what you get here

This is not a blog which opinionates on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers to muse about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

The Bucegi mountains - the range I see from the front balcony of my mountain house - are almost 120 kms from Bucharest and cannot normally be seen from the capital but some extraordinary weather conditions allowed this pic to be taken from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in late Feb 2020

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Search for the Holy Grail

I’m proud  this last day of the year to present The Search for the Holy Grail – the 2018 posts – being the fourth annual collection of my blogposts but the first to emerge from a strenuous process of editing.
It was 2015 when I started the habit of publishing annual collections of these posts - although In Praise of Doubt – a blogger’s year cheated a bit by actually covering 15 months and therefore running it at 250 pages – a bit too much perhaps for the average reader. Most of the images I used for this first effort were from my collections of paintings and artefacts…
The Slaves’ Chorus was more manageable at 120 pages (including the Sceptic’s Glossary I had included the previous year) and it kept the focus of the images on my own collection.
Last year’s Common Endeavour covered 76 posts and 180 pages – with the images being – initially at any rate – more eclectic but, ultimately, petering out…

Why the title?
The very first little book I wrote (way back in 1977) was called The Search for Democracy; the first effort I made some 15 years ago to crystallise some of the key lessons from my organisational endeavours bore the title “The search for the Holy Grail”; and the visiting card I now use bears the epithet “explorer and aesthete” – so “searching and exploring – if not discovery” seem clearly to be part of who I am..….

What’s different
Until now, I have let the posts speak for themselves. I chose this year to start rereading and reflecting on them from about October and soon realised it might add a little coherence if I grouped posts with a common theme together. So some of the posts are not quite in the order in which they appeared….
This in turn inspired me to use, for the beginning of each section, the tables which I had started to use last year. The first column gives the title of the post – with the other compressing what I was trying to say into a few lines (a real challenge!)…… Most of my readership is not using English as their first language and such summaries seem therefore a useful endeavour 

What’s the same?
The blog is not a diary – it does not record what I do on a weekly basis – although events such as exhibitions, wine-tasting or trips do make the occasional appearance. I made two trips to Scotland this year – my first such visits since a wedding in 2012 – which didn’t feature in the posts but are covered here. The blog remains a record of more cerebral activities – of the thoughts sparked by books and general reading…

Key points
The year started with some advice for the Davos set; some deaths; and some Italian and German writers before returning to a subject which had occupied the blog in previous months – Reforming the State
Change, of one shape or form, was the dominant theme of this year’s posts – exactly half of them, not counting several posts on Brexit in the early part of the year.
But it was how ideas are conveyed that seemed to exercise me as much as the ideas themselves – with quite a few posts being devoted to examples of both good and bad writing as well as that of the future of the blog
This is the first year for a decade I have spent fully in Romania – so a few posts about the country figure in this year’s collection….
At one stage I thought the posts had dried up – for almost 3 months I lacked anything to spark inspiration. I realised some time ago that my mind/body was telling me something when this happened – but what exactly? When I was younger, I could blame stress – but this was high summer…..and in blessed Sirnea of the meadows and high peaks…
It’s true that I had just finished a challenging series of posts about “administrative reform” and the nature of the State – so I could be forgiven for being a bit alienated….And that I had spent most of the winter holed up in Ploiesti……but reasonably active with walking and swimming….

I knew, of course, that one of the curses of retirement is that time can hang heavily but I had, since at least 2012, managed to avoid this….I had discovered wines from both sides of the Lower Danube; written a little book about Romanian culture (see Mapping Romania - notes on an unfinished journey); and started a serious collection of Bulgarian painters - Bulgarian Realists – getting to know the Bulgarians through their art. And the morning discipline of a blogpost had seemed to keep me ticking over…..but suddenly vanished….Even the taste for reading disappeared…in what was to be a three-month hiaitus…

But late October saw the blog back with a bang – not just the posts but a flurry of the first book purchases (at Bucharest’s annual Book Fair) since the spring…  And November saw the reader numbers over the entire period of the blog hit the 300,000 mark. Quite a landmark ….
Once this year the monthly viewing hit the 10,000 mark and twice just missed but, generally, the monthly figure has been around 4,000

America's lost soul

It was, of course, Jimmy Carter whose words graced the last post.....uttered in 1979 at the height of America's fuel crisis.
I've used both quotations not so much to make a contrast with the present incumbent as to emphasise how warped the US perspective has become over the years. In a lifetime, any sense of social responsibility has disappeared....

