Boris Johnson signs Withdrawal Agreement in Downing Street: Brexit News for Saturday 25 January

Boris Johnson signs Withdrawal Agreement in Downing Street: Brexit News for Saturday 25 January

Boris Johnson signs Withdrawal Agreement in Downing Street…

The prime minister hailed a “fantastic moment” for the country after he put his name to the historic agreement, which paves the way for the UK’s exit from the European Union next Friday. He said he hoped it would “bring to an end far too many years of argument and division”. Earlier on Friday, European leaders signed the document in Brussels, before it was transported to London by train. The signings mark another step in the ratification process, following Parliament’s approval of the Brexit bill earlier this week. The European Parliament will vote on the agreement on 29 January. Downing Street officials said the PM marked the document with a Parker fountain pen, as is traditional for ceremonial signings in No 10. It was witnessed by EU and Foreign Office officials, including the PM’s Chief Negotiator David Frost, and Downing Street staff. – BBC News

  • EU legislation set to be dropped by UK, from Common Fisheries Policy to farming and energy efficiency – iNews

…as he prepares to face test of ‘friends and sovereign equals’ post-Brexit relationship with the EU over fishing rights

Boris Johnson insisted the UK and the EU will forge a relationship as “friends and sovereign equals” after Brexit as he signed the document agreeing the terms of Britain’s departure. The Prime Minister and the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission all signed the Withdrawal Agreement in what Mr Johnson described as “a fantastic moment”. But in a sign of the battles still to be fought, The Telegraph has learnt that France has insisted in closed door European Commission meetings that Britain must grant EU countries access to UK fishing waters for 25 years after Brexit if it wants a free trade agreement with Brussels. The EU has warned that successfully concluding a fishing deal with the UK – ideally by July 1 this year – is a prerequisite for any future trade deal, which Mr Johnson wants done by the end of this year. Britain is understood to be willing to accept only a one-year agreement on quotas and fishing rights, setting up the first big showdown of negotiations that will start in March. – Telegraph (£)

> Simon Collins on BrexitCentral today: Don’t fall for the EU spin that ceding access to fishing grounds will be the price of a trade deal

Dutch PM says there’s a ‘50-50′ chance Britain will reach a trade deal with the EU this year… 

Brussels fears trade talks will hit the buffers early because Boris Johnson is making the same mistakes as Theresa May – with Dutch PM Mark Rutte putting the chances of a deal this year at “50-50”. Eurocrats say early skirmishes ahead of the start of negotiations feel like “2017 all over again” with the PM laying down rigid red lines. They are worried that he has adopted a series of tough positions he will struggle to move from and set an unrealistic timeframe for a deal. Mr Rutte warned there was a “risk that we might get to a cliff edge again” due to the deadline imposed by the PM. And one senior EU source told The Sun: “They’re making a textbook repeat of the same mistakes.”If a managed No Deal is the strategy, to try and put pressure on EU unity and force a series of sectoral agreements, once again it won’t work.” – The Sun

…as the EU finally admits it has to do a deal with the UK in 12 months…

Brussels has finally admitted defeat as a senior official has revealed the EU are now bound by law to finalise a Brexit deal with Britain in 12 months despite relentless attempts to wriggle their way out of an agreement. The EU is now working on the assumption the so-called Brexit transition period after Brexit will terminate at the end in 11 months. A senior official said Boris Johnson’s repeated efforts to rule out an extension to the transition period and Brexit itself has forced the EU into surrender. The bureaucrat, who did not want to be named, said: “We can assume at this point that the transition period will end on December 31, 2020.” The source did however reiterate that if there were ever to be an extension the UK would have to keep paying the membership fee to the EU, which is around £1.2billion monthly. – Express

…while Germany’s finance minister says the UK will face ‘consequences’ from Brexit

