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

Europe is not a market, it is the will to live together

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jul 17th, 2018 at 07:08:49 PM EST

Esteban Gonzales Pons: speech on Brexit, European Parliament - 2017

Europe is currently bound to the North by popularism, and to the South by refugees drowned in the sea. To the east by Putin's tanks, and to the West by Trump's wall. In the past by war, in the future by Brexit. Today, Europe is alone more than ever, but it's citizens do not know it.

Europe is, however, for that reason the best solution and we do not know how to explain that to our citizens. Globalisation teaches us that today Europe is inevitable, there is no alternative.

But Brexit also tells us that Europe is reversible, that you can walk backwards in history, even though outside of Europe, it is very cold.

Brexit is the most selfish decision ever made since Winston Churchill saved Europe  with the blood sweat and tears of the English.

Saying Brexit is the most insidious way of saying goodbye.

Europe is not a market, it is the will to live together. Leaving Europe is not leaving a market, it is leaving shared dreams. We can have a common market, but if we do not have common dreams, we have nothing. Europe is the peace that came after the disaster of war. Europe is the pardon between French and Germans. Europe is the return to freedom of Greece, Spain and Portugal. Europe is the fall of the Berlin Wall. Europe is the end of communism. Europe is the welfare state, it is democracy. Europe is fundamental rights.

As Fintan O'Toole has pointed out Theresa May's much heralded White paper is devoid of any understanding of what the EU is about, or any vision for what the UK should strive for outside the EU. It has satisfied neither Brexiteers nor Remainers and is most unlikely to be agreeable to the EU.

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Trump Meets Putin [Updated]

by Oui Mon Jul 16th, 2018 at 02:41:49 PM EST

Pundits have gone into a frenzy for days, weeks ...

Democrats called for the summit to be canceled ...

Putin should first send the 12 GRU hackers to stand trial in the US based on a Grand Jury decision ...

Putin stole the election to benefit Trump ...

More to follow as press conference is about to start ...

Front paged by Frank Schnittger with minor edit

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HTTPS Cert Added

by Colman Tue Jul 10th, 2018 at 04:36:02 PM EST

I've put an SSL cert in place to secure traffic to and from ET. Shout if it breaks anything.

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The beginning of the end?

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jul 9th, 2018 at 08:24:34 PM EST


Davis, Fox, Johnson and Gove

David Davis and Boris Johnson have resigned from the UK government because they cannot support Theresa May's Brexit proposals which are unlikely to be acceptable to the EU in any case. Liam Fox and Michael Gove may soon follow although both are no doubt trying to position themselves for a leadership contest. He who wields the knife rarely inherits the crown... Meanwhile Theresa May is left to struggle on in what may well be a terminally weakened condition.

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Politics as a process of persuasion...

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jul 5th, 2018 at 10:17:30 AM EST

Is there method to May's madness? From a Bloomberg Brexit email...

Prime Minister Theresa May is gradually dragging her deeply divided Cabinet toward her vision of Brexit - and it's a softer version than the one she originally promised.

Her delaying has irked counterparts in the European Union, who say their patience with the U.K. and its political drama is running out. But by moving slowly, and offering token political gifts to the Brexit-backers along the way, she has clung on to her position - in the face of resignation threats and leadership plots - and shifted the terms of the Brexit debate.

First the Brexiters objected to paying a financial settlement for the divorce. May agreed to do so, peppering the announcement over a few months, and her critics accepted it. Then they objected to a transition period that would keep Britain bound to EU rules after Brexit day. May agreed to one, and they acquiesced.

Then she opened the door to indirect jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice - an institution loathed by euroskeptics as a symbol of lost sovereignty - and they kept quiet. Brexit Secretary David Davis threatened to resign over a plan for the Irish border, but stepped back from the brink after winning a concession from May that is unlikely to survive negotiations with Brussels. (Davis is the one making the most noise in the run-up to the crunch Cabinet meeting on Friday, too.)

Now May is proposing to keep the U.K. aligned with EU rules for trade in goods - an idea that's toxic for Brexit backers because it could reduce the scope for striking new commercial deals around the world, which was a key part of the Brexit campaign's narrative. Michael Gove, a possible leadership candidate, is predicting that no one will resign.

