Dominic Raab appears to confirm he expects a Brexit deal to be done by mid-November: Brexit News for Thursday 1st November

Dominic Raab appears to confirm he expects a Brexit deal to be done by mid-November: Brexit News for Thursday 1st November

Dominic Raab appears to confirm he expects a Brexit deal to be done by mid-November…

Dominic Raab has revealed he expects to have a Brexit divorce deal confirmed with Brussels by 21 November. The Brexit secretary announced the date in a letter to senior MPs, summoning him to appear before a committee. Writing to them, Mr Raab said: “I would be happy to give evidence to the committee when a deal is finalised, and currently expect 21 November to be suitable.” He has previously suggested the end of November is a cut off because of “the practical time limits on getting our legislation through”. A government source confirmed to Sky News they were hoping for a political agreement by 21 November, with all EU leaders meeting in mid-December to sign it off.  – Sky News

  • Britain and EU set to strike a deal in next three weeks, minister claims – The Sun
  • Raab expects Brexit deal within three weeks – The Times (£)
  • UK expects Brexit deal with EU by November 21, Dominic Raab says – Bloomberg

…although DExEU seek to play down the idea of a deadline

Dominic Raab has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after appearing to suggest that the UK’s increasingly fraught Brexit negotiations with the EU could be completed in three weeks’ time. The Brexit secretary admitted there was “no set date for the negotiations to conclude” three hours after a letter he had sent to a select committee was released in which he said he was happy to appear before it on 21 November after “a deal is finalised”. Once thought a safe pair of hands to take over the negotiations after the resignation of David Davis, Raab’s personally signed correspondence briefly caused the pound to rise and raised questions in Brussels. The subsequent retreat prompted his shadow, Sir Keir Starmer, to conclude that he had been forced to execute “one of the quickest U-turns in political history”. – Guardian

  • Dominic Raab under fire for ‘messy u-turn’ after his department say there is ‘no date set for Brexit deal’ – ITV News

EU wants answers from London on crunch talks issues ‘by middle of next week’…

European diplomats have been told that it’s still not clear where the UK stands on finding a solution to avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland after Brexit, according to a diplomatic note circulated to European capitals on Wednesday. The note, seen by BuzzFeed News, states that EU negotiators are hoping Theresa May’s team will provide clarity by the middle of next week. That expectation, however, has been received with some pessimism among ambassadors of the EU’s remaining 27 member states who met with the European Commission earlier today [Wednesday]. Although talks between the two sides resumed this week, negotiations remain stuck on the issue of the so-called backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland under all circumstances. The solution the EU proposes – to be used only if an alternative, and a future trade deal, was not agreed in time – would see the UK in a customs union, and Northern Ireland remaining, in effect, in the EU’s single market for goods. – Buzzfeed News

…with Michel Barnier under mounting pressure to compromise over the Irish backstop…

Michel Barnier was under mounting pressure to agree to a fresh compromise with Britain over the Irish backstop, senior EU sources told The Telegraph on Wednesday night, as Dominic Raab said he expects a divorce deal with the EU by November 21. The Brexit Secretary’s optimistic prediction in a letter to MPs came despite both sides being locked in an apparently intractable impasse over the so-called ‘Irish backstop’ to guarantee no return to a hard border in Ireland. Technical level talks resumed in Brussels this week between Olly Robbins, Theresa May’s Europe adviser, and Sabine Weyand, Mr Barnier’s deputy, as both sides tried to plot a way through the deadlock over Ireland. The Telegraph understands from senior EU sources that Mr Barnier is now under growing pressure to accept British proposals that the Withdrawal Agreement should now include an open-ended Customs Union with the EU. – Telegraph (£)

…while Ireland warns that the UK must compromise by next week for a deal to be done

Ireland’s deputy prime minister has warned that there needs to be further “movement” from the United Kingdom in negotiations for there to be a Withdrawal Agreement next month. Simon Coveney told reporters in a press conference this afternoon that the British side needs to compromise by next week for a divorce deal to be feasible. His warning came after Dominic Raab told MPs that he expects the Brexit talks to conclude within three weeks. The Brexit Secretary informed the Commons Brexit Select Committee that he would be happy to appear before them on 21 November “when a deal is finalised”. Mr Raab added his letter to MPs that Mrs May had made a “great deal of progress over the past few weeks” and the Government was close to finding a solution with Brussels on the Irish backstop. He said the UK and EU now “agree on the principle of a UK-wide customs backstop” which, if true, would represent a significant victory for the Prime Minister. – Telegraph (£)

EU prepares for a no-deal Brexit amid lack of progress on talks

The European Union is pressing ahead with plans for a no-deal Brexit, amid uncertainty about when high-level negotiations will resume. With 149 days until Brexit day, time is running out to secure a deal that the British government wants to nail down this autumn, to allow time for the agreement to gain assent from parliament and the European parliament. EU diplomats meeting on Tuesday agreed to hold a series of no-deal planning seminars in November, covering citizens’ rights, aviation, ground transport, customs, border controls and financial services. – Guardian

