Archive for November 5th, 2018

Michel Barnier: UK could reapply for EU membership once it is ‘a third country’

If the U.K. changes its mind about Brexit once it has left the EU, it can reapply for membership “like a third country,” the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Monday.

After a speech at a Catholic conference in Brussels, Barnier was asked how the EU would respond if the U.K. decided it wanted to remain in the EU, potentially as the result of a second referendum. “If the U.K. changes its red lines, then we will adapt immediately,” he said, but added that “After [Brexit] it will be a third country, and like a third country it can ask to join the EU.” Barnier’s remarks seem to suggest that any reversal of Brexit would happen only once the U.K. has left.

His comments come after an unusually large poll of over 20,000 people in the U.K., carried out by Survation for Channel 4, indicated a swing of 6 percentage points from Leave to Remain since the 2016 referendum and an 8-point margin in a second vote.

In an almost two-hour speech, Barnier warned that a no-deal Brexit would mean a “leap in the dark” for the three million EU citizens living in the U.K. and the 1.5 million British citizens in the EU.

“From the beginning we’ve wanted an agreement with the U.K., to put certainty where Brexit has created so much uncertainty and often anxiety,” he said.

Barnier said “we are near the end” of the negotiation on the withdrawal agreement but “difficult subjects”, namely the Irish border question, remain to be resolved.

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UK poll predicts 8-point victory for Remain in second Brexit vote

U.K. voters would vote to remain in the EU by a majority of 54 percent if a referendum were held today, according to a poll of 20,000 people across every constituency in the country.

The unusually large poll, carried out by Survation for Channel 4, indicates a swing of 6 percentage points from Leave to Remain since the 2016 referendum and an 8-point margin in a second vote. The data also suggests that 105 local authorities that voted Leave in the original referendum would switch to Remain if a national vote on EU membership were held today.

Moreover, the poll found that if the U.K. and EU agree an exit deal, 55 percent of the voters said they would support at least one version of a second referendum, while 15 percent opposed all of the potential referendum options put to them.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly rejected the idea of holding a second Brexit vote, but the results — combined with a Hanbury Strategy poll conducted for POLITICO and published at the weekend which showed 53 percent support for Remain — are likely to spark further calls from Brexit campaigners for a referendum on the terms of Britain’s eventual EU deal.

The large size of the new poll means that it can provide useful estimates about changes of opinion within the 380 individual local authorities sampled. According to the data, in every one of those but two, there was a swing towards Remain — the exceptions being the City of London and Richmondshire in Yorkshire, which in 2016 had Leave vote shares of 24.7 percent and 56.8 percent respectively. In both cases, the swing to Leave estimated by the poll is lower than 2 percentage points.

By contrast, two local authorities had estimated swings to Remain of more than a whopping 14 percentage points, according to the polling data. Newham in East London voted to Remain in 2016 (with a Leave vote share of 47.2 percent) while Leave won 62.4 percent of the votes in Barking and Dagenham in 2016. The new poll suggests the latter borough would now vote to Remain if a referendum were conducted today.

Thirty-three other local authorities have experienced a swing of more than 10 points to Remain since the referendum, according to the data. And support for leaving the EU fell most dramatically in the local authorities with the highest leave vote shares in 2016.

The Survation poll also showed that 67 percent of voters said that the U.K. should continue to have a close relationship with the EU after Brexit. This was almost three times as many (23 percent) voters who believed the U.K. and EU should not have a close relationship.

Respondents also displayed some ambivalence about the potential for Brexit to prompt the break-up of the United Kingdom. Forty-four percent said they were very or quite concerned about the possibility of Northern Ireland leaving the U.K. as a result of Brexit. But 42 percent said they were not very or not at all concerned.

The equivalent figures for Scotland are 46 percent and 46 percent respectively.

The Survation poll, which was conducted between October 20 and November 2, deploys a widely used statistical technique called multi-level regression and poststratification to predict results in individual local authorities.

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With the boss annoyed and Labour confused, opportunity Nokes

The best plan was to be contrite. So the immigration minister went for snappy and disdainful

Be careful what you wish for. Midway through an urgent question on the government’s policy on EU nationals, the Conservative Rebecca Pow demanded both that freedom of movement should end and that Britain should remain “open to the brightest and the best”. Something that would immediately disqualify both Pow and Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister to whom her question was addressed, from the House of Commons. Not even their closest friends would describe Pow or Nokes as the brightest or the best. Or sentient or barely adequate.

In her appearance before the home affairs select committee last week, Nokes managed to make up government policy on the spot by claiming that it would be up to employers to make additional checks on a worker’s status based totally on guesswork. Within hours, Sajid Javid, the home secretary, was forced to make a correction. He had never wanted Nokes as part of his team – he wasn’t picky, but he did have standards – and he couldn’t be held responsible for whatever nonsense came out of her mouth. In future it would be best for everyone to ignore whatever she said and come straight to him for clarification.

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UK chancellor: Brexit bill non-payment would damage UK’s reputation

LONDON — Withholding payments to the European Union in the event of a no-deal Brexit would damage the U.K.’s reputation as a reliable partner in future trade deals, U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond said Monday.

Some Conservative backbenchers want Prime Minister Theresa May to make the U.K.’s payment of a divorce bill of around £39 billion conditional on a generous trade deal, seeing the saving as an upside to a no-deal Brexit.

But citing advice from the Treasury’s “legal counsel,” Hammond said the proposed financial settlement agreed with Brussels was “making good” on commitments entered into with the U.K.’s “acquiescence” while a member of the European Union, and would be “due in any case.”

While the U.K. would would not necessarily be prepared to agree the same formula in the context of no deal, it would not be “plausible or credible” for the U.K. to assert it had no obligations, he said.

“If we were to do so, we would effectively rule ourselves out as being regarded as reliable partners in future international deals of any kind, including trade deals. That wouldn’t be something that I would recommend at all,” he said.

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