Posts Tagged ‘Theresa May’

Next phase of Brexit negotiations will be delayed for two months because of the UK’s refusal to discuss ‘Brexit divorce bill’

July 27, 2017
By Peter Foster
The Telegraph

Europe has warned that the next phase of Brexit negotiations will be delayed for two months because of the UK’s refusal to engage with Brussels on the so-called ‘Brexit divorce bill’, The Telegraph can reveal.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, made the warning in a private meeting with EU ambassadors in Brussels, according to an account of the meeting obtained by The Telegraph.

The EU has said it will not talk about trade or the UK’s future relationship with the EU until “sufficient progress” has been made over the questions of protecting citizens’ rights, the Northern Ireland border and the financial settlement.

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According to Mr Barnier’s initial timetable, the plan was for the EU to make a judgement on “sufficient progress” at the October European council, but he told EU ambassadors that this was now “very unlikely” and the deadline would slip to December.

The next round of…

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The great Brexit betrayal has begun — Tories have sold out the British people — Nigel Farage

July 26, 2017

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is offering a “tougher line” on free movement than the Government, Nigel Farage has said, as he claimed the Tories had “sold out” their supporters.

In what he described as the “great Brexit betrayal”, the former Ukip leader said those who voted to leave the European Union in last year’s referendum would feel “cheated” by a transitional Brexit deal.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said on Sunday that it was “not a huge deal” if transitional arrangements when Britain quits the EU last up until 2022.

But Mr Farage, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said arguments about the need for a transitional period were a “re-run of an argument advanced by the Remain side last year, which was dramatically rejected by the electorate”.

He said Brexit supporters were “not in denial over immigration” and wrote: “For a nation to rise up against the establishment and secure a historic victory, only to have its hopes thwarted by an out-of-touch elite, is a recipe for dangerous division.

“It is strange to think that Jeremy Corbyn is now offering a tougher line than the Government when he says he would ban the wholesale importation of low-skilled EU workers.

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“Is this a ploy to damage Theresa May, much as the late Labour leader John Smith cynically opposed the Maastricht treaty in 1992?”

Mr Farage said the message on migration from Cabinet ministers had changed since the referendum.

“Although the modern Tory party has a dreadful track record when it comes to immigration, last summer things looked brighter.

“Boris Johnson and Michael Gove even advocated an Australian-style points system. That message undoubtedly helped to secure Brexit.

“Things have now changed.”

He added: “The old alliance of big business and a Tory government is booming again.

“Meanwhile Tory supporters, who have voted loyally in successive elections for manifestos that promise to drastically cut numbers, have been sold out.”

Mr Farage added: “My hopes that this government had learnt the lessons of the referendum, and understood that open-door immigration and its effects matter more to voters than any other issue, have for now evaporated.

“The ‘new consensus’ must be broken.”–nigel-farage-799429.html



The great Brexit betrayal has begun. The Tories have sold out the British people – now even Jeremy Corbyn has a tougher stance

The United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis (L), and Michel Barnier (R), the EU's Chief Negotiator 
The government is poised to cheat the British people of the Brexit they voted for CREDIT:EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ


When I heard that the government minister Lord Prior had told a meeting of tech and insurance leaders last week that they shouldn’t worry about barriers to entry for future employees from the EU, I thought he’d gone too far. How could a Brexit administration elected on a promise of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands tolerate such behaviour? Surely Lord Prior would be sacked?

Instead, it got worse. A new Cabinet consensus around transitional arrangements has been unveiled. Under it, open borders will be maintained for a minimum of two years after we finally leave the EU in 2019. Britain will have to wait until at least 2021 – five years after the Brexit referendum – to take back control.  Millions who voted Leave will feel cheated, and rightly so: it’s clear the great Brexit betrayal has begun.

Although the modern Tory party has a dreadful track record when it comes to immigration,….

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Dark blue: EU Schengen members
Light blue: Non-EU Schengen members
Yellow: Obliged to join Schengen eventually
Green: Opt-out from joining Schengen area

See also:

EU leaders to call for revision of Schengen Border Code (From 2015)

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.”


Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at


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Top Tory Philip Hammond enjoys a rent-free home

Britain needs transitional deal with EU, to end before next election

July 23, 2017

LONDON (Reuters) – British trade minister Liam Fox said on Sunday that he backed a transition agreement to smooth Britain’s departure from the European Union, but it would have to come to an end before the next election due in 2022.

Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Fox said a transition deal of two years, or slightly more or less, was necessary to make sure business can make investment decisions with certainty of Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

“I want to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019. Now once we have done that, once we have fulfilled our promise to the British people, we can look to see what we are going to do in terms of making that a smooth transition,” he said.

He said planning for a transitional period of 24 months “whether that’s 23 whether that’s 25 is not a huge deal” after waiting more than 40 years to leave the European Union, but it had to be limited in scope and Britain must know its terms.

“For example would we be able to negotiate our own trade agreements during that transition period? Because if we were not then we wouldn’t be able to take full advantage of the freedoms available to us when we leave the European Union, so there’s a discussion to be had.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Toby Chopra


BBC News

Brexit: Liam Fox sets election deadline for EU transition

Fox sets 2022 deadline for EU transition

Any transitional arrangement with the EU after Brexit must end by the time of the next election, Liam Fox has said.

The international trade secretary told the BBC he had no ideological objection to interim arrangements to minimise disruption after the UK’s exit in 2019.

But he said he did not want them to “drag on” beyond the date of the next general election, scheduled for 2022.

The cabinet is said to be united behind a transition although reports it could last four years have been downplayed.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is reported to support a lengthy transitional period to bring certainty to business, which is concerned about the impact on trade and employment of a “cliff-edge” departure.

Newspaper reports on Friday suggested ministers had accepted it could last anywhere between two and four years.

Mr Fox, who is in Washington for discussions on future trade relations with the US, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that it was “perfectly reasonable” for there to be a transition period to ensure the process was as “smooth as possible” for British business and foreign investors.

‘Time limited’

But he suggested that voters would want any “voluntary” arrangement to end by the time of the next general election, due to take place in May 2022.

And he said he would want the UK to be able to negotiate its own trade deals during that period so it could take “full advantage” of its new status.

“Having waited over 40 years to leave the EU, 24 months would be a rounding error.

“Whether that is 23 or 25 is not a huge deal and neither is it an ideological one.

“It is about the practical issues we would face, such as getting any new immigration system into place, getting any new customs system into place.”

However, he made clear there would have to be clarity not only on the duration of any transitional phase but what limitations it would place on the UK.

Several Conservative MPs have suggested that any deal which required the UK to accept continued free movement for a limited period of time or the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in return for continued temporary membership of the single market would be unacceptable.

Mr Fox added: “I think we would want to get it out of the way before the election.

“I don’t think people would want to have it dragging on. I think we would have to be very clear it was time-limited and limited in its scope.”

“It is imperative that we leave the EU first and that any implementation period is done “voluntarily” alongside the EU to minimise any disruption.”

‘Time for pragmatism’

The head of the powerful trade body representing German car manufacturers has told the BBC there will be a threat to jobs and investment in Britain if the UK leaves both the single market and the customs union.

Matthias Wissman, whose members include Volkswagen, BMW and Porsche, said his preferred option was for the UK to adopt a Norwegian-style membership of the European Economic Area but, failing that, a lengthy transitional period was a bare minimum.

“You need a transition period,” he told Radio 4’s The World This Weekend. “We hope that on the British side that gets deeper and deeper into the intellectual capabilities of those who decide.”

Urging British politicians to put pragmatism ahead of ideology, he said a tariff-free trade deal with the EU was possible but only if “the UK understands what the preconditions are”.

“Any kind of unwise, dramatic changes would have an effect on investment and jobs in the automotive industry. Hard Brexit would mean barriers, control of goods.”

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he accepted the UK would be leaving the single market, as it was in his words “inextricably linked” with EU membership, but suggested he had not reached a final view on whether it would be better to remain within the customs union.

He also suggested future trade deals should be linked to commitments on environmental protection and human rights.

“What is interesting is that the EU has said quite clearly, and rightly in my view, that they would only do new trade agreements with countries that sign up to the Paris climate change accord,” he said.

“The US has said it wants to leave… so it calls into question the whole of the UK government’s strategy on a one-off trade deal with the US.”

