Archive for the ‘European politics’ Category

May Tours Europe in Desperate Bid to Save Brexit Deal

Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May launched a tour of European capitals on Tuesday in a desperate bid to salvage her Brexit deal, a day after delaying a parliamentary vote on the text to avoid a crushing defeat, reports AFP

May held talks in The Hague with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte before heading to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel as she struggles to unite British lawmakers behind her faltering plan.

She was then to see EU President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.

"I'm surprised because we had reached an agreement on the 25th of November" at the last EU summit, Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, dubbing Brexit a "surprise guest" at this week's summit.

"The deal we have achieved is the best deal possible, it's the only deal possible. There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation but of course there is room, if used intelligently, to give further clarification and further interpretations," he said.

European Socialists Re-elected the Former Bulgarian PM Stanishev as PES President

In an emotional speech to the PES Congress delegates in Lisbon, Sergei Stanishev said that today, more than ever, the left-wing political family must be united to save Europe from the destructive populism and arrogance of the EPP. He was re-elected by the European Socialists for a third term as party chairman. The vote was secret, with 270 delegates, 23 against, and 29 abstained.

"The European project is being attacked by two sides: on the one hand, the far-right extremist populists who want to destroy the achievements of the past 70 years by selling a false nostalgia of the past by fueling opposition within and between societies by exploiting the fears of the people, inventing new enemies, "he said in a press release.
"On the other hand, this is the arrogance of the EPP, who argue that the policy of constraints has taken us from the economic crisis, and everything is great and we have to go on like that, but they close their eyes to the deepening inequality, the enormous social cost , which people paid for their policies and which ultimately alienated EU citizens, institutions and politics in general, "he said.

Ahim Post, a member of the German Bundestag and PES Secretary General, thanked Stanishev for his tireless work as PES leader, and described him as "a true European, a real socialist, a real leader."

German Rail Strikes Cause Widespread Delays

Long-distance rail travel has come to a halt across Germany, with regional trains also heavily affected, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and the southwestern cities of Karlsruhe and Mannheim. There are also cancelations in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, Hamburg and Lower Saxony, reported DW. 

In the capital Berlin, no city trains (S-Bahn) are expected to run. In Bavaria, there will be hardly any trains.

Workers have walked off the job after pay talks between the country's main railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the EVG rail trade union broke down without agreement.

The so-called warning comes just a day after DB increased the price of rail tickets by an average of 1.9 percent.

What travelers need to know: 

  • The strikes started on Monday morning at 5 a.m. CET and are set to end around 9 a.m., a union spokesperson said. This will most likely mean headaches for commuters heading to work on Monday.
  • Long-distance trains as well as regional and city (S-Bahn) trains will be affected.
  • DB has advised travelers to delay their travel plans until after the strike ends. The rail company has adjusted Monday's tickets to be valid throughout the week to Sunday.
  • Further strikes threatened: Although no additional rail strikes have been announced yet, EVG warned that further warning strikes can be expected during the pre-Christmas rush. A separate union, the Union of German Locomotive Drivers (GDL), is expected to continue its parallel talks with DB on Tuesday, but warned that its 36,000 members could also take action if wage negotiations talks fail.

    Dispute over pay: EVG, which represents some 160,000 rail workers, blamed DB bosses for the breakdown of talks early on Saturday morning in Hamburg, insisting the new pay scale offered by the rail firm was too low. The rail firm, meanwhile, called the walkout a "totally unnecessary escalation."

    DB says it offered staff a total pay increase of 5.1 percent in two increments and a one-time payment of €500 ($569). EVG said it was holding out for an extra percentage point of salary hike, and union officials would only return to negotiations once DB makes clear it is willing to increase its offer.

    Busiest time of year: Monday's strike is likely to cause widespread disapproval among rail passengers, who regularly complain about cancellations and trains being late, and endure some of the highest rail ticket prices in Europe.

BREXIT BETRAYAL MARCH: Thousands March Through London Demanding HARD Brexit

THOUSANDS of anti-EU protesters yesterday marched in a Brexit Betrayal rally led by controversial activist Tommy Robinson at the same time as a rival opposition demonstration took place, The Daily Express reports.

Protesters carried banners, signs and flags as they descended on central London for the pro-Brexit rally. UKIP leader Gerard Batten was among crowds of demonstrators calling for Brexit.

