Tag: European Union

Signs of an Upcoming Fiasco

As if Theresa May’s truly horrible Brexit deal were not bad enough, it appears that May’s weakness, even pro-Brexit forces imploding, has emboldened Spain, which is considering reasserting its claim to Gibraltar:

The Spanish government has threatened to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal over the issue of Gibraltar, demanding that last-minute changes be made to the text ahead of a crunch summit.

The country’s foreign minister said Spain would not back the proposals at the European Council unless it received assurances that the agreement would not apply to Gibraltar.

But Downing Street said it would not exempt Gibraltar or any other British territory from the agreement – putting the two governments on a collision course ahead of the meeting this weekend.

“The negotiations between Britain and the EU have a territorial scope that does not include Gibraltar, the negotiations on the future of Gibraltar are separate discussions,” Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell said on Monday morning in Brussels.

“This is what needs to made clear, and until it is clarified in the withdrawal agreement and in the political declaration on the future relationship, we cannot give our backing.”

Spain has long resented Britain’s claims on Gibraltar, a British overseas territory that is home to around 30,000 people, and has previously threatened to use Brexit to wrest concessions on the issue.

This a sign of just how weak the British position is.

There is no good ending for this for London.

Iceland, and Now Portugal

Portland has eschewed the confidence fairy, and austerity, and their economy is going gangbusters:

Ramón Rivera had barely gotten his olive oil business started in the sun-swept Alentejo region of Portugal when Europe’s debt crisis struck. The economy crumbled, wages were cut, and unemployment doubled. The government in Lisbon had to accept a humiliating international bailout.

But as the misery deepened, Portugal took a daring stand: In 2015, it cast aside the harshest austerity measures its European creditors had imposed, igniting a virtuous cycle that put its economy back on a path to growth. The country reversed cuts to wages, pensions and social security, and offered incentives to businesses.

The government’s U-turn, and willingness to spend, had a powerful effect. Creditors railed against the move, but the gloom that had gripped the nation through years of belt-tightening began to lift. Business confidence rebounded. Production and exports began to take off — including at Mr. Rivera’s olive groves.

“We had faith that Portugal would come out of the crisis,” said Mr. Rivera, the general manager of Elaia. The company focused on state-of-the-art harvesting technology, and it is now one of Portugal’s biggest olive oil producers. “We saw that this was the best place in the world to invest.”

At a time of mounting uncertainty in Europe, Portugal has defied critics who have insisted on austerity as the answer to the Continent’s economic and financial crisis. While countries from Greece to Ireland — and for a stretch, Portugal itself — toed the line, Lisbon resisted, helping to stoke a revival that drove economic growth last year to its highest level in a decade.

The EU is dominated by Germans, and German economic philosophy, which has not changed since their disastrous policies during the Great Depression, which created the most brutal economic downturn in all of Europe and rise of the Nazis.

Here’s hoping that Merkel’s successor doesn’t stake their political career on inflicting pointless misery on fellow EU members the way that she did.

You Gotta be F%$#ing Kidding

Quoting Palmer from The Thing

Someone actually tried to copyright the taste of a specific of cheese, and it actually made to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

IP claims are completely out of hand:

A Dutch cheese company tried to claim that it had a monopoly on the taste of a cheese spread. The Court of Justice of the European Union weighed arguments from two competing food producers, and decided on Tuesday that a taste cannot be copyrighted.

Taste is “an idea,” rather than an “expression of an original intellectual creation,” the court ruled. And something that cannot be defined precisely cannot be copyrighted, it ruled.

The case was brought in the Netherlands, but it had been referred to the European court to make a ruling that would apply across the bloc. Levola Hengelo, a Dutch food producer, had sued Smilde Foods, another Dutch manufacturer, for infringing its copyright over the taste of a cheese spread.

The Levola product, known as Heks’nkaas, or Witches Cheese, is made of cream cheese and herbs and vegetables including parsley, leek and garlic. Smilde’s herbed cheese dip, which contained many of the same ingredients, was called Witte Wievenkaas, a name that also makes reference to witches. It is now sold as Wilde Wietze Dip.

Levola argued that the taste of food, like literary, scientific or artistic works, can be copyrighted. The company cited a 2006 case involving Lancôme, the cosmetics company, that had accepted in principle that the scent of a perfume could be eligible for copyright protection.


