Feet-dragging EU not ready to start trade talks with Boris Johnson before March: Brexit News for Tuesday 21 January

Feet-dragging EU not ready to start trade talks with Boris Johnson before March: Brexit News for Tuesday 21 January

Feet-dragging EU not ready to start trade talks with Boris Johnson before March…

Boris Johnson will be left with just 10 months to seal a trade deal with Brussels after eurocrats admitted they will not be ready to start negotiations before March, it has emerged. The European Commission today signalled Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, will not be given the official go-ahead to hold talks with the UK immediately after the country’s departure on January 31. A spokesman said the Brussels bureaucrat would first have to wait for “institutional processes” before the bloc’s negotiating position is finalised. The official said: “The Commission can adopt its proposal for the negotiation directives only once the UK has actually withdrawn from the EU. – Express

…as Brussels threatens fines or trade sanctions if the UK reneges on the Brexit deal

Brussels plans to impose fines or even suspend trade benefits if the U.K. does not comply with the terms of a planned post-Brexit deal, the European Commission said Monday. A presentation shared with EU diplomats says that the bloc wants its future relations agreement with Britain to be governed by “efficient and effective arrangements for management, supervision, implementation and review” of the deal’s clauses. The push for robust enforcement comes as the EU insists on the need to accompany the deal with a strong level playing field, meaning the adherence to the bloc’s environmental, social and competition rules. Brussels has also noted with concern that U.K. Chancellor Sajid Javid said over the weekend that “there will be no alignment” with EU rules post Brexit. – Politico

Government suffers triple defeat in the House of Lords as peers vote against plans to allow lower courts to overrule EU law

Boris Johnson has suffered three consecutive defeats in the House of Lords in a matter of hours, with the latest over plans to allow British judges at lower courts to overturn European Court of Justice rulings after Brexit. It comes after concerns were aired over the prime minister’s plan to rip up Theresa May’s previous commitment to transfer all EU law onto the domestic statue book, which meant it could only be overturned by the Supreme Court, or the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland. Instead, Mr Johnson added a new clause into the Withdrawal Agreement Bill following his decisive general election victory, to allow ministers the power to direct the courts on interpretation of EU law and to allow lower courts the power to overturn rulings of the ECJ. – Independent

  • Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal suffers first defeats in the House of Lords – Sky News

Government presses on with Brexit without consent from devolved parliaments

The UK Government said it respects “the spirit and the letter of the devolution settlement” as it presses ahead with Brexit without consent from the devolved administrations. In letters sent to Scottish and Welsh ministers addressing their refusal to give legislative consent to Boris Johnson’s deal, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said he recognised the “significant role” played by the legislative consent process. He said the circumstances of the UK’s departure from the EU are “specific, singular and exceptional” despite the Sewel Convention which says the UK Government should “not normally” press ahead without consent from devolved administrations. It comes as the newly-restored Stormont Assembly in Belfast rejected the Government’s EU withdrawal plan on Monday. – Evening Standard

Frictionless trade with the EU post-Brexit ‘just not possible’ says former minister Liam Fox

Any automatic alignment to EU regulations as they change over time would be “completely incompatible with the concept of Brexit,” former trade minister Liam Fox will tell Swiss business leaders tomorrow. With just 10 days before the UK leaves the EU, Fox will stress that frictionless trade between the two sides is “simply not possible” under Downing Street’s vision of the future relationship. Fox, who famously said a post-Brexit free trade deal with the EU should be the “easiest in human history”, will tell the business audience that the regulatory relationship will be “the most contentious” part of talks, and warn that “misunderstandings in the terminology” are already causing confusion. – City A.M.

> Dr Liam Fox MP on BrexitCentral today: Automatic UK acceptance of future EU regulation would be incompatible with Brexit 

Britain to grow faster than France and Germany next year

Britain will be the fastest growing G7 economy in Europe both this year and next despite the complications of Brexit as the world economy recovers from last year, which suffered the lowest growth in a decade, the International Monetary Fund has said. Updating its forecasts from October, the fund claimed that the worst risks to the global economy had passed and that the slowdown in trade and manufacturing was “bottoming out”. Although the IMF downgraded world growth from 3.4 per cent to 3.3 per cent this year and from 3.6 per cent to 3.4 per cent in 2021, it forecast a robust improvement from 2.9 per cent in 2019, the worst year since the 2009 recession. – The Times (£)

Over 1,000 EU financial firms planning to open UK offices after Brexit

More than 1000 banks, asset managers, payments firms and insurers from the European Union are planning to open offices in post-Brexit Britain so they can continue to serve UK clients. The new offices would help financial firms counter the loss of business as unrestricted two-way access between the UK and EU comes to an end in December following a Brexit transition period. By October last year 1,441 EU-based firms had applied to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for temporary permissions to operate in the UK after Brexit, according to figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request from regulatory consultancy Bovill. Over 1,000 of these firms do not currently have an office in the UK, suggesting they intend to establish their first office after the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January. – City A.M.

