7 August 2017

Downing Street denies report that the UK is willing to pay £36bn to the EU as financial settlement

Downing Street has dismissed a report in The Sunday Telegraph that the UK government is prepared to pay up to £36 billion (€40 billion) as financial settlement to the EU after its withdrawal as “inaccurate speculation.” Whitehall officials told The Telegraph that the bill could be paid in annual net sums of around £10 billion for three years during a transitional period. The UK’s offer was expected to be contingent on the EU agreeing to negotiate the figure as part of a broad deal on future relations. One Whitehall source said, “The 27 [EU member states] say they can’t knock off the bits of their ‘bill’ until the very end – but politically we can’t move on money until the 27 member states start to show compromise.” The source also suggested that the EU’s opening position on the sum is around €60 billion, rather than the previously reported amount of €100 billion. However, Brexit Secretary David Davis also dismissed reports of an agreed UK figure, telling The Sunday Times, “[That’s] news to me.”

Separately, EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger told German daily Bild, “After the 2019 exit, the British will still have to pay for long-term programs agreed before the Brexit decision. They are tied to it. London will therefore have to transfer money to Brussels at least until 2020.”

This comes as the UK is expected to begin publishing a series of Brexit position papers on issues such as the future of customs arrangements and the Northern Irish border soon, ahead of the next round of formal negotiations on 18 August.

Source: The Times The Sunday Telegraph The Sunday Times Guardian Bild

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Irish Taoiseach proposes UK-EU customs union after Brexit

Speaking in Belfast last Friday, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar suggested the UK could establish a new bilateral customs union with the EU post-Brexit, adding, “After all, we have one with Turkey…Surely we can have one with the United Kingdom.” He also said, “If the UK does not want to stay in the single market, perhaps it could enter a deep free trade agreement with the EU, and rejoin EFTA, of which it was a member prior to accession [to the EU]. And if this cannot be agreed now, then perhaps we can have a transition period during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union while these things are worked out.” Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar appeared on Sky News on Friday to discuss the future of the Northern Irish border post-Brexit.

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Mervyn King: UK needs “a credible fallback position” for Brexit negotiation success

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the former Bank of England governor Mervyn King said, “If you are going to have any successful negotiation, you have got to have a fallback position which the other side understands and believes is credible. So we need to able to say if we can’t reach an agreement we will nevertheless leave and we can make it work.” He argued that while “it’s not the first preference of anybody,” he believes “this ought to be something that people ought to be able to agree on, irrespective of whether they are in favour of Brexit or not.” He said that proposals for a “credible fallback position…is a practical thing that the civil service ought to be taking a lead on. It’s do-able proposition if we start now. We’ve probably wasted a year but we need to be much further along the road to making that a credible fallback position.”

Separately, Nick Timothy, Prime Minister Theresa May’s former chief of staff, said in an interview last week that May was still prepared to walk away from Brexit negotiations without a deal. “It would be a bad thing if we got into a situation where there was no deal for all concerned, but there are circumstances where Britain would have to be prepared to walk away. ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’ isn’t just a slogan, it means something,” he said.

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Former EU Commission president urges compromise in Brexit talks "to avoid suicide"

Romano Prodi, former president of the European Commission and former Italian Prime Minister, has urged greater compromise in UK-EU negotiations “to avoid suicide.” He added, “It is so clear that it is impossible to dismantle this type of agreement without real damage on both sides. In this case, the weight of damage is probably heavier on the UK side, but there is damage on both sides.” He also said that the first year following the UK’s vote to leave had seen “blood on the floor” between the UK and the EU but little progress, adding, “I hope that in the second year there will be settlements safeguarding what can be saved in the future.” On the issue of EU immigration post-Brexit, he advised the UK to seek “an exception” to new rules for certain sectors, citing science and university industries as particularly important.

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Rolls-Royce CEO wants to maintain influence in EU aviation agency and Euratom post-Brexit

The chief executive of Rolls-Royce, Warren East, has called for a Brexit outcome that is as close as possible to the status quo. He said, “We have some very specific points around the European Aviation Safety Agency and maintaining a position there which enables us to have some influence on the safety standards and testing regimes and so on. We’ve been fairly clear about that and the same thing applies to Euratom. These are genuine concerns for us.” Asked if he was confident the government was responding to his concerns, he said, “I cannot discern anything in the information that’s coming out that makes me feel more or less confident.” But he added, “We’re more fortunate than many British companies in this type of situation in that we already have a significant presence in Germany…It’s inconceivable there would be any significant changes to our operation in the UK, whatever happens.”

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Nursing union leader calls for government to offer permanent residence to all current EEA NHS staff

The head of the Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies, has urged the government to offer permanent residence to all current health and social care staff from the European Economic Area, without requirements for “expensive and lengthy administrative burdens on employers and individuals.” She also called for sufficient advance warning of the formal “cut-off date” for the UK’s citizens’ rights agreement, as well as assurances that the NHS could continue to recruit international nurses during a transitional period. She told The Sunday Times, “If there is a cliff-edge in the migration system when the UK leaves the European Union, it will be the NHS going over it,” adding, “In some hospitals one in five employees are trained in Europe and they just couldn’t cope if suddenly everyone decided to leave.”

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Vince Cable criticises Brexit "martyrs" willing to accept economic damage from leaving the EU

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, criticised Brexit “martyrs” who “embrace economic pain as a price worth paying for ‘taking back control’: almost as a badge of honour.” He argued, “Another concern is that the self-declared martyrs may be planning to sacrifice other people rather than themselves.” Citing a recent YouGov poll that found most of those willing to accept economic damage from Britain’s withdrawal were over 65 years old, he argued, “The old have comprehensively shafted the young.” He added, “The martyrdom of the old comes cheap, since few have jobs to lose. And even if the country were to become poorer, their living standards are largely protected by the ‘triple lock’ on the state pension and many can rely on occupational, final salary, pensions which are closed to younger people.”

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Visa data shows third consecutive month of declining year-on-year UK consumer spending

According to data released by the payments technology firm Visa, UK consumer spending in July was 0.8% less than in the same month last year. This marks the third consecutive month where year-on-year spending has been down, which is the longest consecutive monthly decline since February 2013. Kevin Jenkins, UK and Ireland managing director for Visa, said, “The figure provides further evidence that rising prices and stagnant wage growth are squeezing consumers’ pockets.”

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Pieter Cleppe: A surprising amount of progress is being made on Brexit in Brussels

Writing for CapX, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe argues that “when it comes to Brexit negotiations, there’s plenty of negativity being reported, and not enough attention paid to the progress being made.” He notes UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox and the European Parliament’s identical positions on the need for a transition period to be time-limited to three years, when the next UK general election is scheduled, and argues, “With MEPs on the same page as Liam Fox, then surely Brexit negotiations can’t be going so badly after all.”

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