YP Comment: Is EU waking up to Brexit at last?

Prime Minister Theresa May holds a meeting with her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi (unseen), on the second day of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China.
Prime Minister Theresa May holds a meeting with her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi (unseen), on the second day of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China.
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PERHAPS THE most profound comment at the G20 summit of global leaders came from European Council president Donald Tusk when he conceded: “The practical capabilities of Europe to host new waves of refugees, not to mention irregular economic migrants, are close to the limits.”

If only the European Union, and other institutions, had taken the concerns of Britain more seriously, then the EU and Britain might not be going their separate ways as Theresa May’s government begins the invidious task of trying to forge a new immigration policy.

Given how German chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU party has just been humiliated in provincial elections, perhaps Europe’s elite will realise that they, too, have to reform over migration policy.

If they do, and there remain no guarantees, it can only help Theresa May as the new PM comes under pressure to define her interpretation, even vision, of ‘Brexit’ as G20 leaders put down markers of their own.

The Tory leader will clearly not be bounced into making rash decisions – she’s been clear that she intended to weigh up all the evidence before deciding whether to support a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point which had been due to be bankrolled by the Chinese.

She also has doubts about a points-based immigration system advocated by Brexit ministers – she says tickbox criteria gave students access to Britain if they could not speak English and that the needs of businesses should be paramount.

However it remains to be seen whether Mrs May can convince the Cabinet of the merits of her arguments – the dynamics in the coming weeks will, in all likelihood, be critical to the Government’s durability. Yet it will help if the EU, and leaders like Mrs Merkel, start to heed the words of Mr Tusk after his Damascene conversion. It would be a start.

Rural dividends

IT is understandable for countryside groups, like the Rural Services Network, to be fearful about Brexit’s potential consequences. Even though Chancellor Philip Hammond has pledged to honour all existing funding commitments with the EU for the period up to 2020, they’re worried about subsidy levels – and other support payments – in the next decade when Westminster’s politicians start having to honour those spending promises made on an ad hoc, and uncosted, basis before the June 23 referendum.

Yet what these concerns reveal is more fundamental than the machinations of Britain’s exit from the EU. Given Mr Hammond’s early promise to farmers, and also universities, it points to a lack of trust in the Government because of the Rural Payments Agency’s systemic difficulties processing subsidies and a wider belief that Ministers do not truly understand the food industry.

This is all the more reason for talks on Brexit to extend to the wider rural economy – and what can be done to attract more investment, opportunities and jobs to those countryside communities where picture postcard scenes mask deep pockets of poverty. There’s a fine line between allowing new businesses to open without compromising those landscapes which underpin the wider visitor economy, hence why Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s approach needs to be evolution rather than revolution while accepting that rural residents are also taxpayers entitled to the same support afforded to urban voters.

Brownlee bounce

COMPARE and contrast the world series triathlon event successfully staged in Leeds earlier this summer with Sunday’s race in Edmonton, Canada, to see why major sporting events matter to the Yorkshire economy and tourism.

Around 100,000 spectators turned out here to cheer the Brownlee brothers – Alistair beat Jonny in a precursor to the Olympic final – while there appeared to be negligible public support for the Canadian race staged in a municipal park away from the heart of Edmonton and which saw the cycling take place on a featureless dual carriageway with no spectator access.

Further evidence about the priceless popularity of the Brownlees – Jonny triumphed in Canada to put himself into world championship contention – but also the fact this region is setting a very high standard when it comes to staging global events on the streets or in purpose-built arenas. Long may this be the case as Leeds prepares to host a show-stopping parade of Yorkshire Olympians 
and Paralympians to demonstrate what sport truly means to this proud county.