Brexit: a summary of the situation (Part 2)

Barbara Zak

Brussels’ response : you can’t have your cake and eat it too

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain's exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Following the announcement of the results of the referendum on the membership of the United Kingdom (UK) to the European Union (EU), it was understood that the EU respected the change of heart of the majority of the UK citizens. EU leaders do not want to go back in time but agree on the UK leaving the EU as soon as possible. Brussels is simply waiting for the formal notification of the UK to trigger the article 50 of the TEU. Even Donald Tusk (the President of the European Council) told Theresa May “the ball is in your court”. However the EU refuses to negotiate with the UK until the government has triggered the article. The reason may be the fear of contagion of a “Brexit” in other EU member states – Brussels is afraid of the ripple effect. With the rise of nationalism and populism, we can expect from far-right ruling parties to claim a referendum about leaving the EU in their countries. Moreover, the current uncertainty around the economy of the UK can have repercussions on the EU’s trade. The decrease of investments in the UK can be contagious to the European continent. There is an economic and ideological cost to the delay of the withdrawal of the UK.

            The heads of the member states, without the head of state of the UK, met informally on the 16th of September 2016 in Slovakia in what is called the Bratislava summit. The aim of this meeting, which was already planned before the referendum, was to discuss the stability and security of the EU. The withdrawal of the UK was not on the agenda of this gathering. However, it was more a way to show the unity and thus the strength and solidarity of the EU. However, on the inside, the EU is at a crisis – it is only a matter of time before another member state reveals its intention to withdraw from the Union. For instance, a referendum on the EU relocation plan will be held in Hungary on the 2nd of October 2016, which goes against the EU refugee policies. This “EU Quotas Referendum” illustrates the fact that some members of the EU disagree with the policies of the EU – it may be the beginning of their rebellion. As a matter of fact, the heads of states of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia recently met several times as the Visegrád Group in order to discuss the issues related to the EU. As a consequence, the EU cannot be too soft towards the UK in order not to incite other member states to do the same. The argument of the economy is the strongest: the single market can be open to the UK only if they accept the free movement of people. Leaving the EU does not mean abandoning its drawbacks while still benefiting from its advantages.

The conundrum of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar

            Even though the “leave” won over the “remain” in the EU referendum, anti-Brexiters still cannot recover from the results, in particular in the parts of the UK where the “remain” was overwhelming: Scotland (62%), Northern Ireland (55.8%) and Gibraltar (95.9%).

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland (Photo: GETTY)

            Many Scots, right after the announcements of the results of the UK referendum, asked for a second referendum on this topic. However, May’s government declared that a second referendum would not be held. There are some possibilities about a second Scottish independence referendum though – but not before the article 50 of the TEU is triggered. Nevertheless, both Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians, along with polls, are against the will of the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to have a second independence referendum. Actually, the “Reverse-Greenland” concept may be the solution for Scotland as they wish to stay in the UK and in the EU. Parts of the UK can maintain Britain’s membership of the EU. This means that Scotland does not need to apply to access the EU. The Greenland solution refers to the Greenland treaty which entered into force in 1985, following the Greenlandic referendum of 1982: Greenland, at that time part of Denmark, could leave the EU while Denmark was still a member state of the EU. In the case of Scotland, it is the opposite situation. Scotland would have an associate membership of the Union, namely the access to the single market, EU citizenship and free movement of goods/people/workers/students. They will pay membership dues. In a nutshell, they would take the seat of the UK in Brussels.

The case of Northern Ireland is a bit different from Scotland. Leaving the EU would mean too big economic consequences for Northern Ireland in comparison with Britain. There is the fear of losing the agricultural subsidies that are actually much needed and in demand by farmers. In addition, the transaction costs for trading in the EU (that did not exist before) would be overwhelming for Northern Ireland. Instability would resume in Northern Ireland’s situation. Another problem, that is geographical this time, would be the border with Ireland, which is a member state of the EU. Irish people are afraid to turn back in time to the Troubles period (conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century). Thus they aspire to keep the free movement and the customs union across the border – the trade between two states decreases the possibility of them being at war. However, everything is in the hands of May’s government and the EU’s willingness to be flexible during the future negotiations. Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister stays confident – Theresa May should not negotiate a Brexit that simply suits English interests. Yet the best option for Northern Ireland would be the same as Scotland: the Reverse-Greenland solution, that is to say to remain in the UK and in the EU.

