Brexit economists argue UK would prosper outside EU under unilateral free trade

The Daily Mail reports that ‘Economists for Brexit’, a group of economists led by Margaret Thatcher’s former adviser Patrick Minford, yesterday released a report arguing that leaving the EU’s single market could raise output by 4% in a decade and deliver a “Brexit dividend”. Prof Minford bases his analysis on the UK leaving the EU, relying on the World Trade Organisation’s framework and unilaterally dropping all tariffs. Writing in The Sun recently, he argued that, “Over time, if we left the EU, it seems likely that we would mostly eliminate manufacturing, leaving mainly industries such as design, marketing and hi-tech. But this shouldn’t scare us.”

Meanwhile, The Times reports that John Mills, a leading Labour Party donor, has left campaign group Vote Leave in order to concentrate on strengthening Labour’s campaign to leave the EU. He said, “Labour people are looking for an organisation that speaks directly to their concerns in a voice they recognise as their own. My resignation today from Vote Leave means that I can now focus fully on my role as director of Labour Leave and create that distinctive voice.”

The Guardian reports that speaking to workers at the Caterpillar plant in Peterborough, David Cameron argued that the EU provided stability to post-Communist countries in Eastern Europe and that the UK’s net budget contribution was far outstripped by the benefits of the single market. “We do pay in more than we get out,” he said of the UK’s EU budget contribution. “We benefit, though, from the single market, making our economy bigger, creating jobs and more tax revenue. We get back much more overall than we put in. I think our membership fee is worthwhile.” Speaking on the BBC’s Today Programme, former Prime Minister and Remain campaigner Sir John Major rejected the claims about patriotism made by some in the Brexit camp, suggesting that their approach of “splendid isolation” would leave the country weaker. However, Armed Forces Minister and Leave campaigner Penny Mordaunt said the EU was “sleepwalking into disaster” as countries fail and the migrant crisis sparks “real unrest” between countries, The Sun reports.

Separately, the BBC’s Mark Mardell cited our new report setting out a blueprint for successful trade, immigration and regulation in the event of Brexit.

Commission Vice President: We won’t be blackmailed by Turkey on migrant deal

On the controversial EU-Turkey migrant deal, Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the European Commission, tells Die Zeit that the EU “certainly won’t” be blackmailed as “Turkey needs us more than we need them.” The Commission is due to decide next week whether or not to recommend that member states approve, the visa-waiver scheme which the bloc offered Ankara as part of the package for accepting back migrants from the EU. A Turkish minister said all necessary legislation would be completed on Monday, despite the fact that last week only 19 out of 72 conditions were fulfilled.  Meanwhile, France and Germany have proposed inserting a mechanism into such visa-waiver deals to give the EU a rapid legal means of suspending the freedom if, for example, there were an unexpected surge in people arriving from a country.

Source: The Guardian Zeit Reuters Spiegel

Eurozone grows by 0.6% in first quarter

The Eurozone economy grew by a quarterly rate of 0.6% in the first three months of the year, official figures show, faster than both the US and the UK which posted figures earlier this week. In a preliminary estimate, Eurostat said the eurozone is now 0.4% bigger than in the first quarter of 2008, just before the recession associated with the global financial crisis. France’s economy grew by 0.5% between January and March – nearly twice as fast as the expectations of just 0.3% . Spain though, saw a slight rise in unemployment in the first quarter of the year to 21%.

Source: Press Association City AM

Diplomatic row erupts over Austrian plans to build a fence on border-pass shared with Italy

Italy and Austria are trying to calm tensions over controversial Austrian plans to erect a 400m fence at the Brenner Pass connecting the two countries.  With estimates that up to 1 million migrants are poised to arrive in Europe from Libya this year, Austria is concerned that the pass will become a new migrant bottleneck. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi denounced the plans calling them “shamelessly against European rules – and against history, logic and the future,” in a statement posted on Wednesday.

