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Post Brexit Update: No Trade Deal, Deadline Looms
Created by John Eipper on 12/15/20 4:40 AM

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Brexit Update: No Trade Deal, Deadline Looms (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 12/15/20 4:40 am)

It is understandable that attention on the WAIS Forum has focused on the US elections, and the media circus that Trump has set up to discredit and delegitimize the results. However, other important things are happening in the world, for example the current crisis in Brexit negotiations, where a final deadline for an economic agreement will arrive on December 31st.

According to what has been made public, the erratic and confused position of the UK and its picturesque and clownish, to say the least, Prime Minister seem to lead inexorably to a Brexit with no agreement.  This will cause harm, although perhaps not to the same extent, to both the UK and the remaining EU nations. A Brexit without agreement is estimated to have an effect on UK GDP of between 1.5% and 3%, and 0.4% in the EU.

In spite of the initial agreement which the UK undertook to comply with, namely a residence guarantee for citizens living on both sides, to establish an exit invoice of 45 billion euros, and a protocol for Northern Ireland, which Johnson unilaterally broke a few months back and has recently rectified, there are still major unresolved discrepancies in the economic arena.

A trade agreement between the two parties is the main cause of dispute, namely the conditions guaranteeing a level playing field between European and British companies, fishing rights in British waters by European fleets, and a mechanism for resolving trade disputes between the two parties. Nevertheless, the underlying problem is philosophical or ideological and not commercial.

Johnson's argument for rejecting the settlement proposal is to secure British independence and sovereignty, disassociating himself from EU rules.  The EU's argument is to maintain a level playing field.  Achieving this requires cooperation and an acceptance of common trade rules. The EU has offered a free trade agreement of zero tariffs and quotas.  In return it requires a certain level of acceptance of the rules of trade, environment, social and government aid to businesses, especially to avoid possible British commercial dumping. London refuses, arguing, as I have pointed out, about a possible loss of sovereignty.

Although there is great skepticism about reaching a final agreement, both sides have given themselves a deadline until the end of this month to negotiate. Evidently one or both of the parties are using the negotiating tactic of reducing the time available in order to reach a last-minute agreement that imposes the conditions of one or the other side. This is a calculated but very dangerous risk for the future of both economies.

JE comments:  After yesterday's Electoral College vote, the time has come, at last, to put the US election to bed.  It's only taken six weeks.  The Brexit divorce has been dragging on for longer than the entire Trump era.  I'm glad Nacho Soler has drawn our attention to it.

Nacho, you suggest that UK intransigence is the major obstacle to an economic agreement.  A zero-tariff deal strikes me as a win-win for both sides.  You are a careful observer of the events.  Do you believe that Trump's defeat will have some leverage over Johnson--namely, because the PM had hoped for "extra-special" status with an isolationist US, but now has to play by multilateral rules?


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  • This Morning's Tongue-Twister: Antetocounmpo (Edward Jajko, USA 12/17/20 4:26 AM)
    Our founder Prof. Hilton had an interest in names, which I share, and might have enjoyed the coincidence of the phrase "it's all Greek to me" and a Greco-African name in the news of sports. Yesterday's New York Times says that "For $228 Million, Antetokounmpo Announces He'll Stay in Milwaukee." (For that money, I'd stay in Milwaukee, too.)

    Antetokounmpo was born and raised in Greece, the son of Nigerian parents. His full name, minus the accent marks that I am unable to add, is Γιαννης Σινα-Ουγκο Αντετοκουνμπο, which is Yannis Sina-Ugo and, in Wikipedia's romanization, "AhntehtuhKoompoh."  According to Greek orthography, this should be pronounced "Adetokunbo."  Sports announcers and commentators will likely have cheat sheets but will stumble anyway.



    Further research confirms that rules of Greek orthography apply and the name is pronounced "Adetokunbo." 



    There is an "Adetokunbo Ogundeji," of Nigerian parentage but from Michigan, who is on the football team of Notre Dame University--which makes him Irish. The mind reels. 


