10 April 2018

Theresa May: UK’s net migration target to remain post-Brexit

During her visit to Denmark yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May indicated that the UK’s target to reduce net annual migration below 100,000 will remain after Brexit. May said, “We recognise the concern that people in the UK have about this issue of net migration into the UK, which is why we set ourselves a target in relation to net migration and want to continue to work to ensure that we address that particular target.” She added, “I recognise that UK citizens will still want to come and study and work in countries in the EU27 like Denmark, and EU citizens like Danish citizens will still want to come and work and study in the UK.” Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary David Davis said the future UK immigration policy would not be run “in anything other than  the national economic interest.” He added, “If you are in a battle for talent, as we are in the research sector, finance, design, engineering, then we’re going to run a policy in a way that favours that. When, on the other side, large numbers of people may not add value and may cause some social pressures, you are maybe working to shape that down.”

Commenting on the UK-EU post-Brexit relationship, May said she is “ambitious for the scale and the scope of this relationship and [wants] to ensure we maintain the closest possible links with our European allies,” adding, “I understand that future arrangements for Denmark’s fishing industry are of particular interest to [the UK] and, as an independent coastal state, we will want to ensure fair and reciprocal access to waters.” Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said, “We should avoid too many changes in our relations and I am totally in favour of an enhanced trade agreement between the EU and UK,” while also warning that “We have to be realistic and we have to realise that there will be changes…There will be more bureaucracy in the future, unfortunately.” He added that the UK’s exit from the European Single Market “comes with a price tag, ultimately it’s not only a British price tag, it’s a Danish price tag.”

Separately, after meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven yesterday, May said, “Our economic ties are one of the many reasons we are determined to maintain our close links with Sweden after Brexit.” Löfven said, “It is positive that the negotiations between the EU and the UK so far have developed quite well.”

This comes as May will meet with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa today to discuss post-Brexit ties.

Source: Press Association Politico London Playbook The Times Open Europe Immigration Report The Guardian Politico

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The UK does not have a replacement for the EU post-Brexit, says Irish Commissioner

Speaking at an event in Dublin yesterday, Ireland’s EU Commissioner, Phil Hogan, said, “[The UK] does not have a replacement for the [European] Union as a way to improve the life quality of its citizens, its businesses and its standing in the world… ‘Global Britain’ will mean for the United Kingdom a return to medium-sized nation status. Yes, it will regain the sovereignty to seek and strike agreements where it wants, but with reduced bargaining power, reduced security of its markets and supply chains, and a friction and cost added to each trade shipment to the EU, its biggest trade partner.” He suggested that the UK’s ‘Global Britain’ ambition would mean “stepping into a difficult world, and there will be a huge gap between hope and experience.” Hogan also noted “the UK’s preference for the long game” in Brexit negotiations, and argued, “We can expect the uncertainties that characterise the UK’s position to continue.” He urged the EU to “remind itself of the one thing that is completely certain – the UK is not going to change its mind on EU membership.”

Elsewhere, speaking yesterday Brexit Secretary David Davis said he had a “reasonably good idea” of what the final UK-EU relationship would look like. Davis also suggested “a single phytosanitary area for [agri-food] inspection purposes” on the island of Ireland in order to avoid a hard border.  On the parliamentary process of Brexit he said, “The simple truth is the majority in the House of Commons and the House of Lords does not believe in Brexit. So I have got to steer through what is effectively a hostile pair of legislatures a whole series of acts of parliament — 15 at the last count — that will deliver it. There will be surges of people who want to stop it. That will go on from now till the day we leave.”

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David Davis suggests Brexit negotiations impacted by Sinn Féin’s “strong political role” in Ireland

Speaking ahead of today’s 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), Brexit Secretary David Davis said the process of Brexit negotiations “slowed down slightly” after Leo Varadkar took over from Enda Kenny as Irish Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael last year. He added that the “change of government” came “with quite a strong influence from Sinn Féin,” continuing, “You had a change of leader or a change in Taoiseach. They’ve [Sinn Féin] been playing a strong political role which they haven’t done historically, that I hadn’t foreseen.” A spokesperson for the Irish government said, “From the outset the Irish government has been clear that the UK’s decision to leave the EU presents significant challenges to the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation of the Northern Ireland peace process. This position is unchanged since the time of the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership and is one which has cross-party support in Dáil Éireann [the Irish parliament].”

Separately, the Guardian reports that Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Barry Gardiner, said recently, “There are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border and the need to have the shibboleth of the Good Friday agreement. And that is because it is hugely in the Republic of Ireland’s economic interest to make sure that there is no tariff and no external border there.” Owen Smith, who was recently dismissed as Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary, criticised Gardiner, saying, “It is remarkable that he can display so little understanding of the vital and continuing importance of the Good Friday Agreement, or of the essential need to avoid any hardening of the border in Ireland.”

Elsewhere, George Mitchell, the former US senator who helped brokering the GFA, has urged the British and Irish governments to cooperate in order to protect the achievements of the Agreement. Mitchell said, “The factor that led to the talks was the decision by the governments of the UK and Ireland to cooperate… You can draw from that time in history that this governmental cooperation must continue.” He said he believed that the agreement could survive the Brexit process, but added, “A hard border is essential to avoid and I note that… the UK government and the EU, have publicly committed themselves to avoiding that.”

