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UK Prime Minister Theresa May will today move a motion calling for a general election, to be held on 8 June. The motion will require a two-thirds majority of the House of Commons under the Fixed Term Parliament Act. Speaking on the steps of Downing Street May reiterated that, “Britain is leaving the EU and there can be no turning back and at this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division.” Explaining her decision May argued, “Our opponents believe that because the Government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong…If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue, and the negotiations with the EU will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election…we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the EU agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the decision “a huge political miscalculation” and accused May of “putting the interests of her party ahead of those of the country.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron welcomed the decision, suggesting they would vote for the motion. A snap poll published yesterday by ICM for the Guardian found that 55% of respondents backed May’s decision to call an early general election, against 15% who opposed it and 30% who didn’t know. Elsewhere, former Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday called on voters to back candidates who would “hold the government properly to account in the interests of the country. This should cross party lines.” He added that he was “not urging tactical voting or some anti Tory alliance,” but called on voters to “elect as many MPs as possible with an open mind on this issue who are prepared to vote according to the quality of the deal and the interests of the British people.”
Meanwhile, following May’s announcement the Sterling reached its highest level of the year at $1.253. In his address to the Commons, Chancellor Philip Hammond welcomed the development noting that “[May’s] statement this morning has sent sterling up in the markets, demonstrating the confidence that the markets have in a future, for this country, under a Tory government with a new mandate.” At the same time, the pound’s surge has caused the FTSE 100 to lose over 180 points, marking its steepest daily fall since the Brexit vote last June.
The Daily Telegraph The Guardian Financial Times ICM Unlimited: Guardian poll 18 April The Daily Telegraph
The International Monetary Fund has revised up its growth forecast for the UK to 2%, indicative of stronger economic performance than expected since the Brexit vote. The new prediction is a 0.5% increase on the previous forecast in January, and makes the UK the second fastest growing advanced economy in 2017, behind only the US. However, growth is expected to slow to 1.5% in 2018, due to a more gradual realisation of the effects of Brexit. Responding to these new predictions, Chancellor Philip Hammond said, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong and we continue to invest in the skills needed for a stronger and fairer Britain.” IMF predictions for the global economy were also positive, predicting global growth of 3.5% in 2017, with Maurice Obstfeld, the IMF’s economic counsellor, stating “we could be at a turning point.” However the IMF warned that strong growth could be undermined by growing protectionist sentiments worldwide.
Research conducted by Ipsos MORI and Kings College London has found that 52% of UK voters support more immigrants coming to the UK to do high skill jobs, compared with 33% who thought numbers should remain about the same and 12% who thought fewer should come. Asked the same question of routine manual work, 18% thought more should be allowed to come, compared with 36% who thought numbers should remain about the same and 44% who thought fewer should come. For students, 40% thought more should be allowed to come, compared with 43% who thought numbers should remain about the same and 13% who thought fewer should come. Kully Kaur-Ballagan, research director at Ipsos MORI, said the research showed that “the public views different types of immigration very differently and does not want a blanket reduction of all types of immigration.” She added, “There is clear backing to allow in more students and highly skilled migrants to Britain and for this latter group, there is clear support among both Leavers and Remainers. However, the public is much less supportive of allowing in lower skilled workers. Therefore, any new immigration controls will require a delicate balancing act between supporting the needs of industry that rely heavily on lower skilled migration and the public’s desire to see numbers reduced.”
Kings College London Polling Club / Ipsos MORI Immigration 2017 Poll
A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has highlighted rankings compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that place England and Wales in the bottom four countries for youth literacy, with the UK as a whole last for youth computer problem-solving. It also found that spending on training by UK employers was below the EU average. Lizzie Crowley, CIPD skills adviser said, “This is a sobering analysis of the state of skills in the UK. Our report should serve as a real wake-up call for the Government to break with the past two decades of failed skills policy and set the UK on a new course that delivers the right results for individuals, organisations and the economy as a whole.” She added, “As we move towards Brexit, and possible restrictions on overseas talent, it’s crucial that government works in partnership with education providers and businesses to address these deep-rooted issues that continue to blight individual and business potential.”
The Press Association
Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny will organise a mini-summit on Friday with his counterparts in the Netherlands and Denmark, who he named as the countries “indicated to be the most adversely affected by Brexit.” The meeting aims to ensure Brexit negotiations do not stall on withdrawal talks, but move swiftly to discussions about the longer-term UK-EU relationship. Kenny is also expected to highlight specific Irish concerns, including the future of the border and Common Travel Area, as part of this summit.
Separately, a report to the EU by Ireland’s Department of the Taoiseach has warned that Brexit “presents uniquely significant and unprecedented political, economic and diplomatic challenges for Ireland, given the extent of the inter-connectedness of [UK and Irish] people and economies.” It added that “a strong case” would be made for EU aid where Brexit “represents a serious disturbance to the Irish economy.”
Following the Turkish referendum on a new constitution that will give Turkish President Recep Tayyip sweeping new powers, US President Donald Trump called Erdoğan to “congratulate him on his recent referendum victory and to discuss the United States’ action in response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons”, the White House said. Meanwhile, the European Commission yesterday called on Ankara to “launch transparent investigations” into “alleged irregularities” of the referendum. Elsewhere, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said, “The membership perspective has de facto been buried,” as Erdogan “has told all of us that he considers Europe to be a dilapidated continent…This means for us that we’re now entering a new era, which we need a new arrangement of our political relationship with Turkey.”
The Financial Times
New Zealand has announced plans to tighten access to skilled work visas. New Zealand’s immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said, “The government has a Kiwis-first approach to immigration. It’s important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills, to help fill genuine skill shortages and contribute to our growing economy.” Lower paid and lower-skilled Essential Skills visa holders will be limited to a maximum stay of three years followed by a “minimum stand down period” before becoming eligible to reapply for the temporary visa. This follows similar moves made yesterday by Australia.
The Financial Times