Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

MEGA: Make Europe Great Again

by Frank Schnittger Sun Dec 8th, 2019 at 01:53:46 AM EST

I used to write quite a lot about US politics - about 65 stories on the European Tribune alone. And then Trump got elected and I could face it no longer. Say what you like about the legitimacy of his election, but the very fact that a guy like that could get elected doesn't fill me with much hope for the USA as an advanced polity. And why write about him when so many there are much more qualified to do so?

I came of age politically through meeting some South African anti-Apartheid activists who inspired me to do my masters thesis on Apartheid. I couldn't bring myself to visit their country until Mandela was freed and elected President. I did not want to become complicit in the Apartheid regime by visiting the country while I would still enjoy the privileges of a white European under Apartheid. I feel almost as bad about visiting the USA now: lots of great people, but the system absolutely sucks.

And now, having written over 150 stories on Brexit, I am beginning to wonder whether my interest in writing about the UK will survive a Boris Johnson victory in this weeks general election. Any country which could vote for Boris Johnson as its leader has to be seriously f*cked up... And yet all you hear and read in the media commentary about the election is of self-proclaimed former Labour voters deciding to vote for Boris because they can't stand Corbyn.

What is it they can't stand about Corbyn when he has been (a relative) voice for moderation and reason in an increasingly dysfunctional, corrupt and disintegrating political system?

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Irish By-Election results

by Frank Schnittger Sun Dec 1st, 2019 at 12:17:10 PM EST

Fine Gael, the Irish ruling government party, has just lost all four by-elections held to fill the seats of Dail members who resigned on winning seats in the European Parliament last June - making its already flimsy Dail majority even more precarious.

To be fair, it was defending only one of those seats, with the others previously held by Fianna Fail, Independent and Socialist TDs (Teachta Dála, or members of parliament). Governments rarely win mid-term by-elections in Ireland, with opposition party supporters more likely to turn out in low-turnout elections.

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Poll: Is Brexit a good thing?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Nov 27th, 2019 at 11:33:18 AM EST

Accepting the fact that most Brits aren't listening and couldn't care less what we think, what are our collective thoughts on Brexit at this stage?

Poll below the fold:

Comments >> (69 comments)

Letter to the British people

by Frank Schnittger Sat Nov 23rd, 2019 at 02:17:19 PM EST

With the UK preparing for a general election, the Irish Times invited its readers to write an open letter to UK voters (of less than 300 words). A selection of those letters are published here. Some are of a quite personal nature. Many focus on the impact on N. Ireland. Mine, copied below the fold, focuses on the larger political and economic implications.

Feel free to use the comments section to write your own letter. We could even publish a selection of our letters on our front page! A more broadly European perspective would be useful. And yes, you are allowed say "go now and don't let the door hit you in the arse as you leave". All viewpoints are welcome...

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Why the EU and UK will be enemies

by Frank Schnittger Wed Nov 20th, 2019 at 01:20:36 PM EST

Boris Johnson likes to talk about "our friends in Europe" when talking about the cooperative future he sees emerging between the UK and the EU post Brexit - where both will be competing as equals in a globalised world economy. But it is much more likely that the EU and the UK will end up being mortal enemies.

There are a number of reasons for this. Some are political: If Brexit succeeds in delivering a more prosperous UK, why would other countries wish to remain in the EU? Being part of a political union involves inevitable compromises and constraints on national polities. Why would they endure such constraints if there wasn't a demonstrable pay-off in terms of economic prosperity and political influence in the world?

But if Brexit is a threat to the future of the EU, so also would a relatively successful continuing EU be a threat to the UK: Not only might Scotland and N. Ireland secede to become part of that greater prosperity, but the divisions within England and Wales exposed by Brexit between Leavers and Remainers, north and south, and the winners and losers of globalisation would be exacerbated.

