Posts Tagged ‘Michel Barnier’

David Davis says Brexit divorce will become UK law after avalanche of criticism from Brussels

December 13, 2017

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David Davis

The Telegraph

By 

David Davis was forced to change tack on the legality of the Brexit deal on Tuesday as he admitted the agreement would become British law as “soon as possible” following an avalanche of criticism from EU officials for comments he made this weekend.

Senior diplomats and MEPs, along with the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, unleashed a series of rebukes against Mr Davis over his suggestion that the UK could backtrack on promises made in the divorce agreement, which was finally agreed on Friday after months of deadlocked talks.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator, accused the Brexit secretary of scoring an “own goal” with the “unacceptable” comments and claimed he had “really undermine[d] trust” between Brussels and London.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, stressed that there could be “no backtracking” on Britain’s part in the next phase of the talks. …

Read the rest (Paywall):

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/12/guy-verhofstadt-claims-david-davis-scored-goal-undermined-trust/

David Davis

David Davis on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show where he made comments about the UK’s agreement with the EU. Photograph: Handout/Getty Images

From The Guardian:

David Davis has scrambled to salvage relations with Brussels after he was accused of damaging trust in the Brexit talks by making inflammatory comments.

EU leaders have warned the British government against backtracking on promises made in Brussels after Davis suggested a Brexit breakthrough reached last week had no legal status.

Senior EU figures voiced irritation on Tuesday with Davis’s claim over the weekend that the UK’s concessions in an agreement struck last week to move talks on were merely a statement of intent without legal backing.

“We will have a final agreement only if the final commitments taken by Theresa May and the British government on Friday are respected,” he told journalists. “And we will be vigilant; we will not accept any backtracking from the UK.”

A senior ally of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the British government risked losing the EU’s good faith. “The first phase of #Brexitnegotiations was meant to build trust,” tweeted Manfred Weber, the head of the centre-right bloc in the European parliament. “By downgrading this agreement to a statement of intent, the UK government is putting our trust at risk. The EU27 & UK must make it clear on Thursday that the agreement is binding for both sides.”

Barnier also rejected Davis’s claim that a future trade treaty could be signed on 30 March 2019 – the day after the UK’s EU exit. Barnier said he expected the EU and UK to sign “a political declaration” on the future relationship. “But it cannot be anything else. In technical, legal terms it simply is not possible to do anything else. And David Davis knows that full well.”

The Brexit secretary had told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that a trade deal could be signed “maybe one minute after we leave, or one second after”.

Davis was engaged in urgent telephone diplomacy on Tuesday in an attempt to persuade Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, that the UK government’s word could be depended upon.

 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/12/david-davis-has-damaged-trust-in-the-uk-for-brexit-talks-says-verhofstadt
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Britain must obey EU environment rules for post-Brexit air deal: campaigners

December 13, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Danny KEMP | As part of the European aviation area, Britain’s industry has soared, with low-cost EasyJet battling with the UK’s historic carrier British Airways.

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The EU must make Britain’s air industry sign up to the bloc’s environment rules if it wants to keep access to European skies after Brexit, a campaign group warned in a report Wednesday.Airlines should stay in the EU’s emissions trading scheme and follow rules against subsidies to prevent Britain becoming a “carbon haven”, Brussels-based group Transport and Environment said in the report seen by AFP.

The group — which has had meetings with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s task force — warned that without a deal British planes could be unable to land in the bloc the day after the UK leaves.

“As London works out its future relationship with the EU, it should be able to keep its current level of access to Europe?s aviation market by agreeing to maintain EU rules designed to curb flying?s environmental impact,” said Kristina Wittkopp, legal analyst at Transport and Environment (T&E) who wrote the report.

The publication of the report comes on the eve of a European Union summit at which leaders are expected to approve the opening of talks on a future relationship with Britain, including on a trade deal.

T&E said Britain should stay in the European Common Aviation Area — which allows planes from EU states and some neighbouring countries to operate anywhere within the bloc — even though it would mean overriding London’s Brexit “red line” of being free from EU law.

