12 September 2018

Prime Minister rejects plans for EU officials to police British ports

The Times reports that Downing Street has rejected proposals for EU officials to carry out customs checks at British ports on goods exported to Ireland.

Elsewhere, Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly views next week’s Salzburg meeting of EU27 leaders as a “staging post in exit negotiations,” as it is the first time EU leaders will discuss and engage with the UK’s Chequers proposal on future relations.

Meanwhile, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday agreed with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s statement that the UK and the EU could reach a deal within six to eight weeks, adding that while it was possible for the UK and EU to reach a deal in October, negotiations “may well run into November.”

Separately, Bloomberg reports that the EU and the UK are planning to announce within the next few days that a special emergency summit to reach an agreement will take place in mid-November. This comes as Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond yesterday told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee that there is a possibility to schedule such a summit in order to conclude Brexit negotiations.

Source: The Times Reuters BBC News Bloomberg The Guardian

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Jean-Claude Juncker: UK “will never be an ordinary third country" for the EU

Giving his annual State of the Union speech, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today said on future UK-EU relations, “The United Kingdom will never be an ordinary third country for us. [It] will always be a very close neighbour and partner, in political, economic and security terms.” Juncker added, “In the past months, whenever we needed unity in the Union, Britain was at our side, driven by the same values and principles as all other Europeans.” On the ongoing Brexit negotiations, he said, “We agree with the statement made in Chequers that the starting point for such a [post-Brexit] partnership should be a free trade area between the United Kingdom and the European Union,” adding, “We owe it to our citizens and our businesses to ensure the United Kingdom’s withdrawal is orderly and that there is stability afterwards.”

Meanwhile, Juncker also said, “If you leave the [European] Union, you are of course no longer part of our single market, and certainly not only in the parts of it you choose.” On the question of a border on the island of Ireland, he stressed, “This Parliament and all other 26 Member States will always show loyalty and solidarity with Ireland when it comes to the Irish border. This is why we want to find a creative solution that prevents a hard border in Northern Ireland. But we will equally be very outspoken should the British Government walk away from its responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement. It is not the European Union, it is Brexit that risks making the border more visible in Northern Ireland.”

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The Times: Some Conservative pro-Brexit MPs say they could support Chequers deal

The Times reports that splits have emerged among Conservative Eurosceptic MPs, with a number of backbench Leave supporters distancing themselves from the position of the European Research Group (ERG). Some pro-Brexit MPs also told The Times that they could support the Prime Minister’s Chequers proposal if the alternative was a no deal outcome. One source said, “A good number of my Brexiteer colleagues are saying in private that they won’t rock the boat if she comes back with a deal that looks like Chequers.”

This comes as The Daily Telegraph reports that Prime Minister Theresa May could face a leadership challenge “within days,” with members of the Eurosceptic ERG reportedly set to submit letters of no confidence.

Separately, the chief of Northern Ireland’s Police Federation, Mark Lindsay, called the ERG’s reported plans to use tax inspector ‘squads’ to avoid customs checks at the border on the island of Ireland an “aspirational solution,” adding, “We have operations going on daily with HMRC in relation fuel laundering and smuggling and people trafficking for all those agencies that are being deployed on the border or into those border areas, they almost have a one per one police protection, so you need this ring of steel if you are going to do anything like is being suggested.”

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Civil Aviation Authority official says report on pilot licences not being recognised in case of ‘no deal’ Brexit is “misleading”

Mark Swan, Group Director of Safety and Airspace Regulation at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said that the claim that “35,000 pilot licenses would need to be reissued” in case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario was “misleading.” Swan added, “Both commercial and private UK pilot licenses would remain valid for use on UK-registered aircraft as the United Kingdom is a signatory to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Chicago Convention. Our licences are internationally recognised – including by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) – both now and after 29 March 2019.”

This comes after Sky News reported that UK pilot licences will not be recognised by the EU once the European air safety mechanism ceases to apply to the UK in case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. A CAA document seen by Sky reportedly cautions that “thousands of aviation licences, ratings and certificates for pilots and aircraft issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) would have to be re-issued if there is a ‘no deal’ Brexit, which would cost millions.”

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that “A UK lobby group petitioned the European Union for a second time to allow aviation regulators from the two regions to jointly plan for Brexit.” ADS Group, which represents the aerospace defense, security and space industries, warned that time for discussions “is running short,” in a letter to the European Commission last week.

