Tag Archives: originally posted on Facebook

Article 16: EU vaccine panic

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 29th January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

The 2021 news is going to be about vaccine supply.

All governments want as many of their people as possible to get vaccinated, as fast as reasonably possible. The UK got vaccine approval pushed through early, before we lost the emergency provisions available to us through the EU: the EU countries were able to move at more leisure, but without any delay.

The total population of the EU is about 450 million. In August, the EU signed a deal with AstraZeneca for 300 million doses, with an option for 100 million more – that is, enough vaccine to fully-immunise almost half of the EU population. This vaccine would be produced at the UK-Swedish multinational’s plants in the Netherlands and Belgium. Those plants have reported production delays: their CEO says production at those plants is “basically two months behind where we wanted to be” and a EU official is quoted as saying that instead of receiving 100 million doses in the next two months, the EU is now expecting only 25 million by the end of March.
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Looking at independence through Brexit

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 25th January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Twenty-five days ago Brexit happened, and a few days ago I listened to a Byline news video of a fisherman talking about his vote for Leave, his support for Leave, and his subsequent disllusionment – How he had been lied to about the grand possibilities of Brexit – How if he could turn back time, he would vote to Remain.

And I thought about Scottish Independence.
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Who’s not happy Trump is gone?

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 21st January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

In conversation with a friend on the phone the other night, I noted that even though 70 million Americans voted for Trump, this doesn’t mean he has 70 million supporters. (It’s still a dreadful number, but, even so.)

Donald Trump left the White House just after dawn yesterday for a big military send-off as he and Melanie boarded the plane for Florida (Palm Beach is likely to issue an eviction notice next month reminding the former President no one is allowed to live at his golf club – guests can stay there for a maximum of 21 days a year).

Thus the US tradition of the previous President attending the new President’s inauguration ceremony was broken. The only two Republican representatives of previous administrations to attend were Mike Pence and George W. Bush. (Barack & Michelle Obama, Bill & Hillary Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, all attended Trump’s tiny inauguration in 2016). This is the first time since 1869 a US President has refused to attend his successor’s inauguration: Andrew Johnson, who opposed giving civil rights to former slaves, stayed in the White House during Ulysses S. Grant’s inauguration ceremony (Grant was the Commanding General of the US Army 1864–1869).
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Filed under American, Human Rights, LGBT Equality, Racism, Religion, Women

Brexit has no benefits

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 20th January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Brexit has no benefits.

Two days ago, a fleet of lorries, employed in the pre-Brexit days to transport live shellfish from Scotland to buyers in the EU, travelled to London to protest the effects of Brexit on the fishing industry. Brexiters had told the fishing industry that leaving the EU would mean an end to Brussels “red tape” about catching fish, people employed in the fishing industry had believed them and voted for Brexit, – of course what it meant was, that live shellfish, needing to be transported fast in refrigerated lorries to their overseas markets, were being held up too long by the terms of the trade deal, to be worth buying.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson only just won a government vote on a Lords amendment to the Trade Bill – the amendment passed, by a majority of only 11 votes. Given the Tories have a majority of 80 MPs, how did this happen?
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Filed under Brexit, Coronavirus, EU referendum, European politics, GE2019

Scottish Labour Leaders

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 15th January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Richard LeonardRichard Leonard, the leader of Scottish Labour, resigned today: his deputy, Jackie Baillie, will take over to lead Scottish Labour to inevitable defeat in the May 2021 Holyrood elections.

To recap, for those not familar in detail with recent Scottish history: we had an independence referendum in November 2014, and No won. (I voted No, for reasons I still think were correct at the time: and I noted at the time that whenever I listened to Yes Scotland’s campaigning, it made me want to vote No: whenever I listened to Better Together, it made me want to vote Yes. I don’t think I was just being perverse: both official campaigns were using incredibly bad arguments.)
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Happy Brexit Day

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 31st December 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

At 11pm tonight, the UK leaves the transition period in which we enjoyed the benefits of still being part of the EU: we have Brexit.

