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  • Britain and the European Union - Theresa May opts for a hard Brexit
    The government promises a “truly global Britain” after Brexit.
    Is that plausible?
    Jan 21st 2017 THE ECONOMIST

    HALF a year after choosing Brexit, Britons have learned what they voted for. The single-word result of June’s referendum—“Leave”—followed a campaign boasting copious (incompatible) benefits: taking back control of immigration, ending payments into the European Union budget, rolling back foreign courts’ jurisdiction and trading with the continent as freely as ever. On January 17th Theresa May at last acknowledged that leaving the EU would involve trade-offs, and indicated some of the choices she would make. She will pursue a “hard Brexit” (rebranded “clean” by its advocates), taking Britain out of the EU’s single market in order to reclaim control of immigration and shake off the authority of the EU’s judges.

    Mrs May declared that this course represents no retreat, but rather that it will be the making of a “truly global Britain”. Escaping the shackles of the EU will leave the country “more outward-looking than ever before”. Her rhetoric was rousing. But as the negotiations drag on, it will become clear that her vision is riven with tensions and unresolved choices.

    Definitely maybe
    Mrs May’s speech was substantial and direct—welcome after months in which her statements on Brexit had been Delphic to the point of evasion. Although she plans to leave the single market, Mrs May wants “the freest possible” trade deal with the EU, including privileged access for industries such as cars and finance (see article). In order to be able to strike its own trade deals outside Europe, Britain will also leave the EU’s customs union (freeing itself from the common external tariff), but will aim to keep its benefits in some areas. The government will consider making some payments into the EU budget, but the “vast” contributions of the past will end. Mrs May would like a trade agreement with the EU to be wrapped up within two years, meaning that there is no need for a formal transition arrangement; she suggests a phasing-in period, whose length could vary by sector. Parliament will get a vote on the final deal, though by then it will be too late for it to change much.

    The pound rose on the discovery that Mrs Maybe had a plan after all. Sympathetic newspapers compared her steel to
    that of Margaret Thatcher (perhaps forgetting that the single market was one of the Iron Lady’s proudest achievements). Yet, for her plan to succeed, Mrs May must overcome several obstacles—not least her own contradictory impulses.

    The essential task will be to get the EU to agree to the sort of deal she set out this week. When it comes to the single market and customs union, European leaders have made clear their opposition to “cherry-picking”. A tailored transition plan may get the same bleak response. And the EU has never concluded a trade agreement in two years, let alone a deep one.

    Mrs May would retort that Britain will get a good deal because its negotiating position is strong. In her speech, after distancing herself from Donald Trump’s Eurobashing, she warned that the EU would be committing “an act of calamitous self-harm” if it tried to punish Britain with a bad deal. Europeans would miss London’s financial markets; they might also lose access to British intelligence, which has “already saved countless lives” across the continent.

    Her undiplomatic threats ring hollow. Everyone will lose if there is no agreement, but nobody will lose as much as Britain. The country is in no position to bully its way to a cushy deal and EU leaders in no mood to offer one.

    Mrs May’s way for Britain to come out on top, even if it loses access to markets in Europe, is for the country to open itself up to the world. In rediscovering its past as a trading nation, Britain can become a sort of Singapore-on-Thames, free of the dead hand of an over-regulated EU. Long touted by some liberal Brexiteers, the idea has a certain devil-may-care appeal.

    Yet if Mrs May is to turn Britain into a freewheeling, laissez-faire economy, she will have to sacrifice some of her own convictions. She has interpreted the Brexit vote as a roar by those left behind by globalisation. On their behalf, she has railed against employers who break the “social contract” by hiring foreigners rather than training locals. Under Mrs May, Britain, a beacon for investment, risks becoming less attractive to foreigners, not more. The minimum wage is rising. She wants to vet foreign takeovers of British firms. Above all, the promise to “control” immigration looks like a euphemism for reducing it (see Bagehot). Forced to choose on a visit to India, Mrs May put continued restrictions on student visas before a trade deal.

