2 July 2018

The Times: EU will not accept bespoke Brexit deal, says PM’s Europe adviser

The Times reports that the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser, Oliver Robbins, has briefed secretaries of state that the EU will not accept a bespoke Brexit deal. Robbins told ministers that the UK may need to choose between a Norway-style arrangement, where the UK remains in the single market but loses decision-making powers, or a traditional free trade deal. This comes ahead of this week’s cabinet meeting at Chequers to agree the UK’s position on future trade relations with the EU.

Elsewhere, The Sun reports that the cabinet is deeply divided over the UK government’s Brexit strategy, with Brexit-backing ministers insisting there will be an “inevitable” climb down by the EU side at the last minute. A majority of Brexit-supporting ministers are reportedly willing to agree to a negotiating position that would see the UK remain voluntarily aligned to EU single market rules on goods, with an unnamed senior N10 source is cited, saying, “We may only have one shot left at getting the 27 leaders to re-engage so our offer must be solid and attractive.” A proposal to grant EU workers special rights on freedom of movement is being strictly opposed by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, The Sun writes.

Separately, in a piece for The Daily Telegraph, Conservative MP and chair of the European Research Group, Jacob Rees-Mogg, writes, “Any attempt by the EU to impose its laws and Court on the UK, either directly or indirectly, must be rejected. Any EU agreement that restricts the country’s ability to make trade agreements with other states, restricts our ability to control our migration policy, makes us pay to trade or interferes with our fishing waters could not be accepted…Theresa May must stand firm for what she herself has promised.”

Meanwhile, writing for the Times Red Box, Open Europe’s Henry Newman argues that the UK staying in the EU’s single market and customs union “would hardly be sustainable…But the European Commission may not be interested in a pragmatic compromise, and member states have at times seemed to oscillate between distraction and what is almost a blithe recklessness towards Brexit,” and notes, “It’s time for European capitals to engage seriously on Brexit and find a compromise that works fairly for both sides.”

Source: The Times The Daily Telegraph The Times Red Box The Sun

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“Third” customs model devised ahead of cabinet talks

Downing Street has produced a third model for post-Brexit customs, distinct from the existing “customs partnership” and “maximum facilitation” models, the BBC reports. Details of the new plan have not been revealed publicly, but senior ministers will discuss it at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat, on Friday.


Extension of post-Brexit transition period may become necessary, Greg Clark says

Business Secretary Greg Clark yesterday suggested that the post-Brexit transition period could be extended beyond December 2020, as software and infrastructure necessary to avoid friction at the border may not be ready early enough. He said, “There are things that would need to be put in place [to achieve a frictionless border]: computer systems, for example; posts at the border, even if they are checked automatically… What we need to assess is how long it would reasonably take to put in practice, and it seems to me that any reasonable person would have to be guided by the facts and the evidence.”


The Sun: US Defence Secretary concerned about UK's military being at "risk of erosion"

In a letter to the UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson seen by the Sun, US Defence Secretary James Mattis writes that while the UK’s position as a global power “has been the credibility of the UK’s armed forces,” he is “concerned that [the UK’s] ability to continue to provide this critical military foundation for diplomatic success is at risk of erosion, while together we face a world awash with change.” Mattis argues that the UK should boost its defence spending, explaining, “A global nation like the UK, with interests and commitments around the world, will require a level of defence (sic) spending beyond what we would expect from allies with only regional interests,” adding, “As global actors, France and the US have concluded now is the time to significantly increase our investment in defense. Other allies are following suit.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph reports that John Bolton, the national security adviser of US President Donald Trump, met with several members of the European Research Group of Conservative MPs last week. The meeting reportedly took place without the presence of government officials, and saw Bolton explain Trump’s positive attitude towards Brexit.


German CSU leader Seehofer to hold last-minute talks with Merkel amid resignation threats

The leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) and German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, will today hold last-minute talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel in a bid to seek a compromise in a dispute over asylum policy. Mr Seehofer reportedly offered his resignation as both Interior Minister and CSU leader late last night during a CSU leadership meeting, but was convinced by Alexander Dobrindt, the head of the CSU parliamentary group, to reconsider in the hope of reaching a deal with Merkel.

This came as the CSU-CDU conflict over migration escalated further over the weekend, with the CSU deeming Merkel’s deal concluded at the European Council summit last week insufficient to reduce the numbers of refugees coming into Germany. Seehofer had a meeting with Merkel on Saturday, during which the two failed to reconcile their policy differences over migration. His meeting with Merkel today is scheduled for 5pm CET.


EU warns of $300bn hit in retaliatory measures if US imposes new punitive car tariffs

The Financial Times reports that the EU has warned it could impose retaliatory measures worth $300bn against the US if it introduces new punitive tariffs on EU car imports. This comes after US President Donald Trump said in an interview yesterday, “The European Union is possibly as bad as China, just smaller…It is terrible what they do to us,” stressing in particular “the car situation.” Separately, on Friday the European Commission warned the United States that imposing tariffs on European cars “will be harmful first and foremost for the US economy,” adding that it would have “a negative impact on US GDP in the order of 13-14 billion USD, and the current account balance of the U.S. would be not affected positively.”

Elsewhere, Canada yesterday introduced retaliatory tariffs on C$16.6bn worth of US goods, with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland saying, “Our approach is we will not escalate, but we will equally not back down.” Freeland said the tariffs were intended to match US tariffs “dollar for dollar,” adding that she hoped that “common sense” would prevail. The Canadian government on Friday also announced that it would support its domestic steel and aluminium industries hit by US tariffs with €1.4bn.


Unite members disagree with Labour’s Brexit policy, new poll suggests

Pressure on the leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn to change his Brexit policy is increasing, as most members of the party’s biggest financial backer, the Unite union, are unhappy with his current stance. The YouGov poll, commissioned by the People’s Vote Campaign, suggests that 57% of Unite members support a public vote on the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations, with 34% against. The poll also suggests that 57% believe that the Labour policy of leaving the EU’s Single Market will be bad for jobs, with 21% believing it will be beneficial. This comes as several senior figures in the Labour grassroots movement Momentum are pushing for a full debate on Brexit at Labour’s party conference in September.


NHS England preparing for all possible Brexit scenarios, says chief executive

The Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, yesterday said on the health service’s Brexit preparations, “There is immediate planning which the Health Department along with other departments are undertaking around securing medicine supply and equipment under different [Brexit] scenarios.” He said, “Nobody’s pretending this is a desirable situation, if that’s where we get to it will not have been unforeseen.” On the future of EU staff at the NHS, Stevens stressed, “Every hospital has now been written to asking them to reach out to their staff from the rest of the EU, reminding them the Home Secretary has set a clear process by which people can apply to stay in this country, which we hope they will do,” while adding, “Alongside our reliance on international staff, we obviously want to boost the training and availability of British-trained staff. We have five new medical schools that are coming online in the next several years. that’s going to mean a 2% increase in the number of homegrown British doctors. we need to do the same with nursing and other disciplines.”


Leopold Traugott: Migration central, Brexit side-lined, Eurozone back; What happened at the EU summit

Open Europe’s Leopold Traugott analyses the outcomes of last week’s European Council summit in a blog post, writing, “We saw two days that were dominated by discussions about migration and the Eurozone. In both cases there is agreement that the status quo is not tenable in the long run, but deep divides on which steps should be taken to remedy this render meaningful progress difficult.” On the Eurozone, Traugott writes, “There is little mention of the Franco-German proposals, most notably the Eurozone budget… Decisions on a wider reform of the ESM were postponed to later in the year,” adding that, as expected, “This EU summit did not mark progress in Brexit negotiations” either.