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While we follow the soap operas at Westminster, Brussels and Washington other things happen in the world. Some of them will have effects that may still reverberate when the names “May” or “Merkel” or “Trump” have become no more than answers to pub quiz questions. Harry Phibbs, writing in CapX, has depressing news:

Anti-scientific EU rules are hindering work to save millions of lives

Let us consider another EU imposition. It is a rule that inhibits our contribution to the fight against malaria. According to UNICEF this disease is “the largest killer of children” on the planet. That agency estimates that malaria kills one child every 30 seconds, about a million a year. Most of those children are under five years of age, with 90 per cent of cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Research suggests that while the number of deaths has fallen since 2010, in the last couple of years progress has stalled.

The good news is that a gene editing application has been developed which could eradicate malaria. It is called CRISPR — Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats — and is considered “cheaper, faster, and less error-prone than any gene editing technology that came before it”. It could help preserve endangered species, improve welfare for farm animals — and save the lives of millions of children. The idea is to make mosquitoes immune to the disease.

But

In July, the BBC reported that the “European Court of Justice ruled that altering living things using the relatively new technique of genome editing counts as genetic engineering.” It added that “scientists who work in the areas of gene editing and genetic modification warned that the ruling would hold back cutting-edge research and innovation.”

Denis Murphy, professor of biotechnology at the University of South Wales, said the EU rules would “potentially impose highly onerous burdens on the use of genome editing both in agriculture and even in medicine, where the method has recently shown great promise for improving human health and well being.”

I must be honest here. As I read that article, mixed in with the genuine sadness and anger I felt about the way the EU’s restrictions look likely to hinder the development of a technique that could have alleviated large amounts of human suffering, I also felt a certain ignoble exhilaration. The European Union is being as bad as I always said it was. I had found a devastating answer to “Name me one bad thing the EU does, then!” It is possible that partisan passion is blinding me to the good reasons the ECJ might have had for caution. Ecosystems are complicated. Messing about with them has a habit of going wrong. Think of the introduction of rabbits to Australia or Mao’s attempt to eradicate sparrows from China.

One of the skipped-over paragraphs from Mr Phibbs’ article that I covered with the word “But” is this one:

“The team began with just two edited males, designated mosquitoes 10.1 and 10.2, into which the drive was inserted. After two generations of cross-breeding with hundreds of wild-type mosquitoes — and in mosquitoes, two generations can pass in less than a month — they produced 3,894 third-generation mosquitoes, of which 3,869 (99.5 percent) had the resistance gene. Just two mosquitoes were able to spread the trait to thousands of progeny — and malaria resistance along with it.”

The speed of that geometric progression scares me. Once started, the spread of these gene-edited mosquitoes could not be easily reversed.

But maybe it does not scare you, and you know more of genome editing than I do. My knowledge of biology is that of an attentive reader of pop science. Can any of you tell me more about this subject? Is the EU being as bad as I always said it was?

Samizdata quote of the day

The thing is we know how these sorts of plans work out. France has long insisted that a certain amount of French language – and often French produced – material be played upon radio stations. So, there’s a cottage industry in recording songs in French. Which then sell 15 copies – enough for one to each radio station – which are then played at 3 am when even Frenchmen are asleep. This meets the quota and the daytime hours, when adverts are worth something, is in English just as the listeners want it to be.

Given that we’re talking about on demand services here even that much chicanery won’t be necessary. Buy up the rights to some set of old European shlock and have it available in the catalogue and we’re done. There will be tapes of old Danish game shows out there, Greek chat shows, French – Que Dieu nous aide – intellectual debates. The rights to each entire series costing perhaps €1 in perpetuity. Stick them up and we’re done. Judging by the standard output of Portuguese TV there’re thousands upon thousands of hours of accordion music available.

No one will watch them of course, just as they didn’t first time around. The law will have had no effect other than to signal the cultural sensitivity – and economic stupidity – of MEPs. But then what would politics be if it wasn’t mere such signalling?

