Posts Tagged ‘Free Trade’

Ireland backs Theresa May’s plan for all-UK customs union with EU

October 4, 2018

Image result for Leo Varadkar, , photos

Support from Dublin lifts hopes of breakthrough in Brexit talks Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister. The plan would remove the need for customs checks on the land border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland © AFP

By Arthur Beesley in Dublin and George Parker in Birmingham

Ireland has boosted Theresa May’s hopes of breaking the impasse in Brexit talks by backing her emerging plan for an all-UK customs union with the EU. Ahead of a crucial EU summit this month, the British prime minister is seeking to resolve a dispute over the “backstop” to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

One of the proposals she is working on — to take effect if no other solution to the Irish border issue is found — is for the whole UK to participate in a customs union with the EU.

Michel Barnier, chief EU negotiator, has rejected the idea but officials in Dublin privately argue it could settle the border question and open the way to a deal. “It looks like it would resolve that issue [of the border],” said a senior Irish official involved in Brexit talks. “Whether Europe accept it or not is another conversation.”

The Irish intervention will help Mrs May in the run-up to the EU summit on October 18 as she attempts a delicate diplomatic docking exercise on Brexit. The prime minister may have more freedom to manoeuvre, now that her ruling Conservative party has concluded its conference.

If the UK is accepting a customs union, what are they leaving? If effectively they accept the customs union, they’re not leaving anything really Irish government official She will offer to meet the EU half way on the vexed issue of the Irish backstop, agreeing to Brussels’ demands that Northern Ireland stay part of the single market regulatory area of the bloc.

But in return she wants the EU to concede to Britain’s demands that under the backstop plan the whole UK — rather than just Northern Ireland — would stay in the customs union for a limited period until a UK-EU trade deal was finalised. The “temporary” extension of the customs union would prevent Northern Ireland being carved off from the rest of the UK into a separate EU customs territory.

Some British ministers predict the arrangement might in practice extend well into the next decade.

The main attraction of the plan for Leo Varadkar’s Irish government is that it would remove the need for customs checks on the land border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

It would also avert the need for customs checks on Ireland’s €65bn annual trade with Britain.

But Brussels is reluctant to give its legally binding agreement to provisions that could keep the UK in a customs union with the bloc after Brexit, since it is concerned this could serve as a back door into the EU’s trade and regulatory regime with none of the obligations of membership.

Mr Barnier has also argued that the customs relationship should be settled in the second phase of Brexit talks on Europe’s new trading relationship with the UK. The Irish official added: “If [the UK is] accepting a customs union, what are they leaving?

That’s the big question. If effectively they accept the customs union, they’re not leaving anything really.” The hardening stance of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists, whose support Mrs May needs for her parliamentary majority, is a further source of anxiety in Dublin.

Arlene Foster, DUP leader, has insisted she would not accept new regulatory checks in the Irish Sea that would still be required under Mrs May’s new bid to revive the talks. Mrs Foster warned at the Conservative conference that the DUP’s red lines were “blood red”, raising fresh questions over the all-UK customs proposal from the prime minister.

But, by keeping the whole UK in a customs union with the EU, Mrs May’s plans would avert any requirement for custom checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, one of the DUP’s prime concerns.

https://www.ft.com/content/a4770b92-c721-11e8-ba8f-ee390057b8c9

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Theresa May to lay out her vision for post-Brexit Britain

October 3, 2018

The Conservative Party must be “comfortable with modern Britain in all of its diversity” if it is to win the next election, Theresa May will say today.

The Prime Minister said the Tories must demonstrate that they are “decent, moderate and patriotic” and “deliver on the issues people care about”.

In her conference speech, entitled “our future is in our hands”, she will say that millions of people who have…

Read the rest (Paywall):

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/10/03/theresa-may-has-haemorrhaged-support-conservative-party-not/

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The Standard:

Theresa May is expected to deliver her main conference address today in an anticipated attempt to re-establish her authority within the Tory party.

The PM will speak on the last day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, just one day after Boris Johnson launched a fresh attack on her plan for Brexit.

The former foreign secretary argued that Theresa May‘s Chequers plan was “undemocratic” because it kept the UK within the “tractor beam” of Brussels.

In a subsequent interview with the BBC, the PM said she is “cross” with Mr Johnson over his Tory conference address.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Conservative Party Conference.

When does the Conservative conference end?

