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Presidential? July 13, 2018

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Nationalities in the Republic of Ireland… July 13, 2018

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No greater example of the changes that have taken place in the last quarter century can be found in regard to this state than the information found in the following:

Country of Birth
Immigrants in the Republic of Ireland (2016 Census)

Poland 122,515
United Kingdom 103,115
Lithuania 36,552
Romania 29,186
Latvia 19,933
Brazil 13,640
Spain 12,112
Italy 11,732
France 11,661
Germany 11,531
India 11,465
United States 10,519
Slovakia 9,717
China 9,575

More from Poland than the UK? Remarkable.

Even after Brexit the UK will still be wracked with europhobia… July 13, 2018

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An Sionnach Fionn had a great point recently in comments when suggesting this:

If the final deal is anything other than a hard Brexit, I reckon that UK politics will be dominated for the next two decades by further arguments over a Brexit Mark II. The Europhobia won’t be draining from the British body politic if even the mildest institutional or regulatory association with the EU is maintained.

There’s a lot in that. And a lot to unpack. For a start because Brexit was notoriously undefined it has been something that anyone can project near enough anything on to. So we have hard and soft Brexit. Ones which see the UK part of EFTA/EEA and others which don’t. Some which are a step short of Remain. Etc. There are left and right variants though the former have somewhat dropped away as the reality that this is a Tory led process has sunk in.

And the manner in which it has come to monopolise British politics is remarkable. Little business is going on outside it in political terms. No surprise, there’s simply no bandwidth left for much else. By contrast while an issue of concern for the EU it is but one amongst many – something that points to the sheer scale of the EU.

But let’s not ignore how expedient all this is for the Tories, because it was expedient long before too. The EEC/EC/EU has provided a whipping boy for them (and others) for a very long time now. Why should that change, indeed in the context of a Brexit that was turning to ashes it might even be ramped up. Everything can be blamed on Brexit if the Brexit does not accord with the most extreme version acceptable to the ultras. And even then, they’ll still complain.

That the British people(s) are divided almost in half is an additional factor. Good luck with working through that one might think.

But it’s a troubling thought, how this plays out. Stab in the back narratives in societies never tend to work out well. A Britain so detached from a realistic appraisal of its place in the world in the 21st century seems particularly ill-suited to negotiate deftly through these challenges.

And speaking of respect July 13, 2018

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I missed this…

In the US, Democrat congressman Brendan Boyle took issue with Trump’s comment that he was popular in Britain despite the protests planned around the country. Trump had said in the interview: “I believe that the people in the UK – Scotland, Ireland … they like me a lot.”

Boyle pointed out to the president that “Ireland is not part of the UK. It’s been an independent country for about 100 years … Please stop embarrassing us on the international stage.”

And that’s why Donald won’t be getting as many invitations to visit people in future… July 13, 2018

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Given all that was known or become known about him and his behaviours as has been evident the last couple of years what political genius’s would take the risk of having him visit at a particularly fraught political moment?


Signs of Hope – A continuing series July 12, 2018

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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?

An US exit from the WTO… July 12, 2018

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This on foot of reports that:

President Donald Trump reportedly wants to yank the US out of the World Trade Organization, a move that would upend the decades-old international trading order.
Jonathan Swan at the news website Axios cited an anonymous source Friday as saying Trump had repeatedly asked his advisers about pulling the US out of the WTO and had said the rest of the world used the organization to “screw the United States.”

What would it look like? Not great it seems.

How likely is it to happen? This from Business Insider is pretty good.

Trump would need congressional approval to pull the US out of the WTO, something he is unlikely to receive.

And one other source notes:

What’s more, lawmakers familiar with the bill do not seem keen on it, and ultimately any bill would need to be approved by Congress. Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short earlier this year said that the bill was “dead on arrival” and would not receive support from Capitol Hill. A source echoed this sentiment, telling Axios that “Congress would never give this authority to the president,” and called the bill “insane.”

But a soft retreat from the WTO is not impossible. Indeed it may already be happening:

At the same time, Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Business Insider that Trump’s disregard for WTO rules in the implementation of the steel and aluminum tariffs could make pulling out of the group unnecessary.
“While you never know with this president, I consider it unlikely that Trump will try to pull the US out of the WTO,” Alden said. “He has already shown that he can pursue the policies he wants without regard to WTO rules. The WTO has not been a constraint on this administration.”

