4 September 2017

The Sunday Times: Theresa May set to approve a Brexit Bill of up to £50bn

According to The Sunday Times, Prime Minister Theresa May is set to approve a ‘Brexit Bill’ of up to £50bn after the Conservative Party conference in October. The plan, that Whitehall are reportedly drawing up, would see Britain make annual payments to the EU of between £7bn and £17bn a year for three years after Brexit. The Sunday Times quotes a source in May’s inner circle saying, “They are planning to do the Brexit bill and how much they’re going to pay after party conference. They would look to do it as yearly payments for the transitional period. They think the bill has gone up since the election.” The Sunday Times editorial argues that, “Paying a significant part of the divorce bill as an annual budget contribution during a transition makes a lot more sense than a one-off payment.” Downing Street has said it does not recognise the plans. This comes as The Times reports that the UK government will publish proposals on Wednesday outlining Britain’s plan to offer to pay more than £1bn a year to the EU after Brexit to continue to participate in its science and research programmes such as Horizon 2020.

Meanwhile, appearing on The Andrew Marr Show, Brexit Secretary David Davis has called the reports “nonsense” and “completely wrong.” He added, “The strict position is that there is no enforceable bill,” but, “We are a country that meets its obligations. They may not be legal, they may be political or moral.” He stressed that the era of “big payments to the European Union is coming to an end. There will still be payments, for space programmes, for nuclear research, and so on.” Davis also accused the EU of being “silly” for saying that progress had not been made after the third round of the Brexit negotiations. He argued, “They have set this up because they are trying to play time against money. Time is not running out. We have a two-year process…Every time we come to something serious there will be a pressure exercise of this sort. Money is incredibly important; it is the thing that frightens them most.”

Elsewhere, The Guardian reports the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has told a conference that Brexit will be an “educational process” for the UK. He argued, “There are extremely serious consequences of leaving the single market and it hasn’t been explained to the British people…We intend to teach people … what leaving the single market means.” Barnier said he would not be “aggressive” in the negotiations but warned that he is not “naïve.”

Source: The Times The Times 2 The Independent The Guardian The Times 3

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Labour’s Brexit Secretary and Deputy Leader at odds over single market and customs union position

Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr show, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer has said that the Labour Party is “open to a discussion that leaves a customs union with the EU on the table as a viable option.” He continued, “We haven’t swept that off the table – a customs union with the EU and a changed relationship with the single market – because if you want to retain the benefits you have got to be open to that discussion.” Sir Keir clarified that the UK could be in “a customs union” but not in “the [EU] customs union” as a non-EU member. Sir Keir’s comments are at odds with Deputy Leader Tom Watson’s comments who said last week that staying in the single market and customs union “might be a permanent outcome.” On the issue of a transitional period, Sir Keir said Labour’s position is that “the transitional period, i.e. from March 2019 up until we get to a new and final deal, will be within a customs union and within the single market.”

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph editorial argues that Labour’s Brexit policy is “confusing” and urges the party to be “honest with the voters: is the Opposition manoeuvring to stay in the EU in all but name but is unwilling to say so?”

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Second reading of Repeal Bill to begin on Thursday, as Keir Starmer warns it “would sideline parliament on key issues”

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (also known as the Repeal Bill), which will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and transpose existing EU laws onto the UK statute book at the point of withdrawal, will be introduced in the House of Commons for second reading on Thursday. Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, First Secretary of State Damian Green urged Conservative MPs to support the Bill and not “to do anything that increases the threat of a [Jeremy] Corbyn government.” He wrote, “While the Government is working hard to ensure there are no cliff edges or gaps in the law when the UK departs the EU, the likelihood is that the Labour Party will once again look to disrupt a piece of legislation just for the sake of opposing.” He also rejected claims from devolved governments in Wales and Scotland that the Bill was a “power grab.”

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Anna Soubry today said, “If you don’t fall into line and get behind something then somehow you’re going to be thwarting the will of the people – that sort of rhetoric has got to stop.”

Separately, The Times reports a letter from Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer to Brexit Secretary David Davis ahead of second reading, which accuses the government of using the legislation to secure “unprecedented and undemocratic powers” and argues that Labour would have “no choice but to oppose this divisive and deficient legislation” in its current form. Starmer wrote, “As drafted, the Bill would sideline parliament on key decisions, hoard unnecessary powers in Whitehall and fail to guarantee crucial rights and protections after we leave the EU…These concerns are serious, reasonable and responsible. They are not designed to frustrate Brexit but to ensure that the right approach is taken and that jobs, living standards and rights are protected.”

Elsewhere, asked whether the Labour party would vote against the Bill, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer, said, “We haven’t reached that stage yet but I have been very, very clear – whilst we accept the result of the referendum we are not giving a blank cheque to the government to do it in whichever way it wants because it is not in the public interest.”

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Poll: 82% of leave voters would support continuing high-skilled immigration

New research has shown that 82% of leave voters would support the level of high skilled immigration remaining at current levels (51%) or increasing to higher levels (31%). The findings, published by British Future, showed that the concern over immigration levels is largely focused on low-skilled migration, with 64% of all respondents supporting a reduction in EU low-skilled migration, including 50% of remain voters. Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said, “A new post-Brexit immigration system that differentiates between skilled and low-skilled EU immigration sounds like common sense to most people. They can see that we need doctors, engineers and other professionals but they want more control over low-skilled immigration.”

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Labour MP Caroline Flint urges party to not “sink" the repeal bill and start preparing for life post-Brexit

Labour MP Caroline Flint has urged her party to stop “forecasting disaster at every turn” and “confront the real choices ahead.” Writing for the Sunday Telegraph she argues, “Why re-open the issue of EU membership? [Shadow Brexit Secretary] Keir Starmer argues that any new relationship must involve the UK managing migration more effectively. Without this, any deal would not fly with many voters.” Flint urges the party to begin preparing for life post-Brexit.” She concludes, “If we accept the referendum result, let’s not seek to sink the Government’s Brexit Bill with dozens of wrecking amendments. Let’s Brexit together and plan for the future. It’s time to move on.”

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Angela Merkel pledges to end Turkish accession talks to EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday declared that Turkey should not become an EU member. In a televised debate ahead of the general election on September 24,  Merkel went head to head with Social Democratic Party (SPD) rival Martin Schulz. Merkel “pledged talk to her EU counterparts about “a joint position…so that we can end these accession talks”. A poll by Infratest Dimap for ARD television found 55% of those surveyed thought Merkel’s was more convincing compared to 35% for Schulz.

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