The consequences of this kind of deliberate economic self-harm are impossible to fully predict, since no one has ever done this before, and in this post, I don’t intend to try.

There are so many ways and so many people who could have taken a stand and prevented this, beginning with David Cameron on the morning of 24th June 2016.

I was not one of the people who ever had the power to prevent this, and nor, most probably, were you, if you’re reading this: the maximum number I include in “so many” is the 92,153 Conservative party members who decided to vote for Boris Johnson to be our Prime Minister in 2019 and thus put a lazy lying charlatan primarily interested in being applauded, in charge of taking the UK out of the EU. Then there are the 160 Tory MPs who voted for him to be on the ballot.

And Theresa May, who was so keen to lose those pesky EU laws about fair treatment of immigrants, that she embraced Brexit on the happy assumption she’d be able to have all of the benefits of the EU and none of the legal restrictions requiring her to treat even black people decently. I still recall reading the account of the dinner summit with Juncker, after she’d triggered Article 50 but before the GE2017 election, where it had to be explained to her that she couldn’t pick and choose the bits of the EU she wanted versus the bits she didn’t like.

And the 172 Labour MPs who decided to create a schism in the Labour Party after the EU referendum (regardless of result) in order to get rid of Corbyn, and only succeeded in having a very publicly un-unified Opposition party, which they are still dealing with today.

And Corbyn himself and all of the Labour MPs who voted to let Theresa May trigger Article 50 without a plan.

And the LibDems who looked greedily at the possibility of winning formerly-Tory voters to the right-wing Remain party and refused to accept Jeremy Corbyn as the only constitutional choice for caretaker Prime Minister to stop Brexit, thus rendering the possibility of a vote of no-confidence to topple Johnson’s minority government meaningless.

And Jeremy Corbyn himself, who accepted the 50/50 result of the UK total results as a win for Leave, and did nothing to make Labour the left-wing party for Remainers, thus rendering opposition to Tory Brexit a matter for the SNP and the Greens.

And the BBC, which made a political decision to treat Brexit as a given, and a programming decision to find “balance” rather than giving viewers an accurate and informed view of the catastrophic consequences of leaving the EU.

But mostly, the Conservative MPs who over four and a half years, for the most part, voted for whatever May or Johnson threw at them to vote for, repeating loyally the lies about Brexit they were told to say, doing what they were Whipped to do by the party authorities and not worrrying out loud at all – with a small group of exceptions – if deliberate economic self-harm was really what they ought to be doing to the UK.

(Nigel Farage, while he can certainly claim to have triggered the Brexit referendum by creating a party to the right of the Tories to split the bigot vote and frighten Cameron into offering the EU referendum to win the bigot vote back to the Tories for 2015, could not have prevented Brexit once the results were counted in June 2016: his career is, I hope, on a long slow slide to nowhere now Brexit is completed.)

James O’Brien of LBC had a solid message which bears repeating to Leave voters who are still trying to celebrate their decision:

“We are now moving into the bit where ordinary people, as opposed to people in my profession who get paid for it or people in politics who get high on it, are going to be proved categorically and comprehensively wrong.

“And for your mental health you now face a really important choice. You either continue clinging on to this fury and this almost incoherent anger and it will continue to hurt you.

“[It] won’t just hurt you. It will hurt the people around you. It’s such a simple choice to just surrender it.

“Nobody is going to hold you responsible for your Brexit vote for the rest of your life. I will make sure of that in my little contribution to public discourse in this country.”

But the mostly, what I think of when I think of Brexit, and the hundreds of MPs who knew better but voted us to this end anyway, is that quite from Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer:

“The plain truth is that I knew better but went to Everest anyway. And in doing so I was a party to the death of good people, which is something that is apt to remain on my conscience for a very long time.”

