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October 13, 2016

French Republican primaries and the left-right divide

Francois Hollande might have hoped that the Republican candidates would finish each other off in the primaries, and that he could then emerge as the one presidential candidate who cares about and reunites the electorate. But this is not going to happen. Hollande’s worst adversary is not Arnaud Montebourg or Emmanuel Macron, but Alain Juppé, writes Francoise Fressoz. Juppé now openly courts those on the left disappointed by Francois Hollande. And with Nicolas Sarkozy courting the far right, the Republican primaries very much resemble a pre-election run. Who needs the Socialists, then? 

No way Hollande can wait until after the Republican primaries to come out with an answer to whether or not he will run. With his interview in Nouvel Observateur he makes his wish to run clear. There he targeted Juppé directly. Economically, Republicans are all the same, he says. When it comes to the 'national identity' Hollande lashed out against Juppé’s idea of a identité heureuse saying it was not compatible with a programme Hollande denounces as solidarité malheureuse. The objective is clear: reviving the left-right divide and stopping Juppé’s appeal to the left. But will this be enough? 

Cecile Cornudet writes that this interview is not suited to Hollande's hopes of becoming a presidential candidate next year. And what about his poor track record in reducing unemployment? At the same time Hollande’s ex-lover Valérie Trierweiler pulled out a text message from him back in 2008 to show his contempt for the poor, which he called the sans dents (toothless). While she published a similar SMS already, this one is apparently even more embarrassing.

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October 13, 2016

Some thoughts on Brexit

People pretend to shocked, shocked by the Daily Mail's headline: "Damn the unpatriotic Bremainers and their plot to subvert the will of the British people". We are not in the least bit surprised. Shortly after the referendum we wrote that any attempt to launch a second referendum or to instigate other means to stop Brexit would lead to a civil war in the UK - and we meant this literally. The support for Bremain by so many senior officials, ex-politicians, and commentators, has lead to a backlash of which we will see more in the future. And it has also meant that those who supported Remain have had no voice in the process, since the government rightly refuses to listen to anyone who sympathises with sabotaging the referendum result. 

Speaking from a pro-European perspective, we note that Britain's hard exit from the EU is both inevitable and deserved if only because those who were in favour of EU membership were unable to argue a coherent case for it during the campaign, and failed to make a second-best case of single-market membership directly after the referendum by wasting much of their political capital on this Bremain nonsense. We have got to the point where the backlash against their position is so strong that even single-market membership is now denounced as unpatriotic. While that statement by the Daily Mail is obvious nonsense - and not derivable from the referendum result as such - it is the political reality in a country in which none of the two largest parties now support single-market membership (as opposed to access, which is a meaningless concept). 

We are unfazed by the debate on whether the British parliament has a say over Brexit, which occupies the media and the foreign exchange markets yesterday. It won't make a difference. Think of the scenarios:

  1. The parliament will approve the trigger of Article 50, presumably with a majority of both Conservative and Labour MPs. 
  2. A Tory rebellion robs May of her majority, and Labour votes tactically against the trigger. May has reason to call early elections. She wins with an enlarged majority, and triggers Article 50 immediately after.
  3. Or, in the unlikely event that she loses the election, Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister. He triggers Brexit, backed by a large majority in the British parliament. Or do we think that he would stake his political future on the preservation of the single passport for City firms?

The High Court will decide on a possible legal challenge to May's decision to not allow parliament to have a vote on Brexit. We should treat the outcome of this case as uncertain. It is quite possible that this goes against the government, but ultimately we do not see that this makes a difference. 

The Guardian has details on the case, explaining that one possible outcome would be for the judges to refer the case to the ECJ to seek clarification on what it means that a country exits "in accordance with its own constitutional requirements". 

A single-market option would have only been possible if the losing Remainers had accepted the result immediately and without the interpretation that the referendum was only about immigration controls. They should have fought for an interim agreement that would have given Britain and the EU time to strike an association agreement, something of the kind that Andrew Duff outlines in a very good analysis of the way forward. He writes that we should all get over the fact that Brexit happened, also outside the UK.

"Regret Brexit as we might, the truth is that continued British membership of the EU on the previous basis was probably unsustainable in the long run. The United Kingdom has always been something of a deviant member state of the European Union."

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