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June 01, 2016

Leave is surging ahead

It was only a week ago when we wrote that the Remain campaign was pulling ahead, but that it was too early to give the all-clear as events tend to intrude. That seemed to have happened in the last week, as the Leave campaign is now once again leading in the latest polls. Two ICM poll's in the Guardian show Leave ahead. The remarkable thing is that for the first time, both the online and the telephone polls agree. The phone poll has 45% in favour of leaving, and 42% in favour of Remaining, while the online polls put the numbers at 47% in favour of leaving and 44% of remaining. The figures are telling us that there are still undecided voters out there, but their number is not very large. If you exclude the undecided voters, both polls have 52% in favour of Leave and 48% in favour of Remain. The article in the Guardian says that the phone polls show a trend towards leaving, and that the Remain's camp main message - of economic havoc - does not seem to strike a chord with the undecideds. 

The polls of polls also suggests that there has been a trend towards Leave in the last week. The following extract goes back to May 15, the last time ICM had two consecutive polls out on the same day. At the time the phone poll was firmly in favour of Remain. Here is a summary of the latest polls:

Ashoka Mody has a scathing comment about the economic arguments used by the Remain campaign. He says the economic case essentially rests on the assumption that trade with Germany will decrease while trade with the US will not increase. This is nonsense. British trade with Germany will not decline significantly. Trade is embedded in business and social networks into which partners have invested enormous social capital. All productive trading relationships will remain intact, especially so since Germany runs a trading surplus with the UK. Mody writes that most of the estimates of a big shrinkage of GDP assume a fall in productivity growth. But there is no evidence that less trade lowers productivity growth. There is simply no logical connection. The most outrageous claims of all were those of the Bank of England, which has been blaming the referendum for the slowdown in investment. The truth is that the global economy is slowing down.

"The Bank of England is cynically exploiting its authority by claiming to detect Brexit-induced anxiety in the cloud of short-term data. But more outrageous is the Bank’s warning of mayhem if Britain votes to leave. Nobel Laureates George Akerlof and Robert Shiller have explained that people act in accordance with the narratives they live. The Bank is, in effect, building a narrative of panic, which could become self-fulfilling. The central bank’s proper role is to reassure and stand-by to stem panic."  

George Magnus makes one important point (among a series of lesser points). It is not about economic as such, but about economic security:

"Whether you’re a 'Remainer' or a 'Leaver', you can’t duck the reality that the world economy has become a more dangerous place since the financial crisis. Great economic uncertainty and nationalism are rife in Xi Jinping’s China and Putin’s Russia. In the US, we may hope that Hilary Clinton secures the White House to temper these pervasive trends, but a Trump presidency that would exacerbate them is a realistic possibility... We have the choice to stick with our neighbours and try to deal with a complex world as it is, or leave them to find our feet in a benign, welcoming world that simply doesn’t exist."

Enda Kenny, meanwhile, has urged Irish voters in Britain to back the Remain campaign. He said a Brexit vote could result in reinstating border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Kenny is the third foreign leader to intervene in the British campaign, after Barack Obama and Shinzo Abe. He also warned that Brexit would "adversely" affect Ireland’s ability to trade with Britain. Kenny’s intervention comes after 30 Irish opinion formers, business leaders, and media figures, working in Britain urged their compatriots in a letter to the Guardian to back the Remain side. They estimate that about half a million first-generation Irish are living in England, Scotland and Wales. The number rises to millions when second and third generations are included.

And finally, we noted an FT report that hedge funds have commissioned their own polling on election day, which is in line with the rules that allowing poll on election, but not publication. Delphine Strauss argues that there is probably not much value in this since it will be hard to construct a reliable exit poll from scratch. The reason exit polls have become accurate at general elections is because they are conducted time and again at the same polling stations. There are no precedents for a referendum.

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June 01, 2016

Erdogan tells Merkel to pull the resolution

The common theme of Angela Merkel's policies over the years has been poor judgement - whether its her championship of kick the can down the road in the eurozone, her refugee policies, and most recently her Faustian deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. The latter is now turning nasty. Erdogan called her yesterday to complain about the Bundestag's planned resolution on the Turkish holocaust against Armenians a hundred years ago, and warned that relations between the two countries would deteriorate if that resolution were to pass. The areas that would be subjected to deteriorating relations would be diplomatic, economic, commercial, political and military, according to Erdogan. While Merkel has shown herself willing to kow-tow to Erdogan to save the deal, she will probably not be able to pull the resolution, as it has the support of the CDU/CSU, SPD and the Greens. It would make the duplicity of her position too obvious. 

Marc Pierini has a very good comment on the future on the EU/Turkish relationship, and the likely course of events. He writes that Merkel stands no chance of convincing the European Parliament and the European Council to mellow the conditionality imposed on Turkey as a quid-pro-quo for visa liberalisation. The situation within Turkey is going to get a lot worse. Erdogan's march towards absolute power is unstoppable. The purpose of the lifting of the immunity of Kurdish MPs is to push the party to below the 10% threshold for representation, which would leave the parliament with only three parties, with the AKP in an overwhelming majority. 

