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February 09, 2017

The Lords have a choice - risk abolition or vote for Brexit

After yesterday's final Article 50 Brexit vote in the House of House, which went 494 against 122, the bill now goes to the House of Lords where we expect it will be passed in time for Theresa May to trigger the process on schedule before the end of March. As we have argued before, this is it. The scenario under which this process can still be derailed, even under a string of very negative assumptions, is looking increasingly remote.

We thought the following tweet by Nicola Strugeon (@NicolaSturgeon) sums up the exasperation of an intelligent pro-Remain politician about the illogical and duplicitous position taken by the Labour Party, whose leader decided - for tactical reasons - to support the bill and to impose a three-line whip on his MPs.

She is right. The real fight does not start now. The real fight has been lost. In our view this is due to the inability of the Remain team to unify around a common position post-Brexit, for example, to seek an EEA-type membership. When asked by a Scottish MP whether she would risk a break-up of the UK, May answered in the parliament:

"He constantly refers to the interests of Scotland inside the European Union - an independent Scotland would not be in the European Union."

We fear, sadly, that this is true. Spain has already said that it would veto such a move for domestic political reasons, and several other countries, such as Belgium, would happily hide behind a Spanish veto. The latest opinion polls, in the Glasgow Herald, shows increasing support for Scottish independence, from 45.5% to 49%, but still short of a majority. More importantly, most people do not want another referendum. 

The House of Lords could theoretically delay - but not stop - the Brexit bill. It could propose amendments that would need to be voted on by the House of Commons. The bill would then go to-and-fro between the two houses, with the Commons ultimately prevailing. Importantly, the government is now putting not-so-subtle pressure on the Lords according to the BBC, which quotes one government source as saying that the Lords would risk abolition if they opposed the will of the people. The Lords are overwhelmingly pro-EU but they also realise that it is not their job to mount an opposition.

One of the more interesting developments is the future turn of the British Labour Party. The party has suffered badly under Corbyn's leadership, and over his unprincipled flip-flopping on Brexit. But the party has also given up any expectations that they could oust him in a leadership election. There is a scenario, however, where he may step down voluntarily. As this article suggests, the hard left of the Labour Party seeks a rule change that would make it virtually impossible for the party to elect a moderate leader. The shadow business secretary, Clive Lewis, resigned yesterday after he decided to oppose the Brexit bill. He is seen as a potential successor to Corbyn because he is on the left of the party, while pro-European at the same time. In any case, once the parliamentary process is over, it is hard to imagine a single scenario in which Brexit could be undone - which requires the parliament to instruct the government to abandon the Article 50 process, and for this to be accepted by both the British government and every member of the European Council.

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February 09, 2017

French secret service fears Russian support for FN

Le Canard Enchaîné is having a good election campaign. After leading the charge against François Fillon with a consistent stream of revelations, the satirical paper now has another scoop - the French secret service fears Russian meddling in the forthcoming election campaign in favour of Marine Le Pen. This follows the discovery of a USB stick containing a Russian hacking manual. The alert has reached such a level that the next president's security council will be devoted to the subject. The intent of the alert - and the counter-measures to be taken - is to prevent a situation like in the US, where a Russian-inspired campaign of disinformation is alleged to have influenced the outcome of the election. The article quotes a French cryptographer as saying that the authorities in France massively overestimate the extent of their intelligence, and the degree to which they can influence the outcome of a Russian hacking attack. During the primary campaigns, the extent of Russian-sourced bots issuing pro-Le Pen propaganda on social networks has been significant. The only saving grace for France, according to this article, is that the country is not as advanced as the US in terms of its digital reliance.

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February 09, 2017

A whiff of revolution

Revolution is in the air. The French want something radically different, the discontent is palpable. And the politicians know just how to respond to this, writes Cécile Cornudet. Macron titled his book Revolution, Bayrou’s is called French Resolution, Mélenchon sees himself as the speaker for the un-submissive France, Marine Le Pen speaks in the name of the people. Even François Fillon is calling to bring down the house. They all present themselves as anti-system candidates: Le Pen targets the political right and left influenced by money; Macron targets the political parties; Fillon dismisses the four lefts including the Front National in this count; Mélenchon wants to restore power to the people; and Hamon re-invents the image of the candidate next door. By designing a political enemy they all want to outsmart each other. But what is behind all this staging? Another trompe-d’oeil?

