Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Farage might have won the live debate but Clegg triumphed in the news packages. And more people watch the news

03/04/2014, 10:08:03 AM

by Atul Hatwal

A thumping victory for Farage. That was the consensus following last night’s big debate. The pundits said it, the polls said it; there was little doubt.

But for people like me, who didn’t see the debate, and whose only sight of the combatants was on the evening news, the result was very different.

In the contest of the clips, Clegg was the winner.

This doesn’t mean that the verdict of those who saw the live debate was wrong. Just that, as so often is the case, the highlights reel told a different story.

The BBC News at Ten package, which would have had the most viewers, focused on four passages in the debate: the clash over Putin, immigration, past Lib Dem promises of a referendum and the closing statements.

Nick Robinson’s report can be seen here.

While Farage had the upper hand in the latter two exchanges, the first two were the most resonant.

On Putin, the key moment was when David Dimbleby intervened to contradict Nigel Farage’s assertion that he had never said he “admired Putin.”

Although most viewers are likely to have minimal interest in Nigel Farage’s position on Vladimir Putin, it’s always extremely powerful when the neutral debate moderator intervenes against one of the participants.

Quite apart from the topic under discussion, it sends a clear message to the viewing public that this politician isn’t being straight with the audience.

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Ed’s new policy on Europe gives us the leadership we need

14/03/2014, 04:58:25 PM

by Alan Donnelly

Pro-Europe Labourites have been waiting for leadership on Europe and now we have it. The dilemma for the party was always this: unable to be unabashedly pro-Europe because of Eurosceptic polling, unable to refuse a referendum because of some in the party, yet secretly eager to build a positive reform agenda for the EU.

There was a period of time last year in which every PMQs was dominated by the referendum question, with Cameron urging Ed to say yes or no, and claiming he was the big man for giving the people a say.

He no longer has that card to play. Ed has set out Labour’s position clearly: only if there are further transfers of power will Labour hold a referendum. He has also been clear that on that basis he thinks there will not be one.

Cameron now has little to go on, and will be exposed as being in a weak position on Europe, pushed this way and that by his backbenchers.

Instead of attacking the reasons for the policy, Tories are claiming it is unclear. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Do we offer a referendum come what may? No. Do we want a referendum? No. Why? Because it’s counterproductive to reform, it’s unnecessary, and in the end will not “put the issue to bed” at all.

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TTIP. Four letters that will make a big difference to all our lives

25/02/2014, 02:21:45 PM

by Callum Anderson

Last week Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, threw the gauntlet down to Nigel Farage, the leader of the eurosceptic UKIP, by challenging him to a televised debate regarding the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. As far as I am concerned, this should be welcomed by all, regardless of one’s place on the political spectrum. Any opportunity for our senior politicians to debate this subject should be seen as a positive.

Of course, Mr Farage has accepted this challenge, but with the caveat that he would also like the prime minister and the leader of the opposition also participate.

However, Ed Miliband should embrace this opportunity to establish Labour as another party of ‘in’.  As I have argued elsewhere, the UK already benefits hugely in economic terms from EU membership, yet there is still scope to further increase these benefits. And one of the (many) things that Ed Miliband, and indeed any progressive must shout loudly about in the coming years, is the opportunities that will be available to Britain through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States.

For those of you who don’t know, the TTIP is the trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States, with its aims of removing trade barriers, so that it becomes easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US. Furthermore, it will tackle non-trade barriers (NTBs) such as technical regulations, standards and approval procedures.

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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? Leadership on Europe

03/02/2014, 07:00:51 AM

In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces on what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Callum Anderson looks at the need for leadership on Europe.

In just a few months, UK voters, along with their fellow EU citizens, will be given the opportunity to vote in a new cohort of MEPs, who will represent them in the European Parliament for the next five years. Current polling does not read well for the three main parties – UKIP are regularly polling numbers in the high 20s, and could ultimately ‘win’ the election. Regardless of whether the party leaders like it or not, Europe, and Britain’s place in it, remains an issue for many.

With all this is mind, Labour Uncut’s joint event with the Fabian Society next Monday is extremely timely. Uncut’s very own Atul Hatwal will discuss, alongside Peter Kellner of the pollster YouGov, the Fabian’s Marcus Roberts and the Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, how Labour can secure a majority government in 2015. Whilst the issue of Europe, and Britain’s membership of the European Union, is not as striking as the economy, it has, and continues to cast, a dark shadow over successive governments. It is one that must be tackled head-on. And soon.

Where does Labour stand on all of this?

