the real negotiation starts now

As of today, it may seem early to examine the consequences of new Trade and Cooperation Agreement to which the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) have signed. This agreement, which is lengthy in details, nevertheless authorizes some preliminary reflections.

It is the agreement that we all expected. Not the one we wanted, but it is the only one that could reasonably be achieved. The alternative was to have no agreement. The treaty is not a surprise for those who have followed the endless Brexit itinerary since its germinal hour, that is, when former Prime Minister David Cameron, after his negotiation with Brussels in February 2016 in which he demanded limitations on the freedom of movement, called the Brexit referendum for June 23, 2016. The EU, already back then, although it was pragmatic and made some concessions, reminded him that the four communal freedoms were indivisible. With a conservative party divided on the issue and David Cameron playing offended, like Prefect Renault, he exclaimed smugly and with a serious face “scandal, I discovered that it is played here”, as if he did not know in advance the answer from Brussels. The rest is well known.

The same red lines That Brussels reminded him of David Cameron in 2015 and 2016, and that the European Council itself demanded the EU negotiating team in its session of April 29, 2017, have determined a good part of the negotiation. What the Council came to say is that a third State could not enjoy the benefits of the single market without accepting the indivisibility of the four freedoms. For its part, the United Kingdom has also seen its most important aspirations fulfilled: the end of the jurisdiction of the CJEU, complete control over immigration, the end of the common fisheries policy and the absence of an express obligation to converge with the EU on regulation matter, which has allowed it to reach the end of its negotiation without concessions that affect its sovereignty (except in the particular case of Northern Ireland).

The agreement is, therefore, the only one that could be reached after the overwhelming victory of Boris Johnson in December 2019, with some conservative deputies and a united government cabinet with hardly any fissures around the same idea: andhe transition period was to end with few concessions on December 31, 2020. And so it has been.

The paradox of this agreement is that, being a free trade agreement, it inevitably is intended to create barriers in the trade of goods and services. This was always the metaphysical drama of this negotiation. No deal was going to match the benefits of the single market without crossing the British red lines.

An agent reviews a trucker's documentation upon arrival at the port of Dover.  (Reuters)An agent reviews a trucker's documentation upon arrival at the port of Dover.  (Reuters)
An agent reviews a trucker’s documentation upon arrival at the port of Dover. (Reuters)

The agreement is much broader than it seems, as it regulates the trade of goods between both parties, digital trade, public procurement, fishing, energy, intellectual property, climate change, transportation (land and air), coordination in matters of social security and visas, and, finally, cooperation on criminal justice. It rests on a touchstone that will sustain the building of the new regulation: the commitment to maintain equal conditions (‘level playing field’) so that free competition is not distorted, although it is true that neither party renounces altering the regulatory framework.

Regarding goods, as expected, the agreement contemplates zero tariffs and fees, provided that the certificate of origin guarantees that, in fact, such good comes mostly from the United Kingdom or the EU. Likewise, in key sectors for Spain, additional measures have been agreed to facilitate trade in: chemical products (cooperation in regulatory matters), came (simplification of certificates and common principles on labeling), organic products (equivalence of the legislation of both parties), pharmaceutical products (recognition of the other party’s inspections) and, especially, automotive (use of international standards, application of the relevant UN certificate and cooperation on security standards).

Inevitably, the deal involves more bureaucracyIt will be necessary to comply with British regulations, which has not been done to date. For example, a key sector for Spain such as agri-food it will be affected by the divergence of regimes for sanitary and phytosanitary measures, although some measures have been introduced to alleviate these discrepancies.

Nacho Alarcón. Brussels

In its attempt to “regain sovereignty” by leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom has ended up seriously wounding it.

The agreement is first and foremost a goods agreement and, predictably, does not regulate services broadly. Although it covers more aspects than those included in the model of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS, for its acronym in English), does not include mutual recognition to facilitate the provision of services. It is the sector most affected by the treaty and will affect, above all, British companies, which will have to adapt to the regulations of each member state.

In financial services matter, the situation is one of uncertainty. Especially for the UK, which has not achieved mutual recognition for the City and is now awaiting a decision on EU equivalence. Such decision, which depends exclusively on the Commission, is independent of the agreement and is defined as being revocable in 30 days, with what is not a long term solution. Both parties have given themselves until March 31 of this year to reach a memorandum of understanding on the matter. For its part, London has granted equivalence to European entities in certain aspects of financial regulation. In the case of the non-European banking sector based in London, the main financial institutions have carried out their contingency plans, that is, replicate equipment in a European city to access the community market.

On the principle of equal conditions, true Gordian knot of this system of balances that is the agreement, although the obligation is not imposed (but the commitment is), corrective measures have been included in the event that one of the parties distorts this principle through, for example, the concession of public aid. By last, on public procurement —Essential for Spanish direct investment in the United Kingdom—, the agreement (very ambitious in this matter) foresees that European companies will be able to tender under equal conditions in a good number of sectors.

We are before a text that it will be subject to continuous review and interpretation and that it will be very actively nourished by the experience of both public and private institutions. This extreme is essential to begin to understand how the future of the relationship will unfold. The agreement itself is subject to an Association Council led by a representative from the EU and another from the United Kingdom, both – please note – with ministerial rank.

The negotiation is not closed with the agreement; the real Brexit negotiation begins ‘hic et nunc’, and it is precisely this Association Council – co-chaired by two politicians – that will administer the new economic and commercial model. Its powers are broad and include taking decisions on certain matters of the agreement, making recommendations and, especially, agree modifications to the agreement in the anticipated cases. There is also a trade association committee, 10 committees specialized in trade affairs, eight committees specialized in other matters (energy, fisheries, security, etc.) and up to four working groups.

