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Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will today outline his liberal vision of Brexit. In a speech he is expected to say, “It is only by taking back control of our laws that UK firms and entrepreneurs will have the freedom to innovate, without the risk of having to comply with some directive devised by Brussels, at the urging of some lobby group, with the aim of holding back a UK competitor…That would be intolerable, undemocratic and would make it all but impossible for us to do serious free trade deals.” Johnson will add, “The British people should not have new laws affecting their everyday lives imposed from abroad, when they have no power to elect or remove those who make those laws…There is no need for us to find ourselves in any such position.” Johnson will also tell Leavers that they “must also reach out to those who still have anxieties.” Separately, writing in The Sun, Johnson says, “To those who worry that we are somehow going to become more insular [because of Brexit], the exact reverse is true. We are becoming every year more global…We do not want to haul up the drawbridge…But we want to exercise control and if we are going to move from a low-wage, low-productivity economy to a high-wage, high productivity economy — as we must — then Brexit gives us back at least one of the levers we need. At the same time, Brexit will give us a cash dividend and as the Prime Minister has indicated, a substantial sum will go on housing, education and, yes, the NHS.” He concludes, “To those who worry about coming out of the customs union or the single market, please bear in mind that the economic benefits of membership are nothing like as conspicuous or irrefutable as is sometimes claimed.”
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A report by the Home Affairs select committee has said it is unlikely that a new UK immigration system will be ready by March 2019, when the UK formally leaves the EU. The report warns that the Home Office is hindered by “a lack of resources, high turnover of staff and unrealistic workloads”, and argues that delays in producing a White Paper on its future policy is causing anxiety for citizens and businesses. Yvette Cooper, the chair of the select committee, said, “We need urgent clarity about both registration and border plans for next year so that parliament can scrutinise them and so that families, employers and officials can plan. The lack of detail with just over a year to go is irresponsible. We recognise that the government needs time to consider long-term changes, but the Home Office urgently needs to set out its intentions for next year.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Theresa May will hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin ahead of the former’s speech at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. This comes as the Government intensifies its efforts to make progress in the Brexit negotiations, with key ministers expected to outline their Brexit priorities this week. Elsewhere, Chancellor Philip Hammond said at the beginning of his Brexit charm offensive across the European continent this week, “I am taking the message to Europe that, while we are leaving the EU, Britain still cares about its relationships with the countries, citizens and businesses with whom we share a close history and common values.” He added, “We look forward to agreeing a new, deep and special partnership with the EU that keeps our relationship growing strongly in the future.”
Elsewhere, the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), Martin Schulz, yesterday resigned from his position as party chairman with immediate effect. Olaf Scholz, who is set to become vice-chancellor and finance minister in the new German government, will take over as acting chairman until the formal election of a new party leader on 22 April.
The European Ombudsman published a report yesterday criticising the lack of transparency in the European Council’s law-making procedures, arguing that it “constitutes maladministration” and “undermines the citizens’ right to hold their elected representatives to account.” Specifically, the report criticised the Council practice of not making known the positions of individual member-states during its closed meetings. European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said, “It’s almost impossible for citizens to follow the legislative discussions in the Council between national government representatives.” She added, “This ‘behind-closed-doors’ approach risks alienating citizens and feeding negative sentiment,” saying that without increased transparency, “the ‘blame Brussels’ culture will continue.” The European Council has until May 9 to respond.
Following a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna, European Council President Donald Tusk said yesterday, “We will need to find a balance [in agreeing the new EU long-term budget] between funding new priorities and ensuring that the EU’s traditional policies continue, in areas such as cohesion and agriculture”, adding, “What matters is that we make sure that the EU finances priorities which provide solutions to citizens’ real concerns.” Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that the EU is considering covering the financing hole in its budget created by Brexit with revenue from auctions of carbon-dioxide permits, which could be as high as 105 billion euros over the seven years after 2021 depending on the exact share of revenues that will be redirected to the common budget under the plan.
The state-owned port of Dublin is preparing for the “inevitability” of customs checks at the sea border after Brexit, with infrastructure for border checks on UK imports being finalised this year, in case of a “no deal” hard Brexit. Eamonn O’Reilley, chief executive of Dublin Port Company, said “We have taken what the UK government has said at face value — period. Any changes that happen that improve that are most welcome but we’re not depending on it happening…we’re not working on the basis of there being any magical political solution.” He added, “Regardless of what happens in respect of the ‘phase one’ [Brexit] agreement, there will be border controls in Dublin port. I have no doubt about that.”
According to Bloomberg, the Hungarian government is to submit to Parliament a bill targeting people and NGOs perceived to be helping illegal migration. The bill, which is named ‘Stop Soros’ after the Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros, will aim to register, penalise, and possibly bar people and organisations seen as supporting illegal migration, bringing into life one of the government’s key pledges.
Elsewhere, European Council President Donald Tusk said yesterday after a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz that “stemming the flow of illegal migration to Europe” will be one of the future priorities of the EU and a “challenge for many years to come”, urging European leaders to “put an end to the destructive emotions surrounding the issue of relocation.”
A survey conducted by the Scottish arm of the National Farmers Union (NFU) revealed that almost two thirds of Scottish fruit and vegetable growers are having increasing difficulty hiring foreign seasonal workers. Growers who took part in the poll said that it is becoming harder to attract labour because of Brexit and the fall in the pound after the Brexit vote, and that the shortage of workers has led to financial losses for many fruit and vegetable producers. President of NFU Scotland Andrew McCornick said that what is “becoming of increasing concern is how Scotland’s agricultural and food processing sectors will continue to employ and retain non-UK workers for permanent positions up and down the supply chain after Brexit.”
Japan’s second largest bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, announced yesterday that it will rent 161,000 sq ft of office space in London’s Broadgate complex for its new European headquarters, according to property development and investment company British Land. Following the announcement of the 20-year lease, British Land’s head of offices, Tim Roberts, said in a statement that the bank’s decision is a “strong endorsement of London as a global city which remains attractive to international organisations as a place to do business.” The bank joins Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank among the firms that have acquired new office space in London since the Brexit vote.