Meanwhile, the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Red Hand Commando and the Ulster Defence Association, the three main loyalist paramilitary organisations, yesterday recommitted to the GFA, saying they wanted “to play a constructive role” in Northern Ireland and adding, “For too long we have been berated for our past and not able to imagine a better future. We must challenge that outlook by no longer being apologists for conflict but advocates for change and working to create a society that is at ease with itself in its diversity and difference.”

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Financial Conduct Authority to spend additional £30m over next year, due to Brexit

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) yesterday announced it would need to spend an extra £30m over the upcoming year to deal with the impact of Brexit on the financial sector. Of this, £14m will come from “reprioritising, delaying or reducing non-critical activity” in its regular budget, with the FCA saying it would need to make “difficult and challenging decisions about our priority activities across all business areas that are not related to work on EU withdrawal, including limiting the number of new initiatives we’ve taken on.” Andrew Bailey, the FCA’s chief executive, said it was “very important that work on Brexit does not interrupt or stop us fulfilling our statutory objectives.” The additional £16m required will come on top of the ordinary budget, and will mainly be paid for by the companies most affected by Brexit, the FCA said. Bailey also called for improved coordination with EU27 regulatory authorities.

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European Commission urges Polish parliament to take action over judicial reforms

Following his visit to Warsaw, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans yesterday warned that Poland’s parliament should address the EU’s concerns about the Polish government’s judiciary reforms. Timmermans said, “We can see some actions taken by the parliament, we are analysing them very closely and carefully. We haven’t seen an end of this process yet.” He added, “The debate isn’t about whether Poland has a right to reform its judicial system, that’s not our competence. We want to be sure that the Polish justice system maintains its independence.”

Elsewhere, writing in Politico, Poland’s Advocate for Citizens’ Rights, Adam Bodnar, urges the EU to “remain firm with Poland, regarding Warsaw’s assault on judicial independence and the rule of law.” He argues, “The independence of Poland’s Supreme Court — and its entire judicial system — is at stake…the EU must intervene in their defence.”

Separately, speaking at a conference in Paris, Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz called for the EU to “strengthen the power of [member] states in the decision-making process.” He said, “Poland is not against the idea of a federal EU, but the EU has deviated from the principle of a federation.” On the EU’s recent reform of the Posted Workers Directive, an initiative led by France, Czaputowicz said, “We don’t accept a framework under which our competitive advantage is eroded by rules imposed by stronger partners.”

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UK may ban export of live animals for slaughter post-Brexit, says Gove

Environment Secretary Michael Gove yesterday suggested a post-Brexit ban on the export of live sheep and cows for slaughter abroad. Gove issued a “call for evidence” on the issue, saying, “This [call] begins to deliver on our manifesto commitment which aims to control the export of live animals for slaughter once we leave the European Union. With all options being considered, I am keen to hear from industry, the devolved authorities and charities on all possible options and evidence on this vital issue.” The Farm Animal Welfare Committe (FAWC), which advises Gove’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), is set to review existing welfare standards for live animal transports.

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Leading asset managers trade body urges government to prioritise “openness over reciprocity”

The London-based Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA), a leading trade body for hedge funds and other alternative asset managers, suggested in a report released yesterday that the UK should “generally opt for an approach that prioritises openness over reciprocity” in granting EU fund managers access to British-based clients post-Brexit. AIMA favours a post-Brexit model based on regulatory equivalence with the EU rather than mutual recognition of each other’s rules and argued that the UK should secure cooperation deals with EU national regulators during the transition period.

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Norway does not object to Brexit transition with “flexible solutions”

Norway’s Finance Minister Siv Jensen signalled her country’s willingness to accept British demands to roll over trade arrangements with non-EU countries during the Brexit transition, saying that Oslo had “no objections to a [Brexit] transition period” with “flexible solutions,” the Financial Times reports. In a speech in London, Jensen added that Norway had “an interest in the UK continuing to endorse the idea of common rules and a level playing field” and warned against post-Brexit “regulatory arbitrage,” while recognising that Norway was “obviously not” a model for the UK given the British government’s red lines. Jensen did not clarify whether Norway would be supportive of the UK re-joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

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European fishermen will require authorisation to access UK waters unless there is a Brexit deal, warns EU

The EU has warned the European fishing industry that unless a new UK-EU deal on fishing rights in established after Brexit, fishing vessels would have to  obtain authorisation from the UK in order to fish in British territorial waters. Equally, the EU notes that European fishermen selling to UK ports would be required to follow UK rules and regulations. The UK will effectively remain part of the EU Common Fisheries Policy during the transition, after which a new deal will need to be agreed.

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UK condemns alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria

Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday condemned the reported chemical weapons attack in Syria, saying, “The UK utterly condemns the use of chemical weapons in any circumstances and we must urgently establish what happened on Saturday.” The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the UK was working on a joint response to the attack along with its allies.

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Number of UK citizens acquiring EU27 citizenship grows by 165%

According to the EU’s statistical office Eurostat, the number of UK citizens obtaining citizenship of another EU member state grew by 165%, from 2,478 people in 2015 to 6,555 people in 2016. This was the largest relative increase compared with 2015 in the whole EU. Overall, EU member states granted citizenship to around 995,000 people in 2016.

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