Michael Gove set to be handed wide-ranging role running the entire Cabinet Office and Brexit talks: Brexit News for Sunday 12 January

Michael Gove set to be handed wide-ranging role running the entire Cabinet Office and Brexit talks: Brexit News for Sunday 12 January
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Michael Gove set to be handed wide-ranging role running the entire Cabinet Office and Brexit talks

Michael Gove looks set to be given a wide ranging role running the entire Cabinet Office and Brexit talks after next month’s expected ministerial reshuffle. Whitehall sources say Mr Gove’s new role is likely to make him the “de facto” deputy Prime Minister, despite the fact that Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, is the official “first secretary of state”. Mr Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was given a major role ensuring that the UK was ready for a no-deal exit from the EU in the run-up to the last deadline, October 31. The elevation of Mr Gove could distract from what is known as Mr Johnson’s “women problem” at next month’s expected reshuffle. Talk is widespread of Boris Johnson having to sack female Cabinet ministers who are seen as underperforming and replace them with male colleagues. – Telegraph (£)

EU may threaten ‘to block’ City’s access to its markets

The EU will be unashamedly “political” and block the City of London’s access to European markets if Boris Johnson tries to exempt the UK from its laws. Croatia’s prime minister, Andrej Plenković, whose country is taking over the presidency of the EU, made the bloc’s intentions clear after the prime minister insisted the UK would not be aligned to the bloc’s regulations. Asked whether the EU would use its power to switch off the City’s ability to serve European clients to gain leverage in the coming negotiations with Britain, Plenković said: “I wouldn’t go into the vocabulary of weapons but what I have learned in international and European negotiations [is] that all arguments and considerations are treated as political.” A major issue in the EU-UK negotiations over the future relationship concerns the extent to which the British government wants to diverge from the bloc’s rules in various sectors of the economy. – Observer

Donald Trump ready for blockbuster Brexit trade deal as Boris Johnson prepares for February US visit

Hopes are high in the US that a blockbuster interim trade deal can be agreed with the UK by the summer, ahead of America’s presidential election. Sources involved in the campaign to re-elect Donald Trump have told the Sunday Express they expect Boris Johnson to visit the US early in Feb­­ruary – days after Brexit on January 31 – as “a sign of the renewed relationship”. Last night it was reported he could be given the honour of addressing both Houses of Congress, only the sixth British Prime Minister to do so. The President’s team are keen for the Prime Minister to arrive ahead of Mr Trump’s State of the Union address on February 4. A campaign committee source said: “It would be great if we can have Boris there as a guest of honour. It will be a real signal of what is to come this year”. – Express

Dozens of Tory MPs stage last ditch attempt to persuade Parliament to allow Big Ben to ‘bong’ for Brexit

Dozens of Tory MPs are staging a last ditch attempt to persuade Parliament to allow Big Ben to ‘bong’ at the moment Britain leaves the European Union later this month. In a letter to today’s Sunday Telegraph, 60 MPs say that the Great Bell must sound at 11pm on January 31 to provide Remainers and Leavers with “closure” after three years of Brexit bitterness. The decision could be made as early as tomorrow when MPs and officials on the House of Commons Commission which meet for its last scheduled meeting before Brexit day. However Commission was reluctant to allow Big Ben to sound when Brexit was mooted on two previous occasions – March 29 and October 31 – and signs were not hopeful last night. – Telegraph (£)

Philip Hammond banned from discussing Brexit negotiations role with new employer

Philip Hammond has been banned by the government watchdog from discussing his involvement in Brexit negotiations with his new employer to avoid helping them “unfairly”. The former Chancellor has joined the board of Ardagh Group, the Irish packaging company, and is being paid a reported £125,000 a year. Documents seen by The Telegraph show the watchdog has said there is a risk Mr Hammond may offer his employer “insight into possible approaches to future trade agreements.” The advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba) has warned Mr Hammond to “avoid giving Ardagh privileged insight into the Brexit-related issues” including the “negotiating strategy of the UK government deriving from his time as the senior official negotiator.” – Telegraph (£)

Nigel Farage to get £150,000 golden adieu from the EU

Long-serving MEPs may be looking forward to six-figure “golden goodbye” payouts after Brexit day at the end of the month, but the new crop are expecting to leave almost empty-handed. At a meeting in Strasbourg tomorrow evening, the UK’s 73 MEPs will be provided with details of the “transition payments” that they can receive after the UK departs from the EU on January 31. Although MEPs including the Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage will be entitled to more than £150,000, those who won their seats only last May are not expected to receive any severance pay, because they have served for under a year. The payments are in effect redundancy money, which is usually paid when MEPs lose their seats. The scheme awards a month’s salary — currently €8,933 (£7,606) before tax and insurance — for each year served as an MEP, up to a maximum of 24 months. – Sunday Times (£)

