Barnier: An Agreement is Possible this Week

Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult…

Barnier: May Never Threatened No Deal

Michel Barnier told Nick Robinson for a BBC Panorama special airing tonight that Theresa May “never” threatened to walk away without a deal. He said that the EU wouldn’t be “impressed by such a threat” and that it’s “not useful to use it”. It seems obvious that if Theresa May hadn’t just set out to “impress” the EU side or be “useful” to them, a tougher UK stance would have secured a better deal…

Barnier: EU Will Act in a “Responsible Manner” If There’s No Deal

There’s been plenty of huffing and puffing from anonymous EU officials in response to Boris’s alternative Brexit proposals – despite Jeremy Hunt’s actually being pretty similar. Behind the bluster however, the reality is significantly more sensible and level-headed…

Steve Barclay and Michel Barnier have been exchanging a series of letters over the past few weeks. Barclay has been asking Barnier to guarantee citizens’ rights even if the rest of the deal fails to go through. Naturally the EU is refusing to give citizens certainty but Barnier still struck a constructive tone in his latest response:

“Nevertheless, if, despite our efforts, the United Kingdom would prefer to leave the Union without the Withdrawal Agreement, the Union and the remaining Member States would act in a responsible manner, through unilateral measures.

“We have conducted intense work in preparation for such an event.”

It’s easy to forget that in March the EU already published detailed contingency measures for everything from aviation to road freight, including measures that effectively waived the need for most checks on road freight for at least nine months to ensure that goods continued to flow smoothly. Critics of the GATT XXIV transition plan are correct that it would require agreement from both sides, the reality is that the EU will implement a range of unilateral measures which create a de facto transition period anyway without formal agreement. If No Deal does happen in October, self-preservation instincts will quickly take over from posturing on the EU side…

Europhile Supergroups Lose European Parliament Majority for First Time Ever

The final results of the EU elections are still trickling in, however the overall picture is pretty clear already. Eurofederalists have lost ground although they still outnumber Eurosceptics. Incredibly, it’s the first time ever in the European Parliament’s 40-year history that the giant Europhile EPP (Christian Democrat) and S&D (Socialist) blocks haven’t had a majority between them. However the equally Europhile ALDE group has 115 MEPs to throw into the mix now so the EU Parliament can continue its rubber stamping untroubled…

The Brexit Party is the joint largest party with 29 MEPs along with Merkel’s CDU/CSU – although technically that is two separate parties so the Brexit Party could arguably claim to be the largest. Ultimately none of it matters in terms of EU politics, the only thing of any significance is the outcome of the shady backroom deals and horse-trading between EU leaders over who will be the next President of the European Commission. The field of potential candidates is so unappealing that Michel Barnier might even be the best outcome for the UK…

Projection via @EuropeElects

Malthouse Compromise Ditched For ‘Cox’s Codpiece’

The key message emanating from Cabinet today is that the Government has predictably abandoned any attempts to press ahead with the Malthouse Compromise, instead pinning their hopes on a tweak to the backstop being enough to get a deal through instead. This is not going down well with Tory MPs…

Nonetheless speculation is mounting that Geoffrey Cox has come up with concrete proposals to take to Brussels, with talk that a deal could even be agreed in Sharm-el-Sheikh this weekend, although a legal ‘codicil’ has already been dismissed as “Cox’s Codpiece” by unimpressed Brexiteers. Meanwhile Michel Barnier has told a Spanish audience that the EU will listen to May’s suggestions for how to “tweak” the backstop but will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, as May promised Parliament. How long can the Brady truce continue to hold?

EU Cornered as Backstop Sham Starts to Unravel

The EU’s long-running duplicity over the Irish border has finally come to a head this week with the Commission wrapping itself up in knots trying to maintain its spurious position on the backstop after Commission Spokesman Margaritas Schinas caused a major fuss on Tuesday by saying that the EU would force Ireland to erect a hard border in the event of no deal. Not going to happen.

