Despite the positive result of finally passing into law the EU Withdrawal Act the past 50 more days have lead to a feeling that the British government is heading towards an ever-weaker Brexit proposition.
The most obvious development has been the apparent sidelining of David Davis and his Brexit department by a scheming civil servant we will call Olly The Mekon. A Whitehall insider setting Brexit policy while assisting the Prime Minister down a path that is, it seems, of his own choosing. It was hardly surprising that Davis resigned given the content of this official UK exit plan seems to have been prepared without his involvement. Worse still came the leaked comment by the PM that this confidential UK plan was shown to the German Chancellor before being released to Davis, the Cabinet and parliament. Talk about stabbing everyone in the back!
At this point it is worth recapping some earlier analysis with one telling report being published in 2016, before the Brexit vote, that outlined The process for withdrawing from the European Union.
This civil service document painted a very gloomy picture; mainly highlighting their perceived problems in leaving the EU –
– It could take up to a decade or more to negotiate firstly our exit from the EU, secondly our future arrangements with the EU, and thirdly our trade deals with countries outside of the EU, on any terms that would be acceptable to the UK.
– This long period of uncertainty could have an impact on financial markets, investment and the value of the pound, and as a consequence on the wider economy and jobs.
– Issues such as the rights of the approximately two million British citizens living elsewhere in the EU, access to markets for vital industries, and the status of Irish and Gibraltan borders would all need to be addressed.
And as was said here in 2016, after the Brexit vote, The report may be excessively negative but it does make some valid points. Now any Grandads with a strong commercial background would probably conclude that the best strategy would be to go for the simplest terms agreed as quickly as possible. In fact terms that could be as simple as a polite goodbye with no concessions or commitments. This would put the UK in the same situation as non-European countries and non-EU members like Turkey. ..Clearly a quick and clean separation would sweep away all the uncertainties but it would also upset those that want to hang on to EU membership for as long as possible.
Today it is touch-and-go who will win in the struggle between those representing the views of the pleb majority and those using their higher state of consciousness to lead us all down their path of personal ambition. Sadly the plebs have too few political representatives to get the views actioned. And our superiors seem blind to the prospect of the UK becoming a little more than a colony of the EU.
What a legacy for our grandchildren and truly a Friday the 13th scenario.
ps If you don’t remember the The Mekon aka The Greatest Brain in the Universe then you probably never read The Eagle.
Today the Grandads Technology Centre (GTC) received its latest upgrade. A DVD player with the ability to play Ultra High Definition (UHD) blu-ray discs and Super-Audio CDs via its sole UHD television.
This technological advance at the GTC comes at the same time as the BBC are streaming UHD versions of some FIFA football matches from Russia. And have just announced that much of this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships will be shot in UHD (2160 pixels high) with access via iPlayer.
However this technological advance only serves to show the weaknesses rather than the strengths of the world’s largest broadcaster. Most UK broadcast channels are transmitted as standard definition (576 pixels high) and even though the BBC’s (and ITV’s) main channels are available in HD (up to 1080 pixels high) the vast majority of the channels on Freeview are not; including those part owned by the BBC. Worse still some of the programmes, for example the never-ending repeats of Dad’s Army, are so old that they are in the square format used in the days of analogue television.
The problem for the BBC is its scale and scope. At one extreme it is using the latest technology – for a very limited audience – while at the other extreme it is providing most tax-payers with broadcasts using standards that are long past their best. Low-tech may be justified for transmissions to distant countries – but not within the UK.
For example, to enjoy the optimum experience of Wimbledon in UHD the BBC says audiences need a 40 megabit per second Internet connection. A speed much beyond what is actually available for most UK viewers at present. And sadly the UK seems extremely unlikely to have a powerful enough broadband network able to provide the capacity needed for everyone to watch Eastenders or Corrie in UHD at 40mps in the foreseeable future.
So for now getting something new and appealing, that will test our 4K TV, will have to be sourced via UHD blu-ray discs – despite them retailing for around £20 each. At least then we can repeat some new material rather than shows that have already been repeated ad nauseam on TV.
As our scoreboard clocks up the passing of another hundred days the prospect of a clean, efficient break with the EU next March continues to slip further away.
Only yesterday we were told by the chief executive of HMRC that setting up new systems to handle either of the customs options being promoted by our politicians would take three to five years to put in place. That’s three to five years on from when a choice is actually made. And with total costs estimated at £17,000 million to £20,000 million per year – it would cost more than EU membership! Clearly neither of the two options proposed is a practical or pragmatic solution for our needs with a 2019 target rapidly approaching.
And having heard so many scare stories over recent years many Grandads must be asking the rather obvious question – how come we can already handle all the customs requirements of the many millions of items arriving each year from China, North & South America, south-east Asia, etc? Just one container ship from Asia can – and does – deliver far more goods than all the trucks on a cross channel ferry or Euro Tunnel train – without requiring an expensive new system. A system that coincidently costs more than staying in the EU.
