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Westlake Legal Group > Emmanuel Macron

Notre Dame lives!

Westlake Legal Group notre-dame-lives Notre Dame lives! The Blog Paris Notre Dame fire Emmanuel Macron Catholic Church

Westlake Legal Group cnn-notredame Notre Dame lives! The Blog Paris Notre Dame fire Emmanuel Macron Catholic Church

“A symbol of defiance in the gloom” is how CNN’s anchor described the illuminated cross above the altar in Notre Dame cathedral. Both survived, as did the cathedral itself after what looked like a total loss yesterday. Almost 400 Parisian firefighters rescued one of the great Catholic churches of the world and one of the most powerful icons of French national pride.

The first images of what was rescued came from Reuters’ Philippe Wojazer:

USA Today reports that many of the cathedral’s irreplaceable cultural icons were rescued as well:

Some of the Notre Dame Cathedral’s most priceless treasures, including a relic known as the Crown of Thorns many believe was worn by Jesus Christ, have been saved from the massive fire that ripped through the world-famous church, French authorities said early Tuesday.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a tweet that historically significant artifacts and sacred items have been recovered, apparently without damage. French police also confirmed the items are safe.

“Thanks to the @PompiersParis, the police and the municipal agents, the Crown of Thorns, the Tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place,” Hidalgo tweeted, along with a photo showing many of the artifacts carefully preserved in storage.

Thankfully, no one was killed in the inferno, although at least two firefighters and a police officer were injured. Notre Dame still suffered a tremendous amount of damage from the fire, and it will take an enormous effort to restore the cathedral. Two French billionaires have already come forward with donations totaling nearly $340 million dollars, while French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to commence the rebuilding project as soon as it was safe to do so. One major question will be how weakened the stone structure may be after the intense fire, and whether that will require additional support before any interior work can be accomplished.

What caused the blaze? It may have been the renovation effort currently underway at Notre Dame. The fire started in the attic, where centuries-old timber for the roof would have been like kindling.  At least for now, Parisian investigators are discounting arson and terrorism as causes, France 24 reports today:

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it had launched an inquiry into the devastating blaze, with investigators working on the assumption for now that the fire was accidental.

“We are favouring the theory of an accident,” prosecutor Remy Heitz told reporters, adding that fifty people were working on a “long” and “complex” investigation. …

Investigators are focusing on whether the fire spread from the site of ongoing reconstruction work on the roof of the cathedral, which was covered in scaffolding, a source close to the investigation said.

Construction workers were questioned on Monday night, even as firefighters battled to contain the fire that was threatening the entire structure, some perched on cranes tens of metres off the ground.

Fire is a risk of renovation and restoration, even in more modern buildings. It’s a more likely cause than deliberate arson under any motive, especially given that it appears to have started where the work was being done. It’s best to avoid jumping to conclusions on breaking-news stories in general, and perhaps more so in this particular case.

What has been lost in the fire — especially the beautiful Gothic spire — is a tragedy for Paris and the world. We should be grateful for what has been saved, and what can once again be restored to its former glory. It may never be the same as it was a couple of days ago, but it has hope of restoration to something just as remarkable. Yesterday afternoon, it looked certain that the world had lost one of its great religious and cultural treasures for good. Today, it looks very much like a miracle that Notre Dame still lives.

 

 

The post Notre Dame lives! appeared first on Hot Air.

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The Cabinet must tell May to go

In Theresa May’s perfect world, the Withdrawal Agreement would have been carried through Parliament by Conservative votes.  It has failed to pass the Commons three times.  So she has turned to Jeremy Corbyn.

In her next best place to this ideal world, the Agreement would somehow be supported by the bulk of both the main parties.  Labour would settle for a customs union which isn’t called a customs union but really is a customs union – in addition to the customs union already written into the Withdrawal Agreement, at least as far as any future Unionist government is concened.

Meanwhile, Corbyn would stop pushing for what he can’t have – namely, guarantees that Labour-style future employment and environmental policies will be proofed against a fundamental of our unwritten constitution: that no Parliament can bind its successors.  Instead, the Prime Minister would offer vague assurances.  Meanwhile, Corbyn would block his party’s push for a second referendum.

