26 June 2019

Jeremy Hunt says he would pursue a “different” Brexit deal without the Irish backstop

The Foreign Secretary and candidate for Conservative Party leadership, Jeremy Hunt, told the BBC that if he became Prime Minister, he would not pursue a No Deal Brexit if there was a “prospect of a better deal” which would not involve the Irish backstop protocol. Hunt said, “What [Prime Minister] Theresa May tried to do was a deal involving the backstop,” adding, “I was in Cabinet at the time and I supported her loyally, but I never thought that was the right approach. What I’m talking about is a deal that doesn’t involve the backstop as it’s constituted, so it would be different.”

Meanwhile, the other candidate, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, said that changes to the current Withdrawal Agreement were not enough, adding, “We need a new Withdrawal Agreement – if we’re going to go out [of the EU] on the basis of a Withdrawal Agreement.” Johnson also said that the UK would not be able to “unilaterally use a GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Article] 24 solution” in order to avoid applying tariffs to trade with the EU in a No Deal Brexit, adding, “But you could agree with our EU friends and partners to go forward together on that basis.”

Elsewhere, Johnson wrote a letter to Hunt in which he says, “If I am elected leader, we will leave on 31 October with or without a deal,” and asks, “Will you join in this commitment to leave on 31 October come what may?” Hunt commented, “I think that October 31 come hell or high water is a fake deadline, because it’s more likely to trip us into a general election before we’ve delivered Brexit, and that would hand the keys to [Labour Party leader] Jeremy Corbyn and then we’d have no Brexit at all.”

Digital hustings organised by Conservative Campaign Headquarters will take place today at 7PM.

Separately, a YouGov survey of 1,680 people for The Times shows that 43 per cent of respondents support remaining in the EU as their first choice, compared to 28 per cent supporting a No Deal Brexit, 13 per cent supporting the current Withdrawal Agreement and 16 per cent supporting a softer Brexit with membership of the Customs Union and Single Market. 50 per cent of people surveyed said a softer Brexit was their second choice, and 32 per cent put the current Withdrawal Agreement as second choice.

Source: BBC News The Guardian Financial Times Politico Boris Johnson The Times

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German Ambassador to UK: Germany "not giving up" on achieving orderly Brexit

The German Ambassador to the UK, Peter Wittig, said yesterday that Germany was “not giving up in achieving an orderly Brexit.” Addressing a meeting of car manufacturers in London, Wittig said that Germany had been a “pragmatic voice” in the Brexit process and “we will continue to be that.” He added, “Even if we have a short window while the new Prime Minister is in place, we will welcome any idea how to solve that famous [Irish] backstop issue and we will be willing to work towards a negotiated deal which is long term the only viable and sensible option for Europe.”

Elsewhere, the Irish Government yesterday published its summer economic statement, which said that under a No Deal Brexit Ireland would expect a deficit “in the region of -0.5 per cent to -1.5 per cent of GDP for next year, depending on the magnitude of the economic shock.” This compares to an expected surplus of 0.4 per cent for 2020 in an orderly Brexit scenario.

Separately, the UK car industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) warned yesterday, “Leaving without a deal would trigger the most seismic shift in trading conditions ever experienced by automotive, with billions of pounds of tariffs threatening to impact consumer choice and affordability.” The SMMT added that border delays in such a scenario could cost the industry £50,000 a minute.

Source: The Guardian The Irish Times Reuters

Seven EU leaders back European Commission’s ambition to conclude trade deal with Mercosur

The leaders of seven EU member states have backed the European Commission’s ambition conclude a trade deal with South American trade bloc Mercosur (which consists of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay). In a letter to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, seen by Politico, the leaders write, “We kindly ask you to submit to Mercosur a balanced and reasonable offer that will pave the way for the conclusion of the Agreement… We have to take advantage of the current political momentum in Mercosur countries and not let this window of opportunities close.” The seven signatories include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, as well as the leaders of Portugal, Sweden, Latvia and the Czech Republic.

Elsewhere, the EU Council of Ministers yesterday approved the EU-Vietnam trade and investment agreements, which are now due to be signed in Hanoi on Sunday 30 June. Once the agreements have been signed by both sides, it will be presented to the European Parliament for approval. The trade agreement will eliminate nearly all customs duties on goods traded between the EU and Vietnam. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said that the Vietnam deal, together with the recent EU-Singapore deal, represented “stepping stones” to greater engagement between the EU and Southeast Asia.

Source: Politico European Commission

New poll finds strong support for Spitzenkandidat system

A new Ipsos poll asking residents of seven different EU member states whether the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ system for selecting candidates for the European Commission presidency should be respected found an overall strong support for the system. The survey, commissioned by the European People’s Party (EPP) group, found the strongest support in Greece, where 96% agreed the system should be respected, followed by Spain (95%), Poland (90%), France (85%), Germany (85%), Czech Republic (82%) and the Netherlands (78%).

Source: Politico

New centre-left government formed in Denmark

A new centre-left government has been formed in Denmark after the general election earlier this month. The leader of the Social Democrats, Mette Frederiksen, has been confirmed as Prime Minister of a minority government, with parliamentary support from the Socialist People’s Party, the Red-Green Alliance, and the Social Liberal Party.

Source: Reuters

Pieter Cleppe: Negotiations on alternative arrangements will require concessions from all sides

In an article for CapX, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe writes that negotiations about “alternative arrangements” to the backstop will require “concessions… from all sides.” He adds, “When it comes to protecting trade between the world’s fifth biggest economy and the world’s largest trade bloc, there is no alternative to perpetual negotiations and flexibility.”


Elsewhere, in a piece for The Article, Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh writes that the next Prime Minister “will need Labour votes” to pass any Brexit deal. He adds, “The chief concern of these Labour MPs is political: they’ll only support a deal if they think it might actually pass.”