All you need to know from the world of Brexit this week.
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Agreement On Citizens’ Rights Could Be Trickier Than People Think
The European Commission’s Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier embarked on a mini-tour of the EU this week to talk up the importance of unity. He visited Madrid on Wednesday to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
The Spanish leader was at pains to talk about securing a deal on citizens rights as soon as possible – “a top priority for Spain” according to an official report. Spain want the agreement on citizens’ rights to be “as far reaching and beneficial as possible” – a point which is emerging as point of difference between the EU and the UK.
Brussels wants the 3.2million EU citizens living in the UK to have the same rights as the do now after Brexit.
As well as issues such as access to healthcare, this could lead to restrictions in what the Government can do when it comes to welfare reform. Currently, benefit cuts cannot be targeted at EU citizens alone, something David Cameron was forced to grapple with during his negotiation.
If EU citizens’ current rights are maintained, any attempt to single them out for benefit cuts – such as restricting tax credits – would be illegal…but only under European law.
But seeing as the Great Repeal Bill will be transferring over European law, it will then be illegal under British law. Until Britain changes the law. Which Britain might not be able to do under the terms of the Brexit deal. But what if Britain breaks the Brexit deal? Who rules on that? Foreign judges?
It’s complicated isn’t it? Perhaps the EU27 should just collectively vow to do to British citizens whatever the UK does to EU citizens. An eye for an eye…which is sort of Sharia Law.
Nobody Is Any Clearer On How To Solve The Irish Border Issue
After Madrid, Michel Barnier travelled to Dublin to continue his ‘We’re all in this together’ tour.
As this briefing flagged up last week, the Irish government is not quite on message when it comes to the EU’s negotiation script.
Brussels has been clear that no trade talks can take place until the divorce bill has been settled, whereas Dublin believes the negotiations can take place in parallel.
Addressing a joint session of the Irish parliaments – an honour normally reserved for presidents and prime ministers - Barnier vowed to work with Ireland “to avoid a hard border” with the UK.
“We have a duty to speak the truth. The UK’s departure from the EU will have consequences. Customs controls are part of EU border management. They protect the single market. They protect our food safety and our standards. I already said many times: nothing in this negotiation should put peace at risk.”
The Northern Irish/Irish border issue is one of the most complicated parts of the Brexit deal. EU negotiating guidelines call for “flexible and creative” thinking to solve the upcoming border issue, with neither Ireland or Northern Ireland wanting to see the return of a ‘hard border’.
Yet with the UK out of the customs union, just how is it possible to have rigorous tariff checks without creating some kind of border?
Barnier told Irish politicians that he and others “are working towards solutions” to the problem, but didn’t offer any in his speech.
Apart from a hard border, what other solutions are there? Could Northern Ireland be given a special deal where the area is part of the Brexit deal in principle but there are no border checks – meaning the customs checks actually take place in mainland Britain?
There’s A ‘Soft Brexit’ Takeover Of The Tory Party Taking Place
With the parties’ election candidates all in place, Sky News carried out interesting research on some of the potential new faces that could help deliver Theresa May a thumping win on June 8. It discovered that a ‘softer Brexit’ – a trade deal with the EU, not leaving on WTO terms – is the preferred choice for many of the wannabe MPs. “
All but two of the 26 parliamentary candidates standing in seats deemed winnable said they wanted a free trade deal with the EU as opposed to simply leaving,” says the article.
Conservative Central Office has been much more low-key with its selections for this election than it was under David Cameron.
There is no “a-list” to speak of, but it seems there has been some maneuvering to get MPs in place who will back the PM up when the inevitable concessions over the divorce bill, transitionary period and perhaps even a temporary maintaining of freedom of movement occur.
The Financial Sector Is Feeling Like No One Likes Them
The selection of ‘soft Brexit’ candidates is already reassuring those in the City.
At a meeting in the Docklands today, top bankers and other international traders were reassured by the news that Theresa May was seemingly preparing to make some concessions in the negotiations - hence stacking the party with MPs who will outvote the ‘hard Brexiteers’.
However, the overriding sense from the meeting was that of frustration, alongside a reluctance to get involved in the debate.
“We were told they’ve had enough of experts,” said one angrily, while another pointed out that businesses haven’t settled in London “because we love the Queen”, and could easily move out of the UK if it is within their interests to do so. They group clearly felt bruised by their treatment of international business during the referendum campaign, with Boris Johnson getting a particular hounding.
“One minute he’s in this building telling us how much the country needs us, then he was out there bashing us,” said one.
It’s fair to say the City does not feel very loved at the moment.
What Goes On Brexit Tour Stays On Brexit Tour
It turns out that I’m a bit of a mug.
“No news there,” I hear you cry, but there is a particular reason for my current bout of self-loathing.
I’ve been sending out this Briefing to you lovely people without charging a pretty penny (or euro), when I really should have been cashing in on my Brexit knowledge.
That’s what the New York Times is doing, with the publication offering a six-day “Brexit means Brexit” tour of Westminster for the not-at-all ridiculous price of $6,000 (which includes flights from the US).
The tour will take those desperate to know what caused this political earthquake all the way from Westminster to the City of London to, erm, Westminster again.
Yes, for just $6,000 you can learn about Brexit by not visiting any people or areas who voted Leave.
I’m willing to offer the same tour for a tenner. Tweet me @owenjbennett and we’ll get it sorted.
Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…
At Huffington Post we love a good blog, and here are the finest Brexit-penned entries from this week. Have a read, and if any of them provoke an urge in you to speak your brain, send a blog to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.
Frances O’Grady on preventing a ‘race to the bottom’ on workers’ rights post-Brexit
Matt Horwood on the EU’s history as a “driving force” for LGBT equality
Merim Sabih on the future of defence policy once we leave Europe