12 April 2016

TUC warns holiday entitlements at risk under Brexit as over 50 healthcare workers argue leaving would benefit NHS

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has warned that leaving the EU could lead to a reduction in people’s paid annual leave. TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady said, “We know that some of the biggest cheerleaders for Brexit see protections for ordinary British workers – like paid holiday – as just red tape to be binned”. Labour MP and Brexit campaigner Kate Hoey dismissed the claims saying, “The idea that holiday pay will be put at risk by the UK leaving the EU is scaremongering of the highest order. No existing contracts will be affected.”

Writing in The Guardian, former Foreign Secretary David Miliband argues that “For Britain to quit Europe would be an unprecedented act of political self-destruction. Not only would it have a devastating impact on Britain’s strength in the world; it also threatens a domino effect on the institutions that help make the world a more secure, prosperous and stable place… These institutions, including the EU, are far from perfect and they need reform, but they uphold the core idea of an international order based on clear rules.” Pro-Brexit Employment Minister Priti Patel responded saying that Miliband had played a “leading role in the Blair government that relentlessly surrendered national powers to the EU, gave away billions from the British rebate, campaigned to scrap the pound and failed to retain control over our borders.”

In a letter to The Times, over 50 healthcare professionals argue that the Government has “starved the NHS of necessary funding”, but Brexit would free up funds that could be injected into the health service. Meanwhile, The Sun has reported that David Cameron has recruited extra civil servants that will join a team within government to campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.

Separately, a new Populus poll commissioned by Saga has found a small increase in support for Brexit in those aged 50 and over. It found that those over-fifty and in favour of leaving the EU are at 44.5% (+1.5), while those who want to remain are at 38.5% (-1.5). It also found men are more likely to back Brexit, with 48% of men backing to leave the EU, compared to 40% of women. Meanwhile, a poll by British Future has found that nine out of ten people don’t trust either side of the EU referendum campaign.

Source: Daily Express The Sun The Guardian: Miliband The Times The Times 2 The Financial Times: Letters The Sun 2 The Times 3

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Greek bailout review talks halted as differences between IMF and EU Commission remain

Officials from Greece and its creditors have adjourned discussions over the current bailout review until after the IMF Spring meetings. This comes despite many officials aiming for a conclusion before the meetings. European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said yesterday of IMF and Commission differences over Greece, “We know there are some differences on assessments, how much effort is needed to reach the fiscal targets…this is bridgeable.” Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici reiterated that IMF involvement in the Greek bailout is “indispensable”.

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras once again hit out at the IMF’s “mistaken policies”. However, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde said, “Greece cannot just continuously tag along and expect that things will be sorted out. The Greek leaders will need to take more ownership of re-establishing their country.” Lagarde added, “We overestimated the ability of Greece to actually endorse and take ownership of measures that were needed,” due to changes in government.

Furthermore, in a joint statement, Tsipras and the Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, both strongly criticised the EU’s response to the Eurozone crisis as “wrong and insufficient to overcome the existing challenges.” They also called for deeper economic integration to address the Eurozone’s problems, saying, “Europe has to change course. Instead of merely adjusting to self-defeating competitiveness and austerity measures, our two countries take the decision to closely co-operate at all levels, bilateral and European”.

Source: Reuters Kathimerini The Daily Telegraph Joint Statement

UK competition watchdog calls on European Commission to block O2-Three deal

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) yesterday urged the European Commission to intervene and block the £10.5bn merger of mobile operators O2 and Three. Alex Chisholm, chief executive of the CMA, argued in a letter to the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, “The CMA urges the [European] Commission to act to prevent the long-term damage to the UK mobile telecoms market, and therefore to the interests of UK consumers that both of our authorities have predicted will result from this merger.” Similar concerns over the potential impact of the deal have also been raised by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom. Open Europe co-Director Raoul Ruparel is quoted by Bloomberg as saying that, if the Commission decides to go against the CMA, pro-Brexit campaigners could argue this is another reason “to leave the EU and take back control.”