Brexit sets up a very dangerous dynamic whereby both the UK and the EU have a vested interest in securing their own stability by seeing the other fail. This is the stuff that wars are incubated in, even if, on this occasion, it leads to no more than an economic war. But there are also a number of reasons to suppose this economic war could be deep and long:

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Brexeternity

by Frank Schnittger Sun Nov 10th, 2019 at 04:02:49 PM EST

In all the sturm und drang around a no deal or a Boris deal Brexit, it is easy to forget that this is just the prologue. All the Brexit deal does is settle some outstanding details arising out of the UK's departure: It does very little to decide the shape of the future relationship between Great Britain and the EU.

I use the term "Great Britain" advisedly, because the one aspect of the future relationship between the EU and the UK that has been decided in the deal is that N. Ireland, will remain, for all practical purposes, in the Customs Union and Single Market (CUSM) - whatever Boris Johnson might say otherwise.

But for the rest of the UK, aka Great Britain, all options are still on the table - all the way from a no deal trade war, through trading rules dictated by WTO Treaties, to Canada+++ or Norway---; whatever that may mean. As Boris Johnson has demonstrated, it's all about the marketing: His slightly reheated and amended version of May's deal is suddenly acceptable to the hoards of hard-line ERG Brexiteers who voted against her original version three times.

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Spanish election thread

by IdiotSavant Fri Nov 8th, 2019 at 06:17:20 AM EST

Spain will go to the polls on Sunday, November 10. Its the second election this year; an earlier one in April saw the Socialists - who had gained power in a confidence vote - gain an easy plurality, then refuse to negotiate a coalition with the left-wing Podemos (which would have allowed them, with the support of a few minor parties and the offered abstention of the Catalan Republican Left, to form a government). Instead, they gambled on new elections and winning a greater share of the vote.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Boris off to a bad start

by Frank Schnittger Wed Nov 6th, 2019 at 10:45:29 PM EST

Boris Johnson enters the first day of the official UK general election campaign with an average lead of 11% in the 11 polls published since the House of Commons voted to hold a general election. These poll leads range from 7 to 16% and there is no discernable trend over the past week. Not too bad a start, one would have thought, until one recalls that Theresa May's lead was 19% when she called the 2017 election.

Boris Johnson's campaign launch has also been dogged by no less than three scandals on the opening day of the official campaign:

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DUP under pressure in Northern Ireland Election

by Frank Schnittger Thu Oct 31st, 2019 at 01:28:47 PM EST

Newton Emerson has a very interesting take on how the general election may play out in N. Ireland. The DUP currently hold 10 seats to Sinn Fein's 7, with one independent Unionist.  Essentially Northern Ireland has been re-partitioned East West between unionist and Nationalist representatives with a nationalist enclave in West Belfast.

By Furfur, Brythones - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

 

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Turkeys vote for Christmas

by Frank Schnittger Wed Oct 30th, 2019 at 11:29:11 AM EST

And so the turkeys have finally voted for Christmas. The House of Commons has overwhelmingly voted for an election on Boris Johnson's preferred date of 12th. December.

The vote gave Boris Johnson the date he was looking for and there were no amendments to expand the franchise to include EU nationals or 16- and 17-year-olds. But the prime minister is facing the voters with Brexit still not delivered and his pledge to leave the EU by October 31st in shreds.

Some Conservative MPs fear their constituents will punish them for spending five weeks campaigning rather than scrutinising and passing the withdrawal agreement Bill. And all Conservatives are conscious of the electoral mountain they must climb to return to power.

More than 30 seats short of a working majority of 320 as they go into the campaign, the Conservatives expect to lose seats to the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland and to the Liberal Democrats in the southeast and southwest of England. At odds with the DUP over the Brexit deal and with no other potential coalition parties, the Conservatives will need to win a majority if they are to form the next government.

Labour is on 25 per cent in an average of opinion polls, 11 points behind the Conservatives and just 7 per cent ahead of the Liberal Democrats. Labour started the 2017 election campaign polling 25 per cent too, but more than 20 points behind Theresa May's Conservatives.

Corbyn's allies draw comfort from the outcome in 2017, which saw Labour draw almost level with the Conservatives with 40 per cent of the vote. And Labour has more coalition options than the Conservatives, so it does not need a majority or even to emerge as the biggest party to have a chance of forming the government.

