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

Finessing the Withdrawal Agreement

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 19th, 2019 at 11:16:56 PM EST

The European Tribune has come into possession of a secret memorandum of the Irish Department of External Affairs...

Top Secret
Caution: To be shared with UK Government only after talks with the incoming UK Prime Minister have irretrievably broken down.

Memorandum proposing a process to overcome Withdrawal Agreement impasse.

Background: Para. 5 of the EU/UK agreement to extend the A.50 negotiation period explicitly prohibits the UK from using the extension to seek to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. Further negotiations were to focus exclusively on the legally non-binding accompanying political declaration. However, it has become clear during the Conservative Party leadership election that without at least some face saving device the Withdrawal Agreement, in its current form, will not be passed by the UK Parliament. The Irish Government will therefore be faced, at the very least, with a period of "No-deal" Brexit until such time as the current UK Government, dependent as it is on the DUP, is no longer in power.

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A Cold House

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jul 14th, 2019 at 12:25:00 PM EST

Cliff Taylor has written a rather amusing spoof despatch from a British Diplomat in Dublin back to his seniors in Whitehall - no doubt modelled on Sir Kim Darroch despatches from Washington. In general it seems an accurate take on the state of "no deal" Brexit contingency planning in Ireland, but the over-riding impression is one of confusion as to what the Irish are really up to.

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John Bull in a China Shop

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jul 10th, 2019 at 12:09:18 AM EST

I do so tire of Brexiteers claiming that the referendum result gives them the right to do more or less as they please and that anyone who objects to their proposals is acting undemocratically. However I get especially annoyed when Irish writers claim that respect for democracy requires us to indulge Brexiteers every whim and cast aside our own national interests. It's not all about the UK you know...

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Elections in Greece

by eurogreen Mon Jul 8th, 2019 at 12:22:00 PM EST

A general election took place in Greece, yesterday 7th July 2019. I will make a few comments, as nobody else has done so. Please note that I have no particular knowledge of politics in Greece, other than through my attachment to the DiEM25 movement. So this will be a somewhat ignorant and partisan little diary. The headline is "Conservative landslide", because the New Democracy party won a majority (158 of 300 seats)...
But in a normal European democracy, the news today would be all about the difficulty of cobbling together a left-of-centre government...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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The Johnson and Hunt show

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 5th, 2019 at 01:51:04 PM EST

The Johnson and Hunt show is winding its tedious way around the UK with the principals both promising to re-negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement and declaring the Irish backstop to be a dead letter. Well they would, wouldn't they, given the audiences they are speaking to. John Crace is particularly withering about their performance in Northern Ireland. Both are blithely ignoring the fact that the EU has consistently said the A.50 negotiations are finished and the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations won't be re-opened.

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No Deal Means No deal (Reprise)

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jul 2nd, 2019 at 11:12:01 AM EST



Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney hold their press conference on the street after the British failed to provide a room following a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in London last month. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA

Update [2019-7-2 11:12:1 by Frank Schnittger]:First published Fri Aug 3rd, 2018, but is there anything of substance which has changed in the meantime?</update>


One of the few things the UK government has done well is to summarise their position in a few pithy phrases even low information voters can understand. We are all familiar with the famous "Brexit means Brexit" catchphrase of Prime Minster May and Boris Johnson's famous "we can have our cake at eat it" which should really be "we can eat our cake and still have it"...

What Johnson means by this is that the UK will be able to carry on trading with the EU very much as before, taking all the benefits of access to the EU Single Market and all the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) the EU has negotiated with third parties without any of the costs and restrictions of EU membership. Apparently the EU would agree to this because "they need us more than we need them" and replicating EU FTAs would be a simple mater of replacing the letters "EU" with "UK" in all the FTAs the EU has negotiated to date.

The EU negotiating stance, on the other hand, has been one long slow process of disabusing the UK of such notions. Access to the Single Market will require agreement to "the four freedoms", and membership of the Customs Union will require compliance with the corpus of customs regulations the EU has built up over the years. The UK will not be allowed to achieve a competitive advantage by taking in cheaper, less regulated imports, or by reducing the scope of workers rights. And this is before we even talk about the UK making Norway style ongoing contributions to the EU budget in return for access to the Single Market.

