Posts Tagged ‘‘hard’ Brexit’

Brexit Could Turn Out Differently Than Anyone Thought — “Everything is still to play for.”

July 23, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Lucy Harris thinks Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is a dream come true. Nick Hopkinson thinks it’s a nightmare.

The two Britons — a “leave” supporter and a “remainer” — represent the great divide in a country that stepped into the unknown just over a year ago, when British voters decided by 52 percent to 48 percent to end more than four decades of EU membership.

They are also as uncertain as the rest of the country about what Brexit will look like, and even when it will happen. Since the shock referendum result, work on negotiating the divorce from the EU has slowed to a crawl as the scale and complexity of the challenge becomes clearer.

Harris, founder of the pro-Brexit group Leavers of London, says she is hopeful, rather than confident, that Britain will really cut its ties with the EU.

“If we haven’t finalized it, then anything’s still up for grabs,” she said. “Everything is still to play for.”

She’s not the only Brexiteer, as those who support leaving the EU are called, to be concerned. After an election last month clipped the wings of Britain’s Conservative government, remainers are gaining in confidence.

“Since the general election I’ve been more optimistic that at least we’re headed toward soft Brexit, and hopefully we can reverse Brexit altogether,” said Hopkinson, chairman of pro-EU group London4Europe. “Obviously the government is toughing it out, showing a brave face. But I think its brittle attitude toward Brexit will break and snap.”

Many on both sides of the divide had assumed the picture would be clearer by now. But the road to Brexit has not run smoothly.

First the British government lost a Supreme Court battle over whether a vote in Parliament was needed to begin the Brexit process. Once the vote was held, and won, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government officially triggered the two-year countdown to exit, starting a race to untangle four decades of intertwined laws and regulations by March 2019.

Then, May called an early election in a bid to strengthen her hand in EU negotiations. Instead, voters stripped May’s Conservatives of their parliamentary majority, severely denting May’s authority — and her ability to hold together a party split between its pro-and anti-EU wings.

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David Davis (left) and Michel Barnier at their news conference in Brussels. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Since the June 8 election, government ministers have been at war, providing the media with a string of disparaging, anonymously sourced stories about one another. Much of the sniping has targeted Treasury chief Philip Hammond, the most senior minister in favor of a compromise “soft Brexit” to cushion the economic shock of leaving the bloc.

The result is a disunited British government and an increasingly impatient EU.

EU officials have slammed British proposals so far as vague and inadequate. The first substantive round of divorce talks in Brussels last week failed to produce a breakthrough, as the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Britain must clarify its positions in key areas.

Barnier said “fundamental” differences remain on one of the biggest issues — the status of 3 million EU citizens living in Britain and 1 million U.K. nationals who reside in other European countries. A British proposal to grant permanent residency to Europeans in the U.K. was dismissed by the European Parliament as insufficient and burdensome.

There’s also a fight looming over the multibillion-euro bill that Britain must pay to meet previous commitments it made as an EU member. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently asserted the bloc could “go whistle” if it thought Britain would settle a big exit tab.

“I am not hearing any whistling. Just the clock ticking,” Barnier replied.

EU officials insist there can be no discussion of a future trade deal with Britain until “sufficient progress” has been made on citizens’ rights, the exit bill and the status of the Irish border.

“We don’t seem to be much further on now than we were just after the referendum,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “I’m not sure anybody knows just how this is going to go. I’m not sure the government has got its negotiating goals sorted. I’m not sure the EU really knows what (Britain’s goals) are either.

“I think we are going to find it very, very hard to meet this two-year deadline before we crash out.”

The prospect of tumbling out of the bloc — with its frictionless single market in goods and services — and into a world of tariffs and trade barriers has given Britain’s economy the jitters. The pound has lost more than 10 percent of its value against the dollar in the last year, economic growth has slowed and manufacturing output has begun to fall.

Employers’ organization the Confederation of British Industry says the uncertainty is threatening jobs. The group says to ease the pain, Britain should remain in the EU’s single market and customs union during a transitional period after Brexit.

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That idea has support from many lawmakers, both Conservative and Labour, but could bring the wrath of pro-Brexit Conservatives down on the already shaky May government. That could trigger a party leadership challenge or even a new election — and more delays and chaos.

In the meantime, there is little sign the country has heeded May’s repeated calls to unite. A post-referendum spike in hate crimes against Europeans and others has subsided, but across the country families have fought and friendships have been strained over Brexit.

“It has created divisions that just weren’t there,” said Hopkinson, who calls the forces unleashed by Brexit a “nightmare.”

