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Why Cameron should stay clear of an ‘emergency brake’ on EU free movement
David Cameron’s ‘immigration speech’ is expected to take place very soon.
As we have noted several times, one of the options that he potentially could go for is an “emergency brake” - the ability to impose temporary restrictions on the number of EU migrants who come to the UK.
We can see why this would be appealing politically - but we fear that if Cameron does announce something like this, without having a clear vision for how it would work exactly in practice, it could turn into another net immigration target. Sounding very good in an election manifesto - but ineffective in practice.
We’ve made this point a few times but to elaborate, here’s why:
An emergency brake would be targeted at flows of new EU migrants not the existing stocks. UK Ministers have previously spoken about the need to manage âdestabilising flowsâ â however, this remains a vague term that could mean many different things. Pinning down what would constitute a destabilising flow could prove incredibly tricky. For example, the graph below shows that current flows are not proportionately higher than previous flows and remain small as a share of the workforce (relevant for their impact on wages). In general, if the bar is too high, the mechanism will never be used. If too low, the brake would become a long-term rather than temporary measure â a de facto limit â and be tremendously hard to negotiate in Europe.
It is very difficult to codify objective criteria for pulling an emergency brake â particularly any that apply to the UKâs current situation. The UK economy is booming, unemployment is falling, EU migrants have high employment rates and the UK takes less EU migrants per head than several other EU member states. All these most obvious criteria won’t work for the UK. It’s hard to claim to be the best performing economy in Europe and simultaneously claim to have a ‘crisis’ so bad that special treatment is required. It would also be impossible to predict all the future challenges migration could pose.
Possibly the most compelling argument the UK could use at the current time is that certain local areas are facing high pressures on public services and housing supply. However, restricting EU migration to certain areas of the UK would be very difficult to administer in practice, while national restrictions would be a disproportionate response to local problems. The impact of migrants is also hard to discern in exact terms given other domestic policies regarding housing and local services.
What the UK would effectively be asking for is a âtime outâ from EU migration â which is largely a result of understandable political pressures. However, this necessarily makes the criteria for pulling the âemergency brakeâ politically arbitrary â and in turn tougher to negotiate in Europe. There’s not a government in Europe, it now seems, that doesn’t have a populist challenge. Should Spain be granted dispensation too?
It’s also difficult to sell at home. There are precedents in EU law for restricting either free movement of persons or the other EU freedoms. So in that sense, an emergency brake wouldn’t be completely out of character for the EU. All of the existing ‘brakes’, however, are policed by the European Commission and the European Court of Justice â would a domestic audience be happy with such an arrangement? Furthermore, at the very best the brake is likely to be temporary and may only delay flows rather than actually reduce them. It would have to be activated for a very long time in order for it to really reduce net flows in the long-term.
In addition, if âcost of livingâ is to be cited as a reason for pulling the emergency brake, it means accepting that there is a âcost of living crisisâ â a move that would any UK Government would be politically loathed to make in public.
If someone can come up with a criteria for how to capture all the potential variables, then we’re open to suggestions. But it would be foolish to announce such a big policy on such loose grounds. As we’ve argued repeatedly, writing the headline first, and the policy later, rarely works.
Saving Peatland With the President
Today we made history in the protection of Indonesian peatlands. Iâve just got back from a monitoring trip to Sumatraâs devastated peatland forests with Indonesiaâs new president Jokowi, where the president witnessed firsthand ongoing peatland and rainforest destruction and took decisive action to stop it. With your support, we have just made a major step forward in the battle to protect forests and the climate.
President Jokowi made his visit to support Abdul Manan, a villager from Sungai Tohor, a small community in fire-ravaged Riau province. Manan had petitioned the president to come witness for himself the devastating impacts on the province of decades of forest and peatland destruction by the pulp and palm oil industries.
We knew President Jokowi was serious right away. When bad weather aborted his initial helicopter flight to visit Mananâs village, the president cancelled an invitation to speak at a palm oil company conference in order to stay an extra day in Riau and wait for the weather to clear. By his words and his actions, the president showed his commitment to a new form of government. âWe have to get strict with these companies, no more indulgence. Why should we let business make a prize of our natural resources while we stay silent?â he said after his first flight was turned back.
So this morning we were given the all clear. The flight was on. Our flyover included the peatland ecosystem of the Kampar peninsular and Padang Island, where we saw for ourselves evidence of recent clearing and draining by APRIL. APRIL is the only major pulp player still involved in active forest and peatland destruction hereâ the root cause of the massive fires that plague the region every year, disrupting the lives of millions, compromising wildlife and the stability of the global climate.
When we arrived at a makeshift helipad in Sungai Tohor, the whole community turned out to meet the president. I stood with the local people as President Jokowi rolled up his sleeves, took off his shoes and socks and stepped into the waters of the canal. Taking up a plank and thrusting it into the bottom of the canal to seal the community-built dam, he said he didnât want to see our nationâs forests disappear for the sake of acacia and palm oil plantations. âAnd peatlands canât be underestimated, they must be protected because they constitute a special ecosystem, and itâs not only deep peat that must be protected, but all peat areas,â he said.
