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Tuesday 26 June 2018

Donald Tusk was at Number 10 last night for a pointless meeting with the prime minister. “The PM said the UK will be setting out more detail on the UK’s vision for the future relationship in a white paper, after the June council,” said a spokesperson. This will not have been news to the EU Council president. This government’s negotiating strategy is as banal as it is backward.

The white paper will not be released until after July’s inner Cabinet meeting at Chequers, covered in yesterday’s Brexit brunch.

Aviation again 

The third runway at Heathrow is today’s top story after MPs voted 415 to 119 in favour of the £14bn expansion. Although the subject of attention is not so much the runway as Boris Johnson’s meeting in Kabul, which denied him the opportunity to vote against the government’s three-line whip. The liberal media are rejoicing in stabbing the foreign secretary over his clumsy absence. Then again, what else was he to do?

Newsnight reported the foreign secretary is “furious” with Theresa May for not offering a free vote, which Labour did. Doing so would have taken the heat off Boris at zero risk of losing the ballot. He continues to oppose to the third runway, but takes the view that, as the standard bearer for Brexit in the Cabinet, it would be extremely wasteful to resign over something that is never going to be built. His associates have told the BBC he may take revenge on the PM by “trying to bring her down from within”.

Today’s Mail comes to Johnsons’ defence over Heathrow, pointing out Philip Hammond’s largely unreported absence from the vote. He too was on an overseas visit, and he’s not foreign secretary.

In other aviation news, according to Politico, the European Commission has instructed the EU27 and assorted stakeholders in the sector to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

“It would not make sense for the Commission and the national governments not to prepare for the worst-case scenario,” said a Commission official present at the summit. Mrs May should give the official’s words more serious consideration. A no-deal strategy promises the maximum return.

UK air travel is a big deal for the EU, according to its own statistics office, Eurostat, British passengers accounted for a staggering quarter of passengers in 2016 aboard intra-EU flights, the highest by far. Flights between the UK and other EU27 countries account for five of the ten most common pairings (see below). unsurprisingly UK-Spain flights occupy the top spot. Remainers love to revel in the dystopian scenario whereby British and inbound aircraft are grounded as a result of a no-deal. The reality is, however, much like the trade surplus, the UK has the upper hand. Hence the panic on the continent.

Back down to earth

But don’t be fooled, the EU is still up to its old tricks. Inserted in the draft conclusions to this week’s EU summit is an “evolution clause”, reports the Sun. Under the clause, the EU27 will reconsider its EEA or conventional trade deal ultimatum if Theresa May abandons her own red lines. This is potentially disastrous. The EU’s direct approach to the negotiations has had the unexpected effect of framing Britain’s obvious way out the exit door, a conventional trade deal with services thrown in. This muddying of the waters will broaden the scope to include open borders and greater intrusion by EU courts. The offer will be mistakenly interpreted as an olive branch, the good cop to Emmanuel Macron’s bad cop, who is expected to give the British prime minister a dressing down for the lack of progress over the infernal Irish border.

The EU’s banking authority, the EBA is also on the offensive. City A.M. report the EBA is accusing British financial institutions of not making sufficient contingency planning, without specifying what exactly it is they are not doing.

Financial services firms “had contingency plans in place for months,” fired back the chief executive of the TheCityUK, Miles Celic. They have a “constructive, ongoing dialogue with regulators and government,” he added.

Malicious quote of the day: “We deal with Olly Robbins. We don’t deal with the tea boy.”

A senior Irish official attempts to assassinate David Davis’s character. Dublin’s attitude to these negotiations is childish and reckless, but you won’t hear that from the media.