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June 26, 2017

Brexit - the central case and the tail-risk

We are becoming increasingly convinced that the single biggest risk to a successful Article 50 negotiation is the Bremain campaign, which is currently gaining steam. The reason why we think this is counter-productive (from a pro-EU perspective) is that it may encourage the EU to offer a more punitive deal to the UK than it would otherwise do, in the hopes that this will further the cause of the Bremainers. The danger lies in a series of mutually reinforcing political misjudgements that could lead to exit without an agreement. 

This is not our central scenario - far from it. 

One scenario in which this could happen would be a chaotic Tory leadership election. David Davies, the Brexit secretary, yesterday tried to nip this in the bud by saying it would be a disaster for the Brexit talks if the Tories toppled Theresa May. We agree with this. The various wings of the Tory party all have every rational incentive to stay put. The Guardian reports this morning that a deal with the Northern Irish DUP is now almost concluded, and could be agreed by tomorrow. Our expectation is that this will be a stable minority government lasting at least two years.

The consensus is now shifting to the position we have been advocating for one year: accept that Brexit happens, accept that it has to involve an exit from the single market, but allow a very long transitional period to soften the economic impact and negotiate a comprehensive association and trade agreement. 

But there are still a number of commentators who keep beating the Bremain drum. Matthew Paris, like the Labour politician Chuka Umunna, believe the EU will go soft on freedom of movement and clamp down on it for the whole of the EU. Readers on the European continent should understand that these characters fall in the category of pro-Europeans in the UK. We are quoting from Parris just to demonstrate how intellectually shallow the case for Remain has become in the UK:

"The question, then, as we stand at the gate in March 2019, would be the old, old question that logic whispered we would face in the end: 'How is this better than what we had?' And the whisper 'you don’t have to do this, you know', will be growing more insistent from this week onwards. We are at our strongest before we take the plunge, and I believe that to keep us in, our European partners might at last be prepared to talk about a system of shock absorbers on internal migration — not just for Britain but for the whole EU."

Unlike Parris, Jonathan Freedland at least has got his facts straight, but he, too, cannot think of a plausible mechanism to bring about a Remain position in the UK parliament within the next 18 months or so, which would be the required. You will need an election, and a pro-Remain party to win it, which is clearly not on today’s political horizon.

A somewhat misleading assessment is that of Timothy Garten-Ash, who says that the transitional period will happen, and offer second-class membership of the EU. This is true, of course, but it is misleading in the sense that it only affects the transitional period. Once that period ends, the UK will either return to full EU membership under Article 49, or leave the EU with a Free Trade Agreement and ideally a broader association agreement, both of which have yet to be negotiated. 

Wolfgang Munchau notes in his FT column:

"It is a shame that so many Remain supporters have been banging on about undoing Brexit, rather than rallying behind the pragmatic idea of a long transitional period inside the single market. In doing so, they have weakened their influence in the debate. I also believe that Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, is ill-advised to keep talking about this possibility."

Larry Elliott provides a good account of why the Labour Party supports Brexit, albeit reluctantly. This is not only in deference to the Labour Brexit-supporters, but because it plans to introduce policies on state aid, infant industry protection, and public ownership, that would be harder to implement inside the EU. Also, the Labour Party cannot credibly demand that the poor have a voice following the Grenfell Tower inferno, and then overturn a referendum result.

And finally, for those who want a really glum scenario, the author and former journalist Robert Harris has this:

"May resigns, Boris PM; Boris sex scandal, Davis PM; UK leaves EU, no deal; Tories lose election; Corbyn = 5th UK PM in 3 yrs; Queen dies. The End"

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June 26, 2017

The German fear of Macron

The rise of Emmanuel Macron alarms the conservative ordo-liberal forces in Germany’s establishment, which is deeply distrustful of Angela Merkel’s ability to stand up in defence of the German vision for the eurozone economy. Thomas Mayer has encapsulated these fears in a comment in Frankfurter Allgemeine, in which he writes that Macron is a "dangerous partner". Mayer explains the difference between France and Germany as one of fundamental philosophy around the role of the state. France is guided by rational constructivism - the state is understood as an organisation to pursue specific goals, legitimised by democratic elections. The German understanding of politics is completely different. Germany is under the influence of Anglo-Saxon liberalism and the critical rationalism of Emmanual Kant. The role of the state is that of guardian of the rules that emerged as a societal consensus over time. The purpose of the rules is to give individuals the freedom to do what they want. 

These fundamental differences have led to many fudges in the construction of the monetary union, and continues to be a source of misunderstandings between the two countries. It is no surprise that France supports the ECB’s policies while Germany does not. Macron’s proposals for a eurozone fiscal capacity are also going in the same direction. Mayer fears that liberalism in Germany has weakened to such an extent that Germany will no longer be able to resist French advances. With Brexit Germany has lost a like-minded ally. And with Macron it regained an ally who is committed to an illiberal philosophy.

