Brexit News for Thursday 10 August

Brexit News for Thursday 10 August
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How the EU tried to hide £500,000 bill for two months’ travel

The European Union is facing an expenses scandal after it had to admit that its senior officials had claimed tens of thousands of pounds to hire private jets and stay at luxury hotels. Those embroiled include Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, as well as the head of EU foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini. The figures, published after three years of “Kafkaesque” delays, reveal that EU officials spent more than £90,000 on chartering planes which are described on their expense claims as “air taxis”. – Telegraph (£)

  • EU Commission chief Juncker spent £24k on ‘air taxi’ to Rome – Sky News
  • Jean-Claude Juncker’s chartered jet junket cost taxpayers €27,000 – The Times (£)
  • EU Commissioners spent €500,000 on travel in two months – Guido Fawkes
  • Why should Britain pay billions as a Brexit bill so jet-set Juncker can keep travelling in style? – Asa Bennett for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • The EU Commission’s lavish travel spending shows it’s learned nothing from the Brexit vote – Telegraph editorial
  • Transparency bores Eurocrats, but can they at least try to care about what the public thinks? – Tom Harris for the Telegraph

Government to launch Brexit charm offensive…

Theresa May has ordered a Brexit charm offensive at home and abroad, coordinated by a new Whitehall team drawn from David Davis’ Brexit department and Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office. The new “engagement unit” will exploit the U.K.’s network of European ambassadors in an attempt to directly explain the U.K.’s Brexit strategy to government officials, businesses and other “stakeholders” in EU capitals, while also engaging with key interest groups at home, government officials familiar with the strategy told POLITICO. It follows a direct “edict” from the prime minister herself for the U.K. to redouble efforts to “get the message out,” one senior U.K. official said. – Politico

…as Theresa May plans to harden up the UK’s negotiating position…

Theresa May will mark her return to Downing Street next week by stepping up her Brexit efforts, amid criticism that the UK is woefully underprepared for talks with the EU. The Government is to start publishing a series of Brexit position papers ahead to the next round of talks at the end of August in a bid to show she is “getting on with the job” and unify her divided Cabinet around a collective position. – Sky News

…and Downing Street rejects claim that Brexit talks did not start well…

Sir Simon Fraser, who was the chief mandarin at the Foreign Office until 2015, said Cabinet divisions made it hard for the government to establish a clear position. In response, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We would disagree strongly (with Sir Simon’s comments). The last two months, we have had a constructive start to the negotiations. We have covered a significant amount of important ground. “As the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said at the end of the last negotiating round, important progress has been made in understanding one another’s positions on key issues.” – ITV News

…while a civil servant claims Britain’s Brexit negotiators have been denied water during Brussels talks

Britain’s Brexit negotiators have been denied water during showdown talks in Brussels as the EU sought to gain a competitive advantage over the UK, a civil servant has revealed. The anonymous official said a lack of water available during talks may have been evidence of “unsporting tactics to get the upper hand”. – Telegraph

Brexit boost as Bank of England admits increased demand for UK goods means UK is less reliant on consumer spending

There are growing indications that the weaker pound is boosting demand for UK manufactured goods, helping to reduce the country’s reliance on consumer spending to drive economic growth. Interviews conducted with at least 700 UK businesses during June and the first half of July by agents of the Bank of England suggest activity has picked up in export supply chains and that UK manufacturers are increasingly producing goods that were previously imported. – FT (£)

  • Could pay rises be around the corner? Bank detects signs of life in wage growth – Telegraph

‘Good time to consider moving job’ as starting salaries are boosted by Brexit

Starting salaries are rising at their fastest pace for 20 months as the departure of European workers after the Brexit vote squeezes the availability of suitable job candidates, new figures show. The report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) suggested now might be a good time to consider moving jobs. – Sky News

  • Firms recruiting at fastest rate in two years – The Times (£)

Despite forecasts of house price falls in the event of a Leave vote, House prices are up almost £5,000 in the year

