Trump’s Son-in-Law Loses Access, Macron Takes on Rail Unions
The Washington Post reports that officials in at least four countries — China, Israel, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates — have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, “by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign-policy experience.”
Officials in the White House were reportedly concerned that Kushner was “naive and being tricked” in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner and not with more experienced personnel.
Despite having no political or policy experience, Kushner was put in charge of everything from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to American relations with Mexico.
Politico reports that he has now lost his access to top-secret intelligence along with other officials in the White House who did not clear background checks.
The question: Will Trump accept this decision? Or will he once again put his family’s interests before his country’s? Read more
Merkel Wins Party’s Support, Berlusconi a Warning to Americans
Delegates (not party members) of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have voted overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats. The waiting is now for the latter, who conclude a membership vote on Sunday.
The same CDU congress has named Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the moderate prime minister of Saarland, as party secretary and Jens Spahn, a right-wing critic of Angela Merkel’s immigration policy, as candidate for health minister.
Jeremy Cliffe argues in The Economist that the two appointments hint at a healthy ideological debate in the party:
In recent years, Mrs Merkel’s electorally successful, highly tactical and ideologically indistinct brand of centrism has smothered the contrasts between [the CDU’s] different ideological tendencies: liberal, Christian social and conservative. Now, however, a new period of cut-and-thrust in the party seems to be emerging.
Axios reports that President Donald Trump envies countries that execute drug dealers, tells confidants a softer approach to drug reform will never work and that America needs to teach its children they’ll die if they take drugs.
His administration is looking into triggering five-year mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers who deal as little as two grams of fentanyl. Currently, the threshold is forty grams.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be lethal in extremely small doses. Overdose deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have increased sixfold since 2013, outstripping those from every other drug.
Macron Breaks Taboo, Spain Makes Gibraltar Demands
Emmanuel Macron touched one third rail of French politics and didn’t die: labor reform. Now he is grabbing the other: agriculture.
French farmers rely heavily on EU agricultural subsidies and are generally less innovative (defenders would say more traditional) than their peers in Germany and the Netherlands, the two largest exporters of agricultural goods in Europe.
Macron has already opened the door to subsidy reform, arguing that, due to Brexit, cuts are inevitable.
At the same time, he has promised €5 billion in public investments to kickstart a “cultural revolution” in the sector.
That may not be enough to convince skeptical farmers while cutting EU subsidies will run into opposition from Italy, Poland and Spain. But it’s a start. Read more
American Media Divide Generations, Labour Attempts to Divide Conservatives
Just when Britain’s Conservatives were getting their act together — twenty months after the country voted for Brexit — Labour has thrown a wrench in the works.
Sebastian Payne writes in the Financial Times that by supporting a continued customs union with the EU, Labour is testing the loyalty of those Conservatives for whom a Canadian-style trade agreement falls short.
Labour has consistently stood back and allowed the Conservatives to set out a position and then nudged or fudged its own policy to somewhere slightly softer, but without alienating its own “leavers”. Mr Corbyn is still an unreformed left-wing, quiet supporter of Brexit, but this is about beating the government.
Conservatives who opposed Brexit will also be disappointed by the reality of a “Canada plus” deal. The EU has consistently warned that there can be no cherry-picking. The United Kingdom must be either in or out. Read more
Brexiteers Disparage Good Friday Agreement, Berlusconi Hints at Tajani Premiership
Politico reports that Brexiteers have launched a broadside against the Good Friday Agreement that has kept the peace in Northern Ireland for twenty years.
Former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson and Labour “leaver” Kate Hoey believe the 1998 deal has “outlived its use.” Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament, argues it has “failed”. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent Conservative backbencher, disputes that Brexit puts the peace at risk.
The timing is awkward. Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for thirteen months. Although Brexit isn’t the main issue separating pro-British unionists and pro-Irish nationalists, it does factor into the parties’ calculations given that the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) props up Theresa May’s government in Westminster.
The problem is that the Conservatives have committed to both take the United Kingdom out of the EU customs union and single market and protect the Good Friday Agreement and all-island economy. Those goals are incompatible so long as Ireland remains in the EU.
A solution would be for Britain to remain in the single market, like Norway, or in the customs union, like Turkey, but that is unacceptable to Brexiteers. Read more
Merkel Praises Macedonia, EU Struggles to Influence Romania
German chancellor Angela Merkel has praised judicial reforms in Macedonia as well as steps to improve transparency and resolve the former Yugoslav republic’s name dispute with Greece.
“In the last ten years, the solution has not been as close as now and it would be wonderful if the remaining difficulties can be bridged,” she said during a news conference with her Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev.
It would, but the dispute with Greece is only one of the many obstacles to the Balkan nation’s EU accession.
The EU has nevertheless set a target date of 2025 for the remaining states of the Western Balkans to join, fearing that otherwise Russia might take advantage. Read more