13 July 2017

Keir Starmer: Labour will vote against Great Repeal Bill unless May makes concessions

Shadow Secretary for Brexit, Sir Keir Starmer, has warned that Labour will vote against the Great Repeal Bill, which will revoke the European Communities Act and transfer EU law into UK law, unless Prime Minister Theresa May makes concessions on six issues. These include ensuring workers’ rights in Britain remain of the same standard as those in the EU; incorporating the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law; and limiting the scope of “Henry VIII powers”, which could allow the government to amend legislation without the approval of Parliament. Starmer said he was “putting the government on notice,” adding, “We have very serious issues with the government’s approach, and unless the government addresses those issues, we will not be supporting the bill.” The Repeal Bill is due to be published this morning.

Source: The Guardian

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Michel Barnier calls for flexibility on financial settlement

Speaking at a press conference, the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier urged the UK to show flexibility on a financial settlement for Brexit. Barnier said, “It is a major question in creating the foundation we need to start discussion on the future relationship, which is a very important topic. How to build a relationship on trade, on security or defence, on other topics, like universities for instance, how to build a stable relationship in the long run with a country if there is no trust? How do you do it?” He added, “It is not a ransom, it is not an exit bill, it is not a punishment or above all not revenge… We will not ask for a single euro, a single pound more than [the U.K.] legally committed.” In response to UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s comment that the EU can “go whistle” if they expect a large financial settlement payment, Barnier said, “I am not hearing any whistling, just a clock ticking.”

On the issue of citizens’ rights, he said, “We want European citizens in the United Kingdom to have the same rights as British citizens who are living in Spain or any other country of the European Union. The British position as it now stands does not allow for that reciprocity.” On Monday, negotiators are expected to start discussing the different parameters of the financial settlement in working groups.


MPs back Euratom membership for the UK after Brexit

At a debate in Westminster Hall yesterday, MPs from across the political divide backed Britain retaining membership of the European atomic energy community (Euratom), after Brexit. Conservative MP Bob Neill said that Euratom brings “very great benefits” to the UK, adding, “We should do all that is possible legally to maintain those benefits, by whatever means it takes, we should not allow any thoughts of ideological purity to get in the way of achieving that. My judgment is that if we can legally remain within Euratom, we should do so.” Business and Energy Minister Richard Harrington said the government will aim to maintain civil nuclear cooperation with Euratom and the rest of the world, adding, “The Government’s determined that the nuclear industry in this country should continue to flourish in trade, regulation and innovative nuclear research and we’re determined to have a constructive, collaborative relationship with Euratom.” He added, “We will continue to apply international standards on nuclear safeguards. We do not believe that leaving Euratom will have any adverse effects on the supply of medical radio isotopes.”

Separately, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who stood in for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at yesterday’s PMQs, asked, “Isn’t the truth now that we have a no-deal option on the table, but they won’t tell us what that is, they’ve got contingency plans but they won’t let the public see them?” First Secretary of State Damian Green, standing in for Prime Minister Theresa May, said, “We are saying that it is conceivable that we would be offered a punishment deal that would be worse than no deal. It is not our intention – we want to have a deal, we want to have a good deal.”

In a new blog, Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar argues that debate should now focus on the process of Britain’s withdrawal from Euratom, and says transitional measures may be necessary if adequate domestic safeguard measures cannot be put in place in time.


Auditor general criticises the government's preparation for Brexit

The auditor general of the UK’s National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, said that the government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations is not unified, and warned that the process could fall apart “like a chocolate orange.” He added, “The combined forces of DExEU [the Department for Exiting the EU] leadership, Treasury and Cabinet Office should be speaking on one voice on these matters.” He also said that in response to his request for Brexit guidance from the government for ministerial departments, he only received “vague” assurances. Morse said, “Leaving the EU is a negotiation. It means the results are uncertain and [departments] need to be fast and flexible and react in a unified way. We have an issue there because we have departmental government… There has to be strong integration.”



