Posts Tagged ‘David Davis’

David Davis looks to seize Brexit initiative from Michel Barnier

April 19, 2018

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David Davis (left) and Michel Barnier © Reuters

Move to set agenda by early publication of plans for future UK-EU relationship

James Blitz and George Parker

David Davis, the UK Brexit secretary, is urging prime minister Theresa May to get ahead of the EU by publishing detailed proposals for the future UK-EU relationship “as soon as possible” rather than waiting for Brussels to lay down its terms.

Mr Davis’s allies have discussed Britain producing a document of more than 50 pages — possibly as early as next month — setting out detailed plans on issues such as a future customs relationship, financial services and regulation.

Until now, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has always been the first to produce drafts of the legal texts that need to be negotiated in the Brexit negotiations, effectively setting the agenda for talks.

UK and EU officials met in Brussels on Wednesday to hold preliminary talks on the future relationship, with a view to drawing up a political declaration by October.

Mrs May’s allies confirmed that there had been “early-stage” discussions on producing a report on the British negotiating position ahead of the June European Council meeting, and that Mr Davis wanted the paper to be as detailed as possible.

But publishing a detailed account of Britain’s plan for a future relationship could upset a fragile cabinet truce on Europe, as there are still tensions among ministers over exactly how close the UK should stay to the EU after Brexit.

“The more general it is, the easier it would be to get through cabinet,” said one person close to the discussions. “There is obviously some tension around how much detail we can agree.”

Olly Robbins, the lead official in Brexit talks, has pointed out that the EU expects detailed negotiations on a trade deal to take place after the UK leaves the EU next March, during the “implementation period”, regardless of whether Britain tries to force the pace.

However, Mrs May and Mr Davis have decided that Britain should try to secure as much detail in October as possible, rather than deliberately keeping the deal vague, so as to secure maximum agreement within the Tory party and satisfy Whitehall officials.

“The big decision has been taken,” said one senior government figure. “We want to secure a detailed agreement on the future relationship in October, otherwise how will we get it through parliament?”

Mr Davis has argued that Eurosceptic Tory MPs will not sign off on the EU withdrawal treaty — including an exit bill of £39bn — unless they know what they are being offered by Brussels in terms of a long-term trade deal.

Dominic Grieve, a leading pro-European Tory MP, said this week that he agreed that parliament would need a detailed statement in October before it holds its “meaningful vote” on the exit deal.

Bob Neill, another pro-EU Tory, said Mr Davis was right to push for a detailed policy statement. “It would be good for business and for the public generally. It’s important that we are not seen to be forever reactive.”

See also:

Brexit: first talks on future UK relationship with EU begin

Four more rounds of negotiations have been pencilled in ahead of a crunch EU summit in June, when European leaders will next assess Brexit. Two rounds are planned for May and two in June, with the aim of working through a long list of unresolved issues on the divorce, including Ireland and an outline text of the future relationship.

The EU is undecided about how much detail should go into the text on the future relationship before Brexit day in March 2019. Germany is pushing for a detailed, legally precise text to avoid surprises during the post-Brexit trade talks, but Scandinavian and Benelux countries prefer to keep the document vague to give the UK maximum room to change its mind.

EU officials are watching the passage of Brexit legislation in the UK closely, paying special attention to an amendment on staying in the customs union. “Should they decide to say in the customs union, I don’t see why the EU would say this is not feasible,” said a senior official, adding that the EU took no view on the hotly contested issue of whether there should be a referendum on the final deal. “We are all pretty agnostic on that, because these are all domestic issues to be settled,” the source said. “It is only natural to take a clear look at the future before you jump into the abyss.”


Brexit Committee MPs demand Norway-style deal with the EU

April 4, 2018


But MPs who voted Leave say Remainers are trying to reverse the referendum result by stealth.

Anti-Brexit demonstrators wave EU and Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament
Image:The Brexit committee has published its report on a deal with the EU

A UK trade deal with the EU similar to those of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway is being demanded by an all-party committee of MPs.

