Brexit News for Monday 4 December

Brexit News for Monday 4 December
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Theresa May hoping for Brexit breakthrough at crucial Brussels lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker

Theresa May will fly to Brussels Monday optimistic, but not yet assured, of a Brexit deal. After months of diplomacy, stretched red lines and endless political wrangling, the U.K. prime minister will board an RAF plane with Brexit Secretary David Davis for the short hop across the Channel clutching an offer on citizens’ rights, Britain’s ongoing financial liabilities and the future of the Northern Irish border. British officials hope that’s enough for a breakthrough.Failure to secure an agreement early this week would leave talks in crisis with less than a fortnight before EU leaders formally decide whether Britain has done enough to progress to the next stage in the Brexit process. – Politico

  • Britain and EU on brink of Brexit divorce deal – FT (£)
  • Brexit deal 90% there, says senior EU official – Times (£)
  • Theresa May to take charge of Brexit talks at crucial Brussels meetings – Guardian
  • Theresa May is facing a massive Tory backbench revolt if she gives any more concessions to the EU in the Brexit negotiations – Express
  • Theresa May fails to strike Brexit border deal with Irish government – Guardian
  • Is May breakthrough on trade deal in jeopardy? Irish border dispute could throw crunch talks off track – Daily Mail
  • Brexit timetable in jeopardy as Theresa May fails to reach deal on Irish border ahead of EU deadline – Telegraph (£)

Irish Foreign Minister says Dublin has no desire to delay Brexit negotiations

There is “no desire” in Ireland to delay progress on the Brexit negotiations, according to the country’s deputy prime minister. Simon Coveney said his government did not want to veto the talks, after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned he was prepared to stand firm on the Irish border issue. Mr Coveney, who was appointed the new tanaiste in the Dail on Thursday, told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show Ireland wants a solution on the border that “involves all of the United Kingdom acting as one” – News Letter

Key Merkel ally puts chances of moving Brexit talks onto trade at 50/50

The European Commission will decide this month whether to move on to the next stage of talk between the European Union and Britain as an exiting member state. And German MEP David McAllister said there is only a 50/50 chance of progression, which would mean barely any progress has been made in a year. Brussels is stalling over claims Prime Minister Theresa May’s Government has not provided satisfactory offers in three keys areas, including EU citizens rights, the Irish border and the Brexit bill. – Express

Jeremy Hunt warns colleagues: ‘If we don’t back Theresa May, we’ll have no Brexit’

Jeremy Hunt has told Tory MPs that Brexit will not happen if the party does not back Theresa May, in an unprecedented warning. The senior Cabinet minister’s remarks came in response to reports that pro-Leave Conservatives had issued a series of red lines to the Prime Minister as exit talks with the EU reach a critical phase. Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Sunday, the Health Secretary said: “I think there’s an even bigger point here that the choice we face now is not between this Brexit, or that Brexit. If we don’t back Theresa May we will have no Brexit and she is doing an unbelievingly challenging job, amazingly well.” – Independent

Tony Blair confirms he is working to reverse Brexit

Tony Blair has confirmed that he is trying to reverse Brexit, arguing that voters deserve a second referendum because the “£350m per week for the NHS” promise has now been exposed as untrue. In an interview with the BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend on Sunday, the former prime minister said that what was happening to the “crumbling” NHS was a “national tragedy” and that it was now “very clear” that the Vote Leave promise about Brexit leading to higher NHS spending would not be honoured. – Guardian

  • Tony Blair demands second Brexit vote and ‘Remain will win’ – Times (£)
  • Only a bespoke deal for Northern Ireland will solve border problem, says Blair – Belfast Telegraph

> On BrexitCentral at the weekend: Austin Mitchell imagines Tony Blair’s 12-point plan for stopping Brexit

Labour waver on Brexit as party refuses to rule out second referendum

Labour have braced voters for the possibility of a second referendum on Brexit after the party’s shadow international trade secretary refused to rule out another day at the ballots. Barry Gardiner said that while it was not Labour policy to go to vote on the issue again, there was no official stance, stressing that such a move would “encourage” the EU to give Britain the “worst possible deal”. His comments echoed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s statements from Lisbon on Saturday that the party had not fixed its position on a second vote on the issues of Britain’s membership of the European Union. – Daily Record

