Thursday, 26 July 2018

On Tour

You might have noticed that I am now a blogging superstar I have cast off the shackles of this tragic corner of the internet and forged ahead with publications in esteemed journals. My head has expanded to a size that prevents entry to my own place of dwelling, which, of course, is a palatial mansion commensurate with the power of the written word of Terry Entoure. I shall now demand respect to the degree that I exude authority.  You're going to need to sit up straight when you're reading this blog.  Sit up straight, goddamit!  And smarten up your attire while you're at it! Yes, I mean you!  If there's another break in blogging then it will probably be because the New York Times are on the blower, pleading for a scholarly article about EFTA/EEA. Hang on just a sec, I've got Kofi Anan on line 2. Back in 5.  "Kofi!  Thats right, I'm a superstar. Everybody wanna come up when I'm at the bar."

Ok, enough with the hilarious japes.  I wrote an article for Commonspace and duly sent it in. They went right ahead and published it, to my complete and utter surprise.  I'd always assumed you needed to be plugged into the world of campaigning and politics to get an article published there.  It turns out that was a completely false assumption.  If you want to say something, particularly now that they've turned off comments, the right of reply is in the form of 600-800 words posted to an email address.  It is impossible to fault the policy, even if a few of those 600-800 word collections are not the greatest collections of 600-800 words committed to pixel form.  I'm genuinely grateful to Commonspace for giving me the freedom to air my thoughts in their, erm, common space.

If you're a regular read of this blog then you'll know that personal exasperation comes in the form of falsehoods, misunderstandings and dissembling about the EU.  Over the last year or so I've seen serious commentators suggest iScotland should reject EU membership because
  1. Yanis Varoufakis said something in a book
  2. There is a warped perception that the EU is failing Catalonia and thereby enabling fascism
  3. The EU is a neoliberal conspiracy ran for and by German bankers
  4. Joining the EU is too hard
  5. EFTA is a much better option if we just want "access to the free market"
  6. The EU has a selective approach to human rights that is corrupted by greed
  7. The EU's accession process is unfair - membership should be automatic
  8. Scots are radical socialists at heart and we ought to build socialism in one country
  9. Some people in the SNP just don't like the EU
  10. EEA is a better solution but only as long as it provides continuity of customs arrangements
My patience snapped (again) after reading a recent article, also posted on Commonspace.  The article made 3 of the 10 points listed above in a rather confusing argument that Scotland should join EFTA. It played fast and loose with terminology, introduced its very own lexicon and made no substantive argument for its preferred choice.  At the end, I was none the wiser about what the author was advocating.  Anyone rightly confused with the dizzying array of acronyms surrounding the EU will have finished the article even more confused. After a short twitter exchange I took up a suggestion to write something in response.

I wanted to say something concrete about the choices on offer and the pros and cons of each and how the matrix of tradeoffs can dramatically shift due to circumstances beyond our control.   I also wanted to hint that we should perhaps start concentrating on selfishly achieving the best outcome for ourselves and worry less about perceived injustices that happened (or not) to others. The simple truth is that  there's not enough talk about tangible outcomes when EU and EEA are discussed in the context of iScotland. Instead of talking about what's best for Scotland, the debate quickly switches to Catalonia (?) and then the Greek sovereign debt crisis (?) and then back to Catalonia again (??).  There will probably be a cherry-picked quote from Guy Verhofstadt, avowed enemy of self determination and evil overlord of the super-state, thrown in for good measure.  If you're completely out of luck you'll be met with a barrage of tinfoilhattery about neoliberal conspiracies.  Something that ought to be transactional finds itself mixed up with misplaced identity and emotion. I find this unbelievably infuriating. It's really not many who are guilty of this but they have very terribly loud and persistent voices that bellow out from columns in national newspapers.