Moody’s may downgrade UK credit rating if Brexit negotiations deliver poor EU market access

Credit rating agency Moody’s has warned in its annual report that the UK’s Aa1 negative rating may be downgraded if it cannot secure good access to European markets after Brexit. Kathrin Muehlbronner, Moody’s senior vice president and author of the report, said, “While the negotiations with the EU have recently started, it remains unclear whether the UK Government can eventually deliver a reasonably good outcome for the UK. The likelihood of an abrupt – and damaging – exit with no agreement and reversion to WTO trading rules has increased compared to our expectation directly after the referendum, with the Government so far pursuing objectives that imply a ‘hard’ exit.”


King Felipe foresees an arrangement on Gibraltar acceptable to all, but UK says sovereignty is not up for discussion

During an address to both Houses of Parliament as part of a state visit to the UK, King Felipe of Spain said, “I am certain that [the UK and Spain’s historical] resolve to overcome our differences will be even greater in the case of Gibraltar and I am confident that through the necessary dialogue and effort, our two governments will be able to work towards arrangements that are acceptable to all involved.”

A spokesman for the UK government said, “While Gibraltar is an issue on which we do not see eye to eye, our position is clear: the sovereignty of Gibraltar is not up for discussion…As we leave the EU we are committed to working with our partners to secure a deal that works for the UK and the EU and its remaining members, including Spain. And that deal must also work for Gibraltar.”


European Commission recommends closing excessive deficit procedure for Greece

The European Commission will recommend to the European Council to end the disciplinary procedures against Greece over its excessive deficit following improvements in its economic position. Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, said, “Our recommendation to close the Excessive Deficit Procedure for Greece is another positive signal of financial stability and economic recovery in the country.” If the Council follows the Commission’s recommendation, only three Member States would remain under the corrective arm of the Stability and Growth Pact, France, Spain and the UK.


French PM: France will keep border controls in place until November

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe yesterday announced the government’s new migration plans which includes stricter law enforcement, returning rejected asylum seekers, and greater investment in integration and housing. He said, “Facing an emergency, the government has decided to maintain control on its national borders until November 2017,” and stated that accepting all economic migrants in France was “not possible, it is not the politics we have.” He also declared an intention to counter human trafficking from North Africa, and to work towards a common European migration policy.


Poland’s governing party accused of undermining judicial independence

Poland’s governing Law and Order Party (PiS) yesterday pushed through legal reforms which some claim will undermine the independence of the judiciary. The reforms will take the powers to appoint 15 judges to the 25-member council away from the judiciary and hand them to parliament. Judicial reform has been a key issue for PiS. The Commission last year opened an investigation into whether Poland complied with the values of the EU after pushing through reforms which reduced the power of the Constitutional Tribunal, Poland’s highest court. Rafal Trzaskowski, of the biggest opposition party, Civic Platform said yesterday’s reforms removed “any doubt, if there was any left, that PiS wants to make the judicial system dependent on the government”.


Aarti Shankar: Transitional arrangements will likely be key to leaving Euratom

In a blog for Open Europe, Aarti Shankar writes, “It is clearly the case that a non-EU country can have a strong civil nuclear industry. If the UK is able to secure an association agreement with Euratom in research and development, and establish priority cooperation agreements with other third countries, it should largely retain access to its existing nuclear supply chains. It is not the question of no longer being within Euratom that poses greatest risk at this point, it is the process by which we get there.” She argues, “If it is unlikely the UK will have adequate measures in place at the time of our exit from Euratom, the government should consider transitional arrangements. Current ideas for a transition include temporarily extending Euratom membership or voluntarily applying Euratom safeguards. But questions still remain as to how the EU would recognise and agree interim measures.” She concludes, “Accessing nuclear material for the UK’s energy, medical and research sectors is critically important, so all minds should be focused on ensuring there is no cliff-edge resulting from our exit from Euratom. This may mean accepting some continued oversight from European institutions, which some Leave campaigners look prepared to accept on the narrow topic of nuclear energy. Overall, this is a complex, sensitive and dangerous topic – and the Government and its critics need to proceed carefully and calmly.”

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