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

January 08, 2019

Brexit drama - then and now

The big Brexit discussion in the UK this morning is last night's Brexit film on Channel 4 - An Uncivil War - a brilliant epic about Dominic Cummings, the leader of the Leave campaign. It is one thing to give a rational explanation of the social demographics behind the Brexit vote. What this film succeeded in is to show the political and personal alienation behind the vote. The author is James Graham, one of Britain's best known political dramatists, whose most recent work included the West End play Ink, about Murdoch's takeover of the Sun newspaper. 

Back in the real world, the main Brexit news this morning is a story in the Daily Telegraph that UK and EU officials are talking, for the first time, about scenarios for an extension of the Article 50 deadline in case Theresa May's deal is voted down. These were described as discreet diplomatic contacts, reinforced by the comment of a junior government minister, who yesterday raised the prospect of an extension. 

The situation is likely to arise if, as expected, the House of Commons were to vote down May's meaningful vote - assuming it goes ahead next week. The article made the point that the EU's position on the extension has been evolving. If an extension were needed to secure to support for a deal the EU has spent two years to negotiate, then so be it. The main issue is not about the length of the extension, but what it should accomplish. We still think that the most likely scenario is for the process to go to the brink - the point in March when Remainers will blink and support the deal. After that - and only after that - it would make sense for the EU to agree a short extension to conclude the ratification procedure.

As the paper writes, another constraint on the process are the UK local elections in May. If the UK has still not exited the EU by then, the Tories might be in for a nasty electoral shock. 

We also see a short extension as likely to make way for two political events that have yet to take place. Theresa May has yet to present the promised assurances on the Irish backstop. The EU will not give her much except a letter to state what has already been agreed verbally, that it is the intent of the EU to conclude the trade talks by 2021. 

But looking beyond, we think it is possible that the EU could also amend the political declaration in a way to make it easier for pro-European Labour MPs to support the deal, for example by stressing that alternative negotiation outcomes are possible. In this context we noted an interesting comment by Andrew Duff, who will today publish a paper for the European Policy Centre explaining how this can be done technically. What struck us the most is his assertion that it is possible, contrary to claims by the European Commission, to give the political declaration a legally-binding framework. 

"Mrs May asked the December European Council to upgrade the legal status of the Political Declaration to make it binding. It was explained to her why this is not possible under EU law. Nevertheless, the prime minister has a point. The document can be regarded as a measure of EU soft law, the breaching of which would have serious political consequences for both parties. In the event of any litigation, the European Court of Justice would be bound to have cognisance of it. In a gesture towards the British, the EU should now agree to accord the Political Declaration formal recognition in the preamble to the Council decision that is required under Article 50(2) to conclude the whole legal process of British secession from the Union."

The other interesting article we discovered yesterday came from the Labour-supporting website Skwawkbox, which went into the gory detail of what it would take for the parliament to force a Brexit revocation or a second referendum. The article notes that it is already almost too late for Labour to trigger an election. The only way forward would be for Labour to abstain in the meaningful vote - as a result of which it would pass. Labour would them immediately call a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons, a vote that would most likely be supported by the DUP. Elections could be held on March 21, just a few days before the Brexit deadline.

We think this suggestion is pie-in-the-sky, but it is useful in one respect. It is spot on in the analysis of the heavy lifting needed to move away from the deal-vs-no-deal reality of Art. 50.

Show Comments Write a Comment

January 08, 2019

Scholz' illusionary power grab

A full-scale row has erupted within the SPD on what is almost certainly an academic question: who is going to be the next candidate for chancellor in the party. Olaf Scholz, German finance minister, put his hat in the ring by saying in an interview that he would consider himself qualified for the position. 

With a poll rating of about 15%, the SPD is not in a position to form a government, and is unlikely to be again by 2021 even if it were to recover a little. Andrea Nahles, the hapless party leader, would have been the presumptive candidate for chancellor as Nico Fried points out in a commentary for Suddeutsche Zeitung. At the very least, she should be the master of ceremonies. If Scholz ever was the candidate, it should be for Nahles to propose him. Instead, Scholz has put himself forward not even making a reference to her - as though she does not exist. This is not just a diplomatic misstep, but a clear power grab. He wants the job.

We think Nahles should let him have it. Nahles may find that a Scholz candidacy would strengthen her position. Despite his apparent popularity in the polls, Scholz is too right-wing for a party that is extremely unhappy about being trapped in a grand coalition. With Scholz as candidate, the left wingers would have an opportunity to flush out the most right-wing among the party's senior politicians. We would expect Scholz to score the worst election result in the SPD's history. If he runs and is soundly defeated, the SPD would then be in a position to shift to the left. As we have argued for some time, this would constitute an important opening in Germany's crowded political spectrum. It would allow the CDU/CSU to form a coalition with the Greens or the FDP (or possibly with the FDP and the AfD at some point in the next decade), and it would allow the SPD to command the leadership of the left - in alliance with the Left Party and possibly the Greens. 