Source: Die Welt EUobserver Reuters

Regional assembly could block Belgium from ratifying EU-Canada free trade deal

Belgium will have to abstain from approving the EU-Canada free trade deal (CETA) in the European Council due to the fact that a majority in its regional assembly of Wallonia has voted against ratifying it. If the Walloon assembly remains opposed, it could block the entire Belgian ratification of the deal. The Walloon refusal could have “consequences,” for other EU-trade deals under negotiations, such as those with the US or Japan, said Geert Bourgeois, the Prime Minister of the Flemish Region.

Source: VRT TV

Eurogroup meeting on Greek bailout re-scheduled

The Eurogroup meeting of Eurozone Finance Ministers, to discuss Greece’s bailout, is to be held on the 9th May. The meeting was originally scheduled for yesterday, but was cancelled after Greece and the IMF disagreed over the need for new reforms. Economic and Finance Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said “We are 99% there on the first package”, referring to the budgets cuts worth 3% of Greek GDP but, “As for the contingency mechanism, which, in our view, is not really justified by data, but politically necessary, let’s work on that.”

Source: EurActiv EUobserver

German draft bill to cut social benefits for EU citizens welcomed by media

Following the new draft bill which seeks to cut social benefits for EU citizens who move to Germany but do not work, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s domestic affairs editor Jasper von Altenbockum argues that the proposal “takes the thunder from a legitimate mood that immigration is often not driven by commitment [to work] but by incentives of national welfare systems,” adding that “this does not undermine the appreciation of EU free movement but instead supports it.” Süddeutsche Zeitung’s editor Jan Bielicki writes that “Europe’s poverty issues will not be solved by the poor migrating into social welfare [systems]. Therefore it is good that Labour Minister Andrea Nahles now clarifies that there can be no social benefits for new [EU] migrants without jobs.”

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung: Bielicki Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Altenbockum

Germany’s populist AfD set to adopt anti-Islamic manifesto at congress this weekend

Germany’s right-wing populist party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), is set to adopt an anti-Islamic manifesto at its party congress in Stuttgart this weekend — openly challenging German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position that, “Islam is part of Germany today.” AfD Deputy Leader and MEP, Beatrix von Storch, labelled Islam, “A political ideology that is incompatible with the German constitution,” and said the party will call for a ban on Islamic symbols such as minarets, muezzin’s call to prayer and full-face veils for women. Founded in 2013, AfD is polling between 11-14% nationwide.

Meanwhile, Volker Kauder, Parliamentary Leader of Merkel’s CDU/CSU told Berliner Zeitung  on Friday that German mosques should be monitored by the state, commenting, “We need to talk about the fact that in some mosques sermons are being held that are not consistent with our understanding of the state… This is a secular state in which religion does not stand above the state but vice versa.” Open Europe’s Nina Schick appeared on Bloomberg’s ‘What’d You Miss’ show discussing Merkel’s slide in the opinion polls, and the challenges she faces on the migration crisis and AfD.

Source: Bloomberg: What’d you miss EurActiv Handelsblatt

Commission to take legal action against UK over foreign lorry levy

The European Commission yesterday decided to take the UK Government to the EU courts over a charge on foreign lorries that raise more than £46 million a year for the Treasury. A spokesman for the government said: “We believe our levy is justified and consistent with the free movement of goods. British drivers regularly pay when they use the roads in other countries, and it is fair that foreign HGV drivers should do the same here.”

The Commission also stepped up proceedings against Germany, and have asked authorities not to introduce a road-toll system that exempts passenger cars registered in Germany from the payment of the charge. Germany now has two months to address the concerns or it could be taken to the European Court of Justice and face potential fines.

Source: The Times The Daily Mail

Leaked document: EU leaders opposed re-run of ‘lead candidates’ which saw Juncker ‘elected’ to Head of Commission in 2014

David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among 27 EU leaders opposing the concept of ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ or lead candidates for European Commission President – who are nominated by the political families in the European Parliament, according to documents obtained by Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. The concept was first introduced at the European Elections in 2014, and saw the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as the lead candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP), which held most seats in the Parliament.

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung Open Europe Intelligence: Reforming the European Parliament

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