Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Crackdown on EU migrants..

Ben Brogan's morning briefing..

Good morning. The Prime Minister will today announce a crackdown on EU migrants by stopping new arrivals from claiming benefits for three months (and only for six months in total) and calling for reform of the EU to stop "vast migrations". In an op-ed for the FT, the PM outlines a range of steps to mitigate the effects of new immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania: "If people are not here to work – if they are begging or sleeping rough – they will be removed. They will then be barred from re-entry for 12 months, unless they can prove they have a proper reason to be here, such as a job. We are also clamping down on those who employ people below the minimum wage. They will pay the price with a fine of up to £20,000 for every underpaid employee – more than four times the fine today." There are also plans to set up a new "minimum earnings threshold", below which benefits that top up earnings, such as income support, will be cut altogether.
Dave also outlines what sounds rather like a "shopping list" of demands in EU renegotiations: "Britain, as part of our plan to reform the EU, will now work with others to return the concept of free movement to a more sensible basis... And we need to do the same with welfare. For example, free movement should not be about exporting child benefit – I want to work with our European partners to address this." Most importantly, Mr Cameron supports a GDP measure before migrants can move, and says that there's cross-EU support for this.  
As ever in his dealings with the EU, the PM has to contend with the cumbersome legal reality, although he believes that restrictions are legal under the terms of EU treaties. And there is the risk that allowing rhetoric to outpace reality will backfire; Dave's strategy is to say he's doing all he can and blame Labour, but, given that he's been PM for 42 months, there may be limits to the effectiveness of this. Still, he will be heartened by the Mail's headline: "I do share your concerns". Nigel Farage was less convinced, telling Today "I still think it's being far too generous" and "This does nothing to stop an unrestricted flow of a very large number of unskilled people coming into Britain." In a sign of how much the political debate on immigration has shifted, Nick Clegg described the plans as "sensible and reasonable".
Andrew Mitchell held a special press conference yesterday evening to try and resurrect his political career. Mr Mitchell said he felt that he had been "vilified relentlessly" over the Plebgate affair and said that the allegations against him were "made up and disseminated" by PC Toby Rowland; "I wish now to make clear that PC Toby Rowland, who was responsible for writing those toxic phrases into his notebook, was not telling the truth." A few hours before Mr Mitchell's words, the director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders said that there was insufficient evidence that Mr Rowland had lied. The Guardian says that "now Mr Mitchell's last chance rests with a libel action." But - despite the best efforts of David Davis, who appeared alongside Mr Mitchell at his press confernece - it seems that there's little chance of a Cabinet return:the PM's spokesman said that nothing had changed since Mr Cameron accepted Mr Mitchell's resignation: "The position that was set out in the exchange of letters between Mr Mitchell and the Prime Minister remains the position". There's similarly bleak news from Ephraim Hardcastle, who reports a Cabinet source saying that Mr Cameron would be "bonkers" to give Mr Mitchell his old job back. Instead, "He and his new best friend David Davis should set up an amateur detective agency." Meanwhile The Sun reveals that Tom Newton Dunn has been cleared of wrongdoing for his reporting of Plebgate.
Few seem convinced by yesterday's White Paper on what an independent Scotland would look like. Our verdict is that it "was more an election manifesto than an objective assessment of how independence would work" and it "relied heavily on other institutions, such as the UK government, the European Union, Nato and others, accepting the rationale behind the SNP’s case." The Mail brands it "A 670-page insult to Scots' intelligence". The Times says that "The Scottish White Paper on independence asks the right questions, but fails to give satisfactory answers" and the FT's verdict is that "Independence involves harder choices than SNP admits". But Allan Massie warns: "Grant the nationalists a monopoly of emotion and, no matter what the polls say today, Alex Salmond’s dream may yet turn into the unionists’ nightmare."
There's a fascinating new poll of South Thanet, where Laura Sandys is standing down. The key findings show Labour in first place with 35pc (up five points on 2010), Ukip second on 30pc (up 24 points), the Tories third on 28pc (down 20 points) and the Liberal Democrats fourth on 5pc (down 10 points). The poll was commissioned by Ukip donor Alan Brown, and will add to the sense that Nigel Farage is eyeing up the seat in 2015. And there was further bad news for the Conservatives buried in the poll: 52pc of Ukip voters said they would stick with them even if it meant that ED Miliband became prime minister; only 27 pc said they "would rather stop Ed Miliband from becoming prime minister, even if that means I had to vote Conservative rather than Ukip".
Labour will gear up for 2015 with an all-day strategy session on Thursday. The party will say that it's aiming to win 106 target seats and over 40 pc of the vote, countering suggestions about the "35 pc strategy". The Indy notes that "Figures show that the English regions where the fall in average hourly earnings is highest –the South West, East Midlands and West Midlands—are where the Tories have the highest number of marginal seats."
Sticking with the election theme, Tory MPs fear that "cutting the green crap" will only result in "driving middle-class voters into the arms of the Liberal Democrats". The Lib Dems have a "green target list" of Tory MPs they think they can topple, even in an election when their vote is certain to fall considerably. Dave might have to get used to dissent on the Tory Left as well as the Right.  
A mansion tax is popular with Labour activists, but the party's politicians seems rather less enthusiastic. At an event seen as a pre-hustings in the race to be Labour's candidate for London Mayor in 2015, Dame Tessa Jowell, Diane Abbott and David Lammy all raised doubts about a mansion tax and its effects on London, leaving only Lord Adonis to support it. Dame Tessa said that some "asset-rich and income-poor" people "would have to move out of their family homes".
Regrettably tax cuts have to be off the table for the Autumn Statement, argues think tank Reform in new research published today. In the terms of Fraser Nelson's column last Friday, Reform sides with the fiscally conservative Chancellor rather than the tax-cutting Prime Minister. The think tank points out that taxes are already predicted to rise for years to come but even that, depressingly, will not prevent the public finances worsening again in the medium term. The conclusion: "It would be wrong to claim mission accomplished on rescuing the public finances."
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter


Time for some sleep:
@Freeman_George: End of another long (18hr) but very fulfilling day: big cross party support for my 10Minute Rule Bill on #PatientDataPower.  On we go

In the Telegraph  
Allan Massie - Sing a song for the union
Best of the rest

David Cameron in The FT - Free movement within Europe needs to be less free

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times - Do the right thing and you win elections
Culture Secretary Maria Miller announcement on telecoms sector.
9.15am Jeremy Hunt to address Chief Nursing Officer Summit 2013. Hilton Metropole, Birmingham.
9.30am Education Select Committee hearing on children's homes.
9.30am Vince Cable questioned by MPs on Royal Mail privatisation. Business, Innovation and Skills Committee session, Grimond Room, House of Commons.
10.30am Lord Strathclyde at committee hearing on coalition government. Lords Constitution Committee investigation. Committee Room 1, Palace of Westminster.
12pm PMQs.
6pm TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady gives Aneurin Bevan Memorial Lecture. Grand Committee Room, House of Commons.
6.30pm London Mayor Boris Johnson gives the third Margaret Thatcher lecture. Gibson Hall, 13 Bishopsgate.
7pm Launch of the Reform Clause 1, ‘Feel Free to Annoy Me’ campaign. Jubilee Room, Parliament.

7.45pm Speaker John Bercow speech on future of Parliament. Attlee Room, Portcullis House.