Tag Archives: politics

Just read: Ivan Rogers’ 9 Lessons in Brexit

With Brexit having just been postponed this small book (more a booklet than a book actually) is probably a good read to help understanding how we got to where we are now. It also complements my earlier post that Brexit hasn’t really started yet.

Price: £3.95
Was: £5.99

In case you haven’t heard of him, Ivan Rogers is a former UK ambassador to the EU, so he knows rather well what he’s talking about. He resigned in January 2017 as he couldn’t support the governments negotiation strategy and his since then been giving lectures and speeches about the Brexit negotiations. This book is an edited version of one of the best received lectures he has given.

Focus is on strategy, not so much tactics/detail, as you would expect from a comparably short lecture/booklet. It highlights the mistakes and misinterpretations by the government in the preparations and negotiations which instantly put in on the back foot. It also highlights how many of the difficult decisions and trade offs haven’t been made yet but will have to be made as many of the promises made by some campaigners simply can’t be met.

An interesting (and for some eye opening, if only they were to read it) essay, well worth the time. Published in 2019, so very current even after the latest developments.

A few thoughts/warnings on “I just want Brexit to be done and over with”

I haven’t blogged/written much about politics here, mostly keeping it to G+ (which is now closing down). With Brexit going into overdrive at the moment and the final days before the deadline stumbling from crisis to crisis I’ve decided to start sharing the occasional thought on this blog as well. While many other EU citizens (incl several of my friends) have decided to leave the UK I have no plans to leave even though I’m very worried about Brexit and its impact on the economy and more. And while I haven’t made as much progress as I had hoped I’m still planning to obtain British citizenship. More about these two topics in another post, for this post I’d like to focus on a sentiment I’ve heard from both politicians and the general population increasingly often over the last few weeks: “I just want Brexit to be done and over with and get on with my life”:

I’m afraid you’re in for a very very rude awakening. Brexit hasn’t even started yet. Yes, you read that correctly. All we’ve had so far was the warming up phase.

Despite all the talk about a “deal/no deal Brexit” no deal has been negotiated yet. What is currently being discussed is the “Withdrawal Agreement (WA)” to agree the terms under which the UK leaves the EU (originally scheduled for 29/Mar/2019, but depending on developments that might be pushed out). We’ve all seen how difficult that has turned out to be with the various parties and fractions within the parties in the UK hugely divided about what they want, what is acceptable to them, what isn’t acceptable to them, who they could blame for not getting what they want, you name it. But all that was pretty much just about the WA (yes, there was some talk about red lines and the future relationship as well as declarations about intentions, but nothing legally binding in regards to the future relationship).

Negotiations about the future relationship with the EU, the trade deal with the EU, haven’t even started yet. And this future relationship will be even more difficult, even more controversial than the WA. Some want a quite close relationship with the EU, some as little as possible to do with the EU and others various shades inbetween. And none of them will be willing to compromise, same as now with the WA. Oh, and those kind of negotiations usually take many years. While the transition phase following the WA is set for 2 years (ish) it’s much more likely that negotiating a UK/EU trade deal will take a minimum of 5 years, quite possibly closer to 10 years.

Then there are all the other trade deals the UK will have to negotiate as it won’t be able to benefit from the dozens and dozens of trade deals it currently benefits from through EU membership. While some might be temporarily rolled over the majority will need to be renegotiated. And that will be tough, very tough. To start with the UK will have a significantly reduced negotiation power, for the simple reason that the UK is quite small compared to the still huge EU. Meaning the countries the UK will be negotiating with will demand much bigger concessions than what they were able to demand from the EU. And another important point: The whole world was able to watch how the UK was behaving during the WA negotiations with the EU, including public discussions/statements by UK politicians how the UK could escape (or better wiggle out of) the agreements the UK had just made with the EU. Having watched this no country negotiating with the UK will have much trust in anything the UK agrees to and they will be very wary about any promises made by the UK. Oh, and of course similar to the negotiations with the EU these negotiations will take many years.

There will also be a rude awakening for anyone believing into the “Taking back control of our laws” claims and slogans. The UK will turn from a rule maker and influencer (as a large member of the EU) into a rule taker. How? Simple: There are three large trading areas in the world (China, the US and the EU), as a smaller player (which the UK will be) you either follow their rules or you don’t trade. Your products and services either follow their rules or you can’t sell them. Neither to the big three or to almost all other countries as they will have mostly modelled their rules on the big three. The UK could of course have lower standards (in order to reduce bureaucracy/red tape), but that won’t help the UK exporters. Now the UK could of course introduce higher standards, but that would be the exact opposite of what the Brexiteers were promising, reducing restrictions (remember their outrage about the EU restricting the wattage of vacuum cleaners?) and removing “red tape”. Discussions about this topic will rage for many years.

Should there be a Crash Brexit (formerly known as cuddly “No Deal Brexit”) the impact will be even bigger and almost certainly felt even longer. Companies will implement their contingency plans (if they haven’t already done so) and a lot of business (and likely with it jobs) will leave the UK, some sooner, some later. There’s a very good chance there will be shortages in certain foods, medicines and possibly other things.

Not to mention the blame game depending on how badly Brexit goes wrong. That will run for probably the next decade. At least.

Or to summarise all the above, if you think Brexit will disappear from the news any time soon once the dirty deed is done you are dead wrong. On the contrary, it will only get worse.

Step 1 of another journey complete

When I applied for a job 22.5 years ago after graduating from the Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg in Germany I don’t think I would have imagined in my wildest dreams something I’m doing now. And with that I’m not talking about recovering from heart valve surgery. Said job turned out to be in Swindon in England while I had been born in Germany and had lived most of the next 26 years in Germany (apart from almost a year in the US for an internship).

