Most Europeans want less migration: survey

Just 10 percent say their countries should allow more immigrants.

More than half of Europeans want fewer immigrants to move to their country, according to a new survey published Monday.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed from 10 EU countries — Greece, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Poland, France, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Spain — said fewer or no immigrants should be allowed to move to their country, compared to a worldwide average of 45 percent, Pew Research Center found.

Thirty-five percent of European respondents said they wanted about the same number of immigrants to come to their countries, while 10 percent said their countries should allow more immigrants.

Large majorities in Greece (82 percent), Hungary (72 percent), Italy (71 percent) and Germany (58 percent) said fewer immigrants or no immigrants at all should be allowed to move to their countries. The number of people who supported less migration was less than half in France (41 percent), the Netherlands (39 percent), the U.K. (37 percent) and Spain (30 percent).

According to the study, many respondents also worry about people moving away to work in another country. Among the European countries surveyed, Greece and Spain — two countries that have seen significant numbers of people move abroad since the 2008 financial crisis — had the highest shares of people who said this was a very big or moderately big problem, at 89 percent and 88 percent respectively. Dutch (19 percent) and Swedish (18 percent) respondents worried the least about this.

The survey was published on the same day that more than 150 countries ratified an international U.N. migration pact that had triggered infighting in ruling parties and governments across Europe.

Read this next: UN members back controversial migration pact

Jeremy Corbyn


What U.S. President Donald Trump is to right-wing nationalism, Jeremy Corbyn wants to be to international socialism. That may not be exactly how he or his closest advisers would put it. But it is what many of them think.

The British Labour Party leader wants to make socialism great again — for the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe — and he believes 2019 presents a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to win power and transform the country. “With the British government weak and unstable, Labour is ready for a general election whenever it may come,” he says, in an email interview with POLITICO. “We’ve set out a radical plan to rebuild Britain, and we are ready to implement it.”

Like Trump, Corbyn promises national renewal after what he says are years of national decline. Like Trump, he promises to shake up the establishment and restore power to ordinary citizens — “Draining the swamp,” in Trump’s language; overturning “a rigged system that benefits the few,” in Corbyn’s.

Another lesson from across the Atlantic is that it would be a mistake to rule out the Labour leader’s rise to power. Were the 69-year-old radical to do the once-unthinkable and ascend to his country’s highest office, he — like Trump — would provide a boost to fellow travelers across the world. “The election of a Labour government will, I hope, encourage and give greater confidence to progressive parties and movements in Europe and beyond,” says Corbyn.

The internationalist left must not “partner in austerity” or “present themselves as the human face of a self-interested establishment,” he says. “If they do they open the way for the far right to claim to speak for those who have been failed and neglected by a broken system.”

Jeremy Corbyn at the memorial wall at the base of the Grenfell Tower | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

The only way to “keep the migrant- and minority-baiters at bay,” he says, referring to the far right rising across Europe, is “standing up together for what we know to be right.”

“We know that to deliver real and lasting social change, we need to work with allies across the world to create a new global economic and environmental common sense,” he says. “The old economic consensus based on supposed free markets and privatization has failed and broken down. Labour, with a new sense of purpose and hundreds of thousands of new members, is ready to help lead that change.”

Corbyn’s inner circle believes a snap election could easily be imminent — if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to push a Brexit deal through parliament, or is brought down by her party after ramming through an unpopular one. Those close to May agree, worrying that unless the Tories deliver a clean Brexit, and offer real change afterward, the country’s voters will look for an alternative. “It’s 1945,” says one former May aide. “You can win the war, that’s fine. But voters don’t thank you for what you’ve done, they want you to answer the next question.”

“Every step of the way, we will seek to build support for the new, close relationship with the EU that most people in the U.K. want” — Jeremy Corbyn

A Corbyn government could easily be as disruptive as Trump’s. He has promised to raise taxes, nationalize utilities and the railways, rein in the financial industry, scrap Britain’s nuclear deterrent, immediately recognize a Palestinian state and pull away from the “special relationship” between the U.K. and the United States.

And there’s every indication he plans to deliver (even if, like Trump, Corbyn’s advisers worry that their effort could be derailed by resistance from within the establishment). “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build an economy that puts the real wealth creators first — that’s all of us — not the financial gamblers, tax dodgers and mega corporations,” Corbyn says. “We are determined to seize it.”

On European affairs, the Labour leader takes a more measured stance. “We stand for a very different Britain after Brexit,” he says. “So every step of the way, we will seek to build support for the new, close relationship with the EU that most people in the U.K. want.” That, he says, means remaining in the EU customs union and retaining access to the single market. “We are leaving the EU but we will not turn away from our vital role in Europe’s future,” he adds.

Check out the full POLITICO 28 Class of 2019, and read the Letter from the Editors for an explanation of the thinking behind the ranking.

Plane trouble blows Angela Merkel off G20 course

Also in the press: No more spankings for French children and UN migration pact causes ructions.

