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Record drop in EU citizens working in Britain, official figures reveal

1 day 20 hours ago
The drop coincided with a rise in the number of job vacancies

The number of EU citizens working in the UK faced a record nosedive in the year to June, official figures have revealed.

Some 2.28 million EU nationals were working in the country between April and June 2018 - 86,000 fewer than in the same period the year before, the Office for National Statistics said.

The fall reflects an increase in the number of EU nationals leaving the UK since the Brexit vote in June 2016.

Campaigners warned of a "Brexodus" and said the "alarming" fall could be just "the start".

The drop coincided with a rise in the number of job vacancies to its highest figure on record at 829,000 - some 51,000 more than for a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed people fell by 124,000 compared with the year before and by 65,000 compared with the previous three months to hit 1.36 million - a record low.

And earnings were up by just 0.1% once when inflation was taken into account, and 0.4% when bonuses were excluded.

Matt Hughes, the deputy head of labour market at the ONS, said: “The number of people in work has continued to edge ahead, though the employment rate was unchanged on the quarter.”

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: "This alarming fall in EU nationals working in the UK may only be the start."

“This Brexodus will worsen the country’s skills deficit and hit businesses hard, as the record number of vacant jobs illustrates.

"From agriculture and hospitality to construction and the tech sector, our economy relies on the vital contributions of EU nationals."

Eloise Todd, CEO of pro-EU group Best for Britain, said: "These figures show that Brexodus continues as people pack their bags and leave the UK. This should worry everyone

"These EU nationals nurse our sick, care for our grandparents and help make Britain a more productive and prosperous country, but the government is pulling up the drawbridge as thousands of EU citizens worry about their future."


Public backing for second Brexit vote climbs - poll

1 day 22 hours ago
European Union flag outside Parliament, Brexit

Support for a second referendum on Britain's exit from the European Union has climbed in the past month, according to a new poll.

A fresh study for the Independent by pollster BMG found 48% of the public would now back a vote on any deal struck between the UK and the EU - up from 44% just four weeks ago.

Fewer than a quarter (24%) of the 1,500 people surveyed were opposed to second vote, down three points over the same period.

Sixteen percent said they did not have strong feelings either way, while 11% said they did not know.

The poll will also make grim reading for Theresa May, with 49% saying the Prime Minister should be replaced if she cannot strike a Brexit deal her Cabinet can rally behind, up from 46% last month.

Meanwhile, 52% of people believed a fresh election should be called if Mrs May is ousted as Tory leader, up a percentage point on last month's figures.

The poll meanwhile found that just 14% of people would support Mrs May's controversial Chequers plan in a second vote, while more than a quarter (27%) said the UK should quit the bloc without a deal.

Of those surveyed, 43% said they would support the UK staying inside the EU.

The poll comes amid reports that Tory Eurosceptics are preparing to ambush the Prime Minister with a rival 'Clean Brexit' plan on the eve of Conservative party conference.

The alternative policy paper, spearheaded by top Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, will seek to win the backing of up to 80 Tory MPs in a bid to force Mrs May to change course.

Matt Foster

Jacob Rees-Mogg 'to ambush Theresa May' with rival Chequers plan

1 day 23 hours ago
Jacob Rees-Mogg is said to be spearheading the alternative Brexit vision

Tory eurosceptics are set to unveil a hard Brexit rival to Theresa May's controversial Chequers plan just days before the Conservative party conference, it has emerged.

The Prime Minister's Brexit proposals - designed to minimise trade disruption and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland - sparked fury from Brexiteers, who believe they will leave the UK too closely bound to the European Union.

The Sun reports that top Conservative Eurosceptics, led by European Research Group chair Jacob Rees-Mogg, are now preparing to present their own "Clean Brexit" plan on the eve of the party's big gathering in September.

A source told the paper: "This is about delivering the clean Brexit that people voted for. No concessions."

The Times meanwhile reports that the policy paper - which will aim to win the backing of up to 80 Conservative MPs - will strike a hardline stance with the EU.

The proposal in its current form would see Britain agree to a Canada-style free trade agreement with the bloc if Brussels drops its demands on the Irish border.

A source told the Times: "We have made it very clear that we do not accept the Chequers proposals, but there is an acknowledgement that we need to make the case for an alternative.

"The tricky bit is coming to a common position that everyone can sign up to, but I’m confident that we should be able to achieve that."

According to the paper, the rival plan will also talk up the benefits of leaving the European Union without a deal if the EU refuses to give ground - a move that would see the UK trade on World Trade Organisation terms.

Under its deal with the EU, Canada has near tariff-free trade in goods, but still faces some regulatory barriers to trade and more limited access for services than it would as part of the European single market.

However, Canada is free to strike its own trade deals with the rest of the world and does not have to contribute financially to the bloc - two areas where the Brexiteers believe Mrs May's plan falls short.

The reports follow a claim in the Telegraph yesterday that moderate Tory MPs are set to form their own parliamentary group to fight against the hard-Brexit team.

Matt Foster

Trade experts question Theresa May's post-Brexit customs plan

2 days 23 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May has been trying to sell her Chequers plan to the country

The post-Brexit customs plan drawn up by Theresa May has been called into question by trade experts.

Alan Winters, an economics professor and director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex said the Chequers deal proposed by the Prime Minister was “fanciful”.

Meanwhile, businesses said they were struggling to recruit staff as fewer EU citizens have been making their way to the UK since the vote for Brexit.

Tariffs on goods entering the UK on their way to the continent would be paid for on arrival in Britain, under the strategy laid out by Mrs May.

