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Post Scotland and Brexit
Created by John Eipper on 06/30/16 4:59 AM

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Scotland and Brexit (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 06/30/16 4:59 am)

Statements of Nicola Sturgeon, to the effect that Scotland is not obligated to follow the rest of the UK out of Europe, together with grandstanding appeals to the EU Parliament to support Scotland in this, show the extent to which the UK has been playing with fire, in the matter of Scottish independence.

It's actually of a piece with Brexit itself--sovereignty is imposed, inherently, by force--that's what it is. It seems to me that a fundamental naiveté about the nature of sovereignty is rampant in the Europe of our era. In reality, anything which is voluntary, is not sovereignty. If at any moment any community or group of people can decide whether or not they are subject to it, then the sovereign ceases to be a sovereign. My ancestors died on the fields of Antietam and Gettysburg quarreling about it.

Brexit is the logical result if an entity like the EU attempts to exert sovereignty, even in a very limited form, when the subject of that sovereignty is not obligated to accept it. In my opinion, the EU has gone down a dead-end road, trying to achieve political union gradually, and by pretending that the member states are not giving anything up. In our Constitutional system, the "people" (an abstraction, but bear with me) are sovereign, and the State, which is merely the agent of the "people," has no right to give away any part of this sovereignty to anyone. In order for the US to join an organization like the EU, the people would have to consent to it through the process of a constitutional amendment, which is much more rigorous than a one-time referendum passed by a simple majority of the electorate as it exists in one point in time. As it is, the people of EU member states are subject to lawmaking by various EU bodies, subject to little to no democratic control, but these same people continue to elect their national governments, who can invoke Article 50 at any moment and pull out. All it takes is one really fundamental issue for the whole thing to fly apart.

And some leaders of Scotland seem to think that being part of the UK is the same kind of deal, and don't mind saying so, loudly, and in public. This threatens the whole integrity of the UK as a state, and needs to be brought under control. It should be made clear to the Scottish leadership that they can't have it both ways--either in, or out. Once Scotland is in the UK, decisions of Parliament on matters within Parliament's powers, are binding on the whole country, including Scotland.

As to the EU, I agree with many thoughtful leaders of EU member states who are now saying that fundamental reform is needed. In my opinion, the political union is a dead end, in this form, and needs to be rolled back. If political union is desired by the member states--and certainly there are some good reasons why a United States of Europe as in Winston Churchill's dream could be a good thing--this needs to be achieved by a serious and conscious act of the peoples involved, to throw in their lot together, and give up forever the right to go scurrying back to their national governments, as soon as they don't like something the Union is doing. For this to have any legitimacy, the EU would have to be structured in a completely different way, with serious democratic institutions, and with a decision-making process which, contrary to what exists at the moment, is not insulated from democratic forces.

JE comments:  Cameron Sawyer points out a fundamental flaw in the EU:  it gradually imposes its sovereignty over the Member States, who still at any time can withdraw via Article 50.  In short, unless it becomes more difficult for States to leave, the edifice is doomed to collapse like a house of cards.  The only thing that can ensure EU survival in its present form is a belief by a plurality of voters in all the MS that the Union works to their advantage.  This is a tall order.

What's the buzz in Germany?  I hope Pat Mears will send a comment.


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  • Brexit and the German Perspective (Patrick Mears, -Germany 06/30/16 8:09 AM)
    John E asked for my comment on the mood in Germany after the Brexit vote. Right now I am in Chicago, attending a smallish international insolvency law conference, so I am a bit out of touch with current events on the ground in Germany. However, there are a few Germans here with me, one of whom is a university professor and the other is a judge of the Bundesgerichtshof (the German Supreme Court, not to be confused with Germany's constitutional court, both of which courts sit in Karlsruhe), and so I might have more to report later.

    You probably have read the news stories that Angela Merkel declared a day or two ago that the EU should be patient in working through the Article 50 process in order to "get it right" and not rush to eject the UK and get it wrong. That comment seemed to capture the general mood in the country that produced Walter Hallstein and Konrad Adenauer. Perhaps she is hoping against hope that there will be a change of heart in the UK or, more realistically, a softening of demands for free-fall exit.