Well, there was no cheese tasting. But it agreed with Smilde that the taste of the cheese could not be defined with enough precision and objectivity to make it clear to other companies where they might be overstepping the mark.


To be protected by copyright, a work must be an “expression” of an original intellectual creation.

“Copyright isn’t supposed to be used to stop the spread and use of ideas,” said Joshua Marshall, an intellectual property lawyer at the European law firm Fieldfisher. “The taste of a leek-and-garlic cheese is really an idea.”

Copyright is supposed to “promote the progress of science and useful arts,” not to be used as an anti-competitive weapon to be used against competitors.

IP naturally has an anti-competitive effect, but that is a cost of the promotion of creativity, not a benefit.

Snark of the Day

How do you say “dead woman walking” in German? Today, the answer to that question is “Angela Merkel” after the German leader announced that she would be seeking neither re-election as chancellor in 2021, nor re-election as head of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party this December.

Marshall Auerback

In truth it’s more serious than this witticism posits, as Merkel, taking the baton from Gerhard Schröder, did some very bad things:

But there’s another side to this story. However highly regarded, Chancellor Merkel has repeatedly led governments, coalition or otherwise, that championed the neoliberal dismantling of the country’s “social market economy,” especially in services. Her government also pushed and prodded the rest of the European Union in a comparable direction.

In Germany specifically, the end result has been the growth of a two-tiered economy, which has heightened economic insecurity, created declining living standards for much of the population, and exacerbated inequality. In other words, too little “social,” too much “market.”

The combined beggar thy neighbor/beggar thy citizenry policies have been a disaster, but they are integral to the neoliberal project.

Buh Bye, Angela

Following a disastrous electoral showing in Hesse, Angela Merkel has announced her resignation of the CDU and that she will not stand for reelection as chancellor:

After dominating European politics for well over a decade, Angela Merkel has said her fourth term as Germany’s chancellor will be her last.

Speaking after disastrous regional elections in Hesse and Bavaria for her Christian Democrats and its Bavaria-only sister party, Merkel on Monday said she saw the results as a “clear signal that things can’t go on as they are”.

She said she would not be standing as party leader at the CDU conference in December nor seek another term as chancellor at Germany’s next federal elections, due in 2021, adding that she would withdraw completely from politics after that date.

She also stated she would also not run for chancellor if snap elections were called before 2021.

Here’s hoping that whoever succeeds her is less likely to favor banks and bankers over real people.

Here’s also hoping that her successor won’t be, you know, actual Nazis, from the AfD.

Who Blinks First?

The European Commission has told the Italian Government that its budget is not acceptable, and the Italian government has told the European Commission to pound sand:

The Italian government will not budge from its position on the country’s budget plan even though it is in breach of EU rules.

In a three-and-a-half page letter sent on Monday to commissioners Pierre Moscovici and Valdis Dombrovskis, Finance Minister Giovanni Tria wrote: “Italy is aware it has chosen a path that isn’t in line with EU rules. It was a hard decision but necessary in order to bring the country’s GDP back to pre-crisis levels and considering the ongoing economic difficulties for Italians.”

Tria went on to address the three objections raised by Moscovici and Dombrovskis in their letter to him last week, saying the government is confident it can achieve the ambitious growth targets it has outlined. Tria’s letter explained that the government will increase public investments and implement a number of significant structural reforms that should help trigger such growth. However, should Italy’s “growth trajectory evolve differently to what we expect, we would intervene,” he wrote.

Tria concluded the letter by saying that although the positions of Rome and Brussels are different, he hopes a “constructive dialogue” within the framework of EU rules can continue. He said Italy’s place is “in the eurozone.”

This situation is likely going to be rather different than that of Greece, or even Spain:  Italy is a far larger economy, and its current ruling coalition is not irrevocably linked to the Euro or the EU as, for example, Syriza was in Greece, which made meaningful negotiations impossible.

Also, it should be noted that even with the spending increase, the budget remains in primary surplus (its revenues exceed all spending but interest on the debt).

As I’ve noted before, the problem with the EU in general, and the Eurozone in particular, is the hegemony that Germany, and its economic philosophy, hold over the entire European Project.

