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February 01, 2020 22:37 +0200  |  Europe United Kingdom 0

The EU flag

"This is the first time in my life that I've lived outside of Europe"

That was Christina reflecting on the significance of "Brexit Day" this morning, how our European family has been pulled out of Europe against our will. For my part, I'm not sure what to say to it all. I'm so angry at the ignorant, xenophobic assholes that did this to us.

With a referendum rooted in lies, an exit campaign captained by disaster capitalists stole Anna's chance at an Erasmus exchange. They kicked in the teeth an organisation founded, above all things, to establish and maintain peace on a warring continent.

They've drummed up nationalism and sown fear & violence across the country. They've shown the world just how deluded this country is, convinced it's somehow still a superpower.

It's laughable, and pathetic, but there is an upside.

The Brexit party, and the rest of the obstructionist Brits have been removed from the European parliament. Now the EU can move forward on the issues that it needs to: a Green New Deal, a unified military, and a fiscal union.

I'm not worried about the EU, they'll be just fine. I'm not worried about the UK either, but that's mostly because I don't care about the future of a country that would embrace nationalism and xenophobia as this one has. I am however worried about my family as we're still stuck here.

All of the protections afforded by the EU are likely to expire in the coming years, and if the UK chooses to cuddle up to the US, then we'll likely see adoption of their terrible food & safety standards. The NHS is also likely in trouble, if not due to dealings with the US, then definitely because so much of its staff are EU nationals.

It's a shit show, and all you see in the media are drooling idiots cheering this all on, unable to articulate a single legitimate reason for their enthusiasm.

So yes, I'm angry, and a little worried, but mostly angry.

December 13, 2019 13:58 +0200  |  Politics United Kingdom 0

I don't think I can express how very disappointed I am in the results from last night. I'm not surprised, but I'm still terribly disappointed. Somehow, part of me thought that the British public wouldn't be so easily manipulated, that somehow they'd see through the long, long list of lies from the Conservatives and through the palpable bias of both the privately and publicly-owned media. But they didn't, and now... well the country is pretty fucked.

For the Uninitiated

The UK just had its third general election in 5 years: another attempt by a Conservative government to shore up support in the House so it can do what it wants -- namely Brexit -- without interference from other parties or factions within its own ranks.

  • Boris Johnson purged the Conservative party of anyone who would oppose his Brexit plan before calling the election and then ran on a single platform: "get Brexit done".
  • The Labour party, headed by Jeremy Corbyn ran on a multi-faceted platform of restoring the services the Conservatives have been destroying over the last decade, starting a "green industrial revolution" and doing a "people's vote" on Brexit.
  • The Liberal Democrats ran mostly against Corbyn and said they'd simply revoke Article 50 if they won a majority (the odds of which are in the range of pigs flying).
  • The Green party too said they'd revoke, but also had a pretty good Green New Deal in their platform.
  • The Brexit Party said they'd do an immediate "Hard Brexit"
  • The Scottish Nationalists... well they're separatist socialists. You do the math ;-)

From the start, the Conservatives were expected to win it. Corbyn's popularity was in the toilet, while Johnson's was soaring -- especially in the rural areas. The Lib-dems were generally considered irrelevant and/or a spoiler under FPTP, and the SNP was expected to dominate Scotland. The actual result was a dominating victory for the Conservatives, a historic loss for Labour, and the resignation of leaders from both Labour and the Lib-Dems. The Conservatives now have free reign to do everything they want, including exciting things like shredding the human rights act and undermining the NHS.

The Lie of Getting Brexit Done

If you'd watched any of the debates (to which Johnson bothered to attend), seen any of his scripted interviews, or just listened to his speeches in the House of Commons, you'd be familiar with Johnson's mantra: get Brexit done. For anyone living here, it's a very appealing thought. Everyone: leavers & remainers are tired of Brexit. We all know that there's more pressing issues to deal with (though we disagree on what those issues are), and yet every day, every broadcast, every paper, every social media post is about this one topic.

So when Johnson says "get Brexit done", it resonates with everyone, and it would seem that most Britons were unable to draw the conclusion that this line, like nearly everything that comes out of Johnson's mouth, is a lie.

The Conservatives have won with a dominating victory, and yet no one who knows anything about the realities of Brexit will tell you it's all over on January 31st when the UK executes the withdrawal agreement with the EU. We're still years, possibly even decades away from getting Brexit done.

