Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Posts tagged ‘Brexit’

The ultimate Brexit machine

Marvin Minsky famously proposed (and Claude Shannon built) what Shannon called the “ultimate machine”, a machine reduced down to its simplest logic, so that its only function, when turned on is to turn itself off. One version is portrayed here:

Brexit is like that machine, except with the variation that the switch is, by design, stuck in the on position. So that it has no purpose at all.

If you recall, Brexit was supposed to solve the problem of unemployment in Middle England: all those East Europeans swarming over the land, devouring jobs. Now we have this:

Home Office officials have privately admitted the department is having problems increasing its immigration staffing levels as part of its Brexit preparations and may have to recruit Polish and other eastern Europeans to help register the 3 million EU nationals in Britain.

So Brexit itself is already making more work than the British can handle without bringing in Eastern Europeans. So once we have Brexit we don’t need Brexit anymore. In fact, once we have Brexit we can’t afford Brexit.

Why can’t they get enough British workers for these excellent jobs registering Europeans?

The Home Office’s difficulties in “enticing staff to move to Sheffield” affect the hub that handles visa applications for work permits, student visas, premium services and family cases.

So they need to look farther afield, to find potential employees who have never heard of Sheffield.

But it’s not just about regional antipathies. It’s also about qualifications. It’s all those migrant farm workers taking jobs that local untrained British people could take. It’s like a Tory version of that Communist-agitator joke:

– After we drive out the East Europeans you will have jobs picking strawberries.

– But I don’t want to pick strawberries.

– ?????

Brexit has manifestly achieved parodic escape velocity.

The new Athens

Reports from Theresa May in Brussels

Speaking on Thursday night, the prime minister said both sides needed an “outcome that we can stand behind and defend to our people”, hinting at the political difficulty she would have in selling a deal that involves handing over a large sum to the EU.

Translation: We made unrealistic promises to our people. Now it’s up to you to fulfill our promises. In the name of democracy.

As I recall, another European leader recently tried to reject financial demands from international organisations by appealing to the spirit of democracy and the results of a popular referendum. I wonder how that one turned out?

Harold MacMillan famously compared postwar Britain to the Ancient Greeks:

These Americans represent the new Roman empire and we Britons, like the Greeks of old, must teach them how to make it go.

I guess, after the last dreams of empire fade, the British establishment can still grasp for the hope of becoming the new Athens.

Preserving dignity

The latest from Brussels:

EU leaders at a crunch summit dinner are set to rebuff Theresa May’s appeal for trade talks while they seek to publicly talk up her efforts in the Brexit negotiations as they fear that the prime minister’s domestic weakness will leave her unable to make vital concessions on Britain’s divorce bill.

The member states are acutely aware that the prime minister needs to come out of the summit with her dignity intact if she is to get her cabinet and party to accept concessions on the divorce bill…

There are many strategies for helping a negotiating partner come out with “dignity intact” after you rebuff their demands. The one where you tell the press that you’re trying to make the failure of your opposite number look less terrible because you’re afraid she might collapse if the public were made aware of how terrible it is, is perhaps one of the more counterintuitive.

Food for unthought

Guardian headline:

Amber Rudd calls no-deal ‘unthinkable’

Amber warning

to May’s dismay:

If no-deal is ‘unthinkable’

then no deal is unthinkable.

Theresa is concerned

The EU isn’t doing very well at these negotiations…

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government fears Brexit talks will break down unless the European Union gives ground at a key summit this week, according to a person familiar with her team’s views.

She’s trying to help. There’s no way they can succeed without agreeing to British demands. Isn’t that obvious? How else could they possibly achieve an agreement?

Warring factions seek EU mediation

That was my immediate translation when I saw this headline yesterday:

Theresa May and David Davis to travel to Brussels for urgent Brexit talks

Obviously the British are trying to create an impression of comity with the EU negotiators, to show that misunderstandings are being swept aside, and the negotiations are now going to run smoothly. An impression that is not fostered by this:

Though Downing Street insisted the dinner had long been in May’s diary, EU sources suggested it may have been more last-minute, but were not able to provide confirmation.

