Category Archives: Overseas

Frantic Finish

It’s evening and the House of Lords has been passed a parcel. Not as a game to cheer up the holidays but in the form of that elusive deal with our former overlords – the European Union. They need to pass it on to our head of state for the final stage. And that needs to be quick so that the Queen can retire at a reasonable time – she is 94 after all.

Cunning_Plan_160Tomorrow should start out with all the legal steps completed and just one more day of transition before we are out of the EU. The predicted last-minute fait accompli bill did get through Westminster. But at least some of the politicians did make a big effort to search for any serious issues – and their green light helped it get through with a massive majority. Now for seeing how the deal works in practice … and how our European Friends treat us.

Just to add to frantic atmosphere reports of rapidly increasing Covid cases triggered the Heath Secretary moving all Tier 2 regions into Tier 3 – and many Tier 3 into Tier 4. While the Education Secretary rushed to push back the start date for school attendance back by one or two weeks. At least the other rushed announcement was good news – in that another vaccine had passed the approval process. And this one will be usable with room temperature storage …

So a lonely New Years Eve for most of the UK – but some rays of hope that summer 2021 will see the start of a new Roaring Twenties.

Tides’s In Time’s Out

Well our Westminster MPs have been packed off to their homes or constituencies without seeing anything resembling a trade deal with the European Union. Despite another fifteen days having passed little has changed in the mass media headlines and opinion pieces despite lots of talks and briefings.

Grandad3And the few changes that have happened don’t add up to much. At the bookies the sentiment has swung from deal to no deal and amongst EU politicians the stress levels have jumped with each day that passes.

Meanwhile out at sea the EU trawlers seem to have upped their policy of scooping up all marine life – whether saleable or not – to leave nothing in the waters that the UK gets back. A very short-sighted policy and one that confirms they expect to face UK controls shortly. Surprising the BBC seems to be trying to ignore what is happening – despite claiming a leading role in ecology issues. Yet Trawler-watch is one programme they have not scheduled.

So New Year 2021 is just two weeks away and the Brexit saga still drags on .. Will some last minute deal appear? Will MPs get recalled before year end? … Will we all wake up to find 2020 was a bad dream? .. Pass the port and mince pies I need to forget …

Mischief Night

In northern England it used to be the case that the night before Plot Night – Bonfire Night – was when children would play tricks on people or raid supplies for their bonfire from any near-by competitors. But like most folk traditions the practice is long gone – probably because bonfires do not go well with tarmac roads or burning rubbish in the street!

USPres2020-1In 2020 we have instead the political grandchild of Mischief Night – the counting and disputing of votes in the US presidential election.

With the only two realistic candidates having a combined age of over 150 years it seems that the US voting system is not producing the best choices. And this year the US voters only had the option of picking between two grandads – one who thinks he is on some reality TV show and the other who gets too easily confused to safely act as commander in chief of the US military. What a choice ..

But then who are we to complain. Britain – and indeed Europe – does have more than its fair share of political players who easily justify the title worse than useless

Another Broken Promise?

Here we are at another deadline in the EU relationship saga. And it is sobering to reflect that there are eight year-olds who have spent their entire lives with Brexit on the national agenda.

MunsterManToday’s question is will the UK government, that is the Prime Minister, walk away from the fraught trade negotiations by midnight tonight – as promised? Or will they allow the EU politicians to impose their timetable instead?

By tomorrow we should find out.

But there is a feeling that this is a critical tipping point. Anything other than the UK landlord calling last orders tonight will show everyone – on both sides – just how weak and ineffective the UK leadership has become …

Update 19-Oct-2020
The cynics win again. Bluff and bluster but the deadline is not enforced and so the talks continue …

It’ll All End In Tiers?

It’s autumn and already the supermarket shelves are being stacked with Christmas specials while the British media tries to generate the false impression that there are shortages of essentials due to panic buying. For this Grandad mince pies are high on the essentials list – but with the raw materials to make them already stockpiled there are no concerns on that front.

