Brexit News for Tuesday 20 June

Brexit News for Tuesday 20 June
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Historic Brexit negotiations get off to a “promising start” in Brussels…

UK and EU negotiators have begun historic talks on Britain leaving the bloc – with both sides seeking to strike a positive tone. Speaking in Brussels, Brexit Minister David Davis said London wanted a “new, deep and special partnership” in the interest of Britons and all Europeans. “There is more that unites us than divides us,” he said, adding that Britain was looking for a “positive and constructive tone” in the talks. “So while there will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead of us in the negotiations we will do all that we can to ensure we deliver a deal that works in the best interests of all of our citizens,” he added. – Sky News

The EU’s chief negotiator said there would be “substantial” consequences from Brexit after the first round of talks with the UK. Michel Barnier said he was “not in the frame of mind to make concessions or ask for concessions”. UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said talks got off to a “promising start”. The UK appears to have conceded to the EU’s preferred order for the talks which will mean trade negotiations do not begin immediately. Mr Davis and Mr Barnier gave a joint press conference after day one of the talks in Brussels. The initial focus will be on expat rights, a financial settlement and “other separation issues”. Discussions aimed at preserving the Good Friday Agreement and common travel area in Ireland will also begin, although Mr Davis suggested these issues may not be settled until the end of the process, when the UK’s trade relationship with the EU is settled. – BBC News

“This first session was useful indeed to start off on the right foot as the clock was ticking,” Barnier told a joint news conference with Davis at the end of the historic first session of negotiations in Brussels. “There will be no hostility on my side.” The two sides agreed in principle to a format of four-week rounds of bargaining, with one week per month of head-to-head bargaining, to be carried out in English and French. In a joint document released by the British government, the negotiators said they had established initial groups to talk on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement for Britain’s departure and other issues regarding the separation. “We have laid a solid foundation for future discussions,” said Davis. – Politico

  • Who’s who in the Brexit talks – Politico
  • Who are the key Brexit negotiators? Who will David Davis negotiate Brexit with? – Express
  • Who’s who in the Brexit negotiating team for the UK and the EU – The Times (£)
  • Brexit negotiations begin: What does each side want? – Mark Stone for Sky News
  • Who is in charge? – Laura Kuenssberg for BBC News
  • Two-thirds of Europeans believe EU should take hard line on Brexit – Guardian
  • Europe may offer ‘soft Brexit’ and let UK stay in Single Market, hints German Foreign Minister – Independent
  • Upbeat Boris says Brexit will be a success as talks get under way – Express
  • Brexit talks start with jokes about mountains – The Times (£)
  • Early surge ahead in the battle of the misquotes – Patrick Kidd sketch for The Times (£)

> Watch via BrexitCentral: Brexit Talks Day 1: press conference in full

…with Britain and Europe locking horns over the ‘Brexit bill’ on day one of talks…

One of the biggest disagreements in the coming talks came to the surface after UK negotiators questioned the legal rationale for the €100bn gross settlement that the 27 EU members states are demanding from the UK. “They question that there is a legal basis for an exit payment,” a senior EU official told Reuters, reflecting EU nervousness that Britain will not pay up enough to cover the €10bn euro per year black hole that will be left in EU budgets after Brexit. UK negotiating sources confirmed that the British side had indeed demanded the EU explain its legal rationale for an opening demand that Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, described last weekend as some of the most “egregious” ever made. “We asked them to explain what they saw as the legal basis, which is not the same thing as saying there is ‘no legal basis’,” the UK source said. “We asked a large number of questions on the issues.” – Telegraph

…as Davis and Barnier rule out continued membership of the single market and customs union

David Davis and the EU slammed the door on any prospect of a “soft” Brexit as formal negotiations on leaving the EU finally got underway in Brussels. The Brexit Secretary confirmed Britain would be leaving the customs union and the single market, in a move designed to scupper any parliamentary plots to water down the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from Europe. His counterpart, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, also confirmed that Britain would leave the single market and the customs union. Such a unified public declaration of the intention to press ahead with a “hard” Brexit, sends a clear message to former Remain campaigners in Parliament who still hope membership of the customs union and the single market are up for grabs. Mr Davis said that Britain would seek a free trade agreement and a customs agreement with the EU, but: “We need to bring back to Britain control of our laws and control of our borders so we will be leaving the single market. Similarly we will be leaving the customs union. That’s the only way we can develop our free trade arrangements with the rest of the world and that is a major upside for Britain.” – Telegraph (£)

New poll puts Labour ahead of Conservatives – but Theresa May still backed to deliver Brexit…