I had no sooner posted this than I came across an article by George Monbiot which demonstrates the scale of the work being carried out by big business to identify and exploit our weaknesses for their benefit – and the extent of academic and university complicity…..
As it happens, my bookshop browsing had made me very aware of the huge number of titles now available on the latest social psychology research – of which Before you Know It is  good example
Indeed, I even devoted an important post last month to the subject

Later today I will upload my little E-book of the year's posts....

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Another Teaser

The (perhaps surprising) answer was - Dwight Eisenhower - in his final Presidential address of 1960!!
 And let's see what you make of this quotation....Who said it - and when???
“In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.” 
Our people have turned to the …. government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation’s life……. The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide.” 
“What you see too often …… is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a (n elected Chamber) twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests.” 
We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure. All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path -- the path of common purpose and the restoration of (our) values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves.

Seasonal Teaser

 Who said this???

We . . . must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Seasonal Taste

Romanian wines seem at last – after almost 30 years - to be coming in from the cold. No fewer than three significant “events” occurred in this domain in the past few months. First the publication in the summer of a substantial book The Wines of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova; by Caroline Gilby (2018) who has apparently been a wine connoisseuse for the past decade and is the first English-speaking specialist to produce a book about the local wines. (An expensive coffee-table The Wine Book of Romania was produced a couple of years ago by a Romanian)
Gilby's book came to my attention because of the wine blog of Mike Vesseth - who made his first visit to Romania this autumn; took part on some wine tasting at Iasi and posted about these experiences this month.

I had no sooner asked to see a copy of the Gilby book (50 euros!) than, a few days later, I alighted on a copy of the first ever Gault Millau Guide to Romanian Wines 2019 – which describes (all too briefly) 63 wineries and 152 wines. There’s a good summary of the Romanian wine varieties here

At the same time, the various Crama (bulk wine cellars) which are such a pleasant feature of life here have been giving us access to the dry white wines of Averesti (Iasi), Macin (Dobrogea), Jidvei (Alba Iulia), and Vissoara (Constanta) – for 2 euros a litre! The famous Obor market not far from us has the last two including a new grape for me, the Sarba, available from Girboiu - one of the many new vineyards which have developed in the country in the past decade or so

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Why is the UK media coverage of Brexit so superficial?

The recent post about Brexit was a long one simply because most of the British commentary about the issue is so superficial – tending to focus on personalities rather than issues. It was left to the “Open Democracy” website to offer the sort of analysis we need - with this article which applies Dani Rodrik’s impossibility trilemma to the Brexit issue. This states that democracy, national sovereignty and cross border economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full.

In the context of Brexit, it means that we can do any two of the following:
a) Retain the benefits of economic integration that come via membership of the EU’s single market and customs union;
b) Reclaim national sovereignty by returning powers to the British parliament that currently lie with the European institutions;
c) Uphold democratic principles by ensuring that we have a say over all the laws we are subjected to.

Theresa May’s plan partially achieves a) and b), while sacrificing c). Her strategy has been to retain some of the benefits of economic integration to avoid the damage resulting from a cliff edge, while reclaiming national sovereignty over certain key areas (immigration, agriculture, fisheries etc). 

The Labour Party’s position has become clearer over time. In a speech delivered earlier this year, Jeremy Corbyn stated that Labour’s priorities were as follows:
– Negotiate a deal that gives full “tariff-free access” to the single market;
– Negotiate a new customs union with the EU, while ensuring that the UK has a say in future trade deals;
– Not accept any situation where the UK is subject to all EU rules and EU law, yet has no say in making those laws;
– Negotiate protections or exemptions from current rules and directives “where necessary” that push privatisation and public service competition or restrict the government’s ability to intervene to support domestic industry.

