By Ed Pond
Last week, at last Theresa May had the authority (no, really this time) to activate Article 50. And she duly gained royal assent from the Queen on Thursday. It will be activated on Wednesday 29th, we have been told, May having waited for the 60 year anniversary celebrations of the Treaty of Rome to finish. Fair enough, it would have been criminal to take the fizz out of that expensive Champagne. Also, perhaps they should think on 1957 a while, and conclude the project should have ended at the simple common market that treaty created.
Wanting to take the shine off May's moment. Nicola Sturgeon called for a second Scottish independence referendum. It would be against the spirit of June 23rd to begrudge the Scottish people self-determination if that's what they desire. But they did already decide on this under 3 years ago; and is leaving the EU really so much of an imposition that they need to have that bitter fight all over again? Anyway, the SNP's vision of independence is inconsistent with wanting to be within the EU, let alone reapplying under worse terms. And can they even win it? Recent polling suggests not. The Prime Minister has made clear her reluctance to allow a referendum at the moment, but will be badgered to the ends of the earth if she doesn't.
The Netherlands general election saw Geert Wilder's Party for Freedom fail to make much of a dent in the incumbent Mark Rutte's VVD party. The ruling party did nevertheless lose 8 seats, when Wilders gained 5, and it is difficult to win a majority in the Dutch set-up. Many commentators are hailing the downfall of populism, whatever that is, and intimating all Brexit supporters wanted the far right candidate to win. No; amongst many things Wilders is aggressively anti-Islam to the point of repressive policies that infringe on freedom of religion. No matter how bad the EU is, and how welcome a politician opposing it is, there are limits.
Wilders fell short despite the diplomatic tension between Holland, Germany and Turkey which began when a Turkish minister was prevented from speaking at a pro-Erdogan rally in Rotterdam. Similar rallies have been banned in Germany and other countries. Erdogan's backlash came in the form of provocative remarks and expulsion of Dutch diplomats. As the tensions escalated with Rutte, Merkel and Hollande (to their credit) condemning Erdogan, the controversial Turkish leader claimed the EU has reneged on its migrant agreement signed last year. According to him, the promise to allow visa-free travel for Turkish citizens had been broken, and therefore he threatened to renege on the whole deal himself (keeping the €6 billion in aid, though?). If he were to do this, Turkey would stop taking back migrants from Syria and elsewhere that make it into Greece, and the 3 million migrants within Turkey could be heading into the EU.
Our old friend Gideon Osborne, who won Leave so many votes in the referendum, added to his fortune and job collection by being made editor of the 'Evening Standard'. Just when you thought it couldn't get any more pro-EU... Debate has raged about whether he should be allowed to be an MP and do this at the same time. Right or wrong, it certainly causes a sour taste in the mouth, and the thought of him running a parallel unofficial policy platform to Theresa May as the Brexit negotiations take place - seen by millions of Londoners each day - is alarming. As Andrew Neil said, he doesn't need the money... That Prime Minister job would still be nice though.
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