During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the UK yesterday, he and Theresa May were asked about the fate of Hitachi’s Horizon nuclear plant at Wylfa in Wales. Abe’s response, that they did not discuss it, did nothing to reduce anxiety about the multi-billion-pound project. Overnight, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported that Hitachi has decided to freeze the project. In response, Hitachi’s share price rose by 6%. Despite Hitachi’s denials, the project appears to be on the brink of collapsing, with neither the Japanese nor the British able to find a combination of investors and government support to finance the costs.
Sovereignty is a tricky word. It’s misused or abused almost as often as it’s used – and it’s been used far more since the UK’s EU referendum date was set almost three years ago. Despite its nebulous character, it gets at the heart of something every human cares about: Who governs me? Who represents me? Who is in control?
EUROPE: Global Counsel Practice Lead Elizabeth Beall is joined by Member for European Parliament Seb Dance to discuss circular economy policy.
Romania’s presidency of the EU Council - formally launching this week - has already received a dose of high-profile scepticism both in Brussels and Bucharest. Politicians ranging from president Juncker to president Iohannis expressed doubts about Romania’s preparedness for its first ever stint at the helm of the EU, 12 years after its accession. In fairness, it will not be a routine rotation as the next six months will signify a turbulent and eventful period for the European Union.
At the end of each year, the Global Counsel team has a tradition of sharing among ourselves a selection of our favourite articles (or podcasts) from the past year. Last year, we decided to risk sharing the tradition. The response was positive enough to encourage us to do so again.
Last week the US announced it will oppose a further increase in IMF quotas, because the Trump administration believes the fund has ample resources already and countries have adequate alternatives to draw on if they get into difficulty.
The immigration debate in the UK has traditionally focused on the lower end of the labour market. The movement of large numbers of workers from across Europe and from further afield to take up roles in the UK economy captures attention from the media and the public. But the announcement that the Home Office is suspending the less familiar Tier 1 (Investor) immigration route until further notice shows it isn’t just baristas, farmhands or electricians who could be affected by a post-Brexit clampdown.
I have just spent an interesting week in Madrid talking with people from every part of the political spectrum. There was a lot of talk of Spain flexing its muscles more in Europe. In the background to these conversations, Spain was pushing hard for – and got – concessions from the UK over Gibraltar that prompted Pedro Sánchez to trail the prospect of co-sovereignty for the territory. Everyone notes that Spanish MEPs will have a uniquely strong presence across all of the main pan-European political groupings after June. The Ciudadanos centrists in particular anticipate playing a pivotal role as a broker between the ALDE and Macron’s En Marche. People point out that Spain remains exceptional in not having any significant Eurosceptic political party and some of the highest levels of pro-Europeanism in the EU. These are firm signs of a potential end to long relative marginalisation that followed the 2012 rescue package. But there are also some tests ahead for Spain.
We’re a few days away from the start of the annual climate negotiations – or Conference of the Parties (COP) – this year happening in Katowice, Poland. It is already being hailed as Paris 2.0 or the COP that puts the agreement found in Paris into action with associated rules and procedures. With Ireland on the verge of becoming the first country to require its Strategic Investment Fund to divest from fossil fuels, the EU committing to net zero emissions by 2050, and the Greens surging in Germany, it would appear that there is a growing trend of climate action and general agreement. But the UN emissions gap report issued yesterday and the IPCC report of a month ago paint a different story about how many of the countries thought to be leading on climate, are nowhere near achieving their Paris agreement pledges or the measures that it will take to keep warming to 2 degrees. So, is Paris burning with the stage set for a return for pre-Paris deadlock? Four things to watch next week.
EUROPE: Global Counsel Practice Lead Thomas Gratowski discusses with Sir Peter Torry, former UK Ambassador to Germany, the future of the CDU leadership after Merkel steps down in December and what it might mean for her chancellorship until 2021.