Brexit, paperwork, and bad metaphors

What’s been happening in the US these days makes Britain look like an island of sanity. Yes, we’re led by a buffoon who can’t remember from one minute to the next which direction he’s leading us in, only that he wants to lead, but at least he’s not inciting armed mobs to storm Parliament.

Admittedly, Boris Johnson did–with only a bit of exaggeration on my part–invite a virus in to storm the population, but the times we’re living through set a low bar for political wisdom. The last time I looked the bar was underground and you could shuffle across it without having to lift your feet out of the dead leaves. So yes, he lost control of a pandemic through stupidity and for political gain–not to mention financial gain, although I have no evidence that he’s personally one of the beneficiaries. But hey, look, no armed mobs inside Parliament! 

So yeah, we’re doing fine. Let’s check in on Brexit, shall we?


Irrelevant photo: a daffodil after the rain. It has been raining a lot, and the first daffodils really are coming out, but I stole this from an earlier year.


Brexiteer Bill Cash (he’s a Conservative and a Member of Parliament, known as Sir Bill to his nearest and dearest) compared Brexit to the end of the Stuart dynasty. 

How’d the Stuart dynasty end? Not well if you were a Stuart. Well enough if you weren’t either a Stuart or Catholic. We could call the transition either a coup or an invasion, depending on our mood. Since I haven’t decided what mood we’re in, we’ll leave both possibilities on the coffee table.

The last Stuart king was (gasp!) Catholic. That upset enough powerful people, but then he had the temerity to have a son, who even before he was out of diapers was clearly a Catholic-in-training. In fact, he’d barely had time to get into diapers before England’s Protestant elite invited William of Orange (whose wife, Mary, was the king’s Protestant daughter) to invade. Which he did, and James looked at the cards he was holding and–probably wisely–fled.

But having been invited to the card party, Will and Mary found that the hosts got to decide how the game was going to be played. And that, kiddies, is called the Glorious Revolution, because the hosts limited the monarchy’s power, handing it to Parliament. 

It’s also called that because the winning side went on to write the schoolbooks. 

Is Brexit the Glorious Revolution all over again? Only if the Brexiteers get a free hand in writing the schoolbooks. 


But we’re not far enough away yet to worry about schoolbooks. We’re worried about the country getting slapped in the face with the dead fish of a half-thought-through border arrangement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

That’s a horrible, half-thought-through metaphor. Sorry. If it hadn’t made me laugh–and if it didn’t have some truth to it–I’d replace it with something marginally more sensible.

What I’m talking about is that during the endless Brexit negotiations, relatively sane politicians were afraid of restarting the Troubles in Northern Ireland, so Boris Johnson was under a lot of pressure not to mess up the Good Friday Agreement which (a) ended them and (b) established an  invisible border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. It let goods and people flow between the two without so much as a wave or a wink from an official. 

The problem was how to keep that when the rest of Britain separated from the E.U. and the laws and regulations go out of synch, making barriers and inspections and paperwork necessary. The negotiators never found more than two possibilities: Either you have a visible, functioning border dividing the two parts of Ireland or you have one between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. Britain didn’t like either solution, and the problem stumped savvier politicians than Johnson, including Theresa May. 

I never expected to say anything good about May, but there you go, I just did: She had the smarts to know it was a problem. Johnson just signed an agreement putting the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain, lied about it, and figured something would come along to save his hash. Paperwork? he said. There won’t be any paperwork. It’ll all be seamless.

It’s not, and the transition has found any number of companies in Britain waking up to discover that they need all the paperwork Johnson told them they wouldn’t. Trucks are getting stuck at what’s now an internal border somewhere in the middle of the Irish Sea. We’re hearing tales about British companies that no longer deliver to Northern Ireland, although I have no idea if we’re talking about two companies or several thousand.

Presumably that will settle down once companies figure out the paperwork, but the long-term effect on Northern Ireland and its union with Britain should be, um, interesting.


An online group that campaigned for Brexit,, has found that an unexpected result of winning the Brexit battle is that it had to choose between keeping its domain name and leaving Britain for the EU, because .eu domains are limited to, you know, the EU. 

So the group re-registered itself in Ireland, using the contact details for businessman Sean Power, who when a newspaper contacted him about it seemed surprised said he had no links to the group.


And in other news

A new study says that if the world can stabilize carbon emissions at net zero, the planet’s climate could also stabilize within a couple of decades. The belief had been that the world would tip into runaway heating, but if the new model’s correct we have some hope.

We do need some hope. 

