Britain will tell EU it is prepared to stay tied to customs union beyond 2021: Brexit News for Thursday 17 May

Britain will tell EU it is prepared to stay tied to customs union beyond 2021: Brexit News for Thursday 17 May
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Britain will tell EU it is prepared to stay tied to customs union beyond 2021…  

Britain will tell Brussels it is prepared to stay tied to the customs union beyond 2021 as ministers remain deadlocked over a future deal with the EU, the Telegraph has learned. The Prime Minister’s Brexit war Cabinet earlier this week agreed on a new “backstop” as a last resort to avoid a hard Irish border, having rejected earlier proposals from the European Union. Ministers signed off the plans on Tuesday despite objections from Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary. A pro-European Cabinet source said that Mr Johnson and Mr Gove were “outgunned” during the meeting and reluctantly accepted the plans. – Telegraph

…but Jacob Rees-Mogg warns against ‘perpetual Brexit purgatory’

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of a 60-strong group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs, said: “The risk of the Government using all its mental energy on the fallback position is that they create a position that is more attractive than a permanent deal. We have gone from a clear end point, to an extension, to a proposed further extension with no end point. The horizon seems to be unreachable. The bottom of the rainbow seems to be unattainable. People voted to leave, they did not vote for a perpetual purgatory.” – PoliticsHome

  • UK officials float Brexit customs compromise – Politico
  • New Irish border backstop plan will tie in whole of UK – Times (£)

Brussels slows Brexit talks after Lords’ attempts to wreck PM’s exit plans…

Brussels is stalling in Brexit talks because of the unelected House of Lords’ attempt to wreck Theresa May’s flagship EU exit legislation, ministers have been warned. Front-line UK negotiators have reported back to Downing Street that their EU counterparts are stonewalling until they see how many of the peers’ 15 changes that rip up the UK’s Brexit policy are supported by MPs. One minister told The Sun: “As we warned, the EU are now negotiating with Parliament not us and they are playing for time while they see what MPs say.” They added that talks with Brussels “have slowed down” since the Lords began changing the bill, adding Brussels bosses had “all but admitted it”. – The Sun

  • The House of Lords has cooked its goose – Iain Martin for the Times (£)

…as the Government suffers its 15th EU Withdrawal Bill defeat in the Lords…

The government has suffered its 15th defeat in the House of Lords over the EU Withdrawal Bill. Peers voted by a majority of 50 to say the government should set up a body to maintain EU standards of environmental protection after Brexit. Lord Krebs, who instigated the move, argued that while EU rules would be carried over into UK law, environmental principles underpinning them would not. Ministers had promised a consultation on the issue but lost by 294 to 244. MPs will decide whether to reverse the measure when the bill returns to the House of Commons. Peers are debating the third reading of the Bill, the last chance for them to propose changes to the legislation. The cross-party amendment backed by peers is designed to ensure EU environmental principles continue to have a basis in domestic law at the end of the post-Brexit transition period in December 2020. – BBC News

  • ‘These days will go down in history as the House at its worst:’ Tory lord tears into peers for trying to ‘thwart’ the will of the people as they pass 15th wrecking amendment to the Brexit Bill – Daily Mail
  • The 15 House of Lords amendments to EU Withdrawal Bill in full- Express

…while Theresa May tells Scottish Government the Bill is ‘a sensible way forward’

The prime minister has insisted her Brexit bill is a “sensible way forward” despite the Scottish Parliament refusing to grant its consent. MSPs voted by 93 to 30 to reject the bill over concerns it will restrict Holyrood’s powers in some policy areas. Theresa May told the House of Commons she was disappointed by the vote. But she insisted it was “right that we go ahead with measures that not only respect devolution but also ensure the integrity of our common market”. The Holyrood vote was held after months of talks between the Scottish and UK governments failed to reach an agreement over the EU Withdrawal Bill – although the Welsh government dropped its opposition after striking a deal. It saw the SNP joined by Labour, the Greens and Liberal Democrats in opposing the bill, with only the Conservatives in favour of granting consent. – BBC News

Labour fail in bid to force Government to publish secret customs deal plans…

MPs voted 301 to 269 against the Labour motion to force the publication of Cabinet documents relating to post-Brexit customs plans. Conservative MPs had been ordered by party whips to vote against the move. Labour had used a so-called humble address, an arcane parliamentary convention, to try and force the Government to release the documents after Labour previously used the tactic to secure the publication of the 58 Brexit impact papers. The attempted ambush came after Theresa May’s Brexit war Cabinet once again failed to reach an agreement on what type of trading arrangement they want with the EU in the future. The 11-strong group of senior ministers met for around an hour and a half, and heard presentations from David Lidington and David Davis on the two options under consideration, a customs partnership and so-called “maximum facilitation”. – PolitcsHome

…while Labour renews Brexit confusion after Corbyn spokesman backs away from EU single market

