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The issue of immigration dominated last night’s ITV debate, which featured UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Prime Minister David Cameron taking questions from a studio audience. Farage said he accepted that migrants did make a contribution to the UK economy but “the real truth is that there is more to life than GDP” and the reality was that “ordinary decent Britons” had had “a rotten time” in recent years. Cameron said: “GDP is the size of our economy. It is the combination of all the wealth our country creates. He [Farage] is basically saying it doesn’t really matter. He is so keen to get us out of Europe that he is prepared to sacrifice jobs and growth along the way.”
Farage said even the “worst case scenario”, with the French and Germans imposing tariffs on the UK, the barriers would be “significantly lower” than the amount paid to the EU budget. “No deal is better than the rotten deal we have got at the moment,” he said. The Prime Minister was challenged over issues of sovereignty and Cameron acknowledged that sometimes the EU “can drive me mad, it is a bureaucracy, it is frustrating” but “walking away, quitting, would reduce our national influence, would reduce our economy, would reduce our say in the world and as a result would damage our country.” Cameron was booed by some in the audience for refusing to say how much net migration would fall as a result of his renegotiation, while Farage was accused of inciting racism with “scaremongering” about migration and the refugee crisis.
Cameron also called a press conference yesterday morning to challenge six key Vote Leave claims which he said amounted to “complete untruths”. After last night’s debate, Vote Leave accused Cameron of telling “five outright lies” in the show. Writing in The Financial Times, Sebastian Payne asks whether a promise of a referendum on Turkish membership of the EU could be used to combat the Leave campaign.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander will today cite fresh analysis by the House of Commons library based on the “worst-case scenario” for public finances after a British exit, as set out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, to warn that Brexit could cause a £10.5bn hole in the NHS budget. She will also point out that 52,000 nationals from other EU states work in the NHS, a figure that rises to 130,000 when care workers are included. Writing in The Times, former Trade and Industry Secretary Lord Young argues “The day we leave the EU we become its largest trading partner and one with the balance of trade substantially in its favour…Is there any way, at a time when most EU economies are treading water, that they would take any steps to reduce their sales to us?”
BBC City AM The Times Reuters The Sun The Financial Times: Payne The Guardian The Times: Lord Young
Sky News reports that according to the Bank of England’s monthly register of banking statistics, around £65bn moved out of sterling assets in March and April – the fastest rate since the financial crisis in early 2009, though overall there were likely still net capital inflows into the UK. Responding to the findings, Chancellor George Osborne said that “Financial markets are telling us what all the evidence shows: that Britain will be permanently poorer if we vote to leave the EU and the single market.” The Financial Times suggested that the findings show investors hedging against a potential weakening of sterling rather than money being pulled out of the UK since bank deposits had grown over the period. Conservative MP John Redwood said, “Any serious economist will tell you that the pound is up against the dollar since February, and the UK’s foreign exchange reserves have increased this year.”
The Financial Times
A number of politicians, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron have called on the deadline to register to vote in the EU referendum – which expired at midnight – to be extended after the website crashed last night due to unprecedented demand. The BBC reports that at 22:15, shortly after the conclusion of the ITV debate, 50,711 people were using the service at the same time. In total, 525,000 people applied to register to vote during the day with 132,00 under the age of 25, 170,000 aged between 25 to 34, and 100,000 aged 35 to 44.
The European Court of Justice ruled yesterday that an illegal migrant cannot be imprisoned solely on grounds that he or she “has entered the territory of a member state illegally across an internal border of the [passport-free] Schengen area”. The court was ruling in the case of Selina Affum, a Ghanaian woman that had been jailed in France while she was trying to make her way from Belgium to the UK. The ECJ said that, under the EU’s Return Directive, which only applies to Schengen countries, Mrs Affum should have first been given the chance to leave France voluntarily within 30 days before facing detention. The UK is not a member of the Schengen area.
A new TNS poll has found that 51% of Scots support remaining in the EU compared to 21% who support leaving, a bigger margin for Remain than the UK as a whole. However, despite the Scottish government’s claim that Scotland being taken out of the EU ‘against its will’ would be grounds for a second independence referendum, the poll also found that 46% disagreed, with 43% in favour.
The European Commission yesterday unveiled a new strategy to boost cooperation with a number of Middle Eastern and African countries in a bid to better tackle the on-going migrant crisis. The flagship proposal is a €62bn investment fund which would be used to finance projects in third countries that show willingness to help stem the flow of migrants trying to reach Europe and agree to take back people who tried to enter the EU illegally. Under the plan, the Commission would set aside €3.1bn from the EU budget and ask EU member states to match that amount. The resulting €6.2bn would be ‘leveraged’ by up to ten times – as the EU hopes private investors would be persuaded to back these investment projects – in order to raise €62bn in total.
Separately, Czech Europe Minister Tomas Prouza has told EUobserver, “In 2015 we were labelled as European outcasts [for opposing the Commission’s refugee quotas], but now what we were saying is mainstream…We were right, but we didn’t find the proper way to explain it.”
The Financial Times
The Daily Mail
A spokesman for the Austrian Constitutional Court has today confirmed that the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) has filed a lawsuit disputing the result of the second round of last month’s presidential election. FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer was beaten by the Greens’ Alexander Van der Bellen by less than 31,000 votes – and the FPÖ claims that irregularities took place.
Eleven EU transport ministers, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, have complained that Germany and France are abusing their right to enforce a national minimum wage by also applying it to truck drivers merely passing through their countries. They said the forced wage is causing an “an enormous administrative burden and costs for hauliers.”
Luxembourgish MPs have adopted a motion calling on the government to insist that CETA, the recently concluded EU-Canada free trade deal, be considered as a ‘mixed agreement’ – meaning that it would need to be ratified by each of the 28 national parliaments of EU member states. The motion invites the Luxembourgish government to vote against any Commission proposal envisaging that CETA should simply be ratified by national governments in the Council of Ministers with the consent of the European Parliament.
A new poll by the Pew Research Center, conducted across 10 EU member states, shows that 70% of respondents think it would be bad for the EU if the UK left, while 16% say it would be a good thing. The poll also found that 42% want some EU powers returned to member states, while 19% prefer to give more power to Brussels and 27% are happy with the status quo. At the same time, only 38% of French have a positive view of the EU, down from 69% in 2004. This compares to 44% of Brits feeling positive about the EU, down from 54% in 2004.
Pew Research Center