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February 28, 2017

Is Hamon losing the right wing of his party?

Is Benoit Hamon losing the right wing of his party, as Les Echos suggests? The reformers wrote a letter to Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, accusing Hamon of seeking alliances with parties on the left rather than speaking to the Socialist voter base. The agreement with Yannick Jadot is the main target of their grievances. They accuse Hamon of giving in to an unrealistic programme for a very high price, deviating from party lines, and styling himself the French version of Jeremy Corbyn. The reformers want a national council of the party, and will discuss this in their meeting today. We will then also get a clearer idea of how many signatories the letter had. What will Manuel Valls do? One of his close allies, Christophe Caresche, already announced his departure to join the Macron team, attracted by his dynamic ascent and his chances to win against Marine Le Pen.

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February 28, 2017

Something we just don’t understand

Given that the UK has now decided to leave the EU, why do former Remainers still not focus their energy fully in the fight to keep the future EU-UK relationship as close as possible, for example through continued membership of the customs union? For that to succeed, of course, they will need to accept and not challenge the very fact of Brexit itself. This is what we don’t get about John Major’s speech, who prefaced a number of very reasonable comments by calling Brexit a "historic mistake". That is obviously a perfect valid opinion to have - we think so, too - but we see little point in emphasising one’s disappointment in an electoral result if the goal is to influence the outcome of the subsequent debate. 

He is right, of course, in warning Theresa May not to make "unreal and over-optimistic" forecasts about the impact of Brexit. He is right to warn about the nonsense of Britain turning into a low-tax economy, and on the impact of Brexit on the NHS. Brexit will affect the UK and EU economies in many specific ways, and it will have big implications for certain industries and certain communities, but it is unlikely to constitute a large and persistent aggregate shock, just as the single market itself did not have a large aggregate positive effect - while it benefited trans-national companies at the expense of national ones.

At least Major is not pushing the idea of a second referendum, a notion that trades on people’s ignorance of the Article 50 process - which leads to departure under any circumstance, either with or without an agreement. There is no unilateral way back into the EU for the UK, once Article 50 is triggered. It would require the consensus of the European Council at the very least.

The most constructive advice to give to the British government is to adopt a more business-like attitude, also in its communications with the media, and to desist from leaking positions with the intent to corner the Article 50 negotiations, like the one on the trigger date for UK residency. As for Remainers, the best advice to focus on salvaging as much as possible from the UK's relationship with the EU because this could form the basis of a future re-entry - post-Brexit, of course. In order words: solve the problem - don’t tell everybody how awful it is going to be.

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February 28, 2017

Solve the problem

We think that it is virtually pointless to scream one’s head off about the ongoing destruction of liberal democracy, a process that culminated with the election of Donald Trump last year. We think the liberal democrats should focus on solving the problems they created over the last 20 years, and not double down on the policies that have given rise to the insurrection. This is also the spirit of a comment by Federico Fubini in La Repubblica, who notes that 2008 was for the global economy what 2016 promises to be for the global political system. And, just as the global community got together then and rescued the world economy, it needs to do the same now - think of radical ideas to solve the political crisis. He picks up a number of ideas to pursue, such as the taxation of robots, an idea proposed by Bill Gates, or a massive European increase in funding for pre-school education. His overall point is that the attitude of liberals should be to solve problems, and to embrace radical solutions.

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