The first two of these seek to keep the benefits of economic integration that come via the single market and customs union. The third is about maintaining democracy, while the fourth is about reclaiming national sovereignty. Labour is trying to have all three ends served at once. This is an internally contradictory position that falls foul of the Brexit trilemma, meaning that trade-offs will likely have to be made

I’ll continue the analysis in a minute - but first let me give you a taste of how the serious British media has been covering the issue. Andrew Rawnsley is one of the country’s most respected political journalists and concludes his weekly overview of what has been perhaps the most dramatic week of the past two years in this style

The risks to Britain are enormous and yet Britons have no more faith in the official opposition than they do in a government falling apart before the country’s eyes. In the midst of the worst period for the Conservative party since the ERM crisis, the poll tax, Suez, the Corn Laws or any other precedent of your choice, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has become less popular and the leader’s personal ratings are even more negative than those of the prime minister.
Labour is getting a similar warning from the private polling that the party commissions. However lustily they may demand a general election when in front of a live microphone, some members of the shadow cabinet are muttering privately that they are not at all eager to go to the country for fear that their party will get a verdict from the voters that it will not like.

The endless ducking and diving about when they might call a no-confidence vote against the government makes Labour look like opportunists desperately hoping to luck into office on the back of Brexit turmoil rather than a party with the national interest at heart. You can’t keep demanding that the Tories “make way” for Labour, the daily mantra of Mr Corbyn and his drones, and then never trigger the only mechanism for making that happen.
At the heart of it is Labour’s continuing refusal to come clean about whether it will or will not support another referendum. What has always smelled of unprincipled tactical prevarication now reeks of a refusal to be honest with the electorate.

Failed by both its major parties, the biggest loser of all is Brexit-broken Britain. Our country is careening towards disaster. All of its political institutions know this. None of them seems capable of arresting it. They continue to play their games of charades as we lurch towards the abyss.

Now this is a very concise and fair assessment - but what it fails to offer is any analysis of the reasons why the politicians are behaving in such an apparently childish way….For this we have to go to sources which the public rarely access – the Think Tanks - but one which few Brits would be aware of - The Dahrendorf Forum. There I found (on its Publications List) a fascinating paper “ Cultures of Negotiation – explaining Britain’s hard bargaining in the Brexit negotiations” which, plausibly, points to three explanatory factors for the embarrassing mess the UK has made of these negotiations –
the Conservative “ideology of statecraft”,
- the adversarial political culture of the UK
- its “weak socialisation into European structures

But revenons aux moutons – ie to the rare analysis the Open Democracy article offers of the options the British parliamentarians currently have at their disposal -

Some MPs have backed a so-called ‘Norway plus’ option, which would see the UK remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA) and joining a customs union with the EU. However, with the exception of a car crash disorderly Brexit, this represents the worst of all worlds – sacrificing both democracy and national sovereignty in order to maintain the benefits of economic integration with the EU. It amounts to “all pay, no say” – accepting all EU laws and regulations while sacrificing any democratic say over them, while also contributing to EU budgets.
It is hard to imagine a world where our politicians and electorate – who voted for Brexit in order to “take back control” – would stomach such an outcome. In any case, Norwegian leaders have made it clear that they would oppose Britain’s application to join such an arrangement.

This leaves two possible options which, on the face of it at least, do not involve a significant loss of democracy and sovereignty.
Firstly, Labour could favour a harder Brexit which seeks to reclaim national sovereignty and take back control of our rules and laws, while sacrificing economic integration with the EU – and incurring whatever economic cost that might carry (hereafter referred to as the ‘Lexit’ option). This effectively combines options b) and c) in the list above, while sacrificing a).

Secondly, Labour could favour a second referendum and campaign to remain in the EU, and seek to transform it from within – and incur whatever political cost this might carry (hereafter referred to as the ‘Remain’ option). This effectively combines options a) and c) in the list above, while sacrificing b).

The case for Lexit relies heavily on four key assumptions.
-        that EU membership places significant constraints on key levers of domestic policy that would prevent a left-wing government from implementing its agenda.
-       that these constraints can only be escaped by leaving the EU (i.e. reform within the EU is impossible).
-       that once outside the EU, the UK will be able to exert sovereignty over these areas of policy as an independent country.
-       that the benefits of this will more than offset the economic and political costs of leaving the EU. In the following sections, each of these will be examined in turn.

This post is long enough – for the detailed assessment of the extent to which these assumptions can be sustained read Labour’s Brexit Trilemma for yourself!

