20 April 2017

Early UK general election approved as Juncker foresees subsequent “real political negotiations”

Yesterday the House of Commons passed a motion by 522 votes to 13 to allow an early general election to take place on 8 June 2017. Addressing a rally following the vote, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said, “Only you can give us the mandate, so vote for a strong and stable leadership in this country. Vote for strong and stable leadership this country needs. Give me the mandate to lead Britain. Give me the mandate to speak for Britain. Give me the mandate to fight for Britain. And give me the mandate to deliver for Britain.” This comes as a voting intention poll by YouGov for The Times put the Conservatives on 48% versus Labour on 24%, the Liberal Democrats on 12% and UKIP on 7%, a four point increase for the Conservatives since last week.

Separately, a spokesman for the European Commission confirmed that May had spoken to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the day she announced her intention to press for an early election, saying, “Following their conversation, the President considers that the real political negotiations on Article 50 with the United Kingdom will start after the elections foreseen for the 8th of June.” A spokesman for the European Council President Donald Tusk also said, “The elections in the United Kingdom do not change the plans of the EU-27.”

Meanwhile, the Press Association cites a Daily Mail report that the Conservative manifesto will include specific commitments to ending EU free movement, leaving the Single Market, and withdrawing from European Court of Justice jurisdiction. It also quotes a government source from a report by The Times that says May will offer a “regulatory compromise” on the method of calculating numbers of overseas students in order to secure Commons’ support for the Higher Education and Research Bill, but the source added, “Any suggestion we are going to change our approach to the inclusion of overseas students in the migration statistics is plain wrong.” The Times also reports that senior Labour figures are considering including a second referendum on the eventual deal negotiated with the EU in their manifesto.

This comes as former Chancellor George Osborne announced that he was standing down as MP for Tatton, saying, “I am stepping down from the House of Commons – for now… I want a Britain that is free, open, diverse and works with other nations to defend our democratic values in the world. I will go on fighting for that Britain I love from the editor’s chair of a great newspaper.” A number of Labour MPs have also said they will stand down including the former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson, the chair of the House of Commons business committee Iain Wright, and former chair of Vote Leave Gisela Stuart.

Source: The Press Association The Daily Mail The Daily Telegraph The Times Tagesschau The Times 2 The Evening Standard The Financial Times The Guardian

US Congress speaker: bipartisan support for UK-US trade agreement and expectation of UK-EU deal

Asked whether he thought the UK would be able to secure a trade deal with the EU, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan told an audience in London, “I cannot imagine you will not and I just want you to know that as your special partner and greatest ally, we are going to stand with you through all of this. We want you as soon as the UK is ready and able to do a bilateral trade agreement.” He added, “This is one of the bipartisan messages I bring with me, I bring Democrats and Republicans here to this room to this country today, to say that the United States stands ready to forge a new trade agreement with Great Britain as soon as possible so that we may further tap into the great potential between our two people.” He also said he wanted the UK and the EU to “come together and strike a lasting agreement: a strong UK-EU relationship is in all of our best interests.”

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Financial Times: Leaked EU Commission memo warns to avoid “unnecessary complications" with the UK

The Financial Times reports on a leaked internal European Commission memo advising staff to avoid “unnecessary additional complications” with the UK before its withdrawal. The memo also urges staff to take account of the “legal repercussions” of Brexit in awarding contracts for research and services, adding, “Apart from the legal requirement for a contracting party to be established in the EU, there may be political or practical reasons that speak in favour of contracting parties established in a specific member state, not only at the conclusion of the contract, but also throughout the duration of the contract.” The note said, “In the absence of certainty about arrangements (if any) for a future relationship, commission services and decentralised agencies should start considering the practical aspects of disconnecting access [for the UK to] non-public databases hosted by EU bodies.”

Separately, discussing the status of EU agencies currently located in the UK after Brexit, Margaritis Schinas, European Commission spokesman, said, “The decision to relocate the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority is a decision for the 27 member states to take. It is not part of the Brexit negotiations,” adding, that the UK “will have no say in the location of EU agencies.” This follows a statement earlier this week from the Department for Exiting the European Union which said, “No decisions have been taken about the location of the European Banking Authority or the European Medicines Agency – these will be subject to the exit negotiations.”

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Nicola Sturgeon would consider a “progressive alliance” to block a Conservative government

Yesterday Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “If the Parliamentary arithmetic lends itself to the SNP being part of a progressive alliance to keep the Tories out of Government then the SNP will seek to be part of that, as we said in 2015.” She added, “We are not sure that there are many people who think Labour will be in a position on their own or with anyone else to form a Government.” However, she clarified that she would agree support on a vote-by-vote basis, rather than establishing a formal coalition.

Separately, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said, “I think if the party is returned with a healthier majority, it gives [the Prime Minister] the freedom to make decisions in the best interests of the country without having to pay a penalty in terms of people within either the Conservative Party or outwith trying to put undue pressure on her.”

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McDonnell: Labour government would end corporate tax ‘giveaways’

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has stated that a Labour government would force corporations and wealthy individuals to pay more tax, saying, “I think there’s a general view in society at the moment that middle and low earners are being hit very hard with a combination… of both income tax rises but also in terms of the burden placed upon them by stealth taxes. We want to get a system that is fair, so the corporations and the rich pay their way more and that means ending the tax giveaways to the corporations and also those in inheritance tax, capital gains tax and the bankers’ levy.” He also announced plans to limit senior executives’ pay using a maximum ratio linked to lower-paid employees, backing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to bring about a “shift in public opinion” in the weeks leading up to the election.

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