House prices are up almost £5,000 in the year since the Brexit vote, figures revealed today. A combination of record low mortgage rates and a lack of homes for sale has bolstered the property market, but the pace of house price rises has slowed considerably, according to the Halifax house price index. – This is Money

EU commissioner sees UK payments continuing to 2020 despite Brexit…

Britain will have to keep making payments for long-term programmes to the European Union until at least 2020, even after it leaves the bloc in 2019, EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told Germany’s Bild newspaper. Oettinger said Britain was obligated to honour commitments it had made to long-term programmes before last year’s vote to leave the bloc in 2019, the Monday edition of the newspaper reported. “As a result, London will have to transfer funds to Brussels at least until 2020,” he told the newspaper. – Reuters

…as one minister reportedly suggests the UK may pay £10billion as a ‘goodwill’ Brexit bill

A senior minister has revealed the Government is considering a divorce bill of around £10 billion as “a goodwill gesture” to the EU. The new figure has emerged as Tory backbench MPs have threatened to revolt over paying any exit fee to the EU. The fury from senior Tories followed a separate Whitehall briefing that the Government is considering a much higher amount of £36 billion… The Daily Express was told that £36 billion is “much higher” than the real figure being considered. And a cabinet minister has told the Express that in fact ministers are considering £10 billion but only to smooth over the negotiations. – Express

> Gabriel Gavin on BrexitCentral today: If the Brexit deal is right, the financial settlement will be worth it

David Davis pledges to fight EU plans restricting residents’ rights for UK nationals…

EU negotiators plan to restrict expats’ voting rights and only allow UK nationals the right to remain in the country they’re living in at the point of Brexit, David Davis has revealed. Writing to the Lords EU committee following his recent appearance the Brexit secretary said his negotiating team pushed back against these positions during the July talks, and would continue to do so until an agreement had been reached. – City A.M.

…as he defends defends the gender make-up of the Brexit negotiating team

Brexit Secretary David Davis has hit back at suggestions that there are a lack of women in the team negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Mr Davis said 40% of the 98 officials who travelled to Brussels for July’s round of talks were women and stressed 52% of his Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) staff are female. – BT

Ministers are failing to provide ‘clarity’ on how British law will work after Brexit, top judge warns…

Ministers must provide greater clarity over how British law will work after Brexit, the country’s top judge warned today. Lord Neuberger said parliament had to ‘spell out’ the status of the European Court of Justice after we formally cut ties with the EU. Ministers have insisted that the ECJ’s jurisdiction will end after the UK leaves the European Union. – Daily Mail

…as Owen Paterson suggests the UK should have a parallel body to ECJ

Prominent Leave campaigner and MP Owen Paterson has said the UK could set up a body of lawyers to mirror the European Courts of Justice. – BBC News

George Osborne is being ‘too gloomy’ on the progress of Brexit, says his own former chief of staff

George Osborne has come under fire from a former senior aide who accused him of being ‘too gloomy’ about Brexit. Rupert Harrison was nicknamed ‘the real Chancellor’ during his five years in the Treasury as Mr Osborne’s chief of staff. But today he turned on his ex-boss and other former Remain campaigners, accusing them of pessimism over the government’s approach to the EU negotiations. He dismissed the ‘fashionable view’ that the government had displayed a ‘lack of strategy’. – Daily Mail

Father of the House Ken Clarke vows to fight against Brexit

Ken Clarke, the longest-serving member of the House of Commons, has said he is bewildered by Britain’s “mad” political landscape, which stands in stark contrast to the centrist consensus of the past. In a recent interview with the Financial Times, 77-year-old Mr Clarke — a Conservative former chancellor of the exchequer, home secretary, health secretary and education secretary — vowed to continue resisting Brexit. – FT (£)

