POLITICS

Brexit Briefing: EU Need To Do Better Than That

It's not been a good start for the UK in the Brexit talks

22/06/2017 18:15 BST | Updated 22/06/2017 18:26 BST
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All you need to know from the world of Brexit this week.

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1) At This Rate, David Davis Will Sign Us Up For The Euro. 

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Some 361 days after the UK voted to leave the EU, Brexit talks finally got underway on Monday – and David Davis couldn’t compromise quick enough.

Ahead of the negotiation, all the talk was about what the order the discussions would take.

The UK wanted the divorce bill and new trade agreement to be discussed simultaneously, while the EU wanted to get the money settled first.

Davis predicted that settling this would be the “row of the summer”, but when it came to the crunch he rolled over at the first opportunity.

The UK and the EU will now discuss the financial settlement, rights of EU nationals and other matters relating to withdrawal before talks on the trade deal begins. Indeed, it is only when the EU deem enough progress has been made in these areas that trade talks will get started. It is completely within Brussels gift.

The bizarre thing about this is not that a compromise was made – that is, after all, what happens in negotiations – but that Davis flat-out refused to accept the UK’s position has changed.

Here was an opportunity for the Brexit Secretary to claim the moral high ground, and present the UK as willing to make compromises in order to get the talks moving.

But Davis seemed to prefer saving his own face now than storing some goodwill in the bank for later. 

2) Theresa May Is Having Dinner Tonight With 27 People Who Will Be Laughing Behind Their Napkins.

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As well as getting to work on the divorce bill, the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and UK Brexit Secretary David Davis also agreed to try to reach a quick deal on the rights of EU and UK migrants. 

Theresa May will formally set out to EU leaders on Monday what the UK is willing to offer, and today (Thursday) travelled to Brussels to start briefing what she has in mind.

The EU set out its position last week, and one potential sticking point is its suggestion that family members of migrants who don’t currently live in the UK should also be covered by any agreement.

And those family members don’t have to be EU citizens. As former Chief Economist at the Cabinet Office Jonathan Portes pointed out this week, EU citizens actually have more rights in this area than Brits do:

 If I married an Indian and wanted her to come and live with me in this country I have to demonstrate that my income is above a certain threshold as well as jumping through various other hoops.

If on the other hand a French national living in London wishes to marry precisely the same Indian he doesn’t have to go through those hoops.

That is because Theresa May, in particular, took away those relatively unconstrained marriage rights from British nationals but the European Union wouldn’t let her take them away from EU nationals living here.

Having already tightened the rules on foreign spouses for Brits, it’s unlikely May will let EU citizens benefit from a looser system after Brexit.

It is also the first time May has met up with European leaders since her stunning election campaign, in which she accused the EU of trying to influence the result.

Judging from the result, maybe she was right.

3) Hammond Might Not Be The White Knight Remainers Are Looking For.

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He may have had a lower profile than he would have liked during the election, but Chancellor Philip Hammond is making up for it now.

Hammond is being spun by many in the commentariat as the man who can stop a Hard Brexit, but he didn’t seem to give any indication of that during his Sunday show appearances at the weekend as he repeated the Government line that the UK would be leaving the Single Market and the customs union.

Even his claim that a “no deal” for the UK would be a “very, very bad outcome” was tempered by him saying a “bad deal” would be worse.

In a speech on Tuesday, the Chancellor was clear there needs to be “mutually beneficial transitional arrangements to avoid unnecessary disruption and dangerous cliff edges.”

While this is similar to comments made by May and Davis in the past, Hammond put transitional arrangements in his top three priorities for Brexit, alongside a comprehensive trade agreement and frictionless customs arrangements.

Hard Brexiteers fear this could lead to the UK being left in a Hotel California position: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

The main difference between Hammond and some of the Tory Brexit headbangers is where he sits on the immigration v economy debate. As Chancellor, it’s no surprise he believes the UK’s economic prosperity should not be threatened by an arbitrary immigration target.

4) There Will Be A Lot Of Opportunities To Defeat The Government Over Brexit In The Next Two Years.

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The Queen’s Speech can be summed up in one word: Brexit.

Filleted of many of the Tories’ key manifesto pledges, it instead contained eight Bills relation to Brexit. Customs, Trade, Immigration, Fisheries, Agriculture, Nuclear Safeguards, International Sanctions, and of course the Repeal Bill, will all be pushed through Parliament in the next two years.

The list is evidence of just how many sectors of UK governance the EU has power, and therefore how much work there is to do in such a short space of time.

The more Bills there are means the more opportunity for Government defeats of course – and not just in the Commons.

The Tories don’t have a majority in the House of Lords, meaning peers can knock down legislation.

Labour’s leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith, confirmed on Wednesday her peers would be adhering to the convention that policies in the Government’s manifesto don’t get defeated in the Second Chamber.

However, if MPs start bearing their teeth over certain issues – such as EU citizens rights – those peers may feel that they are truly representing the people by backing up the Commons when it comes to amending legislation.

5) The UK Is Struggling To Negotiate With Negotiators.

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One man who will hoping Brexit is rushed through as quickly as possible is Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary who is currently unable to negotiate any international trade deals.

In what might be a worrying sign for the future, his department has struggled to recruit top trade negotiators as…erm…it was unwilling to negotiate over the salary on offer.

According to The Times, several top figures – including the man who played a key role brokering deals with the EU, China the USA – all turned down the chance to be the UK’s top trade negotiator because the money was too low.

The head of the civil service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, refused to sanction paying more than £160,000 a year to whoever took the role.

The man who eventually lowered himself to earning such a pitiful sum is Crawford Falconer, New Zealand’s former ambassador to the World Trade Organisation.

Another economic migrant coming over here, taking our jobs…

Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…

At HuffPost 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 ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.

Joe Owen blogs on everything you need to know about the formerly ‘Great’ Repeal Bill 

Tina Hallett assesses a Queen’s Speech “for Brexit and beyond”

Dyfed Loesche asks if, one year on from the referendum, we’ve reached ‘peak populism’ 

Alexandra Runswick blogs on what a hung Parliament means for a hard Brexit