Posts Tagged ‘Michel Barnier’

EU’s negotiator says Britain can only get a free-trade deal now — EU is piling pressure on Britain

March 1, 2018

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Michel Barnier


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s Brexit negotiator said on Thursday that London’s stance on its future ties with the bloc only left a free trade agreement as an option.

Michel Barnier’s speech at a seminar in Brussels comes as the EU is piling pressure on Britain over slow Brexit talks, warning it on citizens’ rights, the Irish border and stressing that a post-Brexit transition period is not a done deal.

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

“It is always possible to choose a more ambitious model and stay in a customs union with the European Union but it would imply a balance of rights and obligations,” he said.

Barnier stressed the EU would not compromise on what it sees as its basic principles – the integrity of its single market and the free movement of goods and people, among others.

He also warned that business would only be sure of any post-Brexit transition once Britain’s EU withdrawal treaty was ratified early next year, in time for the country to leave the bloc in March 2019.

“The future of our union is much more important that the Brexit,” Barnier said.

Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel, Robert-Jan Bartunek and Samantha Koester, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams


Brexit: Jacob Rees-Mogg issues stern warning to Ireland over Brussels border threat

March 1, 2018
JACOB Rees-Mogg has issued a stern warning to the Republic of Ireland, deterring Dublin from falling in line with European Union demands to keep Northern Ireland under Brussels’ rule after Brexit.

Jacob Rees-Mogg warned the Irish economy could suffer if the  decided to impose a border between the two Irish nations.

The staunch pro- politician suggested the British Government will not seek to create a physical border between Dublin and Belfast but will reject attempts from Brussels to control Northern Ireland.

He said: “When we leave the European Union we won’t have to impose any border in Ireland if we don’t want to. That will be a unilateral decision to be taken by the British Government.

“If we do, if that is what the European Union wants and we go along with it, the losers will be the Republic of Ireland. The economy of the Republic of Ireland would be in very bad shape if we impose the common external tariff on them. Irish agriculture, with tariffs on beef of up to 70 percent would be ruined if we imposed that.

“The Irish have a huge interest in keeping the border open.”

Brexit news - Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michel BarnierSKY NEWS•EBS

Brexit news: Jacob Rees-Mogg said it is in Ireland’s interest to

EU Brexit negotiator  set out the bloc’s draft Brexit treaty today with demands to align Northern Ireland with Brussels’ rules – including the customs union – in order to avoid a hard border, threatening to derail an agreement with the UK.

The EU’s Ireland plans could cause havoc in Westminster, with Theresa May’s partners the DUP set against divergence from the rest of the UK.

Mr Rees-Mogg spoke out against Mr Barnier’s proposal, saying the EU was being “quite improper” suggesting to “split the UK up.”

He told Sky News: “Northern Ireland is as much part of our country as Somerset is and for the European Union proposing splitting up the United Kingdom is quite an improper suggestion for them to make.”

The European Commission’s draft text for the UK’s withdrawal agreement sets out in legal terms plans for the establishment of a “common regulatory area” between the EU and Northern Ireland.

The plans envisage an area spanning the whole island of Ireland with no internal borders and free movement of goods.

The draft proposal suggests that EU and UK customs authorities should jointly oversee movements between Northern Ireland and the British mainland, while Europe would retain control over aspects of taxation and state aid in the six counties.According to the document, that area would cover customs, VAT, energy, the environment, agriculture and a host of other areas, including full European Court of Justice jurisdiction.

Mr Barnier said the Ireland idea was a “backstop solution” to avoid a hard border.

He said: “It’s the only way to guarantee our joint commitments will be upheld in all circumstances.”

The text states that the proposed arrangements for Northern Ireland will cease to apply if and when alternative solutions are agreed to “address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, avoiding a hard border and protecting the 1998 Agreement in all its dimensions”.

EU Brexit Proposal Revives Irish Border Fight

February 28, 2018

Document laying out divorce terms suggests a step that would effectively divide Northern Ireland’s economic rules from the rest of the U.K.

