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Calling MPS and the public to support the Government’s Brexit plan published in a White Paper last week, Prime Minister Theresa May wrote in the Mail on Sunday, “I am yet to see a workable alternative future trading arrangement that would deliver on our commitments to Northern Ireland, preserve the constitutional integrity of the UK and deliver on the result of the referendum…So I believe we need to come together behind our plan.” She added, “My message to the country this weekend is simple: we need to keep our eyes on the prize… If we don’t, we risk ending up with no Brexit at all.”
Elsewhere, former Brexit Secretary David Davis wrote in the Sunday Times that it is “an astonishingly dishonest claim” to say that there is no “worked-out alternative” to the Government’s Brexit plan. Davis explained that the Department for Exiting the EU has “been working on a white paper based on the prime minister’s speeches,” which had for proposal to “allow the absolute right to diverge over regulations” with the EU, a plan that would bring “real parliamentary sovereignty.”
Separately, Chairman of the Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday commented on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme about May’s Brexit policy, “This seems to be a hopeless way to negotiate, to accept what the other side says at an early stage of negotiations as holy writ.” Rees-Mogg added that ERG members would vote for the amendments to the Bill today, warning, “The inevitable consequence of the parliamentary arithmetic is that “[May] will need to change it [Brexit policy] if she is to keep the party united.”
Meanwhile, according to the Sunday Telegraph, Conservative Eurosceptics have set up a “whipping operation” coordinated by former Brexit Minister Steve Baker, with the goal of defeating May’s Brexit plan. A Eurosceptic source is quoted saying, “If [May] wants to start a civil war in the Conservative party, this is what is going to happen.”
This comes as Conservative MP Robert Courts yesterday resigned from his position of parliamentary private secretary at the Foreign Office, explaining, “I cannot tell the people of WOxon [West Oxfordshire] that I support the [Government’s Brexit] proposals in their current form.” The Sunday Times also reports that International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey are also contemplating resignation.
Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar appeared on LBC yesterday arguing that aligning with EU regulations on goods may restrict the scope of future trade deals, but it would not rule them out.
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The Taxation (cross-border trade) Bill, which would allow the government to establish a UK customs, VAT and excise regime after Brexit, will return to the House of Commons today. Prime Minister Theresa May told The Andrew Marr Show yesterday that this bill was “an important part of our no deal preparations.” Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs have tabled four amendments, including one that would prevent the UK from collecting customs duties on behalf of the EU unless this was reciprocal, thereby precluding the government from pursuing its new Facilitated Customs Arrangement. Remain-supporting MPs were also expected to put down an amendment calling for remaining in the EU customs union to be a British “negotiating objective.” However, reports suggest this may be dropped.
At a press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, President Donald Trump said that the US was looking forward to finalising a bilateral free trade deal with UK, explaining, “Whatever [the UK does on Brexit] is OK with [the US], just make sure we can trade together, that’s all that matters. The United States looks forward to finalising a great bilateral trade agreement with the United Kingdom. This is an incredible opportunity for our two countries and we will seize it fully.” Trump added, “The only thing I ask of Theresa [May] is that we make sure we can trade and we don’t have any restrictions because we want to trade with the UK and the UK wants to trade with us. We are by far their biggest trading partner and we have just a tremendous opportunity to double, triple, quadruple that.” Trump also told the ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme,”I think we’re going to have a great trade deal… I’ve called it a carve out for this. You have to have a carve out where no matter what happens [the UK] have the right to make a deal with the United States.”
Speaking at the same press conference, Theresa May said, “There will be no limit to the possibility of us doing trade deals around the rest of the world once we leave the European Union on the basis of the [Brexit] agreement that was made here at Chequers and that I’ve put forward to the European Union,” adding, “We have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in so many different ways over the years as the result of our special relationship and we will show that even further through the trade arrangements that we will put in place in the future.”
Elsewhere, Theresa May told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday that Trump advised her to “sue the European Union” rather than negotiate with the EU over Brexit.
Separately, Trump yesterday said in an interview that the EU is “a foe” of the US because of “what [the EU] does to the [US] in trade,” adding, “I respect the leaders of those [EU] countries. But, in a trade sense, they’ve really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren’t paying their bills.” In response, European Council President Donald Tusk wrote, “America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.”
