17 December 2020
View from the Cotswolds
Glad tidings: Brexit ahoy, Trump overboard!
By Paul Branch
The last ditch dash to Brussels came to nought, or so we thought. EU headquarters and 10 Downing Street seemed to agree on one thing though: the severe degree of pessimism in their statements following the cosy tete-a-tete between Ursula and Boris. But then the extra mile kicked in, talking and the uncertainty continue and miraculously the differences seem to be narrowing. Is it horse trading time? I’ll give you some Scottish haddock if you give me a bit of a slope on the playing field … but maybe a daydream too far.
Fishing, the last great divide concerning actual trade with the EU, accounts for all of 0.5% of our GDP. Total trade with the EU, by far our biggest trading partner, brings in over 40% of GDP. Looking at fishing quotas in UK waters, over 50% of the English quota is foreign-owned, although these companies do need to have a tangible link with the UK. Foreign involvement in quotas for Scotland (whose actual catch is far larger than England’s) is much smaller, but the Scots are not too keen on Brexit in general even though their fishermen would seem to gain the most. So which part of the dog is doing the wagging? Surely it’s a no-brainer to give concessions on fishing in order to get us a reasonable overall deal (or any deal, please), but a glance at the last Conservative manifesto reminds us that fishing was and remains a central theme in getting Brexit done, so maybe it’s a no-go area still.
The continuation of negotiations is really good news, and congratulations to Boris for getting Ursula to see sweet sense in not calling a halt until every possibility becomes as exhausted as the negotiators. And congratulations to Ursula as well for keeping up with what Boris was saying to her, presumably in his own unique signature version of eccentric English – let’s hope he kept hair shirts, tree-hugging, and mung beans out of the conversation.
In the event of no deal we’d be left with some pretty miffed folk in Scotland (precious fishermen apart) and in Ireland on both sides of whichever border doesn’t really exist. Not to mention most of our Royal Naval fleet patrolling and protecting our sovereign waters from unwanted anglers. Even if Boris triumphs in the arm wrestling with Ursula, there won’t exactly be dancing in the streets north of our other non-existent border come 1 January, and so the pressure will be back on for a second referendum on Scottish independence. I very much doubt Boris has much left in the way of political credibility in that neck of the woods, but preservation of the Union becomes even more critical for the rest of us as we set sail for the sunlit uplands: the chances of prospering mightily are increased significantly if we remain joined at the hip to our closest devolved neighbours in the same economic bloc, uncomfortable though it may be.
A simple solution springs to mind. We have no formal written Constitution (like the Saudis and Israel apparently), so we get to make it up as we go along by means of Acts of Parliament and statutes. Nothing compels us to hold a referendum on anything, so a decision by Parliament never to have another referendum (on anything) would surely sail through on the back of the Conservative Party’s stonking majority in Parliament, thereby enabling us to carry on unfettered, albeit with some additional loss of popularity in Scotland which I’m sure we could put up with. The Germans have such a facility after a particularly unpleasant series of experiences back in the 1930s, so we would not be alone.
Brexit may still be dragging on but the other major international saga seems to be in its death throes at long last, now that the US Electoral College has strutted its stuff and confirmed Joe Biden as the winner and President Elect. Despite 50 legal suits and hearings in various Supreme Courts, where Trump’s unfounded claims of foul play were rejected unanimously or didn’t even make it to a hearing, it looked like a close call the other day in Wisconsin just before the College votes were announced. The Supreme Court there decided by a 4-3 majority not to deny Biden Wisconsin’s 10 votes, which would have made no real difference to his winning overall majority but could have opened up further legal shenanigans, prior to the final formal confirmation of Biden’s election on 6 January at a joint session of Congress. So those of a nervous disposition can rest easier for at least the next three years, or even longer if Trump and/or any of his overblown family decide against giving it another go in 2024.
Trump of course has still not decided whether to jump ship of his own accord and leave the White House gracefully as the Bidens arrive to take up residence, or walk the plank and get evicted by force. The latter would be an unusual end to a presidency, but not totally out of keeping with the character we’ve seen on stage for the last four years. Just how over 100 Republican representatives could still justify his baseless claims of a rigged election is a mystery, as was the rationale for his election in the first place. His incredibly loyal supporters point to his great achievements as President, whereas others just see laws passed which benefit him personally, anything to do with Obama torn down but not replaced (I’d like to think this is not out of racism but just sheer petty spite), disharmony and violence fuelled by self-serving rhetoric, and foreign relationships soured to a dangerous level in some instances, the possible exception being the very limited Middle East accord he helped broker, for which Trump expects the Nobel Peace Prize (sounds OK if you ignore the Palestinians).
Trump’s final rushed acts before he departs the scene appear to focus on inmates on Death Row in a Federal penitentiary and putting them out of their misery by signing immediate execution warrants. Two down, only three more to go.
We’ve seen Presidential decrees held up to the camera for effect on numerous occasions, all bearing the now well-known distinctive DonaldJTrump signature. A couple of his more ardent supporters were asked at a rally why they still supported him, to which they replied: “We’re not stupid, we see President DonaldJTrump as a genius, a genius – that’s what the J stands for.” I’m just pleased my earlier Christmas wish has come true – thank you, Santa.