Posts Tagged ‘EU’

Brexit: Theresa May to join EU summit after surviving vote

December 13, 2018

Theresa May is heading to Brussels for an EU summit, less than 24 hours after surviving a vote of confidence.

The prime minister is seeking legally binding pledges from EU leaders on the Irish backstop – a key obstacle for MPs who oppose her Brexit deal.

The EU will not renegotiate the deal but may be willing to give greater assurances on the temporary nature of the backstop, the BBC understands.

 

The PM won the ballot on her leadership by 200 votes to 117 on Wednesday night.

The secret ballot was triggered by 48 of her MPs angry at her Brexit policy, which they say betrays the 2016 referendum result.

Speaking in Downing Street after the vote, Mrs May vowed to deliver the Brexit “people voted for” but said she had listened to the concerns of MPs who voted against her.

“I have heard what the House of Commons said about the Northern Ireland backstop and, when I go to the European council tomorrow, I will be seeking legal and political assurances that will assuage the concerns that members of parliament have on that issue,” she said.

At Thursday’s summit, she will have an opportunity to spell out face to face the problems surrounding the withdrawal agreement at Westminster to the 27 other EU leaders.

Without Mrs May, the EU leaders will then consider what could be done.

A draft of the European Council conclusions on Brexit says the EU would use its “best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop so that it would only be in place for a short period and only as long as strictly necessary.”

In other words, the EU would continue trying to negotiate a trade deal with the UK even if the Irish backstop had been triggered at the end of the transition period.

The Brexit withdrawal agreement only talks about ‘best endeavours’ being used to reach an agreement during the transition period.

But the draft put forward by the European Council could be subject to change, the BBC’s Adam Fleming says.

Westminster critics of Mrs May’s Brexit deal might also complain that it is not legally binding.

But the same document reiterates that the withdrawal agreement is not open to renegotiation, adding that it would not have been even if the Conservative Party had changed leaders.

Theresa May: ‘We now need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit’

The prime minister won the confidence vote with a majority of 83 – 63% of Conservative MPs backing her and 37% voting against her.

Mrs May spoke of a “renewed mission – delivering the Brexit people voted for, bringing the country back together and building a country that really works for everyone”.

Her supporters urged the party to move on but critics said losing the support of a third of MPs was “devastating”.

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said the level of opposition was “not at all comfortable” for the prime minister and a “real blow” to her authority.

The outcome of the vote was welcomed by Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who said avoiding a no-deal exit from the EU was a “shared goal”.

But Mrs May still faces a battle to get her Brexit deal through the UK parliament, with all opposition parties and dozens of her own MPs against it.

How have Conservative MPs reacted?

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who led calls for the confidence vote, said losing the support of a third of her MPs was a “terrible result for the prime minister” and he urged her to resign.

Brexit-backing Tory MP Mark Francois told the BBC it was “devastating” that more than half of backbenchers not serving in the government had abandoned the prime minister.

“In the cold light of day when people reflect on that number – 117 – it’s a massive number, far more than anyone was predicting. I think that will be very sobering for the prime minister. I think she needs to think very carefully about what she does now.”

May survives confidence vote

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling conceded there were “lessons” for the prime minister and the party in the result but former cabinet minister Damian Green said it was a “decisive” victory which should allow Mrs May to “move on and get on with the job in hand”.

Nicholas Soames urged Brexiteers to “throw their weight” behind the PM as she sought to address the “grave concerns” many MPs had about aspects of the EU deal.

What are the opposition saying?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the vote had “changed nothing”.

“Theresa May has lost her majority in parliament, her government is in chaos and she’s unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country.”

Brexit battles: How May lived to fight another day

Labour has said it will table a no-confidence motion that all MPs – not just Conservatives – will be able to vote in when they felt they had a chance of winning it, and forcing a general election.

The SNP’s Stephen Gethins urged Labour to “step up to the plate” and call a vote of no confidence in Mrs May, accusing the government of “playing games with people’s lives”.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party, which helps keep Mrs May in power, was still concerned about the Irish backstop plan, which most MPs were against.

“I don’t think this vote really changes anything very much in terms of the arithmetic,” he told BBC News.

But he said the DUP would not support a no-confidence motion in Parliament at this stage.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-46547832

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European Central Bank expected to end stimulus

December 13, 2018

End of an era as ECB set to withdraw crisis-fighting stimulus

A chapter of eurozone history will come to a close Thursday, with the European Central Bank widely expected to withdraw a key element of support for the economy while reassuring observers fearful of the growing risks.

The past three years have seen the Frankfurt institution ward off the threat of catastrophic deflation — a crippling downward spiral of prices and activity — by buying 2.6 trillion euros ($3.0 trillion) of government and corporate debt.

Policymakers say the programme has boosted growth, helped create millions of jobs and set inflation back on the path towards its target of just below 2.0 percent.

But it has also politicised the bank like never before, as disciples of fiscal rectitude in Germany and other northern countries claimed the scheme indirectly enabled spendthrift policies in the south.

