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As Europe’s 28 heads of state or government gather again in Brussels this afternoon, it is worth recalling that special energy that European summits bring. This format is virtually unique in international affairs – even at G20 meetings “minders” are allowed in the room. It can make them wonderfully unpredictable and very human, especially (like today) when no big concrete decision needs to be taken. Here are three political live-rails to watch: Read more

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It’s summit week. The full roster of 28 EU leaders will gather in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day meeting. Compared to what we have grown accustomed to in recent years, it lacks the urgency of a hot-crisis. Migration numbers are a fraction of this time last year, and the crunch of Brexit and Greek debt are for another day. What we do have though is a big introduction (this is Theresa May’s debut summit) and some potentially significant debates: Read more

There was a touch of nervous twitching (Nicolas Sarkozy), a few polite sideswipes at the frontrunner (Alain Juppé), some jibes over integrity (deflected by Sarkozy and Juppé), a fair amount of policy consensus (almost unanimity on ditching the wealth tax and flouting EU deficit limits), and certainly a surplus dry preparation (technical talk came easy to most). But there was probably no breakthrough winner.

The seven hopefuls vying for France’s centre-right presidential nomination met for their first TV debate on Thursday night. Perhaps because nobody can doubt the importance of the contest – from it is likely to emerge France’s next president – the discipline held, as did probably the political order of things. Former prime minister Mr Juppé remains the man to beat and Mr Sarkozy can barely contain his irritation. There were mini-flashes of passion and raw politics. But the two-hour showdown became at times an arid, earnest affair. Probably a small mercy given what we endure in the White House race. Read more

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There was a meeting last week that should make Brexiters sit up and take note. Captains of European business – the “European Roundtable of Industrialists” – held their annual evening pow-wow with Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Jean-Claude Juncker. This year the venue was the chancellery in Berlin. After enjoying white wine on the balcony and a Berlin sunset, the assorted executives (all male) moved to the dining room and a discussion of Europe’s economic future. Read more

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Sunday was probably a defining moment for Brexit. Far from procrastinating or playing for time, Theresa May appeared to make a big strategy call. From the hubbub of the Conservative party conference has emerged clarity on when she will start Article 50 exit talks (by March 2017) and what her goals will be. Read more

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Chaos. That’s the word to watch at today’s summit of European leaders in Bratislava. It is just one rhetorical flourish in the draft post-summit media statement, a promise that Europe will avoid the migration “chaos” of last year. But the dispute over it offers a glimpse into the dynamics of that summit room, and Angela Merkel’s considerable but waning clout in this EU club. Read more

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It is Angela Merkel’s home state. There aren’t even many refugees there (23,000 in 2015 to be precise). But on Sunday rural Mecklenburg-Vorpommern earned a small footnote in post-war history, becoming the first state where the CDU has ever been outflanked by a party of the right. Just three years old, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany upstart is steadily gaining electoral ground. It may be far from seizing power, even at local level. But the warning to Ms Merkel is clear. The AfD vote patterns in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern reflect a classic protest vote. It secured 20.8 per cent and drew support from all parties – from far left, to centre to far right. Most importantly, it mobilised abstainers and helped boost turnout. There was only one subject to rally around: disenchantment with Germany’s refugee policy. That seems unlikely to diminish as we head towards federal elections in 2017. Read more

The offices have cleared, the traffic is calm, the sun is (supposed) to be out. Brussels is tranquil. But it belies a precarious week for the poor souls still left in town. There are still some delicate issues to deal with.

Italian banks are top of the list. Stress tests results will be released on Friday and a fix for the troubled Monte dei Paschi di Siena is still to be found. Matteo Renzi will be more fidgety than ever.

Germany and France are grappling with the aftermath of attacks – Germany faced an apparent suicide bombing last night, its fourth violent incident in a week – which are as unnerving as they are different. Read more

Matteo Renzi is politically cornered. Troubled banks – or more precisely Monte dei Paschi di Siena - have left the Italian premier facing a problem with no good answers.

