The Brief: The Hof plots a hitjob on Pittella

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Guy “the Hof” Verhofstadt has entered the fray to become the next European Parliament president.

We’re not saying he made this decision because The Brief demanded he club the Grand Coalition to gory mulch by defeating his rivals Antonio Tajani and Gianni Pittella.

But it is a stone cold fact that we did say that and now Guy has tooled up and is ready to rumble. How’s that for thought leadership?

What we do know is that the Hof is targeting Pittella for a knockout in the 17 January vote.

The verbose Italian leader of the Socialists and Democrats has been sounding off about ending the Grand Coalition.

The Coalition is that mucky pact where the S&D and European People’s Party groups pre-cook deals on EU rules before force-feeding MEPs consensus like they were foie gras geese.

Pittella says those days are over, that they were bad for democracy, and hopes everyone will forget he was up to his elbows in it.

Does the Hofster actually stand any chance of winning? Well, not unless he can survive each of the voting rounds until it is just him facing off against Tajani.

Then he could get the support of the Greens and the GUE/NGL and the S&D.

It’s a long shot because Tajani is the man to beat. Sources believe that the majority of ALDE MEPs are more likely to back Tajani than Pittella if the Hof crashes out.

Pittella has been identified as the weak link in Guy’s assault on the top job.

Expect fireworks next week when the Incredible Hof will begin a studied crucifixion of the Italian socialist and his past record.

Finally, some good, honest, dirty, adversarial politics. It’s almost like a proper parliament.


Britain has the world’s top economy, reports The Times. A leading Bank of England economist has admitted that gloomy predictions of economic downturn after the Brexit vote were a “Michael Fish” moment. Weatherman Fish famously told viewers in 1987 there was no danger of a hurricane hitting Britain.The hurricane duly arrived.

But recently retired Commission veteran Jonathan Faull has said that the UK will not be able to buy access to the single market.  He told the BBC it is “not something that’s on sale”.

Lib Dem Vince Cable, former UK business secretary, appears to have turned his coat on free movement.

Theresa May, branded Theresa Maybe in this week’s Economist, will be the first EU leader to visit Donald Trump.

Trump bugbear China is meanwhile cementing its global dominance of renewable energy. Diesel cars are ten times more toxic than trucks and buses, new data has shown.

Brussels remains one of the world’s lobbying capitals and, contrary to popular wisdom, the social situation in Europe is improving.

Almost two thirds of people in France, Germany, Britain and the US think the world is coming closer to all-out war.

Italy is toughening up on migration, so is Austria, and Frontex has released new figures for 2016.

Luxembourg’s tax treatment of French utility Engie is under investigation by the European Commission.

Make time to read this interview with a former editor of Hungarian newspaper Népszabadság, which was closed down in October 2016 in an Orbán government crackdown.


Günther Oettinger will be grilled by no fewer than three European Parliament committees on Monday evening from 6.30pm. Here’s a flavour of what he will say. The livestream is here. Oettinger is up for promotion to budget and human resources chief but he can expect a rough ride after the Oettigate and Oettiair scandals.

Views are the author’s. 


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