Archive for the ‘No-deal Brexit’ Category

Juncker: I’ve got Brexit fatigue

Even Jean-Claude Juncker’s had enough of Brexit.

The European Commission president said Thursday he is suffering from “Brexit fatigue.”

Juncker, who held talks with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday evening, told members of the European Economic and Social Committee he is “not very optimistic” that a no-deal Brexit could be avoided.

“If no deal were to happen, and I cannot exclude this, this would have terrible economic and social consequences in Britain and on the Continent, so my efforts are oriented in a way that the worst can be avoided. But I am not very optimistic when it comes to this issue,” he said.

“In the British parliament every time they are voting, there is a majority against something, there is no majority in favor of something,”

He added: “I have something like a Brexit fatigue … This is a disaster.”


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Philip Hammond: Threat of no-deal Brexit is driving efforts for deal

The threat of “damage” from a no-deal Brexit and the hard deadline of March 29 is driving progress in the Brexit talks, U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond said.

In an interview with the BBC’s Today program, the chancellor effectively admitted that the government’s negotiating strategy is to try to use the ticking clock to its advantage. He said the threat of no-deal was concentrating minds on both sides of the Channel.

“My own view is that what is driving the process at the moment is the sense of a deadline. It is the fact that that deadline is there that is getting the movement that we’re seeing in Brussels,” the finance minister said.

“As people start to look at and contemplate the possibility of a no-deal exit, and the damage that would do to the U.K.’s economy and its standing in the world, they become more and more prepared to look at how we build that compromise which takes us forward with a deal,” he said. The Bank of England has predicted that U.K. economic output could drop by as much as 8 percent in a no-deal scenario.

“There is always the possibility of no-deal as an outcome. I, and my colleagues, are absolutely committed to avoiding that outcome,” Hammond added.

The chancellor also said there was no guarantee that the EU27 would approve any U.K. request to extend Article 50 beyond the March 29 Brexit date to give more time to reach a deal. “It would be quite high-risk just to assume that Brussels would grant an extension, if it was sought,” he said.

Asked if the U.K. had asked whether an extension request would be granted, the chancellor said that in international negotiations, it was normal for each side to play their cards “close to their chest.”

“Bear in mind that the European Union isn’t a single entity. It’s 27 member states marshalled together in a Council herded by the Commission. It’s not an agile or easy structure to be able to bring to complex decisions. How the EU would react to any request around [an] extension of time would depend entirely on the circumstances,” Hammond said.

“I fully recognize that it is very uncomfortable that we are as close to the wire as we are, but I’m afraid that’s just a feature of this kind of negotiation,” he added.

The chancellor also rejected the notion that the Tory party has been overrun by a faction of right-wing Brexiteers who have been allowed to act as a “party within a party.” That assertion was made yesterday by three Conservative MPs who resigned from the party in order to join the fledgling Independent Group in parliament.

He accepted that “there is a small hard core that have a very hard line view and are not likely to be flexible or to want to compromise,” but added, “No, they are not winning.”

Jeremy Hunt to Berlin: Brexit chaos will cast shadow over Europe

BERLIN — If the U.K. falls out of the EU without a deal, it would cast a shadow over the Continent, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned following a meeting with his German counterpart Heiko Maas in Berlin.

“What we need to do is put some flesh on the bones of what temporary actually means,” said Hunt of the so-called Irish backstop, the contentious clause in the Withdrawal Agreement that aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland. While Brussels has insisted the backstop is meant to be temporary, many British MPs oppose it because they fear it won’t be.

So far Germany has refused to bargain bilaterally on the issue and the European Commission has said it will not re-open the Withdrawal Agreement text.

“The key is to put yourself in the other one’s shoes and look for a win-win,” Hunt said while in Berlin for talks with Maas for the second time since taking over the role of foreign secretary last year.

“If Brexit goes wrong, it will be a disaster not just for the U.K. but for the whole of Europe,” said Hunt. “It means … the shadow of Brexit hanging over the whole Continent for a long time to come.”

Hunt also directly addressed a letter sent by a group of prominent German public figures — including Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as leader of the Christian Democrats — outlining their sadness about Brexit and calling on Brits to re-consider.

He said “warm beer, cricket and all the other great things about Britain are here to stay.”

“Despite Brexit, we have no plans to pick up the island and put it on the other side of the world,” Hunt assured his German counterpart.


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Theresa May trolled in Brussels by anti-Brexit group

As Theresa May prepares to head back to Brussels for talks with Jean-Claude Juncker, a giant billboard is waiting for her (if she goes shopping or to the opera).

