The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Totally, ridiculously, dumb

It's 6:30 am in the UK, and the results are mostly in. The United Kingdom has apparently voted to secede from the European Union. That makes David Cameron about the unluckiest person ever to head Her Majesty's Government.

Cameron pushed the "Brexit" vote on the understanding that it wouldn't pass. How'd that work out?

In literary terms, the apotheosis of Nigel Farage is the dramatic climax in the story of the United Kingdom. David Cameron mooting the referendum was the technical climax. The denouement? England winds up a has-been little country surrounded by the European Union states of Scotland, Wales, and a united Ireland.

Prediction: By 2020, an independent Scotland and an independent Wales will join the EU, while a very confused Northern Ireland struggles to decide whether to join the Republic or Scotland. (My bet's on Scotland.) Meanwhile, Nigel Farange, having succeeded in his lifelong ambition to destroy the UK, finds himself having to explain to his geriatric, ineducable supporters why England can't make it on its own, and why no one wants to build in London anymore.
 
Congratulations, you lot who voted "Leave." You're about to find out why it's better for the head to rule the heart in matters of economics.
 
And this chart below? You idiots who voted to leave the EU? This is bad. Bad, bad, bad. But since you obviously don't believe rational thought is an important part of statecraft, what do you care? It's only your economy collapsing.

Will Cameron be dumb or lucky?

UK law prohibits discussing an election while polls are open. The Daily Parker, being an American publication, isn't subject to this rule, but I decided this morning not to flout it anyway because I'm going to be in the UK tomorrow evening.

Polls closed 20 minutes ago in an historic referendum to decide whether the UK should remain within the European Union (my belief) or leave it. Here's what people are saying.

First, the Guardian, my go-to source for breaking British news:

Long queues have been reported outside some polling stations as voters cast their ballots in Britain’s closely fought EU referendum.

In London and parts of the south-east many were forced to brave torrential rain and navigated flooded streets to have their say.

The latest Ipsos Mori phone poll, completed in the days before the referendum, gave remain a four-point lead on 52% to leave on 48%. So far all the final phone polls have shown remain in the lead, while all but one of the final online polls have given the lead to leave.

Some polling stations were forced to close and relocate as the equivalent of one month’s rain fell overnight in the capital.

Finian O'Toole, writing for the Irish Times, wonders if the English are ready for self-government:

Brexit is essentially Exit: if the Leave side wins the referendum it will almost certainly be without securing majorities in Scotland or Northern Ireland. For all the talk of reasserting the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, the desire to leave the European Union is driven above all by the rise of English nationalism.

And the chief consequence of Brexit will be the emergence of England as a stand-alone nation. Whatever entity might eventually emerge from a tumultuous breach with the European Union will almost certainly not, in the long term, include Scotland: a second referendum on Scottish independence will be inevitable, and this time Scots would be voting to stay in the EU.

It may or may not include Wales. (A resurgence of Welsh nationalism in reaction to the rise of English nationalism seems possible.)

And its relationship to Northern Ireland will be increasingly tenuous and fraught: if nothing else the Brexit campaign has made it abundantly clear that what happens to the North scarcely merits an English afterthought. The kingdom founded by Boris I will, in time, come to be bounded by the English Channel and the River Tweed.

CityLab agrees:

The Scotland/England divide also cuts both ways. If the U.K. as a whole swings towards Remain, many English Brexiteers may feel that it is Scots in turn who are twisting their arms. Independence aspirations could ultimately still lead one day to Scotland breaking away as a separate state, leaving the remaining parts of the U.K. “stuck” within an E.U. that a narrow majority had voted against. That’s not a possibility the pro-Leave camp would accept with any relish. Indeed, part of the Leave camp (though far from all) are motivated by a form of nationalism that is morphing from British to English, populated with people frustrated that Scottish MPs can vote on some issues affecting England while, due to its devolved parliament, Scotland can make similar decisions for themselves independently.

By laying bare these fault lines, both Leave and Remain results in a referendum could imply a threat to the future unity of the United Kingdom. Not as an instant axe-fall severing the country’s parts come Friday, of course, but as a steady polarization which may end up making such unity untenable.

