by Jeremy Hawkins
BRUSSELS (Xinhua) -- After another
week of no apparent progress on Brexit negotiations, EU chief
negotiator Michel Barnier’s latest attempts to assure London
appear to have hit a wall by weekend.
negotiations in Brussels that were characterized as "difficult",
Barnier opened on Friday a series of tweets by noting that the
bloc had proposed to Britain a "legally binding interpretation"
of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Barnier also underlined an EU commitment "to give UK the
option to exit the Single Customs Territory unilaterally," so
long as the "backstop" along the Northern Irish border remained
in place, to avoid a hard border that would go against the Good
Friday peace agreements.
The "UK will not be forced into customs union against its
will," Barnier insisted, while promising that the EU would
continue "working intensely over the coming days to ensure the
UK leaves the EU with an agreement."
In a rebuke, British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay tweeted
that it was "not the time to rerun old arguments," with
deadlines looming for Britain’s departure from the EU on March
Barclay appeared to dismiss the possibility of leaving the
customs union while a "backstop" stays in place, an option that
has been rejected by many Brexit advocates, and notably the
Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, a part of the British
government coalition, because it would mean separate rules for
Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
"We may not leave the EU for many months, we may never leave
at all," British Prime Minister Theresa May warned British
Members of Parliament in a Friday speech in the northern English
town of Grimsby, as she tried to find support for the Brexit
withdrawal agreement that she would put up for a vote at the
House of Commons by March 12.
May said the agreement needed "just one more push" to get
approved, but noted "If MPs do not back the deal, the only
certainty would be uncertainty, months more spent arguing on
Despite her warnings, signs are not positive that May has
either found the assurances and concessions that many MPs want,
or that she will drum up the support needed to have the
agreement approved after it was defeated for the first time on
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar spoke to journalists
Friday, dismissing Theresa May’s speech, saying that the British
PM needed "a change of approach" and London needed to come up
with propositions if it wanted new concessions for the
"What’s not obvious is what the UK government is offering the
European Union and Ireland should they wish us to make any
further compromises," the Irish PM said, underlining "We have
received no offer from them as to what they would give us in
return for any changes."
"It requires a change of approach from the UK government to
understand that Brexit is a problem of their creation," Varadkar
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte echoed the sentiments of his
Irish counterpart, saying that a breakthrough continued to
appear elusive and required the UK to decide what it wanted, in
order to make fresh proposals.
Rutte also admitted he did not understand what Theresa May
meant by "just one more push" was needed to reach a deal.
Alongside Theresa May’s attempts to rally support for her
Brexit deal, a voting calendar has been set by her government to
soothe divisions within the British conservative party and
script how decisions will be made leading up to March 29.
The government has committed to putting the withdrawal
agreement to a vote in the House of Commons by March 12, with
whatever final concessions May is able to receive from the EU.
Having lost her original attempt in January by 230 votes, and
not having come back to Westminster with significant changes or
assurances on the Northern Irish "backstop", the British PM
might be snubbed again.
If the deal is rejected by MPs, they will have the
opportunity to vote by March 13 on whether they would accept a
no-deal Brexit. Given the wide negative publicity of
consequences associated with no-deal Brexit, it is also
considered to be unpopular.
If a no-deal Brexit is rejected, MPs will be able to vote by
March 14 on whether Britain should attempt to negotiate a delay
of Brexit, though not on the extend of that time period.
May has already said that any extension should be a one-off,
and no longer than until the end of June, a prospect she has
stated is not her preference.
European Council President Donald Tusk said in February that
"an extension would be a rational solution," but European
leaders are looking for good reason.
French President Emmanuel Macron has already indicated that
an extension needed justification.
The French Minister for Europe Nathalie Loiseau reiterated
her president’s stance Thursday in London, telling journalists
"A short extension: why not, if there is a good and credible
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani did not think
that Brexit could be delayed by more than "a maximum of several
He said in an interview published Saturday with Germany’s
Funke group of newspapers that London would have to justify an
extension, such as wanting time to hold new elections or a new
The European Parliament president expressed a common position
in Europe, however, that the responsibility for what happened
next remained with Britain.
