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May 15, 2019

Why an anti-Macron vote may mobilise in this EP election

In this European election campaign the French parties have no core issue to clearly distinguish themselves. Most of their campaigns focus on discrediting the others, Macron's stance in the campaign, and what alliances to form. This is sending confusing signals to the voters, writes Cécile Cornudet. What is the difference between the climate bank proposals from LREM, the Greens, or the left under Raphaël Glucksmann? No one knows. Everyone talks in the language of the other. Divisive subjects are either absent, like European federalism and euro exit, or taken up by all parties like climate, protectionism or sovereignty. 

So, how will the voters decide? Hardly along party lines, given the fractured political landscape. Not really to endorse parties' future alliances in the European parliament. As an expression of what voters are against, perhaps? There are those who conceive this election as an anti-Macron vote, and there is at danger that they could swing the vote towards the far-right Rassemblement National. Le Pen's party is either neck-to-neck with LREM or ahead in the polls. 

Some are even making extreme choices like Andréa Kotarac, elected regional adviser under the far-left banner of Jean-Luc Mélenchon but who has now left LFI and is supporting the far right to make sure that LREM loses as much as possible. Could the young Jordan Bardella, leading the list for Rassemblement National, be the choice for those disillusioned young who want to see Macron out? This is something to watch out for. The election could mobilise voters in both directions and end up being about everything else but the party programmes.

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May 15, 2019

May's last throw of the dice - a meaningful vote on June 4 or 5

Another meaningful vote has been called - and it does not even make the top slot in most of the media. There are clear signs of Brexit fatigue but we should not underestimate the importance of Theresa May's decision yesterday, to hold a formal vote on the second reading of the withdrawal bill in the first week of June, either on June 4 or 5. This has to be the final throw of the die. If the vote is lost, the bill cannot be reintroduced in the current session of parliament. May would have to go.

She will meet the backbench 1922 committee this Thursday, where she will come under pressure to set a date for her departure. After yesterday's decision, choices for a departure announcement narrow down to either immediately after the vote is lost, or a little later. In any case, the real deadline is the Tory party conference in the autumn. We see no chance that she can address the conference as leader.

If the House votes yes, the UK parliament would then try to get the legislation passed by the end of the parliamentary session - likely to be pushed back to late July. Brexit would then take effect on August 1st. 

May announced her decision in a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn last night. She said the vote would be held with or without Labour's support. 

The negotiations with Labour are ongoing. We remain cautiously pessimistic. We continue to see that both May and Corbyn have an incentive to strike a deal. A victory by the Brexit party - even if perfectly forecast by the current polls - will still come as a massive shock to both Labour and the Tories. We would not rule out the leadership of both parties concluding that, for better or worse, they need to deliver some version of Brexit to save their own skins.

But we also see that Corbyn faces one insurmountable hurdle: there is no way they can Boris-proof a deal. Boris Johnson already said he would not respect a custom-union deal. We do not believe that it can be legally anchored into the withdrawal treaty. We also note that Olli Robbins was in Brussels yesterday to explore some technical options in this respect. But, even if the EU were to agree to reopen the withdrawal treaty to include a more explicit link to a future customs-union agreement, it cannot preempt the political process in the UK. Any deal on the future relationship will have to be ratified by a future UK parliament as well as by the EU and national parliaments. As a prime minister who lives on borrowed time, May is not in a strong position to strike any deal.

What about binding votes on competing versions of the future relationship? That may be the best way forward in case there is no formal deal with Labour. But parliament would still need to pass a meaningful vote and ratify legislation - with the required majorities.

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