Brexit: a very British Omnishambles

The backstop is England’s colonial past coming back to bite its behind

onelove
May Day!, May Day! “Brexit” no longer (necessarily) “means Brexit.”

THERESA MAY, THE BELEAGUERED PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM, embarked on a frantic round of European diplomacy in another final attempt to salvage her government’s Brexit deal. She left for the continent after bottling out of the scheduled and much lambasted “meaningful vote” on the deal. Lest it be forgotten, this deal is more of a UK-EU memorandum agreeing to the indefinite deferral of the actual Brexit agreement which is the fruit of two year’s worth of negotiations and millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money. It was still nevertheless widely derided and at least 150 of her own MPs were implacably opposed to it (there are a total of 315 Conservative MPs, 257 Labour MPs and, 78 more who are either independent of represent other parties).

Mrs May had instructed Cabinet Ministers to make clear to the media that there would be no chance whatsoever of this critical—accept it or face Armageddon—vote being delayed. So, on the morning of the 10th, Ministers were saying the vote would proceed come what may, but, by lunchtime, the script has suddenly changed. Mrs May formally postponed it, telling MPs it was clear that their concern about the Irish backstop proposals would have resulted in it being rejected “by a significant margin.” Incandescent MPs from all parties pointed out that the significant margin of dissent was there from the outset.

As a consequence, the pound (GBP £) fell sharply, as did the London Stock Market (The FTSE 250, which mostly trades businesses operating in the UK, lost almost 2% of its value). City analysts doubt either will recover much over the Christmas period as Mrs May now refuses to say when the meaningful vote is to be rescheduled for. What is crystal clear however was Europe’s response. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, immediately Tweeted that as far as his side was concerned, there would be no more negotiation. As one radio show host pointed out, “the UK, despite being in the EU, is able to keep its cherished pound coin and not sign up to the Schengen agreement so, already has considerable sovereignty.” And so it was, May returned from Germany where Angela Merkel made emphatically clear that the deal was the best the British would be getting and that cherry-picking and politicking remained firmly off of the menu.

On the 11th, the day Westminster should have been voting, the mood was, as the BBC repeatedly told its viewers, “febrile.” On the 12th, around 50 Conservative MPs called for a vote of no confidence in their PM. Not to be deterred by such seismic happenings, TV anchors and pundits were vigorously speculating over “No Brexit” (retract the divorce papers and work on the marriage) versus “No Deal Brexit” (forget the formal divorce and just run away from the marriage). The debate became most confused and heated when the backstop issue was raised; the public were now demanding to know what exactly the backstop proposal entailed.

Fathoming the Irish Backstop
It is evident from the campaign footage and media coverage that those who wanted Brexit—by hook or by crook—did not spend much time concerning themselves about the Irish border. According to the author, Ishaan Tharoor, this highlights a colonial mentality that still pervades parts of the British establishment (i.e., taking Ireland and the Irish for granted). Far more emotive and easy to articulate was for the Brexiteers to campaign for the right to overfish British waters unfettered and to put a stop to the largely non-existent ‘hoards’ of Middle Eastern migrants seeking to enter the UK.

In essence, the backstop proposal offers both Ireland and the EU an assurance that Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will remain tied to EU customs union and common market rules and regulations until the UK and the EU can jointly agree a final Brexit deal.

Unionists in Northern Ireland do not want London to treat Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK thus, Brexit would possibly require a hard boarder between the north and the south of the island. This constituent are supported by hard Brexiteers who are implacably opposed to the backstop as they see it as a way for the UK to say in the EU indefinitely (recall that Theresa May did vote to remain).

Nationalists in Northern Ireland demand that London retains the open border with the rest of Ireland. Thus, leaving the common market is not a realistic option at any future point in time. (recall that the citizens of Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to remain: 55.8% wanted to stay as in the EU).

Its 2018, not 1820
Northern Ireland is categorically a legacy of England’s former imperial control over the island of Ireland. But Brexit shows also how British former glory fuels contemporary notions of exceptionalism. There is a clear nostalgia for the past, a past which when popularly portrayed glosses over the bad and the ugly of the Empire and cherry picks the good bits. This rose-tinted perspective of the past, according to the scholar Nadine El-Enany, “has long fed the UK’s discontent at being an equal alongside other EU countries, rather than it being the first among equals.”

In fairness and to give historical perspective, it was Britain that instigated capitalism, industrialisation and travel by rail. Indeed, according to the historian Tom Leyland, the UK also bestowed English as the global lingua franca alongside the blueprints for the institutions that facilitate modernity, which the vast majority of countries have adopted lock, stock and barrel.

As the writer Gary Younge points out, Britain’s colonial past still gives many the impression that, “the reason we are at the centre of most world maps is because the Earth revolves around us, not because it was us who drew the maps.” Yet, post the Brexit referendum, the UK government is finding out how little sovereignty means for a country the size of Britain in todays globalised neoliberal world.