Michel Barnier, chief negotiator for the European Union, appears at a news conference following the publication of the EU’s draft Brexit treaty in Brussels.
Michel Barnier, chief negotiator for the European Union, appears at a news conference following the publication of the EU’s draft Brexit treaty in Brussels. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS

A European Union document laying out its divorce terms with the U.K. is reigniting a debate over Northern Ireland’s future, intensifying friction within Prime Minister Theresa May’s fragile government and underscoring the difficulties of defining post-Brexit relations.

The lengthy document proposes among other things a common economic area on the island of Ireland after Brexit, a step that would effectively divide Northern Ireland’s economic rules from the rest of the U.K.

That is likely to re-open a potentially explosive fight that almost derailed the Brexit negotiations in December. It also presents a challenge for Mrs. May, whose minority government depends on the support of a Northern Irish party that strongly resists any separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K.

It is likely to force the hand of Mrs. May, who is scheduled to give a big speech on Brexit on Friday,​ to lay out in more detail her so-far vague plans on a joint commitment from the U.K. and EU to avoid creating an economic border between the U.K.-governed north and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which Mrs. May’s minority government depends upon for a parliamentary majority, immediately condemned the proposal as weakening Northern Ireland’s status in the U.K.

The EU’s proposal would effectively create “a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.—an utterly preposterous suggestion,” said Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of he DUP. “We didn’t leave the EU to oversee the breakup of the United Kingdom.”

It has been so far impossible to reconcile the absence of a hard border with her pledge that the U.K. will leave the EU’s customs union and its single market of goods and services. Politicians from both sides fear the restoration of a hard border could threaten the fragile peace on the island.

“This draft text contains no surprise for our British counterparts… It includes the position of the union which were already known,” said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.

He said the EU awaited U.K. proposals on alternative​solutions.​​

The aim, which is phrased in a draft legal text as a fall-back option, aims to ensure that the economic rules in Northern Ireland remain broadly aligned with Ireland, which will stay inside the EU, to ensure continued smooth trade between the two.

This option would put Northern Ireland inside the EU’s customs union, while the rest of the U.K. leaves it, in effect creating a customs border in the Irish Sea.

The Irish government said it would prefer not to see that fall-back option being triggered and is instead looking to a speech from Mrs. May, scheduled for Friday, to lay out alternatives to avoid a hard border.

“This should never come into effect,” Helen McEntee, Ireland’s minister for European affairs told the state-owned broadcaster RTE. “We should never have to be in the backstop position.”

The Irish government also faces a difficult balancing act. It believes the introduction of a border threatens a return to the three decades of violent conflict over the future of Northern Ireland that was effectively ended by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. But it doesn’t want to endanger a relationship with Britain that has since then been the most cordial in a long and troubled history.

Its fears were crystalized by comments Wednesday from U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who said the Irish border question was being used to prevent Britain leaving the EU.

That analysis raises the possibility that Britons who want a definitive break with the EU could hold Ireland responsible if they fail to secure their objective, souring future relations between the close neighbors.

EU drafts Northern Ireland control as part of Brexit — Michel Barnier suggests Prime Minister Theresa May and her government “pick up the pace” of negotiations

February 28, 2018


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union could maintain much of its sway in Northern Ireland after Brexit under a draft treaty published on Wednesday that caused anger in London and Belfast as the EU warned time was running out for a deal.

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European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. REUTERS

Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier denied that the proposal for avoiding a disruptive EU-UK “hard border” on the island of Ireland would loosen Northern Ireland’s constitutional ties to the rest of the United Kingdom and stressed he was open to other solutions to the border dilemma that Britain may offer.

“Daily life around the border should continue as today,” Barnier told reporters as the European Commission published its draft withdrawal treaty.

However, he rammed home that “time is short” before Britain will be out of the EU in exactly 13 months. He called on Prime Minister Theresa May to “pick up the pace” of negotiations so that a withdrawal treaty, including terms for keeping the status quo during a two-year transition period, could be agreed this autumn in order to be ratified by parliaments before next March.