The ideal agreement never existed because we came from a perfect situation

This institutional scaffolding (which ironically reminds the European Commission) is essential to understand how Brexit will unfold and run. Not only because the decisions adopted by the Association Council or, where appropriate, by a committee will be binding on both parties, but because the agreement will be in constant motion; the text continuously refers to modifications, rectifications, consultations, revisions, decisions, transition periods, etc. Thus, Brexit does not end with the signing of the treaty, but rather on the contrary, it will be a gradual, dynamic process that will change over time.

The new agreement stands before us as a point of departure, not of arrival. It is an open agreement and its practical implementation – yet to be defined – will differ from the literal text.

The ideal agreement never existed because we came from a perfect situation. The business model has changed and needs to change with it. Faced with this new reality that the treaty imposes on us, it is time to move away from the skepticism that unwanted changes usually generate. Although with more barriers (to which we will adapt), the British market will continue to be attractive for our companies. New rules, but same market. Being successful will require effort and the ability to adapt, qualities that Spanish companies are not unaware of.

* Eduardo Barrachina is president of the Official Chamber of Commerce of Spain in the United Kingdom, ‘solicitor’ and lawyer at White & Case.


Losers and Winners | Jewish general

Since January 1st, the United Kingdom has been an “independent coastal state” again and no longer has any connection to the European Union. Shortly before the end of last year, a free trade and cooperation agreement was finally negotiated.

For Rabbi Mordechai Fhima, the agreement is little consolation. The 52-year-old officiates in London’s Anshei Shalom Synagogue, the only French-speaking Jewish community in Great Britain. “Since the Brexit referendum, I’ve lost a considerable part of my community,” complains the rabbi. “Many members have left the UK and returned to the continent.”

Financial sector For many years, Fhima’s community benefited from the influx of French Jewish people who found good jobs in London’s financial sector. But now it makes no sense for many to stay in London, because they are no longer allowed to work with clients in the EU. The trade agreement didn’t change that much.

“The worst thing is that I can no longer expect to get new parishioners,” says Fhima. Of those who stayed, some have applied for permanent residency. “But it’s such a shame,” says Fhima, “Great Britain was part of Europe!”

“Many parishioners have returned to the continent.”

Rabbi Mordechai Fhima

Some synagogue members are now complaining about the new formalities required for importing and exporting goods, he says: “Fortunately, the Eurostar rail connection between London and Paris still exists!” Without a deal, the distance could have gone up to an agreement is not used.

“I was at a barmizvah in Paris last week, in the middle of lockdown,” says Fhima, a little more cheerfully. Because of the Brexit, no one caused him any problems. The only thing that mattered was that he had a negative corona test.

EU passports Quite a few Jewish Brits have parents or grandparents who came to Great Britain as refugees decades ago. Many of them, including some very old people of the first generation, looked after the additional citizenship of an EU country after the Brexit referendum.

William Baginsky, who lives on the northern outskirts of London, applied for German citizenship for the entire family in 2016. He received it the following year. “Above all, she will help my children and grandchildren,” the 69-year-old hopes.

He doesn’t understand why Britain wants to be alone while countries that have fought for centuries have decided to ally. Today everyone is faced with the same challenges as health, climate or nutrition. He wonders whether it might have something to do with “the fact that some British people have not yet come to terms with colonialism.”

citizenship For Baginsky, German citizenship is more than just a passport. “I’ve regained what was taken from my parents,” he says. His father came from what is now the Polish city of Olesno, the former Upper Silesian Rosenberg. In 1939 he fled to Great Britain, where he married Baginsky’s mother, who had fled Vienna.

“Because of Brexit, but also because of the refugee crisis and my past, I particularly value citizenship in an EU country,” says Baginsky.

His 42-year-old daughter Charley – she is a rabbi in several liberal communities – emphasizes that the German passport gives her three children the chance to live in the EU and have access to part of their identity, she says. German citizenship is her third. In addition to the British, it also has the Israeli.

applicant However, not all eligible British applicants have already obtained German citizenship. In Scotland, the 41-year-old author Eleanor Thom, whose grandmother Dora Tannenbaum also had to flee from Nazi Germany, is still waiting for her application to be approved. For her too, the German passport means more than just remaining European, she emphasizes.

She has been learning German for some time and is sure of one thing above all else: “If one day there is a vote on the independence of Scotland in order to rejoin the EU in this way, then I will vote for it without hesitation.”

Quite a few have parents or grandparents who came as refugees decades ago.

The software developer Michael Grant, on the other hand, has already made it: the 47-year-old has had a German passport in addition to his British passport since September. Grant moved to Berlin a few years ago to live with his girlfriend at the time, to whom he is now married. For him too, Brexit was the main trigger for applying for German citizenship.

xenophobia “If one day xenophobic policies arise within the European Union, it will be better to have an EU passport and not just a residence permit.” In the past few years, xenophobia has increased in England, says Grant.

“Great Britain used to be the bastion of liberal values ​​to me, and London was the city of Jewish diversity. I think Germany has now taken on this role. ”For these reasons, he sees himself more as a German.

Brexit has practical disadvantages for him, he says. He had to give up one of his British bank accounts, and the eye examinations that he regularly had when he visited London are no longer free for him.

formalities For Shalom Schwartz, the owner of the kosher chocolate shop “Chocolate Fantasies” in ultra-orthodox Stamford Hill, worries have disappeared since the agreement. The 30-year-old says he was afraid it could get complicated with deliveries from Belgium and France.

