Posts Tagged ‘EU’s single market’

Barnier says EU ready to negotiate with UK on Irish border

July 20, 2018

Theresa May on Friday called on Brussels to ‘evolve’ its position

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Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier © AFP

By Jim Brunsden in Brussels

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said that he is ready to negotiate with the British government on options for preventing a hard border in Ireland, insisting that Brussels’ aim is not to divide different parts of the UK.

Michel Barnier said that enough time remained to conclude a Brexit withdrawal deal with the UK that could take effect in time for Britain’s departure in March. But he said the two sides now needed to rapidly settle a long-running dispute over “backstop” plans for preventing checks at the Irish border.

Speaking after a meeting with EU27 ministers in Brussels, Mr Barnier said: “We are open to any solutions so long as they are workable and can be transformed into a legally operative text in time for the withdrawal agreement.”

Theresa May on Friday called on Brussels to “evolve” its position on the backstop, which is intended to make sure that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland even if a long-term solution cannot be found before the end of the UK’s post-Brexit transition period.

The current EU plan would involve effectively keeping the province inside the EU’s single market and customs union, something Mrs May has vowed to oppose.

“There will be a backstop, not necessarily our backstop,” Mr Barnier said.

“We can work, we can amend, we can improve,” he said, adding that Brussels had “invited” the UK to work on the issue next week.

“We are not asking for a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, what we need is checks on goods, because the UK wants to leave [the] single market, customs union and our common commercial policy,” Mr Barnier said.

The EU chief negotiator also gave his first impressions of the White Paper presented by the UK government this month, setting out its proposals for a post-Brexit relationship with Europe.

While not explicitly ruling out the UK plans, Mr Barnier said they left open “major” questions that the British government had so far not managed to answer, and he warned that Brussels would resist any plans that could undermine the bloc’s rules.

Mr Barnier said key issues for Brussels included Britain’s proposal of a free-trade area in goods without committing to comply with all EU product rules. He said that this could allow the UK to breach EU rules on pesticides and GMOs while still being allowed to sell its agricultural products on the common market.

“How can we protect the European consumer?” Mr Barnier said.

He also challenged parts of Mrs May’s proposals for a future customs arrangement with the EU, saying that it was not clear to Brussels how the UK’s plans to apply two different sets of customs tariffs could avoid “a major risk of fraud”.

Another issue for Brussels centres on the UK’s desire to leave the single market for services despite the sector often being intrinsically bound up with the selling of goods, Mr Barnier said.


Michel Barnier attacks key parts of Theresa May’s Brexit plan

July 20, 2018

heresa May has warned Eurosceptics the UK cannot “wash our hands” of the Irish border issue as she urged the EU to increase the intensity of Brexit talks.

Speaking in Belfast, the Prime Minister said the UK and EU would need to work together in order to ensure the continuation of a “seamless border”.

Her comments will be seen as a slapdown to Brexiteers on her own benches who believe the UK should tell Brussels the Government would under no circumstances impose a hard border and dare the EU to do so in the event no withdrawal deal can be done.

Mrs May said: “Some argue that the right approach is for the UK to declare that we will not impose any checks at the border after we have left.

Read more (Paywall):


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The Independent

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has delivered the EU 27’s response to the Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

He welcomed several elements of the proposals agreed by ministers at Chequers but raised concerns over whether they are compatible with the integrity of the EU’s single market. He also cited border checks, unfair competition and potential fraud as other possible problems.

Mr Barnier was speaking after meeting with ministers from the EU’s 27 other member states.

Earlier, Theresa May used a speech in Northern Ireland to call on the EU to accept the UK’s Brexit proposals.

Visiting the region for the first time since taking office, the prime minister sought to reassure residents and businesses that she is committed to maintaining a soft border with the Republic of Ireland.

She insisted that her government’s Brexit plan “works for the whole UK, including Northern Ireland” and said it is “now for the EU to respond”.

See more:

Theresa May prepares to face down Eurosceptic ministers

July 6, 2018

Prime minister seeking to force through ‘soft Brexit’ strategy at Chequers showdown

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Chequers, the prime minister’s official country residence © Getty

By George Parker, Political Editor 

Theresa May will on Friday attempt to face down opposition from six Eurosceptic cabinet ministers as she tries to force through a new “soft Brexit” strategy at a day of decisive talks at Chequers, her country retreat.

