POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Unite Call For EU Referendum

02/07/2014 08:32 BST | Updated 02/07/2014 08:59 BST

The five things you need to know on Wednesday 2 July 2014...

1) UNITE EU REFERENDUM CALL

The country's biggest union will today discuss calls for Labour to reconsider its approach to a referendum on the European Union amid warnings that its current policy could be an "electoral millstone".

Unite will debate Britain's relationship with Europe at its national conference in Liverpool, with the union believing the country is better off in the EU. But a statement from Unite's executive said austerity policies from the European Commission had imposed suffering on countries including Ireland, Greece and Spain, while mass unemployment had been "imposed" on eurozone countries.

As the Financial Times reports, the call for a referendum is "a significant challenge to Labour’s finely calibrated position on the issue, drawn up four months ago in an attempt to bury deep splits within the party".

2) NOT WORKING PROGRAMME

Tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is being paid out in bonuses to under-performing contractors responsible for delivering the Government's flagship welfare-to-work scheme, the Whitehall spending watchdog has warned.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said "flaws" in the contracts for the Work Programme drawn up by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) meant they they were obliged to make incentive payments to even the worst performing providers.

The incentive payments were supposed to reward high performance, however the NAO said that the performance measure chosen by the DWP meant that all 40 prime contractors involved in the scheme are expected to qualify for them.

3) GUESS WHO CAME FOR DINNER

A guest list including financiers and business tycoons with a combined worth of £11 billion mingled with David Cameron and other senior Tories at a fundraising summer party, it has been revealed. Among those at the event last year were Russian president Vladimir Putin's judo partner Vasily Shestakov, according to The Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Details about the fundraising occasions normally remain secret, but it emerged diners at last year's event in London's Old Billingsgate Market rubbed shoulders with the Prime Minister, Home Secretary Theresa May, London Mayor Boris Johnson and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond. Guests included nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow and his wife Bella, six billionaires and 15 people with a personal wealth above £100 million, the investigation found.

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4) EUROPE TOLD TO 'PULL ITS WEIGHT' ON SYRIA AID

European allies must pay far more towards humanitarian help for the victims of the Syrian civil war, MPs said as they warned the UK's disproportionate contribution was unsustainable without poverty-stricken parts of the world losing out.

France, Spain and Italy were singled out by the Commons international development committee as among those who had "manifestly failed to pull their weight" while Britain has already committed £600 million to the crisis, the second biggest contribution after the US.

The United Nations estimates that 10.8 million people are now in need of help as a result of the three years of brutal conflict in the region - with around 2.5 million Syrians registered as refugees in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

5) WATCH OUT BELGIUM

It seemed like everyone in America stopped working to watch the U.S. play Belgium in the World Cup on Tuesday -- even President Barack Obama.

According to a White House pool report, Obama entered an auditorium in the Old Executive Office Building where about 200 White House staffers were watching the game. The president began chanting "I believe that we can win" -- a take on the U.S. team's chant, "I believe that we will win" -- as he entered to cheers. "So I was worried that if I walked in and Belgium scored, I'd get in trouble -- oh no!" Obama said. The US lost to Belgium 2-1.

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