How the times are changing, and for the good! Greenpeace activists together with the local community first started building dams here in Riau to stem the devastation of these critical peatlands in 2007 and 2009. Then we were confronted by the police for our actions. It would have been hard for Greenpeace activists to believe that just a few years later the president himself would be taking the same action and promising sweeping changes.
And changes are certainly critical if Riauâs peatlands are to be restored and permanently protected. These include strengthening and extending a moratorium on new permits on primary forest and peatlands and a review of plantation, forestry and mining leases as part of the national âOne Mapâ approach. Today Jokowi hinted that he would pursue these reforms, but weâll need to keep up our campaigning and our dialogue with him. He needs to know that this really is what people want. We rely on your support for that.
The final and welcome surprise today came from Jokowiâs newly appointed Minister for Environment and Forestry, who accompanied us to Sungai Tohor. Siti Nurbaya announced that she would revoke the permit of a plantation concession adjacent to Mananâs village that residents have been protesting for years, and return the land to the community in the form of a collectively managed village forest. Today has been a day of celebration not just for the Sungai Tohor community, but for everyone who is part of the Greenpeace community.
But now one thing is certain. The palm oil and pulp companies destroying Indonesia’s beautiful forests, along with their powerful allies, wonât take this bold move by the new president lying down. We need to stand with Jokowi so he can keep acting for the common good.
Longgena Ginting is Greenpeace Indonesiaâs Country Director.
Government spying undermines climate action
Unless youâve been living in a hole in the ground or in a galaxy far, far away you wonât have missed media revelations about government security services snooping on our every communication.
Personal phone calls and e-mails are among the data routinely scooped up and stored for possible later scrutiny. It makes a mockery of the notion of personal privacy.
As private citizens we express, or supress, our outrage and get on with our day-to-day lives. We call, text and mail our nearest and dearest with our most intimate secrets. In the back of our minds we hope that âsomeoneâ is there to prevent the descent into an Orwellian dystopia. Or we ignore it and reckon it doesnât affect us.
When individuals snoop, itâs called âhackingâ and they are pursued to the ends of the Earth. When governments do it, itâs âsurveillanceâ and they get off Scot-free.
Private and government communications compromised
Governments, too, rely on electronic communication to exchange their most intimate secrets and that includes their negotiating positions in international talks, such as those on climate change.
Decisions about cutting carbon pollution are serious business and impact on trillions of dollars of present and future investments. And vested interests have the upper hand if they know the positions of their opponents.
Whatâs the most likely outcome of a card game where your hand is on the table while other players hold their cards close to their chests?
The odds are already stacked against developing countries that face the brunt of climate change impacts. Their disadvantage in protecting themselves against the âdark artsâ of electronic eavesdropping makes them even more vulnerable.
Big Brother has been watching all along. For all we know, the outcome of the UN climate talks opening in Lima, on 1 December, may already have been compromised.
Copenhagen Climate Summit hung out to dry
In an article, âFor the NSA, espionage was a means to strengthen the US position in climate negotiationsâ, the Danish publication âInformationâ raised the question as to whether electronic surveillance by the US National Security Agency contributed to the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit, in 2009.
The summit was billed as the moment when the worldâs nations would reach agreement on achieving significant cuts in carbon pollution. As âInformationâ put it, some called the summit the most important of its kind since the end of World War II. More than a hundred government leaders participated. Never before had so many heads of state been gathered outside the UN headquarters in New York.
According to the article, the Danish climate minister and her staff took special care to keep track of every paper copy of a Danish draft proposal. If handed out, each copy was collected again at the end of the meetings.
But this was before Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, blew the whistle on all-pervasive electronic snooping. Back in 2009, no security precautions were taken to protect the Danish document in electronic form.
An accompanying article, “NSA spied against UN climate negotiations“, cited a leaked document reporting that the US National Security Agency (NSA), along with its close partners from intelligence agencies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK â the so-called Five Eyes - âwill continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategiesâ.
It appears that at an early stage in the Copenhagen process, the NSA had intercepted information about the position that the Danish government - the host of the conference - had as its bottom line. If so, this would be crucial intelligence. The US government would know that it didnât need to shift its position â if they held out, the rest of the world would come to them.
A further article by âInformationâ, âLegal experts: Illegal to spy on Denmark and the UNâ, referred to the view of legal experts that, “It would constitute a violation of both Danish laws and international conventions if the U.S. National Security Agency spied against Denmark and the UN climate summit COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009″.
Not only the NSA
The NSA is not alone in its spying effort. In an article published on 1 November 2014, âInformationâ reported, âThe British intelligence service GCHQ has spied systematically against international climate change summitsâ.
