Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Project Fear - some Comic Relief

Further to my post deriding Project Fear for trying to alarm us with stories of prospective water supply problems because of shortages of water treatment chemicals (Brexit party? Afraid not, yet... 24 March) Mrs H has put her own perspective on it, influenced by the publicity that Stacey Dooley's "white saviourism" and responses including that from the egregious David Lammy led to lower Comic Relief donations this year.

"Perhaps if they show pictures of an old lady tottering up a track in Wales fetching carboys of water from standpipes at the bottom of a big hill because of Brexit water shortages then we'll get food parcels from black saviours in Africa".

Politically incorrect or not it made me smile and all contributions to my Brexit party will be gratefully accepted -  the fruits of panic buying alone won't make it much of a party!

Monday, 25 March 2019

Crash Out or Smash Out?

After realising that my Brexit party, at which I plan to consume all the things I've panic bought in case we crash out of the EU on 29 March, either because we have a deal or when Project Fear evaporates, was not going to be much of a party, I went to Tesco today to do some planned panic buying. After all, there's no point in doing your panic buying in a panic, is there?

But as the day approaches I realise with ever greater clarity just how truly unutterably awful this whole Brexit process has been. Which of course is why I voted Remain, not because I had any belief in the EU. Things are now in such disarray that the Tories can't even panic buy a new leader.

However, I'm clear that from here the worst of all outcomes would be for us to somehow end up remaining in the EU. We would then undoubtedly be diminished in the eyes of the world. Our influence inside the EU would be non-existent. Our influence elsewhere would be minimal as the world will be able to see that we don't do what we say, don't mean what we say, don't have the stomach for any kind of tough negotiation and can generally be ignored and pushed around at will.

I accept that some people take the view that nation states are not the way forward and would be perfectly happy to see us subsumed into an ever greater euro-gunk. I personally think that viewpoint would command the support of less than 15% of the population.

The outcome that is perhaps only marginally less undesirable would be the fudge that some MPs are calling "Common Market 2.0" under which we become some kind of sub-Norway, inside the single market and customs union but without any say over their rules, paying in nearly as much to the EU's unauditable spendthrift budget as we do now and with no control over freedom of movement . A truly vassal state outcome. If I hear Stephen Kinnock just one more time on this purgatory of a solution I think my blood will boil even more than if I ever hear from Soubry, Grieve or Gina Miller again. Only Bercow can irritate me more! Remember the Governor of the Bank of England has described this idea as being a very bad one, with us effectively losing control of financial regulation when our country has a bigger financial sector than most, if not all, of the rest of the EU put together.

When you hear any of Corbyn and his team talking about "being in a customs union" be very clear that such an end point would be pretty much the same and just as bad.

As Dominic Lawson pointed out in yesterday's Sunday Times being trapped in the dreaded backstop wouldn't be as bad as Common Market 2.0.

So what does that leave? May's deal or no deal. Whenever I hear people talking about the risk of us "crashing out" of the EU without a deal I have taken to shouting "no, smashing out, we'd be smashing out".

It would, of course,have been preferable for us to have planned for such an outcome from the start. Then I suspect it would never have been necessary for us to consider it. One of Mrs May's many failings was going into the negotiating chamber without that deterrent fully primed.

We don't have much time now to set ourselves free. Free of the egregious Junckers and Tusks, with their jobs for the boys (and they do mainly seem to be boys) gravy train for which we pay a great big chunk of the bill. Free of their anti-democractic, job destroying EU which keeps millions of young people in the southern countries unemployed so the German car manufacturing based economy can continue to roll on.

I'd prefer to get this done in a sensible way. But if not, it will just have to be in a Captain Sensible way, since smashing our way out is preferable to being trapped inside.  As said Captain Sensible sang
We've been crying now for much too long
And now we're gonna dance to a different song
I'm gonna scream and shout til my dying breath
I'm gonna smash it up til there's nothing left
(The Damned, Smash It Up)

Damned if we don't......

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Brexit party? Afraid not, yet....

