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Speaking at the Commonwealth business forum yesterday, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Brexit provides the UK “the opportunity to reinvigorate our Commonwealth partnerships” and “usher in a new era harnessing the movement of expertise, talent goods and capital between our nations in a way that we have not done for a generation or more.” He also warned against trade protectionism, saying, “You cannot choose to have protectionism rather than free trade without there being consequences. If you choose not to have global free trade, do not be surprised if you get increased mass migration or increased radicalisation.”
Also speaking at the forum, Prime Minister Theresa May urged the Commonwealth nations to help “break down barriers to trade” in order to create more jobs and strengthen economies. She argued that the Commonwealth “can set a powerful example to the world, one that demonstrates and underlines the importance of protecting free trade and the rules-based international order.” May stressed that the Commonwealth nations must “continue to work together by building on our existing trade links and establishing new ones.”
Elsewhere, the Chinese Ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, has warned that, “Only with an EU-UK deal can the UK be in a better position to have more detailed discussions with other players of the international community,” adding, “If the EU and the UK fail to reach agreement in the first place, the UK’s agreements with other parties may have to face great uncertainties.” In an interview with Politico, Ming said China hopes that the Brexit talks go smoothly as “we do not want to see spillover effects on the global economy as a result of setbacks of the talks.”
Reuters GOV.UK: Theresa May speech at commonwealth business forum The Times Politico The Times
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney yesterday said the negotiations between British, Irish and EU officials on a solution for the Irish border have not yet produced a deal. Technical talks will resume tomorrow. Coveney also said, “June is a very important date from an Irish perspective. We are putting down a marker which says that if there is not significant progress towards trying to find a wording that puts in place an operational backstop by June then we will have to ask some pretty serious questions about whether it is possible to do it by October.”
This comes after Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week called for increased bilateral engagements between the British and Irish governments post-Brexit to replace meetings that currently take place at EU summits. He said, “If you do not have those regular meetings and engagements, those relationships decline. We will have to make a special effort to keep a close relationship with Britain.” He also proposed annual joint cabinet meetings, similar to the arrangement between France and Germany.
The Irish Times
In an interview with Le Figaro, leader of the European parliament’s European People Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, said, “The right approach [to the Eurozone] rests on financial discipline, on national reforms, and on investment. Germany is ready to increase its contribution to the EU budget. But it will continue to rely on this proven trilogy.” On the subject of French domestic reforms, Weber said, “The success of its internal reforms is a precondition to European success.” On the recent re-election of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose party sits in the EPP, he said, “We should be respectful of a democratic choice. Hungarian citizens are concerned about their values and their identity, about immigration and terrorism. It is up to politicians to offer clear responses.”
Elsewhere, ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron’s address to the European parliament this morning, Le Figaro quotes a source who says the speech will be “an appeal to Europe’s responsibility, to commitment, to pride.”
The EU has submitted a complaint to the WTO over the US’ new tariffs on steel and aluminum. In the document, the EU reportedly rejects “the United States’ characterisation of these [new tariff] measures as security measures,” and instead holds “they are in essence [illegal] safeguard measures.” China had already taken the same step earlier.
New figures released by the Office for National Statistics show, contrary to common belief, that two-thirds of the 784,900 British citizens registered as long-term residents in the EU outside the UK and Ireland are aged between 15 and 64 and are therefore in working age. Spain, France and Germany are the countries hosting the highest number of British emigrants. However, the figures also reveal that the UK has the smallest proportion of emigrants living in another EU member state, at 26%, as opposed to 33% of emigrants living in Australia and New Zealand and 28% living in the US and Canada.
Writing in ConservativeHome, Open Europe’s Henry Newman argues that “it’s not true that the EU has been perfectly united, nor that its negotiating positions have remained static. We have seen some openings, for example on the question of financial services. Earlier in the year, Gentiloni, the Italian Prime Minister, broke ranks and argued that the future deal must include financial services…Then Charles Michel, the Belgian Prime Minister, called for “Canada plus plus” and [French President] Emmanuel Macron told Andrew Marr that the UK could have something between the “full access [of the Single Market] and a trade agreement”. Newman concludes that Macron “seems instinctively to understand that Brexit …is first and foremost about politics and diplomacy,” and could potentially broker some sort of a compromise in the Brexit deal.