The fact that Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic seems a distant memory. Will Italy now be the first in the European Union to stage a spectacular recovery?
For whoever wants to see the real-life results of giving in to populism, the UK’s case is a fascinating one. Counting the costs of Brexit is only beginning, but already the picture is a gloomy one.Continue reading
As a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is taking hold of Europe, the European Union, with its high welfare and healthcare standards, seems to be able to withstand it better than the US.
But if in terms of public health this may be true, in economic terms EU politicians and policymakers should use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to understand that the EU risks falling behind the US and China — and to take measures to prevent that.
The fourth quarter of the year started with heightened volatility and rising uncertainty and is likely to continue this way, despite some green shoots in the first part of October.
As 2017 draws to a close, people in Britain are beginning to realise how seriously they were deceived by the Leave side promoters before the June 2016 EU referendum.
The catalyst of this realisation is the news that Britain will return to its “iconic” blue passport, a symbol of the country’s “sovereignty”, as Prime Minister Theresa May herself called it.
“The UK passport is an expression of our independence and sovereignty — symbolising our citizenship of a proud, great nation. That’s why we have announced that the iconic #bluepassport will return after we leave the European Union in 2019,” she said on Twitter.
This reply on Twitter is the essence of why I believe this to be a crucial moment when it comes to people realising how deceitful the Leave campaign was:
The #bluepassport fiasco might rebound on T May by showing those Remain voters who’d apparently resigned themselves to #Brexit, & Leave voters beginning to wonder if it’s really up their street, just what a silly, totemic, ideological, empty farce #Brexit really is
— Sarah Ludford #FBPE (@SarahLudford) December 22, 2017
Many people took to Twitter to point out that their old passports were black, not blue, and rather dull-looking. Others wondered if the prize was worth the price, both figuratively and literally.
Here’s one example:
FFS, I don't want a fucking #bluepassport, I want a caring, inclusive, welcoming, outward-looking, economically stable Britain, where bigotry, xenophobia & racism are confined to the 20th century dustbin where they should be.
— That bloke who looks a bit like… (@SpareElbowSkin) December 22, 2017
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) December 22, 2017
Some warned the British citizens that once out of the EU, it will not be the colour of the passport that will matter, but the doors it will open.
The blue passport saga is a symbol of everything that was wrong with the Brexit vote: The public debate was hijacked by a group of people who promoted narrow views with dishonest means.
People were lied to about what the EU’s relationship with Britain was, and were promised far more than what can realistically be achieved by leaving the EU.
Before the EU referendum in 2016, the Leave campaign said that nobody was threatening Britain’s place in the Single Market. They gave assurances that not only will Britain keep its Single Market access while getting rid of freedom of movement for EU citizens, but it will also be striking out new trade deals in no time.
The reality turns out to be quite different. So far, the EU has not even hinted at the possibility that Britain will keep its place in the Single Market, while other countries are still waiting to see what kind of relationship the UK will have with the EU before seriously starting trade talks.
The immigration genie is not back in the bottle; it has, in fact, been liberated by the Brexit vote, as the fast-growing emerging market countries with whom Britain tries to strike trade deals rightfully point out that relaxing immigration controls should be part of the negotiations.
The case of the blue passport is symbolic for another reason, as well. As with many things to do with Brexit, it has come to light that in fact the EU never forbade any country to choose whatever colour it wished for its passport.
As Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, pointed out, the burgundy- coloured passports are the result of a recommendation of the EU, but they are not compulsory. The UK could have chosen to ignore that recommendation, and it did not.
There is no EU legislation dictating passport colour. The UK could have had any passport colour it wanted and stay in the EU https://t.co/bkQX0T0F2Q
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) December 23, 2017
Finally, an ironic tweet seems to embed the essence of what the Brexit process will do to Britain, if it continues.
It looks increasingly like a second referendum on the final deal, with the option of voting to remain in the EU, should be put high on the agenda for 2018.
Continental Western Europe, and the European Union in particular, have often been criticised as stagnant bureaucracies that impede creativity and growth. The US and UK economies have been praised as the places to go for people who wanted to see their careers thrive.
It is true that the Anglo-Saxon model, with its focus on free markets, works best for entrepreneurial types – witness the absolute dominance of Silicon Valley in the world of tech, or the City of London in banking.
And yet, when it comes to developing, attracting and retaining talent, it looks like the EU — or at least Western Europe and countries associated with the EU — are still the best places.
The scenes in Catalonia, where local authorities say more than 400 people were hurt by police, are reminiscent of violent scenes in Eastern Europe that have tested, time and again, the European Union.
The excitement that had been building up before the Florence speech of UK Prime Minister Theresa May is quickly turning into disappointment. Many had expected the Prime Minister to find a way to unblock the stalled negotiations over Brexit, but the speech, as delivered, was far from achieving that.