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February 09, 2017

Rajoy and Trump, best buddies

Other European leaders such as Angela Merkel and François Hollande have vigorously objected to Donald Trump's travel ban as well as to his intention to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Not Mariano Rajoy. The Spanish PM boasted Spain's stable government and strong economic growth, and offered Spain as an interlocutor for the US in Latin America Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. This has been met with consternation in Spain. El Pais' editorial calls it a serious mistake and an offence to Spain's partners in Latin America and the EU. Spain can't afford to approach the EU's external diplomacy as a distant third country but should aim to reinforce and not undermine the common foreign policy. For El País, Rajoy comes off as frivolously making offers he doesn't have the capacity to deliver, in a transparent attempt to please Trump at little cost.

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February 09, 2017

Violent fantasies around Catalonia

In a comment in El Español last week, Carles Enric López writes that the Catalan separatists - most notably the radical left party CUP, but also the parties of the regional government - appear to wish for a violent incident to justify Catalan independence. López cites as a historical parallel "an incident in a wooded area" in the former Yugoslavia - a muted reference to the so-called Log Revolution which was an eight-month long prelude to war in Croatia. In the case of Catalonia, he imagines "an incident between Guardia Civil [Spanish paramilitary police] and Mossos d'Esquadra [Catalan regional police], maybe a violent act by some subversive element seeking notoriety". It is true that among the most widespread narratives among Catalan separatists is the idea that a repressive action on the part of the Spanish government would discredit Spain's unionism in the eyes of the international community, and legitimise separatism. They are trying to frame the ongoing trial of former regional premier Artur Mas in this way, with little success outside media with a separatist editorial line.

El Mundo ran an op-ed in which Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, a former MP for the PP and a protégée of former PM José María Aznar, fantasises about violent repression of a Catalan insurrection in 24 hours. She accuses Mariano Rajoy of being soft and believing that his inaction guarantees the separatists won't act either, and compares the "operation dialogue" of deputy PM Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría to the mad queen Joanna of Castille parading the corpse of her husband around the country. She imagines a scenario in which the government applies Art 155 of the constitution - suspending the regional government:

"Hooded people cause public disturbances in the centre of Barcelona. They break windows, burn buses and assault law-abiding officials. The director of the Mossos d'Esquadra dithers. Some officers conspire. The government places the [regional police] force under the orders of the ministry of the interior. Riots intensify. The government, with the support of the parliament, applies article 116 of the constitution and declares the state of emergency in Barcelona. The violent are arrested and brought before justice. Twenty-four hours later, calm returns. Demonstrators dissolve. Tourists are grateful and the bourgeoisie initiates a process of introspection. Catalanism must be rebuilt. We must abandon political frivolity and correct the course."

We have written before that the Spanish right-wing is aching for an excuse to suspend the regional government. The more extreme actually toy with the idea of a violent crackdown. And the Catalan separatists are aching to give them an excuse because they believe it would help their image abroad.

