Posts Tagged ‘markets’

What we learned from the UK government’s Brexit documents

LONDON — The Tories may be ahead in the polls, but Labour won’t go down without a fight.

At a press conference Friday morning, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn handed out a confidential government assessment of the impact of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Most explosively, the 15-page document sets out the negative impact of the deal on Northern Ireland — revealing the possibility that businesses exporting from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would be subject to customs checks.

Other parts of the contents had already been in the public domain but are now laid out in black and white in an official Treasury assessment.

Corbyn painted it as an issue of trust, saying that the prime minister “pretends there won’t be a border in the Irish Sea but the truth is not even his own government believes him.”

Johnson faced questions about the document shortly afterward during a short press conference in Kent. He insisted it is “nonsense” to suggest his Brexit deal would lead to customs checks between the U.K. mainland and Northern Ireland.

Here’s POLITICO’s rundown of the contents of the assessment.

Additional customs declarations 

Northern Irish businesses will have to fill in customs declarations when exporting to Great Britain. These declarations are required “in advance of crossing” the sea, the document says. We already knew this — Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay admitted it during a select committee hearing, sparking a massive row.

But the Treasury document also raises the possibility of businesses in Great Britain having to fill in customs declarations when exporting to Northern Ireland. It has a “?” in the relevant section about east-to-west checks.

The prospect of checks when exporting from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is new.

Hit to the Northern Irish economy 

According to the Treasury, the requirement for customs declarations will be “highly disruptive” to the Northern Irish economy. It says that 98 percent of exporters to Great Britain are small and medium-sized businesses “who are likely to struggle to bear this cost.”

That’s embarrassing for the government, which has insisted the checks will be “an administrative procedure which is carried out electronically” and does not burden businesses. Johnson has claimed the arrangements are a “great deal” for Northern Ireland, while Barclay has said the checks will be “minimal, targeted interventions.”

The assessment also says that high street goods in Northern Ireland are likely to increase in price as a result of the deal, something which is “likely to affect business profitability.”

According to the Treasury, “Key employment sectors such as retail [are] likely to be hit.”

Warning for Wales, Scotland

As for the economic impact of the deal on Great Britain, the assessment says that “localized impacts are not yet fully understood.”

But it warns there may be significant disruption on local economies in Scotland and Wales. It also points out that the Scottish and Welsh governments are unhappy that Northern Ireland would get to retain access to the EU single market.

Risks for the UK constitution

The Democratic Unionist Party, until recently the Conservative government’s confidence-and-supply partner, has repeatedly warned the deal would damage the political union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Treasury report appears to confirm that assessment.

It says that under the terms of the deal, the “economic union [is] undermined” and a “precedent [is] set for differential treatment for a constituent part of the U.K.”

“The Withdrawal Agreement has the potential to separate Northern Ireland in practice from whole swathes of the U.K.’s internal market,” the document states.

That reinforces the fact that, as the DUP has made abundantly clear, the party will not support this Brexit deal in the House of Commons.

Luxembourg PM: UK plays by our rules or accepts no deal

LONDON — The prime minister of Luxembourg today urged the U.K. to accept the rules of the EU single market or face a cliff-edge at the end of 2020.

Xavier Bettel, who is in London for the NATO summit, told an academic audience that the U.K. must decide what it wants from its future relationship with the European Union.

“We cannot accept cherry-picking. You decided to leave. I won’t accept that you destroy the single market. We have rules and you will have to accept these rules. It is not that the U.K. will change Europe,” he said.

Bettel was speaking about how the EU should promote its interests and values on the global stage at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His visit comes four months after his British counterpart Boris Johnson was left humiliated during a chaotic official trip to Luxembourg.

In a stark warning to Johnson, Bettel said “there’s a possibility to have a cliff-edge, to have nothing” at the end of 2020. He dismissed suggestions the Brexit transition could be extended if the U.K. and the EU have failed to strike a deal on their future relationship when it expires in December 2020.

