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Ryan Bourne: Thatcher and Cameron made us happier

Ryan Bourne is Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

Perhaps David Cameron had better foresight than he’s given credit for. At a Google conference in 2006, the then leader of the opposition declared “It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money, and it’s time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB – general well-being.” With the financial crash ravaging the public finances through 2010 and conventional economic indicators in the doldrums, he risked opprobrium by tasking the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to measure wellbeing for the first time.

Well, his desire to be judged on such metrics now looks incredibly prescient. Never mind sluggish GDP growth throughout and after his premiership. Forget the polarisation of Brexit. The ONS’s latest wellbeing stats, released last week, show that the British people are significantly happier and more satisfied than back in 2011.

It really is remarkable. Every self-reported measure of wellbeing has improved near continuously in the past eight years. Asked on a 1-10 scale whether they are satisfied with their lives (0 being “not at all” to 10 “completely”), the public’s mean score has risen from 7.11 to 7.42, with the proportion answering 7 or above rising from 76 percent to 82 percent. This isn’t some anomaly either. How worthwhile we perceive our lives and self-reported happiness have been ever rising too, on average. Anxiety, meanwhile, has fallen, albeit having levelled out recently. If Cameron had convinced us of wellbeing’s central importance, we’d now be celebrating his wonderful legacy.

As it happens, of course, this “good news” got about as much coverage last week as a positive Brexit business story. Remainer demands for a new Brexit impact assessment show that pounds and pence are still king in UK politics (at least until there’s an EU regulation the same Remainers want us to follow). We free-marketeers were fearful, when subjective happiness metrics were introduced, that they’d become active targets of policy. We needn’t have worried. Political leftists’ attachment to them proved skin deep, falling away as soon as they suggested Britain was not hell on earth under the Tories.

But was classical liberals’ fear of such metrics misguided? Perhaps. Consider a new paper from researchers at the University of Warwick. Reviewing eight million publications digitized through Google Books, the study aims to construct longer-run indices of wellbeing from 1820 through to 2009. Its findings are even more jarring than the ONS stats.

Here’s how their index is put together. Use of positive words in published books, such as “cheerful,” “happy,” and “joyful,” are considered proxies for better subjective wellbeing. Negative words such as “sad” or “miserable,” are tallied up as measuring worse wellbeing. In short, the academics assume that in a happier world, more “happy words” would be written in published tomes.

Now, I was sceptical of that methodology. But they check their results against life satisfaction data over recent decades from Eurobarometer and the UN, finding strong correlations in the numbers. Emotive positive/negative language does appear to proxy well for self-reported wellbeing since the 1970s, when both sets of data are available. Having satisfied themselves of the methodology, the retrospective application to earlier periods produces fascinating results.

Wellbeing was consistently high in the UK in the 19th century, fell around the time of World War One, before then recovering. Unsurprisingly, it plunged again during World War Two, before rebounding to a lower peak. But the post-war phase is most striking, splitting clear into two obvious periods. From the 1950s to 1980 there was a sustained fall in wellbeing. After 1980, there was a dramatic rebound, fitting with Eurobarometer data showing a sustained improvement in life satisfaction in the UK over the past 40 years. Britain’s life satisfaction index since 1950 is therefore distinctly V-shaped.

What might explain this dramatic inflection circa 1980? Social trends would surely be a slower burner. People had been getting better off between 1950 and 1980 too, so this is about more than rising wealth. No, there’s one rather obvious explanation fitting the time trend: the UK’s abandonment of its quasi-socialist economic model and embrace of Thatcherism.

Such a thesis is supported by the fact the US experienced a near identical V-trend in its index centred around the launch of Reaganism. Germany, in contrast, saw wellbeing completely flatline from the 1950s onwards. Neoliberalism’s birth, it seems, facilitated sustained rises in wellbeing.

These findings dunk all over accepted truths. Claims from the Spirit Levellers that inequality and marketisation made us miserable are dismissed. If anything, the exact opposite appears true: the post-war period saw socialist equality beget misery. Life satisfaction rose with inequality through the 1980s and continued to rise once inequality settled at a higher level.

Nor can GDP or the labour market adequately explain the trends. Rising GDP per capita, other things given, would be expected to improve life satisfaction, and Britain’s economy did perform well relative to other countries after 1980. But growth was stronger in previous decades, when life satisfaction was falling. Wellbeing does not appear to have fallen after the financial crash either. Sure, tightening labour markets might explain some of the rise in wellbeing since 2011, but Britain had very high unemployment in the 1980s, just as life satisfaction took off.

No, the absence of clear outcomes-based economic explanations suggests that my friend Terence Kealey may be right. What might explain the reversal from 1980 is simply that we Anglo-Saxons value our economic freedom, above and beyond its GDP or employment impact. Economic liberty makes us happier.

The post-war period saw high tax rates, capital controls, Keynesian demand management, nationalisations, price and income controls, and high inflation. Afterwards we shifted towards freer trade and migration, lower taxes, lighter touch regulation, and free movements of capital. Of course, we’re not near libertopia; if anything the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions proved a brake on a longer-term government juggernaut. But there was a paradigm shift on economic freedom. We Brits, and our American cousins, found it deeply satisfying.

For a libertarian, this isn’t surprising. Our worldview is centred on the belief that individuals know best how to live their lives to improve wellbeing. Thatcher, of course, claimed her economic liberalisation agenda was in tune with the true instincts of the British people. All this suggests she may well have been right.

David Cameron had no such ideological inclinations. In fact, he probably advocated happiness metrics, in part, to distance himself from the supposed economics-obsessed “libertarian” wing of his party. How ironic then that the sorts of wellbeing measures he championed took off when classical liberals turned the tide on socialism, and strengthened through the “age of austerity.”

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

Sheila Lawlor: Ultimately, as the EU’s leaders recognise, the momentum is with Johnson.

Sheila Lawlor is the Director of Politeia and the author of Now or Never: Countering the Coup Against Britain’s Democracy, from which the article below draws.

Boris Johnson, no novice to the craft of politics, kept his friends for the most part on side and his enemies guessing. He extracted a new deal from the EU that dropped the backstop and the UK’s subjugation to EU customs union law; sent, but did not sign, Parliament’s delay letter, and dealt with the duplicitous Letwin amendment to stop Brexit by his firm resolution to see the deal through into to law. MPs who refused to back it still don’t know whether that will lead to no deal or delay.

Much depends on the EU and its leaders, who have committed to Johnson’s vision. Fewer than 90 days after assuming office, he convinced enough of them that their way and his lay side by side, on – and even more important – beyond Brexit, turning enemy fortresses across Europe’s capitals into friendly citadels.

