28 June 2016

Merkel, Hollande and Renzi say no talks with UK until Article 50 is triggered, as US warns against “revengeful” exit negotiations

Speaking after a meeting with French President François Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “We are in agreement that Article 50 of the European Treaties is very clear. A member state that wishes to leave the EU has to notify the European Council [of its decision]. There can’t be any further steps until that has happened. Only then will the European Council issue guidelines under which an exit will be negotiated.” She went on, “That means that, and we agree on this point, there will be neither informal nor formal talks on a British exit until the European Council has received the [UK’s] request for an exit from the EU.” Merkel also told the Bundestag this morning that the UK cannot “cherry-pick” the terms of its new relationship with the EU after Brexit, stressing that the EU’s ‘four freedoms’ – free movement of goods, services, people and capital – cannot be split up.

EU heads of state and government will meet in Brussels for a European Council summit today and tomorrow. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will not trigger the Article 50 exit procedure. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said this morning, “We want more clarity from Cameron on the Brexit timetable.” However, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte – whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency – has warned that it would be “unwise” to push the UK into triggering Article 50.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs this morning, “We need to clarify the situation as quickly as possible. We cannot allow a long period of uncertainty. There can be no secret negotiations. No notification [to the European Council], no negotiation.” He added, “I’m a European and I have a right to say I regret the result of the British vote.”

German Europe Minister Michael Roth, of the centre-left SPD, told Italian daily La Repubblica, “We are not dealing with a consensual divorce. Article 50 is clear: if no agreement is found within two years, the UK has to leave [the EU] anyway. No one wants this. Everyone wants an orderly process.” He added, “There won’t be [EU] Treaty changes in the near future. There are big concerns over other referenda. But there’s room to move forward within the existing Treaties too.”

Meanwhile, following a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned the EU against “half-cocked, scatter-brained or revengeful” responses in exit talks with the UK.

Separately, the Brussels Economic Correspondent for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Werner Mussler, quotes Open Europe Berlin Director Michael Wohlgemuth suggesting for the EU to implement the David Cameron February deal as this could help to mitigate negative perspectives on the EU within various member states.

Source: BBC News La Stampa The Times The Financial Times ITV News Open Europe Berlin blog Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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Remain and Leave supporters say free movement in current form will be a red line in EU negotiations

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says, “The first part of the plan must be clarity that we will remain in the single market… It is not just at the heart of our economic success – it is also at the heart of our identity as one of the most open, liberal, outward-looking societies anywhere.” However, he notes that “It is clear that the country has rejected the free movement of people as it currently operates… So our plan must be to encourage them to reform those rules, thereby opening up a space for a “Norway plus” option for us – full access to the single market with a sensible compromise on free movement rules.” He concludes that “before setting the clock ticking [on Article 50], we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election.”

Writing for The Times’ Red Box, UKIP leader Nigel Farage argues, “It would be nothing short of a betrayal if the result of Brexit was anything other than a border policy that brought down migration numbers significantly to alleviate these pressures on our infrastructure. In my view a net migration range of 30,000 – 50,000 net per year would be an ambitious and sensible level to aim for.” Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told The Daily Mail that ending the free movement of people was “an absolute red line.”

Open Europe Co-Director Raoul Ruparel is quoted by The Times as saying that Britain must decide whether immigration curbs or trade access is the priority in future EU negotiations. “It is not impossible to imagine the level of access [Boris] Johnson suggests but it is hard to reconcile this with complete control over EU immigration via a points-based system. It is even harder, nigh on impossible, to reconcile a points-based system for EU migrants to the UK with the view that UK citizens would still be free to live and work in the rest of the EU without any reciprocal arrangements.” Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe was interviewed by Euronews TV and Reuters, saying, “In order to save freedom of movement as much as possible, it may be necessary to make some compromises.”

