EU rejects May's Irish border proposals: Brexit News for Friday 20 April

EU rejects May's Irish border proposals: Brexit News for Friday 20 April
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EU rejects Theresa May’s Irish border proposals

Senior EU diplomatic sources said that Mrs May’s plan for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland was subjected to a “systematic and forensic annihilation” this week at a meeting between senior EU officials and Olly Robbins, the UK’s lead Brexit negotiator… Although British negotiators were fully aware of EU scepticism towards the British plans, the complete inflexibility on the part of the European Commission and EU member states is understood to have left them shocked. The impasse will re-open the debate over UK membership of the Customs Union which has been ruled out by both Mrs May and leading Brexiteers as a “betrayal” of Brexit… Doubly worrying for the UK side were clear EU warnings to Mr Robbins that even if the UK did join a customs union, there would still need to be “full compliance” with EU rules on goods and agricultural products – and not just in Northern Ireland… This means that even if Mrs May bows to growing parliamentary pressure to join a customs union with the EU, the UK would still have to accept high levels of UK-wide alignment, creating what leading Brexiteers have called ‘Brexit in name only’, or ‘Brino’. – Telegraph (£)

  • EU rejects UK’s post-Brexit customs fixes for Northern Ireland – Politico
  • EU to reject UK Brexit plan for the Irish border – Bloomberg
  • Theresa May in new Brexit defeat as EU rejects her plans to avoid hard border in Northern Ireland – The Sun
  • Theresa May’s Irish border plans ‘annihilated’ in Brussels – Sky News

Britain sets demands for a bespoke deal with EU with “breadth and depth” to be agreed by October

Under the British plan, presented by Mr Robbins to Sabine Weyand, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, the relationship agreement would be more detailed than some in the commission favour. There would be a preamble setting out the principles of a new relationship, a chapter on an economic partnership, security and defence, governance and setting rules of engagement for trade talks. The economic section would have detail on goods, services, customs, transport and “level playing field” procedures… “This means dozens of pages,” a source said. “The more detail there is then there is more certainty, with the prospect of a faster agreement during the transition period, allowing ratification by the end of 2020.” – The Times (£)

Senior Remain MPs join together to force vote next Thursday on keeping UK in customs union post-Brexit…

Four Tories who chair influential parliamentary committees are among a group of prominent MPs who are set to call on the Government to make being in a customs union with the EU a negotiating objective. The vote will be non-binding but Government whips are expected to use it to take the temperature of the Commons ahead of similar votes in the future which would actually force ministers to change course… The backbench motion due to be debated next Thursday calls on the Government to pursue a customs union deal and it has been backed by Tories Nicky Morgan, Sarah Wollaston, Robert Neill and Dominic Grieve. – Telegraph

  • Senior MPs to force customs union vote – BBC News
  • Labour will work with Tory rebels to fight for EU customs union – Bloomberg
  • MPs defy Brexit with new plans to keep Britain in Customs Union – but voters wouldn’t back re-joining EU after we leave – The Sun
  • Tory MPs among backers of motion demanding vote on EU customs union – Guardian
  • Commons vote on customs union will add to pressure – Laura Kuenssberg for BBC News
  • The Lords have cracked the Brexit dam. Remainer MPs could make it burst – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

…as angry ministers urge Theresa May to sack pro-EU Tory peers from plum jobs

Furious ministers are demanding Theresa May sack “revolting” pro-EU Tory peers from plum government jobs and quango-posts over a Lords mutiny on Brexit, The Sun can reveal. Whips in the House of Lords are taking aim at two dozen Remainer rebels, urging the Prime Minister to strip them of public appointments in revenge for voting against the Government’s policy to leave the EU’s customs union. After the Government was heavily defeated in Wednesday evening’s vote, complaints were made directly to the Government Chief Whip, as well as Downing Street. Half a dozen of the rebels have roles appointed by the government or paid for from the public purse. – The Sun

London voted top financial centre above New York for the first time in five years

London has been voted by finance professionals as the world’s top financial centre for the first time since 2013, according to a report released today. More than half of the global senior professionals surveyed by advisory firm Duff & Phelps said London was the world’s pre-eminent financial hub, allowing the UK capital to steal its crown back from New York. Last year, only 36 per cent of professionals rated London top – this has now jumped to 53 per cent. “Perversely, Brexit has provided the backdrop for showing the importance of London in the global capital markets,” said Duff & Phelps’ global head of regulatory consulting Monique Melis. “London has a tried and tested legal system, very strong service providers and a very strong legal community that understands capital markets. People who operate in London understand how firms are liquidated, which is very important, and the merger and acquisition environment in London is much more benign and business-friendly than elsewhere in Europe.” – City A.M.