On that, he and Harris agree. Harris set up Leavers of London as a support group after finding her views out of synch with many others in her 20-something age group.

“I was fed up with being called a xenophobe,” she said. “You start this conversation and it gets really bad very quickly.”

She strongly believes Britain will be better off outside the EU. But, she predicts: “We’re in for a bumpy ride, both sides.”

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Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

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Top Tory Philip Hammond enjoys a rent-free home

UK could accept EU immigration in Brexit transition

July 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Dario THUBURN | Around 250,000 EU nationals move to Britain every year — mainly from eastern and southern Europe

LONDON (AFP) – The British government could agree to free movement of people during a Brexit transition period, newspapers reported on Friday in what would be a major reversal of current plans.

The transition period could last between two and four years after Britain leaves the European Union government as expected in 2019, the Times and the Guardian reported, citing anonymous sources.

“If you ask business when they want to see it agreed, they’d say tomorrow,” a senior cabinet source told the Guardian. The Times quoted “a British source close to the negotiations” with Brussels.

Curbing EU immigration was a key argument for the “Leave” campaign in last year’s referendum in which Britain voted to end four decades of EU membership.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to end the free movement of people as Britain exits the bloc and bring down net migration to “tens of thousands”.

Around 250,000 EU nationals move to Britain every year — mainly from eastern and southern Europe — and a total of around 3.2 million live in the country.

May’s government has been riven by infighting between supporters of a clean cut with the European Union and those who want a “soft” Brexit that would retain much stronger European trading ties.

Granting free movement of people could allow Britain greater access to the European single market even after it has formally left the EU.

The Confederation of British Industry, Britain’s big business lobby, has called for Britain to retain single market access during any transition period.

CBI leader Carolyn Fairbairn was among business leaders who met with May at her Downing Street office on Thursday following complaints from many firms about a lack of clarity in government plans.

May “reiterated that the government’s overarching goal is for a smooth, orderly exit culminating in a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU, with a period of implementation in order to avoid any cliff-edges,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

Francis Martin, head of the British Chambers of Commerce, who also took part in the talks, said a transition period was a priority for business.

“Our research shows clear support among the business community for the UK to reach a comprehensive agreement with the EU, and for a transition period which will prevent firms facing a cliff-edge.

“The prospect of multiple, costly, adjustments to trading conditions is a concern for many, so starting discussions on transition arrangements as soon as possible would go a long way to boost business confidence,” he said.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator urged Britain on Thursday to provide more clarity on key issues after the second round of talks wrapped up in Brussels with “fundamental” differences remaining.

Michel Barnier said after talks with his counterpart David Davis that the two sides were still at odds over Britain’s divorce bill and over the rights of European citizens living in Britain.

Davis, a long-time eurosceptic picked by British Prime Minister Theresa May to lead the negotiations, said the talks were “robust but constructive” but that there was “a lot left to talk about.”

The next round of talks is expected to start on August 28.

by Dario THUBURN
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Britain faces up to Brexit — Michel Barnier, David Davis Negotiations are Theater of the Absurd (Théâtre de l’Absurde)

July 21, 2017

As long as the government stays in denial about Brexit’s drawbacks, the country is on course for disaster

CRISIS? What crisis? So many have been triggered in Britain by the vote a year ago to leave the European Union that it is hard to keep track. Just last month Theresa May was reduced from unassailable iron lady to just-about-managing minority prime minister. Her cabinet is engaged in open warfare as rivals position themselves to replace her. The Labour Party, which has been taken over by a hard-left admirer of Hugo Chávez, is ahead in the polls. Meanwhile a neurotic pro-Brexit press shrieks that anyone who voices doubts about the country’s direction is an unpatriotic traitor. Britain is having a very public nervous breakdown.

The chaos at the heart of government hardly bodes well for the exit negotiations with the EU, which turned to detailed matters this week and need to conclude in autumn 2018. But the day-to-day disorder masks a bigger problem. Despite the frantic political activity in Westminster—the briefing, back-stabbing and plotting—the country has made remarkably little progress since the referendum in deciding what form Brexit should take. All versions, however “hard” or “soft”, have drawbacks (see article). Yet Britain’s leaders have scarcely acknowledged that exit will involve compromises let alone how damaging they are likely to be. The longer they fail to face up to Brexit’s painful trade-offs, the more brutal will be the eventual reckoning with reality.

