Over There

Well the leaders of Britain and France will both be addressing their nations tonight over crisis situations developing in their countries.

May, of course, will be talking about Brexit and her stunning inability to get her plan through Parliament. It’s not just that the numbers are bad, it’s that they’re getting worse with each passing day.

May’s proposal is to postpone the vote less than 90 days from the deadline (it was promised in October) and return to negotiations with the EU which has already said on numerous occasions that this is their final offer.

What’s really happening is she’s clinging to power for a few days at most and praying for a miracle. This is unlikely to happen and the probability is that she’ll either be replaced by the Tories as Party Leader or forced to call a General Election she will surely lose.

In France Emmanuel Macron is facing the 4th or 5th week of Gilets Jaunes protests with violence this weekend extending from Paris to Bordeaux to Belgium and Police used Tear Gas and Rubber Bullets to control the crowds. The Gilets Jaunes movement has 70% support in the latest polls.

Macron’s popularity is hovering around 20% and he’ll likely announce the scrapping of the Gas and Fuel Oil taxes that precipitated the protests but they’re not the only issues. Changes to Labor Protections and Work Rules are also focuses of anger as well as disgust with rising Social Inequality (nothing like we have in the U.S. however).

Macron will stay, he’s not subject to a Vote of Confidence. May will surely go. Here are some overviews of the current situation.

Brexit vote: the prime minister is on the run
The Guardian
Mon 10 Dec 2018

Theresa May decided to pull the parliamentary vote on her Brexit withdrawal agreement because she knew she would lose. She has been humiliated by her own MPs. It is staggering that this defeat only became obvious to her after it had been clear to everyone else for weeks. In the end, she chose to run rather than stand and fight for what she had agreed with European leaders. Mrs May is not saving her leadership, she is devaluing it to the point of worthlessness. The prime minister has no one to blame but herself for this mess. In the last two years the government has devoted itself to leaving the European Union in a manner consistent with Mrs May’s obsessions – primarily controlling immigration. Her resulting withdrawal agreement has been rubbished by her own unruly troops. They will not be easily instructed to march in a different direction.

The prime minister is trying to buy herself time by getting Brussels to accept some tweaks in her Brexit deal over the Northern Ireland backstop as a means of persuading some doubters to vote for it. These will be cosmetic, as EU leaders say there can be no further renegotiation of the terms of the UK’s departure.

The threats to Mrs May are multiplying. In parliament, the prime minister foreshadowed a constitutional trial of strength in a furious exchange with the Commons speaker, John Bercow. Mr Bercow rightly called for MPs to be allowed to vote on postponing the Brexit debate. In rejecting this, the prime minister continues to treat parliament with contempt.

Crises of this nature are only resolved in line with a Commons majority. Mrs May’s actions invite MPs across parties to coordinate with one another so they make the conduct of the government impossible unless ministers bow to their will. It is important to note that Mrs May’s deal, even in its refined form, will garner less support in the Commons than either another referendum, in which the risk of the option of a catastrophic “no deal” is endorsed by a weary public, or some variant of the Norway deal, in which we give up sovereignty for economic stability.

The prime minister wants to play for time, saying only that the vote on her deal, replete with reassurances, will be held by 21 January – the last possible date to do so. If dodging a defeat becomes the only way for Mrs May to survive, then the indications are that she will delay a vote until the last possible moment. This is playing politics with the nation’s stability. It ill behoves any prime minister to be so cavalier about such a serious issue.

Her decision to stay on is one based on her own self-interest and that of her party rather than the country. The prime minister is now a diminished figure, with her authority draining away on the most important issue facing Britain. It is galling to hear her claim that the 2016 referendum vote was a cry for help from left-behind Britain when it was Tory austerity that hollowed out deprived regions. Since then, Brexit has immobilised the government, leaving it unable to deal with these problems.

Mrs May might claim that she lives to fight another day. But given that the leadership is on the run from the hard Brexiters, she lives on only as a political zombie. Ensnared by her own convictions, she has resorted to dilatory tactics because she has belatedly realised the full weight of their burden. When, at last, she has been forced to recognise this, she found herself alone and politically friendless in a party that prefers accommodation of its prejudices to political calculation – let alone what is best for this country.

Tear Gas Still Lingering, France’s President Will Address the Nation
By Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times
Dec. 9, 2018

With the smell of tear gas and smoke still lingering in Paris and other cities after a fourth weekend of protests, France’s president planned a nationwide address on Monday to respond to the anger among many middle-class and working-poor citizens frustrated over their declining economic means.

The televised speech by President Emmanuel Macron, announced by the Élysée Palace on Sunday, will be his first substantive public answer to the so-called Yellow Vest movement that has transfixed France and spilled into other countries in Europe.

Mr. Macron has been conferring with advisers and ministers and will meet with a wider group on Monday, including local elected officials, members of Parliament and union representatives, to discuss proposals aimed at addressing at least some of the movement’s demands.

“Clearly we have underestimated the need of our fellow citizens to speak up about the difficulties they face and to be involved in the formulation of solutions,” Benjamin Griveaux, a government spokesman, said in an interview Sunday on Europe 1 Radio.

“The solutions that we need to find must take into consideration each person’s reality — it’s almost like tailored to fit,” he said. “The anger that is being expressed is sometimes very different from one area to another.”

The Yellow Vests take their name from the fluorescent hazard vests adopted by the protesters as a sign of their economic distress.

With fires lit by protesters still smoldering in some of France’s largest cities on Sunday, local officials and small businesses voiced their dismay over the vandalism and lost business during the usually busy Christmas season.

Although the authorities released numbers suggesting that the protests on Saturday were smaller than those on earlier weekends, the final total showed that there was no difference between those on Saturday and those a week earlier, suggesting they were not abating.

The mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, who has been generally supportive of Mr. Macron, summed up the messages he hoped the president would send on Monday as he walked through his city. Fires burned there for several hours on Saturday as violent confrontations between the police and the Yellow Vests punctuated the protests.

Mr. Macron needs to “speak to the French people and speak quickly,” said Mr. Juppé. The president, he said, needs “to respond concretely to certain legitimate expectations” with “understanding, empathy.”

This past weekend’s violence was notable both for its spread to a couple of neighborhoods of Paris that had been less affected in past weeks and by unprecedented violence in Bordeaux, where protesters and casseurs set multiple street fires and besieged one of its oldest shopping streets.

If the Yellow Vests movement’s ability to bring business to a halt appears unchanged, so does its standing with the public nationwide. Although relatively small numbers of people go into the streets — France has a population of 67 million and the most that have turned out to protest is less than 300,000 — support for their grievances remains at about 70 percent, despite the violence and destruction of property, according to several different polls.

The movement’s persistence suggests that despite the government’s announcement that it would drop a planned increase in the fuel tax in 2019 and delay an increase in the cost of home heating until after the winter, the protesters and those who support them may not be appeased without a deeper look at the distribution of wealth in France.

The main difference between the protests this weekend and those on the last one was an increase in the police presence and a more aggressive strategy by the authorities. That meant there were many more arrests, some even before the demonstrations began. Nearly 2,000 people were taken into custody nationwide, almost three times as many as on Dec. 1, when 682 were arrested.

The numbers of injured this past Saturday were fewer than on Dec. 1. A total of 325 people were hurt, including police officers, compared with a total of 485 the preceding week, according to revised figures from the Interior Ministry.