Michel Barnier then let the cat out of the bag yesterday while trying to reverse the diplomatic damage, admitting that in the event of no deal “we will have to find an operational way of carrying out checks and controls without putting back in place a border”, going on to say that “my team have worked hard to study how controls can be made paperless or decentralised, which will be useful in all circumstances.” Thus blowing apart the entire fiction that the backstop is necessary to avoid a hard border…

The Telegraph’s James Crisp grilled Schinas on this very point today, who ended up so flustered by the question that he eventually snapped back: “write what you like”. The sham of needing the backstop to avoid a hard border is finally starting to unravel in Brussels. Time the sycophantic British media and political establishment woke up too…

Barnier No Deal Border Shift

Michel Barnier shifts EU position on Irish border in WTO Brexit scenario…

“We will have to find an operational way of carrying out checks and controls without putting back in place a border.”

HMRC Under “Political Instruction” Not to Discuss Customs

May’s survival in the vote last night has not changed her fundamental predicament that there is no Parliamentary majority for her deal in its current form. May’s civil servants should be paying attention to an alternative proposal published yesterday with the support of Arlene Foster and her two former Brexit Secretaries, which proposes sensible limited amendments to the Withdrawal Agreemnt and a legally operable alternative text to the backstop. No unicorns, just concrete proposals.

Nor have the proposals come out of nowhere, the report was written specifically in response to the meeting in October between Michael Barnier and two of the reports’ co-authors, Shanker Singham and Hans Maessen, alongside senior Tory MPs.

Maessen, a Dutch customs expert, recently told a Parliamentary committee that HMRC have been refusing to engage in any discussions on customs, going as far as to claim that HMRC were “not allowed” to do so due to a “political instruction” following the Chequers agreement to pursue the ‘Facilitated Customs Arrangement’ instead. A customs union in all but name…

Money was put aside for the UK to make preparations for leaving the Customs Union by the Chancellor over a year ago, yet Guido understands that senior figures in the Treasury and the Cabinet Office are still putting the brakes on it being spent. May is going to have seriously review her civil servants’ “political instructions” if she is going to find a way out of her mess…

UPDATE: A government source disputes the idea that the Treasury has been blocking no deal preparations, saying: “We’ve given them £260m from EU exit funding for 18/19 and they’ve spent about 40pc. Somewhat improvement from their paltry 1/5th which Jon Thompson was open about in October. They have the full amount and they’ll get their 19/20 allocation soon too. No-one is stopping them from spending the money – entirely up to them.”

UPDATE II: One DIT source has dismissed Maessen’s suggestion that they are under instructions not to discuss customs as “odd” and “absolute nonsense”.

Nigel Farage: This is a Good Deal

Nigel Farage, standing just yards from Michel Barnier, yesterday told the European Parliament that May’s Withdrawal Agreement is a good deal…

“It’s a good deal… for the European Union. For the UK I think it’s probably the worst deal in history.

… you probably can’t even believe your luck that you came up against a British Prime Minister who met every single demand of yours.”

Punchy stuff…

EPP Delegates Ignore Barnier

The centre-right EPP group are meeting in Helsinki to, among other things, select their lead candidate for Commission President who will be a shoe-in to replace Juncker next year. British Conservatives can chuckle that despite having left the group some years ago, proceedings are still conducted in English, the world’s global language…

Despite Barnier being almost deified by pro-EU politicians in Britiain, he was largely ignored by his fellow professional politicians. Darren MacCaffrey is live tweeting from the conference hall:

Brexit Chief Negotiator says he doesn’t have time for a joke or a long speech – as clock is ticking on Brexit. Wide ranging speech on future of EU which suggests he may will still have hopes of getting Juncker’s job… The most extraordinary thing about Barnier’s speech, literally NO-ONE is listening, I mean NO-ONE!!! Most people talking amongst themselves or went off to vote. Actually felt very disrespectful… He did not hold the room… And look at this… Manfred Weber having his picture taken right in front of Barnier – as he talks, as he struggles to hold the room

Merkel walked off halfway through to talk to @ManfredWeber and @alexstubb. The MC had to plead with delegates to sit down and listen to speeches after Barnier came off stage.

