The Brief – Theresa the survivor

The Brief is EURACTIV's daily evening newsletter.

‘Better to be lucky than good’ is one of the truisms in politics, even if the line itself came from the mouth of a baseball player with the New York Yankees.

If Theresa May doesn’t appear to have had much luck from ‘lady luck’, she does at least have the second most important skill in spades: she is a survivor, clinging to office, limpet-like, even if it is far from clear what, if anything, she wants to do as prime minister.

The House of Lords tacked on 15 amendments to her government’s EU withdrawal bill in April. May and her ministers then spent weeks working out what to do about it, mindful of the fact that, without a parliamentary majority, they probably didn’t have the votes to unpick all of the Lords’ handy-work.

Instead, today and tomorrow, MPs will attempt to follow the lead of ministers and fudge it.

One amendment – guaranteeing that environmental standards will not be lowered after Brexit – has been accepted by ministers. On some of the others, like dealing with the status of Charter of Fundamental Rights and EU social protection standards, the government knows that Conservative MPs won’t rebel.

But May’s weakness is actually her greatest asset. MPs who support a ‘soft Brexit’ don’t want to risk toppling May only to see her replaced with Boris Johnson or Michael Gove, both of whom might be more inclined to walk away from the Article 50 process and take the UK out of the EU without a deal.

That means that MPs won’t push the question of what to do about the customs union and single market membership to a vote. Like May and her ministers, they would rather kick the can. The matter will be dealt with, we are told, when the government’s trade bill hits Parliament. This is getting a bit like waiting for Godot.

The fight in Westminster on Tuesday evening will be, as ever, on language rather than substance, namely, whether MPs should have a ‘meaningful vote’ on any final Brexit deal, and what, exactly, is meant by ‘meaningful’.

That vote will take place shortly after this missive is published. It is not a sure thing that May will win it. On Tuesday morning (12 June), a Remain-supporting junior minister, Phillip Lee, resigned to support the amendment and dropped strong hints that he would campaign for a second referendum on the final Brexit deal.

The irony, amid all this parliamentary theatre and barrack-room lawyering, is that the Leave campaign’s successful slogan was ‘Take back control’. Whereas this government doesn’t want to take back control, it’s too busy surviving.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

It may have been an accidental product of a crazy approach, but it finally happened: The first ever handshake between a US President and a North Korean leader. During the meeting, North Korea’s Kim agreed to complete denuclearisation in return for security guarantees from Trump. However, some of the pleasantries exchanged were a bit far-fetched.

After the turbulent G7 meeting, the EU’s unity is fragile as member states are struggling for cohesion on several topics.

Meanwhile, IMF chief Christine Lagarde attacks President Trump’s “America First” trade policy, warning that the global economic outlook is darkening by the day.

Hundreds of European officials were stranded for hours in the middle of Belgian nowhere when an electrical fault halted their train en route to Strasbourg. Some ranted about the monthly “mad trip” and felt reassured in their single-seat demand, others were just very relieved when it was over.

As Brexit will have a considerable impact on the regional economies and port cities like Belgian Zeebrugge could be particularly affected, local lawmakers warn that we are sleepwalking into a possible economic catastrophe.

Germany and France voiced cautious optimism that Russia and Ukraine will take steps to revive the long-stalled peace process in the still smouldering Ukraine war that has claimed 10,000 lives.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz gave prominence to interesting issues during his recent visit to Jerusalem and emphasised the security needs of the Israelis.

Businesses and NGOs made a joint plea for higher EU ambition on climate change. Meanwhile, a sovereignty row holds back the EU’s new energy regulator.

Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia inaugurated a key section of Europe’s long-delayed Southern Gas Corridor, a dig on Russian projects in the region.

Civil Liberties MEPs want to see the EU-US Privacy Shield suspended unless the Trump administration introduces data protection safeguards by September.

The 2018 World Cup kicks-off this week. Just for kicks, economists applied economic theory to predict the winner – but in a rather unusual way. But what if the EU had a political soccer team? Take a look at this very original selection for the EU‘s defence.

Look out for…

It’s halftime for the last Strasbourg Plenary week before the summer break.  Look out for a debate on the EMU package and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte making an appearance to debate the future of Europe.

Views are the author’s

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