4 September 2018

Downing Street: Chequers is “the only credible and negotiable plan”

Responding to former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s recent comment piece in The Daily Telegraph, in which he suggested the government’s Chequers plan would “throw away most of the advantages of Brexit,” the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said, “There’s no new ideas in this article to respond to. What we need at this time is serious leadership with a serious plan.” He added, “The Chequers proposals are the only credible and negotiable plan which has been put forward and which will deliver on the will of the British people.”

Separately, former Education Minister Justine Greening has said the Chequers proposal is “now less popular with the public than the poll tax,” adding, “It is already clear that it has no prospect of being voted in favour in the House of Commons.” This comes as a survey of 22,000 voters in the Conservative party’s most marginal seats found that 73% of respondents were dissatisfied with the government’s handling of negotiations. Over half believe the Chequers policy is “bad” for Britain, against 21% who believe it is “good.” The survey was conducted by the pro-Brexit campaign group, Global Britain.

Source: The Guardian The Daily Telegraph

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European Parliament could endorse Brexit deal just two weeks before UK leaves, senior EU law maker claims

The head of the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, Danuta Hubner, yesterday announced that the European Parliament could endorse any Brexit deal as late as two weeks before the UK left. Hubner said, “We have to vote during the first March plenary [11-14 March], the second one [25-28 March] will be too late because after us the European Council must look into this again.” Parliament officials estimate however that it would take the institution more than two months to process the agreement, with European law makers keen to vote on it only after the British parliament has done so.

Source: Reuters

France demands further clarity on future UK-EU relationship

According to the Guardian, French President Emmanuel Macron is urging for more clarity on the political declaration outlining the future UK-EU relationship which is due to accompany the Withdrawal Agreement, in order to avoid a “blind Brexit.” The paper reports that France fears an extension of the transition period which follows the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, with a European diplomat quoted as saying that French representatives “are always talking about the need for clarity and precision. Two years would not be long enough to have a wider internal discussion and negotiate with the Brits. The transition would need to be extended. France has had enough.”

Elsewhere, European Commissioners’ preparatory discussions for EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union speech reportedly did not include the UK’s withdrawal and Brexit negotiations. According to EurActiv, Commissioners briefed Juncker on issues including trade, migration and energy. This comes as Juncker will today meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Source: The Guardian EurActiv

UK manufacturing slow down raises concerns

The UK manufacturing sector expands at its slowest pace in 25 months this August “due mainly to a sharp downturn in exports”, IHS Markit reported yesterday. IHS Markit’s PMI index, a monthly manufacturing index, slid from 53.8 in July to 52.8, where a figure greater than 50 indicates an expansion.  The monthly decline has been the sharpest since 2011, and coincides with business confidence falling to a 22-month low. According to the Financial Times, the trend in falling exports also appeared across in Asia and continental Europe, as “the Eurozone’s manufacturing sector also fell to close to a two-year low while in China export orders shrank for the fifth consecutive month.” The newspaper cited business uncertainty around Brexit as one of the key reasons, as well as to US-China trade quarrels and unsettled issues regarding the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Elsewhere, according to an analysis by UBS Group AG published yesterday, the UK gross domestic product is 2.1 percent lower than it would have been if the UK voted to remain in the EU, with consumption dropping by 1.7 percent, investment being 4 percent weaker and inflation being 1.5 percent higher.

Meanwhile, The Times reports that Chancellor Philip Hammond is set to present his budget next month already.

Source: IHS Markit The Daily Telegraph Financial Times The Times Bloomberg

British universities call for reintroduction of visa that allows overseas students to work in UK after graduation

Universities UK, the umbrella organisation for British universities, has called on the government to reintroduce a visa scheme that would allow foreign students to remain and work in the UK for two years after graduation. The organisation warned, “The UK’s closest competitors, such as the USA, Australia, France and Germany, all continue to grow [their overseas student numbers] at a faster rate than the UK,” with the vice-Chancellor of Exeter University, Sir Steve Smith, adding, “I think we are in danger of losing our position as one of the world leaders in international education.”

Source: The Guardian

EU considers redistribution of beef quota to reduce “tensions” with US

The European Commission yesterday proposed a redistribution of the existing quota for hormone-free beef imports into the EU. The redistribution would see a certain share of the current quota of 45,000 tonnes per year allocated specifically to the US, with the EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan saying the measure was aimed at reducing trade “tensions” between both sides. The Commission stressed that the overall import quota would not be increased, and announced it would negotiate with other supplier nations to find a solution compatible with WTO rules.

Elsewhere, the African Union’s High Representative Carlos Lopes criticised that regional Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) between African states and the EU “were badly negotiated and… most of them are not implemented,” with Tanzanian officials complaining that an EPA proposed by the EU to the East African Community was “skewed and exploitative.” Lopes said, “Europe is the number one trading partner as a bloc but its position has been eroded,” adding, “Contrary to perceptions, Africa is not a minor partner when it comes to trade to Europe… The African Union recognises that we are stronger when we negotiate as one voice.”

Source: EurActiv I EurActiv II