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  • 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 04, 2019
  • What will the European Parliament do?
  • February 21, 2019
  • Sound and fury, but Brexit reality unchanged
  • Supertanker Deutschland moves to join internet age
  • October 12, 2018
  • A deal so close, and yet so far
  • AfD leaves Germans speachless and helpless
  • June 04, 2018
  • German discourse out of control
  • Wait for European disunity on US tariffs
  • January 24, 2018
  • AfD europhobe to chair of Bundestag's budget committee
  • Watch out for the Labour Party debate on the single market
  • On the productivity puzzle
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • May 12, 2017
  • What to do with Germany’s tax windfall
  • How Macron counts on building a majority
  • Options for the eurozone
  • 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 22, 2019
  • High stake poker with Turkey
  • Without EU accession prospect, what is at stake for Macedonia?
  • September 13, 2019
  • Protecting our German way of life: on the decline of the car industry
  • August 05, 2019
  • No deal first, elections later
  • Free movement of labour? Not for politicians
  • Europe already lost the digital battle
  • June 27, 2019
  • Why it is an illusion to think that the Commons could stop a no-deal Brexit
  • Vestager for president
  • May 22, 2019
  • Better start those no-deal preparations right now
  • Europe's real transfer union is from east to west
  • April 15, 2019
  • Finland's far right changes the game
  • Brexit party drawing almost even with the Tories
  • March 11, 2019
  • Ask what Europe can do for Germany - AKK's EU manifesto
  • February 05, 2019
  • Pressure on Varadkar rises - the EP turns up the heat
  • When grounds shift - literally
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • November 26, 2018
  • Two German plus two Dutch makes four spitzenkandidaten
  • Yellow vest protests - radicalisation and new political alliances
  • October 24, 2018
  • Can the eurozone be governed without a parliament?
  • EU to grant UK-wide backstop
  • Merkel flip-flops on diesel legislation
  • September 25, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - second referendum edition
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • July 30, 2018
  • Brexit midsummer madness
  • July 03, 2018
  • Some realism about tariffs
  • How the Brexit carousel has come full circle
  • June 08, 2018
  • German car lobby in full panic mode - wants EU to cut car tariffs unilaterally
  • Turkey suspends migrant deal with Greece
  • Is Macron losing the left?
  • May 14, 2018
  • Catalonia: plus ça change...
  • Conveney says no to Brexit with border infrastructure
  • Why the noble Lords don't really matter
  • April 18, 2018
  • What Macron did not say in Strasbourg
  • Should we worry about Selmayrgate?
  • March 27, 2018
  • The IMF's proposals for eurozone reform
  • No concessions from Erdogan
  • Will the UK be shut out of Galileo on Brexit?
  • March 05, 2018
  • One rock, two vetos, three governments
  • Rutte weighs in
  • February 12, 2018
  • What the euro debate is really about
  • How Brexit can still falter
  • January 23, 2018
  • Berlusconi is a pro-European once again
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • December 06, 2017
  • Ireland in search of its own path in the EU
  • Who owns the eurozone?
  • Gabriel's big speech
  • November 20, 2017
  • Showdown over Northern Ireland
  • Castaner and his list confirmed
  • Gennimata to lead the new left alliance
  • Brexit‘s ultimate irony
  • November 02, 2017
  • The Impact of Brexit
  • German court of auditors questions diesel tax break
  • On trade and violence
  • October 19, 2017
  • Germany is softening up over Brexit
  • The French budget and the wealthy
  • Will Borut Pahor win re-election as Slovenian president?
  • October 05, 2017
  • May clings on
  • On German ECB conspiracies
  • Mélenchon's crusade against the EU flag
  • September 22, 2017
  • The last German polls
  • September 11, 2017
  • Turkey issues travel warning for visitors to Germany
  • How nasty is the AfD?
  • August 31, 2017
  • Where are the Républicains?
  • Poland unmoved by EU rule-of-law sanctions
  • May will stay through Brexit, and then fight the 2022 elections
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • July 31, 2017
  • Russia sanctions bill becomes US law
  • Spain's Guardia Civil in the eye of the Catalan storm
  • A grand bargain between France and Germany
  • July 24, 2017
  • Macron's popularity falls amid more budget cuts
  • Orbán to support Polish government against EU
  • No exit from Brexit
  • July 17, 2017
  • What Tony Blair's Brexit confusion tells us
  • Schulz advocates compulsory investments
  • Italy’s government has effectively lost its majority
  • July 11, 2017
  • The political fallout of the G20 in Germany
  • July 06, 2017
  • On Merkel’s imperial overreach
  • When the opposition opposes to oppose
  • Everybody wants the medicines agency
  • July 03, 2017
  • Can Greece exit its programme without a credit line?
  • The softening Brexit
  • Macron's state of the nation address
  • June 28, 2017
  • Is gay marriage Merkel’s next refugee problem?
  • June 27, 2017
  • Nothing much happened in the UK yesterday
  • Another expedient Merkel U-turn
  • A Sir Humphrey under Macron?