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Addressing the Issues at hand

We should not see Brexit through the prism of winners and losers, we all win or we all lose

The Brexit debate rages on over here. There is a tangible feeling that, after a thaw in relations between the various sides, views are entrenching again.

The President of the EU - Donald Tusk made a premeditated remark that was unwise - paraphrasing, he wondered what a special place in Hell looked like - the place where the British Brexiteers were going to go? And then added that they clamoured for Brexit without any plan of how to deliver it. These comments looked like they received the approval, if not the delight of the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who was standing next to him. Again, an understandable reaction but not very helpful, not for grown-up negotiations. It is, of course, true that the Brexiteers had no plan for delivering the UK out of the EU - Because they had no expectation of winning the 2016 referendum. Tusk, an ardent Europhile obviously believes deeply in the United States of Europe dream and to see it shattered must be heartbreaking for him. What he is not saying out loud I suspect, is that he inwardly fears that if there is a No Deal Brexit - it could possibly cascade into the end of the EU dream.

Tusk's remarks were not what one would expect from a seasoned diplomat, and frankly, in the present climate, when others are desperately trying to seek ways of bringing opposing sides together, to have your boss saying these sort of things, however understandable, must be very frustrating.

Theresa May - our Prime minister, has definitely made some errors along the way, most obviously, adopting a somewhat arrogant position and not bringing other Members of Parliament with her on the journey of negotiation. Naturally, they are now rebelling and insisting they want to have their say. A bit late in the day, but they are right - that is the point of parliament, so MP's can voice their views and we should remember - whatever we may think of our politicians, political dogma aside, there is a great deal of combined wisdom in the house of commons, as there is in Congress.

So this has been a major failure of Mrs May, and will I am sure, be recorded in history as her big mistake. The question is - can a resolution be recovered out of the ashes? The answer is yes - if all sides were to move a little. But with comments like Donald Tusk's and the somewhat smug unspoken support from the Irish Prime minister and other leaders in the EU - It is not looking very hopeful.

Perhaps the best glimmer of hope right now is "The Malthouse Compromise" named after Kit Malthouse the British Housing Minister. This puts in place a three-year delay on a final Northern Ireland resolution but allows normal trade to continue seamlessly in the meantime. It gives a three year period to negotiate a mutually agreed deal or at least for both sides to prepare for WTO rules. The important part is it replaces any Backstop, which is the big stumbling block for Teresa May's deal.  The problem here is that Thersa May has not yet got behind this idea of The Malthouse Compromise.

Crunch time is rapidly approaching. Let us hope clearer and wiser minds prevail, for everyone's sake. We should all understand - we are heading for the cliff edge, not just for the UK but possibly the EU also. I predict that if there is a "hard Brexit" for the UK, it will, in the not too distant future, also be the end of the EU, which is why all should be motivated to find a solution. If we are not careful, our pride will take us over the edge. But if we do manage a deal - all will be forgiven for Mrs May and Mr Tusk, at least for the time being - along with a massive, collective, international sigh of relief.

The State of the Union Address

You know when you're watching a really bad actor or comedian - the sort where you cringe and want the earth to open up and swallow either you or the awful performer; that is pretty much how I felt listening and watching President Trump give his address on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning for me. Every time I see the man, I just can not believe he is President of the USA - What happened - which bit did people not see - it still defies belief. 

Listening to Trump's sleep-inducing drone - his monotonous braggadocio monologue, insisting on taking credit for a myriad of miracles, that only he alone could have and did perform for the benefit of the American people, and obviously has performed better than anyone before or in the future - if it wasn't so infantile, it could be comedic.

But what I find so crazy, so difficult to comprehend, is how so many of the Republican Senators and American citizens are hoodwinked by him and give him their support. Surely being 'hoodwinked' can be their only excuse. Any man with a backbone, even slightly stiffer than a wet flannel could not possibly support Donald Trump, the man who so blatantly tells lies, who is such an egotist, a misogynist - a man who frequently demonstrates his lack of understanding of history, geography and world matters and is such a divisive man, not to mention the likelihood that he is a crook.

Listening to his speech, delivered with such false sincerity made me wonder - why? Over centuries past, various populations from time to time have been seduced by a person who has promised to end their ills and restore some form of nirvana, even though it only ever existed in their mind.

I can only conclude that Trump is a massive "wake-up call" for politicians of all persuasions.  The very fact that the people voted in a "Trump" - this must send a strong message to the political establishment at large - Do better: be honest and stop telling lies of any sort, be inspiring and explain your vision and the road to getting there, be straight, distinct and compassionate, as only the strong can be. Stop telling people what you think they want to hear, rather tell them what they need to hear and speak and act with humility; you are the servant of the people. "woman-up"!

Right in front of our eyes, yet we don't believe it.

Like the conjurer who performs a trick with sleight of hand - actually the conjurer distracts us and we miss it and stare agog, open-mouthed in wonder and ask, what just happened?

Perhaps not quite like that for some of us, because climate change is upon us whether we acknowledge it or not. But whilst we are distracted with all the froth of Border-walls, Brexit and tax breaks for the rich, the looney left and the far right - our planet is changing. There is no argument about that.

The climate-change deniers claim that we are just witnessing nature in the raw and evolution happening as it always has. They are of course right - but this is sleight of hand because what they conveniently miss out are the facts.

These facts are stark and undeniable and make frightening reading. And they are facts, no supposition. If our planet warms by 1.5 degrees, this will cause havoc, cost many thousands of lives not to mention billions of dollars. It currently looks like it will exceed 1.5 degrees!

Sticking our heads in the sand is not the answer, we need to wake up and face this head on. On Dwight Eisenhower's matrix, this is both Important and Urgent - we need an immediate response.

What we don't need are world leaders denying climate change or pushing it away with a laissez-faire attitude when it should be front and centre of their agenda's.

Looking at the current stack of world leaders, I fear this is only going to happen if the people get behind this and make such a noise and demand action - real people power. We are talking about the survival or our planet - it is the place where we live and we will pay such a heavy price, not to mention our children, if we keep kicking this down the road. Action this Day! I urge you all to do Something!

Judging actions taken forty years ago by today's accepted norms seems unobjective and futile, no matter how much we may disapprove.

My Father, an ex-officer in the British Army, who fought in the second world war, the straightest man I have ever met, and the hardest working, also the most honest, and without a prejudicial bone in his body, and he loved watching the BBC's, Black and White Minstrel Show, screened between 1958 and 1978. Does this make him a racist? I don't think so. He also at that time smoked players cigarettes and wore trousers that were baggy and fastened high around the waist, as a Gentleman in those days would. We also executed murderers in this country by hanging.

Fashions change over time, as do people, as do ideas. Life keeps moving forward. My Father stopped smoking and wore different fashioned trousers and the UK abolished the Death Penalty.

If today's Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam had murdered someone or committed some other heinous crime, then sure, forty years later, come at him with all you've got. But which youngster has not erred and done or said something they now regret forty years on?

However much we may disapprove in today's world, blacking up as a prank was acceptable then. I am not saying that means it is any more wrong now than it was then, but it is how it was then. Today it is not acceptable.

I have never met Ralph Northam - but he seems to have led a good life, perhaps not fault free but by comparison with many others - a good life.

Being so thin-skinned and so unforgiving of what is, at worst, a misdemeanour, is unbecoming and frankly ridiculous. It is political correctness gone mad. People should let Ralph Northan be and not be so quick to take offence.

rikki@notesfromengland - Suffolk - UK - Sunday 10th February 2019


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