The Government has argued it will be able to know the final destination of 96% of all goods entering the country - meaning tariffs may have to be rejigged on just the remaining 4%.  

But Mr Winters said the analysis had taken into account all UK goods trade rather than just imports - the only sector which will have to pay entry tariffs.

In his own analysis, for the Times, he said when exports are stripped out the percentage of goods which could need tariffs rejigged at a later date would be four times as large.

He said: “The whole thing when you analyse it is pretty fanciful."

Meanwhile, business leaders told the paper it was a “fantasy” to suggest importers would be able to prove the final destination of every finished product arriving in the UK.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory chair of the pro-Brexit European Research Agency group of MPs, said the goods percentages were a “classic politicians’ statistical trick”.

But a Government spokesperson insisted only a “small proportion of overall trade” would be affected.


Elsewhere, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development warned of a “supply shock” to UK firms struggling to find staff in the wake of the Brexit vote.

A survey of 2,000 employers found the number of applicants per vacancy had fallen since last summer across all skilled jobs levels, with firms being forced to hike wages as a result.

Migration from the EU has fallen to its lowest level since 2013, according to official figures.

Gerwyn Davies of CIPD said: “The most recent official data shows that there has been a significant slowdown in the number of EU nationals coming to work in the UK over the past year.

“This is feeding into increasing recruitment and retention challenges, particularly for employers in sectors that have historically relied on non-UK labour to fill roles and which are particularly vulnerable to the prospect of future changes to immigration policy for EU migrants.”

But a government spokesman said: “EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and we have been clear from the beginning of this process that we want these citizens and their families in the UK to be able to stay.

“After we leave the EU, the UK will continue to be the open country it has always been. We will have in place an immigration system that delivers control over who comes to the UK, but that welcomes the brightest and best who want to work hard and contribute.”


More than 100 Westminster constituencies switch Brexit allegiance from Leave to Remain - study

3 days 22 hours ago
European Union flag outside Parliament, Brexit
One of those thought to have switched is the Uxbridge seat held by Boris Johnson

More than 100 Westminster constituencies that voted for Brexit have switched support to Remain, according to a shock new analysis.

A study of two YouGov polls of more than 15,000 people - seen by the Observer - showed most seats in Britain now contain a majority of voters who want to stay in the EU.

The findings could shift the Brexit battleground in parliament among MPs whose constituencies voted to Leave in the 2016 referendum but are now thought to back Remain.

According to the research by a consumer analytics company called Focaldata, the shift has taken place predominantly among Labour voters who backed Brexit.

Of the 632 seats in England, Scotland and Wales that were examined, 112 had switched from Leave to Remain, with 341 now backing EU membership compared with 229 backing Brexit.

One of those thought to have switched is the Uxbridge seat held by Boris Johnson - a key figure in the official Vote Leave campaign.

Seats held by pro-Brexit Tory Michael Gove, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Leave-backing Labour MPs Frank Field, Graham Stringer and Kelvin Hopkins also showed big swings to Remain, the study found.

The research was commissioned by pro-EU group Best for Britain and anti-racism group Hope Not Hate.

Best for Britain boss Eloise Todd told the Observer: “This groundbreaking research shows that Brexit is still not inevitable.

“People across the UK have witnessed the last two years of uncertainty with dismay and are thinking differently – 112 constituencies have switched to majorities that back staying in our current bespoke deal with the EU.

“The sands of public opinion are shifting and politicians risk falling behind. Our research shows that the deal must be put to the people.

“Westminster should legislate for a people’s vote on the Brexit terms, giving the public the option to stay and build our future on our current deal with the EU.”


Half of Brits want a second Brexit referendum if no deal agreed - poll

5 days 22 hours ago
EU and UK flags
A major poll found opinion shifting in favour of a vote on the final Brexit deal

Exactly half of the British public would want a second referendum on Brexit if talks with the EU break down, a major new poll has found. 

A YouGov study of 10,000 people found 50% of Brits would want a so-called 'People's Vote' in the case of a no-deal scenario, while just 25% said MPs should have the final say. Another 25% did not know. 

The Government has ramped up preparations for a no-deal Brexit in recent weeks, and has promised MPs a say on what happens if talks break down.

As negotiations stand at the moment, some 45% of Brits believe there should be a second referendum, while just 34% do not.

The poll, conducted for pro-EU campaigners, also found that when excluding don’t knows, voters would back remaining in the bloc by 53% to 47% if a referendum were held now.

Peter Kellner, a leading pollster and former president of YouGov, said the findings were "politically significant".

He said: “There is clearly the potential for a broadly-based campaign this autumn for a Peoples Vote, should the Brussels talks go badly. Support for a new referendum would go well beyond the ranks of those who want to stop Brexit.

“Across the spectrum, the message from voters in this survey is clear: if the Government and Parliament can’t sort out Brexit, the people should."

Elsewhere, the poll found 68% of people agreed with the statement that the country “will get a bad deal from Brexit talks”, compared to just 13% who disagree – while 64% would lay the blame for a breakdown at Number 10. 

And almost three-quarters (73%) of those surveyed expected the promises made by the pro-Brexit campaigns to be broken.

Meanwhile, 50% to 29% said trading with the continent is more important than controlling immigration.


The poll comes just weeks ahead of crunch talks between Theresa May and the EU, as leaders prepare to strike a final agreement on Britain's future relationship with the bloc.

Reports today suggest Brussels is ready to compromise by allowing Britain access to the single market for goods while ending freedom of movement for people.

The Telegraph reports that leaders of the EU27 are prepared to concede ground on the issue – which was recognised as a major factor behind the UK’s vote to leave.