I also wanted to point out that, contrary to popular opinion, EFTA is not engineered to be a holding pen for countries that can't decide their regulatory future.  Countries that can't decide their future will struggle in the present - if they can't make a long-term commitment then why would anybody else?  It's ok to make the wrong decision and correct that later but it's not ok to fanny around indecisively.  That sort of behaviour has a tendency to destroy goodwill.  Just look at Brexit for thousands of corroborating data points.

When I started this blog I was clear in my mind that EU membership was the best choice. Having spent two years attempting to get my head round it, I now honestly have no idea what is the best choice.  That's Brexit progress in a nutshell: never-ending complexity and prevarication. Despite that, a choice needs to be made and we need to commit to that choice.  In order to do that we need to properly understand the problem and its immediacy. I wanted to say something about that, too. This is a very, very boring topic.  I didn't say that, though.

This blog can sometimes feel like a lonely voice shrieking in the wind.  I tried to do something.  I probably failed. But at least I tried.

 Over and out,


PS I'm not going to make a habit of sending articles to Commonspace or anything like that.   I'll be far too busy with my book deal.

PPS Nobody has ever actually said outright that we need to build socialism in one country but it is the logical conclusion of radical socialist Yessers who want to leave all "neoliberal" institutions.

PPPS At least the meme that a EU border can remain open, independent of what's on the other side, has died.  If anyone wants to find out what happens to open borders on EU accession just look at the Poland/Ukraine border.  Poland did not volunteer this.

PPPPS During my recent extended break from blogging I received some  really lovely emails wondering if everything was ok.  I'm afraid I didn't respond to them in a timely manner because I also took a break from my gmail account. Thank you all.


  1. Read your excellent piece on Common Space, and found clear and true. Be assured that some of us are listening to your shrieking and the wind is carrying it ever further.
    We can only all add our little bit to the effort to inform and influence, and some people just don't want to listen. The Ginger Dug has just put up an excellent piece on where we are know, and I think there is hope, but I fear that the reaction of the British state is going to be very ugly indeed.
    Anyway, I'm off to my research centre this evening determined to keep trying.
    Thanks for the email, by the way.

    1. Thanks for the tip about Ginger Dug's piece.

      Research Centre. I like it.

  2. For you, Terry, I might just venture into the common space. Generally it just hacks me off so I don't tend to frequent it.

    1. The good news is that if you want to publish something there it isn't a difficult process. At least, in this instance it was completely free of hassle.

      I wonder if I'm being too harsh on commonspace. They do appear to have a very open publication policy. The difficulty is that I can't immediately tell what is unsolicited blog posts and what is written by their own team. Maybe they should colour code it or something like that. It's probably clear to everyone else but it isn't to me. The upshot is that I assume there is a lack of editorial control a lot of the time when in fact that lack of editorial control is deliberate; it is there to give freedom to a range of voices. I can't say the same about the National, though, unless newspapers now adopt this policy, too.

    2. I guess I just prefer to seek out those who have views & opinions that I find interesting, such as your good self, rather than filter through the dross sites like CS often publish.

      Good article, BTW.

    3. CS isn't aimed at me. It's aimed at a significantly younger audience, one more left wing and one more interested in topics like gender identity than I am. I don't visit the site except when articles pop up on my twitter timeline. That almost always means a Brexit article.


  3. Firstly, congratulations on your elevation to importantness. (That's the EEA version of "importance.)

    I will, of course, completely understand if you no long wish to communicate with my likes.

    I have at times given a lot of thought to whether or not Scotland should apply for membership of EEA or the EU (or the EFEA).

    I came to the conclusion that I didn't really know enough to make my mind up and that, as I don't get paid to make the decision, it's probably not worth the effort of finding out. Not that I'm motivated only by wealth, you understand. Just that I'm instinctively lazy.

    It does seem to me thought that to be in EEA, along with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, would mean accepting more or less all the strictures of being in the EU but missing out on some of the goodies.

    I'm all for the four freedoms. I accept, however, some aren't, even in Scotland.

