The UK’s departure from the EU would in fact be the starting date for a huge negotiation
It is the title of the Conservative manifesto, plastered on mugs, T-shirts and the Tory battle bus, while Boris Johnson doesn’t miss the chance to say: “Get Brexit Done”. Like an earlier slogan on a bus, Get Brexit Done is deeply misleading: the UK’s departure from the European Union is only the start of a new phase in the Brexit odyssey.
The day after
The day after Brexit the UK will embark on arguably the biggest negotiation of the post-war era: to reconstruct 46 years of trade, security and foreign policy ties with the EU. Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary of the Department for Exiting the EU, told the Guardian: “Obviously it’s going to be a huge negotiation, probably four or five times bigger than the withdrawal agreement negotiation and will absorb a huge amount of government effort.”
Trade is a top priority for both sides. Rycroft, who oversaw post-Brexit planning at DexEU ahead of the original 29 March deadline, said the government had already done a huge amount of work. Some on the EU side wonder whether it will be enough. Lotta Nymann-Lindegren, a former diplomat, who followed Brexit for the Finnish government, said: “The discrepancy between the two sides will be bigger in phase two because the United Kingdom has not negotiated any trade agreements in the past 40 years or so.” That “experience gap” will be “a challenge for the negotiations that will influence how fast we can go”, she added.
On Brexit day, the countdown clocks will reset to a new deadline. If the UK leaves on 31 January, only 11 months remain to hammer out the basics of the future relationship. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, told the Guardian that it would be possible to negotiate a basic free-trade deal in that time.
In private, Brussels is much more sceptical. “Not in my wildest dreams would I imagine that a possibility,” one senior EU diplomat said of the 11-month timetable, citing the difficulties of agreeing a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal if the UK seeks to diverge from EU standards on workers’ rights and environmental protections.
o woo Nigel Farage and Brexit party voters, the prime minister insists that he can negotiate the deal in 11 months, with no extension of the transition period. Labour wants a back-up plan and is pressing to avoid “the trap door to no deal” on 31 December 2020. Under the transition, the UK remains part of the EU single market and customs union, without decision-making power or representation. The government has until 1 July 2020 to agree with the EU a one-off extension of the transition period, until the end of 2021 or 2022.
If the next government seeks to extend the transition, it could soon run into trouble. Aside from a potential political backlash against “vassalage” and the inevitable extra payments to the EU budget that come with a longer transition, a decision on extension risks becoming hostage to a deal on fisheries.
The two sides want to agree future fishing quotas by 1 July 2020. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, once described fisheries as “a lever” in the future negotiations – a sign of how seriously EU governments treat this small, but politically-sensitive industry. EU diplomats do not exclude that a fisheries deal may be a quid pro quo for extending the transition. “Given how France acts now, it’s very likely that they will be a difficult partner,” another senior diplomat told the Guardian.
It’s much more than trade
Both sides want to prioritise security, such as a replacement for the European arrest warrant and access to crime-fighting databases that are used every day by British police. While negotiators share the same goal, the terrain is strewn with political minefields, such as Brussels’ insistence that database access is linked to EU rules on data protection and the oversight of the European court of justice, or Germany’s constitutional ban on extraditing its nationals to non-EU countries.
Beyond trade and security, there is … everything else. The political declaration agreed between Boris Johnson and the EU reveals what lies beneath the tip of the iceberg. The two sides want agreements or cooperation on aviation, carbon pricing, anti-money laundering, illegal migration, data protection, sanctions on rogue states, and much more.
The next Brexit chapter could be more testing for the EU. During phase one, the 27 had a shared interest in seeing the UK pay the Brexit bill and protect the rights of their nationals in the UK. Under phase two, their goals diverge somewhat: “The interests of the EU side are more diverse, whether [they focus on] industrial produce, whether it is the labour force they provide, whether it is fisheries,” suggests Nymann-Lindegren. Other Brussels sources are more optimistic about maintaining unity, suggesting that member states will be united against any attempt by the European commission’s trade department to run the British talks in secret.
What about schools and hospitals?
While British officials are racking up Eurostar miles, the main parties hope to return to the traditional domestic agenda on public services. But political time and capital will be spent on creating a new immigration system, laws on farming and fishing, competition and industry. Before the referendum, British sources predicted Brexit could dominate the annual Queen’s speech for several years after the vote. Under the withdrawal act bill, 46 years of EU law will be copy-pasted on to the UK statute book. “It would be very odd if the conclusion of all of that is we are not going to do anything about it,” Rycroft said. “It rather obviates the point of coming out.”
Just as the laws are repatriated, so are the controversies, especially over issues such as farm subsidies, GM crops or state aid. An extra layer of complexity will be tussles between Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast (if the Stormont assembly sits) over who gets to repatriate powers from the EU.
Looking for Global Britain
So far, the government has managed to negotiate 18 “continuity” deals covering 48 countries and 8% of UK trade, according to the BBC. But these deals simply rollover existing agreements the UK enjoys as an EU member. For Brexiters, the prize is new trade deals, although the government’s own analysis shows that gains will be marginal at best. Looking at these “speculative” gains in the middle distance, the UK’s former ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, has said: “There is just an immense volume of technical work, even to aim to stand still, not roll backwards, in the next few years.”
