Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay accuses the European Parliament’s Chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt of 'scaremongering’ over citizens’ rights: Brexit News for Friday 17 January

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay accuses the European Parliament’s Chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt of 'scaremongering’ over citizens’ rights: Brexit News for Friday 17 January
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Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay accuses the European Parliament’s Chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt of ‘scaremongering’ over citizens’ rights

The Brexit Secretary has accused the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator of “scaremongering” after they clashed over the rights of EU citizens living in Britain. Steve Barclay told Guy Verhofstadt he was “feeding the anxiety” of migrants by tweeting demands they all be given identity cards, which the Government has already ruled out. During a meeting in Whitehall, Mr Verhofstadt also told Mr Barclay that EU citizens should not have to apply for settled status – effectively continuing freedom of movement. But Mr Barclay pointed out that the UK scheme for EU citizens is far more generous than the EU scheme for British citizens living abroad, who are still facing huge uncertainty about their future. – Telegraph (£)

A full Brexit trade deal by the end of year is ‘just not possible’, claims EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan…

The EU’s trade boss has warned the UK that a full Brexit trade deal by the end of the year is “just not possible”. Phil Hogan, Ireland’s EU commissioner, said he was “certainly” not going to be able to meet Boris Johnson’s ambition of having a comprehensive agreement in place by 31 December. He was echoing comments by chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who said publicly earlier this month that Mr Johnson’s timetable did not give enough time for a deal. “Certainly by the end of the year we are not going to get everything that’s in the 36-page document on the future relationship agreed because Prime Minister Johnson decided we are going to have everything concluded by the end of the year,” Mr Hogan said at an event in Washington. – Independent

…as he suggests a US trade deal will be harder for the UK to negotiate than expected

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has warned Britain that negotiations with the United States over a trade deal post-Brexit will be more difficult than expected. “It won’t be as easy as the United Kingdom thinks,” he said in Washington. Asked at an event at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies if there was a need for trilateral negotiations between the US, UK and the EU on the issue, Mr Hogan replied: “There’ll be no three-way negotiation. That’s a matter for the United Kingdom and the United States.” Mr Hogan was speaking during his first visit to Washington since his appointment as the EU’s trade commissioner. – Irish Times

Tories prepare to ‘sow division’ in the EU

As the Tories have been basking in their election victory, the EU has in recent weeks issued warnings about how tough the talks will be. In Brussels there is a strong sense that the Tories have not woken up to the trade offs and compromises that will inevitably characterise the talks… Cabinet ministers close to the future trade talks believe the UK also has two advantages in the talks: 1. Divisions within the EU. During the withdrawal talks the EU united around three areas – money, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland. But in the future trade talks the 27 EU members will have different and sometimes competing interests. One cabinet minister told me: “The 27 have differing interests. The French really care about fishing, the Poles don’t care about fishing, they care about freight and the Maltese don’t care about freight, they care about tourism. So member states could trade off and say we will champion two issues to help each other. Boris could then burn a bridge on that issue and effectively sow division.” 2. The “credible” threat of no-deal. Ministers believe that if the talks prove too difficult Boris Johnson will be taken seriously if he threatens to break off the talks without a deal. Failure to reach a deal in the trade talks would have less grave consequences for Britain than a no deal Brexit without a withdrawal agreement last year, according to ministers. – Nicholas Watt for BBC News

  • EU reveals clues ahead of talks with UK – Adam Fleming for BBC News

Big Ben Brexit battle descends into farce after it’s claimed parliamentary rules prevent donations from being accepted to fund the bongs

The battle for Big Ben to bong on Brexit night has descended into farce after it emerged that a six-figure sum donated by Brexiteers cannot be used to fund the chiming of Parliament’s Great Bell. After Boris Johnson called on the public to “bung a bob” for Big Ben to sound the moment Britain leaves the EU, more than £150,000 was raised on the Go Fund Me crowdfunding site. But last night the House of Commons Commission – chaired by the Speaker – said the money could not be used because of parliamentary rules on financial donations. The ruling sparked an immediate blame game in Westminster, with Brexiteers pointing the finger at the Speaker and his Remain-heavy committee. – Telegraph (£)

  • Big Ben unlikely to chime on Brexit day, No 10 indicates – Guardian

Union Jacks to be unceremoniously removed from the European Parliament…

Instead of the potentially dramatic scene of a union jack being lowered against the midnight sky when Britain leaves the EU on 31 January, parliament grounds staff will remove the flags without ceremony at an unconfirmed time. One flag will then be despatched to the House of History, the EU-funded museum in Brussels that aims to tell the story of the continent, from ancient Greek myths to Brexit referendum promises. Brexit party MEPs had lobbied for a flag-lowering ceremony, a Brussels analogue to the campaign to have Big Ben “Bong for Brexit” in London. Instead, the European parliament president, David Sassoli, will preside over a low-key ceremony with British MEPs on the evening of 29 January, shortly after the entire parliament votes on the Brexit withdrawal agreement. – Guardian