Previously, for the EU the Leave vote was a decision to be ignored, a problem to be circumvented by keeping the UK in and under the EU system. It had reasons of realpolitik – to show rebellious member states that  the UK could not really leave, and that it would be punished for trying.

It also had pragmatic economic reasons: the UK economy must be bound and gagged, into and under EU law, its future path aligned to that law made in Brussels, to prevent a rival competitor on its shores. For France, particularly, Britain’s ‘Anglo-Saxon’ or competitive free market system is an upstart and potential rival to the Brussels (and French) model, of  a protected, centrally planned and controlled, system that had gradually evolved in France from the time of Louis XIV and had been adapted for the EU project.

Johnson realised that Brussels, with its Franco-German axis, needed a political ‘win’, accepting such punitive elements in the May deal as: dispute resolution (e.g: citizens’ rights to be under ECJ jurisdiction), the UK divorce payment to the EU, the 13 months of transition under EU law with no UK vote or voice, all as the price of a new deal. But this deal is finite, a tidying-up exercise for exit – one that will, after the transition, leave the UK and  its economy free.

The big prize will be that the UK’s economic and trade freedom will be restored, something May’s backstop would have prevented, potentially indefinitely. Instead, the UK economy will be under laws made by the UK, not EU law – ]Johnson’s ‘must’, set out in his first official letter as Prime Minister to Donald Tusk: when the UK left the EU, it would leave its single market and customs union,but remain committed to “world-class environment, product and labour standards, though UK laws would potentially diverge from the EU: That is the point of our exit and our ability to enable this is central to our future democracy”.

The ball is now in the EU’s court. It can refuse an extension and focus on the future, to draw a line under the problem they have resolved with Johnson, as Emmanuel Macron, Leo Varadkar and others may be minded to do by vetoing delay. Or it may grant a delay, potentially linked to the dissolution of parliament for a general election.  Either way, the ratification process has now been launched on the EU side.

Ultimately, as the EU’s leaders recognise, the momentum is with Johnson. It has been since he led the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, breaking with his Party’s leadership, to seize the opportunity to shape his and his country’s destiny, as the outsider, a leader in waiting.

He recognises that in this country the authority to make laws derives from the people under the UK’s constitution, the unwritten law that obliged monarchs and prime ministers over centuries, to respect people’s wishes or face the consequences and lose their hold on power.  The MPs who have used the power, with which they were entrusted by the people to execute the referendum decision, in order to try to thwart it have broken that constitutional settlement.

Johnson understands, as Lloyd George, was reported to remark, that ‘at the top there are no friends’. That has helped him make his own way, use his own judgement, cautious, reflective, shrewd. Having taken with him some of the EU leaders who call the shots – Macron, Jean Claude Juncker, Michel Barnier and to some extent, Angela Merkel – he has found a Brexit that works for everyone, or almost everyone.

The DUP, unhappy with the à la carte proposals designed to satisfy the different parties on customs, VAT and consent, should take comfort in the  constitutional reality: Northern Ireland is part of the UK and part of its customs union, a fact reflected in the deal. The practical arrangements to facilitate the smooth running of the all-island economy are just that, and will be subject to consent.

The Prime Minister has yet to deploy the armoury of tools in the executive cupboard in this see-saw for power between the executive and a legislature dominated by MPs determined to stop Brexit. He can choose from a plentiful stock of UK precedents, not to mention the provisions of international law. The country waits to see Brexit’s parliamentary opponents despatched. The EU has agreed to a deal that sets Britain free in December 2020. Labour’s leader may want to make a last ditch try to turn the deal’s economic freedom to servitude by championing a customs union at the eleventh hour.

But he may find  less appetite for that in the EU than before, and less than unanimity for the  hurdles a  long delay could bring. Its leaders, like Johnson,  belong to the school of politics in which there are neither eternal enmities nor friendships, only interests.

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

Neil O’Brien: How we can win support from younger voters – and turn our present strength into an enduring majority

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

It’s time to look to the future. Brexit isn’t quite over yet, but the Prime Minister has landed a great deal, and he has got off to a fantastic start, with a blistering series of popular announcements on the police, schools and hospitals. We’ve soared in the polls, while Corbyn deflates like a sad balloon

But let’s not stop now. Let’s work to turn our present strength into an enduring majority. In particular, let’s think about how we do better among younger voters.

In elections between 1950 and 2010, the Conservatives were on average eight per cent behind Labour among younger voters, but nine per cent ahead among older voters. But in the last election, we are were 35 points behind among the young (18 to 24-year-olds) and 36 points ahead among over-65s.

For me, the most concerning thing wasn’t being behind among the very young, but being behind among everyone under age 47. That meant we were behind among people with jobs, kids, bills… responsibilities – all things which tended to make people Conservative during previous years.

Doing better among younger voters isn’t about gimmicks: it’s about having answers to the big issues facing young people and young families.

Some of this is about action on issues younger voters care about. For example, we have a great record on the environment. We have the lowest emissions since 1888, and are one of the first countries in the world to set deadlines to end coal use, to go to all electric cars and net zero emissions.

But a lot of it is about doing things that will benefit young people directly.

Let’s start with housing. Declining homeownership explains a big chunk of the age gap in voting that has opened up. Looking at middle income people aged 25-34, the home ownership rate fell from two thirds in 1996, to just a quarter by 2016.

I’ve written elsewhere about the long term action we need on both supply and demand to drive up home ownership: building upwards and regenerating brownfield sites in our cities; rebalancing the economy to spread growth beyond the south east; getting away from the kind of piecemeal, tacked-on development in our towns and villages which maximises opposition to new housing; and making sure developers pay for the cost of the new infrastructure that’s needed with new housing.

But it’s also about building the tax reforms we’ve made since 2015. Those rebalancing tax reforms have led to the first sustained period for some time in which we have seen growth in home ownership, not just growth in the private rented sector.

But a plan to fix the housing problem over the coming decades isn’t enough. As well as a long-term solution, we need to provide immediate help. Many young people feel they’re on a cruel treadmill, unable to save because they are paying high rents. There are many who could afford a repayment mortgage (in fact it would be cheaper than renting), but they can’t save up for a deposit. So let’s create deposit loans: like Help to Buy, the government would take a repayable stake. But unlike Help to Buy, the purchaser would not have to provide a deposit up front.

There are a further group of people who might be able to save up a deposit over time, if only their existing rental costs were lower. They are the sorts of people who would have been helped by council housing in earlier generations – but (perversely) wouldn’t get it today, precisely because they’re working, so don’t qualify.

We could fund the creation of a huge number of cheap rented homes for young working people by transferring the remaining local authority housing stock into charitable housing associations, unlocking huge value.

Another part of our offer to younger people has to be about the cost of education. We have to be bold, not tinker.

