Georgia is on the brink of revolution

For weeks, the Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi has looked like a battlefield. Thousands of protestors, mostly in their twenties, have been met by riot police armed with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. On the face of it, the protest is about a new repressive bill in its final reading in the Georgian parliament. In reality, it’s the struggle between a government that is turning towards Moscow, and a citizenry who by and large believe the future lies with Europe. The crunch point comes next week when the Georgian parliament will vote on a bill which, if passed, would label as a ‘foreign agent’ any political or civil society

Letters: the admirable strength of Ukrainians

The bravery of Ukraine Sir: Few articles could resonate as strongly as that of Svitlana Morenets (‘Scrambled logic’, 20 April). She brings the agony of her brave countrymen and women home to us, and the effect of dithering and equivocation by the West. As a volunteer with a refugee charity, I weekly admire the character of our Ukrainian clients, mainly older ladies who spend their time bringing us delicious homemade cakes, volunteering in charity shops and signing up to English classes at the local college. Tom Stubbs Surbiton, Surrey Well out of the EU Sir: I have huge respect for Lord Sumption as one of the few people with the

Poland’s battle with the EU over migrant quotas

Another day, another spat between Warsaw and Brussels. This time, Poland has declined to participate in the European Union’s latest plan to relocate migrants and asylum seekers within the bloc, with countries who refuse being expected to pay €20,000 per refugee. Hungary has also voted against the pact, while Malta, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria have quietly abstained.  On 15 June, the Polish parliament (the Sejm) went further and passed a resolution opposing the plan, with the ruling conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) announcing a national referendum on the matter. The referendum will take place on the same day as the general election in either October or November this year.  ‘We

Svitlana Morenets

How Justin Trudeau caved to Putin

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the West was certain that its sanctions were worth the pain. But there always was a question as to whether this resolve would last once the domestic difficulties actually started. This week, western countries moved closer to admitting it might be too much to bear. At the time of the invasion in February, a massive Russian turbine was being repaired in Montreal. It was one of many turbines used to send gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany. When the Russians moved into Ukraine, it was kept in Canada as punishment. Over the next few weeks and months Russia replied, cutting off

Sunak is taking a gamble on the Protocol

Westminster is back to the Brexit wars this week. Once again, a Conservative leader is trying to finalise a deal with Brussels while facing warnings from their own side that it could prove a compromise too far. On Friday, there was much fanfare that a new deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol could be imminent. Rishi Sunak flew to Northern Ireland to meet with the DUP – where talks proved amicable. Then the Prime Minister met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the fringes of the Munich security conference. However, since then a string of Tory MPs have spoken publicly to raise their concerns and Sunak has been

Is Sunak heading for trouble on the Protocol?

There has been excited chatter in recent days that a breakthrough on the Northern Ireland Protocol could be imminent. Last week, the UK government and Brussels agreed a new technical arrangement on sharing trade data, which was heralded as a ‘new basis’ for talks, following a meeting between EU chief negotiator Maros Sefcovic, and James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary. Since then, there has been speculation that the two sides could enter the ‘tunnel’ – the intensive end stage of negotiations – as soon as this week. There is a desire on both sides to find an agreement on changes to the Protocol could ahead of the 25th anniversary of the

Qatargate has exposed the staggering hypocrisy of the European left

Ravenna, Italy Everyone in Britain has focused on what the Qatargate corruption scandal reveals about the European Union – but not on what it tells us about the European left. The fact is that all those so far accused of taking bribes from Qatar and its ally Morocco are left-wing MEPs – or former MEPs – and their assistants, or else bosses of left-wing human rights charities or trade union leaders. Most are Italians who are members, or ex-members, of Italy’s post-communist party – the Partito Democratico (PD). The hypocrisy of these prize exponents of the Euro left – some of whom, according to leaked transcripts of their interrogations, have already

Sadiq Khan’s strange stabbing statement

What an odd thing Sadiq Khan said following this morning’s stabbings in central London. Shortly before 10 a.m., three people were attacked by a man on a bike in Bishopsgate. The criminal is still at large, according to the Telegraph. This horrifying incident was no surprise to Londoners, so you would think that the Mayor would – from experience – strike the right chord. Instead, Khan had this to say: The good news is, it’s not a terror attack. And another piece of good news is the three victims of the stabbing are not in life-threatening situations, thank God. But it’s just a reminder of the dangers of carrying a knife… Where was

Europe’s descent into deindustrialisation

The rapid economic collapse that Britain is facing is simply an accelerated version of what the whole of Europe is about to go through; unsustainable borrowing to fund the gap between high energy prices and what households can actually afford. With the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline, there is now no feasible way back. Europe can no longer physically import Russian gas – prices will remain high until Europe builds more energy capacity, which could take years. What is likely to come of this? High energy prices will render European manufacturing uncompetitive. European manufacturers will be forced to pass through the higher energy costs in the form of higher

Is war brewing between Serbia and Kosovo?

