The riddle of Europe's election season

  • 21 February 2017
  • From the section Europe
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station Image copyright Getty Images

Many Europeans eye the months ahead with foreboding. They see anti-establishment parties on the ascendancy. Angela Merkel - for so long Frau Europe - may lose power. And the financial markets are skittish over the possibility of a Marine Le Pen victory in France. Every edge up in her poll ratings sends bond yields rising.

And yet an entirely different scenario may play out. It is quite possible that before the end of the year observers will declare that the Brexit-Trump tide has turned and that European integration has found new champions.

First to the politics: in the Netherlands Geert Wilders has a history of under-performing at the polls. Even if he emerges as the leader of the largest party after the elections in March, he will struggle to get a foothold in government.

The contest that preoccupies Europe's political class, however, is France. The conventional wisdom is that Marine Le Pen will win the first round in the presidential elections but be substantially defeated in round two. But France is on edge, gloomy and unsure of itself.

She has expanded her lead in the polls and closed the gap on her most likely challenger in the second round, Emmanuel Macron. Still, he retains a 16% poll lead.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Marine Le Pen supporters: Many believe she will win the first round of the election

Read full article The riddle of Europe's election season

The mind of Donald Trump

Donald Trump Image copyright Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

No modern president has been so analysed. Other leaders don't know him and can't read him. He leaves a trail, but it is strewn with contradictions. He craves popularity but revels in being demonised. He trusts his gut instincts and embraces unpredictability as a virtue.

Diplomats, foreign leaders, business chiefs are all trying to decipher what drives the 45th president.

Read full article The mind of Donald Trump

Mrs May goes to Washington

Theresa May Image copyright AFP

There are frequent and regular meetings between British prime ministers and American presidents, but few will have been as significant as the visit to Washington this week by Theresa May.

It is not just an occasion for old allies to renew vows of friendship. These two new, uncertain leaders need concrete achievements and not just gestures.

Read full article Mrs May goes to Washington

Trump and truth

President Donald Trump speaks at the CIA headquarters Image copyright Getty Images

This is a critical moment for journalism, particularly in the United States.

More than 40 years ago, the unmasking of the Watergate break-in inspired journalists around the world.

Read full article Trump and truth

Brexit: The mind games

Theresa May delivers her keynote speech on Brexit at Lancaster House Image copyright Getty Images

Psychology is always part of tense negotiations. In her Lancaster House speech this week Theresa May sought to seize back the advantage before the real battles start at the end of March. She wanted Europe to know that Britain would not be coming to meetings on the defensive, cap in hand.

During the 40 minutes of her speech she managed to shift the balance of power a little. A few days before she spoke I had been in Brussels and had spoken to a very senior European figure.

Read full article Brexit: The mind games

Why Brexit is still undefined

British Prime minister Theresa May gives a press conference on the second day of a European Union leaders summit in October 2016 Image copyright STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images

It is a curious moment in British politics. The government is facing the most important negotiations in over 50 years. The outcome will shape the future of the UK economy - but you would not necessarily know it.

The consumers - the voters - appear to be shrugging off the uncertainties, the unknowns and the warnings of future risks.

Read full article Why Brexit is still undefined

The world in 2017: The battle of ideas

A metal globe Image copyright PhotoDisk/Eyewire

2016 was the year of the unravelling. Norms were dispensed with. Old ideas were challenged and discarded. Our settled world was shaken and we became used to the shock of the new.

Since World War Two, and earlier, there was a consensus that trade was about much more than just economics. It was an instrument for peace. Reducing trade barriers sparked growth and prosperity. That consensus is creaking.

Read full article The world in 2017: The battle of ideas

The Brexit puzzle

  • 21 December 2016
  • From the section Brexit
A European Union flag, with a hole cut in the middle Image copyright Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The year ends with a Brexit puzzle: a multi-coloured cube that, however twisted and turned, defies easy solution.

Six months on from the UK referendum, the process of leaving the EU is enveloped by a cloud of unknowing.

Read full article The Brexit puzzle

Why Italy's vote matters

  • 5 December 2016
  • From the section Europe
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Image copyright EPA

In the year of political upheavals, there has been another popular uprising - this time in Italy.

Here is how the narrative goes: Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is the establishment figure. He has gambled on holding a referendum to win backing for his reforms. He loses, and resigns.

Read full article Why Italy's vote matters

Europe's dangerous milestones

  • 29 November 2016
  • From the section Europe
Flags of the European Union fly outside the European Parliament Image copyright Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The dates stretch out over the months ahead; days in the calendar that could define Europe's values and shape the future of liberal democracy.

In the shadow of Donald Trump's victory and - to a lesser extent - Brexit, Europe faces a series of crucial votes. Although some of the anti-establishment strains in Europe are different from those in America, many of them are the same and equally potent.

Read full article Europe's dangerous milestones