United Kingdom 

The Guardian reported that Prime Minister Theresa May ruled out compromising with Labour to get her Brexit deal through parliament.

The Times reported that European leaders are prepared to offer Britain a three-month extension to Article 50 to prevent parliamentary deadlock triggering a no-deal Brexit.

— It is not “a debate which is about recreating the referendum debate of Leavers versus Remainers,” PM Theresa May said, referring to her decision not to include Boris Johnson or Nicola Sturgeon in her TV debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Sky News wrote.


Die Welt reported that the Bundestag had voted, after a heated debate, to support the U.N. migration compact.

FAZ reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel will miss the kick-off of the G20 summit in Argentina early Friday morning, after technical defects forced her aircraft to turn back to Germany.

— In Bülstedt, Lower Saxony, a man was apparently bitten by a wolf, reported Süddeutsche Zeitung. According to the newspaper, it is the first such attack in 150 years.


— Ahead of more Yellow Jacket protests on the Champs-Elysees, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the famous avenue will be closed to traffic this Saturday, reported le Figaro, while pedestrians will be subject to “systematic identity checks.”

— France’s parliament on Friday adopted a law against corporal punishment of children. “The end of spanking or slapping of children?” Le Monde asked.


De Standaard reported that according to a leaked report, Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon agreed in October to the “active promotion” of the U.N migration pact. Now, Jambon and his party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), oppose it.

Le Soir wrote that Yellow Jacket protesters continue to block some roads in the province of Hainaut.

Trump on Ukraine: ‘Let’s get Angela involved!’

Also making headlines: France’s Yellow Jacket row continues and Brexit pain in Britain.


— Amidst the escalation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Bild had an interview with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who told the paper “Putin wants the old Russian Empire back.”

FAZ picked up an interview U.S. President Donald Trump gave to the New York Post, in which he said he “didn’t like” the incident in the Sea of Azov and said: “Angela, let’s get involved Angela, [sic]” referring to the German chancellor.

Die Welt covered plans by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz to implement a new property tax. “Scholz’s impossible promise,” was the headline.

United Kingdom

— Prime Minister Theresa May is running into “further difficulties” after analyses released by the government and the Bank of England Wednesday found the U.K. would be better off in the EU in every Brexit scenario, the Guardian wrote.

The Times led with a line from the Bank of England’s report, which noted a no-deal Brexit would cause the “worst crash since 1930.”

The “i” outlined the four possible outcomes from the vote on May’s Brexit deal on December 11.


La Libération wrote that an official delegation from the Yellow Jackets protestors will meet with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe Friday.

Le Monde wrote that France’s Minister for Overseas Territories Annick Girardin is attempting to calm protestors on La Réunion, announcing reforms after a day of dialogue with the Yellow Jackets.

Le Figaro had a “behind the scenes” story on the ongoing crisis.

Italy covered Italy’s announcement that the government will not sign the U.N.’s global compact for migration.

La Stampa reported that Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio had published documents to show that he wasn’t working illegally on his father’s construction site after reports emerged the firm had hired workers under the table.

Peter Walker: By defining all construction jobs as ‘low-skilled’, the Migration Advisory Committee is making a serious mistake

The description is misleading, and will deter young people from entering the sector. Ultimately, it will constrain the labour supply needed to build more houses.

Peter Walker is a former Deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police. He now owns SuperSkills, a construction training business.

With all that’s going on in the world, or, to use the shorthand, Brexit happening, it’s not surprising news programmes are not covering as broad a range of subjects as usual.

Which is probably why readers of ConservativeHome have not noticed that their gas cooker was connected by a ‘Low-Skilled’ worker.  He or she had the requisite CORGI accreditation, will, in all probability, have served an apprenticeship, and will have been unable to work alone until an experienced gas installer had overseen enough work to certify his or her skills.  But that “experienced” gas installer is officially ‘Low-Skilled’ as well.

The risks associated with this are obvious.  Yet they have been compounded by the fact the electrician who wired the house is also ‘Low-Skilled’.  So now we have the potential for sparks from the electrics to ignite any gas leak the ‘Low-Skilled’ gas installer permitted to happen.

Mind you, the chances are the house will fall down anyway, because all the people who worked on it are ‘Low-Skilled’.

This is obviously nonsense.  But it is in danger of becoming Government-approved nonsense, because as part of the preparations for Brexit, the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee has decided that all construction trades are to be regarded as ‘Low-Skilled’.

That has implications, not least for the number of people coming into the trades. It’s been difficult enough trying to persuade schools to promote construction as a career for young people to consider without putting this additional obstacle in the way.

Trade rates of pay are now higher than they have been in ten years. Yearly earnings north of £50,000 are common. If you want to work in London, they can be even higher. A Head of Department in a school will earn on average about £43,000, but still the careers staff won’t promote construction as a valuable and rewarding career.

Tom Fitzpatrick, Editor of Construction News said recently: “Imagine the kids sitting in school hearing about ‘low-skilled’ jobs. Then ask yourself why any pupil would choose to pursue a trade, when the Prime Minister herself thinks it’s of secondary importance.”