The Conservatives have fallen three points behind Labour in a new opinion poll – but Theresa May remains the leader most trusted to secure a good Brexit deal… With Brexit negotiations starting today, Mrs May was the party leader that most people trusted to negotiate the best deal with the Prime Minister backed by 52 per cent of people. Some 39 per cent of people said they believed Mr Corbyn would deliver the best Brexit deal for the UK. Meanwhile, 48 per cent of people said they believed Mrs May should remain Prime Minister while 45 per cent said they wanted her to resign. – Telegraph

  • Definitive General Election analysis: How youngsters, Remainers and graduates stole May’s landslide – Telegraph (£)
  • Why Theresa May lost and what the Tories should do next – Matthew Goodwin for the Telegraph (£)

…as the Government is set to unveil new laws in tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech to prepare Britain’s infrastructure for Brexit…

The Queen’s Speech on Wednesday will include three bills designed to funnel investment into major transport infrastructure designed to help Britain boom after leaving the European Union. One will focus on growing the space sector and would allow satellites to be launched from the UK for the first time, as well as develop scientific missions and manned vertical rockets. A second would help people switch to greener and cheaper electric cars by making it easier to access charging points around the country. While a third bill will focus on the next stage of the HS2 high speed rail network, which would link the Midlands to the North West… In a statement Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are absolutely determined to give Britain the transport infrastructure it needs so that we can thrive and grow as we leave the European Union. – Sky News

…and Liam Fox wins Cabinet battle to get an historic trade bill included in the legislative programme…

The new law will enable Britain to take back control of trade policy from Brussels for the first time in decades and transfer the power to collect tariffs back to Westminster. A Whitehall source said “everything was up in the air” following Theresa May’s failure to win a majority and Cabinet ministers had to fight for parliamentary time for their bill to get in the Queen’s Speech. Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary, fought against attempts to delay a trade bill amid fears Europhile Cabinet ministers are trying to soften Brexit… But following a series of discussions Dr Fox won his battle to keep his trade bill. A Whitehall insider told The Sun: “There will be a trade bill in the Queen’s Speech.” – The Sun

…while Opposition MPs wanting to frustrate Brexit are joining forces to push amendments to the Queen’s Speech

Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs are joining forces to try to bring down Theresa May’s Government by passing amendments in Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech… The parties are looking at defeating the Government on amendments covering legal rights for tenants to demand protection from the risk of fire, easier access to the single market, a Brexit commission, hundreds of millions of pounds more for the NHS and an open Irish border after Brexit… However pro-EU Tory MPs insisted that it was unlikely that Conservative MPs would support the amendments because of the risk the Government could collapse. – Telegraph

> John Mills on BrexitCentral: Labour and the Conservatives must stick to their manifesto commitments of leaving the Single Market

After talks with Liam Fox, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross slams Jeremy Corbyn and says he ‘can’t imagine’ a trade deal with the radical leftie

The US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross took a pop at Jeremy Corbyn – saying he “can’t even imagine” what it would be like to negotiate a trade deal with the radical leftie. He failed to hold back a smirk when he was asked about the prospect of working with the Labour leader. But in contrast he said he and International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox had “got off to a good start” following talks in Washington. Mr Ross said Dr Fox’s decision to make the US his first post-election overseas trip – instead of the traditional move of visiting the Commonwealth – showed the “mutual importance” each country put on a US-UK free trade deal. He said: “He’s honoured us by coming to this country first.” – The Sun

Businesses pile on pressure to stay in the single market during transitional period

Business groups are using the uncertainty created by the general election result to push for continued membership of the single market after Brexit. The body representing the powerful chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry yesterday became the latest trade lobby to call for the government to seek continued membership of the single market during any transition phase… Business groups wrote to Greg Clark, the business secretary, yesterday demanding that the government “put the economy first”. The letter was signed by the British Chambers of Commerce, the CBI and the EEF, as well as the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors. Their demands echo the view of Philip Hammond, the chancellor, who has said that a transitional arrangement is “common sense”. – The Times (£)

CBI forecasts ‘steady but subdued’ growth ahead

Economic growth will be “steady but subdued” over the next few years as the UK navigates Brexit, according to a leading business group. Following stronger than expected growth in the last half of 2016, the CBI now forecasts 1.6% growth this year and 1.4% in 2018, slight improvements on the 1.3% and 1.1% previously forecast… Growth in household spending is expected to be 1.7% this year – down from last year’s 2.8%. In 2018, it is forecast to be just 0.7%. Wages are expected to grow by 2.4% this year and 2.8% next year – inflation is forecast to hover at around 2.7% both years. – Sky News

EU army now inevitable says Germany as several members pledge to strengthen military ties