The ECB “should have ended its quantitative easing (QE) programme and its negative interest rate policy a long time ago,” the director of the Flossbach von Storch institute in Cologne, Thomas Mayer, told business daily Handelsblatt.

After more than three years and purchases of 2.6 trillion euros ($3.0 trillion) of government and corporate bonds, the ECB should announce as planned the end of its 'quantitative easing' programme

After more than three years and purchases of 2.6 trillion euros ($3.0 trillion) of government and corporate bonds, the ECB should announce as planned the end of its ‘quantitative easing’ programme After more than three years and purchases of 2.6 trillion euros ($3.0 trillion) of government and corporate bonds, the ECB should announce as planned the end of its ‘quantitative easing’ programme AFP/File

– Crisis averted –

On Thursday, central bankers “will turn the page on QE, since there is no longer a serious risk of deflation” — a harmful downward spiral of prices braking activity — said economist Bruno Cavalier of Oddo BHF.

Price growth slowed from 2.2 percent in October to 2.0 percent last month in the 19-nation single currency area.

However “core” inflation excluding volatile food and energy prices remains sluggish at around one percent.

That’s one reason why analysts widely expect the central bank to play up its other tools for stimulating activity: interest rates stuck at historic lows “at least through the summer” of 2019 and reinvestments of the proceeds from its massive debt pile.

Soothing words will be needed as the ECB’s growth forecasts — for the first time stretching out to 2021 — will likely be revised downwards this time around, following a growth slowdown in the third quarter this year.

In the carefully hedged, coded language of central bankers, the ECB “will keep its options open about the future path of policy” to comfort markets, predicted Capital Economics analyst Jennifer McKeown.

– Risks under control? –

Such flexibility is needed at a time when the eurozone is hemmed in by risks at home and abroad.

Within the 19-nation single currency area, Italy is still wrestling with Brussels over its plan to boost its budget deficit next year, while French President Emmanuel Macron had to promise extra spending on the least well-off after weeks of sometimes violent “yellow vests” demonstrations.

Meanwhile outside the bloc, the risk of Britain crashing out of the European Union in March with no deal has been pumped up by parliamentary turmoil in London this week.

And Donald Trump’s trade confrontation with China — with harmful knock-on effects for the eurozone — rumbles on despite a 90-day truce for fresh talks.

Against such a gloomy backdrop, observers will have a special eye out for whether ECB President Mario Draghi updates his assessment that risks to eurozone are “broadly balanced” between positive and negative.

More broadly, a slowing global economy could find the eurozone unprepared for the next recession.

“In 2020 I expect the USA to experience a significant slowdown and export a recession to much of the world,” former ECB Vice-President Vitor Constancio told German business daily Handelsblatt Wednesday.

In any future downturn, governments will have to step in and support the economy with extra spending, rather than counting on the central bank to cushion the blow, Constancio warned.

Berlin treads softly-softly on Macron over deficit (Italy is happy!!)

December 12, 2018

Germany is taking a softly-softly approach to French President Emmanuel Macron’s use of government largesse to calm violent “yellow vest” protests, government sources say, as Berlin puts European stability above fiscal discipline.

A reluctance to criticise publicly contrasts with complaints about France from Italy whose populist coalition government is in a stand-off with Brussels over its own big-spending budget which includes a sharp spike in the deficit.

“It’s good news that things are calming down. France is Germany’s most important partner and we have no interest in seeing it destabilised for the long term,” a senior German government source said.

Ministers have been urged not to stoke confrontation with Paris as Macron attempts to end mass demonstrations against his pro-business reforms, promising tax and spending measures for the lowest earners worth billions of euros (dollars).

Germany is taking a softly-softly approach to French President Emmanuel Macron's easing of the budget strings to cope with protests, with Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) focussing on stability in Europe, analysts say

Germany is taking a softly-softly approach to French President Emmanuel Macron’s easing of the budget strings to cope with protests, with Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) focussing on stability in Europe, analysts say Germany is taking a softly-softly approach to French President Emmanuel Macron’s easing of the budget strings to cope with protests, with Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) focussing on stability in Europe, analysts say POOL/AFP

“We don’t know how they’re going to pay for all this,” the government source said, but “we will hold back from talking about a budget slip. This is about the French public finances; it’s not for Germany to judge.”

– Damping down fires –

Especially since the financial crisis of 2008, Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel has prioritised tight budgets, with deficits held to well under the EU three percent of GDP limit.

Her governments have also slashed accumulated total debt, bringing it down towards the EU ceiling of 60 percent of GDP.

They have not been shy of passing judgement on less stringent fellow EU members — such as Italy — and have opposed reforms to the 19-nation euro single currency that could mean more risk sharing between capitals.

But for now Berlin’s larger concern is a political crisis across Europe that has been stoked by populist victories, including Britons’ 2016 vote to quit the European Union.

Italy, too, has been largely spared a wagging Teutonic finger this year despite its deficit-busting budget which the EU, in a first, rejected outright, insisting that Rome try again.

“We see it in France, we see it in other countries, we have an urgent responsibility to halt these populist movements in the European elections” next May, another government source said.