    Dramatic events seem to keep popping up in the meantime: Boris Johnson dropped out of the Tory race, Jeremy Corbin seems to be on the ropes but still clinging onto them, and the EU member states' ministers announced that a waiver of "freedom of movement" will not simply be offered to the UK in Article 50 negotiations "à la carte."


    I appreciated Cameron Sawyer's post of 30 June, and his analogy to the American "War Between the States" and sovereignty. That is an important aspect of this entire scramble which puts the events into fine and understandable perspective for Americans.


    JE comments: Great to hear from you, Pat! Your note is the first news I've heard about Boris Johnson's withdrawal. What could explain this other than some sort of closet skeleton we don't know about?


    Nigel Jones has cited the "limited appeal" of Michael Gove, who is an announced candidate for Tory leader. Most observers point to Theresa May, although this is not a year for conventional wisdom.


    I've been thinking all week about Brexit and any possible analogies with the Secessionist states of 1860-'61.  The eleven states of the CSA probably thought they were invoking their own "Article 50" equivalents--and the United States was (were) arguably no more a "nation" in 1860 than the EU is today.  Or arguably it was:  consider the US national army, its central executive, common language (if not common culture), mobility of its people, etc.

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    • Boris Johnson and Michael Gove (John Heelan, -UK 06/30/16 1:47 PM)

      Perhaps reality has dawned on Boris Johnson after being politically stabbed by his friend and co-Brexiteer, Michael Gove. Politics is cruel sport. One comment that I have read is that maybe Boris--popular though he is--has recognised that given the Establishment's like of Mary Poppins nanny figures like Thatcher in days of turmoil--Tory MPs are likely to run to hide behind the skirts of Theresa May.


      JE comments:  Who is this gentleman?  (See below.)  I'd venture that in the US, 98% of the respondents would answer:  "I do not know."

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    • Boris Johnson's Skeletons? (Patrick Mears, -Germany 07/02/16 5:12 AM)
      With respect to the question John E asked earlier about Boris Johnson's "skeletons in the closet," there are some interesting articles in the July 1st issue of The New York Times about the personalities of political leaders involved in the Brexit campaign.

      One of these articles is an abbreviated portrait of Boris that describes his irreverent antics over the years which, in many respects, have endeared himself with the English public. The article notes that Boris was born in the US but surrendered his American citizenship because of his unwillingness to pay US taxes--but that is not much of a skeleton. The NYT piece also mentions that Boris has fathered two children out of wedlock. If there are any other Boris-related skeletons hidden about, I am not aware of them. Maybe some of our UK members can provide more detail.


      JE comments:  I knew about one of Boris's "love babies"--but didn't that scandal play itself out a few years ago?


      In the US, a child out of wedlock will more or less do you in politically.  But this doesn't appear to be the case in Europe--and certainly not in Latin America.


      Remember the one about Obama's 19 year-old illegitimate son Luther?  It made the rounds in the 2012 elections, and was taken as gospel by more than one publication:


      http://www.snopes.com/politics/satire/obamason.asp



       

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      • Boris Johnson and Gravitas (John Heelan, -UK 07/03/16 7:29 AM)
        Regarding Boris Johnson (see Pat Mears, 2 July), I suspect that it was his regular appearances on a weekly comedy news programme "Have I Got News For You" in which he regularly appeared to be an upper-class buffoon, a populist persona he has adopted that hides his true intelligence. His alleged priapic episodes came later. A flavour can be found in:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trE_bkWUFsE


        Also watch the one following this video where he is questioned about an alleged fraudulent friend.


        Not the gravitas needed for a future statesman?


        JE comments:  Entertaining clips, although some of the humor is "insidey" for the American palate.  Lacking in gravitas?  I'd trade Boris for the dyspeptic political fare we're presently being served over here.  And he's US-born...