The saga of withdrawal has obscured the debate on what Brexit means. EU officials worry that there is no British consensus on the post-Brexit future: whether it is a distant Canada-style free trade deal favoured by Boris Johnson, or the closer ties sought by Labour. Without consensus at Westminster, negotiations in Brussels could soon get stuck again. “The UK needs to have a majority for a vision of Brexit,” the senior diplomat said. “Otherwise we face the same problem. They need to know what their aim is.”
Donald Trump’s verbal grenade lobbed into the British campaign was a reminder that the UK has a choice: to follow European standards or embrace US regulatory norms. It is the chlorinated chicken conundrum: if the UK chooses to allow imports of US chlorine-washed chicken (and other produce) it will face much tighter controls on the food it can export to the EU, as well as price pressure on British farmers. There is no middle way between regulatory superpowers.
Those unanswered questions are why those who were involved in withdrawal hope that Brexit will be at the centre of the campaign. “I don’t think the public is ready for [phase two],” Rycroft said. He hopes that politicians “will level up with the public and give them a clear intention of what is coming down the track, because this story is by no means at an end”.
he government has removed the EU emblem and its 12 gold stars from British disabled drivers’ parking badges even though the UK has not left the bloc, it has emerged.
The move comes months after the row over the government decision to remove the words “European Union” from British passports.
It has caused concern among disabled drivers who fear their blue badges will no longer be accepted in the EU because of the absence of the stars, which demonstrate the car driver has EU rights. The Department for Transport has refused to say when it removed the stars, who took the decision or why it was deemed appropriate.
The DfT has claimed it is barred from disclosing such details because it would breach purdah rules that bar civil servants from releasing any information that could influence the general election.
Blue badge holders say they are worried it means the badge will no longer be valid for holidays in Europe.
The old blue badge was emblazoned with the letters “UK” encircled by 12 gold stars on a blue background, the symbol of the EU. This has been issued to approximately 2.5 million people in the UK to limit the amount of walking between their vehicle and their destination.
The new badge retains the blue background but is stripped of stars and the words “European communities model”.
A spokesman for the DfT said they could not answer questions on the matter but confirmed the redesign. “The new blue badge design was rolled out earlier this year. These badges are still valid in the EU,” he said.
Asked if the badges were valid in the EU in a deal situation, or a no-deal situation, the DfT declined to answer, citing purdah rules.
An independent Scotland could rejoin the EU on a "relatively quick" timescale, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The Scottish first minister and SNP leader wants a new referendum on independence to be held in 2020, and is also opposed to the UK leaving the EU.
She told the BBC that Scotland would be "seeking a way back in" to the EU if Brexit happened.
The Conservatives have claimed that a Labour government backed by SNP votes would lead to two referendums in 2020.
The SNP leader was taking part in a special interview with Andrew Neil as part of the build-up to the snap general election on 12 December.
Ms Sturgeon has said her SNP MPs could potentially help to put Mr Corbyn in Downing Street in the event of a hung parliament, but said the Labour leader must first accept the "fundamental principle" that an independence referendum should be "in Scotland's hands".
She told Mr Neil that she would always back a new, UK-wide EU referendum but said there was "no guarantee that fixes the problem for Scotland", as "we could end up with exactly the same result we had in 2016" - with a majority in Scotland backing Remain, while the UK as a whole votes to Leave.
Questioned about how swiftly an independent Scotland could re-enter the EU, Ms Sturgeon said she did not want to set out a "specific timescale", but said talks she had had previously meant she thought it would be "relatively quick".
She explained: "We understand the conditions we would require to meet, and the discussions that would require to take place. But if we're in a position of Scotland being taken out of the European Union then we will be seeking a way back in."
The SNP currently plan to have Scotland continue to use the pound in the years immediately after independence, before establishing a new currency after a series of stringent economic tests are met.
Challenged on whether Scotland could join the EU while using the currency of a non-member state, Ms Sturgeon said this was possible.
She said: "We would be setting up a central bank, the infrastructure that is required for that, that is part of the discussion we would have with the EU, but it is not true to say we would have had to establish an independent currency before joining the European Union."
The MSP added: "We would have a discussion with the EU about the journey an independent Scotland was on in terms of currency, and the accession if Scotland was already out of the EU to the point where we rejoined the EU.
"Scotland faces right now the uncertainty of being ripped out of the EU against our own will. It's not of our making. And we need to plot the best way forward for our country where we are in charge of the decision that we make."
Ms Sturgeon also said an independent Scotland would "aspire to run a surplus" through faster economic growth, which she said would be aided by remaining in or returning to the EU.
Pressed on trade friction if Scotland was inside the EU and the rest of the UK was not, Ms Sturgeon said it was "a priority" to ensure smooth movement of goods and services.
She said: "We don't yet know what the UK's final relationship with the EU will be. Once we have clarity on that we have to understand the implications and set out clearly how we deal with those, in order to keep trade flowing between Scotland and England, which is in our interests and in the interests of the rest of the UK.
