Brexit: May seeks to reassure Polish nationals living in the UK

Jul 29, 2016

PM condemns 'shameful and despicable' attacks against the Polish community during a trip to Warsaw

JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Theresa May has insisted that the Polish community remains welcome in Britain as the country prepares to leave the European Union.

Speaking alongside her Polish counterpart Beata Szydlo in Warsaw yesterday at the end of her whirlwind tour of Europe, the Prime Minister said she "wants and expects" Poles in the UK to stay after Brexit.

May said that the only circumstances in which it would not be possible would be if the rights of British citizens living across the EU were not guaranteed.

She also condemned the spate of xenophobic attacks that has been reported since the referendum as "shameful and despicable" and said that "hate crime of any kind directed against any community, race or religion has absolutely no place in British society."

The UK government has been coming under increasing pressure to guarantee the rights of the three million EU nationals currently living in the UK, but has so far been reluctant to make concrete promises.

"The Prime Minister is under pressure from Tory Eurosceptics to deliver a 'hard Brexit' that would see EU citizens lose their right to automatically come to the UK," the Daily Telegraph reports.

There are currently more than 850,000 Poles living in the UK, by far the largest EU immigrant population in the country. Their rights are a source of great concern in Warsaw after the Brexit vote, Pawel Swidlicki, policy analyst at the London-based think tank Open Europe told Bloomberg.

"An absolute red line for Poland is the rights of Poles already in the UK," he said. "They'd also like some kind of non-discriminatory route for migrants in the future, and for Britain to continue contributing to the EU budget."

Polish Prime Minister Szydlo appeared to have accepted May's position that citizens' rights should be reciprocal after Brexit, The Guardian reports. "However, the reference was vague and neither leader specified whether they were referring to movement, residency or benefit access," it adds.

Michel Barnier: Who is the man leading the EU's Brexit talks?

28 July

Veteran French politician Michel Barnier will lead the European Commission's Brexit negotiations with the UK, it was announced yesterday.

His appointment is likely "to set alarm bells ringing" in the City of London, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said.

Who is Michel Barnier?

The 65-year old former cabinet minister is a member of the centre-right Les Republicains party and a passionate and committed Europhile.

He's also garnered a reputation as a tough negotiator and a hardliner on the financial sector, which will worry the City.

Barnier oversaw the introduction of more than 40 different laws aimed at tightening control on banks and activities such as short-selling, The Guardian reports, leading to repeated clashes with bankers and the UK government.

In 2010, the Daily Telegraph described him as "the most dangerous man in Europe".

What has the reaction been?

There was a frosty response from the UK government, according to the Financial Times. "It did not mention the Frenchman by name and [gave] the impression that the Commission was the least important of three interlocutors in the Brexit talks."

The European Council, which represents the collective view of EU country leaders, and member states more directly will also be involved.

Eurosceptic Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was more explicit, telling the Daily Express Barnier is "an old-style Euro-integrationist" who "wants the EU to be something like a single country".

Political commentators, meanwhile, were split on his appointment.

Former Europe minister Denis MacShane said Barnier is more than qualified for the job and that the press would probably "demonise" him or make him out to be unfriendly to Britain.

"It will be water off a duck's back for Barnier," he adds.

What will it mean for Brexit?

While some bankers spoke of their respect for Barnier's abilities and knowledge of single market issues, the FT reports, there was a "broadly expressed view" that his appointment would make it harder for the UK to strike a deal with the EU that works in the City's interest.

It all depends on who takes the leading role in the discussions: the European Commission, the Council or individual member states.

"Both Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande have already signalled their preference for national governments to take the lead in what will be a subtle political high-wire act," says Politico.

Brexit polls: Britons dismiss post-referendum hit to finances

25 July

Amid a spate of surveys apparently pointing to a post-Brexit vote slowdown in the economy, a new opinion poll suggests Britons do not fear a hit to their own finances.

The Ipsos Mori survey for the Sunday Telegraph, which questioned more than 1,000 people, found a majority believe their personal financial position will not change either way over the coming six months.

Slightly more think there will be a small hit than expect their position to improve - 25 per cent to 18 per cent - but overall, three-quarters believe they will be no worse off.

Most are also not allowing any post-referendum jitters to affect saving or spending plans.

Overall, half of respondents are planning to put the same amount aside each month as they were before. Around 60 per cent of the quarter of respondents still intend to go ahead with planned "big ticket" purchases such as a holiday, car or house.

Ben Page, the chief executive of Ipsos Mori, said there have been plenty of indications that consumer confidence in the economy more widely has fallen, but that this is not yet feeding into behaviour.

"There’s little indication that people are taking panic-stricken or rash decisions," he said, "but the question will be whether the 'keep calm and carry on’ attitude can win the day or we’re seeing precursors of economic pain to come."

A survey from market researchers GfK earlier this month found confidence in the UK economy had fallen at the steepest rate in 20 years and had hit the lowest level since July 2013.

However, that was still well above the level during the financial crisis and the survey was carried out before the appointment of Theresa May as prime minister brought some much-needed political certainty.

There have generally been conflicting data on the economy in recent weeks and it is too early for conclusive findings to have been published.

Last week, the first "flash" estimates on economic activity found a fall to the lowest reading since 2009, suggesting growth is negative in July at least. But a Bank of England report suggested these sentiment surveys are removed from actual activity, which remains robust.

Brexit: Merkel backs May's decision to take it slow

21 July

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has supported Theresa May's decision to delay the start of the UK formally withdrawing from the European Union.  