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        • Boris Johnson (Patrick Mears, -Germany 07/04/16 8:27 AM)

          Responding to John Heelan's comments on Boris Johnson, I have to confess that although I was aware of him earlier, I didn't really become familiar with Johnson's superior intelligence and sharp wit, as well as his foibles until the Brexit campaign. His YouTube videos are well worth watching, especially this biography that charts his course from childhood to just a few years ago.


          https://youtu.be/EVq7ZGlvapM


          In addition to pursuing his political career, he has written books on topics as diverse as the Roman Empire, Winston Churchill, the City of London and, this November, his biography of William Shakespeare will be published.


          In the recent International New York Times article that I mentioned in my previous post, "Charm fails for politician who built a career on it" (page 1, column 5 of this past Weekend issue), the author concluded his piece with the following account:


          "Before now, Mr. Johnson has rarely been confronted with a situation he could not maneuver his way through. But a harbinger came in March, when he was summoned before a House of Commons committee and forensically interrogated by its Javert-like Tory chairman, Andrew Tyrie, about a series of statements he had made over the years about Europe.



          "Mr. Johnson tried his normal humorous approach. Asked, for instance, about his assertion that the European Union has a law saying that balloons cannot be blown up by children under 8 (it doesn't), he deflected the question, saying, 'In my household, only children under 8 are allowed to blow up balloons.'


          "He continued in this vein throughout the session, as Mr. Tyrie peered unsmilingly at him, acid in his voice. 'This is all very interesting, Boris,' Mr. Tyrie said at one point. 'Except that none of it is really true, is it?'"


          JE comments:  Today especially, we rebellious Colonials should butt out of British affairs, but let me ask one question:  why do Tory politicians have a better sense of humor than their Labour counterparts?  Or am I simply wrong?

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          • on Boris Johnson; UKIP Leader Nigel Farage Resigns (Nigel Jones, -UK 07/04/16 3:06 PM)
            Patrick Mears (July 4th) has called Boris Johnson correctly. Boris is what used to be called "a card." A witty intelligent man who makes people laugh, feel optimistic and good about themselves. A great quality in a politician, especially when most of them are miserable men in grey suits. He added colour to the landscape. And that's why people in Labour-supporting London backed him, a Tory. Come to think of it, the analogy is having Donald Trump running for mayor of New York--and winning.

            The downside, of course, is that Boris, learned man that he is, is a bit lazy and fuzzy on detail. He is also personally untrustworthy (not just to his wives). Anyway his downfall has been a Caesarian tragedy (as a classicist with a Latin tag for everything, he would appreciate the allusion) with his erstwhile chum Michael Gove playing the Brutus role. Gove has achieved the distinction of ending in a single week the political careers of two of his bestest buddies (no longer I fear)--Cameron and Boris. Not that it has profited him : he is now irretrievably branded as a serial killing political Typhoid Mary and his bid for the Premiership is doomed.


            At present the contest for the Tory party leadership, and therefore the Prime Ministership also, looks like being between two women: Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom. May is a cowardly opportunist who came out for Remain but did nothing for the campaign. Leadsom is a bright cookie with a financial background and a keen Brexiteer. Naturally I favour her and believe she will win when vote goes out to the 150,000 Tory grassroots party members who will effectively choose our next PM. But what do I know? A week ago I bet John Heelan on WAIS that Boris Johnson would be the next PM. Thank the Lord he did not take me up on the wager, otherwise I would be homeless now.


            Incidentally Patrick mentions the dry chairman of the Commons Finance committee, Andrew Tyrie. He happens to be my new Member of Parliament and I am thinking of challenging him if there Is an early General election. He is desperately dull.


            Oh, I almost forgot: my party leader Nigel Farage has just quit too.


            Britain owes this man so much: almost single-handed he brought this Referendum about by making our party such a threat to the Tories that Cameron was forced to hold an election to appease his own increasingly Eurosceptic party. Now, exhausted after 20 years of untiring struggle to reclaim our independence, he has understandably quit to get his own life back. For all the mud hurled in his direction, I salute him as the greatest living Englishman. And he also shares with Boris the qualities of humour, cheerfulness, eloquence and wit. He also has amazing energy and bravery, which I think Boris lacks.


