29 July 2015

Osborne: We should think of EU as a “single market of free trade”

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Chancellor George Osborne said, “I’ve always thought the mainstream bulk of the British public wants to be in Europe, not run by Europe. I think that if we can achieve these reforms it will be in our national interest [to stay].” Asked if he wanted to return Britain to a trading relationship with the EU, he said, “I prefer to talk about it as a single market of free trade. It’s free trade with the rules that enable the free trade to be a real success. That’s the way I think we should think about it.”

He added, “Britain has other interests at a European level. For example, the climate change talks that are happening in Paris at the end of this year…But for Britain, I always felt that the central attraction of EU membership was the economic one. And that’s why it’s so important to fix the economic aspects of our relationship if we are going to convince people and convince ourselves that it is right for Britain to remain in the EU.”

Osborne told French daily Le Figaro in a separate interview, “These reforms must not be seen as just a list of demands presented by the UK. We’re interested in an EU that works better for everyone.”

Source: The Daily Telegraph: Osborne The Daily Telegraph: Editorial Le Figaro: Osborne

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Corbyn: Labour cannot be content with the state of the EU as it stands

The Guardian reports that, following pressure from pro-EU Labour MPs for him to clarify his position on EU membership, Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement in which he argued, “Labour should set out its own clear position to influence negotiations, working with our European allies to set out a reform agenda to benefit ordinary Europeans across the continent. We cannot be content with the state of the EU as it stands. But that does not mean walking away, but staying to fight together for a better Europe.”

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror cites leaked private polling which puts Corbyn in the lead on 42% ahead of Yvette Cooper on 22.6%, Andy Burnham on 20% and Liz Kendall on 14%. Once second preferences have been factored in, Corbyn would beat Cooper by 51% to 49%.


Varoufakis could face criminal prosecution over alleged hacking of Greek online tax system

The Greek Supreme Court has forwarded to the Greek parliament two lawsuits filed against former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis over his plan to introduce an alternate payment system in Greece – which allegedly involved hacking the Greek Finance Ministry’s online tax system. The Greek parliament will have to decide whether to lift Varoufakis’s immunity so he can potentially stand trial.

Meanwhile, the heads of the technical teams representing Greece’s lenders are all due in Athens today to resume negotiations with the Greek government. Separately, Bloomberg reports that the Athens stock market is one step closer to re-opening after the ECB yesterday gave its approval to proposed trading rules to end the four-week closure.


House of Lords EU Committee warns renegotiation needs to be clearer and more transparent

In a report released yesterday, the House of Lords’ EU Committee has criticised the Government’s handling of the renegotiation process, arguing that the public and Parliament need to be better informed. Committee chair Lord Boswell warned, “What we have discovered is that the Whitehall process is so unclear as to be a recipe for confusion. We don’t know who is in charge within Government, who they will be talking to at EU level or what the timetable for agreement is. We’re also concerned about the lack of transparency. It’s vital that Parliament and the public are kept informed, and are not simply presented with a done deal at the end of the process.”

Meanwhile, the Daily Express cites a Survation poll for the Alliance of Direct Democracy in Europe – the pan-European political group which includes UKIP – which found that 44.1% of voters who said they were likely to vote in the EU referendum support the UK remaining a member, compared to 35.7% who support Brexit. The poll also found that 32% of respondents identified “ending the free movement of people” as the item that should top Prime Minister David Cameron’s list of renegotiation priorities, while 18% and 15% identified the “restoration of sovereignty from Brussels to the Westminster parliament” and reducing the cost of EU membership respectively.


Senior Polish MEP: Eurozone integration will leave Poland at a disadvantage

In an interview with Polskie Radio yesterday, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a senior MEP with the governing Civic Platform party, warned that the recent French and German proposals for deeper Eurozone integration will leave Poland at a disadvantage as it would be locked out of new institutions such as a Eurozone finance ministry, a Eurozone parliament and a Eurozone budget – which would mean less money for Poland from the EU budget after 2020. “We need to prevent the division of Europe. This is about keeping our foot in the door”, he argued.


MEPs approve plan to track and store details of air travellers in and out of the EU

The personal details of hundreds of millions of passengers travelling in and out of the EU will soon be routinely logged and stored by airlines for up to five years under the EU’s draft Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive. The rules have been under discussion since 2011 and have already been rejected by MEPs once. However, the draft was revived following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen and was narrowly approved by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee last week.


Disneyland Paris faces European Commission price-fixing probe

The Financial Times reports that the European Commission is targeting Disneyland Paris for allegedly overcharging British and German customers on the basis of where they live. The Commission yesterday told France to investigate whether the theme park is unfairly rigging prices, pointing out that in some cases, for the same premium package, French consumers pay €1,346 while British and German visitors are charged €1,870 and €2,447 respectively.


Calais crisis escalates as 1,500 attempts made to storm Eurotunnel

One person was found dead as migrants trying to reach the UK made at least 1,500 attempts to enter the Eurotunnel terminal at the French port town of Calais, police said on Wednesday morning. According to the last official count in July, around 3,000 migrants – mainly from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan – are living in the makeshift camps in Calais. The overnight attempts to storm the Eurotunnel terminal on Tuesday have been described as the biggest incursion effort in the past month and a half.


Biggest group of asylum seekers in Germany come from Europe, not Africa or Middle East

With the number of asylum seekers in Germany expected to double to 450,000 this year, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that the biggest constituent group of asylum seekers during the past six months (35% of the total) come from Europe. This includes 58,060 applicants from Kosovo, 24,870 from Albania, 10,985 from Serbia and 4,625 from Macedonia. Asylum seekers from the Middle East, Africa and Asia account for 25%, 19% and 17% of the overall figure respectively.


German Agriculture Minister warns Paris to adhere to single market rules

German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt has reminded the French government that it must “stick to the rules of the single market”, following days of blockades on the German border by French farmers complaining about German agricultural exports which they claim undercut their prices. “I don’t see French farmers hindering their exports, so imports should not be hindered either”, said Schmidt, who advised French farmers to instead ask why their industry is so uncompetitive.


Jean-Marie Le Pen wins court backing in Front National internal feud

A French appeals court yesterday ruled unlawful a postal vote organised by France’s anti-immigrant Front National to strip Jean-Marie Le Pen – the party’s founder – of his title of honorary chairman. The ruling marks another victory for Le Pen in his feud with his daughter and party leader Marine, who is trying to expel him from Front National following his repeated controversial remarks over the Holocaust.


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