On Brexit, the prime minister reiterated that the UK and the EU have agreed to accelerate efforts to reach a deal without the backstop which the UK parliament could support, and that we would work with energy and determination to achieve this ahead of Brexit on the 31 October.
Ministers accused of 'fiddling the figures' to disguise chaos from HGVs being prevented from reaching the border in the first place
Ministers have “fiddled the figures” to disguise the true level of chaos at British ports from a no-deal Brexit, it has been alleged.
The government’s Operation Yellowhammer dossier – only released after a parliamentary battle – predicted a “low risk of significant sustained queues” at ports other than in Kent.
But new documents have revealed this would only be the case because tens of thousands of vehicles would be turned away before they reached the coast, for not having the correct paperwork.
In Liverpool, Holyhead and Portsmouth about two-thirds of vehicles would not be allowed into the port, the department for transport (DfT) papers, stamped “official sensitive”, show.
Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said the DfT was “not being straight with the public” by only publishing assumptions that were “practically meaningless”.
“Much of the analysis only seems to consider those vehicles which have the correct paperwork and totally overlooks the impact of those HGVs which won’t,” he protested.
And Jo Stevens, a Labour supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: “The revelation that the government appear to have fiddled the figures to make the calamity of no-deal look less damaging is another sign of the behaviour which has led to a complete breakdown of trust in Boris Johnson.
“The only hope that Johnson has of meeting his claims about the ports is to turn away vast numbers of lorries before they get there. That means lost orders, lost money and eventually lost jobs.”
The DfT declined to comment on the documents, revealed by The Financial Times, but insisted there “should be limited disruption” if hauliers had “the correct documentation”.
“We have implemented a major campaign to ensure hauliers can take action to get ready and are able to operate and that trade can continue to move as freely as possible between the UK and Europe after Brexit,” a spokesperson said.
Why the EU should stick to the Brexit deadline and rule out any extensions
Cas Mudde, OpEd for the Guardian
Brussels has been suffering from a London syndrome since the initial shock of the EU referendum in 2016. Now it is high time to move on.
[...] The only extension that would therefore make sense is an indefinite one, in which the EU gives the Brits as much time as they need to figure themselves out. But this assumes, as much of the Brexit debate does, that there are no costs connected to the political limbo that both the EU and the UK find themselves in. This is, of course, not the case.
So far, both the British and European debate has been focused on whether the UK will be satisfied with the final outcome of Brexit, especially around key questions like the Irish-UK border and immigration, as well whether leave voters will get the Brexit they voted for. Consequently, the interests of the roughly 17 million Brits who voted to leave the EU completely sideline not just the interests of the 16 million Brits who voted to remain in the EU, but also those of almost 500 million other Europeans. This is both irresponsible and undemocratic, at least from the perspective of the citizens and governments of the other 27 EU member states.
It is true that most Europeans want the UK to stay within the EU. But not at any cost. And costs there are. First and foremost, the political insecurity about the faith of British membership, and therefore the membership of the EU, has economic costs, with major companies delaying investment decisions – although so far some EU member states (like Germany and the Netherlands) have done good business at Britain’s expense. Second, massive amounts of bureaucratic and political resources have been wasted on responding to every serious Brexit proposal that comes out of London – which bureaucrats in all other member states, but particularly in those with close trade relationships with the UK, like Ireland and the Netherlands, have to take seriously, given the possibly devastating economic consequences.
And, third, the amount of time wasted on Brexit by the EU in general, and the European council in particular is not justifiable. The heads of government of all EU member states use the rare EU council meetings to set major policy goals for the EU, but since 2016, most meetings have discussed … you guessed it, Brexit. And this is happening at a time when both the economic and so-called “refugee crisis” are ongoing for member states like Greece and Italy; that the EU’s main economic and political ally, the United States, is governed by an anti-EU president, and its former enemy, Russia, is actively influencing elections across the EU. And that’s not even mentioning Iran, Israel and Kashmir.
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland wants a deal on an orderly British exit from the European Union but Britain has so far failed to come up with a written plan, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said on Tuesday.
“We in the EU ...are open to a deal but it must achieve the aims of the backstop through a legally operable solution,” Coveney told reporters.
“We await written proposals from the UK side. We simply haven’t seen any written proposals to date.”
Asked about plans to manage the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland - and in particular the location of emergency checks in the event of no-deal - Coveney said he hoped to have clarity on the contentious issue weeks before Britain is due to leave the bloc on October 31.