Meanwhile the EU Withdrawal Bill still has not got through to the statute book and mischief makers are at work pushing out rumors of another general election in the Autumn. Two examples of how vested interests are working to block the referendum result. At this rate Brexit will be an issue dumped on our children – or even our grandchildren ..
As the relentless peck, peck, peck removes more flesh from the bones of Brexit the dominant sentiment for many of those commenting on-line is disappointment at how long the process is stretching out. Even though leave now is the feeling the chances of this happening are close to zero.
One factor that has been claimed to be a cause of the slow progress is the number of EU rules imposed over our decades of membership – estimated at around 12,000 regulations and 8,000 statutory instruments. And it is true that work on reviewing and amending these rules, in preparation for leaving, seems to be a low key, limited effort at best. Possibly because current negotiations are taking so much of the available resources.
However another reason could be the fact that the actual EU Withdrawal Bill is still not finalised so limiting the effort that can be spent on what is currently a speculative result. And with parliament on holiday until 16-April – plus taking two more breaks during May – it may be that this vital legislative step does not get passed before the summer break – which this year starts 24-July. In which case March 2019 is starting to look very close.
But then a more Yes Minster scenario might be that delaying the EU Withdrawal Bill could therefore stop, or at least cripple, Brexit. The logic being that by adding more and more complications to the process the chances of failure will be greatly increased. Sadly we, the people, will never really know what is happening and why .. so nothing new there then!
Back at our Leaving The EU Scoreboard not much has changed. In terms of regaining our independence from the EU that is. Another fifty days have gone by with the UK’s political parties spending their time – and our money – canvassing for our votes on their big issues; or at least their small issues made to look big.
By late tonight the first of the general election results will be declared and who finally gets the short straw to handle the EU negotiations will be confirmed.
However all parties seem to be working on the notion that we have until March 2019 – or even later – to sort out a deal. Yet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, was reported as long ago as last December as requiring a deal by October 2018 – to allow time for all sides to ratify it.
Considering that almost a full year has been wasted on diversions and squabbles, things do not look promising for a well thought out solution by then. And even though some actual negotiations are due to start this month there are already new excuses being found for more delays. For example the state opening of parliament has now been called for 19th June – the same day as the promised start of EU negotiations – and the German federal elections fall on 27th August so blocking any meaningful EU progress [Correction; 27-Aug was the earliest allowed date. The actual date is now set as 24-Sep]. But with the UK parliament due to have their summer break from July to September that’s just one more diversion. Meanwhile millions per day in EU payments are still being given away; with little regard for our ever increasing national debt.
But just imagine what could happen if we wake up tomorrow to the prospect of a hung parliament or a change in government … Gawd help us!
As you will all be aware since our last check on the Leaving The EU Scoreboard the UK has taken that all important first step – sending in our resignation letter. But then today’s announcement of a snap UK general election threw more fuel onto the already overheated political fires. With UK local elections already called for next month the various party political machines are now going into overdrive. And with some big votes due within the EU there will be plenty of diversions in Europe as well. So given that many (all?) politicians have self-interest high in their priorities the chances of any meaningful progress on Brexit look slim. True a general election will give a new mandate to who ever wins. But recent UK results have been very close and we could have an unexpected draw.
In the light of today’s news Grandad’s recommended second Brexit step – suspending EU payments – seems very unlikely to happen; at least in the short term. So creating a rather obvious weakness in the UK’s negotiating position. Instead the EU have used the opportunity to put in their first precondition – a multi-billion euro bill to cover future expenditure. A demand with little in the way of detail to support it – yet that has to be agreed to before the UK can start discussions on any trade issues. The worry is that this will be the first of many expensive obstacles designed to keep British tax payers on the EU hook for the maximum time. A process that has already started with the EU machinery wiping off 30 days off our 730 days (two year) maximum through simply waiting for a meeting to approve their own draft guidelines. The UK elections will wipe off another 40 or so days and the diverse demands of the EU members could mean that even approving the guidelines could stretch out further.
And Grandad’s recommended third step – repeal of the 1972 act giving the EU jurisdiction over the UK – has become tied into a much bigger piece of legislation. A bill that was proposed for the next Queen’s Speech (the target date of 17-May was left unconfirmed even before today’s news) but not to be enacted until the final leaving date. Again this creates a major weakness in the UK’s position. The EU is able to force through legislation and financial commitments that the UK has no option but accept. We will be an opponent of the EU when trading with the rest of the world – but under the control of increasingly hostile EU politicians and bureaucrats.
So a new UK government faces some 660 days of one-sided poker playing – if they are foolish enough to play by the rules imposed ..