British Brexit Minister David Davis said on Sunday that he wanted a Canada-style arrangement between Britain and the EU, with “individual specific arrangements” for sectors including aviation.

As part of the aviation area, Britain’s industry has soared, with low-cost EasyJet battling with the UK’s historic carrier British Airways.

Outside the area, Britain’s airline industry could be forced to set up new bases within EU territory. Without a Brexit deal it would not be allowed to fly there at all.

– ‘Carbon haven’ –

But the group said that if Britain does want to stay in the aviation area, the EU should make it a condition that it also remains in the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS), which is aimed at reducing the impact of global warming.

Under the scheme, carbon producers buy allowances to offset what they emit — currently at seven euros ($8.2) per tonne of carbon dioxide — funds from which are put back into measures to tackle climate change.

“Any deal must ensure the UK does not quit the aviation ETS so that these airlines? flights between the UK and Europe will still be required to purchase allowances,” the report said.

Britain should also remain subject to EU state aid rules, which prevent governments giving subsidies to companies, as giving handouts to British airports and airlines would “distort competition and harm the environment by spurring a growth in traffic.”

“To prevent Britain becoming a ?carbon haven? for the aviation sector post-Brexit, it is essential that EU state-aid rules continue to apply to the UK,” the report said.

It added that Britain should also become a paying, non-voting member of the European Aviation Safety Agency, which sets standards for safety and maintenance across the bloc, Transport and Environment added.

by Danny KEMP

UK won’t pay Brexit bill if no trade deal agreed: Davis

December 10, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Davis (left) and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier

LONDON (AFP) – Brexit Secretary David Davis said Sunday Britain will not honour financial commitments agreed this week with the European Union if they fail to secure a future trade deal, contradicting finance minister Philip Hammond.”No deal means that we won’t be paying the money,” he told the BBC.

“It is conditional on an outcome. It is conditional on getting an implementation period, it is conditional on a trade outcome,” he said.

“It has been made clear by number 10 already. So that’s not actually new,” Davis added, referring to the Downing Street office and residence of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Under an initial agreement reached with the EU on Friday, Britain will pay a financial settlement of between £35 billion-£39 billion (40-45 billion euros, $47-52 billion) for leaving the bloc in March 2019.

The 15-page document, detailing post-Brexit arrangements for citizens’ rights and the Irish border, was hammered out after nearly six months of negotiations and now allows the talks to move on to a future trade deal.

Davis’ stance contradicts comments from Hammond on Wednesday, who said London would pay the bill regardless of their outcome.

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed in this negotiation,” he told a parliamentary committee.

“But I find it inconceivable that we as a nation would be walking away from an obligation that we recognised as an obligation,” he said.

“That is not a credible scenario. That is not the kind of country we are. Frankly, it would not make us a credible partner for future international agreements.”

A spokeswoman for the Treasury reached Sunday declined to comment on Davis’ remarks.

Related:

Squaring circles: EU and Britain plot next Brexit chapter — “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” makes everything precarious — “The most difficult challenge is still ahead”

December 10, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Cédric SIMON | Several questions remain over the future relationship between Britain and the EU

BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) (AFP) – The European Commission and the British government let out an audible sigh of relief on reaching Friday’s historic Brexit divorce terms deal.Yet numerous questions remain on the future trade relationship between the EU 27 and the bloc’s departing member as the discussions now move on to a new phase at a December 14-15 Brussels summit.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned “there is still work to be done” to “consolidate” the progress made to date.

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 Michel Barnier

The preamble to the 15-page divorce deal published after British Prime Minister Theresa May’s morning dash for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker illustrates the still precarious nature of the deal.

“Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out below in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail,” says the introduction to the text.

The conclusion notes that the deal is conditional on “an overall agreement under Article 50 on the UK’s withdrawal, taking into account the framework for the future relationship, including an agreement as early as possible in 2018 on transitional arrangements”.

– Unanswered questions –

Even Friday’s deal itself leaves elements open to question surrounding the thorny issue of the Irish border post-Brexit, along with the size of Britain’s divorce bill and the protection of expats’ rights.

