Showing posts with label UK Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UK Politics. Show all posts

Jul 13, 2020

News | UK Politics | Brexit: Gove defends £705m plan for post-Brexit borders

7-9 minutes - Source: BBC

A lorry boards a cross channel ferry at the Port of Dover in Kent Image copyright PA Media
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove has defended his plans for new post-Brexit border infrastructure after Labour said the government was unprepared.
A £705m funding package to help manage Britain's borders has been announced as the UK prepares to leave the EU customs union at the end of the year.
Mr Gove insisted the government had been "laying the groundwork for months".
But Labour's Rachel Reeves said the plans were "too little, too late."
The funding announcement follows a leaked letter from International Trade Secretary Liz Truss raising concerns about the readiness of Britain's ports.
Under the plans, new border posts will be created inland where existing ports have no room to expand to cope with the extra checks that will be required.
It relates only to the external borders of England, Scotland and Wales. Mr Gove told BBC's Andrew Marr programme that more details will be set out about the situation for Northern Ireland "later this month".
The new funding will include up to £470m to build port and inland infrastructure, and £235m will be allocated for IT systems and staffing.
The money for IT and staffing includes:
  • £100m to develop HM Revenue and Customs systems to reduce the burden on traders
  • £20m on new equipment
  • £15m towards building new data infrastructure to improve border flow and management
  • £10m to recruit around 500 more Border Force staff.
Cabinet Office Minister Mr Gove said the funding would help the UK "seize the opportunities" post-Brexit.
The UK left the EU on 31 January and is now in an 11-month transition period, during which existing trading rules and membership of the customs union and single market apply.
What the UK's relationship with the EU will look like when the transition period ends will depend on whether a trade deal is reached.
Northern Ireland will continue to follow some EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods even after the transition period.
Customs checks on EU goods will be delayed until July 2021.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Jonathan Blake breaks down the next round of Brexit negotiations
A leaked letter, first reported by Business Insider, suggested Ms Truss had expressed concerns about the government's plans to phase in checks on EU goods coming into the UK after the Brexit transition period.
Ms Truss reportedly warned fellow ministers that failing to impose full border controls until July could see increased smuggling from the EU, lead to legal challenges at the World Trade Organization, and even weaken the union with Northern Ireland.
Mr Gove said: "With or without further agreement with the EU, this £705m will ensure that the necessary infrastructure, tech and border personnel are in place so that our traders and the border industry are able to manage the changes and seize the opportunities as we lay the foundations for the world's most effective and secure border."
Former national security adviser Lord Ricketts responded on Twitter to Mr Gove's comments. "It's not clear to me how we will have 'the world's most effective and secure border' (Mr Gove) when we will lose access on 1 Jan to the Schengen Information System which gives alerts on movement of criminals/suspects," he said.
He added that UK police and border staff consulted the shared Schengen system 600 million times last year.
Former director general of UK Border Force Tony Smith said the funding was "obviously welcome" but "a bit late in coming".
A Welsh Government spokesman said the plan showed the "sheer complexity of the new bureaucracy" which businesses face from 1 January and said it had been in discussions with the UK government as various sectors in Wales were affected.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe customs union explained in 45 seconds
Asked about reports the government had bought land in Kent to build a large lorry park as part of preparations for post-Brexit border checks, Mr Gove said: "It is not our intention to create a massive concrete lorry park, it is the intention to provide the smart infrastructure which in Kent and elsewhere will allow the freight to flow."
Labour shadow minister Rachel Reeves said the measures were "too little, too late" and accused the government of being unprepared.
And on the Brexit talks she said: "We were promised an oven-ready deal but it looks like the government forgot to turn the oven on," referring to the Conservative Party's election slogan.
The new Irish Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, told the BBC's Andrew Marr that his country does not yet have all the information it needs about the Irish sea border arrangements.
"We do need more details, we need more precision," he said. "I think we need an injection of momentum into the overall talks between the European Union and United Kingdom in relation to Brexit."
He said although he believes progress towards a trade deal has been slow, he added: "I believe that if there's a will there's a way in terms of resolving outstanding issues."
"I think there will be a deal, there has to be a deal," he said, but added: It can't be at any price."
Mr Gove said there had been "movement" in the negotiations but acknowledged that "differences" remained.
Both sides agreed to "intensify" negotiations last month and held the first face-to-face talks since the coronavirus pandemic at the beginning of July.
The UK government has ruled out extending the transition period in order to reach a deal.