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No relent in European news overnight. One state of emergency was declared in Turkey – suspending rights and giving president Recep Tayyip Erdogan near unlimited power – while another was prolonged in France, where the government is facing a harder time asserting its authority. Britain’s Theresa May met Angela Merkel for the first time, easing Brexit pressure on the UK a touch and prompting a journalistic scramble to find more similarities between the two leaders (a love of hill walking has been uncovered). Italy is racing to find creative answers to its banking woes and Matteo Renzi’s political quandary – while Italy’s populists call for taxpayer bailouts. And another Italian, Mario Draghi, will be forced to wrestle with his policy demons in public as the European Central Bank holds its monthly meeting. Oh, and happy Belgian national day.

Erdogan’s rule


Three months of emergency powers The move was announced following back to back national security council and cabinet meetings. Erdogan said: “As the president and commander in chief elected by the people of this country, I will take forward the struggle to cleanse our armed forces of this virus…The aim of this action is to quickly and effectively eliminate the threat to democracy in our country, the rule of law, and the rights and freedom of our citizens.”

What does it enable? Not since the martial law of the early 1980s has Turkey been subject to such unchecked central power. The FT’s Mehul Srivastava explains that it allows Mr Erdogan’s cabinet to issue decrees that take immediate effect and are not subject to review by the constitutional court (two judges on that court are among the 2,750 removed in the purge against suspected supporters of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who Mr Erdogan blames for instigating the coup). Read more

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There is something numbing about watching the events buffeting Europe this month. A bloody botched coup in Turkey, shocking barbarism in Nice and of course the small matter of Brexit. These are times of extraordinary upheaval, and we are still only beginning to grasp the long term implications. Read more

Where to begin? First order treachery, the double Brutus, a “cuckoo nest plot” – this is a political assassination that will go into Conservative party lore alongside the defenestration of Margaret Thatcher. On a cold summer morning, Boris Johnson’s career was laid waste in a matter of hours by his campaign director and confidante Michael Gove, the Brexit-whisperer who convinced him to turn on Brussels. Politics in a democracy does not get more savage than this.

Was this betrayal plotted over months, days, hours? What role did the chancellor George Osborne play? Was Mr Johnson making his own overtures to step aside for Theresa May, the home secretary? The Westminster lobby have done a wonderful job of reconstructing the high-intrigue and low-skulduggery of Johnson’s undoing. Read more

Wondering why there is such a fuss over Article 50, the so-called EU exit clause? We’ve annotated the Article 50 text to explain the issues in full. (If you’re using Next FT and can’t see the embedded document, please follow this link.) You can read more about the Brexit divorce talks here and here.

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Europe is awakening to a momentous morning. Britain has voted to leave the EU. Sixty years of European statecraft has gone into reverse. Britain’s government is in turmoil. Markets have plunged. Sterling has suffered its biggest fall in 30 years. The uncertainty over what comes next is palpable.

Britain’s vote will transform not just Britain and its place in the world, but spill over into global markets, Europe’s economy, and the balance of power on the bloc. The coming hours will be of historic importance, framing what will be a protracted and difficult divorce. The potential consequences of this vote are hard to overstate. This is the biggest challenge for the continent since the end of the Cold War.


A Brexit vote that changes everything. The referendum gamble that left Mr Cameron’s career in tatters. Our guide to the world’s most complex divorce. The fallout for Europe and the world. The bumpy road for the British economy. The bitter campaign that divided Britain. The FT live blog. What happens next. How currency markets called this wrong. Brexiters find their fizz. Europe’s populists cheer.


Some sovereignty obsessed people with little practical economic sense are preparing to make a decision with the potential to seriously spook European markets. And no, we don’t mean the Brexit referendum.

In a few hours Germany’s highest court will rule on the legality of the European Central Bank’s most contentious weapon in fighting the financial crisis. At 10am local time, Mario Draghi’s ‘whatever it takes’ scheme will meet the ‘whatever we say’ of the Karlsruhe.

