Happy Little Country

View of the Netherlands from the air
View of the Netherlands from the air (Skitterphoto)

The Dutch are happier than ever. Austerity is over. The immigration crisis has receded from the headlines. The government this week announced €3 billion in tax cuts and is planning a long-term investment fund worth up to €50 billion. Support for anti-establishment parties is down. Just 16 percent want to leave the EU anymore. Read more

Spain Will Almost Certainly Have to Call Elections Again

Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Albert Rivera speak in Madrid, February 4, 2016
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Albert Rivera speak in Madrid, February 4, 2016 (PSOE)

A possible last-minute deal between Spain’s ruling Socialist Party and the liberal Citizens collapsed on Tuesday, forcing caretaker prime minister Pedro Sánchez to either attempt a stitch-up with the far left or call elections in November, which would Spain’s fourth in as many years.

The Citizens, who had for months ruled out voting in Sánchez’ favor over his willingness to negotiate with the ruling parties in Catalonia, offered to abstain from an investiture vote if the Socialist ruled out taxes increases on middle incomes and pardons for separatist leaders who are on trial for organizing an unauthorized independence vote in the northeastern region two years ago.

Sánchez claims he agreed to the terms; the Citizens insist he did not.

Polls suggest the Citizens stand the most to lose from early elections. Their indecisiveness is causing them to lose voters to both the Socialists on the left and the People’s Party on the right.

But the Socialists are unlikely to gain enough support for a majority, meaning in two months Spain could be back where it started. Read more

Renzi Won’t Become the Italian Macron

Italian Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9, 2016
Italian Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi is leaving the Democrats to form his own new centrist party. Some thirty lawmakers are reportedly ready to go with him.

Renzi, a social democrat, is hoping to do for Italy what Emmanuel Macron did for France.

Don’t bet on it. Read more

After Week of Turmoil, What Next for British Politics?

Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament in London, England
Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Paul Green)

Tuesday was an historic night in British politics, and one whose outcome could reverberate through the coming months and years.

Lawmakers voted 328 to 321 to take control of the parliamentary agenda from the government in order to demand that Boris Johnson, the prime minister, ask for an extension of Britain’s exit from the European Union if no withdrawal agreement is in place by October 17.

Johnson, who currently has a 100-percent loss rate in Parliament, and is the first British prime minister since William Pitt the Younger in 1793 to lose his first vote, refuses to delay Brexit and called for an early election instead.

But that too failed. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, a two-thirds supermajority is required to call an early election. Many opposition lawmakers, who fear an early election is a government trap to bring about a no-deal Brexit, abstained. Read more

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There Is No Better Brexit Deal

Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016
Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016 (European Commission)

There is no better Brexit deal to be had.

The European Commission’s spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, confirmed it on Wednesday, when she said, “There has been no change in our position on the matter” of the Northern Ireland backstop, which is the main reason Britain’s Parliament has thrice voted down the withdrawal agreement.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, confirmed it in an op-ed for The Sunday Telegraph, in which he described the backstop as the “maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.”

Britain isn’t listening. Read more

Italy’s Problem Is Not Its Electoral System

The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament, in Rome
The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament, in Rome (Shutterstock)

Alberto Mingardi of the libertarian Bruno Leoni Institute in Milan argues in Politico that the “deep roots” of Italy’s coalition chaos lie in an electoral system that makes it hard for any one party to govern.

I think the roots actually go deeper than that. Read more