Pablo Picasso Portrait of Maya 1939
To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since Saturday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.
Really, what is not to like about the Brexit comedy? it’s the British doing what they do best. Parliament will vote for a law that forces Boris to send a letter to Brussels asking for an extension to Article 50, and he plans to send a second letter saying he doesn’t want that extension.
Anyway, Supreme Court it always would be. But can that court tell parliamentarians or a prime minster what to do, or are they above the court in legal standing, as a lower court suggested last week? Too late to get a constitution now. But not too late to make this much more chaotic still.
There is even a plan for the UK to shut down the EU.
The battle for Brexit is heading for a nailbiting showdown in the Supreme Court in late October – when the deadline for crashing out of the EU will be just days away – after Boris Johnson’s new strategy was revealed. Ministers plan to manufacture a legal fight to avoid directly breaking the law when compelled to ask for a further Article 50 extension, while also sidestepping the requirement to comply with it. The “plan B” paves the way for an unprecedented constitutional crisis after parliament’s deadline for seeking a Brexit delay passes on 19 October – with the threat of the prime minister being jailed for contempt of court. With the deadline for crashing out on 31 October, it will be a race against time to force Mr Johnson to Brussels before Halloween, or to bring him down in a vote of no confidence and send a replacement.
Labour condemned the strategy as behaving like “every tinpot dictator on the planet throughout history” – demanding that Mr Johnson obey the “duty” imposed by parliament. No10 is also reported to be considering sending a letter to the EU requesting a Brexit extension, in order to meet the conditions passed by MPs last week, but then immediately sending another saying the government does not actually want a delay. Legal experts, including former attorney general Lord Falconer, warned that this would still breach the law. If Mr Johnson disregards some or all of the bill’s requirements – which is set to receive royal assent on Monday – this could lead to an emergency judicial review in the courts by MPs.
The unprecedented case would start in the High Court and the expectation is that it would very quickly move to the Supreme Court, almost certainly before 31 October. And it triggered an extraordinary warning from the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, to obey “the rule of law”, as he denied he was poised to follow Amber Rudd by resigning.
“..he risked the resignation of the justice secretary, the attorney general, and other members of his cabinet…”
A former supreme court justice has said Boris Johnson would be in contempt of court if he applied for article 50 extension while simultaneously trying to get the EU to reject it. Reports in the Daily Telegraph suggested that the prime minister has drawn up plans to “sabotage” parliament’s efforts to force through a Brexit extension to prevent the UK leaving the bloc without a deal. He is said to be considering sending an accompanying letter to the EU alongside the request to extend article 50, which would say the government does not want any delay to Brexit. Lord Sumption, a former supreme court justice, said it would not be legal for the prime minister to ask for an extension while rubbishing the request at the same time.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The bill or the act as its about to become says that he’s got to apply for an extension. Not only has he got to send the letter, he’s got to apply for an extension. And to send the letter and then try and neutralise it seems to me to be plainly a breach of the act.” A Downing Street source said: “We intend to sabotage any extension. The ‘surrender bill’ only kicks in if an extension is offered. Once people realise our plans, there is a good chance we won’t be offered a delay. Even if we are, we intend to sabotage that too.” Sumption said he had read the bill and there was not “the slightest obscurity” about what the government was obliged to do. [..] Sumption said Johnson would not only be in contempt of court if he failed to do what the bill states, he risked the resignation of the justice secretary, the attorney general, and other members of his cabinet.
“This avoidance of the hard border, it is not just a desire, it is not just about preferences, it is legal obligation.”
European officials have accused Boris Johnson of reneging on pledges to uphold the Good Friday agreement, ahead of the prime minister’s first meeting with his Irish counterpart. Johnson will meet the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in Dublin on Monday at a tumultuous moment in the Brexit process, with only 52 days until the UK’s departure. Talks are set to be tense as fears grow in Dublin and Brussels that the British prime minister is backsliding on promises to protect the tightly knit economic and social links on the island of Ireland. “The commitment to all aspects and all the provisions of the letter and spirit of the Good Friday agreement recently seems to be taken more lightly than before,” a senior diplomat from a continental member state told the Guardian.
