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September 05, 2018

May’s gamble

George Parker offers us a glimpse into Theresa May’s strategy to defeat the hard Brexiteers among Tory MPs. The so-called European Research Group is about to draw up a rival plan, based broadly on a Canada-style trade agreement, the main purpose of which is to undermine May politically.

May knows that she cannot rely on the Labour Party to win the ratification vote on the withdrawal agreement. She will therefore need almost all of the Tories. The thinking is that she will tie her own personal future to the vote. Even her advisers agree that she would have to resign if she were to lose the vote. But they believe that the prospect of a new election, and possibly even a new referendum on May’s Brexit agreement, might persuade the hard Brexiteers to hold their fire. They could otherwise risk Brexit altogether. The persistent talk of a Brexit reversal remains useful for May as a disciplinary device for her own MPs. Parker writes that May was fully aware that her Chequers plan was unpopular, but it lies at the centre of political opinion in the UK. The alternative would be either no Brexit at all and a descent into internecine Conservative warfare. Parker concludes that May's strategy will be tested before the end of the year, with grave consequences no matter what.

The EU could help May by making it clear that a deal is not renegotiable. The EU will remain open to a formal Brexit reversal until March 29, but we do not think the EU will or should agree to extend the Brexit timetable unless it has good reason to believe that the UK will either reverse Brexit or choose an EEA-plus single-market option.

If a deal is rejected, followed by a resignation of May and new elections - we presume before March - the EU would ask the new government to choose between the following three options: another vote to ratify the previously rejected withdrawal treaty with the old political declaration; a re-negotiation of the political declaration setting out a future in the EEA/single market; or to revoke Brexit altogether.

Could the EU agree to extend the article 50 deadline for another year to allow for a referendum? We think this is unlikely because of the 2019 elections. The prospect of a second referendum, which would have to be held well after the European election, would be a gift to the parties on the extreme right who would have an opportunity to portray the EU as undemocratic. UKIP would campaign on a theme of a betrayal, and would probably score well in the elections, which may then act as a platform for its return to the UK political scene.

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September 05, 2018

The ultimate migrant

FAZ has made an interesting and somewhat disturbing observation. The political dividing lines in Berlin about immigration are almost exactly the same as the dividing lines about the hunting of wolves. In the north and the east of Germany the wolf population has risen to such an extent that people are now avoiding their traditional walks in the woods. There is a debate on whether hunters should be allowed to kill wolves. How does this relate to immigration? As one AfD MP put it, the wolf is the ultimate illegal immigrant, killing the other peaceful inhabitants of the realm. In other words, the wolf has become an ersatz symbol of the biggest debate in German politics. 

To test the hypothesis that the two debates are overlapping, FAZ checked out the number of hunting licences among MPs. It found none among the Left Party and the Greens. The Left Party had a single fisherman. Only a single SPD MP had a hunting licence, while there are lots in the FDP, CDU, CSU and in particular the AfD. Christian Lindner has just passed the formidable German hunting test, and is now giving irritating lesson to the Greens about the preservation of forests. 

The paper also makes the observation that among the politicians there is an exception to the rule - one person who is both pro-immigration but also pro-wolf-hunting. This is Angela Merkel - and the reason is almost certainly political expedience. She went against her party’s mainstream on immigration. She can’t afford to ignore her party in the debate about the other migrant. It would be her second migration crisis.

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