Dublin asylum rules reform is not EU ‘blackmail’

by Luke Lythgoe

Reports that the European Union could propose scrapping as early as March the ‘first country of entry’ asylum principle known as the ‘Dublin Regulation’, sparked outrage across British media. In an article in The Daily Mail on Thursday Jan 21, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan called the move a “blackmail threat” to force Britain to join the EU’s “scheme for sharing out migrants and refugees”.

Hannan argues: “If Britain doesn’t agree to take migrants from other EU countries, it will no longer be able to return illegal entrants to the ‘first country of entry’. Migrants will, in effect, be waved through to Dover.”

The current Dublin regulation favours northern European nations by allowing them to send asylum seekers back to the country in which they arrived in the EU – currently Southern European countries such as Italy and Greece are seeing the largest number of new arrivals. If this policy was fundamentally reformed, Britain’s real choice will be between any new policy agreed at EU level – possibly a migrant quota – or to opt out, in which case the asylum law will revert back to the UN Convention on Refugees. That would mean that the UK would have to process any asylum-seekers who arrived here rather than being able to send them back to another EU country.

Until a detailed formula emerges, the number of refugees potentially arriving in Britain under a migrant quota cannot be calculated. The Telegraph suggests a migrant quota could result in Britain receiving 90,000 refugees. Whether exaggerated or not, this figure dwarfs the 12,000 asylum seekers we’ve been able to return to other European countries, since Dublin started in 2003 (roughly 1,000 per year). This is a drop in the ocean compared to net migration to Britain of 336,000 last year. If Brussels really wanted to blackmail Britain into taking more refugees, overhauling Dublin does not offer much leverage.

Hannan’s claim of “migrants waved through to Dover” could hold water, if, hypothetically, France takes such umbrage at Britain’s opt out they scrap the bilateral agreement to keep prospective migrants in Calais (see 1.1).  However, he fails to mention previous comments by French politicians suggesting Brexit could have the same result – effectively pulling back UK border control from Calais.

In response to a request by InFacts for comment, Hannan wrote: “Quod scripsi scripsi”, the Latin for what I wrote, I wrote. This expression was famously used by Pontius Pilate in the Bible when Jewish priests objected to the inscription “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” on the sign hung above Jesus at his crucifixion.

Luke Lythgoe is a journalist at InFacts, a new enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU. This article is being published here because the InFacts website is still under construction.

Edited by Yojana Sharma, InFacts Editor

This post has been updated after Hannan responded to our request for comment, Hugo Dixon, InFacts Editor-in-Chief

MEP combats Brexit myths with UKIP fantasies

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes

UKIP MEP William Dartmouth, the party’s National Spokesman on Trade, has hit out at suggestions the UK should follow the Norwegian or Swiss models for trading with the EU, saying we don’t need a trade agreement to “access” the European single market. While we can certainly trade with EU countries without being in the single market, EU single market membership makes that trade a great deal easier and more profitable.

In a letter to the Financial Times, on Jan 22, Dartmouth said the Norwegian model is not UKIP’s preferred post-Brexit model, and “it never has been”. That’s largely true, though the party’s 2005 manifesto said the Norwegian model could be an “appropriate temporary framework” while a long-term post-EU model was negotiated.

He also asserts Switzerland has never been UKIP’s model. This is untrue; the party’s 2010 manifesto said it would “withdraw from the political EU superstate, and maintain a trade-based relationship… using a Swiss-style free trade agreement”.

It would be unfair to blame Dartmouth for being confused about UKIP’s official plan, if only because the party doesn’t appear to have one. UKIP’s current line – repeated by Dartmouth – is that they want a “bespoke UK-EU trade agreement”. It remains to be seen precisely what that would mean. In the event that UKIP got their wish, the uncertainty over negotiation would be bad for exporters.

Dartmouth suggests we could “trade with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules”, following in the footsteps of “six of the top 10 exporters to the EU, and 11 of the top 20”. It is true the United States and China, for example, do a lot of trade without a trade agreement with the EU, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do more trade, and be better off, with such an agreement in place.

Dartmouth concludes his letter by conflating single market access with trade. He says “a country does not need to be a member of the EU, or of the EEA… in order to have “access” to the EU’s single market”.