Further Reading
- EUReferendum daily blog  A critical daily blog from someone who long argued for Brexit - but also drawn attention to the triviality of the UK press see http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=87090
- The Brexit Blog – a sane voice of sense from an organisational sociologist of all people!! A weekly
- LSE Brexit a good selection of items

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Hacks? Critics? Writers?What's in a Name?

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time these past few weeks going over the year’s posts (60) to try to give them a little bit more “shape” ie coherence. It was probably this post back in June which planted the idea of the need for some editing of my posts. For whatever reason, there does seem to have been more of a pattern to my writing this year..  The interest in organisational reform didn’t entirely peter out – but morphed into a larger concern about systems of power and the State..

I will, in a few days, be uploading this year’s collection of posts which also shows that an important thread running through the year has been the need for writing which – as one post put it - 
jolts me – not for its own sake but to help first identify minds which look at the world in original ways but which also understand that clear language is an essential tool for such originality…Recently deceased essayist Tom Wolfe was a favourite of mine ever since I first read his Mau Mauing the flak catchers in 1970 but the “creative writing” courses which have contaminated journalism in the past few decades have made me suspicious of even good journalists these days. James Meek remains an exception for his ability to reduce economic complexities to 5 or 10 thousand word essays – ditto Jonathan Meades for his forensic analyses of cultural issues.

But it was Arthur Koestler who first stunned me (in my late teens) with memorable writing – hardly surprising given his amazing background. Only Victor Serge could rival the enormity of the events which shaped him. How can those who have known only a quiet bourgeois English life possibly give us insights into other worlds? And yet a few writers manage to do it.
But somehow, academic specialists are rarely able to produce prose which grips…Is it the unrealistic restriction of the scope of their inquiries vision which causes the deadness of their prose – or perhaps the ultra security of their institutional base??

It’s this question which led me to offer this matrix of good journalistic writers – dividing them according to their focus on people, ideas, events and places. This made me realise, in turn, the fine line there is between such categories as journalist, novelist and travel writer. Or perhaps the distinction is, more properly, that between generalists and specialists – with the latter including not only travel writers but those who focus on books, films, drama and art (designated "critics") and sports (of each variety – including politics).  And the former covering essentially those we refer to, derogatively, as “hacks” – since what they do is to hack out “news” from the public relations handouts they receive

I accept that the focus of my table on the former type of writer is as a result somewhat elitist....
I wanted to include examples from countries beyond the UK and managed 20 – whose nationalities are clearly designated in the table. I’ve tried googling (in French and in German) to try to get a sense of who might be the equivalent European journalists but the google curse of neophilia means that only references to younger names are given….

Good “Journalistic” writers – by focus, base and nationality
Source of income
Mixed genres
Masha Gessen (RU)


Arundati Roy (India)
Tariq Ali (Pak/UK)

Political scientists

Raymond Aron (France)
Journal newspaper


Andrew Sampson
Svetlana Alexievich (Belarussia)

Think Tank

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Spelling out the Lessons

If you try to follow Brexit closely, you are soon overwhelmed with the details. Much therefore as I enjoy Richard North’s EUReferendum daily blog, I prefer the weekly overview I get from –
- The Brexit Blog – a sane voice of sense from an organisational sociologist of all people!!

When I googled “Brexit blogs”, I got a very right-wing list of blogs – and no mention of Chris Grey’s highly esteemed Brexit Blog…..
I tantalised my readers yesterday with the mention of the “Nine Lessons” drawn by one individual who has, for many years, been in an ideal position to observe those at the heart of Brexit -
Ivor Rogers was not quite your typical civil servant since he spent 2006-12 working in the private sector – but he had been an EU Commissioner (Leon Brittan)’s Chief of Staff in Brussels for a couple of years before serving under Gordon Brown at the Treasury and was then Tony Blair’s chief adviser for 3 years.
What he brings to the analysis is a rare negotiator’s insight about the Realpolitik involved….Hardly surprising therefore that he takes no hostages when given the chance at last to tell his side of the story!

Ivor Roger’s Nine Lessons

The “bottom line”

1. Brexit means Brexit

All sides of the argument need to start understanding how being a “third country” puts the UK in a completely different role from that it has enjoyed for the past 45 years.

