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Following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s victory in Sunday’s constitutional referendum, Turkey’s minister for EU affairs, Ömer Çelik, has warned that the EU should both abandon calls for Turkey to its reform anti-terrorism legislation and grant visa-exemption to Turkish citizens, or risk the suspension of the Turkey-EU migration return deal. He said, “If we get a negative response from the EU we have the right to re-evaluate and suspend all of these agreements.”
Erdoğan won the referendum with a narrow margin of 51.3% of the vote against 48.7%, with 99% of the ballots counted. Turnout was over 80%. The victory allows him to alter the Turkish constitution, moving the country from a parliamentary democracy to an executive presidency, abolishing the role of Prime Minister, and granting himself powers to select ministers and approve laws. Speaking after the result, he said, “April 16 is the victory of all who said Yes or No, of the whole 80m, of the whole of Turkey of 780,000-square kilometres.”
However, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international election monitor, has criticised the election, saying, “The 16 April constitutional referendum took place on an unlevel playing field and the two sides of the campaign did not have equal opportunities.” Opposition parties also claim that not all ballots were counted and are set to demand a recount of a third of the votes.
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International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has rejected claims that the UK should have a limited role in EU trade policy in the lead up to its formal withdrawal. He said, “We are a partner in the EU until we leave and intend to play our full role…Clearly when the EU is discussing the UK, that’s a matter for the 27 and not the UK but we intend to exercise our full legal rights as one of the 28 members until such time as we stop being a member.” Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, has previously warned that the UK could use information gathered from EU trade policy meetings to outbid the bloc in negotiations with third countries. However, Fox has said, “The UK is a key liberalising influence, and certainly from discussions I’ve had, other countries welcome us continuing to play that role right until we leave the EU itself.” He also confirmed that the UK cannot legally sign new trade deals until after it has left the EU, but added, “We can certainly begin to talk about what we want.”
The latest French presidential election poll by Opinionway for Les Echos shows centre-right candidate François Fillon one point behind both independent candidate Emmanuel Macron and Front National leader Marine Le Pen. Macron and Le Pen are both polling at 22% of the vote in the first round of presidential elections, with Fillon predicted to receive 21%. Far left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has recently risen in the polls, is estimated to gain 18% of the vote. The first round of votes takes place this Sunday.
The Financial Times reports that London is aiming to remain home to the European Banking Agency (EBA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after Brexit. A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the EU has said, “No decisions have been taken about the location of the EBA or the EMA — these will be subject to the exit negotiations…The government will discuss with the EU and member states how best to continue co-operation in the fields of banking and medicines regulation in the best interests of both the UK and the EU.” However, the EU is expected to demand the relocation of both agencies, with on EU official saying, “The EMA and EBA both have to go to a member state…There are many interested member states. There is a broad understanding that it is something that you need to move quickly on.” The leaders of the EU-27 are set to discuss this as part of their summit on 29 April to adopt the EU’s Brexit negotiating guidelines.
The Financial Times reports that ministers are considering introducing a two-year fixed visa programme, based on the Home Office’s youth mobility scheme, which currently allows young people from countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Monaco to come to the UK for up to 24 months. The visa would be aimed at EU nationals aged between 18 and 30 EU seeking work in the UK in sectors such as construction, social care and hospitality post-Brexit. The proposals would not allow their stay to be extend nor would they be able to bring any dependents and would be prevented from claiming benefits such as housing allowance.
Separately, the Australian government has announced that it will abolish the 457 visa programme in order to focus on securing employment for Australian nationals instead of skilled overseas workers, with two new temporary visa schemes targeting fewer professions and adding new eligibility requirements in place of the 457 scheme. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, “The new system will be manifestly, rigorously, resolutely conducted in the national interest.”
A new survey by Orb International published in The Daily Telegraph finds 55% of respondents approve of the way Brexit negotiations are being handled by the government. This is the third consecutive month of majority public support, with disapproval at its lowest recorded level of 45%. 40% of those interviewed also believe that Theresa May “will get the right deal for Britain in the Brexit negotiations.”
The survey also found that 47% of respondents disagreed with the statement “controlling immigration [was] more important than access to free trade,” but 58% agreed that the UK will have greater control over immigration once it leaves the EU.”
The Daily Telegraph
The Times reports that some ministers want to abandon the national target to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid as part of the 2020 Conservative manifesto, in favour of a 3% “security” target instead. This would encompass both defence commitments, whose current target is set at 2% of GDP, and foreign aid spending. A government spokesperson has called the idea “pure speculation,” adding, “As a global, outward looking country we take our international responsibilities seriously and remain fully committed to them.”