The conference kicked off on Sunday September 30 and will continue until Wednesday, October 3.

(PA)

As the conference kicked off on Sunday, Theresa May sought to instil faith in her Brexit strategy. She said she believed her controversial Chequers deal was “in the national interest,” despite Mr Johnson’s previous claim that it was “deranged.”

Cabinet ministers continued to back the Prime Minister though, with Philip Hammond saying Chequers would deliver an immediate “deal dividend” to the economy.

Meanwhile on day two of the conference, Michael Gove launched a £15 million project to cut down on food waste.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called for a ‘British values test’ to replace the current “pub quiz” for people seeking UK citizenship.

Boris Johnson was initially expected to stray away from discussing Brexit, but he used his speech to pounce on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, calling on the government to “chuck Chequers.”

Today, Theresa May announced plans for straight couples to be allowed to enter into civil partnerships.

Boris Johnson says it’s time to ‘chuck Chequers’

Theresa May will make her keynote speech on the final day of the conference, October 3, at 10am.

She will declare that Britain’s post-Brexit future is “full of promise” as she seeks to rally support behind her fractious party.

Where can I watch the conference?

BBC Parliament will be covering the conference and Sky and Virgin Media will be streaming it.

The Conservative Party will also upload the main speeches to their YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Some Conservatives have turned down the invite to the main party conference and decided to attend an alternative one instead, 10 miles down the road.

Speaking for those who “believe in a full Brexit,” those in attendance will include ex-UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe and former international development secretary Priti Patel.

Robert Oulds, Head of the Bruges Group, told Sky News that the main event is “no longer for conservatives.”

The rival event will run from October 1 to 2.

We would work with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, says DUP leader, as she praises his ‘positive’ Brexit vision

October 2, 2018

Boris Johnson’s “positive” vision for Brexit has been praised by the DUP leader Arlene Foster as she said she would work with him if he became Prime Minister.

In a major boost for Mr Johnson’s leadership ambitions, Mrs Foster endorsed the “belief” and “spirit” contained in his blueprint for Brexit.

She criticised Theresa May’s Government, which needs the DUP’s votes to maintain its working majority, saying one of her biggest disappointments was the failure of ministers to “talk about the aspirations for the nation”.

She also refused to rule out backing a Canada-style deal for Brexit if an agreement could be found on avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Foster spoke to the The Telegraph…

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https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/10/01/would-work-prime-minister-boris-johnson-says-dup-leader-praises/

Arlene Foster praised Boris Johnson's 'positive vision' for Brexit
Arlene Foster praised Boris Johnson’s ‘positive vision’ for Brexit
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DUP leader Arlene Foster has said the Good Friday Agreement could be altered to accommodate a final Brexit deal.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mrs Foster said it was not a sacrosanct piece of legislation.

Mrs Foster said it was deeply frustrating to hear Remain voters and what she termed “people in Europe” talk about Northern Ireland as though, she said, we cannot touch the Belfast Agreement.

Things evolve even in the EU context, she added.

There had been a lot of misinterpretation, she said, holding up the Good Friday Agreement as a sacrosanct piece of legislation.

Mrs Foster also praised what she called Boris Johnson’s positive vision for Brexit and said she could work with him if he became prime minister.

She said: “I think the reason why so many people are turned off by Brexit is because they are being fed a diet of negativity – whether it’s infighting, Brussels, being disrespected by people over there.

“We haven’t been able to talk about the aspirations for the nation, we’ve spent so much time arguing about what’s happened, is it going to be a disaster for Ireland in inverted commas, instead of actually focusing on what we can achieve in the UK with the Brexit negotiations.”

Latest Brexit headlines

Party colleague Jeffrey Donaldson said it is time to stop “fixating on the backstop” and being pessimistic about the prospect of getting a Brexit deal.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the MP for Lagan said that everyone would be better off is “half as much energy” was put in to reaching a trade deal between the UK and the EU as there currently is on resolving the backstop issue.

He said the DUP’s preference would be to continue operating under the Good Friday Agreement, but in the event of a no deal Brexit, changes would have to made to it.

Mr Donaldson also said he remained hopeful that a functioning government at Stormont could be restored but said that Sinn Féin needed to step up to the mark in order for that to happen.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Chairman Martin Heydon said the Government has “no intention” of revisiting the Good Friday Agreement.

He said the people of Northern Ireland had voted for it and against Brexit and he would respect politicians to respect that mandate.

