This Scuppered Isle…

…this plot, this ream, this ignorance. Apologies to the Bard, but these times in which we live are, to quote the Chinese curse, “interesting”. For, thanks to the identity crisis among our English cousins caused by Westminster’s fixation with centralisation and inability to distinguish between England and Britain, the fifth-largest economy in the world is about to commit economic hari-kari. Regular readers will know this blog was always skeptical about the prospects for Brexit. But recent developments indicate the future may be scarier than even our earlier pessimism. Three recent developments point to this:

  1. Tory backwoodsmen are restless. Reinforced by Davies and BoJo, the Rees-Mogg natives scent blood and are gathering strength.
  2. Barnier, Junkers & others in the EU are suddenly sounding conciliatory, which can be taken to mean they see a hard Brexit as likely and they the damage to EU economies.
  3. May is off in Africa, showing a shapely ankle above kitten heels, as if trade with that continent could compensate for loss with Europe. Exports to South Africa and Nigeria make up half the £14bn we export there. Even doubling this 2% of UK exports is trivial, compared to 43% or £274 billion (out of £616 billion total exports) to the EU.

Given we have until the end of October to come up with a deal when we have not been able to scrape together any consensus in Britain over the last two years, the runes look bad. Look for the following milestones on the slippery slope to economic limbo:

  • September: look for more trade puffery like May;s brief African safari as various cabinet members add to their frequent flier miles.
  • October: To increasingly strident interventions from the backwoodsmen, Dominic Raab gets increasingly frenetic in negotiations with EU.
  • November: Negotiations continue past deadline with May becoming involved and a ‘ Modified Chequers’ agreement is reached and announced with much fanfare.
  • December: Rumbling of revolt from Tory back benches threatens vote to block Government adopting the agreement without parliamentary approval. DUP support this as Ireland border issue not resolved. This causes May to send out feelers to other parties to support the agreement reached, else there is no deal at all.
  • January: SNP and Lib-Dems announce support for May and opposition to any attempt to derail the modified Chequers agreement. Such bedfellows causes more Tory MPs to rebel and means Corbyn fails to marshal his troops into a coherent position, for the same reason.  Some senior Labour MP;s follow Frank Field in resigning the Labout whip.
  • February: After weeks of debate, speculation and fake news, a Commons vote on an early day motion by Bill Cash, veteran Eurosceptic Tory MP for Stone, blocks the Government’s intention to sign the agreement by 3a 10 to 301 vote. Most EU countries have by now indicated they will accept the agreement but Italy, Austria and Hungary are holdouts.
  • March: Desperate negotiations by May’s government fails to make converts to reverse the decision taken by Bill Cash’s motion. The EU holdouts are persuaded to agree to accept the modified Chequers agreement but the month ends in stalemate ad Britain leaves the EU under article 50 to operate entirely under World Trade Organisation rules.
  • April (not necessarily 1st, but it might as well be): Theresa May resigns the premiership. As the arch-Brexiteer who wished for this, BoJo becomes party leader and, in a whirlwind campaign based on personality and popular sound-bites reminiscent of the Trump campaign of 2016, wins a May election amd so lands the job of prime minister with a majority of 56 against a fragmented Labour opposition.

Far-fetched? Possibly. Excessively negative? Hopefully. But if anyone can honestly tell me that 2 1/2 years ago they foresaw any of the countdown to catastrophe we have been experiencing since, then I would love to hear their version of what will transpire over the next eight months.

Either way, would the last one to leave please turn out the lights?

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Symbol of Empire

Today, 22nd August, marks the centenary of the launch of “The Mighty Hood” from John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank. In an era of massive Royal Navy battleships, most of which had been born on the Clyde, this one was a whopper—a source of immense pride to the Bankies who built her and the nation at large. H.M.S. Hood was the modern peak of refinement in battleship. design promoted by Admiral ‘Jacky” Fisher during his seminal stint as First Lord of the Admiralty; a battlecruiser. Though carrying eight of the same massive 15-inch guns arming the latest Queen Elizabeth class, she could move them, her 1,715 crew and all 48,000 tins at destroyer speed of 32 knots or half again as fast as her WW1 battleship sisters. The idea was she could out-gun anything that could catch her and elude anything big enough to sink her.

