Europe

Britain's Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, delivers his speech after announcing his bid to become Conservative Party leader, in London

The race to be the next prime minister is now in full swing. Michael Gove has launched his campaign to become the next Prime Minister argued that only someone who had campaigned for Brexit should lead the Conservative party; the frontrunner Theresa May campaigned on the Remain side.

Sterling remains lower following Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s comments that the UK was suffering “post-traumatic stress” and the central bank is likely to have to ease policy in the coming months.

As policymakers scramble to respond to the economic shock of the vote to leave, Chancellor George Osborne said that he is dropping his long-held goal of reaching a surplus in the UK’s public finances by the end of the decade.

Key points

  • Michael Gove sets out his bid for Tory party leadership, focus on change and reform

  • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could face a leadership challenge

  • George Osborne abandons his 2020 public finance surplus target

  • FTSE 100 enjoys best week since Dec ’11

 

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May attends a press conference in London

Boris Johnson will not be running to replace David Cameron, but Michael Gove will. He’ll face new favourite home secretary Theresa May – and a handful of others.

Key points

  • Boris Johnson pulls out of the race for Tory party leadership

  • Michael Gove launched surprise run

  • May, Leadsom, Fox and Crabb launch candidacy

  • Bank of England governor hints at more monetary easing, warning of a “materially slower” growth

  • FTSE 100 closes at highest since Aug 2015; Gilt yields fall negative for first time ever

 

EU summit after British referendum to leave bloc

European leaders met today to discuss the UK’s fate after it voted to leave the EU. The British prime minister, however, was not among them.

Back home the attention was on the twin battles to lead the country’s major political parties.

Key points

  • David Cameron called on Jeremy Corbyn to step down as Labour leader “for the national interest”

  • François Hollande said London should lose the right to clear euro-denominated trades

  • Liam Fox threw his hat into the ring in the Tory leadership contest; Tom Watson said that he would not enter a Labour contest

  • Stephen Crabb launched bid for Tory party leadership

  • The FTSE 100 recovered all post-Brexit losses

  • Sterling was steady at $1.35

 

EU Council meeting after British referendum to leave the EU

David Cameron is at his final EU summit in Brussels today, where he vowed that the UK would not turn its back on its European allies.

But while German leader Angela Merkel wants to ensure the UK is given time to decide how to exit, the European Parliament is pushing for a swift end to uncertainty.

Back in the UK, despite overwhelmingly losing a vote of no-confidence from his fellow Labour MPs, Jeremy Corbyn has refused to step down as leader of the opposition.

Key points

  • The Tory leadership battle is underway, with Johnson and May the frontrunners. Work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb is also in the frame.

  • George Osborne warns of “prolonged economic adjustment”, says spending cuts and tax hikes needed

  • Sterling edges back after hitting a 30-year low on Monday, stocks bounce

  • Jeremy Corbyn has lost a vote of no confidence vote from his fellow Labour MPs

  • S&P downgrades the UK two notches, stripping the country of its final AAA rating

  • Nicola Sturgeon has launches a diplomatic drive to secure Scotland’s post-Brexit place in the EU

You can read yesterday’s coverage here.

 

David Cameron is facing MPs for the first time since securing a package of reforms in Brussels to present his case for the UK remaining in the European Union. The prime minister’s appearance in the House of Commons follows a tumultuous weekend after his return from talks with European leaders on Friday, which has seen six of his cabinet ministers and Boris Johnson, the London mayor, back the “out” campaign.

Key points

  • Cameron presents what he calls a “new settlement” for Britain after almost two days of talks in Brussels

  • The reforms cover migration, protections for the City of London and an exemption for Britain from “ever closer union”

  • A quarter of the cabinet is at odds with the PM over Europe, including his close friend Michael Gove, the justice secretary.