On the other hand Corbyn is by far the most unpopular of the party leaders and the Conservatives are targeting Labour-held seats that voted Leave in 2016, particularly in the midlands and northeast England, and in Wales.

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Krugman-Admits-He-Was-Wrong! (Pt. 1?)

by ARGeezer Fri Oct 25th, 2019 at 05:56:09 PM EST

Paul Krugman -- finally -- admits he was wrong!  Lars Syll RWER Blog

Paul Krugman has never suffered fools gladly. The Nobel Prize-winning economist rose to international fame--and a coveted space on the New York Times op-ed page--by lacerating his intellectual opponents in the most withering way. In a series of books and articles beginning in the 1990s, Krugman branded just about everybody who questioned the rapid pace of globalization a fool who didn't understand economics very well. "Silly" was a word Krugman used a lot to describe pundits who raised fears of economic competition from other nations, especially China. Don't worry about it, he said: Free trade will have only minor impact on your prosperity.

Now Krugman has come out and admitted, offhandedly, that his own understanding of economics has been seriously deficient as well. In a recent essay titled "What Economists (Including Me) Got Wrong About Globalization," adapted from a forthcoming book on inequality, Krugman writes that he and other mainstream economists "missed a crucial part of the story" in failing to realize that globalization would lead to "hyperglobalization" and huge economic and social upheaval, particularly of the industrial middle class in America. And many of these working-class communities have been hit hard by Chinese competition, which economists made a "major mistake" in underestimating, Krugman says.

Michael Hirsh  -  The Economist

It was quite a "whoops" moment, considering all the ruined American communities and displaced millions of workers we've seen in the interim. And a newly humbled Krugman must consider an even more disturbing idea: Did he and other mainstream economists help put a protectionist populist, Donald Trump, in the White House with a lot of bad advice about free markets?

Too important not to frontpage - Frank Schnittger

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Duplicity

by Frank Schnittger Sun Oct 20th, 2019 at 10:14:07 PM EST

It is difficult to imagine a more insulting act by a head of government than to send a formal letter on headed notepaper purporting to come from his office and person, but omitting to sign it as a means of authenticating it. And then to send another signed letter saying something quite different.

It is the very essence of duplicity. You are either a democrat taking full responsibility for the acts of your office as mandated by your law and parliament or you are a worthless and untrustworthy operator.

In declining to respond anytime soon, the EU is actually acting with great restraint. It could have returned the unsigned letter to sender requesting due authentication by signature.

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Ulster says NO!

by Frank Schnittger Thu Oct 17th, 2019 at 10:54:04 AM EST

DUP leader Arlene Foster (left) and deputy leader Nigel Dodds. photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The title of this diary is deliberately provocative as "Uster Says No" has been the Paisleyite, unionist and loyalist moto since the formation of the N. Ireland sectarian statelet. In reality N. Ireland only constitutes 6 of the 9 counties of the province of Ulster, and these were chosen as part of a deliberate gerrymander to create a protestant majority. Even within this context, the DUP now only has about 1,000 members and received 24% and 22% of the vote in the 2019 local and European elections respectively.

So it is more correct to state that it is the DUP which says NO, as they have been doing to every reform initiated since the foundation of the statelet, including the Good Friday Agreement. Basically they claim that N. Ireland is as British as Finchley while at the same time claiming different treatment for Northern Ireland compared to Britain when it suits them on car number plates, bank holidays, tourism, languages, gambling, defamation, anti-discrimination laws, spirit measures, railway lines, lighthouses, waterways, the civil service, abortion and equal marriage.