Completed too late to fire a shot in anger in WW1, she proved to be the perfect PR tool for the interwar British Empire. While an almost bankrupt Britain scrapped most of the Home Fleet, demobbed the Army and  embraced the popular notion that the Great War had indeed been “The War to End All Wars”, the notion of Empire and Britain’s pivotal role at the economic heart of it was reinforced bu new developments like radio and long-range flying boats that bound new colonies like Tanganyka, while making the older ones seem closer together.

A crucial part of this was the World Cruise. Usually undertaken by a senior member of the Royal Family, on several occasions, the Admiralty contributed one of its capital ships on such ‘showing the flag’ missions. Hood was by far the most effective and impressive. Her sheer bulk and 856 ft (263m) length simply dwarfed anything in colonial ports. She was the largest ship to pass through the Panama canal at the time, barely scraping through with a foot to spare on either beam.She and the massive base built at Singapore between the wars became the twin symbols of the modern and enduring British Empire, about which just about all the British from char lady to Churchill were proud.

But both shibboleths were cons, whose weaknesses few people knew and those in power never admitted. This modern Tory claptrap about “Britain punching above her weight” is an old chestnut that dates from this era. When war did come again in 1939, the imperial bluff would be called. Britain was (with the honourable exception of RAF Fighter Command) woefully under-prepared. The inadequacy of the Army’s training and equipment was shown in May 1940, prior Dunkirk. But it was not until in 1941, two events six months apart demonstrated the hollowness of the two pillars of awe upon which Britain’s imperial power rested. Space does not permit  relating how two Japanese divisions bamboozled Percival’s 50% larger force at Singapore and dealt the British their worst defeat. Ever.

But six months earlier, the Royal Navy had a comeuppance almost as bad. Early in the war, the German Kriegsmarine fought a clever war, stretching the RN’s resources thin to cover shipping lanes sprawling round the globe. As a result, when their newest battleship Bismarck sortied in May 1941, there were only two capital ships at Scapa that might intercept it before it got lost in the boundless storm-tossed Atlantic. Hood, along with Britain’s newest H.M.S Prince of Wales (ten 14-inch guns) sailed and intercepted at dawn in the Denmark Strait. Bismarck also carried eight 15-inch guns and was better built and armoured. Everybody seemed pleased at this, convinced it would turn out well—this was, after all Britain’s newest AND Britain;s best, “The Mighty Hood”.

A year before, Hood had been “modernised’. This was a four-month stint in dockyard when all the 6-inch secondary battery, submerged torpedo tubes and old-fashioned AA guns were removed. Experimental UP projectors replaced them. Much equipment like pumps, radio, radar and generators  were replaced. all this lightened the ship bu over 1,000 tons and the plan had been to upgrade deck armour from 2-3 inches to 7 inches as protection against the then-new threat of bombs. But, such was the urgency of war, this was never done.

DenmarkStr

Denmark Strait: Bismarck enters from te top; Hood & Prince of Wales lower right

In this action, Hood, built as a battlecruiser, was deployed as a battleship.The tactics of both British ships was to work together on parallel courses, at first close the range with the enemy and then turn on the bean to open the arc of fire of the rear turrets. In the diagram, the lower dotted line is the rough path followed by shells when fire was opened at 05:53 at a range of over 10 miles. At that point, Bismarck is about 30 degrees off Hood‘s starboard bow so only her two forward turrets  (‘A’ and ‘B’) are firing. That also means that, because of the 10 nile range a d the steep trajectory to cross it,  almost any hit on Hood will plunge onto her deck, not her relatively strong side armour. An early shell from Bismarck does hit her boat deck amidships, near the mainmast. This starts a fire in the ready-use ammunition lockers of the new UP projectiles.

