Federal Trust Blog

Weaponising the Exit Agreement: the ongoing Irish dimension of Brexit

by Dr Andrew Blick
Reader in Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London; Senior Research Fellow at the Federal Trust

20th May 2020

Prior to the referendum of 23 June 2016, little attention was given at UK level to its possible implications for Northern Ireland. But in the wake of the ‘leave’ result of 23 June 2016, many issues that – though knowable in advance – were neglected, now became impossible to ignore. Northern Ireland is a focus for a number of complications associated with Brexit for the following reasons:

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Brexit, Transition and Ireland

by Brendan Donnelly
Director, The Federal Trust

6th May 2020

Eight months before the end of the transition period the British government seems intent upon two courses of action which will exacerbate the inevitable political and economic damage to the United Kingdom when it finally withdraws from the European treaties. The government has, first, made clear that it will not seek in any circumstances an extension to the transition period; and, second, its self-serving and implausible interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland has created well-founded doubts in the EU’s collective mind about its good faith on this and related issues.

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How will COVID-19 impact Brexit?

by John Stevens
Chairman of the Federal Trust; Former Member of the European Parliament (1989 – 1999)

4th May 2020

In the latest iteration of the unempathetic essence of their cause a debate is emerging amongst the supporters of Brexit over whether the crisis created by the COVID-19 virus will prove politically to be a help or a hindrance. It is most apparent in the issue of whether the United Kingdom should accept an extension of the transition period for leaving the European Union beyond the present deadline of the end of this year. But it also infuses discussion (or lack of it) over the appropriate exit strategy from the on-going lock-down and even impinges on collateral controversies as varied as those over the Government’s procurement of protective equipment for health and care workers and our future relations with China.

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Combating Coronavirus: the good news from Vienna

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (centre), Minister Rudolf Anschober (r.) and Minister Karl Nehammer (l.) on 26th February 2020. Image copyright: BKA/Andy Wenzel

by Richard Bassett
Bye-Fellow of Christ’s College Cambridge and the author of “For God and Kaiser”, the first history of the Habsburg Army to be published in English (Yale 2015). From 1982 to 1991, he was the Central Europe Correspondent of The Times.

4th May 2020

George Bernard Shaw once wrote, with perhaps the memory of 1914 uppermost in his mind, “the most important bad news in the world is the bad news from Vienna.” Unconsciously echoing Shaw’s judgement, the popular German media in the middle of March chose to focus on the Austrian  Tyrolean village of Ischgl as the source of “most German Coronavirus infections”. Initial German contact tracing had found that many of the first German victims had returned home recently from skiing holidays in and around the village. With “characteristic laxity” the “venal Austrian authorities” had permitted the popular ski-resort to continue “partying for days” after infectious cases had been traced to the village.

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Moving beyond the Brexit divide? Options for the new Labour leadership

by Dr Andrew Blick
Reader in Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London; Senior Research Fellow at the Federal Trust

27th April 2020

In the space of a few weeks, many central assumptions of UK politics have shifted. This movement of plates is in large part attributable to the Coronavirus episode, but not wholly. I will return to the consequences of the pandemic later. The most obvious dramatic change that is not a consequence of this global emergency is the election of Sir Keir Starmer as leader of the Labour Party. In any circumstances, Starmer was surely the candidate that the Conservative Party least wanted to see win the contest. His success – and the considerable shift in the balance of power within Labour it both signifies and facilitates – has gone some way to restoring the impression of a credible opposition able to challenge and expose the government – and perhaps begin to present itself as a potential government itself.

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European identity and the plague

by Roger Casale
Founder, Secretary General & CEO, New Europeans

21st April 2020

“The plague was posting sentries at the gates and turning away ships bound for Oran.” Albert Camus, (1913-1960)

“Human it is to have compassion on the unhappy”  Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 – 1375)

Plague has been with us since ancient times. Pestilence has left its mark on our folklore, in art and in literature, on our collective memories and on the habits that still shape how we live today.

What is unusual about Covid-19 is that it is a truly worldwide phenomenon – a pandemic. Even the Spanish flu, the deadliest in history, only reached one third of the world’s population (although it still killed 50 million).

The impact of the virus will be a shared global experience, but the way we respond will vary region by region.