Protesters held signs reading "Brexit means exit" and "make Brexit happen" as they took part in the march which ended outside the Houses of Parliament.

Addressing the crowds, Mr Batten said: "If Parliament does not take Britain out of the European Union it will be the biggest constitutional crisis since the English Civil War.

"In 1642 the king put himself in opposition to parliament. Parliament won and the king lost his head.

Continental Breakfast 14: Why the EU will insist that ‘Brexit means Brexit’

The EU has not given the UK what it wanted – which was free access to the Single Market without freedom of movement and the constraints of European Court of Justice rulings. This is because the EU fears that giving into the populist Euroscepticism Brexit represents would trigger a wave of further departures. Horatio Mortimer (LSE) reports on the latest Continental Breakfast seminar, which was held in Madrid on 6 November 2018 under Chatham House rules.

A wave of nationalist populism is sweeping across the western democracies, threatening not only the prospects for European integration, but also economic and political stability right across the continent. ‘Populist’ is a disputed term, but here and in general, it is used to describe anti-system parties that claim to represent ‘the people’ against an elite establishment that is deaf to their concerns.

Source: Dijkstra, Poelman and Rodríguez-Pose (2018)

The EU and the project of integration is an easy target for populist parties – so much so that Euroscepticism can be used as a variable to measure populism across Europe: the more populist a party, the more anti-EU. These parties represent close to 30% of the vote in Denmark, Austria and France. If parties only somewhat opposed to European integration are counted, then they represent 50% of the vote in Italy, Greece and the UK, and even higher in Hungary.

Source: Dijkstra, Poelman and Rodríguez-Pose (2018)

The consensus theory is that the support for these parties comes from globalisation’s losers, people without the skills and education to compete in a global economy, who are undercut or outperformed by imports or immigrants. Older people in particular have been thought to be less adaptable to economic and cultural change, and more reactionary.

Other factors that are also sometimes associated with populist support are unemployment, inequality and lack of geographical mobility.

Rural areas, medium sized towns and small cities have suffered from rising unemployment, relative declining incomes, and are caught in a ‘middle income trap’, where they lack the skill clusters to compete with the high-value added economic regions, and yet are not cheap enough to compete with low-cost industrial regions.

Immigration is often identified as a major driver of the ‘geography of discontent’, and a catalyst of populist politics.

nie wieder 1933

‘Never again 1933’ – an anti-populist protest in Hamburg, September 2018. Phtot: Rasande Tyskar via a CC-BY-NC 2.0 licence

However, new research analyses these various factors, and points to an economic-geographical explanation for populism. The key is found in the so-called ‘places that don’t matter’. It is the formerly prosperous places that have experienced protracted economic decline, brain drain, and a sense that all opportunity is elsewhere. Once long-term decline is taken into account, low income is not a factor. Poorer regions that have not experienced industrial and economic decline show a much lower increase in the populist voting share. In regions with similar levels of economic decline, the richer ones are more populist.

Ageing is also a surprisingly weak factor. Declining areas have older populations, but once that is taken into account, older people are not more likely to vote for populists. Immigration into a constituency seems to slightly increase the vote for very extreme parties, but leads to a small decrease in the total populist anti-European integration vote. The research also finds a very weak link between the distances from national capitals to votes against European integration. Level of education is however confirmed as a strong predictor, with the less educated much more likely to vote for populists.

For the European Union, the long-term solution is to create development policies that create real opportunity in these forgotten places – in other words, something better than the palliative care of transfer payments and low-skill public sector jobs.

In the short term, however, one thing that would not be helpful is to allow the UK to free-ride on the single market, because there is a real danger that that could further invigorate populist movements that would threaten European disintegration and leave Europe with no single market to ride on, free or otherwise.

European governments and the European institutions are keenly aware of the threat from populists, and therefore will make the integrity of the single market their priority, sending a strong message that to leave the EU is to lose access to the single market. For that reason, they will be very unwilling to compromise in the Brexit negotiations.


Dijkstra, L., Poelman, H. and Rodríguez-Pose (2018). The Geography of EU discontent. Forthcoming.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE.

