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July 18, 2016

What now in Turkey?

Only a few months ago we looked at three large tail risks the eurozone was facing - each one improbable on its own: Brexit, the an Italian political and financial crisis, and a collapse of the EU-Turkey refugee deal. Now the first has happened, and those other two "tail-risks" are fast becoming probable. The EU-Turkey deal, which brought some temporary calm to the refugee crisis, is now on the ropes.

Racep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered a major purge in response to the attempted coup, detaining 6,000 mainly among the military and the judiciary. As the judiciary was not directly involved in the coup, Erdogan is clearly using it as an excuse to eliminate political opponents. The coup is being compared with the Reichstag fire in its consequences, and the foreseeable tightening of Erdogan's authoritarian grip on Turkey is likely to strain relations with the EU to the breaking point. The EU had already been fairly tolerant of encroachment on press freedoms in order not to jeopardise the refugee deal, but visibly eroding the independence of the judiciary and reinstating the death penalty may be a step too far. The same goes for Turkey's anti-terrorism legislation that the EU wanted Turkey to relax, to bring into line with European standards as a condition for visa-free travel for Turks which was part of the refugee deal. Erdogan wanted none of that and will likely now tighten those laws further. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 on pressure from the EU, as a condition for eventual accession, which is likely to now recede again. 

The purge focuses on followers of US-based islamist preacher Fetullah Gülen, who Erdogan has publicly blamed for being behind the coup attempt. Turkey has called for the US to extradite him, and the US has invited Turkey to provide evidence of his involvement, which Gülen denies. Turkish government officials have gone as far as to issue veiled threats that any country that harbours coup participants will be an enemy of Turkey, which would seem to bring into question Turkey's alliance with the US. For a time this weekend Turkey even pressured the US by restricting access to the Incirlik air base which the US uses to launch air strikes against Isis in Syria. Eventually on Sunday it was reported that the base was again operative, but external power to the base remained cut off.

Previous coups in Turkey had been the work of Kemalists (laicist) to prevent the country from straying too far in the direction of islamisation. However, over the last decade Erdogan and Gülen had cooperated to remove Kemalists from the levers of power, including in the military. At the start of this decade Kemalists were removed in the so-called Ergenekon and Sledehammer cases involving claims of conspiracy to commit treason, which were later determined to have been based on trumped-up charges. Erdogan and Gulen fell out after a 2013 corruption scandal involving high-ranking government officials, who threatened Erdogan's own family. Erdogan then started removing Gülenists from power. One of the stories doing the rounds to explain the coup is that the Gülenists expected to be removed next month under regular military rotations and they decided to strike out of desperation. The other story is that the failed coup was staged by Erdogan to give himself an excuse for a self-coup. 

Of immediate diplomatic concern is the fate of eight putsch participants who landed a helicopter in Greece, claiming political asylum, while Turkey demands their extradition. For the moment Greece has already returned the helicopter to Turkey, and the eight are detained on charges of illegally entering Greece and endangering the friendly relation between the two countries. It appears the Greek government has made up its mind to support the extradition request but ultimately it's up to the courts to decide on the asylum claim. It is ironic that, under the EU-Turkey agreement on refugees, Greece is supposed to return illegal entrants to Turkey, a "safe third country."

Dani Rodrik is puzzled by the apparently amateurish conduct of the coup. The coup failed among other things because Erdogan remained free to move and make public appeals to the population through online media. The official line is that Erdogan narrowly escaped with his life twice in the early hours of the coup. Per Gudmundson draws from Edward Luttwak's criteria for success of a coup and finds that some of the conditions were not met. For one thing, Erdogan - while divisive - is not widely unpopular. And, even though he has eroded Turkish democracy, the opposition supports the democratic form of government and came out unanimously against the coup. Gudmunson also wonders whether Turkey is no longer "backwards" enough - another of Luttwak's conditions - for a coup to suceed. Turkey now has mass internet media which was not the case at the time of the last coup in 1980.

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July 18, 2016

French politics after Nice

Days after the Nice attacks, the search for the causes and missed opportunities is in full swing. Israel is the reference for many. On the right everyone is pointing fingers to the government. Alain Juppé delivered a surprisingly robust attack, concluding that the Nice attacks were preventable. Nicolas Sarkozy went further and said France was in a state of war, advocating strong measures like the expulsion of radicalised Muslims, electronic tagging of those at risk of radicalisation, and closure of unwanted “places of cult.” Marine Le Pen dismissed Republicans and Socialists alike. The FN analysis is that the next presidential elections will be about who is best placed to protect the French. But it is more than that. It is about different visions of democracy, writes Le Monde. What is society ready to accept? What is the right balance between individual rights and security?

Hollande’s government is saying that there is no such thing as zero risk and warns against invoking populist responses, a “Trumpisation” in response to ISIS. A close aide to Hollande accuses the opposition, that ultimately they do not want more security but to end the presence of immigrants and imams. The opposition's argument is that it is better to lose the rights guaranteed by the state rather than lives.