Boris Johnson on Thursday convened a meeting of pro-Brexit ministers at the Foreign Office to plan a counter-attack, after Mrs May circulated plans to keep Britain closely aligned to the EU’s single market on goods and customs union.

The Brexiters believe Mrs May’s plan would betray the spirit of the Brexit vote, with Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leading pro-Brexit Tory MP, claiming the prime minister’s plan could leave the country as “a vassal state in chains”.

The marathon Chequers meeting, starting at 9.30am and scheduled to conclude by 10.30pm, will see the Tory party’s longstanding splits on Europe come to a head, with some of Mrs May’s allies predicting that some Eurosceptic ministers may quit.

“If Boris quits, so what?” said one minister close to Mrs May, after the foreign secretary convened the caucus of pro-Brexit ministers on Friday. Other supporters of Mrs May said she was ready to take on the Eurosceptics in her party, if they did not accept her new Brexit plan.

The prime minister will tell ministers — 22 full cabinet ministers and six other ministers who have the right to attend cabinet — that they have “a great opportunity and a duty” to adopt a new Brexit strategy, aimed at breaking the deadlock in talks in Brussels.

“I think we will end up with a concrete position that everyone is prepared to sign up to,” David Lidington, cabinet office minister, told BBC’s Today programme.

According to news website Politico, mobile phones will be confiscated on arrival and ministers have been told that no overnight accommodation will be provided. “If we haven’t got an agreement by 10pm, we probably won’t reach an agreement,” said one minister attending the meeting.

Mrs May’s team is braced for possible resignations and ministers have been warned they will not be able to use their official cars to make the 40-mile journey back to London if they quit. “Taxi cards for Aston’s taxis, the local cab firm, are in the foyer,” said one Downing Street insider.

Mrs May said: “This is about agreeing an approach that delivers decisively on the verdict of the British people — an approach in the best interests of the UK and the EU, and crucially, one that commands the support of the public and parliament”.

Mr Johnson was joined at the Foreign Office on Thursday by Michael Gove, environment secretary, David Davis, Brexit secretary, Andrea Leadsom, leader of the Commons, Penny Mordaunt, international development secretary, and Esther McVey, welfare secretary.

They are expected to oppose Mrs May’s plan to keep Britain in lock-step with the EU on the regulation of goods and agriculture, favouring a much looser agreement similar to a Canada-style free trade agreement.

But Mrs May argues that the plan is needed to ensure frictionless trade and to avoid a hard border in Ireland, arguing that the Conservative party cannot take any action which could lead to a break-up of the UK.

She will be backed by Greg Clark, business secretary, who is expected to give a bleak assessment of the impact on British manufacturers of a hard Brexit. His allies said that Mr Clark would “not pull his punches”.

Chancellor Philip Hammond will warn that the economic shock of a hard Brexit would hit the public finances, just at a time when ministers gathered at Chequers are hoping to win more money from the Treasury to fund new spending commitments.

Liam Fox, trade secretary, is expected to back Mrs May after winning assurances in private discussions with the prime minister that her proposed Brexit deal would not hinder his ability to strike free trade deals.

The majority of those ministers gathered at Chequers backed Remain in the 2016 referendum and Mrs May can expect to command a comfortable majority at the meeting: her dilemma is whether she has the political strength to take on the Eurosceptics.

“They are backed into a corner — nobody knows quite what they are going to do,” said one official close to a pro-Remain minister. Pro-Brexit Tories have warned Mrs May they could trigger a leadership challenge if she sells them out on Brexit.

Under Mrs May’s plan, Britain would have a “common rule book” with the EU on goods and agriculture, restricting its ability to weaken regulations — for example on farm products — to strike trade deals with countries like the US.

The European Court of Justice would have a role in overseeing this new common regulatory framework, although the EU will argue that Britain must also embrace free movement and make budget contributions if it is to enjoy full single market benefits.

Services would be covered by a looser framework, with Mrs May accepting that sectors including financial services would enjoy less access to the EU single market in exchange for more regulatory freedom.

A new “facilitated customs arrangement” would see Britain remain part of the EU’s customs territory, while retaining the ability to vary its tariffs and strike trade deals.

