After May’s Deal Defeated, Brexit at Impasse

The Houses of Parliament in London, England at dawn, April 14, 2011
The Houses of Parliament in London, England at dawn, April 14, 2011 (Chris Goldberg)

Last night, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was voted down by the British parliament in an historic defeat.

This came even after she delayed the vote, which was meant to take place in December, to try to shore up support for the agreement.

The three largest opposition parties — Labour, the Scottish Nationalists and the Liberal Democrats — voted against the deal. So did the junior governing party, the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP), along with 118 of May’s own Conservatives.

In all, the treaty, which is meant to regulate Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, was rejected by 432 to 202 votes. Read more

Don’t Fear Dutchification

Dutch government buildings in The Hague, March 29, 2015
Dutch government buildings in The Hague, March 29, 2015 (Pixabay/Unsplash)

The Financial Times argues that the big political story in Europe is not so much the rise of populism as the fragmentation of electorates and the parties that represent them.

  • In Spain, the once-dominant conservative and socialist parties must compete with liberals, nationalists and the far left.
  • Neither the center-left nor the center-right bloc has a majority in the Swedish parliament anymore and neither is willing to allow the far-right Sweden Democrats to become kingmakers.
  • The far-right Alternative and the left-leaning Greens have eaten into support for the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats in Germany.
  • In what the Financial Times describes as “the most extreme example of such fragmentation,” the Netherlands, it now takes four parties to form a government.

This isn’t wrong per se, but I would like to offer two nuances. Read more

Millions Flee Venezuela, But Maduro Is Going Nowhere

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela visits Quito, Ecuador, September 21, 2015
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela visits Quito, Ecuador, September 21, 2015 (Prensa Miraflores)

Twenty years have passed since Hugo Chavez’ Bolivarian Revolution began in Venezuela. Although the first decade halved unemployment and brought poverty levels down to 27 percent, under President Nicolás Maduro there has been a dramatic economic, political and social decline.

Inflation has skyrocketed and is expected to reach 1,000,000 percent this year. Shortages of basic goods have resulted in widespread malnutrition. The outbreak of previously forgotten diseases and violence has reached unprecedented levels. 73 lives are lost per day.

This, combined with a political system that has barred and arrested opposition presidential candidates, sidelined an opposition-dominated legislature and last year carried out an election marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging, has led to an exodus of almost 10 percent of Venezuela’s 30 million population. 90 percent of those who remain live in poverty.

With such a parlous state of affairs, how has Maduro kept the show on the road?

And why haven’t Venezuela’s neighbors, who are sheltering most of its refugees, acted to end the misery? Read more

Kurzism Doesn’t Travel Well

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018 (EPP)

The Financial Times wonders if Austria’s Sebastian Kurz is the savior of Europe’s center-right or an enabler of the far right.

His supporters, including the liberal-minded former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, see the Austrian as the antidote to Orbanism:

He talks about an open world, internationalism and is pro-European. But he is pragmatic about solving issues. And one of the big issues is immigration.

Critics argue that by taking a hard line on immigration, Kurz is legitimizing the far right. “You don’t fight fire with kerosene,” according to former chancellor and former Social Democratic Party leader Christian Kern. Read more

Cracks in California’s Progressive Model

The sun sets over the San Francisco Bay, California, September 29, 2015
The sun sets over the San Francisco Bay, California, September 29, 2015 (Thomas Hawk)

California may be the future of the Democratic Party, but the left doesn’t have everything figured out in the Golden State.

Michael Greenberg reports for The New York Review of Books that California likes to think of itself as a liberal bastion against the far-right policies of Donald Trump.

It is refusing to cooperate with the president’s anti-immigrant policies. It has enacted its own environmental and net-neutrality laws which, given the size and influence of California’s economy, could have a nationwide effect.

But California also has the highest poverty rate in America and a quarter of its homeless. Read more

A Year Has Been Wasted in Catalonia

View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013
View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013 (CucombreLibre)

Catalonia has made little progress toward either independence or normalizing relations with the rest of Spain since its failed attempt to break away a year ago. Read more

Europe Once Again Proves the Doomsayers Wrong

View of Brussels, Belgium from the Mont des Arts, May 20, 2010
View of Brussels, Belgium from the Mont des Arts, May 20, 2010 (William Murphy)

Matthew Karnitschnig argues in Politico that the doomsayers keep getting Europe wrong.

As another annus horribilis draws to a close, he writes, “it’s difficult to deny that Europe has once again survived more or less intact.”

This matches an argument I made here two months ago: that the remarkable thing about the EU is not that it has problems, but it’s been able to muddle through despite its problems. Read more