Top 3 developments
The European Union (Withdrawal) bill presented today
The Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 was tabled in Parliament today. In a reflection of May’s weakened position, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has said that Labour will only support the Bill if May would make serious concessions. Only a few Conservative rebels are needed to ally with Labour and defeat the bill. The Bill used to be called “The Great Repeal Bill”; then it was “The Repeal Bill”; now it’s been down-graded to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
UK’s position papers on elements of leaving the EU published this morning
The papers in question are fairly scant and non-specific. They concern nuclear materials, judicial proceedings, and privileges and immunities, and reiterated May’s desire to withdraw entirely from the remit of the ECJ. The EU has published position papers throughout the pre-negotiation period.
Barnier and Boris lock horns
After Boris Johnson – UK Foreign Secretary – told the EU to “go whistle” over the so-called Brexit divorce bill, Barnier has stressed that the “clock is ticking”, and that the UK needs to work on building “trust” with the EU.
EU have to be kidding – UK finally releases position papers!?
What do Beyoncé, Radiohead, and the UK government all have in common? They like to drop crucial bodies of work with no warning! Unfortunately, it seems doubtful that the UK’s position papers on its Brexit negotiations will be as delightedly received as In Rainbows (arguably some of Radiohead’s best work). The government released its papers on the 13th – a mere four days before talks resume on Monday 17th. The position papers – which touch on The Court of Justice of the European Union, Euratom, amongst other things – are fairly light on detail.
See you later, care-taker
Today marks a year since the PM took power. May is significantly weakened, and has to work with MPs who potentially want to replace her. A source who has witnessed her meetings with David Davis observed “She depends on him; it’s almost embarrassing to watch… All the decisions are now made by Theresa May, Philip Hammond and David Davis… she defers to Davis – she’s rude to Philip Hammond.” It seems wholly likely that May’s sense of duty will see her steer Brexit through – in an interview with the Sun she said she intends to stick it out for a “few years”. She’s no Iron Lady, but May does seem to possess a titanium hide when it comes to criticism, and her unfathomable resilience may well see her do her time for another couple of years.
May’s premiership has seen her sink so low that she has been reduced to asking other parties to “collaborate” with her on policy. Emily Thornbury – who performed well in lieu of Corbyn at PMQs – declared that May had been reduced to “putting policy suggestion boxes around Parliament”. Parliament roared with mirth.
The rise of the Remainers
As May’s authority wanes, pro-European MPs consolidate their power in parliament. Tory veteran MP Anna Soubry and centrist Labour MP Chuka Umunna are leading a cross-party group of rebel MPs in a bid to coordinate the parliamentary fight against a hard Brexit. “We won’t accept MPs being treated as spectators in the Brexit process, when we should be on the pitch as active players representing our constituents,” said Umunna. “We will be fighting in parliament for a future relationship with the EU that protects our prosperity and rights at work, and which delivers a better and safer world”, he added.
Meanwhile, Nicky Morgan – a Tory remainer – has beaten staunch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg in the contest to chair parliament’s Treasury select committee. Her soft Brexit stance won her the votes of Labour MPs; she has been vocal on the economic threats posed by Brexit, and is now poised to scrutinise the government’s economic policy, and the direction of Brexit. Anna Soubry said she was “delighted” by Morgan’s new position.
Trump finally masters the art of the deal
After a Saturday meeting between the two leaders Trump said of May that the two share a “very special relationship”. What’s more, “We have been working on a trade deal which will be a very, very big deal a very powerful deal, great for both countries and I think we will have that done very, very quickly.”
May will be very, very disappointed to hear that this is regarded as a very, very questionable decision by lots of very, very astute business minds. Peter Holmes – an economist at the Trade Policy Observation – said that “The U.K. must be absolutely desperate to demonstrate that it’s able to get something from the United States… The U.S. will make demands that even a desperate British government won’t be able to accede to.” Paul Drechsler, president of the Confederation of Business Industry has accused May of chasing favourable headlines, not deals. He also said that: “One has to recognise, not every trade deal is necessary a good and fair deal for both parties. The US has one of the best negotiating teams in the world in terms of trade deals… A trade deal is a dog-eat-dog activity, it is not a diplomatic activity.” Speaking of diplomacy – if the revelations regarding Trump Junior’s cosy pre-election relationship to Russian intelligence keep coming at this rate, May might not be negotiating with Trump Senior at all – because he’ll be facing impeachment.