Theresa May’s Brexit Options — Minister Quits to Join Rebels

June 12, 2018
Theresa May.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Theresa May has dodged one rebellion but is still trying to face down another as her key Brexit legislation heads back to Parliament with pro-European lawmakers threatening to vote against her.

Voting starts from around 3 p.m. on Tuesday and the main amendment to watch is number 19. It would give parliament unprecedented power to direct Brexit negotiations if lawmakers reject the divorce deal that May plans to bring back from Brussels in October. It’s known as the meaningful vote amendment.

May objects to the clause — inserted by the unelected House of Lords — because she says it would tie her hands in negotiations. Brexit-backers hate it as they see it as a tool to thwart the split. Business quite likes it as it all but removes the chances of a chaotic no-deal divorce.

The government has put forward a compromise amendment but the rebels aren’t buying it. Dominic Grieve, a leading rebel, has put down his attempt at a compromise, but there’s no sign that the government will go for it.

We will be following developments here in real time.

Read more: The Tories Who Could Force May to Keep Britain Closer to Europe

Government isn’t Budging (10:50 a.m.)

The government is standing firm. An official in May’s office says the government has tabled one compromise amendment and that’s the one it’s backing.

As things stand, the government compromise doesn’t give rebels what they want — which is power over the government. Instead it offers to inform Parliament of its intentions. The latest rebel amendment still leaves Parliament calling the shots.

Meanwhile in Brussels … (10:20 a.m.)

With just over two weeks to go before the EU summit, diplomats from the 27 EU member states are going through the U.K. government’s temporary customs arrangement proposal from last week, while watching the debate play out in Westminster.

U.K. and EU officials aren’t negotiating this week, although there are some low-level meetings to prepare a possible round of talks next week. There’s no certainty that will go ahead yet.

If it does, the two sides will spend the time trying to come to agreement on more elements of the separation treaty (about 75 percent is agreed so far). However, the most contentious aspects of that — the Irish border and the treaty’s dispute settlement system — look set to remain open beyond this month’s summit.

Tory Rebel Declares Will Vote Against Government (10:17 a.m.)

Antoinette Sandbach, a well known Tory rebel, said she would vote for the new amendment put forward by Grieve. It’s an attempt at a compromise — a slight softening on the House of Lords amendment — but still hands all the power to Parliament, so is unlikely to be unacceptable to the government.

Pro-Remain Minister Quits and Joins Rebels (10:10 a.m)

Phillip Lee says he will vote with rebels on the amendment that would give Parliament the power to direct negotiations if lawmakers reject May’s Brexit deal.

“If, in the future, I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I cannot, in all good conscience, support how our country’s current exit from the EU looks set to be delivered,” he says.

Pro-Remain Minister Resigns to Focus on Brexit (9:45 a.m.)

Phillip Lee, who backed Remain and has been chastised for his Brexit views, announced he’s resigning from the government so that he can focus on Brexit as a member of Parliament.

Potentially, he could swell the ranks of rebels today.

“I am incredibly sad to have had to announce my resignation as a minister in Her Majesty’s Government so that I can better speak up for my constituents and country over how Brexit is currently being delivered,” he said on Twitter.

Down to the Wire (7:35 a.m.)

Theresa May’s government launched into last-minute negotiations to quell a Brexit rebellion by her lawmakers. But the prime minister is still facing a knife-edge vote on Tuesday that could determine the future of Brexit, and of her career.

May bought off pro-European rebels on what would have been a largely symbolic vote on whether the U.K. should remain in a customs union with the European Union after Brexit. With a vaguely worded fudge that the whole party can get behind, that fight has been postponed until another showdown next month.

But she’s still at risk of a rebellion in a vote with potentially more explosive consequences. An amendment inserted by the House of Lords into her key Brexit legislation essentially hands Parliament the power to direct negotiations if lawmakers vote down the divorce deal that May brings back from Brussels.

May hates this clause, known as the “meaningful vote” amendment, because she says it would tie her hands in negotiations. Brexit backers hate it because they see it as a tool to thwart the divorce. If the amendment is accepted, it would be another reason for Brexiters to want to replace May with one of their own.

