Brexit bill becomes law, allowing UK to leave European Union

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Brexit bill becomes law, allowing UK to leave European Union

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill repeals the 1972 European Communities Act through which Britain became a member, and transfers decades of European law onto British statute books in a bid to avoid any legal disruption.

WORLD Updated: Jun 26, 2018 17:33 IST

Reuters
Reuters
London
European Union supporters, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal, participate in the People's Vote march in central London, Britain, on June 23.
European Union supporters, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal, participate in the People’s Vote march in central London, Britain, on June 23. (Reuters file photo)

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth granted royal assent to Prime Minister Theresa May’s flagship Brexit legislation on Tuesday, ending months of debate over the legislation that will formally end the country’s European Union membership.

The House of Commons speaker John Bercow said the EU withdrawal bill, passed by both houses of parliament last week, had been signed into law by the monarch, to cheers from Conservative lawmakers.

“I have to notify the House in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967 that her Majesty has signified her royal assent to the following acts … European Union Withdrawal Act 2018,” Commons Speaker John Bercow told lawmakers during a session of the house.

A Romanian in the UK: ‘Undesirable Migrant’ Or ‘Welcomed Contributor’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

A Romanian in the UK: On the Thin Line Between ‘Undesirable Migrant’ and ‘Welcomed Contributor’

Alexandra Bulat, photo from her official page at UCL, used with her permission.

What is the human side of the Brexit, the UK ‘divorce’ from the EU? Numerous controversies remain, as well as the need to fix the system in order to avoid further suffering for millions of people caught in a bureaucratic uncertainty or facing arbitrary and unjust rules and regulations.

According to the newspaper The Sun, around 3.6 million EU nationals currently live in the UK, including nearly 600,000 children. Among them, eastern Europeans have been specially branded by Leavers (those who support UK’s separation from Europe) as “unwanted” immigrants. They often are tagged as “benefit scroungers, here to steal jobs”. This sentiment is not new, as they already felt like second-class citizens because of working restrictions initially put on migrants from central and eastern Europe when they joined the EU. Arguably, UK’s decision to open its labor market to these countries is what led the voters to become so opposed to migration from the EU.

Photographer Deividas Buivydas shared some captivating images from Boston, Lincolnshire, where tension against eastern Europeans is evident and post-Brexit anxiety is bubbling. This town registered the highest Leave vote in Britain, at 75.6 per cent and was dubbed “the capital of Brexit”. It also is home of the largest proportion of Eastern Europeans in the country.

The life story of Alexandra Bulat, a young scholar from Romania who made a career at top UK academic institutions also offers a telling example, as she referred to a famous phrase by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, uttered in January 2017:

I am a Romanian PhD student, teaching assistant & researcher. One of @theresa_may‘s praised “brightest and the best” whose “contributions are welcome”.

This I want to share my story. Until I got to this point, I was in many ways an “undesirable migrant” ⬇️

Ms. Bulat shared her story in a series of much-retweeted tweets which are summarized bellow.

My first experience in the UK was in 1997. My father got a temporary [National Health Service] contract as there was a skill shortage. I attended the hospital’s nursery for 7 months but my family chose to return to Romania. My mum was unemployed and my father had limited rights to work.

Meanwhile my parents got divorced. I attended a free school and skipped many classes in the last college years. Grew up mainly with “working class kids” sometimes doing dangerous things. But I achieved the highest grade in the Romanian Baccalaureate and this opened many doors.

I returned to the UK at 18 to study. I passed an IELTS exam but this was not enough to understand even half of what my British colleagues were saying. Should I have been “sent back” then as I could not properly engage in English conversations in my first few months?

Three years later I graduated with a first class degree from . It was a fun but difficult time. My mum came looking for work when I was in my second year and we shared a studio room at some point. I worked various part time jobs. Met my British partner.

In 2015 I received offers from both  and  to do my Masters. In the summer I worked as an intern in London to save money. We had no savings and definitely not enough to pay the 10,000 pounds tuition fee. Should I have given up my dreams?

I borrowed money from the bank for my fee and accepted my Master of Philosophy (MPhil) offer at Cambridge. I had barely enough to cover the first term of college accommodation and no idea what to do next. My mum was made redundant and things were not going well.

Meanwhile one of my colleagues was shocked to hear my experience of college – “So you did not have prep classes for Oxbridge interviews???”. Nope. This is maybe why I failed my Oxford interview for undergrad despite passing the written test. Oh, also my poor English.

I read my MPhil handbook saying we should not do any paid work. I did paid work throughout my MPhil and finished with 72% overall. Meanwhile mum got a job and things got back to normal around graduation time, after a year of familiarizing myself with Sainsbury’s Basic [a supermarket chain offering low cost produce].

