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Thread: Brexit

  1. #1


    I guess it's time for this "omnishambles" as they called it on Slate Money to have it's own thread.

    Some live updates from the Guardian after the UK government was forced to release the Yellowhammer Documents.

    11m ago22:32
    ‘We cannot trust Boris Johnson to halt this calamity’

    Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve has responded to Yellowhammer by issuing renewed calls for a second referendum in which remaining an EU member is an option on the ballot paper.

    Even a partial release of the Yellowhammer documents is enough to show how deep the damage a no-deal exit from the EU would do.
    Boris Johnson cannot portray forcing an undemocratic no-deal on the country as patriotic. On the contrary it would be deeply damaging to our economic interests and to social cohesion.
    As a One Nation Conservative I am deeply fearful of the long-term damage a reckless approach - which knowingly risks prosperity, increases poverty and even threatens medical supplies - will do to both the people and our party. This must be stopped.
    As we cannot trust Boris Johnson to halt this calamity, we must trust the people. We must give the public the final say in a new referendum with the option of keeping our current deal as members of the EU.”
    The government refused Grieve’s request to make public internal communications between the prime minister’s top advisers over Yellowhammer and prorogation, claiming it would breach their rights and various legal frameworks.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  2. #2

    Re: Brexit

    24m ago

    ‘Worst possible timing for the retail industry’

    Echoing the reaction of the BMA, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that Yellowhammer confirms its warnings on the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

    BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said:

    The Yellowhammer document confirms what retailers have been saying for the last three years - fresh food availability will decrease, consumer choice will decrease, and prices will rise. This isn’t good for the British public and this isn’t good for British retailers.

    A no-deal Brexit in November represents the worst possible timing for the retail industry and the consumers it serves.

    Warehousing availability will be limited as retailers prepare for Black Friday and Christmas, many fresh fruit and vegetables will be out of season in the UK, and imports will be hampered by disruption through the Channel Straits that could reduce flow by up to 60% for up to three months.

    While retailers are doing all they can to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, it is impossible to completely mitigate the negative impact it would have - something the Government itself has acknowledged.

    The fact remains that a damaging, no-deal Brexit is in no-one’s interests and it is vital that a solution is found, and fast, that ensures frictionless tariff-free trade with the EU after our departure.”

    51m ago

    The British Medical Association (BMA) has said that the “alarming” Yellowhammer document confirms its concerns over the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

    BMA Council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul told the Press Association:

    Here we see in black and white the Government warning of disruption to vital medicine supplies, a higher risk of disease outbreaks due to veterinary medicine supply issues, and UK pensioners in the EU being unable to access healthcare from 1 November if there is a no-deal Brexit.

    The warnings around social care providers folding within months of Brexit day are particularly concerning, having a huge impact on our most vulnerable patients and the wider health service in the depths of winter.”

    1h ago
    Former education minister Sam Gyimah – one of 21 Tory rebels who had the whip withdrawn – has also taken to Twitter, accusing the government of trying to downplay the document leaked in August.

    The leaked document wasn’t out of date. This isn’t project fear. It is a sober assessment of what could happen.

    No deal is not ‘vanishingly inexpensive’ or a ‘bump in the road’. This is only a part of the chaos and long term damage our country would suffer. We must stop this.

    1h ago
    Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has now taken to Twitter to respond to the release of Operation Yellowhammer this evening.

    Disruption to crime data sharing and an overstretched police force left to deal with public unrest - the Yellowhammer docs show just how much the Tories No Deal Brexit is putting our safety at risk.

    The document states that “law enforcement data and information sharing between the UK and EU will be disrupted”.

    It also projects that: “Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK and may absorb significant amounts of police resource. There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions.”
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  3. #3

    Re: Brexit

    Rosamund Urwin

    What's different about the new Yellowhammer document that the government has just published compared with the one I got hold of last month? The heading.

