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Addressing the European Parliament yesterday, European Council President Donald Tusk defended the nominations for the next EU leadership positions agreed at the Council summit this week. He said, “To some, the [European] Parliament represents genuine European democracy, because of its directly elected members, while to others it is rather the European Council, because of the strong democratic legitimacy of the leaders. In fact, such disputes make little sense, as both institutions are democratic.”
Tusk also said that he “will appeal to all my partners to involve the Greens in the nominations” of other posts in the Commission. Regarding the lack of Eastern European representation in the top jobs, he said, “Of course, there is still room for improvement as regards representatives from the East, in the overall architecture of European positions.”
Elsewhere, the former lead candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, criticised the process of nominating the next EU leaders. Weber said, “There were backroom talks and late-night sessions in which the [French President Emmanuel] Macron and [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orbán axis prevailed and the Spitzenkandidat system was dismantled,” adding, “This is not the Europe I want and I will continue to fight for the democratisation of the EU.”
In a speech in Scotland yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May said, “There can and must be no false choice between honouring the solemn commitments of the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement and delivering on the decision of the British people in the EU referendum. We must do both.” She added that leaving the EU with No Deal would have “undoubted consequences for the economy and the union.”
Elsewhere, the Cabinet Office Minister, David Lidington, told BBC Radio Four’s the World at One yesterday that the unity of the UK “would be under much greater strain in the event of a No Deal [Brexit].” He added that the Union was under threat from “indifference amongst English opinion [as] to the value of the Union” as well as from Scottish nationalism and pressure for Irish unification.
Meanwhile, the One Nation Conservative group of MPs yesterday wrote to leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, calling on them to “rule out any deal with the Brexit party or involvement in any way of Nigel Farage in any negotiation with the EU on Brexit and in your future Government,” as well as urging them “not to seek to prorogue Parliament as a way of securing a No Deal outcome to Brexit.” On the topic of the Irish backstop, the letter called on the winning candidate to “immediately make it Government policy that the UK’s negotiating position on Brexit will utilise the Alternative Arrangements proposed by the Prosperity UK Commission.”
This comes as the Deputy Chairman of the European Research Group of Conservative Brexiteers, Steve Baker, told the Times yesterday, “If Remainer Conservatives drive us to a general election [before October 31] we are going to need a pact with the Brexit Party in order to survive. The manifesto for that will have to be one which the Brexit Party and its voters approve of.”
Both Conservative party leadership candidates face hustings in the North East and Scotland today, and the East Midlands and Wales tomorrow. Conservative party members will begin voting this weekend, as postal ballots arrive. The result will be announced on 23 July.
One Nation Conservatives
Parliament will “find a way” to stop a No Deal Brexit from happening in October, two Cabinet ministers said yesterday. Justice Secretary David Gauke told The House magazine last night, “Given that we have an activist speaker, given there is a parliamentary majority against No Deal, a way will be found [to stop No Deal].”
Elsewhere, Chancellor Philip Hammond told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, “The House of Commons has been clear that it does not support a No Deal exit. Let me quote the speaker, who has said if the Commons is determined to do something, it will find a way. I am quite confident it will find a way — and indeed should be able to find a way, because this is a parliamentary democracy.”
However, the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the Daily Express yesterday, “a No Deal Brexit is under-priced… The risk of a No Deal is higher than many, particularly in the business community, realise and that is why it is important that we prepare.”
Politico London Playbook
Three Labour shadow ministers – Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Peter Dowd, and Shadow Industrial Strategy Minister Chi Onwurah – yesterday called for “urgent action to protect British manufacturing in the face of ongoing Brexit uncertainty and changing Brexit dates.” In a letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark, the three claim that “manufacturers are responding to potential supply-chain disruptions by increasing buying activity and stockpiling… this has serious implications for the financial viability of some manufacturers.” They further call on the Government to “work with unions, industry bodies and banks to ensure that a package of appropriate support is made available.”
Anti-Brexit parties have united behind the Liberal Democrat candidate for the by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire on 1 August. The Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru announced yesterday it would not stand, in order to give the Liberal Democrats a clear run at taking the seat from incumbent Conservative MP Chris Davies. The Green Party will also not field a candidate.
Germany, France and Poland have urged the European Commission to facilitate big mergers in the EU in order for European companies to compete globally. In a proposal published yesterday, the three member states say the Commission should be more flexible and “take into account competition at a global level” when analysing mergers. Presenting the proposal, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said, “We have to take into account the rise of China, the rise of new industrial giants and the necessity of creating new European industrial champions to be able to face that competition,” while Polish Economy Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz said, “We really need a new framework for competition policy to be able to create global champions.”
During a state visit to Berlin from Irish President Michael D. Higgins, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Ireland had Germany’s “full solidarity” and that “on no account must the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union be allowed to re-open the scars of the past.” In reference to a solution to the Irish border issue, Steinmeier said “What it will not involve is barriers, customs duties and trade barriers,” adding, “Ireland’s core interests will remain the EU’s core interests.” He added, “All EU member states have clearly stated that renegotiation [of the Withdrawal Agreement] is not an option. We just have to hope that the new Government in London realises that too.”
Speaking at a keynote address in Leipzig yesterday, President Higgins called for a “European conversation” on EU-wide reform, adding that debate over the bloc’s future should take place on the “European street” rather than in backrooms.
Appearing on BBC’s PoliticsLive yesterday, Open Europe’s Director Henry Newman said, “The single biggest thing facing a [Boris] Johnson, or indeed a [Jeremy] Hunt, premiership is delivering Brexit. We’re going to know soon whether Boris [Johnson] manages to do his ‘do or die’ [Brexit] by the 31st [October] – it’s only going to be two months after he takes office.” Asked about the cost of No Deal, Newman said, “If there was a no Deal Brexit, you would change the fiscal rules – you could borrow more money… The economy has recovered well, we’ve got the deficit down from the Labour years, and if a Chancellor came in under Johnson they would be able to expand spending if they needed to.”