Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Luxembourg compromise..

Could the PM have found a way to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming President of the European Commission after all? In the Times, Francis Elliott and Sam Coates reveal that David Cameron is considering deploying the "L-bomb", the so-called Luxembourg Compromise.
The Luxembourg Compromise - devised to appease Charles de Gaulle's frustration that France was continually out-voted by smaller countries in what was then the European Economic Community - allows member-states to defer any decision that affects "a very important national interest" until a unanimously acceptable solution can be found, and could, theoretically, be used to stop M Juncker at the eleventh hour. (Cognac all round at Number 10!) 
There's just one problem: the legal weight of the L-Bomb is not a strong as Downing Street might like; it has never been recognised by the European Court of Justice and it hasn't been deployed for over a decade (by France, on June 19 2003, to block a vote on agricultural policy). 
In the meantime, Downing Street has to contend with another type of bomb entirely. In a series of leaked recordings of Polish ministers, leaked to the magazine Wprost, Radoslaw Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, has been recorded giving the PM's European policy a good going-over. "He f----- it up" is the running theme. Renegotiation is "either a very badly thought through move, or, not for the first time, a kind of incompetence in European affairs". The PM "stupidly tries to play the system" and his tactic of feeding his critics "scraps in order to satisfy them is turning against him".
The comments are everywhere (read our story here, and a translated transcript here). That even Britain's natural allies are casting doubts on his competence is not a good look for the PM - and if he does drop the L-bomb, expect many more unprintable comments about Britain - and Dave - in Warsaw, Berlin and everywhere else.


Ed Miliband will try to stay on as Labour leader after the 2015 election - no matter what the outcome. "Ed believes he's given up too much - including his relationship with his own brother just to quit after one election defeat," a Shadow Cabinet source tells the Mail. As I understand it, Red's comments last week that his party would have to "defy historical odds" to win put the wind up Labour frontbenchers, who feared that Mr Miliband was preparing to dig in should he lose. These latest comments will only make the parliamentary Labour Party more uneasy.

Families with two earners face a £550 hike in their council tax. That's the splash in our Scottish edition this morning. Economists in the Scottish Parliament's Information Centre have calculated that Alex Salmond's plans to move from council tax to a local income tax would have to be set at 5.4p in the pound - almost double the rate that the SNP is proposing. Simon Johnson has the full details, but it is £549.74 more than the average Band D council tax bill for a family with two average earners in it. A frontline nurse would pay £746.55, a teacher £1,460.20 and a police constable £1,152.41.
Every Northern city should have a Boris, George Osborne said yesterday as he made the case for HS3. Mr Osborne believes that strong leadership - coupled with transport innovations such as HS3 - will allow the cities of the North to challenge London's dominance. (Georgia Graham has the story) That it's quicker to travel by train from London to Paris than it is from Liverpool to Hull, that Southampton and Oxford are easier to  travel between than Manchester and Sheffield attest to the importance of improving Britain's transport links - no wonder that Liverpool's elected Mayor, Joe Anderson, is impressed with Mr Osborne's support for HS3, calling it a "bold step", but the Taxpayers' Alliance sounds a warning in this morning's City AM. Make no mistake: HS3 will be just as much of a political battle as HS2.
Graham Brady wants a period of "conscious uncoupling" between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the run-up to the election,the Times reports. He wants both parties to be able to differentiate themselves from one another without creating the impression of a government at war with itself. It's unlikely to happen, though; most Liberal Democrats are of the view that, in such a situation, they would still carry the taint of propping up a minority Tory government without the influence of ministerial office.  
The Indy reports that another mis-selling scandal could lead to yet more automated calls for bank consumers - and, more importantly, a £22bn compensation bill. That banks could have many more outstanding charges to pay than believed previously could frustrate the Government's hopes of returning the entirety of Lloyds to the private sector before the election. 
Not enough new homes are being built to meet demand, housebuilders have warned. Housebuilders say that planning regulations must be further relaxed to allow the scale of building needed - Christopher Hopehas the story. Meanwhile, George Osborne has been cheered by the news of a £1 billion collaboration between Manchester City Council and the Abu Dhabi United Group, that will lead to a new housing project called "Manchester Life", that will eventually lead to the development of more than 6,000 properties.
Chuka Umunna has been bombarded with e-mails from Young Ukippers who are incensed at the suggestion that they are unable to use the Internet, Georgia Graham reports.
Ed Miliband is advertising for an apprentice to avenge him after he is struck down by - no, wait, sorry. Wrong job description. The job will involve providing support for meetings and events; organising correspondence and drafting letters. Applicants have until the June the 30th to apply, and they must say in fewer than 250 words what interests them about working for the Labour leader. My tip to applicants: don't take any tips from the comments underneath Christopher Hope's story on it all.

The Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.
Everyone in Portsmouth North should have their own owl:
@PennyMordauntMP: Good evening all, apols for the rather unusual tweets you've been receiving from my account today. I am now, hopefully, unhacked.

Poll of polls 17th to 24th June (ICM-Populus-Opinium-YouGov) Labour lead by three points
In the Telegraph

John McTernan - Another assault on the freedom of the press
Mats Persson - Berlin is playing with fire over the EU's top job
Con Coughlin - How does cutting the counter-terrorism budget make Britain's streets safer?Best of the Rest
Gideon Rachman - Britain's wooing of Germany has fallen flat
Rachel Sylvester - The NHS dog will not stay silent for long
AGENDA0900 LONDON: Launch of Kids Company report on social care for children. Speakers include Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer.
0930 LONDON: Bank of England governor Mark Carney gives evidence to Commons Treasury Committee.
0930: British Bankers' Association (BBA) releases its latest high street banking report.
1030 LONDON: Lenny Henry gives evidence to Commons Culture Committee on the future of the BBC.
1800 LONDON: Theresa May will give the Lord Mayor's Security and Defence Lecture in London.