Budapest (or should that be Beijing?)-on-Thames

by Chris Bertram on September 9, 2020

These are unpleasant times to be British, if you also happen to be of cosmopolitan disposition, if you value good governance, and if you think that government ought to be restrained by the law. Boris Johnson’s government has announce its intention to break international law “in limited and specific ways” as the UK’s negotiations with the EU over a future trade deal founder and we slide towards no-deal and international isolation. Henry explores some of the background to this in the “Northern Ireland backstop” over at The Monkey Cage. Johnson proposes to tear up parts of an international treaty, which he hailed as a good deal as recently as January and which was the basis on which he campaigned in the last general election. It was put into UK law by this Parliament, only a few months back, on a tight timetable with restricted opportunity for scrutiny. Various Tory politicians, including Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, are unhappy with the prospect of breaking international law, arguing that nobody will have reason to trust the word of the British government ever again. The government’s senior legal civil servant has resigned over the issue and its implications for the rule of law. Critics point out that it weakens the UK’s ability to complain when other states, such as China, break their international agreements at will. (I assume that assurances will be given and any rebel Tories will back off, as they have done repeatedly over the past four years.) Johnson’s more extreme supporters, in places like Spiked,1 are already engaging in the familiar rhetoric of treachery to defame anyone who is critical of the UK’s “negotiating position”. Presumably Johnson is banking on Trump’s re-election, a further trashing of international norms and a friendly US government, because without that complete isolation beckons.

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, a member of the Cabinet that is happy to disobey the law, has characterized climate protestors as “criminals” and suggested that Extinction Rebellion could be classified as an organized crime group. She’s also been active around a confected “refugee crisis” concerning a few people who have crossed the Channel in dinghies (most of whom, it turns out are bona fide refugees) and the government is making noises about changing the law to make it easier to deport people, raising the possibility in the minds of observers that the UK could walk away from its obligations under the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. It is almost as an afterthought that I mention that because of the Johnson government’s mismanagement, the UK has one of the highest death rates in the world and a strategy for fighting the disease that seems to consist mainly of announcing “world beating” measures that fail to materialize. Meanwhile, because of COVID-19, rights to political protest have been severely curtailed,2 and organizers of gatherings face financial penalties of £10,000 each. If COVID doesn’t go away soon, then restrictions on our ability to resist the policies of the Johnson government will be in place when no-deal Brexit comes in January and the economic hit from COVID is compounded by food shortages and further mass job losses. Will the UK even survive all this? Pro-EU Scotland will want to secede as soon as it can, which might mean a hard border at Berwick-on-Tweed and a united Ireland would be one solution to the problems caused by the Conservative and Unionist Party’s Brexit outcome. I’d say “Hungary here we come”, but at least Hungary, as an EU member, continues to enjoy access to European markets.


  1. Spiked is the website of the network of the former Revolutionary Communist Party, some of whose members are intertwined with Johnson’s administration. Johnson has recently decided to elevate one of its senior cadres, Claire Fox, in earlier times an enthusiast for IRA bombings, to the House of Lords.

  2. It almost seems superfluous to recall, amid this litany of perfidy, that in the case of Johnson’s adviser or controller, the Rasputinesque Dominic Cummings, the legal restrictions on movement because of COVID didn’t apply. Another instance of one law for them ….

{ 72 comments }

1

Chris Bertram 09.09.20 at 8:10 am

And just as an addendum (so easy to forget dreadful things this government is doing), there is also an attack on the courts. Following his defeat in the Supreme Court last year, when his prorogation of Parliament was deemed illegal, Johnson now wants to limit the possibilities for judicial review of executive action. A panel has been set up to draft proposals, a panel composed of people who can be relied upon. Meanwhile, the Home Office attacks “activist lawyers” who stand up for the legal rights of their clients against the executive.

2

John Quiggin 09.09.20 at 9:13 am

Johnson still seems to be working on the assumption that the EU won’t let anything really bad happen (like an end to food trade). And, on the basis of the past, that would be a fairly safe bet.

But in the wake of the pandemic it seems pretty high-risk – nothing is unthinkable anymore, including food rationing and total economic collapse. Johnson could be planning (as your last para suggests) on using the resulting disaster to cement his control. But it seems more likely that he is just a chancer, as he always has been.

3

rjk 09.09.20 at 10:25 am

I find the argument from the sanctity of international law to be fairly unpersuasive in terms of raw politics. Treaties are much more like contract negotiations, and it’s well-understood that one can breach a contract (accepting whatever costs come with that) if the costs of not doing so would be greater. If one puts a high price on sovereignty and territorial integrity, then the costs of the WA are high, and one can thereby reason oneself to the conclusion that breaching the WA is worth a high cost. In isolation, the act is not inherently bad.

However, if a business were to accept large penalties in order to escape from a badly-drafted contract, one might reasonably expect the Chief Executive and the board to face some consequences for this. The issue is not the breaching of the contract so much as it is finding yourself in a position where you’ve signed a contract that you find so onerous that you cannot reasonably perform it.

Johnson would clearly prefer to have a debate in which he’s fighting a bunch of pious pearl-clutching intellectuals talking about the sanctity of international law. He should be given a debate in which he’s being held to account for his atrocious negotiation skills. Why is he having to trash Britain’s reputation in order to get out of his own deal? When did he realise that the Withdrawal Agreement was a dud that would have to be breached or renegotiated? If he did not realise this before signing it, then why was he so badly informed? If he did realise it before signing it then why did he do so, and why did he enthusiastically misrepresent it as a great deal during the general election campaign?

Having seen the first round of commentary on this, I fear that we’re going to see a lot of criticism that Johnson is fairly happy to receive. “I will happily upset the lawyers and the academics if it means defending Britain’s interest” is an electorally positive outcome for Johnson, which is why the battle absolutely cannot be fought on the question of whether or not his action is “legitimate”.

4

engels 09.09.20 at 12:04 pm

And a Corbyn-led soft Brexit might have avoided it all.

5

Charlie W 09.09.20 at 2:20 pm

#3: I agree with this, except that the WA doesn’t look particularly onerous for Britain. It puts some limits on NI (and says some things about EU budget obligations, and about British and EU27 citizens living abroad). Ripping it up (or part of it up) therefore looks performative. Why, I can’t really fathom. Possible explanations: ERG (Tory extreme eurosceptic) activism; Johnson vanity or self-gratification; signalling to the base; some plan for state aid by special advisors that is so grandiose that it appears to run into limits imposed by the WA. I suspect, though, that any realistic plan for state aid in the UK could comfortably work within those limits.

Some people describe this new development with the WA as sabre rattling, but again, this makes no sense. If the concession being sought is a relaxation of rules on state aid, signalling that you’ll ignore those rules anyway is not a negotiating play.

