The Arguments For and Against Scottish Independence

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland
Eilean Donan Castle in the western Highlands of Scotland (Unsplash/Manu Bravo)

Scotland’s ruling National Party (SNP) has staked a second independence referendum on the outcome of Thursday’s election. If separatists defend their majority in the Scottish Parliament — in addition to the SNP, the Greens favor independence — they propose to hold another vote even over the objections of London.

Scots voted 55 to 45 percent against dissolving the United Kingdom in 2014. Nationalists argue Brexit has changed the calculation. 62 percent of Scots voted to remain in the EU in 2016. They were overruled by majorities in England and Wales. Polls found majorities in Scotland for leaving the UK and rejoining the EU through 2020 and early 2021. Unionists have recently closed the gap. But the SNP is still faraway in first place in election polls with up to 50 percent support.

There are many arguments for and against independence, and each one could be debated at length. I’ll summarize what I find to be the most persuasive ones. Read more “The Arguments For and Against Scottish Independence”

Why Germany’s Greens Are on the Rise

Angela Merkel Annalena Baerbock
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with Green party leader Annalena Baerbock in parliament in Berlin, January 16, 2020 (DPA)

Germany’s Greens have for the first time in two years overtaken the ruling Christian Democrats in the polls. Two surveys in the last week gave them 28 percent support for the election in September against 21 to 27 percent for the center-right.

Those polls are still outliers, but the gap between the parties has been narrowing across surveys for months.

I suspect two factors are at play: leadership and a desire for change. I’ll take those in turn before laying out the different ways in which the Greens could take power. Read more “Why Germany’s Greens Are on the Rise”

Dutch Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next

Dutch parliament The Hague
Dutch lawmakers debate Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, September 17, 2020 (Tweede Kamer)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is on track to win reelection with projections giving his liberal VVD (of which I am a member) 36 out of 150 seats in parliament, up three.

The outcome is likely to be a center-right government of three or four parties.

If you haven’t been reading our live election blog, this explainer will get you up to speed on the results, takeaways and next steps. Read more “Dutch Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next”

Dutch Election Guide

The Hague Netherlands
Mauritshuis and Dutch government buildings in The Hague, June 11, 2018 (Shutterstock/DigitalPearls)

Parliamentary elections are held in the Netherlands on Wednesday. I’ll be live-blogging the results and takeaways that day. In the meantime, this explainer will get you up to speed. Read more “Dutch Election Guide”

Catalan Election Guide

Barcelona Spain
View of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Ferran Fusalba)

Catalans vote in regional elections on Sunday that are unlikely to produce a breakthrough in their region’s acrimonious relations with the rest of Spain.

I’ll be live-blogging the results on Sunday night. In the meantime, this explainer will get you up to speed. Read more “Catalan Election Guide”

What to Make of the EU-UK Trade Agreement

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

I haven’t read the 1,246 pages of the EU-UK trade agreement, so I’m going to rely on trusted sources to make sense of the accord.

First, a couple of notes on terminology.

This treaty, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, governs the future cross-Channel relationship. It is due to go into effect on January 1, although it will still need to be ratified by the parliaments of the European Union and the United Kingdom as well as the European Council.

Last year’s withdrawal agreement regulated Britain’s exit from the EU. It provided for a one-year transition period, which expires on December 31, and included a protocol for Northern Ireland, which keeps the province in the European single market for goods and effectively (but not legally) in the EU customs union to avoid the need for a border with the Republic of Ireland.

Both treaties have been unhelpfully referred to as “the deal” in the English-speaking press, but only the withdrawal agreement was crucial. The trade agreement, while good to have, since Britain does most of its trade with the EU, was always optional. Read more “What to Make of the EU-UK Trade Agreement”

EU “Government Shutdown” Looms

Emmanuel Macron Pedro Sánchez Donald Tusk Angela Merkel
French president Emmanuel Macron, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, European Council president Donald Tusk and German chancellor Angela Merkel speak on the sidelines of a European Council summit in Brussels, June 20, 2019 (Elysée/Soazig de la Moissonniere)

The EU could face its own version of a government shutdown in January if Hungary and Poland veto the bloc’s seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, worth a combined €1.8 trillion, at this week’s European Council.

The far-right governments of the two countries oppose the introduction of a rule-of-law conditionality for EU subsidies. Hungarian and Polish voters, and other European countries, favor the proposal.

If leaders don’t find a solution this Thursday and Friday, the European Parliament would not have time to ratify the spending plans before the new year. The council isn’t due to meet again until March. Read more “EU “Government Shutdown” Looms”

What Biden’s Victory Means for the World

Nguyễn Phú Trọng Joe Biden
Then-American vice president Joe Biden listens as Nguyễn Phú Trọng, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, makes a speech in Washington DC, July 7, 2015 (State Department)

Joe Biden, who was declared the winner in America’s presidential election on Saturday, would return the United States to the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization; rejoin the Iran nuclear deal if Iran complies with its terms; extend the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia; and end America’s support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Read more “What Biden’s Victory Means for the World”

What’s at Stake for Europe in America’s Election

Donald Trump Emmanuel Macron
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Emmanuel Macron of France inspect an honor guard in Paris, July 13, 2017 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump has consistently sided against Europe and European interests, from raising tariffs on European exports to rescinding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces and Open Skies Treaties — which protected Russia’s neighbors — to paralyzing the G20 and the World Trade Organization to withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, New START and the World Health Organization.

It’s no wonder Europeans prefer Joe Biden — from between 58 percent of Italians to 80 percent of Danes, according to YouGov.

Beyond hope for a normalization of transatlantic relations, six key issues are at stake for Europe in the election on Tuesday. Read more “What’s at Stake for Europe in America’s Election”

The Electoral College, Explained

New York State Capitol
Electors gather in the New York State Capitol in Albany, December 19, 2016 (New York City Mayor’s Office/Edwin J. Torres)

Americans don’t elect their president and vice president on November 3. Rather, they elect 538 members of the Electoral College, who in turn elect the president and vice president on December 14.

Why are elections held this way? Who are the electors, and what happens if they can’t agree on a winner?

Here is everything you need to know about the Electoral College. Read more “The Electoral College, Explained”