5 September 2017

UK is prepared to “intensify” Brexit negotiations, ahead of Prime Minister’s “important intervention” this month

The UK is seeking more regular Brexit negotiations with the EU, as EU leaders will soon decide whether sufficient progress has been made on divorce issues to move onto the future trading relationship. Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman told reporters yesterday, “We are ready to intensify negotiations. Nothing has been formally agreed, but that is something that we can discuss. Typically in negotiations as time goes on you see the pace pick up.” The UK is proposing moving negotiations onto a rolling week-by-week structure.

Separately, an EU source told The Times, “We said we can have more rounds if they want. If they have substance. But frankly, we have run out of things to explore. We need to negotiate. We already ran out of steam twice in sessions two and three after a few days, so what would we do in these more frequent rounds?” This comes as the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhoftstadt, has suggested the next round of negotiations could be delayed by a week due to an “important intervention” by Prime Minister Theresa May, expected on 21 September. Open Europe’s Henry Newman has previously argued that an update of the government’s Brexit programme is overdue.

Elsewhere, Politico reports that the UK government is preparing to publish draft white papers in the coming weeks on customs, immigration and trade, while there will also be four new Brexit position papers. These will cover internal security, external security, fair and open trade, and science and innovation. Brexit Secretary David Davis will today give an oral statement to the House of Commons to update MPs on the latest round of Brexit negotiations and the series of UK position papers published over the summer.

Source: ConservativeHome: Newman Politico The Times Politico 2

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Barnier says Brexit talks on Ireland need “a lot more substantial discussion”

Speaking after talks yesterday with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said, “Our aim in the first phase of the Brexit negotiations is to ensure that the Common Travel Area and the Good Friday Agreement, of which the UK Government has a special responsibility as co-guarantor, are not affected by the UK’s decision to leave the union…I said last week that while our discussions were fruitful, it’s clear that a lot more substantial work needs to be done, in particular we need to continue discussions on all the areas of north-south cooperation.” He also stressed that “every solution we look at will have to be fully compatible with union law and with the single market.”

Elsewhere, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire yesterday met with the five main parties in Northern Ireland to assess whether to open a new round of talks aimed at restoring the devolved government. He warned that the window of opportunity to restore the power-sharing arrangement was closing, and suggested some form of direct rule from Westminster may be necessary if no agreement is reached.


Liam Fox suggests UK does not have the capacity to agree new trade deals at the moment

In an interview with Politico, International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox has said although “there are a number of countries who said they would like to move directly to a new free-trade agreement,” the UK is “simply unable to do that at the moment.” He argued, “It requires the willingness of the country involved to want to move the process further on, and it’s dependent on our own capacity in our own department.” Fox stressed that a trade deal with the US is the UK’s number one priority after leaving the EU, he added, “Australia and New Zealand [are] our next highest priorities because they are very keen to establish open markets and they are more like us in terms of the markets that they are. Then we’ll have to look at the EU agreements and see how we can update them.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian quotes a senior government source saying the UK does not have the resources to renegotiate the trade deals that already exist between the EU and third countries, and instead plans to replicate the existing trade agreements.

Separately, Iceland’s Foreign Minister, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Everyone wants to make a free trade deal with Britain. You are the fifth largest economy in the world. Everybody wants to sell you goods and services. It’s just as simple as that.” Þórðarson warned that it would be a “step backwards and everyone would lose” if trade restrictions were imposed.


Welsh First Minister calls for “shift in attitude in Westminster” on post-Brexit devolution settlement

First Secretary Damian Green yesterday met with Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones to address concerns over the European Union (Withdrawal Bill), set to be debated on Thursday. In a statement following the meeting Jones said talks had been “constructive,” but stressed that changes were needed to the Brexit Bill “in order to protect the rights of the people of Wales.” Jones added, “Whilst there was agreement on a number of objectives today, we still need to see a shift in attitude in Westminster about what the devolution settlement means in principle and in practice.” Green responded, “We both agree that it is vitally important to protect the internal UK market and to avoid making things more difficult and expensive for Welsh companies doing business across the UK. To achieve this we will need to adopt a UK-wide approach on certain issues.”


EU doesn’t have a “clear vision” of what they want from a future relationship with UK, says City envoy

The City of London’s special representative to the EU, Jeremy Browne, has said, “There is a tendency in the EU still to see the UK as primarily an internal disciplinary matter rather than an external relationship building issue…It is not clear they really have a clear vision of what they want their relationship with the UK to be — even though we will be one of their most important trading partners.” On the EU’s attitude to financial services, he said, “There is a big strategic choice the EU hasn’t yet addressed, which is whether the strategic aim is to establish centres that are complementary to London, or really to supplant it,” adding, “Dublin and Luxembourg know they aren’t going to replace London but can become very successful satellites…[but] there is no way Paris would accept the idea of being an enhanced satellite.”


Brexit vote was “a stupid decision,” says Juncker’s chief of staff

Martin Selmayr, chief of staff to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, has said, “Brexit is bad, and it’s a stupid decision…The only people who can reverse it would be the British people and I am not a dreamer, I am a realist. Brexit will happen on March 29, 2019.” He said that while it was “legally” possible for the UK to change its decision, “It would be arrogant of us” to believe the EU could secure this. He added, “The door of the European Union after March 2019 will always be open, and to all of our British friends, of course that is something that we humanly wish…But politically at the moment this option is not on the table.”

Elsewhere, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has rejected claims that he backed “teaching” the UK what leaving the single market means. In a tweet, he said, “I said Brexit [equals an] occasion to explain single market benefits in all countries, [including] my own. We do not want to ‘educate’ or ‘teach lessons’.”


Moscovici: Greek bailout was a scandal in terms of democratic processes

Speaking to Italian daily Corrier della Serra, EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici has called the Eurogroup’s decision on the Greek bailout “a scandal in terms of democratic processes – not because the decisions were scandalous, but because by deciding in this way the fate of a nation, imposing detailed decisions on pensions, the labour market.” Moscovici criticised the Eurogroup’s structure, saying, “Basic details of the life of a country which were decided in a body, behind closed doors, whose work is being prepared by technocrats without the minimum control of a parliament. Without the media really knowing what is being said, without stable criteria or a common guideline.”


Stephen Booth: Brexit is unlikely to ground flights to Europe, but replicating the status quo will be an immense challenge

Writing in Prospect magazine, Open Europe’s Stephen Booth argues, “Failure to reach any Brexit agreement at all [on UK-EU air travel] would mean relying on outdated bilateral air agreements with individual EU member states. These pre-date the creation of the single European aviation market, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about their validity. However, it is virtually impossible to imagine a scenario under which flights between the UK and the EU are grounded…Both sides benefit from air connectivity and the UK has the third largest aviation sector globally.” He continues, “There are a number of potential forms that a deal between the UK and the EU could take. As with many other issues affected by Brexit, these options can be thought of as a sliding scale: with integration with EU markets on the one side, and UK freedom for manoeuvre on the other.” He concludes, “The UK government must weigh its own freedom of action in this area—which it may want to exploit in aviation agreements with third countries—against integration with the EU. But given that the EU already has a comprehensive deal with the important US market, the UK may not value regulatory independence over aviation as highly as it might in other economic sectors—at least in the short-term.”

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