Brexit News for Wednesday 15 March

Brexit News for Wednesday 15 March

Nicola Sturgeon abandons bid for Scotland to remain in the EU

Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum plans were rapidly unravelling last night as it emerged she is to abandon the SNP’s policy of rejoining the EU immediately amid record Euroscepticism in Scotland. Just a day after the Scottish First Minister demanded a second vote on independence, senior Nationalist sources told The Daily Telegraph that Ms Sturgeon would instead try to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), whose members include Norway and Iceland. Ms Sturgeon fears that the SNP’s long-standing policy of an independent Scotland joining the EU would put off the 400,000 voters who backed independence in 2014 and also voted Leave in last year’s EU referendum. – Daily Telegraph

New Scottish Attitudes Survey shows record level of Euroscepticism

A majority of Scottish voters have strong Eurosceptic views following last year’s referendum campaign, with nearly half complaining that the EU has too much power… The publicly funded survey, done late last year by the social research institute ScotCen, said that more than two-thirds of voters were critical of the EU: 25% wanted to leave the EU entirely while another 42% wanted to reduce its powers. – The Guardian

  • New YouGov poll finds 57 per cent of Scots back staying inside the UK and just 43 per cent want independence – The Times (£)

The Spanish foreign minister says an independent Scotland would be at the back of the EU queue

An independent Scotland would have to join the back of the queue if it wanted to rejoin the EU, the Spanish foreign minister has said. Responding to Monday’s announcement from Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, that she intends to hold a second independence referendum , Alfonso Dastis said Spain was opposed to the fracturing of the UK. He said: “Spain supports the integrity of the United Kingdom and does not encourage secessions or divisions in any of the member states. We prefer things to stay as they are.” Spain is particularly keen to ensure that Scotland does not become independent as it seeks to contain its own separatist movements in Catalonia and the Basque country. – Guardian

  • Spanish foreign minister says Madrid would not support break-up of UK – The Times (£) 
  • Nicola Sturgeon ‘will not get much help from Europe’ despite charm offensive – Daily Telegraph
  • SNP’s Angus Robertson says Brexit compromise for Scotland may help PM avoid new referendum – Belfast Telegraph 
  • Scotland mustn’t derail Britain’s Brexit negotiations – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • May 2, Sturgeon nil: The SNP has no case for a second referendum on Scottish independence – Brian Monteith for City A.M.

Theresa May hails ‘defining’ Brexit moment

Parliament’s backing for the government’s Brexit bill will be a “defining moment for our whole country”, Theresa May has told MPs. The prime minister said her timetable of triggering formal negotiations by the end of March remained on track. And she told the SNP – which has called for a second independence referendum – not to “play politics or create uncertainty or division”. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn accused the government of being “complacent”. Mrs May’s statement to MPs on last week’s European Council summit came after the EU withdrawal bill was backed by the House of Lords, clearing the way for it to receive Royal Assent and become law. – BBC

  • Theresa May expected to tour UK before triggering Article 50 – Guardian
  • Theresa May accused of ‘losing momentum’ and ‘making errors’ by delaying formal start of Brexit talks – Daily Telegraph

IMF chief signals upgrade for UK as global economy picks up speed

Christine Lagarde has signalled that the International Monetary Fund will upgrade its UK growth forecasts next month, as she said the global economy was gathering momentum. Ms Lagarde, the fund’s managing director, said the world appeared to be at a turning point, with solid output seen across the world at the end of last year. She said she was especially encouraged by stronger-than-expected economic activity in countries such as the UK and Japan, as well as the eurozone.- Daily Telegraph

Brexit is having no impact on UK mergers and acquisitions

The imminent triggering of Article 50 appears to be having no negative effect on UK mergers and acquisitions (M&A), with several major deals announced in recent weeks. New figures show British deal activity has been booming since the Brexit vote, and this year especially. This week’s Bovis bidding war, currently being fought by Galliford Try and Redrow, and a £5bn Wood Group-Amec Foster Wheeler tie-up join a long line of big British deals in 2017. – City A.M.

British businesses are buying up overseas rivals

How’s this for counterintuitive data. Despite Brexit, and the pound’s status as the currency markets’ favourite punch bag, British companies went on a shopping spree in the months after the referendum. According to the latest figures from Thompson Reuters, post-Brexit vote (from June 24 to March 13) deals involving UK companies as the target (inbound M&A) totaled $111bn (£91bn). Deals involving UK companies as bidder (outbound M&A) came in at $121.5bn, a 33 per cent increase. The numbers have been pushed up by British American Tobacco buying Reynolds American ($60.2 billion), and Reckitt Benckiser gobbling up Mead Johnson ($17.8 billion). – Independent

Post-Brexit migration will be tailored by sector, hints immigration minister

Migrants from the EU may face different rules depending on which sector of the economy they are coming to work in, the immigration minister suggested yesterday. Robert Goodwill said that the UK would need a “bespoke” immigration system after it leaves the European Union as part of the effort to increase control over the numbers coming in. He stressed, however, that the government was not looking at an Australian-style points-based system or to imitate the US green card scheme, and ruled out allowing regions of the UK to adopt their own immigration systems. “It may be different for different sectors. It may reflect shortages in our economy,” he told the House of Lords economic affairs committee. “But that is, sort of, speculation, which I think would be unwise to enter into ahead of the negotiations.” – The Times (£)

Sadiq Khan: I Won’t act like Nicola Sturgeon and EU shouldn’t think ‘hard Brexit’ helps them