The article says that a âFebruary 2011 PowerPoint presentation lists the annual UN COP summits from 2007 to 2010 as targets of GCHQ espionage, including Copenhagen’s COP15 in December 2009, although it is not clear if the service spied on COP14 in Poland in 2008. According to the presentation, GCHQ was also deployed against the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change (MEF), a meeting for the world’s top economies which took place in Paris in the spring of 2009 as a part of the preparations for the summit in Copenhagen later that yearâ.
Another article by âInformationâ, âDisguised as Climate Negotiatorsâ, reports that âclimate change became a âserious intelligence priorityâ for GCHQ in 2007â. It says, âAn undercover employee of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was embedded in the British delegation when world leaders assembled at the 2010 UN Climate Change Summit in CancÃºn, Mexicoâ.
The meeting in CancÃºn was intended to bring the UN climate negotiations back on track after the historic failure in Copenhagen in 2009. Did you notice a dramatic development from the CancÃºn meeting? (Just in case Iâd missed something).
CancÃºn was four years agoâ ancient history on the electronic snooping timescale.
UN territory and talks must be off-limits to snooping
Negotiations under the UN banner are meant to allow every country to have its say.
More than that, the venues of all UN climate summits are declared to be UN territory for the duration of the negotiations, so the snoopers could have been breaking international law.
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said heâs launching an investigation into reports that Britain spied on other governments at two successive global climate summits: âAll diplomatic information is inviolable. If there has been any breach â¦ they should be investigated. UN information should be protected in its entire confidentialityâ.
What does it mean for Lima in December 2014?
Governments are giving the UN climate talks another shot in Lima, starting on 1 December â the twentieth time theyâll have met to achieve progress.
Climate change affects us all. The saddest response from negotiators in Lima to the question, âWhat did you do to stop it?â would be, âI failed to encrypt my communicationsâ.
Andrew Kerr works on Greenpeace Internationalâs press desk.
Will the new migration figures force the Tories to go one step further on free movement?
|Where do migrants to the UK come from the EU or non EU?|
David Cameron’s hopes of getting back on the front foot on migration have been dealt a blow this morning - ONS figures show that immigration is up, and specifically immigration from the EU is up as well.
These figures are important for two reasons, firstly the timing - these figures come ahead of a much anticipated speech David Cameron is about to deliver on the whole subject. Secondly, the numbers when compared to two targets, firstly the Conservatives’2010 manifesto migration target of “tens of thousands a year not hundreds of thousands.” Secondly, the comparison to migration flows under Labour. Here are some of the headline figures:
- Total net long-term migration estimated to be 260,000 in the year ending June 2014 up from 182,000 in the previous 12 months.
- Total gross immigration of 583,000 in the year ending June 2014, a statistically significant increase from 502,000 in the previous 12 months.
- EU immigration up 45,000 and non-EU up 30,000.
- 32,000 Romanians and Bulgarians came to the UK up 11,000 and EU15 migration also up 10,000.
- Estimated employment of EU nationals resident in the UK was 16% higher in July to September 2014 compared to the same quarter in 2013.
Interestingly, while immigration is also up from the new EU member states, the longer term trend driving EU migration is that from the EU15.
So how will all this play out? Well as you can see from the ONS graph below EU migration is not the largest component in total UK migration. That non-EU migration also went up for the first time in a while is politically significant.
However, EU migration is a large portion. The fact it is not showing any sign of decreasing will fuel trust issues over both the EU and migration.
UN rights chief concerned over 'disproportionate' killings of African-Americans by US police
The decision by a Grand Jury in Missouri to absolve a police officer for the fatal shooting of an African-American teenager has spotlighted broader concerns about institutionalized discrimination across the United States, the top United Nations human rights official said today.
INTERVIEW: former UN official urges more transparent process to select Secretary-General
Edward Mortimer is an ardent believer in the need to change the way in which the Secretary-General of the United Nations is selected, and he is hopeful that this can happen.
Ebola: UN crisis response mission opens new office in Mali
The newest outpost of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) became operational today, while a new head of its Guinea office was named and the World Health Organization reported that the number of cases had stabilized in Guinea, had stabilized or declined in Liberia but may still be on rise in Sierra Leone.
UN rights experts urge US President Obama to release report on CIA torture allegations
The United States must rise to meet the high human rights standards it has set for itself and others around the world, a group of United Nations human rights experts urged today, as they called on President Obama to support âthe fullest possible releaseâ of a report detailing Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogation practices.
DR Congo: Security Council condemns massacres of civilians, attacks on peacekeepers
The United Nations Security Council has condemned in the strongest terms the massacres perpetrated against civilians on 20 November near the city of Beni in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as well as the ongoing attacks targeting peacekeepers.
âProfoundly concernedâ over violence in Libya, Security Council warns of possible sanctions
The Security Council today expressed its âprofound concernâ over the deteriorating situation in Libya and its impact on regional peace and stability, warning of the possibility of sanctions.