“This avoidance of the hard border, it is not just a desire, it is not just about preferences, it is legal obligation.” A senior official working for the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told diplomats this week that the UK had reneged on commitments to protect north-south co-operation on the island of Ireland, a key pillar of the Good Friday agreement. Alarm bells were set off by Johnson’s recent letter to the European council president, Donald Tusk, which declared his government could not endorse a commitment made by Theresa May in a December 2017 EU-UK joint report. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, fuelled concerns that the government was seeking to back out of past commitments, when he tweeted that the government was “committed to no infrastructure on the NI border”.
Such comments were seen in Brussels as “meaningless” words that marked a significant dilution of the promise to uphold an open border. The May government pledged to protect “north-south cooperation” on the island of Ireland in the 2017 joint report, widely seen in Brussels as a landmark in Brexit talks.
Something tells me Dominic Cummings will have more before this is over.
Brussels’ former top law officer has rubbished Boris Johnson’s extraordinary plan to sabotage the EU and make it ‘no longer legal’, arguing it makes no sense. Downing Street has threatened to render the bloc no longer “legally constituted”, paralysing its decision making, to force EU leaders to cave in to the UK’s demands. But Jean-Claude Piris, formerly the director-general of the EU Council’s legal service, said the idea – refusing to appoint a new commissioner – would fail to shut down the EU, as No 10 hoped. “The Commission can continue to work and decide legally,” Mr Piris wrote on Twitter, citing a precedent dating back to 1999. Instead, he said: “The UK will be brought to the EUCJ [the European Court of Justice] for violation of its obligation.”
Richard Corbett, the leader of Labour’s bloc of Euro-MPs, echoed the criticism, tweeting: “Nonsense idea that Johnson could paralyse EU to force it to expel UK. “If he refuses to nominate a Commissioner, the UK would be in breach of the treaty – that being so, EU Commission not at fault and can operate legally.” In a dramatic escalation of its battle with Brussels, No 10 believes it can put the EU in breach of its own legal duty for all 28 member states to be represented on its executive branch. The UK would be “disrupting” Brussels life to such a degree that member states will then make it clear they will refuse to grant an Article 50 extension – even if asked for – it hopes. A source told The Independent: “We will turn the pressure onto the EU to show how difficult it will be for them if the UK is still hanging around.”
That’s a lot.
China’s exports unexpectedly fell in August as shipments to the United States slowed sharply, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and underlining a pressing need for more stimulus as the Sino-U.S. trade war escalates. Beijing is widely expected to announce more support measures in coming weeks to avert the risk of a sharper economic slowdown as the United States ratchets up trade pressure, including the first cuts in some key lending rates in four years. On Friday, the central bank cut banks’ reserve requirements for a seventh time since early 2018 to free up more funds for lending, days after a cabinet meeting signalled that more policy loosening may be imminent.
August exports fell 1% from a year earlier, the biggest fall since June, when it fell 1.3%, customs data showed on Sunday. Analysts had expected a 2.0% rise in a Reuters poll after July’s 3.3% gain. That’s despite analyst expectations that a falling yuan would offset some cost pressure and looming tariffs may have prompted some Chinese exporters to bring forward or “front-load” U.S.-bound shipments into August, a trend seen earlier in the trade dispute. China let its currency slide past the key 7 per dollar level in August for the first time since the global financial crisis, and Washington labelled it a currency manipulator.
“..the biggest corporate casualty of anti-government protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, demonstrations..”
Air China has no plans to take over Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways, an independent director of the state-owned Chinese carrier told the South China Morning Post newspaper. “Based on what I know, I wouldn’t think that is anywhere on the agenda, no way,” Air China non-executive director Stanley Hui told the newspaper when asked if the carrier, a 30% shareholder, might seek to buy Cathay outright. The Hong Kong airline has become the biggest corporate casualty of anti-government protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, demonstrations that have plunged the former British colony into a political crisis.
Cathay Chairman John Slosar last week announced plans to step down in November, less than three weeks after CEO Rupert Hogg left amid mounting regulatory scrutiny. Air China is Cathay’s second-largest shareholder, behind manager Swire Pacific with a 45% stake. Long-time Swire executive Patrick Healy was last week appointed as Slosar’s replacement.
No flights tomorrow either. Big airline.
British Airways says it was forced to cancel “nearly 100 per cent” of flights for Monday and Tuesday after the British pilots union went ahead with a strike. The strike was called for by the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) amid a heated dispute over pay with the airline. BALPA said Sunday on Twitter that it put forward a proposal to the carrier’s management Wednesday, but had yet to receive a reply. British Airways said in a statement posted Monday it remains “ready and willing to return to talks with BALPA.”