May would thus be able to wangle a short extension from the EU at this week’s emergency summit – having persuaded Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron that she and Corbyn would shortly combine to drive the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons.  This would then happen.  A Bill based on the Agreement would pass swiftly.  Plans for British participation in the European Parliamentary elections would be scrapped.  Britain would leave the EU before May 23.

Her Party would then forgive her for preparing for those elections; for whatever losses emerge from the local elections on May 5, and for all the trials, U-turns, humiliations, defeats and tribulations of the Brexit negotiation process.  She would thus have room to execute a swift reshuffle in which her most likely successors would be moved sideways, marooned or sacked.  There would be talk of bringing on a new generation of leadership candidates – to reinvent the Party for the future, along the lines which Onward and others are floating.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister would move on from the Withdrawal Agreement to the Political Declaration.  She would kick off the Brexit talks, Part Two, by reviving parts of her Chequers plan.  She would enjoy a last hurrah at the Conservative Party Conference, before December arrived with its prospect of a confidence ballot.  But by then she would have so befuddled her critics and confounded expectations that the ballot might not take place at all.  She would be able to stay on for just a little longer…

But it takes only a moment’s though to perceive all this as the fantasy that it is.

May will surely not be granted a short extension.  If the EU does not somehow plump for No Deal – which is improbable – she will be given a long one, with terms approved by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.  British participation in the European Parliamentary elections will loom.  Corbyn is unlikely to come to her rescue.  If he does, the logic of her turning her back on her own Party, and approaching Labour instead, will work its way to completion.  Most Labour MPs would vote for the Withdrawal Agreement.  Many Conservative MPs would not.

Whether it passes or fails, the Parliamentary stage would be set for further seizures of power by the Letwin/Cooper axis, aided and abetted by John Bercow.  The natural drift of the Commons would then be towards a second referendum.  There is an outside chance that some form of Norway Plus scheme may revive.  We would be on course for a softer Brexit, or else for No Brexit at all – unless the voters seem ready to put two fingers up to Britain’s pro-EU ascendancy.  In which case, expect talk of revocation to grow louder.

This takes us to the crunch.  Ten Conservative MPs voted in favour of cancelling Brexit at the start of this monthEight backed a second referendumA hundred and eighty-seven opposed an extension in March: that number represented two-thirds of the Parliamentary Party, and included six Cabinet Ministers.  In these circumstances, confronted by revocation or a second referendum or even Norway Plus, the Tory Party could split altogether.  It is not impossible to imagine Corbyn winning a no confidence vote and the election that followed.

There is an alternative, but it is neither pleasant, easy, nor guaranteed to work.  In a nutshell, it is to use any long extension to remove Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and hold a leadership contest that would conclude after those wretched European elections.  (Since were that new leader in place for them, he or she would get off to the worst possible start.)

In the event of the Withdrawal Agreement having failed to pass, this new leader would want to begin all over again.  He would propose a policy based on that set out in the Brady amendment – the only Brexit policy option for which the Commons has recently voted – and built on in the Malthouse Agreement by Nicky Morgan, Steve Baker, Damian Green, Simon Hart and others.

Whether the Agreement had passed or not, he would back a lower alignment rather than a higher alignment policy for the second stage of the Brexit talks.  In the event of it not having done so, it would make sense for the backstop to be put in place for a limited period while “alternative arrangements” are thrashed out.  This is more or less what the recent legal elaborations agreed with the EU imply.

If the EU rejected this approach, there would be No Deal.  You will point out that there is no clear majority in the Commons for it.  This is correct.  Which is why this new leader would have to prepare for a general election later this year in any event.

Yes, such an approach risks some Tory MPs peeling off to the Independent Group – though, as we say, an approach based on the Brady amendment makes sense, since the whole Parliamentary Party, pretty much, was able to unite behind it.

But the alternative risks a bigger split, both in the Commons and among the grassroots, in any event.  Expect soon to hear a new form of that old talk about a Conservative-UKIP alliance – this time round, of a Tory-Brexit Party pact.

Furthermore, there is even more at stake than the future of the world’s most venerable political party: namely, whether the referendum verdict of 2016, carried by the largest vote in this county’s political history, is to be upheld or dishonoured.