The deal is clear on guaranteeing the post-Brexit rights of Britons already living in the bloc and of their EU counterparts based in Britain with family members able to claim residence.

But there is no mention, for example, of future spouses.

“We demand before we can give green light to the withdrawal agreement, that… the future free movement and residence of UK citizens will also be guaranteed and this in all 27 Member States,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberals group in the European Parliament.

It is not yet clear if British expats will be able to retain their full current rights when they move to another EU country.

Regarding citizens rights, the divorce bill text indicates Britain will bring forward a bill to incorporate them into UK law.

On adoption, the bill’s provisions in relation to citizens’ rights “will prevail over inconsistent or incompatible legislation, unless Parliament expressly repeals this Act in future”.

But it is not clear what will happen if Westminster actually one day repeals the bill.

“Any change by UK parliament to citizens’ rights will be very visible and can only happen via express repeal of treaty,” was how Stefaan de Rynck, a member of the EU negotiating team, commented on Twitter.

– How much will it cost? –

There are also elements of ambiguity as to the exact size of the divorce bill, despite the methodology having been agreed to determine how deep Britain must delve into its pockets.

“We cannot calculate exactly the sums in question — all these figures will fluctuate,” says Barnier, although unofficial EU estimations are in the order of 60 billion euros ($70 billion).

Britain puts the sum at between 40 and 45 billion euros, though that does not include items such as an EU-guaranteed loan for Ukraine, which could generate costs for all current EU members — Britain included.

Then there is the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which almost scuppered the deal over concerns in the North that Britain was headed for a deal entailing a ‘hard’ border separating the former from the rest of the United Kingdom.

In the agreement, the United Kingdom says it “remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border” between the two.

Britain said if that was not possible, it would propose “specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland,” including alignment with the Internal Market and the Customs Union rules, while respecting the terms of the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

EU President Donald Tusk has already warned that “the most difficult challenge is still ahead”.

And Jonathan Powell, chief of staff to former British prime minister Tony Blair, suggests squaring the circle may prove a tall order.

“The language on ‘full alignment’ means different things to different people,” Powell told the Financial Times.

“A series of contradictory undertakings have been given and a new separate strand of negotiation on Ireland opened in the next stage.”

by Cédric SIMON

Brexit Down To The Wire

November 30, 2017

Bloomberg

By Emma Ross-Thomas

With four days to go, talks over the Irish border are going down to the wire.

Prime Minister Theresa May needs to find a way to promise the EU that there won’t be a hard border dividing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, once that 300-mile line becomes the U.K.’s new EU frontier after Brexit. She needs to please Dublin and avoid alienating Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government in London. And she needs to do it by Monday.

European officials suggest May simply could reiterate commitments to the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Ireland after decades of violence. But Ireland is insisting on a written commitment that makes sure regulations on each side of the border won’t diverge significantly after Brexit, one official said. Keeping the same rules reduces the need for a border in Ireland but could mean setting up a border between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

A boarded-up customs control point at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, near Dundalk in Ireland.
Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Ireland’s European Commissioner Phil Hogan was upbeat on Wednesday at the chances of a deal on the Irish issue, which is now the last major obstacle to the start of Brexit trade talks after a rough agreement was reached on how much the U.K. will have to pay the EU to settle its accounts.

“In the same way as we have seen movement in the last 24 hours in relation to the financial settlement, I expect that we will see movement in this regard in the next few days as well,” Hogan told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. “And hopefully we will.”

European officials were less bullish in private. One put the chances of an agreement on the Irish issue by next week at 50-50, another at 60-40.

The deadline everyone is working toward is Monday, when May has lunch with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels. Brexit Secretary David Davis will most likely travel earlier to Brussels to meet with his counterpart, Michel Barnier, Tim Ross reports. The aim is that their meeting will result in a statement summing up the progress made so far, setting the scene for an amicable May-Juncker meal and a declaration that the negotiations can move forward to trade. Both sides want it all stitched up in good time for the Dec. 14 summit. The Times reports a deal is close and would involve giving Northern Ireland more power locally over areas such as agriculture and energy.

