Brexit’s Broken Promises

The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England
The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Matt Milton)

The New Statesman reports that none of Brexit’s promises have come true:

  • Brexiteers said leaving the EU would unleash growth. Instead, growth has stalled and higher inflation has depressed real wages.
  • David Davis, now Brexit secretary, said Britain would be able to create “a free-trade area massively larger than the EU.” So far, no country has expressed an interest in doing a separate trade deal with the United Kingdom.
  • Liam Fox predicted that trade talks with the EU would be “one of the easiest in human history.” But the EU insists on properly negotiating Britain’s exit before even starting trade negotiations.
  • Rather than give Britain an extra £350 million to spend on health care each week, the Office for Budget Responsibility projects that the country will lose the equivalent of £300 million per week because of Brexit.

Little wonder that supporters of leaving the EU have continually lowered expectations. The promise of Brexit has been downgraded from a Singapore on the Thames to not “as apocalyptic as some people like to pretend”.

Progress in German Coalition Talks, But Four Sticking Points

European Council president Donald Tusk listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel speak during a meeting of conservative party leaders in Brussels, July 12, 2015
European Council president Donald Tusk listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel speak during a meeting of conservative party leaders in Brussels, July 12, 2015 (EPP)

The parties negotiating to form a coalition government in Germany are nearing a self-imposed deadline to conclude preliminary talks.

German media report there are four sticking points:

  1. Coal power: The Greens initially demanded closing Germany’s twenty most polluting coal plants. When the other parties balked, they suggested shuttering 10 gigawatts worth of coal-generating capacity. The others have offered 5 gigawatts.
  2. Europe: The liberal Free Democrats oppose a eurozone budget and permanent bailout mechanism. The Christian Democrats and Greens are more supportive.
  3. Family reunifications: The Christian Democrats are dead set against a Green party proposal to allow refugees to bring their relatives to live with them in Germany.
  4. Immigration cap: In a concession to the right-wing Christian Social Union, Angela Merkel has agreed to a “soft” ceiling of 200,000 immigrants per year. The Greens reject this. Read more

Catalan Socialists Choose Opposition Over Deal with Separatists

Catalonia's Miquel Iceta addresses a Spanish Socialist Party congress in Alcalá de Henares, November 11
Catalonia’s Miquel Iceta addresses a Spanish Socialist Party congress in Alcalá de Henares, November 11 (PSOE)

Catalonia’s Socialists have taken themselves out of contention for the next coalition government by refusing deals with parties that, in the words of leader Miquel Iceta, have taken the region “to the brink of the abyss.”

Even if the European Democratic Party and the Republican Left, which jointly ruled Catalonia until the regional government was dissolved by Madrid, renounce secession, the Socialists would still not partner with them, Iceta said in a television interview.

He would not commit to a unionist pact with center-right parties either, thus condemning the Socialists to four more years in opposition. Read more

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Rajoy Walks Back Promise of Constitutional Reform

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain gives a speech in Las Palmas, June 18, 2016
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain gives a speech in Las Palmas, June 18, 2016 (PP)

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has walked back his promise of constitutional reform, saying in a radio interview, “I have never been a supporter of reforming the Constitution. I’m prepared to listen, but not to go against unity or sovereignty.”

His only concession was to agree the current model of autonomous communities needs to be “evaluated” — but that could mean different things:

  • Left-wing parties argue for something close to federation, perhaps even with a right to self-determination for the Basques and Catalans.
  • Nationalists on the right, who felt Rajoy didn’t intervene strongly enough to disrupt the October 1 independence referendum in Catalonia, argue for centralization. Read more

Italy’s Leftists Open Door to Necessary Alliance

Pier Luigi Bersani addresses a Democratic Party congress in Rome, January 17, 2013
Pier Luigi Bersani addresses a Democratic Party congress in Rome, January 17, 2013 (Ilaria Prili)

Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of Italy’s dissident leftist party, has opened the door to a pact with the ruling Democrats, saying, “If they want to talk to us, they must know that they should come with proposals.”

Bersani’s nemesis, Matteo Renzi, who toppled the older man in 2013, called for left-wing unity on Monday.

“There is more harmony with people with whom we have been divided by arguments and controversies than with our traditional rivals,” he argued. Read more

Don’t Exaggerate Russian Meddling in the Catalan Independence Crisis

View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, March 17, 2011
View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, March 17, 2011 (Mark Turner)

Spanish media exaggerate Russia’s role in the Catalan independence crisis.

Russian state media, like RT and Sputnik, and Russia-friendly trolls, like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, have predictably sought to exploit the crisis in a major European Union and NATO country, for three reasons:

  1. To encouraging Catalan separatism.
  2. To provoking an overreaction from the Spanish right.
  3. To legitimizing the self-determination referendum it organized in the Crimea in 2014.

But there is little evidence Russian propaganda has changed anyone’s mind. Read more