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June 10, 2016

What after Brexit?

With two weeks to go until Brexit polling day, none of the sides have yet pulled ahead. This morning we noted an analysis by Nicholas Vinocur and Tara Palmeri who have spoken to French officials, MPs, and MEPs, who all seem to demand a relatively tough response to the UK in the case of a Brexit vote. As a matter of policy, we no longer recite quotes from unnamed EU diplomats because we think it is unethical for news organisations to allow their sources to hide behind the whole of the EU as opposed to specific institutions like the Commission or the Council. They might have spoken to the Maltese cultural attache in Cyprus for all we know. Apart from anonymous sources, this particular story also quotes Elisabeth Guigou, the head of the foreign affairs committee of the French National Assembly, as saying that the French position was not one of punitive logic, but that France would nevertheless insist that Brexit should have serious consequences in order to fight the centrifugal political forces in the EU. Britain would have to exit from all EU treaties according to Sylvie Goulard MEP, who added that Brexit would specifically have to involve the end of all passporting rights, also for financial services.

The question of the future relationship of a post-Brexit Britain with the EU was the subject of a debate between Charles Grand and John Springford, both of the Centre for European Reform in London. Grant argues that a post-Brexit UK would join the EEA, alongside Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. Grant notes that 70% of MPs are opposed to Brexit. They would still honour the referendum result, but they would insist on the economically least damaging arrangement which would be the EEA.

Springford argues that as an EEA member Britain would have even less sovereignty than it has as a full EU member. If a new government, under Boris Johnson for example, were to present the EEA option to parliament, pro-European Labour and Scottish Nationalist MPs would have a strong incentive to vote against, to bring down the government, with the Tories split down the middle. The result would be another referendum with a three-way option including the EEA, but the EEA would almost certainly attract the fewest votes.

And finally, in a column on the immigration debate, Owen Jones explains why Jeremy Corbyn is so lukewarm in his support for Remain. The Labour Party is still sore about lining up with the Tories in support of Scotland in the UK, which caused a massive loss of Labour voters to UKIP in the last elections. They do not want to see a repeat of that.

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June 10, 2016

The decisive battle of the French left

The Euro 2016 football tournament starts today in Paris, but the strike actions continue. Even if CGT leader Philippe Martinez concedes that this will not send the best image of France and public opinion is turning against the protests. This is the dividing battle between the moderate and the radical left, writes Stephane Dupont in Les Echos. The CGT accuses Francois Hollande of betraying the left. Jean-Luc Melenchon, the declared presidential candidate of the left party, assures that Hollande is worse than Sarkozy. Voting for the PS to avoid the right in the second round of the presidential elections is over, assures one of the founders of Nuit Debout. Are they getting ready to accept the victory of the Republicans, even if they could end up with a reform agenda that is worse than the El Khomri labour reform law? How radical is the radical left? And what is the role of the Socialist rebels here?

On the other end of the Socialists spectrum is Emmanuel Macron. He has been under scrutiny as a potential presidential candidate in recent weeks. There were leaks about his wealth tax declarations, and some gaffes about anti-reform protesters. He did not receive the welcome he expected in Montreuil, the communist city hosting the headquarter of the CGT. In the government cabinet he is the new pariah, writes L’Opinion. Not invited to important meetings, none of his most iconic amendments have been taken up. There is a lot of political chit-chatting about his inexperience and how he is not in the top league. Manuel Valls clearly wants to avoid giving him another scene to perform. But Hollande is more cautious, reminding everybody not to vex Macron. 

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June 10, 2016

A new era of Italian politics

Over the weekend there have been two simultaneous events in Italian politics with a potentially profound impact. One is the poor performance of Matteo Renzi's Partito Democratico in the regional elections in several cities, including in Rome, Turin and Bologna. The other has been Silvio Berlusconi's open heart surgery, which now forces him into a break from politics, probably for good given his age. 

Writing in Corriere della Sera, Massimo Franco focus on the PD, which is facing a concerted attempt by previous disparate opposition parties to align themselves against PD candidates, which is what is happening in Rome right now where the Lega and Berlusconi's Forza Italy came out in support of Virginia Raggi, the candidate of the Five Star Movement. Franco notes that the Democratic Party is deeply torn, and that Renzi's threat to throw a flamethrower against the internal opposition is not helping either. He says the PD's opponents were now betting on the implosion of a PD that fails find unity around the centrist policies of the prime minister.

Stefano Folli argues in La Republica that it is time for Berlusconi to indicate a political successor after his surgery. Despite rumours to the contrary, there is still widespread support for the centre-right in Italian politics. In Milan, Berlusconi's Forza Italy trounced the Lega. There were solid performances in Naples, and even in Rome. Berlusconi has become less visible in Italian politics recently, but his party still matters. To his benefit he has resisted the temptation of turning the centre-right alliance with the Lega into an outright populist movement a la Le Pen in France. If Berlusconi were to leave politics without securing a successor, the beneficiary would be the PD.

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