Should me and my mum have been deported due to insufficient resources in those times? “If you do not make a net contribution you should be sent home”, some claim. Life is not a tick-box as the immigration categories are.

Alexandra Bulat. Courtesy photo used with her permission.

In 2016 after a summer of work on a temp contract I accepted my fully funded PhD at . This was the best thing that happened to me. I was sad to leave Cambridge uni but I could not have afforded a PhD with no funding. Funding is very competitive in social sciences.

My mum’s job was again subject to restructuring in 2017. After a few months of job searching she decided to leave to Germany. She also was concerned about  after Brexit. They are not guaranteed yet. She is working in Germany now, the UK lost a skilled professional.

In 2018 all things go well. I speak fluent English, have a lovely British partner and I am halfway through my PhD. But I, like all  and  are still . Our reduced  are not secured in case of no deal.

In the mind of many people rudely commenting on  posts such as the stories shared in ‘s articles, we should be sent back home unless we are a constantly producing tax payment machine. It is important to realize the complexity of migrant stories. According to these people’s logic, my mum should have been deported every time she lost her job and I should not have been allowed in with little English or “insufficient resources”. We have not claimed a single benefit all these years, not even job-seeker’s allowance.

To everyone that tells me to stop criticizing settled status because “I will be fine, cos I am a PhD student and skilled migrant”, I am saying: no. I will not close the gate behind me just because I managed to become a “desirable migrant”.  were promised for all.

On 1 June 2016, few weeks ahead of the Brexit Referendum, the “Vote Leave” campaign issued a statement by Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, and Gisela Stuart, claiming that:

Second, there will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.

In October of the same year, David Davis, Brexit Secretary tried to downplay the concerns of people like Ms. Bulat’s mother, by claiming that “Five out of six migrants who are here either already have indefinite leave to remain or ​will have it by the time we depart the [EU].” However, the UK fact-checking service FullFact concluded:

This is not fully substantiated by the evidence and will depend on the arrangements we make upon leaving the EU. Whatever happens, EU citizens are not going to be forced to leave en masse.

FullFact also noted other points of uncertainty, which depend on the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations which are still in the works, and are supposed to end by March 2019. For instance, the right to permanent residence under EU law may or may not survive Brexit and might depend on meeting criteria for permanent residence such as “whether they’re working, looking for work, self-employed, studying or self-sufficient…”

Instead, automatic grant of all existing rights promised by Vote Leave is still uncertainty for both EU migrants in UK and British in EU27. Many areas remain unclear and are under negotiations such as some family reunification rights and political rights (EU migrants can vote in local elections only)…

recent protest by the group Highly Skilled Migrants, which says it represents over 600 doctors, engineers, IT professionals, teachers and their families in Britain attempted to raise profile of ‘discriminatory’ Home Office rules. The ‘harsh migration policy’ affects both immigrants from ‘overseas’, and those coming from the EU member countries. Latest data indicates large drop in the number of EU nationals seeking jobs in the UK due to Brexit uncertainty.

Ms. Bulat concluded her story with the following tweet:

We need a solution to protect all , just as promised by Vote Leave. No more “bad migrant”-“good migrant” division games. People’s lives do not fit in a tickbox. Politicians should listen to more real migrant stories to understand.

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

By Kate Holton and David Milliken | LONDON

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will fail to win a parliamentary majority in Britain’s election, according to an exit poll on Thursday, a shock result that would plunge domestic politics into turmoil and could delay Brexit talks.

The exit poll predicted May’s party would not win a majority of the 650 seats in parliament to take office alone, meaning she would have to form a coalition or attempt to govern with the backing of other smaller parties.

The exit poll predicted the Conservatives would win 314 seats and the Labour Party 266, meaning no clear winner and a “hung parliament”.

The exit poll sent shockwaves through financial markets. Sterling fell more than two cents against the U.S. dollar. .

It was an extraordinary failure for May, who was enjoying opinion poll leads of 20 points and more when she called the snap election just seven weeks ago.

But her lead had gradually shrunk over the course of the campaign, during which she backtracked on a major social care proposal, opted not to take part in a high-profile TV debate with her opponents, and faced questions over her record on security after Britain was hit by two Islamist militant attacks that killed 30 people.

“If the poll is anything like accurate, this is completely catastrophic for the Conservatives and for Theresa May,” George Osborne, who was the Conservative finance minister from 2010 to 2016 when he was sacked by May, said on ITV.

