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Kevin McNamara August 17, 2017

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It’s perhaps a sign of the broader chaos that the passing of Kevin McNamara, former BLP spokesman on Northern Ireland, has been perhaps somewhat under remarked upon. One aspect of his career was his steadfast adherence to support for Irish unity, a long standing support from the 1960s onwards – which itself indicates a certain formal emphasis within the BLP, albeit one that was not, as many of us will recall, necessarily upheld when that party was in government in the 1970s.

One other aspect of McNamara was his support for British republicanism and ‘campaigned in his last years in parliament on many issues, protesting against the Act of Succession which prohibits a Roman Catholic or the spouse of a Roman Catholic to be the British monarch’.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series August 17, 2017

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

“Have A Priest In Your Family… It only takes £1 a week” August 17, 2017

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Thought this might bring back a memory or two ……
priest1

priest2

Interview with Alan Kelly… August 17, 2017

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…in the current edition of Hot Press, by Jason O’Toole. A lot in it but here are some examples… well worth getting to read its entirety…

Social issues and conservatism?

You wouldn’t see sex before marriage as a sin?
Not at all! Ah, no. Don’t get this wrong. I’m very liberal on most issues. But no, no, no, I’m not. Oh my God, no! Jesus, no! There seems to be a view that some people wanted to develop for political purposes that, in some ways, I’m conservative.
I’m the most un-conservative person you’ll ever meet on most issues. I just don’t believe in shouting from the rooftops all the time. Also, my political views are very much about bread and roses. I talk an awful lot more about the bread, because unless you have the bread, I’m not sure you can have the roses.

The Left?

Do you think Labour has to reach out to
others on the left?

I would like to see the Social Democrats, in particular, and the Labour Party coming together.
You’d like to see a merging of the two
parties?

Yeah. There should be a naturally coming together. They have many fine members. It’s hard to distinguish between Social Democrats and Labour. And there’s others: there’s Independents and people across other parties. And really for the future of social democrats – which we all are – and the future of democratic socialists, really, there needs to be that coming together to forge a block not just in Leinster House but across the
country.

And the Left?

What about the so called ‘far left’?
There is a big difference between the likes of us and the far left, who are really not interested in ever being in government or achieving anything.
It’s permanent protest. I’m not into that. Permanent protest is utopian rubbish. It’ll never materialise into anything. They basically lead people up the garden path and abandon them
all the time. It’s the politics of promoting misery and not seeing anything positive in life.

And the future?

Do you see yourself as a future leader of the party?
Whenever there’s an opportunity again I’ll put my name forward – if the people of Tipperary still elect me, that is!

Holyhead logjam post-Brexit? Surely this wasn’t supposed to happen? August 17, 2017

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I don’t recall this being mentioned prior to the referendum by anyone.

A report by the Welsh assembly on how Brexit could affect ports in Wales says customs delays could have an unwelcome impact, while the route’s two ferry operators, which have previously remained silent on Brexit, told an assembly committee of their concerns for Holyhead.
Irish Ferries said it feared a reintroduction of customs checks could lead “UK plc” to quickly grind to a halt, while Stena Line said any custom or border checks could disturb the whole business model for the “open port” of Holyhead.

And:

Welsh assembly members heard that more than 70% of Irish cargo comes through Wales, including produce from Northern Ireland, because it offers the quickest route to the UK for exporters of perishable goods.

And an excellent point made here:

“Everyone is talking, quite rightly about the hard border between [Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland] and that is hugely important because of the Good Friday agreement, but the Common Travel Area between Wales and Ireland is hugely important because of the scale of business,” said local Labour MP, Albert Owen.

Of course this was predicted by sane Brexiteers like Richard North – hence their antagonism to the absurdity of ‘hard’ Brexits or indeed the campaigns waged. And consequently their proposal for EFTA/EEA membership for the UK post-Brexit.

But one has to marvel at the lack of interest, expertise, consideration, even basic curiosity on the part of those who argued for Brexit from whatever position as to the actual material outcomes of this for these islands.

