David Cameron is meeting with Jean Claude-Juncker today to talk about his EU renegotiation, we report this morning, with it looking like he’ll be offered a watered down “emergency brake”. The idea would allow Britain to stop EU migrants claiming benefits for four years so long as European leaders give him permission, but it has already drawn snorts of derision from Eurosceptics. “If Govt did try to accept such an “emergency brake”, it’d surely be rejected by the British people,” former cabinet minister David Jones tweeted. One minister told the FT: “I think this will be laughed at by quite a lot of people”. Leave.EU co-founder Arron Banks highlighted Cameron’s dismissal of the idea two years ago as “some arcane mechanism which would probably be triggered by the European Commission and not by us”, adding: “People…don’t want an emergency brake on immigration, they want control of the steering wheel so we can avoid the car crash up ahead.”
There is palpable frustration on the British side about how little European officials seem to be grasping the need to give Britain a “win”. “Europe has been saying they all want to avoid a ‘Brexit’, but they now have to match that with reality,” a source told the Telegraph, adding that a deal is still “there for the taking”. “They just don’t seem to ‘get’ what we are trying to achieve,” another said. Cameron may be tempted to sympathise with George W.Bush, who once called Juncker to his face a “piece of work”, as he tries to clinch a satisfactory deal. The one crumb of comfort Cameron could take is that voters won’t be studying the detail of whatever brake he may return with as much as Eurosceptics, but he’ll still have to work hard to persuade them that his renegotiation means Britain can manage its borders.
As Europe tries to tackle the refugee crisis, the Prime Minister needs a concession on migration in order to meet public concerns. “Cameron can expect far more pressure to take extra refugees from Europe, especially if Britain votes to stay in the EU and loses its leverage,” Fraser Nelson warns in today’s paper. “He should stand firm. We may be a country with a jobs boom and a strong record of social cohesion, but we’re a country where some 8,000 families are already needed to look after vulnerable children. How many more Britons can we realistically expect to care for unaccompanied refugees?”
You may think Out campaigners would have a spring in their step, buoyed by new analysis from Barclays that suggests a British exit from the EU could see the UK become a “safe haven” amid a disintegrating Europe, with Scotland put off from breaking away. But there still is bad blood among Leave campaigners. A Eurosceptic Tory MP who sits on Vote Leave’s board has told the Independent that they’ll be resigning “within days” because he couldn’t stand the “infighting”. “We should be preparing our strategy and putting in place a ground campaign, but as it is, we’re spending our energy fighting each other,” they lamented. The In side, meanwhile, is busy pushing its message, with Karen Brady today warning football clubs that Brexit could have “devastating consequences” for the game at all levels. The Out side hasn’t rushed to respond to this yet, although we can get a sense of the likely Eurosceptic critique thanks to Ukip’s 2010 manifesto (now known by Nigel Farage as “drivel”), which called for a limit of three foreign players on football teams.
“Europe has been saying they all want to avoid a ‘Brexit’, but they now have to match that with reality,” diplomatic source
One No Trump
The last presidential debate before the Iowa caucus was overshadowed by the “elephant not in the room” – Donald Trump. Ruth Sherlock reports on what happened, with other candidates able to shine thanks to the billionaire being out of the picture. “Trump is running to be president of the Idiocracy,” says Tim Stanley. “Even if he loses Iowa, even he loses the nomination, he’s won the contest for the heart and soul of the angry Right and has divided his country in two to do it.” Last night, UK politicians considered the race at an event organised by Ladbrokes and ICG. Labour peer Stewart Wood warned that a Trump presidency would put “enormous strain” on the special relationship, while former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind quipped: “Can you imagine a Trump-Boris summit?”
Rhodes To Nowhere
Oxford University’s statue of Cecil Rhodes is to stay in place after furious donors threatened to withdraw gifts and bequests worth more than £100 million if it was taken down, The Telegraph has learnt. The governing body of Oriel College, which owns the statue, has ruled out its removal after being warned that £1.5m worth of donations have already been cancelled, and that it faces dire financial consequences if it bows to the Rhodes Must Fall student campaign.
Osborne Delays Lloyds Sale
Chancellor George Osborne has postponed the planned sell-off of the last of the Government’s shares in Lloyds Banking Group. The retail sale of shares was planned for the spring, however market volatility meant “now is not the right time”, the Chancellor said. The taxpayers’ stake in the bank has been slashed from 43.5pc to below 10pc through a series of sales.
Gove’s Legal Aid U-Turn
Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, has abandoned legal aid cuts and announced lawyers’ fees are to return to previous levels, following a series of protests by barristers and solicitors. An across-the-board 8.75 per cent cut in fees which came into force in July last year will be scrapped – for at least 12 months – from April, Mr Gove announced. It marks a victory for the legal profession which mounted a concerted attack on the legal aid cuts, claiming they would force firms out of business and leave clients without legal advice.
Dress To Impress, Says Jez
Jeremy Corbyn has told parents to “put some proper clothes on” when taking their children to school, as he backed a headteacher who called on parents not to turn up in nightwear at the school gates. The Labour leader said getting children to school on time, having had breakfast and a good sleep was important, but said people should dress for the weather. This comes as TUC chief Frances O’Grady said Labour should focus on “bread and butter issues”.
Salmond’s Holocaust Controversy
Alex Salmond has come under attack for using his new role representing the UK in Europe to issue a rebuke to the Israeli parliament on Holocaust Memorial Day. The former First Minister told the Council of Europe that it was “inappropriate” for a senior Israeli representative at a Holocaust commemoration service to criticise the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in France.
Semple Steps Aside
A senior Conservative chairman has volunteered not to attend a key meeting where lawyers will present their evidence regarding allegations of bullying in the party. It follows reports that ten witnesses with concerns about bullying or harassment plan to boycot the investigation amid concerns that Mr Semple may not be impartial. They demanded he stand aside from any contact with the official Clifford Chance report earlier this week.
London’s New Super Sewer
London mayor Boris Johnson has opened the first of two new “super sewers” in London. The new sewer, called the Lee Tunnel, is the biggest project undertaken by the UK water industry since 1989. It costs £678m and it 4.3 miles long, with a depth of 250ft.