EU

Hungary to be stripped of its EU voting rights?

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The EU is voting to strip Hungary of its EU voting rights for consistent failure to heed their values, including migrant quotas. Last year an apathetic turnout to a referendum held on the subject said 98.4% of Hungarians were against forced migrant quotas. Putting to one side the altruism of the EU, trying to force a member state to tow the line is absurd, not so much for the country but the migrants.

Let’s not forget this is the EU making up for Merkel’s single-handed poorly executed thought bubble in the first place. She put forward a come one come all rhetoric on her own.

In a sense the EU can rant on all it likes about humanitarism (although 80% are economic refugees (i.e. not fleeing war zones) according to figures by Eurostat) but forcing asylum seekers into a country that doesn’t want them doesn’t seem optimal. We can snigger at Hungary and call them bigoted, racist or worse but the fact of the  matter is migrants on the whole won’t be welcome.

The EU forcing unwanted guests to a Hungarian dinner table has obvious consequences. The embittered host is likely to ruin the goulash and spoil the palatschinke in an attempt to get the visitors to leave.  Many are unaware the third largest political party in Hungary is Jobbik (won 21% of seats in the 2014 election) which has all the hallmarks of Roehm’s SA, right down to the uniforms. Jobbik has a record of roughing up Jews, Gypsies and Roma so before Brussels tells Budapest it must accept migrant quotas perhaps an assessment of the reality would be wise. Jobbik is left to do its ruffian business and Hungarian authorities turn a blind eye. That is the bigger issue at sort before imposing quotas.

Surely if refugees were asked Hungary is the last place they want to go after leaving their homeland. Refugees aren’t cattle but the EU is treating them so. Aren’t they surprised when the majority seek Germany as the end destination because of the relative generosity? Do the EU authorities think these migrants don’t have excellent internal information networks? Of course they do.

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To rachet this down a notch what are EU values anyway? The Brits are leaving because they don’t agree with EU values. The Greeks are being trodden on for refusing to accept EU austerity values. The Austrians were threatened with sanctions and punishment if they democratically voted in a right wing president. Are these worthy values? The Swiss handed back a 30 year free pass to join the EU presumably because they didn’t believe in EU values. The list goes on.

Sometimes it is had not to think of the EU as the Gallactic Senate from Star Wars trying to get aliens from different galaxies to agree on everything.

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We all know how unwelcome visitors are treated in the Star Wars Bar when different backgrounds and cultures literally don’t see eye to eye. The EU would do well to respect the diversity of its members, which includes diversity of thought and culture. It is not to say the EU doesn’t have a point from time to time they are dreadful executors of it.

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Norwegians want a referendum on leaving the EEA & warn Brits not to become like them

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It seems more in Norway are wanting to have a referendum on the European Economic Area Access (EEA). The claims is that their costs have risen 10-fold since signing the EEA 25-years ago. Norway, while not a member of the EU, still pays around £650 million to Brussels to fund the EEA administration and other EU research projects. Two recent opinion polls conducted by Sentio reveals there is a strong majority wanting to have a say on the EEA agreement: 47% are in favour of a referendum on Norway leaving the EEA, with only 20% rejecting such a referendum. 70% of Norwegians do not want to enter the EU and the Labour Party has recently removed it as a policy platform.

Norwegian businesses had duty free access on all exports to the EU before the EEA was signed and this FTA would still apply if the EEA agreement were terminated. Ironically Norway used to export more to the EU as a percentage of total before the EEA than after it meaning that the supposed benefits of the club have not led to bigger trading opportunities within the block.

So to Brexit – Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party, sounded a warning before the UK referendum about following a Norway style deal, stating that “you’ll hate it…that type of connection is going to be difficult for Britain, because then Brussels will decide without the Brits being able to participate in the decision-making.”

Austria to go to an early election after OVP falls out with SPO?

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It seems the coalition of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OVP) and the Social Democrats (SPO) has reached breaking point. Austrian Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner (above) announced Wednesday he would quit the post and also resign as leader. Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz is viewed as the most likely successor to Mitterlehner but he said on Tuesday that the ÖVP leadership was not an appealing option when the OVP was in such disarray. The discussion is whether they stay with the Social Democrats or split and seek an early election. The next scheduled election is to be held in September 2018. Der Standard published a poll on March 20 showing the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) on 30%, the SPO on 29%, and the SPO’s coalition partner, the OVP, on 20%.

