POLITICS & POLICY

Brexit continues to be at the top of the political agenda in UK and elsehwere in Europe. Last week, the UK House of Commons approved the Article 50 bill proposed by the Government. The bill will now need to be ratified by the House of Lords. Meanwhile, on Friday, the chief Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament (EP), Guy Verhofstadt, argued that the UK will remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) if it goes for a transitional deal to ease off the shift towards a new trade agreement with the EU. Moreover, Verhofstadt claimed that the Brexit vote triggered a positive reaction in the European public opinion–showing a willingness to defend the European integration project.

In the UK, although the Parliament paved the way for negotiations aimed at a “hard Brexit”, a new poll suggests that the majority of Britons would not approve the course of the UK Government. Moreover, former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern warned that the current Brexit scenario could put the Good Friday on Northern Ireland agreement at risk.

In other news, the access of EU migrants to national welfare states is making the headlines in Germany and Brussels. The newspaper Die Welt revealed that the German Government has drafted a new bill with aiming at reducing childcare benefits for citizens of other EU countries. The measure would be addressed specifically to migrants with children living in Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and Romania. The policy is backed by both the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). However, the European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen criticized the plan, arguing that workers who contribute equally to the country’s tax and social system should be entitled to the same social benefits.

The rise of public deficits and debt stocks of EU member states continues to be one of the main concerns of institutions and politicians across the Continent. On Friday, the President of the German Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann rounded on the Italian political class, accusing it of being unable to produce effective economic reforms over the past 15 years. Weidmann criticised particularly the fact that Italian governments have not been able to reduce budget deficits nor, consequently, the stock of public debt. Weidmann’s remarks came shortly after Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted at the possibility of reforming the EU into a “two-speed Europe”.

Asked about the prospects of this transformation, the Italian Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda reassured that in such a scenario Italy would be among the core EU Member States. Moreover, Calenda claimed that an exit from the euro would put the Italian economy in severe danger. Earlier this year, several German economists cast doubts on whether Italy is still fit to stay within the Monetary Union.

Last week the European Commission released its evaluation of the compliance of EU member states’ budgets with the Stability and Growth Pact. According to the Commission, many countries need to revise their budget laws in order to respect the agreed fiscal targets for 2017. In particular, Spain is expected to break deficit spending rules by almost 0..4%, notwithstanding the country’s solid economic growth. Brussels called for the Spanish government to close the deficit gap through spending cuts or tax hikes.

On Monday, the French Minister of the Economy Michel Sapin called for Germany to raise its level of investments, arguing that the measure would revive the entire Eurozone economy. Meanwhile, EurActiv reports that EU lenders came to an agreement on asking Greece to initiate further reforms in exchange of fresh financial aid over the next months. Nevertheless, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU institutions continue to clash over the sustainability of Athens’ public debt.


THE STATEMENT

“Member states of the European Union are pointing into different directions, which are not compatible with each other”

Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

Source: Le Monde, 12.02.2017


NUMBERS

1 out of 4

The number of British employers who said that their foreign staff have considered leaving their firms or the country in 2017.

Source: EurActiv, 13.02.2017


Photo Credits CC UK Parliament


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