The Brief – Authority lost

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Most pundits pin the loss of Theresa May’s authority to her losing her governing majority in June 2017. The two years since have gradually reduced her to a husk attracting derision or, worse, sympathy.

Mrs May appeared to get her mojo back on May Day, as she brutally sacked Defence minister Gavin Williamson for allegedly leaking the details of secret discussions from the UK’s National Security Council about the Chinese telecoms company Huawei to a journalist. Huawei has been awarded a contract to build part of the UK’s 5G network.

May’s letter firing Williamson effectively accuses him of lying to an internal inquiry.

Williamson’s previous gaffes include telling Vladimir Putin to “shut up and go away” and urging British ships to fire paintballs against Spanish counterparts off the coast of Gibraltar.

He was widely derided as a lightweight both at home and abroad – at the Munich Security summit in February, there was incredulity among the European press corps that he had been put in charge of the British armed forces.

Yet he thought himself unsackable, having run May’s campaign to succeed David Cameron in 2016 and he even harboured his own leadership ambitions.

In normal times a prime minister would be able to count on her MPs rallying round in support, especially when it comes to national security. But while the sacking reminded Brits that their prime minister is still capable of being decisive and even knocked Brexit off the front pages, the respite did not last long.

With Williamson loudly protesting his innocence and demanding a police investigation which he says will exonerate him, May has lost a key ally and gained a new Brexiteer foe on the backbenches.

At Thursday’s House of Commons debate into the affair – breaching the Official Secrets Act, as Williamson is accused of doing, is a criminal offence – a group of hard Brexit-supporting right-wingers lined up to complain that Williamson had been subjected to a ‘kangaroo court’.

In the meantime, May’s Conservatives have another election to lose. Her party is expected to lose around 800 of its local councillors in municipal elections on Thursday, although the absence of Brexit party candidates from the local polls means the Tories won’t take as bad a beating as they expect in the European elections in three weeks’ time.

Once lost, authority is almost impossible to recover.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

German politics has shown a professionally arrogant disregard for Emmanuel Macron’s reform ideas. Now the French president is retaliatin

‘Freedom gas’ is becoming the new catch-phrase as the US is set to open its LNG floodgates to Europe.

The EU is ready to counter potential US sanctions against European companies in Cuba, the bloc’s top diplomat said following Washington’s reactivation of parts of the legislation that would allow US citizens to file lawsuits against investors in the island.

Central Europe falls under the EU average of electric vehicle market penetration. But it doesn’t want to be left behind by the global trend, leaping into battery production and dreaming even bigger.

Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has said the European Parliament’s main centre-right group must forge an alliance with populist, nationalist groups after impending EU elections.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet the German and British leaders this month facing a raft of trans-Atlantic disputes, on a trip that will also affirm US interests in the Arctic.

Washington and Moscow traded warnings against interfering in Venezuela, a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Russia of stopping President Nicolás Maduro from leaving the country.

In an open letter, 600 European scientists and 300 indigenous groups are calling for the EU to insist on the respect for environmental and human rights standards in its current trade negotiations with Brazil.

YouTube has a systemic ‘bias towards keeping content up,’ although the video-sharing platform recently removed more than one million channels for violation of its policies as part of the EU’s code of practice against disinformation.

Look out for…

Spitzenkandidaten debate No. 2 takes place tonight at 6pm in Florence, Italy, featuring four of the lead candidates with EPP’s Manfred Weber making an appearance this time after his no-show in the first one.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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