Winging it

In the 13 months since the referendum, the awesome complexity of ending a 44-year political and economic union has become clear. Britain’s position on everything from mackerel stocks to nuclear waste is being worked out by a civil service whose headcount has fallen by nearly a quarter in the past decade and which has not negotiated a trade deal of its own in a generation. Responsibility for Brexit is shared—or, rather, fought over and sometimes dropped—by several different departments. Initially Britain’s decision not to publish a detailed negotiating position, as the EU had, was put down to its desire to avoid giving away its hand. It now seems that Britain triggered exit talks before working out where it stood. The head of its public-spending watchdog said recently that when he asked ministers for their plan he was given only “vague” assurances; he fears the whole thing could fall apart “at the first tap”.

As the scale of the task has become apparent, so has the difficulty of Britain’s position. Before the referendum Michael Gove, a leading Brexiteer in the cabinet, predicted that, “The day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards.” It is not turning out like that. So far, where there has been disagreement Britain has given way. The talks will be sequenced along the lines suggested by the EU. Britain has conceded that it will pay an exit bill, contrary to its foreign secretary’s suggestion only a week ago that Eurocrats could “go whistle” for their money.

The hobbled Mrs May has appealed to other parties to come forward with ideas on how to make Brexit work. Labour, which can hardly believe that it is within sight of installing a radical socialist prime minister in 10 Downing Street, is unsurprisingly more interested in provoking an election. But cross-party gangs of Remainer MPs are planning to add amendments to legislation, forcing the government to try to maintain membership of Euratom, for instance, which governs the transit of radioactive material in Europe. Even within the government, the prime minister’s lack of grip means that cabinet ministers have started openly disagreeing about what shape Brexit should take. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, has been sniped at because he supports a long transition period to make Brexit go smoothly—a sensible idea which is viewed with suspicion by some Brexiteers, who fear the transition stage could become permanent.

The reopening of the debate is welcome, since the hard exit proposed in Mrs May’s rejected manifesto would have been needlessly damaging. But there is a lack of realism on all sides about what Britain’s limited options involve. There are many ways to leave the EU, and none is free of problems. The more Britain aims to preserve its economic relationship with the continent, the more it will have to follow rules set by foreign politicians and enforced by foreign judges (including on the sensitive issue of freedom of movement). The more control it demands over its borders and laws, the harder it will find it to do business with its biggest market. It is not unpatriotic to be frank about these trade-offs. Indeed, it is more unpatriotic to kid voters into thinking that Brexit has no drawbacks at all.

The government has not published any estimates of the impact of the various types of Brexit since the referendum, but academic studies suggest that even the “softest” option—Norwegian-style membership of the European Economic Area—would cut trade by at least 20% over ten years, whereas the “hardest” exit, reverting to trade on the World Trade Organisation’s terms, would reduce trade by 40% and cut annual income per person by 2.6%. As the economy weakens, these concerns will weigh more heavily. Britain’s economy is growing more slowly than that of any other member of the EU. The election showed that its voters are sick of austerity. Our own polling finds that, when forced to choose, a majority now favours a soft Brexit, inside the single market (see article).

Back in play

A febrile mood in the country, and the power vacuum in Downing Street, mean that all options are back on the table. This is panicking people on both sides of the debate. Some hardline Brexiteers are agitating again for Britain to walk away from the negotiations with no deal, before voters have a change of heart. Some Remainers are stepping up calls for a second referendum, to give the country a route out of the deepening mess. As the negotiations blunder on and the deadline draws nearer, such talk will become only more fevered.

So it is all the more crucial that all sides face up to the real and painful trade-offs that Brexit entails. The longer Britain keeps its head in the sand, the more likely it is to end up with no deal, and no preparations for the consequences. That would bring a crisis of a new order of magnitude.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Facing up to Brexit”
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David Davis (left) and Michel Barnier at their news conference in Brussels. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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Michel Barnier blasts David Davis for ‘lack of clarity’ on EU ‘divorce bill’ as four days of Brexit talks end in deadlock
Updated: 20th July 2017, 
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MICHEL Barnier has blasted David Davis for a “lack of clarity” on the so-called EU “divorce bill” as four days of Brexit talks break up with little progress.

But the UK’s Brexit Secretary struck a more positive tone at today’s Brussels press conference, saying he is “encouraged by progress” on a range of key issues.

Mr Davis said he was ‘encouraged by progress’ on key issues

Mr Davis said he was ‘encouraged by progress’ on key issues. EPA photo

The pair will now hold the first meeting on ‘UK soil’, over a lunch of Scottish scallops and British lamb to round off this week’s round of gruelling talks.

However the mood may be frosty after Mr Barnier took a swipe at the British side – telling reporters there are still “fundamental” disagreements between the two sides.