Naturally, Ed Miliband and the shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander have voiced their broad support for Britain’s membership of the EU. But, at the time of writing, only the Conservatives advocate an EU in/out referendum in 2017, with both Labour and Liberal Democrat frontbenches highly reluctant to acquiesce. This has led to their respective leaderships of both parties being forced onto the defensive by the Conservatives and the media alike: ‘don’t you believe that Britons should be given a chance to decide?’ they ask.

So, how should Labour go forward?

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Everyone is talking rubbish about “Europe”

16/01/2014, 10:40:07 AM

by Sam Fowles

I’m trying really hard to remember a time when we could go a whole week without having to have a national moan about “Europe”*. I mean I get it, I really do. All that great food, fantastic culture and nice weather. Not to mention Germany and France’s positively infuriating collective predilection for paying people properly and according them proper employment rights.

Actually I don’t get it. But a collective grumble is one thing, much more serious is that our national debate on Europe is dramatically and consistently rubbish. I’ve (reluctantly) learned to accept that some people have different opinions to me but when did it become acceptable to just make things up when it comes to Europe?

The whole debate pretty much falls into four words: Immigrants, human rights and “reform”. But none of these supposed “problems” with “Europe” are actually based on fact. Cameron and co spent December falling over themselves to prevent the supposed influx of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants abusing our welfare system. UKIP’s website proclaims its ambition to “take back control of our borders”. But if anyone had actually bothered to check, they’d have discovered that recent immigrants are 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than people already living here and have made a net contribution of £25bn to public finances since 2000.

Instead of “Immigration rows out of control” (our Prime Minister’s choice of words) that whole fiasco could be summed up as “everyone freaks out because (foreign) people want to be productive members of society”. By the way, people coming over here, spending money and paying tax helps create jobs, not take them away. It’s called economic growth, look it up, its great.

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Today, Ed Miliband was damaged by Cameron’s speech, but the pain is coming for the Tories

23/01/2013, 05:50:40 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Judgement is a precious commodity. If a politician is seen to have it, they receive the benefit of the doubt from the media and colleagues alike. Their moves are viewed as part of a grand strategy, their competence taken on trust.

When they are seen to lose it, everything is questioned, loose threads are pulled and more often than not, much unravels.

Today, both Ed Miliband and David Cameron demonstrated desperately bad judgement. Both will pay a price. The immediate damage is to the Labour leader’s position, but over the coming months Cameron will be the one who suffers most.

For Ed Miliband, it is now a matter of when not if. When will he do a U-turn and commit Labour to an in/out referendum? The three options he has available leave him little choice.

Inside the leader’s inner circle there might have been some that still believed Labour’s current position of neither backing nor ruling out an in/out referendum was sustainable, but reality will be dawning. Witness Miliband’s own reaction in the heat of PMQs today when he seemed to rule out a referendum, only for Douglas Alexander and John Denham to walk back the commitment within hours.

Having no line to take is no way to run a party. Labour politicians trying to defend this position will be mercilessly skewered.

Alternately, permanently ruling out a referendum, as Miliband looked to have done, has the merit of certainty, but brings the certainty of unpopularity. Refusing to let the public have a say on such a contentious issue hardly locates Labour on the side of the people.

Which leaves supporting an in/out referendum as the only viable option.

Back in October I argued for a Labour commitment to a referendum to make the political weather and cast Cameron as weak when he was forced follow suit. Now Miliband will follow Cameron and will be the one to look weak.

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Preview: Tony Blair’s speech on Europe

28/11/2012, 07:00:03 AM

by Jonathan Todd

While Andrew Rawnsley reports that Ed Miliband’s speech to the CBI on the EU “leant heavily against a referendum”, Peter Mandelson recently wrote in the Financial Times that a referendum is “inevitable”. Today Tony Blair will deliver a speech in which he will argue for Britain “to be at the heart of the EU”.

For decades Labour has been pro-EU, while being vague on the role of the EU in securing our goals. Imprecision is increasingly inadequate in a fast moving debate.

Is Miliband ducking a fight that Mandelson thinks is inevitable? Will Blair’s intervention encourage Miliband to be bolder? But what exactly does he mean by “the heart of the EU”? In the Euro and the EU banking union or just leaving the door open to British membership at some stage?

It has been clear from early in this parliament that Europe would be more central to it than throughout the Blair/Brown government. But many unanswered questions remain for Labour. As they do for the Conservatives.

