Category Archives: Europe

Top Banker

The role of president of the European Central Bank (ECB) is vitally important for the prudent management of the euro. A tricky task when it is used in nineteen countries with widely-divergent economies.

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Until last week the role was filled by Mario Draghi and under his management trillions of extra euros were created and mainly used to fund government borrowing and EU industries through buying their bonds. This was intended to have the effect of getting businesses to expand.

On Friday Christine Lagarde started her eight year term as ECB president – and set out with a commitment for further euro printing. But that was arranged by Draghi before he left. An unusual move in the circumstances – and one that was opposed by seven of the twenty-five strong governing council. A body that reflects that basic problem with the EU – the differences between the financial policies needed in, for example, Greece and Germany. It is also a body that Mde. Lagarde will need for help – since she lacks any central bank experience herself.

But that never stopped her at the IMF so the chances are that the euro will not fall into terminal decline – despite various predictions in recent years. Just as long as the Germans can keep their economy buoyant … and stick with the euro.

We Cannae Take Much More Captain

As the political wrangling reaches fever-pitch the mood amongst the general population seems to range from despair to barely contained anger.

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How can so many of our elected representatives be so bad? Many – most – ignore their constituents’ choices and play juvenile games in an insulated metro bubble with zero regard for the well being of the nation.

At least the EU politburo is working towards an objective with a plan – even though it is flawed plan to create a European Empire ruled by a central cabal. Whereas every UK plan seems to be to try anything and hope we can all muddle through. All the time expecting that everyone involved will play the game with fairness and honesty. An ideal that cuts little ice in the 21st century.

The next few weeks are supposed to be our last under EU control .. but we have all heard that so often before.

Good Riddance

Given that it is now 1,200 days since the EU membership referendum result and that was preceeded by months if not years of pro- and anti- arguments you would think that every possible issue had been covered.

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But no. Instead we have shrieks and wails from anti-Brexit factions demanding months more of delays. For what? To discuss? To have a rigged referendum? To have a damaged general election? Or simply to remain- either by these repeated delays or by revoking our leave request?

Looking at our politicians – and judges – from outside of the metropolitan bubble gives Grandads little insight into their off-camera activities. But experience tells us that most are driven by self interest – be that personal, financial or idealogical. So we cannot see who is getting paid or benefiting from insider trading or who is trying to weaken or even break-up our country. But there can be little doubt that they exist.

And outside of the UK we have little support from powerful EU figures – unlike leaders in Australia and the United States for example. And the typical EU view is that we are there to be exploited and restricted in any way possible. Their words deny it – but their actions do not.

The country has to leave – and today would not be too soon!

Learn From History

As the horrors of the 1939-45 War fade from living memory they become just another part of history. And our present day issues with the European Union are almost always taken as short term; arguments unrelated to the bigger picture or long term perspective.

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They are in a different mental compartment to Nazi plans for controlling Europe from 1942. Yet the Treaty of Rome – the start of the current EU – was produced just 8 years after troops from the Western Allies had to carry out risky airlifts to get vital supplies to the people of West Berlin for the eleven months of a Russian blockade. Indeed British troops were still stationed in Germany when the Treaty was produced.

As a result few, if any, in those shouting, banner-waving mobs have any concept of the plans behind the EU’s on-going fiscal and legislative programme. To many a highlight of EU legislation is the capping mobile phone roaming changes [seriously – this was circulated as a major reason to remain just last month!]. Few have bothered to read – much less digest – the plans dictated by top eurocrats and EU civil servants.

However you would hope that all pro-EU activists – especially those who have spent the past three years shouting down anyone who disagreed – would have read what it says on the tin. Yet it seems not. Just this week we saw a pro-EU placard-waving marcher asked for their three favourite things about the EU. They could only think of one – the NHS!

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. [George Santayana]

Choices Made?

At our beloved European Union HQ the parliament has selected its leader for the next five years – from a candidate choice of just one! Despite this non-existent range of options Ursula von der Leyen still struggled to get enough votes to confirm her appointment as President.

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And again those Grandads who favour staying members of the Europa Projekt will surely know all about their new ruler – but for the rest of us here is a quick update. Frau von der Leyen is currently the German defence minister – useful for those EU Army plans – but not exactly a high flyer in German politics. Back in childhood her father, Ernst Albrecht, was one of the first European civil servants who later moved back to Germany and became Prime Minister of Lower Saxony. A post that may have helped Frau von der Leyen become a minister in the Lower Saxony state government in 2003 and then in the federal government in 2005. In recent years she has been considered as a contender for the post of Chancellor and ironically NATO Secretary-General. However her performance in government has not been much of a recommendation for high office being the lowest rated minster in national polls. Some see her being gifted the top EU job as a way of removing her from German federal politics.

Meanwhile in the UK we are still waiting to learn who has got the most votes for the job of Conservative leader – and with it the keys to 10 Downing Street. Unlike the EU election process the UK contest had an over-supply of candidates even if the voting was limited to party members. The expectation is the Boris Johnson will win with a massive majority – by a similar margin to the earlier votes by MPs.

But the fractured nature of UK politics mean that even if Johnson does have much more support than anyone else there will still be party members trying to block and disrupt his time in office. Moves that invalidate the idea that they are in a single political party. The issue of Brexit has split both the Conservative and Labour parties so that we now have a least four separate groupings who are only nominally on the same side. If the factions lead to an early general election then it could be the Brexit party and the LibDems that gain – merely because they have unequivocal positions on the biggest issue this country has faced in a life time.