The EU’s chief negotiator said there had been some areas of agreement about how Brits living abroad and EU nationals living in the UK should be treated after Brexit.

But he said Brussels believed citizens’ rights should be backed by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

And there still appears to be a lot of tension surrounding any costs to be paid by the UK when it exits the bloc.

Mr Barnier said: “A clarification of the UK position is indispensable for us to negotiate and for us to make sufficient progress on this financial dossier, which is inseparable from the other withdrawal dossiers.

The pair are now off to have lunch but the mood may be frosty

The pair are now off to have lunch but the mood may be frosty

“What we want – and we are working on this – is an orderly withdrawal for the United Kingdom, that’s decided.

“An orderly withdrawal means accounts must be settled. We know that agreement will not be achieved through incremental steps.”

In a rebuke to the UK’s preparation ahead of the meeting he added: “As soon as the UK is ready to clarify the nature of its commitments, we will be prepared to discuss this with the British negotiators.”

He said the first round of talks had been about organisation, this week had been about presentation – the “third round must be about clarification”.

And the Brussels chief added: “We require this clarification on the financial settlement, on citizens’ rights, on Ireland – with the two key points of the common travel area and the Good Friday Agreement – and the other separation issues where this week’s experience has quite simply shown we make better progress where our respective positions are clear.”

But the UK is understood to think the EU team are being unclear on what they believe the legal obligations are over the divorce bill as well, with frustration on both sides.

But Mr Davis struck a more optimistic tone following the four days of talks

But Mr Davis struck a more optimistic tone following the four days of talks

And Mr Davis struck a more optimistic tone, saying: “Overall I’m encouraged by the progress we have made on understanding each other’s positions.”

He said the talks had demonstrated the UK had made a “fair and serious offer” on citizens’ rights and there were “many concrete areas where we agree, as well as areas where there will be further discussion” which will be a priority in the next round.

On the financial settlement, Mr Davis said: “We both recognise the importance of sorting out the obligations we have to one another, both legally and in a spirit of mutual cooperation.”

In a sign of the difficulties in reaching agreement he added: “We have had robust but constructive talks this week.

“Clearly there’s a lot left to talk about and further work before we can resolve this.

Mr Davis was criticised for appearing unprepared in this photo

Mr Davis was criticised for appearing unprepared in this photo

“Ultimately getting to a solution will require flexibility from both sides.”

But Mr Barnier the EU was not ready to compromise in the negotiations until the UK accepts its financial obligations.

He said: “I know one has to compromise in negotiations but we are not there yet.

“When I say, and I think I was very clear and transparent about that, that there are things that are inseparable from others.

“That’s the financial settlement, let’s be very clear. We want clarity on that because we need to be able work more until we come to areas of compromise.”

The p[air gave a joint press conference but struck very different tones

The pair gave a joint press conference but struck very different tones. Reuters photo

Underlining his position on the “fundamental importance” of citizens’ rights being protected by EU law and the ECJ, Mr Barnier said: “This is not a political point we are making, it’s a legal one.

“Simply, if there is to be continuity of EU law, that has to be framed by case law of the court. Only the court can interpret EU law.

“It’s not a choice, it’s an obligation.”

The pair are now heading to the home of Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s permanent representative in Brussels.

And given the 19th century terraced house overlooking the Parc Royal in the heart of the Belgian capital comes under British jurisdiction – the meeting will be the first on ‘UK soil’.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4058219/david-davis-and-michel-barnier-will-hold-first-the-brexit-talks-on-uk-soil-over-a-lunch-of-scottish-scallops-and-british-lamb-today/

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Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis. Photo by Jack Taylor — Getty Images

Leaked UK memo accuses Paris of wanting to sink City of London

July 17, 2017

AFP

© Leon Neal, AFP file picture | The City of London financial district, including the Gherkin (right) and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ (front) towers.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-07-17

France is pushing for a hard Brexit in a bid to weaken the City of London, the British finance sector’s EU frontman warned in a leaked report published on Sunday.

“They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London,” Jeremy Browne, a former government minister who is now the City’s Brexit envoy, said in a memo.

The leaked report, published by the Mail on Sunday tabloid, was written as a summary to ministers of a trip made by Browne to France in early July.

“The meeting with the French Central Bank was the worst I have had anywhere in the EU. They are in favour of the hardest Brexit. They want disruption,” he said.

Browne acknowledged there may be political benefits to France of playing “bad cop” in the negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, which began last month and resumed in Brussels on Monday.

But “we should nevertheless have our eyes open that France sees Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners”.

