Bye Bye, Northern Ireland Protocol

The Tory Government have u-turned on how to negotiate Brexit; it seems that negotiation in good faith works. The UK Government and the EU have agreed on revising the Northern Ireland Protocol which dealt with issues relating to Northern Ireland’s trade with the EU and Great Britain. This agreement is being called in the short-term the Windsor framework. Sunak hails this as a great victory, claiming that Northern Ireland is unique in that it’s in both the UK and EU, and that is attractive to investors. Others were quick to point out that the whole of the UK was in that position until recently. There's more overleaf which can be viewed using the "Read More" buttton ...

Virtual Worlds, Day 3.

On day three of the EU’s citizen’s assembly on Virtual Worlds, after a short meeting in groups, we reassembled in the plenary hall. We were introduced to a speaker panel, which they referred to as a knowledge committee which included three Belgian improv artists. The whole session is available at for review on the Commission’s streaming platform. In my article overleaf, I catalogue the EU’s definition of people’s rights and principles, briefly look at the regulatory aquis, and briefly introduce the key members of the panel of experts. I criticise the lack of emphasis on privacy & anti-fake news, and the absence of any talk of investment policies. I end by asking how the topic was chosen and if it is in fact of real relevance for tomorrow? to read the full article, please use the "Read More" button ...

Virtual Worlds, Day 2

Virtual Worlds, Day 2

This is based on my notes taken on Day 2 of the EU’s citizen’s assembly on Virtual Worlds. These have been polished, but are not easy to draw conclusions or a story from, partly because I have tried not to leave anything out, and the participants were not looking to bring their stories and thoughts together. These notes do not tell a story and this article is quite long for me. I hope it has something interesting for you; it talks of the technology, a little bit of economics, social engagement and control and even a little about the changing nature of personality.

This is an excerpt, the full blog is beyond the "Read More" button. ...

Virtual Worlds, an EU citizens assembly

I have been granted Observer status to the EU’s second 2nd Generation citizens’ assembly, this is on Virtual Worlds. I felt my expertise might be useful. The first day (half day), was a plenary session, the final exercise in the afternoon was a brainstorming session in which all the invited citizens joined in. They were asked to identify the three best things and the three worst things, they have observed since 1992, the year the world wide web was invented.

from NWN Beneath the Cobbles, made by me

I report and comment on my day below/overleaf … …

Labour and Devolution

Labour and Devolution

Scottish Labour met last weekend, its motion on the Constitutional question welcomes the Brown Commission report entitled, “A New Britain: Renewing our Democracy and Rebuilding our Economy. Report of the Commission on the UK’s Future”, on the UK constitution and wealth, which I reviewed last month. I wanted to write a preview of that debate but as I did my research, my views changed, it took time to come to a conclusion and what I thought I was going to say changed. This has come from rereading the Brown Commission together with the Scottish Parliament’s page on devolved and reserved powers, and the Wikipedia pages on the Calman and Smith commissions.

In my view the motion is confused, fails to define what more powers Scotland should have and its final call to arms, could equally be made in any of the other nations of the UK. Clearly there are some in Labour who believe that the Scotland could come to be satisfied with the status quo; friends of mine suggest this cannot win in Scotland. Those in Labour who disagree clearly think a quiet unionist approach is sufficient and that the anti-tory tide will turn votes towards Labour, even in Scotland.

From my recent reading, I have concluded that if one wants a single labour market, and single monetary & fiscal policies, there’s little more devolve. The Brown Commission came up with the job centres, skills and workers’ rights, the minimum wage and a suggestion that Scotland should adopt directly elected mayors. It’s clear to me that the reason the Commission found difficulty in finding more powers to devolve as its authors are committed to that single labour market and monetary & fiscal policy. While they look at tax raising powers for the Scottish Parliament, they note that these, albeit requiring Treasury permission, have never been requested. If one is committed to these common policies, either on the grounds of a superior welfare economics solution or through political commitment, then there are few powers left to give Scotland with the final say.

If one studies the current settlement and recognises the current lack of further options, then Brown’s proposals for improving the joint consultation and monitoring processes may deliver some benefit, but only if Westminster’s self-entitled and de-jure pre-eminence is undermined. On co-operation, Brown proposes, “A new Council of the Nations and Regions, replacing the present dysfunctional Joint Ministerial Committees, based in statute and with an independent supporting secretariat, to drive joint working.”

So these co-operation/consultation mechanisms exist, but we can see by observing Cameron’s announcement of English Votes for English Laws, May & Johnson’s Sewell Convention busting, failure to effectively consult with Scotland on Brexit and Sunak’s vetoing of the Scottish Parliament’s gender recognition reform that like all UK law, there is no long term certainty as Parliament may not bind itself or its successors. Any proposals on devolution or subsidiarity have to answer the question as to how one entrenches such guarantees within the UK, as parliament as constituted cannot be bound, and any promise given can be revoked.

Fortunately, Brown, makes proposals about removing this overreaching power. His commission proposes that the UK adopt a basic law, in which individual and community rights are established, with constraints on the Government and Commons and that the second chamber be revised to act as guardians of that law, with a right of veto of laws that adversely changed this basic law. It’s clever and needed, the question is whether Labour’s leadership north and south of the border will seek allies and pursue it. Composite 7 at SLP conference doesn’t seem to recognise the opportunity, and I wonder if this is laziness or a lack of commitment. Given what policies the Labour leadership is throwing overboard, I am surprised that Scottish unionism seems to be a red line for them.

