11 April 2016

Labour MPs urge party leadership to step up campaign to keep UK in EU

Labour MPs Ben Bradshaw, Emma Reynolds, Chris Leslie and Adrian Bailey wrote in The Observer, “Convincing the British public to remain in the EU should be the overriding priority for the political leadership this year…That’s why we are calling on the leadership of the Labour party to campaign relentlessly for our EU membership with passion and without equivocation. This is overdue. It matters and it requires more than the occasional speech.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, “We want people to vote to remain in the EU so that we can develop a social Europe, a just Europe, so we can protect the workers’ rights advances that have been made. But we are also in a position to argue for the protection of workers’ rights in public services should the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) ever come along.” Corbyn is widely expected to deliver an EU speech this week.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Sir John Major wrote in the Mail on Sunday, “The underlying mantra of the ‘Out’ campaign is – and I use their words – ‘I want my country back’. It is an emotional appeal, but a bogus one. If emotion triumphs over reality, we will lose power, prestige, security and some of our future economic well-being.”

Separately, John Longworth, former Director General of the BCC, writes that he resigned in order to “tell the truth” about Brexit. He argues in The Guardian, “Anti-Brexit multinational corporations, which represent only around 5% of the businesses in Britain, are short-termist and narrowly focused… It is outrageous, in my view, that [these multinational] corporations have signed up to the EU cause without reference to their shareholders, customers or employees.” Meanwhile, Defence Minister Julian Brazier said on Friday, “The EU makes the people in our country less safe…The EU’s blunders gave [Russian President Vladimir] Putin the excuse he was looking for to invade the Ukraine. This is one more example of how the EU’s foreign policy very often makes this country and its allies less safe.” He went on to claim that EU red tape is hampering British military training exercises.

Source: The Observer The Mail on Sunday: Major The Guardian: Longworth The Daily Mail (Saturday)

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UK Government to face questions over decision to send pro-Remain leaflet to every household

The UK Government will today face questions from its own MPs over its decision to send a pro-Remain leaflet to every household in the country at the cost of over £9m. Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox MP has written to Prime Minister David Cameron arguing that, while the leaflet may be within the letter of the law, “It is clearly not within the spirit of how the public think the campaign should be conducted.” Fox also called on the government to allow similar spending for the Leave side if it insisted on pushing ahead with the leaflet.

Source: The Times Bloomberg The Sunday Telegraph

Schäuble suggests ECB is partly to blame for rise of populist AfD in Germany

According to remarks reported by The Wall Street Journal, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has suggested that the ECB’s loose monetary policy is partly to blame for the rise of the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party in Germany, arguing, “I said to [ECB President] Mario Draghi…be very proud: you can attribute 50% of the results of a party that seems to be new and successful in Germany to the design of this policy. There is a growing understanding that excessive liquidity has become more a cause than a solution to the problem.”

Separately, the German Finance Ministry has also denied reports which appeared in Der Spiegel that Germany was considering taking legal action against the ECB if the latter were to resort to ‘helicopter money’ – cash hand-outs to Eurozone citizens – in a further easing of its monetary policy.

Source: The Wall Street Journal The Financial Times Reuters

Clifford Chance warns its staff against Brexit

Law firm Clifford Chance has come out against Britain leaving the EU in a letter to its staff seen by The Financial Times. Senior partner Malcolm Sweeting and managing partner Matthew Layton argue in the letter, “We are of the view that it is in the interests of the City, of many of our clients’ businesses and of the firm for the UK to remain in the EU…The UK’s relationship with the EU is also of crucial importance to many of our clients, not just in the UK but in Europe and around the world.”

Source: The Financial Times

Government could be forced to repay billions to businesses if ECJ rules certain UK taxes unlawful

The Sunday Times reported that, according to Vote Leave, the UK Government could be forced to repay up to £35.6bn in overpaid tax to businesses if the European Court of Justice rules that certain UK taxes are unlawful in pending cases. This comes on top of £7.87bn which the UK was forced to repay between 2005 and 2014, while the Government is already expected to pay out £7.3bn between 2016 and 2020.