Everest is possible to climb: we’ve known that for over sixty years. But Everest is dangerous to climb, and if anything goes wrong, people die. In the Death Zone, climbers cannot trust themselves to make good decisionsL Jon Krakauer got down from the summit alive partly by skill – he was a good enough climber that he was nearly the first at the top that day – partly by luck – the storm that killed so many people hit when he was on his way down – and partly because he was an experienced enough climber that he could follow the route back by rote, not by judgement, of which he had none at that point.

Jon Krakauer notes that while you can point at this and that bad decision that made Brexit worse – as we will be pointing at the bad decisions made by Cameron, May, Corbyn, Swinson, and Johnson – worst of all Johnson – over the past four and a half years – on the road to Brexit, the overridingly bad decision was to leave the EU, and nothing could ever have made that bad decision right.

I voted Remain: I know it was wrong to leave the EU: I am not going to cease from saying so for the sake of “unity”. Hundreds of MPs did this wrong to us, justifying it on the basis of a nearly 50-50 vote in an advisory referendum as the “will of the people” (ignoring the demographics and the polling that told them that Brexit never was the will of the majority and a re-run referendum would now have the opposite result). They were wrong to do so, and while Leavers may cling to and justify their bad vote and their bad decision, and be angry when the rest of us won’t accept their justifications, we know – we know – that the majority of Conservative MPs knew better, and took us here anyway.

We have left the European Union. We are a third country. Our government has pushed through a trade deal which means the EU can sell goods to us without tariffs or paperwork, but we cannot export goods to them without paperwork and if our government diverges from EU standards there will be tariffs. We can no longer sell financial services to 27 countries: we have permanently lost the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority: we are no longer the United States’ first stop in Europe, for Europe. That’s Brexit.

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God Rest You Merry

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 25th December 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

At 9:30 this morning, 27 Ambassadors (representatives from the EU countries with the rank of ambassador to the European Union) met to be briefed on the details of the EU-UK Brexit deal that will be provisionally applied from 11pm 31st December. At lunchtime, they all signed the letter to the European Parliament endorsing the decision to apply the deal provisionally until fully ratified.

Even in lockdown, this is probably not how they expected to spend the morning of Christmas Day (though Sebastian Fischer, Germany, asserted he was going to enjoy it because “nothing is more fun than to celebrate Christmas among socially distanced colleagues”).

Boris Johnson could have recalled Parliament to sit for several days to discuss the deal and vote to ratify it – there is nothing “provisional” about the UK’s agreement to it.

(Technically, it’s the Speaker who recalls Parliament, but the Speaker does so after representations from Ministers that it is in the public interest to recall Parliament during recess, and it is the government that sets the agenda and the recess/recall dates.)

Boris Johnson has recalled Parliament for Wednesday 30th December, debate to begin at 9:30 for one day only: the legislation will be called the Future Relationship Bill. There is no excuse for this – the first item on the agenda is to be a motion allowing virtual participation in debates, essential when the UK is mostly in hard lockdown, but meaning the virtual debate could begin earlier in the week, since MPs require no travel time to return to Westminster.

The Future Relationship Bill will have its readings in the Commons bracketing a committee of the whole House to scrutinise it as far as that is possible in a single day, and off to the House of Lords for a still hastier debate and vote: the legislation must receive Royal Assent before 11pm 31st December.

This has been Boris Johnson’s modus operandi all along with regard to Brexit: he illegally attempted to prorogue Parliament, he rushed through his Withdrawal Agreement in a single day’s emergency debate, he launched the Internal Market Bill so late that it did not receive Royal Assent til 17th December, the day the UK Parliament broke up for Christmas recess.

The Future Relationship Act 2020 will bind the UK to a 2000-page trade deal that the 27 national governments of the EU have yet to scrutinise – and, unlike the UK, they can take their time, find the points they don’t agree to, propose changes, and so forth. The meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee this morning was the only constitutional means by which the EU could even provisionally agree to the deal that Boris Johnson dragged out to the last minute, and – reportedly – didn’t allow the EU to announce had been agreed to til the 24th, allowing him the evening of the 23rd to call backbencher MPs and assure them that this deal was a victory for himself and the UK, it really was.

