This was first posted on Facebook on 3rd February 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
“There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules,” says Boris Johnson’s pre-written speech for Monday 3rd February, leaked Saturday.
The negotiations are not due to begin til Sunday 1st March, and the trade deal must have been negotiated, checked, translated, and presented to the European Parliament before the close of the penultimate European Parliament plenary session of 2020, which is Thursday 26th November. The UK can ask for an extension on the 31st December deadline if we do so by 30th June, but Boris Johnson has already said he isn’t going to do that.
Spain has joined Ireland in exporting part of its healthcare system abroad: from now on, a woman who needs an abortion – unless she can “prove” to the healthcare system in time that she was raped or that being pregnant will cause her serious mental or physical damage – will have to go to another country.
Unfortunately, of the main countries closest to Spain: Portugal only allows elective abortion up to 10 weeks and has a 3-day waiting period: and France allows elective abortion up to 12 weeks but usually with a 1-week waiting period. (Italy is about the same: first 90 days with 1-week wait except in cases of emergency.) It seems likely, therefore, that Spanish women who need abortions (if they can afford it) will have to take a cheap flight to the UK and will have to make use of the abortion services here. Those that can’t, will have to find some way of illegally aborting in Spain.
In the Independent on Sunday on 22nd January, Brian Brady reported:
Spain has indicated it could block an independent Scotland’s accession to the European Union, sources said. It has already refused to recognise Kosovo’s existence as an independent state. Madrid fears such moves will encourage separatist ambitions in Spanish regions, particularly Catalonia and the Basque region. Spain’s refusal to recognise Kosovo has frustrated the former Serbian province’s ambitions to enter the union.
Reading this story with reasonable care and attention, however, it appeared that the source for this piece of journalism wasn’t Spain, but Whitehall. Throughout the story, the only direct claims are sourced to “senior Whitehall sources” and “A senior UK minister said”:
“We understand the Scottish view is they would wish to join the UN but they would not wish to join Nato. They might wish to join the EU, but we fully expect Spain to block it, fearing it might encourage the separatist spirit on their doorstep.”
This made me cynical, but the story was more effectively skewered by Craig Murray, a Foreign Office diplomat of 20 years experience, who debunked the story in three paragraphs. The reality:
Firstly, nobody in the EU has ever left the EU voluntarily, let alone been expelled, and the idea that 5 million EU citizens in a stongly pro-EU country would be thrown out against their will is not in the realm of practical politics. The whole dynamic of the EU is expansive, with countries continually accepted into membership who technically should not be. Everybody knows, for example, that Romania and Bulgaria were not remotely close to compliance with the acquis communitaire when they were admitted. There is no appetite anywhere in the EU to argue that an EU member successor state would have to re-apply.