The Panama Papers
Former Russian figure skater Tatyana Navka features in the Panama Papers coverage
Yesterday the Panama Papers pointed to Putin. Today the emphasis has shifted, with all the serious papers (and some of the popular ones) directing their fire at David Cameron, whose father reputedly created a company through the auspices of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Mirror and the “i” all feature the story on their front pages. I don’t think Cameron will enjoy his breakfast today.
Does this affect the EU debate? Only indirectly. But it damages the reputation of the effective leader of the Remain Camp – Cameron. And it perhaps sits too comfortably with the image of the EU as “good for big business – bad for ordinary people”.
Putin doesn’t get away Scot-free. The Guardian fingers the god-father of Putin’s daughter Maria, Sergei Roldugin. The wife of Putin’s spokesman Dimitry Peskov, Tatiana Navka, a former Russian figure skating champion, also features in the Panama Papers. Peskov dismisses reports linking the Panama Papers to Putin as “Putinphobia”.
New Poll: “Project Fear” working?
The Telegraph reports a new poll giving Remain a lead of 51 to 44% — though they admit that when likelihood to vote is taken into account, the campaigns are virtually tied. No doubt we shall have more swings in the polls between now and June 23rd. But our answer to Project Fear is clear: don’t tell us about the jobs you imagine we will lose after Brexit. Worry about the jobs, and plants and investment we’re losing today because of irrational EU rules and policies. Ask the steelworkers. And be very afraid of what will happen to us if we stay in the dysfunctional superstate.
As I said yesterday, I have great difficulty relating published polls with my experience of speaking to voters in the street and on the doorstep.
Airbus urges 15,000 workers to Remain
Airbus, the pan-European aero-space consortium, has written to its 15,000 workers in the UK setting out the company’s view on Brexit (though it insists it’s not telling them how to vote). This fits the pattern of big businesses benefiting from EU membership, at the expense of small companies and ordinary people. The news needs to be read alongside the assurance of Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier last year, when he said that Airbus would not leave the UK in the event of Brexit. We should also remember all those foreign investors, like Nissan, who insisted that not joining the €uro would be disastrous for the British economy – but have since invested massively in the UK.
Brexit rock concert plans unravel
The Times makes much of problems with plans for a Brexit Rock Concert at Birmingham’s Genting Arena. I’m not surprised that pop acts prefer not to take sides too prominently in hot political debates. Nor am I surprised that The Times, with its pro-EU bias, chooses to feature a non-story on its front page.
“Extremist toured UK mosques to Preach Jihad”
The Times reports that the UK’s largest Islamic sect facilitated a visit by Mashood Azhar, who preached Jihad and recruited for Al Qaeda. Yet again, we see the damage done by the failure to control our borders. Would Brexit mean we could exclude all the bad guys? Of course not. But it would mean that we could do much better than we are right now.
The other EU Referendum
Perhaps the least publicised referendum in the EU is the one taking place tomorrow in Holland. It’s not about EU membership. Indeed it’s an issue that you might not expect to ignite public feeling so strongly. It’s about a proposed association deal between Ukraine and the EU. Now of course we all sympathise with the very difficult position in which Ukraine finds itself, and in principle we’d like to help. But on the Eurosceptic side of the debate, we believe that the EU’s inept attempts to cosy-up to the Ukraine, and to drive the EU’s borders to the very edge of Russia, were seen, rightly or wrongly, in Putin’s Kremlin, as a deliberate provocation. I believe that the action by Brussels precipitated Russian action in Crimea and the Donbass, and that the deal currently proposed will exacerbate the problem.
I’m not sure, though, that that’s the key issue in Holland. There, it’s seen as Turkey all over again. The EU is going to relatively poor but populous countries on its Eastern borders, and dangling the prospect of EU membership. This includes early visa-free access to the Schengen zone, and later the possibility of full EU membership and free movement. We know that David Cameron is passionately in favour of EU membership for Turkey. I’m not sure where he stands on Ukraine.
But Turkey has a population of 75 million, and my best guess is that if they joined the EU, several million Turks would move westward, looking for security and a better standard of living. Of those, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that a million or so might come to Britain. Ukraine has a population of 45 million. But while GDP per capita in Turkey is over $10,000, in Ukraine the figure is only $3000. Ukrainians seem to have less propensity to move than the Turks, but nonetheless, given the problems they face, many might choose to move westwards, so the good people of The Netherlands are concerned.
A local group in Holland with no substantial backing raised a petition and found enough signatures to trigger a referendum. It happens tomorrow, and the main issue will be concern about immigration. The polls are showing a majority for rejecting the EU/Ukraine deal, and the question is whether the turnout will meet the 30% threshold to be valid. It may well do so.
As we speak, Nigel Farage is in Holland urging a NO vote. There may be no direct read-across from the Dutch referendum to our UK Referendum. But “Dutch say NO to EU” would be a good headline.
Brussels: the aftermath
Brussels is deathly quiet still. The airport is scarcely open, and MEPs are flying in via Antwerp, or (as I did) coming by train. This morning I popped into Tout Bon, a little café on the corner of Place Luxembourg, about 7:30, for a cup of coffee. Usually there are a number of customers in at that time, but today, I was the first and only one. They tell me that one of the major hotels by the parliament has fewer guests than staff, and is looking to lay off employees. The terrorist attacks of March 22nd are casting a long shadow.