Let’s cut the cost of going to university in half. And let’s pay for it by driving down the number of low value, mickey mouse courses which aren’t good value, either for students or the taxpayer. At present, one in ten graduates isn’t earning enough to pay back a single penny of their loan even ten years after graduation. And thanks to the LEO dataset, we now have a good idea of which courses they are, at which universities.

We need to build up technical education and apprenticeships. In Germany 20 per cent of the workforce has a higher technical qualification, but in Britain it’s just four per cent, while we rely heavily on importing electricians, plumbers, technicians and engineers from the rest of the world.

Tony Blair set a target for 50 per cent young people to go to university, but no such target for technical education.
We spend six times more per person on university students than technical students. We should become the champions for the 50 per cent who choose not to go to university too. We are introducing the new T levels, have brought in the Apprenticeship Levy, and are driving up number of Higher Apprenticeships. But there is much more to do.

But if we are serious about winning over younger voters we also need to talk about the pressures of life with a young family. Childcare costs are a huge worry for many.

Successive governments have built up a rather a confusing array of policies: the 15 and 30 free hours offers, Tax Free Childcare, the Childcare Element of Universal Credit, not to mention other benefits for children like Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. Each has complex rules on eligibility and requires a certain amount of bureaucracy to claim.

We could be incremental, and refine and build on existing policies. For example, one frustration with using the 30 free hours for working families is that it only covers 38 weeks a year, following school terms. So how much you pay yo-yos up and down wildly each month. We could make it year-round, so it is more generous and predictable.

Or we could think more radically. As Conservatives we think people are best placed to make their own decisions. For example, when two police women were prosecuted for looking after each others’ children in 2009, conservatives saw it was an example of socialist meddling gone mad.

One way to simplify this alphabet soup of complex policies would be to bring back the tax allowances for children which Labour abolished in the 1970s. Tax allowances for children existed between 1909 and 1977, and gave a higher personal allowance for people with children, on the conservative principle that you should be able to provide for your own family before you pay tax. Rather than taking money off people, and then getting them to jump through hoops to claim it back, we could go back to just leaving it with people in the first place.

There are lots of other things we could do. But as we move into the post-Brexit era, it’s time to look to the future.
Let’s make sure that in our next manifesto, we think big for younger people.

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

Our friend Leo

If a new Brexit deal is agreed between the UK and the EU – which is still very far from certain – the main reason will be that Leo Varadkar and the Irish Government are pushing for one.  Early last week, the chances of an agreement seemed to be weakening: Downing Street briefed an account of a phone row between Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel; Dominic Cummings gave a ferocious No Deal briefing to the Spectator.  But by the weekend, the prospect of a deal was strengthening: the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach had met in the Wirral, and agreed that there was “a pathway to a possible deal”.  What had happened?

The answer is that we won’t know until the history books are written.  Perhaps we were all being played, and a deal was always likely.  Nor can any of us see more than the haziest outline of what an agreement might look like – if, as we say, one in reached at all.

Nonetheless, it is possible to glimpse some certainties through the mist.  To date, Ireland has insisted on maintaining the backstop – or to be more accurate, the Northern Ireland and Ireland Protocol, which is part of the Withdrawal Agreement.  Why has Varadkar changed his approach?

We suspect that there are two main reasons.

First, the Taoiseach seems to date to have taken what this site has called a rational gamble (a form of words echoed last week in the Cummings briefing).  This seems to have been that there would be a further extension rather than No Deal; and that this would sooner or later be followed by Britain revoking Brexit, perhaps after a second referendum, itself brought into being by a Labour or “national unity” (i.e: Remain) government.

All that may still happen – especially the extension.  But Boris Johnson’s ratings are holding up surprisingly well, given his reverses in the courts and the Commons.  There appears to be no consensus for replacing him either with Jeremy Corbyn, or with a Ken Clarke-type Remain government Prime Minister.  Next Saturday, there is likely to be a push for second referendum in the Chamber.  But over at the UK in a Changing Europe, Alan Wager writes that “unless the Tory Party splits again, the numbers are difficult to envisage”.

Which would open the door to a general election sooner rather than later; a possible Conservative majority, and a consequent No Deal Brexit – or else a new negotiating offer from Johnson distinctly tougher than his previous one.  Ireland’s Government follows British politics closely and its Embassy is never less than well-informed.  We suspect that it has picked up the change in the weather.  The odds on that rational gamble have started to look a bit longer.

Second, Ireland doesn’t seem to lose anything of real value to it from what Johnson’s proposal is understood to be.  (Stephen Booth of Open Europe gives an account on this site today.)  You might argue that if Northern Ireland joins the rest of the UK outside the Customs Union, and is thus able to benefit from post-Brexit trade deals with third parties, that Irish produce may be undercut in our markets by cheaper goods: about two-fifths of Irish agri-food exports come into the UK.

But in our view protecting the interests of its farmers has not been Ireland’s main aim in the negotiation.  Were this so, the EU would not originally have proposed a backstop that left Great Britain outside the Customs Union.  Rather, Ireland’s principal objective has been to maintain its land border with the UK much as now, in line with its strategic aims and its reading of the Belfast Agreement.

Johnson’s proposal seems to concede this.  Under it terms, Northern Ireland will apparently stay in the Single Market and there will be no North-South customs border (nor a DUO veto).  The European Commission is worried about the leakage of goods from Great Britain into the Single Market.  But preventing one is not a priority for Dublin.  The Irish Government is primarily concerned with the politics and economics of the island of Ireland.

So where next?

For as long as Ireland insisted on preserving the backstop, other EU countries were unwilling to gainsay it.  There was some evidence of irritation with the country’s stance in Eastern Europe.  And the German Government seemed relatively inclined to cut Britain some slack.

But ultimately the EU was not going to rat on one of its own – at least in the Brexit negotiations – and its bigger states need to show that they are mindful of the interests of smaller ones.  However, Varadkar’s shift of view may have turned the EU’s position on its head.

For where before it had an interest in not engaging with the UK’s idea, it now has one for doing so: keeping Ireland happy.  Before Brexit, it and the UK were close allies within the EU.  Brexit has pushed the two countries apart – at loggerheads over a potential settlement.  Now they are once again working closely together, however briefly, to implement what seems to be a variant of the Ruperal Plan.  Anglo-Irish relations thus have the chance of a reset.  The Johnson Government must maximise the opportunity.  As ConservativeHome has said many times during the negotiation, the UK has paid a high price for underestimating and overlooking Ireland.