However the move would reportedly need to be matched by a trade-off that would see Britain accept all future EU environmental and social protections, in what would likely provoke outrage among hard Brexit supporters.

A senior Whitehall source told the paper: “The noises coming out of Brussels this week suggest some positive engagement with the Brexit White Paper.

“That needs to translate into positive discussions in the negotiating room.”

The European Commission declined to comment on the proposal, but did not deny that member states “may be discussing it”.


The poll comes as Labour prepares for a major showdown with its own members over whether it should back a second referendum on Brexit - which is currently against party policy.

A massive 63% of Labour voters were found to have backed a second referendum on Brexit, with just 8% opposed - while support for Remain over Leave stood at three to one. 

About 130 constituency Labour parties are said to be backing a motion for debate at the upcoming party conference in favour of a second vote.

The move piles pressure on Jeremy Corbyn, as the motion has been penned by a campaign group which supports him: Labour for People’s Vote.

According to the Guardian, the party has been mulling moves to neuter the showdown. One option could be to offer a policy statement backing a second vote in exceptional circumstances.

Labour MP and supporter of a People’s Vote, Chuka Umunna, said of the YouGov study: "This poll shows that Labour voters overwhelmingly support a People’s Vote, putting them at odds with the Party’s official pro-Brexit position.

“The Labour party must now do what its members and supporters and voters are crying out for: put clear red water between the Opposition and the Government, and provide leadership to the country by backing the People’s Vote campaign."

Nicholas Mairs

Business leaders want net migration target scrapped after Brexit

5 days 22 hours ago
Border Force
The CBI said: "The stakes are high."

Business leaders have urged the government to scrap its plan to cut net migration to below 100,000 after Brexit.

The Confederation of British Industry said EU migrants were “profoundly important” to the British economy and “will be needed in the future”.

It said schools and hospitals should see funding boosts in areas where immigration has led to increased demand.

Concerns about unfettered immigration from the EU is widely assumed to have been a key factor in the vote to leave the bloc in 2016.

Ministers have long promised to cut net immigration numbers to the tens of thousands - but the CBI said the Government should scrap targets and develop a system which would benefit the economy.

“The stakes are high. Get it wrong, and the UK risks having too few people to run the health service, pick food crops or deliver products to stores around the country,” it argued.

“We also risk harming our future as a global innovation hub, rooted in our longstanding ability to attract talented people the world over.”

The CBI added that it would be “entirely unworkable” to simply include EU nationals in the “highly complex” migration system for the rest of the world after Brexit.

It said EU citizens should instead be registered on arrival and have their visits restricted to three months, "unless they can prove that they are working, studying or are self-sufficient".

But the Home Office said: “After we leave the EU we will end free movement and put in place a system which works in the best interests of the whole of the UK.

“We are considering a range of options that will ensure that we are in control of our borders and managing migration, while continuing to attract and retain people who come here to work and bring significant benefits.”


EXCL Dominic Raab's new aide called for continued freedom of movement after Brexit

1 week 1 day ago
Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab himself said immigration had pushed up housing prices

Dominic Raab's new aide said freedom of movement should continue after Brexit and blasted her new boss's claim that immigration pushes up house prices, PoliticsHome can reveal.

Stephanie Lis, who has been appointed Mr Raab's special adviser, made her comments in a 2016 video for the Institute of Economic Affairs, where she was director of communications before landing her new job.

She said concerns about immigration which had led to the vote for Brexit were “understandable” because “politicians have done an astonishingly poor job of making the case for free movement”.

“As a result, migrants have found themselves blamed for all sorts of problems - from rocketing house prices to unemployment,” she said.

“But many of these criticisms are based on exaggerations or are just fundamentally wrong.”

Ms Lis added: “Our new report out today calls on the Government to scrap the arbitrary migration target and maintain free movement with the EEA bloc whatever our future relationship with the EU may be.”

And she called on ministers to establish two-way free movement deals with other countries after Brexit, including the US, Australia and Canada.

Just this year Mr Raab said house prices had gone up by 20% over the past quarter of a century due to immigration. The then-housing minster was forced to publish official figures backing up his claims.

Ms Lis told PoliticsHome: “The video was made in a different capacity to my new role, but there are a variety of lines of thought on the issue which all contribute to a healthy discourse.”

But Francis Grove-White, deputy director of the pro-EU group Open Britain, said: "It’s no wonder the Brexit Secretary has appointed a special adviser who disagrees with him.

“It continues a theme of the Government wasting time negotiating with itself over Brexit, rather than with the EU."

He added: “With the Government and Parliament paralysed by indecision, we need a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.”

Mr Raab was appointed Brexit Secretary after his predecessor David Davis quit in protest at Theresa May's strategy for quitting the EU..

The minister and the Conservative party have been approached for comment.


Police warn 'no deal' Brexit could leave British public at risk

1 week 1 day ago
Police warned over 32 EU crime-fighting mechanisms

Crashing out of the EU without a Brexit deal could put the public at risk, police have warned.

Local force bosses said the loss of access to EU-wide security powers and databases would be a blow for crime-fighting and they called on the Home Office to confirm contingency plans.

The Government has ramped up its planning for a no-deal Brexit and the EU has warned Britain it may not retain access to key mechanisms without a future arrangement.

The Police and Crime Commissioners sounded the alarm over 32 measures currently in place - including the European Arrest Warrant, criminal record sharing and suspect tracking systems.

In a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, which was leaked to the Guardian, they said law enforcement agencies face “a significant loss of operational capacity” if Britain is booted out of the networks.