Even without the obvious history, current events have shown this to be a bad thing.

Francisco Franco is as Francisco Franco Does

One of the narratives regarding the conflict between Madrid and Barcelona over Catalan independence and autonomy is that the independence movement chased away finance and created a capital flight.

It turns out that the Rajoy government aggressively pushed the companies to leave Catalonia.

It’s not a surprise,  Mariano Rajoy’s “People’s Party” is pretty much a direct descendant of Franco’s Fascist (Falange) party, and the Falange was dedicated to grinding everything Catalan into dust:

Just over a year has passed since over two million people in Catalonia voted in a banned referendum to leave Spain. On that day, the separatists were given a brutal lesson in the raw power of state violence. Days later, they were given another harsh lesson, this time in the fickleness of money. Within days of holding the vote, which was brutally suppressed but not prevented by Spanish police, Spain’s north eastern region was forced to watch as one after another of its brand names moved their headquarters, at least on paper, to other parts of Spain.


But what is only now becoming clear is just how central a role the Spanish government in Madrid was playing in fomenting this massive exodus of funds. The Catalan newspaper Ara has revealed that large state-owned companies such as public broadcaster RTVE, rail infrastructure manager Adif, freight and passenger train operator RENFE and Spanish ports, on the behest of Spain’s central government, raided their own accounts in Catalonia during the frenzied days immediately after the referendum.

In one day alone, the state-owned companies withdrew €2 billion from Banco Sabadell. The presidents of these state-owned companies apparently told the bank’s CEO, Jaume Guardiola, that they had received orders to trigger a run on deposits. As much as a third of all the money that left Catalonia during those first days of October belonged to institutions or companies controlled by the State.

The covert ploy worked like a charm. In the short space of just a few days Banco Sabadell suffered a deposit outflow of €12 billion, while Caixabank lost almost double that, according to Ara.

Another senior executive at Banco Sabadell allegedly asked Spain’s then-Economy Minister Luis de Guindos about the apparent cause of the bank run, to which he received the response: “Have you changed your company address yet?” When the executive answered in the affirmative, the minister said there was no longer any reason to worry. Within hours, the deposits of the state-owned firms were back in their accounts.

In the long run, Rajoy ended up worsening the divisions between Barcelona and Madrid, with the spectacle of police officers in body armor beating up elderly ladies.

The smart move would have been to allow the independence forces to fall into a morass of back-biting and corruption, but the dynamics of the People’s Party were such that they had to respond with brutality.
He really had no 

I’m Sure that the Blairites Will Flock to Support Her

The Guardian is reporting that Tory PM Theresa May is wooing Labour party MPs in an attempt to secure support for her Brexit proposals.

The (reflexively anti-Corbyn) Guardian misses the point here.

May’s appeal to Labour is not, “The Good of the Kingdom,” it’s, “You have the opportunity to stop Jeremy Corbyn.

You will notice that the report does not detail who is in discussions with the Conservatives, and I think that this is because it is the representatives of failed New Labour who are in talks, in yet another of their schemes to destroy the party to preserve their position within the party:

Theresa May has drawn up plans for a secret charm offensive aimed at persuading dozens of Labour MPs to back her Brexit deal even if it costs Jeremy Corbyn the chance to be prime minister, the Guardian has learned.

Senior Conservatives say they have already been in private contact with a number of Labour MPs over a period of several months, making the case that the national interest in avoiding a no-deal outcome is more important than forcing a general election by defeating the government on May’s Brexit deal.

Now, with talks in Brussels entering their frantic final phase, the prime minister and her party whips are stepping up efforts to win backing for a compromise deal that one minister described as a “British blancmange”.


Labour MPs will thus be the focus of intense lobbying, in the period between May returning from Brussels with a Brexit deal and the meaningful vote, which is expected to come about a fortnight later.


May appealed directly to Labour backbenchers in her conference speech when she spoke of the “heirs of Hugh Gaitskell and Barbara Castle, Denis Healey and John Smith”, saying they were on the backbenches, not in the shadow cabinet of what she called the “Jeremy Corbyn party”.

This is not an attempt at a better Brexit, it’s an attempt to sabotage Labout, an Blair and his Evil Minions are more than willing to aid and abet this strategy.