According to Browne, this approach was not confined to a few officials, but was a “whole-of-France collective endeavour, made both more giddy and more assertive by the election of (Emmanuel) Macron” as president in May”. Aside from his meeting with the French Central Bank, he did not specify which other officials he had spoken with.

Browne added that “every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further”.

He said they are “seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London even if Paris is not the beneficiary”.

Many cities in running to replace London

Paris is competing with Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt, Madrid and Luxembourg for an expected shift in finance jobs out of London as a result of Brexit.

With Britain at risk of losing the “passporting rights” financial firms use to deal with clients in the rest of the bloc, employees in direct contact with customers may need to be based on EU territory in future.

The day after Britain voted to leave the EU in June last year, Valérie Pécresse, the head of the Paris regional government, sent out hand-signed letters to 4,000 small, medium and large international enterprises in London, underscoring the benefits of moving their businesses to Paris.

And in October, Paris’s financial centre La Défense launched the PR-campaign “Tired of the fog? Try the frogs” aimed at attracting companies across the Channel. In November, the city of Paris, the Paris regional government and the French chamber of commerce also set up a so-called “Brexit cell”, dubbed Choose Paris Region, a team exclusively dedicated to responding to queries — many of them anonymous — from companies considering a potential move from London to Paris in the light of Brexit.

Earlier this month, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe laid out a raft of measures aimed at boosting Paris’s attractiveness, including eliminating the top income tax bracket.

Browne, who was an MP for the pro-European Liberal Democrats until 2015, served as a junior foreign office minister in former prime minister David Cameron’s coalition government.

He was appointed special representative to the EU by the City of London Corporation, which represents the financial sector, in September 2015.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

UK Finance Lobbyists Talk Post-Brexit Options in Brussels

July 3, 2017

LONDON — A group of London’s financial lobbyists will head to Brussels for their first meeting with officials and stakeholders since Brexit talks began.

The meeting Wednesday comes at a time of political and economic uncertainty in Britain. Many businesses worry Prime Minister Theresa May will opt for a “hard Brexit” that would isolate Britain from European Union markets.

Lobbying group TheCityUK previously published a report calling for “mutual market access” and the “acceptance of professional qualifications, practice rights, standards for regulated products and services” between post-Brexit Britain and the EU, a stance at odds with May’s plan. A similar TheCityUK report will be released in upcoming months.

The group says it regularly hosts delegations in Brussels, and that this one is “not out of the ordinary” but Brexit will be discussed.

Image result for news for TheCityUK, photos

“Businesses need to know that the law on the day after Brexit will be the same as the law the day before.”

Queen’s Speech live: Theresa May tears up Tory manifesto pledges as she unveils plans for hard Brexit

June 21, 2017

By 

Theresa May has unveiled plans for a hard Brexit as she shredded the Tories’ general election manifesto in her Queen’s Speech.

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/21/queens-speech-watch-live-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-dup/

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Queen’s speech 2017: Government will deliver eight separate bills on Brexit – live

Rolling coverage of the Queen’s speech, with analysis of all the bills and coverage of the opening of the debate featuring Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Queen’s speech debate.

Theresa May Meets With Macron, Reaffirms She Will Not Compromise Over Brexit

June 14, 2017

By

Theresa May has signalled she will not compromise over Brexit despite growing demands for a change in approach in the wake of last week’s election result.

The Prime Minister is understood still to be determined to enter talks in Brussels next week with a threat that Britain is prepared to leave the EU without a future trading deal.

She also wishes to stick to the pre-election Conservative plan for this country to leave the single market and customs union to allow the UK to negotiate free-trade deals around the world, and control immigration.

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/defiant-may-signals-will-not-compromise-hard-brexit/

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EU door remains open until UK departs, Macron tells May

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace.

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

The French president called for Brexit negotiations to “start as soon as possible,” but also added that as long as the negotiations are not over, there is still a possibility to change the course of events.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, greets Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Tuesday. After their talks, the two leaders will watch a France-England football match at the stade de France that will honour victims of extremist attacks in both countries.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, greets Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Tuesday. After their talks, the two leaders will watch a France-England football match at the stade de France that will honour victims of extremist attacks in both countries.  (THIBAULT CAMUS / AP)  

PARIS—She wants to escape the European Union, he wants to embolden it. British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron held talks Tuesday from opposite sides of the Brexit front line and agreed that negotiations for Britain’s divorce from the European bloc will start next week as planned.

They also reached common ground on fighting a shared enemy: terrorism. Standing side by side in the garden of the Elysée Palace after a working dinner, the two leaders announced plans to pursue an initiative to require tech companies to better police online extremism and hold them legally liable if they fail to do so.