6

Charlie W 09.09.20 at 2:24 pm

Actually, I can think of one more explanation: the UK recognises that the trade deal talks are failing, and will not budge on any of its red lines. In this situation, they might think it’s better to try to get the other side to walk away first.

7

Kenny Easwaran 09.09.20 at 4:32 pm

On that first note, is there a simple story as to how it is that the former Revolutionary Communist Party ended up intertwined with a Tory government?! Is this somehow parallel to the migration of the American neo-conservatives from Trotskyism to the political right?

8

Harry 09.09.20 at 5:32 pm

Kenny – I’ve wondered about that. There are big differences. The neocons were animated primarily by anti-Stalinism, which of course was at the centre of Trotskyism. Very crudely, the first move was to come to prefer Washington to Moscow; after taking one side in the cold war, they became integrated with their hawkish friends on that side; even then, most of them didn’t become full-fledged free market conservatives, despite moving into that orbit politically.

There’s nothing equivalent with the RCP. They just seem like contrarians (and they did even when they were on the left many years ago). The RCP also really does seem cult-like, driven by one leader and a formation around him — the early neocons had sort of intellectual/political leaders, but were more organisationally diffuse. And frankly, the stature/heft of the people involved doesn’t compare (like them or not Burnham, Kristol, Podhoretz, Bell, etc, were serious thinkers; the Furedites are spicy media performers, but deeply unimpressive).

9

Pat 09.09.20 at 7:08 pm

What rkj says is true of any law on some points of view. Oliver Wendell Holmes, for instance, said as much 120 years ago: a ‘badman’ can choose to break any law if he is prepared to accept the consequences. These will almost certainly be very serious for the UK.

Has a British Government Minister has stood up in Parliament and said that the state will wilfully violate international law? I doubt it in modern times. They may have said they would do so in response to an cooked up unlawful act of another state, but this is somewhat different.

Perhaps go back to Thomas Cromwell or Thomas Wolsey?

10

Hidari 09.09.20 at 7:46 pm

Without wanting to derail the thread, but this is going on at the same time, there is also the Johnson regime’s (apparent) manipulation and avoidance of due process with regard to the Assange case, along with equally egregious behaviour by the Trump regime (no surprise there).

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/julian-assange-trial-us-trump-chelsea-manning-chomsky-walker-b420930.html

All in all, a dark period for British democracy, assuming such a thing still exists.

Engels’ point @4 is of course non-arguably correct.

11

David J. Littleboy 09.10.20 at 6:52 am

Just a minor point of order here, but Trump has already made it clear that he’ll be making no compromises on trade with GB if it drops out of the EU. Quite the contrary, Trump was gleeful about the possibility of taking advantage of a weak and isolated GB. If BJ doesn’t understand that Trump can’t be trusted, he’s stupid and naive beyond words…

12

Chris Bertram 09.10.20 at 9:42 am

@David well, Trump can be trusted, if in office, to continue to undermine a rule-based international order.

13

novakant 09.10.20 at 10:31 am

Britannia waives the rules, lol.

[gallows humour]

14

Fake Dave 09.10.20 at 11:48 am

I think people are still underestimating the deep weirdness of the pandemic bubble we’re all living in. Governments all over the world are taking extraordinary steps to harden borders, monitor their citizens, and restrict movement and assembly. If you’re an utra-nationalist with something to prove, this is the perfect opportunity to flout international law and get away with it. The base eats it up, the liberals cry impotently about “norms,” and all the Eurocrats choke on their croissants in a way that even leftists might smirk at.

Pre-pandemic policy is irrelevant now that “everything has changed.” We must adapt to survive and it would be foolish and dangerous to cling to past commitments to foreigners when “our people” are in danger. This is the essence of “disaster capitalism,” and one of the steps on the road to fascism, but I think it’s also just a basic tool in the reactionary toolkit. If your government is looking weak, find some foreigners to pick on.

You’d think only a fool would equate reneging on an agreement your own party negotiated with standing up for the whole nation, but there are some otherwise very smart people who are paid quite handsomely to make it seem very brave and wise. If they couldn’t have gotten away with it last year and probably won’t next year, so what? We’re in a bubble. Nothing that came before is non-negotiable and whatever comes next will be built on the structures that weather the storm. Moves like this aren’t about defining that future — that comes later and it won’t look much like what they’re doing or saying now. Right now the most important thing for a political movement built almost entirely on the premise of its own insuperable legacy is to signal that it intends to survive, whatever the cost.

15

Chris Armstrong 09.10.20 at 12:01 pm

What puzzles me most about the Spiked people is why, now we know (despite their best efforts to keep it hush-hush) that they have received substantial amounts of money from the climate change-denying Koch brothers, they are still so regularly invited to give their contrarian opinions all over the mainstream media. Why does anybody take them seriously?

16

SusanC 09.10.20 at 12:46 pm

For me, the most concerning thing about the current UK administration is the lack of respect for rule of law, and democratic process.

It’s often said that in a scandal, the coverup is worse than the original incident,

Take , for example, Cumming’s trip to Barnard Castle. The big problem here is not so much that he did it, but that senior government figures (Johnson, Gove) are going along with obvious lies as part of the coverup. It was always a potential problem that government announcements of covid19 restrictions did not distinguish between what the law actually says and what was merely a suggestion. This dangerous ambiguity comes really unstuck when Cummings is caught out and they try to push the ambiguity the other way to get Cummings off the hook.

The problem is not so much the specific incident. But if Boris is acting like he’s an absolute monarch, as if the law if whatever he feels is convenient today (as opposed to what got approved by parliament), that’s a very big problem.

Brexit and the NI border is looking likely to be a much more serious instance of the same basic problem. (That is, Boris ignoring parliament and capriciously doing whatever he feels like doing today)

17

SusanC 09.10.20 at 12:53 pm

A few months ago, “at least we’re not in as bad a situation as Hungary” was a reasonable comparison. I think now, “ at least we’re not the US ” might be better. The US looks to be in real trouble, at least from the perspective of a Brit.

We do not have armed rightist shooting leftists, like it’s a rerun of SA in 1930’s Germany.

18

Scott P. 09.10.20 at 4:29 pm

but Trump has already made it clear that he’ll be making no compromises on trade with GB if it drops out of the EU

If? The UK has been out of the EU for about 8 months now.

19

GLEN TOMKINS 09.10.20 at 6:30 pm

“…nobody will have reason to trust the word of the British government ever again.”

Somebody trusts the word of the British govt now?

“…this litany of perfidy…”

This is an ongoing litany that already had the country referred to from a diplomatic point of view centuries ago as “perfidious Albion”.

20

J-D 09.10.20 at 11:40 pm

What puzzles me most about the Spiked people is why, now we know (despite their best efforts to keep it hush-hush) that they have received substantial amounts of money from the climate change-denying Koch brothers, they are still so regularly invited to give their contrarian opinions all over the mainstream media. Why does anybody take them seriously?