“We cannot accept cherry-picking. You decided to leave. I won’t accept that you destroy the single market.” — Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel

“If you ask for a new delay, because you think you’re going to have a better deal, then no. We have to respect procedures, but the fact is that we shouldn’t postpone it,” Bettel said.

He described Brexit uncertainty as a “poison for society” and said both U.K. and EU citizens living in Britain want clarity over what is going to happen. Asked whether the U.K. could rejoin the EU within the next 50 years, Bettel replied: “That could happen. It’s your choice. Not our choice.”

The Luxembourg premier said he would like to see a “more efficient” EU but he does not think the bloc should become a federal state, pointing to language and cultural differences.

“One of the strengths of Europe is to be different. We should try to be more efficient, but that doesn’t need to mean that we need to be a federation of countries. We have common goals but we are too different to say that one central body would choose what is good for 500 million of us,” he said.

Commenting on the health of NATO, Bettel downplayed divisions among members, saying they are “much more united than what it looks like,” but political leaders these days “speak a lot about each other but not to each other.”

He also defended the need to maintain a dialogue with the Russian government in order to address crises such as Ukraine, saying Russia will always remain Europe’s neighbor.

Discussing a leaked video in which Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to be gossiping about U.S. President Donald Trump at the NATO reception, Bettel quipped: “The head of my Cabinet always told me not to speak, even if I didn’t think anyone could hear me.”

DUP manifesto vows to oppose Brexit deal struck by Boris Johnson

LONDON — Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party launched its general election manifesto Thursday with a promise to oppose the Brexit deal Boris Johnson clinched with Brussels.

Speaking at an event in Belfast, DUP leader Arlene Foster said she was “committed to a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom and which does not leave Northern Ireland behind, with no border in the Irish Sea.”

The DUP — which propped up the Conservative government in Westminster after Theresa May lost her majority in 2017 — refused to support the Brexit deal struck by Johnson because it would entail checks on some goods traveling to the rest of the U.K.

The deal would keep Northern Ireland subject to EU customs union rules and some single market rules, despite it being included in trade deals the U.K. strikes with other countries.

Deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds told the Belfast event that the party wants a “sensible” Brexit deal that would protect “both the economic and constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.”

UK NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

“The DUP voted against Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and we will use our votes and our influence to oppose its dangers to the economic and constitutional position of Northern Ireland,” he said.

Dodds added the party would not hand Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Downing Street in the event of a hung parliament after the December 12 election. Foster said on Monday that the DUP could do a deal with Labour but only if Corbyn is booted out of his job.

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Scottish National Party’s manifesto explained

LONDON — The Scottish National Party launched its manifesto with a promise to end austerity and a list of conditions for Jeremy Corbyn should he need support from another party to become prime minister.

As Brexit looms, against the will of the majority of voters in Scotland, the SNP is hoping the U.K.’s December 12 election will have a similar outcome to the 2015 ballot, when the party won a landslide victory. Turnout will be crucial for Sturgeon’s success, as a fall in participation was blamed for the party losing more than a third of its seats in the 2017 election.

Sturgeon has put a second independence referendum in 2020 at the core of the SNP manifesto, saying she would be willing to form a “progressive alliance” with Labour in return for a fresh ballot and extra cash for Scotland.

Brexit

The SNP wants Scotland to become an independent country and stay in the European Union. In order to achieve that, the party will demand that the U.K. government transfers the necessary powers to allow the Scottish parliament to hold a second vote on independence, which Sturgeon’s party wants to hold in 2020.

If Scotland becomes independent, a SNP government would seek to be readmitted into the EU, the manifesto says.

UK NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

The SNP says it would support a second EU referendum with Remain on the ballot paper. The party would be in favor of cancelling Brexit if that is the only alternative to leaving the EU without a deal, it adds.

“Whatever Scotland’s constitutional status, it is important for the U.K. to remain as close to the EU as possible. SNP MPs will always vote to protect Scotland’s place in the single market and customs union,” the manifesto says.