The tone from the European Commission has meanwhile been notably calm and understanding — unlike for Rome, as the Italian government has pointed out.

Overstepping the budget limit “can be envisaged in a limited, temporary and exceptional way,” Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told France’s Le Parisien daily Wednesday.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio noted that a higher deficit “will create a French problem, after the Italian problem, if the rules are the same for everyone.”

“I expect the Commission to open a procedure” that could lead to sanctions for excessive spending — as it has threatened to do in Italy’s case, he added.

Despite their public forbearance, German leaders are in private frustrated with Macron’s uphill struggle to push through reforms they see as indispensable.

One senior official noted how the young president’s at times arrogant style has alienated parts of the French public.

And any weakening of restraint in French spending policy undermines Macron’s bet he could win German confidence by showing France could live within its means and reshape state finances.

– ‘More Renzi than Schroeder’ –

German economists greeted sceptically Macron’s emergency concessions to the “yellow vests” after repeated weekends of marches, barricades and violence around France.

For example, an increase in the minimum wage “will not reduce social tensions in France, where the minimum wage is already so high that it hampers the employment of weaker groups in the labour market, especially young people,” said Clemens Fuest, head of Munich’s influential Ifo think-tank.

German newspapers, which last week celebrated the 50th anniversary of irrepressible Gaulish comic book hero Asterix appearing in the language, see a similar stubbornness in modern France’s resistance to its young president.

For conservative Die Welt daily, Macron is “more of a Matteo Renzi”, whose recent premiership in Italy failed to secure much-needed reforms, than a Gerhard Schroeder — the chancellor whose policies are credited with reviving Germany’s fortunes after the moribund early 2000s.

AFP

Related:

European Parliament backs trade pact with Japan

December 12, 2018

Image result for French Roquefort cheese, Bloomberg, pictures

‘Cars for cheese’ agreement to create trade zone covering 630m people French Camembert cheese. © Bloomberg

By Jim Brunsden in Brussels 2 HOURS AGO Print this page

European Parliament has given its backing to the EU’s “cars for cheese” trade deal with Japan, a pact that will remove more than €1bn in duties for European exporters while creating an “open trade zone” covering 630m people.

The vote by MEPs in Strasbourg means that the trade agreement, the largest ever struck by the EU with another country, is set to come into force on February 1. EU chiefs have said that the deal shows the bloc’s determination to fight protectionism and its ability to win new export opportunities for businesses. Under the agreement, Japan will scrap many of the tariffs it currently imposes on EU agricultural goods, including for wine, meat and many cheeses.

Europe in turn will remove duties on Japanese cars and car parts. Some of the most sensitive market openings will happen gradually over a period of years, or be limited by tariff-free quotas. Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU’s trade commissioner, told the FT that the deal “sends a very powerful signal” and that reflected both sides’ desire to reinforce relations.

Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, as well as his stance that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” had galvanised the negotiations on the deal, she said. The pact will stimulate trade flows across two economies that collectively account for almost a third of the world’s gross domestic product.

As well as scrapping nearly all tariffs on trade in goods, the deal also includes measures to remove regulatory barriers to trade, and to open up access to public procurement markets. EU exporters currently pay close to €1bn in Japanese customs duties every year.

https://www.ft.com/content/f380dc4a-fe08-11e8-aebf-99e208d3e521

Italian government says its budget will prevent ‘scenes like we’ve seen in Paris — Macron’s money give away will put France in EU doghouse on spending with Italy

December 12, 2018

Fiscal restrained in the EU may be dead.

Italian government says its budget will prevent 'scenes like we've seen in Paris'
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (C) with his deputies Luigi Di Maio (L) and Matteo Salvini (R). Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
France’s “yellow vest” protests have given the Italian government new ammunition in their budget battle with Brussels, as ministers say higher public spending is needed to prevent social unrest.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Tuesday that “there will be a French problem” on top of an Italian one if France’s deficit breaches EU rules after Emmanuel Macron unveiled measures to quell protests.

“France will have to increase its deficit and there will be a problem for France, if the rules are the same for everyone,” said Di Maio, whose own government’s big-spending budget is facing EU disciplinary measures.

And speaking at his rally in Rome on Saturday, Co-Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said the Italian government was taking a “very different path” to Paris.

“Do people in Italy want scenes like we’ve seen in Paris? … No. I want to prevent this,” he said.

‘Yellow vest’ protesters in Paris. Photo: AFP

France’s “yellow vest” protesters  have taken aim at French President Emmanuel Macron’s liberal economic policies, and have so far forced the French government to pay for an increase in the minimum wage – a potentially costly measure – as well as cancel a planned rise in taxes on petrol and diesel.

Italian ministers seized on the anti-government demonstrations rocking Paris as further justification for their ‘people’s budget’, which proposes to increase public spending in defiance of austerity measures being followed across Europe – including Italy, for now.

Italy’s budget for 2019 was the first in history to be rejected by Brussels for breaking spending rules, and the populist government of Di Maio’s Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini’s far-right League is now trying to come up with another draft.

Brussels has insisted it will sanction Italy if its budget is not adjusted to meet European Union spending rules, focusing on the proposed deficit level of 2.4 percent.