"It is also in our interests to stay in the single market, which is eight times the size of the UK market. The experience of Ireland, albeit at a different time in history, is when they combined independence with membership of the EU, their exports to the EU grew and they became more prosperous. That's the best of both worlds I believe Scotland can attain."
The British car industry has delivered a bleak warning over the danger of a no-deal Brexit, saying it would devastate UK motor manufacturing at a cost of more than £40bn in lost production by 2024.
About 1.5m fewer cars would be produced by British factories in the next five years, manufacturers warned, should the industry fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules – whether in a direct no-deal Brexit or at the end of the transition period in Boris Johnson’s withdrawal deal.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that new independent research showed tariffs could add £3.2bn a year to costs in Britain, equivalent to 90% of the industry’s research and development budget.
It said a combination of falling demand and global firms shifting production elsewhere would involve UK factories’ annual output falling to 1m vehicles per year, from 1.3m now. Before the EU referendum, output was rising, peaking in 2016 at 1.7m, and the industry was predicting that more than 2m cars would be rolling off UK production lines by 2020.
The SMMT warned that the cumulative cost by 2024 would be £42.7bn and that thousands of jobs would be at a risk without a Brexit deal. The sector employs 168,000 people in Britain, paying typically 21% more than the UK average wage.
This is the spectacular moment a Brexit Party MEP fell headfirst into a trap of his own creation during a debate in the European Parliament about the economic impacts of Brexit.
After hearing evidence from Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato on the economic risks of implementing prime minister Boris Johnson‘s post-Brexit trade deal strategy and the huge cost of failing to recognise the climate crisis, Brexit Party MEP Richard Rowland questioned Ms Scott-Cato’s authority on the subject.
Standing in the chamber, he said: “I’d just like to ask Ms Scott Cato what empirical proof she has that the end of the transition period, when we will be leaving the European Union, hopefully on a ‘Canada plus’-style trade deal, will result in a cliff-edge – when as far as I’m aware she does not have any degree in economics.
“Maybe she has some business experience that would give some empirical proof that that would be the case?”
He added: “So I was wondering whether you could answer that question of why you’re so certain that the United Kingdom will suffer as a result.”
To Mr Rowland’s instant humiliation, Ms Cato-Scott replied: “Obviously you haven’t been paying much attention to my CV because I was and I remain a professor of economics.”
Her response was applauded in parliament as she continued: “I also have expertise in trade policy and have been studying the trade negotiations from the beginning. I rely on the expertise of other trade experts, all of whom have said it takes much longer than the time available to negotiate a treaty.
“The likelihood is, if we go ahead with Boris Johnson’s deal, we will end up in exactly the same crisis, facing a no-deal Brexit at the end of 2020.”
Her riposte prompted further applause from other MEPs, and Mr Rowley appeared to laugh.
“I think Mr Rowland stands corrected,” said the chair, Mairead McGuinness.
Ms Cato Scott is professor of economics at Roehampton University in London, and sits on the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.
She is currently the finance spokesperson for the Green Party.
The Scots could decide the outcome of Britain’s election next month, the future of Brexit and maybe even the survival of the United Kingdom.
GLASGOW — Pushing purposefully through the crowd, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, stops abruptly, her path blocked by a well-wisher cradling a photogenic 5-month-old. Without hesitation, Ms. Sturgeon gathers the baby smoothly in her arms and slowly plants a kiss on his forehead, as the cameras click in unison.
Seen by many as Britain’s most effective party leader, Ms. Sturgeon is not even running in the Dec. 12 general election because she sits in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, not the British one at Westminster.
But as leader of the buoyant pro-independence and anti-Brexit Scottish National Party, she is the face of its campaign for Scotland’s 59 parliamentary seats in Westminster. The success of that campaign could determine whether Britain leaves the European Union in January — and, if it does, whether the United Kingdom survives the rupture.
At a recent and well orchestrated visit to a charity in a gritty part of Glasgow, Ms. Sturgeon was everywhere, helping out at a numeracy class, performing a gym workout and, in the kitchen, ladling out bowls of thick lentil soup.
Sign up for The Interpreter
Subscribe for original insights, commentary and discussions on the major news stories of the week, from columnists Max Fisher and Amanda Taub.
“This is definitely the most important general election we have had in Scotland in my lifetime because the future of our country is on the line,” she said once the food was served. “We are at a crossroads, and the outcome of this election will decide which path we go down and who decides our future.”
According to opinion polls, the Scottish National Party, which already holds 35 of Scotland’s British parliamentary seats, is poised to gain even more. If it takes enough votes from the Conservative Party, which holds 13 seats there, it could deprive Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the majority he needs to pursue Brexit.
If that were to happen, it could make Ms. Sturgeon a kingmaker, and her price for supporting a minority Labour government could be permission from that government to allow Scotland to hold another independence referendum. Scotland rejected independence in 2014, but Brexit has scrambled its politics since then.