The fact that there is now a deal is good for him, even if he doesn’t yet know whether the additional formalities will also make deliveries slower or even more expensive in the future. “I’ve received a lot of mail from the government on how to prepare my business for the new circumstances,” he says. “Maybe new markets will open up,” he enthuses. But he hasn’t really thought about it yet.

Lance Forman is also happy with the deal. The 58-year-old is the managing director of the traditional family company H. Forman & Son and sells salmon. He thinks the trade deal is great. “The whole debate for and against Brexit will finally be over”, he estimates.

swastika A year and a half ago, a large swastika was smeared on the wall of his company – probably because Forman was a MEP for the Brexit party for some time. A year ago, after Boris Johnson’s election victory, he left the Brexit party and became a member of the Conservatives.

The agreement stands for undisturbed trade between the EU and Great Britain and also opens up the possibility of concluding trade agreements with countries outside the EU, he says.

But he hasn’t really thought about it yet. “My commitment to Brexit never had anything to do with my business,” he emphasizes. For him, what counted was more customers who increase the value of his products, and trade agreements with new markets were only “the icing on the cake.” And what about the additional paperwork? “Hardly worth mentioning,” says Forman and waves it away.

Bureaucrats A Jewish moving entrepreneur in his mid-60s is also happy about Brexit, but he doesn’t want his name to appear in the newspaper. He was born in Israel and has lived in London since the 1980s. He calls the EU an “association of criminals whose bureaucrats enrich themselves from poor people.”

Since January 1st he has to make detailed export declarations. »British freight forwarders are now only allowed to deliver to a single location in the EU and at most to pick up goods at a single other location. That shows how indifferent the EU is to normal, working people. “

But he is sure that in the end Brussels will lift the formalities again because they »harm everyone, including the EU«.

“Maybe new markets will open up now.”

Shalom Schwartz, entrepreneur

Kalmon Hener, the Munich-born director of a British luxury goods company, on the other hand, believes that shared European history and geography will not pose too great an obstacle. “It’s just more paperwork than before,” says the 54-year-old. Most of his company’s imports and exports anyway went via Switzerland to the EU, which makes things easier.

However, Hener needs a little more organization for his dog Max. Since the European animal passport is no longer valid for Great Britain, Max’s health must in future be certified by a veterinarian at least ten days before a trip to the EU. But otherwise, Hener is very confident about Brexit.


The slaves that make iPhones sweat us out

A decade ago my old friend and colleague Joel Johnson told me “I’m going to China.” Not to become a Buddhist, but to go around Shenzhen, have some ‘he fen’ in good conditions and see with your own eyes how you work at Foxconn, the mega-corporation that makes iPhones and other Apple products. The thing was very bad there. And from what we’ve just learned, it still is. Especially if you are a Uyghur.

At Gizmodo we had spent 2010 writing about suicides in the “hellish factory”From iPhones and iPads. The Cupertino people were getting beat up everywhere. Foxconn employees were dropping like flies, literally. Some for depression, others for stress, some for their families to charge a suicide premium. All for inhumane working conditions with prison wages. Those who did not commit suicide, lived or died like banshees, exhausted after working 34 hours straight. The situation was such that Foxconn had installed networks in all the buildings of its large industrial complex to avoid the photo of brains scattered on the sidewalks.

Apple declared herself scandalized and surprised at that semi-slavery party, as if they did not know what the pod was about, in plan Captain Renault at Rick Blaine’s underground casino. “But what are you telling me!”, Which Dona Manolita would say to a neighbor as if she did not know that Paquito and the tobacconist get perched every time Paco needs some pitis. Doña Manolita is the neighborhood kiosk, but he has us all controlled as if he were the Stasi.

At the time, Apple’s Doña Manolita was Katie Cotton, Steve Jobs’s supreme PR. The Cotton was not a shark. It was a real megalodon. 50% evil genius, 50% sociopath and 100% cheeky. I still remember the day he called me to yell at me on the phone after asking him for a comment on Steve Jobs’ cancer return exclusive. That was the appetizer of what would happen years later, when Jobs sent us to his Gestapo after the iPhone 4 lost in the bar.

The working conditions at Foxconn was the final straw. All the media, from the ‘New York Times’ to the Sebastopol parish leaflet distributed firewood and Cotton had no choice but to launch a campaign announcing that they were going to do everything possible to make that change. Audits! Corporate responsability! Human rights! Cotton and the Cupertino bosses wailed as they crossed themselves. Jobs save us from fucking sales.

Come on, the typical bullshit in the face of a gallery that wrote “this is a scandal!” on Twitter from his brand new iPhone 4, me included.

Steve Jobs. (Reuters)Steve Jobs. (Reuters)
Steve Jobs. (Reuters)

Since then, Apple has been filled with how responsible, inclusive and diverse they are with their entire workforce. Unfortunately, it is not so. In 2012, the ABC program ‘Nightline’ issued a report in which they found that not much had changed. As another of my colleagues titled, Foxconn’s reality is that “better” is still wrong. A Apple’s own report claimed that two-thirds of all its suppliers forced their employees to work longer hours than allowed by the Chinese legal limit, but that would not happen from there. Promised. Word of Jobs, we beg you, hear us.

Do not go yet, there is still more, what Porky Pig would say. The following year more problems were discovered with another Apple supplier: Pegatron. Cupertino defended himself arguing that had audited that company since 2007 and had found nothing at all. Really good, but come on, what if that would investigate the new allegations. Or something. Last year, the non-governmental organization China Labor Watch He again accused Apple of turning a blind eye to Foxconn’s new abuses of its workers during the production of the iPhone 11. According to CLW, Foxconn continues to violate Chinese labor laws, but Cook and his mariachis are seen to be brought to the hilt because they continue working with them like nothing.

