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Hurricane Irma: When Disaster Strikes, the UK Must Respond

by John Brian Shannon

In the aftermath of hurricane Irma, the people of Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands have complained that emergency aid from the UK was late in arriving.

Indeed, while the UK was still formulating its response, French President Emmanuel Macron had already visited the French overseas territories of St. Martin and St. Barts, staying overnight and sleeping on a camp cot in a military tent after promising islanders their communities will not only be rebuilt — but will be rebuilt better than before.

Nearing the end of a sweeping visit to assess the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma, French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to rebuild the wrecked island of St. Martin and diversify its economy away from tourism.

“What we have seen today are people determined to rebuild and return to a normal life,” Macron said Tuesday in a news conference. “They are impatient for answers and some are very, very angry. The anger is legitimate because it is a result of the fear they have faced and of being very fatigued. It is certain that some want to leave, and we will help them in that effort.”

He said France was bringing in air-conditioned tents so children can start classes again soon, and that a center would be established by Monday to begin processing requests for financial help.

Macron pledged to rebuild St. Martin as a “model island” that would be a “showcase of French excellence” in terms of its ability to withstand storms. “I don’t want to rebuild St. Martin as it was,” he said. “We have seen there are many homes that were built too precariously, with fragile infrastructure. The geography of the homes was not adapted to the risks.”

‘I don’t want to rebuild St. Martin as it was’: French president vows help for Irma’s damage in Caribbean (Business Insider)

As the French President toured the French islands destroyed by Irma, 1000 British troops arrived in the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla to help residents who rode out the storm.

Like President Emmanuel Macron the day before, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also faced criticism from islanders who said that too little emergency assistance had been rendered too late.


OECD Rules Miss the Mark on Emergency Aid and Development Assistance

Complicating British, French and Dutch emergency assistance efforts are regulations by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that prevent countries from rendering aid to wealthy or developed nations in an attempt to keep much-needed aid flows going towards developing nations.

However, and even with the best of intentions, those OECD rulings have caused at least two European countries to miss the mark on emergency aid, post-Irma.

In the British case, removed from the OECD’s Official Development Assistance list were Anguilla (2014) Turks and Caicos (2008) and the British Virgin Islands in 2000.

One wonders what could have prompted OECD officials to create regulations that (de facto) prevent assistance to wealthy island nations ravaged by hurricane in this case. Aren’t they aware that hurricanes occur every year in the Caribbean?


When You Know You’re Right – ACT!

It seems appropriate in these situations that UK (and French, and Dutch) governments should simply ignore regulations by any regulatory body (in this case, it was the powerful and usually brilliant OECD) and just go ahead and do what needs doing — taking care of the needs of traumatized, injured, and suddenly homeless residents. The OECD has no military; It can’t enforce the regulations in situ.

When your people need help in an emergency, the onus is on leaders to ignore deficient regulations/legislation and do the right thing.

Certainly, leaders like Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, or Helmut Kohl wouldn’t have been deterred from sending generous amounts of aid to hurricane-ravaged islanders, accompanied by a convincing naval task force if necessary, in case anyone had any idea of stopping their aid convoy. I can easily imagine Maggie supervising the entire emergency aid operation and God help anyone who got in her way, including the OECD or even God himself!

Yet, Theresa May could have the best long-term plan of all — changing the OECD rules!

Hurricane Irma: UK seeks foreign aid overhaul to help British victims (Sky News)

In the long-term, Prime Minister Theresa May is right. Now is the time to fight the existing regulations because next week everyone will have forgotten about Irma and several destroyed Caribbean islands and will be talking about the Kardashians instead.

Theresa May will have a fight on her hands because, as anyone who has ever tried to get anything changed knows, change is almost impossible to accomplish.

This week, some attention-seeking British MP’s called her out for ‘grandstanding’ for seeking to change the obviously well-intentioned but misguided OECD regulations on allowing aid to wealthy or developed nations. Let’s hope that the Prime Minister succeeds at the OECD and that attention-seeking MP’s are put in their place.


But more than all of that, I hope PM Theresa May comes to the same conclusion as French President Macron and declares that the hurricane damaged islands will be rebuilt even better than before and able to withstand the forces of nature in the Caribbean’s hurricane alley.


Concrete Plans

In this situation, and in regards to other weather events, it’s blatantly obvious that the only structures undamaged by extreme weather are made from concrete.

