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Updating the House of Commons yesterday on the Brexit negotiations, Prime Minister Theresa May said that in order to secure an orderly withdrawal, the UK may “start off with the ECJ governing the rules that we are part of” during the transition. She stressed that during this “strictly time-limited period” the UK will have left the EU and its institutions but “we are proposing that for this period access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms.” She would not rule out accepting new EU rules during this time, but stressed it was “highly unlikely” these would reach implementation under a short transition. She added that the UK would begin “talking to trading partners across the globe” during a transition, and “preparing to introduce those deals once this period is over.” She once again rejected the idea of a relationship based on the European Economic Area or a Canadian-style free trade agreement.
Separately, The Times reports that Germany, France and Romania are blocking an attempt by the EU to open exploratory talks on a Brexit transition phase following next week’s summit of EU27 leaders. One diplomatic source said, “Germany is hostile and has told the others that it is not going to happen.” It has reportedly suggested a three-month discussion in order to form a common EU position on a transition.
In an interview with BBC Scotland, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader warned that Brexit had left the UK “engulfed in chaos”, and that the case for Scottish independence was getting “stronger by the day.” The First Minister said she could not set a date for an independence vote yet, agreeing that it would be “premature” while the outcome of the Brexit negotiations remains so uncertain, but hinted that the SNP may be preparing to back a referendum on the final deal once it has been agreed, saying it was becoming “more and more difficult to resist.”
Speaking at a meeting of the Brussels’ Institute of Directors, Former Irish Taoiseach John Bruton suggested the Brexit negotiating period should be extended from two to six years, arguing that the current timeframe is “too severe.” He said, “The present tight timeframe minimises the opportunity for creative thought. Instead, it maximises the influence of blind bureaucratic and political forces. It increases the likelihood of miscalculation, and of the UK leaving the EU with no deal at all.” Bruton also said, “Negotiating and ratifying a transition deal could be almost as difficult as negotiating the final permanent deal.” If an extension of the negotiating period is not possible, he suggested “the tempo of the negotiation must be immediately, and dramatically, increased.” Bruton also warned, “The Conservative party is consumed with its leadership struggle and cannot be relied upon to make a deal that will stick.”
Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), the European parliament’s largest party group, argues in Le Monde, “Non-democratic countries cannot have a place in the EU and should leave the ‘European club.’ We should have clear rules for this. The same should go for acquiring citizenship. In the future, only those who clearly respect our values should be able to access EU member state citizenship.” Coming two weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech on his vision for the future of the EU, Weber’s opinion piece argues, “We need a strong Europe, but not a superstate…A Europe that protects individuals and identities, and one that creates wealth.” On the issue of Eurozone, he writes, “We will always oppose a weakening of the stability pact, and the creation of a transfer Union, in which economically stronger countries must resolve the debts of others.” He also argues, “It seems to me absolutely necessary to move Europe towards a fully-fledged parliamentary democracy…The European Union must become a more active democracy.” He criticised Macron’s plans to create new European agencies, arguing that this “would burden the European bureaucratic regime.”
France’s European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said in a statement on Monday, “If there was a declaration of independence, it would not be recognised,” she stressed that, “This crisis needs to be resolved through dialogue at all levels of Spanish politics.” Meanwhile, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will today report to the Catalan regional parliament, and is expected to recognise the significance of the referendum results. He could nonetheless adopt a softer stance, providing for a mere symbolic declaration, or a harder one, which would consist in calling for a straight breakup. The Spanish authorities are preparing for any eventuality and are ready to increase police presence and suspend devolved powers to the regional government should it attempt to declare independence.
The four political parties involved in coalition discussions have given their approval for a coalition deal. Prime Minister Mark Rutte is now expected to be able to form the next government, which would put an end to months of uncertainty as the Netherlands have been without a government since the last elections in March. The coalition is formed by Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the conservative Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), the liberal D66 and the conservative Christian Union (CU).