POLITICS & POLICY
Brexit continues to be one of the foremost topics in the European political debate. On Sunday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced her intention to kick-off official withdrawal negotiations with the EU by the end of March 2017. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, welcomed the news, reminding however that the UK needs to activate Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty to officially proceed with a withdrawal from the EU. On Monday, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat made it once again clear that the UK cannot have its cake and eat it too: “any deal has to be a fair deal, but an inferior deal”, he stated.
On Monday October 3, Theresa May restated her commitment to start negotiations by March 2017 on the occasion of the general conference of the Conservative party. Although May said that negotiations will require some “give and take”, her speech has been widely interpreted as a pledge to go for a “hard Brexit”, if necessary. Her speech caused harsh reactions from some parts of the Conservative party. Some 80 Tories rounded on the Prime Minister, calling for the UK to remain anchored to the European Single Market at any cost. During the conference, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond warned about the difficulties that lie ahead for the British economy after Brexit. Moreover, Hammond scrapped plans made by his predecessor, George Osborne, to reach a budget surplus by 2020. The Chancellor opted instead for a more “pragmatic” plan that will make room for needed investments in order to cope with the changed economic landscape. Similarly, on Tuesday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to spend some £100 million to train 1,500 more doctors in the UK. Moreover, to counter the risk of a shortage of skilled labour in the medical sector, Hunt is reflecting on measures to fine junior doctors moving abroad after having been educated in the UK.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon remains on a war footing with Westminster, especially after Theresa May confirmed that the UK parliament will be the only institution to take binding decisions on Brexit. On Tuesday, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance a human rights organization, confirmed that hate speech and racist violence have increased considerably after the referendum.
The refugee crisis continues to be a very divisive issue among EU member states. As the Hungarian referendum of October 2 failed to reach the 50% quorum, EU institutions claimed victory over Viktor Orban’s attempt to reject the migrant relocation scheme. Luxembourger Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn claimed that “it was not a good day for Viktor Orban, but a good one for the EU and Hungary”. However, more than 90% of those who did vote backed the Prime Minister’s critical stance towards the EU, which led Orban to retort that European institutions cannot simply ignore these results.
On Sunday, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz criticised Germany’s handling of the refugee crisis and praised instead the so-called Visegrád group – made of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – for their critical stance on EU immigration policies over the past few months. On the same day, Czech Prime President Milos Zeman called for the forced deportation of economic migrants to “empty places” in North Africa. Meanwhile in southern Bulgaria, local resident protested to show their discontent with the presence of a migrant centre. To make matters worse, Germany continues to complain about Greece’s role in the management of migration flows. On Sunday the German Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, called for Greece to abide by the Dublin regulation and to welcome back migrants who reached German borders.
Last but not least, on Monday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the EU “to promise but not to deliver”, referring to the recent agreement between the bloc and Turkey on migration control. The European Commission dismissed Erdogan’s criticism defining it as “incorrect and not helpful”.
“I did not know if I should laugh or cry that the bank that made speculation a business model is now saying it is a victim of speculators”.
Sigmar Gabriel, German Minister of the Economy, talking about Deutsche Bank
Source: Reuters, 02.10.2016
The number of Spanish women who benefited from a supplement to their pension scheme since the beginning of 2016.
Source: El Pais, 1.10.2016
The increase in the number of children living in low-income families in the UK, between 2013 and 2014.
Source: The Independent, 1.10.2016
Photo Credits CC dimitrisvetsikas1969