Tim Worstall nailing it perfectly 😀

Knavish tricks

The New European justifies its reputation as a great organ by running this story by Jonathon Read:

‘Snowflake’ minister Raab blocks anti-Brexit groups on Twitter after this photograph emerges

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has blocked two anti-Brexit groups on Twitter after a photograph emerged of him with a campaigner wearing a sign saying “he has no idea what he’s doing.”

Raab has previously styled himself as a free speech champion, hitting out at the culture of offence in the United Kingdom, and claiming in an interview that “we’re seeing a salami slicing of free speech.”

The photograph was taken by a young campaigner from the anti-Brexit group Our Future, Our Choice and has been widely shared on social media.

The group’s co-founder, Richard Brooks, has hit out at the Brexit secretary for blocking the young anti-Brexit movement on Twitter and acting like a “snowflake.”

“Young people and students across the country are legitimately concerned about their future’s because of the disaster that is Brexit,” Brooks explained. “We were always told that young people should try and engage more in politics and debate, but obviously the Brexit secretary doesn’t want that to happen.”

There is nothing inconsistent between wishing to champion free speech and blocking people on Twitter. A belief in free speech does not oblige you to listen to everyone in the world, particularly not to those who have played nasty little playground tricks in an effort to humiliate. To claim that if you believe in free speech you must never block anyone on social media would be like claiming that if you believe in free speech you must never turn off the radio or the TV when a speaker you dislike comes on, or must keep it permanently tuned to a channel sponsored by your political enemies. Even the idols of Our Future, Our Choice in the European Commission have not demanded the compulsory installation of 1984-style Telescreens, though given the way the thoughts of the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, are tending perhaps I should not be giving them ideas.

Dominic Raab is in no need of me to defend him. Given that he is a successful politican who has achieved ministerial office he probably has a thick skin and given that he is a successful politician who has achieved ministerial office he probably only defends free speech after running it past the Chief Whip. However Richard Brooks’ pretence at the pretence of girlish innocence in the line “We were always told that young people should try and engage more in politics and debate, but obviously the Brexit secretary doesn’t want that to happen” is still revolting. European Youth is back to its usual more openly bullying form with the tweet from another “activist” approvingly quoted by Read: “You might not like listening to @OFOCBrexit or our friends @FFSake_ but it’s pretty clear you can’t keep hiding from us…”

Wise advice…

Dear “Barmier than most,”

I sympathize. It must be dreadful for a eurocrat of your breeding and position to have to deal with ordinary people like the British. However, their great weakness is that they are, at heart, a nation of shopkeepers. It’s trade they want, so sign a deal that gives them it, and present it to your European masters as a triumph, in which the Brits have been tricked into doing the sordid stuff like buying and selling goods, leaving the far classier Europeans to loftily pursue “the European Project,” making pious homilies about “moving towards an ever-greater union of peoples.” The Brits will fall for it because they are just money-grubbers who have no soul, whereas the Europeans, especially the French, who always found the Brits rather strange, will enjoy feeling superior.

Agatha Antigone

Support Corbyn and McDonnell to secure Brexit?

The Guardian reports,

John McDonnell: Labour wants to push ahead with Brexit

On eve of conference, shadow chancellor defies calls for party to promise second referendum

Labour would fight a snap general election vowing to press ahead with Brexit, but it would secure better terms, John McDonnell has said, defying demands from party members to include a second-referendum pledge in any manifesto.

Read the comments to that Guardian piece to get a sense of how well that goes down with most Labour members. The current top comment is:

Fine, well you do that Labour, and enjoy being in permanent opposition when remainers like me stop voting for you.

The next most recommended comment is:

For gods sake Labour. This was your chance and you’ve blown it. You’ve completely misread the way the wind is blowing and put your desire for hard-line socialism in front of taking care of the most vulnerable, which Brexit will hit the hardest. I despair with the state of things right now.

