16 June 2017

Brexit negotiations to start on Monday, two days before the Queen’s speech

Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier have agreed to start the negotiations for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU next Monday as planned. In a joint statement, they said, “Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, and David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, agreed today to launch Article 50 negotiations on Monday, 19 June.”

Separately, Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom announced yesterday, “The Government has agreed with Buckingham Palace that the State Opening of Parliament will take place on 21 June 2017.” Meanwhile, discussions for a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement between the Conservatives and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are said to be “progressing well.” The Press Association cites a source as saying, “Both parties are committed to strengthening the Union, combating terrorism, delivering Brexit and delivering prosperity across the whole country.” However, the Prime Minister is reportedly “confident” of passing the Queen’s speech in the House of Commons even if no deal is reached with the DUP in time. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said, “We told her [Theresa May] very directly that she was in breach of the Good Friday Agreement and we itemized those matters in which she was dilatory or in default in relation to that agreement.”

Source: Independent Politico The Press Association European Commission Politico

Jeremy Hunt: EU nationals working in the NHS ‘top of our list’

The status of EU nationals working in the NHS will be an “early priority” for the government in Brexit talks, according to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Addressing the NHS Confederation conference, he said of the 150,000 EU nationals working in health and social care in the UK, “We need them, we want them to stay. They are part of the NHS family. It’s an early priority for this Government to secure rights which we would like to be broadly the same as the rights that they have now and I want to reassure them now that this will be absolutely top of our list as the Brexit negotiations start later this month.”

Separately, a survey conducted by law firm Baker McKenzie found that over half of skilled workers from the EU working for FTSE 250 firms are planning to leave the UK before the Article 50 negotiations are over, with 56% of the respondents saying it is “highly likely” or “quite likely”. The sectors that will be hit the most are healthcare (84%), and technology, media and communications (64%). Stephen Ratcliffe of Baker McKenzie said, “Last week’s election result and the current uncertainty around the immigration status of EU nationals underlines the need for all employers — especially those reliant on EU workers — to address their employees’ concerns around Brexit as a priority.”

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New survey: EU viewed more positively by members, but most want a referendum

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center published in The Times, the European Union has received a boost of popularity, with only 20% of respondents saying they wanted to leave the EU. 54% of UK respondents said they now had a “positive opinion” of the bloc, described in the survey as a “sharp rebound” from a year ago. Poland has the most popular view of the EU, with almost 75% saying they were favourable towards it. But research also found that 53% wanted to hold their own referendum on membership. This is believed to reflect their desire to have a greater say on issues such as immigration, with a majority of respondents saying they wanted their government to have control of trade and immigration. The survey polled almost 10,000 respondents from ten leading EU countries, covering 80% of the EU population and 84% of its economy.

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Monetary Policy Committee narrowly votes to hold interest rates at 0.25%

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) this week decided by 5 votes to 3 not to increase interest rates from their current record-low position of 0.25%. Despite expectations of a rate adjustment at some stage due to recent rises in inflation above the Bank’s 2% target, Reuters reports that the revelation of a minority view in favour of increasing rates caused surprise in financial markets, with the pound gaining a cent against the dollar following the announcement. The minutes of the MPC meeting this week stated, “Monetary policy cannot prevent either the necessary real adjustment as the United Kingdom moves towards its new international trading arrangements or the weaker real income growth that is likely to accompany that adjustment over the next few years. Attempting to offset fully the effect of weaker sterling on inflation would be achievable only at the cost of higher unemployment and, in all likelihood, even weaker income growth.”

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Jeremy Corbyn makes four new shadow cabinet appointments

In a small-scale reshuffle, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appointed yesterday four new MPs to the shadow cabinet, including Owen Smith, who had been Corbyn’s rival in last summer’s leadership contest. Smith will serve as shadow Northern Ireland secretary, while Andrew Gwynne, formerly Co-Chair of the party’s election campaign, will be the new communities and local government secretary. The Brent Central MP Dawn Butler has been appointed shadow minister for diverse communities, while Lesley Laird will serve as shadow Scottish secretary.

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Eurogroup reaches compromise on Greek bailout

The Eurogroup approved yesterday a new tranche of bailout money for Greece worth €8.5bn, which the country needs for a loan repayment to the IMF due in July. In addition to the payment, Greece received more clarity about the kind of debt relief it could expect to enjoy after the end of its current bailout programme in 2018, which will include favourable repayment schedules and the return of profits from Greek bonds held by the ECB and the national banks. The Eurogroup also adopted a proposal put forward by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, which would allow Greece to receive more debt relief measures when growth rates fall. IMF Director Christine Lagarde said, “The crisis was averted and stability was maintained,” and added, “the IMF has committed to disbursing [new loans] only when debt relief measures are unequivocally specified.”

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Czech PM resigns as leader of his party and stays on as PM until the election

Czech Prime Minister has stepped down as leader of the Czech Social Democratic Party, but will remain head of the government until a general election in the autumn. He said, “If [the party] is to improve its chances before the key elections…it has to undergo deeper changes, so that it would be able to better address people and to mobilize its supporters and members.” He will be replaced by Milan Chovanec, the interior minister and deputy party chief.

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Romanian government collapses, as PM refuses to resign

The Romanian government has collapsed after the two coalition parties backing it withdrew their support. Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu refused to resign, vowing to stay in power until the president guarantees the next Prime Minister will also be from his Social Democrat Party. The Social Democrats and their junior coalition party ALDE withdrew their support for the government just five months after it took power, citing poor implementation of its governing programme, throwing the country into further political instability months after facing anti-corruption protests.

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Report calls for illegal immigration estimates to be published

A report published by Civitas and authored by David Wood, former director general of immigration enforcement, and Alasdair Palmer, a former speechwriter at the Home Office, claims that internal government estimates put annual illegal immigration in the UK at 150,000 at least, and calls for the publication of the estimates in order to allow full debate. The report’s authors said, “The Home Office has not published any estimate of illegal immigration since 2005. It has produced further estimates – but for internal consumption only.” They added that it was “understandable that the Home Office should have kept those estimates to itself,” but argued, “Keeping them secret may save ministers from embarrassment. But it makes proper policy planning impossible.”

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