So the DUP's rejection of Boris Johnson's Brexit deal is utterly in character and of no surprise whatsoever to anyone acquainted with N. Ireland politics. But the DUP is also literally incapable of saying YES to any significant change because it does not have the skills or means to persuade its voting base of the necessity for change. As Northern Ireland Unionist commentator, Newton Emerson has observed,

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Spain is not a democracy

by IdiotSavant Mon Oct 14th, 2019 at 09:49:49 AM EST

Two years ago Catalans braved police batons and rubber bullets to vote overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum. Today, Spain jailed nine politicians who organised and supported that referendum process for a combined total of a hundred years for "sedition", after a trial that was little more than a judicial lynching. Protests against the verdicts are already breaking out across Catalonia, but Spain has invaded with 1500 riot police to "keep order". So we'll probably see more scenes of peaceful protesters being beaten, gassed and shot for daring to express the view that a democratic society should resolve questions democratically.

Because that, fundamentally, is what this is about. While Catalans are divided on independence, there has always been overwhelming support for the idea that as a democratic society they should be allowed to vote on it. Spain has responded to that idea with violence and brutality. It has treated Catalonia like a colonial possession, whose people must be kept in line by force, rather than as citizens of a democratic state. It has not behaved like a democracy, but like the fascist dictatorship it supposedly ended 40 years ago.

That treatment has unsurprisingly strengthened the desire for independence, as people seek to leave the country which mistreats them. When this mess began, Spain could have allowed a vote, and probably won it, and that result would have been accepted for a decade or more. Now, there's really only one outcome: independence. The question is how long it takes, and how many people Spain murders trying to stop it.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Comments >> (10 comments)

Does anyone care?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Oct 10th, 2019 at 01:27:35 PM EST


DUP defensive cunning misses big picture of being laughed out of court

In 2015, towards the end of a previous Stormont crisis, then Democratic Unionist Party leader and first minister Peter Robinson found himself in a corner. He had threatened to bring down power-sharing if devolution was not suspended over an IRA murder. However, the British government had called his bluff. So the DUP commenced an arcane series of rolling resignations, with ministers standing down for a week, resuming their posts just in time to avoid triggering an election, then standing down again.


It was a classic DUP solution under Robinson's tenure, stretching laws and promises to the limit to construct an elaborate face-saving mechanism. But the DUP leader had misjudged Northern Ireland's sense of the absurd. The resignations were promptly christened "the hokey cokey" and became a joke from which Robinson's authority never recovered. He announced his retirement from politics two months later.

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The Blame Game

by Frank Schnittger Tue Oct 8th, 2019 at 12:26:14 PM EST

Well that didn't last long...

Johnson allies admit deal hopes are effectively dead

British prime minister Boris Johnson's allies admitted on Tuesday that hopes of a Brexit deal at next week's EU summit were effectively dead after Mr Johnson held a bruising phone conversation with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Sterling fell on the news, as Number 10 began a "blame game" strategy amid dark warnings that Britain would retaliate against EU member states and that talk of "sincere co-operation" with the EU was now "in the toilet".

Elsewhere, EU Council president Donald Tusk accused Mr Johnson of playing a `stupid blame game' in his dealings with the bloc. "What's at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people," Mr Tusk wrote on Twitter. "You don't want a deal, you don't want an extension, you don't want to revoke," the Council President added, before asking "quo vadis?" the Latin for "where are you going?"

After days of gathering gloom over the possibility of a Brexit breakthrough, unnamed Number 10 sources on Tuesday prepared the ground for failure, claiming that Dr Merkel and other EU leaders had not moved "a centimetre". Although Downing Street has so far declined to comment on the telephone call with Dr Merkel, Mr Johnson's allies accused the German chancellor of vetoing Britain's Brexit plan, which would see Northern Ireland leave the EU customs union.

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Scamming the peace

by Frank Schnittger Wed Oct 2nd, 2019 at 11:51:32 AM EST


Boris Brexit plan a `scam', says Good Friday agreement negotiator

Ability to feel Irish or British or both `will be destroyed' , says Jonathan Powell.

Former Labour Party adviser Jonathan Powell, one of the chief negotiators of the Good Friday agreement, described Boris Johnson's Brexit deal proposal as a "scam" .


He told BBC's Newsnight: They are "trying to avoid a deal in order to get to no deal as they were always going to do. This is the final confirmation that's their aim."

