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The Brexit vote was “overwhelmingly” fuelled by “elderly people obsessed with immigration” said Vince Cable in early July, sizing up the job of Liberal Democrat leader. Back in January, though, the 74-year-old Twickenham MP admitted to “serious doubts that the EU’s free movement policy is tenable or even desirable”.

“I don’t see much upside in Brexit,” said Cable six months ago, the man now confirmed as Britain’s most “elderly” party leader since Churchill. “But one is the opportunity for a more rational immigration policy,”

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So that’s it, then. The veil has slipped. The only surprising aspect of the French sovereign debt downgrade is that it took so long. The eurozone’s second-largest economy has lost its AAA rating. Eight other single currency members were also downgraded. Given that Paris is bank-rolling no less than a fifth of the purported “big bazooka” bail-out fund – the so-called European Financial Stability Facility – monetary union is now on very thin ice.

That’s because, in the wake of S&P’s exocet, the EFSF also could be downgraded. So the fund, too would pay more to borrow, just as credit becomes more expensive for the newly-downgraded countries it might need to bail-out. The likelihood the EFSF can do its job will fall, then, as the chances it will be needed rise. The question of whether the fund can “lever-up” from its existing €440bn (public money pledged, not delivered) to the €1,000bn-plus that may be needed if Europe’s banks endure “another Lehman”, is now under serious scrutiny.
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