15 May 2017

David Davis: defined UK-EU trade terms are a pre-requisite for resolving Irish border question

Describing the EU’s desire to make sufficient progress on the question of the UK’s financial settlement before discussing trade terms as “wholly illogical,” Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, told ITV’s Peston On Sunday programme, “How on earth do you resolve the issue of the border with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland unless you know what our general borders policy is, what the customs agreement is, what the free trade agreement is, whether you need to charge tariffs at the border or not?”, adding, “You can’t decide one without the other.” He said that the UK wanted a deal covering “all products and all services,” but must retain the option to walk away in the event of unacceptable terms.

Separately, Prime Minister Theresa May said, “We have got to make sure we do resolve the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I’m very clear that we want to see no return to the borders of the past, no hard border but I’m clear that we need to see as seamless and frictionless a border as possible.” May is today expected to unveil a series of Conservative pledges on workers’ rights, including a guarantee to maintain European Union labour rights through the Brexit process, saying, “I said I would use Brexit to extend the protections and rights that workers enjoy, and our manifesto will deliver exactly that.”

Meanwhile, speaking following his inauguration as President of France on Sunday, Emmanuel Macron pledged to create “a more efficient, more democratic, more political Europe,” and described the European Union as “the instrument of power and sovereignty” for France. Macron is expected to appoint the new Prime Minister today. Government ministers will be announced tomorrow.

Source: The Press Association Politico En Marche

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"Crushing defeat" for Schulz's SPD as Merkel's CDU wins North Rhine-Westphalia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party took 33 per cent of the vote to win a significant state election victory in North Rhine-Westphalia over the Social Democrats (SPD). The SPD dropped more than seven points to poll second on 31.2 per cent, a result described by its leader Martin Schulz as “a crushing defeat” in a state considered an SPD heartland, with an historically high turnout of 65.2 per cent. This builds on recent CDU victories in Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein to strengthen Merkel’s position ahead of national elections in Autumn.

Populist Alternative for Germany took 7.4 percent, gaining representation in their 13th of the country’s 16 state legislatures. The Free Democratic Party came third on 12.6 per cent, with the SPD’s junior coalition partners the Greens receding to 6.4 per cent. The Left Party also polled 4.9 per cent.

Separately, following the resignation of party leader and Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner on Wednesday, Austria’s conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) appointed on Sunday Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to its leadership. Kurz has announced his intention to dissolve the governing coalition with the ruling Social Democrats (SPÖ) and hold a snap election in the Autumn.


Boris Johnson calls EU Brexit bill “preposterous” and warns Britain could “walk away”

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said, “[The EU] are going to try to bleed this country white with their [exit] bill,” adding, “The logic behind this bill is preposterous… We could definitely walk away.” While the European Commission has not announced a definitive sum for the bill, estimates are as high as €100bn. Johnson also argued there were “very good arguments” for the UK to receive payments from the EU upon its withdrawal, saying, “We have paid for over the years and there will need to be a proper computation of the value of those assets.”


ECJ to decide whether national parliaments must approve EU-Singapore trade deal

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will tomorrow rule on whether the comprehensive trade deal between the European Union and Singapore requires ratification by member state national parliaments, or whether it can approved at the EU level alone. This comes after the opinion of the ECJ Advocate General in December recommended that national parliaments should ratify the trade deal.

Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar is quoted in The Sunday Times, Bloomberg and City AM discussing the implication of the ECJ ruling on Brexit.


Financial sector prepares for tens to hundreds of millions in Brexit cost

A Financial Times article quotes a number of senior financial sector executives who shared the status of their contingency and location planning for Brexit. Discussing what would determine the scale of relocation of operations and staff from the UK, one said, “The most important swing factor is the extent to which we can manage risk and trading out of London. If agreements allow for a set-up that enables us to contact clients out of a European entity that has European access but continue to manage risk and trading out of London, the impact would be far less.” He added that the cost of relocations could be “from the tens to the hundreds” of millions of euros, adding, “the hundreds is a scenario where we are building out [to an EU-27 state] full risk management, full booking capability… There’s a significant cost in moving people, in rehiring.” Another confirmed this view, saying, “You need to have the infrastructure and legal entities to really face your European clients in their local markets. It will be hundreds of millions in costs.”


Sturgeon: "phased approach" to rejoining EU could involve independent Scotland joining EFTA

Speaking to Andrew Marr on BBC 1, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “My position is I want Scotland to be in the EU. Now we have to set out if we’re in an independence referendum, and we’re not in that right now, the process for regaining or retaining depending where we are in the Brexit process, EU membership,” adding, “Now it may be that we have a phased approach to that by necessity.” Pressed on whether this would initially require Scotland to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), she said, “It may be by necessity but we don’t want that. We have to set that out at the time because there are still some uncertainties, many uncertainties, around the Brexit process.”

Separately, Jackson Carlaw, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said, “[Sturgeon] claims we must have a referendum on independence because we’re leaving the EU. Now, in a cynical attempt to win back leave voters who have deserted the SNP, she refuses to say whether an independent Scotland would go back in,” adding, “her flirtation with Efta would leave us with all the obligations of the EU but no voice in EU decision-making.”


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