Brexit Fanatics Don’t Argue in Good Faith

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010 (Geir Halvorsen)

John O’Sullivan’s latest column in National Review perpetrates all the mistakes of hardline Brexiteers and their sympathizers in the United States. He:

  • Ignores the risks of a no-deal Brexit;
  • Accuses the EU of being an “undemocratic empire” and a complete failure on all fronts;
  • Raises the success of Brexit to a test of democracy itself;
  • Accuses Tory “remainers” of wanting to keep Britain either in the EU or controlled by it; and
  • Totally mischaracterizes the motivations of Europhiles. Read more

Macron Doesn’t Need to Appease the Far Right

French president Emmanuel Macron chats with a guard at the Elysée Palace in Paris, December 19, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron chats with a guard at the Elysée Palace in Paris, December 19, 2017 (Elysée/Ghislain Mariette)

The worst argument against French president Emmanuel Macron’s latest EU reform push — made, among others, by the Russian-born Leonid Bershidsky, who writes for Bloomberg View from Germany, and the Dutch political commentator Peter van Nuijsenburg — is that it only provides ammunition for rival parties opposed to more European integration.

There are fair criticism to be made. Bershidsky also argues that Macron’s call for a European “renaissance” largely consists of adding more EU agencies and that what the bloc really needs is a shared Franco-German vision.

But the idea that less ambitious proposals, or no proposals at all, would appease the Euroskeptics is wrong. Read more

The Euroskeptic Contradiction

A man walks in front of European country flags
A man walks in front of European country flags (European Parliament/Michael Moscholios)

Euroskeptics complain that the European Union is not democratic enough. But more democracy in the EU would mean taking power away from the member states, which is not what they want either.

It’s a contradiction at the heart of the Euroskeptic argument that allows them to damn the EU if it does and damn the EU if it doesn’t. Read more

Jeremy Corbyn Is Not the British Bernie Sanders

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (Catholic Church England and Wales/Lorie Shaull)

American leftists who are tempted to sympathize with British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — don’t. He is not an overseas version of Bernie Sanders.

Both men were political outsiders for much of their careers until they unexpectedly rose to the tops of their respective parties. Both appeal to voters who are disillusioned with old politics. Both argue for a break with the neoliberal-tainted “Third Way” in social democracy.

But that is where the similarities end. Read more

Tragedy in Catalonia

Night falls on Barcelona's Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017
Night falls on Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017 (Sergio Marchi)

Twelve Catalans — ten politicians and two activists — went on trial this week for their role in the 2017 independence referendum and attempted secession from Spain.

There is a good chance the defendants, who include the former Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras — who still leads one of the region’s two largest pro-independence parties — will be found guilty of at least some of the charges against them. The Spanish Constitutional Court had, after all, forbidden the referendum in advance and the Spanish Constitution calls the country’s unity “indissoluble”.

Hopefully the Supreme Court in Madrid (which is separate from the Constitutional Court) will throw out the more serious — and much harder to prove — accusations of rebellion and sedition, which carry prison sentences of up to 25 years.

But even light sentences would be a tragedy. This trial should never have happened. The 2017 referendum, which most opponents of independence boycotted, should never have happened. The reason it did is that the Spanish government at the time, led by the conservative People’s Party, refused dialogue with an increasingly restless nationalist movement in Catalonia. Read more

European Parliament Doesn’t Need Stricter Rules for Groups

Three young women listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016
Three young women listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

Mainstream parties in the European Parliament want to break up smaller groups that lack ideological cohesion. It is a risky proposal that is rightly being resisted by Euroskeptics and the Greens.

The center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) — who between them have a majority — argue that the current rules, which require political families to have at least 25 members from seven member states to qualify for subsidies and committee seats, are too lenient. They accuse anti-EU groups of gaming the rules to access taxpayer money.

There is something to this. Italy’s left-leaning Five Star Movement and the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party have little in common, yet they are both members of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group.

It is also worth pointing out that some of the European Parliament’s biggest spending scandals have been in the anti-system blocs. Read more

Britain Is Making Brexit Impossible

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010 (Geir Halvorsen)

With two months to go before the country is due to leave the EU, Britain has decided it can’t accept a key component of Brexit: the so-called Northern Ireland backstop, which could keep the province in the EU’s single market for goods, and the whole of the United Kingdom in a customs union with the EU, indefinitely so long as no alternative solution is found to prevent a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

Parliament voted on Tuesday night to ask Prime Minister Theresa May to renegotiate Britain’s withdrawal with the EU and seek “alternative arrangements” to the backstop.

Two weeks ago, Parliament voted down the Brexit treaty she had negotiated altogether. Read more