POLITICS

Brexit Briefing: Where Do EU Begin With That?

All you need to know from a crazy week in the world of Brexit

07/12/2017 16:00 GMT | Updated 07/12/2017 16:01 GMT
HuffPost UK

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1) And The Reality Of Promising All Things To All People Finally Kicks In

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Where to start with this week in the world of Brexit? A deal on the Northern Ireland was ready to be signed, about to be sealed, but someone forgot to deliver it to the DUP.

When the draft agreement did eventually reach Belfast, Arlene Foster scribbled Return to Sender on the envelope and posted it back to London.

Fosters main quibble with the deal was it would have lead Northern Ireland leaving the EU on different terms to the rest of the UK.

Downing Street and Brussels had seemingly agreed that Northern Ireland would maintain “regulatory alignment” with the EU after Brexit as a means of stopping a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The DUP argued this effectively moved the UK’s trade border back to the Irish sea, something they have always opposed.

In the Commons on Tuesday, Davis sought to calm the fears of the Government’s confidence and supply partners, saying any special deal for certain economic sectors would extend the rest of the UK.

But in the see-saw world of Brexit, this pronouncement set off the hard-core anti-Europeans in the Tory party. Peter Bone, Bernard Jenkin and Jacob Rees-Mogg all rose in Prime Minister’s Questions to call on May to stick to her guns.

“Before my Right Honourable Friend next goes to Brussels,” asked Rees-Mogg, “will she apply a new coat of paint to her red line because I fear on Monday they were beginning to look a little bit pink.”

The chief fear is keeping regulatory alignment in certain sectors across the UK will scupper any of those glorious free trade deals the Brexiteers are so keen on.

But if May restricts that arrangement to just Northern Ireland, the DUP could bring her entire government down.

The Government is gambling on the DUP not pulling the pin out of the grenade, as that could see Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.

One route open to the DUP is to demand the removal of May and the installation of new Prime Minister.

Yet even if the Tories agreed to this, who would the DUP want to replace her?

There might be a love-in at the moment between Rees-Mogg and the DUP, but if someone of his ilk took over the negotiations, a hard border becomes more, not less, likely. Hard-core Brexiteers value complete independence from the EU above a deal for Northern Ireland which would have to be replicated across the UK.

Conversely, anyone slightly less Eurosceptic than the Rees-Moggs and Owen Patersons off this world would reach the same conclusions as May. So, what options do the DUP realistically have?

Tory Brexiteers have told me this week they feel many of the moderates in the party are beginning to share their frustrations with Brussels, and if it’s not agreed next week to move on to trade talks the pressure to walk away from the negotiating table could increase.

Yet when you speak to the moderates, they are determined to give May as much time as possible as they fear what ‘no deal’ would do to the economy.

May has been working hard to get the deal back on track, but a lot of that seems to involve sitting by the phone. A planned call with Foster on Tuesday never materalised, but the two did eventually have a chat on Wednesday, when she also spoke to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The deadline to agree these issues in order to get them signed off at next week’s summit is Sunday. May is expected to return to Brussels imminently (although Downing Street are yet to confirm when) to try to resurrect the deal. Expect lots of briefing and counter-briefing this weekend, right up to close of play on Sunday.

2) Innocent Of Misleading Parliament, But Guilty Of A Lack Of Preparation 

PA Wire/PA Images

The Loch Ness monster, Donald Trump’s sense of modesty and England’s chances of winning the World Cup.

Something else can now be added to the list of things which don’t exist: The Government’s impact assessments of Brexit on the economy.

David Davis told MPs this week his department had not carried out any such work, despite Parliament insisting the Government hand over the documents.

The 850-pages given to MPs last week was instead an assessment of how the EU currently impacts on different sectors, not what the impact of different types of Brexit would be on them (all clear?).

MPs such as Chuka Umunna, David Lammy and Pete Wishart are furious, and claim Davis may have misled Parliament by suggesting such assessments exist.

Yet if you go back and listen to what Davis actually said in the Chamber and to journalists, he was very careful to avoid saying his department had done work on the impact of Brexit.

The closest he came was when he didn’t correct Labour’s Seema Malhotra description of ‘impact assessments’ during this exchange at the Brexit Committee in October.

Seema Malhotra: Has the Prime Minister seen the impact assessments that have been published, yes or no?

Davis: The details of them? Sorry, did you say “have been published”?

Malhotra: Sorry, I am just asking whether she has seen the impact assessments. A yes or no answer is fine.

Davis: Which ones? I will give a proper answer; I do not give yes/no answers.

Malhotra: I mean the impact assessments that you have not published. 

Davis: That we have not published?

Malhotra: Yes.

Davis: She will know the summary outcomes of them. She will not necessarily have read every single one. They are in excruciating detail. 

Perhaps more interesting than the impact-studies-that-don’t-exist, is revelation from Davis that no study has been done on the impact of leaving the customs union.

Alongside that, Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed the Cabinet has yet to discuss what end-state it wants for Brexit.

3) It’s Nearly Time For That Honest Conversation About Immigration

PA Wire/PA Images

Running up to the referendum, all the talk was about immigration.

You couldn’t move for warnings about 80million Turks about to move to the UK, the need for an Australian-style points system and the how the NHS was on the verge of collapse because of the migrant influx.

Since then, it’s been oh-so-quiet.

Yes, there’s been plenty of discussion about the rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice-versa, but very little on what system will replace the rules.

A report from the Home Builders Federation this week provided a sobering reminder of just why we need migrants in the UK.

A survey of 37,167 workers in more than 1,000 locations revealed 19.7% of workers on house building sites across the country are ‘non UK’.

In London, where the need for new housing is at most critical, 56.3% of workers sites are from overseas – with 49.5% coming from the EU.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation said; “Output is up a massive 74% in recent years but achieving the very challenging targets set by Government will require further big increases in workforce capacity.

“Whilst the industry is investing heavily in recruiting and training young people leaving our schools, colleges and universities, continued access to overseas workers is absolutely essential.”

In other words, the UK needs more migrant workers, not fewer, if the Government wants to hit its housebuilding targets.

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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.

Eloise Todd from Best for Britain on why this week’s “Brexit car crash” was inevitable

Thomas Cole on how Brexit is already undermining Britain’s influence in the world

Cruelty-free beauty expert Sofi Evans on what Brexit might mean for your make-up bag 

Dr Paul Breen on the underlying causes of the “manic Monday” on Irish border negotiations