Just after the order is given to turn to port and bring the aft turrets to bear, another shell plunges near the mainmast, penetrates the deck armour and several decks before exploding. The explosion reaches the magazine of ‘X’ turret, still full of 15-inch shells and cordite charges. These explode with such force that the 120-ton X turret is blown 100 feet into the air, the ship’s back breaks. Driven by four still-churning propellers, that after quarter of the ship drives into the remaining part, whose bow tilts up with the impact and all is concealed by a boiling cloud of smoke, steam, sea water and debris.

When it settles, H.M.S. Hood is gone, along with 1,713 sailors who never know what hit them and much of the Royal Navy’s mythical omnipotence at sea. As a symbol of Britain’s fall from power, it was bettered only by an ignominious fall of Singapore by early 1942. As a military blunder, it does not rate with the stupidity of the Charge of the Light Brigade or crass overconfidence of Isandlwana. It was a calculated risk to use the wrong tool for the job. But the admirals making the decisions (Pound, Holland) should have known better. A quarter century before,  Beatty had made the same mistake at Jutland. He lost two of his six-strong squadron to magazine explosions by charging into accurate German gunfire. He was lucky not to lose a third.

The Bankies were rightly proud to have built such a magnificent ship. But the British Empire Hood and they served so well often did not merit such quality of material and people at their disposal. Lions were led by donkeys at sea, as well as on land.

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Moose Turd Pie

In my early years, I suffered the same pheromone-driven need to chest-butt my buddies. Part of this was to tell each other salacious jokes. One of those was about a logging camp isolated deep in the Canadian forest. Their cook gets invalided out, which forces the lumberjacks to take turns staying in camp to cook for themselves. None of them are any good at the job, but a convention is soon agreed that, whoever complain gets the job. One guy is stuck for weeks, despite cooking worse and worse meals. But nobody complains. In desperation, he goes into the woods, collects a pile of moose turds and bakes them into pies. The lumberjacks return, dig into their steaming pies and the first one to take a bite stops in mid-chew. “Damn me!” he exclaims “but this tastes just like moose turd pie!” Then a pause. “It’s good though!”

This decades-old chestnut came back to me while watching PMQ repeats on BBC Parliament. Each week, Corbyn re-hashes the same high socialist outrage. Why does he do this? Why would anyone with intelligence and decades of experience blunder into the same political cul-de-sac week after week?

And then it struck me: despite palpable government weakness, if Corbyn brought down Theresa May, he would find himself hobbling in her kitten heels. He would be assaulted by a plummeting pound, a hostile Europe, a deranged America, a Chinese juggernaut, all wrapped around a rock-hard deal-less Brexit knuckleduster, leaving exports floundering and the economy sputtering. In short, he would have made himself the cook. So, his weekly lumberjack with a mouthful of moose turd pie performance, may show a subtlety that none have heretofore expected. Despite appearances of outrge, he is not, in fact, complaining; he is praising, .

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To End All Wars

This week we had another series of news items reminding us of te centenary of yet another WW1 battle—this time the Amiens offensive when the Allies finally had success in breaching German lines on the Western Front and rolling them back an appreciable distance. While I would be first to acknowledge the courage, hardship and sacrifice involved, the manner of reporting made me uneasy. For a start, it was superficial: no mention of numbers involved or casualties,  of devastating artillery barrages, of overwhelming tanks and aircraft deployed, of depleted armies, of fraying national morale. “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it” is a mantra to live by, but there was precious little by way of lessons in the news reports.

Within four months, we will be celebrating the centenary of the Armistice, at which the British Empire grew to its greatest extent ever. Except it wasn’t the end of the war. The revolution rolled on in Russia and Britain sent troops to help the Whites; the Turks fought a bloody war with the Greeks around the Aegean; the victorious Russian Reds lost a war to the Poles; defeated Germany was made so poor by reparations that chaos and the weak Weimar Republic set the stage for Hitler and World War, Part II.

Thankfully, we have managed to avoid WWlll (so far) because most agree it would be the end of civilization, of not life on this planet. But if news coverage of WWl centenaries are anything to go by, we have not learned much.