You will have spotted the fly in this unpalatable ointment.  Namely, that the Prime Minister is unwilling to go.  The 1922 Committee Executive has presented her with the obligatory glass of whisky and pistol.  She has refused to pick them up.

Furthermore, there is no formal means of expressing no confidence in her leadership until December.  The habit of suggesting indicative votes in catching on.  But the 1992 executive is doubtful that these could produce a resolution.

That leaves the Cabinet.  Its members are divided on policy, dogged by personal ambition, and daunted by the scale of the challenge before them.

To ask this dispirited band to come together, tell the Prime Minister to step down as Party leader, and stay in Downing Street until the ensuing leadership election is concluded – particularly when the options are so grisly – is a very big ask indeed.

But the driver of the car is taking it towards the edge of the cliff.  True, it may crash if the Cabinet attempts to wrest control from her.  But if they don’t, it is set to career into the void, in any event.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Cabinet must tell May to go

In Theresa May’s perfect world, the Withdrawal Agreement would have been carried through Parliament by Conservative votes.  It has failed to pass the Commons three times.  So she has turned to Jeremy Corbyn.

In her next best place to this ideal world, the Agreement would somehow be supported by the bulk of both the main parties.  Labour would settle for a customs union which isn’t called a customs union but really is a customs union – in addition to the customs union already written into the Withdrawal Agreement, at least as far as any future Unionist government is concened.

Meanwhile, Corbyn would stop pushing for what he can’t have – namely, guarantees that Labour-style future employment and environmental policies will be proofed against a fundamental of our unwritten constitution: that no Parliament can bind its successors.  Instead, the Prime Minister would offer vague assurances.  Meanwhile, Corbyn would block his party’s push for a second referendum.

May would thus be able to wangle a short extension from the EU at this week’s emergency summit – having persuaded Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron that she and Corbyn would shortly combine to drive the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons.  This would then happen.  A Bill based on the Agreement would pass swiftly.  Plans for British participation in the European Parliamentary elections would be scrapped.  Britain would leave the EU before May 23.

Her Party would then forgive her for preparing for those elections; for whatever losses emerge from the local elections on May 5, and for all the trials, U-turns, humiliations, defeats and tribulations of the Brexit negotiation process.  She would thus have room to execute a swift reshuffle in which her most likely successors would be moved sideways, marooned or sacked.  There would be talk of bringing on a new generation of leadership candidates – to reinvent the Party for the future, along the lines which Onward and others are floating.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister would move on from the Withdrawal Agreement to the Political Declaration.  She would kick off the Brexit talks, Part Two, by reviving parts of her Chequers plan.  She would enjoy a last hurrah at the Conservative Party Conference, before December arrived with its prospect of a confidence ballot.  But by then she would have so befuddled her critics and confounded expectations that the ballot might not take place at all.  She would be able to stay on for just a little longer…

But it takes only a moment’s though to perceive all this as the fantasy that it is.

May will surely not be granted a short extension.  If the EU does not somehow plump for No Deal – which is improbable – she will be given a long one, with terms approved by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.  British participation in the European Parliamentary elections will loom.  Corbyn is unlikely to come to her rescue.  If he does, the logic of her turning her back on her own Party, and approaching Labour instead, will work its way to completion.  Most Labour MPs would vote for the Withdrawal Agreement.  Many Conservative MPs would not.

Whether it passes or fails, the Parliamentary stage would be set for further seizures of power by the Letwin/Cooper axis, aided and abetted by John Bercow.  The natural drift of the Commons would then be towards a second referendum.  There is an outside chance that some form of Norway Plus scheme may revive.  We would be on course for a softer Brexit, or else for No Brexit at all – unless the voters seem ready to put two fingers up to Britain’s pro-EU ascendancy.  In which case, expect talk of revocation to grow louder.

This takes us to the crunch.  Ten Conservative MPs voted in favour of cancelling Brexit at the start of this monthEight backed a second referendumA hundred and eighty-seven opposed an extension in March: that number represented two-thirds of the Parliamentary Party, and included six Cabinet Ministers.  In these circumstances, confronted by revocation or a second referendum or even Norway Plus, the Tory Party could split altogether.  It is not impossible to imagine Corbyn winning a no confidence vote and the election that followed.