"They’ve decided to leave - it’s their problem, not ours,"
British Prime Minister
Theresa May says European Union action
will have big impact on vote in House of Commons next week
by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom
(Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister
Theresa May issued a message to the European Union on Friday
saying its action will have a big impact on a crucial vote in
the House of Commons next week.
May used a visit to a factory in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, to
stress the importance of the part Brussels should play in
seeking a deal on a future relationship after Britain leaves the
EU later this month.
May will urge the more than 640 MPs on Tuesday to support her
Brexit deal in a meaningful vote.
Political commentators are predicting she will lose by as
many as 100 votes, lower than the record 230 she lost by earlier
this year, but still the prospect of a big defeat.
Speaking on Friday, May warned that Britain could face not
leaving the EU at all.
She said: "Just as MPs will face a big choice next week, the
EU has to make a choice too.
"We are both participants in this process. It is in the
European Union’s interest for the UK to leave with a deal. EU
leaders tell me time is running out, my message to them is now
is the time."
May said the decisions the EU make over the next few days
will have a big impact on the outcome of the vote in the House
She wants the EU to make changes over the Irish border issue
which is at the center of the current impasse blocking a
breakthrough in the quest for a deal.
May said if MPs at Westminster reject her deal on Tuesday,
nothing will be certain, with a possible delay to the departure
or even not leaving the EU at all.
"MPs face an historic choice next week. If MPs don’t vote for
that deal then we know we will see ongoing uncertainty," she
May said: "The British people have already moved on. They are
ready for this to be settled."
Crunch time for Brexit as
European Union gives
Britain 48 hours to break deadlock in deal talks
LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) --
British Chancellor of the Exchequer
Philip Hammond said Thursday a crucial vote on Prime Minister
Theresa May’s Brexit deal by next Tuesday could be the last
chance for Britain to leave the European Union (EU) on its
planned March 29 departure date.
In a radio interview on Thursday, Hammond said he had great
confidence in the Brexit Secretary and the Attorney General in
the work they are doing and hoped they will come back with an
offer which MPs on the Brexit wing of the governing Conservative
party will "consider very, very carefully in the context of the
real situation we are in."
"If the Prime Minister’s deal does not get approved on
Tuesday then it is likely that the House of Commons will vote to
extend the Article 50 procedure to not leave the European Union
without a deal and where we go thereafter is highly uncertain,"
the Chancellor added.
The EU was reported Thursday to have given Britain 48 hours,
with a Friday deadline, to table new proposals to break the
impasse on the Irish border issue which remains the big
stumbling block in talks on a future trading relationship.
In what is a fast-changing crisis, the countdown has started
to be one of the most critical periods in recent British
politics, deciding the fate of Britain’s future in the EU.
May will present to MPs in the House of Commons the deal she
wants to sign with Brussels to signal the ending of Britain’s
membership of the EU.
Media in London reported that May’s Cabinet is resigned to
her deal being lost by up to 100 votes next week.
May is also considering to make a major speech on Friday
urging politicians to support her deal.
Britain’s negotiators, led by Brexit Secretary Stephen
Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, and EU leaders
confirmed that the latest round of tough negotiations on
Wednesday did not lead to any break in an impasse over the fate
of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Talks between British ministers and the EU officials were
described by both sides as difficult, with the EU going further
and insisting there had been no breakthrough.
Brussels has insisted that there must be a legal backstop to
prevent a hard border between British controlled Northern
Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which is a member of the
The 500 km border between the two sides will be the only EU
frontier in the British Isles after Brexit.
With a planned March 29 departure date looming, nobody knows
how more than 640 lawmakers in Parliament will decide the result
of May’s proposals in a meaningful vote due on Tuesday.
The deal has already been rejected by a margin of 230 votes,
the biggest defeat in recorded British political history.