(Actually, he’s not strictly accurate here, but she is getting some dreadful advice at the moment – that “jumping the queue” remark in her speech the other day being a prime example.)

Additionally, all the construction sector employers have all signed up to the Construction Skills Certification Scheme  to ensure the workforce has the right skills and qualifications for the particular jobs they are doing. The CSCS scheme is in danger of being undermined by this proposal.

I wonder if this decision has actually been informed by regard of perceived social status of construction workers by those who make up the Migration Advisory Committee – or is it just they are woefully ill-informed about the highly technical nature of the trades involved and the level of knowledge and skill required to undertake these jobs?

There’s another, far more important issue. Placing all the construction trades in the category of ‘Low-Skilled’ work means they cannot recruit skilled tradespeople from overseas using the Tier Two visa. When this applies to workers from the EU after Brexit, firms will not be able to recruit staff in the way they have in the past.

Further complications emerged over the weekend, with the announcement that ‘Low-Skilled’ workers will only be permitted to remain in the UK for 11 months under proposed arrangements for post-Brexit immigration.

There is little prospect of people who have gained construction skills and qualifications elsewhere wanting to move to this country for such a short period.

Construction employers are already struggling to find staff, and the Metropolitan Police are rightly concerned about the increasing role organised criminal gangs are playing in meeting some of the demand by worker exploitation and undeclared employment.

The construction sector needs at least 40,000 new entrants a year, just to keep pace with last year’s ministerial promises about house-building. Both political parties have added to these numbers since then.

About 9,000 people graduated from construction apprenticeship programmes last year, and the number of youngsters starting them has fallen in the last 12 months.

That’s a shortfall each year of 31,000. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out we actually need Pavlov the Plasterer as well as Bob the Builder if we are to build the houses the country so desperately needs and deliver the infrastructure required to support economic growth.

That’s why we need to start valuing people – regardless of their occupation – for the contribution they make to society – but in particular, to get away from this poorly thought out scheme that lumps all construction workers together with this blanket ‘Low-Skilled’ label.

The Migration Advisory Committee should think again – and if they don’t, ministers should reject their proposal.

12 Brexit bellwethers

Who to watch in the UK parliament to understand whether Theresa May is winning MPs over to her Brexit deal.

LONDON — Usually loyal Tory MP and former Defense Secretary Michael Fallon is the latest of Theresa May’s backbenchers to come out against her Brexit deal, calling it the “worst of all worlds” and “doomed.”

That’s bad news for the prime minister’s aides and party whips who are desperately trying to scrape together the votes to get the deal through in a vote scheduled for December 11. More than 90 of her own side have said they will vote against the deal and most other House of Commons factions are implacably opposed to the prime minister’s plan.

While a defeat is largely priced in, the size of a majority against the deal will be crucial to what happens next — a small loss might be surmountable at a second attempt while a big defeat might mean the end of May’s premiership.

Here is POLITICO’s guide to the MPs to watch in the run-up to the vote and beyond:

1. Dominic Raab

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

The former Brexit secretary has been pragmatic up to a point. A true Brexit believer, he was willing to accept May’s Chequers proposal — agreed by Cabinet in July and named after the prime minister’s country residence — in return for a seat at the Cabinet table. But Raab quit the government when the full extent of the Northern Ireland backstop commitment in the Withdrawal Agreement became clear.

He would contemplate Britain leaving the EU on March 29 with no deal. He has seen the details of government planning for a no-deal Brexit and says a no-deal scenario could be “mitigated and managed.”

But he still claims “modest and reasonable” changes to the backstop “exit mechanism” could salvage the agreement (even though getting such concessions is highly unlikely, and he failed to secure them in his negotiations with Brussels). He told the Sunday Telegraph there could be “conditions” to the exit mechanism to satisfy the concerns of the EU.

If May were able to secure further assurances on the backstop that satisfy Raab, then other pragmatic Brexiteers would follow, potentially helping May get the deal across the line at the second attempt.

2. Michael Gove

U.K. Environment Secretary Michael Gove | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Also in the pragmatic Brexiteer category is Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

The difference is that this high profile Vote Leave campaign figure has remained inside the government tent. He is reportedly less relaxed about the prospect of no deal than some Brexiteers, having been warned that leaving the EU without a deal could result in a shortage of chemicals used in water purification.

Inside Cabinet, Gove will be a crucial figure shaping what happens next if the deal is defeated. He was central to the Leave campaign’s “take back control” message so any plan B he throws his weight behind will instantly have a hearing with Brexiteer colleagues.

3. Lisa Nandy

Lisa Nandy | Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images

With the Conservative Party so deeply divided on Brexit, May will need Labour MPs like Nandy to get any agreement through the House of Commons.

The Wigan MP, whose town voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union, would find it hard to block Brexit, but wants to avoid the prospect of no deal. She indicated in an interview with the New Statesman that she could back a deal with a U.K.-wide customs union to avoid the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

But she made clear on Sunday that the deal, as it stands, does not meet that test and she wants to see Article 50 extended so there could be a process of “dialogue and consensus” with the country.

