UK must come to terms with being a ‘small country’ after Brexit, says Leo Varadkar: Brexit News for Tuesday 28 January

UK must come to terms with being a ‘small country’ after Brexit, says Leo Varadkar: Brexit News for Tuesday 28 January

UK must come to terms with being a ‘small country’ after Brexit, says Leo Varadkar…

Britain must “come to terms with the fact it’s now a small country”,  the Irish Prime Minister has said, in comments that prompted outrage just days before Brexit. Leo Varadkar also suggested the UK could rejoin the EU if Brexit does not “work out for them” and said Brussels would have the “stronger hand” in trade negotiations. The Taoiseach’s comments, which come before trade talks begin in March, appeared to be deliberately provocative in a week which will end with Britain celebrating its new-found freedom from the EU. One former Brexit minister suggested he would serve the Irish people by trying to “work in harmony” with Ireland’s biggest trading partner “rather than trying to provoke it”. – Telegraph (£)

  • Irish PM Leo Varadkar warns Boris Johnson the EU is ‘stronger’ than Britain and will have the upper hand in trade talks – The Sun

…as he warns of an impending clash on fish and financial services…

Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar warned of a fish for financial services Brexit clash by suggesting that the City of London could lose access to European markets unless the UK opens up its coastal waters to EU boats. Britain has long suspected that Brussels would demand continued EU access to the UK’s fish-rich waters as a condition of a future trade deal, with an explicit link being drawn to an agreement on financial services. But Mr Varadkar told the BBC: “The UK has a lot of waters and a lot of fish is taken out of your waters by boats from other countries. But bear in mind that 70 per cent of the fish you sell, you sell into Europe. That’s an area where you are in a strong position. An area where you’re in a very weak position is one of the most valuable parts of the British economy — financial services.” – FT (£)

…and says that the EU will keep a seat free for the UK if Brexit ‘does not work out’

There will “always be a seat kept” for the UK at the European Union’s table should it wish to rejoin at some stage if Brexit does not “work out”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said. Speaking alongside the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar told reporters that he was “absolutely relieved” that the first phase of the Brexit process was over but “saddened” by the UK’s departure from the EU on Friday. “We will say goodbye to an old friend embarking on an adventure. We hope it works out for them but if it does not, there will always be a seat kept for them at the table,” he said. – Irish Times 

> WATCH: Leo Varadkar’s interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg yesterday 

New ‘Task Force Europe’ to lead UK trade negotiations with the EU after DExEU ceases to exist on Friday night

A new Task Force Europe, reporting direct to Boris Johnson, is to take over responsibility for negotiations with the EU after Brexit day on Friday, Downing Street has announced. The 40-strong unit will be led by Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost, with staff drawn from across Whitehall, including deputies from the Treasury and Foreign Office. The Department for Exiting the EU (Dexeu) – established by Theresa May in 2016 to conduct negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – will cease to exist at 11pm on Friday, when the UK formally leaves the bloc. And the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, and his ministers James Duddridge and Lord Callanan will lose their ministerial jobs as the clock strikes 11. – Independent

EU demands its judges keep control after Brexit

Brussels is demanding that European Union judges have the power to rule on any post-Brexit agreement with the United Kingdom. An internal Brussels diplomatic document, seen by The Times, reveals that the EU will insist that the European Court of Justice be able to enforce the terms of a trade, fishing and security deal. The move, which comes days before Britain leaves the European Union at 11pm on Friday, has been condemned by Brexiteers, who called on Boris Johnson to “walk away” from the talks rather than accede to the demands. Downing Street sources also rejected the proposal, saying that the European court was “by very definition not a neutral arbiter”. – The Times (£)

Michel Barnier says frictionless trade with the EU will be impossible after Brexit

Frictionless trade after Brexit will be impossible, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said. Michel Barnier made the comments to an audience at Queen’s University in Belfast just days before the UK is set to leave the EU. “The UK has chosen to become a third country; to leave the single market and the customs union; to leave behind the EU’s framework of common rules, common supervision and common Court of Justice,” Mr Barnier said. He adds: “It has chosen to create two regulatory spaces. This makes frictionless trade impossible. It makes checks indispensable.” Speaking to politicians including former Irish premier Bertie Ahern as well as business and community leaders, Mr Barnier confirmed checks will take place. Under the Brexit deal, the UK will leave the EU’s customs union but Northern Ireland will continue to enforce the EU’s customs code at its ports. – ITV News

  • Brexit checks between Britain and Northern Ireland ’indispensable’ – Politico

UK goes unrepresented for first time at EU summit that sets fishing quotas

Britain got its first foretaste of life after Brexit on Monday, after the UK government went unrepresented at an EU summit that draws up rules on fishing quotas and farming regulations. No British ministers or officials attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels – where key decisions including fishing quota allocations are made. While today’s meeting was technically the final one the UK was allowed to attend, officials and ministers are already standing down early ahead of Brexit on Friday – when Britain will lose all rights to representation. The UK will still be fully bound by EU rules during the Brexit transition period until 2021, and is also expected to be effectively permanently tied to many once it has signed its future trade deal. – Independent

Low-skilled migrants to be restricted to time-limited job offers in shortage areas under new points system…

Low-skilled migrants will be barred from permanently settling in the UK under fixed-term job offers as part of post-Brexit proposals to be outlined today by the Government’s migration advisory body. They will only be allowed into Britain to tackle specific shortages in their sectors such as care workers, construction and agricultural workers under the proposed Australian-style points-based immigration system to be unveiled by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). They will have to apply for visas with fixed time limits – potentially as short as a year – under a system that will award higher points for those working in shortage areas, who have job offers and speak and write good English. – Telegraph (£)

