Archive for the ‘negotiations’ Category

Stephen Barclay appointed UK Brexit secretary as May seeks to steady ship

LONDON — Theresa May appointed two new ministers to her top team Friday, as she sought to steady her government after it was rocked by a string of resignations following the publication of her draft Brexit deal.

Stephen Barclay was appointed Brexit secretary, replacing Dominic Raab, who quit Thursday over what he described as “fatal flaws” in the plan May has negotiated with Brussels.

Like his predecessor, Barclay will lead on planning in the event the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal and on preparations for Brexit at home, giving him little sway over the shape of the deal the U.K. strikes with Brussels. May and the Cabinet Office will continue to take the lead in negotiations.

While Barclay backed Brexit and represents a very Euroskeptic constituency, he did not have a high-profile role during the European Union referendum campaign. He was previously a junior minister in the health and social care department and is not widely known beyond Westminster.

The role was initially offered to Michael Gove, who turned down the job after being told there is no prospect he could renegotiate May’s draft agreement with Brussels.

May also shored up her support in Cabinet by bringing back Amber Rudd as work and pensions secretary, replacing Brexiteer Esther McVey who also quit on Thursday. Rudd, a loyalist who was a leading figure in the campaign to remain in the European Union in 2016, was forced to resign as home secretary over an immigration scandal in April.

Barclay was previously head of anti-money laundering and sanctions at Barclays Bank and also worked for the Financial Services Authority before becoming a member of parliament in 2010. He is the MP for North-East Cambridgeshire, a large agricultural region which includes the area of Fenland, which had the sixth highest share of Leave voters in the country (71.4 percent).

Stephen Hammond replaced Barclay at the department of health, John Penrose was appointed as a minister in the Northern Ireland office and Kwasi Kwarteng moved from the Treasury to the Brexit department.

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Amber Rudd returns to UK Cabinet as work and pensions secretary

LONDON — Amber Rudd was appointed as the U.K. government’s work and pensions secretary on Friday, the BBC reported.

Downing Street wouldn’t confirm Rudd’s appointment.

She returns to Theresa May’s Cabinet after being forced to resign as home secretary in April. Rudd admitted she had “inadvertently misled” MPs over targets for removing illegal immigrants.

Rudd, a prominent Remain campaigner in the Brexit referendum of 2016, is a close ally of the prime minister.

She replaces Esther McVey, who resigned Thursday in protest at May’s Brexit deal.

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PM May refuses to say DUP will back her Brexit deal in parliament

Prime Minister Theresa May refused to confirm whether her Northern Ireland backers, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), will vote for the draft Brexit deal she is due to bring to parliament next month.

The DUP’s 10 MPs prop up the minority Conservative government in the House of Commons, but the party’s leader Arlene Foster has dismissed May’s Brexit draft as a “capitulation.”

“Well, we will see how every member of parliament is going to vote,” May said on LBC radio, when asked if the DUP would back her. “When this vote comes back every individual member of parliament will decide how they vote.”

During a 30-minute phone-in show, May also dodged the question of whether Tory MPs would be given a free vote on the deal, rather than being whipped into backing it, and she declined to comment on whether Cabinet Brexiter Michael Gove had been offered, and turned down, the vacant Brexit secretary role.

“He’s been doing a great job,” May said.

The prime minister — who faces a seemingly monumental challenge to get her deal through parliament, with Labour, the DUP, Liberal Democrats and numbers of both Remainers and Brexiteers in her own party likely to reject it — remained resolute on the phone-in, where some callers accused her of failure and said she should stand down.

The final caller compared May to former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in having “appeased that foreign [EU] power,” but May reaffirmed that her deal is the best option for the country and there are areas in the negotiations where the EU has “given in to us” after the U.K. “held out.”

When quizzed about the controversial Irish backstop arrangement, however, May conceded: “I have some of those concerns myself.”

Ellen, a British woman living in Spain, called in to ask what would happen to U.K. citizens in the EU if May’s deal failed. May said she “would expect” EU countries to protect the rights of British citizens abroad just as she said EU citizens’ rights would be protected in the U.K.

