The Telegraph leads with “EU leaders consider two-year suspension of Schengen rules”
The Schengen system of free movement could be suspended for two years under emergency measures to be discussed by European ministers on Monday, as the French Prime Minister warned the crisis could bring down the entire European Union. Manuel Valls said that the “very idea of Europe” will be torn apart until the flows of migrants expected to surge in spring are turned away.
On Monday, interior ministers from the EU will meet in Amsterdam to discuss emergency measures to allow states to reintroduce national border controls for two years. The powers are allowed under the Schengen rules, but would amount to an unprecedented abandonment of the 30-year old agreement that allows passport-free travel across 26 states.
The measure could be brought in from May, when a six-month period of passport checks introduced by Germany expires. The European Commission would have to agree that there are “persistent serious deficiencies” in the Schengen zone’s external border to activate it.
The Independent covers a similar theme with “Could the refugee crisis really break up the European Union?”
Today’s 43 new deaths by drowning in the Aegean Sea brought Europe’s migration crisis sharply back into focus just as the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, warned that unless the flow of refugees is better managed, it could cause the break-up of the European Union. More than a million migrants and refugees came to Europe last year, mostly via Turkey. Although winter was expected to slow the pace, 35,000 have arrived in the first three weeks of January, compared with 1,600 for the whole month last year.
There have been many initiatives since last spring, and EU leaders have discussed the issue at six separate summits, but most measures have been inadequate or slow, or both. They include relocation and resettlement efforts, a new border control police, and a deal with Turkey to stop refugees heading to Europe.
The plan to relocate 160,000 people more evenly across the EU was immediately controversial, as eastern countries like Hungary pointed out that refugees wanted to go to Berlin, not Budapest. The results are pitiful: only 331 have been relocated since September. The plans to resettle refugees from outside Europe have not been much better: only 779 of the 5,331 due in 2015 had been effectively resettled.
The Guardian reports on the crisis in Spain with forming a government there: “Spanish PM Rajoy turns down king’s offer to form new government”
Spain’s conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has turned down an offer by King Felipe VI to try to form a new government following last month’s inconclusive elections. The news, in a statement from Spain’s royal palace on Friday evening, followed a week of talks between the monarch and party leaders. In a statement, the palace said the king would begin fresh talks with the leaders next Wednesday in a bid to find another candidate.
Rajoy’s Popular party won most seats – 123 – in the 20 December election but that was well short of an overall majority in the 350-seat lower house of parliament. The king will now most likely call on the leader of the opposition Socialist party, Pedro Sánchez, to try to form a government. The Socialists came second in the election with 90 seats and appear to have more chance of mustering support from other groups in parliament to form a coalition.
The nominated candidate must win a vote of confidence in parliament. If no party leader manages to win parliament’s support within two months of the first vote, fresh elections must be called. No group had expressed any intention of voting for Rajoy, which made parliamentary approval for him highly unlikely.
Spain and ISIS
And on a different theme, The Independent reports that “Isis threatens attacks on Spain in latest propaganda video”
Isis has threatened attacks on Spain in their latest propaganda video, declaring: “We will recover our land from the invaders.” A map was previously shared showing the areas Isis plans to have under control by 2020, including Spain and large parts of Asia and Africa. The video shows an ancient map of the Iberian Peninsula turning red, the Daily Express reports, as part of the militant group’s goal to expand its boundaries into Europe.
Spain was ruled by Muslims after it was invaded in 711 by largely Moorish armies from North Africa, later becoming part of the Umayyad caliphate. Muslim rule declined after the 10th century and ended in 1492.
Three Moroccan-born men were arrested in Spain in November, accused of preparing to launch a Charlie Hebdo-inspired attack in Madrid. Europe’s deadliest attack by Islamist militants happened in Spain in 2004, when a series of bomb attacks on Madrid commuter trains killed 191 people. More than 100 people from Spain are feared to have travelled to join Isis militants in Syria and Iraq.
Military top brass last night welcomed David Cameron’s pledge to ‘shut down’ ambulance-chasing lawyers – but warned more still needs to be done to protect British troops from the legal witch-hunt over Iraq. As the Daily Mail revealed yesterday, the Prime Minister has promised a string of changes to legal aid and no-win-no-fee deals to try to stop lawyers hounding the Armed Forces with ‘spurious’ claims.