At this point it is clear that what counts is the peel and that’s it. In fact, we are going to much worse. This same week, the ‘Washington Post’ published the news that one of Apple’s key suppliers was using Uighur forced labor. According to the ‘WaPo’, the company Lens Technology forces former Uighur concentration camp prisoners to make components for Apple devices.

A report from the US Congress says that Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola and Calvin Klein would be among the companies that use Uighur forced labor

The Cupertino company has flatly denied this (in Spain, contacted by El Confidencial, the head of public relations has silenced us for an answer), saying that they they know for good that their production lines at Lens Technology do not use forced labor of “reconditioned” Uighurs. To the rest of the production lines, then give them. Other Lens Technology customers, by the way, are Tesla and Amazon. That response from Apple seems like a clear indicator that it knows what is going on in those factories but decides to ignore it.

The news only confirms what we already assumed. As Bloomberg points out, a report of the United States Congress say what Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola and Calvin Klein they would be among the companies that use forced labor in the “autonomous” Uyghur region, in Xinjiang. This devastating report forced the American Congress to create a law entitled Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which requires that all American companies use neither prisoners nor forced laborers in any aspect of the manufacture of their products.

Right here, my friends, comes the culmination of Apple’s impudence and hypocrisy: the ‘Washington Post’ featured on November 20 how the Cupertino company would have secretly met with congressmen to try to “water down” the law that prohibits trading with companies that use forced laborers. Logically, Apple responded by saying that the ‘Washington Post’ exclusive was “fake news”, as if it were the Trump clown. They are advocates of social justice. Missing plus. Fortunately, the law ended up passing unanimously without the changes demanded by the Apple lobby. It will be necessary to see if it works or if it is just makeup so that no one feels bad about Black Friday.

Protest against Apple in China.  (EFE)Protest against Apple in China.  (EFE)
Protest against Apple in China. (EFE)

Is logical to imagine that the same happens with Huawei, Xiaomi or any other Chinese manufacturer. The only difference between American or European companies and Chinese is the hypocrisy of the former, but the case of Apple is especially bloody. Forcing people to make gadgets is terrible whoever does it, but when you go cool through life beating yourself on the chest, announcing that you are the company that respects the environment the most (is not true), Privacy (another milonga) and human rights (what a folly), corporate falsehood reaches the level of those homophobic telepreachers who are always caught with pornography of 6-year-olds on the MacBook.

And then there are all of us, of course. When Joel came from China he asked me a simple question: What is our responsibility in all this? I asked them about the letter to the Magi a couple of days ago and they sent me an SMS with the headline of this column.


when nostalgia becomes a political weapon

“What scares me about nostalgia is that it has become a political weapon. The politicians have created nostalgia for an England that never existed. And to which they sell as something we can return to, ”explained the recently disappeared John le Carré in an interview with the BBC last year. The British novelist, whose real name was David Cornwell, was the spy who narrated the Cold War. He was always extremely critical of him Brexi. Is it nostalgia that has brought us here?

This December 31, it will finally be executed for practical purposes the UK’s disconnection from the EU. After years writing about this daily, believe me when I tell you that today everything seems strange to me. Like that morning of June 24, 2016. He still had the words – and especially the tone of voice – of the legendary journalist David Dimbleby recorded: “Gentlemen, we are out.”

He had internalized so much that “the relationship between the UK and the EU it wasn’t love, but it wasn’t bad enough to end in divorce ”which I had come to believe. I wanted to believe it. In my head, somehow, Brexit had been cornered as a long shot. But it was not like that: 51.9% of the votes compared to 48.1%. By a difference of 1,269,501 ballots (or what is the same, 1.9% of the votes), it was decided to end more than four decades of stormy relationship with the bloc.

What would have happened if the 2008 crisis had not doomed the UK to an era of austerity What led many citizens to use the referendum as a vote to punish the Government? What if the populist-opportunist Boris Johnson would you have decided to campaign for permanence in the EU? What if the Labor opposition had a leader other than radical (and Eurosceptic) Jeremy Corbyn?

The cornerstone of any risk management system is the so-called ‘Swiss cheese model’. It was created in 1990 by the English James T. Reason, after studying the causes of various disasters. If we cut the cheese, it is difficult for any of the holes to coincide in each and every one of the slices. But that does not mean that it is impossible. And this is what has happened with Brexit. A singular concatenation of factors has brought us here.

Boris Johnson. (Reuters)Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
Boris Johnson. (Reuters)

Although, frankly, from the moment David cameron starred in a tremendous political miscalculation, the chances of avoiding catastrophe were reduced. Because it was all a political miscalculation fueled, among others, by a Scottish independence consultation in 2014, which the then prime minister won very tightly.

The promised land

Citizens were not asking for a plebiscite on staying in the EU. It was the Conservative Party that took their eternal dispute to the streets. Throughout history, the European question has cost up to six ‘Tory’ leaders their jobs. Johnson, however, hopes the disconnection will restore his reign to him. With popularity on the floor for his more than questioned management in the face of the pandemic, the Downing Street tenant now shows himself which messiah leading a ‘global Britain’ that Eurosceptics present Like it’s a promised land

The UK has already entered a recession and is on track to run a historic peacetime deficit of 19% of UK GDP. But that does not matter. For the ‘Brexiters’, their greatest treasure now is having regained sovereignty. And they are not aware that for any future pact, whoever it is, and even if it is only minimal, concessions must be made.

