According to reports, the island nation of Barbados will become a republic and name it’s own official Head of State by the end of 2020, and in so doing replace the British Crown as its head of state.
“A speech written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley said Barbadians wanted a Barbadian head of state.” — BBC
Some Barbadians feel this is a way to ‘shake-off’ the country’s ‘colonial past’ and ‘presents a way forward’ for the country. And most definitely, it’s their right to do so, and I congratulate Barbadians on deciding to become an independent nation by the end of 2020.
There Will Be Some Changes, However
For one, the country will no longer be defended by the UK military. If you’re wondering why… ask UK taxpayers.
No country on Earth will spend billions to defend another sovereign country, so why would UK taxpayers want to pay the costs associated with defending Barbados? And why would British troops want to risk their lives to defend a nation that will have cut all ties to the United Kingdom by the end of 2020?
Although Barbados does maintain a tiny military, until now, the UK military has been legally obligated to help defend Barbados should it ever face attack, invasion, or even at-sea piracy.
But once Barbadians have their own head of state, it means that if they wanted to, they could declare war on any country… including the United Kingdom. Not that they would, of course. But it’s a right they don’t presently enjoy according to existing agreements. After December 31, 2020, they can.
For two, titles of nobility that have been granted over the years to citizens of Barbados will become null and void once the UK’s Elizabeth II is dropped as the official Head of State of Barbados and that island will thenceforth become their own republic with their own head of state. Titles of nobility are granted by the British Crown — awarded to those who have served the UK with the utmost bravery during wartime or the utmost success during peacetime, and only to those who are either UK citizens, or Commonwealth citizens where their home country declares the British monarch to be their Head of State.
Titled persons in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth countries that recognize the King or Queen of the United Kingdom as their Head of State, have no such fear of losing their title of nobility.
The Right Honourable The Lord Black of Crossharbour, KCSG, Conrad Moffat Black, for example, will retain his title for as long as Canada remains a member in good standing of The Commonwealth of Nations, and Canada continues to hold the serving UK monarch as it’s official Head of State, and as long as Lord Black continues to maintain a respectable, law abiding life.
The same can’t be said about The Right Honourable Dame Sandra Mason, presently serving as the Governor General of Barbados. Once Barbados leaves the United Kingdom’s orbit, her UK title instantly becomes null and void unless she decides to become a legal citizen of the United Kingdom (and then how could she serve as the Head of State for Barbados?) but that’s up to her and the government of Barbados.
I expect there will be an American invasion of Barbados within one-year of Barbadians lowering their relationship with the United Kingdom to almost zero. But hey, even if I’m wrong by 6-months I’ll still have made my point.
And my point is that if you’re a tiny Caribbean island nation, or even a huge nation with a tiny military and tiny population like Canada, and you’re located somewhere in North or Central America, you’d better get used to saying “Yes!” a lot, because that’s what it’s like living next to a superpower.
You either say “Yes!” (very politely) or the superpower will do it for you.
It’s the way of the world. You can’t beat them economically, you can’t beat them militarily, you can’t beat their massive intelligence infrastructure, and you can’t cry over it. The only way to exist next to a superpower is to play it real nice, and say “Yes!” a lot.
In fact, just say “Yes!” all the time. It’ll be better for you. You’ll see.
Is that the way to… ‘throw off the colonial past of Barbados’? It really makes me wonder.
But, once Barbados becomes a republic, the United Kingdom will become free and clear of having to defend that beautiful island nation. And good luck to them!
I myself will be thrilled when each Caribbean nation that presently has the British monarch listed as their official Head of State, declare themselves to be ‘fully independent’ and they all become ‘republics’ with no longer any need of the present, or any future British monarch as their official Head of State, because that will save the UK some treasure and possibly British blood, and the UK need never worry about defending those (almost impossible to defend, due to their tiny size and tiny population) Caribbean island nations ever again. Best wishes!
There’s no getting around it, the UK rail system is in trouble!
UK rail systems were already facing significant challenges prior to the COVID-19 crisis, let alone what is expected to become a prolonged economic recovery — perhaps with successive waves of Coronavirus to further complicate things — and with some of the country’s rail operators falling into administration possibly within days. That disaster could unfold every week until every train in the country winds up parked.
Therefore, rather than allow a complete unravelling of the UK rail system via government inaction, Parliament needs to nationalize every rail operation in Britain and during this time of light ridership — solve every rail-related problem — beginning with standardizing the customer experience to the highest possible level.
Whichever rail operator has shown itself to be the most successful railway company over the past two-years (success = a good indication how a rail operator handles the profitable times AND an unprecedented national health crisis) should have their key managers hired by the government and placed in overall charge of the (proposed) then-government-run British Rail. That way the country will have the best-of-the-best operating that newly created pan-UK entity.
Click here to see Britain’s 2019 railway rankings.
Boris Has a Lot on His Plate, but This Is Important
Brexit is ultra-important, of course. No serious person would advocate for dropping things where they are and letting the present uncertainty continue. The government’s response to COVID-19 is super-important too, that goes without saying.
But millions of Britons ride UK trains every year; To work, to sporting events, to visit family, and to check on elderly friends who have no ability to run their own errands, or for some much-needed ‘retail therapy’ or for other reasons. Which makes the British rail system the 3rd-most important issue in 2020 for UK politicians, IMHO. Whatever else goes on in Parliament are politics that will inevitably work out over time.
