Garvan Walshe: Merkel stood firm against her party’s worst instincts on immigration. And paid the price.

What would the lesser men who would bring her down have done: put migrants on sealed trains in their tens of thousands and send them – where, exactly?

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party. He runs TRD Policy.

“All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered to me; and to whomsoever I will give it.”

There comes a time in every politician’s life when they hear these words of temptation, spoken to Jesus by the Devil, as related by the Gospel of St Luke.

As in 2015 migrants trudged through Belgrade and Budapest, tracing, by the brute force of geography — since it is simply the way to Germany — the routes once tramped by Ottoman soldiers; as rumours, fanned by Russian propaganda including fake stories of a girl being raped by a refugee, swirled though social and conventional media; as voters began to drift towards the anti-Muslim Alternativ fur Deutschland, these words could be heard within the Germany’s ruling CDU/CSU –

“This is too much. Close the borders. We can’t cope.” These were the acceptable arguments. Beneath them the unacceptable ones: “they’re terrorists, rapists – and we’re losing votes”.

Tolerance of and exploitation of hate is the last temptation of the Right. Some, like Viktor Orban, give into it completely. Others make excuses. They are merely expressing the “legitimate concerns” of the left-behind (retweets aren’t endorsements, you know). Those “citizens of nowhere” are just bankers and businessmen who don’t pay their taxes – not members of an ethnic group whose stereotypes include bankers, businessmen and George Soros.

Sebastian Kurz in Austria, Laurent Wauquiez in France, Pablo Casado in Spain and Horst Seehofer of Bavaria all gave in. It was a temptation Merkel resisted.

Her decision to let in a million refugees in a year was not spontaneous charity. She acted in the circumstances that presented themselves to her. The lesser men who would bring her down had no practical alternative. What would they have done, as Germans: tear up the German constitution, close the borders, detain them, and put them on sealed trains in their tens of thousands and send them — where, exactly?

But it also shows her limitations.

Asking any society to accept a million refugees from an unfamiliar culture is not an act of uncomplicated generosity. It takes courage, hard work, and a considerable amount of money. It needs an active effort to integrate them into their new equal and modern society, considerably different even from Syria’s urban centres, and the courage to understand that many will build permanent lives in Germany, as so many Germans built lives in America as they fled persecution before.

Germans responded to this need in their millions. Teaching the refugees German, helping them find accommodation, offering them apprenticeships in their companies and refusing to give into prejudice when it turns out that, as with any group of a million people, some of them turn out to be wrong uns.

But Merkel was unable to make it into a defining moment for her country. This should be remembered as Germany’s finest hour, but on the Right, in particular, it is now frequently called her greatest mistake. Hers is a politics very much in the spirit of Helmut Schmidt: “people who have visions should go to the doctor.” Asked to share what she thought happiness was, she famously replied “well-sealed windows.” Though any German visitor wintering in a damp and draughty British house would come round to her point of view, this doesn’t quite seem up to the mark.

Not for nothing could her 2017 election slogan be freely translated as “Sensible policies for a happier Germany.” Unable to own her radicalism, she now finds her party losing votes, not only to her right-wing rivals, but in significantly greater numbers to the Green Party: defenders of the policy for which she will always be remembered. The Greens are now second in the polls at 24 per cent to the CDU/CSU’s 27 per cent.

In the end, the losses were too great. After a recent, heavy setback in Hesse, she announced her intention to stay on as Chancellor, but let go of the party leadership.

The Union has consisted of an alliance that might crudely be described an alliance of business-churhgoing-and-national-conservatives. Each faction has a standard bearer: Friedrich Merz, Annegret Kramp Kennenbauer, and Jens Spahn. It finds itself paralysed by the question of whether Germany should become an “immigration country.” It is the Christians who have organised so much of the assistance to refugees, especially in rural areas, whereas the hard right will never forgive Merkel for letting them in.

At their conference in December, CDU delegates will have to decide which wing to sacrifice.

Alexander Temerko: The relationship between business and government has never been as meaningless as under May

The key to a good Brexit is empowering UK entrepreneurs to talk to their European counterparts and become ambassadors for Downing Street’s plan.

Alexander Temerko is an industrialist and a Conservative Party donor and activist.