The Brexit committee of MPs wants Theresa May to consider keeping the UK in the European Economic Area (EEA) or join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Europe’s EEA agreement, which came into force in 1994, extends membership of the EU’s single market to non-EU members Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

But the MPs’ proposal is likely to be rejected by the Government, since Brexit Secretary David Davis has previously ruled out both options, calling them “in many ways, the worst of all outcomes”.

The EEA/EFTA recommendation comes in the latest controversial report by the 21-member Brexit committee of MPs, chaired by the former Labour Cabinet minister Hilary Benn.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 11: Former Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn, arrives to attend a press conference held by former shadow business secretary Angela Eagle in which Eagle announced her intention to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for leadership pf the Labour Party, on July 11, 2016 in London, England. Mr Corbyn has faced numerous frontbench resignations, but has said he would not betray the party members, who elected him last year, by standing down.
Image:The Brexit committee is chaired by Hilary Benn

And for the second time in less than three weeks, Mr Benn has faced a mutiny by Brexit-supporting MPs on his committee, led by Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Last month Mr Rees-Mogg and fellow pro-Leave committee members disowned a report calling for the Brexit transition period to be extended. Now he says the latest report serves no useful purpose.

As well as voting against the EEA/EFTA proposal, the committee’s Brexiteers also voted against the new report in its entirety, but they were defeated by 10 votes to six.

The majority of committee members are recommending that if Brexit negotiations on a “deep and special partnership” fail, EEA/EFTA membership should “remain an alternative”.

The committee is also proposing 15 “key tests” for the Government’s final deal with the EU, including the contentious issue of the Northern Ireland border.

Launching the report, Mr Benn said: “Our tests set a high bar, but they are based on the Prime Minister’s vision for our future outside the EU and the statement by David Davis that any new deal would be at least as good as what we have now.

“It is vital that UK businesses are able to continue to trade freely and sell services into our largest market after we leave, without additional costs or burdens or a hard border in Northern Ireland and that we maintain close co-operation on defence, security, data and information sharing and consumer safety.”

And he added: “Should negotiations on a ‘deep and special partnership’ not prove successful, we consider that EFTA/EEA membership remains an alternative which would have the advantage of continuity of access for UK services and could also be negotiated relatively quickly.”

Besides keeping an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the committee’s tests also include co-operation on crime and terrorism and tariff-free trade between the UK and EU.

The report also calls on the Government to maintain convergence with EU regulations in “order to maximise access to European markets” and advises that any new immigration arrangements “must not act as an impediment to the movement of workers providing services across borders”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  Jacob Rees-Mogg MP speaks during a 'Bruges Group' press conference at on May 17, 2016 in London, England. The event focused on the issues surrounding the European Arrest Warrant and how Britain would be, in the opinion of the speakers, better placed outside of the European Union.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Image:Mr Rees-Mogg says Remainers are simply trying to re-fight the referendum

But Mr Rees-Mogg declared: “The committee’s report is another effort by Remainers to reverse the result. The High Priests of Remain on the select committee voted to thwart Brexit by stealth.

“This serves no useful purpose as select committees’ reports are only influential if they are unanimous, dividing on Leave-Remain lines simply re-fights the referendum.”

A spokesman for Mr Davis’s Brexit department said: “As the Prime Minister said at Mansion House, the UK Government is seeking the broadest and deepest possible partnership with the EU, covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today.

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“When we leave the EU we will leave the single market and customs union so that we take back control of our money, laws and borders.

“To do otherwise will see us forever implementing, in their entirety, new EU legislation over which we will have had no say, and leave us with less control over our trade policy than we have now.”

Brexit: Michel Barnier says draft transition treaty mostly agreed

March 19, 2018

Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has announced agreement on most of the issues that could allow the EU to offer Britain a transition deal. Some concerns about the Irish border still need to be resolved, though.

