We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Who is it that benefits from clearing? The clearing houses like it, obviously, because they makes that basis point or two. But the people who really benefit – as with the bread – are the people who get their clearing done. Which is why they’re willing to pay to have it done of course. And, in the modern financial world, if you’re not getting your clearing done then you go bust.

So, the EU Commission has just graciously announced that the European banking system doesn’t have to go bust. Which is nice of them, of course it is, but it would be better to report it correctly, no?

Tim Worstall pointing out that ‘European Union announces that EU Banks don’t all have to go bust because Brexit’.

Which do you want more, strict product liability or a Coronavirus vaccine?

The Brussels Times reports,

Coronavirus: Belgian experts ‘shocked’ as AstraZeneca seeks liability waiver for vaccine

A pharmaceutical firm developing a coronavirus vaccine of which Belgium has already secured millions of doses has made the “exceptional” request to not be held liable for any potential side effects.

As it enters the final stages of human trials in the development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus, drugmaker AstraZeneca has introduced several requests to be protected from future claims of liability.

The request was received with surprise by some observers in Belgium, with, health and medical law experts in Belgium referring to it as exceptional or even shocking.

Professor Thierry Vansweevelt is one of those most shocked.

“There is a European directive on product liability,” Vansweevelt said. “Any producer who places a defective product on the market is responsible for that without exceptions. You can’t escape that.”

For the sake of the people of Belgium, a country of which I am fond, I rather hope they can escape it. It is telling that even its supporters see this directive as something that people might want to escape.

I saw this story on Reddit UK politics. It is usually a bit of a left wing hive mind, so I was relieved to see that the highest-recommended comment was by someone going by the name “LiteralTory” who said,

I’m shocked he’s shocked. Developed under incredible pressure and speed. A novel mechanism of action compared to other vaccines. Going to be given to literally billions of people within months of release. Even extremely rare side effects could be numerous enough to destroy the company. And with no vaccine, who bears the risk? Governments, populations and economies. I can entirely see why in this instance they’d expect governments and populations to accept a certain share of the risk.

Does this professor have no imagination not to be able to see that?

What is so bad about Russian “interference” with UK referendums anyway?

“49% of voters believe Kremlin interfered in Brexit referendum”, reports the Guardian.

Almost half the British public believes the Russian government interfered in the EU referendum and last year’s general election, according to a poll. The latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that 49% of voters think there was Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, with 23% disagreeing. Some 47% believed Russia interfered in the December general election.

The poll findings come after the long-awaited publication of the report into Russian interference by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee last week. It found that the government had not attempted to investigate potential Russian interference in the referendum. It said the UK had “badly underestimated” the Russian threat.

I am busy and must be brief. Vladimir Putin belongs at the end of a rope for his crimes: crimes like murdering his political opponents, sponsoring terrorism and waging aggressive war against neighbouring countries. But most of the events described in this hyped up list are technical crimes of a sort that should not be a crime at all. Most rules on election spending and use of data to target potential voters are nothing but political protectionism. We call it “interference” when the Russian government tries to influence the political opinions of British people and “outreach” when the British government or the European Union tries to influence the political opinions of Russian people. You hear the words “interference in elections” and are meant to think of stolen ballot boxes and forged votes. But Russians posting anonymous, dishonest and obnoxious opinions on Twitter and Reddit for money – who cares? They are lost in the crowd of Brits doing the same for free.

A change of tune

“Brussels moves to preserve access to London clearing houses”, reports the Financial Times.

Brussels is to adopt emergency measures to preserve Europe’s access to crucial UK financial market infrastructure after the country’s post-Brexit transition period expires, the bloc’s regulation chief said on Thursday.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s executive vice-president in charge of financial policy, said Brussels would adopt “time-limited” access rights to make sure that European companies could still access UK-based clearing houses after the end of this year.

“This decision is being taken to address the possible risks to financial stability related to the specific area of derivatives clearing,” Mr Dombrovskis said. “However, we would encourage all market participants to prepare for all possible eventualities, as we have consistently called on them to do throughout this process.”