Theresa May reportedly seals Brexit deal on financial services…

Theresa May has struck a deal with Brussels that would give UK financial services companies continued access to European markets after Brexit. British and European negotiators have reached tentative agreement on all aspects of a future partnership on services, as well as the exchange of data, government sources said… Under the services deal the EU would guarantee UK companies access to European markets as long as British financial regulation remained broadly aligned with that of Europe. Significantly, neither side would unilaterally deny market access without first going through independent arbitration and providing a notice period significantly longer than the current 30 days. Senior figures in the City said they welcomed any deal that provided continuity and stability but warned that delivering the detail in a legal trade agreement after Brexit would be far harder. – The Times (£)

…as she urges business leaders to lobby MPs to back whatever Brexit deal she may strike

Theresa May has urged business leaders to lobby MPs to back the government’s Brexit deal if an agreement is struck in the coming weeks. Speaking at a gathering of more than 130 executives in the City of London, the prime minister was asked about the chances of a no-deal Brexit, a prospect feared by the business world. She replied that the government wanted companies to ensure that MPs recognised the importance of getting the withdrawal agreement through parliament — in order to avoid the UK crashing out of the bloc without a deal. One person present at the Guildhall said attendees saw the comment as encouragement to lobby wavering Labour MPs as well as Eurosceptic Tories to support the pact. The prime minister sought to reassure the business leaders that the government was close to clinching a Brexit deal  and that 95 per cent of the work had been done. One executive there described Mrs May as “very optimistic” about the prospect of a deal on Brexit being reached “pretty soon”. – FT (£)

  • May seeks to reassure business on Brexit progress – Reuters

Commons Clerk confirms that the Government can ignore non-statutory demands from MPs for alternative Brexit plans

Theresa May can legally ignore any non-statutory vote by MPs that suggests an alternative Brexit plan, including the option of a second referendum, according to the most senior official of the House of Commons. Sir David Natzler, clerk of the Commons, told the Brexit committee none of the votes would be binding on the government, unless they were amending legislation. However, he added that such a vote would still have “considerable political force”. The Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, has said the meaningful vote, which gives MPs a vote on the final Brexit deal, should be a straightforward take-it-or-leave-it vote or else it would invalidate any agreement reached with Brussels. But campaigners are considering whether to use that moment, which could take place as late as 20 December, to stage a vote on whether to hold a second referendum, but it is not clear whether it would be binding. – Guardian

> WATCH: Sir David Natzler at the DExEU Select Committee

Brexit deal will pass as ‘terror will win’, says David Davis

Theresa May’s Brexit deal will be backed by parliament because “terror will win”, David Davis has predicted. The former Brexit secretary, who resigned over the prime minister’s plans for a close relationship with the EU, said the country would succumb to its “irrational fear” of a “no-deal” rupture with the bloc. Speaking at an event hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, Mr Davis said: “Terror will win . . . the fear of no deal, I think — but I think that’s an irrational fear of no deal or a WTO [World Trade Organisation] deal. That will win and there will be a deal.” He added, according to The Sun: “It may take a few passes, but it will pass.” Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister who quit alongside Mr Davis, was watching, and muttered “don’t say that”, Sky News reported. – The Times

  • David Davis predicts ‘terror will win’ and prevent no-deal Brexit – Sky News
  • Davis warns May against caving in to EU – ‘It will not pass’ – Express

Longest-serving SNP MP attacks Nicola Sturgeon’s backing for second EU referendum

Nicola Sturgeon’s longest-serving MP has accused of her of undermining the SNP’s independence campaign by backing a second EU referendum. In an extraordinary attack, Pete Wishart warned her move risked seriously undermining the SNP’s attempts to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK thanks to the precedent it sets. The chair of the Commons Scottish affairs select committee said Unionists would insist on a “confirmatory vote” on the final independence deal if Scots backed separation in another referendum. He argued that they would work “non-stop” after an initial Yes vote to ensure the worst possible deal would be offered to Scots “in the hope that their Union could be rescued” by another ballot. Writing in the pro-independence National newspaper, he also criticised Ms Sturgeon for failing to get any guarantees that another Remain vote in Scotland would be respected if the entire UK voted again to Leave. – Telegraph (£)

Labour ‘would back Brexit that protects economy and jobs’, say John McDonnell

John McDonnell has said Labour would vote for a Brexit deal if it “protects jobs and the economy” as he tried to argue that his party’s position was in line with what British business wanted. The shadow chancellor was speaking immediately after he met delegates from business at Bloomberg’s City of London offices, where he said “the big issue” they had raised with him was the status of the Brexit negotiations. The Labour frontbencher added: “We’ve got to secure a deal, based on membership of the customs union and a close and collaborative relationship with the single market. I think there’s a deal to be had, and that the Europeans will offer a deal that will be acceptable to us on that basis.” – Guardian