Gibraltar was one of the territories where the “remain” vote was strong: nearly 100%. The main reason is the economy: Gibraltar imports exclusively from the EU. The transaction costs for trading with the EU would be utterly crushing Gibraltar. The Reverse-Greenland solution could be effective, only if there was no hiccup – more precisely, a Spanish hitch. In fact, Spain has a sovereign claim over Gibraltar due to its history. If the UK leaves the EU, Spain could isolate Gibraltar from Europe by building a wall alongside the border. Crossing the wall would mean paying border fees. In the case of applying the Reverse-Greenland solution, Gibraltarians are afraid that Spain would not accept it and veto it. The Spanish Government could veto the terms of any Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU that sought to include Gibraltar. Indeed, Spain is fully entitled to do so: as soon as the UK activates the withdrawal process, the European Council must agree the broad terms of the withdrawal negotiation by unanimity. Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo is resolute and says Spain will not leave the case until it receives at least the joint control of Gibraltar. As a result, Gibraltarians call for a second referendum explaining that the “leave” option was not clear enough – yet it is well understood that it is probably their last hope to stay in the EU.

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Sources:

Brussels’ response

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/08/donald-tusk-theresa-may-article-50-brexit-negotiations-eu

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/25/uk-faces-brexit-crisis

https://theconversation.com/brexit-et-dependances-61830

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/16/bratislava-summit-donald-tusk-urges-eu-leaders-not-to-waste-brexit-crisis

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/15/bratislava-summit-what-is-on-eu-27s-agenda—and-what-is-not—a/

http://www.france24.com/fr/20160916-sommet-bratislava-ue-relancer-apres-brexit

Scotland

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/683056/Brexit-will-Scotland-leave-UK-Britain-second-Scottish-independence-referendum-break-up

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-scotland-nicola-sturgeon-eu-uk-theresa-may-scottish-veto-block-withdrawal-a7141231.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3805290/Sturgeon-call-second-Scottish-independence-referendum-autumn-2017.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/17/nicola-sturgeon-would-consider-2017-scottish-independence-referendum-brexit

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/706467/Nicola-Sturgeon-humiliated-Scots-second-independence-referendum-vote-Brexit-EU

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/28/the-guardian-view-on-a-second-scottish-referendum-sturgeon-has-no-choice-but-caution

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-08-13/uk-could-do-a-reverse-greenland-to-allow-scotland-to-remain-in-the-eu/

Northern Ireland

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/10/northern-ireland-leaders-set-out-brexit-demands-to-theresa-may

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/25/theresa-may-hard-border-fears-northern-ireland-visit-brexit

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/brexit-beginning-end-northern-ireland

http://www.lemonde.fr/referendum-sur-le-brexit/article/2016/07/27/l-irlande-casse-tete-de-l-apres-brexit-pour-theresa-may_4975155_4872498.html

Gibraltar

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/665033/EU-Referendum-2016-What-Brexit-Mean-for-Gibraltar-Rock-British-Territory-Spain

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/650355/Brexit-threat-Spain-will-control-Gibralter-soon-as-Britain-leaves-EU

http://chronicle.gi/2016/07/spain-could-veto-brexit-talks-margallo-says/

http://chronicle.gi/2016/03/britain-must-include-gibraltar-in-post-brexit-negotiations-report-says/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36618796

https://www.ft.com/content/bea8ecf4-452a-11e6-9b66-0712b3873ae1

Read more:

https://theconversation.com/the-eu-bratislava-summit-explained-65604

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/13/expel-hungary-from-eu-for-hostility-to-refugees-says-luxembourg