“The UK and EU share a common and ever evolving threat picture,” the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners' cross-party Brexit Working Group said in the letter.

“We believe that a comprehensive partnership in all areas of policing and security co-operation is of mutual benefit to all.”

The group argued "considerable additional resource would be required for policing to operate using non-EU tools and that such tools would be sub-optimal - potentially putting operational efficiency and public safety at risk".

And they added: "We are therefore concerned that a 'no deal' scenario could cause delays and challenges for UK policing and justice agencies."

A Home Office spokesman told the paper: "There is widespread recognition that the UK and EU can most effectively combat security threats when we work together.

"It is important we maintain operational capabilities after Brexit, and we will continue to make this case to the European Commission."


Meanwhile, farmers have warned the UK Could run out of food in a year if it fails to plan for extra food security in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

National Farmers Union president Minette Batters said agriculture “has the potential to be one of the most impacted sectors from a bad Brexit”.

Her warning comes after Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said ministers were planning to ensure an “adequate” food supply in the event of a no-deal departure from the bloc.


Nicola Sturgeon demands Brexit ‘Plan B’ ahead of talks with Theresa May

1 week 2 days ago
Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May
Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon outside Bute House in 2016.

Nicola Sturgeon has demanded that Theresa May set out her Brexit ‘plan B’, as the pair prepare to meet for talks in Edinburgh.

Scotland's First Minister called on Mrs May to lay out an alternative to the Government’s current offering to Brussels in case EU chiefs reject the plan and the UK is forced to crash out of the bloc without a deal.

She said: "With the Chequers proposals falling flat, even if a withdrawal agreement can be secured, there is a very real risk that we end up with a blind Brexit - which will see the UK step off the cliff edge next March without knowing what landing place will be.

"That would do as much harm to jobs, investment and the economy as a no deal Brexit and would leave the country directionless through the transition period.

"Given this lack of clarity and real concerns of no agreement, it is time the prime minister told us what her Plan B is. We cannot have no deal and we cannot have a blind Brexit. "

The two leaders will meet in Edinburgh today, where the Prime Minister will mark the signing of a "city deal" investment package for the south east of Scotland.

She is also announcing £13 million for investment in six science centres in the UK, including Dundee and Glasgow.

Mrs May said: "As we leave the EU, the UK government is working in partnership with business, academia and the devolved administrations to create more good jobs and spread economic prosperity across the country.

"By making the most of our country’s assets and the talents of all of our people, we can build a brighter future for the whole UK."


Ed Miliband's former spokesman becomes chief spin doctor for EU referendum campaign

1 week 2 days ago
Tom Baldwin
Tom Baldwin worked for Ed Miliband until the 2015 election.

A former spokesman for Ed Miliband has been appointed chief spin doctor for the campaign for another EU referendum.

Tom Baldwin became director of communications for People's Vote three years after standing down as one of the former Labour leader's key advisers in the wake of the 2015 election.

The former journalist, who recently published a book, 'Ctrl Alt Delete - How politics and the media crashed democracy', is now in charge of communications for the nine pro-EU groups working out of Millbank Tower in Westminster.

He said: "I had not intended to come back into politics but Brexit is the single biggest issue in politics bar none and currently threatens to cloud the future of our economic prosperity, our vital public services and young people for a generation.

"A few months’ ago, few would have given the People’s Vote campaign much chance but I’ve joined at a time when we’re gathering momentum and becoming the fastest-growing movement in Britain. That’s not just because of the efforts of everyone here at Millbank Tower and the 130 grassroots campaigns across the country but also because politicians in Westminster have made such a catastrophic mess of Brexit.

"This is not about re-fighting the last referendum, it is about delivering a verdict on the broken promises, the £50 billion divorce bill and the self-serving antics of political leaders who appear unable to stand up for the national interest. Across the UK, citizens from all walks of life and every corner of the country are concluding the only way to sort this mess out is to seize back control of Brexit with a People’s Vote."

An opinion poll last month showed that support for a referendum on the final Brexit deal has taken the lead for the first time.

A spokesman for Theresa May today re-iterated the Prime Minister's firm opposition to another referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn has also said that he does not back another poll, but Labour has so far stopped short of completely ruling it out.


Brussels would be breaking its own rules by forcing ‘no deal’ Brexit outcome, officials say

1 week 2 days ago
Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier was criticised yesterday by Liam Fox

The European Union risks going against the principles of its own rule book by refusing to reach a compromise with Britain on its exit terms, Government officials have reportedly said.

Senior Whitehall sources told the Daily Telegraph the continued stalling by the bloc heightened the chances of a "no deal" result and would potentially breach the Lisbon Treaty.

They point to Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty, which states that the EU must "develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation”.

One source told the paper the British side was prepared to “make it clear whose fault it was”, while former Brexit Secretary David Davis warned Brussels risked making a “massive miscalculation” that could lead to an accidental no deal outcome.

The senior Whitehall source said: “We have made an offer that some people think is on the generous side and the EU has to know we are not kidding.

“If they don’t like our offer they need to come back and say what the alternative is, but they can’t just keep stalling.

“They also need to accept that we’ve done nothing wrong. We left under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, which says they have obligations to help us.

“The way they are behaving is making things difficult and if we end up with no deal we will make it clear whose fault it was.”

Meanwhile Mr Davis said: “It’s certainly not the intention of the EU to have a no deal Brexit but they are misjudging us at the moment. The UK Parliament does not want no deal but it’s certainly not going to be pushed around by the European Parliament…

“This is a negotiation and it will go to the edge, but we must not panic about this. They have got lots to lose too, and specific countries and specific sectors have got large amounts to lose. As we get closer to the brink there will be internal pressure within the EU.”