“We won’t sign up to any (trade) agreement that requires checks with the UK,” he said
“The response will involve checks somewhere. I don’t think they will be near the border.”
PM’s negotiators intent on waiting until last minute before sharing plan with Brussels
Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiators have so far only presented the EU with a draft of the withdrawal agreement with the backstop scrubbed out, UK government sources have confirmed.
In a move that has caused tensions with EU leaders, Johnson’s team are refusing to put forward a written proposal to Brussels at this stage for fear it will be rejected out of hand or publicly rubbished.
Instead, they want to wait until almost the last minute before the October summit before presenting a plan to the EU, with just two weeks before the UK is due to leave the bloc.
The UK government source said the two sides had debated alternatives to the backstop in written discussion documents – such as an all-Ireland regulatory zone and customs checks away from the border – but they would not be putting forward a legal text to the EU at this stage.
There have been reports that David Frost, the UK’s lead negotiator, is keeping a plan locked safe in his briefcase but the wording has not been shared with Brussels.
Frustration with the UK’s approach broke into the open on Monday as Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, gave a press conference next to an empty podium following a meeting with Johnson, who refused to take part because of loud protests nearby. Bettel said the UK government needed to put on paper an alternative to the Irish backstop, and appeared to suggest that party political considerations might be standing in the way.
Boris Johnson has given an undertaking to the supreme court that he will “abide” by any ruling it makes about recalling parliament but a government minister declined to be drawn about whether MPs could be sent away again immediately.
Addressing an emergency hearing of the UK’s highest court, Lord Keen QC, who is a justice minister and one of the two lawyers representing the prime minister, resisted judicial requests for further pledges guaranteeing parliament’s return.
The sometimes testy exchanges between the government’s lawyer and a series of senior supreme court justices came on a day when the political row over Brexit focused on the minutiae of courtroom arguments about Johnson’s advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament for five weeks.
Eleven supreme court justices are sitting for three days to consider appeals from the high court in London and the appeal court in Edinburgh, which reached diametrically opposed views on the lawfulness of Johnson’s actions. The English court ruled it did not have legal authority to examine the prime minister’s decision; the Scottish judges declared he had acted illegally to stifle debate in the Commons.
Before arguments formally opened, Lady Hale, the supreme court president, acknowledged that it had “serious and difficult questions” before it. That was evidenced, she said, “by the fact that three senior judges in Scotland have reached a different conclusion to three senior judges in England and Wales”.
She continued: “The supreme court exists to decide such difficult questions of law and we shall do so in accordance with our judicial oath ...” which declares that the judges will reach their conclusion “without fear or favour, affection or ill will”.
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The hearing, which is due to last three days, continues. The court, which is sitting for the first time ever outside its normal legal terms, is not expected to deliver to deliver its judgment before the end of Thursday at the earliest.
Poland’s ambassador to the UK has written to 800,000 Poles advising them to “seriously consider” returning home and expressed concern about the application process for getting settled status in the UK after Brexit.
Arkady Rzegocki said while the process was straightforward, he was concerned. “Of course, we are concerned about this process a little bit, because there’s 42% of people who received pre-settled status,”he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday.
He added: “So it means that there’s quite a lot of people who have had some problem with receiving settled status.”
He said many Polish people did not realise they had to register as they had lived here for many years.
“Even if they have resident status, they still have to register,” he said.
“There are quite a lot of problems with people trying to receive settled status. People who have been here five or 10 years have also had problems.”
The Polish ambassador had earlier written to his compatriots encouraging them to “seriously consider the possibility of returning to their homeland” post-Brexit. Rzegocki, who has represented Warsaw in the UK since 2016, said Poland “regrets” Britain’s departure from the bloc, scheduled for 31 October.
Ultimatum comes as sources say PM was ‘surprised’ by levels of checks on the border
Boris Johnson has been set a two-week deadline to table a plan for replacing the Irish backstop as further embarrassing details emerged of the prime minister’s chaotic visit to Luxembourg.
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and Finland’s prime minister, Antti Rinne, told reporters in Paris that they were both “concerned about what is happening in Britain”.
“We need to know what the UK is proposing,” said Rinne, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. “Loose talk about proposals for negotiations is irresponsible … The UK should make its possible own proposals very soon if they would like them to be discussed.”
Rinne said: “We both agreed that it is now time for Boris Johnson to produce his own proposals in writing – if they exist. If no proposals are received by the end of September, then it’s over.”