  • Over 1,000 EU financial firms are opening UK offices to beat post-Brexit trading restrictions – The Sun

UK shrugs off Brexit uncertainty with backing of global CEOs

Government hopes of an economic boost from an easing of Brexit uncertainty have been boosted by a poll showing that the UK is increasingly attractive to global businesses searching for growth and investment opportunities. The poll of almost 1,600 chief executives, by the consultancy and accounting firm PwC, found that at a time of growing nervousness the UK’s reputation for stability made it the fourth most important target for companies looking for markets. PWC said the rebound in the UK’s attractiveness had been particularly marked among German, French and Italian chief executives and had returned to levels last seen in 2015, the year before the EU referendum. – Guardian

PM’s ‘People before passports’ pledge to Africa in post-Brexit trade pitch

Boris Johnson has set out his post-Brexit trade pitch to African leaders with his vision to put “people before passports” in an immigration system overhaul. The Prime Minister was tempting premiers from across the continent with the UK’s financial and education systems as he opened his investment summit in London’s Docklands on Monday. He also announced an end to UK support for thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas in a bid to use trade to tackle the climate crisis. Meanwhile, the PM also met the Duke of Sussex in private with no aides present for about 20 minutes at the margins of the summit. – Northern Echo

Johnson urged to give MPs a vote on the Big Ben bong row

A senior Tory MP tonight made a final attempt to make Big Ben bong for Brexit by urging Boris Johnson to trigger a Commons vote on the issue. Backbencher Mark Francois wrote to the Prime Minister to call for MPs to be given a free vote on the row this week. He said that MPs should be given a chance to overturn a decision by the House of Commons Commission that reactivating the bell in Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower was too costly to be justifiable. Downing Street officials said Mr Johnson had yet to receive the letter but indicated that the issue was a matter for parliamentary authorities rather than Number 10. – Express

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer the first candidate to reach the final Labour leadership ballot

Sir Keir Starmer has become the first candidate to make it on to the final ballot paper in the Labour Party leadership race. The shadow Brexit secretary guaranteed his spot after winning the support of the retail union USDAW. Sir Keir said the party would “stand shoulder to shoulder with the trade union movement” if he became Labour leader and would “take on the Tories and rebuild trust with working people.” The MP for Holborn and St Pancras said he was “honoured” to receive USDAW’s endorsement, alongside the backing of Unison and the Socialist Environment and Resources Association. – LBC News

David Henig: Liam Fox is right – don’t be obsessed with signing free trade agreements at any price

In the rush to start free trade agreement negotiations after Brexit, few have paused to ask what it is the UK hopes to achieve from completed deals with the US, Australia and others. Meanwhile talks with the EU still seem to be seen through the prism of Brexit good or bad, more than any consideration of trade. Some of the confusion comes in the name. Free trade agreements don’t deliver full free trade, they just deliver preferential terms compared to the WTO. Frequently these agreements are dominated by agriculture, as that’s where tariffs, regulatory barriers, and political interest are at their highest. Both the US and EU want trade agreements primarily to benefit their own agricultural sectors, in the case of the US to prevent what they consider discrimination against some of their food, for the EU to enshrine their system of geographical indications, where certain food can only be produced in a certain region. – David Henig for the Telegraph (£)

Quentin Letts: A peerage for John Bercow may be enough to make the public support abolishing the corrupt and out-of-date House of Lords

Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn it could be fill-your-tiny-booties time for that bad prawn John Bercow. Former Speaker Bercow, widely regarded as a poisonous chairman of our Commons for the past decade, is reported to have been offered a seat in the House of Lords by Corbyn. The Labour leader gets to nominate a handful of new peers every year. The Tories, horrified by the way Bercow tried to stop Brexit when he was Speaker, had no intention of handing him the usual peerage. But Bercow had done Labour a lot of favours. It seems to be pay-back time. For Bercow and his missus Sally, this could mean an extra £40,000 or so a year in Lords attendance money to go on top of the £1million pension pot he already bagged from his time as Speaker. Kerching! – Quentin Letts for The Sun

Brexit in Brief

  • Could Gibraltar join the EU’s borderless Schengen area? – Jon Stone for the Independent
  • Sir Graham Brady re-elected Chairman of the 1922 Committee – ConservativeHome

And finally… Wetherspoons to mark Brexit by slashing prices of beer, vodka and whisky

Pub giant JD Wetherspoon will reduce the price of 10 drinks to celebrate Britain leaving the EU  on January 31. Beverages that originate from European countries including Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Holland and Ireland, as well as from across the UK, will be around 60p cheaper. The “Let’s stay friends” promotion will run until February 29 in all of the company’s 870 pubs in Britain. ​Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin, who has been a strong advocate for leaving the European Union, said: “Many of our customers are keen to celebrate Brexit. At the same time we want to remain friends with our European neighbours and offer a range of drinks at an excellent price. In my opinion, there has been far too much political posturing in negotiations between the UK and the EU up until now… The EU and UK need to understand that tariffs and protectionism are counter-productive.” – Evening Standard