    EEA membership would confer these 'freedoms' upon us, for better and/or worse.

    As EU members we would have a seat at the board table making decisions about the way the organisation runs, including, in some cases, having a veto.

    As EEA members we would not.

    As EU members we would be eligible for grants from the structural funds, social funds, science and technology funds, agricultural grants...

    As EEA members we would not.

    It may be worth remembering that Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are very wealthy countries. They would probably be eligible for very little in the way of any of these funds.

    And none of them has vast amounts of farming.

    I understand that the EU has said that they would never enter another arrangement like the one they have with Switzerland, so EFTA is ruled out.

    So, if I'm right about that, or most of it, the EU seems like the best deal for us.

    I shall now go and read your by now world famous piece... and I may find out I've been blethering.

  4. Now, of course, I wish I'd read your piece before commenting as I seem to have misinterpreted the EEA/EFTA thing. In short I was blethering.

    But ignoring the fact that I may have mixed up these pesky initials, I still think if we are going to pay to be in a free trade agreement we might as well have a seat at the board table and access to the grants.

    Right I'm off to put up pretty pictures of animals and bonny scenery.

    Much safer than politics!

    1. You weren't blethering at all in your original reply. You pointed out that you didn't know enough to make a choice. That is exactly the position we are in - we don't know all the parameters of the problem because our nearest neighbour is playing a jolly game of hunt the UK's long-term strategy.

      We can make a good attempt at reducing the choice of EFTA/EEA or EU down to an algorithm. We shovel data into the algorithm and the answer pops out the other end. We have no idea what data we will shovel into the algorithm. We know the data fields but not the values.

      I've just seen so many Yessers dismiss EU membership for utterly weird reasons. Craig Murray set himself against the EU over Catalonia (and then dug himself an Assange-shaped hole into which he throws bizarre conspiracy theories). George Kerevan opted for a Marxist argument but ended up with yet more conspiracy theories. The author of the original article concluded that EFTA/EEA was more "palatable". Forgive my language, but what the actual potato does that mean? This kind of emotive response is all too common. There is, however, one huge and overwhelming reason to join EFTA/EEA. I wanted to point out that it doesn't involve Marxism or Catalonia or neoliberal conspiracies. It's right there at our southern border.

      My ideal outcome is that rUK finds itself stuck in a long-term standstill arrangement with the EU and iScotland can go right ahead and join the EU. Actually, forget all of that. My ideal outcome is a weekly column at The National and a handsome publishing deal.


  5. It is unbelievable that Europe is being held responsible for the fact that the Tories (and their Irish handlers) can't agree their negotiating start position.

    After 18 months, May puts forward a plan that has caused the resignation of around 10 of her ministers and more officials and the de facto end of her Department for Exiting Europe.

    Even I know that she is demanding stuff that cannot, by law, and for practical reasons, be granted. (For example, the technology upon which they depend doesn't exist.)

    And when the Europeans say no, the cries go up that everyone is against Britain. It's not fair. Damned foreigners.

    The Commission doesn't know what Britain wants; Scotland doesn't know what Britain wants; the British don't know what Britain wants and the Tories don't know what the Tories want. And for that matter neither does Labour and the Liberal Democrats don;t bother to turn up.

    If it weren't for the unholy mess that Trump is making, the UK would really be the laughing stock of the world.

    1. Hummm...

      Munguin says you can have a publishing deal with his Republic on the usual terms, ie the Czech is in the post, although sometimes it may be a Swede or a Pole.

      More seriously, I would suggest that you contact the National. I think they could do with some clear thinking and good writing on Europe.

      It's not a Washington Post, or indeed Munguin's Republic, but it's fairly read and you would undoubtedly add some clear thinking to the argument.

    2. The situation we're in today is unimaginable and unforgivable. That a government would contemplate such enormous risk is downright irresponsible. I'm absolutely boiling with rage.