May arrived in Berlin yesterday on her first overseas trip since becoming Prime Minister amid growing pressure from Brussels to trigger Article 50, which would officially kick off Brexit negotiations.

But the PM ruled out the possibility of talks beginning this year, arguing that securing a "sensible and orderly departure" would take time.

"I understand this timescale will not please everyone but I think it is important to provide clarity on that now," she said.

In a show of support, Merkel said the UK should be allowed the time to define its negotiating stance. "No one wants this to be up in the air," she said. "But we all have an interest in this matter being carefully prepared, positions being clearly defined and delineated."

In addition, she again made clear that no talks – not even informal ones – would begin until Article 50 had been triggered.

May was "determined" to get relations with Merkel off to a good start, the Financial Times reports, taking the German Chancellor a birthday present of two walking guides on the Lake District and Snowdonia - the two leaders share a passion for mountain hiking.

"German media have made much of the similarities between Ms Merkel and Mrs May: both are clergymen's daughters, long-married with closely guarded private lives," adds the FT.

Both women "come across as down-to-earth, result-oriented politicians, without the overblown egos of some of their male counterparts," says Sylke Tempel of DGAP, the German Council on Foreign Relations.

But May should not expect such a conciliatory meeting with French President Francois Hollande, who she is due to see in Paris later today, after a quick trip back to Westminster.

"France's attitude towards May and her strategy on taking the UK out of the EU is expected to be somewhat less accommodating than that of Germany," notes The Guardian

What will May's 'informal' Brexit talks with Merkel achieve?

20 July

Theresa May will discuss Britain's withdrawal from the EU "frankly and openly" with European leaders as she meets them face-to-face for the first time since becoming prime minister.

The former home secretary said she had made a visit to Berlin and Paris a priority because she is "determined that Britain will make a success of leaving the European Union".

Saying she did not "underestimate the challenge" ahead for Brexit negotiators, she added that she hoped to send a "clear message" that the UK is committed to maintaining strong bilateral relations with Europe in the years ahead.

May will dine with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany tonight for an informal conversation about a wide-range of subjects, including the refugee crisis and the aftermath of the attempted coup in Turkey.

The main topic, however, will be Brexit. Merkel has made it clear formal negotiations cannot begin until the government triggers Article 50, the "divorce clause", something May says is unlikely to happen this year.

However, she is keen to "prepare the ground for the exit process" through informal talks with her European counterparts,the Financial Times reports.

Merkel has previously said the UK will not be allowed to "cherry pick" its terms of withdrawal and that access to the single market cannot be separated from freedom of movement. This is likely to prove a sticking point in future negotiations, as pro-Leave campaigners repeatedly emphasised that a vote to leave would mean an end to free migration from Europe.

May continue her European tour in Paris tomorrow, where she is scheduled to meet President Francois Hollande.

Like Merkel, he has said he "can't give in" on the principle that the EU single market and freedom of movement are indivisibly linked.

Although Merkel and Hollande have publicly said the UK must be given time to organise its retreat from the EU, the BBC notes that "both are facing re-election next year and under domestic political pressure to drive a hard bargain".

Brexit poll: Most Britons don't want second EU referendum

19 July

There appears to be little appetite for a second EU referendum among the general population despite calls from some senior politicians for another vote.

A ComRes poll for The Independent found 57 per cent opposed the idea, with 29 per cent in favour of heading back to the ballot box.

Labour leadership challengers Angela Eagle and Owen Smith are among those who have called for a second referendum to be held once the terms of a Brexit deal have been negotiated.

The survey also showed politicians may be out of step with the wider public in demanding new Prime Minister Theresa May holds an early general election.

Jon Trickett, the chair of Labour's campaigns and elections, last week urged the government to declare a snap vote, saying: "It is crucial, given the instability caused by the Brexit vote, that the country has a democratically elected prime minister."

However, 46 per cent of those polled agreed "the Conservatives were elected for a five-year term so May does not need to face a general election to get support for her programme", while 38 per cent felt they should be given the chance to choose the PM in another election.

"Most British people have had enough democracy for the time being," adds the Independent.

The survey also favours May's leadership style, with 52 per cent saying they expect her to be a good prime minister.
When compared to David Cameron, 36 per cent think she will be a better leader but when put up against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, 58 per cent of people think she will be a better PM.

Brexit poll: Half of public think UK will not exist in ten years

15 July

Public expectations of what will happen to the UK after it voted to leave the European Union have been revealed in a new poll for the BBC.

The ComRes survey showed that more than half of Britons (53 per cent) think the UK will not exist in its current form in ten years' time.

The vast majority of Scots voted in favour of remaining in the EU, igniting calls for a second Scottish independence referendum and in turn raising concerns the union could fall apart.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who has repeatedly vowed to follow through with Brexit, is expected to meet Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon later today.

In her first speech as PM, May said she wanted to preserve the "precious bonds" between the UK's four countries - but Sturgeon has said a second EU referendum will be on the cards if Scotland does not get a separate EU deal.

The ComRes poll also showed 66 per cent of people think maintaining access to the single market should be a made a priority during negotiations. Only a third (31 per cent) want restricting freedom of movement to be at the top of the agenda.

Fifty-two per cent think that the UK will stay in the single market with some limits on freedom of movement.

"This is all very interesting and rather in contrast to the pronouncements of our new Brexit cabinet minister, David Davis," the Liberal Democrat Voice reports.

Davis has taken a hardline stance, saying his ideal outcome would be tariff-free access to the single market with no concessions on freedom of movement, something many believe would be impossible.

When it comes to trust, nearly 72 per cent of Britons do not think their politicians will do a good job negotiating Brexit.

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