There is an alternative, but it is neither pleasant, easy, nor guaranteed to work.  In a nutshell, it is to use any long extension to remove Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and hold a leadership contest that would conclude after those wretched European elections.  (Since were that new leader in place for them, he or she would get off to the worst possible start.)

In the event of the Withdrawal Agreement having failed to pass, this new leader would want to begin all over again.  He would propose a policy based on that set out in the Brady amendment – the only Brexit policy option for which the Commons has recently voted – and built on in the Malthouse Agreement by Nicky Morgan, Steve Baker, Damian Green, Simon Hart and others.

Whether the Agreement had passed or not, he would back a lower alignment rather than a higher alignment policy for the second stage of the Brexit talks.  In the event of it not having done so, it would make sense for the backstop to be put in place for a limited period while “alternative arrangements” are thrashed out.  This is more or less what the recent legal elaborations agreed with the EU imply.

If the EU rejected this approach, there would be No Deal.  You will point out that there is no clear majority in the Commons for it.  This is correct.  Which is why this new leader would have to prepare for a general election later this year in any event.

Yes, such an approach risks some Tory MPs peeling off to the Independent Group – though, as we say, an approach based on the Brady amendment makes sense, since the whole Parliamentary Party, pretty much, was able to unite behind it.

But the alternative risks a bigger split, both in the Commons and among the grassroots, in any event.  Expect soon to hear a new form of that old talk about a Conservative-UKIP alliance – this time round, of a Tory-Brexit Party pact.

Furthermore, there is even more at stake than the future of the world’s most venerable political party: namely, whether the referendum verdict of 2016, carried by the largest vote in this county’s political history, is to be upheld or dishonoured.

You will have spotted the fly in this unpalatable ointment.  Namely, that the Prime Minister is unwilling to go.  The 1922 Committee Executive has presented her with the obligatory glass of whisky and pistol.  She has refused to pick them up.

Furthermore, there is no formal means of expressing no confidence in her leadership until December.  The habit of suggesting indicative votes in catching on.  But the 1992 executive is doubtful that these could produce a resolution.

That leaves the Cabinet.  Its members are divided on policy, dogged by personal ambition, and daunted by the scale of the challenge before them.

To ask this dispirited band to come together, tell the Prime Minister to step down as Party leader, and stay in Downing Street until the ensuing leadership election is concluded – particularly when the options are so grisly – is a very big ask indeed.

But the driver of the car is taking it towards the edge of the cliff.  True, it may crash if the Cabinet attempts to wrest control from her.  But if they don’t, it is set to career into the void, in any event.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Syed Kamall: Why the Prime Minister has grounds to hope the EU will grant her request for an extension

Syed Kamall is Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and is an MEP for London.

For two years the European Union, personified by Michel Barnier, displayed a tungsten-like inflexibility during the Brexit negotiations.

It constantly rejected innovative solutions to difficult problems, insisting that only previously tried and tested models or existing templates could be considered for Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

It was a rock against which many ideas, and successive Brexit Secretaries, foundered, and is part of the reason why we still find ourselves without an acceptable deal.

But it also made the EU’s stance entirely predictable. It is safe to say no-one from the UK side emerged from any of the talks in Brussels surprised at Barnier’s responses. All the unpredictably has come from our side of the Channel.

However, that has suddenly changed. As we head towards the latest crucial European Council Summit on Wednesday night, we cannot be sure how leaders of EU27 countries will react to the Prime Minister’s request for an extension to Article 50 beyond April 12.

Publicly there are conflicting signals being sent by member states. And speaking privately to people at all levels in Brussels, it is clear those differences on the best way to proceed are real, if more nuanced than the sound bites might suggest.

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, is the most publicly outspoken member of any hard line squad, expressing his opposition to a further extension and suggesting that a clean break would be preferable to many more months of uncertainty as he seeks to implement his vision for the future of the EU.

“We cannot avoid failure for them,” he said of the UK’s inability to agree a way forward.