  • Bank of England boss lowers Brexit job loss estimate as he strikes tone of optimism over financial services deal – City A.M.
  • Bank of England downgrades Brexit job losses again – The Times (£)
  • UK interest rates rise not a foregone conclusion, says Bank – Guardian
  • Problems loom for America whether London keeps its euro derivatives clearing or not – John Dizard for the FT (£)

Cabinet split over Amber Rudd’s handling of post-Brexit immigration bill

The home secretary is being pressed by Brexit-supporting ministers to speed up a bill that is supposed to settle the new immigration system after Britain leaves the EU in March next year… Ms Rudd has said that she will not publish her plans until an official study, due this autumn, on the economic impact… Brexiteers believe that the real reason for the delay is that some ministers want to trade preferential access for EU workers for a better outcome in talks with Brussels this summer… The Times has also learnt that Oliver Robbins, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, privately told the EU on Thursday that the country was ready to discuss labour mobility as part of an overall deal. It is the first time the government has conceded that post-Brexit immigration is, in effect, up for negotiation. – The Times (£)

  • John McDonnell says Labour government would show “flexibility” on freedom of movement as the price of maintaining good access to single market – Bloomberg
  • Cabinet split over post-Brexit immigration as Amber Rudd accused of stalling blueprint amid Windrush scandal – The Sun
  • Michael Gove says UK gives ‘warmest welcome’ to people from abroad – The Sun
  • Boris and Gove find a common enemy in May’s immigration stance – Steerpike
  • Is the Home Office blunderingly incompetent, or deliberately obstructive? Bad news: it’s a combination of both – Mark Wallace for ConservativeHome
  • Commonwealth heads of state meeting should have given Theresa May chance to shake off the image Britain want to raise the drawbridge – Fraser Nelson for The Sun

Planes will not be grounded after Brexit says Transport Secretary as he says EU ministers ‘snort with derision at the idea’

Chris Grayling sought to dismiss fears that air travel will be disrupted after we quit Brussels following numerous scare stories scare stories about what happens if an ‘Open Skies aviation deal is not secured. After the SNP’s Europe spokesman, accused the Government of “complacency” on the issue, he argued that all but one airline believes there will not be any “impediment” to aviation next year… He told MPs: “If he listens to the chief executives of IAG, of easyJet, of a number of other airlines, I have had no airline, bar one, come to my desk and suggest that they are concerned about the situation. We know which the one is and no other airline believes there is any likelihood of any impediment to aviation next year, and indeed there won’t be.” … It comes after reports Ryanair was putting a “Brexit clause” into its ticket sales for summer 2019. – The Sun

> WATCH: Chris Grayling slaps down airline scaremongering

Brexit cases are already piling up, reveals European Court of Justice boss

Brexit-related cases are already piling up in the in-tray of the European Court of Justice and there will be many more “beyond the wildest imagination” of lawyers, the president of the EU’s top court has said. Koen Lenaerts, who runs the Luxembourg-based court, said: “The brexit cases will come and they will come from the most unexpected angle you could imagine.” …The ECJ is obliged by law to decide on all cases brought to it. – Telegraph

  • Expat can sue in CJEU General Court to overturn Brexit referendum – The Times (£)

Macron challenges Merkel over EU’s future

President Macron appeared to goad Angela Merkel yesterday by invoking the successful partnerships of former French and German leaders as he tried to persuade her to back his ambitious plans for EU reform… The German chancellor seemed hesitant and cautious alongside Mr Macron at their joint press conference: the former “Queen of Europe” appeared to have been put on the spot by the new prince. Mrs Merkel, 63, who was never keen on greater EU integration, has been hamstrung by the loss of seats in the German election and faces strong resistance in her party to the French president’s more audacious ideas… Senior German politicians have warned that his plans for a minister and budget for the eurozone and for a European Monetary Fund were expensive distractions when the real challenge was controlling immigration. – The Times (£)

  • France, Germany signal united front against Trump on trade – Politico
  • French students and workers unite against Macron reforms – The Times (£)
  • May’s Macron opening forged in battle – Tom McTague for Politico

John Longworth & John Mills: Don’t let the Brexit wreckers take us back to medieval times: freedom from any Customs Union is vital

Imagine this. A country in which the relatively poor, working people are taxed the most in order to provide money to rich country landowners so that they can maintain, in some cases unproductive but manicured, estates and in others, inefficient and overpriced production. To add insult to injury, those same hardworking taxpayers are also paying more for their food and consumer goods than they need, as further taxes are levied on imports in order to protect the inefficient landowners, many of whom do not even live on our islands, but have estates in other EU countries. This is not medieval England, it is a story of Britain today, trapped in a protectionist EU Customs Union, which makes the taxes paid and the cost of living of the “many” working people much higher than they need be, to provide more wealth for a privileged “few”. – John Longworth and John Mills for the Telegraph (£)