Mr Dombrovskis did not specify when the access rights would expire, but the move will provide short-term certainty for traders in the specific area of clearing while Brussels continues to discuss future relations with the UK.

To be frank I have only the vaguest idea what a clearing house does. It sounds worryingly like tidying. But whatever it is, for the EU to adopt “emergency measures to preserve Europe’s access to crucial UK financial market infrastructure” seems a distinct change from its previous policy, also mentioned in the article:

Brussels has repeatedly urged the financial sector and companies to adapt to the fact that Britain is leaving the single market; the EU also adopted legislation last year to make it easier to force clearing houses to relocate to the continent. But progress has been slower than the EU had hoped and investors have kept their business in the UK.

I am not surprised at the investors’ decision. I do not need to be an expert in decluttered differentials to be able to work out that if the EU felt the need to pass laws to make it easier to force investors to move their business out of the UK that means they would be better off staying put.

L’affaire Cummings

Please. Stop acting like this Dominic Cummings farrago is actually about “what Dom Cummings did within the context of Wuhan Coronavirus in the UK”.

It ain’t.

Almost everything in UK media & politics makes perfect sense when viewed through the lens of Brexit, and that will be true until 1st January 2021.

Cummings is usually described as ‘hard line’ on the recommendations he gives regarding Brexit. It is obvious that the Cummings lynch mobs are really only interested in ‘salvaging’ some kind BRINO from the ‘catastrophe’ of Brexit.

In spite of coronavirus, it is still actually Brexit that really still drives everything in UK. Everyone worldwide is going to try and use coronavirus to leverage their preexisting political objectives, and UK is no exception. Normal politics will resume next year.

Security against what?

“China proposes controversial Hong Kong security law”, reports the BBC:

China is proposing to introduce a new security law in Hong Kong that could ban sedition, secession and subversion.

And:

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which provides the territory certain freedoms not available on the mainland, does require its government to bring in a security law. It had tried to enact the so-called “sedition law” in 2003 but more than 500,000 people took to the streets and it was dropped.

I would have welcomed more information on this mysterious clause in the Basic Law that requires Hong Kong’s government “to bring in a security law”. On what timescale? Who is the judge as to whether a security law does or does not meet this mysterious requirement? Oh yes, and SECURITY FROM WHAT?

But that paragraph was a model of robust independent reporting compared to this one:

A mainland source told the South China Morning Post that Beijing had decided Hong Kong would not be able to pass its own security law and the NPC would have to take the responsibility.

That makes it sound as if Hong Kong’s parliamentarians were not clever enough to pass this law, or that they were dodging the “responsibility” of passing it the way a negligent father might dodge his maintenance payments. To be charitable, these are the words of a “mainland source”, that is, a man whose tongue is operated from a distance by a controller with a joystick, but why does the British Broadcasting Corporation let pass without challenge the Orwellian language of the Chinese Communist Party? We do not have to do that. We are not in the EU any more.

Covid-positive sex-mad Nazis and the Terminal Markets Act 1973

OK, the inclusion of the words “sex-mad” in that title was merely a desperate scheme1 to try and get you to read an article on a case brought against the UK by the European Commission in the European Court of Justice regarding the Terminal Markets Act 1973. However there really is mention of Nazis, and of the coronavirus, though not of the former being infected by the latter. In fact I would have preferred it if there had been less of the Nazi stuff2: the rather tasteless comparisons to World War II made me inclined to dismiss this “Briefings for Britain” piece on the case from two days ago, but I have a feeling that maybe it ought not to be dismissed.

In it, Caroline Bell writes:

This Thursday, the European Court of Justice delivers its verdict in the European Commission’s infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom for failing to impose VAT on transactions in the City’s multi-trillion-dollar derivatives markets. Launched during the murky days of the Brexit withdrawal negotiations in 2018, this judicial time bomb has the potential to blow up both free trade talks and the Withdrawal Treaty itself if the Court finds against the UK.

Which it did. The judgement issued today can be read here.