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-scotland-greenland-idUKKCN0ZJ0A1

Reklamy

Press Review

Maria Moroniak

Cameron cross-examined

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, at his press conference during the 37th G8 summit in Deauville, France. (Source: Guillaume Paumier, CC-BY)

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, at his press conference during the 37th G8 summit in Deauville, France. (Photo by Guillaume Paumier, CC-BY)

Since the very beginning of so called Brexit talks the situation in Britain has been tense. The official Leave and Remain camps seem to be wrestling to convince the British society to take over their point of view. The struggle is real due to nearing date of the Referendum which had been set on July 23. British Prime Minister David Cameron is accused of unwisely spending £9 million of public money on brochures promoting his government’s faith in value of staying in the EU, while only allowed to spend £7 million on the whole Brexit campaign. To know more about the leaflets affair read more

source: BBC

Several flights reinstated

The Brussels Airport was officially closed after bombing on March 22 due to both damages the attack caused and safety of potential passengers. Twelve days later, on Sunday April 3, the Airport was officially reopened for a handful of flights. Of course, the security is extremely strengthened; baggage is being carefully screened and the police is controlling every passenger. The airport admits that only 20% of capacity of the place is going to be used by checking in just about 800 persons per hour. Read more.

Source: CNN

Offshore investments disclosure

Chat between a journalist Süddeutsche Zeitung and a whistleblower (Source: http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/articles/56febff0a1bb8d3c3495adf4/_intro_imageUrl.jpg)

Chat between a journalist Süddeutsche Zeitung and a whistleblower (Source: http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de)

The news about Panamanian company Mossack Fonseca leaks went around the world and caused commotion followed by serious political moves. A lot of figures of European political arena such as Dominique Strauss-Khan (former Head of International Monetary Fund and Minister of Finance of France), Marine Le Pen (the president of French National Front), Micheal Grahammer (The chief executive of Austrian bank Hypo Landesbank Vorarlberg), Silvio Berlusconi (former Prime Minister of Italy), Vladimir Putin (The President of Russia), David Cameron (British Prime Minister) or Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson (Icelandic Prime Minister) are said to be involved in money laundering in tax heavens. The whole data from the documents of Mossack Fonesca are to be revealed at the beginning of May 2016. Read more herehere  or here.

Source: CNBC, The Parliament Magazine

The Greece-Turkey deal comes true

On April 4 in the morning two ferries went out to the sea with 202 migrants on board deporting them from Greek islands Chios and Lesbos to north-western Turkey. Greece officials claim, that only these who have not applied for the asylum are going to be sent to Turkey due to new policy “one in, one out” stated in the deal struck between the EU and Turkey on March 18. Turkish authorities have declared accepting up to 500 persons per day. To read more about the deal read our article . More about migrant deportations here.

Source: CNN

No more siestas

 Siesta is common tradition in many Mediterranean countries (Siesta by Hector Garcia from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Siesta is common tradition in many Mediterranean countries (Siesta by Hector Garcia from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, under CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants to remove the world-famous Spanish so called nap time from the workers’ timetables. The midday break is to be suspended in favour of shortening the working day by two hours. The cut is supposed to improve productivity and punctuality of companies, which, for instance, are used to limit hours of business meetings due to siestas. Moreover, Rajoy also wants to return Spain back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), as the current system of time was settled in 1942 by General Francisco Franco as a gesture of solidarity with the Third Reich. Read more here  or here.

Source: NBC, Independent

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The Incessant Spanish Political Crisis

Barbara Zak

Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy (photo: JUAN MEDINA/REUTERS)

Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy (photo: JUAN MEDINA/REUTERS)

Since the last parliamentary elections, Spain has been suffering from an institutional impasse as the leader of the winning party People’ Party (Partido Popular – PP), Mariano Rajoy, turned down king Felipe VI’s offer to form a new government. He explained his decision by stating that he does not have the absolute majority in the parliament but rather a majority of negative votes that would be against any of his proposed list of a government. As a result, the leader of the party in second place „Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party” (Partido Socialista Obrero Español – PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, was asked by the king to form a new government instead of Mariano Rajoy. However, as the PSOE party neither has the absolute majority, negotiations with other parties are necessary. Thus its leader asked for a period of a month before handing over his list of the ministers. In order to fully understand the actual political situation in Spain, we should focus on the results of the parliamentary elections.

