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The Government is holding talks with pharmaceutical companies about funding the extra costs of stockpiling vital medicines in case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday. Hancock told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that in case of ‘no deal’, “The medicine delivery to the hospitals should continue unhindered…The task is for the pharmaceutical companies to ensure that enough supplies are available to ensure that can happen,” adding, “We are talking to the pharmaceutical industry about what extra costs the government will cover.. and about the extra costs that they might have to incur in that eventuality.”
Elsewhere, according to a leaked Treasury briefing entitled ‘Operation Yellowhammer: No deal contingency planning,’ the Government has asked the Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS), which is responsible for emergency planning, to assess the UK’s contingency preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario. The document also states that the Treasury’s objectives are to develop a “communication architecture that can help maintain confidence in the event of contingency plans being triggered,” in particular “for financial services,” whilst raising concerns regarding “aviation and rail access to the EU.”
Separately, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond yesterday suggested Whitehall departments would have to “refocus” their spending priorities in case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Hammond said, “In no-deal circumstances we would have to refocus Government priorities so that Government was concentrated on the circumstances that we found ourselves in.” However, the Prime Minister’s spokesman yesterday said, “There is a pot of money available and nobody has been told to cut frontline spending elsewhere.”
The Guardian The Daily Telegraph Press Association
In a joint diplomatic note, six EU member state ambassadors to Ireland have said, “The future of Northern Ireland and its relation with Ireland strongly depends on the final Brexit deal between the UK and the EU. With the ongoing negotiations, people are less inclined to say that a united Ireland will not happen in their lifetime.” They also say, “A bad deal for Northern Ireland can speed up the process towards a possibly united Ireland. With a bad deal the North can lose both of its most important revenue streams, the all-Island economy and UK as well as EU subsidies.”
Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that Ireland is planning to strike a special Brexit deal with the EU under which goods from the European continent would be checked in France, sealed, and then travel to Ireland through the UK. Carol-Ann O’Keeffe, assistant principal of corporate affairs and customs division at Revenue Commissioners, said, “There are negotiations going on at EU level where the regulatory check would have been done in France and we are hopeful that [those goods] will be sealed and can travel through the UK and come to Ireland then.” O’Keeffe also said that Ireland had detailed plans to carry out customs and health checks in Irish ports and airports in case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
The Irish Times
In response to reports of EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier saying the UK Government’s Chequers proposals were “dead in the water,” European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said, “Michel Barnier was very clear expressing the Commission position on Chequers from the very first moment…We identified where there were positive elements and we discussed also the possibility for further discussions to address issues that still create problems.”
Elsewhere, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab reportedly told Michel Barnier that in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, the EU will be forced to ask the Irish Republic to implement checks at the border with Northern Ireland, according to the Daily Telegraph. The paper also reports that an emergency European Council summit dealing specifically with Brexit is being scheduled for November 13.
The Daily Telegraph
The Times reports that the Conservative Eurosceptic group, the European Research Group (ERG), will delay publication of their report on an alternative Brexit strategy to the government’s Chequers plan, which was due to be released next week. Thinking on this issue is reportedly “evolving” within the group. The ERG are instead expected to publish proposals next week to break the deadlock on the Northern Irish backstop solution. The Sun reports that this will include suggestions for EU staff to be allowed into UK ports, such as Liverpool and Bristol, to conduct checks on goods.
Elsewhere, former UK Representative to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers yesterday commented on the Irish border ‘backstop’, “Politically, the only way one can see the prime minister selling a withdrawal agreement with a legal all-weather backstop in it is if she is simultaneously able to point to a political declaration which suggests a trade deal for all UK which will obviate the need for such a backstop ever to come into force.”
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According to a quarterly survey by State Street Corporation, a narrow majority of institutional investors plan to keep their holdings of UK assets into early 2019. The surveys consisted of 101 participants across hedge funds, real estate and private equity investors. The proportion of investors expecting their holdings of UK bonds, stocks and alternatives to stay constant was at 55%. The survey also discovered that the demand for holding UK assets was at almost 21%, the highest level in nearly two years, while simultaneously the amount of investors looking to decrease their holdings of UK assets increased to 20%.
The Polish government is threatening to block a capital increase for the European Investment Bank (EIB) after Brexit, according to the Financial Times. The paper reports that Poland is demanding an “asymmetric increase” in its capital share in the EIB, to match its growing economic influence within the EU. This comes as a post-Brexit EIB restructuring with capital increases based on current shares would put the bank’s three largest shareholders Germany, France, and Italy in a dominant position with 58% of the votes, compared to 48% today. Other member states reportedly are sceptical that a change in shareholding proportions may threaten the banks triple-A borrower rating.
In a joint statement yesterday, Germany, France, Canada, the US and the UK condemned the use of the chemical nerve agent ‘Novichok’ in Salisbury, UK, on 4 March. They declared, “Full confidence in the British assessment that the two suspects were officers from the Russian military intelligence service… and that this operation was almost certainly approved at a senior government level,” further announcing that they “have already taken action together to disrupt the activities of the [Russian intelligence service] GRU through the largest ever collective expulsion of undeclared intelligence officers.” While France gave its “full and wholehearted” support for creating an EU sanctions regime on chemicals weapons use, the Financial Times reports that European diplomats think divisions among EU member states may make the introduction of new collective sanctions against Russia unlikely. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said, “If it’s not possible [to achieve a united reaction], we are doing it nationally.” This comes as the Italian Government stated they did not intent “to add new sanctions to the one that are already in place.”
Ahead of Sweden’s parliamentary elections this Sunday, a new YouGov poll suggests that the far-right Sweden Democrats could receive 24.8% of the vote, which would make it the strongest party ahead of the Social Democrats (23.8%) and the liberal-conservative Moderate Party (16.5%). However, other polls rank the Sweden Democrats lower, with polls by Demoskop and Swedish Radio putting them at 18.2% and 19% respectively.
Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe was interviewed by Polish Radio discussing this weekend’s Swedish elections, saying “It is possible it will be necessary to form a grand coalition if the right wing populist Sweden Democrats do well.”
The UK and France have this week reached a deal on the issue of harvesting scallops in the English Channel after French fishermen accused Britain of overfishing scallops in Normandy. Their joint statement said, “The UK and French fishing industries and governments held constructive talks today about scallop fishing in the eastern Channel… The previous agreement involving the UK 15m and over fleet will be renewed… In addition, there is agreement in principle for UK under-15m vessels to be included in the deal. This is subject to a reasonable compensation package, the details of which will be defined in Paris on Friday. In the meantime, there is a voluntary agreement for all UK vessels to respect the French closure period in the Baie de Seine.”