UK immigration policy is chaotic

This week the European Commission will publish a report on EU migration, labour and welfare access. It comes just as the government proposes its new Immigration Bill, and as EU Commissioner László Andor takes the Department of Work and Pensions to the Court of Justice for Britain’s ‘right to reside’ test on certain migrant benefits.   Continue reading…

Blackouts? The EU’s already freezing

At the Labour party conference last week, Ed Milliband promised that, if elected in 2015, he would freeze energy prices for 20 months. This promise, worth around £120 per household, prompted cautious optimism from the left, who are focusing on the ‘price of living crisis’, and scorn from much of the centre and right. Continue reading…

UKIP – moderates in disguise?

UKIP supporters have probably had a week to forget, after Godfrey Bloom MEP referred to a room full of women looking to engage in politics as ‘sluts’, then refused to discuss the all-white cover of a UKIP brochure, and finally struck C4’s Michael Crick with said brochure. Bloom, who was UKIP’s defence spokesman, has attracted media attention in the past for his ‘bongo bongo land’ comments and inebriation in the European Parliament, has had the whip removed.

The question the public should be asking is, whether Bloom is an anomaly or ‘just the tip of the UKIP iceberg’, as claimed by Mary Honeyball MEP (Labour, London). Nigel Farage quickly withdrew the whip, which helped to cover up a gaffe of his own: the claim that there were more immigrants in 2010 than the last 1,000 years. Such hyperbole hardly needs debunking, but got some in the Guardian anyway.

For UKIP to be a truly Titanic-breaking iceberg, it is important for the majority of members under sea level to be less Bloom and more Tim Aker.

Tim Aker, UKIP’s new policy czar, is actually working within the laws and rules of the European Union. His new NHS policy, announced last week, seeks to prevent ‘welfare tourism’ – the fear that migrants come to Britain to use the NHS without paying for it through tax or national insurance. The stand-out message in his announcement is its moderation.

Aker’s suggestion is that non-EU migrants have to provide health insurance details before registering with a GP for regular check-ups, i.e. proving their ability to pay as the law demands. This isn’t especially centrist, but more measured than former UKIP policies such as forcing incoming migrants to undergo tests for communicable diseases. Emergency treatment would remain universally free at the point of delivery. The present government was considering a similar scheme.

There is considerable debate over the reality and extent of health tourism. EU rules don’t allow member states to limit access to EU nationals, but do not prohibit new policy for non-EU citizens. It is already law that non-EU migrants must pay for their healthcare (until they become naturalised Britons after five years) but this is seldom enforced, since the overburdened health service doesn’t have the resources or motivation to chase up and invoice patients. Doctors don’t want to act as immigration officials.

Aker’s other announcements mirror a blend of coalition goals: to raise the personal allowance above a year’s minimum wage salary, and to lower corporation tax just below Irish levels. The latter proposal may raise eyebrows, but these polices taken together are in line with libertarian ideology, would be at home in many Conservative or US Republican pamphlets, and follow the logic of a 2010 Civitas research paper.


British banking bashes Brussels

The City will be breathing not one but three collective sighs of relief this week. EU initiatives which would have harmed London far more than any other member states. The Financial Transaction Tax, short selling restrictions, bond sales rules and Libor regulation all seem to be going Britain’s way.

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A eurosceptic alternative for the centre-left from Ukip founder

Professor Alan Sked, who founded the United Kingdom Independence Party in 1993, has symbolically rejected his creation. Like the proverbial Dr Frankenstein, he’s afraid that Ukip has become monstrous, describing it as ‘anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant’, ‘too racist’ and ‘too extreme’.

Sked, an international history professor at the LSE, actually left Ukip in 1997 but this new turn is not just words. He has founded another Eurosceptic party, the centre-left ‘New Deal’, fully registered with the Electoral Commission. Policies include opposition to the Coalition’s ‘bedroom tax’, ending benefits for those earning over £100,000 p.a., and railway nationalisation.

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Renegotiation goals: a flexible EU

Civitas has taken up the challenge of David Cameron’s proposed EU renegotiation. In a detailed study out today, Glyn Gaskarth examines the breadth of Union powers and describes what the UK should reclaim, and how.

He shows that we have ‘considerable diplomatic assets’ as a contributor to the EU budget with a ‘net trade deficit’ with the continent. This leverage could let member states repatriate powers in agriculture, fisheries, finance and migration, giving individual countries the right to tailor their arrangements.

Britain can be assertive and optimistic in the upcoming renegotiation of EU membership, working with other non-Eurozone states to form a more competitive arrangement, Gaskarth argues in Fighting for a Flexible Union. The government has failed to set out its own ambitions for such a move, but plans must be made to show European allies that Westminster is serious.

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Brazil’s lesson – customs unions are too big and fail

Brazil is in the news a lot at the moment. Today their embassy is outraged because a Brazilian citizen, David Miranda, was controversially held at Heathrow on anti-terrorism laws for nine hours.His partner Glenn Greenwald, who broke the Edward Snowden surveillance revelations, has accused the UK of abusing its own law – a charge not addressed by Foreign Secretary William Hague on Radio 4 this morning.

Brazil has been a talking point all week, if not all month. As one of the ‘BRIC’ countries, fast-growing economies, it’s never far from the spotlight. It’s the host of the next Olympics and next World Cup, the world over is worried at the scale of protests and riots in Rio de Janeiro.  Brazil’s even received a visit from the new pope.

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Fax democracy? Norway has more clout than you know

Norway is in the news thanks to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s publicity stunt. The Labour leader is campaigning for re-election in September, and decided to mirror Henry V at Agincourt by going incognito to get the public’s real views – in this case moonlighting as a taxi driver rather than a soldier. Continue reading…

Did Home Office ‘Go home’ vans backfire?

A Home Office initiative to seize control of migration seems to have backfired after being panned from all sides, derided as an Australian import and undermined by the Liberal Democrats. Continue reading…