“We are united in our total condemnation of terrorism and our commitment to stamp out this evil,” May said.

Read more:

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Election win puts Emmanuel Macron on course to redefine European politics: Burman

Macron’s party takes strong lead in French parliamentary elections

May arrived in Paris with her leadership hobbled by a catastrophic election last week just as Britain heads into tough talks on leaving the EU.

While May struggles to hold onto power, Macron is on the ascendancy, with his year-old party set to win a huge majority in parliamentary elections Sunday. That should fortify Macron’s standing in Europe as he tries to push the remaining EU nations to stand tough in Brexit negotiations, and to unite even more closely as Britain departs.

Seeking to allay European concerns after her election setback, May reaffirmed Tuesday that “the timetable for Brexit negotiations remains on course and will begin next week.”

British officials had previously suggested they wouldn’t be able to formally start Brexit negotiations as scheduled.

Macron shakes hands with May after their joint press conference at the Elysee Presidential Palace. May met Macron to discuss the fight against radicalization and terrorism.
Macron shakes hands with May after their joint press conference at the Elysee Presidential Palace. May met Macron to discuss the fight against radicalization and terrorism.  (THIERRY CHESNOT/GETTY IMAGES)  

Macron called for the negotiations to “start as soon as possible,” but also added that the door remains open for the U.K. to remain in the European Union. From a European point of view, he said, as long as the negotiations are not over, there is still a possibility to change the course of events.

Still, he acknowledged, “the decision (to exit the EU) has been taken by the sovereign British people. I do respect that.”

The talks Tuesday also focused heavily on deepening counterterrorism co-operation, especially reducing extremist propaganda circulated online. Britain and France face similar challenges in fighting homegrown Islamic extremism and share similar scars from deadly attacks that rocked London, Manchester, Paris and Nice.

May said major internet companies have failed to live up to prior commitments to do more to prevent extremists from finding a “safe space” online. Macron urged other European countries, especially Germany, to join the effort to fight Islamic extremist propaganda on the web.

After Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL, recruited hundreds of French fighters largely through online propaganda, France introduced legislation ordering French providers to block certain content, but acknowledges any such effort must reach well beyond its borders. Tech-savvy Macron has lobbied for tougher European rules, but details of his plans remain unclear.

Britain already has tough measures, including a law known informally as the Snooper’s Charter, which gives authorities the powers to look at the internet browsing records of everyone in the country. Among other things, the law requires telecommunications companies to keep records of all users’ web activity for a year, creating data bases of personal information that the firms worry could be vulnerable to leaks and hackers.

Macron, May and French interior minister Gerard Collomb attend a friendly soccer match between France and England at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, north of Paris on Tuesday.
Macron, May and French interior minister Gerard Collomb attend a friendly soccer match between France and England at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, north of Paris on Tuesday.  (FRANCOIS MORI/AP)  

After their talks, May and Macron headed to the Stade de France stadium north of Paris to watch a France-England exhibition soccer match honouring victims of the recent attacks in Manchester and London. In an emotional show of support, players from both teams walked onto the field to sounds of the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” played by the French Republican Guard. Then Macron and May joined French and British fans in singing the British national anthem “God Save the Queen,” followed by a minute of silence.

Two big screens at the stadium projected the red-and-white Cross of St. George and giant flags from both countries were rolled out onto the field.

Three attackers mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge and then stabbed people in nearby Borough Market on June 3. Eight people were killed and dozens more injured. On May 22, a man detonated a bomb as crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people.

France’s players were touched by the overwhelming show of support they received from England fans when they played an exhibition match at Wembley Stadium on Nov. 17, 2015 — just four days after attacks hit a Paris stadium, cafes and a rock concert, killing 130 people. England fans that night sang along with the French national anthem.

‘Hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit? UK Election chaos fires up debate

June 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Dario THUBURN | Britain is still debating the benefits and dangers of a “hard” or “soft” Brexit

LONDON (AFP) – Supporters of “hard” and “soft” Brexit tried to take advantage of the political chaos in Britain on Monday to promote their visions amid fears that their rivalry could revive old divisions in the Conservative party.Prime Minister Theresa May is in a weakened position after losing her parliamentary majority in last week’s snap election, leaving her vulnerable to both hardliners and moderates in her party.

“May has lost all authority on Brexit and everything else. All options are back on the table,” Stephen Barber, associate professor of public policy at London South Bank University, told AFP.