Not so long ago, Labour was a dominant force in Scotland. But Ms. Sturgeon, who became party leader in 2014, scored a dramatic victory in the 2015 general election, when her party won all but three Scottish parliamentary seats. Some were then lost in a snap election two years ago.
While she has faced criticism over the quality of Scottish health and education, Ms. Sturgeon’s success is a symbol of how Scotland is diverging politically from England. Mr. Johnson’s pledge to “get Brexit done” has struck a chord with many there but often falls flat north of the border.
His shambling, confected upper-class English persona tends to go down badly with Scots, a majority of whom voted against Brexit in the 2016 referendum. And while Brexit is a critical political battleground in Scotland, for many it pales before the issue of Scottish independence.
Scots seem to be losing faith in their centuries-old union with England, with one recent survey showing that less than half of those polled said they thought the United Kingdom would survive in its current form for the next five years, and less than a third expressed confidence that it would do so for the next decade.
“The ties that bind us together have weakened,” said Henry McLeish, a former first minister of Scotland and Labour Party politician. “If we weren’t part of the U.K. right now, would we want to join? I don’t think so.”
To advance her cause, Ms. Sturgeon’s party must win seats like Stirling, a large constituency with affluent towns, working-class communities and villages, where the fate of Scotland was determined in earlier times: at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, when William Wallace routed the English, and at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, when England’s Edward II was defeated.
So steeped is this place in history that the local Conservative Party’s motto is the old saying, “He who holds Stirling holds Scotland.”
Yet the Tories’ grip on Stirling could scarcely be more tenuous: They took the seat from the Scottish National Party in 2017 by just 148 votes. Mr. Johnson’s machinations to achieve Brexit have not added to their popularity there, but the situation is fluid, given the political crosscurrents of Brexit and the independence issue.
Knocking doors in Bannockburn, the Scottish National Party candidate, Alyn Smith, says his priority is to “stop Brexit and to focus on the things that matter to people here,” adding that Scots had lost faith in what they thought was a partnership of equals.
“The Brexit vote has brought home to a number of people that the U.K. doesn’t work the way you thought it does,” Mr. Smith said, as he tried to persuade voters to open their doors on a dark, cold and rainy evening.
... ... ...
Professor cited by No 10 adviser says Brexit would mean ‘very damaging political chaos’
An academic whose research was championed by the prime minister’s key adviser Dominic Cummings has revealed he voted remain in the EU referendum and has hit out at the Conservatives’ Brexit plans.
Cummings endorsed the economic analysis of the University of Sheffield’s Prof Richard Jones in a blogpost on Wednesday in which he said he was sending out a “bat signal” to Brexit supporters that the general election was tighter than polls suggested. Cummings urged Brexiters to persuade their friends to vote Tory to avoid a hung parliament.
Jones told the Guardian that his research paper about the “resurgence of the regions” was “hardly a great endorsement for the last nine and a half years of Conservative-led government” and that he voted remain in 2016, fearing that leaving the EU would “result in a period of very damaging political chaos for the UK”.
Though he welcomed Cummings’ endorsement of his work, Jones expressed concern about the damaging consequences of Brexit. “I can’t say that subsequent events have made me think I was wrong on that,” he said.
The blogpost by Cummings, who was the architect of the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, railed against a potential Labour-led coalition with the SNP, which he said would “cheat a second referendum with millions of foreign votes”.
Cummings added a PS mention for Jones’s work, writing: “If you’re interested in ideas about how the new government could really change our economy for the better, making it more productive and fairer, you’ll find this paper interesting. It has many ideas about long-term productivity, science, technology, how to help regions outside the south-east and so on.”
Jones, a professor at Sheffield’s department of physics and astronomy, said: “Post-Brexit we’ll need to stay close to Europe in matters such as scientific cooperation … and in matters related to nuclear technology. We will need to be a country that welcomes talented people from overseas and provides an attractive destination for overseas investment. It doesn’t look like that’s the direction of travel the Conservatives are currently going down.”
Jones was tight-lipped on his voting intention in the election. He disclosed that he had attended a meeting about science funding at No 10 in September after an invitation from Cummings, who had got in touch after reading his blog in June. Cummings fleetingly attended the meeting, Jones recalled, but he had no “one-on-one dialogue with him”.
Jones said: “I think the analysis of the UK’s current economic weaknesses is important. I single out the terrible record of productivity growth since the financial crisis, the consequences of that in terms of flat-lining wages, the role of the weak economy in the fiscal difficulties the government has in balancing the books, (as others have done) and the profound regional disparities in economic performance across the country.
“I’d like to think that Cummings shares this analysis. The persistence of these problems, though, is hardly a great endorsement for the last nine and a half years of Conservative-led government.”
He called for radical changes in the economy, adding: “I think science and innovation is going to be important for this, and clearly Cummings thinks that too. I also offer some concrete suggestions for how the government needs to be more involved in driving innovation – especially in the urgent problem we have of decarbonising our energy supply to meet the target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“It’s good that the Conservative party has signed up to a 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas target, but the scale of the measures it proposes are disappointingly timid.”