Well, This Sucks

The EU just passed its new Copyright Directive, and it is a complete horror show.

Cory Docterow has the skinny on this:

Today, in a vote that split almost every major EU party, Members of the European Parliament adopted every terrible proposal in the new Copyright Directive and rejected every good one, setting the stage for mass, automated surveillance and arbitrary censorship of the internet: text messages like tweets and Facebook updates; photos; videos; audio; software code — any and all media that can be copyrighted.

Three proposals passed the European Parliament, each of them catastrophic for free expression, privacy, and the arts:

1. Article 13: the Copyright Filters. All but the smallest platforms will have to defensively adopt copyright filters that examine everything you post and censor anything judged to be a copyright infringement.

2. Article 11: Linking to the news using more than one word from the article is prohibited unless you’re using a service that bought a license from the news site you want to link to. News sites can charge anything they want for the right to quote them or refuse to sell altogether, effectively giving them the right to choose who can criticise them. Member states are permitted, but not required, to create exceptions and limitations to reduce the harm done by this new right.

3. Article 12a: No posting your own photos or videos of sports matches. Only the “organisers” of sports matches will have the right to publicly post any kind of record of the match. No posting your selfies, or short videos of exciting plays. You are the audience, your job is to sit where you’re told, passively watch the game and go home.

At the same time, the EU rejected even the most modest proposals to make copyright suited to the twenty-first century:

1. No “freedom of panorama.” When we take photos or videos in public spaces, we’re apt to incidentally capture copyrighted works: from stock art in ads on the sides of buses to t-shirts worn by protestors, to building facades claimed by architects as their copyright. The EU rejected a proposal that would make it legal Europe-wide to photograph street scenes without worrying about infringing the copyright of objects in the background.

2. No “user-generated content” exemption, which would have made EU states carve out an exception to copyright for using excerpts from works for “criticism, review, illustration, caricature, parody or pastiche.”


The mandate to filter the Internet puts a floor on how small the pieces can be when antitrust regulators want to break up the big platforms: only the largest companies can afford to police the whole net for infringement, so the largest companies can’t be made much smaller. The latest version of the Directive has exemptions for smaller companies, but they will have to stay small or constantly anticipate the day that they will have to take the leap to being copyright police. Today, the EU voted to increase the consolidation in the tech sector, and to make it vastly more difficult to function as an independent creator. We’re seeing two major industries, both with competitiveness problems, negotiate for a deal that works for them, but will decrease competition for the independent creator caught in the middle. What we needed were solutions to tackle the consolidation of both the tech and the creative industries: instead we got a compromise that works for them, but shuts out everyone else.

This is a complete sh%$ show, and it’s driven by the coverage by newspapers in the EU who believe that the underpants gnomes will make them a profit if this abomination gets passed.

We Could Power All of Prague from the Rotational Momentum of Kafka’s Corpse

A MEP wrote about how automated copyright tools would lead to removal and delisting by search engines and an automated filter had her article delisted:

Last week, Tim Cushing had a post about yet another out of control automated DMCA notifier, sending a ton of bogus notices to Google (most of which Google removed from its search engine index, since the sender, “Topple Track” from Symphonic Distribution was a part of Google’s “Trusted Copyright Program,” giving those notices more weight). The post listed many of the perfectly legitimate content that got removed from Google’s index because of that rogue automated filter, including an EFF page about a lawsuit, the official (authorized) pages of Beyonce and Bruno Mars, and a blog post about a lawsuit by Professor Eric Goldman.

But, seeing as we’re getting towards September when the EU Parliament will again be voting on the big Copyright Directive proposal there, including Article 13, which will require mandatory filters or other automated tools for preventing copyright infringement, I thought it was important to do a separate post calling out one of the other pages taken down by Symphonic Distribution’s out of control Topple Track. And that was that it got Google to de-index an article by Julia Reda, a member of the EU Parliament who has been leading the charge against the problematic provisions in the Copyright Directive proposal.

Specifically — and it would be hard to make this up if we tried — Topple Track’s automated filter got Google to de-index this blog post by Reda, in which she details the problems in Article 13 and how it will create mandatory censorship machines, that would likely lead to massive internet censorship of perfectly legitimate content. Let’s repeat that so it can sink in. An automated filter helped take down an article by a Member of the EU Parliament, explaining how a (still being debated) proposal would create automated filtering systems that would take down all sorts of legitimate content

Calling this Kafkaesque is a serious understatement.