    The Economist opposed Brexit. If Britain has to leave the single market and the customs union, we would urge the globalising side of Mrs May to prevail over the side that would put up barriers. But for this, Mrs May will have to abandon views to which, as home secretary, she has long held firm. Britain is heading out of the EU, and it will survive. But the chances are that it will be a poorer, more inward-looking place—its drawbridge up, its influence diminished.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • The Article 50 case - Brexit will require the consent of Parliament—but not of the devolved assemblies
      The Supreme Court’s ruling leaves Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without a say
      Jan 25th 2017 | Britain THE ECONOMIST

      THE justices of the Supreme Court were never likely to overturn last November’s ruling by the High Court. On January 24th they duly upheld, by eight votes to three, the decision that Theresa May’s government needs parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50, the European Union’s process for leaving the club. Although ministers appealed, arguing that the royal prerogative allows them to unmake as well as make treaties, they had expected to lose. They will now introduce a short bill in hopes that it will become law in time for Mrs May to meet her deadline of invoking Article 50 by the end of March.

      The case turned on two main points. One was that, once Article 50 is triggered, the process is irreversible: after two years Britain will automatically leave. Although many lawyers think an Article 50 application could in practice be withdrawn, neither side questioned the point, partly to avoid an awkward reference to the European Court of Justice. The second was the notion that EU membership, as confirmed by a parliamentary act from 1972, in effect confers domestic rights on British citizens that can be removed only by another act.

      One oddity is that judges were attacked for subverting democratic fundamentals as expressed in the 52-48% vote for Brexit in the referendum last June. In fact, the Supreme Court is supporting parliamentary democracy against the tyranny of untrammelled government. Its judgment refers to 17th- and 18th-century precedents when Parliament defended citizens’ rights against an overweening king. At one point it notes that, were the prerogative absolute, ministers could in theory choose to leave the EU without a referendum—or, indeed, do so in defiance of a vote to stay in.

      The chances are that the government’s bill will be passed quickly. Almost all Tory MPs and most Labour MPs say they will respect the referendum outcome. A few MPs and peers may try to amend the bill to impose conditions that try to soften Mrs May’s preferred “hard” Brexit, but they face an uphill battle. Other court challenges to Article 50 seem unlikely to succeed.

      Rebel MPs did extract one concession from Mrs May. On January 25th she announced that the government would after all publish a white paper setting out its approach to Brexit. This is welcome. Yet ministers are under no obligation to make it detailed; Jill Rutter of the Institute for Government notes that a white paper on the Lisbon Treaty in 2007 gave little away.

      Two issues remain unaddressed. One is how far Parliament should be involved in the Brexit negotiations. Mrs May has promised a parliamentary vote on the terms of the deal she eventually secures. Yet that may mean little, for were Parliament to say no, it would not prevent Brexit—it would simply mean that Britain left with no deal at all. MPs wishing to hold the government to account must demand a greater say at an earlier stage, through parliamentary committees or questions, for example.

      The second is the growing irritation of the devolved administrations over Brexit. The government was relieved that the Supreme Court rejected demands for votes in the Scottish Parliament and Northern Irish and Welsh Assemblies on Article 50, which could have delayed or even blocked Brexit. But Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is right to complain about a lack of consultation, especially since a majority of Scots and Northern Irish voted to stay in the EU. A hard Brexit will profoundly affect the devolved governments, not least because it might imply border controls with Ireland. Brexit may not immediately trigger another independence referendum in Scotland or renewed instability in Northern Ireland. But Mrs May says she wants to preserve the United Kingdom. To succeed, she may have to do more to mollify its component parts. Brexit will require the consent of Parliament—but not of the devolved assemblies | The Economist

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • Jan 21, 2017
        KAL Cartoon

        æ, !