Former senior Eurocrat likens Brexit to appeasement of the Nazis

“The decisions taken by the former prime minister David Cameron, exacerbated by the decisions taken by his successor, are the most harmful decisions that have been taken by a British government for decades,” Sir Michael Leigh, who was a European Commission Director-General from 2006 to 2011, told BI. “You have to go back to the Suez crisis in 1956 or to Munich in 1938 to find decisions taken by a British government that will turn out in time to have had such negative consequences for the United Kingdom.” – Business Insider

Scottish government threatens again to block Brexit repeal bill as ministers head to Holyrood for devolution talks

Scottish ministers are set to demand extra powers after we leave the EU – or they will hold up the Brexit repeal bill. They will demand Westminster hand over full control of farming, fishing, environmental law, justice and policing after we quit the bloc in 2019. – The Sun

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accused of ‘dangerous’ Brexit move by Irish opposition Brexit spokesman

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s order to Revenue officials to stop investigating technological Brexit solutions such as electronic monitoring has been described as “reckless” and “dangerous” by Fianna Fáil’s Brexit spokesman. Stephen Donnelly said he could not believe Customs officers had been asked to halt their efforts to come up with ways to ensure an open Border when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union… DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has complained about Mr Varadkar’s move. “Sensible work to achieve practical and mutually beneficial arrangements for the Border after Brexit have been stopped on Leo Varadkar’s orders,” Sir Jeffrey wrote in an opinion piece in The Irish Times last Saturday. – Irish Times

  • Former UK Brexit minister David Jones claims Varadkar ‘regrets’ comments on post-Brexit border – The Journal
  • Westminster think tank Policy Exchange blasts Varadkar’s tougher Irish border Brexit plans as “unhelpful” and “incoherent” – City A.M.
  • The Irish Border and Brexit – is Varadkar playing with fire? – Graham Gudgin for ConservativeHome
  • Brexit stokes tax fight between Ireland and EU – Politico

> Marcus Fysh MP on BrexitCentral today: How to solve the trade and migration issues relating to the Irish border

Britain ‘a bit gloomy’ about Brexit, says Australia’s High Commissioner

Britain is “a bit gloomy” about Brexit and can be “cautiously optimistic” about achieving a new free trade deal with the EU, Australia’s high commissioner to the UK has said. Alexander Downer said the UK could forge a new and successful economic policy if it pursued the right path domestically. It comes after George Osborn’s former aid said he is “too gloomy” about the progress being made by the Government on Brexit. – Telegraph

> On BrexitCentral’s YouTube channel: Alexander Downer tells Radio 4 that Brexit is an opportunity for a more global Britain

The Sun: We cannot just walk away from the EU without settling our bill… but in return Brussels must look towards free trade

The Sun does not agree with hard-liners who want to walk away and take our chances without paying a penny. We need to honour commitments we have made and obligations to our people in Brussels. Whatever we pay, though, must take into account our substantial share of EU wealth and assets. It is in both our interests and the EU’s to set up a limited transition period, ­followed by a free trade deal. Given that we currently pay £8billion a year net into the Brussels pot, a figure of, say, £24billion doesn’t seem unrealistic. – The Sun says

Tom Harris: My fellow Brexiteers need to stop moaning: if £36bn is the price of a good deal with the EU, so be it

It was campaigners’ cavalier use of figures that left such a bad taste in so many people’s mouths during last year’s referendum on our EU membership. It’s not as if they didn’t know that the figures they wantonly publicised at every opportunity had little basis in reality. Still, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and surely the end justified the means? – Tom Harris for the Daily Telegraph (£)

Shanker Singham: The world will move on if the UK has no executable trade policy on day one of Brexit

The UK must be able to provide the clarity of being out of the Customs Union and EEA on day one of Brexit, with a regulatory base-line that will result from the porting over of most EU law through the Great Repeal Bill. That way, other countries know exactly what they are dealing with, and can conclude deals as soon as they are ready. If such clarity does not exist, then other countries will not think the UK is serious about executing an independent trade policy and they will quickly lose patience and move on. – Shanker Singham for City A.M.