A Brief Respite of Copyright Sanity

This is not a common thing, but the rules proposed were awful, requiring fees to be paid for linking, and prohibiting the use of snippets:

A controversial overhaul of the EU’s copyright law that sparked a fierce debate between internet giants and content creators has been rejected.

The proposed rules would have put more responsibility on websites to check for copyright infringements, and forced platforms to pay for linking to news.

A slew of high-profile music stars had backed the change, arguing that websites had exploited their content.

These sites cannot use their content without permission from the designated license holders for this content, in this case the record labels, who, as always, have screwed the artists.

That is not a problem with Spotify, that is a problem with your agents.

But opponents said the rules would stifle internet freedom and creativity.

The move was intended to bring the EU’s copyright laws in line with the digital age, but led to protests from websites and much debate before it was rejected by a margin of 318-278 in the European Parliament on Thursday.

What were they voting for?

The proposed legislation – known as the Copyright Directive – was an attempt by the EU to modernise its copyright laws, but it contained two highly-contested parts.

The first of these, Article 11, was intended to protect newspapers and other outlets from internet giants like Google and Facebook using their material without payment.

But it was branded a “link tax” by opponents who feared it could lead to problems with sentence fragments being used to link to other news outlets (like this).

Article 13 was the other controversial part. It put a greater responsibility on websites to enforce copyright laws, and would have meant that any online platform that allowed users to post text, images, sounds or code would need a way to assess and filter content.

The most common way to do this is by using an automated copyright system, but they are expensive. The one YouTube uses cost $60m (£53m), so critics were worried that similar filters would need to be introduced to every website if Article 13 became law.

There were also concerns that these copyright filters could effectively ban things like memes and remixes which use some copyrighted material.

There will be another bite at the apple on this in a few months though.

I expect them to move a few commas, and lobby the sh%$ out of MEPs to switch their votes.

This law is bad, and not just on its own merit.

This law is bad because these sort of expansions of IP are misused and abused to extract even greater rents.

If you were to have told a Congressman in 1998 that the law would be used to prevent people from refilling ink cartridges, or using universal garage door openers, they would have laughed in your face, but both of those things happened within 2 years of adoption of the law.

Whatever form this law takes, its will be worse than its most ardent opponents predict, because that is where the money is.

Pass the Popcorn

European leaders are frantically holding meetings to try to save Merkel’s political career, which threatens to implode over the immigration issue.

If I were in the meetings, I would toss her an anvil, but I’ve never been a fan.

Also, there is the whole “Symmetry” thing:  She has been instrumental in applying EU pressure to bring down a number of EU governments, particularly in Italy and Greece, and now she is attempting to rely on the same institutions to preserve her government and her career.

Her problems are largely an artifact of her own political decisions, and bailing her out should not be a priority for the EU.

I Am Not Sure Who Blinked Here

After panic in the bond markets, 5 Star and the League will be forming a government in Italy:

After 88 days of impasses and negotiations, two Italian populist parties with a history of antagonism toward the European Union received approval Thursday night to create a government that has unsettled the Continent’s political order and promises a sweeping crackdown on the illegal immigration that helped fuel their ascent.

Only days ago, President Sergio Mattarella of Italy rejected a populist government over concerns about a proposed finance minister who had helped write a guide for withdrawing Italy from the euro, Europe’s single currency. The political chaos and sudden uncertainty about the euro helped send global financial markets reeling.

On Thursday, the populists reshuffled, keeping the same prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, and other top players, but moving the objectionable finance minister to a less critical post.

I would note that the “Objectionable” former pick for FM, Paolo Savona, is a former member of the Bank of Italy who pioneered econometric models of the Italian economy, so he was clearly qualified.

The issue here was his philosophy, not competence.

That was apparently enough to satisfy the president, who preferred an elected government to a caretaker alternative he had in reserve. The populist parties constituting the new government won the most votes in a March 4 election.

I tend to think that the general freakout over snap elections, and talk of impeaching Mattarella, had more to do with this than any profession of devotion to the Euro by the now incoming government.

