On the eve of great events
It has been a fairly quiet week for us, but whether we realise it or not, we are on the eve of great and momentous events.
Let us begin with Britain first. There is an extraordinary EU summit today focused on Brexit. The die is now cast. The 565page-long Brexit agreement is ready and today’s summit will signify the agreement of the 27 states (with some lastminute adjustments as regards Gibraltar).
Then the agreement will be submitted to the House of Commons. There has been a lot of noise in the UK in this regard but the vast majority of the British want this over-long discussion to be over and done with.
Some had hoped Theresa May would be ousted by a negative vote, but I disagree. Her opponents even found it impossible to get the 48 signatures needed for a vote of no confidence.
The vote is for a deal or no deal. Maybe it is true that the Brexit victory at the referendum was a wrong decision and Britain will be worse off as a result. But it is clear that the majority voted for Brexit and that decision cannot be reversed.
Although all sides have made alternative arrangements in case of a no deal and if the Brexit bill fails, the practical consequences are too dangerous to envision – queues at airports, impossibility of trade, and so on.
The British and their lawgivers will certainly go for the lighter alternative – Brexit – than bring upon their heads the cataclysm of a no deal scenario. So on 29 March, the UK will exit the EU. There are many consequences that devolve from this and maybe people in and out of the UK have not woken up to all the consequences of Brexit but we will all have to adjust to the new reality. There is no going back.
There are other momentous events ahead. The huge protest that erupted along the Champs Elysee in Paris yesterday by the Yellow Jackets shows the extent of the anger and disillusionment in France with Emmanuel Macron whose popularity has swallow-dived to a worse level than that enjoyed by his predecessor months after the election. The French public has turned against the previously acclaimed golden boy and the introduction of higher taxes on petrol and fuel has been the last straw. Macron is now perceived as near big business.
In Germany, the campaigning by the three aiming to replace Angela Merkel has started in earnest and the decision is now just a few weeks away. It seems that the candidates expressing continuity are losing and those advocating a return to the Right are gaining.
If this is confirmed, Germany will see a decisive move to the Right and a consequent shift away from the Centre with possible implications to politics all over Europe.
And in Italy, the conflict between the government and the European Commission with regard to the Italian Budget is still at the initial stages. The Commission says the Italian economic plan can never work and is threatening sanctions. The Italians say their plan can and will work. The Greeks tried this tack but it never worked and they had to succumb to the Commission’s will. There are differences between the Greeks then and the Italians now so maybe the Italians have some leeway.
And finally, there is nothing to report from Malta. Konrad Mizzi is still there. Keith Schembri is still there. Chris Cardona is still there. Joseph Muscat is still there. And Adrian Delia is still there as well. Nothing is moving.