If May can convince more Labour MPs like Nandy who represent strongly Leave-voting constituencies to back the deal — or a tweaked version of it at a second attempt — then she has a chance of offsetting the votes of rebels in her own ranks.

4. Andrea Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The Leader of the House of Commons — who was a prominent figure in the Vote Leave campaign and stood against May in the Tory leadership race that followed the vote — has, like Gove, been loyal to May so far (bar the odd pizza-fuelled plotting party).

Like other Brexiteers who have remained in the Cabinet, Leadsom has accepted the compromises inherent in May’s deal. If MPs reject it, she will be a key bellwether for any plan B.

5. Steve Baker

Former Brexit Secretary Steve Baker | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The former Brexit minister runs a slick messaging operation within the Brexiteer European Research Group faction on the Conservative backbenches. Many MPs take their lead and form their arguments from information posted in the ERG WhatsApp group.

Get Baker behind a proposal and he will likely persuade a few dozen MPs to follow his lead.

But his support would likely come at the cost of endorsement from many other MPs across the House of Commons. Baker advocates a WTO Brexit —  meaning no Brexit deal with the EU and trading on World Trade Organization terms — above a deal which would keep the U.K. in the EU regulatory sphere.

6. Jeremy Corbyn

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn | Chris J. Ratcliffe/AFP via Getty Images

Labour’s six tests make it almost impossible for the party to back May’s deal as it stands.

The Labour leader has made it clear he is more interested in obtaining the keys to No.10 Downing Street than helping the Conservatives get a deal through parliament.

Unfortunately for Labour, the prospects of a general election look slim because two-thirds of MPs would have to vote in favor to trigger one before the end of the government’s five-year term — including a lot of Tories. Labour’s policy in the event that an election is blocked is to support “all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”

So if a general election is prevented, will Corbyn push wholeheartedly for a fresh referendum? And if so, what would the question be?

Corbyn’s support for a second vote would be essential to get such a vote off the ground because a new act of parliament is necessary to make it happen.

7. Keir Starmer

Labour’s Brexit secretary Keir Starmer | Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

The other key figure shaping Labour’s Brexit position is its shadow Brexit secretary. Fail to secure a general election or a second referendum and the Labour Party must decide between no deal or a plan B.

Starmer’s support would be needed if Labour was to countenance an “off-the-shelf” membership model, such as joining the European Free Trade Association (along with Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).

But although a softer Brexit would be more palatable to plenty of Labour MPs, many of their constituents are keen to see the end of freedom of movement — something that would remain in place under a Norway model. On its own, it would not fix the Northern Ireland border issue.

8. Nick Boles

Nick Boles | Will Olivier/EPA

The orchestrator of the so-called “Norway Plus” option of joining EFTA combined with a customs arrangement with the EU, Boles has been in discussions with Tory colleagues and Labour MPs about the feasibility of the plan. He also has close connections with Cabinet ministers including Gove.

Boles is a good barometer of where the more pragmatic, less ideological Conservatives stand.

His idea has evolved from a so-called “Norway for Now” model, which would have been a soft Brexit bridge, to a looser future relationship, to an “indefinite commitment” to membership of EFTA and the European Economic Area.

9. Stephen Kinnock

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The Labour MP was an early backer of a Norway-style Brexit — a sign there are members of the opposition who would support an off-the-shelf closer relationship with the EU.

Any soft Brexit plan B would require considerable support from Labour, given that such a model would be even less acceptable to most of May’s Brexiteer backbenchers than the current deal.

10. Nicky Morgan

Nicky Morgan | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Enter no-deal territory, and loyal Remain-voting Conservatives become a crucial force in the cross-party parliamentary arithmetic.

A handful of Conservatives have thrown their weight behind a fresh referendum, but not yet enough to command support across the House of Commons.

Remainers like Morgan, who are deeply opposed to no deal but have not advocated a fresh referendum, will become crucial.

As things stand, Morgan is loyally supporting the prime minister’s deal. But if parliamentary deadlock makes a no-deal Brexit a serious prospect and a second public vote becomes the only way out, Morgan and others like her will need to decide whether to swing behind it.

11. Sylvia Hermon

Sylvia Hermon | Press Association via Belga

At such a dramatic moment for May, every vote counts. Like Morgan, Hermon, the one independent Northern Irish MP, will be a barometer of what could be tolerated to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Hermon is “not happy with everything” in the deal, but thinks there is no time for alternatives, according to the BBC.

12. Stephen Gethins

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, (L), accompanied by Stephen Gethins | Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty images

If May’s deal is voted down, preventing no deal would almost certainly require opposition parties to coalesce behind an alternative course of action. The Scottish National Party’s Brexit spokesman will be crucial in articulating what this alternative might be.

Nicola Sturgeon, whose party has 35 MPs in Westminster, held exploratory talks with Corbyn this month. Watch out for any SNP alliance with Labour for clues about what the joint opposition to no deal and May’s plan could be.