Germany’s finance minister has said he is confident his country will not suffer from Brexit but that Britain will inevitably face “consequences” from its decision to leave the European Union. At a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Olaf Scholz said Britain’s financial sector will not be as important to the EU after Brexit as it is now. Britain is set to leave the EU in a week’s time but will remain within its tariff-free single market and customs union until the end of the year to smooth its exit. Mr Scholz said a non-member cannot have the same advantages as an EU member and that will be an important factor in upcoming trade discussions between the EU and Britain. “That is something that will have to be balanced,” he said. “I think we will have solutions but, sure, there cannot be a special competitive advantage from being outside.” – Shropshire Star

The UK will not implement new EU copyright law, says science minister

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore has said that the UK will not implement the EU Copyright Directive after the country leaves the EU. Several companies have criticised the law, which would hold them accountable for not removing copyrighted content uploaded by users, if it is passed. EU member states have until 7 June 2021 to implement the new reforms, but the UK will have left the EU by then. The UK was among 19 nations that initially supported the law. That was in its final European Council vote in April 2019. Copyright is the legal right that allows an artist to protect how their original work is used. The EU Copyright Directive that covers how “online content-sharing services” should deal with copyright-protected content, such as television programmes and movies. It refers to services that primarily exist to give the public access to “protected works or other protected subject-matter uploaded by its users”, such as Soundcloud, Dailymotion and YouTube. It was Article 13 which prompted fears over the future of memes and GIFs – stills, animated or short video clips that go viral – since they mainly rely on copyrighted scenes from TV and film. Critics claimed Article 13 would make it nearly impossible to upload even the tiniest part of a copyrighted work to Facebook, YouTube, or any other site. However, specific tweaks to the law in 2019 made memes safe “for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticised the law in March, claiming that it was “terrible for the internet”. – BBC News

‘Decisive change’ for the economy as Boris bounce takes effect 

The chances of an interest rate cut fell on Friday after a closely-watched survey showed the economy has swung back into growth mode following last month’s landslide Conservative election win. Traders now expect the Bank of England to hold interest rates steady later this month, on hopes that a downturn in the run-up to the election has come to an end and a “Boris bounce” has taken hold. Markit’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) showed that private sector activity grew in January for the first time in five months. The PMI rose to 52.4 in January, its highest level for more than a year, in an unexpectedly strong recovery from 49.3 the previous month. Any score above 50 signals growth. It suggests the economy has turned a corner following an anaemic end to 2019, with the election at last ending deadlock over Brexit which had paralysed businesses and shoppers. The reading suggests there will be growth of 0.2pc in the first three months of 2020, IHS Markit said. A slew of data from December suggested stagnation had set in, sparking hints from policymakers that the Bank of England would be forced to slash rates later this month. – Telegraph (£)

  • Banks push for £4bn tax cut to boost City after Brexit – Telegraph (£)

Hauliers raise concerns over post-Brexit checks for Northern Irish traders

The “straightforward” document that Northern Irish businesses will need to complete to send goods to Great Britain after Brexit is a complex form that includes 31 data elements, it can be revealed. The Freight Transport Association has raised concerns that hauliers could be fined if they get elements of the “exit summary declaration” wrong, and is calling on the EU and the UK to remove it during their negotiations. The FTA’s head of European policy, Pauline Bastidon, said: “There are up to 31 data elements in an exit summary declaration required to take goods out of the EU now and post-Brexit (ie out of Northern Ireland) when the mode is road freight. Only two of these are optional, meaning 29 data elements are mandatory. – Guardian

Stand-off between CBI and other lobby groups over immigration letter

Business lobbyists are at war after a joint letter calling for corporate-friendly migration rules was made public by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) without permission from other signatories. Several groups listed as supporters of the letter to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, are understood to be furious it was made public, and fear the decision will further sour relations with the new Conservative Government. The letter sought a temporary visa for unskilled migrants and the freedom to hire foreign workers on lower wages. It was dismissed by Downing Street, which urged firms to stop demanding low-cost labour from the Continent. Among its more than 30 signatories were the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and manufacturing body Make UK. But sources say they had not agreed to release the letter and were not consulted beforehand. One insider said: “We hadn’t agreed to publish, it was meant to be a private letter. They’ve bounced us into it, and now we’ve got to take the flak too”. The row undermines efforts by lobby groups to present a united front and mend fences with Downing Street amid fears they are seen as implacably opposed to Brexit. – Telegraph (£)

Tom Harris: The passing of the Brexit bill is a constitutional milestone. Why is it being ignored?