Julie, who said she is disabled, called to ask for assurances that she would still be able to get the medicine she needs if the U.K. crashes out of the EU with no deal. May replied that the government was “looking at the relationship we have with the European Medicines Agency,” and went on to say that this is a “personal” issue for her, too, as she relies on insulin produced in Denmark to manage her Type 1 diabetes.

Read this next: Rolls Royce to continue stockpiling parts for no-deal Brexit

Rolls Royce to continue stockpiling parts for no-deal Brexit

Rolls Royce will push ahead with its contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit despite the draft withdrawal deal agreed by U.K. and EU negotiators Wednesday being a “step in the right direction,” the company’s chief said Friday.

“Any deal is better than no deal, giving us a framework for how we’re going to work in the future,” Rolls Royce CEO Warren East told BBC radio’s Today Program this morning.

But there’s still “a lot of water to run under the bridge,” East said, so his company will continue stockpiling parts as “this agreement is only a draft.”

East added: “I do have to be able to guarantee that we can continue doing our business after the 29th of March next year.”

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4 steps to UK’s Brexit future

It may not feel like it after a bruising few days, but Theresa May is one step closer to a Brexit deal. However, there’s still a long way to go before she can run through a field of wheat in celebration.

Here’s the path to the U.K.’s eventual future relationship with the EU in (a maximum of) 4 stages.

What’s next in Britain’s Brexit drama

LONDON — What a #(%(&@ mess — and no easy way out of it. 

That’s one indisputable conclusion to draw about British politics after a day like Thursday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who won support for her exit the EU from Brussels a day before, saw multiple resignations her top team and an imminent challenge to her leadership with a very public attack from leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg and a vocal string of his supporters.

For all the uncertainty about the future outlook, the scenarios for the coming weeks are easier to sketch out, if not to predict. Here they are in particular order:

1. May clings on

Pool photo by Matt Dunham via Getty Images

Brexiteers have long threatened to challenge May. Now that she has put a draft deal on the table, they have come out of hiding.

Should the hardliners fail to round up the 48 letters needed under Conservative party rules to trigger a vote of no confidence, it’d be a huge embarrassment to the Brexiteer cause, undermining their claims of having the support of 80 MPs in parliament. While there is no time limit dictating when the letters need to be submitted, in reality Brexiteers probably only have a few days capitalize on the crisis caused by May’s draft plan.

If the challenge fails to materialize, that would be a major boost for the prime minister and her whips who are clinging to the hope that the threat of an impending crisis will force MPs to back her divorce agreement with Brussels for Britain to sign up to it.

A failure to trigger a leadership contest does not, however, prevent a parliamentary showdown for May — it delays it. One way or another, the prime minister needs a majority in the House of Commons to back her deal with Brussels before she can formally commit to it in Brussels.

2. May wins the backing of her party

Pool photo by Matt Dunham via Getty Images

Under Tory rules, May could not be challenged for a year after winning a vote of no confidence. The magic number she needs to survive is 159 — 50 percent of the party’s MPs, plus one.

While many Tory MPs argue in private that her position would be untenable should more than 100 MPs vote to remove her as leader, she would be under no formal obligation to step aside. Asked at Thursday’s press conference whether she would fight on even if she won by just one vote she said: “Am I going to see this through? Yes.”

For the prime minister, however, simply staying prime minister only solves part of her problem. Unless there’s a dramatic change in the political mood, she still doesn’t have the numbers to force her deal through parliament.

Privately, some ministers and Tory aides believe May could survive MPs voting down her deal, by sitting tight, allowing market turbulence and the prospect of a cliff-edge Brexit to focus minds to allow her to pass the deal on the second — or third, or fourth — attempt.

This path is fraught with danger, however. While there is a majority in the House of Commons opposed to the prime minister’s plan, she risks a second, but much more serious, motion of no confidence being tabled against her — this time against the government as a whole.

Pool photo by Matt Dunham via Getty Images

As long as Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party remains fiercely opposed to the prime minister’s agreement, the government no longer has a working majority in parliament and is at risk of losing such a vote of no confidence.

If the House of Commons declares it has no confidence in the government, other party leaders have 14 days to try to form a new administration. If that does not succeed, a general election must be held six weeks later. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn will fancy his chances but without an election he also lacks the numbers for an outright majority.

