TIME U.K.

Anti-Immigration Party’s Win in U.K. Rings Alarm Bells in Europe

Newly-elected UK Independence Party MP Douglas Carswell poses for photographers with a copy of the local paper in Clacton-on-Sea, in eastern England, on Oct. 10, 2014.
Newly-elected UK Independence Party MP Douglas Carswell poses for photographers with a copy of the local paper in Clacton-on-Sea, in eastern England, on Oct. 10, 2014. Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images

The first British parliamentary seat for the U.K. Independence Party intensifies—and reflects—the crisis of mainstream politics in Europe

Many forces are at work in British politics, but nominative determinism may not be one of them. When last month a member of parliament named Mark Reckless defected from the Conservative Party, Britain’s largest mainstream political party and senior partner in the country’s coalition government, the move looked, well, reckless.

Reckless resigned his parliamentary seat to join the right-wing, anti-Europe, anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which had not yet succeeded in getting any MPs elected to Westminster. UKIP did well in some local and European elections, but conventional wisdom suggested the party benefited from protest votes against the big established parties and would struggle gain a foothold in the U.K. legislature.

On Thursday, those predictions proved wrong as another Conservative Party defector, Douglas Carswell, won back his parliamentary seat for UKIP with a thumping majority. In another by-election held the same day in a district that had previously been a solid Labour Party area, UKIP came within 617 votes of defeating the Labour candidate, overturning another piece of conventional wisdom that misconstrued UKIP as a threat only to the right-leaning Conservatives.

Reckless, who is preparing for a Nov. 6 by-election to try to capture his old seat for his new party, no longer looks reckless and conventional wisdoms appear anything but orthodox. Alarms are ringing not only among members of Britain’s mainstream parties but across Europe. An obvious focus of fear is what the rise of UKIP means for Britain; not only its attitude to Europe, but also towards its own diverse population.

In his victory speech, Carswell called for UKIP to be “a party for all Britain and all Britons, first and second generation [immigrants] as much as every other.” But UKIP’s party leader Nigel Farage was already busily undermining this message of tolerance, responding to criticism of an interview in which he called for HIV-positive migrants to be turned away at British borders by going still further, proposing a ban on any migrants with “life threatening diseases” getting treatment within Britain’s National Health Service.

The characterization of UKIP as a protest party fails to acknowledge the way such rhetoric resonates in communities that feel they are losing jobs and opportunity to immigrants. The mainstream parties have a shamefully thin record of speaking up for the necessity of immigration and an even more shameful record of harnessing anti-immigration sentiment while chasing short-term electoral gain. At other times, they find it more comfortable not to broach the subject at all—one reason Labour came so close to gifting UKIP a by-election victory.

Britain’s rumbling debate about its membership of the European Union may appear on the surface to be about bossy Brussels regulators and distorting subsidies and laws, but it is more often a proxy for the immigration debate that isn’t happening. Mainstream politicians don’t want to be tarred as Little Englanders, but increasing numbers of them, mostly Conservatives but also Labour members, are attracted to the idea of an exit from the E.U., which would instantly restrict the flow of immigrants from other, poorer E.U. countries currently entitled to live and work in Britain.

Continental Europe worries—with justification—that the U.K. is edging closer to ditching its E.U. membership. Yet the shudders attending UKIP’s latest win are not merely caused by the prospect of a so-called “Brexit“. In the flounderings and failings of Britain’s big political parties and the upsurge in support for populist alternatives sounding anti-immigration, anti-Europe rallying cries, E.U. leaders outside Britain see reflections of the turbulence in their own countries. Even in Germany, the crucible of pro-E.U. sentiment where memories run deep of its disastrous experiment with the narrowest possible vision of national identity, a euroskeptic party is gaining ground.

UKIP’s win is, with a certain irony, part of a pan-European phenomenon. Such parties grow because the political mainstream gives them the space to do so.

 

 

 

TIME U.K.