As I predicted, oooh a long time ago, Nigel Farage has started a new party called the Brexit party and has taken over as leader from his colleague Catherine Blaiklock, who resigned after making what Farage called "horrible and intolerant" comments on Twitter about Islam. Same old, same old....nothing surprising there then. The Brexit party is a "virtual party", i.e. just a website, though it will mobilise at short notice if the UK takes part in the European elections.

I've also been planning a Brexit party, but that was a bit different. After emphasising to Mrs H that we really should be doing some Brexit panic buying it occurred to me that we could hold an Independence Day party on 30 March, if a deal is reached and our exit takes place, using all the contingency supplies that would no longer be necessary. This could have been a nostalgic Spam fritters. Or if it was a no deal exit and the power went off it could also be a warm beer occasion. Better make it a barbecue, just in case.

But now that it looks like there is an extension (or is there? - our law still currently says we leave on 29 March....) unfortunately my Brexit party will have to be deferred. And anyway, so far Mrs H has only stockpiled er - toilet rolls, the majority of which are made in the UK anyway. Ah, but remember, there'll still be no power, water, fuel for vehicles and the plague of frogs to contend with. So I'd better be more proactive next time I go with her to the supermarket in getting the right panic buying done if it's going to be much of a party!

All that Project Fear stuff has really been in full flow recently. As I've said before, I can't see why foodstuffs would not reach us in time before they perish (or we do). No-one has ever actually explained how this would happen. But in last weeks newspapers I read, amongst other things, that there could be problems with water supply because of non availability of chemicals which cannot be stored. The list of such chemicals included aluminium sulphate, which has been used by man since the time of the ancient Egyptians, 2000 years ago. In water treatment it is used as a coagulant to precipitate out impurities. To my knowledge aluminium sulphate is a totally stable compound - it doesn't "go off". It was traditionally made by mixing aluminium trihydrate, which comes from bauxite mined in places like Scotland, with sulphuric acid. The resulting solution is allowed to crytallise in troughs, producing large slabs of the product. I well remember from my first job at a chemical plant the operators known as "cake lifters" whose job it was to dig out these slabs for packaging and sale. Their one necessary qualification was strength. Take it from me: aluminium sulphate doesn't go off, though some more complex polyaluminum forms aren't stable once dissolved. So yes, there might be issues at water treatment plants but certainly not for the specific reason given.

Separating truth and myth is well nigh impossible when we are being force fed so much tosh.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Time to panic? Or boycott?

The second meaningful vote on Mrs May's deal was predictably lost. The pincer movement of remainers (many disguised as second referendum supporters) and hardline brexiteers would have made it difficult to get any deal through the Commons, let alone Mrs May's half baked effort. A huge majority voted to trigger Article 50 but there has never been a majority in Parliament for any single coherent option.

The meaningful but predictable vote has been followed by a mainly meaningless series of votes - because they don't actually change anything, at least yet. No deal was "taken off the table" but unless the primary legislation is changed - or Mrs May's walking dead deal gets approved at the third time of asking - it's what would still happen on 29 March.  The vote to flex the 29 March date depends on the EU agreeing, which depends on them knowing why we are asking for it. Which we don't know yet.

The Hilary Benn amendment that would have meant MPs took control of the Parliamentary agenda was narrowly defeated. The votes cast included at least one MP who recorded an "active abstention" by going through both voting lobbies rather than sitting on his butt. I hadn't realised that was possible. At least I learnt something interesting that day! This vote did have significance as, without control of the agenda, Theresa May might not have been able to continue to threaten her Brexiteer wing with "my deal or lose Brexit".

I suspect that the indicatve votes that the government has promised - and the Benn amendment would have delivered - would continue to reveal that there is no majority for any option - any form of out or staying in - so what next? Go with the option that gets the lowest majority against? I've heard the phrase "least worst option" often enough before but that would be the rummest version of it yet. And that could yet be May's deal, especially if the DUP blink and take a lot of the ERG along with them.

