Cameron comes clean (probably)
Most of the papers lead with the story that Prime Minister David Cameron has finally admitted that he received around £30,000 from an off-shore account. This is probably a relatively modest amount in the Cameron household, and he claims he paid UK tax on it. But it would have looked so much better had he ‘fessed-up straight away. As it is, his prevarication, his dithering, and especially his reported intervention in favour of the tax treatment of trusts, leave a bad impression. Calls for his resignation are a bit premature (that comes after we win the Brexit vote), but the adverse publicity cannot have helped either Cameron, or his Remain Campaign.
The Guardian reports that Cameron inherited £300,000 from his father in 2010. It is not clear whether these funds were associated with any offshore account.
Sky News picks up the story about Cameron’s intervention on trusts, as does the Mirror. This story looks set to run and run. The Guardian reports Cameron’s embarrassment when he was tackled by an Exeter student over the issue.
Migrant deportations resume
The EU/Turkey migrant deal is off to a stuttering start. There were 202 deportations on Monday. Then they stopped. But the BBC reports that they are expected to resume today. Not surprisingly the main problem is administrative. How on earth do you manage to set up realistic asylum hearings in the chaotic circumstances on the Greek Islands?
It is tempting to dismiss the whole EU/Turkey migrant plan, with its zero-sum one-for-one swap mechanism, as a farce – as it may yet prove to be. But the real objective is to create a disincentive to travel, and to undermine the people-smugglers. It remains to be seen whether it will achieve that, or merely divert the traffic to alternative routes.
EU naval force fuelling Libya’s migrant exodus: The Times reports that the EU’s naval exercise ‘Sophia’, designed to interdict people-smuggling across the Med from North Africa to Italy, is failing, and is even counter-productive. Rather than stopping boats, they are spending most of their time rescuing drowning migrants – and taking them to Italy. In fact, doing the smugglers’ job for them.
Cameron’s £9 million pro-EU mailing
It’s worth recalling that Europe Minister David Lidington said in the Commons last September: “Let me repeat that we have no intention of legislating to allow the Government to do things such as mailshots, paid advertising or leafleting” (Hansard, 7 September 2015, col. 89,). No David. You’re doing it without legislating. Neat move. But is it legal?
Electoral Commission condemns Government’s pro-EU leaflet: The Times reports that the Electoral Commission has strongly criticised the Government’s plan to spend £9m on a pro-EU leaflet – although it says it’s not illegal. The Commission is particularly concerned the leaflet would go out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after May 5, when the Leave campaign would be subject to strict spending limits .
Come the Referendum, we won’t know the new asylum rules
The EU is in a panic over asylum rules. It is threatening to scrap the Dublin Convention, under which asylum seekers can be returned to their country of entry, on the plausible grounds that it is unfair to Greece and Italy. It also wants to set up a mandatory allocation arrangement for migrants, based on member-states’ wealth and population. Britain could opt-out of that scheme – but as a consequence would lose the Dublin Convention right to deport migrants. Chris Grayling, Leader of the Commons, says “The EU is pursuing a plan that would stop us returning asylum seekers ….it’s a clear sign that even where we have opt-outs, we’ll still be affected by decisions taken elsewhere”.
And the worst of it is, in all probability we won’t know on June 23rd exactly what the outcome would be. A further illustration of the point that the bigger risks attach to staying in the EU, not getting out.
The Commission has just set out its ideas but they seem to amount to no more than “change the system a little bit, or change it quite a lot”. But either way, there’ll be pressure on all member states (except Greece & Italy) to take more migrants. It’s reported that 152,000 migrants arrived in Greece this year up to April 4th – and 366 died making the crossing.
Germany loses patience: The Express reports that German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has threatened to close the border between Italy and Austria unless Rome stops sending migrants north. (By what right does Germany close the border between two other countries?). This could get unpleasant. Now that there’s pressure on the Turkey/Greece route, more refugees are trying to cross the med northwards from Africa to Italy.
“An energy-sapping blow to EU cohesion”
I love the Guardian‘s take on Wednesday’s Dutch Referendum NO vote, which it describes as “an energy-sapping blow to EU cohesion.” For once, I agree with the Guardian.
German study says Frankfurt would benefit from Brexit
A Reuters study amongst financial executives in Germany concludes that Frankfurt would benefit most from Brexit, with the City of London disadvantaged. (OK, go for Google translate). But then that’s exactly what they said in the nineties about Britain not joining the €uro. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Sturgeon still dreams of “an independent Scotland in the EU”
Nicola Sturgeon is peddling the old (and very fishy) dream of Alex Salmond, that if Britain votes for Brexit, but the vote in Scotland goes the other way, there could be a new Scottish independence referendum in time for Scotland to sashay seamlessly into the EU when Britain leaves after the Article 50 two-year period, presumably in 2018.
But there are obvious problems. First, surely the Scots have the sense to see that “An independent Scotland within the EU” is an Irish Bull (pardon the mixed metaphor). If they resent England and Westminster because parliament is remote (despite the fact that many prominent British parliamentarians are Scottish – and the fact the England sends lots of money to Scotland) then surely Brussels is even more remote, and even less accountable? If the English find rule from Brussels’ unaccountable institutions unacceptable, if eurosceptic sentiment is spreading across the face of the EU, why are the Scots uniquely prepared to accept non-independence in the EU?
Secondly, the economic case for Scottish independence looked pretty threadbare at the last Scottish referendum. But the terms of trade and the price of oil have moved strongly and adversely since then. If Scottish independence was economically questionable in 2014, it looks a great deal worse now.
Thirdly, of course, Brussels and member-states are terrified of national break-ups. If they accept an “independent” Scotland as an EU member, that sets an unwelcome precedent for Catalonia. And the Basque country. And the break-up of Belgium. Sorry, Nicola, but it just ain’t gonna happen.