We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.

October 03, 2018

Ironman Stubb wants to succeed Juncker

If triathletes are proud addicts to discipline, then the European People’s Party Alexander Stubb is a great case in point. The fabulously fit-looking polyglot Finn is the latest aspirant to throw his hat in the ring for the succession of Jean-Claude Juncker. And just in time too: the Stubb, as he is known amongst some journalists, intends to bolster his candidacy for the EPP’s spitzenkandidat in 2019 by projecting himself as a member of a new generation of European leaders - even if he has fallen on the wrong side of 50 earlier this year. But then it is true that the candidate’s outward appearance, toughened in Ironman competitions, detracts from any notion of advancing middle age.

Stubb’s youthfulness belies an impressive cv which could easily belong to a much older man. An alumnus of the College of Europe, the elite breeding ground for senior EU officials, he has successively served as a member of the European parliament, a minister of foreign affairs, of European affairs and trade, as prime minister, and as finance minister. Currently Stubb, who says he has closed the chapter of Finnish politics, works as vice-president of the European Investment bank.

So what are his chances against Manfred Weber, the German candidate to lead the EPP into next year’s European elections? While Weber, despite his latest turnabout, embodies the politics of compromise with Viktor Orbán, Stubb stands for a clear demarcation line against the hard right, and describes himself as a natural ally of Emmanuel Macron as he shares his keenness for an agenda of further European integration. With Weber and Stubb, the EPP will be faced in November with a clear political choice. A problem for Stubb could be his well-known record as a super-hawk during the eurozone crisis: his insistence on ironman-like discipline has cost him many friends in the south. The lively and eloquent Stubb is a favourite with journalists and an adept practitioner of 21st-century communications. But some will question whether a northerner proudly espousing the triumph of principle over practice would be the right man to steer a fractious EU through the difficult years and waters ahead.

Show Comments Write a Comment

October 03, 2018

Don’t think for one moment that Tories are rallying behind May

We are not sold on the marketing message from Birmingham that the Conservative party is backing May. Boris Johnson delivered a strong and calibrated speech yesterday in front of a packed hall that treated him like a rock star. The best outcome for Theresa May’s speech today would be a polite reception. The Tories might manage that, but Johnson and Rees-Mogg have large sections of the party behind them. 

There are more bad news for May. The DUP said it will categorically reject any controls in the Irish Sea, including regulatory controls. Arlene Foster, DUP leader, said the party would vote against Chequers if it contained such provisions. 

May has recently been hardening her position on immigration with the announcement of a skills-based immigration policy that treats newly-arriving EU citizens the same as everyone else. And she is softening on regulatory controls, which are fiercely opposed by DUP. We doubt that this trade-off will be enough for her to strike a deal with the EU. It does not address the EU's concerns about the integrity of the single market. The EU will also object to a skills-based immigration policy as it indirectly discriminates between member states, those with predominantly-highly-skilled workers like France, Italy and Germany, and those with low-skilled workers.

We think therefore that the risk of a failure to reach agreement in the European Council is higher than generally acknowledged. A deal would only happen if May makes further concessions, as the EU is not moving. Our impression is that the hard Brexiteers are happier to sacrifice Brexit itself than to accept Chequers. They will live to fight another war. We should not overestimate the extent to which people’s preferences are linear.

The best hope for a deal by March 29 lies in the following sequence: May agrees to a customs union in all but name, with lots of smoke and mirrors. Deal fails in parliament. May sits it out: no elections, no second referendum. As the UK nears the cliff edge, Parliament votes for a second time - this time in favour of a deal with the support of Labour MPs. May resigns immediately after Brexit. 

What about a second referendum? We noted a strong disagreement on this matter by two Conservative Lords. The Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein wrote not too long ago that a second referendum would never happen. Now he sees it as the most plausible option. His scenario is the following: deal gets defeated; utter chaos in the Tory party; May sees 2nd referendum as only way out because elections would be a disaster for her. William Hague, however, argues that a second referendum would be a mighty mess for the Tory Party, which would have failed to deliver on the Brexit referendum result. There would be endless rows and legal challenges about the question to be asked, so the process would take a long time to agree and carry out. And the result would not settle anything, especially in a three-way referendum. 

We would also not rule out a second referendum, but we disagree with Finkelstein in one important aspect. If May's deal were defeated for good, her political future would be over at that moment. At that point, she would have miscalculated twice: on the 2017 elections and on the Chequers Plan. She is not in a position to lead a second referendum campaign, either. So the question becomes whether a second referendum is in the interest of the party, or the next leader. We struggle to see how it can be.

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.


