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August 02, 2018

Remain campaign in state of panic over possible Brexit deal

It took a while for the slowly emerging news about a more constructive phase in the Brexit talks to register in the UK, where commentators are still hyperventilating about a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum. The Guardian reports this morning of sheer panic in the Remain campaign amid reports that Germany is more open towards a soft-Brexit deal. Germany has officially denied the crude version of its diplomatic shift - it has clearly not given any instructions to Michel Barnier. But there is a notable difference in approach, as Berlin clearly has no interest in a no-deal Brexit whose probability has risen. 

As we have been writing, the Remain campaign does not want a soft Brexit but a second referendum. The compromise the EU is now considering is a rather short and vague political declaration about the future relationship. The declaration was never going to be legally binding in any case. The EU knows fully well that a change of government after Brexit would clearly have an impact on the future negotiations about an association agreement. This is why the EU can live with some degree of constructive ambiguity right now. The overall goal on both sides is to avoid a no-deal Brexit. As the prospects for such a calamity fade, so would the prospect of a second referendum. The article said the Remain campaign had relied on Germany and France keeping a tough line on the future relationship. There is fear that a vague statement about the future relationship may even entice some Labour MPs to support the deal. 

The article says that the Remain campaign entertains no systematic diplomatic contact with other EU governments, which is why they may not have registered Merkel’s subtle diplomatic shift. The campaign relies mainly on private contacts by Nick Clegg or Tony Blair. We noted that the campaign has already coined a term for what is likely to be agreed: a blind Brexit. We also thought it was interesting that they want to get EU leaders explicitly to keep the door open to the UK remaining in the EU. Apart from Donald Tusk, who keeps on making this invitation, we are not hearing this from either Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron. Merkel’s line is that she regrets the decision but accepts it.

Alex Barker has some wise words to offer about the apparent shift in Merkel's position. There is a subtle shift, but a shift nevertheless. We would add that Merkel’s style of government over the last 13 years has been to kick the can down the road. Why expect a change over Brexit? Germany has an interest in the approval of a soft withdrawal deal. And this means Germany is closer to May than to the Remain campaign. 

We also agree with Barker’s suggestion that Merkel’s change of position may be informed by shifts in geopolitics. Merkel is currently battling on too many fronts. The last thing she needs now is a hard Brexit. Of course, Germany is not willing to sacrifice the integrity of the single market. But we don’t think that this will be necessary.

We also noted an interesting story by George Parker in the FT about Michael Gove’s backstop plan in case parliament refuses to ratify the withdrawal agreement. This is similar to a proposal by Lord Owen, the former foreign secretary, who had proposed time-limited membership of the EEA - one that takes us beyond the next election. We should note this is not a proposal, merely something that has been discussed over dinner. We would agree that temporary EEA membership as a backstop solution is plausible as it would clearly be acceptable to the EU. It can be negotiated quickly, possibly with a small, but limited Art. 50 time extension. 

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August 02, 2018

Could Brexit trigger Irish reunification?

Could a hard Brexit trigger a referendum about the reunification of Northern Ireland with the Republic? This is now Sinn Féin's position. Its leader Mary Lou McDonald said on Tuesday that, if there were to be a hard Brexit next year, the British government would have to hold a border poll, on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK or join with the Republic to form a united Ireland. McDonald seems to have performed a U-turn in her position, as a day earlier she still cautioned that the question of a poll should be put aside until the dangers of Brexit are mitigated.  

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson also said last Friday that his party needs to consider the possibility of a united Ireland. While Robinson was clear that he would like the north to remain part of the UK. But addressing the possibility of a united Ireland at some stage in the future represents a dramatic shift in thinking by a leading DUP member, so the Irish Times, even if he was denounced by leading members of the DUP for even raising the issue. The paper writes that many of the old fears against unification are no longer relevant. And the possibility of Brexit leading to economic decline of northern industries if they stay the UK, while the Republic thrives within the EU, is not so far-fetched. This could trigger a rethink in the communities of Northern Ireland. But this has to happen on its own accord, not as a sectarian topic, so the article.

