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Thinking the unthinkable

What are the likely consequences if, after the next election (in 2015), Britain votes in a referendum to leave the EU? (As 53% of UK voters apparently desire ...)

I have a number of expectations about what would happen.

1. It's possible that an EU exit would be fudged by the then government opting to remain in the European Economic Area. This would be extremely stupid—EEA membership carries an obligation to abide by most EU legislation and treaties, but with drastically reduced participation at the drafting stage. (It's basically a fudge to allow traditionally neutral nations like Norway and Switzerland to participate.) Probability: low—voters would see this as a betrayal of the spirit of a motion to exit the EU.

2. A full EU exit would result in the exodus of a large section of the UK's financial sector to Paris and Frankfurt; in particular Euro trading in London, currently the largest Eurobond market in the world, is facilitated by membership of the EU. (As the financial sector accounts for roughly 20% of the UK's economy, even a relatively small downsizing, by 20% or so, would have a drastic, widespread effect on the UK.)

3. Trade with the EU may be hampered by the re-emergence of the sort of tariff barriers common prior to 1948. The UK would have vastly reduced leverage for negotiating free/open trade with EU members. GATT/WTO treaties would mitigate the impact of tariff barriers to some extent, but we'd lose the benefit of tariff-free open export markets that the EU provided.

4. A widespread assumption among Britons is that the British Commonwealth of Nations would continue to trade with the UK and would in fact gradually increase their UK trade, taking up some of the slack. But the relationship with the Commonwealth nations looks rather different outside the UK. These are former colonies; they don't necessarily bear the UK any goodwill, but continue to exploit the residual relationship because the UK is a tariff-free trade gateway to the EU. A UK that has exited the EU would be a much less attractive trade partner.

5. The "special relationship" between the UK and the USA at a diplomatic/military level runs on much the same basis; the UK is a reliable supporter of the US, historically tending to influence EU diplomatic and trade policy in pro-US directions. A UK that is no longer part of the EU thus becomes less useful to the USA. While the British military continues to contribute roughly 20% of the US Navy nuclear deterrent (in the shape of UK funded and operated Trident SSBNs) and might at some point in the future be able to lend a couple of second-rate aircraft carriers to backfill US hard power projection, the UK's utility would still be vastly reduced in event of an EU exit. So: an EU exit would mark the practical end of "special relationship" with the United States. (Not that this is a bad thing, in my view: the "special relationship" was most recently exemplified by Tony Blair's idiotic willingness to sign up for George W. Bush's Iraq adventure.)

The overall picture, then, is dismal: a flight by the investment banking sector, probable currency speculation directed against the (isolated and vulnerable) sterling market, re-emergence of tariff barriers hampering UK exports to Europe, a collapse in trade with the Commonwealth (at least, on terms favourable to the UK), and the final collapse of UK diplomatic/military power to second- or even third-rank status on a global scale.

Have I missed anything? (Apart from the tabloid news editors standing proud on top of their middens to squawk about how Britain has regained her sovereignty at last?)

369 Comments

1:

Consequences for the EU:
- Only large nation on the "wider not deeper" side of the debate removed (Spain is moot)
- Only economy effectively run by financial sector removed, so increased ability to help/prop up (take yer pick) industry and agriculture
- Paranoia about exits might lead to acceleration of integration, to "lock in" the remaining members

2:

It'd also leave those tabloid editors having to find themselves a new bogeyman. At the moment all that blaming of 'Europe' is a very easy way for the editors of the Express, the Mail, the Sun and so on to rouse the emotions of their readers. If that bogeyman went away and yet the exact same issues were still there, well, they wouldn't be able to admit they'd been lying all these years. I'd expect a whole new set of dog whistling from their direction.

3:

Further to point 3 - access to energy supplies particularly natural gas.
The UK is running a bit low right now (as in over the next week) and the outlook for the next few years isn't pretty either.

A UK out of the EU - where does it sit in the pecking order for accessing natural gas from Europe (ie Russia via Gazprom)? At the end of pipe is never a happy place to be if you don't have influence. Negotiating new contracts for supply & transport maybe a whole lot harder.

4:

would it really be so bad?

As a smaller/less powerful nation - and no longer trying to be the US's lap dog to keep the "special relationship" going - Britain may stop doing such stupid things as Iraq and Afghanistan.

It could be the wake up call that is needed to change our ways in a significant way.

Of course it could be a bit different if Scotland goes it own way. Then you could have an EU member state in Scotland, with an outside state of the rump of what's left of the UK (and how could what was left still call itself the United Kingdom(s) of Great Britain, when all that was left was one kingdom - England - a principality - Wales - and a province - Ulster).

5:

Presumably the breakup of the United Kingdom may follow soon after. Maybe even London will make a break for it (it having the most to lose and not exactly being populated by the little Englander community

6:

UK city dwellers would suddenly be expected to make up for the lack of agricultural subsidies keeping the land-owning classes in a wealth that has little to do with viable farming.

7:

This is certainly a selfish observation but one thing that would also happen is that I would lose my right to live and work here.

It's not just plumbers and construction workers that come here from all over the EU/EEA to work but also a specialists of types that the UK education system isn't serving well (which, honestly, is pretty much any kind of specialist).

Instead of dealing with the UK's extremely hostile and expensive immigration services, I probably wouldn't even try and just try and move somewhere else.

Oh, and the price of expert services which had previously been driven down by EU labour would probably start to rise again, leading to inflation.

8:

Rather selfish one here, but I fear for the implications on the rights to live/work anywhere in the EU.

I'm British and unmarried, but I have a long-term partner (a German citizen) and we have two kids (who both have British passports as they were born in the UK).

If we stupidly vote ourselves out (and I fear that if the referendum happens, the irrational stupidity of the tabloids will cause a gleeful exit vote), we will have, at least, a considerable amount of paperwork and immigration process to simply be allowed to live together in either Britain or Germany.

What if whatever immigration limits the govt imposes, are consumed before our application is approved

9:

That said - I think it unlikely - I think this is going to be the UK Right's equivalent of Republicans pandering to fundamentalist Christians - the people who actually fund British politics have no interest in an EU exit, just in securing a right-of-centre party. That means pandering to the Mail / Express.

10:

Maybe we'd see the creation of a real anglosphere civilization strong enough to compete against the other great civilizations in today's world. Britain, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in an economic alliance with a common language, common ideals and a common belief in individual freedom would, imho, have a positive influence on the world. Someone has to balance the great centralist civilizations and ideologies that are rising in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

11:

That's a bit bonkers.

In reality Canada have already said they'd find the UK less useful if we left the EU. The USA is well on the way to being a Spanish-speaking nation by 2100, and is in any case overrun by deeply religious loonies with guns--your "anglosphere" would struggle to accommodate Irish neutrality, British and Australian gun-phobia, British socialised medicine/the US devil-takes-the-hindmost system, and so on.

Basically that's a late 19th century racist pipe-dream you're smoking.

12:

I think the economy would tank from a different direction too.

I'm sure there are people, as described by the shouting press and indeed our glorious leader, who come here to sponge off our welfare and health systems. I suspect the numbers are low and the costs much lower than we're led to believe, just like I'm pretty sure there's at least one single mother with 4 kids out there who is a "benefit scrounger" but it's notable we never get numbers. Even 10,000 of them is OK by me and not a "huge drain on the economy" as we're led to believe.

But why our plumbers, carpenters, crop pickers and the like in this country predominantly Eastern European now? Part of that is that it's nicer (or better paid anyway) to work here than at home of course. But part of it is that, despite back to work schemes and the like, many British people don't want to work in those areas.

Crop pickers - well we could return to "hard labour" laws and send prisoners out I guess. We don't pay them but we pay the guards. Cheaper? Maybe. But plumbers and the like take time to train. Congratulations UK, we chop off the bankers, maybe, but we also start to drown in our own shit, literally.

#4 - yes I agree that we might stop trying to throw our weight around on the international stage so much and that's probably a good thing.

All this presupposes we actually leave of course. The party most likely to support the referendum is looking like a dead duck for the next elections. Even if it somehow wins and puts it to the people, there will actually be a debate, in public about it. Currently all we hear is "OMG, the EU is so bad because..." Someone standing up and pointing out the good sides (except for banking probably, because they'll still all be bastards in 2015 I think) and there actually being a proper debate and I think the support for leaving will fall.

Also, the wording of the question will matter. The UK historically votes no to change. There are exceptions to that but a question phrased as "Should the UK leave the EU?" is quite likely to have even a number of those that think it should vote no, just in case.

13:

The tariff barriers will not e as bad as 1948 or even 1972 but will be the default EU external tariff wall. The big issue going forward will be the EU regulatory regime, which is as big a barrier to trade as tariffs and more likely to change over time than tariffs which have to comply with WTO rules.
I don't know if there would be an immediate effect on the City but the EU would be more likely to bring in a Tobin tax with no UK to lead the opposition, I think the fear of such a thing may keep many operation in London.
On the other hand foreign direct investment that goes to the UK as consequence of it being in the EU may now shift to Ireland as the lone English speaker within the EU.

14:

I wonder if we'll ever reach it? The UK government seem - whilst loudly opposing it - to be doing their best to make sure that Scotland votes for independence in 2014.

Scots have already been promised that if they become independent they'll be outside the EU, but they won't have any responsibility for the UK's national debt, which seems a pretty good incentive*. Now, in addition, they'll know that if they vote to remain part of the UK, they'll probably be taken out of the EU anyway by English voters. So why not go independent?

Here in Wales, we're getting poorer the longer we stay in the UK, so if the Scots go, we may finally take the plunge and go for independence as well. Why would we want to stay as a neglected corner of a rump UK?

Interesting times.


*Purely my interpretation, of course, but the legal advice was that "This means that if Scotland became independent, only the remainder of the UK would automatically continue to exercise the same rights, obligations and powers under international law as the UK does". If I was Alex Salmond, I would insist that the national debt constitutes an obligation incurred by the UK government; they can't have it both ways. Source

15:

Do you know if that 53% wanting to pull out evenly split between England, Wales and Scotland?

If not what would the chances be of Scotland (assuming it favors the EU more than the rest) increasing it's push for full independence then rejoining the EU (Or using the split with the EU to accelerate independence so it can remain)? The 'UK' would be dead as a result I'd guess and England in serious trouble. But it could be an interesting scenario where Scotland is a full (if minor) EU member while England is not an EU member and struggling with the resulting issues you've mentioned above.

16:

I imagine that us resident EU citizens would be allowed to stay during a transitory period, during which we'd have to apply for work permits (using the same "Are you economically viable" test as non-EU migrants currently face) or British citizenship, or tidy our affairs and sell our houses to the honest, hardworking British families whose rightful places on the housing ladder we've usurped.

But, yes, you missed the migrant's situation, which is the main reason the righteous right is caling for a referendum.

Here's a fun little personal observation from someone who's been on the custom-hardware/telecoms side of software engineering in England for over a decade - the English programmers are becoming a minority. I'm seeing a lot of Indians - both from the big outsourcing companies, and economic migrants - and Eastern Europeans (particularly Polish and Slovak).

Fresh graduates from UK universities tend not to know how to program close to the metal - my daughter's doing a Comp.Sci. degree and picked the "Advanced Programming" component, which is essentially "Basic C - pointers, algorithms, data structures" - and the courses are getting increasingly aimed at either Web design/development, or "games development" without the low-level stuff.

A lot of engineering companies already complain they can't find the staff, and I can't imagine this will improve with a withdrawal from the EU.

17:

It's not an even split; over 60% of Scots want to stay in the EU, while over 50% of English want out.

18:

I agree with everything in your article (except I think the City might still prevail as an offshore centre).

I think the EU should be more democratic though. There is always a feeling that you can't vote for or against a broad agenda. The parliament is powerless and there is effectively no president (there should be a directly elected one)

The real reason for the UK anti-EU sentiment is a form of protest vote.
Most of the UK population currently feel that the economy is not "doing-it" for them. Rising inequality is part of this, but mainly a lack of growth that the current government can't seem to see.

19:

The Irish would have no interest in such an arrangement. We are too peripheral, even to the UK to have much influence in such an arrangement. Within the EU we can make common cause with other powers to get our voice heard. With 27 countries there is bound to be someone that agrees with us.
What does the "Anglosphere" have in common other than English and capitalism?

20:

Interesting, I don't know much about the Scottish independence movement (except that it exists, and seems to be making some progress). But combine the independence movement with the split in the desire to remain in the EU between England and Scotland and it seems like you could be in for some interesting times.

As a Kiwi living in Belgium it'll be interesting to observe how this all works out (not to mention the local Belgian political 'fun and games', much more interesting than the boring politics of NZ).

21:

I'd prefer to call it a cultural pipe-dream. I guess I'm a believer in the clash of civilizations scenario and I see the Anglo worldview as one of those civilizations... if it's a pipe-dream, then so be it.

22:

I would add a dislike of being over-governed and the acceptance of eccentrics as a necessary part of society.

23:

I'd have thought that if we stay in the EU, the overall society is more likely to be tolerant of eccentrics, what with being based on a much less homogeneous culture. Tolerance cuts both ways mate.

I'm also a bit selfish about staying in the EU, about 1/3rd to 1/2 of my friends are from the EU, so I'd rather they were allowed to stick around here.

24:

Regarding 2:

As a Tobin-tax seems to be coming up in several EU-countries, including France and Germany ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9869510/US-banks-attack-Europes-Tobin-Tax.html ) the british Finance sector might stay right where they are, even if GB leaves EU.

25:

The USA is well on the way to being a Spanish-speaking nation by 2100

You may not be aware that this is a right-wing talking point in the US. It's not going to happen. Like every other immigrant group, Hispanics learn English. The illusion that they don't is simply due to the fact that new Spanish speakers continue to arrive.

26:

I disagree, mainly because I regard OGH's point [1] as being wrong ....
I think over 95% of the present "out" camp ( including me, a bitterly disillusioned voter who enthusiastically voted "in" in the 1975 referendum ) are basing their stance on that of Norway & Switzerland .....

What really annoys a huge number of people is the corrupt centralising corporate nannying of the EU in matters which are none of their concern ... always (it seems) for the benefit of the big boys".
Yes, I know this happens at national level already,but at EU-level it is even harder to stop & prevent.
Then there's the institutionalised corruption - how many years since either the EU or the commission had a properly audited set of accounts?

IF Charlie is correct & we left the EEA, then I think his view may unfortunately be plausible, but all the public statements that I have seen seem to imply that this is not the case.
Push comes to shove, what are the EU going to do if we disregard some of their sillier directives in which we have had no voice?

Ther is, of course, the possibility that many EU national guvmints may quickly modify their tone & tunes if it became seriously likely that Britain was to leave the EU - after all, they need the approx £9.5 billion a year they get from us, for no return whatsoever ..... [ That number is the net deficit we are paying to the EU - a balance of approx .. £19 billion payment & £9.5 billion refunds/subsidies/grants ]

Tha figure I've quoted is one of the principal reasons for "out" apart from the corrupt interference.

And, please remember, that I have changed sides, profoundly - until about 2 years back, I too regarded all "anti-EU" propaganda as scaremongering, or trying to blame "Europe" for our own civil service's centralising bureaucratic tendencies. That may still be true, but even so the EU has bacome an out-of-control moneysucking monster, governed by Roman as opposed to Common Law; which reminds me that the "EU Arrest warrant" is another one, to add to the hit-list as well ....

If, & only if, point [1] is correct, then Charlie's dystopian scenario is likely, but as I said, I happen to think this is not going to be the case.

27:
It'd also leave those tabloid editors having to find themselves a new bogeyman

Nah. Same bogeyman with different clothes.

Instead of the "Evil Europe forcing us to do X, Y and Z" - it will be the "Evil Europe stopping us doing X, Y and Z", "Throwing out our loyal workers", "Evil EU tax stopping English commerce", etc.

The other group of folk this will affect are the UK folk who are working in the EU. There are a fair number.

I wonder if they'll take the route that some US folk of my acquaintance are taking in the face of US abuse of expats on the tax side - and start considering changing citizenship as the most effective way of dealing with the situation.

28:

To which I may add ...
petterw @ 22
Agreed ... the financial sector going to Frankfurt or PARIS - you must be joking, especially with a "Tobin" tax or Hollande's attempts to "squeeze the rich" - which means he'll squeeze the almost-rich & the others will just bugger off elsewhere ....

29:

I just took a short look at some of the comments attached to the article you linked to. Such as:

'And I believe I speak for most Brits. when I say....throw out ALL the undersirables, gypsies, travellers, eastern european derelicts and criminals and the hordes taht steal British jobs ! I am NOT a racist'

I don't find myself thanking you for this.

What's the LD stance on this? I don't keep up with these things. Pro-EC but in favour of a referendum? Will they be offering themselves to either party in the event of a hung parliament? I'm hoping Labour will remain staunch.

30:

"clash of civilizations scenario" won't happen. I think you overestimate the homogeneity of what you call "civilizations" and underestimate the willingness to make deals and work together if economical opportunities call for it.

31:

This seems to be one of the key "corrupt centralised corporate nannying" that Cameron et al rail against - do we really want to lose this?

http://stopemploymentwrongs.org/why-does-david-cameron-hate-the-working-time-directive/

32:

The USA is well on the way to being a Spanish-speaking nation by 2100

As realzompist said, this is a right-wing... well, not pipe dream, exactly -- more of a paranoid crack-pipe hallucination, which you seem to have accidentally gotten a whiff of.

(Admittedly, it is a pipe-dream among a few Spaniards, who like to imagine that this is the route by which Spanish could one day take its rightful place as the dominant world language.)

The current Spanish-speaking population in the US is a smaller fraction of the total population than was the case for German-speakers at the end of the 19th Century; aside from a few trivial bits of vocabulary, the US did not end up becoming a noticeably German-speaking country over the last century.

Moreover, research shows that the children of recent immigrants to the US (including Spanish speakers) are learning English -- and losing their parents' or grandparents' language -- faster than was the case in the 19th Century. I'd recommend reading linguist Geoff Nunberg's article on the whole subject.

33:

Charlie speaks the truth, the Awesome English Speaking Club (AESC) is a ridiculous idea.

Someone has to balance the great centralist civilizations and ideologies that are rising in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

What exactly are these "centralist civilizations and ideologies"? The EU is much *less* centralised than, say, the USA. The Arabs? They have about 20 different governments, most of which hate each others' guts, and in case you haven't noticed, bin Laden-esque ideology of global jihad shows no signs of uniting them. China? The Beijing government obviously believes in a united China (including Taiwan), but this isn't exactly an ideology. They abandoned revolutionary Communism quite some time ago, and I don't think they care what form of government is followed by their trading partners/competitors.

India? Now there's an interesting case. For all its serious problems, it is mostly democratic and capitalist, and partially English-speaking. Why aren't they invited into the AESC? (Also, do French Canadians get a vote on whether they join?)

I would add a dislike of being over-governed and the acceptance of eccentrics as a necessary part of society.

This is a (modern) British value, not a universal Anglophone one. The Puritans who founded the Massachussets Bay colony were not renowned for their easy-going tolerance. The modern USA has a serious Puritan streak, although it is a huge and diverse country, so it's difficult to generalise. San Francisco is happy with eccentricity, rural Kansas much less so. Similarly, British and American ideas of what constitutes "over-governed" are hugely different.

Now, suppose for a second that the AESC actually existed. Just how much influence are 60 million Brits going to have on 300 million Americans, or a billion Indians? And why should any of them care what 3 million New Zealanders on the other side of the world think? (No disrespect to NZ, it's a very fine country, but the government of the USA would frankly be insane to pay more attention to NZ than to the EU or even Mexico.)

Back in the real world, if there is business to be done between Canada and the USA, or India and Australia, they will settle it bilaterally with no need or desire to consult the UK. Sorry, but the AESC is truly a pipe dream.

34:

There is also the question of what Britain laving the the EU would have on the EU.
If Britain did hold a referendum and decide to leave how long before Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain and perhaps even Italy would also put their membership to the vote?
And if they did how many would vote to exit?
I would say Greece would almost certainly vote to leave and possibly Ireland as well.

35:

The "send them home" brigade of Little Englanders who would happily vote to leave the EU tend to forget the large numbers of British people currently working in the EU who would lose their automatic right to work there and would have to return to the UK. There's also the hordes of pensioners living in Spain and the south of France who'd be forced to up sticks and come home to the welfare state once they lose their residence privileges in their second homes.

36:

OK, so what's the real agenda behind the Tory right and the rightwing press desire to leave the UK? They're busy stoking the borderline racist instincts of the "low information voters", but what sort of UK or rump UK do thay actually want?

37:

Well, in this area, the referendum might have some good results, if it gives some impetus for better democratic legitimization of EU bureaucracy.

Though personally, I'm something of the "the big bully far away I use to keep the smaller bully up close at bay" school of bureaucracy in general...

38:

It's interesting that the SNP are all in favour of a referendum for Scotland to be in/out of the UK but not the EU.

39:

Imagine the following scenario:
(1) UK exits EU
(2) Eastern Europeans providing cheap labour exit the UK
(3) Desperate for people to do the work, UK invites in replacements from Africa and the Caribbean (including but not limited to Commonwealth countries)
(4) Little England brigade are no happier, and the tabloid press continues its ranting, with an ugly addition of racism.

40:

Re: Eurobonds. Where does the idea originate that the eurobond trade would move to Frankfurt or Paris? The second largest centre of eurobond trade, after London, is Luxembourg.

41:

They want a rump UK which will vote for the Conservatives in the next elections because "they're going to take us out of Europe". That includes a lot of traditional Labour voters who are anti-EU but who would switch in an instant given the choice.

42:

A modest proposal: What about London seceding from the rest of the UK to become a postdemocratic free-market city-state, à la Dubai and Singapore? It can be governed by the City of London (a corporate-ruled tier of government which is already in charge of economic policy and whose police force now has sweeping UK-wide anti piracy powers), and not be held back by the crumbling austerity-era infrastructure of the rest of Britain.

43:

You seem to be confusing London with the city of London. I can't see the millions of average Londoners opting for this.

44:

Our genial host is correct on the Eurobond market - but it would be very simple to counteract the effect of leaving the EU on banking. Just strike through the latest regulation of bankers pay (ignore the arguments of the rights of wrong of regulating private sector pay)and give the executives of banks total discretion on pay... at worst this is going to have a neutralising effect of the banks tendency to flight.

Personally I think the transaction taxes are going to have a much more significant effect on the location of financial services than anything else.

More practically I don't think we will see a UK exit. material critiscm of the way the EU governs itself is becoming more and more commonplace. A renegotitation that satisfies the majority of the UK plebscite motivated to vote seems a likely outcome to me.

45:

Especially since even its supporters can't sort out who's in which "civilization" and what. Take the "Western Civilization" one. European right-wings are critical of the US. American right-wings think Europe is the big devil. And there are quite some Israeli right-wings who mock "understand your enemy" projects as Christian pipe-dreams and insist on their seperation.

Though of course all of those argue about their "shared values and norms" when it suits their needs.

Come to think about it, there is STILL no better argument for ethnic constructivism than a closer look at its detractors...

46:

Well, I don't know if Spain is large or not (a bit like Poland, we are half way between the four traditional "big ones" and the rest), but this I know:

If you think Spain is on the 'wider, not deeper' side, you are sorely mistaken... quite the opposite, in fact. Pro Union sentiment is deep and strong, so strong even amongst secessionists that the question in the proposed Catalonian consult would be "Usted desea que Cataluña sea un nuevo Estado de la UE?" (Do you wish Catalonia to become a new EU state?)

And regarding the unthinkable I think many 'Little Englanders' don't quite understand how popular Britain leaving would be amongst the 'deeper unionists'. Many would love nothing more than to utter a heartfelt 'Goodbye and Good Riddance' to the United Kingdom. If Cameron hope resides in other countries bending over backwards to keep Britain in he could be in the receiving end of a nasty surprise...

47:

"Have I missed anything?"

A few things:

1. Trade is the one thing that both sides of the argument see as a good thing about Britain's EU membership. Given the global movement to free trade agreements and Britain's net trade deficit with the EU it's unlikely that either side would go postal with trade barriers if the UK left. Think EFTA for the new arrangement and see how Switzerland copes.

2. Investment banking would probably carry on as before. Again, Switzerland manages to have a vibrant financial sector without EU membership. Indeed it's arguable that the biggest threat to the UK finanacial sector is the EU. The French and Germans would both love to give it a kicking (Although for different reasons.

3. Becoming a second/third rate power. That's been our path for the last hundred years. Once we face that and start acting accordingly things will be better for us. No more foreign wars and nuclear weapons.

But wait, there's more:

4. We get back the 3.5 billion net contribution to the EU and get to spend that at home.

5. UKIP disapears. Without the EU membership debate (Their only sensible policy.) they become what they really are, the BNP with slightly better manners.

6. Sneer all you want about sovereignty. The EU is a profoundly undemocratic organisation. (When did you last get to vote for an EU Commissioner?) Leaving the EU restores the UK parliament's primacy in decision making.

7. The EU has reached a point where it's all or nothing for the member states when it comes to a coomon EU Treasury/Budget. Once the German electorate realises that they're going to have to pick up the bill for the Euro fiasco I expect them to say "Hell Nein!" rather loudly. Probably better not to be involved in that mess.

48:

I must have missed the orientation session on the "Anglo worldview" when I was joining the club. What worldview are you thinking of? The UK and the US for example have significant cultural differences.

49:

As a British person I really fear for the future if left in the hands of the current government. At times of global hardship surely it makes sense to foster closer ties with your neighbours rather than alienating yourself? (i.e. pool resources rather than starve alone)
I completely agree that there is a lots of wasted money involved in EU membership and that not all of their policies are in our national interests but isn't that true of any organisation? You permit them to make decisions on your behalf for the (hopefully) greater good whilst realising that not all decisions benefit you personally.
I think the real problem is that Great Britain as a nation deludes itself that it is still a global superpower. We are a tiny country that now doesn't have much in the way of significant natural resources; we don't make many tangible things and our "service" economy can now be easily and cheaply outsourced to anywhere else in the world. What exactly do we have left to fall back on?
I think we should wake up realise that we've had our time in the sun and let natural selection take it's course. Barring some world-changing events, the UK is due for a painful adjustment and is going to have to get used to either being a minor backwater, or (as I hope) a meaningful contributor to something bigger.

50:

On the positive side, a vote for dumping the EU would force a UK reexamination of what it was and where it was going. It wouldn't be practical to drift into someone else's scenario any more - there would have to be a concrete plan of action.

And given that we have to expect ALL blocs and free trade agreements to eventually collapse under the force of economics and trade imbalances, being first to chart a course of independence might give the UK an edge, a first mover advantage.

What is the UK for, what does it do best, how can it utilise and husband what it does best in a world where cheap labour means manufacturing is never coming back?

And in particular, how do you transition to a post-growth economy and make it work?

51:

1) It's unlikely to happen in quite this way, as the Conservatives are crashingly unlikely to win the 2015 election outright. The psephological mountain they need to climb is significant. (Having said that, NB that they have nine or more extra Eurosceptic votes from the DUP in the Commons.)

2) Even so, the effects are being felt already in Brussels negotiations. British officials are finding it much more difficult to pick up allies in the usual log-rolling; why bother arguing about the menu with someone who is already putting on their coat to leave?

3) It's correct that if the case of the UK leaving, the EEA deal as such won't be on offer from the EU, nor (according to Cameron) will it be sought by a departing UK. (Strictly speaking, though, Norway - a founder member of NATO - isn't "traditionally neutral", and Switzerland is not in the EEA.) However some new bilateral association agreement will be desired from both sides; the EU has such association agreements already with all neighbouring countries, of varying levels of depth and breadth. Alatriste is correct that other EU countries won't bend over backwards to keep the UK in, but they won't want it to drift too far away either.