Oh – Euratom is beautiful – oh, Atomic! (That’s a Blondie joke)
If the UK leaves the EU, it faces the prospect of leaving Euratom, which governs the movement of nuclear materials across Europe. The UK needs to be part of the group for a number of reasons – one of which is that cancer patients could be at risk if “Brexatom” results in a threat to the supply of radioactive isotopes – used in cancer scans and treatment – to the UK. The UK has form for thinking that it can leave the EU and still claim many of the benefits of EU membership, but this issue in particular poses a substantial threat to May. Nine Tory MPs have indicated that they’ll align with Labour and the Lib Dems in order to secure access to the terns of Euratom – making it very difficult for May to obtain a majority on the issue.
Euratom pre-dates the EU. Amongst other things, it ensures countries don’t use their nuclear materials for weapons, funds innovation and research, and manages nuclear fuel supply. The UK is home to the world’s biggest stockpile of civil plutonium, as well as 15 nuclear reactors made up of parts sent from EU members and countries that have nuclear cooperation agreements with Euratom. Even Dom Cummings – former Vote Leave chief – tweeted that those who wish to leave Euratom are “morons”. Position papers released by the government today stated that the UK will be leaving Euratom, but wishes to “continue working closely with the Euratom community” whilst looking to agree Nuclear Cooperation Agreements with non-EU states.
BoJo has lost his mojo and Barnier bellows for UK to PAY UP!!!
The next round of Brexit talks begin on Monday and – quelle surprise! – UK Government is still eating itself over whether to negotiate with a charm offensive, or just by being plain offensive.
Boris Johnson – Britain’s Foreign Secretary – responded with his characteristic understated tact and diplomacy to the EU’s proposed exit settlement (which currently stands at €86.4bn.) “The sums that I have seen… seem to me to be extortionate, and I think ‘go whistle’ is an entirely appropriate expression”. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator is – perhaps understandably – exasperated by Johnson’s continued flippancy, and the UK’s lack of progress on Brexit. He responded to Johnson’s clumsy barb: “I’m not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking”. Barnier has been firm but fair. Whilst the EU has released several position papers, the UK has been less forthcoming, and the current disarray in government sends a mixed message on Brexit. “How do you build a relationship based on trade, security … which is going to last, with a country with which you don’t have trust?” implored Barnier “I am saying this from the bottom of my heart, I want us to build that relationship.”
One wonders how that relationship might look, at this rate. Boris is a classicist, and understands the importance of rhetoric – indeed, he’s clearly been taking lessons from master of speeches, President Trump. Johnson says the UK will get a “great deal” in Brexit. There is no need for a “no deal” contingency plan, he maintains. We will get that “great deal”. David Davis – Brexit Secretary – begs to differ, insisting that Britain is making such contingency plans.
Dia dhuit, UK’s legal sector!
The UK’s legal sector is held in high esteem globally – but perhaps not for much longer. Almost 1,000 solicitors in England and Wales – over 10 times the typical annual number – have registered in Ireland in the year since the referendum. They fear losing the right to represent clients in European courts after Brexit, and the loss of rights of audience in the instance of a competition case – amongst a host of other issues.
EU finalises budget
EU Parliament and Council will meet today to discuss the finalised version of the 2018 annual EU budget – the last one to include a full British contribution. Parliament’s negotiator Siegfried Mureşan has won supermajority support from MEPs to argue against national governments wanting to cut €1.72 billion mainly in areas of research, infrastructure and agriculture. Mureşan said: “These are unacceptable and indiscriminate cuts, which go against the very pledges of member states to support our economic recovery and job creation.”
- 1st July – 3rd September – Parliamentary recess
- July 17th – Second round of talks
- 24th – 27th September – Labour Party Conference
- 1st – 4th October – Conservative Party Conference
- October 19th – EU Summit