Unintended consequences: from Brexit to bitcoins

Ah, the unintended consequences of Brexit.

Forget the fish rotting on the docks and the emptying of supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland. One of the least expected consequences may be that Dutch customs officers are confiscating sandwiches from drivers as they enter from Britain. The new rules don’t allow anyone to import meat or dairy products from Britain. Or–in case you need a fuller list–fruit, vegetables, or fish. I’m not sure what that leaves. Is chewing gum made from organic substances?

Water, maybe. 

One driver asked if he could give up his sandwich fillings but keep the bread. 

No, the customs official said. “Welcome to the Brexit, sir. I’m sorry.”

Irrelevant photo: primroses.

Another unintended consequence is that truckers now need a permit to enter Kent if they’re planning to go on to Europe. 

Yes, Kent’s still part of Britain. But the system avoids pile-ups at the channel ports, or at least it’s meant to. Who know what unintended consequences it’ll have. The permit’s called a Kent access permit, or kermit. If truckers don’t have one, they’re liable for a £300 fine and they’ll be turned back.

The good news is that they can keep their sandwiches until they cross the channel. 



With the price of bitcoins soaring, two people have been in the papers lately over lost coins.

One is a computer engineer in Wales who managed to throw away a hard drive “containing,” as the paper put it, bitcoins worth £200 million.

Yeah, it could happen to anyone. 

He’s offered the local government £50 million if they’ll dig it out. Assuming of course that they find it. And if it still works. He says there’s a good chance he could rescue the data. The local government–called the council in British–says it would cost millions of pounds to dig up the landfill, it would have a huge environmental impact, and anyway their licensing permit doesn’t allow them to do that. 

It also says it’s told him all this before.

He started mining bitcoins in 2009, when they were worth nothing much and when mining them was something you did on the computer, not physically in the local dump. He says he has an international hedge fund “willing to put up anywhere between £2.5m to £3.5m to do a professional search operation of the landfill.”

The council still doesn’t sound interested.

The other bitcoin owner is from San Francisco and hasn’t lost his computer but he has lost the password that would let him get at $250 million worth of bitcoins. He was given 7002 of them as payment for making–yes I do hear the irony–a video on how bitcoins worked, and I’m sure he included a snippet that said, “Don’t lose your password.” But no one listens to themselves, do they? You have to at least cross state lines to be an expert. He stored his bitcoins safely in an IronKey wallet, wrote the password on a piece of paper, had a nice cup of coffee, went on with his life, then discovered that he’d lost the paper.

When he got the coins, they were worth somewhere between $2 and $6 each. The price has gone wild during the pandemic, though, and at one point they were worth $40,000 each. They will have gone up since then. Or down. Or possibly sideways. Bitcoin’s a cryptocurrency. It can defy the laws of gravity and economics if it wants to.

He’s tried eight passwords. If he tries two more wrong ones, he might as well try searching a dump in Wales. 

Around the world, some $140 billion worth of bitcoins are either lost or locked away from their would-be owners, or so says Chainanalysis, which somehow knows these things.


“Baying mobs”

The government wants to introduce legislation to protect statues from being removed by “baying mobs” “on a whim.” 

Yeah, they really do talk that way. Or write that way, anyhow, since the quote’s from an article by the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, who’s just brimming over with understanding of the communities he–

Okay, I don’t actually know what a communities secretary’s supposed to do in relation to all those communities the country’s made up of. 

The statue of Edward Colston, which was dumped in the Bristol harbor last year, wasn’t pulled off its plinth on a whim. People had spent years trying to get rid of it through respectable avenues, and they’d gotten nowhere. Pull it down, though, and somehow the picture changes.

Jenrick mentioned an attempt to erase part of the nation’s history “at the hand of the flash mob, or by the decree of a ‘cultural committee’ of town hall militants and woke worthies.” I’d be interested to know what he had to say when the statues of Saddam Hussein were being pulled down with the help of Britain’s ally, the U.S. I seem to remember the papers in general greeting that as liberation, not an attempt to erase history.


75 thoughts on “Unintended consequences: from Brexit to bitcoins

  1. Your sandwhich reminds me of the ban on Cuban cigars, the only way you could get one in the US is if you were a member of Congress. Interesing how politicians are exempt from the laws they pass. When travel was finally allowed people thought the ban was over…wasn’t. A local man ended up at the airport with a box of Cuban cigars which he was told wasn’t allowed in the country. He started to pass them out to anyone who wanted one and lit them up. So long as they didn’t pass through customs they were legal.