The changes include putting a new time limit on when claims can be lodged and introducing a ban on foreigners getting legal aid unless they have lived in the UK for 12 months. The blitz will help to stop new claims entering the system and halt the cash flowing to the lawyers who are hounding our troops. However, top brass say more needs to be done to protect soldiers already facing action.
In an unprecedented move, the Prime Minister is also threatening to sue law firm Leigh Day to recover millions of pounds it has claimed in costs. The news follows a Daily Mail campaign revealing how troops who served in Iraq are being mercilessly hounded by legal aid lawyers.
The Express has a story that claims “‘It’s too cold’ Refugees would rather return home than face European winter”
Almost 70 per cent of Iraqi asylum seekers have given up applications in Finland to go back to their war-torn country. One Iraqi who decided to return said Finland did not live up to the expectations. He said: “I don’t know what happens to me in Iraq, but here I will die mentally.”
Figures from the Nordic country’s immigration service revealed Finland processed 3,700 Iraqi asylum seeker decisions in 2015. Almost 2,600 of the decisions have now “expired”, meaning the applicants have either cancelled the process or disappeared. Juha Simila, head of asylum department at the Finnish Immigration Service, said applicants were disillusioned by the processing time.
He continued: “They have told us that family issues in their home country force them to go back. Some have found the Finnish atmosphere hostile and some have not stayed because of the dark autumn and cold winter.”
Meanwhile, Breitbart says “Germany Has LOST 600,000 Absconding Migrants Who Could Be In Other EU Countries By Now”
The German government has admitted it cannot account for 600,000 of the 1.1 million migrants who arrived into the country last year – raising concerns that the migrants have absconded into Germany and other European Union (EU) nations. Delays in processing applications may account for some of those missing, it is reported, buts other may have moved on to different EU countries, the Interior Ministry has confessed. The 1.1 million migrants registered with the German state’s ‘EASY’ system, operated by the German Ministry For Migration and Refugees. It does little more than record an applicant’s arrival and their country of origin.
Once migrants have registered, officials assign them a place where they are to be cared for, and where they can then make a full application for asylum. However, according to the Daily Mail, only 476,649 of the 1.1million migrants have so far turned up at their assigned destination and registered their asylum case there. That number breaks down as 326,529 men and 150,120 women.
The Independent leads with “GE Healthcare: US healthcare giant makes fortune from NHS but pays hardly a penny in tax”
One of the biggest suppliers of equipment and testing services to the NHS pays barely any corporate tax in the UK, despite receiving hundreds of millions of pounds a year from medical sales to British clinics and hospitals. A study of GE Healthcare’s accounts by The Independent suggests it has received more money back in tax benefits over the past 12 years than it has paid in, with the taxpayer appearing to be missing out on millions of pounds a year in lost revenues.
The company has been headquartered in Buckinghamshire since 2003 when its vast US owner, General Electric, bought the British multinational medical firm Nycomed Amersham. It makes scanners and other equipment used in areas such as oncology and heart disease.
Nycomed Amersham typically used to pay up to £8m in corporation tax to the Exchequer every year, plus £50m to £90m more abroad. But in the 12 years since its takeover by GE, the UK divisions examined by The Independent made a total net gain of £1.6m in benefits from the taxman.
Europe and the EU
Charles Moore of the Telegraph understands that Europe and the EU are different in “European civilisation is in danger of succumbing to the EU empire“:
Next month, unless there is a last-minute slip between Brussels cup and British lip, we shall be inundated with detail about what David Cameron has won from the EU. He will claim that his package will create the “reformed Europe” which he seeks. Indeed, he is saying it already, before he has actually got it.
Therefore, he will continue, the British people can confidently vote to remain in the EU. His Cabinet, though technically free to advocate a Leave vote, will all have endorsed his deal in advance, so any referendum rebels will be made to look self-contradictory.
There will be time to analyse the hectares (this is Brussels, so the word “acres” sounds wrong) of small print. Before that happens, I want to stand back and look at the European referendum choice from quite a different point of view. My question is: “Is the EU good for European civilisation?”
Here in Britain, we tend to think of the EU in a “transactional” way. We set off what we get out against what we put in, and calculate the profit and loss. (In literal financial terms, we lose about £10 billion a year.)
On the Continent, this is not how it works, though most member states fight hard for concrete national advantages. For the European elites, the EU is not a transaction, but a journey towards a new state of being. They may disagree strongly about policies, but not about the big idea. It is a case of “My Europe, right or wrong.”