In all matters but one I am much closer to sympathy with folks like “ArchNemesis666” and “Stimpers” than with Corbyn or the self-proclaimed Marxist McDonnell. So why do I find myself beginning to wonder if it might not be best for the country that he and his see-no-evil “present but not involved” boss Corbyn retain the affections of their student fans in the Labour party for the foreseeable future?

For the UK as a whole, for many months now polls have given a slight majority for the idea that leaving the EU was a bad decision. We should expect this. After any vote there is usually a sense of buyer’s remorse. Those who got the result they wanted move on with their lives. Those who did not dwell bitterly on their loss and as a result dominate the conversation, prompting a switch by the least committed supporters of the winning side. This is why after most elections the new government has only a short honeymoon before it is overtaken in the polls by the Opposition. That can flip back quite fast if another election is called, as the general election of 2015 demonstrated.

So I am not moved by arguments that the few percentage points by which the answer “wrong” leads “right” to the question “Was it right or wrong to leave the EU?” in opinion polls means that “the people have changed their minds” and Brexit has lost its “democratic legitimacy”. On those grounds scarcely any government’s democratic legitimacy would last longer than a few weeks. It would become impossible for any government to get anything done… whoa, I could get into that idea. But I want it applied to equally to all sides.

So, as a matter of fact, if another EU referendum were held I would have good hope that Leave would win again on those grounds alone. Only a very small part of my visceral hatred of the idea of another referendum comes from the odds I give for my chosen side to win. There is more at stake.

The EU referendum was no ordinary vote. Its supporters waited forty years. They were not meant to win; in large part they were the disillusioned and disaffected who do not usually turn out to vote. But les miserables awoke from their slumber, an outcome the Left has always claimed to be its dearest desire. And they won.

Imagine a football game. The underdogs play the game of their lives and against the odds win the cup. Only the referee is in league with the favourites and finds a way to disallow the victory and force a rematch. There is consternation. “My dear chaps, no need to get so worked up,” says the chairman of the other team from his VIP box, “it’s not as if we are being given the cup without another match. You will have another chance.” And he smiles, because he knows that his side only has to win once.

We forget. Nations vote because civil war is expensive. Referendums are used when the sides are entrenched, well matched in size and compromise is impossible.

Does that seem melodramatic? Remainers are fond of pointing out that the Leave vote skews old. What are they gonna do, rise up in revolt from their Zimmer frames?

What people do not take into account is that the lesson that the result of a referendum will only be honoured when the government side wins will not only be learned by the Brexiteers. It will also be learned by supporters of any cause who are tempted to violence. In Northern Ireland, the IRA have accepted that Irish reunification can be striven for by the ballot rather than the bullet. What would be the effect on them of a demonstration that a majority vote will not necessarily be honoured by the British government?

John McDonnell is quite right:

“The debate around the next manifesto will go on, but I really worry about another referendum,” he said.

“I’m desperately trying to avoid any rise of xenophobia that happened last time around; I’m desperately trying to avoid giving any opportunity to Ukip or the far right. I think there’s the real risk of that. We’re not ruling out a people’s vote, but there’s a real risk, and I think people need to take that into account when we’re arguing for one.”

“The European Commission only has to win once”

Following on from Johnathan Pearce’s recent post about the EU Copyright Directive, I found this comment by a user called Ask_Me_Who in Reddit Europe. It dates from the first turn of the ratchet, back in June, but in the light of what has happened since it is more relevant than ever:

MEP’s can not create, amend, or reject proposals. They can act as a method of slowing them, requesting changes or rethinks of proposed policies, but if the other (unelected) parts of the EU want to force through a proposal they can just keep pushing it until it gets through in the knowledge that elected MEP’s will not have the power to propose future updates, changes, or abolition of legislation.

The European Commission only has to win once and it can never be repealed without the European Commission wishing it so. The people, as represented by elected MEP officials, have to win every time as they do not even have the option to vote in representatives to reverse a decision. This is the ‘democratic deficit’ that even pro-EU supporters widely acknowledge when they call for democratic reforms to the MEP system.