The U.K. prime minister will hold talks with the European Commission president on Wednesday evening, with just over a month to go until the country is scheduled to leave the European Union.

Just over 3 kilometers away from the Commission’s Berlaymont building, a giant electronic billboard in Brussels’ Place De Brouckère shows one of May’s tweets from April 2016. It says: “I believe it is clearly in our national interest to remain a member of the European Union.”

The billboard is the work of Led By Donkeys, an anti-Brexit group that posts, according to its Twitter bio, “the Brexit predictions of our leaders, rendered as tweets then put on massive billboards.”


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3 UK Conservative MPs resign from party

LONDON — Three Conservative MPs resigned from their party to join The Independent Group of eight Labour MPs who earlier this week formed a breakaway centrist faction in parliament.

The three MPs — Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry — have been highly critical of Prime Minister Theresa May’s strategy on Brexit and have voted against the government on that issue.

In a joint letter to the prime minister they accuse May of a “shift to the right” and of being “firmly in the grip” of the Brexiteer group of backbenchers, the European Research Group, and the Democratic Unionist Party.

“Instead of seeking to heal the divisions or to tackle the underlying causes of Brexit, the priority was to draw up ‘red lines,’” they wrote. “The 48% were not only sidelined, they were alienated.

“Brexit has re-defined the Conservative Party – undoing all the efforts to modernize it. There has been a mismal failure to stand up to the hard line ERG which operates openly as a party within a party, publicly and privately funded, with its own leader, whip and policy,” they added.

And they said it was “unconscionable” that May was “marching the country to the cliff edge of no deal.”

“The country deserves better. We believe there is a failure of politics in general, not just in the Conservative party but in both main parties as they move to the fringes, leaving millions of people with no representation. Our politics needs urgent and radical reform and we are determined to play our part.”

May issued a statement saying she was “saddened” by the decision of the three MPs. “Of course, the UK’s membership of the EU has been a source of disagreement both in our party and our country for a long time. Ending that membership after four decades was never going to be easy,” the prime minister said.

“But by delivering on our manifesto commitment and implementing the decision of the British people we are doing the right thing for our country. And in doing so, we can move forward together towards a brighter future.” And she said that she was “determined” that the Tories should offer “decent, moderate and patriotic politics.”

Patrick McLaughlin, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, played down the split. “We’ve had people leave the party before and they’ve gone on to not be noticed,” he told Sky News.

Asked whether May could have done more to prevent the move. “I don’t think she could have done more. She has been working tirelessly,” he said.

May’s Conservatives do not have a majority in parliament and are only able to govern because of a confidence and supply deal with the DUP.

Wollaston has been chair of the Commons health committee since November 2017. In that role she has produced numerous reports criticizing her Tory government’s management of the National Health Service and budget cuts.

Helen Collis contributed reporting.


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Jeremy Hunt’s Brexit test — it won’t be as bad as Remainers fear

The test of a successful Brexit will be if, in a decade’s time, the 48 percent who voted for Remain feel that the outcome was not “as bad as I feared and the U.K. is flourishing,” according to U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Speaking to POLITICO’s EU Confidential podcast, Hunt said it is vital that the talks lead to a quick deal. “It’s massively in everyone’s interest to get back to stability,” he said, adding that he hopes negotiations between London and Brussels would yield a revised deal “in the next few days.”

U.K. ministers are currently trying to renegotiate the Brexit deal that was rejected by a historic margin by MPs last month. A quick resolution is necessary, Hunt said, “for the sake of sanity of the population of Britain and indeed of Europe.”

But the foreign secretary, who voted Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum, said he has set a longer-term test for a successful Brexit. “Success will be if in 10 years’ time people who voted against Brexit, people in that 48 percent, are able to say, ‘you know what, it hasn’t been as bad as I feared and the U.K. is flourishing.’” he said.

“We have to show them the Brexit that we’re going to deliver, delivers on the letter and spirit of the referendum, but is not the Brexit of their worst nightmares. It’s not a Brexit where we pull up the drawbridge, where thousands of jobs are lost, and turn ourselves from Great Britain into Little Britain,” he said.

“If you’ve got big investments in Britain, they’re going to be amongst the part of the world that give you the best returns in the years ahead” — U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt

He said he believes “there is an end in sight” for getting a parliamentary majority behind Theresa May’s deal, based on the hard-line Brexiteers on the Conservative backbenches agreeing to a compromise on the Northern Ireland backstop.

This would need to be “definitely more than a clarification” but not a rewriting of the Withdrawal Agreement, Hunt said.