In the full blog article, overleaf, there is an analysis of the Brown Commission recommendations for Scotland, and a further analysis of why there’s no more to devolve, and thus why co-operation between Westminster and the nations of the UK is necessary. Use the “Read More” button to view the complete article. …

Lawyers, Guns and Money

Lawyers, Guns and Money

So Ukraine gets Tanks. Lots of Tanks, well not so many but let’s see what Poland does. I wrote this over a couple of week and wondered if it was worth saying and or if my readership wanted something like this, but the Guardian ran a similar story so I decided to go-ahead.

Two weeks ago the UK Government, agreed to send a dozen 20 year old tanks to Ukraine. Ukraine had been asking the German government for permission to take the German Leopard from Poland and it seems the UK offered some of theirs. The Challenger 2 has a different gun to the rest of NATO, the British Gun is not designed for anti-tank use, and will require specially trained personnel. It’s possible that Ukraine would prefer the Challenger because of its gun, as it is designed for infantry support but there are reasons that we plan to replace them; the age of the vehicles and the technology being two reasons.

And the jets? The UK has two warplanes in its inventory. The US F35 Lightening and the Euro-fighter, Typhoon. The former might be best obtained from the US as the ones the Brits have bought have been customised for specific purposes i.e. STOL although this may make them suitable to perform the role for which Ukraine is asking for F16s. Both are multi-role warplanes, but the British are still acquiring the planes from the US as we do not have enough, although the need is alleviated by the Prince of Wales’ reliability problems.

This leaves the Typhoon. The oldest of the Typhoons in service with the RAF were optimised for air-defence and have a weaker air-to-ground capability. The Typhoon is a notoriously hard plan to fly and will again, require long training periods but it is in use with the German, Italian and Spanish air forces. It’s highly likely that to let the Typhoons go to Ukraine, will require the permission of Germany Italy and Spain, our development partners. Most of its users are considering replacements. Do Ukraine really want 15 year old Typhoons, although 15 years is not so old for a warplane and they want planes for air-to-air combat against planes and drones? (The Guardian’s sources disagree and think that ground attack is the priority.) Maybe, but they are asking for F16s. Can an air force the size of Ukraine’s cope  with the logistics and personnel issues in flying two such warplanes, although its personnel cadre is roughly the same as the RAF and it flies two such planes.

This last fact shows the damage done to the UK’s defence capability by 12 years of Tory rule; the 2021 White Paper, with its ambition to return east of Suez effectively reduced our capability of defending our European allies. The reduction in the Army & RAF personnel and the reliance on US supply chains weakens the UK’s real defence capability and Brexit has weakened our capability of co-operating with other European powers in the extra-NATO European military co-operation regimes that the EU is slowly building.

While Sunak has asked the MOD to look at options for shipping warplanes to Ukraine they have also said only if it can be done safely for British lives and the Guardian reports that the MOD is not happy as the Typhoons are exceedingly busy. Will we give Ukraine the tanks and jets it’s asking for? Probably, but the gifting is more symbolic than effective, which is why Zelenski is asking us for them.

All this militaristic bravado diverts from, and hides, the questions of Russian money in British politics, sanctions against war criminals, and support for the Russian peace movement and draft dodgers. Westminster is ignoring things we can do to help; we can and should do more than just ship the Ukraine some old shite we don’t need any more.

The featured image is CC0 from …

Ruling through fear

Have they cowed the Judges? The Economist has just issued its Democracy Index and I have had another go at scoring the UK. It asks questions about redress and petition which took me to Judicial Review which clearly by observation is failing and more dramatically but less visibly away from the corridors of power. In this review, I stated that Judges are appointed by, promoted by and paid by Governments. These views or at least those that question the committent of the courts to the rule of law, it seems are shared by Jo Maughn who makes his point in a tweet thread, which I have gathered into one place using threadreaderapp and copied here using a rather neat wordpress tool. Please use the 'read more' button to see his powerful and frightening words ... ...

Online Safety Bill progresses into the Lords

This article is repost of a the Open Rights Group newsletter. Please look at this, it's really quite short but I am quite shocked at just how far the government plans to go, prior restraint, ministerial decrees on acceptable content, encryption breaking surveillance, and more. Please use the read more button to see what the Govt is up to and how you might help in stopping the worst of its proposals.

Going down, the UK’s reputation

Going down, the UK’s reputation

Transparency International report that the UK drops five places, in their Corruption Perceptions Index. Daniel Bruce, their CEO, blames  public procurement corruption, the questionable and partisan decisions on the levelling up fund grants, the multiple breaches of the ministerial code, and the growing visibility of cash for peerages and the crony funding of the Tory Party.

Daniel Bruce’s comments do not mention the reputation of the Police which will have fallen given the proven criminality in the Police, its growing reputation of a return to institutional racism to which they can now add misogyny as illustrated by the harsh policing of the Sarah Everard vigil, herself a victim of illegal police violence, and the dismissal of the Met Police commissioner for losing the confidence of the Mayor. We can also add their persistent failure to satisfactorily pursue Johnson over the Arcuri affair, other issues of corruption at City Hall and even the slow progress on Partygate.

The last time I looked at this, I said, “ Prof. Daniel Hough also finds it strange that we score so well but observes that TI are mostly interested in public sector corruption and so the cesspit that is the City of London’s money laundromat and the secrecy of the London property markets do not count against the UK’s score.” …