• No deal Brexit risks increase as UK-Japan trade talks stall (FT): Britain and Japan have made little progress on a new trade deal in the past 18 months, according to officials involved in the talks, with tariffs set to revert to World Trade Organization levels at the end of March unless the UK ratifies a Brexit deal. Japan has agreed to extend existing trade terms for the duration of Britain’s planned transition period with the EU — but this will not apply if the UK fails to strike a deal with Brussels. Japan is confident that it can secure better terms from the UK than it did in negotiations with the much larger EU, and is not willing to duplicate the existing treaty precisely in either a bilateral deal or in talks for the UK to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership group.  “The new agreement is not just a copy-and-paste of the existing treaty,” said one Japanese official briefed on the talks. “The tariffs, rules and quotas need to be negotiated separately.”
  • Guy Verhofstadt welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s offer to Theresa May (BBC): The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator said “cross-party co-operation is the way forward and I think I can say that we welcome also the letter that Jeremy Corbyn has written today to Mrs May to offer such a cross-party exit. It’s important now that this leads to a position in the UK that has the broadest possible majority, so that we can conclude these negotiations.” Donald Tusk is reported to have said Mr Corbyn’s proposal was a “promising way” out of the current impasse. However, MP Owen Smith has said he and “lots of other people” were considering their future in the party over what they consider Mr Corbyn’s broken promise to commit to a second referendum if he was not able to force a general election. Mr Corbyn wrote to Theresa May on Wednesday stipulating his party’s five demands for supporting a deal. These included a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union” aligned with the EU’s customs rules, but with an agreement “that includes a UK say on future EU trade deals”. The letter does not mention previous demands that any deal must deliver the “exact same benefits” that membership of the single market and customs union currently does – effectively scrapping the party’s “six tests” that had been its Brexit policy.
  • May says she can get deal through with binding changes (BBC): The Prime Minister today vowed to deliver Brexit “on time” whilst also criticising Donald Tusk for his comment that those who campaigned for Brexit without a plan would be reserved “a special place in hell”. She said the language “was not helpful” and had “caused widespread dismay in the United Kingdom”, adding that he should be “focusing” on working with the UK to get a Brexit deal. Mr Tusk tweeted that there was “no breakthrough in sight” following his talks with the UK prime minister. Meanwhile Mr Juncker “underlined that the EU27 will not reopen the withdrawal agreement” in their talks, according to a joint statement released by the two sides. But he “expressed his openness” to adding words to the non-binding future relationship document – that also has to be backed by MPs – to be “more ambitious in terms of content and speed”.
  • Brexit: Theresa May to meet Leo Varadkar for Brexit talks (BBC):  The two will have dinner on Friday night with Mr Varadkar saying it was “not a day for negotiations” but that it was an opportunity to “share perspectives”. The BBC reported earlier in the day that there is a “very real” chance of an Irish unity poll if a no-deal Brexit occurs; however, Arlene Foster countered the idea of a unity poll referring to the Good Friday Agreement setting out “criteria for a border poll, and it hasn’t been met – therefore it will not be called”. Earlier today, Mr Varadkar travelled to Belfast to “hear the perspective of the main parties” where he said “We share common objectives to make sure that there is a deal in relation to Brexit, to avoid a hard border, and to maintain frictionless trade.”
  • Lack of trade defences for no deal Brexit concerns MPs (FT): MPs have expressed concern that the UK will struggle to protect British industry from trade dumping and unfair subsidies if there is a no-deal Brexit, because a vital government agency is not yet ready and the corresponding legislation has not been passed. Angus MacNeil, chair of the trade select committee, wrote to Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade, raising concerns that the UK’s new Trade Remedies Authority will not have full staffing in place or the necessary leadership when Brexit is due to take place on March 29. The TRA will be responsible for investigating unfair trading practices after Brexit, a task currently carried out by the EU. The authority’s chief executive designate, Claire Bassett, has only been in place for a few weeks and the new Reading-based body has so far recruited about 100 people, equivalent to three-quarters of its staff. Mr MacNeil also called on the trade secretary to publish contingency plans in case the legislation to establish the authority does not pass through parliament in time. Peers in the House of Lords voted on January 21 to shelve the trade bill, leaving the legislation in limbo.
  • Farage forms new Brexit party (Guardian): A new Brexit party named The Brexit Party, supported by Nigel Farage, has been officially recognised by the Electoral Commission and is likely to win over thousands of Tory defectors, the Telegraph reports. It says it will field candidates in England, Wales, Scotland and Europe. The party leader is former Ukip candidate, Catherine Blaiklock. Nigel Farage said “the engine is running” and he stood “ready for battle”.
  • Ex-head of Civil Service calls for fresh referendum (Guardian): Bob Kerslake, a former head of the civil service, has urged the government to rule out a no-deal Brexit, saying ministers had the power to do so and thereby end the uncertainty that is gripping business and local government services. Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Lord Kerslake also called for a fresh referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, which he admitted might take as long as a year to organise. However, Mr Kerslake suggested no other options remained, adding “Where else do we go?”.
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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