The EU has repeatedly said the Irish backstop arrangement is not open to renegotiation.

‘Profoundly wrong’

Hunt said it would be “profoundly wrong” to put the Brexit question to voters again in a second referendum. He said the British people “know that the political establishment did not want Brexit,” and “they are looking at Brexit as a kind of test of our democratic credentials. Are we really a democracy in this country?”

Asked about the news that Honda has plans to close its manufacturing plant in Swindon and move production to Japan, Hunt suggested there are other factors behind the move besides Brexit.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt | John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

“I think what we are seeing is that there’s economic uncertainty that’s not related to Brexit,” he said. And he denied that the U.K. is currently in a weak position and vulnerable to pressure from governments or multinational companies. “Of course we will hold the line. What I would say to all those companies is: think long term. Britain has the most extraordinary prospects in the future,” he said.

“If you’ve got big investments in Britain, they’re going to be amongst the part of the world that give you the best returns in the years ahead,” Hunt said.

Hunt leapt on divisions in the Labour Party to say that the opposition could not be relied upon to help deliver Brexit. On Monday, seven Labour MPs resigned in part over the leadership’s stance on Brexit.

“Labour is divided between fanatical Remainers” and “people representing Leave-voting constituencies,” he said. “If you were to imagine a Jeremy Corbyn government: Ask yourself how would he reconcile those two positions? The answer is you can’t.”

Hunt claimed the Conservative Party, while divided, is capable of uniting around “a moderate Euroskeptic position.”

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.


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Labour breakaway’s Brexit impact

What does the resignation of seven MPs from the opposition Labour Party mean for Brexit?

The group, made up of long-time critics of the Labour leadership, resigned to form “the Independent Group” and invited others with similar values from all political parties to join them.

“To change our broken politics, we need a different culture. The Independent Group aims to reach across outdated divides and tackle Britain’s problems together,” their website states.

All seven are supporters of a second referendum and frustration with leader Jeremy Corbyn’s reluctance to take that path contributed to their decision to leave.

And while it would be wrong to see the split as a solely Brexit-driven event (anger at anti-Semitism in Labour ranks and wider political and ideological differences with Corbyn also played their part) the timing, 39 days before the U.K. is scheduled to leave, means that Brexit will utterly dominate the agenda of this new parliamentary group.

The first thing to note is that the short-term impact on Theresa May’s Brexit deal and its chances of being ratified by the House of Commons will be negligible.

As supporters of a second referendum, none of the founding MPs are likely to back any Brexit deal unless a public vote is a condition of it passing — and it’s likely they would have voted along those lines whether in or out of the Labour Party.

But it is an interesting moment for the wider campaign for that second referendum.

The well-established, cross-party People’s Vote campaign instantly distanced themselves from the breakaway MPs, despite its members being longstanding supporters and, in the case of Chuka Umunna, one of the campaign’s most visible spokespeople.

“We are not a political party, nor are we ever going to allow ourselves to be associated with just one faction of any political party,” a People’s Vote spokesperson said, going on to suggest that the campaign’s priority remains persuading the Labour leadership to swing behind a second referendum.

The backing of the Labour Party en masse is, after all, the only realistic route to the House of Commons legislating for a second referendum.

Under Theresa May, and with a large faction of diehard Brexiteers, the Tory party will never endorse such an approach.

It is no wonder then that the People’s Vote group does not want to be associated with the splitters. The seven will be viewed very dimly by the Labour frontbench — as would a campaign affiliated with them. (“Sit as independents, vote as independents, fight elections as independents and then independently help the Tories stay in power,” was one instant reaction from Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth.)

If anything, there is a risk for Umunna and co. that their breakaway will achieve nothing more than a hardening of Labour frontbench resolve not to go for a second referendum. The Labour leadership is already mindful of not alienating the half of the population — and a third of Labour voters — who backed Leave. Being upbraided for that stance by people who have just quit your party may not be very persuasive.

Umunna himself sees it differently, telling this morning’s press conference that seven MPs leaving his party might help persuade Corbyn to “do the right thing” and get behind a fresh public vote.

And the decision to break away now certainly suggests the Independent Group thinks they can influence the manner of the U.K.’s exit (or non-exit) rather than simply plotting a future course for the country outside of the EU.

Their hope might be that polls will begin to show that the Independent’s Brexit stance is making a large number of voters think about switching from Labour — and that this will be a powerful inducement to the Labour frontbench to change course.

It’s a risky strategy and its chance of success — like so much in Brexit politics over the coming weeks — profoundly uncertain.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.


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