LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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Friday 24 January 2020

The Withdrawal Agreement has been signed in Brussels by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. “We start a new chapter as partners and allies” said MichelAnother step closer to Brexit.

Yesterday, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was granted royal assent by the Queen, deputy Speaker Nigel Evans confirmed it’s safe passage to a (partially) cheering Commons.

Meanwhile, a group of businesses have called for low-skilled migrants to continue to come to the UK on two-year visas after Brexit. Boris Johnson has immediately shut them down, confirming freedom of movement will end overnight.

“Our new immigration system will be open to top talent from across the world, but business lobby groups should stop lobbying for unlimited labour from the EU and instead focus on investing and levelling up the existing workforce.” Said a Downing Street source.

In other news, EU negotiators have been eyeing up British fishing waters to be sacrificed in trade talks. The EU commissioner for trade suggested last month that a trade-off could see Brussels offering the City of London access to European financial markets in return for EU fleets continuing to fish in British waters.

Longstanding readers of this blog will recall the financial services debate featured prominently in the early days of Theresa May’s tenure. Financial institutions across the single market can sell services to one another through financial “passports”. Certain products can be sold from outside the EU via the equivalence mechanism, but as pointed out in yesterday’s Brexit Brunch the EU has total control over equivalence and can remove those rights at it’s will. Brussels, is trying to furnish a rod for our own backs.

Nice try, UK financial services have planned meticulously over the last three years to set up EU subsidiaries to negate the need for passporting/equivalence rights. On the flipside, Reuters reported last week that a 1000 EU banks, funds and insurers were setting up branches in the City of London to access the British capital’s vital financial markets. Only 300 UK-based firms have returned the favour. We think we’ll hold onto our fishing stocks thanks.

The omens look good. Yesterday, Boris repeated his pledge not to trade away fisheries. Meanwhile, Sajid Javid has reasserted the government’s intention to restore economic sovereignty.  “We will be a sovereign and independent country, not a rule-taker. But we’ll always protect the interests of British businesses throughout this process and we’ll maintain high standards — not because we are told to, but because we want to.” Said the chancellor.

However, Javid’s promise to uphold standards will succour Brussels as will his statement to the moneyed crowd at Davos earlier this week: “Our first priority is getting an agreement with the EU.”  

What about the United States, Britain’s single biggest trade partner? Independence cannot come too soon. Let’s hope it fixes minds.