The withdrawal agreement is simply an agreement on how things will work between the UK and the EU until they can actually leave the single market. In other words, The UK will definitely be in the single market (including the four freedoms) until December 2020, at which point they will have to have a trade deal negotiated or ask for an extension. For perspective, Canada's free trade agreement with the EU started negotiations in 2009, was agreed in 2016, and is still not in force. The UK has a much more complex relationship with the EU, and its population & economy is much larger. Brexit may not be "done" until 2045.

In the mean time, the withdrawal agreement drives a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK (introducing a customs border in the Irish sea after the transition period), and it's very likely that Scotland will have another (likely, successful) referendum to leave the UK and join the EU as an independent state. By the time Brexit is "done", it might jut be an agreement between England & Wales and the EU.

Complicity of the Media, and the End of the BBC

The Fourth Estate has entirely failed the UK. Too many journalists have been replaced with lazy hacks who do little more than copy/paste what candidates say without bothering to fact-check. Outright lies are published on the front page of papers, or debated as if they have any grounding in reality on evening "news" broadcasts. Audio clips are edited, videos are doctored, and all of it presented to the public by organisations into which so many have invested their trust.

Most appalling of all of these is the BBC. Here's a short list of just some of the terrible shit they did over the last few months to bias the public toward the ruling government:

A lot of this goes back to 2016 when the Conservatives changed the rules around how the BBC's board was appointed. Basically the BBC hasn't been "arms-length" for three years and it's glaringly obvious in their journalism. As a Canadian and strong supporter of the CBC, I think this should be a cautionary tale for any country with a public broadcaster. There must be a firewall between the state and the public broadcaster, because it's a short jump to state broadcaster if you aren't careful.

The Brexit Party Propping up of the Conservatives

When the election was called, there was a chance -- a chance that the Conservatives might lose. The Brexit Party had been hacked together to fight another election and it looked like they might split the otherwise conservative vote in some key constituencies. However, on November 11th, they announced that they would not run any candidates in any constituency won by the Conservatives in the last election, essentially allowing the Conservatives to turn their attention to seats they hadn't yet won. They took an additional 47 seats this time around, while the Brexit party was happy to just take votes from Labour and Lib-Dems in the remaining seats, guaranteeing those Conservative wins.

Corbyn

Perhaps the most upsetting/frustrating part of all of this is how this has played out for Jeremy Corbyn. Here was a man with a history of fighting for civil rights and opposing apartheid & fascism, and the press has routinely been calling him a racist and a fascist. Three Jewish newspapers even ran a joint front-page editorial urging people not to vote for him claiming 87% of Jews thought he was an antisemite and that half of the Jews in the country would strongly consider leaving out of fear if he were to become Prime Minister.

The trigger for all of this? Corbyn, and a number of other Labour MPs have made public statements critical of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians. Apparently, saying that you shouldn't open fire on unarmed civilians and children means you hate Jews.

The fact is that Corbyn was the first (of hopefully many) proper left-wing Labour leaders, and the people with money -- the people who own various newspaper chains -- don't like it when political leaders start suggesting that we raise taxes on the rich to take care of the poor. Ever since Corbyn stepped into the leadership role, the party has been tearing itself apart trying to get rid of him and the other actual socialists. Members spent years publicly denouncing Corbyn as "unelectable" rather than working together to remove the Conservatives. You know what makes your party unelectable? Your own members attacking your leader for being unelectable! While the Conservatives were literally falling apart, Labour was too far up its own ass to do anything about it. By the time it came to actually running a campaign, Labour members had already inflicted so much damage, that the media needed only repeat the lies as if they were true.

Corbyn was a socialist leading the socialist party on a progressive, green, socialist platform, and the establishment could not tolerate it. They piled lie upon lie onto the front page until only those actually paying attention could see what was actually going on. The result: a strong majority for a Conservative government headed by a man who has a documented (but curiously little-reported) history of sexist, racist, and homophobic statements.

Conclusion and What it Means for Us

As the saying goes, the turkeys have voted for chirstmas and this country deserves everything it has coming to it. For those living in the UK, we're likely to see more poverty, more cuts to public services, and of course, the 10+ years of Brexit negotiations. For those on the outside, this country won't be an ally in the fight against climate change, likely joining with the US to subvert any progress we might make on it.

For my multicultural family, this means that Britain has demonstrated it doesn't want us here. It's now a question of what kind of work Christina can find elsewhere in the EU and whether I'll be able to find something near there as well. Our future is now up in the air. We're still trying to work out how we're going to deal with this, but I think it's fair to say there's no future for us in this place.

October 29, 2019 00:51 +0200  |  Politics United Kingdom 0

Stephen popped up on Twitter today asking about Brexit again:

Another delay?? I thought there was a new deal.