Pure sovereignty not only does not exist but is also dangerous, because it leaves you isolated. As has happened now. Because no matter how much people talk about the fact that the trade and cooperation agreement with Brussels finally bridged the abyss at the last minute, the United Kingdom is now out of the single market and the customs union. And this is the same as talking about hard Brexit.

The United Kingdom did not have a leading role in Churchill’s United States of Europe

It is true that the British were never quite comfortable in the community club. Many consider that the famous speech that Winston Churchill offered in 1946 at the University of Zurich, where he spoke of the need to build a “United States of Europe”, it was the first step towards integration during the postwar period. But the truth is that he saw the United Kingdom more as an observer than as an integrator of that process.

Europe was considered an inheritance of the empire. As great victors in their fight against Nazism, London wanted to help the Old Continent develop, but supervising everything from the outside.

After not one, but up to two vetoes from the French general Charles de Gaulle, the entrance finally arrived in 1973. But from the first moment, everything was exceptional. From Thatcher’s British check to exclusion from the euro zone. The United Kingdom always enjoyed a special status. And the rest of the Member States agreed with that. The benefit of the British presence in the European project cannot be minimized either. London offered the link to the United States, a different view of the process, and a counterweight to France.

However, the concessions that Brussels came to offer to Cameron in his attempt to avoid divorce can even be considered humiliating. Sometimes, we forget those negotiations prior to the historic consultation of June 23, 2016. The European Commission even proposed an ’emergency brake’ to stop the entry of migrants – suspending social benefits, even those to which they were entitled EU citizens – if it proved that the UK could not bear the migratory pressure. In short, a white-glove slap to freedom of movement, the cornerstone of the single market. But even so, Westminster didn’t buy it.

The ‘Tories’ were already very nervous about the rise of UKIP. With his anti-immigration speech, a then unknown Nigel Farage was gaining more and more ground. It was the British –in particular, Tony Blair– those who most insisted on integrating the Eastern countries into the EU. But then it turned out that their immigration bothered them. Ironies of this complex process.

“Regaining control of the borders” became the great emblem of the Eurosceptic cause. Farage refused to apologize after presenting a gigantic poster showing a long line of refugees crossing the border between Croatia and Slovenia. The politician was accused of adopting “Nazi-style propaganda tactics” to help win Brexit. Along with the billboard was the following message: “The EU has failed us all.”

The ‘Brexiters’ began to manipulate a speech in which, in the midst of the era of austerity imposed by the Executive after the 2008 crisis, they accused immigrants of stealing jobs from the British and collapsing public health, demonstrations that were demonstrated they weren’t true.

David Cameron.  (EFE)David Cameron.  (EFE)
David Cameron. (EFE)

It also coincided that in 2015 Germany registered a record 1.1 million refugees from the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia. Many Britons voted for Brexit with the conviction that they could reduce immigration from these countries, without being aware that the debate was only limited to the European countries of the bloc. They put an end to freedom of movement. Of course the door worked both ways. Community members will no longer be able to enter the UK freely, but British people will not be able to travel freely through the 27 EU countries either.

After the Brexit victory was known, Cameron announced his resignation and made it to Number 10 for the last time humming (literally). Theresa May took the baton and activated Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, when she did not even know how to define what it all meant: “Brexit means Brexit.”

What is the alternative to Europe? If we are honest, we must say that there are none ”, wrote in his diary in January 1963 the conservative British prime minister. Harold Macmillan, several days after General Charles de Gaulle vetoed for the first time the entrance of the United Kingdom to the then European Economic Community.

What is the alternative? I don’t have an answer for it yet. Therefore, I say goodbye as the President of the European Commission did on Christmas Eve, Ursula von der Leyen, quoting the poet TS Eliot: “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to finish is to begin ”.


International Red Cross criticizes “Fauda”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wants to be featured in the Israeli TV series Fauda Have identified multiple violations of international human rights. In a tweet by the “ICRC in Israel and the Occupied Territories” it said last Sunday: “Like many of you we saw @FaudaOfficial this year and discovered a number of violations of #IHL.”

This is followed by the request to make your own picture (“And tell us if you can see more!”) And a few clips in which the film heroes in the TV series shoot out of an ambulance during an anti-terrorist operation. A scene is also shown in which the Fauda– Agents apparently arrest a suspect in a forest. The ICRC notes: “Taking hostages is illegal under all circumstances and is expressly prohibited by #IHL.”

The tweet published on Sunday sparked violent reactions on the Internet, including a statement by the Israeli initiative Shurat HaDin: “It’s so ridiculous that such an organization should post something like this. They don’t even try to hide their anti-Semitism anymore. ”

In other probably less serious posts, Twitter users suggested violations of the Geneva Convention in action film to the ICRC Avengers: Endgame to make it clear or Darth Vader out Star Wars arrested for crimes against humanity.

Then on Tuesday the withdrawal: It was recognized that the attempt to raise awareness of international human rights was not understood as intended, tweeted the ICRC: »The tweets should not annoy anyone. Our goal was to use an internationally popular fictional show to raise awareness and generate a discussion about the meaning of #IHL. «

This tweet has now also received numerous comments, including from a user who suggested that the ICRC should devote itself to a Holocaust film. Then you could point out the number of times the Red Cross failed to act. “That would be really constructive.” and


Brexit lessons for legs

Can anyone in their right mind think that if British citizens could reconsider their decision to return to the bosom of the European Union wouldn’t they? Remember that it was a tiny majority the one that was imposed in the referendum called by such a despondent David Cameron, the great loser. Even so, faithful to democratic principles, the later ‘Tory’ governments decided, precisely, to abide by that verdict.

