Boris Johnson and the Brexit Ultras Deserve Each Other

Then-British foreign secretary Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, June 18
Then-British foreign secretary Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, June 18 (UN/Jean-Marc Ferré)

When Boris Johnson’s last bid for the Conservative Party’s leadership failed, I argued here that the former mayor of London’s many flipflops had finally caught up with him.

“You can only change your mind so many times before people start to see you for the political opportunist you are,” I wrote.

My mistake was to think the British right cares about principle and integrity. Read more

Spain’s Liberal Party Needs to Make Up Its Mind

Estonian prime minister Jüri Ratas listens to Spanish Citizens party leader Albert Rivera during a meeting of European liberal party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2018
Estonian prime minister Jüri Ratas listens to Spanish Citizens party leader Albert Rivera during a meeting of European liberal party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2018 (ALDE)

Spain’s liberal Citizens party needs to decide what it’s for: fight the Catalan independence movement or liberalize Spain?

The party clearly doesn’t know, which is causing it to go back and forth on possible coalition deals. Albert Rivera, the party leader, needs to make a choice and stick with it. Read more

Don’t Be Too Hard on Politicians Who Change Their Mind

American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27, 2013
American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27, 2013 (USN/Karolina A. Oseguera)

Don’t be too hard on Joe Biden for changing his mind on federal funding for abortion.

The former American vice president, who is the top candidate for his Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, has a reasonable argument to make. He previously opposed federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest and where the mother’s life was in the danger. “But circumstances have changed,” he told supporters on Thursday.

Republicans have been working overtime to restrict access to abortion in the states they control. The most egregious example is Alabama, which recently outlawed abortion after five or six weeks of pregnancy. Few women even realize they’re pregnant at that stage. Georgia, where Biden spoke, could see a similar law come into effect next year.

“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need,” Biden said. Read more

Sánchez Is the Reasonable Choice in Spain’s Election

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez arrives in Salzburg, Austria for a meeting with other European socialist party leaders, September 19, 2018
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez arrives in Salzburg, Austria for a meeting with other European socialist party leaders, September 19, 2018 (PES)

As long as Spain’s mainstream right would rather do a deal with the far right than the center-left, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ Socialists are the most reasonable choice in the country’s general election on Sunday.

Sánchez’ only possible partners are the far-left Podemos and regionalists from the Basque Country, the Canary Islands, Catalonia and Valencia. Even if, as the polls predict, the Socialists expand their plurality in Congress, the next coalition government could be unwieldy.

Podemos will require concessions and its platform is full of unwise proposals, from abolishing spy agencies to nationalizing energy companies to withdrawing from international trade deals.

If the regionalists end up as kingmakers, they can be expected to leverage their position to extract more money from Madrid. The two largest parties in Catalonia insist they will only back Sánchez if he comes out in favor of a legal independence referendum. Sánchez insists he won’t.

But those complications are preferable to the alternative: a hard-right government that would need the Franco apologists in Vox for its majority and exacerbate the separatist crisis in Catalonia by once again suspending self-government in this part of Spain. Read more

Estonia’s President Sends Wrong Message Meeting Putin

President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia meets with her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Kremlin in Moscow, April 18
President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia meets with her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Kremlin in Moscow, April 18 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

For the past decade, the Baltic states have maintained a strict policy toward Russia: no official state visits by presidents, prime ministers or other high-ranking officials.

That changed last week, when Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid visited a newly renovated embassy in Moscow and stopped by the Kremlin for a cup of tea with Vladimir Putin.

In itself, the meeting does not carry much weight, as nothing crucial was said or done. But it sent the wrong message. Read more

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