In a statement, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Government must make it clear that the Good Friday Agreement is not a chip to be bargained with as part of the confidence and supply deal between the DUP and the Conservative Party.

She described Mrs Foster’s comments as “reckless” and said she would be raising the matter with the Taoiseach today.

https://www.rte.ie/news/brexit/2018/1002/999351-good-friday-agreement/

Brexit plan critics are playing politics, says Theresa May

September 30, 2018

Those who refuse to back the Chequers plan for Brexit are “playing politics” with the UK’s future, Theresa May says.

In the Sunday Times, Mrs May stressed again that her plan was the only workable strategy, and signalled she had a “long-term” job to do as PM.

Speaking ahead of the party conference in Birmingham, she also announced plans to charge foreign home-buyers more tax, and proposals for a national festival.

But ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson called her Brexit approach “deranged”.

The prime minister says her plan for the UK and EU to share a “common rulebook” for goods, but not services, is the only credible way to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The strategy has been fiercely criticised by Brexiteers, who say it would compromise the UK’s sovereignty and betray the 2016 referendum vote.

And writing in the Sunday Telegraph, ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve warned the PM she faced a “polite rebellion” by pro-EU MPs, with a “significant” number prepared to back another referendum if a deal could not be reached.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has apologised after a technical issue with its conference app meant Tory MPs had their phone numbers and other personal data revealed. The issue has since been resolved, the party said.

The UK’s data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, said it would investigate the breach.

In her Sunday Times interview, Mrs May said: “The only proposal on the table at the moment that delivers… is the Chequers plan.”

She challenged the EU to come forward with counter-proposals, while saying of Labour, “you can’t believe what they say”.

Both have declared her plan to be unworkable, and last week Labour members voted to keep the option of another referendum open if MPs were not happy with the final deal reached.

Mrs May’s message to Tory MPs was that the party “always puts country first and puts the national interest first”.

She was “not bluffing” when she said “no deal is better than a bad deal”, Mrs May added to the Sun on Sunday, but she thought a good deal could be reached.

Celebrate the UK

On other matters, Mrs May told the Times: “There’s a long-term job to do. Because it is not just about Brexit, it’s about the domestic agenda as well.”

She said people and businesses who did not pay tax in Britain would face a higher stamp duty levy of up to 3% when they bought property in the UK – to stop them driving up house prices.

The money would be used to combat rough sleeping.

She also revealed plans for a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to showcase the nation in January 2022 – months before the next scheduled general election.

And Health Secretary Matt Hancock said health officials would produce guidelines on the amount of time young people should spend on social media.

Johnson refuses to rule out challenging PM

Mr Johnson – who quit the cabinet in July in protest at the Chequers plan – again challenged Mrs May’s position, telling the Sunday Times that he, unlike the PM, had campaigned for Brexit.

On Friday, he described her approach as “simply intolerable” and refused to rule out a leadership challenge.

Mr Johnson also set out domestic policy ideas, including building a bridge between Britain and Ireland and putting the HS2 scheme on hold to focus on a rail link in northern England.

Meanwhile, Mr Grieve warned the Brexit row was “paralysing government” and damaging the Conservatives’ reputation.

“A no-deal Brexit is a proposal so damaging to our future that it cannot be accepted,” he wrote.

“So the only possible response must be to return to the British electorate and ask them what they want. That, it seems to me, is good pragmatic Conservative position.”

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, and negotiations on the terms of exit and future co-operation are continuing.

BBC News
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Boris Johnson refuses to rule out challenging Theresa May for the Tory leadership

September 29, 2018

Warring Conservatives are gearing up for a make-or-break party conference

Ben Glaze

Deputy Political Editor

Boris Johnson remains a thorn in the Prime Minister’s side (Image: PA)

Boris Johnson refused four times to rule out challenging Theresa May for the Tory leadership.

The former Foreign Secretary fuelled claims he is ready to try and oust the Prime Minister over her Brexitplan, as warring Conservatives geared up for a make-or-break party conference.

Bitter infighting is set to dominate the annual get-together in Birmingham, which kicks off tomorrow.

The Conservatives are mired in open revolt – and many activists want Mr Johnson to topple the PM.

Dodging four chances to deny he wanted to steal the Tory crown, he told the BBC: “She’s a remarkable person, she will go on for as long as, as she feels it necessary.”