    What did the version I had say? BASE SCENARIO
    Now what does the new one say? HMG Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions

    So lots of people asking what the redacted part is... Here goes:

    "15. Facing EU tariffs makes petrol exports to the EU uncompetitive. Industry had plans to mitigate the impact on refinery margins and profitability but UK Government policy to set petrol import tariffs at 0% inadvertently undermines these plans." [More to come]

    "This leads to significant financial losses and announcement of two refinery closures (and transition to import terminals) and direct job losses (about 2000). (2/3)

    Resulting strike action at refineries would lead to disruptions to fuel availability for 1-2 weeks in the regions directly supplied by the refineries." (3/3)
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  4. #4

    Re: Brexit

    Merkel warns of danger to EU of Singapore-style UK on its border
    UK poses threat if it fails to match regulation standards of bloc, says German chancellor

    Daniel Boffey in Brussels and Jon Henley in Paris

    Wed 11 Sep 2019 18.07 BST

    Angela Merkel has highlighted the economic danger posed by Britain if it is allowed to become a Singapore-on-Thames as Boris Johnson’s Brexit envoy outlined a plan to ditch the UK’s commitments to stay aligned to the EU’s social and environmental standards.

    In talks with European commission officials, the prime minister’s negotiator, David Frost, insisted that the UK is seeking a “clean break” from an array of the bloc’s regulations, a policy choice from the new British government that has caused alarm in other EU capitals.

    As the UK’s new vision was laid out in Brussels, the German chancellor, speaking in the Bundestag, said she was determined to strike a deal with Johnson but that a no-deal Brexit could not be ruled out.

    Merkel also warned of the economic threat that the UK could pose. Johnson had privately told EU diplomats during his time as foreign secretary of his desire to build a “buccaneering” Britain, which has been seen as an indication of his plan to recast the UK as a low-tax and low-regulation state.

    Merkel’s comments indicate the difficulty that the British government will face in striking what it has described as a “best in class” free trade deal if it fails to match EU standards on goods, workers’ rights, tax and the environment, among others.

    EU sources have said that the UK will need to sign up to more onerous, level playing-field obligations than Canada due to the UK’s proximity and the size of its economy.

    Diplomats in Brussels said that the British government would be presented with a “Canada minus minus”, potentially including tariffs on some goods, if it seeks to strike a free trade deal without the full array of commitments currently contained in the political declaration on the future relationship agreed with Theresa May.

    Merkel told German parliamentarians: “We still have every chance of getting an orderly [Brexit] and the German government will do everything it can to make that possible – right up to the last day. But I also say we are prepared for a disorderly Brexit.

    “But the fact remains that after the withdrawal of Britain, we have an economic competitor at our door, even if we want to keep close economic, foreign and security cooperation and friendly relations.

    “On the one hand, as Europeans we are weaker with Britain’s exit – that has to be said – but on the other hand, this is the moment to develop new strengths.”

    She added: “No country in the world can solve its problems alone and if we all work against each other we will not win. I believe in win-win situations, if we work together.”

    A UK government spokesman said: “The UK is seeking to agree a free trade agreement. The EU have always said this is available. Any level playing-field provisions will need to reflect this end state.”

    The intervention from Berlin came as France’s minister for Europe, Amélie de Montchalin, accused the UK of breaking “the spirit” of the negotiations by trying to strike “mini-deals” with individual EU member states.

    “We see that in the bilateral meetings the British try to get with their opposite numbers that they are trying to organise a managed no deal,” she told a news conference after meeting the 26 ambassadors to France of the EU’s members. The British ambassador was excluded. “And what the British want is to ensure that the different relationships that they have with each EU member state are recreated before the moment of separation, thanks to these mini deals. It is completely contrary to the spirit in which we’ve been negotiating. When [Stephen] Barclay [the UK Brexit secretary] or others try this in France, we say: ‘We hear you. Go and talk to Michel Barnier to see what can be done at the European level.’”

