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So far Bart Hulley has created 416 blog entries.

Brexit Breakthrough?

By | 2017-12-08T09:13:55+00:00 December 8th, 2017|Brexit|

So the breakthrough deal is this: The UK is going to 'align' itself with the single market so that there is no hard border in Ireland. So it will be like being in the EEA - with the UK having to obey the rules to keep trading, but having no say in what those rules are. The only difference as far as I can tell will be that the European Court of Justice will not be the final court of arbitration - but rather some new court that takes the ECJ's views into account. If the UK do change something that breaks the rules they'll have to let NI decide what to do - which although no one dares to use the term - would give them special status with one foot in the UK and one foot in the EU. There will need to be an EU body set up to ensure the UK is actually obeying the rules and that untaxed goods aren't making it into the EU via the NI/UK backdoor. There will need to be [...]

What is Ouigo?

By | 2017-08-29T11:53:43+00:00 August 29th, 2017|Life in France|

While the TGV might be the fastest and most comfortable way of travelling around France it is far from being the cheapest. A typical return journey from Strasbourg to Paris will set you back around 130€ for an off peak ticket, typically booked in advance. With these sorts of prices it's not surprising that the government has had to bow to pressure to provide more affordable long distance travel options for the nation. As minister of finance, President Emmanuel Macron deregulated the buses to finally introduce the nation to the joy of long distance coach journeys. Previously, the only way to travel by coach across the country was by charter or on an international stopping service. The reason for this was that previous governments did not want anyone directly competing with the railways. The Ouibus and Flixbus networks are the net result of this new legislation. Although, Ouibus is still operated by SNCF, the French railway company. French protectionism lives on! Happily, cash strapped travellers need not despair, there is an alternative to sitting in a musty box, with [...]

It’s not too late to move to France

By | 2017-06-27T16:35:02+00:00 June 27th, 2017|Brexit|

Having successfully submitted my dossier for French naturalisation I am somewhat ambivalent to the proposals put forward by the British Government in round one of the UK's Brexit negotiations, not least because, provided my application to become French is approved, they will have precisely no affect on me nor my immediate family. I do have a great deal of empathy though for those living abroad, in the UK or in the EU, for whom the nonsense document published yesterday is supposed to safeguard "the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU." - a document that reads like a C-grade high school Social Science project. Frankly, if anyone wanted clarity on the coming arrangements for citizens they need only to refer to section 33 which, as I am sure you will agree, couldn't be more vague: "The ability of EU citizens arriving after the specified date subsequently to obtain further or indefinite permission to stay will depend on the rules in place at the time at which they apply. These will be [...]

France Insoumise or the other (national) front

By | 2017-05-09T13:32:05+00:00 May 9th, 2017|Life in France|

If you are to believe the enthused youth electorate, the party lead by Jean-Luc Melenchon, know today as France Insoumise - or previously as the Front de Gauche (The Left-wing National Front) - are going to be the main opposition in the National Assembly come the elections in June. This belief despite their main man only gaining enough support to come forth in the Presidential elections and currently having only 10 representatives in the assembly. It seems that they are banking on a surge of support from disenfranchised voters following the collapse of France's two traditional political forces - The Socialist Party and The Republicans - and a belief that Macron only won by default (and not through policy). However, such gung-ho optimism should be pared back given a quick reading of their manifesto - which will make worrying reading for anyone with more than two pennies to rub together. Here's what they are currently posting as their "10 emblematic proposals" (I have translated from their very enigmatic French): A referendum to define the 6th Republic A new right [...]

Ni-Ni, Nazi or Banker?

By | 2017-05-02T07:40:58+00:00 May 2nd, 2017|Life in France|

Some might say that the French election has taken a turn for the worse this past week, though the truth is this has little to do with the candidates. It is more a case of the French electorate taking a turn for the worse. In my ten plus years in France never have I been so aware of the stupidity of your average French citizen. Alas, I knew this day would come. One of the factors driving me away from the United Kingdom was this same realisation - that your average British voter has about as much between his or her ears as a cockroach when it comes to politics. Only now, having mastered the French language and made an effort to understand French law and politics, do I realise that the population of France are about as clued-up as child of six when it comes to understanding how a country functions. Having integrated myself into French society I now have the unfortunate occasion to see acquaintances post their support for Le Pen on their Facebook time lines. I [...]

