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The No-Brexit Edition

31 October 2019

1. Story of the Week

What happened?

If you were going to a Halloween party as no-deal Brexit, then your costume just got less scary. The UK has taken a roller coaster for a couple of weeks leading up to the October 31 Brexit deadline, and come out with a new deal, new parliamentary stalemate and a reluctant yet necessary extension. The extension, that will keep the UK in the European Union until the 31 January 2020, was approved this week by the EU27 and labeled as a 'flextension' meaning if the UK can get the deal ratified before then the deadline would be brought forward. This, more of a marketing ploy (all extensions have been flextensions to a degree), is unlikely to actually transpire as Boris Johnson pledged to not advance his Brexit deal in return for a greatly coveted general election. This general election was approved by the UK parliament on Tuesday for the 12 December, a cold, dark day which will define a Brexit decade of winter discontent or open up the path for a new European spring.

Why it matters

Somehow, in a miracle resulting from a story of political posturing, cockfighting and tattle-taling all parties in the Brexit equation have managed to save a degree of face in this excruciating process. Boris Johnson got a deal and placed himself back in the political centre of his country's politics. No longer a no-deal extremist, he can now enter a general election with a deal in hand and a smirk to boot, despite his do or die threats coming up short. The EU on the other hand, despite vowing not to open up the Withdrawal Agreement, has saved face in not being the irrational 'bad guy' in this scenario, one that was so unaccommodating that it would have pushed no-deal Boris to pull the trigger. Rather the EU has hedged a bet by giving Johnson a less than sexy deal, in the safe assumption that it would not pass the current Parliament and managed to come out as the gentleman in the room when it gave an extension in the hope that political change is around the corner. Even if Johnson wins, at least there is a deal and the EU can avoid a dreaded no-deal. All parties are therefore in the clear for this most decisive of the three Brexit extensions so far.

The takeaway

The prologue of Brexit will be finished with the general election in December but the book of Brexit is yet to be written, whatever happens with the election. Unless the hardcore Remain Liberal Democrats or Scottish National Party win an absolute majority in the UK Parliament from these elections (pigs have been known to fly) or Boris Johnson wins an absolute majority for his version of Brexit, there will be no decisive case for a Brexit or Remain solution. Even if the Prime Minister wins by a minority, the temptation to put his deal to a People's Vote may be too much for a Parliament that would want to avoid the impasses and sclerosis of the previous two parliaments by putting it back to the people. Alternatively, if a 'light remain' coalition government is returned with Labour at the helm, then the only way that Labour could forgive itself after a surely bruising election would also be to put it to a vote. The EU, on their side, will want to look at itself and avoid the mistake of looking at the UK for too long beyond 31 January. If a new Commission is in place by December, and that is a big 'if', it will have to navigate seriously choppy waters in 2020 - a potential eurozone crash is on the cards and rule of law issues in old and new member states are coming back with a vengeance. Let's hope there is enough face to save so that an eventual slap in the face isn't that painful.

2. Tweets of the Week

3. Numbers of the Week

1

The day in November 2019 when the new college Commission was supposed to start. After the Romanian and Hungarian commissioners were disqualified and the French candidate voted down by the European Parliament, both France and Hungary have had their new respective candidates approved by Ursula von der Leyen. The issue however is that the government collapsed in early October and have not yet got together to form a new one, let alone nominate a Commissioner. The potential for a January start has Brussels in a state of inertia, where individuals and institutions as well as lobbyist await who will be the target of their love / hate for the next five years.

1100

The number of inmates in European prisons currently held on terrorism charges. The outgoing European Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King, warned that thousands of inmates of European prisons due to be released soon from unrelated sentences may be at risk of having been radicalised during their time inside. What's worse, 500 European fighters detained in Syria are at risk of being freed after Turkey's recent offensive meant that Kurdish security at these jails has loosened

27

The number of MEPs in an unofficial visit to Kashmir. The delegation of MEPs to the disputed Indian-administered state bordering with Pakistan and China comes at a sensitive time as the previously semi-autnomous, majority Muslim region has recently been subject to some draconian measures from the Indian government, led by Prime Minister and Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi. Things are even more sensitive considering that the makeup of the delegation consists of mostly right-wing elements of the Parliament including Brexit Party, AfD and Rassemblement National MEPs spotted among the guests.

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4. Quotes of the Week

“We are now irreconcilably split for a generation"

The indictment from Roland Rudd, chairman of the People's Vote campaign calling for a second Brexit referendum. Conceding that reversing the Brexit decision will not solve the division sowed in the UK in the past three years, the campaigner is quoted as part of a deep dive by the New Yorker into the bizarre pantomime that is Brexit, with its goofy villains, unsettling plot twists and perfidious comedy.

"We changed our name, we changed our constitution

The despairing remarks from North Macedonia's Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev. Citing his country's Herculean task of changing the name from FYR Macedonia in order to satisfy requirements for accession to the European Union. The efforts, however, were not reciprocated with the commencement of accession talks, a decision by the Council that was heavily criticised by the European Parliament. So much so that EP President David Sassoli, brought some sass to interinstitutional relations by committing to travelling to North Macedonia and fellow candidate reject Albania in order to show them his support.

“The climate movement does not need any more awards

The defiant words of climate activist Greta Thunberg. The Swedish teenager has rejected an award from the Nordic Council for her activism and used theoccasion to make a statement to the establishment. Her call instead urged politicians and people in power start to listening to science and begin serious climate action. The message was delivered via a naturally Gen X method, an Instagram post.

5. Video of the Week

ARTE Regards - Jean-Claude Juncker, une rencontre

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