Monday 30 December 2019

"They're selling hippy wigs in Woolworths, man"

"The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over. And as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black."

From the amazing 1986 movie "Withnail & I".

Happy End Of Decade one and all!

Thursday 12 December 2019

Thoughts on election day 2019

So, after three years of wavering between glimmers of hope that Brexit might not actually happen, and the crashing realisation that it was still on the cards, we are now within a few hours of the closing of the polls on the day when, if the pollsters are to be believed, Brexit will become locked in and unstoppable.

Historians will likely treat the last three years as a mere interlude before the inevitable carrying out of the result of the referendum. It was nothing of the kind. At various times Brexit could and should have been stopped.

The 2017 election was a golden opportunity to at least soften Brexit to make it palatable to the half of the populace that did not want it to happen, yet Theresa May did not take it. May's downfall and Johnson's bull-headed approach to passing his deal brought another opportunity - to replace his government via a vote of no-confidence with a government of national unity. Again, this opportunity was missed due to a failure to agree on who might lead such a government, with the blame for this failure being fairly attributable to Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservative rebels.

So here we are, at the end of the worst election campaign in terms of truth that I have ever seen in the UK. One party tells us that they will "Get Brexit Done", a claim that cannot be possibly true in any realistic timescale as our new trading arrangements will take many years to properly negotiate. The other main party insists, for the millionth time at a General Election, that their opponents want to "privatise the National Health Service", something that they have not done in the 9 years they have held power and show not sign of doing now.

Since the polls show that the gap between the two main parties has likely narrowed only by a few percentage points since the start of the campaign it cannot be said that the campaigning of the two parties has achieved much in terms of their relative positions. Instead they have succeeded in squashing their respective third-party rivals, with the Brexit Party's vote essentially evaporating as their supporters opted instead to back the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats vote-share being squeezed back down to ~13% from 20% ending the prospect that they might replace Labour as the main party of opposition.

Not only are we headed for Brexit, but we are headed for Brexit in a form far harder, and harmful to the unity of the United Kingdom, than was thought reasonably foreseeable even after the 2016 referendum result. The best that can be hoped for now is that the unfolding realisation that Brexit will be nothing like what was promised might cause the country to reverse course at some point in the future.

In professional terms this shuts down avenues of opportunity without opening any new ones - the patent profession only stands to lose opportunities, not gain them. This week I visited the Unified Patent Court established in London, it's entire purpose put into doubt by the UK's exit from the European Union. Now it seems like a folly, staffed by hundreds of workers whose jobs are in doubt.

My family should be safe enough though, though this makes it more difficult for me to work on the continent should I ever go back there, we were able to navigate the EU Settled Status Scheme application successfully (though I wonder how people without easy access to Adobe Professional and a printer/scanner are supposed to manage in collating all the necessary documents needed for it).

For me, though, the worst impact is simply the feeling that I no longer come from a reasonable, sensible country that can be trusted, generally speaking, to get things right. Perhaps this was always a conceit, but if so it was a comforting one.