    JE comments:  I'm curious about the "nt" to "d" pronunciation shift in Greek.  The letters t and d are the same sound, one devoiced and the other voiced, and the Slavic languages, for example, often switch the two (the same rule applies to k and g, with dog becoming "dok," which sounds like "duck").


    Still, I'm at a loss with Antetocounmpo, other than the suggestion that it might mean before Tocounmpo.  (!)


    Regardless, greetings from sleepy Valladolid, in Yucatán.  Our travels yesterday were exhausting but safe, with many hand disinfections and takings of temperatures.  A day of museums and cenotes awaits.

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    • A Word on Greek Pronunciation, Field Marshal Modgomery (Harry Papasotiriou, Greece 12/18/20 5:21 AM)

      In response to John's comment on being curious about the "nt" to "d"
      pronunciation shift in Greek, the Greek alphabet lacks the letters d and
      b, which are thus replaced by "nt" and "mp." This sometimes has
      unfortunate consequences. Some students of mine pronounce Montgomery as
      Modgomery.


      JE comments:  Harry, this is ideresting!  No d?  Any survivor of a fraternity or sorority knows the letter Delta, but it's now pronounced as a "th" sound (as in then).  We've now solved the riddle of Antetocounmpo.  It's pronounced with a "d" for the nt, and a "b" for the mp.

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  • Johnson and Biden; Sanctions Against Venezuela (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 12/17/20 5:48 AM)
    I will refer to three different issues in this post.

    First, I have no answer to John E's question on Brexit from my last post, "Do you believe that Trump's defeat will have some leverage over Boris Johnson--namely, because the PM had hoped for 'extra-special' status with an isolationist US, but now has to play by multilateral rules?" I will limit myself to this thought:  considering that Trump openly supports Brexit, indeed it would have been very possible that Trump would have been a great ally of Johnson after the breakup. This is one more reason for me to rejoice at Trump's defeat, as everybody knows that I have always been an enthusiastic anti-Brexiter.


    By the way, in relation to Trump, I have read in some media that he still has many opportunities to change the result of the elections on January 6th in Congress.  Is this still possible? Apparently there are seven rebel states with "contradictory" or duplicate lists. Is the Trump soap opera not over yet?


    Finally I would like to refer to a post by Tor Guimaraes, where he mentions that the "people of Iran and Venezuela have been suffering enormously from US sanctions." I don't know about Iran, but it is a fact that I have argued and repeated on previous occasions that Trump's sanctions have actually had little effect on the people of Venezuela. The reality is that the economic crisis, shortages, devaluation, lack of credit and international financial credibility, reduction of oil production, shortage of medicine, health crisis, etc. were all unleashed long before Trump implemented his first sanctions. It is for this reason that I do not believe that there will be significant changes in the situation of the country with the change of government in the US. If--eventually--there truly is one.


    JE comments:  Nacho, after the Electoral College vote on Monday, the presidential election is now definitive.  The biggest confirmation of this was the recognition by Mitch McConnell of "President-Elect" Biden. 


    Happy Holidays to you!  Tell us, has the Maduro government made any official statements on the upcoming change in US administrations?

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  • Was the Brexit Vote Democratic? (Arturo Ezquerro, -UK 12/19/20 4:01 PM)
    I wish to thank José Ignacio Soler for writing incisively about Brexit, the most depressing political event in the UK since World War Two. His is the first posting about this subject on the WAIS Forum since I was invited to join a year ago.

    As a psychiatrist working in London for the last 37 years, I have struggled to identify anything sane or beneficial for ordinary people in the UK coming out of the Brexit process and, so, I have needed to write a dozen articles about it in order to preserve my sanity.