READ ALSO: Budget of change’: Italy announces plans to end austerity

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, travelling to Brussels this week, is expected to argue that his government’s budget goes beyond numbers and is the only defence against the unrest and social revolt taking place across Europe, La Stampa writes.

The country “can’t concentrate only on financial stability, we also need to look at social stability,” the premier was cited as saying. “The austerity-oriented recipes of the past few years have failed.”

The EU rules on public spending are “binding for everybody, that is clear,” said senior German MEP Manfred Weber, when asked by reporters about France’s new expenditure.

But he added that “what we should not do as the European Union is intervene in domestic policies.”

READ ALSO: EU slams Italy’s ‘unprecedented’ breaking of budget rules

https://www.thelocal.it/20181211/italian-government-says-its-budget-will-prevent-scenes-like-paris-protests

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See also:

Macron, Facing Protests, Departs From EU Fiscal Strictures

https://www.wsj.com/articles/macron-facing-protests-departs-from-eu-fiscal-strictures-11544557683?mod=hp_lista_pos1

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Bloomberg

French President Emmanuel Macron has emboldened Italy’s populists in their standoff with the European Union by embarking on a spending spree of his own.

The promises Macron unveiled Monday night in a bid to defuse the Yellow Vest protests, from a 100-euro ($114) a month hike in the minimum wage to abolishing a tax on pensions, could play into the hands of Italian Deputy Premiers Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio as they challenge EU budget rules to start delivering on election promises.

Yellow vest protestors watch as Emmanuel Macron speaks on television on Dec. 10.

Photographer: Guillaume Souvant/AFP via Getty Images

France’s budget deficit could defy the very same rules. As the EU pressures Italy to retreat from a deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP next year, Macron’s plan could push France’s to 3.5 percent, according to initial estimates.

French bonds fell for a fourth straight day Tuesday, with the 10-year yield spread over Germany reaching 46 basis points, the most since Macron was elected in May last year.

Read More: Macron’s Plan Raises Prospect of Downgrade for French Bonds

While investors are starting to look more closely at French spending, Italy has periodically complained that Paris gets special treatment when the EU Commission is assessing budgets.

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

What Our Economists Say…

“The fiscal loosening shows that France’s embattled president is more worried about yellow vests in Paris than gray suits in Brussels, whose fiscal rules are being broken. The danger is that the protests continue anyway because too much of the giveaway is targeted on pensioners and not enough on those in work.”

–Maeva Cousin, Bloomberg Economics

Salvini and Di Maio, euroskeptics who’ve both expressed solidarity with France’s grassroots demonstrators, are already resisting pressure from Premier Giuseppe Conte and Finance Minister Giovanni Tria to yield ground to the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, over the deficit target for next year. The two deputy prime ministers largely set the agenda for the coalition government since they control its parliamentary majority.

Read More: France Defends Spending Push That Puts EU Deficit Limit at Risk

Conte will meet commission head Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels for another round of budget talks on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of a summit of European leaders on the two following days. Salvini and Di Maio are refusing to cut the deficit to below 2.2 percent, newspaper La Stampa reported.

Conte and Tria have been pushing for a deficit target at about 2 percent, with both eager to keep Italy in good standing with the EU, according to government officials who asked not to be named discussing confidential talks. The commission could fine Italy if budget demands are not met.

EU officials said Tuesday that they won’t take a view on Macron’s budget plans until they’ve had a chance to study them in detail.

Salvini of the anti-migration League and Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement had signaled readiness to compromise in recent weeks but they have yet to agree to either dilute or delay their landmark election pledges — a citizen’s income for the poor for Five Star, and a lower retirement age as well as tax cuts for the League.

Read More: How Yellow Vest Protests Came to Pose a Threat to Macron

Di Maio, whose party has its electoral base in the poorer south of Italy, has been the most vocal in his support for the Yellow Vest protesters. Di Maio said Monday he hopes their demands “can be channeled into a democratic solution which manages to send home the establishment which is damaging the rights of the weakest in society.”

The French protests also give Conte and his deputies added clout in negotiations with Brussels, which is wary of fueling anti-EU sentiment ahead of European Parliament elections in May. Salvini and Di Maio are already portraying that vote as a battle between national sovereignty and interfering “Eurocrats.”

The populists are considering a campaign for May that would accuse the EU budget enforcers of discriminating against Italy, Corriere della Sera reported.

Cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti, a close adviser to Salvini, called Italy’s budget approach “reasonable,” in comments to reporters cited by Ansa news agency Tuesday. “France has several times breached the 3 percent deficit, Italy hasn’t done it,” he said.

“Conte, Salvini and Di Maio can tell the commission that if there’s been no chaos in Italy, it’s because we’re in power,” Orsina said. “They can say, ‘we’re not crazies acting on a whim, we were asked to do these reforms by the voters.’”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-11/macron-hands-eu-a-new-headache-in-fight-over-italian-budget

 

Theresa May no-confidence vote — Says I’ll contest the confidence vote “with everything I’ve got.”