The danger isn't over for May. She could still be ousted. But if she comes out of the crunch Cabinet meeting on Friday with an agreement, it will be something of a victory for a prime minister persistently vilified for her lack of authority.

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Who gives a damn about Ireland?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jun 20th, 2018 at 09:06:10 PM EST


Leave voters prefer hard border to staying in customs union - poll

Two out of three British voters who backed Brexit would prefer to see a hard border in Ireland than for Britain to remain in the EU customs union, according to a new poll.

Only one in three British voters said they could not accept a different status for Northern Ireland after Brexit and six out of 10 Leave voters said that leaving the EU was more important than keeping the United Kingdom together.

The poll by Conservative peer Michael Ashcroft found that, given a straight choice between a hard border and remaining in the customs union, 41 per cent of all voters would choose a hard border compared to 32 per cent who would remain in the customs union. Leave voters would choose a hard border by 66 per cent to 10 per cent and Conservative voters would make the same choice by 67 per cent to 14 per cent.

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Mogg the Moggie

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jun 15th, 2018 at 07:30:38 AM EST


moggie ˈmɒɡi/; noun British informal; noun: moggy
- a cat, typically one that does not have a pedigree or is otherwise unremarkable.

Brexit: `call Ireland's bluff' on Border, Rees-Mogg tells May

The European Union could ignore its own rules if it wants to avoid a hard border in Ireland after Brexit and simply agree not to create one in any circumstances, the leading backbench Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who chairs the European Research Group of pro-Brexit Tory MPs, said Theresa May should call Ireland's bluff rather than allow the Border issue to hold Brexit to ransom.

"Will the Irish put up a border? Will a government that has always believed there should be a single government across the whole island of Ireland suddenly put up a wall? Is it going to be a Trump-like wall built by Mr Varadkar?

The British government has repeatedly said it will not impose a border, so it is entirely up to Mr Varadkar, " he told The Irish Times.


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Boris the Beast

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jun 11th, 2018 at 11:54:41 AM EST

It seems increasingly obvious that the May government is incapable of formulating a coherent negotiating position its negotiators can use to progress the Brexit talks much further. Hemmed in by the DUP and Brexiteers in her own party who have the numbers to mount a leadership challenge, and a Parliament which has a soft Brexit (if not an outright Remainer) majority, her strategy to date has been to procrastinate, prevaricate and delay.

The problem is she is rapidly running out of time. She can probably afford another non-event of an EU summit this month, but if at least the outlines of a Brexit deal aren't agreed by the time the October summit comes around, a hard, "no-deal" Brexit looms. Boris Johnson assumes that the Brexit talks will have to go into a melt-down and lauds Trump's much more confrontational approach.

"Imagine Trump doing Brexit. He'd go in bloody hard. There'd be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he'd gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It's a very, very good thought."
That's probably as good as Boris' thinking gets.

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A Perfect Storm

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jun 1st, 2018 at 06:54:50 PM EST

With 300 days to go to Brexit, the Brexit negotiations are facing a perfect storm of UK Government incompetence, Italian governmental policy changes on the Euro, and a trade war initiated by Donald Trump. The UK government has still not made up its mind as to what kind of relationship it wants with the Customs Union and Single Market, and seems no closer to coming up with a coherent solution to the problem of the Irish border.

While Boris Johnson continues to waffle on about wanting a clean break from the EU, the UK government is actually seeking ever more complicated solutions to retaining "friction free" access to the Single Market and wants to retain access to the Blue Skies agreement, the Gallileo project, Europol, the Prüm Convention, and to retain influence over European defence and foreign policy. Basically the UK is seeking a partnership of equals between the UK and EU, and the EU is having none of it.

Meanwhile the "Italian Crisis", which is seen by many in the EU as a more serious threat to the Euro and the EU than Brexit, is reminding EU negotiators of just how much they need to show the Italians (and everyone else) of how much they stand to lose if they leave the EU or the Eurozone. The Italy Panic Might Be Bad News for the U.K.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, stepped up rhetoric last weekend on the need for the U.K. to be worse off. It was sparked by last week's round of negotiations in Brussels in which European officials said they were taken aback by how much the British government wants to continue after Brexit as if Brexit never happened.