            British politics will be much poorer and less colourful without them, though I cannot believe we have heard the last of them.


            JE comments: Nigel Farage has pronounced UKIP's political ambitions as achieved, so his work is done in a very real sense. This raises a larger question: what do single-issue parties do after their goal is met?

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          • Labour Party Wits: Michael Foot (John Heelan, -UK 07/05/16 5:53 AM)
            In response to John E's question, Labour has had its fair share of comic quips. My favourite is by Michael Foot in the House of Commons when David Steel, the youthful leader of the Liberals, proposed to vote with the Conservatives and against the Labour government.

            Foot commented: "What the Right Hon. Lady (Thatcher) has done today is to lead her troops into battle snugly concealed behind a Scottish nationalist shield, with the boy David holding her hand." Steel, he added, had "passed from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever."


            "The Boy David" tag dogged Steel's political career for a very long time and is still remembered.


            JE comments:  Michael Foot, who died in 2010 at the age of 96, was a proponent of British withdrawal from the EEC--a Brexit avant la lettre.  I just learned this from Wikipedia.  Can anyone elaborate?


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  • Germany and Brexit; Who Will Succeed Cameron? (Nigel Jones, -UK 06/30/16 9:58 AM)
    Never mind the buzz in Germany--it is the only country still rooting for the doomed EU as its the only one to profit from reducing the rest to serfdom.

    The buzz in Britain--the nation that opened the gates of liberty for Europe--is that our two major parties are in utter chaos because of the Referendum decision to leave the EU which both opposed. Outgoing PM David Cameron will be succeeded by one of five candidates, Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has been voted out by 80% of his own MPs but clings on with support of many of his ordinary party members.


    But thank God we are out and free at last.


    Ángel Viñas (30 June) thinks that Britain will need luck in the big wide world outside the crumbling EU. Maybe so, but the EU will need even more luck.


    JE comments:  To think that the UK, as well as Spain and the EU in general, are presently without governments.  Perhaps no government is the wave of the future?


    Nigel wrote me off-Forum from the Somme, which tomorrow will observe the centennial of the bloodiest day in British military history.  I hope we'll dedicate tomorrow's WAISing to this grim anniversary.


     

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    • Somme and Brexit Compared; Thoughts on Tory Leadership Contest (John Heelan, -UK 07/01/16 4:49 AM)
      On this 100th anniversary of the UK attack on the Somme, John E asked for parallels with the Brexit vote. Perhaps there are some in newspaper headlines ranging from the (probably apocryphal) "Fog in Channel: Continent Cut off," to the charge that the Tommies in WWI were "Lions led by donkeys." Unlikely as it is, should Parliament approve a rerun of the Brexit referendum, there could be another one: "Mother of Parliaments denies democracy!"

      Regarding the new Tory leader, to me all the runners for that election, other than one, have flawed political backgrounds. Fox resigned because of flawed judgement about one of his advisers; Stephen Crabb (who he?); Michael Gove, who in some people's opinions has screwed up UK education by privatising it, and has had a chequered stay as Justice Secretary; Andrea Leadsom (did well in Brexit debates but another banker and fund manager); Boris Johnson (enough said already); Jeremy Hunt, who has screwed up the National Health Service and as a result his surname as slipped into cockney slang; Nicky Morgan, another Education Minister bent on privatising UK education and failing UK students of all ages; George Osborne, whose political day is done and about to retreat to his baronetcy of "Piddling-in-the-Bog in the County of Waterford"; John Barron: another nonentity.


      The likely winner is perhaps more to be feared by the other runners because, due to her control of MI5, MI6, police and other emergency services, she probably knows where all the political bodies are buried, in the UK, the US and the EU.


      JE comments: Theresa May, I presume? If she's got the dirt on her rivals, then John Heelan is no doubt correct.