“And the most na├»ve of all on this remain the Brexiteers who fantasise about a style of negotiation which is only open to members of the club. The glorious, sweaty, fudge-filled Brussels denouements are gone. The Prime Minister is not in a room negotiating with the 27. That’s not how the exit game or the trade negotiation works, or was ever going to.

We are a soon-to-be third country and an opponent and rival, not just a partner, now.
This is what Brexit advocates argued for. It is time to accept the consequence”

2. Other people have sovereignty too.
“If you think that the pooling of sovereignty has gone well beyond the technical regulatory domain into huge areas of public life are intolerable for democratic legitimacy and accountability, that is a more than honourable position.
But others who have chosen to pool their sovereignty in ways and to extents which make you feel uncomfortable with the whole direction of the project, have done so because they believe pooling ENHANCES their sovereignty - in the sense of adding to their “power of agency” in a world order in which modestly sized nation states have relatively little say, rather than diminishing it.

Brexit advocates may think this is fundamental historical error, and has led to overreach by the questionably accountable supranational institutions of their club. They may think that it leads to legislation, opaquely agreed by often unknown legislators, which unduly favours heavyweight incumbent lobbyists.
Fine. There is some justice in plenty of this critique.
Then leave the club. But you cannot, in the act of leaving it, expect the club fundamentally to redesign its founding principles to suit you and to share its sovereignty with you when it still suits you, and to dilute their agency in so doing. It simply is not going to. And both HMG and Brexit advocates outside it seem constantly to find this frustrating, vexatious and some kind of indication of EU ill will”.

3. Brexit is a process not an event. And the EU, while strategically myopic, is formidably good at process against negotiating opponents. We have to be equally so, or we will get hammered. Repeatedly.

“One cannot seriously simultaneously advance the arguments that the EU has morphed away from the common market we joined, and got into virtually every nook and cranny of U.K. life, eroding sovereignty across whole tracts of the economy, internal and external security, AND that we can extricate ourselves from all that in a trice, recapture our sovereignty and rebuild the capability of the U.K. state to govern and regulate itself in vast areas where it had surrendered sovereignty over the previous 45 years.

The people saying 3 years ago that you could were simply not serious. And they have proven it. They also had not the slightest fag packet plan on what they were going to try and do and in which order…..
there could never, on the part of the remaining Member States, be the appetite to have TWO tortuous negotiations with the U.K. – one to deliver a few years of a transition/bridging deal, the other to agree the end state after exit. One such negotiation is enough for everyone. So transitional arrangements were always going to be “off the shelf”.

When the first set of so-called Guidelines emerged from the EU in April 2017,, it was hard to get anyone in the UK to read them. We were, as usual, preoccupied more with the noises from the noisy but largely irrelevant in Westminster, while the real work was being done on the other side of the Channel

To take just one technical example, though it rapidly develops a national security as well as an economic dimension, cross border data flows are completely central to free trade and prosperity - not that you would know it from listening to our current trade debate, which remains bizarrely obsessed with tariffs which, outside agriculture, have become a very modest element in the real barriers to cross border trade.
The EU here is a global player - a global rule maker – able and willing effectively to impose its values, rules and standards extraterritorially”.

4. it is not possible or democratic to argue that only one Brexit destination is true, legitimate and represents the revealed “Will of the People”
An argument you hear commonly is - “we only ever joined a Common Market, but it’s turned into something very different and no-one in authority down in London ever asked us whether that is what we wanted”  
“One can’t now suddenly start denouncing such people as Quisling closet remainers who do not subscribe to the “only true path” Brexit. Let alone insist on public self-criticism from several senior politicians on the Right who themselves, within the last few years, have publicly espoused these views, and praised the Norwegian and Swiss models, the health of their democracies and their prosperity.
In an earlier lecture, I described Brexitism as a revolutionary phenomenon, which radicalised as time went on and was now devouring its own children. This current phase feels ever more like Maoists seeking to crush Rightist deviationists than it does British Conservatism”.

“My real objection is to the style of argument espoused both by the pro “no deal” Right and by Downing Street which says that no other model but their own is a potentially legitimate interpretation of the Will of the People – which evidently only they can properly discern.

“I fully accept that control of borders – albeit with much confusion about the bit we already have control over, but year after year fail, under this Government, to achieve any control of - was a central referendum issue.
But don’t argue it’s the only feasible Brexit. Or that it’s an economically rational one.
Of course the EU side will now back the Prime Minister in saying it is. They have done a great deal for themselves and they want it to stick. Who can blame them?”