The idea that the UK will find it easy is to forge free-trade agreements with its former colonies or, any other country for that matter, is fanciful according to Indian author, Bhanuj Kappal. “Commonwealth countries may have forgiven, but they certainly have not forgotten past atrocities and economic exploitation.” Few, if any, of the 50 plus so-called Commonwealth countries will voluntarily sign up to the imbalanced trade deals with the UK that there were once force to adhere to.

Indeed, there is ample evidence that these countries will seek to strengthen their ties with the world’s second-largest economy, the European Union ($17.2tn) rather than chance tact and focus primarily with that of the UK (5th at $2.6tn). As the Financial Times recently made clear, 32 of these countries (mainly in Africa and the Caribbean) are already covered by free-trade agreements with the EU. Thus, they already enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the EU, including the UK, “for nearly all of their goods.”

The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for 13.5% of India’s global trade. By contrast, the UK accounts for only 3.4% of exports and less that 2% of imports. It’s true that Indian companies “invest more in the UK than anywhere else in Europe,” but the objective reality that underlines this relationship is, according to tycoon Lord Bilimoria, that “they see it as being a bridge to the EU.” Thus the UK’s continued EU membership is key to this relationship.

Imagine for a moment Britain as a Bulldog chasing after the postman’s bike. The dog gets hold of the bike—bully for him—but soon realised that he’s unable to ride it and even if he could, he’d have no idea were to ride it to. Brexiteers assumed they could dictate the terms, the omnishambles being played out since the summer of 2016, demonstrates that they cannot.

“Yeah but no but yeah but”

“Yeah but no but yeah but,” the retort used by Little Britain’s ill-educated teenager Vicky Pollard, has been voted the UK’s funniest ever television catchphrase.

Slide10

No but yeah but no but yeah but no but yeah but, Oh my god that is so unfair! Everybody knows I gave up smoking when I was like, 9! Anyway if anybody’s been breaking the rules is Harmony butler, because she stole Shanita’s eyeliner pencil, and drew a picture on the dormitory wall of a big fat woman with a penis and wrote your name on it. I’m not saying you’re a big fat woman with a penis, I’m just saying what she did!

To see the presentation, click here init

n.b. init is the deliberate misprounciation of “Isn’t it”

Lust and Lambast

A hand left poignantly unshaken; a republican party, quite unstirred.

hand-shake

hand-up

Writing concisely is not my style yet, as column inches for anything other than celebrity gossip, consumer reviews and self-help are now such a precious commodity, I must be succinct. Even if I were allowed to go wild with the word count, it would probably demonstrate only the validity of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Nowadays smartphone shortened attention spans need to be taken into account. In order to gain wide readership on matters of current affairs, being parsimonious with prose is a necessity. Gone are the days when waxing lyrical in verbose flowery language on issues of international political economy was considered a mark of distinction.

Partisanship must also be accounted for more before. Both liberals and conservatives now read mostly within their own communal and gated echo chambers. Each is served with bespoke newsfeeds that are informed (and manipulated) by ‘big data’ analytics and, essentially only serve to reinforce extant prejudices.

Adding further weight to the Editor’s demand that this article be no more than 900 words, is the fact that its contemporary flag—the courageous testimony of Dr Christine Ford—is yesterday’s news; it is all but academic now.

Nevertheless, the selection of Judge Brett “the gyrating groper” Kavanaugh to the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States, once more, the mother of all misnomers: the ‘Pro-Life’ constituent. It also makes clear the extent to which a female’s right to decide upon her own reproductive decisions is now under threat. This event, this very partisan confirmation, places the march of progress toward gender equality (‘and’ autonomy from man) that’s been taking place since at least 1913—when Emily Davison was trampled and killed by a racing horse—is now, once more, in serious jeopardy.

This isn’t really news, I hear you say. I concede, women have indeed been controlled and told what to do since the day that the mythical Eve took a—no doubt ‘dainty’—bite of the apple. I agree with you, I’ve recently read Eric Berkowitz’s, Sex and Punishment. From the savage impalement of Mesopotamian women several millennia ago to the Yazidi sex slaves of modern day Babylonia, the female form has long been lusted by men and lambasted by men.

There are mitigating circumstances, I hear you say. I concede here too. These are uncertain times, infotech and biotech are disrupting everything. It is evident that the discontents resulting from the maturing of globalisation have rekindled Huntington-style ‘us’ versus ‘them’ populism. But what is only know becoming apparent is just how gendered the undertones of this regression are. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, dreams aloud of raping Miss Universe. The macho misogynist Brazilian President, Jair “Trump of the Tropics” Bolsonaro, makes clear he’d only rape attractive women. And of course, (the once progressive) ‘Free World’ has Donald “Pussy Grabber” Trump. President Trump is categorically and publicly sexist. Recently, for instance, he described Stephanie Clifford as being “horse faced.”