This is the finale of a long legal saga that has dogged the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions programme for most of its 4-year existence. Mr Draghi’s promise to, if necessary, buy unlimited eurozone bonds has never been used, but its effects were palpable. Mr Draghi challenged the speculators to bet against him, and they blinked.

The FT’s ECB watcher Clare Jones does a fine job of explaining the issues and the ping-pong between the Karlsruhe and the European Court of Justice that preceded this decision. The bottom line is that the Karlsruhe has already voiced reservations about the design of OMT – and may today take a stricter line than the ECJ. At worst it could legally hobble the scheme.

The timing is extraordinarily. On an economic level, markets are already fretting over the referendum. The ECB and the Bank of England are preparing to flood the market with liquidity and take some edge off a negative reaction. But if investors seriously turn against the eurozone periphery – as officials in Brussels and Frankfurt fear – OMT could be crucial. Its credibility matters.

On a political level, too, this is an unusually sensitive moment. What are the implications of a national court thumbing its nose at the ECJ on such an important EU policy decision? For decades the Karlsruhe has coexisted with Europe’s highest court in an uneasy legal truce, with each one claiming supremacy and the final say on law but never testing the premise to the point of destruction.

If the Karlsruhe imposes its will – and takes back control, as the Brexiters would say – what will British eurosceptics think? It could certainly inspire some interesting lawmaking in Westminster, even if there is a Remain vote on Thursday.


The polls are looking better for Remain. It is still close, but the apparent swing was enough for sterling made its biggest one-day gains in eight years. Read more

Europe’s four most powerful men are in peril, fighting for their political lives in some choppy and unusual electoral waters. Whether this week in the case of Britain’s David Cameron or Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, or in the coming months with regard to Matteo Renzi and Francois Hollande, each one is nearing a career-defining reckoning with voters. The four cover opposite ends of the mainstream political spectrum, but share a common fear: being undone by primal anti-establishment forces. Such is the lot of Europe’s political princes.

David Cameron’s verdict There is a touch more optimism in Downing Street on the EU referendum. After a tumultuous week, poll momentum has swung back to Remain (as well as defections). Mr Cameron also delivered a solid TV performance on Sunday night, channelling his inner Winston according to the FT’s Henry Mance. Note the emphasis on this referendum being a no-turning-back decision on the EU – but not on Mr Cameron. His approval ratings have plummeted but he insists this vote is not a verdict on him. It appears he may try, against the odds, to hold on to power after a Brexit win. Given what it would do to his legacy, what does he have to lose?

Matteo Renzi’s star falls Once the golden-child of this political quartet, the restless Italian Socialist is facing a ballot-box revolt. The Five Star movement routed Mr Renzi in Rome’s municipal elections last night, making Virginia Raggi the eternal city’s first female mayor. In a big upset Turin was lost as well to a 31-year old Five Star insurgent, Chiara Appendino. Mr Renzi’s Democratic party did manage to draw the line there, hanging on to Milan and Bolgna, where it was facing a more traditional run-off with centre-right opponents. All eyes are now on the October referendum on constitutional reform that Mr Renzi said he would win or quit. His enemies are circling.

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Westminster is in mourning. Campaigning is on hold. The grief over the murder of Jo Cox MP is raw and palpable. The implications for Britain at this historic juncture are hard to predict. Six days out from the referendum, in the midst of an angry and shrill campaign, politics has suddenly taken a different hue. This was a dark moment for democracy in Britain and an unbearable tragedy for one young family. Start your reading with Alex Massie of the Spectator on a day of infamy.

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One of the most striking quotes ahead of Britain’s referendum was Michael Gove’s claim that “people in this country have had enough of experts”. As this polling data shows, the Brexit backing justice secretary was on to something, at least when it comes to Leave supporters.

