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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 12 November 2020
12 November 2020 @ 10:42

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*  

Covid 

First comers for the vaccine in Spain will be healthcare workers and ‘the elderly’.

Meanwhile more good news from Spain - The government is slashing VAT/IVA on masks to the minimum permitted by Brussels of 4%.

I’m a tad  worried to see that 'frozen finger' has now been identified as a possible symptom/effect of the virus. I get a frozen thumb from time to time. But perhaps this doesn't count as a 'finger'.

Living La Vida Loca in Galicia/Spain 

It's becoming a Spanish speciality . . . 

I confessed the other day to confusion re respective Covid restrictions in the UK and Spain. And now I have to admit I was surprised to hear from my daughter last night that - at least up to 11pm -  life continues as normal in Madrid - in contrast to Galicia, where the entire hostelería industry is closed, sacrificed on the altar of Covid. Other than the places offering take-away stuff. I mean, aren't Madrid's figures worse than ours?

Which reminds me . . . As I sat in Pontevedra's square at midday yesterday, sipping a coffee and reading a paper, I noticed a couple of plastic boxes nearby, apparently abandoned by someone who'd brought their lunch to eat al fresco in the square. One contained some sort of salad and the other - bizarrely - a stack of butter. A couple of ravenous seagulls approached them, inspected them and then summarily rejected them. One wonders why. Perhaps seagulls aren’t healthy eaters.  . .  Of course, the other question is why were they abandoned in the first place.

The government has announced there'll soon be even more reasons for diligent Guard Civil officers to fine drivers and take pants off their licence. One provision will be the removal of the allowance of 20% when overtaking another car. So, what will it be? If, indeed, it remains at all.

The greedy Franco family - having lost the battle to keep a mansion 'donated' to the Caudillo by 'the grateful Galician people' - are now trying to keep their grubby hands on various (priceless?) treasures from Santiago cathedral and from the library of an eminent local author. As you'd expect. They never disappoint.

Here's María's Falling Back Chronicle Day 58.

The EU

An unusually optimistic Ambrose Evans Pritchard writes below about Brexit and future US relations with both the UK and the EU.

Spanish

Reading my diary of my early years here and, in particular, of my dealings with various workmen, I'm reminded of the word chapuza. Meaning 'bodge'. To bodge - chapucear.

Finally . . .

Along with most/all of the country, we have a curfew in Galicia from 11pm to 6am (I think). Seems a tad pointless when there’s nothing open to go to. I guess it keeps young folk from boozing in the street, with or without masks. In theory.

THE ARTICLE  

Trump contaminated Brexit, but Biden could be its saviour

We may find that the President-elect proves to be the best thing that has happened to the UK's departure from Europe:  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph.

Donald Trump has been an unmitigated disaster for Brexit. He has contaminated the brand. By hijacking Britain’s pursuit of sovereign self-government for his own mischievous purposes, he linked the Brexit cause to four years of Trumpian assault on civility and the world’s institutions. Anybody who follows global commentary knows that the reputational damage has been calamitous.

There is a Burkean conservative case against a restless EU project that is forever seeking to accrue more power and keeps disturbing settled practice with one vaulting treaty after another, mostly on thin popular consent - or, as with the Lisbon Treaty, against explicit refusal of consent.

There is a liberal, globalist, free-trade case against an EU that is more protectionist and hostile to innovation than its defenders admit, and less green than it pretends.

There is a Left-wing case against an EU captured by corporatist elites, with a “neo-liberal” austerity architecture set in stone under the Acquis, making it impossible for any genuinely radical government to push through transformational change ever again. It outlaws the sort of Roosevelt reflation that Joe Biden proposes for America.

There is a constitutional case against an EU with its confederate lines of accountability, uneasily joined to federal bodies of immense power - commission, supreme court, central bank - that operate beyond Democratic oversight. There is a case that Britain’s position as a non-euro member is unsustainable in an EU constantly creating fiscal machinery to shore up a dysfunctional monetary union.

