The Latin American photographs of Mario Algaze:
From the retrospective A Respect for Light.
The Latin American photographs of Mario Algaze:
From the retrospective A Respect for Light.
We are, as yet, a representative democracy. The referendum was advisory. Parliament, I believe, still has to make the decision about invoking Article 50 and leaving the EU. And given that the overwhelming majority of MPs are against leaving - and given that the Leave majority was so slim, at 52%, with many already regretting their decision - it's clear that this isn't over yet.
From letters to the Times today [£]...Professor Michael Sheppard:
It is inconceivable that many of those who voted Leave had a real appreciation of the whirlwind that they were sowing. How does one otherwise explain a Brexit vote from Cornwall, so heavily reliant on EU funding and in Sunderland, whose employment revolves around a firm whose location there is at least partly dependent on the UK’s location within the EU free trade area?
In the circumstances it would be an act of monumental irresponsibility to regard the referendum as anything other than guidance. Parliament is sovereign and does not need to follow the dictates of a single referendum, a snapshot from one moment in time.
I admit to and regret voting Leave; I suspect many others feel the same. Why? Mine was a protest vote in solidarity with so many in forgotten rural and blighted industrial England, disenfranchised by both a Londoncentric and European political system that offers little to the unemployed and working poor. I believe the protest vote was so strong that it swung the outcome. Corbyn does not represent the working poor and long-term unemployed any more than Cameron does, perhaps even less, hence people ignored them both.
To those like myself who voted Leave as a protest, we made a big mistake...
Charles Flint, QC:
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty permits a member state to give notice to withdraw from the European Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
The main article of faith of those proposing withdrawal is that it is necessary to reassert the sovereignty of parliament over our own laws. Yet the assumption appears to be that the irreversible step of giving notice under Article 50, thus necessarily requiring fundamental change to our laws and constitution, should be effected without parliamentary approval. This is in contrast to the position under the European Union Act 2011 under which a change to the treaty on European Union, agreed between member states, would have required approval both by referendum and by act of parliament.
Where are those members prepared to assert the power of parliament to approve the giving of notice to withdraw from the European Union under Article 50?
And Lucy Fisher, also in the Times [£]:
New UK legislation to trigger the formal treaty mechanism that would take Britain out of the EU will be required to facilitate Brexit, top QCs have warned.
The requirement for a new law could scupper the move to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which sets out the legal process for a nation’s secession from the EU, because a majority of MPs backed Remain and could in principle block the Leave result in the Commons.
Geoffrey Robertson, QC, founder of Doughty Street Chambers, toldThe Times: “People think Brexit is a done deal; it’s not. Our democracy rests on parliamentary sovereignty, which is in the keeping of MPs, who make or break laws, and peers, who can block laws.
“Before Brexit can be triggered, parliament has to act by repealing the legislation that keeps Britain in the EU. And in that vote MPs are entitled to act according to their conscience and what is best for Britain.”
He predicted that MPs representing London and Scottish seats would likely “have no moral difficulty” in rejecting the result because their constituents did not vote for it. He insisted that others could “quite properly decide that by the time the repeal comes before parliament, probably in November, that Brexit would turn out badly for Britain, and decide to vote against it”.
He added: “It is novel in British constitutional tradition to be bound by referenda. Many countries have a provision for referenda. But we don’t have a written constitution, all we have are constitutional conventions, based on traditions and history, and they don’t make provision for referenda.”
Another leading QC also said that new legislation would be required. Charles Flint, QC, from Blackstone Chambers, says in a letter to The Times published today: “Under the European Union Act 2011 . . . a change to the treaty on European Union, agreed between member states, would have required approval both by referendum and by act of parliament.”
Meanwhile, a row has broken out over the timing of the invocation of Article 50. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, and other leading figures in the EU have demanded that Britain exit the union swiftly. However Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, who backed Remain, said the decision was in Britain’s hands.
He told Peston on Sunday on ITV: “There is no imperative upon us to serve the notice at any particular time.”
So another scenario could be added to those suggested by the Guardian commenter I quoted in the previous post: Boris Johnson could find himself as Prime Minister, presiding over a House of Commons vote that throws out his Brexit proposals - leaving him effectively screwed by Parliament over the main reason for his promotion to the leadership.
But there are enough possible future scenarios to make your head spin...
I suggested earlier that Cameron's post-referendum resignation was an act of petulance, only serving to exacerbate the sense of crisis over Brexit. This astute comment at the Guardian - currently doing the rounds - suggests that Cameron was being a great deal smarter than that:
If Boris Johnson looked downbeat yesterday, that is because he realises that he has lost.
