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

Spanish Conservatives Balk at Terms of Deal with Far Right

Former Spanish defense minister María Dolores Cospedal confers with President Alberto Núñez Feijóo of Galicia during a People's Party congress in Seville, April 7, 2018
Former Spanish defense minister María Dolores Cospedal confers with President Alberto Núñez Feijóo of Galicia during a People’s Party congress in Seville, April 7, 2018 (PP)

Senior conservatives in Spain have balked at the terms set by the far-right party Vox to support a center-right government in Andalusia. 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

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

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

Mattis’ Resignation Shocks European Allies

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14 (NATO)

The resignation of American defense secretary James Mattis has shocked European allies, who were counting on the former Marine Corps general to protect them from the whims of President Donald Trump. Read more

Italy Backs Down from Budget Fight with EU

Italian labor minister and Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio eyes Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a news conference in Rome, July 3
Italian labor minister and Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio eyes Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a news conference in Rome, July 3 (Governo Italiano)

The leaders of Italy’s ruling populist parties have backed down from a fight with the European Commission over their 2019 budget.

Luigi Di Maio, the labor minister and leader of the Five Star Movement, and Matteo Salvini, the interior minister and leader of the far-right League, said after a meeting on Sunday that they had given their blessing to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s revised spending plan, which reduces next year’s shortfall from 2.4 to 2 percent of GDP. Read more