The airline said it was forced to cancel so many flights because “with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly.” Customers who had flights booked for Monday and Tuesday will likely “not be able to travel as planned,” British Airways said. The airline also advised customers not to go to the airport. Members of the pilots union voted 93% in favor of a strike in July. BALPA said last week that it would be willing to call it off if British Airways returned to the negotiating table. According to its website, BALPA represents more than 10,000 pilots in the United Kingdom — more than 85% of all commercial pilots who fly there.
And Facebook in a different probe. But Google is CIA.
A group of states led by Texas is expected to announce an investigation into Google on Monday to examine whether the Silicon Valley tech giant has gotten too big and effective at stomping or acquiring rivals. The probe is the latest blow against big tech companies as antitrust investigations ramp up in the U.S. and around the world. A separate group of states announced an investigation into Facebook’s dominance on Friday. The Department of Justice , the Federal Trade Commission and Congress are also conducting probes.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said only that the investigation will look at “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.” Reports in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal say Google will be the primary target. Google expects state attorneys general will ask it about past similar investigations in the U.S. and internationally, senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker wrote in a blog post Friday . Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has a market value of more than $820 billion and controls so many aspects of the internet that it’s hard to imagine surfing the web for long without running into at least one of its services. Experts believe the antitrust probe could focus on at least one of three aspects of Google’s business that have caught regulators’ eyes.
Background: renowned Greek film director Costa-Gravas has made a movie based on Varoufakis’ book “Adults in the Room,” which recounts Yanis’ dealings with the EU. It was presented at the Venice film festival this week. Well, the Greek press still doesn’t like him (but they dare not ignore Costa-Gavras either). And because of the structure of the press, neither do many Greeks. But they make it about how Yanis presents himself, and sure, maybe it’s too much about him at times. But really, it should be about his ideas, about substance. Unfortunately, those ideas go above their paygrade and understanding. So appearance it is then…
The term “narcissist,” which has become almost a permanent fixture in any description of Yanis Varoufakis – in tones ranging from the deliberate and angry to the lighthearted and playful, sometimes to the point of absolving him of his sins – is inadequate. A man who writes a book while simultaneously envisioning himself as a big-screen hero does not simply fall into the category of garden-variety delusions of stardom because his actions are rife with intent. Viewing reality through the realm of fiction neither clears nor burdens an official of complicity with regard to how he managed the country’s economic affairs and the stance he adopted more generally, and especially when this concerns an exceptionally crucial period.
Walking down the red carpet does not instantly transform Varoufakis from a former finance minister (who is co-credited with a memorandum and capital controls) into a movie star. The Venice International Film Festival – the glamour, the camera flashes, the gowns – and the reviews of critics neither erase nor transfer political responsibility. The publicity shone on Greece as a result of Costa-Gavras’ film “Adults in the Room,” based on Varoufakis’ book of the same title, shifts the focus of the conversation from the intentions and rules according to which officials with institutional responsibilities ought to abide, to the rule-free realm of art. It takes it away from the need for political figures to answer for their actions and omissions, to the extremely capacious realm of film production and artistic creativity.
Faced with a looming ferocious summer with little rain forecast, the New South Wales government has embarked on a Noah’s Ark type operation to move native fish from the Lower Darling – part of Australia’s most significant river system – to safe havens before high temperatures return to the already stressed river basin. Researchers have warned of other alarming ecological signs that the Lower Darling River – part of the giant Murray-Darling Basin – is in a dire state, following last summer’s mass fish kills. Professor Fran Sheldon, from Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, said only one surviving colony of river mussels had been found along the river and there were signs that river red gums were under severe stress.
“If the river red gums die, and some are hundreds of years old, there will be a domino effect. Banks will collapse, there will be massive erosion and it will send sediments down the river.” “These sort of ecological collapses are much harder and expensive to reverse,” she warned. The New South Wales government announced a $10m rescue package last week to mitigate the effects of the river crisis on native fish this summer. The NSW agriculture minister, Adam Marshall, said the unprecedented action would provide “a lifeline for key native species ahead of an expected summer of horror fish kills”. “We’re staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon, which is why we’re wasting little time rolling out this unprecedented action,” Marshall said.