Daily Archives: May 3, 2017


Theresa May Goes the Full Farage

Theresa May’s breathtaking claim that the EU is interfering in the general election has moved the Brexit negotiations to a whole new level of confrontation. Those who think that international negotiations on future trade relations are best conducted in an atmosphere of extreme mutual hostility, are nonsensical.

Good deals come from good relationships.

It is also extraordinary that May appears to be staking out her appeal exclusively on UKIP territory. I am quite sure she is following her own, natural, very right wing instincts. But by taking this aggressively right wing position, she is opening up a flank to the Liberal Democrats and severely endangering her prospects in Scotland, where UKIP never achieved anything like the traction it did in England. She also seems to be calculating that the ordinary Brexit voters take an extreme view and would welcome an absolute dust-up with the EU, irrespective of its long term effects on the UK.

Doubtless all of this was comprehensively polled and focus grouped, but I suspect she has miscalculated on a great many levels.

Now let us examine the truth of May’s claims of EU interference in a British election – a very serious charge indeed. These are May’s words today, presumably very carefully considered.

The European Commission’s negotiating stance has hardened. Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials. All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election which will take place on 8 June.

Let us examine these claims. Firstly she says that the European Commission’s negotiating stance has hardened. But it has not. The European Council has just adopted the negotiating positions, which are precisely the same ones circulated by Donald Tusk before May announced the election. So those positions have not hardened. The Commission has today made plain that the financial settlement and rights for EU residents will have to be broadly settled before trade negotiations start. But again that was precisely their position before the election was announced.

So what has happened since the election was called which is new? Well, the European Council has affirmed that if, in accordance with the provisions of the Good Friday agreement, Ireland were to unite, the expanded Republic of Ireland would remain in the EU. But that is not a “negotiating stance” it is purely a reiteration of the pre-existing legal position in regard to the Good Friday Agreement.

Two things have arguably changed. An estimate of 100 billion euros has been put unofficially on the UK’s residual obligations, which is higher than previous estimates, but as this is a matter of collation of innumerable programme agreements different estimates are bound to emerge. As the Commission very reasonably pointed out today – while refusing to endorse the 100 million estimate – the residual obligations will depend on the date of actual Brexit, as yet unknown. The only real new point is the Commission’s legal claim that the UK is not entitled to a share of EU fixed assets. But the timing of this was dictated by a claim by Boris Johnson, so it was hardly an interference in the election.

So the alleged hardening of the Commission’s negotiating positions is a fiction. It simply does not exist.

May then says that threats have been made against the UK. I can find nothing that remotely constitutes a threat. To state that the trading position of a non-member must necessarily be weaker than the trading position of a member is not a threat, it is a statement of the obvious. May’s perception of threats is a paranoid delusion.

Finally, she claims that all this has been timed to affect the result of the general election. That is the weirdest claim of all.

The Downing St dinner at which May made a fool of herself was an initiative by May. She issued the invitation and she dictated the timing. It was not vicious foreign enemies who are all out to get her. She may be forgiven for being aggrieved that the poor opinions of her were leaked to the press. But anyone who knows anything about the EU knows that everything leaks, all the time. In general it is a very open institution. The Commission has in any case to report progress in the negotiations regularly to the European Parliament.

The other recent events – the European Council summit and the approval of the negotiating stance by the European Parliament – were all on schedules decided before May announced the election. So it was impossible that they were “deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election”, when nobody knew there was a general election at the point the timings were decided. The Council, Parliament and Commission press briefings which were set in train by these events were all absolutely routine and in no sense specially timed or orchestrated.

May’s attack on the EU is therefore demonstrably and indisputably untrue. All the events she alludes to happened either on dates agreed before the election was announced, or on dates decided by herself. It is an impossibility for them to have been timed to influence the election.

Having disposed of May’s cataclysmic rant, here is an interesting thought. From all round the country, TV news has been showing me constantly for days placards bearing Theresa May’s name but no mention of any political party. These placards therefore cannot count as national party advertising as they advertise no party. So they must count against May’s personal candidate spending limit in Maidenhead, where they are beamed wherever the placards may be held up, plainly doing no function other than to promote May personally as a candidate.