After Brexit, world events have followed one another, which are placing the formerly respected and recognized Great Britain at the edge of the abyss. The images of truckers in the English Channel and Dover speak for themselves of the brutal decline of an island that was decisive in the history of mankind.

How is it possible that a people, theoretically wise and essentially pragmatic, forgot that their power came precisely of having opened to the world through the seas? How is it to be understood that its leaders were not capable of understanding that today it is not possible to live, or even subsist, outside the Union, with all the transatlantic link that one wants?

Of course, the EU has a basic configuration problem, where on many occasions, the domestic interests of the member states are imposed to the very idea of ​​a united, strong and united Europe. That it suffers from excessive bureaucracy we all know. That your government and administration is a continuous weaving and unweaving we all know. Despite this, there is no possible alternative in a world dominated by USA/China and with other emerging Asian powers.

The ‘British mistake’ – you just have to see what the Scots have said when the break was consummated – should serve (although I have doubts about it) those who believe that ‘small is beatiful’ and that it can be passed today for a globalized world on scooters.

Britain already pays a much larger check than the UK from Mrs Thatcher received from Brussels. When your neighbor’s beard….!


lies, illegalities and sexual threats

You probably haven’t heard of Shahmir Sanni. Let me introduce it to you. In June 2016, just two days before the historic Brexit victory referendum, this fashionable student, who was only 23 years old at the time, received a donation of 625,000 pounds.

By then, the Official Eurosceptic Vote Leave campaign (led by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, now Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister) was on the verge of reaching its spending limit of seven million pounds. So they came up with the idea to use Sanni to create in his name another independent group to which they allocated the large sum of money, to pay a ‘data’ company that worked with Facebook.

The young man never saw a pound. The lawyers of Vote Leave They guided him through every step, telling him what to do and where to sign. The Electoral Commission recognized that it was the violation of the most important financing law in the history of the United Kingdom. By the way, ‘coordination’ between campaigns is also prohibited by law, unless spending is jointly declared, which was not the case.

When an athlete is caught with doping, the debate is not whether they have used too much or too little of any substance. The medal is taken away from him, period. If we allow irregularities in democracy, what is next?

Celia Maza. London

It is early to make predictions about Boris Johnson. Although, today, in the citizens and the ‘Tories’ ranks themselves, what exists is a certain feeling of scam

When all that was uncovered, Stephen Parkinson (one of the brains of Vote Leave) was already working as political director of the then ‘premier’, Theresa May. And he published an official statement assuring that he had only given some advice “as a couple” to Sanni. To put it in context, a guy who breaks the law and then goes to work in Downing Street issues an official statement with the support of the Government revealing (with all intentions) the sexual orientation of a young man from Pakistan, where the death penalty is technically allowed for gays. “I never imagined that he, with the help of Number 10, would decide to tell the world that I am homosexual, in a last desperate attempt to scare me”Said the student.

But, well, this is Christmas. What am I doing talking about laws? Almost better to tell them a story. Once upon a time there was a very powerful millionaire named Robert Mercer, barely made in the media, who invested large sums of money to build his own experimental science laboratory. He calls his invention Cambridge Analytica. Millions of citizens give you free all the ‘data’ you need to know their likes through their ‘likes’. And then it coincides that the British vote to leave the EU and the Americans put a quirky man in the White House who, as soon as he wins the elections, meets a politician with an anti-immigration speech who is shown to have close ties with Russia. During the campaigns, there are also guys who commit all series of irregularities. They get caught. But they are not punished. They are given the highest power positions.

Moral: “Violating the law has become today the most effective strategy to win a political campaign because there are no consequences. The crimes against our democracy are not considered by the political class as real crimes. Our system is broken. Our laws don’t work. Our regulators are weak. Our technology is usurping our democracy ”.

The last words are not mine. Are from Christopher Wylie, el extrabajador de Cambridge Analytica that uncovered how this private company, where Steve Bannon (former Trump adviser, now busy radicalizing the Eurosceptic right) worked, used the largest leak in the history of Facebook’s personal data, without the consent of users, for political purposes. It was quite a scandal. The company closed, but its protagonists continue to move their chips on the international board.

When I interviewed him last year, my body felt strange, really. It was November. By then, the Electoral Commission concluded that even if Brexit had won thanks to the illegal use of data or illegal financing, the result should be maintained.

The authorities also determined that Johnson, become the ‘rock star’ of the official campaign for the exit of the block, he had lied. He drove around the country with a big bus promising that the 350 million pounds that the UK was supposedly sending to the EU could go to the National Public Health System. The figure was shown to be wrong. The money never reached the toilets. But just a month later, the British awarded the eccentric politician with the biggest Conservative Party victory since Thatcher’s time.

For billionaire Mercer, don’t worry either. He will spend the holidays in his great New York mansion. For its part, Nigel Farage (intimate with Trump and with close ties to Moscow) has founded a new political party in the UK. And Stephen Parkinson, who broke the law and revealed his relationship with Sanni, aware of all the problems that this created for the young man, has been appointed Lord for their services to the country.

I can add little more.

May you have a Merry Christmas.


The illusory truths of Pedro Sánchez and Boris Johnson

In 1977, a group of cognitive scientists at Villanova and Temple Universities in Pennsylvania discovered the ‘illusory truth effect‘(‘ illusory truth effect ‘). According to this effect, people tend to give credibility to the information we have previously received. So when a falsehood is repeated often enough, it begins to be perceived as truth.

