9 April 2018

UK government urged to come up with new Irish border plan

UK and EU negotiators will today meet to continue discussing proposals for a solution to the Irish border impasse. British negotiators have been urged to come up with new suggestions to solve the deadlock, after the proposals they put forward last week were said to be largely similar to those already dismissed last summer by the EU, which is unwilling to accept voluntary regulatory alignment. The UK is being pressured to come up with a plan by 18 April, when a stocktake by the Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser Olly Robbins and the EU’s deputy negotiator Sabine Weyand is scheduled. A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the EU is quoted in the Guardian saying, “We are determined to agree solutions to the Northern Ireland question that are acceptable to all parties. Our priority remains avoiding a hard border while respecting the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK.”

Elsewhere, former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble said the position of the Irish government on the issue threatened the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement. He said, “What is happening now is that people are talking up the issue of Brexit and the border for the benefit of a different agenda from the agreement,” adding, “If it looks as though the constitutional arrangements of the agreement, based on the principle of consent, are going to be superseded by so-called ‘special EU status’ [for Northern Ireland] then that is going to weaken the union and undermine the very agreement that Dublin says it wants to uphold.” Speaking on BBC Andrew Marr show, Adrian O’Neill, the Irish ambassador to London, said that he didn’t think the Good Friday Agreement was in jeopardy as “I don’t think there is any other alternative [to the GFA].”

Separately, the Irish government is stepping up its plans for a no deal, the Irish Times reports. Government departments have submitted 280 documents outlining the details of emergency plans in different areas in the event of a worst case scenario. The Department of Foreign Affairs is coordinating the contingency planning.

Source: The Guardian The Guardian The Irish Times

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Barclays to split up its euro rates trading team

Barclays is planning to move part of its euro rates trading team away from London, the Financial Times reports. The move, which will allow the bank to keep trading euro securities with European clients even in the event of a no deal, is expected to involve slightly fewer than 10 traders, with the leader of the team to remain based in the UK. In an emailed statement, the company wrote, “Barclays continues to plan for all contingencies relating to Brexit to ensure seamless service for our clients.” The bank is also expected to increase its presence in Dublin by 150 to 200 more staff and to beef up its legal status in the country by establishing a standalone subsidiary and making Dublin Barclays’s main hub in the EU. The move comes as the European Commission and European Central Bank are pushing for the EU to retain direct oversight over clearing of euro securities.

Separately, a survey of chief financial officers (CFOs) conducted by Deloitte reveals that for the first time since the EU referendum Brexit is not the top concern for British businesses. After the UK secured an agreement with the EU on a transition period, weak consumer demand has taken over Brexit as the top risk identified by businesses.

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Future UK immigration rules should take into account demands for affordable housing, says Housing Minister

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Housing Minister Dominic Raab said UK’s post-Brexit immigration rules will have to take into account demands for affordable housing, claiming that over the past 25 years immigration has led to around a 20% increase in UK house prices. Raab argued, “You’ve got to deal with demand as well as supply. You can’t have housing taken out of the debate around immigration. If we delivered on the government’s target of reducing immigration to the tens of thousands every year, that would have a material impact on the number of homes we need to build every year.” On Brexit negotiations, he said, “The prime minister deserves great credit for getting to this point,” but that the UK should remain “ready for all eventualities.” He also said he remained opposed to a future UK-EU customs union, arguing that the freedom independently to conclude trade deals was “one of the best opportunities of Brexit.”

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New poll: 44% support second Brexit referendum

According to a new poll by Best for Britain, 44% support the government holding a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit agreement, while 36% oppose it. In the event of a second referendum, 44% of respondents said they would vote to remain, against 41% who would vote to leave.

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British public prioritises maintaining UK’s food safety standards over deal with the US, poll suggests

An Opinium poll commissioned by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that the UK public is unwilling to compromise on food safety standards in free trade agreements post-Brexit. Commenting on the findings, a spokesperson for the Department for International Trade said, “We have been clear that the UK will maintain its high animal welfare and environmental standards in future free trade agreements.”

Elsewhere, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is this week visiting the US and Canada. Ahead of the visit, he said, “I’ll be showcasing the UK’s strong creative, tech and food sectors, making the case for greater investment and demand in UK products and expertise in both of these countries.”

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Donald Trump attempts to reduce concerns of a US-China trade war

US President Donald Trump on Sunday attempted to allay fears of a trade war with China, writing in a tweet, “China will take down its trade barriers because it is the right thing to do. Taxes will become reciprocal and a deal will be made on intellectual property. Great future for both countries!” This comes as the White House’s Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, also said on Sunday President Trump was “not bluffing” about imposing punitive tariffs on China. He added, “The whole world knows China has been violating trade laws for many years. And President Trump is the guy calling them on it, and he’s right to do so.”

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New centrist party with £50m in funding is developing, says The Observer

A new centrist party with up to £50m in funding has been in development for more than one year, according to The Observer. The project is reportedly being funded by a network of former Labour and Conservative donors, as well as other philanthropists and entrepreneurs. While the project seeks to “break the Westminster mould,” sources say it has not yet been finally decided whether the project’s focus will be on community activism or traditional party politics. It is understood however, that there is a consensus within the movement to field candidates in the next general elections in 2022, with an official political movement potentially being launched later this year. The Observer describes the project’s policy platform as “aimed mainly at a liberal, centre-left audience,” with policy proposals including fairer taxation, increased funding for the NHS, and stricter immigration controls. It reportedly contains both Brexit-supporters and Remain-backers.

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Nick Clegg: MPs should follow their conscience on Brexit deal vote

In an op-ed for the Financial Times, former Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg argues that MPs should vote following their consciences when Parliament gets its “meaningful” vote on the Brexit deal. Clegg writes, “The vote on the government’s Brexit deal will be like no other in recent history, touching on every vital economic, security and constitutional feature of our country,” adding, “In the end, it comes down to a judgment by our elected representatives to do what they believe to be best for those they serve.”

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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wins "super-majority" in Hungarian parliamentary elections

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán won a third consecutive term in yesterday’s parliamentary elections, as his Fidesz party is expected to take 133 parliamentary seats out of 199, a “super-majority” which would allow the party to modify the constitution on its own. Orbán’s campaign was partly based on resisting the EU’s obligatory refugee resettlement plan. Orbán yesterday claimed that his party’s victory presented an opportunity to further “defend Hungary” from Brussels.

Elsewhere, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans is today visiting Poland, where he is scheduled to meet Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, President of the Constitutional Court Julia Przyłębska, and Supreme Court First President Małgorzata Gersdorf. Timmermans will discuss the question of rule of law in the country, after the Polish government has recently softened its tones in its standoff with the Commission.

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