Brexit: Planning Pandemonium with a Dash of Delay
Brexit continues to hit the headlines, it’s quite difficult to focus on anything else. Each day seems to unravel another leaked document, more infighting between Tory Brexiteers and Remainers, and yet more arguments for and against Brexit. Today is no different.
No Brexit Plan for The City
Former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan has come out to accuse the government of undermining its own Brexit negotiations, after the City minister refused to commit to publishing a position paper on financial services after the UK leaves the bloc.
“Nothing undermines a negotiating position more than not having one," Morgan said. "Financial services firms will be seriously concerned at the chronic state of uncertainty. The government should publish its position paper on the future of financial services immediately.”
In response to the accusation, John Glen, the economic secretary to the Treasury, wrote a letter to Morgan last week, outlining that such a paper “could be used to undermine the UK’s negotiating position” if published too early.
Mood in the City is low, as businesses believe that the government is not giving them any indication of their direction. The government has yet to agree a position on pivotal issues, such as whether to be in the customs union with the EU after Brexit.
The government has been warned by regulators and bankers that firms are already putting their contingency plans into fruition, with a transitional arrangement still yet to be agreed to secure trade from Brexit day onwards.
Glen said that the government had put the City’s interests “in the strongest terms in our private discussions with the EU.”
Nicky Morgan stated that the government is failing to “articulate a clear sense of direction and provide some much-needed clarity” for City firms.
2020 Goodbye in Doubt by EU
In the meantime, to City firms voicing their disdain for the lack of direction from the government, senior EU figures have said that Britain will not be ready for a full withdrawal from the EU by 2020.
Diplomats and officials from Brussels have come forward saying that there are far too many unresolved issues that need to still be addressed, such as the Irish border, as well as British infighting over what kind of trade relationship to have, which has left them believing that the transition will take longer than previously forecast.
Two senior EU officials have said that British negotiators were leaning toward the prospect of an extension to the 21-month transitional period currently on offer. However, others have come forward to say that Theresa May still has a signed and delivered trade deal to begin in January 2021 in her sights.
The prime minister has denied looking for any extension to the period, but the EU said it was willing to be “flexible.” However, EU governments such as France have come forward to say that they will oppose Britain having one leg in and one out for years, in fear the arrangement would become permanent and a basis for a disjointed, long-term compromise.
As formal discussions on the transition are under way in Brussels this week, EU diplomats said that any extension would only be agreed once Britain has formally left the EU in March 2019, so that London would remain under pressure to conclude a trade agreement, or face its economy going off a “cliff edge.”
Boost for Best for Britain
While it is probably too little too late for the Remain campaign, billionaire George Soros has donated £400,000 to the Best for Britain Campaign. Soros has previously suggested that it was possible that the UK would apply to rejoin the EU soon after Brexit.
The donation was confirmed by Lord Malloch-Brown, chairman for Best for Britain and affirmed that rules governing financial contributions had been followed.
He said: "We have never hidden our agenda; we have been campaigning hard to win a meaningful vote on Brexit, which we did, and to keep all options on the table, including staying in the European Union."
He said the campaign was a "democratic and patriotic effort to recover our future and we welcome support for our efforts from many quarters."
Soros’ contribution was confirmed in the Daily Telegraph, in a report co-written by Theresa May’s former chief of staff, Nick Timothy. Timothy said that the objective of the campaign was "to convince MPs to vote against the deal Theresa May negotiates with Brussels, regardless of its content."
He said: "Malloch-Brown and his backers believe that, if Parliament rejects the Brexit deal, the government will fall, and Brexit can then be stopped."