U.K. Edges Toward Departure from European Union

Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Mayor of London and Parliamentary candidate Boris Johnson at the Conservative party conference on Sept. 29, 2014 in Birmingham, England.
Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Mayor of London and Parliamentary candidate Boris Johnson at the Conservative party conference on Sept. 29, 2014 in Birmingham, England. Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

As Britain's Conservative Party holds its last party conference ahead of May's general elections, the Euroskeptic message looks like a winning one

It’s hard to imagine anything more insular than a British party political conference—except, perhaps, for an island.

The ruling Conservative Party is currently meeting in the U.K.’s second largest city, Birmingham, but delegates tightly ringed by security and focused on the narrow issue of how to win the next election may as well be on a coral atoll for all the connection they have with the wider world.

Events in Hong Kong go unremarked. U.K. participation in the military campaign against ISIS barely merits a mention. A lone protestor standing beyond the crowd barriers bellowed rage against Britain’s fresh involvement in Iraq for hours Monday, but his words whispered in the convention center like distant waves. Even so, events on this artificial island may yet carry global significance. Britain is getting ever closer to the brink of leaving the European Union.

That is the probable outcome if the Conservatives win the U.K. general election next May, as they have pledged to allow Britain’s increasingly Euroskeptic population a referendum on whether to stay or go. Polls suggest a sizeable majority would vote to leave the E.U. under the current terms of membership.

Admittedly a Conservative victory is far from a sure thing in 2015. The Labour Party enjoys a lead of several points in most opinion polls and the Conservatives, in coalition with the Liberal Democrats since 2010, should expect to be punished by voters for implementing painful austerity policies that have reduced the budget deficit (but not by as much as they promised). But even though Labour may look like the likelier winner, it doesn’t act like it. Neither party members nor the wider public have faith in the current Labour leader Ed Miliband, who capped a lackluster conference last week by forgetting key chunks of the speech that should have energized his troops and instead demoralized them.

In truth all three mainstream parties are suffering from a loss of connection with the public — voters feel they’re untrustworthy, and incapable of championing Britain, whatever form that might take. This disenchantment is fostering the rise across Britain of populist parties that promise a new, more honest mode of politics and more localism. In Scotland this means the Scottish National Party strengthening largely at the expense of Labour, which will struggle to retain its 41 Westminster seats there at the coming election.

But in England, it is the anti-immigration, Euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) that has been attracting support on the back of its strident views, which it calls “unashamedly patriotic”. The party’s manifesto not only calls for departure from the European Union, but also restrictions on the numbers of immigrants entering the country, less foreign aid, and priority in the allocation of social housing given to “people whose parents and grandparents were born locally”.

It’s a message that appeals to many who might otherwise be inclined to vote for the Conservative party. The eastwards expansion of the E.U. was enthusiastically supported by past Conservative governments, because they thought a larger union might be less inclined to move towards federalism and consequent impingements on British sovereignty. But enlargement has increased the pool of E.U. citizens entitled to work in the U.K, and fostered resentment among conservative voters, as the British economy struggles to recover from the economic slump. UKIP has capitalized on that resentment; two Conservative MPs have recently defected to UKIP and more are rumored to be considering jumping ship.

“The biggest issue on the doorstep is immigration,” says Phillip Lee, the Conservative MP for Bracknell, west of London, “but this is also related to Europe.” His constituents would like to see an Australian-style points system applied to jobseekers from abroad, he says. That’s a policy UKIP already proposes for all immigrants, whether they come from the E.U. or further afield.

Even so, the Conservatives are better positioned than Labour—which opposes giving Britons a vote on E.U. membership—to fight UKIP on its own turf. Prime Minister David Cameron’s post-Scottish referendum promise of “English Votes for English Laws” plays to demands for more local control, while his party is ramming the message home at every opportunity during its conference that only a Conservative government will deliver an in-out referendum on the E.U. It will doubtless be a pivotal passage in Cameron’s keynote address to delegates tomorrow.

Cameron first made the offer partly in an effort to hold together a fractious party that has a long history of falling out over Europe. But his official position—that he wants Britain to remain in the E.U., but on renegotiated better terms—also happens to be his real preference, not least because many British businesses worry that an E.U. exit will load costs and obstacles on to their European operations. His ideal is to retain the advantages of E.U. membership while shielding Britain against moves to closer E.U. integration precipitated by the euro zone crisis. But in a BBC interview this morning, Cameron made clear that he wouldn’t be too upset if Britain left the E.U. entirely. The sales pitch being rolled out in Birmingham is clear: vote UKIP, get Labour, lose the chance of a referendum.