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How to run a referendum

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 30th, 2018 at 08:50:15 AM EST

If only Brexit had been run like Ireland's referendum

In all the excitement of what happened in Ireland's referendum on abortion, we should not lose sight of what did not happen. A vote on an emotive subject was not subverted. The tactics that have been so successful for the right and the far right in the UK, the US, Hungary and elsewhere did not work. A democracy navigated its way through some very rough terrain and came home not just alive but more alive than it was before. In the world we inhabit, these things are worth celebrating but also worth learning from. Political circumstances are never quite the same twice, but some of what happened and did not happen in Ireland surely contains more general lessons.

If the right failed spectacularly in Ireland, it was not for want of trying. Save the 8th, one of the two main groups campaigning against the removal of the anti-abortion clause from the Irish constitution, hired Vote Leave's technical director, the Cambridge Analytica alumnus Thomas Borwick.

Save the 8th and the other anti-repeal campaign, Love Both, used apps developed by a US-based company, Political Social Media (PSM), which worked on both the Brexit and Trump campaigns. The small print told those using the apps that their data could be shared with other PSM clients, including the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and Vote Leave.

Irish voters were subjected to the same polarising tactics that have worked so well elsewhere: shamelessly fake "facts" (the claim, for example, that abortion was to be legalised up to six months into pregnancy); the contemptuous dismissal of expertise (the leading obstetrician Peter Boylan was told in a TV debate to "go back to school"); deliberately shocking visual imagery (posters of aborted foetuses outside maternity hospitals); and a discourse of liberal elites versus the real people. But Irish democracy had an immune system that proved highly effective in resisting this virus. Its success suggests a democratic playbook with at least four good rules.

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YES - Prohibition of Abortion repealed in Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 25th, 2018 at 11:25:01 PM EST

The Eight Amendment to the Irish Constitution, passed by a margin of 67% to 33% on a 54% turnout in 1983, made abortion all but equivalent to murder in all circumstances except where there was an immediate and certain risk to the life of the mother. 35 years later a referendum to repeal that amendment was held yesterday.

The Irish Times exit poll predicts a 68% to 32% victory for the repeal side. A much higher turnout, approaching 70% is also expected to have occurred. This is a better result than the Yes side dared to hope, given that the No campaign had the full support of the Catholic Church and assorted well funded right wing think tanks and organisations who used emotive posters and language basically portraying YES supporters as baby killers.


As might be expected, the younger the voter, the more likely they are to support repeal. However the contrast between the 50-64 demographic (YES 63-37) and the 65+ demographic (NO 60-40) is stark. A sea change appears to have occurred between voters born before and after 1953, a period which saw the Catholic Church defeat the first attempts by government to introduce publicly funded health care for mothers and children.

Women and urban voters also supported repeal in greater numbers, but again, it is striking that there was no great Male/female or Urban/rural divide. All parts of the country voted for repeal, and men supported repeal by 65-35%.

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Dublin is to Blame

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 18th, 2018 at 12:33:21 AM EST

As Brexit day looms ever closer some things are gradually becoming clearer to even the most delusional of Brexit supporters. It is not the EU which is quaking in it's boots at the prospect of Britain leaving, it is the UK.

Having realised that leaving the customs Union and Single market puts at risk all the benefits the UK derives from trading (and integrating it's production processes) with its largest trading partner, the British government is desperately trying to salvage what it can while still delivering on its formal promise of Brexit.

All the debate in British government circles between "a customs partnership" and "Max fac", or maximum facilitation of EU trading rules and tariff collection is essentially a debate between two options the EU has already dismissed as unworkable.

But it is the Irish border question which has, almost single handedly, unravelled the UK government's negotiating position, and N. Ireland Unionists are, very slowly, coming around to realizing it. The DUP are panicking, and desperately casting around for a bogeyman to blame.

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Support for abortion in Ireland slips

by Frank Schnittger Fri Apr 20th, 2018 at 09:29:16 PM EST

The Pro-Life Amendment Campaign (PLAC) was founded in 1981 to campaign for an amendment to the Constitution to ban abortion as there was concern in conservative circles associated with the Roman Catholic Church that the Supreme Court in Ireland might make a similar ruling to Roe vs. Wade in the USA. For a more detailed account of the history of abortion in Ireland see my article here.

