“Now it’s our turn!” So said Geert Wilders (above), leader of the far-right PVV party in the Netherlands, after the UK electorate voted in last week’s referendum to leave the EU.
In practice, there is next to no chance of a Dutch referendum on EU membership — certainly not under Dutch law as it stands. However, to say this is not to underestimate the serious political challenges that lie ahead in the Netherlands. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
All good dramas involve the suspension of disbelief. So it was with Brexit. I went to bed at 4am on Friday depressed that Britain had voted to leave the EU. The following day my gloom only deepened. But then, belatedly, I realised that I have seen this film before. I know how it ends. And it does not end with the UK leaving Europe.
Just a few months ago the idea that Britons would vote to leave the EU seemed implausible. But to the shock of the world, that’s what they just did. A short while back the idea of Donald Trump as president seemed equally inconceivable. Does the Brexit vote tell us we should now upgrade the odds of him winning? Read more
By Gideon Rachman
David Cameron should hurry up and hold that referendum on British membership of the EU. If the UK prime minister does not get a move on, there might not be an EU left to leave.
By Gideon Rachman
When the House of Commons set out to debate military intervention in the Middle East this week, the technical issue at stake was whether the UK should extend its bombing of Isis from Iraq into Syria.
Cameron’s message to the European Union
David Cameron has set out his demands for a new relationship with the European Union ahead of a referendum on Britain’s membership. Gideon Rachman discusses how the UK prime minister’s message is being received at home and in the rest of Europe with George Parker and Alex Barker
Britain has long built its foreign policy around a special relationship with the US. The coming week will witness an attempt by the UK government to build another special relationship — this time with the People’s Republic of China. The government of David Cameron will be straining every sinew to honour President Xi Jinping, during his five-day state visit to the UK. The Chinese leader will be the guest of honour at a banquet at Buckingham Palace, he will give a speech at Westminster, he will spend time with the prime minister at Chequers and will travel to Manchester with the chancellor of the exchequer.
President Xi’s visit has been meticulously planned to provide images that will play well in China. But all this pomp could well be disrupted by some unplanned circumstances. The US Navy has let it be known that, over the next few days, it intends to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing has been bolstering these claims in recent months, by “land reclamation” exercises that have created artificial islands — some of which now host airstrips. The Americas are expected to sail within 12 miles of these new islands — to make the point that they do not accept that China has established new territorial waters in the Pacific Ocean. Read more
I was at the Greek archaeological site of Delphi last weekend, attending a conference on Europe’s future, when the news arrived that Jeremy Corbyn, a 66-year-old leftwinger, had been elected as leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party. I climbed up the hill and asked the Oracle for some predictions.
TB: Oh, Oracle, will the world see Corbyn’s triumph as irrelevant? After all, Labour’s never going to win a general election under him, so he will never be prime minister.
ORACLE: Not irrelevant, my friend, but illustrative. The world will see Corbyn’s success as one more that Britain, like a snail, is retreating from the international stage and withdrawing into itself. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
David Cameron’s acknowledgement that he was not greeted with a “wall of love” at last week’s EU summit demonstrated a flair for languid British understatement. In reality, the prime minister’s long-anticipated demand for a renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU has been met with a mixture of anger and incomprehension.
In a couple of hours time, I will be setting down at Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea play Crystal Palace and – I hope – secure the victory that will make them Premier League champions. The morning’s newspapers are full of previews of the game, as well as stories about the UK election and the continuing surge of the Scottish National Party. Reading them, I have begun to discern a connection between Scottish nationalism and English football. Here’s why. Read more
Ed Miliband outlines his foreign policy plans at Chatham House in London
If Ed Miliband becomes Britain’s prime minister next month what will this mean for the country’s foreign policy? The question is one that the UK’s allies should start considering because the prospect of him winning power is growing. Betting companies believe there is now a greater chance of Mr Miliband entering Number 10 after the May 7 election than of David Cameron returning to office.
EU officials have come under renewed pressure to take action against flotillas of migrants from Africa following the deaths of more than 1,000 people during attempted Mediterranean crossings over the past week alone.
A massive search and rescue operation remains underway to find survivors among the wreckage of a ship thought to be loaded with more than 800 migrants which capsized over the weekend off the coast of Libya, potentially representing the worst maritime disaster of its type in the Med. Only 27 of those on board have been rescued.
The migrant deaths have shone a spotlight on Libya’s lucrative people smuggling industry. While the human cargo consists mainly of young men from Africa and the Middle East, more than 900 children also embarked on the dangerous crossing in the first three months of 2015.
In the aftermath of Libya’s bloody civil war, business is booming for the people traffickers. These figures illustrate why. Read more
Three weeks to go until the UK general election, and whatever the result – most likely no party with an overall majority in parliament – the remarkable thing is the serious underperformance of the ruling Conservatives.
The Conservatives inherited a nascent economic recovery in 2010 from a desperately unpopular Labour government that had been in power for thirteen years, and, despite questionable economic policies such as excessive austerity, narrowly managed not to screw it up.
But instead of building on their modest 36.1 per cent vote share in 2010, which forced them to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, polls now show the Tories struggling to break above 35 per cent. Read more
In his Budget speech to parliament on Wednesday, the UK chancellor George Osborne indulged in the traditional needling of his opponents on the opposite bench. Whether it was a dig at Ed Miliband, Labour leader, for his two kitchens, or at the party’s recent electioneering in a “women-friendly” pink van, his jokes at the opposition’s expense met with the usual roars of raucous approval from his own benches.
But the second biggest target of his needling was rather more surprising – our friends across the Channel. Read more