Despite what the polls say, many Conservatives believe this is a winning formula, and they could well be right. But the same urges the Conservatives would be tapping to win election victory would inevitably still be in play if and when Britons voted on their relationship with Europe. An exit would mean a period of extended turbulence for Britain and for the E.U., used to British intransigence but also used to Britain as a counterbalance to German muscle and French protectionism. The rest of the E.U. hopes Britain stays put, and so does Washington, which still often looks to the U.K. as a bridge to Europe.

British politicians hear these voices but their message, like the shouts of the man outside the Conservative Party conference, are muffled. This island nation with its parochial politics could well be headed for greater insularity.

TIME europe

Europe’s Economic Woes Require a Japanese Solution

Rome As Italy Returns To Recession In Second-Quarter
A pedestrian carries a plastic shopping bag as she passes a closed-down temporary outlet store in Rome, Italy, on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. Italy's economy shrank 0.2 percent in the second quarter after contracting 0.1 percent in the previous three months. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The region’s economy is starting to resemble Japan’s, and that threatens to condemn Europe to its own lost decades

No policymaker, anywhere in the world, wants his or her national economy to be compared to Japan’s. That’s because the Japanese economy, though still the world’s third-largest, has become a sad case-study in the long-term damage that can be inflicted by a financial crisis. It’s more than two decades since Japan’s financial sector melted down in a gargantuan property and stock market crash, but the economy has never fully recovered. Growth remains sluggish, the corporate sector struggles to compete, and the welfare of the average Japanese household has stagnated.

The stark reality facing Europe right now is that its post-crisis economy is looking more and more like Japan’s. And if I was Mario Draghi, Angela Merkel or Francois Hollande, that would have me very, very nervous that Europe is facing a Japanese future — a painful, multi-decade decline.

The anemic growth figures in post-crisis Europe suggest that the region is in the middle of a long-term slump much like post-crisis Japan. Euro zone GDP has contracted in three of the five years from 2009 and 2013, and the International Monetary Fund is forecasting growth of about 1.5% a year through 2019. Compare that to Japan. Between 1992 and 2002, Japan’s GDP grew more than 2% only twice, and contracted in two years. What Europe has to avoid is what happened next in Japan: There, the “lost decade” of slow growth turned into “lost decades.” A self-reinforcing cycle of low growth and meager demand became entrenched, leaving Japan almost entirely dependent on exports — in other words, on external demand — for even its modest rates of expansion.

It is easy to see Europe falling into the same trap. Low growth gives European consumers little incentive to spend, banks to lend, or companies to invest at home. Europe, in fact, has it worse than Japan in certain respects. High unemployment, never much of an issue in Japan, could suppress the spending power of the European middle class for years to come. Europe also can’t afford to rely on fiscal spending to pump up growth, as Japan has done. Pressure from bond markets and the euro zone’s leaders have forced European governments to scale back fiscal spending even as growth has stumbled. It is hard to see where Europe’s growth will come from – except for increasing exports, which, in a still-wobbly global economy, is far from a sure thing.

This slow-growth trap is showing up in Europe today as low inflation – something else that has plagued Japan for years on end. Deflation in Japan acted as a further brake on growth by constraining both consumption and investment. Now there are widespread worries that the euro zone is heading in a similar pattern. Inflation in the euro zone sunk to a mere 0.4% in July, the lowest since the depths of the Great Recession in October 2009.

Sadly, Europe and Japan also have something else in common. Their leaders have been far too complacent in tackling these problems. What really killed Japan was a diehard resistance to implementing the reforms that might spur new sources of growth. The economy has remained too tied up in the red tape and protection that stifles innovation and entrepreneurship. And aside from a burst of liberalization under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the early 2000s, Japan’s policymakers and politicians generally avoided the politically sensitive reforms that might have fixed the economy.

