Meanwhile, in Western Europe

by Andrew Stuttaford

With the elections approaching (late May) for the EU’s parliament, some reminders of discontent with the existing order.


Voter support for Britain’s anti-European Union UK Independence Party (UKIP) is at a record high according to one opinion poll on Sunday, reflecting a wider pattern of growing support for the party ahead of European elections next month. The rising popularity of UKIP, which calls for an immediate withdrawal from the EU and tighter immigration laws, threatens to split the vote for Prime Minister David Cameron at European parliament elections in May and a national election in 2015.

UKIP’s profile has been raised by the upcoming European elections on May 22, when polls suggest it could beat Cameron’s party into third place.A ComRes poll of voting intentions for next year’s national election put UKIP on 20 percent – up four percentage points at their highest in the four-year history of the poll. Cameron’s Conservatives fell three points to 29 percent.

The main opposition Labour party were steady on 35 percent while the Lib Dems, junior partners in the coalition government, sank 2 percentage points to a new low of 7 percent. A second poll by Opinium on Sunday showed UKIP three percentage points higher on 18 percent, and another survey released last week by gave the party 15 percent – matching its highest ever rating in polls conducted by Ipsos Mori.

On Thursday Cameron described UKIP’s views on the European Union as “extremist” at the launch of his European election campaign.

To which one can only retort that Cameron’s alternative, ‘renegotiation,’ has no chance of getting anywhere. The only realistic route to getting anything close to what he claims to want is for Britain to file notice to quit under the EU’s Article 50 and then cut some sort of new deal (probably membership of the EEA) from there.

The puzzling thing about Cameron’s language is how tin-eared politically it is. If he has to have any hope of winning the 2015 election (as it happens, he doesn’t), he has to bring a huge percentage of the disaffected Tories who account for so much of UKIP’s support back into the fold. Describing them as ‘extremist’ is not the way to go.

The Irish Independent:

A campaign, which has two million supporters, demands that Venice separates from Italy and revives its centuries-long tradition as a free republic. It is growing in confidence thanks to long-standing discontent with Italy’s chaotic central government – despite ridicule from Rome’s political elite.

Now, three weeks after the campaigners staged an unofficial referendum that they said showed a majority of Venetians backing their case, its leaders want Palazzo Venezia handed to them as their “embassy” to Italy…. The campaigners want independence not only for the lagoon city of Venice, but also its hinterland, the Italian region of Veneto, where wealthy and industrious manufacturers have long been receptive to calls for independence. They are angry that €2.1bn of the region’s taxes are spent elsewhere by Rome.

Count me unconvinced that this movement will get very far, but the resentment it represents is worth noting. More than a century and a half after Italian union, Venetians don’t like seeing their money going to other parts of the country. Does the EU really believe that the Germans, Dutch and Finns are going to be happy about a ‘transfer union’ (the euphemism to describe what the Eurozone will have to introduce to secure its long-term future) in which their money goes to subsidize, say, Greece in perpetuity?

And then Spain gives the rest of the world a demonstration of ‘European values’:

Spanish MPs have voted overwhelmingly to reject a request by the Catalan authorities to hold a referendum on independence on 9 November. After seven hours of debate, 299 MPs voted against the motion, with 47 votes in favour and one abstention. Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy earlier warned a referendum would be “an economic disaster” for both Spain and Catalonia. Plans to let the people of the eastern region break away from Spain has led to months of constitutional debate. The region already enjoys a wide degree of autonomy but the recent economic crisis in Spain has fuelled Catalan nationalism.

[S]peaking after the votes were counted, Catalan President Artur Mas said his regional government would press ahead with the plan to hold a referendum in November.

…Tensions between the Spanish government and Catalonia’s regional government have been rising in recent months. Catalan’s regional government announced in December that it had decided on the two questions that would be put to the electorate.

Voters would be asked if they wanted Catalonia to be a state and if they wanted it to be an independent state. The Catalan regional authorities have a long history of fighting the central authorities in Spain for greater autonomy. Catalonia is one of Spain’s most developed regions, with a population of 7.5 million.

And, yes, its people, who have a distinct national identity of their own, resent seeing its money go to other parts of Spain. 

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