An Epitaph for Remainers . . .

EPITAPH FOR THE REMAINERS.

They tried,
and tried,
to war against stupidity,
to turn the tide,
that dreadful tide,
of evil and dishonesty.

The Government lied
and turned aside
from decency and probity
to power and cupidity,
an rumour and venality.

As evil won,
and day was done,
the victor was mortality.
No one cried
or turned aside
to mourn
lost virtue and integrity.

The few that sighed
were pushed aside,
and weeping died,
at peace abide
safe in St Cuthbert’s cemetery.
Laid to rest
their future blest.

Remember them,
Posterity.

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The Linux Mint Blog . . .

For anyone interested the 27 December issue of the Linux Mint Blog is to be found HERE

And the press release about the Mint Box HERE

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Happy Christmas . . .

The Nativity by Greg Olsen.

A Happy Christmas and a better New Year to all our readers.

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A Letter from John Sweeney . . .

I cannot comment on the remarks of John Sweeney in this letter because I do not watch “Newsnight” or the sort of programmes mentioned towards the end about people like Cliff Richards because I think they are only glorified gossip anyway, often built on slender foundations. My own, these days limited, watching of TV inclines me to think that the BBC has long abandoned the “educate and inform” part of its brief in favour of entertainment – it has plumped for bread and circuses rather than public service. Indeed, sometimes when I watch BBC ostensible attempts at anything remotely technical I doubt whether they have anyone with the knowledge necessary to do the job. The idea seems to be to use some alleged “personality” – often it seems a presenter from the past presumably in need of the money – rather than anyone who actually knows what he or she is talking about. Moreover, I suspect that when they do get a knowledgeable person they are instructed to use matey language and dressing-up as a substitute for information and explanation. It is lowest common denominator stuff and it either muddies the water, or sometimes tends to convey incorrect information, and sometimes actually obscures the information.

Thus my sympathies lie with John Sweeney in this matter, and it will be interesting to see what, or if any, response is forthcoming from OfCom. The elephant in the room here is “why”. Why is the BBC doing this ? Is it doing it of its own volition ? Is it the BBC’s interpretation of its Charter ? Or is some outside influence at work. One influence ? or many influences ? We have such corrupt politicians now for whom lying is just a way of getting things done, that it may be Government interference, or outside interference with Government, and one suspects that money changes hands (or off shore bank accounts) along the way, somewhere.

Photograph of John Sweeney, Journalist.
John Sweeney

John Sweeney
Writer & Broadcaster

John Sweeney’s letter to OfCom

November 4 2019

PRIVATE AND IN CONFIDENCE

To the Chief Executive, OfCom,

Dear Ms White,

I am writing to you as a reluctant whistle-blower to ask for a thorough investigation into BBC News and Current Affairs in regard to, firstly, a number of films relating to the far-right, Russia and Brexit that were not broadcast, secondly, films that were broadcast but were improperly compromised and, thirdly, a number of senior journalists who have been allowed to compromise BBC editorial values by taking financial inducements or benefits in kind.

At the outset I should say that I have been informed, entertained and educated by the BBC my whole life. I worked for the BBC for 17 years and left last month and I feel grateful to many of my extraordinary colleagues who do great work for the public good. I pay the license fee and passionately believe in the BBC’s mission.

It is exactly because of that belief that I feel compelled to share what I know from the inside of BBC News and Current Affairs. BBC management, led by Director-General Tony Hall, has become so risk-averse in the face of threats from the far-right and the Russian state and its proxies that due impartiality is being undermined and investigative journalism is being endangered. Films have been not broadcast or enfeebled. Senior journalists have taken money or benefits in kind from Big Tobacco, a dodgy passport-selling company, and proxies for the Russian state.