5. If WTO terms or existing EU preferential deals are not good enough for the UK in major third country markets, they can’t be good enough for trade with our largest market.

“You cannot simultaneously argue that it is imperative we get out of the EU in order that we can strike preferential trade deals with large parts of the rest of the world, because the existing terms on which we trade with the rest of the world are intolerable. ….
AND also argue that ….
it is perfectly fine to leave a deep free trade agreement with easily our largest export and import market for the next generation, and trade on WTO terms because that is how we and others trade with everyone else…”

“Market access into the EU WILL worsen, whatever post exit deal we eventually strike. And the quantum by which our trade flows with the EU will diminish – and that impacts immediately – will outweigh the economic impact of greater market opening which we have to aim to achieve over time in other markets, where the impact will not be immediate but incremental”

6. If the UK with reverts to WTO terms or to a standard free trade deal with the EU, it will have a huge negative impact on its service sector.

This the section I found most difficult to understand – partly because several different points are jostling with one another
“The U.K. currently has a sizeable trade surplus with the EU in services, whereas in manufactured goods we have a huge deficit and yet it appears that “UK services’ industries needs have been sacrificed to the primary goal of ending free movement”
“”For politicians, goods trade and tariffs are more easily understood than services. They rarely grasp the extent to which goods and services are bundled together and indissociable. They even more rarely grasp how incredibly tough it is to deliver freer cross border trade in services – which, by definition, gets you deep into domestic sovereignty questions in a way which makes removing tariff barriers look straightforward.

“We are dealing with a political generation which has no serious experience of bad times and is frankly cavalier about precipitating events they could not then control, but feel they might exploit.
Nothing is more redolent of the pre First World War era, when very few believed that a very long period of European peace and equilibrium could be shattered in months”.

7. Beware all supposed deals bearing “pluses”.

This refers to the recent emergence of options such as “Canada Plus” (which has the disadvantage of being favoured at the time of writing by idiot Boris) and “Norway Plus”.
This detailed explanation of  Canada Plus” soon had my eyes glazing over….,

“The “pluses” merely signify that all deficiencies in the named deal will miraculously disappear when we Brits come to negotiate our own version of it.
As the scale of the humiliation they think the Prime Minister’s proposed deal delivers started, far too late, to dawn on politicians who had thought Brexit was a cakewalk - with the emphasis on cake – we have seen a proliferation of mostly half-baked cake alternatives.
They all carry at least one plus. Canada has acquired several.
Besides “Canada +++” or SuperCanada, as it was termed by the former Foreign Secretary, we have Norway +, which used to be “NorwaythenCanada” then became “Norwayfornow” and then became “Norway + forever”. And now even “No deal +”, which also makes appearances as managed no deal” and “no deal mini deals”.
What is depressing about the nomenclature is the sheer dishonesty. The pluses are inserted to enable one to say that one is well aware of why existing FTA x or y or Economic Area deal a or b does not really work as aB rexit destination, but that with the additions you are proposing, the template is complete”.

8. you cannot conduct such a huge negotiation as untransparently as the U.K. has.
And in the end, it does you no good to try.

“At virtually every stage in this negotiation, the EU side has deployed transparency, whether on its position papers, its graphic presentations of its take on viable options and parameters, its “no deal” notices to the private sector to dictate the terms of the debate and shape the outcome.
A secretive, opaque Government, hampered of course by being permanently divided against itself and therefore largely unable to articulate any agreed, coherent position, has floundered in its wake.
“It is a rather unusual experience for the EU – always portrayed as a bunch of wildly out of touch technocrats producing turgid jargon-ridden Eurocrat prose up against “genuine” politicians who speak “human” – to win propaganda battles. Let alone win them this easily”
9. real honesty with the public is the best policy if we are to get to the other side of Brexit with a reasonably unified country and a healthy democracy and economy.

“We need a radically different method and style if the country is to heal and unify behind some proposed destination.

And that requires leadership which is far more honest in setting out the fundamental choices still ahead, the difficult trade offs between sovereignty and national control and keeping market access for our goods and services in our biggest market, and which sets out to build at least some viable consensus.”