Juncker warns Theresa May’s shift raises risk of disorderly Brexit (FT): Jean-Claude Juncker warned that Britain’s attempt to reopen its EU divorce deal had increased the chances of a disorderly Brexit, telling European leaders they should “prepare for the worst” with less than two months before the UK is set to leave the union. Although Mrs May’s gambit was backed by a slim majority in the UK parliament on Tuesday, Mr Juncker said the EU had long signalled that “the withdrawal deal will not be renegotiated”, arguing “the debate in the House of Commons does not change that.” In a clear effort to reinforce the message, the commission approved a new round of contingency plans in case the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement on March 29, including allowing British students to continue participating in Brussels-sponsored study-abroad schemes.
Theresa May faces pressure to clarify backstop changes (Guardian): Theresa May is under mounting pressure to spell out what changes to the Irish backstop she hopes to negotiate with Brussels, after the fragile Brexit truce in her own party appeared to fray on Wednesday. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, became the latest senior figure to reject the idea of revisiting the withdrawal agreement on Wednesday, insisting: “Calmly, I will say, right here and now, we need this backstop as it is.” Downing Street said ministers would hold a series of meetings with backbench Conservative MPs, including supporters of the so-called “Malthouse compromise”, in the coming days, to thrash out an agreed approach. May also met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in her House of Commons for face-to-face talks – though Downing Street subsequently denied that she had signalled a shift in position towards a customs union.
Fed chair issues Brexit warning (FT): Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell on Wednesday said the central bank has been monitoring Brexit and the US economy would feel some impact of a hard Brexit. With less than two months to go before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, Mr Powell said a hard Brexit “would very likely involve disruptions to the continental economy and certainly to the UK economy, and we would feel that”. His remarks came during a press conference after the central bank had signalled it was putting further interest rates on hold in its first monetary policy meeting of the year.
Barclays to move £170bn to Dublin over no-deal Brexit fears (Guardian): Barclays is to move €190bn (£166bn) worth of assets from the UK to Ireland as the bank readies itself for a possible no-deal Brexit. The high court on Wednesday approved the lender’s Brexit contingency plans that include transferring the assets linked to about 5,000 of its clients to a Dublin-based unit. The court approval came less than two months after Royal Bank of Scotland applied to transfer a third of its own investment bank clients and assets worth billions out of Britain to Amsterdam in preparation for Brexit. The Dublin and Amsterdam moves safeguard the banks’ businesses against a no-deal Brexit, allowing them to continue serving European customers even if Britain fails to strike a trade deal that covers financial services contracts.
Citizen’s rights and payments safeguarded in draft EU no-deal Brexit laws (Mlex): The European Commission has proposed new regulations to prepare businesses and citizens for a no deal Brexit. One regulation ensures that EU and UK nationals’ entitlement (such as insurance payments and residency rights) will be safeguarded. Another proposal says that the EU will “honor its commitments and continue making payments to UK beneficiaries of contracts”. The measures will only take effect if there’s reciprocal legislation on the UK side. The measures still need to be passed by EU governments and the European Parliament.
Brexit changes EU energy-efficiency calculations (Mlex): The EU revised the energy-consumption estimates down in the Energy Efficiency Directive to allow for the expected departure of the UK. Both the European Parliament and national representatives are now expected to formally adopt the decision before the end of March.