Under the “hard Brexit” scenario, which has prevailed so far, Britain would leave the European single market and the customs union and curb EU immigration.

It would also leave open the option of walking away from the negotiations with no deal in place — a decision that many businesses warn could be disastrous.

Advocates of a “soft Brexit” scenario say Britain could retain access to the European single market like non-EU member Norway and allow certain levels of EU immigration.

Sparring between the two sides is in full force ahead of the scheduled start of complex negotiations with Brussels next week, with a tight timetable that would see Britain leave the EU in March 2019.

Setting the tone, Michael Heseltine, a leading pro-European Conservative told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that “hard Brexit” was “the cancer gnawing at the heart of the Conservative Party”.

– ‘Soft Brexit’? –

In the hours immediately after Thursday’s embarrassing election setback for the Conservatives, British media reported that finance minister Philip Hammond had told May she needed to put “jobs first” in any new deal with Brussels.

Other powerful critical voices quickly followed.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, whose 13 MPs saved May from election disaster, said the government should “think again” about its approach.

She has called for an “open Brexit” strategy that would focus on retaining trade ties and has said she wants a role in devising the government’s policy.

Scotland voted by 62 percent to remain in the European Union in last year’s historic referendum but it wasn’t enough to change the overall UK result, with 52 percent in favour of leaving.

Arlene Foster, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, will also have an important voice as the government will have to rely on her party’s 10 MPs to effectively govern.

While her party supported Brexit, Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and many residents have voiced concern about the return of border checkpoints which were removed over a decade ago.

Foster, who is due to meet May on Tuesday, could insist that Britain stay in the customs union, and that would probably make it easier to keep an open border with the Irish Republic.

– ‘Hard Brexit’? –

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Sunday that the plans were unchanged but added it was “very, very important that we’re careful about the existing trade that we do with Europe, about access to the single market”.

He also said that there should be “some agreement on the immigration that we can accept from Europe”.

Brexit minister David Davis took a harder tone, however, when he took to the airwaves on Monday.

“The reason for leaving the single market is because we want to take back control of our borders. They’re not compatible,” he told BBC radio.

Asked about the possibility of a Norway option, he answered: “We’re not going down that route.”

He also said the government was still open to not accepting a bad deal.

“It’s important we have the option if it comes down to it to walk away,” he said.

May’s appointment of top Brexit campaigner Michal Gove to the cabinet on Sunday could help bolster the “hard Brexit” view.

Financial Times columnist Wolfgang Munchau warned against overestimating the effect of Britain’s election on Brexit strategy, as many of the decisions will depend more on its EU partners.

“The degrees of hardness and softness are not unilateral choices to be taken by the UK electorate,” he wrote.

“The only conclusion I can draw… is that the election has changed absolutely nothing for Brexit”.

by Dario THUBURN

Britain fighting a lonely Brexit battle — EU speaking friendship but possible torture lies ahead — Theresa May rejects Brussels’ hardline Brexit demands

April 30, 2017

Opinion

The EU is speaking of friendship but has given the Britons an occasional glimpse of possible torture that lies in wait. The Brexit divorce could still hurt, but a compromise is possible, says DW’s Bernd Riegert.

Symbolbild England Brexit Boot mit Union Jack (picture-alliance/dpa/E. S. Lesser)

From now on, the motto is: European Union first. The British government will have to get used to the fact that the remaining 27 EU member states want their own interests to prevail in Brexit negotiations. Britain can no longer bank on the club’s indulgence. It will be really tough – there should be no illusions about that.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s whining about a conspiracy of the EU against the Britons is plain silly. Britain wants to force its interests through, too – but alone, without allies. The EU wants to set the timetable and the content of negotiations: first the divorce, then the bill, then the future trade agreement. Britain would much rather reverse that order, complains Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

But the EU has the whip hand. For economic reasons, Britain needs good relations with the EU more urgently than the other way round. If the Britons don’t play along, the EU can simply wait it out, as the exit now proceeds automatically. After March 29, 2019, Britain is out, with or without an agreement, unless the EU unanimously agrees to stop the process. This is not a good starting point for the British negotiating team.

Simply go?

The only leverage remaining for London would be the “hard Brexit,” in which the Britons simply go without settling any kind of bill. The EU would no longer be able to compel them to pay up – who would there be to enforce such a thing?

Of course, relations between the recalcitrant islands and the suspicious continent would be damaged for years, if not decades, after such a “hard Brexit.” EU citizens living in the United Kingdom and the Britons living in Europe would become part of the stakes in the Brexit roulette. For this reason, both sides, which are now demanding the maximum, will ultimately agree on a typically European compromise. Interests will be balanced out. The Brits will pay something. The Europeans will give them access to their market and political cooperation. In the end, Britain will have a similar status with relation to the EU as Norway or Switzerland.

