Tanks

I went to the Tank Museum yesterday and took some pictures.

Challanger

It was interesting to visit the the week following the fall of Kabul; it makes at least one of the exhibits look a bit vainglorious. It also reminds me that I didn’t finish my story of the future of the Royal Armoured Corps from Boris’ defence review. It all makes me wonder about whether NATO can survive, and yet again, whether in areas of defence policy we see another dimension of the stupidity of Brexit.

There’s more to learn; on one slide they observe how the Army is always preparing for the last war. Reinforcing that I note that Tanks were invented during WWI in a Navy project, that like so many stories, the adoption in this case of the Tank was adopted by odd balls and that their was significant opposition bypowerul conservative (not Tory) factions in the Army, to the extent that during WW2 the Army fired Major General Hobart, and had to bring him back. Hobart, was not born into a military family and was assigned to the Royal Engineers; he became the Deputy Director of Staff Duties (Armoured Fighting Vehicles), he later became Director of Military Training and was the founder of the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats. There are many more examples of the slow adoption by the Army of the necessary tactics and technology, perhaps I’ll look them up and write something, if its not been done (I am sure it has).

As one walks in, the first exhibit talks about the design trilemma, of armour, firepower and mobility, a theme they revisit in commenting on a number of exhibits but if one recognises that the best tanks of the WWII were the US designed Sherman and Soviet T34, it becomes clear that cost, and manufacturing simplicity were also key. While tank on tank the allied tanks were inferior to their opponents, the allied forces had more than enough because they were simpler to make by design and the allied manufacturing capability was so much greater.  …

The Northern Ireland Protocol

The Northern Ireland Protocol

I was originally going to write something which I hope might be profound or provoking, but in the end, this just noted more of the Govt’s myopia. Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed to avoid border infrastructure on the island of Ireland. The UK Govt agreed … Boris and the DUP blew up May’s previous solution to the problem , which was to belong to the Customs Union while working out something better. The Guardian comments,

Just seven months after it came into force, the Northern Ireland protocol is once again a significant flashpoint in the UK’s relations with Dublin and Brussels.

On Wednesday, the UK published a “command paper” on the protocol. Some will see it as an attempt to tear up the agreement Boris Johnson struck in 2019; others will see it as a serious attempt to fix a deal they argue was flawed from the beginning but signed to help the British prime minister to get Brexit done, as he had promised.

Lisa O’Carrol, The Guardian

Lord Frost, the Brexit Minister presented a command paper to Parliament last week. This article looks at the paper, its proposals and puts them in a historical/political context. It looks at the contribution  to Northern Ireland’s problems that the end of Freedom of Movement has caused. It asks if the supply chain problems in Northern Ireland are the real concerns of the Govt or if  It then looks at the potential political cost in international reputation and ends looking at the theories explored in “The need for enemies”[3]. In terms of Brexit problems, re-joining the customs union and single market looks quite good.

Michael Dougan, Professor of European Law, University of Liverpool Joint Editor, Common Market Law Review writes on Twitter,

The command paper is an attempt to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Withdrawal Agreement which left Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs area for the purposes of intra-Ireland trade. The NIP was Boris’s jolly wheeze to allow him to present Brexit as an oven ready deal and allow him to distinguish his deal from May’s which had agreed, unless other agreements could be found, to keep NI and Great Britain in the EU Customs Union. While some of the Tory backbenches saw the cost of May’s delaying tactic as too high a price, and the DUP only caught on after Johnson’s election had made their support unnecessary, there were substantial reasons or at least as far as the Vote Leave faction in the Tory Party were concerned, for making this change, but one key priority was Tory Party management and today we need to ask did Frost and Johnson understand or care; the Northern Ireland protocol which was presented by many as a customs border in the Irish Sea and was always going to be a problem for the “Vote Leave” extremists, and many others. This was done exclusively for reasons of party management.

Frost proposes that the Govt UK & EU replaces the current regime of documenting all goods’ rules of origin and satisfactory quality to documenting them for only[1] those goods for which the final destination of is Northern Ireland. Chris Grey in his blog, “The Frost-Johnson approach has already failed “.

These include a revival of the ‘honesty box’ idea in place of customs checks, a Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) ‘dual regulatory’ system, and the removal of the ECJ’s role in governance. These suggestions are not explained in any great detail, but in many ways they quite closely resemble the proposals made in October 2019, and rejected by the EU …

Chris Grey

This would be a problem for the EU which it seems has already rejected these proposals in 2019; if we act as an entrepôt for goods from outside the UK, EU tariffs will not be collected while safety rules and rules of origin may be subverted. This would also cause the EU problems with its relationships with Switzerland and Norway as they (and others) may also ask that these provisions are extended to them. To agree this, trust between the EU & UK would need to be higher than it is, and what trust exits will have been damaged by the way in which the command paper was trailed with threats of its revocation.