      I kind of started to half-consider my joke about attempting something for The National. Have you ever read Pat Kane's column? It's a complete mess of ideas (always quoting Adorno), words that don't fit together and muddled punctuation. I have absolutely no idea what point he is making or even what he's reporting. Yet, there it is, week in, week out. George Kerevan gets to spew out his unsubstantiated Marxist take on literallly everything. But then there's Kirsty Hughes, who always writes eloquently and factually and uses actual research that she did herself. I'm never going to top that.

  6. I've never managed to get more than half way through a Pat Kane column without throwing the paper at the wall while muttering "what a jumble of pseudo intellectual pretentious nonsense". The National has some good stuff and some poor - Kane is definitely the latter.

    I think you would be excellent. People in Scotland need to wake up to the scale of the coming disaster and fight for independence. I am amazed by the ignorance and complacency of some Scots about how bad this is, and am regularly accused of being a paranoid zoomer just for stating known facts.
    As Tris says, the game plan is now clear - the UK government can't and won't fix things or even acknowledge the situation.

    Disaster will ensue, and they will blame the EU, especially those pesky Irish, they will blame Scotland for daring to express strong EU preferences (and for anything else they can think of), declare a state of emergency and clamp down on all dissent, impose direct UK rule on all aspects of Scotland and start jailing anyone who fights it. This is the far right's wet dream. How are we going to stop them?

    Or maybe I am a paranoid zoomer. What do you think?

    1. You're not a paranoid zoomer. There are plenty of paranoid zoomers on indy twitter and there are a few indy zoomer blogs but thinking that leaving the EU has profound and quite scary consequences is perfectly rational. We are in the hands of a government that is behaving irrationally at ever turn; the Tory Party are held ransom to 50,000 little Englanders; Labour can't even make a commitment to anti-semitism without making things worse. A calamity has befallen the UK and the constitution is not sufficiently strong to steady the ship.

      The Pat Kane column is quite hilarious at times. He once tut-tutted at the Scottish games industry and hinted that it wasn't innovative and that investment could be better spent on artists. The man that wrote a book about modern play refused to see that an industry that revolutionised the very idea of play could ever be innovative. He then proceeded to get addresses and names and cities wrong. He even got the address of a Glasgow art gallery wrong. I don't even live there and I knew he'd got it wrong. Does he get paid for this? I honestly wonder.

  7. No, you're not EN.

    Deep down inside it seems to be what the Tories want, and a lot of Labour too. Devolution cut back till the parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff are little more than regional councils; direct rule of oversight on important issues from London.

    Ministers are already preparing the ground for it all being the EU's fault. May said that the EU must now be flexible (oh, the irony) and Hunt, for some unknown reason promoted to Foreign Affairs, is talking in the same way.

    The Irish have been working hard on this. It is VERY important to their economy too.

    But they, if not the Brits, seem to understand the FACTS, and they understand that at the end of a jurisdiction, there must be some sort of control.

    Additionally, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, they are aware of their responsibilities, even as it seems the Brits are ripping up theirs in return for electoral support from the DUP.

    I think it is the British government who are a paranoid zoomers.

    1. There is a clear attempt to take us back to the era of the great powers when everything was sorted out through spheres of influence. Trump thinks the US should be one of the great powers and not bother sorting things out amicably with legal frameworks. He believes he's playing a zero-sum game and the US should use its hard power to win the game. The Brexit Brigade also think the UK should be one of the great powers.

      Devaluing international institutions is just the first step to reinstating the old system of geopolitical influence. This is the worrying part because influence was won through war. The whole point of multi-lateral cooperation was that peace brought tangible dividends. We can only hope this blows over before real damage is done.

      There's no question that Leavers and the UK government will blame the EU. The political split is so great than almost no evidence could ever convince a Leaver that they made a mistake. Anyone still supporting Leave will always support it. What a mess.


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