Unhappily, I am going to have to admit that I was wrong about Brexit.
I and many others well informed about UK and European affairs, took the view that effect of Brexit on the UK would be relatively marginal. The EU is a relatively small proportion of the world market, and the UK is going to continue to trade with the EU in any event. Happily, the UK never joined the Euro, and so the problems that being yoked into that currency has caused countries like Greece were not going to affect the UK anyway.
We expected, of course, some whingeing from whichever side lost the referendum. If the country had voted to stay in the EU, there would have been some predictable moaning in the pub from the Brexiteers. And the lovies were hardly going to be happy with a vote to leave.
But what we wholly underestimated was the sheer volume and persistence of the moaning from the Europhiles. It is at a level that is causing real damage to Continue reading
Speculation reigns as to whether the UK will do a Brexit deal with the EU.
- There will be an early deal (or perhaps just a de facto stand-off) allowing EU citizens to remain in the UK and vice versa;
- There will not be any deal over the terms of Brexit; the UK will leave the EU in March 2019 without a deal. There are too many countries and interests wanting a slice of this or a slice of that, all with a veto;
- There will however be a trade deal between the UK and the EU either by March 2019 or shortly thereafter, with tariffs set at nil or near nil.
If this be right (time will tell) the Government stategy looks about right: the Mayflower stressing Continue reading
So. The Poison Pixie is upset.
She wants a second attempt at an independence referendum. The UK Government says, “No”. She complains that the UK Government is not treating her with the respect she thinks she deserves. So she could perhaps use some Scottish taxpayers’ money (there is precious little of that) for a non-binding “wildcat” ballot. But those in Scotland who disagree with her desire to bring financial ruin to Scotland would probably not participate. So such a wildcat ballot would be a farce, and then she would complain that the people of Scotland are not treating her with the respect she thinks she deserves. She could appeal to the EU, but the EU mave made clear that they are not interested in talking to her, so she would complain that the EU is not treating her with the respect she thinks she deserves. Continue reading
According to the United Nations, Norway is the happiest country in the world, edging out previous winner Denmark and third placed Iceland. The UK was 19th happiest out of 155 countries. Not bad. Of places with decent weather, Australia led the way at 9th.
But here is the thing. The top three all have quite high suicide rates. Much higher than the UK. Which stands to reason, in a macabre sort of a way: if the most miserable people in any population commit suicide in substantial numbers, then those who are left will be, on average, less miserable. Continue reading
Tony Blair freely admitted (but only after leaving office) that his faith was “hugely important” to the decisions he made.
This week, he has made a speech telling us that the Brexit referendum result was wrong, and that the people should now change their minds.
I wonder if he was told this by a messenger from his God? And if so, was it the same angel Continue reading
The New Statesman has opined that
No, the fall of François Fillon doesn’t mean Marine Le Pen will win
This follows, of course, revelations that Fillon, the former darling of the centre-right in France, has had his nose in the trough a bit too deeply, even by French standards, by paying his wife “wages” of hundreds of thousands of Euros of taxpayers’ money for doing, it seems, no work at all. Perhaps the French, who are usually quite relaxed about these things, have been roused from their usual boredom by the fact that the wife is Welsh. It might have been OK if she were a Parisienne? Fillon looks to be finished as a runner.
Anyway, since the New Statesman is typically wrong about everything, this might well mean that the road is indeed now rather more open for Marinne Le Pen to win the forthcoming French presidential election.
I watched the whole of Ken Clarke’s speech in the House of Commons on the Brexit vote. He did not look or sound at all well, and cut Continue reading
Having listened to a great deal of commentary about the complexity attach it on to the Brexit negotiations, I have come to the conclusion that there are two separate projects underway, one which is comparatively straightforward and the other being very complex.
The straightforward project is leaving the European Union. As the Prime Minister has said “Brexit means Brexit”. And so the answers to all sorts of questions ought to be very easy Continue reading
I am no believer in the notion that Jack is always as good as his master. Just occasionally, he might be. But far more often, the captains of industry are smarter, have trained more and now work harder than most. I have no problem with them earning, say, 20 times what the person sweeping the floor in their business earns. Or even 20 times what their average employee earns. As my old friend Will Hopper noted in his excellent book The Puritan Gift, that was pretty normal among the great companies of the Western World as they were becoming great.
But 200 times? No. That is obscene. No one needs 200 times. Not only is it grossly unjust, but it is bad for business. But it is happening, in the USA, and also in the UK. The Spectator Continue reading
Some things, course, obviously either true or not true. “The atomic weight of carbon is 14” is not the sort of fact which admits of very much argument. Neither is it a fact which is very interesting to most people. Most people are much more interested in questions which admit of a great deal of argument. Donald Trump is going to be a disaster for the United States. Global warming is an existential threat. The European Union does more harm than good. Hmm. Maybe, maybe not.
I have always thought that a version of Occam’s razor is quite a good place to start. It is the general notion that, where there are competing explanations of something, the simplest is the more probable. Or as Bertrand Russell put it:
Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities
One application of all of this is the cui bono rule, which is often attributed to Cicero, although Cicero himself ascribed to Lucius Cassius. A court should ask itself who is likely to benefit from a particular crime; that person may well be the criminal.
It is not an infallible rule, of course. Nor is my variant, which goes something like this:
Where there are competing versions of the truth, the one most infected by cognitive bias is the one less likely to be true.
Putting flesh on the bones of Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation as to why someone thinks something is true is often that Continue reading
There is an irony in the fact that the decision handed down last month in Miller v Secretary of State  EWHC 2768 (admin) was the week of Guy Fawkes’ Day night. There are parallels between the two events. I will come back to this parallel a little while.
The judgment, which ruled that the government does not have power to give notice of withdrawal from the European Union and Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, is a remarkable document for all sorts of reasons. As with so many events in British history over the last millennium, it has much to do with the question of Britain’s independence from, or subservience to, Europe.
It should be said at the outset that the judgment will have come too many of us as a surprise. We have been Continue reading