And for those of us who have travelled through Holyhead over the last few years this feature of journeys even in the current essentially non-existent customs/other regime will strike a certain fear. Because already there are bottle necks on traffic flows as one crosses over the bridge to Anglesey.

Owen pointed out that there was already gridlock in Holyhead when weather did not permit sailings or when there was a problem on the bridge to mainland Wales.
“Traffic backs up very quickly. If there were checks, congestion would be a daily occurrence. If you have two ferries in at once, the queue could be 7km,” he said. “There’s potential for chaos, and there’s potential for restrictions for companies that need to get to the market quickly.”

FUBAR

Visions of an agreed Ireland beyond the GFA/BA… what would it look like, where would it be going?  August 16, 2017

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I’m always interested in hearing what people think might work in the future in relation to this island. What would be included, or excluded, in regard to political links and connections. A unitary state or a federal or confederal structure. Representation for unionism outside of the state, or not?

Gender differentiation? August 16, 2017

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There’s one half good point in this piece on the Google memo which has wider applicability, albeit there are many not so good points about supposed differences between women and men in working lives. I’ve been in the workplace for a bit over a quarter of a century now. I’ve never seen any evidence that women or men are unsuited due to their gender to be doing the jobs they’re doing. If anything I’ve found that – and I hate the word and I use it in a general sense – professionalism is more likely to be that of women than men. But only marginally.

But be that as it may, the one half good point is as follows:

…the usual way to reintegrate the sexes is to have them marry one another and raise kids, what Silicon Valley probably needs right now more than either workplace anti-microaggression training or an alt-right underground is a basic friendliness to family, pregnancy and child rearing.
This is why the new Apple headquarters, which has a 100,000-square-foot fitness and wellness center but no child care center, is a more telling indicator of what really matters to Silicon Valley than all the professions of gender-egalitarianism that have followed James Damore’s heretical comments about sex differences.
Those differences, the real ones, have one common root: Women bear children; men do not. Figuring out how to respect that essential fact and all its implications, while also respecting the equality of the sexes, is one of the great challenges of our age. And it’s because we are failing at it that the sexes have begun to go their separate ways.

I am sceptical about the sexes going different ways, and I’m sceptical that the sexes have to be reintegrated through marriage given so many opposite-sex people do indeed marry. But for the rest there’s a degree of sense there. And I’d take it a bit further. This doesn’t just apply to women bearing children, it is also about men taking a greater role in rearing children.

Reality or desperation… the UK unveils a document on Brexit. August 16, 2017

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The UK government document on the customs union seems almost detached from reality. As others have noted, it seeks a ‘new customs partnership’ which would see the UK ‘mirroring EU requirements for imports’. On paper all this sounds fine, but… the problem is that the EU already has a customs union and doesn’t actually need any of this. Why should it accept the UK offering a mirror when it wants the UK to be in the customs union as is or outside it as a third party country?

Worse again, as Sean Whelan on RTÉ notes:

This is particularly good for getting around the problem of the Northern Ireland border. The only snag is, it won’t work.

Not in the form the UK is suggesting, which is that the UK would “mirror” EU customs law for goods that would come into the UK and then go on to the EU.

But a different regime would apply to goods destined only for the UK market.

This is tricky enough to implement among honest and noble businesses and traders, but the flip side of the customs coin is smugglers. Criminals infest all border regimes, because there is money to be made.

This UK proposal would open a gigantic hole in the EU customs defences, creating a massive incentive for customs, excise and VAT criminals to exploit the differences between the EU and UK regimes. It is very rare for governments to propose facilitating revenue loss on such a grand scale.

The British paper admits this approach is “unprecedented” and would be “challenging” to implement. Indeed.

And Whelan makes another point. The solutions the UK proposes in relation to this… tracking mechanisms, repayment mechanisms, refunds, etc are the antithesis of ‘frictionless’. Indeed he argues ‘everything is being double up by Brexit’. More on that below.