December 12, 2018

Theresa May’s Conservative rebels are challenging her leadership, but not in Parliament. The embattled British prime minister responded by saying she’d contest the confidence vote “with everything I’ve got.”

    
Theresa May (picture alliance/empics)

A no-confidence vote in the leadership British Prime Minister Theresa May has been triggered after the threshold of 15 percent of Conservative parliamentarians seeking the vote was crossed, said the MP responsible for internal challenges, Graham Brady, on Wednesday.

Brady said the vote by Conservative lawmakers would take place between 18:00 and 20:00 UTC on Wednesday evening.

Press Association

@PA

Enough Tory MPs have requested a vote of confidence in Theresa May to trigger a contest, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady announces

Press Association

@PA

Vote on Theresa May’s leadership will take place on Wednesday evening with result announced shortly after.

Read full press release from 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady pic.twitter.com/vmbkRSYqKH

View image on Twitter

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The result would be announced as soon as possible after the vote, he said.

Theresa May later said she planned to contest the vote “with everything I’ve got.”

The vote was triggered after at least 48 lawmakers submitted letters to his committee asking for it, according to Brady, who said that threshold was already crossed on Tuesday.

Read more: UK leadership challenge: How does it work?

Brexit deal discontent

The move comes as May faces widespread discontent in Parliament over a deal she negotiated over Britain’s planned exit from the European Union on March 29.

On Tuesday, May postponed a parliamentary vote on the deal after it became apparent that it was extremely unlikely to be approved by MPs.

Former British minister Owen Paterson, one of those to submit a letter of no confidence to trigger the vote, described the deal in his letter as “so bad that it cannot be considered anything other than a betrayal of clear manifesto promises.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Owen Paterson MP

@OwenPaterson

My letter to Sir Graham Brady

810 people are talking about this

Other leading Conservative lawmakers have come out in defense of May.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said a leadership contest was “the last thing the country needs” and that May was “the best person to make sure we actually leave the EU on March 29.” Home Secretary Sajid Javid echoed that view, saying that a leadership election would “be seen as self-indulgent and wrong” and that May had his “full support.”

Several others also issued Twitter statements of support.

Amber Rudd MP

@AmberRuddHR

The PM has my full support. At this critical time we need to support and work with the PM to deliver on leaving the EU, & our domestic agenda – ambitious for improvements to people’s lives & to build on growth of wages & jobs.

658 people are talking about this

Brandon Lewis

@BrandonLewis

I fully back our Prime Minister. We have the right Leader of our Party, we have a duty to deliver for our country & I hope all my colleagues will join me & support @theresa_may to deliver for UK.

509 people are talking about this

Anna Soubry MP

@Anna_Soubry

.@ OwenPaterson there’s no technology to avoid & new leader wldnt change reality of need for a back stop. Removing @theresa_may at this most critical of times is grossly irresponsible. You & ERG should be ashamed of yourselves. You’re an embarrassment @BBCr4today

667 people are talking about this

‘Ready to fight’

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, May said that any leadership change could give control of Brexit negotiations to the opposition Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn, potentially delaying or halting the Brexit process.

“I stand ready to finish the job,” she said in a speech that repeatedly alluded to her first as prime minister in 2016.

Challenge procedures

All 315 Conservative parliamentarians can cast a ballot in the leadership vote, with May needing 158 votes to win.

If she does, party rules say there cannot be another challenge for a year. If she loses, she will have to resign and is barred from running in the ensuing leadership contest. Her successor as Conservative leader would automatically become prime minister without the need for a national election, albeit potentially inheriting a minority government.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has faced pressure from within his party, and especially from other opposition groups like the Greens and the Scottish National Party, to call a confidence vote against May’s government in parliament where all MPs could vote. Thus far, he has resisted.

tj/msh (Reuters, dpa)

https://www.dw.com/en/brexit-conservative-mps-trigger-theresa-may-no-confidence-vote/a-46692614

UK: Theresa May to face leadership “Coup” — Vote of no confidence

December 12, 2018

 

Theresa May

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will face a vote of no confidence in her leadership later on Wednesday. EPA photo

Tory rebels secure 48 names needed to trigger confidence vote against prime minister

By George Parker

Theresa May is facing a dramatic vote of confidence in her leadership on Wednesday evening, after Eurosceptic MPs launched a coup against the prime minister to try to seize control of the final stages of Brexit. .

Tory rebels have secured the 48 names needed to trigger a confidence vote and Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, has announced it will take place between 6pm-10pm on Wednesday.

Mrs May is expected to fight for her job, but support has been draining away from the prime minister since Monday when she abandoned a planned vote in the House of Commons on her Brexit plan.

