As I write, election results are coming in from across the nation. It’s not possible to give a comprehensive account at this time, and in any case that’s not the purpose of the Debrief which is aimed at issues related to Brexit and the referendum. Nonetheless at 6:50 a.m. it seems that UKIP can take encouragement from a net gain of several dozen council seats, and especially from the results in Wales, where pundits are suggesting we’ll gain perhaps half a dozen seats in the Welsh Assembly. Congratulations to Neil Hamilton who seems very likely to be elected.
Beyond that, there seems to be little change. Few councils have changed hands. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has lost ground, but (except in Scotland, where they have come a disastrous third) perhaps fewer losses than anticipated – and seem likely to gain the London mayoralty. Tories have lost some seats but few councils. The Lib-Dems have taken a few steps back from the precipice. No doubt a full analysis will be available later in the day.
There had been concerns that voters might say “I voted UKIP in the General Election because I want to get out of the EU. But now we have a referendum coming up, I don’t need to vote UKIP this time”. But such fears were unfounded. Clearly voters are starting to recognise that independent and responsible UKIP voices in local councils are positive on many issues, not just Europe.
Migrant chaos this summer?
The Express reports on the fears of the Freight Transport Association that pressure from large groups of migrants around Calais seeking to cross the Channel will bring massive disruption to key cross-channel transport links through the summer. It says the Home Office reports that 40,000 migrant stowaways were identified in the first eight months of last year (and that’s only those who were discovered). This year may be worse. One transport operator describes Calais as “the Wild West” for lorry drivers, who face repeated attacks with baulks of timber, bricks and scaffolding thrown at lorries.
David Cameron was reportedly eager to hold the EU referendum as early as possible to minimise the impact on public opinion of the summer migrant rush. But it seems his worst fears may yet be realised.
EU/Turkey migrant deal at risk
The Financial Times reports that the coming change of Prime Minister in Turkey (after the present incumbent Ahmet Davutoglu clashed with President Erdogan) could call into question the EU’s already shaky migrant deal with Turkey. Davutoglu was a main advocate of the scheme. President Erdogan is much less enthusiastic, and despite the EU’s attempts to woo Turkey with visa-free access and accelerated accession, there are already big questions over the deal. When it breaks down, Merkel and Brussels will be deeply embarrassed – and we’ll have given huge concessions to Turkey with little in return.
In Turkey, Cameron says he’s Turkey’s biggest supporter on EU accession. Here at home, he says it won’t happen for decades and voters should ignore it.
EU immigration fines at €250,000 a head
Jean-Claude Juncker’s plan to distribute large numbers of migrants around EU countries seems to have hit a brick wall, with huge reluctance on the part of many countries, especially in Eastern Europe. So his latest cunning plan is simply to fine member states an eye-watering €250,000 a head (you read that right – a quarter of a million euros) for every migrant refused. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a wholly bizarre, out-of-touch, ivory-tower proposal from a bureaucrat. Ever. He really expects member-states to agree to pay these massive fines to avoid doing something that their voters are passionately opposed to?
The Remain Camp will assure us that Britain has an opt-out from this mad-cap scheme. All very well. But if we vote to remain, Brussels will take that as a licence to integrate even faster, and opt-outs will be progressively culled. It’s the famous three stages of an EU project: (1) It’s just a Eurosceptic scare story – a “dangerous fantasy”; (2) Well it’s under discussion, but no decisions have been made; (3) It’s a done deal, and it’s too late to argue.
I spent many years in business. If you want someone to do something, you offer them an incentive. You don’t propose to fine them for not doing it. Juncker is making himself a laughing-stock. Like Angela Merkel, he’s rashly made unsustainable policy decisions, and dug himself into a hole, and he’s now looking for others to bail him out. Sorry, Jean-Claude. You broke it. You fix it.
The FT gets confused over immigration
The front page of the FT carries a story headlined “Most EU citizens in the UK would not meet work visa rules, data show” (though for some reason the link provided by Google doesn’t seem to work – maybe the FT has spotted its error and withdrawn the piece). They go on to argue that this is a blow to the Brexit Campaign, who now have to explain how we’d cope with the impact on employment. They seem to be missing two points. First, where the need exists (and only where it exists) we’d be able to take better-qualified immigrants from non-EU countries. Secondly, they simply assume that the rules won’t change. In fact after Brexit it will be possible for government and employers to find a consensus on the need for immigrant labour and to set rules accordingly. We’re not trying to deny workers and skills to British employers – we’re trying to ensure we only admit those we need, and to stop the flood of the unskilled, the welfare tourists and the health tourists.
But congratulations to the FT sub-editor who wrote the headline. At least he understands that the word “data” is plural, and takes a plural verb.
Mirror: Tory MPs probed by police over election spending
Sounds painful. The Mirror says that two Tory MPs face police enquiries, with a further 20+ under threat, because they failed to declare the costs of the Tory Battle Bus visits and associated costs like hotel bills for activists. The Mirror, always keen to make trouble for the Tories, suggests that this could lead to a couple of dozen by-elections – and so threaten Cameron’s slim majority. I doubt it will come to that, but it’s certainly an embarrassment for Cameron, and it can’t help his standing in public opinion ahead of the referendum
Trump backs Brexit
I’m not sure if Trump’s backing is necessarily positive for the Brexit campaign, but the BBC reports his remarks. This is the new, more diplomatic Donald. He takes care to say that he makes no recommendation, and that the British people must decide. But he says that in his view, Britain would be better off out of the EU, citing the massive problems with immigration. And remember that Trump is an inward investor into the UK. But it’s nice to know that there’s at least one solid issue where The Donald is taking a helpful and rational view.
“Not everyone wants broadband”
Not a referendum story. But such an monstrous piece of effrontery that I have to mention it. The Telegraph reports that the government is abandoning its commitment to rural broadband because “not everyone in rural areas wants it”. It’s probably true that there are some rural residents who don’t want broadband. But there are also some urban residents who don’t want it. And not many in either case.
The point is that in the country, as in cities, many do want it, and the government proposes to deny it to them. How would we feel if the government said “We’re withdrawing rural postal deliveries because some rural people don’t want them”?
And there is a powerful reason while all house-owners, rural and urban, should want broadband access, whether they use it or not. That is because (according to some reports) lack of broadband access can wipe 20% off the value of your house. Just how far out-of-touch can the government get?