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Speaking yesterday at the start of the fourth round of Brexit talks, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said, “The EU is keen and eager to understand better how the UK government will translate the PM’s speech into negotiating position.” He called for “a moment of clarity” in talks this week. At the same press conference, Brexit Secretary David Davis repeated the UK’s position that no EU member state should pay more or receive less from the current budget framework, and argued that there “could be no excuses for standing in the way” of progress this week. Davis also said, “It’s obvious that reaching a conclusion on this issue can only be done in the context of, and in accordance with, a new deep and special partnership with the EU.”
Elsewhere, speaking after a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council yesterday, Barnier took note of Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for a transition, saying, “The EU has to decide whether to have a transitional period and whether it is in its interest. Any transition has to respect the regulatory and financial framework of the single market.” He also said, “A discussion…it on this transitional period does not mean we will no longer need to achieve sufficient progress…We are not going to mix up those subjects which are part of an orderly withdrawal, and a discussion of our future relationship.” May will hold talks on Brexit with President of the European Council Donald Tusk today.
Separately, following a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May today, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, “I don’t think, at this stage, it would be possible to say that sufficient progress has yet been made, but it may well be possible by the end of October when we meet in Brussels…Certainly, we will be very much guided by the report that Michel Barnier will make to the prime ministers and also the report that the European Parliament will make.” Varadkar called on the UK to be “more specific” about their vision of future UK-Ireland relations. A spokesperson for Theresa May said, “On the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the Prime Minister reaffirmed how we will not accept any physical infrastructure at the border and how we are working on delivering a practical solution that allows for the most seamless possible movement of goods between the UK and EU.”
Meanwhile, Theresa May is today meeting European Council President Donald Tusk at Downing Street in their first meeting since she set out plans for a two-year transition period post-Brexit.
Speaking at the Labour Party conference yesterday, Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would negotiate a Brexit deal “that retains the benefits of the customs union and the single market,” adding, “Options for achieving that end should not be swept off the table.” He continued, “Subject of course to negotiations, remaining in a form of customs union with the EU is a possible end destination for Labour. We are also flexible as to whether the benefits of the single market are best retained by negotiating a new single market relationship, or by working up from a bespoke trade deal. The outcome is what matters.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) has published a statement on the party’s Brexit policy. It reads, “Labour is clear that we need a tariff and impediment-free trading relationship with the European Union…In order to avoid a cliff-edge as we leave the EU and allow time to negotiate this new relationship, Labour would seek a time-limited transitional deal on the same basic terms we currently enjoy. During this transitional period Labour would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market and would abide by the common rules of both.” It also confirms, “Labour will not support any future arrangement that sees the introduction of a hard border, or which restricts freedom of movement between Ireland and the UK.”
Open Europe will today be hosting two fringe events at Labour party conference, where we’ll be scrutinising Brexit with chair of the Exiting the EU select committee, Hilary Benn, Caroline Flint MP and discussing Labour’s Brexit plan with Shadow Secretary of State Sir Keir Starmer.
Open Europe events
According to a study by Belgium’s University of Leuven, if the UK and EU fail to reach a Brexit deal by 29 March 2019 and Britain would revert to WTO rules tariffs on imports and exports to and from the EU this would cost 526,830 British jobs and 1.209 million jobs in the remaining 27 EU member states. Germany stands to lose 291,930 jobs and France 141,320 jobs. Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe is quoted in The Daily Telegraph saying, “This shows the EU side also has a great interest in starting to discuss a trade deal.”
The Daily Telegraph
In a speech at Sorbonne in Paris today, Emmanuel Macron will lay out his proposals for Eurozone reform. He will repeat his earlier demands for a Eurozone budget worth several percent of the EU’s GDP, the creation of a Eurozone minister and parliament. He will also call for the development of the European Stability Mechanism into a European Monetary Fund. Commenting on the issue yesterday, Angela Merkel announced she was “not going to rule out anything or set red lines,” but would “support what makes sense.” She also stressed the “need to talk to the FDP” on this, who are poised to enter a coalition alongside Merkel but are deeply sceptical of what they consider “a sort of permanent fiscal equalisation scheme.”
Separately, Open Europe’s Leopold Traugott is quoted in The Sun on German involvement in Brexit negotiations. Furthermore, Open Europe’s Henry Newman is quoted in the Daily Mail discussing the impact of the German election on the Brexit negotiations and Macron’s proposed Eurozone reforms.
Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem yesterday suggested Greece is on course to exit its bailout programme. Following a meeting with Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, Dijsselbloem reportedly said, “There are no further conditions at the end of the programme, no further restrictions,” although post-programme standard surveillance will continue to apply after exiting the procedure. He added that he did not expect Germany’s stance on the issue to change in light of the recent electoral results.
The New York Times
The Times has said that Downing Street has been preparing for the possible sudden resignation of Boris Johnson. Tory whips have allegedly been receiving calls from the whips’ office which has been assessing support for the foreign secretary while canvassing views on the prime minister’s Florence speech. Mr Johnson is currently thought to have minimal support among MPs and is widely viewed as a destabilising factor that could ease Jeremy Corbyn’s path to Downing Street. Senior figures are reportedly expecting Mr Johnson’s interventions to continue.Separately, speaking during a trip to the Czech Republic Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the “ball is in the [EU’s] court” now, adding, “We are offering a great deal on citizens, a great deal on money and an unconditional commitment to the defence of Europe. Let’s hope we can move this thing forward and get these negotiations going.”
Analysing what the German election results mean for the country’s foreign and European policy priorities, Open Europe’s Leopold Traugott writes that “Germany’s federal elections did not give [European partners] what they were hoping for”. Until a new coalition is in place, which may well take until Christmas, Merkel “will be unable and unwilling to commit to big acts on the international stage, forced instead to first consolidate her new government at home”. Emmanuel Macron, who waits on German approval for his Eurozone reform plans, is “unlikely to receive a proper German response to his speech on Tuesday anytime soon”. “With the drastic changes this election brought about for Germany’s political landscape”, German parties will “prioritise domestic issues”. This means also Brexit negotiations rank second (at best). In case a “Jamaica Coalition” (CDU/CSU, Free Democrats and Greens) emerges, “Expect Germany to take a leading position on [European security and defence cooperation], an issue all four parties and the German public agree on.