Eu politics

Will Italy’s new coalition last?

Italian politics is like a game of musical chairs. One government resigns or collapses, another takes its place, until that government is either rendered irrelevant a year later or voted out during the next election. Italy has had 68 governments in the last 74 years and 10 prime ministers in the last 20. Italians will get another prime minister sworn in relatively soon, and the new one is the same as the old. Guissspe Conte, a quiet law professor only 15 months ago, will stay on as Italy’s premier after surviving an attempt by his hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini to force an early election. Salvini’s desire for power, propelled by

The moment the European project first went wrong

At a time when the EU is at its least popular and, worse still, least respected, it is worth reflecting on how the idea for a united Europe developed – and where it went wrong. The Spectator’s reprint last week of Christopher Booker’s 2014 article ‘How the first world war inspired the EU’ is a timely reminder of the real genesis of the EU. Yet it was only after the Second World War amid fear of a renascent Germany, that the concept of an ‘ever-closer union’ became the shibboleth of European construction. It was here that the European project took a mistaken turn. The First World War led to France

How the first world war inspired the EU | 3 July 2019

Christopher Booker has died at the age of 81. In 2014, he wrote in The Spectator about how the first world war inspired the EU, and why its supporters won’t tell you: Among the millions of words which will be expended over the next four years on the first world war, very few will be devoted to explaining one of its greatest legacies of all, the effects of which continue to dominate our politics to this day. One of the best-kept secrets of the European Union is that the core idea which gave rise to it owed its genesis not to the second world war, as is generally supposed, but

Marine Le Pen’s return is good news for Emmanuel Macron

If there’s one politician in Europe as triumphant as Nigel Farage right now it’s Emmanuel Macron. The European election results were not, as many outside France have declared, a humiliation for the French president. On the contrary, they were a success. Publicly the Elysée described the result as “honourable”, but in private the president was reportedly cock-a-hoop. “Basically, we’ve won, it’s a triumph and Macron is jubilant,” said one of his staff. While his LREM party may have trailed Marine Le Pen’s NR by a narrow margin (23.3 per cent to 22.4), Macron’s eyes were on another opponent. Seven years ago the centre-right Les Republicains [LR] were the ruling party in

A green wave has just swept Europe

As Brits understandably focus on Brexit and populism, another story is emerging: the green wave. It is especially focused in amongst the young and in cities: Greens took nine of Germany’s ten largest cities, sometimes by large margins. Across Germany, Die Grünen relegated the Social Democrats to third place. In France, Les Verts came from nowhere to finish third, greens came second in Finland and broke into double digits in Austria and The Netherlands. In Ireland, Greens trebled their share of the vote and won their first European Parliament seat for 20 years: an exit poll showed 90 per cent of voters thought the Irish government needs to do more

The EU’s role in the demise of British Steel

How ironic that British Steel goes into administration on the day before the European elections, putting 4,200 jobs at risk in a leave-voting constituency. And how utterly fatuous to blame Britain’s vote to leave the EU for the failure of the Scunthorpe plant. There is a link with Brexit, but it is not the one mentioned in passing on BBC news bulletins this morning – that our leaving the EU has frightened off European customers. If anything, the fall in the pound since 2016 should have helped British Steel, making its exports to the rest of the EU cheaper. But that has not been enough to counter the mass of

Could France’s far left and far right come together again?

As the European elections approach, Europe’s oldest liberal democracies – Britain and France – are in turmoil. Taking the long view, Britain’s problems are circumstantial and exceptional. France’s, by contrast, are renewing with more extreme political traditions that have risen and fallen, but never disappeared, over the last two centuries. Gavin Mortimer’s blog on Coffee House describes the seemingly paradoxical synthesis of far-left and far-right voters contemplating casting their ballot for the same party – the former National Front, now Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. Yet as with so much in French politics this is far from novel. Karl Marx used nineteenth century France and its political history as a laboratory for his writings on

Change UK’s latest transformation is its worst yet

As Change UK struggle for relevance, they have become a Revoke party. This is a significant shift from being a second referendum party. One might disagree with having a second referendum before the result of the first one has even been implemented; but there would be a check on the decision through the fact that the public would get to have a say before their previous vote was discarded. Parliament simply revoking Article 50, though, would be a fundamental breach of faith with the electorate. It would do untold damage to the democratic fabric of this country. Change UK’s argument, as made by Chuka Umunna on the Marr Show yesterday,

What Macron and Salvini get wrong about the future of Europe

French president Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini don’t have much in common, but on the importance of the upcoming European elections they agree. For Macron, the vote will be “decisive for the future of our continent”. And for the leader of Italy’s right-wing populist Lega, “May 26 is a referendum between life and death. Those who are still sleeping should wake up.” Yet Macron and Salvini are wrong. Both have misinterpreted these elections and their significance for Europe’s future. And the argument that these votes are a binary and existential struggle between pro-EU forces, led by Macron, and right-wing populists, led by Marine Le Pen and Salvini, is

France – and Europe – could become the frontline in Algeria’s latest crisis

As the European parliament elections approach, the continent’s navel-gazing is ever more myopic. Even its two most outward focused states, France and Britain, are consumed by domestic crises. And yet in Europe’s backyard – across the Mediterranean, in Algeria – radical change is taking place with potentially serious ramifications for the European Union and France. Every Friday since February the authoritarian Algerian regime has been the target of tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators on a scale unknown since the country’s troubled independence from France in 1962. The spark was 82-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announcement that he would seek a fifth term as president, despite being chronically debilitated by a stroke

What the ‘Stop Brexit’ brigade and Turkey’s Erdogan have in common

Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament, has got some front. This morning he slammed the decision to cancel the results of the municipal and mayoral elections that took place in Istanbul in March and to force the people of Istanbul to vote again. And yet Verhofstadt’s chums in the Remainer camp want to do exactly the same thing in the UK. Indeed this week Verhofstadt will visit London to campaign for the Lib Dems, whose slogan is ‘Stop Brexit’ and whose aim is to bring about a second referendum. Verhofstadt’s hypocrisy is staggering — he brands Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan a dictator for the overthrow of

Jonathan Miller

Is Emmanuel Macron’s EU project about to meet its Waterloo?