Politicians sometimes wonder why there is increasing public cynicism about their motivations and performance. And with the Brexit process they have had the chance to show everyone that the public’s concerns are misguided.
Yet as we slip past the 250 days mark without completing any of the steps needed to leave the EU they seem to be determined to prove, beyond doubt, just how ineffective they have become.
And sending Brussels our resignation is just the easy part. Once accepted by the Eurocrats there follows a maximum negotiating period of 730 days. A limited time to either complete the difficult negotiations – or give up and leave without agreement. Based our politician’s performance so far, leaving straight away would achieve the same result with a lot less hassle. But then the Lords and Commons don’t get paid by results so it looks like Grandad will be stuck with writing these depressing posts for years to come …
So exactly seven months on from our vote to leave the European Union we now have a decision on who needs to be consulted before we can resign. If progress by the UK government continues at this pace the EU negotiation window of two years maximum will close before any British plans are even submitted.
But those hoping to remain in the EU seem to have lost sight of how the EU plans to change over the next few years. Britain would not be able to stay on in the EU on its 1990 terms – even if leaving was reversed or delayed for decades. All those special terms that the UK enjoyed in the past will not be an option in the future.
The master plan to create a European super state unifying and integrating all its countries economically, politically and socially is the only vision of the future that politicians in Brussels will allow.
The pound would have to go, along with imperial measurements and an independent military. While the much despised British rebate is already being lined up for removal along with our veto powers over key policy areas. Obviously the free movement of people would be strictly enforced, despite UK objections, since it is one of the articles of EU faith that cannot be challenged.
So ignoring the majority and forcing Britain to remain a member would not provide a safe, stable or familiar future within the EU. Rather it would commit the country to a series of destructive changes at colossal expense. At the same time our reduced voting capacity would mean that even fewer British plans would gain support in Brussels. And with poorer member states easily outnumbering the net-contributors, like the UK, we would have to put up with more laws benefiting them while their escalating costs would get passed onto us. Not a bright future – even if the grand EU design actually worked.
So being ruled by a rather dubious bunch of British politicians may not be much to cheer about – but it’s a lot better than the alternative …
The combination of the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday and the Supreme Court’s promise today that they will issue a judgement next Tuesday has injected some much needed action into the Brexit soap opera. A drama that was in danger of boring its audience to distraction.
However, despite this welcome news, we are still awaiting the issue of that national resignation letter. And we are, of course, still bankrolling lavish, and unaudited, spending by eurocrats on their pet projects – and supporting their comfortable life styles. The hope is that the PM, with the backing of parliament, will actually meet her own target of March for the resignation. But even so millions of our national taxes are still going to be siphoned off until 2019; as things stand.
So despite this week’s developments the British position is much the same as it was back in September and the advice then to opt for the simplest terms, agreed as quickly as possible, still applies. Let’s hope that Whitehall gets its act together and takes on board the advice that no deal is better than a bad deal …
Replacement Windows – All of the Windows 8 devices at Grandad Towers have survived enough daily use under Windows 10 to start clearing out the backups of the old versions. Even the tiny Linx tablet came through OK despite a short stage in the upgrade process where the video was totally scrambled.
Greeks Without Gifts – The last of the Eurozone countries agreed to the latest Greek bailout loan late yesterday. So it looks like the 3,400 million of loan repayments that are due by Greece today can go ahead on time. But any scheme that involves borrowing more to pay back earlier loans is bound to fail unless there is either some right-off of the debts or a dramatic increase in government revenue.
DAB Radio Drags On and On – It is over two years since it became obvious that the push to switch to DAB radio would never reach its target market share in time and so trigger the switch-off of FM radio transmissions.
But the UK Government (where Ed Vaizey is still the Minister responsible) continues to be encouraged by the BBC / commercial operators to invest more on our obsolete DAB radio. A process that has been on going for five years or more in the form of the Digital Radio Action Plan. But more importantly was started with BBC trials in 1990 and launched publicly twenty years ago. Clearly technology has moved on – a lot – since then. Today the standard is DAB+ for radio transmissions with wi-fi / bluetooth / 4G being preferred for tablets and smartphones.
Despite these years of DAB radio promotion the latest survey from RAJAR shows that the slow decline in AM/FM listening mirrors a similarly slow growth in DAB listening. Current trends indicate that DAB will not reach the 50% of listening mark until 2026. And Ed Vaizey has even resorted to asking UK manufacturers to stop producing FM radios to try to force the issue. A strategy that fails to address the fact that Mark 1 DAB radio, as implemented in the UK, is so technically inferior to the alternatives. And each year that goes by makes the UK’s official position that much more untenable and out-dated. Despite this the second national DAB channel (the D2 multiplex / ensemble) licence was awarded in March with the objective of being on-air in 2016.