Nigel Lawson calls for Hammond to be sacked
In an interview on the BBC’s Daily Politics earlier, Nigel Lawson, the Conservative former chancellor and leading Brexit advocate, has called for Philip Hammond to be sacked. Echoing today’s Daily Mail (see 9.51am), Lawson said that “[Hammond] may not intend it but in practice what he is doing is very close to sabotage.”
Hammond should be more willing to spend money preparing for a “no deal” Brexit, Lawson said.
The really important thing now is that we prepare for the no deal outcome and it is grossly irresponsible if we don’t prepare …
You have to spend money from time to time, and there is nothing more important than preparing for what has always been the most likely outcome.
Asked if Hammond’s stance was undermining Brexit, he replied: “That may not be his intention but I fear that he is.” And, asked what Theresa May should do about this, he replied: “I think probably a reshuffle.”
Hammond, of course, has said he does support spending money preparing for a “no deal” Brexit, but not until that is necessary.
Cable announces Lib Dem reshuffle
Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, has announced a reshuffle. The party only has 12 MPs, but using peers he has rustled up a team of 28 “principal spokespersons”. The full list is here.
Cable, an economist and former business secretary in the coalition, will take the lead economics job himself. He will speak for the party in the Commons on economic and business issues, the party says.
The two other notable appointments involve former party leaders. This is from the party’s news release.
Former leader Tim Farron will take up a new position focused on regenerating the north of England. This is a sign of the Lib Dems’ commitment to building a more balanced national economy and making sure the government delivers on the Northern Powerhouse. Farron will also lead on rural affairs.
Another former leader, Menzies Campbell, has been appointed principal defence spokesman. The broader foreign affairs team includes deputy leader Jo Swinson, international affairs spokesperson Shas Sheehan and armed forces spokesperson Jamie Stone.
Corbyn says ‘there isn’t going to be another referendum’, even though he says he still backs remain
Yesterday Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman sidestepped a question about how Corbyn would vote if there were another EU referendum now. But Corbyn himself has now been asked the question, and he has said that he is still in favour of remaining. He said:
Yes, I voted remain because I thought the best option was to remain. I haven’t changed my mind on that. But we accept the result of referendum.
But perhaps more significant was what he said about a second referendum; there isn’t going to be one, he said. The Lib Dems are actively pushing for a second referendum, the SNP are coming round to the idea, and MPs and peers will push for one as the EU referendum bill goes through parliament. But, without Labour support, any push for a second referendum is going nowhere. Although Labour says a second referendum is not its policy, it has never explicitly ruled one out. But Corbyn came close to doing so today. In answer to the question about how he would vote in one, his first response was:
Listen, there isn’t going to be another referendum, so it’s a hypothetical question.
Labour says Davis should demand new round of emergency Brexit talks to break deadlock
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, has written an open letter to David Davis, the Brexit secretary, saying the government should call for new, emergency Brexit talks in the light of what Michel Barnier said today about the negotiations not making enough progress. In the letter he said:
I am deeply concerned that more than six months on from the triggering of article 50 this round of discussions has ended without an agreement, with the European Union warning of a “disturbing deadlock” over the divorce settlement. It now looks likely that the EU council next week will not be able to agree negotiations have proceeded sufficiently to open up trade talks.
The deadlock in negotiations increases the risk of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal. That would be catastrophic for jobs and living standards and must be rejected as a viable option.
That is why Labour is calling on the government urgently to request an additional emergency round of talks with EU negotiators in the coming days to try and reach an agreement before next week’s EU Council meeting. The government must recognise the gravity of the situation, must drop the ideological red lines and work round the clock to find a resolution to the current situation.
Davis/Barnier press conference – Summary and analysis
Here are the main points from the press conference with David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. Not for the first time, Barnier arrived with a headline-friendly phrase conveying doom. But he also hinted at the possibility of progress by the end of this year. That would be much later than the UK government originally wanted, and it would still leave precious little time to agree a transition deal before British businesses start to hit the panic button, but it does give Davis a sliver of good news to cling to.
- Barnier said that the two sides had not made any “great steps forward” during this week’s talks. He said:
We clarified some points without however making any great steps forward.
But Davis struck a generally more upbeat note. (This was no surprise; there have been five rounds of Brexit talks now, and at almost every closing press conference Barnier has sounded more pessimistic than Davis.) Davis said:
Now while there is still work to be done, much work to be done, we have come a long way.
- Barnier said that the talks on what the UK will pay the EU as it leaves were “deadlocked” and that this was “very disturbing”. This was the his headline gloom message. He said:
This week, however, the UK repeated that it was still not ready to spell out these commitments. There have therefore been no negotiations on this subject. We confined ourselves to technical discussions – useful discussions, but technical discussions.
On this question we have reached a state of deadlock which is very disturbing for thousands of project promoters in Europe and it’s disturbing also for taxpayers.
- Davis confirmed that the UK would not make a financial offer until later in the talks. This would be a “political agreement”, he said, implying that it would not be a matter decided simply by a legalistic assessment of what the UK owed. He said:
In line with the process agreed at our last round of talks, we have undertaken a rigorous examination of the technical detail where we need to reach a shared view.
This is not a process of agreeing specific commitments – we have been clear this can only come later.
But it is an important step, so that when the time comes we will be able to reach a political agreement quickly and simply.