The cabinet still included the minister blocked by President Mattarella — Paolo Savona, the euro-skeptic economist. But Mr. Savona has now been moved from the powerful finance ministry to the less consequential European affairs ministry.

He will nevertheless be Italy’s representative in Brussels, a key spot for a coalition that wants to change the rules of the European Union.


In a retort to the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who suggested that Italians must work harder and be less corrupt, Mr. Salvini made clear that the days of Italy going “hat in hand” to Brussels were over.

Fasten your seat belts, we are in for a bumpy ride.

The Fix is In

The 5-Star and the Lega parties won the last election, with a combined 50% of the vote, and they agreed to form a coalition government with Giuseppe Conte as prime minister.
Conte has now ended their attempt to form a government because the Italian President has refused to approve their economy minister:

A standoff over Italy’s future in the eurozone has forced the resignation of the populist prime minister-in waiting, Giuseppe Conte, after the country’s president refused to accept Conte’s controversial choice for finance minister.

Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president who was installed by a previous pro-EU government, refused to accept the nomination for finance minister of Paolo Savona, an 81-year-old former industry minister who has called Italy’s entry into the euro a “historic mistake”.

“I have given up my mandate to form the government of change,” Conte told reporters after leaving failed talks with Mattarella.

Italy has been without a government since elections on 4 March ended in a hung parliament.

The country is now expected to go to the polls again in the autumn.

The president’s move to quash Savona’s nomination was unprecedented in recent history and exposed a deep divide between Mattarella, who serves as the head of state and is suppose to be politically neutral, and the two populist parties – the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right Lega (formerly the Northern League) – who have struggled desperately to form a government and support a more antagonistic relationship with Brussels.

Mattarella defended his decision by saying that naming Savona as finance minister – which he already said he opposed – posed a risk for Italian families and citizens, because it created uncertainty in the Italian economy.

“I asked for that ministry an authoritative political figure from the coalition parties who was not seen as the supporter of a line that could provoke Italy’s exit from the euro,” Mattarella said.

“The uncertainty over our position within the euro has alarmed Italian and foreign investors who have invested in securities and companies,” he said.


Mattarella said he would evaluate a call by the leaders of the M5S and the Lega for snap elections. He summoned a former official at the International Monetary Fund, Carlo Cottarelli, to the presidential palace on Monday, which was interpreted as a sign that Cottarelli would be asked to form a government of unelected technocrats.

Mattarella’s move could risk a constitutional crisis.

Matteo Salvini, the bombastic head of the far-right Lega, angrily denounced the decision to block Savona, his personal choice for finance minister, saying that Mattarella had overstepped his authority and was revealing bias against a qualified individual – who once worked at the Bank of Italy – simply because he is anti-euro.

“In a democracy, if we are still in a democracy, there’s only one thing to do, let the Italians have their say,” Salvini said.

Luigi Di Maio, who heads the M5S, also criticised the decision.

“In this country, you can be a condemned criminal, a tax fraud convict, under investigation for corruption and be a minister … but if you criticise Europe, you cannot be an economy minister,” he said.

Basically, the Italian President said that the fact that the Economy Minister was a Euroskeptic was bad for the bond market, and besides, he really likes the EU and the Euro, so f%$# you.

There are deep and profound problems with the EU and the Euro Zone, and the conventional thinking will not solve those problems, because it never solves those problems, and the fact that the responses of the Pro EU establishment are increasingly un and anti-democratic in response.

This will not end well.

England Doesn’t Need the City of London Either

The EU’s chief negotiator has stated that the EU does not need the City of London, and has no plans to create a special relationship with the UK financial sector. (FYI, the City of London is a 1 square mile area which is the heart of the British financial industry, the City of Londonis to London as Wal Street is to New York City)
No one needs the City of London except for a a small number of overpaid prats in Savile Row suits.

Finance is has become increasingly parasitic as it has grown to subsume larger portions of the UK (and US) economy, and the City of London is even worse than Wall Street, because while they both spend much of their effort on speculative activities of little or no benefit, the City of London’s special products are money laundering and tax evasion, which benefits no one:

The EU does not need the City of London, and Theresa May’s “pleading” for a special deal for the UK’s financial services sector will not be rewarded, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said.

