Norway: Juncker rattles his sabre
Several papers report that Norway has expressed reservations about letting the post-Brexit UK join EFTA. Some Leave supporters believe that EFTA membership (sometimes referred to as the “Norway-lite” option) would preserve access to the Single Market — though most believe that EFTA membership carries most of the negatives of EU membership, and hardly counts as Brexit at all.
Norway reportedly fears that the UK could dominate EFTA — as indeed seems likely, given that the UK economy is bigger than the whole of the current EFTA. It seems clear, however, that Norway (usually seen as a friend and ally of the UK) has been “got at” by Brussels. Juncker is keen to show that he can block all the preferred options for a post-Brexit Britain — I suspect he thinks he’s been very clever. But he’s missing the key point. We don’t want EFTA membership. We want to be a free-standing independent global trading nation, and we want to have a free trade deal with the EU. Juncker cannot block such a free trade deal, because European industry (and the more rational of Europe’s politicians) won’t let him.
“Brexit has scuppered the Defence Budget”
Several papers (and the BBC) are reporting a £700 million-a-year black hole in the Defence Budget as a result of the fall in the value of Sterling. This is a gift to the anti-Brexit camp, who make the facile link “Brexit hit the Pound. The Pound hit the Defence Budget. So blame Brexit”. But the fact is that the Pound was over-valued before the Brexit vote, and all that Brexit has done is to trigger an adjustment that was needed anyway.
The lower Pound will boost exports — not least for the UK’s important defence industry. This will increase GDP and tax revenues, and may well compensate for the MOD’s hit.
UK forces “not a match for Russia”: A leaked report from the Army claims that our armed forces are no longer a match for Russia, which has made great progress not only in battlefield weapons but in the military exploitation of cyber-warfare and even social media (think about the morale of soldiers). There is no simple solution, but the MOD will need more money, not less. A challenge for Mrs. May’s government. Cutting back on EU contributions and foreign aid (and HS2?) would be a start.
RICS: Housing market post-Brexit
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors says in its latest report that activity in the housing market was slow in the immediate post-referendum period, but is now recovering. It describes the housing market as “subdued” — but doesn’t blame that entirely on Brexit, pointing out that key tax changes in April caused activity to be brought forward to the first quarter. It adds that shortage of supply is having a negative effect on transaction volumes.
Chinese Hinkley backer accused of espionage.
It has been widely reported that a key reason for Theresa May’s delay on the Hinkley C decision is her concern over allowing Chinese involvement in Britain’s critical infrastructure. There are fears that the Chinese might be in a position to install clandestine software which would enable them to control nuclear power stations remotely, or that they might find opportunities to steal sensitive information.
In this context, it is interesting to note that Chinese General Nuclear Power, Britain’s Chinese partner in the project, is currently facing nuclear espionage charges in the USA. If these charges are proven, it will certainly vindicate May’s decision.
Immigration revolt: three EU leaders reject Brussels quotas
The Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia are set to reject Brussels’ migrant quota policy — and just to rub it in, the are discussing the issue in a Russian-based think tank, in a remarkable snub to the EU.
Germany threatens sanctions: Merkel is threatening to cut funding to EU member-states that flout the rules. She clearly has the Eastern refuseniks in her sights.
Germany threatens to ban the burka: Germany is looking at a series of security measures including a proposed ban on the burka — which would bring Germany into line with France. . UKIP Leadership candidate Bill Etheridge MEP has also called for a burka ban on security grounds, as has Lisa Duffy.
Meantime in our House of Commons, the Women & Equalities Committee demands new ways to help Muslim women into employment in the face of cultural discrimination.
Germany bringing in migrants by air?
There are strong suggestions that Germany is clandestinely flying in migrants from Turkey, with many night-flights from Turkey reportedly landing at Cologne airport. If true, this suggests that Merkel has taken leave of her senses. If not true, the rumours illustrate the febrile state of public opinion in Germany as a result of the immigration crisis.
Turkey threat to leave NATO
With the increasing rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, Ankara is now hinting it could leave NATO because of a lack of support from western countries.
Europe on tenterhooks
Labour gets the Trots
Not strictly a Brexit story (but I couldn’t resist the headline) — though it’s clear that the Corbyn faction in the Labour Party is less enthusiastic about the EU that Labour’s parliamentary party. We’ve seen Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson vilified by the Corbyn camp for his claim that Labour is being infiltrated by Trotskyists — though most people will tend to agree with Watson. Now we have the extraordinary and unedifying sight of the Labour NEC, having lost the right to exclude recent new members from the leadership election, challenging the High Court decision in the Court of Appeal — effectively one branch of the party going to war on another. I’m sure that Labour Party members, new and old, will be delighted to see their subscriptions being used in this constructive fashion.
Good news from the frozen North
The Express runs a story about the benefits of leaving the EU for the only country (or territory) to have done so — Greenland. Greenland’s decision is now seen as positive, and the process was described by Denmark as “reasonably simple”. After leaving the EU in 1985, Greenland’s economy flourished, and proved the doom-sayers wrong. Of course no one would claim a direct read-across from Greenland to the UK, but at least it’s a positive indication.