From ancient times through the Middle Ages, warfare was commonplace. Each group/tribe/city state would develop bny forcing its will om (and plundering the goods of) its neighbours. There was no law but that enforced at spear-point. That changed with the development of the nation state. China, the Moghuls, Incas and Zulus all made stabs at this but Europe developed this furthest by the 18th century. Political stability and economic growth within each state led to competition and oftrn large-scale, sustained warfare between nations for global supremacy. The global Franco-British colonial wars of the 18th century, the Napoleonic Wars can be seen as precursors of WWl & ll.

But, just as the writ of law being extended throughout a country ended internecine strife and forged nation states, so the writ of international law (and the threat of nuclear Armageddon) has forged a global community of some 200 nation states, living in comparative peace with each other.

The question is, how illusory is this? In theory, disputes are taken to the United Nations for resolution. But the truth is that its writ is weak and little respected. Those with clout (Russia in Ossetia, Crimea, Ukraine, Syria; USA in Vietnam, Panama, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan; China in Tibet, Paracels) regularly ignore the UN when it suits. And while nation states continue to coalesce (exceptions like Sudan notwithstanding) an the same be said for out global family of nations?

What brought nation states together was a common culture, identity, language, leadership and—dare to say it—a common threat, usually another nation seen as a threat. Germans feared the Russians; Russians feared the Mongols; Danes feared the Swedes; English feared the French; Scots feared the English; Poles feared everyone.

So will it take a Wellsian invasion of tripos aliens wielding death rays to make us all get along? Because the runes are not good. Most citizens have poor insight into  neighbouring countries, let alone those with a different alphabet on the other side of the globe. Brush-fire conflicts break out erratically (Saudi Arabia invades Yemen; India eyeballs Pakistan; Venezuela eyeballs Colombia; ISIS shifts from Iraq to the Sahel). Western democracies are plagued by having to play to inward-looking electorates. REak nuschief-makers like Putin have a much freer hand.

Perhaps the best catalyst for global harmony in the 21st century the way nation-states fostered national harmony in the 18th and 19th, is some form of disaster that affects everyone and that everyone will have to combat jointly to solve. The best candidate for that is global warming. Sea levels are rising and only rare countries like Nepal and Liechtenstein can shrug ‘so what?’ Iy may take losing the Seychelles, Bangladesh and half of the Netherlands before everyone takes it seriously.

But, bad though it may become before we reverse it, it’s better than WWlll.

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Third World Gateway

For my sins, I use Edinburgh Airport  (EDI) often. It rates well above root canal treatment on my list of painful experiences. What is particularly galling is that millions in investment have only made the place worse since a blog here on December 17th 2016 called “Fleein‘” discussed designs of various airports and awarded EDI “nulle points”.

Now serving 14m m passengers, it was already cramped and poorly laid out when present owners Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) bought it from BAA eight years ago, “investment” seems to have meant “pour money into boosting retail and parking income; infrastructure and long-term planning can wait.

The contrast could not have been starker when I flew to a real airport last month Easyjet flies EDI-MUC (Munich) daily (and are habitually late). The outward leg contrasted EDI as a crowded retail mall with a runway attached with the expansive, modern ease of MUC. Munich is twinned with Edinburgh; you’d think they would pick up some ideas. But airside departures at EDI is crammed with retail outlets and waiting passengers but almost devoid of signage for either departures or gates.

EDImap2

Layout of Edinburgh Airport.

The map above is inaccurate. Actually, Gate 1 is five date (1A-1E), none of which have jetways, nor do all gates beyond 12, all of which involve an extra 250m walk down a long, blank tunnel through a construction area.

Arrival at MUC is a pleasing contrast. Up the modern jetway within 4 ,imutes of reaching the stance, you wait 30 seconds at passport control before following signs though spacious halls for “S-Bahn”, buy your EUR11 ticket. Withinn 15 minutes, you are sitting in a train and in 30 more you’re in the city centre.

MUCmap

Layout of Munich Airport

Note the modular design of Munich, with parallel runways and jetways at every gate for ease of boarding and deplaning. It is an integral, logical design that owes nothing to Heath Robinson and everything to German efficiency.

But if the flight out provides contrast between the slick operation at Munich and the cheapskate kludge that is Edinburgh, the return is much more stark. Leaving Munich is as  swift and well signed as the arrival. But last month, Edinburgh was a nightmare.