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

Johnson: No-deal Brexit will be Merkel’s fault

Westlake Legal Group boris-johnson Johnson: No-deal Brexit will be Merkel’s fault United Kingdom The Blog Northern Ireland no-deal Brexit hard border Germany European Union Donald Tusk Boris Johnson backstop Angela Merkel

To be fair, blame the Germans has proven to be a solid political strategy regarding European affairs for quite a while, and not for no reason. It’s nearly as popular in the UK, historically speaking, as blame the French. And Leo Varadkar might be happy that Boris Johnson isn’t blaming Ireland for the no-deal Brexit everyone knows is coming.

But even as much as everyone likes to blame the Germans, this looks like a stretch:

An anonymous official in Boris Johnson’s office told broadcast reporters on Tuesday that negotiations with European leaders over Brexit were “essentially impossible” after the British prime minister concluded a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. …

An anonymous source in Johnson’s office briefed British broadcasters about a morning call between Johnson and Merkel, asserting that the Europeans would not budge an inch.

“It was a very useful and clarifying moment in all sorts of ways,” the British official was quoted as saying. “If this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible, not just now but ever.”

Narrator: It doesn’t represent a new established position. In fact, what Merkel appeared to say today was what the EU has said for the past three years, but 10 Downing is spinning it as something new:

“Merkel said that if Germany wanted to leave the E.U., they could do it, no problem. But the U.K. cannot leave without leaving Northern Ireland behind in a customs union and in full alignment forever,” the British source was quoted as saying.

This has been the backstop position all along. The EU is willing to negotiate a Brexit but only if the UK can solve the problem it has created with Brexit. The backstop — having Northern Ireland in the customs and regulatory union or all of the UK — would last as long as it takes the UK to solve the problem that backstop temporarily resolves.

This is the problem: The UK committed to a frictionless border in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which was easy to establish when both the UK and the Republic of Ireland were both in the EU. Brexit from the EU on the UK’s terms would require border checks to enforce the two different customs and regulatory regimes that would exist by the UK’s design on the island. Those don’t just apply to trade, but also to immigration, over which the UK also wants to regain its sovereignty through Brexit. It is therefore incumbent on the UK to come up with a solution that allows them to comply with the Good Friday Agreement, a point which Johnson himself has acknowledged.

Essentially, Merkel told Johnson that his latest proposal — which envisions border checks, even if located elsewhere than the physical border — doesn’t solve the problem. That would require the backstop to remain in place until the UK comes up with a plan that actually does resolve the conflict between the GFA and Brexit. If that means the backstop would remain in place “forever,” as this leak claims, it only points up the painfully obvious-by-now fact that Johnson really has no idea at all how to solve the problem.

That’s not Angela Merkel’s fault. It’s a flaw in the original design of Brexit, one which the Tories have tried to ignore or downplay ever since.

In response, the EU told Johnson to grow up:

The European Union accused Britain of playing a “stupid blame game” over Brexit on Tuesday after a Downing Street source said a deal was essentially impossible because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made unacceptable demands. …

“Boris Johnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” European Council President Tusk said on Twitter. “At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?”

Such abrupt remarks indicate the Brexit blame game has begun in earnest, and that now both London and European capitals are preparing for an acrimonious and potentially chaotic Brexit for which neither side wants to be held responsible.

This does smell like end-game spin, but especially in the UK. Johnson may have hoped that the EU was desperate enough to avoid the damage from a no-deal Brexit that they’d glumly accept his ultimatum. The EU, however, has committed to Ireland that they will protect the GFA and the open border on the island. Plus, it’s in their interest to make sure that the checks necessary once the UK goes its own way on trade deals are firmly in place rather than scattered in warehouses throughout not just the Six Counties but also throughout Ireland too — and Varadkar doesn’t want to get stuck holding the bag for being the UK’s customs enforcer.

The no-deal Brexit is upon us now. The only thing left to see is who gets the blame for the damage that will follow, and whether Northern Ireland decides to enforce another clause of the GFA by holding a referendum on reunification — which would solve the whole problem by pushing the border into the Irish Sea.

The post Johnson: No-deal Brexit will be Merkel’s fault appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group boris-johnson-300x173 Johnson: No-deal Brexit will be Merkel’s fault United Kingdom The Blog Northern Ireland no-deal Brexit hard border Germany European Union Donald Tusk Boris Johnson backstop Angela Merkel   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Pushed by Security Concerns and Trump, Germany Weighs a New Fuel

Westlake Legal Group 08sp-lng-inyt-4-facebookJumbo Pushed by Security Concerns and Trump, Germany Weighs a New Fuel Wilhelmshaven (Germany) Uniper SE Ships and Shipping Pipelines natural gas Germany

WILHELMSHAVEN, Germany — A jetty here juts out nearly a mile into the Wadden Sea from Germany’s low-lying northern coast. Now used by a chemical plant, the pier could become the site of the country’s first liquefied natural gas terminal.

Wilhelmshaven, a port city of about 80,000 people founded as a naval base, is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Now it is among a handful of candidates for a project, supported by the German government, that would open Europe’s largest economy to liquefied natural gas, known as L.N.G.

The fuel, which is created by chilling natural gas to a liquid form, is increasingly traded globally like oil. It is loaded onto enormous specialized ships, some more than 1,000 feet long. These vessels can go anywhere there is a terminal and deliver a substantial transfusion of fuel into a country’s gas network to keep the lights on and factories humming.

For Germany, Europe’s largest consumer of natural gas, an L.N.G. terminal would provide an alternative to its dependence on fuel piped from Russia, its largest supplier, and give the country a way to receive supplies from Qatar or the United States or elsewhere if an alternative were needed.

Uniper, a German energy provider, and other companies have considered building an L.N.G. facility in Wilhelmshaven for decades, holding on to the site since the 1970s. Earlier plans, including an effort to import the fuel from Algeria, have failed to come to fruition. Now, executives at Uniper say, the right moment may have arrived.

“The timing in the market is a very good one to develop such a facility,” Niels Fenzl, the company’s vice president for transportation and terminals, said in an interview.

Uniper recently held an “open season” to gauge the interest of potential suppliers, with encouraging results. Exxon Mobil, the American energy giant, has already reached a preliminary deal to use the terminal.

Germany has long relied on natural gas from Russia, Norway and other countries. Pipeline gas tends to be cheaper than L.N.G., which has higher processing and transportation costs.

In 2018, more than half of Germany’s gas imports came from Russia, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. But although the German establishment appears to be comfortable with Russia and its main gas provider, Gazprom, there are increasing reasons for the country to explore L.N.G. as an alternative.

In 2009, a price dispute led to a nearly two-week disruption in Russian gas shipments through Ukraine, raising concerns about European reliance on Russian supplies. And the Netherlands, another large supplier to Germany, faces the prospect of declining output from the Groningen field, not far from the German border. Its production is expected to decline and eventually cease because of earthquakes triggered by gas production. An L.N.G. facility could help compensate for those losses.