The paper also objects to the significant residual authority of the ECJ and Commission in Northern Ireland and the increase in power of the EU institutions that these compromises would require. This is a political objection and the problems cited are evidence free. The UK Govt. has sought remove the EU jurisdiction from the UK over many issues[2], but the Northern Ireland Protocol belongs to Johnson’s administration. Are they seriously trying to wind these provisions back? It would be a major step if so, and remind everyone as to whether it was signed in good faith in the first place and raise questions of trust throughout the world.

The EU took 24 hours to say, that they will not renegotiate the NIP,

We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the Protocol on IE/NI, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland. However, we will not agree to its renegotiation.

Maroš Šefčovič

While the Northern Ireland protocol is a key point of conflict, the Trade & Co-operation Treaty agricultural product grace periods have been unilaterally extended for 6 months at which point the UK is committed to meeting its trade border commitments under the treaty and the world trade organisation rules. This will likely exacerbate the difficulties in the food supply chain within the UK and most acutely in Northern Ireland. Some of the political pressure is being applied by the major UK food retailers who are carrying the burden of the documentation costs and are also suffering from a shortage of lorry drivers, [BBC | FT (£)] another effect of Brexit’s abolition of freedom of movement. While a burden to the large companies, the documentation overhead, costs and transport shortages are worse for the SMEs. Is the fear truely about Northern Ireland, or are they concerned that the expiry of the control free grace periods will make things worse in England!

Meanwhile other national leaders issue warnings that negotiations must be undertaken in good faith and that commitments made are kept, a warning to the Johnson Govt. Further warnings will be sent or have been sent by the Biden Administration and other US friends of Ireland. The UK’s accession to the Lugano Convention, which involves mutual recognition of national courts. has also been vetoed by the Commission.

The EU have responded in that both  Maroš Šefčovic reported by Sky News, and Ursula van der Leyen have rejected the proposal to renegotiate the NIP but a continuing conflicting crises suits Johnson & Frost, their Brexit war continues although there may be simple ways out of this particular impasse, the most obvious is membership of the single market, which with the re-establishment of freedom of movement, might mean we could get the food lorries moving again although there are less dramatic compromises.

This behaviour by Frost and Johnson is reinforcing the world wide view that they signed a deal to ‘get over the line’, lied to the UK electorate and had no intention of abiding by the terms of the agreement. This is their deal, the problems were foreseen, they need to own it. This isn’t the last of these bogus crises, the UK-EU future Trade & Co-operation agreement is full of deadlines and reviews which will allow Johnson to continue to paint the EU as bad faith actors and rile up his base. In “The need for enemies[3], it is posed with evidence, that politicians with a reputation for solving a problem, have little incentive in doing so. This seems to inform Boris Johnson’s strategies when his inherited laziness permits him the time to strategise.

We need to be clear, this is a crisis of Brexit and while this one will probably be resolved, there will be another one, probably quite soon. It all makes Brexit a questionable endeavour with limited support in the UK.

The EU, it seems are coming to the conclusion that Johnson and Frost signed the withdrawal agreement in bad faith and have always meant to renege on it


[1] Goods excluded would be declared by a ‘light touch’ declaration albeit using a system that does not yet exist

[2] However, the CJEU still has some jurisdictional authority over citizenship issues.

[3] “Fergusson, Leopoldo and Robinson, James A and Torvik, Ragnar and Vargas, Juan F” (2012). “The Need for Enemies”. National Bureau of Economic Research: {10.3386/w18313} http://www.nber.org/papers/w18313

See also, if you want, my notes page on the Northern Ireland Protocol. …

Wiggle room on human rights law

Wiggle room on human rights law

I made a linkedin blog on the ECtHR’s margin of appreciation. I was reading up on the UK’s post Brexit data sharing arrangements with the EU, and under the terms of the GDPR. I was diverted by the ECHR’s doctrine of a “margin of appreciation”.

Broadly speaking it refers to the room for manoeuvre the Strasbourg institutions are prepared to accord national authorities in fulfilling their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Steven Greer Reader in Law, University of Bristol,United Kingdom

Human Rights law is designed to constrain governments but will always require interpretation. The doctrine means that the rights of interpretation are shared between the ECtHR and the signatory states, who themselves will divide this between their courts and executive branch.  

This seems sensible, as I observed, when the British courts were busy interfering with the CPSA in the ‘80’s and undermines the argument of foreign interference because where there is a benefit of doubt, the ECtHR can allow the otherwise infringing government that benefit.