Immigration plans

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Gove also said the government will introduce a migration policy "that ensures we're open to the world's best talent".
The government is planning a points-based immigration system which treats EU migrants the same as those from the rest of the world and which takes different factors like skills and language into account when awarding visas allowing people to work in the UK.
Mr Gove said: "And the new technology we're introducing will allow us to monitor with far greater precision exactly who, and what, is coming in and out of the country, enabling us to deal more effectively with organised crime and other security threats."
More details about changes to the immigration system will be revealed on Monday.
Writing in the Sun on Sunday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "We will scrap the bureaucratic Resident Labour Market Test, lower the skills and salary threshold and remove the cap on skilled workers."
The so-called "resident labour market test" only allows companies to recruit new workers from outside the EU if they are on the shortage list or if they have been unable to find anyone suitable after advertising in the UK.
"Our new Health and Care Visa will ensure the NHS continues to benefit from the outstanding health and care professionals who have kept this country on its feet throughout the pandemic," Ms Patel added.
And she said "a new graduate route will ensure international students can stay in the country once they have completed their studies".

Oct 24, 2019

UK Politics | Brexit: Boris Johnson to seek Dec. 12 election to break Brexit impasse

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that the only way to break Britain’s Brexit impasse is a general election, and he will ask Parliament to approve a national poll for Dec. 12.
Johnson said he would ask lawmakers to vote Monday on a motion calling for an early election.
Johnson has been mulling his next move since Tuesday, when lawmakers blocked his attempt to fast-track an EU divorce bill through Parliament in a matter of days.
Lawmakers said they needed more time to scrutinize the legislation, making it all but impossible for Britain to leave the EU on the scheduled date of Oct. 31 with a deal.
The British government has been awaiting the EU’s decision on whether to postpone the U.K.’s departure to prevent a chaotic no-deal exit. The request for a delay until Jan. 31 was ordered by Britain’s Parliament to avert the economic damage that could come from a no-deal exit.
Though the EU has not given its answer, Johnson said it looked like the EU would grant the extension — and with it kill off Johnson’s oft-repeated promise that Britain will leave the EU at the end of this month.
“I’m afraid it looks as though our EU friends are going to respond to Parliament’s request by having an extension, which I really don’t want at all,” Johnson said.
Britain’s next scheduled election is in 2022. If Johnson wants an early election, he needs to win a vote in Parliament by a two-thirds majority, or lose a no-confidence vote, which so far opposition parties have refused to call.
The main opposition Labour Party has said it would “support a general election when the threat of a no-deal crash-out is off the table.”
European Council President Donald Tusk has recommended that the other 27 EU nations grant Britain a delay, yet many of the bloc’s members are weary and frustrated at Britain’s interminable Brexit melodrama. But they also want to avoid the economic pain that would come to both sides from a sudden and disruptive British exit.
So they are likely to agree, although politicians in France say President Emmanuel Macron is pushing for a shorter extension than the three months that Britain has asked for.
Johnson has vowed that, sooner or later, the U.K. will leave the EU on the terms of the deal he negotiated with the bloc.
He said the Dec. 12 election date would give lawmakers more time to scrutinize his bill, because Parliament would be in session until the formal campaign started on Nov. 6.
“So, the way to get this done, the way to get Brexit done, is, I think, to be reasonable with Parliament and say if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal they can have it, but they have to agree to a general election on Dec. 12,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, U.K. police and politicians have sounded alarms about what could happen in Northern Ireland under Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal, with the region’s police chief warning that a badly handled divorce from the European Union could bring violence back onto the streets.
Police have long warned that if Britain’s departure from the EU imposes a hard border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, that could embolden Irish Republican Army splinter groups who are opposed to Northern Ireland’s peace process and power-sharing government.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Simon Byrne told the BBC on Wednesday there also was potential for unrest among Northern Ireland’s pro-British loyalist community. He said, depending on how Brexit unfolded, there could be “a lot of emotion in loyalist communities and the potential for civil disorder.”
“There are a small number of people in both the loyalist and nationalist communities that are motivated by their own ideology and that have the potential to bring violence back onto the streets,” he said.
The all-but invisible Irish border now underpins both the regional economy and the peace process that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
The Brexit divorce deal struck last week between Johnson and the 27 other European Union countries contains measures to keep the Irish border open. But the plan has been condemned by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, an ally of Johnson’s Conservatives. The DUP says the agreement’s proposal to keep Northern Ireland in line with EU goods and customs regulations would impose new checks and friction between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
Johnson’s Conservative government acknowledges that “administrative procedures including a declaration will be required” on goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland after Brexit, but it says they would be minimal.
DUP lawmaker Nigel Dodds warned Thursday that the British government risked undermining “the political institutions and political stability in Northern Ireland by what you are doing to the unionist community.”
“Please wake up and realize what is happening here,” he told the House of Commons. “We need to get our heads together here and look at a way forward that can solve this problem. Don’t plow ahead regardless, I urge you.”