        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • Britain’s excruciating embrace of Donald Trump shows how little independence it has gained from Brexit - Leaving the European Union means the country has less, not more, control over its circumstances
          Jan 28th 2017 The ECONOMIST

          THERESA MAY’S private opinion of Donald Trump goes unrecorded, but she is surely not a natural fan. Before Mr Trump’s election the prime minister called his remarks on Muslims “divisive, unhelpful and wrong”. Fiona Hill, one of her powerful chiefs of staff, declared him a “chump” and Nick Timothy, the other, tweeted: “As a Tory I don’t want any ‘reaching out’ to Trump.” Mrs May flannelled in a television interview on January 22nd when asked about the president’s treatment of women, his disregard for NATO and his protectionism. In temperament the two leaders could hardly be less alike: one brash and operatic, the other cautious and meticulous. So expect the prime minister’s visit to the White House on January 27th to be a study in awkwardness: the mother superior dropping in on the Playboy Mansion.

          The trip encapsulates a wider shift in London. Time was, everyone mauled Mr Trump. Boris Johnson, now the foreign secretary, said he betrayed a “stupefying ignorance” and branded him “unfit” to lead America. Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, turned to Shakespeare: “Trump’s a clay-brained guts, knotty-pated fool, whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch, right?” A year ago MPs were debating banning him from Britain. Even Nigel Farage, whose serial electoral failures in Britain have not troubled his recent reinvention as a presidential cheerleader, used to call Mr Trump “wrong” and list the many things about the man that he “couldn’t support in any way at all”.

          Today scorn is out; flummery is in. Mr Farage led the way, pitching up at Trump Tower in December for a cheesy photo with the then-president-elect, whose grasp of the former UKIP leader’s CV seems shaky. Then came Michael Gove’s turn in the golden elevator and the former justice secretary’s fawning newspaper profile of Mr Trump. Now Mr Johnson calls the election result “a good thing for Britain”. The country is even ready to put the queen within grabbing distance of America’s helmsman: plans are afoot for a summer state visit, in which Mr Trump reportedly wants the monarch to watch him golf at Balmoral, her Scottish estate.

          This sycophancy is hardly new. Margaret Thatcher put up with Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada, a Commonwealth country. Tony Blair’s eagerness to be close to George W. Bush cost him European allies and took Britain into the Iraq war. But Mr Trump is different. Whereas Reagan and Mr Bush cherished the economic and security order in which Britain was a junior partner, Mr Trump threatens it. So why is Mrs May hurrying to Washington? Because Brexit compels Britain’s leaders to show that the country has powerful allies. And “my Maggie” (as the president calls Mrs May) is desperate to line up a Britain-America trade deal that can be closed as soon as Brexit takes place, probably in 2019.

          Whether this will end happily is uncertain. In trade negotiations, size matters. Larger economies can stipulate terms that suit them. Britain, an economy of 60m people, has much less leverage in trade talks than the EU, a market of 500m, or the United States, one of 300m. Mr Trump may promise an agreement “very quickly” and to show other countries that it is safe to leave the EU by giving Britain generous treatment. But more than anything else he is an America First deal-wrangler who knows he has the upper hand. A rushed agreement could see the National Health Service opened up to American firms and environmental and food standards diluted (think hormone-treated beef). Such concessions could upset British voters, who backed Brexit partly because Leavers said it would help the country’s health-care system. They would also frustrate a trade deal with the EU, a much more important export destination.

          The curious thing is that Brexit was supposed to be about “taking back control”: immunising the country from foreign whim and interest, while asserting national dignity and independence. Increasingly that looks like a bad joke. The British elite feels it has no choice but to prostrate itself before an American president it clearly finds odious. To keep businesses from moving elsewhere, Britain may have to shadow EU regulations and pay into EU programmes without the chance to shape either. Its trade deals will be forged with a fraction of the negotiating force that has long promoted its interests. That means more concessions to the tariff and regulatory preferences of foreigners. Its application to become a full member of the World Trade Organisation is yet another opportunity for others to impose conditions and costs.

          An elusive independence
          And pause to contemplate Mrs May’s threat to turn Britain into a tax haven if it gets a poor deal in Brussels. The prime minister is politically almighty. She faces virtually no serious opposition or credible rivals within her Conservative Party, which is close to record highs in the polls. Her premiership’s raison d’être is to make the social safety net stronger for “just about managing” citizens. Yet if foreign leaders decide not to make concessions, she says she will be forced to rip up that plan and do the very opposite: slash public services and regulation. Some “control”, that.

