Wednesday 12 December
Today’s Brexit Brunch comes to you today after lunchtime to add a very brief commentary on an uneventful PMQs.
The only question of note came courtesy of Tory Brexiteer Julian Lewis who asked for clarification on amendment 400 to the EU withdrawal bill.
Background: Tonight, is the final sessions of the bill’s committee stage in the Commons. Following last week’s riotous rebellion by Tory Remainers for a “meaningful vote”, fearing another defeat, Downing Street has fudged its own amendment (setting the exit date at March 29 2019 in law) to the withdrawal bill by brokering an opposition-backed amendment, which will act as an escape clause: in the event talks run over, the negotiating period can be extended into April 2019, an open invitation to drag the process out.
The Prime Minister claimed any extension to the exit date would be marginal. Furthermore, the measure is inconsequential, falling in line with the EU’s own position. In reality though, the EU needs the unanimous approval of the EU27 to lengthen the Article 50 negotiating period. For our side to do the same will only require, a “Minister of the Crown to amend the definition of ‘exit day’.”
On a day with much going on, but with only President Trump’s legislative victory qualifying as big, this edition of Brexit Brunch will begin with a rapid run through.
Trump’s sensational tax and employment bill is easily the biggest thing to happen on either side of the Atlantic. Trump haters will be gutted, they were desperate for him to complete his first year in office without a single legislative victory, now how he has a historic one.
Top of the BBC’s news feed, but no-one else’s is the Bank of England’s unilateral decision to promise EU banks operating in the UK they will be able continue as normal no matter the outcome of trade negotiations with Brussels following Michel Barnier’s threat to withdraw financial passporting privileges from British banks in the event of withdrawal from the Single Market.
According to the Sun however, Downing Street should not overestimate Mr Barnier as he is becoming increasingly isolated in Brussels. EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker says he is “not happy” with him.
“Nobody pays any attention to what Barnier says in Brussels, yet in Britain it is oddly taken as EU gospel when it is not,” says a senior Brussels insider – ensure to check out City A.M.’s front page in today’s tweet of the day.
At a press conference this morning Mr Barnier published the first version of the EU’s negotiating guidelines for phase II. He also revealed that transition would end in December 2020.
In Europe, Poland’s ongoing battle with the European Union over domestic judicial reforms (i.e. none of the EU’s business) reaches a watershed today as the European Commission tries to trigger ‘Article 7’ a process that could lead to Warsaw’s EU voting rights being withdrawn.
The first step is increased “monitoring”. If the plucky Poles persist with their reforms, the EU may then decided to “go nuclear” and remove voting rights. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have are all siding with their neighbour, Germany and France are following the EU’s instructions and will surely take many other Member States with them. Britain could be the swing a voter. Theresa May has a moral duty to stick with one of its most faithful allies.
Forbes has announced Britain is the best country in the world to do business in. The UK featured in the top five of 15 indicators pushing up its position to number one from last year’s fifth in Forbes’ global ranking. What will doom-mongering Remainers make of this, after data published yesterday revealed British manufacturing has reached an astonishing thirty-year high?
Time to eat humbles pie we thinks and there’s no better day for it as the world pie-eating championships kick-off in Wigan today.
On a more serious note, twenty-four hours ago, Leave.EU reported on Downing Street’s full-blow Brexit spin operation. Yesterday, it moved up a gear as the replacement trade deal with the EU was reportedly hashed out in Cabinet, a day after the inner-circle grappled with the subject.
Larger orchestra, same music. Today’s papers are loaded with insights from the meeting, building a conveniently cosy picture of minor disagreement over the extent of regulatory divergence. The most significant things to emerge: Michael Gove wisely warned against project fear following a rant from Philip Hammond and inexplicably, immigration did not feature once in a two-hour discussion.
By way of excuse, a Government source said the focus was on the future economic relationship. Not good enough: immigration is a key economic issue and is embedded deeply within the EU’s negotiating position. It is the elephant in the room only a government as foolish as this one would pretend to ignore.