Oct 22, 2019

World News | UK Politics: Boris Johnson's Brexit bill faces Parliament vote: Live updates

By Rob Picheta

Boris Johnson will scrap the vote on his Brexit deal and push for a snap general election, if his program motion is voted down by lawmakers later.
If Parliament "gets its way and decides to delay everything," Johnson told the Commons, "the bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward... to a general election."
"I will in no way allow months more of this," Johnson added.
The program motion has come under attack for asking MPs to consider Johnson's Brexit deal in just three days.
Boris Johnson just took a question from his brother Jo in Parliament -- which apparently allowed for some brotherly reconciliation.
Jo congratulated the Prime Minister for securing a Brexit deal. "I never doubted it for a minute," he said to laughs on both sides of the House.
The younger Johnson -- who has called for a second Brexit referendum -- in fact resigned from his brother's Cabinet last month, saying he was "torn between family loyalty and the national interest."
Jo then asked whether Parliament would have a proper role in the process.
"I thank my right Honorable friend and brother very much for what he said," Boris Johnson said, reassuring Jo that Parliament would have a role.
Boris Johnson has started pitching his Brexit deal to MPs in the House of Commons, repeating his frequent claim that passing the bill tonight will help "get Brexit done and move our country on."
If the plan passes, Johnson says the country can "de-escalate those no-deal preparations immediately."
"If we do this deal, if we pass this deal and the legislation that enables it, we can turn the page and allow this country and this Parliament to begin to heal and unite," he adds.
The reality may be quite different -- if the bill passes, it's already clear that there will be new divisions over what happens when the transition period ends.
MPs have started debating Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement, ahead of a vote tonight that will indicate whether there is support for the pact in principle.
There'll be around seven hours of debate before we get to that point, though. Keep following this page for live updates of all the important moments.
Most of the 21 Conservative MPs expelled from the party by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in September are expected to back his bill and proposed Brexit timetable later today.
But Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons and Johnson ally, seems to be inadvertently tempting some of them to go back on that decision.
Ed Vaizey didn't seem happy with how Rees-Mogg dismissed concerns about the shortened timetable on Twitter.
Juncker shares a laugh with Brexit foe Nigel Farage in the European Parliament on Tuesday.
Juncker shares a laugh with Brexit foe Nigel Farage in the European Parliament on Tuesday. FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP via Getty Images
Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the EU Commission, spoke in the European Parliament earlier as his term comes to an end. Ursula von der Leyen will take up the role on November 2.
Juncker noted that he's spent a lot of his time in the position talking about one topic.
"In truth, it has pained me to spend so much of this mandate dealing with Brexit when I have thought of nothing less than how this union could do better for its citizens," he said.
"A waste of time and a waste of energy," Juncker added.
Hold on just a little bit longer, Jean-Claude. The votes in Parliament over the next three days could wrap up Brexit. Or at least this stage of it. For now. And then again, they could not.
"I will always regret the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the Union. But at least we can look at ourselves in the eye and say that we have done all in our power to make sure that this departure is orderly," Juncker added.
Much of the debate over Boris Johnson's Brexit bill has focused on what happens at the end of the transition period -- the period running to December 2020 in which much of the status quo will remain in place.
It was designed to give the UK and the EU time to strike a trade deal and other agreements, but such pacts take years to negotiate and it's unlikely one can be reached so quickly.
That's why opposition MPs have been warning that the current deal could lead to, in essence, a no-deal Brexit in 14 months' time.
So Nick Boles, a leader in the ex-Tory, anti-no-deal brigade, has just announced he's tabled an amendment for debate later today seeking to force a government to automatically extend the transition period if it can't reach a deal in the intervening time (unless Parliament votes to the contrary).
The amendment follows hours of reported negotiations between Boles and his fellow independents and Downing Street.
And while it could mean those independents support Johnson's timetable, it could cost him favor with the hardline Tories on the other side who are keen to keep a no-deal split on the table in 2020 and beyond.
Donald Tusk has tweeted after speaking in the European Parliament this morning.
The EU Council President said he has "no doubt that we should treat the British request" for a three-month Brexit extension "in all seriousness."
Tusk had previously confirmed that Johnson's efforts to water down his own request made no difference. The Prime Minister sent an unsigned photocopy of the letter alongside another suggesting the EU disregard it, but it doesn't change the fact that he formally requested a Brexit extension.
Boris Johnson's push to get his Brexit plan through Parliament begins in a couple of hours.
The first hurdle is the second reading of Johnson's Brexit deal. A debate will begin at 12:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. ET) and the vote will take place around 7 p.m. (2 p.m. ET) Its results will show whether the Commons supports Johnson's Brexit plan in principle, but it won't make Brexit a done deal by any stretch. You can look at CNN's analysis of whether Johnson has the votes below, but it looks like the bill will scrape through.
Immediately afterwards (should Johnson win that vote), there's another vote on the government's planned timetable for the rest of the week -- and that's where it could get harder for Downing Street.
The government wants to ram its Brexit bill through all of its stages in the House of Commons this week, and push it on to the House of Lords for approval as quickly as possible. By contrast, the last big EU upheaval, the Lisbon Treaty, was pored over in 25 sittings over five months.
It's possible that the government could lose this vote. If it does, the whole timetable would be thrown into chaos and Johnson may be forced to take advantage of the extension to the Brexit process that he reluctantly requested from EU on Sunday.
Or, the Prime Minister could abandon the legislation altogether and seek a general election in an effort to resolve the mess.