My concerns centre on the following programmes or films:

Our Panorama on far-right activist Tommy Robinson which should have been broadcast in February or March this year. It had fresh information on Robinson’s links with German far right sources and there was potential to explore how Robinson was being indirectly funded by Kremlin money. Robinson set out to intimidate the BBC. Not broadcast.
Our Newsnight investigation into Lord Mandelson which caused him to change his House of Lords’ register recording money he got from a Russian company connected to the mafiya. After a direction intervention by Mandelson’s friend, then BBC Head of News, James Harding, the investigation stopped. Not broadcast.
Our Newsnight investigation into the dubious connections between former Culture Secretary John Nightingale MP and Dmitri Firtash, the pro-Kremlin oligarch currently fighting extradition to the United States. Not broadcast.
Our Newsnight investigation into Henley & Partners, a dodgy passport-selling firm which sought to silence Daphne Caruana Galizia before she was assassinated. Outside a H & P event in London I was physically assaulted by security for the Maltese PM. Inside a BBC presenter was doing a paid corporate gig for H&P. Not broadcast.
A Newsnight investigation into the pro-Russian sympathies of Labour spin doctor, Seumas Milne. Not commissioned. Not broadcast.
A Panorama on Roman Abramovich: made and completed. I did not work on this but know of it. Not broadcast.
A BBC News investigation into Brexit funder Arron Banks. I did not work on this but know of it. Not broadcast.


Please note that roughly in the same time frame BBC News – not Current Affairs – did broadcast investigations into Cliff Richards and Lord Bramall and Lord Brittan on the basis of a fantasist. Both investigations should never have been broadcast.

The BBC did broadcast films I made that were weakened by management. They include:

A series of Newsnight films into Arron Banks, the man who helped fund Brexit and Nigel Farage. Some were broadcast but the strength of the journalism was enfeebled by management. One, exploring Nigel Farage’s worries about Mr Banks’ connections to Russia, was not broadcast. A second, on Katya Banks and how she came to the United Kingdom, was not broadcast.
A Panorama on Russia called Taking On Putin. This was broadcast last year. In the course of making it the acting head of the BBC Moscow bureau told our Panorama team to leave the bureau though we had sensitive rushes on us and were being pursued by Moscow police. He then informed the Foreign Ministry that I had been filming without a press pass. Not giving me a press pass is a routine piece of administrative harassment by the Russian state. Our fixer was forced to leave Russia for good. It felt like our BBC Moscow colleagues saw the Kremlin as their friend and us as the enemy.


On all the films above I worked on, I sought to complain to BBC management about failures to broadcast or weakening of editorial stance. Most did not seriously engage with my complaints. One senior manager did not reply to four emails I sent asking for a meeting so we never spoke.

To be fair, BBC management have an extraordinary difficult task. Brexit has split the country and maintaining fairness and due impartiality under ferocious pressure, accelerated by social media, is exhausting. The problem is this exhaustion has led to corporate risk aversion and this is destroying investigative journalism at the BBC.

Separately, I fear that BBC values have been undermined by the following senior editors and presenters. Jon Sopel, BBC North America, doing a paid corporate gig for US tobacco giant Philip Morris this year. Justin Webb, Today programme presenter, doing a paid corporate gig for Henley & Partners on two separate occasions.

Sarah Sands, editor of the Today programme and Amol Rajan, BBC Media Editor, receiving benefits in kind from their former employer, Russian oligarch Evgeny Lebedev. They attended parties thrown by Lebedev in his Italian palazzo. A third guest was Boris Johnson, now prime minister. It seems impossible for any reporter on the Today programme to fully investigate widely reported stories that as Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson was seen as a “security risk” because of his attendance at Mr Lebedev’s parties if their editor was also a beneficiary of Mr Lebedev’s generosity. Amol Rajan as BBC Media Editor has reported on Mr Lebedev’s business affairs and he too has been a beneficiary of the oligarch’s generosity.

None of this non-BBC work or benefits are for the public good.

It is a characteristic of someone in my position to overstate the significance of their complaints. I do not want to do this. The vast majority of the BBC’s output is excellent.

But the sorry history of investigations not broadcast I report above demonstrates a general pattern of risk aversion and fearfulness. This is a common complaint of BBC journalists. My particular concern is the ability of the Russian state and its proxies to cramp the BBC’s journalism when it investigates what the Kremlin & Co are up to. You cannot make a series of Panoramas on Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump without seeing the evidence of the Russian state and its proxies interfering with democratic politics around the world. That interference includes the United Kingdom. I note that Number Ten has indicated that blocked the publication of the Commons select committee on Russian interference today.

