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State of the Union: Brexit traffic jams, EU-US ties and yellow vest art

State of the Union: Brexit traffic jams, EU-US ties and yellow vest art
By Stefan Grobe
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In this edition: we look at No Deal preparations and another tough week for Theresa May, Donald Trump's diplomatic snub and yellow vest protesters become part of an iconic painting.



It happened in Kent in southern England and it's actually a rehearsal for the upheaval of a no-deal Brexit.

The British government lined up 87 trucks at a little-used airport for a trip towards Dover, the UK's most important trading gateway to continental Europe.

The trucks were driven down the highway to see if they clog up the roads...

Hello and welcome to State of the Union, I'm Stefan Grobe in Brussels.

I just love Brexit stories, I mean whenever else do you see pictures of a government rehearsing economic disruption?

So they were using 87 trucks – but what if reality will be closer to 150? Or more?

If Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal is rejected, then business executives and investors fear the world's fifth-largest economy will crash out of the EU without a safety net.

The prospect that Britain could trade with its largest and closest market on the most rudimentary terms that exist between any nations on earth is “bewildering”.

I'm quoting the British Business Secretary Greg Clark.

Theresa May suffered an early defeat to her Brexit plans this week, when parliament demanded the government come up with plan B within three days if she loses the Brexit vote.

That will be a tough one – maybe the truck rehearsal wasn't a bad idea after all.

New Political Alliances

Meanwhile, continental Europe is off to a fresh political start into 2019 that will see crucial European elections in May.

And for this, some political parties are already looking for possible dance partners.

Take, for instance, Italy's strongman Matteo Salvini, the leader of his country's right-wing League Party.

This week he traveled to Poland to explore teaming up with that country's ruling right-wingers.

Both are Euroskeptics, to put it mildly, and they are seeing a great opportunity to rock the boat after election day.

Whether any of these cross-country populist alliances will lead to a serious disruptions of European politics remains to be seen.

Or, to put it with Donald Trump: “Let's see what happens.”


EU-US diplomatic downgrade

Have you noticed that? It's one of Trump's favorite phrases – “let's see what happens”. He says it all the time. “Let's see what happens.”

Right now he is stuck in a government shutdown over his border wall project.

There is no end in sight of this crisis, as negotiations with the Democratic House majority are not moving forward at all, so “let's see what happens.”

As if Trump has nothing better to do, he sparked another row with Europe by downgrading the diplomatic status of the European Union in the U.S.

Washington didn't even tell Brussels, and the EU found out when its Trade Commissioner was travelling to the U.S. for further talks.


Here's how we reported it.

Look ahead

On Tuesday, it's showtime for British Prime Minister Theresa May and the British Parliament!

Lawmakers will finally vote on the Brexit deal negotiated with the EU.

If the deal is rejected, the country could brace for a major constitutional crisis.

Also on Tuesday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg to give his vision of the future of Europe.


And on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin meets his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade.

They are set to discuss the Kosovo crisis, economic cooperation and regional issues.

Yellow Vest Art

I'm sure you have all seen Eugène Delacroix' famous painting “Liberty Leading the People”, commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France.

This masterpiece is believed to have inspired Victoer Hugo's novel “Les Misérables” as well as countless other artists and cartoonists to this day.

Well, had Delacroix lived today, he might have found inspiration in the violent protests of the yellow vests that have rocked France for more than two months now.


But as he died in 1863, that task fell to French street artist Pascal Boyart.

In solidarity with the yellow vests, Boyart painted his version of “Liberty Leading the People” on a wall of an otherwise unremarkable street in the 19th district of Paris.

Notice that Boyart's protesters don't carry weapons, only Marianne has a rifle in her hand.

And unlike in Delacroix' version, she also wears a bra.

Times are changing, revolutions as well.

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