Interesting times we live in politically. This week marks such a radical move as we have ever seen in most of our lifetimes, the issuing of the Article 50 letter. It also marks the triumph of the hard right in the Conservative party, effectively supplanting Ukip as a political movement. Who needs Ukip now, when you have their theories put into practice by the party of government in the UK?
Those hard liners also see a chance to parade their strength in response to Nicola Sturgeon's opportunistic but inevitable request for a referendum on Scottish independence. The hard right’s most telling argument against Scottish independence is that that it would be too big a risk to break away from the rest of the UK, which is where the Scots sell over half their goods and services.
Are they so blinkered they cannot see the supreme irony of their argument when set against Brexit? If it is, according to them, economic madness for Scotland to leave their biggest home market, does not the same logic apply to the UK leaving its biggest home market, the EU?
In the wake of Wednesday's triggering of Article 50, and Donald Tusk's heart-breaking “we already miss you”, I have come to an alarming conclusion. Brexit was not the idealistic bid for national self-determination its adherents would have us believe. Rather it was a very British coup. We now have an (unelected) Prime Minister pursuing an agenda that even many Brexiteers find repellent. We have the prospect of legislation being enacted without parliamentary scrutiny – didn't we fight a civil war over that? More than three million UK residents are finding themselves relegated to “lesser” status, unable to obtain long-term job contracts or take out a mortgage. To make matters worse, there is no opposition to speak of.
Is there any hope? Possibly. Open Britain has already shown itself to be a coherent and vocal rallying point for pro-Remainers. Isn't it time it launched itself as a political party? I would vote for it, and I'm guessing so would millions of others, if only to stop the madness.
David Davis does not apologise for aiming for “the exact same benefits” for Britain out of the EU as in. But he should apologise for promising that as part of the Leave campaign. Actually he needs to do more than apologise.
We are not 'little England'
The continual denigration of England as a country, often from the English themselves, has probably contributed to the resentment which propelled some into voting to leave the EU. This is an unhealthy situation; every nation has its good and bad side and to single out just one is hurtful and harmful. We should remember that colonial injustices were perpetrated by many countries, not just England, and in times past, all nations, including all those of the British Isles, were more than ready to tear out their neighbours' throats and burn, rape and pillage, as soon as they got the upper hand.
And can we please hear less of the “little England” sneer? We don’t hear “little Wales”, although Wales had the highest Leave vote, nor “little Scotland” when discussing Scottish independence. And before I get sneered at, I voted Remain.
Ideas from down under
The trouble with the concerns of some businesses about a possible loss of migrants doing jobs they claim would take a while for any Brits to fill their shoes is the fact far too many companies are not prepared to train someone. What's wrong with having work visas/permits for a limited time? It works in Australia and the UK should start a hardline approach to immigration.
Where’s our £350m for the NHS?
We are all shocked by the untruthfulness of Donald Trump, but our own Government has been outdoing him. At least he is trying to carry out what he said he would do.
The British people did not vote for Brexit because they wanted to get rid of other Europeans, but to keep the NHS going with the promised extra £350m a week. It was painted in large letters down the side of the red bus. The Government now needs to pay up and also explain where all the NHS staff will come from when the Europeans go home.
So now May is in the process of destroying one of Winston Churchill’s significant achievements, namely the EU, with the idea that it would stop wars in Europe – so far, so good. She is also destroying the achievements of Clement Atlee and Aneurin Bevan.
We need another referendum right now, with some honest statements, particularly as we already know enough of the truth to understand that we were extraordinarily deceived. Why waste the next two years on puerile and damaging discussions?
Expats in extremis
For expats like me, Brexit continues to be a nightmare, with so much uncertainty and doubt. British governments have never had much regard for expats, disenfranchising us after 15 years and, in many countries outside of the EU, permanently freezing the UK state pension so that expats are disqualified from annual increases, despite having paid contributions.
The freezing of the UK pension is a major worry, as is the question of healthcare which at present is safeguarded under the EU health card. The ability to travel to other EU countries is very important for me; I don't want to have to apply for a permit every time I want to leave Poland.