While Socialist/Green Alexander van der Bellen took the recontested Austrian Presidency  this year over FPO candidate Norbert Hofer, his recent comments have raised eyebrows suggesting Austrian women wear the hijab as a way of integrating with their new neighbours. In any event we could potentially have another election in Europe where the  market must weigh up the risk of yet another shift toward the right,

Bon chance! Macron aims to hollow out The City (of London)

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According to the French Consulate in London, there are around 400,000 French nationals living in Great Britain. ONS reports that there are 157,000 Brits living in France. A fair assessment would be because the working opportunities in the UK are more abundant than those in France. Indeed London is the 6th largest French city. Bigger than Nantes, Bordeaux or Strasbourg. London has always been the financial hub of Europe and Macron is promising to shift that to Paris. There are plenty of reasons why that won’t happen.

First, the latest survey on financial sector relevance puts London at #1. Financial sector relevance really revolves around one crucial thing – liquidity and sensible regulation that isn’t overly onerous.

President-elect Macron is discussing the idea of stealing up to 20,000 brains from London into Paris. The surest fire way to ensure that won’t happen is that the UK can easily nip this in the bud. If the EU looks to slap certain financial restrictions on banks that don’t comply then they’ll happily conduct business in places where they can. Macron should know that ‘liquidity attracts liquidity’. Put in roadblocks that inhibit it and capital will seek freer climes to operate in. UK can cover that put option simply and easily. Nothing tickles a banker’s appetite more than the ability to operate in a less restrictive environment. There is no reason a multinational company listed in Frankfurt would try to raise capital in Europe if the UK was half the cost. Goldman Sachs employs some of the best legal brains to get around any problem.

Money is more global than ever. Singapore is a good example of that. More and more robots are trading currencies, equities and commodities. ETFs abound. The financial services industry is shrinking in absolute number of employed. By way of example the number of registered securities professionals in Japan has more than halved in a decade.  So Macron can make all the half-baked knee jerk promises he likes but social media has a way of making everyone remember when it suits least.

I’m betting on Britain. National currency, national central bank and soon to be fully flexible policy setting. Speaking of currencies. Did you know that none of the bridges depicted on euro notes actually exist? They decided against on the basis that certain nations might get rubbed the wrong way if say Germany was on the 500 euro note and Rome was on the 5 euro note…that ought to tell us something.

Bon chance mon ami!

Macron has boarded a modern day Titanic but Le Pen has stolen over a third of the life boats

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The Titanic was most infamous for being an unsinkable ship. We all know the tragedy of its maiden voyage. Folklore tells us that to calm the passengers, the band played as the ship went down. The cautionary tale is one that fits the EU almost too perfectly. Macron’s win is akin to the EU playing the band (well Macron did play the EU anthem for his victory speech rather than La Marseillaise) all the while the Hard Brexit iceberg has ripped a huge hole below the waterline of SS Titanic II. The problem is the EU continues to behave as if the SS Titanic II is indeed unsinkable. Le Pen’s loss is much like believing the water tight compartments will keep the ship afloat. They couldn’t be more wrong as chief designer Thomas Andrews told White Star Line boss J. Bruce Ismay – who protested she was unsinkable- “She’s made of iron, sir! I assure you, she can… and she will. It is a mathematical certainty.”

The SS Titanic II’s crew treats its customers with varying levels of service. It entertains Lady Merkel and Lord Macron in proper first class fashion but for steerage passengers like the Greeks, Spanish and Portuguese they are kept locked below deck. The Greeks were willingly given passage on the SS Titanic II in full knowledge they possessed forged promissory notes as they boarded. The belief was that when they landed on the other side of the Atlantic they’d be able to work it off. Sadly the crew has finally realized it is futile and are now demanding they hand over whatever they have left before handing out life jackets. Moreover they must promise if they’re let out of steerage they must stay chained to the Master at Arms.

In all seriousness the treatment of the Greeks is despicable beyond words. 36% of Greeks live below the poverty line. 58% youth unemployment. That means many can’t access affordable healthcare because it is generally provided by corporates and when you lose a job you lose the healthcare. This means many are forced to use A&E of major hospitals which are now overcrowded and understaffed as more doctors are leaving to seek better fortune for their services elsewhere.

If that wasn’t enough, mothers who had given birth were being restricted from taking their new-borns home if they couldn’t pay the fees. While the government has banned this practice they have introduced new laws to allow the seizure of assets (e.g. homes) if debts are not settled.

Naturally the EU wishes to keep control over the way Greece handles its economic affairs but using the nation’s defiance of autocratic rule from Brussels as a weapon against it shows how little the federal state truly cares for its members. Deeds, not words. It promised to punish steerage countries, Spain and Portugal, for breaching debt covenants. This is the real EU. It is a supranational. A federation through the back door.