Europe, arguably, has been only slightly more active. Though some individual governments have made honorable efforts – such as Spain’s with its labor-law liberalization – for the most part reform has come slowly (as in Italy), or has barely begun (France). Nor have European leaders continued to pursue the euro zone-wide integration, such as removing remaining barriers to a common market, that could also help spur growth.

What all this adds up to is simple: If Europe wants to avoid becoming Japan, Europe’s leaders will have to avoid the mistakes Japan has made over the past 20 years. That requires a dramatic shift in the current direction of European economy policy.

First of all, the European Central Bank (ECB) has to take a page out of the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) recent playbook and become much more aggressive in combating deflation. We can debate whether the BOJ’s massive and unorthodox stimulus policies are good or bad, but what is beyond argument at this point is that ECB president Draghi is not taking the threat of deflation seriously enough. Inflation is nowhere near the ECB’s preferred 2% and Draghi has run monetary policy much too tight. He should consider bringing down interest rates further, if necessary employing the “quantitative easing” used by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

But Japan’s case also shows that monetary policy alone can’t raise growth. The BOJ is currently injecting a torrent of cash into the Japanese economy, but still the economic recovery is weak. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finally seems to have digested that fact and in recent months has announced some measures aimed at overhauling the structure of the Japanese economy, by, for instance, loosening labor markets, slicing through excessive regulation, and encouraging more women to join the workforce. Abe’s efforts may prove too little, too late, but European leaders must still follow in his footsteps by taking on unions, opening protected sectors and dropping barriers to trade and investment in order to enhance competitiveness and create jobs.

If Europe fails to act, it is not hard to foresee the region slipping hopelessly into a Japan-like downward spiral. This would prove disastrous for Europe’s young people — already suffering from incomprehensible levels of youth unemployment — and it would deny the world economy yet another pillar of growth.

TIME russia

Over 27,000 Russian Tourists Are Stranded as E.U. Sanctions Take Effect

A group of 30 Russian tourists wait at Antalya Airport in Turkey on Aug. 4, 2014, after their Russian tour company went bankrupt
A group of 30 Russian tourists wait at Antalya Airport in Turkey on Aug. 4, 2014, after their Russian tour company went bankrupt Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Oligarchs are having to ditch their private jets, too

Over 27,000 Russian tourists have been left stranded abroad after the collapse of Russian tour operator Labirint. The firm cited a “negative political and economic situation” as a reason for its failure, Sky News reports.

Labirint is the fourth Russian tour company to tank in three weeks. “We worry that this is only the beginning and that there will be a domino effect,” a spokeswoman for the country’s Federal Agency for Tourism told radio station and news site Echo of Moscow.

The marooned tourists, in countries such as Egypt and Bulgaria, are a visible sign that the E.U.’s sanctions on Russia, imposed over Moscow’s role in the ongoing Ukraine conflict, are having some effect. Tougher punishments were imposed last week, following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner in eastern Ukraine on July 17, purportedly by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists.

Besides affecting tour operators, sanctions have also led to a grounding of Russian budget airline Dobrolet, a subsidiary of state-controlled Aeroflot. The carrier ended up on the sanctions list because it provides direct flights from Moscow to Crimea, the Ukrainian region annexed by Russia earlier this year.

The targeting of Russian banks, meanwhile, has caused Russia’s second oil producer Lukoil to scale back investment plans because it cannot access funds, while Reuters reports that leading Russian banks have been forced to reassure clients that they are able to meet their commitments despite being on the E.U. list.

Prominent Russians are also being inconvenienced. Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire businessman close to President Vladimir Putin, has had his private jet grounded after Gulfstream stopped servicing the aircraft and its pilots were prevented from using its navigation equipment. However, he told Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency that he’d found an alternative to his Visa and MasterCard credit cards.

“As soon as the sanctions came in I got myself [a Chinese Union] card … and it works brilliantly!”

The sanctions could also hurt European businesses, however. Adidas has scrapped its revenue and profit target for next year because of its exposure to the Russian market, U.S. aviation giant Boeing could lose its contracts with Dobrolet, and the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations has said that more than 25,000 German jobs are in danger. There is an expectation among European investors that future growth may be hampered, with the euro zone’s Sentix investment index in August dropping to its lowest level in a year.