President Trump has also leaned on Europe, including Germany, to import more natural gas from shale deposits in the United States, which have produced a bounty of fuel that is now flowing into exports in the form of L.N.G. The administration has criticized a new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, being built from Russia to Germany, while promoting fuel from new export facilities in Louisiana and Texas.

Earlier this year, Peter Altmaier, the German economics and energy minister, announced support for constructing an L.N.G. terminal in return for the United States toning down its opposition to the new pipeline with Russia.

For years, German politicians and industry leaders have shrugged off warnings about relying on Russia. Northwest Europe has other terminals, which until recently were little used. L.N.G. supplies instead went to destinations like Asia, where buyers were willing to pay higher prices.

Now the energy security arguments appear to be making headway, and the market for L.N.G. looks stronger. Utilization rates of terminals in northwest Europe have risen sharply. Uniper, which has an agreement to take L.N.G. from a facility in Freeport, Tex.., said that the shiploads of fuel traded by the company more than tripled from 2017 to 2018, from 40 to 135.

At a visitor’s center for the Wilhelmshaven port, Mr. Fenzl said that to keep costs down, the company is leaning toward using a floating vessel, rather than an onshore facility, as its terminal. The vessel, which would be provided by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, would be tied to an extension of the existing jetty. L.N.G. vessels would tie up alongside and discharge their frigid cargo through flexible hoses.

Mr. Fenzl said the company has not made a final decision to move ahead and was weighing commitments from other suppliers to use the facility, as well as potential government support. He estimated the cost of the project at 500 to 650 million euros. “For us, as Uniper, this is a lot of money,” he said. “It is not an easy task to get if off the ground.”

Building an L.N.G. terminal would not guarantee that Germany would import fuel from the United States. “The German stance is that they are going to take the most competitive L.N.G. supply that they can. If that happens to be the U.S., that is a bonus,” said Murray Douglas, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie, a market research firm.

Mr. Douglas said the United States would need to compete with Qatar, a major exporter, as well as planned projects in East Africa. Russia is also increasingly competing in the L.N.G. market.

Other German ports, including Stade, have also joined the competition for a terminal. In Brunsbuettel, the state-owned Dutch gas distributor and partners are considering a terminal in part to make up for lost supplies from the quake-rattled Groningen field. All three of these cities are near Hamburg, the thriving commercial and maritime hub in northern Germany.

Of course, local and environmental opposition to liquefied natural gas could grow, as it has in other ports. The Wadden Sea is considered a unique area of mud flats and shallows, and environmentalists say that putting a terminal there might cause pollution, while the big ships could damage the sea bottom.

In addition, some activists question whether Germany, which has halted the drilling process known as fracking, in which water is injected into gas wells to break up rock and increase their production, should be building a terminal to import gas from the United States produced by this process.

“It is extremely hypocritical that Germany forbids the use of this technology but allows the import of the same type of gas,” said Antoine Simon, a campaigner against fossil fuels at Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.

Andy Gheorghiu, a campaigner in Germany for Food and Water Watch, a group that opposes fracking, said opposition to the L.N.G. terminals had been relatively small but was growing. “I am pretty confident we can kill these projects,” he said.In Wilhelmshaven, some civic leaders see an L.N.G. terminal as a boost to the city’s efforts to build up local port activities. “Now it looks like we come to the end of a long, long story,” joked John H. Niemann, president of the Wilhelmshaven Port Association, noting that various versions of the project had been under discussion for 40 years.

The town was heavily damaged by bombing in World War II and revived, first as an oil terminal and, more recently, as a container port. Port traffic dropped sharply during the financial crisis beginning in 2008 but is gradually regaining momentum and attracting new businesses, Mr. Niemann said.

Mr. Fenzl said that part of the appeal of Wilhelmshaven, which has greater than 10 percent unemployment — twice the national average — is that the area is hungry for jobs and new businesses.

Tourism is also important to the region. People come to see the coastline and a nearby nature reserve, as well as attractions including a maritime history museum and an aquarium. On warm evenings, diners sit outside restaurants along a romantically lit canal. There is even a hulking vintage air raid bunker with a restaurant next door.

Tourists, Mr. Fenzl said, also like to watch the huge container vessels going in and out of the port. The L.N.G. carriers, some of the largest ships in the world, might also prove an attraction, he said. “I think they are quite a sight.”

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Trump’s Green Light to Turkey Raises Fears About ISIS Detainees

Westlake Legal Group merlin_151067130_e3596fba-c47b-4ad2-a3ba-240d876c34ba-facebookJumbo Trump’s Green Light to Turkey Raises Fears About ISIS Detainees United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Great Britain Germany France Europe Detainees Defense and Military Forces Belgium Assad, Bashar al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s sudden blessing of a Turkish military operation in northern Syria and his announcement of an American troop withdrawal from that region raised questions about the fate of thousands of Islamic State detainees that the Turks’ targets, American-backed Syrian Kurds, have been holding in makeshift wartime prisons.

Mr. Trump insisted that Turkey must assume responsibility for the captured ISIS fighters and their families. But it is far from clear what will happen to them, and a host of issues arose from Mr. Trump’s abrupt, if still murky, change in policy.

The situation is deeply complicated. For now, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces control northern Syria. They have been the primary American ally inside Syria in the war against the Islamic State, carrying out the brunt of the ground-level fighting with support from American airstrikes and weapons. They operate prisons where ISIS members are detained.

The Kurds are menaced from the north by Turkey, which has been fighting separatist Kurds inside its borders for years and considers the Syrian Kurds to be terrorists, too. Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, backed by Russia, controls the southern part of the country and wants to eventually retake it all, raising the possibility of a deal with the Kurds.

The presence of American troops has helped maintain a fragile peace. But the White House said that Mr. Trump has given a green light for a Turkish military operation into northern Syria, and Mr. Trump said on Twitter that it was time to pull out. “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out,” he said, “and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.’”

The Syrian Democratic Forces operate an archipelago of ad hoc wartime detention sites for captive ISIS fighters, ranging from former schoolhouses in towns like Ainissa and Kobane to a former Syrian government prison at Hasaka.

The prisons hold about 11,000 men, of whom about 9,000 are locals — Syrians or Iraqis — and about 2,000 come from some 50 other nations whose home governments have been reluctant to repatriate them. They also operate camps for families displaced by the conflict that hold tens of thousands of people, many of them non-Syrian wives and children of Islamic State fighters.

“If Turkey attacks these Kurdish soldiers, there is a grave risk that the ISIS fighters they guard will escape and return to the battlefield,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers who recently visited the Middle East said in a joint statement on Monday.