If Mrs May fails to secure 158 votes — a majority of Tory MPs — she will be forced to stand down and a full Tory leadership contest would take place.

https://www.ft.com/content/59508ea2-fde2-11e8-aebf-99e208d3e521

See also: The BBC

Theresa May to face vote of no confidence from Tory MPs

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-46535739

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UK prime minister to face no-confidence vote as Brexit hangs in the balance

KEY POINTS
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May will face a vote of no-confidence from members of her own Conservative party on Wednesday.
  • There is a backlash against her leadership as May tries to salvage her Brexit deal.
  • Northern Ireland’s border is a key bone of contention for MPs.
GP: Theresa May Departs For Parliament To Open A Brexit Debate
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in central London for the House of Commons where she will open a five-day debate on the Brexit withdrawal deal ahead of the ‘meaningful vote’ scheduled for the 11th of December. December 04, 2018 in London, England.
Wiktor Szymanowicz | Barcroft Media | Getty Images
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British Prime Minister Theresa May will face a vote of no-confidence from members of her own Conservative party on Wednesday, as the backlash against her leadership grows while she tries to salvage her Brexit deal.

Brexiteers within her party have reached the threshold of support they need to trigger a no-confidence vote in the prime minister, according to Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative Party’s ’1922 Committee’, a group of influential backbench members of parliament (MPs).

A leadership contest in May has been triggered after 15 percent of the Conservative parliamentary party submitted letters to Brady and a ballot will be held between 1800 to 2000 on December 12, the 1922 Committee said in a press release. CNBC has contacted Downing Street for a reaction Wednesday morning.

Under party rules, if 48 Conservative MPs submit letters to the chair of the 1922 Committee stating they no longer support her, a leadership contest is launched.

One of the MPs that submitted a letter of no-confidence is prominent and influential Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg. Although he was a one-time ally of Theresa May, he told CNBC on Tuesday that now it is May’s “duty” to resign.

“Normally when a prime minister loses her main policy she resigns, that is the main constitutional convention, they don’t just carry on regardless … The prime minister only holds office as long as she maintains the confidence of the House of Commons (the lower house of the U.K.’s parliament),” he said, adding:

“I think (on Monday when she announced the parliamentary vote would be delayed) the prime minister lost that and ought to resign.”

Backstop problems
.

May made a whistle-stop tour of Europe on Tuesday, meeting with the leaders of Germany and the Netherlands and the presidents of the European Council and European Commission, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker. May is due to meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Wednesday.

May might be trying to find friends in Europe willing to help her get tweaks to her moribund Brexit deal but whether she will secure any concessions is uncertain.  “There is no room whatsoever” to re-negotiate the Brexit deal, the European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament on Tuesday. Sterling is hovering around a 20-month low against the dollar Wednesday.

May went on the charm offensive on the continent Tuesday after pulling the plug on a parliamentary vote due on Tuesday on the Brexit deal (known as the ‘withdrawal agreement’) struck with Europe.

The deal had faced stiff opposition from many members of parliament (MPs) from both the pro-Brexit and ‘Remainer’ camp, from her own Conservative party and other opposition parties.

Her decision to delay the parliamentary vote – known as a “meaningful vote” on the deal and designed to give MPs a say on the withdrawal agreement – was made as it became clear the Brexit deal, in its current form, would not be approved by a majority in parliament.

For most MPs, the main bone of contention is what’s known as the Northern Irish “backstop.”

When the U.K. leaves the EU in March 2019 a 21-month transition period begins in which it’s hoped that U.K. and EU can strike a trade deal. If this does not happen (although the transition period could be extended) the backstop will kick in, ensuring there is no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The backstop is controversial as the measure is seen as indefinite and would mean the Northern Ireland remains largely aligned to the EU., an unpalatable prospect for many in the U.K.

May said she would try to renegotiate parts of the deal and now a new vote will have to be held before January 21 2019, leaving little time for future amendments and raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit – the “cliff-edge” scenario that most people want to avoid.

May said the backstop had been at the crux of discussions in Europe on Tuesday. She also said that preparations for a no-deal.

“I have been here in Europe dealing with the issue which I promised parliament I would be dealing with, which is the backstop in Northern Ireland and the backstop for Northern Ireland which is in withdrawal agreement,” May said, adding: “We have already stepped up the no deal preparations, that has been happening in recent days.”

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/12/brexit-may-to-face-confidence-vote-on-wednesday.html

May’s Brexit ‘theatre’ exasperates European partners

December 11, 2018

 

Frustrated EU leaders are resigned to providing Theresa May with a stage for more Brexit theatrics to help convince Britain she really fought for the best divorce possible.

The British premier was touring The Hague, Berlin and Brussels on Tuesday to seek reassurances that Europe will not use her Brexit deal to bind Britain into an indefinite customs union.

May hopes that if the sting is taken out of the so-called “Irish backstop” — designed to prevent the return of a hard border in Northern Ireland — British MPs will endorse her plan.

But European leaders have been clear: They will not renegotiate the text of the 585-page Withdrawal Agreement they concluded with May as recently as November 25 to great fanfare.

And their frustration and annoyance is mounting.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (left) meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin as she tries to muster EU help in getting her Brexit deal through a hostile Parliament in London

British Prime Minister Theresa May (left) meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin as she tries to muster EU help in getting her Brexit deal through a hostile Parliament in London. AFP photo

“We lost already enough time discussing Brexit,” declared Manfred Weber, leader of the conservative European People’s Party, the largest bloc in the European Parliament.

