20 March 2017

Great Repeal Bill details expected at triggering of Article 50

The Sunday Telegraph reports that plans to convert EU law into UK law via the Great Repeal Bill will be published when the government triggers Article 50, which is set to take place on 29 March. Ministers are expected to make use of statutory instruments, measures that lessen the scope for parliamentary scrutiny, which a government source acknowledged “will probably be one of the most controversial bits of the Bill,” but justified in the interests of time, saying, “We would be converting EU law into British law forever otherwise. It would literally be years and years and years.”

Separately, former Prime Minister Tony Blair told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, “David Davis said [the government] were going to deliver a deal with exactly the same benefits we now have from the single market and the customs union. We should hold them to that. What the Labour Party should say is, ‘We believed in Remain, we still think the best thing is for Britain to be part of the European Union, we acknowledge the people voted against that, we acknowledge therefore the Government have a mandate to negotiate Brexit, but we are going to hold them to the test that they have set, and if they do not pass that test then we are going to retain the right to represent the people of this country should their will change, to offer them the option of staying’.” Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech saying, “In the wake of the Brexit decision, it is vitally important that we value, celebrate and protect our diverse society. And that includes the three million European nationals who live and work here, who have made their lives and family and friends here and are so connected to so many millions of us. We want them to stay in this country.”

Source: The Sunday Telegraph The Press Association

UK reportedly considering zero-for-zero interim tariff deal with EU

Politico reports that UK officials are considering a ‘zero-for-zero’ arrangement that would maintain tariff-free trade with the EU for up to ten years while a comprehensive free trade deal was negotiated. The possibility of such an interim scheme, permissible under Article 24 of the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, was outlined by a Geneva-based official who said, “What’s important for you to take away is there is not a great swell of bitterness towards the British in Geneva. The attitude is nothing like what it is Brussels. I don’t think anyone wants to see trade disrupted between WTO members.” The official added, “Nothing precludes a member challenging anything, but you have to show some injury — that you are materially worse off — for it not to be spurious. It’s hard to see how that might be the case.”

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Juncker warns EU will not compromise on UK Brexit bill

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday warned that the EU would not compromise on its demands for the UK to pay a Brexit divorce bill, saying Britain would have “the choice to eat what’s on the table or not come to the table at all.” He added that the Commission’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has “everything prepared down to the last detail,” reportedly including an estimated Brexit bill and a demand for EU judges to oversee Britain’s withdrawal. He also said, “The UK will need to prepare itself to be treated as a third country,” while suggesting, “The remaining member states will fall in love with each other again and renew their vows with the European Union…They will all see from Britain’s example that leaving the EU is a bad idea.” Separately, Italy’s junior Minister for European Affairs, Sandro Gozi, has also said, “We have to resolve the British budget issue straight away…The UK will have to respect and fulfil all its obligations as a member state until the last day and the last pound.”

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Sturgeon calls on UK government to discuss referendum terms

Discussing the timing of a second independence referendum, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme, “It should be determined by what is right for the Scottish people and I think when the terms of Brexit are clear, but before it is too late for us to choose a different path, is what would be best for the Scottish people.” Asked whether 2021 would be amenable, an option which Theresa May could propose so that the SNP would have to seek an explicit mandate in Holyrood elections, Sturgeon said, “I don’t think that is reasonable because by that point Scotland has been taken out of the EU, two years have elapsed, presumably there is divergence opening up between the rules of the European Union, the single market and where the UK is going, and I think it then gets much harder for Scotland to take a different course,” adding, “But if she’s talking in the spring of 2019, a bit later perhaps than I was suggesting, then there may be some room for discussions around that.” This comes ahead of a vote in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday in which the Scottish government aims to gain support for calling a second referendum. Elsewhere, Sturgeon told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that, for an independent Scotland, “The starting point for consideration is that Scotland would use the pound. It’s our currency, it’s a fully tradeable international currency; but as I am sure you know I have a growth committee right now looking at a plan for the economic future of Scotland, but also looking in detail at currency options for Scotland.”

Separately, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlined proposals for “federal home rule” for Scotland, saying, “I think it will become clear over the next few months that… Scotland has more powers as part of a federal agreement with the UK, a Scottish home rule that gives us the powers to make decisions in important areas but does not deprive us of the co-operation we need, will be the best option.”

Meanwhile, a Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times and LBC found support for independence one point lower than it was in 2014, with 44% now backing independence and 56% preferring to remain part of the United Kingdom. An ORB poll for the Daily Telegraph also found 59% of UK voters were opposed to Scottish independence, with the same figure saying they would still support the UK leaving the European Union even if it meant Scotland leaving the UK.

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UK & Germany plan bilateral defence cooperation

The Financial Times reports a government defence source that said the UK and Germany are planning “a joint vision statement on future co-operation” in defence, including cyber security, training exercises and naval patrols. This comes against the backdrop of German pledges to increase defence spending from its current level of 1.2% of GDP to the NATO target of 2% over the coming years, with a German defence ministry spokesman saying, “Independent of the effects of Brexit, Great Britain remains a strong partner and ally in Nato and also bilaterally.”

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Spain open to reciprocal deal on citizens' rights

Discussing the potential for agreement on the rights of UK and EU citizens after Brexit, Jorge Toledo, Spain’s Secretary of State for the EU, said, “We are broadly in favour of retaining a reciprocal agreement on questions like healthcare and freedom of movement. As regards the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the rights of UK citizens in the EU, Spain is in favour of the amplest respect of these rights in the future but the modalities and conditions will and should be a matter of negotiation.”

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Fentimans ready to outsource some production to Europe in the event of tariffs

Eldon Robson, owner of the drinks manufacturer Fentimans, said, “If it did come to the point where tariffs are introduced, then we would set up some kind of manufacturing in Europe and that is how we would service the European marketplace.” He added, “We are used to outsourcing our manufacturing… You might as well tackle [Brexit] with a positive frame of mind. I wish the negativity would give way because there are opportunities as well.”

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