“Access” to the single market does not just mean trade with EU states, it is about adopting common standards and regulations, including environmental regulations. Being inside the single market means benefitting from measures including tariff-free trade between EU states, and significantly reduced non-tariff barriers.

If we want to continue to benefit from such measures, we will need to be a member of the EU or EEA, both of which UKIP appear to rule out. It would still be possible to trade with EU member states without any sort of agreement in place – it simply would not be on terms as favourable as those we currently enjoy.

InFacts contacted Mr Dartmouth’s office, but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Sam Ashworth-Hayes is a journalist at InFacts, a new enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU. This article is being published here because the InFacts website is still under construction.

Edited by Yojana Sharma, InFacts Editor.

Labour Leave get their facts wrong

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes

The ‘Labour Leave’ campaign launched yesterday, putting a leaflet titled “6 reasons to leave the EU” at the top of their new website. With seven bullet points on its front page, the title of the leaflet is misleading. The contents aren’t much better.

The leaflet opens with the claim that “the UK gives Brussels £50m every day, £350m every week, £19 billion every year – nearly 20% of the EU’s budget”.

This is easily rebutted. Not only don’t their sums add up – 52 weekly payments of £350 million make £18.2 billion, not £19 billion – but the numbers are plain wrong. The UK’s notional contribution to the EU was £17.8 billion in 2015, but after deduction of the £4.9 billion UK rebate, the amount the UK actually paid over in 2015 was £12.9 billion.

Even using the actual figure would be misleading if it was intended to suggest that Britain would save that much by leaving the EU. That is because the EU spends money in the UK– see our full analysis here.

The leaflet goes on to assert that “UK exports to the EU have shrunk from 51% to 43%”.

What these figures actually refer to is the proportion of UK exports that go to other EU countries. From 2007 to 2014, this fell from 51% to 44%.

The fall didn’t happen because UK sales to the EU plummeted. Despite the intervening recession and subsequent eurozone woes, the total value of UK exports to the EU actually rose from £194 billion to £229 billion in that period. In real terms, that’s roughly level.

What these figures show is that other countries around the world are buying British. That doesn’t tally with the argument that we’ll be better off “unshackled from the EU… free to make our own agreements with new powerhouse economies such as Brazil, the Philippines and Commonwealth members like India”.

Moreover, other even if EU countries are taking a smaller share of our exports, arguing that the UK would be better off out makes little sense. Reducing access to a market that accounts for 44% of our exports would hardly be good news for producers.

The next part of the leaflet argues that “freeing our NHS, railways and public services from inefficient private contractors is under threat from the USA TTIP trade treaty”. Leaving aside the suggestion that the state would do things more efficiently, the European Commission has consistently stated that public health services would not have to be opened to competition from or outsourced to private providers, and safeguards have been written into the EU’s TTIP negotiating position.

Moreover, as the Commission pointed out, under the EU’s proposals the UK would be free to bring outsourced services back into the public sector so long as they respected property rights – which are already protected under UK law.

Labour Leave also say that agriculture accounts for a small part of the EU economy, but subsidies for farmers take up rather a large part of its budget. The Common Agricultural Policy, Labour Leave says, raises prices for Europeans, and pushes Africans into poverty.

Recent evidence shows the effect of the CAP on world markets is “relatively minor” and that there isn’t a simple way of showing that the CAP is “unambiguously favourable or unfavourable” for developing countries, but most of Labour Leave’s points are correct.

What they aren’t is an argument for the UK to leave the EU. Outside the EU, the UK would not be able to push effectively for reform of the CAP. Indeed, without the more free-market influence of the UK, the EU might even strengthen its existing agricultural policies.

The leaflet goes on for several pages. It does not improve beyond the first. After castigating the EU for failing to enforce animal welfare rules, it complains on the same page that the EU is too interfering. It states that the ‘latest polls’ show Leave in the lead, but it quotes data from November. Other, more recent data and the poll of polls show ‘Remain’ in front.

The leaflet also quotes Toyota CEO ‘Aido Toyoda’ saying “We will continue to make cars in the East Midlands if Britain were to leave the EU”. Mr Toyoda, whose first name is Akio, has said no such thing.

It’s no wonder that the leaflet found that “the UK will thrive out of the EU”. If you don’t pay attention to facts when you argue your case, you can justify any conclusion.

Sam Ashworth-Hayes is a journalist at InFacts, a new enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU. This article is being published here because the InFacts website is still under construction.