Martin Wolf: A second Brexit referendum would tear Britain apart

The evidence suggests that the UK electorate remains split down the middle. The country is, as I have argued, in a sort of civil war. Suppose there were a 51 to 49 per cent vote against the deal. Would this really decide anything? It would be more likely to make the strife hotter. Last but not least, no major British party has a settled will against Brexit. The reasons Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is against the EU — that it is a capitalist plot — are the opposite of those on the Tory right — that it is a socialist one. But his opposition is real, all the same. I am convinced the decision to leave was an unnecessary and disastrous error. I would love to see a way to halt the train to the station called Brexit. I wish everybody trying to do so the best of luck. But I don’t think it is do-able. Worse, I fear it might tear my country apart. – Martin Wolf for the FT (£)

Jeremy Warner: The recovery of sterling shows the markets have made up their minds on Brexit

The fact that sterling is now recovering means that rightly or wrongly, markets have become more relaxed about the potential damage to trade from Brexit. Despite dire predictions to the contrary, the wider economic impact of the Brexit vote so far has been precisely zero… For the life of me, I struggle to see the point of leaving the EU if at the same time we intend to remain in the customs union. This would make Britain a mere rule taker, the vassal state of Brexiteer nightmare… As it is, the customs union covers only trade in goods, which accounts for “just” a fifth of the UK economy. Free trade in services, the economic activity Britain excels at, is still little more than an aspiration for the EU. In attempting to maintain market access in goods, Britain risks constraining its trade with the rest of the world in services… Proponents of remaining in the customs union insist this is not about revisiting the referendum, but only what type of Brexit we should be having. Even I, as a one-time Remainer, can see this for what it is – pure sophistry. – Jeremy Warner for the Telegraph (£)

Telegraph: Bias runs through Whitehall like Brighton rock

The Remainer alliance includes much of Whitehall: former civil servants certainly showed their true colours in a Lords vote on the customs union on Wednesday. Every former Cabinet secretary came out against the Government. The civil service is filled by some fine men and women with high ethical standards. Nevertheless, the notion that they are utterly objective is a myth that was well and truly busted by the EU referendum. Britain’s public sector establishment is almost of one mind when it comes to certain key policy issues. – Telegraph editorial (£)

  • Overwhelming anti-Brexit bias of former top civil servants – Guido Fawkes
  • Kerslake should be ashamed of himself for comparing the Government’s policies to Nazi Germany/No surprise that unelected Peers are no fans of democracy – The Sun says

Michaela Benson: Here’s how we should help expats through Brexit no man’s land

Our report Next Steps: Implementing a Brexit Deal for UK Citizens living in the EU-27, co-authored with colleagues at the Migration Policy Institute, makes clear that there has been considerable political progress in respect of rights for UK citizens living in the EU27. However, there has been limited planning in Brussels, or within individual member states, about how the agreement over citizens’ rights will actually be implemented… While the introduction of settled status responds to this in-between state of EU nationals in the UK, no equivalent has yet been suggested in respect of UK citizens living in the EU27… The lack of clarity at a national level has to date meant that there has been limited formal direction supplied to local officials and agencies responsible for dealing with employment and administrative issues for UK citizens. – Michaela Benson for the Telegraph (£)

  • Next Steps: Implementing a Brexit Deal for UK Citizens Living in the EU-27 – Migration Policy Institute
  • UK urged to launch EU citizen registration drive in pubs and schools – Guardian
  • Can Europe process the British expats? – James Blitz for the FT (£)

Comment in brief

  • How about making it the best of three referendums? – Iain Martin for Reaction (£)
  • Where have the Lib Dems got to? – Mattie Brignall for Reaction
  • Polls shouldn’t be banned but they should be better reported – Ben Page for The Times (£)

News in brief

  • Brexit divorce bill of £35-39bn “reasonable estimate” but could end up higher or lower, according to National Audit Office – BBC News
  • Britons afraid to show national pride in public for fear of ridicule or abuse, poll finds – Independent
  • Effort to break Italian impasse continues to falter – Politico

And finally… Brussels deals Britain a blow over plastics ban in latest round of ‘straw wars’

Speaking on condition of anonymity, EU officials scoffed at the idea that Britain had beaten Brussels to the punch. “The EU has legislation coming next month, while Gove said he is leading the world but all he actually announced is plans to launch a consultation on a ban later this year,” one official told The Telegraph in a blow to British pride. The bad blood is the latest twist in the “straw wars” between the UK and the EU, which erupted in Twitter spat between Brexiteer Michael Gove and Frans Timmermans, who is first vice-president of the European Commission and Jean-Claude Juncker’s deputy… While the EU looks likely to draw first blood in the battle to put forward a bill, any ban it proposes could take years to come into force. – Telegraph (£)