The Brexit vote is without a doubt the most damaging iceberg for the EU. The gaping hole it exposes is far more serious than any perceived phyrric victory through Macron’s win.

The issue here is that if Hard Brexit (May is likely to get the majority she needs on June 8th to push for it) is shown to work for the UK (likely) and the idea of extortionate exit penalties are legally unenforceable (confirmed last week) then the risks of jumping ship are sharply lowered. The problem for the EU is that there won’t be enough life boats to save all the crewreaucrats when more member states realize self preservation is the only viable option.

Le Pen’s 1/3rd of the vote, Hofer’s 46% in Austria, Wilders’ 25% increase in seats in The Netherlands, the Sweden Democrats jump to the top of the polls, Italy’s ousting of Renzi, Brexit, the Swiss handing back a 30yr standing free ticket to join…these don’t look like promising trends for an EU which is already badly listing. Despite ample warnings the EU refused (and still refuses) to change its course or exercise due care.

Will Captain Juncker go down with his unsinkable ship or follow Seamen Martin Schulz off before it is too late?

Over 10.6 million Frogs want to jump out of the EU’s boiling pot

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While the media and the EU will no doubt be jumping for joy they’ll overlook the fact that over 1/3rd of the French who voted, or over 10.6 million, want to jump out of the EU’s boiling pot. Think about that number – over TEN POINT SIX MILLION.  Le Pen’s father only managed slightly better than 5mn or 17.8%. Macron won convincingly (Twitter follower growth ratio accurate again) although one can hardly call 1/3rd of a population backing a far-right nationalist something to celebrate.  It is a damning figure. Period.

The extent of the Le Pen gains should be viewed by the EU as a terrible omen. However many of the Brussels brigadiers have ignored it already as their tweets make painfully clear.

After losing 15 out of 15 referendums against it  the EU desperately needs reform. The Dutch election was still a strong win for Wilders and Rutte only saved seats by adopting a more anti-EU stance. The pro-EU Dutch leftists were slayed. The Swiss recently handed back their long standing invite to join the EU. The Austrians almost voted in the far right FPO and after Greens President van der Bellen recently said all women may be obliged to wear the hijab to show cultural sensitivity they may well think to do that next time. The right wing Sweden Democrats are well ahead in the polls looking to win the 2018 election. The Italians are on the way to vote in the eurosceptic M5S party as their referendum last year on parliamentary reform became a free kick to boot out the establishment. Hungary’s Orban has had enough of the EU’s directives on migrants. Greece is being forced to sell its assets in order to secure another bailout and submit to being a Brussels’ (Berlin?) protectorate despite the EU bending over backwards with the help of Goldman’s creative accountants to get the Greeks into the club. This will not end well as Greece has 37% poverty, 58% youth unemployment and a soaring suicide rate. Now almost 10.5mn French now think the EU is not working. Brexit anyone?

The problem with elections is that even though Macron will serve 5 years, over 1/3rd of his citizens are not happy with the state of terrorism, unemployment and the EU. If Macron doesn’t solve for these problems, Le Pen’s 2022 chances grow and she’s already calling for a radical overhaul of Front National.

The press was making Macron to be a tough negotiator on Brexit. Let’s not forget that the ranting Jean-Claude Juncker has had to be brought into line by Angela Merkel and Donald Tusk over his Brexit negotiations skills (or lack there of). EU lawyers have said the other day that the  €100bn Brexit bill has no legitimacy. The U.K. Local council elections should speak volumes of May’s mandate to pursue full strength hard Brexit.

Macron’s win buys the EU time. Nothing else. In fact the truest test of how petrified the EU truly is can be summed up like this. If they were supremely confident in their own legitimacy there would be no need for the constant self-reaffirmation and shouting from the roof tops about what a great place it is. If indeed it was so, democracy would endorse them every time. As it stands the self-praise would even make Barack Obama blush.

When the safety car shows off

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You have to wonder sometimes. The safety car should by rights be the one setting examples for the racers for cool heads and responsible conduct. At the Jerez Circuit, former Moto 500cc racer Uncini (who almost died in an horrific acccident with Wayne Gardner) wiped out the safety car between the races. This was so expected. I went to Motegi MotoGP race in 2014 and saw the pace car showboating and sure enough the driver spun into the gravel trap at corner 2. Perhaps the irony is that Uncini grew up in the uncontrollable and temperamental 2-stroke era which required nerves of steel. Although the BMW M5 comes with every conceivable driver aid along with the 570hp engine somehow switching the aids off resulted in a write off. Although perhaps a good metaphor for the EU – an aging Italian pilot driving a German car into  a Spanish crash barrier.