First through the blocks and out of Europe

First through the blocks and out of Europe

Tue 03 Apr

Next country to trigger Article 50 before 2023: 

Italy                   7/2

Austria                4/1

Netherlands         4/1

Poland                7/1

Belgium              8/1

France               17/2

Hungary              9/1

Sweden             10/1

Ireland              12/1

Portugal            16/1

Denmark           16/1

Greece              20/1

Bulgaria            25/1

Luxembourg      25/1

Spain                33/1

Malta                50/1

Romania           50/1

Slovakia            50/1

Estonia              50/1

Czech Rep.        50/1

Germany           66/1

Finland             66/1

Latvia               66/1

Lithuania           66/1

Slovenia            66/1

Croatia            100/1

Rep. Cyprus     125/1


Populism is the antidote to complacent liberals – people like me. It’s taken me almost two years to poke my head out of the echo chamber into which I’d retreated after June 2016. My type of liberal assumed that rational economic argument would triumph: my type of liberal scornfully dismissed all national pride as middle–England madness. The decision, still a disastrous one I believe, to leave the EU was a demonstration of Britain’s legitimate grievances. But since studying the Nuremberg trials as a schoolboy, I’ve always believed that never again would people’s legitimate grievances be harnessed against a minority of the harmless.

We talked to one another in the months after Brexit – probably over espresso, convinced that we always looked at the facts first, sought comfort in the unlikeliest and the vague = “the prime minister hasn’t a mandate”; “parliament won’t agree”.

It is going to happen though and we are likely to enjoy an economic renaissance that will keep us feeling rich well into the next decade as we assume our new place as money-launderer-in-chief to America’s corporations and billionaires. This has been our destiny since the arrival of petrodollars in London in the early 1970s. Brexit will make luxury financial services our raison d’être

My type of liberal is now almost silent – a new or perhaps a very old type of socialism, so pure that it has unelectable quality, is now the second violin. The recent revelations involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have confirmed what we all suspected – that democracy as we knew it, or how we thought it worked, is something very different indeed.

Recently I’ve been replaying a piece of my childhood: on Saturday mornings I would go with my father to shop. One of our ports of call was WH Smith’s where Dad would pick up his railway magazine and I would glance at the TV Times – there needed to be democracy in our family: one colour television, five children, two adults all with varying degrees of dependence on the “idiot’s lantern”. 

It was 1987 and I was eleven. I didn’t have a great understanding of politics but I knew who Margaret Thatcher was and I knew who Neil Kinnock was. I also knew who the two Davids were but didn’t really get where they slotted in. There was a word used frequently during the election campaigns: “manifesto”. As Dad paid for his magazines, I glanced down – there were two piles of equally sized but differently coloured documents – not magazines and not books. One was blue and one was red. They were manifestoes.

I think from that point on I understood how our system worked or ought to work. A few years later I studied 20th-century history and when I was 16, economics. I became realistic and accepted that dishonesty and politicking were part of the landscape. But deep down I have always believed in the manifesto – the planned policies of parties, matched with the fears and desires of the electorate. Then we vote.


7/2 represents an implied probability of 22.22% for Italy to be the first county after the United Kingdom to trigger article 50. In Italy Beppe Grillo of the Five Star Movement (M5S) boasts of no policies and a time in the near future when there will be no political parties. M5S is Italy’s biggest opposition party. Italy is the world’s ninth economy but has had the best part of seventy governments since 1945. She’s never really known stability. Now she’s looking at unemployment coupled with a migration crisis. M5S are Eurosceptic. Were I offering a price for Italy triggering article 50 before 2023 (not necessarily being the first country to do so) I would be offering 10/11 which represents 52.38%, in other words more likely than not.

Joint second favourites are Austria and the Netherlands, both at 4/1. Back in December, Philip Olterman wrote in the Guardian that Austria was “the only country in Europe with [a] far-right presence in [its] government”. We’re entitled to define "far-right" ourselves but – really? After all, Jacob Rees Mogg has a “presence in government”. Heinz-Christian Strache’s Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has a lineage that can be traced to 1956. Its first leader was Anton Reinthaller, a former SS officer. Against a backdrop of relative economic stability, pan-Germanic purity and Islamaphobia have become Austrian norms. Over in The Netherlands, Gerry Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom is still the only realistic opposition. Increasingly their rhetoric blames Brussels and the European utopian ideal for the Netherlands’ loss of “Dutchness”. The Farage Affect has already led to the banning of the burkha

7/1 and 9/1: Poland and Hungary have taken the same route as the UK – joining the club because it was better than the alternative. The UK voted to join in 1972 but by 1975 needed to vote again just to make sure. The poor men of Europe always had a pocket calculator in hand and only ever viewed membership in economic language –credits and debits. Poland and Hungary are now struggling to get comfortable with European judicial standards and immigration expectations.

France’s electoral system has since the 1980s painted a picture of Le Front National nearly getting power but so far jamais. France though, like Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain views membership as a statement of peace in Europe. France is 17/2 for this reason. But Marie Le Pen should be taken seriously by the liberals.

The Scandinavian lands all have serious fascist players and their prices reflect this – unlikely to want to leave but possible.

The liberal European dream is over until we rewrite our manifestoes. The West has descended into a misdirected battle of the haves and have nots. Until we rediscover economics, lose our obsession with cheap money the liberals will not be heard. It’s no longer enough for us to pursue lightweight versions of neo-classical economics. The markets will always fail us and the silent majority will always feel unheard. Whiter than white socialism will remain a dinner-party topic. The liberals will have no answers and the rest will have to back fascism/nationalism. A truly united Europe, a federal Europe was always the biggest threat to US dominance – not China. We must fall in love again, not with ideas about the past but with how our democracies ought to work.

Article by Long Shot

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