“We do not play this game, especially on the Irish backstop.”

May is nevertheless expected in Brussels later Tuesday for talks with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

Both have said they will not “renegotiate” the deal, even if Juncker told the EU parliament that there is room for “further clarification and further interpretations.”

So why come at all, just one day after May’s humiliating climbdown in cancelling a House of Commons vote and two days before she is due back in Brussels for an EU leaders’ summit?

“It’s theatre. She wants to show that she fought hard,” a European official confided to AFP.

Another official explained: “The United Kingdom has never been able to form a negotiating position because of the promises it made before the referendum, most of them unrealistic.”

The eurosceptic voters who won Britain’s 2016 referendum on quitting the EU were promised that they would have a brighter economic future outside the 28-nation bloc.

For European officials, however, the reality always was that post-Brexit Britain could never enjoy the same unfettered access to the single market without accepting EU payments and regulation.

– Euro mini-break –

With the upbeat economic promises contradicted by the British Treasury’s own dismal forecasts, May has to show that she at least defended her red lines on migration and Northern Ireland sovereignty.

And, most of all, she has to show that Europe did not get everything its own way, hence her last minute European mini-break.

“Theresa May wants to show that she got something out of this,” said a European official, explaining that EU negotiator Michel Barnier would try to find a reassuring form of words.

The former French minister’s team are working on a possible written declaration that can be made after May’s visit, officials told AFP.

They will make it clear that they hope never to have to invoke the Irish backstop, that it is simply and insurance policy — but they will also warn that they will not abandon continuing member Ireland.

And it is far from clear if Barnier’s promise will be legally binding.

That, according to British junior Brexit minister Martin Callanan, is what May wants.

It seems unlikely that that is what she will get.

Both French minister for Europe Nathalie Loiseau and Germany’s Michael Roth insist the deal can not be renegotiated, and Paris has made it clear it is now preparing for a “no deal” Brexit.

AFP

Brexit chaos and confusion leaves business leaders across Europe dismayed

December 11, 2018

Another day, another deeply uncertain development in the Brexit saga. Chaos and uncertainty have become watchwords of the process, and business leaders are tired of the confusion.

    
Symbolbild EU-Brexit-Gipfel (AFP/Getty Images/D. Leal-Olivas)

The Oxford English Dictionary, celebrated as a principal custodian of the English language, defines “uncertain” as follows: ‘not able to be relied on; not known or definite.’

Those words are as good a summation of the current state of the Brexit process as any. Monday’s shocking/not shocking move by UK Prime Minister Theresa May to postpone the British Parliament’s vote on the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement in the face of certain defeat continues a long established cycle of uncertainty, confusion and ultimately, chaos.

Such words are the stuff of nightmares for business leaders and market watchers, who thrive on things they can rely on. The deeply dismayed reaction of British business to the latest about-turn was best encapsulated by Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the influential Confederation of British Industry (CBI) lobby.

“This is yet another blow for companies desperate for clarity,” she said in reaction to the canceled vote. “Investment plans have been paused for two and a half years. Unless a deal is agreed quickly, the country risks sliding towards a national crisis.”

The price of uncertainty

The markets quickly reflected that lack of clarity. The British pound hit its lowest level since April 2017, and is now valued at €1.10 and $1.26. At the end of London trading on Monday, it had fallen 1.4 percent against the US dollar.

The FTSE 100 index also took a hit, with a sharp sell-off in the brief trading period that followed May’s announcement to parliament. It had fallen by almost 1 percent by the end of the day.

The effects of the deepening uncertainty are being felt far from English and European shores. “The market is concerned that the postponement uses up valuable time before the March 29 exit date, and the risk of a no-deal scenario is growing,” National Australia Bank economist David de Garis said of the effect on global markets.

The specter of a no-deal

The EU-UK deal currently has nowhere near enough support among British MPs to pass a House of Commons vote, but even more important is the fact that the EU have made it abundantly clear that the deal is not up for renegotiation.

Therefore, barring a dramatic change of opinion in London, that suggests only two realistic Brexit scenarios remain on the table: a no-deal Brexit or simply, no Brexit at all.

Business leaders in multiple sectors and industries across the UK and Europe have consistently said that the best-case scenario would be for Brexit not to take place at all. However, Monday’s events have increased the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit happening — by far the worst scenario, according to those same business leaders.

England Blockade Eurotunnel (Getty Images/AFP/B. Stansall)The economic implications of a no-deal Brexit, such as chaos at the Dover-Calais crossing (pictured) are disturbing for many business leaders

German business and industry representatives, in classic Teutonic style, have been consistently blunt and direct in their opposition to Brexit. A statement from Holger Bingmann, President of the BGA — a trade association which represents the German wholesale, foreign trade and services sectors — did not even attempt to play down his frustration and fear with the whole process.

Read more: Brexit’s other border: EU-UK trade across the Channel, in numbers

“What a mess!,” he said in a statement. “Just three months before the deadline, companies still do not know what to expect and how to proceed. The next tremor of the Brexit quake will be felt on both sides of the English Channel. This is an unprecedented disaster.