3. May loses backing of her party

Pool photo by Matt Dunham via Getty Images

If May loses a confidence vote on her leadership among her own MPs, a Conservative leadership contest follows.

Under the usual procedure, candidates require two MPs to back them (one a proposer, the other a seconder). If more than two candidates throw their hats into the ring, the field is whittled down by secret ballots of Conservative MPs held on Tuesdays and Thursdays until only two candidates remain. The wider party membership then votes after a campaign period which usually lasts a few weeks.

Because there are barely more than four months until the U.K.’s legal departure date, it is likely that either the Tory party would need to fast-track the process, or the government would need to request an extension to Brexit negotiations. It’s probably easier to bend Conservative party rules than it is to get a unanimous decision from the EU27 on an extension, so the former scenario seems more likely.

Tory MPs could agree, as they have done in the past, to unite behind a single candidate, obviating the need for a contest. But given the deep divisions in the parliamentary party, it’s hard to see who would command confidence as a unity candidate.

If no-deal looked likely (or was even favored by a new administration), the U.K. and EU would almost certainly try to agree several “mini-deals” to protect vital services.

Assuming the U.K. has a new Conservative leader and new prime minister within a few weeks, it would then be up to them how to proceed with Brussels.

Dominic Raab, the departing Brexit Secretary and certainly one leadership contender, told Sky News on Thursday he would want to see a renegotiation of the Northern Ireland backstop — the aspect of the deal he resigned over.

Tory leadership contests are unpredictable (in 2016 everyone thought Boris Johnson would win and in the end he didn’t even stand). But it’s probable the new prime minister would be more of a Brexit true-believer than Theresa May, given the Euroskeptic tendencies of the Conservative membership who make the final call.

But whether such a figure — be it Boris Johnson, David Davis, Michael Gove, Raab, or any other potential candidate — would have any chance of wrestling a meaningfully different deal out of Brussels looks doubtful. The EU has shown little appetite to shift red lines.

That would bring a no-deal Brexit back into play.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street

If no-deal looked likely (or was even favored by a new administration), the U.K. and EU would almost certainly try to agree several “mini-deals” to protect vital services like air travel over each other’s territory.

But such is the resistance to the idea of no-deal among most British MPs, that in this scenario, there would be a risk, as is the case if May manages to cling on, that the new prime minister would face a vote of no confidence by an alliance of opposition parties and pro-EU Conservative MPs, who would only need to muster a handful of votes to tip the balance and topple the government. Then we could be in general election territory.

Any prime minister is also under a legal obligation (under the EU Withdrawal Act) to lay a motion before MPs informing them that they plan to pursue a “no deal” Brexit. Right now, there is no chance a majority of MPs would back this.

May vows to ‘see this through’ as Brexit deal divides her party

LONDON — Theresa May vowed  to”see this through” after a chaotic day in Westminster during which two Cabinet ministers resigned and a handful of prominent Brexiteers said they would bring down her premiership over the draft Brexit deal she negotiated with the EU.

Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street Thursday afternoon, May said that her party and the country should “unite behind” the draft agreement, warning that to step back now would lead to “deep and grave uncertainty” for the country.

Her Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey resigned on Thursday morning, citing dissatisfaction with the deal, which was approved by Cabinet in a five-hour meeting on Wednesday.

Brexiteer Conservative MPs and May’s Northern Irish backers the Democratic Unionist Party expressed fury at the draft text’s provisions for a ‘backstop’ legal guarantee to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, by keeping the U.K. in a customs union with the EU and requiring Northern Ireland to continue to follow some EU rules.

Senior Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker formally called for a vote of no confidence, submitting letters to the chair of the Conservative party’s 1922 committee. Fifteen percent of the parliamentary party must call for a vote of no confidence to trigger one — 48 MPs.

Asked whether she would fight a vote of confidence, were one triggered, and whether she would carry on even if she won the contest by just one vote, May said: “Am I going to see this through: yes”

Comparing her approach to her favorite cricket player Geoffrey Boycott, she said she liked his style of play because he “stuck to it and he got the runs in the end.”

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