He repeated that the EU is “preparing for every situation” in case no deal is struck and the continent’s second-biggest economy lurches chaotically out of the Union after 46 years.

May, who will lay out her vision for a post-Brexit free trading relationship with the EU on Friday, said no government could ever agree to the EU proposals and said she would work to protect UK unity in the negotiations. She again ruled out a customs union — something that her Labour opponents advocate as a way to avoid disruptive controls at Ireland’s EU-UK border.

Speaking in parliament in London while Barnier was speaking in Brussels, she repeated that she wanted to avoid a hard border. Her pro-British allies in Belfast, on whom she relies for a slim majority to see through her Brexit legislation, pulled no punches in deriding Brussels’ proposals for a “common regulatory area” comprising the EU and Northern Ireland.

“This is a ludicrous, over-the-top suggestion put forward by Michel Barnier. It will not go anywhere. The way forward is to get into the trade talks and then and only then will you know what the border arrangements need to be,” the Democratic Unionist Party’s Nigel Dodds told BBC Radio Ulster.

The UK Independence Party, which helped force the referendum in which Britons voted to leave the EU in 2016, accused the EU executive of trying to “annexe” Northern Ireland.

Unionists fear that raising new barriers with the British mainland could increase the chances of a future move to reunite the province with EU member the Irish Republic. Barnier conceded there might have to be extra checks on trade between Northern Ireland and the mainland but said there would not be a “border.”


Dismissing suggestions that the draft was an attempt to “shock” Britons into concluding a deal, Barnier insisted no one in Britain should be surprised by it, as it was based on interim accords reached in December, as well as on known EU positions which Britain is resisting but are part of negotiations.

“There is no arrogance here,” the former French minister said, insisting he merely wanted to see an orderly Brexit.

The draft treaty sees a joint EU-UK committee overseeing the arrangements but the European Court of Justice remaining the ultimate authority to resolve disputes.

The Irish proposal was, he said, in line with a “backstop” publicly agreed with May in December and could be superseded if Britain puts forward a detailed alternative solution. He said the treaty made no mention of a clause in December’s EU-UK joint report that there be no divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland because that was an internal UK matter.

Barnier renewed his view that the kind of future trade proposals which May is widely expected to make on Friday to maintain a mixture of common and different regulations with the EU were not acceptable. “There will be no cherry-picking,” he said, referring to EU concerns Britain wants a sweetheart deal.

Barnier said he would engage in a new round of negotiations next week and would also meet leaders of Northern Ireland early in the week. He stressed that there remain “significant divergences” in talks on whether Britain might get a transition.

Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Jan Strupczewski, editing by Robin Emmott

Brexit: Boxed In, Theresa May Fights Brussels

February 28, 2018


By Emma Ross-Thomas

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

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

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

Theresa May
Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

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

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

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

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier. AFP photo

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

Brexit Latest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Finally…

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

Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe
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EU’s Barnier says open-ended Brexit transition ‘not possible’ — Again warns UK can’t “cherry pick”

February 27, 2018


© AFP | European Union negotiator Michel Barnier again warned against the UK trying to “cherry pick” access to the single market

BRUSSELS (AFP) – European Union negotiator Michel Barnier warned Britain Tuesday that it could not have an open-ended post-Brexit transition and that a deal on the phase remained out of reach.Barnier added ahead of a key speech by Prime Minister Theresa May on future trade relations that Britain’s plans for partial access to the single market were “cherry picking”.

“There are quite a lot of points of disagreement. I regret, but maintain the evaluation I made a few weeks ago: in the light of these disagreements, we have not achieved the transition yet,” Barnier told a press conference after briefing EU ministers.

Britain hopes to agree by an EU summit at the end of next month on a transition period during which it will still follow EU laws in exchange for access to the single market.

The EU says it should last until the end of 2020, when its current multi-year budget runs out. But Britain says it should be “about two years”, while a recent government paper said the date should reflect the time needed for both sides to strike a deal on future trade ties.