What are the negative impacts for the US? I’m not one to quote people from the Cato Institute, but… this isn’t wrong in its outline.

Simon Lester, the associate director of the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, told Business Insider that the US leaving the WTO would most likely lead to “an economic disaster” and pointed to three “big losses” from an exit.
1 “It would mean is that the US could be faced with higher trade barriers in all of its major export markets, as these countries would no longer be bound by their promises to lower tariffs on US goods or not to discriminate against US goods,” Lester said.
2 “It would also mean that countries who are not parties to separate [free-trade agreements] with the US would no longer be subject to enforceable obligations to protect US intellectual property.”
3 “It would mean that the US would not have a good enforcement mechanism to address foreign trade barriers.”

Worth keeping in mind that trade deals, as we are learning from the UK/EU situation in regard to Brexit, take a long time to negotiate. A very long time.

BTW, is Trump right re the WTO – seemingly not:

The WTO certainly has problems, but failure to enforce its rules is among the least of them. Its Dispute Settlement Body has received about 500 complaints during the last 20 years and has issued rulings in 350 of them. Most of the rest were resolved through consultations between the parties.
The Obama administration filed 26 disputes in the DSB, most of them against China, and won every one that has been decided to date.

Or as noted:

But economic value to the U.S. comes from its dispute-resolution process. As the world’s largest exporter, with well over $2 trillion per year (nearly $800 billion in services alone) and its biggest importer, the U.S. is the greatest beneficiary of the WTO’s disciplines.

That may not matter. Worth keeping in mind that the stupid is strong in this administration. They simply may not understand the outcomes that departing the WTO would imply. As Forbes notes:

Trump has called the WTO a “disaster.” Withdrawing from it would be a disaster. Other countries could raise tariffs against us, dump products in our markets, steal our intellectual property and cheat us every which way from Tuesday and our ability to retaliate would be severely weakened.
Trump keeps complaining that other countries are taking advantage of us. If that’s true, why would he decouple the United States from the one organization that can do something about it?

Or this:

What would happen if the U.S. quit the WTO?  For one thing, countries would be able, with impunity, to deny to the U.S. the benefit of WTO-agreed, non-discriminatory tariffs and rights available to members as “most favored nations” (MFN). 
Tariffs could be raised to any level against U.S. products. The U.S. would be disadvantaged in competing with WTO member states for access to up to 96 percent of the world’s consumers and would cede leadership on trade to China.  

Or this from the Washington Post is good too on the negative effects:

U.S. exporters would lose preferential access to many global markets if the U.S. pulled its WTO membership — and American consumers would likely see higher prices of many imported goods. The United States has free trade agreements with 20 countries, but these agreements cover only 40 percent of American trade.

And what about workers?

Absent a strong, U.S.-led WTO, an estimated 41 million American workers might lose their export-supported jobs. So too the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that an average American household could lose $10,000 in extra purchasing power they gain from WTO-enabled access to low-cost imports, including from China and the intermediate inputs from around the world upon which U.S. industry depends.


Goods prices for U.S. consumers have fallen fairly steadily for years, while the real cost for things like clothing has not changed for nearly 20 years. It would be impossible for the United States to negotiate bilaterally the comprehensive WTO disciplines with even a fraction of its members. 

But all is not lost. Oh wait, it may be…

There is reason for hope, though – if you’re an optimist, that is. Trump has nominated a man who actually knows something about trade to be his U.S. trade representative. Robert Lighthizer was a deputy U.S. trade representative during the Reagan administration and has been practicing trade law at a prestigious Washington law firm since then. It’s hard to know how much clout he’ll have against Ross and Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s new National Trade Council. The Economist called him a “China-bashing eccentric.”
Navarro said in a January 29 interview with Fox News that the Trump administration would approach Australia about negotiating a free trade agreement. The U.S. and Australia already have a free trade agreement.