In 1983 the people of Ireland approved the 8th. amendment to the Irish Constitution by a margin of 67% to 33%. It inserted the following text into the Irish Constitutuion:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Abortion has never been legal in Ireland unless the women's life is in immediate danger, and women suspected of being pregnant have sometimes been refused urgent treatment for cancer or other medical conditions on the grounds that the treatment might harm the unborn child. Savita Halappanavar died following complications arising from a septic miscarriage after being refused an abortion "because her life was not in imminent danger" and because her inevitable miscarriage was not sufficient reason to carry one out.

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Britain offers to unite Ireland in exchange for Brexit deal

by Frank Schnittger Fri Mar 30th, 2018 at 02:15:05 AM EST

Theresa May has long been offering to construct an innovative and imaginative solution to the problems raised by Brexit in return for a good Brexit deal for Britain with the EU. So far details of what precisely this might entail have been scanty, especially when it comes to defining how the "Irish Border" might continue to be invisible and friction free. However details have started to emerge in the fine print of the draft Brexit deal much to the consternation of Northern Ireland Unionists. Unionists have just discovered that the proposed text promises to expand the 12 areas of joint cooperation between North and South to 18.

Worse still, in terms of the integrity of the Belfast Agreement, two new oversight bodies are created. A Joint Committee of London and Brussels will keep North-South co-operation under "constant review" and set up a Specialised Committee to make recommendations for further areas of co-operation.

With the North-South Ministerial Council suspended due to the lack of Stormont ministers, these committees could be the only show in town.

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Bonfire of the Vanities

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 21st, 2018 at 09:25:53 PM EST

The Irish Times has been running a few opinion pieces by Northern Unionists highlighting their annoyance at recent political developments: The fall of the Northern Ireland Executive, attempts to promote the Irish language in N. Ireland, and the Irish response to Brexit. The latest is by academic John Wilson Foster who has written a book on Irish Novels, 1890-1940, and is entitiled: United Ireland campaign is based on a delusion. He begins as follows:

Open the pages of the Ulster Tatler and there they are. The Northern Irish in their glad rags, grinning for the photographer at birthday bashes, firms' dos, award ceremonies, book launches, restaurant openings.

Theirs are authentic faces of everyday unionism, a promiscuous display of high spirits by those wanting a good time, politically and religiously uncategorised by the camera. In other words, a Sinn Féin nightmare.

After all, Catholics must be constantly reminded that they are an oppressed minority who should be striving for a united Ireland. Unionists must be harried without term and reminded that Sinn Féin's day is coming.

---<snip>---

My suspicion is that Sinn Féin cannot abide such normalisation of social relations. And since they exhaust almost all the oxygen on the matter of nationalism (the SDLP is gasping for air), those relations must not find ordinary, much less political, expression.

Notice how the Northern Irish, "religiously uncategorised by the camera" suddenly morph into the "authentic faces of everyday Unionism." the supposed focus of Sinn Fein ire. It is as if having a good time in Northern Ireland implies you must be a unionist. In those few sentences the self acclaimed authority on Irish novels not only manages to do what he claims Sinn Fein supporters do - categorise people by their religious/political identity - and project some remarkable attitudes onto Sinn Fein.

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Novichok: Cui Bono?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Mar 16th, 2018 at 12:24:33 AM EST

Oui has written an interesting account of the Novichok story here. I am always wary of encroaching onto a political story where there are so few disinterested actors, reliable sources, and so much scope for disinformation. You are either a specialist with inside information, or a potential dupe. The topic is ripe for every conspiracy theorist in town, and yet it is a troubling story with potentially grave political implications for us all.

To begin with, it seems a strange coincidence that the Salisbury attack took place only eight miles away from the UK Chemical weapons research institute at Porton Down. Presumably some workers there would have access to nerve agents. It raises the possibility of an accidental exposure, or perhaps an attempt to sell the material for private gain gone wrong, although it is surely not coincidental that the primary victims were a Russian double agent and his daughter.

In the absence of conclusive evidence, one also has to ask Cui Bono:"who benefits"? A Russian scare is always a good diversionary tactic for a Conservative government in trouble. Putin's ascendency appears to be maintained, in part, by a Russia against the West narrative, especially at election time.

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International Women's day

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 8th, 2018 at 09:53:07 PM EST


President McAleese opening the Muriel Boothman Centre.