And if it all goes to plan? Celebrations over the breakthrough will be short-lived. The really hard part starts when talks get underway about the future relationship, Nikos Chrysoloras writes.

Theresa May in Brussels on Friday.
Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

“In the U.K., there is an expectation that the [exit] bill offer is conditional and that it will buy a good trade deal, which is not how the EU sees it,” said Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive and chief economist at the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

The first obstacle: The two sides have wildly different expectations. The U.K. wants to keep as much of the status quo as possible even as it leaves the club and its rules behind. The EU is offering a trade deal like the one it gave Canada, which is best in class but well short of what the U.K. has now.

The U.K. will need to decide what kind of country it wants to be. Does it want to keep rules on things like food and agriculture aligned with Europe or would it prefer to break free? Plenty of Brexit-backers want to take advantage of the split to loosen regulations, even as May pledges it won’t happen.

It will be a struggle to get into much detail on trade in the time available. As “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” an angry walkout remains a risk.

Brexit Latest

Defense Dig | Just as relations are reaching a turning point, Barnier enraged British officials on Wednesday with a speech that appeared to suggest that the U.K. was turning its back on European allies in the fight against terrorism. He said the Brexit vote came “after a series of attacks on European soil” and “six months after the French Minister of Defence issued a call for solidarity to all his European counterparts to join forces to fight the terrorism of Daesh.” He went on: “Never had the need to be together, to protect ourselves together, to act together been so strong, so manifest. Yet rather than stay shoulder to shoulder with the Union, the British chose to be on their own again.” The British government has pledged “unconditional” support for its European allies on security and defense, making clear it won’t try to use its military and intelligence clout as a bargaining chip in talks.

Tech’s Doing Fine | European startups are on pace to collect a record $19 billion from venture investors this year, despite concerns Brexit will weigh on the region’s technology industry, according to an annual report by the London-based venture capital firm Atomico. The U.K. remains the largest destination for capital invested in Europe, with $5.4 billion year to date, according to the report. Germany follows with $2.5 billion and France at $2.1 billion. The U.K. also held on to its spot as the No. 1 destination for skilled tech workers to migrate to within Europe but ceded some of its share to France and Germany compared with previous years.

Case for Optimism | The most senior civil servant at the U.K. Treasury said official forecasts for the economy could prove overly pessimistic if May gets the Brexit deal she wants. Permanent Secretary Tom Scholar said the Office for Budget Responsibility’s assumptions about trade, migration and productivity after Britain leaves the European Union represent a “mid point in the range of outcomes.” If the government achieves a “deep and special relationship with strong economic links” to the EU, “that might be something that would be a surprise on the upside,” he said. “But there is clearly a downside risk as well.”

The View From Germany | German Social Democratic Party head Martin Schulz said the U.K. needs to realize the reason it’s Europe’s second-biggest economy and a Group of Seven member is because of free access to the European Union market. Britain’s departure is also a sad warning. “Brexit is a symbolic warning shot that unless we fundamentally reform Europe, further such sad moments will follow,” he said.

On the Markets | The pound surged on Wednesday and bond yields rose as investors brought forward expectations of a rate hike. But Bloomberg’s Vassilis Karamanis says option traders got it right when they played down hype that next month’s summit could be a one-stop shop for Brexit solutions and they are now betting the pound’s latest rally will be short-lived.

And Finally…

Everything has a Brexit angle now, even the royal wedding. Those who voted to leave are more likely to find it unacceptable for a member of the royal family to marry someone of a different ethnicity or religion, according to YouGov. Leavers would also be less accepting of a consort candidate who already has children or is gay. The divisions go beyond the generation gap, YouGov’s Joe Twymann says in a tweet.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Photographer: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

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https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-30/brexit-bulletin-down-to-the-wire

Britain reportedly close to deal on Brexit bill

November 29, 2017

© Christian Hartmann, AFP | Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, November 24, 2017.