One of Germany’s most senior defence officials said an EU Army is inevitable. Hans-Peter Bartels became the latest to urge NATO’s EU members to organise their militaries into a single force. It came on the day the UK government – vehemently opposed to the move – formally began Brexit divorce talks. Ardent Europhile Nick Clegg in 2014 slammed the idea was a “dangerous fantasy that is simply not true”. But Mr Bartels – Germany’s national defence commissioner – said: “In the end there will be a European army.” He said: “We are currently disorganised, technically fragmented and duplicate structures unnecessarily. We do not want to go down the solitary national path any more. Not in Germany, not in the Netherlands, not in the Czech Republic and not in Italy. Every step in the right direction is important,” Mr Bartels said. – The Sun

  • EU’s battlegroups are destined never to see active service – Elisabeth Braw for The Times (£)

Shanker Singham: The UK election hasn’t changed what constitutes a ‘good Brexit’ deal

Embracing free trade and control over our own regulatory system while rejecting free movement requires that the UK be outside the Customs Union and the EEA. This does not mean abandoning tariff-free access to the EU, nor accepting more troublesome regulatory barriers… Expedited customs clearance works perfectly well on other borders between countries that are not in customs unions. Some $1.5bn (£1.2bn) worth of goods trade crosses the border between Canada and the US every day on an expedited basis without long hold-ups on either side. But we must be careful not to call this remaining in the Customs Union for an interim period, as this will send a signal to potential trading partners that we will not be ready to do deals for the entire duration of the interim period (potentially as long as five years from now)… The logic of what constitutes a good Brexit has not changed simply because we have had an election. – Shanker Singham for the Telegraph (£)

John Redwood MP: Why won’t so many in the media ask questions of the EU?

For a year many in the media have recycled old tired materials from the referendum. They have invented something called soft and hard Brexit and have gone on and on trying to find weaknesses in the UK government position, and trying to shift the negotiating aims. They have failed to show impartiality by doing the same to the EU. Why aren’t they ringing round their contacts in other member states governments and business and finding out their differences on what the EU wants?  Why don’t they analyse all the different claims and protests the EU Commission has made, and set them against the views of individual countries? …I have not heard the Irish government say they think high tariffs on Irish agricultural products into the UK is a price worth paying to teach us a lesson. The Dutch government do not say they want their farmers to pay tariffs or stop supplying us with all that market garden produce and all those flowers… Why don’t the media do more interviews to establish what are the economic and business interests of the rest of the EU? – John Redwood’s Diary

Ross Clark: Brexit still means what it did before general election

It is wrong to suggest, as many Remainers have done, that the general election result was a vote against what they call a “hard” Brexit. That is just wishful thinking on the part of people who are in denial about the will of the British people. In fact 84 per cent of the British people voted for parties which are committed to withdrawal – and proper withdrawal – of Britain from the EU. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell made it clear last week that while Labour has some differences over Brexit, it supports our exit from the single market. If the electorate had wanted to reverse Brexit, it could easily have done so by voting Lib Dem, SNP, Green or Plaid Cymru. Yet only 12 per cent of voters plumped for these parties. The Lib Dems’ share of the vote, unlike that of the Conservatives, went down. The vision laid out by Theresa May in her Lancaster House speech in January remains valid. – Ross Clark for the Express

Jack Tagholm-Child: Pro-Brexit, Pro-Europe – Not so hard to understand

Europe is not the European Union. This should be obvious. It almost insults the intelligence to make this statement. It is, however, a distinction which appears again and again to be falsely conflated, muddying the water significantly when talking about what Britain’s new relationship with the EU will likely be. The UK voted for Brexit — to leave the European Union. Many Remainers interpreted the decision as a narrow-minded rejection of the things which have led to much of the progress on the continent since the end of World War Two: intergovernmental cooperation, free trade, and a general decreasing of xenophobia.A typical response came from British Nobel Prize winning scientist Michael Kosterlitz: “I feel strongly about Brexit and do not wish to be associated with a country which is so insular and narrow minded”. This view is entirely foolish. – Jack Tagholm–Child for the Commentator

Brexit comment in brief

  • May’s migration obsession will make us poorer – Rachel Sylvester for The Times (£)
  • Will Theresa May become Brexit’s scapegoat? – Isabel Hardman for the Spectator
  • We need a new PM before we get too far into the Brexit talks – Tim Montgomerie for the Evening Standard
  • The real reason why UK employers hire EU workers – Heather Rolfe for the Independent

Brexit news in brief

  • EU patent court to remain in London despite Brexit… for now – EurActiv
  • British requests for French citizenship more than triple in a year – Politico
  • EU states in ‘violent disagreement’ on immigration – Guido Fawkes
  • New Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ‘reassured’ about DUP-Tory deal after meeting with May – BBC News
  • EU officials told to steer clear of alcohol and to go home early as heatwave hits Brussels – The Sun
  • Conservative MEP on Brexit negotiation tactics: ‘take down your trousers and just show what you’ve got’ – Steerpike