2 November 2017

Michael Fallon resigns as Defence Secretary

Sir Michael Fallon resigned as Defence Secretary last night after saying that his personal conduct had in the past “fallen below the high standards we require of the armed forces that I have the honour to represent.” In an interview with the BBC after his resignation, Fallon said, “The culture has changed over the years and what might have been acceptable 10 or 15 years ago is clearly not acceptable now. Parliament now has to look at itself and the Prime Minister has made very clear that conduct needs to be improved and we need to protect the staff of Westminster against any particular allegations of harassment.” The Prime Minister will today appoint a new Defence Secretary. This expected to be a new figure, in order to avoid a wider cabinet reshuffle. Downing Street has said “very limited” changes would be made.

Source: The Times Guardian

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Government expected to publish 58 Brexit sectoral reports after Labour motion passes unanimously

The government is likely to publish its 58 reports on the impact of Brexit on the economy. This comes after a Labour motion calling for the studies’ release passed unanimously in the House of Commons yesterday, with Conservative MPs abstaining. Speaker John Bercow noted that such motions have in the past been “binding.” Brexit Minister Steve Baker said, “The government recognises that parliament has rights relating to the publication of documents. But ministers also have a clear obligation not to disclose information when doing so would not be in the public interest. We will reflect on the outcome of this debate having regard to parliament’s rights in relation to these documents.” But Brexit Minister Robin Walker sought to clarify the scope of the papers, saying, “It isn’t the case – and I don’t believe that this department or any minister have ever said it is the case– that there are 58 economic impact assessments that summarise what all the eventualities could mean for each sector.” He described them as “sectoral analysis” rather than impact assessments. The government will respond within 12 weeks, and any papers could be published in redacted form.

Source: The Times Financial Times Guardian

Liam Fox “not afraid” of leaving the EU without a trade deal

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said he is “keen” on securing a free trade agreement with the EU but “not afraid” of Britain leaving the EU without one. Speaking to the House of Commons International Trade Committee, Fox said, “All that can happen is that we stay the same or move further apart. That’s a political question and it’s a question of whether we end up with a political Brexit, which seems to be what some elements in the [European] Commission want to see, or an economic Brexit, which is in the interests of EU citizens.” Asked whether he would advise businesses to prepare and implement plans for no deal, he said, “No, because at the present time I think we are more likely to get a deal.” Fox also argued that the EU is “unreasonable” for insisting the UK pays its financial settlement before talks move on to the future relationship saying, “The idea that the UK would actually agree to a sum on money before we know what the end state looks like or what any future potential would be, I think is a non-starter.”

This comes as German business magazine, Wirtschaftswoche, reports that EU negotiators expect the UK to put an additional £30bn on the table before talks on the future relationship between both sides can begin. The magazine quotes sources involved in the negotiations as saying, “We want guarantees from the UK on pensions and the obligations we entered jointly and that go beyond 2020.” In return, the EU is willing to compromise on other demands, according to the Wirtschaftswoche. These include costs for the relocation of EU agencies out of the UK, which sources describe as “peanuts”, as well as the UK’s share of potential liabilities in case EU loans to third parties are not paid back.

Elsewhere, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson yesterday told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee the UK is recruiting 50 more diplomats to “beef up” the country’s bilateral influence with individual EU member states after Brexit.

Source: BBC News The Guardian Press Association Wirtschaftswoche

Northern Ireland Budget Bill to be introduced in Westminster

Following failure to restore Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive in talks this week, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, has confirmed he will “[take] forward the necessary steps that would enable a Budget Bill to be introduced at Westminster at the appropriate moment in order to protect the delivery of public services in Northern Ireland.” He stressed, “Passing a Budget in Westminster does not mean a move to direct rule…This is not a barrier to continued political negotiations and the Government will continue to work with the Parties with that intent.” The Financial Times reports that a Westminster budget is unlikely to include the £1 billion funding secured by the Democratic Unionist Party earlier this year. Brokenshire stated the Bill would reflect “the outgoing priorities of the previous executive.”

Source: Gov.uk Financial Times

Swiss customs chief suggests invisible Irish border is “possible”

Giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, the director general of Switzerland’s Customs Administration, Christian Bock, suggested it would be “possible” to design a system for an invisible Irish border. In order to achieve this, Bock suggested the need for “common patrols between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland”, an intelligence-led strategy to ensure safety of cross-border trade, controls away from the border, a pre-qualification system for trusted traders, and a streamlined system to manage “low-risk” or regular trade. Questioned about the political feasibility of this suggestion, he said it was not for him to judge.

Open Europe’s paper, Nothing to Declare, discussed options for managing trade across the Irish border post-Brexit.

Source: Open Europe intelligence: Nothing to Declare BBC News ParliamentTV

BoE deputy governor: Financial services could lose 10,000 jobs on day one of Brexit

The deputy governor of the Bank of England (BoE) and head of the Prudential Regulation Authority, Sam Woods, has said around 10,000 financial services jobs could “reasonably” be lost on day one of Brexit. Speaking before the House of Lords’ EU financial affairs committee, he added, “I would be surprised if it ends up being more than that for banks and insurance companies.” On the topic of a transitional arrangement, he said it would be more useful the sooner it is agreed, but added this did not mean its value “would suddenly plummet to zero at one particular point in the calendar.”

Woods also urged the government to include a clause in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that would ensure derivative contracts and insurance policies can still be serviced whatever the outcome of the negotiations. He said, “By far the best fix would be for something to be included in the Withdrawal Bill. There would have to be bilateral agreement to fix this on both sides.”

Separately, Bloomberg reports that Deutsche Bank is considering renting office space for up to 1,600 in Frankfurt. The bank is expected to relocated 4,000 jobs to Frankfurt and Berlin after Brexit.

Source: Press Association Financial Times Bloomberg

Head of National Audit Office calls for Brexit contingency planning to be pushed forward

Sir Amyas Morse, comptroller and auditor general of the National Audit Office (NAO), yesterday told the House of Common’s Treasury select committee, “The contingency programme [in the event of a no-deal Brexit scenario] hasn’t been fully triggered off yet, and I would have thought that should happen. If I was giving advice, I would say push that forward.” He added, “I think it would be pretty impressive if we were ready in every way. The thing is to be ready in the ways that matter.” Sir Amyas noted the government’s “more evolved approach” to Brexit, and said, “There is beginning to be a realisation, which I didn’t feel there was [before] frankly, as to the scale of the task on the ground.” He added, “It is beginning to be understood that it is not just a question of planning something, it is a question of having people on the ground with the skill sets to carry out very major change projects, and they are in short supply.”

Source: Press Association

Electoral Commission to investigate Arron Banks over Leave.EU donations

The Electoral Commission yesterday announced it is investigating Leave.EU campaigner Arron Banks over possible breach of campaign finance rules in the run-up to the referendum in 2016. The Commission will investigate whether Banks was the true source of loans to the Leave.EU body, following speculation of Russian involvement.

Source: Reuters