Barnier, who will unveil the EU’s draft of its Brexit divorce agreement on Wednesday, said that Britain “it seems would like to keep an open-ended transition, which of course is not possible.”

“I think it’s got to be clear that the transition period must be short,” Barnier added.

The former French minister added that he was open to discuss matters “straightaway” with British counterpart David Davis.

Barnier said deep divisions also remained on citizens rights for EU migrants moving to Britain during the proposed 21-month transition as well as the UK’s ability to object to new laws passed during the phase.

Barnier also said he stood by comments by EU President Donald Tusk on Friday in which he dismissed plans for post-Brexit relations devised by the British government as “based on pure illusion”.

“The answer is yes. I agree with the president of the European Council,” Barnier said.

“We can’t possibly imagine a situation in which we would accept cherry-picking,” he added. “The UK knows what the rules are because they’ve been helping us to put them together for the last 40 years.”

Post-Brexit UK won’t be like Mad Max, says David Davis — Neither side should “put up unnecessary barriers”

February 20, 2018

BBC News

David Davis

David Davis. Credit AFP/GETTY

Britain will not be “plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction” after it leaves the EU, the Brexit secretary will say in a speech.

David Davis will say fears about a “race to the bottom” in workers’ rights and environmental standards are “based on nothing”.

He will argue for continued close co-operation between the UK and the EU on regulations and standards.

This will help ensure “frictionless” trade, he will say.


The Brexit secretary’s address to Austrian business leaders in Vienna is the latest in a series of speeches the UK government is calling “the road to Brexit” as it faces demands to spell out details of the future partnership it wants with the EU.

The UK says it wants to avoid obstacles to smooth trade with the EU although it is leaving the single market and the customs union when Brexit happens in March 2019.

Mr Davis will say this can be achieved if both sides recognise each other’s standards and regulations, promising the UK will “continue our track record of meeting high standards” once outside the EU.

The government has previously spoken of adopting a “new economic model” to stay competitive if it is locked out of the EU single market after Brexit, and Labour has claimed the UK could be turned into a “low-wage, offshore tax haven”.

Mr Davis will hit back at the government’s critics in his speech, invoking the Mad Max series of action films which portray societal collapse in a lawless future world.

Mad Max: Fury Road
The first three Mad Max films in the 1980s were followed by Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015

“They fear that Brexit could lead to an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom,” Mr Davis will say.

“With Britain plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction. These fears about a race to the bottom are based on nothing, not history, not intention, nor interest.

“But while I profoundly disagree with them — it does remind us all that we must provide reassurance.”

Neither side should “put up unnecessary barriers”, he will say, citing the example of a car made in Austria only needing one set of regulatory checks that are then accepted across the EU.

“That’s exactly the sort of arrangement we want to see maintained even after we leave the European Union.

“A crucial part of any such agreement is the ability for both sides to trust each other’s regulations and the institutions that enforce them.

“Such mutual recognition will naturally require close, even-handed co-operation between these authorities and a common set of principles to guide them.”

The EU has previously said the UK will not be able to adopt its own standards and regulations and expect them to be recognised across Europe.

Last year EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said: “The UK wants to take back control, it wants to adopt its own standards and regulations.

“But it also wants to have these standards recognised automatically in the EU. That is what UK papers ask for.

“This is simply impossible. You cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order.”


David Davis dismisses ‘dystopian’ Brexit theory as Brussels starts new Project Fear with cancer warning

The Telegraph


Brussels has launched its own version of Project Fear by suggesting British workers will be at a higher risk of cancer as a result of Brexit.

A European Commission briefing paper claims the UK could dilute health and safety laws in an attempt to “lower production costs”, which would result in “higher exposure to chemicals and carcinogens”.

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, is irritated by the false claims and will on Tuesday hit back at them by rubbishing the idea that post-Brexit Britain will be a “dystopian” world akin to the Mad Max films.