With respect to the cross border transfer regulation, this might make it easier to comply with the law, but there are several outstanding problems. With respect to international data sharing, the most relevant to the doctrine of appreciation and this article is that, the UK is now an ex-member-state and while the Commission argues this means that the UK’s data protection regime is suitable, the fact it is now a 3rd country means that the UK has less legal privileges to exercise its “margin of appreciation” as the powers granted to member states to vary/diminish the protections in Article 23, no longer apply. This was observed and commented on by the House of Lords Select Committee report on Brexit in 2017. See also,

I was reading this article, which makes it much clearer, that the ECtHR looks to defer to national institutions, where it can,

According to the classical position of the ECtHR State authorities “are in principle in a better position than the international judge to give an opinion” on the “necessity” and “proportionality” of a derogation or restriction authorized by human rights law. As a consequence, international courts “should grant national authorities an important degree of deference and respect their discretion” with regard to the implementation of exceptions. Thus, without precluding judicial review of a State’s action in this field, the doctrine intends to “limit the scope of this review” and to impose some degree of judicial self-restraint where an assessment of the attitude of national authorities is concerned.

Theodre Christakis

 …

Without Track & Trace, it’s just herd immunity

Without Track & Trace, it’s just herd immunity

Today should have been either Freedom Day or a more mundane, lifting of all lockdown restrictions. It isn’t. It’s been postponed by four weeks. I remain uncomfortable about the Govt’s (and Labour’s) approach and its sole reliance on vaccines. I came across a tweet today from Deepti Gurdasani , who has taken up the issue of pandemic response and, in my mind, talks about the fact that the Govt. are still pursuing a herd immunity strategy and the the failure and loss of trust in track and trace is a critical weakness in the UK response. She also pointed me at the serious escalating evidence of the crippling damage of “long covid”. and at the John Snow Memo.

It seems to be about 1 year old, and says, among other things,

In the absence of adequate provisions to manage the pandemic and its societal impacts, these countries have faced continuing restrictions. This has understandably led to widespread demoralisation and diminishing trust. …

Any pandemic management strategy relying upon immunity from natural infections for COVID-19 is flawed. … Furthermore, there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection and the endemic transmission that would be the consequence of waning immunity would present a risk to vulnerable populations for the indefinite future. …

Effective measures that suppress and control transmission need to be implemented widely, and they must be supported by financial and social programmes that encourage community responses and address the inequities that have been amplified by the pandemic.

The John Snow Memo

We, i.e. the UK, need an effective and trusted track and trace, which we don’t have, thanks to Hancock and Harding. Without it, we are just using sticking plaster to mend a broken leg! …

Crisis in the hospitality business

Crisis in the hospitality business

While it seems people are desperate to get back to the pub, the staff don’t seem so keen. Across the country, pubs and restaurants are having difficulty in recruiting staff. Here’s the BBC, here’s the FT and again, here’s the Manchester Evening News. Even Tim Martin, the arch Brexiteer Weatherspoons boss is complaining. This is another lesson to us about how our economy is out of kilter, essential work is not well paid!

While much of the reporting suggests a desire for a better life work balance, I wonder how much Brexit and the end of Freedom of Movement has to do with this.  …

More nonsense on Bitcoin

The Indy reports on Bailey of the Bank on Bitcoin, who warns, “Cryptocurrency has ‘no intrinsic value’ and investors will ‘lose all your money’, says Bank of England chief” I add, “Bitcoin only works because the ‘proof of work’ is so expensive and time consuming; and its also destructive of the environment due to its useless power consumption. (It’s also very slow, doing 700 TPS, that’s not enough for a business, let alone an economy.) …

We’re all going on a summer holiday … or maybe not

We’re all going on a summer holiday … or maybe not

Will we go abroad for holiday’s this year? Boris, in Hartlepool, says maybe, Shapps says, dig out your passport. We’ll find out on May17th, but it looks as if the Govt will operate a traffic light scheme, requiring returning holiday makers to have a PRC test on return for Green list countries, and 10 day isolation for Amber, and a10 days in an approved hotel stay for Red list countries. Who bears the cost of testing is unclear, who bears the cost of hotel stay is not, it will be bourne by the traveller. I have taken the controls from the another BBC article. So it might be Devon, or Skegness?

Even if we don’t go abroad, are we putting our health in the once struggling NHS track & trace system? …

When 2nd best is actually best!

Another note on proportional representation. We elect MPs for two purposes, to represent us in Parliament and to choose a Prime Minister.

Sometimes the best and most supported answer is a compromise of 2nd bests which only a Parliament can deliver. i.e. the former role is more important.

Opponents of PR, within the LP, have a vision of a Labour Govt., exercising the powers of the elective dictatorship, (presumably without the corruption) ruling on the basis of a minority plurality. This always ends badly.

As other’s have said, the UK’s system i.e. FPTP is little used in democracies, and truth be told, not used in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales or London.

PR may or may not benefit Labour or the progressives in the UK, but the UK is a ‘flawed democracy’ and something must change to ensure this kakistocracy is never repeated. …