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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has this morning made his first major intervention in the EU referendum campaign by setting out the “strong socialist case for staying in the European Union”. Having come under criticism from many in his party over his lukewarm support for EU membership, Corbyn tried to rally Labour voters to come out and vote for Remain, saying “By working together across our continent we can develop our economies, protect social and human rights, tackle climate change and clamp down on tax dodgers. You cannot build a better world unless you engage with the world, build allies and deliver change. The EU, warts and all, has proved itself to be a crucial international framework to do that”. However, in a move that will frustrate some in his party, he also gave a strongly critical view of the EU in its current form saying that the EU “lacks democratic accountability to its people” and “pressures member states to privatise and deregulate”.
Meanwhile, one of Britain’s biggest unions, UNISON, has announced it will campaign for Remain in the upcoming referendum following a consultation with its members, arguing in a explanatory statement that “Without the laws that began life in Europe, most people at work in the UK would be getting a very rough deal.”
The Financial Times The Guardian The Times The Daily Telegraph The Daily Mail The Independent UNISON press release The Daily Mirror
The Electoral Commission yesterday designated Vote Leave as the official Leave campaign in the EU referendum, while Stronger In will be the lead Remain campaign. Arron Banks, the chief donor to the Grassroots Out campaign, which vied with Vote Leave for designation, said that he would explore the option of legally challenging the Electoral Commission decision, although legal experts yesterday said this was unlikely to delay the referendum. The Times reports that a new YouGov poll puts the referendum race neck and neck, with 39% supporting Remain and 39% backing Leave. Only 7% of Labour voters trust David Cameron on the referendum, but 71% of Labour voters say that they trust Jeremy Corbyn on Europe.
Meanwhile, The Financial Times reports that Siemens sent a note to its workforce saying that, “While Siemens does not see any upsides for our business from a potential Brexit, we also wish to make clear that the UK will remain an important market for us in the future.” In an interview with The Financial Times, outgoing top Treasury civil servant Nick Macpherson, says that under Brexit, “At its most prosaic, you’re going to be negotiating with a whole lot of battle-hardened trade negotiators and Britain does not have a department of trade full of equivalent experts.”
Open Europe blog
The Daily Telegraph
The Financial Times
The Financial Times: Macpherson
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said during a press conference yesterday, “France has learnt, with difficulty, that one needed to fully respect the independence of the European Central Bank – which is in charge of implementing monetary policy… The French have got into a good habit, the Germans should not give up their own good habit.” Meanwhile, according to a new Odoxa poll for France Info and Le Parisien, 76% of French think President François Hollande should “certainly” (46%) or “probably” (30%) not stand for re-election next year.
Poland’s constitutional crisis intensified this morning after the Polish Parliament voted in favour of nominating another judge to the Constitutional Tribunal despite the fact that as part of the ongoing dispute the Tribunal already has 18 judges approved by the current and previous parliaments – whereas legally, it should have only 15 judges. While the governing Law and Justice MPs voted in favour, with the exception of a couple of MPs, the opposition overwhelmingly boycotted the vote. An IBRiS poll for Rzeczpospolita yesterday found that 63% of Poles believe that democracy in Poland is endangered, an increase of 8 points compared to November 2015.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament yesterday passed a non-binding resolution warning that the Polish government’s stand-off with the country’s Constitutional Tribunal posed a danger to “democracy, human rights and the rule of law” by 513 votes to 142, with 30 abstentions. The resolution calls on the European Commission to step up its rule of law probe against the government if it does not publish the recent verdict of the Constitutional Tribunal striking down the government’s bill changing its operating procedures.
In remarks to MEPs on the on-going migrant crisis, European Council President Donald Tusk said, “We are faced with a tenuous, perpetual and multi-dimensional effort. In fact, something like a never-ending story. The solutions we are putting into practice are not ideal and will not end our work.” Meanwhile, migrants yesterday clashed again with Macedonian police at the country’s border with Greece. Separately, during an evidence session, the House of Lords’ EU Home Affairs sub-committee was told that hundreds of unaccompanied child asylum seekers, some of them as young as six, are being looked after by councils after they arrived alone in the UK.
The Wall Street Journal
The Daily Mail
Reuters reports that, at the IMF Spring meetings next week, Greece will request that its creditors agree to allow it to service its bailout loans at a fixed interest rate as part of the debt relief negotiations. Greece will also request that the ceiling on debt servicing costs of 15% of GDP per year be split between paying loans and bonds (8%) and paying down short term debt (7%). Meanwhile, the Greek government has announced that it will submit bills on pension and tax reforms to its parliament next week, without prior approval from its creditors. The move is based on the view that it should be up to the Greek government to decide how the burden of cuts is shared out. Separately, according to the IMF, Greece accounts for 11% of the bad bank loans in the Eurozone, despite only accounting for 1.5% of the bloc’s GDP.
The Irish Parliament will attempt to vote in a new Taoiseach for a third time today, with both Fine Gael leader and current caretaker PM Enda Kenny, and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin again expected to fail to get enough votes to be nominated. However, Martin called on Independent MPs to make their position clear and vote for either him or Kenny. However, many Independents are still expected to abstain as they want to wait to see what Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil agree before they make their position clear. A Fianna Fáil source told the Irish Times, that Martin would give up trying to form a minority Fianna Fáil government if he did not get the support of at least an additional seven or eight MPs.
The Irish Times
Following the Dutch referendum rejecting the EU-Ukraine association agreement, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Parliament yesterday that he intends to reach an agreement with EU partners by the summer that addresses the concerns of the Dutch voters. “If we fail to do that we will propose not ratifying the treaty,” he said. The paper notes that Rutte will not present a policy response to Dutch voters’ before the referendum on UK’s EU membership on 23 June.
Politico reports that the EU-Japan summit, supposed to be held next month, has been postponed over disputes over trade negotiations. They report that disagreements over agriculture imports has pushed the summit back, with a spokesperson for the EU saying they expect the summit to be held some time later in the year.
The group of EU data protection regulators has said they continue to have a large number of concerns – particularly on the commercial and public security use of data – with regards to the new US-EU ‘Privacy Shield’, data sharing and protection agreement. The group urged the Commission not to ratify it yet.
Open Europe will host a debate, moderated by our Chairman, Lord Leach of Fairford, taking a reasoned look at the arguments for both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’. David Frost, current CEO of Scotch Whisky Association and former trade diplomat will present the case for ‘Remain’, while leading economist and chief economic advisor to the Mayor of London, Dr Gerard Lyons, will outline the arguments for ‘Leave.’ Both are members of Open Europe’s Advisory Council but will be speaking in a personal capacity. The event will take place on Monday, 18 April 2016 from 17:45 to 19:00 in Westminster. Spaces are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first serve basis. Register here.
Meanwhile, Open Europe’s liberal, free market guide to Brexit continues to receive media coverage and is cited by Juliet Samuel in The Daily Telegraph, Gavin Hewitt on his BBC blog and in City AM.