Diary Day 438: a weak hand played badly.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 438: there were reports that “officials close to the negotiations” were saying there was broad agreement on a framework for the UK to settle the accounting issue by paying in total around €45-55bn (£40-£49bn). Theresa May, in the Middle East, refused to confirm or deny this. The rumour was greeted with fury, consternation, etc by Brexit fanatics and with mixed feelings by Remainers, who at least had the satisfaction of seeing opponents confounded and squirming. This not what the people were told would happen. There was no suggestion in their pre-referendum campaign, no warning. The huge lie on the side of Vote Leave’s bus is still vivid in our thoughts.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “Around £45 billion would appear to be the price Johnson and Gove et al are willing to pay for a deluded vision of an imperial Britain post-Brexit.

“This vision already sees the UK with higher inflation and debt, falling investment and less influence in the world.

“And this acrimonious divorce settlement will merely be the down-payment.”

Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian: “But, boy, what an unforgivable waste of money.

“We’ll be paying this money for the privilege of not being in the European club… Now we’ll be forking out £50bn for nothing, for the right to sit in splendid isolation – cut off from our closest neighbours, trading with them on inferior terms that will cost us dear.

“Chuka Umunna is right. This bill will stand as a “whopping great symbol” of the false prospectus on which Brexit was sold… The Brexit that leave voters were promised is impossible – and this reluctant concession by May confirms it.”

Neil Unmack of Reuters commented: “Britain is playing a weak hand badly in the Brexit poker game…

“Settling the Brexit bill… should have been the easy part…

“Yet Prime Minister Theresa May has taken eight months to bow to the inevitable. Pandering to the eurosceptic members of her Conservative party has wasted more than a quarter of the two years she has to negotiate an exit and has cost her goodwill. May has also shown EU negotiators that UK bravado… can be easily ignored.”

At a conference in Berlin on security, Michel Barnier said that the UK would no longer be in Europol, and would be leaving the European Defence Agency and that UK defence ministers and ambassadors would be excluded from international meetings with EU colleagues.

Referring to the referendum vote, he said: “To many of us this came as a great shock.

“It was a decision taken against the backdrop of a strategic repositioning by our American ally, which has gathered pace since the election of Donald Trump.

“It was a decision that came after a series of attacks on European soil, committed by young people who grew up in Europe, in our countries. It was a decision that came six months after the French Minister of Defence issued a call for solidarity to all his European counterparts to join forces to fight the terrorism of Daesh.

“Never had the need to be together, to protect ourselves together, to act together been so strong, so manifest. Yet rather than stay shoulder to shoulder with the Union, the British chose to be on their own again.”

Only some of the British, in a non-binding vote based on lies. The rest of us are being forced out against our will.

It keeps getting worse.

Diary Day 437: a resignation, Catch-22, the inner doll.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 437: Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney suddenly had the threat of a snap general election lifted when Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald resigned following controversy over emails sent to her concerning the former Garda Commissioner and a whistleblower. The Irish opposition party Fianna Fáil had been planning to table a motion of no confidence.

Ms Fitzgerald stated: “lt has been the greatest honour of my life to serve in Government, but I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time.”

Historically critical indeed.

Robert Peston of ITV pointed out that the UK Government had created a Catch 22: the Irish border issue can’t be solved without a trade deal, but trade talks can’t start unless the border issue is solved.

Catch-22 is the title of Joseph Heller’s novel, published in 1961, about the US Air Force. The hero Yossarian had it explained by the psychiatrist Doc Daneeka. Any bomber pilot who applied to be exempted from combat duty on grounds of insanity proved himself sane. Thus he was in an inescapable trap.

Catch-22 is an insoluble logical dilemma, a fatal paradox.

The House of Commons culture, media, and sport select committee released letters from Facebook and Twitter which confirmed that they would cooperate with the UK inquiry into what happened on their platforms around the time of Brexit and the 2017 general election.

Facebook’s letter also revealed that it had been asked by the Electoral Commission to look at Russian interference.

Gina Miller wrote a powerful opinion piece in the Guardian. She stated: “The things being smuggled in under the cover of Brexit will damage so much of what we hold dear. A cabal of tycoons would see their wealth and influence turbocharged, while the mass of the population would see their prosperity, their security and, ultimately, their liberty dwindle away. And this is the dark nature of the inner doll: the end of the western model of capitalism married to liberal democracy…

“The matryoshka dolls have only started to come apart and reveal the inner truths in the last six weeks. But this is just the beginning, not the end, of the process. The more people glimpse the inner doll, the more I am convinced that an overwhelming majority of the electorate – irrespective of how they voted in the referendum – will understand the deception that is being perpetrated. They will demand that our democracy be defended.”

Fingers crossed.