Reuters and France 24

Latest update : 2017-11-29

Britain has offered to pay much of what the European Union was demanding to settle a Brexit “divorce bill”, bringing the two sides close to agreement on a key obstacle to opening talks on a future free trade pact, EU sources said on Tuesday.

The offer, which British newspapers valued at around 50 billion euros, reflected the bulk of outstanding EU demands that include London paying a share of post-Brexit EU spending on commitments made before Britain leaves in March 2019 as well as funding of EU staff pensions for decades to come.

A British government official said they “do not recognise” this account of the talks going on ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Theresa May to Brussels this coming Monday.

EU officials close to the negotiations stressed that work was still continuing ahead of May’s talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. But EU diplomats briefed on progress said the British offer was promising and that, on the financial settlement, the two sides were, as one said, “close to a deal”.

Nonetheless, others cautioned that Britain had yet to make a fully committed offer and that essential agreement from the other 27 member states could not yet be taken for granted.

The EU set the condition of “significant progress” on three key elements of a withdrawal treaty before it would accede to London’s request for negotiations on a free trade pact that could keep business flowing after Brexit in 16 months.

It set a deadline of Monday for that progress to be made if EU leaders were to give a green light at a summit on Dec. 14-15.

On the issue of the rights of EU citizens in Britain, EU negotiators are still pressing Britain to accept that European judges should have a final say on enforcing those rights.

Irish Problem

If the financial settlement, which many British businesses have argued May should make in order to avoid a disruptive “cliff edge” departure from the single market, is forthcoming, the thorniest outstanding issue is that of the Irish border.

“Ireland remains the most difficult issue,” a senior EU diplomat said after Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar avoided a disruptive snap election when his deputy resigned on Tuesday at the insistence of the party propping up his minority government.

Britain has yet to satisfy EU – including Irish – demands that it clarify how it would avoid a “hard border” with customs posts on land between Northern Ireland and the EU. Many fear that would disturb the fragile peace in the British province.

On the Brexit bill, Juncker has estimated Britain would owe roughly 60 billion euros. EU officials say Brussels is willing to work with May to massage those figures in order to help her win backing from hardline Brexit supporters who have in the past insisted that Britain owes Brussels nothing.

Britain’s Financial Times said London agreed to assume liabilities worth up to 100 billion euros, but said net payments over many decades could fall to less than half that amount.

The European Commission declined to comment. Britain’s Brexit ministry said “intensive talks” were continuing and the two sides were trying to find a way to “build on recent momentum in the talks” to take them to the next stage.

Sterling rallied around 1 percent against the U.S. dollar as investors took the reports as a sign that the risk of Britain leaving the EU without a deal, which is widely seen as damaging to the economy, had diminished.

(REUTERS)

Brexit has caused Europeans to doubt what sort of country Britain is, David Davis says

November 17, 2017

Brexit Secretary insists to German audience that UK is the same country it was before the vote

By Jon Stone Europe Correspondent
The Independent

Brexit has caused Europeans to doubt what sort of country Britain is, David Davis admits

Britain’s vote to leave the EU has left many Europeans with “doubts about what kind of country we are” following last year’s vote to leave the bloc, the Brexit Secretary says.

Speaking to an audience in Berlin, David Davis insisted that the UK did not want to isolate itself after withdrawal and that the UK was “the same country that we’ve always been” – as he spelled out his vision for a bespoke, comprehensive trade deal between Britain and the EU covering services as well as goods.

The minister also insisted that the decision to leave the single market and customs union was not an “ideological” one and that the UK had decided to quit the economic bloc out of respect for the indivisibility of the EU’s four freedoms.

“I recognise that, since the referendum last year, some in the European Union have had their doubts about what kind of country we are, or indeed what we stand for,” he said, speaking at the Süddeutsche Zeitung economic conference.

“Now if you want to know the mind of a nation all one must do is read its press, so with that in mind I looked through some copies of Suddeutsche Zeitung. I read that ‘Britain wants to isolate itself’, that we are  ‘short-sighted islanders’, or ‘Inselbewohner’.