Read this next: Brussels fears Trump-Xi deal at Europe’s expense

Spain threatens Brexit ‘veto’

Also making headlines: Theresa May ‘fighting on two fronts’ and Italy’s budget battle.


Spain’s press focused on Brussels and London as the country threatens to veto the Brexit deal over Gibraltar.

— Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Thursday tweeted that after a phone conversation with his British counterpart Theresa May, their “positions remain distant,” El País reported. Spain wants to ensure that any future trade deal between the EU and the U.K. would not apply to Gibraltar, unless explicitly agreed between the U.K. and Spain bilaterally.

— The Brexit deal has to stipulate “with total clarity” that any matter related to Gibraltar will always have to be negotiated between Spain and the United Kingdom — or Spain won’t support it, el Mundo wrote.

La Razón reported on Spanish EU Minister Luis Marco Aguiriano’s claim Britain secretly amended its position on Gibraltar.

United Kingom

U.K. papers, meanwhile, were consumed by the domestic opposition to May’s deal.

The Guardian wrote that the PM is “fighting on two fronts to save her Brexit negotiation strategy”: her own backbenchers on the one hand and European leaders on the other.

— MPs including Boris Johnson told May to “dump the backstop” plan for avoiding a hard border in Ireland, saying it “makes nonsense of Brexit,” the Telegraph reported.

Sky news ran an analysis of why the British government dropped the word “frictionless” when discussing a future trade deal with the bloc.

The Mail, meanwhile, splashed the PM’s demand let her “Get on with it!”


Italian media covered the ongoing dispute between Brussels and Rome over Italy’s budget plans for 2019.

— La Reppubblica ran an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio, who insisted that while Italy is open for dialogue with the bloc on its 2019 budget, it will not change any “main pillars.”

Il Giornale reported Italian PM Giuseppe Conte is showing signs he’s willing to reshape some aspects of the budget.


Germany is debating asylum law again, after conservative leadership challenger Friedrich Merz questioned whether the fundamental right of asylums should be maintained in its current form.

FAZ reported the CDU leadership candidate toned down his comments on Thursday, saying fundamental right for asylum should be maintained but restricted.

Der Spiegel wrote that Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was “surprisingly clear” in stating that deportations to Syria are currently not an option, even if the person in question has committed a crime. This comes after the CDU’s Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, another challenger to replace Angela Merkel as party chief, recently demanded criminal asylum seekers be deported back to Syria despite the ongoing civil war.


France covered the ongoing “yellow vest” protests and Nicolas Hulot’s first interview since he resigned from government in August.

BFMTV said French President Emmanuel Macron will unveil new policy in response to the so-called yellow vest protests next Tuesday.

— Le Monde reported that several demonstrators called the police after they found migrants hiding in a truck during the protests. Their claim they were “better than customs” sparked accusations of racism.

Le Figaro liveblogged the interview with former French Environment Nicolas Hulot, in which he talked about renewable energy, carbon tax and the ongoing protests.

Hillary Clinton urges Europe to curb migration to stop populists

Former US presidential candidate said leaders must show they can no longer ‘provide refuge and support.’

Europe needs a tougher approach on immigration in order to curb the growing threat of rightwing populists, Hillary Clinton said, calling on EU leaders to show their electorates that they can no longer “provide refuge and support.”

“I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” Clinton said in an interview with the Guardian published Thursday.

The former U.S. Democratic presidential candidate suggested that immigration concerns in part contributed to Britain’s vote to leave the EU — which Clinton has previously described as the “greatest self-inflicted wound in modern history” — as well as her election loss to Donald Trump.

While Clinton said she admired German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her “compassionate” approach, she said it was “fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message — ‘we are not going to be able to continue [to] provide refuge and support’ — because if we don’t deal with the migration issue, it will continue to roil the body politic.”

The Obama-era secretary of state also said Trump exploited the issue of migration during his 2016 election campaign and continues to do so in office.

“The use of immigrants as a political device and as a symbol of government gone wrong, of attacks on one’s heritage, one’s identity, one’s national unity has been very much exploited by the current administration here,” she said.

“There are solutions to migration that do not require clamping down on the press, on your political opponents and trying to suborn the judiciary, or seeking financial and political help from Russia to support your political parties and movements.”

Read this next: Trump denies CIA implicated Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi murder

Theresa May appeals over MPs’ heads for Brexit support

MPs on all sides of the House of Commons attacked the prime minister’s Brexit deal.

LONDON — Theresa May needs the country to save her.

The U.K. prime minister has a deal with Brussels, but nowhere near the numbers to deliver it in parliament, the body whose sovereignty Brexit is designed to restore.

Facing renewed criticism from all sides of the House of Commons, May looks increasingly unlikely to convince a majority of MPs to back the Brexit deal. And she’ll only have a matter of weeks to turn this around after EU leaders meet this Sunday in Brussels to formally approve both the text of the U.K.-EU divorce agreement and a separate political statement setting out a framework for future relations.

