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  • Them and Us: How Immigrants and Locals Can Thrive Together

    Keep “Them” out. Take back control. Build that wall. The heated debate about immigration is often framed as ‘Them’ (bad immigrants) against ‘Us’ (good locals). But immigrants aren’t a burden or a threat – and if we make the right choices we all can thrive together.

    It’s time to close the gap between myth and reality – and, in the process, close the gap between ‘Them’ and ‘Us’. OUT on 15 OCTOBER

  • European Spring.. Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess – and How to Put Them Right

    Britain and the rest of Europe are in a mess. Our economies are failing to deliver higher living standards for most people – and many have lost faith in politicians’ ability to deliver a brighter future, with support for parties like UKIP soaring. Are stagnation, decline and disillusionment inevitable?

  • Aftershock: Reshaping the World Economy After the Crisis — out now

    The financial crisis brought the world to the brink of economic breakdown. But now bankers’ bonuses are back, house prices are rising again and politicians promise recovery – all this while unemployment remains high, debts mount, frictions with China grow and the planet overheats.
    Is this really sustainable – or do we need to change course?


In Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, economist and financial journalist Philippe Legrain does a thorough job of debunking the myth that “government workers are ever really in a position to adequately assess which workers the economy needs at any given time.” First, because the market’s needs fluctuate so widely and so quickly, and second, the human variable is so unpredictable, with an individual’s academic skills or degree offering only a small clue of what their future employment or societal contributions will be.

Read Toula Drimonis’s piece for Ricochet.

Posted 27 Nov 2019 in Blog

Does the flagging eurozone need a fiscal boost as well as a monetary one? The debate in policy circles is slowly shifting.

I’m quoted right at the start of this excellent analysis piece by Mark John for Reuters.

“There is a shift towards talking about stimulus but there is no dramatic leap forward,” said Philippe Legrain, adviser to the European Commission during the aftermath of Europe’s 2009 sovereign debt crisis and author of the book “European Spring”, a diagnosis of Europe’s economic failings.

“There is no sense of urgency so far … That might happen when the euro zone enters recession.”

Read the full piece.

Posted 24 Sep 2019 in Blog

British democracy was once widely seen as a model for others to follow. But it has now sunk into its deepest crisis in living memory.

At stake is not only whether the UK crashes out of the EU without an exit deal, but also how far a country once famed for stability and moderation descends into political civil war.

Read my latest column for Project Syndicate

Posted 31 Aug 2019 in Blog

My latest for Project Syndicate

Posted 04 Jul 2019 in Blog

Denmark’s Social Democrats won the election there this month on an anti-immigrant platform. So is immigrant bashing a vote winner for Europe’s beleaguered progressives?

Read my latest for Project Syndicate

Posted 18 Jun 2019 in Blog

With the next few months set to be dominated by unseemly haggling over top EU jobs, starting with the presidency of the European Commission, it may feel like business as usual in Brussels. But if you take the longer view, there are good reasons to hope that EU democracy may be evolving in a positive direction.

Read my column for Brussels Times

Posted 18 Jun 2019 in Blog

The European Union is increasingly caught between the United States and China. Until it finds a common strategic purpose, the bloc will struggle to advance its interests and is increasingly likely to fall victim to great-power plays.

Read my latest column for Project Syndicate.

Quoted in the FT

Quoted in Belgium’s L’Echo

Quoted by Voice of America

Quoted in the Daily Mail

Posted 29 Apr 2019 in Blog

I contributed to a symposium published by The International Economy here.

“Populist” is often used as a derogatory label for any popular political view that someone deplores. But although populism can take many forms, it has a specific meaning: populists claim to stand up for “the people” (their supporters) against the elites (their opponents, whom they tend to view as enemies). Most populists are on the far right or the far left, but they need not be: witness Italy’s heterodox Five Star Movement. And the elites they lambast are often (but not always) economically and/or socially liberal.

Some voters have always hated liberalism and openness. But the main reason why populism is on the rise is that this core support has been swelled over the past decade by a broader constituency of voters who are angry and fearful.

While populists don’t have the answers, voters’ rage against the establishment is understandable. The financial crisis and its unduly austere aftermath have discredited elites, who often seem incompetent, self-serving, out of touch, and corrupt. Both bailed-out bankers and politicians have inflicted misery on ordinary people without being held accountable for their mistakes.

Meanwhile, communities that have suffered from economic change (mostly due to automation, not globalization) have often been neglected. No wonder many voters feel the system is rigged against them.

Populists tap into the resentment of people who feel ignored, looked down on, and hard done by—who have lost status or fear they will. Fears about the future include both economic worries that robots, Chinese workers, and immigrants are threatening people’s livelihoods, and cultural ones that white Westerners are losing their privileged status both locally and globally.

