UK leader says there is new optimism in Brexit talks

British Prime Minister Theresa May making a statement to lawmakers regarding the Brexit negotiations. (AFP/PRU)
Updated 11 December 2017
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UK leader says there is new optimism in Brexit talks

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May says there is a new sense of optimism about negotiations over Britain’s departure from the European Union, insisting that a preliminary deal has given fresh impetus to the talks.
May met with her Cabinet on Monday before a scheduled address to the House of Commons, where she will update lawmakers on the agreement reached Friday with the EU that covers the main divorce issues. Those include the rights of citizens affected by Brexit, Britain’s financial obligations to the EU and how to keep open the border between Britain’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.
Leaders of the other 27 EU members are expected to ratify the agreement later this week, allowing Brexit talks to move on to trade and security cooperation.
“Of course, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” May said in a statement. “But there is, I believe, a new sense of optimism now in the talks and I fully hope and expect that we will confirm the arrangements I have set out today in the European Council later this week.”
But weekend comments by the official in charge of the talks have threatened to spoil May’s triumphant moment. In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Brexit chief David Davis suggested that last week’s agreement was a “statement of intent” that was not legally binding.
The comments caused unease in Ireland, where leaders demanded provisions in the agreement to ensure Brexit won’t restrict travel and trade between the Republic of Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland. Officials in both parts of the island say the border must remain open to protect the Irish peace process.
The Irish government branded Davis’ comments “bizarre” and insisted that Britain must live up to the commitments it made last week.
Davis on Monday tried to mitigate the fallout, insisting his words had been “completely twisted.”
“What I actually said yesterday ... was we want to protect the peace process, want to protect Ireland from the impact of Brexit for them, and I said this was a statement of intent which was much more than just legally enforceable,” Davis told LBC Radio.
“In the event that the withdrawal agreement doesn’t happen then we would still be seeking to maintain an invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland,” he added. “I was making the point that it was much more than just in the treaty, it’s what we want to do anyway.”
In Brussels, the Europeans were thinking about form as well as substance.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that while the deal was not legally binding, it was regarded as a pact of honor.
“We see the joint report of (EU Brexit negotiator) Michel Barnier and David Davis as a deal between gentlemen and it is the clear understanding that it is fully backed and endorsed by the UK government,” he said. He noted that EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed on that with May on Friday. “They shook hands.”


“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

Updated 24 September 2018
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“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

LONDON: Leaving the European Union without a proper divorce deal could ground airlines, stop hauliers from lugging goods to the world’s biggest trading bloc and even make headaches for pet owners who want to take their dogs on holiday, according to government documents.
With just six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that negotiations are at an impasse and that the EU must come up with new proposals on how to craft a divorce settlement.
Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would spook financial markets and silt up the arteries of trade.
Britain, which has warned it could leave without a deal, published 25 technical notices on Monday covering everything from commercial road haulage and buying timber to airline regulations and taking pets abroad.
“If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission,” the government said.
Overall, the government has published more than 65 such notices giving a glimpse of what a no-deal Brexit — the nightmare scenario for chief executives of most multinationals operating in Britain — would look like.
Amid warnings that trucks could stack up on both sides of the English Channel in the confusion of a no deal, Britain said it would seek to strike bilateral agreements with European countries to ensure hauliers would retain access.
The notices covered a vast swathe of the British economy, warning, for example, that labels on packaged food would have to be changed.
“Use of the term ‘EU’ in origin labelling would no longer be correct for food or ingredients from the UK,” the government said.
Honey producers would have to change their labels while EU countries might not accept British mineral water, the government said.
In the worse case scenario for pet owners, dogs, cats and even ferrets might need health certificates and rabies jabs. Travel plans would have to be discussed with a vet at least four months in advance before traveling to the EU.
That would mean someone wanting to take their pet to the EU on March 30, 2019, the day after Britain leaves the bloc, would have to discuss the trip with a vet before the end of November.
Without a deal, the UK would move from seamless trade with the rest of the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states with no preferential deals.
Brexiteers accept there is likely to be some short-term economic pain but say the government is trying to scare voters about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain, many Brexiteers say, will thrive in the longer term if cut loose from what they see as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity and excessive debt-funded welfare spending.