But Brexit is set to overshadow the conference, with Mr Johnson taking centre stage at a rally on Tuesday.

Theresa May had a tricky time at the annual party conference last year (Image: AFP)

He quit the Cabinet in July having “spent two years in government wrestling with, as it were, the steering wheel to try to keep us on the right track” over EU withdrawal, he claimed.

Asked if the PM should lead the Tories into the next election, he told Sky News: “It’s a matter for her.”

Earlier, he launched his most stinging outburst yet on Mrs May’s Brexit plan.

The Chequers blueprint is “a moral and intellectual humiliation for this country” that will “cheat the electorate” if implemented, Mr Johnson wrote in a 4,600-word Telegraph column.

But a Government source dismissed “just another very lengthy article which doesn’t offer any answers, rather, it regurgitates ideas which would damage our Union of nations and put jobs at risk”.

However, fellow Leavers rallied round Mr Johnson.

Theresa May faces a tough Tory Party conference (Image: Pacific Press / Barcroft Media)

Comparing the PM’s proposal to Count Dracula, MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Chequers may not even be a dying duck, it may be slightly more Count Dracula in that it seems to get up at night and walk abroad, but it doesn’t seem to have much life in the sunlight.”

But more than 40 Tory MPs are ready to join forces with Labour to vote down a rival bid for a Canada-style free trade deal, backed by Tory Brexiteers.

The Democratic Unionist Party have also raised doubts about the proposal.

Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett  blasted the chaos, saying: “As Boris Johnson says, there has been ‘a collective failure of government’.

https://get.convrse.media/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mirror.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2Fboris-johnson-refuses-four-times-13327197&cre=bottom&cip=24“But not just on Brexit – on housing, education, community safety, on our NHS, public services and utilities.

“It’s clearer than ever that the Tories have run out of ideas. All they have left is internal warfare and continued austerity.”

Lib Dem frontbencher Layla Moran branded Mr Johnson’s comments a “half-baked, sloppy rant”.

She said: “The blue-on-blue in-fighting has already kicked off ahead of Tory conference.

“But while Johnson is being paid hundreds of thousands to belch out the first thing that comes to mind on page, there are businesses up and down the country wondering whether they’ll still exist after Brexit.”

Boris Johnson demands UK PM Theresa May scrap her Brexit proposals

September 28, 2018

Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson called on Prime Minister Theresa May to rip up her proposal for Britain’s exit from the European Union, ratcheting up the pressure on May as she prepares to face her divided party at its annual conference next week.

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FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May sits next to Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as she holds the first Cabinet meeting following the general election at 10 Downing Street, in London June 12, 2017. REUTERS/Leon Neal/Pool/File Photo

Just six months before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, little is clear: PM May has yet to clinch a Brexit divorce deal with the EU and rebels in her party have threatened to vote down any deal she makes.

“This is the moment to change the course of the negotiations and do justice to the ambitions and potential of Brexit,” Johnson, who resigned in July as foreign secretary over May’s Brexit proposals, wrote in Friday’s Daily Telegraph.

Johnson, the bookmakers’ favorite to succeed May, said May’s plans would leave the United Kingdom half in and half out of the club it joined in 1973 and in effective “enforced vassalage”.

Under the headline, “My plan for a better Brexit”, Johnson, called for a “SuperCanada-type free trade agreement” and cast the EU’s backstop proposals for Northern Ireland amounted to the economic annexation of part of the United Kingdom.

The plan outlined by Johnson gained support from other rebels such as Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg who are pushing for a deeper break with the EU.

“This is an opportunity for the UK to become more dynamic and more successful, and we should not be shy of saying that – and we should recognize that it is exactly this potential our EU partners seek to constrain,” Johnson wrote.

More than two years since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the United Kingdom, its politicians and its business leaders remain deeply divided over Brexit, considered to be one the most important decisions in post-World War Two British history.

In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 51.9 percent, backed leaving the EU, while 16.1 million voters, or 48.1 percent, backed staying.

“COLLECTIVE FAILURE”

A poll of polls published on Friday showed voters would now vote 52 to 48 percent in favor of remaining in the EU were there to be another Brexit referendum.

But researchers cautioned that a narrow victory for those hoping to reverse Brexit would be heavily contingent on getting those who did not vote last time to turn out.

“True, Remain enjoys a lead in the polls. But that lead remains a narrow one, and there is little sign of it growing,” said Senior Research Fellow at The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) John Curtice.

