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72-Days from Brexit & Still No UK/EU Trade Deal

After years of on-again, off-again negotiations, the UK and the European Union still haven’t been able to sign a viable trade deal allowing uninterrupted trade between the two countries.

But the UK has faced far bigger challenges in the 20th-century and in every previous century, and wound up victorious every time — therefore, in regards to Brexit, it’s time to cut our losses and move-on, and Leave the European Union just as UK voters instructed their politicians to do back on June 23, 2016.

In fact, all the years of back and forth negotiations, all the friction that’s occurred between the two blocs since 2016, and the billions the UK has handed over in the meantime to continue paying more than their fair share of the EU budget, has resulted in even more needless emotional trauma to all sides.

It’s now patently obvious that a WTO-style Brexit in 2016/17 would have been better for the UK, it’s business community, and for ordinary Britons too, had Britain just ‘up and left’ without a deal and went straight to a WTO trading relationship (beginning January 1, 2017) with the European Union.

Had UK MP’s followed both the letter and spirit of those instructions, the UK would’ve left the European Union on January 1, 2017 (probably on WTO terms) and gotten straight to work on what matters most to Britons — and all of it without a 1389-day delay!

Think about it. 1389-days later (and counting) we’re no closer to a Brexit trade deal with the EU than in January 2017!

After all the gyrations, after all the negative publicity, after all the name-calling, and all that grief — and nothing to show for it 1389-days later. Which I many times predicted throughout the entire Brexit saga.

It isn’t good enough; It isn’t what citizens are paying their politicians for in either bloc. The entire shambolic escapade of (former UK Prime Minister Theresa May) trying to get a deal — while the EU was seemingly trying to not get a deal — has been a colossal waste of everyone’s life. And that translates into a lot of wasted time and money for everyone.

I understood the EU’s position perfectly, it’s just that others didn’t.

The European Union doesn’t want a sudden exodus of countries from it’s bloc and therefore, making the UK’s exit from the EU seem like the biggest ordeal in the world might deter some EU-member nations from leaving.

My point is, UK politicians should’ve known that. They shouldn’t have fallen for so many false narratives/red herrings/obfuscation. But they did — and that’s the problem.

And that disability is called naivety.

European Union leaders shouldn’t be blamed for trying to make Britain’s exit from the EU as difficult as possible; I can relate to that, because if my 2nd-best economic contributor was trying to leave my bloc/organization/family, I’d be tempted to make life difficult for them. But I would hope that I didn’t get too carried away with making them PAY, PAY, PAY! for wanting to leave and skip to the infinitely more important point of trying to arrange a workable new arrangement, ASAP.

And that ability is called maturity.

Therefore, I respectfully call on UK politicians to become much less naive with regard to the European Union’s position (a bloc now proven to not be working in the best interests of the UK — and why would it? It’s in business for the EU) and I respectfully call on EU politicians to begin thinking in much more expedient terms for the remainder of the year so that a viable trade deal can be arranged between the two parties — to benefit citizens and businesses on both sides of the English Channel.

 

UK Brexit expedient-definition

Screenshot from Dictionary.com

A BBC for the 21st-Century!

by John Brian Shannon

The UK government needs to drop the present funding model for the BBC by 2021 and help the corporation get ready to serve Britons even better than in the 20th-century. Which it did quite remarkably, considering the times and the level of technology available back in the day.

However, it’s a new century now, and even the hallowed institution of the BBC must gear-up for the new media environment that’s only begun to impact the world, and the first thing that needs to change is that the BBC license fee must end by 2021. That’s it. Gone! Just like that.

Of course the BBC will need to fund its programmes and it should sell advertising on all of its websites, TV programmes, radio broadcasts, and on all other media, in the same manner as other media outlets.

There won’t be any problem getting companies to advertise with the BBC as it remains one of the premiere media providers in the world. And, the day the BBC license fee model ends, the BBC should begin funding its programming via advertising.