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Merkel for President?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jun 26th, 2019 at 12:52:26 PM EST

EU Prime Ministers met last week-end to try to fill the key EU posts of President of the Commission, President of the Council, President of the Central Bank, and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. They failed miserably, agreeing only to kill off the candidacies of European Parliament Spitzenkandidaten Manfred Weber (EPP), Dutch socialist Franz Timmermans and the Danish liberal Margrethe Vestager.

Insiders joked the leaders couldn't even agree on what they disagreed on. Leo Varadker opined it was easier to elect a Pope. Jean-Claude Juncker noted with some conceit that "it appears I'm not that easy to replace." EU Prime Ministers like to keep decisions on the top jobs to themselves, and are not about to outsource that decision to the European Parliament, or indeed to the European peoples who elected that Parliament.

They meet again this week-end ahead of the opening session of the European Parliament which must approve their choice for Commission President, but with no guarantee they will succeed in moving the process any further forward. The complex series of compromises required to achieve an acceptable mix of ideological, party, nationality, personality, and gender balances may well continue to elude them. And yet the EU, confronted by Trump, trade wars, and Brexit, needs strong and capable leadership now more than ever before.

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No deal means no deal

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jul 2nd, 2019 at 09:55:29 AM EST


Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney hold their press conference on the street after the British failed to provide a room following a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in London last month. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA

Update [2019-7-2 9:55:29 by Frank Schnittger]:First published Fri Aug 3rd, 2018, but is there anything of substance which has changed in the meantime?

One of the few things the UK government has done well is to summarise their position in a few pithy phrases even low information voters can understand. We are all familiar with the famous "Brexit means Brexit" catchphrase of Prime Minster May and Boris Johnson's famous "we can have our cake at eat it" which should really be "we can eat our cake and still have it"...

What Johnson means by this is that the UK will be able to carry on trading with the EU very much as before, taking all the benefits of access to the EU Single Market and all the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) the EU has negotiated with third parties without any of the costs and restrictions of EU membership. Apparently the EU would agree to this because "they need us more than we need them" and replicating EU FTAs would be a simple mater of replacing the letters "EU" with "UK" in all the FTAs the EU has negotiated to date.

The EU negotiating stance, on the other hand, has been one long slow process of disabusing the UK of such notions. Access to the Single Market will require agreement to "the four freedoms", and membership of the Customs Union will require compliance with the corpus of customs regulations the EU has built up over the years. The UK will not be allowed to achieve a competitive advantage by taking in cheaper, less regulated imports, or by reducing the scope of workers rights. And this is before we even talk about the UK making Norway style ongoing contributions to the EU budget in return for access to the Single Market.

Read more... (53 comments, 1656 words in story)

The "Intellectual Weakness" of Irish Nationalism

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jun 20th, 2019 at 11:51:27 PM EST

Letter published in the Irish Times...

Northern Ireland and staying in UK

A chara, - You cite Lord Paul Bew, who teaches Irish history and politics at Queen's University Belfast (QUB), as saying, "Theresa May's successor must make the case for the union consistently". He also highlights what he describes as the "intellectual weakness" of the case for a united Ireland".


He has published his paper through Policy Exchange, a right-of-centre UK think tank which is frequently cited as influential on Tory Party policymaking, together with a foreword by Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, and who proposed the Brady amendment to pursue alternative solutions to the backstop.

Ironically, he describes the nationalist case for a united Ireland as based on falsifiable or insupportable suppositions, when it is the DUP and British government which have singularly failed to show any practical alternative solution to the backstop working anywhere in the world.

He argues that "a new, modern case for the union must be developed, based on the principle of consent", when that is precisely what is enshrined in the 1998 Belfast Agreement, then resisted by the DUP, and which Brexiteers and unionists are now so anxious to undermine.

Northern Ireland voted 56 per cent to 44 per cent to remain in the EU and it is the DUP, with 22 per cent support in the recent European Parliament elections, which is pursuing a Brexit agenda, in cahoots with a Conservative government, against the consent of the majority.

