Brexit News for Friday 5 January

Brexit News for Friday 5 January
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Emmanuel Macron issues plea to EU27 states for Brexit unity despite new attempt to poach British business for France…

President Emmanuel Macron of France has warned of the risk of splits emerging between EU states over Brexit negotiations in an implicit admission that Europe’s “united front” over phase two of talks is under threat… Mr Macron’s comments were a French clarion call for unity as Brussels pleads with the remaining 27 EU states not to allow individual self-interest to trump common goals in the coming trade negotiations. His remarks came despite France aggressively prosecuting its own Brexit agenda to erode UK dominance in financial services, including planning what the Financial Times this week dubbed a “raid” on the UK’s £8tn asset management industry… France has led the European hardline throughout the talks so far, according to both EU and UK diplomatic sources, as Mr Macron seeks to force business to relocate from the UK to demonstrate the cost of leaving Britain’s decision to leave the EU. UK negotiators hope that other EU states, who stand to lose out if the cost of raising capital in the EU rises, will temper the French stance. – Telegraph (£)

  • Macron urges EU27 Brexit unity, warning of ‘prisoners dilemma’ – Bloomberg
  • Britain braced for French Brexit raid on £8tn asset management industry – FT (£)
  • Paris’s assault on UK fund management would be counterproductive – FT View (£)

…as Ireland and Hungary push for Brexit deal with ‘uninterrupted’ trade in goods and services

Ireland and Hungary will push for a Brexit deal which allows “uninterrupted” trade in goods and services during the second phase of talks, Ireland’s prime minister said on Thursday as he met his Hungarian counterpart in Budapest. Leo Varadkar said both countries bitterly regretted the UK’s decision to quit the bloc and that they agreed the EU would be “lessened without the UK’s distinctive contribution.” But in a hint that Ireland and Hungary could become supporters of Britain during the next stage of the negotiations, he also called for a deal to be struck which would not restrict trade in goods and services after Brexit. – Telegraph

  • The EU prizes its unity on Brexit, but the migrant crisis is tearing it apart – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

Tony Blair unveils blueprint to block Brexit using NHS and economy to fight for a new referendum

Tony Blair has unveiled his blueprint for stopping Brexit and revealed how he plans to use the NHS, jobs and living standards to make the case for a second referendum or fresh General Election. The former Prime Minister today published a 32-page document claiming that Brexit is already damaging Britain’s economy by hitting productivity, increasing food prices and deterring investment. It is likely to form the basis of a carefully orchestrated campaign by Mr Blair and other leading Remain politicians to secure a second referendum on Brexit as the exit date of March 29, 2019 approaches. However Lord Lamont, a former Tory Chancellor and prominent eurosceptic, said that Mr Blair is “delusional” and branded his blueprint as “project fear mark two”… The former Labour leader’s claims were rebutted yesterday morning in a bruising interview with John Humphrys, the BBC Radio 4 presenter, in which he was accused of being “tendentious”, “elitist” and “undemocratic”. – Telegraph (£)

  • Blair lies about NHS ‘Brexodus’ – Guido Fawkes
  • Populism could destroy the EU, says Tony Blair – The Times (£)
  • Tony Blair accused of being ‘tendentious’ and ‘elitist’ as he says voters could be offered a fresh Brexit referendum – Telegraph
  • Lord Adonis calls on Jeremy Corbyn to endorse a second EU referendum on final Brexit deal – Independent

> LISTEN: Tony Blair’s Brexit interview with John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme

> LISTEN: Lord Lamont says Blair is trying to sabotage the referendum

> Kate Hoey MP on BrexitCentral: Tony Blair’s Dodgy Dossier on Brexit should be swiftly binned

Michael Gove to cap rich farmers’ payments for ‘green’ Brexit…

Michael Gove is planning to limit payments to wealthy farmers and redistribute them to environmental projects for a ‘green’ Brexit. Farming subsidies will be replaced by payments for “public goods”, from boosting access to the countryside to recreating wildflower meadows. The Environment Secretary has set out his plan for replacing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which supports farmers in EU member states. In a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, he criticised the “fundamentally flawed” system that was designed – “like so many aspects of the EU” – for “another world” in the post-war period. Mr Gove argued the CAP produced a “perverse” outcome, rewarding rich farms and “mathematically-precise field margins” – rather than “ecologically healthy landscapes”. “I want to develop a new method of providing financial support for farmers which moves away from subsidies for inefficiency to public money for public goods,” he said. – Sky News

  • Post-Brexit farming funding set out by Michael Gove – BBC News
  • Gove pledges end to ‘unjust’ farm subsidies after Brexit – FT (£)
  • We’ll pay farmers to help shoppers lose weight, says Gove – The Times (£)
  • Scottish farmers challenge SNP to set out post-Brexit subsidy plans – Telegraph (£)

