Video commentary on an imminent Brexit transition period deal, the UK being able to negotiate free trade deals while still in the single market and customs union, government and business signing secret documents over Brexit policy, The Royal Navy getting sufficient resources to monitor UK waters after Brexit, Labour MEPs voting against the interests of the UK fishing industry ans the Unilever move of its HQ to Rotterdam NOT being about Brexit.
With David Davis travelling on Sunday to Brussels for the first time in months and a meeting scheduled with the EU Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Monday, the talk is that a Brexit transition deal is in the offing.
David Davis has recently avoided travelling to Brussels for meetings that are more remembered for those rather disjointed press conferences with Michel Barnier, than any tangible Brexit talk results.
But now that he has his overnight bag packed, the speculation is that the trip must be worth it so a deal must be imminent. Especially with recent news that David Davis is willing to 'live with' a transition ending in December 2020 if it got the UK a better deal.
Bloomberg does say though that if a deal is forthcoming it will come with caveats and that:
"…businesses are already sensing that it won’t be as useful to them as they first hoped."
"At this stage, the deal will just be a political commitment to implement a grace period – it will have no legal basis until the divorce treaty is signed. That probably won’t be until early next year, just before exit day in March 2019." Said Bloomberg.
Now some good news, the EU has said the UK can sign trade deals during a Brexit transition period.
This has been a sticking point for many months, but the Times reports that:
"EU negotiators have accepted the UK’s demand that it should be able to pursue an independent trade policy while remaining inside the customs union and single market."
Great stuff, but one wonders what the quid pro quo was.
In an unusual development, Sky News says it has established that the UK government has been signing secret agreements with companies and industry groups regarding Brexit.
“The attempt to enforce silence about outside discussions on the changes urgently required to the border after Brexit has raised eyebrows across industry. – Says Sky.
“A series of non-disclosure agreements have been forced into the process of consultation with the logistics companies that actually operate the UK border, with one industry source calculating that "many dozens" have been signed.”
The chair of the Public Accounts Committee, the MP Meg Hillier, said that use of such non-disclosure agreements was normally restricted to commercial agreements, not where companies were being consulted on policy changes.
Sky says that it is believed that the government is using these agreements to gain data on exactly what is being traded between the EU and UK, data which is normally not collected, but doing so without giving its negotiating hand away.
But many are concerned about where this is going and say that the government is just being paranoid and that the public has a right to know the outcomes of such information.
The Shadow Brexit Minister, Paul Blomfield, said:
"This is more disturbing evidence of a Government obsessed with secrecy and intent on keeping the public in the dark about their plans for Brexit."
Personally I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. The information wasn't being gathered before and maybe it's data we should have anyway on the basis of, how can we understand our economy if we don't know what's being traded?
And if we protect our negotiating position in the run up to Brexit, or it even gives us an edge, by imposing non-disclosure then that is surely a small, short term price to pay.
The Telegraph reports that the Royal Navy will have its ability to monitor UK coastal waters strengthened after we leave the EU.
"Steve Baker, a senior minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, has confirmed the UK “will strengthen our surveillance capability” to enforce Britain’s rights after withdrawal." Says the paper.
And it goes on to say that the government will ensure that the RN has the appropriate capacity required to patrol our waters.
But that's OK if we have control – the Express reports that the Labour Party MEPs were whipped into voting against a motion in the EU parliament aimed at protecting the UK fishing industry.
The Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (or EFDD) Euro-Sceptic grouping had tabled an amendment to a framework document to prevent the UK being forced to give EU fishermen access to UK waters after Brexit. But UK Labour Party MEPs voted against it prompting EFDD member and UKIP interim leader, Gerard Batten MEP, to say:
“The European Commission is demanding an unconditional surrender and the Labour party have replaced the red in their flag with white. It seems Labour MEPs have forgotten who they represent.
“They were elected to serve the British interest, not the interests of the unelected Eurocrats. Millions of their supporters voted to take back control and the Labour party have just snatched it away again.”
Now to business news.
The Marmite, Domestos and Dove soap company, Unilever, is moving its legal headquarters to Rotterdam in the Netherlands – triggering Remainers to claim that this proves Brexit is forcing companies out of the UK.
But just to deal with that, when asked whether this was a Brexit driven decision, the Unilever chief executive, Paul Polman, told Radio 4's Today programme:
"The opposite is true. We would not be investing in our two headquarters here for the two divisions in the UK. We would not have secured the £1 billion spending if that were the case."
So if a Remainer claims Unilever is moving because of the UK exit from the EU, tell them to ask the company's boss before they spread lies.
And just to show that German companies are keen to keep doing business with the UK, the Federation of German Industries (the BDI) and the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (the VDMA) have called for an EU relationship with the UK that goes deeper than a free-trade agreement. In fact they would prefer a customs union to keep things as seamless as possible.
With the EU negotiators saying that the single market is paramount and the UK saying we are leaving the single market and customs union so we can go and set up our own trade deals, I would think that German businesses stand to suffer considerably – unless of course they can put pressure on the EU to compromise with the UK.