Analysts were treating the exit poll with caution. In the last election, in 2015, the corresponding poll predicted May’s predecessor David Cameron would fall short of a majority. But as the night wore on and the actual results came in from constituencies, it became clear he had in fact won a majority, albeit a small one of just 12 seats.

That outcome was a triumph for Cameron though, because he had been predicted to fall well short. For May, who went into the campaign expecting to win a landslide, even a narrow win later in the night would leave her badly damaged.

Until the final results become clear, it is hard to predict who will form the next government.

“It’s difficult to see, if these numbers were right, how they (the Conservatives) would put together the coalition to remain in office,” said Osborne.

“But equally it’s quite difficult looking at those numbers to see how Labour could put together a coalition, so it’s on a real knife edge.”

Political deadlock in London could derail negotiations with the other 27 EU countries ahead of Britain’s exit from the bloc, due in March 2019, before they even begin in earnest.

A delay in forming a government could push back the start of Brexit talks, currently scheduled for June 19, and reduce the time available for what are expected to be the most complex negotiations in post-World War Two European history.

The poll forecast the Scottish National Party (SNP) would win 34 seats, the center-left Liberal Democrats 14, the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one.

If the exit poll is correct, Labour, led by veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, could attempt to form a government with those smaller parties, which strongly oppose most of May’s policies on domestic issues such as public spending cuts.

May called the snap election to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with the other 27 EU countries and to cement her grip on the Conservative Party after she took over as prime minister in the wake of last year’s Brexit referendum.

If she fails to win a majority, that could call into question her position as Conservative leader and might mean a second election in Britain this year.

If Corbyn’s Labour does take power with the backing of the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, both parties adamantly opposed to Brexit, Britain’s future will be very different to the course the Conservatives were planning and could even raise the possibility of a second referendum.

May had promised to clinch a Brexit deal that prioritized control over immigration policy, with Britain leaving the European single market and customs union, and said no deal would be better than a bad deal.

Labour said it would push ahead with Brexit but would scrap May’s negotiating plans and make its priority maintaining the benefits of both the EU single market and its customs union, arguing no deal with the EU would be the worst possible outcome.

It also proposed raising taxes for the richest 5 percent of Britons, scrapping university tuition fees and investing 250 billion pounds ($315 billion) in infrastructure plans.

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle, William Schomberg, Andy Bruce, William James, Alistair Smout, Paddy Graham, writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FRANCE 24 TV)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

 

 
© Mandel Ngan, AFP | US president Donald Trump flies home after G7 summit in Italy

Text by EMILIE BOYER KING

Latest update : 2017-05-28

President Donald Trump flew back to the United States on Saturday without a much-awaited commitment to fighting climate change, at odds with many of his allies on big policy issues and to a brewing crisis in the White House.

Now back home, Trump is unlikely to get much rest after his gruelling nine-day diplomatic marathon, with Russian controversies and claims that his son-in-law Jared Kushner wanted to set up secret communications with Moscow swirling overhead.

Trump’s first trip abroad as president took him to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Vatican, and Belgium and Italy. He met with heads of state, the pope and attended gatherings of NATO leaders and members of the G-7 industrialised nations.

The royal treatment in Saudi Arabia

Trump is not a conventional president and neither was his first foray into international politics.

From the start, he set a new direction. In many ways, the first leg of his journey in the Middle-east was the easiest for the US leader who made ‘America First’ a cornerstone of his presidency and is still learning the ropes on international diplomacy.

Instead of following presidential tradition by heading to a neighbouring democracy like Canada or Mexico, Trump kicked off his maiden voyage in Saudi Arabia, the repressive desert kingdom, where he sought to win Arab states’ support for fighting extremism.

He was given the royal treatment, and looked delighted as he took part in traditional dances and enjoyed lavish meals. Raising the human rights record of his host, one of the world’s most oppressive governments, was not on his agenda.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said.

Instead, the US closed a $110 billion arms sale to show its renewed commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf region and unveiled numerous business agreements, but without going into details.

Trump then travelled to Israel and the West Bank to more rapturous welcome. He looked solemn as he lay a wreath at a holocaust memorial and as he prayed at the sacred western wall in Jerusalem. But while he called for peace in the region he was vague as to what form it should take. Trump stayed clear of calling for ‘a two-state solution’, an option backed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump chastised the members

Things started to heat up when Trump left the warm climes of the Middle East for Europe, for the NATO summit in Brussels and the most confrontational part of his trip.

On his way, Trump made a short stop in Rome for an audience with Pope Francis. The two men have in the past clashed on issues such as migration, climate change and the Mexico-US wall. After the meeting, the Vatican said, laconically, that there had been an “exchange of views” on international issues.