Whatever, we still don't know if Parliament will deliver on its promise to enact the verdict of the people and to carry through the Article 50 process they voted overwhelmingly in favour of triggering. I've read quite a few commentators saying that this would be a betrayal of democracy - quite eloquently by Allister Heath in the Telegraph*:
My question to those who voted to halt no deal last night, and who will wreak yet more havoc in the coming days, is this: do you not see how, by discrediting and ridiculing our democracy, you are undermining our greatest asset? Why do you think our cold, rain-sodden country with its broken infrastructure and second-rate trains has been so successful for so long? Our stability, our freedoms, our prosperity, our rule of law: all are predicated on our extraordinary political traditions. If we trash them, if our elite declares democracy to be a pathetic sham, we’ll have nothing left.....
Why risk doing so today? Yes, a real Brexit would be disruptive, but exploding our reputation for straight-dealing, for fair play, for respecting procedures, customs and rules would shake the foundations of our society, annihilate trust and prove immeasurably more damaging. The UK would become like France or Italy, unstable countries where populists increasingly rule the roost, where the public loathe their rulers and vote against them at the earliest opportunity. "

But, as "no deal" has not actually been ruled out yet, since by UK and EU law we are still due to leave on 29 March, is it time to panic? Or at least to panic buy since, if you believe the dire warnings of many bodies, there will be at least some chaos.

The reason why has never been properly explained, at least that I've seen. Plenty of spokespeople have confidently asserted that there would be disruption to transport, food and medicine supplies and many other things, only just short of the biblical plague of frogs. I can see why our exports to the EU would be hit. But as the EU producers would still want to sell to us, we would want to buy and the transport capacity currently exists it is not at all clear what specifically would cause disruption. French customs have been getting arsey in readiness but that happens from time to time anyway and I suspect their farmers would soon counter demonstrate. Of course all that is necessary is the fear of shortages for panic buying to start, which rapidly depletes supplies, proves to people that they were right to panic and starts a vicious cycle of behaviour.

So I guess I'd better start my panic buying soon as it's hardly early in this game. The last time we had that sort of thing - during Tony Blair's truck drivers dispute - Mrs H arrived home not with tins of beans and corned beef but extra toilet rolls. Maybe I'd better come along this time!

Mind, I have already been giving thought to my buying strategies with respect to EU goods. I meant to run a blog post some 18 months ago advocating a boycott of EU goods to help strengthen David Davis's hand in the negotiations.  If enough of us had done so it might have registered. But now I'm planning my own, individual Brexit protest if I decide that the EU haven't acted in what I consider to be good faith.

So Mrs H found me closely inspecting bottles of lager in the Tesco one day, checking which were brewed in the UK. I have plenty of choice of excellent, locally brewed Welsh craft bitters but lager is a bit more awkward. Yes there's the excellent Wrexham lager, but it's not so widely available. Becks has become my bottled lager of choice in recent years so what else could I find to substitute for it? Carling is ok but only available in tins and I much prefer bottled beers. Coors is brewed in good old Burton, but I'm not a fan. Looks as if it might have to be tins then, or Cobra.

You might think this all pathetically puerile but I am actually serious.

Some other decisions are easy, if not totally painless.  I like red wines from Spain, Italy and France but there's plenty of choice from the rest of the world. Spanish tomatoes may prove more problematic: I'll choose which goods to boycott, but if the Spanish play games over Gibraltar I'm going to be examining a lot of food labels more closely for countries of origin.

Larger purchases, like cars? My BMW is now 5 years old and I have replaced all my cars at 3 to 5 years old for over 20 years. But I have deferred replacing my current car till after Brexit. Seriously. Even if it ends up costing me more. If a good chunk of Britain's German car owners did the same the effect would definitely be felt in Stuttgart and Munich.

Switching from a German car would be no small decision for me. Unfortunately as rear wheel drive is not a sensible option where I live and I don't want an SUV I can't go back to Jaguar. And Japanese brands are trying to rule themselves out after some recent decisions - so Honda is out, Nissan wobbling and Toyota on the watch list. Looks like I could be keeping my current car quite a while.....

Of course, if a deal is agreed then we are only at the end of the beginning, to plagiarise Churchill. There's still the actual trading arrangements to negotiate. So why not join my move to more selective purchasing of EU goods, to strengthen our negotiating position? I'll toast you with a glass of New Zealand sauvignon.

* Britain's Remainer elites have declared war on democracy itself. Allister Heath, Telegraph 13 March 2019