This is one of many unknowns. An American-brokered plan in the works would create a demilitarized “safe zone” a few miles deep along a roughly 78-mile portion of the Syrian-Turkish border to reassure Turkey and forestall any military conflict with the Kurds. That would not affect the Kurds’ ability to keep running the prisons.

But Mr. Erdogan, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly last month, has instead pushed for a much longer and deeper zone. A broader invasion could reach the prisons, and it would set off an armed conflict that could prompt the Kurds to pull guards from prisons so they could instead join the fight.

The “worst-case scenario” is that the Kurds are so frustrated and angered by the United States’ action that “they decide to release wholesale some of the detainees,” said Christopher P. Costa, a former senior director for counterterrorism on Mr. Trump’s National Security Council who now heads the International Spy Museum.

It was not clear. The White House said Turkey would “now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years.” But Turkey has given no public sign that it has agreed to take over that headache.

For now at least, the Kurds have told American officials that they will continue to hold the ISIS detainees. But a senior State Department official acknowledged that the best-trained guards could be pulled away in the event of a conflict with Turkey, calling it a “big concern” that some ISIS fighters could go free.

“It’s hard to imagine Turkey has the capacity to handle securely and appropriately the detainees long held by the Syrian Kurds — and that’s if Turkey even genuinely intends to try,” said Joshua A. Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council in the Obama administration.

The Kurds have implored countries around the world to take back their citizens who fought for the Islamic State and were captured. But that idea is politically unpopular in many European countries. Mr. Trump is correct that nations like Belgium, Britain, France and Germany have been largely content to let the Kurds bear the burden of detaining their citizens — particularly the male fighters.

Many European law enforcement officials fear that if they repatriate their extremist citizens, they would be unable to convict them or keep them locked up for a long time. European counterterrorism laws are weaker than those in the United States, where a conviction merely for joining a designated terrorist group can yield a 15-year prison sentence.

But Mr. Trump was wrong when he also said that the captured ISIS fighters were “mostly from Europe.” While scores of the imprisoned men have European citizenship, far more come from other countries that are part of the Muslim world — like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, to say nothing of the thousands of local Syrians and Iraqis.

Unlike many other countries, the United States has taken its citizens off the Kurds’ hands. But there are two British detainees still in Kurdish custody whom the United States has a particular interest in keeping locked up: El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey.

They are two of the so-called Beatles, a four-member cell of British ISIS members who tortured and murdered Western hostages, including James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded in August 2014 for an ISIS propaganda video. Another member of the cell, who was later killed in a drone strike, is believed to have killed Mr. Foley.

The Justice Department intends to eventually bring them to the Eastern District of Virginia for trial, but a court fight in Britain has delayed that transfer. The lawsuit is over whether the British government may share evidence with the United States without an assurance that American prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

“It’s a good day for the Beatles,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is normally a staunch Trump ally but who denounced the president’s move as “complete chaos” and “a disaster.” In a phone interview, Mr. Graham vowed to lead a congressional vote to try to impose sanctions on Turkey if it invades northern Syria, despite Mr. Trump’s acquiescence.

Eric Schmitt and Lara Jakes contributed reporting.

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Ukraine? Impeachment? Trump Can Survive It All, Foreign Analysts Say

BRUSSELS — This summer, just after he visited the White House for the second time, President Andrzej Duda of Poland held forth about how much he admired President Trump’s transactional style.

“I must tell you that in this respect I find it very easy and good to cooperate with President Donald Trump,” Mr. Duda said in an interview in Warsaw. “Because he’s very down to earth, very concrete. He tells me what he wants, he asks me what he can get from us.”

Given that well-established style of wheeling and dealing, the revelations about Mr. Trump’s phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine — in which Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian leader for a ‘‘favor,’’ to dig up dirt on a political opponent — have reinforced impressions of the American president.

Regardless of impeachment, for now, at least, many analysts and media commentators abroad say they assume that Mr. Trump will remain president. But some wondered if this was perhaps ‘‘the deal too many,’’ as the headline on the cover of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel read, showing Mr. Trump on the phone.

“Presidents always ask for things, but what’s different is the nature of the ask here,” said Simon Jackman, head of the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney, Australia, the latest country Mr. Trump has appeared to pressure for renewed investigations of his political foes.

“It’s not about contributing with defense for an operation we might be doing together, or for a trade matter,’’ he added. ‘‘This is: ‘What were the circumstances under which Australia felt compelled to pass on this intelligence about election interference that helped me become president?’ We’re in a whole new category.”

Still, in Australia, there was little surprise. The same sentiment prevailed in much of Europe, along with a gloomy sense of inevitability among critics that nothing much seemed to damage Mr. Trump.

Many expected him to survive until the end of his term and very possibly be strengthened for re-election by the impeachment ordeal, which could let him trumpet his victory over the “Washington elite.”

“We all know that impeachment is a political affair, not a legal one,” said Jan Techau, an analyst with the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “If it keeps the pressure on Trump, whose reactions already show the strain, it could cost him votes. But if it falls like a soufflé it can embolden him, as the golden one who can’t be touched.”

In Germany, which Mr. Trump loves to criticize, Mr. Techau said, “there’s lots of hope impeachment will succeed, but no confidence that the Democrats can run this thing efficiently.’’

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161418501_56d3b92d-4006-4fad-b401-861c419b8626-articleLarge Ukraine? Impeachment? Trump Can Survive It All, Foreign Analysts Say United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russia Rottgen, Norbert Poland Merkel, Angela impeachment Germany Foreign Aid Europe Duda, Andrzej (1972- ) Crimea (Ukraine) Corruption (Institutional) Berlin (Germany) Australia

Russia sees a victory in the tensions displayed between the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Mr. Trump.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

‘‘Germans are puzzled that there is no natural leader of the opposition,’’ he added, ‘‘and it feels like Trump so dominates the stage there’s no room for anyone else.”

French reaction has been muted. Impeachment has not been on the front pages, with the media consumed with the death of former President Jacques Chirac. The center-left Le Monde editorialized a bit wearily that impeachment was forced on the Democrats, but probably without result.

“Confronted with this norm-breaking president, the Democrats were obligated to set a limit beyond which they considered that the counter-powers, the famous ‘checks and balances’ of the American system, could no longer function: in their eyes, this limit had been reached,” the paper said.

But François Heisbourg, a French analyst, noted that the notion of impeachment was itself somewhat unknown abroad.

“Nobody outside the U.S. understands impeachment,” he said. “Many would be chuffed if it works but everyone assumes it will strengthen Trump and not weaken him, which of course may be wrong.”