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  • September 25, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - second referendum edition
  • July 10, 2017
  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • 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
  • October 17, 2019
  • A dangerous game for the EU
  • After Brexit, get ready for a German EU budget rebate
  • 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
  • June 20, 2017
  • How to soften Brexit?
  • The deep roots of Brexit: Thatcher and the Germans
  • 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
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 09, 2018
  • German panic about Target2
  • AfD level with SPD
  • How the EU could fail
  • May 31, 2017
  • Getting real in the debate on the euro's future
  • Russia's growing influence in Italy
  • 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 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • May 28, 2018
  • A no-confidence motion that could backfire
  • The political repercussions of a historic referendum in Ireland
  • Why the lack of an international role for the euro matters
  • May 10, 2017
  • PSOE primary campaign in full swing
  • Czech government crisis escalates
  • Backroom dealing on electoral reform in Italy
  • 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
  • April 09, 2019
  • What can go wrong now?
  • April 13, 2018
  • German support for eurozone reform next to zero...
  • ... and no support for France on Syria either
  • A French sermon
  • Why the euro endures
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • 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
  • January 29, 2019
  • What comes after plan B fails? Plan C, of course. C for cliff-edge
  • Gilets jaunes, how to structure a movement in free flow?
  • European Court of Auditors criticises Juncker’s investment fund
  • February 26, 2018
  • Angela Merkel's cabinet
  • March 27, 2017
  • Governing formation troubles - Northern Ireland edition
  • Did Trump present Merkel with a bill for Nato?
  • 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 30, 2019
  • A pyrrhic victory for Kurz
  • Will there really be UK elections?
  • November 19, 2018
  • May’s pushback is kicking in
  • January 08, 2018
  • Getting real on Brexit
  • Macron in China
  • March 01, 2017
  • The threat of Frexit
  • Fear and loathing of a referendum in Spain
  • How to get around Theresa May’s little ECJ issue
  • Solve the problem
  • 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 11, 2019
  • Politics and the new sense of urgency
  • Ten little monkeys jumping up and down - down mostly
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • November 13, 2017
  • A pro-European list: Wauquiez' nightmare
  • Catalan separatism isn't going away
  • Why oh why does Germany behave the way it does?
  • Why the four freedoms matter
  • February 02, 2017
  • Will it come to the use of force in Catalonia?
  • The day Brexit became irreversible
  • Can Trump and May succeed?
  • 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
  • October 29, 2019
  • People's Vote descends into Civil War
  • CDU at odds on dealing with extreme parties
  • February 13, 2019
  • What to make of the man in the pub - and other tales
  • Macron loses more early advisers - or cuts them loose
  • June 01, 2018
  • Will France and Germany stick together in their response to US trade tariffs?
  • From a eurozone budget to a slush fund
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • 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
  • 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
  • May 09, 2019
  • The EU's impossible dilemma
  • The horsetrading starts in Sibiu
  • May to bring withdrawal bill to Commons week after next
  • September 27, 2018
  • Two ways out of the Brexit impasse
  • February 16, 2018
  • How big will the euro budget be?
  • July 10, 2017
  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • November 30, 2016
  • Is Russia behind a massive cyber attack in Germany?
  • Will Fillon move to the centre?
  • The Dutch left field is getting crowded
  • 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
  • October 18, 2019
  • The horrifying implications of Merkel’s 5G decision
  • April 17, 2019
  • Why it is far from clear that the grand coalition will survive the year
  • Macron's chance and challenge
  • Eurozone firms' surprising response to sagging profits
  • The result of Spain's elections, a riddle wrapped in mystery
  • The MMT debate is coming to Europe - and Germany
  • Greek parliament seeks German war reparations
  • October 15, 2018
  • Black Brexit smoke
  • Bettel can relax and stay in office
  • Solving the crime vs solving the problem
  • April 16, 2018
  • Italy's and Germany's pained response to the Syria attacks
  • On the end of the eurozone's economic honeymoon
  • Why Bulgaria should stay out of the euro
  • Where shall we meet after Brexit?
  • October 16, 2017
  • What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
  • Can Brexit be revoked?
  • Macron's grand narrative
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • October 20, 2016
  • No games please, we are Europeans
  • 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
  • July 16, 2019
  • What next, after EU sanctions Turkey?
  • What to make of Johnson’s four-point Brexit plan
  • Galileo fails, and nobody notices
  • March 04, 2019
  • Macron's two-month sprint
  • May's numbers are not there yet
  • Greening QE
  • On the "hope" of a rate raise
  • October 22, 2018
  • A week of intense political tension in the UK
  • Poland's local elections reveal deeply-split country
  • June 11, 2018