What do we know about the killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel? He was radicalised only recently, a partygoer turned into an ISIS fighter almost overnight according to Le Figaro. He never went to one of their combat zones, just got inspired by their speeches. This raises a full array of questions. The Muslim community in Nice says tensions were on the rise for quite a while now. Some argue that the banning of the niqab was one of the main reasons for the alienation of the 5m Muslims living in France.

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July 18, 2016

How to address the Scottish question?

The main Brexit development has been Theresa May's visit to Scotland on Friday, together with her announcement that she would not trigger Article 50 without Scottish consent. This was taken by some as a straw of hope that Scotland might have the power to stop the whole thing, but even Nicola Sturgeon does not think so. David Davis, the new Brexit minister, said there won't be any vetoes "because 17 and a half million people have given us a mandate, they've told us what to do, we can't disobey it." Nevertheless, May is trying to find a solution that allows the UK to stay together, while they jointly exit the EU. One of the difficulties for Sturgeon is that the opinion polls do not give a commanding lead for Scottish independence. She has to tread carefully for now. A Scottish independence referendum would be as risky as the UK Brexit referendum.

Writing in the Scotsman, Euan McColm puts it like this:

"May appears to have most to lose. Having made much of her unionist credentials and paid due reverence to Scotland on Friday, she may appear to be willing to bend over backwards to keep the troublesome Jocks happy. But the reality is that May cannot assist Sturgeon in getting the deal for Scotland that she says she wants.

One big obstacle for Scottish independence would be the currency. There is no way that Scotland can join the EU and remain in a currency union with the UK - it was this implausible pledge that contributed to the nationalists' defeat in the 2014 referendum. The Times reports that the SNP's economics team is now studying the possibility of setting up an independent Scottish currency as a result of the Brexit vote - which would obviously make separate EU accession feasible.

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July 18, 2016

What Brexit means

Following the appointment of various eurosceptics to the top posts in charge of the Brexit negotiations, Wolfgang Münchau notes some of the outlines of an eventual UK agreement with the EU are emerging. It will be an FTA, not a EEA-type agreement. Ironically, that would be easier to agree with, since the Germans also favour an FTA. Münchau also says that the PM may wish to postpone Article 50 for as long as possible, but the reality is that economic uncertainty will give her an incentive to accelerate the process. Münchau notes that the now likely German veto of TTIP opens up an opportunity for the UK to negotiate a TTIP style agreement with the US on a bilateral basis. 

We noted that Gordon Brown, writing in the FT, supports the Liechtenstein version of the EEA deal, which gave Liechtenstein an emergency break over immigration.

Simon Hix makes a similar point. He writes that the Remainers first of all need to accept that they lost the referendum. That is not universally the case yet. Instead they should set out a position on the following lines: First, the UK should be a member of the EEA for as long as possible. This is not a sustainable position, but it buys time to negotiate a more comprehensive framework - something along the lines of associate status. And, while EEA membership entails the freedom of movement of workers, it might be possible to include an emergency break.

We noted an opinion poll according to which a large majority of Brits reject a second referendum - 57% against 29% - and a slim majority is also against new elections. There are still some voices out there who say that Brexit may never happen because the economy will collapse. But that looks increasingly implausible. The EY Item Club, which uses the same model as the UK treasury, is forecasting that the UK will manage to avoid a recession because of the policies of the new government. But the forecasters believe growth in the next three years will be low. While we remain sceptical of forecasts in an unstable environment like this one, we are convinced that the economic fallout from the Brexit vote will be limited - which will further weaken the political case for a second referendum (made virtually impossible by British politics anyway).

A further factor that effectively accelerates the path towards Brexit is the decline of the Labour Party, and the bitterness of the leadership fight between the hard-left supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and the old Blairites, still a majority among MPs. It is worth reading Nick Cohen in the Guardian about a how a group of left-wing journalists, including a colleague of his in the Guardian, are killing the party. 

And finally, we were very interested in Charles Grant's analysis of how the EU would react to the Brexit referendum - by not doing anything, and in particular by rejecting any moves towards further centralisation. He notes that the dominant narrative will be one of disintegration, not integration. He is particularly sceptical on the eurozone. We agree with him:

"In recent years Paris and Berlin have discussed a new EU treaty, focused on a more integrated eurozone. But such talk has petered out, because the eurozone, though beset with difficulties, faces no immediate risk of dissolution. France and Germany cannot agree on how to fix the euro’s problems (should there be a transfer union or stricter rules to police budget deficits and structural reform?). And even if they could agree, neither the French nor German parliaments wants to transfer significant powers to eurozone or EU institutions. In any case, a new EU treaty would require referendums in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and perhaps France – which could easily be lost. So there won’t be a major revision of the EU treaties any time soon."

We doubt that the EU would offer the same deal to a large country than to a town with a population of 39,925 - especially to a country that has chosen to leave the EU. We also do not believe that an emergency break would solve the UK's specific problem. The UK does not want to block all immigration, but to control it - for example, through a points-based system. The emergency break would in practice never be triggered, because there is no way the UK would want to constrain the inflow of highly-qualified employees from other EU countries. An emergency break is just a rhetorical ruse. The eurosceptics will clearly see through this, and reject it. An EEA agreement would be our preference, too, but it will come with the recognition that the idea of immigration control will have to be ditched. Given the relative weakness of Nicola Sturgeon's position, we think that May and her Brexit team will opt for a short EEA transition period, followed by FTAs. We agree with Charles Grant that the EU will not be able to agree any treaty changes. This means also that the EU will not be in a position to offer a new form of associate-member status.