Rather than rebuild wood frame houses and businesses every five or ten years, the obvious conclusion is to build them from concrete, only once!

By paying the cost of emergency aid now, and by covering the cost differential between new concrete structures and what building owners receive from their insurance company to rebuild their wood construction building, fewer lives will be lost to hurricanes, storm surges, tsunamis and earthquakes in the future, insurance rates won’t skyrocket every decade, and entire islands won’t need to be rebuilt only to be destroyed at the next major hurricane. And saving tens of millions of pounds sterling in future emergency aid funding in the process.

Instead of fighting for market share, it’s time to grow the global market!

It is a time of change in the United Kingdom

by John Brian Shannon

A sea-change is upon the United Kingdom whether some have come to that full realization or not

The relationship between the UK and the rest of the world is beginning to change as the UK exits the European Union. Not only that, but the relationship between the UK and the other Commonwealth countries is changing. And while all of that is occurring, it is also a time of change in the postwar international order.

These changes are coming and we have no ability to stop them. What we do have though, is the ability to choose whether these changes are ultimately negative or positive for Britain.


The days of ‘Win-Lose’ politics are over

When every second country (seemingly) has WMD weapons, suddenly Win-Lose doesn’t work anymore. Do we really want to solve every issue between nations with nuclear weapons? Because eventually, that’s what it will come to.

It’s great if you ‘Win’. But then you ‘Lose’ because the fallout from large nuclear explosions travel around the Earth a few times per season and nuclear particles continue to exist in the environment for decades (some isotopes linger for 20,000 years) and as everyone needs to breathe the air, eventually you will inhale and, well, (do I really have to tell you this?) your lungs will filter the radioactive isotopes out of the air.

The ‘Winners’ of a WMD conflict will also become ‘Losers’ of that conflict within months. It’s nonsensical to consider nuclear war in the 21st-century.

All of which means, that in the final analysis, international hot points must henceforth be solved by the cool hand of diplomacy.


The days of fighting for Market Share are over

More than any other country, fighting for market share no longer makes economic sense for the UK, because every other country/corporation is likewise fighting for market share.

Larger countries with serious export expertise and fully developed and long-term foreign client relationships have a distinct advantage over a born-again United Kingdom re-entering the exporting world. Fighting for market share against far superior marketing superpowers like Germany and China is like paddling upriver in a hurricane, and good luck with that.

Rather than fighting for Britain’s slice of the pie, the UK should be the one country in the world that works to make the pie bigger for everyone! wherever free markets exist.

In that way, whatever global growth occurs will benefit all exporters equally — including Britain’s born-again export economy, because the UK will have as good a chance as any to capture some of that growing pie — as opposed to fighting companies well entrenched in foreign markets and trying to steal tiny percentages of their total market share. See the difference?

“Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning.” — Erwin Rommel

Rommel was right. And to adapt his truth to Britain’s new place in the world, fighting for market share in countries that are already well-served by European and Chinese exporters will gain British exporters very little and could create trade frictions between Britain and the European Union which is still the UK’s largest trading partner in the 21st-century. We don’t want that.


‘Win-Win and Growing the Market vs. ‘Win-Lose’ and fighting for Market Share

Win-Win political thinking and growing the global market is the best prescription for Britain’s economic future.

Countries with rapidly growing economies like the BRICS countries and many Commonwealth nations are the best places for Britain to concentrate its export efforts. By helping those countries to succeed more than they would have without the UK’s assistance, Britain can grow its export base by selling to people in rapidly growing developing nations enjoying their newfound discretionary income.

It’s all about rising Disposable Income in Developing Nations

The example of India is most poignant, because in that country the average discretionary income of citizens is doubling every five years; All Britain’s leaders must do now, is to work respectfully with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers to the end that British exports to India are welcome and that Indian exports to the UK are just as welcome. (It helps if both countries aren’t manufacturing and selling the same items, of course) If India sells toasters in both countries then Britain should sell kettles in both countries, if you take my meaning. The less overlap, the better.

A few years from now, when a larger percentage of India’s 1.5 billion population can afford to buy a new car, perhaps Indian companies will offer tuk-tuks, small cars and farm trucks for sale in India and the UK, while the UK sells family sedans and Landrovers in India and the UK.

Any other method of working to each country’s strengths — without stepping on each other’s toes — would also be profitable for companies of both countries. What matters is that whatever method is chosen works for companies in both countries.

