May denies customs union climbdown as DUP says better for her to walk away than show weakness: Brexit News for Friday 18 May

May denies customs union climbdown as DUP says better for her to walk away than show weakness: Brexit News for Friday 18 May
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Better for May to walk away with no deal than show weakness on Brexit, says DUP…

Theresa May should walk away from the EU without a deal instead of showing “weakness” by tying Britain to the Customs Union beyond 2021, the Democratic Unionist Party, has warned. Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, also criticised “geriatric” members of the House of Lords for trying to weaken Government legislation to take Britain out of the European Union with 15 amendments. Mr Wilson was speaking after The Daily Telegraph disclosed that the Government will tell Brussels it is prepared to stay tied to the customs union beyond 2021. Mr Wilson – whose party’s MPs are keeping Mrs May’s Conservative Government in power – told Chopper’s Brexit Podcast today: “I don’t believe it is necessary for us to stay in beyond that period. In doing so the PM shows a sign of weakness to EU negotiators – if they stick their heels in, she will concede. – Telegraph

…as Theresa May denies climbdown on customs union policy…

Theresa May has again insisted Britain will be leaving the customs union, amid reports the UK could apply EU tariffs beyond the end of the Brexit transition. A source familiar with the discussions has told Reuters that Downing Street is considering applying European import tariffs for a time-limited period after December 2020. This would form part of a back-stop arrangement in the event the implementation of the final Brexit deal is delayed, the source added… The prime minister earlier denied “climbing down” on leaving the customs union, amid speculation the departure could be delayed for years until a replacement system is established. – Sky News

  • May concedes on tie to customs union until Irish border resolved – FT (£)
  • Theresa May vows Britain will have its own independent trade policy after 2020 and denies Britain will stay in stifling customs union – The Sun
  • Britain will leave EU customs union after 2020, insists May as Brexit pressure grows on PM – Express
  • Theresa May denies customs union climbdown – Guardian
  • UK may not leave EU for another 65 years, mocks Brussels official – Express
  • Brexit may not happen for another 65 years as Britain ‘won’t be able to wrench itself free from Customs Union’ – The Sun
  • Why customs union climbdown shows Britain is heading for a soft Brexit – Peter Foster for the Telegraph (£)
  • A ‘longer fudge’ on customs union? – Laura Kuenssberg for BBC News
  • Brexiteers are hungry. How long can Theresa May keep them waiting for their marshmallows? – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)
  • Theresa May has said Brexit means Brexit – but what does she want to achieve? – Telegraph editorial (£)

…while Taoiseach claims Britain must stay aligned with the EU long after Brexit to avoid hard border in Ireland

Britain will need to follow many of the rules of the EU’s single market as well as remaining tied to the customs union after Brexit, the Irish Taoiseach warned on Thursday after holding talks with Theresa May. Leo Varadkar said Britain must remain aligned with the EU long after Brexit to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland, in a move that raises fears about the UK’s ability to make a clean break from Europe… Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of a 60-strong group of Tory Eurosceptic MPs, warned that if Mrs May agreed to what Mr Varadkar appeared to be proposing it would be “a failure” of her policy of making Brexit mean Brexit. “She would have to eat a very large quantity of her own words. I have trust in the Prime Minister and therefore I believe that this will not happen,” he said. – Telegraph (£)

  • Irish PM claims UK could crash out of EU without Brexit deal if no progress soon – Guardian
  • Leo Varadkar: No Brexit deal without border backstop – Politico
  • Varadkar hints May is ready to accept full alignment to EU on customs – Express
  • Irish Foreign Minister Coveney says Brexit talks will survive ‘mounting frustration’ – Bloomberg
  • Ireland demands Britain remains tied to customs union after Brexit to avoid hard border – The Sun
  • Theresa May struggles to rally support among EU leaders for new customs plan – Guardian
  • UK’s plan for customs union ‘backstop’ faces tests in Brussels – FT (£)
  • Prime Minister has a pop at gloomy Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Irish border talks – The Sun
  • May is letting Barnier and Varadkar walk all over her – Owen Polley for Reaction

> Former Irish Ambassador Ray Bassett on BrexitCentral: Playing the EU’s game on the border will damage Ireland’s interests

PM to confront pro-EU Tory rebels in the Commons next month, dismissing claims she was running scared

Downing Street has dismissed charges of running scared from MPs over Brexit by vowing to confront rebels within weeks. Theresa May will force a Commons showdown with her own pro-EU backbenchers next month, No10 revealed. She will demand they throw out most of the 15 amendments to the landmark EU Withdrawal Bill inflicted by the Lords over the last four weeks. The PM was accused by Labour of “kicking the can down the road” after it emerged her flagship Brexit bill may not even be passed in time for the long summer recess in July… But the PM’s spokesman hit back: “The intention is to bring the bill back to the Commons within weeks not months”. – The Sun

  • Theresa May to finally confront Tory Remainers after ducking Brexit showdown – Express
  • Theresa May admits EU withdrawal bill could stall until autumn – Independent
  • Tory rebel Ken Clarke says defeating May wouldn’t mean new election – Bloomberg

UK technology sector investment doubles despite Brexit

London’s technology sector is continuing to thrive despite the looming prospect of exiting the European Union, according to a new report. British tech companies raised 4.5 billion pounds ($6.1 billion) in 2017, almost double the amount raised the year before, according to the report from Tech Nation, an organization partly funded by the government to promote the U.K.’s digital economy. The country ranks behind only the U.S. and China for venture capital investment, the report said. London is ranked as the world’s second-most “connected” technology hub after Silicon Valley, based on entrepreneurs who report a significant relationship with two or more people based in the city. – Bloomberg

  • Government promises support for UK tech scene as London named one of world’s best tech hubs – City A.M.