          A fact of the modern world, sadly overlooked in the referendum, is bringing itself to bear on Britain: control and autonomy are not the same thing. The country is party to some 700 treaties, member of myriad international organisations and spends tens of billions on a nuclear deterrent unusable without America (this week it transpired that, at Washington’s behest, Parliament had been kept in the dark when a missile went off course in a test). In each of these cases, Britain trades pure self-determination for real influence: the ability to shape its economic, security and environmental circumstances. Its membership of the EU is just one of many such deals. Leaving the club reinstates some control to Britain but requires it to trade away control in other ways. Will the result be a country any more able to chart its own course, as chosen by its own democratically elected leaders? Watch the prime minister’s excruciating embrace of Mr Trump and decide.
          Britain’s excruciating embrace of Donald Trump shows how little independence it has gained from Brexit | The Economist
          FYI:As soon as Trump became a political figure in July 2015 his ability to sue for defamation was eliminated entirely as per American tort law.

          æ, !

          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • A non Economist article take on the fabulous EU

            The Economist regularly publishes doomsayer articles about #Brexit as to illustrate that the EU is such an incredibly successful entity that Britain must be living in cloud cuckoo land to ever contemplate leaving such a pinnacle of achievement in a developing Europe. Here is a BBC article looking at the EU's vulnerability:-

            Euro 'could fail', says man tipped as US ambassador to EU - BBC News


            • The Economist has in fact been around for appx the last 175 yrs. No doubt, it has a "progressive" slant. Its goal is to "take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing progress."

              I am partial to the consistent good writing.

              In my home BBC is just good cable watching. We do pay extra for it, but it is pretty good when one needs a quick rehash of the daily news from a different viewpoint.
              Following is fact - left or right matters not.

              The uncertainty created by the Brexit will hurt economically. New trade agreements take time to work out and enact, and the negotiations for this divorce will be extremely contentious.
              Last edited by Hannia; 26th January 2017, 20:40.

              æ, !

              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • French Presidential Candidate Against Schengen

                François Fillon, the conservative front-runner in France’s presidential race, pledged on Tuesday to re-instate “real” border controls to prevent the influx of migrants and restrict the entry of terrorists.

                Presidential candidate François Fillon calls for France to 'ignore' Schengen and have 'real' borders with Europe


                • Euro zone heading for trouble

                  The economies of the 19 countries sharing the euro currency should converge more or they will suffer from repeated crises, the International Monetary Fund said in a regular assessment of the single currency area.

                  Euro zone heading for trouble without more convergence - IMF | Reuters


                  • REUTERS Jan 26, 2017 | 10:06pm GMT
                    Court case on whether Brexit can be reversed to be filed Friday

                    A legal challenge to determine whether Britain's exit from the European Union can be reversed once triggered is to be filed in Dublin on Friday with the aim of securing a referral to the EU's top court within months, a lawyer taking the case said.

                    British Prime Minister Theresa May says she will invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, triggering two years of formal divorce talks.

                    Lawyers for the British government have said that, once started, the process is irrevocable, but some EU leaders say Britain can change its mind.

                    London tax lawyer Jolyon Maugham, who is leading the case to determine whether Britain can unilaterally revoke Article 50 without the consent the other 27 EU states, said in a statement that he hoped the case would be heard by the Irish High court by March or April.

                    In the best-case scenario, the case might then be before the European Court of Justice before the summer, Maugham said.

                    He said English, Welsh and Northern Irish members of the Green Party will be joining the case as plaintiffs, he said.

                    Ireland was chosen as the case had to be brought in the EU but outside Britain, and its legal system was similar to Britain's. The plaintiffs say the Irish government colluded in a breach of the EU Treaties by wrongly excluding Britain from some EU Council meetings after the referendum.
                    Court case on whether Brexit can be reversed to be filed Friday | Reuters

                    æ, !

                    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                    • Why the shortage of veggies in UK shops? Lettuce find out.
                      PRI's The World
                      February 03, 2017 4:30 PM EST
                      Traci Tong

                      First it was the zucchinis.

