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State of the Union

On September 13th, Commission President Juncker gave his fourth state of the union speech.You can watch it here. Or you can read a transcript here.

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Brexit - what a difference six months make...

Michael Gove - ‘The public have told is what they want. We must get on with leaving the EU. Completely. In months not years… We won’t be in the single market. Because being in means accepting unfettered free movement of people and the unchallenged supremacy of EU courts…We won’t be in the customs union… ‘May must deliver full Brexit, not fake Brexit’, The Times, January 13, 2017

 

Michael Gove - ‘As we leave the European Union, we will have an implementation period which will ensure we continue to have not just access to labour but the economic stability and certainty that business requests. That is something around which the government and the cabinet is united.’ 'Michael Gove says cabinet is united on Brexit transition period’, The Guardian, July 21, 2017

 

Many are presently talking that the implementation period could last between 2 and 4 years...

 

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How quickly things change

The results of the first round of French Parliamentary elections are in. The party of President Emmanuel Macron - La République En Marche - looks set for a landslide victory. Of the 577 seats in the National Assembly En Marche is projected to win as many as 440 seats sweeping aside the established political forces. Full results emerge after the second round next Sunday (18th June). One of the biggest concerns, though, is the abstention rate which reached 51.2 percent - a record high. As for the other parties, some projections are pointing to the French Socialist Party struggling to gain the 15 seats necessary to form a political group within the parliament. Whatever happens it will be a historic defeat. It also looks doubtful if the National Front of Marine Le Pen will reach 15 which gives more speaking time and procedural rights. The conservative Les Republicains are also heading for their worst ever result (projected to be around 100) but they appear to have been hit less hard than others. They will become the official opposition. The far-left - France Unbowed - of Jean-Luc Mélenchon looks like it will reach the goal of 15 seats.

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Anti or Pro-EU - The French Choice

On April 24, media projections from the first round of voting in the French Presidential election put Emmanuel Macron (En Marche!) and Marine Le Pen (Front National) into the second round. As to who was in first or second place that would have to wait until official results were released a day later. What is clear, though, is that French voters are now faced with a stark choice between a pro and anti-EU vision for the future on May 7th. Let us take a brief look at what the two candidates have had to say about the EU and how they react to the EU.

 

1. Macron - happy to hold aloft the EU flag during the campaign; support for a ‘multi-speed’ EU; support for transnational lists for the European elections (where a limited number of seats in the European Parliament are elected by a pan-European electorate); and support for greater solidarity amongst EU member states i.e. an end to the spectacle where national leaders agree to things during meetings of the European Council and then return home to their national capitals blaming the EU.

 

“The French-German axis is the core of the reactor, both in the eurozone and the EU. It is a pre-requisite for any progress,” he said. “I propose to restore the credibility of France in the eyes of Germany, to convince Berlin in the next six months to adopt an active investment policy and move towards greater solidarity in Europe. We need it because the future of Europe is at stake.”

“Since 2008 we have failed to build Europe. Since 2008 we have had a lost generation that has seen only a vacuum of plans. Our duty is to rebuild the European dream,” Macron added, stressing the need for a multi-speed Europe.’ [‘Macron outline plans for multi-speed Europe’, EurActiv, March 3, 2017. https://www.euractiv.com/section/elections/news/macron-outlines-plans-for-multi-speed-europe/]

 

2. Le Pen – determined to ensure that the EU flag is not part of her backdrop, a constant emphasis on the national dimension and a belief that the European project is dead and buried.  

 

"The European Union will die because the people do not want it anymore ... arrogant and hegemonic empires are destined to perish," Le Pen said to loud cheers and applause. "The time has come to defeat globalists," she said, accusing her main rivals, centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative Francois Fillon, of "treason" for their pro-EU, pro-market policies.’ Quoted in Reuters ‘France’s Le Pen says EU will die , globalist will be defeated’, Reuters, March 27, 2017. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-election-le-pen-euro-idUSKBN16X0FO

 

As for the next step, will the electoral base of Francois Fillon (Les Républicains) follow his appeal to vote Macron? Will Hamon’s (Parti socialiste) supporters follow his call to vote Macron? Where will the Melenchon’s (La France insoumise) voters, given that he did not endorse any candidate, go? Two weeks of excitement and uncertainty await despite all of the polls pointing to a Macron win in a two-horse race with Le Pen.

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Keep holding your breath...

After today's announcement by the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, to pursue a second Scottish independence referendum (Indyref2) all of the speculation surrounding the triggering of Article 50 on Tuesday (14th March) have been extinguished. Now the smart money is on the last week of March. The bill for triggering Article 50 passed through the House of Commons tonight (after the amendments proposed by the House of Lords were defeated) and will recieve Royal Assent (i.e. become law) tomorrow. The fact that Parliament gave the prime minister the mandate to trigger Article 50 fulfills the requirement of the Supreme Court.

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Brexit begins...?

Speculation is mounting that the UK government will finally announce the formal triggering of Article 50 next week. Expect a great deal of turbulence, brinkmanship and countless reams of newspaper column inches.

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'A week is a long time in politics' H. Wilson

Harold Wilson a former UK prime minister is reputed to have said 'a week is a long time in politics'. Events in the European Parliament, surrounding Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt, in early January would certainty appear to bare witness to the resonance of those words. At the beginning of January, as the leader of the European Liberals within the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, was behind an unsuccessful attempt to bring the Italian Five Star Movement into the ALDE parliamentary group. An attempt that surprised many and seemingly damaged his attempts to become President of the European Parliament (EP) shortly after. However, during the electoral process for EP Presidency Verhofstadt was at the centre of a surprise deal between the Liberals and the EPP which helped to secure victory for the EPP candidate Antonio Tajani. The deal heralded the need for a 'pro-European coalition' to start the fightback against the nationalists and populists that wish 'to destroy the Union from within and from outside'. It went on to state that the EPP and the ALDE '...have decided to work closely together and to offer a common platform as a starting point for this pro-European cooperation'.

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ALDE Party logo

During its party congress held in Warsaw last week (Dec. 1-3), ALDE-Party published its new party logo. Check out the new logo here.

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PES Website

The PES finally got round to updating its rather poor website last week. It might now be worth a visit.

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UK's 73 European parliamentary seats should be become a transnational list

The idea of a transnational list for the European Parliament elections has been doing the rounds for many years but will the UK's departure from the EU finally offer the chance to turn this idea into a reality. The former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron certainly thinks it would be a good idea. Andrew Duff - a long standing proponent of the idea must be very happy to hear that it has once again entered mainstream debate.

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