There was fresh confusion over Labour’s Brexit position after Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman ruled out staying in the single market, just hours after two of his frontbenchers suggested the party may back it. The spokesman reiterated Mr Corbyn’s concerns over keeping the UK within the European Economic Area after Brexit and said it would not deliver his priorities. But moments earlier one of his closest allies, Diane Abbott, said the party had not ruled out backing a plan brought forward in the House of Lords to keep the UK in the EEA, meaning the country would stay in the single market. – Independent

  • Jeremy Corbyn is facing renewed pressure to shift his opposition to a Norway-style soft Brexit, amid reports that at least 70 MPs may be ready to defy him over the issue – PoliticsHome
  • Labour’s ambiguity on Brexit is no longer an option – Times (£)

David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, has said the cabinet may need weeks to thrash out the two customs options…

David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, has said the cabinet may need weeks to thrash out the two customs options that have divided ministers, as it emerged the government is taking legal advice on both models. Lidington, effectively Theresa May’s deputy, said there had been “serious criticisms made about the technical details of both the models on the table” and said more work needed to be done by ministers in two working groups “over the next days and weeks”. – Guardian

…but promises Britain will not ask for longer Brexit transition period

Britain will not ask for an extension to the near-two year transition period with the European Union after Brexit when the government publishes its new detailed plans next month, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said on Wednesday. The government said on Tuesday it would publish detailed plans for its future relationship with the European Union next month. “Not only are we not asking for a longer transition period but the EU has always been very clear that you can’t use Article 50 to talk about the long-term future relationship,” Lidington told the BBC when asked about the White Paper. – Reuters

No new cameras on Irish border after Brexit, says Karen Bradley…

There will be no new cameras on the border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, has said, warning that any physical checks on the border could be targets for criminal activity. However, she said physical infrastructure could be needed away from the border to implement whatever customs deal is struck in the Brexit negotiations. Bradley appeared to cast doubt over how the government could implement one of the two post-Brexit customs arrangements currently under consideration, the “max fac” model, where automated technology and trusted trader schemes would be used to police the border. – Guardian

> On BrexitCentral’s Twitter: Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley says there will be no new cameras on the Irish border – Sir Bill Cash tells her that there are already cameras there

…as Kate Hoey accuses her of surrendering to terrorists over Irish border…

Theresa May’s government was yesterday accused of surrendering to IRA terrorists by vowing to never put hi-tech cameras up on the Irish border post-Brexit. Furious Labour veteran Kate Hoey challenged Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley after she told MPs the threat of violence meant new “physical infrastructure” along the border would be impossible. Ms Hoey stormed: “Are you saying we might not consider putting up or using cameras away from the border … because of some blackmailing and threats by dissidents who might actually decide that they are going to start killing people? “Are we really saying that? As that what it sounds like.” – The Sun

…while Varadkar and May will meet today as Brexit tension mounts

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will hold a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May later this morning in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, on the margins of the EU-Western Balkans Summit. The meeting comes amid growing tension over the slow progress in the Brexit negotiations. The Irish Government and European Union are increasingly concerned about the prospect of a breakthrough in June on the customs issue and the Irish “backstop”. EU leaders have gathered in Sofia for a summit with the leaders of the Western Balkan countries. The meeting, held under the Bulgarian presidency, is designed to re-establish a so-called European perspective for the countries of the former Yugoslavia and other Western Balkan states. – RTE

Sajid Javid wants guarantees of citizens’ rights for Brits living on the continent after Brexit

Sajid Javid has turned the table on EU bosses and demanded answers over how Brits on the continent will be treated after Brexit. The new Home Secretary has voiced “concern” that member states have not made the same guarantees on citizens’ rights as the UK. And he vowed to push European leaders on how they intend to offer residency rights to expats, saying most had been “unclear” about their intentions. Mr Javid made the remarks in a letter he sent to the EU Parliament’s negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, who he met yesterday in Brussels. The Home Secretary dodged questions from reporters following the behind closed doors talks, only saying they were “constructive” before being bundled into a lift by panicked advisers. – The Sun

UK said to threaten veto on EU’s new Galileo contract tenders

The U.K. is considering vetoing the release of new contract tenders for the European Union’s Galileo satellite navigation system if the bloc doesn’t relax its stance on restricting Britain’s access to the program after Brexit, two officials familiar with the matter said. European officials are trying to bring forward bids on 400 million euros ($471 million) of contracts to design and develop the next set of satellites for the program, according to a U.K. official familiar with the situation. The tenders, for work on the EU’s equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, were originally planned for next year. – Bloomberg

‘Capricious’: Donald Tusk condemns Trump administration

The threat posed by Donald Trump’s administration has been likened to that of China and Russia by Donald Tusk as he condemned the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal and threat of a transatlantic trade war. At the start of an EU summit in Bulgaria, the European council president offered a withering condemnation of Trump’s White House. He said: “We are witnessing today a new phenomenon: the capricious assertiveness of the American administration. Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, some could even think, ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies?’” – Guardian

