Beyond the depressing, backward-looking policies that the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as US president seem to have brought, there is a ray of hope.
People elsewhere in Europe, seeing the first ugly consequences of populism, might find enough motivation to go to the polls in elections just to try to keep populists out of government. I am talking about the decent people who are tired of politicians but aren’t seduced by the populists’ siren calls.
Last year’s Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as president of the U.S. shook the world out of complacency and sent analysts and experts into a frenzy of attempts to explain what was behind these two events.
For Trump’s election there is the partial explanation of the Russian intervention. For Brexit, the fact that the tabloid newspapers have, for years, portrayed Eastern Europeans as benefit scroungers who at the same time “steal” jobs from the British may have played a role.
This is going to be a crucial year for the European Union. There are more and more voices predicting its disintegration. With the political events that are ahead, it’s not a possibility that should be taken lightly.
Politics are back in play in most of Europe, and this doesn’t bode well for central bankers. Even the almighty European Central Bank had a moment of weakness last week, when it broadcast a message so complicated to markets that it should not be surprised it fell wide of the mark.
After the vote by the British people to leave the European Union, we keep waiting for the adults to take control of the situation. If they did, this whole process would be much easier. They could sit down and discuss ways to proceed with the separation with minimum damage for both sides.
“I take the advisory point” about the UK’s EU referendum. These were the words spoken by Nigel Farage in a BBC interview over the weekend. He added that he wants to see constitutional changes in Britain that would make all referendums binding.
The best part of this statement, of course, is the fact that the man who predicted riots on the streets if the government ignores the referendum’s result was forced to admit publicly that the government, under current legislation, does not have to act on the plebiscite.
Some eight years ago, while visiting Paris with a friend, a couple of young Parisians asked us where we lived. “Oh, London, so cool!” was their reaction. Understandably, I felt smug. Would these young people say the same thing today?
Brexit minister David Davis said last week that Parliament must not be allowed to “thwart” the country’s departure from the European Union. This is strange coming from a man who just a few years ago argued that the country needed a clear plan for its future relationship with the EU before going through an In/Out referendum.
I was reading the other day on the blog of excellent Bucharest-based economist Radu Craciun his latest article: “Is Eastern Europe the EU’s scapegoat?” When I read the headline, I thought the article was about Brexit; but in fact, Radu writes about how some experts in the EU claim that the single currency was created as a way to maintain the unity of the Union after it expanded “too rapidly” to the East.
Well, that’s new. I didn’t realise that, besides causing English people to behave irrationally against their own interests and vote to leave the world’s biggest trading bloc, Eastern Europeans are also guilty of inspiring what could turn out to be the world’s least successful currency union.