Europe’s leaders are rushing to get on top of the inflow of refugees, which – we report this morning – looks to be not just a humanitarian crisis. Six in ten migrants arriving in Europe are coming for economic reasons, one of the EU’s most senior officials has admitted, while British officials are worried that Isil is seeking to use the inflow to smuggle terrorists into Europe. “One minute we have them being tracked on our radar: the next they have disappeared into thin air,” a senior intelligence official lamented to Con Coughlin. Member states are increasingly uneasy, with Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico declaring that the EU is committing “ritual suicide” by letting so many people in. Jean-Claude Juncker is keen to develop his quota system to share out migrants, but he will likely be fiercely resisted by countries like Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Some countries aren’t waiting for EU-wide agreement on what to do, with Denmark approving a controversial law to confiscate asylum seekers’ personal belongs in order to pay for their upkeep. This has been swiftly condemned, with some critics likening it to the confiscation of valuables from Jews during World War Two. Cabinet ministers are starting to express their concern about Europe’s lack of answers to the refugee crisis, with Michael Gove telling MPs that immigration – an issue of “profound public concern” – isn’t being “effectively controlled” by the EU. The Justice Secretary’s remarks will no doubt encourage Eurosceptics to wonder if he may – in the referendum campaign – throw his weight behind the Out campaign. But Downing Street is doing what it can to stop this, with plans afoot to win him around by appealing to his personal loyalty to David Cameron.
Out campaigners may not secure Michael Gove’s support, but they stand to benefit from public concern about the refugee crisis. William Hague lambasts the “confused and ineffective response to the growing crisis of migration” in today’s paper, warning that it is “a crisis that millions of people can foresee and understand for themselves”. This, he says, could have far-reaching consequences if it gets out of control, paving the way for populists to take over. “The crisis that would bring extremists and mavericks to power in major countries will be rooted in loss of control of migration or a renewed financial disaster,” he writes. Meanwhile, MigrationWatch has put out a study suggesting that Brexit could allow Britain to cut net migration by 100,000 a year.
Europhiles will be buoyed by the latest remarks by Mark Carney, who told MPs that Brexit could put Britain’s economic stability at risk. The Bank of England governor said that the UK, outside of the EU, will not be able to “rely on the kindness of strangers” in an increasingly “febrile and volatile” economic climate. Tony Blair has also waded in, telling voters that a vote to leave could see Scotland break away from the rest of the UK too. But Blair’s warning may be less effective than Carney’s at swaying public opinion, as polls show that the former Labour Prime Minister is the least-trusted politician in the EU debate.
“If it takes until late 2016 or 2017 for Europe to set up its planned border and coastguard force, the EU will have killed itself” Robert Fico
Homeowners Face Flood Tax
Homeowners living in flood-hit areas face higher council tax bills, ministers have warned. Councils will be able to increase bills by around £15 a year – on top of previously sanctioned rises – to pay for new defences. With Britain facing further serious flooding this week, the disclosure is likely to infuriate beleaguered householders already angered by the Government’s response to flooding.
Corbyn And The CND Rally
Jeremy Corbyn will address an estimated 50,000 people in Trafalgar Square in the biggest anti-nuclear march for a generation as campaigners begin a “mass lobby” of MPs over Trident. With a parliamentary vote expected as early as March, MPs were approached in their constituencies over the weekend by Trident critics in a “coordinated” drive to convince them to scrap the nuclear deterrent.
A former Google executive who blew the whistle on the company’s tax avoidance scheme has described its £130million deal with HMRC as “trivial”. Barney Jones, who worked for the internet search giant between 2002 and 2006, lifted the lid on an elaborate structure which diverts British profits through Ireland to the Bermuda tax haven. Mr Jones told The Telegraph that during his meetings with HMRC officials told him that “it’s the politicians that set the taxes, we just apply them”.
The Mad World Of Donald Trump
Donald Trump has defended Vladimir Putin after a British public inquiry found the Russian president “probably” sanctioned the assassination of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London. Mr Trump waded into the case saying he had seen “no evidence” of Mr Putin’s involvement, adding: “They say a lot of things about me that are untrue too.” This comes as the tycoon pulled out of a Republican debate in Iowa out of anger at Fox News. Meanwhile, Michael Hogan has reviewed Matt Frei’s Channel 4 documentary “The Mad World Of Donald Trump”, which he found packed a decent punch.
Businesses employing 4.5million people have told Government they can “no longer remain silent” about how their performance is being “severely affected” from poor broadband. The news came as Ofcom, the industry’s regulator, said it was concerned about a mismatch between broadband speeds that small firms believed they are buying and the actual service delivered. BT chief Gavin Patterson has defended his firm’s services, writing in today’s paper: “There is a great deal at stake, so it’s vital that the right calls are made.”
Danny’s Beijing Backlash
Beijing is reportedly unhappy with the UK’s decision to send former Liberal Democrat Treasury minister Sir Danny Alexander to its high-profile new development bank. “The Chinese were not happy that the UK nominated a former politician without a track record in international finance,” a source told the FT.
Housebuilding Remains Slow
As few as 1,800 homes have been built on public land sold by the Government, despite claims that more than 100,000 would be completed, it has emerged. Ministers have repeatedly claimed that the Government sold enough land to build more 109,000 homes on formerly publicly owned brownfield land has been sold since 2011. However, Government figures show that only between 1,800 homes and 2,500 homes have been actually built.
Witnesses Shun Tatler Tory Probe
Ten witnesses with potentially valuable testimonies for the “Tatler Tory” inquiry into bullying in the Conservative Party have said they may boycott the probe, the BBC reported. They have called for Rob Semple, a former associate of Mark Clarke who has a role in deciding the party’s response, to stand aside.