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Highland Clearances – Zielsdorfs Deported Tomorrow 415

The Zielsdorf family will be deported by the UK Home Office tomorrow, in an act of pointless Tory cruelty that enforces immigration regulations designed for SE England and totally unsuited to the needs of the Highlands. Laggan village store is now closed down.

We called on the Zielsdorf family again two months ago. Having been unable to find anybody else to buy and run the business in Laggan for a sum which would anywhere near clear their investment, they literally have no home to go to in Canada. Jason is hoping to buy an old bus for them to live in. Yes, a bus. They are however a resilient and cheerful family buoyed by their religious faith.

You can find worse acts of Tory cruelty – the cutting of benefits to the terminally ill deemed able to work a few more weeks, for example. But it is hard to conceive of an act of Tory cruelty which is more absolutely pointless than the deportation of the Zielsdorfs. Laggan loses its store, they lose their home and living, and the store/cafe’s employee loses their job. Not to mention the Tory fantasy of leaving the EU and rejoining the British Empire as rather strangely kicking off by deporting Canadians.

I was simply horrified by the nasty comments underneath a story on this in the Scotsman a couple of weeks ago. I will not link to it. I like to think that the nastiness of May does not reflect our society, but there are some deeply unpleasant people out there in the unionist community. The comments also made a large number of totally incorrect assumptions. In fact the Zielsdorfs have claimed no UK benefits of any kind and have used neither the NHS nor the school, they home educate. Personally I think as fully participating and tax-paying members of the community they should have used those state assets, but they were scrupulous in not doing so.

Original Post 17 October 2016:

There is so much injustice in Tory Britain you trip over it when you are not looking. We just enjoyed a long weekend in the Highlands, and stayed through airbnb at the Wayfarers’ Rest in Laggan. Our hosts were the delightful Zielsdorf family, who could not have been more friendly and welcoming. Their kindness and attention were particularly remarkable given they are every second awaiting the arrival of the border force to deport them.

Cameron and some of the Zielsdorf children on the banks of the Spey (with permission)

Cameron and some of the Zielsdorf children on the banks of the Spey (with permission)

Jason and Christy Zielsdorf are Canadian. They have been in Scotland for eight years, legally, and several of their children were born here. After studying theology at St Andrews, Jason decided to stay on. Armed with an entrepreneur visa, two years ago he bought the general store and bothy in the small Highland village of Laggan. The premises had been empty for 18 months, because there is not a rich living in providing this community service. The Zielsdorfs reckoned that by investing in the accommodation and opening a coffee shop highlighting their excellent home cooking (and it really is excellent), they could make a go of it and cater not just for locals but the passing hillwalkers. And they have done.

It took some time and a lot of work for the business to find its feet, and to date they have only been able to give full time employment to one person, not the two their visa stipulates. Although they argue given time their business will reach a stage to employ two people, the Home Office says their time is up and is insisting on their deportation; a month ago they were told they will be deported imminently.

Deporting children who have only ever known Scotland is ludicrous. Fairly well the entire community of Laggan has written in support of the Zielsdorfs. Both Jason and Christy have Scottish ancestry.

It is not easy to run a business in the Highlands and Laggan is better for what the Zielsdorfs have done. Local MP Drew Hendry has worked hard for them, but met only unhelpfulness from the Home Office, who have not even given a ministerial meeting promised in response to a parliamentary question.

We do not know when they will get the 5am knock on the door and be taken into custody. They have been unable to sell the Wayfarers’ Rest, in which they invested £240,000, because just as before they came, nobody else wants to run it. In an act of supreme pettiness, the Home Office have confiscated Jason’s driving licence, which makes life in the Highlands near impossible. Also as a former pastor Jason used to pay community visits on elderly and vulnerable people in isolated locations, which he cannot now do.

The truth is, having set arbitrary numerical limits on net immigration, if the Home office deports the Zielsdorf family that reduces net immigration by seven – and they are low-hanging fruit, easy to find, not able to disappear and defenceless. Their plight is Tory Britain’s heartless xenophobia in action.

This case is a prime example of how ridiculous it is to rule the Highlands from London. The law is framed to deal with the immigration situation in London or Birmingham. It is totally inappropriate to the Highlands, where the problem is under-population, where a village store is a precious thing and providing even one full time job to the community is invaluable.

It is also of course worth noting that it takes a special kind of government stupidity to embark upon post-Brexit relationships by picking on the Canadians.

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