This has been a tricky week for EU trade policy. Up until last Friday, EU governments were largely expected to unanimously give their final greenlight in this week’s Council meeting for the signing and provisional implementation of CETA. However, this week the minister president of Belgium’s Wallonia Region Paul Magnette de facto ordered the Belgian federal government to vote against the deal. The Canadians have just walked out of attempts to patch up an agreement in time for the 28th October formal signing at the EU-Canada summit. Clearly the ability of little Wallonia to halt the ratification of the EU’s flagship FTA in 2016 is an issue. The question will be how to resolve it.
In his time, Pravin Gordhan has played many roles: pharmacist; anti-apartheid activist; prisoner; chief taxman; and finance minister not once, but twice. In South Africa’s current political morality play, he is cast as the martyr – fending off what many see as politically motivated accusations of fraud from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prevent him exposing unsavoury dealings between President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family. What happens next will almost certainly have big consequences for the ANC and South Africa.
When British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed her Conservative Party conference earlier this month she railed against the side-effects of super-low interest rates and bemoaned the cost to savers. She promised to fix the problem “because that’s what a Conservative Government can do” raising concerns about whether a government that says it is “prepared to intervene” might be about to squeeze the independence of the Bank of England. That is most likely not the message she intended to send. Somewhat ironically, however, her market moving speech, and the economic fall-out from the Brexit vote, may help to produce the conditions that allows interest rates to rise.
The German federal election is less than a year away and strategists in the two large coalition parties are both preparing to answer the same question: how to change the subject from migration. This week hinted at the likely answer, and it is not a particularly novel one: money.
Immigration is the simmering political issue at the heart of Brexit. Much of the debate has focused on how far the UK can reclaim control of EU migration into the UK, while retaining some form of participation in, or preferential access to, the single market. But what if we assume that full migration policy is back in the hands of the UK government. How does it meet the palpable public expectation it has created?
Like many divorces, Brexit is going to be a custody battle of sorts. UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox has warned (via his preferred UK newspapers) his EU counterparts that attempts to prevent the UK inheriting a large number of FTAs signed on the UK’s behalf by the EU could be met with retaliation by those EU trading partners. This is, in essence, the question of who gets custody of the EU’s FTAs after Brexit.
ASEAN policymakers have always watched their European counterparts closely – both for good and bad examples. The European Commission’s landmark decision last month instructing Ireland to claw back €13 billion of unpaid corporate tax from Apple is no exception.
In a week when a UK university, Oxford, was crowned the best in the world, it’s worth reminding ourselves that Brexit gives the British higher education sector a lot to chew on. The potential loss of research funding and restricted access to top EU talent are headline concerns, but here’s a different question: what happens once EU students become classified as ‘international’? Does the changing fee dynamic mean feast or famine for UK universities?
As Whitehall limbers up for the UK’s exit negotiations from the European Union by establishing new departments and recruiting new staff, it will be some time before the government reaches its full capacity for managing the negotiations. Before this point, however, fundamental decisions will need to be taken about the direction of the negotiations, such as whether to continue participating in the EU’s single market and the likely direction of the UK’s new immigration policy. In this period, economic sectors face a competition for advocacy to influence the limited capacity of Whitehall. Much of the focus has so far been on the sectors perceived to be most exposed to exiting the EU such as banks and automotives. As delegates meet tomorrow for the Royal Television Society conference, the interests of the audio-visual sector will be at the fore.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox slipped out an important change in policy earlier this month when he told Conservative MPs that from now on the government would give the same weight to supporting outward investment as it does to inward investment. His concern is the deterioration in the current account. Inward investment may bring jobs, but foreign companies want a return on their investment which, according to Fox, is a problem, unless there is a matching flow coming in the opposite direction. Leaving aside questions about the economic rationale for the policy change, does the data suggest the government’s concerns are justified in the first place?