Serbia and Kosovo are close to conflict. Of all things, a dispute over car number plates is threatening the fragile peace won 23 years ago, after a Nato bombing campaign against then-Yugoslavia. For that, Serbs have never truly forgiven the West. On Sunday night, roads were blockaded by Serbs in northern Kosovo. Their anger was directed at an edict from the Kosovan government requiring Serbs to re-register their cars with Kosovar number plates. Serbs currently use number plates with acronyms of Kosovar cities, just one example of Serbia’s ongoing refusal to accept Kosovan independence. New documentation requirements were also to be imposed on Serbs entering and leaving Kosovo. Some have

The EU never understood Northern Ireland

At the heart of the crisis over the Protocol is its failure to deliver on its own stated aims. To understand this crisis, it is necessary to know some key aspects of the Protocol’s genesis and history. Exactly a month after Theresa May triggered Article 50, the European Commission was instructed by the member states (the European Council of 27) with ensuring the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU, including finding arrangements for the island of Ireland. That meant securing the Good Friday Agreement and avoiding a hard border. This was set out in legal guidelines on 29 April 2017 and elaborated in directives for the negotiations the following month:

Changing the Northern Ireland Protocol won’t break the law

The UK is about to publish a bill that will override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. We are doing this unilaterally – the EU doesn’t want us to do it, but we’re going to do it anyway. Surely that means we’re about to breach international law? It’s worth quickly going over why this is happening. The EU wanted to protect its common market, and no one wanted a border down the island of Ireland, so a trade border was placed in the Irish Sea. That has created trade friction between two constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Unionists are unhappy with that arrangement. And unhappy Unionists have led to

Robert Peston

The Northern Ireland Protocol is a problem Boris created

If Boris Johnson was elected on a single slogan, it was ‘Get Brexit done’. He then claimed it was done at the end of 2019 in the terms for leaving the EU he agreed. Not so. Today legislation will be introduced by the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to unilaterally overhaul a central pillar of the UK’s negotiated exit from the EU, the Northern Ireland Protocol – which is seen by the EU, whatever the government may claim, as a breach of the UK’s international treaty obligations.  Economic relations with the EU, still the biggest market for our exporters by a country mile, were already bad. They are about to become appallingly

Katy Balls

The next Brexit battle is here

The government will today reveal its plans to unilaterally rewrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Depending on who you speak to, this is either a necessary step in protecting the Good Friday agreement or a breach of international law set to damage the UK’s standing on the world stage. The details of the bill have been subject to government wrangling over the past week. Liz Truss sided with backbench members of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers to toughen up the bill while ministers including Michael Gove and Rishi Sunak argued for a more cautious approach. One of the problems for Johnson is that figures in Brussels look

The EU’s oil ban is a damp squib

When Putin’s tanks rolled into Ukraine on 24 February there was a conceit that this might be the first war which the West could fight – and win – by sanctions alone. The EU’s latest efforts to stop importing Russian oil show just what a folly this was. Donations of military equipment to Ukraine are certainly helping to keep Russian forces at bay, but economic sanctions? That is another story. Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas is the product of years of ill-conceived energy policy Sanctions may be helping to lower living standards among Russian citizens, but they are still a long, long way from cutting off the lifeblood

How Russia wins

It is still too early to predict the outcome of the war in Ukraine. Russia has certainly solidified its position in the east and is making small military gains. What’s become clear over the last few days is that Russia may, after all, be able to achieve at least some of its military goals. Here is an interesting, albeit disturbing, political scenario by Sabine Fischer, a senior fellow at a German foreign policy tank. She notes that the mood in Moscow itself has shifted. It is the Kremlin’s political calculation that the western nations will not sustain their massive financial and military support for Ukraine.  The German government is prioritising its commercial relations with Russia – as it

Sam Leith

Imperial measures are culture war bait

The idea of reintroducing imperial measures in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee has one quality that will have commended it to No. 10’s wizard wheezes department. It seems to have driven remoaning liberal elite types pleasingly bananas. It’s the perfect culture war bait, because it plays into the stereotype: if you are unshakeably complacent in your conviction that Brexit, and the government which advanced it as a project, are pandering to empty symbols of trad patriotism and little Englander nostalgia, you’ll shriek with a sort of delighted horror at the news. Here is confirmation of everything you imagined. These backward-looking clowns, with their Union flags and their saudade for wars they never fought in and imperial power that had vanished a generation before they were born! Their Enid Blyton worldview, their privet-hedge parochialism! Is this really what

The protocol is hurting Northern Ireland

With every sausage war or fish fight over the past 18 months, the chances of survival for the Northern Ireland protocol have narrowed. But the fallout from the NI Assembly elections, which saw Sinn Féin become the largest single party, has made it increasingly likely that the UK will take unilateral action to override parts of the Brexit deal. The protocol has few supporters. Arguably its only redeeming feature was that it allowed Boris Johnson to break the deadlock and conclude the withdrawal agreement. Because a porous land border between the UK and the Republic would have threatened the single market – and a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic

The EU is hopelessly muddled on Ukraine

A couple of weeks ago Ursula von der Leyen portentously announced a further package of EU sanctions against Russia – the sixth, in case you had lost count. No doubt an underling immediately told Vladimir Putin. Most likely, that adviser will have been waved away; Vladimir has more important matters to think about. Much of the announcement was small beer. Putin won’t be shaking in his shoes at the thought that a few more of his top brass are being sanctioned, the odd bank removed from Swift, three broadcasters silenced in the EU, and a bar on the EU supply of corporate services like accountancy to Russian companies. True, there were

Miss Brexit? Another bust-up is looming

In the past few months, relations between the UK and the EU have been the best they have been since Brexit. Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine reminded the two sides of the need for the world’s democracies to co-operate. It is tempting to hope that relations could continue to improve, especially now that the French presidential election is out of the way. But, as I say in the magazine this week, this is unlikely to happen. The Northern Ireland protocol is about to return to the agenda. The EU thinks that the UK must be made to abide by what was signed, and that allowing London to wriggle out of