For pro-EU rebels, the stake are high. While the customs issue will come again, they might not get another chance to secure themselves a meaningful vote on the final divorce deal that May expects to secure later this year. The government wants lawmakers to be faced with the choice of this deal or no deal – something pro-EU rebels see as no choice at all. They want to be able to send May back to the negotiating table if they don’t like it.

Last night May spoke to lawmakers in Parliament and was greeted with applause as the party made a show of unity. Some rebels had been wavering, reluctant to destabilize May and risk a Brexit hardliner taking over. Last night, some were still considering what to do.

Dominic Grieve, a leading rebel, told BBC Newsnight he might still go against the government on the meaningful vote if his own compromise amendment doesn’t get government backing. The MPs will face huge pressure right down to the vote, expected at about 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

As if they weren’t aware of the stakes, the Sun newspaper warned them they would be betraying the country if they voted against May.

May urged her lawmakers to think about the message they were sending to the EU and begged them not to tie her hands in negotiations. Robert Buckland, the Remain-supporting solicitor-general, was more succinct as he stood alongside euroskeptic Brexit Minister Steve Baker:

“There is ongoing work happening. It’s emblematic of a real sense of common purpose in the party that we all hang together or we all hang separately.”

Coming Up:

* The debate starts at about midday and voting starts at about 3 p.m. Another batch of amendments will be debate on Wednesday.

Read More:

Why Dominic Grieve Is U.K.’s Most Important Man on Brexit (1)
Stuck In the Middle: These Are Theresa May’s Four Brexit Options
The Year That Makes or Breaks Brexit: Predictions for 2018

— With assistance by Linly Lin, Katharina Rosskopf, Anna Molin, Thomas Penny, and Ian Wishart


In Brexit showdown, British PM May faces issue of ‘meaningful vote’

June 12, 2018

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a showdown on Tuesday with lawmakers who want power to force her government to go back to the negotiating table if they reject a Brexit deal, testing her plans for leaving the European Union.

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the final news conference of the G7 summit in the Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

On the first day of votes that could further complicate her tortured negotiations to quit the EU, parliament will debate a demand for a “meaningful vote” on any agreement May negotiates with Brussels before leaving the bloc next March.

Such a vote would give the lower house of parliament more power to set the government’s “direction” if lawmakers reject the agreement, which could mean sending May back into negotiations with EU officials just months before Britain is due to leave.

May says her Brexit blueprint, or EU withdrawal bill, offers lawmakers a meaningful vote on a final deal when they can either accept or reject it, which would see Britain crash out.

Beyond that, her Brexit minister David Davis told BBC radio the government would never allow lawmakers to reverse Brexit.

“Whatever we do, we’re not going to reverse that,” Davis said. “A meaningful vote is not the ability to reverse the decision of the referendum.”

Conservative Party officials have been frantically lobbying lawmakers to support the government in a series of votes on amendments handed down from the upper house of parliament on the EU withdrawal bill, which will sever ties with the EU by copying and pasting the bloc’s laws.

May made a last-ditch appeal to lawmakers on Monday and Davis sent a letter making the same case – vote against the prime minister and risk tying Britain’s hands in the Brexit negotiations.

The government has also tried to stem rebellions by offering its own options – on the meaningful vote, it has proposed a 28-day breathing space if parliament rejects a Brexit deal.

It is not clear whether that will win over potential rebels, but another proposal for an alternative to an amendment on the customs union which refers only to customs arrangements seems to have won over Conservatives to the government line.

“We are asking members of parliament to abide by the referendum result, our manifesto commitment and to back our country,” Andrew Bridgen, Conservative lawmaker and Brexit campaigner, told Reuters. “It’s not difficult.”


The “meaningful vote” will be the first major test after the House of Lords introduced 15 changes to the bill, trying to reshape the government’s approach to Brexit by encouraging the lawmakers to press for the closest possible ties.

On Tuesday, parliament will also debate other amendments, including a challenge to the government’s plan to put March 29, 2019, or ‘Brexit Day’, into law and an attempt to toughen a commitment to ensure a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the neighboring Irish Republic, which will remain in the EU.

On Wednesday, parliament will consider a challenge to her commitment to leave the EU’s single market and customs union, which will transform Britain’s future trading relationships for many years to come.