It comes just a day after Liam Fox warned that a “no deal” outcome was now odds-on to happen as a result of EU “intransigence”.

He rounded on the “theological obsession” of EU top brass with rules rather than “economic wellbeing” as he called on the EU to bring forward its own proposals after rejecting Theresa May’s.

The International Trade Secretary accused Brussels’ chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, of ­dismissing UK plans “because we have never done it before” and argued that “makes the chance of no deal greater”.

A Downing Street spokesperson later insisted the Prime Minister remained “confident of getting a good deal”.

They said: “We are urging Brussels and the nations of the EU27 engage with the Brexit white paper and make sure we avoid a no deal Brexit.

“The fact is that we are ramping up our no deal preparations, as was planned, because there was always a possibility of no deal.”

Nicholas Mairs

Give EU care workers post-Brexit priority or risk forcing women out of work, ministers warn

1 week 3 days ago
Elderly person

Care workers from the EU must have priority under any post-Brexit migration system or British women face having to quit their jobs to look after ageing relatives, ministers have warned.

Under a “worst case scenario”, where EU migrants are barred from coming to the UK, officials say there will be a shortfall of 6,000 doctors, 12,000 nurses and 28,000 care staff within five years.

In a 37-page dossier, seen by the Daily Telegraph, the Department of Health says the need for “informal care” poses a “wider risk to labour market participation”, in particular to women.

The report states: “The risks to EEA workforce supply need to be considered in the context of continued rising demand across the health and care system.

“Considering rising life expectancy, population structural changes as well as increases in the number of people living with one or more long-term conditions, there are significant demand implications for the health and social care workforce.

“Unless we ensure such demand is met, there is a wider risk to labour market participation more generally, especially when considering increasing social care needs.

"If we fail to meet social care needs adequately we are likely to see a decrease in labour market participation levels, especially among women, as greater numbers undertake informal care.”

The report comes ahead of next month’s independent Migration Advisory Committee report, which is expected to shape Britain’s migration policy after it quits the European Union next year.

It adds that it is “vitally important that any approach to migration prioritises the health and care sector.”

“Migration will need to continue to play a vital role in meeting future demand and providing a means of ensuring flexible supply in response to changes in demand for health and care,” the document says.

Nicholas Mairs

Liam Fox says ‘no deal’ Brexit most likely as he attacks EU ‘intransigence’

1 week 3 days ago
Liam Fox
Liam Fox made his comments on a trip to Japan

European Union “intransigence” means Britain is more likely to crash out of the European Union without a deal than to reach agreement, Liam Fox has insisted.

The International Trade Secretary said Brussels’ failure to accept British proposals meant the chances of a no deal departure now sat at “60-40”, after he previous thought it was “50-50”.

Speaking on a trip to Japan, Mr Fox rounded on the “theological obsession” of EU top brass with rules rather than “economic wellbeing”.

“I think the intransigence of the commission is pushing us towards no deal,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Times.

“We have set out the basis in which a deal can ­happen but if the EU decides that the theological obsession of the unelected is to take priority over the economic wellbeing of the ­people of Europe then it’s a bureaucrats’ Brexit — not a ­people’s Brexit — [and] then there is only going to be one outcome.”

He went on to accuse Brussels’ chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, of ­dismissing UK plans “because we have never done it before” and argued that “makes the chance of no deal greater”.

He added: “If they don’t like the one [deal] we have put on the table then it’s down to them to show us one that they can suggest that would be acceptable to us.”

“It’s up to the EU 27 to determine whether they want the EU Commission’s ideological purity to be maintained at the expense of their real economies.”

Mr Fox’s comments come days after Jeremy Hunt warned his French counterparts that no deal would mean “there will be jobs lost in Europe as well” and that Britain could be heading for that outcome “by accident”.

The International Trade Secretary said it was “essential” for Britain to show crashing out of the bloc remained a “credible” option for the country however.

The paper also quotes an EU diplomat warning that neither French President Emmanuel Macron or German Chancellor Angela Merkel had shown any willingness to move on their position.

“I haven’t seen any signs of an evolution in Merkel’s position since May met her last month,” they said.

Another, meanwhile, said Theresa May’s meeting with Mr Macron last Friday in a bid to conduct talks away from Mr Barnier could go against the UK.

They said: “It would be better to let him come forward with new options. If you try and go around him, then he will have to demonstrate he is in charge.”


Meanwhile the Sunday Telegraph reports that ministers are working to free up alternative routes for lorries to enter mainland Europe, besides Dover to Calais, in the event of a no deal exit.

The paper says routes from Essex and Lincolnshire to the Netherlands and Belgium are being considered in case Paris imposes checks that hold up traffic at the major French port.

The plan comes amid warnings that emergency lorry parks could be created on the M20 and M26 motorways in Kent, which could impact on the timely movement of perishable agricultural goods and pharmaceutical products.

Nicholas Mairs

Chances of 'no deal' Brexit 'uncomfortably high', warns Bank of England chief

1 week 5 days ago
Mark Carney
Mark Carney warned crashing out of the EU without a deal would be "highly undesirable"

The chances of Britain leaving the European Union next year without a deal are “uncomfortably high”, the governor of the Bank of England has warned.

In a major intervention, Mark Carney said both those on the UK and European sides should “do all things” to avoid such a “highly undesirable” outcome.

“I think the possibility of a no deal is uncomfortably high at this point,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

The central bank chief said that while banks were prepared for all outcomes, financial institutions had been “stockpiling” in preparation for a worst-case scenario.