“As this slump derives from an event which is subject to politics and power play, the central banks, particularly the European Central Bank, will have difficulty in trying to counter this,” Reuters reported Sentix as saying.

Moscow has begun to hit back at sanctions by imposing bans of its own, mostly on food products. It has already banned Polish apples (it says for health reasons, but Polish farmers think the move is retaliatory) and Australian beef. Now, Reuters reports, Moscow is mulling a ban on U.S. poultry — it currently buys around 8% of U.S. broiler-meat exports each year.

TIME Russia sanctions

Flight MH17: Europe Unlikely to Enforce Tougher Sanctions on Russia

Analysts say the European Union is unlikely to go beyond sanctioning individuals

On Tuesday, European Union (E.U.) foreign ministers will meet to discuss increasing sanctions against Russia following the downing of flight MH17. The U.S. has blamed the incident on separatist rebels who, it claims, shot the plane down using weapons supplied to them by Moscow.

The meeting will be the bloc’s first opportunity to discuss the tragedy which took the lives of 298 people, the majority of whom were from countries within the E.U.

In March, the E.U. and the U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia for Moscow’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. These were tightened July 16, the day before flight MH17 was shot down.

The E.U. has enforced “tier two” sanctions which affect individuals by freezing their assets and banning them from traveling. So far, 72 Russian politicians and aides of Putin have been affected. However, with the U.S. having imposed sanctions against Russia’s biggest companies, including state oil company Rosneft, there is pressure on the E.U. to match these “tier three” sanctions that go beyond individuals. But, despite U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron calling for tier three sanctions on Monday, analysts remain skeptical.

“I think that it’s highly unlikely at this stage that the E.U. is planning anything further than individual sanctions,” says William E. Pomeranz, Deputy Director at the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies. “The EU has a much more substantial trade relationship with Russia than the U.S. does, it has a heavy reliance on Russian gas.”

Jonathan Eyal, International Director at the Royal United Services Institute, echoes his sentiment. Eyal told TIME: “The Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of the Cold War. It is very deeply integrated into the economies of Europe particularly in terms of energy resources.”

Despite Cameron’s bluster, he will be painfully aware of this. In March of last year, British oil and gas giant BP bought shares worth close to 20% in Rosneft, the state-backed Russian oil and gas giant.

Eyal refers to a “disgraceful competition” within the E.U. that’s preventing a firm response towards Russia. According to Eyal, Britain is worried about the effect sanctions will have on London’s financial district. France fears damaging its impending sale of two warships to the Russian navy, whilst in Germany, there are concerns about jobs linked to Berlin’s trade with Russia. “This leads to the lowest common denominator being sought in sanctions,” Eyal notes.

Economic interdependence isn’t the only reason for Europe’s weak sanctions. “The legacy of the financial crisis has left some European countries feeling vulnerable,” comments Jeffrey Mankoff, deputy director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Russia and Eurasia program. “They have less appetite to do something that will lead to economic disruption.”

Even for European countries that have pulled through the 2008 financial disaster, Russia’s immediate presence can be a significant deterrent. “Geography always plays an important role in international relations,” states Pomeranz. “Obviously the E.U. has to be mindful of its neighbors.”

Meanwhile, Washington also seems unwilling to push Moscow too far. And if Washington isn’t prepared to lead, it’s unlikely Europe will follow. “Europe has always been a free rider on the back of the U.S.,” says Eyal.

Mankoff shares his view, adding: “U.S. leadership on [sanctions] has been relatively lacking so far. And because it’s been lacking it’s been relatively easy for the Europeans to drag their feet.”

Were the U.S. to challenge Russia more directly, there is no guarantee, however, that Europe would follow suit. Constrained by trade relations, geography and shaky economies, Europe is both unwilling and unable to risk poking the Russian bear.