Speaking at The Times’ CEO summit, London Mayor Sadiq Khan argued that “Remaining in the single market needs to be priority one, two and three of our negotiation with the EU… And London – as the beating heart of the UK’s financial sector – and the only region of England which voted to Remain – simply has to have a seat at the negotiations.” Meanwhile, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that Oliver Letwin will lead a “Brexit unit” of top civil servants to prepare for Britain’s departure from the EU.

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Chair of Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee strongly criticises Juncker while FAZ calls for the Commission President to resign

The Chairman of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee Norbert Röttgen criticised the actions of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, saying that “their pleas are very emotional and not helpful” adding that “any sort of impulsive actions has to be prevented.” He also urges “not to push the British.” The Brussel’s Economic Correspondent for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Werner Mussler, also strongly critisies Juncker for calling for a deepening of the Eurzone, saying that he “has not heard the warning shots” and “it is time for him to say goodbye.”

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May and Boris face off with new Conservative leader to be in place by early September

Home Secretary Theresa May is the favourite in the Conservative leadership race, according to a YouGov poll for The Times that shows her as the preferred successor among Conservative voters: 31% back her, against 24% for Boris Johnson. However, the ballot will be decided by about 125,000 Conservative Party members. Two cabinet ministers, Stephen Crabb and Sajid Javid, indicated yesterday that they were considering a joint leadership campaign. Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, Liam Fox, the former cabinet minister, and Andrea Leadsom, the Energy Minister, are also taking soundings. Chancellor George Osborne has ruled himself out of the contest. Writing for The Times, he says, “I am not the person to provide the unity my party needs at this time.” The new party leader and Prime Minister will be announced by 2 September.

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Corbyn faces no confidence vote

The Times reports that Jeremy Corbyn’s allies are resigned to losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership today as Labour rebels prepare a formal challenge backed by 50 MPs. In total, 46 shadow ministers and aides have resigned from the frontbench since Sunday.

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Markets show signs of recovery from Brexit falls

UK and European stock markets fell again sharply yesterday, but they have rebounded this morning. The FTSE 100 is up close to 2% and the FTSE 250, the largest faller yesterday, is up by around 2.5%. The pound fell by 3.5% yesterday against the US dollar but has also strengthened slightly this morning. Meanwhile, former Bank of England Governor Lord King said yesterday that: “The City is much more than a small number of banks. Some will have to expand or make new subsidiaries to carry out the clearing of euro transactions, but that doesn’t have to mean the loss of a huge number of jobs.” He added that there referendum campaign “was the most dispiriting” he could recall in his lifetime. Business Secretary Sajid Javid has insisted the UK “remains open for business” as he moved to meet the heads of the Institute of Directors, CBI, the British Retail Consortium, British Chambers of Commerce, the EEF manufacturers’ group, the BBA banking organisation and others.

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French centre-right presidential hopefuls set out EU reform plans

Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppé, who hopes to be picked as centre-right frontrunner for next year’s presidential election, told Le Monde, “It would be totally irresponsible to hold a referendum [on the EU] in France today…[but] a referendum will be needed, not only in France, but in all the countries concerned, at a certain stage of the reconstruction of Europe.” He also argued, “One needs to redefine the boundaries of [EU] competences, because the European institutions can’t keep producing so many norms and laws.”

Former Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire, another candidate for centre-right nomination, told Le Figaro, “It would be irresponsible to keep building Europe as we have done for thirty years – by ignoring the peoples…I’m calling for a re-foundation of the European project, based on a Treaty which, at the end of the negotiation, will be put to the French people.” However, he dismissed Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal to start negotiating a new EU Treaty as early as next year as “unrealistic”.

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French PM rejects EU-US free trade deal

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said, “From now on, no free trade agreement must be concluded if it doesn’t respect the EU’s interests. Europe must stand firm. France will be vigilant. And frankly, I tell you that there can be no transatlantic trade agreement [with the US].”

He added that TTIP, the EU-US trade deal currently under negotiation, “would impose…a vision that would not only feed populisms, but also a vision that would just be bad for our economy.”

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