Beyond these points there is a wider issue of the effective non-regulation of social media. The experience of being attacked by Tommy Robinson’s supporters – they behave like a cult – whilst the BBC did not broadcast our Panorama on him was maddening for me, literally so. A freelance colleague made a radio programme about one of his supporters. The stress of being a victim of the far-right online hate machine caused my colleague, who was heavily pregnant at the time, to have a panic attack so intense she mistakenly feared it was a miscarriage. Happily, mother and baby are fine. My observation as a front-line investigative journalist is that public interest broadcasting is over-regulated and social media hardly at all. Social media must be brought within the rule of law or our democracy will be poisoned.

I have evidence to back up every point I make in this letter and practical suggestions to reform and develop the OfCom code if you decide to take the matters raised here further. Please let me know what your response is. I am separately writing to the chair of the House of Commons select committees on the media and copying in the chairs of the intelligence and foreign affairs committees.

Yours sincerely,

John Sweeney

Published on 24-Nov-2019 09:50

To find the source go to John Sweeney’s web site and click on “Articles”.

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Linux Mint “Tricia”

“It is now possible to upgrade Linux Mint 19, 19.2 or 19.2 to version 19.3” says the web site, so I have and this is being typed on it. Easy to do, took a little time but it is a major update to the operating system and it is all much less worrying than Windows updates as it works so well. All very simple and no techie knowledge required.

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The Wee Ginger Dug speaks . . .

This made me smile – especially the bit about, “Like Monty Python’s parrot, the Labour Party, as currently constituted in Scotland, is not resting, it’s not stunned, it’s no’ pining, it’s deid.”

Wee Ginger Dug
Biting the hand of Project Fear

Same auld, same auld

by weegingerdug

A guest post by Ally Farquhar 

Oh well, that didnae take long did it? Dick Leonard decided to sleep on the combined clusterbollox which was Labour’s branch and head office General Election campaign, did some serious reflection, possibly in the windae of a jobcentre Plus, shut the Laura Ashley bedroom curtains that John McDonnell gave him, and went back tae his bed again whistling Jerusalem.

Like Monty Python’s parrot, the Labour Party, as currently constituted in Scotland, is not resting, it’s not stunned, it’s no’ pining, it’s deid.

They simply refuse to take a telling, even when every electoral constituency in the country, apart from the one with Morningside in it, tells them to go and take a run up a short steep hill with a cliff at the top.

It’s mental! You’d think the fact that the mothership down south is sinking like a former Tory leader would in a Loch (thank goodness the SNP didnae get 50 seats, every cloud has a silver lining), and Tony Blair thinks they’re having an existential crisis, would give them a clue that they need some serious change to reflect voters preferences, or at least embrace the idea that the people of Scotland should have a say in their own futures, but naw.

No wonder social media is full of proclamations from our fellow county folk, who may have voted No in 2014, and who are now so cheesed off with the Little Empire vanity project and the sheer contempt the democratic rights of the people of Scotland is held in, that they are coming to see self- determination as the answer. They’ve heard all of this devo max stuff many times. It hardly registers with them now.

Welcome, we’re glad to have you. We all have our journeys to make, we take different lengths of time to get there.

With delusional Dick digging up the usual Groundhog Day responses to his party getting humped, we surely cannot be long before the Grand Federalisimo himself, the son of the manse, launches himself, yet again for the very first time, on the viewers of the state telly channel, and Hootsmon readers, to charm us with tales of northern powerhouses, and bucketloads of new devolved goodies. Everything in the cupboard bar the compensating for something not very big, nightmare toys, if only we all come back to the ‘I can’t believe it’s not socialism’ fold. Aye, whatever.

That is, of course, once the Tories have robbed us of everything they possibly can first, and legislated the frack out of the ground beneath our feet.

Independence is ours to take. We’ve got to go for it. We don’t need to convince diehard unionists. That’s a waste of time. Eventually there won’t be enough of them to really matter.

Ignore them and concentrate on having frank, honest conversations with friends, family and colleagues who have open minds. Encourage them to do their own research, to become informed about the facts of being in the Union and the opportunities Independence will bring.