4) But such a deal might well end up being rather thin. If the UK isn't willing to accept continuing freedom of movement for EU+EEA+Swiss citizens, the other countries concerned may be equally reluctant to grant access to British migrants, and it will poison the atmosphere for negotiating the terms of continued British participation in the single market. Similarly every opt out of an EU regulation is (at least) one less product that can be sold to the Europeans. This alone will prompt a pretty strong campaign by business leaders to stay in the EU when push comes to shove. That of course may not affect the outcome; business leaders have only one vote each.

5) Our host is also right to say that the Americans will be unenthusiastic about a British exit, but they don't really get a vote in this, and who knows what their preoccupations will be in 2017?

52:

Why should these countries want to leave the EU? They currently suffer from huge debts and the austerity regimes their creditors forced on them. Leaving the EU (or Euro-zone) would not change that.

OTOH the EU provides a little help to get new credits and could do *a lot* more to provide cheap credits (EU bonds)

53:

I'll repeat it again. A common language, a common means of acquiring wealth through capitalism, a dislike of a myriad of rules controlling our lives. A belief in juries and a democracy with checks and balances to stop the majority steam-rolling minorities.
Also do you really think Britain will throw out all the Europeans working there if they exit... I don't think so. I'm actually an extreme case and believe in open immigration between all countries as long as you have a job to go to.
If you can preserve all that is best of Britain in Europe, go for it. But if you can't then get out while you can. There are plenty of opportunities in the remainder of the world.

54:

roberth2309 @ 9: Thanks. I needed that laugh.

Canada has more in common with the US than it does with the UK (and has done for a long time, ever since they essentially took in all the non-conformist rebels from the south who didn't want to become part of the United States at the end of the Revolutionary War). Australia has more in common with New Zealand (and vice versa) than we do with the UK. The Irish may have a lot in common with the UK, but given there were thirty years of The Troubles only ended recently, do you *really* think they're going to own it?

As for "common ideals" - which ones are you thinking of?

Not learning other languages (but the Canadians speak French, the Irish speak Gaelic, and the New Zealanders teach their kids Maori)?

Socialised healthcare and welfare (but what about the USA, where it's all "every man for himself and devil take the hindmost")?

Gun control (well, that's the USA and Canada out of the picture, then)?

A commitment to the British nation and Commonwealth (again, the USA stands apart, having fought a war in order to do so, ditto the Irish)?

Protestant secularism (there go the Irish, and the USA, but for different reasons)?

It certainly can't be because we're all in the same geographic area, surely (do have a look at the globe, and figure out where Australia and New Zealand actually are; then try and figure out how late or early your staff in London would need to work in order to run a teleconference with the Sydney, Wellington and Perth offices simultaneously)?

About the only thing most of these cultures have in common is we can all more or less understand each other when we're speaking (or more precisely, writing) the most generalised dialect of our shared language. But as soon as we descend into idiom or slang, out come all the "WTF?!?" looks, and we're all speaking in what we call English, but listening to everyone else in Bewilderment.

All of which is beside the point, since basing your theory on the "clash of cultures" notion that came out of the USA in the mid 1990s (after the fall of Communism) is somewhat frightening. The "clash of cultures" theory was based on the sort of cultural anthropology which consists of drawing lines on an atlas, and cherry picking facts to fit your categories as a result, all in an effort to revive the sorts of racial and religious differences (i.e. wars) which were such big money for arms dealers back during the Crusades. As such, it painted cultures with an extremely broad brush, and very little concern for accuracy.

For example, according to the original "clash of cultures" theory, both Australia and New Zealand fitted into "Oceania" along with a everything else to the south and east of Malaysia and the south of Japan. Which might have worked for New Zealand if the guy had been talking about the Indigenous peoples (the Maori), but means Australia certainly didn't fit. "Oceania" also includes Indonesia in its ambit - and Indonesia is one of the largest Muslim nations on the planet (although there's also a large number of Hindu people, a number of Buddhists, some Christians, plus a few polytheist shamanic believers as well - Indonesia is religiously diverse in a way that a lot of the other nations in the region tend to shy away from in horror!). So, not only is "clash of cultures" lousy politics, it was also rotten social science.

55:

What is the UK for, what does it do best, how can it utilise and husband what it does best in a world where cheap labour means manufacturing is never coming back?

War? Pop music?


And in particular, how do you transition to a post-growth economy and make it work?

I don't see any attempt to prepare for a post-growth economy either in the UK nor anywhere else in the world.
The problem is that the capitalist system probably doesn't work in a shrinking economy, so you need a system change as well.

56:

NOT ONE PERSON has picked up on my points, or asked in more detail, whay a well-educated reasonably well-informed person, like my self has changed sides to "out" (& soon) ....
And, it is not "the immigrants" fault that they want our better social security & supposedly available cheap jobs - and OF COURSE the big employers are in favour of this - it helps their race to the bottom, driving wages down across the board. It's a re-run of the trick played in thw 1950's when W Indians & others were invited in to drive wages down, & (quite incidentally - how conveniently) stir up tensions between the different ethnic groups of "workers" - divide & conquer.
Indeed, back in 1975, Tony Benn (no right-winger or racist, he) made exactly this warning & I & everyone else ignored him ... um.

@ 45
Correction
NOT £3.5 billion p.a. ... 9 billion .....

57:

A common language

An advantage to trade and cultural exchange but not a huge one. Think of how many English speakers there are world wide not in your list of anglophone countries.

a common means of acquiring wealth through capitalism

Not only is that not unique to us we have very different ideas of what this means.

a dislike of a myriad of rules controlling our lives

Not sure what you're getting at here

A belief in juries and a democracy with checks and balances to stop the majority steam-rolling minorities

Also not unique to us and practiced differently.

In short your list is oversimplified and not unique to anglophone nations.

58:

a dislike of a myriad of rules controlling our lives

I wonder what those myriad of rules are you are talking about. Are you telling us that EU rules make your everyday life unbearable?
Granted, the EU made some silly rules, but usually it doesn't affect normal people.

59:

So your reasoning is that immigrants are taking the jobs/driving down wages?

60:

I am reminded of the US-UN article in The Onion from when the US was attempting to build a Grand Alliance of Freedom! to go after naughty Saddam's WMDs. The US-UN was to be a new version of the UN with only the countries that agreed to do what America wants being allowed in the door because the existing UN was not playing ball on the "let's go to war, smash a country back into the stone Age and kill and maim a bunch of people for no adequately explained reason" front.

This "Anglosphere" concept seems to be a non-parodic version of the US-UN with all the other Anglo nations loyally supporting the US in anything it does around the world because, well, Freedom! It's not like the US would have to make any concessions itself like, say, rewriting its Constitution to get rid of the First and second Amendments would it?

61:

I wonder how he can reconcile this apparent dislike with the scope and breadth of English Common Law, which has been accreting down the centuries since prior to the Magna Carta, and shows no signs of stopping any time soon. Unless, of course, it's to note an apparent dislike for rules doesn't mean anyone ever stops making them.

62:

@ 45
Correction
NOT £3.5 billion p.a. ... 9 billion .....

Either is peanuts when compared to a total budget ~700 billion pound. Being a EU member is a strategic decision, it's silly to leave just cut down the budget by 1%.

63:

Exactly. Also, it appears the £3.8 bn figure is the correct one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_the_European_Union#Net_contributors_and_recipients
I suspect that the £9 bn figure excludes the UK rebate (negotiated by Thatcher in the 1980s, reduces UK contributions by about 2/3rds).

Both in absolute terms and per capita, the UK contributes less than Germany, France or Italy.

64:

It's decades since the UK saw Australia as anything other than a place to retire to. Commonwealth citizens get fewer breaks than EU citizens when entering the country (I think the immigration officials see them as idle sport).

Australia has refocussed on its place in the Pacific, with China and the US being the two big players. What would an isolated and fragmented UK offer?

65:

Is it not possible that this whole debate will be academic by the time any referendum actually happens? It seems much more likely that by then at least one other country currently in the EU will have already left, after which there could be an unseemly rush for the exit by others with similar reasons.

According to this article (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9920666/Germanys-anti-euro-party-is-a-nasty-shock-for-Angela-Merkel.html) "The latest ZDF poll shows that 65pc of Germans think the euro is damaging, and 49pc think Germany would be better outside the EU." Without Germany there is no EU. (Or at least, no EU that we have to agonize over leaving too ...)

66:

Yes, see also my rant on the same subject. :-)

Free speech is a point of division too -- the Americans can justly be proud of the First Amendment. English libel law, not so much. (To say nothing of England still having an official state religion...)

It's revealing that India tends to be left out of any membership list for an Anglophone Grand Alliance. On some cultural yardsticks they are closer to the UK than the USA (they drink tea and play cricket, and don't have the American commitments to guns and free speech), but they're too big to be plausibly pushed around by the US/UK. This where the racism OGH mentioned comes in.

67:

Rest assured that what the majority of Germans want (or think they want) is totally unrelated to what German politics might implement.

This is just one protest party, similar parties have been participating in elections before without achieving 5% of the votes.

68:

I see an advantage to the AESU, which is that as the world starts shifting away from English and toward Chinese (assuming that happens), English speaking countries (I think India will be an exception, while English is one of the most common languages its usually not the first one) will be at a global disadvantage, having never had the education system in place for teaching a second language. The AESU will form just because the people can talk to each other without learning Chinese first.

69:

@54:
But as soon as we descend into idiom or slang, out come all the "WTF?!?" looks, and we're all speaking in what we call English, but listening to everyone else in Bewilderment.
---
You don't have to leave national boundaries to run into that.

I once had a sizeable business deal collapse when the other party ended a negotiation with "deal with it!" Where I am, that boils down to "fuck this, I'm done."

A few years later, dealing with a mutual associate, I found out the other party had apparently meant it as "I agree and will let you handle the details." Apparently the phrase derived, as so many do, from some improper usage on television.

70:

Rest assured that what the majority of Germans want (or think they want) is totally unrelated to what German politics might implement.

Perhaps a better question then would be: why is it a cause for concern when 53% of Britons say they want to leave the EU, but not a cause for concern when 49% of Germans say the same? How can we regard this as a topic for debate in one case, but not the other?

Surely there is larger chance of some other country leaving first, if only because there are more of them than of us and some of them have much more serious problems with the EU than we do? (For example, the Euro.)

71:

Oh, I know. Even in Australia, where our language didn't have much time to really differentiate into distinct dialects before the coming of railways, radio and television, we have distinct differences in the way that words are used across the country. Heck, one of the great moments for me as a kid growing up in Western Australia was tuning in to Telethon[1] or Appealathon[1] every year and watching all the celebrities from the eastern states mispronouncing the names of towns and suburbs. You could tell which ones had been here before, because they'd sort of check with the locals about whether they'd got the pronunciation right.

[1] Televised weekend-long charity fund-raising broadcasts on either of the two commercial channels in Perth. They started petering out around about the late 1980s, because the point was that both Telethon and Appealathon were advertising-free zones.

72:

I realize the UK has many separatist movements of its own for study, but allow me to still recommend a quick look-see at the history of the Quebec Separatist movement. There was, and still is, a lot of opportunity for serious oops with the whole thing, sure, but it did greatly help Quebec re-negotiate its position in Canada. I think a clever handling on UK separatism wrt the EU might be good for the EU in general. Of course, a bad handling could as easily be disastrous for all.

73:

The difference is that in Germany no major party supports leaving the EU, but in the UK the prime minister is toying with it.

74:

I would have to take issue with this one:
4. A widespread assumption among Britons is that the British Commonwealth of Nations would continue to trade with the UK and would in fact gradually increase their UK trade, taking up some of the slack. But the relationship with the Commonwealth nations looks rather different outside the UK. These are former colonies; they don't necessarily bear the UK any goodwill, but continue to exploit the residual relationship because the UK is a tariff-free trade gateway to the EU. A UK that has exited the EU would be a much less attractive trade partner.

The UK is definitely not a "tariff free gateway to the EU" for former colonies. The UK has the same tariff structure as all the other member states and tariffs for say, Canada are the same for imports into Bulgaria as into the UK. They trade with the UK I think, partly for historical reasons, but also becausetraditionally it has been easier to do business with english-speakers who do share some common cultural and business assumptions. This has been declining for years. English is widely spoken across Europe and logistics often makes the "Golden Triangle" (Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg) for example, more appealing. Then there are direct (corporate and income) tax and VAT differentials.

If any britons really believe that the UK is seen as a cheap access ppoint for EU trade then they are seriously deluded and need to be put right.

75:

Not a good comparison, because Quebec was in a much stronger negotiating position. It has about 25% of the population, and if it left, the rest of Canada would be split into 3 separate units with no overland route between them, or from the main population/industrial centre around Toronto to the Atlantic Ocean. Last but not least, we are united by our shared distrust of the USA, for which the EU has no equivalent.

Arguably, the relationship of Scotland to the UK is a better analogy for the relationship of the UK to the EU.

76:

I think over 95% of the present "out" camp ( including me, a bitterly disillusioned voter who enthusiastically voted "in" in the 1975 referendum ) are basing their stance on that of Norway & Switzerland .....

I don't think you can compare the UK to any of the two.

Norway is in the same club as Venezuela, UAE and Saudi Arabia, so I would be careful to make any assumptions based on their economic and political performance.

Prices are much higher in Norway and Switzerland than in the UK and the rest of the EU. In fact, Switzerland has been stabilizing the Euro in order to keep their export prices competitive.

And economics might work differently for a small people of 9 million in central Europe than for a people of 65 million on an island in the Atlantic.

77:

Err, with taking down wages, that is ONE possible outcome (of many) of doing a demand-supply economical analysis of workers. Incidentally, the same was done for having many children, e.g. Lassalle's Iron Law

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Law_of_Wages

(incidentally, the Iron Laws keep popping up)

Where, well, there are some problems with this analysis, as noted in the article.

There is also some succession of workers, e.g. in Germany, the once-cheap Poles do good work[1], but they are not so cheap anymore, so we go for Bulgarians, Romanians or Russians, err.

Very generally spoken, more people means there is not just more labor supply, but also more demand, so even if immigrants compete with the residents, it's not necessarily lower wages.

Also, very generally, workers not only want money to pay for products, they also want cheap products they are able to pay for, which means low wages. I guess you see the disconnect here.

For the rest of the posting, let's also assume that contrary to what some economists say, over- and undersupply happen.

In the end, it depends somewhat on the scenario. If there is a growing industry, there might be a general undersupply of workers. Which might lead to two things, first of, the wages go up, second of, the whole industry becomes somewhat stiffled because even with high wages it's not able to get enough workers. Where, well, production of new workers could get in.
Where, alas, production of new workers usually has a ridiculously long time lag, about 18 years, so providing for cushions seems prudent; for production of new workers as an alternative, the relative lack of labor would go on for some time, same with production, so in the end, we'd get something of a oversupply, which would not be that nice for all concerned.

And then, it's not like we're speaking of workers in general, but maybe only in some sectors, which are comparatively overpriced (which, alas, according to free market economist can't happen, but then, in a free market, there'd be no border, I guess), while others are comparatively underpriced. If the underpriced sector supplies the overpriced sector, that might be because the overpriced sector is stiffled by a lack of workers, and more workers for the overpriced sector might mean a little less wage for this sector (there is more labor supply, but there was quite some demand for this sectors products not met before), but much more money and economic growth for the underpriced one. This is something like the comparative advantage so dear to economists; e.g. there is the idea that we have a dual labor market with high-skilled workers from the country in question and labor-intensive but comparatively low-skilled (or viewed as such) for migrants. IMHO health services are one example of this. And, well, as a worker I not just want enough money, I want enough money to pay a reasonable nurse in old age. So lower wages are not only in the interest of factory owners, though then, cheaper nurses means they can pay their workers less.

So in the long run, it can happen, but it doesn't have to. Also, while we are arguing about international migration, there is internal migration in a country; this is, alas, the dominant form of migration; where this form of migration has similar problems to international migration and then some, e.g. you're confined to a much smaller population, get 1 million migrant workers from a hemisphere, no problem, get 1 million migrant workers out of, e.g. Welsh mining areas, and you have similar economic problems for the workers in the areas they go to, and you have deserted areas in Wales...

[1] No, that's not just because of even if my grandparents were born in (then) Germany, one side of my family identifies as ethnically somewhat Polish, err.

78:

1. Scotland stays in UK, which becomes England/Wales/N. Ireland. The rump UK stays in EU. This is much the most likely scenario - no change.

2. Scotland leaves UK, rump UK stays in the EU. Scotland renogotiates EU membership. This will be more difficult than the Scots politicians would like to think but not nearly as hard as the Tories would like us to believe. Tariffs will stay the same. Disengagement with England is likely to be much more difficult to negotiate, but absent armed invasion these discussions will be extensively covered in the media while being simultaneously very boring for all except the most interested persons and politicians. For most people there will be virtually no change. Oil revenue will be the biggest point of dispute, then disengaging the military establishment (including basing rights in Scotland - not just nuclear - and no doubt "England" will have to pay if the RAF wants to overfly Glencoe or wherever), and possibly the "national debt". Scotland will also need to set up its own diplomatic representations around the world and negotiate entry to many international bodies including the UN, WTO, WCO, International Criminal Court, OECD, etc, and will probably want to sign up to a number of International Treaties and agreements (Conventions on drugs, CITES and many others) - this is not without cost and will take time. The rump UK may be removed from the G8 and or G20 groups which will hurt symbbolically but otherwise no biggie.

There will also have to be division of things like the Coastguard and Lifebooat services, and possibly Air Traffic Control. Scotland will need to arrange its own Inland Revenue and Customs services.

3. Scotland leaves UK and rump UK leaves the EU. All of 2, plus leaving the EU will complicate the rump UK's negotiations with Scotland, which will no doubt take several years. You may see immigration controls enhanced at UK (i.e. England/Wales) borders, ports and airports - this will be difficult given that the rump UK will have 3 borders with the EU (Scotland/England, N. Ireland/Eire and the Channel Tunnel) - especially fun if Scotland signs up to Schengen. Tariffs won't change unless the rump UK also leaves the World Trade Organisation. UK will need to re-create its own anti-fraud and counter-dumping entities - most likely these will fall with the remit of DBIS (ex Department of Trade) which currently works within the EU on these. There will be no wholesale removal of EU citizens but future immigration may be - very slightly - more difficult. Some companies will leave the UK, except for local business - these could include (Royal Dutch) Shell, BP, British Airways, BAe, Centrica, GlaxoSmithKline, HBOS, Vodafone. Non-UK companies will want additional incentives to move here or they will chose to go to Netherland, Germany or Luxembourg for headquartering, or anywhere convenient in europe for logistics and manufacturing operations.

Runp UK will no longer have input into EU decisions. But UK companies selling to EU will still have to conform to relevant EU rules. UK farmers will no longer get any EU subsidy. UK fishermen will not be bound by the EU Fisheries policy but will also not be able to fish EU waters (including most of the North Sea). EU funding for infrastructure projects will cease immediately. UK participation in EU projects such as the European Space Agency and Airbus and Eurofighter will end (which is why BAe will leave).

USA will gradually downgrade its links with UK while upgrading links with Germany and/or Brussels, including diplomatic ties.

Possible capital flight from the UK.

79:

Err, but quite a lot of the anti-EU rhetorics comes from one of the parties in the gouvernment, the FDP[1].

Also note that this Anti-EU sentiment cultivated by our equivalent of the Sun, e.g. Bild, might be something like Berlin's lever to get the EU do as it says, "we could leave, you say, but we don't want to, so play nice".

[1] Labelled "liberal", in internal politics it's more perceived as USian fiscal conservatives.

80:

I am rather tempted to speculate not on whether the UK leaves the EU or not, but on how long the EU will survive in its current form. The EU as it stands is inherently corrupt; it cannot even bludgeon its own tame financial watchdog into certifying its accounts as correct. The Euro is under fifteen years old, but already into crisis mode; this is not an auspicious start in life for a currency that was supposed to unify the continent. Even Zimbabwe took forty years to break its currency, and then with a deranged dictator in control.

I therefore suspect that the entire EU is going to start disinterating from within before very long; little things such as a UK general election coming a mere year after Romanians and Bulgarians get the chance to move about freely (thus giving the tabloid press a chance to go all Enoch Powell and incite racist fury) may just be the icing on the cake.

81:

From what I can see, it seems the main pull towards this separatism thing is certain suit-wearers wanting to be bigger fish in the pond.
And if you can't be a bigger fish- make the pond smaller.
Its Balkanisation
I cant see it ending well

82:

A common language and perceptions? I'm a Brit living in America and I find things utterly alien here at times especially the inexplicable need to follow every stupid little rule... coupled to a complete lack of empathy and interest in the needs of others - the healthcare situation is insane here compared to... well... everywhere else.

Juries? You really think it makes sense to have lay juries ruling on esoteric financial fraud trials? Because I don't.

As for capitalism? You honestly want to make the case that the Germans and the French aren't capitalist?

You're repeating a bunch of talking points that have limited application in the real world.

83:

I must have missed that. AFAIK some politicians from the CSU sometimes argue against the EU, but the FDP and most people from the Christdemocrats don't. Or were you thinking about the no-bailout campaigns?

Note that of course many people complain about some EU stuff, but that doesn't mean they would dare to leave.

84:

There will also have to be division of things like the Coastguard and Lifebooat services, and possibly Air Traffic Control. Scotland will need to arrange its own Inland Revenue and Customs services.
Ok, Coastguard might need some internal reorganisation.
Lifeboats - Why so particularly? The RNLI already has stations in Eire.
ATC - Already physically and logically split between West Drayton and Prestwick.
Revenue and Customs - Already at least partly split.

85:

Um, no.

I do agree that the US is going to be a majority-minority country in the future, but I'm pretty sure we'll be officially bilingual in more states, not a Spanish-speaking country. Given that over 100 languages are spoken in the major US metropolises, it's overly simplistic to say that the Hispanics are taking over.

Also, and the bigger point: the US isn't the biggest English speaking country in the world. I believe that honor goes to India. I'm also pretty sure that China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have more English speakers that the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand combined.

English will remain the default trade language for decades to come, whatever happens to the US and UK. The deep irony is that the future evolution of English may depend more on the needs of international trade than on our cultural hegemony.

As for London splitting off from the UK, don't be ridiculous. The city will flood under rising sea levels soon enough, why cut yourselves off from dry land to retreat to?

86:

I think the question shouldn't be "What are the economic consequences of political decisions regarding leaving/staying in the EU?" but "What are the political consequences of the great economic and fiscal problems the EU faces?"

The current situation is: rich people have lots of money in the bank and poor people don't have jobs. Rich people expect 10% interest when they invest money but there aren't many opportunities. So the money stays at the bank or goes to the stock markets. Unemployment and austerity politics reduce consumer demand and in the long run demographic change will put more pressure on consumer demand. Does anyone see a chance that we'll again get 10% growth rates in Europe during our lifetime?

That's why we have to change to a post-growth economic system at some time. Such a system will have different rules and different power structures. If there's still an EU and who's in it will largely depend on how the European countries manage that transition. If the EU keeps on running after economic growth, it will fail spectacularly. If the EU develops a vision for a post-growth economy and proves its feasibility, it will prosper. Or we have a few wars and destroy all capital and then enjoy fantastic two-digit growth rates while we start again from zero.

87:

Andreas Vox @ 58
NO … some very petty interfering rules of the EU are interfering with ordinary people – when it happened to me, I checked, and it was the final straw, making me change sides …..
& @ 62
OK, so just throwing away £9 billion a year is a good idea, is it? IN a time of financial difficulty, as well? No it does not include the rebate, I quoted the "Nett" figure, admittedly from 3 or 4 years back, so the numbers may have changed…
& @76
We, too have oil …
& @ 86
Well, there’s an apposite question…..

Ryan @ 59
Yes - & - No.
Consider it is in employers, especially big corporate employers’ interests to keep wages bills down. Now, if you can get people to come in from elsewhere to do the work for less, you will try to do that, won’t you? I suggest you actually read what I said about immigration ( & I omitted the words “Mass” & “Unskilled” didn’t I – because high-skills transborder job-movement is another kettle of bananas entirely) - it is not the immigrants fault, as to them it’s a better standard of living, so why should they not?

Fredfin @ 65
Ja Wir wollen Deutschmark!

Core @ 68
Which version of “Chinese” – as spoken, please? There are at least 4, mutually incomprehensible – oops.

Royal Canadian bandit @ 75
Scotland’s population is about half that of London. And, currently, the Wee Eck has no hope of “independence” because it has been realised that it means financial ruin – also – even for him, he can’t tell a straight set of lies for more than about two days together ….

Kevin who is Kevin @ 78
(1) NOT EVEN WRONG – see above
(2) Ditto
(3) Ditto
(4) Please give reasons / statistics / decent evaluation as to why the psychopathic weasel, Salmond (Thank-you Charlie!) will get away with his lying scam?

@ 80 log-in-unreadable
Now THERE is a much more valid point for discussion. Especially since the rise (admittedly small) of anti-EU sentiment in Germany is down to paying for “Club Med’s” expensive tastes & financial incompetence ….

Andyf @ 81
Wrong way around
The big fish prefer the EU for their stitch-up corporate corrupt dealings, as previously stated. Regulations that big companies can easily absorb, which crush small ones or individuals.

88:

There is no circumstances where I could see Ireland leaving the EU sort of the complete collapse of the EU, which I think is unlikely.
In the EU we have a vote and an opportunity to speak our piece and perhaps ally with like minded countries. Outside we have no voice or influence with pretty much anyone. In international trade we can leverage the EU efforts for our own benefit but on our own we have to do all the heavy lifting ourselves.
As for the accountability of the EU, the problem is not the commission. The propose and operate but all the significant decisions are taken by the Council, which consist of the ministers of the elected governments. The real problem is transparency, The ministers cannot be held to account, either by the public or parliament because the Council meeting proceeding are secret and we don't know the exact positions of our minister or what they traded or compromised to get the final result. Some effort can be made to piece together what happened at such a meeting but the information that is leaked out is spin to make someone look good.

89:

*Shakes head* As an Irishman, I can tell you we're pretty distinct from the English in terms of cultural and national identity.* There's little enmity but there's no chance of us joining some sort of Anglophone Grand Alliance.

*to give you a fairly easy inoffensive example of the hidden culture gulf, we don't really have jokes about the French like the English do. Rather than being our traditional enemies, they provided refuge for those Irish Nobles and Jacobites who fled Ireland in the 1600s (Flight of the Earls and Flight of the Wild Geese) and as the French First Republic they sent several armies to assist Irish rebellions in the 1790s.

90:

Greg @87 I can't tell if you asre agreeing with me or not!

As to Mr Salmond, however, he may or may not be a psychopathic weasel but he is also far and away the most astute politician on either side of the border, and he can and will tie Cameron, Clegg and Milliband (and Farage, if necessary) and their heirs and assigns into tiny little knots. Underestimate him at your peril. He may or may not "win" a referendum, but he has taken control of Scotland for the SNP and moved the debate hugely. Consider where the SNP is now compared to after the "referendum" of '79 (which I voted in).

92:

What the UK excels at? As well as pop music, the UK is a centre of extreme academic excellence - ranking very highly on Nobel prizes per capita, and science Nobels. Not as well as the Faroe Islands - their one Nobel translates into a really good per capita figure. It's also very good at mainstream and "cultural" literature. UK science fiction isn't awful.

The UK is also very strong in art and industrial design, and has some of the best light infantry in the world. I expect the RAF and Navy are equally capable. It's very good at making complex expensive military stuff.

It's quite good at PE - though that's not much to be proud of.

UK cinema's not as good as some people might think and there is a lot of awful stuff made, but the best of UK cinema is world class.

The beer's good, too.