 

Summary of the 2015 parliamentary elections’ results

Source: BBC (http://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/05C9/production/_87318410_spain_elections_v2.png)

Source: BBC

On the 20th of December of 2015, the results of the parliamentary elections have revealed the end of the two-party system that was well-established, as the seats have been shared between four parties. The party with the most votes casted was the right-wing and conservative People’s Party with Mariano Rajoy as their leader (who was the previous head of the government). They earned 28.7% votes and 123 seats won in the Congress of Deputies. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party was the second party to have the most votes casted : 22% with 90 seats earned. The third party that received 20.7% and 69 seats was the left-wing party, created in 2014, Podemos (translated from Spanish as „We can”), with Pablo Iglesias Turrión as their leader. The 2015 parliamentary elections were their very first election. The fourth party that earned a decent number of votes is the centre-right party C’s which stands for Ciudadanos (translated into English as „Citizens”). They won 40 seats with 13.9% of the votes. The parties that arrive in fifth and sixth places are Catalan nationalist parties : Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya – ERC) and Democracy and Freedom (Democràcia i Libertat – DiL). They have earned less than 3% out of all of the votes. This considerable split of the votes has a consequence : no party has the absolute majority, that is to say none of them have received at least 176 seats (half of 350 seats plus one seat).

 

The necessity to find an agreement through negotiations

Pedro Sánchez (Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

Pedro Sánchez (Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

Even though the PP has won the highest number of votes and thus the possibility to form a government, no other party wishes to form a coalition with it since it is rumored to be utterly corrupted. This led to Rajoy’s refusal to form a government. As a result, we could say that the fate of the political issues is now in Sánchez’s hands. However, it is not the case because even if he forms a coalition with one of the young parties Podemos or C’s, they would still not have the absolute majority. Sánchez could count on a coalition with the socialist electoral alliance Popular Unity (Unidad Popular), but they have only won two seats in the Congress of the Deputies – hence the necessity to have a coalition PSOE-Podemos-C’s. However, the problem is that these parties have different opinions concerning the Catalan independence. Basically, Podemos is in favour of organizing a referendum concerning the independence in this region, unlike C’s. Yet Sánchez does not seem to want to surrender as he may intend to have a consent regarding the fight against unemployment, social inequality and corruption, and he might propose a constitutional reform to move towards a federal state in order to regulate the Catalan issue. On the other hand, if Sánchez plans to leave C’s out of its negotiations and rather have a left-wing coalition PSOE-Podemos-Popular Unity, which would be more plausible and feasible, they would still not have the absolute majority. In the end, they would need the votes of the Catalan nationalist parties to be added to their votes, that would request the independence of Catalonia. But these are only suppositions – at this time of the year, we cannot make clear statements.

The transition from a two-party system to a multi-party system illustrates the lack of trust of the Spanish people towards the long-standing parties as they cast their vote for recently created parties. This switching means that Spanish people have no longer put their faith in the „incompetent” politicians of the well-established parties but rather in young political parties, with leaders showing their will and vigour to change the country, yet without any experience of the political field. This political crisis is the inevitable consequence of the economic crisis that has affected Spain since 2008.

