11 July 2017

Australian Prime Minister looks forward to “speedily concluding” free trade agreements with UK and EU

Following talks with Theresa May at Downing Street, the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, “As Britain moves to completing its exit from the EU, we stand ready to enter into a free trade agreement with the UK as soon as the UK is able to do so. Once Brexit is achieved, we look forward to speedily concluding a free trade agreement. At the same time, we are looking forward to the early conclusion of a free trade agreement with the EU.” He also said he aimed to conclude an EU-Australia trade deal before the UK’s formal withdrawal from the bloc.

May said, “We’ve both made clear our intention to continue to deepen our trade and investment relationship as the UK leaves the EU. Our Brexit negotiations have started well, and I have made clear to prime minister Turnbull that an ambitious and comprehensive bilateral trade deal with Australia remains a priority for the UK. Australia was the first country with whom the UK established a trade working group following the vote to leave the EU and we’re keeping up a regular and productive dialogue on the future of our free trading relationship.”

Source: The Press Association

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Moscovici: Brexit must be wrapped up in two years

Speaking to France24, Pierre Moscovici, the EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, said Brexit “has to be done within the two year time limit” specified in Article 50. He added, “We are conscious it will be tough, but also confident that we can find an agreement that means we can keep a close relationship.” On the Franco-German relationship, he said he envisages a “kind of grand bargain with France on the one hand reducing its deficit, reforming its economy and society and Germany on the other agreeing to deepen Eurozone integration and that means politically as well.” He argued,  “In the end, there could be a Eurozone budget dedicated to investment and fighting unemployment, there should be a minister of finance for the Eurozone who would be a Commissioner, plus a Eurozone parliament.”

Separately, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said, “Brexit negotiations must be completed by 30 March 2019; we will not support any extension to this deadline, because it would require the UK to hold European elections in May 2019. That is simply unthinkable.” Open Europe’s director Henry Newman argued in a piece for the Daily Telegraph, “It’s ironic that Verhofstadt and others threaten that the Parliament should vote against a deal if it provided insufficient protections for EU nationals. Voting against the deal, at the end of the Article 50 process, would do nothing to provide EU nationals with any further protections. Given their accompanying refusal to countenance extending the Article 50 timetable, it would mean the UK leaving without any deal at all, and thus no protections for EU nationals in the UK beyond what the UK was prepared to offer – neatly cutting off a nose to spite a face.”

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Starmer warns decision to leave Euratom was “reckless”

Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, has said, “It’s increasingly clear that the government acted recklessly by giving up on membership of Euratom [European Atomic Energy Community]. As with so many aspects of the prime minister’s Brexit strategy, she has let ideological obsessions – in this case preventing any future role for the European court of justice – take priority over safeguarding jobs and the economy.” The Guardian reports at least nine Conservative MPs have signalled a willingness to support Labour’s position of retaining membership to the civil nuclear energy body.

Separately, former campaign director of Vote Leave Dominic Cummings expressed his opposition to withdrawal from Euratom on Twitter, calling the PM’s decision “unacceptable bullshit” that “must be ditched or she will be.” He added, “Use first fortnight of August to ditch truck loads of crap ideas foisted on us by shambolic 1st 9 months of May government, reboot.” However, the Prime Minister told the Commons yesterday, “We are all agreed that we want to ensure we can still maintain the arrangements and relationship that currently exist under Euratom but they will be on a different basis in future.”

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US president Donald Trump to visit UK next year

A Downing Street spokesperson has confirmed, “We are now looking at dates for next year for the US president [Donald Trump] to visit.” This comes after Trump’s signal at the G20 summit last week for a US-UK trade deal to be agreed “very, very quickly” after Brexit. Trump was originally expected on a state visit last month, but this was cancelled following the announcement of a general election and the threat of protests against the president.

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Post-Brexit tariffs would pose a “major risk” to UK food and drink sector

A new report commissioned by the Food and Drink Federation warns that the imposition of tariffs post-Brexit would pose a “major risk” to the performance of the UK’s food and drink sector. It argues that while some businesses may benefit from cheaper imports from non-EU markets, preparing businesses to trade with the EU outside the single market and customs union could be “extremely costly and prone to errors.” It also warned that reduced access to EU labour post-Brexit would lead to disruption in this sector.

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Survey finds 72% of finance chiefs less optimistic about business environment post-Brexit

According to a report by accountancy firm Deloitte, 72% of chief financial officers surveyed thought the overall business environment would be worse once Britain leaves the EU, while 8% said they saw an improvement after Brexit. David Sproul, chief executive of Deloitte North West Europe, said, “This underscores the importance of the Brexit negotiations producing a favourable environment for UK businesses, with access to the skills and markets they need for their future success.”

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100 Eastern European migrants in UK for every UK citizen in Eastern Europe

Almost 100 times as many citizens from eight Eastern European states were living in the UK between 2013 and 2015 compared to UK citizens living in those states, according to the Office for National Statistics. It found that 1.3m citizens from Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were living in the UK, while only 14,100 Britons were settled there. Eight out of ten of these immigrants in the UK are in employment, and four out of ten are overqualified for their job. Emma Rourke, director for public policy and analysis at the ONS, said, “This report adds to the complex picture of migration across the EU. It shows how the population profile among migrant populations compares — and often differs markedly in age make-up — with the overall population of the host countries. This has clear implications for future policymaking across a range of areas.”

Elsewhere, data from the EU’s statistical agency Eurostat shows that the UK is close to overtaking France in terms of population after growth of 400,000 this year. The UK population is now 65.8m compared to 67m in France, with the gap narrowing from more than two million in 2010 to 1.2m this year. The EU population grew by 1.5m, all of it attributed to net migration.

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OE’s Cleppe: softening of EU and UK positions suggest a deal can be done

Writing for Open Europe’s blog, Pieter Cleppe said that despite fears of Brexit talks falling into deadlock, both the UK and the EU have shown they are able to compromise, a fact which makes reaching a deal more likely.  He highlighted shifts in the EU position on allowing parallel talks about exit matters and a trade deal, the primacy of free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), as well as moderation in new rules on euro-clearing that many had feared would see UK-based firms forced to relocate into the EU-27. On the UK side, Cleppe observes a softening that allowed the UK to accept non-simultaneous talks on exit and trade matters, and an openness to discussing ECJ involvement in arbitration on a bilateral basis after Brexit. He concludes, “There are still are major hurdles to achieving a good Brexit deal, but despite the collective political/media meltdown in Britain following the election, there is actually growing reason to believe a deal can be done. That’s a good thing for both Britain and the EU.”

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