The 26-page Political Declaration, agreed in principle Thursday but still subject to minor amendments, is the document that is meant to map out the U.K.’s future once freed from the shackles of the EU. If the 585-page legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement is the foul-tasting medicine that Britain must take to extract itself from the EU, the declaration on the future is the sweet sugar to help that bitter pill go down.

Contained within are, for example, commitments that the U.K. will have its own trade policy and be able to end free movement — two of the prime arguments for Brexit — as well as promises of close security cooperation.

“Without going for an off-the-shelf model [for the future relationship] it’s impossible to give people the confidence in where we are heading” — U.K. minister

To be sure, there are less palatable compromises as well, but May will hope that the document does enough to win round some of the scores of her own MPs who are currently threatening to vote down the deal.

In the House of Commons Thursday, she made her pitch to MPs from all sides, hailing “a good deal for our country” and urging them to pull back from the brink.

Few showed a willingness to do so. From right to left, pro-Brexit to anti-Brexit, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National Party and Tory, they railed against the deal on offer. The Conservatives alone are three MPs short of the 318 working majority needed to pass a deal. By some counts there are already more than 80 MPs who have vowed to vote it down.

“She’s boxed in badly,” one minister texted to say as he sat in the House of Commons chamber listening to the attacks pile up on the PM. “Without going for an off-the-shelf model [for the future relationship] it’s impossible to give people the confidence in where we are heading.”

Officials across the political spectrum have criticized May’s Brexit deal | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Given the dire numbers in parliament, May is no longer limiting her pitch to parliament. The public at large is now her audience.

Before addressing MPs, the prime minister strode out of Number 10 Downing Street to appeal directly to voters. “The British people want this to be settled,” she said. “They want a good deal that sets us on course for a brighter future. That deal is within our grasp and I am determined to deliver it.”

The document agreed between the European Commission and the U.K. on Thursday appeared to unite the key political factions in parliament ranged against May’s plan.

While the prime minister was able to claim that her plan met all of the Labour Party’s tests and all of former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s at the same time, this only worked to confirm concerns on both sides that the political declaration did not really deliver anything at all.

The document leaves the shape of Britain’s final settlement with Brussels to be decided after Brexit. The U.K. can choose a tightly-bound Norwegian-style relationship or a looser free trade deal like Canada’s for Great Britain, with special arrangements for Northern Ireland.

In her House of Commons statement, May highlighted that the Political Declaration “ends free movement once and for all” and contained an “explicit reference to development of an independent trade policy” — both key demands of Euroskeptics in her party.

Tory MP and Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has spoken out against May’s Brexit deal | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

She also trumpeted the success in fending off an EU demand to trade off access to U.K. fisheries. “We would become an independent coastal state, with control over our waters so our fishermen get a fairer share of the fish in our waters,” she said. “We have firmly rejected a link between access to our waters and access to markets.”

But Brexiteer Conservative MPs, including Johnson, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and chair of the Euroskeptic European Research Group Jacob Rees-Mogg, all criticized the document following May’s statement.

Johnson told MPs that “nothing in this Political Declaration changes the hard reality of the Withdrawal Agreement, which gives the EU a continuing veto over the unilateral power of the entire United Kingdom to do free trade deals or to take back control of our laws.”

He added: “We can accept the generalities and self-contradictions contained in this Political Declaration, but we should junk forthwith the backstop, upon which the future economic partnership — according to this Political Declaration — is to be based, and which makes a complete nonsense of Brexit.”

In a similar vein, Raab said: “The top reason people voted to leave the EU was to take back democratic control over our laws. Isn’t it the regrettable but inescapable reality that this deal gives even more away?”

May’s Northern Irish backers, the Democratic Unionist Party, also renewed their criticism, as did the opposition Labour party.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the political declaration as “26 pages of waffle.”

Concerns among Brexiteers still center on the Northern Ireland backstop, the legal guarantee to avoid a hard border in Ireland and the bitterest pill to swallow for many Brexiteers in the Withdrawal Agreement published last week.

While Johnson called on May to “junk” the backstop, fellow Brexiteers Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson, both of whom had lobbied May to change her Brexit plan, declared themselves unsatisfied.

Brexiteers also expressed concern that the Withdrawal Agreement and future relationship provided for a continuing indirect role for the European Court of Justice.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the political declaration as “26 pages of waffle.”

May said, in response to criticism, that it was her “firm intention” that the backstop would never come into force and that the U.K. would instead have entered a permanent, fully-negotiated future relationship by the time of the next general election, scheduled to take place by June 2022.

On Saturday, May will travel to Brussels for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, designed to ensure there are no last-minute problems before EU leaders meet on Sunday to sign off both the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration.

May will then have a matter of days to rally the country, her party and parliament behind the deal before a vote in the House of Commons, expected some time in the first week of December.

Asked how it was looking Thursday afternoon as he sat a few feet away from the prime minister on the front bench, the Conservative minister texted back: “Ropey.”

