19 November 2018

Theresa May: Brexit deal “agreed in full” but subject to agreement on future relationship

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) today, Prime Minister Theresa May will say that there is “an intense week of negotiations ahead of us,” adding, “During that time I expect us to hammer out the full and final details of the framework that will underpin our future relationship and I am confident that we can strike a deal at the [European] Council that I can take back to the House of Commons. The core elements of that deal are already in place. The Withdrawal Agreement has been agreed in full, subject of course to final agreement being reached on the future framework.”

Elsewhere, May yesterday told Sky News Ridge on Sunday programme that this week will be “critical” for Brexit negotiations as discussions over the future UK-EU relationship are still ongoing. She said, “We won’t agree the leaving part until we’ve got what we want in the future relationship… Getting that future relationship right is necessary. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” adding that she will go to Brussels this week to hold talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

On the question of a potential vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, May said, “A change of leadership is not going to make the [Brexit] negotiations any easier and it won’t change the parliamentary arithmetic,” adding, “What it will do is bring in a degree of uncertainty…It is a risk that we delay the negotiations and that is a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated.” Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab also told the BBC Andrew Marr show that a leadership challenge would be “a total distraction from what we need to do… We need to get Brexit over the line, we need to support our Prime Minister.”

Meanwhile, Sir Graham Brady, the Chairman of the Conservative Party 1922 committee said “it would be very likely that the Prime Minister would win” a no confidence vote if it would be triggered, while confirming that the threshold of 48 letters needed to trigger a vote has not been reached. However, the Sunday Times reports that Downing Street is on standby for a confidence vote on Tuesday.

This comes as Health Minister Steve Barclay was appointed as Brexit Secretary, while former Home Secretary Amber Rudd was appointed as Work and Pensions Secretary on Friday.

Source: The Daily Telegraph Press Association Politico The Sunday Times

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Dominic Raab: Without changes to the Brexit deal, the UK should “walk away”

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab called Prime Minister Theresa May to “stand up to Brussels bullies” and renegotiate the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in a way that would allow the UK to unilaterally leave the customs arrangement agreed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Raab told the Sunday Times, “If we cannot close this deal on reasonable terms we need to be very honest with the country that we will not be bribed and blackmailed or bullied and we will walk away,” adding, “I think there is one thing that is missing and that is political will and resolve. I am not sure that message has ever landed.” Raab also told the BBC Andrew Marr show that the customs arrangement was a “fatal flaw” of the Brexit deal and that “a deal could be done” if two or three points were changed.

Elsewhere, Cabinet ministers Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Chris Grayling, Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt are reportedly planning to demand a renegotiation of the Brexit deal in order to include a unilateral exit mechanism from the backstop arrangement. Leadsom told the BBC, “I think there’s still the potential to improve on the clarification and on some of the measures within [the deal],” warning that “the UK cannot be trapped in a permanent customs arrangement” with the EU.

Separately, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday there was “not much room for renegotiation” of the Brexit deal, while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the EU would not make “massive changes” to the agreement. Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said, “We do not see any space for further negotiation or renegotiation,” adding, “We are convinced that the deal has now been struck…Now it is for both sides to decide whether to take it or leave it.”

Meanwhile, speaking to the Sunday Business Post, Irish Foreign Minister Coveney rejected the possibility of the Brexit deal being renegotiated, but added that the political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship could be adjusted, explaining, “I think there are opportunities for more wording, more reassurance and more clarity.”

This comes as the European Research Group (ERG) of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs published its response to the draft Withdrawal Agreement, concluding that the plan “means the United Kingdom will have not left the European Union but will instead be ‘half in and half out’.”

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Brexit transition period could be extended until 2022, says Michel Barnier

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier reportedly told EU27 ambassadors yesterday that the Brexit transition period, currently due to last until December 2020, could be extended until 2022.  An EU diplomat is quoted in the Daily Telegraph saying, “Barnier did not say that December 2022 was the absolute limit, the length is up to the British,” adding, “But another two years makes sense. It is a reasonable and decent length especially as the trade deal will have to be ratified by every national parliament and even some regional parliaments in the EU.”

Separately, according to the Observer, EU officials told the UK that any extension of the Brexit transition period must last at least one year and would cost at least £10bn on top of the £39bn financial settlement already agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

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Time to work for a better Brexit deal, says DUP deputy leader

Commenting on the Brexit draft Withdrawal Agreement agreed last week, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds yesterday said, “I understand why some people fear a No Deal [Brexit] scenario. But the choice is between this very bad deal and the right deal.” He added, “With MPs on all sides of the House pointing to the dangers for the Union of the Withdrawal Agreement, it is clear that it is time to work for a better deal which does not undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom.”

Elsewhere, Sinn Fein President Mary-Lou McDonald said the party’s MPs would not take back their seats in the House of Commons to vote for the Brexit deal. This comes after Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said, “I would certainly like to see Sinn Fein being part of voting on what happens to the deal…If this vote in Westminster is lost by two or three votes and Sinn Fein are standing outside speaking to the media, but not voting, I think people will rightly ask some pretty serious questions of them.”

Separately, Coveney said that the Irish backstop arrangement “is effectively offering Northern Ireland is the best of both worlds: frictionless access into the EU single market and frictionless access into the British market as well.”

