May asks for more time
The speculation around Theresa May’s Brexit strategy grew this week when her chief negotiator Olly Robinson was allegedly overheard in a bar in Brussels spilling the beans about her likely intentions. Downing Street tried to downplay the conversation by not commenting on “alleged remarks from a private conversation.” During his reported discussion Robinson said the prime minister will delay a vote until March, forcing MPs to either vote for her deal or for a lengthy extension of Article 50. Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, stated that an extension is not in the interest of the prime minister who is planning on leaving the EU as scheduled on the 29th of March.
During prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons May urged MPs to hold their nerve while she was trying to negotiate legal changes to the backstop. However, members of the vocal European Research Group (ERG) rebelled against the PM’s motion on Thursday which resulted in a non-binding yet damaging loss for No. 10. Theresa May now has until February 27th to make progress in her negotiations before MPs have the opportunity to potentially take control of the Brexit ship.
With a no-deal Brexit still on the table worried voices within the House of Commons are growing louder. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed that May was “playing for time and having no plan.” Labour MP Yvette Cooper with cross party support will put forward a revised amendment later in February which seeks to avoid a cliff edge exit. Her efforts, if successful, would give Theresa May until March 13th to present a viable plan or be bound to request an extension of Article 50.
Hungary introduces radical pro-creation policy
EPP enfant terrible, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, delivered his ‘State of the Nation’ this week and announced a radical procreation policy: Any woman who has four children or more will not have to pay income tax. Currently the Hungarian fertility rate rests at 1.45 children per woman, one of the lowest in the world and well below the roughly 2.1 needed to maintain a population. According to the UN, Hungary’s population is projected to decline 15 per cent by 2050.
Orbán, well known for his hardline anti-migration stance, said the policy stood in contrast to that of other countries that use immigration to combat their declining populations. Under this new plan, Hungarian women would have more babies: “Instead of just numbers, we want Hungarian children.”
He said that permitting migration resulted in “mixed population countries” in which Christians would eventually become a minority.
Orbán’s Fidesz party won a third consecutive electoral victory last year on an anti-migration platform. The Hungarian Prime Minister also used the platform as an opportunity to take aim at Brussels; “We must reject the Brussels bureaucrats representing their interests; and reject the fake civil society activists — fattened on their money — who want to tell us how to live and with whom, how to speak, and how to raise our children.”
Hungary has 21 seats in the European Parliament with Orbán’s Fidesz projected to win 13 in the 2019 elections.
Madrid calls fresh elections
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez today called for new elections to be held on April 28th. The minority government failed to get its budget passed after Catalan separatists (Ciudadanos) sided with the centre right opposition. The separatists had insisted on a continued dialogue over independence for the region in order to support the budget. However, these talks failed last week.
Following the defeat of the budget the Prime Minister came under pressure from both sides. His allies accused him of giving in to the demands of the separatists while they accused him of not doing enough.
Sánchez, who has only been in power since last June through a motion of no-confidence (in the then PP led government), is still leading in opinion polls. However a coalition between the Ciudadanos, the conservative People’s Party and a far right party Vox could also be a possibility should an election happen.
Spain now faces its third general election in just five years as the fourth largest economy in the Eurozone once again faces political uncertainty.
Agreement found on Copyright
After a difficult two and a half years of negotiations and a series of trilogues this week, the European Commission, European Parliament and the European Council have found a common agreement on this exhausting legislative journey. The provisional agreement was clinched after three days of last-round talks by MEPs, member states’ representatives and EU commission officials in Strasbourg. All that remains is for a majority of MEPs to now vote in favour of the directive in order for it to come into force. EU governments will also have to endorse the text.
Andrus Ansip, Commissioner for digital policy said “Europeans will finally have modern copyright rules fit for the digital age with real benefits for everyone: guaranteed rights for users, fair remuneration for creators, clarity of rules for platforms.”
The directive allows press publishers to negotiate compensation for having their content displayed on, for example, Google News. Negotiators agreed that hyperlinking “individual words or very short extracts” is excluded, out of fear that including it would hurt the internet ecosystem.
The reform also makes platforms such as Google’s YouTube liable for copyright-protected content and makes it mandatory to seek licensing agreements with rights holders. Platforms won’t be automatically held responsible if they allow content to appear online for which a license hasn’t been granted by rights holders, as long as they make their “best efforts” to prevent any breach.
Not everyone is happy. The German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda said the agreement was a blow for internet freedom and urged MEPs to reject the deal in a vote that is likely to come in late March. “Upload filters do not work, as algorithms simply cannot tell the difference between copyright infringements and legal parody,” said Ms. Reda
Fortunately memes are safe. You as an individual can, continue to use memes “for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche,” Parliament said in a statement adding that “memes and gifs will continue to be available and shareable on online platforms.”