Undaunted by that defeat, May has continued to press her
deal, hoping that EU negotiators will agree on the Irish border
If MPs reject May’s deal again they will be given a vote next
week on leaving the EU without a deal or delaying Britain’s
departure from the EU beyond March 29.
Political commentators predicted that EU negotiations usually
go to the wire, and they expected that to happen in the Brexit
Separately, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition
Labour Party, has been meeting Conservative MPs in a bid to win
support for an alternative to May’s Brexit deal. Many Labour MPs
though want a second referendum to decide the issue.
British Finance firms are
prepared for any difficult 'No-Deal Brexit' scenario
LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) --
As Britain is set to leave the
European Union (EU) on March 29, UK Finance firms have been
preparing for a "no-deal" scenario that some suggest might even
be "catastrophic" for the nation’s economy.
In a recent statement, a spokesperson for UK Finance, which
represents more than 250 firms in the UK’s finance and banking
industry, said that members were looking to put in place a plan
to reduce the effects of a no-deal scenario.
"Time is running out to avoid a chaotic ‘no-deal’ Brexit that
would be catastrophic for the UK economy.
"Firms in the finance industry have put contingency plans in
place to minimize disruption for their customers in a ‘no-deal’
scenario, but critical cliff-edge risks remain including on the
transfer of personal data and the operation of cross-border
contracts," said the spokesperson.
A number of financial firms in the UK have already made
preparations to remain within the European Single Market, by
moving their trading offices either from the UK, or selecting
cities other than UK-based ones to be their main trading hub on
MarketAxess, one of the world’s largest corporate bond
trading venues, said that it had chosen Amsterdam over London as
its main base for the EU due to the uncertainty of Brexit—denying
the UK financial sector hundreds of job opportunities.
Alongside this, the Bank of America said it had picked Dublin
as the main base for its EU investment banking and markets
operations, while Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank
chose Frankfurt, Germany.
In the light of Brexit preparations, British ship insurer UK
P&I Club opted to set up a subsidiary in the Dutch port city of
Rotterdam to remain within the European Single Market.
According to a report from consultancy EY released in
January, financial services companies have moved almost 800
billion pounds (about 1,054 billion U.S. dollars) in staff,
operations and customer funds to Europe since the Brexit
The majority of firms say that they are backing proposals to
avert Britain leaving the EU without a withdrawal deal—saying
that a no-deal would alter the way the financial and banking
sectors both operate.
Mark Carney, Bank of England governor said that a no-deal,
no-transition Brexit would, "by clear orders of magnitude", be
"materially" worse for Britain’s economic outlook than current
Alongside this, IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of
Procurement and Supply produced a report in early 2019 that
showed UK business optimism about the year ahead had fallen to
one of its lowest ever recorded by the survey.
The report said that political uncertainty had encouraged
delays to the majority of corporate spending in the UK service
sector, which includes financial firms, hotels, retail and
There is still much uncertainty surrounding the UK leaving
the EU. Much depends on whether UK Prime Minister Theresa May
can push a deal through the House of Commons before time runs
out to negotiate trade agreements with the EU.
As the political stalemate continues in Westminster, the
majority of financial businesses have been advised to prepare
for the worst.
UK Finance created a detailed online document to advise
businesses on how to prepare for the UK leaving the EU.
The document itself, written by Stephen Pegge, who is the
Managing Director of Commercial Finance within UK Finance,
points to mitigating business "disruption" over the UK’s
Included within is a step-by-step guide which encourages
businesses to use the "TALK" process.
The guide highlights the four main components that businesses
should consider when preparing for any Brexit scenario:
Take time to think about how customers and suppliers may
be affected by upcoming changes;
Ask bank and finance providers, customers and suppliers
early if you may need additional finance;
Look into alternative finance options; Know where to go
for more information to help your business.
UK Finance also called for politicians to unite ahead of
"It is now essential that politicians on all sides of the
House work together to agree a way forward and provide
much-needed certainty to the electorate and businesses," said
the UK Finance spokesperson.
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