    Edward Colston…can’t just leave it at that. What henious crime did he commit? Stole land from native Britans (Celts or Neanderthals)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Colston was a major slave trader. I’ll do a post on him soon.

      I didn’t know congresspeople were allowed to bring in Cuban cigars. I once smuggled two in from Canada, tucked into the waistband of my jeans. It was a long time ago and the statute of limitations has expired, in case anyone’s interested. Not because I wanted them. I’ve never smoked and hate the smell. And the people I brought them to didn’t smoke cigars but tried them and put them out pretty quickly. It was one of those things I only did because it was illegal. I’m grateful I didn’t get caught. It so wouldn’t have been worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Re: kermit, apparently it’s not easy being green.
    I don’t understand bitcoin one bit (hah!) more like crapto currency than crypto, I mean how can you do your weekly shop with it?
    Baying mobs?? He’s been watching the Capitol fiasco and getting excited I think. Jenrick is the Tory who feathered his pals nest to the tune of £50 million when he approved a £1 billion luxury housing development for him after overruling the planning department.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Too bad Jennick can’t teleport himself to DC. His definition of “baying mobs” seems a tad week. ((Robert E. Lee’s birthday is this week (the same day as E.A. Poe’s. coincidently. Nobody has found a reason to pull down Poe’s statues so far. It’s a yearly bet whether the Mysterious Stranger will show up to place flowers on his grave in Baltimore.

    There are some reports that some of the insurrectionists were funded by a foreign person using some form of cybercurrency. “The plot thins.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This post is impeccable. You CANNOT make this up. I remember the brexit hysteria in 2015 when we were all going to vote… or was it 2016? Can’t remember. Anyway. Who would have thought we would end up with drivers having their sarnies snatched away at the borders!? regarding bitcoin, I had heard of the story of the man paying the council to look for his bitcoin. I didn’t know they rejected it though.. I thought they accepted that offer! 50 million is a bloody lot of money but I guess so is digging through a landfill. Also that is a good point you make about pulling down the statue of saddam hussain. I never thought of it like that. I was debating the effectiveness of pulling down offensive statues, it’s somewhat similar to banning books (e.g. people suggesting JK Rowling should be ‘cancelled’ because she is now transphobic), but you do raise a good point there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Among its other reasons, the council sounds like it doesn’t expect the computer to be workable if it’s found anyway. That would put to quest right up there with digging up the landfill to find the end of the rainbow.

      I wish I’d thought of that image when I was writing the post.

      The statues: They’re not history, they’re triumphal monuments. They’re myth-making. They’re ways to reinforce the cultural power of the economically and politically powerful. And to the descendants of the enslaved, they’re painful everyday reminders of how these legacies are passed down. They say, You’re nothing. We’re everything. And you can’t do a thing about it.

      The JK Rowling thing, I think, without having followed it closely, is more complicated, but I don’t think that’s the equivalent of burning books either. She is, admittedly, getting a lot of shit thrown at her publicly, which is no fun, but no one doing the throwing has the power to keep her from speaking or publishing. The actions of the powerless are different from the actions of people who have to power to ban, to imprison, to silence. As a culture, though, we have a habit of conflating the two lately, and people who get shouted down (or simply disagreed with) start yelling about free speech when what they’re experiencing is impolite disagreement, not censorship.

      Liked by 1 person

      • RE the statues, you summarised that beautifully. You are absolutely right. Especially if those descendants of the enslaved who helped to build the country in which the statue stands and who are an intrinsic part of the community. And yes as a culture we have absolutely gone the wrong way about disagreeing – it’s a matter of being ‘woke’ but taking everything to an extreme, without properly understanding the consequences of this.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Well it’s just that there are a lot of people with a lot of differing opinions out there, some of which are morally incorrect and some of which are minor disagreements based on a person’s background and perspective. Social media and other forms of media have the power to inflate the voices of certain people over others, so now a lot of things that could be considered ‘difference of opinion’ are now being taken to be something more than that, voiced by the loudest voices, and the things that actually matter and that are really affecting people who have no voice and are powerless, seem to be lumped under the same banner, so an ideology or set of ideologies are seen to be ‘extreme’ when really it’s a matter of confusing what matters from what doesn’t, and it all boils down to whose voice is loudest. I am probably doing a shoddy job of summarising it as it’s a very complex topic but that is the gist of what I meant i suppose!