Instead, he will say, Britain wants to create a “race to the top” in quality and standards that will create “trust” in a future trading relationship and…

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David Davis accuses Michel Barnier of wanting to ‘have it both ways’ in Brexit talks as their spat continues

February 10, 2018

The Telegraph


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David Davis’s spat with his Brussels counterpart Michel Barnier has intensified as he accused the EU’s chief negotiator of wanting to “have it both ways” in Brexit talks.

The Brexit Secretary said there was a “fundamental contradiction” in the approach being taken by Mr Barnier in negotiations and expressed “surprise” that Mr Barnier claimed not to understand the UK’s position.

Meanwhile Mr Barnier said Mr Davis had been wrong to accuse him of being “discourteous” by inserting a so-called punishment clause into the EU’s terms for the transition period that would allow Brussels to ground aircraft and block trade if the UK failed to obey EU rules.

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 David Davis with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, June 2017. Photograph by Stephanie Lecocq – EPA

At the end of the latest round of talks in Brussels, Mr Barnier held a press conference at which he said a transition period was “not a given” if Britain did not sign up to the EU’s terms and suggested a hard border in Northern Ireland was “unavoidable”…

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Michel Barnier ruthlessly exploited David Davis’ weak spot while updating us on the Brexit negotiations

This is the bad-mouthing stage of the fight, when prize fighters insult each other at the weigh-in to try to intimidate each other. To be fair to Barnier, and although this is a bit ‘school playground’, David Davis did start it

By John Rentoul
The Independent

Michel Barnier is a good negotiator. He knows his opposite number’s weak spot. So he went for it today, ruthlessly. “I am not going to comment on domestic politics in the UK,” he said, before going on to comment on domestic politics in the UK.

He did this indirectly, by saying, more than once, that he didn’t understand the UK’s position. After Theresa May’s Brexit war cabinet had met twice this week without agreement except to meet again at Chequers later, he was joining a vocal chorus of Remainer criticism that the UK Government doesn’t know what it wants.

That is not really true. The Prime Minister has been very clear about what she wants. What Barnier means is that the EU is not prepared to give it to her. Therefore, he says, it is up to her to come up with something else that the EU would let her have. “The time has come to make choices, and we await with great interest the choices,” he said.

 Image result for Michel Barnier, photos

And he has already said what the choices are. Either the UK must accept all the EU’s laws, or it can have nothing. The EU had generously agreed to a transition period, he implied – “It is the UK that asked for this period” – during which all EU law must apply. But if Theresa May, David Davis and the UK Government didn’t like it, then even that concession would be withdrawn.

This is the bad-mouthing stage of the fight, when prize fighters insult each other at the weigh-in to try to intimidate each other. To be fair to Barnier, and although this is a bit “school playground”, David Davis did start it. The Brexit Secretary’s outburst yesterday seemed designed to irritate the EU side: “I do not think it was in good faith to publish a document with frankly discourteous language and actually implying that they could arbitrarily terminate in effect the implementation period.”

Both sides are engaged in a negotiation, so you would expect them to set out the toughest version of their starting positions, but Davis’s language seemed quite pointlessly inflammatory. Contrary to his reputation, I am told that some of the officials who have worked closely with him respect him as a “a good 1950s-style politician”, not much into detail but good at making decisions.

Yet yesterday’s words seemed counter-productive. They allowed Barnier today to claim the high ground: “I’m not going to discuss David’s comment. It would not be useful. I’m not aggressive or vindictive and am not trying to punish anyone. I shall remain calm to the very end.”

Instead, he set out some of the most difficult problems that still have to be solved – such as the 750 international agreements on which third countries “will have their say” – and said: “Time is short.”

If this weren’t alarming enough, listen to what one member of the Brexit inner cabinet told James Forsyth of The Spectator: Brexit policy-making “looks worse from the inside than the outside”. Given how bad it looks from the outside, this is not reassuring.

On the other hand, it is possible that Barnier’s tough talk and May’s apparent indecision could be the prelude to compromise. It remains in the interests of both sides to do a deal, and many of the leaders of EU27 countries disagree with Barnier’s take-it-or-leave-it position.