Exclusive: Julian King reflects on his departure, which marks the end of a chapter in the UK’s relationship with the EU
The cardboard boxes are packed and the photograph of the Queen is in bubble wrap. After a slight delay to Julian King’s scheduled departure day on 29 March, the 15th British commissioner to take a seat in the EU’s executive branch, and most likely the last, will at midday on Friday walk out of the European commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels with his belongings under his arm – including a couple of EU-branded cushions given by an impish Jean-Claude Juncker.
The commission president had them delivered to King’s office after being unimpressed to learn of the union jack soft furnishings scattered on the Briton’s office sofa. “He is a good man,” King says fondly of Juncker. “I shall miss being hugged by my boss and even getting the occasional kiss.
Should Boris Johnson win a parliamentary majority in the early hours of 13 December, King’s exit will mark the end of a chapter in Britain’s relationship with the institutions of the European Union that began on the UK’s accession to the European Economic Community in 1973 and the dispatch of Winston Churchill’s son-in-law to sit at Brussels’ top table.
The former Labour chancellor Roy Jenkins went on to lead the commission between 1977 and 1981. The Conservative cabinet minister Arthur Cockfield laid the foundations of today’s single market in the late 1980s and major political figures, including Leon Brittan, Neil Kinnock, Peter Mandelson and Chris Patten, played their roles through the decades as the UK shifted its focus from the old empire to a European partnership. The Labour peer Cathy Ashton was the first leader of the EU’s foreign affairs wing.
But there is a new commission from this weekend, and the UK has not put forward a representative. The country’s place in the project is in its denouement.
“And let’s be honest, it is not quite the pomp and ceremony of [Chris Patten] leaving Hong Kong,” King admitted, ahead of departing his bare office. “It is a lot more Saigon than Hong Kong, it really is. But it is a moment.”
A career diplomat rather than a politician, King was not dealt an easy hand when strong-armed into leaving his post as ambassador to France in September 2016.
He took over from Jonathan Hill, who had resigned as the commission’s financial services chief, at a time of high emotion and even anger in EU capitals in the immediate wake of the Brexit referendum.
“[Juncker] said: ‘This is going to be difficult,’” King explained. “He said: ‘Look, there are quite a few people who are saying: “Why are we having a Brit? And if we have got to have a Brit, put them in a cupboard.” But I am not going to do that. We are going to do this properly.’”
King was given the security brief, a new but increasingly significant portfolio following terror attacks in Paris and in the Belgian capital.
The rise of cybercrime and the need to defend Europe’s future 5G network kept him occupied through the UK’s three Brexit extensions. “The last thing you wanted to be was hanging around like the ghost at the feast.”
He also made one eye-catching intervention in British politics when Johnson dismissed as “humbug” the claims of female politicians that they were endangered by a hardening of the political rhetoric. “Crass and dangerous,” King had tweeted. “If you think extreme language doesn’t fuel political violence across Europe, including UK, then you’re not paying attention.”
“I think you have to say if something is causing a problem,” King said. “So my observation was just that there is a link between the nature of mainstream political discourse and some of the ways that can be used and abused by more extreme opinion, and I stand by that. I always did my job.”
King, previously ambassador to Ireland and one-time director general of the Northern Ireland Office, had no role to play in Brexit negotiations. But his advice was privately sought by Juncker during the commissioners’ discussions with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, as to “what was behind a particular position and how different things were going to land if the commission took particular positions”.
“Maybe that was helpful. I don’t know,” King said. “The historians will no doubt trawl all over this.”
He certainly has views and concerns about the next chapter. The danger is that fundamental issues such as security and police cooperation could be left by the wayside in the rush for the political prize of a trade deal, he suggests.
“Clearly, there is a very strong political impulse in the next stage as set out by the prime minister to move quickly, very quickly, in discussions on goods, especially. There is a certain amount of discussion about whether you can do a trade deal in 12 months – of course you can do something in 12 months. The question is what is it?”
However those coming negotiations play out, the UK will not be leading in the EU’s decision-making bodies. King’s suite of offices is to be taken over by Thierry Breton, the French businessman chosen by Emmanuel Macron to oversee the internal market. Different political cultures are in the ascendancy.
“He came round the other day for a look – I wasn’t here but some of the others were – and the first thing he said was: ‘I am not having all that glass,’” King said of the clear wall that had once allowed visitors a view of his offices from the corridor. “He said: ‘Oh, no, no. We are not having that. That’s far too much transparency.’ I came back this morning and there is a wall.”
As for King, he is going to have that holiday he booked for 29 March. “You don’t have regrets – you move on.”
Asked if Washington would be free to “jack up prices”, the Foreign Secretary replied: “The Americans will take their decisions.”
He then claimed: “I think it’s hugely unlikely, why would they do that?” – prompting Sky News interviewer Adam Boulton to say: “To get money that’s why.”
The comments come after documents released by Labour revealed that drug pricing has been =iscussed by US and UK negotiators in exploratory talks.
Boris Johnson has left the door open to coming out of the EU on World Trade Organization terms next year, after his foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said it was “absolutely” right to keep a no-deal outcome on the table in trade talks.
The prime minister was grilled about Raab’s statement after his cabinet minister appeared to let slip the government’s negotiating plans in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday.
