Tuesday, 30 June 2015

All alone..

If Greece ends up leave the eurozone, it won't go quietly - with Yanis Varoufakis threatening to block the country's expulsion from the euro through the courts. "The EU treaties make no provision for euro exit and we refuse to accept it. Our membership is not negotiable," the Greek finance minister told Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.

This comes as Greece's bailout officially expires today, leaving it with a €1.6bn IMF loan to repay tonight (18.00 Washington time/2300 GMT), something it refuses to do until its citizens vote on the terms of the €12 billion bailout offered by international creditors in a referendum on Sunday. If you want to see how "default day" pans out, it's worth following Mehreen Khan on our liveblog.  

Judging by the Greek referendum's baffling 72-word question, asking voters if they like the sound of the "Reforms for the completion of the current program and beyond" (i.e. more austerity), Alexis Tsipras' government is doing its best to nudge Greeks towards voting 'no'. "In the event of a no vote, it's the end of the road for Greek membership of the euro; and if a yes vote, it is presumably the end of the road for Syriza. And that may well have been the game plan all along," writes Jeremy Warner.

The vote is still days away, but the markets have been getting jittery, with £34bn wiped off Britain's FTSE100-listed companies on Monday. Europe's leaders have bluntly warned that Greece could be forced out of the Eurozone and potentially the EU if voters reject the bailout.  European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker asked voters not to "commit suicide" by rejecting further austerity. With thousands of Greeks taking to the streets to back the no campaign, Juncker didn't quite have a captive audience. One Syriza MP caught the mood in Athens. "Juncker is calling for the overthrow of the government," he said acidly.

What happens if Greece defaults on the loan due today? Christine Lagarde, the fund's head, has warned that it won't be able to provide any more financial aid until the country pays off its debts, but Syriza dismiss such talk as a bluff.. Greece will still remain a member of the IMF - at least for two years. Greece could risk much more by missing the payment due on July 20 to the European Central Bank, as it might see emergency liquidity to Greek banks frozen, which would be calamitous as the system is being propped up by ECB money. "Leftist politics have doomed Greece to collapse", writes Allister Heath, "These are grim days indeed."


British Muslims must report concerns about family members or friends becoming radicalised or they risk allowing a terror attack in Britain as deadly as the one in Tunisia, David Cameron has said. In a passionate intervention, the Prime Minister said that Muslims in the UK "need to act" if relatives are seeing extremist preachers or visiting radical websites, Peter Dominiczak reports. He also told MPs that "we will prevail" in the fight against extremism.

"If we are to talk about uniting as a nation, then we need to have a pretty good idea what we are defending," writes Philip Johnston. "We did once; but I am not convinced that we do any more."


One in five of the MPs elected in May's general election employs their wives, husbands, children, brothers, sisters and even in one case his father, a new register shows. The decision to offer work to family members in their private offices offers a way for MPs to top up their pay, as the expenses watchdog considers giving them a 11 per cent rise. Which MPs employ a family member? Chris Hope has the full list


Business leaders have shown their hand too early by coming out in support of Britain staying in the European Union before negotiations have even begun, the Business secretary has said. Sajid Javid told the Confederation of British Industry, the country's biggest lobby group, that it was wrong to say the UK should remain in the EU "no matter what", Steven Swinford reports. He also likened the CBI's position to poor "poker player" who has showed his hand too early.


Proposals to give English MPs a veto on English-only laws will be revealed on Thursday and could become law before the summer, senior government sources have told Ben-Riley Smith. Number 10 hopes to use an obscure parliamentary procedure known as standing orders to lock Scottish MPs out of shaping legislation that only affects English voters.


A Labour general election candidate has sparked outrage by posing for a selfie at the spot where the Tunisian beach massacre happened. Amran Hussain, 29, who was on a week-long holiday with four friends, was pictured holding his selfie stick aloft just 48 hours after dozens of tourists were slaughtered. Leon Watson has more

Meanwhile "selfie queen" Karen Danczuk has revealed that her obsession with photos led to her split from her MP husband Simon. She told the Sun newspaper: "He was overwhelmed that suddenly it was all about me!" Olivia Goldhill has been looking at previous political couples who split up. "Politicians aren't immune to fights and heartbreak," she wrote. "But when power couples break up, it can be embarrassing for their high-profile careers."


Forget the ley lines and the mysticism of the Tor: one Labour candidate in the London Mayoral election says that Glastonbury Festival should be moved to the capital for one year, reports Kat Brown. Gareth Thomas, the MP for Harrow West, says that if London wins a bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023, moving Glastonbury 140 miles east would be the perfect way to mark it, suggesting Hackney Marshes or Epping Forest as potential venues for the festival.