      "Lions led by Donkeys" could not be a more apt description of sending thousands of Tommies (and Canadians and French) to their deaths in tidy rows, each laden with 30 kilos of gear. Try running around with 66 lbs of stuff on your back--never mind the barbed wire, shells, and bullets.  Chin up and carry on, lads:  one more thrust should do it...


      I have noticed, however, that Douglas Haig's reputation among historians has experienced something of a renaissance.  He practiced the brilliant idea of attrition--"Obviously, the greater the length of a war the higher is likely to be the number of casualties in it on either side."  This is sickening, but like Grant in the US Civil War, the strategy worked.  Nothing succeeds like success.  Had Haig or Grant lost their respective wars, each would be vilified as a butcher.  (I do like to think of Grant as more humane and more human than Haig.  My American bias?)

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    • 1 July 1916: My Father Was There (David Pike, -France 07/01/16 5:25 AM)
      JE wrote (30 June) that the UK and Spain are both at present without governments. Spain, yes, but UK, no. It even has Cameron as prime minister until he resigns. Nothing else has changed. The government remains in the hands of the elected Conservative Party.

      I read today the post of a fellow-countryman in our WAIS organization boasting of our country's place in history. I am fully aware of it, and deeply proud of it, but I wince at any expression of vainglory. I had the good fortune to attend one of those prestigious British public schools. I received a classical education in which the Greek ideal of modesty was instilled. I was taught what Kipling wrote, never to look too good, or talk too wise.


      Among the things that have made me truly proud of my country was an editorial by a Spanish Republican minister in the leading Spanish Republican newspaper in France after the liberation in 1944. He had surmounted the deep bitterness felt by Spanish Republicans toward the UK in the way it had allowed the Republic to be defeated. Instead he wrote, on the day of Allied victory: "England has covered itself in glory in this century."


      Today commemorates the opening of the first Battle of the Somme. That very day my father, in the Seaforth Highlanders, celebrated his 19th birthday. There were 60,000 British and Canadian casualties before the sun went down. My father came out among the walking wounded.


      JE comments: What a way to spend your birthday, but David Pike's father had a higher power (guardian angel, luck) looking over him. How many other 19 year-olds on the Somme never saw their 20th?


      Thank you for this wisdom, David. Never look too good, or talk too wise--perfect WAIS wisdom. (This is why we don't have a flashier website!)


      David:  do you have a photo of your father during the Great War years?  WAISers would be intrigued to see it.  (Were the Highlanders still fighting in kilts by mid-1916, or had they switched to trousers?)

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      • Cameron's Resignation (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 07/01/16 11:31 AM)
        Today David Pike wrote: "JE wrote (30 June) that the UK and Spain are both at present without governments. Spain, yes, but UK, no."

        It seems they both might be wrong, unless a new definition of government is in place. If they mean a "new elected government," then UK and Spain are both without governments.


        In Spain, there is an official "government in functions" which is perfectly institutional and functional, a transitional government if you like, until a new one is negotiated under coalition terms, or not, but this is far away from being an almost chaotic state without government as the statements seemed to suggest.


        In the UK Mr Cameron just resigned, yet he still is officially in power until next October, I believe. New elections for a "new elected government" will surely take place, and what is left of his term might be a also called a "transitional government."


        However the interesting questions to me about Mr Cameron's resignation and this transitional period, is why does he want to be part of the story as the Prime Minister who officially requested the UK separation from the EU, and why it is necessary to wait several months for that? What does he expects to achieve in a few weeks?


        JE comments:  "No government" in a functioning democracy is always an overstatement.  Belgium went 589 days with no government in 2010-'11, and nobody noticed.  (Perhaps that is an overstatement, too.)  Conversely, many states have real governments with no effective control over their nations.  (Think of Afghanistan.)


        So who can answer José Ignacio's question:  why such a long lame-duck period for Mr Cameron?  Is there anything beyond the administrative "orderly transition" stuff?


