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Archive for the tag “Europe”

Baffled by Brexit

For the last three years a lot of my Brit friends have have been debating the issue of the UK leaving the EU. It’s something that keeps cropping up on social media and in blogs but the more the issue is debated, the more opaque it seems to become to outsiders like me.

As far as I’m aware it’s been going on for nearly 60 years. I first became aware of it when the Brits applied to join and General de Gaulle gave a resounding Non! Flanders and Swann made it memorable by writing a song about it: “Eyetie, Benelux, Germany and me, that’s my market recipe.” Eventually the Brits did manage to get in (over de Gaulle’s dead body) and now they want out. But it seems that having decided that they want to go, they want the assurance that they can have their cake and eat it.

I don’t have a dog in this particular fight. It’s no skin off my nose whether they stay or leave. But sixty years!

One blogging friend whose blog I’ve been following for years has just written an article about it in the Church Times, Are the Bishops really listening to Leavers?:

The bishops write: “The levels of fear, uncertainty and marginalisation in society, much of which lies behind the vote for Brexit, but will not be addressed by Brexit . . .” One way in which power is experienced as abusive is when those with power (such as a bishop) say to those without power (a normal voter) that the voter does not know what he or she really wants. To say that there is something that “lies behind the vote for Brexit” is to disparage the desire for Brexit in and of itself, and thus is an exercise in disempowerment.

Leavers have become accustomed to being slighted in this way, to having their understanding and integrity impugned, to being told that we voted for Brexit only because of X, and, if those in power solved X, well, we don’t need Brexit any more, do we? This is not the product of genuine listening: it is the imputation of false consciousness and a rather un-Anglican attempt to “make windows into men’s souls”. It is essential that, if there is to be a reconciliation between the different sides on Brexit, such language is abandoned.

But I suspect you have to have been following the issue closely for the last 60 years to know what he’s on about.

It seems to me, looking from a distance, that the result of the 2016 referendum was pretty close, and they really should have looked for a 2/3 majority before deciding to change. They should also have specified that there should be at least a 55/45% majority in favour of “leave” in each of the four countries of the UK. As it is, England and Wales wanted to leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to remain in the EU. But the fact is that the UK government did decide to leave and set the whole leaving process going.

One of the difficulties this creates is a land border between the EU and the UK in Northern Ireland. Why this creates a special difficulty is rather puzzling, since there are other land borders between the EU and non-EU countries, 23 of them actually. Why not do whatever they do there, since it is simply a matter of adding a 24th land border?

So my question is, why doesn’t the UK opt for one of the following:

  1. England and Wales leave the EU and the UK simultaneously, while the rump UK (Scotland and Northern Ireland) remains in the EU.
  2. The UK leaves the EU and Scotland and Northern Ireland leave the UK and go their separate ways, applying to rejoin the EU if they wish.
  3. Have another referendum stipulating a clear majority (at least 55%-45%) in each country.

Can any of my UK friends explain why the present indecision is better than any of those, or which of those might be better than the present shilly-shalying?




Independent Scotland: rhetoric and reality

The news and social media have recently been full of this week’s referendum on whether Scotland should be independent.

ScotFlagOne of the things that has struck me about it is the dire predictions of disaster for an independent Scotland from those opposed to independence, yet most of them are not on record as having opposed the independence of several other recently independent countries on similar grounds. Why are they opposed to independence for Scotland, yet not to independence for some of the following countries?

Country Area Population

30,265 sq miles

5.295 million

Czech Republic

30,450 sq miles

10.52 million


24,938 sq miles

2.013 million


18,933 sq miles

5.414 million


19,767 sq miles

3.829 million


21,851 sq miles

4.253 million


11,720 sq miles

2.074 million


7,827 sq miles

2.06 million

I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another on whether Scotland should be independent or not. I’m not voting and I don’t live there. But I am struck by the spuriousness of some of the arguments for a “No” vote, and the predictions of disaster. Have such disasters struck the other states on the list above?

I can see some good arguments for a “No” vote: the main one is that Scottish independence would be bad for the rest of the UK, because it would condemn the rest of the UK to having a Tory government in perpetuity. Perhaps the answer to that would be to have independence for Wales for a start, and perhaps Cornwall, Mercia, Wessex, Bernicia, Deira, etc, and and leave London and the “home” counties to do their merry little Tory thing.

Another utterly spurious argument was that the Royal Bank of Scotland would move its head office to London. If it did such a thing, I hope that it would change its name. And if I were a Scot, and had an account with it, I would certainly take my custom elsewhere.

I wonder where Slovenians do their banking?