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  • Who will lead Germany?
  • Peasant party upsets Lithuanian election
  • Ségolène Royal, seriously?
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • June 13, 2018
  • Macedonia - a deal hailed internationally and challenged at home
  • Macron - elusive to the left
  • What did Theresa May concede?
  • January 31, 2018
  • A compromise of words
  • The Maybot will go on and on and on
  • September 22, 2017
  • The last German polls
  • May 15, 2017
  • SPD and CDU disagree on how to respond to Macron
  • Was Rajoy blackmailed?
  • The rise of the re-leavers
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • September 27, 2018
  • Two ways out of the Brexit impasse
  • August 20, 2018
  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • July 12, 2018
  • Remainers are facing an acute dilemma now
  • June 05, 2018
  • Merkel sets the terms. What response from Macron?
  • Vollgeld: an accident not waiting to happen
  • Germany shocked, shocked, by Mr Ambassador
  • April 30, 2018
  • Looming May protests against Macron
  • France has discovered the Laffer curve
  • An important resignation in the UK
  • March 26, 2018
  • On the run no more
  • Terrorist attack will challenge Macron
  • A double-whammy of geopolitical and financial uncertainty
  • February 19, 2018
  • SPD divided over grand coalition
  • Wauquiez - the French Trump?
  • Why Brexit will be extremely hard to reverse
  • January 16, 2018
  • Towards a radicalisation of Les Républicains?
  • EU toughens its position on Brexit transition
  • December 15, 2017
  • Amendment 9 conundrum
  • The negligible GDP impact of the single market
  • November 15, 2017
  • A Christmas bonus for poor Greeks
  • Dim prospects of negotiated de-escalation on Catalonia
  • Macron's favourite to succeed Juncker - first round
  • On sovereignty
  • Gli Azzurri
  • October 16, 2017
  • What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
  • Can Brexit be revoked?
  • Macron's grand narrative
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • July 25, 2017
  • The impact of Duda's veto
  • How to undo Brexit
  • Front National: Frexit or not?
  • June 30, 2017
  • Recurring Brexit myths
  • On EU citizen rights
  • On Brexodus
  • June 05, 2017
  • What happens to Brexit if Labour wins?
  • What Russia wants
  • May 11, 2017
  • Germany rejects IMF’s policy recommendations before they are issued
  • Why Labour is losing
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • March 28, 2017
  • To vote or not to vote
  • The pressure is on for the Dutch Green Left
  • On macro risk in the eurozone
  • March 07, 2017
  • Dinner in Versailles
  • The shape of Brexit financial migration
  • February 15, 2017
  • Fillon under fire
  • More headaches for Rutte
  • Who are the bigots now?
  • January 27, 2017
  • The Brexit Bill in full
  • Fillon says he would withdraw if charged
  • January 09, 2017
  • FN campaign troubles
  • Objectionable perhaps, but muddled?
  • December 22, 2016
  • Round up the usual suspects
  • A populist goes to Moscow
  • Macron ahead of Fillon?
  • Discombobulated
  • December 06, 2016
  • Doubling down in Rome
  • On the Supreme Court's Brexit case
  • When a refugee commits a murder
  • November 21, 2016
  • Merkel IV
  • Erdogan increasingly alienated from the West
  • EU may force a hard Brexit
  • The day after
  • November 07, 2016
  • Why UK elections are becoming more likely
  • The EU's moral bankruptcy on Turkey
  • Merkel's presidential mess
  • The case for a No vote in Italy
  • October 24, 2016
  • Ceta - the next deadline
  • Who will lead Germany?
  • Peasant party upsets Lithuanian election
  • Ségolène Royal, seriously?
  • October 10, 2016
  • Waking up to the hardness of Brexit
  • September 30, 2016
  • High drama in the PSOE
  • What happened to Montebourg?
  • Why a hard Brexit is not inevitable
  • September 21, 2016
  • Will Austria veto Ceta?
  • Corruption allegations and other bad news for Syriza
  • Let the race begin
  • September 12, 2016
  • Renzi and his internal opposition
  • September 05, 2016
  • The beginning of the end
  • Public safety concerns in Greece
  • MPs get no access to Apple ruling
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • August 22, 2016
  • Gold for Brexit
  • EU and Turkey talking past each other
  • Switzerland is the next migrant transit country
  • On the death of neoliberal economics
  • 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 20, 2016
  • Brexit illusions
  • Ringfencing the refugee deal
  • Electioneering after Nice
  • Saving the world as we know it
  • On inequality in Germany
  • July 19, 2016
  • The real putsch in Turkey is happening now
  • Horse-trading begins in Spanish post-electoral politics
  • July 18, 2016
  • What now in Turkey?
  • French politics after Nice
  • How to address the Scottish question?
  • What Brexit means