    De Montchalin said a no deal was now “highly possible”. She added that a Brexit extension request by the UK would not be accepted under the “current conditions” and the the EU27 would deal with the UK prime minister and not parliament.

    She said: “We first have to receive a formal ask. Governments talk to the commission, that’s the way it works. There is no such thing, for example, as parliament asking for an extension. Those who have the legitimacy to represent a country are those who sit at the table of the European council.

    “If – and that’s a big if, it seems … we try to follow what’s happening in the UK – but if there is such an ask, we have always said that ‘time for time’ is not an option. So if there is a change in the political scene – a new government, the announcement of elections, something that makes us think the landscape of the discussions is changing – then we will consider an extension.

    “I cannot tell you now what might be decided now in such a situation on a night in Brussels in October,” the French minister added. “As we have said, under current circumstances, the answer is no: if nothing changes, we have always said time alone is not a sufficient reason [for another extension]. We cannot commit today, because we have no concrete scenarios yet.”
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  5. #5

    Re: Brexit

    They should just get on with it. This continuous uncertainty is as damaging to the economy as anything a hard Brexit would cause.
    Roger forever

  6. #6

    Re: Brexit

    Michel Barnier: no grounds for reopening Brexit talks
    EU’s top negotiator tells MEPs Britain has not offered credible proposals for Irish border

    Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin in Brussels
    Thu 12 Sep 2019 16.47 BST

    Michel Barnier has told MEPs there remain insufficient grounds for reopening formal negotiations over the Irish backstop, six months after Theresa May and the European commission closed them.

    In a private briefing with the European parliament’s leaders, the EU’s chief negotiator said Boris Johnson’s officials, led by his envoy, David Frost, were yet to offer any credible plan on which the two sides could build.

    “We will see in the coming weeks if the British are able to make concrete proposals in writing that are legally operational,” Barnier told the MEPs. “While we have previously reached an agreement, as far as we can speak [today], we have no reason to be optimistic … I cannot tell you objectively whether contacts with the government of Mr Johnson will be able to reach an agreement by mid-October.”

    Barnier said that there has been a willingness by the UK to “intensify contacts” but that in terms of replacing the backstop “the ball is clearly in the British camp” and “the Brexit situation remains serious and uncertain”.

    Barnier’s comments, published in full by the European commission, are the clearest indication so far of the lack of progress being made in the talks in Brussels, where the prime minister has insisted a major renegotiation is in process.

    The EU negotiator said that Johnson had claimed on becoming prime minister that he was “ready for an exit without agreement if his requests were not accepted, as if this prospect could lead us to give up our principles”, but that the Commons had “rejected such a scenario”.

    “At the same time, you will have understood, despite the vote of the extension law, the risk of no deal has not been ruled out,” Barnier said. “A no deal will never be the choice of the union. But we do not have the ability to avoid this scenario alone.”

    The EU’s negotiator went on to raise concerns about the UK’s plans for the future trade relationship, which he suggested amounted to an attempt to undercut the European economic model by becoming a Singapore-on-Thames.

    Barnier told the MEPs: “On our future economic partnership, they want us to state without ambiguity that the final destination must be a free trade agreement and in no way a customs union. And we are obviously ready to work in this direction.

    “We will have a problem if the British will at the same time challenge the level playing field commitments we have negotiated with Mrs May and which guarantee fair competition between the EU and the UK. This is of course a point on which we will remain very vigilant.

    “It is clear that the level of ambition of a future free trade agreement will be defined according to the guarantees given by the United Kingdom in terms of state aid, taxation or social and environmental standards, given its economic size and proximity.”

    In an earlier briefing with diplomats representing the EU27 about the latest talks with Frost, a senior member of Barnier’s Brexit team had described the ideas so far put forward during technical talks between officials on both sides as aspirational.

    “Another longish meeting without tangible progress on Wednesday,” said an EU diplomat, referring to the latest round of talks between the European commission and Frost.

