The Chronicles of Downing Street

Despite his attempts to stay neutral, Bank of England (BoE) governor Mark Carney seems to have joined the pro-EU campaing, as he defined Brexit as the “biggest domestic risk to financial stability” in Tuesday’s hearing before the Treasury Committee. This perception has also been corroborated by the announcement of the BoE that additional liquidity auctions will be held before and after the 23 June poll in order to prevent any type of threat to financial stability. The divisions within the Conservative Party haven’t cooled off, as Mayor of London Boris Johnson stated that Brexit would be beneficial for both the UK and the EU, pointing at Canada as a political and diplomatic model to follow, and as Chancellor Geroge Osborne openly accused him of playing “political games” over Britain’s membership of the EU. Furthermore, the latest issue of the Economist underscores a number challenges that the Remain campaign has to face during the next months, ranging from the unexpected anti-EU stance assumed by many Tory MPs to the difficulties for other political groups, and especially the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party, in sharing Cameron’s platform. It may be the case that a role will be played also by Barack Obama, who has announced that he will head to London in April and will urge UK voters to choose to stay in the EU. In the meantime, the Royal Family has been involved in a singular turmoil, as UK tabloid The Sun published an article claiming that the Queen backs Brexit and caused Buckingham Palace to promptly complain to the press watchdog over it.

Fear and loathing in Brussels

After prolonged indecision, MEP Syed Kamall, the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group has decided to back Brexit, specifying that “the ECR group as a whole does not want Britain to leave the EU”. Thus, the number of Conservative British MEPs who back Brexit is now five, whereas four are as yet undeclared and the remaining eleven are in favour of Cameron’s deal. Moreover, the ECB has started making enquiries on the impact that Brexit would have on financial stability in Europe, by questioning banks over their preparation for the event. Also, OECD chief economist Catherine Mann has directly dismissed Boris Johnson’s argument about the mutual gains from Brexit, observing that its costs might be not outweighed by the benefits in the long period and that the City could be particularly hard hit because financial services were not covered by WTO agreements. Furthermore, as the economic and diplomatic that would take case in case of Brexit remain unclear, Politico dedicates a thorough analysis to the potential post-Brexit scenarios concerning British trade with the EU, ranging from the UK joining the European Economic Area, like Norway and Island, to the most radical and unlikely option of trading with the EU within the WTO framework.

Voices from the Continent

While the Italian and Spanish press have mainly followed the events taking place in the UK, the French political debate around Brexit has evolved in a rather unexpected direction. Indeed, Le Monde has presented the results of a survey led by the University of Edinburgh, which shows that the majority of French interviewees hope for a French referendum on whether to leave the EU, as well as that  French people are the most willing to see the UK leaving the EU. Also, notwithstanding that French economy minister Emmanuel Macron sent a double Brexit warning to the UK on both migrant and trade issues last week and clearly signalled the position of French Socialists on the matter, an unexpected pro-Brexit stance has also been assumed by some individual French Socialist MPs, as in the case of Karine Berger, who said that the way the UK handled the negotiation process caused serious trust issues and that Brexit wouldn’t harm the European Union.

Facts and Figures

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Remain:  40%

Leave: 37%

Wouldn’t Vote: 5%

Don’t Know: 18%

 Source: YouGov

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