7 April 2017

Theresa May and Donald Tusk agree to maintain “a constructive approach” to Brexit talks

Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday held talks with European Council President Donald Tusk for their first meeting since the UK formally triggered the Article 50 EU exit mechanism. A Downing Street spokesperson said, “Both leaders agreed that the tone of discussions had been positive on both sides…They agreed to stay in regular contact throughout the Brexit process to keep a constructive approach and seek to lower tensions that may arise, also when talks on some issues like Gibraltar inevitably will become difficult.” The spokesperson added, “The Prime Minister made clear that, on the subject of Gibraltar, the UK’s position had not changed: the UK would seek the best possible deal for Gibraltar as the UK exits the EU and there would be no negotiation on the sovereignty of Gibraltar without the consent of its people.” EU sources have described the meeting as “good and friendly.”

Separately, the United States yesterday launched a missile attack on a Syrian airfield in response to the chemical attack on civilians earlier this week. Downing Street has issued a statement saying, “The UK government fully supports the US action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks.” The UK was not asked to be involved.

Source: Press Association The Daily Mail

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Boris Johnson: UK could accept free movement during implementation phase

Speaking to Reuters TV, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said the UK could accept full free movement of people during an implementation phase after the UK leaves the EU, and that “we don’t want to close the doors. We simply want to have a system that is balanced…In the last 10 years I have been one of the few British politicians to speak up on the benefits of immigration.” He added, “Ideally I think [a UK-EU deal] could be done, what with goodwill and imagination it could be done as fast as I think it can be done in two years.”

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Eurogroup president: Equivalence for UK financial services requires long-term commitment to European standards

Discussing provisions for the UK’s financial services industry to operate in EU markets after Brexit, Eurogroup President and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has said, “Talking to financial players from the City… passporting won’t be the answer. There will be different regimes for different sub-sectors of the financial sector.” He added, “Equivalence will be part of the solution. But here again, declaring the rules and regulations and the supervision of the UK equivalent to that of the EU at the outset is quite easy, but over time our standards and the way of supervision will start to diverge.” He continued, “If you want to maintain equivalence over time you will have to commit, also in the long-run, to staying close to the European standards. Looking to the future, we will have to find to ways to regularly assess whether we are still equivalent.”

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Kenny meets Merkel to highlight Irish Brexit concerns

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday met German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of his strategy to highlight Ireland’s concerns over Brexit. Ahead of the meeting, Kenny said, “The [Irish] Government’s engagement on Brexit has been crucial in ensuring that our concerns are properly understood by our partners all across the Union, and I am pleased that these have been reflected in the draft guidelines.”

Meanwhile, Irish foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan, told BBC’s Newsnight, “I believe it’s important, in our context, that we have a situation at the end of these negotiations in two years’ time, or maybe even longer, where a member of the European Union, namely Ireland, cannot be placed in a position of more disadvantage than somebody who is leaving.” He said he believed Brexit would be “painful for Britain, I believe it’s going to be painful, potentially, for Ireland… The Article 50 process has commenced, and I believe it’s essential now that we get through the negotiations in such a way that the end result can be as close as possible a relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, albeit with the UK gone.”

Separately, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has called for the UK and Ireland to engage in bilateral talks on post-Brexit relations, separate to the official EU negotiations, under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. Ahern said, “The strength of our argument, on non-trade issues, is that the Good Friday Agreement allows it and says it.”

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Ryanair calls for certainty for aviation in Brexit talks

Ryanair has called for certainty on the status of the aviation industry in Brexit negotiations, with the company’s finance director Neil Sorahan saying, “We’re looking at a scenario whereby today you can fly back and forth between the UK and Europe, tomorrow you can’t… When you’re dealing with a block of 27 countries that have to ratify something that’s been agreed at the centre, we all know that politics moves slowly.” He added, “We need somebody to take control of the process and say ‘this is what’s going to happen, this is what we’re going to do’… We need that level of certainty so that ourselves and other airlines can make decisions and load flights for summer 2019 this time next year.” He also suggested that uncertainty meant Ryanair would look for short-term growth in markets other than the UK.

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Heathrow owner sees “no opportunities” in the UK, but suggests Brexit may have “positive side effects” for investment

The BBC reports that Rafael del Pino, the chairman of Spanish multinational Ferrovial which owns Heathrow Airport, has said he sees “no opportunities” in the UK as regards future merger and acquisition deals. Suggesting this was a “prudent” approach, he added, “Nobody, not even the UK, knows how the process and consequences [of Brexit] will be carried out.” However, he added that Brexit could have “positive side effects,” including increased support for the expansion of Heathrow.

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EU Scrutiny Committee: UK should “be firm” while still an EU member, and vote against proposals not in national interest

The House of Commons’ European Scrutiny Committee has said, “In negotiating exit, the UK Government needs to be alert to the negotiations on current business; it cannot start from the assumption that EU policy and legal frameworks are fixed…Both parties are moving; the challenge is to separate them without either losing momentum.” The committee advised, “We consider that it may now be appropriate for the Government to be firm in its attitude to proposals it considers misguided, and to be readier to vote against such proposals if it does not manage to negotiate satisfactory changes.”

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Mark Reckless quits UKIP and defects back to Conservatives

Mark Reckless, a member of the Welsh Assembly, yesterday announced his decision to quit UKIP and defect back to the Conservative Party – which he had left in 2014. Reckless said, “I campaigned all my adult life to leave the EU. Now we are, under a Conservative Government. I support Theresa May, and her team of Brexit ministers to deliver. As a country, it is right that we seek a sensible settlement with the EU, rather than no deal.”

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