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A delicate diplomatic dance: Brexit talks move on to second-stage

42 min 9 sec ago

As the European Council ended, there was snippy language from some EU27 leaders about the need for the UK Government to get on with making its mind up about where it wants to go with the future relationship with the EU post-Brexit.

But there was also guidance that the EU is ready to start exploratory or scoping contacts with the UK to find areas of agreement on trade before it drafts its own Negotiating Guidelines on the Future Relationship ready for the next EU Council in late March 2018. This will be a delicate diplomatic dance, each side not wanting to reveal too much while testing ideas and trying to work out the other sides’ thinking.

The European Council President Donald Tusk sounded like a man who was pretty concerned about divisions emerging amongst the EU27 in Phase 2 of the Brexit process.

The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, said the British government really needed to make up its mind what it wanted. But at the same time as he rattled off possible templates for the post Brexit EU/UK relationship he mentioned not just Norway and Canada – the binary choice that public statements suggest is all that is on offer – but also speculated about Britain wanting a “bespoke” or “Swiss model.”

Angela Merkel, in her joint press conference with President Macron, stuck much more to the standard line and said the onus was on Britain to get on with it and form its own approach.

That starts with the Brexit Cabinet Committee meeting on Monday afternoon and then the full Cabinet on Tuesday. Some sources say this will be a clearing of the throat session in which all attendees will be invited to share their preferred approach. Even if that is the plan, it wouldn’t take much to steer the meeting off course.

The government must also work out how it wants to play the transition rules laid out in the EU27 Guidelines published today. The document spells out very starkly that a transition period for the UK after Brexit will see it move to something normally only seen in colonies. The UK will pay in, take all rules (including newly minted ones) and get no say in what is going on.

Mrs May will have to be careful if she tries to negotiate at the edges of that offer that she really can get some wins rather than just draw attention to something perhaps better kept off the screens and front pages. As it stands, the UK will still be operating freedom of movement, living under the ECJ jurisdiction and much else besides five years after the Brexit vote.

The session in which the EU27 discussed Brexit this morning was very brief. Though it wasn’t as brief as the “couple of minutes” in which Theresa May last night addressed the EU27. There was a smattering of applause from some after she spoke but accounts vary as to whether leaders thought they were clapping Mrs May, the efforts of their own negotiators or simply themselves.


Categories: Media

More than 6000 Rohingya muslims killed in one month in Myanmar say MSF

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:14

The humanitarian agency Medecins Sans Frontieres says it believes more than 6,700 Rohingya muslims were killed in one month in a government crackdown in Myanmar. This is in stark contrast to figures from the Myanmar government which says that 400 people have been killed since August.

Jane Deith’s report contains themes that some viewers may find distressing.

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Government figures say number of homeless people went up this year

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:14

The urgent demand for more homes has been underlined by the latest government figures.  The number of homeless households went up six per cent between June and September this year. A spokesman for the local government association said today that over the last three years the task facing councils was the equivalent of finding temporary accommodation for a secondary school’s worth of homeless children every month.

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Bereaved relative of Grenfell victim: ‘We need the public inquiry to uncover the truth’

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:14

Survivor Antonio Roncolato and bereaved relative Karim Mussilhy discuss the Grenfell tragedy six months on.

Categories: Media

Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter: ‘I framed all 40 of Trump’s tweets to me’

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:14

After over a quarter of a century at the helm of Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, famed for his Oscar parties, is stepping down as editor. I’ve been speaking to the man once dubbed “the ringmaster of Hollywood” about his life, his feud with Donald Trump and whether he could have done more to investigate rumours about Harvey Weinstein.

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Ed Miliband on Fox/Disney deal: ‘I think it’s good for our broadcasting landscape’

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:14

Former Labour party leader Ed Miliband and Bloomberg’s entertainment reporter Anousha Sakoui discuss Rupert Murdoch’s decision to sell 21st Century Fox to Disney.

Categories: Media

Scots will pay different tax rates to the rest of UK for the first time

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:14

The Scottish government has today unveiled income tax changes which will for the first time see Scots paying different tax rates to the rest of the UK. The SNP minority government has proposed small tax increases for middle and high income earners, but says that a new “starter rate” will mean anyone earning less than £33,000 a year won’t see their taxes go up.

