The Exiting the EU Committee yesterday published 39 “Sectoral Reports” (not 57, or 58, or eleventy-three), selectively redacted for our reading pleasure.
Looking at my own sector of Higher Education, the key page of the relevant report is p. 12, “Sector views: This information was provided by the Government to the Committee, but the Committee has decided not to publish this section”. The rest compiles 2015/16 statistics on EU staff and students and HE funding. Page 9 notes that the “latest figures on education exports (2014), show that EU HE students contribute £2.6 billion per year to the UK economy”—a mere 7.43 Brexit-bus-weeks per year. In other words, they bring in about 25% of the actual net cost to the UK of our annual EU membership.
Rather than leading with the public release of these wholly inadequate sector “reports”, the main Brexit story on the Today programme this morning was blue passports. I hadn’t realised just how long the UK has had burgundy passports; they were introduced in 1988, almost thirty years ago. How emblematic of this whole farrago: UK society and the UK economy ripped apart for the sake of aging voters’ nostalgia for things from a generation ago. Let’s bring back flares and paisley while we’re at it. Or let’s just give them their pointless symbolism, and keep what really matters. Here’s the referendum we should have had:
All 218 U2 songs, ranked from worst to best, not including the new album (which is okay, but has nothing to match “California”, which should be a lot higher than number 121 on this list. Good list, though).
Radio Garden took me right back to listening to longwave radio in Nuku‘alofa in 1993.
An interview with Ursula K. Le Guin. After a childhood and young adulthood reading mostly science fiction, I ended up feeling that Le Guin and Philip K. Dick were the apotheosis of the genre, and that’s pretty much where I’ve been ever since.
If you tax the rich, they won’t leave. The author was featured recently on Ed Miliband’s and Geoff Lloyd’s new podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful (which is my podcast discovery of the month—surprisingly compelling and entertaining stuff from Labour’s ex-leader).
My son and I went along to an opening-day screening of The Last Jedi last week. Even though we were craning our necks in front-row seats to stare at a giant distorted parallelogram, we loved it: it had so many great moments, so many genuinely funny moments, and the scene in Snoke’s chamber was utterly breathtaking in a way that took me back to watching Luke and Vader at the end of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. The Force Awakens and Rogue One each, in their own ways, provided everything I wanted in a Star Wars movie, far more than the prequels ever did, but this gave us things I didn’t even know I wanted in a Star Wars movie. I loved the direction Rian Johnson took on key plot points, away from the prequel-like need to over-explain every detail, and towards, at every step, the heart of the new trilogy: the struggle between Ren and Rey for one another’s souls, and their conflicting instincts about what it means to bring balance to the Force. He’s set the bar very, very high for Episode IX; I hope J. J. Abrams can clear it.
A Twitter thread on the battles ahead for the Brexit deal-makers by Kirsty Hughes, Director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations.
Some Brexit-related links I haven’t already bundled into recent posts.
The UK media are reporting the news of yesterday’s Brexit “breakthrough” as if progress is being made, when the story of this week should be that we couldn’t trust May and her government to organise a piss-up in a Members’ Lounge, let alone negotiate all of our futures. They’ve just papered over the inherent contradictions of the border issue so that progress can be seen to be made, not actually made. You can’t have no checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic and no checks between Northern Ireland and mainland UK while maintaining that a hard border exists between the UK and the EU. This accepts freedom of movement by default; in which case, what on earth is the point of maintaining that the UK needs to leave the single market and customs union?
Unless... the plan is to restrict freedom of movement by requiring identity checks within the UK of anyone “foreign” whenever suspicion arises that they aren’t in the UK legitimately. That would certainly be in keeping with May’s track record as Home Secretary and PM. So, if you look or sound “different”: papers, please. So much for EU27 citizens (or any other immigrants, or children of immigrants) now being able to feel secure here. Whether or not companies feel that this “breakthrough” gives them enough reason to pause their Brexit contingency plans, I doubt it will cause most affected individuals to do so.
In an extraordinary moment in a week full of them, it became clear yesterday that Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis has been bluffing on Brexit, and that the 58 (or 57, or 50–60) impact assessments he has alluded to for months, and which were requested by Parliament six weeks ago, do not, in fact, exist.
Given how willing Britain’s MPs seem to be to burn down their country through their own indecisiveness and blinkered attachment to the past, it’s no surprise that they’re willing to risk the same fate for their workplace.