He continued: “What we have done is we have made sure that the banks have the capital that they need, have the liquidity that they need and that we have the contingency plans in place so that if there were to be a no deal Brexit without any transitions, so something that truly is by accident, because it’s absolutely in the interests of the European Union and UK to have a transition."

When asked if a no deal Brexit would be a “disaster”, he added: “It is highly undesirable. Parties should do all things to avoid it.”

And when pressed on whether the banks’ preparations were the finance industry’s equivalent of the military being put on standby to make sure there was food in the supermarket, he said: “It’s not a perfect analogy because we’ve already done the stockpiling. The banks have already stockpiled."

Mr Carney said a Bank of England exercise had revealed that the “undesirable and still unlikely possibility” of a no deal Brexit could lead to a fresh recession, a slump in house prices, and a sharp hike in the cost of borrowing.

He added: “We ran the system a year ago through a stress test, this is not a prediction of what would happen in a no deal scenario, but to give you an idea of what they can withstand: real estate prices going down by more than a third – house prices and commercial real estate – interest rates going up by almost 4%, unemployment going to 9% and the economy going into a 4% recession, so we did that in order to try and create the kind of hits to balance sheets and the calls on their capital and liquidity that meant they had to build these buffers to be in a position in case something bad happened.

“We have been planning for very difficult circumstances and the banks are ready.”

The Governor’s intervention comes a day after the Bank of England raised the interest rate for just the second time in a decade, from 0.5% to 0.75% - the highest level since March 2009.

Mr Carney denied that the rise was to give leeway for a potential crash landing after leaving the EU, insisting it was a “modest adjustment” and the “right thing for the economy on the path the economy is on”.


Labour MP Chris Leslie, of the pro-EU People’s Vote campaign, said: "Mark Carney has confirmed that Brexit has already done serious damage to the British economy and threatens to do much, much more.

"A no deal Brexit where we crash out of the EU with no agreement at all or a blind Brexit, where we leave with nothing more than a few paper promises, threaten to destroy jobs, life chances and opportunities.

"Any form of botched Brexit will mean less economic growth, less money for public services and more cuts to health, education and local government.

"None of this was on the side of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove’s bus and nobody voted for any of it."

The warning over a 'no deal' Brexit was also seized on by Labour MP David Lammy - a member of the pro-Remain Best for Britain campaign - who said it strengthened the case for a fresh referendum.

"The no deal exercise carried out by the Bank of England shows the devastation a nightmare no deal would bring," he said.

"Brexit is not the answer to this country's looming questions. It doesn't help plug the income gap between the rich and the poor, it doesn’t help our economy grow, and it doesn’t help our schools or hospitals, which depend on our EU membership.

That view was echoed by Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake, who said the comments from the Bank of England bigwig should "serve as a stark warning to the Conservative party".

But prominent Tory Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns fumed: "Mr Carney should focus on preparing for Brexit instead of making overtly political interventions and weakening the Government's hand at the negotiating table."

She said it was "deeply irresponsible" for the Bank of England chief to "yet again engage in Project Fear-style rhetoric".


Nicholas Mairs

Emmanuel Macron dampens hopes of Brexit breakthrough ahead of Theresa May meeting

1 week 6 days ago
Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May
Theresa May has cut short her holiday plans to meet the French President

The French government has scotched suggestions Theresa May might be able to soften France's hardline Brexit stance at a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron today.

The Prime Minister is cutting short her holiday to Italy for face-to-face talks at Fort de Brégançon, Mr Macron's summer retreat on the Côte d’Azur.

The summit - the latest in a diplomatic offensive by Cabinet ministers since Mrs May agreed her controversial Chequers Brexit plan - is being seen as a chance to persuade Mr Macron to break ranks with the rest of the European Union.

But an Elysee Palace spokesperson dampened hopes of a breakthrough, telling reporters the meeting was "not a negotiation" and was "not a substitute for the negotiations led by" chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

The French President has so far struck a tough stance on Brexit, condemning British demands for post-Brexit justice cooperation and arguing that the EU's four freedoms - of the movement of goods, capital, services and labour - are indivisible.

The spokesperson said Mr Macron had full trust in the EU's chief negotiator, adding: “That’s how it will remain."

Mr Barnier on Thursday repeated warnings that the EU was not prepared to compromise on the single market and the customs union in order to strike a withdrawal agreement.

He said: "The UK knows well the benefits of the single market. It has contributed to shaping our rules over the last 45 years. And yet, some UK proposals would undermine our single market, which is one of the EU’s biggest achievements.

"The UK wants to keep free movement of goods between us, but not of people and services. And it proposes to apply EU customs rules without being part of the EU’s legal order.

"Thus, the UK wants to take back sovereignty and control of its own laws, which we respect, but it cannot ask the EU to lose control of its borders and laws."

A Number 10 source meanwhile sought to use the crunch meeting with the French President to pile pressure on rebel Conservatives who have ripped into the Chequers deal.

They warned that continued Tory party infighting over the controversial agreement - which seeks a "combined customs territory" with the EU - would only strengthen the hand of Brussels.

"Our conversations with the French over the last week have revealed that they are watching what’s going on in Westminster very closely," the source told The Sun.

“They don’t think there is any reason to give any ground at the moment, when the hardcore Brexiteers or extreme Remainers could rip it all up in the Commons in the Autumn.”

They added: "That’s why it’s so important for everyone to back Theresa now rather than their own vanity causes."

Matt Foster

Government leaving businesses 'in the dark' over lack of no deal Brexit planning, say bosses

1 week 6 days ago
EU and UK flags
Businesses are worried about the lack of planning for a no deal Brexit.