School governors will have to be publicly named and be registered on a national database for the first time in the wake of the 'Trojan Horse' scandal, Steven Swinford reports. There is presently no central register of who serves as a school governor, raising concerns that schools could be taken over by groups with radical agendas.


Lancashire county council has rejected a planning application by shale gas explorer Cuadrilla to frack in the county, in a major blow to what would have been the UK's biggest round of fracking so far, the Guardian's Adam Vaughan reports. Hundreds of anti-fracking campaigners outside the council's town hall in Preston, where the verdict was announced, reacted with delight and cheers, and people in the council chamber applauded.


Greville Janner will be prosecuted for child sexual offences, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced after public pressure, with the u-turn taking place after a review carried out by an independent legal expert. Martin Evans has more. The CPS is now being urged to publish the independent review which led to its humiliating climbdown, David Barrett reports. "Such a prosecution will serve no reasonable purpose," writes Matthew Scott. "Who can trust that anything approaching the true facts will safely emerge from it?"
Dan Hodges writes that Lord Janner's trial has "nothing to do with justice" as "the man cannot even defend himself", adding: "It's about vengeance. Vengeance for those victims of abuse – real and imagined – who have had it denied. It's about politics."

Meanwhile, lawyers across England and Wales have backed an unprecedented protest over legal aid cuts which is expected to see courts begin to grind to a halt from Wednesday. Solicitors in London are expected to back a poll asking them to stop taking on criminal legal aid work in protest over Government reforms which will reduce their payments from July 1. Here are more detials


More than half of households in Britain receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes, official figures have revealed as George Osborne prepares to make £12billion worth of welfare cuts, Steve Swinford reports. The Office for National Statistics disclosed that 13.7million households in Britain receive more in benefits, while the richest fifth of Britons pay 43.7 per cent of the nations tax.


@ChakraBortty If this is how weepy Juncker gets over fiscal consolidation, I'd hate to see him in love.


From The Telegraph

Allister Heath - Leftist politics have doomed Greece to collapse

Philip Johnston - Our tolerance for other cultures is at once our strength and weakness

Judith Potts - Should not the NHS stop 'thinking' and start 'doing'?

From the Politics blog

James Kirkup - Grexit: can David Cameron surf the European shockwave?

Norman Tebbit  - The result of David Cameron's EU referendum is far from decided

From elsewhere

Ed Conway -  The dream of closer union is melting away

Gideon Rachman - Europe's dream is dying in Greece


MPs continue to debate Scotland Bill amid SNP calls for full fiscal autonomy
Lord Heseltine speech at LGA Annual Conference
Lords debate govt's 'legal highs' bill

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan speaks in London on adoption
Trade Minister Lord Maude meets with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom
​Treasury Committee chair Andrew Tyrie publishes an open letter to Chancellor George Osborne on the Office of Tax Simplification

Greece's access to bailout funds due to expire as a €1.5bn payment to the IMF falls due
Economic Secretary to the Treasury Harriet Baldwin speaks at the TheCityUK annual conference in London
Deadline, extended from 24 November 2014, for Iran to reach a deal with the P5+1 countries over its nuclear programme
The Independent Living Fund, which helps disabled people so they can continue to live in their communities rather than in specialist care, is to close and its functions to be taken over by local councils.

09.30 UK final GDP growth figure for Q1 2015 to be published by ONS
14.30 Alistair Carmichael leads Westminster debate on future of the Human Rights Act
16.00 Douglas Carswell MP and Caroline Lucas MP speak at an IPPR event on the electoral system 
19.00 Baroness Young attends an Industry and Parliament Trust event in the House of Commons on heritage 



11.30: Oral questions - Business, Innovation and Skills, including Topical Questions

Legislation: Scotland Bill - Committee stage (day 3) - Committee of the whole House - David Mundell
Adjournment debate on City Deal funding for Aberdeen, led by Kirsty Blackman


14:30: Oral questions, to ask the Government:
- Lord Touhig (Lab) to ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of the Access to Work fund and what plans they have to help people with disabilities into work.
- Lord Brabazon of Tara (Con) to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to change the basis on which Vehicle Excise Duty rates for new cars are calculated by carbon dioxide emissions alone.
- Lord Green of Deddington (Crossbench) to ask Her Majesty's Government what was the increase in the number of households in England and Wales between 2010 and 2014; and, over that period, what were the number and proportion of households where the head of the household was not born in the United Kingdom.
- Baroness Deech (Crossbench) to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the performance of the Advertising Standards Authority.