Edited by Geert Linnebank, InFacts Editor.

Brexit could make UK steel’s problems even worse

by Luke Lythgoe

UKIP thinks the way to help Britain’s struggling steelworks is to quit the European Union, impose anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese imports and subsidise the industry. At best the steel industry’s agony would continue, at worst Brexit could leave it more vulnerable. What’s more, UKIP’s policies could damage other, bigger industries.

The British steel industry’s main problem, which has led to thousands of job losses in the past year, is China’s economic downturn. Chinese steelmakers have turned to the export market to compensate for slackening domestic demand. In 2014 the UK imported 687,000 tonnes of steel from China compared to 303,000 tonnes the year before (point 34). The price is also much lower than European steel imports, leading to allegations of dumping (selling a product in another market at less than its normal value).

UKIP, which didn’t respond to InFacts’ questions on its policies, says EU membership means Britain “can’t act to prevent the dumping of cheap Chinese steel”. This is true: as a member of the single market, the UK cannot unilaterally impose anti-dumping tariffs; these are determined by the European Commission for the bloc as a whole.

But would Britain really stand alone against China if it quit the EU? George Osborne heralded “a golden decade for the UK-China relationship” in Shanghai last September. A month later, when China’s president visited the UK, the Chinese agreed to invest £6 billion in the new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, with the two countries securing contracts worth a total of £40 billion.

The two countries also stepped up their cooperation to develop the City of London as a centre for trading renminbi, China’s currency. What’s more, the government wants the EU to recognise China as a market economy, against the wishes of other members such as Italy. If Britain quit the EU and unilaterally determined that China was a market economy, it would find it harder to argue under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules that Beijing was dumping steel.

Even if the pro-Chinese Tories lost power in the post-Brexit chaos, would another government risk retaliation by unilaterally imposing anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel?

The fact that the EU takes up to 15 months to complete anti-dumping investigations, compared to a more rapid US process, has rightly been criticised. But it does have 23 ongoing anti-dumping investigations into Chinese products under way.

At present, if the EU takes any action, Beijing is unlikely to single out Britain for retaliation. But post Brexit, if we took unilateral action against Chinese steel, Beijing might well pick on the UK. Given that we would no longer have safety in numbers, our government might therefore be less keen to take action against Chinese imports than the EU is now. A trade war between the UK and China would also be more one-sided than one between the whole EU and China. Hence, Brexit might mean there was less chance of anti-dumping tariffs being imposed to protect our steel industry.

UKIP also criticises the EU’s ban on state aid on the grounds that it renders Britain “powerless to prop up industry in this country without permission from Brussels”. But if the government quit the EU and then subsidised the steel industry, that wouldn’t help much. Other trading blocs, including our former partners in the EU (to which 52% of our steel exports go), would then be able to impose anti-dumping tariffs on our industry.

What’s more, if a post-Brexit Britain did resort to state aid for steel, the EU would be more reluctant to give its other industries access to the single market. Services, accounting for 80 percent of our economy, are particularly vulnerable since they are barely covered by WTO rules.

Contrary to UKIP’s claims, leaving the EU wouldn’t help the steel industry. It might make its plight worse while harming other British industries.

Luke Lythgoe is a journalist at InFacts, a new enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU. This article is being published here because the InFacts website is still under construction

Edited by Hugo Dixon, InFacts editor-in-chief

Tabloids in muddle over German petrol tax idea

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes

“Germany plots tax on BRITISH motorists to cover growing bill for its 1.1 million migrants”, said The Express this morning. The Sun’s take was: “Motorists could be hit with a new petrol tax to solve Europe’s migrant crisis”.

This was certainly an innovative way of reporting a hypothetical example of a policy, which the UK could veto, and which has already met with strong disapproval in Germany.

To start with, Germany has made no firm policy proposal. Its finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble floated the idea as something that could be done if there wasn’t enough money in national or European Union budgets to deal with the strains of the refugee crisis. Not only wasn’t Schaeuble making a firm proposal, there appears little chance the idea could become German government policy. The deputy leader of his own party knocked the idea saying the party was “strictly against” tax increases.

