POLITICS
18/01/2018 17:01 GMT

Brexit Briefing: 'I Just Want EU Back For Good'

All you need to know from the world of Brexit

HuffPost UK

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1) So Much For The Mutineers...

Parliament

The EU Withdrawal Bill cleared its final Commons hurdle last night with little controversy.

Indeed, the main highlight from the debates this week was Brexit-backing MP Sir Desmond Swayne falling asleep as the pro-EU Ken Clarke gave a speech.

Sir Desmond blamed his power-nap on a 5.30am swim in the Serpentine, but some felt he faked the whole thing to mock Clarke. 

During a two-hour voting period, the Government saw off all the amendments, and the Bill was sent up to the Lords with a Commons majority of 29 (324 in favour; 295 against).

Brexit Minister Steve Baker was spotted out on the Commons terrace celebrating with David Davis’ chief of staff, former Tory MP Stewart Jackson, after the vote, but the Bill still faces potential changes in the Remain-heavy House of Lords.

2) The Banks Are Feeling Better About Brexit, So That’s A Relief.

OkorokovaNatalya via Getty Images

The next stage of the EU negotiations might not have kicked off just yet, but the pre-Christmas progress seems to have reassured financial analysts.

The Telegraph reported on Monday that number-crunchers at banks JP Morgan and UBS have scaled down fears the UK could crash out the EU without a deal.

JP Morgan cut its probability of ‘no deal’ from 25% to 15%, while UBS said progress – particularly towards a transition agreement - has “lessened uncertainty” for businesses.

The claim from UBS comes fewer than three months after the bank’s chief executive said he had received “regulatory and political clarifications” that would make it “more and more unlikely” that the Swiss bank will end up moving 1,000 jobs from London, according to the FT.

In a further boost for the UK, a survey of the remaining 27 EU Governments published on Monday showed a difference of opinion on whether financial services could be part of any Brexit deal.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has been clear that such a deal is a non-starter, saying in January: “There is not a single trade agreement that is open to financial services. It doesn’t exist.”

But Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told Bloomberg: “While I stick to the principle that there can be no cherry-picking, I still think that we should refrain from an orthodox or binary thinking.

“My top priority would be to limit the negative impact for both sides. Pragmatism will be needed in these negotiations on both sides.”

The German response was the most interesting, with Bloomberg saying the European powerhouse believes “a Canadian-style free-trade agreement without the U.K. making budget commitments cannot be accompanied with a separate agreement on financial services.”

That seems to show that paying some cash in could unlock the door to a financial services deal.

3) ‘I Guess Now It’s Time That You Came Back For Good’

Vincent Kessler / Reuters

Nigel Farage’s claim last week a second referendum on Brexit might be needed after all seems to have fanned the fires in the bellies in Brussels.

On Tuesday, European Council President Donald Tusk told the European Parliament he hoped Brexit could still be reversed.

“If the UK government sticks to its decision to leave, Brexit will become a reality – with all its negative consequences - in March next year. Unless there is a change of heart among our British friends,” he said.

Tusk also added a jab at the UK Brexit secretary: “Wasn’t it David Davis himself who said: ‘If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy’?

“We, here on the continent, haven’t had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open to you.”

A delegation of anti-Brexit MPs who met with the EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday were also left with the message that it ain’t over until Lady Britannia sings.

Labour’s Chuka Umunna, one of those to get an audience with Barnier, told HuffPost UK: “The Government is seeking to pull the wool over people’s eyes over the Article 50 process.

“The EU is being absolutely clear that if Britain at the end of the process prefers the status-quo that option is open.”

4) Rees-Mogg Is Becoming More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine

Matthew Horwood via Getty Images

The promotion of Tory MP Suella Fernades to the role of Brexit Minister in last week’s reshuffle left a vacancy at the top European Research Group – a collection of anti-EU Conservatives.

The secretive ERG, which is believed to have up to 80 members, leans towards the UK pushing for a hard Brexit, and has been described as “a party within a party” by pro-EU Tory MP Anna Soubry.

The actual membership of the group is shrouded in secrecy, but according to openDemocracy forty Tory MPs have paid money to the ERG and claimed it back as “research” expenses since 2010, while some MPs claimed money for “research services” on European issues without specifically mentioning the ERG.

With the previous two chairmen – Steve Baker and Fernandes – both summoned to the Brexit department by Theresa May, whoever took over the role might see it as the final step before joining the Government.

This week, white smoke emerged from the group’s infamous Whatsapp group to announce Jacob Rees-Mogg would be the group’s new chairman.

Announcing his appointment, the Moggster said: “In this role I am keen to help the Government implement the principles laid down by the Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, in her Lancaster House speech. It is especially important to achieve control of our laws, control immigration and achieve new trade agreements with other countries.

“The ERG speaks individually not with the collective view but has considerable support across the parliamentary party. As chairman I intend to be helpful, vigorous and supportive towards government policy of making a success of Brexit.”

Mogg is frequently tipped as a future leadership contender, but his chances of success are downplayed by many – including him – because of his lack of ministerial, let alone Cabinet, experience.

But it may be that he now finds himself in the role of king-maker – perhaps in exchange for high office – when the time comes to replace Mrs May.

5) Brexit Made My Son Cry, Admits Minister

PA Archive/PA Images

Many people might have felt like crying when the referendum result was announced, but it was revealed this week that one little lad did burst into tears: the son of International Trade Minister Greg Hands.

In an interview with HuffPost Germany, Hands explained that his nine-year-old starting crying as he feared his German mother and English father would have to split up.

Hands, who campaigned to Remain in the EU but now tours the world to drum up trade deals post-Brexit, spoke as he set out how UK would continue to build close trade and cultural links with Europe after 2019.

“My wife is German, my children are bilingual, and on the day of the referendum, or the day after, my son - who at the time was nine years old - cried over the result,” he said.

“It’s really like that also with us from time to time,” he added.

When quizzed on how he explained the Brexit decision to his son, he replied: “He didn’t really understand it. He may have thought that his mother and father would now be forced to separate.”

Asked by HuffPost UK what he meant by his remark about “also with us from time to time”, the minister said he had meant “it’s also emotional from time to time in our house”.

Hands stressed that his wife, like three million EU citizens living in Britain, would retain her rights following the deal hammered out between Theresa May and Brussels chiefs late last year.

A fluent German and French speaker, the minister’s wife Irina teaches German in a London school, and he often impresses overseas colleagues with his backstory.

He lived for three years in West Berlin as a teenager and frequently visited Communist East Berlin and toured other Eastern European states in his youth.

He joked last year about his son’s national allegiances.

“Before the last World Cup, I asked my son, ‘Which country are you going to support in the tournament?’

“‘Papa,’ he said, ‘I will start with England and then switch to Germany’.

“He is a clever boy.”

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.

Dawn Butler on why we can’t take the government’s word they’ll protect our rights through Brexit

Dr Peter Paul Catterall on why we’ll need a second election before a second referendum

June Sarpong on why Theresa May needs to carve out a non-Brexit legacy

Ian Larive on why it might be years before we understand how Brexit will affect our energy

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