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June 15, 2017

The politics of Brexit

James Blitz has a great piece on how he sees the politics of Brexit panning out after the elections. The first point he makes is that there will be no cross-party deals. Jeremy Corbyn does not want one because he has no interest in keeping Theresa May in power. He wants new elections as soon as possible. And Theresa May has no interest in a pact either, because she wants to stick to the Brexit mandate she has presented to the European Union. The real issue are the discussions inside the Conservative Party, and in particular the pressure brought by Philip Hammond, who wants the UK to remain in the customs union (a position we have been supporting as well). Blitz notes that Damian Green, whom May brought in as first secretary of state, is also sympathetic to this idea - as is Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader in Scotland. The event to watch out for is Hammond’s Mansion House speech this Thursday, an annual event which he may use as an opportunity to push for a business-friendly Brexit.

We also noted a comment by Ben Kelly in the Daily Telegraph in support of Hammond’s position. The issue is not permanent membership of the customs union, but limited to a transitional period. He says, correctly, that membership of the customs union was bound up legally with membership of the EU. While the EU and Turkey have a customs union arrangement, this is arrangement is too one-sided to be acceptable as a blueprint for the UK.

“An interim period in which current arrangements are retained should not be opposed by Brexiteers. The disadvantage of not being able to conclude trade agreements will be cited, but we are not currently in a position to pursue multiple trade agreements. The government is short of capacity because the project of leaving the EU is going to trump all else and we don’t currently have the resource."

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June 15, 2017

Assembly this week, senate in September?

One of the main questions in France this morning is whether François Bayrou is an asset or a liability for the government, and whether Emmanuel Macron can afford to govern without him. This follows a robust exchange between Bayrou and PM Édouard Phillipe over an employment scandal surrounding Modem. How this affair turns out will very much depend on how long it lasts and how serious the allegations are. Le Monde called it the first blunder of Macron’s government, and it remains to be seen how this will affect the second round results of the legislative elections. 

We picked up on another subject, further in the future, and even more uncertain. According to France Inter there is a pro-Macron movement in the Senate. The former Socialist François Patriat assembled a group of thirty senators - from the right, the centre and the left -  with the aim to have an LREM movement ready for the Senate elections in September. The movement still has a long way to go, and in three months we also will know a little bit more about Macron’s government. Thus a majority in the 348-strong senate still seems far fetched. Then again, there has been a lot of these never-before-seen moments since Macron won the presidential elections, and commentators are either full of admiration or scepticism, which probably says more about the commentator than about Macron’s chances of success. A strong presence or even a majority in the senate would make constitutional reform, which needs a three-fifths majority in a joint vote of the senate and assembly, more likely.

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June 15, 2017

Romanian government crisis refuses to go away

In what may be one of the strangest political crises in recent memory, the Romanian Social Democratic party PSD has withdrawn its support from its own government. The party's executive has been putting pressure on Sorin Grindeanu, prime minister, and the rest of the ministers from the PSD to resign or face being kicked out of the party. The junior coalition partner, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, also withdrew its support from the government. Earlier in the year, the recently formed PSD government faced massive street protests over its attempt to push through a decree which would have decriminalised various corruption offences, and in particular would have spared the leader of the PSD Livin Dragnea from having to stand trial on corruption allegations. The PSD leadership is also unhappy about the inability of the labour minister to implement an election promise to raise public sector wages. The party has two options to force the PM out: either getting more than half the ministers in the cabinet to resign, or to introduce its own no-confidence motion on the PM in the Romanian parliament. 

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