Does the mainstream media generally follow a rule of not taking seriously people who have received substantial amounts of money from the Koch brothers? This would be the first I’ve heard of it.

21

Hidari 09.11.20 at 8:54 am

‘But if Boris is acting like he’s an absolute monarch, as if the law if whatever he feels is convenient today (as opposed to what got approved by parliament), that’s a very big problem.’

Boris essentially is an absolute monarch. Britain has no free press, it has a corporate owned propaganda system, whose sole aim is to keep the Conservative party in power. The only exceptions are the Guardian and the Independent, which would prefer the LibDems, or (perhaps) a post-Blairite Labour Party (although probably much further to the Right than Blair himself ever felt himself able to be).

In a country with essentially no countervailing system of power, no ‘left book club’, no (politicised and seriously anti-government) trade unions, no religious bodies that might seriously threaten the government, no equivalent of the various radical, working class anti-establishment ‘groupings’ which existed in the 1930s and earlier, with popular culture (essentially, all of it) ‘bourgeisiefied’, bought and sold…..there are no countervailing elements or structures of power.

So Bojo can do essentially what he wants. And the 5 year Parliament thing means that he is essentially an elected dictator. No one can remove him, no one can do anything about him. And the Tories will win the next election (this last election was a 2 term defeat for Labour at least) and by the time that Labour get back in power, assuming that ever happens, Britain will be the kleptocracy the Tories have always want it to be. Assuming that Britain still exists in any meaningful sense and the Scots and Northern Irish haven’t escaped.

22

Tm 09.11.20 at 5:41 pm

Johnson is de facto dictator – of a de facto banana republic (the queen notwithstanding). He can bully the British – as long as long as „let them eat ‚Rule Britannia’“ suffices to keep them content (*) – but he certainly can’t bully the EU or anybody else.

(*) I mention this because the BBC proms were recently in our news. The BBC had announced that Rule Britannia wouldn’t be sung this time but retreated after pressure from the jingoistic party.

23

Tm 09.11.20 at 6:56 pm

The phenomenon of people moving from the radical Left to the extreme Right is known in Germany too. Perhaps best known is Horst Mahler, who was a member of the RAF (r for red not royal) and is now a prominent Nazi.

Another prominent example is Jürgen Elsässer (https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jürgen_Elsässer; there is an English Wikipedia entry but it’s rudimentary). He was quite influential in the radical Left in the 1990s, especially in the movement opposing unification, and known for fervent anti-nationalism and his criticism of nationalist and antisemitic tendencies in the German Left. He also was influential in the Left party in the early 2000s and for some time close to Lafontaine and Wagenknecht. In the late 2000s, he became an advocate for nationalism as the only defense against the angloamerican resp international financial capital and called for an alliance (Querfront) of the anti capitalist Left with the extreme Right. He now hangs out with the Pegida crowd saving the West from Islam (while also praising Iran’s Ahmadinedschad as a great anti-imperialist), and in 2015 appealed to the army to “protect” the borders from refugees by force of arms (really this was asking for a military coup against Merkel; he didn’t expect this to happen of course, it was mere publicity).

I spare you more details but it’s a really fascinating story, with certain parallels to Claire Fox and comrades (Elsässer was a big supporter of Milosevic btw, is close to Putin and needless to say opposes “multiculti” and feminism) except that in Germany people like Elsässer don’t run the government.

24

Phil Koop 09.11.20 at 7:24 pm

Here is what Ian Dunt has to say about the raw politics of violating international law:

The final aspect is how you fight. What are the arguments you use? What do you emphasise? During the Brexit referendum, Cummings’ Vote Leave campaign knew that it could bank on the quarter or so of the population who held very right wing or anti-immigrant views, but that it needed different arguments for those in the centre who could go either way – and so the NHS bus and arguments over sovereignty were given precedence in that area.

The same is true here. The basic principle of breaking international law is a key motivator to many of us. It galvanises those who believe in a rules-based international system. But to many voters that argument will not have force. What will have force is the notion of competence, an area where the government is already very weak.

[…]

Fortunately, that is precisely the approach Starmer is following in parliament – a relentless focus on competence. And that is the one which will have most force if the government ends up with no-deal.

25

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.11.20 at 10:15 pm

Hidari @ 21, 10: I suppose I should be disappointed that you cannot see the connection between these two bits: that is, between the work of Julian Assange and his masters, and the degradation of British political life. But I’m not, b/c I’ve given up on you. He’s not a hero, Hidari: he’s a Russian asset. That he exposed excesses on the part of the West, doesn’t mean that he’s your ally, because he never, ever, ever exposes such excesses on the part of Russia and Russia’s allies, and we all know that such excesses exist.

The Tories, like America’s GrOPers, have fallen in thrall to Russian money and influence. The chaos and incompetence we see in British politics is to Putin’s advantage. Ah, well. I don’t know how this all ends, but the ongoing act of self-harm that is Brexit and its denouement redounds to Putin’s benefit more than anybody else.

26

Hidari 09.12.20 at 11:06 am

25 ‘I’ve given up on you’.

You can’t begin to imagine how much this upsets me.

@23

The phenomenon of people moving from the centre to the radical right is also not unheard of although, mysteriously, this tends to be much less talked about.

CF Lloyd George, the proto-nazi KKK (cf the ‘Klanbake’ of ’24), liberal eugenicists, liberal imperialists and so on.

As I say, I can’t begin to imagine any reason why this it is considered to be ‘not done’ to talk about this (except by loons of the right like Goldberg who aren’t taken seriously by anyone).

27

SusanC 09.12.20 at 1:21 pm

@Hidari.
If the Prime Minister has a big majority (he does) and that majorit6 was mostly picked for being yes men (they were), then yes, there’s not much that can stop him. The judiciary is about the only limit on power, and the unwritten nature of the UK constitution may be unhelpful here.

(I think in the US, if the actual text of a law said that a particular action was illegal, except when done by the specific named individual Dominic Cummings, the courts would throw it out as unconstitutional. In the US, you have to go to a bit more effort to achieve that effect without explicitly saying so in the legislation)

28

jimbo57 09.12.20 at 2:41 pm

Jaysus. Just finished watching your fine series over here in Canada, Years And Years. Had no idea it was a bloody documentary…

29

lurker 09.12.20 at 3:28 pm

@CHETAN R MURTHY, 25
What would a Tory party not ‘in thrall to Russian money and influence’ do differently?
They need to do Brexit to heal the split in their party and to hang on to power while their elderly voter base can still outvote the people whose future they are ruining. It’s not an act of self-harm for them: they’re not the ones getting harmed.