(Hilariously, he is apparently counting points – 28 key battles won against Brussels only winning 11! I wonder how he’s counting them.)

On 30th December, Boris Johnson will want his deal to pass but the European Resarch Group Tories, having met in Star Chamber to discuss what they have managed to read of the 2000 pages of the deal, will likely talk themselves into voting against it.

If they are still afraid of Boris Johnson’s power to apply consequences to disloyal MPs, they might only abstain. But I think they are fully expecting Johnson to be gone by spring, and will need the political boost to go on as Brexiter MPs saying that no deal would have better than the bad deal.

Keir Starmer has a different set of choices.

  • He can whip his Labour MPs to vote for it (and they mostly will, on the understanding that this deal is now the only deal available to the UK and therefore is better than crashing out in no deal). This enables him to take the position that he has been statesmanlike in doing what is best for the country – but enables the Tories to jeer at him, every time he questions the negative effects of the deal or of Brexit, that he voted for it.
  • He can whip his Labour MPs to vote against the deal, and this – if Brexiter Tories and the 47 SNP (and NI MPs and LibDems) also vote against it – might be enough to ensure it doesn’t pass and Boris Johnson is exposed as a lame-duck Prime Minister who – like Theresa May – couldn’t get his Deal through Parliament. This would likely have the effect of bringing down Boris Johnson’s government, but it would certainly mean no-deal Brexit for all of us. While still possible, I don’t think Starmer will do that.
  • He can whip his Labour MPs to abstain. With a cluster of 82 MPs (SNP, the NI MPs, and LibDems) voting against, plus however many ERG MPs defy the whip and vote against – Boris Johnson still commands over 300 MPs minus the ERG, and the deal will pass. Within the House of Commons, this enables the Tories to jeer at Keir Starmer for a ditherer who couldn’t make up his mind to vote for against the deal, and outside the House of Commons, it depends how good pro-Brexit propaganda is in the news services to convince Leave supporters that Brexit is still a dashed good thing, whatever their personal experience of it.

These are not easy choices and I don’t envy Keir Starmer having to make up his mind between them.

For the SNP, it’s much simpler: they’ve said they’ll vote against it, and they will. Their vote will not affect the outcome either way, it’s a political stance against Brexit, part of the ongoing campaign to win a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament in May and campaign for an independent Scotland returning to the benefits of EU membership as soon as we vote for it.

If you’re celebrating today, Merry Christmas.

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Twas the week before Brexit

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 23rd December 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Christmas Eve Eve.

Here is where we are.

At 11pm 31st December, that is in less than eight days time from when I am writing this, the transition period ends, and the UK (except for Northern Ireland) is trading with the rest of the world (except where a new trade deal has been made already, which is … not many) on “WTO terms”. (This isn’t good.)

We’ve discussed at length earlier what Boris Johnson’s problem is trying to negotiate a deal: he needs to see everything in terms of winning and losing, and he needs to be able to present himself as the winner. This is not how trade deals work.

The European Parliament had its last plenary session on 17th December. No deal can be approved. The deadline to request an extension of the transition period passed on 30th June, even if Boris Johnson had been willing to ask for one.

The European Research Group are not enough MPs to overturn Boris Johnson’s 79-MP majority in the Commons, but they are likely enough MPs to trigger a leadership contest (55 letters is all it takes). The European Research Group are the MPs who want – who wanted all along – to be the winners and the victims simultaneously: to demand Brexit without defining Brexit, ot assert that only by leaving the EU and everything to do with it can they stop the EU from doing down the UK. It is impossible to make the ERG happy: if you gave them what they said they wanted, they would take that as a given and demand more and claim victimhood because they aren’t getting it.