Perhaps many Brexiters do not realise it yet, but they have actually lost, and it is all down to one man: David Cameron.
With one fell swoop yesterday at 9:15 am, Cameron effectively annulled the referendum result, and simultaneously destroyed the political careers of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and leading Brexiters who cost him so much anguish, not to mention his premiership.
Throughout the campaign, Cameron had repeatedly said that a vote for leave would lead to triggering Article 50 straight away. Whether implicitly or explicitly, the image was clear: he would be giving that notice under Article 50 the morning after a vote to leave. Whether that was scaremongering or not is a bit moot now but, in the midst of the sentimental nautical references of his speech yesterday, he quietly abandoned that position and handed the responsibility over to his successor.
And as the day wore on, the enormity of that step started to sink in: the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier at Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market, re-issuing passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legistlation to be torn up and rewritten ... the list grew and grew.
The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction.
The Conservative party election that Cameron triggered will now have one question looming over it: will you, if elected as party leader, trigger the notice under Article 50?
Who will want to have the responsibility of all those ramifications and consequences on his/her head and shoulders?
Boris Johnson knew this yesterday, when he emerged subdued from his home and was even more subdued at the press conference. He has been out-maneouvered and check-mated.
If he runs for leadership of the party, and then fails to follow through on triggering Article 50, then he is finished. If he does not run and effectively abandons the field, then he is finished. If he runs, wins and pulls the UK out of the EU, then it will all be over - Scotland will break away, there will be upheaval in Ireland, a recession ... broken trade agreements. Then he is also finished. Boris Johnson knows all of this. When he acts like the dumb blond it is just that: an act.
The Brexit leaders now have a result that they cannot use. For them, leadership of the Tory party has become a poison chalice.
When Boris Johnson said there was no need to trigger Article 50 straight away, what he really meant to say was "never". When Michael Gove went on and on about "informal negotiations" ... why? why not the formal ones straight away? ... he also meant not triggering the formal departure. They both know what a formal demarche would mean: an irreversible step that neither of them is prepared to take.
All that remains is for someone to have the guts to stand up and say that Brexit is unachievable in reality without an enormous amount of pain and destruction, that cannot be borne. And David Cameron has put the onus of making that statement on the heads of the people who led the Brexit campaign.
From the Sunday Times [£] today:
The student union at York University has become the first in the country to make a public apology and offer a four-figure sum to a Jewish student who complained of anti-semitism.
Zachary Confino, 21, a law student, suffered stress and narrowly missed a first-class degree, after two years of battling with anti-Israeli students at York University.
This week, after the intervention of the universities minister, Jo Johnson, he will accept a written apology from the university’s student union over his treatment.
The apology, brokered by the university’s registrar, will be published online and Confino will receive a sum understood to be at least £1,000.
Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi, who warned earlier this year that “British universities are turning a blind eye to Jew hatred” and that the Labour party had a “severe problem” with anti-semitism, said he hoped the apology would send a strong message to other universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, where Jewish students have allegedly been made to feel uncomfortable.
“This apology is most welcome, not only in the context of the case of Zachary Confino but also for the clear message that it sends to other universities that there must be absolutely no place for anti-semitism on our campuses,” said his spokesman.
Confino was trolled on the social media app Yik Yak, where one anonymous user wrote: “Hitler was onto something”. He was called “a Jewish prick” and an “Israeli twat”. When he tried to oppose a student union motion to boycott Israeli goods he was told that it was his own fault that he was getting anti-semitic abuse because he supported Israel.
While leafleting against the staging of the play Seven Jewish Children at the university by the Palestine Solidarity Society, he says he was confronted by three members of the society, including Tom Corbyn, son of the Labour leader, an engineering student. Tom Corbyn has not commented.
Ha! A chip off the old block.
In an apology to Confino to be made public this week, the student union accepts he suffered “very distressing experiences” and said it wanted to learn lessons “in terms of sensitivity to anti-semitism”.
The university said it was committed “to preserving the right to freedom of expression while also combating anti-semitism, Islamophobia and any other form of race hate. To this end, we have signed joint statements with both the Jewish Society and the Islamic Society on campus.”
It's strange that they should include "Islamophobia" here - as though they're unable simply to denounce anti-semitism on its own. As though the Jews can't be seen to be the only victims. That would never do.
It's just like the Labour Party inquiry under Shami Chakrabarti, which was originally set up to look at anti-semitism, but then had its remit widened to include racism in general:
The inquiry, which will report in two months [this is dated end of April], will set out "clear and transparent" rules on how the party should deal with allegations of racism and anti-Semitism and propose training programmes for parliamentary candidates, MPs and councillors....