Never has the relationship between business and Number Ten been as meaningless or fruitless as under Theresa May. She continues to repeat the mantra that she is leading a pro-business government, but that is an exaggeration. Hers is not an anti-business government – that would be a more accurate way of putting it.

A pro-business government is what Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron led in their day; it’s what Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel are leading today. Despite her soft-spot for SMEs, our Prime Minister is undeniably afraid of global business.

Globalisation has shown that big business and public-private partnerships (something we hardly see in the UK anymore) are the real long-term drivers of a steadily growing modern economy. The presence of global business centres is what makes the difference between a country that’s prosperous and one that’s merely surviving. Indeed, such business is the powerful locomotive, pulling along SMEs and much of the socio-economic activity in the regions.

Business leaders have always been there to support May’s Government at the most critical times. Yet our “strong and stable” leader has repeatedly shunned any direct engagement with business in favour of sporadic consultations with the trade lobby, whose academic experts’ interests have long since been prioritised over representation of any actual economy sectors.

The Prime Minister has a presidential style of leadership. Her talent is for forming small, quasi-familial groups of trusted advisers. While David Cameron was comfortable working with big diversified teams, she seems reluctant to engage with the broad meritocratic audiences whose praises she so often sings. This desire to keep discussions tightly controlled has had a negative impact on almost every key policy decision taken to date. It is time to change.

Today, not only the country’s economy but also its integrity hinges on the UK business community backing the Brexit plans proposed by the Prime Minister and her Cabinet. No-one wants Brexit to be a disaster – but how to avoid it without break-through ideas and bold compromises?

The British economy will quickly lose its appeal should financial, industrial and services majors, driven by impending uncertainty and the fear of mounting responsibility to shareholders, relocate their headquarters and investment capital to more profitable jurisdictions with more predictable regulations. This could, in turn, trigger almost instant separatist rhetoric and action by the country’s subsidised regions.

Inside the eye of the Brexit storm, this outcome would be increasingly irreversible. People will start going by the saying “Better a painful ending than endless pain”. One person will certainly be delighted with a “painful ending”: his name is Vladimir Putin. Are we willing to afford him the pleasure? The answer is clear even to Jeremy Corbyn and Jacob Rees-Mogg, both of whom have been aiding this “painful ending” by holding on to his very own wrong end of the stick.

Europe would suffer, too. Take just one example from my industry: 70 per cent of our utilities are owned by European firms. Machinery and metal products are another trade goldmine for European business. At a time of escalating conflict with the US and sanctions or restrictions in trade relations with China, Russia, Iran and others, this is key. Europe just cannot lose Britain with its import-oriented economy as well. If that happens, countries right at the heart of Europe – France, Germany, Portugal, and to some extent Belgium and Holland too – will feel the pain.

However, in these countries, business is much more influential and integrated with the operation of Government. European business wants to live and wants to live well – which makes it our best ally in promoting a sensible responsible Brexit.

Businesses talk best with other businesses. They will not waste time talking when they don’t know if they are being heard by the Government, though. Hence, the key to a good Brexit is empowering UK entrepreneurs to talk to their European counterparts and become official ambassadors for the Government’s Brexit plan.

The other key piece of the puzzle is for May to accept the Irish border backstop – provided that the EU undertakes to guarantee our country’s integrity. This would restrain any spontaneous separatist movements in the UK, at least for as long as the EU continues to exist. If accession to the EU is all but impossible for any breakaway state, withdrawal from the UK would be pointless.

What happens if our Government does not create the broad coalition of business it needs and push bold compromises through? Quite simply, if there is no deal hammered out by December, a new election will be the only option to avoid the catastrophe of no deal.

If the Chequers plan falls through, it clear to almost everyone today that Parliament will not accept any other plan – be it Canada-plus, Australia-minus or a No Deal. The European Commission for its part, will not consider any new proposals, since none of them could get a majority in the UK Parliament and Europe will itself be moving into EU Parliament elections.

All that’s left are two options. They are both domestic – either a new referendum or another snap election. It is up to Parliament and our political elites to choose. They have to choose between their two great fears: the fear of a new election which is highly likely to mean a coalition government, and the fear of a new referendum that goes against Brexit.