Have a restful festive season folks because next year is going to be busy.

Same auld, same auld

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“A Man’s World” by Marius van Dokkum

“A Man’s World” by Marius van Dokkum
Marius van Dokkum

I thought/think we need cheering up as we set off to hell in our new handcart, so here is a favourite of mine. I love the attitude of the man with his fag and his hand in his trouser pocket. Look at the contents of the room, everything where he left it and knows where to find it, and the two ladies looking through the window. Are they tut tutting, or weighing him up as a possible spouse who they will no doubt “put right” if they do marry him and get the chance. ?

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So ? We just trade on WTO rules . . . ? Hmmm . . . ?

The infamous Brexiteers have told us over and over gain that leaving the European Union is no problem because we shall just fall back on the World Trade organisation and its rules and everything will be alright. Well, President Trump, is seems has other ideas, he wants to scupper the WTO altogether and we shall fall back on the rules of “might is right” without being able to send a gunboat to sort the pesky foreigners out.

A longish, but highly informative article from Breugel, the European think tank that specialises in economics, explains what he is up to and tells how the WTO is already emasculated by America’s refusal to appoint people to the WTO’s Appellate Court.

The World Trade Organisation’s Appellate Body – which takes decisions on appeals against WTO dispute rulings – could collapse tomorrow (10 December), effectively removing the WTO’s enforcement mechanism. The collapse could happen because since 2017, the United States government has blocked new appointments of judges to the Appellate Body, which should have seven members but on 10 December will fall to one. In addition, the US has pushed WTO members to agree to only an annual (instead of biannual) budget for the organisation until the end of 2020 (including an 87% cut in the Appellate Body’s budget). This blog post explains the working method of the dispute settlement body, and then discusses the objections the US has raised against the Appellate Body, and the implications of its potential demise.

The big question is whether the US blockade of the Appellate Body is only a negotiating stance to push reform of the WTO, or whether the US wants to upend the current system of multilateral trade dispute settlement. In particular, a policy by the US government of blocking the dispute settlement system, blocking the WTO’s budget and disregarding the WTO rules would have almost the same effect as a US withdrawal from the WTO, and would upend the multilateral trading system as we know it. In either scenario, the risk is a return to a more power-based trading system.

So, not only is the liar and adulterer at No. 10 going to take us out of the European Union he bids fair to pitch us into a world trading system where we will be one little nation on our own, while the rest are bigger and more powerful than us, or are busily forming trade associations of their own. The article goes on to explain what the European Union is doing, and what it should be doing, to ameliorate the effects of America’s apparent war of the rest of the world. The people who voted to leave, of course, knew all about this and were quite happy about it.

They were, weren’t they ?

Say they were, please !

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EU Parliament or UK Parliament ?

Europe must lead on the climate crisis. The European Green Deal shows how.
Ursula von der Leyen
Our goal is to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. This new growth strategy allows every European to help

Wed 11 Dec 2019 09.00 GMT. Last modified on Wed 11 Dec 2019 10.42 GMT

For three and a half years the unfit for purpose UK Parliament has wasted its own and everyone else’s time by gazing at and scratching its own navel while national and international affairs have gone unnoticed, and as far as the onlooker (taxpayer and voter) has been able to see, apparently regarded as peripheral and unimportant. The funny foreigners are acting up again. For those of us who follow the doings of the European Parliament and the European Commission it has been of great interest to see how the latter bodies have kept up the pace of business through a European Parliamentary election and the choosing and vetting of a whole new EU Commission both of which have now officially started work.

Ursula von der Layen
Ursula von der Layen

It is of interest to me therefore to read this article by Ursula von der Layen, the new President of the European Commission on the action proposed by the Commission to improve things in Europe by 2050 – by which time people like me will long since have died – and to hope that our children and grandchildren will live to see its benefits.

Humanity faces an existential threat. Forests burn from America to Australia. Deserts are advancing across Africa and Asia. Rising sea levels threaten our European cities as well as Pacific islands. Mankind has seen such phenomena before, but never at this speed.

The recently flood-hit communities in areas around England know all too well the cost and damage that extreme weather can cause. Science tells us that we can still stop this epidemic, but we are running out of time. The new European commission is wasting no time. On Wednesday, we present the European Green Deal.

