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

Britain wants to benefit from European Union trade deals and have a say over EU laws passed during its transition out of the bloc, Brexit minister David Davis said on Friday, seeking to defuse tension between senior ministers over the interim deal.

Davis set out the government’s position on a transition period, looking to offer something for both those who want to keep close ties with the European Union after leaving and those who want a more radical break.

The balancing act, designed to appease both business and Brexiteers, is a taste of things to come for Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been unable to prevent divisions in her party repeatedly spilling out into the open. (Reuters)

Responding to Davis’ speech, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Five months after Labour set out the terms for strong transitional arrangements, David Davis appears to have finally woken up to reality. However, this speech will do nothing to hide the deep divisions at the heart of this Tory Government.

“Theresa May has wasted months of the negotiations, failing to call out the extreme Brexiteers in her party who want the UK to crash out of Europe without a deal at any costs.

“It’s time she put country before party and agreed on a transitional deal on the terms Labour set out last summer – that means within the single market and a customs union with the EU during this period.

“The truth is that Tory infighting is now the single biggest threat to a Brexit deal that works for Britain.” (Labour)


International Monetary Fund forecasts this week saw upgrades for almost every major economy except the U.K, which is seen growing at 1.5 percent this year and in 2019.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg are even more pessimistic, expecting growth to slow to 1.4 percent in both years, as living standards remain under pressure from the sterling-induced upsurge in inflation and companies delay investment until they see what Brexit means for trade. More signs of the struggles facing business came in government data Friday showing insolvencies rose in 2017.

Asked in a BBC radio interview Friday to quantify the damage from Brexit, Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the economy is about 1 percentage point smaller than it would have been had the EU referendum gone the other way, and that the gap will widen to about 2 percentage points by the end of the year. That’s the equivalent of about 40 billion pounds ($57 billion). (Bloomberg)

Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt admitted that British patients may find it difficult to get EU cancer drugs if Brexit talks break down, describing the risk as “uniquely damaging”.

The Health Secretary was being pushed for details of his department’s preparations for the event of a “no deal” scenario, which could cause major disruption to the supply of life-saving medications and see more pharmaceuticals companies shift operations to the EU.

Drug giants have told of “significant disruption to the supply chain for medicines” and that customs delays would damage “time and temperature sensitive” materials, without a Brexit deal. (Independent)


After the IMF’s downgrading Chancellor Phillip Hammond admitted Brexit fears are damaging Britain’s economic forecasts.

Arriving at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, the Chancellor acknowledged there was a “degree of uncertainty about our future direction.” (Mirror)

Theresa May publicly rebuked Hammond after he also said there should only be “modest changes” in Britain’s relationship with the EU after Brexit.

The Chancellor’s remarks, which he made in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, sparked a furious reaction from many Conservative MPs. (Politics Home)

The Brexit civil war engulfing the Tories continued during David Davis’ appearance in front of the Commons Brexit Committee.

Davis was forced to deny the United Kingdom will be a “vassal state” of the European Union for two years after it leaves in March 2019.

The Brexit secretary told MPs on Wednesday the UK would have to accept new EU rules during any transition period without having any say in creating them.

His admission set up a tense clash with Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg at the Commons Exiting the EU Committee who said this had “very serious” consequences and ridiculed Davis for having “weak” arguments. (Huffington Post)

In depth

The trade-off over trade looms large over the big Brexit decision.

Protecting the frictionless bulk of our existing trade with our biggest partners and neighbours in Europe, or prioritising an absolute ability to sign free trade deals with the rest of the world.

Perhaps you thought the decision to leave the EU’s customs union had been made? Well yes, but no. (Sky News)