The Labour politician insisted he will not “threaten” the Government as Theresa May begins negotiations with Brussels and would instead “work constructively” with ministers… Despite having previously launched a blistering attack on Mrs May’s Brexit plans, Mr Khan insisted he would engage with the Government’s approach to EU divorce negotiations. Appearing before the House of Commons’ Exiting the EU Committee this morning, the mayor was asked by Tory MP Karl McCartney whether he would “use the Scottish model” to press for London’s interests in Brexit talks or “be a bit more professional than that”. Mr Khan replied: “I was a Remainer but I accept the results of the democratic referendum. The British public have voted to leave the EU structures and institutions. – Daily Express

  • Sadiq Khan claims London faces banking ‘catastrophe’ if Article 50 triggered without early trade deal – Evening Standard

Gina Miller threatens return to court if Parliament doesn’t get a say on final Brexit deal

Businesswoman Gina Miller told Sky News that if the Government did not stick to its promise to give Parliament a say in the Brexit negotiations and final deal, then she would return to the courts. Speaking after the Brexit Bill cleared its final hurdle in the House of Lords, Ms Miller said she was “bitterly disappointed” MPs hadn’t fought harder to amend the bill to force the PM to give them a “meaningful vote” on the final EU deal. Ms Miller took her case against the Government all the way to the Supreme Court and won the ruling that means Mrs May had to win the support of Parliament before triggering Article 50, starting official Brexit proceedings. – Sky News

Former Finnish PM says Britain will not pay £50billion Brexit divorce bill upfront

Alexander Stubb, the former Prime Minister of Finland has warned that Britain’s negotiating hand is weak, before claiming the UK will not have to immediately pay a Brexit divorce bill. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is reported to take a position that the Brexit divorce deal would have to be finalised before any future arrangements are negotiated. But speaking on Newsnight, the Finnish MP insisted that the two would come up with “principles” at the start of their negotiations with exact sums being decided later in the process. – Daily Express

Philip Johnston: Brexit negotiations might get nasty – an impartial arbiter could keep things civil

Would it not make sense to seek an internationally respected figure to act as an impartial arbiter in case the negotiations get bogged down through the intransigence of one side or the other? He or she would have to be non-British and non-European – someone like Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister, perhaps, or Kofi Annan, ex-UN general secretary. They could keep an eye on the process and be ready to step in when things get especially tricky. Let’s hope they don’t; but we should be ready in case they do. Mrs May was commendably upbeat about the eventual outcome in the Commons yesterday but must be acutely aware that she faces the greatest challenge to confront an occupant of No 10 since the Second World War. Is she up to it? She – and we – are about to find out. – Philip Johnston for the Daily Telegraph

James Frayne: After Article 50 is moved, fasten your seat-belts

Triggering Article 50 will bring a wave of bad news for Government, punctuated by rare moments of success. As negotiations with the EU and others continue and conclude, these moments should become more frequent, showing the public they were right to vote leave. But it’s hard to conclude anything other than this: the Government is in for a battering. The scale of the challenges are such that there are potentially hundreds of negative stories that will emerge – even more if the media and the SNP recruit translators to pore through stories and research reports on relevant foreign media and Government sites. – James Frayne for ConservativeHome

Tom Harris: Theresa May is still in control of Brexit — she just has to tame the SNP grievance monster first

Theresa May, unlike her predecessor, is an emotionally committed Unionist. While David Cameron saw the Union, in the face of the Scottish nationalist threat, as being of political and transactional value, May looks at Scotland as an essential part of the country she loves. And she’s determined not to lose it on her watch. Whatever the faux expressions of regrets expressed by the Scottish First Minister yesterday at not being able to make headway with Scotland’s demands for special treatment in the Brexit negotiations – as if she really doesn’t want a referendum herself, but “hey, Theresa, mate, you’re forcing me into it” – May will have listened carefully to the small section of Sturgeon’s comments that had some validity. – Tom Harris for the Daily Telegraph

Tim Stanley: The Dutch election shows what will happen to the rest of Europe if mass migration is not addressed

Why is the long-haired nationalist Geert Wilders poised to poll top in the Dutch elections? The Netherlands is a liberal country. The economy is strong. Crime is so low that the government has been renting out prison cells. The answer has to be that the Dutch don’t like mass migration. So if Europe wants to stop Wilders, Le Pen and their far-Right gang, Europe is going to have to stop mass migration. It actually makes perfect sense that all of this should come to a head in the hippie Netherlands: that’s where the far-Right journey began. At the turn of the millennium, a gay academic called Pim Fortuyn formed an anti-Islamic party that turned Dutch politics upside down. – Tim Stanley for the Daily Telegraph

Brexit comment in brief

  • FDI to the UK will remain robust post-Brexit – Laza Kekic for the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
  • Let’s twin British urban and rural areas after Brexit – Christopher Nevill for ConHome
  • How to stop Brexit – Andy Coulson for GQ
  • The four traps Theresa May must avoid in her EU divorce letter – Agata Gostyńska-Jakubowska for The Guardian
  • The Article 50 letter: keep it short and simple – Mark Wallace for ConHome

Brexit news in brief

  • Sterling falls to eight-week low as traders take in Prime Minister Theresa May’s newly granted Article 50 powers – City A.M.
  • Arron Banks says he has been kicked out of Ukip for saying leader Paul Nuttall ‘couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding’ – The Sun
  • Arron Banks to build new anti-Brussels splinter group – Daily Express
  • Turkey angered as Germany backs Netherlands in diplomatic row – ITV News
  • Serve English wine to help oil wheels of Brexit, urges MP – BBC