…while the Home Office rejects Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a Scottish visa after Brexit

The Home Office has given short shrift to a demand by Nicola Sturgeon for a separate Scottish visa system to boost immigration after Brexit. The First Minister unveiled a blueprint that would see migrants applying to the her government for a visa if they pledged to stay in Scotland. Unlike the existing UK visa system, which would continue to operate in parallel, there would be no minimum salary threshold or fee for applicants. Ms Sturgeon insisted a new visa was required to support Scotland’s working age population, with freedom of movement ending thanks to Brexit and deaths exceeding births north of the Border. – Telegraph (£)

Big Ben bongs crowdfunder closes after Commons authorities refuse the cash – but Help for Heroes benefit to the tune of £272,000

Campaigners have officially ended a crowdfunding appeal which was raising money to make Big Ben’s bell ring to mark Brexit day. The StandUp4Brexit group says the £272,000 raised will instead go to veterans’ charity Help for Heroes. They say efforts to persuade House of Commons authorities to accept the donation have been “unsuccessful”. Big Ben is being renovated and the total cost of getting the bell working by Friday had been put at £500,000. The online appeal was set up after the prime minister suggested in a BBC interview that the government was “working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” at 23:00 GMT on 31 January. Parliament had already refused to fund the work required for it to happen. Downing St has since distanced itself from the remark, instead focusing on official plans to mark Brexit day, which include a light display. – BBC News

William Hague: Here’s what it will mean to be a truly global Britain post-Brexit

When 11pm on Friday arrives, the corks of fine English wines are popped, and Brexit finally happens, the era of “Global Britain” is due to begin. This week’s announcements about bringing in more scientists and far more funding for mathematics are an excellent start – for making this country attractive to brilliant, innovative, entrepreneurial people will be the most crucial task of all. But what should be the foreign policy of Global Britain? What will be the fixed points of our vision for international relations, so that we are not just buffeted between the demands of an assertive America, a powerful China and a recently rebuffed Europe? I suggest there should be four vital fixtures in a foreign policy for this decade. – Lord Hague for the Telegraph (£)

Julia Hartley-Brewer: Who knew that a mere coin could cause Remainers to lose their wits?

Only a few days ago, Remain campaigners were pointing their fingers and laughing at Brexiteers for wasting their hard-earned cash to get Big Ben bonging on Brexitnight. Yet now those very same people are encouraging their fellow Remoaners to literally throw their own money away. Who would have guessed, as we battled for Brexit through the Commons and the courts for all those long years, that we’d had a secret weapon all along? Little did we know that the humble Brexit coin would turn out to be Remoaner kryptonite, causing them to instantly lose both their strength and their minds. – Julia Hartley-Brewer for the Telegraph (£)

Quentin Letts: Britain will always will be friends with Europe… they (not the EU) have given us so much

When 11 o’clock strikes on Friday evening and the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union, how will you celebrate? I might well reach for a glass of fizz — cava or asti or Champagne — to celebrate our restored independence. Others may opt for a pint of Stella. Or will it be San Miguel? Or maybe you are into those dark Belgian brews that put hairs on your chest (and on your tongue the next morning). Either way, you may notice a theme here: All those drinks are European. At this point an onlooker might ask: “Aren’t you being a bit hypocritical, raising a continental snifter to toast our departure from the EU?” To which our answer should be a resounding: “Not in the slightest.” Followed by “hic”. We are leaving Europe, hooray. Except we are not. What we are leaving is the annoyingly intrusive legal and political entity known as the European Union. – Quentin Letts for The Sun

Asa Bennett: Leo Varadkar shouldn’t trash Boris Johnson – he owes him for getting Brexit done

Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson might seem strikingly different people, but the surprise bromance they struck up last year proved to be a turning point in the Brexit saga. “I think it’s a simple story really,” the Taoiseach recalled in conversation with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg. “It was two guys in a room in Wirral, just the two of us talking on our own for nearly an hour. And we got down to business and we talked turkey.” Their surprise bromance resulted in a backstop-free deal being struck, with Mr Varadkar persuaded it was worth taking fire back in Dublin from those who thought he had caved in to the British to get an agreement that MPs could finally accept. But Parliament turned out to be nearly as troublesome for Mr Johnson as it had for his predecessor Theresa May. – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

The Sun: Remoaners weren’t worried about unity when their divisive campaign ripped it apart

Diehard Remoaners Michael Heseltine and Ed Davey demand not to have their “noses rubbed” in their double Brexit defeat. Their chums Alastair Campbell and Andrew Adonis refuse, like two toddlers, to touch new 50p Brexit coins. Yet this mob also want the country to heal. Now, that is, that their hideously divisive marches against the biggest democratic vote in our history are over. Now that their appalling campaign to nullify 17.4million votes has failed. Now that branding Leavers duped, racist morons has proven oddly ineffective in changing minds. They weren’t worried about unity then. Their campaign ripped it apart. Yet the world’s worst losers now insist Leavers must be the best, most generous winners. – The Sun says

Brexit in Brief

  • Remainer Plaid Cymru leader skewered by Channel 4 host over massive ‘Brexit U-turn’ – Express
  • Watchdog queries impact of £46m ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaign – BBC News
  • Bitter Remainers plot to make European Union anthem top the music charts on Brexit day – Express