Monthly Archive: May 2021

The UK government is still searching for the benefits of Brexit

If you formulate a grand project or strategy in most lines of business, you have to prove that the project will result in tangible, quantifiable benefits (and lots of them) to even be considered for funding. You don’t get to start the project on the basis that “the benefits will be defined later”.

Today’s news that the UK government intends to hire a consultant or similar to investigate the benefits of Brexit is a massive Tell. Brexit as a project has been underway for 5+ years (47 years, if you count the entry to the EEC, after which time there were always people in the UK claiming that the UK should leave). And the government is still looking for the benefits?

This is additional proof that Brexit was a project and a strategy which, as implemented by the UK, has no quantifiable nett upside or positive value for the UK. If there was a quantifiable upside it would have been possible to articulate it before Brexit occurred, defend it, and then realize it when Brexit occurred. None of those conditions were met. The UK entered Brexit with no coherent strategy, spend years arguing with itself and the EU, ended the process with a poor deal, and is now desperately looking for the fig-leaf marked “Benefits”. Best of luck with that.

 

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Long Covid – my saga continues

Without going into too much detail, I am a Long Covid sufferer.

I contracted Covid-19 at the end of December last year, and although I was never sick enough to require medical treatment or hospitalization, I have been impacted since mid-January by an array of medical conditions and symptoms, none of which I have previously encountered. While none of the issues has been remotely life-threatening, the fact that I am now suffering from at least 4 conditions that I never previously suffered from is, at the very least, concerning, and on a practical level, worrying or worse. Quite simply, I am having to face the possibility that my quality and duration of remaining life may have been shortened by exposure to Covid-19. That is forcing a re-appraisal of what I want to do on several different levels.

One of my frustrations is that it is clear that the medical profession currently has no effective process for dealing with Long Covid. At the moment most medical professionals seem to treat the symptoms as disconnected from Covid, as if they were somehow random events. When I explain to medical professionals that I was infected by Covid in December 2020 the reaction is “meh”. There seems to be no willingness to take seriously the concept that a seemingly transient viral infection can cause numerous medium-term (and possibly long-term) symptoms. The medical process of observe–> investigate –> determine –> treat breaks when exposed to Long Covid patients, since in many cases there is no obvious root cause, and the possible culprit (the Covid-19 virus) seems to have disappeared from the body. As a result, many Long Covid sufferers are reporting that doctors are deciding that their symptoms have mental causes, so they are being referred to psychologists and psychiatrists. When you have a physical ailment, being referred to a psychologist is going to be seen by most people as a rather unsubtle message of “I don’t really believe you”.

Can I prove that my medical issues since January 2021 are caused by exposure to Covid-19? Maybe, maybe not. I am in my mid-60s, so my body is getting older, and with age comes deterioration in some fundamentals of the operation of the human body, especially the immune and circulatory systems. Could this deterioration have coincided with my exposure to Covid? That is possible. However, when a formerly very healthy person like me suddenly suffers from at least 4 different medical conditions that I previously never suffered from, I start to regard coincidence as a low-probability explanation.

 

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Sunday round-up

No, Donald Trump is not going to be a candidate in 2024

Donald Trump is not mentally competent. He has not given a live speech or interview for months. His postings on his new social media site are disconnected gibberish, and this will continue. However, the GOP remains captured by his deeply undemocratic ideas.

The UK elections reveal a dangerous disengagement

Amidst all of the hoopla over the Hartlepool by-election, a very worrying aspect of the election was almost completely ignored. Less than 50% of the electorate in Hartlepool voted. This is not a sound basis for representative democracy. It certainly should result in anybody claiming a “mandate” being ridiculed into silence, but the evidence is that a lot of electors are withdrawing from participation. All political parties should be worried about this, but the reality is that the winning parties do not care (for obvious reasons).

The results in the rest of the UK are highly region-specific. The Conservatives actually lost seats and council control in parts of South East England, notably Kent, where the negative impacts of Brexit first showed up in the form of massive lorry parks, the ludicrous Kent Access Permit and other assorted disruption. However, the distorting effects of the First Past The Post system mean that there was little overall impact, even in Scotland.

The Scottish referendum issue will continue to rumble on, but the mathematics shows that a majority of voters in Scotland supported parties who also support an independence referendum, so people claiming otherwise reveal themselves as mathematically challenged and unserious warblers.

As Covid-19 recedes, Brexit will dominate the political world again

Because Brexit is already an economic failure, the only way in which the government can provide even a fig-leaf of justification is by presenting it as a necessary cultural and historical event. We can therefore expect to see continued invocation of slogans and fine-sounding ideas based around “sovereignty” (which was never defined except in very abstract terms, so it is an ideal slogan around which to build rhetoric. Like beauty, sovereignty is totally in the eye of the beholder), plus the dismissal of pro-EU voices as disloyal or unpatriotic (this, by the way, is the Hermann Goering playbook, as revealed in his Nuremberg interrogation).