  • Labour’s Barry Gardiner suggests his party could back a second EU referendum — but would only implement result with a two-thirds majority – The Sun

> On BrexitCentral’s YouTube: Barry Gardiner challenged on his single market stance

EU law compromise will betray will of the people, former judge warns

The proposal, which will let UK courts refer matters relating to EU citizens to the European Courts of Justice (ECJ), is reportedly being considered as part of a string of concessions to Brussels in a bid to get Brexit moving. But Sir Richard Aikens, a former Court of Appeal judge and Chairman of Lawyers for Britain, has called the move “dangerous” and claimed it would go against the will of the people following the historic EU referendum. Sir Richard said such a deal would still leave the UK under the control of European courts, and risk maintaining the EU’s policy of free movement. – Express

US-based fund to invest $1 billion in UK biotech

A US-based life sciences investment fund is planning to invest up to $1bn to create a large biotech company in the UK, a move likely to be seized on by ministers as a vote of confidence in the business environment post-Brexit. The announcement that the so far un-named investor will move a significant part of its operations across the Atlantic to develop a major presence in the UK will form the centrepiece of a “sector deal” between government and the pharmaceutical industry to be unveiled this week. – FT (£)

Whitehall warned it is falling behind in the race to secure post-Brexit free trade agreements

The government is falling behind in the race to replicate the European Union’s existing network of free trade agreements for use by the UK after Brexit, trade groups and leading analysts have warned. Liam Fox, the International Trade secretary, promised in October that the UK would replicate up to 40 of the EU trade deals to be ready for “one second after midnight” on March 29, 2019 to ensure that there was “no disruption” to trade. However, trade groups are privately raising alarm bells over the practicality of “rolling over” the EU agreements into bilateral UK deals, warning of a shortage of capacity in Whitehall to tackle what is turning out to be an increasingly complicated issue. – Telegraph (£)

Devolve powers or we reject Brexit Bill, SNP’s Mike Russell declares

Scotland’s Brexit Secretary has said that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill must devolve more powers to the Scottish and Welsh governments or they will not accept it. Mike Russell said the bill in its present form would cause great damage to the devolved nations. Amendments seeking to change its impact on devolution are to be debated by MPs today. Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart, Carwyn Jones, have branded the Bill a “power grab” because responsibility in devolved areas is set to be returned from Brussels to London so that UK-wide frameworks in areas such as agriculture can be drawn up. Control over these areas would be given to Cardiff and Edinburgh at a later stage. – Times (£)

> Henry Hill on BrexitCentral: Rushing post-Brexit devolution risks huge damage to the Union

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister tells Downing Street and Brussels not to forget the thousands of people who cross the Spanish border every day in Brexit negotiations

Gibraltar fired a Brexit rocket at Theresa May and Brussels for forgetting them during testy divorce negotiations. The bitter row over the Irish border has been dominating the talks. But the government of the British territory has directly warned No10 and Brexit boss David Davis not to overlook them as wrangling over trade talks with Brussels goes to the wire ahead of a crunch EU summit in ten days. The Rock’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo blasted: “We can’t forget that thousands of people will need to be able to continue to freely cross the frontier between Gibraltar and Spain after Brexit — it’s not all about the border with Eire!” – The Sun

UK could make £470 million in post-Brexit EU institutional cost savings

The UK stands to make £470m of annual cost savings after Brexit on redundant EU agencies, according to new research. The UK currently pays around £620m annually through administrative contributions across 67 EU institutions. But European law firm Fieldfisher has found that the UK could save £470m by no longer having to fund the running costs of around 21 EU institutions and agencies, including the European Parliament and the EU’s diplomatic service. – City A.M.