Main business
Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill [HL]: Committee
Question for short debate on the current situation in Sierra Leone and plans to assist in its recovery from the effects of the ebola outbreak (Baroness Hayman, Crossbench) 


9.30 - 11 Shale gas - Kevin Hollinrake
11 - 11.30 Ampthill primary care and parking - Nadine Dorries
14.30 - 16.00 Future of the Human Rights Act 1998 - Mr Alistair Carmichael
16.00 - 16.30 Detention of MV Seaman Guard Ohio crew in India - Ian Lavery
16.30 - 17.30 Welfare reform and people with disabilities - Debbie Abrahams

Thanks very much for reading. If you want to get in touch, I can be reached via email at asa.bennett@telegraph.co.uk, or on Twitter @AsaBenn

Monday, 29 June 2015

Existential crisis..

With Greece hurtling towards the financial brink, Westminster politics seems to have been put on hold. Alexis Tsipras' government has announced that Greek banks would be closed for more than a week, we report, as the country faces bankruptcy tomorrow. 

This comes as Greece faces a debt default within 48 hours after the government made clear it will not repay a €1.5bn loan to the IMF that expires tomorow. After talks on a €12bn bail-out deal collapsed, Greece is holding a national referendum on Sunday on whether to accept the conditions for further bail-outs. However, the country is so cash-strapped that it doesn't have enough money to organise the vote, according to German newspaper FAZ.

"This may all seem to be of peripheral interest to the UK since we are not members of the euro," we say. "But the economic impact of a Greek default, were it to happen, will adversely affect this country." Things are scarcely more encouraging outside of Greece, with the Bank of International Settelements warning that the world will be unable to fight the next global financial crash as central banks have used up their ammunition trying to tackle the last crises. 

Panicking Greeks have already emptied many of the country's ATMs, placing greater faith in the Bank Under The Bed. Trading on Greece's stock market has been suspended, while cash machine withdrawals across Greece have been capped at €60 as banks began to run out of money, with capital controls now in place to keep money in the country's financial system. Markets are now braced for the worst period of turmoil since the height of the eurozone crisis four years ago. Sinking Asian stock markets, with more than $35bn wiped off the Australian stock market in the first hour of trading today, have given us a sense of the full mayhem to come.

Could Greece crash out of the euro? "If Greeks think the Europeans are cutting them off, that could push them to vote 'No' and reject the bail-out deal," writes Mehreen Khan. "On the other hand, the prospect of life under capital controls could scare many into voting Yes, for fear of things to come should they leave the euro." 

With Greece nearing the edge, the rest of Europe will be looking on. As Charles Moore writes: "This may not be a win-win situation for Mr Tsipras, but it is a lose-lose one for the EU – the worst it has yet experienced."



Britain must become "intolerant" of extremist Islam and "be stronger at standing up for our values", David Cameron has said, as it emerged that more than 30 Britons were killed in the Tunisian beach massacre. Writing exclusively for The Telegraph, the Prime Minister said Britain is "united in shock and in grief" following the deaths of at least 38 tourists after a gun and grenade rampage by Isil militant Seifeddine Rezgui. Camilla Turner has rounded up what we know so far about the victims.


Up to 160 Conservative MPs want the top rate of income tax cut to 40p in the next Budget, senior Tory MPs have said as George Osborne faces mounting pressure to make the move. Liam Fox, the former cabinet minister, and Steve Baker, the influential backbencher, became the latest voices to publicly call for the cut. Ben Riley-Smith has the story


David Mundell has delivered an ultimatum to the SNP to make clear whether they support the UK Government's plans to transfer a swathe of new powers to Holyrood by warning they are facing a "deal or no deal moment", Simon Johnson reports. The Scottish Secretary said MPs will be faced with a "no-brainer" decision in the Commons today when they choose between the Scotland Bill devolving £15 billion of tax powers or Nationalist plans for full fiscal autonomy (FFA) that would cost Scotland £10 billion a year.

Meanwhile, the SNP's leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson, has suggested that Scotland could vote to become independent before the next election. Speaking to the Observer, he said there would be a referendum "when the public wants it on independence and that there will be a Yes result".


Meg Hillier, the new chair of Parliament's public accounts committee, has admitted that it may be lower-profile than in recent years, in a change from its reputation as the scourge of big business under chairwoman Margaret Hodge. Speaking to the FT's Jim Pickard, she said people were "entitled" to think it would be lower-profile, adding: "Things do move on."


Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, is under mounting pressure to resign after it emerged her decision to drop legal action against Lord Janner of Braunstone for child sex abuse is to be dramatically reversed, David Barrett reports. Alleged victims of the Labour peer have been notified by specialist police officers over the weekend that a case will finally be brought against the 86-year-old Labour grandee.


The Airports Commission will "fudge" the decision on where to locate Britain's new runway by leaving all options on the table – paving the way for ministers to oppose expansion at Heathrow. While the independent body is likely to recommend Heathrow as the site for expansion it is understood the group will not rule out building at Gatwick. Here are more details.


New guidelines are being unveiled for doctors, nurses and midwives across the UK on being honest and open with patients when things go wrong, the BBC's Dominic Hughes reports. The guidelines, known as a "duty of candour", make clear that patients should expect a face-to-face apology.


David Cameron's aides have put ministers and officials on a tight rein since the general election as the Prime Minister aims to capitalise on his election victory. "We have a real opportunity to set the narrative and get on the front foot. We are trying to keep everyone very 'on message'," an aide told the FT's Elizabeth Rigby


Labour MP Simon Danczuk and his Councillor wife Karen have separated, the Sun newspaper has reported. The Rochdale MP said: "I am very sad to say my wife and I are separating. Our main concern is for the wellbeing of our two children. I am absolutely devastated, but that's life."


The RSPCA must purge radical animal rights activists from its board or face "disaster", a government source has told Ben Riley-Smith amid fears the charity could be taken over by hardliners. In a clear warning shot, the Environment Department source told this newspaper the charity risks "eroding its credibility" by prioritising contentious political campaigns over animal welfare.

(To mark our redesign for our 160th birthday, here's a note from our editor, Chris Evans.)


@sundersays: It was good that @ukiplgbt took part in Pride anyway, imho. But I can't believe they missed open goal of taking a "Better Off Out" banner!


From The Telegraph

David Cameron: We must be intolerant of Isil intolerance

Boris Johnson - Islamic State? This death cult is not a state and it's certainly not Islamic

Charles Moore - It's lose-lose for the EU whichever way the eurozone jumps

From the Politics blog

Dan Hodges - Yes, the pollsters lied - and here's the proof

Michael Fabricant - Bring back Britain's swank, let the Queen and ministers travel in style

From elsewhere

Matthew D'Ancona -  With Tunisia, David Cameron faces his first real test on terror

Dominic Lawson - Why Branson and Co are the LAST people we should trust on Europe


09.30 Statistics on the effects of taxes and benefits on household incomes to be released by ONS
12.45 Mayor of London Boris Johnson MP makes an announcement on buses
15.30 Policy Exchange hosts 'The Future of Digital Government' discussion with Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Chi Onwurah and Conservative MP Matt Warman
18.30 Jon Cruddas MP speaks about the Labour Party at a Compass event in London

MPs debate Scotland Bill amid SNP calls for full fiscal autonomy
MEPs decide fate of 116 amendments to EU/U.S. trade deal
MigrationWatch founder Lord Green leads debate on non-UK households after population leap
PM to give statement on EU summit in House of Commons

'Cost of Government Day' in the UK – the Adam Smith Institute calculate that this is the day when average taxpayers stop working for the government and starts earning for themselves
Lancashire Council votes on landmark fracking bid
Scottish Labour Party leadership candidates hustings in Dundee
Transport Minister Andrew Jones launches Greener Journeys' Catch the Bus week

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships begin



14:30: Communities and Local Government questions (topicals at 15:15)

Main business

Ministerial statement - European Council
Scotland Bill: Committee (Day 2)
Adjournment debate: Postmasters and postmistresses and the Horizon system (Andrew Bridgen, Con, North West Leicestershire)


14:30: Oral questions, to ask the Government:
- Lord Touhig (Lab) to ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of the Access to Work fund and what plans they have to help people with disabilities into work.
- Lord Brabazon of Tara (Con) to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to change the basis on which Vehicle Excise Duty rates for new cars are calculated by carbon dioxide emissions alone.
- Lord Green of Deddington (Crossbench) to ask Her Majesty's Government what was the increase in the number of households in England and Wales between 2010 and 2014; and, over that period, what were the number and proportion of households where the head of the household was not born in the United Kingdom.
- Baroness Deech (Crossbench) to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the performance of the Advertising Standards Authority.

Main business
Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill [HL]: Committee
Question for short debate on the current situation in Sierra Leone and plans to assist in its recovery from the effects of the ebola outbreak (Baroness Hayman, Crossbench)

Friday, 26 June 2015

EU summit..