Merkel might be going, but the common rulebook would still mean Berlin writing our rules

If you ask any cabbie who’s running the EU they are bound to mention Angela Merkel – at least for now. But if you asked anyone in the Foreign Office, it’s likely they would go through unheard of names like Antonio Tajani or Mário Centeno before they’d get to the German Chancellor. Even then, squeamish officials […]

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If you ask any cabbie who’s running the EU they are bound to mention Angela Merkel – at least for now. But if you asked anyone in the Foreign Office, it’s likely they would go through unheard of names like Antonio Tajani or Mário Centeno before they’d get to the German Chancellor. Even then, squeamish officials are likely to mention her as part of the wider group of EU leaders, without singling her out.

Germany’s formal position under the European treaties might be no different to other member states – in theory the European Commission makes proposals and the Council and EU Parliament make the decisions – but as the UK’s former ambassador to Germany, Sir Paul Lever, mentions in his recent book, it’s Germany’s view which is sought by the Commission before it acts, and other governments make sure they know what Berlin wants before they decide on a course of action.

The extent to which German decisions dominate is well-known by the left-wing firebrand and former Greek finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis. Before Eurozone meetings he would receive support for his ideas in private discussions with his EU counterparts, who were keen and willing to sort out the crisis. However, once seated round the table, the very same Ministers would defer to one man: Germany’s Wolfgang Schäuble. Representatives of ostensibly sovereign nations would flip their position completely if it became clear that the Germans had made their minds up on a proposal.

In Britain, former Cabinet Minister Iain Duncan Smith watched in frustrated amazement as Angela Merkel sabotaged Britain’s attempts to control immigration during David Cameron’s failed renegotiation attempts before the referendum. Later, Duncan Smith described it as if they were “sitting in a room even though they weren’t there. There was a chair for them, a German chair. They had a veto over everything.”

All this matters because if the UK plans to sign up to a ‘Common rulebook’ with the EU it will be Germany calling the shots. Recently Dyson attracted criticism for deciding to build a new electric car plant in Singapore. According to the firm, the decision was made “based on supply chains, access to markets and the availability of expertise, which offset the cost factor”. UKIP founder Alan Sked pointed out it might have also had something to do with the regulatory framework Britain is planning to sign up to. Why would a company trying to join a new market want an EU common rulebook written by their competitors? Kept inside the EU’s regulatory framework, the German government, under pressure from Audi and Volkswagen, could conceivably out-regulate their plucky British challenger.

As a recent paper by Roland Vaubel explained, if a qualified majority of member states within the EU which favour a high level of regulation gang up, they can impose higher regulations on the rest: “Thus, while regulatory collusion presupposes unanimity, the strategy of raising rivals’ costs merely requires a qualified majority.”  Vaubel says the anti-regulation coalition includes Ireland, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands but that various indices show that the UK has the least regulated labour market of all. If we stay tied to the EU, Britain is most at risk from damaging rule-changes.

We need to recognise that the ‘Common rulebook’ isn’t a neutral body of legal text. Like the EU itself, it is a mechanism which can – and will – be used to bend the rules to favour some nations over others. Few dare to admit this and credit is due to Sir Paul Lever who devastatingly exposes Berlin’s influence in his book Berlin Rules. Sir Bill Cash is another notable example who over the years has highlighted the hidden hand of Germany. But it’s time our negotiators recognised that the EU is not a federation of equals. Angela Merkel may be on the way out but Germany has consistently been the determiner of EU policy decisions and that won’t change after she is replaced. We must accept that if we decide to remain it will be Berlin, not Brussels, who will decide our fate.

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Syed Kamall: People in Brussels expect a Brexit deal will be struck, but fear time is running out

Meanwhile, my ECR colleagues and I continue to push for a sensible, nation-led approach to tackling the migration crisis.

Syed Kamall is Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and is an MEP for London.

Two things let you know when Brussels is hosting one of its frequent summits.

Overhead the security helicopters buzz continually across the city, often quite late into the evening depending on the world leader in attendance.

On the ground, the city’s traffic becomes even more gridlocked than normal as lanes are closed to ensure swift passage for the motorcades, the size of which is not always a reliable indicator of the occupant’s importance.