Perhaps it’s just the contrast that counts. This odd sense of calm that has descended upon our political institutions seems alien and somehow unfamiliar, as if the dramatic scenes we all witnessed in the Commons throughout the last three years – and especially last year during the fag end of the Tantrum Parliament – were a natural and long-term state. Nothing highlights our new, perhaps temporary, state of relaxation than the fact that when it was confirmed in the last few days that Britain will definitely, definitively and without any doubt, be leaving the European Union a week today, the nation shrugged its shoulders and got on with more important things. The House of Lords, after mounting a half-hearted rebellion against the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, agreed without demur when the Commons sent it back along the corridor with their Lordships’ new clause removed. They knew when to call it a day. A newly-elected government whose manifesto featured an explicit commitment to a deal – to this particular deal, Boris Johnson’s deal – could not delay its approval for long. That’s what the Salisbury Convention is for. And so the Bill was passed by parliament and yesterday was given Royal Assent by Her Majesty. But when the Deputy Speaker, Nigel Evans, announced this fact to an almost empty chamber, it was met with barely a murmur. – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)

Louis de Bernières: Why I believe in Brexit

At the age of 20, in June of 1975, I became one of the young people who voted to confirm our membership of the European Union. In 2016, my generation voted to bring us back out. Why did we change our minds? There are several reasons, but the main one is simply our loss of sovereignty. I was personally comfortable with “sharing sovereignty”. The European states were democratic, I felt there was common cause between us, we had a shared interest in an enduring peace between us, and nationalism seemed an unmitigated evil, especially when combined with an ideology. My own comfort gradually disappeared as it became clearer that our lives were increasingly being shaped by officials whom we had not elected. We had joined the “Common Market” and been told that it was all about free trade, which always sounds like a good thing. Half the Labour party was opposed to it, however. Remainers have enjoyed depicting Leavers as little Englanders and rightwingers, but there are also impeccable leftwing reasons for opposing membership. I remember the big posters enjoining us to “Say no to the Bosses’ Europe”, and the Labour manifesto of 1983 declaring that we would leave if they were elected. People are talking about a “new relationship” between the UK and Europe. If you think that a relationship is all about trade agreements and extradition treaties, then clearly something “new” must be come up with. But the EU is not Europe. Let’s not be confused. Our relationship will be as it always has been, more than 2,000 years old, an oscillation between the polarities of love and hate, respect and disrespect, admiration and contempt, co-operation and churlishness, fascination and disregard, depending upon what providence throws in our path.- Louis de Bernières for the FT(£)

Sherelle Jacobs: As Whitehall plots to crush Dominic Cummings, prepare for a dirty anti-Brexit war

How to take Dominic Cummings’ war on Whitehall. A devastating anti-bureaucratic revolt planned meticulously for years by an “evil genius”? Or the doomed pipe dream of a tortured managerialist? This is the most important showdown of Mr Cummings’ career. The Vote Leave mastermind knows that the task before him is no mere swift, brutal campaign battle. In order to push through Brexit and ensure the working-class heartlands’ revolt against Labour is permanent, he must lead a ruthless guerrilla war. Mr Cummings has no choice. He and his small team of insurgents are grossly outnumbered. The old cliche is that the British government is creakingly unproductive. In reality, it is a bilgeing slime of over-professionalised bureaucracy. Whitehall systemically favours oleaginous mediocrities who can slick to the top, by honouring an administrative code of stagnant protocol.  The PPE-nurtured generalists who sit atop will do everything in their power to preserve their meticulously corrupt system. And, struck down with impotent official syndrome and snot-nosed with London anti-populism, their rank-and-file pen pushers are only too happy to help their masters jam the levers of Brexit. It’s too early to tell what the outcome of this showdown will be, but Mr Cummings’ job advert for “weirdos and misfits”, which has since been thwarted by Government bureaucrats – and gently ridiculed by pundits for its William Gibson cyberpunk references – is a sign of the tedious, sniggering battles ahead. – Sherelle Jacobs for the Telegraph (£)

