Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.
<< Previous 20 Next 20 >>

Brexit Mania

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jun 11th, 2017 at 07:03:01 PM EST

For some strange reason I am vaguely encouraged by the outcome of the British general election, and it is not because the numbers turned out to be broadly as I expected they would be. Theresa May must be one of the worst leaders that even the Tories have ever produced, and no amount of repetition of the mindless "Strong and Stable" mantra could hide that fact.

Equally, the DUP did more or less exactly as I expected they would do in Northern Ireland, and they too have, in Arlene Foster, a leader who is pretty much the worst of a dire lot of predecessors, including Ian Paisley, the party founder, himself. But it is not really the choice of leaders which has me basically equanimous at the election outcome.

It could have been better, it could have been worse, but the outcome of the first post-Brexit election was always going to be something truly awful. The level of delusion, lies and deceit Brexit has introduced into the mainstream of the UK body politic was always going to produce a uniquely toxic stew, and now we can put a name on it: Brexit Mania.

Read more... (25 comments, 1724 words in story)

Leo Varadker to become Irish Prime Minister

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jun 5th, 2017 at 10:42:27 AM EST

Leo Varadker, the son of an immigrant Indian Doctor and an Irish mother, has won the Fine Gael Leadership election and is set to become Taoiseach in the next week or so. To do so he needs to secure the agreement of Fianna Fail to a continuation of their "Confidence and Supply Arrangement" to abstain from votes of No Confidence in order to allow the minority Fine Gael government to remain in office. Several Independent ministers will also have to renew their agreement to support the Government.

Read more... (4 comments, 1010 words in story)

Match Report: Pro12 Semi-final

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 20th, 2017 at 11:27:25 AM EST

Leinster 15 Scarlets 27

Those of us who have ever played competitive sport have been there: You start off confident, perhaps even complacent, because everyone tells you you are the overwhelming favourite.

Read more... (3 comments, 440 words in story)

The problem of German hegemony

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 20th, 2017 at 09:17:29 AM EST

One of the impacts of Brexit on the EU will be to remove one of three most powerful and influential members of the bloc. That can only have the effect of increasing German hegemony unless the other EU and Eurozone members take concerted action to prevent this from happening. So far they have shown little sign of doing so. German led austerity policies remain in the ascendant, particularly in Greece, although economic trends have been improving elsewhere. But politically, German conservatism, inertia, complacency and a sense of entitlement appears to rule the roost.

So why do the other EU member states not take more concerted action to ensure the EU and Eurozone are managed more in their collective interests?

Read more... (14 comments, 791 words in story)

Leo Varadkar early favourite to succeed Enda Kenny

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 19th, 2017 at 03:54:56 PM EST


Simon Coveney and Leo Varadker, chief rivals to replace Enda Kenny.

Enda Kenny has finally resigned as leader of Fine Gael some months after it became clear his days in office were numbered following Fine Gael's disastrous performance in the 2016 General Election. Leo Varadkar has become the early favourite to succeed him as Leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach or Prime Minister of Ireland.

Read more... (5 comments, 1105 words in story)

Can Merkel and Macron renew the EU?

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 15th, 2017 at 09:39:23 PM EST

Far be it for me to write a diary on French politics when there are French bloggers here far more qualified than I to do so. But the election of Macron as President, and now his appointment of a conservative as prime Minister are events of EU wide significance. He has been welcomed with open arms by Chancellor Merkel, and has disabused those who thought he might favour Eurobonds or more radical measures to counter the imbalances within the Eurozone.

So is he just a French version of Tony Blair, come 20 years later? Certainly his abandonment of the Socialist party, his creation of a new centrist En March party, his embrace of liberal democratic market led reformist policies, and now his appointment of a conservative prime Minister are reminiscent of Tony Blair's "third way" policies of the 1990's and early 2000's.  

But what made Tony Blair so deeply unpopular in left wing circles was not just his penchant for liberalising markets and privatising public services, but his poodle like craving for approval from establishment figures like the Queen and US President George W. Bush, and eventually his total complicity in the establishment of a false Casus Belli for war with Iraq.