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        • Timing of Cameron's Resignation, Departure (John Heelan, -UK 07/02/16 5:46 AM)

          In response to José Ignacio Soler (1 July), David Cameron's resignation has more to do with the timing of the annual conference of the Conservative Party. He wanted to give time for the Leadership election processes--nomination, campaigning and voting--to take place so that the new Leader could be announced at the forthcoming Conservative Party conference so that healing could commence for the party that has been tearing itself apart for the last six months.


          The conference is scheduled for 2-5 October 2016, with the Leadership election to be completed by 9 September. This would give the new Leader time to formulate policies to present at the conference and plan for a snap election to get public support if necessary. Already, ministers supporting Theresa May are politicking to give her a free run on the first ballot as a "unity candidate."  For the next few months, both Labour and Conservatives will be inspecting their respective navels rather than running the country.


          JE comments:  Thanks, John!  Never know what you'll find in there...


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        • Details of the Brexit: The Norwegian, Swiss, or "Point Zero" Path? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 07/03/16 11:46 AM)

          In my post of July 1st, about the transitional governments in Spain and the UK, I posed a question at the end, which was probably was misinterpreted by John E. The question was : "why does [Mr Cameron] not want to be part of the story as the Prime Minister who officially requested the UK separation from the EU, and why it is necessary to wait several months for that? What does he expect to achieve in a few weeks?"


          Apparently Mr Cameron has clearly stated that he does not want to be the one making the request and that mission will be left to his successor.


          I believe this question is not shallow and probably not easy to answer. The Brexit referendum was successful, but effective separation still has not been formally requested. Why is necessary to wait for the British to invoke the EU´s Article 50?


          I dare to answer myself some hypothesis. It might be related to Mr Cameron's personal and politically affected effort to save face; or maybe the fact that there is not a clear road map for a successful UK separation, and a workable time strategy needs to be formulated. Most likely, the Brexiteers did not have a clear vision for the next steps of separation. Perhaps it is a combination of those. It looks like no one was really expecting Brexit to win the referendum.


          So the question remains: What would be the options for the UK's successful separation and why would the process take longer than many in UK and the EU would expect? Recently I have been following many intelligent newspaper articles about this subject. None give clear answers.


          From an outsider's perspective, besides Mr Cameron´s resignation which will become effective months from now, I have been reading about the turmoil among the UK's Labour and Conservative parties for leadership, the Scottish Prime Minister's opposition to Brexit, as well as the apparently manipulative campaign messages and promises for Brexit. Many other news items seem to suggest that in fact there is no a clear road map to follow for the UK.


          On the EU side, there is a similar discomfort dealing with the situation. Apparently there are conflicting interests among France, Italy and Germany as the main leaders of the EU. On the one hand they want to speed the process to reduce the risk of contamination, while on the other hand, they hope to reduce the potential negative impact of a immediate separation. In any scenario both parties have a lot to lose.


          So then what are the options? Well, beside the oft-mentioned "Norway path," which seems to be what the Brexiteers had in mind, there are other options. For Instance the "Switzerland path," the most logical but unlikely road, or the "Zero-point path," which seems to be the easiest but most painful and time-consuming.


          The Switzerland path is based on more than 120 particular treaties--economic, trade, financial, immigration, etc., negotiated over the course of many years, decades, and with uncertain and unsatisfactory results for the EU, which makes it hard for them to deal again along these lines.


          The "zero-point path" means starting from zero, negotiating a full new bilateral treaty, similar to the TTIP that US is presently negotiating with the EU according to the rules of the WTO, and accepting trade duties and restrictions. This option would be the simplest, but also the most economically painful for the UK in the short and medium term. Experts say it has advantages but at a high price. They would obtain more freedom, British markets would be more openly available for competition but perhaps there would weakened competitiveness in many sectors; besides, they say, from the standpoint of British public opinion, voting for Brexit was emotionally motivated by a less open, or more protected, society model, at least with regards to the circulation of people and immigration.


          The Norwegian path, or Iceland or Lichtenstein path for that matter, is probably the one that eventually will be negotiated, or some similar sort, but this one also has pros and cons to deal with. Let me try to summarize the important facts and possible consequences.