…as Gove tells farmers to focus on quality not weakened regulation post-Brexit

The future of the British food industry after Brexit must focus on quality and provenance rather than weakened regulation, environment secretary Michael Gove has said. “The future for British food is in quality and provenance and traceability and competing at the top of the value chain,” Gove told a packed auditorium at the Oxford Real Farming Conference. “And if we sign trade deals or lower our regulation or welfare standards in a way that means we’re no longer at the top of the value chain, then we undermine the growing strength of the very best of British food production.” …The National Farmers Union president Meurig Raymond said: “I was pleased to hear the secretary of state talking about the need to invest in technology, skills and rural resilience – all of which he says are public goods.” … Patrick Begg, rural enterprise director of the National Trust, said: “Gove’s commitment today is another step in the right direction for the future of our countryside.” – Guardian

  • Genetically-modified animals could be sold in UK after Brexit, says Michael Gove – Telegraph
  • US urges Britain to press ‘reset button’ on food rules after Brexit – FT (£)

> WATCH: Michael Gove says “we can, and must, do better” than the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy

Britain’s dominant services firms pick up pace in sign of economy accelerating…

The UK economy is on track to accelerate again as the dominant services industry picked up more pace in December. GDP growth edged up to 0.4pc in the third quarter of the year and economist now believe it could rise further to 0.5pc for the final three months of 2017. Businesses surveyed by IHS Markit indicated that activity is increasing more quickly, pushing the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) up from 53.8 in November to 54.2 in December, the highest number since April 2017… Kallum Pickering, senior UK economist at Berenberg, said it puts GDP on track to grow by 1.8pc in 2017. “The UK seems to have escaped its early 2017 soft patch,” he said, predicting growth will stay stable in 2018 as well. Depending on political events it could even get stronger, he said. – Telegraph

  • UK services grow faster than forecast despite growing Brexit concern – Guardian
  • December activity in UK services sector picks up – FT (£)
  • First fall in car sales in five years blamed on fears over diesel ban – Guardian
  • Forget the fake news, the UK’s economic prospects look bright – Savvas P Savouri for City A.M.

…as British tech start-ups lead Europe with funding rising to £3bn in record year

British technology start-ups attracted more funding than their counterparts in any other European country last year, during a record 12 months for venture capital investment. Early-stage businesses in the UK attracted about £3 billion in investment, almost double the amount raised in 2016 and more than four times the amount secured by start-ups in France and Germany, according to data from Pitchbook, a company that analyses the venture capital industry. Financial technology and artificial intelligence businesses secured the majority of funds… Hussein Kanji, a founding partner at Hoxton Ventures, a London-based venture capital firm… predicted that US investors would become even more active in Britain. “I don’t think the US funds care about Brexit, just about the quality of the individual companies. And we have the most high-quality companies in all of Europe,” he said. – The Times (£)

Boris Johnson backs Sun campaign for Royal Mail to mark EU exit

Boris Johnson has backed The Sun’s campaign for the Royal Mail to release special stamps to “show the world we’ve got Brexit licked.” But a huge government rift opened last night as Postal Services Minister Margot James branded Brexit stamps “divisive”. The Royal Mail has been blasted for snubbing commemorative exit stamps — despite marking our entry into Europe in 1973. The Sun want Post Office bosses to think again after they refused to put out a stamp to commemorate Brexit on 29 March 2019. – The Sun

  • Royal Mail blasted for refusing to release commemorative stamps to mark Brexit despite releasing sets for Game of Thrones and Star Wars – The Sun
  • The Royal Mail is pandering to the Remoaners by not making Brexit stamps – Damian Thompson for The Sun

Nigel Farage to meet Michel Barnier in Brussels on Monday

The MEP confirmed he had “finally got my meeting with Monsieur Barnier” in a video on Twitter, in which he asked his followers to send in their questions for Mr Barnier and said he would pick the best three. Mr Farage, who has campaigned for 20 years to take the UK out of the EU, wrote to Mr Barnier after the Brexit negotiator received a visit from Tory MP Ken Clarke, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour former minister Lord Adonis in October… The European Commission said at the time that Mr Barnier’s “door was “always open” but added: “There are two negotiators – on the one side the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, and on the European side it’s the chief negotiator of the EU, Michel Barnier. Nobody else.” – BBC News

  • Nigel Farage makes Twitter call for questions to put to Michel Barnier – Guardian
  • Nigel Farage meeting EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier ‘like sending arsonist to put out fire’ – Sky News

Telegraph: We need Tory talent to fight the Remain Blairites

Few voters trust Mr Blair enough to believe him, but his real audience is the EU, which could scupper the Brexit negotiations, and the MPs who could undermine the withdrawal legislation. The message to both is to play tough: if Brexit is perceived to be going badly, the voters might be persuaded to change their minds. Mr Blair’s arguments, as always, are disingenuous… The Tories must not let a Blairite cabal monopolise debate. After Mr Blair spoke on the Today programme yesterday, he was answered not by a Cabinet Minister or even a sitting MP but by Lord Lamont, who last served as a minister in 1993. Lord Lamont did a superb job, as ever, but the Government has to join the fray, lest Remain makes ground by sheer attrition. It is time to promote some Tory talent dedicated to making the case for Brexit just as doggedly as Mr Blair opposes it. – Telegraph editorial (£)