Trump was more enthusiastic: “Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” he tweeted on May 24th after meeting the pontiff.

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

The NATO summit in Belgium the next day pitted Trump against the 27 other members of the military alliance. The US president unnerved them by not affirming his commitment to the alliance’s key Article 5 on mutual defense — which states the principle that an attack on any one member is an attack on all. A US administration spokesperson downplayed their fears however and saying the US would adhere to it.

Trump chastised the members for not spending enough on defence and repeated the charge that some members owed “massive amounts of money” from past years, even though allied contributions are voluntary.

A “disaster”

Trump’s appearance in Brussels was particularly frustrating for Germany. In a meeting with senior European Union officials, he said the country was “very bad on trade” despite months of painstaking relationship building between Germany and the US in the run up to the summit.

It is little surprise European officials described the summit as a “disaster”.

Side meetings with other leaders in the Belgium capital provided with some light relief however. A series of “manly” and prolonged handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron, followed by an apparent snub by Macron in favour of European Union leaders, delighted the twittersphere.

À Bruxelles, unis avec nos alliés de @NATO.

Leaving the EU headquarters and his crestfallen NATO allies behind, Trump ended his diplomatic tour in Italy for the G7 summit with the leaders of the world’s wealthiest industrial nations. This stop was set to be just as acrimonious: four preparatory meetings had failed to clear up differences with the Trump administration on trade, how to deal with Russia and climate change.

Little surprise, but some disappointment

So there was perhaps little surprise, but some disappointment, when after three days of contentious private debate and intense lobbying by other leaders, Trump refused to commit to the hard-fought Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The six other G7 nations reaffirmed their commitment to it in a joint statement issued Saturday.

Trump promised to make a decision in the week ahead on whether the United States will be the first of 195 signatories to pull out.

The leaders reached agreement on some issues however. On trade, Trump bowed to pressure from allies to retain a pledge to fight protectionism. And on Russia, Trump did not insist on removing the threat of additional sanctions for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, as the allies had feared.

‘Someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work’

But despite disagreements over many policy issues, leaders also warmed to the US president.

“I saw someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work,’ said France’s Macron. “I think Donald Trump understood the importance of multilateral discussion and that, along with the pragmatism he demonstrated during his campaign, Trump will now take into account the interests of his friends and partners.”

The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the G7 summit’s host agreed. “I found him very willing to engage, very curious, with an ability and desire to ask questions and to learn from all his partners,” he said.

At the summit’s close on Saturday, Trump appeared to rate his trip as a success.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” he said.

Home, where a whole new set of challenges begin.

Merkel: Europe ‘can no longer rely on allies’ after Trump and Brexit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Merkel: Europe ‘can no longer rely on allies’ after Trump and Brexit

Media caption“We must fight for our destiny as Europeans,” says Mrs Merkel

Europe can no longer “completely depend” on the US and UK following the election of President Trump and Brexit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says.

Mrs Merkel said she wanted friendly relations with both countries as well as Russia but Europe now had to “fight for its own destiny”.

It follows the G7’s failure to commit to the 2015 Paris climate deal, talks Mrs Merkel said were “very difficult”.

President Trump has said he will make a decision in the coming week.

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” Mrs Merkel told a crowd at an election rally in Munich, southern Germany.

The BBC’s Damien McGuinness, in Berlin, says the comments are a sign of growing assertiveness within the EU.

The relationship between Berlin and new French President Emmanuel Macron had to be a priority, Mrs Merkel said.

Earlier the German leader had described the “six against one” discussion about the Paris Accord during the G7 summit in Sicily as “very difficult, not to say very unsatisfactory”.

Mr Trump said he would abandon the Paris deal – the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement requiring countries to cut carbon emission – during his election campaign and has also expressed doubts about climate change.

Speaking in Brussels last week, Mr Trump also told Nato members to spend more money on defence and did not re-state his administration’s commitment to Nato’s mutual security guarantees.

BBC Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the mere fact that this is even in question shows just how uneasy the relationship is between Mr Trump and the organisation of which his country is the leading member.

While in Belgium Mr Trump also reportedly described German trade practices as “bad, very bad”, complaining that Europe’s largest economy sells too many cars to the US.

The US president has described his visit to Europe as a “great success for America” with “big results”.


Passionate Merkel – BBC’s Damien McGuinness in Berlin:

It might have been thanks to the beer, pretzels and Bavarian brass-band enlivening the crowd.

But Mrs Merkel’s words were uncharacteristically passionate and unusually forthright. By all means keep friendly relations with Trump’s America and Brexit Britain, was the message – but we can’t rely on them.

Rapturous applause greeted her fiery calls for Europeans to fight for their own destiny.

