Boris Johnson will welcome the new EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to Downing Street today for what will effectively be the opening skirmishes of the post-Brexit trade and security talks. How well they get on (or don’t) could determine the direction of these negotiations over the next 12 months and whether it will be possible to conclude an agreement by December 31 as the Prime Minister wants.
As we report today, there are some early signs of potential trouble ahead. A tweak to the legislation before Parliament to enact the Withdrawal Agreement has alarmed the EU. This concerns an independent authority to be set up to oversee the implementation and application of EU citizens’ rights….
No terrible beauty awaits Northern Ireland, only a jumble of opposites. On our current course, reunification of north and south seems increasingly possible, if not probable.
Brexit. The fraying union. Indeed, even the most recent general election: for the first time in the history of Stormont a nationalist majority has been returned to the devolved assembly. All of these forces have whipped up a perfect storm, the likes of which the province is wholly unprepared.
It has been almost two years since the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal cost the public purse £500 million and sunk the power-sharing government – and yet no solution is in sight.
“The consequences of Stormont not getting back up and…
Britain will now be free to govern itself, united by a patriotism that crosses the class and ethnic divides
Yesterday morning, parents of children at a school in London received an email which began: “Sometimes, things happen in the wider world, in the country … that can be difficult to understand.” It went on to explain that while it was good for children to talk to “trusted adults” about “things that worry us”, it was important that “we won’t talk about negative events to other children”. Although the email did not say so, the “negative event” here referred to was the result of Thursday’s general election.
What the teachers wanted to keep from their sensitive charges was the fact that democracy…
With the right incentives, the UK exit timetable could still be achieved
The UK’s imminent departure from the EU on Jan 31 is by no means the end of the Brexit process. There is still the matter of securing a trade deal by the end of next year, with leaders of the 27 member states meeting in Brussels today to discuss the mandate for the negotiations.
Boris Johnson has insisted there will be no further extension if the talks are not concluded by Dec 31 2020 but Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, says this is impossible. “It is unrealistic that a global negotiation can be done in 11 months, so we can’t do it all. We will do all we can to get what I call the ‘vital minimum’ to establish a relationship with the UK if that is the time scale.”
This was seized on by Mr Johnson’s detractors as evidence of his mendacity, yet it is apparent from Mr Barnier’s remarks that the EU will endeavour to do as much as it can by the deadline. The draft mandate for the future relationship talks specifies that they 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.” Moreover, the UK and the EU begin the negotiations with Britain still in a transition phase and with arrangements already aligned.
There is another incentive for the EU to move swiftly – its parlous finances. The bloc’s next long-term budget is also being discussed in Brussels though with little prospect of an early agreement. One reason is that the UK’s departure will mean there is a lot less to go around because Britain has been one of the biggest net contributors to EU funds.
Moreover, new priorities like fighting climate change and managing migration will also use up money that has previously gone to support farmers and poorer regions. Germany, the biggest contributor, and other net funders, insist the total budget should be no more than 1 per cent of the bloc’s gross national income. But the parliament and some recipient countries want it increased to 1.3 per cent. Eastern states such as Poland and Hungary are threatening to veto extra spending on carbon reduction measures.
There is, then, an opportunity for Britain to get an early trade deal in exchange for a reduced financial contribution to the EU. Many of those saying it is an impossibility don’t want Brexit at all. But assuming it goes ahead, a judicious mix of mutual self-interest, political will and financial incentives should make this timetable achievable.
This has been the most important week of the election campaign. Yes, the manifesto launches mattered, as did the ITV leadership debate, but something else happened, which has the potential to swing the result in scores of seats. The Lib Dems have stopped trying to win.
Jo Swinson and her party have quietly shelved their lofty ambition of seizing control of Number 10. It was always going to be a tall order to convince the public that a political force capable of winning just twelve seats last time round could suddenly swoop in with an additional 314, but they were at least trying.
During the early weeks of the campaign, Lib Dem national spending on Facebook outstripped all other parties. Booklets…
Free university tuition. Free broadband. Free shares in whichever company you work for. A shorter working week, more bank holidays, and a free cake bought to the door by Uber Eats on everyone’s birthday, complete with a gift item of their choice. Okay, I made that last one up, but all the others are promised in Labour’s spend-spend-spend manifesto (and heck, with three weeks left the cakes may be on the agenda soon). Seldom in the sometimes grubby history of democratic politics has any mainstream party quite so nakedly tried to bribe the electorate with a pile of give-aways.
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, are trying to pretend that can all be paid for with a few extra…