Baroness Thatcher in June 2010 (AFP/Getty)
Baroness Thatcher, the former UK prime minister, has died at age 87. Read more
Keep out – at least until the referendum (Getty)
The British government is said to be deeply concerned about the prospect of heavy migration into the UK from Bulgaria and Romania after restrictions on free movement of labour are lifted at the end of the year. I can understand why. David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on British membership of the EU after the next election. Under current circumstances, the Brits would probably vote to stay inside the Union. But a surge of unpopular migration from Bulgaria and Romania could really poison sentiment ahead of the vote.
To be fair, even Migration Watch, the anti-immigration ginger group, is estimating that just 50,000 Bulgarians and Romanians will move when restrictions are lifted. Such a relatively small number could be absorbed into London without much fuss. The trouble is that experience with Polish migration proves all such estimates to be futile. Back in 2004, the UK government estimated that net migration from Poland and the other new member states would probably be in the order of 13,000 a year. In the event, more than 500,000 Poles are thought to have moved to the UK – although many move backwards and forwards. Read more
Lord Paul Boateng, former chief secretary to the treasury and the former UK high commissioner to South Africa, answers questions about his first trip to Davos.
1. Is this your first trip to Davos?
I have to confess that it is. I’ve reached a fairly advanced age without ever having felt Davos was for me. I have been an active participant, however, both as a cabinet minister and a diplomat at the spin offs in Mumbai and Cape Town where the WEF reaches out to the rest of the world.
2. What’s the best thing about going to Davos?
If you’ve got an idea or a product to sell then this is a quite unique market place. There are lots of serious people on the lookout for the next big idea or opportunity. A voracious media circus with the promise of global coverage also helps. Read more
The future of the UK in the EU is, of course, already a subject of fierce debate. Everybody can see that the chances of a British departure have increased. The question is by how much.
I was interested to discover from a private conversation with a very senior continental official that his worry is that the rest of the EU really does not need this diversion of attention from its immediate concern, which is the reform of the eurozone.
He referred to two specific risks.
First, he is worried that the very fact that the UK may be on the way out will shake confidence in the future of the eurozone. As he noted, people in Asia or the Americas do not understand the details. They will just regard this British decision as calling into question the vitality of the European project, partly, no doubt, because the UK has deep relations with these parts of the world. Read more
The story of David Cameron’s much-delayed speech on Europe mixes farce with tragedy. The fact that the Algerian terrorist attack has once again delayed the prime minister’s landmark address, must make Cameron wonder whether the whole enterprise is cursed.
The great Europe speech was initially meant to be given before Xmas. It was put off, amidst reports that there were still deep arguments about its contents. Cameron himself attempted to defuse the controversy with a risque joke – likening the extended wait for his speech to Tantric sex. It would be all the better for the long build-up, he assured his listeners. Read more
One of this morning’s reports from the EU summit is headlined – “David Cameron fails to cut EU bureaucrats pay and perks“. With the EU budget talks collapsing on Friday afternoon, it appears to be true, at least for now. And it’s a great shame. I know that sentiment will deeply irritate my friends in the EU bureaucracy – some of whom have been emailing me to point out that spending on administration is a mere €6bn a year, which is less than 6% of total EU spending. Even so, there is plenty of waste in the EU budget that could be easily sliced away.
What is true is that one element of Cameron’s approach – which is to suggest a 10% cut in the budget for pay – is potentially too crude. Not all EU operatives are overpaid. Some of the lawyers, for example, have relatively modest salaries by private-sector standards. Rather than an across-the-board cut in pay it would be much more productive to start eliminating entire agencies, functions and perks. This would cut the payroll and the budget, while preserving the bits of the EU that actually do something useful. Here are some candidates for the chop. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The relationship between Britain and the EU looks like a marriage gone bad. Rows are becoming more and more frequent. The two parties are talking openly about separation. The chances that Britain will eventually leave the EU are rising inexorably. This weekend an opinion poll showed that 56 per cent of Britons now want out. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Arriving in Scotland a few years ago, I was greeted by a poster boasting that Glasgow has “the latitude of Smolensk and the attitude of Barcelona”. It was a vivid example of the mixture of comradeship and admiration with which Scots look towards Catalonia. Barcelona, the Catalan capital, has many things that Glaswegians covet: better weather, better food, better football. In a striking homage to Catalonia, the Scots even chose an architect from its capital, Enric Miralles, to design their new parliament building. Read more
Add Poland to the list of European Union countries turned off by the incoherent, self-isolating policies of Britain’s Conservative-led government towards Europe.
First there was Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel restricts her visits to the UK these days to the barest minimum. She has been lukewarm about David Cameron, the UK prime minister, ever since he pulled the Conservative party out of the pan-European centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), of which her Christian Democrats are a leading light.
Next came France. President François Hollande hasn’t forgotten how Cameron refused to meet him when he visited London on an election campaign trip earlier this year. Hollande is not inclined to do Cameron any favours on crucial issues such as the protection of British interests in a more deeply integrated Europe. Read more
I have just been down my local Sainsbury’s – here in the London suburbs – and was distressed to see that it was full of shoppers. This distress is, of course, entirely hypocritical. I am one of those shoppers. Still, I cannot help feeling bad about the local corner-store, a few doors down. It is a run by a friendly and hard-working family of Indian immigrants. And I know their trade has suffered badly since Sainsbury’s opened up a mini-mart, six months ago.
The whole experience reminded me of the debate they were having in India itself, when I was there, earlier this week. The government of Manmohan Singh has just announced its plans to allow foreign supermarkets, such as Walmart and Tesco, to open up in India. But the scheme has provoked big protests, from those who say that small shopkeepers will be crushed. Read more