Brexit briefing: Weekly news roundup

Unite Brexit Check’s weekly news briefing on the UK’s exit from the EU.

Check back every Friday for an overview of the week’s Brexit-related political, industrial and economic developments.

Brexit negotiations

Brussels views its free-trade agreement with Canada as the only realistic model for post-Brexit trade with the UK, scotching British Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes of a far broader bespoke deal.

According to framework documents from EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier seen by POLITICO, London’s insistence on quitting the single market and customs union means that a basic EU-Canada-style deal is the only option (Politico).

In response, David Davis warned against “putting politics above prosperity” in Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU.

In a speech in Berlin, the UK’s Brexit Secretary outlined his hopes for a deal that “allows for the freest possible trade in goods and services”.

He also pledged that the UK would not engage in a “race to the bottom”.

The EU says negotiations cannot move on to trade until questions about the UK “divorce bill”, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland are resolved (BBC).

The Irish Prime Minister has set Theresa May a one-month deadline to explain how she will avoid a damaging hard border with Northern Ireland, or the EU will block Brexit trade talks.

Leo Varadkar dismissed Ms May’s claim that negotiations on the future land border are “almost there” as “wishful thinking”, at a breakfast meeting.

Instead, he told the UK prime minister that she must set out detailed proposals that can form part of the conclusions of the crunch December EU summit (Independent).

Economy

Honda and Aston Martin have warned British lawmakers that automakers in the UK could endure “semi-catastrophic” production interruptions if the European Union stops automatically accepting the nation’s vehicle certification program once Brexit comes into effect.

Terms for Britain’s departure from the EU will need to include agreements on so-called type approvals for UK-made autos so they can still be sold in the bloc’s remaining countries, Patrick Keating, Honda Motor’s government affairs manager in Europe, told parliament’s business, energy and industrial strategy committee in London on Tuesday.

EU regulators have indicated that approvals from the UK Vehicle Certification Authority “will either no longer hold validity, or not be able to be extended,” and Honda may have to look elsewhere for its European regulatory base for British-made cars, Keating said (Automotive News Europe).

Germany’s main industry lobby says employees are increasingly reluctant to be posted in Britain because of uncertainty over the UK’s post-Brexit relationship to Europe and the legal arrangements for EU workers.

The warning from the BDI came after the British government promised bankers and other professionals a special post-Brexit travel regime to allow them to move freely across Europe (Financial Times).

Mark Carney has said the Brexit vote has slowed the UK economy and pointed out that the country was the best performing in the G7 prior to the referendum but is now among the worst.

“We have not done as well in the short term as we would have done if the vote had gone the other way,” Mr Carney said on Thursday.

“We’ve gone from being the fastest growing economy in the G7 to one of the slowest (Independent).”

Politics

Parliament will be given a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal as new legislation will be needed to enact it, David Davis has announced.

In a move which will give MPs and peers a choice between approving the government’s exit deal with the EU or leaving the bloc with no deal, the Brexit secretary said there would be a Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill, which both houses would be able to amend (Times).

However, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer slammed Mr Davis’ proposal as a “significant climbdown from a weak Government on the verge of defeat” and also called for the Government to accept amendments to the Bill which Labour had previously proposed.

“For months, Labour has been calling on ministers to guarantee Parliament a final say on the withdrawal agreement,” Sir Keir said.

“With less than 24 hours before they had to defend their flawed Bill to Parliament, they have finally backed down.

“However, like everything with this Government, the devil will be in the detail.

“Ministers must now go further. They need to accept Labour’s amendments that would ensure transitional arrangements, and protect jobs and the economy from a cliff edge (ITV).”

Meanwhile, Theresa May’s attempt to fix the Brexit date in law was falling apart as MPs said more than 25 Tories were ready to join a massive Commons rebellion.

Although No 10 flatly denied that a U-turn was in the offing, Brexit Secretary David Davis hinted that concessions were in the wind, saying: “Let’s see where we go.”

In a significant blow to the Prime Minister, the revolt was rapidly spreading beyond the prominent “Brexit mutineers” and being taken up by loyalists who do not usually rock the boat in public (Evening Standard).

In depth

The debate in Westminster over what Brexit could mean for customs operations at the UK border has a strangely surreal quality to it.

Nearly every day this week, business leaders and parliamentary committees have warned that Brexit could lead to chaos over customs declarations on the southern coast unless there is more Whitehall planning.

But the government continues to insist that the UK must hold to its tight Brexit deadline — legislating to leave the EU in March 2019 with no possible delay (Financial Times).