    The last substantive Brexit negotiation took place in Strasbourg in March when the then prime minister and the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, drafted an ill-fated adjunct to the withdrawal agreement emphasising the temporary nature of the Irish backstop. May’s deal was subsequently defeated in the Commons by the crushing margin of 149.

    EU officials insisted that nearly two months after Johnson was made prime minister the gap between the two sides was still far too wide for any meaningful renegotiation and that British civil servants were still merely “talking about concepts”.

    In the most recent talks between officials, Frost was said to have outlined ideas covering customs and manufactured goods in which Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would be in separate customs and regulatory zones.

    Sources said Johnson’s envoy had suggested an “enhanced market surveillance mechanism” for industrial goods involving tough penalties for those who seek to smuggle contraband over the border.

    Frost had said the UK could commit to an open border in the withdrawal agreement but that the detail of how checks could be done away from the border would have to be decided during the stand-still transition period catered for in the withdrawal agreement.

    The EU insists that there must be a legally operable plan for avoiding a hard border in any withdrawal agreement and that it will not accept a deal based on a promise.

    Speaking after the MEPs’ briefing with Barnier, the president of the European parliament, David Sassoli, told reporters: “We would like there to be initiatives to discuss but unfortunately there aren’t any.”

    The UK government insistst it will not accept any backstop that leaves Northern Ireland in a separate customs territory and different regulatory areas for goods other than agrifood.

    There remains some confidence that the UK might move in that direction in order to put a last-gasp deal before parliament and avoid a further Brexit extension.

    One diplomat added that the UK “now seems better to recognise the unique situation on the island of Ireland” but that current proposals were “wish wash”.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  7. #7

    Re: Brexit

    Boris Johnson says it is 'absolutely' not true he misled Queen over prorogation
    PM plays down Scottish court ruling and significance of Yellowhammer release

    Rowena Mason Deputy political editor
    Thu 12 Sep 2019 14.48 BST

    Boris Johnson has said it is “absolutely not true” that he misled the Queen over his reasons for suspending parliament, after a Scottish court ruled his suspension unlawful because he did it to stop MPs scrutinising Brexit.

    The prime minister previously insisted he sought the suspension so that the government could set out a new legislative programme in a Queen’s speech on 14 October, but the court said the prorogation was obtained for the “improper purpose of stymying parliament”.

    On Thursday, in his first comments since the judgment, Johnson said the high court in London had taken an opposing view and it was for the supreme court to make a final adjudication.

    Asked whether he had lied to the monarch in order to obtain the prorogation, Johnson replied: “Absolutely not.” He added: “The high court in England plainly agrees with us but the supreme court will have to decide. We need a Queen’s speech, we need to get on and do all sorts of things at a national level.”

    However, the London court, on 6 September, had made no ruling on the truthfulness of his reason for the prorogation, simply saying it was a lawful move because suspension of parliament was within the prime minister’s powers regardless of motive.


    Johnson also sought to play down an argument about the role of Scottish judges in ruling prorogation lawful after Kwasi Kwarteng, the business minister, claimed “many people” thought judges were biased in relation to Brexit.

    Opposition parties continue to press Johnson for a return to parliament, not least to scrutinise the possible effects of a no deal Brexit as revealed in the official Operation Yellowhammer documents released by the government on Wednesday.

    MPs secured the release of the papers through the use of a humble address in the Commons but cannot now force the publication of other documents because parliament is not in session.

    Johnson tried to minimise the significance of the paper, saying it represented a “worst-case scenario” and ministers had been “massively accelerating” their no-deal preparations since he entered No 10 in July.

    “If we have to come out on 31 October with no deal we will be ready and the ports will be ready and the farming communities will be ready, and all the industries that matter will be ready for a no-deal Brexit,” he said. “What you’re looking at here is just the sensible preparations – the worst-case scenario – that you’d expect any government to do.”

    Some MPs believe Johnson is moving closer towards trying to achieve a Brexit deal after realising the scale of disruption associated with leaving the union without an agreement. However, securing a deal would probably involve having to disappoint hardline Eurosceptics in his party.