Read this next: Brexit text says transition can be extended by ‘up to 1 or 2 years’

Pedro Sánchez sets sights on Brussels

As the UK is leaving and Italy is ruled by populists, the Spanish PM tells POLITICO that his country can step up to the plate.

MADRID — Pedro Sánchez sees an opening in Brussels — and he intends for Spain to fill it.

Less than six months after taking power, the Socialist prime minister is leading in national polls and looking to raise his international profile, in part by claiming a stronger role for his country on the European stage, alongside Germany and France.

With the U.K. leaving the EU, Italy’s populist government in a standoff with Brussels over budget rules, Poland’s in a dispute over rule of law, and migration still the central policy fight among EU members, there’s a place at the EU top table up for grabs.

“Spain has to claim its role,” Sánchez told POLITICO during an interview at Moncloa Palace, the government headquarters.

“I declare myself a militant pro-European,” he said, sitting on a white leather chair beneath a painting by Joan Miró. “I believe that the challenge facing the EU is to write a new social contract that we are not going to be able to build or write at the level of the member states, and we have to do it at a joint level, at the level of the EU. And in that sense, with the misfortune of Brexit, with the anti-Europeanism that Italy, the Italian government, is showing right now, I believe that … the axis that should be articulated is that of Berlin, Paris, Madrid — to which I would also add Lisbon.”

Catalonia remains Sánchez’s Achilles heel, both at the national and the international level.

Sánchez’s push at the European stage contrasts with his fragility at home, where he heads a government with the smallest parliamentary backing in Spain’s democratic history — casting doubt over his ability to achieve anything meaningful in Brussels. While Sánchez’s international approach could help burnish his credentials as a statesman, he’s never won a general election (although most observers predict he will try to do so next year).

Sánchez is under fire from the conservative Popular Party and the liberal Ciudadanos while relying on difficult, ad-hoc agreements with the far-left Podemos and regional parties from the Basque country and Catalonia to get anything done in Congress. Adding to his problems at home are the many U-turns and apparently ill-conceived initiatives that his Cabinet has been forced to rectify since June.

Sánchez has, however, demonstrated that he knows how to capitalize where his influence is potentially greatest. He put himself at the forefront of the immigration debate in June by accepting refugees when other countries refused. And he has spoken out against Brexit — telling POLITICO he would favor a second referendum — undeterred by the inevitable critical comparisons to Madrid’s handling of Catalan separatists.

Dialogue and disputes

Catalonia remains Sánchez’s Achilles’ heel, both at the national and the international level.

The Spanish leader has adopted a softer approach than his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy on the rebellious region. He advocates dialogue and greater autonomy as a way out of the conflict. He has also left the door open to granting pardons to the 18 Catalan leaders who will face trial before the Supreme Court for last year’s secession push — which saw an illegal referendum and declaration of independence. They could be sentenced to decades in prison.

“I can’t pronounce myself on the eventual use of that instrument,” Sánchez said. “But I say one thing: Pardons exist because they’re a constitutional mechanism.”

Earlier this year, Sánchez seized on a corruption case involving former officials from the PP to call a no-confidence vote against Rajoy — the first time a sitting Spanish leader has been toppled from power by parliament. Secessionist lawmakers backed that motion of no confidence and the Socialist leader has relied on their support to pass some bills in the parliament. The government has also called on them to back the national budget proposal for 2019, something they’ve vowed not to do.

Catalonia’s new pro-independence Cabinet led by Quim Torra has so far refrained from openly defying the law, but Torra maintains an aggressive rhetoric against the Spanish state, which he describes as driven by an “insatiable spirit of revenge.”

Elsa Artadi, the Catalan government spokesperson and a regional minister, said there is no difference between the Rajoy and Sánchez administrations regarding Catalonia, citing ongoing “repression” against pro-independence leaders. “The only difference is that the words were more amiable in the first months [of Sánchez’s mandate]. But there has been no change regarding the deeds.”

While Catalan secessionists can’t bring Sánchez’s government down, they can make life difficult for him in Congress — for instance, derailing the PM’s plans for a fresh budget with increased social spending. Also, given Spaniards’ views on the issue — more than half back the jailing of Catalan officials and 49 percent advocate reimposing direct rule on the region, according to a recent survey by La Vanguardia — the crisis could affect the Socialist leader’s electoral prospects if he is seen as too soft on the separatists.

Catalan regional President Quim Torra | Josep Lago/AFP via Getty Images

The opposition sees fertile ground in Sánchez’s softer approach and the separatists’ confrontational tone. The PP and Ciudadanos advocate reimposing direct rule and are waging a fierce campaign against the Socialist leader, whom they accuse of kneeling before the separatists.

They also accuse the prime minister of using his seat at La Moncloa to wage a long, costly electoral campaign and portray him as someone who’s willing to retain power –and its privileges— at any cost.

“Sánchez has decided to break with constitutional-minded parties and turn populists and nationalists into his allies,” said Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera. “He’s opted for the [British Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn way … while Ciudadanos is in convergence with [French President Emmanuel] Macron’s liberal democrats.”

