British Conservatives Face Three Structural Challenges

British prime minister Theresa May attends an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 28
British prime minister Theresa May attends an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 28 (EU2017EE/Annika Haas)

The United Kingdom’s Conservative Party has arguably been one of the most successful political parties in the Western world. It dominated British politics from 1886 to 1906, from 1918 to 1945, from 1951 to 1964 and from 1979 to 1997. It is now in government since 2010.

Yet, as the party assembles in Manchester this week for its annual conference, there is a sense of decline. Conservative membership is down. Brexit has cost them the youth vote. And the political landscape has shifted in Labour’s favor. Read more

Will Catalonia Declare Independence from Spain?

Catalans wait in line in Barcelona to vote in a referendum about independence from Spain, October 1
Catalans wait in line in Barcelona to vote in a referendum about independence from Spain, October 1 (HazteOir)

The law which made Sunday’s referendum possible calls for a declaration of independence from Spain within two days of a “yes” vote, but there are reasons to doubt the Catalans will go that far:

  • 90 percent voted for independence, but only 42 percent turned out. Many opponents stayed home.
  • The law was suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court, which previously ruled an independence referendum illegal.
  • The Spanish central government would try to prevent Catalonia from breaking away.
  • The regional government has virtually no international support for a declaration of independence.
  • The Catalan economy would suffer. That is why many business leaders are opposed. Read more

Uncertainty in Catalonia After Region Votes to Break Away

View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013
View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013 (CucombreLibre)
  • Spain has threatened to suspend self-government in Catalonia after 43 percent of its voters participated in a referendum to break away.
  • Regional president Carles Puigdemont argues the region has won the right to go it alone, but he has stopped short of declaring independence outright. Read more

Catalans Vote for Independence in Controversial Referendum

Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of Spain, and Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia
Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of Spain, and Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia (La Moncloa/ANC/Generalitat de Catalunya)
  • Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy maintains “no self-determination referendum” was held in Catalonia on Sunday, although millions voted.
  • Regional president Carles Puigdemont claims the region has “won the right to be an independent state”.
  • Hundreds of Catalans were injured in altercations with Spanish riot police. Read more

A Failure of Leadership in Spain

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy arrives at parliament in Madrid, October 29, 2016
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy arrives at parliament in Madrid, October 29, 2016 (La Moncloa)

The unstoppable force of Catalan separatism is about to meet the unmovable object that is Mariano Rajoy.

The Spanish prime minister and conservative party leader has vowed to prevent an independence referendum in the northeastern region at all costs. The Catalans are determined to vote anyway.

Neither side will be able to claim victory on Monday.

Rajoy may succeed in blocking the vote, but his intransigence has already convinced moderate Catalans there isn’t a future for them in Spain. The separatists may manage to organize a referendum, but it will be so marred by illegality and irregularity that the outcome cannot possibly be considered a mandate to break away. Read more

British Struggle to Understand Spain’s Reaction to Catalan Referendum

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

The British struggle to understand why, if they could manage two referendums in three years, Spain is so desperate to prevent the Catalans from voting on Sunday. Read more

Dutch Parties Agree to Simplify Tax Code

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is seen during the state opening of parliament in The Hague, September 19
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is seen during the state opening of parliament in The Hague, September 19 (SZW)

The four parties negotiating to form a coalition government in the Netherlands have agreed to simplify the tax code, the public broadcaster NOS reports.

The plan would reduce the number of income tax brackets from four to two. The threshold at which the top, 49.5-percent rate kicks in would be raised to €68,000.

Middle and high incomes would benefit from the changes. Low incomes would continue to pay 37 percent income tax. Read more