21 December 2017

New Open Europe report: What people really think about immigration

Open Europe has today published a new report – Beyond the Westminster Bubble: What the public really think about immigration. We found that public attitudes on immigration are far more nuanced and sophisticated than often is portrayed in political or media debate. In actual fact, the public support migration for specific jobs or of those who have key skills. And, contrary to what some have suggested, our evidence demonstrates that overall public attitudes towards immigration – and indeed Brexit – were not fuelled by racism or intolerance.

Open Europe combined a 4,000 person ICM poll across Great Britain with a series of focus groups in England conducted by Public First in the North East, North West, East Midlands, and West Midlands. Our results showed that the public want to see immigration controlled but that most people recognised both positive as well as negative aspects of immigration. The public also understood that migration both alleviates certain public policy issues and exacerbates them, and articulated that public policy issues have broader causes than just immigration.

The current immigration system faces a crisis of confidence with the Government’s net migration target dismissed as an unachievable “soundbite”. Brexit offers an opportunity to design new immigration policies that can command greater public support. While policy should be designed for the entire country, we found that Leave voters saw immigration as a more important issue facing the country than Remain voters. However, we found multiple areas of agreement between Leavers and Remainers. Our research provides an evidence base for a sensible conversation about post-Brexit immigration policy.

The paper was cited in The Sunday Times, The Sun on Sunday and City A.M. In a piece for Brexit Central, Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar writes, “While the public do want greater control over immigration, they do not see Brexit as a mandate to close our borders to new arrivals.” Elsewhere, Open Europe’s Stephen Booth writes for ConservativeHome, “There is room for manoeuvre for a government that wishes to embrace the economic benefits of immigration. But it must demonstrate that the public’s concerns are being met.”

Source: The Sunday Times The Sun on Sunday ConservativeHome Brexit Central City AM

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Barnier: Post-Brexit transition period to end on 31 December 2020

The European Commission yesterday published its draft negotiating mandate for talks on a post-Brexit transition period which will end on December 31, 2020, and during which Britain will “continue to uphold” all the obligations it had as an EU member, including laws passed after the Brexit date, but without voting rights. The EU chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said, “The European Union’s position is that this [the transition period] would run logically to the 31st of December 2020, because that is also the duration of the current multi-annual financial framework [the EU’s seven-year budget cycle].” Barnier stressed that a transition phase could only be secured by reaching a complete withdrawal agreement. He also specified that the UK could not aspire to have an “à la carte” transition phase.

On the trade deals the UK is party to through its membership of the EU bloc, he said, “Legally speaking, mechanically, the day after the UK has left the EU institutions, the UK will no longer be covered by our international agreements.” However, the negotiating mandate males clear that “where it is in the interest of the Union, the Union may consider whether and how arrangements can be agreed that would maintain the effects of the agreements as regards the United Kingdom during the transition period.”

Barnier added, “I can confirm that for the transition period, as for everything else, I will be working to ensure that the decisions that are made will be made unanimously by consensus.” The mandate will now have to be approved by the EU states, which are expected to define detailed negotiating directives to be issued in late January.

Elsewhere, Downing Street said the EU plan was a matter for negotiation. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said, “The Commission is setting out their negotiating position and those negotiations will get under way shortly.” Questioned by the Commons Liaison Committee, PM May said she believed negotiations on a free trade agreement could be completed before Brexit day and envisaged a transition period of “around two years.”

Source: Politico The Guardian The Independent Press Association

Bank of England allows temporary ‘third-country branch status’ for European-based investment banks

The Bank of England (BoE) yesterday announced it would allow European-based investment banks currently operating branches in the UK under an ‘EU passport’ to apply for regulatory licenses. These licenses would bestow “third-country branch status” on the banks, thereby rendering unnecessary the setting up of fully capitalised subsidiaries to conduct much of their business in the UK post-Brexit. The BoE commented, “Keeping the UK’s financial system open to foreign institutions is in the best interests of the UK, EU and global economies.” Governor of the BoE Mark Carney cautioned that the granting of licenses would be dependent on close co-cooperation between UK and EU banking authorities as well as the final outcome of the Brexit talks, adding, “There will be consequences for those institutions” whose home regulators do not provide assurances. Chancellor Philip Hammond said, “[Granting these rights] will ensure that the UK’s exit from the EU is smooth and orderly, will underpin the UK’s status as a global financial services sector and will ensure that UK consumers are protected.” Separately, the BoE yesterday announced it had obtained from the government new rights to ‘recognise’ foreign clearing houses.

Elsewhere, commenting on the EU chief Brexit negotiator’s comments that financial services could not be included in the future EU-UK deal, Carney told the Treasury Select Committee, “I don’t accept the argument that just because it has not been done in the past, it can’t be done in the future, we’d just walk away from progress if that was the approach we took to issues.” Open Europe’s Director of Policy and Research, Stephen Booth, appeared on BBC London discussing how the UK and EU can cooperate in financial services in the future.