So anyone planning an early night, or hoping for a stress-free drive to work, was well advised to take some time off and head out of town as the European Union staged no fewer than seven summits in four days.

From Tuesday 16 October to Friday 19 October, the EU held: a Tripartite Social Summit; European Council summits discussing Brexit, the Eurozone plus a session on migration and security; the Asian-Europe Meeting; the EU-Republic of Korea Summit; and the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting. The latter, held over two days brought together the leaders of 54 European and Asian countries representing 55 per cent of global trade, 60 per cent of the world’s population and 65 per cent of global GDP.

While these summits were an impressive show of the EU’s internal and external diplomacy, many will ask what was achieved?

The flagship event was the set piece signing of free trade, investment, and partnership agreements with Singapore. When I was the rapporteur (lead MEP) guiding the EU-Singapore FTA through the European Parliament in 2013, I and MEPs across the political spectrum urged the Commission and Council to send it to us for ratification before the June 2014 European elections.  In the event, the EU insisted on re-opening the agreement to change the rules on investment protection, even though the agreement had been signed off.

The Singaporeans were naturally annoyed, but felt they had no choice, and are of course relieved that it will be sent to us before the 2019 elections.  However, this incident damaged the EU’s credibility in keeping its word on a signed off agreement. Maybe a warning to other future partners?

A trade accord was also signed with Vietnam. The great hope was to use the focus on these two agreements and the Asia-Europe Meeting to persuade China to ease restrictions on foreign investment, goods, and services. But talks failed to deliver a breakthrough, and a final communique omitted a call for an end to trade distortions after China insisted on changes.

Otherwise there was precious little to show for such intense diplomatic activity beyond warm words and general declarations. That was certainly true of two major challenges facing the EU: migration and Brexit. Despite both featuring on the EU Council agenda, no concrete action had been agreed when the red carpet was eventually rolled up on Friday evening.

On migration, at least the Council appears to be finally getting around to considering the policies put forward by Conservative MEPs and our colleagues in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group at the height of the crisis in 2015.

After the EU spent two years trying to force refugee quotas on often reluctant member states, EU leaders have now agreed that the way forward lies in improving the processing of arrivals to distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants, speeding up returns, securing borders, and seeking enhanced arrangements with third countries to stem the flow of migrants.

Meanwhile, my colleagues in the ECR group continue to push for member states to be asked how they are willing to help, rather than telling them how many people they should accept. Some countries will take in genuine asylum seekers, others will choose to help refugees closer to their homes and some will provide money to help front line countries.

If these common sense policies had been adopted sooner, and not dismissed as anti–European or populist, then the system would now be in better shape and perhaps more lives could have been saved.

The failure to make progress on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement was disappointing, but came as no real surprise. Before the summit there was no real sense that we were approaching the negotiating end game, and this was confirmed when leaders of the EU27 spent just 90 minutes discussing Brexit over dinner and had little interest in listening to Jean-Claude Juncker’s briefing on preparations for no deal. Rather than negotiating into the early hours of the morning and seeking to emerge with a compromise, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and two other Prime Ministers took themselves off for a post-dinner beer on the Grand Place.

Of course intense negotiations continue behind the scenes, and my discussions with diplomats have revealed more understanding that Theresa May’s position on the Irish backstop is not simply a negotiating stance or a bluff. It is a Prime Minister defending the constitutional sovereignty and geographical borders of a nation, and protecting a hard won peace.

These talks were always going to go the distance, and the pressure of having to reach a deal before the end of the year in order to give the British and European parliaments time to consider the agreement will focus minds. In seeking a legal text that satisfies both sides, the negotiators may look to their lawyers to turn the seemingly impossible into the possible, just as they did with the Danish opt outs in 1992 and Protocol 36 with the UK in 2014.

Most people I speak to in Brussels expect a deal to be agreed by the end of the year, or at the very latest in January. There are concerns any agreement may not be approved at Westminster or in the European Parliament, but for now the biggest fear is that we are running out of time.

