Port Talbot: “We’ll do all we can”
Business Secretary Sajid Javid is again hiding behind this meaningless cant phrase “We’ll do all we can”. Yes, Sajid, but what can you do? Under EU rules, practically nothing. A precondition for saving steel (and our energy-intensive industries more generally) is to leave the EU, and to implement rational energy polices, and if necessary rational anti-dumping policies. The USA can do it. An independent Britain could do it. The EU has repeatedly shown itself incapable of doing it.
Cameron has been slightly more honest: “No guarantee that steel can be saved”, he says.
There is much criticism of Sajid Javid for taking his daughter to Australia, but that wholly misses the point. Never mind his daughter. Criticise him rather for not anticipating the problem (I’ve been writing about the threat to our energy-intensive industries for several years). Criticise him for failing to set up a task force to find ways of delivering competitive energy prices to industry. And for failing to address anti-dumping issues (indeed, we now read, failing to prevent the British government lobbying Brussels against anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel), and for failing to address the critical business rates problem.
The Times headlines “Steel Crisis blamed on desire to woo Beijing”. The FT: “UK accused of blocking move to shut out cheap steel that hurt Tata”. Meantime the Guardian leads with “Ministers start hunt for Tata steel buyers”. Good luck with that one, guys.
“EU spends more on spin than on fighting terrorism”
The Express reports that the EU plans to spend €224 million on propaganda this year (something to do with the UK Referendum, perhaps?) as against €204 on counter-terrorism (as Allison Pearson put it, “We have GCHQ – the Belgians have Inspector Clouseau”). It also employs three times as many people in its media department as in its migration and home affairs office. Nice to know we’re getting value from out £350 million a week EU subscription.
“Living Wage” starts today
Appropriately on April 1st, the government is introducing its National Living Wage. Cabinet Minister and Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has warned that a higher minimum wage will increase the immigration pull factor. It is a significant move which will wholly overwhelm the Prime Minister’s trivial proposals for adjustments in in-work benefits for migrants. It will also undermine one of the purported “benefits” of mass immigration – the availability of cheap labour. For many low-paid workers, the mere increase in their wages will be more or less equivalent to average industrial wages in Romania.
The ONS estimates that the policy will cost 60,000 jobs by 2020. Not many in the overall scheme of things – unless you happen to be one of the 60,000. Meantime the move will put upward cost pressure on retailers, the hospitality industry, and especially care homes. Finding a care home for granny might suddenly become much more difficult and expensive.
David Cameron mocks Eurosceptic splits
The Telegraph reports that our Prime Minister (who has a long suit in sarcasm) has mocked Eurosceptic groups for their failure to unite, and criticised “their inability to spell out what would happen after an OUT vote”. Perhaps it would be unkind to recall that the Prime Minister totally failed to predict what would happen after his famous renegotiation. He predicted he would come back with a new deal for a reformed Europe. UKIP predicted he would come back with next to nothing. Guess who was right.
Of course we don’t know exactly what the new deal will be with the EU after the two-year negotiation specified in the Lisbon Treaty. No one knows exactly what the outcome of any future negotiation will be. But we have a very clear picture that a free trade deal will be better than political union.
Let’s turn the tables. Cameron likes to warn of job losses caused by Brexit. We on the other hand can point (sadly) to job losses and plant closures happening today, as a result of EU membership, in Port Talbot and elsewhere (I was with a specialist steel producer in Rotherham yesterday, who spoke of fears across Yorkshire of the knock-on effects of the Tata closure).
Let’s ask Cameron to tell us exactly what will happen if we stay in the EU. How many more plant closures and job losses in energy-intensive businesses? How soon will the €uro collapse? How will the immigration crisis play out? When will Germany give EU passports to Merkel’s million migrants, so that they can head to Oxford Street, or to a town near you? When will Turkey join the EU? My estimate is that a million Turks will come to Britain if Turkey joins. What is Cameron’s estimate? Will he tell us, please? Exactly?
Turkey returns migrants illegally to Syria
I wrote yesterday about claims that Turkish border guards had shot sixteen Syrian migrants over a four month period. Today, Amnesty International is claiming that Turkey has systematically and illegally rounded up Syrian migrants in Turkey and returned them illegally to Syria. They claim that up to a hundred migrants a day have been deported illegally in recent months – meaning that at least several thousand migrants are involved.
This was not the intention of the EU/Turkey migration deal, which had specific clauses regarding protection and rights of migrants. Nonetheless given the stress in the region, it will not be surprising. It shows the limits of EU influence in Turkey. And it reflects badly on Turkey’s EU accession aspirations.
Brexit threat to football hopes
The Telegraph reports that French and German football authorities might seek to ban the British homes nations from Euro 2016 if we vote to leave on June 23rd. . Is this an April 1st spoof, I ask myself? Is football about the beautiful game, or merely about politics? We’ll see.
Brussels to ban Bubbly?
Driven by its obsession with CO2 emissions, there are stories that the Commission is looking at a ban on sparkling wines, which contribute several hundred tons of CO2 to the atmosphere annually. This will cause alarm in the Champagne Region, but it goes far wider. There are sparkling Loire wines from France, Prosecco and Asti Spumante from Italy, Cava from Spain. And beyond the EU, both Australia and the USA are major sparkling wine producers.
Any ban on the import of sparkling wines could of course fall foul of WTO rules. This should be an interesting dispute. But there is a bitter irony here. The nascent British sparkling wine industry has scored some big successes in international competitions, and the growth of the industry has been attributed to warming temperatures. It would be a sad day if this new British industry, resulting from modest global warming, were to suffer as a result of the battle against climate change.