Archive for BrExit

Things Falling

Posted in Finance, Politics with tags , , , , , , on August 3, 2017 by telescoper

A very busy but also very interesting day at the office in the Niels Bohr Institute ended this evening with a thunderstorm, complete with spectacular lightning and torrential rain. I got wet on the walk back to my small home, but I managed to get inside before the worst of it started. I seem to remember a similar thing happened last time I was in Copenhagen. Maybe it’s the time of year.

Anyway, torrential rain isn’t the only thing that’s been falling today. The Pound dropped sharply against the Euro, so it is currently around €1.1069, not far from its lowest point in the last year. That’s not directly relevant to my visit to Denmark, which isn’t in the Eurozone, but the Pound has tumbled against the Danish Kroner too. In fact it’s been falling steadily over the past three months:

At 8.234 Kroner to the Pound, this the worst exchange rate I can remember in all the approximately 30 years I’ve been travelling to Copennhagen. The rate has usually been about 10:1 or even higher. Copenhagen has always seemed a rather expensive place, but converting prices into Pounds at the current exchange rate makes your eyes water. Fortunately I’m getting my local expenses paid by the NBI so the increased cost won’t really affect me, but it’s definitely noticeable. Such is the shambolic state of our government that I wouldn’t bet against the pound reaching parity with the Euro before too long.

Of course one is not allowed to suggest that the falling pound and sluggish economic growth might be something to do with BrExit because that would be `talking the country down’. The worrying thing, though, is that we haven’t left the European Union yet. Just wait until March 2019 when we leave the European Union, together with the Single Market and Customs Union without any trade agreement. Where will the pound be then, I wonder?

The Brexit Non-negotiations

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on July 17, 2017 by telescoper

daviddavis

The above picture was taken in Brussels this morning, it shows British government minister David Davis MP (right, centre of three) and the chief negotiator for the European Union, Michel Barnier (left, centre of three).

Notice that the EU negotiating team has come prepared with stacks of paperwork (probably including the detailed briefing papers that have been published by the European Union). By contrast, the British team have brought no papers at all.

It turns out that David Davis spent just an hour or so in Brussels before returning to London. With the clock ticking on the UK’s departure from the EU you would think that the Minister would want to make full use of the negotiations to secure a good outcome for this country, but by all accounts his team have yet to produce any position papers at all, unless you count the calculatedly mean-spirited `offer’ to EU citizens resident in the UK, which falls well short of what the EU had already tabled some months ago.

So what’s going on?

All this is consistent with what I have always felt would be this government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations, which is not to negotiate at all. Their plan, as it has always been, is just to go through the motions until they able to find some pretext to storm out, blaming the EU for trying to bully them. The most likely time for the staged walkout is in the autumn, probably after the German federal elections.

This gambit will no doubt be supported by propaganda pieces in the Daily Express, Mail and Telegraph and it might just allow the Tories to cling onto power while the economy suffers as we crash out of the EU in the most disorderly fashion possible. Not to mention the chaos it will cause for EU residents in the UK and UK residents in the EU.

That is, I believe, the Government’s plan. It is why Theresa May called a snap election, hoping to build up a larger majority and a full parliamentary term to withstand the inevitable backlash. That gamble backfired, but the Conservatives are still in power and the plan remains in place.

So why has the Government decided to adopt this position? Simple. It does not have the wherewithal even to formulate a negotiating position, let alone deliver a successful outcome. No possible end result can deliver the economic and political benefits of remaining in the European Union. If we’re going to make people suffer, the reasoning goes, we might as well find a scapegoat to deflect criticism away from our poor choices.

And what about the EU position? Well, they hold all the cards so they won’t be worried. Their priority will be to take over all the business opportunities that we have decided we no longer want. Whatever happens with the negotiations, the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. That’s plenty of time for EU companies to relocate their operations to mainland Europe, to write British producers out of their supply chains, and to expand its portfolio of trade agreements to the further disadvantage of the UK economy.

I may of course be completely wrong about this view of how Brexit will pan out, but so far nobody has been able to convince me that I am. You could try, if you like, through the comments box,.

 

 

 

The Irish Question 

Posted in Biographical with tags , , on April 7, 2017 by telescoper

Not surprisingly, given the imminent likelihood of big cuts to UK Astronomy funding as a result of our withdrawal from the European Union, quite a lot of the conversation at this evening’s RAS Club dinner revolved around ways of keeping EU citizenship in the post-BrExit era.

Through a bit of independent investigation I discovered a few weeks ago that, at least in principle, I qualify for Irish citizenship. This is because one of my grandparents (my grandfather on my mother’s side) was born in Northern Ireland. That is sufficient for me to claim Irish nationality, if I can prove it.