I took a few minutes to write out a somewhat lengthy response, and after I was finished, realised it probably made more sense as a blog post so... Here it is, my ranting update about the state of all things Brexit here in the UK:


There was a deal, but it was a bad deal (actually it was pretty much the same as the previous deal, but this time it came from BORIS, so it's "new")

Basically Brexit is a mess because democracy:

  • Half the country wants to remain
  • Half the House wants to remain, though the representations don't correlate directly

The Brexiters all have a different definition of what "leave" means:

  • The disaster capitalist maniacs want an exit from all EU-related treaties at all costs immediately. They make up about 20-30% of the House and have roughly that same support among the public -- again, not correlating by constituency.
  • The other "leave" MPs want to leave with a deal but the nature of that deal differs from MP to MP.
  • "Brexit means Brexit" means fuck-all, yet this has been the Conservative position for 3 years.

You may have seen a meme going around, where the UK wants a unicorn, and the EU says "those don't exist, but you can have a pony" -- that's basically the best explanation out there.

The UK wants to leave, but not tear apart Ireland, which is impossible, because a core component of the Good Friday Agreement was that there be no barrier dividing Ireland.

They also want to leave, but have a free trade deal with the EU. The nature of that deal again varies from MP to MP, but mostly they want a deal that lets them freely export to the EU without customs checks and without being a member of the common market... also, they want to be able to sign their own trade deals with other countries. That'll never happen because the EU can't let the UK be a vector for importing uncontrolled goods into the union.

So basically the only deal that could possibly be arranged with the EU is the one that May worked out a couple years ago, and that Boris has re-branded as his deal. This deal doesn't go far enough for the disaster capitalists, and it doesn't keep us in the EU, so it can't be supported by remainers either. As a result, the deal can't pass without another referendum on it.

SO that leads us to the next stage.

Labour has said that they want a referendum on whatever deal is struck between the EU and the UK. The nature of that referendum question might very well dictate the future of this whole mess. It'll likely fall along one of two lines:

  1. Boris/May's deal
  2. No-deal exit

(or)

  1. Boris/May's deal
  2. No-deal exit
  3. Remain

At the moment, it looks like the disaster capitalists are working hard to re-frame "no deal" as "getting Brexit done" -- which is a lie of course. Exiting without a deal simply guarantees that the very next day negotiations start with the UK trying to hammer out a deal from outside the union. Only now it has violence in Ireland, and food & medicine shortages to deal with as well.

This may all be an attempt to get ahead of a referendum choice where people, tired of all of this politicking, vote "just exit already" out of ignorance, thus fucking the country and nicely making it their own faults while the disaster capitalists move to Malta.

Oh, and there's lots of talk of another election. The hope being that each party can get a majority to do what it wants. Boris is a disaster capitalist, so he wants to exit without a deal. Corbyn has stated that he wants a new referendum with remain on the ballot, and the Liberal Democrats say that they won't bother with a referendum and would just revoke Article 50.

The truth though is that a majority for any party is very unilkely. The Conservative vote is split by the Brexit Party which also wants an immediate exit, and the media here has been whipping up fear of Corbyn since he took the job. The Lib-dems are very unlikely to take a majority, but are unwilling to prop up Corbyn's Labour -- even on this one issue alone.

Everything is fucked. So we do the only thing we can do: kick the can down the road and hope that somehow, the British public will see past the tabloids and decades of underfunding education & social safety nets that would have helped them to not be fucking idiots when it comes to their most important political and economic partnership.

I don't have a lot of faith, but thankfully, the EU is patient... for the moment anyway.

October 15, 2016 19:08 +0300  |  Cycling London Moving United Kingdom 1

We've managed to get out of London and move up to Cambridge, and it is so much nicer here. Cambridge is almost everything London isn't: clean, quiet, bike-friendly, and accessible. Where in London it will take 40min to 2 hours on the dark, disgusting Tube to get anywhere and do anything, in Cambridge you just hop on your bike and you're anywhere in town in less than 20min. There are garden festivals in the big open parks that double as cow pastures, and the air is clean. London's air quality is a toxic mess and a constant reminder of how much (nearly) everyone living there hates it.

Where our London flat was a dark, damp, rat-infested ground-floor shithole, our Cambridge home is a big, beautiful two bedroom flat in a modern building with secure bike parking. The rooms are wired for ethernet and the wifi is crazy-fast, the rooms are warm and the showers (yes, that's showers plural) are spacious and just wonderful.

OMG I don't think I can convey how much better life in Cambridge is when compared to London.