David Cameron has met with fellow EU leaders for dinner in Brussels to kick off the next phase of his renegotiation plans, reassuring them that he would end "the widespread unease of the British people" by reshaping Britian's relationship with the European Union. 

The Prime Minister secured agreement for "technical" talks between British and European officials over the next six months on the UK's concerns about its membership, with topics like welfare, an opt-out from the goal of "ever-closer union" and greater powers for national parliaments likely to arise. What does each EU leader think about Britain's demands? Matthew Holehouse has summarised their positions here.

However, he didn't get this far without compromise. The Prime Minister was forced to admit that he will be unable to secure the treaty before the referendum, scheduled before the end of 2017, despite previously saying that "proper full-on treaty change" was necessary. European Council president Donald Tusk stressed that the "fundamental values of the European Union are not for sale and so are non-negotiable". In response, Ukip MP Douglas Carswell went through Cameron's 2013 Bloomberg speech, mercilessly pointing out his past promises of "big institutional change" that require a "new Treaty". 

Instead of treaty change, Cameron will ask voters to decide based on a "legally binding" promise from Brussels for treaty changes at a later date after the referendum. Cameron was pressed for time when he set out Britain's referendum plans, with Greece's debt crisis leaving him just a brief window to address his counterparts before dinner."The great British referendum, hard fought for over so many years, is just an insignificant amuse bouche for the rest of Europe," wrote Julia Hartley-Brewer.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz was of little help to Cameron, warning that he will "face a lot of problems" if he tries to placate his Tory backbenchers. Given that the Parliament can derail Cameron's reform by killing off any secondary legislation he wants, Schulz's remarks have added menace. Cameron also rebuffed attempts by European leaders to force Britain to take quotas of refugees from the Mediterranean, a topic of furious debate.

Despite the heated disputes, Cameron later said he was "delighted" that renegotiation is "properly under way". EU leaders will get to discuss his reforms more today for day two of the summit. Cameron now has months to thrash out the new vision for Britain's membership he has promised.


Last-ditch debt talks between Greece and its international creditors collapsed for the second time in less than 24 hours raising the prospect of imminent bank closures as the country spirals towards default in five days, Mehreen Khan reports. Greece's creaking banking system is now facing the prospect of a devastating run on its assets after Athens failed to give ground on an ultimatum presented by its paymasters.


Network Rail bosses have been stripped of their bonuses as Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced a major shake-up over "absolutely unacceptable" problems in train services over the last year. No executive director is to be given a bonus after thousands of passengers were left stranded at King's Cross and London Bridge stations in Boxing Day travel chaos, he announced. Read more here. "Network Rail needs market forces applied," we say.

Meanwhile, McLoughlin revealed that the government would shelve vital upgrades to major railway lines between the North and the South. The announcement was embarrassing for the government, which had described the programme as the largest "since Victorian times" and a key part of its plans to build a "Northern powerhouse", Steven Swinford reports


The BBC Trust will be axed and its powers handed to the communications regulator Ofcom, Christopher Williams reports. For the first time in the broadcaster's nearly century-long history, it will be governed by an external body, as part of the renegotiation of the BBC Charter. The move is expected to be signalled in a Green Paper that will formally trigger Charter renewal negotiations within weeks.


Britain has reached middle age with the average age of people living in the UK hitting 40 for the first time, according to official figures which also show the population surging to a new record fuelled mainly by immigration, John Bingham reports. Wondering how high is immigration is in your area? Laurence Dodds and I have mapped it all out.


SNP ministers have dramatically downgraded by tens of billions of pounds their predictions for the tax revenue generated by North Sea oil compared to their claims before the independence referendum, slipping out updated figurs on the day MSPs left Holyrood for their two-month summer break, Simon Johnson reports.

This comes as Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the Scottish Parliament is on course to get control over income tax within three years, as he suggested the SNP is deliberately exaggerating potential glitches in legislation transferring a huge swathe of powers to Holyrood.


The Argentine foreign minister has accused David Cameron of living in a "fake reality" and knowing so little about the Falkland Islands that he "yelled at an assistant to write something" as he renewed verbal hostilities that broke out at a meeting in Brussels this month. Hector Timerman made his derisive comments in an interview with Philip Sherwell, before addressing a United Nations meeting on the islands - where he repeated his attack on the Prime Minister. Here are more details.


"I haven't destroyed my party," Nick Clegg has insisted as he said there were no "regrets" about entering coalition in his first interview since the Liberal Democrats' disastrous election night. Speaking on LBC radio, the former Deputy Prime Minister claimed voters did not mean to punish the party so harshly for joining the Tories in government and now regretted throwing the Lib Dems to the "bottom of the stairs". Ben Riley-Smith has more.