Flemish separatists triumph in Belgian election – Europe-

Flemish separatists triumph in Belgian election:

The Flemish N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) was set to be the largest party in Dutch-speaking Flanders and in all Belgium, narrowly ahead of the French-speaking Socialists, results showed after 86 percent of the votes had been counted.

‘The N-VA has won the election today,’ N-VA leader Bart De Wever, 39, told cheering, flag-waving supporters who burst into a rendition of the Flemish national anthem.

The Interior Ministry projected the N-VA would win 28 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, compared to just eight now. It forecast heavy losses for the Christian Democrats and the liberals, former partners in government.

Funny, isn’t it, that 20 years ago the West wanted South Africa to drop apartheid, and almost immediately imposed it on Eastern Europe, most notably in Yugoslavia, where the West has consistently supported the independence of Kosovo, the Bapetikosweti of the Balkans. Hat-tip to A conservative blog for peace.

And now it’s spreading West, with English nationalists increasingly demanding independence from the UK, and waving the flag of the patron saint of Palestine — one hardly ever sees the Union Jack nowadays.

Perhaps if the Flemish section of Belgium gains independence our diehard apartheid holdouts could emigrate there, and have it as their Boerestan. There’s just one problem — the Flemish are Catholic, and “die Roomse gevaar” ranks pretty close to “die Rooi gevaar” and “die Swart gevaar” as things for which there must be zero tolerance.

End of the US dollar?

Is this the beginning of the end for the US dollar as an international currency?

Iran Ends Oil Transactions In U.S. Dollars, OPEC’s Second-Largest Producer Now Pegs Petroleum To Euros And Yen – CBS News:

(AP) Iran, OPEC’s second-largest producer, has completely stopped conducting oil transactions in U.S. dollars, a top Oil Ministry official said Wednesday, a concerted attempt to reduce reliance on Washington at a time of tension over Tehran’s nuclear program and suspected involvement in Iraq.

Iran has dramatically reduced dependence on the dollar over the past year in the face of increasing U.S. pressure on its financial system and the fall in the value of the American currency.

The Rand, unfortunately, seems to be following the US dollar, and dropping against the Pound and Euro. Perhaps we need to link to the Euro. Or perhaps we need asn Afro. On second thoughts, thinking of Zimbabwe, perhaps we don’t.

Bantustans for Europe? Should Kosovo be independent?

Is Europe about to get its own independent homeland of Bapetikosweti? The Nato attack on Yugoslavia in 1999 (which was every bit as foolish as the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, lest anyone think that there is any significant difference between the two major US political parties) not only failed to solve the problems of Kosovo, it exacerbated them.

One of the things that seemed odd to me, as a South African, was that just at the time that we were at last abandoning the follies of apartheid, Europe seemed to be embracing them. The following extract from an article by Jan Oberg puts the situation in a nutshell:

One of the most dangerous and unrealistic ideas circulating today in international politics is that the Serbian province of Kosovo is a “unique” case.

So much blood has been shed and so many international administrations and peacekeeping forces have ruled in dozens of other regions around the world facing a similar situation involving separatism. Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Palestine, Northern Cyprus, the Basque region, Chechnya, Northern Ireland, Tibet, Taiwan, Kurdistan …

People in all of these areas, and many more, are following the Kosovo story very closely, especially given that most of them have suffered more violent conflicts and have waited for the solution of their problems much longer than the province of Kosovo.

Given the continuous pressure on the Serbian community in Kosovo, it is easy to imagine that the independence of the province would most certainly lead to a mono-ethnic Albanian Kosovo. Serbs who left would never come back.

Such a result would completely undermine the arguments of those who supported the NATO bombings in 1999, which were said to be carried out for the “multiethnicity” of Kosovo. The 1999 bombings would be seen as a campaign for Kosovo’s independence, which is a long way from the proclaimed goals of the “humanitarian intervention.”

It has been an open secret for a while now that “goodwill advisers” have been suggesting to the team of the United Nations chief negotiator for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, to find a legal basis for the “uniqueness” of Kosovo in order to avoid setting a precedent that could affect other regions of the world.

But Ahtisaari should avoid a “one- time solution” that gives independence to Kosovo. Breaching international law might appease Albanian separatist aspirations in Kosovo, but it would certainly open a Pandora’s box of separatist causes worldwide.

Jan Oberg, Lund, Sweden. Director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research

Aleksandar Mitic, Brussels. Chief Analyst at the Institute 4S and TFF Balkans team leader

There is also a longer and more detailed article about the ethnic cleansing that has been taking place under Nato supervision here.

Apartheid didn’t work in South Africa, where its detractors sometimes referred to it as “balkanisation“. And now it has been re-exported to Europe, where the voices calling for the Bantustanisation of the Balkans are growing louder.

It’s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack.

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