Equally, May’s extended Cabinet discussions have given Boris Johnson and Michael Gove time to come up with their negotiating position and they still haven’t done so. Maybe Johnson will do it in his speech next week, but he is usually better at bluster than policy. In the end, May has a better chance of doing a deal than Johnson or Gove, and has broader support in the House of Commons.

Barnier’s hard line will also make any concessions that May is able to secure seem more significant. The more Barnier insisted that Britain must accept all the EU’s laws or be out in the cold, outside the single market and customs union, the more it seemed a third way could be found to keep Britain closely aligned with the single market.

But Barnier is right to say there isn’t much time to find it.

EU’s Barnier says no update from Britain on Brexit

February 9, 2018


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Friday that he had received no update from London on what sort of relation it wanted with the bloc after Brexit.

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The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, poses for a picture with British team member David Davis. Reuters photo

The lack of an update stemmed from scheduling constraints on the British side, he said.

Banier added that any British withdrawal from the EU and customs union would make border checks inevitable but that there should be no ambiguity in whatever deal is struck on the Irish border.

Britain has ruled out staying in any customs union with the EU after Brexit, but the nature of its trading relationship with the world’s biggest trading bloc has split Theresa May’s government and Conservative Party.

Reporting by Phil Blenkinsop; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel @AdeCar

Jeremy Corbyn open to keeping Britain in the customs union — promised to run the Brexit negotiations “very differently” if he came to power — Some say “coup d’etat”

February 9, 2018

By Kevin Maguire

Jeremy Corbyn’s team cancelled a scheduled Brexit gathering to maintain the flexibility of what’s known within the shadow cabinet as “creative ambiguity” on Europe. My frontbench snout whispers that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are watching which way the wind blows on the single market and customs union. Keir Starmer and Diane Abbott lead Labour’s shadow cabinet Brexit softies while Jon Trickett and Barry Gardiner head the hardliners. The ideology obsessing Corbyn and McDonnell is power. They’ll follow the voters.

Brextremism is a religion for Tory true believer Steve “Barking” Baker, the fundamentalist minister forced to grovel for lying to parliament after bleak Whitehall forecasts painted his heaven as economic hell. Injudicious rubbishing of inconvenient evidence coincided with a chap recalling an uncomfortable encounter with the Conservative Christian Fellowship disciple. Baker unbuttoned his shirt after challenging the disconcerted man to define what drove the Wycombe MP’s politics. Pulling out a crucifix, the messianic Brextremist declared: “This is what drives me.” Few would be surprised if it was accompanied by a pound sign these days.

Labour’s perpetually curious Stephen Pound discovered appearances can be deceptive. Invited to the magnificent Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London, the Ealing lip had been informed it would be a smart gathering and prominent Sephardic Jews wore black top hats. After exiting Aldgate East Tube, the duly suited and booted MP Pound attempted to engage in religious conversation a man in said headgear. “What are you on about?” replied the perplexed chap. “I’m the guide for the Jack the Ripper tour.” Quite.

An update on the funny-handshake brigade following the Guardianre-revealing a “secret” Freemasons’ lodge for the Westminster Press Gallery first disclosed in this column over several weeks in February 2006 after yours truly was leaked the pinny boys’ minutes. The lodge scribe or secretary, an old Daily Express hand, recently retired from hackery. I believe only one current lobby journalist is a mason. He’s a right-wing Tory toiling in cyberspace and, of course, a Brextremist.

Doesn’t know her own strength, does self-styled “gobby bird” and Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. The Stoke dynamo pushed open a door in the members’ lobby with such enthusiasm it came off the hinges. Two aptly named doorkeepers held the defeated wooden panel upright until a maintenance team screwed it back to the frame.

Word in the SNP is tartan former chieftain Alex Salmond’s paid £250,000 a year to front shows on Kremlin-backed TV channel RT. Worth the flak?

Kevin Maguire


The Telegraph:

EU memo of Barnier meeting raises questions over Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit policy

Jeremy Corbyn told Michel Barnier that he was open to keeping Britain in the customs union after Brexit, a memo circulated to European nations suggests.