            Liked by 1 person

            • I agree. And I really get tired of hearing these things dismissed as mere differences of opinion, as if it were a matter of mere manners and we should all just settle down and get through the dinner nicely. These are questions about who we are going to be (and who we’ve been) as a culture, as a nation, as a world.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. Love the Bitcoin story. Hasn’t everyone had trouble with passwords? This makes me feel better about all the money I could have earned, but then never been able to cash in on, had I invested in Bitcoin.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I once got stopped at customs in America and asked what was in my sandwiches. I knew they had issues with meat, so I’d taken jam sandwiches. I explained this. Unfortunately, the customs official didn’t recognise the word “jam”. I was having visions of being hauled into custody over a jam sandwich, when I remembered that jam is called jelly in America. So I explained that they were “jelly” sandwiches. And all was well. Customs officials really are strangely obsessed with sandwiches.


    • That’s particularly strange given that in the US we have both jam and jelly. Jam has the seeds. Jelly doesn’t. Why we care is beyond me, but you can have a jam sandwich in the US. Whether you can legally take it through customs I don’t know.

      New Zealand, now, is serious about not bringing food into the country. You can bring in packaged food–I’ve brought in tea and shortbreads–but nothing homemade, nothing unwrapped. No sandwiches. They have sniffer dogs and woe betide the person they catch because the fine’s high enough to make you notice it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Maybe the French will enact the Miss Piggy law against the UK! The “us against them” attitude is destroying the fabric of our humanity, but that attitude has been there for all history, and is the cause of wars, violence, murder and most atrocities. We are all citizens of the planet earth and need to learn how to get along without demonizing everything that does not fit into our narrow views. This is the reason for Brexit, and the reason for the capital insurrection, as well as the 2016 election of Trump!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The choice of wording regarding the new statues legislation seemed thoughtless!
    My take on these statues is that I am not sure why they ever went up – well I know why they went up. I just disagree with people being glorified like that. From the Pharaoh’s of Egypt to the pompous royals of England – how dare the figureheads of empires that have plundered other nations and caused unimaginable suffering and inhumane indignities be venerated and honoured.
    Sometimes I am baffled – there crimes are there for all to see in the history books and yet they have statues to stamp a permanent record of their heinous acts. I was not surprised to see people who already felt the disgrace the UK and other lands bear because of their role in the slave trade incensed by a modern act of injustice into expressing their contempt for a statue of someone who himself prospered and brought prosperity to his area via the appalling treatment of fellow humans.

    I have to admit, I often feel that this system cannot be repaired when it is built on so much abuse and corruption.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you about the statues and I’d add that they’re not even interesting art. The only statue–not of a “hero” but of a writer–is one in St. Paul, of F. Scott Fitzgerald, which is life size and sitting on a park bench, so people can (and do) sit down next to him. Because it’s down at our level and in our size range, it has a totally different impact than the heroic ones and is both disarming and inviting.

      Okay, there’s the Lincoln memorial. Probably because he doesn’t look heroic either, just stoic and saddened. I’m off the topic, aren’t I? I don’t know if–well, I’m not sure they system can be repaired, but I do think it can be changed. No system goes on forever. They outlive their usefulness and are replaced.


    • I don’t think this is about erasing history, Stevie, but about not glorifying some of the country’s worst actions and about acknowledging the parts that have, until recently, been carefully hidden. When Britain handed over its colonies to its inhabitants, it burned its files, carefully and systematically. Now that’s erasing history. Pulling down a statue? That’s demanding that history be seen differently, which a in a fair reading it would be.

      And I don’t mean to pick on Britain about this. It’s as true in the US as it is here, and I’m sure it’s true of many countries.

      Liked by 1 person

            • It’s not the rioting–or demonstrating, or whatever–that leads to the arguing but the other way around: A longstanding grievance breaks into public view and people argue. That’s inevitable. I still remember when (do I need to say white?) people argued about the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. Some of them managed to be scandalized, in spite of the care the movement took to be as civil and respectable and nonthreatening as possible. And again with the antiwar movement at the end of the decade (although that was far less controlled or careful or respectable). Challenge the status quo and people will argue. It’s part of the process. And discussion can change minds. It doesn’t have to be name-calling or other dead-end insult exchanges. It can be about seeing the world as others see it. It’s one of the ways that people change.