                      Then the iceberg lettuce.

                      Then even the satsumas, those small mandarin oranges.

                      That's when The World's reporter in London, Leo Hornak, says he really got hungry: "I'm at the epicenter of a zucchini famine. An iceberg lettuce drought."

                      Britain is in the middle of a vegetable crisis due to poor growing conditions in southern Europe, where many of these vegetables are cultivated during the winter months.

                      A combination of flooding, storms and frost have damaged crops in southern Spain, which supplies half the vegetables throughout Europe.

                      Some of the UK's largest supermarkets have rationed the amount of iceberg lettuce shoppers can buy.

                      "You cannot buy more than three iceberg lettuce[s] at once. And everything from eggplant to celery to cucumbers to artichokes, even broccoli have been affected by this."

                      It's like a throwback to WWII, when Britons were forced to ration their food.

                      Suppliers have warned that if the weather does not improve in coming weeks, the shortage may continue through March — meaning customers could be hit with higher prices for the produce.

                      Add to that anxiety about the expected fallout from Brexit, when Britain withdraws from the European Union.

                      "Although this [shortage] is attributed directly to the weather, it could be a taste for the future," Hornak says. "In Britain, we're used to having free trade with the rest of Europe, that's the basic privilege we have as part of the European Union. But, no one knows what the conditions for trade will be when Britain leaves the European Union. So, I think people are worried that this could be a forewarning of what we should get used to."

                      æ, !

                      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                      • Italy seeks help from Russia

                        Last week Federica Mogherini the EU's Foreign Minister gave a speech upholding the European Union's "values" in which it committed the EU to maintain the welcoming stance of "refugees" into the EU. This is despite the massive opposition by a significant sector of the EU tax payers to this policy. I was going to write significant sector of the EU's electorate but that would be incorrect as no EU citizen has ever had the opportunity to vote for the elites of Brussels or to uphold their policies.

                        Meanwhile many hundreds of migrants (most not coming from war zones) continue to apprehended in the Mediterranean Sea as they place themselves in peril by attempting to make crossings in unsafe boats and being brought to EU's shores by EU sponsored "border security" ships. Currently the Turkey to Greece numbers have been considerably reduced and attention is now shifted from Libya to Italy crossings.

                        The Italian government has the potential of a latent banking crisis on its hands and with the growing numbers of migrants being brought to its shores under current EU policy, but without any meaningful support from the inept clowns of Brussels over what should then happen to them, the Italian government in its desperation is asking Russia to use its power in the region by asking for their intervention in Libya. This may seem strange to an outsider but if you are closer to the European Union's lack of achievability you begin to see that Putin CAN bring about results regardless of whether you approve or not of such results.

                        Russia urged to intervene in Libyan migrant crisis | World | The Times & The Sunday Times


                        • From Brussels with love - The multi-billion-euro exit charge that could sink Brexit talks - A bitter argument over money looms
                          THE ECONOMIST Feb 11th 2017 | BRUSSELS

                          THE mother of parliaments has spoken. On February 8th a large majority of MPs backed a bill authorising the government to begin Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union by triggering Article 50 of the EU treaty. (A few dissenters were told off for singing “Ode to Joy”, the EU’s anthem, in the chamber.) After approval from the Lords, it should become law in March. But a different sort of Brexit bill is approaching, and will be harder to manage. It could yet scupper the whole process.

                          Before Britain’s referendum last June, Leave campaigners promised voters that Brexit would save the taxpayer £350m ($440m) a week. That pledge was always tendentious. But officials in Brussels are drawing up a bill for departure that could mean Britain’s contributions remain close to its membership dues for several years after it leaves. In a new report for the Centre for European Reform, a think-tank, Alex Barker, a Financial Times correspondent, puts the figure at anything between €24.5bn ($26.1bn) and €72.8bn.

                          The bill comprises three main elements. All, in Brussels’s view, derive from the legal obligations implied by Britain’s EU membership. The first, and largest, covers the gap between payments made in the EU’s annual budget and the larger “commitments” made under its seven-year budgetary framework, approved by Britain and the 27 other EU governments. This overhang has been steadily growing. Britain’s share of what Eurocrats call the reste à liquider (or amount yet to be paid) would be around €29.2bn, Mr Barker estimates.