          --Norway is not an official member of the EU, but it has access to the common market. It belongs to the European market, but not to its political space. UK is today one of the EU leaders in both aspects.


          --Norway is obliged to accept most of the European legislation, including the free circulation of people, capital and services, without participating or influencing in its decisions, and without voting rights. That would be difficult to accept for Brexit supporters.


          --Norway accepts European citizens who wish to live and to work in the country, as much as the UK would have to accept.

          --Norway ineffectively controls illegal immigration, as much as the UK probably will.

          --Norway also makes important contributions to the EU budget, though less than a full rights member such as the UK.


          Do the British people knew precisely what the "Norway path" means vis à vis the EU?. Are they willing to agree such terms?  I doubt it. These are all items to negotiate of course, but it remains to be seen if the UK´s citizens would be willing to accept the same status as Norway.


          JE comments:  I did inadvertently change the meaning of José Ignacio Soler's original post--the multiple negatives threw me for a curve.  Sorry, José Ignacio!


          The Norwegian model doesn't sound as attractive in practice as it does in theory.  If I follow José Ignacio's description above, Norway is obliged to follow many EU directives but has no voice or vote.  What, then, are the advantages?


          Is Nigel Jones a proponent of Norway or of the "Point Zero" path?


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      • Letter from the Somme (Nigel Jones, -UK 07/01/16 1:58 PM)
        Like David Pike (July 1), I had an English Public School education. And like him my father was a veteran of the First World War. Indeed I am writing this from the heart of the Somme battlefield on the centenary of the beginning of that battle.

        But the similarities stop there.


        For I draw very different conclusions from that conflict and indeed from the Second World War that followed. For me these were wars fought for democracy, and the principles enunciated by Lincoln at Gettysburg. They were fought by Britain to prevent a cruel and overweening power--Germany --achieving hegemony over Europe by brutal conquest. I see Britain's Brexit vote in the same light.


        In an earlier post David asked why I referred to Merkel's Germany as a "Reich." The best English translation of that word is "Empire," and that is a completely accurate term for what the Fourth Reich is trying to do to Europe economically where its predecessors attempted militarily. Germany dominates central and eastern Europe, and has ruined southern Europe by imposing the Euro in order to export its products. That project is now manifestly failing.


        In the wake of the Second World War Europe's political leaders made a catastrophic error by attempting to impose an undemocratic, Soviet-style dictatorship super state without the consent, and even without the knowledge of its subject peoples. This project is now in its death throes, and as so often in its history Britain has set an example to Europe by voting for freedom against the advice of its arrogant, condescending so called elites.


        I glory in the people's victory and look forward to many more as the misbegotten EU, rotten from its foundations, collapses.


        I have been arguing and campaigning for this for years, and I am entitled to feel pleased and proud of my country. And if David Pike finds this "vindictive" or "vainglorious" well, that's just tough.


        JE comments: The lessons from the Great War are the lessons of Brexit, but not everyone draws the same lessons. Nigel Jones sees WWI as a war for freedom and for Britain. For David W. Pike, it was a war for Europe, for humanity.


        Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality was the event that drew Britain into the war.  Now with Brexit, the UK is sending Belgium (Brussels) off packing.



        Nigel:  Please send us a report on the Somme centennial ceremonies.


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        • The Somme (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/03/16 5:25 AM)

          Let me to join voices with Nigel Jones (1 July) to pay tribute to all soldiers who fell on the field of duty and honor at the Somme, but also to all soldiers, no matter which flag or if victorious or defeated, who fell with honor for their countries.



          I agree with most of Nigel's post; however I strongly object to the claim that Britain, in the last century, fought for democracy and freedom for other peoples.


          Like any other nation, Britain fought for its national interests.  The great claims that "we fight for democracy, freedom, peace, etc.," are just rhetoric to convince the domestic front. All sides in a conflict make the same claims.


          Oh, by the way, the invasion of a neutral country is a very good excuse to go to war when previous chances were missed on the beaches of Agadir in 1907. Remember the great admiral John Fisher saying, "It seems a golden occasion to fight Germany," or on the avenidas of Madrid in 1880.