Mr Corbyn said Labour was an anti-racist party "to its core", and the Jewish community had been at the heart of the Labour party and progressive politics in Britain for more than 100 years.
"There is no place for anti-Semitism or any form of racism in the Labour party, or anywhere in society, and we will make sure that our party is a welcoming home to members of all communities," he said.
Formulating it like that makes it easy to deny that there's any problem, because of course we're all against racism here: as though anti-semitism was just one among many variants of racism. It's not, though: it's a completely different beast. In fact, as John-Paul Pagano argues, it's almost 180 degrees off from what's normally construed as racism - which is why so many on the left are able to dismiss claims of anti-semitism so glibly: because of "white privilege", the Palestinians, etc. etc..
All of which suggests that they - the York Student Union, and the Labour Party - still don't really get it.
But yes, it's something, this apology. It's a start.
Feeling a little hungover? Waking in the morning and thinking, oh shit? Fed up with the endless prophets of doom and disaster? Cameron gets us into this mess by foolishly promising a referendum, and promptly resigns when the result doesn't go his way - petulantly exacerbating the sense of a crisis. And that's without the Labour Corbyn farce. At times like this we need at least some positivity. This is, after all, where we are now. There will be no second referendum. Articles telling us how stupid we've been, frankly, tend to pall after a while. [For what it's worth I voted Remain, not out of any sense of conviction or love of the EU, but simply because the fall-out was all too predictable.]
So, here are a few of what seem, to me , to be some of the more positive contributions, post-Brexit. First, Fraser Nelson in the WSJ:
The world is looking at Britain and asking: What on Earth just happened? Those who run Britain are asking the same question.
Never has there been a greater coalition of the establishment than that assembled by Prime Minister David Cameron for his referendum campaign to keep the U.K. in the European Union. There was almost every Westminster party leader, most of their troops and almost every trade union and employers’ federation. There were retired spy chiefs, historians, football clubs, national treasures like Stephen Hawking and divinities like Keira Knightley. And some global glamour too: President Barack Obama flew to London to do his bit, and Goldman Sachs opened its checkbook.
And none of it worked. The opinion polls barely moved over the course of the campaign, and 52% of Britons voted to leave the EU. That slender majority was probably the biggest slap in the face ever delivered to the British establishment in the history of universal suffrage.
Mr. Cameron announced that he would resign because he felt the country has taken a new direction—one that he disagrees with. If everyone else did the same, the House of Commons would be almost empty. Britain’s exit from the EU, or Brexit, was backed by barely a quarter of his government members and by not even a tenth of Labour politicians. It was a very British revolution.
Donald Trump’s arrival in Scotland on Friday to visit one of his golf courses was precisely the metaphor that the Brexiteers didn’t want. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee cheerily declared that the British had just “taken back their country” in the same way that he’s inviting Americans to do—underscoring one of the biggest misconceptions about the EU referendum campaign. Britain isn’t having a Trump moment, turning in on itself in a fit of protectionist and nativist pique. Rather, the vote for Brexit was about liberty and free trade—and about trying to manage globalization better than the EU has been doing from Brussels.
The Brexit campaign started as a cry for liberty, perhaps articulated most clearly by Michael Gove, the British justice secretary (and, on this issue, the most prominent dissenter in Mr. Cameron’s cabinet). Mr. Gove offered practical examples of the problems of EU membership. As a minister, he said, he deals constantly with edicts and regulations framed at the European level—rules that he doesn’t want and can’t change. These were rules that no one in Britain asked for, rules promulgated by officials whose names Brits don’t know, people whom they never elected and cannot remove from office. Yet they become the law of the land. Much of what we think of as British democracy, Mr. Gove argued, is now no such thing....
Megan McArdle, with a view from the States:
The inability of those elites to grapple with the rich world’s populist moment was in full display on social media last night. Journalists and academics seemed to feel that they had not made it sufficiently clear that people who oppose open borders are a bunch of racist rubes who couldn’t count to 20 with their shoes on, and hence will believe any daft thing they’re told....
The answer to these uncertainties, I submit, is not to simply keep doing what we’re doing. There’s a lot of appeal to the internationalist idea that building superstates will tamp down on war. But there’s a reason that the 19th century architects of superstates (now known simply as “states”) spent so much time and effort nurturing national identity in the breasts of their populace. Surrendering traditional powers and liberties to a distant state is a lot easier if you think of that state as run by “people like me,” not “strangers from another place,” and particularly if that surrender is done in the name of empowering “people who are like me” in our collective dealings with other, farther “strangers who aren’t.”
