Wednesday, 8 Apr 2020

Brexit LIVE: EU demands even TOUGHER conditions on trade deal in latest slap down to UK

The latest version of the bloc’s negotiation mandate responds to serious concerns from European Union nations that the European Commission’s original draft did not do enough in requiring Britain remains closely aligned to EU regulations. The new text highlights any post-Brexit trade deal must ensure a regulatory playing field is created that “will stand the test of time” and provide “sufficient guarantees, so as to uphold corresponding high levels of protection over time”. The updated draft mandate also makes clear that any agreement should “uphold” EU fishermen’s current rights in UK, which has so far proved to be one of the most contested elements between the two sides.

EU diplomats will continue to press home for tougher language to be included during a meeting on Wednesday, led most notably by France.

The reinforced text hammers home how far away the UK and EU are ahead of trade deal talks set to start in March, following Britain’s departure from the bloc on January 31.

Speaking on Monday, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost warned Britain would press ahead with securing a Canada-style trade deal before the end of the transition period in December, adding the bloc’s demands for a level playing field undermine the fundamental purpose of Brexit.

But the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has slapped down those demands, insisting Britain is seeking market access rights that go far beyond those enjoyed by other countries with which it has trade deals, such as Canada and Japan.

A European Commission spokesperson said: “We have been together with the UK for almost half a century. Calais is only a couple of kilometres from Dover.

“The UK cannot expect high-quality access to the single market if it also insists on diverging from our rules.”

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8.15am update: Government under attack over new immigration rules ‘absolute disaster’

Industry leaders have warned changes to the UK’s immigration rules could “spell absolute disaster” for the care system and risk farmers, builders and hospitality businesses being hit the hardest.

The government has told employers they will “need to adjust” after deciding it will not offer visas to low-skilled migrant workers after Brexit.

The changes are designed to cut the number of low-skilled migrants entering Britain from the beginning of next year but aim to make it easier for higher-skilled workers to get UK visas.

Industry leaders have criticised the lack of provision for low-paid workers in the proposals while lawyers urged the Government “not to turn the tap off overnight” if companies struggle to recruit staff under the new system.

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said the plans “spell absolute disaster for the care sector”.

The UK Homecare Association said it was “dismayed” by the Government’s decision, adding: “Cutting off the supply of prospective careworkers under a new migration system will pave the way for more people waiting unnecessarily in hospital or going without care.

“Telling employers to adjust, in a grossly underfunded care system, is simply irresponsible.”

8am update: Labour lashes out at ‘meaningless’ new immigration system

Labour has lashed out at the UK Government, claiming its new post-Brexit immigration system will need so many exemptions it will be “meaningless”.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott criticised the plan, which wants to lower the salary threshold for skilled migrants from £30,000 to £25,600 for those coming to the UK with a job offer.

The government has said if the applicant earns less than the required minimum salary threshold – but no less than £20,480 – they may still be able to come if they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation or if they have a PhD relevant to the job..

But there will not be a visa option for low-skilled workers.

Ms Abbott said: “This isn’t an ‘Australian points-based system’, which is a meaningless Government soundbite. It’s a salary threshold system, which will need to have so many exemptions, for the NHS, for social care and many parts of the private sector, that it will be meaningless.

“Ultimately, it will also be very difficult to attract the workers we need at all skill levels while the Tories’ hostile environment is in place. It needs to go.”

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