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The EU Commission has published a Communication outlining contingency measures to be ratified in preparation for a possible No Deal Brexit. The Communication, which builds on the Contingency Action Plan launched by the Commission in November, contains “unilateral [EU] measures for damage limitation,” which “can only mitigate the most severe consequences” of a No Deal Brexit. The document specifies that the contingency measures “should not replicate the benefits of membership of the [European] Union, nor the terms of any transition period.” They should also be temporary, are adopted unilaterally by the EU “in pursuit of its interests,” and should be revocable at any time. Moreover, none of the contingency plans apply to Gibraltar.
The contingency measures call upon EU member states to take action to safeguard the rights of UK citizens in the EU. They would also include temporary measures to ensure the continuation of aviation and road haulage services between the EU and the UK, for 12 and 9 months respectively. On financial services, the Commission proposes “temporary and conditional equivalence” for central clearing of derivatives and central securities depositories. However, Commission officials insisted that “These measures will not – and cannot – mitigate the overall impact of a No Deal scenario.” The Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said yesterday, “In case of a No Deal scenario, some preparation to minimise damage is better than doing no preparation at all.”
Open Europe will publish a full summary of the contingency measures later today.
The Daily Shakeup will return on 7 January, 2019. In the meantime, the Open Europe team wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
European Commission The Daily Telegraph
The Government yesterday published its Immigration White Paper, which outlines its proposed framework for immigration policy after Brexit. The paper commits to a “skills-based immigration system,” with no cap placed on the number of skilled migrants and no preference for EU over non-EU workers. However, low-skilled migrants would only be able to come to the UK on a temporary basis. The paper also floats the idea of a £30,000 salary threshold for skilled migrants, but states that the Government will consult with businesses before making a decision on this. The Guardian reported yesterday that some Cabinet Ministers are pushing for this proposed threshold to be lowered to £21,000.
The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said in the House of Commons yesterday, “This new system will be focused on those with the skills we need, who bring the most benefit to the UK. Our new route for skilled workers will enable employers in both the private and public sectors to access the talent they need. This will help support wage growth and productivity improvements.” The paper does not mention a numerical target for reducing net migration. However, speaking in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May said that she was committed to reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands,” in line with previous Conservative party manifesto commitments.
Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes wrote in Politico that the new immigration system will allow the Government to “deliver on the views that the British people expressed in the EU referendum, but it will still enable Europeans with the skills and experience that will benefit the UK economy and our society to come.”
Separately, the Deputy Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Josh Hardie, said that “these proposals must change,” adding that “Brexit is cutting off the ability to recruit and retain staff for 9 out of 10 firms. Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Adam Marshall, said, “While these proposals are not quite as bad as we had originally feared, it’s no secret that companies across the UK are sceptical about whether the Government’s approach will actually deliver on their practical, real-world concerns.”
The Daily Telegraph
The Irish Government last night published its Contingency Action Plan for a No Deal Brexit. The document sets out the Government’s analysis of No Deal planning in a number of key areas, including economic and fiscal impact, security, Northern Ireland and North-South relations, relations with Great Britain, and sectoral analyses. It states, “A No Deal Brexit would be an exceptional economic event which would be met with exceptional measures to support the continued operation of the Irish economy and our international trading links.” The paper also sets out 45 legislative changes that would be required in the event of No Deal, and outlines plans for the purchase of land at Dublin Port and Rosslare to prevent congestion from new customs checks. Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney described the document as “stark” and a “damage limitation exercise.” Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday, “Our major and overriding objective is to ensure we don’t end up in a No Deal scenario and that’s why we are continuing to work with our European partners to secure the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Elsewhere, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has received an extra £16 million to fund a recruitment drive as part of their Brexit preparations. Chief Constable George Hamilton said “Since the referendum result, PSNI have been working with our partners to ensure we are in the best position possible to respond to any changes presented by Brexit.” He added, “We welcome this additional funding which will allow us to recruit a total of 308 additional officers and staff by April 2020 and make some investment in our estate, IT and infrastructure.”
Asked yesterday if Cabinet ministers would resign if No Deal becomes Government policy, Justice Secretary David Gauke told the Evening Standard, “I think there are many Cabinet ministers who don’t think that that would be a responsible course of action.” He added that voting for the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal was “the best way of taking No Deal off the table,” warning, “Relying on some fantastical mythical creature of a deal that has all the aspects we would like and with none of the downsides that the EU will insist upon is not facing up to reality.”
Elsewhere, Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday said, “I want to see us leaving the European Union with a good deal but until we’re sure that that’s been ratified, it makes sense, it’s reasonable for Government to make contingency arrangements for a No Deal and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Separately, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said in the House of Commons yesterday that without meaningful changes, “The majority in this house are not likely to support the Prime minister’s deal, whenever it is put, adding, “I really think it is the duty of the Government and the [Prime Minister] to stand at the dispatch box and rule out No Deal.”