Brexit Michel Barnier David Davis (picture-alliance/AP Photo/V. Mayo)

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier announced on Monday that agreement had been reached on a number of issues that could allow the EU to offer Britain a transition deal for the period after it leaves the bloc.

“We have reached an agreement on the transition period,” Barnier told a press conference in Brussels after talks with his British counterpart David Davis. “The transition will be of limited duration.”

Read moreUK lawmakers suggest postponing Brexit

The UK hopes to secure a transition period of two years that would maintain access to the single market while allowing more flexibility on issues such as forging trade deals with third-party countries. Agreement of a deal when EU leaders meet on Friday is vital for UK businesses.

“The period of transition requested by the United Kingdom will be a time which is useful, very useful, for the United Kingdom administration and businesses in order to prepare themselves for the future,” Barnier said.

The agreement foresees keeping all EU rules in place in Britain until the end of 2020. During the period, Barnier said, Britain would no longer take part in setting rules.

Barnier said the transition would allow Britain and the EU to finalize their eventual relationship.

There was not yet a clear vision of future arrangements around the Irish border. Barnier said. But he added that a “backstop solution” had been agreed that would avoid a hard customs border.

“We have agreed that the backstop solution must form part of the legal text of the withdrawal agreement.”

Davis and Barnier had met earlier on Monday. Envoys from member states in Brussels had been summoned to an urgent meeting ahead of those talks.

Just ahead of the announcement, the Irish government said it needed a guarantee from the EU that there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said it wanted Brussels to ensure that a fallback protocol agreed in December would be adhered to as part of any deal.

Read more: Northern Ireland’s fragile peace ‘all about the border’

“The EU27 have been consistent that there can be no backsliding on any part of December’s agreement,” Coveney was quoted as saying ahead of a meeting with fellow EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

“This highlights the importance of the UK engaging meaningfully on all aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the fallback Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.”

On early flight to Brussels for meeting with @MichelBarnier this morning – important day in negotiations in build up to EU Council on Thurs/Fri – no backsliding on Irish Border issue remains clear focus to facilitate progress on other issues.

The pound sterling, which has shown jitters in recent weeks amid warnings from Barnier that a transition might not be agreed, on Monday rose to its highest level against the euro since February.

Brexit Bulletin: The Bridge Gets Built

March 19, 2018


Image result for Brexit, photos

By Emma Ross-Thomas

  • Davis and Barnier meet in Brussels on transition deal
  • U.K. is trying to get a written commitment on transition

Sign up to receive the Brexit Bulletin in your inbox, and follow @Brexit on Twitter.

It’s crunch week for businesses wanting to know the rules and trading regime they’ll be operating under just a year from now.

On Monday, Brexit Secretary David Davis and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier meet in Brussels. A news conference has been penciled in for midday. Davis has avoided appearing alongside Barnier so far this year, so it could be a sign the two sides are on track to reach an agreement on a transition phase that will keep all the rules the same until the end of 2020 — or 21 months after exit day.

The U.K. is trying to secure a written promise from the EU about the transition agreement, Tim Ross reports. Businesses are cranking up the pressure to make the transition as solid — and useful — as possible. They are becoming increasingly aware that any agreement reached at the summit this week will be a political commitment — not legally binding until the final withdrawal agreement is signed early next year. Barnier has made the point repeatedly in recent weeks that there’s no transition without a final deal and that the transition agreement isn’t certain until the divorce deal is inked. With the Irish border issue still an intractable riddle, that’s a warning that businesses have to take seriously.

Davis and Barnier are to meet later today.
Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

British negotiators are pushing for the EU to include an explicit statement in negotiating guidelines. They want the document to state that an agreement in principle has been reached on the terms of transition, according to a person familiar with the matter. The draft guidelines circulated earlier this month leave some blanks at the top to be updated just before the summit and the holding language is vaguer — it says the EU side “welcomes/notes the progress” on transition.

That kind of language wouldn’t go down well with businesses and might not be enough for them to put their contingency plans back in the drawer.