Ignored by allies from across the EU, no-one listening to him, disrespected, Manfred Weber and Merkel doing their own thing. Now Barnier knows what it feels like to be British…

Barnier “Open to Discussing Other Backstops”

The Irish border backstop has long been the major stumbling block between the UK and the EU in the Brexit negotiations. However, Michel Barnier has hinted that the EU may be prepared to take a more flexible approach. Earlier this week he told Hilary Benn’s visiting Brexit Select Committee:

“The Withdrawal Agreement has to have an operational backstop in it, which holds water legally. Ladies and gentlemen, it is not necessarily our backstop, as covered in this document. We are open to discussing other backstops, so we can discuss this text, we can make changes to it.”

Barnier also said that he was relaxed about what form any border controls could take, endorsing the sort of technological methods and dispersed spot checks which Brexiteers have long mooted as potential solutions to the Irish border conundrum, without the UK having to remain bound to the EU’s customs and regulatory systems:

“We need the necessary controls but we don’t want in any way to undermine the constitutional structure of the United Kingdom…

We need to see how and when and where these controls would take place. They could be dispersed. They could take place in different places, on board vessels, in ports outside Ireland, they could be done using technological means, they could be dispersed, as I said, or simplified in technological terms.

“Just to make that absolutely clear, we are not talking about a border. We are talking about controls.”

No-one denies that the Irish border is one of the most challenging aspects of Brexit, but the inexplicably rigid definition of precisely what constitutes a “soft” Irish border as agreed in the December deal has turned what was a challenging problem into a truly Herculean task. This newfound flexibility from Michel Barnier will be essential if both sides are serious about reaching a deal…

Barnier Too Busy to Meet Soros and Best For Britain

Michel Barnier is very sorry but he is too busy to meet George Soros and his hardcore fringe group of ultra-Remainers Best for Britain. Emails obtained by Guido show that repeated attempts by Soros to secure a meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator have been politely rebuffed. First Soros asked for a meeting at the beginning of November, but Barnier was busy:

Not deterred, Soros tried again a couple of weeks later. Barnier didn’t even give an excuse this time:

You might have thought that by now Soros would get the message. Not so, he tried again, only be rejected a third time:

Would Eloise Todd from Soros’ ultra-Remain campaign group Best For Britain have any more luck securing a meeting with Barnier? Sadly not, and it took him months to even reply with a rejection.

He’s just not that into you…

Barnier Rejects Backstop

Michel Barnier says “our backstop cannot be extended to whole of the UK… what is feasible for the territory of Northern Ireland, is not feasible for the whole UK”. May has said she will never accept this. Going well…

UPDATE:

May cannot allow this to happen…

UPDATE II: Shambolic Barnier then forced to clarify:

Hungary Tells Barnier to End Galileo Brinkmanship

Last week Guido said Michel Barnier was lost in space over Galileo, and that his attempts to push the UK out of the satellite project would send costs spiralling for the EU-27 and delay the project even further due to their lack of expertise. Hungary is the first EU country to protest to Brussels – their foreign minister Peter Szijjarto has done a broadcast round today telling the EU to pack it in:

Losing or not taking advantage of the capacity of what the UK can contribute to the Galileo project, I think it’s rather irresponsible and I don’t really see that that would be in the interests of the EU…

Q: Would you like to see the UK staying in the Galileo programme?

Yes, of course. We understand the UK covers 12 per cent of the costs of the budget of the Galileo programme and I really do think that the security risks that are ahead of the European Union demand a very strong cooperation between the UK and the European Union. I think that giving up the cooperation with the UK on the field of intelligence or any other security aspects would be very irresponsible on the part of the European Union.

That’s Michel told…

Barnier’s Lost in Space Over Galileo

Remainers are becoming more and more excited over the impact of Brexit on UK participation in EU space activities, especially the Galileo satellite network. The Galileo navigation system is the EU’s rival to US-owned GPS. A key element of the system, designed for military and emergency services, is a timing and navigation signal called the PRS (Public Regulated Service). The European Commission says the UK will not be able to access the PRS without further agreements after Brexit. Michel Barnier is weaponising the issue in his latest attempt at brinkmanship. He said yesterday:

“Third countries and their companies cannot participate in the development of security-sensitive matters.”