In his toughest rebuff yet to the demands made by the British prime ministerin her landmark Mansion House speech, Barnier suggested the City would be granted nothing more generous than that enjoyed by Wall Street.

“Some argue that the EU desperately needs the City of London, and that access to financing for EU27 business would be hampered – and economic growth undermined – without giving UK operators the same market access as today,” Barnier said at a meeting of finance ministers in Sofia, Bulgaria. “This is not what we hear from market participants, and it is not the analysis that we have made ourselves.”

I am not surprised at Barnier’s comments.

The EU has plenty of expertise in tax evasion, it constitutes almost the entire economy of Luxembourg, and money laundering ain’t rocket science.

The Brexit could be an opportunity for the British to turn their economy toward more productive and more honest endeavors, with the added benefit of reducing inequality, but the Tories hate that idea, and they are in charge, for a while, at least.

Sing It, Brother

I wholeheartedly agree that the world of deceptive user agreements used to arbitrarily punish customers 6 pounds of sh%$ in a 5 pound bag:

Mark Zuckerberg says it doesn’t matter how creepy and terrible his company is, because you agreed to let him comprehensively f%$# you over from asshole to appetite by clicking “I agree” to a tens of thousands of words’ worth of “agreements” spread out across multiple webpages; when questioned about this in Congress, Zuck grudgingly admitted that “I don’t think the average person likely reads that whole document.” But as far as Zuck is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve read it, whether you understand it, whether it can be understood — you still “agreed.”

Facebook is far from the worst offender: Paypal has been cutting off the accounts of users who signed up before they were 18, which violated their 50,000+ word ToS (spread across 21 web-pages!); it doesn’t matter if those users are now well over the age of consent, more than a decade later, their failure to read all those terms is a hanging offense.

The self-replicating plague of bullsh%$ “agreements” is finally getting a reckoning, as users wake up to the fact that companies were actually serious when they said that they expected hold us to these absurd legal documents. What’s more, the looming spectre of the EU General Data Protection Regulation, with its mandate for plain language agreements that users have to understand, is calling into question whether it’s possible to even have a business that can only exist if users agree to terms that put the US tax-code to shame.

That is to say, businesses are being told that they are obliged to obtain detailed, informed consent to every single term in their contracts before they can start interacting with their users. The businesses say that undertaking such a process could take hours and that no one would ever use their services if a precondition for their usage is to actually understand what they’re giving away.

To which the EU answers: exactly.

The EU is doing the right thing here.  (I cannot believe that I just said that)

Seriously, the ecology of the commercial internet resembles nothing so much as a petty bunco operation.

It’s About Ireland, and Luxembourg, and ………

The EU is moving to tax gross revenue on digital sales based on where the purchaser is located.

If it sounds extreme, it’s not. It’s a sales tax, much like the VAT, which is universal throughout the European Union.

The above article presents this as something unprecedented, but it is not, and the proximate cause is because any number of countries in the EU, most notoriously Ireland and Luxembourg, compete economically by being tax havens.

This is a simple and elegant solution, and it is in no way protectionist or discriminatory.

Free trade should not be synonymous with tax evasion.

Son of Brexit

In Italy, the 5-Star Party has said that it is open to holding a referendum on leaving the Euro Zone:

The leader of Italy’s main opposition party said he was keeping the option of a referendum on the euro open in the event his party won elections and failed to convince Brussels of the need to change some of the euro zone’s economic rules.

In comments made on state TV on Sunday, Luigi Di Maio, the man widely tipped to be the candidate for prime minister of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said he wanted to negotiate concessions on EU governance.

“If we succeed, Europe will be changed and we won’t need a referendum on the euro. Otherwise we’ll ask Italians if they want to stay in or not,” he said.

Obviously, leaving the Euro Zone is different from leaving the EU, but Italy is the 3rd largest economy in the Euro Zone, and the fact that a major party in Italian politics is explicitly putting leaving the Euro on the table is a big deal

The Euro increasingly resembles a suicide pact that leaves only Germany standing, and so leaving the Euro, or getting Germany, and failed German economics, out of the Euro, is an essential step to fixing the Euro.

Things just don’t work well when the Germans dominate Europe.