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

Theresa May is to hold talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel as increasingly impatient EU leaders urged the UK to spell out “concrete” plans for Brexit.

The two leaders will meet in Berlin on Friday ahead of a speech by the Prime Minister on Saturday about Britain’s future security relations with the EU.

With talks opening last week on the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, ahead of the meeting a spokesman for Mrs Merkel said Britain needs to offer clear proposals.

“Time is running out,” she said.

It followed reports Mrs Merkel mocked the British premier’s negotiating approach at last month’s World Economic Forum at Davos, saying every time she asked her what she wanted, Mrs May just replied: “Make me an offer.” (Evening Standard)

A senior European Union Brexit negotiator also blamed May’s government for the meager progress in separation talks.

“We have very competent negotiating partners,” said Michel Barnier’s deputy Sabine Weyand. “But what they often lack is a clear political orientation, and that’s because the political discussion in the U.K. isn’t over,” Weyand said on Friday at an event connected to the Munich Security Conference.

The European Commission says that Brexit negotiations cannot advance before the U.K. offers more clarity on the kind of relationship it seeks after it withdraws from the bloc. It has also accused the the British of attempts to “cherry pick” perks stemming from EU membership, while dodging the strings attached to EU rules. (Bloomberg)


Fruit and vegetable farms across the UK were left short of thousands of migrant workers in 2017, leaving some produce to rot in the fields and farmers suffering big losses.

More than 4,300 vacancies went unfilled, according to new survey data from the National Farmers Union (NFU), which covers about half the horticultural labour market. The survey, seen exclusively by the Guardian, shows more than 99% of the seasonal workers recruited came from eastern Europe, with just 0.6% from the UK.

Since the vote to leave the European Union in 2016, growers have warned repeatedly of damaging labour shortages, with recruiters reporting that Brexit has created the perception among foreign workers that the UK is xenophobic and racist. (Guardian)

In response to the uncertainty, one of the UK’s biggest berry farms is moving part of its operations to China because it claims it can’t find enough workers.

Around 200 seasonal roles have been lost at Haygrove’s farm in Ledbury, Herefordshire, with the owner blaming Brexit for the lack of fruit pickers and relocating some raspberry and blueberry growing to China.

Unite acting officer for agriculture Bev Clarkson said: “Moving work offshore is absolutely the wrong way to go about things. If pay, terms and conditions were right then workers would be there regardless.

“That’s the big problem – there’s massive issues (attracting a domestic supply) because workers are low paid and they don’t have any job security.” (Unite Live)


According to a former British ambassador to Tokyo, Japan views the United Kingdom leaving the European Union as an act of medium and long-term political and economical “self-harm” that will hurt relations with other nations around the globe.

Sir David Warren, who served as ambassador from 2008 to 2012, urged the need for plain speaking regarding the true, potentially devastating impact of Brexit, in an essay published by Chatham House.

“Privately, Japanese policy analysts are puzzled by British government rhetoric about the global opportunities that will follow the UK’s leaving the EU,” he writes. (International Business Times)

Meanwhile Boris Johnson has called for Britain to diverge from EU rules on medical research, financial services and environmental impact assessments, in a speech that otherwise gave little clarity about the government’s Brexit position.

Members of Theresa May’s cabinet are yet to agree how far the UK should offer to align its regulation with the EU, in exchange for extensive access to the single market, after the end of the transition period. (Financial Times)

In depth

Following Boris Johnson’s typically gaffe-prone embarrassment of a speech that claimed – without irony – that this Tory Brexit that is being foist upon us is a ‘liberal’ project, Theresa May is set to give a speech tomorrow claiming Hard Brexit Britain will keep working with the EU on defence and security.

But, just as with the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister’s ‘unifying’ rhetoric looks likely to contain no specifics, fail to address any concerns – and could unravel faster than the stage at her conference speech. Let me explain why. (Left Foot Forward)