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The Brief: Never-ending referendums

The Brief: Never-ending referendums

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


What is it about referendums that keeps spoiling the best-laid plans of policymakers?

The latest of the never-ending referendums – or ‘never-endums’ – took place in Switzerland yesterday.

The Italian-speaking region of Ticino backed, by 58%, measures to make it more difficult for foreigners to work in Switzerland. Just to complicate matters further, a different Swiss referendum backed giving the government increased surveillance powers.

The Ticino vote makes talks over a previous Swiss vote calling for similar curbs, which violate the EU’s free movement rules, even more complicated.

The Commission today insisted that the free movement of workers was a precondition for access to the single market. That matters before divorce talks begin in earnest with the UK, which wants both immigration curbs and access.

Hungary – whose leader recently called for Libya to be turned into a giant migrant camp – plans its own referendum on EU migration policy.

Meanwhile, the Dutch are on the verge of giving up the struggle to find a workaround of their own vote rejecting the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and French politicians have also caught the bug.

Bosnian Serbs yesterday voted 99.8% in favour of keeping a controversial national holiday, despite Bosnia’s highest court ruling it illegal. Bosnia and Herzegovina harbours hopes of joining the EU.

Azerbaijan – which the EU is courting as an energy supplier – is also having a referendum on giving its authoritarian president extra powers.

To top it all, France and Austria are calling for a renewed mandate for a rebranded EU-US trade deal. By the way, the Dutch want a referendum on TTIP.

No surprise then that Juncker freely admits to not being a fan of referendums.

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Boris Johnson is in Turkey for a diplomatic visit. The same Boris Johnson who wrote a prize-winning limerick about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan having sex with a goat.

Another potentially awkward meeting will take place this evening in the European Parliament, where MEPs will vote on an opinion about Commissioners’declarations of interest.

Will the forgetful Neelie Kroes be tuning in? Or will she instead prefer to remember happier times, with the debate on the Commission’s replacement bill on mobile roaming?

French President François Hollande has roamed to Calais. He said the “Jungle” migrant camp would be dismantled and that the UK must “play its part”.

David Cameron’s allies have accused Theresa May of being secretly soft on migration. 15% of UK university staff could quit because of Brexit but, in good news, London’s bankers are worried about their jobs.

Deutsche Bank shares are plummeting after it was fined for its part in the financial crisis. Merkel – whose CDU party is apparently sexist – won’t bail out the lender.

264 million Europeans could be producing their own renewable electricity by 2050, says Greenpeace, as 42 CEOs demand “vision” from EU energy efficiency legislation.

Today is the European Day of Languages – who knew? This Catalan journalist for a start. And Commission Chief Spokesman Margaritis Schinas couldn’t resist breaking out some Latin

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump go head to head in televised debate tonight. Starts at 3AM Brussels-time.

From 9AM tomorrow, MEPs will hold a hearing with the investigative journalists who exposed the Panama Papers scandal.