Man38However taking a somewhat broader view there are plenty of things that could go badly wrong for Britain. First the infamous, but non-existent, trade deal with the European Union is needed by both sides – but not at any price. And those that expected the EU to take a pragmatic and fair approach have been rudely shaken out of their dreams. We have to hope that the politicians can stop playing their political games and come to a sensible solution. But it’s not something that has happened very often, or very quickly, in the past – and the EU has a worse than average track record; mainly because there are so many different countries trying to come to a common consensus. What suits Spain does not suit Germany, etc, etc.

With just three months remaining before the end of transition and just a few weeks before the next final deadline any businesses relying on importing or exporting across the Channel must be crying out for definite border policies and procedures. The optimistic view is that exports from the EU to UK will be VAT free and cheaper but the pessimistic view is that something as simple as buying an item on Amazon will involve extra processes that increase the final price significantly. Who knows? Certainly not Joe Public. And most probably not Joe Public’s member of parliament either.

Then a close second comes Covid-19 – or rather the various attempts by our leaders to solve a health pandemic by issuing random rules, laws and slogans. Today’s news that even if a vaccine is found and approved by early 2021 it will take all of next year to treat most people. So we face starting 2021 with both Covid lock-downs and massive hold-ups at all the ports. But our government has things under control, it says, and is looking to make things clearer by putting Covid restrictions into three tiers …

Some distance behind these two we have threats of political rebellions in Scotland and Ireland – plus even within Scotland – and an increasingly unstable situation within British royalty. With the head of state being in a high-risk age group, the heir apparent being past retirement age, the Duke of York being tangled up in US litigation and Harry, formerly known as Prince, having become a minister of the Woke-ist religion there is a minefield of potential disasters not far ahead for the House of Windsor.

Interesting times …

Viral THreat

It is estimated that one deadly strain of avian influenza caused the deaths of 50 million people worldwide. In England it was named Spanish Flu. It broke out here in 1918 so towards the end of First World War.

Man1

The current outbreak of Wuhan Virus is being taken very seriously but so far represents just a tiny fraction of the human cost that the pandemic of 1918 incurred. However the big issue that most commentators are not addressing is the disproportionate impact that the quarantine measures are going to have on world trade – and the global economy. In effect the entire world’s factory has been all but closed.

Each week that a factory in China, normally producing goods for export, remains closed around 2% of its annual production is lost. How many factories in China are already closed? And how many more will follow? How long before they can re-open?

Now we can all survive if the launch of the latest smartphone is delayed for months or even years. But the mighty Apple will soon feel the icy blast of recession if it runs out of products to sell. And it’s not just factory products impacted. At the opposite end of the process raw materials like coal, oil, iron ore, etc will experience a big drop in demand. This in turn will lead to a drop in prices and lay-offs in countries far away from the regions infected by the Wuhan virus.

There is a serious risk that there will be a collapse in world trade – and perhaps one big enough in scale to surpass the Wall Street Crash of the 1920’s … And that is yet another piece of 20th century history that no one wants to see repeated.

A Decade of Change?

With the scoreboard showing 1,314 days since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union the chances of another failure to deliver seem vanishingly small. And so just 3 more days remain for our country as a member. That in itself will be a first time situation for many British people. But then the 20’s seem set to be a decade of change in many ways.

man32

Starting at the top we have a monarch who has served for 67 years and will reach her 100 years in 2026 while her consort the Duke of Edinburgh will reach that milestone sooner – in 2021. A fact of human life is that it is finite – and so we must face the possibility that the 2020’s will be the last decade of the New Elizabethan era. So while Harry makes the headlines today it is the future of the monarchy that will come into question before too long.

Similarly the children of the 1940’s baby boom will reach their 80’s over the next ten years and fade away in greater numbers than ever before. A statistical fact used by pro-EU vote losers as a crutch to promote rejoining after another vote. Sadly for them this will never occur as both economic factors and bigger world issues will take priority over political manoeuvres in Europe.

And the biggest world issue will be climate change – along with the actions we are required to take in response. But that needs a separate posting …

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.

Lagarde_1

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.