The blowback from Theresa May’s decision to postpone a vote on the Brexit deal in the House of Commons might very well end up sweeping her from power. As the Prime Minister spent the day in Brussels attempting to gin up EU support for revisions to the deal, Tory MPs were busy in London laying the groundwork for a no confidence vote. The EU leaders who have met with May on her trip so far have not been receptive to the idea of modifying the deal in order to make it more acceptable to Britons, and help its pass through the House of Commons.
May appears to be fighting her war on the wrong front. Instead of looking to the continent for a lifeline of some kind, she need to be focused on the battle brewing in London. Monday’s postponement left a bad taste in the mouths of many MPs, most of whom were already souring on May’s leadership. Her motivation for postponing the vote was to avoid a humiliating defeat that might derail her politically. Unfortunately, May did not consider her dilemma from all angles. Even though she succeeded in delaying the vote on the deal, doing so sparked a mobilization of her opponents both within and outside of her party.
At Westminster tonight, there has been considerable speculation that the 48 letters required to trigger a no confidence vote have been received. If this proves to be true, Britain could find itself looking for a new PM by the end of the week.
Theresa May saw the writing on the wall. Her Brexit deal was not going to survive a Parliament vote in any way, shape, or form. So she did what any conscious politician would do: she reversed course. After three days of insisting that the vote would move forward as scheduled on 11 December, May postponed the vote today. She will hold talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, followed by discussions with EU officials about the future of the deal. EU leadership has staunchly insisted that there will be no alterations to the EU deal. If this remains the case, May might be forced to allow a vote. If the deal is not approved, Britain’s final break from the EU in March, 2019 will be a hard one. The United Kingdom will lose virtually all of its political and economic connections with the EU. The relationship between the two will change irrevocably, and it will happen virtually overnight.
Both sides have stated repeatedly that they do not want that scenario to become the reality. Yet actions speak louder than words, and neither side has backed up their statements with actions that will head off a hard break come March. The coming days should give us a glimpse into the future, and leave the world with a good idea about what direction Brexit is headed in.
Authors Note: Short update tonight, I apologize. I’ll back it up with more on Brexit tomorrow, and later on this week as things unfold in London and Brussels.
It is no secret that French President Emmanuel Macron considers himself the heir apparent to the European Union throne of influence now occupied by Angela Merkel. With the Merkel’s influence diminishing in Germany, and across the continent, the EU is coming to terms with the reality of life without Merkel at some point in the not-so-distant future. Once she does depart the scene permanently, the EU will find itself at a fork in the road. Down one path is a future where the EU rallies around a strong leader and continues on much like before. The alternate avenue is a future where the EU wanders aimlessly in the wilderness without an effective, charismatic leader to guide, and nurture it.
Macron wants to be that leader. The man who succeeds Merkel and takes the European Union to dazzling new heights with a fresh, progressive vision for the future.
This past weekend’s festivities celebrating the 100th anniversary of the First World War’s end seemed to be the perfect opportunity for the French leader to showcase to the world his brand of leadership. Instead, Macron dropped the ball and reminded the world why the European Union is so dysfunctional.
Macron chose to take a major swipe at France’s most powerful ally, and closest friend, the United States. He called for the creation of an EU army to defend Europe from threats posed by Russia, China, and possibly even the United States. He pressed Europe to denounce nationalism, and become “a more sovereign, a more united and democratic power,” curtailing the historical alliance between Europe and the United States in the process. President Trump called Macron’s proposal ‘very insulting’ and rightfully so.
Macron was not sincere about his desire to see an EU army formed. The proposal acted as a political reaffirmation of his ‘Europe First’ values, as well as a reminder of the similarities between himself and Merkel.
Unfortunately for Macron, the play did not work as planned. The ‘EU Army’ proposal made Trump feel more estranged from his European counterparts and supposed allies. The festivities surrounding the 100th anniversary of World War I’s conclusion were ruined. Macron picked up no political capital at home or abroad.