The EU never did this work. When asked "Where are you from?" almost no one would answer "Europe," because after 50 years of assiduous labor by the eurocrats, Europe remains a continent, not an identity. As Matthew Yglesias points out, an EU-wide soccer team would be invincible -- but who would root for it? These sorts of tribal affiliations cause problems, obviously, which is why elites were so eager to tamp them down. Unfortunately, they are also what glues polities together, and makes people willing to sacrifice for them. Trying to build the state without the nation has led to the mess that is the current EU. And to Thursday's election results.
Elites missed this because they're the exception -- the one group that has a transnational identity. And in fact the arguments for the EU look a lot like the old arguments for national states: a project that will empower people like us against the scary people who aren’t.
Unhappily for the elites, there is no “Transnationalprofessionalistan” to which they can move. (And who would trim the hedges, make the widgets, and staff the nursing homes if there were?) They have to live in physical places, filled with other people whose loyalties are to a particular place and way of life, not an abstract ideal, or the joys of rootless cosmopolitanism.
And finally, Dominic Lawson in today's Sunday Times [£]:
The BBC’s Katya Adler politely put her question to Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, at his Brussels press conference on Friday: was the British referendum vote to leave the EU “the beginning of the end” of this organisation? First, he pretended not to hear. Then Juncker uttered the single word “No” — and abruptly walked out. The bulk of the assembled journalists, after a moment of dawning realisation . . . applauded. What a cosy, complacent club.
The British radio audience got their own taste of it when Martin Schulz, the European parliament’s president, told Radio 4’s Today programme that “this is not a crisis for the European Union”. Well, anyone can understand the need not to appear to panic; but sublime indifference to the public’s expressed wishes at the ballot box is almost a sacred principle of the EU.
This is ingrained in its very origins: Jean Monnet, one of its founding fathers, envisaged a new Europe governed by an elite cadre of bureaucrats who would be magnificently aloof from populism and the petty day-to-day concerns of the masses. It was a Platonic vision — that is to say, one of a benign dictatorship.
This would be infinitely superior to the malign dictatorship that had almost destroyed the continent in the 1940s — and to that which oppressed the peoples of eastern Europe until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Eternal credit is due to it for the two achievements of tying the bonds of peace between Germany and its immediate neighbours and of assisting the path to market economies for the former communist states.
Unfortunately, the European movement, as it sometimes calls itself, has one thing in common with the Marxists. It, too, is a form of secular faith. Its advocates see a fully federal European state as a historically predetermined outcome, the very definition of progress. But, like the Bolsheviks, they are not prepared to wait for history to take its inevitable course; paradoxically, such alleged inevitability must be pressed on the peoples of Europe, whether they wish it or not.
Juncker is just the most disarmingly frank of these men (they are all men — the system-loving sex that worships grand ideas and scorns common sense). He it was who said in 2005 — when Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s imperial European constitution began to run into the buffers of hostile plebiscites — “If it’s a yes we will say, ‘On we go’, and if it’s a no we will say, ‘We will continue.’”
After its rejection by Dutch and French voters, “we will continue” was manifest in the Lisbon treaty, which, as Angela Merkel noted, “preserves the substance of the constitution. That is a fact.”
This was when Gisela Stuart — the Labour MP who with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove led the Vote Leave campaign — became convinced of the need for what would come to be known as Brexit. The German-born MP for Neville Chamberlain’s old Birmingham Edgbaston seat was one of our parliamentarians on the committee drafting the European constitution.
She told me afterwards how whenever she and her colleagues put in clauses with the purpose of bringing the EU institutions more under the control of the national electorates — and closer to them — they would always be mysteriously struck out at the last minute.
Stuart realised then that this was a movement with contempt for the notion of democratic accountability; that unlike other political institutions in what we call the West it was not to be created as a response to the call for reform by the people but to be imposed top-down.
No one has expressed this better than Michael Burrage, the author of Class Formation, Civil Society and the State: “In contrast with the evolution of democracy in English-speaking democracies, the new European polity has evolved backwards, with an executive and a court preceding a legislature, which is still nominal, with civil society very much an afterthought . It cannot therefore perform quite the same functions as the voluntarily and spontaneously organised civil societies of the English-speaking world.”
It was, in fact, an astonishing experiment in conducting an upside-down pseudo-democracy, with the transmission of instructions not from the people upwards, but from the European Commission downwards.
