Months ago I called for a vote out. Why did you have to listen, Britain? Why???

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Last February, I wrote a short piece praising British humour and weather, thanking London for hosting me and, yes, asking Brits to vote for Brexit. The text was full of irony, and I warned the reader that I would not do it if I were British. But, as a European citizen living in London, I did call for a vote out. And I regret it deeply now.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware my text didn’t make a difference on the 17+ million Brits who chose to leave the European Union yesterday. But I feel sorry anyway.

I feel sorry because last weeks I have added one more item to the long list of things I like from this country and its global capital.

I have discovered a European side to London and its British inhabitants that I had never seen before. Yes, most of my friends and London-based Facebook acquaintances are highly educated and sophisticated. And London is multicultural, multilingual and profoundly diverse. Unsurprisingly, it has gone 60/40 for Remain. England is an entirely different story. Still, one didn’t really see EU flags hanging out the window in London flats, and in common parlance locals used to refer to Europe in third person, as if the English Channel was not 20 mile long, as if Britain constituted its own continent. We may easily go back to that sooner than later, but somehow Brits and Londoners campaigning for Remain made me feel welcome in a way that I had never felt before.

Like most people, I was convinced Brexit was not going to happen. Hence I felt I could stand by my ironic and provocative “vote-out-if-you-dare”. And I believed (and still do) the EU had a lot to work on in terms of social rights protection and democratic accountability. So I didn’t want to line up behind Cameron and Osborne.

I felt welcome and confident with my predictions and convictions. So yesterday, when I put an “in” sticker on my t-shirt, I had to clarify to someone that it was “a critical in”. As if it made a difference.

If yesterday I felt welcome, confident and critical, today I feel sad, shocked and sorry.

We’ll have to resort to the trite keep-calm-and-carry-on. We need to live with the consequences. I say “we”, because I for one don’t intend to leave just yet. But I say “we” although I know that the burden will not be fairly shared among “us”. Disenfranchised English working people, many of whom voted out, will suffer the consequences of Brexit just as much they missed most of the benefits of being part of the EU. This strikes me as the most devastating outcome of this referendum.

There are other critical issues that Brits will have to face, of course. For example, the future of a Europhile Scotland outside the EU, the profound divide between London and the rest of England, or the generational gap between a Eurosceptic elderly and a younger generation that had envisioned their future as part of the European Union. That is gone now.

Other European countries will not be in a good mood, and EU institutions are unlikely to let the Tories regroup and trigger Article 50 TEU (the exit door from the EU) at their convenience: “Of course, Sir, we’ll wait until October for you. Anytime, really. Thank you very much for these lovely decades of charm”. England may see Scotland go, Northern Ireland join the Republic and Boris Johnson hold the keys of Number 10. And at this point it’s too early to tell if the meagre chances of having a socialist Labour opposition have just evaporated. After all, supposedly Jeremy Corbyn has also lost this referendum.

Recapitulating, Britain, I understand you couldn’t care less about my opinion, but I still want you to know that I regret urging you to vote out. If I had known, I would have kept quiet. To the 17+ million of you who voted out, I’m also sorry for bothering you with my presence in your country. For now, however, I don’t plan to do anything about that.

The postman just knocked on the door to hand me a parcel. “Thank you”, I say. “You’re welcome, my friend”. Well, at least, I have that.

Koldo Casla

@koldo_casla

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The UK, Spain and Gibraltar: Two bald men fighting over a comb

gibraltar_monkey_4Witnessing the last collision between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar, three thoughts pop up in my mind.

  1. Two bald men fighting over a comb. Borges’ view about the Falklands/Malvinas war turns to be quite useful to speak about Gibraltar today. Three decades ago, the Argentinean junta and a Thatcher in trouble agreed to distract their publics’ attention towards the other side of the Atlantic. David Cameron and Mariano Rajoy are doing the same thing with Gibraltar. The former seems unable to turn the polls upside down and the latter simply doesn´t even know how to start arranging his long list of problems. They don´t care a toss about Gibraltar, but it gives them the opportunity to wave their favourite flags: Cameron with that of the resistance to a foreign “power” and Rajoy with the one of musty patriotism.
  2. The European geography is a museum where not all pieces are necessarily beautiful. Gibraltar, Monaco, San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein or even the Vatican City are only curiosities that history has left behind. That’s how these territories should be perceived, and not as a source for potential diplomatic conflict.
  3. The Spanish policy toward Gibraltar should be guided by the wishes and interests of the population living near the Rock in the province of Cádiz. The Government of Spain ought to defend their work, trade and environmental needs, and stop overusing empty words like “sovereignty” and “territorial integrity”. (For the moment, Gibraltarians’ Spanish neighbours have shown a much more reasonable attitude than the Government in Madrid.) I’d say that a similar request may be made to the Government in London and its loaded understanding of the notion of “self-determination”.