Johnson shook his head as it was mentioned but then three times declined the opportunity to refute Raab’s position or to tell businesses to stop theirno-deal planning.
Asked if businesses should continue spending money getting ready for no deal, he said: “We have a great deal. It’s going to allow us to come out smoothly and efficiently on 31 January.”
Pressed that it was actually 31 December 2020 when the danger of no deal occurs, he simply repeated: “We have a great deal that will allow us to come out of the EU smoothly.”
Asked again whether he would advise companies to cease no-deal preparations, he parroted the same line: “We have a great deal which will allow us to come out smoothly, efficiently, seamlessly on 31 January.”
Johnson’s words will fuel suspicion that the prime minister still intends to use the threat of leaving transitional arrangements on World Trade Organization terms at the end of 2020 as leverage in trade talks with the EU.
Last week, he defended the continuation of no-deal preparations, saying they were “thoroughly useful in many ways” and arguing that it was right for businesses to “keep in a state of readiness”.
The prime minister has repeatedly stressed that he believes a trade agreement with the EU can be done by the end of 2020 and the Tory manifesto commits to ending transitional arrangements at that point. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that he is also not ruling out leaving on WTO terms if no deal has been done, rather than extending the transition period.
Both Philip Hammond and David Gauke, two former Treasury ministers who were kicked out of the party by Johnson, have warned that the UK could sleepwalk towards a no-deal Brexit in 2020 despite the prime minister having secured a withdrawal agreement.
At the time of the last vote on Johnson’s deal, John Baron, a member of the European Research Group (ERG), appeared to claim that two cabinet ministers – Michael Gove and Dominic Raab – had told him that a no-deal exit was possible if trade talks failed.
Johnson wriggled over the questions about a no-deal Brexit as he appeared at a veterans’ facility in Salisbury in Wiltshire.
The immediate catalyst for our current chaos lies in the reckless strand of conservatism that now dominates the Tory party, thanks to the crisis of Brexit and the opportunism of Boris Johnson. The mentality of this new right is one that is hostile to the very idea of “neutral” or “independent” institutions as checks on power; they are viewed as sclerotic and self-interested. Much has been written about the philosophy of Dominic Cummings in this respect, but it was Michael Gove who elevated Cummings in the first place – and who is now sowing confusion and disinformation in the media as enthusiastically as anyone.
The entire Conservative election platform hangs on the idea that parliament and Whitehall are betraying “the people” – that is, they are pursuing their own political agenda. In this view, everyone has already picked a side – and if you refuse to state your choice, you are marked as leftwing, probably a remainer, and potentially disloyal to Britain.
One of the cornerstones of liberal politics, dating back to the Enlightenment, is the idea of a “separation of powers”. This typically refers to the tripartite system of government, separating executive, legislature and judiciary, on which the US constitution was built. But liberalism depends on other varieties of separation, or at least their appearance. It assumes, for instance, that “the economy” is relatively separate from “the state”. To most liberals, even the concentration of power in specific institutions – such as large corporations – is acceptable so long as that power is contested by rivals. What is fatal for liberalism, however, is the semblance of a single, undivided power bloc, or the emergence of one centre of power that dominates all others.
Without some distinction between rival centres of power, public decision-making cannot possibly be described as “fair” or “independent”. Only if judges retain their distance from parliamentary politics, for example, can their judgments be perceived as disinterested. By the same token, the BBC can perform its role in providing an “impartial” account of political events only if its distance from party politics is defended and respected. But a key tactic of the new conservatism is to mock the very idea of “fairness”, toying with it to the point where it becomes merely cosmetic – as when the Conservative Twitter account was rebranded as factcheckUK.
Brexit isn’t the cause of this slow collapse, so much as its most disruptive consequence. But it is also an accelerator. Brexit is what you believe in once you’ve come to see public life as a game played by insiders. And the reason you come to that conclusion is partly because it contains some truth. The more dubious government, party politics and media appear, the more seductive Brexit grows, and the deeper Johnson’s support becomes. Downing Street understands this, which is why it is determined to make public life look as dubious as possible.
Brexit isn’t the cause of this slow collapse, so much as its most disruptive consequence. But it is also an accelerator. Brexit is what you believe in once you’ve come to see public life as a game played by insiders
EU leaders will spell out their plans for potentially years more Brexit talks on the day after the general election, a leaked internal documents seen by The Independent shows.
Far from "getting Brexit done", as Boris Johnson's campaign slogan would have it, the leaders are set to warn of a new ticking clock with a fresh round of negotiations strongly resembling the last three years.
In a striking deja vu, the leak shows the leaders are to confirm that Michel Barnier will reprise his role as chief negotiator, that there would be no side deals with individual member states, and that the issue would come to a head at a string of make-or-break EU summits.
A new no-deal cliff edge would also see the UK potentially leave without a trade agreement to replace the EU's single market at the end of 2020 – with possible extensions, as now.
