The Dutch King Willem-Alexander will visit the UK and Queen Elizabeth II on October 23-24 2018. See the programme.
He will give a speech in the Royal Gallery in the UK Parliament, attended by various MPs, Lords and Ladies, on October 23.
On October 17, the Newsletter of the UK Royal Economic Society contains this comment by me on Brexit. See my earlier weblog entries on Brexit.
Alex read the comment in the Newsletter, and called me that he wanted to speak to me.
I spoke Alex yesterday over dinner of wildbraad in a fine restaurant in Leiden. He confessed to me that he seriously considers calling in sick and cancelling the state visit to the UK. He is experiencing increasingly negative feelings about the trip, and he had read my explanation that negative numbers reflect the process of cancelling.
Stroking his belly on the good meal, he was looking for consistency.
“Like for example,” he said, “on the 24th we will have a visit to two ships, to mark the importance of seafare for our two nations. But Max and I will travel to the UK by air. So why don’t we travel by ship ? When people would expose me as being a total hypocrite then I can’t blame them.”
Brexit is wrenching him. He hates seeing the UK leaving the EU, or even the messy way how they are doing so. He doesn’t like the sight of a Queen of a proud independent nation making fun of him as a EU-shackled fake-king. Perhaps when he wakes up in Buckingham Palace he might find his shoelaces tied together. He feels much tempted to follow the example of William III (1650-1702) of sailing from Scheveningen to Britain with an armada of 250 ships and 35,000 troops and take the island, pound some sense into the natives, and have another Glorious Revolution.
“They call themselves Anglo-Saxons but to a high degree they are Vikings, just like the Russians. Vikings need an occasional bang to their heads to reset them to common sense again,” he explained. He also reminded me that he himself had a Romanov princess as an ancestor, see his claim on taking Russia too.
Thus I asked whether he was actually inviting me to bang his head now too, given his own Viking genes. He nodded. We were in Leiden because he had wanted to reread his MA thesis in history, that is kept there in the vaults of Leiden University. He handed me his thesis and I duly banged it to his head. To our regret it hardly had an impact. Alex’s head was too hard or the sheet of paper too thin.
“But I can’t conquer Britain because Max doesn’t want to live there. The Brits have something against Argentines. You know: the Falklands.”
He continued: “My comments on Brexit already have caused a stir. Prime Minister Mark Rutte now worries that my speech in the Royal Gallery will be boycotted by British parliamentarians. Oh my, oh my, a boycott is such an effective method to make someone look silly, especially when your shoelaces are tied together.”
“So this is why you wanted to talk to me,” I inferred. “You want me to smooth out some ruffled feathers so that you will still have an audience that will be interested in what you would have to say, and so that they know in advance that they will not be offended or lectured to.”
“Exactly,” he nodded. “Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his loony Foreign Secretary Stef Blok suggested that I talk to you, and ask you to draft a speech for me, and to put it on your website so that people in the UK have some advance information that it will be a highly relevant speech for the UK. So, please, make me look good.”
“If you pay for the meal,” I granted.
This got me a groan and pained look. He was in such a tight spot that he actually footed the bill. Thank you, Brexiteers.
Thus, below is my draft for the speech.
– – – D R A F T – – –
Dear friends, come together here in the Royal Gallery on the beautiful day of October 23 2018.
I am the Head of State of Holland. I am speaking for the Dutch government. The following does not contain my personal view, but it contains the view by the Dutch government, including me. This goes to show that one can still have a useful function even when there are some constraints. Also the UK can have a useful function even when there would be constraints by the EU.
[ rumble ]
You all know that I also went to school in Wales and that I developed a taste for Monty Python. Let me start with some jokes, so that you can all loosen up and relax before we become serious again.
[ sounds of horror ]
The first joke is about a boss who hires a new employee. At lunch on the first day, the employee complains at the boss: “There is something wrong with the wheelbarrow. It goes “screetch … screech … screech”.” [ spoken with long pauses ] The boss replies: “Well, you can go home now and don’t return. It should go “screetch screetch screetch”.” [ spoken fast ]
[ some grins and laughter ]
This joke makes me think about the speed of ships. For very long in human history, seafaring was the most efficient way of transport. Civilisation developed on the shores of rivers and seas. Many traces of this development have been lost because of the rise of the sea level since the last Ice Age. The British Isles were known in the Bronze Age for their tin to make bronze, and transport then was also by sea. The British Isles have a long history of settlers and invaders from the sea, like the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, and William the Conqueror in 1066, to name a few. In 1688, William III of Orange boated from Holland with 250 carriers and 35,000 troops to cause the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary. It can be said that the British Isles are a center of European civilisation just like the shores of the Baltic, the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The Dutch government is amazed that some people on the British Isles do not know about this history, and refer to “The Continent” as if Britain would be somewhat distant from Europe itself. Well, let me invite you to keep ships in mind and to see Britain embedded in Europe. Nowadays, planes can be faster, which is why I traveled here not by boat. Yet ships still cannot be beaten for bulk transport, and we should keep this in mind, also for our mutual borders, and also for the Political Economy for the Caribbean.
[ pause ]
The second joke is from the days of the USSR, actually only 30 years ago, still in our lifetimes. The joke may appeal to Jeremy Corbyn who is scheduled to meet with me today unless he would snake out to avoid me.
The joke concerns some factory for trucks and work appliances in the old USSR. At the end of the working day workers leaving the factory are checked on smuggling or stealing stuff. Each day there is also a worker, Vladimir, who pushes a wheelbarrow with scrap metal through the exit gate. Screetch, screetch, screetch. The guards are suspicious, check him and his load thoroughly, find only worthless stuff, and let him pass. One day the man turns 65, retires, and leaves the factory without his wheelbarrow. “Vladimir,” says the gatekeeper, “we will see each other for the last time today. Would you please tell me whether you have been smuggling something or not?”
