In Depth

Brexit: Theresa May says ‘trust me’ to deliver

PM appeals to the public for ‘help’ in bid to break Brexit deadlock

Brexit: May faces tough week as EU Withdrawal Bill enters Lords

29 January

Theresa May is facing another difficult week, under attack from all sides as the EU Withdrawal Bill enters the House of Lords.

A report by the Lords Constitution Committee warns that the “flawed” Brexit Bill “undermines legal certainty” and needs substantial change.

The aim of transposing EU law into UK legislation in time for Brexit is complicated by the Bill’s complexity, says the committee, which notes that “in many areas the final shape of that law will depend on the outcome of the UK's negotiations with the EU”.

“As it stands, this Bill is constitutionally unacceptable,” said committee chair Ann Taylor, Baroness Taylor of Bolton.

The Bill faces a tricky passage, with “the Lords debate to feature some very powerful, rational arguments”, Lord Ashdown told Politico. However, the former Lib Dem leader said he believes that, ultimately, “the Lords will not get their way”.

‘No backsliding, no compromises, no fudges’

The Prime Minister faces further uncertainty over her position as Brexit supporters become “increasingly vocal” amid fears that “the Government’s approach is softening”, says The Guardian.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers suggests that Britain risks remaining in the EU “in all but name”.

Meanwhile, pro-Leave MP Jacob Rees-Mogg hinted that he would like to see Chancellor Philip Hammond sacked. Appearing on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Rees-Mogg said that Hammond “seems to be disagreeing with government policy, the Conservative Party manifesto and Mrs May’s speeches”.

There is a “commonality across all their interventions”, says the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush. They all make reference to the PM’s Lancaster House speech, Bush notes: “The not-so-coded call: no backsliding, no compromises, no fudges. Only hard Brexits need apply.”

But The Times’s Sam Coates believes the Brexiteers are racing to voice their criticisms ahead of the publication of economic impact assessments - which are expected to cast a gloomy light on the outcome of Brexit.

In a further headache for May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly poked fun at the Brexit negotiations during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, in a secret briefing for journalists.

Brexit transition woes

Causing May further angst, the EU directives for the next stage of Brexit negotiations have been agreed.

Sabine Weyand, deputy to the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, summed up the guidelines in a tweet saying: “Status quo transition without institutional representation, lasting from Brexit date to 31 December 2020.”

One guideline likely to make particularly unhappy reading for the PM is the assertion that, after Brexit, the UK will not have voting rights or decision-making powers in the EU, but must comply with EU laws and regulations.

Responding to the directives, Downing Street said there was “some distance” between what the UK wants for the Brexit transition and what the EU wants, but described it as an ongoing “negotiation”.

Brexit: EU toughens demands for UK transition deal

26 January

The EU is seeking to bind Britain to EU rules on freedom of movement and tighter conditions for new trade agreements for the duration of the UK’s two-year post-Brexit transition period.

Chief negotiator Michel Barnier will also demand that the UK provide special status to EU citizens arriving before the final day of the transition at the end of 2020.

The “stepped up” immigration demands mean “any EU citizen arriving in Britain before the end of 2020 would be able to remain indefinitely”, says the Bloomberg website, which has seen revised draft negotiating terms dated 15 January.

The precise instructions drawn up by 27 EU bloc countries for Barnier will “complicate” transition talks, says the Financial Times, which also says it has seen the draft.

It “requires that British ministers seek ‘authorisation’ from Brussels in order to continue benefiting from EU trade deals that it would otherwise fall out of on Brexit day”, the FT says. UK negotiators would also need EU permission to sign new trade deals during the transition period.

Brexit Secretary David Davis declined to comment to the newspaper.

The UK is to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, but British negotiators hope to smooth the transition over a period of up to two years. However, many Conservative MPs worry the transition may entrench the role of the European Court of Justice and curb Britain's ability to negotiate future trade deals, the BBC reports.

Brexit: Nigel Farage backs second EU referendum

January 12

Nigel Farage has suprised politicians and pundits by throwing his weight behind a second EU referendum.

 Speaking on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, the former Ukip leader suggested a second vote on the final terms of Britain’s exit deal would put an end to “whinging and whining” by Remain supporters and “kill” the debate for a generation.