93:

Coastguard will be fine as long as Scottish govt is prepared to pay for it. They may well, ultimately, prefer a separate administrative structure. Lifeboats, may not, unless they are subsidised by the UK govt (which I don't know but suspect they are), in which case Sctoland will have to pay because I am sure the govt of rump UK won't.

If you think there is a genuine, as opposed to largely cosmetic, division in HMRC between England and Scotland, you have never been a civil servant. The decisions are made in Whitehall.

94:

The RLNI it a charity, staffed largely by volunteers: it's possibly they'd just continue as is.

The Coastguard in the UK is technically part of the government. However, a lot of the tasks that USians regard as belonging to the Coastguard are handled by the Navy, UK Border Agency and the like. They're going to be relatively simpler negotiations I think - except posting border guards along Hadrian's Wall. Such a chance in our culture in the last 2 millennia! The Scottish Navy and Border Agency, whatever they're called, pick up those duties in Scottish waters.

But more seriously: coastguards here monitor weather, danger spots and co-ordinate search and rescue. That's about it. There would clearly have to be negotiations about it, but one option that might sense would be to spin them off from DoT into an independent company subsidised by both governments. Failing that, the Coastguard currently have 3 operating regions. One of those is Northern Ireland and Scotland. You can imagine that being split easily enough, Northern Ireland being merged in Wales and West of England, possibly something like Brixham moving into East of England to balance the size a bit. It's not all that complicated to do this - shifting organisational control of the Belfast station from NI and Scotland to Wales and W of England.

95:

What would it mean for Ireland?- given that a significant part of Ireland's tech economy is essentially based around providing low corporation tax headquarters for US companies in the UK market.

(On the other hand there must be some gain in terms of being the English language country that is part of the EU)

96:

As a Polish immigrant in UK-I would probably leave, probably for Canada, Netherlands or Australia. I wouldn't expect UK to fare well economically in such a situation, however I don't think that there is a chance of UK leaving anytime soon.
What I find quite disappointing in UK is the lack of will to modernize and a bit too much attachment to the past.It is a country with great potential, but too often it prefers to look back rather than forward. You can't live in XIX century forever.

Also, personally I think immigrants are a bit too convenient scapegoat for politicians wanting to hide their incompetence. Germany or Ireland have had far higher number of immigrants without either such outrage or problems with employment as UK.
The real issues are things like tax avoidance by big companies and the ultra-rich, which drain enormous amounts of resources.

97:

A small PS re Scottish oil - today the SNP published a paper saying that an independent Scotland will own huge amounts of oil and will be very rich.

Which was immediately followed by a statement from the Shetland Islanders saying that they own their oil and Scotland will be invited to bog off...

This is a Torygraph story but I've also heard this from a Scots socialist friend so I'm inclined to believe it.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9156220/SNP-admits-Shetland-and-Orkney-could-opt-out-of-independent-Scotland.html

98:

How much of the UK's considerable stocks of plutonium would become Scotland's, in the event of independence?

99:

I've been getting increasingly glad that I sorted out the paperwork for my dual citizenship a year or two ago; though it only extends to a subset of my family at this point, so is mainly useful for ensuring that things like business travel don't become any more hassle for me.

Regarding Scottish independence, I have been wondering whether Northern Ireland might choose to join them if that happened. I haven't heard many noises about it, and I'm not sure how the economics would work out never mind the politics, but NI is culturally and historically much closer to Scotland than it is to England so it's an interesting possibility to contemplate.

100:

Regarding independence in Northern Ireland: I invite you to contemplate the fact that limiting the flying of the Union Flag on Belfast City Hall to (roughly) the days public buildings in other parts of the UK fly it resulted in three months (and counting) of protests.

Two chances, basically. ",)

101:

@Greg Tinley, consider the lingua franca shift to be a hypothetical, I have no idea if it will happen, of if it would even be Chinese.

102:

"It's not just plumbers and construction workers that come here from all over the EU/EEA to work but also a specialists of types that the UK education system isn't serving well (which, honestly, is pretty much any kind of specialist."

I'd like to see proof of that; I am an American, and our business lords are always whining about 'shortages'. Meaning elite skills cost more than room and board.

103:

_"...coupled to a complete lack of empathy and interest in the needs of others..."_

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you're not saying the the US comprises 300+ million sociopaths.

Comments here get a little silly at times -- going past perfectly fair criticisms of US government policy and fringe US culture, to what sounds like blanket condemnation of everyone and everything south of Canada and north of Mexico. It's lazy.

And there's quite a bit of cultural variation in the States -- e.g., Portland and Seattle are not Houston or Phoenix.

104:

I am an American. Like many Americans I don't know much, but that doesn't keep me from expressing my opinion. Loudly. In English. ^.^

Anyway...You would obviously know better than I would, but do you really think it's likely that the British local elites will let Great Britain just...dissolve the way you're saying?

Dropping out of the EU would obviously be a bad idea. Losing access to the tremendous number of highly skilled, low paid workers who make all first world economies function seems...unlikely.

Of course I'm a foreigner, so I know nothing. And if you join the US and try to leave, we shoot you.

105:

Note, I'm slightly anti-EU (in the sense I think it's appallingly run and anti-democratic, rather than that it should be chucked in the bin) but not viscerally so. I'd prefer to see us stay in and the EU "fixed" - decentralised, made more democratic, reduce the waste of public money, etc. The following are meant rather as potentially counterpoints, rather than conclusive arguments.

1. The EEA has nothing to do with neutrality. Ireland and Austria are neutral, for example. The EEA technically includes the EU, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein. Of these only the last is neutral, the other two are in NATO (although Iceland maintains no standing army). The 3 non-EU EEA countries are also, along with Switzerland, members of EFTA (European Free Trade Association), which was originally a larger group of "outer" European countries encompassing a free trade area with the then EEC.

Switzerland has a bilateral trade agreement with the EU. The EEA group has a group agreement to exist within the EU "internal market" which is why it must submit to these "government by fax" agreements. But there's little difference to being governed in this way and being in a group which is always in the minority, unless one has access to a veto.

2. Maybe. I think you overstate, though. And, ultimately, the importance to the UK economy of the City is that the money flowing through generates considerable tax revenues. If the EU is insistent on passing regulations which blow the City up anyhow then one can't win either way (and I'm neither a banker, nor a beneficiary of the City except in that the taxes go into my government's treasury).

3. The EU is currently negotiating a bilateral (where one side is the EU bloc) free trade agreement with the US. Larger powers are always going to prioritise agreements with other large trading blocs. This is potentially an area where a separate UK would be at a disadvantage (this was one of the ideas behind EFTA, when the UK was in it). Maybe a Commonwealth trade bloc might work if everyone else would play ball (big if).

4. I don't think this is widespread but wishful thinking. Many of those who would prefer to see the UK leave the EU tend to be conservative. They have a nostalgic connection to the "old commonwealth" - Canada, Australia, NZ. These countries aren't big enough to take up the slack, but are closer culturally to the UK than most of Europe. They do not get free tariff entry to the EU, quite the contrary. Some of the developing countries do, but their economies are even smaller. The Commonwealth must however have some beneficial component beyond access to the EU - otherwise why would non-UK colonies such as Mozambique and Rwanda want to join?

However, the Commonwealth argument is misleading, unless membership of the Commonwealth would somehow provide enhanced access to Indian markets (it doesn't). The *actual* argument is that the world economy is undergoing a significant shift towards large, genuinely contiguous economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China). Maybe the EU counts as one, but only one. Better to pursue multiple bilateral agreements than focus inward on Europe. Most of the 26 other economies in the EU are subsidy sinks rather than markets. Runs the argument.

Also, see e.g. http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2012/05/20120502_emudispersion.png

5. The US would strongly prefer to see the UK in the EU. The UK is going to be both the most martial and most pro-US European power in or out of the EU. Unless there is some other trade-off (e.g. higher defence spending) for being out, better from the US point of view that it be in and be able to project that voice inside the EU.

Note by the way that the US isn't pushing for its other strong ally in the region, Israel, to join the EU (yes, they're in Asia, but they *are* in the Eurovision Song Contest ...).

The US did expend intelligence funding during the early 70s to support the Yes vote in the UK referendum. At that point there were strong Eurocommunist parties (some stronly pro-USSR, for example the PCF in France) so it was even more in their interests then.

Sorry for brain dump. I do think it's far more likely that Germany will leave the Euro than that the UK will leave the EU anyhow.


106:

I have no idea about the UK, but in the US what that really means is they want the government to train their employees for them.

107:

I expect the first consequence to be a legal challenge to the referendum. (The government will covertly fund some group to do this, in an attempt to make the referendum non-binding.)

If that doesn't work, the most likely next consequence is that the government will simply declare the referendum to be non-binding (with retroactive legislation if necessary), and then use it as a stick with which to beat Brussels for the next two decades. Or more.

If that doesn't fly, and it dawns on the international community that the UK really is preparing to leave the EU, there will be ructions. France and Germany show signs of having lost patience with British intransigence, and the more pragmatic small countries are unlikely to be able to persuade the bigger EU countries to induce Britain to stay.

At this point, about a decade after the referendum, things start to develop as Charlie outlines.

The end state is that England-and-Northern-Ireland becomes a larger version of New Zealand: An economy focussed on tourism, with some exports of engineering and farming expertise to less-developed countries such as Kenya and Tanzania. Its per-capita income will fall from about 90% of the USA's to 75% or less, and the Pound falls proportionately. (What will Scotland do? No idea...form the Celtic Co-prosperity League with Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and the Isle of Man?)

The fall of the Pound means that basic commodities will consume a larger share of incomes, so households will feel disproportionate impoverishment. (The UK imports about 40% of its food and 80% of its coal; in another decade it will be importing more than half of its oil and more than three-quarters of its gas. Oil and gas decline is a double blow, since export income will be reduced at the same time as imports rise.) The effect will be compounded by the need to spend more of GDP on shoring up structures and infrastructure against the worsening climate. (More spent on that equals less spent on consumption.)

In short...remember the early Thatcher years? Say hello to the nostalgia edition, which has kettling and panoptical surveillance, more grannies, unreliable second-hand smartphones, and crazy weather. This time, Argentina wins.

108:

I'm in Ireland, working for an IT multinational. The desks immediately surrounding mine belong to Pakistani, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Scottish and Colombian employees. This is unexceptional. Talking to friends working elsewhere in the IT business here, the company isn't exceptional, either.

109:

The problem with the pro-EU/anti-EU factions is their political ideologies do not make sense,, or at least they don't to the EU-agnostics [like me] can draw sensible assumptions on which a decision can be made.

Q.In what way is membership of a financially-corrupt, anti-democratic, centralized extra-national body going to make us prepared for future challenges, and survive the ones we have now?

EU-enthusiasts may have won this debating point prior to 2008, but they don't now - the EU seems closer to disintegrating now than any point in its history.

Q.Having been enmeshed in the EEC/EU for most of my 40 year existence, how is the UK leaving it going to make us prepared for future challenges, and survive the ones we have now?

Cue clouds of blah about some putative economic legislative, and cultural rebirth once we stop paying X billion quid to the EU.

The only UKIP-ites response to "What if your political ideology leads to a British economic depression that lasts two decades, & impoverishes most Britons?" is "It won't"

"Oh yeah, prove it?"

"Errrrrrrh...about these immigrants..."

There used to be a socialist anti-European position in the 1970s, its peculiar how no-one on the left of any importance is making a such a position.

The choice between a thousand-year Reich based in Brussels, and a thousand-year Reich based in London, is no choice at all, IMO.

110:

I think there's a complex mix of things about the "great elites" in there. Starting from, they don't agree with each other.

The financial industry will howl in protest if there's any change. They're pretty conservative after all and protest about any change. EU rules about banker's bonuses will "make them all leave." Well, we'll see I guess.

Other power blocs - certainly pretty hefty parts of the print media - are very anti-Europe and are agitating for exit. It's increasingly unclear just how much real power the print media have - circulation numbers are falling day by day - but it also appears that our politicians still believe that the print media are important. There might be confirmation bias from my side - I try to avoid reading a paper, so I think they're unimportant - and their side - they all read them avidly and assume they're important - but raw data on distribution numbers give me a bit of belief it's not just me. But, because the print media are read by the politicians they make the politicians believe they're important and on to something with their anti-Europe stance. Add in right-wing xenophobia and some genuinely bad things with the EU and UKIP and the right of the Tory party have a bat with which to hit the PM.

How important is it? Cameron must be hoping, praying or sacrificing virgins or whatever else he believes in, for an economic miracle to stand a chance of being re-elected. Everyone except him and Georgie-porgie believes the current plan isn't working and, more importantly shows no signs of improving things any time in the foreseeable future. When the Tory PM has the CBI telling them to ditch the fracking plan, it's bad. There was a headline recently (even I can't avoid them) - average wages down by 4.5%. That's really, really hurting just about everyone. Lots of people, even people who would like to leave the EU, will vote for a different economic plan in 2015 as more important than leaving the EU. And does anyone claim to know what the EU will look like in 2020 the next time it might be an issue? If Charlie was to write it, he could write just about anything - Britain in the Euro being the hardest sell - with some justification. EU gone, Euro gone, EU expanded with Britain at the heart, PIGS out of EU and all are possible.

111:

Outside the EU could make it much harder for Britons to live, study and work in Europe. Setting aside all the retirees in the Med, that would cause huge problems for highly qualified Britons to find scientific, engineering and technology jobs in Europe when our own economy isn't exactly throwing up good jobs.

What I find really ironic is that if you go to the fringes of Britain, such as Cornwall, a large party of what passes for the chattering classes are besotted with the UKIP 'vision' of leaving Europe. At the same time benefitting from huge EU grants to replace infrastructure that has been neglected by successive national governments.

112:

What exactly does my comment have to do with your boilerplate anti-Salmond rant?

My point was that the ability of the EU to survive without the UK is comparable to the ability of England to survive without Scotland. (Generally agreed to be pretty good in both cases.) So the negotiating positions of Scotland vs. UK or England vs. EU are not particularly strong, compared to that of Quebec vs. rest-of-Canada.

113:

The EU is overdue for considerable reform. How much longer the eastern member states will put up with the EU legislature being as centrally located as Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg is one good question.

As for the Swiss; the last time I spoke to any Swiss about it, they told me that in the last referendum on EU membership, the French, Italian and Romansch-speaking Swiss all voted for, and the German-speaking Swiss (who form the majority) all voted against, on the grounds most likely that instead of being Top Dogs in Switzerland, they'd just be lumped in with the rest of the German-speaking bloc within the EU.

I think some of the debate in the UK is going to have to stand up to scrutiny over its democratic credentials. The last time the Daily Mail, for example, ran their own referendum on the EU, their ballot papers looked strangely like the ones that the Nazis devised for the plebsicite on Austrian Anschluß in 1938, in that the box for the answer the Mail didn't want was far smaller than the box for the Right Answer. The only real difference was that in Austria, the Nazis filled in the ballot papers before they were issued. I would welcome putting the question to the test if I thought there would be reasoned debate over it. Sadly, I suspect that there will be very many vested interests lining up to persuade us that we should let them have their way in our best interests.

114:

With regards to the discussion on "Anglosphere" one of the interesting things that we will discover over the next twenty years or so is whether Western countries do indeed have more in common with each-other then with China

As far as language goes, it's hard to imagine English being displaced as the dominant language, there are more Indians speaking English then Chinese speaking Chinese, without even considering all the rest of the world.

As far as UK leaving the EU, not too likely IMO. Policy will follow the money'd interests as it does more often then not.

115:

If the United Kingdom ends up leaving the European Union because there are too many migrants coming from EU member-states, then the likelihood of a meltdown n UK-EU relations is severe. Why would the European Union grant Britons access to European labour markets if Europeans aren't being granted the same status. I'd bet that the United Kingdom, as the smaller partner, would be worse off.

As for talk of a revived Commonwealth, maybe, _maybe_, if I as a citizen of the Commonwealth had automatic access through the United Kingdom's borders to the labour market et cetera I might find the idea not laughable. Maybe. As things stand, the revived Commonwealth that UKIP types talk about is all about revived the British Empire without providing us colonials with very many benefits. Pass.

116:

I'm in Shetland. So my viewpoint on this is very much from the periphery of the periphery so to speak. Up here, if we held the referendum today then the vote would be, overwhelmingly, to get out of the EU. But this is because of a single issue:- the Common Fisheries Policy, which most Shetlanders hold directly responsible for the decline in the fishing industry over the last thirty years.

I disagree with this viewpoint, but then, I'm not a fisherman. I think we've had far more out of the EU than we've ever put in and the problems of the fishing industry are entirely of it's own making (see the recent Black Fish scandal for details).

Conversely (and perversely?), if the Scottish Independence referendum were held today, Shetland would vote to stick with the UK. The distrust of lowland Scots Lairds and Ministers runs deep here. Centuries of virtual slavery via the truck system have left deep scars.

Also there's a deep distrust of Wee Eck regarding the oil money which, considering that we're having another oil and gas boom at the moment is always at the back of everyones mind.

On the other hand, there is something else happening here which I think has a bearing on the broader picture of the UK's general position regarding Europe.

This is wind power. There is currently a proposal to build a massive (400MW) windfarm on the central mainland which is at the "waiting for Holyrood to say go" stage of development. This would be the most efficient windfarm in the world with an efficiency of >50% (we already have a small farm which has achieved around 52% over 10 years). The Interconnector to take the power from this farm to the National grid will have enough spare capacity to allow the development of our abundant tidal and wave resources as well.

This windfarm will be 50% owned by the local community (thanks to the oil money) and is expected to bring in £900 million over it's 25 year lifetime.

How is this relevant to the UK/EU relationship?

The UK, and especially, Scotland has enormous potential for the development of on and offshore renewable energy. Europe is going to need all the clean energy it can get if it wants to maintain the living standards that it is accustomed to, especially with the German phobia about nuclear power.

While the scientists are screaming about climate change, it hasn't really penetrated into political thought except at the periphery. The economy and restoring it to growth are still seen as the major issues. This will change. I expect that within 10-15 years, climate change will be at the top of the agenda as it becomes clear that you can't expect to maintain a functioning economy of any sort without dealing with climate change.

This will mean a rush to renewable energy and the UK and the Southern Med nations will be best placed to benefit from this.

If the UK stays in the EU. If we're out, then I expect that the bulk of the investment will go to Ireland.

Here's a thought: If Salmond narrowly loses the Independence referendum, and then the UK votes to leave the EU, will he then have grounds to challenge the result of the Scots referendum, given that the UK we'd narrowly voted for no longer existed? (UK in the EU)

117:

First - Charlie, I think you're being a bit alarmist. The recent troubles of a unified monetary system applied to a region as diverse as the EU have, I think, been comprehensively demonstrated over the last few years. Paul Krugman wrote a great article about this a couple of years ago... let's see. Here it is: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/magazine/16Europe-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Second, there has been some discussion here about cultural affinities. A common tongue and heritage... matter. "Heritage" here means not just where people have derived their DNA, but the roots and continuing reinforcement of culture - a profoundly different system of rights and law (common versus continental) - rights-focused systems of belief and function versus more top-down calculations, and yes, even just language (Hamlet! "To be or not to be," etc.) which permeate a country's cultural backbone, especially among its educated members and elite.

As an American, I feel closest, culturally (and generally speaking), to: Canadians, then probably Irish, Brits, Australians, and Kiwis pretty much on an even level, and THEN the rest of Western Europe, more or less. That doesn't mean that I think we're "right" all the time, but I tend to "get" the point of view flowing from those peoples a lot more readily than, say, for example, the Chinese concept of nationality (which is strikingly different and totally bizarre to someone steeped in Western education).

All of that to say - I think you might be playing the "left behind" and "we'll be so isolated" card a bit too heavily here. As I opened with, it sounds like an overreaction. I'd be a hell of a lot more worried if France and Germany ended their partnership - the whole point of the thing from its origin, after all, was to stop those countries from war. Cutting back the monetary union, however, might not be so bad.

118:

"I tend to "get" the point of view flowing from those peoples a lot more readily than, say, for example, the Chinese concept of nationality (which is strikingly different and totally bizarre to someone steeped in Western education)."

What's so different and bizarre about the Chinese concept of nationality? If anything, it seems quite similar to traditional Western models of ancestry-defined ethnic identities.

119:
I must have missed that.

If you mean proposals of leaving the EU, you didn't miss that, since there weren't any, at least AFAIK.
Also, when talking about the FDP, it's handy to remember the party has a somewhat mixed background, from civil liberties protection to law and order etc.
Also note that some of its advertisement went like "the Europe party".

In the discussions about the Euro bailouts, as you already hinted at, there was much opposition to the actual bailouts from them, though in principle, this is just a discussion about the Euro and internal EU politics and not about the EU itself. In practice, though abandoning the Euro would have some repercusssions for the EU, too. Still, it should have been more of a discussion about the Euro than about the EU.

But some of these arguments were about the parliament giving away its right to budget with the ESM which, well, is not so much about economics and more about souvereign rights, come to think about it. Which, well, is more akin to the "Europe of Nations" concept than to the "Nation of Europe". Might have been an idea to cater to national conservatives, still, that was one of the things I thought about when talking about Anti-EU rhetoric.

Besides that, the FDP is a classical liberal party, so it's very much in favor of EU free trade and free market, but not necessarily that fond of EU institutions controlling said market. In general, it appears they are somewhat against state interventions, of course only if those didn't serve their interests[1]. Which also leads to some kinds of europe scepticism. Just remember BDI's Hans-Olaf Hankel, who once likened a "United States of Europe" to a EUdSSR.

Now Henkel is only an industrialist sometimes close to the FDP, later to the "Bund Freier Wähler", and he says he's Europe friendly and only Euro sceptic. Still, such an EU would be somewhat different from whar WU integration means.

That is about actual politics, though in the long run, there might be an even bigger problem; come to think about it, the FDP quite often had some flirts with nationalism[2]. More important, there was a strong current of national liberalism at times; and lately, some people tried to resurrect that. Google for "Stresemann Club" and enjoy. That might be of little concern given their current strength, but IIRC the FDP is currently not that popular in Germany, so there is some discussion about profiles. And it remains to be seen who prevails.

If you don't mind reading a paper whose policy was influenced by the SED till 1989, err...

http://www.blaetter.de/archiv/jahrgaenge/2011/juni/gefaehrlich-prekaer-die-neue-fdp

Please note that this article makes the point the eurosceptics are a minority in the party, but that might change.

AFAIK some politicians from the CSU sometimes argue against the EU,

Well, from my understanding of the CSU, see "gain mythos points, goodbye sanity points", it is a strange case of mental divergence. According to its acolytes, it is

- the local version of the CDU for Bavaria, with a special mission of representing Bavarian interests.
Never mind the Bayernpartei (see: "An independent Bavaria needs no navy.")

- the party that has the job to be the most right party in German politics still democratic.
Never mind they are angry with the SPD not doing this job on the left, and they are angry with the SPD doing this job on the left. Err.

- the official representation of Catholic Conservatism in Germany.
Never mind this job historically goes to the Zentrum party.

Oh, and they want to be taken seriously.

For CSU Anti-EU rhetorics, I guess this usually goes with point 1, since they're also lord protector of the Bavarian agrarian sector. Where one could argue where said agrarian sector would be without EU subventions, trade agreements and like.

but the FDP and most people from the Christdemocrats don't.

Well, as already said, I agree that besides some smaller parties on the left and right, there are no parties in Germany who openly advocate leaving the EU; for the parties doing so nonetheless, these are our nazis, some right conservatives, our maoists and BüSo[3].

In the bigger ones, even though there might be some members that would like us to leave, there were no official statements proposing leaving. Generally, leaving the EU being proposed by the lunatic fringe is not a good indication the career of a proponent would go unscathed, so politicians might leave it at that.

Still, I guess we can agree that when talking to members of parties, they often expose views not in the official program; it might be difficult to identify such under currents, though they are quite visible when they break away from the original party. And with the parties that want or wanted to leave the EU, one is the Republikaner party, who could be characterized (if you're generous) as an offshoot from the CDU/CSU who thought their former home was not conservative enough, another one was the late Anti-Maastricht "Bund Freier Bürger", which was in part an offshoot from the national liberal part of the FDP.

So I guess we can agree there were some people who wanted to leave the EU in the FDP and the CDU that broke away with Reps and BFB; and if there were, who says all broke away? BTW, I'm quite certain there are some proponents of leaving the EU in every German party, not just those, but those are our governing parties.

Or were you thinking about the no-bailout campaigns?

I don't think that a stance of "no-bailout" means you're anti-EU or even just anti-Euro.

But if you look at some of the surrounding discussions, e.g. the talk about parliamentary rights given away, or EU regulatory madness or, err, whatever, for me, the natural thing would be to demand more democratic or parliamentary control in the EU. And more integration. Most of the people talking about this don't talk about more democratic or parliamentary control, or integration. Which for me implies they think about less Europe.

Note that of course many people complain about some EU stuff, but that doesn't mean they would dare to leave.

Err, AFAIK, before UKIP there was no major party in the UK proposing leaving EU either. And if you look at Anti-EU sentiment in offshots like the Reps, the profile crisis of the FDP and the mutterings of some CDU/CDU guys who think Merkel is not conservative enough, who's to say we won't see one in Germany, too?

[1] As the old Propagandhi song says, "Publicly subsidized, privately profitable."

[2] For an especially disastrous result, just google for "Werner Naumann", especially together with the name of the British foreign minister then, Eden.

[3] Headed by the wife of one Lydon LaRouche. I spare you the details.

120:

On the subject of staying versus going, the Falklands have decided to stay British, with the final numbers being 1,513 to three (it's a small electorate).

121:

First, speakingas a Midwest Stabdard English speaker (More or less), WTF is the "Wee Eck" receiving multiple references?

As for employment and the Race to the Bottom, I heard a local (American "Public Radio") story this afternoon that the local builders can't find enough skilled tradesemen as the market perks up.

I'm dubious about this. Yes, the secondary schools in America have largely abandoned Trades programs. But what it really means is they can't find people who can do the work at the crap wages they want to pay. When an $8 an hour job in Walmart is desirable, they seem to think they can pay $10 an hour.

Well, the subject could be a thread itself.

122:

Reply to final comment in #105;

So why is Governer Rick Perry of Texas still walking around?

123:

General background on USA Politics:

Actually, the Republican Nutcases/Tea Party faction received LESS popular votes than (Sucessful) Democratic Congressional Candidates, like 54%/45%; They have a legislative majority becasue of the deeply laid plans of oligarchic interests, who used money to gain control of state legislatures and carefully draw up the congressional (Legislative) districts. Shades of Elmer Gerry and Rotton Burroughs, here in NW Arkansas (The seat once held by Bill Clinton) the Democrats could not even find a candidate. So the Republican won by default basically (NO, I did NOT vote for him, but I couldn't choose none of the above).

And you may have heard about the embarasing way the Arkansas (Republican) legislature has devoted itself recently to attacking women, passing the most restrictive abortion (Probably Unconstitutional, but we'll see) legislation in the country. Embarrasing, but again, my vote was nullified. For the Legislature, I had the choice of a Right Wing Nutcase, or a Lunatic Right Wing Nutcase.

On the AESC, I remember a nut case proposal about that in the 90's; Break the UK into six/eight states, you get your share of Congress (apportioied by population), plus the appropriate number of Senators. Maybe out of sixteen, two or three might be competent. But the Koch brotheres probably wouldn't be able to get Tea Partiers elected.

As for why to join, well, you get two Senators per state; Scotland and New Zealnd would each count for about the same as say Arkansas or South Carolina. And do any bizare local things you want (see above). Even State Funded Health Care.

There was even a fringe group in France that wanted to apply for Statehood at one point, with Congressmen and a couple of Senators, they would have more influence in Washington than just telling us what we should be doing.