This political system most closely resembles that of the People’s Republic of China. The difficulty for its proponents is that the citizens of Europe do not, on the whole, have the Chinese willingness to endure imperial governance. Funnily enough, it was a former Maoist and later president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, who declared that the EU is a “non-imperial empire”....
We invented parliamentary democracy and prospered mightily under it. Unlike the great majority of member states, we did not join the EU as part of the escape from war (France and Germany) or dictatorship (Spain, Portugal, Greece). We also have an ancient legal system, characterised by popular participation, which has not shrunk from checking the powers of the executive. The British people do not need their liberties guaranteed by the European Court of Justice. At some visceral level, they realise that.
Last week I advocated a vote to leave, which would show Europe that “there is another way”. There may be referendums elsewhere in the EU. What then happens is up to those countries’ own peoples — of whose existence, a French publication observed yesterday, “the European Commission has just been reminded”.
It is endlessly said that there is a “growing loss of faith in democracy” across the western world. The British vote to leave the EU has been described as a manifestation of this malaise. On the contrary: it is a vote for the re-establishment of parliamentary democracy and a fully responsible, accountable elected government. It might even catch on.
I don't know how much I agree with any of this but, as I say, they offer a salutary break from the relentless negativity. It's going to be a long hard slog: this is one of the most momentous political moments for decades. But we'll survive - and no, I don't hear the sound of marching jackboots, or the death throes of European civilisation. But it's change, for sure.
More on North Korean labourers abroad, and the brutal punishments dished out to those attempting to escape. From the Daily NK:
Last month, Daily NK dispatched a special coverage team overseas to investigate reports of human rights abuses involving North Korean laborers in China, Russia, and Mongolia. Daily NK’s special coverage team learned that some laborers dispatched to Russia to work were allegedly caught after an escape attempt and severely punished. The State Security Department [SSD] officials charged with monitoring the site responded to the incident by torturing the escapees, before forcibly repatriating them to North Korea.
According to testimony given to Daily NK at the end of the month by a North Korean laborer in Russia, escapees who are apprehended face extremely ruthless punishment in order to deter future attempts by others. In one such example, a laborer had his Achilles tendon severed by the authorities. In another case, the laborers were forced to lie down and had their legs broken with a construction excavator. Upon their return to North Korea, these handicapped laborers and their families are sent to political prison camps.
Another laborer sent to the coastal province of Khabarovsk, Russia, at the beginning of the year testified to Daily NK that, “Previously, a worker fled from the worksite and hid out in a nearby church, where he was later discovered and caught. The SSD agents used a huge excavator to crush him. He was denied proper medical attention thereafter and became disabled. It’s impossible for these SSD agents to forgive an escape attempt and so they made an example out of him.”
He continued, “The last time we saw our colleague in question, he was skin and bones, injured, and had nothing but a simple bandage on his leg. He was forcibly repatriated in that condition. This is not an unusual or rare occurrence. Some laborers who try to escape have their Achilles tendon cut, and others are beaten with pieces of lumber. These kinds of escape attempts happen from time to time, but even if the laborers manage to flee, it is very difficult for them to survive. They have no choice but to wander about.”
“However, since this is Russian soil [and not North Korea], North Korean State Security Department agents shouldn’t even have the authority to detain people, let alone break people’s legs,” the source added.
A source from a separate worksite in Russia corroborated these allegations, stating that while North Korean workers sent to Russian construction sites are permitted relative freedom of movement in order to complete their tasks, the authorities create an atmosphere of terror by using extreme punishments, including the breaking of bones, to discourage all escape attempts. This additional source confirmed that upon their return to North Korea, transgressors’ families are rounded up with them and sent to political prison camps.
“Besides escape attempts, there are other infractions that can earn laborers a return trip to North Korea and a prison term. They can suffer this fate, for example, if they complain about back pay being withheld. Individuals who complain about unfair conditions are quietly called in and told that they will be put on ‘leave.’ In reality, they are repatriated and imprisoned,” the source explained. ...
Detention centers have been set up in isolated areas near worksites to inflict punishment on laborers who express dissent. A missionary in Russia who has had contact with numerous North Korean laborers reported that strict surveillance and beatings are used to threaten the workers, discouraging them from escaping or dissenting, saying, “Those who dissent are thrown in these detention centers, where they endure particularly cruel punishment.”
“The workers who are sent abroad do not even have the slightest understanding of the concept of human rights. They simply try to live on the money they are given for their work. They risk their lives and endure conditions we would consider unfit for animals,” he added.
Yes. I remember Adlestrop
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat, the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
It was a long long time ago.