He was immediately backed by Ukip’s main financial backer, Arron Banks, who said: “The only option now is to go back to the polls and let the people shout from the rooftops their support of a true Brexit.”

The multimillionaire businessman, who is believed to have donated more than £7m to the Leave.EU campaign in the run-up to the referendum, accused Theresa May’s government of “backsliding” on the issue and said the UK must “act radically now” or “sleepwalk into a faux Brexit”.

The London Evening Standard reminded readers that before the referendum in June 2016, “Farage said there could be unstoppable demand for a second vote in the event of a narrow win for the Remain campaign”. Current Ukip leader, Henry Bolton, dismissed his predecessor’s suggestion, saying it did not reflect party policy.

However, “the intervention is likely to spark a political firestorm with politicians on both sides of the debate having been adamant that the result of the original poll should be respected”, says The Daily Telegraph.

Both Farage and Banks predicted Leave would win a second vote “by a landslide”, but prominent Remainers welcomed the U-turn by two of Brexit’s biggest and most vocal supporters.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, of the Open Britain campaign for close ties with the EU, said: “For perhaps the first time in his life, Nigel Farage is making a valid point. In a democracy like ours, the British people have every right to keep an open mind about Brexit.”

The Lib Dems, who have made a second referendum their central pledge on Brexit, said Farage “shouldn't be so confident of winning [because] people are now far more aware of the costs of Brexit and the fabrications of the Leave campaign”.

Meanwhile, a survey of more than 4,000 people by Queen Mary University and YouGov found the vast majority of Labour, Lib Dem and SNP voters want a second EU referendum.

A Downing Street spokesman reiterated the Government’s position that “we will not be having a second referendum” but this has not stopped bookmakers slashing the odds on a second vote.

Coral cut the odds on another EU referendum before the end of 2019 to 5/1 from 10/1. William Hill put the odds of another vote by the end of 2018 at 7/1 and by April 2019 at 5/1.

 

Hammond and Davis head to Germany for Brexit charm offensive

10 January

Chancellor Philip Hammond and Brexit Secretary David Davis are both in Germany today to make a direct pitch to what media commentators describe as “Europe’s real power-player for a decent trade deal after Brexit”.

Hammond “is to address the Die Welt economic summit while Davis meets chief executives from major German businesses in Munich”, reports The Times.

In a joint article for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, the two politicians insist it would ���make no sense” to create new barriers to trade after Brexit.

They write that Britain and Germany should use “imagination and ingenuity” to craft a “bespoke solution” in order to maximise economic cooperation. The partnership should cover our economies, “including the service industries - and financial services”, the pair say.

But the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who was the EU financial services commissioner from 2010 to 2014, refused to play ball yesterday, saying that the City of London would be excluded from the single market to preserve the high regulatory standards in Europe.

Hammond and Davis are hoping German businesses will pressure their government into changing their stance, says HuffPost’s Paul Waugh. But the chances of that appear slim. The Daily Telegraph warns that Angela Merkel will seek to block the pair’s plan for a “managed divergence” away from EU rules and regulations.

Theresa May has finally set out her proposed “end state” with Europe, which includes a “three-basket approach” of different tiers of compliance with EU rules for different parts of the economy, says the newpaper’s Europe editor, Peter Foster. The plan “effectively torpedoes” Davis’s alternative idea of a Canada plus, plus, plus trade deal, Foster claims.

The Brexit Secretary is also facing another setback. The Financial Times reports that Davis is furious with the EU for sending out “be prepared notices” to businesses in 15 sectors of the UK economy, warning airlines, pig breeders and others that the UK will become “a third country” with no formal access to the single market from next April.

“It all rests on the concept of ‘no deal,’” says The Times’s Matt Chorley.

The European Commission has been criticised by Davis for preparing for just such an outcome.

“But where could Brussels possibly have got the idea that, say, no deal was better than a bad deal, and the Government was preparing for it?” Chorley quips.

European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas also adopted a slightly mocking tone, saying: “Here in the European Commission we are somehow surprised that the UK is surprised that we are preparing for a scenario announced by the UK government itself.”

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