Friday, 3 July 2020

More than a loophole

Many years ago, when I was a member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, I remember that the then (Tory) leader of the council rose to his hind legs to lecture the rest of us about something or other and during the course of his oration informed the world that people don’t swim in the water off Barry Island, they merely “go through the motions”. It was a refreshingly honest assessment of the sea condition at the time, although I did wonder how he squared that assessment with his role in promoting the Island as a tourist destination. “Going through the motions” – in both senses of the phrase – strikes me as a good description of the English government’s approach to quarantine for people arriving in the UK.
Johnson senior’s scenic little trip to Greece via Bulgaria highlights one of the major problems with the approach being adopted by the UK. The PM is not, of course, responsible for the actions of his father and, fortunately for him, even the mildest form of embarrassment is not something with which he is in the least bit familiar. It would, in any event, be wholly unfair to blame him for the behaviour of his father (although it’s a good deal less unfair to place a degree of blame on the father for the behaviour of the son). The point is that the system being used by Greece to determine who’s allowed in (and by the UK to decide who should quarantine) are based on the last, rather than the original, point of departure for the individual. So, whilst people are barred from travelling to Greece from the UK, if they stop in some intermediate country like Bulgaria they can enter freely. Similarly, a person travelling from New York to London would be required to self-isolate, but if the same person changes plane in Dublin the requirement disappears. And by the time the government publishes what looks likely to be an extensive list of exceptions in addition to the Republic, what’s left looks like little more than motions. Again, in both senses. ‘Loophole’ is a wholly inadequate word to describe it.
It appears that the English Government has agreed its list of exceptions with no consultation with the devolved administrations, which are expected to immediately fall meekly into line without discussion, or be blamed for delaying the decision. In the circumstances, it is reasonable for the devolved administrations to take, or consider taking, actions to protect their people from the reckless decisions being made in London. The PM’s objection to any idea that some sort of border exists between England and Scotland is a knee-jerk reaction – he seems quite happy to draw a border around Leicester and seek to apply controls over movement there. But then being consistent lives in the same box as embarrassment (see above). He is putting Scotland and Wales in an impossible situation – probably deliberately. Even if the Welsh Government were able to stop flights from an airport which they own (and incredibly, it seems that they are not, although I fail to understand how, under current guidance, anyone can legitimately arrive at the airport to catch the flights) they have no easy way of stopping people who arrive at Bristol or Heathrow from traveling into Wales. Whilst they may have the nominal power to impose their own rules on arriving aircraft, those only apply to airports within Wales. It’s almost as though Johnson wants to turn mild-mannered Mark Drakeford into a raving independentista. But that would require an ability to plan and think ahead (see embarrassment and consistency above).


Jonathan said...

All credit to you Borthlas for the Welsh on the Vale of Glam roadsigns, back in the day. And for being a solid (under appreciated) Plaid Candidate in Carmarthen/S.Pembs. And for putting some lead in the pencil of Community Councils eg Dinas Powys - underused institutions. And now we have some interesting thoughts on what it takes to be a nation/country/State in International Law.
Borders - got to exist, got to enforce them. Them's the rules in international law. Comic watching Drakeford wrestle with this one. Needed for Covid? Messes up Labour's Welfare Union with England ie Wales' life-support? The Welsh need to learn from watching this. NB - the rules of international law don't require rigidly enforced borders, but the potential must be there. Which in practice means enforcing every now and then. Reminds me of how you keep a private road private. Token close it every Xmas Day from 1-2am or whatever.
And you mentioned on Thursday "if you believe strongly enough in yourself the rest of the world will accept you on that basis and treat you accordingly." I don't think you accepted this, Borthlas. But there is in fact a lot of truth in it. In international law. If you are trying to assert yourself as a nation/country/State. It is the sine qua non. You aren't going to enforce control of your territory, or your borders, or be autonomous, without this basic assertion, from the guts, of your existence and right to exist. You can overlay it all you like with diplomacy and tact. But that gut animal assertion has got to be there. But is it? In Wales I mean?

John Dixon said...

You are far too kind - the Vale Council wasn't even responsible for road signs when I was a member. Bilingual rates bills, however...

I agree that any independent state needs to have clearly defined borders, but I also support the Schengen approach; my desire for individuals to be free to travel and move means that I have an aversion to closing borders unless absolutely necessary. It's curious that decisions being taken in England are more likely to lead to a requirement to enforce the Welsh border than anything happening in Wales. It just underlines how far the 'unionists' have shifted to become out-and-out English nationalists.