Monday, 17 Feb 2020

Brexit LIVE: House of Lords set to scupper Brexit AGAIN today in blow to Boris Johnson

Yesterday’s losses triggered outrage from Brexiteers who called for the abolition of the Upper Chamber – with one even accusing peers of “taking orders” from Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit representative, who visited the UK earlier this week. Politico’s Playbook bulletin said: “Today’s votes will include proposed amendments on the rights of refugee children and parliament’s involvement in Phase 2 of the Brexit talks. It follows three crashing defeats for the government last night on EU citizens’ rights and the independence of the courts. “It’s pretty clear, however, that No 10 is not going to back down on any of these issues – so expect all the Lords amendments to be overturned by the Commons later this week.”

Mr Johnson’s legislation, which has already been ratified by the House of Commons, is now passing through the House of Lords, which is seeking a number of amendments.

Lords voted by 270 to 229 in favour of a change put forward by the Liberal Democrats to offer eligible EU citizens in Britain an automatic right to stay after Brexit, rather than having to apply to the government to do so.

They then voted, by 241 to 205, to delete powers allowing lower courts the power to overturn rulings of the European Court of Justice.

Finally, Lords passed an amendment which would permit cases to be referred to the Supreme Court to adjudicate on whether to depart from EU case law.

After the first loss, Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, tweeted: “There’s a moment – first defeat for Johnson’s govt – in the Lords over giving EU citizens physical documents to prove they have the right to live here after Brexit.”

Twitter user Jed responded: “Remove the House of Lords. 17.4 million people don’t want them.”

Express.co.uk reader Frederick later highlighted Mr Verhofstadt’s recent trip to London, during which he appeared on Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today.

He commented: “I was just thinking it was a big coincidence that he visits the UK and all of the sudden the Lords changes the bill exactly as he demanded.

“Looks like he was over here giving them their orders.”

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JUST IN: EU terror – Panicking officials fear union breakup

11.35pm update: Scottish Greens unveil plans for Brexit Day

The Scottish Greens will use the day the UK formally leaves the EU to launch a new campaign for independence.

The party is planning to mark “Brexit Day” with a rally in Glasgow, where it will relaunch its campaign for independence and also make clear a separate Scotland should be part of the EU.

Ska Keller, the president of the Greens in the European Parliament, will join Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie for the event on Friday January 31.

Mr Harvie said it was “outrageous and undemocratic” that Scots were being denied a second independence referendum at a time when they were being taken out of Europe against their wishes.

Calls for a fresh ballot on Scotland’s place in the UK have been mounting since the UK voted for Brexit in 2016 – with almost two-thirds of voters north of the border supporting Remain in the referendum.

11.07am update: More defeats looming for the Government in the Lords

Boris Johnson is likely to suffer further defeats in the House of Lords tonight as peers seek to make further amendments to his Brexit legislation – but the Government is unlikely to take them lying down.

Politico’s Playbook bulletin said: “Today’s votes will include proposed amendments on the rights of refugee children and parliament’s involvement in Phase 2 of the Brexit talks. It follows three crashing defeats for the government last night on EU citizens’ rights and the independence of the courts.

“It’s pretty clear, however, that No 10 is not going to back down on any of these issues – so expect all the Lords amendments to be overturned by the Commons later this week.”

10.19am update: What Brexodus? More than 1,000 EU firms apply for licence to trade IN UK after Brexit

Financial firms from the European Union are now applying to set up operations in the City of London post-Brexit, and the number of these companies has now exceeded one thousand.

Unrestricted two-way business regulations between the UK and EU come to an end in December 2020. Over 1,441 EU based firms had applied to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for temporary permissions to operate in the UK after Brexit.

For most of these businesses, it will be the first time they have had an office in the UK.

The figures were obtained via a Freedom of Information request from regulatory consultancy Bovill.

9.52am update: “UK economy will go from strength to strength”

Mr Javid addedL “We’re working closely with businesses back home and also abroad as we work on that FTA, that’s going to be very important for us, but also as we work on other FTAs with many other partners.

