Eu politics

Why Donald Trump will step up his feud with the EU this year

For Angela Merkel, the chief guardian of Europe’s centrist politics, 2018 was a year of tribulation – and she admits it. In her New Year’s speech, the German chancellor acknowledged the hardship of the last twelve months while begging her countrymen to unite in the year ahead. “We will only master the challenges of our times if we stick together and collaborate with others across borders,” Merkel told the German people in what can only viewed as a call for the country to come together. Merkel’s words, however, don’t only apply to Germany. Europe as a whole is entering 2019 with many people agnostic about the European Union, exhausted with the familiar

The euro is the most dysfunctional currency ever created | 2 January 2019

Even by his usual standards of self-satire, Jean-Claude Juncker was on top form to open the new year. As he uncorked his final bottle of wine for the year, the president of the European Commission found time to blast out a tweet celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the launch of the euro. It has, according to Juncker, become a ‘symbol of unity, sovereignty and stability’, which has delivered ‘prosperity and protection’ to the people of Europe. Juncker was right about one thing of course. The single currency is indeed 20 this week. It was launched on January 1st, 1999, at least for financial transactions, with the actually notes and coins

Why Britain decided to leave the EU – but other countries haven’t | 29 December 2018

Why us? Why is the UK the first – and only – country to decide to leave the EU? Greenland, Algeria (when it was part of the French empire) and the French Caribbean island of St Barthélemy have all been in the EU and are no more, but the UK is the first full member country to hold a referendum and decide ‘enough’. Why us, and not one of the many other members nursing doubts about the EU? There are many reasons, none of which are to do with us being more inward looking or racist. We are an island, but arguably the most outward looking EU nation. We do

Where did it all go wrong for Emmanuel Macron?

Twelve months ago Le Journal du Dimanche published an opinion poll in which Emmanuel Macron had an approval rating of 52 per cent. A fortnight ago the same paper ran a poll in which the president’s popularity stood at 23 per cent. Where has it gone so wrong for the man once likened among sections of the French press to a cross between Jupiter and Christ? More to the point how could The Spectator get it so wrong in running a piece last December entitled ‘Macron is becoming the darling of the Deplorables’? I can only assume that when I wrote that article, in particular the line about Macron having

A no deal Brexit would be the EU’s fault

I stood next to Jean Claude-Juncker, then president of the European Council and prime minister of Luxembourg, when news flashed up on the TV screens of the astonishing rejection by French voters of the draft European Constitution in their 2005 referendum. He could have responded in so many ways, to try to understand why the voters in traditionally one of Europe’s most Europhile countries emphatically rejected further EU integration. But his immediate response, without drawing breath, was: “They will just have to vote again.” In fact, the French voters weren’t trusted to give the right answer second time around, and so the treaty was pushed through the French parliament instead.

How terror changed Europe’s Christmas markets

The traditional Christmas market is one of the great sights in any European capital at this time of year. But as with all traditions it evolves over time. A few evenings ago, I went to visit the Duomo in Milan and walked through the beautiful Christmas market in the square surrounding it. It was all there: the Christmas lights, the chalet-like huts selling warm food and drink, the fake snow. And, of course, the crash barriers. For since December 2016, when Anis Amri hijacked a truck in Berlin, shot the driver and then ploughed the vehicle into the local Christmas market (killing eleven more people) crash barriers have become a

The EU’s no-deal preparations make it clear: they want to make Britain suffer

When Boris Johnson was foreign secretary, he was admonished for accusing the EU of wanting to administer ‘punishment beatings’ to Britain for its temerity in wanting to leave the EU. In the months since it has become clear just how apt his description was. At every turn, the EU has acted with one aim in mind: to try to ensure that Britain suffers from exiting the EU, in order to deter other member states from contemplating leaving the bloc. Today’s memo from the EU, laying out the plans for what would happen in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is a case in point. It is hard, reading this document,

The EU’s bid to police the internet is going badly wrong

The copyright in the single digital market directive combines the deadliest ingredients in public policy: it is important, boringly complicated, and its effects are a long way off. This week, it was supposed to take a major step towards becoming law, but it has foundered – for now. The directive is largely technical tweaks to European copyright, which were last revised in 2001. But two clauses are so controversial that they’ve spurred more than four million Europeans to write to the Parliament to object to them and ‘save the internet!’. The changes have also been denounced by copyright experts, Tim Berners-Lee, the UN, movie companies and football leagues. At issue is

Robert Peston

Theresa May now faces a humiliating choice over Brexit

Here is the measure of Theresa May’s failure last night, according to an observer of her request to EU leaders for “assurances” that UK membership of the EU backstop would be finite and of short duration. They were ready to help. They assumed a process of officials agreeing a text over coming week would start today, to give her the necessary words that would persuade Tory and DUP critics of her deal to ultimately support it. But it was during the course of questioning her that they concluded such a process – such an extension of talks – would be a total waste of time. Why? Well according to one

Relations between the US and EU have gone from bad to worse

One of the most important duties of being an ambassador is serving as a counsellor of sorts. When relations between two countries are on the rocks – or a president or prime minister says or does something another nation regards as hostile – the ambassador is often called on to ensure that any diplomatic fallout can be contained and the relationship itself can be repaired. Apparently Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, didn’t get the memo.   In an extraordinarily frank interview with Politico Europe this week, ambassador Sondland blasted the EU as an archaic, obstructionist, elitist European superstructure whose primary objective is to keep itself in business. The European Commission,

