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In her Florence speech last week, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the UK’s intention to adopt a status quo transition, where the UK continues to operate under “the existing structure of EU rules and regulations,” for around two years after March 2019. She also said that no member state would have to pay more, or receive less from, the EU budget until 2020, the end of the current multiannual budget period. Regarding the long-term UK-EU relationship, she ruled out both the Swiss and Canada models, calling instead for a “bespoke” arrangement. Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar argued in a reaction piece, “While many of today commitments could and should have been put forward earlier, it is welcome to see them outlined today. They are unlikely to be enough to unlock the current impasse in negotiations, but it is now for the EU to react to ensure discussions can continue to move forward.” The fourth round of Brexit negotiations will begin in Brussels today. Open Europe’s Marta Vokshi and Leopold Traugott also reviewed European reactions to May’s speech.
Elsewhere, Open Europe director Henry Newman appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show, Sky News and the FT podcast on Friday to discuss the Prime Minister’s intervention.
Meanwhile, responding to May’s speech, Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Sir Keir Starmer said all May has done is to “delay the cliff edge.” Writing in The Times, he argues, “Remaining in a form of customs union with the EU is a possible end destination for Labour. We are also flexible as to whether the benefits of the single market are best retained by negotiating a new single market relationship or by working up from a bespoke trade deal.”
Separately, according to The Daily Telegraph, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wants Britain to be able to sign trade deals during the transition period as well as not adopt any new EU rules and regulations during that time. An editorial for The Daily Telegraph welcomes Johnson’s “red lines.” It argues, “Britain should be able to get on with negotiating and signing its own free trade deals from 2019, which is one of the main opportunities gained by leaving the EU. There should also be no question of the country accepting, without any say, every new regulation that Brussels cooks up after we officially leave the EU in 2019.”
Open Europe blog: Shankar Open Europe blog: Vokshi and Traugott The Times
The German elections saw Angela Merkel’s CDU return to parliament as strongest party (33%) again, yet with a drastic drop in electoral support compared to 2013 (41.5%). Her current coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), suffered a dramatic defeat and, at 21.5%, the worst result in their party’s history. As a result, the party leadership announced it will lead the parliamentary opposition, thereby excluding a continuation of the current “Grand Coalition”. The only possible government coalition as this point is “Jamaica”, consisting of CDU/CSU, Free Democrats (10.7%) and Greens (8.9%). Far-left Die Linke received 9.2% of the votes. Far-right Alternative für Deutschland enters parliament as third strongest party (12.6%), drawing votes particularly in Germany’s eastern states. It is the first far-right party in German parliament since the 1960s.
Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, has said the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will end in the UK when the it leaves the EU in 2019, but “we’ll have a couple of years which allows people to adapt.” He stressed, “We are not under any circumstances going to be accepting the overarching supremacy of the European Court. That’s going.” Davis also said Britain’s rules and regulations will diverge from those of the EU post-Brexit. He dismissed reports that the financial settlement is £40 billion saying that was “sort of made …up.” He insisted that Britain will meet its financial obligations but “things like pensions and other things, these are debatable to say the least.”
The Andrew Marr Show: David Davis transcript
Speaking on The Andrew Marr show, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to commit to staying the EU single market after Brexit. He said, “The single market…Has within it restrictions in state aid and state spending. That has pressures on it through the European Union to privatise rail for example and other services.” He added that Labour wants “tariff free trade access to the European market.” His comments come as 30 senior figures, including Labour MPs, have called for Labour to commit to staying in the EU single market and customs union. Elsewhere, speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said, “I want us to continue to be members of the single market. If we can’t achieve that, the less best scenario is us having access to the single market.”
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, has called on the EU to “reveal its hand, and declare its intentions,” in the Brexit negotiations, adding, “That means not simply focusing on the arrangements for withdrawal, but also talking about our future trade relationship. It is in our mutual interest to build a new economic trade relationship and a new security relationship, and do it quickly. It is what investors around the world have told me, whether they are focused on continental Europe or the UK or both.” He continues, “There are those who talk as though Europe is unimportant for the UK in terms of trade or investment – as though we can choose between our economic relationships with Europe and the rest of the world. We cannot – they’re both hugely important for our future economic well-being as we leave the EU it will remain a crucial market for the UK.” Fox also revealed that his department has established twelve trade ‘working groups’ with seventeen countries from India and Australia “to explore the best way to improve our trade and investment relationships.”
The Daily Telegraph
In a snap response to the German elections, Open Europe’s Leopold Traugott argues that despite Angela Merkel’s nominal victory there is “little for [her] supporters to celebrate” as her CDU/CSU group receives “the second worst result in her party’s history”. “For the Social Democrats (SPD) the results are a disaster” as well, he continues, explaining that “with the AfD at 12.6% and Die Linke a 9.2%, nearly a quarter of Germans voted for parties that oppose the liberal mainstream”. Looking ahead, he warns not to “expect the election mood to disappear just yet”, as “another important state election [is] around the corner”. Instead, keep your eyes open for hints at Merkel’ succession, “as she enters her fourth and probably last term as German chancellor, at the end of which she will have governed for sixteen years” and “questions arise over who will succeed her”.