13 June 2017

EU’s chief Brexit negotiator urges UK not to waste time and begin Brexit negotiations

Speaking to the Financial Times, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has urged the UK to not waste time and begin the Brexit negotiations. He stressed, “It will take us several months to draw out the conditions of an orderly withdrawal…so let’s not waste time,” adding, “I can’t negotiate with myself.” Barnier warned, “My preoccupation is that time is passing, it is passing quicker than anyone believes because the subjects we have to deal with are extraordinarily complex.”

Barnier told the FT that that there will be “no spirit of revenge, no punishment, no naivety either” in the negotiations but “there is truth. Truth on what Brexit means, what leaving the EU signifies by its consequences. The citizens have the right to know this truth.” In Britain, he added, “Lots of people underestimated these consequences.” On reports that the UK government will make a ‘generous offer’ to EU citizens in the UK he said, “I really don’t know what ‘generous’ means. I don’t know if it is generous to preserve the rights of people and families who are worried. I want to find a solution that is humanely and legally fair.” He also reiterated that the sequencing of the Brexit negotiations is “non-negotiable.”

Source: Financial Times

Cabinet ministers lobby Theresa May for a pragmatic Brexit

According to a senior Cabinet source quoted by Sky News, Cabinet ministers are privately lobbying Prime Minister Theresa May to change her approach to Brexit. The source is quoted as saying, “The British public themselves haven’t reached a conclusion on what they want from Brexit. We need to recognise the outcome…people want practical pragmatism with fewer things being ruled out – not an ideologically driven approach.” This comes after reports saying that Chancellor Philip Hammond and leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson have challenged the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan.

Elsewhere, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday called for a “cross-party, all-government approach” to Brexit negotiations, which is “backed by all parties and all governments across the UK.” This comes as the Irish Taoiseach-designate, Leo Varadkar, said, “I do have a sense that the landscape does change somewhat as a result of the British election…I do think there is an opportunity to soften Brexit. But that all remains to be seen.” Separately, a spokesperson for May said, “Our position is clearly set out…there has been no change to that,” adding, “Obviously there will be discussions in cabinet.”

Meanwhile, writing in The Daily Telegraph, Conservative peer Lord Hague said the government should change the emphasis given to the UK’s objectives, with a clear indication that economic growth will have priority over controlling the number of people entering the country for work. This would show a readiness to accommodate the views of Scottish Conservatives, business organisations and, to some degree, opposition parties, within certain parameters.”

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Theresa May to hold talks with DUP leader over government deal

Prime Minister Theresa May will later today meet with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster to discuss the terms of the DUP’s support for May’s minority government. May needs the support of the DUP in order to pass her Queen’s Speech which is rumoured to be delayed, previously announced for 19 June. This comes after the Prime Minister met with the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers yesterday where she told them, “I got us into this mess and I will get us out of it.” Speaking to Sky News, Foster said her party wants to “support the national interest” and “bring stability to the nation…we are first and foremost unionists and therefore we want to secure the union.”

The Prime Minister will also meet with French President Emmanuel Macron today at the Élysée Palace. An Elysée official said Macron and May’s working dinner would focus on security issues “to look at the possibilities for deepening our cooperation on counter-terrorism, both bilaterally and on a European basis.” The measures could include “creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content.”

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Keir Starmer: Labour would keep single market option open

Labour would keep the option of remaining in a reformed single market on the negotiating table, according to Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer. Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said, “What [Brexit Secretary] David Davis said this morning is that it’s not that the government doesn’t want membership of the single market, it’s that they’ve been told that you can’t have that with freedom of movement. It seems to me that would be a good place to start discussions, start negotiations, rather than simply taking it off the table.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell had earlier appeared to rule out single market membership, with McDonnell telling ITV’s Peston on Sunday, “I can’t see it even being on the table in the negotiations, I don’t think it’s feasible.” According to the Guardian, a Labour source later briefed that they were referring to the single market in its current form. Starmer also called for “a different tone and approach” to Brexit negotiations, suggesting that they should focus on outcomes and cooperation.  Elsewhere, Shadow Secretary for International Trade Barry Gardiner also suggested that single market membership should be kept on the table, but downplayed the likelihood of achieving it, saying, “We’ve been absolutely clear on this – we want those benefits…The EU have made it absolutely clear that they will not give membership of the internal market unless it is accompanied by the four freedoms. But what we’re saying is, if they want to offer that, would we turn it down?”

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European Commission to unveil plans that could force some euro clearing business to relocate from London

The European Commission is today due to unveil new proposals on the location and supervision of euro clearing activities. According to the draft seen by the Financial Times, third-country clearing houses that are deemed systemically relevant by the EU’s financial markets watchdog ESMA could be forced to relocate their euro-denominated business into the EU. However, the proposal will stop short of demanding that all euro clearing business be located in the EU. The City of London is a major centre for the clearing of euro-denominated transactions.

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Institute of Directors reports fall in business confidence since general election

Speaking following the release of a members survey by the Institute of Directors (IoD) that found a 34-point reduction in confidence in the UK economy since May, Stephen Martin, IoD Director General, said, “It is hard to overstate what a dramatic impact the current political uncertainty is having on business leaders, and the consequences could – if not addressed immediately – be disastrous for the UK economy. The needs of business and discussion of the economy were largely absent from the campaign, but this crash in confidence shows how urgently that must change in the new government.”

Separately, Kathrin Muehlbronner, Senior Vice President at ratings agency Moody’s, said that the hung parliament produced by the general election would impair the UK’s prospects in Brexit negotiations and would be “negative for the UK’s credit profile,” while a longer transition phase and continued [EU] single market membership would mitigate this development.

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The NHS sees a 96% drop in arrivals of nurses from the EU since the referendum

The NHS has seen a fall of 96% in nurses from the EU registering to work in the UK since the EU referendum, according to the latest figures. In April 2017, only 46 EU nurses applied to join the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), down from 1,304 last July. Anita Charlesworth, research and economics director at the Health Foundation, said, “Without EU nurses, it will be even harder for the NHS and other employers to find the staff they need to provide safe patient care. The findings should be a wake-up call to politicians and health service leaders.” However, the NMC said that the introduction of English language requirements were also a factor in the EU decreases.

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