German Coalition Talks Collapse as Free Democrats Walk Out

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Germany’s liberal Free Democrats have left talks to form a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Greens, citing an absence of trust.

Christian Lindner, the liberal party leader, tweeted, “It is better not to govern than to govern in the wrong way.” Read more

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

EU Countries Deepen Defense Cooperation Outside NATO

German Leopard tanks on exercise in Bergen, January 23, 2015
German Leopard tanks on exercise in Bergen, January 23, 2015 (Bundeswehr)

European countries have agreed to deepen defense cooperation outside NATO.

The so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation involves 23 of the EU’s 28 member states.

Ireland and Portugal are expected to join later. Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom will probably stay out.

All EU countries in Central and Eastern Europe have signed up, despite their wariness of weakening defense ties with the United States. Read more

Pressure Builds on May As Brexit Hardliners Close Ranks

British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

Pressure is building on Britain’s Theresa May as Brexit and the ambitions of her foreign secretary widen divisions in the ruling Conservative Party:

  • The Sunday Times reports that forty Conservative lawmakers are now calling for a confidence vote in May’s premiership, eight short of the number required to trigger a leadership election.
  • Daily Mail reports that pro-Brexit ministers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are holding May hostage by threatening to walk out unless she pushes for a clean break with the EU.
  • Gove and David Davis, another Brexit hardliner, have rushed to Johnson’s defense after the foreign secretary mistakingly said a British NGO worker was held in Iran for “simply teaching people journalism” there. Iranian prosecutors seized on his statement to argue for extending Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s prison sentence. She has been accused of plotting against the Iranian state. Read more

Trump Accepts Putin’s Denials of Election Interference

American president Donald Trump meets with Japanese officials in Tokyo, November 6
American president Donald Trump meets with Japanese officials in Tokyo, November 6 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

America’s spy agencies are unanimous in their assessment that Russia tried to sabotage the 2016 election. Yet Donald Trump puts more faith in the word of Vladimir Putin.

“Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that’,” Trump told reporters after meeting with the Russian president on the sidelines of a summit in Vietnam, “and I really believe that, when he tells me that, he means it.”

Asked if he accepts Putin’s denials, Trump said, “I can’t stand there and argue with him,” adding he would rather discuss international issues, such as the war in Syria or the nuclear crisis in Korea.

“If we had a relationship with Russia, that would be a good thing,” he argued.