  • EU to UK: You’re history – Politico

…while the European flag at Holyrood is set to be taken down the moment we leave the EU

The European Union flag will no longer be flown daily over the Scottish Parliament after Brexit happens at the end of the month. Holyrood’s presiding officer Ken Macintosh wrote to MSPs that the flag, which currently flies alongside the Saltire and Union Jack over the building, will be taken down at 11pm on January 31. At this time, the UK is set to formally leave the EU, although it will then be in a standstill transition arrangement with Brussels until the end of 2020. The decision was made by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) on Thursday, which is made up of Macintosh and representatives from Holyrood’s five parties. But the SPCB also agreed to fly the flag of the Council of Europe on Europe Day, which this year falls on May 9 “a mark of our continued ties” with the EU. – STV News

John Longworth: Remain MEPs are distraught by the end of the Brussels gravy train

My last visit to the Strasbourg Parliament, hurrah! I think.  It is looking promising. UK MEPs have been called to a meeting with the Parliament Secretariat for them to explain the process of leaving, the end of the mandate. This has never happened before when we were supposed to be leaving. It looks as though the EU bureaucracy at least is taking this seriously. We are going to be out. Of course it is not absolutely a done deal. Assuming the EU remaining 27 member state’s have granted a mandate for Boris’ Withdrawal Agreement, the European Parliament has yet to approve it by a simple majority for it to be a done deal and all  before January 31. The vote will take place on the 29th in Brussels. But fear not, I am expecting the heads of the EU “mafia”, France and Germany, to dictate events in the direction of the agreed exit. – John Longworth MEP for the Telegraph (£)

Asa Bennett: Merkel is right about the Brexit ‘wake-up call’. But is the EU ready for the stark reality?

European leaders can no longer respond to Brexit with the usual mix of of “regret” and reminders, carefully exploiting the UK’s political stasis, that it is always welcome to change its mind. Last month’s election proved once and for all that Brexit is happening. The United Kingdom’s imminent departure has prompted Angela Merkel to warn in an interview with the Financial Times that it is a “wake-up call” for the rest of her European colleagues and that the EU must “respond by upping its game”. Of course, Germany’s chancellor does not mean that the bloc should raise its game by cutting back on its expansionist agenda in recognition of the concerns that drove 17.4 million Britons to vote to leave and many more millions in countries like France, Italy and her very own to vote for stridently EU-sceptic parties. – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

George Trefgarne: Mark Carney and the Bank should keep quiet and do nothing

I am not one for overly criticising Mark Carney. Along with George Osborne, he deserves credit for navigating us out of the financial crisis and restoring order and discipline to the banking sector. On the day after the referendum in 2016, when the Conservative party decided to publicly disembowel itself, it was Carney who stepped forward to provide calm. Yet, if he joins the chorus of other members of the Monetary Policy Committee who have hinted they could vote to cut interest rates, he would leave an unnecessarily sour legacy. The latest was Gertjan Vlieghe, who said earlier this week that conversations on the MPC had shifted towards cutting rates from their current 0.75%. “If you knew nothing about Brexit . . . and just looked at the UK data, you could reasonably make the case we should have cut rates already,” he said. The pound has tumbled and is now hovering around $1.30, roughly where it was before the election. There are eight members of the committee, and if Mr Carney votes for a cut at his final meeting on 30 January, it would likely tip the balance in favour. – George Trefgarne for CapX

Michael Deacon: A farcical row in the EU Parliament summed up why Brexit is happening

A moment of history. Today, British MEPs spoke in the European Parliament, Strasbourg, for the final time. And they bowed out in the most fitting way possible. With an absolutely farcical row about EU bureaucracy. It started with a complaint from Marco Zanni, an Italian MEP. He wanted to know why he and his colleagues were no longer allowed to display little national flags on the desks in front of them. Katarina Barley, the German MEP chairing the session, replied that it was against the rules, as set out by the Parliament’s president, David Sassoli.  The Brexit Party erupted. Brian Monteith, their chief whip, shot up to raise a point of order. Ms Barley, however, told him that he couldn’t raise it until he and his colleagues had removed the little Union flags from their desks. – Michael Deacon for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • Boris Johnson is right to pull back from public triumphalism on Brexit Day if he wants to win back Scottish voters – Alan Cochrane for the Telegraph (£)
  • 900,000 EU citizens in UK yet to apply for settled status – Guardian
  • October’s Saturday Commons sitting when MPs again rejected the Brexit deal cost taxpayers £115,000 – Evening Standard