7 September 2017

The Times: EU warns it will block transitional deal if UK pursues leaked immigration document proposals

In response to yesterday’s leaked Home Office document on a post-Brexit immigration scheme, The Times reports that EU officials have warned that they will block a transitional deal and impose limits on access to the EU single market if the UK implements the document’s proposals. Particular concerns include proposals for residency restrictions placed on low-skilled migrants, and caps on the number allowed to work in particular sectors. The Times quotes one EU diplomat who said, “Limits on numbers of people or categories of migrant worker are incompatible with single market access, whether in a transition or the future, as the EU has spelt out as a red line.”

This comes as UK businesses which employ significant numbers of low-skilled EU workers have voiced concerns over the leaked proposals. Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills at the manufacturers’ organisation, the EEF, said, “On the highly-skilled side, the system described is one we can work with, after some changes…[It] is whether workers other than the highly-skilled will still want to come to the UK on the basis there’s no family reunion, no pathway to ever settling here, and where their stay is limited to two years.” Director-general of the Food and Drink Federation, Ian Wright, said, “If this does represent the government’s thinking it shows a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU migrant workers make, at all skill levels, across the food chain.”

Elsewhere, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, argued, “The outcome must include a transition period that is near identical for businesses to now…[Businesses] need to be able to recruit with confidence in that transition period, and they need to be able to ensure that any individual they take on during that time can stay with the business for the long term.”

Source: The Times The Financial Times

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MPs to begin debate on Repeal Bill today

MP will today begin debating the EU (Withdrawal) Bill (also known as the Repeal Bill), which will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and transfer EU law onto the UK statute book. Presenting the Bill in the House of Commons, Brexit Secretary David Davis is expected to say, “We are not rejecting EU law but embracing the work done between member states in over 40 years of membership and using that solid foundation to build on in the future, once we return to being masters of our own laws.” The debate will conclude with a vote on Monday.

In an interview with Politico, Shadow Secretary of State for Brexit, Sir Keir Starmer, has urged Conservative MPs to vote with Labour against the Repeal Bill as it is “in the public interest.” Starmer added, “To pour this sort of power into the hands of ministers is objectionable. It’s as wide a bill…as I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure there are Tory MPs who think the same way. The question really for Tory MPs is in what circumstances they will either amend [the bill] themselves or vote for our amendments.”


ECJ rejects complaints by Hungary and Slovakia over refugee quotas

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has dismissed complaints by Hungary and Slovakia over EU refugee quotas, upholding the EU’s right to force member states to take in refugees. The ECJ had previously decided that the EU was entitled to order national governments to take in quotas of refugees relocated from countries such as Italy and Greece during the migration crisis, where over one million migrants arrived in Europe from across the Mediterranean. Slovakia’s Economy Minister Peter Ziga responded saying, “The quota system does not work, so the decision is, perhaps, irrelevant at the moment.” Hungary’s Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, said, “This decision jeopardises the security and future of all Europe. Politics has raped European law and values…The Hungarian government considers today’s decision to be appalling and irresponsible.”

The court’s decision comes on the same day that the EU stated that it will not accept an extension to Sweden’s temporary border controls, which were granted as an exception to the Schengen free movement clause during the height of the migrant crisis. EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos said, “There won’t be an extension. The border controls are coming to an end in two months. The prerequisites for granting [the extensions] don’t exist anymore.”


UK publishes position paper on science and innovation collaboration post-Brexit

The UK government yesterday set out its objectives on future science collaboration with the EU after Brexit in a position paper titled “Collaboration on science and innovation: a future partnership paper.” The paper expresses a desire to discuss ongoing collaboration with schemes and bodies including the European Defence Research Programme, the European Medicines Agency, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) Research and Training (R&T) Programme, and to ensure continuity of funding under Horizon 2020 programmes.

Discussing the paper, Science Minister Jo Johnson said there was “mutual benefit” in the UK and EU’s research relationship, while David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, said, “This paper sends a clear message to the research and innovation community that we value their work and we feel it is crucial that we maintain collaboration with our European partners after we exit [the EU].”


The Guardian: EU paper will call for the UK to “present solutions” to the Irish border issue

The Guardian reports that the EU are set to produce five new position papers in the coming days, including one on Northern Ireland and Ireland, which is expected to say, “The onus to present solutions which overcome the challenges created on the island of Ireland by the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and its decision to leave the customs union and the internal market remains on the United Kingdom.” The paper will also suggest the need for “political commitment to protecting the Good Friday Agreement.” Other papers will relate to technical separation issues, including a demand for the EU to ensure “continued protection” of special European foods, such as Parma ham, French burgundy and feta cheese.


