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Scottish Government Burns Trump In ‘Reverse Emoluments’ Case

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

In Scotland, President Donald Trump battled the government over a wind power development that, he complained, would alter the view from his golf course in Aberdeenshire. But he lost that battle. And a court in the U.K. has ruled that the Trump International Golf Club Scotland must pay all of the legal costs that the Scottish government incurred fighting Trump.

In late 2015—before Trump was president—the U.K. Supreme Court rejected the Trump Organization’s legal challenge to the wind farm. Former First Minister Alex Salmond asserted that the ruling left Trump a “three time loser.” And the Trump Organization had a characteristically Trumpian response: “Does anyone care what this man thinks? He’s a has-been and totally irrelevant.”

The wind farm, which contains eleven turbines altogether, generated its first power in July 2018 and was developed by the Swedish energy group Vattenfall.

According to the BBC, the exact sum that the Trump Organization will owe the Scottish government has not been disclosed.

The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold commented on the ruling on Twitter, posting, “Here’s a reverse-emoluments case that the Founding Fathers didn’t plan for…what happens when @realDonaldTrump owes a large debt *to* a foreign government?  In Scotland, it’s happening.”

The U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause restricts presidents and other federal politicians from receiving payments or gifts from foreign powers.

Danziger: Turning The Caber On Brexit

Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. Represented by the Washington Post Writers Group, he is a recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army as a linguist and intelligence officer in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. He was born in New York City, and now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here.

The Brexit: What Just Happened?!

It was only in the last 24 hours before the Brexit vote that it began to hit home just how massive, and maybe insane, it would be if the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union.

The result was in doubt, not least because of the relatively large and growing numbers of undecided voters in those last few days. It is clear now where most of those undecided voters decided to go.

The results are in. The UK, or at least England and Wales, has decided decisively it no longer wants to be part of a huge, free market, free trade, free travel bloc.

A great deal of the international debate and analysis centered on the economic impact of leaving: On the UK, on other European countries, on the “market”, even on the United States. Rampant confusion has reigned.

But there are other elements to consider: nationalism, borders, sovereignty, and the question of whether the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland may even crack under the strain of leaving.

The debate, in England at least, was simply put. Those on the Leave side believed the country can stand alone, make its own, better deals on trade, and stay financially afloat.

And leaving will help keep those bloody immigrants out with nice, sturdy border controls, they said. They won’t even need a Trumpian wall; no-one has yet suggested, at least publicly, building one along what will be the country’s only land border with the EU, in Ireland.

Those on the Remain side believed this would be a complete disaster, including financially (they were right), while many were appalled at the idea of going it alone with such a large rump of jingoistic, nationalistic, anti-immigrant fellow countrymen and women.

But it is a fact that many feel betrayed at how the European Union has developed, and not just the Conservative Eurosceptics, or nasty far right nationalists. And not just in the UK, but across the EU.

This vote will encourage many others across the continent, both those of that often dark nationalist, deeply anti-immigrant, bent, but also those that believe there is a super elite running and rigging the game, caught in the thrall of the financial markets. Think a Trump-Sanders ticket: This is an anti-establishment vote, and nothing is more establishment, in the minds of Leave voters, than Brussels.

There is a real feeling among voters that countries have truly suborned much of their sovereignty, and much of their decision making, to Brussels, and that decisions are largely being made not by the European Parliament, but by the entirely unelected European Commission, and the European Central Bank, seen as the water carrier for the big European financial institutions.

Take Ireland, where the ECB, and particularly its former chairman, Jean-Claude Trichet, are reviled by many in the country.

In essence, taxpayers in the country were saddled with billions in extra debt after the Irish government — which had bailed out the country’s banks — was bullied and threatened into not burning bondholders. And the bondholders deserved to be burned, as many of them were big European financial institutions which had lent recklessly to Irish banks, allowing them in turn to carry out a manic lending spree of truly epic proportions.

Austerity, and lots of misery, followed. Then Trichet gave the metaphorical finger to a banking inquiry set up to look at the mess, by refusing to attend and answer its questions.

It is only one example, and Ireland will never exit the EU, minus a complete break up, but Europe is a deeply unhappy family.

Yet it is incredibly hard to believe that the UK will now leave it altogether, not least because the consequences are  unknown — financially, on trade, on its citizens not being able to travel freely through the EU, and on the country itself.

A tradesman in Boston, East Midlands — which posted a 75 percent Leave vote, the highest in the country — will find out somewhere down the line that his work options severely limited. He just voted to not be able to work freely in 27 other countries. He arguably voted against his own interests.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s SNP First Minister, who urged Scots to vote Remain, which they did with a large majority, has made clear her party will pursue independence. Further, she suggested that if Scotland became independent the party would enter “decisions and discussions” to join the Euro.