EU Still Waiting For New Italian Budget Plans, Says Oettinger

European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger urged Italy on Wednesday to quickly submit a new budget with a lower deficit goal than previous plans which he described as being dangerous for Italy and the euro zone, reported Reuters. 

“We hope that a draft will come today that corresponds to the criteria for all euro countries,” Oettinger, responsible for EU budget affairs, told German radio.

He added that even a deficit goal of 2.2 percent of gross domestic product, compared with the current goal of 2.4 percent for next year, “would be against all the commitments”.

Theresa May’s Historic Humiliation: British PM Loses Three Brexit Votes in One Hour

British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered humiliation on a historic scale Tuesday as her government became the first to be found in contempt of Parliament, according to National

May lost three Brexit-related votes in the space of barely an hour, making her the first British prime minister in 40 years to be defeated three times in one day. She was forced to bow to the will of Parliament by agreeing to publish her attorney general’s full legal advice on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, after Labour won a vote demanding it. An attempt by May’s government to postpone that vote was rejected by lawmakers.

The premier then lost a third big vote that could prove even more significant: it gives Parliament the power to shape the final Brexit settlement if, as expected, May fails to get her deal approved in the Commons in a vote on Dec. 11.

Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, led a successful plot by 25 Tory rebels to give MPs the right to dictate a “Plan B” to May if she loses the Brexit deal vote.

May, who introduced the first of five days of debate on the Brexit deal moments after losing the third vote, is now fighting to save not just her deal but her administration.

Pleading with MPs for their backing, she told them: “I have spent nearly two years negotiating this deal. I have lost valued colleagues along the way and faced fierce criticism from all sides.

“If I had banged the table, walked out of the room and at the end of the process delivered the very same deal… some might say I had done a better job.

“But I didn’t play to the gallery, I focused on getting a deal that honours the referendum and sets us on course for a bright future — and I did so through painstaking hard work.”

She also told the Commons: “We should not let the search for a perfect Brexit prevent a good Brexit that delivers for the British people.”

There was little sympathy for her from colleagues, however, who lined up to criticize her deal. Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, described it as a “national humiliation” and said her deal was “not Brexit”.

“It’s a feeble simulacrum of national independence. It is a paint and plaster pseudo Brexit and below the camouflage we find the same old EU institutions,” he said.

Separately, Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, accused May’s government of “incompetence of a high order” for negotiating a deal that is “the worst of all worlds”.

The government had defied a motion passed last month calling on it to publish the full legal advice given to the Cabinet on the Brexit deal by Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, instead publishing a “legal position” on Monday. The government was held in contempt for its failure to publish the full document, losing a vote on the matter by 311 to 293.

Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, said the government would “respond” to the vote Wednesday, which was interpreted to mean that the full legal advice would be published, but Downing Street later said responding was not the same as publishing and so the document could be briefly delayed.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House, made it clear that the legal advice must be published before the vote on the Brexit deal on Dec 11.

The amendment by Grieve to give Parliament more power over the Brexit process could open the way for a second referendum. Grieve has been a major voice in the campaign for a second referendum.

“No longer must the will of Parliament — reflecting the will of the people — be diminished,” Grieve said in a statement issued by the People’s Vote campaign. “Parliament must now take back control and then give the final decision back to the public because, in the end, only the people can sort this out.


Politicians on both sides of Britain’s EU membership debate oppose the agreement — pro-Brexit legislators because it keeps Britain bound closely to the EU, and pro-EU politicians because it erects barriers between the U.K. and its biggest trading partner.

“The numbers in the Houses of Parliament look pretty formidable for Theresa May,” said Alan Wager, a research associate at the U.K. Changing Europe think-tank. “Over 100 Conservative MPs have said they are not going to back the deal, the Labour Party have said they are not going to back the deal. So it looks like the deal won’t pass next week.”

Meanwhile, a top official at the European Union’s highest court advised Tuesday that Britain can change its mind about leaving the EU, boosting hopes among pro-EU campaigners in the U.K. that Brexit can be stopped.

Advocate General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona told the European Court of Justice that a British decision to revoke the countdown to departure would be legally valid.

A group of Scottish legislators asked the courts to rule on whether the U.K. can pull out of the withdrawal procedure on its own.

The advice of the advocate general is often, but not always, followed by the full court. The final verdict is expected within weeks

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