30

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.12.20 at 4:48 pm

lurker @ 29: There is lots of evidence that Russia funded parties backing Brexit, remember? Remember that to this day BoJo refuses to publish the evidence. I mean, you can argue that the anti-EU attitudes of the Tory electorate are baked in stone, but Russian influence bought some of those attitudes. But even besides that, the sheer incompetence of Brexit is a giant gift to Putin. As Richard North has argued (and as was obvious to others) the Tories could have gone for the softest of Brexits, perhaps roping in Labor to support them, and then incrementally hardened it, moving further apart from the EU over time. The madness of going for the hardest of Brexits, and then screwing THAT up, is, yes, a gift to Putin.

31

Tm 09.12.20 at 6:04 pm

Hidari 26, I suspect you come from a very different political culture than I. In Germany, obviously the historical context makes it appear more urgent to pay attention to the extreme Right, while in the anglosphere many liberals and leftists seem unable to identify the extreme Right even when it’s sitting right there in the White House, or Downing Street 10. How often have I pointed out here on CT the parallels between Trumpism and historical fascism, only to be shouted down by politically blind and historically illiterate pseudo-leftists insisting that Trump and company was nothing but ordinary conservatism?

32

Hidari 09.12.20 at 6:28 pm

@27
The wheels have been coming off Britain’s ‘unwritten constitution’ for some time now. Going back to the Blair years (Blair, of course, was the original populist leader), when Brown was essentially appointed PM, it used to be ‘the done thing’ to have an election to ensure that the new PM had democratic legitimacy. Brown ignoring this raised eyebrows, although the fact that this turned out to be disastrous (i.e. for him) silenced doubters (for a while). David Cameron behaving as if he had won the following election (as opposed to, y’know, losing it) which he was able to do, encouraged by the spineless opportunism of the LibDems, helped to further erode ‘norms’. Theresa May (again essentially ‘appointed’ PM, with no GE) , further violated ‘norms’, frequently refusing to resign when any previous PM would have done so (Chamberlain won a de facto vote of ‘no confidence’ in 1940, but as it was ‘only’ by 81 he felt duty bound to resign. May frequently lost crucial votes but refused to resign, even though, by the end, her premiership had little or no democratic legitimacy).

Then there was the semi-elected Bojo Premiership, in which the victor was again appointed with no general democratic legitimacy, the proroguing of Parliament, and the farcical 2019 ‘election’ in which all the British media, without any exceptions whatsoever (except the low circulation Morning Star) went at Labour with a virulence bordering on the unhinged (many right wing members of the PLP, horrified at the idea of jeapardising their future careers as ‘advisers’ to tax dodging corporations, joined in), in which the Tories simply lied, constantly, about everything, unchallenged by anyone in the media (apart from ‘samizdat’ media) and, in fact, encouraged to lie by most of the media, who amplified and justified the most racist and unpleasant of Tory ‘claims’.

And now we enter into a long period of de facto one party rule (cf Japan, Mexico), which may well last decades. The only way this might end is if the United Kingdom ends up disintegrating, something which now seems a lot more likely.

33

Tm 09.12.20 at 6:38 pm

… and now Hidari, you have the nerve to reproach me? And while I am at it, could you for once get off your silly polemical horse and take the opportunity to learn something from the exchange of ideas in this discussion forum, instead of dismissing every contribution that doesn’t fit into your political narrative?

That invitation of course applies to others as well.

34

hix 09.12.20 at 6:53 pm

Duh, Assagne could run a secret satanist cult eating babies. That would be pretty irrelevant when he ends up being thrown into some US prison for life on a ridiculous made up charge.

Of course, the reality is entirely different. In hindsight, we have to say Assagnes paranoia was entirely justified. The Swedish charges did evaporate into nothing, leaving a trail of due process violations unique in the countries legal history.

Turns he was exactly right not to face them, since exactly what he feared would happen in that case is happening. He now will now be shipped to the US and face prison for life there on entirely manufactured nonsense. God, even if he somehow ends up not being shipped to the US, he still has spent more time in real or de facto prison without a single conviction than convicted murderers often do.

Not that it matters to the relevant US audience. See how easily you got played again. Rape! Someone screamed rape. Must be true, those privileged white male guys always rape anyone and get away with it. Fast-forward a couple of years of him being confined to a single room. Now he makes some tweets that might indicate some not so justified paranoia and lack of nuanced balance about the political party that was in power when he was put into that situation. Russian agent! Trump Supporter!

Considering what he has been through, Assagne still looks remarkable mentally stable and balanced in his political views.

Of course, it is reasonable to assume Assagne would have been diagnosed with some personality disorder if he had been to a psychiatrist, just like Donald Trump that is (or maybe not, since being a filthy rich TV personality also protects from diagnosis up to a point). It is also reasonable to assume he was often no particular nice person in personal interaction and that he had fringe political views most of us did not support. That is to be expected, people doing extraordinary unusual, no matter if good bad or just crazy rarely are normal. Or maybe I’m wrong, and he was a genuine nice balanced guy before. It should not matter! And still it seems those tabloid filth attacks are sufficient to manipulate large parts of the US audience into being ok with blatant rule of law violations

35

hix 09.12.20 at 7:32 pm

“Johnson still seems to be working on the assumption that the EU won’t let anything really bad happen (like an end to food trade). And, on the basis of the past, that would be a fairly safe bet.”

So far the only person involved in the negotiations that has suggested the EU would end food trade is ….. Boris Johnson himself. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/11/brussels-could-carve-up-uk-if-tories-reject-brexit-bill-says-johnson

Now back to spy games. Secret Service style lie propaganda is pretty cheap. It is rather unlikely the lies help with foreign relations. Some people believe them or at least don’t dismiss them with laughter right from the start, but those are either rather favorable disposed towards the nation doing the lies or otherwise primed to believe any conspiracy. Only outright autocracies or defect democracies (a category including the US these days unfortunately) seem to do it, at least nowadays after the big heated Cold War confrontation is over. The real audience seems to be at home.

36

k 09.12.20 at 9:30 pm

With expected problems with the Lords in passing this crime enableing bill what are the chances that Johnson again “prorogues” the parliament again until after his deadline so as to eliminate any chance of Parliament from having any votes on this?

37

J-D 09.13.20 at 9:33 am

Duh, Assagne could run a secret satanist cult eating babies

It seems to me that discussion of the Assange case is irrelevant to Chris Bertram’s original topic, but since it’s been brought up, your account of it a confusing one (and it doesn’t reduce the confusion to invent hypothetical implausible accusations).

That would be pretty irrelevant when he ends up being thrown into some US prison for life on a ridiculous made up charge.

For a UK court to approve a US extradition request, it must first decide (among other things) that there are charges which would be crimes under UK laws. If a UK court decides that the charges against Julian Assange are not crimes under UK law, it will reject the extradition request.

In hindsight, we have to say Assagnes paranoia was entirely justified. The Swedish charges did evaporate into nothing, leaving a trail of due process violations unique in the countries legal history.

Turns he was exactly right not to face them, since exactly what he feared would happen in that case is happening.