But here’s the thing. The Republicans are an uneasy party to lead out of the WTO. For a start it would split them – and not down the middle but with the greater part of their representatives in the opposite camp to Trump. And this isn’t quite the same as the way in which the Republican foreign policy cohort have decamped from the Republicans into splendid isolation at his ‘approach’ to that area. They have proven to be a more marginal group than would have been predicted but then they always were. Whereas, and it doesn’t take a Marxist to tell people this, but if the cap fits, economics being the base, adherence to free trade, or mostly free trade is written much more deeply into Republican DNA.

Trump is the equivalent of a bomb-thrower, though one suspects much of the time that he doesn’t understand a) what a bomb is and b) what the implications are of throwing it.

That industrial relations framework… July 12, 2018

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The SBP mentioned this weekend that Mandate has criticised employers in the state for simply ignoring the Labour Court in disputes. These included Dunnes, Tesco, Lloyds and TK Maxx – and as it notes that’s a good 25,000 workers. Mandate’s attitude is that it is necessary to strengthen collective bargaining laws.

Got to say, I find it hard to believe that is going to happen under this government, or any likely successor next election around.

But there’s an important aspect to this, that this dynamic is a function of increased militancy amongst private sector employees – particularly ones as with Lloyds and TK Maxx where the companies will simply not meet unions. But even where unions are recognised the LC is ignored. It’s a neat delaying tactic.

An excellent analysis? July 12, 2018

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Entertaining to see a familiar figure – to some at least – on twitter heaping praise on the article that provides the centrepiece for this analysis by AP member writing in a personal capacity, Brian Heading, on Slugger of the block grant from the UK to NI. Owen Polley, Brexit supporter and commentator offers in the original article a modish argument that is positioned on the right and yet, and yet, winds up supporting conservative approaches. Neat that. As the analysis notes:

Once you get past the swivel-eyed rants about “self styled liberals” having a “middle class strop” over brexit (can you tell he is a brexiteer?) and dismissing Ireland’s adoption of marriage equality as a passing fad of the Dublin 4 rugby set, Owen’s argument boils down to a restatement of a long-standing axiom : that Northern Ireland’s centrist middle class, irrespective of community background or voting patterns, won’t vote for reunification because Ireland can’t afford to meet NI’s subvention.

The stuff about Dublin 4 rugby set and SSM is genius, is it not. Though if an accurate reflection of Polley’s knowledge of ROI politics more than a little problematic.

And that figure praising it, why none other than IIRC someone who was once like myself a member of the WP, one Henry Patterson who thinks it is an ‘excellent article’ – an assessment which may elude some reading the piece itself.

They’re baffled by Trump? Not a bit of it… July 12, 2018

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Some time back I knew a person who used to occasionally crop up on panels or giving presentations at conferences. They had quite a schtick. They’d sit down quietly but within a few minutes start very vehemently disagreeing with an opinion offered by a usually older or better known person on the panel. For those who hadn’t seen this before it came across as a remarkable, laudable even, willingness to take on others. For those who had it became ever increasingly predictable. Because it happened at every event this person was involved in. And the point wasn’t, of course, to arrive at a greater understanding of the issues but instead to ensure that the person who articulated these disagreements had as high a profile as possible. The most entertaining / irritating aspect was to see behind the scenes ahead of the events at lunches or meetings where even when the same issues were discussed there was never a hint of disagreement. That was always left for the public side. And more than one person treated to this had a look of bewilderment at the sudden change of tone.

Almost needless to say the issues themselves were far from existential.

And there’s all of that in the current Trump approach to NATO and indeed almost all arena’s he finds himself in. Of course he’s going to attack rhetorically, it’s easy to do so against nominal allies-what are they going to do back? And of course he’ll parade his ego-that’s easy too. And it’s easy too to talk of excellent relations with nominal enemies he’ll meet for an hour or two a couple of times a year. And he’ll make demands and fly out again and next year we’ll hear a repeat performance.

But the idea the ‘allies’ are baffled is very wide of the mark. I’d bet this was factored in long ago. And that presents an interesting set of questions because how are they meant to deal with this? Ignore it? Work around it? Hardly confront it, or not yet. But he’s predictable even if the specific line of attack is not. And the problem with a schtick – however good or bad – is that it is just a schtick. The world continues to turn, events move on, people will cope and hope something or someone better turns up.

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