Hungary’s legislature has approved measures granting Prime Minister Viktor Orban power to bypass parliament, put people in jail for “spreading false information” about the coronavirus – and cancel elections.
“The different measures taken by Belgium and the Netherlands to contain the further spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) have led to one store only half a store being allowed to open on the border.”
– See story in The Brussels Times
From Robert Menasse’s acid satire of the European Union, The Capital:
“… the general loss of faith in European institutions was a consequence of poor growth, the menacing threat of right-wing populism – clearly if there were more growth there would be no growth in right-wing populism. And how could we generate more growth? Through greater liberalisation, of course. Instead of the Union stipulating common rules, each Member State ought to axe as many rules as possible for itself. Although there would never be a real union, there would be growth, and this would be best for the Union.”
Street food stall, Singapore
For those who wish to see, critics warn about Boris Johnson’s hard-Brexit plans for free ports and mimicking the so-called “Singapore Model.” Angela Merkel warned of the danger to EU of Singapore-style UK on its border today. She said,
“But the fact remains that after the withdrawal of Britain, we have an economic competitor at our door, even if we want to keep close economic, foreign and security cooperation and friendly relations.”
Addressing the Singapore Model, an Oxfam report from last year notes that Singapore
“has no equal pay or non-discrimination laws for women; its laws on both rape and sexual harassment are inadequate; and there is no minimum wage, except for cleaners and security guard.”
Unless perhaps you are a cleaner or a security guard, I’m guessing that’s not exactly among the outcomes rank-and-file Brexiteers expect from a hard Brexit.
Today in the Brexit saga,
“Kent is going full steam ahead with its contingency plans to prevent gridlock on its roads in the event of congestion in Dover or Calais.
Concrete barriers have already been erected on the main port artery in Kent, with a section of the London-bound M20 between junction 8 and junction 9 now operating as a 50mph contraflow for normal traffic. Work on signage will be completed over the weekend.
The coastbound section will be closed off to all but lorry traffic from next week to allow Highways England to carry out a dry run to cope with possible chaos after 11pm on 29 March.”
“Manston airport near Ramsgate is in the final stages of preparation for use as a lorry park for up to 6,000 heavy goods vehicles in the event of gridlock.
Councillors will also hear from adult social care and health officers who have plans to minimise the risk of disruption to admissions of patients to hospitals, residential care homes and the supply of fuel, medication, cleaning and sanitation products.
Schools have also been issued with Brexit guidelines warning them to think twice before closing down in the event that staff cannot make it through the gridlock.”
From UK’s emergency plans for no-deal Brexit begin to be put into action in The Guardian.
Michael Hirsh writes elsewhere today that
“Britain’s humiliation has been a powerful lesson for even the most virulent populists and nationalists within the EU, rendering the idea of full exit all but unthinkable, a new political third rail.”
That may be wishful thinking, for also today, across the channel and just up the road, comes news that Far-right Forum for Democracy wins most seats in Dutch provincial elections.
My due diligence for a trip to southeast Asia has taken me down an obscure path. Exploring French efforts to regain their Indochinese colony after WWII has led me to Theodore White’s Fire in the Ashes: Europe in Mid Century. Teddy White went on to write the Making of the President series of books starting with the 1960 Kennedy election, books that made his career.
He started his book with a lengthy description of intercontinental air travel because then, few people had had that experience. He wrote, “in our years almost as many men cross the great ocean by wings as travel it by boat,” revealing not only a no longer acceptable sexism (“men” cross the ocean) but also that when the book came out in 1953, more people still traveled across the Atlantic by ship.
But the quote I mean to highlight comes a few pages later:
“It is obvious that new leadership in both America and Russia is now wrenching the whole course of world affairs into new patterns and perspectives. What is less obvious is that in this wrenching process Europe, forgotten through the postwar years as a factor in power, must contribute as greatly as either of the two new titans.”
The Americans have urged the Europeans to take more responsibility for their own defense for as long as I’ve been grown up. Here is an exhortation to Europe to rise up and carry its weight in world affairs that is sixty-six years old.
All this time I’ve taken it on faith that the United Kingdom’s “Europe” debate has primarily been an internal Tory affair, to which the ruling party has held the rest of the country hostage. But yesterday the wider parliament, acting as the collective decision-making body for the country and comprising all the parties, failed to muster even the minimal political dexterity to stave off crashing out of the EU without an agreement.
It looks as if the entire political class is unable to govern. It looks like a shambles.