12 June 2017

Conservatives to agree “confidence and supply” arrangement with the DUP on economic and security issues

While a final deal has not yet been reached, the Conservative government has agreed the principles of a “confidence and supply” arrangement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), according to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Fallon said, “We are not in government with the DUP or in coalition with the DUP. They are going to support us on economic and security issues,” adding, “We don’t agree with all their views.”

Meanwhile, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has raised concerns with the Prime Minister that “nothing should happen to put [the Good Friday Agreement] at risk” and also expressed his concern regarding the “absence of [a] nationalist voice in Westminster.”

Separately, writing in Ireland’s Sunday Business Post, EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said that a deal between the UK government and the DUP would mean “ a much more positive tone towards a soft Brexit.” He added, “I think there’s a strong possibility that the British government and the EU will make an agreement that will be as close as possible to what is presently there in the context of the Customs Union because I think they will see the implications [of not being in it].”

Elsewhere, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Open Europe’s Stephen Booth argues, “One big omission from the DUP manifesto compared to the Conservative position is an assertion that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal.’…Overall, the DUP has every incentive to make Brexit negotiations a ‘success’. Northern Ireland is the most exposed economically to a botched Brexit and, after the SNP’s reversed fortunes, Ulster’s unionism is the most politically at risk.”

The leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, has said, “Discussions [with the Conservative government] will continue next week to work on the details and to reach agreement on arrangements for the new parliament.”

Source: The Guardian The Sunday Telegraph The Sunday Telegraph Reuters

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Hammond and Davidson challenge May’s Brexit vision, as Labour signals support for leaving single market

The Sunday Times reports that Chancellor Philip Hammond has signaled his support for Theresa May as Prime Minister will be conditional on her putting jobs first in upcoming Brexit negotiations, understood as an attack on May’s red line on immigration.

Separately, the leader of the Scottish Conservative party, Ruth Davidson, said at a press conference on Saturday, “We must seek to deliver an open Brexit, not a closed one, which puts out country’s economic growth first,” adding she wanted the “greatest possible amount of free trade.” Asked if Scottish Conservative MPs should support remaining in the EU’s single market, she said, “There are an awful lot of issues surrounding Brexit that need to be discussed. Clearly there’s no majority government that’s come through after this election, and that means that we do have to listen to other parties.”

However, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told Andrew Marr, “Our view of Brexit I don’t think has changed. We want a partnership with Europe, we want an agreement that maximises our access to the single market, comes to an arrangement on immigration, continues the security cooperation we already have with Europe.”

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Brexit Secretary David Davis said, “We’ve made pretty plain what we want to do, it’s outside the single market but with access. It’s outside the customs union but with agreement, it’s taking back control of our laws and borders. Those things are fundamental and we didn’t just pull them out of the air, we spent ten months devising that strategy.”

Separately, asked yesterday if Labour would support continued membership of the single market, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said, “I don’t think it’s feasible…I think people will interpret membership of the single market as not respecting that referendum.” He also said, “We’ve been clear all the way along. Ours is a ‘jobs first Brexit’, everything we can do to protect our economy. That must mean tariff-free access to the single market.”


Theresa May appoints new cabinet

Prime Minister Theresa May has selected her new cabinet, with most ministers being kept in place including Chancellor Philip Hammond, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. Former Justice Secretary Michael Gove returns to the Cabinet as the new Environment Secretary. He replaces Andrea Leadsom, who has been named the Leader of the Commons in the reshuffle. David Lidington moves to replace Liz Truss as Justice Secretary, and Damian Green has been recast as First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office, with David Gauke appointed Work and Pensions Secretary to replace him.

Elsewhere May’s former joint chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, resigned this weekend, with former housing minister Gavin Barwell appointed to replace them.


Opening Brexit negotiations to go ahead on 19 June

Oliver Robbins, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Exiting EU, is expected to visit Brussels this week to set up the first Brexit talks, due to go ahead on 19 June. The Sunday Times reports that EU negotiators will expect Prime Minister Theresa May to “convince” the leaders of the EU-27 that she has the “credibility” to commit to a Brexit deal. May is also still predicted to make a “generous offer” on guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK, as a “goodwill” gesture to open discussions.

Separately, the Prime Minister of a Western European nation has told The Sunday Times that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were now pushing “a very hard line,” leaving “no space” for the compromise that other EU leaders were seeking.

Speaking from a visit to Mexico on Saturday, Merkel said, “We are ready for the negotiations. We want to do it quickly, respecting the calendar.”


French President Emmanuel Macron on track to win historic parliamentary majority after first ballot

French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La République en marche, secured 32.32 % of the vote in the first round of legislative elections, and is projected to take around 400-455 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, far higher than the absolute majority of 289. The centre-right Les Républicains obtained 21.56% of the vote, estimated at 70-130 seats, and the Front National 13.20%, around 1-10 seats. The Socialist party’s group are expected to finish with 15-40 seats, a significant fall from their current total of 284. Abstention was significantly higher than in past legislative elections, estimated at around 51%. The final round of voting will take place next Sunday.


Airbus warns it may relocate production from the UK unless Brexit deal allows for mobility of workers

Airbus has warned it may relocate its production plants from the UK unless the final Brexit deal with the EU allows foreign staff to enter the UK easily, ensures parts remain import and export tariff-free, and ensures UK parts certification continues to be recognised by the European Safety Agency. Chief executive officer of Airbus, Fabric Brégier, said, “We want to stay in the UK — provided the conditions to work in an integrated organisation are met… Let’s assume I could not visit my plants because I am not a British citizen…It could not be met.” Airbus’ chief executive Tom Enders also said, “We are a company that obviously has an interest in a free flow of people. Mobility between our sites in Europe is crucial.”


Germany and France drawing up EU defence fund proposals

Germany and France are drawing up specific proposals for an EU defence fund, including joint research on drones and military transportation, and increasing cooperation with Africa. This comes ahead of a bilateral ministerial meeting on Tuesday. Germany’s Defence Minister, Ursula von de Leyen has said, “Germany and France want to become the motor of a European defence union and implement the defence fund in a smart way…The Brexit referendum and the U.S. election opened our eyes. Europeans must take more responsibility for our own security.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that European defence cooperation should be coordinated with NATO, and in particular should have a strong interest in stabilising Africa, to help prevent future refugee crises.


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