No wonder she’s sounding confident. France has a new president who shares her pro free-trade, Europhile values, so there is a positive feeling in Europe that the EU’s Franco-German motor is back in business.

With four months to go before elections, Angela Merkel’s position also looks stronger than ever domestically. Initial enthusiasm for her center-left rival Martin Schulz has fizzled out. And Sunday’s beer-tent event underscored her strength by marking an end to a potential split with her Bavarian sister conservative party.

She might not have welcomed Brexit or Trump. But it seems that Mrs Merkel has decided that standing up for the EU will only strengthen her chances of winning another term in September.


Polls in Germany say Mrs Merkel is on course to be re-elected for a fourth term as German chancellor at elections in September.

UK PM May’s lead narrows after Manchester attack placing landslide win in doubt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

UK PM May’s lead narrows after Manchester attack placing landslide win in doubt

By Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden | LONDON

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s lead over the opposition Labour Party has narrowed sharply, according to five opinion polls published since the Manchester attack, suggesting she might not win the landslide predicted just a month ago.

Four opinion polls published on Saturday showed that May’s lead had contracted by a range of 2 to 6 percentage points, indicating the June 8 election could be much tighter than initially thought when she called the snap vote.

“Theresa May is certainly the overwhelming favorite to win but crucially we are in the territory now where how well she is going to win is uncertain,” John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told Reuters.

“She is no longer guaranteed to get the landslide majority that she was originally setting out to get,” said Curtice, a leading psephologist who is president of the British Polling Council.

May called the snap election in a bid to strengthen her hand in negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union, to win more time to deal with the impact of the divorce and to strengthen her grip on the Conservative Party.

But if she does not handsomely beat the 12-seat majority her predecessor David Cameron won in 2015, her electoral gamble will have failed and her authority could be undermined just as she enters formal Brexit negotiations.

Sterling on Friday suffered its steepest fall since January after a YouGov opinion poll showed the lead of May’s Conservatives over Labour was down to 5 percentage points.

LANDSLIDE IN QUESTION?

When May stunned politicians and financial markets on April 18 with her call for a snap election, opinion polls suggested she could emulate Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 majority of 144 seats or even threaten Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour majority of 179 seats.

But polls had shown May’s rating slipping over the past month and they fell sharply after she set out plans on May 18 to make some elderly people pay a greater share of their care costs, a proposal dubbed the ‘dementia tax’ by opponents.

As her lead shrank, May was forced to backtrack on the policy at an appearance before the media on Monday at which she appeared flustered and irritated when taking questions from reporters.

Campaigning was suspended for several days after the Manchester attack but resumed on Friday.

Polls since the attack showed little evidence that May – who as a former interior minister oversaw the police and domestic intelligence agency – had gained support.

“The campaign has changed,” Johnny Heald, managing director of ORB International, said. “Expect to see a forensic focus on Brexit and security over the next two weeks.”

Opinium said May’s lead had slipped to 10 percentage points, down from 13 points the week before and from 19 percentage points on April 19. Its online survey of 2,002 people was carried out between May 23 and 24.

ComRes said the lead of May’s Conservatives had fallen to 12 percentage points in an online poll of 2,024 carried out May 24-26, from 18 percentage points in a comparable poll on May 13.

ORB said May’s lead had halved to 6 percentage points, according to an online poll carried out May 24-25.

A YouGov survey of 2,003 people between May 25-26 showed May’s lead had narrowed 7 percentage points from nine a week ago.

The polls painted a complicated picture of public opinion, with Britons’ current voting intentions being influenced by both the deadly Manchester attack and May’s unpopular social care proposals.

Conservative election strategist, Lynton Crosby, has ordered a return to May’s main message: that only Theresa May can be trusted to negotiate Brexit, The Sunday Times reported.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Gareth Jones and Michael Holden)

In an era of profound cultural transformation, elections and referendums have very real consequences

 

THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP 

In an era of profound cultural transformation, elections and referendums have very real consequences ― such as the repeal of environmental regulations or crackdowns on press freedom. But as much as they reveal how markedly divided societies are at this historical moment, they settle little. For those who are nostalgic for an ideal past, the challenges of a complex future wrought by globalization, digital disruption and increasing cultural diversity remain unresolved. For those looking ahead, there is no going back. The present political reaction is only the first act, not the last. It is the beginning, not the end, of the story of societies in fluid transition.