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Things will never be the same again – – how Covid-19 is re-shaping the future of Europe

by Roger Casale
Secretary General & CEO, New Europeans

15th April 2020

Reproduced with kind permission:
Can Europe survive the coronavirus? Roger Casale
OW Magazine,​ 15 April 2020 (Library of Congress: ISSN 2576- 2087)

There is an old joke about a census in the USSR. A man was asked where he was born: St Petersburg. Where he went to school: Petrograd. Where he lived now: Leningrad. Where he would like to live: St Petersburg.

After the corona virus, many may wish they could return to the familiar world they inhabited before the epidemic. But as the crisis deepens, that begins to look more like a dream than an aspiration.

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Covid-19, Corona Bonds and “Kicking the can down the road”

Eurogroup President Mario Centeno at the Eurogroup video conference on 9th April. Photo credit: European Union

by Dr Andrew Black
Senior Research Fellow at Global Policy Institute; Senior Research Fellow, Brunel Business School

17th April 2020

What I see is European construction drifting towards a free-trade zone, that is to say an English-style Europe, which I reject. If we do nothing, this will lead in 15 years to a break-up. I reject a Europe that would be just a market, a free-trade zone without a soul, without a conscience, without political will, without a social dimension.

Jacques Delors Interview (c. 16/17 October 1993), quoted in The Times (19 October 1993), p. 11

It is a curious thought that while Britain has opted to leave the EU, so it has managed to infect the EU with its own free market virus. A virus that Jacques Delors thought would lead to the collapse of the EU by 2008 – the year of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC). The EU, and more particularly the Eurozone, survived that crisis, only to limp on into the next one, caused by the Covid-19 virus.

As the various countries in the Eurozone (EZ) moved into lockdown mode, so they enacted a variety of national measures designed to alleviate the economic pain caused by Covid-19. A rapid survey of existing measures revealed that the sum total of designated fiscal measures to prop up the economy (including Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands) amounts to around € 500 billion. This represents the addition of those measures announced as having some kind of financial ceiling. Most of these countries have also entered into what are open ended and in some cases unlimited commitments to subsidize the cost of wages and salaries, both for larger companies as well as for SMEs and for the self employed. These could amount to a similar total, suggesting that combined support on offer by EZ countries could be in the region of € 1 trillion. Before thinking that this looks like a generous sum, consider that the USA (federal government) has currently offered US$ 2.8 trillion (€ 2.57 trillion) to support personal incomes and company liquidity through the Covid-19 crisis. This is wrapped into a single piece of legislation, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES for short. This was passed on March 27th with bipartisan support by Congress, and shows that federations can act swiftly when needed.

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Brexit: Transition in a time of pandemic

by Brendan Donnelly
Director, The Federal Trust

15th April 2020

Michel Barnier and David Frost are due to resume today (15th April) their negotiations interrupted by the Coronavirus. If Brexit were a project built on rational economic or political foundations, the British government would by now have sought an extension of the transition period for the UK’s exit from the European Union. The deadline of 31st December 2020 was always an ambitious one for agreeing even the general outlines of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The economic and political disruption caused throughout Europe by the Coronavirus pandemic has now turned the retention of this disruptive deadline into an act of wanton self-harm for the UK.  No rational argument has ever been put forward by the government for maintaining this deadline, beyond the mantric repetition by its spokesmen of ministers’ refusal to countenance delay.  The transition period, we are told, will end on 31st December 2020 because that is the date on which the British government insists it will end.

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Can the EU survive the virus?

EU Leaders’ video conference on COVID-19, 26th March 2020. Photo credit: Council of the European Union

by David Gow
Editor of Sceptical.scot, Senior Adviser at Social Europe and Senior Adviser at Acumen Public Affairs. He is former European Business Editor of The Guardian and worked for The Scotsman and London Weekend Television.

15th April 2020

“Forged in crisis.” “We’ll muddle through and emerge strengthened; we always do.” The same tired old clichés about the European Project thriving under stress are being rehearsed but with less conviction this time. One does not have to be the most ardent Brexiteer to believe that the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic emergency pose an existential threat to the European Union. Or a died-in-the-wool Europhile to think the EU can survive à vingt-sept.

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