30 November 2015

Downing Street insists “good progress” made in EU negotiations with substantive talks in December

Following yesterday’s meeting of EU leaders, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said in a statement, “All EU leaders will have a substantive discussion of the UK renegotiation at next month’s European Council as planned.” This comes despite some EU officials suggesting that there would be little time to discuss the UK’s demands at the December EU summit. The statement added, “[EU leaders] agreed that we continue to make good progress. While some areas are more difficult than others, discussions are ongoing with member states to find solutions and agree reforms in all four areas outlined in the PM’s letter.” Cameron will hold further bilateral discussions with EU leaders on the side-lines of the Paris climate summit this week.

Polish Europe Minister Konrad Szymanski said, “Poland has a major interest in preventing any British EU exit. We are ready to support British demands as regards changes to their treaty obligations and possibly also changes to the European Union’s treaty architecture.” He also added, “The only matter of absolute principle is differentiating between people within the EU based on their passport.” Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe was quoted in The Sunday Telegraph as saying that, “the Visegrad states have to back down” on the issue of migrants’ access to welfare. “They have to understand that the whole EU will blow up if they are inflexible about this.”

Source: Reuters Bloomberg The Daily Mail

EU and Turkey agree package of measures aimed at stemming flow of migrants into Europe

At yesterday’s EU-Turkey summit, EU leaders signed off on a package of measures including €3bn in aid, visa-free travel into the border-free Schengen Area (of which the UK is not a member) by October 2016, and a commitment to unblock talks on full membership. In exchange, Turkey will implement an “action plan” aimed at stemming the flow of migrants into Europe, offer some work rights to the 2.2m refugees currently in the country and take back some of the people who previously crossed into Europe. The Financial Times reports that Germany and seven other EU member states will ask European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to put forward a proposal to directly resettle anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000 refugees currently in Turkey. Participation in the scheme would be voluntary, but those member states opting out could have to shoulder a bigger share of the €3bn aid package. Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree completing an array of sanctions against Turkey in response to the downing of a Russian military jet last week.

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Poll: Almost half of Germans say Merkel should step down

The latest Emnid Poll for Bild Am Sonntag suggests that 48% of German voters think that Angela Merkel should end her Chancellorship, while 44% say that she should not run for the top job in 2017. Almost half (47%) say that she has mismanaged the refugee crisis. Meanwhile, at its party conference in Hannover on Saturday, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), passed a resolution calling for strict border controls and the tightening of German asylum law, also voting against the European Commission’s plans to crack down on the proliferation of arms in the wake of the Paris attacks. Separately, Bild am Sonntag reported that Germany is to send 1,200 more troops to man aircraft and ships in the middle east in an effort to fight Islamic State (IS). The move still needs to be approved by the German Parliament. German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen yesterday told broadcaster ZDF that while “there will be no future with Assad,” she is open to a Western alliance with Syrian regime forces.

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Former Home Secretaries argue EU membership is vital to national security

Six former home secretaries – including Conservative Kenneth Clarke and five Labour figures — Jack Straw, Alan Johnson, David Blunkett, Charles Clarke and Jacqui Smith have warned that withdrawing from the EU would damage Britain’s national security and weaken the fight against terrorism. “By sharing intelligence, pooling resources and working together, European countries add value to each others’ efforts to tackle terrorism,” they wrote in a letter to the Sunday Times.

Separately, automotive company, Nissan, has given reasons for its investment in the UK, saying, “This country’s access to the European single market and its high-quality supply base is unique, which is why our UK-based operations are playing an increasingly critical role in Nissan’s global operations.”

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New Spanish election poll foresees tight three-way race

A new Metroscopia poll published by El País yesterday puts Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s centre-right Partido Popular in the lead on 22.7%, the centrist Ciudadanos second on 22.6%, and the Socialist Party third on 22.5%. The anti-establishment Podemos comes fourth on 17.1%. A separate Sigma Dos poll for El Mundo has Partido Popular ahead on 27.1%, followed by Ciudadanos on 23%, the Socialist Party on 20.2% and Podemos on 16.2%. The Spanish general election will take place on Sunday 20 December.

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Front National on course to take control of two French regions in upcoming election, new poll shows

According to a new BVA poll, the anti-immigrant Front National would win in two of thirteen French regions in the upcoming regional election – an unprecedented outcome. The party would secure control of the Picardy region in Northern France, where Front National leader Marine Le Pen is standing as candidate, and of the PACA region in the South East, where Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, Marine’s niece, is running. The first round of the French regional elections will take place on Sunday 6 December. The second round, where needed, will take place on Sunday 13 December.

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New poll: 70% of university students back UK’s EU membership, but around a third have given the issue little or no thought

According to a national survey of over 1,000 undergraduate students conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), 70% of respondents would vote for the UK to stay in the EU if a referendum were held tomorrow – with only 13% saying they would vote to leave. However, the poll also shows that around a third of respondents say they have given the issue either “little thought” (21%) or “no thought at all” (13%). In total, 60% of respondents said they have so far followed the debate “not very closely” (41%) or “not closely at all” (19%).

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No room to back down as market expects significant easing from the ECB

In a survey of economists by Bloomberg 100% said they expected the ECB to ease policy its meeting this week. Over three quarters believed the ECB would cut the deposit rate further into negative territory (from -0.2% now) while nearly 80% believe it will extend its bond purchase programme beyond the scheduled end date of September 2016. Meanwhile, the Euro is on course for its biggest monthly decline against the US Dollar since March.

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UK to back climate watchdog to review nations’ plans to reduce emissions

Negotiators from 195 countries at the UN climate summit in Paris will try to reach a deal within two weeks aimed at reducing global carbon emissions. A key sticking point is on the principle of “differentiation”, or how the burden of cutting global emissions to a safe level should be divided between rich and poor countries. The Times reports that Amber Rudd, the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, will focus on securing a review mechanism to ensure there is “no backsliding” on individual nations’ plans to cut emissions, according to a source at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

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Eastern European states seek to block new gas pipeline between Russia and Germany

According to a leaked letter seen by the Financial Times, nine Eastern European states, led by Poland and Slovakia, are petitioning to block the proposed gas pipeline from Russia to Germany (Nord Stream 2). The states fear it will increase the EU’s dependency on Russian gas.

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Luxembourg accused of delaying EU reform of money market funds

Luxembourg is facing criticism for delaying progress on the EU’s regulation of money market funds which has made little progress since it took over the EU presidency in July. A significant number of money market funds operate in Luxembourg. A spokesman for the Luxembourg government said, “Luxembourg is certainly not blocking the reform, but is actively working with the other member states to find a solution.”

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Israel suspends cooperation with EU on peace process in retaliation for labelling rules

Israel has suspended its cooperation with the EU on the peace process in retaliation for the EU’s decision to label some goods produced on Israeli occupied lands.

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