What’s more, any such tax would require a unanimous vote to gain EU approval. This means Britain could veto such a tax in the unlikely event that Germany did at some point propose it. The German finance minister even said that if some countries weren’t willing to pay, “we’ll build a coalition of the willing.” Oddly enough, neither The Express nor The Sun mentioned this comment or Britain’s veto.

Sam Ashworth-Hayes is a journalist at InFacts, a new enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU. This article is being published here because the InFacts website is still under construction

Edited by Hugo Dixon, InFacts editor-in-chief

Carswell wrong on snooper rights

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes

Douglas Carswell has misinterpreted a European Court of Human Rights ruling as giving “employers… the right to read their employees’ private messages”. UKIP’s only MP also railed against “a major change to UK law.” He is wrong on both counts.

The case involved a man who complained that his Romanian employer had violated his privacy by reading his instant messages. The ECHR ruled that there had been no breach of privacy in this instance.

But that doesn’t give employers carte blanche to access private messages. There were special factors in this case: for example, the employee denied in writing that the account in question had been used for anything other than professional purposes. Other ECHR judgments, where the circumstances are somewhat different, have upheld employees’ right to privacy.

What’s more, there is “nothing in the judgement that would prevent the UK or Romania putting in place stronger protections for personal privacy if they wanted to,” according to Michael Burd, partner at the law firm Lewis Silkin.

Carswell is also wrong to say this case changes UK law. Not only does the ruling not directly apply to Britain as it was not party to the case. Here, the law already allows employers to look at your communications provided they “made it clear that if you used company kit to communicate” they could do so, according to Burd.

The UKIP MP isn’t the only person who got the wrong end of the stick about this ECHR ruling. The Express initially said EU judges handed down the ruling. After InFacts pointed out that the ECHR was not an EU institution, the paper corrected this.

After InFacts asked Carswell to correct his piece, the MP said he hadn’t got it wrong. We hope he will think again when he has had a chance to review the evidence.

Sam Ashworth-Hayes is a journalist at InFacts, a new enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU. This article is being published here because the InFacts website is still under construction

Edited by Hugo Dixon, InFacts editor-in-chief

Cologne attackers long way from passport to UK

by Luke Lythgoe

The New Year’s Eve sex attacks in Cologne by gangs of men from North Africa and the Middle East have shocked Europe. But UKIP’s claim that the culprits will get unfettered access to Britain in three to four years is incorrect. Anybody with a criminal record won’t get German citizenship at all. Even asylum seekers without criminal records will have to wait roughly a decade before getting a German passport.

On his weekly phone-in on LBC Radio on Jan. 8 Nigel Farage said that gangs of “aggressive young males” in Cologne could soon travel to Britain under the EU’s principle of freedom of movement. “After a period of about three years, maybe four, they will be able to get German passports and a German passport is an EU passport, which is a British passport.” The UKIP leader made a similar statement on Jan. 11 during his IWA debate against Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Barring exceptions of “public policy, public health or public security”, holders of German passports have the freedom to enter, live and work in the UK. Whether the Cologne sex attackers will ever get German citizenship is a different matter.

According to North Rhine-Westphalia state’s interior minister, 19 men are under investigation in connection with the attacks. Ten are asylum seekers, nine of whom arrived in Germany after Sept. 2015. Another seven could be in the country illegally. None is German.

As a general rule, anyone (even a Brit living in Germany) needs to have eight years of legal residence in Germany before they can apply for citizenship. Asylum seekers cannot begin their eight years of legal residence until asylum is granted. This has typically taken one to three years. Therefore, a newly arrived asylum seeker can expect to receive German citizenship in roughly a decade.

But it isn’t simply a matter of time. Germany also requires people to have an adequate knowledge of German and the ability to support themselves financially before they get citizenship.

Most importantly, they must also have a clean criminal record. Whether their crime is linked to the Cologne attacks or another offence somewhere down the line, this stipulation would stop criminals acquiring the “passport to Britain” Farage says is around the corner. Some may even be deported. After all, the German government has just announced legislation under which non-Germans committing offences that carry a jail sentence of one year or more can be kicked out of the country.

UKIP failed to respond to questions from InFacts about Farage’s remarks. But it’s clear his claim that the Cologne sex fiends will effectively have a British passport in 3-4 years is untrue.

Luke Lythgoe is a journalist at InFacts, a new enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU. This article is being published here because the InFacts website is still under construction

Edited by Hugo Dixon, InFacts editor-in-chief