The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Brexit, five years on

Not everything I predicted about the idiotic Brexit vote on 23 June 2016 has come true, but the UK still remains as divided as then:

Five years after Britons voted to leave the European Union, the aftershocks are still being registered. But few parts of the country have felt its impact more than this corner of England close to its Channel ports and the white cliffs of Dover, where a majority voted for Brexit.

When Britain was inside the E.U., the trucks that flowed ceaselessly to and from France did so with few checks. But Brexit has brought a blizzard of red tape, requiring the government to build the checkpoint nicknamed the “Farage garage,” a reference to the pro-Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage.

“For people living nearby it’s an absolute catastrophe with the night sky completely lit up. Honestly, it’s like Heathrow Airport,” said Geoffrey Fletcher, chairman of the parish council at Mersham (pronounced “Merzam”).

Consultation on the 24-hour truck park had been minimal and suggestions on how to limit problems ignored, he said. Yet, so polarized is the debate over an issue that divided the country, that Mr. Fletcher thinks few minds have changed on Brexit.

“I have not met anybody who has said they would vote differently,” said Mr. Fletcher, a Brexit voter, over coffee in the garden of his former farmhouse, part of which dates from the 15th century.

The Guardian calls it a straight-up calamity:

Few have changed their mind: though polls put remain (or return) ahead by a nose, no one wants to be put through that hell again. Brexit is done for the foreseeable future, though a government thriving on national disunity strives to keep it alive with infantile culture wars and “anti-woke” phoney patriotism.

Yet barely a day goes by without further proofs of Brexit’s damage, some of it now forcing its way into the Tory press. This week, pigeon fanciers are barred from having their birds participate in cross-Channel races by new rules. Less niche is the alarming 17% rise in food prices: Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation, tells me Brexit costs and obstructions have sent commodity prices soaring, and those are now working their way on to the shelves. The unexpected £2bn fall in UK food and drink exports to the EU in just the first quarter of this year is, Wright tells me, “no teething problem, but very real and sustained. Smaller firms have stopped exporting”, overwhelmed by the new obstacles. The government may turn a permanent blind eye to import checks starting next week: “But that soon gets dangerous. When no one checks, who knows if imported food is what it says on the tin, and not, say, horse meat?”

Wherever you look, expect the same story. The assault on the arts, music and broadcasting is lethal for a sector where Britain excels. This week, the music industry has been begging for an end to the deadlock over EU touring, vital for its viability. Another thunderbolt struck this week with a report showing the EU is likely to enforce its rules limiting non-EU content in its broadcasting: nothing new here, the EU is always strict on cultural protection against the US. That strips millions from financing for drama and other programmes, on top of BBC cuts and the possible privatisation of Channel 4.

I suppose Brexit hasn't been as awful as it could have been. But then, neither was First Bull Run.

Good morning!

Just an hour or so into the first business day of 2021, and morning news had a few stories that grabbed my attention:

Finally, don't eat icicles. They're basically frozen bird poop.

Christmastime is here, by golly

Thank you, Tom Lehrer, for encapsulating what this season means to us in the US. In the last 24 hours, we have seen some wonderful Christmas gifts, some of them completely in keeping with Lehrer's sentiment.

Continuing his unprecedented successes making his the most corrupt presidency in the history of the country (and here I include the Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding presidencies), the STBXPOTUS yesterday granted pardons to felons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. Of the 65 pardons and commutations he has granted since becoming president, 60 have gone to people he knows personally and who have committed crimes on his behalf. Maggie Haberman and Michael S Schmidt say he's at his most unleashed as he tries to avoid leaving office the loser he is.

In other news:

Finally, enjoy this performance of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Händel's Messiah released just a few moments ago by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago:

First snow in Chicago

I'm looking out my office window at the light dusting of snow on my neighbors' cars, wondering how (or whether) I'll get my 10,000 steps today. My commute to work got me 3,000 each way, making the job tons easier before lockdown. Easier psychologically, anyway; nothing prevents me from going for a 45-minute walk except that I really don't want to.

Instead of a lunchtime hike, I'll probably just read these articles:

And just as a side note for posterity, we should remember that the President of Russia congratulated Joe Biden on his win before the Majority Leader of the US Senate did. The Republican Party must really not like democracy.

Other things to read this evening

Happy Hanukkah! Now read these:

I will now have some very yummy Szechuan leftovers.

Britain leaves the EU

At midnight Central European Time about five hours from now (23:00 UTC), the United Kingdom will no longer be a European Union member state.

It will take years to learn whether the bare-majority of voters in the UK who wanted this were right or wrong. My guess: a bit of both, but more wrong than right.

It will also take years to fully understand why the developed world collectively decided to throw out the institutions that brought us the longest period of peace and economic growth in the history of the planet.

It might be like how an airplane actually flies. Until recently, people understood the Bernoulli effect as the mechanism for lift. New research (sub. req.) suggests that lift actually has four different components that work together to keep 200-tonne airplanes airborne.

Increasing wealth inequality, the apex of political power for the Baby Boomer generation (possibly the most selfish and whiny generation in American history), psychological warfare of unprecedented sophistication designed specifically to fracture Western politics...they all go together. And those of us who believe that democratic, liberal government is the best force for making the world a better place despair a little more every day.