And then there is Northern Ireland, where it has been somewhat strange to follow what was an incredibly muted debate. It voted to remain, but not by a large majority. It and the Republic of Ireland are so meshed together now — through trade, travel, and otherwise — there will be consequences to this vote.

In the end, this was an English row. And it was England, with its Welsh appendage, that voted to leave, decisively.

Photo: A British flag flutters in front of a window in London, Britain, June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union in the EU BREXIT referendum.       REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

New Scotland Independence Referendum ‘Highly Likely’: Sturgeon

A second Scottish independence referendum is “highly likely”, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday, raising the prospect that the United Kingdom could tear itself apart after voting to leave the European Union.

Scotland, a nation of five million people, voted decisively to stay in the EU by 62 to 38 percent in a referendum on Thursday, putting it at odds with the United Kingdom as a whole, which voted 52-48 in favor of an exit from the EU, or Brexit.

“As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against her will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable,” Sturgeon told a news conference in Edinburgh.

“I think an independence referendum is now highly likely.”

A vote for independence would end the 300-year-old union between Scotland and England, its far bigger southern neighbor, dealing a body blow to the United Kingdom at a time when it is likely to still be dealing with the complex fallout from Brexit.

It would also transform the political landscape in the rump of the United Kingdom by making it much harder for Labour, the main opposition to the ruling Conservatives, to win power in London, as the party has relied on Scottish votes in the past.

Scots rejected independence by 55 to 45 percent in a 2014 referendum, but since then Sturgeon’s pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has become much more powerful.

EU membership was one of the key issues in 2014, with those campaigning for Scotland to stick with the United Kingdom arguing that an independent Scotland would not be able to remain a member of the bloc.

Sturgeon said many Scots who had voted against independence for that reason were now re-assessing their decision.

“I intend to take all possible steps and explore all options to give effect to how people in Scotland voted (on Thursday), in other words to secure our continuing place in the EU and in the single market,” she said.

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who are the main opposition force in Edinburgh politics, said she did not believe a second independence referendum would help Scotland achieve stability or be in the best interests of its people.

“The 1.6 million votes cast in this (EU) referendum in favor of ‘remain’ do not wipe away the 2 million votes that we cast less than two years ago (to stay in the UK),” she said.

INDEPENDENCE BEFORE BREXIT?

The SNP holds massive sway, however. It won all but three of Scotland‘s 59 seats in the national parliament in London in a general election last year, and holds 63 seats in the devolved parliament in Edinburgh to 31 for Davidson’s Conservatives.

Nevertheless, calling a new independence vote would not be straightforward and the SNP, tempered by caution since Sturgeon took over as leader from firebrand Alex Salmond, would want to first be sure that it would win.

Where the last independence campaign fell down is widely considered to be the economic argument. An independent Scotland would, it was projected at the time, stick with its old currency, Britain’s pound, with national finances underpinned by an oil price then over $100 but now roughly half that level.

Sturgeon would have to build a robust economic independence strategy to convince those who in 2014 were emotionally inclined to leave the UK but voted to stay in because of the economics.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the EU referendum and campaigned for a “Remain” vote, announced after the result on Friday that he would resign by the autumn.

He said he would leave it to his successor to decide when to trigger article 50, the mechanism by which an EU member can leave the bloc. There would then be a two-year window for Britain to negotiate the terms of its exit and execute it.

Sturgeon said Scotland “must have the option” to hold an independence referendum within that timescale — much sooner than anyone had thought possible before the vote for Brexit.

As well as bringing further turmoil to the rest of the United Kingdom, Scottish independence would also be likely to cause political headaches for the 27 remaining EU members.

Some European politicians were quick to suggest that an independent Scotland should be welcomed into the fold.

“Europe is open to new member states. That is totally clear,” said Manfred Weber, leader of the largest bloc of lawmakers in the European parliament.

Geert Bourgeois, separatist president of the Belgian region of Flanders, said Scotland should be admitted as a full member without delay.

“It would be quite Kafkaesque, if there were a part of the country that wanted to stay in the EU, if the EU turned around and made them join the back of the queue,” he said.

But the government in Madrid, for one, is unlikely to take such a benign view given that it faces a strong separatist movement in Catalonia, which like Scotland is pro-EU.

 

(Additional reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Sarah Young in London; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)

Photo: Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the SNP’s annual conference in Aberdeen, Scotland, October 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Russell Cheyne