Recent News

  • May 28, 2018
  • A no-confidence motion that could backfire
  • The political repercussions of a historic referendum in Ireland
  • Why the lack of an international role for the euro matters
  • September 15, 2017
  • Juncker dragged into the Catalan fray
  • What to say in Florence
  • How to fill the gap left by the British MEPs
  • 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
  • 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
  • April 26, 2019
  • How Brexit has given rise to different perceptions of reality
  • The EP, not Madrid, will boost Spanish clout
  • How realistic is a Gaullist Europe?
  • September 17, 2018
  • About the new partnership between Russia and China
  • EU ponders Irish backstop protocol to help May
  • February 07, 2018
  • A short note on bitcoin
  • July 04, 2017
  • On the CDU’s programme
  • Macron defines his presidential style
  • Why do we criticise modern macro?
  • November 28, 2016
  • And now what Monsieur Fillion?
  • The inescapable logic of an interim agreement
  • On Germany's foreign policy post-Trump
  • How to lose against the populists
  • 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
  • April 01, 2019
  • Meaningful IV
  • Caputová elected: a turning point for central Europe?
  • October 02, 2018
  • Whatever it takes - diesel version
  • Is Macron's European discourse too simplistic?
  • April 06, 2018
  • Schleswig Holstein collapses Spain's strategy against Catalan separatism
  • On the implausibility of conspiracy theories in the Skripal case
  • October 09, 2017
  • UK is starting to prepare for a no-deal Brexit
  • Why Germany will resist meaningful eurozone reform
  • April 12, 2017
  • Macro in a state of denial
  • Where Schulz is vulnerable
  • Schäuble’s three party tricks
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • 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
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • January 31, 2019
  • EU will play hardball until February 14, and stick to backstop beyond
  • French left and right moves ahead of EP elections
  • Tighten the belts as the economy prepares for landing
  • September 25, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - second referendum edition
  • May 21, 2018
  • Another snap election in the UK? Tories are preparing
  • Merkel and Putin - the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
  • January 15, 2018
  • Is the section on Europe for real?
  • Can Drahos upset Zeman?
  • September 11, 2017
  • Turkey issues travel warning for visitors to Germany
  • How nasty is the AfD?
  • May 08, 2017
  • A message of hope
  • Barnier's not so easily agreed Brexit principles
  • The rebirth of the paranoid conspiracy theory
  • 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 23, 2016
  • Sarkozy launches candidacy in a book
  • Rajoy plans to try again in October
  • Turkey recalls ambassador from Austria
  • 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
  • May 28, 2019
  • Greens in EP boosted by numbers and national politics
  • May 07, 2019
  • … while Macron’s European troubles have already begun, and might get even worse
  • Don't discount a Brexit deal
  • Is Tsipras too complacent?
  • Costa - the fiscally responsible Socialist
  • April 15, 2019
  • Finland's far right changes the game
  • Brexit party drawing almost even with the Tories
  • March 28, 2019
  • Fidesz exposes EPP to barrage of provocations
  • How Berlin has turned the ghost of Aachen into a poltergeist
  • March 11, 2019
  • Ask what Europe can do for Germany - AKK's EU manifesto
  • February 21, 2019
  • Sound and fury, but Brexit reality unchanged
  • Supertanker Deutschland moves to join internet age
  • February 04, 2019
  • Watch out for the resurgence in Tory unity
  • The gilets-jaunes' effect on the European elections
  • What did he possibly mean by that?
  • January 18, 2019
  • Why Dublin won't yield on the backstop
  • Town hall debates vs street protests - who is winning?
  • 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 04, 2018
  • Brexit Revoked - the scenarios
  • In search for a bold response to the gilets jaunes
  • November 23, 2018
  • Why this deal is very likely to be approved - in the end
  • What to make of the political declaration
  • The EU's spy school is no laughing matter
  • November 14, 2018
  • Now what?
  • November 05, 2018
  • Macron trails behind Le Pen in European elections poll
  • How the CDU will organise leadership campaign
  • October 29, 2018
  • Why the EEA is no longer a Brexit option
  • Behold the rising superpower: post-catholic Ireland’s European miracle
  • October 23, 2018
  • May hardens position on Irish backstop under pressure from cabinet
  • Greek pension cuts - a classic European dilemma
  • October 17, 2018
  • Not a solution to the Brexit impasse, but a first step
  • October 12, 2018
  • A deal so close, and yet so far
  • AfD leaves Germans speachless and helpless
  • October 08, 2018
  • A renewed willingness on both sides to cut a Brexit deal
  • Latvian politics in turmoil after huge populist gains
  • October 05, 2018
  • What to make of the Anglo-Irish approximation on the backstop?
  • Macron's launches charm offensive but gives offence nevertheless
  • Moscovici all but breaks with his socialist party
  • October 04, 2018
  • The Brexit Queen’s new dancing clothes
  • Ceci n’est pas une crise politique