The recent Turkish referendum, like Brexit and U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, fits a pattern of a territorial divide. Residents in large cities and coastal zones linked to global integration and cosmopolitan culture represented just under half of the vote; rural, small-town and Rust Belt regions linked more to the traditions and economic structures of the past were just over half. But there is also a major difference. The populist, nationalist narrative that won the day in Great Britain and the United States championed the “left behind” and splintered the unresponsive mainstream political parties. In Turkey, the day was won by a conservative, pious and upwardly mobile constituency already empowered by some 15 years of rule by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. The cultural duel there, backed up by neo-Islamist and nationalist statism, will thus be more intense than elsewhere.

In an interview following the historic vote in her country, novelist Elif Shafak says, “The referendum has not solved anything. If anything, it deepened the existing cultural and ideological divisions.” She also laments the decline of Turkey’s long experiment as a majority-Muslim country attempting to balance culture, secularism and Western democracy. “This is the most significant turning point in Turkey’s modern political history,” she declares. “It is a shift backwards; the end of parliamentary democracy. It is also a dangerous discontinuation of decades of Westernization, secularism and modernization; the discontinuation of Atatürk’s modern Turkey.”

Writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan explains the details of the constitutional referendum, how the playing field was tilted in Erdoğan’s favor and how it will have massive implications for Turkey’s future. He also emphasizes the historic importance of Turkey’s reverse. Özkan cites the political theorist Samuel Huntington who, in an essay decades ago on transitions from authoritarian rule, once defined Turkey as a clear example of a one-party system becoming more open and competitive under the constitution put in place by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It is rare in history to move in the other direction, as Erdoğan has now accomplished.

Also writing from Istanbul, Alev Scott believes Turkey is in for “a decade of paranoia under a modern-day Sultan” who was unnerved by the slim margin of his victory. Noting a widely circulated photograph of the president at his moment of triumph, she saw a man not “celebrating victory” but “a man alarmed by near-defeat.”

Even as critics within Turkey and others abroad expressed concern over the extinguishing of democracy, Trump again showed his affinity for strongman politics by calling to congratulate Erdoğan on his victory. Yet, as with other countries from India to Argentina, there is likely another element as well to this potentially budding bromance. Sam Stein and Igor Bobic report on ethical issues raised by Trump’s business ties with Turkey. In 2012, Erdoğan joined Trump and his family to mark the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul.

Spanish minister tells UK to ‘not lose temper’ over Gibraltar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Spanish minister tells UK to ‘not lose temper’ over Gibraltar

Story highlights

  • EU officials suggested Gibraltar could be part of Brexit trade talks
  • Lord Howard compared Prime Minister Theresa May to Thatcher

(CNN) Spain’s foreign minister has called on British politicians not to lose their temper after a Brexit-fueled dispute over a tiny outcrop of land escalated into talk of war.

Less than a week after Britain triggered the formal process of leaving the European Union, London and Madrid were at loggerheads over Gibraltar, a British-controlled rocky headland on the southern tip of Spain.
The EU’s draft negotiating document on Brexit, published on Friday, suggested that Gibraltar could only be part of any future trade deal if Spain gave its approval.
That prompted fury in Britain: On Sunday, Lord Michael Howard, a former leader of the governing Conservative Party, even suggested that the UK might go to war over the dispute.
Gibraltar — a three-mile long headland with a population of 32,000 people — is a British Overseas Territory whose residents remain fiercely loyal to Britain but whose sovereignty is claimed by Spain.
To the surprise of Downing Street, the territorial tangle made its way into the draft Brexit negotiating position published by European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday.
“After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom,” the guidelines said.
In an interview on Sunday, Howard to urged a strong response, drawing a parallel with the Falkland Islands in the southern Atlantic, over which Britain and Argentina went to war for 10 weeks in 1982 under the government of Margaret Thatcher.
“I do think it is a remarkable coincidence that 35 years ago this week, that another woman Prime Minister sent a taskforce half way across the world to protect another small group of British people against another Spanish speaking country,” Howard told Sky News.
Howard said May should “show the same resolve in looking after the interests of Gibraltar as Margaret Thatcher did looking after the interests of the Falkland Islanders.”

Spain ‘surprised’ by war talk

Spain called for cool heads on Monday. Speaking in Madrid, the Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis, said the Spanish government was “surprised” by the tone of the comments. “Frankly, it seems to me that someone in the United Kingdom is losing their temper,” he said.
Dastis noted that Howard had not explicitly said Britain should go to war with Spain, but said that bringing up the Falklands conflict was “a little out of context.”
May called called Fabian Picardo, the chief minister of Gibraltar, on Sunday morning, Downing Street said, and told him that the UK was “steadfastly committed” to the territory.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Brexit would bring no changes to the status of Gibraltar.
“I think the position of the government is very, very clear, which is that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is unchanged, and it’s not going to change and cannot conceivably change without the express support and consent of the people of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom, and that is not going to change,” he said.