“We look forward with confidence as we look forward and strike that new deal with our European friends and strike new FTAs across the world.

“It will be a very important time for British business and I can see a British economy that goes from strength to strength.”

9.48am update: “We won’t be ruletakers,” says Javid

Sajid Javid has arrived at a meeting of the European Council in Brussels – the last UK minister who will do so – and took the opportunity to tell Brussels Britain would no longer be “rule-takers”.

Mr Javid, said: “While in the meeting today I will be expressing my appreciation for all the things we have achieved together, but also a reassurance that we will remain close partners and friends and as we look ahead Britain will be leaving the EU with confidence and thinking about all the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.”

Questioned on the subject of trade alignment, he added: “As we leave the EU we will not be in the single market, we will not be in the customs union and we will not be ruletakers. At the same time of course we want a deep, comprehensive FTA and that’s what we’re working on.”

9.39am update: Mixed bag for retailers this Christmas

Britain’s retailers reported mixed results for the critical Christmas period, with major supermarkets suffering their slowest festive season in years and retailers varied in their performance.

British shoppers cut back on spending in late 2019, rounding off the worst year since at least the mid-1990s for retail sales as measured by an industry group amid uncertainty about Brexit and last month’s election.

That followed relatively subdued updates from the high street following “Black Friday” sales at the end of November.

9.15am update: Food and drink sector shrugs off Brexit worries

Britain’s food and drink companies are increasing sales and employment despite the uncertain political and economic climate, a new study suggests.

The sector is forging head at home and abroad, according to research by Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, and Santander.

According to the report, the sector is worth 15.9 percent of the value of manufacturing goods, with sales in 2018 of £85.6 billion, an increase of 7.6 percent from 2016.

Food and drink firms are a major employer across the UK with around 440,000 employees, up 5.3 percent since 2016 and at the highest level for 15 years, said the report

Much of the growth is coming overseas with sales abroad up by just under one quarter in the last two years, it was found.

The EU remains the biggest total market accounting for just under two thirds of exports, worth £13.9 billion, with Ireland the largest single destination, followed by the Netherlands, France, the US and Germany.

Make UK chief economist Seamus Nevin said: “The food and drink sector continues to benefit from the British public’s insatiable desire to eat and drink.”

9.05am update:  Brexit threat to Scotland “on the horizon”, claims MP

The threat of Brexit to the future of Scotland “is on the horizon”, according to one SNP MP, with 10 days to go until Britain leaves the European Union.

Philippa Whitford made the warning as Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal suffered a defeat in the House of Lords over the rights of EU citizens lawfully residing in the UK after January 31.

Peers backed a cross-party amendment allowing physical proof of their status, meaning the Bill will go back to the Commons.

Despite that, Dr Whitford criticised the “damaging consequences” of the Brexit deal “which will threaten the livelihoods of EU nationals who contribute massively to our society”.

The shadow secretary of state for exiting the EU also lamented the “light show” proposed for Downing Street counting down to 11pm a week on Friday.

She said: “With just 10 days to go till Brexit day, the threat to Scotland’s economy, society and future is on the horizon.

8.57am update: Donald Trump ready to move ‘heaven and earth’ to seal trade deal with Boris THIS SUMMER

Boris Johnson is set to outline Britain’s post-Brexit vision within the next few weeks as the Prime Minister looks to conclude fast-track trade talks with the US and European Union.

In his first major speech after the UK exits the bloc, the Prime Minister is set to confirm Britain will negotiate simultaneously with US President Donald Trump and Brussels in order to strike a free-trade deal before the December 31 deadline, the Financial Times reports.

Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, has already held talks with International Trade Secretary Liz Truss last Thursday.

It is understood the US trade official suggested a deal could be reached by the summer and Washington was “prepared to move heaven and earth” to get an agreement over the line.

One US official said: “He suggested he was prepared to move heaven and earth to get something tied up by the summer.”

