The Drake Equation

When was the moment you became afraid, genuinely afraid, for the outcome of Brexit?

Maybe it happened a while ago. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet. I hit that point today.


We’re less than a week into the Brexit process and the UK has already told the EU that there may be security concerns…nudge nudge…if it doesn’t get what it wants (although that was just a misunderstanding, don’t you know?).

Then the Government was utterly blindsided by Spain gaining a veto over any deal which involves Gibraltar – despite those in the actual know talking about it for literally months prior to the vote.

In response, senior politicians in the UK – a NATO member – are threatening another NATO member with the prospect of actual war.

And the negotiations haven’t even started yet.

As part of my EU Referendum series, back right before the Brexit vote I stated that I didn’t believe the hype that a Leave vote would be the utter ruination of everything.

I even felt that J. J. Patrick’s three part series on the road to a Dystopian Brexit was, if plausible, at least well out on the edge of the probable. At best a warning rather than a prediction.

What I hadn’t, obviously, fully appreciated was the utter incompetence of the UK Government’s Brexit team. I’m not just talking about the bumbling excuse for a clown that is Boris Johnson – such a Titanic Success he’s been – but also David Davis, who nine months after the vote and just days before the triggering of Article 50 couldn’t answer even basic questions about the “plan”.

But even all that is just incompetence. Even that would just lead to the UK being out-negotiated on every major issue by the EU until it either accepts the deal offered or stomps off into the sunset without one.

And this latter option is what looks increasingly likely. It really does look like the “plan” is to walk out of talks and to find some way of blaming the EU for it happening.

But back to that headline. The sight of the UK threatening another European nation with war as a negotiating tactic – for that is what it is, make no mistake there – is deeply disturbing. At heart, I’m a pacifist. War should never be considered an “option” in the diplomatic process, not even the final option. It should be considered to be the consequence of the failure of the last option. Even the threat of a war is one which can rapidly spiral out of control, if one ever presumed for a moment that it could have been controlled.

What’s the strategy here anyway? By launching an attack on another NATO member, the UK would pull in other NATO members, most of them also European. Does the UK want to pull the USA into this to pick an ally? Or hang one side (or both) out to dry?

Is the UK relying on Donald Trump being a rational and impartial mediator in all of this?

As has been noted elsewhere, this shouldn’t even have been any kind of issue at all. Most of the deals of any competence within the EU divorce settlement, including the Gibraltar/Spain border issue, need to be ratified by the entire EU27, including Spain, anyway. At this point it looks as though the inclusion of the explicit Spanish veto was added to the EU’s strategy document for one (or both) of two purposes. a) As a sweetener to keep Spain “on-side” and acting within the whole of the EU27 “as one” and/or b) to test the UK’s plan to see what they’d do and to test the robustness of its strategy ahead of the negotiations.

The UK didn’t just blink in the face of this test. It has shut its eyes, screamed loudly and ran right off the cliff. The EU now knows that the UK has buttons which can be pressed. Westminster needs to ramp down the rhetoric immediately and get a serious grip of itself before it reaches the negotiation table proper if it wants to be taken seriously. From the lack of planning, through the deliberate exclusion of the devolved nations (and Gibraltar) from any kind of involvement in negotiations out to frankly stupid statements like this the UK has done a great deal of harm to its own reputation and the chances of making Brexit bearable, never mind making it a “success”.

And we’re less than a week into the Brexit process. Two years to go.

You can follow Dr Craig Dalzell at The Common Green


Featured image by  norbet

I Don’t Want To Go Forward To The Past (I Want To Go Back To The Future)

Like around 16.1 million others I awoke on Friday 24th June 2016, bewildered, astounded and profoundly saddened at the EU referendum result to leave, the detailed outcomes and what was soon to be the consequences that my fellow citizens had unleashed on the United Kingdom based on lies, innuendo and speculation.

There are 100 things that could be said that are wrong, that were worrying and manifested before during and especially after polling day. I will focus on a few only as the chain of events unleashed since Friday is filling up every space the internet can cram it all into.

The country I loved has changed overnight, the people I would have always trusted and respected as a default have made me question that approach and I have made a decision to be more discerning with every person I interact with. I don’t want to go forward into the past, I want to go back to the future, the future we were about to embark on as a country.


  • The murder of Jo Cox, she must never be forgotten. A statue in her honour should be prominently displayed in Westminster for all to be aware of her life and her work. When the British Constitution books of the future are written I believe that students should know what happened to her and why.
  • The racism and casual references to immigrants and negative connotations linking crime, terrorism and world war three to people who are our neighbours, our friends, relatives and in my case my own parents.
  • The young people, the 16-18 year olds who didn’t get a vote at all unlike in the Scottish Independence referendum, and the 18-24 year olds of which 75% of them voted to remain.
  • The lies: all of the money we would be getting back to spend on the NHS, the Turkish people flooding in when they  join the EU, the trade agreements that we can make because “they need us more than we need them” and the lies, damn lies and statistics, resulting in a leave campaign where experts were dismissed as gloom merchant stick in the muds who should be ignored. Then the 90% of press reporting.
  • The behaviour and attitude of politicians who put their own party and their electoral opportunities before the good of the country, posturing, evading, scaremongering on an unprecedented scale both disingenuous and in some cases cruel. The oxygen of publicity given to hatred, liars, apologists and racism by foreign owned newspapers, bitter political editors (one in particular), hidden agendas and weak know it alls.