Writing in The Times, former Education Secretary Justine Greening calls for a second Brexit referendum in order to break the parliamentary “stalemate” on what the future UK-EU relationship should look like. She criticises the government’s White Paper proposal, saying, “Leavers are right…this deal is a fudge I can’t support. It’s the worst of both worlds,” and warns that “parliament is stuck in a statement that risks a no confidence vote.” She argues, “The public should be asked to choose between the three paths facing our country: the [Prime Minister’s] final negotiated Brexit deal, staying in the EU, or a clean Brexit break and leaving with no deal.” The Times reports that former Home Secretary Amber Rudd backed Greening’s call for a second referendum. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve is also expected to add his support.
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In an op-ed for the Financial Times Sunday, former Brexit Secretary David Davis writes that the Government’s Brexit plan will “stifle innovation and stymie economic growth,” explaining, “It would be profoundly dangerous to leave the EU but remain subject to regulations made by institutions in which we have no say” and arguing that harmonisation with the EU’s rules on goods “jeopardises the opportunities offered by Brexit.” Davis also writes, “While [the UK] might choose EU rules and standards when they suit [the UK], it goes against [the UK’s] economic and democratic interests that we would have to harmonise to single market rules,” adding that Brexit should create an opportunity “for the UK and EU to recognise each other’s rules, allowing friction trade with a mechanism to manage differences.”
Elsewhere, Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday insisted that the UK needed a ‘common rule book’ with the EU, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, “I’ve got to be hard-headed and practical about this and do it in a way that ensures we get the best interests for the UK…What this ‘common rule book’ does it projects those jobs and livelihoods hat do depend on those integrated supply chains.”
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German business groups have warned their members to step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit despite the UK Government reaching a position on the future trade relationship with the EU last week. Joachim Lang, managing director of Germany’s biggest industry lobby BDI, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, “Even if the British government is moving now, companies must plan for the scenario in which there is no agreement,” while Thilo Brodtmann, managing director of the VDMA engineering association, said, “It is urgent to prepare for Brexit and to expect the worst case scenario.”
Separately, an internal EU report seen by RTE warns the EU27 to step up contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit scenario. The document reportedly states, “Drawing up contingency plans for the worst possible outcome is not a sign of mistrust in the negotiations…The [European] Commission hopes for an agreement and devotes very significant resources and committed efforts to achieve this goal. Negotiations, on the other hand, can fail.” It also notes that many issues remain unresolved, adding, “No progress has been made in agreeing a ‘backstop’ to avoid, independently of the outcome of the negotiations of the future partnership, a hard border on the island of Ireland.”
Meanwhile, according to the Financial Times, the French central bank has asked UK digital finance companies that have customers in France for their Brexit contingency plans.
Separately, the Sun reports that Cabinet Ministers will this week formally agree to tell UK businesses to plan for a no-deal Brexit.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin this weekend reportedly rejected EU demands for carve-outs in the US sanctions on Iran. In a joint letter, Pompeo and Mnuchin reportedly write that they want to create “unprecedented financial pressure” on Iran to force it to a “tangible, demonstrable and sustained shift” in policies, adding that carve-outs will only possible if deemed necessary to US national security. An unnamed EU diplomat warns, “We do not think it’s helpful in relation to the situation in Iran,” adding, “There are also extraterritorial risks in these sanctions for EU operators.” This comes as an official EU spokesperson said the EU would “continue to underline to the US their expectation that US sanctions should not be imposed in a manner that prevents European economic operators from undertaking legitimate business with Iran in line with commitments under the nuclear deal.”
Germany, France, Malta, Spain and Portugal have agreed to take part of the 450 asylum seekers who have arrived by boat near the Italian coast on Saturday. After Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the boats that have rescued the migrants could not dock in Italy and threatened to send it back to Libya, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte asked other EU countries to share the responsibility of welcoming the asylum seekers. Following the pledges by Germany, France, Malta, Spain and Portugal to host 50 migrants each, Italy allowed the boats to disembark. Conte wrote, “This is the solidarity and responsibility that we have always asked of Europe, and that now, after the results obtained at the last European Council, are beginning to become reality.”