Meanwhile the Northern Ireland CBI has issued a joint statement with its Irish counterpart, Ibec, lending support to the Withdrawal Agreement, with CBI NI Director Angela McGowan commenting that the Agreement “should provide a degree of certainty to the business community that Northern Ireland’s economy will ultimately be protected.”

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Jeremy Corbyn: A second Brexit referendum is an “option for the future”

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday that another Brexit referendum was “an option for the future,” but not “an option for today,” adding that he would be uncertain about how he would vote. Asked if Labour could stop Brexit, Corbyn said no, as the party does not “have the votes in Parliament to do so.” He also said Labour would vote against the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, calling the Government to “go back to the EU and renegotiate rapidly.”

Corbyn will give a speech today to the CBI’s annual conference outlining Labour’s alternative Brexit plan. He will say, “a good Brexit plan for this country is not just about what can be negotiated with Brussels. It must also include a radical programme of investment and real change.” Corbyn will also back “a strong single market relationship that allows British business continued access to European markets for both goods and services – while also ensuring we have the powers to support our public services and industry and transform the economy in all our regions and nations.”

Elsewhere, the Observer reports that Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer is planning a series of amendments to Brexit legislation that would make it impossible for the UK to leave the EU without a deal. Starmer said, “If the prime minister’s deal is rejected – and that’s looking increasingly likely – parliament will not just sit back and allow her to proceed with no deal.”

Meanwhile, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday said the Scottish National Party (SNP) will vote against the Brexit deal agreed last week, adding that she would meet with other leaders of the opposition in order to “coalesce around an alternative.”

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CBI President to call for support for Prime Minister's Brexit plan

The President of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), John Allan, is expected to give a speech today supporting the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. Speaking at the organisation’s annual conference in London, Allan will acknowledge that while the Agreement is not perfect, it provides “a route to a long-term trade arrangement,” while also avoiding “the wrecking ball that would be a no-deal departure.” Allan will warn that “Eighty per cent of firms have already cut or postponed investment because of the risk of a no-deal exit,” and will urge politicians to “listen to the businesses in your constituencies — and everyone who depends upon them.”

Elsewhere, more than 200 chief executives and entrepreneurs have signed a letter to Conservative MPs calling them to vote against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the Daily Telegraph reports. The letter, organised by former director general of the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) John Longworth, states that the deal agreed last week is “the greatest act of national humiliation in this proud nation’s recent history,” adding that it “offers the EU carte blanche to impose uncompetitive and deliberately punitive policies on the UK, selling British business down the river.” Business leaders who signed the letter call for a withdrawal on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms instead, arguing, “Brexit under WTO rules is not a ‘cliff edge’ nor need it be ‘chaotic’.”

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UK can only join Pacific trade bloc on same terms as other members, says Canada high commissioner

The UK can only join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on the same terms as other signatories, Canada’s high commissioner to the UK has said. In an interview with the Times, Janice Charette said, “As long as the UK is prepared to accept the same terms as the other signatories . . . [it is] exactly the kind of country that we would welcome into the agreement.” A spokeswoman from the Department of International Trade said, “Joining CPTPP would help us strengthen our trade with some of the fastest growing economies in the world as we begin to determine the terms of our own trade deals for the first time in over 40 years.”

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Macron says France and Germany have “new responsibility” to make Europe more sovereign

Speaking in the German Bundestag yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron said there is a new “Franco-German responsibility [which] consists of giving Europe tools for its sovereignty.” He explained this “new phase can be scary” as it would mean pooling together “our decision-making, our policies on foreign affairs, migration and development, an increasing part of our budgets and even fiscal resources, build a common defence strategy.” He added, “Europe, and within it, the Franco-German alliance, has the obligation not to let the world slip into chaos.”

Elsewhere, a joint Franco-German paper outlining a common proposal for a Eurozone budget will be presented to European finance ministers today. According to the Financial Times, the paper says the budget will be financed with contributions from Eurozone member states and would be used to finance public spending in member states and to stabilise the Euro area.

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Open Europe responds the draft Withdrawal Agreement

In a new blog, Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar, Dominic Walsh and David Shiels examine what the draft Withdrawal Agreement sets out on the Irish backstop and the future relationship. They argue, “While the UK has secured key concessions, particularly on the creation of UK-wide customs backstop, problematic elements do remain.” On the backstop, they write, “The Prime Minister’s commitment to ensure no customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain has largely been upheld, given the whole of the UK will now be in a joint UK-EU customs area. However, the UK did not manage to secure a unilateral exit mechanism from the backstop, and problematic Northern Ireland-specific customs and regulatory arrangements do remain.” They also note that the UK “managed to obtain relatively favourable conditions on level playing field commitments in exchange for securing an all-UK customs union.” On provisions for the future relationship, they argue, “The current outline of the Political Declaration remains very thin…Without greater detail, the arrangements set out in the backstop are being viewed in isolation, and the government is in a weaker position to argue the backstop need never be used.”

Elsewhere, in a piece for Prospect Magazine, Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar writes, “Any analysis of the deal must consider the alternatives available at this stage…It does remain open for the government to go back to the negotiating table. But if it chooses this path, it must be clear what precisely it is seeking to obtain.” She argues that seeking discrete assurances may be possible, “but deciding to rethink the whole backstop would simply not be credible at this stage.” She adds, “Renegotiation is of course not without risk. It is not clear that the EU is willing to offer further concessions to the UK. And the government must consider what path it will take if it fails to secure what it wants.”