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The Department for Exiting the European Union yesterday published a document outlining the UK government’s vision for a post-Brexit UK-EU security partnership of “unprecedented breadth and depth.” It calls for a framework which “promotes our shared security and develops our cooperation,” and which also “must respect both the decision-making autonomy of the EU and the sovereignty of the UK.” The partnership would be based on three pillars: internal security, external security and wider cooperation. The document concludes, “We should not wait where we do not need to. The UK welcomes the agreement that future arrangements on CFSP [Common Foreign and Security Policy] and CSDP [Common Foreign and Defence Policy] could become effective during the implementation period, and proposes that further discussions will reflect this.”
Following its release, Brexit Secretary David Davis said, “Our negotiating partners have a choice: they can treat us as a third country according to existing precedents creating something that falls well short of our existing [security] relationship. [Or] they can take a more adaptable approach in which we jointly deliver the operational capability that we need to tackle the ever-evolving threats to our shared security.” He stressed, “There is no legal or operational reason why such an agreement could not be reached.”
Department for Exiting the European Union The Times
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday told the House of Commons that neither of the government’s options for the post-Brexit customs arrangements with the EU are feasible, adding that the government has “wasted weeks working up proposals that the EU said were unworkable.” Prime Minister Theresa responded that work on both customs arrangements models would continue, saying, “There were two options in my Mansion House speech [on the future UK-EU economic partnership]. Questions have been raised about both of those options and further work continues.”
Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that EU negotiators are engaging with the UK government’s post-Brexit “customs partnership” model by asking a series of questions about the plan with a view to finding a way forward in negotiations. Among others, European officials have asked “how the UK can collect EU tariffs when it leaves the EU”, “how the UK intends to channel customs duty collected in the UK into the EU’s central budget” and “how the UK will ensure compliance with rules of origin, to prevent cheaper goods entering the EU by the backdoor.” The EU hopes to hear the answers from UK officials during the next round of Brexit negotiations, starting on May 22.
The Five Star Movement and the League yesterday moved closer to agreeing a government deal in Italy. The breakthrough came as former President Silvio Berlusconi, the League’s ally in the centre-right coalition, agreed not to obstruct the formation of a government between his ally and the Five Star Movement. Berlusconi yesterday announced that his party, Forza Italia, will not support such a government but will not break its alliance with the League, which represents the basis of many regional and local governments in the country. The Italian President of the Republic has now agreed to give League and Five Star Movement some extra time to reach a deal on the programme and names of the future government team. The name of the future Prime Minister reportedly remains now the last obstacle to a deal.
Following the US President’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, EU leaders have announced they will demand that European companies are exempted from the sanctions that the US is due to reintroduce on Iran and anyone seen as collaborating with the country. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire yesterday told France Culture radio that he will discuss possible “exemptions” and “grand-fathering measures” for existing contracts and investments with US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin later this week. Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that Iran will stick to the nuclear deal only if “sufficient guarantees” are provided by France, Germany and the UK, in the absence of which continuation of the deal “is not logical.”
Speaking in Belgium to the Flemish regional parliament, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday said, “At this point, we have to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigour, and because of it, in the long term, influence.”
Colin Paynter, managing director of the Airbus Defence and Space UK, yesterday told the Commons Brexit select committee that Airbus would have to move its factories from the UK to France and Germany if it wins a key contract for work on the EU’s Galileo satellite system after Brexit. Paynter explained, “One of the conditions in that bid documentation from the European Space Agency is that all work has to be led by an EU-based company by March 2019 [when the UK leaves the EU],” adding, “Effectively that means that for Airbus to bid and win that work, we will effectively novate [move] all of the work from the UK to our factories in France and Germany on day one of that contract.” This comes after the EU has said it could prevent the UK from accessing the encrypted part of the Galileo satellite programme after Brexit.
In an interview for Les Echos, Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier rejected the idea that Germany is “putting the breaks” on French proposals for EU reform. He said French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel “share very clear convictions on climate change, the status of Europe in the world, multilateralism, the social market economy, technology,” adding, “I believe we have the biggest window of opportunity [for reform] since the 1990s.” Asked what concessions the German government is willing to make on EU reform, Altmaier said, “We are opposed to the harmonisation of public debt in Europe – the famous Eurobonds. What’s more, we do not want a transfer union. The EU should instead give itself the means to better tackle the challenges it currently faces – innovation and above all digital technology, artificial intelligence, better protection of the external borders, climate protection or cooperation with Africa.” On Macron’s idea of introducing a Eurozone budget, he said, “We need to reflect carefully on whether we should create a budget for the Eurozone, which would represent 80% of the EU budget after the UK leaves.”
Meanwhile, Macron yesterday was awarded the prestigious Charlemagne Prize of the city of Aachen for his work to support European unification. Macron said that Europe had to overcome its fears and egotisms “to arrive at this [version of] Europe, that we need to reinvent.”
Five Labour Party MPs from the country’s North East today called for a second Brexit referendum to be held, writing in The Independent, “The outcome of the negotiations will affect the Northeast of England and the United Kingdom for decades to come. Because this is so important, we believe the British people should have their say on the final Brexit deal.” This comes as Bloomberg reports that Labour’s stance might be shifting towards advocating a closer relation with the single market post-Brexit, citing two senior members of the party, including a shadow cabinet member.
The Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) yesterday announced that it had initiated legal proceedings against the five companies involved in the building of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which is supposed to transport gas from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. The UOKiK argues that the collaboration of the energy companies – Russia’s Gazprom, Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, Austria’s OMV and Switzerland’s Engie – violates Polish anti-monopoly law. If found guilty, the companies face a fine of up to ten percent of their annual turnover, as well as the disposal of parts of the consortium’s assets, stocks or shares.
A new Forsa poll suggests that a majority of Germans (64 percent) see the EU as by and large beneficial, with merely 20 percent thinking that negative consequences overweigh the advantages of EU membership. Those living in East Germany are significantly more Eurosceptic, with just 47 percent there seeing more advantages than disadvantages in EU membership. Respondents named the Single Market as the key benefit of EU membership, followed by the EU’s role in safeguarding peace and providing a common currency. Asked about how they would like the EU to develop in the future, 39 percent favoured a continuation of the status quo, 29 percent a return to the EU as a purely economic union, and 18 percent further integration with the aim of creating a federal Europe.