    Johnson said on Thursday: “I’m very hopeful that we will get a deal, as I say, at that crucial [EU] summit [in mid-October]. We’re working very hard. I’ve been around the European capitals talking to our friends. I think we can see the rough area of a landing space, of how you can do it. It will be tough, it will be hard, but I think we can get there.”

    The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said they were still waiting to see proposals from the UK side to resolve the fraught issue of the Northern Ireland backstop. “We are still ready to examine objectively any concrete and legally operational proposals from the UK,” he told reporters in Brussels.

    Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said it was essential MPs returned to parliament so they could question ministers about how Johnson intended to secure a deal. “This is more like emergency planning for war or a natural disaster,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, discussing the Yellowhammer document. “We cannot minimise this. It does not get more stark.”

    If Johnson does not reach a deal with the EU he is bound by parliament to request an extension to article 50, which he has repeatedly promised not to do.

    On a boat trip on Thursday morning to mark London International Shipping Week, Johnson appeared to attempt to switch the subject away from Brexit by raising the prospect of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland, saying it would be “very good” and estimating the project would cost around £15bn. He revealed his thoughts about the proposal – which has drawn scepticism from engineers – as he spoke to schoolchildren playing with a model container ship onboard the NLV Pharos, a lighthouse tender, on the Thames.

    He told the children that he had recently been discussing the possibility of constructing a bridge over the Irish Sea. “I [was talking yesterday] about building a bridge from Stranraer in Scotland to Larne in Northern Ireland,” he said. “That would be very good. It would only cost about £15bn.”
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  8. #8

    Re: Brexit

    This came out in June during the Tory leadership race and just popped up again.

    This is the phone call Boris Johnson doesn't want you to hear.
    His friend, convicted fraudster Darius Guppy, planned to have a journalist beaten up, and Johnson was happy to help.
    Is this a man we want as Prime Minister?

    #ToryLeadershipRace #BorisJohnson
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  9. #9
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  10. #10

    Re: Brexit

    No 10 plays down hopes of Brexit breakthrough
    Downing Street has no plans to publish proposals despite chance of border compromise
    Heather Stewart, Daniel Boffey and Lisa O'Carroll
    Fri 13 Sep 2019 18.40 BSTLast modified on Fri 13 Sep 2019 19.45 BST

    Downing Street has played down the prospect of an early breakthrough in Brexit talks despite hopes of a compromise on the Irish backstop, as Boris Johnson prepares to meet the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker.

    There has been a renewed drive in No 10 for an agreement since parliamentarians passed a law aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit on 31 October and twice rejected Johnson’s demand for a snap general election.

    However the government has no plans to publish any detailed written proposals as the prime minister seeks to avoid Theresa May’s fate of having her carefully constructed compromise shot down publicly by party colleagues.

    Downing Street believes little compromise will be forthcoming from the EU side before the crucial European council summit on 17 October – and it plans to blame rebel parliamentarians if it does not materialise.

    A Downing Street source said: “There’s no way they’re going to move yet – it’s going to be the 17th before we get any flash of light: but [Jeremy] Corbyn and his surrender bill has significantly diminished the chance of getting a deal.”

    Efforts are focused on finding a way to allow customs and other checks to take place away from the Irish border, so that Northern Ireland can leave the EU customs union along with the rest of the UK. In return, Northern Ireland would remain within the EU’s regulatory orbit in key areas, including agriculture, a proposal Johnson has already signalled publicly.

    Johnson hopes the Democratic Unionist party can be won over to some form of compromise, despite its previous objections to a border of any kind down the Irish Sea.

    The party’s leader, Arlene Foster, insisted on Friday that the UK “must leave as one nation”, after a report in the Times suggested her party’s stance was softening.


    The government hopes that once power-sharing is restored the Stormont assembly could also form part of a solution by giving democratic consent to any arrangements that keep Northern Ireland aligned with the EU.

