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Europe is reeling, Theresa May survives, Macron is on the ropes

Written By | Dec 12, 2018
May, Europe, France, Paris

WASHINGTON, DC: Prime Minister Theresa May has survived a vote of no confidence from within the Tory party in Parliament. Even holding onto her position as Prime Minister,  May is fatally damaged as a leader.  She has already promised not to stand in the next elections.

However, even if she survives as Prime Minister, May will almost certainly have to call for new elections sometime in the coming months.

May’s weakness in dealing with Brexit and her untenable hold on power teeters in the balance. Brexit itself, and the future of Great Britain within the EU is not only up in the air, but matches a sweeping instability and crisis across Europe.

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Theresa May is wounded either way

May has made an emotional appeal to her party just minutes ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of new negotiable changes the EU is willing to make with her. The current Brexit plan does not have the votes to pass Parliament. The impasse will not be solved by Mays survival.

May received 200 out of 317 votes, with 117 from her Conservative caucus voting against her. No one can challenge her leadership of the party for another year now. But Theresa May has lost the confidence of the electorate and should go. She is mortally wounded.  Apparently, however, she is not going anywhere.

Brexit is supposed to take place in March 2019. That will inevitably be postponed since there is no deal. The disruptions on both sides of the English Channel of a hard sudden break with the EU, a no-deal Brexit, if allowed to happen, would be purposefully and uselessly harmful.

Events will move swiftly after today’s vote.

A general election in Great Britain is inevitable

There will be no new leadership election. The rise of a firmer and more committed Brexiteer as the new Prime Minister has been blocked. Boris Johnson had been the most frequently mentioned, but he will have to wait for another day.

The aftermath now will be continued turmoil, and a call soon by the Remain faction for either a new referendum or a new election. I don’t sense a referendum until down the road. But a new election will almost certainly be called in the near future, and it will center completely around Brexit, serving as a referendum in situ.

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Conservatives will run as Brexiteers

Conservatives will clearly be the Brexit party, but Labour can regain power in an election by embracing the “Remain” cause, making the elections the equivalent of the referendum. The Scottish National Party and the Northern Ireland party will face a complicated battleground where Brexit will be the central issue on the ballot.

Nigel Farage becomes a wild card, as does the body of his UKIP vote. A new Prime Minister with a more hardline Brexit stance would have made a clear contrast with both Labor and its leader Jeremy Corbin. A binary choice will marginalize other parties and drive turnout. The contrast with voters would be epic.

Jeremy Corbin is a questionable choice for voters

Whether Corbin has it in him, given his own problems, and hardcore left-wing base of support, to successfully campaign for  Prime Minister is questionable. If May hangs on, loses the Brexit vote, and then is forced to call new elections she will be even weaker than she is now.

The reality is that Brexit was passed by only 52% of the vote. A Labour government would probably call a new referendum, if they won, or simply invoke article 50 and cancel Brexit. A more stalwart Conservative government would be in a much stronger position to bargain with the EU.

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Theresa May is finished either way

What is clear is that the current situation of a weak Prime Minister who does not really support Brexit or command the respect of her party or the EU is unsupportable. May was tasked with accomplishing something when her heart was just not in it.

She has negotiated a weak deal, in bad faith with voters, that left Britain tethered to the EU customs union indefinitely. It is time for her to go, but she is clearly not leaving.

Whether that leaves Britain with poor electoral choices and in greater turmoil will be sorted out by the voters at some point down the road. But concerns over Brexit reflect concerns across the continent about the EU and its control over the economies of its member states.

Macron faces the “yellow vest” uprising

In France, Emmanuel Macron is facing an unprecedented uprising in Paris and across the country, and while it doesn’t threaten his power, it weakens his authority. Macron has a hefty majority in Parliament and doesn’t face Presidential elections until 2022.

But the “yellow vest” movement threatens his ability to be a relevant force. It is also a thorough rebuke of his preening Nationalism versus Globalism speech where he declared “nationalism” was unpatriotic.

Macron forgot that Nationalism is Patriotism. I would refer him to Charles DeGaulle, or Winston Churchill, or Willy Brandt, or Dwight Eisenhower in that regard.  His aspiration to be the new globalist messiah forgot the very people he is supposed to be leading.

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Macron forgot who elected him

Macron’s promise was to unleash a new economic prosperity. Instead, he put shackles on the economy with a series of climate change taxes on fuel. Additionally, France is notoriously rigid in its economic structure, making it difficult to do business there.

Macron seemed to care more about the EU and Climate change, than the diaspora of refugees that pervade Europe. The unspoken ghost of migrant camps and refugees across the continent is always a backdrop to the political upheaval sweeping Europe. Macron, like Merkel, seemed more concerned with the refugees than the French.

But Macron’s popularity has plummeted, to under 20%. Remember, when he was recently elected, in the first round, his popularity was just over 30%. He then beat Marie Le Pen in a runoff to become President. His policy reversals in response to the riots look weak. His rhetorical retreats sound hollow. It will take more than sound bites to quell the unrest sweeping all of France.

Salvini leads the way in Italy

In Italy, Northern League leader Matteo Salvini is leading the charge against the structure of the EU, just as Brexit is a rejection of an overbearing  EU bureaucratic authority. His party stands to win a majority of Italy’s seats in the EU parliament in coming elections.

Those same continent-wide elections may lead to large gains for anti-EU parties. In France, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria, Great Britain. Even in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. After this round of elections, there may be as much as 40% of members who seek a new deal for the sovereign nations of Europe.

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Upcoming EU elections may shock the continent

In Spain and Portugal and Greece and Italy, societies are under the thumb of massive Government debt and a complete unwillingness on the part of the EU to restructure that. These same countries bear the brunt of the Syrian and North African refugee crisis as well.

The overlords of the EU in Brussels and the bankers in Frankfurt have alienated society across Europe. From Great Britain to Greece, from Italy to Portugal. Brexit is a similar expression to the “yellow vests” of France, and the Northern League of Italy’s Matteo Salvini, and the attempted sacking of Theresa May within the Tory ranks.

What will come is instability and chaos until leaders in Europe come to recognize that they represent actual citizens of sovereign nations. Not some faceless concept like the EU, or climate change, or globalism, that sweeps the concerns of an ordinary citizen under the rug of some cerebral conceptual device while sucking the lifeblood from the body politic.

Lead Image by A.F. Branco, Comically Incorrect – used with permission



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L.J. Keith

LJ Keith is a non-partisan commentator taking aim at all aspects of governmental domestic and foreign policy and the American socio-political landscape with an eye toward examining the functional realities of the modern age, how they can be understood, and what context to view the changing face of life in America and its place in the world at large.