“Well I’m afraid I have to disagree. We are the same country we have always been, with the same values and same principles we have always had: a country upon which our partners can rely.

“The sixth largest economy in the world, and a beacon for free trade across the globe; and when it comes to trade – as we forge a new path for Britain outside the European Union – I believe we can be its boldest advocate.”

Turning to the nature of the deal, he said the UK would not “pretend that you can have all the benefits of membership of the single market without its obligations”.

The minister said continued cooperation between Britain and the EU on issues like the mutual recognition of qualifications and health and safety standards would be crucial for trade to continue.

“We will be a third country partner like no other. Much closer than Canada, much bigger than Norway, and uniquely integrated on everything from energy networks to services,” he said.

“The key pillar of this will be a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement – the scope of which should be beyond any the EU has agreed before.

“One that allows for a close economic partnership while holding the  UK’s rights and obligations in a new and different balance.

Cornwall appeals to government as crops ‘rot in fields’ due to shortage in migrant labour after Brexit

“It should, amongst other things, cover goods, agriculture and services, including financial services – seeking the greatest possible tariff-free trade, carried out with the least friction possible. And it should be supported by continued close cooperation in highly regulated areas such as transport, energy and data.”

Mr Davis delivered his speech as the clock ticked down before the next European Council summit – and the next opportunity for the EU to grant Britain “sufficient progress” in negotiation to move to trade talks.

gettyimages-863408730.jpg
Theresa May and European council president Donald Tusk will meet in Sweden on Friday (AFP/Getty Images)

Theresa May is due to meet with Donald Tusk on Friday, the president of the European Council, with whom she will discuss Brexit.

Next week the Prime Minister is also expected to continue her charm offensive and meet with officials behind closed doors in the European Parliament, though no date has yet been confirmed for the meeting.

A week ago Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, spelled out a deadline of two weeks for the UK to make concessions or clarifications on its position before trade talks were postponed by another three to four months.

If no sufficient progress – as defined by the EU – can be made on the three separation issues before the December meeting of the European Council, trade talks will not be able to start until at least March.

Because of the time-limited nature of the Article 50 process, this would throw off the Brexit timetable and leave little time to negotiate a full deal.

Includes videos:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-eu-david-davis-doubt-what-britain-stands-for-free-trade-agreement-services-berlin-speech-a8059506.html

Theresa May’s ability to deliver Brexit in doubt amid growing threat to her leadership

November 13, 2017

The Prime Minister must push through her Brexit legislation this week after a torrid 10 days

By Joe Watts Political Editor

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

Theresa May. Credit PA Wire – PA Images

Theresa May’s ability to deliver Brexit is in doubt amid a growing threat to her leadership and concerns over whether she still has the political clout to govern.

Ms May must this week renew the drive to push her EU withdrawal Bill through the House of Commons, with Tory MPs who backed Remain in the referendum threatening to join forces with Jeremy Corbyn’s party to impose changes.

But Labour and other opposition parties warned that Ms May no longer has enough authority over the Conservatives to secure the Bill’s passage, after it emerged some 40 Tory MPs may now be willing to sign a letter of no confidence in her and a note emerged in which two cabinet ministers appear to direct her Brexit policy.

It also follows reports that the EU is preparing for the collapse of Brexit talks and of her Government, which is torn between trying to give more ground in Brexit talks to achieve progress while also maintaining the support of Eurosceptic Tories who want no further compromise.

Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on Monday raising concerns that she no longer has the influence over her own party to deliver key facets of a successful Brexit – in particular, securing a transition period to smooth the withdrawal.

The letter said: “Over recent weeks, it has become increasingly clear that you alone do not have the authority to deliver a transitional deal with Europe and to take the necessary steps to protect jobs and the economy.”

© AFP | The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Britain needed to increase its offer on its exit bill

Brexit: Article 50 author says Theresa May is misleading the public on reversing result

The letter urged the Government to work with Labour, accepting its amendments to her Bill to come to an agreed position in the “national interest”.