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Ken Clarke on Brexit: ‘My aim is to minimise the damage’

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:13

Ken Clarke, one of the rebel Conservative MPs, and Jonathan Isaby, the editor of the eurosceptic website Brexit Central, debate the developments of the Brexit bill.

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Grenfell six months on: multi-faith memorial service remembers the victims

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:13

Six months to the day from the Grenfell Tower fire, survivors and the 71 victims have been remembered at a memorial service in St Paul’s Cathedral. It was a moment to recall the community spirit that was so evident as ordinary Londoners stepped in to help the survivors, but also to acknowledge their deep and enduring pain.

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Theresa May still hopeful about Brexit despite parliamentary defeat

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:11

Despite her first parliamentary defeat last night, Theresa May insisted today that her government is still on course to deliver Brexit. Tonight she is in Brussels having dinner with EU leaders. Tomorrow they are due to declare that negotiations can move on to stage two and begin discussion on our future trading arrangements. But will the determination of British MPs to have their say on any deal make the Prime Minister’s task harder?

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Rupert Murdoch sells majority of 21st Century Fox to Disney

Thu, 2017-12-14 21:11

It’s a media mega-deal – Rupert Murdoch is selling the vast majority of his 21st Century Fox media empire to larger rival Disney. But what does the £39bn deal mean for his attempts to take control of the British broadcaster Sky?

Categories: Media

The EU27 will likely sign off on the Brexit divorce agreement tomorrow – so what next on trade and the timetable

Thu, 2017-12-14 19:11

There are as many interpretations of last night’s government defeat on Brexit as there were rebels. Possibly more. What we can say with certainty is that it adds to the number and range of possible outcomes.

Ever since this Parliament was elected it has looked like it has a majority that could form against “no deal” and a “walkout” approach, a reversion to WTO rules in lieu of an agreement with the EU. It’s one of the drivers that’s made prominent Brexiteers accept the costs and compromises of the Brexit divorce deal.

Ken Clarke last night hailed the Commons vote as proof that there is a majority in favour of soft Brexit. That’s a harder one to calibrate.

In Brussels here today you sense the EU leaders are still in “managing the process” mode on Brexit. They have much else on their collective plates and are not about to re-think their Brexit approach. All the signs are that tomorrow will see them sign off on the divorce agreement. Chancellor Merkel and President Macron have indicated that is what they want and the EU, to the alarm of many, is returning to an organisation in which their dominance is hard to challenge.

The guidelines the EU produces are expected to challenge the speedier timetable that the UK had been hoping for. The usually breezy David Davis (nice piece here on the man by Politico’s Tom McTague) in the Commons today sounded an anguished note about the tight timetable ahead. The UK will be hoping for some flexibility.

The conversation amongst the EU27 on Brexit (Theresa May heads home tonight) will be attended by Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator, he’ll be listening for the tone of the EU Council members who are his instructors. Do they want to hug Britain close or keep it distant? That could influence how he conducts the next phase of negotiations. Will there be a whiff of the challenges ahead that European Council President Donald Tusk talked of today when he foresaw diverging trade interests making the Phase 2 talks much harder than what has preceded them.

The original draft communique for this European Council gathering originally said the UK would be getting a Canada style trade agreement as it had clearly rejected the only alternative, an arrangement like Norway’s.

That explicit declaration has been removed at the request of the UK. With Cabinet ministers getting their first discussion of the subject on Monday and Tuesday, No. 10 didn’t want the whole discussion pre-judged. But even as EU leaders tried to encourage Theresa May today they also urged the UK government to clarify what future relationship it wants. Dutch PM Mark Rutte said Mrs May remained a “formidable” leader but Britain needed to get a move on.

Categories: Media

Government Brexit defeat: game-changer?

Wed, 2017-12-13 22:32

One Labour MP said Ken Clarke told him and his colleagues: “This proves there’s a majority for soft Brexit.” Opposition MPs are queuing up in agreement with that analysis. One said “the dam has burst,” another said “this is a complete game-changer.”

Tory MPs walking through the voting lobby with Labour MPs were treated to Labour frontbencher Steve Pound serenading then with the Red Flag. That’ll be a small humiliation compared to the opprobrium some of their colleagues will now shower on them.