124:

Excuse me? Why would eastern countries dislike EU institutions being centrally located? That happened more by accident than design (I very much doubt people in 1960 did really foresee that one day their new, shiny EEC would go all the way from Lisbon to Tallinn, from Nicosia to the Canaries, from Malta to Kiruna) but it's the most convenient place for everyone.

Granted, Ulm or Augsburg would be even more central, but first, the cost implied in moving 100 km would be huge, and second, they are in Germany. I don't really think eastern countries would prefer that...

125:

"How much longer the eastern member states will put up with the EU legislature being as centrally located as Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg is one good question."
Due to their economic poverty and collapse after 1989(in part due to failures of reforms in communist times, in part due to western "advisors" telling us to basically dismantle all industry and mining) they will put up with anything the West says just to get some funds and positions for the politicians in EU institutions. I know that the current government in Poland is extremely pro-EU and pro-German for example, wants to adopt the Euro, have a common European army and so on. Politically these states have little influence and besides putting a show for the voters once in a while, they are obedient towards western instructions.
To see an example how ruined Eastern Europe is just look at the figures of unemployment in Poland since 1992

http://www.stat.gov.pl/gus/5840_677_PLK_HTML.htm

That should answer the question why the Eastern European workers are fleeing to UK, Germany, Netherlands.
To be honest UK could scrap all benefits(I don't get any anyway) and we would still come, just to get some work.

126:
It's revealing that India tends to be left out of any membership list for an Anglophone Grand Alliance. [...] This where the racism OGH mentioned comes in.

Well, more charitably, perhaps people are going by the native / first speaker count? At that point you're only missing South Africa and maybe Nigeria, depending on how far you stretch the definition of "English"...

India has rather few native speakers of English.

After all, if you go by total number of English speakers, the hypothetical EU-minus-UK would be #2 on the list...

127:
WTF is the "Wee Eck" receiving multiple references?

"Wee Eck" is Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Resistance. With his band of kilted followers, he roams the Highlands waging guerilla warfare on the hated English, like a fat Che Guevara. His enemies say he drinks the blood of English children. His followers say he is Mel Gibson reborn, and will lead Scotland to a new golden age of freedom and unlimited haggis.

(You could also Google "Alex Salmond", but the truth is less interesting.)

128:

Fair enough. But the "Anglosphere" proponents like roberth2309 above tend to claim it's about shared values and institutions as well as language. In that case India, with its British-inspired system of law and government, ranks quite highly (and so does South Africa).

This "Anglosphere" notion is at best a misty-eyed vision of the Brits and Americans (with Canadian, Australian and NZ sidekicks) making the world safe for democracy, as dreamt up by someone who's spent too much time reading Churchill's "History of the English-Speaking Peoples". That made some sort of sense in 1944 but it's irrelevant today. At worst it's just nostalgia for the British Empire, as channeled through the USA (because all but the totally delusional must admit that Britannia no longer rules the waves).

Really, it's very hard to make any sort of rational case for why an alliance based on shared democratic values should exclude the nations of the EU.

129:

A pre-requisite for an EU Referendum is the Conservative Party still being in Government ofter the next election, and that doesn't look likely. But they will lose the election rather than the Labour Party winning it.

Assuming that we're suicidal enough to vote for the incompetent, greedy, bastards, I don't know what I would do. I wouldn't vote to leave the EU, but the anti-Europe brigade seem horribly confused about just what the EU is. As for their paymasters in "the City", it's pretty obvious that they just cannot hack it. British businesses, British workers, they suddenly blossom when they escape the control of the City/Wall Street/MBA pattern of thinking. Looking at the history, the City has been failing the British economy for over a century. It has only been worth having because they have been able to do things which have stolen foreign wealth, first through the structure of the British Empire, and then through a series of almost-illusions that amount to Ponzi schemes and skimming the froth off the quantum foam of frantic, automated, "markets" as other people's money streams past them on a manic conveyor belt (and we don't even get a cuddly toy).

We're being dragged down by Europe? Then explain Germany. British workers are lazy and overpaid? Isn't it strange how Jaguar Land Rover is doing so much better now it's part of an Indian corporation. Benefit skivers are killing the economy? Where are the jobs?

If we quit the EU, I think the UK is finished. We lose all the limits on the greedy and incompetent who have given us the great beige illusion of democracy. And they will scarper pretty sharpish when they cannot get the shiny they expect as their right. They'll go to places with better weather, and maybe the only British export will be decorative trophy wives.

I'm not sure that the details of what will go wrong matter. Whatever we do, whatever safeguards we might try to set up, we can expect to be stripped of everything, and discarded as waste.

130:
AFAIK, before UKIP there was no major party in the UK proposing leaving EU either.

Actually, the Labour Party fought the 1983 UK election on a platform of leaving the EU (or EEC, as it then was). But they argued from a left-wing socialist position rather than a right-wing nationalist one. For better or worse, the former point of view is long gone.

In the mid-1990s, the Conservative party was deeply split between pro- and anti-EU factions, to the point that it seriously impaired its ability to govern. It was at about this time that UKIP and the now-defunct Referendum Party appeared.

131:

Ungainly titan @ 88
The problem with the EU is Bagheot … forms of guvmint & actual guvmint structures.
I repeat – how many years since the EU had a straight set of accounts, hmmm?

KwiK @ 90
Remember Charlie’s strictures on Salmond – he is a Westminster-grade crook politician operating at Holyrood. It is to be hoped & expected that his multifarious mutually-conflicting lies catch up with him, before the referendum.

El @ 94
except posting border guards along Hadrian's Wall … err NO!
Posting guards along the River Tweed (excepting North of Berwick) & of course, not forgetting the “Debateable Land” over the Eden, North of Carlisle.
Recommended reading: “The Steel Bonnets” by Geo Macdonald Fraser!

KrisLok @ 96
Germany or Ireland have had far higher number of immigrants without either such outrage or problems with employment as UK. Really? Ask the mayor of Duisberg…

@ 97
YES!
In USA terms, the “West Virginia Question” – oops. Or the Amerinds in N Quebec telling PQ exactly where to shove it…..

Markalexwatson @ 105
Agree wholeheartedly with your “reform the EU” stance.
I held this for many years. I have now tipped over into my “ANTI” stance, because I believe there is a less-than-zero chance of EU reform occurring. The corporate corruption & state engagement with the corporates has gone too far & too deep. Which is a pity.
Your last, about Germany going back to the DM is interesting – but wouldn’t that crash most of the EU, anyway (now, that is) ??

@ 106
Here too … and that said employees are under 35 – don’t want older, more experienced people, they ask awkward questions….

@ 107
Agree with the first part of your analysis … (Cynical are we not, but I think you are correct about “non-binding”)
But, then I think, there will/may be a serious re-tink … see my post above re #105 about the EU needing real reform – this might be the trigger.

Von hichtofen @ 109
Well put!
Given the choice a local Reich – we stand a (slightly) better chance of overthrowing it, after all!

Rcb @ 112
The EU needs British & German money, and both those countries are getting pissed-off right now. The German method would be to exit the Euro, which would make a Brit exit from the EU seem like a minor quibble ….
Also, if (VERY unlikely) Salmond gets his way, then Scotland will be bankrupt in about a week - & the country will make 1930’s Ireland look rich & prosperous.

Robertday154
The EU is overdue for considerable reform,
Funny how that one keeps popping up, isn’t it?
OK
HOW do we/you propose this is to be achieved?
Every time this has been tried, so farm the whistleblowers/reformers have been royally crapped on to the point that the N Staffordshire scandal looks easy to rectify.
This precisely why I ma now in the “OUT” camp, since I think reform is impossible & we’d be better of out when the EU crashes, either under its own corrupt weight or goes Roman-state-modern-semi-fascist: the former being the more likely.

Arabia Terra @ 116
Thank you, very much – a valuable insight. I note your distrust of Salmond ….

Sasquatch @ 121
Google for “Alex Salmond” - & please try not to puke on your keyboard, when you’ve read the answers?

Alariste @ 124
Of course the true centre of the EU SHOULD BE … Aachen centre of Charlemagnes’s power – or would that be too much of a give-away?

@ 127
Just as well I didn’t have any coffee around when I read that one!

rcb @ 130
Please, everyone, he has valid historical point here, & it is important.
It may also help to illuminate why people like my self have turned against the EU – see also my conclusion, below:

Concluding this diatribe ….
Wouldn’t the desperately-needed EU reform be a really good idea?
Yes
Likelihoood of it happening – zero.
Now what?

132:

Rather than talking about leaving the EU and making it smaller, I think we should be talking about making it bigger. And we shouldn't stop till it encompasses everything from the Atlantic to the Urals and from Hammerfest to the Sahara. How long till Lebanon, Tunisia, Ukraine (to name but 3) are in the EU as well as the Eurovision Song Contest?

133:

Hmm, you apparently don't have idea of how natural gas market contracts works. It's not 'crumbs for those at the end of the tube'.

134:

To stir the pot a little more ;) When I talk about the Anglosphere option, I'm not talking about a political union. It is the political and currency union which is causing all the problems in Europe.

I'm talking about a free trade grouping with a free movement of people and ideas. Anybody could go to another member country to work as long as they had an open return ticket. However they would not be eligible for welfare in the host country... No job, home you go, though you would be welcome to stay if you can support yourself or find a new job.

Imho, creativity and progress are optimized if diversity is optimized. Bastardisation and risk, not purity and security is what creates dynamic societies.

135:

I don't know, letting the facts get in the way of a good historical allusion, shame on you!

136:

"Lifeboats subsidised by rump UK govt" - Ok, you clearly don't know what you're talking about. As El hints at in #94, the RNLI is an independent charity, and the closest it comes to govt funding is working with HM Coastguard, RAF and RN SAR helicopter units in joint rescues.

137:

This is possibly why the referendum might return a pro-Independance vote; it depends on how many people see voting for the status quo as being a decision to stick with an effective choice between 2 showers of incompetent greedy bar stewards for the next 30 years.

138:

El @ 135
Well, I felt I had to - anyway you put the whole of Northumberland into Scotland ......
Seriously the Fraser book (Yes, the same man who wote "Flashman") is well worth a read as to the tensions, fights, alliances & cross-border feuds in that area, where, often, family ties to other clans on either side of the border meant more than nationality.

Of course, the other aspect of the Scottish "independance" question is that of the so-called "Auld Alliance" between Fance & Scotland ... which has (IIRC/AFAIK) done France a lot of good, in distracting English attention, but hae doon the Scot nae guid at a'.
In this year of the 500th anniverseray of Flooden Field, the Scots might do well to think on the disasters that have befallen them, every single time they went/fell for for this one .....

139:

Ref reply to El at #94 - You might be surprised by just how much of the NorthEast of England want independance from Larndarn.

140:

While I strongly identify with the Commonwealth connection and wish to preserve it, we/it is no substitute for wider engagement with other economies or people.

If the inner Commonwealth / English speaking / settler dominated countries had a viable economic case for forming or retaining a proper customs and trade bloc then it would have happened long ago. The fact that it didn't should be enough to tell us all that other kinds of relationship also need to be pursued.

Even if New Zealand, Australia or Canada were willing to form a bloc with Britain* there would still be a very strong need for each of those countries to form close relations with closer, large economies and in any event, I am sure the former at least remember what happened last time this was seriously considered.

I think the current relationship is pretty realistic really, in that we still have strong trade, cultural and political relations between the group and remain strong friends as a consequence. Sure it is uncomfortable to go through the UK Border in the non Citizen line after arriving in from a 747 from elsewhere, but that is pretty small beer really.

141:

At the last general election I didn't, but I had the chance to vote for a Yorkshire Separatist candidate. Being Welsh (despite living in Yorkshire at the moment), I wish the Assembly would follow the Scottish Parliament in striving for independence. Although the general population of Wales seem to disagree looking at the support for Plaid recently.

It's not as strong as the desire of the Scots, but there's a fair amount of ill-will towards London up here.

142:

With any state you have a centre and a periphery. How do you think the North Welsh think about being ruled from Cardiff? Those at the periphery are apt to feel hard done by. Solutions to this are federalism, devolution and subsidiarity. There's no perfect solution.
The EU is a new federal state. It doesn't have the natural cohesive advantages of the USA. And the USA nearly broke up in civil war. 'Reforming' the EU will take about a century. Give the boy a chance.

143:

Q.In what way is membership of a financially-corrupt, anti-democratic, centralized extra-national body going to make us prepared for future challenges, and survive the ones we have now?

Wrong frame around the right question.

All governments prepare to fight the last war. In this case, the EU has a raison d'etre that nobody talks about but which is of overwhelming importance -- it's there to prevent a repeat of 1914-45, or maybe 1789-1815, or even 1618-48, come to think of it. In other words, to prevent massive continent-spanning wars that kill millions of people, immiserate millions more, and wreck nations. We're coming up on the 65th anniversary of the 1948 Franco-German coal and steel pact that is the dim and distant australopithecine ancestor of today's EU; and we have had a 68 year stretch in which no invading army has crossed the Rhine -- the longest such span of peace since the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

I think it would be a really bad idea to dismiss an institution which has cemented such a peace, don't you?

(The points about the EU being financially corrupt, centralized, lacking in democratic accountability, and arguably anti-democratic, all stand. But I consider these faults to be less important than that one overwhelming virtue. And they're the kind of fault we can work to fix, rather than demanding total immediate armed rebellion -- like previous aspirants to the EU's role as central fulcrum of Europe, who got into the gas chamber business or attempted to invade Russia or extirpate protestantism and similar activities that involved shedding rivers with blood.)

144:

Indeed. While I think London is a particularly special case, it certainly is pretty normal to have a strong sense of dislike or neglect if not in the capital/principle city.

New Zealand has a pretty bad case of that as well, given that Auckland has about a third or more of the population of the country, the only major difference being that the capital is not the biggest city.

The problem being that the economic case for centralisation seems to be like a boulder rolling down hill, it picks up speed the more it rolls.

We actually tried a regional/provincial structure but it failed for all sorts of reasons, principally economic. However I'm not sure that disproves the merit of the idea given that this was in the 1850s-70s, when the colonial state was pretty new, fragile and poor.

145:

Aachen? Reviving the Western Roman Empire? Great idea. Count me in :D

Seriously, Greg, you should try to understand there is nothing to hide. You can think a true Union would be a nightmare, but plenty of people beg to differ. We, shocking as it apparently seems to you, _WANT_ that.

In other order of things I will never understand how Eurosceptics can be against the EU because it is opaque and "not democratic" and at the same time oppose a true European Parliament with significant powers and a true European Government with a common treasure, common taxes and common policies. They can't have it both ways... if they oppose a deeper Union they should approve the status quo, if they want transparency, accountability and democracy they actually want a deeper Union, even if they don't get what their desires imply!

146:

Flodden, not Flooden...

147:

I've heard a desire for union with Scotland and independance from London ((not exact words, but an accurate description of the sentiments and statements) voiced by Geordies (and Tees-siders) since the 1960s. No joke.

As to support for Plaid Cymru, I've always (as a Scot who sometimes travels in Wales) felt that this is stronger in North Wales; South Wales seems to think that Noo Liebour is still the socialist party that their grandparents voted for!

148:

@Soames 140: Yes, exactly.

@roberth2309 134: Yeah, we're all in favour of diversity, exchange of ideas, sunshine and fluffy kittens.

It is the political and currency union which is causing all the problems in Europe.

Are you aware that the UK is *already* outside of the single currency?

It's true that the single currency may turn out to be a disaster for everyone concerned. No matter what, "everyone concerned" will include the UK, whose major trading partners are in Europe because of the basic facts of geography.

I'm talking about a free trade grouping with a free movement of people and ideas.

"Exchange of ideas" between the UK and anywhere else in the world is already pretty straightforward.

Anybody could go to another member country to work as long as they had an open return ticket. However they would not be eligible for welfare in the host country.

Something very like this already exists within the EU. Are you trying to argue that exchange of people is good if the people in question speak English as a first language, bad otherwise?

149:

I agree with you, but I think that the original EEC (possibly expanding as a free trade/travel zone) was adequate unto that purpose; the present EU has galloping feature creep!

150:
we have had a 68 year stretch in which no invading army has crossed the Rhine

Except for that time five years ago when Switzerland invaded Lichtenstein?

(OK, probably not crossing the Rhine, but still a country predominantly on one bank invading one on the other bank. In slow motion, considering they fired rockets in 1985 and then, in the ensuing confusion, invaded in 2007.)

151:

Charlie, it's not just the EU that has that motive.

The European Convention on Human Rights is also a reaction to the events of 1914-45. Like it or not, The Kaiser and Hitler had the sort of lawful authority that the Convention thoroughly outlaws. And now our glorious Home Secretary is saying we should abandon those limits.

There is more to fascism than being an authoritarian creep, including a strong streak of corporate power behind the scenes, but it is uncomfortably easy to tick a new box every time the Conservative Party's big names say something. They might be chasing votes in some future Party-internal power game, but their public image is thoroughly ugly.

At least that long peace has left us with a deficiency of drug-addled overweight war heroes. We just have the smarmy pseudo-aristocrats, and we might even be missing out on squeamish failed chicken-farmers.

The current political system doesn't want anyone who might have done something useful with their lives.

152:

David Cameron is half-reminding me of a cute bunny-rabbit staring at the oncoming headlights.

He isn't cute.

153:

What else have you missed?

As a British worker I don’t think I would relish having the Social Chapter removed along with all those restrictions on how beastly my employer can be to me. I like the trend of generally working fewer hours in safer, less hostile conditions. Long may it continue.

I don’t think we’ll see a referendum on EU membership in circa 2017.

First the Conservative Party has to win the general election and I think it has to win with a majority. Probably quite a large majority. Whilst the Lib Dems are generally in favour of more democracy and things like referenda I think they are a bit scarred by their experience in the AV referendum and might well not support a referendum on the EU even if they were in formal coalition with the Tories post 2015.

A Conservative Party majority government is unlikely because a) the economy b) the electoral maps, math and general voting trends.

Then Cameron has to fail to renegotiate “successfully” with the EU. I think it very unlikely he will fail. For two reasons.

I think having the UK in the EU is generally a good thing for both parties. Some industries, interests and areas do better or worse out of having us in but both the UK and the EU will be a little bit worse off if the UK leaves. So there is a little bit of value for the rest of the EU states to negotiate with. Many of the things Cameron would want are probably also wanted by other member states. Who wouldn’t want the EU to be a bit more efficient? Many people want the EU to be more democratically accountable.

So there is a deal there to be done.

Second reason Cameron will succeed is that he gets to decide what constitutes a “successful” renegotiation. He can decide to go in to the negotiation knowingly asking for exactly what the EU wants to give him plus 5% or 10% and allow himself to be negotiated back to exactly what the EU is already prepared to do. Then he declares victory and cancels the referendum.

Why would he do this? Well who wants to be seen as a Prime Minister who failed to negotiate a better deal with the EU? Does he really want to leave the EU? Is he prepared to gamble on a referendum when he commands a majority in the House of Commons? How closely does he want Euro-sceptic Tory loyalists working an election campaign with UKIP?

If it does come to a vote I expect the Staying In the EU campaign to be the best funded campaign in UK political history.

Quite a lot of that funding comes in the form of businesses who spend money advertising in newspapers threatening to take their business elsewhere if the paper pushes an anti-EU vote line.

154:

'Aachen? Reviving the Western Roman Empire? Great idea. Count me in :D'

Aachen is a very pleasant place but too far West for the expanded EU and, you know, German. I'd go for Prague, more central, lovely city and with the right historical associations.

155:

This is a genuine question but does the EU in the 21st Century really need a capital city?

156:

Telecommuting is bad enough without having 500 legislators on the line. (Shudder.)

On the other hand, we could take a leaf from Queen Elizabeth the First's book? Make the EU Parliament mobile! Size it so that it fits in the smallest member state's legislative chamber (just), and then have it shift venue to a different member state every 6 months, the way the Presidency rotates. Yes, it's a minor inconvenience for the locals -- but think of the lobbying opportunities.

157:

How much telecommuting do the legislators actually have to do?

Enjoying the peripatetic parliament idea.

158:

First the Conservative Party has to win the general election and I think it has to win with a majority.

Which changes from challenging to somewhere between trivial and inevitable if Scotland, let alone Wales, removes itself from the picture...

Maps are always misleading because rural constituencies are bigger, but theres still a _lot_ of blue inside the borders of a rump UK:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2010

159:

Ahem. It's bad enough already with the Strasbourg / Brussels shuffle.

(Lovely city, Strasbourg, if a bit built-in-a-swamp. But I hate to think what the effect of roving Eurocrats and lobbyists is on its restaurant and housing prices.)

Sure, you might have only a couple of hundred legislators, but there's no way they're going to be there on their own, without support staff and SpAds and so on.

160:

It always strikes me as strange that English "patriotic" types seem so set against the EU. Maybe it's part of the weird post imperial malaise we have but it seems like they don't realize the world's changed from the 1930s.

England has for centuries worried about a great power dominating Europe and leaving Britain an isolated outsider.

To combat this, we've basically backed one continental party against another. So Everyone vs. France, Everyone (including people outside Europe) vs. Russia, Everyone vs. Germany, Everyone vs. Russia again, and so on.

Only that policy is a dead letter. Technology that allows global travel has killed it. Now, rather than having one continent that could affect Britain, there's at least three. China, America, and eventually India are all going to be so powerful (because they're continental powers with five to twenty times our population) that we can't approach them.

Even in Europe this policy has broken down. The inevitable wars that result from a disunited Europe have become so terrible, due to advances in military technology and organization, that they cannot be sustained.

If Britain really cares about its national power it should jump into the EU with both feet. It can never be more than a junior partner to America, but it can be one of the big three in the EU. Rather than being isolated it can be a leader.

But somehow we've never managed to work all that out.

161:

Charlie @ 143
You might be suprised, but I agree with you completly.
It's why I'm a very reluctant convert to the "out" camp, but the EU desperately needs reform and a good clean-out right now. It makes the murkier backhanders @ Westminster look open above-board & transparentlly honest.
Now what?
CAN we fix it, & how?
Common Fisheries Policy
Common Agricultural Policy
Petty interference in private activities (like allotment gardening - that is what finally got my goat)
Total financial non-accountability
All need fixing.
Got any sensible mechanisms?

Alariste @ 145
Your irony detector isn't working.
Fix that, then get back to me, huh?

Paws @ 147
Plaid are not trusted, because they are evangelical christian puritan nannies, who seem to thinnk that a return to dry Sundays is a good idea.

Go-Captian @ 154
Prague, more central, lovely city and with the right historical associations. Defenestration of Prague?
Dreizigjahrenkrieg?
Theresienstadt?

fbh991 @ 159
Very true - but - HOW do we fix the broken EU corruption nannying & intereference, please?

Overview on the EUHCR
Why are we (apparently) having problems with this, but other EU countries not?
No on seems to ask this question, do they?
It cannot be right that serially-convicted foreign criminals cannot be deported [ I am NOT talking about abu Quatada, pleae note - that's a whole different set of cans of worms ...] so why & how are we getting our knickers twisted over this one, to the endangerment of very valuable rights?
Conversely, the EU arrest warrant is (IMNSHO) is contrary to both the EUHCR & our own 1688/9 Bill of Rights, yet people are being crushed under its' wheels, protests are made & what does thew Brit guvmint do?
Nothing, same as (most of the time) they roll over supinely for the USSA (Gary Mackinnon being the exception)

162:

"[I]t seems quite similar to traditional Western models of ancestry-defined ethnic identities."

Randy: It's not. Talk to a Chinese person about China for long enough-- and I mean a person actually born and raised in mainland China-- and you notice a strong emphasis on the concept of the nation as a whole... you can even hear it when they say "China," the emphasis attempting to express an existence of something separate from its constituents. It's sort of like "the Fatherland" but much more intense and complex.

It's pretty hard to describe (obviously). I'd also say that I think it would be almost resultant that a culture that has been built on different concepts of rights and duties and such (different form Western Judeo-Christian-Greco-Roman) would be more difficult to "get" than the one you were accustomed to. So, I don't think I'm actually making any sort of great leap to make that assertion.

163:

On the poll you linked, that's a fine example of how to spin a poll that says the exact opposite of your party line. Read past the headline and you get this:

If “don’t knows” are included in the survey, 40 percent of Britons would vote to leave, 37 percent would stay, and 23 percent are undecided.

You mean the gap is 3%? Three whole percent?
What's the margin of error?

Further, the next paragraph reports, correctly, that David Cameron playing at EU-hate didn't move the polls at all. But somehow this is good news for Eurosceptics!

In January, a YouGov poll showed that most people think the EU is good for their interests:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/01/14/britain-would-vote-to-stay-within-eu-in-a-referendum/

I blogged about this here:

http://fistfulofeuros.net/afoe/tories-accidentally-sell-the-eu-to-britain/

And it gets better:

https://twitter.com/MSmithsonPB/status/292971805864509440/photo/1

164:

"I'd like to see proof of that; I am an American, and our business lords are always whining about 'shortages'. Meaning elite skills cost more than room and board."

I have no idea what the situation is in the states but here in the UK many of the local graduates in software engineering are useless at certain kinds of software projects.

(Anything close to the metal like writing drivers, malware analysis, or extremely performance-intensive projects. Sometimes it seems like the only thing taught in modern UK programming courses is Java, C#, and web development.)

The Polish and Eastern European programmers that worked for my last employer all got paid more than I did and I was doing all right. A lot of the non-immigrant programmers were maths graduates, not programming grads as they were quicker to pick up the necessary skills. It took less time to train up a maths graduate with no programming background to do the job than it took to train a programming graduate.

Of course, once you entered the departments that were using Java or C#, you returned to having mostly locally trained programmers.

I'm not talking about a shortage of cheap labour, this is a shortage of labour that can do the job.

Of course, I'm not pretending that there aren't a lot of employers who resent paying proper wages to people whose skills are in demand. But I'm pretty sure most of the people here in the UK with that attitude have already outsourced their programming.

And many of them have already realised that the costs involved in getting the same level of work from outsourced programmers are pretty similar to hiring them locally.

The real cost savings for most of these types of employers doesn't really come from the outsourcing but from the fact that they've begun to accept a lower quality of work, i.e. they sell or use crap software.

165:

Charlie:

I agree with your central point but wanted to take a moment to note that your justification of the EU, in spite of corruption, anti-democratic nature, etc., would also fit perfectly into justification of the systems presently controlling Russia and China. I.e., order and control outweighs democracy and a little graft here and there.

Obviously, there are distinctions between the EU and those authoritarian regimes, but the first impression of that argument is an eyebrow-raiser.

166:

Pardon my ignorance, but what are the laws that EU imposes which are a problem for UK? It's not like you really really want death penalty or something similarly crazy.

167:

what are the laws that EU imposes which are a problem for UK?

There aren't any, for the most part. But our newspapers love to invent them ... nothing sells dead trees like artificially manufactured outrage!

168:

"A widespread assumption among Britons is that the British Commonwealth of Nations would continue to trade with the UK and would in fact gradually increase their UK trade, taking up some of the slack. "

They are delusional! They have been watching too many repeats of "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo" and old documentaries from the NFB. Not to mention some equally ancient newsreels "showing" Africa and Asia.

The Commonwealth which is in their heads disappeared a long time ago.

Right now Canada is negotiating a very serious free trade accord with the European Community. And it is also negotiating a sometimes alarmingly comprehensive free trade accord with a whole bunch of Pacific rim nations.

169:

Just to correct one recurring point. Germany will not leave the Euro. At most, they would seek a restructure that dropped PI(I)GS. For the past 6-8 years, Germany has increasingly enjoyed an artificial balance of trade advantage due to the massive relative undervaluing of the Euro, in comparision to their huge export-driven economic activity and low labour costs.

