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  • Martin Castle

“I remain just one thing & one thing only & that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane..."


I am much vexed by the shenanigans in Parliament over the internal market bill which is apparently designed, according to the government, to “protect jobs and trade” within the UK after the end of this year’s transition period for leaving the EU. According to the government the legislation will, “enable the UK government to provide financial assistance to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland with new powers to spend taxpayers’ money previously administered by the EU”.

One of its main aims is to empower ministers to pass regulations, specifically on trade and state aid, even if they are contrary to the withdrawal agreement previously reached with the EU under what is known as the Northern Ireland Protocol. However, it seems that by agreeing to this government will be breaking international law - it states Ministers can make regulations which ignore “any other legislation, convention or rule of international or domestic law whatsoever, including any order, judgment or decision of the European court or of any other court or tribunal”. David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, wrote to the Justice Minister pointing out that: “Maintaining the sanctity of the rule of law has been central to [the Lord Chancellor’s] position for more than 400 years … What steps do you plan to take to protect the rule of law from attack from inside your own government? - The rule of law is pretty important - the dictionary notes: noun

the principle that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to law that is fairly applied and enforced; the principle of government by law.


If this comes to pass, this will not be the first time a British government has broken a treaty and international law. You may remember my current reading -a biography of Napoleon - and a moment in his story resonates with current events.


Early in 1801 the British war against France under Napoleon as First Consul was not going well and the country was sick of it - income tax had been introduced in 1798 to pay for it. When the Younger Pitt’s government fell in February the new premier was Henry Addington, who was bent on peace.

Lord Liverpool
Louis Otto, comte de Mosloy

Talks went on quietly in the summer of 1801 in London between the foreign secretary, Lord Hawkesbury (later the 2nd Lord Liverpool and Prime Minister from 1812-1827), and a French diplomat, Monsieur Otto, and a preliminary agreement was signed at the beginning of October. The French had far the better of the deal.

  • France agreed to restore the Two Sicilies and the Papal States to their former regimes,

  • they kept control of the Netherlands

  • and the west bank of the Rhine, Piedmont and the Savoy,

    • Britain agreed to leave Egypt

    • the Cape of Good Hope

    • Malta,

    • various islands in the Caribbean, while keeping Trinidad and Ceylon.

As a side note William Wilberforce argued to include the abolition of slavery, though the Prime Minister wanted nothing to get in the way of peace.

Lord Cornwallis

The agreement gained the approval of Pitt and Lord Cornwallis (who'd surrendered at Yorktown in 1781), an eminent soldier and former governor-general of India, was appointed as ambassador-extraordinary to agree the final treaty. With further hints at 21st century negotiations (did you ever listen to the phone calls 'David Davies' had with 'Teresa May' on Dead Ringers on Radio 4?) he was no diplomat and had largely forgotten his French, but he left for Paris and an interview with the First Consul in November, after which the two sides got down to detailed discussions in the Hôtel de Ville at Amiens. With Talleyrand hovering in the background, the French deputation was led by Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s elder brother, who was well liked personally by the English representatives, though dismayingly prone to offering concessions in private one day and ruling them out in public the next. After months of wrangling over details, Cornwallis  threatened to go home unless matters were settled in eight more days, and the treaty was finally concluded - is that what you call 11th hour!?.

James Gillray caricatured Pitt as a doctor kicking Addington (the previous doctor) out of Britannia's sickroom.

Though widely welcomed on both sides of the Channel, the Peace of Amiens was no more than a truce. Britain broke its binding obligations to return Egypt and Malta. It lasted for not much longer than a year, giving both sides a breathing space in which to reorganise before the war was formally resumed in May 1803. Pitt returned to power in 1804.


Recipe:

With a vaguely French flavour today this recipe was too good to miss. It comes from a great book I picked up some years ago in a sale in Fred Holdsworth's wonderful bookshop in Ambleside - Backroad Bistros, Farmhouse Fayre: A French Country Cookbook - Jane Sigal.

Daube a la Nicoise

(Beef stew with wild mushrooms)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

250g/8oz mixed mushrooms, chopped

1 cup water

1250g/2½lbs boneless stewing steak cut into pieces

Salt & freshly ground pepper

¼ cup olive oil

4 medium carrots finely sliced

1 medium onion halved and thinly sliced

2tbsp plain flour

3 cups red (preferably from Provence)

¾ cup tomato paste

1 branch fresh thyme or ½tsp of dried thyme

2 bay leaves

Method:

1. Sprinkle the meat with salt.

2. In a casserole large enough to hold the meat in a single layer heat the oil.

3. Add the meat in batches until browned all over then remove.

4. Add the carrots and onions and cook until tinged with brown – about 10 minutes. Discard any remaining fat.

5. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook until lightly browned – 1 or 2 minutes.

6. Gradually stir in the wine, scrapping up the juices from the bottom of the pan.

7. Add the meat, tomato paste, water and mushrooms and stir in the thyme and bay leaves.

8. Cover and bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and cook at a bare simmer until the meat is very tender – about 3-4 hours.

9. If you are able, chill the daub you can then remove the fat that has risen to the top.

10. Reheat the daub gently, seasoning for taste as necessary.

11. Serve with boiled potatoes and Swiss chard or peppered spinach. As an alternative, serve with pasta.


Word of the Day is ...

"Uhtceare -

(OOT-key-ARE-a)

noun

the familiar sort of pre-dawn anxiety when one is laying in bed and worrying


from Old english uhte (daybreak) and ceare (care & sorrow)



ps: the quotation of the title is Charlie Chaplin speaking of politicians! "I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician."


Quotes

"With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable." - Thomas Fowell Buxton
"To succeed in the world, it is much more necessary to possess the penetration to discern who is a fool than to discover who is a clever man." - Talleyrand
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