Ed Miliband met his biggest fan on Thursday when he took Abby Tomlinson, the 17-year-old who started the 'Milifandom' movement, to lunch in the Houses of Parliament, Emily Gosden reports. Tomlinson, a student from St Helens in Merseyside, shot to prominence during the general election campaign when she started a Twitter campaign to back the then-leader of the Labour party.

This comes as Miliband's former policy chief Jon Cruddas appeared at a Westminster seminar to warn that Labour will be "in the dead zone" if it continues to treat Tony Blair as a pariah to be booed at Labour party conferences. The Guardian has more


New research suggests that the more conservative you are, the easier you'll find it to lose weight, Saffron Alexander reports. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that there appears to be a link between political ideology and how much self control we have.


One in four of the government's major projects is in danger of failing, including an army recruitment scheme and a scheme to bring back and rehouse troops from Germany, according to the Times. A report from the government's Major Projects Authority said that of 188 large projects worth £498 billion, 49 were either unachievable or needed urgent changes.


David Cameron's former tech guru Rohan Silva is paying a "big six figures" sum to buy the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion, and he plans to take it to Los Angeles to turn it into an arts venue.He told Business Insider's Oscar Williams-Grut: "We want to show that small companies can support the arts. It shouldn't just be the BPs or the Goldmans."


@JWoodcockMP: The Rampant Blarite sounds like a particuarly niche sex toy. A wipe-clean Alan Milburn or something - OK I'VE STOPPED

(In response, Ann Summers tweeted: "Thanks Woodcock! Our buyers are working on it as we speak... #ItsComing")


From The Telegraph

Mark Malloch-Brown - The UN is an under-funded, bureaucratic labyrinth - and a force for good in the world

Fraser Nelson - The SNP won't admit the truth – on most things, Scots and English see eye to eye

Jon Moynihan, Andrew Allum, Matthew Elliott, Luke Johnson, Mark Littlewood, John Mills, Helena Morrissey and Viscount Ridley - Britain can only control who comes in if we leave the EU

Lord Sterling - Britain's Jews stand proud, ready to serve Queen and Country

From the Politics blog

Asa Bennett - Labour's leadership race is boring the public stiff

Julia Hartley-Brewer - Europe's solution to any crisis will always be the same: ever-closer union

Rupert Myers - Scrap magistrates, cut juries and let professional judges decide

From elsewhere

Franziska Augstein -  Angela Merkel – is the Greek crisis too big for Europe's most powerful woman?

Owen Bennett (no relation) - How I learnt to stop worrying and enjoy reporting on Ukip


EU Summit continues as Greek debt crisis and Cameron's reforms discussed

Lancashire Council could give landmark ruling on fracking application

18.30 Sandi Toksvig hosts her final edition of BBC Radio 4's 'The News Quiz'

20.00 'Any Questions?' on Radio 4 with guests set to incl Nigel Farage, Norman Lamb and Anna Soubry

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby are to address a conference on inclusive capitalism at the Guildhall in London

Scottish Labour leader candidates hustings in Aberdeen

Scottish Parliament rises for summer recess

On this day

1945: The first 50 countries signed the Charter of the United Nations

1963: President Kennedy delivered his "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" speech to the citizens of West Germany in defiance of the Soviet Union


Tory MP Caroline Nokes turns 43, while Labour MP David Winnick turns 82.


No business today

Thursday, 25 June 2015

As EU like it..

David Cameron will set out in detail what he wants from the European Union when he meets fellow EU leaders today in Brussels, in a step that marks "phase two" (as No 10 call it) of his renegotiation plans. However, France is already kicking up a fuss.

Ahead of the summit, French economy minister Emmanuel Macron warned that the Prime Minister will not be able to get the treaty change he seeks, and should not be allowed to follow EU rules "à la carte", instead settling for Brussels set menu. Cameron, fresh from meeting Angela Merkel in Germany, will be hoping his pre-meeting pow-wow will give him the powerful ally he needs in his fight to get meaningful concessions. If he fails, Britain would find itself drifting towards the EU exit door. Some are blunt about this, with Business for Britain declaring "the EU is stealing Britain's diplomatic influence - and so we must leave".