Polish President warns a multi-speed Europe “may break apart the bloc”

Speaking at an economic forum earlier this week, Polish President Andrzej Duda said, “Brexit is not a risk for the EU, if it even comes to that…A bigger threat is if the EU starts to break apart into a multi-speed union, into blocs where some are stronger and can decide about others. Then it would lose attractiveness not only for those in the B- and C-classes, but also those seated in the A-class.” He added, “The end result could be a divided EU that’s not politically or economically viable, which may break apart the bloc.”


European Parliament President to recommend delaying wrapping up Brexit phase one talks until December

In an interview with Politico, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani has said he would formally propose to senior MEPs today to postpone the assessment deadline of whether there has been “sufficient progress” in the first phase of Brexit negotiations – originally set for October. The EU-27 insist that “sufficient progress” must be made on issues such as citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the Irish border before the EU will begin discussing a trade deal with the UK. Tajani argued, “So far we have noted that no concrete proposals have arrived, only very foggy proposals,” adding, “It is not a tragedy, but we cannot postpone further than December.”


FTSE 100 bosses refuse to sign Downing Street letter asking them to back Brexit strategy

A draft letter seen by Sky News reveals that the UK government has asked FTSE 100 companies to support its Brexit strategy and praise its plans for a transitional phase. CEOs in sectors including financial services, manufacturing and technology are among those who have been approached to sign the letter, which reads, “We write as leaders of some of the UK’s most dynamic businesses operating in sectors as diverse as technology, financial services and advanced manufacturing…we all share an understanding that Brexit is happening, a commitment to ensure that we make a success of the outcome for the whole country, and a confidence that a global Britain has the potential to become one of the most productive economies of the 21st century.” The letter continues, “This month the Government’s Repeal Bill will initiate a programme of legislation that will make Britain ready for life outside the EU. We believe this is a good time for employers to work with Government and Parliament to make a success of Brexit and secure a bright future for our country.” Some FTSE 100 bosses are reportedly unwilling to sign it, with one FTSE 100 executive being quoted as saying, “There is no way we could sign this given the current state of chaos surrounding the [Brexit] talks.”


Germany’s biggest industry group preparing for ‘no-deal’ Brexit

The Federation of German Industries, Germany’s biggest industry group, has created a task force to prepare for a Brexit in which there is no deal between the UK and the EU. The task force, involving Airbus, Siemens and Deutsche Bank, will identify risks to German industry, as tension is growing due to a lack of progress in Brexit negotiations. Markus Becker-Melching of the Association of German Banks said, “We are working on the basis that there will be a hard Brexit. The wheels are now set in motion to prepare for this.”


Turkish President criticises EU over accession talks

Speaking after German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an end to talks over Turkey’s accession to the EU, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, “Either [the EU] will keep their promise and open the path of the membership process…or they need to say ‘we don’t want to continue on the path with Turkey’.” He claimed the EU has acted unfairly towards Turkey, which he said has “bent over backwards to fulfil our requirements” on economic and democratic reforms. The talks on whether to scrap Turkey’s move towards accession are due to start this week at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. This comes as Merkel has warned that Turkey is “departing from all democratic practices at breakneck speed” after a crackdown on civil liberties since last year’s attempted military coup.


Aarti Shankar: Concrete UK proposals on the transitional period and immigration policy are now overdue

Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar writes in The Daily Telegraph on yesterday’s leaked Home Office document, “We should be wary of considering this a genuine indication of agreed post-Brexit immigration policy. On this, there is frustratingly little information. Despite briefings from various cabinet ministers over the summer in favour of avoiding an immediate cliff-edge for businesses’ access to labour, the government has so far not produced a position paper outlining concrete proposals for a transition period.” She writes, “There remains a limit to the flexibility and creativity the UK can strive for in negotiations with the EU on transitional measures…The introduction of skill and salary thresholds during a temporary transitional period may prove needlessly harmful to negotiations with the EU, which is likely to reject proposals for differentiated access for EU migrants.” She concludes, “Concrete proposals for the transition period are now overdue. The Prime Minister is expected to deliver a speech updating the government’s general Brexit strategy later this month – let’s hope this includes greater clarity on future UK immigration policy towards EU citizens, particularly given the importance the EU will attach to this in upcoming negotiations.”

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