May, who voted to stay in the EU, is trying to clinch a divorce deal with the EU while grappling with an open rebellion in her Conservative Party, which convenes in the English city of Birmingham on Sunday for its annual party conference.

“There has been a collective failure of government, and a collapse of will by the British establishment, to deliver on the mandate of the people,” Johnson wrote.

May has repeatedly said her Brexit proposals are the only viable ones.

A 30-year schism inside her party over Europe helped sink the premierships of the past three Conservative prime ministers – Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron.

Reuters

Brexit Bulletin: Boris Attacks

September 28, 2018

Boris Johnson set the scene for the Conservative Party conference with what looks a bit like a leadership bid: a 4,600-word essay called “My plan for a better Brexit.”

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Johnson, who has been increasingly critical of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit policy since he quit as foreign secretary in July, sets out an alternative way of leaving the European Union. His so-called “Super Canada” free-trade deal would mean looser trading ties to the bloc than those that May is aiming for, and postponing the intractable issue of the Irish border until after Brexit day.

He addresses the criticism that he’s light on detail and concrete alternatives by setting out his plan with greater precision than ever before. He goes into technical but important matters such as data rules. But he also makes proposals that the EU has made clear it will reject — like ripping up the interim deal that was made in December.

Johnson doesn’t take a direct swipe at May, but he gets close. He calls her negotiating stance a “moral and intellectual humiliation for this country.” And he describes her government as showing a “conspicuous infirmity of purpose.”

Brexiteers loved the article, unsurprisingly. The Telegraph, where it appeared, endorsed it. But it’s still not clear that the hardliners have the numbers to topple May. Pro-EU Tories have said they would vote against any deal along the lines of a Canada-style free-trade pact.

As we head into the conference this weekend, where Johnson will dominate proceedings before May gives what could be a make-or-break speech, the EU side is on hold. No one in Brussels expects any progress in talks before the conference is out of the way. But diplomats have said they do expect some concessions from May afterwards in order to reach an agreement. The risk for the talks — with just six months to go until exit day — is that she emerges too weak to get the deal over the line.

Today’s Must-Reads

Brexit in Brief

Will She Stay? | David Lidington, Theresa May’s de facto deputy, was asked whether May should lead the party into the next election. His answer leaves room for interpretation. “She said to the party that she will remain leader for as long as they want her to, and I think at the moment people are absolutely backing her,” he told the Spectator. “She will decide, in due course, what she wants to do. But now, she is focusing on the task in hand.” A hint that she knows she will have to go in good time, or perhaps reassurance to her critics that she won’t try to cling on much beyond Brexit day?

We Won’t Abandon You | That’s the message from Paris’s man in Dublin. “Some people in Ireland seem worried about being sacrificed on the altar of compromise,” says France’s ambassador to Ireland, Stephane Crouzat. “It’s absolutely not something we have in mind.”

Unprepared | More than 60 percent of companies aren’t preparing for Brexit, according to a survey by the British Chamber of Commerce. A fifth of firms will cut investment if there’s no deal, and the same proportion will move part or all of their business to the EU, the survey showed.

What Would the BOE Do? | It’s not a given that the Bank of England would cut rates in the case of a no-deal Brexit, according to Chief Economist Andy Haldane. It will depend on what happens to the pound, as well as to demand and supply in the economy.

“No Chaos” | Treasury minister John Glen played down the risks facing London’s financial district after Brexit. “There will be no chaos in the City of London no matter how the final deal on Brexit works,” Glen told Bloomberg TV.

Coming Up | The Conservative Party conference starts on Sunday. May gives the crucial, closing speech on Wednesday.

Want to keep up with Brexit?

You can follow us @Brexit on Twitter and join our Facebook group, Brexit DecodedFor all the latest news, visit bloomberg.com/brexit

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https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-28/brexit-bulletin-boris-attacks

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Boris Johnson to Voters: My Brexit Plan Is Better Than Theresa May’s

September 28, 2018

Boris Johnson set out his six-point Brexit plan just days before the Conservative Party gathers for its annual conference that could set the scene for a leadership bid.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the former foreign secretary and the informal leader of the pro-Brexit Tory wing, warned that Prime Minister Theresa May’s own vision for Brexit cheated the electorate and represented a “collective failure of government.”