The problem is that the grandfather concerned died quite a long  time ago, when I was a kid. In fact, all my grandparents are deceased. To make matters worse I don’t know exactly when he was born or where or when he married my grandmother. This is a problem because I need to produce both his birth certificate and their marriage certificate, along with my mother’s birth certificate (and mine) to establish my case.

It is almost certain my grandfather was born before Ireland was partitioned in 1921, so his birth records may not even be in Northern Ireland but could be held in Dublin.

It looks like I have some interesting research to be getting on with!

We’ll Be Together Again

Posted in Jazz, Politics with tags , , , , , on March 29, 2017 by telescoper

So, we’ve come to it at last.

At 12.30 BST the Prime Minister’s letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be delivered to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. This will begin the process by which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. It also begins the process of dismantling the United Kingdom itself. Scottish independence is now an inevitability as is, probably on a slightly longer timescale, the reunification of Ireland.

I am sad beyond words that this country has taken this path to self-destruction, but can only hope that we eventually see sense and change or mind at some point in the next two years, or return to the fold at some later stage.

No artist was better at conveying a sense of tragedy and loss through their music than Billie Holiday, and here’s a track by her that perfectly expresses my feelings at this bleak time:

No tears, no fears
Remember there’s always tomorrow
So what if we have to part
We’ll be together again

 

 

March for Europe

Posted in Politics with tags , on March 24, 2017 by telescoper

Just a quick post to say that I’ll be travelling from Cardiff to London first thing tomorrow morning in order to take part in this March to Parliament.

March for Europe

After Wednesday’s terrorist attack near the Palace of Westminster, there has been some talk – some of apparently emanating from BrExit-supporters wanting to sabotage the event – about cancelling this demonstration against the folly of BrExit, and to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, but I’m glad to say it is going ahead. I think Wednesday’s events make it even more important that we exercise our democratic rights including the right to engage in peaceful protest. The march goes ahead with the full support of the Police.

For more details please see the facebook page here. I hope this will be a big one!

People are not “Bargaining Chips”

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on February 20, 2017 by telescoper

Today there has been a day of action under the banner of “One Day Without Us” to celebrate the contribution that migrants make to the United Kingdom and to the counter growing tide of racism and xenophobia associated with some elements of the recent campaign for this country to leave the European Union. Here’s a video produced by the campaign.

I wish to make it clear, as someone who was born in the United Kingdom, that I am appalled by the present government’s refusal to guarantee the rights of the millions of EU citizens who have made this country their home and enriched us all with their presence here. Migrants have had a positive effect over all sectors of the UK economy for a very long time, but I wish to highlight from my own experience the enormous contribution “migrants” – or as I prefer to call them “colleagues” – make to our Universities. Non-UK scientists form the backbone of the School of Physics & Astronomy here at Cardiff, just as they did in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex. Without them I don’t know how we’d carry on.

Now the Article 50 Bill has begun its progress through the House of Lords, I hope that it can be amended to force the government to stop treating such valuable people in such a despicable way. In the meantime all I can do – and I know it’s only a gesture – is say that the government does not speak for me, or for any of my colleagues, and that I hope and believe that it will be made to abandon its repellent notion that people can be treated like bargaining chips.

Ten Years of the European Research Council

Posted in Politics, Science Politics with tags , , , , on February 9, 2017 by telescoper

This little video reminded me that we’re coming up to the tenth anniversary of the founding of the European Research Council (ERC).

 

In my opinion the ERC has been an outstanding success that has revitalized science across the continent and here in the United Kingdom. Sadly the UK government has decided that the United Kingdom will play no further part in ERC-funded schemes or any other programme funded by the EU.  The participation of UK scientists has already started to diminish and when it dries up completely there will be a significant loss of research income, especially for fundamental science. I’m grateful to Paul Crowther for pointing out that over the past decade there have been no fewer than 176 ERC awards to UK physics departments, meaning over  1/3 of a billion Euros in research funding.

I estimate that most physics & astronomy departments in the UK will lose 20-30% of their research income as a result of leaving the EU. Most also have a similar fraction of staff who are EU nationals, many of whom will leave because of the UK government’s shocking refusal to guarantee their right to remain. I find it sad beyond words that we as a nation are not only about to throw away our leading role in so many excellent research projects but also destroy our own credibility as a civilized nation by the mean-spirited way we are behaving.

But the ERC will at least offer British scientists two ways to continue their involvement with EU programmes. The first is that existing grants are portable, so principal investigators who decided to relocate to an EU country can take their funding with them. The second is that future ERC grants are open to applicants from any country in the world who wish to carry out their research within the EU.

As Niels Bohr famously remarked “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”. I don’t know whether there will be a significant brain drain to the EU from the UK as a result of BrExit, but I do know many colleagues are talking about it right now. As for myself, if someone were to offer me a job in Europe I’d definitely take it.

(My CV is available on request).