The Labour leader met Mr Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, in London on Monday, where Mr Corbyn promised to run the Brexit negotiations “very differently” if he came to power – and dangled a raft of possible concessions to the EU.

According to a memo of the meeting, drawn up after a debrief between Mr Barnier and ambassadors from the other 27 EU nations, Mr Corbyn said that he was willing to allow the UK to submit to the rulings of the European Court of Justice should he become prime minister.

The document, seen by The Daily Telegraph, also states that Mr Corbyn said he could offer a “unilateral guarantee” on the rights of EU citizens during transition.

EU diplomats believe the Labour leader was deliberately seeking to…

Read the rest:


EU puppet? Jeremy Corbyn ‘plots coup’ with Brussels to ‘SEIZE POWER’ from Theresa May

JEREMY Corbyn is “open” to the idea of staying in the EU customs union after Brexit day in what was described as a plea for a “coup d’etat” by a western diplomat, it has emerged.

Theresa May and Jeremy CorbynGetty

The claims from Mr Corbyn appear to completely diverge from his party’s official policy

The Labour leader and Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer met with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator on Monday where Mr Corbyn promised to run negotiations “very differently” if he was in power.

According to a memo on the meeting, the Labour leader also detailed that he was willing to bow down to the rules of the European Court of Justice and “open” to staying in the customs union in a series of moves that were described as calls to overthrow Theresa May.

One western EU diplomat joked: “It sounded like he more or less asked for a coup d’etat.

“As if he was saying, ‘you guys just let May go and I’ll be your guy’.”

The document, as seen by the Daily Telegraph, declared that the Labour leader said he could offer a “unilateral guarantee” on the rights of EU citizens during the Brexit transition period.

However, the claims from Mr Corbyn appear to completely diverge from his party’s official policy on Brexit that promises to leave the customs union after the UK rids itself from the bitter bloc.

After the memo surfaced, Labour released a statement denying its claims against their leader.

It read: “Jeremy did not say he was open to staying in the customs union. He said that a customs union was a viable end point.

“We have been clear all the way through that you can’t be in the customs union if you are not in the EU.

“As for the suggestion that we are trying to undermine the Government, it’s true that we would negotiate a better deal but it is certainly not the case that we are trying to undermine the negotiations.”

When asked by Andrew Marr to clarify his stance on Brexit, Mr Corbyn declared that his party wanted to remain in “a form of the customs union”.

He added: “Obviously whether it would be the customs union, answer no, because it would require being a member of the EU which we’re not.”

Jeremy Corbyn: There needs to be a customs union with EU

After the meeting on Monday, Sir Starmer followed it up with a picture posted to Twitter with himself, Mr Corbyn, Mr Barnier and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry in a conference room.

Following the meeting, Theresa May skewered Mr Corbyn for “exploiting populist politics” and declared he would “bankrupt Britain” during a speech at the Conservative’s Black and White fundraising ball on Wednesday.

She said that the Labour leader’s stance would lead to “massive renationalisation, capital flight, a run on the pound – that all lead to a bankrupt Britain”.

Jeremy CorbynGetty

Following the meeting Theresa May skewered Mr Corbyn

Meanwhile, she vowed to “fight and win the battle of ideas and to defeat socialism today as we have defeated it before”.

The Welsh First Minister previously warned that Labour’s stance on the EU customs union could change “within months”.

He told the Independent: “Jeremy is smart enough to understand that this is a debate that has to be looked at afresh from time to time, but above all we have to be guided by what is best for the people of Britain.

Labour PartyTwitter @Keir_Starmer

After the meeting on Monday Sir Starmer followed it up with a picture posted to Twitter

“A hard Brexit, which means putting barriers up between ourselves and our biggest market, is not the right option.”

Suggesting that the party leadership could bow to mounting calls for a shift, he added: “Keir Starmer, Jeremy and I all understand that we’ve got to find the best way forward for working people.”

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer said he “wouldn’t rule out” staying in the customs union post Brexit.