  • The end of the G7 - good riddance
  • Macron needs allies for his European agenda
  • Who is going to be the next director-general of the Italian treasury?
  • January 29, 2018
  • Where is the opposition in France?
  • Scenarios and risks for Syriza over Macedonia
  • September 21, 2017
  • Time to get serious about Brexit
  • Would the FDP claim the job of finance minister?
  • The return of the ultra-right to German politics
  • 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
  • October 30, 2019
  • When conservatives try an insurrection - CDU edition
  • It could not happen here
  • September 17, 2019
  • Beware of the diplomacy of humiliation
  • Germany’s climate hypocrisy
  • August 05, 2019
  • No deal first, elections later
  • Free movement of labour? Not for politicians
  • Europe already lost the digital battle
  • June 24, 2019
  • Economic reform has torn up the SPD - climate policy does the same for the CDU/CSU
  • Not intruding, not really
  • May 13, 2019
  • Brexit Party has already changed UK politics
  • Orbán visits Trump, after a very long wait
  • Le Pen's appeal to the PiS likely to fall on deaf ears
  • April 02, 2019
  • Meaningless II
  • What will come out of the grand débat?
  • February 22, 2019
  • The maths of a Brexit deal
  • Does public protest crowd out of climate change?
  • January 16, 2019
  • And now think about this standoff from the perspective of the EU
  • What can the French learn from Brexit?
  • December 10, 2018
  • ECJ says UK free to revoke Article 50, even inside extension period
  • A turning point in Macron's presidency
  • China has added Portugal to the list of its key EU partners
  • Belgium's coalition implodes over Marrakesh pact
  • November 05, 2018
  • Macron trails behind Le Pen in European elections poll
  • How the CDU will organise leadership campaign
  • October 01, 2018
  • After the referendum, more turmoil in Macedonia
  • What will happen if the UK parliament votes No?
  • Barnier's no-thanks works much better than a yes-please
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • July 27, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - trade edition
  • A test of Pedro Sánchez' majority
  • June 25, 2018
  • Trump's car tariff to come early
  • On the lack of a sharp focus in the eurozone debate
  • May 23, 2018
  • Mattarella’s limited options
  • April 23, 2018
  • More bad news for the SPD
  • Will Theresa May accept a customs union? The Times says yes. We think so too.
  • A comeback for Marine Le Pen?
  • March 26, 2018
  • On the run no more
  • Terrorist attack will challenge Macron
  • A double-whammy of geopolitical and financial uncertainty
  • February 26, 2018
  • Angela Merkel's cabinet
  • January 30, 2018
  • Will Puigdemont be Catalan premier today?
  • Some thoughts about the German car industry
  • A short note on Italian coalition maths
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • December 08, 2017
  • Schulz' Europe
  • 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 24, 2017
  • Is Kaczynski tired of ruling behind the scenes?
  • An era of movements instead of parties?
  • On the decline of the traditional parties
  • October 02, 2017
  • Catalonia recalls EU and eurozone instability
  • French trade unions increase pressure over labour reforms
  • Watch out for a political accident in the UK
  • Municipal elections boost Portugal's Socialists
  • September 11, 2017
  • Turkey issues travel warning for visitors to Germany
  • How nasty is the AfD?
  • August 23, 2017
  • Is Macron neo-protectionistic?
  • No, it is not easy to get rid of the stability pact
  • August 04, 2017
  • What the diesel saga tells us about the EU
  • July 17, 2017
  • What Tony Blair's Brexit confusion tells us
  • Schulz advocates compulsory investments
  • Italy’s government has effectively lost its majority
  • June 30, 2017
  • Recurring Brexit myths
  • On EU citizen rights
  • On Brexodus
  • June 14, 2017
  • Minority governments can be stronger and more stable than you think
  • The anti-Corbyn
  • Watch out for Berlusconi
  • May 30, 2017
  • Beer tent politics - Merkel edition
  • Brexit arrives in UK elections
  • Rajoy clears budget hurdle
  • May 15, 2017
  • SPD and CDU disagree on how to respond to Macron
  • Was Rajoy blackmailed?
  • The rise of the re-leavers
  • May 02, 2017
  • An accident waiting to happen
  • Matteo Renzi wins PD primaries
  • So much for the Schulz effect
  • April 21, 2017
  • Are the elections the result of Bregret speculation?
  • April 10, 2017
  • Nein, nein, nein, und nein
  • Sounds like a bad Brexit story, but ain’t
  • On how not to exit the euro
  • March 29, 2017
  • B-Day
  • Wargaming Catalan independence
  • Macron's strategy for the legislative elections
  • March 21, 2017
  • Is Merkel going to say something?
  • On how to think about Brexit and defence
  • March 13, 2017
  • Poland and the future of the EU
  • Polls show 40% support for Costa's Socialists
  • Council of Europe questions Spanish constitutional court reform
  • March 05, 2017
  • Poland vs Tusk
  • Juppé - a recovered candidate?
  • Will Italy leave the euro?
  • February 27, 2017
  • May’s next gamble
  • Macron and the rise of the centre
  • Bite the bullet and get on with it
  • Who is the AfD?
  • February 20, 2017
  • SPD ahead of CDU/CSU
  • Fillon bounces back
  • The Brexit timetable
  • February 15, 2017
  • Fillon under fire
  • More headaches for Rutte
  • Who are the bigots now?
  • February 13, 2017
  • What decides the French elections: cult or programme?
  • Sense and nonsense on globalisation
  • Towards the next European crisis
  • February 10, 2017
  • Brexit realism
  • How not to attack the populists
  • On German hegemony