Arlene Foster re-appointed Northern Ireland First Minister

The Northern Ireland Assembly appointed Arlene Foster as first minister on Saturday after a compromise deal ended years of deadlock. Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, was first minister in the last government. Michelle O’Neill, vice president of Sinn Féin, was named deputy first minister. The Stormont assembly sat for the first time in three years following the two parties’ decision Friday to agree to a deal — brokered by the UK and Irish governments — to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland. “Today we will re-establish an Executive after three years of stalemate … We won’t solve every problem immediately but local Ministers will get on with key reforms in schools and hospitals,” Foster tweeted. – Politico

Daniel Hannan: The hardline Remainers can’t stand the idea of Brexit working

You know how all the people who wanted a “People’s Vote” turned out to be Remainers? Well, I can’t help noticing that the same is true of those who say it will be impossible to strike a trade deal with the EU this year. Our underlying motives are not always the same as our stated concerns. The People’s Vote crowd may have talked in terms of “a final say” and “informed consent” and so on. But, deep down, all they really wanted was to stop Brexit by any means possible. Something similar is true of the trade deal pessimists. They may phrase their objections in terms of technical difficulties, sequencing, fisheries or whatever. But, au fond, they simply can’t stand the idea of Brexit working. – Daniel Hannan MEP for the Telegraph (£)

Tim Shipman: Brexit, the sequel

Last week was a historic one for Brexit. While Harry and Meghan stole the headlines, MPs voted by a majority of 99 to approve the legislation enshrining Johnson’s deal in law, sending the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the House of Lords for approval. After three years of parliamentary turmoil, the moment excited almost no public comment, clearing the way for Brexit to go ahead on January 31. It ushers in phase two, the potentially fractious trade talks. Yet there is cautious optimism that the political horror film of phase one can be avoided and that Johnson’s wish to talk about the future rather than “banging on about the B-word”, as one minister put it, could yet be realised. On Friday the European Commission began co-ordinating internal meetings to thrash out its negotiating mandate. It will then be handed to its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who has stayed in post, to thrash out with Johnson’s point man, David Frost, and his team of 40 civil servants across Whitehall. The EU’s internal process will continue until March. Ministers and officials say the UK will actually have its ducks in a row first. A succession of meetings of Johnson’s inner Brexit war cabinet will work out Britain’s negotiating position “in the next fortnight”, according to one insider. Britain’s three “asks” will be to secure: a “baseline free trade agreement” with no tariffs, duties or quotas on the sale of goods; appropriate “equivalence” on services to allow British financial and other firms to keep doing business; no extension to the time limit. – Tim Shipman for the Sunday Times (£)

James Forsyth: The Brexit drama to come

This week has shown how much the election has changed. The withdrawal agreement has sailed through the Commons and in Northern Ireland, there has been an agreement to get the assembly and the executive back up and running. As I say in The Sun this morning, ministers were struck by how Brexit got only the briefest of mentions at Cabinet this week despite the legislation being before the House. Pre-election, the whole conversation would have been about whether the government had the votes and what it should do if it did not. – James Forsyth for The Spectator

Dominic Lawson: Banning US chicken will slaughter a trade deal

Downing Street has (we are told) a strategy to deal with the EU in the coming negotiations over a future trading relationship. The idea is to push hard for a quick trade deal with America, so as to put pressure on Brussels, which would not want the UK to become more aligned with its most significant regulatory rival. That cunning plan is about to go up in smoke. The BBC has released an extract from an edition of Countryfile scheduled for broadcast on January 26: specifically, a snatch from an interview in a farmyard with the environment secretary, Theresa Villiers. The Beeb showed impeccable journalistic judgment in deciding that what she said should be made known immediately. Villiers — whose remit covers agriculture — told her interviewer that after Brexit “we will not be importing chlorinated chicken; we will not be importing hormone-treated beef. Both of those are illegal under EU law, which we are importing into our domestic system”… If that is government policy, there will be no big trade deal with America — and certainly not a quick one. – Dominic Lawson for the Sunday Times (£)

John Redwood: EU negotiations

There is one simple rule for UK negotiators seeking a Free Trade Deal with the EU. We do not need to pay to trade. We do not need to accept restrictions and controls on our conduct in order to buy imports from the EU, any more than the USA or Canada or Japan do. A Free Trade deal is of great benefit to the EU, giving them privileged access to our large and lucrative market for their food and goods. They have promised one in the signed Political Declaration. They know what an FTA looks like, having recently signed ones with Canada and Japan. I trust the UK negotiators will table a draft FTA based on the best of Japan and Canada with suggested improvements given our tariff free starting point. We need to take back control of our fish. They should not be offered up as a further sacrifice to secure a Free Trade Agreement. – John Redwood’s Diary

Brexit in Brief

  • In Brexit Britain, we are positively happy – Matthew Goodwin for the Sunday Times (£) 
  • No breakdown of relations with the Welsh Government over Brexit, says Welsh secretary – BBC News
  • Britons erupt at EU’s fishing ultimatum – Express