It seems to me that, for many, the idea of an EU associate citizenship, as proposed by Guy Verhofstadt, might be one of the most practical and constructive ideas to evolve from Brexit, allowing expats and others to maintain their security and acquired rights in the EU.
As an expat living in Germany, I quite often make mail order purchases via the internet from the UK. No problems in this respect; the process is, at present, as straightforward as mail orders from within Germany. Recently, however, I bought a gadget in the US worth some $200, which was quite a different story: the item arrived quickly enough in Germany but then was subject to a customs inspection, which obliged me to drive one hour to the appropriate customs office, have three pages of import declaration very carefully (and slowly) entered into the computer by the customs officer, and pay the duty.
Post-Brexit, one can assume that the same nonsense will apply to any future purchases I might make from the UK (as it likely will to UK residents' orders from Europe). Clearly this will not improve the UK's export business. It also demonstrates the lie of Brexiteers concerning the reduction in red tape: there will be more, not less, after we have left the EU.
Trump didn’t invent fake news
May I urge Theresa May to use the "Henry VIII" powers apparently at her disposal to amend, as a priority, the foreign law governing the shape of bananas and the number of bananas permitted to be sold in a bunch, to whatever her Foreign Secretary thinks is a more sensible approach? Now, if ever, is the time.
Step up. Take the world stage. Don't let Trump think for one minute that he invented “fake news”.
More work to tackle terrorism
I'm pleased to read that major international technology firms will set up a cross-industry forum to tackle online terrorist propaganda, but I suggest that they need to go much further than that. One only has to click on the Facebook pages of far-right groups in this country, let alone the US, to be appalled by what is permitted. One can report hate messages and request that they be removed – and for mild amusement in idle moments reply to obnoxious postings by correcting their spelling – but even then Facebook will more often than not fail to comply with your requests. Nine times out of 10, Facebook will maintain that questionable phrases do not infringe their so-called community standards of respectful behaviour. Children can see this bile and the volume of it will suggest to them that it's the norm, therefore okay.
Sturgeon's lessons from Merkel
Nicola Sturgeon welcomes a closer relationship between Scotland and Bavaria on the grounds that they have a lot in common. One thing they do not have in common is that Bavaria is not attempting to secede from the Federal German Republic, nor do its leaders wage a campaign of vilification against Berlin and Chancellor Merkel’s government. Sturgeon could learn a lot from her new ally.
Be aware of autism
As I write this, I am surprised to comment on the absence of news or comment relating to world autism awareness week, which comes to an end this forthcoming Sunday.
Before it is too late for another year, can I please take a moment of your time away from the normal daily business to increase awareness of the autism spectrum. The reality is that there are many autistic children, who too often remain for many years undiagnosed and unsupported. These children too often go through many (and too frequently all) their education without diagnosis and thus without vital support that would have helped them achieve their fullest potential. These children are usually the first to suffer bullying and isolation at school. Current statistics tell us that more than one in 100 people in the UK have autism.
If you do nothing else, I would ask you all to learn more about autism. Just increasing awareness of the signs of autism to get early diagnosis in more cases would be a fitting tribute to this almost forgotten world autism awareness week.
Elementary, Tom Watson
So Tom Watson demands that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “deals” with Momentum who he accuses of attempting to take over the Labour Party. Perhaps the two can do a deal? Jeremy Corbyn takes care of Momentum whilst Tom Watson thoroughly investigates the Israeli Embassy's infiltration of the Labour Party and its slush fund of one million pounds which is undoubtedly a fund earmarked for the overthrow of Jeremy Corbyn? Perhaps Watson could “deal” with Labour's General Secretary Iain McNicol whose bright idea it was to steal the votes of 130,000 Labour Party members in last year's leadership election?
And whilst he's at it perhaps he can investigate Peter Mandelson who has said publicly he tries “every single day” to undermine Labour's leader? And whilst he's at that, perhaps Watson could also “deal” with MPs like Angela Eagle who sparked the coup against Corbyn last year which has so damaged Labour's electoral chances?