They recently switched international arrivals from the cramped space at the West end to a new grey barn at the East end. In so doing, they had damaged all six of the recently introduced passport scanning gates. As a result the half-dozen Border Force posts are overwhelmed. Fifteen minutes of waiting on the plane for a bus to arrive turned into another 20 standing in the bus waiting to get into the new barn, followed by a half-hour of snaking the length of the overcrowded barn six times before having your passport checked.

We had landed a half-hour late but that had become 1 1/2 hours by the time we picked up our bags. And, as if to add insult to injury, that pushed the time well past 11:30pm so that we had to pay night bus fares to get into the city.

Don’t just compare Edinburgh to Munich. Take any reasonably comparable city—Dublin or Lisbon or Barcelona. They all offer modern, spacious, efficient gateways to their country that are both businesslike and welcoming. Edinburgh is neither, being operated primarily as a GIP cash cow on an infrastructure shoestring worthy of some fly-blown dictatorship. This is not Kampala, nor Ulan Bator. While being touted as “Where Scotland meets the World“, a more accurate slogan for Edinburgh would be “Where visitors to Scotland meet the Third World.”

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Balls Bounces Back

You have to grant Ed Balls creditl he’s a man who lives up to his name . Who else has bounced back from setbacks to re-invemt himself so often? From Mr Yvette Cooper to Gordon Brown Treasury wonk, to Leeds MP, to Strictly contestant, he has repeatedly relaunched a career as needs required with a resilience that deserves credit. Last Sunday, he sprang back into public prominence with a new series on BBC2: Travels in Trumpland.

His brand of smooth-talking Blairism finds few friends these days among the wilder-eyed Corbynistas that is the politburo of the People’s Front of Islington, so an enforced sabbatical from front-line politics seems a sensible call. To explore the hinterland that is Red State America is both timely and shrewd.

Timely because just about every media source in the UK had fallen into an indignant line behind The NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, etc in deriding the Presidency of The Donald as somewhere between ridiculous and disastrous, possibly both. Yet, while the Democrats foam impotently, nobody is proposing any credible antidote to Trump”s leadership. And, yes, leadership it is. Just because the Washington establishment, Beltway bandits, feminists, minority leaders, unions and sophisticates are mainlining valium to head off conniption fits does not mean Trump is unpopular with the people—just the nomenklarura. Europe needs to start listening to a wider America, and not just the usual suspects.

Ed Balls is shrewd because he dives right in to a bottomless Trump heartland of whose existence even half of America is barely aware. Steering well clear of politicians and suits, Ed went straight to the folks who see themselves as down-home custodians of what ‘Murca’ is all about. From truck drivers to lumberjacks to a Korean vet shooting beer cans off his front stoop, these are the people you find at rodeos, county fairs and gun shows. They keep Rottweilers behind chain-link fences in aluminum-siding bungalows in small towns you’ve never heard of: Wickiup AZ; Townsend MT; Arklow PA; Fredricksburg TX. Few are well off. But all believe in the American Dream—and that it could work for them.

So whether at the Rednecks with Paychecks festival in Texas or Jim Slaughter’s Wrestling Gym in Alabama, Ed gets cosy with the 50% of Americans, about whom we know little. This is because they don’t have passports—and wouldn’t visit us if they did. They don’t watch PBS and don’t feature in middle-class films/TV churned out by Hollywood. Many used to vote Democrat but Trump captured them in droves by telling them what they want to hear and not worrying about actual delivery. Ed’s program is no standard documentary but a selective set of chest-butting bouts with this under-reported, salt-of-the-earth society.

BallsBruiser

Ed Balls Gets in Character as ‘The British Bruiser” in Mumford, AL

And, to his credit, he doesn’t pussyfoot around; he questions how they can believe in Trump when he is often whimsical and contradictory. The answer seems to be that Trump has tapped this huge swathe of people with Disney-esque blind faith in America’s culture and intrinsic superiority—provided people have “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (US Declaration of Independence). It is similar to disaffected British industrial workers who voted for Brexit, but on a more massive scale. always suspicious of slick politicians in suits, they love Trump’s way of cocking a snook at the establishment, even though he wears the most expensive suits of all.