European Parliament takes hard line on EU’s euro clearing plans

European parliamentarians have taken a hard line on EU plans to police London’s euro derivatives clearing business after Brexit, in a move that raises the prospect of tension with the UK and US over the prized activity. The parliament on Wednesday voted to toughen plans requiring UK clearing houses handling large volumes of euro-denominated contracts to comply with EU rules and accept European supervision. It also wants to give European regulators more powers to dictate the conduct and operations of these “systemic” institutions in “exceptional circumstances”. The vote will allow parliament and national capitals to begin talks to thrash out the final version of the EU rules. – FT (£)

  • EU signals softer stance on London’s clearing houses after Brexit – Telegraph
  • UK’s risk of losing euro clearing after Brexit eases – Reuters

The Sun: Theresa May’s task is being made impossible by Remainer peers and europhile Tory rebels

Now we have proof of the chaos, instability and economic damage being caused by Remainer peers and europhile Tory rebels. EU negotiators admit they are stalling — because Theresa May’s Brexit plans, rejected by the Lords, could be ripped up by a Commons defeat. At any other moment of great national upheaval a prime minister could expect to lead from the front, with the country, their party and maybe even the opposition united behind them. Mrs May cannot even rely on her own MPs. – The Sun editorial

Allister Heath: From Brexit to the economy, the establishment has been gripped by a new culture of declinism

No wonder artificial intelligence is making such strides: humans are hopelessly flawed. Our myopia is extraordinary, and our propensity to fall foul of manias never fails to amaze. When all goes well, we succumb to irrational exuberance: we convince ourselves that the stock market is bound to double or that eternal peace is inevitable. Yet as soon as the going gets a little tougher, or the people vote the “wrong” way, it’s u-turns galore. We recall, suddenly, that civilisations fall as well as rise, and assume that this must be the moment when we locked ourselves into a spiral of terminal decline. Nuance, perspective and balance are nigh-on impossible in a society plagued by such cognitive biases, one which yo-yos from Panglossianism to extreme self-doubt. – Allister Heath for the Telegraph (£)

Matthew Goodwin: Italy’s new populist government shows it’s not just British voters questioning the EU dream

Immigration and terrorism are now dominating the minds of ordinary voters in the EU. This is the finding of a major new YouGov study of what people think across the continent. The survey asked more than 11,000 people from eleven countries to rank the top two issues that face the EU today. Remarkably, people in nine of eleven countries put immigration first and terrorism second. Only in Spain and Italy, which looks set to host the first openly populist government in post-war Europe, did unemployment rather than terrorism sit alongside immigration as a top concern. These findings are highly significant. They reveal how there is a new issue agenda in Europe and one that has been shaped by recent events. Since 2014, the EU has consistently struggled to contain a major refugee crisis. – Matthew Goodwin for the Telegraph (£)

Rod Liddle: The UK economy is in good shape — contrary to what we’re told on the news

Thought you might like a bit of good news this week. The kind of good news which, mysteriously, is rarely reported on your TV news programmes. The UK economy is in rather good shape. Surprisingly good shape if you’re one of those Remainer banshees who said the entire country would be worth about two bob by now — no investment, no jobs, swarms of killer bees and plagues of locusts. Not a bit of it. Take employment. We now have the highest employment levels, and the lowest unemployment, for 42 years. We have an unemployment rate of 4.2 per cent. Would you like to know how our major European partners are getting on in that regard? Well, it’s 9.2 per cent in France, 10.8 per cent in Italy, a whopping 16.4 per cent in Spain and, of course, 20.9 per cent in chicken-in-a-basket case Greece. – Rod Liddle for The Sun

James Forsyth: We need to stop buying into this ‘divided Britain’ narrative

Amid all the argument in Westminster, everyone can agree on one thing: the country is bitterly divided. The 52:48 divisions of the Brexit referendum are still there, and possibly even more entrenched than during the campaign itself. The result hasn’t been followed by a period of national healing — quite the opposite. Even the cabinet appears to be split along Leave and Remain lines. You would have to go back a quarter of a century to find a time when the two main parties were so far apart. The public, however, shows no sign of deciding which path it wants to choose. The general election resulted in a hung Parliament, and the local elections earlier this month suggest that if Theresa May went to the country tomorrow, the result would be even more inconclusive. – James Forsyth for the Spectator

Brexit in brief

  • Brexiteers will pray Theresa May didn’t give them an omen at PMQs of what is to come – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)
  • Brexit and sovereignty – Peter Jones for the Spectator
  • How the Conservatives can use Brexit to improve animal welfare governance – and their image – Stephen McCulloch for the LSE
  • May should step aside if she fails to win good Brexit deal, says Corbyn – Belfast Telegraph
  • Brexit drama set to hit Channel 4 starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings – Express
  • Odds slashed on Italy to be next country to leave EU as Eurosceptic revolt threatens bloc – Express
  • Republic of Ireland’s fishing rights in UK ‘could be suspended’ – Belfast Telegraph