If they left, the DM would go from 1:1 Euro parity to 1.5:1+ in very short order - all those VWs, BMWs and Mercs being sold in China and America (and Britain) would go up in price 50%. Check out Eduardo Porter's analysis in the NY Times on 27th June last, if you want a decent summary.

It can be argued (but never is) that the current Euro-debt mountain is an unfortunate byproduct of way the ECB, from the first day it opened its doors, assisted the German economic miracle of post-reunification recovery, and they now show a certain lack of gratitude. Certainly Ireland could have done without those historically low ECB interest rates between 2002 and 2006 that were needed to get things moving East of Hamburg...

170:

Err, that depends on the Eastern country; if you're pondering what I'm pondering, I agree the Polish and Czech would not be that happy about it. Though you might be in for some bad surprises.

In Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria or some parts of the Baltic, though, err.

That being said, what about ... Rome?

It's a historic connection, and I guess any curses about the European capital wiuld be duly appreciated by the Italians.

171:

>>>Make the EU Parliament mobile!

I couldn't help but imagine a giant nuclear-powered parliamentary hovercraft roaming across Europe...

172:

Yeah, as eastern european programmer I concur. Basically, if I look at studying in the western countries... geez.

I recall a thread in a general discussion area in a programming forum, circa maybe 2004 . Reasons to go to college. Fun parties number 1 reason. Now these guys graduated. And the new step, shows like big bang theory to replace MacGuywer.

Back in the day people born in richer countries had advantage because people born in poorer countries couldn't afford a computer for studying. That's no longer the case. And at the big picture, there's only so much oil and other natural resources which are to be split between the people; we won't all be as rich as people in the west presently are, and the world is beginning to discriminate less by place of birth.

173:

Dan @ 163
Safety as the price of freedom? Or not?

CHarlie @ 165
Not "laws" per se, but plenty of "regulations" - which hve the force of law - crapping on private individuals & small companies ofr the benefit of those big corporates that have successfully lobbied in Brussels & elsewhere.
I can certainly quote you the one that's got up my nose, and the whining from the same corporate corrupt bastards, last year tring (as a kite-flying exercise, at present) to ban even more, possiblky all activity in those fields. [Pun!]

174:

Rome? Even the Roman Empire gave up on Rome as a capital. (Damned inconvenient place, logistically speaking.) Unfortunately, to use the same capital that they ended up with, we need to admit Turkey into the club.

175:

I like the idea of a 2050 Anglosphere. The great linguistic union dominated by the Big Seven: India, Pakistan, US, China, Nigeria, Philippines and Bangladesh. With a bunch of medium-sized second-stringers in tow, led by Germany, followed by UK, Egypt, France and Italy.

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_English-speaking_population#List_in_order_of_total_speakers )

176:

"Really? Ask the mayor of Duisberg…"
I am not aware that mayor of Duisberg has his own nation-wide office used to collect unemployment data.
In December 2012 at least, German unemployment hit its lowest rate since 1991.
And Germany has more immigrants that UK does.
So UK's unemployment has nothing to do with them, but with other economic issues that large portion of UK's politicians is unwilling to address, preferring to scapegoat immigrants.

177:

I couldn't help but imagine a giant nuclear-powered parliamentary hovercraft roaming across Europe...

We really need that! But maybe it ought to be solar powered, out of respect to German popular sensitivities? Or nuclear, in honour of the French? Or perhaps it could be powered by burning methane biogas produced by the legislators who would be compelled to subsist on a diet of beans and hard-boiled eggs while parliament was in motion?

178:

Back when I was doing a CS conversion degree, we got assembly programming. And C as an option (the core languages were Pascal or COBOL, which dates me a bit, doesn't it). And basics of logic circuit design, from gates up to flip-flops and half-adders and so on, with mandatory project coursework. (A bird's eye view of transistor-level stuff was also provided, but we didn't have time to get deeply into it.) The highest level languages that featured on the course were SQL (very new back then) and Prolog (in the AI coursework).

This was about five years before Java and Visual BASIC swept the decks and the CS degrees on offer forked into basically four years of theorem proving and higher math or four years of web design and Java cut'n'paste. Which is to say, when the great dumbing-down/and-or the great ivory tower climbing happened. Feh.

179:

Well, I agree that Rome has its problems. And Milan and Ravenna are not that much better.

But given that when Italy instituted new vehicle registration plates in 1994 that didn't mention place of origin, a popular urban legend in Northern Italy had it that was because cars from RM/Roma were vandalized too much[1], at least the Romans are used to the invective.

That being said, I guess Aachen has one advantage; the areas up close is on the border of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaalserberg#Three-Country_Point

So at least it's not "only Germany".


[1] Non-paranoic version: They ran out of numbers in some areas.

180:

What's wrong with the idea of 2013 Anglosphere? It's here. I don't see it being replaced anytime soon. It's the lingua franka of business and science, and dominates mass culture.

181:

Point in question, I guess there is some local correlation of unemployment rate and proportion of immigrant. Though it's got little to to with wages and such.

Most of the immigrants (or "guest workers", to translate the German "Gastarbeiter") were in the traditional industrial and mining areas like the Ruhr and such. Where exactly those areas haven't taken to those sectors closing down that well.

Point in question, Duisburg's population has about 20% Turks. Duisburg was a center of iron, steel and chemical industry and an inland harbor for the neighbouring Ruhr area. Where the insistence is on "was".

So even if there is a correlation between immigrant numbers and unemployment, it's not necessarily causation.

182:

I qualified in the '00s, and my degree programme started with logic design and joining point a to point b with wire and ended with Haskell and web programming, bouncing off various selections of the ground between those points. As you can imagine, with that amount of ground to cover there wasn't a lot done in depth. But it did mean I nearly passed out in shock when asked to look at an equivalent to your conversion degree for a friend a month ago.

183:

Other power blocs - certainly pretty hefty parts of the print media - are very anti-Europe and are agitating for exit.

Coincidentally, I found this today: Curious repeating headlines in the Daily Express, from the NewsFrames blog. The author shows two collections of Daily Express front pages, the first running from 18 January 2013 back to 29 October 2012. You can immediately see just how often the Express threatens us with immigrants, gales, the Big Freeze ... and the EU. The one I like most is "EU WANTS MIGRANTS TO TAKE OUR JOBS".

184:

The problem with an anglosphere isn't the language, it's the cultural imperialism that sometimes goes with it. Example: the Roman empire left us Latin, rhetoric, and some great architecture, which was good. It also left a legacy of invasions and massacres and the phrase "they made a desert and called it peace" -- I submit that those aspects of Roman culture were not good. The same goes for English, and when you hear the word "anglosphere" the people who most frequently use it are implicitly intending to exclude people who aren't descended from white-skinned Bible-carrying British colonial settlers.

185:

I think people are working from the wrong assumption here that top of the Tory party really wants to leave the EU. Most of them don't, but ERM crisis was such a searing event it poisoned a lot of the party against the idea of more Europe.

The big hope for the present government was to ride out the current euro crises and somehow hope everyone came to their senses and realised that trying to create a superstate was stretching themselves to far and maybe things should slow down for a while.

Of course the opposite lesson has been drawn. The crises shows that more europe is the answer. That the faults of the current system means they need more centralisation and they should rush towards more structures towards a true federal state.

And there is the problem, the British don't feel the same way about the European project as others do. Do we really want a unified army and foreign policy? Unified tax policy. The continuation of economic policy being set by the needs of the German economy?

So those thinking that won't be a referendum if a grand new deal was declared, you will be very much mistaken. Even the Labour party could not avoid it.

The fundamental problem is that we are not prepared to go any further forward. It's not that we might actively leave it's that we wont to go where the rest of the club is going.

186:

Your brief on 'Wee Eck' is deserving of addition to his Uncyclopedia entry, which is also pretty awesome.

187:

Re: Location of the EU 'parliament'

Can I suggest we take a leaf from Rowling's book, and position them on a platform in the middle of the North Sea. Scaled just big enough for the politicians as a way to keep the lobbyists at a distance (or at least wet). I'm sure we could find a disused oil platform to use.

Even better, get one of the floating ones and make the height it floats above the sea a very practical barometer (hydrometer) of public contentment with their performance. The lower their public perception sinks, ...

188:

@153:
What else have you missed?
---
There'll be a new monarch Any Time Now.

A lot of unhappy people might go for a new "man on horseback" with a plan to fix the UK's problems...

189:

Hoever putup the Uncyclopedia entry for Salmod needs a medal!

"New king" - I think not, in fact I expect him to predecese his mother .....

Duisberg has had a recnt influx of, erm, err, "Roma" who are, apparently not welcome .....

Charlie & 164
I think you are only about 10% correct, but that 10% does exist & should be worried about, but not too much.
You are concerened, like the politicians& generals with "the last war".
Worry about the next one - religiousnutters & euro-fascists, the latter masquerding as business leaders.

190:

we have had a 68 year stretch in which no invading army has crossed the Rhine -- the longest such span of peace since the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The fact that Germany had, and still has, a huge American military presence in residence is probably the biggest factor in keeping that peace. Any nation that tried a blitzkrieg in western Europe would have been fighting NATO from day 1, with American military assets already in theater and ready. Readiness may have slacked a bit since 1993, but it's still obviously a losing move for anyone weaker than the Soviets at their peak (and it dissuaded the Soviets, too).

191:

Also reply to 164: "It took less time to train up a maths graduate with no programming background to do the job than it took to train a programming graduate."

Did those maths graduates study something different from "four years of theorem proving and higher math"? If so, what did they study?

192:

What often gets ignored is that all the EU legislation, whether it is an actual law or a regulation, has to be voted on by the UK parliament. The EU system has always worked that way: there are "directives" issued to the national governments, who then enact the laws. Because of the differences between the legal systems, the EU cannot specify the details.

For instance, which level of court will try the case? Just compare England and Scotland, and you will see what I mean. How many people in England even know what a Procurator Fiscal is?

So all the horrible EU stuff has been approved by our Parliament after our Civil Service has translated it to fit with our legal system. And I have seen enough instances, as a farmer, where that translation is somewhat imperfect.

Some of the politicians complaining about Europe are in a position to do something. They do not.

193:

Actually the Soviet forces in East Germany were there to forestall yet another invasion by the capitalist powers allied with the rebuilt German military. If you think I'm kidding try counting the invasions and attacks on Soviet borders since the Revolution in 1917, including countries like France, Britain and the USA as well as the Nazis and the Japanese. The Politburo *knew* they were only waiting for another chance to march on Moscow, just look at the millions of soldiers and tanks they had lined up in West Germany in readiness.

194:

How about a hovercraft powered by electric eels?

Personally, I think a terrestrial vehicle not that good an idea, with "Mortal Engines" and such. Also note that "crushed by EU legislation" will become an incredibly lame pun.

What about a Zeppelin? Yes, it's somewhat steampunkish, but I even have a name:

Laterally
Adjustable
Political
eUropean
Taciturn
Assembly

As for the power source, you can pry my Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor from my cold, dead hands.

195:

Let's just say that neither side in the cold war trusted the other, and the fact that a war was completely unwinnable barely kept each side from attacking.

It is also a general rule that the other side in a conflict always seems more monolithic and tightly knit than your own, simply because each side tries to present a unified face to a potential enemy.

196:

The EU seems to have really bad problems. It might be that it won't make it. If it is a sinking ship, would it be better for Britain to leave early or leave late? During a stock market crash the former is true--the act of doing the best for oneself in the face of the coming disaster helps create the disaster. I don't know how the EU works, but perhaps conditions should be set, like, "We're going to leave if the following reforms are not made..." That might be a way to win-win, save self by saving the group.

Alternatively, just demanding a special category of participation could be a another option.

Also regarding Spanish becoming the language of the US: true, under current conditions Spanish speakers learn English, except for some few who never leave the Spanish speaking community. But as the percentage gets higher, perhaps a tipping point will be reached where as Spanish speakers become increasingly prevalent it becomes increasingly unnecessary to learn English. It may have a momentum of its own. Remains to be seen.

197:

Greg, someone's irony detector is broken, that's evident... but it isn't mine. And I'm sorry to say this but you are being quite rude in this thread, just in case you didn't notice.

Now, do you have something to say on European Unionists not trying to hide that they are, uhmmm, Unionists, hence they want a real Union, or on Eurosceptics wanting to have their cake and eat it too when they denounce EU institutions as opaque and not democratic but rejecting the reforms that would make them accountable and truly democratic because they imply a real European Parliament with real powers, i.e., a deeper Union?

198:

Round up the usual suspects, starting with the Daily Excess and Daily Wail. The really depressing thing is that otherwise intelligent people seem to actually believe these "stories".

199:

This is pretty much all true; I'm somewhat depressed to think that I'm probably one of the youngest British people to be capable of working happily with bit-level overlays (and that's super high level compared with assembler, which I could cope with the last time I needed to).

200:

[drum roll]

You'll be here all week, right?

201:

UK and the "Special Relationship"

There was a great throwaway in the terrific 1980's spy show The Sandbaggers about how the UK got far more out of the "Special Relationship" than they put in. Access to Posiden Missle Technology for example. (More on those later)

And it (We, the USA) made significant contributions during the Falklands conflict.

One of the scary aspects of "Spooks" (Distributed as "MI5" in the US) is the negative portrayal of the US intelligence community and it's relationship with the UK. It may have changed since the 1980's, but not that much. Defense establishments have their own institutional logic, and the "Special Relationship" was deeply embedded on BOTH sides of the Atlantic.

Not that Bush/Cheyney/Rumsfeld did either side many favors in that department, but operational lower level bueacracies have their own powerful intertia.

One of the intersting things about Afghanistan (NOT a war of Choice, it was the failure to develop or implement a campaign plan by BCR that caused the current nightmare), is that ONLY the Anglosphere countries, with a limited contribution by the French and Eastern Europeans, were able to field useful combat units. The Germans pretty much entered and left at the level the US left Vietnam, do the minimum and try not to get killed, hopefully by getting an assingment of minimum risk. They have competent staff officers and small units, but my understanding is the Governement insisted on VERY restrictive rules of Engagement.

(Oh yeah, the Nordic countries made useful contributions, limited by budget considerations)

NOT a promissing basis for a common European Military. Also see the essential role of the US in the Libyan Air campaign.

Possesion of Nuclear Weapons is a sign of real power, see North Korea, Pakistan and Iran for the negative aspects of this, but for modest financial investment, you get respect. And the "Special relationship" included access to US facilities (Including the Nevada test Site) the UK could not have afforded to duplicate.

202:

Well, last few days have been a little bit laid back, so I had too much time at the keyboard.

If it gets over-the-top, please tell me. ;)

203:

Ah, my last that you replied to is an English language joke. Don't take it negatively.

204:

Duisberg has had a recnt influx of, erm, err, "Roma" who are, apparently not welcome .....

Are there any places where Roma are welcome? Discrimination of Roma seems to be a constant that survived the end of WWII as well as the fall of the Iron Curtain. Of the top of the head I remember ugly incidents from France, Italy, Romania, Germany and several ex-Yugoslavian countries.

205:

If you're thinking of humor limbo dance, the lower the better, well, guilty as charged.

206:

The fact that Germany had, and still has, a huge American military presence in residence is probably the biggest factor in keeping that peace.

Bullshit. (At least, since 1989.)

Thought experiment: if you wave a magic wand and erase that US military presence from Germany right now, who do you think is about to pull their jackboots on and go marching?

There has been a lot of genuine political change in Europe since 1945, and since 1989-91. Yes, there are flashpoints that could turn hot -- but not in a war of nation against nation manner.

207:

'NOT a promissing basis for a common European Military.'

NATO standardization has done much to establish such a military. NATO command is unified against any major threat.
But there is no longer a major threat from the East, to the West there's the Atlantic Ocean and our senior alliance partner, no threat from the North, obviously, and to the South there's Africa. So there's no impetus.

All that's left is problematic out of area operations which don't demand unity of response. So we see the French dealing with Mali, the Italians hesitant over Libya and so on.

208:

Greg @173: Failing to find details of EU rules on allotment gardening - can you point me at a URL, please?

209:

I did the same conversion degree as Charlie a few years later - COBOL had fallen out, as had all the brackety(*) languages (except as one of the optional courses - we had to take three from six of these), and the possible subjects for the long essay on Data Communications included Gopher and Fidonet protocols, but not UseNet or IRC (/just/ too early for the web, although the Mosaic browser came along about the time I was writing up.

[I was also, even after Charlie's warning, blown out of the water by the intensity - it was /not/ just rubber-stamping what I already knew]

(*) My simple taxonomy of computer languages: The BLOCK CAPITAL ones, those with two many semi-colons, and those with too many brackets....

210:

Wasn't half the point of inventing (or adopting?) the term Anglosphere to create shorthand term to describe that end product of cultural and ethnic imperialism, as distinct from the wider English speaking world.

211:

Mine is:-
Those with statement separators
Those with statement terminators
PASCAL (which combines terminators with {} )
{censored} VB which has neither.

212:

If the EU desires to avoid repeating the previous economic disasters clearing a path for opportunists, sociopaths, sadists and necrophiliacs to form a single-party government and cleansing of the opposition then the EU should perhaps tell Germany to ramp down the Austerity Factory a notch or five - even if it hurts bonuses at DB.

The reality is that now we have real fascists in uniforms taking 20% of the votes and bashing foreign people in Greece. Trouble is fermenting in Spain, Italy and Portugal, and still, according to the wisdom of Frau Merkel and Brussels, governments must continue to "act responsible" to pay the banks (who, apparently, were not irresponsible in their lending).

One understands that all of this misery and violence is acceptable, indeed necessary, to save the Euro. I think that "saving the Euro" is becoming a dangerous experiment, values are clearly slipping when European politicians willingly accept "technocratic governments - now with Fascism (as seen on TV)" as long as they agree to collect rent for the bankers - this plan was indeed tried before, in Germany!

213:

I have no idea what the situation is in the states but here in the UK many of the local graduates in software engineering are useless at certain kinds of software projects.

(Anything close to the metal like writing drivers, malware analysis, or extremely performance-intensive projects. Sometimes it seems like the only thing taught in modern UK programming courses is Java, C#, and web development.)

Perhaps because software as a discipline has grown over the past thirty years? There are only so many teaching hours available within a four-year course, and the subject has grown. Java makes a useful teaching language, but it has its flaws (don't get me started on programmers who don't understand memory management, or encapsulation, or hierarchy, or reuse, or who can't be bothered to comment their code :( rrrr.....).

I saw this problem in the 1980s, interviewing new graduate software engineers for our defence avionics firm in Edinburgh. The local tertiary education back then had two Universities (one with a world-class CS department), a Polytechnic, and several Colleges of Further Education.

The non-Universities had their courses set up to serve the needs of local industry; because most of the available jobs in Edinburgh were with bank and insurance company IT departments (this was pre-outsourcing) there was an emphasis on databases and mainframes.

The Universities did a rather intensive course, that even then was spreading across different areas by third year; Because I was doing a joint EE course, I had to take all of the "close to the metal" modules; other classmates on the "pure" CS course took the more theoretical "formal methods" modules.

So when we saw new graduates, my pet question was to ask what happened inside a computer. If the interviewee had some basic understanding of the Von Neumann machine, they were a candidate for our team (writing hard-real-time embedded multiprocessor systems in C and Assembler). If they didn't know what happened on the other side of the screen, but looked as if they could program, they were a candidate for the team we had writing ADA. If they were happiest with a spreadsheet or a database, we said goodbye...

In the 90s, our firm decided to add software apprenticeships to go with the craft and mechanical streams we already had, but outsourced the early training to the former Leith Nautical College (their building is shaped like a ship, it's rather impressive). The firm got to specify the modules that they were taught, and they were down to bare metal quite happily, so I regard any lack of skills as a function of the taught syllabus. I did pity the course lecturers, though - the apprentices were getting briefed back at the firm by some fairly capable people, and their course notes were getting red-inked by people who knew the subject in depth...

214:

Why stop there? You could categorize languages based on the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, which might include the following:

Languages that belong to a corporation
Dead languages;
Insane languages;
Imaginary languages;
Languages included in this category;
Languages that, at a distance, resemble Lisp

and so forth...

215:

>>>There has been a lot of genuine political change in Europe since 1945, and since 1989-91. Yes, there are flashpoints that could turn hot -- but not in a war of nation against nation manner.

If Golden Dawn comes to power in Greece, I can totally see Germany invading them.

216:

If Golden Dawn comes to power in Greece, I can totally see Germany invading them.

Ok, I'll bite. Exactly how does the German army get to Greece without violating the sovereignty of several other nations en route?

217:

If Golden Dawn comes to power in Greece, I can totally see Germany invading them.

You missed Hungary drifting towards becoming a right-wing one party state over the past two years under Fidesz control. Merkel apparently confined herself to stern finger-wagging.

I think it'd take more than a Golden Dawn government to trigger German military activity.

218:

"the "special relationship" was most recently exemplified by Tony Blair's idiotic willingness to sign up for George W. Bush's Iraq adventure.)"

We can't go to war without the Brits. It just simply isn't done.

219:

How about ditching the EU and joining NAFTA?

Or be a member of both?

Just thinking outside the box.....

220:

"Basically that's a late 19th century racist pipe-dream you're smoking."

Would an Anglosphere be more palatable if it included South Africa and India?

221:

"Moreover, research shows that the children of recent immigrants to the US (including Spanish speakers) are learning English -- and losing their parents' or grandparents' language -- faster than was the case in the 19th Century."

And Hispanic immigrants are inter-marrying with Anglos faster than Italian and Greek immigrants 100 years ago.

If any nation has to worry about breaking up as a result of a "Spanglish" America, it is Mexico. Its northern states are economically more closely integrated with the USA than with Mexico City. Chihuahua will secede to the USA before New Mexico forms Aztlan.

Moot point though. Mexican birth rates are dropping like a rock. In another generation, there won't be enough Mexicans crossing the Rio Grande, legally or illegally.

Then we'll have to pay $10 for a head of lettuce.

222:

$ANGLOSPHERE also needs to include Nigeria and Pakistan, both of which have large numbers of English speakers. And Germany, which has >50% English penetration (and, numerically, only about 20% fewer English speakers than the UK).

223:

Concerning UK devolution:

The large, centralized nation state can be considered the product of the industrial age (created by the Glorious revolution in Britain, then the French Revolution in France, followed by Bismark in Germany and Lincoln in the US). But in a post-industrial world isn't the nation state passe? Perhaps the city state is the appropriate polity for the 21st century?

America is also subject to devolution. I have never seen our country this culturally divided since the 60s. Politically we have never been this divided and paralyzed since before the actual Civil War.

224:

Eldest Son is currently learning to program at University, he's learning old-school C (no ++, no #) and will be moving on to DSP algorithms shortly. This seems slightly surreal as rather than CS, EE, or a hard engineering discipline he's actually doing this stuff alongside courses in music theory, musicology, practical sessions in studio and live recording techniques, live sound production, and location sound recording on his way towards a degree in Music Technology and Audio Engineering...

I want to do his course so badly it almost hurts. If I could afford it and it wouldn't have caused him to shrivel up and die of embarrassment I'd have signed myself up on the spot when we did the open day tour, as it is, on the basis of the stuff I've been helping him with now and again and the progress he's making I'm kind of hoping to get him in as an intern at work over summer as he's going to be loads better prepared for what we do than the CS students I've seen from the local University and I'm already mentally setting aside some juicy test cases for him to code. :-)

225:

Excellent point, but I think demographics will ensure that general warfare in Europe (and world wide) is impossible.

Any country with fewer children than seniors will not risk its future existence by sacrificing a generation on a battlefield.

Any country with grey demographics, top heavy with seniors, simply can't go to war. And soon, every country outside of sub-Saharan Africa will go gray (except posssibly India).

Old slogan - What if they gave a war an nobody came?

New slogan - What if they gave a war and there was nobody to send?

226:

We already have an English speaking union.

It's called "the world".

227:

"The fact that Germany had, and still has, a huge American military presence in residence"

As an American tax payer, I have to ask what the heck are we still doing there with a large armored force in central Germany?

Is there a threat that Lithuania may invade?

Keeping a large ground force on the DMZ in Korea makes sense, but why do we still need to defend the Fulda Gap?

228:

Anyone who speaks 3 languages is tri-lingual.

Anyone who speaks 2 languages is bi-lingual.

Anyone who speaks 1 language is an American. ;-)

229:

You might also be asking why the US arms budget is as much as that of the rest of the world put together!

But more seriously, why Germany? (Or here in the UK, come to that.) Because those bases already exist, and it's not too far from various places where the US forces like to stomp around and kill the locals. US defence policy is to maintain the ability to attack anyone anywhere in the world at any time. You can't do that if you have to start off from Wyoming or wherever each time.

230:

Nice one! I'd forgotten the name of that encyclopedia, and couldn't remember enough list entries to re-find it....

231:

So in a slightly relevant note, the European Parliament Press Office has published their thoughts on an exchange with a Daily Express reporter over a public education campaign about said parliament

http://www.europarl.org.uk/view/en/media/Euromyths/education.html

232:

Did those maths graduates study something different from "four years of theorem proving and higher math"? If so, what did they study?

Almost certainly they did. First, the higher maths that the computer scientists did will have been oriented towards computer science. E.g. stuff that's useful in designing compilers or making programs that learn. Second, "theorem proving" means something different to a computer scientist than to a mathematician. This is why:

In computing science, "theorem proving" is a specific topic. It's partly about how to prove that one program does the same thing as another. This is useful if, for example, you've written a program that's easy to understand but inefficient, and you want to transform it into a program that is more efficient (and, sadly, likely to be harder to understand). To avoid bugs, it's good to prove mathematically that the behaviours of both programs are the same, rather than relying on hand-waving and a few random tests.

Unfortunately, real-world programs can be horribly complicated, because the things they model are (think of any program written to handle income tax). So proving theorems about them is complicated too, and impossible for people to do without error. Which rather defeats its purpose. So computer scientists have developed "mechanical theorem provers", i.e. programs that automate proofs. And a second part of the topic of theorem-proving is about how to use these.

A third part is about how to prove theorems efficiently. This involves reasoning about one's own thought processes: such things as when to change abstraction levels, and in which order to apply other theorems that might be useful. The study of such "meta-level reasoning" leads into Artificial Intelligence. To give the flavour, look at section C of Mecho: Year One. This describes a 1970's AI project done at Edinburgh, to write a program that could read 'A'-level mechanics problems, turn them into equations, and then solve the equations. Section C describes the equation solver, and the rules that enabled it to choose the best strategy at each step. The way computer scientists think about theorem proving is similar.

