1 September 2017

Liam Fox: The UK can’t be blackmailed on the financial settlement

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has warned that the UK “can’t be blackmailed into paying a price [on the financial settlement].” He said, “We think we should begin discussions on the final settlement because that’s good for business, and it’s good for the prosperity both of the British people and of the rest of the people of the European Union.” He also suggested that opening discussions on the future UK-EU trade relations would help “unlock some of the tension,” adding, “It’s very clear that businesses, not just in Europe but investors in places like here in Japan, are getting impatient and want to see what that final shape of that [Brexit] arrangement is going to be. ” The Financial Times also reports Fox saying he had received “representations” from European countries including Germany and Spain calling for greater pressure to be put on the European Commission to outline the future UK-EU relationship in order to maintain Europe’s “open and liberal trading environment.”

This comes as Brexit Secretary David Davis told a press conference at the close of negotiations yesterday, “We can only resolve some of these issues with an eye on how the new partnership between us will work in the future…This is not about skipping ahead or trying to reopen previous discussions; it is about pragmatically driving the progress we all want to see.” He added that the UK recognised its “moral obligations” regarding the financial settlement, but clarified, “Those obligations have got to be well specified, they’ve got to be real.” On his return from Brussels, Davis said he was a “determined optimist” about talks with the EU.

Speaking at the same conference yesterday, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said, “After this week, it is clear that the UK does not feel legally obliged to honour these [financial] obligations after departure.” He added, “The current state of progress means we are quite far from being able to say sufficient progress has taken place – not far enough for me to be able to say to the European council that we can start to discuss the future relationship.”

Separately, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney yesterday told Chancellor Philip Hammond, “A lot of work is still required on these [withdrawal] issues ahead of any decision by the European Council.” This comes as Sinn Fein called on the Irish government to “insist that the negotiations are not ready to move to the next stage.”

Meanwhile, Open Europe’s Henry Newman is quoted in City AM saying, “Neither side wants to jump first but this is still a very strong hand for the UK – in legal terms, if we do drop out without agreement, the EU will get nothing at all, and they need it to make their figures work.”

Source: BBC News The Financial Times The Guardian Reuters City AM

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Tom Watson: UK could remain in single market and customs union “permanently”

Speaking to BBC’s Newsnight, Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson said, “We think that being part of the customs union and the single market is important in those transitional times because that is the way you protect jobs and the economy. And it might be a permanent outcome of the negotiations, but we have got to see how those negotiations go.” This comes after Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer recently announced the Labour Party’s new position to keep the UK in the single market and customs union for a transition period.


Statistics chief criticises “seriously misleading” leak of student migration report

The UK Statistics Authority Chair, Sir David Norgrove, has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd expressing concerns over the leak of a report which claimed that 97 percent of international students left the UK after their studies, meaning there could be tens of thousands fewer immigrants in the UK than previously thought. He wrote, “Whoever spoke to the journalist seems only to have half understood the data or inadequately communicated them. The result was seriously misleading, creating confusion where clarity was important. But a more accurate leak would still have been misleading, because it would have been partial (in all senses), and left the journalist and the public lacking context. The leak was the more damaging in view of the sensitivity of migration data.”


Fallon: Strong Anglo-French defence cooperation will not be affected by Brexit

UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has told Reuters that the UK’s exit from the EU will not harm strong defence ties between the UK and France. He said, “I know French and British companies are concerned that we should not lose any cooperation after Brexit because we are working together on combat aircraft programs and new missiles systems that we need to progress on together…This is a strong relationship and it is not going to be diverted by Brexit.” France and the UK yesterday agreed to hold joint military exercises in September and November in Eastern Europe and Kenya.


Guy Verhofstadt: The EU has always shown flexibility to the UK

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, European Parliament chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, argues that since the UK joined the EU “it has enjoyed a bespoke form of membership that is unique.” He writes, “UK ministers seem to want to devise a new customs union and seek to recreate all of the EU’s structures, in order to continue to benefit from the best elements of the EU, without it being called the EU. This is not serious, fair or even possible given the negotiating time remaining.” Verhofstadt warns that there is a “real danger” that sufficient progress will not be made by October in order to move on to the second phase of the talks – the discussion of the UK-EU future agreement.


Hungary calls for EU to “pay its share” of the border wall

Janos Lazar, the chief of staff to Hungarian Prime Minsiter Viktor Orban, has said that “Brussels should pay its share” of the €800 million border wall Hungary erected to prevent the flow of migrants from outside the EU. The EU is unlikely to pay €400 million towards the border fences, having previously declared such walls a national issue that it does not support. This comes ahead of a ruling by the European Court of Justice on cases brought by Hungary and Slovakia that EU efforts to enforce a migrant relocation scheme were illegal. A non-binding opinion by the ECJ Advocate-General in July found against Hungary and Slovakia.


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