“Political agreement on transition alleviates some pressure on some companies, but it would be a mistake to think it solves the Brexit readiness problem,” said James Stewart, head of Brexit at KPMG. “Just as no lawyer would allow you to complete a major deal without a legally binding contract, so it would be equally reckless for businesses to scrap their contingency plans until they have a similar level of assurance.”

Brexit Latest

Unison Strained | National interests are starting to test the united front that the 27 remaining EU members have shown so far during the Brexit talks, according to three people with knowledge of the process, Ian Wishart reports. At issue is whether to add language on specific industries — and addressing the concerns of specific countries. At a meeting in Brussels this week, Spain, whose national airline Iberia is owned by the same company as British Airways, signaled it would like specific references to aviation, while Luxembourg wants more detail on financial services.

View From Berlin | German Chancellor Angela Merkel is still looking for clarity from the U.K., she said in her weekly podcast published on Saturday. “We will, for the first time, talk about what our vision for our future relation with the U.K. looks like,” Merkel said. “Of course, the U.K. also has to say what it wants.” May gave her detailed vision in a landmark speech on March 2, but EU officials have dismissed many of the proposals as unworkable.

Finance Is Fine | Royal Bank of Scotland Chairman Howard Davies said the finance industry is unlikely to be the one to make a longer transition period after Brexit necessary. “If you suddenly faced a cliff edge, you’d have to move people very quickly into another a city,” he said on Sky News. “But the issue would be finding apartments — it wouldn’t be building huge facilities.” Banks are well ahead of other companies when it comes to contingency measures, and RBS has plans for a subsidiary in Amsterdam.

Aviation Risk | The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority doesn’t have the capacity to take over the functions of the equivalent European regulator, and it would take five to 10 years even to begin that process, according to a parliamentary committee report. The chief executive of the U.K. authority told the panel that “it would be misleading to suggest that’s a viable option.” Any transition from one authority to another would lead to disruptions and risks to the industry, according to the report.

Freelancing Boris | Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it’s “claptrap” to say the European Court of Justice will continue to have some influence over the U.K. after it leaves the EU, contradicting Prime Minister Theresa May, who made it clear in her March 2 speech that the court will still have a role after the split.

Minority Report | Parliament’s cross-party Brexit Committee is so divided that the pro-Brexit faction refused to sign off on a report this weekend and issued its own minority report that attacked the stance taken by the chairman of the influential panel. The committee’s main paper called for the government to consider extending next year’s withdrawal deadline. Hardline Brexit campaigner Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is on the committee, said the proposal “is the prospectus for the vassal state” and sets out a “future not worthy of us as a country.”

On the Markets | Pound traders are cautiously awaiting signs of progress toward a transition deal. Even if those expectations are met, any gains in the currency may be short-lived, Charlotte Ryan reports.

And Finally…

London’s pain is Luxembourg’s gain. While London house prices fall, Luxembourg’s are rising so much that its red-light district looks like it will be a likely home for bankers escaping Brexit. As the Grand Duchy prepares to welcome financiers relocating from the U.K., a lack of housing has pushed the price of relatively modest family homes beyond the €1 million mark ($1.2 million), Stephanie Bodoni reports.

That has led to edgier areas being developed to keep up with demand. One luxurious project called “Soho” has sprung up around the Rue de Strasbourg, which is slowly shedding its reputation as a cut-throat, no-go-area populated by drug pushers and pimps.

The Luxembourg City skyline.
Photographer: Getty Images

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EU convenes urgent Brexit meeting amid deal talk

March 19, 2018


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Diplomats handling Brexit talks for EU member states in Brussels were summoned to an urgent meeting by EU negotiators on Monday, diplomats and officials said, amid speculation about an interim deal ahead of a summit later this week.

“There could be a deal,” one senior EU diplomat said. Another however played down talk that good progress in negotiations with Britain over the weekend had reached the point of assuring London of a transition deal after Brexit.