Michael Fabricant, dashing vice chair of the Conservative party, has given Nigel Farage an enhanced platform, much as the leadership debates in the last election brought Nick Clegg to a wider audience, by floating the idea of an electoral pact between his party and their “brothers” in UKIP.

Being a more sensible politician than Fabricant, Farage is holding out for as much as possible. He was on the Daily Politics on Monday; fully twelve hours after Fabricant went public with his cunning plan. He wanted an apology from the prime minister for his comments on UKIP following the Rotherham fostering farrago – a strong showing from UKIP in the Rotherham by-election will help Farage and the fostering issue plays into his hands. He was also pushing Tory troublemakers in the direction of Michael Gove, the member of the cabinet seemingly most sanguine about the UK leaving the EU.

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Can Ed find prime ministerial credibility in selling the case for Europe?

20/11/2012, 12:16:37 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Making a new case for an old ideal. In a nutshell that’s the job of all Labour leaders down the years. But Ed Miliband also thinks it’s the challenge for those who still see Europe as the solution to our national problems rather than the cause of them.

In his speech to the CBI yesterday he warned that fellow EU countries are “deeply concerned” because they sense Britain is “heading to the departure lounge”. A febrile mood on the Tory backbenches reflects the latent hostility among the British public with latest polls showing 56 per cent of Brits would vote to pull out if a referendum is held on the issue.

To his credit Ed stood firm against these siren calls saying he would not let Britain “sleepwalk toward exit from the European Union”. This is as strong an assertion of the importance of the EU as we have heard from any frontline political leader for some time. But even he only managed faint praise.

For he too recognises the EU’s focus is on the past not the future. It is still committed to propping up an insular, agriculturalist ancien regime rather than equipping Europe with the ability to withstand the challenges of the new century.

As he pointed out, farming subsidies still eat up 40 per cent of the EU budget while contributing just 1.5 per cent to economic output.  The focus should instead be on “public goods” for the EU economy like infrastructure, innovation and energy.

In a prescient section of his speech, he conceded that for the post-war generation, including his Jewish parents, “Europe was a murderous continent”. For them European unity was “a noble ideal” with the countries of Europe “seeking to put peace and prosperity in place of war and destruction through economic and political co-operation” (or in former SDLP Leader John Hume’s phrase, the EU is “the longest running peace process in the world”).

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Last week’s commons defeat will force the government to address its EU strategy void

06/11/2012, 07:00:19 AM

by Mark Stockwell

The Labour leadership has no doubt spent much of the past week slapping each other heartily on the back. Bliss is it to defeat the government on the floor of the house; to do so by outflanking them on the EU budget is very heaven.

They should enjoy this tactical victory while they can. They were aided by a lackadaisical Conservative whipping operation, and abetted by a worryingly large group of chronic malcontents on the Tory backbenches. Labour will have to work harder in the long term to persuade voters that Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander’s new-found Eurosceptic fervour would not evaporate the moment the ministerial Eurostar pulled out of St Pancras international.

Clearly, though, it is the government which faces the more pressing strategic issues.

David Cameron’s political instinct (not necessarily the same as his personal inclination) is to try as far as possible to avoid talking about Europe for fear of the “toxic” effect on the Conservative brand. This is understandable. Cameron and George Osborne cut their political teeth in the Maastricht era and that thoroughly miserable experience can’t have failed to be formative.

(I suspect this also partly explains why Labour’s own coterie of former special advisers had so little hesitation in siding with the Tory rebels. There is something of Pavlov’s dog in the way in which both sides have behaved.)

One of the benefits of coalition from Cameron’s point of view was, as Andrew Lilico has suggested at ConservativeHome, that this evasion could be sustained by a block of Lib Dem votes, acting as a counter-weight to backbench rebellions from the Tory right. Wednesday’s vote has shown that this cannot be relied on.

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Revealed: foreign investment in the UK collapses by 33% in a year with £16.2bn less invested

17/02/2012, 07:00:02 AM

by Atul Hatwal

New figures uncovered by Labour Uncut reveal that investment in the UK by foreign companies has plummeted by a third. The latest results, released at the start of February, are for 2010 and show a massive fall of £16.2bn from the £49bn invested in 2009 to £32.8bn in 2010.

In an ominous sign for David Cameron’s isolationist European policy, the biggest fall over the year was in investment from Europe which fell by 94% from £32.1bn in 2009 to £1.8bn in 2010 – the lowest level since records began in 1988.

Despite the British prime minister’s initial close relationship with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, France led the way in withdrawing funds from the UK. They cut their investment in Britain by a net £23.7bn in 2010, a record for a European country.

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