Despite his EU deal provoking widespread criticism from Eurosceptics, David Cameron has had two reasons to feel quietly confident about his chances of persuading voters to remain in the European Union: the fact Leave campaigners are still divided and the fact no big name has emerged as a credible leader for the Outters to get behind. Boris Johnson, a figure polls say could be just the figure to woo voters as head of the Leave side, has burnished his Eurosceptic credentials in today’s paper, laying down some “hard questions” for the Prime Minister to answer over the next fortnight.
“In deciding how to vote I (and I expect a few others) will want to know whether we have genuinely achieved any reform, and whether there is the prospect of any more,” he writes. The London Mayor has raised objections to effectively every aspect of the deal, zeroing in on how protected the UK will be from Eurozone countries, the reforms David Cameron has secured on competitiveness and, finally, on sovereignty. “How bankable is this? Will it be engraved in the treaties?” he asks as just some of his big questions. “Will the court be obliged to take account of this change, or will it be blown away – like Tony Blair’s evanescent opt-out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights?” The thrust of Johnson’s concerns can be summed up by his query: “Are we talking bazooka or popgun?” He can’t hide his scepticism on more nebulous areas like competitiveness, writing: “we have heard this kind of thing for a while. How many laws has the EU actually repealed, what are they, and why should we believe that this process will accelerate? Why are we not insisting on a timetable for a real single market in services?” No cabinet minister has publicly criticised the deal yet, so the critique from Johnson (a member of the political cabinet) is a first, effectively issuing a public ultimatum to the Prime Minister on his EU deal.
While the London Mayor pushes for further changes, Cameron seems to be already campaigning for Britain to remain in the political bloc, with a speech lined up in which he’ll warn that Brexit could leave the country vulnerable to terror attacks. “We will be telling people – look, if we leave the EU the Jungle camp in Calais will move to Folkestone. That is not something people want,” a senior source said. To bolster his case, the Prime Minister will make his speech alongside Theresa May, the Home Secretary who has now indicated that she will join the “Remain” campaign. The best response to this the Out side have is Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, who will warn at a conference this week that “remaining in the EU with no control of migration is a threat to national security.”
Johnson has raised a lot of questions about Cameron’s deal, but Leavers shouldn’t assume they have secured his support, as the Prime Minister still has time to act on his concerns. Eurosceptic rumblings of discontent could well help Cameron as he adds the finishing touches to his deal, allowing him to show that there are major voices in Britain ready to push for Brexit if he doesn’t get serious enough change. So could this be Johnson’s demands so he has enough cover to stay with the Remain side? Johnson says that the “arguments are as finely balanced as they have ever been” between whether Britain should remain or leave, so Cameron will need to work hard to ensure he comes on side. “The best guess is that Boris and Dave will reach a bloodless settlement over Europe,” says James Kirkup, “though we may well have pass through a DEFCON 2 scare or two first.”
“Are we talking bazooka or popgun?” Boris Johnson
You Wait For One EU Debate…
Three public debates involving the Prime Minister, the two ‘in’ and ‘out’ campaigns and business leaders should be held before the European Union referendum, a former Trade minister has said. Lord Jones of Birmingham, who was a minister in Gordon Brown’s Government, said that members of the audience should be able to grill the leaders about Britain leaving the EU. Meanwhile, Charles Moore has looked at whether Margaret Thatcher would want Britain to leave in today’s paper. “The whole time she was in office, she never said that Britain should leave. Once she had left office, she said privately – to me and several others – that she thought we should,” he writes.
Tory associations’ fury over David Cameron’s claims that their views on Europe should be ignored is “understandable”, says rising star Tory MP James Cleverly. The comments from Mr Cleverley mark the first time that a Conservative MP has come publicly to the defence of the associations after the Prime Minister’s comments last week. Mr Cameron is facing a growing revolt from grassroots Tories who are outraged that he has ordered MPs to ignore their views on Europe.
Momentum wants to attract 20,000 members, win affiliation from local Labour groups and fight Blairites for key internal positions, a document leaked to The Telegraph has revealed amid fears it is planning a “Militant-style” takeover. In proposals that will alarm centrist Labour MPs, the hard-Left group backed by Jeremy Corbyn has put battling moderates over internal party positions as one of its top prioritises in the next three months. Meanwhile, Corbyn has been told to prepare for a snap general election later this year.
Ministers have been mocked by campaigners and on social media for hiring a man to chair a review about why not enough women are on company boards. The Government announced on Sunday that Sir Philip Hampton, a leading City figure, has been appointed to lead the review on increasing representation of women in the executive level of FTSE 350 companies. The row was compounded because the Government appointed Dame Helen Alexander, who chairs UBM, as his number two on the panel.
Arrested MPs Kept Quiet
MPs will use human rights laws this week to prevent politicians being named the House of Commons after their arrest. The news came after The Telegraph disclosed that four MPs had been secretly referred to the police for investigation by the expenses watchdog over the past year.
EVEL Sunday Trading
A Tory minister has indicated controversial Sunday trading laws could be forced through by barring Scottish MPs from voting after admitting the core changes only apply south of the border. Brandon Lewis, the communities and local government minister, said that the “liberalisation” of Sunday trading laws is “only applicable in England and Wales”. Mr Lewis also said he hoped to win over SNP MPs to back the reforms and added he was not sure English votes for English laws rules would apply.
Khan And The Extremist Imam
Labour’s candidate for London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has faced criticism, after it emerged that Labour’s candidate had shared a platform with a group backed by an extremist imam who was as an al-Qaeda recruiter. A former aide to Theresa May has claimed that Mr Khan made an error of “judgment” by going to four meetings organised by the Stop Political Terror, a group supported by the radical American imam killed in a US airstrike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was dubbed the ‘online bin Laden’ for his online prowess, distributing Jihadi propaganda on the web as well as recruiting followers.
More Help For Heroes Needed
Help for Heroes, the veterans’ charity backed by royalty and celebrities, has lost its focus and risks diverting support from other long established but less well-known groups, a former senior Army officer has claimed. Meanwhile, new research has found that veterans are being denied council housing despite putting their lives at risk in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Broadband Recovery
Slow broadband is threatening the economic recovery, manufacturers warn today. A survey by the Engineering Employers Federation found that nearly half of companies in business parks were unable to access speeds above 10Mega Bits per second. The federation warned that the poor state of digital infrastructure was threatening Britain’s ability to take advantage of the “fourth industrial revolution”.