The EU's 27 presidents and prime ministers will meet in Brussels for a summit on election day, when they will formally confirm the plans, which have already been drawn up by diplomats and officials behind the scenes. If previous summits are a guide, the final version is likely to be published either late on December 12 after the close of polls in the UK, or the next day, December 13. Downing Street has already confirmed Mr Johnson will not attend the meeting to focus on the election.
The leaked draft European Council conclusions seen by The Independent, which are marked as classified information level "LIMITE" or restricted, say that "negotiations should be organised in a way that makes the best possible use of the limited time available for negotiation and ratification by the end of the transition".
The transition period is set to end next December but is extendable for years beyond that with the consent of the EU. The Government says it will not extend the transition, but has also said this prior to every extension of Brexit negotiations and always extended them.
They also add: "The European Council welcomes the Commission's decision to reappoint Michel Barnier for the negotiations on the future relationship. The negotiations will continue to take place in a coherent manner and in a spirit of unity and transparency with all Member States. The negotiations will be conducted in continuous coordination and permanent dialogue with the Council and its preparatory bodies.
"The European Council will follow negotiations closely and agree further general political directions as necessary. Between European Council meetings, the General Affairs Council and Coreper, assisted by a dedicated Working Party, will ensure that the negotiations are conducted in line with the overall positions and principles agreed by the European Council as well as the Council's negotiating mandate, and provide further guidance as necessary."
The plans contradict the claim that Brexit would be "done" in January if the government can pass its withdrawal agreement – with potentially years of further talks ahead.
Mr Johnson however stuck to his campaign slogan on Wednesday, telling a press conference: "We have a deal that will enable us as a Conservative government to get Brexit done by the end of January and that will allow us to get on with the things that we really care about ... there is a fantastic future ahead of us if we can get Brexit done and move forward!"
He said not electing a Tory government would lead to a "groundhog day of more paralysis and chaos".
Luisa Porritt, a Liberal Democrat MEP, told The Independent: "This leak proves the Tory pledge to 'get Brexit done' is a fallacy. Within 24 hours of a Johnson victory, we will be locked into a panicked negotiation about our economic future with 27 of our largest trading partners, with the clock ticking down.
"Mr Johnson has not been honest about the horrors that lie ahead of us if his botched Brexit deal is allowed to proceed. The only way to get Brexit done is to stop Johnson from getting a majority and put the decision about Britain's membership of the EU back to the people for a final say."
You're the exact illustration of what Walt's post was about: politically paranoid
unable to trust, and oblivious of facts.
For you politics are just one big lie
Trump, Farrage, Putin, Bolsenaro... -- are your favorite politicians
Exclusive: Donald Tusk says it would still be better for both sides if UK stayed in EU
Brexit has been “one of the most spectacular mistakes” in the history of the EU and followed a campaign marked by “an unprecedented readiness to lie”, Donald Tusk has said.
In his first interview since standing down as European council president last week, Tusk said Brexit was “the most painful and saddest experience” of his five years in office, a tumultuous period marked by the Greek eurozone crisis, bitter rows over migration and the election of Donald Trump.
He also criticised the French president, Emmanuel Macron, for branding Nato “brain-dead” and refusing to open EU membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
“If we want to treat Macron as a future leader for the whole of Europe, in a political sense, then for this we need a politician who feels more responsible for the EU as a whole and not only for France,” Tusk said.
The unabashed anglophile, who recently said he would “in my heart always be a remainer”, put himself at odds with other EU leaders by declaring it would still be better for both sides if Brexit did not happen. Many EU diplomats fear any second referendum leading to a remain result would mean festering divisions in the UK that would block the EU from making decisions – a view Tusk strongly rejected.
“The only difference would be that they [the UK] will still be here. They will be divided anyway: 50/50,” he said. “It’s pure illusion [to think] that it is easier to build good relations with the UK when they are outside.”
He blamed the former prime minister David Cameron for the “mistake” of organising the referendum that “he had no chance to win”. Tusk also revealed that when the two men spoke the morning after the vote, he still hoped the decision could be undone.
“I asked him: ‘Is it a decision, is it an obligation to follow this result?’” When Cameron made plain it was, Tusk said he continued to hope. “My intention was to at least prolong the whole debate in Europe and also in the UK. With this, maybe [it was] a little bit naive [to] hope that it could be reversible.”
Tusk said he predicted the leave victory “two or three months before the referendum” when he visited friends in Bath, who told him they were torn over their decision.
A former Solidarity activist who was briefly jailed by Poland’s Soviet-controlled communist government, Tusk was the prime minister of Poland before he became European council president in 2014. In that role chairing EU summits, he found it painful to be “more a chairman than a leader” and felt frustrated that he “restrained” himself from campaigning in the UK.
He has been one of the EU’s most outspoken leaders, a trait he shares with the French president. Tusk described Macron as “a hope for the future of Europe” and a true friend, but said he had problems with his “very new ideas and opinions”. As well as Macron’s comments on Nato, Tusk also objected to Macron’s rapprochement towards Russia, saying he was “disoriented” by this new narrative.
The council president said he was really proud of having once been labelled “a monomaniac” about Russia by a Belgian newspaper. His term began soon after the EU agreed sanctions against Russia, following the annexation of Crimea and incursions into eastern Ukraine.