If we crash out of the EU in no-deal Brexit on 31st December, the ERG MPs will still not be happy, because the UK will still have to trade with the perfidious countries of the EU, and collectively, they have far more economic clout than the UK did in its prime – and the UK is well past prime.

But crashing out in no-deal Brexit would have terrible and immediate consequences. The government’s “reasonable worst-case scenario” was laid out initially prior to the pandemic: when we are cresting a wave of infections for which the Tier 4 lockdown comes too late to prevent – this is, to put it blandly, an unreasonable worst-case scenario.

It is too late for a deal to be scrutinised by either the European or the Westminster Parliament before it is applied: it is not possible for the European Parliament to meet in plenary session now til January, and to be ratified by the EU, the 2000-page deal has to be translated into 27 official languages, voted on by 27 parliaments, and returned to the European Parliament. (I presume an emergency recall of Westminster Parliament could take place by Zoom, though Jacob Rees-Mogg has strenuously objected to such modern goings-on.)

If a deal is settled by close of day tomorrow, Christmas Eve, it is agreed the ambassadors of each country to the EU will meet, provisionally agree to it being applied to the UK-EU from 11pm 31st December, and an official letter (which is reckoned to take, by itself, four days to draft) will be sent out to each EU country for provisional approval.

The Westminster Parliament is likely to be recalled on Sunday 27th, two days in to Tier4 lockdown.

This will avoid, at least, the worst-case disruption – worse than that which a mere 48 hours of stoppages caused. The deal will still have to go through process for full ratification – and it is unlikely to make the ERG MPs happy: as noted earlier, it is unlikely that anything could make them happy. They have announced that as soon as the full text of the deal is public, they will convene what they refer to as their Star Chamber, and examine it in detail.

The Star Chamber was an invention of the Tudor monarchy, a court which had the power to punish crimes which might not be illegal but which loyal privy councillors to King Henry (7 or 8) felt ought to be illegal, and which English monarchs following found increasingly useful, to be able to declare something criminal and find people guilty and fine them, Sir William Blackstone notes drily in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769) that it was abolished (1641) “to the general joy of the whole nation”.

It seems strangely appropriate that the Brexiter MPs should revive a legal name that had lived on only in metaphor for secretive procedings with no due process, and declare themselves the unlawful court of social and political oppression through the arbitrary use and abuse of power.

This convening of their Star Chamber means that when MPs return from recess in January and can scrutinise the 2000-page deal, which they have bound the UK to because it was that or crash out in no deal, the first Parliamentary scrutiny will be that of this semi-official group determined to find everything wrong with it they can.

Keir Starmer will likely have whipped Labour to agree to it: the SNP have already declared they will not vote for it: but with Labour MPs who obey Starmer and Conservative MPs who obey Johnson, the deal will pass.

But it is quite possible that, though Boris Johnson hopes to have this greeted as a grandstanding last-minute victory, now the deal is done and Johnson (and Starmer) can be held responsible for it, Johnson will be gone as soon as Tory MPs can figure out who they’re going to vote for to replace him.
So to be clear: if we hear a deal has been agreed to on Christmas Eve, we may stagger along a while longer – we will at least not be crashing out in no-deal Brexit.

If no deal has been agreed to by close of day Christmas Eve, then we really are finally out of time, and have a week left to contemplate what’s coming to us.

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Cummings Goings

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 14th November 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

A few facts.

Trump has stopped dyeing his hair. (No, it is not a toupee, he has a massive combover with tons of product, but it came loose in a good Scottish breeze once when he was here to buy a golf course.) The Ivanka Trump version is that he dyes it himself from a DIY-box, and the reason the colour is so weird is that he’s never had the patience to leave it on the right amount of time.
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Pence and Pompeo: Coup or corruption?

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 10th November 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, and Mike Pence, soon-to-be-ex Vice President, have both declared that as far as they are concerned, the election is not over and they could yet be having a seamless transition to Trump’s second term in office.

Okay. This is freaky. But consider these facts.
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