Source: Bloomberg The Financial Times The Wall Street Journal

Brexit could boost fintech sector, but likely only in short run

Speaking at an event in the City of London yesterday, Rhydian Lewis, founder and chief executive of lending platform RateSetter, said “Brexit might discombobulate the incumbents for a number of years, allowing fintech to move into that space.” His comments were supported by other speakers, though most noted any gain would be temporary as in the long term Brexit could limit fintech’s access to the large European market.

Source: Reuters

Commission to put forward visa free travel proposals for Ukraine, despite Dutch rejection of EU-Ukraine treaty

The European Commission will still put forward proposals this month granting visa-free travel to Ukrainians, despite a Dutch referendum vote against the EU-Ukraine agreement. A senior EU source has said “It may look as if we’re ignoring the Dutch voters, but we have to keep our word to Ukraine, which has met the conditions”. The proposal would still need to be approved by a qualified majority of EU member states and by the European Parliament, while it is reported that the Commission would include some form of safeguard mechanism enabling EU countries to reinstate visas temporarily in case of a surge of migration.

Source: Reuters RTL Z Geenstijl RTL

Bank of France Governor speaks of urgent need for Eurozone finance minister

Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said yesterday, “The most urgently needed part of EMU [Economic and Monetary Union] reform is to set up a strong institution, led by a euro area finance minister.” Such a finance minister would chair the Eurogroup and represent the Eurozone on the international stage, though he admitted all these reforms would need treaty change.

Source: Reuters

Merkel’s centre-left coalition partners on less than 20% for first time

An Insa poll for Bild puts the centre-left SPD, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners, at below 20% for the first time at 19.5% (-0.5). Merkel’s CDU/CSU is on 31.5% (-0.5); the Greens are on 13.5% (+1.0), the AfD on 12.5% (0.5); Die Linke on 9.5%(+0.5) and the FDP remains on 7.5%.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Spiegel Online

Talk of re-run elections intensifies in Spain as deadline to form new government draws closer

Spanish MP Antonio Hernando, who leads the Socialist Party’s negotiating team in the current government formation talks, yesterday gave the clearest indication yet that Spain will have to go to re-run elections in the summer. He told reporters, “The time of offers is over, and what we have established is that [Podemos leader] Pablo Iglesias is not reliable. There will be no more offers or counter-offers with Iglesias and Podemos.” Hernando also insisted that the Socialist Party is not going to enter negotiations with the centre-right Partido Popular of caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Spanish MPs have until May 2 to elect a new Prime Minister, or snap elections will have to be called.

Source: El Mundo

Italian MPs set to give final approval to major constitutional reform

Italian MPs are this week expected to give final approval to the constitutional reform tabled by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government. The reform will reduce the powers of the Senate, the upper chamber of the Italian parliament, meaning that most future laws will no longer need to be adopted by both chambers – a change that is expected to speed up the legislative process. Once approved, the reform will be put to a referendum in October. Addressing MPs yesterday, Renzi suggested that he would resign if Italian voters were to reject the reform.

Source: La Repubblica La Stampa Corriere della Sera

The EU referendum debate we should be having: the best arguments on both sides

With the EU referendum campaign in full swing, so too is the scaremongering from both sides. Piercing the hyperbole from the campaigns, Open Europe will host a debate, chaired by our Chairman, Lord Leach of Fairford, taking a reasoned look at the arguments for both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’. So far, many of the arguments for ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ have been underwhelming, cliched and accompanied by dubious statistics. So, what are the best arguments that can be made by both campaigns?

Open Europe will bring together two leading figures and members of Open Europe’s Advisory Council to bring you their best case for each side. David Frost, current CEO of Scotch Whisky Association and former trade diplomat will present the case for ‘Remain’, while leading economist and chief economic advisor to the Mayor of London, Dr Gerard Lyons, will outline the arguments for ‘Leave.’ Both will be speaking in a personal capacity.

The event will take place on Monday, 18 April 2016 from 17:45 to 19:00 in Westminster. Spaces are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first serve basis. Register to attend here.