If somebody were to say ‘It was not paranoia for Julian Assange to fear a US extradition attempt’, that would obviously be true, since a US extradition attempt has come to pass. If somebody were to say ‘Julian Assange had to avoid returning to Sweden in order to avoid the US requesting his extradition’, that would obviously be false, since he did avoid returning to Sweden but did not avoid the US requesting his extradition.

As I understand it, there are now no Swedish legal proceedings against Julian; it’s not clear what more (if anything) you mean when you refer to charges evaporating into nothing.

It’s also not clear what violations of due process you’re referring to. Arrest warrants being issued, people being arrested, extradition requests being submitted, courts hearing extradition requests, and people being detained are all things that can happen both with and without violation of due process. It’s not clear what differences in procedure you are suggesting there would be in this case between what has actually happened so far and what would have happened under due process.

Not that it matters to the relevant US audience. See how easily you got played again. Rape! Someone screamed rape. Must be true, those privileged white male guys always rape anyone and get away with it.

It’s not clear what you mean by ‘the relevant US audience’, but in any case, as a Foreignanian, I am part of no US audience, so I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to have been played. Regardless of whether I’m included, it’s still not clear in what way anybody is supposed to have been played. If you mean that people have believed allegations which are false, I don’t know how you justify the conclusion that the allegations were false. Not all allegations are true, but not all allegations are false; it is not automatically folly to believe that an allegation is true, or that it is more likely than not to be true, or that it might be true. It is not correct to describe everybody who gives credence to an allegation as having been played, and it is not even correct to describe everybody who gives credence to a false allegation as having been played.

Fast-forward a couple of years of him being confined to a single room.

It’s not clear what you mean by referring to ‘fast-forward’, and it’s also not clear which confinement you’re referring to. While he was on bail he was not confined to a single room. While he was in the Ecuadorian embassy, as I understand it from what’s been reported, he was confined, or mostly, to a single room, but it’s relevant to point out that he was there because he chose to go into the Ecuadorian embassy; nobody forced him to do that, so presumably he thought it was the best choice available to him (which is not the same thing as saying it was a good choice). He is confined now, and perhaps that’s also to a single room (I’m not sure about that point), but he’s confined now at least in part because he previously violated bail. To me it seems predictable and normal that somebody who has previously violated bail should be denied the benefit of it subsequently. Perhaps you intend to make some other point by referring to his confinement, but if so it’s not clear what that point is. I expect that most if not all people who experience confinement find it unpleasant, and often traumatic, but if confinement were automatically a violation of due process, then all prisons would be violations of due process, and that’s not the position the law takes.

Of course, it is reasonable to assume Assagne would have been diagnosed with some personality disorder if he had been to a psychiatrist …

This is also unclear. Many people have personality disorders, so it’s possible Julian is one of them, but it’s not clear what basis you have for drawing a definite conclusion.

It is also reasonable to assume he was often no particular nice person in personal interaction and that he had fringe political views most of us did not support. That is to be expected, people doing extraordinary unusual, no matter if good bad or just crazy rarely are normal. Or maybe I’m wrong, and he was a genuine nice balanced guy before. It should not matter!

If somebody said ‘The courts should not attempt to decide whether he has a personality disorder, or whether he was a nice person, or whether he had fringe political views’, I would agree, but I would also point out that the courts are not attempting to decide any of those things, so saying that they shouldn’t is irrelevant. As far as I know at this stage, the questions which the UK court system is trying to decide are exactly the questions which it should be trying to decide, and if there’s evidence that it’s doing anything else it hasn’t been produced. Also, since it has not yet given its answers to those questions, there’s no possible basis yet for concluding whether its answers are right or wrong.

38

roger gathmann 09.13.20 at 10:45 am

The consequences of the Iraq occupation are still here with us. Johnson seems to be following in the steps of Tony Blair, who put international law on ice, partied with Bush, and helped occupy Iraq. Those who supported Blair back then and seemed to find international law a piffling instrument to tie the hands of humanitarian interventionists now seem to think it is the best thing ever. I think that holding international law in contempt and actually invading countries in the face of it creates precedents we are now living with.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/12/iraq-invasion-violated-interational-law-dutch-inquiry-finds

39

Hidari 09.13.20 at 11:03 am

‘now Hidari, you have the nerve to reproach me?’

I do indeed, prithee, sirrah. Pistols at dawn?

Incidentally is it difficult accessing the internet from the 18th century?

40

lurker 09.13.20 at 1:59 pm

@30, CHETAN R MURTHY
‘Russia funded parties backing Brexit’
I’m not saying Russia did not try to influence Britain. I’m saying the result would have been the same if it had not. If, OTOH, Rupert Murdoch had been opposed to Brexit, his papers would have campaigned against it, not for, and Cameron would still be PM. Russian influence is malign (it’s safe to assume that every significant far-right organization in Europe, with the possible exception of the Azov battalion, is supported by Russia), but they are minor players. Russia is a distraction, the Tories and the right-wing press are all you need to explain Brexit.
‘the Tories could have gone for the softest of Brexits, perhaps roping in Labor to support them’
The ERG would have attacked this as a Brexit in name only, the UKIP would have done the same and the right-wing press would have supported both. If Remainer Tories were capable of standing up to pressure from the right, Cameron would never have agreed to a referendum in the first place.

41

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.13.20 at 5:22 pm

[Ignoring the provocation in hix’s comments about the Russian spy Assange]

Yesterday I read (over at eureferendum.com) that the -rationale- for BoJo’s demand to renege on the Withdrawal Protocol for Norther Ireland is that he refuses to allow any differential limits on what is available for sale in different parts of the UK (e.g., Wales, NI). Richard North points out that if you combine that with the UK (minus NI) wanting to have its own set of trading rules (hence, import rules), this leads inexorably to “anything we can import into Wales, we can sell in Northern Ireland. And at that point, an open border with Ireland punctures the integrity of the European Union’s Single Market border.

I think Richard’s right, that there’s no way this can end well.

42

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.14.20 at 1:50 am

lurker @ 37: Taking your point, that the ERG, UKIP, etc, would have attacked it, I’d note that:
(1) if Labor had been given a reason to support a “soft Brexit” there would have been plenty of support to be able to ignore UKIP. It was pointed-out by a number of commentators that the right move was a coalition government to push thru Brexit.
(2) Here in the US and elsewhere in the West, Putin’s been caught red-handed funding and otherwise supporting the equivalent of UKIP and other right-wing and fascist parties; why should we assume that Putin didn’t lend support to the ERG and UKIP? The UK government has steadfastly refused to investigate the extent of Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, as well as in UK politics generally. In this, they’re as bad as the US government.