Far-left populists tend to target their fire at billionaires and big businesses that abuse their clout to buy political power and screw workers and consumers. But there is a big debate about whether far-right populism—which focuses its hostility on foreigners in general and immigrants in particular—is driven primarily by economic issues or cultural ones.

In practice, these often can’t be neatly separated. In difficult times, distributional cleavages come to the fore— over access to shrivelled public services, for instance— and are often then overlaid with identity clashes. When people lose status as individuals, they often prize their group identity more. In insecure times, some hanker for the perceived security of leadership by a strongman. In times of economic decline, people are more nostalgic for the past. And so on.

Our age of discontent provides rich pickings for opportunists such as Donald Trump (who was previously a Democrat) and Hungary’s Viktor Orban (who was once a liberal). But successful politicians often are opportunistic: witness Emmanuel Macron, France’s self-styled Jupiterian president who earlier stormed to power posing as an anti-establishment outsider.

To defeat the populists, mainstream politicians need to address the economic and cultural insecurities that create a wider constituency for populism in positive and constructive ways. That includes bold economic policies to promote greater opportunity and fairness and unifying cultural narratives such as progressive patriotism.

Posted 29 Apr 2019 in Blog

On ABC RN’s Sunday Extra with Hugh Riminton on 20 April

Listen here.

Posted 20 Apr 2019 in Blog

Despite the huge challenges they face, refugees are the most entrepreneurial migrants in Australia – and are nearly twice as likely to start a business as Australian taxpayers in general.

Read my piece in the Guardian to coincide with the publication of my new study for the Centre for Policy Development and OPEN on refugee entrepreneurship in Australia.

Posted 11 Apr 2019 in Blog

Greenhouse-gas emissions in the EU actually rose in 2017 – while they fell in Trump’s United States.

Read my column for Brussels Times.

Posted 04 Apr 2019 in Blog

Beware enemies hiding in plain sight. The Audi in the driveway and that BMW creeping around the corner are threats to national security. These days, it’s not the reds under the bed Americans need to worry about—it’s the Mercs on the lurk.

Read my latest column for Foreign Policy on Trump’s threatened trade war against European cars.

Posted 22 Feb 2019 in Blog

Is the eurozone heading for recession? How will policymakers react if the slowdown does get worse? And what damage could an economic downturn do to Europe’s already fractious politics? Those pressing questions ought to be at the top of policymakers’ minds in the run-up to the European Parliament elections in May.

Read my latest column for the Brussels Times

Posted 15 Feb 2019 in Blog

Yesterday’s rejection of the UK’s EU exit deal was the biggest government defeat ever – on the most important piece of legislation of this parliamentary term and many previous ones.

Yet Prime Minister Theresa May has not resigned. The government is almost certain to win this evening’s no-confidence vote tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

And – yes – the most likely scenario is still that Britain will exit the EU with a deal that looks very much like the one MPs have just overwhelmingly rejected.

Read my latest for CapX.

Posted 16 Jan 2019 in Blog

Now that the UK government and the EU have finally agreed a Brexit deal, Theresa May must seek Parliament’s approval for it. The battle lines are already drawn. But these do not involve hardline Brexiteers facing off against unreconciled Remainers, or Conservatives against Labour.

The big divide is between pragmatists who think that a bad deal is better than no-deal chaos and players who are willing to risk no-deal chaos to achieve their various ends (a hard Brexit, no Brexit, a Labour government), as I explain for CapX.

Posted 15 Nov 2018 in Blog

Far from prompting other countries to want to leave, the Brexit shambles is boosting support for the EU. Even far-right nationalists have concluded that EU exit is a dead end.

But the EU faces a more insidious threat: that it will disintegrate from within, as nationalists first undermine then seek to take over EU institutions, as I explain in my latest column for Brussels Times

Posted 13 Nov 2018 in Blog

Photo by Joy Ekpeti

I debated this with Ian Goldin at The Economist’s Open Future conference in London.

Having just flown in from Sydney I was extremely jetlagged, but apart from saying the word “fundamentally” a few too many times, I hope my positive, reasoned message came across well.

Watch the full day on YouTube; our panel starts around 7 hours 11 minutes in

Posted 09 Nov 2018 in Blog

Angela Merkel’s announcement of her political departure has prompted a predictable response from many quarters: that she was the “steady hand” that held Europe together, and that her “strong and stabilising leadership” will be sorely missed.

Nonsense. Merkel’s 13 years in office have involved domestic drift and European decay. She has complacently coasted along, failing to address Germany’s mounting economic and security challenges, and allowing Europe’s many crises to fester. Her approach would be tolerable for a small country in quiet times; it is catastrophic for Europe’s dominant power in an era of upheaval, as I explain in Project Syndicate.

Mehreen Khan kindly mentioned the piece in the FT’s Brussels briefing

Posted 08 Nov 2018 in Blog

My latest column for Brussels Times

Posted 24 Sep 2018 in Blog

Read my contribution to The National Interest

Posted 24 Sep 2018 in Blog