    But Ireland’s deputy prime minister cast doubt on that proposal on Friday. “There is certainly a concern at an EU level that a devolved institution in Northern Ireland could have a veto over how the single market operates, or a border on the single market operates, so it’s not as straightforward as some people are suggesting,” Simon Coveney said after a two-day party “think-in” in Cork.

    Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach, said there was “ongoing contact with the DUP” and other parties in Northern Ireland and it is believed further talks at government level are scheduled next week. But he said he was not aware of any change in the unionists’ position over their refusal to accept any checks in the Irish Sea as a means of keeping the Irish border invisible.

    Monday’s talks between Johnson and Juncker will take place at a lunch in the European commission president’s home country, where he was prime minister for 18 years. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who recently called for “concrete proposals from Downing Street”, will join the two leaders. Johnson will then hold talks with the current prime minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel.

    EU sources suggested Johnson had sought to avoid a meeting in Brussels for fear of giving the impression that he was begging for concessions. A European commission spokeswoman said the location had been chosen by “common accord” and that it would allow Juncker the benefit of going straight from the talks to Strasbourg, where the European parliament is sitting next week.

    She said the meeting was “taking place at a neutral location, which [we] will not disclose”.

    Johnson’s communications team is understood to believe that May undermined herself in the public eye by making dashes to Brussels to seek movement in the negotiation.

    EU officials are concerned about the lack of any detailed proposals from the UK side, despite early goodwill built up by Johnson in a series of one-to-one meetings with leaders.

    They have also been watching the tumult in parliament over recent days. Johnson’s government was rocked this week by the Scottish court judgment that his suspension of parliament was illegal, and he was heckled at a speech in Rotherham on Friday.

    But Johnson’s advisers believe that despite the upheaval at Westminster, their domestic agenda – including increasing resources for schools and police – is beginning to register with voters in focus groups and polling.

    Johnson is expected to switch the focus to law and order next week, as he continues to announce manifesto-ready pledges, in the expectation that MPs will eventually have to succumb to his desire for a general election, rather than allow him to continue to govern without a majority.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  11. #11

    Re: Brexit

    David Cameron has some gall to criticize anyone's supposed 'appalling behaviour' on Brexit when he started this whole mess. It was pretty appalling of him to call a referendum and have absolutely no plan prepared for either a Remain or Leave result.

  12. #12

    Re: Brexit

    Quote Originally Posted by the Moz View Post
    David Cameron has some gall to criticize anyone's supposed 'appalling behaviour' on Brexit when he started this whole mess. It was pretty appalling of him to call a referendum and have absolutely no plan prepared for either a Remain or Leave result.
    That's why I posted without comment. Talk about big shiny brass ones.

    Still I'm not British and I don't feel qualified to talk about this subject. I try to just post what I see and hope it's as accurate as it can be.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  13. #13

    Re: Brexit

    David Schneider
    Worst case scenario predictions for remaining in the EU have been leaked and they make for pretty stark reading.

    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  14. #14

    Re: Brexit

    Boris Johnson humiliated by Luxembourg PM at 'empty chair' press conference

    Xavier Bettel gesticulates at empty podium as British PM skips press conference amid loud protests
    Daniel Boffey in Luxembourg
    Tue 17 Sep 2019 07.30 BST

    Boris Johnson was left humiliated and his claims of progress in the Brexit negotiations in tatters after a chaotic visit to Luxembourg ended in the prime minister being mocked by a fellow European leader for cancelling a press appearance to avoid protesters.

    Johnson was booed and jeered as he left a working lunch with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, before opting out of plans to speak alongside Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, after being targeted by a larger crowd.

    The cancellation left Johnson scuttling past the waiting lecterns in a courtyard outside the prime minister’s office to chants of “bollocks to Brexit” and “bog off Boris” by protesters a few metres away.

    As the chaotic scenes were played out, the European commission issued a statement disclosing that Juncker had told the prime minister that it was his responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions and that “such proposals have not yet been made”, in contradiction of the government’s recent claims.