Christina has settled into her job as lecturer at the university and despite her fears, I think she's getting the hang of it. Fresh out of her PhD, she's now a lecturer at one of the most prestigious universities on the planet. I'm really proud of her.

In terms of my career, things have been a little more bumpy. I didn't want to renew my contract working for the British Government, so I moved to a company that had a London & Cambridge office hoping to take some of the pain out of the move. Then the job at Mozilla came up, and I almost got it, and now I've decided to give up on contracting altogether in order to take a job at a local start-up as lead developer. My time with my current employer ends in less than a week and then I've got a week off before I start at Money Mover. Lots of moving around, but I think in this latest stop, I've found a good company that suits me.

It sure will be nice to be doing the start-up thing again. I've really missed it.

June 24, 2016 20:52 +0300  |  Europe United Kingdom 3

I'm in Canada right now, so we had to watch the carnage unfold in real time on a BBC live stream. As soon as Newcastle reported in with its weak Remain results, the pit of my stomach began to sink and things never recovered.

The United Kingdom has made what historians will refer to as the greatest and last mistake in its long history. Scotland and Northern Ireland are already talking about leaving the UK to join the EU. The pound has dropped to the lowest point in 31 years and France has now surpassed them as the world's 5th largest economy. They've lost more money in a few hours than they contributed to the EU in 43 years.

I woke this morning to a sense of surreal dread. One thing is certain: the UK is undone. The only question that concerns me is how much of their self-destructive behaviour will rub off on the rest of us.

The UK economy has already started to contract. Major banking institutions are likely to follow through with their promise to relocate to Dublin and Frankfurt. That will undoubtedly increase unemployment, driving the country further into recession. For Christina and I, there are dangerous times ahead.

Three Paths

The real danger though is how far this madness will spread. Given the likelihood of a Scottish (and potentially Northern Irish) exit from the UK, England must be considered lost, but what of the rest of Europe? I can only see this going one of three ways:

Special Status

The worst possible scenario for all involved would be if the EU is so fearful of instability that it caves to the UK's demands to (a) remain part of the European Economic Area (single market) while (b) not being beholden to the four freedoms. For the non Europeans, this would mean that the UK would have free trade with EU nations but not have to allow free movement of people, goods, etc. They might even try to get away with not paying into the EU at all.

This would be catastrophic as it would signal to the other EU nations that they too could have all of the benefits of the EU without the responsibility. It would embolden the weak separatist voices in France, Norway, Greece, and the Netherlands and spur similar moves to exit as well. It would effectively end the European Union.

Remain Part of the EEA

This is the most likely (however ironic) outcome. The UK would negotiate a Norway-like deal wherein they remain part of the EEA while still being responsible for the four freedoms. Effectively, this would mean that the UK would keep all of the responsibilities the Leave campaign said they wanted no part of, (free movement, financial contributions) but give up its right to have any say in how those responsibilities are determined. As a bonus, Nigel Farage's party would no longer have any seats in the European Parliament.

This isn't as dangerous as the "special status" option above, but it runs the risk of separatist parties declaring this a victory (this is post-factual democracy after all). If other nations follow suit, this could have crippling effects on the EU.

Out in the Cold

In this scenario, the EU recognises this for the opportunity that it is and cuts the UK loose. Over the following years, as the rest of Europe watches the UK economy wither, and the country fracture from Great Britain into Little England, the UK becomes a cautionary tale for would-be separatists: "Leave the EU, are you nuts? Don't you remember what it was like for the English?"

"Better together" would no longer be a campaign slogan but a statement of fact and it would embolden Europe as a Union.

The obstructionist English voice in the European project would disappear completely, allowing for the agenda of an ever closer union to progress. Dreams like a fiscal union and a unified military would become more feasible.

My Preference

I tweeted about this last night and it was not appreciated by a couple of my followers, but I stand by it. The "out in the cold" option is the best case for Europe, the worst for the UK -- but they've made their bed. The European Union is the single most ambitious project humanity has ever undertaken and if it's going to survive, it has to cut the UK loose. They've voted to leave, let them serve as an example of just what leaving means.

I say this of course as someone who lives in the UK. Christina has her job at Cambridge, so we're stuck there for at least a year, but when that's finished, we'll be looking to return to Europe -- this in itself is a risk, as it means waiting an entire year while anyone with a degree of mobility works to get out of the UK.

I don't know what we're going to do when Christina's contract is up. We want to move back to the Netherlands, but by then the EU will likely be awash in unilingual anglophones with marketable skills. This could be Very Bad for us.

But if it's good for the EU, we're ok with it.