Feedback

Time’s Up – After much horse trading and secret deals the top eurocrats have agreed – probably – on who will become the next EU presidents. The changes are – at the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker is to be replaced by Ursula von der Leyen; at the European Council Donald Tusk is to be replaced by Charles Yves Jean Ghislaine Michel; at the European Parliament Antonio Tajani is now replaced by David Sassoli; at the Eurogroup Mario Centeno has been in post since 2018 and at the European Central Bank Mario Draghi is to be replaced by Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde.

Surely all those Grandads who believe in continued EU membership will know all about the excellent qualities of these fine presidents – but for the rest of us it’s more like … Who? or How did they get that job? Interestingly there was no news about the future role of Michel Barnier even though he was lined-up for a top job only a few weeks ago.

BBC Sinks Even Further – Despite clearly expecting plenty of negative feedback on the plan to means test TV licences the BBC has continued to fire more and more bullets at its own feet (snowflake warning; metaphorical language – no BBC staff or members of the public were physically or mentally harmed). The announcements of the salaries of both on-screen talent and senior BBC staff triggered plenty of reaction. And not much of it was in support.

Then the sheer pointless waste of sending the main evening news presenter to Lyon to interview the BBC sport presenter also in Lyon seemed to go over the heads of the executives responsible. Apart from the benefit of providing Clive Myrie with free tickets to the football match and a stay in Lyon on expenses the whole segment was just one more source of ammunition (another metaphorical). Given the situation the BBC might also have reconsidered the need to relocate morning weather forecasts to Wimbledon during the tennis – but it is likely that Carol is a tennis fan so would have resisted missing her days at courtside; with pay.

And as this posting was being prepared came the news that the BBC is facing a legal challenge over its impartiality and biased coverage. It’s hard to see how this can succeed – given the resources that the BBC can throw against it. But having threatened millions of pensioners with a loss of benefit every unjustified expense and biased report is going to be jumped on – by lots of critics.

Yet Another Pro-Brexit Vote

As the results of the EU parliament elections get revealed the situation in the UK remains much as before – despite the massive protest vote.

With The Brexit Party already having 28 MEPs and 31.6% of the vote it is very clear there is solid demand to leave the EU now – and to have the same trading relationships as any other non-EU country would have.

Yet the Westminster villagers seem to want to replace the failed Mrs May with a policy-clone. Someone who will seek a special EU deal while refusing to take the benefits that the world trade option offers. A strategy that will fail – again. And force the UK not just to remain but also to become part of the Europa Projekt – the United States of Europe.

Already we have Conservative leadership candidates – and their backers – saying that No Deal is a crazy, extremist suicide strategy that they will not accept. Even though the Conservatives have sunk to an all-time low of fifth place – with less than 10% of the EU votes.

Yet at some stage this refusal to accept democratic results will have to be tackled. Worryingly one solution – a final solution – is to make sure popular votes no longer take place. This would remove the risk to the elite that their plans could be questioned, challenged or even blocked by the plebs.

However another scenario is that the Conservative leadership choice becomes irrelevant once they have been wiped off the political map by a general election …

Time’s Up

At the European Central Bank the current president, Mario Draghi, is already preparing for his departure on 31 October 2019 – and it looks like he will make it out before his policy of issuing of trillions of new euros – mainly as cheap loans to EU corporations – comes to a sticky end.

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While at the British equivalent, the Bank of England, governor Mark Carney, is staying on until January 2020; to make sure that Brexit goes to plan. However what is not clear is exactly whose plan that is – even though Philip Hammond has something in mind.

Over in Brussels president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will also see out the end of his term on 31 October 2019 – and Team Juncker [yes that really is the name they use!] have already tabled their final works. So if the Brexit can is kicked any further down the road a new president would be in charge – interesting…

However that other key Brexit figure Donald Franciszek Tusk, president of the European Council, will be around for another month after Juncker; not ending his term until 30 November 2019. And the can will have to be kicked further towards Christmas for both posts to have changed.

So that’s four important figures that we expect to leave soon – yet we are totally in the dark about our national politicians. The local government elections are just next week and even though they do not effect Westminster directly the results will send a message to the parties about public sentiment. More importantly the EU elections follow on just three weeks later and the indications are that the public will vent their feelings on our failure to leave on that much-promised March date. The Conservatives are getting very worried.

It’s hard to imagine but if these EU elections do go ahead in the UK then the UK government will look even more out of touch and gutless. This potential major embarrassment to the government means that all sorts of cunning plans and under the counter exchanges will be tried to avoid them taking place – or, if they do, to restrict the powers of UK MEPs in Brussels. However given the level of incompetence in Westminster it may be Brussels that acts on this instead.

But the big question avoided so far is – when is time up for Mrs May? Stories of her demise have been floated repeatedly without result. Despite all those defeats and numerous resignations our PM blunders on quite unable, it seems, to accept anything other than getting her deal agreed. A deal so toxic for our grandchildren that it must be stopped from ever reaching our statute books. What’s in it for her? We may never know.

And at this point a Labi Siffre song from the 1990’s seems appropriate –

The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The further you take my rights away
The faster I will run
You can deny me, you can decide
To turn your face away
No matter ’cause there’s

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone, oh no
There’s something inside so strong
Oh, something inside so strong