Rocky territory

Gibraltar, dominated by the 426-meter-high Rock of Gibraltar, is classified as a British Overseas Territory but it is mostly self-governing with a chief minister as its head. Britain provides some services, such as security, to the territory.
The UK has held sovereignty over Gibraltar for more than 300 years after it was captured from Spain in the Spanish War of Succession in 1704. Spain has recognized British rule under international law and in several treaties. Successive Spanish governments have raised talk of reunification since the 1960s, but in 2002, residents of Gibraltar rejected a proposal to share the territory between the UK and Spain in a referendum.
But residents also voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union in last year’s Brexit vote, with 96% voting to remain in the union.

Geert Wilders Falls Short In Election, As Wary Dutch Scatter Their Votes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Geert Wilders, a Rising Anti-Muslim Voice

This is Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician with aspirations to be the next prime minister of the Netherlands. He has compared the Quran to “Mein Kampf” and has called Moroccans “scum.”

By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date March 13, 2017.  

THE HAGUE — The far-right politician Geert Wilders fell short of expectations in Dutch elections on Wednesday, gaining seats but failing to persuade a decisive portion of voters to back his extreme positions on barring Muslim immigrants and jettisoning the European Union, according to early results and exit polls.

The results were immediately cheered by pro-European politicians who hoped that they could help stall some of the momentum of the populist, anti-European Union and anti-Muslim forces Mr. Wilders has come to symbolize, and which have threatened to fracture the bloc.

Voters, who turned out in record numbers, nonetheless rewarded right and center-right parties that had co-opted parts of his hard-line message, including that of the incumbent prime minister, Mark Rutte. Some parties that challenged the establishment from the left made significant gains.

The Dutch vote was closely watched as a harbinger of potential trends in a year of important European elections, including in France in just weeks, and later in Germany and possibly Italy. Many of the Dutch parties that prevailed favor the European Union — a rare glimmer of hope at a time when populist forces have created an existential crisis for the bloc and Britain prepares for its withdrawal, or “Brexit.”

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“Today was a celebration of democracy, we saw rows of people queuing to cast their vote, all over the Netherlands — how long has it been since we’ve seen that?” Mr. Rutte said.

Alexander Pechtold, the leader of Democrats 66, which appeared to have won the most votes of any left-leaning party, struck a similar note underscoring the vote as a victory against a populist extremist.

“During this election campaign, the whole world was watching us,” Mr. Pechtold said. “They were looking at Europe to see if this continent would follow the call of the populists, but it has now become clear that call stopped here in the Netherlands.”

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According to an unofficial tally compiled by the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation, the country’s public broadcaster, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy was likely to capture 33 of the 150 seats in Parliament — a loss of seven seats, but still far more than any other party.

Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom was expected to finish second, with 20 seats (an increase of eight); and the right-leaning Christian Democratic Appeal and the left-leaning Democrats 66 were tied for third, with 19 each, the broadcaster reported.

In the Netherlands, the results betrayed a lingering distrust of turning over the reins of power to the far right, even as its message dominated the campaign and was likely to influence policies in the new government.

Yet there are limits to how much the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most socially liberal countries, will be a reliable predictor for Europe’s other important elections this year, including next month’s presidential elections in France.

Mark Bovens, a political scientist at Utrecht University, noted that Mr. Wilders and other right-wing parties, despite their gains, did not drastically cross traditional thresholds.

“The nationalist parties have won seats, compared to 2012 — Wilders’s party has gained seats, as has a new party, the Forum for Democracy — but their electorate is stable, it has not grown,” Mr. Bovens said.

Mr. Bovens pointed out that an earlier populist movement led by the right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn had won 26 seats in 2002, and that Mr. Wilders’s won 24 seats in 2010. If Mr. Wilders’s party rises to 20 seats, as the early returns seemed to indicate, it will still be lower than the previous high-water marks.

“And some of the traditional parties have moved in a more nationalistic direction, taking a bit of wind out of his sails,” he said. “You see the same strategy in Germany.”

The German governing coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is facing a stiff election challenge of its own this year, was clearly buoyed by the Dutch result, its foreign ministry sending a warmly enthusiastic message via Twitter.

Photo

“The Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said ‘Whoa’ to the wrong kind of populism,” said Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, speaking to an enthusiastic crowd. CreditCarl Court/Getty Images

“Large majority of Dutch voters have rejected anti-European populists. That’s good news. We need you for a strong #Europe!” it read.

In the Netherlands’s extremely fractured system of proportional representation — 28 parties ran and 13 are likely to have positions in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament — the results were, not atypically, something of a dog’s breakfast.

