Theresa May Repeats Alexis Tsipras’ Mistake

British prime minister Theresa May, European Council president Donald Tusk and German chancellor Angela Merkel are seen during the G7 summit in Taormina, Italy, May 26
British prime minister Theresa May, European Council president Donald Tusk and German chancellor Angela Merkel are seen during the G7 summit in Taormina, Italy, May 26 (European Council)

When Greece resisted demands for spending cuts from its creditors last year, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appealed to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, for talks with the other 27 heads of government.

His hope was that fellow leaders would be more sympathetic than the technocrats of the “troika”: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Tusk rebuffed him and reminded Tsipras that the troika had been delegated by national leaders to monitor Greece’s bailout. The whole point of putting bureaucrats in charge was to avoid the politicians being tempted to cut Greece some slack.

Theresa May clearly hasn’t learned Tsipras’ lesson. Read more

Brexit and Trump as Reactionary Fantasies

Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, March 9, 2016
Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, March 9, 2016 (Donald J. Trump for President)

Andrew Sullivan sees similarities between Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump. Both, he writes in New York magazine, are reactionary fantasies:

Brexit and Trump are the history of Thatcher and Reagan repeating as dangerous farce, a confident, intelligent conservatism reduced to nihilist, mindless reactionism.

Trump is the worst of the two. His absurd claims about the economy being a “disaster” before he took over and now posting record growth; his tough talk as substitute for foreign policy; his determination to reverse every one of Barack Obama’s policy accomplishments and his daily Twitter tirades are about as clear an escape from reality as one can imagine.

For the four in ten Americans who still support him, that is the point of Trump’s presidency: to pretend the modern world — with its changing climate and demographics, relaxed gender norms, declining religiosity, global supply chains and devaluation of manual labor — doesn’t exist. Read more

Britain Forgot to Ask Europe’s Opinion of a Brexit Transition

British prime minister Theresa May poses for photos with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, outside 10 Downing Street in London, England, April 26
British prime minister Theresa May poses for photos with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, outside 10 Downing Street in London, England, April 26 (European Commission)

British politicians from the ruling Conservative and the opposition Labour Party agree there needs to be a “transition” between leaving the EU in the spring of 2019 and implementing a post-Brexit trade deal.

During that period, the United Kingdom would formally be out, but the rules of the customs union and the single market would still apply. Imports and exports would be unaffected. British companies would still be able to operate in continental Europe and vice versa. Economic disruption would be minimal.

It sounds great, but the British have forgotten one thing: to ask the remaining 27 member states what they think. Read more

Spain Promises Not to Hold Brexit Hostage to Gibraltar

View of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016
View of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016 (Scott Wylie)

Spain will not hold the Brexit negotiations hostage to discussions about Gibraltar, the country’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, has told ABC newspaper:

I do not want to jeopardize an agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom by subjecting it to a need to alter Gibraltar’s status at the same time.

Dastis did say he hopes the Gibraltarians will consider sharing sovereignty with Spain, but his statement appears to be a climb down.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy earlier said he would not allow Gibraltar to remain in the European single market if Britain leaves.

A European Council negotiation document published by the Financial Times read that “no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom.”

This was interpreted in Britain as giving Spain a veto over the terms of its exit. Read more

Complacency May Have Led to Brexit and Trump

View of the Thames in London, England at dawn
View of the Thames in London, England at dawn (Uncoated)

Janan Ganesh wonders in the Financial Times if, rather than economic pain, relatively good times led to victories for Brexit and Donald Trump.

The median Briton, he points out, has no recollection of national crisis: no devaluation, no three-day workweek, no conscript war, none of the floor-to-ceiling greyness of the postwar years, when austerity entailed the rationing of basics and not just tight public-sector pay settlements.

The worst ordeals were an invasion of Iraq conducted by an all-volunteer army and a crash in which unemployment peaked at 8 percent.

To remain vigilant after such a benign experience of history is too much to ask, argues Ganesh. Read more

One Year After Referendum, Brexit Questions Remain Unanswered

The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013
The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013 (Martin Robson)

A year has passed since Britain voted to leave the European Union and huge questions remain unanswered.

Jon Worth lists a few at his blog:

  • What’s going to happen to Britain’s £700 billion trade with the EU?
  • How many planes will be allowed to fly across the Channel once Britain exits Europe’s open-skies regime?
  • How long is it going to take to assess and renegotiate 759 international treaties Britain is currently part of as a member of the EU?
  • What will happen to the European Health Insurance Card and the 27 million Brits who have one?

The deadline for a Brexit deal is March 2019, but some of these questions need to be answered sooner. Businesses want to make plans. Airlines, health insurers, hospitals, logistics companies and merchants can’t wait and hope for the best. Read more

Conservatives Have Neglected Their Responsibility to the Union

The flags of the United Kingdom and Scotland fly in Sumburgh on the Shetland Islands, July 3, 2014
The flags of the United Kingdom and Scotland fly in Sumburgh on the Shetland Islands, July 3, 2014 (Julien Carnot)

The full name of Britain’s ruling party is the Conservative and Unionist Party, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they have governed lately. Read more