Forty-three years later, that effect is fully topical in the political arena. One of its clearest exponents is the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. His lies about Brexit have been so many that it is impossible to list them all: he declared, for example, a year ago that had a ‘ready-to-bake’ agreement with the European Union, even though it was a hoax and the negotiations are turning out dificilísimas; He said that if negotiations failed, the UK would have the Australian model agreement at its fingertips, but Australians don’t even have a trade deal with the European Union, and it has sold the few deals the UK has managed to negotiate so far as ‘fantastic’ and ‘historic’, when they are merely a handful of basic agreements that add nothing to the commercial relationship the UK already had with those countries under the European Union. All these repeated lies have confused the British to such an extent that we are now witnessing the sad spectacle of seeing most of them sighing for the United Kingdom to achieve an agreement with the European Union in the coming days, despite the fact that that agreement it means a hard Brexit without access to the European internal market, something they always wanted to avoid.

The words that politicians use repeatedly they are never casual and they involve hours of strategic discussions with your communication advisers. If you listen carefully to the statements of Boris Johnson in recent months, you can see how he repeats a tagline: the United Kingdom “will prosper mightily”. Most Britons are aware that leaving the European Union will diminish their economic and commercial potential; and that its international political influence has already diminished. But faced with the many difficulties they now face, they need to hold on to Johnson’s positive spirit like a burning nail. That is why they accept their imposed prosperity narrative, even though they know it’s not true.

The words politicians use repeatedly are never casual and involve hours of strategic discussions with their advisers

Another worthy representative of the ‘illusory truth’ is our president, Pedro Sanchez. In his case, the tagline he repeats countless times and in almost every context in which he speaks publicly is’progressive‘: “The new government is resoundingly progressive”; is dedicated to “real global progress”; the coalition is ‘progressive’; Sánchez describes his program and his Budgets as ‘progressive’, and speaks of the ‘progressive commitment’ and the ‘progressive look’ of his ministers. In his last appearance in Congress, he managed to slip, sometimes with a shoehorn, no less than 13 references to progressive words (‘transformations’, ‘transitions’, ‘advances’ and ‘urgent changes’) in just the first six minutes and 20 seconds of your speech. And that he did when he appeared for give an account of the alarm state, which was initially proposed by his Government trying to bypass parliamentary control for six months; that is, while appearing in the context of a proposal that is reactionary instead of progressive.

The pounding narrative of progress used by the president contrasts with reality: trying to give politicians even more control over the decision-making body of the judiciary and the prosecution service is not ‘progressive’. Handle a bunch of top officials and of advisers to politically control the Administration is not ‘progressive’. Not depoliticizing public television, nor the defense leadership, nor the polling body, is not ‘progressive’. And of course not opting for an independent and impartial control system for the distribution of European funds that it prevents the redistribution of community funds following only criteria of partisan political benefit is not ‘progressive’. None of this supposes ‘transformations’, nor ‘transitions’, nor ‘advances’, nor ‘changes’ in our country. It is simply to continue doing what almost all governments have done since the Transition: concentrate power in its political leadership so that we all continue to depend on them. It is not progress, nor modernization, but more of the same.

Hand-naming a slew of senior officials and advisers to politically control the Administration is not ‘progressive’

It is no coincidence that, in the latest economic analyzes of the G-20, the two European countries with the most pronounced economic decline were precisely the United Kingdom and Spain (the last globally, except Argentina). And this despite the fact that they are two countries whose economic and political situation could not be more different; and who also now face challenges of very diverse span. But they have something in common: that their governments are more dedicated to creating narratives and ‘illusory truths’ than to modernizing the country.

The only consolation is that no matter how bad things go, everything can always improve shortly after we start putting our energy into it. One only has to look at Greece: a country that has practically touched down economically, and that is in a very difficult geopolitical situation; but where a moderate, hard-working, serene and rational leader, Mitsotakis, is managing to begin to turn the destiny of the country around. Little by little, but without pause. And not with ‘illusory truths’, but with reforms, economic and political, real and serious.


The year that will be

We have now reached the end of the review of the ideas proposed in this column. Let me remind you that all of them are documented in El Confidencial; so if anyone wants more details about any of them, you just have to look for them on the En Primera Línea blog.

Over the last two weeks we have seen the behavior of these recommendations and, which is probably more useful right now, we have confirmed if we still believe in them or the time has come to reduce or even close them. Today we will close with a portfolio type proposed for your pension in 2021.

Let’s do it! In mid-October I analyzed the reason for the rise of almost 100% in Rolls Royce after announcing a huge debt issue and a new capital increase. He explained that at that time there was no other explanation than a short closing and that we had to wait to see if the value stabilized once the capital increase was completed. Since then Rolls Royce has risen more than 26% rising to 44% at one point. If they bought, I would sell: I don’t like neither their capital structure, nor the economic predictions of their maintenance contracts, nor their level of debt. If you want to play in the economic recovery, there are many better bets.

We ended the month and began November reviewing volatility, I tried to explain quite simply the meaning of this concept and made two very short-term recommendations that worked extremely fine, on October 26 it warned that volatility could skyrocket and went from 23 to 40. On November 2 it recommended selling it and rebuilding positions in our equity portfolio and we all know what happened. Today, at these levels, with the elections to the Senate of Georgia (USA) on January 5 and with a third wave more than certain, after Christmas, I without a doubt I would buy volatility again, or lighten my wallets or buy gold. All analysts are positive in the stock market for 2021, and at least in the short term I expect a significant correction of between 5 and 10% shortly.

With November the magic began, and Merlin’s recommendation was clearly benefited by the announcement of the Pfizer vaccine. I could try to get the medal for the 34% revaluation that Merlin has had since that analysis, but the truth is that the entire sector moved in a similar way. The question, therefore, is what to do now. Now more than ever you have to stay invested in Merlin or buy, if not, since the announcement of the retirement of David Brush from day to day, only increases the chances of a delisting takeover bid. David has close ties to Brookfield and knows Merlin better than anyone. Ismael and David deserve to be owners of their company again and decide their future, they will be.