Act III, Scene 1

The first debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn last night probably didn't sway anyone:

In a testy live debate on ITV, during which the prime minister repeatedly returned to the claim that he would “get Brexit done”, both men lavished praise on the NHS, but Corbyn said Johnson would put it up for sale.

Throughout the debate, Johnson continually tried to bring the focus back to Brexit, on which Corbyn repeatedly declined to say how he would campaign in a second EU referendum, while the Labour leader attacked the prime minister over the NHS and public services.

At one point, the audience openly laughed at Johnson when he agreed that the truth mattered in the election. The Conservatives came under fire during the debate when it rebranded its CCHQ Twitter account as “factcheckUK” and used it to pump out a series of pro-Tory messages.

Barry Gardiner, a shadow cabinet minister, emphasised the audience scorn for Johnson’s truthfulness, saying: “People looked at the prime minister and thought: how can we believe a word he said? How can we believe the manifesto when it comes out? He promised we would come out on 31 October and he would die in a ditch if we didn’t. It’s just lie after lie after lie.”

Polling still shows neither party getting 50% of the vote, but the Conservatives have pulled ahead a bit. The election is three weeks from tomorrow.

Backfield in motion

That's American for the English idiom "penny in the air." And what a penny. More like a whole roll of them.

Right now, the House of Commons are wrapping up debate on the Government's bill to prorogue Parliament (for real this time) and have elections the second week of December. The second reading of the bill just passed by voice vote (the "noes" being only a few recalcitrant MPs), so the debate continues. The bill is expected to pass—assuming MPs can agree on whether to have the election on the 9th, 11th, or 12th of December. Regardless, that means I'll be in London during the first weekend of the election campaign, and I'm elated.

Meanwhile, a whole bunch of other things made the news in the last day:

  • Writing for the New Yorker, Sam Knight argues that before Boris Johnson became PM, it was possible to imagine a Brexit that worked for the UK. Instead, Johnson has poisoned UK politics for a generation.
  • Presidents Trump and Obama came to Chicago yesterday, but only one of the personally insulted us. Guess which one.
  • That one also made top military officers squirm yesterday when he released classified information about our assassination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, including a photograph of the dog injured in the raid. The dog's name remained classified, even as it seemed clear that he was a very good boy.
  • Grinnell College in Iowa released polling data today showing just how much people don't like President Trump. Moreover, 80% of those polled thought a presidential candidate seeking election help from a foreign government was unacceptable. Adam Schiff cracking his knuckles could be heard all the way to the Grinnell campus.
  • An appellate court in North Carolina ruled that the election maps drawn up by the Republican Party unfairly gerrymander a Republican majority, and must be re-drawn for the 2020 election.
  • Grubhub's share price crashed today after the company released a written statement ahead of its earnings call later this week. The company made $1.0 million on $322.1 million in revenue during the 3rd quarter, and projected a loss for the 4th quarter.
  • The City of Atlanta decided not to pay ransom to get their computers working again, in order to reduce the appeal of ransomware attacks.

Finally, it looks like it could snow in Chicago on Thursday. Color me annoyed.

The hospice of history

Writing in the Guardian, journalist and historian Neal Ascherson says that the long Brexit fight has deepened divisions within the UK that have always been there, but now may have passed the point of no return:

It’s commonly said that the Brexit years have made the English more xenophobic, less tolerant, more angrily divided among themselves. 

[T]he deepest change since 2016 is the weakening of the United Kingdom’s inner bonds.

The “great rest of England” seem to have felt for many years that if the Scots want to leave, “it seems a pity but it’s their right”. Few southerners would feel diminished. Many believe, incorrectly, that England subsidises Scotland. Since 2016, Scotland’s heavy vote to stay in the EU, and the SNP’s incessant campaigning against any sort of Brexit, have become a severe irritant to “British” politics. Devolution is working more scratchily month by month, and the common English assumption for the past few years has been that Scottish independence is inevitable. Curiously, this is not how it looks in Scotland, where minds change slowly and where it’s far from certain that the next independence referendum will drag the yes vote over the line.

In the union of four nations, one – England – has 85% of the population. What the past three years have shown is that the big partner is no longer concerned to put its own interests behind those of the others. A poll this year showed that Tory voters would be ready to “lose Scotland” (revealing words) if that ensured Brexit. In turn, devolution only made sense when all four nations were inside the European Union. If England in 2019 can no longer remember why the union with Scotland and Northern Ireland once made sense, Brexit has delivered the United Kingdom to the hospice of history.

Meanwhile, a deal in the works between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats may end the fixed-terms parliament act and send the UK to the polls on December 9th, instead of December 12th as the Government have previously asked. The EU have voted to postpone Brexit until January 31st, further complicating things for the Labour party (even though Labour demanded the extension).

I expect an earful at the Southampton Arms in two weeks.

Best description yet for the UK's current politics

“I’m just saying if I narrowly decided to order fish at a restaurant that was known for chicken, but said it was happy to offer fish, and so far I’ve been waiting three hours, and two chefs who promised to cook the fish had quit, and the third one is promising to deliver the fish in the next five minutes whether it’s cooked or not, or indeed still alive, and all the waiting staff have spent the last few hours arguing about whether I wanted battered cod, grilled salmon, jellied eels or dolphin kebabs, and if large parts of the restaurant appeared to be on fire but no one was paying attention to it because they were all arguing about fish, I would quite like, just once, to be asked if I definitely still wanted fish.”

Originally quoted in Roger Cohen's column in today's New York Times.