“For the British side again to try and play with time and to renegotiate is unbelievable and irresponsible, not least for their own population.”

Back to the border

The implications for business of a no-deal Brexit are profound. From the imposition of tariffs, customs, safety and other checks on future UK-EU trade, to possibly diverging regulatory standards on manufactured products, to chaos at borders and ports, the checklist of consequences is pretty scary for any business owner whose business has depended on UK membership of the EU.

Yet there is arguably nowhere in Europe with a higher stakes bet riding on the outcome of the Brexit process than the island of Ireland, especially Northern Ireland.

Irland Brexit Auswirkungen (DW/A. Sullivan)The Ireland-Northern Ireland border (Ireland to the right, Northern Ireland to the left) has become the primary battle line in the Brexit process

The region, part of the UK but whose citizens have the right to Irish citizenship under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, has been recognized by the EU-UK agreement as being worthy of special status in the Brexit process. The agreement allows for it to effectively remain part of both the EU’s customs union and the UK’s internal market, regardless of how the Brexit process turns out.

That ‘best of both worlds’ scenario has been almost universally welcomed by business groups in the region, including those with long-standing affiliations to the hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), on whose support May has relied for several key parliament votes and who oppose the deal on political grounds, regardless of its potential economic benefits for Northern Ireland.

Therefore, it is little surprise that business leaders in the region have reacted with the same concern and fear as those in the rest of the EU and across the Irish Sea to the latest convulsion in Westminster.

“Any delay to a future agreement is extremely concerning, particularly with just three months to go until the UK leaves the EU,” said Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.

“A no-deal outcome would result in higher costs, harming consumers in NI who already suffer from having half the discretionary spending power of those in the rest of the UK. Parliament must urgently find a workable proposal to avoid a cliff-edge no-deal scenario. The Brexit clock is ticking loudly.”

Yet what happens when the hour finally strikes remains anyone’s guess.

How Theresa May blew Brexit

December 11, 2018

Shakespeare famously wrote of the “sceptered isle” of Britain acting as a moat “against the envy of less happier lands.” Lately, the less happier lands are winning in a rout.

Britain is suffering a political meltdown as it struggles to make good on a historic vote in 2016 to leave the European Union. The decision for a so-called Brexit was a stirring statement of independence and self-government by a people who have defined themselves down the centuries by their stiff-necked resistance to anyone — whether overweening monarchs or continental tyrants — who would threaten either.

Commentary
By Rich Lowry
New York Post

That was before London ran up against the bureaucracy of the would-be European super-state based in Brussels, and before it was led, if that’s the right word, by Tory Prime Minister Theresa May.

Presiding over a divided party, facing a pro-Remain British establishment and negotiating with a hostile EU, May never had an easy task. She has nonetheless not only failed to rise to the occasion but been crushed by it.

May has just pulled her Brexit deal from a parliamentary vote that she was going to lose in an embarrassing drubbing that might have loosed her increasingly precarious grip on power.

She has negotiated abysmally, giving away leverage right at the start when she prematurely invoked Article 50, beginning the process of Britain’s departure with no realistic fallback plan if talks with the EU failed. She ended up with an agreement that would effectively leave Britain within most EU rules, with no means of influencing them anymore. The London Spectator calls the deal “Remain-minus.”

There’s a reason that resignations of her Brexit negotiators have become a semi-regular event.

Now, humiliated and her credibility in shreds, May says that she is going to go back to the EU to get more reassurances, when the EU has said that it isn’t conceding anything else of consequence. And why should it? There’s no guarantee that May can get any tweaked deal through parliament, regardless.

And she’s already tried to sell so many meaningless gestures from the EU as concessions that Brexit supporters won’t be inclined to take her seriously, either.

The larger question is this: Will the EU ever relinquish a nation-state, once it has its hooks in it? Its officials have treated the Brexit negotiations as an opportunity to teach anyone hoping to follow Britain out of the EU a lesson: Don’t dare try to take back the full measure of your sovereignty, lest we make it as miserable for you as possible. This is the Brezhnev doctrine for Eurocrats.When in the past countries in Europe have voted the “wrong” way on fundamental EU questions, as Ireland, France and the Netherlands did over the years, they were ignored or made to vote again until they got the right answer. Britain may yet suffer the same pitiful fate. The European Court of Justice just helpfully ruled that Britain can withdraw its Article 50 notification — in other words, forget this whole unpleasant Brexit vote happened.

That’s been the hope of many Remainers in Britain all along, but the case for the EU hasn’t gotten any stronger over the last two years. What does it say about the European project that exit is almost impossible? And if Britain is a political shambles, it’s not as though the most committed advocates of the EU are doing any better. Given the yellow-jacket protests ignited by his idiotic (since delayed) fuel tax, French President Emmanuel Macron can’t even control the streets of Paris on weekends.

May’s strategy seems to be to ride the current impasse as close to the March 29 Brexit deadline as possible, and force the adoption of her lamentable deal for lack of any alternative. In which case, to return to Shakespeare: “That England, that was wont to conquer others hath made a shameful conquest of itself.”

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