25 November 2016

EU Brexit negotiator to take a three-part approach to discussions with the UK

Sky News reports that Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Brexit negotiator, is adopting a “three-tiered” approach to UK exit discussions. Sky News has been told that the EU intends to debate “pending issues,” such as contributions to the EU budget and border agreements, together with a transitional deal, before approaching the third stage of a long-term trade relationship or “association agreement” between the UK and the EU. This may undermine UK Brexit Secretary David Davis’ hopes of agreeing a final deal within the Article 50 two year time period.

Meanwhile, Bavarian Economy Minister Ilse Aigner has advocated for a comprehensive new trade agreement between the UK and the EU in order to minimise potential damage following Brexit, according to Die Welt. She is quoted as saying that Brexit poses “high risks” for the Bavarian economy as she views the UK as “one of the most important trading partners for Bavaria.” She adds, “We have to do everything to address the uncertainties that have arisen…we have to find ways to put economic relations with the UK on a new foundation without fractures.”

Source: Sky News Die Welt

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French conservative presidential frontrunner: “Let’s leave aside the dream of a federal Europe”

François Fillon, the frontrunner for the French centre-right presidential nomination, writes in Le Monde, “Let’s leave aside the big words: re-foundation, re-launch, new [EU] treaty. Let’s leave aside the dream of a federal Europe. It is urgent to revive a more political functioning, which allows Europe to focus its action on some well-defined strategic priorities.” He goes on to outline three key objectives, “Security, which implies policing [Europe’s] external borders better, bringing migration flows under control, and beefing up our common defence. Eurozone governance, which must be equipped with a real political directorate at the level of heads of government. And the great projects in the domain of research and innovation.”

Alain Juppé, who will face Fillon in the second and decisive round of the centre-right presidential primary on Sunday, has also penned an op-ed for Le Monde, where he argues, “I want another Europe. One that doesn’t get bogged down in the technocratic production of norms, or in never-ending Brexit negotiations, or in the current powerlessness – while being used as a scapegoat for our own weaknesses. The [European] Union is facing a crisis of democratic legitimacy. We will not resolve its causes by correcting the [EU] treaties! It is essential to revive the connection with the peoples.” He adds, “As [US President-elect] Donald Trump announces that he will no longer let his country bear the burden of allies’ security indefinitely, it is even more urgent to re-launch the political Europe and the Europe of defence.”

Source: Le Monde: Fillon Le Monde: Juppé

Member States tell Commission that the Single Market has “failed to reach its potential”

The Irish Times quotes a joint-letter from ten EU member states, including the UK, urging the European Commission to “turn the principle of free movement of services into a reality,” saying the single market has “failed to reach its potential.” The letter, prompted by Ireland and the Netherlands ahead of next week’s EU meeting of the competition council, seeks “concrete proposals” to overcome “disproportionate and unjustified barriers,” adding, “European service providers are still confronted with too many obstacles across the EU.”

Source: The Irish Times

Seehofer makes support for Merkel conditional on annual refugee limit

CSU leader and Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer made his support for joining a potential coalition with Angela Merkel’s CDU following the German federal elections next year conditional on the introduction of an annual cap for refugees of 200,000. Setting an upper limit on refugee numbers is a contentious issue between the two sister parties which has so far been rejected by the German Chancellor. Seehofer told the newspaper Augsburger Allgemeinen, “We [the CSU] will only join a coalition in Berlin, if this [refugee limit] is realised…this is a guarantee which I give to my party.” He added, “One thing is certain: this will be the most difficult ten months the CDU and CSU have experienced in decades.”

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Scottish parliament told “unwelcoming” barriers to immigration would harm businesses

Members of the Scottish parliamentary committee for Europe and external relations heard evidence yesterday on the risk “unwelcoming” barriers to free movement would pose to Scottish business post-Brexit. Policy director of the UK Chamber of Shipping Tim Reardon told MSPs, “It’s a very, very tough sell to say to inward investors we want your money but we don’t want you. It simply won’t wash. There has to be a risk that that segment of our business – at the moment generating wealth, generating employment, supporting service business – will feel unwelcome if they are unable to renew their staff.” David Branch, a representative from the boiler firm Cochran UK which trades largely outside the EU with countries such as Bangladesh and China, told the committee, “It’s much easier for me to get visas to go there than we make it for them to come here.”

Source: Herald Scotland

Austria’s far-right presidential hopeful hints at possible referendum if post-Brexit EU becomes more centralised

Austria’s far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer told the BBC, “If the answer to Brexit would be to make a centralised EU, where the national parliaments are disempowered and where the union is governed like a state, in this case, we would have to hold a referendum in Austria, because it would lead to a constitutional change.” The re-run of the second and decisive round of the Austrian presidential election is due to take place on Sunday 4 December.

Source: BBC News

European parliamentary committee backs data-sharing deal with US

The European Parliament committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs has backed the Umbrella Agreement, a data-sharing deal with the United States which aims to provide a “comprehensive high-level data protection framework for all personal data transfers between the EU and the US for the purpose of prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of criminal offences, including terrorism.” Axel Voss MEP, a member of the committee, said the agreement meant “EU citizens will have the same rights as US citizens when they seek judicial redress before US courts.” The parliament is expected to follow the committee’s recommendation next month.

Source: Reuters EU Reporter

European Parliament votes for “temporary freeze” on Turkish membership talks

The European Parliament has voted in favour of a “temporary freeze” on accession talks with Turkey in a non-binding resolution.  They stressed, however, that Turkey should remain “anchored” to the EU adding that they will review their position when the “disproportionate repressive measures” under the state of emergency are lifted. The EP also warned Turkey that reintroducing capital punishment would result in formal suspension of the accession process. However, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omar Celik dismissed the vote, saying, “We consider that decision null and void. It is not a decision that can be taken seriously.”

Source: European Parliament Press Release Financial Times