"Erdogan is reaching absolute power. He doesn’t need Europe anymore for this. On the contrary, EU standards have become a roadblock, as his political supremacy hinges on absolute firmness on the Kurdish issue, antiterrorism measures, freedom of expression, and the rule of law. It is time for EU leaders to realise that these political goals cannot be attained in an EU-style environment with critics and checks and balances, and that Ankara’s EU narrative has become inconsistent with current Turkish politics."

If the EU continues to kowtow to Turkey, they will ultimately help the extreme right in their own countries.

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June 01, 2016

Greek government backtracks on article 178

What a PR disaster for the Greek government. The government had to back down yesterday over article 178 of the omnibus bill, which revokes a blanket ban on politicians and public officials maintaining any interests in offshore firms. There had been no talk about this before the vote. This caused an outcry, and since the weekend the opposition puts the government under pressure, accusing it of losing its moral advantage. The justice ministry explained afterwards in a long and technical statement that this does not mean that immunity is lifted. They can only invest in countries which cooperate on international tax issues as evaluated by the OECD every year. The original definition of offshore was vague in legal terms.  But, even if there was a good reason for all of this, the fact that the government did not flag this article before the vote will make it difficult for Tsipras to counter the impression that the government sneaked it in and is only paying lip service to cleaning up corruption in public services, writes Macropolis. 

Syriza members distancing themselves, too. Labour Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said he had no idea he was voting on such a provision. Syriza MP Giorgos Dimaras publicly apologised for not noticing the provision. The Syriza-supporting newspaper Avgi ran the headline “Offside with Offshore.”  The government will today table an amendment to Article 178, together with the other amendments that are necessary to get the first payment. The ban is likely to be more general on the target group and on all capital of companies based outside the country, writes To Vima. The opposition, meanwhile, is keeping up the pressure, now asking publicly who did slip the article in, and who had an interest in doing so.

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June 01, 2016

Neoliberalism as a category error

We, too, have noted the increasing use of the word neo-liberalism in recent public discourse. It has been a popular category among the continental European left, but much less used in the Anglo-sphere - for good reason, in our view - because it is a poor concept that conflates too many issues, and is thus ultimately not in the interest of those who are using it.

The FT has a thundering editorial on the IMF's recent mea culpa on neoliberal policies, which it calls a "catch-all criticism of unthinking radicals who lack the skills of empirical argument." The IMF had argued that some neoliberal policies had increased global inequality.

The editorial makes two points. The first is that the IMF is not really questioning the liberal consensus of global free trade, privatisation, FDI, but only two specific policies which have nothing to do with neoliberalism as such: one is the unfettered free flow of hot money, the other is rapid adjustment of fiscal policies. But the IMF has taken issue with those policies ever since the Asian crisis. The attack on neoliberalism is potentially also dangerous as it supports dictators, who disguise their lust for absolute power behind a crusade against neoliberalism. 

"Against this risk, what has the IMF achieved? Some raised eyebrows from those unaware of the fund’s work, a lot of eye-rolling from the better informed, and not even the grudging approval of Naomi Klein on Twitter. In seeking to be trendy, the IMF instead looks as out of date as a middle-aged man wearing a baseball cap backwards."

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  • The new era of chaqu’un pour soi
  • October 26, 2016
  • Renzi threatens to veto EU budget
  • The politics of a hard Brexit
  • Hollande at 4%
  • October 10, 2016
  • Waking up to the hardness of Brexit
  • September 26, 2016
  • A weekend of insurrection
  • The radicalisation of the French mainstream
  • Leaving the customs union
  • Meanwhile in Bosnia...
  • September 12, 2016
  • Renzi and his internal opposition
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • August 15, 2016
  • Sarkozy to declare his candidacy
  • Do intra-eurozone current account deficits matter?
  • On the failures of modern macroeconomics
  • July 26, 2016
  • The limits of May's freedom of manoeuvre
  • Don't misread the lack of visible panic in Germany
  • July 13, 2016
  • Brexit could take six years to complete
  • Macron - a modern Brutus?
  • The failings of Steinmeier
  • July 04, 2016
  • Hard women, hard Brexit
  • We'll miss the EU when it's gone
  • June 27, 2016
  • ... 'twere well it were done quickly
  • June 20, 2016
  • Neck and neck once more
  • How to defeat populism
  • June 14, 2016
  • Guiano running in Republican primaries
  • On the difficulties to promote labour movement in the EU
  • How to save TTIP
  • June 10, 2016
  • What after Brexit?
  • The decisive battle of the French left
  • A new era of Italian politics
  • June 06, 2016
  • Leave's lead is widening
  • The significance of Gauck
  • Five Star Movement about to take Rome
  • June 03, 2016
  • Only four German ministers present at Turkey debate
  • Redistribution time in France
  • June 02, 2016
  • Watch out for a fudge over Turkey
  • With friends like Tusk
  • June 01, 2016
  • Leave is surging ahead
  • Erdogan tells Merkel to pull the resolution
  • Greek government backtracks on article 178
  • Neoliberalism as a category error