“If we are not able to protect the Ukraine against Russian aggression it will not only be a problem for Ukraine but for Europe as a whole. My hope was that Emmanuel Macron would also be very consistent here.”
Tusk, who prides himself on his knowledge of European history, was also critical of Macron’s refusal to open talks with North Macedonia and Albania. The French “non” has plunged leaders in the region into despair, including North Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, who faced down nationalists to end a long-running name dispute with Greece.
“I think it was just strategically and politically a huge mistake to say no … after so many efforts and sacrifices, especially in Skopje.”
He said Europe would be less secure as a result of the decision, echoing arguments in the region that uncertainty about a European future risked triggering instability.
He compared Macron unfavourably to Angela Merkel, who has championed integration with six western Balkan nations. “Her unique advantage was to be always ready to think about Europe as a whole. And [to be] ready to sacrifice some internal or national interest to protect Europe as a whole.”
But migration is still “the biggest problem” the EU faces, as a result of historically large numbers seeking asylum or work in Europe. Tusk said it was “presently unsolvable”, adding: “This new version of migration, the numbers, the determination of the people who want to come to Europe, it is something really new but also a permanent situation for the future.”
Tusk was speaking to the Guardian and six other European newspapers on the second day of his job as president of the European People’s party (EPP), the centre-right bloc that includes the political forces of the German chancellor and Jean-Claude Juncker.
One of his most urgent tasks will be to decide whether Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party remains in the EPP. After years of foot dragging, EPP leaders set up an inquiry into the rule of law in Hungary, amid growing concern about pressure on independent media, restrictions on NGOs and Orbán’s use of the EU as “a cash register” to channel lucrative contracts to his friends and family.
Tusk said he planned to issue a recommendation in February, after the inquiry team reported later this month. “It’s for Orbán to decide if wants to be part of this world of values or not,” Tusk said. “This decision should not wait another two years.”
He said the biggest threat to the EU came from governments, such as Poland and Hungary, that “don’t want to treat our values seriously” while getting all the benefits of the EU. But he does not think Brussels should have more powers to tackle this problem: “Without goodwill we have no chance to survive,” he said. “But this is also the beauty of the EU.”
He stressed the threat to liberal democracy was a bigger problem.
Citing the 2016 US presidential race and the Brexit campaign, he said a new element in politics was “the unprecedented readiness to lie on almost everything … to treat a lie as a justifiable tool to win”. He said this “shameless” behaviour would have disqualified politicians only 10 years ago.
Asked by the Guardian to specify who he had in mind, Tusk replied: “I don’t want to be too spectacular in my first interview … I have enough problems in my own country with professional and pathological liars.”
Boris Johnson wants the agreement inked within a tight 11-month deadline
Business believes it is more important for the government to get the UK’s post-Brexit trade relationship with the EU right than to get a deal done quickly, according to a new survey.
The findings emerged as the Institute of Directors issued a plea to whichever party wins next week’s general election for clarity on its negotiating objectives for what the group said would be “choppy trade waters” in the period after the planned Brexit date of 31 January.
Crucially, the group said the incoming administration should review the new Digital Services Tax due to be imposed on tech firms from April, in the wake of US threats of retaliatory tariffs in response to a similar levy in France.
Mr Johnson has set a hard deadline of 31 December 2020 in the Conservative manifesto for the completion of talks on the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU, reviving fears of a no-deal departure under unfavourable World Trade Organisation terms.
The 11-month timetable is significantly shorter than usually required for comparable free trade agreements (FTAs) and senior EU negotiator Sabine Weyand has said it will not be possible to achieve anything more than a “bare bones” deal by the deadline.
In a poll of more than 1,000 business leaders for the IoD, more than half (55 per cent) said that their priority for any negotiations with the EU following the 31 January date of Brexit was “the terms and content of the final deal”.
By comparison, fewer than one-third (31 per cent) said the most important issue was “how long it takes for these negotiations to conclude”.
Mr Johnson insists it will be possible to conclude an ambitious FTA by the December deadline, but has declined to say whether he would advise businesses to cease preparations for a possible no-deal crash-out at the end of 2020.
The IoD said that any government taking office next week should commit to publishing negotiating objectives well in advance of all new trade talks.
And it said companies must be given a sufficient adjustment period before any new relationship with the EU comes into effect.
The IoD’s head of Europe and trade policy Allie Renison said: “While it’s impossible to know at this point how Brexit will turn out, business needs a number of commitments from the next government to help navigate its way through choppy trade waters ahead.
“Understanding the exact nature of how arrangements with the EU may change is critical for companies, and our data clearly shows that getting a workable deal after Brexit is more important to business leaders than simply how long it takes to get there.
“We’ve had heard much talk of the idea of ‘global Britain’, with little focus so far on the concrete, bread-and-butter issues that are needed to deliver the UK’s international ambitions. The ideas we lay out aim to bring the discussion back to basics of what business needs to safeguard and expand their international footprint – with the EU and beyond.”
The IoD surveyed 1,008 business leaders between 19 and 29 November.