Just because we can point out causal factors, does not mean we should demurely accept their consequences. We should not allow ourselves to become one of the ‘them’s for such men of power to rile against. This then brings us to one area, one appellation worth agitating against: a constituent of American voters know as ‘Pro-Lifers.’

On the face of it they sound rather caring and progressive. However, they are far from harmless. Indeed, they are both anti-life and very much against gender equality. It is this group who sought a Supreme Judge of Kavanaugh’s ilk. Pro-lifers are pro guns. Correct me if I am wrong, but guns are designed to extinguish life. Whilst delusionally obsessed with unborn foetuses (grounded, you see, on biblical myth) they are vociferously pro capital punishment and are totally okay with tucking into meat feast pizzas and Surf ‘n’ Turf slaughter house offerings.

Moreover, Pro-lifers are church going folk, ipso facto, they believe the battle of Armageddon to be sacrosanct. To be clear, they pray for a Third World War, it is prophesised so it must be true. There is little that is endearing about pro-lifers. Their morality (e.g., not coveting each other’s wives) is based only on their fear of the lord’s damnation to an eternally burning hell. They are not morally decent because it is morally decent to be morally decent. They are, according to their own narrative and logic, morally decent because god commands it.

As a result of their ‘morality’, when Dr Ford—who, unlike Judge Kavanaugh, took a polygraph test and passed—raised her hand and spoke the truth, many pro-lifers petitioned their Republican representatives to turn a blind (uncaring) eye and allow her words to fall upon deaf (unprogressive) ears. Kavanaugh’s being anti-abortion and pro gun trumped his sexual abuse of nonconsenting women. Trump, I imagine, isn’t that concerned about the issue of abortion; neither really are Fox & Friends (the latter are essentially friends of the mega-rich who care only about Trump’s tax cuts). Yet, by facilitating the overturning of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade (i.e., the decriminalisation of abortion) Trump will, by way of the Court’s newest appointee, deliver unto himself the pro-life vote in 2020 and thus, for ‘us’, another four years of megalomania.

Empire of Deceit

entrapped in honey, money or, plain old power?

Wait

honey-1

For

honey-2

It…

honey-3

Earlier that day, a female millennial was conversing with a generation X lady of class. It was done over the telephone and she said, ‘she’s just left and he’s looking at her behind with quite some lust.’

‘There was no touching?’ Enquired the other.

‘No’

‘Was she wearing the agreed upon red dress?’

‘Yes, all’s documented, her body language was clear, she was willing to go further.’

How?’

‘She’d have done it there and then on the desk if he’d wanted it.’

‘Over the desk you say, how convenient, but how cliched too.’

‘Look, I’ll send you the file now, you can go over every syllable and decide for yourself just how salacious she was.’

‘Maybe he suspects—’

‘No, how? If he’d suspected anything, he’d have feigned disdain, he was horny. Watch the video frame if you want.’

‘I shall.’

‘He’s loyal. Perhaps red’s not his colour. Maybe, he prefers older ladies.’

* * *

On another phone, the millennial said to a generation X man of class, ‘good job, you played that well.’

He replied, ‘she is more suited to the fashion houses of Milan than a fictitious hedge fund actuary position.’

‘No, she’s fallen for it; she’s still on hold—’

‘I shall be brief, do not underestimate her—’

‘I don’t.’

‘She said you are wiser than you let on too—’

‘Did she now?’

‘Yes, I mean you fuelled her infidelity concerns and, darling, you got me to fiddle with her Facebook advertising preferences putting my discreet investigative services as her top hit.’

‘Just a little asset management I suppose.’

‘The video file is on the cloud now—’

‘Splendid.’

‘I’ve played my role well haven’t I?’

‘Yes my dear, you have now.’

* * *

The millennial said to the lady of class, ‘I’ve tempted that man of yours at the gym and on the streets. Lady Debonair, he is loyal.’

Well, so it appears—’

‘Appearances don’t always have to be deceptive.’

‘Red is red, black is black.’

‘What? Look, you know, he’s a handyman. I’m not saying he’s as pure as Snow White.’

‘A viewer of filth you mean? Aren’t we all?’

‘If someone says they never watch such stuff I’d trust a snake oil vendor more.’

‘Indeed, as would I.’

‘Job done?’

‘Yes I suppose so. Listen, no offence, but as I’ve explained and as you’ve observed, he’s capable of selling sand by the shipload to Gulf Arabs.’

‘Yep, I’ve noted his capabilities. No offence taken.’