I can’t see a progressive future for the country with hatred and division being sanctioned, young peoples’s views being ignored, finger in the air see which way the wind blows politics rather than a determined plan of action. Since when did our vision become based on “well we’ll see what happens shall we?” Since when did we arrive at a point where many people couldn’t care how much regret and pain these events would cause?

We have allowed ourselves to be caught up in a nightmare, led by people at the front (not leaders) chanting “I want my country back”. What are they talking about?

A country that sat within the world of division and hate, the Berlin Wall still standing with countries run by Communist Dictators and the U.K. on the other side of that wall, Apartheid regime in South Africa with Nelson Mandela still in prison and our Government doing deals with the oppressive regime, Northern Ireland and the troubles with all of the atrocities that we never thought would come to an end or a different type of country back. The country of the Coronation, the Festival of Britain , the Swinging Sixties, village fetes and long hot summers. That isn’t the same childhood I had being the son of two immigrant parents, for although we had lovely tolerant friends and neighbours and lived in a wonderful place, there was often an ignorant bigoted comment, but as the European relationship improved so did life for my family improve, but let’s not paint a picture that I heard recently (which I will paraphrase) of “let’s get back to the days of those nice immigrants we used to have, not these sponging terrorist types we have these days”.

Get real shall we.

We had a vision that the world saw at the opening ceremony of the Olympics less than four years ago, a progressive tolerant nation, one that extolled the virtues of our diversity and inclusive practical approach to disability and equality, not just tolerance but celebration.

I want that country back, the United Kingdom that held hands with the rest of the world, we are a forward thinking nation who has instantly gone from standing in the front row of the family photograph, being at the main table for the family decisions, and one of the central players in the biggest economic and political union in the world to be out the back with the empties in one fell swoop. The genie can never be put back in the bottle.

I feel that we have lost something precious that can’t now be replaced. My passport was British and European Union and that was how I identified myself, a British member of the European Union. My family are still members of the European Union but I am not.

I’m not a sore loser but I admit we’ve lost much more than we’ll ever know and yes, it hurts.

You can follow Joseph Conaghan on twitter at @ConaghanJoseph and at his blogpage  Joseph Conaghan’s Blog:JOE BLOGS 

How good are the Tories at anger management?

I am rather bored by Brexit. Apart from the revelation of May’s crude and decidedly unsubtle negotiating position that must hav been chosen to alienate we learned little more about the UK’s position yesterday. We did learn that Europe will play by the rules: with 27 states to accommadate that was pretty much inevitable.

What has interested me are the absurd beliefs of those people celebrating our leaving that  television presenters have found to interview. Leaving the likes of Farage aside, what has been apparent is the irrationality of their emotionally based arguments. Of course, I know such interviews are not representative, but I suspect we have all heard similar sentiments expressed.

Taking back control resonates, although all the laws that were imposed are being retained, almost without exception.

Money saving is believed to be possible, without evidence being supplied.

Sovereignty is obviously key.

And, of course, migration will be controlled.

i fear our politicians chosen to negotiate Brexit are woefully inadequate for the task given to them. But that may be a minor concern when those who thought they were regaining control can’t spot the difference when Brexit has happened. What then? And how will that anger be managed? That’s what really worries me. And have no doubt that there is deliberately fuelled anger already driving these emotions. That will not be going away. It will only get worse. Life in 2019 may not be fun.

You can follow Richard  J Murphy on twitter at @RichardJMurphy and at his webpage Tax Research UK

featured image Angry Face

“The Trump Card” – How the EU is countering US escalation on Iran


Now I have a confession to make about my political leanings on the EU. I am a eurosceptic. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has read any of my other writings or previous analysis on the intersection of racial identity with the “European ideal”. But it is nonetheless where I stand on the line between bat shit crazy Brexiteer and EU high romanticism. The details of my Euroscepticism we shan’t go into much detail – save to say that it should be noted as the context which frames the argument in this short piece. The main premise of my polemic is that it is the EU that has maintained a crucial geopolitical peace. And I nor do I mean peace on the continent of Europe but the prevention of cataclysmic war in the Gulf. A war that would make the tragic but resilient battle for Iraq’s soul appear mere child’s play in its effects.
EU member states have done more the past month to stop the slide to another Gulf war than the combined political influence of the Anglosphere. For on coming to power in January of this year, the Trump administration sought to escalate tensions and fulfil the policy aims of the last 8 presidents of the US – which is militarised regime change in Iran and not to the benefit of the Iranian people. Interestingly it was President Obama who broke with the usual course of US policy direction deciding that it was logical and advantageous to American interests to see an Iran woven back into the political and economic network of the “international community” than relegated to a “resistance economy” outside it.
As Trump took the US back to a more familiar attitude of blaming Iran for all that is wrong with the middle east while ignoring its de facto ally status fighting ISIS; the EU and its member states did something very few expected. It resisted by on one level making it clear that it collectively believed in the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran Deal. But additionally, its member states started flying to Tehran like drones from the hive of Brussels to make deals with the Iranians much to the irritation of the White House.

