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The Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, appeared before the Commons EU Exit Committee yesterday. Asked about his recent meeting with EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier, Barclay said some reports had been “misleading,” adding, “In terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, what I said was that the House had rejected it three times, including the third time by a significant margin; that the European election results in my view had further hardened attitudes across the House and that the text [of the deal], unchanged, I did not envisage going through the House.” He further said that Task Force 50, the EU negotiation team led by Barnier, currently has no mandate from the EU27 to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, but that a new mandate could change this.
On the subject of No Deal mitigation, Barclay said, “Is No Deal disruptive? Yes. Are there mitigations the Government can take? Yes. Do I sit here saying that’s a panacea to all issues? No, because there’s a pace and scale in terms of adjustments.” Specifically, he suggested that the Government could offer support to the car industry and sheep farmers to compensate them for losses incurred by new trade barriers. He also said that a framework was in place to procure additional ferry capacity, if it was needed to facilitate the movement of goods. On security, he said that the “legal position” was that the UK would lose access to EU police databases immediately in a No Deal scenario. On fishing, Barnier said that the legal position was that EU fishing boats would lose access to UK waters immediately in a No Deal scenario, but that government policy was to pursue a “continuity” approach in the short-term.
Meanwhile, Barnier has told the BBC that UK negotiators and Prime Minister Theresa May have never told him they would choose the option to leave without a deal, adding, “I think that the UK side, which is well informed and competent and knows the way we work on the EU side, knew from the very beginning that we’ve never been impressed by such a threat. It’s not useful to use it.”
Also speaking to the BBC, the European Commission Secretary General, Martin Selmayr, said he was “very certain” the UK is not ready for a No Deal scenario, adding, “We have seen what has been prepared on our side of the border for a hard Brexit. We don’t see the same level of preparation on the other side of the border.”
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Responding to a claim made by European Research Group (ERG) Chairman, Jacob Rees-Mogg, that “the total positive impact of No Deal could be in the region of about £80bn,” Chancellor Phillip Hammond said yesterday it was “terrifying that someone this close to a potential future Government can think we’d actually be better off by adding barriers to access to our largest market.” This comes as the Daily Mail reports that Hammond is expected to resign before the next Prime Minister takes office.
Meanwhile, former Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that she would not support proroguing Parliament to achieve a No Deal Brexit.
Elsewhere, the Telegraph reports that Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson intends to appoint former City Hall colleague Daniel Moylan as an advisor on his Brexit team. Moylan has opposed both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish backstop.
The Conservative Party’s leadership contender, Boris Johnson, has said that a post-Brexit free trade deal with the USA “is not going to be done in a trice” and “is not overnight going to add several percentage points to GDP.” He added, “The [USA] are tough negotiators and they will make some very robust demands. We have to be prepared to be robust in return.” This comes as the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said, “The reason that I’m going to deliver Brexit is that I want to send a message to people at home and abroad that we are still a great democracy that does what the people tell us to do.” Johnson and Hunt were speaking last night at the final hustings in the Conservative Party’s leadership election.
The Government was defeated in the House of Lords last night on an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill today. The Lords amendment bolsters an existing Commons amendment, which required the Government to report to the House in October on its progress towards the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland; the Lords amendment would also require the Government to table a motion in neutral terms in connection with the reports. The purpose of both amendments is to make it more difficult for the next Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament in October. MPs will vote on whether to accept the Lords amendment at around 13:30 BST today. Politico reports that Dominic Grieve, the Conservative MP behind the original Commons amendment, may reintroduce an earlier amendment which was not selected last week – which would go much further towards blocking prorogation in October.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, the Justice Secretary David Gauke did not rule out resigning to vote for the anti-prorogation amendment.
The Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU will seek to set up “a well-balanced and effective mechanism that will tie EU funding to compliance with the rule of law,” Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne told the European Parliament yesterday. Finland holds the rotating presidency until 31 December and aims to conclude negotiations on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the EU’s long-term budget. Rinne said, “We will facilitate the final stages for reaching the Council MFF deal by the end of the year.”
Elsewhere, the European Commission yesterday announced it would take the next step in its ongoing infringement procedure against Poland. This was launched in April after the Polish Government adopted a law lowering the retirement age of judges, which “does not ensure the necessary guarantees to protect judges from political control,” according to the Commission. In a statement the Commission said, “The Polish authorities now have two months to take the necessary measures to comply with this reasoned opinion. If Poland does not take appropriate measures, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.”
Separately, the President-Elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, wrote in the guidelines for her presidency that she stands by “the proposal to make the rule of law an integral part of the next Multiannual Financial Framework.”
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Ferry companies operating across the Channel have warned of gridlock at UK ports in a No Deal Brexit, as they would not be able to take trucks bound for France on board without the right paperwork. The spokesman for the DFDS ferry company, Gert Jakobson, told BBC Newsnight, “If a truck doesn’t have the right document we cannot board him. We cannot take lorries across that cannot enter the country [France],” warning, “For a period of time, for a few weeks and months, we assume the problems will be bigger. There will be more who are not yet accustomed to the paperwork.” President of Port Boulogne Calais in France, Jean Marc Puissessau, also said, “If hauliers don’t have documents they won’t be allowed to board. This was the rule on 29 March. Those same rules will apply on 31 October.” A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said, “There are well-developed plans in place to manage any traffic disruption in Kent in the event of a No Deal scenario, keeping the M20 open with traffic continuing to flow in both directions. The Government remains focused on ensuring the UK’s smooth and orderly withdrawal from the EU.”
Separately, in an assessment to be released today, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) will say that the UK’s economy in a No Deal Brexit scenario will be 3% smaller than if the UK leaves the EU with a deal. The OBR’s evaluation of the impact of No Deal for the next five years predicts a contraction for the UK economy in 2020, but forecasts a recovery in 2021.
Writing for The Article, Open Europe’s Anna Nadibaidze looks at Ursula von der Leyen’s proposals for her presidency of the European Commission. She writes, “As von der Leyen’s critics from across the political spectrum have pointed out, her proposals lack ambition to change the direction of the EU’s path and to tackle many of the issues raised during the European election campaign.”
Elsewhere, in an article for the Daily Telegraph, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe argues, “It seems the next five years will be consumed by yet more attempts by the Commission to transfer power and money to a supranational level.”
Separately, in a new blog, Open Europe looks at the reactions of politicians and the press in several EU member states to the European Parliament’s election of von der Leyen.