The plan he’d set in motion for the weekend, packed of sound and fury, ended up signifying nothing when all was said and done.
Today’s announcement by Angela Merkel concerning her political future was something of a foregone conclusion. The embattled German leader will step down when her current term as chancellor ends in 2021. Nor will she be seeking reelection as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) in December. The big question in Berlin at the moment is whether or not Merkel will be able to survive politically until 2021. Merkel’s announcement today will eventually strip her of her influential powers in Europe and internationally, as well as on the domestic front.
For years she has been the unofficial Godfather of the European Union. For years her support was essential to the creation, and expansion of many EU economic and political policies. If Merkel supported a certain policy or decision, it would blossom. If she opposed it for whatever reason, it would never see the light of day. Even as the effects of Merkel’s decisions on the migrant crisis negatively impacted the continent, the EU and Brussels continued to follow her lead. The same held true through the rise of right wing populist political parties around Europe, and the growing anti-EU sentiment in many nations. As long as Germany, and Merkel appeared politically stable, the EU refused to panic.
All of that began to change last September when the major political parties in Germany all suffered heavy losses in the federal elections. Merkel’s re-election as chancellor did little to prevent the government from entering a six-month coma as efforts to build a grand coalition got underway. Finally, in March, 2018 a grand coalition was formed. The domino effect was already underway though. The major parties of the grand coalition sustained heavy losses in last month’s Bavarian state elections, bringing on concern about the future of the coalition, and of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship.
Sunday’s election results in Hesse proved to be the last straw. CDU saw its share of the vote drop by 11 percentage points. Merkel’s declining popularity undoubtedly proved to be the major reason for CDU’s slide. The fact that she is standing down as the party leader will bring about a temporary reprieve, but it will not change the fact that her grand coalition is now perilously vulnerable. Its survival is now dependent upon the Socialist Democratic Party (SPD). SPD’s losses in Hesse were significant. Its share of the vote was down by 30.7 percent, the worst results there since 1946.
In the coming months, if SPD cannot show its members that its place in the coalition is benefitting the party, it will likely leave. SPD’s departure will likely sink Merkel’s grand coalition, and turn out to be the final nail in her political coffin.
Germany is no longer a refuge from the storm of voter dissatisfaction sweeping across Europe. Sunday’s regional elections in Bavaria have proven that beyond the shadow of a doubt. Yesterday, the Christian Social Union (CSU) received 36.8% of the vote, and lost its absolute majority in the Bavarian state parliament. In the last elections, held in 2013, the CSU received roughly 46% of the vote. Yesterday’s results mark the worst performance for the party since 1950. CSU’s decades-long domination of Bavarian politics is apparently over. Bavarian voters rejected the party and moved their support to the left and right. The Green Party captured 17% giving them second place. The right wing anti-immigration party AfD won 10.3% of the vote, giving them a visible presence in Bavaria, an area hard hit by the migrant crisis. AfD’s position is particularly remarkable given that the party did not even participate in Bavaria’s last regional election.
Sunday’s election results will have an adverse effect for Angela Merkel’s ‘grand coalition’ and German national politics as well. The civil, but tense relations, and policy disagreements between the member parties are already coming to light less than a day after the election. The German Social Democrats (SPD) is viewing the results as a wake-up call amid fresh concerns about the survivability of the coalition’s alliance at the national level. SPD’s head has all but called for the resignation of Horst Seehofer, CSU’s leader. The party wants the way the coalition works to be improved and believes the best way to achieve that goal is through personnel changes. SPD also suffered major losses on Sunday with its support in Bavaria cut in half.
Looking at the big picture, Merkel’s coalition has been dealt a massive blow. Her allies have been greatly humbled and their power sapped. SPD’s role in the coalition is up in the air right now, and if the coming regional elections in Hesse go badly for the party, as well as for CSU, it could bring the coalition crashing down. With it will come Angela Merkel’s chancellorship, and her long-running position as the leader of Europe’s most powerful nation-state.