          JE comments:  Wasn't the principal crisis in Agadir (Morocco) in 1911?  Either way, it was one of the several times the Anglo-Franco-German showdown did not occur.  World War I was prevented every time, until "peace became intolerable."

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      • My Father at The Somme (David Pike, -France 07/11/16 7:12 AM)
        Our editor JE wrote (July 1) asking me to send WAIS a photo of my father in the Seaforth Highlanders in the First World War, so I send two.

        In the first photo, in trousers, he is standing. As I may have said already, the Battle of the Somme opened at 05:30 on his 19th birthday, and by close of day (or close of play, as they say in cricket, because the game resumes the next morning), the British Army's score on that opening day rattled up to 19,240 dead, including 60% of the junior officers. My father rarely spoke of it, except to say that it was a crime on both sides against youth, against ordinary men.



        John Eipper also asked whether the Highlanders were still fighting in kilts. The order indeed came down that they were to switch to trousers. It's the only case I know in the British Army of disobedience going unpunished. The Highlanders responded, "We fight in kilts. If we don't wear our kilts, we won't fight."



        Some people think I must be a Scot, but ours is a naval family from Plymouth. My father's only sibling was his brother in the Royal Navy who died a slow death in the sinking of submarine H47. The Seaforths' training base in Stranraer is the farthest possible distance from Plymouth. A case of the desire of youth to try something different.


        JE comments: What a dashing young warrior.  Thank you, David.  I have a number of questions:  how common was it for Englishmen to join Highlander regiments?  Wouldn't they have experienced discrimination, hazing, linguistic alienation, or what have you?


        Didn't mustard gas (1917) accomplish what High Command could not, regarding kilts?  Pride and tradition are one thing, but you don't want mustard gas going up your kilt.


        Finally, David:  any information about the dog?  S/he appears to be stuffed, or else really good at posing.  Portraiture with Fido seemed to be something of a trope in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


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  • Churchill and a United Europe (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/01/16 8:50 AM)
    Lately Cameron Sawyer and others have reminded us of Churchill's so-called dream of a United States of Europe. Fine, but he did not want the UK to participate in it.

    It looks like that he wanted the Union for the "poor semicolonial peoples of the European Continent," so they would not quarrel any more among themselves and would be a good ally (cannon fodder) and a defense for the UK against the USSR. Do not forget that Churchill nurtured the idea of attacking the Soviet forces on 1 July 1945 [Operation Unthinkable--JE].


    On 11 May 1953 in the British Parliament Churchill said:


    "Where do we stand? We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a Federal European system. We feel we have a special relation to both. This can be expressed by prepositions, by the preposition 'with' but not 'of'--we are with them, but not of them. We have our own Commonwealth and Empire. One of the anxieties of France is lest Germany, even partitioned as she is now, will be so strong that France will be outweighed in United Europe or in the European Defence Community. I am sure they could do a lot, if they chose to make themselves stronger. But, anyhow, I have always believed, as an active friend of France for nearly 50 years, that our fortunes lie together."


    The UK has always asked for privileges in order to be "with" the EU but never being "part" of the EU. So, please forget the old imperialist Churchill and be happy that England is out according to its long-standing historical wishes.


    The pain in the neck is Frau Merkel. Frankly I still believe that the crazy Hitler was a more loyal ally, but her rule too will come to an end. Of course the new Union should be really independent from the Empire and have regular ties, as already mentioned by Luciano Dondero, with Russia.


    JE comments: Curiously, Churchill fought strongly against a "United Europe" of sorts--one under the boot of the Reich.


    The more you study Churchill, the more of an enigma he becomes. There are WSC quotes to support just about any viewpoint--good or bad. Need an egregiously racist Winston? Check. A jolly advocate for self-determination? Another check. A butcher, as in Gallipoli? Check...


    Just think:  had the Unthinkable been unleashed, today would be a doubly significant anniversary:  71 years since the beginning of WWIII (or WWII-a).


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