If you want to bring up the UK, the European Parliament works similarly to the House of Lords. The difference being that the Lord’s have been deliberately striped of much of their power specifically because they do not represent the people, while the MEP’s have never been given the power needed to actually represent the people.

EDIT- And if you think that’s depressing, since the Treaty of Lisbon (2007) lobbying has been an officially recognised and encouraged part of MEP’s decision process under the re-brand “European interest representation”. 30% of former MEP’s go on to work as lobbyists for major industries. Yeah, the people who only have to slip up once can accept weekly fancy dinners and then go on to make €€€ working for companies who give zero shits about what general public’s well-being.

Another example of the EU ratchet in action. No wonder they adopted the use of the neverendum so readily.

Those MEPs, eh?

For me, one of the arguments for getting out of the EU (the list of reasons is very long, but this is a Friday, and the pub beckons) was due to the lack of decent democratic accountability of the EU as a structure. That doesn’t of course mean that I am a naive believer in majoritarian democracy (I’m well aware of Tocqueville’s wisdom about the tyranny of the majority). But given that the direction of travel of the EU is towards more centralisation of powers, which may be needed to make the dysfunctional euro work (fiscal transfers, more ability to shuffle money around, etc, etc), such a process requires serious democratic legitimacy. Such a polity does not exist, and an example of its non-existence came this week with the EU Parliament’s vote to agree moves to move against the internet in certain respects.

A big majority of MEPs voted for the directive, and a thousand curses upon them. So here’s a thing: how many European citizens, even if they are interested in this matter around copyright, the internet and use of memes, know who their MEPs are? I’d wager that only a small, single-digit percentage, do. Now I am a Londoner who writes about current affairs a bit and follows these things, and I had to Google up a search to find out who my MEPs are. And given how such MEPs don’t directly represent a constituency as with an MP under our first-past-the-post system but are elected via proportional representation under a list system, there’s no real connection between voters and the chap or woman in suits sitting in the parliament. Add to the fact that the parliament has no great ability to repeal directives as far as I know, and cannot initiative laws, etc, then its value as a break on power appears to be very low indeed. But the parliament does, as this case shows, have the ability to confer a sort of cloak of legitimacy over the law-making engines of the European Commission. The lack of connection between voter and MEP also means the latter’s vote will be a mystery to the electors in whose name the members supposedly act.

There may be other reasons why the UK is leaving the EU that are easier to put into a newspaper headline, but for me this is the sort of reason why the EU is a remote, yet malign force, and not, as far as I can see, a bulwark of anyone’s liberties.

Do not read this!

The BBC reports:

European Parliament backs copyright changes

Controversial new copyright laws have been approved by members of the European Parliament.

The laws had been changed since July when the first version of the copyright directive was voted down. Critics say they remain problematic.

Many musicians and creators claim the reforms are necessary to fairly compensate artists.

But opponents fear that the plans could destroy user-generated content, memes and parodies.

Leaders of the EU’s member states still need to sign off on the rule changes before the individual countries have to draft local laws to put them into effect.

The vote in Strasbourg was 438 in favour of the measures, 226 against and 39 abstentions.

MEPs voted on a series of changes to the original directive, the most controversial parts are known as Article 13 and Article 11.

Article 13 puts the onus on web giants to take measures to ensure that agreements with rights-holders for the use of their work are working.

Critics say that would require all internet platforms to filter content put online by users, which many believe would be an excessive restriction on free speech.

Article 11 is also controversial because it forces online platforms to pay news organisations before linking to their stories, something critics refer to a “link tax”.

Julia Reda MEP, who has fought hard against this, says,

Catastrophic Article 11 vote: The European Parliament just endorsed a #linktax that would make using the title of a news article in a link to it require a license. #SaveYourInternet #SaveTheLink

and

Article 13 vote: The European Parliament endorses #uploadfilters for all but the smallest sites and apps. Anything you want to publish will need to first be approved by these filters, perfectly legal content like parodies & memes will be caught in the crosshairs #SaveYourInternet

A small silver lining to the cloud is that this move by the EU is particularly unpopular with just that crowd who usually love the EU most.

