“A red, white and blue Brexit”? You couldn’t make it up. The only thing Theresa May has made clear is that if Brexit is to be achieved it’s going to be a long and tortuous process. The tragedy is the longer we are embroiled in legal, political and negotiation arguments, the longer it will take to address the forces that led to a leave vote in the first place.
Most Brits are not small minded and xenophobic. The hard working people of this country voted leave because living standards fell when competition from EU tradespeople cut prices and wages. This is why many would like to be out tomorrow. They cannot afford another six months – they may lose their businesses, jobs and houses.
The answer is in domestic policy. The longer we are distracted by Brexit, the longer it will take us to address the real issues.
On reading Downing Street’s claim that Liberal Democrats’ and Labour’s refusal to back the Brexit team is not backing Britain, I was reminded of Dr Johnson’s claim that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. But if we are using the analogy of a team, the fans do not have to have confidence in the manager. They might want to obtain new players, and they certainly do not want to be relegated to the lower divisions, which is what will happen when we leave the EU. So Theresa May, don’t insult our intelligence by playing the patriotism card. We won’t fall for it.
Those who think the EU is the best thing since sliced bread need to ponder on the proposed £21bn deal for the amalgamation of the 215 year old London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Borse. Both sides claim it will be a merger, but this is a merger which gives the Germans full control. Some deal!
Is this what they mean by a united Europe? I wonder what the French and the rest of the EU think of this deal? Is it possible that Brussels will actually block it?
It is interesting to note that Theresa May (who pledged to protect national interests from harmful foreign deals) has refused to intervene – a touch of Pontius Pilate methinks. Would this be the same woman that has said she will honour the EU referendum result? What on earth is going on?
It is unfortunate that views on Brexit, as expressed on your erudite letters page, are so polarised. I didn’t vote in the referendum because I am disenfranchised under the 15-year rule and to have done so would have been difficult because I don’t buy the entire package from either side. My view is that the crucial question – and this applies to every country in the EU – is who rules. Is it national parliaments or is it Brussels? I suspect it is fair to say that the majority want a cooperative Europe of shared values, free trade and free movement, with all legislative functions retained by national parliaments.
I have always maintained that if people perceive, either in fact or imagination, that they have lost control over their own affairs, then the legacy of the EU will be nationalism. A brief glance at recent history will show that nationalism is usually destructive.
L J Atterbury
“The will of the people”: it is time to explore this mantra a little further. If 52 per cent voted in favour of leaving the EU, with a turnout of 72 per cent, this means that only 37 per cent of the electorate voted to leave. Within that, there was undoubtedly a protest vote unrelated to the EU and, more particularly, I doubt whether many voted to be poorer in the way set out in the Government’s own autumn statement.
The referendum was deeply flawed in many ways including a paucity of information about what leaving the EU meant as well as misinformation and deliberate untruths. It is no basis for democratic mandate.
In his speech to a meeting of European socialist parties in Prague, Jeremy Corbyn was right about the consequences of globalisation and corporate power but would have been better advised to seek to enlist the support of other parties’ politicians to correct the cause.
All politicians should realise that, at the moment, competition between national political parties of all shades only serves to change the faces of who gets to foster the enrichment of an international parasitical plutocracy and the impoverishment of synthetic democracies.
It would be so much better if politicians first agreed to invert the current economic model to enrich the people they purport to serve.
What is driving the rise of hard right populism? The much-bruited sins of the “elites”, and the naivety and indolence of the electorate. Who are these “elites”? An amalgam of the rich, the corrupt and their elected (or not, as the case may be) regulatory avatars. What drives the “elites”? The quest for power and wealth, mostly through the operation of neoliberal economics or corruption or outright theft. Neoliberalism and democracy are incompatible. One must go. Will we be allowed to choose which?
Reasons to be cheerful
The resignation of Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, following that nation’s referendum on the Constitution, caps off what has proven a challenging year for the European Union. These anti-establishment uprisings might not end there as several European countries go to the polls over the next year.
In March the Dutch hold their parliamentary elections, with the anti-Islamic Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, standing on a pledge to “de-Islamify” the Netherlands and hold a “Nexit” vote. His party is running neck and neck with Mark Rutte’s Liberal Party.
In May the French go to the polls, with the Presidential race seen as being between the far right National Front, under Marine Le Pen, running on an anti-EU, anti-immigration ticket, and the Republic candidate, Francois Fillon.