Mr. Rutte’s party lost seats, even as it came out on top, and will need to join forces with several others in order to wield power. Virtually all parties said they would not work with Mr. Wilders in a coalition — so toxic he remains — though his positions are likely to infuse parliamentary debate.

“Rutte has not seen the last of me yet!” Mr. Wilders wrote on Twitter, and indeed his anti-immigrant message, which dominated much of the campaign, was not likely to go away.

It came into particularly sharp relief on the eve of the election, when Turkey’s foreign minister sought to enter the Netherlands to rally support among Turks in Rotterdam for a referendum to increase the power of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Dutch officials refused him landing rights.

Mr. Wilders, who has seemed to relish being called the “Dutch Donald Trump,” has been so extreme that some appear to have thought twice about supporting him.

He has called for banning the Quran because he compares it to Hitler’s work “Mein Kampf,” which the Netherlands banned, and for closing mosques and Islamic cultural centers and schools.

Election turnout was high, with polling places seeing a steady stream of voters from early morning until the polls closed at 9 p.m. Of the 12.9 million Dutch citizens eligible to cast ballots, more than 80 percent voted.

Some polling places ran out of ballots and called for additional ones to be delivered. There were so many candidates listed that the ballots were as voluminous as bath towels and had to be folded many times over to fit into the ballot box.

Photo

Supporters of the Green Party reacted in The Hague on Wednesday.CreditRobin Van Lonkhuijsen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The percentage of the vote that a party receives translates into the number of seats it will get in Parliament. If a party gets 10 percent of the total votes, it gets 10 percent of seats in the 150-seat Parliament, given to its first 15 candidates listed on the ballot.

The election was a success for the left-leaning Green Party, led by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, a relative political newcomer, whose leadership at least tripled the party’s seats, making it the fifth-place finisher and potentially a part of the government.

Mr. Klaver ran specifically on an anti-populist platform and worked hard to turn out first-time voters.

“In these elections there was an overwhelming attention from the foreign press, which is understandable because Brexit happened and Trump was elected, and because France, Germany and maybe Italy will be holding elections,” Mr. Klaver said. “They asked us: Will populism break through in the Netherlands?”

The crowd shouted: “No.”

“That is the answer that we have for the whole of Europe: Populism did not break through,” Mr. Klaver said.

Another striking development was the first-time election of former Labor Party members, all three of Turkish background, who formed a new party, Denk (which means “think”). It will be the only ethnic party in the Dutch Parliament and is a reminder that Turks are the largest immigrant community in the Netherlands. There are roughly 400,000 first, second, or third-generation Turkish immigrants in the nation.

The big loser was the center-left Labor Party, which was expected to drop from being the second largest party in Parliament, with 38 seats and a position as Mr. Rutte’s coalition partner. The party was expected to win only nine seats.

In past elections the impact of extremist right-leaning parties has been largely blunted by a political system that for more than a century has resulted in governance by coalition.

This year’s election may give the Netherlands its most fragmented government in history. Some political analysts believe it could take weeks or months to form a government and that the governing coalition will be fragile.

In Belgium, which has a similar political system as the Netherlands, it famously took nearly a year and a half after inconclusive elections in June 2010 to form a government.

French President Hollande Says French Values Must Be Defended In Cold War Climate

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

Hollande Says France Must Defend Values in Cold War Climate

December 31, 2016, 3:03 PM EST
  • Outgoing French president sees democracy, freedom at risk
  • Final New Year’s address targets National Front’s Le Pen

French President Francois Hollande tells the French they have values to defend in the context of a new Cold War — a reference to both geopolitics and the country’s looming presidential election.

“There are moments in history when everything can be toppled. We are living through one of those periods,” Hollande said in a televised speech from Paris. “Democracy, freedom, Europe and even peace — all of these things have become vulnerable, reversible. We saw it with Brexit and with the U.S. election in November.”

Hollande, who came to power in May 2012, bowed out of France’s 2017 presidential race earlier this month, meaning today’s New Year’s eve address to the nation will be his last as head of state. The Socialist leader insisted to French voters that they have a responsibility on the global stage when they cast their ballots.

“France is open to the world, it is European,” Hollande said. “It is not possible to imagine our country crouching behind walls, reduced to its domestic self, returning to a national currency and increasingly discriminating based on peoples’ origins. It would no longer be France. That is what is at stake.”

Those remarks directly targeted the policies of National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who is committed to pulling France out of the euro, increasing restrictions on immigration, as well as putting up tariff barriers.

“Our main enemy is our doubt. You must have confidence in yourselves,” Hollande said.

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