The most difficult Commons battle over her EU withdrawal Bill will not occur until December, after the Budget, but even if it clears its stages in the lower House, Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Vince Cable has told The Independent it will be amended in the Lords by a coalition of opposition and crossbench peers and Tory rebels.

Sir Keir’s letter went on to point out how cabinet ministers, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, had appeared to make statements that contradicted her Brexit plans as set out in a major speech in Florence earlier in the year.

Reports also emerged at the weekend that Mr Johnson and fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, wrote a secret memo to the Prime Minister setting out how a transition should occur and indicating that she should be “underlining your resolve” over withdrawal.

The SNP’s Stephen Gethins said: “If it wasn’t clear before, it is now – Theresa May has lost all authority and credibility in government.

“The revelation that leading Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are now brazenly able to dictate their hard Brexit demands … goes to show that they think they can say and do as they please, knowing fine well Theresa May is powerless to act.

“Theresa May is Prime Minister only by title.”

EU chief negotiator: UK has two weeks to agree Brexit ‘divorce’ bill or no trade talks this year

A torrid 10 days has seen Ms May lose two cabinet ministers, Sir Michael Fallon and Priti Patel, while her deputy Damian Green is still under investigation over allegations of inappropriate behaviour which he denies, and Mr Johnson is defending himself against calls to resign over a diplomatic gaffe relating to British woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is imprisoned in Iran.

Amid the turmoil the number of MPs willing to put their name to a letter of no confidence is reported to have risen to 40, just eight short of the number needed to trigger a vote on Ms May’s future.

A senior Tory MP told The Independent: “Patience is wearing very thin and in some cases, it has snapped.”

But Brexit Secretary David Davis said he is “quite certain” Ms May will remain Prime Minister at least throughout Brexit, dismissing the Government’s recent series of crises as “flurries” and adding that all governments have “issues that come up and go”.

Gordon Brown on Brexit: Britain will hit a ‘crisis point’ next summer

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier confirmed reports that Brussels is planning for Brexit talks to collapse, though he said it is not the preferred option.

On other reports of EU leaders actively planning for a situation where Ms May is not Prime Minister, Mr Davis said: “I know it was in the papers, I would be very surprised if they really are planning that.

“The Prime Minister will be here right through Brexit, to my retirement as it were until the end of Brexit and she’ll be my boss for that – I’m quite certain of it.”

Includes videos:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-brexit-eu-boris-johnson-letter-40-mps-michael-gove-a8051066.html

EU Brexit chief preparing for ‘possible’ failure

November 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Gina DOGGETT | EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier said it was “vital” for Britain to increase its offer on its exit bill

PARIS (AFP) – EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier said Sunday that he is making contingency plans for the “possible” failure of divorce talks with Britain, which he has given two weeks to reach preliminary agreement on key issues.

“It’s not my (preferred) option,” he told French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD). “But it’s a possibility. Everyone needs to plan for it, member states and businesses alike. We too are preparing for it technically.”

He recalled that without a deal on post-Brexit trade terms the EU and Britain would revert to World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs, with trade ties “like those we have with China”.

On Friday Barnier gave Britain a two-week ultimatum to make concessions on a divorce agreement if it wants to unlock the next phase of talks in December.

He said it was “vital” for Britain to increase its offer on its exit bill — which a figure senior EU officials put at up to 60 billion euros ($70 billion) — to open up talks on a future trade deal.

– Fate of Northern Ireland –

EU leaders decided at their last summit in October that there was insufficient progress on the exit bill as well as two other main issues — Northern Ireland and the rights of three million Europeans living in Britain.

They said they hoped to open talks on future relations and a post-Brexit transition period at their next meeting on December 14-15, but officials have warned that could now slip to February or March.

The fate of the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has thrown an unexpected spanner into the works.

British negotiator David Davis insisted that any Brexit deal cannot create a frontier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

But the EU called at talks in Brussels last week for Northern Ireland to effectively stay in a customs union with the bloc to prevent a hard border with Ireland.

The open border helped underpin the 1998 peace deal that ended decades of sectarian unrest.