The UK government should consider taking a page out of the Canadian government’s book when it moved the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the CBC is Canada’s national broadcaster) from 100% government control to a more arm’s length relationship with the Canadian government. Until the 1990’s, the CBC didn’t run ads unless the adverts were government advertising of some sort (during elections, or to provide public information, etc.) thereby making the CBC 100% dependent upon the government for their funding. Not the best way to build a free-from-government-control media empire…

The really smart thing the Canadian government did was insist that the CBC provide 50% Canadian content (CANCON) in its programming. That is, half of the programmes that aired on CBC TV or CBC Radio were required to have significant numbers of Canadian actors, hosts, Canadian news, or even if an American host was conducting the interview the interviewee had to be a Canadian in order to qualify for supplementary funding from the government.

This so-called CANCON requirement allowed Canadian programming to flourish — even though the gigantic American media machine lived right next door to Canada which could’ve easily subsumed Canada’s entire media establishment had they wanted to.

In exchange for providing CANadian CONtent, the CBC received supplementary CANCON funding from the government for Canadian programming on a per show or (sometimes) on a per series basis.

In some cases, the Canadian government paid up to half the cost of Canadian programmes, depending upon how many Canadian actors appeared on a show or series, and depending upon where the story took place. More CANCON funding was paid when the shoot was in Toronto than if shot in New York city, for example. A little complicated, but apparently not that onerous.

The Canadian film industry loved the new arrangement — and it saved the Canadian government millions of dollars per year — as the cost of running the entire CBC was no longer borne by the government, rather, they paid only for the portion of the programming that was considered Canadian content.

It was a win for the Canadian government which saved millions per year and got the taxpayers off their backs, it was a win for Canadian actors, directors, producers and theatre houses because they got rapid access to the massive (massive for Canada, that is) CBC which was suddenly hungry for Canadian content, and it was a win for Canadian viewers who got to see more programmes that interested them and fewer American shows that were less relevant to the Canadian experience.

Yes, the one downside was that Canadians had to suffer through commercials. (Oh, the agony!)

But there likely isn’t one Canadian who’d willingly go back to the old days of wall-to-wall American TV shows (mostly about crime) and American news (also, mostly about crime) and American soap operas (also, mostly about crime) with only bits of Canadian content scattered here and there.

CBC News, CBC Sports, and CBC Documentaries are of exceptional quality nowadays, and are broadcast and rebroadcast on many channels around the world. And even with that said, all of it seems to have improved every year since the Canadian government gave the CBC an independent mandate.

Yet, at the time the model was unilaterally changed by the Canadian government, some old-school CBC hosts tut-tutted the change, complaining that ‘Canadian television would never be the same’. And in a way, they were right, it’s even better now!

Today, as a result of the Canadian government’s foresightedness, the Canadian movie industry is booming and Hollywood movies are often shot in Canadian cities because the economics work so well. Even Hollywood film makers can qualify for CANCON funding when they shoot in Canada, and that’s in addition to the savings due to the Canadian dollar presently pegged at 75 cents to the American dollar.

Based on the successful CBC example, the BBC could break free from government funding and control, from the bad press surrounding the BBC license-fee, add more revenue to their operations via typical advertising, and gain additional funding from the government whenever it creates a made-in-the-UK film, series, documentary, news programme, or other UK-based programming.

To be fair to smaller centres, the BBC should receive slightly more funding per capita from the government for creating programming set in or geared towards Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, or in any economically depressed town or region of the country. For one example: What could a television series that is shot in the Orkney Islands do for the economy there? And for another example, what could a new BBC production centre mean for Blackburn?

There are plenty of spectacular landscapes in the UK and millions of fascinating stories to tell — one only needs to watch Escape to the Country to get a sense of the history of the UK and of the interesting people hiding in plain sight all over the country.

In short, the UK government needs to simplify the BBC’s funding model, it needs to lower its total spend on the BBC while rewarding it for producing UK-created content, it needs to drop the abhorrent BBC license fee, it needs to allow the BBC to advertise, and it needs to provide supplementary funding to the BBC and film makers hailing from Hollywood, Bollywood, or from anywhere in the world that film movies, documentaries, or series anywhere in the UK, especially in economically depressed regions.

That’s a BBC model that will allow the corporation and its great people to succeed even better in the 21st-century than it did when it was founded in 1922 and every year since.

