Turkey: the deal stumbles forward
Despite recent media suggestions that the lollipops offered to Turkey to sweeten the migrant deal had got stuck in the European Council, they seem to have squeaked through. So Turkey is set to get €6 billion — no small sum — plus visa-free Schengen access in June, and “accelerated accession talks” (though there’s muttering behind hands that accession may be “difficult”).
Nonetheless, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan seems to have done well. He gets what are seen in Turkey as huge benefits, and in exchange — what? No net change in migrant numbers on either side. Just a few vague promises about tightening the borders (which on the Turkish side seems to consist of soldiers puncturing migrant inflatables with sharp sticks). Truly, as Dan Hannan has said, Prime Minister Erdogan is a much more effective negotiator with Brussels than David Cameron.
There is the other point that the processing of migrants on Greek islands is likely to present insuperable difficulties. They’re already planning to send improbable numbers of judges and clerks and administrators and translators to these remote locations. But each migrant (under laws that never envisaged migration on this scale) is entitled to a personal hearing. And worse, they can appeal against an adverse decision. There’ll be a cottage industry advising them how to stretch the process and cause confusion. This show could run and run until it collapses under the weight of its own absurdity.
The Telegraph headlines “EU Deportation Deal descends into farce as Greeks left in the Dark”: Local officials complained they had received no extra staff and no instructions how to proceed. Yet again, the Commission makes decisions in the Ivory Towers of Brussels, and expects them to be implemented as if by magic. They announced a start date at midnight last night, but apparently gave no thought to the facts on the ground But with the best will in the world, it’s going to take six months to set up a massive operation like this — and the migrants need to be housed and fed until they can be processed.
There is a fundamental problem with the assumptions of the Geneva Convention. We are supposed to distinguish between refugees, on the one hand, and other migrants including economic migrants on the other. The fact is that amongst this vast mass of humanity, it may be possible to identify some refugees, and some economic migrants. But given the numbers and the way they arrived, often without papers, I suspect the result for the great majority will be “don’t know”. What are we to do? Let them all come? That would be close to Merkel’s disastrous open door policy. We need new thinking for a new age of migration. We can no longer stretch rules made decades ago.
My Question Time remarks make the Sunday Express
My warnings about immigration, and the probability that it will rise massively if we remain in the EU, are featured in the Sunday Express. A pretty fair report.
Government under stress
There have been two major pieces of bad news for the government in the last couple of days. And remember that for practical purposes the government and the Remain Campaign are one and the same.
First, Osborne’s budget was poorly received. It was an attempt to get the middle classes on-side with tax breaks. But the disabled welfare provisions caused great up-set — and not just amongst the disabled. Even those who take a tough stance on taxes and welfare were shocked. I was also shocked that Osborne, with a reputation as a “political” Chancellor, should score such an own goal. He has been humiliated, and his leadership hopes have suffered a major blow. I believe his Remain Campaign has also suffered a blow. If the Chancellor can’t get the Budget right, which should we truest him with a major constitutional question — especially when previous Chancellors have been coming forward to take the alternative view? “Tory Party at war” says the Observer.
Then second, IDS’s resignation. Say what you will about IDS, he is a man of decency, honesty and integrity. The subsequent orchestrated attacks on him by government spokesman (including Ros Altmann) were synthetic and demeaning to the government. The Sunday Times headline: “IDS attack shreds ‘unfit’ Osborne’s dream of Number 10”. The Telegraph: “Knives out for Osborne in Tory backlash”. One almost feels sorry for him. And the Mail: “Outraged Cameron’s four-letter tirade at ‘fraud’ IDS”
Major seems to say that hard trade statistics are “fantasy”
John Major is a voice from the past. Yet some tell me he is still respected. I have to admit a measure of guilt here, because more years ago than I can remember I sat on the Huntingdon Conservative Association Selection Committee which selected the young John Major as its candidate. All I can say in my own defence is that we thought we were selecting a good work-a-day constituency MP — not a future Prime Minister.
But get this quote from today’s Telegraph: “There argument is that the EU needs the UK market more than we need theirs, on the basis that — overall — the EU exports more to the EU than we export to them. That is disingenuous. More bluntly, it is fantasy”.
Doesn’t that “overall” suggest that we’re talking a fairly marginal difference? I’m sure that was his intention. But the fact is that we buy massively more from them than they buy from us. After Brexit, we will be the EU’s largest customer, and largest net customer, in the world. It is Major’s idea that Brussels can ignore that sort of trade imperative that is really disingenuous. And fantasy.