Read more... (22 comments, 1430 words in story)

Farage's farrago of fake facts

by Frank Schnittger Thu May 11th, 2017 at 07:04:39 PM EST

Nigel Farage has always had a good sense of timing, retiring from the leadership of UKIP three times to avoid some shit storm or other.  However far from retiring from politics, he has been indulging in his favourite pastime: causing trouble for political establishments wherever he can.  His latest venture is to try to persuade Ireland to throw in its lot with the UK and leave the EU.

Read more... (11 comments, 1097 words in story)

So what could a United Ireland look like?

by Frank Schnittger Thu May 4th, 2017 at 10:33:23 PM EST

Newton Emerson has long been one of the few articulate Northern Ireland unionist commentators on Irish politics, North and south. His latest screed, in the Irish Times, seeks to pour cold water on the increased discussion of the prospects for a United Ireland in Irish political discourse in the wake of the EU declaration of the "Kenny Text," which states that Northern Ireland can rejoin the EU post Brexit if it becomes part of a United Ireland in accordance with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

His main point appears to be that the "Kenny Text" might actually make the prospect of a United Ireland more distant by clarifying what it would actually entail: a takeover of the North by the south.

My view, which I have articulated in a comment on his article, is that it does no such thing. I reproduce that comment below together with some further commentary:

Read more... (19 comments, 1200 words in story)

United EU Negotiating mandate and a United Ireland within EU

by Frank Schnittger Sat Apr 29th, 2017 at 04:23:47 PM EST

Brexit summit: EU accepts united Ireland declaration

EU leaders have agreed Northern Ireland will automatically become part of the European Union if its people vote to join a united Ireland in a future Border poll.

At a summit in Brussels which concluded shortly before 3pm (Irish time) on Saturday, the leaders of the 27 remaining EU states also unanimously approved guidelines for how the bloc will conduct its Brexit negotiations with the UK

Read more... (18 comments, 787 words in story)

Opinion polling and the French Elections

by Frank Schnittger Sat Apr 22nd, 2017 at 11:27:54 AM EST


Wikipedia provides an excellent summary graphic (above) of opinion polling in the 2017 French Presidential election (first round). It is illegal, in France, to publish any more opinion polls after midnight last night, so this is the final picture we have of the state of the race prior to the election. Of course, as with any polling analysis, one has to issue a number of caveats:

Read more... (48 comments, 812 words in story)

A Historic Re-alignment?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 18th, 2017 at 10:37:45 PM EST

On the 3rd. January, in A Brexit doomsday scenario, I wrote that:

In an ideal world, she [Theresa May] might actually like to engineer a parliamentary defeat so that she could go to the country in a general election. This could potentially give her a personal mandate as Prime Minister, weed out any parliamentarians in her own party whose loyalty is suspect, add at least another 2 years to her Government's period in office, and provide her with a more precise mandate as to what to seek in the Brexit negotiations. She could put her Brexit wish list to the people and then fetch up in Brussels saying that these are the democratically declared wishes of the British people, and that it would be undemocratic for Brussels to reject them.

---<snip>---

A General election would have the added benefits of exploiting the divisions in the Labour Party under Corbyn and a UKIP party riven by internal shenanigans. Only the Lib Dems represent an option for disillusioned Remain voters, but they are more likely to eat into the Labour vote. Indeed the Lib Dems could replace Labour as the main opposition party if they manage to gain a majority of the 48% of voters who voted Remain. Oh the joys, from a Tory perspective!

In any case, given the peculiarities of the British first past the post voting system, May could win an overall majority with as little as 35% of the vote, provided the remaining 65% is scattered between Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP, the Scots Nationalists and the Welsh and N. Ireland parties which generally don't matter in the Westminster arithmetic. Easily enough done, especially if voting Tory can be painted as a patriotic imperative to strengthen the British hand in the Brexit negotiations. Cue Land of Hope and Glory!