Yet the world knows none of this. All has been conflated with Trumpism because that is an easier narrative. It is why even a well-informed politician such as Biden could slip into caricature, calling Boris Johnson an “emotional and physical clone of Donald Trump”.

Biden no doubt regrets this comment. It is patently untrue. The Prime Minister has nothing in common with Donald Trump, other than a willingness to break crockery from time to time. His intellectual range, his multicultural tastes, and his ecological streak, are sui generis.

This is not to deny that there was a darker Trumpian element to Brexit that pushed numbers over the top in June 2016. But it was not the essence of Brexit. A long list of EU states have a bigger problem with far-Right nativism than the UK.

As a matter of raw realpolitik, the only redeeming feature of Donald Trump’s identification with Brexit - or so it seemed - was that the prospect of a fast-track US trade deal would leave the EU with a stark choice: either agree to a “Canada-style” relationship with the UK on normal terms; or risk losing the UK into the American economic orbit. It came to nothing.

With Trump on his way out, we can start to decontaminate the Brexit brand and reframe British independence within the normal parameters of diplomacy.

Biden will have been briefed that Borisian Britain is aligned with his views on: the Paris climate accord; funding for the World Health Organisation; the Iran nuclear deal; and the Democratic front against the Sino-Russian strongman axis.

It is true that Brexit removes a close US ally from the top table of EU decision-making but it does not therefore follow that this devalues the special relationship and makes the UK “less useful” to Washington, or that Biden will fly over a forgotten London to the hotspots of Berlin and Paris.

The flip side of the coin is that the EU will become an even more prickly animal. Its Gaulliste push for “strategic sovereignty” in defence will take on stronger anti-American undertones.

Biden will, like other presidents before him, find that when push comes to shove, the UK is a reliable soulmate and the EU is not. Indeed, he already knows this from fifty years at the heart of US foreign policy.

He will face a tray of files on his Oval Office desk marked “Europe being bloody difficult”, such as the Molotov-Ribbentrop gas pipeline (Nord Stream 2) intended to undercut Poland and Ukraine and strengthen Vladimir Putin’s energy stranglehold, all with German collusion.

He knows that the EU plays it both ways with China, hoping that it can straddle - and profit - as a third force in global affairs, while the two superpowers struggle for ideological supremacy. But refusal to take sides between the democratic West and Xi Jinping’s totalitarian nightmare is no longer a respectable option. London and Washington at least see eye to eye.

Biden will be exasperated by the collapse of the Data Privacy Shield agreement, ending the free flow of data across the Atlantic because the EU deems US protection to be inadequate. He knows that the EU’s push for “technological sovereignty” is intended to lock digital data inside the EU bloc rather than letting it leak into the cloud under the control of Microsoft, et al.

Claims that he will seek a trade deal with “big fish” Europe before bothering with “minnow” Britain skips over the fiasco of the TTIP transatlantic talks during the Obama years. They ran aground over farm goods and food standards. The EU wants things all its own way: access for its industrial exports; but no access for US agricultural exports. Fresh talks today would be even more futile. The Greens are now a larger force in the European Parliament.

The fact that the next president understands the Good Friday Agreement - unlike most EU leaders - is a help, not a hindrance. He knows that it depends on both communities and furthermore that heavy-handed misuse of the Irish Protocol by the EU could itself be a threat to stability, a point brought home this week by the joint DUP-Sinn Fein letter to Brussels warning of food shortages.

Biden’s initial, irascible reaction to the Single Market Bill suggests that he may not be fully aware of the provocations that led to this legislation. He will be guided by Dublin but he will also see through Brussels humbug soon enough once his team has mastered the dossier.

My advice to Boris Johnson is let the Lords quietly finish off the bill and look for other remedies if the EU tries to close its legalistic trap, exploiting the fine print of the Protocol to extend state aid and regulatory control over great swaths of the UK economy. You have to pick your fights with care.

British-American relations were close to rupture after Suez In 1956. The election of America’s first Irish Catholic president four years later ushered in the glory days of the special relationship. John Kennedy got on swimmingly with a Tory toff. We may look back and find that Joe Biden is the best thing that ever happened for Brexit.

 

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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