TIME

5 Key Questions about the E.U. Election Results

Why so many Europeans voted for parties that are hostile to their own political and economic union

European voters have sent their politicians into a tailspin by voting in unexpectedly large numbers for anti-European Union parties in the weekend’s European Union parliamentary elections. Those parties want to dump the euro, pull their countries of the E.U., and some of them even want to destroy the institution itself. Since the E.U. governs 503 million people in 28 nations, the implications could be far-reaching. Not surprisingly, Europe’s leaders are reeling from the results. People in Europe and around the world are wondering what it all means and what comes next. Here are some of the questions they’re asking:

 

1. Why should we care about the E.U. anyway?

The E.U. covers a huge swath of territory, from Britain to Poland, and its combined economy, worth about 13 trillion euros, is the biggest in the world, outsizing even the U.S. economy. From their headquarters in Brussels, E.U. officials implement thousands of decisions that the E.U. parliament has voted in. Those laws and regulations range from the very important – like rescuing economies from collapse and imposing sanctions on Syria, Iran and Russia, to the truly mundane. Until a few years ago, the E.U. regulated the shape of bananas and cucumbers – a response to the retail industry’s argument that it needed to know how many fitted in a box. On weightier matters, the E.U. is important to the White House. Europe is America’s closest ally in facing down foes like Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Syria’s Bashar Assad, and like the U.S., France and Britain are among the only five countries with permanent veto powers on the United Nations Security Council. The E.U. is also the U.S.’s biggest trading partner, with a new, sweeping free-trade agreement currently being negotiated. One last thing: since its precursor organization was founded in 1951, Europe has enjoyed its most peaceful period in history.

 

2. But if it’s such an important and powerful force for good why did politicians who actually want to destroy the E.U. do so well in the vote?

To be fair, only 43% of registered voters went to the polls. Most appeared too indifferent, or perhaps confused (yes, Europeans find this confusing too): The E.U.’s gargantuan bureaucracy can feel impersonal and distant and voters often feel uninspired. In addition, millions of Europeans rank the E.U.’s performance very poorly. Years of recession and high unemployment, coupled with expensive bailouts of faltering economies, like those of Spain, Ireland, Cyprus and Greece, have left voters fed up, wondering why their leaders are so unable to solve Europe’s problems. Their deep alienation handed the fiercely right-wing, nationalist leaders, like Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front and Britain’s Nigel Farage of the U.K Independence Party, or UKIP, an election gift. Both of those leaders won shock victories. There were also big wins for anti-E.U. far-left parties, like Spain’s Podemos, which didn’t exist four months ago and now has five seats in the E.U. Parliament. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising: The E.U.’s own pollsters recently found voter trust at its lowest point ever. The one bright spark, according to the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies, or CEPS, an E.U.-funded think tank, is that Americans have even less faith in Congress than Europeans do in the E.U.

 

3. These gains were just in the European Parliament. Do these Eurosceptic leaders want power in their own countries too?

Absolutely. Le Pen and Farage view their E.U. victories as a big step towards taking power at home. That’s a good reason why these elections have so shaken Europe’s presidents and prime ministers; their political futures are on the line. But some political observers argue that anti-E.U. politicians are sure to lose elections at home, and that the voters in these E.U. elections simply vented their anger and frustration at Brussels by casting protest votes, which might not translate, when they need to choose the next British Prime Minister or French President. “You have very deep economic wounds,” says Daniel Gros, director of CEPS. “Since few countries can accept they got themselves into this mess, the E.U. is the best scapegoat you can think of.” That might be so. But consider that in Germany, Europe’s strongest economy, the anti-E.U. party, Alternative for Germany, won 7% of the votes.

What’s more, the far-right politicians head to the E.U. Parliament with hugely increased credibility and visibility among voters at home, who might no longer see the parties as slightly nutty and largely irrelevant fringe organizations. The parties could also use their election victories to create a ground-force of organizers back home, ready to fight national elections. For Le Pen, however, France’s two-round presidential election system will almost inevitably filter out smaller parties like her National Front. Nonetheless, anti-E.U. leaders sound supremely confident when discussing their political futures. “The National Front will be in power within 10 years,” Le Pen told TIME in an interview last month. And Farage told the BBC after his victory on Sunday, “now anything is possible.”