Diary Day 436: contempt, spin, collective narcissism.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 436: David No-Notes finally released to the Brexit Select Committee around 850 pages of material from the Brexit impact assessments, but in a heavily edited form. Mr Davis said he was withholding the information because he had “received no assurances from the committee regarding how any information passed will be used”.

But Opposition MPs accused him of leaving out “politically embarrassing” information. He was told that he could be in contempt of Parliament.

Tom Brake MP said: “The government shouldn’t be allowed to keep secret the damage their plans may do.”

The row continues.

The Bank of England announced that U.K. banks passed the BoE’s stress test, but also said that “The combination of a disorderly Brexit, a severe global recession and stressed misconduct costs could result in more severe conditions than in the stress test”.

This was spun by pro-Brexit news outlets as good news. That’s right: an assessment that Brexit will be a major crisis, but that the banks can survive it without collapsing, was hailed as good news. they must be desperate.

A new study, led by Dr Agnieska Golec de Zavala, senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, and published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, found that xenophobia, or a fear of other groups, was a strong predictor of a Brexit vote regardless of people’s age, gender or education.

Having measured the effect of xenophobia on voting behaviour, the researchers then tried to establish what kind of people believe that immigrants threaten the UK. They found three distinct groups: authoritarians, who fear other groups will threaten the traditional status quo in their country; people high in social dominance orientation, who compete for their group’s dominance over immigrants; and collective narcissists, who believe the UK is so great it is entitled to privileged treatment but complain this is not recognized by other countries.

The researchers also found that people who just thought it was great to be British or just valued their British identity were not more likely to reject immigrants or vote for Brexit.

Dr Golec de Zavala said: “From Brexit, Trump and support for Vladimir Putin in Russia to the nationalist, ultra- conservative government in Poland, studies from our and other labs show that collective narcissism systematically predicts prejudice, aggression and a tendency to interpret innocent behaviours as provocation to the national group.”

In an interview by ResearchGate, Dr Golec de Zavala said: “My work introduces collective narcissism as a new variable to consider when predictions for political behaviour are made. National collective narcissism stood behind the Brexit vote but also behind the Trump vote in the US. It is linked to support for the nationalist, ultraconservative, Eurosceptic government in Poland and in Hungary. It is linked to support for dictatorial rule of Vladimir Putin in Russia. The concept of collective narcissism was first introduced to describe the sentiments stirred by the Nazis in Germany.

“Our studies show that collective narcissism systematically predicts prejudice, aggression, and a tendency to interpret even ambiguous or innocent behaviours of others as provocation to the national group.”

Diary Day 435: heat, dark ads, a surprise.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 435: the impasse over the Irish border was demonstrated on the BBC, as Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness said she was worried that the UK was “holding the Irish situation to ransom” and that the only way to keep the Irish border as it is now was to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union.

Tory Brexit fanatic Owen Paterson MP, responding, got very heated and claimed that there were “technical” solutions, without condescending to detail (no one has) and accused some politicians in Ireland of trying to “blackmail” the UK. He did not answer the fundamental point, doubtless because he can’t. None of the Brexit nutters can.

We do not want heat from them, we want contrition. They campaigned for this and they can own the disaster it is turning out to be.

Ugly things are being dragged from dark corners into the light. Carole Cadwallader reported in the Guardian that Emily Las, a digital marketer in New York, found a handful of what appear to be Vote Leave “dark ads”. These were hitherto unknown ads targeted at individuals on social media. They included a video that claimed “Turkey is joining the EU. Our schools and hospitals already can’t cope.” The first sentence was, of course, a blatant lie. The images are worse than the words. It can be viewed via a link in the Guardian article.

Jim Edwards wrote in Business Insider that those who voted Leave because they are racists were in for a big surprise, because as the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, YK Sinha, put it, many non-European countries around the world who would like to do trade deals with Britain after it had left the EU would have key demands for increased immigration for their people into the UK.

Mr Edwards wrote: “European migrants, of course, tend to be white, whereas everyone else tends to be non-white.

“So the immigration pattern that is likely to develop after Brexit is a reduction in white immigration from Europe and an increase in immigration from everywhere else. Even if rest-of-the-world migration held steady, it would make up an increasingly greater percentage of UK immigration.

“This, presumably, is the opposite of what the racists were hoping for.”

Diary Day 434: people who have too much influence.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 434: Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, which is propping up the Tory regime with a £100m-per-MP confidence and supply agreement, told her party members at their annual conference that the party “will not support any arrangements that create barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom or any suggestion that Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, will have to mirror European regulations.” Mrs Foster said that Northern Ireland will fully leave the EU at the same time as England, Scotland and Wales.

But this is unthinkable because it means there must be controls along the 310-mile border between the North and the Republic, which will be the external EU border.