Exporters upbeat on growth – despite trade war, economic wobbles and Brexit

Britain’s exporters are ignoring political uncertainty and anticipate steady growth next year on the back of economic growth and the weak pound. Three-quarters of companies in an HSBC survey said the trade outlook is positive, putting UK firms’ prospects ahead of those in the US and just behind those in France and Germany. Overall 80pc of British companies said they expect to succeed in the current trade environment, in line with the global average of 81pc. Despite concerns over the failure to yet reach a deal with the EU, British businesses do not appear to be panicking over Brexit. The survey of 500 companies found 40pc see Brexit as positive against 31pc who believe it is negative and 22pc who anticipate no impact. In part this may be because companies believe themselves to be ready for leaving the EU – 83pc said they are prepared for Brexit. – Telegraph (£)

Portuguese business pushes for Brexit deal

Portuguese exports to the United Kingdom could fall by over a quarter because of Brexit, wiping up to 1 percentage point off the country’s economy, according to a study from the Confederation of Portuguese Business (CIP). Speaking at the launch of the report, Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva assured business leaders the government was working to minimize the Brexit impact. He expressed hope a deal with the U.K. could be struck by the time European Union leaders meet for a crucial mid-December summit. “Our top priority is to do all that we can to make sure that the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is an agreed and orderly exit,” he said. “We’re not going to wait for a perfect agreement. No agreement is the worst option, any agreement is better than that.” The report will be welcomed by many Brexit-supporters in the U.K. who have long argued that Britain has significant leverage in negotiations with the EU because it is not in either side’s interest for the U.K. to crash out with no deal. It comes as negotiations enter their final stages, with time running out to rectify any deal agreed between the U.K. and the rest of the bloc before Britain is scheduled to leave in March 2019. – Politico

Nick Timothy: This is the radical Brexit speech Theresa May could still make

‘In a speech today, the Prime Minister will announce how the Government will use Brexit to revitalise the economy, and bring jobs and prosperity to the regions outside London.” Sadly, this was not a headline you missed this morning. And neither will you hear it any time soon, because with the exception of Jeremy Hunt’s foreign policy speech yesterday, ministers have proved reluctant to talk about our future after March 29 2019. The silence is deafening. It is beyond time the Prime Minister explained how the Government will exploit Brexit, and articulate a positive vision for Britain after we leave the EU. She could begin by announcing that, when the transition period ends, seven strategic locations across the North of England will immediately become combined free ports and enterprise zones. The chosen sites would remain within the UK’s sovereign territory but outside its customs rules, exempting firms operating there from certain taxes, rules and regulations, and attracting investment from all around the world. – Nick Timothy for the Telegraph (£)

Asa Bennett: Actually, Brexiteers knew what they were voting for – but Remainers had less of a clue

Losing the referendum was a bitter blow to Remainers, with 17.4 million people defying their pleas, threats and entreaties by voting Leave. As a result, many Remainers have decided to cope with the Brexit vote by working hard to delegitimise it. They argue that these Leave voters “didn’t know what they were voting for”, an argument made by politicians of every party stripe (and even Sir Elton John). Their hope is that by making out that the Brexit vote only happened because voters were led astray by the Leave campaign, a case would be made for another referendum. Of course they tend to add, with a self-satisfied air, that this one would be a referendum “on the facts”. But how firm a grasp did voters have on what they were voting for? Fresh polling by Deltapoll shows that the lion’s share of Leave voters (80 per cent) had an understanding of the implications of Brexit. In fact, they turn out to have a better grasp of the consequences of Brexit than Remainers did (74 per cent). Remain voters are also more likely to admit to having known nothing about the implications of Brexit (22 per cent) than Leave voters. – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

Jeremy Warner: ‘Norway for now’ won’t work… but soon there will be no EU left to quit

No deal appears to be unacceptable to Parliament; it therefore cannot happen except by accident. Chequers, or some watered down version of it, may equally be unacceptable to a majority in Parliament; Labour will presumably vote against anything the Government proposes, and together with Tory rebels, who regard Chequers as a sell-out, could therefore defeat it. It may also be unacceptable to Brussels if no way around the Irish border issue can be found. So does that leave the Norway option as the only practical way through this constitutional and political minefield? It may not be a perfect solution, but it could be the only one capable of commanding the necessary political support here in the UK and across the Channel in Europe. One of those pushing the idea is the former Cameron Government minister and Policy Exchange chief, Nick Boles. He advocates Norway not as an end in itself, but as a stepping stone towards a conventional free trade agreement and therefore a more arms length relationship with the EU than Norway – “Norway for now”, as he calls it. – Jeremy Warner for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • Angela Merkel is on her way out – and so is her vision for the EU – Douglas Murray for The Spectator
  • Norway? No way! – Kathy Gyngell for The Conservative Woman
  • Why Norway-to-Canada is desirable, legal, practical and offers the UK and EU a way out of a Brexit crash – George Trefgarne for ConservativeHome
  • Facebook approved fake Brexit ad ‘paid for by Cambridge Analytica’ – Telegraph (£)
  • Doing a Brexit deal shouldn’t be too difficult, says UK’s richest man – i News
  • Petition to stop second referendum gains more than 100,000 signatures – Express
  • Hard Brexit would have ‘big implications’ for UK’s debt mountain, MPs told – Telegraph (£)
  • ‘Get on with Brexit’: Lord Archer delivers stunning rant warning EU talks could fall apart – Express
  • Madrid takes Brexit hit over Gibraltar – Politico