If May is defeated in the House of Commons, it will be yet another blow to a prime minister whose authority has been challenged several times since she lost the Conservative Party’s majority in an ill-judged election last year. She now relies on the support of a small Northern Irish party.

To try to ensure the government wins, ministers and other lawmakers have been told to make sure they will be in parliament for the votes.

“There have been lots of meetings, we are keen to engage with all members of the parliamentary party,” May’s spokesman said. “And I imagine that there will be (more).”

Additional reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Janet Lawrence


Brexit transition to 2020, trade deal by 2021: EU official

December 18, 2017


© AFP | EU leaders last week signed off on the first stage of Brexit negotiations and talks on a transition period are due to start in January 2018

LONDON (AFP) – Britain could see a post-Brexit transition period run until the end of 2020, with a new trade deal in place by January 2021, a member of the EU’s negotiating team said Monday.”Until the end of 2020 seems indeed like a natural end point for that implementation period or transition,” said Stefaan De Rynck, senior adviser to the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

In a speech to the Chatham House think-tank in London, he added: “Our goal is to make sure the future relationship is in place in January 2021.”

He also said that during the transition, “new EU rules that come online will need to be applied in the UK. No cherry picking or what one could call a buffet-style transition”.

EU leaders last week signed off on the first stage of Brexit negotiations and talks on a transition period are due to start in January, with Britain hoping for an agreement on the main principles by March.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May said she hoped discussions on the transition and future relationship would begin “soon”.

But she faced opposition from hardline eurosceptics in her Conservative Party over the terms of the transition, with several asking her whether Britain will actually be leaving the EU in March 2019 as planned.

May has accepted the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the transition, and also signalled she would agree to the EU’s demand that Britain hold off signing trade deals with non-EU countries.

“We will prepare for our future independent trade policy by negotiating — and where possible signing — trade deals with third countries, which could come into force after the conclusion of the implementation period,” she said.

However, Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg said the EU’s “rather hostile” proposals would “make the United Kingdom in the transition phase no more than a vassal state, a colony, a serf of the European Union”.

His comments echoed those made at the weekend by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a leading campaigner for Brexit in the June 2016 EU referendum.

May responded that “a negotiation is between two parties”, stressing the transition would provide continuity for businesses and individuals until the future relationship could be resolved.

She repeated that Britain would be leaving the EU’s single market and customs union, but said the transition arrangements were “a practical matter that most people will understand and appreciate”.

Labour wants to keep UK in single market in Brexit transition

August 27, 2017


© AFP | Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer says his party wants a transitional deal letting Britain stay in the EU customs union after Brexit

LONDON (AFP) – In a major policy shift, Britain’s main opposition Labour party now backs staying in the European single market for a transitional period as the country leaves the EU.

“Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that we currently enjoy with the EU,” Keir Starmer, the party’s Brexit spokesman, wrote in The Observer newspaper on Sunday.

“That means we would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market during this period. It means we would abide by the common rules of both,” he said, meaning unimpeded immigration from the EU could continue.

The comments represent a major policy shift for Labour, which had previously been ambiguous on whether it would seek to retain single market and customs union membership, arguing only that it wanted a “jobs-first Brexit”.

Labour are in a powerful position after making strong gains in June’s general election, stripping Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives of their majority in parliament and forcing them to make a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to govern.

As Starmer unveiled Labour’s new approach, a government source said the European Union should not “drag its feet” in negotiating Brexit.

“Both sides must be flexible and willing to compromise when it comes to solving areas where we disagree,” the source said.

“As the EU itself has said, the clock is ticking so neither side should drag its feet,” the source added, just days ahead of a fresh round of UK-EU divorce talks in Brussels.

In a statement, the government’s Brexit ministry also called for the European Commission to be “more flexible”, as British negotiators push for talks on future trade ties.

Last month, it announced that Britain would try to keep as many aspects of its EU membership in place as possible during a transition period of up to three years.

“Many things will look similar” and goods will continue to flow between Britain and the EU in “much the same way as they do now,” even after the scheduled departure date of March 2019, Philip Hammond, Britain’s finance minister, said at the time.

But he also said that EU nationals would have to register with the authorities starting from the expected departure date of March 2019 as the government comes up with a new immigration system.

