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The EU could issue its chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier new instructions in order to reach agreement on a future partnership with the UK, reports the Financial Times. According to the paper, EU27 leaders will discuss giving additional guidance to Barnier at an informal summit in Salzburg, Austria, on September 20, with an EU official quoted describing the instructions as a “sort of mandate to do the [Brexit] deal.” If there is an agreement among leaders, the guidelines could be adopted at the October European Council summit in preparation for a special Brexit summit in November.
Elsewhere, Minister for Cabinet Office David Lidington said that he is confident that the UK and the EU will reach a deal by the end of November at the latest.
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Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson yesterday in the Mail on Sunday attacked the Government’s Chequers proposal as “a humiliation” for the UK, claiming, “We have opened ourselves to perpetual political blackmail. We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution – and handed the detonator to [EU chief Brexit negotiator] Michel Barnier.” Johnson also criticised the “insanity of the so-called ‘backstop’ [to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland], arguing that it left the UK with “two appalling options: either we must divide the union, or the whole country must accept EU law forever.” This comes as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote a rebuttal to Johnson’s piece in the same paper, claiming that Prime Minister Theresa May “would never recommend a deal that was inconsistent with what the country voted for.”
Elsewhere, The Sunday Times reports that Johnson will no longer support plans drawn up by Eurosceptic Conservative MPs for an ‘alternative Brexit.’ The Eurosceptic European Research Group has delayed plans to publish its full Brexit proposal, and is still considering whether to publish a paper on its solution to the Irish border issue.
Meanwhile, former Brexit Minister Steve Baker has warmed of a “catastrophic split” of the Conservative party if the Prime Minister pushed ahead with her Chequers proposal for Brexit.
Separately, the Sunday Telegraph reports that Theresa May will seek the votes of Labour MPs to ensure that her Brexit proposal passes through the House of Commons, and would also try “peeling off” some Conservative MPs who currently oppose her plans.
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A new YouGov poll suggests that the members of the UK’s three biggest trade unions, Unite, Unison and GMB, now back a referendum on the final Brexit deal by 59, 62 and 66 percent respectively. They are also all in favour of remaining within the EU. This comes as the head of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Frances O’Grady, yesterday announced that her organisation will officially campaign for a second Brexit referendum unless the final Brexit deal “protects jobs, protects rights and avoids a hard border in Northern Ireland.”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox this weekend said on Brexit, “We have got to be rational and say that everything will not be wonderful because we are leaving the European Union… there are great opportunities that come from Brexit but that is not a guarantee that everything is going to be rosy on the other side.” Fox cautioned against “an irrational positivity” and urged to “look in a balanced way at the pluses we can control.” On the government’s Chequers proposal for a post-Brexit UK-EU relationship, he said, “A lot of the Chequers [proposal] is very challenging to the European Union… They will not offer a deal that compromises their current institutional relationships. We have to wait and see what that means,” adding, “We will negotiate this and then we will determine whether we think this is a good deal or not a good deal for Britain.”
The chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), George Hamilton, yesterday warned the Government against underestimating the threat of renewed violence in Northern Ireland after Brexit. Hamilton said, “There’s a feeling that as regards the Troubles and the conflict, Northern Ireland is sorted and we don’t need to worry about it, when actually we’re working flat out 24/7 to keep a lid on it,” adding that so far this year, “there have been dozens of successful [police] operations which have led to the disruption and prevention of murderous attacks by violent dissident Republicans.” He also warned that “violent dissident Republican groupings or organised criminals will seek to exploit” new opportunities for cross-border smuggling.
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Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has decided to postpone the withdrawal of the last British troops from German territory, the Sunday Times reports. According to the paper, 200 British servicemen and their families will remain in Germany in a bid to deter Russian aggressions and show the UK’s commitment to the defence of Europe also after Brexit. A senior source is quoted saying, “Part of it is about making Germany do more. We’ve been pushing Germany to increase its defence spending.”
Following yesterday’s parliamentary election in Sweden, the ruling Social Democrat Party and its centre-left coalition won 40.6% of the votes, with the centre-right bloc Alliance receiving 40.3%, while the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats gained 17.6%, up from 12.9% from the previous election. The main parliamentary blocs will now have to agree on a working coalition, as neither reached a majority of seats in parliament.
According to the Financial Times, the EU has drafted proposals to introduce a 10,000 EU border force, with the aim to protect “the union external borders, prevent secondary movements [between EU countries] and significantly step up the effective return of irregular migrants.” Under EU plans, guards could have the power to use armed force at borders. A senior EU official said, “We want to federalise external border protection as much as possible and help out countries on the front line.”