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SOURCES

The United Kingdom:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35147266

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/22/spanish-prime-minister-rajoy-kings-petition-new-government

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/02/spains-king-picks-socialist-chief-to-try-to-form-government

 

France:

http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2015/12/20/01003-20151220ARTFIG00156-espagne-rajoy-face-au-casse-tete-des-alliances.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2016/01/22/01003-20160122ARTFIG00394-espagne-rajoy-renonce-a-former-un-gouvernement-pour-l-instant.php

http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2016/02/03/en-espagne-les-socialistes-vont-essayer-de-former-un-gouvernement_4858287_3214.html

 

Spain:

http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2016/02/02/actualidad/1454437134_638707.html?rel=lom

http://www.thelocal.es/20151223/spains-socialist-refuse-to-back-rajoy-bid-to-form-new-government

http://www.elcorreo.com/bizkaia/politica/201602/05/pablo-iglesias-ofrecera-apoyo-20160205024739-rc.html?ns_campaign=noticias-relacionadas&ns_mchannel=bottom&ns_source=politica&ns_linkname=noticia&ns_fee=0

Press Review

Maria Moroniak

Dutch Presidency

PM of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte (source: European Council/Flickr)

PM of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte (source: European Council/Flickr)

The Netherlands will be holding Presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1 January to 30 June 2016. What does it mean that the leader wants to put a spotlight at essentials, quality, labour market, growth, and improvement of communication between Brussels headquarters and ordinary people? Check it out here: http://www.euwatcher.eu/blog/looking-ahead-the-dutch-eu-presidency-in-2016/

source: EU Watcher

Schengen zone to be suspended?

Due to massive migration there appeared voices saying European borderless union interferes in common security. Despite the internal unrest in Europe there is no approval for limiting European freedom. For more information watch the brief interview with Ben Homan, the mayor of the town of Schengen: http://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2016/01/27/schengen-intv-amanpour-ben-homan.cnn/video/playlists/amanpour/

source: CNN

Fighting for the better future

On 12th of December a historical move towards healthier environment was made. 195 countries, including European Union member states representatives, signed a climate agreement which is supposed to limit global warming below 2 Celsius degrees. Various steps are going to be made to fulfill the commitment. Read more: europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-6308_en.htm

source: European Commission

Cameron’s remedy dismissed

David Cameron and Martin Schulz (source: i.guim.co.uk/Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

David Cameron and Martin Schulz (source: i.guim.co.uk/Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s idea of coping with wave of immigrants got a cool reception during the talks in Brussels. He wants Great Britain to reward legally employed immigrants with income supplements to prevent rewarding them for nothing with social benefits. What’s more, he refused coming to a compromise after being offered a plan of possible “emergency break”. Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35434125

source: BBC

Royal affair

This is a landmark in modern Spain history. Its princess, the sister of King Felipe VI, was put on trial since she has been made official suspect of silent collaboration of her husband’s corruption cases. Despite the evidence, she claims of not being involved in the money laundering. To read more visit: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26047722 or http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35255536

source: BBC

Beware of the boss

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg announced that employers have right to read their employees’ private messages sent within working hours. The Court took care of the case when Bogdan Barbulescu, Romanian worker, sued its employer for disturbing his correspondence confidence when discovered that he uses his Yahoo Messenger for both private and business contacts. The man claims that it was made contrary to his right to respect for his private life and to his correspondence. Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35301148

source: BBC

Je suis no longer Charlie

On 7th of January president François Hollande led a ceremony commemorating 17 victims of terrorist attack on French satiric magazine Charlie Hebdo from January 2015. Due to the current situation and threat of terrorism in everyday life, thousands of people were expected to come and show their disapproval for violence in Europe. In spite of the fact there were 1,5 million people marching through streets and squares in Paris shortly after the attack in 2015, very few have shown up on the brief celebration in 2016. Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/12091810/Charlie-Hebdo-anniversary-Subdued-ceremony-draws-smaller-crowd-than-expected.html

source: The Telegraph

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Source: UN

Source: UN

Every year 27th of January is worldwide celebrated as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day to pay tribute to all who lost their lives in this genocide. The choice of this date was not accidental. In 1945, on 27th January Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Red Army. To get familiar with the meaning of the Remembrance Day and to listen to the testimonies of the survivors visit this site: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/commemoration-in-memory-of-the-victims-of-the-holocaust-2016/

source: UNESCO