More important, Mr. Heisbourg said, was the impact on Ukraine and Mr. Zelensky’s standing with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and French President Emmanuel Macron, both of whom he criticized even more harshly than Mr. Trump did on their telephone call, even though the Europeans provide more economic aid to Ukraine than does Washington.

The partial phone transcript hurts Mr. Trump’s relationship with other leaders, who can no longer trust the privacy of their conversations, but “it has made Zelensky look incredibly naïve and even stupid, which he is not,” Mr. Heisbourg said.

“Zelensky didn’t just let Trump diss Merkel and Macron but does it himself,’’ Mr. Heisbourg said. ‘‘And when people say they won’t hold it against him, they’re wrong. Macron and Merkel won’t appreciate it, and in one fell swoop, Zelensky has lost a lot of good will.”

Mr. Techau agreed. “This is damaging for Ukraine, because it reinforces the image of this country as a hopeless case, where all these external powers mingle and trample and nothing comes out well,” he said. “It damages the feeling of solidarity with Ukraine, already lagging.”

Russia cited a victory not only in the tensions displayed between Mr. Zelensky and President Trump, but also between Mr. Zelensky and Ukraine’s main European supporters, especially in Germany and France, whom he needlessly insulted in the phone call.

In Moscow, where power in office is routinely traded for political favors and personal profit, there was glee.

President Andrzej Duda of Poland, in an interview this summer after he visited the White House, said he admired Mr. Trump’s transactional style.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

The Russians, who annexed Crimea and are deeply engaged in the fight for Ukraine’s east, like to argue that the West is just as cynical as they are, and often cite Mr. Trump as evidence.

And Russia has seized on the scandal to promote its longstanding theme that Ukraine and Mr. Zelensky are vassals of the United States.

On Sunday, Dmitri К. Kiselyov, the anchor of the Kremlin’s flagship propaganda news show, “Vesti Nedeli” or “News of the Week,” described Mr. Zelensky’s visit to the United States as a “catastrophe.” He said that Mr. Zelensky was “literally sucked into the funnel of intra-American fights between Trump and his enemies.”

“As a result, Zelensky now has no chance of building good relations neither with Trump nor with Biden,” said Mr. Kiselyov. “For Biden, Zelensky will forever remain the man who steadfastly promised Trump to relaunch the anti-corruption case against his son.”

Mr. Kiselyov noted that Mr. Zelensky offended Ms. Merkel, too. “As a result, Germany’s Spiegel already writes about insults against Merkel and only ‘pieces of relations’ with Ukraine. So now Trump, Biden and Merkel have all been removed from the list of Zelensky’s friends. How could he do it so quickly? An outstanding result!”

Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the German Parliament, was disgusted. The phone transcript “bitterly documents how Trump, behind the scenes, exploits his power over a state president who is dependent on American support and works for his private interests, his election campaign, and against Germany and Europe,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

In Poland, despite its president’s praise of Mr. Trump, not everyone is a fan of his deal-making style.

“In my opinion the government is silent on the issue because the kind of transactional offer he offered to Ukraine is quite similar to the way he treats Polish politicians,” said Ryszard Schnepf, a former Polish ambassador to Washington.

While he might not ask for dirt on political opponents, Mr. Schnepf said, Mr. Trump’s approach to foreign policy was “compromising, unbalanced and one sided.”

In the Arab world, reports of Mr. Trump’s efforts to extract favors from foreign leaders have generally been met with shrugs, not least because many people in the region are used to their leaders behaving in similar ways.

Leaders of the Arab world’s nondemocratic governments commonly use their offices for personal gain, and in the monarchies, there is often no clear distinction between public and private money.

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Andrew Gimson’s Conference sketch: Williamson promises to beat Germany at technical education

Westlake Legal Group L1050603 Andrew Gimson’s Conference sketch: Williamson promises to beat Germany at technical education ToryDiary technical education NHS Nation and patriotism Matthew Hancock MP Germany Gavin Williamson MP Education Boris Johnson MP

We are going to overtake Germany. Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, said so this morning. It was the most striking line in his speech.

For he faced, before he spoke, a tricky question. How does one bring new life to a worthy and important subject – inferiority in technical education – which British politicians have been worrying about for well over a century?

Boris Johnson would know how to it. As Mayor of London, the humdrum details of municipal government were transmuted into a drama starring himself as the genius who was inspiring people to build the new sewer and the new bus, and indeed the new airport if only the Treasury and the Department of Transport were not so unimaginative.

Few other ministers know how to impart excitement to such tasks. Williamson decided to do so by stepping forward as the man who would at last remove the inferiority complex from which Britons have suffered since the late 19th century when contemplating the wonders of German technical education.

These pledges have to be finely calibrated. Tell people you will tranform everything by the middle of next week and they will not believe you. But offer them too distant a completion date and they may start to impugn your drive, ambition and fitness for high office.

Williamson steered a middle course, choosing a date when most of those in the hall could hope to be still alive, but one when he himself could hope no longer to be serving as Education Secretary:

“Today I am setting a new ambition over the next decade with an aim to overtake Germany in the opportunities we offer to those studying technical routes by 2029.”

Conscious, perhaps, that these words would not convince everyone, he went on:

“We do not always beat Germany at football but on this we most certainly will.”

And in order to remove any lingering doubt, he added that he will establish “an expert Skills and Productivity Board” which will “provide strategic advice on the skills and qualifications we need”.

Williamson is part of a pattern at this conference: the harnessing of patriotism to the attainment of great national goals by this Conservative government, which can be trusted to cherish great national institutions.

So Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, had declared earlier that “we have a deep and solemn responsibility to steer our beloved country through these troubled times”, and said the single most important thing on the doorstep was to “show and communicate that we love the NHS”.

Worthy social reform cannot always be made entertaining, but it can always be made a cause for national pride.

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VW Executives and Ex-C.E.O. Are Charged With Market Manipulation

FRANKFURT — Volkswagen was supposed to turn the corner this year from the shadow of a costly diesel emissions scandal, with a new emphasis on electric vehicles, a new logo and a new commitment to ethical behavior.

But on Tuesday, German prosecutors charged the automaker’s two highest-ranking executives with stock market manipulation for failing to inform shareholders of an investigation in the United States that led to its conviction for emissions cheating.

The allegations against Hans Dieter Pötsch, the chairman of Volkswagen’s supervisory board, and Herbert Diess, the chief executive, mean that the world’s largest automaker will be led by criminal defendants as it tries to refashion itself as a climate-friendly manufacturer of affordable electric cars. The prosecutors, in Braunschweig, also charged Martin Winterkorn, a former Volkswagen chief executive.

The day brought bad news for another German automaker, too, again tied to an emissions scandal. Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, agreed to pay a fine of 870 million euros, or $957 million, in Germany for selling diesel cars that polluted more than allowed. The company has disclosed that it is also under investigation in the United States.