Powell also said the ability to feel Irish or British or both - a key part of the Good Friday agreement - "will be destroyed" if a customs border is put in. "The point of this is not how long it takes a lorry to cross the border in Northern Ireland. The issue is identity."

The main ingredients of Johnson's plan, to be outlined on Wednesday in his Tory party conference speech, are a proposal for "two borders for four years" and a "Stormont Lock". After the transition period comes to an end, Northern Ireland would stay in the single market for four years but, crucially, not in the customs union.

That would mean that there would be a single market for the whole of Ireland for agri-food and manufactured goods until 2025. It would also mean other goods originating from the North would be subject to customs checks once they crossed the border into the EU.


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Wrightbus goes wrong

by Frank Schnittger Thu Sep 26th, 2019 at 09:16:31 AM EST


Boris Johnson at Wrightbus

Wrightbus is one of the few iconic N. Ireland industrial concerns along with Harland and Wolff shipyard (which built the Titanic) and Short Brothers aircraft manufacturing, now owned by Bombardier, which manufactures wings for the Airbus A220 aircraft, and which is considered a possible Airbus takeover target. Wrightbus is best known as the maker of the iconic London "Boris Bus"

Wrightbus is headquartered in the Antrim town of Ballymena which is also the home town of Ian Paisley, founder of the Free Presbyterian Church and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). It is at the very epicentre of hardline, fundamentalist protestant unionism. In 2017 it donated £4 Million to "Christian, evangelical and other charitable activities at a time it made a pre-tax loss of £1.7 million. It is owned by "Pastor" Jeffrey William Wright who controls almost 69 per cent of the company and the Wright Evangelical Trust.

William Wright was a key supporter of the Leave campaign in Northern Ireland, but the Brexit vote caused uncertainty in its marketplace, and the company found that some of its customers reconsidered investment plans because of the UK's changing relationship with Europe. Many of the WrightBus customers are private and State-owned transport operators, and some of these have parent companies with headquarters in Europe. Wrightbus has now gone into administration with the likely loss of 1,200 jobs and thousands more in the supply chain and supporting services.

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Getting rid of Boris...

by Frank Schnittger Tue Sep 24th, 2019 at 03:26:21 PM EST

The judgement of the UK Supreme Court is about as bad as it could be for Boris:

  1. It is unanimous - therefore there is no minority report the government can cling to in part justification for its stance

  2. It is clear cut - no equivocation - the prorogation was unlawful, void, and of no effect - therefore Parliament can resume sitting immediately, and Bills in progress through the house will not have lapsed.

  3. Although the judgement does not say so explicitly, it follows the PM advised the Queen to act unlawfully

  4. The Parliament has lost two weeks work during which time it could not fulfil its primary functions - so real harm has been done, and the effect of the prorogation is described as "extreme".

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UK Supreme Court: Prorogation Null and Void!

by ARGeezer Tue Sep 24th, 2019 at 10:26:02 AM EST

In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court of the UK has ruled that the prorogation of Parliament by the Prime Minister is null and void. The Speaker of the House, the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Labour have called for Parliament to be reconvened as soon as possible.

This prolonged suspension of Parliamentary democracy took place in quite exceptional circumstances: the fundamental change which was due to take place in the Constitution of the United Kingdom on 31st October. Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons as the elected representatives of the people, has a right to a voice in how that change comes about. The effect upon the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme.
....
No justification for taking action with such an extreme effect has been put before the court....It does not discuss the impact of prorogation on the special procedures for scrutinising the delegated legislation necessary to achieve an orderly withdrawal from the European Union, with or without a withdrawal agreement, on 31st October. It does not discuss what Parliamentary time would be needed to secure Parliamentary approval for any new withdrawal agreement, as required by section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

The Court is bound to conclude, therefore, that the decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.

 

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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News and Views

 1 - 7 October 2019

by Bjinse - Sep 30, 538 comments

Your take on this week's news

 October Thread

by Bjinse - Sep 30, 132 comments

Let's call the whole thread off

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