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2016 was a monumental year, and 2017 shows little sign of being any more sedate. To help you make sense of the year ahead, Alex Greer has compiled a list of key dates and events that will determine the shape of European and Global politics, along with links to some choice Open Europe analysis.
23 December 2016
Following the Government’s decision to appeal the High Court judgement that ruled Parliament must authorise the triggering of Article 50 (the formal mechanism for exiting the EU), the Supreme Court judgement will determine in early January whether legislation or other Parliamentary approval is required. The Government has said that it plans to publish its negotiating objectives in the form of a white paper early in the New Year in any case, and to stick to its stated aim of triggering Article 50 before the end of March. While even pro-European MPs are unlikely to attempt overtly to frustrate this plan, the court’s eventual decision may allow the House of Lords to delay or amend any required legislation, potentially endangering the March deadline. Expect constitutional fireworks if so.
The impact of Donald Trump’s presidency has been much discussed but little understood since his election victory in November (see our summary of European coverage here and policy analysis here). In any case, after he formally takes the reins from President Obama, Trump will have to give his views on free trade, NATO, climate change and other important issues a more concrete expression than 140 characters after his Inauguration as the 45th President of the USA, expected 20th January.
Others events in January include the EU-Turkey summit, the likely retirement of Martin Schulz as President of the European Parliament, and Malta taking over the 6-month rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
Also, look out for a by-election in the opening months of 2017 in Copeland, UK. No date is yet confirmed, but the resignation of Labour MP Jamie Reed has given Jeremy Corbyn a far from ideal start to the year – a majority of just 2,564 at the 2015 General Election will not be much to defend, and with the area voting by 23,528 to 14,419 votes to leave the EU, it would be a significant scalp for Theresa May if the Conservatives can edge it.
The 3rd February will see what is likely to be the final informal meeting of the EU 27 heads of state or government without Theresa May before the UK triggers Article 50. Expect a show of unity and readiness for negotiation, a reiteration of the indivisibility of the four freedoms, and the passing of the sell-by date on the place-holding mantra of ‘no negotiation without notification’ and ‘Brexit means Brexit.’ See our blogs on the EU’s negotiating approach here and here. Also watch out for the German presidential election on 12th February.
Despite all the to-ing and fro-ing since the Referendum in June, the notification of the UK’s intention to leave the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union is the first formal step in the process. Notwithstanding any judicially-mandated or politically-motivated delays, the Government will give expression to the referendum result before the 31st March 2017. See Open Europe’s guide to Brexit, and our blog on the UK’s approach to the sequencing of negotiation.
Also look out for the full European Council meeting on 9th and 10th March, the Netherlands’ general election on 15th March, and the 60th Anniversary of the signature of the Treaty of Rome on 25th March – the symbolism of a significant member state declaring its desire to leave the Union so close to this milestone will be patent.
The French Presidential elections provide the foil to German elections in the Autumn, as decisive moments where the EU’s power-broking states will elect their leaders. François Fillon’s late surge to become the centre-right’s candidate threw down the gauntlet to an emboldened Marine Le Pen and the Front National, and with the Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls and the maverick former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron also in the running, this two-part race, with the first round taking place on 23rd of April and the second on 7th May, will prove fascinating. Our blog looks at Fillon’s candidacy and the wider contest here.
Mid-term local and mayoral elections on 4th of May across England, Wales and Scotland may not change much materially speaking, but they will provide an important bellwether of support for Theresa May’s government. Expect the insurgent parties like UKIP and the Liberal Democrats to push hard, and we will see how both Labour and the Conservatives do in their heartlands.
May will also see an OPEC meeting in Vienna on 25th May, the G7 in Taormina on 26th and 27th, and the event where all the important decisions are really taken: the Eurovision song contest grand-final, this year in Kiev on 13th May.
A busy few months before most politics pauses for the summer, including French legislative elections on 11th and 18th June, the European Council on 22nd and 23rd June, the G20 leaders’ summit in Hamburg on 7th and 8th July, and Estonia taking over the 6-month rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
For a break from politics in August, catch the World Athletics Championships in London from 4th to 13th of August.
Will Angela Merkel be able to hold together her grand centrist coalition in a fourth term as German Chancellor? Along with France’s Presidential vote, the German Parliamentary elections, which must take place between 27th August and 22nd October, will be the most influential contest in 2017 from the perspective of EU and Eurozone governance, and the result could have a crucial bearing on the objectives handed to the European Commission for its negotiation with the UK on behalf of the Union on Brexit. Expect migration, security, eurozone debt, trade policy and the future of the European project to be high in voters’ minds.
We may also see initial signs of the EU’s reception of the UK’s negotiating proposals at the final European Council meetings of the year on 19th and 20th October, and on 14th and 15th December. Also watch out for the World Trade Organization meeting in Buenos Aires from 11th to 14th December.
Italian elections – likely to be not earlier than June, according to Vincenzo Scarpetta
Czech legislative elections – likely October
Possible referendum on the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA) in the Netherlands
Do flag any other events of note. Thank you for reading, and a Merry Christmas.