6 September 2016

David Davis suggests UK is seeking controls on immigration and access to, but not full membership of, single market

Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis gave a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, in which he suggested the task of his department was to deliver back to the UK Parliament control over the country’s laws, borders and money. He also suggested that the UK would seek access to the EU single market, but that does not necessarily mean being a full member of it. He stressed the Government would seek a “national consensus” on how to proceed with Brexit, and that there will be a wide consultation with stakeholders and businesses across all sectors of the economy. He reiterated the commitment to having some controls on migration, and suggested the reason Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected a points-based system is because it does not offer sufficient control – and as such the UK will likely seek something more restrictive. Davis highlighted that much of the support for Brexit came from the “industrial working class” and that it was not part of his brief “to undermine their rights.” He also hinted at the Government’s desire to maintain close cooperation with the EU on justice and home affairs issues.

In terms of procedure, Davis stated that the negotiations would be led by May, supported by his department. He suggested that the UK will seek to negotiate the withdrawal agreement from the EU in tandem with the new trading arrangements with the bloc, and that this will take “at least” the two years provided by the Article 50 process for leaving the EU. According to Davis, the Department for Exiting the EU now has 180 staff, supported by a further 120 in Brussels. During the debate, Davis also cited ‘Giving meaning to Brexit’ – the essay written by Treasury Select Committee Chairman Andrew Tyrie MP and recently published by Open Europe.

French President François Hollande told reporters at the G20 summit in China, “I have reminded it again, including to Theresa May: we believe that, while it is necessary to give the British some time to prepare for the opening of the [EU exit] negotiations, the end of the year is a reasonable deadline” to trigger Article 50.

Meanwhile, in a speech in Paris, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon stressed that the UK leaving the EU will not mean “pulling up the drawbridge”, adding, “Nobody should be in any doubt about two things: Britain will continue to put our global role with security front and centre and security co-operation with our European and other allies will remain strong.”

Separately, The Daily Mail reports that May is considering a proposal under which EU migrants would need a job before entering the UK. Such a system could be based on a new work permit regime. May said yesterday that a points-based system was not a “silver bullet”, adding that voters wanted “control” over Britain’s borders, and insisted there were “various ways” the Government could make that happen.

Source: David Davis statement Michael Fallon speech The Daily Mail Le Figaro Open Europe Intelligence

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Sturgeon offers to form coalition to keep Britain in single market

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that a coalition could be formed to keep Britain in the single market and that independence would be an option “that Scotland has to consider” if the UK was not in the single market. She said, “Let’s have a try at getting the UK, not into the best position – because the best position in my view would be continued membership of the EU – but let’s try and get the UK as a whole into the least-worst position and that means staying in the single market.” She went on to argue, “Can there be a coalition across the UK that gets the UK into a more sensible position? I think that’s worth a good try because Theresa May, she was on the Remain side, so presumably she knows the real risks of removal from the single market.”

Meanwhile, a YouGov survey for The Times has found that, disregarding those who said that they did not know, 52% of Scots “support a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union to confirm or reverse Britain’s decision to leave the EU”, while 48% oppose one. Support for a re-run is highest among SNP supporters – even though Labour voters are more supportive of staying in the EU. 66% of Scots say that they want to stay in the EU, compared to 62% who said they did so in the June referendum.

Source: The Daily Telegraph The Times

China and others show willingness to discuss bilateral trade agreements with the UK

Following a meeting between Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese President Xi, a spokesman for Number 10 said, “President Xi said that they wanted to look at how we could strengthen our trading and economic relationship and that China was open to a bilateral trade arrangement with the UK.”

Meanwhile, May told a press conference, “What I have found good about the discussions I’ve had with a number of world leaders…is the willingness of other countries to talk with the UK about future trade arrangements and the confidence that they have in the UK.” May specifically cited “India, Mexico, South Korea and Singapore” as states that showed willingness to discuss further removing barriers to trade with Britain.