According to reports, Shanker Singham, the economics director at a think tank called the Legatum Institute, co-authored the letter recently sent by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove urging Theresa May to take a tougher stance on EU talks. Mr Singham was also at a secret Commons seminar on Brexit on Friday, attended by officials from 10 Downing Street and from the USA.

Who are these Legatum Institute people, who funds them and what are they doing mixing in those circles?

Diary Day 433: Eastern Partnership summit, more evidence of Kremlin’s meddling, goodbye to European City of Culture.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 433: the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, had an hour-long meeting with British PM Theresa May. It did not go too well, as Mr Tusk tweeted afterwards: “Sufficient progress in Brexit talks at December #EUCO is possible. But still a huge challenge. We need to see progress from UK within 10 days on all issues, including on Ireland.”

Mr Tusk was perhaps preoccupied with matters of greater global strategic importance, as the main business was a summit meeting between representatives of the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, representatives of the EU and the leaders and other representatives of the EU member states. Among those present were the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy & Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn and the Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström.

During their meeting they agreed a joint declaration. It is about strengthening economic and other ties between the EU and the eastern neighbourhood countries, improving quality of life of the latter’s citizens and strengthening democratic values there. Specific initiatives are listed. The full text is on the European Commission’s website.

This is part of EU neighbourhood policy. The EU is changing Eastern Europe, enabling their citizens to have things that are seen as normal in the EU, that British people assume is their birthright, like free speech, rights and freedoms, accountable governments, quality of life, choice of goods to buy.

No wonder the Eastern neighbours are turning towards the EU rather than the Putin regime. No wonder the Putin regime sees EU soft power as a challenge.

Brexit is small beer compared with this.

Before the summit, Theresa May said: “The summit here today is all about taking stock and about looking ahead to see how we can tackle the shared challenges together, both in security and development.

“We must be open-eyed about the actions of hostile states like Russia who threaten the potential growth of the Eastern neighbourhood and who try to tear our collective strength apart…”

So, Mrs May, why are you damaging the EU, which is just what the Putin regime wants? And why don’t you include the EU referendum in the things you accuse the Putin regime of having meddled in?

Buzzfeed News stated that it had evidence of a new group of 45 ‘bot’ accounts which had not been reported by Twitter to the US Congress. They had been attacking Angela Merkel in German, but switched to tweeting about Brexit in English on EU referendum day.

Meanwhile, consternation as the European Commission stated that UK cities would not be eligible for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2023, dashing the hopes of Leeds, Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Dundee who were all putting together bids, and of Belfast and Derry who were preparing a joint bid. The Commission’s letter to the UK Government stated that the delivery of the Article 50 letter “leads to the inescapable conclusion that the UK cannot host a Capital of Culture in 2023.”

There was nothing at all surprising about this, as the criteria and timetable were decided by the European Parliament and published in 2014. In 2023, and generally in three years in every four, cities from two named member states may bid. The UK was one of the pair named for 2023. In the fourth year cities in accession countries or in the European Economic Area or European Free Trade Association may bid. Since the May regime intends the UK to have left in 2019, and has ruled out EEA or EFTA membership, by 2023 the UK will not qualify under either heading. So the fuss in the British press about this was unwarranted.

The UK has made itself unimportant.

One of the MEPs for Yorkshire and the Humber who made a huge fuss about this was actually a leading figure in the Better Off Out campaign. What did he expect?

Diary Day 432: British ministers encounter flak.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 432: a confidential Irish Government report leaked to RTÉ News revealed that senior EU participants in the Brexit negotiations were deeply unimpressed by their UK counterparts. It said they were alarmed by “chaos in the Conservative government”. The word “incoherent” was reportedly used.

The leaked report also stated that Ian Forrester, the British judge at the European Court of Justice, had suggested that ministers did not “grasp” the complexities of leaving the EU. He also told Irish diplomats that there were “issues around the quality of politicians in Westminster at present” and that he hoped it would “gradually dawn on people” what leaving actually entailed and that it was a “great mistake”.

Well, it is. That report has a ring of truth.

Sweden’s Europe minister Ann Linde criticised UK ministers’ professed objective of “frictionless trade”. She told Sky News: “It’s not possible to have frictionless trade if you are not part of the customs union and the single market…”

Criticising British ministers, she went on to say: “You cannot be half in the customs union. Either you are or you’re not.

“They say they want a bespoke arrangement. Well it’s not possible. I think they hope for a solution that no other country has been able to negotiate at all.”

The Westminster Government was evidently taken aback at the strength of public reaction to its defeat of the amendment seeking to bring into UK law the EU’s recognition of animal sentience. Michael Gove made a written statement to Parliament: “Voting against the amendment was not a vote against the idea that animals are sentient and feel pain….”

Well, it looked just like one to me.

However much the Government struggles, its members will not make way for more competent replacements. Self-doubt seems not to be in these people’s DNA. What curiosities they are.