Immigration

The SNP wants migration policy to be devolved to Edinburgh.

It says it will continue to press the U.K. government to guarantee EU nationals’ right to remain in Britain, and will back calls for EU nationals to be allowed to vote in U.K. general elections.

If the U.K. government introduces a seasonal migrant workers’ scheme to replace EU freedom of movement, the SNP says it will insist such a scheme meets the needs of workers and companies in Scotland.

The SNP will oppose Tory plans to require certain migrants to earn at least £30,000 in order to get a visa to work in the U.K., something the Johnson government has asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to review. It will also campaign against the U.K. government’s Immigration Skills Charge, which forces employers to pay up to £5,000 per worker hired from outside the European Economic Area; and against indefinite immigration detention.

Access to citizenship has become increasingly costly, the SNP says, adding it would support a review of the citizenship application process with a view to bringing down its cost and reducing its complexity.

A streamlined visa scheme should be created to allow artists and performers to continue to work in the country, the party says.

Economy

The SNP says it will not support any U.K. government that does not put an end to austerity.

Its manifesto puts forward a funding plan for Scotland covering three core demands. First, reversing £1.5 billion cuts to the Scottish budget and increasing the budget in real terms; second, a plan to compensate for the last decade of austerity; and third, a demand for the U.K. government to increase per-head NHS funding south of the border to levels seen in Scotland, which it says is currently £136 per person higher. This increase in health spending in England would result in additional money for the Scottish NHS under the Barnett formula, which pegs public expenditure in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to levels in England.

It says the Scottish National Investment Bank, which will be operational in 2020, will provide £2 billion of long-term capital to companies and infrastructure projects. A top priority for the bank would be supporting the transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

The party will demand the devolution of employment and further tax powers, and support a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion.

SNP MPs will press for the statutory living wage and support a freeze on National Insurance contributions and Value Added Tax, as well as a reform of VAT to include exemptions on items such as children’s clothes.

To help businesses struggling to hire due to Brexit uncertainty, the SNP says it would support a rise in the National Insurance discount companies receive — the so-called Employment Allowance.

The party also wants to increase the transparency around tax paid by international companies “to ensure that they make a proportionate contribution to tax revenues.”

It will oppose any rise in the pension age and demand the end of the two-child benefit cap, the so-called rape clause, the bedroom tax and Universal Credit.

Mobility

The SNP pledge to make mobility across Scotland more environmentally friendly by spending more than £500 million on buses, and helping people afford ultra-low emission vehicles by providing an additional £17 million in loans.

The party said it wants to reduce emissions from Scotland’s railways to zero by 2035 and will press the U.K. government to improve journey times between Scotland and London.

The Highlands and Islands could become the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040, the SNP said. To achieve that, the party wants to start trials of low- or zero-emission flights, including electric planes, in 2021.

Technology

The SNP will press the U.K. government to support the roll-out of fiber broadband and 5G technology, and ensure Scotland gets “its fair share” of the £5 billion of U.K. government funding to expand gigabit broadband to remote areas.

The SNP wants the internet to be reclassified as an essential service.

After Brexit, SNP MPs will assess the impact of voluntary free roaming arrangements for mobile phone use in the EU, the manifesto says.

Financial services

The manifesto says the biggest corporate failure in recent years was the “financial crash” and promises to work to make sure those responsible are held to account. It would do that by supporting the reinstatement of the reverse burden of proof, which required senior bank managers to show they had addressed any wrongdoing on their watch.

The party says it seems “unfair” that the taxpayer stepped in to bail out the banks while financial investors could reap a profit by selling shares in Royal Bank of Scotland “on the cheap.” To address that, the SNP would press for the public interest to be “fully protected” in any future disposal of RBS shares.

Health

An SNP government would increase frontline health spending by more than £15 billion by 2021-2022, the manifesto says. It would call on the U.K government to match Scottish per capita NHS funding in England.