Brexit: Well, That Only Took 1317 Days!

by John Brian Shannon

 

After a gestation period that would’ve impressed a Brontosaurus (44-months, or 188-weeks if you prefer to measure time by the week, or 1317-days, or 31,608-hours) the UK government finally kept its promise to Britons who voted for Brexit on June 23, 2016.

So, after bobbling the ball for 3.5-years, the UK government finally got it right (Thanks, Boris!) and at 11:00pm GMT on January 31, 2020, the UK left the European Union. And not a moment too soon, as if the dithering on the UK side had continued much longer the UK would’ve been thrown out of the EU  — instead of leaving of its own accord! Yes, the frustration with successive UK governments grew to record highs over the past 3.5-years…

Anyway, that was then, and this is now, as they say.


What Next for the UK?

According to the terms of the Brexit agreement with the EU, the parties have 11-months to agree a trade deal to govern the future trading relationship, unless the parties decide to extend the trade deal negotiating period for another year, or longer.

I feel positive about getting a trade deal with the EU as it’s so obviously in the interests of both parties to arrange a fair-to-both-sides trade agreement, that there will be a signing ceremony before the end of 2020. Let’s hope!

Of course, the EU isn’t the UK’s only trading partner, so a trade deal with the Americans is important for the UK, And that too, must be concluded in a reasonable timeframe if the UK is to capitalize on its economic prospects following its departure from the European Union.

Let’s hope that Boris Johnson’s team sees the value of signing onto the CPTPP agreement — to become a member of the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership agreement — which is a huge trading region headed by Japan as the leading economy in the bloc.

Subsequent deals with Commonwealth of Nations countries — I’m hoping for a massive agreement between all Commonwealth nations, on par with the excellent CPTPP trade agreement. And, why not? The UK has ignored the Commonwealth for far too long now and huge opportunities await UK companies within that 2.5 billion member bloc (2.5 billion citizens/consumers in the Commonwealth of Nations countries by 2022) and further, the economy of that bloc consists of rapidly developing economies whose citizens are now beginning to enjoy real growth in their disposable income. Disposable income that could be used to purchase UK goods and services if you take my meaning.

Yes, huge trade opportunities await the UK, and not a moment to lose going after it. Because if the UK doesn’t go after that business, some other country or bloc will snap-up all of it and could completely displace UK trade in each country. That’s the punishment for taking too long to agree a trade deal.

Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her government found out what happens when it takes too long to accomplish something really important to the UK people, and those excessive delays are the only reason that Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. So… fast, fast, Boris, on the trade file!

And thanks for getting Brexit done.


Putting the UK – EU Relationship in Context

All in all, the UK – European relationship has been a good one when measured over the past 107-years.

In that time, the UK fought to bring peace to the continent in WWI and WWII, it was a solid contributor to the NATO alliance during the Cold War, the UK participated in operations like the Berlin Airlift, the fall of the Wall/reunification of Germany, and in missions in the Balkans to try to prevent genocide and enforce International Court of Justice rulings against non-state actors there, and it invested trillions of pounds sterling in the continent in the 20th-century.

The UK helped to bring peace and prosperity to Europe and was an early supporter of a unified Europe from the time of former UK Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill — although Winston often said that the UK did not belong “in” continental Europe, but rather, that it should support a unified continent from “outside” continental politics.

Having played a pivotal role in the creation of a peaceful and prosperous European continent, the UK can now leave with its head held high, having accomplished all of its long-term objectives there, knowing that the ongoing peace and prosperity on the continent will continue for decades to come, due in part to the UK’s huge commitment to continental Europe since 1913, or thereabout.

Although the Brexit process might have frazzled nerves on both sides, there’s no doubt that the United Kingdom and the European Union will continue to be allies sharing a similar worldview and will continue trading with each other on an epic scale. While some tears have been shed over Brexit, the special relationship with our continental friends will endure for centuries to come, of that there’s no doubt.

Now, let’s make it easy on ourselves and quickly agree a fair and comprehensive trade agreement, so that both parties can continue to build on the successes of the previous century — as befits true neighbours, friends, families, and allies — thereby setting the bar for how countries can and should work together to create a better world.

And I wouldn’t expect anything less from Prime Minister Boris Johnson or from EU President Ursula von der Layen. In fact, we’ve only just begun!


Thumbnail image courtesy of www.ft.com