The legal actions were a further setback to the German car industry, the backbone of the economy, when it is struggling with declining sales and a transition to electric vehicles.

[The American dimension of diesel-emissions deceit grew on Tuesday with an indictment against a Fiat Chrysler manager.]

At Volkswagen, Mr. Pötsch and Mr. Diess indicated that they would stay in their jobs, and there was no sign of any move by other members of Volkswagen’s supervisory board or its largest shareholder to oust either of them. Both men, who could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if convicted, denied the charges against them, as did Mr. Winterkorn.

Mr. Pötsch, who was chief financial officer of Volkswagen throughout the period when the company was installing illegal emissions cheating software in millions of vehicles, is a close confidant of the Porsche and Piëch families, which own a majority of Volkswagen’s voting shares.

Volkswagen’s other major shareholder is the German state of Lower Saxony, which owns 20 percent of the voting stock. Outside shareholders are heavily outnumbered and have little influence.

A spokeswoman for Stephan Weil, the state prime minister and a member of the Volkswagen supervisory board, said through a spokeswoman that he would have no immediate comment.

Mr. Diess’s lawyers issued a statement in which he vowed “to carry out his duties in the company with absolute commitment.”

Mr. Pötsch’s lawyer, Norbert Scharf, said in a statement that his client “has nothing to blame himself for.”

It is unusual but not unprecedented for managers of blue-chip German companies to keep their jobs when facing criminal charges. Josef Ackermann remained chief executive of Deutsche Bank after he was charged with approving excessively high bonuses to managers of a company where he was a member of the supervisory board. The charges were dropped in 2006 after he agreed to pay several million euros in a settlement.

Senior managers of Volkswagen have faced criminal charges before. In the early 1990s, the chief purchasing officer was accused of corporate espionage against General Motors, his former employer. In 2007, the head of personnel was convicted of supplying prostitutes and Viagra to labor leaders at company expense.

Volkswagen has acknowledged that its company culture had become toxic. Under a 2017 plea agreement that resolved criminal charges in the United States, Volkswagen promised to change its ways.

Overseeing the ethics drive is Hiltrud Dorothea Werner, a member of Volkswagen’s management board. She defended the accused executives on Tuesday.

“The company has meticulously investigated this matter with the help of internal and external legal experts for almost four years,” Ms. Werner said in a statement. “The result is clear: The allegations are groundless.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_80319803_3e7fe716-00c9-408c-9045-0aa527ac6c41-articleLarge VW Executives and Ex-C.E.O. Are Charged With Market Manipulation Winterkorn, Martin Volkswagen AG Potsch, Hans Dieter (1951- ) Germany Frauds and Swindling Diess, Herbert

Martin Winterkorn, left, the former chief executive of Volkswagen, and Hans Dieter Pötsch, the chairman of the company’s supervisory board, in 2014.CreditJohannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But the case could also have financial consequences for Volkswagen. Shareholders have sued, seeking damages that could reach $10 billion.

At issue is when the Volkswagen executives learned that the company was under investigation in the United States for deploying software that produced artificially low emissions in diesel cars when they were being tested. German law requires senior managers to warn shareholders of events that could affect the stock price.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that Mr. Winterkorn had known no later than May 2015 that the company could face serious penalties in the United States. Mr. Pötsch was informed at the end of June 2015 and Mr. Diess at the end of that July, prosecutors said.

The three defendants withheld information from shareholders in order to protect the Volkswagen share price, prosecutors said.

Volkswagen shareholders did not learn of the cheating until the Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation in September 2015. Volkswagen’s share price fell by almost half, and the cost of the scandal has since topped $30 billion in court settlements and fines.

The allegations are a particular blow to Mr. Diess, a former BMW executive who arrived only months before the E.P.A. publicly accused Volkswagen of cheating. He has been trying to restore Volkswagen’s image by changing the authoritarian, win-at-all-costs company culture that helped foster the scandal.

This month, he presided over the flashy introduction at the Frankfurt International Motor Show of a battery-powered hatchback, the ID.3. Volkswagen has staked its future on what it says will be a family of moderately priced electric vehicles, making emission-free transportation accessible to middle-class buyers. Volkswagen also introduced a cleaner logo.

“Neither the facts nor the law justify the charges,” lawyers for Mr. Diess said in a statement. “Newly arrived in July 2015, Dr. Diess was not in any position to foresee the magnitude of the economic consequences actually resulting from the diesel emissions fraud.”

Mr. Diess received moral support on Tuesday from Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla. “Herbert Diess is doing more than any big carmaker to go electric,” Mr. Musk wrote on Twitter. “The good of the world should come first. For what it’s worth, he has my support.”

The charges also put pressure on Mr. Pötsch, who was chief financial officer when the scandal came to light in 2015 and was responsible for communicating with shareholders. As supervisory board chairman, he oversees senior management and presides over the annual shareholders meeting.

“The indictment against Mr. Pötsch is unfounded,” his lawyer said in a statement. “In the summer of 2015, no obligation to inform the capital market arose at any time even from a purely capital market law perspective.”

Mr. Winterkorn’s lawyer, Felix Dörr, said in a statement that the former chief executive had trusted assurances from Volkswagen employees that excess emissions in diesel cars were the result of a technical problem, which could be worked out with regulators in the United States.

Volkswagen later admitted that it had programmed the vehicles to recognize when an emissions test was underway and to crank up pollution controls so the cars were deemed compliant. On the road, the cars polluted far more than allowed.

Mr. Winterkorn “had no prior knowledge of the intentional use of forbidden motor management software in diesel passengers cars in the U.S.,” the statement said. Mr. Winterkorn, who resigned days after the scandal burst into public view, already faces fraud charges in connection with the emissions cheating, which he has denied.

Prosecutors had previously disclosed that they were investigating the three executives, as well as dozens of other suspects, for possible involvement in the emissions deception. The cases in Germany are likely to take years to resolve and will continue to corrode the company’s reputation.

The Volkswagen case has focused attention on the degree to which nearly all carmakers in Europe built diesel cars that flouted emissions rules in one way or another.

European laws do not generally provide for fines as hefty as those that Volkswagen paid in the United States, and it is difficult for car owners in Europe to sue for damages. But sales of diesel cars, once the most popular engine option in Europe, have plunged.

Daimler said it would not contest the fine imposed by prosecutors in Stuttgart. The company, which is based in Stuttgart, was accused of failing to adequately supervise employees who, in 2008, secured regulatory approval for 684,000 vehicles that did not meet emissions standards.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Stuttgart state’s attorneys office said it continued to investigate unnamed Daimler employees who were suspected of illegally manipulating engine-control software in diesel vehicles.

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