    The prime minister’s dash to Luxembourg was supposed to have been a key moment for him to illustrate that Brexit talks were moving towards a deal, with Downing Street briefing after the meeting with Juncker that negotiations in Brussels would move from being bi-weekly to daily.

    But the anger from Britons living in Luxembourg, and the exasperation of the EU leaders spilled over as Johnson moved between meetings.

    Bettel, who gave a wave to the crowds and offered a defence of their right to demonstrate after Johnson’s decision to leave, did not mince his words as he took the lectern next to the one left empty by the British prime minister’s no-show, with the union flag still in position.

    He mocked the varying suggestions in recent weeks from Johnson that there had been good progress in the Brexit talks and that it would take the strength of the comic hero, the Incredible Hulk, to leave the EU with a deal.

    Bettel said: “I asked also Mr Johnson: I read in the papers a few days ago that it goes from ‘big progress’, to Hulk, to David Cameron proposing a second Brexit [referendum]. And Mr Johnson said there won’t be a second referendum, because I asked him: wouldn’t that be a solution to get out of the situation?”

    Guy Verhofstadt, the chief Brexit representative for the European parliament, also used the opportunity to ridicule Johnson, tweeting a picture of Bettel next to the empty chair beneath the text: From Incredible Hulk to Incredible Sulk.

    Bettel said the UK government needed to lay out on paper an alternative to the Irish backstop, and appeared to suggest that party political considerations might be standing in the way.

    EU officials have long believed that Johnson is unlikely to table any ideas until after the Conservative party conference in two weeks but they fear that this will not allow enough time for a deal to be agreed given the gap between the two sides.

    A government source confirmed that the UK would not be putting forward any formal text for at least another week. No 10 maintains that progress is being made and that a deal is still possible in the time remaining. Johnson told the BBC he was “cautiously optimistic” because EU leaders had had “a bellyful of all this stuff”.

    But Bettel said: “People need to know what is going to happen to them in six weeks time. They need certainty and they need stability. You cannot hold their future hostage for party political gain.” Gesticulating to the empty lectern, he added: “So now it is on Mr Johnson.”

    Bettel raised his voice in frustration when asked by reporters whether Downing Street may be pursuing a sham negotiation in order to pin the blame on the EU for a no-deal Brexit: “I told him, ‘I hear a lot but I don’t read a lot’. If they want to discuss anything we need to have it written [down] … Don’t put the blame on us because they don’t know how to get out of the situation they put themselves in.”

    Asked about the suggestion that Johnson would break the law to avoid extending article 50, Bettel said: “This wouldn’t happen in Luxembourg.”

    It is understood Downing Street had asked that the scheduled press conference with Bettel be moved inside away from a crowd of around 75 noisy protesters but that the Luxembourg government rejected the request.

    From the safety of the British embassy, Johnson later told broadcasters the Brexit talks were in a “difficult moment” and that the press conference had to be cancelled as “there was clearly going to be a lot of noise and our points would have been drowned out”.

    Johnson insisted that there was movement in the talks in which the UK is trying to find an alternative plan to the Irish backstop for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

    He said: “Over the last couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of work … papers have been shared. But we are now at the stage where we need to start accelerating the work and that was the agreement today with Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier.

    “We need to manage this carefully. Yes there is a good chance of a deal, yes I can see the shape of it. Everybody can see roughly what could be done.”

    Johnson conceded that a deal was not “necessarily in the bag” but that all sides were working to find a compromise. Confronted with the commission’s statement on a lack of progress, Johnson said: “Well, it’s certainly the case that the commission is still officially sticking on their position that the backstop has got to be there.”

    The protests outside the Bettel’s offices were organised by David Pike, a classical baritone singer with joint Canadian, British and Luxemburger nationality. He led the noisy singing and chanting to the EU’s anthem.