                          The second element covers investment commitments to be executed after Britain leaves the EU in 2019. Most of this is “cohesion” funding for poorer countries (think motorways in Poland). Mr Barker reckons Britain’s share could amount to €17.4bn. The government will struggle to explain why voters should be on the hook for payments made after Brexit. But the European Commission will argue that Britain’s approval of the current budget, which runs until 2020, obliges it to cough up.

                          Pensions make up the third component. The liabilities for the EU’s unfunded scheme stand at over €60bn. Britain may be prepared to cover its own nationals. But European officials insist that all liabilities are a joint responsibility, as Eurocrats work for the EU, not
                          their national governments. This may be the fiercest row of all.

                          Brussels’s demand will combine these three elements with a few miscellaneous items, and may adjust for Britain’s share of EU assets, its budget rebate and payments it is due from the EU (see chart).


                          Michel Barnier, who will lead negotiations on behalf of the commission, is said to consider that the bill stands between €40bn and €60bn. The upper figure has anchored debate in Brussels, but attracts few takers in London. Some Brexiteers believe Britain has no obligation to pay anything at all once it leaves. If a compromise cannot be reached, Britain might find itself hauled before the International Court of Justice. The talks may be over almost before they have begun.

                          Sequencing presents a second problem. Mr Barnier insists on settling the bill and other divorce terms before substantial talks on the much bigger matter of a post-Brexit settlement, including a trade deal, can begin. But British officials want to negotiate in parallel, and perhaps to link the departure sum to the degree of access Britain will enjoy to the EU’s single market after it leaves. The law lends Britain half a hand: Article 50 says that a departing country’s withdrawal agreement shall take account of “the framework for its future relationship” with the EU. But hardliners like France insist on keeping the two issues apart. And with only two years to conclude an Article 50 deal, Britain cannot waste time talking about talks.

                          Some British officials note that the other EU governments can tweak Mr Barnier’s negotiating guidelines if they find his line too tough. Britain might seek to exploit this by offering sweeteners: defence co-operation with the Baltics, perhaps, or infrastructure grants to Poland. The trouble is that reducing Britain’s bill means cuts to the overall budget, which would irk countries that do well from it, or extra payments from the wealthier governments to make up the shortfall. That creates an unusual alignment of interests among the 27. “If there’s one thing net payers and net recipients agree on, it’s to make the bill for Britain as high as possible,” says an EU official.

                          Most governments do not rule out a compromise. German officials, for example, will consider opening trade talks before the divorce is settled, so long as Britain accepts the principle that it has obligations that extend beyond its departure. As for the figure itself, like all EU budgetary negotiations it will be resolved via late-night Brussels summitry. “It’s like buying a carpet in Morocco,” says Jean-Claude Piris, a former head of the EU Council’s legal service. “The figures are always negotiable.”

                          But there are reasons to fear a breakdown. Theresa May, the prime minister, has done little to prepare voters for this debate. Neither her speeches nor the government’s white paper on Brexit have said anything about an exit payment. A whopping financial demand will therefore inflame Britain’s tabloids, limiting her room for manoeuvre. More worryingly, both sides believe they hold the whip hand. British officials think the hole Brexit blows in the EU’s budget will force the Europeans into compromise for fear of getting nothing if the talks derail. EU officials, for their part, are convinced that the prospect of no withdrawal agreement, and therefore no trade deal, will terrify Britain into submission. “They’ll be begging on their knees at the WTO,” says one.

                          The EU is skilled at brokering compromise on budgets. Perhaps that will prove true for the Article 50 talks, too. But two things set the upcoming negotiation aside. First, there is no precedent. Second, goodwill towards Britain has largely evaporated; it will be negotiating with the EU as a third country, not a partner. Informal meetings between British and European officials have already witnessed blazing rows. About the only thing the sides agree on is that they may be heading for deadlock.
                          The more we read about the Brexit, the more we learn that - perhaps UK should take a deep breath, step back, and think its next step more carefully.

