The Mail on Sunday reported that John Black, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, has warned of an impending 'catastrophe' in the NHS if all doctors are forced to comply with the EU's Working Time Directive (WTD) which limits them to working a 48-hour week. The WTD is designed to limit the working hours of all workers in the EU to an average of 48 hours a week but until now has contained provisions to exempt junior doctors. In August 2007 junior doctors' hours were limited to 56, and will be reduced further to 48 on August 1 this year.
Writing in the paper, Mr Black warned, "Unless the Government comes to its senses, the result will be catastrophic for the NHS, with patient safety on a knife-edge, surgeons not being properly trained, waiting lists going up again and even hospitals closing." He added, "Over the past ten years there has been a driving-down of the hours worked by junior doctors as, bit by bit, the working time directive has come into force.
We have already reached the point where patients' health has been endangered."
Mr. Black noted that, "The rest of Europe sensibly just ignores the directive. They cannot believe that in the UK we are stupid enough to apply a directive that was patently not designed for health services...If the European legislation is misguided, there is also a scandalous lack of political will on the part of this Government."
Mr. Black has called for the Government to agree to junior doctors voluntarily working a 65-hour week but Health Secretary Alan Johnson has described that plan as "mission impossible". Mr. Johnson has said that Government has notified the European Commission that it plans to operate a 'derogation' of the rules in places where there is a shortage of trainee doctors, which will allow them to work a 56-hour week.
A leader in the Telegraph argues "The Government's lack of political will to address a damaging European directive should loom large in the minds of the electorate."
New poll places Labour third behind Conservatives and Lib Dems in European and general elections
An ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph has put Labour third behind the Conservatives and the Lib Dems for this Thursday's European elections. The Conservatives polled 29 percent, the Lib Dems 20 percent, and Labour just 17 percent. The poll also placed Labour third in a general election - the last time Labour was in third place in any poll in a "general election" question was in 1987.
Meanwhile, a new Populus poll reported in Saturday's Times put Labour in third place behind the Conservatives and UKIP in the European elections for the first time. It also found that 77 percent of people support more national referendums. Today's paper reports that the poll indicates that European election turnout could rise to 41%, which would be the highest since the first elections in 1979. The article notes that this is likely to benefit the smaller parties, with the UK Independence Party, the British National Party and the Greens set to increase their share of the vote.
In the Irish Times, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering urges people to vote in the European elections and writes that, "Approximately 75 per cent of the [European] union's legislation is decided by the parliament".
Swedish magazine Gransbrytning features an interview with Open Europe's Mats Persson, on the topic of EU reform. In the interview Mats gives four proposals for reform, which, he argues would bring the EU closer to its citizens: EU treaties must be written in a way so that voters can understand them; the EU must respect the outcomes of national referendums; more openness and transparency at all levels of EU decision-making; and a much more pronounced role for national parliaments in scrutinising and stopping EU laws.
Osborne: Treasury absent from debate on damaging EU hedge funds rules
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne has an article in the FT, looking at the EU's response to the financial crisis. He argues, "the EU risks rushing into ill-considered future regulation, or starting the agitation for a single European regulator, instead of facing the immediate challenge of rebuilding confidence in European banks...the proposed directive on alternative investment fund managers is a worrying example...Given the continuing importance of financial services to London and the rest of the UK, I would expect the British government to be fighting for a more sensible approach. Yet Treasury ministers are absent from the debate."
Separately in the FT, Dick Saunders of the Investment Management Association argues that "If there is to be indignation about this directive it should be targeted not at its very existence but at the process by which it was drafted...The Commission drafted the directive under political duress; that is no way to approach financial regulation. There has been no consultation, no due process and no cost-benefit assessment."
Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel published an op-ed in Welt am Sonntag and Journal du Dimanche over the weekend, arguing for more EU financial regulation. They wrote that they want to secure in June a "real European regulation of the financial sector", and "for speculative funds, tax havens, payment for executives and financial traders, we want an exemplary Europe."
MEPs more likely to vote along party lines than national allegiance
The FT reports that a study by VoteWatch has found that MEPs are far more likely to vote along party lines than they were 20 years ago, and party allegiance regularly trumps national ties. Two decades ago, party cohesion in the largest groups occurred only 50-60 percent of the time, but that grew to 86 percent of the time during the most recent Parliament.
Meanwhile the FT also reports that in the last Parliament, 45 percent of 78 Italian MEPs left before completing their terms and turnover of MEPs was twice as high among the EU's old member states as the new members. The article quotes Open Europe's Mats Persson saying, "It's quite clear that some countries take the responsibility of MEPs more seriously than others".
Sun backs Conservatives for EU elections;
Observer backs Lib Dems
A leader in the Sun urges voters to back the Conservatives in the European elections on Thursday with a headline "Vote for EU referendum". It writes, "This is no small issue. Once the Constitution is legally binding, it will determine the way Britain, and every other member state, is governed on all major issues...We want a referendum whatever stage this wretched treaty has reached. But realistically, the Tories are the only game in town."
Meanwhile, a leader in the Observer backed the Lib Dems, arguing "it is a moment to reward the principled consistency of the Liberal Democrats...There is a pressing need in this country for advocacy of the EU as a good in itself, as opposed to something distasteful that occasionally suits our interests. That view does not preclude criticism of European institutions, but it eschews wrecking tactics against them."
Frank Field calls on MPs to devote two days a week to axing EU red tape
Saturday's Sun reported that former Minister and frontrunner for Speaker Frank Field has said that MPs should spend two days a week axing EU red tape - estimated to cost industry £10 billion a year. He said on his website: "Given the volume and importance of the swathes of European legislation, how can the Commons get real and devote what perhaps might be one or two days a week, to debating, deliberating, changing, and if need be, rejecting European legislation?"
The Sun reports that Conservative leader David Cameron has said that Britain's EU Commissioner would have to publish his or her expenses claims under a Conservative government, and register hospitality worth over £250.
Law professor: "Britain's approach to dealing with Europe has been a loser's strategy"
In the Independent on Sunday, Alan Riley at City Law School argued that "Britain's approach to dealing with Europe has been a loser's strategy. Rather than acting like a great power, seeking to win allies and build support for its view of how the EU should operate, it has instead whined, complained and stomped off."
He proposed a number of reforms, including "Argue for jobs, growth and a single market: The EU has spent a large part of the past decade navel-gazing over five constitutional treaties, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice, the constitutional treaty and Lisbon. Meanwhile, the competitiveness of Europe globally has declined. Instead of arguing about the number of commissioners, Britain should argue for a focus on strengthening the single market to drive growth and employment in a Europe battered by recession."
Saturday's Guardian reported that a group of Conservative grandees and former diplomats, including Lord Patten and Lord Brittan, have criticised David Cameron's policies on the EU.