The Brief: Interrail giveaway smacks of desperation

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


The ancient Romans used bread and circuses to stop their citizens rising in revolt. The European Union uses cheap phone bills and free holidays.

This evening, MEPs are debating whether or not to give 18-year-old Europeans a free Interrail ticket on their birthdays. Sources tell us the European Commission is open to the idea.

Most 18-year-olds would probably prefer vastly improved job prospects to the promise of a booze-fuelled backpacking jaunt round Europe. Actually, they probably wouldn’t but that is not the point.

The EU is enduring the most turbulent times of its history with the refugee crisis, Brexit, terrorism, Russia, Ukraine, stubbornly high youth unemployment, and low economic growth.

Now would be a good time to inspire confidence and ambition in the European project. Instead, the focus is very much on the consumer rather than the citizen.

Barack Obama had “Yes We Can.” The EU has “Yes We Can Save You A Few Euros.”

The push to abolish mobile roaming charges. Jean-Claude Juncker’s promise to supply free Wi-Fi to all cities. Rules so that you can use Netflix wherever and whenever you want.

It’s true that there is a grand EU vision on climate and energy. But where is the progress on ideas such as the EU-wide unemployment insurance scheme, which could help laid-off Europeans in bankrupt countries?

There is value in saving people money and making their lives more convenient. There is a lot less in handing out free train tickets out of desperation to be popular.

Is the EU getting addicted to these crowd-pleasing policies? If so, it risks transforming itself into nothing more than a glorified price comparison website.

This Brief is powered by FoodDrinkEurope.


US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that “some of us” wished the UK’s Brexit vote had gone the other way, but added that we need the “strongest possible EU”. Kerry is in town for the Brussels conference on Afghanistan.

As expected, MEPs voted to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change. Except Nigel Farage and the French National Front. But The Lisbon Council backs an EU energy efficiency target of 70%.

BusinessEurope has been accused of opposing EU climate legislation, even though its members claim to support it. “All BusinessEurope positions are based on an extensive and well balanced coordination process amongst our membership,” the association said.

Guy Verhofstadt has warned that UK immigration controls post-Brexit could destroy the single market and the EU. Nick Clegg is worried about a ‘hard Brexit’.

Furious Brits have launched a crowdfunding campaign to prosecute referendum campaign “liars”. The Council of Europe is worried about rising racism in Britain.

This Tory can’t tell the difference between breakfast and Brexit, but it’s not because of the rampant drinking culture in British politics.

The man accused of murdering MP Jo Cox during the campaign has had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf after refusing to speak in court.

Popcorn at the ready as MEPs debate conflict of interest rules for Commissioners. Full report to follow tomorrow. MEPs in Strasbourg are discussing the ‘jungle’ migrant camp in Calais and have banned adverts for torture equipment.

Yesterday, they branded any move to freeze EU funds for Spain and Portugal “immoral”, before questioning member states’ commitment to development.

The European Commission wants you to know that the Lisbon Treaty recognises that animals have feelings.


MEPs will debate and pass a resolution on Syria tomorrow from 3PM. Expect them to be more forthright in their condemnation of Russia than the EEAS, the EU’s foreign affairs service. While the US has stopped negotiations with Moscow, Mogherini has held off blaming Russia for the bombing of a humanitarian aid convey.


Subscribe to our newsletters