* * *

In the evening of that same day in a palatial suburban family home owned by the man of class, the lady of class lay waiting in her old honeymoon gown. She valued plausible deniability for downstairs, she’d prepared the pasta and pesto in the same way as it had been made for them on the Amalfi coast ten years ago. Over the phone she said, ‘Claudio?’

‘All is a set il mio amante,’ he replied.

‘Hotel first, then quayside apartment?’

‘It will be as you want it to be mio dolce.’

At the same time, in a penthouse apartment which also happened to be owned by the man of class, the millennial lay dressed in nothing but a high-end pair of headphones. Her was anxious look was due to the GPS tracker showing that the iGen girl’s phone was both switched on and stationary. After once more hearing, ‘what’s up, Virginia here, leave a message after the tone,’ she said, ‘we need to debrief… what are you up to?’

At the same time, the driver of a taxicab said to his passenger, ‘where to Sir?

‘The Waldorf Astoria.’

‘Certainly.’

‘I’ve a little bit of business to attend to there… as we say here, no rest for the wicked.’

‘How interesting, back in The Yemen, my father would say, idle hands are the devil’s best friend.’

* * *

Later that night, in the lift up to a Club Lounge and Executive Suites, an Italian sounding man said, ‘let a the good times role.’

‘And why not indeed,’ the lift’s other occupant replied.

‘Life has its ups and a downs.’

‘Indeed it does and, what an apt comment to make whilst in an elevator.’

CCTV footage indicates that regaining his concentration after a moment’s hesitation, the Italian sounding one continued, ‘well, you seem to have dealt yourself a vile little Venus—’

‘I beg your pardon—’

‘Yes, and I in turn, dealt my decade old vendetta.’

#10—Climate change & moral responsibility

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

We are all responsible for our actions, are we not?

While some environmentalists say, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Many people now think that because the environmental problems we face are so big and global in nature, the only way they can be solved is by international agreement where many governments cooperate together. In May 2019, the UN released an intergovernmental report on biodiversity, it concluded that, “the health of ecosystems on which all species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.” To make matters worse, the human population and meat consumption also continue to grow rapidly. Meat production has increased by 500% in the past 60 years. This is one reason why organisations like PETA promote the vegan diet.

There are many different types of ‘political’ organisation in terms of seeking to solve environmental problems. They range from, (1) citizen campaigns, small NGOs (within a country), large NGOs (international, such as Green Peace and PETA), (2) through individual governments to (3) global intergovernmental organisations. An example of a grassroots level political organisation is the Extinction Rebellion group who in 2019 did peaceful street protests in many countries in the world. An example of an intergovernmental political agreement is the “Paris Agreement” organised by the United Nations that seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it was signed in 2016 by over 150 countries.

The key environmental issues that the various environmentally focused political organisations are trying to solve are:

  1. Overconsumption — Today there are around 7.5 billion people on planet earth, but that number is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. To produce food/goods for all these people results in natural resource depletion, pollution and global warming.
  2. Natural resource depletion — Some scientists say one out of every ten types of fauna and flora are expected to go extinct by 2050. For example, orangutans live in rainforests, when these are cut down, so is their habitat. Not only do rainforests act as biodiversity reserves but they absorb CO2 and produce fresh oxygen. Nonetheless, at present, about 18 million acres of rainforest are destroyed each year.
  3. Pollution — Millions of tons of rubbish and sewage is thrown into rivers and the oceans each year. Modern agricultural and industrial processes use and produce all sorts of toxic chemicals.
  4. Global Warming — 97% of scientists who study the climate agree that global temperatures are rising, ice caps are melting, and droughts are becoming more common, in no small part because of human activities.

In order to address these problems, society will need to fundamentally change. But change isn’t easy. Not many people would want to give up ordering takeaway food (plastic packaging), give up on the idea of flying overseas every year (CO2) or indeed give up on the idea of having more than two children. Fundamental change can only happen as a result of political activity. Therefore, the best political activity, at any level, would focus on three things:

  1. Enforce environmental protection laws — This will help conserve remaining natural habitats, cut pollution and reduce cruelty to animals
  2. Invest in info-tech — As this can lead to a fossil fuel free future and production processes that no longer deplete natural resources
  3. To focus on human happiness — As people often go shopping and eat too much because they are unhappy or over-stressed, organisations need to promote the idea of doing yoga and being vegan as eco-friendly alternatives

To sum up, because the environmental problems faced by humankind today are so substantial, political action needs to be taken at all levels. We need to think globally (e.g., demand our governments to cut CO2 and preserve remaining areas of wilderness) and act locally (e.g., no longer using single-use plastics like water bottle and milkshake straws).


References

IPBES (2019). IPBES Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers. Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Retrieved, https://www.ipbes.net/news/ipbes-global-assessment-summary-policymakers-pdf
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


philosopy