Britain Still Thinks It Can Bluff Its Way to a Better Deal

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)

What do you call doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Brexit.

I’ve also called it the Tsipras approach to negotiating with the EU, after the Greek prime minister who thought he could get his way by threatening to blow himself up.

It didn’t work for Alexis Tsipras, and it hasn’t worked for the United Kingdom. Despite threats to walk away without a deal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year agreed to essentially the exit agreement the EU had proposed all along.

Now his government is unhappy with the agreement it made and, once again, threatening to walk away. Read more “Britain Still Thinks It Can Bluff Its Way to a Better Deal”

What’s in France’s €100 Billion Stimulus

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron answers a question from a reporter in Helsinki, Finland, August 30, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

France has unveiled a $100 billion stimulus program, worth 4 percent of GDP over two years, to help its economy recover from the effects of COVID-19.

The money is split almost equally between support for businesses, investments in the green economy, and health and social programs. It comes on top of the €460 billion France has spent on exemptions from social charges, furlough subsidies and soft loans to keep businesses afloat.

France is counting on the EU to provide 40 percent of the money from its €750 billion recovery fund. Read more “What’s in France’s €100 Billion Stimulus”

Pressure Mounts on Merkel to Cancel Nord Stream 2

Vladimir Putin Angela Merkel
Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow, May 10, 2015 (Kremlin)

Pressure is mounting on Chancellor Angela Merkel to cancel the almost-completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which could double Russian gas exports to Germany.

Merkel has accused the Russian government of poisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is recuperating in a Berlin hospital.

The obvious response, her critics say, would be to withdraw from a €10 billion project that makes Germany — Europe’s largest gas importer — more dependent on Russia. Read more “Pressure Mounts on Merkel to Cancel Nord Stream 2”

Dutch Extend COVID Aid for Businesses

The Hague Netherlands
Dutch government offices and parliament buildings in The Hague (iStock/Fotolupa)

The Dutch government has extended support for companies and self-employed workers struggling as a result of COVID-19 until July 2021, although some policies are becoming less generous.

The thinking, reports the national broadcaster NOS, is that firms shouldn’t be subsidized if they aren’t viable long term and workers in sectors with job losses should be coaxed into reskilling.

The measures will cost almost €39 billion this year. The Dutch economy is projected to shrink 6.4 percent. Read more “Dutch Extend COVID Aid for Businesses”

Why Germany “Deserves” American Troops

American C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft
Two American C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft fly in formation over Germany, May 27, 2014 (USAF/Jordan Castelan)

Victor Davis Hanson writes in National Review that Germany “cuts deals with Russia, has never met its NATO commitment and is the most anti-American nation in Europe.” So why, he wonders, should the United States anchor its defense?

He could have asked that question at any point in the last seventy years. Read more “Why Germany “Deserves” American Troops”

Singapore-on-Thames Is Unlikely

London England
The sun rises over London, England (Uncoated)

With the Brexit transition period ending in just four months, concern is rising that the United Kingdom might crash out of the EU’s common market and customs regime without a deal.

Not everyone is worried. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, argued it “wouldn’t be the end of the world” if Britain left without a deal. Right-wing economists are looking forward to setting “attractive tax rates” once the United Kingdom is free of the EU’s grasp. The UK, they believe, could become a “Singapore-on-Thames”, gain a “competitive advantage” over the EU and draw businesses and investment away from continental Europe.

That is unlikely. Read more “Singapore-on-Thames Is Unlikely”

Britain Is Once Again the Sick Man of Europe

London England
The Shard in London, England at night (Unsplash/J.J. Jordan)

During the 1960s and 70s, Britain, economically stagnant and losing its empire, was known as the sick man of Europe. With COVID-19, the sickness has returned — and this time it may be even harder to heal.

More than 300,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the United Kingdom. 41,000 Britons have died of the disease, giving the country the second-highest per capita death rate among major countries. British economic output fell 20 percent in April, the worst rate by far among industrial nations.

This comes after a decade of austerity and on top of the economic fallout of Brexit.

It was the tough medicine of Thatcherism that allowed the United Kingdom to recover from its previous bout of ill health and find a new faith in itself — “Cool Britannia” — under New Labour.

But the seeds of the current malaise were planted in the same era. Read more “Britain Is Once Again the Sick Man of Europe”

Can Olaf Scholz Make Germany’s SPD Great Again?

Olaf Scholz
German finance minister Olaf Scholz joins a meeting of European finance ministers by videoconference from Berlin, July 10 (European Council)

Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) has named Finance Minister Olaf Scholz as its candidate for chancellor.

It’s not hard to understand why. Scholz is the country’s second-most popular politician after Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due to step down next year.

Can he make the SPD great again? Read more “Can Olaf Scholz Make Germany’s SPD Great Again?”

Pulling American Troops Out of Germany Is Another Gift to Putin

Donald Trump Vladimir Putin
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Kremlin)

Donald Trump has done his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, another favor by withdrawing almost 12,000 American troops from Germany, a third of the current deployment.

Fewer than half — 5,600 — are sent to other NATO countries, including Poland. Most will be pulled out of Europe altogether. An F-16 fighter squadron will be rebased in Italy.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper claims the decision is the outcome of long-term strategic planning and will somehow enhance “deterrence of Russia”.

President Trump revealed the real reason on Twitter:

Germany pays Russia billions of dollars a year for Energy, and we are supposed to protect Germany from Russia. What’s that all about? Also, Germany is very delinquent in their 2% fee to NATO. We are therefore moving some troops out of Germany!

This is nonsense. There is no NATO “fee”. Germany has for decades underinvested in its defense, relying on American protection, but until recently neither the United States nor Germany’s neighbors objected to the lack of German remilitarization. In 1990, the Western Allies and Russia conditioned their support for German reunification on the country keeping its defense force under 370,000 men. That ceiling remains in place. Read more “Pulling American Troops Out of Germany Is Another Gift to Putin”

What Rutte Wants

Angela Merkel Ursula von der Leyen Emmanuel Macron Mark Rutte
German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and French president Emmanuel Macron watch Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte walk into a European Council meeting in Brussels, July 18 (European Council)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has become the bête noire of EU integrationists for refusing to sign off on a €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund that largely consists of debt-financed grants.

Rutte is not alone. The leaders of Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are also withholding support, which is why EU leaders are still holed up in Brussels after four days of talks.

But the Netherlands has the largest economy among this “frugal five” and Rutte doesn’t mind taking the heat.

Why? Read more “What Rutte Wants”