Rupert Lowe: Why I, a Brexit Party MEP, voted for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal

Yesterday I became the first turkey to vote for Christmas by casting my vote, as a member of the European Parliament Brexit Committee (Afco), in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement. The deal is a miserable document, but with the commitments to non-alignment and no transition extension, it is acceptable. The British people have historically sacrificed a great deal to secure a free and fair relationship with Europe. Napoleon, the Kaiser, Hitler and other attempts at undemocratic European domination have been successfully defeated, often with the help of Russia. Trade and fairness have always been at the top of the British agenda and it was trade that was the Trojan horse used to justify the foundation of the “European Economic Community”. We have played our part since joining in the mid-seventies, contributing to the debate and funding a large part of the ever-increasing budget. As a country, we voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 in the largest democratic turnout in British history. Our Remain establishment attempted to frustrate this decision under the duplicitous leadership of Theresa May but the December General Election delivered another huge majority for Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit done”. The Brexit Party, combined with Northern common sense, has been the catalyst, even if the proposed deal that has been negotiated is far from perfect for the UK. – Rupert Lowe MEP for the Telegraph (£)

The Sun: Boris Johnson’s points-based immigration system will keep us open to the brightest and best

Life must be bewildering for Remain ­diehards still convinced Brexit was a ­racist vote to keep foreigners out. Our “Vote Leave” Government won’t follow the script. Boris Johnson has binned the maximum 100,000-a-year migrant target. The £30,000 salary requirement looks doomed too. Foreign students will get two years to find a job after graduating. And a new points-based system will keep us open to the brightest and best. Unskilled migrants will be filtered out — but they will get more points for working in an industry short of labour. This is the kind of control The Sun and 17.4million Leavers demanded. We do want lower overall migration. The pressure on wages, the NHS, housing and so on is unsustainable. But it is already sharply down on 2016. And even the prospect of ending free movement has dramatically relegated immigration in the list of the nation’s priorities. We must, though, be far tougher on illegals who reach our shores, and vastly increase the tiny percentage we deport. That will end the deadly trafficking racket. And none are genuine refugees — or they would stay put in the EU which, as tearful Europhiles will tell you, is a welcoming, safe, liberal paradise. Britain must continue to rescue real refugees from warzone camps. Economic migrants from the EU, like everywhere else, can come in on merit. – The Sun says

Douglas Murray: The New York Times’ bizarre campaign against Britain

The famously teeth-grinding boast in the corner of the front page of the New York Times is “All the news that’s fit to print”.  In truth it should be “All the views we think fit to hold”, since for some time — most of our adult lives you might say — the paper’s decline from newspaper to viewspaper has been proceeding apace. For most of us the realisation started to dawn whenever there was a story we knew something about. One read the NYT version and just thought “But that isn’t quite right”. In time this happened with story after story until you realised that if you didn’t trust them on the things you knew about, how could you trust them on the things you didn’t? In no area in recent years has the NYT made itself more ridiculous than on the subject of the United Kingdom. Since those of us who live in the UK might be regarded as, if not experts, then at least well-informed observers, the paper’s coverage has stood out as being especially ridiculous or defamatory, depending on your mood that morning. – Douglas Murray for UnHerd

Brexit in Brief

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