                          æ, !

                          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                          • EU Unforeseen Consequences

                            For the last seven weeks I have reposed in a river valley between mountains in Transylvania, Romania. It has been in mostly minus Celsius temperatures with snow and ice on footpaths making it difficult for me to walk upon. But the sun gets a little higher and brighter in the sky with each day and air temperatures rise noticeably into the plus degrees bringing about a thaw that has melted the river ice, causing it to flow rapidly for the first time since my arrival. As I now feel more able to walk around and survey the local scene I see an elderly lady and a whole family (husband, wife and children) sorting through domestic waste (garbage) bins. I am aware that many such persons look for glass, plastic and other types of packaging that they then carry to recycling merchants who give them a little money for these materials. Others however are looking for something they can eat or wear. I have learned about this because I observe the same back in Ukraine.

                            Almost since my arrival in Romania I have seen on TV that thousands of Romanians have protested against their government for attempting to introduce a bill that would have protected many of their politicians and officials against charges of corruption. As the total numbers of protestors throughout Romania exceed half a million, the government have stopped introduction of the bill. When the protestors realized they had won their original demand they continued to meet in town squares nightly in freezing conditions in an attempt to get the parliamentarians to resign, but so far the politicians have held firm. I am wondering how much air time this has been getting back in Ukraine and to what degree Ukrainians are taking note.

                            The European Union also warned the Romanian government that if they passed this protection against corruption protection bill that future EU grant money could be curtailed. The EU climate change measures have certainly been responded to here in Romania. Nearly all of Romania’s coal mines have been closed with electricity generation now being mainly met by gas burning power stations. Unfortunately, there was no forward planning and many thousands of coal miners found themselves in unemployment with little option but to live in poverty or to move elsewhere.

                            Since the EU’s demands for a reduction in coal consumption as part of its environmental policies, wood consumption is on the rise. As in Ukraine the municipal boiler houses that heated whole blocks of apartment buildings and also supplied hot water are being closed. Now residents have to convert to individual gas fired systems for central heating and hot water. However, it’s too expensive for pensioners, unemployed and chronic sick to pay. Wherever possible they are converting to modern wood/solid fuel burning stove systems. This may well be a reason that deforestation is on the rise. Especially when you consider that other materials are now used for widow frames, certain furniture and that need for newsprint and writing paper is decreasing because of electronic media.

                            I am told that although the European Union imposed penalties on electricity generators and other big users of coal (the now closed iron/steel producers), that no such penalties for timber consumption were envisaged. Can that be a reason why I am now reading of increasing deforestation in one of Europe’s remaining formerly pristine Carpathian Mountain slopes with huge swathes of forest disappearing from both the Romanian and Ukrainian sides. It would be too much to expect of these overpaid inept clowns of Brussels to have passed into regulation such actions without having the foresight to anticipate the unforeseen consequences.

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                            • EU MEP's madness

                              The EU states, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Croatia and Czech Republic rely in various degrees on tourism to bolster their stressed coffers, but the EU Parliamentarians with their cozy jobs, isolated from the real world and contact with their electorate regions are contemplating taking the USA out from the visa free entry system. Clearly they don't consider what impact this would have on tourism numbers within their countries:-

                              Suspend visa-free EU travel for US citizens, MEPs say –


                              • Devolution in England - Reaching a dead end
                                The whole process of devolving more powers to local authorities in England seems to have stalled
                                THE ECONOMIST Mar 4th 2017 | KING’S LYNN


                                THE town of King’s Lynn is not the most obvious place to learn lessons about the governance of England. It occupies a twilight zone, not big enough to attract large investment as Cambridge has, but not so cut off as to be hopeless like some places farther east. The town, which has a population of 46,000, has a medieval centre that dates to the 14th century when it was a port trading with German Hanseatic cities. Brian Long, leader of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk council, wants to restore its glory. Though shops lie empty, a paper plant opened four years ago, and factories and a business park have sprung up in the outskirts. “We appreciate we are not the most desirable place to invest, but we do have some merit,” says Mr Long.