SNP MPs will push for a National Health Service Protection Act “to guarantee that trade deals will not undermine the founding principles of the NHS, nor open it to profit-driven exploitation,” and any future trade deals would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Assembly.

The SNP also wants the devolution of powers to tackle drug use and gambling.

New standards should be introduced to protect children from online harm, the party says. It floated plans to appoint an independent online regulator with the ability to impose heavy fines and block access to websites. The regulator would be funded through a levy on technology companies.

Agriculture and fishing

The SNP will fight for funding for agriculture and rural policy to be devolved to Scotland after Brexit, and to prevent post-Brexit tariffs on products such as seafood, fish and red meat, and for those sectors to be “fully compensated” if tariffs are introduced. They will also campaign for Scottish control of Scottish fisheries.

The party opposes the removal of import tariffs on products including cereals, horticulture, potatoes and eggs, saying doing so “could open up Scotland to sub-standard products.”

SNP MPs will promote reform of U.K. excise duty structures and tax for Scotch whisky. It also wants to ensure the continued use of Protected Geographical Indications, an EU scheme that designates a product originating in a specific place.

Climate and sustainability

The SNP pledged to make Scotland carbon-neutral by 2040.

The party will campaign for the U.K. to remain aligned with EU environmental regulations after Brexit, and for the British government to continue to invest in carbon-capture and storage technologies.

The manifesto includes plans for a Green Energy Deal to ensure renewable energy schemes get long-term funding certainty.

The SNP demands the ring-fencing of oil and gas receipts, creating a Net Zero Fund to drive investment in renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon capture utilization and storage.

Fracking would not be supported, it says.

It proposes a reform of the energy market to help households with their home energy bills. SNP MPs would press for the introduction of a database of people who have not switched suppliers as well as a national free switching service, showing the energy tariffs available and average bills.

SNP MPs would campaign for tax incentives to help companies in their transition to zero emissions, and a reduction in VAT on energy efficiency improvements in homes.

The manifesto includes a target to plant 30 million trees annually in Scotland by 2025.

Education

The SNP wants to expand childcare into the school holidays for primary pupils from the poorest backgrounds.

It pledges to keep higher education free, and to continue to use its £750 million Scottish Attainment Fund to help students from poorer backgrounds go to university.

Defense

In exchange for SNP support for Labour, Sturgeon would demand the removal of the Trident nuclear deterrent from Scotland, and use the money currently spent on the program for the NHS and other public services.

The manifesto says SNP MPs would build a cross-party coalition to scrap Trident “as quickly and as safely as possible.”

The SNP will continue to press for U.K. investment in “conventional defense” and demand that the U.K. maintains its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GDP on international aid.

Law and order

The party says it has recruited an additional 1,000 police officers since it took office, and will continue to demand the U.K. government refunds “the £175 million in VAT owed to Scotland’s emergency services.”

Other

Replacement of first-past-the-post voting system with the single transferable vote system; increase maternity leave to one year and increase paternity leave from 52 to 64 weeks.

Nicola Sturgeon sets SNP demands for post-election deal with Labour

LONDON — The Scottish National Party is prepared to form a “progressive alliance” that keeps the Conservatives out of office, its leader Nicola Sturgeon said today.

Launching the party’s manifesto in Glasgow, Sturgeon pitched the SNP as the only kingmaker party that would keep the Tories out of Downing Street following the U.K.’s December election.

If there is a hung parliament, the SNP is willing to support Labour in exchange for a referendum on Scottish independence next year. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said last week that a second ballot would not be a priority for at least the first two or three years of a Labour government.

Sturgeon would also push for a funding plan for Scotland covering three core demands. First, reversing £1.5 billion cuts to the Scottish budget and increasing the budget in real terms; second, a plan to compensate for the last decade of austerity; and third, a demand for the U.K. government to increase per-head NHS funding south of the border to levels seen in Scotland, which it says is currently £136 per person higher. This increase in health spending in England would result in additional money for the Scottish NHS under the Barnett formula, which pegs public expenditure in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to levels in England.