Backroom Whispers — So Who Leads AFTER Theresa May? — Jockeying for position in the UK

July 23, 2017
Brexit chief is ahead in a party survey but the search is on for a surprise candidate

David Davis is the preferred choice among Tory members to replace Theresa May as leader, but the race is wide open, according to the most comprehensive measure of party opinion since its disastrous election campaign.

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The Brexit secretary was identified by just over a fifth of Conservative members asked to name their favoured successor to May, ahead of foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who still retains support among the rank and file. However, the level of support for both men was well below that of members who said they did not know or could not choose a successor, confirming the belief among MPs that a relatively unknown candidate could emerge over the next two years to seize the crown.

The revealing survey of more than 1,000 Tory members, shared exclusively with the Observer, follows weeks of infighting and briefings fuelled by uncertainty over May’s future. Tory MPs are now beginning what will be a febrile summer recess, with some fearing that a leadership contest could be triggered in the autumn.

The survey was carried out as part of the Party Members Project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It shows that 21% of members backed Davis, 17% backed Johnson and 26% did not know or opted not to choose any candidate. Party members are reluctant for May to stand down now – with 71% backing her to stay and 22% saying she should quit.

A distant third behind Davis and Johnson was backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit-supporting traditionalist whose occasional recourse to Latin and unapologetic Conservative messages is turning him into a cult figure. Rees-Mogg secured the backing of 6% of members. He was among more than 30 other names put forward by members as potential successors to May, an indication of the wide-open nature of the race to replace her.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, right, with team captain Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You.
 Jacob Rees-Mogg, right, with team captain Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You. Photograph: Richard Kendal/BBC/Hat Trick/Richard Kendal

Several MPs have told the Observer that they are desperate for a “Where have you been all my life?” candidate to re-energise the party, which was stunned by losing its majority at the last election. While most MPs are anxious to avoid a leadership contest until Britain’s Brexit negotiations have been completed, some believe that there is a danger of Davis supporters provoking a battle this autumn, around the time of the party’s conference. One senior MP said: “Everyone knows that we have a problem to address and most people hope it will be done in a timely and decent way.”

However, the jockeying for position has caused such anger that senior party figures are already certain they could quickly gain more than 100 signatures in support of a candidate to run against Davis and avoid a coronation.

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Theresa May EPA

May herself has been made powerfully aware that no one wants to hear her new stuff. This week Britain had a queen’s speech that was so thin on policy I’m surprised they didn’t pad it out with a dream sequence (unless that’s the Brexit bit). You can tell the Conservative Party is out of control because all manner of apparitions have escaped its ghost-containment unit.

Broadcasters who’ve spent a year being told Andrea Leadsom can’t come to the phone because she’s trapped under something heavy are now able to put her on the telly several times a day. Leadsom’s media appearances are outstripped only by those of the former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has emerged from wherever the Tories hid him, and is now peddling a brilliantly knowing form of self-satire. At least, I think that’s what happening. There’s no other reasonable explanation for a man who’d be intellectually outgunned by any of the runners at Royal Ascot this week deciding to launch an attack on “silly people in the Conservative party with big mouths and small brains”.


Today, Davis is the UK’s man at the Brexit negotiating table, and would doubtless assure you those days were just a distant mammary.

Second favourite is Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, who this week said he wouldn’t be running for the leadership until 2019, when the help will have cleaned up his Brexit mess. (I paraphrase slightly.) What a shame to see someone stifle his own ambition in this self-effacing sort of way. Lean in, mate. Then again, perhaps Johnson’s reticence was influenced by his coach-crash interview with Eddie Mair on BBC Radio 4 this week.

And yet, because Johnson remains Britain’s foremost stupid-person’s-idea-of-a-clever-person, some believe he dun it on purpose. If I understand this theory correctly, Johnson deliberately sabotaged himself this week because he knows that the favourite never wins in a Tory leadership contest. So when he sounded like someone wantonly clueless who’d rather refresh his odds on Betfair than consider discrimination against black people in the criminal-justice system, it was all careful calculation. Mmm.

Moving on, we come to Philip Hammond, the chancellor of the exchequer, who will have marked himself as a relatable choice with his explanation of why Britain needed to transition gradually out of the European Union. “When you buy a house, you don’t necessarily move all your furniture in on the first day you buy it.” Two things, Phil. 1: Yes you do. 2: It’s slightly fascinating that anyone’s takeout from the past few weeks could be the universality of a home ownership metaphor. I mean, really? Really?