Closer to home, the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal likens the vote to Downstate Illinois kicking out Chicago:

Given the way some Illinois politicians try to drive a wedge between north and south, it doesn't take much imagination to envision people Downstate who might want to vote to cut ties with Chicago.

Maybe they don't want to pay for Chicago's financial mistakes. Perhaps they feel little in common with its denizens. They could be appalled by the city's crime and corruption.

At this point, ignoring arguments that the state is served by greater size, diversity and economic might, they may simply want their independence and believe the benefits are worth whatever a less-than-amicable divorce might cost.

Meanwhile, as of 22:30 BST, counting millions of paper ballots has comenced in the UK. I'll be watching.

World's longest tunnel to open in 2 weeks

The Swiss have built a 57 km tunnel under the Alps, and it opens June 1st:

[T]he new Gotthard Base Tunnel burrows deep beneath the mountains to connect Switzerland’s German- and Italian-speaking regions, ultimately linking the Swiss lowlands with the North Italian plain. It exceeds the length of its longest predecessor, Japan’s Seikan Tunnel, by a little over three kilometers (1.9 miles). Running at up to 8,000 feet below mountain peaks at times, it also runs deeper below ground level than any other tunnel yet built. So great is the amount of rock and rubble created by the excavation—over 28 million tons—that steep artificial hills have been created in the valleys at the tunnel’s mouth.

Now that trains will run on a specially constructed, almost entirely flat track, trains through the tunnel will be able to reach speeds of 150 miles per hour. This will slash the journey time between Zurich and Milan to just two hours and 30 minutes, considerably faster than the current four hours and 40 minutes. While that’s impressive, shorter hops between sub-Alpine cities aren’t really the new tunnels main raison d’etre, and wouldn’t alone necessarily be worth an injection of over $10 billion.

Why is Europe in generally better shape even though their economy is technically in worse shape? This might be an example.

New EU-US data privacy deal

The European Commission yesterday announced they've reached a broad agreement with the United States to allow trans-Atlantic data transfers that respect European privacy laws:

The EU-US Privacy Shield reflects the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice in its ruling on 6 October 2015, which declared the old Safe Harbour framework invalid. The new arrangement will provide stronger obligations on companies in the U.S. to protect the personal data of Europeans and stronger monitoring and enforcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission (FTC), including through increased cooperation with European Data Protection Authorities. The new arrangement includes commitments by the U.S. that possibilities under U.S. law for public authorities to access personal data transferred under the new arrangement will be subject to clear conditions, limitations and oversight, preventing generalised access. Europeans will have the possibility to raise any enquiry or complaint in this context with a dedicated new Ombudsperson.

The new arrangement will include the following elements:

  • Strong obligations on companies handling Europeans' personal data and robust enforcement: U.S. companies wishing to import personal data from Europe will need to commit to robust obligations on how personal data is processed and individual rights are guaranteed. The Department of Commerce will monitor that companies publish their commitments, which makes them enforceable under U.S. law by the US. Federal Trade Commission. In addition, any company handling human resources data from Europe has to commit to comply with decisions by European DPAs.
  • Clear safeguards and transparency obligations on U.S. government access: For the first time, the US has given the EU written assurances that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms. These exceptions must be used only to the extent necessary and proportionate. The U.S. has ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance on the personal data transferred to the US under the new arrangement. To regularly monitor the functioning of the arrangement there will be an annual joint review, which will also include the issue of national security access. The European Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce will conduct the review and invite national intelligence experts from the U.S. and European Data Protection Authorities to it.
  • Effective protection of EU citizens' rights with several redress possibilities: Any citizen who considers that their data has been misused under the new arrangement will have several redress possibilities. Companies have deadlines to reply to complaints. European DPAs can refer complaints to the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission. In addition, Alternative Dispute resolution will be free of charge. For complaints on possible access by national intelligence authorities, a new Ombudsperson will be created.

The EC will release the text of the agreement soon. I'll be monitoring this development closely.