The Sun: Theresa May needs to stick up for her country at today’s pivotal Brexit talks

Today represents a pivotal moment in the Brexit negotiations. When Theresa May meets Jean-Claude Juncker for lunch, she must stick up for her country. Our offer of £44 billion is more than enough to honour our commitment to Europe as we forge our own path in the world. Now it is up to EU chiefs to accept it and move forward with negotiations that will benefit hundreds of millions of people in Britain and Europe. If they continue playing hardball — childishly punishing us by refusing to talk about trade — then Mrs May should assume a “no deal” outcome. We cannot write a cheque for tens of billions without knowing what sort of deal Brussels will give us in return. – The Sun editorial

Wolfgang Munchau: Even £50 billion will not buy Britain very much

The ratification of trade agreements cannot be contractually agreed. It is political. My advice to businesses in the UK would be to assume that the only deal available will be the standard one that reduces tariffs on physical goods to zero. A simple trade deal would not require ratification by member states. Ceta, by contrast, is a mixed agreement because it affects the competencies of the EU as well as the member states. Comments made by the advocate general of the European Court of Justice a year ago suggest that the narrow definition of what constitutes an EU-level agreement can be extended a little, but not a lot. If you dream about a Canada-plus deal, one with extra chapters for services, that, too, would be a mixed agreement. It would get stuck in the same ante-chamber of ratification hell as Ceta. – Wolfgang Munchau for the FT (£)

Telegraph: Mrs May’s Brexit quandary deepens

Theresa May heads to Brussels on Monday for a meeting with Jean Claude-Juncker that promises to be crucial for the prospects of a harmonious and mutually beneficial Brexit agreement. Whether the unfolding deal will be politically acceptable at home remains to be seen. Over the next few days, the UK government needs to convince the EU negotiators that “sufficient progress” has been made on the three issues deemed by Brussels to require prior consideration before moving on to discuss the wider post-Brexit relationship, including trade. So far, this has essentially involved the Government agreeing to the EU’s terms. – Telegraph editorial (£)

Juliet Samuel: We are still dangerously unready for the next phase of Brexit talks

The next phase of the Brexit negotiations will provide an opportunity to reset. Britain should grab the initiative, mount a disciplined PR campaign on the Continent and go for broke. But none of this will be possible if the Government cannot also provide a definitive and detailed answer to the question: “What does Britain want?” Rather than muddling through the next year at the EU’s mercy, the Government needs to answer that question now. Time is running out. – Juliet Samuel for the Telegraph (£)

Daniel Hannan: Is the Irish border row a ploy to pry Northern Ireland from the UK?

There is something surreal about the Irish border row. A non-issue is being inflamed to no obvious purpose. There is no need for customs posts on the island of Ireland. This is not the 19th century. A border between developed countries doesn’t involve unshaven frontier gendarmes in peaked caps rummaging through your bags. Customs declarations these days happen online and in advance. As things stand, Ireland and the UK have different rates of VAT, petrol tax and alcohol duties. Does this require vehicles to be stopped at the border? Of course not. Tax declarations are made by the firms concerned, and customs declarations could be submitted in exactly the same way. – Daniel Hannan MEP for the Telegraph (£)

John Redwood: Two views of Brexit

We can only only take back control of our laws, our money and our borders if we leave with no further commitments to EU jurisdiction. We also need to remind the EU there is no legal requirement to pay a so called divorce bill, and I still want us to spend our money on our own priorities from the day we leave the EU. The government still states its policy as taking back control of our laws, our borders and our money. That is all a good idea. Let’s set the deadline as 29 March 2019 and work to it. There is still enough time to ensure all works well under the WTO option if the EU continues to refuse a sensible discussion of a Free Trade deal. – John Redwood MP for John Redwood’s Diary

Brexit in brief

  • Irish border Brexit issue is so far defeating the political will on each side – Jill Ruter for the Times (£)
  • Make up your mind, Michel Barnier. Are we deserting the EU or are you throwing us out? – Janet Daley for the Telegraph (£)
  • The City can cross the Brexit river by feeling the Chinese stones – Catherine McGuinness for City A.M.
  • Clarity on Brexit is needed to protect investment, CBI warns – Times (£)
  • Nigel Farage derided as a hypocrite for revealing he will not give up £73,000-a-year EU pension – IBTimes