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1) David Davis And Michel Barnier Seem To Be At Different Negotiations
The second round of UK/EU negotiations took place this week, and the fault lines we all predicted seem to be growing wider, not closing.
In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Brexit Secretary David Davis described the talks as “robust but constructive” as he claimed both sides recognised the “importance of sorting out the obligations” around the financial settlement.
He said both sides need to show “flexibility” over the divorce bill, suggesting the UK would be prepared to stump up more cash than previously thought.
The EU chief negotiator was far less optimistic than his UK counterpart. He told reporters Britain was yet to “clarify the nature of its commitments” when it comes to the divorce bill, and such information was “indispensable” if the talks were going to continue.
On EU citizens rights, Barnier said the UK’s insistence the European Court of Justice would have no jurisdiction in Britain represented a “fundamental divergence”, and there was still differences over “the rights of future family members” and “the exports of certain social benefits.”
“Clearly there is a lot left to talk about,” said Davis, perceptively.
Of course, any negotiation involves both sides starting from different positions and then eventually meeting half way, but time is running out for the UK to be quite so vague on the financial settlement. As teachers say at school as the class keep misbehaving after the bell has gone: “It’s your own time you’re wasting.”
If Barnier wasn’t being plain enough with his language, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire decided to spell it out with words the Brits would definitely understand. When talking about the Brits paying a €100 billion to the EU, Le Maire said: “As Thatcher famously said: ‘we want our money back.’”
2) Liam Fox Is Happy To Wait Another Two Years For The Brexit He’s Always Wanted
While Davis was getting down to the nitty-gritty of his job, Liam Fox is still preparing to be able to do is.
The International Trade Secretary is itching to start signing some of those trade deals we’ve all been promised, and as such doesn’t want any post-Brexit transition period to stop him.
He told the BBC on Sunday that any deal - no matter how long it lasts - should enable him to negotiate free trade deals.
He appeared much more relaxed about the length of a transitional period in Geneva today, saying he had “no ideological barrier” to a two-year implementation phase. Fox said he had been waiting to leave the EU “for a very long time, another two years, say, wouldn’t be too much to ask”.
Fox’s softening on the transitional period (he had previously said it would be a matter of months) represents a shift in the Cabinet as a whole.
A well placed source revealed businesses are pushing Downing Street to nail down a transitional arrangement as soon as possible - preferably by the end of the year.
The source revealed Defra Secretary Michael Gove is now in favour of such an arrangement, having seen how impossible it would be to have no transition for farmers.
This all shows that Chancellor Philip Hammond is slowly but surely seizing control of Brexit policy at the expense of some of the anti-EU headbangers in the Cabinet.
3) The Saboteurs Are Taking Over The Asylum
Further evidence that Remainers are getting a greater hearing in Downing Street these days came today when Theresa May chaired a new “business advisory group” at Number 10.
Attendees at the inaugural meeting include CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn; Prudential CEO Paul Manduca; and Mike Cherry, Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.
What do these people all have in common? They are opposed to a hard Brexit. Cherry has called for a “sensible phased implementation arrangement” after March 2019; Manduca wants a deal “as close [as possible] to what we have today for financial services”; and just two weeks ago Fairbairn said it was “commons sense” to stay in the Single Market until a trade deal had been signed with the EU.
James McGrory, Executive Director of Open Britain, said: “While it is encouraging that the Prime Minister is finally reaching out to British business on Brexit, she may not hear what she wants to hear at today’s meeting.”
However, it seems that May has been listening to business concerns a lot longer than she has been given credit for.
Reuters reported this week that Japanese car manufacturer Toyota received post-Brexit assurances from the Government ahead of committing to invest £240-million in its plant in Derbyshire.
The company announced the funding in March - having delayed making the decision for three months while it scoped out the Brexit landscape.
Reuters does not know when the letter from the Government was received by the company, but quoted a source as saying: “They received a similar set of warm words as Nissan on electric vehicles, commitment to further training and to ensure the competitiveness of the UK automotive industry.”
4) Sir Humphrey Was Right: The French Are The Real Enemy In These Negotiations
In Yes, Minister, Sir Humphrey Appleby justifies the UK having nuclear weapons as not to keep Russia in check, but to stop France getting too big for its boots. Maybe he was on to something.
According to former Lib Dem Minister Jeremy Browne - who now works as Brexit envoy for the City of London - the French government is actively working to undermine the UK’s financial services sector.
In a memo leaked to the Mail on Sunday, Browne wrote that French banking chiefs, senior politicians and diplomats he had met “are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London.”
He went on: “The meeting with the French Central Bank was the worst I have had anywhere in the EU. They are in favour of the hardest Brexit. They want disruption. They actively seek disaggregation of financial services provision.
“Every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further, making a virtue of rejecting a partnership model with Britain and seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London even if Paris is not the beneficiary.”
Indeed, so determined are the French to take down the UK’s financial fortress, lobbyists from Paris have joined forces with their peers in Frankfurt to convince the EU to ban the clearing of euros in London after Brexit - a move which would destroy the €1trillion-a-day euro-clearing market.
It seems the Frankfurt lobbyists are stepping up to the plate in other areas, with Citi Bank planning to shift its EU-based broker-dealer business to the German city.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.
Baroness Stowell on why the Cabinet must unite behind Theresa May to get Brexit right
Monique Hawkins on whether we’re in a race to the bottom on EU national rights
Baroness Hayter on why there might be trouble ahead for the Repeal Bill in the Lords
Valerie Vaz on Brexit and Theresa May’s “zombie government”