Ed deserves credit for exposing this powerful feeling gripping half of America that we (and most Democrats) struggle to understand. Such was the conviction of all those Ed interviewed that, despite his hard questioning, the foundations of a second Trump term were plain to see.

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The Wicked Wizard of the West

I have always been proud to be Scots and, humanly flawed though they may sometimes be, love them as my brothers and sisters. But seldom have I felt more pride in or love for them than when I caught this video from TBS “The Trump Haters“,  presented by Samantha Bee.

Trust my feisty, irreverent countrymen to lead me to enlightenment as to how to deal with an ego as gargantuan and Kevlar-coated as The Donald’s. While insults, irony and even ridicule are clear;y lost on him. But what will shrivel his bluster as sure as water did the Wicked Witch of the West is mockery; not taking him seriously; treating him as the blawbag he is to his face. As usual in times of crisis, the Scots have shown the way.

 

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The Real Joe Sixpack

Much has been written about the surprising—and even popular—nature of Trump’s presidential victory in 2016. Media consensus (and there has been a strong trend to uniformity in reporting) has been that white male lower-middle-class workers who once earned $25/hr at the local auto plant rebelled against twenty years of erosion in their standard of living as more and more manufacturing  jobs went offshore or to maquilladores in Mexico. While this us substantially true, a more sophisticated analysis appeared in yesterday’s New York Times. in a piece by Sarah Smarsh. For readers on the 90% of the planet who do not have NYT on your local news stand and don’t have a subscription to their website, I will try to paraphrase without infringing copyright and receiving a less-then-social visit from their stony-faced lawyers.

Smarsh rightly condemns the media for over-simplistic analysis of Trump support, arguing that he won among college-educated whites and women too. Rightly, she takes this further to condemn Democrats for their similarly simplistic analysis, which overlooks the erosion in their own support in those other areas.

It allows college-educated white liberals to signal superior virtue while denying the sins of their own place and class. And it conceals well-informed, formally educated white conservatives — from middle-class suburbia to the highest ranks of influence — who voted for Donald Trump in legions.

Such mis-identification is of particular importance over the next few moths in the run-up to mid-term election in November. The Democrats appear to be banking on a reaction to Trump and hi bull-in-a-china-shop tactics to sweep them back into power in both the House and the Senate, as if it were their inevitable birthright. But Ms Smarsh acknowledges the broader appeal beyond a unemployed guy with a tool belt. She also argues that this focus on the 90m whites who have no college degree plays into the hands of white supremacists and this leads to ugly scenes, such as South Carolina earlier this year. She claims several factors create a biased situation:

  • Barriers to voting
  • Different information sources
  • Populism on the left.
  • Pat narratives about  the working class

Ah hae ma doots. But the article does provide a timely wake-up call to Democrat campaign planners that this next election will not just fall into their lap, as many Republicans fear. And, while Republicans are well funded and deploy fearsome TV ads, their ground organisation is woeful; doorsteps and town halls are their weakness.

Ms Smarsh is right to see what is being labelled  “Trump Country”— the two dozen  overflight states like her own Kansas that are regularly painted solid red but voted up to 48% Democrat.

But, while she rightly identifies a much broader, overwhelmingly white audience for Democrats to convert, what is missing here—as from so many heartfelt, humane pleas for more outward-looking, equitable policies—is how to appeal to disaffected white voters, whether male or female, worker or manager that offers the hope and ambition that is a cornerstone of American culture. However erratic and insubstantial Trump may be, he speaks that language. Hilary did not.

Somebody needs to. Soon.

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The Emperor of DIT Has no Clothes

Dr Liam Fox has been Minister for International Trade ever since Theresa May bought his loyalty with the job two years ago. Just this weekend, he was tweeting proudly what a good job he and his 3,000 (!) staff have done. The substance was that we have record exports on his watch. Except,  the government’s own trade statistics disagree: trade ahs been flat for two years.