Macron's warning is hardly the first sign of French belligerence, with foreign minister Laurent Fabius comparing Cameron's renegotiation bid last month to joining a football club but then deciding "in the middle of the match we are now going to play rugby". Faced with such opposition, Conservative MPs aren't worried about how their party leader will fare. One ardent Eurosceptic told me that the Germans will be the key ally as "they know without us in the EU, France would have too much sway".

This comes as the Queen used her speech at a state banquet yesterday in Berlin, attended by Cameron and Merkel, to issue a timely message, declaring that "division in Europe is dangerous". She also stressed Britain's "key part" in shaping Europe. Has she effectively given her royal assent to the Yes campaign? Some will see it that way, though the Palace of course insists that she stays out of politics. And Eurosceptics would say that Britain leaving the European Union - far from being a declaration of war - would still mean European nations would get along nicely.

With Greece's debt crisis far from over, the Prime Minister will be pressed for time as he tries to lay out what he wants back from Brussels. "No one involved in the Greek shambles - the Greek government, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank or the eurozone politicians – wants to be responsible for the country leaving the euro," laments Ben Wright. With immediate issues like this in EU leaders' in-trays, it looks like Cameron's renegotiation will take a while. 


Greece's eurozone future was thrown into fresh turmoil on Wednesday night as talks broke down after creditor powers demanded further austerity measures to release the funds the country needs to avoid a debt default, Mehreen Khan reports. Dashing tentative hopes that an agreement could be struck at European Union leaders summit on Thursday, a meeting of finance ministers was suspended after only an hour as Prime Minister Tsipras was summoned for further late night talks with his bail-out chiefs.


A group of disability protesters has attempted to storm the House of Commons chamber during Prime Minister's Questions. Around a dozen chanting activists were stopped by police and officials as David Cameron addressed MPs just feet away in the Commons, Peter Dominiczak reports. However, the activists,failed to disrupt Cameron's flow at PMQs, as Tom Rowley noted. "There was no mention of the commotion outside and not a single cry of protest was heard above the MPs' usual brouhaha," he wrote.


Migrants have been managing to confound the government's "100 per cent" security checks at the UK border, David Barrett reports. Abdul Aziz, dazed but defiant after a 106-mile journey underneath a lorry, slipped out from underneath a truck at Toddington services on the M1 in Bedfordshire, and said: ""England is good." This comes as David Cameron condemned the "totally unacceptable" scenes at Calais that led to the Channel Tunnel being shut after migrants attempted to climb aboard UK-bound lorries. 


Taxpayers' money has been spent on a variety of odd projects, like finding mates for tropical fish off Africa, teaching Hamlet to Ecuadorians, producing a game show for Ethiopian TV, and an anti-littering campaign in Jordan, the Sun's Oliver Harvey has found. Tory MP David Nuttall told the newspaper: "You couldn't make some of these projects up."

In response, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has launched a review into how oversees aid money is spent to ensure the taxpayer was getting "value for money" from the projects. Ben Riley-Smith has more.


The former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson has urged George Osborne to cut the top income tax rate to 40p in next month's Budget. Lord Lawson told the Financial Times that he would "strongly support" the move, adding that it would "significantly enhance the attractiveness of the UK as a place to do business, at no cost in terms of lost revenue".

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has warned David Cameron against "hacking back" on benefits for low-paid workers until companies "cough up" more money and increase their pay. The Mayor of London said that private firms that fail to pay the living wage and force their staff to rely on tax credits to top up their pay were "scandalous". Steven Swinford has the story.


As David Cameron prepares to decide whether to allow London's Heathrow Airport to expand, Bloomberg's Thomas Penny has found that a tree he once sponsored to signal his opposition to a third runway has died. "The trees all died; they didn't look after them, they weren't watered or anything so they all just expired," Michael Aslam, who owns the land the orchard was planted on, told him. Some may wonder, has his opposition died with it? 


Nick Clegg offered to resign as Liberal Democrat leader a year before the 2015 election, it has emerged. The former Deputy Prime Minister considered his position in the wake of the party's humiliating reverses in the European and local elections in May 2014, the Guardian reported.


Newly-elected Labour MP Jess Phillips planned to bed down in her camper van with her husband and kids because London hotels were so expensive, she told the Mirror's Ben Glaze. Phillips, who was quoted £1,450 for three night stay, said: "It made me think even more that this isn't a normal place for normal people with normal families."


Labour must accept that Tony Blair was "great" like Margaret Thatcher and learn lessons from his success or it will never be in power again, Alan Milburn has said as he endorsed Liz Kendall for the leadership. The former health secretary said the party "could not have got it more wrong" at the last election as Ed Miliband "unilaterally sought to bring the shutters down on New Labour". Ben Riley-Smith has more.