A deadline of 30 September would be highly problematic for the prime minister as it falls on the eve of the Conservative party conference, and it remains to be seen whether the EU will stick to the threat.
Johnson would be wary of showing his hand at such a sensitive point given the potentially negative reaction by his party to any movement towards the EU’s demands on the backstop.
Rinne said that he intended to speak to the European council president, Donald Tusk, and Johnson to discuss the need for swift action from the UK.
EU leaders want a clear run for negotiations before a summit on 17 October so that they need not engage in detailed talks on the issue and can nod through any deal.
Johnson spoke to the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, by phone on Wednesday afternoon. A Downing Street spokesperson said they discussed their continued determination to reach a deal.
They also discussed their lunch meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, which was described as “positive and constructive” during the call.
It emerged earlier in the day that during the lunch meeting Johnson had expressed surprise to his advisers when he was informed about the scale of checks that would still be needed on the island of Ireland under a plan the government has mooted for the Irish border.
Downing Street has described as “nonsense” a report in the Financial Times that Johnson turned to his chief negotiator, David Frost, and the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, and said: “So you’re telling me the SPS plan doesn’t solve the customs problem?”
But senior EU sources confirmed that Johnson had expressed surprise during the lunch at the complexity of the situation, and that it appeared to have been a “bit of a reality check to hear it from EU officials”.
Sources said it was not the case that Johnson had failed to understand the role of the shared customs territory in the Irish backstop but that it was the scale of checks that would still be necessary without such an arrangement that appeared to hit home.
A second EU diplomat confirmed: “When the commission explained the technical challenges and enduring need for customs checks under the UK proposals, Johnson expressed surprise in the direction of his advisers.”
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> Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster indicated yesterday that she might accept a bespoke border solution for Northern Ireland to overcome the backstop problem. Her party has previously resisted having different rules from the rest of the UK.
> There was a neat soundbite at the second day of the supreme court hearing into the prorogation of parliament. Aidan O’Neill QC, a Scottish advocate opposed to the suspension, said Johnson’s government is unworthy of trust because it conspired to ensure that “the mother of parliaments” was closed down by “the father of lies”. It’s the last day of the hearings today.
> Labour MPs and activists are set for their own Brexit battle at next week’s conference in Brighton. Many are unhappy about Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to try to stay neutral on the issue in any election campaign and want the party to commit to a remain stance. The party is also reportedly going to review the language of Tony Blair’s landmark Clause IV reforms next week.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay says UK should be given 'until December 2020' to come up with plan for Irish border
Stephen Barclay said the UK should be given another year to find a new policy for the Northern Ireland border.
"We are told the UK must provide legally operative text by the 31st October," the cabinet minister said in a speech in Madrid on Thursday.
"Yet the alternative to the backstop is not necessary until the end of the Implementation Period in December 2020.
"And this will be shaped by the future relationship – which is still to be determined.
"In short why risk crystallising an undesirable result this November, when both sides can work together – until December 2020.
"In summary, the EU risks continuing to insist on a test that the UK cannot meet and that the UK Parliament has rejected three times."
It comes after Emmanuel Macron and the Finnish presidency of the EU issued an ultimatum in Paris on Wednesday, giving Boris Johnson until the end of September to table workable proposals – or "its over".
The UK is yet to meet EU requests to propose a concrete alternative to the Irish backstop, which Mr Johnson says must be scrapped. EU officials fear they may be "led up the garden path" by British negotiators, who had been visiting the EU capital frequently for talks, but with little sign of actual progress.
A European Commission spokesperson on Thursday afternoon confirmed the UK had sent "some documents" to Brussels ahead of a visit by Mr Barclay to meeting with Michel Barnier, the bloc's chief negotiator, on Friday.
But a UK government spokesperson confirmed that the papers were not a concrete written proposal, telling reporters: “We have been having detailed discussions with the Commission’s taskforce 50 [negotiating team] in recent weeks. We have now shared in written form a series of confidential technical non-papers which reflect the ideas the UK has been putting forward.
Brexit Party MEPs abstained from voting on a European Parliament resolution on Thursday which called on Iran to release imprisoned EU-Iranian nationals, including British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
The resolution called on Iranian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release all dual-nationals and human rights campaigners jailed as political prisoners.
As well as naming Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Iran since April 2016, the resolution also named EU citizens Ahmadreza Djalali and Kamran Ghaderi, who are also being held in Iran.
Despite the Brexit Party’s abstention, the resolution was passed by 608 votes. Seven opposed and 46 abstained.
The Brexit Party has 29 MEPs.