The European Commission has a new plan to address the migration crisis, we report this morning, but it looks like Greece will have to be the sacrificial victim. Officials would move the frontier of the Schengen zone – the zone for passport free travel in Europe – north to exclude Greece, effectively shutting its borders off from the rest of the continent. On top of this, the country is being urged to set up vast holding camps for 300,000 refugees in a bid to stem the flow of unchecked migrants. The Greek government is livid about the idea, with ministers warning that it would turn the country into a “cemetery of souls”. But the proposal, endorsed by Jean-Claude Juncker, suggests that the Commission is happy to throw a smaller nation overboard to try and save the Schengen project. European leaders are also looking at plans to allow internal border checks for up to two years, effectively suspending the Schengen zone.
Britons currently lean towards staying in the European Union, but European leaders’ chaotic response to the migration crisis could well make them reconsider. Theresa May, a Eurosceptic who many on the Out side hope will join them, lashed out at her European counterparts after a meeting in Amsterdam, remarking that it was “more talk than action”. “EU can’t control its borders,” Douglas Carswell mused on Twitter, “failed state?” British councils are starting to feel the strain, with a Kent Councillor admitting that vulnerable British children in care had been forced to move away from their home area. Europol’s warning that Isil could look to recruit refugees to launch terror attacks will only underline public concern on immigration, and further feed into the Out campaign/Ukip’s argument about the EU.
The refugee crisis risks side-lining David Cameron as he tries to finalise his renegotiation with other EU nations over the coming days, putting the prospect of sealing a British deal that could be put to voters in a summer referendum in danger. The European Council is set to publish a draft text, outlining the deal the EU is prepared to offer Britain to stay in the EU, next week. Cameron is remaining positive, after holding talks yesterday with Angela Merkel and Enda Kenny, urging voters to “imagine the scale of the prize” if his renegotiation succeeds. Some Eurosceptics may well wonder if he’ll come back with much of a prize at all.
What if Cameron doesn’t impress voters and they later vote to leave the EU? Open Europe hosted a fascinating “wargaming” simulation of how such talks could go, with former ministers standing in for nations as they negotiated the terms of the UK’s hypothetical EU exit. But the picture it gave was rather mixed, with the talks quickly degenerating into bickering as EU leaders told the UK how offended they were by its departure. Poland wanted Britain to be hit with punitive terms of exit in order to discourage “other populist forces campaigning on exit” in other European countries, while Germany warned that “the cherry-picking after torturing us for months is not acceptable…Brexit is something which does not only affect your country but our country”. One thing was clear – the Brexit talks will be messy, and not as easy as just saying the magic words “Article 50”. However, they will be feasible.
“Unfortunately what we’ve had is more talk than actiion,” Theresa May
Less Hand-Wringing, More Action
David Cameron’s equality “tsar” has blamed liberal “hand-wringing” and political correctness for preventing abuse in the name of multi-culturalism. Louise Casey suggested abuses such as forced marriage were being allowed to continue because some officials are more interested in PC language. Ms Casey, who is leading a Government review of opportunities and segregation among ethnic minorities, indicated that British authorities suffer from a hesitancy to tackle deep-seated problems in some ethnic minority communities.
Corbyn’s Trident Test
Ministers are preparing to call a vote on renewing Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent by the end of March, in a move which would spark disarray in the Labour ranks. The Commons vote has been pencilled in for before Parliament’s Easter holidays, according to the Sun.
Former Tory minister Lord Cecil Parkinson has died after a long battle with cancer. The Tory grandee served in a variety of senior posts in Margaret Thatcher’s governments. You can read our obituary on the Thatcherite star, whose career faltered after revelations of an affair with his former secretary, here.
Tory Leadership – A Youthful Pursuit?
George Osborne, Boris Johnson and Theresa May may be viewed as the frontrunners to succeed David Cameron, but James Kirkup notes in today’s paper that some MPs are wondering if it is worth skipping a generation. “Listen carefully in the dark corners and quiet nooks of the Commons and you hear a faint murmuring, the first signs of an appetite for something else,” he writes. “Something more. Something new.”
Beat Churchill At His Own Game
It is a card game so fiendishly difficult that even the most talented players only win one in four games. So it is perhaps no surprise that Sir Winston Churchill enjoyed testing his strategic powers by playing his very own version of solitaire. For the first time aspiring military strategists can also try their hand at the game, which resembles the traditional game of Patience but uses two decks of cards. The app is the brainchild of an unexpected novice game developer – former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 84.
Three Year Broadband Wait
As many as half of the homes in British countryside will have to wait three years before they can get a “minimum” internet speed, industry regulator Ofcom has said. According to an official report, as many as 1.5 million rural households will have to wait for two to three years before getting a basic internet service required for a “typical household”. Ofcom argues that internet speeds of at least 10 megabits per second (Mbits/s) is the “minimum… required by the typical household” with multiple devices to get a good service.
Scottish Labour Gets Going
Kezia Dugdale will today promise Labour’s Shadow Cabinet she will use the 100 days left until Holyrood’s election to run a “confident and positive campaign” after a leaked internal report claimed Scottish voters who have deserted her party consider it an “irrelevance”. The Scottish Labour leader said she will brief Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench that she plans to make a “radical challenge” to the SNP to use Holyrood’s new powers to increase education spending by increasing income tax on those earning more than £150,000.
A Cat-astrophic Mix-up
A Labour councillor who lashed out at the “scumbag” who “didn’t bother to stop” after killing his cat was forced to eat his words after realising he had mistakenly buried someone else’s pet. Matt Strong, a councillor for Manchester City Council, announced on Twitter that he was “sad to say goodbye” to his cat Gus who was “involved in a hit and run this morning”. But when he returned home that afternoon, he was stunned to discover Gus and his brother, Ralph, demanding their lunch, and left wondering whose cat he had buried.
Universities Won’t Escape FOI
Proposals by ministers to exempt universities from revealing information in the public interest will be rejected by the commission reviewing the legislation, it has been indicated. Jack Straw, part of the five-person panel reviewing FOI laws, said there was “no prospect” universities would be exempt after few calls were made for the change. It comes despite a green paper produced by the government last year suggesting some further education institutions could be given protections “in the interest of students and the wider public”.