Brexit means Brexit. It also means lots of news about Brexit, which, let’s face it, can be a bit overwhelming.
Each week, Huff Post UK will put together a briefing telling you all you need to know about the ins and outs and ups and downs of the UK leaving the EU.
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Five things you need to know about Brexit this week….
1) The UK Has A New Ambassador To The EU Because The Old One Can’t Be Arsed With It All Anymore.
There’s a new man representing the UK to the EU (besides from our 73 MEPs, our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary of course). Sir Tim Barrow was yesterday appointed as the Ambassador to the EU, after the previous occupant of the role, Sir Ivan Rogers, very much picked up his ball and went home early.
Sir Ivan, who was our man in Brussels since 2013, was due to leave the role in October, but decided to storm out in a blaze of glory in protest at how the UK was handling the Brexit negotiations.
In an email to his staff, which was absolutely, in no way whatsoever, written with the intention of it being leaked to the press, Sir Ivan took several digs at Downing Street.
His resignation wound up a load of Leave campaigners, with Iain Duncan Smith proclaiming Sir Ivan was “not God Almighty” and Theresa Villiers describing his resignation email as “emotionally needy”.
It was a strange reaction, mainly because if they all truly believed Sir Ivan was some rabid Europhile determined to thwart Brexit, surely it’s better he went sooner rather than later?
Theresa May ignored calls to appoint an out and out Brexiteer as his replacement, and instead opted for another civil servant – Sir Tim Barrow, who had previously been the Foreign Office’s man in Russia.
Does any of this make a difference? Not really. Whoever is our ambassador is supposed to do as they’re told, and it seems they’re not being told very much at the moment.
2) People Are Starting To Notice We Have No Negotiators
There was another criticism in Sir Ivan’s letter which will worry Downing Street – the EU has more expertise to carry out the Brexit negotiation than the UK.
It’s a concern that has been raised numerous times – both before and after the Brexit vote.
Indeed, in one of the most ironic moments of those crazy few weeks in which Andrea Leadsom almost became Prime Minister, Nigel Farage actually called for more immigration in order to tackle the skills shortage.
“I’m told we haven’t got the skills. So let’s headhunt them. Let’s get them from Singapore, from Asia,” he said during one of his resignation speeches.
It is, of course, not just the UK who has noticed this lack of experience and expertise when it comes to complex negotiations.
At a conference in Southern Germany this week, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg said: “We do feel that sometimes when we are discussing with Britain, that their speed is limited by the fact that it is such a long time since they have negotiated.”
She went on: “I fear a very hard Brexit but I hope we will find a better solution.”
A hard Brexit would mean the UK is more distant from the EU than Norway, which while not a full member, is part of the Single Market and allows free movement of people.
3) People Are Acting Like We Know Something New About What Theresa May Wants, But We Don’t.
Theresa May promised a speech on Brexit in the New Year when she appeared before a Commons committee at the end of 2016.
It seems that parts of it have been briefed to the Telegraph, which ran the startling revelation that May will prioritise immigration control over membership of the Single Market.
It will, of course, only be news to those of us who didn’t cock an ear to May’s party conference year last year in which she said: “We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again.”
There is also the fact that creating a Department for International Trade kind of implies that the UK isn’t going to be in the Single Market on the same terms as we are now, as if we were, we wouldn’t be able to sign our own trade deals.
Unless of course creating the International Trade department was just a way of keeping Dr Liam Fox busy for a couple of years before making him redundant.
If that is the case, Fox could do with being a bit more friendly to those on the Tory backbenchers. One Leave campaigner told me this week that Fox and David Davis are acting slightly aloof from their former backbench colleagues now they are in the Cabinet. “At least David is in the tea rooms though, Liam doesn’t even do that,” said the MP.
4) The ‘Metropolitan Liberal Elite’ Are Starting To Realise Not Everyone Likes Free Movement
Chuka Umunna knows how the media works, and made sure his report calling for mandatory English lessons for all migrants would get plenty of coverage by releasing it this week (MPs are not back in Parliament and journalists are desperate for stories).
The report from All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, which Umunna chairs, didn’t go so far as to call for a reduction in the rate of immigration, but instead for more work to tackle “parallel communities.”
However, it’s clear that support for freedom of movement is falling fast among the so-called Metropolitan Liberal Elite, who are realising it might cost them that most precious of things: votes.
Even poor old Vince Cable, who was booted out by the pesky electorate in 2015, has today come out and claimed freedom of movement should end. At least that stable door is securely locked while the horse bolts down the road.
Surprisingly, a defence of EU immigration came from the Greatest Prime Minister We Never Had, Andrea Leadsom. In a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday, Leadsom said: “I know how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses.” I don’t remember seeing that on the side of a bus.
5) Paris Is Trying To Nick Our Bankers And That Might Not Be A Good Thing
The transfer window is now open, and it seems many on the continent are desperate to woo our best and brightest. Bankers, that is.
Bloomberg revealed this week that the Paris lobby group Europlace is planning to hold meetings with financiers in London next month to extol the virtues of life in France.
With Brexit potentially ending lucrative passporting rights for financial companies based in London, European cities including Paris and Frankfurt will be more than welcoming should an exodus occur.
I know we’re not supposed to like bankers, but with the City of London contributing 3% to the UK’s total GDP, and 11.5% of total tax receipts, it might cause a few problems for the bean-counters in Number 11 if they disappear down the Channel Tunnel.