If you have doubts about the sector, I recommend you take a look at Entra and the fight for its control, with 3 deals happening at the same time. Guess what would happen if Merlin came into play? I predict that there would be more than three offers on the table.

On November 16 I tried to explain the exceptional movement that the markets had experienced in that week and how the rotation towards ‘value’ could not have made more to start. The following week I entertained myself in analyzing the banks and the possibilities they offered for 2021. The banks in that week rose up to 8% but that move is now down to a meager 2%, so I would keep my position on them.

The last recommendation was to overweight British stocks, which also represent the Value style, we have done 5% in two weeks, but here we have a long way to go and part of the pension must be in them.

In short, this would be my recommendation for your pension this year:

15% of your portfolios should be in active managementlet’s say global equity assets, 10% in oro, 10% in a ‘tracker’ (ETF or replica fund) of the Eurostoxx, 10% on a FTSE250 tracker, 5% on banks, 25% in renewable and ESG funds, 10% in a portfolio with your 4 or 5 favorite values (Mine would be Iberia, Aston Martin, Merlin and KPN, which we will talk about in the next article). We would lack 15% that I would recommend putting it in an emerging fund (maybe half in Russia and half in Asia).

I would not be in a hurry. Put in half now and 10% each month until May or June. If there is a correction of 5% or 10% that month, put double.

As I wish you a very Merry Christmas and see you in 2021!


Brexit: Carey Doctrine

For a long time I have argued with a good friend about the ideal of life. And we often agree that an optimal life should include hitting the ball and living off it. We looked for a way to baptize that strategy and on the first day of this 2020 in which Christmas carols sounded, I realized: no one embodied that philosophy more accurately than Mariah Carey. All I Want For Christmas Is You, four minutes and a second for a life.

That “Carey doctrine” was also for decades at the heart of the vaguest and most flat euroscepticism. A message, a clear and understandable idea and with earnings in the form of millions of votes. It worked for decades and many politicians had a good, long life against Europe. A life – politics – at full speed for themselves, their children and political grandchildren without having to worry too much about the ideological background of what they defended.

Today’s Eurosceptics do what happens to journalists who have entered the profession after the “good old days” party. Ignacio Peyró, author of “Ya settle down. When we were journalists (2006-2011) “, said it recently in Javier Aznar’s podcast: “When we get to the party we find that it already smells of bleach in the place.” Eurosceptics and journalists we remember and talk about those unlived times with a mixture of nostalgia and resentment.

Farage collects his belongings in his office in the European Parliament.  (Reuters)
Farage collects his belongings in his office in the European Parliament. (Reuters)

The crisis of the press, when the lights came on and they told us the open bar was already closed, it was Brexit for Eurosceptics. Four years of negotiating agony, chaos in London and a demonstration that leaving the European Union was not as easy as it had been preaching for decades have punctured the globe. A five-year bleeding that has ended with the best example of the “Carey doctrine” in politics.

Some British Eurosceptics, having achieved the Brexit dream and after decades installed in the offices of the European Parliament in Brussels, the euphoria over and the bottles of champagne financed with their high salaries of MEPs emptied, were tormented by the question: and now that? Surrounded by cardboard boxes they wondered what they had done. The answer was too painful: they had sunk their own business.

The coronavirus crisis he has finished breaking what little was left of the Carey dream at the heart of Euroscepticism. The European Union, without too many powers or instruments, has dealt quite well with the coronavirus crisis, and, above all, has given a useful and effective response to the economic consequences of the pandemic. Surveys show that citizens are satisfied with the performance of the institutions, and in some countries the trend has deepened to trust Brussels more than the government of the Member State itself, although that perhaps says more about national policy than about the European Union.

Spent the “Carey Doctrine” Euroscepticism has to work harder on its messages and its strategy. You can no longer continue to live off the hit that your political ancestors gave. That does not mean that the party is over for them, far from it. There are those who think that Euroscepticism is not capable of adapting and changing its message to adapt it to a new reality. But it is something that is already happening and surely this version is more refined and effective than the previous one.

A person burns a European flag during a pro-Brexit demonstration.  (Reuters)A person burns a European flag during a pro-Brexit demonstration.  (Reuters)
A person burns a European flag during a pro-Brexit demonstration. (Reuters)

Part of the Eurosceptic message – not all, because there are convinced Eurocritics who have long articulated a well-structured message as to why the UK should leave the EU – was thought on the basis that it would never come true, like the preacher who shouts about the Apocalypse hoping to attract more faithful but crossing his fingers not to see it with his eyes. Brexit has changed that attitude. The message has not been directed at the idea of ​​destroying the European Union for a long time., but to empty it of power, modify it to adjust it more to his vision of the world.

Exhausted the “Carey doctrine”, the new leaders of this discourse bet on an identity message, deeply nationalistic. It is no longer a question, as with part of British Euroscepticism, of having to deny that a European regulation is going to be made to make bananas straight instead of curved. So fighting politically against this new discourse is much more complex, and certainly less fun, than doing it against the traditional British Europhobia. The new Eurosceptics seek to twist the rules in their favor and use the discursive framework of the most pro-European: when Hungary and Poland violate the Treaties they defend themselves by ensuring that they are actually the ones protecting them.

The end of the “Carey doctrine” has been bad news for Eurosceptics who sought an easy and quiet life without having to prove the validity of their thesis. But perhaps it was even worse news for those who want to curb the new Europhobic discourse.