More than 30 national charities and peers today publish an open letter to Iain Duncan Smith warning his cruel welfare cuts will force disabled people into poverty. Groups including Mencap, MacMillan, Parkinson’s UK, RNIB, the MS Society and Mind warn IDS’s planned £30-a-week cut to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will “push sick and disabled people further away from work and closer to poverty.”
The letter states: “We call on the Government to listen to the damaging effect this will have on the lives of sick and disabled people, and immediately halt this cut.” It comes ahead of a crunch vote on the hated Welfare Reform and Work Bill in the House of Lords next week. Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a crossbench peer who has signed the letter, told the Mirror: “The changes coming in this Bill have the power to make disabled peoples lives even more difficult. A significant amount of support is going to disappear.”
Whitehall Fat Cats
Bureaucrats in charge of Britain’s bloated aid budget are the best-paid in Whitehall – pocketing nearly twice the salary of average workers. The Department for International Development, which has £12billion a year to spend, has bucked austerity and is one of only two government departments where staff costs have gone up. Despite a string of reports showing waste and incompetence are rife in the department, the median salary at Justine Greening’s DfID is a generous £52,700.
Almost a quarter of civil servants in the department are now paid more than £60,000 a year. The Department for Energy and Climate Change is not far behind, with officials taking home an average of £48,420. The analysis, by the Institute for Government, also shows that DfID and DECC were the only two ministries in Whitehall where total staff costs have actually increased since 2010, despite deep cuts elsewhere.
The cost of the exorbitant salaries paid to DfID civil servants does not count towards the 0.7 per cent of national income that the government now has to spend on foreign aid. Five bureaucrats at the department took home more than the Prime Minister’s £150,000, once pension benefits and bonuses are taken into account.
The Express runs the same story.
Donald Trump and Women
The Guardian runs a surprising piece: “‘We love you!’ Conservative women turn blind eye to Donald Trump’s slurs”
Donald Trump does not like to be interrupted. He banishes protesters from his rallies; a woman in a hijab garnered international prominence when she was removed from a campaign event earlier this month. But there are exceptions to his rule. One morning this week, as a pack of Iowans gazed at the mogul-for-president without much wondering whether Sarah Palin would pop up next to him, Trump’s remarks on polling and winning and being “greedy for America” got cut off by the crowd – twice.
A woman near the stage was wearing his now trademark hat – bearing that slogan, “Make America Great Again” – which caught the attention of the candidate. Trump said he loved it, and she shouted: “I love you!”
Then there was the woman toward the back of the curtain-draped room in the corn-country suburb. This first-in-the-nation caucus state must be getting sick of him, Trump joked from behind his dais. “No!” the woman screamed out. “We love you!”
Church of England and Islam
The Telegraph features this piece: “Vicars should grow beards to reach out to Muslims, bishop suggests”
Bishop of London says priests with hipster-style facial hair in areas with large Muslim populations ‘can only be applauded’. It brings together the most unlikely of bedfellows from Prince Harry toGerry Adams and even – in many depictions – God himself.
Now the fashion for beards has been given the blessing of the Church of England, after one of the country’s most senior clerics praised vicars who grow them to appeal to Muslim communities around them. The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, singled out two East End priests who had cultivated bushy facial hair “of an opulence that would not have disgraced a Victorian sage”, for special praise.
More than simply a fashion choice, the move reflected a desire to “reach out” to the community in their Tower Hamlets parishes, a large proportion of whom are of Bangladeshi origin, he said. It is, he added, an acknowledgement of the fact that in many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures the hirsute appearance is more associated with “holy men” than hipsters.
Labour’s Ethnic Vote
The Guardian reports that Umunna to warn Labour over minority ethnic voter switch to Tories
Chuka Umunna will tell Labour on Saturday that it cannot afford to be complacent about its minority ethnic voters, saying “alarm bells should be ringing” about how many are switching to the Conservatives.
Although Labour still has a large lead among the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) electorate, Umunna, the former shadow business secretary, will say the Tories made considerable progress with these voters at the 2015 election and that they are trying to overtake Labour in having a greater number of BAME MPs.
Addressing the Unison national black members conference in Wales, Umunna will also announce that he and Keith Vaz, the chair of the Commons home affairs committee, are launching an inquiry to investigate what more Labour can do to retain and extend its minority ethnic support.
The inquiry, which will be independent from Labour HQ but which has the backing of Jeremy Corbyn, will publish terms of reference within the next few weeks and invite submissions from those wanting to give evidence.