of The World. He is a womaniser, and he lies, so no change there, but he doesn’t really hide either fact, preferring to boast about his conquests and bad behaviour like men drinking in a bar. He doesn’t know how to speak in public, let alone how to behave. By appealing to the lowest common denominator, he attracts a lot of support in his own country, whilst alienating almost every other country on Earth. Using his daughter as The First Lady is just too creepy for words. She always looks under control, never happy to be doing what she is doing. He goes to NATO and talks to other leaders as if they work for him, and are not being productive enough. Then he comes to Britain and upsets just about everyone you can think of, even those who want to be his friend.

In 2016, I thought he might learn. He was inexperienced as a politician, but obviously no fool, nor the buffoon he was painted in the press. He made clever use of social media, and could have used his business skills to learn from those around him, perhaps really making ‘America Great Again’. But he got rid of everyone who knew what they were doing, and replaced them with a succession of yes men and women who follow his lead. I have rarely seen such displays of arrogance from the leader of a powerful western nation, at least not since newsreels of Mussolini, or the overwhelming self-confidence and condescension displayed by Margaret Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister in the UK. He lives in a world he reinvents day by day, in his own head.

A note to America. You really should try to stop him leaving your country on these visits.

The Brexit Betrayal

Ever since this country voted to leave the EU in 2016, the issue has consumed the news media, as well as being a source of heated debate among the population, with the great division caused by the vote. Even though I voted to leave, I never had much confidence in any government actually taking us out, in the spirit of the referendum. Sadly, it seems that I have been proved right.

The people who wanted to remain, so lost the vote, have waged a relentless campaign ever since. This has taken the form of court actions, public protests, outright insults against those who voted to leave, and the non-stop pressure for a second referendum, hoping to get the result they wanted in 2016. Despite her famous cry, “Brexit means Brexit” it has been obvious to anyone with half a brain that Theresa May never really intended to leave the EU, in anything but ‘name only’. The failed discussions, the intransigence of the EU negotiators, and behind the scenes deals with the German leader Merkel were all visible signs that she would return with a suggestion of a revised Brexit, that was much the same as remaining in the EU.

Foreign companies are queuing up to announce that they will pull the plug on their UK operations, if we leave without the deals offered by the French and Germans. Many of those industrial giants (including car companies, and drug companies) are run and owned by Germans. Fishing quotas are also in dispute, and many of the EU fisherman demanding access to UK waters after Brexit just happen to be French. Like anything in this world, all we have to do is to ‘follow the money’. The EU is run by Germany and France for their own ends, and everyone else either falls into line, or faces threats and financial sanctions.

Today, the minister responsible for negotiating Brexit from the start has resigned. A meeting of the government last weekend resulted in a decision to carry on with talks for a totally watered-down Brexit that would still leave this country inextricably tied to Europe. Theresa May told the German leader of that decision before announcing it to Parliament, or the British people. The referendum has therefore been proved to be meaningless. The voters who thought they had succeeded in their desire to leave the EU completely have been betrayed, and with them the whole idea of any fair and free elections in this country. If they don’t like the result, they won’t implement it, simple as that.

Before all those who see this as a ‘victory’ of sorts start to celebrate, they might want to think about what it means in the wider scheme of things. No election or referendum will ever really mean anything anymore. Democracy in Britain, such as it was, is now just a memory.

North Korea: Eating My Hat

I never thought the ‘summit’ between Mr Trump and the leader of North Korea would go ahead. I have said that before, and I am now admitting my error. Apologies to those I argued with. I had long considered this to be a ‘blind’ by the Americans, something they pretended to want to happen, but hoped never would.

I am man enough to accept that I was wrong. Some basic ‘agreements’ have been signed, and will hopefully be put into action. Let’s hope that the region will be free of the threat of nuclear war, and that the people of the DPRK can look forward to a slightly easier life. We may never know what was on the table, to get Kim Jong-Un to sign away all the things he had said he never would. But it doesn’t matter what has been given away, if it brings some peace to that troubled country, and its southern neighbour.

I don’t wear a hat, so you will just have to imagine I have eaten it.

Iran: All about one thing

The last few months (years, let’s face it) have seen a lot of antagonism focused on Iran. That country can’t seem to do anything right, in the eyes of others. Ever since the hostage crisis that ended in 1981, it has been vilified as the cause of so many problems, not only in that region, but the world over. If they couldn’t actually pin anything on the Iranians directly, they complained about the use of ‘Iranian-supplied weapons’, or ‘Iranian-backed troops’.

They didn’t mention all the Western-supplied weapons, or Western-backed troops. Oh no.

Remember the long war Iran fought against Iraq? It was from 1980-1988, to jog your memory. During that war, we all thought the Iraqis should win, and wanted the Ayatollahs in Iran to be defeated. Our governments did, anyway, and told us that was the preferred outcome. So we supported Iraq with weapons, advisers, and probably money too. Anything to see the end of Iran, or the regime that wasn’t on our side, as the former Shah had been. This despite the fact that it was conveniently forgotten that Iraq was the aggressor, as they sought to capture the rich oilfields of Khuzestan. At the end, nobody won, and over 1,000,000 troops and civilians were dead. But we don’t ever think about that, as we fill up our cars with fuel.

So once again, it was about oil. It was about oil then, and it is still about oil now.

What are those naughty Iranians up to now?

The US has withdrawn from a Nuclear deal that everyone else accepts was working, claiming Iran is not keeping its promises.
The US is now laughably blaming Iran for the 9/11 attacks, despite proof-positive that they were backed and organised by Saudi Arabia.
Iran is supplying arms to militant Palestinians in Israel.
Iran is supplying rockets that are being fired into Israel.
Iranian banks are ‘funding world terror’.
Iran has imprisoned a British woman on spurious charges.

There is more, but I cannot be bothered to list all the accusations.
Behind all of it, there is just one thing. Oil
It has always been about one thing, Ayatollahs or not. Oil
The Nuclear deal rejection is a smokescreen for? Oil.

The west wants Iran’s oil, and will stop at nothing to get it. That’s what all of this is about.
If you want to believe all the rest, then that’s up to you.