[ pause ]
Vladimir confesses with a smile: “Every day for forty years, I have taken a wheelbarrow from the factory.”
[ some grins and laughter ]
The joke illustrates the importance of observation. For mathematics or philosophy you might make an abstract assumption and forget about reality, but science requires careful observation on reality.
This joke brings us to a key difference between Holland and the United Kingdom. We are both democratic nations, but have different concepts of democracy, which shows that the term “democracy” is a tricky term that we must use with care. The Dutch House of Commons is elected with equal proportional representation (EPR) and the UK House of Commons is elected with district representation (DR). Also the words “election” and “representation” are the same but mean entirely different things here.
The Dutch system provides for proper election and representation. The UK system of Single Member Districts with First Past The Post provides for contests rather than proper election. It discards votes and neglects the condition of representation of the interest of the electorate. A majority of voters in the UK have “taxation without representation”. The electoral system in the UK is in direct violation with article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.
The Dutch government has consulted with scientists in Holland and has come to the conclusion that there is something amiss with the academic field of so-called “political science on electoral systems”. Scholars in this field have neatly checked the content of the wheelbarrow but have failed to see the very wheelbarrow itself. They claim that the field would be a science but these scholars lack a training in empirical science. The field still is in the humanities in which indoctrination into tradition is more important than empirical observation and testing.
Though this field of study also fails in Holland, the effect of failure in Holland is limited, since we have equal proportional representation (EPR) and not district representation (PR).
For the UK, the effect is much larger. We can only understand Brexit by diagnosing that the UK voters have been disinformed for decades. The UK has a proto-democracy and no proper democracy yet. For this reason, I currently come to you carrying gifts, namely the news about this new discovery that “political science on electoral systems” is no real science, but it is pseudo-science, comparable to astrology, alchemy or homeopathy.
How this blind spot developed is an issue for history. At this moment it is important to bring this message to you. The Dutch government regards this news as a game changer for the present discussion in the UK on Brexit. Namely, the UK can now ask its empirical scientists, from physics to psychometrics, to help clarify the situation of systematic disinformation that has been created by this pseudo-science of “political science on electoral systems”.
The Dutch government suggests that the UK switches to equal proportional representation (EPR), say adopt the Dutch system of open lists (in which you may always vote for a regional candidate though people don’t tend to do so), has proper elections, and then let the new House of Commons discuss the relation with the European Union again. It is not unlikely that the EU would allow the UK the time for such a fundamental reconsideration on both its democracy and Brexit.
It remains to be seen whether the UK would want to switch from DR to EPR, but the first step would be to provide the public with proper information. If the UK would stick with DR and Brexit, then at least we will know that such a choice has been made by an informed electorate, while presently we can only diagnose that the UK electorate lacks this information. Obviously, logic requires that you first switch to EPR for the proper procedure to remain with DR.
[ mix of moans and laughter ]
Let me quote historian Helene Von Bismarck about the Single European Act of 1986:
“Thatcher’s dedication to the idea of a completed Single Market was such that she made considerable concessions during the negotiations to bring it about. (…) The Single European Act had enormous ramifications for the way the European Community was to be run. No only did it provide for the completion of the Single Market, it also simplified the decision-making in the European Council by extending the principle of qualified majority voting to a large number of issues that until then had been decided unanimously.”
When the people in the UK have the feeling that they are losing power to the European Union, then they should rather look at Margaret Thatcher, who accepted the abolition of veto power. She also rushed the agreement through Parliament instead of allowing for deliberation.
It is well-known that the Dutch people are also hesitant about the evolution of the European Union. Rather than seeing the UK leave the EU, Holland would like to have the UK as an ally, for example on raising the requirements on the qualified vote.
English has become the lingua franca of the world. Billions of people in distant lands learn English to partake in the development of our planet.
When people migrate to Europe, then many have learned English, and then many may have a preference to migrate to the UK since this is where English is spoken on a daily base. We have a mixed situation of course. Parts of Africa use French and those migrants may prefer to go to France. In Eastern Europe and Turkey, German tends to be important too. Nevertheless, we can understand that the UK might have additional migration because of the plain fact that English has become the lingua franca.
To my understanding there is no scientific research on this aspect yet, and it has not been a factor in current policy making yet. The Dutch government urges the UK to reconsider Brexit and to remain in the EU and to help develop sensible policies that also include such considerations.
Let us also be sensible about alternative developments. If the UK would leave the EU, as it now plans to do, then it would still be a magnet to those who have learned English as the lingua franca. Since ships can also reach the UK directly – and I have highlighted the ease of shipping to you – then the horrible scenes that we now see in the Mediterrranean are merely shifted to similar scenes around the British Isles, with a great cost for the UK to guard its coasts and to transport illegal immigrants back to their lands of origin. We only need to be aware of the forecasts about the rise in the world population and the issue of climate change.
It is the firm belief of the Dutch government that democracy requires deliberation, and that we all in the same boat here.
[ … additional points by Mark Rutte and Stef Blok ….]
Thus, my friends in this Royal Gallery, let me round up this speech on behalf of the Dutch government. Our nations are closely linked by geography and history. Let us continue with increased awareness of this elementary fact. Thank you for your attention.
– – – E N D D R A F T – – –
Acknowledgement: Jokes taken from here. And this became the finally spoken speech and pictures.
Imagining the Dutch King’s speech in the Royal Gallery and the boycott by MPs. (Source: screenshot of a video by the UK Parliament)