Image result for Michel Barnier and david davis, photos

British Brexit Secretary David Davis will meet the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels shortly after 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) as the two sides try to hammer out an interim deal before leaders meet for a summit on Thursday.

Envoys will meet before Davis meets Barnier.

Several EU officials and diplomats said intense talks over the weekend aimed, among other things, at resolving serious differences over the Irish border had made good progress.

But one senior EU source involved in discussions said talk of a deal being agreed was “hype”.

Spokesmen for Barnier and the British government declined official comment.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels and Elizabeth Piper in London; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Catherine Evans

UK set to back down over fishing quotas during Brexit transition

March 17, 2018

British share of ‘total catch’ to remain unchanged during two years after EU exit

Image may contain: ocean, outdoor and water
The British fishing industry contributes less than 0.05 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product © Bloomberg
Laura Hughes in London and Alex Barker in Brussels 
Financial Times (FT)
The UK government has accepted that British fishermen will not enjoy a larger share of the fish available to be caught in domestic waters during the post-Brexit transition period.

Michael Gove, environment secretary, has called for an immediate renegotiation of fishing quotas and access for EU vessels in British waters from March 2019, when the UK will leave the bloc.

But the British government is set to accept on Monday demands set out in the EU’s draft transition text, which includes a clause making clear that the UK share of the “total catch” will remain unchanged during the two years after the UK leaves the EU.

As a result, Britain’s share of the total allowable catches — which has been fixed for decades under the “relative stability” quota arrangement — will remain exactly the same during the post-Brexit transition period.

The EU’s proposals fall well short of Mr Gove’s ambitions for UK fisheries and he is understood to have raised his concerns about the EU’s position on Tuesday night at a Brexit cabinet committee meeting.

Last July, Mr Gove said the UK was leaving the EU’s common fisheries policy, which allows EU vessels access to UK waters and sets the quotas for how much each country can catch of each species of fish.

A UK government official said on Friday: “Negotiations on fish are continuing over the weekend but a landing zone is in sight thanks to significant movement on the part of the commission.

“Michael Gove, David Davis and the PM have all helped by digging their heels in: that approach is being vindicated,” they added.

In negotiations, Britain has proposed that the EU must “agree” the total catch and share permitted in UK waters before the EU decides the quotas for member states in 2020. Such arrangements would effectively have given Britain the power to determine what fishing was allowed in UK waters after Brexit.

The demand, which was one of Britain’s most ambitious requests relating to the transition period, was flatly refused by the EU side. One EU negotiator described the original UK idea as “wild”.

Brussels instead offered the UK further assurances that they would be consulted when the EU member states set the total catch allowed for individual species in British waters. The draft proposal says the EU would “give the opportunity to the UK to provide comments”.

British negotiators are pushing for more detailed arrangements.

An additional reference in the draft to the so-called “relative stability” principle — which has kept share of fish given to EU countries stable for 30 or more years — also ensures a degree of continuity for all sides during the transition. While Britain had sought to give UK fishermen a bigger share of the catch, France had at the same time pushed for the EU to increase its share relative to Britain.

Controlling access to UK waters is a key leverage point for Britain in talks on a future trade deal. France, the Netherlands and Denmark are leading a group of countries determined to make sure their politically powerful fishing industries do not suffer after the post- Brexit transition period ends.

The British fishing industry contributes less than 0.05 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, and fisherman have expressed concern that the sector could be used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.

In a bid to neutralise Britain’s negotiating power, the EU has tied fishing rights to other parts of any trade deal, implying that market access for UK airlines or products would depend on a good fishing deal for the EU. Most UK fish exports are to the EU.

Last week, Mr Gove said it was “vital” that the UK regain control over its own fisheries after Brexit.

In a joint statement with Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Mr Gove said: “As we leave the EU, we want the UK to become an independent coastal state, negotiating access annually with our neighbours.

“And during the implementation period we will ensure that British fishermen’s interests are properly safeguarded.”