That’s more than a bit rich from Barnier: British experts designed much of the cryptography behind the system and developed the security technology protecting PRS. The satellites are currently controlled from Portsmouth. UK companies control the crucial security information – those firms have been reminded by ministers that they should not enter into new Galileo contracts in response to EU posturing. Moreover, the UK has poured £1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money into developing the system. It is already years late. If the EU makes an issue of it, the British will withdraw, sending costs spiralling for the EU-27 and delaying the project even further due to their lack of expertise…

Meanwhile, the UK government has already started work on its own system. A UK Space Agency spokesman said:

“The UK Space Agency is leading the work to develop options for a British alternative to Galileo, to guarantee our satellite positioning, navigation and timing needs are met in the future.”

Taking back control to infinity and beyond?

Switzerland and Canada are member countries of the European Space Agency without being in the EU or, in Canada’s case, europe. This will, as with Euratom and the Open Skies Agreement, turn out to be bluster on both sides and a deal will be done…

Boles on Barnier

Nick Boles tells Michel Barnier:

“I voted Remain. I can see some advantages in a customs union. But I will not be bullied by an arrogant Commission conspiring with opposition parties to undermine the elected UK government and the integrity of our Union. Back in your box, Michel Barnier.”

Labour Accused of Colluding With Barnier

Fascinating tweets from two senior Times journalists today accusing Labour of “cooperating” with Michel Barnier to weaken Britain’s negotiating position and promote the EU plan to annex Northern Ireland. Brussels correspondent Bruno Waterfield says the timing of Corbyn’s speech to coincide with Barnier’s draft text is “no accident” and that Labour and the EU are working “in tandem”. Labour say it is not fair to imply collusion – hardly a strong denial – and say the EU draft text was expected in January. But that’s when Labour’s customs union u-turn was originally expected too. Sam Coates reported it was set to happen in December… why was it delayed to the week of Barnier’s own customs union push?

In the last week we have had Blair’s intervention, Major’s speech, Labour’s customs union u-turn pushed by Starmer and the trade unions and now Barnier’s call for a customs union for Northern Ireland. Why are Labour and Remainers undermining the UK’s negotiating position? This could become a real theme…

Barnier Shuts Down Remainers’ Single Market Fantasy

The remain narrative on continuing membership of the single market was fully shut down by Michel Barnier this morning as Chuka Umunna, Nicola Sturgeon and Sadiq Khan’s fantasies were blown out of the water. This remain triumvirate tried to spin regulatory alignment to suggest Scotland and London could remain in the single market. Chuka even called for permanent membership of the single market after the transition…

Asked if the deal meant that the default position is remaining in the single market, Barnier said:

“No. You havent understood that well… beyond its decision to leave the EU… the British government has confirmed that it wishes also to leave the single market and the customs union which is not obligatory. There are countries who are not E.U. members, who are part because that is their wish, whilst respecting of the rules of the single market. But that’s not the choice taken by the UK. So you have not understood that well.”

No doubt this pack of remain rabble-rousers will jump to correct their statements…

Barnier Weaponises ISIS to Bash Brexit

What is Michel Barnier thinking? For some reason he has decided to tastelessly accuse Britain of turning its back on the fight against ISIS:

“[Brexit] was a decision taken against the backdrop of a strategic repositioning by our American ally, which has gathered pace since the election of Donald Trump. It was a decision that came after a series of attacks on European soil, committed by young people who grew up in Europe, in our countries. It was a decision that came six months after the French Minister of Defence issued a call for solidarity to all his European counterparts to join forces to fight the terrorism of Daesh. Never had the need to be together, to protect ourselves together, to act together been so strong, so manifest. Yet rather than stay shoulder to shoulder with the Union, the British chose to be on their own again.”

A stupid thing to say for many reasons, not least the massive ongoing value of British intelligence to the EU and the fact that we’ve had five terror attacks in the UK this year. It’s going down very badly on the British side: “Ignorant, inflammatory and irresponsible so close to sensitive negotiations,” says one source. Stay classy, Michel…

Barnier: Withdrawal Terms “Nothing to Do” With Future Relations

No progress during this week’s round of negotiations, as was always going to be the case. […] Read the rest

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