4 April 2018

Commons Brexit Committee sets 15 “key tests” for government’s Brexit deal

In a report published today, the House of Commons Brexit Committee outlines 15 “key tests” that it believes the future Brexit deal will need to meet. The tests include “no physical infrastructure” on the Irish border, cooperation on crime and terrorism, tariff-free trade and the free flow of data between the UK and EU post-Brexit. The report recommends considering joining the European Free Trade Association or the European Economic Area should the final deal not meet the 15 tests. Hilary Benn, the Brexit Committee chairman said, “Our tests set a high bar but they are based on the prime minister’s vision for our future outside the EU and the statement by … [Brexit secretary] David Davis that any new deal would be at least as good as what we have now,” adding, “Should negotiations on a ‘deep and special partnership’ not prove successful, we consider that Efta/EEA membership remains an alternative which would have the advantage of continuity of access for UK services and could also be negotiated relatively quickly.” Six members of the committee, including European Research Group’s chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg, voted against the final report.

Elsewhere, German MEP Elmar Brok has said that a delegation of Norwegian MPs have warned the EU not to give the UK “the same advantages” as those Norway enjoys as a member of the European Economic Area, if the UK does not meet the same obligations. He added, “They warned us and said, do not give the same privileges, same treatment, or even better than we have, because we fulfil the obligations. So there’s a borderline we have to accept.” However, a Norwegian government spokesman said the position expressed by the MPs did not reflect the Norwegian government’s position, adding, “It is of direct interest to Norway that the EU and the UK succeed in negotiating an orderly UK withdrawal from the EU and a framework for their future relationship.”

Source: The Guardian Financial Times The Daily Telegraph

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German politician raises doubts over UK's push to isolate Russia after Salisbury attack

Following Gary Aitkenhead, head of the Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, saying that the “precise source” of the nerve agent used in the Salisbury attack has not been identified, Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia and one of the deputy chairmen of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Armin Laschet, said, “If one forces nearly all Nato countries into solidarity, shouldn’t one have certain evidence? Regardless of what one thinks about Russia, my study of international law taught me a different way to deal with other states.”

This comes as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will gather today after Russia requested an emergency meeting. A Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokesman commented, “This Russian initiative is yet again another diversionary tactic, intended to undermine the work of the OPCW in reaching a conclusion.”

Separately, Prime Minister Theresa May is set to meet with Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven on 9 April. May’s spokesperson announced talks would “cover a range of issues, including the threat Russia poses to international security; our ongoing bilateral co-operation in areas such as security and defence; trade and investment; and progress towards a Brexit deal.”

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"Huge opportunity for the UK" to strengthen Commonwealth ties post-Brexit, says chair of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council

Marking the opening of the Commonwealth games, chair of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), Jonathan Marland, said, “This is a huge opportunity for the UK in the post-Brexit world to really help turbocharge the Commonwealth into being a vibrant group of countries.” He added, “We all speak English, there is fundamental rule of law that underpins our activities and a number of the major countries — Australia, Singapore, Canada and the UK — are free-trading. So there is the basis of what I think could be a Commonwealth trade framework.” However, The Daily Telegraph quotes a senior civil servant who claims the UK does not have a trade strategy, and who adds, “[There is] a distressing and embarrassing level of chaos across Whitehall on trade.”

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Poll: Danish support for EU membership increases

According to a new poll by Epinion for Danish public broadcaster DR, 55% of Danish voters said they support EU membership, while 27% said they don’t. This compares to polling conducted in 2016 also by Epinion, before the UK EU referendum, which found the result would be much closer – 44% to 37%.

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UK government delays decision on post-Brexit passport contract

The Home Office has delayed its decision over the choice of the contractor that will produce the post-Brexit UK passport by two weeks. This was done after British firm De La Rue, which makes the current UK passport, requested time to challenge the Home Office’s decision to award the post-Brexit passport contract to French-Dutch firm Gemalto. De La Rue stated, “Based on our knowledge of the market, it’s our view that ours was the highest quality and technically most secure bid.”

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German prosecutors demand former Catalan leader’s extradition to Spain

Prosecutors in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is currently detained under a European Arrest Warrant, have yesterday asked for Puigdemont’s extradition to Spain. They announced in a statement, “After intensive analysis [German] prosecutors have reached the conclusion that this [Spain’s] is a valid extradition request, that an orderly extradition procedure is to be expected and that flight risk offers ground for detention.” The former Catalan leader faces charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds in Spain. A judge will now have to decide on Puigdemont’s extradition within 60 days of his detention.

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Aarti Shankar: Macron faces his biggest reform test yet

In a new blog, Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar writes, “French President Emmanuel Macron faces his biggest test, both domestically and at the European level, in achieving deep reform of France’s national railway operator, the SNCF.” She argues, “The outcome of this confrontation will have wide-reaching political implications for the “Jupiterian” president. If Macron manages to pass these reforms, this will put him in good stead to achieve further structural reforms, including the reduction of the public sector and the overhaul of the pension system and unemployment benefits. However, his failure would undermine his ability to achieve his domestic agenda. This will in turn impact on the weight of his authority within the EU, where he has established a much stronger voice for France than his predecessor François Hollande. Macron pegged his ambitions to push for change at the European level – including the introduction of a new Eurozone budget and finance minister – to his ability to achieve domestic structural reforms.”