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The nominated candidate for the post of European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, yesterday said that the Irish backstop protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement “is of utmost importance,” adding, “Having the backstop in the Brexit deal is precious, important and has to be defended.” Addressing the liberal MEPs from the Renew Europe group, von der Leyen also said, “Brexit is not the end of something, Brexit is the beginning of future relations and it’s of absolute importance that we have good cooperation,” adding that the current Withdrawal Agreement is “a good deal…but it is [the UK’s] responsibility and noble task to sort things out.”
Speaking at a separate hearing with the European Greens, von der Leyen said her position is that “if the UK needs more time, it would be a good idea to have an extension” to Article 50.
Since the hearing, the Green MEPs group announced they would vote against von der Layen’s candidacy next week. The group’s President, Ska Keller, said, “The statements of Ursula von der Leyen were disappointing. We did not hear any concrete proposal, be it on rule of law or on climate. We have been elected on a mandate for change and we don’t see how change will be possible with this candidate.”
Elsewhere, von der Leyen said she is planning to have a gender-balanced Commission involving equal distribution of positions between women and men. She also said that she is in favour of the enlargement of the Schengen Zone, and would “keep the door open” for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.
This comes as most European Parliament committees yesterday elected their chairs and vice-chairs. No candidates from the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group were elected.
BBC News The Guardian Reuters Greens/EFA European Parliament
The former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major said yesterday he would seek a judicial review in the courts if the new Prime Minister tries to prorogue Parliament to force through a No Deal Brexit. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Major explained, “In order to close down Parliament, the Prime Minister would have to go to Her Majesty the Queen and ask for her permission.” Arguing that it would be “inconceivable” that the Queen would refuse this request, Major added, “The Queen’s decision cannot be challenged in law, but the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen can, I believe, be challenged in law – and I for one would be prepared to seek judicial review to prevent Parliament being bypassed.”
The International Development Secretary, Rory Stewart, also said he would seek judicial review in the event of prorogation.
New analysis from the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy, published yesterday, suggests that a No Deal Brexit could put 40,000 jobs at risk in Northern Ireland (NI). The report also argues that No Deal would “have immediate and severe consequences for both NI’s competitiveness in the all-island economy and NI’s place in the UK internal market… The impact of EU tariffs could reduce NI’s exports to Ireland by 11% and the inclusion of non-tariff barriers could see a decline of 19%.” The report found that jobs in NI’s agri-food and haulage sectors would be particularly exposed to No Deal, that NI’s attractiveness for Foreign Direct Investment would also be negatively impacted, and that the consequences of No Deal could be exacerbated by the lack of business preparedness.
Meanwhile, speaking at the Institute for Government in London yesterday, the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, David Sterling, said, “Our assessment is that No Deal would have a profound and long-lasting impact on Northern Ireland and society.” Sterling said that he did not want to see a return to Direct Rule, with Ministers at Westminster taking decisions for Northern Ireland, but added, “In the event of No Deal, I don’t think it would be acceptable for us to be left without ministers.”
NI Department for the Economy
The Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington,yesterday told the House of Commons Exiting the European Union select committee that EU27 leaders could be prepared to discuss further changes to the Brexit deal with the new UK Prime Minister. Lidington said, “It is conceivable that the EU would be prepared to discuss some kind of further protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement,” adding that the EU could also be “open to discussing potential changes to the Political Declaration [on future relations].”
Elsewhere, four of the MPs who were originally part of Change UK have announced that they will sit together as a new group known as “The Independents,” considering themselves to be “not a party, but a co-operative of independents working together.” The group consists of former Conservative MP, Heidi Allen, and the former Labour MPs, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Angela Smith. They will also be joined by another former Labour MP, John Woodcock.
Meanwhile, Allen yesterday launched a new organisation called Unite to Remain to work with Remain-supporting political parties and MPs to further their aim of ensuring the UK remains in the EU.
EU ambassadors yesterday reached an agreement on the 2020 EU draft budget, amounting to €166.8 bn in commitments and €153.1 bn in payments. The priority areas of the new budget include the European satellite navigation systems (EGNOS and Galileo), the energy strand of the Connecting Europe Facility, the European Solidarity Corps, as well as the Horizon 2020 and Erasmus + programmes. The agreement is based on the assumption that the UK will fully participate in the implementation of the budget until the end of 2020. The budget still needs to be adopted by the European Council and the European Parliament. Kimmo Tiilikainen, chief Council negotiator for the 2020 EU budget, said,” Next year’s budget is the last under the current Multiannual Financial Framework [MFF]. Member states want it to be realistic and fit for purpose,” adding, “The Council’s position provides for adequate payment levels and funding for key priority areas, such as growth and jobs, climate action and the management of migration.”
The UK’s ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, resigned yesterday over leaked emails describing the President Donald Trump’s administration as “clumsy and inept.” In a letter to the Foreign Office, Darroch said, “The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like. Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador.”
Meanwhile, according to leaked documents seen by the Telegraph, the UK has failed to make tangible progress towards a free trade deal with the US.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) yesterday show that UK GDP grew by 0.3% between March and May this year. The ONS said the service and production sectors contributed to this growth, but that construction growth remained flat over this period. The production rebound was largely driven by a resurgence of car manufacturing in May.
The European Commission yesterday kept its GDP growth forecast for the Eurozone unchanged at 1.2% for 2019, but lowered its 2020 forecast to 1.4%. Inflation forecast was also lowered for the Eurozone to 1.3% for this year and next. The Commission attributed the revised forecasts to slowdowns in Germany and Italy, those economies are expected to grow at 0.5% and 0.1% this year respectively. Growth for the EU as a whole remained unchanged at 1.4% this year and 1.6% next year. Projections assume that the UK does not leave the EU with No Deal.