The third round of the negotiations ended yesterday with a dramatic press conference in which the European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier accused Britain of ‘nostalgia’ for benefits of EU membership and David Davis gave a robust defence of the United Kingdom’s position over the so-called Brexit bill, saying that the UK government had “a duty to our taxpayers to interrogate it,” and the any settlement should be “in accordance with law.” The British press has seized upon this latest press conference with glee, with the general consensus among them being that the only way in which it could have gone any worse, is if the negotiations had collapsed completely, there and then.
As my colleague Hugh Bennett points out on the site today however, all is not lost and a good amount of progress has still been made in many areas. Despite there being no decisive breakthrough on the headline disagreements over the financial settlement and the role of the European Court of Justice in enforcing the agreement, there has been progress made in the key areas of citizens’ rights and the Irish border. Holding out on the Brexit bill forms a key part of both sides’ strategies, so we should not be surprised that there neither side has made concession on it yet. Click here to read his analysis.
As I already mentioned, the British press has been quick to lambast the UK Government for the ‘lack of progress’ made in the talks so far, despite the UK having pushed out position paper after position paper and the EU yet to release anything on the question of Northern Ireland.
Portugal’s former Europe Minister, Bruno Maçães pointed out on Twitter yesterday that there’s a burning contradiction in Barnier’s bluffing that the Government and our press are yet to highlight. For years the EU has stated that the ‘advantages’ of the EU’s single market can be enjoyed by third contries, as part of a more ‘Global Europe’, with trade deals likes the one proposed with the United States promising ‘frictionless trade’, somehing now branded as been ‘impossible’ by Michel Barnier. Yesterday Michel Barnier also described the UK’s plans for a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) between the UK and the EU as ‘impossible’, yet the EU’s Canada agreement has an MRA, as well as Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the USA. When will the anti-Brexit British press call begin to call out Barnier’s bluff?
Turning closer to home now, Tom Watson, the Labour Party’s Deputy Leader has said that Britain could permanently remain part of the single market and customs union after Brexit. Asked on BBC Newsnight if Labour was now the party of “soft Brexit”, Mr Watson replied: “Yes, you have seen Keir Starmer’s statement, we think that being part of the Customs Union and the Single Market is important in those transitional times because that is the way you protect jobs and the economy, and it might be a permanent outcome of the negotiations, but we have got to see how those negotiations go.”
On BrexitCentral, the Chairman of John Mills Limited (JML) and long-time supporter of the Labour Party, John Mills, and the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg both take Labour’s new position to task. John argues that the Party’s latest position is incompatible with Labour’s own manifesto and would be unacceptable to around four-million Labour-supporting Leave voters – click here to read it. Meanwhile, Rees-Mogg tells my colleague David Scullion that the Labour Party has clearly “chosen its cappuccino drinkers in metropolitan areas over the rest of its voters,” click here to read it.
David Davis travelled straight from Brussels to Washington to address the US Chamber of Commerce earlier today, setting out the UK’s global vision and the importance of free trade. Free trade has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks, and on BrexitCentral today, Professor Patrick Minford responds to a number of the critiques of the first part of an Economists for Free Trade report released last week. Read his rebuttal here.
And finally, despite Brexit, the UK’s manufacturing sector is expanding at its fastest rate in more than three years, supporting the fastest rise in jobs growth since June 2014. With growth in output, employment, suppliers’ delivery times, stocks of purchases and new export business. Are we crawling around on the scorched earth of Project Fear’s Brexit apocalypse yet?
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