Liz Truss embarks on her first day as lead EU negotiator today, following the sensational resignation of Lord Frost on Saturday night. She confirmed she is to speak to Maros Sefcovic today about the Northern Ireland Protocol, saying she wants “a comprehensive solution that delivers for the people of Northern Ireland and everyone across our great country.” Not much then…
On Sunday, Guido totted up that Truss is now responsible for:
Last night The Telegraph revealed accusations by hardline Tory MP Brexiteers that giving Frost’s job to Truss represents a “downgrading” of Brexit: “We need a political operation headed up by a dedicated minister. The Northern Ireland Protocol needs the complete and undivided focus of a minister who is doing nothing else.” Some might argue that; others might point to the old adage – If you want something done, ask a busy person…
UPDATE: Truss confirms she told the EU that the lady’s not for turning…
”We want a constructive relationship with the EU,
underpinned by trade and our shared belief in freedom
and democracy. Resolving the current issues is critical to
unleashing that potential.
The UK position has not changed. We need goods to
flow freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
end the role of the ECJ as the final arbiter of disputes
between us, and resolve other issues.
We must pick up the pace on talks in the New Year. Our
preference remains to reach an agreed solution.
If this does not happen, we remain prepared to trigger
Article 16 safeguards to deal with the very real problems
faced in Northern Ireland and to protect the Belfast
(Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.”
Bloomberg is reporting positive news from the UK-EU future relationship discussion this afternoon as word leaks the two sides have begun working on the text of an agreement on level playing field issues, and are close to finalising a joint document covering state aid. It’s also reported both sides are closer to deciding essential aspects of how any deal will be enforced.
The soundings bode well for Thursday when negotiations will move to Brussels where attempts will be made to narrow the remaining difference sufficiently by November the 3rd when the ball will be thrown back to Boris and von der Leyen to finalise a final compromise. Macron yet to budge on fishing…
Speaking in the EU Parliament this morning, Barnier injected a small touch of optimism into the negotiations, telling MEPs:
Despite the difficulties we’ve faced, and agreement is within reach – if both sides are willing to work constructively, if both sides are willing to compromise, and if we’re able to make progress in the next few days on the basis of legal text and if we’re ready in the next few days to resolve the sticking points, the trickiest subjects…”
One of the most UK-friendly statements heard from the mainland during the crunchtime so far…
UPDATE: Talks are back on:
“We have studied carefully the statement by Michel Barnier to the European Parliament this morning. As the EU’s Chief Negotiator his words are authoritative.“The Prime Minister and Michael Gove have both made clear in recent days that a fundamental change in approach was needed from the EU from that shown in recent weeks.“They made clear that the EU had to be serious about talking intensively, on all issues, and bringing the negotiation to a conclusion. They were also clear that the EU had to accept once again that it was dealing with an independent and sovereign country and that any agreement would need to be consistent with that status.“We welcome the fact that Mr Barnier acknowledged both points this morning, and additionally that movement would be needed from both sides in the talks if agreement was to be reached. As he made clear, ‘any future agreement will be made in respect of the decision-making autonomy of the European Union and with respect for British sovereignty.’“Lord Frost discussed the implications of this statement and the state of play with Mr Barnier earlier today. On the basis of that conversation we are ready to welcome the EU team to London to resume negotiations later this week. We have jointly agreed a set of principles for handling this intensified phase of talks.“As to the substance, we note that Mr Barnier set out the principles that the EU has brought to this negotiation, and that he also acknowledged the UK’s established red lines. It is clear that significant gaps remain between our positions in the most difficult areas, but we are ready, with the EU, to see if it is possible to bridge them in intensive talks. For our part, we remain clear that the best and most established means of regulating the relationship between two sovereign and autonomous parties is one based on a free trade agreement.“As both sides have made clear, it takes two to reach an agreement. It is entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed. If so, the UK will end the transition period on Australia terms and will prosper in doing so.“It is essential now that UK businesses, hauliers, and travellers prepare actively for the end of the transition period, since change is coming, whether an agreement is reached or not.”
Labour MP and Chair of the Brexit Select Committee Hilary Benn told Times Radio that the idea of an “Australian-style deal” was nonsense:
“There isn’t such a thing as an Australian–style deal because it’s just trading on World Trade Organisation terms, you might as well call it a Somalia style deal or an Afghanistan style deal. It’s nonsense.”
In fact, there are – according to the EU database – 86 treaties with Australia. Some on specific issues, others cover broader areas like human rights. The UK has already made agreements to cover aviation, haulage, nuclear matters and other areas. Australia’s 86 EU treaties are not nonsense, they’re a rational basis for international relations. Hilary really should know better.
Following what Sir David Frost described yesterday as a disappointing outcome from the EU Council’s meeting on UK exit negotiations, Boris has said the UK will no prepare for an “Australian” style deal with the EU, pronouncing:
“For whatever reason it’s clear from the summit that after 45 years of membership, they are not willing — unless there’s some fundamental change of approach — to offer this country the same terms as Canada”
“And so with high hearts and with complete confidence we will prepare to embrace the alternative”
Asked why he’s not formally abandoning talks, Boris tells the EU to come to Britain if and only if there is a fundamental change of approach on their end. Strong stuff…
“We have just concluded the seventh round of negotiations with the EU. As I said last week, agreement is still possible, and it is still our goal, but it is clear that it will not be easy to achieve. Substantive work continues to be necessary across a range of different areas of potential UK-EU future cooperation if we are to deliver it.“We have had useful discussions this week but there has been little progress.“The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts. This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress. There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through. Time is short for both sides.“We have been clear from the outset about the principles underlying the UK approach. We are seeking a relationship which ensures we regain sovereign control of our own laws, borders, and waters, and centred upon a trading relationship based on an FTA like those the EU has concluded with a range of other international partners, together with practical arrangements for cooperation in areas such as aviation, scientific programmes, and law enforcement. When the EU accepts this reality in all areas of the negotiation, it will be much easier to make progress.“We will continue to work hard to reach an agreement. Chief Negotiators and their teams have agreed to remain in close contact over the next two weeks before the next Round in London in the week of 7 September.”