In contrast to computer scientists, mathematicians tend not to think about theorem proving in this meta fashion. They just sort of hack around until they've got from what they know to what they want to prove. So to a mathematician, "theorem proving" is just what you do as the main part of your job.

~~~~~

(The full reference is:
Mecho: Year One
Bundy, A. , Luger, G. , Stone, M. & Welham, R. (1976)
In: Proceedings of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour.)

233:

As an American tax payer, I have to ask what the heck are we still doing there with a large armored force in central Germany?

It's halfway to the middle east from the US east coast. And there are some huge USAF bases in Germany, with associated tank parks. If you think of it in terms of a major logistics hub for staging to the ME, Africa, and Afghanistan, does that make more sense to you?

234:

No, these are the kinds of computer languages.

Apple ][ Basic
Sinclair Basic
BBC Basic
Z80
6502

and then there are the incomprehensible and strange ones.

I can knock up a bash script, given time and man pages. About 30 years ago I could get stuff done in Pascal, but I wouldn't know where to start these days. As for all these "newfangled" languages (some of which are older than me) I neither know nor care what an "object" is, nor do I wish to learn.

235:

I agree that nobody is eager for conquest in western Europe (Russia is another matter), but I think the military situation determined the political situation instead of the reverse.

I'd say that the political change is mostly due to the fact that all non-elderly Europeans grew up under circumstances where regional military conquest didn't make sense, and that the reason military conquest didn't make sense was due significantly to the American military presence (especially in West Germany) plus the French and British nuclear deterrents.

It is a great luxury to know with certainty that war would not benefit your rivals, and that your rivals know it too. Prior to 1945, no European nation had had that luxury for quite some time (except Switzerland, maybe).

236:

@220:
Would an Anglosphere be more palatable if it included South Africa and India?
---
I've known various Pakistanis who would probably be surprised if someone suggested they weren't part of the Anglosphere.

237:

They will send drones... Big Drones, Little Drones, Swarms of Bloody drones variously armed.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/03/darpa-drones-ships/

Drones for every occasion; save for those odd occasions when you just have to send young men and women and then the Soldiers will be of every kind of technologically enhanced Special Forces. And by Technologically Enhanced I DO mean Bio Engineered and maybe even Bio Engineered Pre Birth. Why not?

We are on the Cusp of a new kind of arms race. The old have always been prepared to sacrifice their children for the Greater Good of defending The Righteous against the Un-Godly.

Given the right kind of political/religious creed /cult soldiers on demand pre-programmed for faith and equipped with a handy toolkit of physical abilities practically becomes a religious requirement ..was not “ Whatisface willing to Sacrifice his Son Thingamygumy “ and so forth? Somthing like that anyway. It's bound to be in The Good Book and if it isn't they will pretty sharply find a new Good Book.

Some things Never change, they just change shape to match the demands of the time and politicians of whatever stamp do dearly love to be able to command lethal force.

238:

And why not include the French. Lots of English speaking French people living and working in London at the moment...

" London, France's sixth biggest city .... More French people live in London than in Bordeaux, Nantes or Strasbourg and some now regard it as France's sixth biggest city in terms of population. "

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18234930


239:

As for all these "newfangled" languages (some of which are older than me) I neither know nor care what an "object" is, nor do I wish to learn.

Objects are what you probably made anyway if you were a sensible programmer - keep all the stuff together that belongs together, avoid cutting and pasting large sections of code by putting it into subroutines that can be reused, and try to avoid turning everything into a rat's nest of control logic.

IMHO the newer languages just make it easier to achieve this stuff implicitly through language features, rather than through good self-discipline on the part of the coder...

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who call themselves "software engineers" who are in reality "programmers". They can make the program do what they need, to solve their current problem situation; they just can't seem to do it in a way that results in a consistent and clean design that will avoid the next ten problems.

:) You can write rubbish code in any language. Complicated languages just make it easier to wave your hands and spout plausible buzzwords that you don't really understand :)

240:

I'm wary of diverting this into a programming argument, but I get the impression that writing a good program is far more complicated than it was when Charlie did his CS degree. I've just had cause to look up threading. I can follow the basic idea, but then they talk about bugs, about things such as race conditions, and it's a whole new world to what I did in ancient times.

These days, a lot of the bugs just cannot be found by reading source code.

241:

OGH writes:
I think it would be a really bad idea to dismiss an institution which has cemented such a peace, don't you?

Keep in mind that the current US federal government structure is the 2.27 version of the idea.

We had to literally throw the 1.0 out with the bathwater and start over again, about 15 years in.

Without rejecting the idea of the EU entirely, I believe that you need a 2.0 draft. And some better ideas about separation of powers and checks and balances. Those were one of the big innovations in the 2.0 of the US Constitution, which Europe has seemed reluctant to notice.

242:

I think the Anglosphere would have more to do with cultural and legal traditions than language, though language is clearly a prerequisite for it. That would rule out India, Pakistan and the secondary language speakers in Germany, France, China, Holland, etc.

The fact that all these people learn English, however, is demonstrative of British and American military and economic power for so long. It has created a cultural penumbra-- or, now, more global cultural medium that has greater numbers of contributors.

The whole thing is unworkable anyway - we can fret and wring our hands about political unions all we want; the primary driver of the global economic system today is transnational capitalism.

243:

What happened after version 2.0 of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights was put in place? Oh yes, the 3/5ths compromise, displacement and extermination of the local indigenes and finally the American Civil War. Really we in the EU don't want to screw up royally like your Founding Slaveowners^WPropertied White Men^W^W^WFathers did, so we'll pass thank you very much.

The EU has in fact been evolving from its roots in the post-war Franco-German Steel and Coal pact through the EFTA, the EEC and now the EU. Change comes and is accepted and progress made. There are no mass political groupings in the EU wandering around wearing Redcoat or even Napoleonic-era Grenadier uniforms as in the US, thank the non-existent Lord.

244:

...And some better ideas about separation of powers and checks and balances. Those were one of the big innovations in the 2.0 of the US Constitution, which Europe has seemed reluctant to notice.

I'm not sure which European countries you mean... I'm struggling to think of any that don't separate their powers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_powers

PS. Thirteenth amendment, and the three-fifths compromise. The US Constitution was a few decades behind Europe on that one...

245:

I'd point out that when the Constitution was adopted in 1787, screwed by the Triangle trade and slavery as it was, it was still far superior to the kings, queens, and princelings of Europe of the time.

Plus, we hit the big reset button in 1868 with passage of the 14th, 15th, and 16th Amendments (the true "2.0") that explicitly provides for equality, due process, and equal protection (none of which the UK, to my knowledge, has ever actually written down as the supreme law of the land). And in 1865, y'all (yes, I'm from the South) still had a (literally) big fat queen, so... be careful about the anachronistic cherry-picking, my friend.

246:

*1868

And we might have a bunch of tea party "patriots" but we don't have people screaming racist epithets at soccer games. So, you know. Pick your poison.

247:

then they talk about bugs, about things such as race conditions, and it's a whole new world to what I did in ancient times

Back in the 1980s, when I was programming at BNR (later Nortel Technologies) we had multiple processes running on multiple processors, race conditions, and so on to worry about. Telephony software has been massively parallel from the get-go.

248:

How much equal protection did the American tribes get under law from the later Amendments? Black folks?

In 1865 Queen Victoria was a powerless figurehead, much as British royalty had been since Charles I tried arguing differently and was sent to argue the Divine Right of Kings with a Higher Authority. Since he didn't come back we went with Parliament being in charge from then on.

As for the "supreme law of the land", the UK doesn't go along with the idea that a bunch of rich grasping slaveowners two hundred years rotting in their well-deserved graves should determine how a country in the 21st century organises itself. All we got is a thousand years of customs and good intentions flying in close formation, any and all of which we can abandon or alter whenever we need to unlike the coprolithic Constitution of the United States. Death penalty? Fucking stupid in today's world so out it goes. Inter-racial marriage, why would that be against the law in the first place? DADT? You got to be kidding me. Partnerships with civil benefits, embryology research, abortion on demand, we wanted them and we got them.

249:

Actually, one could argue we can talk about military conquest being possible only because of USian presence...

You see, one of the things that came out of WWII was the total disarmament of Germany. As for the Germans, a sizeable proportion of the Germans were quite happy with it, some not, but whatever. At the very least, in 1949 our Bundestag decided it didn't want military rearmament.

Between this and the Cold War getting somewhat hotter in the early 50s with Korea, we had two developments:

a) there were plans for a rearmament of Germany by the Germans under Konrad Adenauer, where reaction was somewhat divided, both in government and opposition.

b) the Western Allies wanted Western German help against the Soviets.

And as we all now, in 1955 the Bundeswehr was created.

Now on May 2, 1950, the USian JCS had this to say about German rearmament:

"The Joint Chiefs of Staff are firmly of the opinion that, from the military point of view, the appropriate and early rearming of Western Germany is of fundamental importance to the defense of Western Europe against the USSR"

So well, one could argue about US troops keeping the German military from invading France, but it's quite likely that without the US troops, there would be no German military. Even so, there was some opposition, the French didn't like the idea of a German army at all and proposed a joint European force.

Please note that I'm simplifying here, and the German political elite's founding myth going to this time doesn't make it any clearer. And sorting out JCS vs. Truman, Adenauer vs. Heinemann etc. is quite complex, where IMHO Adenauer is so soapy you could polish the Reichstag with him.

That this was the time of a proposal for reunification by Stalin doesn't make the situation any clearer:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalin_Note

So in the end, we got a new army in Western Germany to help NATO, with lots of new soldiers and lots of old nazis. That the Soviets did similar in Eastern Germany incidentally doesn't make it any better. If you excuse me, I'm not that sure if I'm too cynical, just right or still not cynical enough.

As for an overview of German rearmament, there might be this:

http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a191614.pdf

250:

IMHO, I think Dan is right, the "Anglosphere" has far more to do with cultural and legal traditions than language. In fact, I can conceive of an "Anglosphere" that doesn't even speak English.

It would be a grouping based on decentralised power and the idea that laws should evolve out of society and should always be constrained by checks and balances... The idea that the rights and powers of the human members of society are more important than efficiency and regulation. The idea that protecting individuals is just as important as the group agenda.
A healthy dislike of demonising minorities. A suspicion of unelected "expert" committees and cost effective, single house governing bodies.


251:
There are no mass political groupings in the EU wandering around wearing Redcoat or even Napoleonic-era Grenadier uniforms as in the US

Now careful, there are people here who have quite a soft spot for historical reenactment. Though of course that means critical reassesment.

252:

Well, first of, IMHO the Cold War was not so much about Capitalism vs. Communism but more about the various Western interests vs. the various Eastern interests. Where both Russia and China are still with us, and there are some smaller players.

Second of, well, as OGH said, Germany is quite central logistically speaking. And I don't have the numbers at hand, but I guess a airforce base on land is not that much more expensive and a logistic nightmare than, say, a carrier group, though I might be mistaken.

As for your question what your military is doing with USian taxpayer's money, geez, we ask that ourselves quite often. ;)

253:

All right, I'll not take the bait. You're a very patriotic person. Wonderful. Just be aware that a number of groups around the world do not share your unmitigated appreciation for the miracle of British moral superiority and its governmental apparatus. Like, say the Irish. Or Argentinians (germane, since one's now a pope). (Stopping there.)

In my country, we've had our problems and outrages, and it goes on... and your reference to native Americans' subjugation strikes a bit deep, since some of my poor ancestors walked that Trail of Tears. It's the horrible context of the times - context not acting as an apology but an explanation; and we move forward (one hopes), ploddingly, along with the rest of humankind.

254:

And all that BNR research showed up in Northern Telecom switches! There was nothing better than a NT digital switch by the end of the 80s! Nothing Ericsson made was close to it.

Ah, the good old days. Now, everyting BNR, everything NT is dead and buried.

255:

oh my lord. The main reason there has not been another European world war is all those nuclear missiles everyone has pointed at everyone else. It has absolutely jack all to do with the EU or any of it's predecessors. Conventional military forces also have jack all to do with keeping the European peace. It's all about the nukes kids

256:

Nojay -

You seem to have completely and totally missed my points.

The two points were:

1. The EU organizational structure is on 1.something and needs to be on 2.something. Reorganizing is not a bad thing, it's demonstrably a good thing.

2. The US separation of powers and checks and balances are features of government that are exceptionally important and the EU structure did not adequately take notice of. The separations of powers between "the core EU" and "the individual countries" were inconsistent and arbitrary and ineffective (no true Federalism but too entangled to just be a confederation). The separations of powers, and the powers and responsibilities within the EU organization branches, were done poorly as well.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with US moral superiority or lack thereof relative to European regimes, in terms of behavior over the last 250 or so years. No nation's behavior over those time periods stands up as consistently, without exception honorable. Nor do any of them comport with 20th century human rights standards until well within the late 20th century.

It's only and entirely about governmental structures, lessons learned about thereof.

257:

'The US separation of powers and checks and balances are features of government that are exceptionally important'

I think it possible the offending expression here is 'US'. European states do have the same constitutional model as the US: written constitutions and separation of powers with inbuilt checks and balances. There is also some relevant experience with federal constitutions.
It's not that we don't know what to do or aim for. The devil is in the detail.

258:

Actually, processes, threads, concurrency, race conditions, and techniques for managing them were all part of the degree course I did back in 1989-90.

But the graphical user interface stuff? Nope, not at all. We were working on dumb terminals hanging off Sun 4 servers running SunOS 4.3; the multi-year postgrads and stuff had Sun 3/60 workstations with a whopping 4Mb or 16Mb of RAM, running the NeWS windowing system (no new-fangled X11 at that point). OOP was barely touched on. Regression testing and test harnesses had barely been noticed by most programmers. Functional languages didn't exist, and neither did some of the more widespread modern software engineering methodologies. On the other hand, mandatory chunks of coursework included being able to write a "hello world" in Z80 assembler and hand-toggle it into a funky little Z80 teaching platform they had, and being able to design some gate-level circuits to control traffic lights at a junction or similar (ensuring the lights on intersecting roads changed through their four states in lockstep).

So I got a chunk of low-level stuff, but lots of what the equivalent courses teach today simply didn't exist.

259:

Yeah, we probably could use EU 2.0. Trouble is, it'd be a really bad time to design it when two of the Big Three are not playing ball (UK: lots of people are half in favour of quitting entirely; Germany: don't see why running the currency entirely for the benefit of German industry is damaging their own export markets in the south).

If we'd avoided enlargement eastwards in the 1990s ... the western EU is on course to be majority bilingual with English as at least a second language by the middle of the century. At which point, with the language barriers crumbling, really tight integration -- something along the lines of US federalism -- would be practical. But expansion (pushed for by the US State Department to (a) distract the Germans and (b) absorb the former Warsaw Pact before Russia got its shit back together) has clobbered any hope of that kind of union in the short term.

260:

Plus, we hit the big reset button in 1868 with passage of the 14th, 15th, and 16th Amendments (the true "2.0") that explicitly provides for equality, due process, and equal protection (none of which the UK, to my knowledge, has ever actually written down as the supreme law of the land

It's in the bill of rights passed under Tony Blair back in the 1990s. Brings us into compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Declaration of Human Rights (which the ECHR is based on -- pushed for largely by some guy named Winston Churchill in the late 1940s).

Unfortunately the British constitution consists of 18 modules of self-modifying code rather than a monolithic kernel, and the Conservatives want to ditch the Human Rights Act, for no sane reason (other than newspaper editorials in the Daily Heil, and a tendency for British judges to interpret the HRA in the most liberal way they can, undermining the authoritarian tendencies of successive Home Secretaries). Luckily they don't get to do that unless they win re-election in 2015, which right now looks, shall we say, unlikely.

261:

Zhochaka @ 192
Very convenient excuse. Not buying it.
What happens if our parliament tells “Europe” to stuff a particular piece of legislation?
And/or/contrariwise, how come other EU countries apparently havr the same rules, but in practice … don’t?
And what about the corporate corruption & interference?

Trottelreiner @ 194
Actually a Laputan guvmint would be an improvement on any we have at the present!

RD South @ 184
I NOTE THAT Beppo Grillo in Italy is calling for serious EU reform & possibly going back to the lira – but NOT calling for EUexit.
As is a prominent Tory MP in today;s “Telegraph” …
I think they may be correct – now – how AGAIN do we actually get EU reform?

[ & Geo Herbert @ 241, also ]

Alariste @ 197
I suggest you read the comment immediately above my reply to you, here, calling for reform.
I would welcome reform, but I happen to think, at present it’s impossible. I’d love to be wrong.

Sasquattch @ 201
Oh, yeah? And it (We, the USA) made significant contributions during the Falklands conflict. Like having to have your arms twisted, because of the sacred Monroe doctrine? Or being reminded that, actually Ascencion Island is ours, & you DID want to go on using the facilities?
And, how, recently, the USA has again been VERY lukewarm re Falklands … at least until there was this embarrassing referendum?
Nice propaganda try, no banana.(republic)

Andreas Vox @ 204
Very noticeable, isn’t it?
I also know that Asian-descended people here don’t also trust them one bit, either. (Or so one of my neighbours, whose grandparents fled from Kashmir tells me)
Reason? They are perceived as thieves, & that if they are in the area, you’d better nail everything down. May not be true, but that is the perception.

Go captain @ 207
Actually, it does demand a unity of response, if “the enemy” in Mali is the same as in Algeria & Afghanistan or Saudi, & that enemy seems determined to export their primitive & murderous beliefs to us, via bombers & terrorists,
Which reminds me, I see another murderous lying body/corporation has elected a new leader … An Argentinian Jesuit, no less – I suppose it could have been worse – it could have been a Dominican, shudder.
And both those enemies are best fought with word & education, in the long term, at least.

Akicf @ 208
There are none.
What has happened is a revised set of directives on use of fungicides & some pesticides.
Commercial farmers can use them, but we can’t, even a fungicide that stops blight in its tracks, & turns into a fertiliser after 2-3 days (!)
Corporate corrupt & bullying.
Can’t use “Bordeaux mixture” either, any more …..
Pesticides, OK, some of them needed banning, but ….
Needless to say, a lot of us are quite simply ignoring & defying this law.
Not good, is it?

frithiof.jensen @ 212
Precisely – THAT is the corporate fascist future I’m afraid of.

dd @ 220
Yes, I would welcome that.
Like I said, Charlie is fighting the last war … yes racism still exists & it’s nasty, but it isn’t nearly the problem it was in the 70’ -90’s
[ Not-so-irrelevant question: Why did MetPlod PREFER to be thought & labelled “institutionally racist” rather than admit that some of its’ senior & not so senior cops were bent & on the take from local gangs, huh? ]

& @ 225
What does one make of Putin’s Russia or Belarus, then? As both are nasty bullying torturing autarkies …

Charlie @ 222
Err … 95% of the Dutch speak good English
Some Italian & Chinese degree courses are being taught in English …. & other countries as well …..

Strummist @ 234
You forgot FORTRAN !!

Arnold @ 237
See also my reply to go-captain #207, back up this long reply …..
We are almost certainly going to have to fight a war against the resuscitated Nazis (“After each defeat & a respite, the Shadow takes a new form & grows again”) who now call themselves the followers of Khalifah, or something similar. Again, I’d dearly love to be wrong, but ….

Nojay @ 247
To which I may add the Mansfield decision/judgement of 1772
“The air of England is too pure for a slave to breathe”
And THAT WAS IT …
We don’t have (except very recently) specific anti-slavery legislation on the books – the Common Law screwed it. And Washington & his greedy friends noticed, & saw that the laws we passed, eventually in 1807 & 1832, were inevitable & “rebelled” against Britain, to save their commercial interests 4 years later, didn’t they?
Oops.

Dan @ 252
I note your profound ignorance of our history & structures – for instance:
We have had the ghastly problem in Ireland, where both (of at least 3) “sides” took it in turn to screw up any potential solutions, usually killing quite a few innocent bystanders in the process.
I am in favour of writing off (at least) 1886-1998 as a total disaster & starting again. Don’t just blame “the English” - it ain’t so & never was … this is not to admit that it was horrible. As for Argentina, it very nearly joined what was then the Empire, as a Dominion (like Aus & NZ) back in the early 1900’s – but there was (another) man-on-horseback military coup which screwed that one. Which was a pity.
You obviously haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about, given your belief that we are an actual 17th C “monarchy", rather than a republic with an hereditary Head of State – which is the actual case ….

G h @ 255
Aagin - I ask:
HOW THE FUCK do we get serious reform of the EU, before it collapses into a corporate, corrupt super-state, please?
This would be preferable to “UK OUT”, but I can see no mechanism for this desirable outcome.

262:

Germany? Not a chance, even if it were to stop Nazis.

Assuming Golden Dawn came to power - highly unlikely in my humble opinion - Greece would probably leave the Union or be expelled/suspended.

NATO and/or EU could conceivably intervene, and a 'coalition of the willing' led by France & Britain would be even more probable, but Germany intervening militarily in another European country is one of those things that simply isn't done. Because of the Little Tramp, of course.

Besides, intervention would necessarily involve not only expelling Nazis but imposing at least some measure of 'austerity' too. That would make most unwise deploying German troops for any length of time.

263:

I know someone who calls himself a "software engineer" and boast that "I can write Fortran in anything". I presume that you see the mismatch.

264:

Greg, I agree that there is a dash of "convenient excuse" in the process by which EU directives enter national law, but it remains true that British MPs have the chance to look at the details, and they do not.

And that is why different EU countries end up with slightly different versions of the same bit of law, and why the EU has its own judicial system to resolve disputes over whether a particular country does things sufficiently right that the differences don't matter.

Much of the anti-EU movement doesn't seem to care about the details of how these things happen.

I'll give you a small example. The EU wanted a common standard for slaughterhouses, with such things as animal health checks. Their directive specified that the checks had to be done by somebody with a veterinary qualification, which means they wanted people who knew what they were doing.

The UK Government chose to specify a fully-qualified Veterinary Surgeon rather than a lower grade of qualification (such as the equivalent of a specialist nurse or a paramedic in human medicine). Since it's clearly not in inadequate implementation, this didn't get near the EU's judicial checks.

There were not enough vets in the UK. Most of the vets doing this work were migrants from other EU countries. That's how the EU is supposed to work: free movement of labour as well as of goods. And that all worked out rather well for the detection of both BSE and Foot and Mouth disease, though neither really needs a fully-qualified Vet.

OK, I don't expect you guys to know that particular example. I'm the one who was a farmer, and went to National Farmers Union meetings, and got to know what was happening. I'm the one who took the trouble to find out how these things work.

Greg, don't fall for the propaganda. I don't think there is anything special about either the EU or the British parliaments. There's that corporate tendency to sociopathy which seems to have leaked into politics. (Look at what the EU is doing to Greece and Spain and tell me it doesn't look sociopathic.) You're saying get out of Europe, because of the way that the British Parliament makes the laws that implement what Europe wants. But what do those sociopathic corporate lickspittles in Westminster want to do to us?

As long as they're wasting time and energy on their childish squabbling, we have some chance. But you'd sell them the rope they need to hang us.

265:

Of course you might end up on the guillotine (or worse) if you suggest to French people that they are part of the Anglosphere...

266:

Charlie @258, I really don't see how the EU could have avoided eastwards expansion in the 1990s. And I think you're being very much Anglo-centric in thinking that the US state department was the driving force.

Czechoslovakia (then), Hungary, Poland, ... these are long-established "European" countries with historical ties to Germany, Italy, Austria, ... If the French and Germans could get along in the EU, why not Germans and Poles? And these countries really, really wanted in, and even in the 1990s that would make a welcome change to English grumbling.

Eastern Europeans don't seem any less reluctant to learn English as a second language, so the majority bilingual looks like coming true anyway.

267:

Greg @ 260: You say "What happens if our parliament tells “Europe” to stuff a particular piece of legislation?" followed by "And/or/contrariwise, how come other EU countries apparently havr the same rules, but in practice … don’t?"

Does that not indicate to you that perhaps it is not "Europe" but our own Parliament that is to blame?

If you ever look at the Euromyths website you'll find that almost every single point they debunk is down to either wilful misreadings by journalists or deliberate misimplementation by our government.

Speaking as a (former) organic chemist, biomolecular modeller and (briefly) drug designer, I'd say that yes, you're quite correct: there's a serious problem with the revised directives on *cides -they don't go anything like far enough!

No doubt Zhochaka will be along in a bit to provide more detail one way or the other on this, though, so I'll shut up.

268:

I’m not sure we could have done anything other than expand the EU eastwards. Especially with the context of the Balkans.

I think we were probably ideologically committed to it by the stance we’d taken during the Cold War that democracy and freedom brought peace and prosperity to all and all were welcome.

And I think it’s worked out okay for everyone involved.

269:
...but Germany intervening militarily in another European country is one of those things that simply isn't done.

Err, we already did it...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1995_NATO_bombing_campaign_in_Bosnia_and_Herzegovina#Campaign

Now incidentally, that was under a center-left government, e.g. Social Democrats and Greens.

See the complaint of parts of the German Left, "it took a leftist government to use the German military abroad again, and on the Balkan, for God's sake". Err[1].

At the moment, we have a somewhat right of the center government, which would mean they had to get it through with the opposition, e.g. Social Democrats, Greens and Leftists. Somewhat unlikely, though strange things happen.

As for a new government, well, there are rumors the Liberals won't make it next time, which could mean a coalition of Christian and Social Democrats, with an opposition of Liberals, Greens and Leftists. Or Christian or Social Democrats with Greens. In the case of Social Democrats and Greens, there is some murmur, especially with scare-mongering Conservatives and Liberals, of some support from the Leftists. Where those are somewhat pro-human rights, anti-military intervention, though of course that's only if the human right abuses or military interventions in question are not in accordance with international proletarian solidarity. Err. Did I forget something?

Cynical Take: The more "leftist" the next German government, the higher the chance of an intervention.

[1] My personal opinion about what should happen to nearly ALL politicians and military involved, e.g. "Croatians" and "Serbians" elites fostering ethnic identities to enlarge their share of the cake, Europe, US and Russia acting in accordance with their interest spheres etc. is not fit for publication.

270:

... displacement and extermination of the local indigenes and finally the American Civil War. Really we in the EU don't want to screw up royally like your Founding Slaveowners^WPropertied White Men^W^W^WFathers did, so we'll pass thank you very much.

That's OK, you already took care of doing all that stuff.
(See: European history up through the middle of the 20th Century.)

... any and all of which we can abandon or alter whenever we need to unlike the coprolithic Constitution of the United States. Death penalty? Fucking stupid in today's world so out it goes. Inter-racial marriage, why would that be against the law in the first place? DADT?

All of that has nothing whatsoever to do with the US Constitution, so I really don't see what your point is. (Well, there's an exception of sorts to that: Supreme Court rulings mean that if any US state -- or Congress -- wanted to re-introduce laws banning interracial marriage, they couldn't. This is, admittedly, a freedom the UK has that the US doesn't: there's nothing in the British "constitution" that explicitly and absolutely prevents Parliament from making interracial marriages illegal, if they really wanted to.)

271:

Are the EU's current problems just a bigger version of what Germany went through when West Germany absorbed East Germany, and with it a greate deal of decrepit infrastructure, obsolete industries and unemployable labor?

IOW, has the EU's absorbtion of eastern Europe and the Balkans caused the same kinds of problems Germany went through, only on a much larger scale?

272:

Err, with Bourdeaux mixture, you mean this one?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bordeaux_mixture

Where, well, copper ions are not that nice. It depends on the dosage though.

Funny thing, if you're into "ecological" agriculture, you're not allowed to use most of the *cides. There is one exception though for using copper salts...

Personally speaking, I prefer a organophosphate that hydrolyzes relatively fast to a toxic heavy metal that stays with us forever, if it's not washed out, which leads to other problems, but, well...

In other news, the head of the Green party just reminded us about the catastrophe of Fukushima with about 18.000 deaths. Should remind everyone about the dangers of nuclear power. Arrgh.