The YouGov pollsters gauged public trust in the views of “experts” and politicians when they speak about the EU referendum. It is no surprise that both Leave and Remain supporters are wary of politicians – both at home and abroad – albeit by different margins.

When it comes to experts, though, there is an chasm. Remain supporters tend to believe academics, economists and people from the Bank of England. Leave backers mistrust them all, especially if they come from Threadneedle Street (net trust minus 45 per cent). You can add business leaders to that list too (plus 28 per cent trust among Remainers, and minus 28 for Leavers).

There is a paradox to this. As the FT’s Chris Giles notes today, there has rarely been such “expert” consensus on an issue. While economists argue over how harmful Brexit would be, there is near unity that it would be harmful to the economy. The dismal science is in speaking in concert for once and the public just don’t seem to be listening. As Tobias Buck found in a report from revolutionary Bracknell, middle England is in an iconoclastic mood. Read more

There are 8 days left of the campaign. Little wonder contingency planning is in overdrive. Three different perspectives are laid out today in the press: from the Leave side on the divorce; from the Remain side on the consequences; and the worried Remain side on last-ditch offers to save the campaign.

First for the Brexiters. Chris Grayling, leader of the House of Commons, outlines a detailed vision of Brexit to the Financial Times. It is a complex but significant insight on how a divorce may proceed, and it doesn’t match expectations in Brussels. The Leave side would legislate in the UK to leave by 2019, but would not necessarily invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty, aiming instead for an “informal” process that sets future trade termsat the same time. In other words, they do not want a trade deal taking longer than the EU break-up. So two years to do it all.

That takes goodwill on the EU side – and it will probably be in short supply. Mr Grayling says the UK will curb the powers of the ECJ straight after the referendum vote – andcurtail free movement rights before 2019 to avoid an influx into the UK. There is not much the EU can do about that; the EU is a sovereign club based on law and good faith. But it may be hard asking for favours. More positive for Brussels: Mr Grayling said budget payments would continue. “I don’t want to break the law as part of the process”. A cheeky European Commission may ask: can we have £350m a week please?

The fiscal contingency George Osborne, chancellor, has set out his post-Brexit budgetto The Times. Unsurprisingly there is no attempt at sugar coating. Income tax up, fuel duty up, inheritance tax up, beer tax up, dramatic cuts across the public sector, all aiming to fill a £30bn fiscal gap he argues was identified by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The Leave side dismissed this as “hysterical” fear mongering (and think the chancellor will beout of a job anyway). The question is whether it is a sufficiently brazen a claim to move the subject back to the economy, rather than immigration. Remain’s fate may rest on it.

The panic contingency The poll momentum is against Remain and the panic is showing. Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, raised the idea of pushing for urgent reforms to EU free movement – setting off speculation in Westminster about desperate last-ditch measures to rescue the campaignRead more

This is a day of reckoning for France’s union barons. Thousands of protesters are expected to take to the Paris streets again today, seeking to shame politicians into dumping already watered-down plans to reform labour laws. But all that noise may belie a more uncomfortable reality for Philippe Martinez, the union ringleader for the strike. He may have badly overreached.

The gruff, mustachioed boss of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) said the demonstrations would be “massive”. His reputation is on the line in what Le Journal du Dimanche has dubbed the “final round” of his battle with the government. The New York Times does a smart job of looking at the stand-off. The piece highlights the complex undercurrents in the French labour movement – notably a bloody succession battle to lead the CGT as its fortunes have waned – that are driving militant action in what is ironically “one of the least unionised countries in Europe”.

And here lies the danger for Mr Martinez. The CGT-led strikes have been a costly nuisance but the disruptions don’t seem quite as bad this week. The rubbish in Paris is finally being collected again. The government seems to be standing its ground (albeit to protect far weaker reforms). Public patience is wearing thin. And most importantly, attention has turned to the football – and France won its first game. If turnout is mediocre on Tuesday, what Mr Martinez described as a protest airplane “just taking off” in late May could appear to be running low on fuel.

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