Koldo Casla

@koldo_casla

Reino Unido, España y Gibraltar: dos calvos peleando por un peine

Gibraltar-Diamond-Jubilee-460x286Tres ideas me vienen a la cabeza ante el último encontronazo entre el Reino Unido y España sobre Gibraltar.

  1. Dos calvos peleando por un peine. La frase de Borges sobre las Malvinas nos vale hoy para hablar de Gibraltar. Hace tres décadas la Junta argentina y una Thatcher en apuros se pusieron de acuerdo para distraer la atención de su población hacia el otro lado del Atlántico. David Cameron y Mariano Rajoy hoy hacen lo propio con Gibraltar. El primero no sabe qué hacer para darle la vuelta a las encuestas y el segundo simplemente no sabe ni cómo empezar a ordenar su larga lista de problemas. Gibraltar no les importa lo más mínimo, pero les brinda la oportunidad de enarbolar sus banderas favoritas: Cameron con la de la resistencia ante una “potencia” extranjera y Rajoy con la del patriotismo rancio.
  2. La geografía de Europa es un museo en el que no todas las piezas son precisamente bellas. Gibraltar, Mónaco, San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein o el mismo Vaticano son curiosidades que la historia se ha ido dejando en el camino. Así habrían de ser tratados estos territorios, y no como conflictos diplomáticos en potencia.
  3. La política española con respecto a Gibraltar debería estar basada en los deseos e intereses de la población gaditana residente alrededor del Peñón. El Gobierno de España debería defender sus necesidades laborales, comerciales y medioambientales, sin permitir que se le llene la boca con palabras huecas como “soberanía” o “integridad territorial”. (Por el momento, la población vecina a Gibraltar se ha mostrado mucho más razonable que el Gobierno de Madrid.) Me atrevo a decir que lo mismo vale para Londres y su capciosa interpretación de la “libre determinación”.

 

Koldo Casla

@koldo_casla

Fotografía: Los gibraltareños celebrando el Jubileo de Diamante de Isabel II en 2012 (The Telegraph)

Which is the key to Olympic success: Competitiveness or public investment?

London Olympics are finally finished and Britons have two things to celebrate: first, everything went quite well and London didn´t collapse; and second, Team GB made an outstanding performance, their highest achievement ever in Olympic history. British athletes got a total of 65 medals, 29 of which were gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze. Only the Americans and the Chinese got back home with more metal around their necks.

The debate about the reasons for this success began some days before the closing ceremony. Everybody agrees that the crowd played an important role cheering with their Union Jacks for their newly appointed heroes (most of whom, let´s be honest, were perfectly unfamiliar to the average Brit until last month). But, what else made a difference apart from this environmental factor? And, therefore, what policies should the UK Government pursue to continue along this path of Olympic glory? Continue reading “Which is the key to Olympic success: Competitiveness or public investment?”

The domestication of international human rights: An old but current challenge

The European Court of Human Rights is going through hard times at present. UK populist media and several key political figures in the country are leading an elaborated campaign against the Strasbourg-based Court (read, for example, about the story of the ‘powerful’ cat that managed to prevent the deportation of a foreign criminal). A few weeks ago, David Cameron went to Strasbourg to speak about the need to reform the Court. In the Prime Minister’s opinion, it does not serve anymore the purpose it was meant to fulfil when it was created in the post-War era. In Cameron’s view, the Court should abstain from interfering in fully democratic countries that have internal bodies and legislation intended to guarantee fundamental rights and liberties, even if the views expressed by those bodies (above all, the Parliament) do not match the opinions of the Court.

In a much surlier way, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has also criticised the equivalent of the Strasbourg-Court in the Americas, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, after this Court ruled in favour of an opposition political leader who was seeking to challenge Chávez in the next election. A few weeks ago I wrote in this blog that the growing criticism against these two international human rights bodies could be a worrying sign of the decreasing relevance of the idea of human rights in global affairs. Is that so? Is there anything we can do about it? Continue reading “The domestication of international human rights: An old but current challenge”

What shall we do when a 11-year old boy is given an 18-month rehabilitation order for stealing a bin worth £50?

I learned yesterday of a 11-year old boy that was given an 18-month rehabilitation order for his behaviour during the riots in London last month. The kid stole a bin worth £50 from the Debenhams in Romford (see picture from The Guardian), just five months after receiving a referral order for arson, carrying a pointed instrument and criminal damage.

This is not an anecdotal case. It actually responds to PM Cameron’s demand for a harsh judicial response to the rioters, who are deemed to constitute a ‘sick’ part of society. Continue reading “What shall we do when a 11-year old boy is given an 18-month rehabilitation order for stealing a bin worth £50?”

A ‘sick’ part of society

The UK August Riots caused a great old mess, mostly in its aftermath. During the riots themselves we saw communities coming together to protect neighbourhoods and clean up. But now the politicians have the floor, and what is happening and being debated now is perhaps more alarming than the riots themselves.

Cameron has applauded the tough sentences handed out to offenders. He calls them a ‘sick’ part of society, indicative of a wider moral decline in the UK. Continue reading “A ‘sick’ part of society”