Strange companions on the boat to Canada

ITV’s Political Editor Robert Peston says,

David Davis may win his Canada-style Brexit deal

David Davis may have won.

What do I mean?

Well I am hearing from multiple sources that the only trade deal the EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier will countenance is Davis’s cherished Free Trade Agreement, what he called Canada Plus, rather than any version of May’s Chequers plan.

Here for example is the debrief of an MP on the Brexit select committee chaired by Hilary Benn, who met Barnier yesterday in Brussels:

“Remarkable how dismissive Barnier was of the two central pillars of Chequers – customs and common rule book for goods. It’s not a matter of how it will fare in Parliament. It won’t be agreed by the EU. We are back to Canada-style FTA”.

The Brexiters on the select committee are ecstatic; the Remainers are in abject despair. And to be clear, Barnier was not putting on a special act for British MPs. I am hearing exactly the same about him from Brussels and EU sources.

Now when he was Brexit secretary, Davis came in for a lot of stick, not least from his own ministerial and civil-servant colleagues, for not being ambitious or diligent enough when negotiating with Barnier – and in the end May and her senior Whitehall adviser on Brexit Olly Robbins went round the back of him and came up with their own Brexit plan. Which prompted David to quit.

But for more than two years he told me a Canada-style arrangement was the only realistic proposition. And it looks as though he was right.

Another well-placed source sees what is happening as an extraordinary but powerful alliance between the EU purists and zealots represented by Barnier and the Tories’ True Brexiters of Davis, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the European Research Group.

Odd bedfellows and strange alliances have always fascinated me. Tell me your tales of them, from history, fiction, politics or your own lives. Oh, and if you want to, talk about how or if Brexit is gonna happen, too.

Is there any reason I should not sign this EU petition?

I refer to this petition: Permanent European Union Citizenship.

Main objectives
EU citizens elect the European Parliament and participate in its work, thus exercising treaty rights, enhancing Union democracy, and reinforcing its citizenship. Noting the ECJ’s view of Union citizenship as a ‘fundamental status’ of nationals of Member States, and that Brexit will strip millions of EU citizens of this status and their vote in European elections, requests the Commission propose means to avoid risk of collective loss of EU citizenship and rights, and assure all EU citizens that, once attained, such status is permanent and their rights acquired.

This petition runs under the aegis of a European Union scheme called The European Citizens’ Initiative. As Wikipedia says,

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a European Union mechanism aimed at increasing direct democracy by enabling “EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies”, introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007. The initiative enables one million citizens of the European Union, who are nationals of at least one quarter of the member states, to call directly on the European Commission to propose a legal act in an area where the Member States have conferred powers onto the EU level.

In other words, like its British equivalent, a petition will be considered if it crosses a certain threshold. Not enacted into law, obviously – don’t hold your breath waiting for any government to give up that monopoly – but it will have passed the first milestone on the long road to becoming law. The EU scheme does seem a tad more meaningful than the UK one.

Turning to this specific petition, I do not see anything that I, as someone who happily voted Leave, should object to. The petition does not seek to stop the United Kingdom from leaving the control of the European Union. If this became law it would mean that Remainers currently angry at losing their automatic right to work in the EU and their vote in EU elections would not lose out from Brexit at all. Although on every website on which I have seen this petition promoted everyone seems to assume that it will be opposed by Leavers, my instinct is to say “A solution that leaves both sides happy – Great!”

I do have some qualms about voting to change the character of the EU when I don’t want to be part of the it. I also worry that I may have missed some Trojan Horse in the wording of the petition. It worries me that so many supporters of this petition seem to think of it as part of their campaign against Brexit. It looks to me as if it would help reconcile many people to Brexit by removing the aspects of Brexit that they most disliked, but have all those die-hard Remainers seen something I missed?