Oct 16, 2019

UK Politics | Brexit: Brexit talks stall on final day before crucial EU summit

Holly Ellyatt

GP: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson Holds Brexit Talks 1
Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister, departs following a Brexit meeting with Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in Luxembourg, on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Brexit negotiations have hit a stumbling block on the last day of talks between the U.K. and EU ahead of a crucial summit later this week.
Sterling and U.K. stocks fell on media reports, which cited unnamed EU diplomats, that talks had stalled over a future trade deal and fair competition clauses, as well as renewed opposition to the proposed deal by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also confirmed that there were still outstanding issues, particularly surrounding Northern Ireland, that were “yet to be resolved” and that talks may need more time.
“There is a pathway to a possible deal but there are many issues that still need to be fully resolved, particularly around the consent mechanism and also some issues around customs and VAT,” Varadkar said in a speech, according to Reuters.
He said he had spoken to his British counterpart Boris Johnson Wednesday morning and said progress in talks had been made, nonetheless. “I do think we are making progress but there are issues yet to be resolved and hopefully that can be done today.”
He added that there was the possibility of an additional EU summit before the departure date of October 31 if necessary.

Final day of talks

Negotiating teams from the U.K. and EU entered their final day of Brexit talks Wednesday with hopes that a deal could be reached before a crucial EU summit later this week.
A deal needs to be reached Wednesday if it stands any chance of being approved by the EU, and then by the U.K. Parliament at the weekend. If a deal is not approved by October 19, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is legally obliged to ask the EU for an extension to the current departure date of October 31.
Sterling was trading 0.4% lower against the dollar Wednesday morning, at $1.2737, and fluctuated for much of the session. It had soared to a four-month high against the greenback on Tuesday.

‘Glimmer of hope’?

Earlier on Wednesday, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire boosted optimism for a deal saying that “there is a glimmer of hope, from what I hear from the negotiators.” Speaking to Europe 1 radio, in comments reported by Reuters, Le Maire added that protecting the European single market was the “red line” for France in Brexit talks.
There were reports a deal was imminent on Tuesday after the U.K. had made concessions over the Irish border issue and customs arrangements which have proved the stickiest points preventing an agreement so far.
The U.K. proposed alternative arrangements to the so-called Irish “backstop” several weeks ago and these are the focal point of last-minute talks. The backstop was an insurance policy designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland if the U.K. and EU failed to agree a trade deal in a 21-month transition period.
Brexiteers and politicians in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party hadn’t liked the backstop as they saw it as keeping Northern Ireland, a part of the U.K., more aligned with the EU.
Johnson’s new plan would’ve seen Northern Ireland largely stay in the EU’s single market but leave the customs union, necessitating customs checks on goods entering the EU from Northern Ireland and the U.K.. However there are reports that this plan may have been tweaked following talks with EU negotiators.
The U.K. had suggested customs checks away from the border to prevent physical infrastructure, which all sides want to avoid in order to maintain free movement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Johnson spent 90 minutes in discussions with Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, on Tuesday night but her party is reportedly unhappy with new plans to put a customs border in the Irish Sea.
The DUP said Tuesday that more work needed was needed before it would back a deal and said Northern Ireland must remain in a customs union with the U.K.
If a deal is reached, EU leaders will have to ratify it at their summit on Thursday and Friday, then it will have to be approved by a majority of U.K. lawmakers at a special parliamentary summit on Saturday. The European Parliament would also have to approve any Brexit deal too.
British MPs had rejected a Brexit deal arrived at by previous Prime Minister Theresa May three times largely because of objections to the Irish “backstop.”

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