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

The full Cabinet on Tuesday approved the UK’s negotiating position for the first phase of Brexit negotiations – which the Prime Minister hopes will lead to agreement from the rest of the EU in just over a fortnight for talks to move on to trade and transition.

The three elements to the UK’s offer are:

A pledge to keep open the border with the Republic of Ireland

A formula for the so-called divorce bill that would see the UK paying more than £40bn and less than £60bn in divorce payments

A system for guaranteeing the rights of three million EU migrants resident in the UK that would allow Britain’s Supreme Court to refer issues “up” to the European Court of Justice, when it felt unqualified to adjudicate (STV)

However, the breakthrough in Brexit talks that Theresa May has been working to clinch next week was at risk Friday (December 1) as the Northern Irish party that props up her government threatened to bring her down if she makes anything like the concessions that Europe is demanding.

Both sides dug in over the sensitive question of the Irish border. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said late Thursday the issue is a “big stumbling block” that means Brexit negotiations are not where they need to be to move on to trade talks. Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists, who have more clout than ever because their votes in the U.K. Parliament allow May to govern, made it clear they were in no mood to compromise.

“If they stop defending the union, we stop voting for them,” DUP lawmaker Sammy Wilson said in an interview. “It’s as simple as that (Bloomberg).”

Economy

The prospect of Brexit will continue to weigh on Britain’s economic performance over the next two years, while creating risks and opportunities for other European countries, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Tuesday (November 28).

The Paris-based international organisation forecast that Britain’s economic growth would drop from an anaemic rate of 1.5 per cent in 2017, lowest in the G7, to 1.2 per cent in 2018 and 1.1 per cent in 2019 (Financial Times).

Meanwhile, the UK Government has been warned by car giant Ford that failure to secure a final Brexit deal with the EU threatens Britain’s motor industry.

“No deal would be a disaster really not only for my business but for the industry in general,” said Steven Armstrong, Ford’s president for Europe, Middle East and Africa operations.

“I am very concerned, very worried. It’s important that we see a future in the UK that’s competitive (Independent).”

In other news net migration to the UK fell by more than 100,000 since the Brexit vote – the largest annual decrease recorded.

In the first signs of a “Brexodus” by EU nationals, net migration dropped from 336,000 to 230,000 in the year to June 2017.

The figure still more than double the Government’s target to reduce the level to the tens of thousands.

Office for National Statistics data showed the number of European nationals fell from 189,000 to 107,000 in the last year.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said the decrease could hit public services (Mirror).

She said: “The Tories’ chaotic mishandling of the Brexit negotiations has already seen many sectors experiencing severe staff shortages, including the NHS and social care.

“It is time to drop this meaningless target.”

Politics

The House of Commons Speaker has told David Davis to appear in front of the Brexit select committee within days or face the prospect of being held in contempt of parliament.

John Bercow warned the Brexit secretary that no engagements should take precedence over showing respect to parliament as the Speaker pledged to “do my duty” in the face of angry representations from MPs.

A string of opposition politicians, and some Conservatives, expressed fury that reports outlining the potential impact of Brexit on 58 sectors had been heavily edited before Davis handed them over to the committee (Guardian).

The government was also criticised by the Brexit select committee.

It is not possible to see how the Irish border issue can be resolved after Brexit, the influential group of MPs scrutinising the process said.

The government wants no hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland and no customs border between the latter and the rest of the UK.

Ministers have suggested technology could enable a “frictionless border”.

But the Committee for Exiting the EU said the proposals were “untested” and “to some extent speculative” (BBC).

In depth

The Government will tell the EU it wishes to stay in a key aviation safety body, under the indirect jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, in order to keep planes flying after Brexit.

Sky News understands the UK will say it wants to remain in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which runs safety and maintenance checks and sets crucial standards across Europe and the UK.

It comes after pressure not just from UK and European airlines, but also the key US Federal Aviation Authority, which has told Britain it has weeks to come up with a legal structure for aviation safety, and will be subject to checks by US inspectors (Sky News).

Brexit briefing: Weekly news roundup

16 February 2018

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...