Emmanuel Macron, the once golden boy of European politics, could be about to suffer his first electoral humiliation. A black mood has settled over the president. Ministers have been ordered to campaign and tweet as if their jobs depend on it. Which they might. The president himself, dressed habitually like a funeral director, is on his normal hyper-manic schedule. But he fails to inspire and his electoral traction is barely visible. The spectre haunting the Elysée is that in less than three weeks, Macron’s Napoleonic European project, the so-called EU Renaissance, intended to federalise diplomacy, fiscality and defence, will meet its Waterloo. The president’s luck seems exhausted. Where once nothing

Why aren’t Corbynistas celebrating the gilets jaunes?

Why aren’t we Brits talking about the revolt just across the English Channel? Our silence on the gilets jaunes and their spectacular, sustained rebellion against the increasingly tyrannical rule of Emmanuel Macron has become pathological. There’s been barely any BBC coverage, no words of solidarity from Corbynistas, not a peep from the trade union movement. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary French people have marched, raged and clashed with the Macron government and Britain looks the other way. It’s bizarre. Our disregard deserves an explanation. This weekend was Act 24 of the gilets jaunes revolt. Named after the yellow vests that all motorists in France must have in their vehicles, the

Libya’s crisis exposes the deep divide at the heart of the EU

The European Union already has a lot on its plate. The continuing doom of Brexit, upcoming parliamentary elections, a resurgent and ever strident nationalist movement across the continent and migration to name only a few. But over the last week, Libya can be added to the list. The armed conflict just across the Mediterranean is splitting the EU. Not for the first time, it makes the institution look floundering, divided and unsure of its capacities. Libya has been a basket-case ever since a Nato and Arab-led military coalition helped the country’s rebel brigades kick Gaddafi from power. The North African nation is in reality not a nation at all, but

Theresa May must stand up to Emmanuel Macron’s Brexit posturing

In this the 115th anniversary week of the Entente Cordiale, the French president and the British Prime Minister will meet twice, today at the Elysee Palace and tomorrow at the European Council in Brussels. But neither of those meetings will be to celebrate their countries friendship. When May goes to Paris and then to Brussels, she will instead be a woeful supplicant in the Brexit feuilleton. And the one thing the vicar’s daughter can count on is that she will be subjected to a severe bout of Macron lesson-giving and severe sermonising, as is his wont. And yet Macron is hardly in a position of strength. Both leaders are battling

The real reason Macron is desperate to woo Xi Jinping

Chinese president Xi Jinping came to France and is taking home 300 Airbus jetliners, a large consignment of frozen chickens and a wind farm. A great triumph for France, declared Emmanuel Macron. And for Macron? Never mind that many of the planes will be built in China. Or that Airbus is no longer a French company but an international one, although headquartered in Toulouse. Or that the hens are unlikely to be free range. It’s hard to argue with a cheque for £30 billion. Or to stop a politician taking credit for a deal that’s been in the works for years. To cement his triumph, Macron hosts Xi today at

Emmanuel Macron has saved himself from political crisis – for now

Back in December, Emmanuel Macron was a man on edge. His poll numbers were spiralling down the toilet; hundreds of thousands of French who felt alienated from their government were taking to the streets to shout down the French elite in cities and towns across the country; and fires were burning all around Paris. Police officers and protesters-turned-rioters were on the frontlines trading rocks and rubber bullets, resulting in hundreds (if not thousands) of arrests. Macron, the blue-eyed, fresh-faced technocratic politician who marketed himself during the 2017 presidential contest as the Fifth French Republic’s aspiring saviour, was left twiddling his thumbs in the presidential mansion wondering how to address the

How Steve Bannon tried – and failed – to crack Europe | 6 March 2019

When Steve Bannon was ousted from the White House as president Donald Trump’s chief strategist, the populist provocateur and former Hollywood executive was back running staff meetings at Breitbart less than 24 hours later. The rumpled, grizzled, grey-haired Bannon – who has a fondness for philosophy, history, political bloodsport and green camo jackets – is constantly on the move for a new project. In the United States, the big project was getting Trump elected and ensuring the New York billionaire never forgot about the part of America that loved him and the part that cringed at the mention of his name. But ever since he left the Trump administration – and

Italy shows that left-wing populism doesn’t work

To judge from what is going on in Italy, the only major European country where populists are in power, right-wing populism works but left-wing populism does not. The senior partner in Italy’s populist coalition government – the alt-left Five Star Movement – is haemorrhaging support, while the popularity of the junior partner – the radical-right League – soars ever higher. In regional elections in Sardinia last Sunday, Five Star got just 11 per cent of the vote compared to the 42 per cent it got on the island at Italy’s general election in March 2018. The League’s candidate, by contrast, at the head of a right-wing coalition, won with 47

The EU must budge on the backstop if it wants to avoid no deal

The European Union does not want ‘no-deal’. Neither do the majority of people or politicians in the UK. Most of us recognise that to leave without a deal would be potentially damaging to both the UK and the EU, a risk to be avoided. But unless Brexit is stopped altogether the only way to prevent ‘no deal’ is to agree a deal. The date of the UK’s departure may now be delayed, but even a short delay would be controversial enough. And delay will only postpone the choice which, sooner or later, must be made. In one sense a deal is tantalisingly close to being agreed. Despite initially rejecting the Withdrawal