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The Brexit Election Edition

16 May 2019

1. Story of the Week

What happened?

Like a case of herpes but with worse teeth, Nigel Farage is back in the limelight of European politics. With a bit more than a week to go to the EU elections, the everyman with a pinstripe suit is riding high in the polls with his newly founded Brexit Party. He is likely to win a European election that wasn’t supposed to happen in the UK (partly because of Farage himself) but is taking the limelight due to all sides of the political spectrum on Brexit — Leave, Remain and So-So — battling it out to elect MEPs that will be in office technically until the new Brexit deadline on 31 October. The Conservative government and particularly Prime Minister Theresa May meanwhile is paying the price, with a fifth-place finish according to some poll for being the ones to bet on a practical Brexit with the Withdrawal Agreement instead of the single-issue ideological pie in the sky that the Brexit Party represents and the undefined Labour plan to deliver what is ultimately undeliverable.

Why it matters

It does matter, less because of the EU and more because of the UK itself. The impasse surrounding Theresa May’s Brexit deal reached the point of no return after three parliamentary defeats and a reluctant Brexit extension. Much of the impasse was due to political factions calling for a second referendum on Brexit but the timing has so countenanced that the EU itself will be having one of the most consequential European Parliament elections in its history. As such, some in the UK is treating this as a ‘de facto’ second vote on Brexit and all sides are mobilizing to express their wishes by proxy. EU federalist and Brexit villain Guy Verhofstadt visited the resurgent Liberal Democrats in London earlier this week to give credence to their Remain credentials. The visit from the Hof, however, will likely serve less to cement the LibDem commitment to the Remain cause than to radicalise the Leavers to vote for Farage.

The takeaway

Plus ça change plus ça reste le meme. Three years after the Brexit referendum and around two months after the supposed departure of the UK from the EU, nothing has changed. The media fanfare of the past three years, shocking handling of Brexit negotiations and the single-issue malaise has left the British public (and European for that matter) tired. From tiredness comes two things, apathy on the one side and renewed cynicism against establishment politics on the other. Some would argue that the Brexit vote already did its bidding — a message from a disenchanted electorate against a disengaged establishment. The political centre is now listening but does not seem to get the message that Brexit is still a very real thing to segments of British society and that those that call for a second 50/50 referendum should be careful what they wish for. Much like in the rest of Europe, pro-Europeans need to come out in droves and with passion to counter what is coming and send the clearest possible message.
 

2. Tweets of the Week

3. Numbers of the Week

23
 

The number of fake accounts removed by Facebook in Italy ahead of the European election. The accounts, which had over 2.5 million followers between them, were removed after the platform was tipped off by a campaign group that claimed that the accounts were spreading “anti-vaccine” and anti-Semitic content. The social media giant is clamping down on fake news ahead of the 23–26 May vote held all over a continent where there are over 381 million who use Facebook actively.

28
 

The number of songs in a playlist by Spotify to commemorate Europe Day last week. The playlist which holds one track from artists of each of the 28 member states shows an eternal affinity in Europe for pop music. Plenty pop music will be had in the continent’s favourite song contest Eurovision whose finals will be held this Saturday 18 May.

3
 

The number of challenges (the Big 3) which will afflict Europe in the coming future according to Carnegie. Before you think back to the ‘greatest hits’ of populism, Brexit, and migration, the think tank lays out a different perspective that includes the new singles such as a planet, lifetime and technology. These major issues are currently being underserviced due to the attention-grabbing nature of the aforementioned greatest hits, but they will be existential, not only for the European project but for the world in the years to come.

A Message From Our Partners

The EFF — European Future Forum held its first general assembly at the European Parliament in Brussels, bringing together a large variety of NGOs and civil society organisations to share their projects with each other, workshop new initiatives and improve their communication skills and methodologies.

The EFF is the first European Communication and Project Development Network. It is open to any organisation and individual. For more information, visit their website.

4. Quotes of the Week

“Today the chance that Brexit will not happen is, in my opinion, 20–30%. That’s a lot.”
 

European Council President, Donald Tusk, putting his forecasting skills to the test. The Polish Nostradamus quoted another prescient thinker, Hannah Arendt, in assessing the likelihood of Brexit even going ahead after a thorough analysis of the UK’s conundrum in an interview with Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

 
 
“We will stay united, through thick and thin. We will show each other solidarity in times of need and we will always stand together. We can and we will speak with one voice.”
 

One of the ten pledges that EU member states agreed to in the Romanian city of Sibiu, also known as the ‘Sibiu Declaration’. The document was signed on 9 May, AKA Europe Day, as the Romanian presidency laid out the red carpet for a special EU Council summit. However, the occasion instead of being a dignified and meditative rite of passage towards a revitalised EU went by as an unspectacular pageant for ‘horsetrading’ between member states for EU top jobs, according to some.

“No matter what the mechanism of joining the euro will be, in one way or another, we will lose from it”
 

The indictment on the single currency from former Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The Law and Justice leader who is famous for his Europhobic remarks and stances is now a converted ‘Europhile’, despite his latest outburst, in order to garner votes. He is part of the growing number of EU bad boys that are now positioning themselves as pro-EU after realising their respective electorate’s horror of Brexit.

5. Video of the Week

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