31 March 2016

New poll finds strong support for Boris Johnson to take over as Tory party leader

A new ORB poll for The Independent has found that 38% of respondents would like to see London Mayor Boris Johnson taking over as Conservative party leader from Prime Minister David Cameron, with 23% backing Home Secretary Theresa May and 9% backing Chancellor George Osborne. Among Tory voters, Johnson leads on 42% with May and Osborne on 23% and 14% respectively.

The poll also found that support for Remain stood at 51% (+3% compared to the previous month) with support for Leave at 49% (-3%). The poll found that 53% of female respondents supported Remain compared to 49% of men, and that as things stand, a majority of Tory voters (56%) back leaving. Meanwhile, an online BMG poll released yesterday found that 41% of respondents would vote to Remain, and 45% would vote to Leave, with 14% undecided.

Source: The Daily Mirror BMG The Independent

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Raab: Brexit would enable UK to retain democratic control over our police and justice system

Writing in The Sun, Justice Minister Dominc Raab argues that “The British people have a choice. We can follow the EU towards its dream of a single EU legal code, enforced by EU police, prosecutors and a European intelligence agency under the supervision of an EU justice minister and the Luxembourg Court — none accountable to you… The alternative is to leave the EU, take back control over our borders, keep the operational law-enforcement co-operation that counts and retain democratic control over our police and justice system.”

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IMF still seeking larger budget cuts in Greece

The Greek government and its creditors are still at loggerheads over the level of cuts needed as part of the bailout programme. The IMF is sticking to its figure of 4.5% of GDP, while Greece only sees cuts worth 3% of GDP as necessary. Meanwhile, opposition New Democracy yesterday tabled a request in the Greek parliament for the formation of a committee to investigate the Greek government’s handling of the economic crisis last year which led to the imposition of capital controls and pushed the country to the edge of leaving the Eurozone. The request was rejected by the government. Separately, bad loans in Greek banks are estimated to have risen by 9% (€10bn) last year.

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The Times: 16 Migrants shot dead by Turkish border guards

The Times reports that sixteen migrants, including three children, have been killed by guards as they crossed into Turkey over the past four months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The deaths cast further doubt on an EU migrant deal struck 11 days ago. It classes Turkey as a “safe third country”, meaning refugees can be returned there without fear of persecution.

Meanwhile, Austria plans to tighten refugees’ access to the country by placing tough new restrictions on asylum eligibility and making it easier to reject asylum seekers at the border, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Austria’s Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said at a press conference in Vienna, “We will not consider any asylum requests unless we have to because of certain criteria… like under the [European] Convention on Human Rights.”

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President of Germany’s Ifo Institute: British EU reform demands would benefit the EU

In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the incoming President of Germany‘s Ifo Insitute for Economic Research Clemens Fuest said, “Many of his [David Cameron’s] reform demands would benefit the EU. First: more focus on subsidiarity…Second: [EU] free movement cannot mean free access to welfare systems.” On the EU referendum campaign, he points out, “EU proponents don’t seem to manage to mobilise their supporters sufficiently. The EU opponents are clearly more passionate. An unequal mobilisation could thus accidently lead to the decision to leave [the EU].”

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Italian Finance Minister: EU fiscal rules damage Italy more than other countries

In an interview with Le Figaro, Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said that EU rules that constrain Italy to adjust its budget are “distorted by statistical considerations” and “those rules, that force Italy to make painful adjustments, are doing more damage [to Italy] than to other countries, which I cannot accept.” He added that Italy would follow its adjustment path that it has been asked to fulfill by Brussels but will keep pushing for new methods of calculation for budget rules.

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EU referendum uncertainty and poor Eurozone growth seen impacting consumer confidence

According to a survey by GfK research on behalf of the European Commission, UK consumer confidence has dropped to its lowest level since December 2014, with the potential for a Brexit cited as one of the reasons behind the decline. Ongoing concerns about Eurozone economic growth are also seen as a factor. Rating agency Standard and Poor’s has downgraded its growth forecast for the Eurozone from 1.8% to 1.5% for this year.

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EBA says bankers’ bonus cap has not increased fixed costs for banks

The European Banking Authority (EBA) has released a new report which suggests that concerns, from the Bank of England and others, that the bankers’ bonus cap would increase fixed costs for banks has proven unfounded. The EBA said, “All in all, the bonus cap has led to a very small increase in the fixed costs and this is only in some institutions,” based on data from 2014, the first year it was in effect. However, the report does note that, in the UK, the increase in fixed pay has balanced out any decrease in variable pay.

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US to deploy more troops to eastern Europe

The US is to deploy an extra armoured brigade to eastern Europe as it boosts its troop presence in the region. The brigade, made up of around 4,200 soldiers, will make it easier for the US to conduct military exercises in the area.

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SPD considering running federal election campaign on basis of renewing grand coalition

Bild reports that in view of the party’s poor polling, in next year’s federal elections the SPD leadership is considering ditching its previous strategy of favouring a coalition with the Greens on the basis that this would not be seen as credible when both parties are polling at just over 30% between them. Instead, some party figures are reportedly considering pledging to continue the grand coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU, but with a view to surpassing it as the larger partner.

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Dutch referendum on EU-Ukraine deal highlights increasing tensions in relationship with Russia

The Financial Times reports the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine free trade deal is becoming increasingly seen as a referendum on the Dutch-Russia relationship and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Dutch polling institute, I&O Research, showed that 58% of people who said they are going to back the deal think it would be a victory for Putin if the deal was rejected in the referendum, while 44% of those who favour rejecting the deal  say approving it would put the Dutch and Russia relationship at further risk.

A recent TNS opinion poll has 54% rejecting the deal, 36% approving it and 10% said they didn’t know. It also had turnout predicted at 32%, only just above the threshold of 30% that is needed for the result to be binding.

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France drops controversial plans to strip terrorists of citizenship

The French Government has dropped plans for a controversial constitutional amendment that would have stripped French born terrorists of their citizenship. The proposal had bitterly divided Francois Hollands Socialist party and seemed unlikely to reach the 3/5 support in Parliament it would have needed to pass.

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Would the UK’s steel sector be better off outside the EU?

On the Open Europe blog Raoul Ruparel looks at whether UK steel would be better outside the EU. The steel sector has been in long term decline facing challenges on a number of fronts including: high energy costs, high labour costs and a global glut of steel as supply increases and demand dwindles. UK steel has not just struggled to compete relative to low cost Chinese exports but also with exports from other EU states. Outside the EU the UK would certainly have more options in terms of tariffs and state aid; however, these come with costs. Tariffs would likely simply pass the costs on consumers and other sectors which use steel. It also cannot be argued that the UK could put tariffs on low cost exports such as Chinese steel while also going out and striking free trade agreements with emerging markets. Subsidies could potentially have a large fiscal cost and it’s not clear how this would fit into the government’s broader deficit reduction plan. Overall, as Open Europe showed in its Brexit report, to prosper outside the EU the UK would need to take an open a liberal approach, putting in place high tariffs seems the opposite of such an approach.