Migrant crisis

The Knowsley disruption shows the UK’s incompetence on asylum

This week’s public disorder outside a hotel accommodating asylum seekers in the town of Knowsley in Merseyside was in some ways inevitable. A total of 45,756 people entered the UK on small boats via the English Channel last year – which, according to the 2021 Census, is a number larger than the entire population of English towns such as Dover in Kent, Boston in Lincolnshire and Kirkby in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley. Britain’s asylum regime should be prioritising the world’s most persecuted peoples, especially women and girls at major risk of sex-based violence in their conflict-ridden homelands. Instead, it has been reduced to a survival-of-the-fittest system which has been

Both Johnson and Macron need to get a grip

Anglo-French relations continue to deteriorate. Not even this week’s tragedy in the Channel can stop the point scoring between the two governments. Last night, Boris Johnson issued a letter to Emmanuel Macron which proposed, among other things, a bilateral readmissions agreement between the UK and France which would see those crossing the Channel returned to France straight away. The French were not impressed either by this proposal or it being made public.  This morning, Priti Patel was uninvited from a meeting of northern European interior ministers. Macron then went on TV to accuse the British of not being ‘serious’ and to say that leaders shouldn’t communicate by tweets. (He is right

The EU doesn’t understand Hungary and Poland

Rather like Germany with its ill-starred ‘Drive to the East’ in the 19th and 20th centuries, one suspects the EU is quietly regretting its keenness to absorb most of the states of eastern Europe in the early 2000s. If not, events in Poland and Hungary this week may well persuade them. For a long time, national governments in the older EU states have more or less willingly subscribed to two articles of faith: the complete supremacy of EU law over their national law, including their constitutions, and the unchallengeable power of the EU Court of Justice — not only to expound EU law but also to extend and develop it,

Madness in the Med

Following the EU’s deal with Turkey over people smuggling, the issue of migrants trying to cross, and quite often drowning in, the Mediterranean has largely disappeared from the British media. There have been no more images like that of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach after the rubber dinghy in which his family were trying to reach the Greek island of Kos capsized in August 2015. Now, people smugglers and migrants know there is little point in trying to make the crossing from Turkey to Greece because they will only be sent back, in return for the EU taking refugees directly from camps in Turkey. The deal

Turkey’s blackmail

Looked at from the narrow perspective of how to deal with the lethal business of human trafficking across the Aegean, this week’s deal between the EU and Turkey shows some encouraging signs. Slowly, the EU seems to be realising that the surest way to stop migrants dying in unseaworthy boats is to adopt similar measures to those used by Tony Abbott the former Australian Prime Minister: turn back the boats, and deport those who land illegally. The Australians paid Malaysia to help handle the migrant problem. The EU is paying Turkey more than £4 billion over the next three years to contain 2.5 million refugees. The problem, however, is that

High life | 10 March 2016

   Athens I am walking around downtown Athens watching as thousands of migrants field pitches from smugglers offering alternative routes to Germany and Austria. I ask a friendly policeman 50 years younger than me why he doesn’t arrest the smugglers and throw away the key. ‘Others will take their place quicker than we put the handcuffs on them,’ he tells me. ‘And they pretend to be migrants the moment we approach.’ Smuggling people is big business, and most of the bad guys are Afghans, as far as I can tell. It is grim stuff, especially where children are concerned. Victoria Square is a tree-lined park where long ago my grandfather

Portrait of the week | 3 March 2016

Home An official analysis by the Cabinet Office said that if Britain left the EU it would lead to a ‘decade of uncertainty’. Opponents of Britain remaining in the EU called the report a ‘dodgy dossier’. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the economy would suffer a ‘profound economic shock’ if Britain left, echoing a communiqué of the G20 which referred to ‘the shock of a potential UK exit’. Boris Johnson revised his suggestion that a vote to leave could bring about a better deal from Brussels; ‘Out is out,’ he told the Times. Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, declared that ministers opposing government policy on

Cameron’s “deal” has backfired – badly. So what will he do now?

Throughout his negotiations with the European Union, David Cameron was fatally undermined by his own lack of resolve. He was never going to recommend an ‘out’ vote in his referendum, as the other leaders knew. He promised a referendum three years ago, not from any great sense of conviction, but as a ploy to stop his party talking about Europe until after a general election which he half-expected to lose. Then, in May last year, he found himself with a majority — and in a position to renegotiate. But not in a position to win, and for a simple -reason: the other side always knew that he’d say yes, no

If you’re stupid enough to let all these people in, at least treat them decently

We were on our way to a party in south-east London when my friend, Rob, saw the graffiti. Sprayed with painful neatness on a wall: ‘Support Jeremy’. It suited the area so well — a small quadrant of our capital city that the inhabitants I dare say still think is ‘edgy’, even now after they’ve got rid of all the blacks and the white working class by pricing them out of the market. Artisan bread shops and ‘community’ pubs and vegetarian cafés. Whereas once the occupants of this enclave were engaged in actual work — plumbers, electricians, drug dealers etc. — now I would wager almost all of them get their

Hayek was right: you can’t understand society without evolution

In December the controversial satellite TV channel ReallyTV launches its Christmas season with a flagship reality show called From Homs to Hamburg. A dozen refugees, accompanied by their families, will be given a budget of $500 and two-days’ water in a race to cross the German border using any form of transport. The prize for the winning family is a car and a two-bedroom flat in -Billstedt. The show follows the success of the US reality TV show Monterrey to Monterey,in which Mexican families compete to cross the Rio Grande by hiding in shipping -containers. Now, before you recoil in disgust, I should just point out that nothing like this programme will

Portrait of the week | 29 October 2015

Home After it was twice defeated in the Lords on its plans to reduce working tax credits, the government announced a review of the workings of Parliament, to be led by Lord Strathclyde, the former leader of the House of Lords. Peers had voted for a motion by Lady Hollis of Heigham to delay the measures until the introduction of ‘full transitional protection’ for those who would suffer loss, and for a motion by Lady Meacher to delay them until the government had responded to an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The IFS had said that three million working families would be on average £1,300 a year worse