Riegert Bernd Kommentarbild App

DW’s Brussels correspondent Bernd Riegert

It is probably true that the British prime minister will be given a mandate for a moderate Brexit in parliamentary elections in June. But one thing is already clear: As in life, divorce will hurt one side or the other. It is fairly apparent who will suffer more. The UK is buying into the illusion of a kind of new sovereignty that in a globalized world of division of labor and close political networking is a model of yesteryear.

For Britain, a time of insecurity is dawning. The government has to negotiate terms of free trade and market access not just with an unusually unified EU, but also, after the Brexit, with over 100 more countries. The outcome of these negotiations is uncertain. So far, Britain was connected with these countries through the EU. The idea that the world is just waiting for a Britain that has been freed of its European chains, as Foreign Secretary Johnson believes, is likely to be another illusion.

If Brexit supporters now find that everything is not running as well as they mendaciously said it would during their campaign, it is apparent to them who is solely to blame: Brussels! They are already busy working on the absurd legend that the EU – led by Germany – has conspired against the brave Britons.

http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-britain-fighting-a-lonely-brexit-battle/a-38642730

Related:

Pound quivers near three-month low, stocks weak before May’s Brexit stance speech

January 17, 2017
 .
Reuters
By Shinichi Saoshiro | TOKYO

The pound hovered near three-month lows versus the dollar on Tuesday and stocks were mostly weaker as investors waited for British Prime Minister Theresa May to lay out plans to exit the European Union amid fears Britain will lose access to the single market.

Safe-havens such as the yen, gold and Treasuries gained in turn.

Speadbetters forecast a slightly lower open for Britain’s FTSE .FTSE, Germany’s DAX .GDAXI and France’s CAC .FCHI.

According to her office, May will say in a speech later in the day that Britain will not seek a Brexit deal that leaves it “half in, half out” of the EU. She is due to set out her 12 priorities for upcoming divorce talks with the bloc.

Those priorities will include leaving the EU’s single market and regaining full control of Britain’s borders, media reported, reinforcing fears of a ‘Hard Brexit’ which has pushed the pound to some of the lowest levels against the U.S. dollar in more than three decades and weighed on other riskier assets.

Sterling hovered around $1.2070 GBP=D4, in striking distance of $1.1983, its lowest since Oct. 7 struck the previous day.

Growing uncertainty over the policies of Donald Trump have also hurt equities, which had rallied in many parts of the world thanks to speculation that the U.S. President-elect would enact bold stimulus and reflationary measures once in office.

“Markets affected by the twin political black swans of 2016 – the Brexit vote and Trump win – remain volatile and uncertain,” wrote David Croy, senior rates strategist at ANZ.

U.S. stock futures ESc1 dipped 0.3 percent. Wall Street was closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 brushed a five-week low and was last down 1.5 percent. Australia and Shanghai .SSEC also suffered losses, but MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS inched up 0.4 percent.

“Europe is going to be dominating the headlines today, and the focus is justifiably on May’s speech, and also on the interviews that Trump gave to European newspapers,” said Stefan Worrall, director of Japan equity sales at Credit Suisse in Tokyo.

The euro nudged up 0.3 percent to $1.0642 EUR= to pare most of its overnight losses.

The yen benefited from its safe-haven status, gaining versus the dollar, euro and sterling.

The dollar was down 0.3 percent at 113.790 yen JPY= having gone as low as 113.610 the previous day, its weakest since Dec. 8. The greenback also pulled back against the Swiss franc, another currency sought out when risk sentiment sours.

The Australian dollar was up 0.3 percent at $0.7499 AUD=D4, inching back towards a one-month high of $0.7519 reached last week on the back of higher iron ore prices.

Gold was helped by the heightened risk aversion stemming from Brexit and uncertainty over Trump’s plans.

Spot gold was $1,206.70 an ounce XAU= after climbing to $1,207.86 overnight, its highest since late November.

Crude oil was higher as Saudi Arabia’s steady commitment to reduce production offset a report forecasting U.S. output would rise again this year. [O/R]

U.S. crude was up 0.2 percent at $52.46 a barrel CLc1.

Elsewhere, the price of U.S. Treasuries rose, taking the yield on the benchmark 10-year note US10YT=RR down by about 2 basis points.

(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Additional reporting by Lisa Twaronite in Tokyo; Editing by Eric Meijer and Kim Coghill)