How the Gilets jaunes movement could spread across Europe

The eminent historian Emmanuel Todd was on the radio in France last week. He had much to say, none of which would have made for easy listening at the Élysée Palace, particularly his warning that Emmanuel Macron is facing a coup d’etat that has been fomenting for years. Todd believes that fundamental to the rise of the Yellow Vest movement is what happened in 2005. That was the year France, in the words of the Guardian at the time, “decisively rejected the new European constitution”. The ‘non’ votes were 54 per cent (out of an overall turnout of almost 70 per cent) and jubilant campaigners demanded the resignation of Jacques Chirac

Why the Norway model wouldn’t work for Britain

In the corridors of Westminster and the salons of some remainers, there is a lot of excited chatter about the “Norway option”. This would involve being a member of the EEA and single market, but not of the EU. Depending on who is pushing, Norway is presented as either a temporary or permanent alternative to Theresa May’s troubled deal. But there are problems with this quick fix. The well discussed issue that being in the EEA doesn’t end freedom of movement is one; another is the fact that the Norway option doesn’t end EU budget contributions. But more fundamentally, few appreciate just how a regime that (sort of) suits Norway

Emmanuel Macron’s next fight could be his toughest yet

In normal circumstances, Emmanuel Macron would welcome a trip to Marrakech in December as an opportunity to escape cold Paris and enjoy some North African hospitality. But his date in the Moroccan city next week could not have come at a worse time. France is burning and Macron’s presence on Monday at the United Nations intergovernmental conference in order to sign France up to the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration could add to the conflagration. The United Nations states that the global compact “comprises 23 objectives for better managing migration at local, national, regional and global levels”. The document has been more than two years in the making

Mike Pompeo’s unwelcome warning to Brussels’ bureaucrats

The US secretary of state Mike Pompeo strutted into Brussels yesterday like a man on a mission. His task was almost impossible from the start: to convince America’s friends and allies in Europe that the United States under Donald Trump is still the leader of the liberal world order European politicians care so deeply about. It’s difficult to believe Pompeo convinced anyone. America’s top diplomat could have done what many of his predecessors have chosen to do: tell the European foreign policy community to relax and take a deep breath, America won’t be throwing you to the wolves. Instead, Pompeo was far more confrontational, channeling the fire and brimstone of his

The small print of today’s Article 50 opinion reveals yet another ECJ power grab

The European Court of Justice is back in the headlines this morning. Its Advocate General, Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona, has declared that the UK might be able to cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50 unilaterally. So is that it settled? Not at all: nothing, with the ECJ, is ever that simple. In fact, the whole episode is a good chance to look at the ECJ and the way it works – and then ask if this is the kind of supreme court that Britain really wants to stay under. Take what happened this morning. We learn via a three-page press release what Sanchez-Bordona thinks about Article 50. An hour after that

What’s the truth about the Gilets jaunes?

Marine Le Pen spent last Saturday commenting on the scenes from the Champs-Elysées as the latest Gilets Jaunes demonstration turned violent. She also had the opportunity to respond to Christophe Castaner, the interior minister who, as cobbles rained down on the heads of the riot police, accused Le Pen of inciting the far-right to go on the rampage. Le Pen rejected the allegations, saying she had done no such thing; and anyway, as far as the National Rally leader was concerned, the people running amok in the capital weren’t from the far-right. Le Pen’s view was endorsed by Marion Maréchal, who unlike her aunt, chose to witness the latest manifestation of

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Changing strategy means changing leader

‘Away with the cant of “measures not men”! — the idle supposition that it is the harness and not the horses that draw the chariot along. No, Sir, if the comparison must be made, if the distinction must be taken, men are everything, measures comparatively nothing.’ George Canning said this in 1801 and recent events remind us that he was right. In the end the only way to change the policy is to change the person, as the individual determines the direction and is rarely willing to try a different route. As I have known this quotation for decades, it was naïve of me to expect the Prime Minister to

Will May’s Brexit deal stop us making jokes about Juncker?

Article 129 (3) of the withdrawal agreement provides that ‘the United Kingdom shall refrain, during the transition period, from any action or initiative which is likely to be prejudicial to the Union’s interests, in particular in the framework of any international organisation, agency, conference or forum of which the United Kingdom is a party in its own right.’ What does that mean? That we are not free at the UN Security Council to oppose any item of EU foreign policy? That we cannot cut our rate of VAT? That we must not make jokes about Jean-Claude Juncker? Needless to say, there is no reciprocal obligation on the EU to do

The rivalry between Macron and Salvini is a battle for Europe’s soul

When Emmanuel Macron won a resounding victory over far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in the 2017 French presidential elections – claiming 66 per cent of the vote – Matteo Salvini was a little known Italian politician largely scoffed at as a clown by the status-quo parties. While Salvini was posting selfies on Facebook and making outlandish comments about North African migrants, the eurozone, the European Union, and the Italian political establishment, Macron was in Paris measuring drapes in the Élysée Palace. Stories in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Guardian gushing about Macron being Europe’s saviour from the dark forces of populism were as prevalent as stories deriding Salvini as a buffoon. A

Mark Galeotti

The trouble with Interpol

At the last minute, the Russian police general everyone had assumed was a shoo-in to become the next head of Interpol was defeated by the acting head, South Korean Kim Jong-yang. It’s good news for the international police cooperation organisation, for the West and, arguably, for justice – but it’s not the end of the story. The presumed front-runner, major general Alexander Prokopchuk – formerly the head of Russia’s Interpol bureau – has been accused of supervising the systematic attempt to apparently use the agency to persecute the Kremlin’s political enemies. Nonetheless, until the eleventh hour, everyone saw Prokopchuk as the heir apparent. Moscow certainly seems to have thought so. It