EU’s Donald Tusk challenges Theresa May to devise her own Brexit plan

March 1, 2018

Donald Tusk has called on the UK to come up with its own plan to avoid a border in Ireland. Theresa May rejected the EU’s draft offer and is set to announce her own proposal in Brussels.

Theresa May and Donald Tusk (Reuters/S. Dawson)

European Council President Donald Turk challenged British Prime Minister Theresa May to present her own ideas on preventing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland as the two leaders held talks in London on Thursday.

Following the meeting, an official for Tusk said he and May had “an open and honest debate in a good atmosphere about the real political difficulties ahead of us.”

Their meeting at Downing Street came a day after May rejected a draft EU deal proposing that Northern Ireland remain in the EU customs union if the two sides fail to find a better solution. The prime minister reacted angrily to the proposal, saying she would refuse anything that undermined the UK’s constitutional integrity.

Read more:  UK waits to see how the post-Brexit winds will blow

“The PM said that the draft text put forward by the European Commission yesterday was unacceptable to the UK as it would, if implemented, undermine the UK common market and constitutional integrity of the UK,” May’s office said in a statement following her meeting with Tusk.

Red lines all around

May’s government has so far ruled out remaining in the single market or creating a new customs unionthat would require the free movement peoples.

However, it has not said how it intends to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland in order to protect the Good Friday agreement. The 1998 truce ended three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

Read more: Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn wants UK in EU customs union

Tusk has criticized the UK’s self-imposed “red lines” on the single market and customs union, warning that would shape the future relationship and make frictionless trade, as called for by British politicians, impossible.

“I want to stress one thing clearly: there can be no frictionless trade outside of the customs union and the single market,” Tusk said ahead of the meeting. “Friction is an inevitable side effect of Brexit by nature.”

May is set to announce on Friday her expectations for the UK’s future relationship with the EU after it leaves on the bloc in 13 months’ time. May briefed Tusk on the speech, with reports suggesting she will make the call for an “ambitious economic partnership.”

Tusk will make a similar announcement on the EU’s stance next week.

Downbeat Barnier sinks sterling

Warnings from the EU’s chief negotiator, Michael Barnier, caused the pound to sink to a seven-week low against the dollar.

Barnier told reporters on Thursday that the only option open to the UK was a free trade deal, similar to the ones the EU recently signed with Canada and Japan.

Read more: Angela Merkel: Brexit to leave ‘very challenging’ budget hole

“The UK is closing the door on itself one by one and the only possible model which remains is that of the free trade agreement, as we did recently with Canada, Japan or Korea,” Barnier said in Brussels.

The former French minister for foreign affairs also warned that there was no guarantee for a  21-month transition deal — an agreement designed to give London and Brussels more time to finalize the results of Brexit. According to the reports, the announcement rattled investors and sparked a sell-off of the pound.

Brexit: Boxed In, Theresa May Fights Brussels

February 28, 2018


By Emma Ross-Thomas

  • Pro-EU rebels are growing in strength and could defeat May
  • U.K. to reject the treaty text that EU will publish Wednesday
Why Tories Are Split Over EU Customs Union

Theresa May is boxed in on her road to Brexit, with rebels on each side blocking her moves just as the European Union demands progress.

The pro-European Conservative rebels are growing in strength, and enough lawmakers have now signed an amendment that could inflict defeat on May on a key plank of her Brexit policy. Meanwhile, hardline Brexit backers are increasingly vociferous and her working majority is so slim that one false move risks toppling her.

Theresa May
Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

So May is sticking to the fight on a safer front – in Brussels – where the U.K. is poised to reject a 100-page draft divorce treaty that the EU will publish on Wednesday. The text, which seeks to press into black and white legal language the political compromises made in December, is set to contain some articles that the U.K. will find unacceptable.

