16 April 2019

Donald Tusk: UK MEPs retain full rights and obligations during extension

European Council Donald Tusk told the European Parliament this morning, “One of the consequences of our decision is that the UK will hold European elections next month. We should approach this seriously, as UK members of the European Parliament will be there for several months, maybe longer. They will be full members of the Parliament, with all their rights and obligations.” He added, “I am strongly opposed to the idea that during the extension, the UK should be treated as a second category member state. No, it cannot.” Meanwhile, a European Parliament spokesperson said that MEPs could hold an “extraordinary session” in order to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement if the UK House of Commons ratifies the deal before 2 July, when the newly elected European Parliament is due to start its work.

This comes as Prime Minister, Theresa May, has written to civil servants to say that preparations for a No Deal Brexit should continue, but with “sensibly adjusted timescales given the extension [to Article 50] we have agreed [with the EU].” This follows reports last week that the Government had stood down Operation Yellowhammer, which was devoted to No Deal planning.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday said passing the Withdrawal Agreement should remain a priority for the Government, and that the contest to find a successor to Theresa May as Conservative Party leader would have to wait. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “There will be a time for all those discussions about whether this shade of person or that shade of person is the right person to take over from the Prime Minister. But the time for that is when she has announced she’s going and there’s a formal leadership contest.” Hunt also said discussions with the Labour party have been “more constructive than people thought,” while suggesting that if the talks did not result in a breakthrough, the Government may “need to find a way to rebuild the DUP-Conservative coalition.”

Elsewhere, Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh is quoted in the Financial Times. He also appeared as an analyst on Global News Canada.

Source: EU Observer The Guardian I The Guardian II BBC News The Financial Times

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3 UKIP MEPs resign to join the Brexit Party

3 female UKIP Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Jill Seymour, Jane Collins and Margot Parker, yesterday resigned from UKIP. All three have joined the Brexit Party, which is led by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. They resigned in protest at UKIP leader Gerard Batten’s defence of controversial comments about rape by UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin. Their departure leaves UKIP with just 4 MEPs, down from the 24 elected in 2014, while the Brexit Party now has 12 MEPs.

Source: Sky News

US Congress Speaker: A hard Irish border would mean limited US-UK trade treaty

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that if Brexit results in a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the US would not strike a wide-ranging trade deal with the UK. Pelosi said, “We made it clear to all, If there is any harm to the Good Friday accord, no (trade) treaty,” adding, “I have to say though every single person, including Theresa May who we spoke to on the phone, everyone said don’t even worry about that, it is unthinkable that we would even go there.”

Separately, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned there will be no further Article 50 extension beyond October, saying that the UK “will have to decide what they want by October.” He told the Financial Times, “You cannot drag out Brexit for a decade…Another extension could send the signal that they plan to stay in the EU after all.”

Source: Reuters The Financial Times

EU prepared to initiate trade talks with the US

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström signalled to the US yesterday that the EU is prepared to initiate trade talks and could conclude a deal before 2020. Talks are planned to consist of two sets of negotiations, one to cut tariffs on industrial goods, the other to make it easier for companies to demonstrate that their products meet EU or US standards. Malmström said, “We are ready as soon as they are,” adding, “I think it can go quite quickly.”

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker commented, “With today’s adoption of the negotiating directives for trade talks, the EU is delivering on what Donald Trump and I have agreed last year, slashing tariffs on industrial products could lead to additional increase in EU and U.S. exports worth €26 billion.” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier also said in a statement, “The goal is to reduce industry tariffs to zero and ultimately fend off a trade conflict. The negotiations will not be easy, but we will hold them with determination, for the benefit of both sides.”

Elsewhere, European ministers gave their final approval to reform EU online copyright rules yesterday. Six countries voted against the rules, while three abstained. Companies such as YouTube will under the rules be obligated to monitor its website for copyright-infringing content and remove any that falls under that category.

Source: Reuters Reuters II Politico I Politico II

Henry Newman: No free movement. No second referendum. Brexit gained. What would happen were the Prime Minister’s deal passed.

In his column for Conservative Home, Open Europe’s Director Henry Newman looks at what might have happened if Parliament had ratified the Withdrawal Agreement. He writes, “Unfortunately this happy picture is a fantasy…Brexit is profoundly at risk, and the Conservatives are taking an acute hammering in the opinion polls.” On the question of a possible Conservative Party leadership election, he adds, “Anyone promising to scrap the backstop might as well promise to take the country to No Deal. With this Parliament certain to try to block No Deal, a new leader would need to win a general election. But even assuming that the Conservatives could secure a narrow majority – which seems a stretch at present – it’s not clear that No Deal would then be plausible.” He concludes, “Unless a path through can be found for the Withdrawal Agreement in the coming weeks and months, the chances of Brexit being lost entirely will only rise. So the best option, barring a rethink from the Prime Minister’s backbench critics, seems to be to broker some agreement with Labour, however unpalatable that is for many Conservatives.”