This comes as Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd yesterday said on ITV’s Peston show, “I don’t want a people’s vote, or a referendum in general, but if Parliament absolutely failed to reach a consensus I could see there would be a plausible argument for it.” She also said, “Parliament has to reach a majority on how it’s going to leave the European Union. If it fails to do so, then I can see the argument for taking it back to the people again, much as it would distress many of my colleagues.” Meanwhile, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott this morning said that a second Brexit referendum may be “the only option available” in order to avoid a No Deal Brexit. However, the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke against a second referendum at an event last night, saying, “It would be dangerous for the fabric of democracy if Britain didn’t leave the EU on March 29.”
Open Europe’s Henry Newman told the Commons Exiting the EU committee yesterday that at this point in the Brexit process “there are two ways to leave [the EU]: with the Deal on the table (either with tweaks or without) or without a Deal,” adding, “Saying there are other options is not serious policy. There is dishonesty in public debate about the options available at this point.”
The Daily Telegraph
The Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, yesterday criticised what he called the “rather unfortunate behaviour” of certain EU officials towards Prime Minister Theresa May and the UK over Brexit. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Morawiecki said, “Strong statements and harsh words of some politicians in Brussels do not help, but hinder our common goal in achieving the most desirable outcome for all.” He added, “It is likely that Mrs May’s chance of winning the vote in the House of Commons will depend on EU leaders’ attitude towards the UK. This attitude must remain unequivocally supportive… She fought very hard to negotiate the best deal for the UK, and that in itself is worthy of respect.”
This comes as Morawiecki will hold talks with May in London today to discuss post-Brexit defence and security ties. Ahead of the meeting May said, “Today’s talks will agree ambitious steps that build on the landmark joint defence and security treaty we signed in Warsaw last year, and set a course for further collaboration in the years ahead.” She added, “I value the contribution the Polish community makes to our economy and our society, and am committed to ensuring the UK remains a welcoming place for Poles to live, work and study. Today is an opportunity to repeat my message to Polish people – you can stay, and we want you to stay.”
The Daily Telegraph
The West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, has warned MPs that they must back the Withdrawal Agreement to save jobs at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). The carmaker, which employs thousands at plants in Birmingham and Solihull, has repeatedly warned of job losses in the event of a No Deal Brexit. Street, a Conservative, said that support for the Brexit deal would “remove some of the clouds that are hanging around JLR at the moment.” While downplaying reports that JLR would cut 5,000 jobs in the event of No Deal, Street added, “It is very concerning. Because they have obviously been the dynamo of the regional economy, and if it were to be true it would be extremely bad news… I have been a fervent supporter of what the Prime Minister is doing [on Brexit], significantly because it will support our manufacturing industry in the West Midlands… we have to deliver [Brexit] in a way that does not bring about the no-deal consequence.”
The European Commission and Italy reached an agreement over Rome’s budget proposal for 2019, after the Italian Government accepted to delay a basic income programme and made concessions on electoral promises it made on pensions. The Commission said it would not open an infringement procedure against Italy. Valdis Dombrovskis, Commission Vice-President for the Euro, said the agreement “would leave Italy with a budget deficit next year of 2.04 per cent of gross domestic product, 2.4 per cent less that Rome targeted in its original plans.” He added, “Let’s be clear — the solution is not ideal, but it avoids opening the excessive deficit procedure at this stage. And it corrects the situation of serious non-compliance with the stability and growth pact.” This followed the rejection of the Italian budget by the Commission in October and the threat of launching an infringement procedure if Italy violated EU fiscal rules.
In a new blog, Open Europe’s Jacob Osborne examines the proposals in the Government’s new White Paper on Immigration. He notes that, after Brexit, “The Government has signalled its intention to attract high-skilled migrants from around the world, with no preference for those from the EU.” No cap is placed on the number of skilled workers that can come to the UK, but there is only a “temporary migration scheme for low-skilled workers, allowing them to come to the UK for a maximum of 12 months,” with a “cooling-off” period of 12 months to reduce “permanent” low-skilled migration. The White Paper also provides a “liberal regime” for short-term visitors to the UK, with no visas required for those from the EU, and the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK is set to be “unaffected by Brexit.” He concludes that the shift towards skilled migration from around the world “undoubtedly signals a major departure in UK immigration policy.”
Elsewhere, Open Europe’s Stephen Booth told Euronews yesterday, “The key message is that the UK will have a new system which does not distinguish between EU and non-EU nationals… It is an important political message globally and domestically to say that post-Brexit immigration will be fundamentally different.”