http://scienceblogs.de/frischer-wind/2013/03/11/wie-claudia-roth-mal-eine-der-schlimmsten-naturkatastrophen-des-jahrhunderts-unterschlug/

273:

I'm not current on pesticides.

There have been several practical problems in the past. Two things: the safety of some very old pesticides, which were tested under old sets of standards, and then the problem of specialised crops which are not grown on a large scale so how do you pay for the use-specific testing?

Frankly, some of the old pesticides we'd be well rid of, in terms of safety for the workers using them, and safety of consumers. One of the bizarre features is that some of these old pesticides are approved, for no good reason, for use on "organic" foods.

One more point: commercial farmers have to be trained is pesticide application, which includes stuff like getting the dose right, and proper use of protective clothing. Those rules just do not apply to domestic use. As a farmer, I was not allowed to keep pesticides in the same building as foodstuffs. Yet I can walk into a supermarket and buy herbicides and insecticides and dump them in the same basket as my fresh-baked French Stick, which isn't even a sealed packet.

Oh, I had incentives to use the correct dose: overdosing starts getting expensive when you work in hectares.

And some of those pesticides I was allowed to use? They were close cousins of nerve gases—acetylcholine inhibitors if I recall right—and no way should anyone be using those without protective clothing. I wish an alternative had been available.

That's why farmers are allowed to close public footpaths for the purposes of pesticide application, and why there are strict rules for the interval between application and harvest.

Did I follow all the rules? To be honest, I doubt it. Would I expect the average domestic gardener to follow any of the rules?

I couldn't possibly comment.

Greg, I tend to expect people contributing to this blog to have a clue. Do you have a suitable respirator? A face-shield? Nitrile gloves? That's the sort of protection you need for some of the pesticides they do not let you use on an allotment.

You're disappointing me.

274:

I agree. Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, etc, called at the door, EU couldn't reject them... and very specially couldn't accept East Germany and reject the rest! In addition, all things considered I don't think Eastern countries have been difficult members, certainly no more than some 'old hands'.

@Trottelreiner

I meant Germany alone. Germany can't do, for example, what France is doing in Mali. However if NATO or EU did run the show German troops could perfectly take part, but Angela Merkel flatly refused to involve German troops in Libya (IIRC she even retired German crewmen from NATO AWACS on the Mediterranean).

275:

I'm sure that's an element of it, although there has been foreign investment in these countries for a long time. There was a time in the early Nineties when there was a huge rush to invest in these new markets. Even my quite ordinary small-town accountant was hearing about the opportunities, and the pitfalls.

That is part of why there are so many Russian billionaires. And when the stories included ex-KGB minders to protect you from the Russian gangsters, it's not hard to wonder how some of those billionaires accumulated their money.

The former-satellite countries might have been safer, but I am pretty sure a historian could see the same patterns as were repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade.

And you might well wonder about the way banks lent money to Greece, in particular, and are now playing their "Get Out Of Debt Free" card.

276:

That Bordeaux Mixture certainly sounds like the sort of stuff that's traditional but nasty.

Slaked lime? "Unprotected exposure to Ca(OH)2 can pose health risks, so should be limited. It can cause severe skin irritation, chemical burns, blindness, or lung damage."

277:

This just in: EU Court strikes down Spanish Mortgages Law

Quoted from the news

"The case in question was first filed in 2011 by Mohamed Aziz against Caixa d’Estalvis de Catalunya, Tarragona i Manresa (CatalunyaCaixa). Aziz is a Moroccan national who was evicted from his home in January 2011."

"The appeal before the Court of Justice specifically addressed legal arguments regarding unfair terms in consumer contracts, particularly in mortgage loans; legal protection in enforcement proceedings; the imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations arising under the contract; and whether the acceleration of the loan by the creditor can be enforced."

Somehow I don't think 'Daily Heil' and the other usual suspects will give this poor Moroccan immigrant protected by EU directives a lot of coverage...

278:

I agree, Germany acting alone is highly unlikely, but in concert with NATO, it'd be not so.

But please note that Germany's reluctance with military intervention is maybe not just for political reasons.

At the moment, there are quite some moves to transform the Bundeswehr away from a draft-based system to a professional one. One of the reasons for this was that the draft system was not seen fit for out-of-area.

Now discussions about that one have been going for some time, and the last minister of defence being one Doctor Karl-Theodor zu didn't help the whole mess either.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl-Theodor_zu_Guttenberg#Federal_Minister_of_Defence

So it might not just be that the German government doesn't want to give military help, it might also be that she genuinely can't.

For the story about the AWACS, I'd have to check that one out, but since we have a Social Democratic, Green and Leftist opposition[1] that is not that keen on German soldiers abroad when they are not doing it, it might be down to internal pressure.

[1] The few downright Nazis that are in some local Eastern German bodies don't like out-of-area either, for similar reasons some Teabaggers don't like Iraq.

279:

If all those things aren't a Constitutional problem why do they end up before the US Supreme Court which is there mainly to adjudicate on whether something is Constitutional or not?

I mean, the PPACA was contested in the Supreme Court, a healthcare law which in any other free country in the world would be understood to be a matter for the legislature alone with no element of constitutionality in its passage into law but in the US anything modern can be tested and rejected by a panel of politically-connected mullahs in black robes on specious grounds as long as they mutter the sacred words like "interstate commerce" or "original intent". The fact that it is common to capitalise the words "Founding Fathers" shows just how deeply spiritualistic is the unthinking belief in the US Constitution and its Creators.

280:

Agrochemicals were a problem for the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq since a pesticide production line was pretty much indistinguishable from a chemical weapons plant at first glance. What's more a few quick plumbing changes, alter temps and pressures here and there, swap out a couple of precursors and Sarin's your Uncle.

281:

Well, I'm not that much a fan of our regulations concerning chemicals either, for cleaning closets, my saying is there are chemicals that do the job, e.g. NaOH, and the ones that are safe, and try to find a shop selling chemicals, and...
Still, regulation is necessary.

I just would like to have something licensing available for everyone. Not necessarily safe, see driving licenses, but than, you can grow tobacco and ricinus in your backyard. And educating people about the effects of the things they are handling.

On another forum, we had a model rocket guy who thought he developed manganism after working with permanganate, err.

282:

Zochoka @ 264
Would you be surprised to find that I agree with you ?
Particularly in your Phrase There's that corporate tendency to sociopathy which seems to have leaked into politics which is exactly what I’m complaining about.
… & akicf @ 267
or deliberate misimplementation by our government. … which is exactly what I’m complaining about.

@ 272& 273
Err READ WHAT I WROTE (please?)
I was very cautious on Pesticides – they have to be handled with great care.
But, the specific fungicides I listed …..
Brodeaux has been used for over 130 years, with no discernable ill-effects (though I would not recommend drinking it!)
The other stuff is still legal if you are an “agricultural user” but,” we (the corporates) don’t want petty individuals being able to protect their tomatoes & potatoes, do we – after all, then we can sell them our inferior overpriced stuff”. Indeed, there was an agrobusiness shill on the radio last Autumn complaining that allotments & individuals “Should not be allowed” to grow potatoes & tomatoes, because the blight spreads from them – you cynical lying bastard – I was fuming …..
And this particular substance is usually a powder – you sprinkle it (weighed or measured out) into your half-full container of water, top up whilst stirring, then spray. It oxydises into a FERTILISER for ghu’s sake after 2-3 days.
No this is state/corporate corruption.

283:

I am know how gas contracts work and very familiar with when they don't.
A UK out of the EU is not going to have bargaining power or any authority to force gas to flow to it as it soon will be a net importer. A freezing winter and a gas shortage do you think Europe will use the gas that may nominally be allocated for the UK? (supposed UAFG/compression cost increases). And there will be SFA the UK can do about it or get data to prove it in the short term.
Even the Ukraine did it to Europe to get through a nasty winter - paid for it after, and probably will still be paying for it.
Also a UK out of the EU is going to have a tougher time negotiating future transport across the EU regardless of its relationship with Gazprom.

284:

... a healthcare law which in any other free country in the world would be understood to be a matter for the legislature alone with no element of constitutionality in its passage into law...

Just because you haven't heard of health care laws being challenged on constitutional grounds and adjudicated by a supreme court in countries other than the US doesn't mean it hasn't happened. There are, for example, a number of European countries which include rights to health care in their constitutions; inevitably, this leads to regulations or legislation relating to health care ending up being adjudicated by the respective supreme or constitutional courts -- e.g., if it appears a regulation or law unfairly limits or obstructs access to health care. Here's a book which discusses some of these cases.

You seem to be working from an assumption that the US is unique in having a written constitution (which allows you to cherry-pick things you object to about the US and blame them on its constitution), while imagining that the UK's lack of same is somehow the norm for the rest of Europe, or the rest of the world. In fact, many countries have formal, written constitutions; the second oldest such is in Norway. The Norwegian constitution had its own bits of unpleasantness when it was adopted in 1814, such as an explicit ban on Jews, but they've managed to update it and remove things like that, as well as adding nice things to it like universal suffrage.

285:

@Nojay 279: This is perfectly normal in any country with a written constitution -- that is, practically all of them except the UK. Germany has a court whose entire job is to decide whether laws are constitutional: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Constitutional_Court_of_Germany
Even in the UK, the Supreme Court can and does strike down laws for being incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

In modern times, the US Constitution and Supreme Court have tended to influence law towards *broader* individual rights: Striking down laws against gay sex or interracial marriage, guaranteeing a right to abortion, and imposing various restrictions on the death penalty including a complete ban from 1972-76.

There is an interesting debate to be had on whether US governance is fit for the modern age, or is held back by undue veneration for the past... but you are really not addressing it.

@roberth2309 250: I see you are back to bravely defending sunshine and adorable kittens.

Pretty much any democratic government would agree these are Good Things in principle, including those in the EU. In some cases they live up to them better than the Anglos. For example England is one of the most centralised large political units in the world -- English county councils basically exist to implement diktat from Westminster, whereas their French and German counterparts have real power and autonomy.

286:

I think I was unclear. I wasn't talking about NI actually becoming independent itself (which is economically infeasible, and has been since at least the start of the Troubles), but rather about the possibility that they might join Scotland rather than stay with England and Wales following Scottish independence. As far as I'm aware nobody has seriously attempted to work out with which one unionists' loyalties lie more strongly, and I'm suggesting that it's not implausible that they might prefer the northern option if it appeared to be available.

Remember that, although unionists are loyal to Britain, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're particularly fond of Westminster; and they've felt burned by Westminster on a few occasions.

287:

I think the Anglosphere would have more to do with cultural and legal traditions than language, though language is clearly a prerequisite for it. That would rule out India, Pakistan ...


As royal.canadian.bandit noted previously, this would most definitely rule in India and Pakistan, given how strongly their legal traditions are based on English Common Law...

288:

That's a very interesting idea, particularly since there are Scots (and not just of an RC persuasion) who'd consider a negotiated union between Scotland and Ireland.

There may be some alternate history volumes lurking in here.

289:

A union between NI and an independent Scotland is certainly an interesting idea and I’d be fascinated to see what the response to the idea was from citizens of NI. And also from my fellow Scots.

I’m not that the idea would be terribly popular in Scotland. I’m not sure what Scotland gets out of the deal other than having to share our oil industry tax receipts with an additional million or so people, people who have a recent history of terrorism and civil disturbance.

290:

Interestingly, Kashmiris in India (outside of Kashmir) are stereotyped in a similar way to Roma in Europe. Probably the same for most excluded minority groups anywhere ever.

Oh, in my list of computer languages I forgot FORTH. I wish I'd had a Jupiter ACE. Just looked them up on $popularAuctionSite and bloody hell they sell for a lot these days. Someone must really love them.

291:

I'm as Scottish as you are. Also, I deliberately typed "Ireland" and not "Northern Ireland".

292:

Greg, I am pretty sure some of those message numbers have changed since you posted them.

293:

There are specific mentions of Northern Ireland in this context further up thread, which is why I mentioned Northern Ireland.

I don’t find the idea of a union with the Republic any more attractive than a union with a separatist NI. I think it would be a much harder sell than linking up with a Northern Ireland which had also recently left the UK.

294:

The subject has got bigger and the teaching has moved up in abstraction. Low level programming is properly taught as electrical/electronic/information engineering. Software Engineering deals with the methodologies of large-scale programs of which OOP is a part. Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android and whatever that new Windows phone thing is called are ALL programmed in OOP nowadays in C++, C#, Objective-C or Java. There are whole degrees in Games Programming, Web Programming, Network Engineering, Business Computing and whatnot. The majority of working programmers are employed in internal projects using Lotus, SAP, Access, Filemaker, C# , .NET and suchlike. Another huge group of programmers (probably more than are working on retail desktop software) are writing CMS or framework based Web Applications using Drupal, Joopla, CodeIgniter, Ruby on Rails, Wordpress and dozens of other systems.

295:

Paws @ 288
Indeed - in fact it is truly scary as a prospect -given the amount of blood that is often spilt at "auld firm" matches (temporarily suspended at present, of course) ....For more on Irish/Scots tie-ups I can do no better than recommend the appropriate section of: 1066 and all That Oh dear.

Strummist @ 290
Well, not my neighbour - his family is well-integrated - one of the nicest peple I know, fortunately. They had to flee the Pakistani "liberation army" how nice.

danieldwilliam ...
Precisely
Hence my comment(again) on the disatrous collection of murderouscock-ups that have bedevilled Ireland (all of it) since 1886, at least.

296:

I didn't say they deserved the reputation..

When I was robbed of all my money, passport and air ticket in Delhi, a Kashmiri family approached me and gave me somewhere to stay and a job. I can't imagine the opposite happening to a bewildered Indian in Trafalgar Square.

297:

That's actually a great idea for a military sci-fi novel:

In the future, due to the lack of young males, war is fought mostly with drones and robots, with thousands of mechs controlled by a few dozen actual human "soldiers" whose brains have been hacked (Borg-like) into the computers and sensors of their drones and robots.

Why? Because humans are too slow and AI is too stupid and predictable (computers remain will remain no better than high speed morons). But man+computer combines the best of both with human creativity, sneakiness and unpredictability mated with the computers' high processing speed. And if current drone warfare is any indication, you don't have to be young, physically fit or even agressive to be an effective soldier.

Each soldier is like a queen bee surrounded by an angry aggressive hive of drones, robotic tanks, intelligent mines, anti-missile lasers, hologram camouflage generators, full spectrum sensors and countermeasures, cumputer viruses and anti-virus software, etc. With each individual human directly controlling the firepower of a modern armored division. Each is tied into an overall defensive grid allowing instantaneous communication with other humans controlling battlefield, sea and orbiting space forces around the globe and in orbit, each with their own swarm of specialized drones and robotic weapons. The goal of a battle is to seek out and find the human controlling the opposite force and kill him like the queen of a hive. The enemy robots could continue fighting automatically, stupidly and predictable after their human controller is dead, but they won't last long.

298:

Now that we have a Jesuit pope, won't certain conservative religious types in the UK (especially Northern Ireland) go bonkers?

Aren't Jesuits the tradtional sneaky Papist villains of British Protesant folklore?

299:

'A Boy And His Tank' by Leo Frankowski. However, the author has a strong dislike of "feminists, liberals, and homosexuals."

It's not bad for milSF, and the author's politics are fairly typical for the genre.

300:

GoCaptain wrote:
'The US separation of powers and checks and balances are features of government that are exceptionally important'
I think it possible the offending expression here is 'US'. European states do have the same constitutional model as the US: written constitutions and separation of powers with inbuilt checks and balances. There is also some relevant experience with federal constitutions.
It's not that we don't know what to do or aim for. The devil is in the detail.

Some of the newer ones do, but there is a generally poor level of it. Separation of powers is not a European common governmental feature or - frankly - value, if you talk to political scientists over there. Lack of understanding of how that enables strongmen to turn to dictators and thence wars starting is highly unfortunate. Not every single person, but on the whole, there are blinders on over there on this.

And in the central EU organizational structure, it's like all those lessons are somewhere in a hypothetical future, not even invented yet in this timeline.

What you SHOULD have done - some time ago - was to shoot all the bureaucrats who came back with the EU 1.0 organizational structure for treason, and declared a renewed commitment to serious talks aiming for a balanced and legitimate common structure that had checks and balances.

301:

Greg:
G h @ 255
Aagin - I ask:
HOW THE FUCK do we get serious reform of the EU, before it collapses into a corporate, corrupt super-state, please?
This would be preferable to “UK OUT”, but I can see no mechanism for this desirable outcome.

You declare a constitutional convention, show up, rewrite the rules, and have all the countries vote on adopting them. They all withdraw from the "EU" and join "EU 2.0" or whatever you call it. "EU" then is simply shut down.

That the EU organization has no mechanism for this more or less is part of the defining problem. You don't do constitutions like the EU did its constitution. If you can't write it on a few pages of paper you need to throw it away and if necessary shoot and replace the negotiators. The only exception valid for Europe is that versions of it in multiple languages are mandatory, but each version should be that short.

You both have a horrid structural problem (because UK, France, and Germany didn't all agree what they were doing initially) AND a horrible problem of deferring to bureaucrats over things that they should rightly be excluded from participation in. The concepts and structure are not a bureaucratic exercise - they're a political exercise, and politicians and political scientists are the ones to decide. Left to their own devices they tend to be much more succinct.

302:

Separation of powers is not a European common governmental feature or - frankly - value, if you talk to political scientists over there. Lack of understanding of how that enables strongmen to turn to dictators and thence wars starting is highly unfortunate. Not every single person, but on the whole, there are blinders on over there on this.

There does seem to be a US fixation on a written Constitution just like theirs as the answer, now what was the question? I know that you're terribly proud of it, and you swear oaths of allegiance to it all the time, but you should consider that there are other Constitutions, and that it might be you wearing the blinders.

You say "not common in Europe", but the separation of powers demonstrably is common - Please tell me which large Western European nations do not have it. The Germans, French, Benelux, British, Scandinavians, Spaniards, Italians, and even the Greeks all seem to have it, and ours in the UK certainly seems to me to be valued. I'm not sure what strongmen-into-dictators you're thinking of from the last sixty years; unless you're talking about the former Yugoslavia, or some of the newer Eastern European countries.

You're quite right in one sense - the USA appears to have the best democracy that money can buy. It appears that you can't be President unless you're an demonstrably-practising Christian who is able to raise a billion dollars for your advertising campaign...

303:

The US Constitution is a law. It's the law that establishes the federal government. We have a bicameral legislature because Article I of the constitution establishes one. We have a president because Article II says we will.

One aspect of the US system is that a lot of government takes place at the state level. For example, murder is not a federal crime. Ditto rape and robbery. All three are crimes in every state, every territory, and the District of Columbia, but none are federal crimes.

The Supreme Court will look at the new health care law ("Obamacare") mostly from the standpoint of whether it can properly be done at the federal level, or should be left to each state, Obamacare was based on a Massachusetts law that was passed years ago; it's fine at the state level.

Of course, all of these systems are political (what else could they be?), so partisanship is the norm. Still, we get by.

304:

It's possible that Americans don't realise the really big difference.

The USA is based on the English Common Law system. There's been divergence after the US Constitution and some significant aspects of UK law didn't emerge until after that divergence.

Scotland, and most of the rest of Europe, has a rather different legal system. It varies. It varies. Some countries have stronger Common Law elements than others. Not every country in Europe uses Juries. There may be Inquisitorial Judges. But it means that decisions of courts may not have the significance we might think. I have a feeling that some of the perceived failings of the Human Rights Act in the UK ultimately come from the Convention, and the associated Court, not being part of a Common Law system.

The ECHR does make sense as a set of sometimes conflicting principles that a judge should use to decide a case. It makes sense if the facts of the case are more important than precedents.

It might even make sense to repeal the Human Rights Act, if that Act treats the ECHR as something it isn't. But an imperfect Human Rights Act looks a better choice than trusting the current bunch to replace it with something better. Subtle is not a word in their vocabulary.

305:

Given the current economic climate, I'm surprised that a political party hasn't sprung up with a platform "we'll leave the EU in order to be able to put tariffs on imports, and maybe ban Chinese goods altogether".

306:

dd20 @297
It doesn’t even have to be “military” SF, in fact one of the all-time greatest stories is based on a human/machine/other interfacing & the speed & precision of their response …
The Game of Rat & Dragon

& @ 298
Yes, but, they really ARE sneaky bastards!
The worst, actually are the Dominicans, given their murderous bastard of a founder (Look up Albigensian Crusade for the horrible details)

gh @ 301
Thanks for that.
One slight problem, again & again & again – HOW?

Zochaka @ 304
OK, so how come the EUHCR allows people in Britain to be hied off to Greece (or other places) when there isn’t even a fig-leaf of a scrap of a Prima faciae case to be made?
And those person(s) then spend between 2 & 3 years “Awaiting trial” [ Mainly because the prosecution have by now realised that their “case” was based on ”Confessions” beaten out of supposed witnesses, & they have no evidence AT ALL?]
And the case is then dismissed & - what compensation, what is this compensation you speak of, what wrongful arrest & unlawful imprisonment?
It has happened more than once, as well ….
Or mistaken identities, dragged of to foreign jails, with no come-back, because you are NOT ALLOWED to contest an EAW, (AFAIK)
All of the above is directly contrary to the EUHCR, but it happens.
So why bother, one wonders?

307:

No, the author in question was even more batshit crazy than most. On a scale of 0 (Harry Turtledove) to 10 (Tom Kratman -- Waffen SS hagiographer) he scored about an 8, with Oak Leaves for misogyny.

I should also note that he died two or three years ago.

308:

Note: shooting people for treason -- indeed, the death penalty in general -- is illegal throughout the EU, at a constitutional level: it's strictly forbidden by the European Convention on Human Rights. Indeed, nations joining the EU are required to abolish capital punishment, and a member state who tried to reintroduce it would trigger sanctions up to and including suspension or expulsion.

309:

Greg, you're making a very common mistake.

Two things with "Europe" in their name are not required to be the same thing.

You might want to look at how extradition to the USA is flawed, and ask what the ECHR has to do with that.

It doesn't make Europe any better, but it might illuminate what appears to be a major flaw on your thinking.

For instance, the Council of Europe has 47 member states while the EU only has 27. They are not the same. They do different things. But, in this at least, you're falling for the stupid tricks that newspapers such as the Mail and Express gull their readers with.

Though I heartily approve of the manner in which the Daily Express devotes so many headlines to the new medical solutions being discovered for the health problems of mice.

310:

I would be embarrassed to write like people such as Kratman and Frankowski. Sure, I paint the Nazis as black as they paint Liberals, but I have read the history. I used to know old people who were there, eye-witnesses to the horror.

And I know it wasn't just the Nazis. The Belgians have a twofold reason for playing the last Post at the Menin Gate. Ever been there?

Some of my family are still in Flanders and I can find it hard to forgive the way such authors praise the unpraiseable, even with the excuse of a threat to the whole human species.

I try to write with more subtlety than they do. I've read the history, and those who forced Versailles on a defeated Germany have to take some of the blame. Yet once a Nazi walks onto my literary stage, there's only one way he can leave.

Though I still regret the incident with the aeroplane propellor. It isn't fun having an aviation mechanic mad at you for messing up her 'plane.

311:

Yeah, "Boy And His Tank" isn't bad, but the rest of Frankowski's work (and especially his now lost blog posts) show he was a proper wrong'un and/or a troll.

Felt like washing my hands after reading some of his time travel stuff.

312:

I've read the history, and those who forced Versailles on a defeated Germany have to take some of the blame.
I and mine have similar feelings about Versailles.

313:

zochoka @ 309
Not quite.
The EAW is a subset of the EU's competence IIRC, whilst the EUHCR (As you say, an entirely separate body) appears to have no lever on this nasty little piece of EU Police-State arbitrary arrest & detainment.
So I'm not actually too impressed with either of them (in this case) actually.

Sorry, I obviously did not express my self as clearly as I might have.

ATT @ 310
Yet once a Nazi walks onto my literary stage, there's only one way he can leave.
I hope this does include all the current, modern ones, who tick all the boxes for "nazi" - you know: Kill all the jews/lebensraum/the West is decadent/women are inferior/etc?

Versailles
Really?
Given the peace terms Imperial Germany forced on those that it defeated?
Like Rumania or the treaty of Brest-Litovsk?
Compared to those, Versailles was little more than a over-hard love-tap.

314:

(Tom Kratman -- Waffen SS hagiographer)

The unfortunate thing for Mr. Kratman's adoring view of the Waffen SS is that they were, well, a bit crap at soldiering.

Sure, they had the nice Hugo Boss uniforms; and they had absolutely fantastic PR by the standards of the time; and no-one is in any doubt about their ability to murder civilians; but in reality, every time they went up against soldiers, the SS got a kicking.

No matter how many blood oaths they swore, or torchlight ceremonies they held, or how blonde they were, they took disproportionate casualites. Not the "bravely outnumbered against impossible odds" kind, but the "the SS outnumbered their opponents 5 to 1, made an arse of their tactics, took disproportionate casualties as a result, and had their revenge by machine-gunning their prisoners and murdering a few civilians".

Google "Le Paradis massacre". It took them all of a week in action before their first war crimes.

315:

Greg Tingey @309:

Brest-Litovsk looks worse than Versailles because Germany was a nation-state while Russia was a multi-ethnic empire (which made it easier to come up with pretexts to deprive it of territory).

Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (which unlike Russia didn't even have a dominant ethnicity) suffered even worse carve-ups. Or at least Turkey would have had it not been for one Mustafa Kemal...

316:

First Ypres--it really was a bunch of cooks and clerks who stopped the attempted German breakthrough. One of my characters is liable to make snarky comments about that.

And also that, despite the German Army having all the advantages of a dug-in defender, by 1918 the British Army was beating them. He was there, he knows it wasn't easy and he knows the British Army in 1918 was the one which made a fighting retreat, stopped the attackers, and then made an attack which the enemy failed to halt.

Another historical aside, from a later war. Going by various official instructions the War Office was worried that the British Army was going to be too kind to the Germans when they moved into Germany. They were going to see the cvilians who had been bombed out of their homes, and who were fleeing the Russians, and they worried that they were going to be in charge of ordinary decent human beings, rather than disciplined soldiers.

317:

And also that, despite the German Army having all the advantages of a dug-in defender, by 1918 the British Army was beating them. He was there, he knows it wasn't easy and he knows the British Army in 1918 was the one which made a fighting retreat, stopped the attackers, and then made an attack which the enemy failed to halt.

This was the British Army that invented and perfected combined-arms warfare (then lost the skills over the following twenty years). It took three years and some truly savage losses to train civilians and gain experience (it went from a couple of hundred thousand regulars, to an army of four million), but it was the only army that didn't have widespread mutinies. It stopped Operation MICHAEL as you say; and then, in the "Hundred Days" offensive, broke the German Army, and drove it back to the German border - stopped only by the German surrender, sorry Armistice.

For all that "Blackadder Goes Forth" is a truly funny comedy, it's not really history. For instance, the British lost three out of nine Divisional Commanders at the Battle of Loos - two of them were in forward trenches at the time. When you're losing Generals to sniper fire, it's a big hint that they aren't in a Chateau with a drinks cabinet...

318:

Greg (#261), re: US Support during the Falklands.
Where do you think those top of the Line Sidewinder Missiles came from?
And some other stuff (and activity). Like I've mentioned, mid-level bueacracis have their own traditions and logic.

As for the origins of the US constitution, it helps to understand that it was a group of Middle Aged White Guys (67? Cheap Netbook, one window at a time...) who were supposed to revise the Articles of Confederation, realized that was a non-starter, and went into secret session (In Midsummer, In Philadelphia) and wrote a whole NEW docuemnt from first principles.

The Founding Fathers earned their capitalization.

It's been both durable and flexible (the 1868 reboot, finally legislated in 1965...).

Yes, the plutocrats and their Ministry of Truthiness have put some tools in power. The whole thing may go smash, but it has had a good run, certainly better than any comparable system. Some of our State Constitutions provde interesting "How Not To" compariosons. It will be interesting over the next year or so to se what the Robersts court does with the restrictive abortion bills currently in fashion at the state level.

