15 June 2017

FT: UK to open Brexit talks by guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights

According to the Financial Times, Brexit Secretary David Davis will begin Brexit negotiations next week by guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals, such as the freedom to move and work in the country, who arrived in the UK before March 29, the day Article 50 was triggered. Davis expects in return the EU to drop its demand for the European Court of Justice to supervise the rights of EU nationals after Brexit. A spokeswoman for the Brexit department said, “We have said consistently that resolving the status of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in other member states is our first priority for negotiations.”

Source: Financial Times

Philip Hammond to call for a Brexit that protects jobs and the economy

In a speech in the City of London tonight, Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to call for a Brexit that protects jobs and economic growth. He will say, “Investors need certainty in order to continue to support the UK economy and create jobs as we leave the EU. That is why we will fortify the vital financial support that helps businesses to grow —from cutting edge start-ups right through to large scale infrastructure projects.” This comes amid reports he is leading the charge in government to keep the UK in EU Customs Union.

The Daily Mail reports that Hammond is receiving more backing in the cabinet, but a Conservative source has said that at least three cabinet ministers were prepared to quit if the Prime Minister agreed to his demands on Brexit.

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Sturgeon calls for Scottish participation in Brexit negotiating team

In a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called on the UK Government to “adopt a much more inclusive process in reaching UK objectives for the negotiations,” which would include participation of the devolved governments in the negotiating team. Sturgeon also asked the Prime Minister to maintain Britain’s membership of the EU single market to “bring clarity, in place of the current confusion, and provide a coherent base for the UK’s future relationship with the EU,” arguing that May’s proposal to leave the single market “failed to garner support” at the general election. She added, “It is now clear that a new proposal is needed urgently to protect the economy and bring people together.”

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Verhofstadt rules out rebate if the UK stays in the EU

Following French president Emmanuel Macron’s remarks that the UK could yet decide to remain in the European Union, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said, “I agree. But like Alice in Wonderland, not all the doors are the same. It will be a brand new door, with a new Europe, a Europe without rebates, without complexity, with real powers and with unity.” The UK currently enjoys a significant discount on EU membership fees, a permanent opt-out from joining the single currency and flexibility to choose on some justice and police policies.

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Theresa May to meet Sinn Fein leader as deal with DUP is delayed

Prime Minister Theresa May will today meet with the leaders of Northern Ireland’s main parties, including Sinn Fein, to discuss restoring power sharing in the Northern Irish executive at the Stormont Assembly. Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, said, “It’s imperative that both governments recommit to the word, spirit and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement if there is to be any prospect of re-establishing the Executive.” This comes as the announcement of a deal between the Conservatives and DUP was delayed due to the Grenfell Tower fire incident. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “We want to know what is in the deal they [the Conservatives] are offering to the DUP and we want to know when it is going to be put before Parliament. We still haven’t been given a date for the Queen’s Speech.” He said Parliament “could not function until it is formally opened and I think the very least we need to know is when that is going to happen.”

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UK unemployment lowest since 1975

Elsewhere, new figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that UK unemployment fell to 4.6% for the period February to April 2017, its joint lowest since 1975 and down from 5% a year earlier. However, estimates also show that average weekly earnings in real terms fell by 0.6% (excluding bonuses) compared with a year earlier.

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Dutch coalition talks collapse for the second time

Dutch coalition talks have once again collapsed. Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Liberal VVD party won the most seats in the March 15 election, and was negotiating with leaders from the centre-right CDA, progressive D66 and ecologist left-wing GroenLinks to form a four-party coalition. The main point of contention is over the differences between GroenLinks and the three other parties on Dutch immigration policy regarding North African countries. “Despite our talks I have to conclude that the outcome is negative,” said Herman Tjeenk Willink, who was appointed by the Dutch parliament to moderate the discussions.

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Tim Farron quits as Liberal Democrat leader

Tim Farron has quit as Liberal Democrat leader. In a statement he said, “The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader. A better, wiser person may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to remain faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.To be a leader, particularly of a progressive liberal party in 2017 and to live as a committed Christian and to hold faithful to the Bible’s teaching has felt impossible for me.”

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Lord Owen: EEA membership is the “best option” for Brexit transition period

In a recently published paper, Lord Owen argues, “The EEA [European Economic Area] Agreement (EEAA) is the obvious place for the non-EU UK to remain in during the implementation period.” He writes, “The UK…is a Contracting Party to the EEA Agreement (which establishes membership of the EU single market) and there is nothing in the Agreement’s provisions that convincingly serves to establish that the UK will cease to be so on withdrawal from the Treaty of Lisbon and leaving the EU. The significance of this fact is difficult to overstate in avoiding any cliff edge which the EU negotiators might force upon us in ways damaging to UK interests.” He continues, “After leaving the EU, EEAA Contracting Party status would be consistent with negotiating outcomes that would meet all the major concerns of most of those who voted Leave in the Referendum. Those outcomes may take a few years and that is why Contracting Party status is the best option for the transition period while negotiations continue.”

Separately, Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar writes in a blog, “There is certainly an argument for EEA membership to form a time-limited, transitional arrangement for the UK as it withdraws from the EU – above all to minimise immediate-term economic disruption. However, the costs of EEA membership outside the EU – limited regulatory control, constrained right of action in trade, and a marginal global status – should rule this option out as a long-term model for UK-EU relations.”

Elsewhere, Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta is quoted by Deutsche Welle arguing, “The way I see things at the moment, a soft Brexit remains politically unpalatable from the UK point of view.” From the EU’s perspective too the current view is that “you’re either in the single market or out of the single market.”

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