The slowly increasing financial impacts of Brexit will be ignored, or waved off as “this would have happened anyway”.  However, every time the UK argues with the EU and loses, or tries to negotiate a trade deal with another country and is forced to accept poor terms, we will be reminded of the strategic folly once again. This, like a dripping tap, will slowly have an impact. However, I expect Brexit support to stay high, because nobody likes to admit to having made a mistake. Like racism, I expect a lot of Brexit support to slowly, literally, die with the supporters.

The government is already expanding on the culture war aspects of Brexit via its sudden demonization of “woke” groups presumed to be dangerous. All of the old suspects are there, colleges and teachers being at the top of the list. It’s like reading 1970s Tory propaganda sheets all over again. Nothing is new under the Sun. The entire approach is to demonize groups for narrow political ends, and it is already working.

Why these culture war diversions always seem to work is a complex topic, but it has a lot to do with media incuriosity. When did you last hear a media interviewer say “can you define Woke?” to a politician?

A determined attempt to demand definitions for glib slogans like “woke” or “will of the people” (a phrase that should worry anybody with a good grasp of history, given its fascist popularity) is a good way of uncovering bullshit, but the modern media is not equipped attitudinally to do that. Until people peddling slogan word salad are forced to define it, rhetorically empty phrases like “woke” will continue to be used as emotional activation code phrases.

The UK government has discarded norms, and is going to try to consolidate a one-party regime

All of the recent evidence suggests that the UK government, as Chris Grey has noted, now lives in a weird parallel universe. In order to perpetuate that state of mind in their minds and the electorate, they need to be able to be above scrutiny, both by the media, and by Parliament. It is a re-run of the scenario in “1984” (“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”)

We can therefore expect to see the following two strategies unfolding in parallel over the next 12-18 months:

  • Determined attempts to reduce media scrutiny, via a combination of assuring BBC compliance and ignoring or denigrating all media outlets that are not obviously pro-government
  • The formulation and passing of laws designed to reduce parliamentary and independent scrutiny of government actions

The first of these strategies is well under way via the appointment of Conservative sycophants to the BBC governing body, and the recent announcement of the intent to privatize Channel 4. Make no mistake, “privatize” in this context translates to “sold to a group of Tory supporters who will enforce fealty to the government”.

The second strategy is visible via periodic government complaints about “independent” scrutiny, and a series of actions going back years which have reduced opportunities for debate and scrutiny of government plans and decisions. The plan to repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act is the most recent example. The government wants to pick and choose the date of the next General Election in order to maximize its chances of governing for another 5 years without any checks and balances.

The absence of a written Constitution in the UK makes the exercise of power not bounded by historical norms and conventions very very easy. The only person who could stop that would be the Queen, who is not supposed to intervene in any way in the political process.

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My personal future – Brexit and the impacts

In 2016, the UK voted by a narrow majority to leave the EU in an advisory referendum.

There was no strategy offered by the Brexit supporters beyond “we are bound to get a great deal”. As events have proved, the UK has ended up with a bad deal. There are a whole host of reasons for this, which I will not elaborate on.

The biggest impact on my personal future has been to eliminate Europe as a possible living location when I stop working full-time in 2 years or so. After visiting the Azores in 2018, Mary and I were seriously wanting to relocate to there when I stopped full-time IT work. That would have been ideal from the perspective of being close to the UK, and also would have been OK for access to the USA. However, the elimination of Freedom of Movement in the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU, and the lack of any reciprocal agreements with the EU on fundamental life issues such as healthcare, means that living in the Azores will be prohibitively expensive and complicated, mainly because of healthcare costs and residency issues. The same issues apply to any other European country in the EU.

So, the Leave vote in 2016 has eliminated any chance of me relocating to be closer to my family in the UK.

Since, as far as I can tell, most of my immediate family voted to Leave, I have to assume that they either failed to realize that this might be an impact on my future, or they never even considered it. They certainly never asked me, either before the referendum, or since the referendum. They know my views of Leave, that much is certain.

I am certainly not going to relocate to the UK. The country demonstrated, both in the referendum result, and the result of the General Elections since then, that the majority sentiment is now one of narrow-minded, exclusionary xenophobia. The current government is incompetent, corrupt and ignorant. The UK electors voted for this outcome. I hold them responsible, and I am not going to return to live in that sort of a country. I do not even intend to visit for tourism reasons.

I am looking at possibly buying a property in Ireland, but that is as close as I will come to the UK. Ireland has some special relationship arrangements with the UK that have not (so far) been torpedoed by Brexit. However, if the UK government persists in picking fights with the EU, those special arrangements could disappear soon. So I am wary of making any immediate commitment.

We are now looking at relocating to either Hawaii or Costa Rica.

Hawaii has the advantage of being part of the USA, but property is expensive. We would probably end up in a small house or even an apartment.

Costa Rica is an enlightened country with a good record of environmental stewardship and democracy, and property is more affordable. It has good healthcare, which would be affordable for us if I stop working. Mary might even be able to work from Costa Rica, and I intend to work from there on writing projects.

The next 12-18 months will determine our next location. If our investments do well, I may be able to shift to full-time writing in 12-18 months. We are working on the house to make it as valuable as possible when the time comes to sell it.

The UK’s decision to try and re-run the Golden Age of Empire has resulted in us having to re-think a lot of plans. Europe is off the list as a living location. .

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