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The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has agreed to set out a timetable for her departure from office following the Second Reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in June. The announcement was made yesterday by the Chairman of the Conservative Party’s backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, following a meeting between May and the Committee’s executive. In a statement, Brady said that May was “determined to secure our departure from the European Union and is devoting her efforts to securing the Second Reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week commencing 3 June 2019 and the passage of the Bill and the subsequent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union by the summer.” The statement added that Brady and May would meet again after the Second Reading “to agree a timetable for the election of a new leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.”
Speaking afterwards, Brady described yesterday’s meeting as a “frank exchange” and confirmed the next meeting would take place “regardless of what the vote is… whether it passes, or whether it fails.” Meanwhile, the Committee’s executive did not hold a vote on whether to change the party’s rules to allow an early vote of no confidence in May’s leadership. The Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, also confirmed the timetable for the introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
Elsewhere, the former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, told an event in Manchester yesterday that he intends to stand for the party leadership if a vacancy becomes available.
This comes as a recent YouGov poll has shown the Liberal Democrats performing better than both Labour and the Conservatives in advance of the upcoming European Parliament elections. The poll estimates that the Liberal Democrats will receive 16% of votes, Labour 15% and the Conservatives 9%. The newly-formed Brexit Party is polling at 35% of the vote.
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The BBC reports that cross-party talks between the Government and Labour are soon to come to an end without an agreement on a Brexit deal. The party leaders are reportedly discussing how a series of votes could be put to Parliament to find agreement among MPs on how to move forward. However, a senior ally to Prime Minister Theresa May told the Financial Times insisted that talks were continuing, saying, “This will require compromises on both sides on substance.”
This comes after the Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, claimed that the Government had still not moved on its red line of a customs union in the talks. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme yesterday, Long-Bailey said, “In terms of the customs union, we’ve been repeatedly pushing [the Government] on this point, and they haven’t reached the position that we would like them to get to by any stretch at the moment.”
The Deputy Governor of the Bank of England (BoE), Sam Woods, yesterday said it was “undesirable” for the UK to follow EU rules on financial services after Brexit if it will have no role in deciding them. Woods argued, “A scenario in which our future relationship with the EU takes a form that means we stick with a system which looks exactly what we have today… is not ideal but we have largely shaped that system through our membership of the EU and we make it work well currently.” He added, “However, this would be undesirable if it came with the prospect of becoming a rule-taker in financial services with all the risks — both prudential, and as a matter of industrial policy — that entails.”
Elsewhere, in a letter to EU institutions seen by Politico, the finance ministers of Germany, France and the Netherlands have called for progress on a “well designed” European Capital Markets Union, adding that this is an “urgent strategic issue” as London, “Europe’s leading international financial centre,” will soon be outside the EU. They write that there need to be “appropriate ways to endow the European Union with a capacity to finance the growth of its economy and businesses… via private sector solutions and through diverse financing channels.”
Separately, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, Carolyn Fairbairn, has urged MPs to “resolve” the Brexit “gridlock,” warning that “every day without a deal is corrosive” for the British economy.
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The European Commission has agreed a €50m exceptional aid fund for Irish beef farmers to compensate them for the fall in prices as a result of the Brexit process. The Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, said, “The Irish beef sector exports over 50 percent of the total EU requirement of beef to the United Kingdom, so Ireland and Irish beef farmers are more exposed than any other sector in the European Union… So we are responding now to a very unique situation and it’s a one-off payment to take account of the market sentiment that has been going in the wrong direction for many, many months in relation to beef to the United Kingdom.”
In an interview with Politico, Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Katrougalos said that Greece was “among the few European countries that still believes” in Turkish accession to the EU, adding, “They must first respect their obligations… [respecting] not just international law but also the rule of law and human rights.” He also urged the EU to set out a clear path to membership for North Macedonia, saying , “If the European Union doesn’t send this message in June, that would be a complete failure of its strategy to impose principled rules in the Balkans and to create an atmosphere of hope for the candidate countries.”
Elsewhere, a YouGov opinion survey of 14 European countries for the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has shown that a majority of European citizens believe that the EU is likely to collapse at some point over the next two decades.
European Commissioner for Budget Günther Oettinger said in an interview with Politico that the “nomination and the hearing and the road for the next [European] Commission may not be done in September-October this year,” suggesting that the current Commission could have to “work a bit longer,” beyond its current term, due to end on 31 October.
In a new explainer on the Open Europe blog, Dominic Walsh explains how the UK’s unexpected participation in the upcoming European Parliament elections will affect the EU and its institutions – particularly with regard to the political composition of the European Parliament and the role of UK MEPs in EU-decision-making over the coming months.
Elsewhere, Walsh is quoted by CNN on the impact of the UK’s participation on the EU. He explains, “Historically, voting in the European Parliament is not usually very close, so UK MEPs won’t necessarily have a decisive influence on the [overall] outcomes. If they did, however, this would be hugely controversial.”