Perhaps the good professor needs to examine the "intellectual weaknesses" in his own position. - Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER

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Democracy with Spanish characteristics again

by IdiotSavant Thu Jun 20th, 2019 at 10:00:39 PM EST

Last month, Catalans elected three exiled and jailed pro-independence politicians to the European Parliament. Unfortunately, Spain no longer seems to respect the results of democratic elections, and the Spanish Electoral Commission today declared their seats vacant. The reason? None of them had made the required oath to uphold the Spanish constitution before the Electoral Commission. But in all three cases, it is because the Spanish state did not permit them to.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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All over bar the shouting... [Update 3]

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jun 13th, 2019 at 02:49:06 PM EST

The Tory Leadership election is all but decided after the first round of voting. Although Boris Johnson is some way short of a majority of the parliamentary party votes after the first round of voting, it is very hard to see anyone else overtaking him, and he only needs 105 votes to make it into the top two and go forward to the vote of all party members in any case. He also leads all opinion polling of conservative party members and so we can more or less take his election for granted at this stage, barring some spectacular snafu, which, given this is Boris, cannot be entirely discounted. To avert this possibility, his handlers have been keeping him on a tight rein, limiting his public appearances, and even giving him a slightly tidier haircut...

[Update]: Soft Brexiteer Rory Stewart gained the most votes (+14), and hard Brexiteer Dominic Raab has been eliminated following the second round of voting. [Update2] In the third round Sajid Javid leapfrogs Rory Stewart to stay in the Tory leadership race for one more round, but it looks like it's between Gove and Hunt for the second spot on the membership ballot. Boris Johnson is closing in on an overall majority of the votes of the Parliamentary party as careerists overcome their scruples to secure ministerial positions]:

[Update 3]: It's Boris vs. Hunt. No contest really, given the make-up of the electorate. But when will the British people get to have their say? Boris is on the record of proclaiming that Gordon Brown's premiership was illegitimate because it was Tony Blair the people had elected. Now of course; waffle waffle, crisis, waffle waffle, because, waffle waffle he's perfectly ok with that. After all he was only speaking as a journalist beforehand, and what do they know?

Rumours abound that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson's campaign (to give him his full title) "lent" votes to Rory Stewart to ensure the early elimination of Dominic Raab, and then to Hunt, to ensure Gove was eliminated. There is therefore no one who voted for Brexit left in the campaign to claim Brexiteer legitimacy from Johnson. Hunt will seem to most Tory party members as a reheated version of Theresa May, and they have had their fill of that.

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Good Riddance

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jun 10th, 2019 at 01:13:28 AM EST

Theresa May has stepped down as Tory party leader with an approval rating of -49% and to the regret of almost no one. She had outstayed her welcome, and even that welcome had come mostly from the Tory faithful. She was  admired by some for her perseverance and staying power in the face of almost insurmountable odds, although for many it was just a manifestation of her stubbornness and crass insensitivity to all but her own views.

In the end, even those who had felt some sympathy for her because they felt she was being treated more shabbily because she was a women, had been handed a poisoned chalice by her predecessor, and was no worse than her Tory colleagues, found it difficult to justify her policy positions. Her last days as leader were spent having to endure listening to Donald Trump telling her who should run the UK and how.

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Going Dutch?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jun 7th, 2019 at 10:26:49 PM EST

Unlike the low key, almost private, visit of Donald Trump to Ireland this week, Dutch King Willem-Alexander is being afforded the full formalities of a state visit next week. Accompanied by the Dutch foreign and trade ministers and a trade delegation, the subtext is the preparations both countries are making for Brexit.

Mark Paul has produced an excellent preview for the Irish Times

A few years ago, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who occasionally used to moonlight for fun as a pilot for the Dutch airline KLM, bumped into the Ryanair chief executive, Michael O'Leary, at a conference.

O'Leary was characteristically bombastic and facetiously invited the royal to work for Ryanair instead. It isn't hard to imagine O'Leary smirking in self-admiration at his temerity in wiping the eye of a monarch in a slagging match.

Ryanair subsequently became embroiled in a damaging industrial relations war with many of its pilots, leading to strikes in some countries before a peace deal was struck last year. Its difficulties were compounded at one stage by a staff scheduling crisis that forced Ryanair to cancel thousands of flights.