  • The Conservatives are facing a damaging split with as many as 150 MPs, almost half the parliamentary party, expected to back Brexit

  • The opposition Labour Party is backing the campaign to remain in the EU, along with business leaders and trade unions

By Mark Odell and Jim Pickard

 

With two months to go until the European elections, the leaders of the Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party went head-to-head tonight in a live televised debate on the issue of Britain’s membership of the EU. This was the FT’s live coverage. By Kiran Stacey

20.50 Well there we have it. A clear win for Nigel Farage in the first Europe debate, if not necessarily for those who want the UK to leave the EU. Both sides will try to claim victory in the coming days though – and the real test will come on May 22 at the European elections. Read more

Stanley Johnson

The comments of Stanley Johnson about the Tory leadership prospects of his son Boris in this morning’s papers have made something of a stir. The London mayor’s father was quoted in the FT and the Guardian saying the Tories should change their leadership rules to allow Boris to run even if he wasn’t an MP at the time, a proposal that has been attacked by many in the party.

But it is Stanley’s comments on Boris’ views on Europe that might have a more long-term effect on his son’s leadership credentials. He told an audience of pro-European Tories (of which he is one):

Boris is a very good European, I can tell you that.

 Read more

Ed Miliband’s op-ed for the FT today on Europe has finally crystallised what each of the parties’ European position will be going into next year’s election. But anyone listening to Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary on the Today programme this morning would be forgiven for not understanding exactly what Labour’s position is. This is what he said:

The next Labour government will legislate for a lock that guarantees there cannot be a transfer of power from Britain to the European Union in the future without that in/out referendum. It’s an agenda for reform in Europe, not immediate exit from Europe.

So what does this mean, and how does it compare to the other two parties? Read more

David CameronIt was the Americans who first broke ranks. Soon after David Cameron announced in January that he wanted to have a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in 2017 (if he is elected prime minister), the US declared its opposition to the UK leaving. In remarkably frank words for a diplomat, a senior American official told reporters:

We have a growing relationship with the EU as an institution, which has an increasing voice in the world, and we want to see a strong British voice in that EU. That is in America’s interests. We welcome an outward-looking EU with Britain in it.

Since then, the Japanese have also weighed in on the Americans’ side. In evidence submitted to the first round of the government’s review of EU powers, Japan warns that as many as 130,000 jobs could be at risk if the UK does leave the union. In a memo to the foreign office, the Japanese government said: Read more

Nick Clegg leafletAs a fellow hack remarked to me on the way out of the Commons chamber after PMQs this week, imagine if it had been the other way round.

Imagine that David Cameron had not been in New York and had been taking prime minister’s questions instead of Nick Clegg, his deputy. And imagine that Lib Dem after Lib Dem – five in total – had stood up to attack the prime minister over their pet project – let’s say the mansion tax, for example. What would have happened?

Almost undoubtedly, there would have been fury on the Tory benches. Cameron would probably have told Clegg to get his troops in line and Conservative backbenchers would have complained quite fairly that the government agenda was being derailed by something that only one side really cared about. Read more

The Tories have just published their draft EU referendum bill. Most of it is fairly meaningless technicalities. But the proposed wording is interesting. The party plans to ask voters:

Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union?

Referendum questions are usually a source of tense, if technical political debate. The two things do watch out for are: Read more

It was yesterday afternoon while we were about to board a flight from Andrews Air Base in Washington that the pack of journalists following the prime minister were suddenly told to gather for a briefing.

“You’re going to want to hear this,” said a senior Tory source.

He was not wrong. The breaking news – under embargo for 10pm UK time – was that David Cameron had decided after all to publish draft legislation that would enshrine the 2017 EU referendum in law.

The idea must have seemed a political masterstroke: to nip in the bud the latest uprising of Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers and PPSs (those barely-noticed ministerial bag carriers who occasionally make news by resigning.)

The Cameron team were aware, however, that the story would eclipse the Read more

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has arrived. His invitation to dinner with Rupert Murdoch on Tuesday was almost as much of a sign of his growing political influence as the eurosceptic party’s strong showing in the Eastleigh by-election last week.

Farage has confirmed he did indeed dine with the media mogul at Murdoch’s London flat but has refused to give any clues about what was said. However, the Daily Telegraph writes he suggested he would form an electoral pact with the Conservatives if Cameron stepped down. Read more

I’ve updated this post at the bottom in light of this afternoon’s parliamentary debate on the issue.