With the right approach to rapidly growing countries and some standardized and respectful trade rules, the UK could help to grow the global pie, dramatically increase its own exports, keep good relations with exporting superpowers in Europe, China, and America, and be seen as a ‘White Knight’ to developing nations by playing a pivotal and ongoing role in helping them to build their economies.

That future is so much better than bickering over fractions of market share with other (and economically superior) exporting nations — the very countries that Britain depends upon in many ways.

Here’s to ‘Win-Win’ paradigms and growing the global economic pie; A plan that will work for the United Kingdom more than almost any other country — while preventing harm to Britain’s present and important trade relationships.

The world wants quality UK goods and services.

The world wants quality UK goods and services. The demand is out there. You should be too. Image courtesy of HM Government.

Royal Mail takes delivery of electric trucks

by John Brian Shannon

The Royal Mail is testing electric delivery vehicles to replace their 49,000 vehicle fleet with an eye towards lowering annual maintenance and fuel bills, and to help improve air quality in UK cities.

Royal Mail electric trucks made by Arrival
Ranking 1000+ on the cuteness scale, these 3.5 tonne Royal Mail electric delivery trucks made by Arrival have a 100-mile range and feature zero emissions and no noise. Image courtesy of Royal Mail.

Royal Mail is testing-out a range of electric delivery vehicles to complement and eventually replace their 49,000 vehicle fleet. The smallest of these vans is pictured above with three (of the one-hundred on order) already delivering packages from the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre in London.

The new trucks come in three different payload ratings and the larger trucks are scheduled to begin operations later this year.

Royal Mail 6-tonne van presently undergoing trials in London
Arrival’s 6-tonne electric van at the Banbury, Oxfordshire assembly plant which is presently undergoing trials in London. Image courtesy of Royal Mail.

Three 3.5 tonne electric trucks, three 6 tonne, and three 7.5 tonne electric trucks will be tested in 2017.

“Royal Mail is delighted to be collaborating with Arrival and pioneering the adoption of large electric commercial vehicles. We are pleased to be the first fleet operator to take delivery of and trial these new larger payload vehicles which will complement the 100 electric vans we recently ordered. We will be putting them through their paces over the next several months to see how they cope with the mail collection demands from our larger sites.”

“Royal Mail is trialling a variety of vehicles to see which work best for us and are keen to share our experience with other fleet operators who may be considering introducing electric vehicles. We have trialled electric trucks before but not of this type of design and look forward to see what additional benefits they can bring to our existing fleet of around 49,000 vehicles.” — Paul Gatti, Royal Mail Fleet’s managing director

In congested and heavily polluted cities like London, switching from loud and smelly diesel-engined trucks to electric trucks can contribute to better air quality, as most of the fine particulate and soot found in city air is caused by diesel vehicle emissions.

“We are thrilled to partner with Royal Mail using our electric vehicles. Cities like London will benefit hugely from a switch to electric, in terms of both pollution and noise. Most importantly we are priced the same as diesel trucks removing the main barrier to go electric.” — Denis Sverdlov, CEO of Arrival

Formerly known as Charge Automotive, Arrival’s new 110,000 sq ft factory is located in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

Arrival says the trucks are built using, “revolutionary ultra-lightweight composite materials that significantly reduce the weight of the vehicle and by combining this technology with Arrival’s custom built hardware, including power electronics and motors, the cost of operating has been reduced by more than 50%.”

The company also says it’s pursuing autonomous driving technology and that the new trucks are ‘autonomous-ready’.


This follows an announcement by the Royal Mail in July that they’ve also purchased 100 Partner electric minivans (made by Peugeot) for use on regular delivery rounds.

Peugeot Partner electric minivan delivers the Royal Mail.
Peugeot Partner electric minivan delivers the mail. Image courtesy of the Royal Mail.

But what’s the real story here?

The real story is that 49,000 Royal Mail vehicles are going to need replacement within the next ten years. And not only the mail service, but hundreds of thousands of ambulances, courier company vehicles and private companies that haul their own freight will need replacement vehicles within ten years — and all of them could be built at the Arrival plant in Oxfordshire.

To say nothing of the number of delivery vehicles that will need replacement within ten years in every Commonwealth nation and throughout the rest of the world.

As much as I’m a fan of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van (and they are a great vehicle by any standard) these new Arrival vans come without a clattering and smelly diesel engine. And in today’s congested and polluted cities, that’s everything.

If Arrival plays its hand properly, it will become the Apple or TESLA success story of the decade.