Our goal is to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, slowing down global heating and mitigating its effects. This is a task for our generation and the next, but change must begin right now – and we know we can do it.

The European Green Deal is Europe’s new growth strategy. It will cut emissions while also creating jobs and improving our quality of life. It is the green thread that will run through all our policies – from transport to taxation, food to farming, industry to infrastructure. We want to invest in clean energy and extend emissions trading, but we will also boost the circular economy and preserve biodiversity.

So, while the Westminster parliament fiddles, aided and abetted by the media, the country burns. Meanwhile its European counterpart is cracking on with the things that matter. And I know in which of the two institutions I place the most trust.

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Reminiscences of Brussels . . .

The following is from the Irish Times and is dated 10 Dec 2019 so written and published before the General Election. The author is the Guardian’s associate editor for Europe.

~~~~~~~~~


I was in Brussels when Johnson peddled his original Euro lies – nobody’s laughing now.


Returning to Brussels has reminded me of how officials failed to take his pernicious myth-making seriously.

~~~~~~~~~

Tue, Dec 10, 2019, 11:40 Updated: Tue, Dec 10, 2019, 13:16

Katherine Butler

An artwork in the lobby of the Berlaymont, the European commission headquarters in Brussels, has 12 gold stars in a circle on blue canvas; the stars are shaking, literally in a state of agitation. It is, the label says, a mixed media representation of the European flag dancing for joy.

Thursday’s election will, Boris Johnson hopes, resolve Britain’s neuralgic Europe question, letting him take the UK out of the EU on 31 January. The formal end of membership, if Johnson wins, should after 46 years feel seismic – one of those gold stars falling out of the constellation. But in the place where Johnson – as a Daily Telegraph correspondent in the early 1990s – did so much to debase the EU’s virtues, things have moved on. Britain has never been so obsessed with Europe, but the EU has already left Britain.

If the curtain was really about to fall, I wanted to remind myself of how Johnson’s revolution took hold

I was in Brussels too, in those years, reporting on, among other things, the birth of the EU’s most ambitious and possibly ill-conceived idea, the euro. And before our eyes, Johnson hatched the stories that seemingly incubated this ending and the shockwaves that will follow. The 2016 UK vote to leave was not entirely about Europe. But Brexit as a promise that British politicians are now expected to honour – even if it makes no sense – is in part the rejection of a mythical “Europe” that came to life in these buildings in the mid-90s.

With so many certainties about to be upturned, I returned to Brussels last month. If the curtain was really about to fall, I wanted to remind myself of how Johnson’s revolution took hold.

In the 90s, journalists from all over Europe and beyond came to the Berlaymont every day for the commission’s noon press briefing. The subject-matter was dry stuff. The lifeblood of the world’s greatest experiment in peaceful cooperation, it turned out, was dairy quotas and steel tariffs. No wonder everyone clustered around the salle de presse coffee bar, trading gossip and information. Or that the high politics – the tensions between prime ministers or between “Brussels” (the commission) and the capitals – made what we thought were the most relatable stories.

Johnson is now, rightly, held responsible for much of Britain’s neurosis about the EU. But could he alone have brought us to this point? Was there a broader negligence or even complicity? And does the emphasis on his role minimise the difficulty of communicating any big political idea to an indifferent public?

Back in today’s modernised Berlaymont press area, I ordered coffee from Nelson, who has been working here for nearly 25 years. Would he miss the Brits if they go? “It’ll be different,” he said. “The British asked the hard questions.”

It is true that the British media highlighted the absurdities from day one. As the former PA correspondent, Geoff Meade – who arrived to cover the European Economic Community in 1979 – reminded me, there were wine lakes, butter mountains and Strasbourg gravy trains to lament. The organisation’s complexity, and its novel but poorly understood structures, made it an easy target.

The difference in the 90s was that the regulatory “harmonisations” of the single market were being rolled out. Even if by then overzealous officials spreading red tape was an established trope, the single market provided a rich new seam. Johnson weaponised it. From “edicts” (the language itself was a distortion) about bananas grew a dishonest and xenophobic campaign about British democracy. (Johnson’s high point, by his account, was a fictitious ban on British prawn cocktail-flavoured crisps, in which the culpable German EU official, Martin Bangemann, became known in UK tabloids as the “Sour Kraut”.)