Read more... (12 comments, 1507 words in story)

Brexit by the numbers

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 11th, 2017 at 09:21:40 PM EST

The Economist has produced an index which lists all EU member states by their stances on what the Economist claims are the four key issues surrounding the negotiations (h/t Bernard):

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty provides that any Brexit agreement has to be passed by qualified majority vote on the European Council as well as by simple majority in the European Parliament. This raises the interesting question as to which EU member state leaders Theresa May must win over if she is to get any agreement. I do the maths below.

Read more... (33 comments, 1139 words in story)

The Brexit negotiating environment

by Frank Schnittger Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 05:06:22 PM EST

Colman has initiated an interesting debate on the likely outcomes to the Brexit negotiations, but I am far more interested in the negotiating process which I have already discussed here. The possible outcomes, both short and long term, seem pretty variable to me, effected by all sorts of difficult to predict external and internal factors. Speculation as to outcomes is fun, but based on all sorts of assumptions which require elucidation if circumstances change. So what are the factors which are likely to impact on the outcome of the negotiations? I discuss some below, but would welcome the input of those closer to the evolving political dynamics in other member states of the EU.

Read more... (15 comments, 1142 words in story)

Theresa May's A50 letter

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 04:55:12 PM EST


The full text of Theresa May's A50 notification letter is available here, and is well worth a read in full. It is a largely unobjectionable 2200 word document, and takes into account some of the previous criticisms that the UK should not be allowed to "cherry pick" those aspects of the EU it likes, to the exclusion of those it does not like.

Overall it paints a positive picture of the EU it wants to do business with as an economic and security partner. So much so, that one wonders why the UK wants to leave in the first place! Membership already provides the benefits the UK says it wants to achieve in its future partnership with the UK.

One is left with the feeling that what the UK really wants is not to be just one member amongst 28: It wants to be in some kind of equal Partnership with the EU27 as a whole.

Read more... (33 comments, 1585 words in story)

LTE: Pay and Policing in Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 28th, 2017 at 04:09:50 PM EST

Irish Independent: Garda bosses don't deserve respect (Scroll down to second letter)

A report by the Irish stockbroker Davy has found that average public sector wages amounted to €47,400 in Ireland, 40pc more than the average wage in the private sector.

In addition, Davy's calculations indicated that a private sector worker would need to save €590,000 to buy an annuity on retirement that matched public sector career-average salary pensions of €23,000 a year.

It also noted that public servants in Ireland were better paid on average than their counterparts in many other European countries. In the UK, average public sector wages are £26,200 (€30,800), which is on a par with what their counterparts in the private sector earn.

Members of An Garda Síochána had the highest average pay in 2016 at €64,700, or almost twice the average private sector wage. Surely one could expect extraordinary efficiency and competence for such generous remuneration?

Not a bit of it. Garda management is now known to have inflated its breath test statistics by almost 100pc and caused the wrongful conviction of thousands of motorists.

Even more worryingly, it is claimed that senior officers have no idea how this happened, and it seems they have no interest in investigating further. Those in private sector management would be sacked for allowing such conduct on their watch.

It seems clear that Garda management is incapable of running an efficient or truthful operation.

How is the public supposed to respect the law and the law-enforcers when the law enforcers themselves have shown such contempt for their responsibilities to the public?

I have no difficulty with gardaí and public sector workers in general being well paid, but they should have to earn it through the quality and integrity of the services they provide.

Frank Schnittger

Blessington, Co Wicklow

Read more... (2 comments, 971 words in story)

An Independent Northern Ireland within the EU?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 at 10:49:00 PM EST

Dr. Nat O'Connor (School of CPSP, Ulster University) has an interesting piece up on the Progressive Economy website on the options for Northern Ireland if it doesn't want to go the full Brexit with the leavers in Westminster. In particular he asks: Could Northern Ireland be an independent member of the EU, or have a "special status" within it? It is well worth a read in full and discusses the options for Northern Ireland under six headings:

    Being inside the European Customs Union
    Being inside the European Single Market
    Holding EU Citizenship Rights
    Participating in EU Programmes (e.g. CAP, Erasmus)
    Common EU Security and Defence
    The "European Project"

My response is included below the fold...

