21 July 2017

Barnier calls for “greater clarification” from the UK on its proposals for a financial settlement

Following the end of the second round of Brexit negotiations yesterday, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, called for “greater clarification” from the UK “on the financial settlement, on citizens’ rights, on Ireland, with the two key points of the common travel area and the Good Friday Agreement and the other separation issues,” adding, “This week’s experience has quite simply shown we make better progress where our respective positions are clear.” On the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in enforcing the rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit, he said, “Any reference to European rights [post-Brexit] requires their oversight by the ECJ.” He added, “This is not a political point we are making, it’s a legal one…Only the court can interpret EU law. It’s not a choice, it’s an obligation.”

Speaking at the same press conference, Brexit Secretary David Davis said, “We have had robust but constructive talks this week. Clearly there’s a lot left to talk about and further work before we can resolve this. Ultimately getting to a solution will require flexibility from both sides.”

Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that cabinet ministers have accepted the continuation of free movement for between two to four years after Brexit, as part of a transitional arrangement. The Times also reports that the two-year transitional plan was devised by Chancellor Philip Hammond and has received the support of every cabinet minister. They add that a new immigration scheme will be introduced after the two-year period.

Separately, in a blog, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe argues, “Some progress has been made on the issue [of the financial settlement], even though we are still far from a deal.”

Source: Open Europe blog: Cleppe Press Association The Times The Guardian

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New difficulties emerge on a citizens’ rights agreement

The EU opposes a UK proposal to conduct criminal record checks on all EU citizens who apply for “settled status” to remain in the UK post-Brexit. The EU believes that checks should be conducted on the basis of reasonable suspicion instead, and systematic checks would be a violation of EU law. Nicolas Hatton, the founder of the EU citizens’ advocacy group, the3million, has said the UK proposal is “treating 3 million EU citizens like potential criminals” and it “draws from the fantasy of the bad immigrant.”

Separately, the EU are reportedly proposing only guaranteeing UK citizens in the EU the right to stay in their country of residence. The Guardian quotes an EU official saying, “We would start from the assumption that in order to maintain the rights of UK citizens to move around the EU27, this would require the UK to reciprocate by allowing EU citizens to continue moving around freely…This is a subject of negotiations.”

Elsewhere, EU negotiators have also said that, after Brexit, the UK will lose access to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) system, which allows citizens access to free healthcare across the EU. However, the issue could be raised again in later negotiations.

Source: Telegraph Politico The Guardian

UK to seek continuity trade agreements with US

Trade Secretary Liam Fox will next week visit Washington to discuss preparations for reaching “continuity agreements” on trade with the US. A US trade official said, “The early discussions will focus on laying the groundwork for commercial continuity for US and UK businesses as the UK leaves the EU, and exploring possible ways to strengthen trade and commercial ties, consistent with the EU’s common commercial policy. These discussions will also provide a mechanism for preparing the ground for a potential future trade agreement once the UK leaves the EU.” The UK cannot agree new trade deals while still a member of the EU, but it can prepare for Brexit “through discussions with current EU trade partners so as to deliver maximum continuity and certainty for businesses once we leave,” according to a government white paper.

Source: Politico

Michael Gove pledges to deliver a “Green Brexit”

In his first major speech today as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove will pledge to deliver a “Green Brexit.” He is expected to say, “Leaving the EU gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform how we care for our land, our rivers and our seas, how we recast our ambition for our country’s environment, and the planet.” He will add, “The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) rewards size of land-holding ahead of good environmental practice, puts resources in the hands of the already wealthy, and encourages patterns of land use which are wasteful of natural resources.”

Source: BBC News

Corbyn: Tariff-free trade must be a priority

Ensuring tariff-free access to the single European market must be a priority in Brexit negotiations, according to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. He said, “We’re going to need a deal with the EU, we’re also going to need trade arrangements with other parts of the world, but we have to be sure we don’t damage our own industrial base, our own financial services and our own working conditions in this country. That’s why the priority must be tariff-free trade access to the European market.”

Elsewhere, commenting on the second round of Brexit discussions this week, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said, “The lack of progress in these negotiations is deeply concerning and does not bode well for the future.” He also criticised the lack of progress on a citizens’ rights agreement, saying, “This means more waiting and more anxiety for millions of families.”

Source: Press Association

Poland’s parliament passes controversial judicial reform bill

Poland’s lower chamber of parliament has approved the ruling Law and Justice Party’s controversial judicial reform bill that would allow parliament greater control over the body that picks judges. In a statement in response to the vote, European Council President and former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk asked Poland’s President Andrzej Duda for a meeting to discuss the changes, and warned that Poland risked being marginalised in Europe. He added, “Bringing judges under the control of the governing party in the manner proposed by the Law and Justice party ruins an already tarnished public opinion of Polish democracy.” Aides to Duda said the president had rejected Tusk’s offer.

Source: BBC News The Guardian

ECB to keep interest rates and bond-buying programme unchanged

At a press conference after a meeting of the ECB’s Governing Council President, Mario Draghi, announced that discussions to scale back monetary stimulus will be delayed until the autumn. This means that interest rates will be maintained at the current levels and the ECB’s quantitative easing programme will not be scaled back, as many expected. Draghi said, “While the ongoing economic expansion provides confidence that inflation will gradually glide toward levels in line with the inflation aim, it has yet to translate into stronger inflation dynamics. We need to be persistent and patient and prudent, because we’re not there yet.”

Source: Bloomberg

Vince Cable named Lib Dem leader

Former Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable was officially named leader of the Liberal Democrats yesterday as the only candidate on the ballot paper. Before assuming the leadership, Cable said, “There’s a gaping hole in British politics. We’ve got hard right on Brexit, we’ve got the hard left in charge of the Labour party. Millions of people who want moderate, common sense politics are unrepresented and I want the Lib Dems to fill that space.”

Source: The Guardian

Aarti Shankar: Neither side can afford to wait for compromise to become a necessity in Brexit talks

In a piece for The Telegraph yesterday, Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar wrote, “The gap between the negotiating positions of the UK and EU does not appear to have narrowed much following this second round of negotiations. Two points of contention continue to dominate the discussion: on citizens’ rights, both the UK and the EU found much common ground, but the question of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) role in enforcing the agreement continues to hinder progress. On the issue of the UK’s financial settlement, very little movement is evident.” She continued, “But if any Brexit dial has shifted this week, it is in relation to the structure of the talks. It would now be difficult to make the argument that Britain failed to secure (at least some) parallel discussions [on the withdrawal agreement and the future bilateral relationship]…According to the EU, the “first phase” of discussions was to address only three points – the financial settlement, citizens’ rights, and the Irish border (importantly, an area on which there remains large convergence).This has now extended to include “wider separation issues,” such as Euratom, police and security cooperation, and trade in goods.” She concluded, “It may be that this week was merely a scoping exercise for both parties. And certainly tensions over the financial settlement and the role of the ECJ were never going to be solved in three days. But Barnier would be wrong to suggest that either side can afford to wait for compromise to become a necessity.”


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