I should say that I think the chance of this petition cutting much ice with the EU are remote. Its supporters in the UK may not have spotted that it makes Brexit less painful and hence more likely, and more likely to be imitated, but the officials and politicians of the EU are not so naive. This proposal would allow a British person an unrestricted right to work in the 27 remaining countries of the EU, but would not allow citizens of the 27 an unrestricted right to work in the UK. Ain’t gonna happen. However I have signed many a petition that had very little chance of passing.

What do you think? Brits and other current EU citizens, will you sign it? UK citizens, if by some strange concatenation of events this became EU law, would you take up the offer of keeping your EU citizenship?

Brexit Britain fails to play the game

But not quite in the sense that the Telegraph‘s Brussels Correspondent, James Crisp, thinks.

He has written a piece entitled “Terrible translations of Brexit White Paper make Britain a laughing stock in Brussels”

British officials botched the translation of Theresa May’s discredited White Paper into European languages, part of a UK strategy to win concessions from Brussels, and failed to translate the document into Irish, despite being locked in fraught Brexit talks over Ireland’s border.

The paper’s executive summary, which Britain hopes to use to help solve the vexed border issue, has been translated, poorly, into 22 languages. The full 100-page document has only been translated into one other language, Welsh, which, unlike Irish, is not an official EU language.

After The Telegraph contacted the British Government, an Irish version was published on Thursday afternoon, two days after the other translations but the damage was already done. A DexEU spokeswoman said the translations were being published as they were finished.

Basic errors and amateurish negligence has not only wasted an opportunity to win hearts and minds on the Continent but will confirm Brussels’ worst suspicions about the government. It exposes, once again, how poorly the Department for Exiting the European Union understands Brussels, its priorities and its culture.

When Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, travelled to Dublin he made a point of addressing reporters in Irish. The gesture was appreciated in Dublin and left some in tears. The EU-27 governments have made it clear they will back Ireland to the hilt with senior figures insisting “we are all Irish”.

In contrast the tin-eared Brits considered the common courtesy of an Irish translation an afterthought.

We saw so many palaces and temples during our visit to Japan that they have merged in my mind. But in one of them, probably the former Imperial Palace at Kyoto, there was a fine recreation of a great daimyo awaiting an audience with the emperor. Etiquette (the sort enforced with swords) forbade him to stroll in and say, “Your Majesty, we need to talk” – even if the emperor needed and wanted to hear what he had to say. No, he had to wait for hours on his knees in a beautiful but austere anteroom, contemplating the painted screens. I thought of that daimyo with his knees aching under his perfectly arranged silk robe when I read Mr Crisp’s line, “It exposes, once again, how poorly the Department for Exiting the European Union understands Brussels, its priorities and its culture.” The priorities and culture of Tokugawa-period Kyoto required that the emperor’s symbolic importance be reinforced by making everyone wait for hours before business could be done. None of the usual reasons or excuses for being kept waiting applied. The wait was the point.

The priorities and culture of European Union-period Brussels require that every document be translated into a couple of dozen languages. I will focus on Irish in particular because for that language the divorce from the usual point of translation, to enable communication, is complete. Not one Irish parliamentarian or official actually needed the White Paper translated into Irish in order to understand it. Probably no more than a handful of them are even capable of reading it in Irish. Like the deference to the emperor in Kyoto when real power lay with the Shogun in Edo, the laborious process of translation into Irish before business can be done is all just a symbolic obeisance, a court ritual, a game.

The UK was never very good at this languages game and will drop it with relief once out of the EU. In contrast Ireland is firmly in the EU and plays the game better than anyone. (Though as I will argue later, this may not be to the advantage of the long term survival of Irish.) Although Irish has been an official language of the EU since 2007, it was only in 2015 that the the decision was taken to upgrade the language to a full working language of the European institutions. By 2022 it is hoped that the “derogation phase” during which the EU was let off the obligation to provide full translation or interpretation services for every document to and from Irish will be over.