Sánchez quickly made clear that leading a minority government would not hold him back.

However, Sánchez accuses the PP and Ciudadanos of moving toward the far right. He said he’s “really worried” about Vox — a far-right party which has never won a seat in parliament, but is rising in polls — because “parties like the PP and Ciudadanos are assimilating the far-right strategy and rhetoric.”

Grégory Claeys, a researcher for Bruegel, a think tank, said Madrid may have felt the negative effects of the Catalan crisis on the European stage at the peak of the independence push last year, but no more. “Now it’s barely discussed in Brussels and I don’t think it plays any major role,” he said.

Style overhaul

At times it was not clear if Rajoy, Spanish prime minister for more than six years, felt held back in Brussels more by the country’s economic crisis and the controversy in Catalonia or by what rivals portrayed as his disinterest in European affairs, his lack of English and evident discomfort in front of the international press.

What is clear is that Sánchez feels no such constraints. He has lived in New York, earned a degree in politics and economics from the Free University in Brussels, worked as an assistant in the European Parliament, and served as adviser to the United Nations high representative in Bosnia.

Where other insurgent leaders might have kept their focus on home affairs after pulling off the no-confidence vote against Rajoy, Sánchez quickly made clear that leading a minority government would not hold him back. Days after taking office in June, Sánchez announced that Spain would accept more than 600 migrants who were stranded aboard the rescue ship Aquarius, after Malta and Italy refused to accept them.

It immediately won Sánchez plaudits in Brussels.

Several migrants celebrate next to a Spanish policeman in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in northern Africa, after they managed to jump the border fence | Reduan/EFE via EPA

Sánchez has also benefitted from adopting what might be viewed as the political equivalent of the tiki-taka strategy that turned Spain’s football teams into the world’s best. Unlike Macron, who rushed onto the European stage with a bold agenda, only to be quickly swatted down by fellow leaders, Sánchez has spread the field and picked his moments.

Italy’s budget standoff with Brussels provides such a moment — for Sánchez to side with Brussels and push back against Italy’s Matteo Salvini and others criticizing the EU by noting that the budget rules being enforced by the European Commission are rules that Italy itself helped draw up.

“What you cannot do is question the Stability and Growth Pact [the EU’s fiscal rules]. I know that the EC is being enormously flexible, but also clear about the need to comply with the rules. In the end, these rules were not imposed on Italy or Spain. We have given them to each other … We must therefore comply with them.”

Sánchez — virtually overnight — has become the most prominent social democratic politician in Europe.

Sánchez also criticized Austria, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, for refusing to sign the U.N. global compact on migration — the first international, non-binding treaty on migration. “It seems to me a mistake,” he said, adding: “I believe that the EU must move forward and unfortunately no steps are being taken in terms of migration policy.”

As a champion of stronger cooperation on migration, reform of the eurozone with greater integration on monetary policy, and other center-left policies that have fallen out of favor in many countries across Europe, Sánchez — virtually overnight — has become the most prominent social democratic politician in Europe, ahead of Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and Sweden’s Stefan Löfven (who’s now running the country in caretaker mode).

Asked if he feels the responsibility of such leadership, Sánchez replied: “No doubt about it.”

As for the decline of the center left across Europe, Sánchez said: “We must never stop believing. Social democracy is more alive than ever in Europe despite the fact that the number of social democratic governments has fallen.”

Brexit mistake

Just as Sánchez has not rushed in on many issues, he has not overplayed his hand on Brexit — an issue on which Spain has much at stake.

In the interview with POLITICO, which took place the week before the draft divorce deal between the U.K. and the EU was unveiled, Sánchez warned that no good would come from Brexit.

He also advised his British counterpart Theresa May to call a second Brexit referendum “in the future,” so that the U.K. could return to the European club “in another way.”

He’s already raised the voice against the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the U.K. Madrid wants to have an explicit legal guarantee that the agreement on the future relationship won’t be applied to Gibraltar unless Madrid allows that to happen.

Sánchez and British Prime Minister Theresa May | Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

“As of today, if there are no changes with respect to Gibraltar, Spain will vote no to the agreement on Brexit,” Sánchez said at an event in Madrid Tuesday.

The Spanish leader said he will put on the table the issue of “shared sovereignty” over Gibraltar during the negotiations on the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU.

“Shared sovereignty is something we need to talk about, as is the issue of the airport [the joint use of which was dropped from the first stage of negotiations],” Sánchez said, adding that he expects these “sensitive issues” could be dealt with “in a bilateral negotiation” between the U.K. and Spain during the transition period.

The idea of shared rule was discussed in the early 2000s — and overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Gibraltar in a referendum in 2002.

It’s the sort of historical issue that Sánchez would clearly relish tackling, but that will probably have to wait until he wins a national election — if he wins a national election. Polls suggest that he would, and Sánchez seems to be eyeing 2019 as the year to put his popularity to test. But in the interview, he wouldn’t commit.

Asked if he knew when he planned to call an election, Sánchez laughed and said: “I have an idea.”