I suppose the best that can be said is that this effort by the UK demonstrates that – yes, some reality is setting in. The thought of tailbacks of trucks at Dover (and Holyhead) for miles and miles and days and days must be causing some sleepless nights in Whitehall (well, one presumes, though given the insouciance – a word I don’t use everyday – of the UK government to this point perhaps not). So this is a clever gambit. But there are already structures extant for precisely this eventuality, structures the EU has had in existence for many decades. That the UK cannot (politically) go for them tells us much about the irrationality at work in its circles.

But read the fine print and what one sees is… nothing. No solutions. And not much by the way of aspiration. Note how 43 and 44 are aspirational and 45 offers… nothing.

The land border with Ireland
43.
The border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is the UK’s only land border. We must avoid a return to a hard border, and trade and everyday movements across the land border must be protected as part of the UK-EU deal.

44.
The proposals set out above for new customs approaches are first steps to meet our objective of trade across that land border being as seamless and frictionless as possible, but further steps will be necessary. The Government welcomes the clear commitment
made in the European Council’s negotiating guidelines and the European Commission’s directives to work with us on “flexible and imaginative” solutions to achieve this, and we will be setting out our guiding principles for a land border arrangement in a forthcoming publication.

45.
The Government has made clear that the answer to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland cannot be to impose a new customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We should avoid any approach that would create new barriers to doing business within the UK (including between Northern Ireland and Great Britain).

And by the way, that’s pretty much it on Ireland in a 14 page document – 3 small and slight paragraphs (plus one or two mentions and a couple of sentences amounting to little).

As for the much vaunted opportunities that Brexit offers trade, etc… well…

The other option envisaged by the government after the interim stage would be a form of the current customs arrangements with countries outside the EU but rely heavily on new technology, such as number plate recognition, to try to avoid physical checks at the border.
Officials conceded that both these options would entail significant new red tape for business as they would entail shifting the reporting burden on to exporters at the point of departure rather than building new lorry parks and border posts.

Or as Sean Whelan put it on RTÉ:

To avoid such unpleasantness, the British are suggesting two different routes to a new customs arrangement with the EU.

One relies on a “streamlined” version of a hard customs border, using lots of technology. It admits this is untried and untested (and in some cases non-existent). If it all worked, it would ease the queues at border crossings considerably, and there is much to be said for using as much IT as possible in the whole customs/excise/VAT trade flow as possible anyway.

But the paper clearly states “there will remain an increase in administration compared with being inside the EU Customs Union”.

You can “streamline” all you like, the fact is Brexit will double the amount of red tape and bureaucracy involved in trading with the UK.

Leave the EU and get more red tape. They sure didn’t mention that before.

But where is the surprise. Trade is complex. That’s why the EU developed both customs union and single market. Removing barriers is key to that. Step outside it and one immediately has to start constructing barriers because that’s the nature of the game. This isn’t a penalty, this is the way international trade between individual states and others works.

And here I think we see how abstract the arguments in relation to the EU are hitherto. The focus has been on the political and representation and executive aspects but there’s been a massive dearth of knowledge and understanding (myself included) about the more mundane but, frankly, vastly more instrumental aspects of trade etc. It’s not that the former are unimportant (though the debate is shot through with such a lack of knowledge – if I read another comment on the Guardian website confusing eurozone with EU and EU Commission…) but that the latter are massively more important and complex in the immediate. And in a way the arguments have mostly been about the former than the latter. But that has reduced the understanding of the issues to next to nothing. And so we are where we are.

Sean Whelan hopes this is a wake up call, a does of reality, for the UK. Perhaps. But the ideological aspects of Brexit are so deeply embedded (and for some on the right all these are features not glitches as they use it to shrink the state and reshape regulation – or deregulation to their own ends) that one wouldn’t want to bet on it.

What you want to say – 16th August, 2017 August 16, 2017

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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Behold the champion of the working class… August 16, 2017

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…defending fascists.

 

US President Donald Trump has said both sides were to blame in the clashes in Virginia, adding that protesters on the political left violently attacked white nationalists rallying against a decision to remove a Confederate statue.

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