8.49am update: Pro-EU banner raises £11,000 in three days

A crowdfunding campaign for a massive pro-EU flag to be displayed over the White Cliffs of Dover ahead of Brexit has raised £11,000 in three days.

Set up by South East England MEP Antony Hook on Friday, the campaign’s target was just £5,500 to fund the 150sq m banner, and it made the sum in 24 hours.

The message will read: “We still love EU.”

Mr Hook said: “The phenomenal success of this appeal demonstrates how passionately people in this country feel about sending a positive message to the EU.”

He added: “This banner is much bigger than leave or remain. It is about communicating our appreciation for our nearest neighbours and our hope that we will continue to have the best possible relationship with them in the future.”

8.41am update: “Clarity is crucial”

Allie Renison, head of Europe and trade policy at the IoD, said just 35 percent of businesses believe the withdrawal agreement gives their organisation the “certainty needed to make planning and investment decisions”, compared with 55 percent who agreed they “will only be able to make planning and investment decisions with certainty when we understand our future relationship with the EU”.

She added: “To give businesses any chance of being ready for the new relationship by the end of 2020, the Government needs to be as clear as possible about what its intended destination is.

“With directors clear that negotiations with the EU are the priority right now, clarity is crucial for so many companies.

“Just calling it a free trade agreement gives no indication of the balance between alignment and divergence, which is essential for firms to do any kind of advance planning. Directors need to know what the Government’s priorities for market access are for the EU.”

8.39am update: Businesses believe Government’s post-Brexit vision lacks detail, survey suggests

A majority of British businesses believe the Government’s vision for a post-Brexit relationship with the EU does not provide enough detail for them to plan and invest with certainty, a new survey has found.

The Institute of Directors (IoD), which conducted the research, also found that directors are three times more likely to view negotiations with the EU as a priority, versus signing up to new trade deals in other parts of the world.

Details emerged as Chancellor Sajid Javid laid out his vision for the UK’s trading relationship with the EU in an interview from a sandwich bar near Westminster with the Financial Times newspaper on Saturday.

It included the warning that there will not be future alignment with EU rules, although which sectors are expected to diverge has not been disclosed.

8.32am update: No independent passport-free travel for Gibraltar, says Government

Gibraltar will not be able to negotiate an independent, passport-free travel deal with the EU after Brexit, the UK has said, despite comments by the British Overseas Territory’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

Speaking last Friday, Mr Picardo said joining a common travel area to deal the EU’s Schengen zone could benefit the Rock.

In total, 22 EU member states participate in the Schengen area, whereby citizens are able to travel passport-free across borders in the EU.

A UK government spokesperson said Gibraltar’s arrangements would be included in UK-EU talks on future relations, with a Government spokesman adding: “The UK, including Gibraltar, is not part of the borderless Schengen zone.”

8.16am update: EU’s Brexit punishment – EU plotting punitive sanctions to scupper Boris’ post-Brexit plans

Brussels is plotting to block UK access to EU markets or impose crippling fines if Boris Johnson breaks the terms of any post-Brexit trade deal, diplomats have warned.

Michel Barnier’s negotiating team told EU capitals Brussels is planning a stringent enforcement mechanism to ensure the UK respects the terms of the free-trade agreement.

Diplomats were briefed on the negotiation strategy, which demands the future relationship is governed by “efficient and effective arrangements for management, supervision, implementation and review” mechanisms.

The bloc hopes that the “over-arching” governance structure will underpin the so-called level playing field that it hopes to include in any future trade deal.

8.11am update: Panicking officials fear union breakup amid growing Brexit worry from Brussels

Brexit is an existential threat to Brussels, because it will show that there is a better alternative to the EU, according to a leading UK economist.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Roger Bootle argues that the EU has been failing economically over the past few decades.

The bloc has underperformed most major developed countries and seen its share of world GDP fall continuously, he argues.

Despite this, European leaders insist that the EU has been an unqualified economic and political success.

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