In recent days he has been joined by Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Chancellor. After Theresa May announced on Tuesday she would seek another delay he said: “There is, from the current point of view, absolutely no reason for an extension since the chaos in Britain has not changed.”

Mixed pronouncements have also emerged from the European Union institutions. On Tuesday Donald Tusk, the European Council President, tweeted: “Even if, after today, we don’t know what the end result will be, let us be patient.” And today it appears he will recommend a long “flextension”. But over at the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has been less accommodating, telling MEPs on Wednesday that unless the withdrawal Agreement was agreed by April 12, “no further short extension will be possible.”

So what can the Prime Minister expect on Wednesday? My discussions here in Brussels suggest that member states and political parties are divided into three camps.

One group would like to let the UK go and use us as an example in their fight against rising eurosceptic forces within their own countries at May’s European elections. They believe that the immediate disruption presented by a no-deal Brexit, for both the UK and EU, would be a powerful electoral weapon. This faction does not only include leaders like President Macron whose patience has worn thin, but reportedly also includes others who are usually more sympathetic towards the UK but now face eurosceptic parties in their countries.

The second group favours granting a long extension of Article 50 on condition of a second referendum in the hope this could stop Brexit altogether. Indeed, in the European Parliament, socialist parties have called for a second referendum since they believe that the result could be overturned.

However, a third group – including quite a few Christian Democrat politicians I have spoken to – ask what is the point of a second referendum if the UK votes to leave again? While they also think that the EU should grant the UK a long extension of Article 50, they believe that by the UK participating in May’s European Parliament elections and leaving the departure date open-ended, the Brexit process would either eventually fizzle out, or events such as a general election would take Brexit off the agenda.

This lack of an obvious consensus from the EU27 could make the Prime Minister’s task more difficult on Wednesday when she seeks the extension to Article 50 and means the outcome is difficult to read. On the other hand, one message comes across loud and clear from every capital, EU institution and MEP. No-one wants to be blamed for forcing the United Kingdom out. If a no-deal Brexit is to happen, they want to be able to pin the responsibility firmly on the us.

Consequently, no member state is yet ready to veto a request for a long extension. However much President Macron and others are tempted repeat Charles De Gaulle’s famous “Non” to the UK, the prize of keeping the UK in, the desire to deny those in the UK calling for a no-deal Brexit and the need to counter eurosceptic parties across the EU, remain powerful incentives for not kicking us out yet.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

I bet you thought those riots in France were over

Westlake Legal Group YellowVests I bet you thought those riots in France were over yellow vests wages The Blog riots Paris gas tax french protests France Emmanuel Macron

After much of November and December were characterized by riots in Paris and various other cities across France, it looked as if peace was going to be restored when President Emmanuel Macron completely caved to the protesters’ demands. A new, drastic increase in the gas tax was scrapped and higher wages for the working poor were announced. Having put the elitist president in his place, the angry rabble were then free to go home and take a victory lap.

The problem is, they didn’t. Or at least not all of them. Significant numbers of the unhappy citizenry were back in the streets this week, setting fire to government buildings and clashing with the police. One common element in their demands appears to be a desire for Macron to resign immediately. (Associated Press)

French security forces fired tear gas and flash-balls after a march through picturesque central Paris went from peaceful to provocative Saturday as several thousand protesters staged the yellow vest movement’s first action of 2019 to keep up pressure on President Emmanuel Macron.

A river boat restaurant moored below the clashes on the Left Bank of the Seine River caught fire. Smoke and tear gas wafted above the Orsay Museum and the gold dome of the French Academy as riot police, nearly invisible at the start of the demonstration, moved front and center when protesters deviated from an officially approved path.

Police boats patrolled the river while beyond the Seine, motorcycles and a car were set on fire on the Boulevard Saint Germain, a main Left Bank thoroughfare. Riot police and firefighters moved in, and barricades mounted in the middle of the wide street also glowed in orange flames.

Since we tend to see these terms used interchangeably in the media too often, I should point out that these aren’t actually “protests” going on in Paris. They are riots. Whether you agree with the sentiments of the yellow vest squads or not, a protest is just a demonstration. These people are setting fire to boats and buildings, smashing windows and, in at least one case, attacking the police. That’s a riot by any meaningful definition.