Net zero? It’s sort of like when you run water into the bathtub and the phone rings and it’s only going to be a minute so you don’t turn it off but you do go in the other room so you can hear yourself think but you lose track of things and by the time you come back the water’s up to the rim. If you’re going to put yourself in there (and what’s the point of all that water if you’re not), you have to take some water out. That’s net zero. You have to balance the amount of carbon you dump into the atmosphere with the amount  you take out. Otherwise the floor gets wet.

Over a hundred countries have pledged to reach net zero by 2050. 

Do they mean it? I wish I knew, but more and more businesses and people with money and power are starting to notice that an overheated planet looks promises to be expensive, so maybe they’ll do more than mouth good words. Watch this space.

This space being not my blog but our planet. It’s the only one we’ve got. Even if you lose the URL, it’ll be easy to find.


A study in JAMA Internal Medicine tells us that even rich Americans have worse health than people in twelve other industrialized countries. They’re more likely to die from a heart attack or cancer, or during childbirth. They’re more likely to have an infant die. The only area where the U.S. did better is in treating breast cancer.

That’s comparing rich, white, non-average Americans to average other-industrialized-country people. In other words, comparing people who get far better care than their average and below-average fellow citizens to an average of citizens in countries with less fragmented health systems. 

The comparison countries were Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. 


Experts have found a correlation between traffic accidents in Asia and major football games in Europe. 

Let’s tackle the important questions first: Experts in what? In intercontinental football/traffic accident correlations, of course. 

Honestly. I have to explain everything.

That leaves us with the question of why there should be a correlation, and the answer may have to do with time zones. More people watch football–by which, if you’re American, you have to understand that we mean soccer–than any other sport, but the highest profile games are played in Europe. And they’re popular enough that people stay up to watch them. If a game starts at 8 pm somewhere in Europe, people in various parts of Asia may have to stay up till 4:30 to see the end. Or 5:30. And you know how it is: Once they see the beginning they have to stay up for the end. Then they spend the day sleep deprived. And since we live in a car-based, not-net-zero world, they get behind the wheel and end up in a ditch.

The researchers estimate–and it is only an estimate–that football games might be responsible for Singapore cab drivers having 371 accidents a year. 

Aren’t you glad you learned that today?


An HG Wells memorial coin issued by Royal Mint uses images from “The War of the Worlds,” including a tripod with four legs. 

Tri,” a Wells biographer wrote. “The clue is in the name. . . . [But] at least the clock numbers round the edge don’t go up to 13.”

51 thoughts on “Brexit, paperwork, and bad metaphors

  1. Well.. technically speaking, the last Stuart was Queen Anne, the second (and also Protestant) daughter of James VII and II. William of Orange was a Stuart through his mother and the nearest male Protestant heir, as well as being conveniently married to his first cousin Mary, the next in line after James anyway. Oh, and he had a reputation from successfully fending off in battle Louis XIV, the then Big Bad Wolf of Catholic absolutism in Europe, which (enough) Parliamentarians were very keen on.

    Bit of an odd choice for Cash to have lighted on, though, since (whether we’re talking about 1688 and the invitation to William to invade, or the Act of Settlement of 1700, which settled the succession on the descendants of another distant Protestant Stuart, or the succession of 1714, which installed said descendant, George of Hanover) – they all involved importing a head of state from, er…… Europe.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hmm. Good point, that one about them all coming from Europe. I’m crushed that I missed that.

      I’m only mildly embarrassed at partially misdrawing the line between the Stuarts and the not-Stuarts. It should probably bother me more, but the best it calls up is a mild shrug as I think, oh, well, kings, queens, and dynasties. Not my thing, really.

      Yeah, yeah. I should do better. I probably won’t, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Did you see that Tweeter banned Trump’s account? Not that I’m surprised.