For a time, O'Leary's well-won reputation as an aviation genius lay in tatters. Sensing an opportunity to get his own back, the Dutch king sat down at his computer and composed an email to O'Leary, asking him if he was still looking for pilots. By some accounts, the Ryanair boss struggled to see the funny side.

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Trump's triumphant trolloping tirades

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jun 5th, 2019 at 10:25:29 AM EST

I have a policy on not writing on stuff I have already seen better portrayed elsewhere, which makes Kathy Sheridan's piece on Trump's visit to England a hard act to follow... Coming from a small country well used to humiliations by the greater powers around us, there is not a small amount of schadenfreude associated with seeing the UK similarly abused. One wonders where exactly "taking back control" morphed into becoming a Trump vassal state, with Buckingham Palace used as a helipad for the US embassy and venue for a Trump family Downton Abbey themed holiday adventure.

The policy content of the visit seems to have been confined to telling the Brits who should become their next Prime Minister (Boris Johnson), who should lead their next Brexit negotiations (Nigel Farage), insulting his host, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, as a "stone cold loser", and telling the British that the promised terrific trade deal with the US would require opening up the NHS to US private venture capital takeover, and the UK food chain to US chlorinated chickens. Can you imagine the Brexiteer outrage had Juncker even hinted at such things?

Even Sky's Promo for the visit (20 seconds) depicts an alien spaceship as a hostile invader casting a dark shadow over Britain, even over the Queen, and then turns out to be nothing more than Trump's blimp. Someone in Murdoch's empire is sure to get sacked. The Brits are very good at laughing at themselves but many won't know whether to laugh or cry at what Brexit Britain has become. Still, with Trump also due to visit Ireland, they may be laughing at others soon enough. Apparently Leo Varadker refused to meet Trump at his Doonbeg golf resort where a dinner in Trump's honour was held last night attended by the Irish Ambassador to the US, Dan Mulhall, and the government's special envoy to the US, Fine Gael back bench TD John Deasy.

A State Banquet it was not. President Michael D. Higgins was otherwise engaged criticising Trump's "regressive and pernicious decision to leave the global Paris Agreement" and stating that those at risk of exclusion from society were "being abandoned to become the prey of xenophobes, homophobes and racists." Could there have been a message for Trump in there somewhere?

Comments >> (24 comments)

Irish European and Local Election results

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 29th, 2019 at 11:57:40 PM EST

Counting in the Irish European Elections has been completed although there is a re-count in Ireland South where only 327 votes separate the final two candidates with almost 100,000 votes apiece (scroll right to view all the count totals up to count 18). Overall the election is a triumph for the Greens and Fine Gael (EPP) who increased their share of the first preference vote at the expense of Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail (ALDE).

In Northern Ireland a surge in the centrist and non-sectarian Alliance Party vote meant that they gained a seat at the expense of the Official Unionist Party. Ireland doesn't seem to be following the European trend towards fragmentation of the party system and a growth (in some countries) of the far right.

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British European Election results

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 27th, 2019 at 12:58:55 PM EST

Despite furious attempts to portray the vote as an endorsement of a hard no deal Brexit, the results actually support the thesis that there has been a significant shift to Remain.

The Brexit party's gain of 31.6% of the vote does not make up for the combined losses of other Leave parties of 50.3% of the vote, made up of UKIP (-24.2%), Conservatives (-14.8%), and Labour (- 11.3%); a total loss of 50.3% of the vote and a net loss for Leave of 18.7% of the vote. Even if you leave Labour out of the equation, unambiguously Leave supporting parties lost a net 7.4% of the vote.

Remain parties, on the other hand, gained a total of +22.4% of the vote, made up of Lib Dems (+13.4%), Greens (+4.2%), SNP (+1.1%) Plaid Cymru (+0.3%) and Change UK (+3.4%).

Translated into seats, this means that the Brexit party gained 29 seats, whereas UKIP (- 24), Conservatives (-15) and Labour (-10) lost a combined 49 seats for a net loss for Leave of 20 seats. Remain Parties, on the other hand, gained 20 seats: Lib Dems (+15) Greens (+4) and SNP (+1).