Another thing that’s missing from much of the American press coverage I’m seeing is the outrage over the police using tear gas and pepper spray on a regular basis. Aren’t those “chemical weapons” and a violation of human rights? But I suppose when it happens in France in support of a socialist leader who is a liberal icon, it’s just the way the world works.

What’s unclear here is precisely what the yellow vests are looking to get out of the government. The original gatherings all seemed to focus on the gas tax, skyrocketing prices for food and common goods and insufficient pay. Macron has already given in on all of these demands. But the rioters are now calling for his resignation, claiming that he is a “president for the rich” and doesn’t care about the working class poor. That may be true, but it seems unlikely that Macron will be packing his bags anytime soon.

Macron isn’t facing any new elections until 2022, so he’s got some time to patch things up if he’s willing. Will the tenacity of the yellow vests last that long? If the president’s reforms are rolled back and wages go up it’s hard to imagine that they will. But he’s definitely no longer the golden child and his public honeymoon is definitely over. Just as a closing note, Macron’s approval ratings have tanked from above 60 after his election to somewhere in the 20s today.

The post I bet you thought those riots in France were over appeared first on Hot Air.

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Michael Fabricant: It’s high time for us to rediscover our gung-ho spirit

Michael Fabricant is MP for Lichfield.

One of the many old jokes in the Carry On films is: “where is all your get up and go?” The answer comes: “it got up and went.” It seems, sometimes, that half the population feels that way, when I read some of the more depressing letters and articles about Brexit in the national press.

I travel to the United States three or four times each year – not for fact-finding at taxpayer’s expense, I hastily add – but with and to see friends. I was part-educated at the University of Southern California (Go Trojans!) and still have a home on the east coast near where my business had a base in New Haven, Connecticut. So before I became an MP I travelled a lot to the US on business, too.

I’m there right now – in San Diego, southern California. But thanks to the internet, I was able to hear Woody Johnson, the US Ambassador to the UK, on the Today programme yesterday. He was clear that the present terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration will prevent the US (or any other major economy, come to that) from entering into a Free Trade Agreement with the UK.

But the main issue expressed by Johnson – and Americans that I meet over here – is the surprise at Britain’s reluctance to let go of the apron strings that seem to tie us to the EU.

It’s a lack of self-confidence that might be appropriate in a developing country, but in not the fifth-largest world economy, which can boast more Nobel Prize winners than any other country apart from the US; intelligence services which match those anywhere in the world, three of the world’s top ten universities, with the top two places being British, and a major centre for biotech and space research. Why are we so timid in our dealings with Europe?

In Prime Minister’s Questions a few weeks’ back, Jeremy Corbyn claimed that the UK has “no leverage” with the EU.  No leverage? We are the biggest export market in the world for the German automotive industry – bigger than the US and Chinese markets combined. And Emmanuel Macron knows that the ranks of the gilets jaunes would be increased tenfold if French farmers could not export to their number one market – the United Kingdom.

So why all this timidity by government and civil servants in dealing with the EU, and the fear of leaving the EU by so many in the British population at large?

Friends of mine working in the City for large American banks admit that they explored the possibility of moving to Paris, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt after the referendum. But they soon realised that continental Europeans neither have the financial work pool nor the work ethic to keep long hours deep into the night when the need arises. Those plans to move were soon abandoned.

Johnson can see the opportunities open to the UK in leaving the UK and from being unshackled from the ball and chain of rules so beloved of European regulators. My American friends over here say to me “Why are you guys so lacking in self-confidence? We just don’t get it. Just leave!”

Having been in business and travelled abroad extensively exporting broadcasting systems to some 48 countries worldwide, I can see the huge opportunities that will be open to us after a clean break with the EU.

It is unfortunate that many commentators on Brexit, including journalists and some politicians, never had the get up and go in the first place. The gung-ho spirit eludes them. We should not allow their lack of aspiration and gloom to frustrate the opportunities that are there if only we have the confidence to seize them.

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Why the French protests were going to happen

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No one should be surprised by the protests in France. The antipathy towards the government has been bubbling like some sort of concoction in a mad scientist’s laboratory. The gas tax appears to be the one final volatile element needed to cause an explosion.