Business chiefs have accused the Government of leaving companies "in the dark" by failing to make clear how it would cope with a no deal Brexit.

A survey of 800 firms by the Institute of Directors found that fewer than a third of them had carried out any contingency planning for the UK's departure from the EU.

Half say they do not intend to draw up any plans, with nearly 50% of those saying they will only make changes to how they work once Britain's future relationship with Brussels becomes clearer.

And while a fifth of companies say they will draw up Brexit plans, three-quarters of those say they are waiting on more clarity from the Government.

But in better news for Theresa May, only one in 10 businesses say they are seriously considering relocating to the EU because of Brexit, although that could rise to more than 20% if the Government's negotiations with the bloc do not go well.

The Government has said it will publish more details on its no deal planning over the summer.

IoD director general Stephen Martin said: "Many companies are still unprepared for Brexit, and it’s hard to blame them. When it comes to knowing what to plan for and when, firms have been left in the dark.

"Trade associations like the IoD are doing their best to fill the information void, but the reality is that many companies feel they can only make changes once there is tangible information about what they are adjusting to.

"As long as no-deal remains a possibility, it is essential that the Government steps up to the plate and provides advice on preparing for such an outcome. We therefore urge them to speed up publication of the technical notices. This should also help make companies more alert to the need to prepare now for all eventualities."

Mr Martin also hinted that the transition period following Brexit, which is scheduled to last until the end of 2020, should be extended to give businesses more time to adapt.

He said: "Any transition period must take account of the fact that many businesses feel they can only adjust once there is clarity about the direction of travel. Given full negotiations on the future relationship can only begin once we have left the EU, both sides should ensure there is a proper implementation period once a new agreement has been concluded.

"This is after all what would happen following the conclusion of any other trade deal."

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said: "The Institute of Directors, with no obvious political leanings, represents a wide range of businesses. Their warning that one in five companies are seriously considering relocating based on the outcome of Brexit must therefore be taken seriously.  

"The UK should be seen as a hub of creativity and excellence in business. However, this survey reveals what we expected. Business leaders are planning for the worst and have their eyes on the exit.

"With the prospect of a no-deal growing day by day, so too are concerns about financial instability and fears of job losses. This can be avoided if people are given the final say on Brexit, with the option to remain."


Michael Gove 'talked up Norway-style Brexit' in dinner with Tory MPs

1 week 6 days ago
Michael Gove
The Environment Secretary has been dubbed "St Michael of the EEA" over his apparent support for the plan

Michael Gove privately discussed plans to keep Britain in the European Union's single market if Theresa May fails to strike a Brexit deal, it has been reported.

The Leave-backing Environment Secretary is said to have told a dinner of moderate Conservative MPs and peers that the UK could stay "parked" in the European Economic Area (EEA) to avoid the disorder of walking away without a deal.

According to the Financial Times, the Cabinet heavyweight reeled off a list of possible Brexit options to the 'Green Chip' dining group - set up in support of David Cameron during his time as Prime Minister.

But an MP who attended the dinner told the FT: "He was steering the conversation towards the EEA idea. There’s no doubt about that."

A ministerial colleague is meanwhile said to have started referring to the Environment Secretary as "St Michael of the EEA".

But any backing for a Norway-style Brexit would enrage Tory Eurosceptics, who would see it as crossing all of Theresa May's "red lines" on leaving the European Union.

Norway's membership of the EEA means it only has access to the EU's single market in exchange for accepting the free movement of people, making contributions to the EU's budget, and abiding by the European Court of Justice.

An ally of Mr Gove insisted the Environment Secretary "wasn’t advocating the EEA" at the dinner.

"He’s totally behind the Prime Minister’s Chequers strategy," they said. "He’s not considering any other option. He likes discussing things."

Government sources meanwhile pointed out that the dinner had taken place before Mr Gove backed Theresa May's Chequers plan, which seeks close customs ties with the EU in a bid to avoid trade disruption and a hard border in Northern Ireland.


The report came as Remain campaigners sounded the alarm amid claims the EU could agree to a vague Brexit deal in a bid to stave off a "no deal" outcome.

The People's Vote campaign hit out at what it called a "blind Brexit" after reports that Germany could be willing to offer Theresa May an interim deal and then flesh out details on the UK's future trade ties with the EU at a later date.

Such a move would allow extra time to negotiate the finer points of Brexit and potentially avoid a damanging revolt by Conservative eurosceptics.

But Labour MP Chris Leslie - part of the Remain-backing People's Vote campaign - warned that a delay would only "take the UK to the same place as a no-deal Brexit, but without the clarity".

He told The Guardian: "The idea that the fundamental contradictions of the government’s Brexit policy can be more easily resolved after the UK has left the EU is simply ludicrous.

"A blind Brexit is being talked about because some see it as a short-term face-saving deal for both the British government and the European Union, both of which are now terrified that concluding with a failure to agree a deal will result in a humiliating no-deal Brexit.

"With the EU27 governments and the EU commission wanting to spare Theresa May’s blushes, there is a risk we end up with a fake deal to save face."

It emerged this week that a string of councils have concerns about the effect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been touring European capitals and urged leaders to avoid "heading for no deal by accident".

Downing Street has promised that a string of reports advising the public to prepare for a 'no deal' will be published later this summer.

But Brexiteers are concerned that the documents could form part of a renewed 'Project Fear' campaign to spook the public about an outcome they believe will be less damaging than has been claimed.