Although ignored in Washington and the wider dominant US political class, it was clear to Europeans that Iran was not the main source of instability and terrorism in the region.

Europe’s industrial powers have shown great enthusiasm for closer trade ties with Iran since the JCPOA, a nuclear agreement between Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France, and Germany), came into force in January 2016. These deals meant several things. Although ignored in Washington and the wider dominant US political class, it was clear to Europeans that Iran was not the main source of instability and terrorism in the region. Indeed Iran uses proxies such as Hezbollah and is fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad but compared to the transparent interference of Turkey in expat communities in Europe and the exportation of Wahhabist ideology from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, this misbehaving is seen as next to nought.
Added to that, the role of Iran and it’s special forces and trained allies as the only effective fighting force against ISIS on the ground is fully accepted by the EU member states even as they maintain their NATO position and solidarity with the US. Reality rests it seems in Europe.
The final point is that the EU is crafting its own definitive foreign policy far exceeding the constraints and political difficulties of the common security and defence policy. Federica Mogherini, an Italian politician and the current High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has repeatedly told members of the press that Europe “does not see any need to undo the JCPOA. It’s working and we believe in its implementation.” This could be, partially a Europe spitefully scorning the US for its president’s previous statements on NATO – or simply a symbol of a renewed sense of collective confidence in what a European policy should be regarding the Gulf states.

“Europe does not see any need to undo the JCPOA. It’s working and we believe in its implementation.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault recently show his country’s support for the expansion of economic relations with Iran and was among the first of the EU member states to condemn Trump’s travel ban. In January Ayrault told a meeting of Iranian-French business leaders that the Iran nuclear deal had “opened a new era” that had already led to a major expansion of relations between the two countries. He also said that protecting the Iran nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was “extremely important” for Paris.
In fact, Iran has already signed deals with French companies Total, Renault and Airbus and five memoranda of understanding (MoU) were also signed between the two countries. The biggest included a document of cooperation on development of Mashhad Airport, a document on the construction of a bioethanol factory in Kermanshah, and two more documents in the field of fisheries with the aim of producing caviar and technology transfer for advanced surgery.
Another MoU was signed between Alborz Chamber of Commerce and a French company on holding aviation training courses and pilot training for Iran and regional countries. Peugeot, which pulled out of Iran in 2012, will once again return to the nation to modernise a Khodro factory near Tehran. It’s expected to produce 200,000 vehicles a year starting in 2017. In all, up to 20 MoUs have been signed and counting.

Iran and Sweden signed five Memorandum of Understanding to develop ties and cooperation in IT and telecommunication, mining and industry areas.

Iran and Sweden signed five MoUs to develop ties and cooperation in IT and telecommunication, mining and industry areas. During his visit to Italy, the Iranian President Rouhani began a serious charm offensive to reboot the two countries’ relations in political, economic, cultural, tourism, scientific and technological fields. This was mirrored in success by his trip to Italy, which has gone on to sign a total of 14 MoUs and a cooperation roadmap for joint cooperation.
Moreover, last October the former German economy minister, now foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel visited Iran with representatives of over German 100 firms, including Siemens and Volkswagen. During the delegation, 10 MoUs were signed between Iran’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance and Germany’s Minister of Economy and Energy, covering a wide range of areas for cooperation including project financing, mutual investment, joint ventures, banking and insurance cooperation, infrastructure in oil, gas and petrochemical sectors, renewable energy, railway, environment, roads and urban development, automotive, airlines and technology transfer. German car manufacturers and train companies have followed.
The pouring on of investment into Iran is not a benefit because we must worship at the feet of capital or believe in its automatic ability to bring freedom and human rights. Inside Iran, there are various centres of power vying for influence and authority alongside the undemocratic authority of the supreme leader. I remain convinced that by ensuring that a reforming force such as Rhouhani is successful in developing and diversifying Iran’s economy; the West can have a more constructive and equal relationship with a country that has long been treated with scorn and unfair disdain. These economic relationships are the first attempts by the EU to desire to be seen as an honest broker in a region scarred by imperial interference and unrealised dreams of dignity.
You can Follow Robert J Somynne on twitter at @RobertJSomynne  and at his blog