    “We are British and quite often dual nationals. I’m not a protester. I have been on a protest,” he said. “These people don’t go on protest, they are professionals, boring people. People who are concerned about this catastrophe.”

    An official in the Luxembourg government official said that they had to decline Downing Street’s request for the press conference to be inside as there was not a room large enough for the media: “We tried to change it but on such short notice we had to work with what we had – it really wasn’t our intention to embarrass Mr Johnson.”
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  15. #15

    Re: Brexit

    Boris Johnson given two-week EU deadline for Irish backstop plan
    Ultimatum comes as sources say PM was ‘surprised’ by levels of checks on the border

    Daniel Boffey in Brussels
    Wed 18 Sep 2019 19.44 BST

    Boris Johnson has been set a two-week deadline to table a plan for replacing the Irish backstop as further embarrassing details emerged of the prime minister’s chaotic visit to Luxembourg.

    France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and Finland’s prime minister, Antti Rinne, told reporters in Paris that they were both “concerned about what is happening in Britain”.

    “We need to know what the UK is proposing,” said Rinne, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. “Loose talk about proposals for negotiations is irresponsible … The UK should make its possible own proposals very soon if they would like them to be discussed.”

    Rinne said: “We both agreed that it is now time for Boris Johnson to produce his own proposals in writing – if they exist. If no proposals are received by the end of September, then it’s over.”

    A deadline of 30 September would be highly problematic for the prime minister as it falls on the eve of the Conservative party conference, and it remains to be seen whether the EU will stick to the threat.

    Johnson would be wary of showing his hand at such a sensitive point given the potentially negative reaction by his party to any movement towards the EU’s demands on the backstop.

    Rinne said that he intended to speak to the European council president, Donald Tusk, and Johnson to discuss the need for swift action from the UK.

    EU leaders want a clear run for negotiations before a summit on 17 October so that they need not engage in detailed talks on the issue and can nod through any deal.

    Johnson spoke to the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, by phone on Wednesday afternoon. A Downing Street spokesperson said they discussed their continued determination to reach a deal.

    They also discussed their lunch meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, which was described as “positive and constructive” during the call.

    It emerged earlier in the day that during the lunch meeting Johnson had expressed surprise to his advisers when he was informed about the scale of checks that would still be needed on the island of Ireland under a plan the government has mooted for the Irish border.

    The two-hour lunch preceded Johnson’s humiliation at the hands of Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, when he failed to attend a press conference due to anti-Brexit protests.

    EU officials said the advantage for them had been in being able to spell out the problems directly to the prime minister. “It seems to have helped the penny drop,” said one diplomatic source.

    During talks with Juncker and the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, the prime minister was shown in detail how allowing Northern Ireland to stick to common EU rules on food and livestock, known as sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), would still fail to avoid checks on the vast majority of goods that cross the Irish border.

    Downing Street has described as “nonsense” a report in the Financial Times that Johnson turned to his chief negotiator, David Frost, and the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, and said: “So you’re telling me the SPS plan doesn’t solve the customs problem?”

    But senior EU sources confirmed that Johnson had expressed surprise during the lunch at the complexity of the situation, and that it appeared to have been a “bit of a reality check to hear it from EU officials”.

    Sources said it was not the case that Johnson had failed to understand the role of the shared customs territory in the Irish backstop but that it was the scale of checks that would still be necessary without such an arrangement that appeared to hit home.

    A second EU diplomat confirmed: “When the commission explained the technical challenges and enduring need for customs checks under the UK proposals, Johnson expressed surprise in the direction of his advisers.”

    In his address to the European parliament on Wednesday, Juncker hinted at the problems that remained. “I have no emotional attachment to the backstop,” he said of his talks with Johnson. “But I made clear that I do have an intimate commitment to its objectives.”

    Given the wide gap between the two sides, Juncker also expressed doubts about the possibility that a mutually agreeable replacement for the Irish backstop would be agreed before 31 October when Johnson has said the UK will leave, “do or die”.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

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