But the EU has said it will not address Britain’s proposal for a temporary customs union or start trade talks until “sufficient progress” has been made on a number of key issues.

These include the status of EU nationals in Britain, the bill for the divorce and the future of Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland.

Britain voted to leave the EU in a referendum last year and Prime Minister Theresa May issued a formal notification in March, starting a two-year negotiating timetable to exit.

Brexit: Labour Supports ‘Soft Bexit’ — Making Life Tougher for Theresa May

August 27, 2017

LONDON, (Reuters) – The opposition Labour Party says it would keep Britain in the European single market and customs union for a transitional period after Brexit, offering a clear alternative to the policies of Prime Minister Theresa May.

The center-left party would seek to maintain the “same basic terms” with the European Union, including the free movement of people, beyond March 2019 when Britain is set to leave the bloc, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said on Sunday.

Labour wanted to avoid a damaging “cliff edge” for the economy from an abrupt separation in less than two years.

It would also aim to keep a form of customs union with the EU, and would possibly agree a new relationship with the single market, subject to negotiations, Starmer added in the Observer newspaper.

Senior ministers in May’s Conservative government have ruled out remaining in the single market and customs union during any transitional phase following Brexit.

Starmer said following EU rules for a period would allow goods and services to continue to flow between the EU and Britain without tariffs, customs checks or additional red tape.

Starmer’s comments follow months of uncertainty and division on Labour’s position, and are aimed at providing a springboard for party leader Jeremy Corbyn to potentially defeat the Conservatives in any new election.

May’s grip on power has been weakened following a botched early general election in June in which she lost her parliamentary majority, making it harder for her government to maintain a united stance on Brexit.


Labour recognized that a transitional deal would not provide long-term certainty, Starmer said, and it would not resolve the question of migration, one of the key issues for voters in the referendum in 2016.

“That is why a transitional period under Labour will be as short as possible, but as long as necessary,” he added.

The Conservatives said Labour’s position was a “weak attempt to kick the can down the road”.

“Their leader can’t say they would end unlimited freedom of movement, they can’t decide whether we are leaving the single market and they have no vision for what Britain should look like outside the EU,” a spokesman said.

Jeremy Corbyn during the referendum campaign.

 Jeremy Corbyn during the referendum campaign. Photograph: UPI / Barcroft Images

“This week we will be heading out to negotiate a deal with the EU that avoids unnecessary disruption to people and businesses, and allows the UK to grasp the opportunities of Brexit. Labour are still arguing from the sidelines.”

Nigel Farage, former leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, also criticized the Labour move.

“Corbyn promised he would leave the single market. He has now betrayed every Labour voter at the General Election,” he said on Twitter.

Britain will return to Brexit talks on Monday after it sought to widen the debate by publishing a series of papers in the last two weeks on subjects ranging from future customs arrangements to data.

The EU wants to make progress on three areas — the rights of expatriates, Britain’s border with EU state Ireland and a financial settlement — before moving on to the other subjects.

The talks restart as Britain’s economy starts to show the strain of last year’s vote to leave.

Starmer said Labour would make jobs and the economy a priority in any settlement.

“That means remaining in a form of customs union with the EU is a possible end destination for Labour, but that must be subject to negotiations,” he added.

“It also means that Labour is flexible as to whether the benefits of the single market are best retained by negotiating a new single market relationship or by working up from a bespoke trade deal.”

($1 = 0.7762 pounds)




The EU is not the enemy of the state. Time to think again on Brexit

Labour has a golden opportunity to capitalise on the strong pro-European feelings of the young

The Guardian

When I referred in my last column to Chancellor Philip Hammond as the only grown-up minister in this chaotic cabinet, I was unaware that he had just put his name to a joint article in the pro-Brexit Sunday Telegraph with his arch-foe Liam Fox, making the following statement: “We respect the will of the British people – in March 2019 the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. We will leave the customs union… we will leave the single market… ”

True, this was followed by reports that he wanted, in effect, to retain quasi-membership for several years, but the two emphasised that such a precaution “cannot be a back door to staying in the EU”. There were also reports that Hammond had in some mysterious way scored a victory, which contrasted vividly with other reports that his attempt at some kind of coup had been foiled.

