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Downing Street has confirmed that Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50, the formal process of leaving the EU, next Wednesday 29 March by issuing a letter of withdrawal to European Council President Donald Tusk. The Prime Minister said, “We are going to be out there, negotiating hard, delivering on what the British people voted for,” reiterating her objective to get “a good free trade deal,” and prioritise continued cooperation on security. Downing Street refused to confirm whether the letter would include a detailed list of UK objectives. They also ruled out the possibility of a snap general election.
Donald Tusk responded to the news, saying, “Within 48 hours of the UK triggering Article 50, I will present the draft Brexit guidelines to the EU27 member states.” However, leaders of the EU-27 are now not expected to convene on 6 April, as had been planned, to agree the EU’s negotiating guidelines, over fear of insufficient time. The informal summit is now likely to take place four to six weeks after the Article 50 trigger instead.
Separately, Dutch Finance Minister and President of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem said, May needs “realism on the sequence of things, realism on the price it’s going to cost, realism on the complexity and so the time needed, because up to now I’ve missed this very much from the UK government.”
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Senior figures from the City are urging the government to lower taxes and reduce regulations to mitigate the negative impact of Brexit. John McFarlane, chairman of Barclays said, “The challenge for the UK is not to assume it’s unassailable. Advantage needs to be renewed.” He continued, “There needs to be a tangible, compelling economic or collateral reason to be here or to do business here, rather than somewhere else, and this needs to be renewed continually.” Miles Celic, chief executive of TheCityUK, added, “There is absolutely no appetite for a regulatory bonfire. But there is space for a tonal shift.”
Speaking to the House of Commons European Scrutiny committee, Minister of State for Brexit, David Jones, said the Brexit negotiations would need to “reflect the fact that there’s a strong mutual interest in maintaining good businesses relationships between the UK and the EU.” He continued, “After all, when we do leave the European Union, this country will be one of the biggest export markets for EU produced goods and services and we’re quite happy that it should remain that way.” Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU said, “The truth is, nobody has done this sort of negotiation before. A lot of the speculation [about how long it will take] is based on a different sort of negotiation of a free-trade agreement but between countries which are not in convergence and need to find a way to bridge gaps…Our mandate is clear to get on with it, which everyone has bought into, included in the Treaty of two years, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Separately, Ireland’s Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, told CNBC, “My view is that [a UK-EU deal] will take longer than [the two years set out under Article 50].”
Discussing the publication of a report from the Institute for Government (IfG) on the legislative requirements of Brexit, Hannah White, IfG’s director of research, said, “Making a success of it will require a large volume of bills and secondary legislation to be passed by parliament against a hard deadline. It will be a challenge for both the government and parliament to do all this while still ensuring full scrutiny and leaving room for the government’s domestic policy agenda,” adding, “Departments will need to ruthlessly prioritise other legislation and indeed find non-legislative approaches to achieving policy aims where possible.”
This follows a Sunday Telegraph report that multiple government departments are requesting additional resources to deal with Brexit. A source at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) said, “We need more officials. DExEU is growing, but we have got a big task starting in just a couple of weeks’ time. We certainly need a couple of hundred more. The stuff we are doing is unbelievably technical.” Another at the Foreign Office said that it “can’t continue to have cuts to our budget if we want to achieve Global Britain,” while a source in the Department for International Trade said, “The expectation is that Britain will be delivering a number of free trade agreements and progress in other trade areas. It will need people and expertise to deliver those. We do need to make sure it is properly financed. We don’t want Britain’s trading future, such an important part of this government, to be impacted because we don’t have the capabilities to deliver.” Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said, “We are confident that departments have the resources needed to ensure we get the best deal for Britain as we leave the EU, and have the right skills to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead. Adding DExEU not been commissioned to model savings for the Efficiency Review.”
Institute for Government: Legislating Brexit
The Sunday Telegraph
The leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party (PiS), Jarosław Kaczyński, has warned that, “We cannot accept any announcements of a two-speed Europe.” He added, “This would mean either pushing us out of the European Union or downgrading us to an inferior category of members. We must oppose that with all firmness.”
Czech Foreign Minister, Lubomir Zaoralek, has told Czech newspaper Hospodarske Noviny, “We are saying that we have to respect freedom of movement and other things, for which we would let ourselves be crucified, figuratively speaking, but the outcome may be that due to these principles the [European] Union may break up.” Zaoralek continued, “When you have two million people coming from the east who take your jobs, social support and a number of other things, you can (try to) persuade your own people a thousand times to get used to it. They won’t take it, because you simply went too far and you did not tell them the truth.” The comments differ from Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s who said Czechs want to retain freedom of movement. Zaoralek later said in an emailed statement, “I reject (the notion) that this would be in disagreement with the priorities of Czech foreign policy. The tragic thing about Brexit is the fact that we have not learned from it so far.”
On a visit to Argentina, Greg Hands, International Trade Minister, said, “Argentina has huge potential to be a modern vibrant economy, which is why we are reintroducing financial support for UK companies to maximise investment opportunities and wealth creation. The UK’s world leading expertise in areas like green energy and healthcare are in demand across the world and will form the basis of new trading relationships with South American countries as we leave the EU.” The Press Association reports that support up to £1bn will be made available to exporting UK firms, and that Hands plans to strike an Air Services Agreement during his visit to encourage more direct flights between the UK and Argentina.
The Press Association
According to The Times, cabinet ministers who backed Brexit are urging Chancellor Philip Hammond to not pay more than £3 billion towards the Brexit ‘divorce bill.’ The Times quotes a cabinet source as saying, “We are categorically against paying in a big lump sum. Nor do they want it agreed before trade negotiations. People are horrified by the Chancellor’s suggestion of paying the bills that are owed.