However, against this background there are some positives for Europhiles. The Austrians have just voted for a new President, with Alexander Van der Bellen of the Greens defeating Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party.
In September the Germans cast their votes, with the backdrop of the immigration controversy. The far-right anti-immigration, Alternative for Germany party is expected to make gains, but Mrs Merkel is expected to win a fourth term if she decides to run again.
Next year could prove a pivotal year for the European Union, but it is no stranger to such challenges and my prediction is that it will emerge the stronger for it.
Trumponomics in action
Before he has even ascended to the White House throne, Donald Trump continues to wield his mighty hammer driving a deeper wedge between Democrats and Republicans.
Craving for adulation from his adoring fans, he visited Cincinnati for a victory lap delivering a campaign-style speech, gloating and boasting and falsely claiming that he saved 1,100 jobs at the Carrier plant. According to the Wall Street Journal and ABC News, 300 of the 1,100 were never intended to move to Mexico. This will cost Ohio $7m or $14,000 per worker – hardly a brilliant deal. This is an exceedingly bad precedent. Other companies may seek similar state subsidies threatening to export jobs overseas.
Trump’s demagoguery and conflicts of interest are in complete violation of Federalist 68 and he should therefore be rejected by the Electoral College. As President Obama ruefully advised, “wait until your inauguration before you destroy the world”.
Los Altos, USA
The productivity puzzle
I think that Andreas Whittam Smith’s conclusion that UK productivity is low because of poor management is too simplistic. Elsewhere I have read that the productivity of British manufacturing is as good as German manufacturing, and in many cases better. The problem is that in the UK manufacturing now represents a much lower proportion of our total GDP compared to Germany. I also wonder about our high proportion of small businesses. For example, is the productivity of my local fish-and-chip shop as good as a branch of McDonald’s?
We have the reputation of being a nation of shopkeepers and of small workshops in backyards. What effect does that have? And how do you determine the productivity of the City of London or a symphony orchestra? Does an average productivity across all sectors of business actually mean anything – particularly when making comparisons with other countries?
Ian K Watson
On the wrong track
Simon Calder’s five-point plan for the railways probably says more about the nature of his employment contract with you than about his understanding of rail commuter traffic. I suggest you reduce his salary by an amount which leaves him unable to afford to live within the bounds of the M25 and at the same time insist he be at his desk in London by 9 each morning. Then give him a child to take to school each morning before he catches his train, and see how he appreciates the idea of rush hour season tickets being increased.
His argument, that the costs of transporting workers to jobs which provide public services and drive the economy should be borne only by those workers, is the same as that put forward by those who think that the costs of the country's education system should be borne only by those who have children; and is unsound for the same reasons.
Education by numbers
So Scotland’s standards of education have declined over the last decade and more: Scots are now at 23rd in the PISA rankings, whereas in 2006 they were at 11th and in 2000 at 6th. This is lamentable for what used to be one of the best-educated populations in the world.
It may be that it owes something to the confusion being sown in young pupils’ minds by the imposition of faux “Scots” language in the curriculum. This invented language owes more to Stanley Baxter’s hilarious “Parliamo Glasgow” than to any living tongue. Children are set tasks requiring them to read, spell and write in this language at an age when their real need is to consolidate their learning in standard English. It is all, of course, intended to hammer home a spurious differentiation between Scotland and England, and that is part of the SNP’s strategy for winning Scots over to separation.
According to Professor Lindsay Paterson of Edinburgh University, the culprit for falling standards appears to be the much-vaunted Curriculum for Excellence. In a damning interview, he referred to its “rather Mickey Mouse approach to cross curricular themes and lots of other projects that are rather beside the point at that age”. Is this all simply a matter of incompetence, of a misplaced sense of ‘innovation’, or is it a cunning plan to dumb down education so that Scots are incapable of seeing the patent flaws in the SNP’s arguments for separation from the UK? Only joking… I think.
If you’re happy and you know it…
I read with great interest the excellent article by Jolanta Burke on happiness and age. Her points were well made and entirely plausible. She didn’t mention health however, the possession of which is surely an important factor in how happy we feel, or perhaps how unhappy we might feel when disease or disability strike.
The argument reminded me of an anecdote, admittedly a generalisation, which makes similar points without the analysis Burke offers: to be happy in life, we need three things – good health, spare time and enough money. But life frequently conspires to allow us only two out of the three at any one time. When we are young we have health and time, but we don't have much money. In middle age we have health and money, but so little spare time. When we are old we have free time and enough money, but our health begins to deteriorate.
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