Source: Reuters PA

Retail sales fall in August, while housing market stabilises to levels seen earlier this year but remains weaker than in 2015

Data released this morning by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that retail spending dropped by 0.3% in August compared to the same time last year, the weakest reading since September 2014. Over the past quarter, overall sales rose by 0.6%. The BRC said, “The fact is that, so far, little has directly changed for the UK’s consumers as a result of the referendum.” Another set of data released showed that car sales rose by 3.3% in August, driven by rises in fleet sales.

Meanwhile, house builder Berkeley Group said, “After a hiatus either side of the referendum, the market in August, traditionally a quiet month, has returned to the relative levels reported for the first five months of the year – approximately 20% down on August 2015.”

Source: Reuters Reuters 2 Times

European Commission to unveil plans for EU military cooperation which could act ‘autonomously’ from NATO

The Times reports that Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, will this week set out a plan to create military structures able “to act autonomously” from NATO. “We could relaunch our European project and make it more functional and powerful for our citizens and the rest of the world. Or we could diminish its intensity and power”, she said. Mogherini stressed that her plan would not be a blueprint for a fully-fledged EU army, arguing, “The European army is not something that is going to happen any time soon. Now is the time for real stuff and this is only the beginning.”

Source: The Times

Italian Foreign Minister calls for “core EU” of up to twelve member states

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told state broadcaster Rai News 24, “I believe that today’s EU at 28 can contain a smaller circle [of countries] sharing the single currency, the Schengen treaty [on passport-free travel], and, above all, better defence coordination – a core of seven to twelve European countries that could have stronger levels of integration. Italy will fight for this new kind of EU.”

Source: ANSA

Polish ministers visit London following “unjustified attacks” on Poles living in UK

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski and Polish Home Affairs Minister Mariusz Blaszczak held a meeting with their British counterparts in London yesterday, following a series of “unjustified attacks” on Poles in the aftermath of the “very heated” referendum campaign. Waszczykowski stressed that Polish citizens in the UK “deserve to be protected.”

Source: PA

Merkel takes responsibility for AfD’s strong showing in local election

Speaking to reporters at the G20 summit in China, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “deeply dissatisfied” with the result of the local election in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – where the right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland finished second ahead of Merkel’s CDU. She added, “Of course this has something to do with refugee policy…I’m the party chairwoman, I’m the Chancellor. In the eyes of the public you can’t separate that. So I am responsible.” However, Merkel defended her refugee policy, saying, “I consider the fundamental decisions as right.”

Source: Open Europe Blog Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung The Times

EU Commission plans 90-day limit to free mobile roaming

The European Commission has confirmed that a “fair usage” requirement will apply to its scheme to abolish roaming charges for mobile phone users in Europe, Politico reports. Under the plans, due to enter into force in 2017, a 90-day per annum charge-free limit will apply to calls made outside a user’s home network, and the exemption will only be available continuously for 30 days maximum. An upper ceiling of charges will be in place if users exceed these limits, and there are provisions to preserve calling free of additional tariff for users who cross a national border for daily working travel.

Source: Politico

Italy to propose Eurozone joint unemployment insurance scheme

La Repubblica reports that Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan will later this month submit to his Eurozone counterparts a draft plan for a joint unemployment insurance scheme. Eurozone countries would contribute gradually to the tune of 0.5% of their GDP – meaning that the common pot would eventually amount to around €50bn. The scheme could be tapped by any Eurozone country experiencing a sudden increase in unemployment or a slowdown in employment growth compared to the bloc’s average.

Source: La Repubblica

Sarkozy may face trial over alleged illegal campaign financing, in potential blow to presidential bid

Prosecutors yesterday recommended that French centre-right leader Nicolas Sarkozy stand trial over the allegedly illegal financing of his presidential campaign in 2012. Examining magistrates are due to make a final decision within one month. Sarkozy has recently declared his intention to seek nomination as centre-right candidate for next year’s French presidential election – with a primary ballot scheduled for late November.

Source: Le Monde Europe 1 France Info