And how likely is it that a secret cabal could even offer such a reboot (1787) to the EU?

319:

sasquatch @ 318
Sidewinders only appeared AFTER the Brits twited the US tail - the original urge was to support the Monroe doctrine ....
Meanwhile the Froggies, who had sold Exocets to both sides carefully told us what the Argies' setings were & suggested tweaks to use as ECM - which turned out to be very useful.

Oh yes: but it has had a good run, certainly better than any comparable system.
WRONG
Our last constitutional settlement was in 1688/9
It was & is called: "The Bill of Rights"
And is the foundation of our present democracy.
One reason (Apart, of course from slave-owners' greed) for the American revolt of 1776 was that the guvmint we had at the time was as corrupt & incompetent as Blair's .....

One of the principal reasons I have turned completely anti-EU is that said Bill of Rights is being thrown away, with no prospect of revival.
See my comments, above on the EAW, for instance.
Yes, real reform & a re-boot of the EU would be wonderful, but it ain't going to happen, is it?

320:

"Brest-Litovsk looks worse than Versailles because Germany was a nation-state while Russia was a multi-ethnic empire"
Uhmmm...No. Or rather German Empire was envisioned as nation state for Germans but was multi-ethnic in reality with millions of Poles dominating its Eastern territories(which were mostly taken from Poland in Partitions of the country). The territories German nationalists cried about postwar were for most part majority non-German, with ethnic Germans making 3-10% in them.
Far worse than Brest-Litovsk were German plans of ethnic cleansing in so called Polish Border Strip Plan where 2-3 mln Poles and Jews were to be ethnically cleansed from former Russian held Poland to make room for German colonists.

321:

Ok. Bit of history, regarding the Awesome English Speaking Club.

(a) WW2 [after the fall of Singapore] British Prime Minister Winston Churchill attempted to divert the 6th and 7th Divisions to Burma while they were en route to Australia [to defend it from possible invasion.] The PM countermanded the order. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brisbane_Line for some more fun examples.

(b) After about two centuries of colonial suppression of local development (the empire was a wheel, Britain at the centre, the colonies were to supply raw material and buy the worked products from Britain) the UK joined the 'common market' and stopped taking Australian exports. Caused a bit of economic turbulence, that.

(c) The depression of the 1930s. State premier dismissed because he unilaterally announced a moratorium on debt repayments to the UK, in order to provide work for and feed his population. He was dismissed by the (English) Governor. The debts were largely due to our participation in WW1. Australia had to pay for transport, provisioning and even the *ammunition* its soldiers used defending the UK.

So ... as far as sentiment impelling Australia to form a trading bloc with the UK, my guess that it's not very probable.

I think it's risible that anyone from the UK would consider *language* a uniting force, when as far as I can tell it's *accent* that governs the UK.

322:

Given the actions of the banksters today - re Cyprus - I wonder if anyone here is reconsidering their position with regard to the UK separating itself as much as possible from the EU?

Hell, the question has to be if the euro AND the EU are going to survive long enough to reach the 2017 referendum date, or if it will pull itself apart by next Thursday.

323:

I fail to see the relevance of your point.

Hint: any serious attempt to fix the British banking crisis is going to have a similar affect on British savers, insofar as it's going to involve either stimulus and inflation, or deflation of the housing bubble, or allowing banks to go bust -- any of which punish savers.

324:

Charlie Stross @323: Wouldn't a deflation of the housing bubble actually benefit savers at the expense of property owners (especially highly levaraged BTL landlords)?

325:

You would think so, except 30 years of Thatcherite and post-Thatcherite propaganda convinced everyone that the best forms of saving were (a) gambling on the stock market (either in person, or via proxies such as banks and pension funds), and (b) buying real estate.

If you deflate the housing market, then a bunch of banks and building societies are going to make titanic losses, thus zapping personal savings accounts. Otherwise I'd be all in favour of it (I have some, but not enough, savings and I wouldn't mind being able to move house again some year or other).

326:

Greg, about American support for the U.K. in 1982:

No. Fuck, no. You're out to lunch here. I will, if asked, provide dozens of cites. But I would prefer to let our host vouch for me and hope that you can admit error and move on.

I blame you not for the error. Two reasons. First, with the acceptance of London, the U.S. remained publicly quiet about its support during the war. This was for many awful reasons. The Monroe Doctrine was not among them.

Second, you are exhibiting a very common British anti-Americanism. I actually understand it, but it's part (part!) of why I do not feel culturally closer to the U.K. than, say, the Dominican Republic or Panama.

327:

Niel Maurer
I am emphatically NOT anti-American
However, I hold no lurve for the gumints of either Bush ir Shrub.To tke an even more inflammatory subject as analogy I "support" Irael - which is why I think Benny Netanyahu is a dangerous shit.

Also I remember, at the time, it took about a week-to-a-fortnight for the US to come "on side".

Which might explain the various different perceptions of this?

328:

Sir, if I had to guess, your perception is colored by only two things, mostly a lack of research into the depth of U.S. support, up to and including an aircraft carrier. (Which was a dumb idea all around, but I digress.) Seasoned with a very British knee-jerk anti-American emotion. Not to say that we Americans don't have similar prejudices! Oh my, we do.

(The National Security Archive has all the declassified docs, if you're interested.)

But that is a guess. Why do you think the myth of lukewarm American support persists?

329:

To be fair, the U.S. remained officially neutral while it tried to convince Maggie to accept a plan under which Argentina would surrender the islands to Canada, which would in turn return them to London. That was a dingbat idea, but the U.S. feared a protracted conflict that would lead B.A. to switch sides in the Cold War.

Note that no thought was given to supporting Argentina, even though Washington knew full well that the junta, in its infinite ignorance, expected American support.

Also note that the U.S. quietly offered the U.K. anything it wanted from the start short of active American participation, despite Washington's fear that this was going to end badly.

I am surprised that you don't know this history, since the issue does seem to have you exercised enough to mention it across multiple threads.

330:

I've had a look at the National Security Archive site, and I haven't found any references to supplying aircraft carriers. Maybe I haven't looked hard enough, but I have looked.

Apart from the Black Buck missions, which used just about everything the RAF could operate out of Ascension to get one loaded bomber over the Falklands, what I did find was a bit vague about what the RAF, RN, and Army was able to do. The US seemed to think that the RN couldn't sustain a fleet at that distance from their bases. Somehow, we did. In all sorts of ways we seemed to figure out ways of doing things that the US didn't expect us to be able to do.

I doubt we could repeat Operation Corporate. We just don't have enough resources, even without being entangled in the longest ever British military campaign in Afghanistan.

In spite of everything the politicians have done, the British Armed Forces are rather good at what they do. Maybe, because of the politicians, they have to be. They cannot rely on having enough of anything, but they can figure out how to get the job done.

So we got some important stuff from the USA. But I don't see any evidence for an aircraft carrier. The biggest risk any American took was of being run over by an RAF Land Rover at Ascension.

331:

AND
Let us NOT forget ..
The Falklands' War was the madwoman's fault.
Shw was TOLD SEVERAL TIMES ... NOT to cut the RN, & she went ahead & did just that - with the open proposed recall of HMS Endurance ( A minimally-armed research & supply ship. ) & the Junta took that as a go-ahead.
Let's also remember that the flagship of the task force was also going to be scrapped (she was, immediately, once it was all over...)
The services rescued us, and then the cuts went ahead anyway. (Treason)
And Major repeated this Treason.
And Blair repeated this Treason.
And Blair repeated this treason.
And Camoron has repeated this Treason.

We will lose the next one, unless we are VERY very lucky.

[ I wonder why I'm in favour of re-introducing execution for Treason & Piracy? But not murder .....
You should be able to work out why this is so.
Something to do with burdens of proof & mass murder by politicians & endangering thousands of lives, rather than individuals in circumstances which are difficult to determine ... ]

332:

noel Maurer
Could you perhaps, in view of the supposed "US support" explain this then ??

333:

Picking an approach to fixing the banking crisis basically means selecting who gets shafted. As someone who is saving up to buy a place to live someday, I definitely have a dog in this fight, and the Cyprus solution would take some of the money I've saved for a deposit without proportionally affecting, say, buy-to-let landlords.

More broadly, the group of people whose total wealth is mainly kept in bank accounts is different (both in age and in net worth) to the groups who are more heavily exposed to the stock market and property. Historically, we're not the group which has the government most keenly looking out for our interests...

Incidentally, titanic losses at banks and building societies shouldn't zap personal savings accounts due to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, whose limit was raised to £85k to avoid a bank run in the Northern Rock debacle.

334:

My gosh, Greg!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20817088

This is very common knowledge for anyone who actually cares about military or diplomatic history. You did not need me for this!

You also do not need me to tell you that Argentina has not a snowball's chance in a Washington summer of winning a war for the islands. But I am here, so I will refer you to this: http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/aab/2012/10/las-malvinas-no-serán-oh-just-read-the-post.html.

Finally, as to the Obama Administration position, well. First, it has nothing to do with our discussion of the Reagan Administration. Second, the position is entirely comprehensible and needs not any explanation from me. If it does, then I worry about you. I will say that if you have any uncertainty over the Obama Administration's position should the Argentines be crazy enough to attack, then you are not engaging the reality-based community. Finally, to bring it back to Charlie's initial post

335:

I seem to have confused Zhochaka and Greg. My apologies! The response stands, however.

Anyway, Greg, give us the details of the E.U.-garden imbroglio! What did Brussels do?

336:

You don't see the relevance of my point Charlie?

OK, I'll lay it out.

In your original posting, you have assumed that the EU, and it's operation are a constant - and that predominately trade impacts of dumping the EU would dominate the cost/benefit equation.

However, the actions of the EU in the matter of Cyprus have demonstrated that the cost associated with their involvement is much higher than your status quo assessment would suggest. Already we are getting to the stage where they are happily stealing assets from the common man (the russian's money laundering is an obvious smokescreen, given the shape of the theft) to prop up bankers.

Now fast forward 5 years.

We can be fairly certain that the real and systemic problems in the EU aren't about to get addressed. Hell, they have empirical proof that the euro was a duff move, yet they have doubled down on failure by attempting to give up democratic control over national finances to a bunch of EU technocrats - who have demonstrated that they are prepare to steal from the people to keep their banks running along in the same fashion.

What else will they have done by that point 5 years hence? We have to expect, at a minimum, they will be stealing pensions/healthcare to add to their theft of savings and jobs - all to keep their financial status quo running.

In that situation, would it not be better to shake the dice again, make a clean break, and stop working within something that seems hell bent on disappearing down the plughole?

How much of value will be left to trade with anyway?

If you are on a sinking ship then eventually you have to take to the liferafts and row for it - even if they might not be as immediately appealing as the cruise ship.

Strategic decision making isn't short-termism.

337:

I have to agree with Noel here - the US was immediately supportive from the start, on the defence side. Jean Kirkpatrick may have been conflicted, but the Secretaries of State and Defence were not (although AIUI the Sidewinders thing was about permission to release them from the NATO war stocks, and not their supply; in the event, none of the Sidewinders fired in the conflict were the front-hemisphere shots that the latest mark of the missile offered)

Likewise, the French were apparently supportive to the extent of allowing training against Mirage fighters, and a rather strongly-worded "stop work and leave" message to the French engineers working on Exocet in Argentina.

As for accuracy, HMS Hermes (the Flagship) was sold to India afterwards, not scrapped; and the planned sale of HMS Invincible to Australia was cancelled. There is one school of thought that if the Nott plan had gone ahead, we'd have had a smaller better equipped navy in a year or two; more of the high-end ships, and fewer of the ones that were shown to be lacking. I mean, the Type 12 was hardly bringing much other than twin 4.5" and some Sea Cat; Albion and Bulwark were a joke (didn't even join in). The axe swinging had already happened pre-79.

Any Argentinian invasion is currently impossible. Their navy is limited to port, their submarines time at sea can be measured in hours per year, their one modern destroyer has just lost its supply of parts (its sister ship was being cannibalised, and has just rolled over and sunk in port). Meanwhile, there are sufficient forces on the islands to prevent anything (a flight of Typhoons will do that; meanwhile the Argentinian Air Force is still flying the same aircraft it used in 1982), and what a Type 45 would do to a 1980s vintage Air Force doesn't bear thinking about.

One outcome of the conflict was that the Soviet Staff College at Frunze started teaching its students about the British; prior to that, they had focussed solely on the Americans and Germans, but figured that a country that could launch a Task Force at 72 hours notice, and carry out a successful amphibious operation at a distance of 8000 miles, should be taken seriously.

338:

As a footnote, there were some Americans that were very annoyed not to be going to the Falklands; there was a US exchange officer commanding a company of the Paras who was barred from embarking, and several USMC types with the Royal Marines who made it onto the boat (but got sent back at or before the Task Force reaching Ascension)

339:

Wouldn't the main invasion threat to the Falklands be the possibility that the Argentinians may use "Trojan Horse" ships or aircraft, which look like civilian ones but are packed with soldiers, like the ones the Nazis used to invade Norway in 1940?

340:

Re #310 - What I've read of Antonia's writing is all set in the 1930s. See http://spontoon.rootoon.com/

341:

For all that "Blackadder Goes Forth" is a truly funny comedy, it's not really history. For instance, the British lost three out of nine Divisional Commanders at the Battle of Loos - two of them were in forward trenches at the time. When you're losing Generals to sniper fire, it's a big hint that they aren't in a Chateau with a drinks cabinet...

Pretty much all my other friends and acquantances are in agreement that there were more than a few red-striped REMFs in the British Army of the period as well as the "lead from the front" brigade.

342:

Numbers, statistics are important.
My generation, and those betwwwn 1925-40 & also later, up to about 15 years ago, have been brainwashed by the "Lions led by Donkeys" remark, endlessly re-quoted.
Who said that?
The losing side, actually, um.

OK Which army in WWI had the lowest per capita casualty rate?
The British/Commonwealth forces.
Oops.
Even including massive cock-ups like Gallipoli, where a sound stretegic plan was royally screwed by incompetent generalship .....
Which tells you something, I'm sure.

343:

Actually it does; it tells me that other nationalities were even less competent at generalship, which isn't quite the same thing as saying that the British were good at it.

344:

I have somewhere Patton's report on the Gallipoli campaign. It covers what both sides did, good and bad. There are places where more aggressive leadership at brigade and battalion level could have made a big difference. You can see why Patton could get angry with timid commanders. Playing safe looked to cost more lives than risking the whole battalion.

The Defence of Gallipoli


345:

The question you didn't ask is "what happens next?"

What happens next -- assuming a hypothetical "Trojan horse" invasion succeeds in blind-siding the occupying force and cleanly defeating the RAF and army presence, which is a little bit unlikely -- probably consists of a Type 45 air defense destroyer and a Trafalgar or Astute class submarine.

One of each ought to be enough to lock down the Falklands with a total blockade against anything Argentina can field this decade. The Type 45 is a third of a century and two generations newer than anything the RN had in 1982, while the AAF would be flying 1970s or 1980s vintage aircraft. As for shipping, remember what happened to the General Belgrano? Again, a newer class of SSN is available, with better sensors and weapons.

You can land all the conscripts you want on an island, but if you can't fly or ship in bullets and rations, by and by things are going to get pretty desperate.

346:

Yep; a Type 45 represents a mobile "no fly zone" of substantial radius to the Argentinian OrBat.

347:

ADMINISTRATIVE ANNOUNCEMENT:

Greg Tingey, this is a yellow card.

Stop posting on this particular discussion thread. Your last comment has been unpublished for a combination of racism and xenophobia that clearly steps outside the line defined by the moderation policy; please Don't Do That.

(It was the term "greasy dago" that earned you the card this time round.)

(You may continue to post on other topics for the time being, but your attention is drawn to the moderation policy again. M'kay?)

348:

Pretty much all my other friends and acquaintances are in agreement that there were more than a few red-striped REMFs in the British Army of the period...

With due respect to your friends, what are their opinions based upon? It was a massively-expanded army of four million - I would be surprised if you couldn't find the occasional incompetent. Note that far fewer Generals died from enemy action in WW2 than in WW1, even accounting for the increased size of the British Army.

WW1 General Officers were very definitely to be found on the front line. I think I've mentioned it before, but there's a rather detailed account of an Edinburgh Pals' Battalion called "McCrae's Battalion" by Jack Alexander. One of the first casualties from the whole Brigade was the Brigade Commander; he was killed on a patrol, having gone forward to do a reconnaissance of the positions that his Brigade would be occupying. On the afternoon of first day of the Somme, their Divisional Commander was to be found riding across the battlefield, directing stretcher parties to wounded; he could see the wounded better from up high on horseback.

PS the correct term isn't "red stripe", but "red tab", from the red tabs to be found on the lapels of General Officers (and at the time, their Staff).

PPS Google "Lloyd Fredendall"...


349:

Hmmm. Since the Falklands dispute is allegedly about war in that oh-so-temperate part of the Atlantic, I'm starting to wonder about the possibilities of oil exploration towers as bases of war. After all, some of them are mobile, and while they're not as maneuverable as aircraft carriers, it might be possible to gin up a oil exploration rig that doubled as a weapons platform or even a airbase out there in the South Atlantic. Or in any ocean, for that matter (I'm looking at you, Arabian Gulf, but the American gulf coast is another logical candidate).

That would lead to an interesting situation. If the Argentinians, for example, sat in international waters off the Falklands, drilled sideways into a British-claimed oil deposit, and had a heavily armed rig out there ready to fight back.

Of course, if we go the Abyss movie scenario, we'll have subsurface drilling rigs. Getting rid of such crawlers is going to be a tactical nightmare, especially if they can shoot back at attacking submarines and ships.

350:

This is a subject frequently discussed at Staff Colleges.

Everyone agrees that a decent plan, executed violently and "right now" is far more effective than a perfect plan executed late. However... initiative has to take into account what's going on around you.

A good example of this was in the defence of the Bar-Lev line in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The general understanding is that you should dislodge any foothold before it has time to become established. The local commanders of the armoured reserve reacted quickly, but attacked individually; each was defeated individually, and by the time the Israeli formation commanders regained control over their battalions, they had rather fewer tanks, and no chance of using them en masse.

Google "Operation Badr"

351:

I'm starting to wonder about the possibilities of oil exploration towers as bases of war.

As a rather nice target? Or as a rather nice reef for the fishes, after it's been sunk? I'm assuming it's intended to operate in or travel across deep water, which implies that it has to float; and oil rigs are not known for being able to travel quickly, or for being hard to detect on radar.

Navies have avoided such "one big ship with lots of missiles" approaches, in favour of a mix of smaller ships with fewer missiles each. One advantage is that a ship can withdraw to a safe distance to rearm - that isn't an option for a platform.

352:

Exploration rigs are mobile, albeit slow.

See, for example, http://en.mercopress.com/2010/03/28/oil-in-falklands-but-not-in-commercial-volumes-reports-the-times, which also talks about how much oil may be around the Falklands.

The bigger and rather more interesting problem is that if you destroy an intruding oil rig near the Falklands, you've got to deal with the resulting oil slick, which (if I'm reading the current maps right) generally will flow towards the Falklands. The oil that misses the Falklands then ends up in the South Atlantic gyre which would send the oil residues (e.g. tar) into a bunch of South Atlantic islands--all owned by the UK.

Remember that, unlike battleships, oil rigs that are actively tapping have rather enormous fuel bunkers, and most of the oil is under ground and under pressure, making it difficult to cap. Blowing them up is not necessarily the smartest thing you can do, especially if the islands you're defending are directly downstream of the rig.

353:

Blowing them up is not necessarily the smartest thing you can do, especially if the islands you're defending are directly downstream of the rig.

Alas, the smart thing to do doesn't get a look-in when you're losing a war.

354:

Relevant quote from WW2:

"When we jumped into Sicily, the units became separated, and I couldn't find anyone. Eventually I stumbled across two colonels, a major, three captains, two lieutenants, and one rifleman, and we secured the bridge. Never in the history of war have so few been led by so many."

-- General James Gavin

Gavin was the exception rather than the rule, but senior officers continue to put themselves in harm's way - and occasionally get killed. There is the famous case of Colonel H Jones in the Falklands conflict. Arguably he should have left that kind of close-up thing to a more junior officer, but he was the man on the ground and it was his decision.

355:

True, but there's also the argument that the Gulf War was provoked by Kuwait side-drilling from their wells into Iraqi oil fields, which is a reasonable cause for war in just about any jurisdiction.

One could also point to the fascinating "coincidence" that the architect of the Gulf War (Brent Scowcroft) worked for a firm that produced side-drilling rigs after the firm was purchased by the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (http://mises.org/daily/6338/Fighting-for-Oil). While we're frankly in conspiracy theory land here, I'm pretty sure the Gulf War was about oil, and I tend to believe that the Bush family (who gained their wealth through oil) likely engineered the Gulf War as a way to keep oil flowing to the US, and to keep the Kuwaitis and Saudis firmly under control.

Under such circumstances, one could argue that Saddam blowing up those wells in advance of the American invasion wasn't nearly as stupid as it seems.

Considering that we'd sold Saddam most of his weapons, the Gulf War was about the easiest war we could have fought, so long as we didn't try to occupy the country and throw out Saddam. Sadly, Bush II decided to one-up his pappy and throw out Saddam. At least he enriched his cronies by doing so (and yes, this is the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War today).

Conversely, if the Argentinians to start drilling for oil directly upstream from the Falklands, the UK would be foolish to blow up those wells, since they'd have to deal with the resulting mess. Arm such oil rigs to make it impossible for the SAS to capture them through an assault, and you've got a tactical mess on your hands.

356:

'the UK would be foolish to blow up those wells, since they'd have to deal with the resulting mess'

And? The point would be not to stop the drilling by destroying the rigs. The point would be to kill the Argentinians manning the rigs.

357:

To what end? You kill Argentinians in international waters on the accusation that they're taking your oil, and you again have a cause for war, as well as a god-awful environmental mess that puts you in league with Saddam Hussein, as well as wasting most of a rather small body of crude oil.

Since war is politics by other means, whatever people say, I don't see a way that the UK wins by blowing up the rig. They'd do better to buy the oil from the Argentinians at 10% over market value and save themselves the trouble.

358:

I'm confused - I thought you were proposing the use of floating platforms as slower form of "Arsenal ship". I didn't realise you were suggesting that the platforms actually drill for oil as well...

...the sensible response would be to send a police launch to said platform, and attempt to arrest them for illegal drilling within Falklands territorial waters. Or health and safety violations. No armed force, just some blue uniforms and TV cameras running. Make sure to challenge said rig before any serious drilling takes place.

The problem is that Argentina is broke. Skint. Can't even fly the presidential jet abroad for fear it will be seized. Buying a deep-water drilling rig, equipping it with a top-of-the-range SAM system, sonar system, and ASW helicopters... then working up the crew on said systems to a decent state of competence... seems unlikely, and very very expensive (and not fast). Not to mention the necessity for accurate survey information, so that they aren't just drilling into rock.

If action were necessary, better the rig meets with a leak or two leaving port. Just pay off the unions for a strike or two, or even give a hard-up dockyard worker some oily rags to leave in the machinery spaces...

359:

Well, I realized halfway through that having a functional rig was even nastier politically than merely using it as an arsenal ship. If you've got something that can sit in international waters and tap into a national oil field is rather...nasty.

Still, I think the UK did one even better. If you see the article I quoted previously, they hired Chevron to send a rig out. Their verdict was that there wasn't enough oil to be worth opening up an oil field. Neatly diverts the crisis, does it not?

One lesson from the 1930s is that saber-rattling makes up for a lot of economic and political uncertainty (cf: post-Weimar Germany, post-democratic Japan). From what you're saying, it makes sense that Argentina would try to get everyone focused on the, erm, Malvinas right now.

360:

Gravebelly, if I may nitpick (truly nothing more!): Argentina's presidential jet survived the attempt to impound it in California. But generally, yes. It is hard to see how Argentina could convince, say, Transocean to participate in such a ... a ... ah ... um ... commercially unviable scheme as tapping into the Falklands' oil deposits. An Argentina that could pull that off could just invade the damn place.

Plus, they are likely big enough that offset drilling would not really be damaging.

Heteromeles: fascinating blog! But can you increase the font size for us old people?

361:

Remember that, unlike battleships, oil rigs that are actively tapping have rather enormous fuel bunkers, and most of the oil is under ground and under pressure, making it difficult to cap. Blowing them up is not necessarily the smartest thing you can do, especially if the islands you're defending are directly downstream of the rig.

May we assume that this rig has been on the radar for weeks? It's been making its way towards the Falklands' territorial waters at a speed that'd make a tortoise look fast. Then it has to stop, hunker down or anchor, and start trying to drill.

If it's armed, it'll have been tracked since it reached international waters and a Type 45 will be on station to meet it. If it's unarmed, the locally available forces can turn it back at 'the border'.

What it won't have is the time to anchor, to drop a drill pipe to the ocean bed, and to slowly drill its way through hundreds or thousands of meters of solid rock. Even if it got lucky and the very first hole did reach an oil reservoir, that's going to be way after the crew topside are explaining themselves to the RM. Those bunkers will be empty.

362:

And parenthetically, we were last night getting the address of the Leeds branch of a company of solicitors, trying to contact the co-executor of my Mother's will. Scanning down the webpage of branch addresses ... Edinburgh ... Falklands ... Glasgow ...

(As a child I always thought the Falklands was part of Scotland for some reason. Perhaps in analogy to the Shetlands.)

They have branches in 8 other UK cities, as well as the one in Stanley, but I'm now wondering what quirk, what historical contingency, led them to have that office.

363:

The friends in question are a grab bag mixture of wargamers, and amateur and professional historians.

364:

Largely agree. But if this implausible project could be got off the ground I'd wait until the armed rig arrived just outside our territorial waters and started to drill. Issue one stern warning. Then hit it with the intention of destroying it completely and killing everyone on board.

Stone dead hath no fellow.

Offer to collect up the bodies and ship then back to Argentina, explaining about exposure to the South Atlantic, severe burns and so on.

While the rioting continues in Buenos Aires and Argentina collapses into political chaos, we have a word with our international colleagues. No-one wants their natural resourses poached from just outside their territorial waters. And international law isn't, you know, that clear.

365:

Oil, probably. Seal oil and whale blubber contracts.

366:

Very plausible, given the supposed founding according to Wikipedia was in 1850. Since the current company is the result of innumerable mergers, any one of those predecessors could have been involved, and for all I know, may have gone back before 1850.

(Short history - a Leeds and a Brum company merged in 1995. Several other mergers, including of a Scottish company last year (founded 1769 - so yes) who appear to have contributed Scotland, the Falklands and Qatar.)

However, I've finally tracked down the information, and it appears that Falklands office opened in 1988. So yes, oil, but the modern oil exploration companies.

367:

Actually Noel, that's a great comment, but honestly I never thought of it. On the internet, I use ctrl+ to increase font size, and ctrl- to decrease font size. On my system (using Firefox) this works great to increase my blog font. It literally never occurred to me that people weren't resizing the blog fonts to suit their visual needs.

...

Now, looking at what I can do with Wordpress, I don't see a control to increase the default font size. That probably explains why I never thought of it. If someone knows how to do that so that the default font is bigger, let me know (here or at heteromeles.wordpress.com) and I'll fix it.

368:

True, but we're talking about international waters. That does make the situation rather fraught with possibilities, does it not? If there's an oil field outside the official boundaries of any country, then basically, you can fight a war over who owns that bit of seabed and the minerals thereunder.

For the Falklands, this appears pretty negligible. I suspect that, had that exploratory rig found lots of oil, the Falklands wouldn't be holding any national referendum. Instead, the UK would be beefing up their military presence in the archipelago.

No, the real problem in this regard is the Arctic. When the USSR dropped its flag on the seabed at the north pole, it was more than a publicity stunt. There are oil and minerals up there, the borders aren't settled, and the US, big military and all, doesn't at last report have any large military icebreakers, unlike the Russians and Canadians. As the Arctic goes increasingly ice free, I'm pretty sure we're going to see Arctic wars over seabed ownership. Sucks (genuinely) but that's the price of greed.

369:

Considering that we'd sold Saddam most of his weapons ...

You've gotten your pronouns confused; with the exception of France, the "we" who fought against Iraq in the Gulf War were not the countries which sold Saddam "most of his weapons".

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 11, 2013 8:55 AM.

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