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Speaking yesterday after a meeting in Belfast with Prime Minister Theresa May, aimed at restoring the devolved executive in Stormont, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Brexit, “Both the British government and the Irish Government are very much of the view that the agreement that was made back in December stands, and that we both prefer option A as the best option by which we can avoid a hard Border in Ireland, and that is through a comprehensive free-trade and customs agreement involving Britain and Ireland.” He added that agreements to protect the UK-Ireland Common Travel Area and citizens’ rights were “absolutely bulletproof,” but that “the tricky part is, and always was going to be, how we deliver on the commitment to avoid a hard Border.”
Separately, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will outline his vision for a liberal Brexit tomorrow. The Guardian suggests that Johnson will argue the EU was a political project from the beginning and will make the case for regulatory divergence from the bloc.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond will embark on a Brexit charm offensive across Europe, visiting Norway and Sweden today, the Netherlands on Wednesday, Spain on Thursday and Portugal on Friday. In this tour, he is expected to appeal to European leaders for a breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations. In a coordinated tour, Brexit Secretary David Davis will begin next week a fortnight of visits to allies in Southern and Northern Europe.
Elsewhere, French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux has said the EU should not “punish” the UK in the Brexit negotiations, adding, “That’s the worst thing that could happen and I think it would strengthen anti-European sentiment in many countries where we have elections in a year’s time.” He continued, “You need to be firm. Cherry-picking over things such as we’ll take this freedom or another, that’s not possible.”
Irish Independent EUobserver Reuters The Guardian The Telegraph
The chief executive of BP, Bob Dudley, has said Britain’s influence is not diminished because of Brexit. In an interview with The Times, he said, “There are a lot of countries around the world that would like trade deals with Britain bilaterally down the road.” “The world is confused about [what to make of] Brexit,” he argued, adding May should not be expected to reveal “exactly what’s happening,” because “that’s not going to lead to a good negotiation…Most negotiations don’t get done until right before deadline, so I think we are in for a year of uncertainty.”
Separately, according to a BMG Research survey for The Independent, 74 per cent of respondents think May’s “overall plans for Brexit” are unclear, while 17 per cent said they were clear.
A Brexit assessment conducted by Copenhagen Economics and circulated around the Irish government estimates that Ireland’s economy could be 2.8 to 7 per cent smaller by 2030, as compared to the baseline. The report considers four scenarios: a Norway-style agreement with full access to the single market; a UK-EU customs agreement with some tariff and regulatory barriers; a free trade agreement with reduced market access for services; and a no deal, WTO scenario. It finds that a Norway-style deal would entail the least cost, with GDP growth being 2.8 per cent lower by 2030. It forecasts both a customs agreement and a free trade agreement would lead to Irish GDP being 4.3 per cent smaller by 2030. Under a WTO scenario, it predicts Irish GDP would be 7 per cent smaller by 2030.
The Irish Times
The EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, yesterday said that all future EU trade agreements with the EU must include a binding reference to the Paris Climate Agreement. A Commission spokesperson also told The Independent, “All agreements negotiated by the EU include a very substantial chapter on trade and sustainable development with social and environmental standards shaping the agreements. Since the deal we concluded last year with Japan, this chapter contains an explicit reference to the ratification and actual implementation of the Paris climate deal. This point is a priority for the EU and it would be difficult to imagine concluding an important trade deal without an ambitious chapter on trade and sustainable development attached to it.”
The US has expressed concerns that closer EU defence ties could undermine NATO. Senior US defence official Katie Wheelbarger said, “We don’t want to see EU efforts pulling requirements or forces away …from NATO and into the EU,” adding that the US is supportive of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) “as long as it’s complementary to and not distracting from NATO’s activities and requirements.”