Nicola Sturgeon pitched the SNP as the only kingmaker party that would keep the Tories out of Downing Street following the U.K.’s December election.

In exchange for her party’s support, Sturgeon would also demand the removal of the Trident nuclear deterrent from Scotland, and use the money currently spent on the program for the NHS and other public services. Labour has promised to renew the Trident program in its manifesto.

“There is every chance that the SNP could hold the balance of power at Westminster. Unlike the Liberal Democrats, we will never, ever help the Tories into government. But we will be prepared to talk to other parties about forming a progressive alliance,” Sturgeon said.

The SNP won 35 of the 59 Scottish seats at the 2017 general election — 21 seats down from the 56 they won in 2015.

The 52-page document, titled “Stronger for Scotland,” also calls for the devolution of employment and drugs laws to the Scottish parliament, and proposes a NHS Protection Act to guarantee that future trade deals will not “undermine the founding principles of the NHS or open it up to profit-driven exploitation.”

The party said it would support a second EU referendum with the option to Remain in the European Union on the ballot paper. The party would be in favor of canceling Brexit altogether if that was the only alternative to a no-deal Brexit, it adds.

Nicola Sturgeon presents the SNP’s manifesto, entitled “Stronger for Scotland” | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The SNP leader attacked the Westminster parties, saying they “have delivered no stability, but constant chaos and three U.K. general elections.”

Conservative-led governments, Sturgeon said, have broken all their promises to Scotland, including staying in the EU and treating Scotland as an equal partner.

Sturgeon claimed that unless Boris Johnson is stopped from being re-elected prime minister, he would deliver “Tory cuts to the Scottish budget, the NHS under threat from a Tory-Trump trade deal, a power grab on the Scottish parliament, children being forced into poverty and a disastrous Brexit deal.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to stay neutral in a second Brexit referendum means the Labour leader “is neutral on job losses, cuts to living standards and the erosion of our rights,” Sturgeon said. “And of course he would be happy to sit back to see Scotland taken out of the EU even if there is a majority for Remain in Scotland but not in the U.K. as a whole.”

Tony Blair: ‘No chance’ of UK-EU trade deal on current deadline

LONDON — There is “no chance” of the U.K. and the EU concluding a trade deal by the end of 2020 that does not include membership of the single market, according to Tony Blair.

The former U.K. prime minister also said agreeing a trade deal with the United States “is going to be very difficult” for Britain.

He made the comments after current PM Boris Johnson vowed to secure a trade deal with the EU by the end of the Brexit transition period and without an extension, meaning a December 2020 deadline.

Speaking at a Reuters event in London on Monday, Blair argued: “What has become apparent in the last weeks is that this negotiation has no chance of being concluded in that transition period. None.

“Except in circumstances where, as Boris Johnson effectively did in respect of Northern Ireland, we concede that Britain stays in the trading system of Europe, the single market.”

The former U.K. prime minister said agreeing a trade deal with the United States “is going to be very difficult” for Britain.

Blair argued the EU would not allow a neighboring country to diverge from its rules and become a competitor while maintaining continued access to its markets and potentially undermining them.

Johnson and U.S. President Donald Trump have also insisted a transatlantic trade deal can be negotiated quickly, and striking a pact with America has become a central drive of the British government.

But Blair said U.S. politics was “deeply divided” and a trade agreement might struggle to pass Congress. “I wouldn’t hold your breath on a United States-U.K. trade deal. I think it’s going to be very difficult.”

Elsewhere, Blair said either a Labour majority or a Conservative majority would be a bad outcome for Britain in the ongoing general election, and advocated tactical voting — although he insisted he would vote Labour.

“The truth is: the public aren’t convinced either main party deserve to win this election outright,” he said. “They’re peddling two sets of fantasies; and both, as majority governments, pose a risk it would be unwise for the country to take.”

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