Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Clarke rails against euroscepticism..

BREAKING NEWS: George Osborne has been speaking to the Today programme about the agenda of the G8 summit.
"I think we’ve made more progress in the last 24 hours than people have made in the last 20 years.This is a real step-change in the seriousness with which the international community takes these issues."
Mr Osborne added: "We're working on a declaration that I think people will be impressed by because it covers so many of these issues", including consulting on whether to make a register of company ownership public.
Good morning. Kenneth Clarke has entered the European fray. As talks advance on an American-European trade deal, Mr Clarke, a key negotiator, has written that "irony of ironies, it is of course the EU that is making deals with America and Canada possible." For all the criticism of the EU, Mr Clarke writes that:
An asset it undoubtedly is. The European Union amplifies our influence in the world, renders us safer, more secure, and more in control of our own destiny. As Germany shows, the EU can indeed be the home of powerhouse exporters who dominate global trade.
Mr Clarke contrasts the "practical" souls who support staying in the EU and reforming it with the "isolationist John Bulls" who would sooner leave it. His Cabinet colleagues who support leaving the EU are compared to the romance of the Charge of the Light Brigade. To Mr Clarke, the only result of Britain leaving the EU would be "curtains for our ability to have any leadership role in world-defining plays".
Perhaps most audaciously of all, Mr Clarke describes the case for staying in the EU as "positively Thatcherite". It is an intervention that reminds us of how bitter the internal Conservative fight will be if an EU referendum does occur. Mr Cameron may have broadly united his party on Europe for the remainder of this Parliament, but the task will be altogether more difficult after 2015, whoever is leader.
In a sense the timing of Mr Clarke's Telegraph article is unfortunate. There is a risk that it will steal attention away from what could be one of the Prime Minister's undoubted policy successes - the American-European trade deal that could be worth £11 billion to Britain (£384 for every household) and create two million new jobs. The deal would dismantle taxes and tariffs between Europe and America, leading, it is hoped, to a single market.
It would be a better advertisement for EU membership than any concession Mr Cameron is likely to extract from Brussels inrenegotiations, although there is also some positive news on that front with the FT (£) noting that the UK has reached an agreement to limit the EU's influence over how the City regulates trading on its financial markets.
Mr Cameron yesterday pushed Vladimir Putin to sign up to plans to end the war in Syria. There is unity between the other seven G8 leaders over the need for action in Syria and the removal of the Assad regime, but Mr Putin is stubbornly maintaining his opposition to any intervention. 
The Times (£) notes the five key demands made by Mr Cameron, which avoided the issue of explicit intervention and were designed to find common ground with Mr Putin. These included: giving aid agencies better access to Syria; tackling the extremist five per cent of the Syrian opposition; denouncing the use of chemical weapons; starting to plan for the first day after Assad's fall; and explicitly giving a transition government executive authority. Early suggestions are that Mr Cameron's efforts, over a dinner that included Kilkeel crab, Kettyle beef and apple crumble with Bushmills whiskey custard, may not have been in vain.
Clearly, the issue of intervention is deeply complex, with Boris Johnson (whatever his motivation) yesterday presenting a powerful argument in opposition. But as I write in my column, for all the problems of intervening, it is something we might just have to do:
The global race is not just about economics. It is about the willingness of the few countries with the capacity to intervene to stand up and be counted when the need arises. Mr Cameron knows that the burden is always ours.
Michael Gove is the latest Minister to resist departmental budget cuts. The education department could bear the brunt of as much as £2 billion of the £11.5 billion, according to The Times (£), and Mr Gove is resisting hard (sounds familiar?). The issue is further complicated by George Osborne's pledge to protect spending on the schools budget for children aged five to 16. While the total Education budget will be £39.4 billion by 2015, the cuts will come exclusively from the £12.2 billion that is unprotected, and would affect areas such as childcare, pre-school provision and further education. But Rachel Sylvester writes in The Times (£): "The Treasury is optimistic that, despite all the sound and fury, it will complete the spending review in time." 
To those Tory MPs tempted to write letters to 1922 Chairman Graham Brady, who already has around 30 of the 46 needed to trigger a no-confidence vote in Dave, YouGov's Peter Kellner has a message: don't. Despite a recent poll putting Dave behind his party for the first time, he is still comfortably more popular than Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg. Mr Kellner writes:
Those anti-Cameron Tories need to realise that their principles have a price. To divide their party, dispose of its greatest electoral asset and drive it further to the Right will not win them victory in 2015. Instead it will guarantee their party’s defeat.
There is more confusion over a Labour policy. Do they support more autonomy for schools or not? After Stephen Twigg's announcement yesterday that Labour would "not have additional free schools", Lord Adonis wrote that "Labour will enable more parent-led academies, like the West London Free School", as we note. Answers on a postcard, please. We need convincing that "the party’s conversion to autonomy is sincere". One person certainly not convinced is Dan Hodges, who is underwhelmed by Ed Miliband's lack of personal exposure in Labour's U-turns: 
If Miliband was smart, he would have spent the past fortnight making a virtue out of necessity. He would have taken clear ownership of these significant U-turns, signalled a major change of direction for his party and framed the whole thing as a bold rebranding of Labour in the run-up to 2015.
Nadine Dorries has given another interview that might have No 10 a little worried. Ms Dorries told Total Politics that she would "definitely" do more reality TV, that the Conservatives "would be idiots not to have Boris" and that the party suffers from "political naivety and delusion" about its 2015 prospects. She also reiterated her interest in running on a joint ticket with Ukip in 2015.
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Douglas Carswell has issues with Kenneth Clarke's Telegraph piece:
@DouglasCarswell: Quitting the EU would "wreck the economy", says the man who wanted us to join the Euro

In the Telegraph
Telegraph View - A lesson learnt?
Best of the rest
Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) - No Minister, you can't have recycled paper
Janan Ganesh in The Financial Times (£) - Britain is served well by its political class
Donald Macintyre in The Independent - Is Ed up for a referendum? He may need to be
Today: Second and final day of G8 Summit at Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.
0930 London: Inflation figures for May are released by the Office for National Statistics.

1100 London: Culture Secretary Maria Miller hosts summit on damaging internet content, with ISPs, search engines and social media sites. DCMS.