The office of President of Ireland is a largely ceremonial one and not directly involved in day to day government decisions. Nevertheless, as the only directly elected national office, it carries with it considerable influence and prestige. The President is an embodiment of how Irish people see themselves and want to be seen abroad. The last three Presidents - Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese, and the current incumbent, Michael D. Higgins have performed their duties with considerable aplomb and have also been ardent feminists.

When my late wife, Muriel Boothman, was having considerable difficulties with her then employers, Wicklow County Council, because the information centre in the Community Education Centre she managed included leaflets from agencies which did not specifically rule out the possibility of abortion referrals abroad for women in crisis pregnancy, she heard that President Robinson was to visit our then small rural town to open a new Credit Union building. Muriel was at that time also the chair of the local women's group, which with 600 members was nearly as large as the town itself and perhaps the largest local women's community group in Ireland.

The women's network drumbeats started to roll and President Robinson was prevailed upon to also officially "open" the Community Education Centre information centre after she had been at the Credit Union. I still remember marching down the main street of our town with President Robinson and our children and several hundred supporters from the Credit Union to The Community Education Centre where Mary Robinson gave an inspirational address. Wicklow County Council was not best pleased. Some members wrote to the Attorney General asking him to prosecute my wife and information centre volunteers.

Some years later President McAleese presided at the opening of the Muriel Boothman Centre (Pictured above), named in honour of my late wife by the Clondalkin Addiction Support Programme where she had become manager following her constructive dismissal by Wicklow County Council. Her comments then on the scourge of hard drug addiction in Ireland were apt and well informed. I mention these occasions to illustrate how influential recent Presidents have been in the ongoing development of Irish society. Ireland is about to vote on the removal of the constitutional ban on abortion, a development which would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

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BMW = Brexit Made Wonderful

by Frank Schnittger Wed Feb 28th, 2018 at 05:09:38 PM EST

Fintan O'Toole has an interesting take on why the Brexiteers think they can ultimately force the EU to give the UK what it wants in the Brexit deal:

Marxism is alive and well in British politics. The irony, though, is that its strongest influence is not in Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party. It is on the Tory right. Perhaps the oddest thing about the Brexit zealots - though there is a great deal of competition for this title - is that they cling to a particularly crude form of Marxist economic determinism.

Their whole project is predicated on the belief that a cabal of capitalist bosses can issue orders that the entire European Union would rush to obey. The all-powerful clique in question is made up of the principal shareholders of Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Opel, Porsche and Mercedes.

It would be hard to overstate just how large these German industrialists have loomed in the consciousness of the Brexiteers and their media cheerleaders. They were to be Britain's saviours. It was they who would ensure that the EU would be forced to give Britain all the benefits of the single market and the customs union even after it departed from both. It was they who would provide the lubrication for the zipless, frictionless Brexit of the Leavers' dreams.

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European Trumps

by Bernard Sat Feb 24th, 2018 at 06:05:50 PM EST

Frank has posted a diary on the triumph of Trumpism across the Atlantic. But Trump and his tactics have inspired a number of politicians, or even entire parties, in Europe as well.

Since DJT's election, many European politicians have been nicknamed "the <insert country name> Trump". One such example is Laurent Wauquiez, aka "the French Trump", who has succeeded Nicolas Sarkozy at the helm of the LR (Les Républicains) mainstream right wing party in the wake of humiliating defeats for Sarkozy (in the primary) and Fillon (in the general election). Wauquiez's "strategy" is one that others have tried before him: emulating the Front National's themes, especially the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, while keeping a plutocrat-friendly "pro-business" agenda, despite some vague (pre-election, obviously) protectionist noises.

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Sad announcement

by Colman Wed Feb 7th, 2018 at 12:12:50 PM EST

I am sad to announce that Lenny Poryles, known here as LEP, passed away yesterday. He was an active and wise poster here in ET's prime and a regular attender at meet-ups.

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News and Views

 16 - 22 July 2018

by Bjinse - Jul 16, 22 comments

Your take on this week's news

 9 - 15 July 2018

by Bjinse - Jul 9, 78 comments

Your take on this week's news

 July Open Thread

by Bjinse - Jul 16, 1 comment

He who cannot put his thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of an open thread.

 June Open Thread

by Bjinse - Jun 3, 97 comments

Whatever thread you make makes you. Thread wisely.

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