May will take on the EU over two of its key proposals, Tim Ross reports. These are allowing the European Court of Justice to oversee the final deal, and arranging a separate trading regime for Northern Ireland – which, although it could avoid a “hard border” with Ireland, would impose new barriers with mainland Britain. Euroskeptics in her party will be enraged by the first, and the Northern Irish lawmakers who prop up her government by the second.

With just three weeks to go until a deal is meant to be reached on the crucial transition period that businesses are desperate to pin down, the tension between the two sides is growing, at least in public. Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Tuesday there were still disagreements on the transition and called on his opposite number David Davis to meet him for “political negotiations.” There’s not much time: both sides want to get a divorce agreement sealed by the end of the year and the U.K. wants a detailed trade accord outlined by then, too.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier. AFP photo

The EU is heaping pressure on May to detail what she wants from the future relationship and what she is prepared to sacrifice to get it. But the conflicting demands on the prime minister are preventing her from coming out with a proposal the EU would consider reasonable. Instead, May is asking for something the EU says is based on illusion. She gives a key speech on the future relationship on Friday, which will aim to please both wings of her party. But if she gives Europe the clarity it seeks, she’s at risk from rebels on either side.

Brexit Latest

Public Debate | Michel Barnier said that the legal text to be published on Wednesday will “feed into the public debate” on Brexit. The EU, which still seems keen on keeping the U.K. in the bloc, wants to force Britain to look carefully at the consequences of the divorce.

DUP Fury | The Democratic Unionist Party says it is unacceptable that the EU won’t include in its text May’s pledge to avoid a border in the Irish Sea after Brexit. “If of course they’re going to renege on the agreement which they made in December – and the leaks that we hear where they’re only opting for one, i.e. that keeps Britain in the European single market and the customs union – that’s bad faith and you have to ask, can you negotiate with people like that?” DUP lawmaker Sammy Wilson said.

Tech Hiring Takes Longer | Tech firm ARM Holdings isn’t deterred from hiring because of Brexit, but CEO Simon Segars says it’s now taking longer to get people on board. “Brexit is not slowing down our hiring into the U.K. for the moment,” he said. “It’s taking a bit longer to get people into the door but we haven’t seen a big slowdown yet.”

Dismissing Ireland | Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson compared the solutions needed for the Irish border to managing traffic toll in London, prompting reactions that ranged from ridicule to horror. Cementing the view that Johnson isn’t too exercised by one of the key problems thrown up by Brexit, Sky News reported that he had written to May saying it’s not the U.K.’s task to ensure there’s no border on the divided island.

Big Data Puzzle | The head of the big-data firm that helped President Donald Trump’s election denied working with the Leave.EU campaign, contradicting previously published statements attributed to Alexander Nix, the chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica, fellow employees, and members of the Leave.EU campaign. Nix told lawmakers on Tuesday that the company never did any work, “paid or unpaid,” for Leave.EU, and that “we were not involved” in the referendum.

Norwegian Faith | The world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund will continue to invest in the U.K. no matter the outcome of the Brexit talks. “We remain a long-term and committed investor in the U.K. in all asset classes,” Norges Bank Investment Management’s Chief Executive Officer Yngve Slyngstad said. Bloomberg’s Mark Gilbert calls that a brave bet.

On the Markets | Pound bulls shouldn’t be too concerned if the EU’s draft treaty on Brexit ignores demands by the U.K. for a longer transition period, Charlotte Ryan writes. “The narrative that is being priced into sterling markets over the past few days is that this week’s events – May’s speech and EU text – will not yield any Brexit consensus,” said Viraj Patel, a currency strategist at ING Groep. The pound edged lower to $1.3895 in early trade on Wednesday.

And Finally…

Liam Fox’s former trade adviser, Martin Donnelly, made headlines on Tuesday when he pre-empted a speech by his former boss by saying that leaving the EU’s customs union and single market for the promise of future trade deals elsewhere is like giving up a three-course meal “for the promise of a packet of crisps in the future.” Cue a call from Remainers to protest outside Fox’s speech with bags of crisps. It didn’t go well: first the protesters were sent to the wrong address, then a handful turned up at the right spot but were barely noticed as they munched on their crisps.

Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe
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Corbyn selling ‘snake oil’ over Brexit: David Davis says Labour leader breaching his manifesto by pledging to keep Britain in customs union

February 26, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn is making ‘serious breaches’ of Labour’s manifesto, according to the Brexit Secretary — CREDIT: SIMON DAWSON/REUTERS


​Jeremy Corbyn is selling “snake oil” over Brexit, David Davis has warned as the Labour leader pledges to keep Britain tied to the EU indefinitely.

Mr Corbyn is expected to use a major speech on Monday to announce that he wants to keep Britain in the customs union, which would mean that Britain could not sign its own trade deals with non-EU countries after Brexit.

It comes amid a deep split within the Conservative Party over the issue after five pro-European Tory “mutineers” tabled an amendment which could force Theresa May into accepting a post-Brexit customs union.

Labour on Sunday indicated that it is prepared to back the amendment, meaning that the Government is facing the prospect of defeat…

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Retreat of the Brexiteers — Surrendering to Brussels on regulation isn’t the path to success — Abandoned Britain’s best chances to use its new sovereignty to reshape its economy

February 25, 2018

Brexit Secretary David Davis speaks in Vienna, Feb. 20.

Of all the mysteries surrounding Britain’s departure from the European Union, the greatest is this: Why are Brexit supporters in the U.K. government surrendering to Brussels halfway through the exit talks? That’s what members of Theresa May’s cabinet are doing this week on their “Road to Brexit” tour.

Mrs. May’s pro-Brexit colleagues have been making a series of speeches about Britain’s future. March marks the halfway point in Britain’s two-year process to negotiate the terms for its departure. Leaders want to start settling terms for a transition period during which Britain might gradually ease its way out of the EU after 2019.

Yet not even the Brexiteers can say what Britain will transition to. Speeches by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson last week and Brexit Secretary David Davis, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Trade Secretary Liam Fox on Tuesday were supposed to offer a plan. Instead they’ve abandoned Britain’s best chances to use its new sovereignty to reshape its economy.

Mr. Davis promised not to pursue “an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom” on regulation that would turn Britain into “a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction.” Singaporeans and Hong Kongers will be surprised to hear their cities—which thrive on low taxes and light regulation—described that way.

To secure a trade deal with the EU that would reduce regulatory barriers such as diverging product-safety standards, Mr. Davis is signaling he’d abandon Britain’s ability to liberalize its economy to stimulate investment. Chancellor Philip Hammond has already bargained away Britain’s ability to cut its corporate tax rate to as low as 15%.

Elsewhere, Mr. Gove promised to continue farm subsidies after Britain leaves the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Britain will merely subsidize differently, with payouts for scenic vistas and taking care of animals. Mr. Gove has previously suggested Britain should hold a trade deal with the U.S. hostage to unscientific demands that Britain not import chlorine-washed chickens. Dr. Fox for his part said he’d resist new trade barriers with Europe. As Mr. Davis’s speech shows, it’s likely that fulfilling such a promise will require accepting EU-style regulation.

These leaders face the political dilemma that although they understand the need for domestic reform, they’ve never made that case to voters. A poll released Tuesday by IPPR/Opinium found 60% of Brits support tighter emissions restrictions on cars, and 70% support caps on banker pay or the EU’s restrictions on overtime work. In his Brexit speech last week, Mr. Johnson spoke about the need for Britain to control its regulations but also admitted that those Made-in-Britain rules might look like what Brussels does now.

Talk about a missed opportunity. Britain’s economy will thrive if its leaders and voters seize the chance to pare back expensive and pointless EU rules and lower taxes to attract investment. It will slump if Britain tries to maintain an EU-style regulatory and tax system to appease Brussels, but without the benefits of EU membership to offset the economic costs. Mr. Davis and his colleagues won the Brexit referendum, but they’re losing the greater economic freedom they promised.