On the other hand, given the warnings about the security of post-Brexit food supplies, maybe they were just hoping to get a solid meal.

The self-modifying enabling law

The UK government seems to be so pressed for time to get their Brexit legal framework going, that they’ve taken to translating old German laws to fill in the gap — with certain pernicious modern features. I thought this stuff about “Henry VIII” powers was just hysteria, but the proposed European Union Withdrawal bill is nothing short of a dictatorial power grab.

The text may be found here. Section 7 deals with “regulations” for implementing the law:

A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate to prevent, remedy or mitigate— (a) any failure of retained EU law to operate effectively, or (b) any other deficiency in retained EU law, arising from the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.

and in paragraph 4 we read:

Regulations under this section may make any provision that could be made by an Act of Parliament.

Compare to the German original:

Reichsgesetze können außer in dem in der Reichsverfassung vorgesehenen Verfahren auch durch die Reichsregierung beschlossen werden.

[In addition to the methods described in the Reich constitution, laws may also be determined by the government.]

(more…)

Poor “negotiating tactic” tactic

From the Guardian:

The Brexit secretary is determined not to table a figure for the price the government is willing to pay to settle Britain’s obligations as it leaves the EU – believing that putting a figure on it would be a poor negotiating tactic.

Might I suggest that presenting as sole justification for your uncooperative negotiating tactics their quality as “negotiating tactics” is itself a poor negotiating tactic?

Not everyone shares the British view that everything in life is a sporting competition.

The migration surge

Last year, a few weeks after the EU referendum, David Davis — remember him? — suggested that the UK might impose a cut-off date  before actual consummation of Brexit, for EU migrants to obtain residency rights.

“Let’s deal with that issue when we come to it. One way of dealing with it could be saying: ‘OK, only people who arrived before a certain date get this protection’ – there are other ways too…”

Davis dismissed the idea that speaking even hypothetically about a cut-off date for residency rights could spark a movement of people to the UK. “No it won’t be like that,” he said. “If you set a date, that’s when you start the rush.”

The government abandoned that idea, as it would have been so offensive to other EU governments as to immediately scuttle the negotiations. How did that rush turn out?

No, I mean all those greedy Europeans swarming over this green and pleasant land… Here is a plot of total EU migration over the past 25 years (from Migration Watch UK). 2016 is right there at the end. Feel the surge!

Where are the simple joys of Maidenhead?

Theresa May’s gamble has gone badly wrong. There’s a danger of chaos overwhelming all of us now, but I want to take this moment, with the result  still fresh, to exult.

There is a special joy at seeing a tactically shrewd and wholly cynical and unprincipled scheme fail. The Tories made a principled case back in 2010 for fixed-term parliaments, which they enshrined in law. May made a principled case for not calling a new election last year when she took over the leadership last year. And then she abandoned all those principles as soon as she saw a political advantage in the sky-high poll numbers for herself and her party. There was no other justification than that she thought she was sure to win, because all the press barons loved her, and Jeremy Corbyn dresses badly, and she couldn’t conceive of having to compromise. Just to make it particularly destructive, she lit the 2-year fuse on Brexit before calling the new election, so that time is running out even while they sort out their mess in Westminster.

A reasonable conclusion would be that it was a mistake to try to run the country off the hard Brexit cliff on the basis of a paper-thin referendum majority, and that she should instead seek a broad consensus, at least on the EU negotiations, with all the major parties. That wouldn’t be Theresa May’s conclusion, though. She may not have been in favour of Brexit, but she’s not going to lose the opportunity to knife the perfidious foreigners, even if the price is collaborating with the DUP to undermine abortion rights, climate policy, and peace in Northern Ireland.

By the way, if you don’t recognise the reference in the post title…

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