Whether Johnson believed it or not, the narrative he sold was that elites on the top floors of the Berlaymont were engineering a federal superstate in which Jacques Delors would eventually “rule”.

Tragically, UK governments – of every stripe – colluded with the tabloid presumption that an outraged British public would view any EU regulation as Johnny Foreigner robbing them of their freedom. John Major had the Tory Eurosceptics on his back. But Labour ministers after 1997 used to spoonfeed spurious lines to the London press about “battling” before travelling to Brussels. It made sure that whatever they agreed, the fictional British “victory” would be the news. Those Labour ministers supported the overall vision but ran scared of explaining it. Would we be in a different place now if British people had been permitted to consider, in detachment, if they wanted clear labels about E-numbers in crisps or rules on clean water?

My return to ground zero reminded me of something else: in 90s Brussels, Johnson’s lies weren’t taken all that seriously. Lurking at the back of the press room, I had uneasy flashbacks to the chief spokesmen (they were nearly all men) grinning indulgently at the interventions of “Boris”. If they were appalled about either his superstate scaremongering, or that his main beef with the EU was that it balanced the interests of workers or consumers against big business, they didn’t show it with any force.

It was a broader failing too, that news about the EU was almost entirely filtered through a domestic lens. In the absence of a common European “demos” or identity, governments took their national concerns to the EU table, and that’s what got fed back via us in the media. I started out reporting EU news for an Irish paper. There was little appetite for Euroscepticism. Irish public opinion saw “more Europe” as a good thing. But unless the Dublin government had secured another slice of funding or was being shamed by Brussels for its inaction on something, editors weren’t that interested.

The annual battle over fishing catches showed the system at its parochial worst: for PR purposes national governments would negotiate through the night. The outcome would get written up either as a disaster or a “bonanza” (the UK or Spanish trawlermen waiting outside would tell us which). The common interest in protecting fish stocks got drowned out. Perhaps UK ministers’ cowardly refusal to own Britain’s place in the EU had its genesis in a legitimate difference of approach. Britain saw the EU as transactional, so wanted an impossible reassurance about the endpoint of membership. Continental governments saw the EU as transactional too, but also as strategically vital. Either way, by the 2016 referendum campaign it was about 20 years too late for British politicians to start telling people what the EU was for, let alone making a high-minded case for it.

The 90s manipulation of British public opinion predated ideas of fake news or Dominic Cummings. But it foreshadowed today’s mythologising of the regulatory “freedom” that Brexit supposedly justifies.

I was struck by how, when campaigning to become Tory leader this summer, Johnson suddenly produced a packet of smoked kippers and lied about EU rules forcing the kipper producers to use pillows of ice for packaging. “Boris” had gone back to the 90s, to revive his hostile old narrative.Go to Brussels now, and Brexit feels like a ship that has sailed. UK ministers have not been seen in certain councils for months. “It’s like a death in the family,” a Swedish veteran told me. “You keep going, but it’s not the same.” Britain’s last commissioner, Julian King, physically left the Berlaymont for the last time on 29 November, taking his union jack cushion with him.

Britain’s chaos has opened eyes about what disentangling 40-plus years of integration looks like. Democracy may be failing in Poland and Hungary, and the Franco-German axis may be fraying, but public support for the EU is higher than it has been for years.

Johnson’s promise that a new EU-UK relationship will be complete by December 2020 is ridiculous. The imbalance is startling: the EU side will have 700 experienced negotiators for trade, and hundreds more from financial services, fisheries and judicial cooperation. Far from dancing for joy, nearly everyone I met spoke of the impending rupture as a “tragedy” or “aberration”.

And how will the EU be discussed in “free” Britain after Brexit “gets done”? My guess is Brexiteers will spend the next 10 years scapegoating the treachery of a Europe whose “edicts” made sure the Brexit they got wasn’t the Brexit of their fantasies. – Guardian

Katherine Butler is the Guardian’s associate editor for Europe

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