One week to go

By | 2017-04-16T20:25:19+00:00 April 16th, 2017|Life in France|

So we're a mere 7 days away from decision time. So, even though I have yet to qualify as a member of the electorate, I thought I would give you a quick biased run down of the 11 candidates hoping to become France's premier. Nathalie Arthaud Party: Communist Fight Club Day Job: Economics teacher Crazy rating: 5/5 (An economics teacher representing the communists? Seriously?!) Policy highlights: Plans to outlaw redundancy and let the workers have a say in the running of their employer's business. Free money for poor people. The end of capitalism, etc. Electability: 0/5 Philippe Poutou Party: The Anti-capitalists Day Job: Factory Hand Crazy rating: 5/5 Policy highlights: Overthrow capitalism through revolution and all that sort of thing... Electability: 0/5 Jean-Luc Mélenchon Party: The Super-Socialists for a Rebellious France Day Job: Politician Crazy rating: 4/5 (Former bog-standard socialist turned ultra-socialist) Policy highlights: Create constitutional chaos by forming the 6th Republic through a referendum. Ditch EU, Euro and Nato. Tax the rich so heavily they'll want to leave France. Electability: 3/5 (surprisingly popular with young voters looking to [...]

Unhappy article 50 day

By | 2017-03-28T10:11:48+00:00 March 29th, 2017|Brexit|

So today's the day when Mrs May formally announces the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. It seems the time is right then to make a few predictions about the way things will go over the next few weeks and months as the negotiations commence and unfold: Value of sterling (£) The markets and money men seem to react most when there are nasty surprises. Given that article 50 has been a long time coming, I doubt whether today will see much of a change in the value of the pound. Indeed, it may even strengthen against the Dollar and Euro as teenage hedge-fund algorithm writers are most likely focussed on the political uncertainty of the coming European elections in France, Germany and Italy. However, the outlook for both Germany and France is positive for the pro-European parties so I'd expect the Euro to strengthen in May and then again in October. It is only the Italian elections in 2018 that are likely to provide any volatility - and even then the populists are unlikely to win [...]

The UK will become a tax haven

By | 2017-01-19T10:01:49+00:00 January 19th, 2017|Brexit|

That was the threat that May gave yesterday in her speech if the UK was forced to walk away from the negotiating table at the Brexit negotiations. Previously I postulated that UK citizens living abroad and EU citizens living in the UK would be used as May's key bargaining chip and, although that may yet come to pass, it seems she has decided that the EU will be more likely to react to a tax haven being set up on the edge of Europe. However, while the right-wing press might be applauding this manoeuvre, it is an empty threat. Why? Because it's going to happen anyway. In fact it's already happening. How many headlines have their been about the sweetheart tax deals and big multinationals not paying their fair share? The legality of it is neither here nor there for the UK government - as long as the super rich remain happy (because they fund the political parties.) Le Monde once described The City of London as Europe's biggest money laundering operation. Outside of the EU's banking regulation The [...]

Show me a motion

By | 2017-01-16T12:57:55+00:00 January 16th, 2017|Life in France|

A little while ago I came across this one-liner on Facebook which I duly shared with my students: Grammar: the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit. I thought this was a neat way to demonstrate to those learning the language of, albeit far removed from, Shakespeare how a simple apostrophe can dramatically change the meaning of something. It also helps demonstrate the flexibility of the noun "shit;" which in literal terms we know signifies excrement but here implies two polar states of enlightenment - first devout knowledge and then half-wittedness. While some might frown on me for teaching the youth of France English swear words it is worth considering how many everyday, anglophonic conversations might contain one of the following uses of the excremental word: To shit on someone from a great height To be full of shit To be in the shit To take someone’s shit To shit or get off the toilet To say "No shit" or "Are you shitting me?" To talk bullshit To talk shit When the shit hits the fan etc. [...]

There is a plan

By | 2016-11-23T10:36:28+00:00 November 23rd, 2016|Brexit|

Despite the accusations of having "no clear plan" for Brexit negotiations I believe there is in fact one and it's crystal clear, albeit conceived in cloud-cuckoo land. I reckon that May, Davies and Johnson will demand that the UK remain in the single market while doing away with freedom of movement. This is what they have implied time and again, and have not changed their tune despite the response from EU leaders. Presumably they are hoping that by sticking to this position throughout the 2 years of negotiations - the EU will eventually cave in and give it to them - as they have on many occasions in the past. However, I can see no reason for the EU to cave in this time. The main bargaining chip in the past has been the threat of the UK's withdrawal from the EU (for all our exceptions and opt-outs we've had as full half-hearted members of the EU club), but that threat can no longer be relied upon to get the EU's negotiators to back down - which means the [...]