Fixing the country’s rail system can’t wait because whether you’re a student, an employee, or an employer, trains are essential transportation in the UK.
Switching to Government Ownership
The government should purchase all rail systems at full market value and combine them into one mega-unit and merge them with Network Rail ASAP — putting the government in the position of owning ‘everything rail’ in the country. That way, there would be no delays or pushback whenever vital changes need to be made.
Some rail operators were in such rough shape financially — even before COVID-19 wrecked the economy! — that the purchase price might be £1 (only) along with assuming the existing operator’s corporate debt.
The government would be wrong to assume they have weeks or months to ramp-up to take control of every British rail company; Expect one rail company per month to fall under administration, beginning October 2020.
After a railway is shut down it’s more difficult to begin the process of fixing deficiencies once the former employees have moved-on to other jobs and management is consulting with the banks (and law courts) on outstanding financial issues, and their regular ridership are by then car-sharing or have made other lifestyle choices like quitting their jobs. (Why do that? No train, boss!)
Therefore, whatever the government does, they must actually begin to do it — next month. There’s no luxury of time here. Other than Brexit and COVID-19, this is the country’s most pressing issue and it needs to be handled. Yesterday.
- The UK rail system is powered by high voltage (24,000 volt) overhead lines. This was done to make the UK rail system as CO2-friendly as possible. And while that part of it works well, those locomotives are only as clean as the National Grid that provides the electricity of which only 30% is renewable energy annually — much of it produced at night when the wind is blowing but no trains are running. Therefore, electric trains are dirty trains but only because of the source power plant emissions and the high-ish electricity transmission line losses experienced when dispatching electricity over long distances. However, as many electric locomotives are now nearing time for replacement, clean-burning bio-diesel locos could replace today’s electric locos, helping to create a more reliable railway. And bio-diesel locomotives feature 80% lower emission levels compared to old-style diesel locos and (bonus feature!) schedule disruptions due to electrical grid failures will no longer occur.
- With the huge resources available to government, whatever major problems have been deferred by today’s rail operators due to the inability to afford expensive maintenance or upgrades would easily be afforded by the government acting as sole owner/operator of the country’s entire railway infrastructure. Yes, some immediate infrastructure spending would be required, but as the man says, ‘You can pay me now (a little) or you can pay me later’ (a lot) yet, once the upgrades would be completed the entire UK rail infrastructure would last several decades.
- The profound and expensive changes needed throughout the British rail system haven’t been made, can’t be made, and won’t be made by leaving them in the hands of private companies. There isn’t enough profit at the best of times to make both Profit and Necessary Upgrades to their systems. UK rail operators can either have profit or they can make necessary upgrades — not both.
- No private rail operator would say it publicly because saying so would affect their bottom line and risk upsetting their shareholders, but they’ve taken the business model as far as possible — and nobody likes to admit defeat! — but they did the best they could within the constraints they operate under. They can’t say it, but it’s time for the government to take back control of the country’s railway networks, fix what’s broken, upgrade what needs upgrading, and once the whole enterprise is purring like a kitten, sell it as a (by then) successful and profitable operation via IPO. The entire upgraded and profitable enterprise could fetch £1 trillion (approximately) 10-years from now, thereby allowing the UK government to (more than) recover the cost of righting the country’s rail system. Woot-Woot!
Written by John Brian Shannon
Here’s a List of Seven Reasons that the UK Needs to Spend Real Money on it’s Ageing Rail Infrastructure:
- There are huge bottlenecks throughout the country’s railway routes and those bottlenecks make every other thing in the system worse, including timeliness, scheduling, customer satisfaction, and passenger safety.
- Congestion on UK roads is appreciably worse when the trains are unavailable due to labour strikes, weather-related problems, line maintenance issues and electrical power outages that affect the railway electrical grid.
- The UK will never meet it’s clean air commitments as long as most ground travel is by automobile, but when millions of Britons ride trains to get to their destinations, CO2 levels drop correspondingly, especially as the UK electricity grid continues to add more renewable energy capacity.
- In most cases, the UK rail experience hasn’t changed much over the decades. It’s overcrowded at peak times and under-utilized during the rest of the day. For the country that invented passenger rail systems in 1802 when Englishmen Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian received a patent for the world’s first steam locomotive, providing mediocre or average service isn’t good enough. Rail service in the UK could and should be the envy of the world.
- Rail Tourism. Most people in the UK take trains to get to and from work, to go shopping, or to visit Grandma at the weekend. But there are millions of people around the world who dream of riding in a posh railcar, seeing a foreign country from the viewpoint of a luxury railcar, eating gourmet food and tasting fine wines. If you’ve done it (I have) it’s an experience you’ll never forget — and you’ll want to do it again. The UK rail system (yes, the rail system alone!) could bring millions of pounds into the UK economy. Just by doing railways right.
- Building and operating HS2, removing longstanding bottlenecks throughout the UK rail system, combined with ongoing upgrades to make rail travel a truly world-class experience will create thousands of jobs — particularly if all new locomotives, rail cars, and rail track are manufactured in the UK.
- More capacity, better railcars, more user-friendly schedules and a higher passenger experience, will itself, cause millions more Britons to take the train to work, shop, and play, thereby helping rail operators to run a profit — even during non-peak times of the day — whether in ‘high season’ or the ‘low season’.
In short, there’s every good reason to build-up Britain’s rail system even at significant cost… because the benefits to the entire country, to Britons, and to the UK’s international tourism reputation are mind blowing.