MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).
The Conservative dream of returning to a common market level of participation in the EU is a “fantasy”, Damian Green will say this afternoon in a speech on European policy. The Telegraph reports that Mr Green will add: “this is a fantastic vision precisely because it is a fantasy. What is in this for those on the other side of the negotiation?”. Rather than head for the exits, Britain should aim to reform the EU from the inside, he will conclude.
This is also the plan of the German government, which has been pressing the case for British engagement with the EU. Frau Merkel has been pressing Mr Cameron to stay the course, while Dave has also been warned that he risks leaving the UK with “no voice” in Europe by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble whose remarks at a dinner party were notable for their “ferocity” towards the British government the Times (£) reports.
Eurocrat rage is not confined to the British government, either. The SNP will be forced to make an emergency statement on EU membership rightsin the Scottish parliament tomorrow after being bluntly told that not only would the country need to reapply for EU membership, but that it would not inherit any of Britain’s opt-outs. The Guardian reports that Nicola Sturgeon will now make a statement in response to what is beginning to look like a concerted EU campaign against independence, albeit with Spain in mind, not Britain.
QUADRUPLE LOCK PLEASES…NOBODY
Maria Miller announced the substance of the Coalition’s gay marriage legislation yesterday. The major talking point was a “quadruple lock” designed to assuage those who opposed the measures on religious grounds. These safeguards include a statutory ban on gay weddings in the Church of England and Church in Wales, as the Telegraph reports. This alone was sufficient to defeat the point of the exercise, according to the Independent, whose front page grumbles that there will be “one law if you’re straight – another if you’re gay” (although it does balance this with a Nick Clegg op-ed). It was also sufficient to induce a state of fury on the Conservative backbenches, as Michael Deacon‘s sketch makes clear. Brian Binley is so cross that he has written Dave an open letter explaining why his policies will cost the party the next election:
“We appear to be living from ‘headline’ to unplanned reaction, and the chaos is harming the party’s reputation with our voters. It is not just the standing of the leadership which is imperilled through this approach, but our entire political credibility.”
Of course, UKIP are pleased with the dissent in the Tory ranks. The Guardian reports that the artists formerly known as “the Conservative Party in exile” will put gay marriage at the heart of their 2014 European election manifesto in the belief that it will “rip apart” the Tories. It’s opportunistic, but a shrewd move. As Iain Martin writes in today’s Telegraph, Dave can’t keep on upsetting all of his people, all of the time.
LABOUR TO OPPOSE BENEFITS CAP
Labour will oppose George Osborne over his cap on the rate of growth of benefit levels, the FT (£) reports. Ed Balls believes that around 6,000 families per Conservative constituency will see themselves worse off in real terms as a result of the cap. Mr Balls’ remarks came in the Commons as he began his fightback after his Autumn Statement stammer. Sample line from yesterday: “These are the very families who pull up the blinds and go to work…”. Much done, much still to do, as another Labour man once said.
MILLER AIDE WARNED TELEGRAPH OVER EXPENSES STORY
Maria Miller’s special adviser Joanna Hindley “flagged-up” the Minister’s involvement with the Leveson report in a bid to persuade the Telegraph not to publish yesterday’s revelations regarding her expenses claims, we report this morning. Mrs Miller was yesterday reported to the MPs’ standards watchdog after it emerged that she claimed more than £90,000 from the taxpayer for a second home where her parents lived.
ED M “PROUD” TO BE THE WALLACE OF BRITISH POLITICS
In a Grazia interview reported in today’s Times (£), Ed Miliband embraces the Wallace jibes, conceding that “he has a nice dog”. He also praised his wife for “quite rightly” prioritising her career (as an environmental barrister) over his. Perhaps she figures she will be in a job longer.
MAY TO SPEAK ON MIGRATION
The impact of mass migration on national demographics was laid bare in yesterday’s census release. As the Mail reports, only 44.9pc of Londoners are White British and 13pc of the population as a whole is now foreign born. Against this backdrop, Theresa May will give a major speech this morning at Policy Exchange in which she is expected to relax rules on how long PhD students can remain in the country after their studies finish. The FT (£) has an interview in which she adds that she will also announce a study of ways to make the UK a less attractive destination for low skilled EU migrants. There is a lot on visa fast-tracking too, and clearly the point is to hit back at Cabinet critics who claim she is a roadblock to growth as she won’t relax regulations to win the Chinese pound.
THERE IS A GREEN HILL NOT FAR AWAY THAT’LL SOON BE CITY WALLS
David Cameron appeared in front of the Commons Liaison Committee yesterday. He backed planning minister Nick Boles’ call for greenfield building, although he denied having a target in mind for the development of rural land. The Telegraph reports that Dave was also keen to be part of the shale gas “revolution” as the alternative was artificially high energy bills. Nothing to do with green energy subsidies, then…
CARNEY MAY DROP TARGET
The Bank of England’s new Governor may drop the CPI inflation target which guides its interest rate decision making, the Times (£) reports. Mark Carney said in a speech in Toronto that a GDP related target would be “more powerful than employing the thresholds under flexible inflation targeting”. However, given that bond investors prize low inflation rates, and the Chancellor (pictured in all the papers today looking completely at ease at a Starlight Christmas party) prizes low bond yields, Mr Carney’s idea is likely to receive a very cautious reception at 11 Downing Street.
TWEETS AND TWITS
Pat Glass, never one for hyperbole. Or punctuation, for that matter:
@PatGlassMP: “Northern Group of Labour MPs told chancellors cuts will be equivalent of a nuclear strike on the working poor”
In the Telegraph
Iain Martin – Does he not care who he’s losing?
Ruth Dudley Edwards – The rioters shouldn’t worry – Ulster is safe
Telegraph View – Culture wars are an unwelcome import
Best of the rest
Matthew Norman in The Independent – And instead of Mr Cameron, a tub of lard…
Alice Thomson in The Times (£) – We should all give our backing to fracking
Douglas Murray in the Daily Mail – Yes, immigration can bring huge benefits. But on this scale and at this speed, it’s too much to cope with
Jonathan Powell in the FT (£) – Out of Europe, Britain would be a weak tax haven
08:30 am: Leveson lecture. Lord Justice Leveson will deliver a public lecture on news gathering at the University of Melbourne, which will be screened in the UK. This will be followed by a panel discussion on his commentary, the inquiry and its impact on politics, media, society and business. Finers Stephens Innocent LLP, 179 Great Portland Street, W1W 5LS.
09:30 am: Chairman of Statistics Authority Andrew Dilnot gives evidence to the Commons Public Administration Committee. Committee Room 16, House of Commons, London.
09:30 am: Home Secretary immigration speech. Policy Exchange, 10 Storey’s Gate, London, SW1P 3AY.
12:00 pm: Prime Ministers Questions. House of Commons.
12:30 pm: Publication of report on murder of Pat Finucane, with David Cameron’s response in statement to House of Commons. The report of the review by Sir Desmond de Silva on the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, shot by loyalists in February 1989 is due to be published. Stormont Hotel, Belfast.
02:15 pm: Commons Treasury Committee takes evidence from banks and think-tanks on Autumn Statement. Grimond Room, Portcullis House, London.
03:15 pm: Commons Public Accounts Committee takes evidence for its post-Olympics review. Committee Room 15, House of Commons, London.
04:10 pm: Eric Pickles and ministerial team before DCLG select committee. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, London.
06:30 pm: Universities minister David Willetts speech to the Politeia think-tank. East India Club, 16 St James’s Square, London, SW1Y 4LH.