Martin Howe: Brexit Britain should take note of European judges, but it shouldn’t be ruled by them

Yesterday, Lord Neuberger, the retiring President of the Supreme Court, gave a BBC interview which rang alarm bells in some quarters. He made clear that in some circumstances, UK courts would continue to pay attention to future judgments of the European Court at Luxembourg (ECJ). – Martin Howe for the Telegraph (£)

Oliver Wiseman: Brexit is a symptom – not the cause – of Britain’s divided politics

British politics isn’t about Leave vs Remain. Rather, Leave vs Remain is itself a symptom of much bigger, deeper changes. That, at least, is the conclusion of a fascinating new study by academics Will Jennings and Gerry Stoker. Jennings and Stoker mapped the change in Conservative and Labour vote share against the size of the Leave vote in every English constituency. And inevitably, they identified a clear correlation between the size of a constituency’s Leave vote and the change in Conservative vote share between 2015 to 2017. But here comes the surprising bit. The correspondence between Leave vote and change in Conservative support is more pronounced in the long run, between 2005 and 2017, than over the last two years. – Oliver Wiseman for CapX

Charlie Elphicke: Ready on Day One to take back control of immigration

In less than 600 days, Britain will leave the EU. Uncontrolled EU immigration will come to an end. To be ready for this on day one will require a significant strengthening of our border controls. In addition, the rising threats of organised crime, people trafficking and terror all mean we must invest more in security to keep our country safe. Yet at the same time we want to make sure journeys for legitimate travellers are smooth and make an immigration policy that works for Britain. – Charlie Elphicke MP for ConservativeHome

  • Ready on Day One to keep the Common Travel Area and avoid a hard border in Ireland – Charlie Elphicke MP for ConservativeHome
  • Ready on Day One for lower, fairer, simpler taxes to boost jobs and growth – Charlie Elphicke MP for ConservativeHome

Roger Bootle: Project Fear was nothing more than a colossal Treasury blunder

“Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years.” By claiming credit for America’s economic performance with this tweet, President Trump tried to deflect attention from the chaos in the White House. The US economy is doing well but the idea that this is due to President Trump is preposterous. Congress has prevented him from doing anything. In any case, the time lag between policy measures and their effects on the economy is much longer than the mere six months that President Trump has been in office. – Roger Bootle for the Telegraph (£)

Jack Tagholm-Child: Brexit is a chance to rebalance our economy

There are no panaceas in economics, but contrary to what you will hear from Project Fear, Brexit has the potential to alleviate some of the most enduring problems of the UK economy in recent times. The UK after Brexit may not only succeed in putting its economy onto a more sustainable and equitable footing, but could also become a major centre of economic growth in Europe. – Jack Tagholm-Child for CapX

Paul Feldman: As the world beyond the EU opens up, the post-Brexit opportunities for British research are endless

As a country already at the fore of digital technology enabling collaboration, the possibilities of what is next for the sector feels like an exciting challenge to me and we must take this opportunity and run with it. By working together as a single UK entity, and utilising the digital capabilities we have at our disposal, we will continue to make our mark on the world of academic research. – Paul Feldman for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit comment in brief

  • The net migration target will haunt the Conservative Party – Christian May for City A.M.
  • Westminster and Whitehall should spend less time talking about Brexit and more time preparing for it – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome
  • As the world beyond the EU opens up, the post-Brexit opportunities for British research are endless – Telegraph (£)
  • If Britain doesn’t pay the Brexit divorce bill, her ex-partners will have to – Michiel Scheffer for LSE Brexit
  • Leaving the EU means leaving the ECJ – Jon Holbrook for Spiked
  • A co-operative fishing policy is what the UK needs post-Brexit – Alf Young for The Times (£)

Brexit news in brief

  • UK Brexit Minister answers your questions – ITV News
  • Did the old really ‘shaft’ the young over Brexit? – ComRes
  • Call for new political party to stop Brexit ‘catastrophe’ – Sky News
  • Theresa May’s cabinet supposedly split three ways over Brexit transition – FT (£)