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August 02, 2018

Syriza's politics after the deadly wildfires

The Greek government is keen to take back the initiative in the aftermath of the wildfire tragedies, as the how and why questions are now preoccupying the public debate. Giorgos Stathakis, environment minister, announced government plans to knock down more than 3000 illegal buildings in forested land or next to the sea. Apart from showing people that the government is pro-active, it also serves the purpose of diverting attention away from the question of whether the authorities reacted too slowly to the emergency, and towards the illegal constructions that the government blames for the high number of fatalities. It also puts the spotlight on the opposition parties, New Democracy and Pasok, the two parties which governed in the past, writes Macropolis. These illegal constructions have been a problem for decades and it has been notoriously difficult to knock the buildings down. 

There are reportedly also considerations of a separate civil protection organisation, after the general secretariat which coordinates authorities during crises appeared to have failed in its task last week.

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  • January 06, 2020
  • A decade that started with a bang
  • What to expect of Spain's next government
  • Divide et impera: Macron's pension reform strategy
  • November 28, 2019
  • Merkel’s legacy
  • October 29, 2019
  • People's Vote descends into Civil War
  • CDU at odds on dealing with extreme parties
  • September 30, 2019
  • A pyrrhic victory for Kurz
  • Will there really be UK elections?
  • September 02, 2019
  • Prorogation already served its purpose - events will come to a head this week
  • EU citizens in the UK are the biggest victims of no-deal Brexit
  • August 06, 2019
  • Macron's next bet: municipal elections
  • A victory for Salvini and his coalition
  • July 12, 2019
  • EU veers into crisis over von der Leyen's confirmation
  • A short note on long ambitions
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • May 23, 2019
  • ...twere well it were done quickly
  • The Tsipras-Mitsotakis duel dominates EP campaign in Greece
  • April 30, 2019
  • Labour's big day
  • Spain now turns to its next elections
  • On the hypocrisy of the German debt debate
  • April 08, 2019
  • Welcome to the new Brexit grand coalition
  • Waiting for Macron's next move
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • February 25, 2019
  • Deal versus short delay
  • The astonishing weakness of Five Star
  • The real threat is from the left not the right
  • February 07, 2019
  • Forget Tusk - the real action is elsewhere
  • On David Malpass and the Trump legacy
  • January 20, 2019
  • Groundhog Britain
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • December 17, 2018
  • A second referendum is no closer today than last Friday
  • Philippe expects 3.2% deficit next year
  • December 03, 2018
  • French protests coming to a head this week
  • The Galileo fiasco, an ill omen for the future UK-EU relationship
  • November 19, 2018
  • May’s pushback is kicking in
  • November 05, 2018
  • Macron trails behind Le Pen in European elections poll
  • How the CDU will organise leadership campaign
  • October 23, 2018
  • May hardens position on Irish backstop under pressure from cabinet
  • Greek pension cuts - a classic European dilemma
  • October 12, 2018
  • A deal so close, and yet so far
  • AfD leaves Germans speachless and helpless
  • October 03, 2018
  • Ironman Stubb wants to succeed Juncker
  • Don’t think for one moment that Tories are rallying behind May
  • September 25, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - second referendum edition
  • September 17, 2018
  • About the new partnership between Russia and China
  • EU ponders Irish backstop protocol to help May
  • September 10, 2018
  • Steadfast Juppé stays true to embattled Macron
  • Sweden’s Democrats and Germany’s AfD: they don’t win elections, but they set the political agenda
  • Is Boris going to challenge Theresa May?
  • September 03, 2018
  • Is the AfD an extremist party? Of course it is. Why do you ask?
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • August 22, 2018
  • Is the AfD a party of the left or the right?
  • What a second Brexit referendum would be about
  • 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
  • August 03, 2018
  • What we think about reforming the eurozone
  • August 02, 2018
  • Remain campaign in state of panic over possible Brexit deal
  • Could Brexit trigger Irish reunification?
  • Syriza's politics after the deadly wildfires