  • Tony Blair’s bid to manipulate us into staying in the EU is the farthest thing from democracy imaginable – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)
  • A second referendum is a lost cause: Those who want to reverse Brexit are without a leader, a strategy or awareness that voters haven’t changed their minds – Philip Collins for The Times (£)
  • Tony Blair and the sad and sorry state of the Stop Brexit crowd – Iain Martin for Reaction
  • Tony Blair’s shrill Brexit warnings won’t persuade anyone – Tom Goodenough for the Spectator
  • Stop the Remoaners to save the centre-left – Graeme Archer for CapX
  • Brexit was a vote against Blairism – David Green for the Spectator
  • Tony Blair’s stomach-churning lies about Brexit are putrid even for him — thankfully so few voters listen – The Sun says

The Times: Michael Gove is right to prioritise stewardship of the countryside

A revolution is coming to the British countryside and its flag carrier is Michael Gove. Under reforms announced by the environment secretary at the Oxford Farming Conference, the “unjust” and “inefficient” subsidies of the EU common agricultural policy (CAP) will be abandoned. In their place, farmers will receive incentives to become stewards of the rural environment. The broad thrust of these plans for the post-Brexit countryside is positive. When Mr Gove was appointed environment secretary, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party leader, said that he was “entirely unfit for the job”. He has consistently demonstrated otherwise, so far earning the approval of farmers and environmentalists alike. His latest proposals should keep him on that path. At the core of the reforms will be the abolition of European subsidies awarded according to the size of a farmer’s landholdings. – Times leader (£)

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Eurozone’s fleeting boom is an illusion – Britain won’t remain the sick man of Europe for long

Brexiteers must hold their nerve. By a twist of timing, the eurozone is briefly basking in economic glory while Britain languishes in relative stagnation. It is an illusion of the economic cycle, magnified by Europe’s elastic snap-back from a needlessly severe recession… OECD analysts think the region’s economic speed limit is around 1pc. The eurozone has been able to grow at well over twice that rate in recent quarters without running into trouble only because it has had a legacy output gap to cover. The UK is far ahead in the cycle. The European Central Bank has turbo-charged recovery by running an extreme liquidity experiment, with interest rates at minus 0.4pc, or minus 2pc in real terms… Yet this burst of growth is ephemeral unless the eurozone uses the opportunity to grapple with its own dysfunctional pathologies – rigid labour and product markets, non-performing loans, zombie companies, warped welfare incentives – and to reestablish the currency union on workable foundations before the next crisis hits. Little of this has happened. – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit comment in brief

  • Is Labour’s clever* Brexit strategy running on borrowed time? – Katy Balls for the Spectator
  • If we look east, past Europe, in Beijing lies the prize – Geoffrey Yu and Dean Turner for the Telegraph (£)
  • China could be Britain’s best friend after Brexit – but at a cost – Peter Foster for the Telegraph (£)
  • The Eurozone’s economic boom shows there’s no need for Brussels to seek a punishment Brexit – Julian Harris for City A.M.
  • Why Brexit Britain needs German, Arabic and Mandarin to thrive outside EU – James Rothwell for the Telegraph (£)
  • We’ve voted to leave the EU but, until Brexit takes place, we need to keep our MEPs – David Campbell Bannerman MEP for ConservativeHome
  • Theresa May needs two Cabinets if she wants to drive through Brexit and fix the housing crisis – Liam Halligan for the Telegraph (£)
  • I don’t like Brexit – I just don’t see how it can be stopped – Owen Jones for the Guardian
  • Place your bets and prepare for a year of Brexit breakthroughs – Joan Hoey for City A.M.
  • Even I, a snowflake Remoaner, feel it’s about time we honoured Nigel Farage – David Millward for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit news in brief

  • Eurosceptics urge Theresa May to sack or move Philip Hammond in New Year reshuffle to prevent the Chancellor ‘frustrating’ Brexit – Daily Mail
  • Labour frontbencher quit after defying Jeremy Corbyn over customs union – PoliticsHome
  • Six senior Tories say they’ll force PM to take student numbers out of key figures – Evening Standard
  • Swiss anger at Brussels deal ‘could be a lesson for UK’ – The Times (£)
  • Britain not ready for trade talks, claims UK Commissioner – Evening Standard
  • Since Latvia joined the EU, the country has lost one-fifth of its population – Politico
  • Migrant hardliner Viktor Orban puts Angela Merkel coalition talks in jeopardy – The Times (£)
  • Matteo Renzi struggles for allies in Italy comeback bid – FT (£)