It’s a funny thing. Richard North was Brexit before Brexit was cool. He was arguing for it ages ago, and while I don’t agree with his arguments, they’re not barking mad. Meanwhile, the Brexiters went for the hardest option they could, and he, realizing this, has been steadfastly against their foolishness ever since, while remaining pro-Brexit. He was pointing out immediately after the referendum, that any hard Brexit would be a catastrophe: that the British state needed years to rebuild the competences to manage and control the sectors of the economy over which it had ceded governance to Brussels. And that an “EEA-style” soft Brexit would precisely give the UK time to rebuild those competences. And to step-by-step dismantle, in a safe manner, the the encumbrances of Brussels, while not destroying the UK economy in the process.

Who benefits from this act of self-harm? Well, ERG magnates who bet against the UK economy on the markets (that toad who was so deftly skewered by Tracey Ullman, whose name escapes me ATM) and rabid nutters. Nobody else. Oh, and Putin.

43

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.14.20 at 1:53 am

I should have added: “Why would Labor have joined in a coalition government?”

Because even at the time, Corbyn was a squish on Brexit, and after the referendum, a “softest-of-soft Brexit” would have given him a position from which to argue that he was better-suited to lead the nation. If we are to believe that the Tories and their electorate all supported an ultra-hard Brexit (which Chris Grey has repeatedly done a thorough job of debunking, over at The Brexit Blog), then they would have had no problem incrementally moving the UK further and further from Europe over time. And by bringing Labor into a coalition, they would have legitimized (as nothing else could do) the Brexit vote.

44

Collin Street 09.14.20 at 4:36 am

Russia is a distraction, the Tories and the right-wing press are all you need to explain Brexit.

The tories are funded by russia.

Here.
+ The tories represent the money-laundering wing of london finance
+ money-laundering is mostly russian money
+ putin knows who’s laundering russian money because he has secret police who can kill people and has to be presumed to be capable of finding out
+ putin is OK with people laundering russian money [because he has secret police who can kill people and has to be presumed to be capable of stopping it]

ERGO: London money-laundering by russians represents a russian-state operation. What’s not russian-state funding for the tories is UAE and saudi money. Again, state operation not private. It’s not being done to be hidden from the source state, and it’s not being done to be hidden from london [because it wouldn’t need to be hidden if it were legitimate]… so the most logical explanation is that the “money laundering” is the hook that makes the marks think they’re clever, and the actual purpose is to corrupt and suborn the people who make it happen.

Which is to say, the Conservative and Unionist Party.

45

Tm 09.14.20 at 6:51 am

Hidari: you already lost the duel.

46

Hidari 09.14.20 at 7:47 am

@38
Yes and this is why so many discussions about our current state of affairs are incoherent or muddled: it’s very obvious that the wheels really started to come off the cart of international law with the illegal invasion of Iraq, when the US/UK and their lackeys blatantly and flagrantly committed unambiguous war crimes…..

and nothing happened. There was no censure, no penalties….nothing.

From that point on, anyone who had eyes to see, could see that the ‘rules based international order’ no longer existed, or that if it did, it no longer mattered. The comparison with what happened to the League of Nations in the 1930s is inescapable.

Until such time as (e.g.) Bush/Blair etc. are hauled to the Hague, this crisis of the legitimacy of international institutions (i.e. insofar as they are putatively legal institutions) is simply going to get worse and worse.

47

MisterMr 09.14.20 at 10:44 am

My personal opinion is that a “soft brexit” was never in the cards, and North is/was just deluded, in a typical libertarian fashion.

First of all, brexit serves no real practical purpose. Some right wing populist movements just blamed the EU for random things (because they are “populists”, which means that they think in terms of “bureaucratic elites” VS “real people”).
This was, in my view, a way to hide internal conflicts in the UK (e.g., wages are falling, should we blame capitalists, should we ask the government to increase the minimum wage, or should we blame Poleish immigrants and politicians that force them upon us? Let’s blame the Poles!).

So from this came two consequences:

First, brexit became a very emotively charged thing, where the EU was perceived as the evil enemy to begin with from the point of view of brexiters. Evidently you don’t do a soft break with the great satan, so they can’t accept a soft brexit either.
The pro brexit side however really needed this kind of strong emotional approach, because the “let’s blame stuff on the EU” was the real point of the movement, there is no other upside of brexit.

Second, since everything was blamed on the EU, including very contradictory demands, the promises about brexit became contradictory, like promise to one that after brexit you can protect biritish workers with protectionism and promise to the other that after brexit international trade will become easier because unfettered by the EU bureaucracy.
Since brexit was full of these contradictory demands, it was impossible for the UK to propose an acceptable compromise to the EU.

For both of these reasons it was always (and still is) the case that a compromise was really unlikely, and therefore a “soft brexit” never made sense (if you are for a soft brexit, you are probably just a depressed remainer).

On why North is deluding himself:

The problem is that North is a libertarian, and by consequence he assumes that the market should be able to solve most problem and governments should more or less disappear.
His main problem with the EU wasn’t that it is undemocratic, but rather that it is too much a democratic (political) thing and too few a purely administrative body.
Even if North speaks of sovereignity, it is libertarian sovereignity where governments only make laws that cannot influence the economy.
This is 100% the opposite of what brexiters in general wanted (it is evident that every brexiter wanted a more activist government in the economy).
North either doesn’t get this point, or either is smart enough to not explain this too clearly (as otherwise only a very small number of people would accept is thinking, as is usually the case with libertarians when you actually understand what they mean).

48

lurker 09.14.20 at 12:03 pm

@CHETAN R MURTHY, 42
1) ‘if Labor had been given a reason to support a “soft Brexit”’
They did support a soft Brexit after Leave won, but Theresa May never even tried to work with them. Not because she’s too dumb see what was the right thing to do but because she put party before country.
2) There’s evidence of Russian shenanigans, and why is the right-wing hate machine that brands Labour leaders as traitors on no evidence at all not interested? The oligarchs who own that machine are not Russian, and it’s their support that was and is crucial. The Russians are not needed.

49

lurker 09.14.20 at 12:06 pm

@CHETAN R MURTHY, 43
‘the Tories and their electorate all supported an ultra-hard Brexit’
Lots of Tories opposed Brexit, Johnson himself did until he changed sides to fuck with Cameron. But once it was necessary to do Brexit to hold the party together and stay in power, they united on that. Brexit has to be rock hard because the far right is willing to burn everything down to get their way and nothing else will satisfy them.
‘legitimized (as nothing else could do) the Brexit vote’
Leave did get the majority. On lies and bullshit, but if that’s de-legitimizing, then how many right-wing electoral victories are legitimate?

50

Hidari 09.14.20 at 8:18 pm

Someone really needs to update Godwin’s Law, with ‘Russia’ replacing ‘Nazis/Hitler’.
Putin’s law, perhaps.

51

Gorgonzola Petrovna 09.14.20 at 8:19 pm

46: “From that point on, anyone who had eyes to see, could see that the ‘rules based international order’ no longer existed, or that if it did, it no longer mattered. The comparison with what happened to the League of Nations in the 1930s is inescapable.”