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Tory grassroots figures call for Theresa May to consider quitting by Christmas

Theresa May, the Prime Minister


Theresa May must consider quitting before Christmas, grassroots Tories have told The Sunday Telegraph amid concerns her leadership instability is undermining Brexit.

Leading voices among Tory activists have said the Prime Minister’s authority will never recover from the election flop and called for a swift leadership change.

They want Mrs May to spend her summer break, which starts this week, planning a transition that would see a colleague take over without a leadership race.

One activist group leader said Mrs May was politically “crippled”, while a cabinet minister’s local party chairman called on her to go within months.


It shows the precariousness of the Prime Minister’s position after making it to Parliament’s summer recess. MPs will closely consider her future in the coming weeks.

The full fury of Tory activists over the election was made clear to the party’s board last month at…

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Business chief speaks out about transitional period to adjust to Brexit — Vince Cable shredded after calls for ‘exit from Brexit’ — May to stay as PM until at least 2020

July 22, 2017
A TRANSITION period with the European Union is needed for at least two years after Brexit to avoid “shocks”, a business chief has insisted.
PUBLISHED: 12:45, Sat, Jul 22, 2017 | UPDATED: 12:55, Sat, Jul 22, 2017

Business chief calls for transitional period to adjust to Brexit

Herman Schey, chief executive of a worldwide timber business, said he did not want to find out about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and then have no time to prepare for changes.Speaking on Channel 4 News, Mr Schey, of Tradelink Wood Products, said without a transition period with the Brussels bloc, businesses would not be able to organise efficiently.

He said: “Certainly a transition period, at least two years, I think would be a good thing. Nobody likes shocks.

“When I talk about shocks, I would rather not find out when they finalise the Brexit negotiations and then have a very short time to organise things.”

Herman Schey David DavisCHANNEL 4 NEWS

Business chief Herman Schey called for a two year transition period after Brexit

Certainly a transition period, at least two years, I think would be a good thing

Herman Schey, chief executive of Tradelink Wood Products

Asked if he thought the Government could tie up everything over the two year timeframe, he added: “Even if they do everything, we’ll only find out and then we’ve got no time to adjust.”Meanwhile, a seething Brexiteer hit out at the possibility of a two-year transition deal, calling on the Government to “grow some balls” in a passionate rant.

LBC caller Martin from Marylebone told host Matt Frei he did not care about any possible economic “fallout” and insisted “our borders should be closed already”.

The comments come after The Times reported that Theresa May was ready to offer EU citizens free movement for up to two years after Britain breaks from the bloc.The listener said: “I’m absolutely livid, furious, I can’t believe that this is even in the arena.

“I voted like many people for two issues really which is – [we] don’t want to be governed by Europe, no I definitely do not, I don’t care whether there’s a little bit of a fallout on the economic side of it.

There was no immediate response from Downing Street to the reports that Mrs May is ready to see free movement continue beyond the due date for withdrawal from the European Union.But she stressed her backing for an implementation period when speaking with business leaders who attended the first of a series of quarterly Downing Street forums on Brexit.

UK could accept EU immigration in Brexit transition

July 21, 2017


© 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

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

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, 

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’.

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

EU’s Brexit chiefs want to ‘punish’ Britain to stop other countries leaving, senior German MEP claims — Plus: State of the Negotiations

July 19, 2017

Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, left, speaks with Michel Barnier, the European Union's (EU) chief Brexit negotiator, 

Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, left, speaks with Michel Barnier, the European Union’s (EU) chief Brexit negotiator,  CREDIT: JASPER JUINEN/BLOOMBERG

Asenior German MEP has warned that two of the EU’s top Brexit chiefs want to “punish” Britain to stop other countries trying to leave the bloc.

Hans-Olaf Henkel, the vice chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, urged the UK “not to listen” to Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, and Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator.

It comes as EU and UK officials engage in a third day of talks in Brussels as the two sides seek to hammer out the terms of Britain’s divorce deal.

 Image result for Hans-Olaf Henkel,, photos

 Hans-Olaf Henkel

Mr Henkel raised specific concerns about the UK Government’s plan to withdraw from the Euratom nuclear regulator which critics fear could make it difficult for Britain to access radioactive material for medical treatments post-Brexit.