Moving the talks on to discuss transition and trade
- Davis said he hoped that EU leaders would agree at their summit next week to loosen Barnier’s negotiating mandate, so that they can start discussing new issues. Under his current remit Barnier cannot discuss the Brexit transition or the future trade relationship until “sufficient progress” has been made on three withdrawal issues: citizens’ rights, Ireland, and money. The UK has always wanted to discuss the future trade relationship at the same time, arguing (correctly) that it is impossible to settle Irish border issues until both sides know what the future trade relationship will be. (The UK is also unwilling to make a financial offer until it knows what it is getting long-term in exchange). Davis said:
I hope the leaders of the 27 will provide Michel with the means to explore ways forward with us on that and build on the spirit of co-operation we now have.
Although the UK wants the talks to move to phase two, the trade relationship bit, as soon as possible, Davis did not explicitly demand this. One solution might be to tweak Barnier’s guidelines so that outline or preliminary talks on the transition and trade can start before Christmas, without a formal move to stage two.
- Barnier confirmed that he would not be able to advise EU leaders at their summit next week to let the talks move to phase two. He said:
On this basis I am not able in the current circumstances to propose next week to the European council that we should start discussions on the future relationship.
But EU leaders are scheduled to hold another summit in December and Barnier said that it was possible that by then enough progress might have been made to justify moving the talks to phase two. He said:
I’ve been saying since the Florence speech that there is a new momentum, and I remain convinced today that with political will, decisive progress is within our grasp in the next two months.
- Barnier defended the EU’s decision not to allow talks on the Brexit transition now – while also hinted that he could become more flexible in future. He said the time had not yet right to discuss the transition. And he defended the EU timetable for negotiations, which says the three withdrawal issues have to be settled first.
To make a success of the negotiations we have got to do things in the right order. That is a condition of success. If we mix everything up, there are risks.
But Barnier also hinted that he would be willing to show some flexibility. He said:
Slowly but surely I will explore ways of getting out of this deadlock.
Yesterday Philip Hammond, the chancellor, told MPs that the UK government thinks Barnier does want to loosen his negotiating mandate. Davis’s comments this morning suggest ministers think EU leaders, not Barnier, are the obstacle to this happening.
A ‘no deal’ Brexit
- Barnier said a “no deal” Brexit would be “a very bad deal”.
- Davis said that, although the UK wanted a deal, it was “planning for all outcomes”.
- Davis said the UK has decided to let EU citizens in the UK with a permanent residence card get “settled status” after Brexit very easily. He said:
Today I can confirm that we want to reassure those European citizens living in the UK that their rights and status will be enshrined in UK law by the withdrawal agreement.
And yes, there will be a registration process but the administration process will be completely new. It will be streamlined, and it will be low cost.
And in addition to that any EU citizen in the UK already in possession of a permanent residence card will be able to exchange it simply for settled status in a simple way. They will not have to go through the full application process again.
- Davis confirmed that, although both sides have made progress on citizens’ rights, there remain several areas of division. He said:
We have also focussed this week on the other remaining issues on which we have not yet arrived at a solution and Michel referred to a few of them. These are:
the right to bring in future family members;
to export a range of benefits;
to continue to enjoy the recognition of professional qualifications;
to vote in local elections;
to move within the 27 as a UK citizen;
to leave for a prolonged period and yet continue to enjoy a right to remain or permanent right of residence on return.
These issues are not easy, but we have approached them with a shared spirit of trying to find solutions and both teams will now reflect further on that.
In his opening statement Barnier gave more detail about some of these areas of disagreement. He said:
For us, for example, it is important that any European citizen living in the UK can – in 10 or 15 years’ time – bring his/her parents to the UK, as would be the case for British citizens living in the EU.
In the same vain, an EU citizen who has worked for 20 years in the UK should be able to move to an EU member state and still benefit from his/her disability allowance, under the same conditions as British citizens in the EU.
Finally, an important point for the member states of the union: the UK has informed us of its intention to put in place a simplified procedure which allows citizens to assert their rights. We will study attentively the practical details of this procedure, which should really be simple for citizens.
- Barnier and Davis both said advances had been made on the issue of Ireland. Davis said:
This week we developed the joint principles on the continuation of the common travel area.
Our teams have also mapped out areas of cooperation that operate on a North South basis.
- Barnier said the EU did not intend to make concessions. In his opening statement he said:
We are not asking the British to make concessions. The agreement we are working on will not be built on concessions.
There is no question of making concessions on citizens’ rights. There is no question of making concessions on the peace process in Northern Ireland.
As regards the financial settlement, there is no question of making concessions on thousands of European investment projects throughout Europe.
Earlier my colleague Jennifer Rankin posted this on Twitter.
Interestingly, it has been retweeted by Sabine Weyand, Michel Barnier’s deputy.
The Telegraph’s James Rothewell has a good thread on the Davis/Barnier press conference. It starts here.
Here is some Twitter reaction to the press conference.
From the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg
From the Guardian’s Jennifer Rankin
From Sky’s Faisal Islam
From Politico’s Tom McTague
From Georg von Harrach
Q: The Good Friday agreement is predicated on the UK being in the single market. How will you overcome that? Is there one company in one sector that sees Brexit as anything other than a huge challenge?
Davis says the Good Friday agreement is based on what was current at the time.
When they know what the final trade relationship with the EU is, he thinks they will be able to protect the GFA. They will “move heaven and earth to do so”.
He says 90% of global growth will come from outside the EU. Many companies will benefit from improving trade outside the EU.
And that’s it.
I will post a summary soon.