    Please allow me to share some of my thoughts in a couple of links:





    https://groupanalyticsociety.co.uk/contexts/issue-83/articles/report-brexit-who-is-afraid-of-group-attachment/



    https://groupanalyticsociety.co.uk/contexts/issue-87/brexit/brexit-and-the-foreign-virus/



    In summary, I have argued that Brexit thinking and feeling seemed to have evolved from complex large-group and global-group dynamics, linked to a constellation of historical and ongoing contributing factors, including the following:


    • a reactivation of anti-immigrant attitudes, in the context of the ongoing migratory crisis;

    • a nostalgia for the sovereign British Empire;

    • a tension within the UK about devolution to its constituent nations;

    • a revival of English nationalism;

    • profound regional inequalities within England itself;

    • a divide between big cities and the rest;

    • a generational divergence of values and aspirations;

    • the global financial crisis;

    • a disdain for the poor and vulnerable, expressed through austerity and the undermining of the welfare state;

    • a sensationally self-indulgent, right-wing political ruling class;

    • unacceptable levels of class inequality and social detachment;

    • a persistent and insidious anti-EU propaganda;

    • a deeply ingrained British ambivalence towards the European project and distrust of EU institutions.


    The list is longer. However, during the Brexit referendum campaign, research consistently found immigration to be the public's number-one issue of concern. And it had a pernicious influence on how the franchise was defined under the strong pressure of the pro-Brexit (and largely xenophobic) lobby within the Tory Party, which held a parliamentary majority.


    In a piece of research which is to be published in a couple of months, I have critically examined the democratic quality of the June 2016 UK referendum on EU membership. The Brexit "mandate" is based on 51.9% of the voters but just 26% of the UK population. On a rigorous scrutiny, the referendum failed key tests on democratic legitimacy, such as human rights and the definition of the franchise. The UK Referendum Act 2015 deliberately excluded 3.3 million settled EU citizens, permanently resident in the UK, from the franchise.


    This cast serious doubts: the political and legal status of common EU citizenship conferred by EU Treaties (of which the UK was a signatory) was disregarded by the UK and by the EU. According to the Treaties, no EU citizen shall be discriminated against on grounds of nationality, in any of the member-states...


    In conclusion, a democratic process such as the Brexit referendum, in which a whole group of subjected citizens within the political community is excluded and marginalised, cannot be legitimate enough.


    Plus ça change!


    Best wishes for the New Year.


    JE comments: Best wishes to you, too, Arturo.  Appreciate your update.  We've been way too US-centric on the Forum this year, but much is going on everywhere else.  Who would have imagined that Trumpism would have been "resolved" in less time than Brexit?


    Arturo, some naive Yank questions.  Are there calls in the UK for another referendum, especially given the 45-billion euro exit invoice coming due soon?  Is it already too late for a reconciliation?


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    • Why Did the Supreme Court Not Side with Trump? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/22/20 10:56 AM)
      First I must congratulate Arturo Ezquerro (December 19th) for his excellent post regarding the stupidity of Brexit. In an age when the world is shrinking, cooperation, unification, participation should be the key words for humanity to survive, let alone prosper. Only special interests drive nationalism, fundamentalism, and xenophobia. The EU is far from perfect, but it is a grand experiment which should not be allowed to fail.

      JE commented on my last post (regarding US vs Chinese democracies), "Trump resolutely failed in his quest to be president-for-life, and ... the US courts, even Trump's own judicial appointees, rejected the seas of litigation to overturn the election results. Do you really believe an analogous process could have happened in China?"


      Presently, there is zero chance; further, the present Chinese top leader can stay on with the party's consent. Surely does not seem very democratic, eh?


      On the other hand, our precious US courts can be blamed over the years for blindness to a wide array of injustices ranging from vote suppression, racial injustices, civil rights violations, to enabling a wide variety of electoral process manipulation by special interests. To my relief, even this Trump Supreme Court, no matter how biased, is apparently not debased enough to allow an election overturn by claimants with no evidence to back charges of fraud against election officials of their own party. While they were not crazy enough for Trump this time around, four more years of indoctrination could be sufficient in the future, just like the Nazi judiciary.


      Nevertheless, if a democratic system can ensure that the government represents the people's interests, then the political leaders would stop trying to manipulate the courts as a vehicle to accomplish their special interests. We must not forget that the elected legislative must write the laws to be executed/interpreted by the other branches.


      JE comments:  I am reminded of Cameron Sawyer's reassurances that the court system is beholden to no one, politically.  Most of us took this argument with a grain of salt, but so far since November 3rd, the Supreme Court (and lower courts) are proving us skeptics wrong.

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