                                Yet in November the council voted to reject a plan for the 16 boroughs of Norfolk and Suffolk to join up in a “combined authority”, and accept a mayor for the region, known as East Anglia, in exchange for a slice of £25m funding a year for 30 years to support economic growth and the development of local infrastructure, as well as £130m for housing. Mr Long supported the move but, with three other councils already against, the deal failed.

                                In May, Liverpool, Greater Manchester and four other combined authorities (see map) will elect a metro mayor for the first time. They are the poster children of the “devolution revolution” launched by the then chancellor, George Osborne, in 2015. The hope was that more joined-up decision-making at local level would boost regional economies and raise productivity. But many rural areas did not even submit a devolution proposal. Elsewhere local councillors rejected the notion. There are fears that, beyond the six deals concluded, it will be hard to do more. Lord Porter, head of the Local Government Association, said last month that he believes “devolution is dead”.

                                This comes as the prime minister, Theresa May, launches a new industrial strategy, with a declared aim to “drive growth up and down the country from rural areas to our great cities”. Jack Hunter of IPPR North, a think-tank, says that “trying to do industrial strategy from Whitehall simply will not work”. Yet Mrs May and her chancellor, Philip Hammond, seem less keen than their predecessors on devolution.

                                King’s Lynn ought to be a good candidate. Struggling to develop on its own, it would benefit from closer integration with cities like Peterborough, Norwich and, especially, Cambridge, with its booming high-tech industry, says Mr Long. Extra funding could upgrade rail links, to increase the number of trains to and from Cambridge from one an hour. As it is, King’s Lynn will lose the chance to play a part in a devolved transport policy. Observers call the rejection of devolution suicidal, and believe a compromise could have been found over a regional mayor.

                                Concern over the size of the combined authority was one reason the deal failed. Many felt that Norfolk and Suffolk, together covering 3,540 square miles (9,170 square km) was too big an area to be joined (Greater London covers 600 square miles). “The combined authority devolution model is made in Manchester and refined in Birmingham,” says Will Rossiter of Nottingham Trent university. That, he says, does not always suit the complex “two-tier” layering of political power in the shires: a county council, in charge of transport and social care, and below it, a district council, in charge of rubbish collection and other local services.

                                Local politics is another issue. Labour-led Norwich rejected the devolution deal partly out of fear of being dominated by rural Tory councils. In Manchester, most of the councils in the new authority are Labour-run. Yet central government is also to blame. Norfolk wanted a deal on its own, but Whitehall urged it to join with Suffolk, partly because the Local Enterprise Partnership, a regional body promoting business, covers both. The government also moved the goalposts, at one point suggesting Cambridge be included, then switching to link it with Peterborough. “If Cambridge had been part of our deal,” says Mr Long, “I think we would have gone for it.”

                                Identity is another factor. Whitehall encouraged Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to combine in a devolved deal, yet local politicians found it hard to relate to a regional authority to which they held no natural allegiance. “Few people who know the economic and political geography of the area believed it could work,” says Mr Rossiter. Sure enough, five district councils rejected the process.

                                Devolve no more
                                In Westminster, the excitement that accompanied Mr Osborne’s devolution plans in 2015 has gone. In September Lord O’Neill, who championed the “northern powerhouse” of English cities, quit as a Treasury minister. In December the new transport secretary, Chris Grayling, stopped the devolution of control of London trains to the capital’s mayor. The local government secretary, Sajid Javid, claims to be open to proposals. But to kick-start devolution again “is going to take more than Sajid saying his door is open,” says Jonathan Carr-West of the Local Government Information Unit, a think-tank.

                                Some counties are restructuring anyway. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire each plan to abolish their county, district and city councils and form a “unitary” one. Cornwall, Wiltshire and Shropshire have already done so. But district councils often align with parliamentary constituencies and, as district councillors act as ground troops in general elections, many MPs do not want unitaries.

                                The biggest problem is persuading the people in places like King’s Lynn to support change. “If you asked all my friends in the town,” says one lifelong resident out shopping with his wife, “I doubt any of them have even heard of devolution.”

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