    As for paperwork and travel, it will be very hard for sb coming from say Serbia to enter Britain now. It was hard enough till now. And now it’ll be next to impossible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was never a fan of Brexit. It strangling my business. A painting I sent to Ireland (my main customer base, these days) is now stranded in Dublin customs. DPD have suspended their European business. Other couriers have tripled their prices. ARGH!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Everything that is happening at the moment makes me want to go dwile-flonking. One way dwile-flonking directed at the people in power who don’t care about the mess they leave behind for ordinary people. A hefty dwile-flonk at Trump or Boris wouldn’t solve anything but I sure would enjoy it.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Someone beat me with the comment about the Stuarts being replaced by monarchs called in from Europe. I suspect Bill Cash didn’t really understand what the Glorious Revolution involved when he made his comment. For all I know, he’s still blissful in his ignorance. An often overlooked fact is that the GR wasn’t welcome everywhere. Lots of people had taken an oath of allegiance to James II and weren’t happy to be asked to go against that oath while he was still alive. It’s not my period, so I don’t know the details.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your phrase “…the winning side went on to write the schoolbooks” slapped me upside the head this morning which has been a common occurrence this week – is it really only the first week of 2021 – I feel like I’ve been slapped upside the head more than all the other times I’ve felt that way in the midst of a raging pandemic in 2020. Wham – take that, it’s a Covid-19 pandemic. Bam – take a look at a black man named George Floyd being murdered by white policemen for 9 minutes right in front of you on tv. Etc. I see I am finding my voice again for the first time since the 2021 American Insurrection.
    Your phrase reminded me of former Attorney General Bill Barr’s answer in response to questions about his place in history during the first impeachment of Donald Trump in 2020.
    He replied “history is written by the winners so it largely depends on who’s writing the history.”
    I accept this challenge, as you do. That’s why we must keep writing our truths.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well said. It’ll be a battle to get a voice in the schoolbooks (although I rule nothing out), but the day when only the winners wrote the history is long gone–and people like Barr would be happy to take us back to them.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Speaking of history- and Britain – there have been a lot of examples of people saying “The last time Insurrectionists stormed the Capitol was in 1814…” Um – no. The British Army were not insurrectionists. They were the Army of a foreign power, trying to a) retake their colonies or b) destroy a potential trading adversary. or c) it’s not really my period of historical expertise… What was accurate is that the Confederate Battle Flag was never flown in the US Capitol until last Wednesday, despite Gen Jubal A. Early’s best efforts. in 1864.

    On to your observations : I am confused about how Northern Ireland could have a border with Britain…What becomes of the Republic of Ireland ? Isn’t it sort of in the way ? Or are we back at Hy Brasil? Brexit is a welcome distraction over here too – as the death tolls from Covid have risen each day no matter who was running amok to destroy the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My partner was a historian–she got as far as working on a PhD dissertation when the sixties interrupted her–and is fond of saying that the US likes to brag that it never lost a war (until Vietnam), but in the War of 1812 the enemy occupied the White House and the president and his family had to flee. She doesn’t count that as winning.

      Brexit and Northern Ireland. The customs border runs through the Irish Sea–ship something between, say, Wales and Northern Ireland and you need a mess or paperwork proving I have no idea what. And at the moment neither do a lot of companies that rely of shipping stuff back and forth and they’re either turning up with no paperwork or the wrong paperwork or just plain staying home and not trying. The government has approached this with its usual competence, leaving them on their own to figure out how to handle it.

      The assumption a lot of people (including me) make is that this will draw Northern Ireland economically closer to the Republic of Ireland, leading to–oh, my gawd, could it lead to reunification? I don’t know. The Protestants have a lot invested in resisting that, but we’ll see where it all goes.


  8. ‘… if the world can stabilize carbon emissions at net zero…’… we are so far past that it’s not funny, well, only in a bizarre cosmic-joke kind of a way. Even if we stabilised carbon emissions at absolute zero, tomorrow, we’re still screwed. :(

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A unified Ireland might be a danger but not necessarily to the Irish. What if Scotland and Wales got ideas ? Or England ?

    Re: the British burning Washington : it was Mrs James(Dolley) Madison who fled the burning White House carrying the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington.
    The biggest US victory came with Andy Jackson at the battle of New Orleans – sometime after the War had ended. So the whole thing seems moot at this point..Probably why that whole war is not talked about in these parts, although we are very near the site of the Battle of Lake Erie. I will certainly not quibble with an almost-PhD, since I am an English major with 86 hours of English credits and only a BS..

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Our ancestors left Britain in droves to escape whatever issues they were having. It’s beginning to look as if England got the better part of that deal. The same is happening in San Francisco, I’m staying put this time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, migration’s for the young and the desperate. My hat’s off to the people who can manage it, past and present, even the ones I wouldn’t have much liked to spend time with. (Puritans, I’m thinking of you.)


  11. Yes. Americans win the prize for worst world leader. Interesting to learn about Ireland and Northern Ireland. Again, you are at least lucky your political leaders and a considerable proportion of the population aren’t chanting “build a wall”. Universal healthcare over here seems like a long ways off since even the people who would benefit from the government buying them a new set of teeth are nearly unanimously opposed. The 4-legged tri-pod reminds me of a news report from last week citing a unanimous vote that passed 6 to 1. Thanks for another sanity saving post.

    Liked by 1 person

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