And that is before you consider the virtually certain gain of a seat by the Remain supporting Alliance Party in N. Ireland at the expense of the Ulster Unionists.

Disgracefully the BBC declared the Remain/Leave contest within the election a draw. But then their Polling expert psephologist Professor John Curtice was awarded a knighthood by Theresa May.

Comments >> (24 comments)

Counting In Irish Local and European Elections.

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 25th, 2019 at 12:10:10 PM EST

Counting has begun in the Irish Local and European elections. Some exit polling data is also in. A constitutional amendment to liberalize further Ireland's divorce laws looks set to be carried by an overwhelming 87% to 12% if the exit polling data is to be believed.

The government has indicated that it will use this Constitutional Amendment liberalization to legislate for the automatic recognition of foreign divorces and the reduction of the waiting period for a divorce application to succeed from four years to two years of separation.

The early indications are for a surge in the Green Party vote, a near humiliation for the anti-emigration candidate, Peter Casey, in the European elections, and a disappointing performance for Leo Varadker's ruling Fine Gael Party (relative to earlier opinion polls). More left wing candidates and parties have generally performed well - though not the establishment Labour Party.

Overall, therefore, it looks like Ireland is continuing its liberalizing trend, in sharp contrast to the right wing nationalist trends in the UK and in some other parts of Europe. I will update this story as more results and hard data comes in...

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May is not the only Leader who needs to go...

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 24th, 2019 at 09:17:51 PM EST

Back in September 2018 I wrote in Theresa May: Dead Women Walking?:

Nothing undermines a leader more than having important members of their own side align themselves with the opposition: First Donald Trump rather pointedly remarked that Boris Johnson would make a great Prime Minister. Then Boris Johnson chips in that Theresa May's Chequers proposals represent the white flag of surrender. Now Rees-Mogg praises Barnier for his charm and remarked that Barnier and Brexiteers are agreed that Theresa May's Chequers proposals are "absolute rubbish."

How is the poor woman supposed to conduct a negotiation when her own side give such aid and comfort to the enemy? In a normal democracy, Johnson and Rees-Mogg would be excoriated for betraying their own side. But it seems anything goes when it comes to attacking Theresa May. She is the fall girl for a negotiation they are determined to see fail.

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Europe Elects - Results

by Oui Thu May 23rd, 2019 at 07:51:17 PM EST

Complete surprise result in Dutch exit poll - LABOUR WINS - PvdA

>> See Update Dutch results below in posted comment. <<

The loss of three seats for PVV - Geert Wilders - go to new rightwing party Forum for Democracy - Thierry Baudet.

The last poll was completely off target here.

More below the fold

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Corbyn failing the test?

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 17th, 2019 at 02:39:44 PM EST

In a kindness to all concerned, Jeremy Corbyn has finally put an end to the the Conservative Labour talks aimed at finding a common solution to the parliamentary impasse on Brexit.  Everyone knew that both sides were simply playing for time, but it would have been farcical to continue after Theresa May had announced that her premiership was nearing its end.

Nevertheless his letter to her calling time on their joint efforts showed considerable more class than did her riposte. He thanked those involved in the talks for their detailed, constructive, and good faith efforts but said that the remaining differences between the parties combined with the instability of the government had made it impossible for them to succeed. For her part, May blamed divisions in Labour over a second referendum for the breakdown.

The reality is that Labour had offered her a lifeline to continue in office past the local and European elections, and if she really wanted a deal she could have had one. It would have meant compromising on her objections to a continued close relationship with the Customs Union and Single Market, and, in all probability, a second referendum to validate the deal. Without that there is no way Labour could be sure the next Tory PM would deliver on the deal.

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News and Views

 8 - 14 July 2019

by Bjinse - Jul 9, 190 comments

Your take on this week's news

 27 May - 2 June 2019

by Bjinse - May 28, 326 comments

Your take on this week's news

 July Thread

by Bjinse - Jul 9, 7 comments

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast threads

 June Thread

by Bjinse - May 28, 86 comments

The lovely conversation that left me to ponder was the long thread I had with June

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