Matt Foster

Councils fear 'food shortages and civil unrest' in event of hard Brexit

2 weeks ago
European Union flag outside Parliament, Brexit
Campaigners accused Theresa May of "messing the country about" on Brexit

Councils across the UK fear leaving the European Union without a deal could lead to civil unrest and shortages of food and medicine, it has emerged.

Downing Street confirmed this week that a batch of documents advising the public on how to prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit would be published in August and September.

But some local authorities have already taken matters into their own hands – with a number fearing major disruption to public services and expressing concern that cash currently provided from EU funds will not be replaced if Britain leaves without a deal.

Documents obtained by Sky News under Freedom of Information show that Pembrokeshire County Council is worried that Brexit could harm the “ready availability of vital supplies - foodstuff and medicines".

The authority’s risk register lists just a single potential upside of Brexit: that people might move away from the area, resulting in less pressure on public services.

Bristol Council meanwhile fears "social unrest or disillusionment during/after negotiations as neither Leave nor Remain voters feel their concerns are being met", and East Sussex Council believes a shortage of EU nationals could hit the social care sector.

"There has already been a fall in the number of EU nationals taking jobs in the care sector and the county council has great concerns that the end of freedom of movement will put further pressure on the sector that is already stretched and struggling to deliver the level of care required for our ageing elderly population,” the council says.

Meanwhile, Shetland Islands Council fears that the value of agricultural land could tumble after Brexit, and says fresh tariffs on lamb exports under a no deal scenario could see a sharp spike in the number of sheep farms making losses.

Other councils told Sky News they were unable to plan for Brexit because of “the lack of detail from government about any proposed deal or arrangements”, while the majority said they were worried about the ability of the Treasury to cough up the cash to replace EU structural and regional funds.


The reports – which come after Tory-run councils sounded the alarm over plans to convert a chunk of the M20 into a lorry park – have already been seized on by critics.

Labour's Seema Malhotra - who sits on the cross-party Brexit committee and led a campaign to force the Government to release its own impact assessments - accused ministers of a "shocking dereliction of duty".

"They are failing to prepare the country for what has become a mess of their own making. Now local authorities are starting to prepare for the worst," she told PoliticsHome.

"No deal will hit our public services hard, food prices will go up and medicines could be delayed. People didn’t vote to be poorer but that is what is set to happen. It’s not too late for the government to change course and make a start by saying no to no deal."

Liberal Democrat local government spokesperson Wera Hobhouse meanwhile branded the reports a “damning indictment of how this Tory government are handling negotiations”.

“When local authorities are voicing genuine concerns that Brexit could cause ‘social unrest’, Number Ten need to start taking note,” she said.

“Right across the country we are seeing councils raise fears about the impact of Brexit on their communities. The economic uncertainty surrounding the UK will disrupt the ability of councils to fund vital public services.

The MP added: "This is not what people voted for."

Eloise Todd of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign group said: "It beggars belief that with only 240 days left until Article 50 expires, local councils have been left in the lurch. This is a national crisis and a severe dereliction of duty by central government.”

But a Government spokesperson said ministers were working with councils to "help coordinate" their Brext preparations.

They said: "The Government remains confident that we will secure a positive agreement with the EU, but is working closely and meeting regularly with local government to plan for Brexit under all scenarios.

"A Brexit Ministerial Local Government Delivery Board chaired by the Communities Secretary has been established and will meet regularly to help coordinate this activity.

"The Board held its inaugural meeting last month enabling council leaders to engage with Ministers directly over domestic Brexit preparations."

Matt Foster

Theresa May to cut holiday short by meeting Emmanuel Macron for Brexit talks

2 weeks ago
Theresa May and Philip May
Theresa May and Philip May visit Desenzano del Garda in Italy, during their summer holiday.

Theresa May will cut short her holiday in Lake Garda to try and sell her Brexit plan to Emmanuel Macron in France later this week.

The Prime Minister will join the French leader at his holiday home near Toulon on Friday as the rhetoric around a no deal outcome ramps up.

Her visit comes amid reports that ministers are to try to bypass Brussels to appeal to European heads of government directly on their proposals.

A Downing Street source told the Telegraph: "We need to crack on [in the talks]. France and Germany have always been important in the Brexit negotiations."

It comes just a day after Jeremy Hunt called on Mr Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to urge the EU to relax its tough negotiating stance, as the prospect of Britain crashing out without a deal grew “by the day”.

The new Foreign Secretary said the approach taken by the European Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier could inflict a “breakdown in relations and trust between Britain and European countries”.

Ahead of talks with French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris yesterday, he told the Evening Standard: “There is a real chance of No Deal by accident. Everyone is assuming, no, no, no, this will never happen. Well, actually, it could.

“France and Germany have to send a strong signal to the Commission that we need to negotiate a pragmatic and sensible outcome that protects jobs on both sides of the Channel because for every job lost in the UK, there will be jobs lost in Europe as well if Brexit goes wrong.”

Last week, Nathalie Loiseau, the French minister for European affairs, said “we would all suffer” if Britain was unable to reach an agreement with Brussels but that it would be “worst” for the UK.

The latest round of talks also comes amid warnings that four lanes of the M20 could be used as a 13-mile long lorry park for up to four years after Brexit.

A set of impact reports - obtained by Sky News - show that Conservative-run Dover District and Kent County councils have a string of concerns about the Government’s plans for handling disruption at the border when the UK leaves the European Union.

The latter warns that the Government’s permanent fix of setting up new lorry parks "will not be delivered until 2023 at the earliest".

Last week Downing Street confirmed Mrs May would be going to Italy and then Switzerland on holiday, with a gap in between to return to the UK and to attend a First World War memorial event in Amiens.

Nicholas Mairs
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47