Meanwhile, Ed Miliband's policy chief has said it was "vital" that leftwinger Jeremy Corbyn be included in the Labour leadership contest. Speaking at the IPPR think-tank, Jon Cruddas also revealed that he was involved in setting up an English Labour Party, HuffPostUK reports.


Britain and its Nato allies are to review their preparedness for a nuclear standoff with Russia in response to President Putin's threats to upgrade his nuclear arsenal, Matthew Holehouse has learnt. In a return of the atomic chess games of the Cold War, Western defence ministers will conduct an audit of what they know about the Kremlin's nuclear doctrine.


"Spotty" computer geeks across the world are encouraging Islamist radicalisation by posting "selfies" supporting Isil, the United Nations expert on extremist groups has warned. Alexander Evans, who leads the UN's expert team on al Qaeda, said Europeans are being convinced to start fighting for Isil in the Middle East because it appears to be the "new brand on the block", says Ben Riley-Smith.


A powerful new quango is to be set up to overhaul land ownership in Scotland, under "radical" legislation that set out four tests that must be met to forcibly strip lairds of their property, Simon Johnson reports. The Land Reform Bill creates a Scottish Land Commission comprising six commissioners with sweeping powers, along with a controversial new power forcing landowners to sell land if they are deemed a barrier to development.


@GawainTowler: A hack (nameless) has just told me a place is "off the Surrey coast". Kids, don't ask directions from journalists, stick to policemen


From The Telegraph

Bruce Anderson - Nicola Sturgeon would be a fool to break up the royal love affair with Scotland

Allister Heath - Our poverty rules are an insult to everyone – it's time to rip them up

Business for Britain - The EU is stealing Britain's diplomatic influence - and so we must leave

From the Politics blog

Allan Massie - Pensioners should get preference when it comes to welfare

Dan Hodges - Why did the polls get it wrong at the general election? Because they lied

Cathy Newman - The Queen vs The Queen of Scots: Is Nicola Sturgeon's crown about to slip?

From elsewhere

Ian Birrell  -  We need a strong liberal voice in UK politics. Tim Farron won't provide it

Tim Montgomerie - There's no money left so the left is collapsing


EU Summit opens as Greek debt crisis expected to be discussed

09.00 Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on LBC Radio for first major broadcast interview since the election 
09.30 Child poverty stats released amid govt 'plan' to scrap Labour's key benchmark
12.00 Nicola Sturgeon at FMQs and then (13.30) off to launch boardrooms 'gender balance' scheme
13.30 Tim Farron MP speaks at the Institute for Public Policy Research on the role of liberalism 
22.35: 'Question Time' from Southampton. Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, Fraser Nelson, Amber Rudd, Suzanne Evans and Andy Burnham scheduled to be on the panel.

The European Commission is to launch a sea and air mission to tackle the migrant crisis. The plan also includes resettlement quotas for refugees for countries across the bloc and a 'blue card' scheme, similar to the US Green Card, for highly skilled migrants
Business Secretary Sajid Javid launches the Government's Enterprise Bill in Bristol
Lancashire Council is to consider an application, made by Cuadrilla Resources, to frack at Roseacre Wood between Blackpool and Preston



Commons Chamber
9:30: Energy and Climate Change questions (topicals at 10:15)

10:30: Business statement

Main business
General debate on reports into investigatory powers
Adjournment debate: National Gallery industrial dispute (John McDonnell, Lab, Hayes and Harlington)


11:00: Oral questions, to ask the Government:
- Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab) to ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals they have for constitutional reform.
- Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab) to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will provide an annual report to Parliament regarding the operation of seven-day opening of general practitioner clinics.
- Baroness Turner of Camden (Lab) to ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the ability of individuals who have been dismissed to invoke their employment rights when they cannot afford tribunal costs.
- Topical question

Main business
Debate on the implications of the constitutional changes proposed in the Gracious Speech 

Question for short debate on what action Her Majesty's Government plan to take in the light of the report by the Care Quality Commission Right here, right now, regarding providing young people with adequate help, care and support during a mental health crisis 

Debate on the amount of affordable housing in all forms of tenure and the case for increasing the supply of affordable housing (Lord Whitty, Lab)

Question for short debate on what plans Her Majesty's Government have to reduce the requirement for all leaseholders to agree if they wish to become holders in common (Baroness Gardner of Parkes, Con) (1.5 hours)


13:30: Economic disparities in older industrial areas (Grahame Morris, Lab, Easington)
15:00: Cost of school transport (Nigel Evans, Con, Ribble Valley)