The way things are going, the apotheosis of Irish as a full EU working language will coincide neatly with its death as a native language.

Many of the English – and even some of the Irish – shrug their shoulders at the prospect, and talk of “efficiency”. From what I have written so far you might think I was one of them. You would be wrong. I see language death as a tragedy. Quite apart from the loss of beauty, I fear a world unified under one language for the same reasons I fear a world unified under one government. If that last culture falls under the sway of a tyranny, there is nowhere else to flee, no one else to keep the flame alive.

For many reasons I would love to see the apparently inexorable slide towards extinction of more than half the languages spoken on Earth reversed. Alas, that shows no sign of happening. Naturally those who love their threatened language are moved when they hear a visiting foreigner make the effort to speak it. (Really, though, there was no need to burst into tears just because Donald Tusk memorised a few phrases. It was a nice gesture, but if that’s all it takes to get the Irish political class to fall at one’s feet, Theresa May ought to reinstate Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary and get him to do one of his linguistic party pieces.)

Naturally, too, those who love their threatened language want to see it enshrined in an official position of parity with the other languages of Europe. But “enshrined” is the word. Shrines are not raised to the living. The question comes unbidden: who actually reads the endless streams of EU documents translated so dutifully into Irish? I have a horrible suspicion that the answer is no one, no one at all. Lurking on forums discussing the future of the Irish language I have read well-argued claims that the exodus to Brussels of so many of the best-educated native Irish speakers is one of the factors causing the Gaeltachts, the Irish-speaking areas, to decline. It cements the perception – and helps make the perception fact – that for a young person with talent and ambition there is no life to be had in the Gaeltacht. What a strange life these exiles must have. They grow up in one of the few remaining parts of Ireland where the ancient tongue is still spoken in the streets. Presumably inspired by a wish to preserve that inheritance they study for many years to reach the high standards required to be a professional translator or interpreter, and their voices are no longer heard in those streets. Off to Brussels they go (plus a monthly trip to Strasbourg), where they speak beautiful Irish into headphones tuned into another channel and write less beautiful Irish about Section 6, sub-section 13, paragraph 1(a)(iv) of the Directive on This, That and The Other that not one human soul will ever read.

Get them while they’re young

The Courier reports:

Scottish Government asks eight-year-olds to reveal their Brexit views

The Scottish Government is appealing to children as young as eight to share their views on Brexit.

Critics branded the Twitter plea for youngsters to “work with” the government on a Europe panel “creepy”.

But the SNP administration defended the move as giving those who will be most affected by leaving the EU a “voice in the Brexit negotiations”.

The call by the Twitter account ScotGovEurope said: “Are you aged 8 – 18? Children and young people in Scotland are going to be affected by #Brexit, so we want your views!

“Apply to join the @cisweb Children & Young People’s Panel on Europe to work with @scotgov.”

It sparked claims that SNP ministers are trying to indoctrinate children on the constitution.

The charity says that young people have a “right to be heard in the discussions about Brexit”, which they say is backed up by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Brexit is the single biggest threat to our economy and future prosperity, and children and young people will be most affected in the coming years.

“We are therefore supporting Children in Scotland to establish the children and young people’s panel on Europe and enable them to have a voice in the Brexit negotiations.”

Here’s where you can apply to join the Panel, but first they recommend that you ask yourself

Is the project for me?

This project might be for you if you like standing up for the things you believe in, and
talking about:
• What Brexit might mean for your family and friends
• What people in charge should be doing to help children
• What rules people in charge should follow when they make
decisions about Brexit

I think we can safely say that most Samizdata readers qualify. However this one might be more tricky:

• Why children should have their say on Brexit

The question of whether those who think that children should not have their say on Brexit could or should join the Panel is left for the reader. Oh, I nearly forgot, to be eligible you do have to be aged between eight and eighteen. Reassuringly,

You don’t need to know much about Brexit to apply. We will share information with you to
help you to take part.