• Brexit: EU can ‘certainly not’ accept Theresa May’s single market plan, Juncker warns: Jean-Claude Juncker has given his clearest signal yet that the EU will not accept Theresa May’s plan to keep Britain in the single market for goods after Brexit. In his annual state of the union address in Strasbourg, the European Commission president said parts of the single market could certainly not be jettisoned for countries outside the bloc. But he said the Chequers proposals could be a starting point for the future relationship and that Britain would never be an ordinary country for the EU. Juncker described the conduct of Michel Barnier as masterful and reiterated that the official had the unanimous support of EU member states – who Britain has tried to split off in order to get a better deal, so far unsuccessfully. In what might be interpreted as a veiled dig at British plans to set up its own satellite system after it leaves the EU, Juncker said: “No single member state would’ve been able to launch the satellites that 400 million users around the world are already benefiting from. No member state could have done that on its own.” Elsewhere in the speech Juncker said his commission would bring forward new rules to ensure elections free from third-party interference, and outlined plans for enhanced trade between the EU and Africa. He also suggested reforms to the EU’s governance structures, scrapping the requirement for unanimous European Council votes on taxation and foreign policy. That plan is likely to face significant opposition from members states, some of whom are likely to view it as a power-grab. (Independent)

 

  • Pro-Brexit Tory MPs openly discuss how to get rid of Theresa May: Conservative MPs have openly discussed methods of ousting the prime minister at a private meeting of hardline Brexiters. At the gathering on Tuesday night of the European Research Group (ERG) of more than 50 Eurosceptic MPs, sources said MPs in the Thatcher room in Portcullis House discussed the timing of a possible confidence vote in the prime minister if she did not ditch her Chequers plan. One said there was an utter lack of dissent in the room about the need to replace May. They ran through the ‘how to’ options. It was not a question of ‘should do’, was said. A confidence vote would require 48 MPs to send letters of no confidence to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories. However, May would need only a simple majority to see off a challenge and Downing Street is confident Conservative rebels do not have the numbers to topple her. If she defeated a no-confidence vote, the prime minister could not be challenged again for another year. (The Guardian)

 

  • Brexit: Tory MPs say technology key to avoiding hard Irish border: A hard border on the island of Ireland can be avoided by using established technology and modifying existing arrangements, Brexiteer Tory MPs say. They urged effective co-operation between Belfast and Dublin to address smuggling concerns and extra customs forms to be processed via VAT returns. The EU has insisted on a “backstop” to ensure the single market is protected. Both the UK and the EU want to avoid a return to physical checks at the Northern Ireland border, but have yet to agree how this can be achieved. Downing Street said it had looked at the border issue for nearly two years and the prime minister’s Chequers blueprint – which envisages a free trade zone for goods moving between the UK and the EU backed up by a facilitated customs arrangement – was the only credible and negotiable option. He said the group was citing the example of the invisible border between Norway and Sweden as a precedent for how post-Brexit arrangements might work. He insisted there was absolutely nothing new in what the group was proposing because the solutions already exist to deliver an ordered border. He said there was already a tax, VAT, excise and currency border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which was maintained by administrative and technical tools. This should continue after Brexit, he said, supplemented by a range of mechanisms to ensure customs checks are conducted away from the border, such as trusted trader schemes. (BBC)

 

  • No-deal Brexit: UK food exports could get stuck at borders – National Audit Office: Food and livestock could be delayed at UK borders in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the National Audit Office (NAO) says. The public spending watchdog warns the government has failed to hire enough vets to process exports from the UK in its no-deal preparations. The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), one of the government departments most affected by Brexit, says it’s preparing for a range of scenarios and has hired extra staff. But the NAO accused it of being unprepared for no deal, saying many of its plans were of poor quality or lacked maturity. Defra needs vets to process export health certificates, which are used to prove food and livestock exports comply with animal health standards and regulations – a need which is expected to increase if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal. Without them consignments of food could be delayed at the border or prevented from leaving the UK, the NAO says. It points out that Defra will also have to introduce a UK equivalent for each of 1,400 different versions of the current EU certificates, which currently refer to EU law, and agree these with 154 different countries in order to continue to export to them. The NAO says Defra will simply not be able to reach agreements with all of these countries by March 2019, when Britain is due to leave the European union. This could leave UK firms unable to export to some countries for a period after Brexit, it warns. (BBC)
Author

Jessica's practice focuses on international trade and anti-bribery work, encompassing customs, export control and sanctions matters. Jessica's trade work includes advising international clients on fast-moving and evolving EU and UN sanctions, notably in respect of Iran and Russia, and on compliance with UK and EU export controls. Her trade experience also includes advising on tariff classification and customs valuations. Jessica's anti-bribery experience includes assisting with investigations, and advising clients on compliance with anti-bribery laws. Jessica has also taken a lead role in monitoring Brexit-related developments; analysing how they will affect the UK's trading position generally, and clients' businesses specifically. She has helped clients begin to conduct risk assessments of how Brexit will impact their businesses, and has assisted them in developing tailored Brexit strategies. Jessica also presents at various seminars, webinars, and conferences on the complexities of Brexit. Jessica advises global clients on complex issues arising from international transactions and works with clients across a number of sectors including pharmaceuticals, defence, finance, aviation, energy, and telecommunications. Jessica has also worked previously in Paris, and is fluent in French.

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