MOST people over the age of five recognise now that Brexit has not gone well for the United Kingdom. Even the blue passport and fish fanatics who are still determined to press on accept that the past four years have been an absolute disaster, though of course they point the finger of blame at the EU.
Internationally, the reputation of Britain has taken a hammering as it has staggered from one missed deadline to the next, uttering empty threats, the substance of which is ‘If we stab ourselves in the neck you’re going to get spattered with blood.’ And the tearing-up of the solemnly-agreed Withdrawal Agreement (on which the Tories fought and won the December election) has made the British something of a pariah state when it comes to good faith and trust. Good luck to the Brits with signing trade deals with countries who are fully aware that the deal you spent three years making with the EU was torn up in a single House of Commons sentence (yes, Brandon Lewis, we’re looking at you).
All of this is common coin and has been thoroughly litigated in recent weeks and months, but what’s not as widely acknowledged is the UK’s abandonment of its sense of self. Regardless of what we think of Britain’s, ah, colourful past, the British (or perhaps more accurately the English) always maintained a singular pride in their heritage and history; in their stiff upper-lip demeanour; in the reputation they believe they have forged for themselves for fair play.
But the past couple of weeks must surely have prompted even the Daily Mail-reading retired home counties colonels to question what Brexit is doing to the English and their dignity. On October 15, Boris Johnson broke off talks with the EU and threatened to walk away with no deal. And the reason? Well, ‘They wouldn’t give us a Canada-style deal.’ (A Canada-style deal being a deal that removes most, but not all, of the tariffs on goods between the EU and Canada; negotiations started in 2007 and aren’t finished yet.)  It was an acutely embarrassing huff, and even if it was a crude tactic designed to spook the EU, it came at a heavy cost in reputation and dignity, particularly when No.10 told an EU delegation slated to visit London not to bother travelling.
But if that was a case of reddeners all round, the debacle of the airport ‘e-gates’ was toe-curlingly juvenile. Boris Johnson (aka Dominic Cummings) is worried that Brits having to queue for  hours at European airports with other non-EU nationals may go a long way to convincing many of them that leaving the EU wasn’t a great idea after all. And so he demanded that the EU continue to let UK citizens use the fast-track e-gates after the transition period expires in the New Year. The EU told him to take himself off by the hand. Cue more Downing Street foot-stamping and more face-palming among EU negotiators.
Because the refusal didn’t come because Britain can’t be allowed to have the benefits of club membership without paying the dues (eminently obvious though that is), it came because the UK never signed up to the Schengen Agreement, which effectively abolished border checks within Europe. The Schengen agreement would have to be rewritten in order that the Brits not be kept waiting. But the whining was deafening anyway, amplified by a Tory media that accused the EU of acting out of spite because it’s so spiteful that it’s incapable of understanding that anyone acts out of any other motive.
The English have long been looked on askance in Europe, but they always took that on the chin in a kind of ‘no-one likes us, we don’t care’ soccer terraces way. But being unpopular is one thing, being a figure of fun is another thing entirely and Squinter’s not sure that the infamous exceptionalism of the English  makes them capable of dealing with that. ‘Everyone laughs at us, we don’t care’ doesn’t have the same stubborn disregard, does it?
We’re told all of this is bringing us closer to ‘no deal’. But that ignores the fact that there is no such thing as a no-deal Brexit. Unless of course the Tories intend to stop trading for good with their 27 closest neighbours altogether. So what there would actually be is a walk away followed in short order by a tail-between-the-legs request for new talks. And the clown’s red nose will glow redder.

DUP MPs need to get out a bit more in future

THE House of Commons has voted not to provide school meals to needy children during the holidays. Five Tory MPs defied the leadership and voted to do what footballer Marcus Rashford had been urging the government to do, with one leaving the government in order to make her point.
The vote applied only to England as the Executive here has already agreed to give children free meals over the Halloween break. But the DUP’s eight MPs decided that English children are not their concern and abstained. No, correct that. Seven abstained and one – Strangford MP Jim Shannon – voted to feed kids.