Some veteran MPs said you mustn’t over interpret this moment. “Minority governments lose votes, they’ll lose more, but they’ll stay in power.”

Another pointed out that it wouldn’t really damage the PM’s standing in Brussels in the talks to come because Brussels knows all too well how slight is her grip on power.

But one Shadow Cabinet member said this defeat would mean Theresa May had to recalibrate what she negotiates in Brussels as the EU/U.K. future relationship. If she veers too much towards the Canada end of the trade relationship spectrum, pulling away from EU rules and regulations, Parliament, he argued, could refuse its signature on the deal.

One of the complications with that view is that you don’t always sense the EU27 are mad keen on the U.K. having a closer relationship that isn’t the straight template of Norway membership. The draft communique for the European Council which Theresa May will attend tomorrow had a sentence which (I paraphrase) stated that as Norway had been rejected we were clearly heading for Canada.

It has been removed at the request of the U.K. government to avoid incensing some people at home after a bruising couple of weeks. Is some hybrid actually on offer? EU sources are adamant it isn’t. Various U.K. officials and politicians are convinced it is.

One Labour MP said the pro-Brexit Tories had “smack bum faces.” Labour MPs were wreathed in smiles. Prominent Tory Brexiteers will now refocus on their goal: securing Brexit and the end of the transition before another election, locking in their great prize before someone steals it away. Tonight has added a layer of complication to that project.

On the night of the General Election I was one of many looking at the surprise Labour surge and the Tory disappointment and wondering of the voters who swung it: “what did they mean by that?” For many (not all) of them, I suspect, this is what they wanted.

Categories: Media

“This vote will make not a blind bit of difference”: Eurosceptic Conservative MP Peter Bone responds to the Government defeat in Brexit vote

Wed, 2017-12-13 20:19

The Government has suffered its first defeat over the Brexit bill after MPs backed a rebel Tory amendment calling for a ‘meaningful vote’ on any final deal by a majority of 4 – despite a dramatic last minute concession. Conservative MP Peter Bone responds to the vote.

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Tulip Siddiq: Questions over links with Bangladeshi ruling party

Wed, 2017-12-13 20:15

Are Westminster politicians in danger of not pursuing human rights violations in Bangladesh because of the close connections of one Labour MP to the ruling party in Dhaka?

In Bangladesh disappearances continue under an authoritarian police state ruled by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose niece, Tulip Siddiq, is the Labour MP for Hampstead.

Tonight we ask whether Tulip Siddiq has misled voters here over her links with, and influence over, the Bangladeshi ruling party.


Categories: Media

“It’s a setback, it’s a minor setback”: Justice Minister Dominic Raab responds to the Government’s first Brexit bill defeat

Wed, 2017-12-13 20:12

The Government has suffered it’s first defeat on the Brexit bill – after an amendment by Tory rebels calling for a meaningful vote on the final withdrawal deal was approved – by a majority of 4 votes. This despite a last minute concession put forward by the Justice Minister Dominic Raab – he joins us.

Categories: Media

Dean Wilkins: Our daughter is a “beautiful princess”

Wed, 2017-12-13 20:12

We’re joined by Vanellope’s parents Naomi Findlay and Dean Wilkins from their home in Nottinghamshire.

Categories: Media

‘Miracle’ baby survives after being born with heart outside body

Wed, 2017-12-13 20:09

A baby girl has survived after being born with her heart outside her body. Vanellope Hope Wilkins had surgery within an hour of being delivered at the Glenfeld hospital in Leicester – with a team of 50 staff carrying out three operations to replace her heart inside her chest. A warning – this report shows very graphic images of surgical procedures.

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More than 1,400 people with Dementia face Christmas in hospital

Wed, 2017-12-13 20:07

More than 1400 people with dementia face spending Christmas in hospital even though they’re well enough to go home. Our Health and Social Care Correspondent Victoria Macdonald has been speaking to one woman who says her father spent three times longer in hospital than he should have.

Categories: Media

“It was a very bad idea that you wanted to leave, that was not our idea, that was yours”: former European Commissioner Viviane Reding says trade deals with the EU will be “difficult”

Wed, 2017-12-13 20:06

The Luxembourg MEP and former European Commissioner Viviane Reding claimed in the European parliament today that Brexit really means – ‘spinning out of control instead of taking back control.’

Categories: Media