4 July 2019

European Parliament elects new President from Socialists and Democrats group

The Italian MEP David Sassoli from the Democratic Party, which is part of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) political group in the European Parliament, has been elected as the Parliament’s new President for a two-and-a-half-year term with 345 votes. Sassoli called for a reinforcement of “procedures to make the Parliament a protagonist of a true European democracy,” adding, “The Parliament will act as a guarantor of the independence of European citizens.”

Meanwhile, Politico reports that the Council’s nominated candidate for the post of European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, told a meeting of the European People’s Party (EPP) group that the Irish backstop would not be removed from the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, adding that the course of Brexit negotiations would not change if she becomes President. Von der Leyen also reportedly said that a No Deal Brexit scenario is “the most negative outcome that either side could think of,” adding, “We cannot allow this paralysis in the Brexit negotiations to take our eyes off the biggest, most important issues that the world faces. We should not forget that our values are so similar, our economies are so similar, that the real challenges for us are the questions of what do we do about China, what do we do about Russia, what do we do about terrorism.”

Elsewhere, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday, “I am absolutely sure that new leaders of [EU] institutions would be as consistent as we are today when it comes to the Withdrawal Agreement and the future relationship with the UK.”

The European Parliament also elected fourteen Vice Presidents, including 5 from the EPP group, 3 from the S&D group, 2 from the liberal Renew Europe group, 2 from the Greens, 1 from the European United Left and 1 non-affiliated.

Today the Parliament will elect five quaestors, who look after financial and administrative matters.

Source: Politico I Politico London Playbook BBC News Europe Elects

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Brexit Secretary calls to "ramp up" No Deal Brexit preparations

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told Sky News today that he was “very keen to ramp up preparations now” for a No Deal Brexit, adding, “We’ve already extended twice and we’ve had additional time… one thing I’ve been very clear with the Treasury and other departments within government about is that we do need to speed up our preparation.” Barclay continued, “We do need to drive those plans forward and ensure we are ready because I think your viewers would quite rightly ask the question three years after they voted to leave if the government were not ready to do so.”

Asked about reports that consumers would need to stockpile, Barclay said, “Big companies have well-established plans, they have had teams looking at this now for more than two years. And a lot of work has been done both with the private sector, the supermarkets and others to ensure we prepare as best we can. But it’s better to leave with a deal.”

Source: Sky News

Jeremy Corbyn: “best thing to do" on Brexit "would be to go back to the people”

In the House of Commons yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, said that the Labour Party “will do everything to prevent a No Deal Brexit, because we know the damage it will do to jobs and living standards in this country.” He criticised the “fantasy plans” of the Conservative leadership candidates and asked the Prime Minister, Theresa May, “Does she not accept that the best thing to do would be to go back to the people and let them decide which way we go?” It is unclear whether Corbyn was referring to a general election or a second referendum.

Meanwhile, Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, said yesterday, “Labour will work with all sides, even former members of Theresa May’s cabinet, to protect the country from a no-deal Brexit,” adding, “It’s simply unsustainable to sideline parliament on an issue of this importance. And it’s deeply irresponsible to ignore the legal black hole that a no-deal Brexit would cause.”

Source: Hansard Guardian

New YouGov poll: Conservatives lead, Labour drop to fourth

A new YouGov poll of Westminster voting intention for the Times puts the Conservatives in the lead on 24% of the vote, followed by the Brexit Party on 23%, the Liberal Democrats on 20%, Labour on 18% and the Greens on 9%.

Source: The Times

Italy avoids EU debt infringement procedure

Yesterday the European Commission announced it will not trigger an excessive deficit procedure against Italy, whose public debt stands at over 131% of GDP, ending a several-month dispute over the Government’s spending plans. Politico reports that Italy’s recouping of €7.6bn from value-added tax receipts and underspending on social programmes helped to convince the Commission that Italy could lower its deficit spending. The European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Pierre Moscovici, told reporters in Brussels, “Thanks to these significant efforts we can see that Italy is, on the whole, respecting the rules of the pact in 2019,” which limit member states to a budget deficit of 3% of GDP.

Source: Politico The Financial Times Eurostat

Liam Fox: no requirement to pass the Trade Bill before No Deal Brexit

The International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, said yesterday that it was not an essential requirement for the Government to pass the Trade Bill into law before a possible No Deal Brexit. Appearing before the International Trade Committee, Fox explained that the Trade Bill has three main functions: to roll over EU trade agreements with third countries, to establish a UK Trade Remedies Authority, and to achieve UK membership of the Government Procurement Agreement, adding, “We are able to carry out the three main functions of the Trade Bill without that legislation passing.” Asked about the Canadian Government’s reported reluctance to roll over the EU-Canada free trade agreement, Fox said that this was partly the result of the UK’s intention to remove most tariffs unilaterally in the event of a No Deal Brexit. He added, that these tariff reductions would only be temporary, and urged Canada to sign an agreement with the UK that “covers us in all circumstances.” Fox also said that the Department of International Trade was better prepared for a No Deal scenario now than it had been in March, and that the Government as a whole was “prepared as much as we can be for… No Deal, but there are some things beyond our control – in the event of a No Deal the EU will apply MFN tariffs to the UK, and that will have an impact on a number of sectors of our economy.”

Source: International Trade Committee

IHS Markit: UK economy shrank by 0.1% in Q2 2019

According to a survey by IHS Markit, the UK economy shrank by 0.1% in the second quarter of 2019, its first quarterly contraction for seven years. IHS Markit chief business economist, Chris Williamson, said, “Brexit-related uncertainty has increasingly exacerbated the impact of a broader global economic slowdown. Risks also remain skewed to the downside as sentiment about the year ahead is worryingly subdued, suggesting the third quarter could see businesses continue to struggle.”

Source: Guardian

Boris Johnson: UK will not build infrastructure at Irish border

In an interview with The Spectator, Boris Johnson, the Conservative leadership candidate, said that there were no circumstances in which a Government led by him would be prepared to contemplate building infrastructure on the Irish border. Asked whether he agreed with the suggestion that there would only be infrastructure if the Irish Government builds it, Johnson replied, “correct, correct.” He also said that the question of solving the Irish border is “going to be the shape of the answer to the entire problem of how the UK can come out of the EU while retaining frictionless trade.” He added that the question was “simply in microcosm, the problem that will be expressed at every UK/EU frontier when we come out … what is essential is that we are not locked in the customs union, not in the single market.”

Source: The Spectator

Open Europe reviews press reactions to the EU top jobs nominations

In a new blog, Open Europe surveys press reactions to the ‘package’ agreed by EU leaders at the European Council summit on Tuesday.

The piece looks at how papers in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Ireland portray the impact of nominations agreed by EU leaders for European and domestic politics.