Mr Henkel, who also serves as the vice chairman of the EU’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee, said many in Europe would welcome a U-turn on that decision.

But he said Mr Barnier and Mr Verhofstadt simply want to “make a mess” of the negotiations in order to discourage other nations from leaving the EU.

Writing in The Times, Mr Henkel said: “If the UK government comes back and says it would like the UK to stay in Euratom, I would say great  and so would most of my colleagues.

“As they consider this matter, I would urge them not to listen to Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, or even Michel Barnier, Europe’s chief negotiator, who I am afraid want to make a mess out of this whole unhappy situation.”

Read the rest:


Three key concerns about Brexit talks

Brexit talks

David Davis will go back to Brussels on Thursday for the conclusion of the second round of official Brexit talks. EPA photo

At his first photocall he set himself up for a bit of gentle mockery, being photographed without his notes, compared to the fat packets of EU documents on the table.

Jokes aside, if you talk to him or his team they say they are making good progress, that the negotiations are now properly under way, he is totally on top of his brief – move on, nothing to see here.

Last week he did also hint at a note of compromise in the air, outlining potential fixes on the prime minister’s apparent red line (getting a bit pink these days?) on European judges, holding out the possibility of creating some kind of looser membership of the EU nuclear agency, Euratom, by “association”.

Mr Davis’s allies say that he is totally on top of his brief, and they are optimistic about getting things done in the timetable, although openly the government now admits that there will have to be a period of time for industries to adjust to the new realities.

There are 98 UK officials in Brussels this week, so there is certainly now a lot of brain power and civil service time and energy going into making it all work.

But talking to several different sources this week, who have been close to the talks, none of whom want to see them fail, some distinctly less optimistic signals have emerged. There is a long list of agenda items, inevitably, and it’s complicated, but three broad issues have emerged.

1. There’s a sense that the government has just not made enough of the big decisions to allow the talks to really get going. One source told me “I’ve got nothing to say” when talking to EU counterparts, because ministers haven’t got to the stage yet of being clear about the detail of what they want. They are still focused on generalities rather than giving directions on the nitty gritty. On the Brexit “divorce bill” for example, I’m told the expectation across Whitehall is that it will be somewhere between 30 and 50 billion euros. But rather than the UK actually putting forward what they think might be acceptable, they are hanging back, rather than digging in.

2. There’s concern the reticence is because Number 10, in particular, has just not made it clear what they actually want, and where the PM might be willing to compromise. One former minister, exasperated at the lack of progress, believes the only way this process can be salvaged is for the prime minister to start making it plain where she will budge and where she won’t, to get on to the front foot, to lead. Their fear, that a shadow of her former self after the election, she doesn’t have the political ability left to do so. There is frustration that ministers are still relying on tropes like “frictionless border”, or “the days of paying vast sums are over”, rather than pushing on with the details.

3. This lack of pace therefore makes, it’s feared, the possibility of crashing out, or the talks breaking down in the autumn more likely. If the Tory party, and more importantly the public, aren’t prepared by their leaders for what the eventual compromises could be, whether that is keeping some elements of freedom of movement to guard against economic problems, paying tens of billions to keep trading inside the single market, seeing planes unable to fly across Europe or Chinese ships dock at Tilbury if the deals have not been concluded, they could face a very heavy political price. Senior Tories are well aware that if they mess this up they could be punished for generations.

These concerns are not raised by sources because of pessimism about Brexit, or a desire for the whole thing to be stopped.

There is plenty of that around SW1, but this isn’t it.

There are clearly massive opportunities for the UK outside the EU, and huge potential for a different and successful prognosis.

But inside government there are fears about the capability of the machine to manage the process without falling short.

Whether David Davis took his notes to his meeting with Michel Barnier or not, is not really the point.

EU wants to make Brexit a ‘catastrophe’ for UK — UK government officials have no answers to the dozens of regulatory and commercial issues being raised over Brexit

July 19, 2017

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn at the last PMQs before the summer recess

By Andrew Sparrow
The Guardian

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 British and EU flags flying alongside each other. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Wednesday 19 July 2017 First published on Wednesday 19 July 2017