“The tragic conflict between the Protestants and the Catholics was not that long ago,” Barnier, a former French foreign minister, told JDD. “I won’t do anything that could weaken” the 1998 accord.

If a deal is reached by Barnier’s December 1 deadline, the next phase of talks could open in January towards a “new treaty, which would take at least two years to take effect,” he said.

EU’s Barnier gives Britain two-week Brexit deadline

November 10, 2017

AFP

© AFP | The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Britain needed to increase its offer on its exit bill

BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier on Friday handed Britain a two-week ultimatum to make concessions on a divorce agreement if it wants to unlock the next phase of talks in December.

Frenchman Barnier said it was “vital” for Britain to increase its offer on its exit bill — a figure senior EU officials put at up to 60 billion euros — to open up talks on a future trade deal.

The fate of the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has also thrown an unexpected spanner into the works, with British negotiator David Davis ruling out the EU’s preferred solution.

“My answer is yes,” Barnier told a press conference at the end of the sixth round of talks in Brussels, when asked if he would need “concessions” from Britain within the next two weeks to move on.

“On the financial settlement, this is absolutely vital if we are to achieve sufficient progress in December. It is just a matter of settling accounts, as with any other separation,” the former European commissioner and French foreign minister said.

Barnier added that he was “following attentively” the political situation in Britain where a series of government resignations has further weakened the government of Prime Minister Theresa May.

– ‘No new border’ –

EU leaders decided at their last summit in October that there was insufficient progress on three main divorce issues — the bill, Northern Ireland and the rights of three million Europeans living in Britain — to move on to the next stage.

They said they hoped to open talks on future relations and a post-Brexit transition period at their next meeting on December 14-15, but officials have warned that could now slip to February or March.

Hopes of a breakthrough at this week’s Brussels talks — the first since mid-October — were so low that they were cut to just one-and-a-half days from the normal four days.

Northern Ireland has reared its head in the discussions, with an internal EU paper for the talks suggesting that it should remain in the EU’s single market and customs union after Brexit to prevent a hard border with Ireland.

Davis insisted Friday that any Brexit deal cannot create a frontier between Northern Ireland, where a 1998 peace deal ended decades of sectarian unrest, and the rest of the United Kingdom.

“We recognise the need for specific solutions for the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland,” Davis said. “But let me be clear, this cannot amount to creating a new border inside the United Kingdom.”

– ‘Some progress’ –

Barnier meanwhile welcomed a British proposal on protecting the rights of EU nationals living in Britain after 2019, but said there were still differences on key issues.

There appeared to be little progress on the main sticking points: the rights of EU migrants to bring their families to Britain, their ability to send welfare payments to their home countries, and whether the European Court of Justice would have jurisdiction over those rights.

“On citizens’ rights we are making some progress although we need to move further on a number of points,” Barnier said.

The Brexit bill has been the main source of deadlock in the talks since they began in June. The EU says it must meet budgetary commitments totalling 50 to 60 billion euros, but Britain puts the figure nearer 20 billion.

Britain voted to leave the EU in a shock referendum result in June 2016. The government confirmed Thursday that Brexit day will be 2300 GMT on March 29, 2019.

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See also:

Brexit ultimatum: UK has two weeks to offer clarity on bill or trade talks will not open, warns Michel Barnier

The Telegraph

By James Rothwell

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator, today set Britain a two week deadline to make sufficient progress in the Brexit talks and kickstart discussions on a future UK-EU trade deal.

The EU is refusing to talk trade or a possible transition deal until it judges enough progress has been made on the contentious issues of the Brexit bill, Ireland and citizens’ rights.

Theresa May in her Florence speech promised the EU 20 billion euros to cover Britain’ EU Budget contributions until the end of the current financial period in 2020.  She said the UK would honour its commitments to the EU.

But that has not satisfied Mr Barnier, who demanded Britain explain exactly what it is willing to pay as the price for Brexit and that it made “real and sincere” progress on all three issues.

Speaking in Brussels alongside David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, Mr Barnier simply said “Yes”, when asked…

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/10/david-davis-clashes-michel-barnier-brussels-press-conference/