Read more... (14 comments, 942 words in story)

An Independent Northern Ireland within the EU?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 at 10:40:53 PM EST

Dr. Nat O'Connor (School of CPSP, Ulster University) has an interesting piece up on the Progressive Economy website on the options for Northern Ireland if it doesn't want to go the full Brexit with the leavers in Westminster. In particular he asks: Could Northern Ireland be an independent member of the EU, or have a “special status” within it? It is well worth a read in full and discusses the options for Northern Ireland under six headings:

    Being inside the European Customs Union
    Being inside the European Single Market
    Holding EU Citizenship Rights
    Participating in EU Programmes (e.g. CAP, Erasmus)
    Common EU Security and Defence
    The "European Project"

My response is included below the fold...

Read more... (928 words in story)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

by Frank Schnittger Fri Mar 17th, 2017 at 12:34:48 PM EST


St. Patrick's day has never been a particularly big deal for me: more an excuse for a lie-in or a long week-end away after a long winter. Although almost every Irish town or city has a St. Patrick's day parade which attracts almost every group you can throw a uniform or costume at as well as large crowds of onlookers, it has never seemed to me to be much more than an excuse for a monumental piss-up afterwards. Shure it's no harm to have a bit of craic, might be a typical response.  We seem to be in the process of patenting craic as a uniquely Irish contribution to world civilisation.

Read more... (15 comments, 652 words in story)

The impact of Brexit on the Irish economy

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 9th, 2017 at 11:32:33 PM EST

There have been many dire predictions of the negative impact of Brexit on the Irish economy, with exports to the UK already down by half a €Billion or 4% in the last year and with some Irish mushroom exporters going broke because their margins couldn't survive the 10% devaluation of sterling that has already taken place. But the Irish economy is facing the twin challenges of Brexit and Trump from a fundamentally healthy position. Total exports to all markets rose by 4% to €117 Billion last year and UK exports, at 13% of the total, make up a continually declining part of total exports.

Read more... (25 comments, 1190 words in story)

Lords vote for a "meaningful" vote on the terms of Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 8th, 2017 at 06:22:33 PM EST

For the second time in a few days, Theresa May's government has suffered a defeat in a House of Lords vote.  Their Lordships are concerned not to give the Government a free hand to negotiate whatever deal it sees fit without having to submit it to Parliament for approval before Brexit finally happens.  However as The Telegraph has noted:

At first glance, the amendment to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords giving Parliament a "meaningful vote" on a Brexit deal may look innocuous. After all, Britain has voted to restore the primacy of its own Parliament, so why should that Parliament not decide on the Brexit deal? That is the argument that advocates will make for the amendment, which may well be endorsed in the upper house and conceivably by the House of Commons next week, since a number of Conservative MPs are said to be minded to support it there.  Yet that argument is flawed and this amendment should not pass.

The flaws are both practical and principled. The practical flaw is found in the effect this amendment would have on Brexit negotiations. It is no secret that some EU leaders still believe that Britain can be persuaded to reverse its decision to leave; the EU, after all, has a history of trying to overturn democratic votes, even referendum decisions, a contempt for the electorate that partly explains why the integrationist project is failing. If those leaders believe that the British Parliament could reject any Brexit deal and instead continue our membership, they will have a strong incentive to offer the worst deal possible.

As usual, The Telegraph sees no irony in criticising the EU for a lack of democracy in the context of an article on a vote in the entirely unelected House of Lords. But there is a bigger problem with the House of Lords vote. A correspondent and European Tribune reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes (by email):

Read more... (21 comments, 1744 words in story)
<< Previous 20 Next 20 >>

News and Views

 23 - 29 Oct 2017

by Bjinse - Oct 23, 11 comments

Your take on this week's news

 14 - 22 Oct 2017

by Bjinse - Oct 14, 101 comments

Your take on this week's news

 Open Thread 23 - 29 Oct

by Bjinse - Oct 23,

You knew there would always be a new thread, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen

 Open Thread 2 - 15 Oct

by Bjinse - Oct 3, 27 comments

So many threads, so little time

Occasional Series
Click for full list