 

4. Does that mean the E.U. is basically dead on its legs?

No. The E.U. is not about to die any time soon, despite the anti-E.U. politicians storming the barricades. The institution’s machinery is simply too complex and deeply entrenched to collapse that easily. And even though they made big gains the so-called Eurosceptics still won only an estimated 175 out of 751 seats in the E.U. Parliament. The old mainstream politicians still outnumber them. That said, these elections aren’t likely to leave the E.U. untouched. European leaders have holed up in emergency meetings in their capitals and Brussels since the shock results rolled in on Sunday night. Le Pen and her allies are vowing to block the new trade agreement with Washington, push to end the continent’s open borders, stop any attempts to add new E.U. members to the existing 28 countries and severely limit immigration to Europe. Even with a small minority, the anti-E.U. politicians will likely be much more vocal in the parliament. Le Pen envisions being able to nudge the debates in their direction, potentially allowing anti-E.U. groups to gain broader support for their causes. Their success at the polls could also persuade traditional politicians to sharpen some of their own criticisms of the E.U., and shift their own policies. Although Le Pen is unlikely to win on major issues that go against the E.U.’s constitution, like sealing borders, there are other possibilities for her to disrupt the E.U.’s agenda, or insert her own. If she succeeds in forming a trans-national, right-wing political group in the parliament, she will be entitled to attend meetings of political leaders. She would also be able to become one of the E.U. rapporteurs who report to parliament on specific policy issues, as they make their way through the committee procedure. A rapporteur’s “opinion carries a lot of weight,” according to the European Law Monitor, an independent information service.

 

5. These anti-immigration politicians – is that a polite way of saying they have racist policies?

Many Europeans, including some Muslims, would say so. No anti-E.U. politician will admit to racist policies, however, and most have worked hard to shed any lingering sense that their parties are racist. UKIP leader Farage has rejected joining a Le Pen-led political bloc in the E.U. Parliament, saying the National Front has a history of anti-Semitism; Le Pen has virulently disputed that. What unites both UKIP and the National Front is their belief that the growing number of immigrants to E.U. countries undermines Europe’s economy. Le Pen argues that French Muslims are imposing their beliefs on the Christian majority, and abhors any push to segregate girls and boys in public swimming pools, or exclude pork on school lunch menus. “Not all Muslims, but Islamists who, now permanently in France, are constantly asking for special treatment,” she told TIME last month, She told voters at a public meeting last month that France’s immigration policy was “a catastrophe,” and after the National Front won 11 municipalities in local elections last March, she said those towns would introduce pork on the menus of school canteens. Observant Jews and Muslims do not eat pork.

 

TIME United Kingdom

London Is a Worse Nitrogen Dioxide Polluter Than Beijing

A general view through smog of the Canary Wharf financial district on April 2, 2014 in London.
A general view through smog of the Canary Wharf financial district on April 2, 2014 in London. Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

An E.U.-mandated shift to diesel cars has sent London's NO2 emissions through the roof. "It's a public-health catastrophe," says one prominent campaigner

British tabloids may lash out at Chinese smog all they want, but when it comes to one important pollution indicator, the U.K. capital actually outpollutes even Beijing.

A European Union–wide shift to diesel, in order to curb CO2 emissions, has sent London’s nitrogen dioxide levels through the roof, Bloomberg reports. Not only are they the worst in Europe, reaching twice the E.U. limit, they also surpass the Chinese capital’s by a whopping 50%.

“Successive governments knew more than 10 years ago that diesel was producing all these harmful pollutants, but they myopically plowed on with their CO2 agenda,” Simon Birkett, founder of the nonprofit Clean Air in London, told Bloomberg. “It’s a public-health catastrophe.”

In 2000, the E.U. drew up rules allowing diesel cars to discharge more than three times the amount of nitrogen dioxide than those using gasoline.

“We’re stuck now with these diesel cars,” says Matthew Pencharz, the environment and energy adviser to the mayor of London. “About half our cars are diesel, whereas 10 or 15 years ago it was lower than 10%.”

Nitrogen dioxide irritates the lungs, increasing susceptibility to respiratory infections. In China, efforts are mostly focused on other pollutants, such as PM10, levels of which almost triple those in London.

[Bloomberg]

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