In early 1995 I boarded a ferry to Harwich to start what at that point I probably thought was going to be just an episode in my life. I don’t know for sure but I think most if not all of the other foreign hires hired at the same time have long since returned to their countries of origin. But 22 years later I’m still here (with one short interruption 1998-2000 where my then employer sent me to Munich in Bavaria. Which as a northerner born in Bremen is a foreign country as far as I’m concerned). I’ve changed employer and I’ve moved home from Swindon to Aldermaston Wharf, but otherwise I’m still here.

Having been in the UK for so long I had started to think about it a few years ago: Naturalisation. Applying for citizenship. I feel the UK is my home now. Germany feels more and more like a foreign country (especially as I only go back to Germany a few days every year, if that. There have been years where I didn’t go at all). I find myself defending my chosen home against unjustified (and sometimes even justified) criticism. I find it more natural to speak, write, think and dream in English than in German. But apart from reading up on it a bit on the internet I hadn’t done a lot about it just yet, it was just on the radar. Then the Brexit vote came along.

The Brexit vote changed a lot. For a number of people I know it means they don’t feel welcome here any more. Some are making plans to move back to their country of origin (or elsewhere), others I think have even already done so. For me the plans I’ve had in the back of my mind have become more urgent. I’ve decided to stay and sit it out, make the best of it. I might regret it if the UK really goes down the drain as is entirely possible. I’m strongly against Brexit (as are millions of others, which is often forgotten) and think it’s one of the dumbest ideas ever. But I don’t feel it’s right to run away from the place which has become my home, with all its faults. I don’t feel it’s right to run away from all my friends which have given me enormous support and mean a lot to me. So I’ve decided to push ahead with naturalisation.

Picture of a UK residence documentation card
My Permanent Residence Card

The first step of that was to apply for a Permanent Residence Card. After a few weeks of gathering all the required evidence that I had legally and lawfully lived in the UK while exercising EU treaty rights (or something along those lines) I sent off my application in very early October, just before I left for the hospital for my operation. Then the nervous big wait began. I had read that processing an application could take up to six months (especially since the Brexit vote as the Home Office has been inundated with applications) and that in some cases applications were rejected for formalities. Today the both dreaded and anxiously awaited large A4 envelope (because of all the documentation to be returned) was sitting in my letterbox when I arrived home. When I ripped it open as soon as I was up in my flat one of the first things I saw was what you see in the picture. Relief, everything was fine. Step 1 of the journey is complete, I’ve obtained my Permanent Residence Card.

Now on to the next steps. I’ve got to pass a language test (I’m fairly confident about that, I know the differences between their/they’re/there, you’re/your,  it’s/its and should have/should of) and I’ve got to pass the Life in the UK test (which apparently teaches you such important things like when and where the first curry house was opened, but not which telephone number to dial in an emergency. But then I know the latter anyway). So the next few weeks, may be even months, will be spent studying this:

The drone hit that almost certainly wasn’t

A few days ago the press was full with reports about a drone allegedly hitting a plane (see BBC, Telegraph, Guardian). The reports all called for tighter regulations, more controls, they predicted dire scenarios of planes crashing if nothing was done, yet hidden in the articles it was also is mentioned that the plane was ‘believed to be hit’ and that no debris off a drone had been found. In other words, there was no proof of a hit.

I was sceptical of the reports when they first surfaced for a number of reasons. To start with the reports indicated that there was little or no damage to the plane which contradicts the claims of dire consequences should a plane be hit. Surely if the plane had been hit there would have been damage? Next the reported height of 1700 feet when the plane was hit. While not technically impossible it is quite difficult to reach such heights with a standard consumer drone. The newer models of the DJI Phantom (a picture of which is usually used to illustrate the reports) all have built-in height restrictions below the levels indicated in this report and many other sightings. Admittedly these can be hacked and overwritten, also older models don’t have this restriction. However, the ability to reach and maintain such heights is severely limited by in particular the battery capacity of the drones. If if a consumer drone was to reach these heights it almost certainly would only be able to remain at that level for less than a minute before having to descend or even descend automatically to ensure a safe landing with enough battery capacity.

Then the calls for tighter regulations including an US style drone registry. To start with there is already regulation requiring drone operators to only fly at safe heights and not near any airports. I firmly believe that the majority of people flying a drone will follow those rules, but as with pretty much anything there will always be some idiots will break the rules and ruin it for everyone (just think of the people driving vastly in excess of the speed limit or texting while driving, which in many cases has led to deathly accidents). A drone registry would only be helpful if any identifiable debris of a drone had been found, otherwise what would you look for to identify the owner? In this case nothing had been found so there was nothing to identify.

Now the first reports are starting to surface that the alleged hit might not have happened at all or that the alleged drone might have been a plastic bag. There was no damage to the plane at all, not even a dent. Still no debris has been found. All this indicates that almost certainly there was no strike, most likely not even a drone.

Transport Minister Robert Goodwill in my eyes reacts very sensibly and seems to have a very good understanding of the situation. Tighter rules won’t stop terrorists and will only have a limited impact on reckless idiots (see the earlier mentioned speeding and texting). The technical limitations of a drone (e.g. battery capacity) will make it much more likely for terrorists to use other, simpler means to achieve their goals. Of course there should be continued education about the rules and safe flying for all drone users as well as punishment for reckless idiots, but both of that is already happening as various press reports indicate.