Source: Financial Times The Telegraph BBC

European Commission activates process to suspend Poland’s voting rights

The European Commission yesterday activated Article 7 of the Treaty on the European Union against Poland over concerns regarding the country’s reform of its judiciary system. The Article 7 process could, if sanctioned by the European Council, leave Poland without voting rights in the EU. Hungary has already stated it would veto any effort to disenfranchise Warsaw. In response to the EU’s decision, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki commented, “Poland is as devoted to the rule of law as the rest of the EU”, adding, “The dialogue between the Commission and Warsaw needs to be both open and honest. I believe that Poland’s sovereignty and the idea of United Europe can be reconciled.” Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said, “The facts leave us no choice […] We do not dispute the right of a government, a nation, to reform its judiciary […] but if you reform the judiciary you need to abide by your own constitution and EU law.”

Separately, Prime Minister Theresa May is due to visit Warsaw today, accompanied by the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond. Ahead of the visit, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament Brexit coordinator, called on May to condemn the actions of the Polish government. He told the Telegraph, “I hope Theresa May will firmly raise this issue in Warsaw. This visit is an important first test of the UK’s pledge to defend European liberal democratic values, as we move forward together to build a strong security partnership.”

Source: Politico The Telegraph

Theresa May reaches compromise on enshrining Brexit day into EU (Withdrawal) Bill

Theresa May has compromised on enshrining 29 March 2019 as the UK’s ‘exit day’ from the EU into the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Following reports that up to 20 Conservative MPs were prepared to rebel on the issue and keen to avoid another defeat in the House of Commons, the government supported an amendment by former minister for government policy, Sir Oliver Letwin. The amendment still allows for the date to be written into the Bill, whilst also providing the government the flexibility to change the ‘exit day’ with Parliamentary approval, if negotiations are continuing. Speaking during PMQs yesterday May said the date would be changed only in “extremely exceptional circumstances.”

Yesterday votes also signalled divisions within the Labour party, with 62 Labour MPs defying their party line and voting in favour of an amendment aimed at keeping open the option of remaining in the customs union put forward by the Labour MP Chris Leslie. This represents the biggest Labour rebellion in the context of the Bill’s passage. The amendment was nonetheless easily defeated. Meanwhile, a Liberal Democrat amendment for a second referendum was also easily defeated by 319 votes to 23, after Labour abstained. The Bill will return to the House of Commons for its report stage before passing to the House of Lords.

Elsewhere, First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green was yesterday forced to resign over “misleading statements” he made in relation to pornographic material found on his office computer in 2008. Green is the third Cabinet member to resign, after Michael Fallon and Priti Patel also stepped down earlier this year.

Source: The Times Bloomberg The Guardian The Guardian BBC

IMF: “UK is already losing out” due to Brexit vote

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) delivered its annual report on the UK economy yesterday, predicting the British economy to grow by 1.5 percent in 2018. IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said the UK’s decision to leave the EU was “already having an impact on the economy even though the UK is not planning to leave the EU until 2019”, adding, “Despite a strong recovery in global growth and supportive macroeconomic policies, the impact of the decision to exit the EU has weighed on private domestic demand.”

Source: Financial Times The Guardian

Europe should not punish the UK, French conservative leader says

Laurent Wauquiez, the recently appointed leader of The Republicans in France, said, “I don’t like the way some speak of the UK today, where one gets the impression that the evil British people should be punished for daring to vote against the European Union.” On the future relation between the UK and the EU, he added, “we must naturally work on a system that allows Britain to maintain very close cooperation (with the EU). I cannot for a single moment accept that we treat Britain in the same way as we treat Canada or China. It’s unthinkable. […] We must be able to create a tailor-made regime for the UK. Brexit must lead us to a rethink on how the EU works.” He also criticised French President Emmanuel Macron’s “headlong rush towards federalism”, arguing instead in favour of a multi-speed Europe.

Source: The Telegraph

Catalonia votes today

Catalans will elect a new regional government today. The elections crown an electoral campaign characterised by extreme polarization around the issue of independence, with the two opposing camps of independentism and the so-called constitutionalist parties hoping to emerge victorious from the historic contest. The latest polls suggested the liberal pro-unity Ciudadanos and the left-wing pro-independence ERC are tied in first place, though neither is expected to win enough seats in the region’s 135-member chamber to conclusively end the dispute with Madrid. Open Europe’s Enea Desideri was interviewed by CNBC, discussing what to expect from the vote.

Source: El País Politico

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Open Europe team

The Daily Shakeup will return in 2018. In the meantime, the Open Europe team wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!