Source: The Sunday Times The Daily Mail

Italian government seeks to finalise €5bn bank rescue fund

Reuters and the Financial Times report that Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan will today meet executives from the country’s largest lenders in a bid to finalise a new €5bn rescue fund that would buy bad loans and plug capital shortfalls in struggling Italian banks. While details are still being worked on, the fund is understood to broadly follow the model of the Sareb – the Spanish ‘bad bank’ set up in 2012. The Italian government is expected to contribute no more than €300m, with banks providing most of the capital themselves.

Source: Reuters The Financial Times

Spain wants one extra year to bring public deficit in line with EU rules

El País reports that the Spanish caretaker government intends to ask the European Commission for an extra year to bring Spain’s public deficit below 3% of GDP – in line with EU fiscal rules. The government wants this year’s deficit target to be relaxed from 2.8% to around 3.7% of GDP. Meanwhile, the anti-establishment Podemos party has announced that it will ask its supporters in an online referendum later this week whether they want the party to sign up to the government pact sealed by the Socialist Party and the centrist Ciudadanos. The outcome of the online poll is expected to be unveiled next Monday.

Source: El País Cinco Días

Schäuble: Solution for Greece will be found “in the coming weeks”, but without debt relief

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told Germany’s public broadcaster ARD yesterday, “We will find a solution [for Greece] in the coming weeks, but it will not have anything to do with debt relief – but rather with Greece having to do more on the way to becoming a competitive economy.” Separately, the Greek government has sold its controlling stake in the Piraeus port, the country’s largest, to the Chinese state shipping group Cosco. The deal was sealed amid protests from dockworkers and marks Greece’s second major privatisation since last year.

Source: Reuters Handelsblatt Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Thousands of unaccompanied child refugees disappear in Germany

5,835 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers have gone missing in Germany in the past year, according to the German Interior Ministry – which unveiled the figures following a parliamentary enquiry. The statement contradicts one made by the Ministry for Family Affairs, which said in February that there was “no reliable evidence” that thousands of unaccompanied refugee children had disappeared.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

EU dentists working in Britain more likely to be struck off than those who trained in UK

Figures obtained by The Daily Mail from the General Dental Council through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request have revealed that dentists working in Britain who have qualified from other EU member states are nearly four times more likely to be struck off than those who have trained in the UK. The figures show that 22 of the 60 dentists that have been struck off since 2013 qualified in other EU countries, and highlight that only 0.09% of all UK-qualified dentists were struck off – compared to 0.35% of those that qualified elsewhere in the EU.

Source: The Daily Mail (Saturday)

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to begin formal negotiations to form minority government in Ireland

The Irish Times reports that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will today begin negotiating an agreement in an attempt to form a minority government. The paper reports that the minority government, most likely to be led by current Fine Gael leader and caretaker Irish PM Enda Kenny, is being negotiated to potentially last for up to two and half years, and at least three budgets. Back-channel discussions between the parties had occurred over the weekend.

Source: The Irish Times

Coalition of think tanks and business groups call for clarity on post-Brexit immigration policy

The Financial Times today publishes an open letter signed by think tanks, migration campaigners and business groups, including Open Europe, Migration Watch, British Future,  and the Institute of Directors, which calls on the government and both the Leave and Remain campaigns to clarify the consequences of Brexit on future immigration policy.

The letter states, “In our view, the public debate about immigration and free movement should be about future immigration policy – so that future changes should not apply retrospectively to those currently exercising their free movement rights. Both current EU migrants in Britain and British migrants living in other EU member states should be able to continue to live and work in those countries. We believe there are principled, practical and legal reasons why this would be the most sensible approach in the event of a Leave vote – and one that would be agreed upon by advocates of a broad range of positions on both immigration and the EU. Indeed, our understanding is that the Vienna Convention on Treaties protects the acquired rights of individuals in situations of treaty change. It would be good for the public debate about immigration if that consensus on this point was made clear before the referendum campaign.”