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Jaguar Land Rover Chief Executive warns about costs of supply chain disruption in ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario

Chief Executive of Jaguar Land Rover, Ralf Speth, yesterday warned about the costs of disruption in the company’s supply chains in case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, saying, “Just one part missing could mean stopping production at a cost of £60m a day. That is a huge risk. We depend on free, frictionless, seamless logistics.” Speaking at the Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in Birmingham, Speth also said that “tens of thousands” of jobs in the car industry would be at risk in case the UK and the EU do not reach a deal.

Elsewhere, chief executive of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, yesterday told the Commons Treasury Select Committee that the bank could move 4,000 out of its 16,000 employees in the UK to the EU27, depending on the type of deal the UK and the EU reach. Chief executives of Barclays Ireland and Citi Bank also told the committee that they would shift “hundreds of jobs” as part of their contingency planning for a ‘no deal’ scenario. However, all three executives said initial moves would be “modest,” and that they will retain London as their main European headquarters.

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Mark Carney to stay as BoE governor to support “smooth Brexit,” Philip Hammond confirms

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond yesterday confirmed that Mark Carney will stay as governor of the Bank of England until January 2020 in order “to ensure continuity through what could be quite a turbulent period for our economy in the early summer of 2019,” and “to support a smooth exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union.”

Elsewhere, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures published yesterday, unemployment in the UK remained at 4%, the lowest rate since 1975, while wages grew by 2.9% in the three months to July.

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UK to introduce 7-year transition scheme to replace EU farm subsidies

The government has revealed details of its proposed Environmental Land Management scheme, which will replace EU farm subsidies with UK funds after Brexit. The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has said that the EU Common Agricultural Policy was ineffective and skewed towards the largest landowners. The new scheme, expected to be fully implemented by 2025, will reward farmers who work to protect the environment. Full details of the scheme will be given in a policy document due later this week.

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Report urges government to relax rules on foreign students' right to work

In a new report, the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has called on the government to relax its rules on the rights of international students to work in the UK. Proposals include giving PhD students the automatic right to work in the UK for 12 months after finishing their studies, and offering undergraduates preferential rights to skilled migrant visas for two years after graduation. The MAC also did not recommend excluding international students from the government’s target of decreasing net migration to 100,000 per year. The study, along with a report on the role of European Economic Area (EEA) nationals in the UK economy published next week, is expected to inform the Home Office’s white paper on the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy.

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EU Cohesion Funding helped reduce tensions in Northern Ireland, European Parliament report says

A new report backed by a majority in the European Parliament concludes that EU Cohesion Policy funding “has had a resoundingly positive effect” in Northern Ireland and helped “to improve the economic and social situation… following the implementation of the peace process.” The European Parliament’s rapporteur on the issue, Derek Vaughan MEP, said, “The report does not say ‘no EU funds is a return to troubles’. What the report says is that EU funds have made a valuable contribution to reduce that tension.” He also called for EU funding for the region to continue “whatever happens” after 2020.

This comes as the former head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, today said that a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland as a result of Brexit would be a very “unhealthy development,” adding, “It would lead to poorer community relations and it would certainly lead to a rise in smuggling and historically, right through the troubles, smuggling was bad for peace.”

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Leopold Traugott: The silent rise of Germany's Green Party

In an article for the London School of Economics’ European Politics and Policy blog, Open Europe’s Leopold Traugott writes, “Foreign media coverage of Germany is often fixated on the rise of the country’s new far-right, nativist party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)… Yet by focusing almost exclusively on the narrative of a Germany tilting dangerously to the right, combined with the perceived Götterdämmerung of Chancellor Angela Merkel, observers abroad are missing out.” He writes that Germany’s Green Party has successfully emerged as “the key representatives of the diametrically opposite image [to the AfD],”with latest polls putting the party “at between 13% and 16% – no massive numbers, but enough to put them on par with the AfD. In some recent surveys, the Green party has even moved ahead of its far-right competitor.”

Traugott recommends following the “state elections in Bavaria [which] are coming up in October and promise an interesting test run… AfD and the Greens are currently predicted to be in a close run for second place. Should the Greens manage to win this duel, perhaps the party will start attracting greater attention abroad. It would certainly make for more balanced coverage of German politics.”