That takes a bit of thinking about, doesn’t it? The ‘precious union’ of which the DUP so often and so affectionately speaks is so precious that they can’t be bothered to vote to give poor English children food. SDLP and Alliance MPs voted in favour, naturally.
In Upper Bann, Alliance Councillor Eoin Tennyson was left unimpressed by the failure of his local MP, Carla Lockhart, to cast a vote.
“It’s just heartless,” he said, “and absolutely shameful.” Carla, not surprisingly, was less than impressed with his intervention, accusing him of “misinformed attention-seeking”. A classic piece of potkettleblackery, because, let’s face it, there’s no better way of grabbing somebody’s attention than by deciding not to bother to vote when somebody asks you if you want to give food to hungry children – even if the attention you get is not of a positive nature.
Carla pointed out that she would have voted in favour, but she had been extremely busy in her constituency with this and that and wasn’t able to travel. Which kind of makes you wonder if she only goes to Parliament to vote if she’s having a quiet day.
Let’s in the interests of debate accept the excuse put forward by Carla. And let’s further accept that the seven DUP MPs are in fact all in favour of feeding hungry children. And let’s travel back to 2018 when the Theresa May government moved to cut the number of children receiving free school meals as part of its sweeping cuts to the welfare system. Any child with a parent earning more than £7,400 a year was to lose out. Any parent earning above that amount would also lose the right to childcare vouchers. A Labour amendment seeking to persuade Mrs May to abandon the plan was defeated.
Actively voting against the amendment (and not abstaining while working hard at home) were.
Campbell, Gregory
Dodds, Nigel
Donaldson, Sir Jeffrey
Girvan, Paul
Paisley, Ian
Robinson, Gavin
Shannon, Jim
Simpson, David
Wilson, Sammy
 On that occasion English children most certainly were the DUP’s concern, it seems. And not in a good way.

Brewing up a storm in a social media teacup


WELL, it finally happened. Squinter went viral. Sadly, it wasn’t the thrilling experience that he had supposed it would be.
For some time Squinter has been getting some stick about how he makes tea. Here’s a quick description:
Hot Water.
Spoon teabag around until the tea is the required colour.
Job done.
That’s always been the way Squinter has done it, although he knows that not everybody’s a fan of putting the milk in first thanks to the odd looks and comments he gets from time to time in the canteen here.
So for a bit of craic and banter Squinter made a short video of himself making a cup of tea and put it up on Twitter. You might say it garnered a bit of interest – 155,000 people watched it in two days. But very few were entertained in the way that Squinter hoped – in fact the vast majority of them were for marching on Belfast and locking Squinter up.
Funny how passionate people are about tea – Irish and English people especially. The Welsh and the Scots seemed indifferent to it all. Yorkshire Tea – one of England’s most popular brands – chipped in to observe that it was so bad that it was worthy of 2020.
The odd thing is that Squinter makes his tea in the same way that Yorkshire Tea advise on their website – except for the bit about putting the milk in last. Why such an apparently minor aberration made such an impact on the internet Squinter has no idea. A few people have told Squinter that pouring boiling water on to milk causes scalding, although Squinter can’t comment because he doesn’t know what scalded milk tastes like.

Another bone of contention was the urn that Squinter drew his water from.  It’s no different to urns in office kitchens all over the place, but apparently urns are a no-no because every cup or pot of tea deserves fresh water from the tap. This seemed a strange suggestion, but it was one made by hundreds of people, although Squinter can only profess himself perpexed yet again.
The water that comes out of a tap has been sitting in a reservoir just as the water has been sitting in an urn, right? So what exactly is fresh water when it comes to making tea? And why would it make your tea taste better? Water is water is water. As long as it’s clean it’s perfectly usable, no?
Squinter’s dear oul’ ma used to describe teabags as “the sweepings of the floor” but in latter years even she was won over by their convenience. So apart from people who continue to make their tea using loose leaves and pots and strainers and the like, we’ve all made compromises in how we take our tea over the years. According to Ireland’s biggest manufacturer of tea, Barry’s, the perfect cuppa is made by leaving the teabag in the cup for six minutes before adding milk.
But what’s Squinter supposed to do in the canteen while he’s waiting six minutes for his tea to brew? Stare at the cup? Go for a walk? Rearrange the tables and chairs? Isn’t the whole point of a teabag supposed to be that it cuts out the hoo-ha and gets you a cup of tea quickly when you want one?
Anyway, make your own mind up and have a look on