Certainly, what he put his name to in that article was not good news for those of us who firmly believe it is not too late to arrest the progress of Brexit in its tracks. But then the shenanigans in the present cabinet’s approach to Brexit negotiations call to mind Alice in Wonderland telling the Hatter: “Sometimes I’ve believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

The fact of the matter is that this government is so unstable that anything could happen in the next two months. It is an open secret that up to half a dozen members of the cabinet, and at least one double-breasted outsider, are metaphorically polishing their daggers. As my colleague Andrew Rawnsley has pointed out, the only thing holding up a revolt against Theresa May is fear that, by precipitating yet another election, the assassins might end up with Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.

But Shakespeare’s “vaulting ambition” is a powerful factor in politics, and there are those who wonder how Theresa May can survive the party conference in October unscathed.

Which brings us to the Labour party’s position on Brexit, which most people seem to regard as every bit as confused as the Conservative one.

It is generally assumed that the problem with Jeremy Corbyn’s lukewarm opposition to Brexit during the referendum was that he is a lifelong Eurosceptic and thinks the EU is a capitalist conspiracy against workers.

But most enlightened Labour MPs and trade unionists are more aware than Corbyn seems to be that the EU is in fact very strong on workers’ rights. As for Corbyn’s apparent fear that the EU is the enemy of publicly owned corporations, he must surely be aware of the degree to which so many of our so-called “privatised” utilities and much of our transport network are already in the hands of continental state-owned concerns.

Read the rest:

UK’s Labour Backs Staying in EU’s Single Market After Brexit

August 27, 2017

LONDON — Britain’s main opposition party has announced that it backs the U.K. staying in the European Union single market and customs union during a “transition period” after Brexit.

The Labour Party says the ruling Conservative Party’s Brexit position — taking Britain out of the EU single market immediately after March 2019, when Britain is to leave the bloc — would be “unnecessary” and “highly risky.”

Labour Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said Sunday that his party wants Britain to continue to abide by the terms of its current EU membership during an unspecified transition period, before a final shift to a new Britain-EU relationship.

Starmer added that Labour would leave open the option of Britain remaining a member of the EU customs union and single market for good.

A Look at What Is Ahead Now That Brexit Talks Have Started

June 19, 2017

BRUSSELS — The talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union finally started Monday when EU negotiator Michel Barnier said “Welcome David” to his counterpart, David Davis, and led him toward a huge oval table at the European Commission headquarters.

As the negotiations kick off, here’s a look at some of the major issues the sides face.



They will first have to unravel the British from the EU, which will be challenging to say the least. That will involve everything from deciding what waters each side can fish in to how nuclear agreements should be renegotiated. Only when there is “sufficient progress” does the EU want to look at creating a new relationship with Britain on things like trade and migration. Britain hopes the two themes — divorce terms and future relationship — can be discussed in parallel.



While Britain has struggled to agree on and present a coherent list of demands, the 27 EU nations have had one message all along — in the words of Barnier on Monday: “We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit.” It means clarifying the fate of EU citizens in Britain and vice versa, how to manage the border between Ireland and the U.K., and how much Britain will pay.



The EU says Britain can’t leave without settling its bill, paying up for all its commitments that are still ongoing, including projects that might reach into the next decade, as well as the U.K.’s share of EU staff pensions. EU officials have put the figure at around 50 billion euros ($63 billion) while other estimates by think tanks and in the media go as high as twice that amount. As in any divorce, count on both sides to be picky in splitting the goods and dues.



The EU says it will not compromise on its core “four freedoms”: free movement of goods, capital, services and workers. Britain insists that it must regain the right to control immigration and end free movement from other EU countries into Britain. May says Britain will leave the EU’s single market in goods and services and its tariff-free customs union, but nonetheless, somehow, wants “frictionless” free trade.



Even though May triggered the two-year process on March 29, negotiators will have to get a full agreement much faster than March 2019. EU nations and the European Parliament will have to approve any future deal and that can take months. EU officials have therefore put the realistic deadline at October — and at the latest November — of 2018. If no deal is struck by then, the sides may have to create a transitional deal, possibly prolonging some of the current relationship.

If Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, that would create huge uncertainties for citizens and businesses as well as issues like global security. How bad that would be in reality is anyone’s guess.