18 October 2018

French government releases draft legislation for No Deal preparation

The French government yesterday published the full text of a draft legislation which would allow the executive to take emergency measures in the event of a No Deal Brexit scenario. On the rights of British citizens currently resident in France, the draft law states, “The [French] government is paying very close attention…to the rights of French citizens who have settled in the UK. The government will take appropriate measures regarding British nationals in France.” It also notes that under No Deal, UK citizens would be considered “third country citizens and therefore… [will have to] present a visa to enter French territory, and provide a residence permit to stay in France.” The document adds that a No Deal scenario would mean re-establishing “controls on goods and passengers going to and coming from the UK,” as well as “the reinstatement of veterinary and phytosanitary controls at EU borders for live animals and plant products coming from the UK, or coming from third countries transiting via the UK.” Customs border checks will “have to be in place on the day of [the UK’s] withdrawal without an agreement, or at the end of the transition period in case of the application of a withdrawal agreement.” It notes that putting these controls in place “will slow down the flow of traffic and risks ending up obstructing” ports and roads, and says the French government is planning infrastructure improvements such as parking areas, roads, buildings and control areas to be put in place before Brexit.

Elsewhere, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her government has started to make “suitable preparations” for a potential No Deal Brexit scenario. She added, “The chances of reaching a good and viable exit agreement on time still exists. And it’s really in the interests of us and our relationship to Great Britain.”

Source: French Senate The Guardian

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UK government considering extension of Brexit transition

In her presentation to EU27 leaders yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly said she would consider extending the Brexit transition by 12 months to help overcome outstanding issues on the backstop proposal. Under current plans, the transition would end in December 2020. This comes after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, suggested extending the transition until the end of 2021 earlier this week.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also said he could support extending the Brexit transition, but stressed that this “couldn’t be a substitute for the backstop.” Varadkar also noted that negotiating the future UK-EU economic and security relationship within the 21-month transition currently envisaged “would be a real challenge.” Speaking about the backstop itself, he said, “The EU and UK agreed in writing back in March it must apply unless and until…It can be temporary by all means but it can’t have an expiry date.”

Separately, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that the EU’s proposed extension of the transition period “would create more time for Britain and the EU to negotiate what the UK has asked for, which is a UK-wide customs arrangement that would ensure that even if a backstop were triggered at some point in the future there would be no customs checks between Britain and Northern Ireland.”

Elsewhere, May yesterday told the House of Commons, “The purpose of the backstop is to bridge the gap between the end of the implementation period and ensuring that the future relationship is in place.”

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Dominic Raab: Parliament’s ‘meaningful vote’ on Withdrawal Agreement must allow for “an unequivocal decision”

In a letter to the chair of the Procedure Select Committee, Charles Walker, the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab wrote yesterday, “Once the [withdrawal] deal is presented to parliament, the procedure through which it is voted upon must allow for an unequivocal decision, and one which is clear to the British people.” Raab was responding to an enquiry about the government’s view on whether the House of Commons would be able to add amendments to the resolution tabling the Withdrawal Agreement. Raab added that “anything other than a straightforward approval of the deal will bring with it huge uncertainty for business, consumers and citizens.” Responding to the letter, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said it was attempt to “fix the vote,” while Conservative MP Nicky Morgan said that it “appears to be an attempt by the executive to frustrate our sovereign Parliament.” Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer added, “That is not a meaningful vote. Ministers cannot silence Parliament.”

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IoD urges government to help small businesses prepare for Brexit

The Institute of Directors (IoD) business group has called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to use the upcoming budget to help small businesses prepare for a potential No Deal Brexit scenario. The IoD proposes that small firms are offered a grant of between £2,000 and £3,000 to seek sector-specific professional advice on Brexit planning. The proposal is expected to cost the government £700 million and would be in line with financial support offered by the Irish government bodies to its firms.

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UK will not compromise on food standards post-Brexit, says Liam Fox

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox yesterday denied suggestions that the UK would decrease food standards in order to agree a free trade deal with the US after Brexit. Fox told representatives of the agricultural sector, “There have been a lot of reports lately, mostly on social media, that my Department [of International Trade] has been planning to lower food and farming standards when negotiating Free Trade Agreements post-Brexit. Well, today I am here in person, and let me tell you categorically that these reports are untrue.” This comes after the US Trade Representative stated in a letter to the US Congress earlier this week that “reducing or eliminating [of] unjustified sanitary or phytosanitary restrictions” and “other unjustified technical barriers to trade” was essential for any free trade agreement.

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WTO head warns trade wars would damage global growth

World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has called for an end to an end to the deepening trade war between the US and China saying, “Without action to ease tensions and recommit to cooperation in trade, we could see serious harm done to the multilateral trading system.” A worst case scenario is estimated to lower global trade growth by 17% and global economic growth by 1.9%, according to WTO economists.

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