This Week in Europe: Parliament suspensions, election preparations and more

, by Pascal Letendre-Hanns

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

This Week in Europe: Parliament suspensions, election preparations and more
Image by Samuel Mork Bednarz.

Members of the TNF team recount big events from Europe from the past week, and point attention to news that may have passed notice. What did we miss? Comment on our Facebook page at http://facebook.com/thenewfederalist.eu !

UK’s Liberal Democrats benefit from string of defections

The Liberal Democrats, the UK’s main pro-EU party currently polling third for a prospective general election, have benefited in recent weeks from a series of defections from ex-Conservative and ex-Labour MPs. The total number of defectors increased to six this weekend as a result of Sam Gyimah, a former Conservative MP expelled from the party for voting in favour of extending Article 50, was announced as the latest recruit at the Liberal Democrat party conference. The defections have significantly increased the party’s size in Westminster, up to 18 MPs (from an original total of 12). All this points to a sustained revival for the party that was decimated in the 2015 elections. In order to maintain their pro-European credentials and to put pressure on other parties (notably Labour), the Liberal Democrats recently announced that if they won a majority they would immediately revoke Article 50.

Spain increasingly likely to hold early elections

Just a few months after the last elections in April and it looks like Spain could be heading to the polls again as parties have failed to put together an agreement to form a government. Centre-left PSOE came first in the April elections but were still dozens of seats short of a majority. After the closest party to their right, Ciudadanos, emphatically ruled out any kind of cooperation, all attention turned to a possible alliance between PSOE and the left-wing Podemos. But while agreeing a policy programme should have been fairly straightforward, the two parties have been in deadlock over what form the government should take. While PSOE prefers a confidence and supply arrangement, Podemos have said they will only accept a coalition where they hold senior government posts. A total lack of trust between the party leaders has therefore made it impossible for the two sides to come to an agreement, meaning that no one in the Spanish Parliament has the support necessary to win an investiture vote. If this continues until the 23rd September, then Spain will automatically hold new elections on 10th November.

Italy softens stance on refugee boats

Marking a break with the hardline anti-immigrant politics of Matteo Salvini, whose party was recently ejected from the Italian government, the new administration in Rome decided to allow the Ocean Viking to come into port and unload 82 asylum seekers. Though this does not necessarily mean that Italy will be completely opening up its ports, it is certainly a more humane stance than the closed ports approach under the previous, short-lived government with far-right Lega. Efforts are being renewed, led by Paris, Berlin and Rome, to devise a new EU-wide system for the distribution of migrants coming into the EU, at least on a short-term basis. The change is seen as necessary to alleviate the burden for the states along the Southern border and to help fight the spread of right-wing populism in these areas.

Johnson suspends UK Parliament

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has controversially gone ahead with the suspension (prorogation) of the UK Parliament this week. Though the measure is often used to end a parliamentary session, opposition MPs have decried the fact that the suspension will last for five weeks - much longer than any recent precedent. The move has widely been seen as an attempt by Johnson to limit the opportunities for Parliament to get involved in the Brexit process and to prevent a No Deal Brexit on the 31st October. Many opposition MPs have condemned Johnson’s decision as an attack on the UK’s parliamentary democracy and a clear example of executive overreach. Judicial cases have been launched to determine whether this suspension was legal and will be heard in the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Poland’s Parliament also suspended

In slightly different circumstances, the Polish Parliament was also suspended this week. With an election scheduled for 13th October, this had already been expected but the concern among opposition politicians rested on the fact that the government chose merely to suspend rather than terminate the parliamentary session. This led to accusations that the government was going to attempt to push through extra laws at the last minute, turning the routine event into a matter of controversy. Though the governing PiS denies any such plans, the opposition emphasises the fact that this scenario is unprecedented in Poland’s modern democratic history.

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