26 November 2015

Hammond warns restrictions on EU migrants’ access to benefits “non-negotiable” as UK experiences highest recorded net immigration

In a speech on EU reform in Italy yesterday, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that the restrictions on EU migrants’ access to benefits that the government is trying to secure are “non-negotiable if we want to get agreement that Britain’s future is in the European Union.” He also added that, in the wake of the European refugee crisis, public support for remaining in the EU has gone down over “what appears to many people to be an uncontrollable wave of migration… [people] fear that Europe is losing control of the situation.”

Meanwhile, new ONS figures published today show that net migration to the UK stood at 336,000 in the year ending June 2015 (up 82,000 from June 2014), the highest net migration on record. Net migration of EU citizens showed a statistically significant increase to 180,000 (up 42,000 from June 2014) while non-EU net migration also had a statistically significant increase, to 201,000 (up 36,000).

Source: The Times ONS

Former Italian PM: EU integration needs to allow for “different destinations”

In a lecture about UK-EU relations at Oxford University yesterday, Italy’s former Prime Minister Enrico Letta said, “We have to accept that we need to have different destinations within the EU.” He called for a “Europe of two circles”, arguing that such a concept is better than “two-speed Europe” because the latter “means the same destination for everyone.” Letta said a Brexit would be bad for the EU and for the UK, and added, “Europe can’t stay as it is today. We need to change Europe for the better.”

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Juncker: The euro doesn’t make sense without Schengen

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs yesterday, “The [passport-free] Schengen system is partly comatose, but those who believe in Europe…must try to bring new life into the spirit behind Schengen. If the spirit of Schengen leaves us forever and leaves our hearts we’ll lose more than the Schengen agreement. A single currency doesn’t make sense if Schengen fails.”

Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta appeared on BBC World yesterday, discussing the future of Schengen and what impact the end of passport-free travel could have on European businesses, while Open Europe’s Pawel Swidlicki appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box programme this morning discussing the implications of the Paris attacks for Schengen.

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No future for Schengen without binding EU refugee quotas says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech to the Bundestag yesterday that without a “binding” and “permanent” refugee allocation quota in the EU, there would be “no future” for a passport-free Schengen area. “The willingness to sign up to a permanent relocation mechanism is not a trifling matter, but it relates to the question of whether or not we can maintain Schengen in the long-term,” said Merkel. The Chancellor is supported by her junior coalition partner, the SPD, with its Parliamentary Chairman Thomas Oppermann saying that “freedom of travel will only continue if we manage to safeguard our external borders” and impose an EU-wide quota.

Separately, Merkel met French President François Hollande in Paris yesterday, where the Chancellor pledged an additional 650 troops in Mali. According to unconfirmed reports, she also pledged over dinner last night to assist in the fight against Islamic State (IS) by sharing intelligence gathered by German jets and satellite, as well as assisting in mid-air refueling.

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European Commission’s lead negotiator hopeful UK deal can be agreed by February

Jonathan Faull, who is leading the European Commission’s work on the UK’s EU renegotiation, yesterday told an Irish parliamentary committee meeting that it will be difficult for officials to have a framework ready for discussion at December’s EU summit. He said that the hope was that agreement would be reached by the following summit in February at the latest, allowing David Cameron to then announce the referendum date. “That gives us a few more weeks to work on these very tricky issues,” Faull said.

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EU countries still arguing over scope of financial transaction tax as December deadline draws closer

According to a document seen by Bloomberg, the eleven EU member states that have agreed to introduce a financial transaction tax (FTT) are still arguing over the scope of the levy. Earlier this month, Austrian Finance Minister Hans-Jörg Schelling – who is leading the negotiations – said that, if no decision can be made at the next meeting of EU finance ministers on 8 December, then “one should discuss just as openly that no decision could be reached” and the FTT should be dropped.

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Reuters: ECB considering broader bond purchases ahead of key December meeting

According to sources quoted by Reuters, ECB officials are considering a number of additional stimulus measures ahead of the key Governing Council meeting on 3 December. The options could include two-tier penalty charges on banks that park cash with the ECB or broader bond purchases. The ECB declined to comment.

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Norway introduces tougher border controls

Norway has introduced measures to tighten its border security, concerned that asylum seekers may flock into the country following the temporary border closures enacted by Sweden. Sweden and Finland have meanwhile urged for the Nordic countries to hold joint talks on the issue.

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New poll gives Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael nine-point lead over Sinn Féin

A new Ipsos MRBI poll for the Irish Times has Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael party in the lead on 30% (+2%) followed by Sinn Féin on 21% (+2%), Fiánna Fail on 19% (-1%) and the Labour party on 7% (-1%). 23% of voters would vote for other parties or for independent candidates. Ireland is due to hold its parliamentary elections no later than 3 April 2016.

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