              If there’s no point in arguing about history, why teach it in the schools? Because unless we know how we got where we are, we have no idea, really, where we are or why. My belief is that it’s essential to argue about history. What we’re taught in the schools (and I only have two countries to draw from here, and most heavily from the US, but I suspect it’s true of many, most, or all countries) is generally a triumphal myth: the story of a wonderful country that we should all be proud of. In the US, kids are often taught that it’s the best country in the world, and you’ll hear many people say that without a moment’s hesitation.

              I have no argument with people feeling pride in their countries, but not at the expense of truth. We need to acknowledge the underside of our histories, and its beauties. Otherwise we’re just teaching our kids not to look below the surface of life, just accept whatever they’re told, however distorted it may be.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Kids are taught history in schools, but I found from my own sons’ school career that fairly anodyne topics were chosen to study. Kids won’t learn much with today’s PC curriculum. Instead they learn from relatives who either have a grievance that statues are toppling, or a grievance that the statues were put up in the first place. The whole misery of it perpetuates through the generations.

                Liked by 1 person

              • I wouldn’t call what I’ve seen of the schoolbooks here (admittedly not much, but a bit) PC but a kind of spineless attempt to please everyone by saying nothing. I’d rather see a commitment to telling a true story–warts and all, as Cromwell (allegedly) said. Somehow we, as a culture, have lost track of the idea that this isn’t all about conflicting opinions but about telling as true a story as we’re capable of. History can never be known entirely, and over time interpretations change, sometimes in the light of new information and sometimes in the light of new awareness. The focus on women’s history, of Black history, on working class history, on colonial history are to different extents new to the discipline, and they change the story. And upset people. So be it. I think they can be defended. They’re not just some random cultural styles, they’re legitimate scholarship.

                Liked by 1 person

  9. Very interesting. I was listening to NPR last week, and the guest was discussing bitcoins. I realized at that moment my 40 years of working in the financial services industry was once upon a time stuff. When bitcoins are the rage, I dredge up images of tulips in Holland and, well, there you have it. I am hopelessly out of touch with financial markets today.
    My knowledge of Brexit is limited to whatever you write, but I can tell you I will have much more respect for my sandwich at lunch today. What excitement to have turkey and avocado slices on white Wonder Bread. Who knew it might as well be armed and dangerous.
    Thanks for keeping me up to date.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure. Be careful not to slip any bitcoins into your sandwich. Not only are they expensive, the pictures that go with all the articles make them look inedible, even if they’re virtual.

      I guess that makes them virtually inedible.

      Liked by 1 person

          • I once had a client who came to me for investment advice. He lived on a farm in a neighboring county with his mother. His Deliverance appearance belied his kind nature. When I asked him where his money was currently, he replied that it was “burrit.” I was confused so I asked him where it was buried. In my back yard, he replied. Wow, I said, and told him that might be the best place for it.
            If not, how about a nice annuity?

            Liked by 1 person

            • We knew a woman in the village who at least claimed to have buried a whole bunch of gold jewelry in her back yard–called a garden here. She had friend after friend trying to dig it up, but no one ever found it. We’ve wondered if she just wanted the attention, but who knows, some day someone may dig it up and wonder what the story was.

              Liked by 1 person

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  11. They are called bitcoins for a reason. Besides the fact that it is much easier than cryptocurrency. It is because once they have bit one in the ass one realizes they are a pain. It is enough to make one want to go back to that old paper stuff. Now about those sandwiches. Since most kitchens make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches should all sandwiches have a warning label about being produced in a facility which processes nuts ? And to be extra safe kitchens need to have sandwich warning wallpaper ? Remember before you put this jelly in your belly…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The story about the computer guy from Wales throwing his Bitcoin hard drive away is one of the most infamous and legendary stories in Bitcoin lore. It’s actually depressing to think about all that money just sitting at the bottom of a landfill! Great article!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I turned to Lord Google for a translation and he supplied “The hard drive only contains the key of because only you, but does not contain bitcoin.” I think I understand that. (Sorry–online translation’s still pretty rough.) The problem is that without the key, the owner can’t get the bitcoin, so the hard drive might as well contain the coin, since the owner can’t unlock it.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: Unintended consequences: from Brexit to bitcoins — Notes from the U.K. – Nze Nwadialor

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