Boris JohnsonPhotographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Earlier this week May dismissed the Canada-style free trade agreement that so-called Brexiteers favor because it would require Northern Ireland to be split off from the rest of the U.K. She said she’d rather walk away from talks without a deal than accept that more limited option.

But in a 4,600-word essay, Johnson argued a “super” Canada-style free trade deal wouldn’t necessarily lead to a hard border between the two countries. He said the U.K. should negotiate the deal during a 21-month transition period and use technology to avoid a hard border.

While Johnson held back from any direct criticism of May, he used strong language to condemn the government’s handling of the Brexit talks, specifically accusing the Treasury of weakening the U.K.’s negotiating hand by pushing for a softer Brexit.

“We have the chance to get it right, and I am afraid that future generations will not lightly forgive us if we fail,” he ended his article.

 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-27/johnson-to-voters-my-brexit-plan-is-better-than-theresa-may-s

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Boris Johnson: My plan for a better Brexit

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https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/09/27/boris-johnson-plan-better-brexit/

Boris Johnson still urging Theresa May to scrap Chequers plan — Pushes SuperCanada FTA

September 28, 2018

There has been a collective failure of government, and a collapse of will by the British establishment…

“The single greatest failing has been the government’s appalling and inexplicable delay in setting out a vision for what Brexit is.”

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Boris Johnson. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Boris Johnson has urged the prime minister to abandon her Chequers plan and “change the course of the negotiation” on Brexit, in a 4,000-word intervention aiming to recapture the narrative before the Conservative party conference.

The piece sought to put to bed criticisms that Brexiters such as Johnson who oppose Theresa May’s plans for a common UK-EU rulebook on goods have no alternative of their own. “The single greatest failing has been the government’s appalling and inexplicable delay in setting out a vision for what Brexit is,” he said.

The former foreign secretary, who conceded that his alternative approach might need an extension of a transition period beyond 2020, accused May of a “pretty invertebrate performance”.

“There has been a collective failure of government, and a collapse of will by the British establishment, to deliver on the mandate of the people,” he wrote in an article for the Telegraph.

Johnson said it was “widely accepted that the UK is now in a weak position in the Brexit negotiations”, a tacit criticism of the prime minister’s negotiating approach, which he said had been defined by a “basic nervousness” and a “lack of conviction”. He said May’s premiership had been “in the grip of a fatal uncertainty about whether or not to leave the customs union”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg echoed Johnson’s criticisms, likening the Chequers plan to Count Dracula in that it “doesn’t have much life in the sunlight”. The chairman of the Eurosceptic European Research Group told BBC One’s Question Time: “I think the negotiations have been badly conducted, I think we have let the European Union make the running in negotiations, we agreed to their establishment of the terms of negotiations and the timetable of the negotiations.

Johnson’s article did not challenge May’s leadership directly, but was likely to fuel speculation that Johnson may move against the prime minister before the negotiations have been concluded.

Johnson was set to be the star turn at a rally on the eve of May’s speech at the conference in Birmingham, an appearance that would likely dominate any preview of the prime minister’s address.

Brussels and Dublin, he said in the article, had detected a reticence, particularly from the Treasury, about a clean break with the EU, which they had exploited. In turn, May and the chancellor, Philip Hammond, had lacked the will to investigate technological solutions to the Irish border, he added.

Instead, he said the UK should seek what he termed a “Super Canada” deal, which he said would involve UK and EU regulatory bodies ensuring conformity of goods with each other’s standards, as well as zero tariffs or quotas on imports and exports and investment in technological support for customs controls.

Johnson said there was “no need for a hard border” and said checks could be carried out away from the border crossing. May has insisted that a Canada-style free trade agreement would not comply with the need to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland, forcing the UK to rely on the backstop agreed in December, which would create an unacceptable customs border down the Irish Sea.

However, the former foreign secretary acknowledged it was necessary to “buy some time” to negotiate a different deal. “We should face the possibility – remote though I believe it to be – that we will not be able to conclude a withdrawal agreement and political declaration on this basis in the next few months, or to agree the new SuperCanada FTA by 2020,” he said.

Johnson also made a veiled dig at his pro-leave former colleague Michael Gove. The environment secretary has urged Tory MPs to back May, having argued that future prime ministers would be able to change the relationship.