British drivers to avoid insurance red tape after Brexit

British drivers will be able to use their existing insurance policies when travelling in Europe after Brexit, UK officials have confirmed. There had been concerns that UK drivers would be subject to a “green card” system after Brexit, with extra paperwork and nominal fees of about £10 to be able to drive in Europe. But in a letter sent this week to insurers and insurance brokers, the British government said the UK would remain inside the “free circulation zone” after it leaves the EU, meaning drivers will be able to continue to use their existing insurance policies in the EU27 plus Serbia, Switzerland and Andorra. – FT (£)

The Sun: Locking Britain into some customs pact is not Brexit — it’s the road to ruin

Enough is enough. Locking Britain for years into some customs pact with the EU is not Brexit. It is a road to ruin. We are told it would be “time-limited”. But the “transition” was time-limited. This effectively extends that. When would it ever end? When the EU finally decides it is happy for new technology to monitor the Irish border. Never, in other words. It is already sneering it will take till 2085. It will use any excuse… We would be nominally “out”, yet forever marching in lockstep with it over trade. “Perpetual purgatory”, as Jacob Rees-Mogg rightly calls it. Theresa May is under huge pressure. But this is not seizing the opportunity Brexit presents. It is defeatism, attempted damage limitation without realising the REAL damage of a half-Brexit. The Cabinet is running scared of Brussels and Tory Remainers, as the EU ratchets up the panic. The alternative is to leave with no deal. But we are failing abjectly to prepare for that. It will cost us dear. – The Sun says

Fraser Nelson: Tory Leavers are dusting down their plans for a no-deal Brexit, and Michel Barnier ought to be careful

It has been almost two years since the referendum and Mrs May has proven unable to negotiate with her own Cabinet, let alone the EU… The latest such plan – effectively staying in the customs union for several years – is the kind of proposal that certain Brexiteers will find a betrayal of Brexit and the referendum result… As if preparing for her failure, her aides are now drawing up backup plans. To at least a dozen Tories, perhaps more, it would be better to have no deal at all. This is, still, an option – whether Mrs May likes it or not… [Barnier] ought to be careful. Last time, the EU badly misjudged the British. Sending David Cameron back to London with a deal barely worthy of the name was – for the EU – a calamitous decision that led directly to Brexit. Giving Mrs May the same treatment would, in effect, dare Tory Brexiteers to vote down her deal, and dare them to try the no deal option now being prepared. Mr Barnier needs to realise that whatever he agrees needs to get past not just Mrs May but the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is regarded as a wimp by some of his more hardline Eurosceptic colleagues. – Fraser Nelson for the Telegraph (£)

Royston Smith: No 10 is overcomplicating things: the solution to imports is in ports

Trade through the port of Southampton flows smoothly and efficiently and yet 90 per cent of that trade is with countries outside the European Union. How is this possible? More than half the UK’s trade is with the rest of the world. Systems and technology are in place enabling the majority of goods from the rest of the world to be cleared on arrival in the UK, with public authorities able to identify consignments that need to be checked. At the port of Southampton, this means only 1.3 per cent of consignments arriving from the rest of the world are physically stopped for inspection. Of these, four fifths are checked to enforce food and safety standards. Since our own food and safety standards are likely to remain aligned with the EU at least for the short to medium term, there will be no need to implement similar checks on EU imports when we leave the customs union. Therefore, it is reasonable to estimate that outside the customs union there will only be a requirement to stop and check up to 0.25 per cent of EU imports. But that too is a choice that the British government can make. It will have to make a judgment about the balance between implementing checks for fiscal and customs purposes versus guaranteeing the smooth flow of cargo… Project Fear 2.0 is on the march. And the facts about the realities and possibilities of using systems and technology to enable the efficient flow of trade across borders outside the customs union is one of these casualties. – Royston Smith MP for The Times (£)

Comment in brief

  • The Lords are playing outrageous games over Brexit and press reform – but they’re just doing their job – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)
  • Gammon – and the patronising Remainers who’ve lost on Brexit but can’t move on – Iain Dale for ConservativeHome
  • Extend the Brexit transition? It’s just another non-starter – Gina Miller for the Guardian
  • Customs union question can be dodged no longer – FT editorial (£)
  • GDPR comes with teeth – here are the winners and losers – Michael Wade for Reaction
  • Abolishing the Lords would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But urgent reform is needed – George Maggs for Reaction
  • Italy — what happens next? – Jacopo Barigazzi and Guilia Paravicini for Politico
  • Italy turns on the European Union – Nicholas Farrell for the Spectator
  • Italy’s new government is set to wreck either the euro or itself – Rachel Cunliffe for City A.M.
  • Italy’s populists are right about the EU – for all the wrong reasons – Kai Weiss for CapX
  • Brexit is the least of the European Union’s difficulties right now; try Italy’s populists for size – Jeremy Warner for the Telegraph (£)

News in brief

  • PM set to nominate 10 new Tory peers – Guardian
  • EU data laws deliver new blow to ailing Royal Mail letters business – Bloomberg
  • IT glitch delays release of net migration figures that are key to the Government’s policy – The Sun
  • Theresa May security pledge at EU summit – BBC News
  • EU takes Britain to court over poor air quality – The Times (£)
  • United Europe plots to bypass Trump sanctions on Iran – The Times (£)
  • Neil Hamilton sacked as UKIP’s Wales leader – Sky News