In so many areas the EU’s negotiating stance is sadly defined by the politics of punishment, rather than economics

The news that Boeing has just opened a £40 million manufacturing facility in Sheffield to make parts for their latest 737 and 767 aircraft, which are assembled in the United States, serves to remind us that our world-class aerospace business is global and to torpedo the claims of Airbus – and some car manufacturers – […]

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The news that Boeing has just opened a £40 million manufacturing facility in Sheffield to make parts for their latest 737 and 767 aircraft, which are assembled in the United States, serves to remind us that our world-class aerospace business is global and to torpedo the claims of Airbus – and some car manufacturers – that Brexit will threaten jobs in the UK because it will cause havoc to the just-in-time manufacturing process. Boeing’s plans call for the production of 52 aircraft a month with thousands of parts being shipped every month to Portland, Oregon, so timely delivery will be just as critical to Boeing as it is to Airbus.

So, the question arises: if Boeing can operate a slick production process using parts made in Britain, shipped six times the distance to their assembly line compared to shipping Airbus parts from Bristol or North Wales to Hamburg or Toulouse (and BAE ship 15% of every single F35 Joint Strike Fighter to the Lockheed Martin plant in Dallas), what is Airbus’s problem? The answer lies not in economics but in politics.

As is increasingly clear, despite protestations to the contrary, elements of the EU really do want to punish the UK for having had the insolence to Leave and to deter other countries from following our lead. France seems to be the most determined to press for punishment, partly to try to seize the City of London’s business and partly to promote President Macron as the new EU leader as Angela Merkel’s grip weakens.

Recently there were reports, subsequently denied, that President Macron intended to require UK visitors to France to obtain visas whilst those Brits with homes in France would immediately upon Brexit become illegal visitors. Apparently, the word ‘not’ was omitted in translation and the proposed new law designed to prevent such action. However, Dominic Raab subsequently spoke about the possibility of France ‘deliberately’ delaying lorries entering the port of Calais.

Earlier this year, the EU announced the creation of a fund to develop new defence equipment, a programme from which the UK, home to Europe’s largest defence contractor and with the largest defence budget in Europe, was to be excluded. Furthermore, the UK is to be ejected from key parts of the EU satellite navigation programme, Galileo, despite having contributed £1.2 billion and constituting, through Airbus subsidiary Surrey Satellites, a key portion of the technology. Any reasonable person would ask where was the commercial, let alone defence, interest in excluding such a major European player. Again, the answer lies not in economics but in politics: the UK has to be punished even if it means damaging the defence interests of the continent.

As we approach the sombre commemorations of the centenary of the 1918 armistice which ended The Great War, it is worth pausing to reflect on the role of some of those nations who, in the famous words of Margaret Thatcher, ‘we either rescued or defeated’.  The British people have voted freely but decisively to Leave the EU, yet face punitive measures by some on the continent for whose liberation in two world wars this country and its Empire shed 1,300,000 lives. Whilst falling over themselves to secure favourable trade deals with the rest of the world, the EU’s leaders have adopted the reverse policy with their closest neighbour, refusing to discuss trade arrangements before sorting out an artificial problem of their creation by weaponising the Irish border, a clear solution to which has been proposed by the ERG and others.

In another example of the pathetic approach in Brussels, I understand that the EU’s aviation safety agency, EASA, is debarred from discussing with our CAA how we manage air travel post Brexit.  Given the UK’s prominence in air transport, with Heathrow being the most important transatlantic gateway airport in Europe, why is EASA not engaged in constructive debate? Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are members of EASA even though they are not EU members, so why remove the UK? Again, the answer lies in politics, not economics. They want to cause inconvenience, if not chaos, to rub home to the others the cost of recovering national sovereignty.

All this illustrates the fundamental naivety exhibited by the UK at the outset of the negotiations, namely that if we conceded and acted in a friendly fashion the EU would respond in similar vein, leading many Leave voters to question the motives of those in charge. We never acknowledged the determination of the Commission to protect The Project (to create the United States of Europe) and we failed to recognise the strength of the cards in our hands.

So we threw away the security card, offering unconditional support to the 27, only to be rewarded by exclusion from EU defence programmes. The Prime Minister offered to pay a staggering £39 billion of our money in return for – nothing. Well, if she thinks British taxpayers will tolerate that, I fear she is mistaken. I can no longer withhold my vote in Parliament, but I can withhold my taxes unless I see a fair trade deal is secured.

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