Caroline Bell speculates that a decision against the UK might have dramatic consequences:

In terms of trade talks, an adverse judgment would probably mean the City could kiss goodbye to any sort of enhanced equivalence (which Brussels is not willing to grant anyway) and even basic equivalence for financial services could be an issue. But for every blow the EU tries to strike here, the UK is in a position to retaliate much harder against EU financial institutions, so the outcome is again likely to be neutral. Does anyone even expect there to be a financial service agreement with the EU anymore? The EU’s action against the Swiss in this area to try to bring them to heel has badly backfired, and would do so if they applied the same tactics on the UK.

I know that quite a few of our readers work in the legal and financial fields. Is there anything to this story? What effect will the verdict on Case C‑276/19 have?

1I think it was the humourist Alan Coren who said that since the bestseller charts back then in the 70s always seemed to be topped by sex books, WWII books and golf books, his next book ought to be about sex-mad golfing Nazis. Edit: I had misremembered. Alan Peakall and Mr Ed have pointed out the existence of Golfing for Cats, pub. 1976. How many publishers would dare have that cover today?

2A wish shared by most of Planet Earth in 1945.

Yes, we have no Eurobonds, we have no Eurobonds today

There’s a fruit store on our street
It’s run by a Greek.
And he keeps good things to eat
But you should hear him speak!
When you ask him anything, he never answers “no”.
He just “yes”es you to death, and as he takes your dough
He tells you
“Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today.”

Those are some of the words to the 1923 hit song “Yes, We Have No Bananas” by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn. The song is mostly associated with World War II, but according to Wikipedia it had found its way into the history books before that:

The song was the theme of the outdoor relief protests in Belfast in 1932. These were a unique example of Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland protesting together, and the song was used because it was one of the few non-sectarian songs that both communities knew. The song lent its title to a book about the depression in Belfast.

For nine decades “the depression” meant the one that started in 1929. But the coronavirus looks likely to bring in its wake an economic depression that may well take the definite article for itself. Naomi O’Leary of the Irish Times reports,

Euro finance ministers reach compromise to fund pandemic recovery

Deal dashes hopes of Italy, Ireland and seven others for the roll out of so-called corona bonds

The 19 members of the euro zone agreed a compromise on Thursday to aid states in need of funding to address the profound economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

But it dashed the hopes of Italy, Ireland, Spain and six other member states that had called for eurobonds to bring down borrowing costs and send a signal of unity as the continent confronts a health crisis that is threatens to become an economic disaster.

Under the deal, states can borrow from the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund to finance spending needed to overcome the crisis.

I do not seek to play down their achievement in reaching a compromise at all. Every finance minister on Earth must be passing sleepless nights wondering how best to deal with our current predicament. But the dilemma faced by the Eurozone countries is particularly acute. Italy and Spain will never forgive the EU if they receive no help in their hour of need. But the northern countries were repeatedly assured that EU membership and the adoption of the Euro would never mean they had to write a blank cheque to what they see as the spendthrifts to the south (and a few other directions besides). The Dutch, the Germans, the Finns and the Austrians must hope that when they say, “yes, we have no Eurobonds” the upbeat momentum of the first three words will carry them over the next two.

Samizdata quote of the day

There are no limits to our commitment to the euro.

Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank. The linked Guardian article in which I found the quote is titled “ECB U-turn shows it fears coronavirus could destroy eurozone project”.

Samizdata quote of the day

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!

Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss to all the world!

– Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy, Beethoven’s setting of which is the Anthem of Europe.

Sing all the way through this while washing your hands to help avoid the spread of coronavirus. Other songs recommended for this purpose include Stairway to Heaven and Another One Bites the Dust.

This video has been viewed 726 million times

Europe – The Final Countdown

Name me one good thing about Brexit…

Start with this:

Article 13: UK will not implement EU copyright law

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore has said that the UK will not implement the EU Copyright Directive after the country leaves the EU.

Several companies have criticised the law, which would hold them accountable for not removing copyrighted content uploaded by users, if it is passed.

EU member states have until 7 June 2021 to implement the new reforms, but the UK will have left the EU by then.

The UK was among 19 nations that initially supported the law.

That was in its final European Council vote in April 2019.

This Samizdata post from March 2019 contains a list of links to other posts that give the background.