As the Tories contemplate the fallout from coming third in the Eastleigh byelection, different ministers have been floating different ideas for recapturing the votes lost to Ukip. One such idea is banning newly-arrived migrants from accessing certain benefits and NHS services.

Polls suggest immigration is a major reason for voters choosing Ukip, and Conservatives worry that trend will only accelerate when limits on movement from Bulgaria and Romania to elsewhere in the EU are removed.

A cabinet sub-committee has been convened to look into the policy options, but in the face of EU rules forbidding discrimination between citizens of different European countries, is there anything they can do, or is this empty populist rhetoric? Read more

 

Jeremy Forrest, the teacher extradited from France last year

Jeremy Forrest, the teacher extradited from France last year

We revealed this morning that the first battle that Nick Clegg intends to pick in the coalition after his party’s victory in Eastleigh is over the European arrest warrant.

The EAW is one of a number of measures involved in the European crime and justice framework, which the Tories want to leave altogether. The prime minister has won plaudits among his own party for saying he would pull out of the 130 measures agreed among EU countries, but he needs the support of his coalition partners to do so, as it must go to a vote in the Commons.

Negotiations between the two parties are being led by Danny Alexander and Oliver Letwin, and according to sources close to the talks, have pretty much broken down altogether. Read more

Joachim Gauck

Joachim Gauck

David Cameron’s European strategy hinges on the idea that he will be able to repatriate powers from Brussels to Westminster, before offering voters a choice between the new settlement and leaving the EU altogether in a referendum.

But the question that remains to be answered is exactly how much will other European countries be willing bend to Britain’s demands for such repatriation? Will the threat of Britain leaving be enough to persuade them to cooperate, or will they be so irritated by the way in which Cameron is going about his project that they happily wave goodbye to the UK?

In a speech this morning in Germany, the German president made it clear that he does not want to see the UK simply pack its bags and leave. Speaking from his Schloss Bellevue, his official residence, Joachim Gauck said: Read more

Andrew MitchellAs Andrew Mitchell begins to emerge from the shadows of the “plebgate” row, talk has turned to whether he could be brought back into the cabinet, or perhaps be given another plum government job.

The latest talk is that the former chief whip is one of two candidates (alongside Peter Lilley) under consideration to become the UK’s next EU commissioner when Cathy Ashton steps down next year.

Mitchell has not said anything in public about whether he would want to take the job. But his comment piece in this morning’s FT gives us some idea about what kind of agenda he would pursue if he was selected. Read more

Nick Clegg. Getty Images

The Tories are having great fun mocking Nick Clegg’s opposition to an EU referendum, pointing out that the Lib Dems went into the last election promising a referendum of their own. The Lib Dems in turn, point out that the wording of their manifesto actually mirrors what the coalition has put into law, namely that there should be:

an in/out referendum the next time a British government signs up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU

But the Lib Dems made a huge issue of it, even walking out of the Commons in 2008 when speaker Michael Martin refused to let the party bring an amendment calling for a referendum. As the guardian’s Nick Watt points out, Nick Clegg said at the time: Read more

Two big questions remained after David Cameron’s landmark speech on Britain’s role in Europe this morning: would it do enough to please his eurosceptic backbenchers, and how would Ed Miliband respond?

We got the answer to both at PMQs. We know now that for the moment, Cameron has got his party off his back, and that Labour are not about to promise a referendum of their own.

The atmosphere in the Commons was electric as the leaders took their places. The Tory benches were packed with grinning faces – this looked like being a good day for Cameron, and so it proved. He even got a cheer for starting his first answer by saying: Read more

 

Frans Timmermans, Dutch foreign minister

Frans Timmermans, Dutch foreign minister

I’m not sure if anyone in Downing Street is fluent in Dutch, but if they are, they may want to watch the edition of Nieuwsuur (their equivalent of Newsnight) broadcast earlier this week.

Cameron is off to the Netherlands tomorrow to make his great make-or-break speech on Europe, where he’s expected to announce a renegotiation of powers followed by a referendum in the next parliament. He has chosen to do it there because he regards prime minister Mark Rutte as one of his great allies in the cause of reforming Brussels. Read more