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The Financial Times reports that the UK is prepared to offer at least €20bn to the EU to cover its commitments to the EU budget until 2020, when the current multiannual budget period ends. UK officials have reportedly signalled that no EU member state would have to contribute more to the EU budget, or receive less, until 2020. The UK hopes this offer will help advance talks to the second round of negotiations on future UK-EU relations. The Financial Times reports a senior EU diplomat as saying, “We will at least have something to talk about. But it is not where the landing zone is…Transition payments do not cancel the bill.”
This comes as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said, “It is obviously legitimate and right” that the UK should pay its legal financial obligations to the EU “during the period of membership,” and, “Where our lawyers say we are on the hook for stuff, then we are going to have to pay.” But he added, “I don’t think the sums should be too high…What I do not envisage is that we should pay into the EU just for access to the single market, or some such concept. It does not seem to be necessary. We do not get money for access to our markets.”
Separately, Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to hold a special meeting of the cabinet at 10am on Thursday to update ministers on her Brexit speech in Florence the following day. This comes after Johnson yesterday denied his intention to resign from cabinet, despite an article in The Daily Telegraph suggesting he could step down by the weekend if May advocates a plan for a “Swiss-style” Brexit deal on Friday. Elsewhere, European Council President Donald Tusk has announced that he will meet May in London next Tuesday to discuss Brexit.
Financial Times The Guardian Press Association
Speaking to Bloomberg, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that Britain is making a “huge mistake” in its approach to the Brexit negotiations, arguing that the British government’s attitude makes maintaining an invisible border on the island of Ireland “very, very difficult to achieve.” He called for Britain to “evolve” its position to one that “creates a new customs union that the EU and Britain would be part of, which would prevent the need for any infrastructure on that border.”
He added, “It’s not realistic to expect that Britain will negotiate its own free trade arrangements all over the world [and] expect barrier-free access to European markets.”
On Britain paying any financial settlement, he said: “In Britain they call it an exit bill. The rest of Europe calls it Britain basically following through on the commitments that it made to the EU budget a number of years ago.”
Elsewhere, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, will visit leaders from Ireland and Northern Ireland this week as part of a fact-finding mission.
Speaking at the Liberal Democrat party conference, party leader Sir Vince Cable stated that “disaster looms” as a result of Brexit. He called for “political adults” from both the Conservatives and Labour to join the Liberal Democrats in trying to reverse Brexit.
He also repeated his party’s calls for another referendum, saying: “The British public must be given a vote on the [outcome of exit negotiations]. Let me be clear on this. This is not a re-run. This is not a call for a second referendum on Brexit. This is a call for a first referendum on the facts.”
However, he also stated that the Liberal Democrats are not “a single issue party” and that they “should not be consumed by Brexit to the exclusion of everything else.”
A Tuesday poll indicated that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to win a fourth term in Sunday’s election as her CDU/CSU ‘Union’ of conservatives maintains a solid lead over her main rival, the SPD under Martin Schulz, despite a recent dip. The survey, conducted by Forsa for RTL television and Stern magazine, showed the Union down one percentage point at 36 percent, while the SPD was unchanged on 23 percent.
Attention is now beginning to turn to who Merkel will govern with, rather than whether she will stay in power. Possible options include another grand coalition with the SPD, or an untested three-way “Jamaica” alliance with the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens.
Some polls suggest the AfD, which recently called for Merkel to be “severely punished” for opening the door to refugees and migrants, could emerge as the third largest party. If this were to be the case, the AfD would be the first far-right group to enter Germany’s federal parliament in more than half a century.