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February 20, 2017

SPD ahead of CDU/CSU

We don’t want to bring you a blow-by-blow account of German opinion polls, but this, by Emnid, is the first one showing the SPD ahead of the CDU/CSU. If this were the final election results, Martin Schulz would be the next German chancellor. Here is a snapshot of the latest polls: 

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February 20, 2017

Fillon bounces back

Fillon seems to be back in the saddle again. A breakfast with Nicolas Sarkozy was a turning point. Now he is out there campaigning, making headlines with proposals such as lowering the penal age to 16. This proposal is backed by Republican voters (83%) and Front National (81%). He will present his controversial health care programme on Tuesday, so the press has something else to chew on. There is a loyal core of Republicans, between 18% and 20%, who will support him no matter what. His backing among Republican voters is 70% according to a poll for Journal du Dimanche.

Can he still win? If there are no more revelations and no indictment, yes, argues Le Point. His team already said that he will not get out of the race if the prosecutors just opens an enquiry. The best that could happen to Fillon is if the courts take their time to come to a conclusion. What if he were indicted? The ball is in the judges' court and there is a chance that the public would see an early indictment as bias against François Fillon: 61% of Republicans already do.

They also started a debate about who would be prime minister under Fillon. Xavier Betrand and Francois Baroin are clearly campaigning for this job. Both are ambitious and bring something to the table, Betrand as a force against Marine Le Pen (he ousted her in the regional elections 2015) and Baroin as the president of the mayors’ association.

It is also now clear that there will be no common ticket of Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. After weeks of talks behind closed doors, Mélenchon presented his programme over the weekend. Mélenchon never had an obvious incentive to join forces with Hamon. He is the one to represent the anti-establishment crowd on the left, with a track record and a reputation to lose.

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February 20, 2017

The Brexit timetable

Alex Barker reports in the FT that the EU is planning to spend until Christmas solely focusing on the technical issues of the Article 50 discussions - a timetable we think is realistic given the complexities of the divorce.

We are not entirely sure whether this represents a setback for the UK, whose Brexit minister indicated a preference for parallel negotiations towards a fast-track deal to be completed by the end of 2018. We, too, thought a fast-track trade was technically possible, given that we are starting from a position of complete convergence, but this obviously requires the goodwill of both sides. The EU does not seem willing to go down this route, which is why we think a time-limited transitional deal is likely.

Michel Barnier will prioritise the costs of Brexit and the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and vice versa, in the first stages of the negotiations. 

Five diplomats confirmed the year-end timetable, the article says. One of the first goals is to agree a basic methodology for the Brexit agreement. Once that is completed, the next stage in the talks is to negotiate an interim deal, on the basis for the likely future FTA. 

In the UK, the biggest event has been a speech by Tony Blair, whose declared intent has been to usurp Brexit. Sebastian Payne makes the point that if Blair wants to influence the events, he will need to accept that Brexit is happening. The timing of his speech is all wrong - after the Labour Party decided to endorse the government’s Article 50 bill, which is now in the House of Lords. One should also not underestimate that Blair is loathed in many sections of his party. 

“My advice to Mr Blair: hop in a car and drive north. Go to Trimdon, in your former constituency of Sedgefield, and see how the 60 per cent of Brexit voters there find your message. Then you will see the difficulty facing the Labour party. Its core base is disappearing as voters no longer listen to it.”

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