Johnson said there would be little motivation for the EU or a future prime minister to embark on fresh negotiations after the “grinding tedium” of the past two years. “This is the moment to change the course of the negotiations and do justice to the ambitions and potential of Brexit,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/27/boris-johnson-tells-theresa-may-scrap-chequers-plan

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Boris Johnson urges Theresa May to ditch Irish backstop in plan for ‘SuperCanada’ Brexit deal

The Telegraph

Boris Johnson is calling on Theresa May to rip up her Brexit “backstop” agreement with the EU and negotiate a Canada-style free trade deal to “fulfil the instruction of the people”.

The former foreign secretary describes Mrs May’s Chequers plan as a “moral and intellectual humiliation” which will “cheat the electorate” if it forms the basis of a Brexit deal because it would leave Britain “half in, half out” of Europe.

“There has been a collective failure of government, and a collapse of will by the British establishment, to deliver on the mandate of the people,” Mr Johnson says.  The Government must now have the “guts” to scrap the “democratic disaster” of Chequers, he urges….

Read the rest (Paywall):

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/09/27/boris-johnson-urges-theresa-may-ditch-irish-backstop-plan-supercanada/

Japan’s Abe tells U.N. Japan will pursue free trade and he hopes to meet North Korea’s Kim

September 26, 2018

Japan will push for free trade as a country that has enjoyed its benefits in the postwar years, and plans to take a leading role in spreading fair economic rules in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday.

In his address at the United Nations, Abe also expressed his determination to meet face to face with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to end years of bilateral distrust and make a “new start.” In a change from his address to the assembly a year ago, he did not mention the need to apply pressure on Pyongyang.

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“In the three years to come, I will do my very best to strengthen the free trade system,” Abe told the General Assembly. “Japan has now taken on the mission of imparting to the world the benefits of trade.”

Abe, who has addressed the assembly every year since 2013, started his speech this year with the topic of trade, signaling its high priority in times of rising global trade friction.

A day ahead of his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Abe sent a clear message that Japan wants a “win-win” relationship with the United States, noting that the two countries have a long-standing leadership role in the global free trade system.

Trump has taken issue with massive U.S. trade deficits with countries such as Japan and hopes to fix what he sees as unbalanced trade by making bilateral deals.

In spite of Washington’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord, Tokyo has continued to tout the benefits of multilateral free trade frameworks. Japan and the European Union signed a free trade accord in July.

Abe said he will go “all-out” in ongoing negotiations among 16 Asia-Pacific countries including China to create a free trade zone under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The speech was his first on the international stage since winning another three-year term as head of Japan’s ruling party, setting him up to become the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history.

Abe’s priorities include amending the pacifist Constitution that was promulgated after World War II and settling long-standing diplomatic challenges.

In that three-year time frame, Abe pledged to do everything in his power to “clear the postwar structure from Northeast Asia.”

North Korea’s denuclearization is of utmost concern, Abe said, adding that there is no change in Tokyo’s position that the normalization of diplomatic ties will not happen unless Pyongyang resolves the issue of the past abductions of Japanese nationals along with the nuclear and missile issues.

“North Korea is now at a crossroads at which it will either seize, or fail to seize, the historic opportunity it was afforded,” Abe said.

“In order to resolve the abductions issue, I am also ready to break the shell of mutual distrust with North Korea, get off to a new start, and meet face to face with Chairman Kim Jong Un,” he said.

Japan has long sought a resolution of the abductions of Japanese nationals to the North in the 1970s and 1980s, and Abe is keen to break the impasse.

Consistent with his diplomatic style, Abe has placed priority on building personal trust with leaders such as Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Japan and Russia have an unresolved territorial dispute that has prevented them from signing a postwar treaty.

In a remark that apparently surprised diplomats and analysts, Putin called for signing a treaty “without preconditions” earlier in the month.

The Japanese prime minister said the territorial issue should be resolved and a peace treaty signed, which would serve as the foundation of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia.

Global leaders have gathered in New York for the general debate of the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly where they outline visions and bring attention to concerns and challenges.

Abe stressed the importance of a rules-based maritime order as it pursues a “free and open” Indo-Pacific.

As it hosts a series of meetings next year, including a Group of 20 summit, Japan plans to lead the debate on global challenges ranging from climate change to health care so the country will be a powerful promoter of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, Abe said.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/09/26/national/politics-diplomacy/abe-tells-u-n-japan-will-pursue-free-trade-hopes-meet-north-koreas-kim/#.W6tFLGhKhaQ