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

  • September 23, 2019
  • Corbyn’s last big battle
  • Germany’s CO2 compromise meets all targets - except the climate targets
  • November 13, 2018
  • Peak Salvini?
  • Protest uberisation
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • February 28, 2017
  • Is Hamon losing the right wing of his party?
  • Something we just don’t understand
  • Solve the problem
  • 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 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • 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
  • November 09, 2017
  • From street protests to road closures
  • What Russia wants
  • January 31, 2017
  • Project fear against Italexit
  • On how not to frustrate Brexit
  • 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 21, 2019
  • Philippe to brace for more union protests
  • Greens are the electorates' new favourite
  • February 07, 2019
  • Forget Tusk - the real action is elsewhere
  • On David Malpass and the Trump legacy
  • 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
  • December 03, 2019
  • What to look out for in the last week of the compaign
  • Trump threatens tariffs on French luxury exports
  • 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
  • September 26, 2019
  • Could Johnson be headed for an electoral landslide?
  • Macron's conquest of public opinion over pension reform
  • Marion Maréchal keeps dream of political comeback alive
  • March 29, 2019
  • Don't take Macron for granted
  • Green is EU's future - Loiseau takes a stance
  • October 01, 2018
  • After the referendum, more turmoil in Macedonia
  • What will happen if the UK parliament votes No?
  • Barnier's no-thanks works much better than a yes-please
  • April 03, 2018
  • Is the time for Brexit revocation running out?
  • October 04, 2017
  • On why Theresa May is likely to survive
  • On how to resolve the Brexit talks
  • Social housing - not a good start for the French government
  • April 11, 2017
  • What to expect, and not expect from Schulz
  • The view from Berlin
  • The view from Moscow
  • 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
  • October 02, 2019
  • What Boris wants...
  • Ditched again - the decline and fall of Manfred Weber
  • May 27, 2019
  • The rising chances of a no-deal Brexit
  • January 18, 2019
  • Why Dublin won't yield on the backstop
  • Town hall debates vs street protests - who is winning?
  • September 13, 2018
  • Bravo Mr Juncker for raising the issue of the euro’s international role. But what now?
  • Are the eurosceptics imploding?
  • May 10, 2018
  • Time for some clear thinking on Trump and Iran
  • Will Corbyn accept the EEA? Brexiteers can relax. He won't.
  • What next for the DUP?
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • August 24, 2017
  • Legislative hyperactivity for Tsipras' new narrative
  • On the deep causes of euroscepticism
  • April 23, 2017
  • The demise of the AfD has accelerated dramatically
  • On how France will need to confront Germany
  • December 21, 2016
  • A culture of denial
  • Ukraine agreement hangs in the balance
  • Valls U-turn on 49-3
  • Beware of exotic Brexit options
  • August 22, 2016
  • Gold for Brexit
  • EU and Turkey talking past each other
  • Switzerland is the next migrant transit country
  • On the death of neoliberal economics
  • 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
  • November 28, 2019
  • Merkel’s legacy
  • November 04, 2019
  • Brexit tactical voting is happening - on both sides
  • Merkel promises 1m charging stations - but doesn't tell us how
  • October 10, 2019
  • What if UK parliament rejects both elections and the second referendum?
  • Should Europeans really look forward to President Warren?
  • September 18, 2019
  • No doubt, this is a constitutional crisis
  • Macron's immigration bid
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • August 06, 2019
  • Macron's next bet: municipal elections
  • A victory for Salvini and his coalition
  • July 17, 2019
  • The dreaded scenario
  • Meet the Labour no-dealers
  • June 28, 2019
  • In Osaka
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • May 24, 2019
  • Rising campaign stakes are a double-edged sword for Macron
  • So May is going. And now what?
  • It's beginning to look a lot like Brexit in Switzerland
  • May 09, 2019
  • The EU's impossible dilemma
  • The horsetrading starts in Sibiu
  • May to bring withdrawal bill to Commons week after next
  • April 24, 2019
  • May's final and biggest gamble
  • Will the EP be Brexit's great parliamentary beneficiary?
  • Can Loiseau fight the far right given her past?
  • April 08, 2019
  • Welcome to the new Brexit grand coalition
  • Waiting for Macron's next move
  • March 26, 2019
  • No, the UK parliament has not taken control
  • Barnier for president?
  • March 14, 2019
  • A very meaningless vote
  • March 04, 2019
  • Macron's two-month sprint
  • May's numbers are not there yet
  • Greening QE
  • On the "hope" of a rate raise
  • February 21, 2019
  • Sound and fury, but Brexit reality unchanged
  • Supertanker Deutschland moves to join internet age
  • February 12, 2019
  • What the SPD's policy U-turn means for the future of the coalition
  • Will anti-Europeans unite the people?
  • How Tsipras turned EP elections into a two party race
  • 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 29, 2019
  • What comes after plan B fails? Plan C, of course. C for cliff-edge
  • Gilets jaunes, how to structure a movement in free flow?
  • European Court of Auditors criticises Juncker’s investment fund
  • January 23, 2019
  • The importance of the Aachen Treaty
  • The demise of small Greek parties over Macedonia
  • A speed limit on autobahns - what is the world coming coming to?
  • January 18, 2019
  • Why Dublin won't yield on the backstop
  • Town hall debates vs street protests - who is winning?
  • January 14, 2019
  • Our Brexit predictions
  • 1789 - Macron's version
  • Tsipras calls confidence vote after Kammenos pulls out
  • January 10, 2019
  • Another quiet day in the Commons
  • From Rome with love
  • January 09, 2019
  • Trump downgrades EU's diplomatic status, threatens trade war