Each month, Britain exports around £31bn—rather overshadowed by £42bn in imports, giving a trade imbalance of £11bn, or some 36% of exports. Together with servicing debt of over £1.5tn, (118% of government revenue) such imbalance acts as a drag on the economy and on the value of the £. This drag has been slowing the economy for some time, Yet Dr Fox keeps quiet about it. Let’s look at how the (neutral) OECD evaluates Britain’s economic performance against its peers. Britain’s per capita GDP is $43,250 per annum. Not bad, but what about others? Germany’s is $50,649; Scotland-sized Denmark‘s is $51,496; Ireland‘s is $75,827 (Tory disparaging of Ireland has been notably absent of late.) Not much for Dr Fox to crow about there.

Maybe this is a vision of the future: what about OECD projected growth rates? Britain’s is 1.3%—hmm, better than we had been doing. For comparison: Germany: 2.1%; Denmark: 1.9%; Ireland: 2.9%—all significantly better. (Even for government debt: Germany 79%, Denmark 82%; Ireland 52% vs Britain 118%))The same is true for unemployment, social disparity, in fact by any measure that you might want to evaluate success or prosperity or even happiness of European countries.

It should come as no surprise to those who have witnessed the Brexiteers behaviour over the last two years that hard, objective, statistics that might disturb the eyes-wide-shut mantra they have been peddling gets short shrift. Evidently we have things to learn fro  our neighbours. Cutting ourselves off from them makes no sense.

But that toom tabards like Liam Fox think they can blow soapy bubbles and call them statistics shows just how deep in soapy bubble their political careers are in as the whole foundation-less edifice of their “Brexit Bonus” wobbles about their ears.

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West of Eden

Sitting in the shade with a hundred other Bavarians and visitors outside the Nurnburger Bratwurstglockl in the heart of Munich, enjoying helles bier in 30 deg heat, a pile of bratwurst and street entertainment in equal measure, it is hard not to see the world as idyllic and lfe rich and fulfilling. Any untraveled Brits who think of Germans as cold and humourless have never met any Bavarians. The entire Altsdadt (city centre) is an exercise in how to make a largely intact medieval street warren into a sprawling human-friendly popular venue. A personal tragedy for me is that my home city of Edinburgh, although twinned with Munich for the last 50 years, seems to have learned nothing in this regard. Coming here, it took the X100 Airport “Express” bus 15 minutes to clear Waverley Bridge.

In my half-dozen conversations with locals so far, nobody seems to know or care who Boris Johnson or even who Theresa May is. But they do know about Brexit.  Amd there is a common theme—somewhere between disappointment and anger. The disappointment comes from the Germans feeling that, apart from the French (when it suits them), the only allies they have in the EU against the profligacy of the PIGS are sensible northerners like Holland and Sweden—and until recently, Britain.Rather than us taking our train set home in the huff, they would rather we had joined with them to pick up dissolute southerners and Brussels bureaucrats by the lapels and made the made the EU better.

What this means for the long term is anyone’s guess, but the chance that even the Germans are likely to allow the pick ‘n’ mix of May’s White Paper to get very far (assuming the Jacob Rees-Muggers don’t already assure it is still-born at Westminster) is slim to the point of vanishing to zero.

Which effectively means a hard Brexit with no deal. This may be raw meat to May’s boisterous back benches, nobody here in Germany seems happy with such an outcome. They are fully aware that AIrBus Siemens and a boatloads of car/components manufacturers will lose money, business and momentum. But the Germans are sticklers for doing things right. They will deal with ‘no deal’ with the same calm efficiency that made them world-class manufacturers and rebuilt shattered cities to a standard we can only envy.

And take no comfort from the Brexiteers bluster that “The EU sells more to the UK than we sell to them”. Look at it in proportion to the 60m Brit, compared to five times that number in the EU and you realise they have the clout to find other markets easier than the UK will.

So I am here, enjoying my beer and wurst while I can still afford them, Once the Little Emglander tail has finished wagging the Conservative dog, they will eventually be proved right about an influx of foreigners, But these will be affluent EU citizens with Euros to burn in the low-budget third-world island just 30 km offshore.

 

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