What an explosion it was! Protests. Riots. Tear gas. Emergency meetings of government officials and, finally, concessions. France won’t do any tax or utility increases this winter – although it’s still up to the French Legislature to get the bills to President Emmanuel Macron’s desk for his signature.

Macron noted the onslaught of anger directed towards his government, writing on Change.org he was trying to reduce the gap between the people and government but, “I have not yet succeeded. And after 18 months of action, the changes we are making are far from being sufficiently perceptible.”

The frustration is still palpable, and no one knows exactly who will end up benefiting from the protests.

American conservative commentators are trying to frame the issue as a rejection of globalism (whatever the blue cow it means this week). The reality is the anger in France started – much like the 2011 Arab Spring – as a rejection of government overreach into the economy.

The clash has been a long time coming and dates back to earlier this decade when the French government was controlled by Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy’s government attempted major spending cuts and tax increases in 2011 – before he was replaced by the socialist Francois Hollande in 2012. Yet, Hollande discovered the harsh reality you can’t tax and spend your way to prosperity and France’s budget crisis refused to abate – while debt exploded.

“Everything is taxed,” Charline Petit told The Telegraph in 2014 as she explained why her bagel shop was shutting down. “You can’t move without being taxed. Even when you are not making any money, you are taxed. I had to lie about my income to rent an apartment. So then the tax authorities said I had not been declaring enough. I was taxed again. If I stopped working, I would get all kinds of benefits, but as a business person, I get nothing. You are better off unemployed.”

This was the situation Macron was coming into last year when he won the presidency. He attempted some tax reform, but The Economist noted his budget was rather light on actual spending cuts. His gas tax proposal ended up being the spark which set off the protests and riots of the past several weeks.

His reaction to said protests proves the tenet that politicians are fickle in their promises to the electorate they claim to serve because of the desire for power. Macron is trying to appease everyone by enacting multiple increases in government spending – whether it be giving police a raise for battling protesters or a minimum wage hike “without it costing your employer one more euro.” The government’s hope is this will increase participation in the workforce, and their budget for next year – which was proposed months before the “Yellow Vest” protests – already included a minimum wage hike, “to reach a total of almost €80 per month at minimum wage level by 2022.”

Of course, the question is who will pay for these changes?

“The people,” Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy declared to me over the phone. “This is what basically taxes, right, because the government won’t pay for it and that’s the problem with subsidies; gotta be paid by someone. And the problem with the French government is it’s too big and needs to be shrunk and not grown.”

This is why de Rugy is disturbed by France’s insistence on giving out more subsidies instead of trying to actually get their financial house in order – even with the repeal of the gas tax.

“These are just band-aid (solutions) because the problem is going to continue over and over and over again until they address fundamental problems with the spending structure,” de Rugy, who is originally from France, noted. “Retirements are very generous to the public sector. Macron knows he needs to change those. But each time there are big, big, big strikes about this…This is not going to address anything. I don’t even know if it’s going to help calming things down now.”

Hence why Macron’s appeasement may not solve anything and, in fact, may exacerbate France’s budgetary problems.

“I think Macron needs to buckle up,” de Rugy declared. “Realize that there’s no way he can placate them in ways that is good for France, so he needs to go on with reforms and accept he won’t be re-elected in five years.”

See previous statement regarding the fickleness of politicians.

The solution – which Macron and the French government seem averse to try – is to heed the words of eminent French economist and philosopher, Frederic Bastiat.

“Reduce taxes. Reduce expenditure in an even greater proportion,” Bastiat wrote in Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget in February 1849. “And, to clad this financial thought in its political formula, I add: Liberty within. Peace without. This is the entire plan…I grant you only that the attempt is bold. But first, if the gravity of the situation has been clearly established and second, if it has been proved that the tradition means will not extricate us, it seems to me that my thought has at least some right to be considered by my colleagues.”

Bastiat’s theory is obviously daring – but also completely correct. France and Macron would be wise to heed his words (and de Rugy’s “buckle up” declaration) and enact more spending cuts – instead of trying to make everyone happy. He’d risk not being re-elected, but the alternative is more businesses leaving the country and France spiraling into even more chaos.

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