24 August 2015

‘No’ campaign takes shape and seeks support of up to eight cabinet ministers

The Sunday Times reported that the EU referendum ‘No’ campaign is in talks with at least eight cabinet ministers about joining the call for withdrawal. Leaked documents show that the campaign’s chief executive will be Matthew Elliott, the founder of the Business for Britain group. The director of operations will be Victoria Woodcock, Michael Gove’s former private secretary, while Georgiana Bristol, a fundraiser for Boris Johnson’s 2008 London mayoral campaign, will be development director.

Meanwhile, Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham told The Observer that he would be “proudly pro-European” if he wins the election, adding, “It is time to nail our colours firmly to the mast.”

Source: The Sunday Times The Sunday Times: Shipman The Sunday Mirror The Observer

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Greek government still targeting 20 September for election despite delays

Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili told ERT TV that “as things stand now, September 20 is a feasible election date” in Greece. This comes despite delays due to the opposition’s attempts to form a government. New Democracy has today handed back the mandate to form a government, having failed to do so after SYRIZA rebuffed the prospect of a grand coalition. The mandate now passes to the newly-formed left-wing Popular Unity party which recently split from SYRIZA. While the party is unlikely to be able to form a government, they will use up the three days on offer to help publicise their new party ahead of a short election campaign.

Bild reports that, according to a first internal poll carried out after Tsipras’s resignation, SYRIZA would still finish ahead in an election but would win only 28% of the vote, followed by the centre-right New Democracy on 25%. Popular Unity would secure 8% of the vote. Separately, a Maurice de Hond poll found that the Dutch government’s credibility has been dented by the approval of the third bailout for Greece – with Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD party’s seat projection falling from 24 to 21. This means VVD moved from first to fourth in the poll, with the anti-EU PVV party of Geert Wilders moving back into top spot.

In an op-ed for news agency MNI, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe notes that the third Greek bailout “is likely to fail” because “it is undermined by shaky assumptions on growth, debt and revenue.” Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel and Vincenzo Scarpetta are quoted by Spanish news agency EFE and Newsweek respectively, both discussing Greece’s current political situation.

Source: Kathimerini Reuters Maurice de Hond poll MNI: Cleppe Bild EFE Newsweek

Osborne heads to Scandinavia to help build alliances for EU reform

Chancellor George Osborne will visit Finland, Sweden and Denmark today in a further attempt to “engage actively” with “key partners” on EU reform. In particular, he will discuss the issue of safeguarding the rights of non-Eurozone countries with the leaders of Sweden and Denmark. He will also discuss plans to further boost the single market.

Source: The Financial Times The Press Association

CEO of Bayer UK: Brexit not the end of the world, but it wouldn’t be British to flee challenge of reforming EU from within

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Dr Alexander Moscho, the CEO of Bayer UK and Ireland, has said that the UK would be able to “survive” outside the EU and that an exit could have “positive economic consequences” but could also be “neutral”. However, he added that “life would be more difficult for companies that need and want to employ people from across Europe.” He also notes that “it doesn’t seem terribly British to flee the challenge of changing the EU from within.”

Source: The Daily Telegraph The Daily Telegraph: Moscho

Belgium calls for review of Schengen border-free arrangements following failed terror attack

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has called for urgent talks with France, Germany and the Netherlands on increasing security on cross-border trains following the failed terror attack in France on Friday. He said the EU must consider reinstating identity and luggage inspections on international train routes, but the European Commission said the Schengen treaty on borderless travel was “non-negotiable” and there were no plans to change it.

Source: The Daily Telegraph The Financial Times The Wall Street Journal

Italian Foreign Minister: Refugee crisis could put Schengen into question

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told Il Messaggero, “From Sicily’s shores to Kos, from Macedonia to Hungary and Calais, we see tensions ignite which, in the long run, could put [Europe’s passport-free travel area] Schengen into question…Search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean have been ‘Europeanised’ and have reduced the risk of tragedies at sea, but for how long can one accept the idea that ships from the various European countries rescue migrants to then take them to Italian ports?”

Over the weekend, the Italian Navy rescued some 3,000 people on more than 20 vessels in distress in waters off Libya. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande will meet in Berlin today to discuss the refugee crisis. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker writes in Le Figaro and Die Welt, “Nine years ago, the Commission had already proposed creating a common list of ‘safe countries of origin’. At the time, member states were against. Now, it is not logical that Western Balkan countries have become candidates for EU accession and, at the same time, migrants arriving from those countries request asylum within the EU.”

Source: Il Messaggero: Gentiloni Le Figaro: Juncker Welt am Sonntag: Juncker El País

EU figures reveal increase in fraud within the EU budget

The Sunday Telegraph noted that an official EU report, compiled earlier this summer, found a dramatic increase in the number of suspected fraudulent and irregular transactions in the EU budget. Compared to 2013, there was an increase of 48% in incidents and 36% in cash terms. The European Commission believes the increase is in due in large part to improved detection and reporting mechanisms. Meanwhile, the Commission has suspended around £45 million of payments to Scotland after the discovery of accounting “irregularities” relating to the European Social Fund, which provides training to unemployed people with the aim of alleviating poverty.

Open Europe’s Pawel Swidlicki is quoted as saying, “While it is welcome that the EU appears to be getting better at detecting fraud in its own budget, the scale on which it is taking place suggests this is a much bigger problem than the Commission lets on. With the vast majority of fraud perpetrated at the national level, member states which persistently fail to improve their own detection and prevention procedures should see their funding reduced, although this is a problem exacerbated by the overly complex and inefficient design of the EU budget itself.”

Source: The Sunday Telegraph

Podemos distant third in new Spanish poll

A new Celeste-Tel poll for El Diario has Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular in the lead on 31.4%, followed by the Socialist Party on 27.6%, the anti-establishment Podemos on 11.9% and the centrist Ciudadanos on 9.9%. The poll shows that, with the exception of an unlikely grand coalition between Partido Popular and the Socialist Party, no two-party alliance would command a majority in the Spanish parliament.

Source: Open Europe Blog El Diario

German bank association warns Capital Markets Union must not come at the expense of banks

Georg Fahrenschon, the Head of the German Savings Banks Association, has warned that EU plans for a Capital Markets Union (CMU) make sense but should not come “at the cost of traditional bank financing”. He told the Financial Times, “In many cases, traditional bank financing is ideal: well-practised, and based on the fact that local banks know their customers over years, can judge them well, and can serve them very well.” He also called for “a platform for traditional, regionally oriented suppliers of credit” on top of the CMU.

Source: The Financial Times

Fears for tourism as 25 beaches in England could fail new EU rules on bathing water

The Sunday Telegraph reported that around 25 of England’s beaches could fall foul of the EU’s new bathing water quality standards. The results are due to be published this autumn and beaches that fail have been told they will have to put up a sign issuing ‘advice against bathing’ before next year’s swimming season begins in May.

Source: The Sunday Telegraph