True dat. For example: I see reports about Israeli missiles hitting Damascus or Aleppo, casualties, and yet no reaction whatsoever, not in the West. Back in the day, there would be an urgent security counsel meeting and what-not, but now it’s not even reported by the US media; I read about it in RT.

Perhaps it still is “rules based international order”, but the rules are “what we say goes” and “any idiotic drivel will do, to justify it”. International law? It’s a joke.

But it seems to me it started before the invasion of Iraq. It started in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. And of course hanging Bush and Blair would not change anything. History is not made by heroes and villains.

52

nastywoman 09.14.20 at 8:46 pm

@44
”ERGO: London money-laundering by russians represents a russian-state operation”.

As long as Roman Abaramovich stays with Chelsea and doesn’t buy Liverpool too –
”ALL GOOD”
or:
”ALL BAD”? –
Whatever as WE in Germany work very hard –
THIS TIME! –
to make sure that Russia doesn’t get ALL the credit for erecting the US President –
(AGAIN!) –
perhaps we should have focused more on… ”Little Britain”?
OR not?!
As our British friends are somehow? –
still? –
very… may we say ”sceptical” if ”some Germans” play with them – we perhaps?
should keep on leaving BoJo to the Russian gamers?

53

hix 09.14.20 at 9:05 pm

If the Assagne’s case has nothing to do with the rule of law in Britain or lack thereof, then what has?

The question is not even if there are massive rule of law violations either. It is just about how far US and UK authorities are willing to go in that regard and how easy they can get away with it internally. After September 11, young male non-citizen Muslim basically had lost any rights. Incarceration and torture free for all as you like. They were automatically others. With Assagne in his critical journalistic role within the western world, the ratchet moves closer to internal freedom of press.

Russia always tries to meddle in things: They are just not very good at achieving anything useful with their meddling. Murdoch mattered, Russian internet trolls did not. To be more precise, all nations with some capabilities try to meddle with foreign internal politics. Russia just likes to do it in a particular dirty way. Rather shows weakness, not strength they feel they have to resort to that.

54

hix 09.14.20 at 9:16 pm

If the Assagne’s case has nothing to do with the rule of law in Britain or lack thereof, then what has?

The question is not even if there are massive rule of law violations either. It is just about how far US and UK authorities are willing to go in that regard and how easy they can get away with it internally. After September 11, young male non-citizen Muslim basically had lost any rights. Incarceration and torture free for all as you like. They were automatically others. With Assagne in his critical journalistic role within the western world, the ratchet moves closer to internal freedom of press.

55

Robert Weston 09.14.20 at 9:47 pm

38 and 46 above kind of hint at my question, but is this Boris Johnson stunt part of a long-planned pivot to the US? If so, is the idea to irreversibly wreck the UK’s relationship with the EU so as to make alignment on Washington alone permanent?

56

Donald 09.14.20 at 10:10 pm

So I am not going to get into who is or isn’t a Russian spy. ( I am curious about how many other countries or corporations or even just random billionaires might influence US or British politics, but it must not be important given the all powerful Russians).

But whatever Assange might be, Wikileaks has in fact published critical information about Russia. Perhaps against his will. I couldn’t say.

https://wikileaks.org/spyfiles/russia/

57

Barry 09.14.20 at 11:08 pm

MisterMr 09.14.20 at 10:44 am

” My personal opinion is that a “soft brexit” was never in the cards, and North is/was just deluded, in a typical libertarian fashion.”

This is very important. The people who pushed hard for Brexit then pushed for a harder and harder Brexit.

They did not want a soft Brexit, they wanted a No Deal Brexit.

58

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.14.20 at 11:47 pm

MisterMr @ 47:

Obviously, I think Brexit is crazypants. But I think you do North an injustice. I’ve been reading him daily ever since the referendum vote, and he’s been clear on at least two things:
(1) the need for supranational bodies to decide on trade terms and standards
(2) a persistent and clamorous drumbeat for the importance of such standards and their enforcement, and specifically in the agricultural sector
I mean, maybe you have other information, but he never struck me as a libertarian. He just believed that those standards should be agreed between nations, and not handed down by Brussels. Now, I have my doubts as to the practical difference between those two worlds, in the sense that I feel that his “EEA” would have evolved into something just as bureaucratic, just as “undemocratic” (in the sense he uses it) as Brussels is today, but I never got the impression that he was anti-regulation, quite, quite, quite the opposite.

lurker @ 48: “the Russians were not needed”. Here in the US, some observe that the Russians were not needed, in the sense that the right-wing wanted all these horrid things, and were beavering away on a path towards tyranny, long before Putin entered the scene. And this is right. But the Russians gave those guys help that they eagerly accepted. And something else: there’s been a persistent “direction” to the movement of right-wing politics in the US: to more and more uncompromising and eliminationist positions and rhetoric. I mean, when somebody accuses Chuck Schumer of being “antifa”, they’ve clearly gone over the bend. Russia helped this to happen, by funding the craziest of the crazies. Some evidence of this is the consistent dropping-off of all the “moderate Republicans”: there really aren’t any left in the GrOPer party

OK, back to the UK. I think that some of this happened. I think Collin Street has it right above. And Russia doesn’t just fund the Tories, but the maddest of the Tories. Just as they do everywhere.

I do agree, that Labor would have joined in a soft Brexit. And that May just rejected it, b/c she felt she had to appease her nutjob wing (the ERG, that execrable toad Jacob Rees-Mogg). And so the UK was set on a course for what seems more and more evident to be self-induced disaster. This could have been prevented, while still achieving Brexit, and in the long-term, getting everything they wanted: all they had to do was start with a soft Brexit and harden it.

Yes, it was never on the cards. And that, I feel, is both a great pity (even as I think Brexit itself is madness) and a fantastic success on Putin’s part.

59

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.14.20 at 11:51 pm

Hidari @ 46: Oh, Hidari, never change!

Until such time as (e.g.) Bush/Blair etc. are hauled to the Hague

Tankies assemble!

60

Richard M 09.15.20 at 12:31 am

Murdoch was plausibly honest when he stated his position on Brexit:

‘That’s easy,’ he replied. ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice

If so, Murdoch wants to call the shots in the UK, not loot the corpse.

The thing about the word Brexit is that it covers both that, and the kind of generalized fall-of-the-Soviet Union economic and military collapse that Putin can be presumed to want.

So you can’t really answer the question of who has more influence until you find out which one we get.

61

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.15.20 at 3:47 am

hix @ 54: Assange a journalist? He published material he got from Russian military intelligence. This is confirmed not merely by US intelligence, but by a number of our allies, some of whom helped to figure it out. If you’re saying that all a spy has to do, to be innocent of espionage, is to publish the secrets …. well, that’s an interesting definition, I guess.

But hey, it’s all good, right? Putin’s destroying the UK’s democracy, but you can’t prosecute one of Putin’s stooges who’s helped destroy one of the UK’s allies’ democracy, nosirree.

This reminds me of Murc’s Law. Only the US and its allies have agency; only they can commit crimes. Putin? Hell, he’s just doin’ what he’s gotta do. And his stooges, why, you can’t hold them responsible for any of their bad acts.

62

lurker 09.15.20 at 8:09 am

‘Russia just likes to do it in a particular dirty way. Rather shows weakness, not strength they feel they have to resort to that.’ hix, 53
In Ukraine, Russia had huge advantages, like a weak(er than Russia) economy and the country being dependent on discount Russian natural gas, but Putin still managed to fuck it up so badly he had to start a war in order to claim a victory. Classic Vlad.

63

nastywoman 09.15.20 at 8:48 am

@53 hix -(another ”German”)
”Murdoch mattered, Russian internet trolls did not. To be more precise, all nations with some capabilities try to meddle with foreign internal politics”.

Yes! –
and as a ”German” – could you help US – to spread the theory that it is ”Germany”
THIS TIME –
– as perhaps you have read that on our ”Angst-Index” – Trump –
(the German word for ”STUPID”) –
is THE ”Angst” – Germans are utmost afraid of –
waaaay before any Covid-Angst –
(or the Angst of BoJo the Clown)

AND if on the other hand it is true – that actually waaaay before Murdoch –
or the Russians –
it’s always Facebook which matters most –
with whatever crazy theory THE GAMERS feed the STUPID – and finally fool them to vote for the Clowns – there are actually ”No Nationals” – who matter –
JUST what GAMERS wins the ”Online War” –
and so y’all might want to read:

”Trump Is Winning the Online War”
(from the NYT)

64

oldster 09.15.20 at 10:12 am

On the one hand, I’m with Mr. Murthy in his analysis of Putin’s role in Brexit and the current occupation of the White House. (And with Colin Street).

On the other hand, I also agree with this from Hidari:
“…the wheels really started to come off the cart of international law with the illegal invasion of Iraq….”

And I agree with her that a healthy system of international law would put Blair, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and a few others, on trial in The Hague. (I don’t think it’s a necessary precondition for our rebuilding a healthy system of law, but it would be a sign of good health.)

We differ only in that she systematically downplays the malign influence of Putin, and advances false equivalences.

65

novakant 09.15.20 at 11:58 am

Until such time as (e.g.) Bush/Blair etc. are hauled to the Hague, this crisis of the legitimacy of international institutions (i.e. insofar as they are putatively legal institutions) is simply going to get worse and worse.

As it happens, you are making an argument very similar to the one put forth by the Johnson / Cummings government and the insane Brexiteers at the Telegraph.

66

Tm 09.15.20 at 2:17 pm

Both Brexit and President Trump were very unlikely outcomes. Making them happen required the efforts of a number of different players, who need not have the exact same interests. Rupert Murdoch is probably the most powerful and dangerous of these players but Putin’s efforts are clearly documented and there is no doubt that they had an impact. Denying reality doesn’t make it go away.

“Murdoch wants to call the shots in the UK, not loot the corpse.” It is hard to know what follows from this. What he does he really want? How far does this Hugenberg reincarnation really want to go in his support for fascist movements?

67

MisterMr 09.15.20 at 2:44 pm

@CHETAN R MURTHY 58
Well, I can’t read inside of North’s head, however certainity of law and free international trade is something a libertarian would want, IMHO.
My opinion is that libertarians tend to place a sort of psychological wall between laws that permit the free working of private properties, that are ok in line of principle, and other laws or activites of the government, that they don’t like.
My point is just that the kind of “sovereignity” North wants is not the same thing of the “sovereignity” brexiters wanted, for example North is probably a-ok with EU limits on public subsidies for this or that industry, but this is one of the few things Corbyn wanted from brexit, so North’s position and Corbyn’s position are incompatible.
Other brexiters wanted protectionism, but this is incompatible with the EEA, etc.

The only thing North really wanted that other brexiters also wanted is a limit to migration, because the free movement of things and money is ok, but that of people not, for some reason.

68

engels 09.15.20 at 3:07 pm

Chetan, I think you need to look up the definition of tankie. It doesn’t mean wanting war criminals to face justice.

69

SusanC 09.15.20 at 3:35 pm

The latest addition to the list of the Johnson government’s incompetence: reopening schools without having sufficient covid19 testing capacity in place.

Apart from the question over whether children can be asymptomatic carriers of covid19, children are also known to spread other diseases with symptoms indistinguishable from covid19 without tests.

So, the U.K. reopens the schools. And nearly everyone goes down with a cough/fever/sniffle, just like every freaking September when the schools go back. Except now you have to test all those people who have come down with something, to find out which of them actually have covid19. And the testing capacity, apparently, isn’t there.

The test infrastructure clearly needs to be able to cope with huge number of people who have the usual wInter sniffles, plus a few who have covid19 … and much of the point of having retest infrastructure is to enable you to find out which is which. (Otherwise, you could just quarantine everyone who has a cough)

70

Tm 09.15.20 at 4:27 pm

P.S. Murdoch can’t be a reincarnation of Hugenberg since he was born 1931. But I came across an essay about both that is well worth reading:

The Hugenberg Lesson
http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-hugenberg-lesson.html

“Hugenberg and his colleagues didn’t intend to bring the Nazis to power – they wanted to bring themselves to power. Had it been a simple matter of support for the Nazi cause there probably wouldn’t be significant lessons for the present. But the Nazis were a monster that Hugenberg and his coalition played a key role in creating, and which turned around and consumed them, and it’s important to understand how this happened, especially because their actions have much in common with those of people today.”

71

Hidari 09.15.20 at 4:52 pm

Pretty exciting to hear that objecting to the US invasion of Iraq, which was, after all, the CT position at the time, and arguing, with Kofi Annan, that it was against international law, and that serious of people who (some say) breach international law should face the Hague (NOT, to be clear, ‘to be found guilty’ but to ‘face the music’ in a trial in which they may or may not be found guilty) means that one is personally responsible for the Moscow purges and the gulag. Very sane and intelligent thing to believe and say.

I won’t be commenting on this thread again as I feel that I’ve derailed it enough, but I think if one wanted to make the argument that there is something deeply deeply wrong with American elite political culture, and that the rot goes far deeper than Trump, this thread in and of itself would make that case.

72

J-D 09.15.20 at 10:45 pm

If the Assagne’s case has nothing to do with the rule of law in Britain or lack thereof, then what has?

The question is not even if there are massive rule of law violations either.

Assagne, Assange? Assange, Assagne?

Chris Bertram referred to the UK government disrespecting the law. Julian’s case is not an example of the UK government disrespecting the law.

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